Sharing two pictures this week as both girls took one good and one bad and it seemed only fair to share both rather than just pick one. We went out for dinner on Monday night, just the three of us and this was taken then.
As you may or may not know, May is the month of my birthday. For whatever reason I have always loved May, even though there’s never much happening. As a sort of birthday trip, we’re all heading to Paris for the weekend of 20th-23rd, but I’m yet to plan anything for my birthday itself. Previously I’ve visited the Harry Potter Studios, had a Murder Mystery, visited the cinema (Maleficent, Tomorrowland, Pitch Perfect 2) or even gone out for dinner. This year, I’ve started to weigh up my options!
A Quiet Night In
It’s quite likely that my two best friends are available to come over in the evening, so one plan is definitely a quiet night in. Though we’ve previously had large parties, played either board games or held a murder mystery, the only people I really need to spend my birthday with are my immediate family and my two best friends. Since the girls will be in bed during the evening, a takeaway pizza from Dominos, drinking some sparkling wine (a bottle or two of these sparkling drinks) and perhaps even Cards Against Humanity, sounds like a pretty amazing way to spend a birthday evening. I’m not even too bothered if there is cake or not!
A Stay at The Wizard Chambers
As a family and even as a couple, we often stay away for a night or two in a hotel. For the most part we’re talking Travelodge or Premier Inn, but sometimes somewhere a little nicer. My dream stay would be in the Harry Potter style rooms, at The Georgian Hotel – in either the Wizarding Chambers or the Enchanting Chambers. To be honest I would be happy to visit the Harry Potter Studios again too and make a full wizarding weekend of it – especially since they have a Platform 9 3/4 now and they’re opening up Privet Drive for my birthday weekend. In fact, if the new theatre show (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) was out by then, I would do that too.
A Trip to the Theatre or Cinema
As you might have seen from the last option, I love going to the theatre. Last year, the weekend before my birthday, we went to see Phantom of the Opera. This year I would have loved to see Harry Potter, or even Aladdin (which opens just after my birthday). Sadly the theatre is a little out of my price range right now, so the cinema is more likely. With Captain America: Civil War just out and X-Men: Apocalypse coming out soon, I’m sure there is something we could find to watch. Alice Through the Looking Glass is also out which would be great for taking the kids.
There are lots of other things I would like to do but to be honest, heading to Paris and also Disneyland just before my birthday, is really the best treat I could ask for. I’m sure I’ll be spending the day with everyone that matters and that’s the main thing!
This week’s picture is from the last day of term. It’s become a sort of tradition to end term by heading to Pizza Hut as a family. Luckily Chris was off for a week or so at the same time and so we were all able to go. Lily was feeling very loving for some reason and I snapped this great picture of the girls.
This week Amy and Liv came to visit for a few days and we crammed a belated Galentine’s Day, Amy’s birthday and Easter, all into the three days they were here. Our belated Galentine’s was on Tuesday and as a surprise I booked (and paid for) a meal for all my favourite girlies, plus I got everyone a little gift and some sweets. This picture was taken at lunch time in Prezzo, while we waited for food!
During half term its always nice to find an excuse to get out for the day, even if it’s just for dinner. We heard that Brewers Fayre were offering some extra activities this coming February half term and so last week we decided to go and visit, so we could get a feel for the place. Our nearest Brewers Fayre is in Lincoln, a pub called Gateway Park. We’d been a few times before, especially for kids parties, but it had been a while. Since mum was going away for the whole of February, we decided to meet up with her too and enjoy lunch as a family.
When we arrived, the car park was really full and we actually couldn’t find anywhere to park there. We headed back out and managed to park further into the estate, luckily not too far. As we headed into the pub, we were greeted and seated within a few minutes, despite the fact it was busy. We all decided what to eat and Chris and I headed to the bar to order. We were served by a really lovely guy, who was great to deal with and friendly too.
Our food arrived within maybe 15-20 minutes, but it felt even quicker than that. The service was lovely and the food was great. We genuinely had no complaints. Despite struggling to finish, I let the girls have dessert and I had a coffee. We all had a lovely lunch and will definitely be heading back. The kids menu was great value at £3.99 with only an extra 50p for a starter or 50p for a dessert.
For extra entertainment during Half Term, Brewers Fayre will be featuring fun discos on both Friday 19th and Saturday 20th February at selected Brewers Fayres. The Toddlers disco will run from 9.30am – 3pm while the Kids will run from 3.30- 7.30pm at a cost of £3 per child.
So if you have a Brewers Fayre somewhere local to you, why not give it a try? They offer good value for money, great food and somewhere to let both you and the kids unwind.
I don’t want to be completely harsh and slate a place that we once enjoyed, but I do want to update about a place we discovered last year and really enjoyed. I’ve decided that I won’t mention the actual name of the restaurant in this post, but if you have read some of my previous posts, then you’ll probably be able to figure it out!
Last year, in August, my mum and I discovered this amazing burger place on our way home from York, quite by accident really. The kids were with us and we thoroughly enjoyed our burgers, fries, hot dog etc. The restaurant itself was lovely, but the service was fantastic, the presentation of the food was beautiful and all in all it was a great experience. So much so in fact, that only a week or so later, when Amy came to visit, we went back there again. And after that, myself and Chris went there one day too. Every time the food, presentation and service was great and we looked forward to it as a place to go. Until recently.
Having not been for several months, Chris and I visited after seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the cinema. At first nothing looked that different (though the table and booth we were seated in were dirty) but as soon as we were handed the menu, I noticed an immediate difference – it was much bigger. As someone who loves Gordon Ramsay, I’ve watched a lot of his restaurant programs, especially those like Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Hell. My first thought was that he would think the menu far too big and when I noticed things like Nutella as a topping for burgers and chips, I could even picture his facial expression!
The burgers themselves, are around the £10 mark. This is pretty average I think and didn’t feel bad value, especially since it came with fries and coleslaw. Sadly now it only comes with fries, but you can upgrade them with various options, if you want. Previously I’d tried Peri Peri and Cajun, both of which were shake on spices that I really enjoyed. To tell the truth, I don’t remember how much it was to upgrade your fries, but now it seems like a lot – at £1.55 for some sprinkles! True there are options a bit more filling – like the addition of chilli, mac cheese or even cheese and bacon. These will set you back about £2 though – remembering that the fries are part of your meal and your just topping them, this seems expensive.
There were other things we noticed as expensive too. I don’t know if they were that price or not before to be honest but it never struck me as especially expensive. Onion rings will set you back about £5 I think!
Anyway, we ordered a started of Potato skins and while it was nice, it was just average. Presentation was especially poor – three potato skins on a white plate with a blue edge and a dip of sour cream in the middle. Sure there’s not an awful lot you can do with potato skins but it just seemed lame. Next up came the burgers and this was the biggest shock visually. Learn about how Jimmy John Owner came about to building his sandwich business to becoming worth a billions.
Previously the food had looked like the picture above. Not just the first time we went in August, but all of the times. Amy even blogged about our experience too and the food looked amazing.
This time however…
Now I’m not going to lie, it still tasted okay. The chips were nice but needed vinegar (I’d really enjoyed having spices on them before but I wasn’t prepared to pay £1.50 extra) and the burger tasted nice but it’s look was just sad.
The truth of the matter is, I probably won’t rush to go there again. After three really good meals I feel like I should perhaps give it another chance, but it also seems like this is their way forward – a bigger menu and not as much effort with the presentation. As an ex-restaurateur and someone who spent pretty much their whole working life as a waitress, this is so sad to see and I only wish that business owners and managers could take a step back sometimes and realise what they had before was good and didn’t need changing.
As you might be able to tell from my lack of posts so far this week, it’s a busy one! I have so many things I want to write about but no time to actually get writing. However one thing that I wanted to make sure I wrote about, before we got too far away from Christmas, was two wonderful trips we had in December. The first (this post) was to Newcastle the weekend before Christmas and the second (my next post hopefully) was a trip to Disneyland Paris, the weekend after Christmas.
On Friday 18th December, the girls had already broken up from school the day before and so we had a fairly lazy day. However we packed and got ready to go away, setting off for my mum’s house around 6pm. There we met up with my partner Chris, who had just finished work and was leaving his car there and the four of us set off on our weekend away. We were staying in a Travelodge in Newcastle (technically Gateshead)and it was one I hadn’t been to before so I was excited. I vowed to not get stressed with the kids and really enjoy this family time we had near Christmas! The journey is a fairly long one, about 3 hours, but we broke it up by stopping for a Burger King dinner at a services on the way. This meant it was about 11pm when we got to the Travelodge but the lady on the desk was wonderful and friendly, meaning that even though it was late, check-in was stress free.
We pretty much headed straight to bed and so in the morning we didn’t bother to set an alarm – just getting up when we woke naturally. Chris headed down to collect the Breakfast boxes, while the girls got dressed and I jumped into the shower. I have to admit to being a little disappointed with the Breakfast boxes – I’m sure there are people out there who like that type of thing (like a Graze box I guess) but for us they were just too much fruit/nut/seed, especially on the first morning.
On the first morning there was only one “Good Morning” box left and so we had three “Rise and Shine” boxes. The contents of the Good Morning box were better than the other – having Cornflakes and milk, orange juice, a Nutri-grain bar (strawberry) and a blueberry muffin. The “Rise and Shine” box on the other hand had a heavily seeded, fruit and nut muffin, with an almond and something cereal bar, a yoghurt and some orange juice. Needless to say we didn’t eat much – Lily had the blueberry muffin and Megan had the cornflakes, while Chris tried a bit of everything and left it. I didn’t even attempt anything as I just knew I wouldn’t like it. Though this was a big disappointment, I have to admit it was the only one of the whole stay.
After getting dressed, we headed out in the car, down the road two minutes to the Metro Centre. Here we planned to spend the whole day, even meeting up with Amy for part of the day. When we arrived, it was easy to find short term parking so we entered on the ground floor and started to wander around. Since we’d not really managed breakfast that morning, we treated ourselves to fresh pretzels and that was amazing!
In the afternoon we wandered around the top level of the shopping centre. However when the girls got tired (and Chris wasn’t feeling 100%) we sat down for a coffee and to catch our breath. After a while Amy and I wandered off to Primark together and left the girls with Chris. Eventually we headed back and sat down again for a short time. We decided what we were going to do next and since it was almost time for Amy to leave, we said our goodbyes. I headed to the car to drop off the bags and Chris took the girls into the nearby arcade. Though we aren’t big into gambling or anything, we do love our 2p machines and the girls love anything that spits out tickets!
After killing some time in the arcade (and spending plenty of money), we cashed in our tickets – the girls very kindly got Chris a Pac-Man tankard) – and headed back to the Travelodge. Here we all just lay on the beds and chilled out for a while. The girls claimed their free half an hour of wifi on their iPads, I read and Chris played on his phone. Eventually we decided we should eat dinner and so we headed out of the Travelodge again and went to the nearby TGI Fridays (literally a 2 minute walk).
Despite the fact it was a Saturday night, TGI’s wasn’t too busy. They fitted us in to a nice booth and we got a lovely server who made balloon animals for the kids and gave really good service the whole night. Going to TGI’s is a real treat for us as at home our nearest one is at least an hour away. It was nice to spend time just chilling out, enjoying a glass of wine (because we walked) and eating amazing food.
After dinner we were full and tired and so glad to not be far from the Travelodge. We walked back, the girls got changed for bed and then lay there playing on their iPads for a little while. I read again and Chris played on his phone and once we felt our food had gone down, we all went to sleep.
Again in the morning, we just woke when we woke naturally. Chris went for the breakfast boxes and this time we all managed to get the “Good Morning” boxes. This meant that Megan and I could both have cornflakes and Chris and Lily could have blueberry muffins. Sadly Chris was the only one to like Strawberry Nutri-Grain bars too so we just packed those to take home with us, along with some of the orange juice that was left. We packed up all our stuff, checked out and headed to the car. We’d have a lovely weekend away and the Gateshead Travelodge was so close and easy for the Metro Centre (and TGI) that we would definitely go back again!
We headed home and stopped for lunch at a services on the way. It was a lovely weekend break but it was good to get home too!
As you know I love to travel and I have been very lucky to visit many different cities and countries, all around the world. I have to admit, that as someone who once owned a restaurant and has often worked in the hospitality and catering, I do love food and I really enjoy eating out. Although any restaurant is a treat, going away to a different country and trying new food is always a really great experience.
In April we went to Florida and I have to admit the temptation to eat out every night was very real! We did manage McDonalds, Taco Bell, Five Guys and Denny’s – to name but a few. I love comparing chains to what we have here, but also experiencing completely new places. Denny’s was actually my favourite of the whole trip but my friend Tim also took us to a place called Cracker Barrel and the atmosphere and food were really great.
Speaking of my friend Tim, before coming over to Florida, he used to live in Dubai – his family still does. I have to admit that Dubai is somewhere I have often wanted to visit and is fairly notorious for it’s restaurants. When Gordon Ramsay opened up there I definitely wanted to go (I’ve eaten at Claridge’s and that was amazing) but sadly that failed and the restaurant closed. Rumour has it that he’s opening another though so perhaps I’ll be placing Dubai at the top of my eating out Bucket List.
This quirky map from Travel Bag is actually great fun to play with. It’s interactive and lets you view the location of all the places to eat, along with a brief description of what type of restaurant it is. Armani/Amal (which can be found on the map) is actually rated number 1 on Trip Advisor and would definitely be one of my picks, as would Palm Grill. I wish a map for every country existed like this as it would make looking for somewhere to eat a whole lot easier!
Do you have a favourite place to eat out – or perhaps a favourite country?