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14.2.17

Lifestyle: Getting Engaged in Italy, Hotel Capo La Gala, Vico Enquense

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Surprise Trip to Italy

Back in October for my birthday treat, Alex whisked me away to Italy for a surprise birthday weekendUp until the airport, I had no idea where we were going, only that we needed to be at the airport to catch a flight that Friday afternoon. It was only when we were due to head to our gate that I spotted Naples as our onward destination. The excitement was unreal!


We flew with British Airways and shared lots of excited chatter on the plane. Little did I know that Naples wasn’t to be our final destination. Alex had arranged for us to pick up a hire car upon our arrival to Naples airport so we could drive towards Sorrento. In true Italian style, we hired a Fiat 500 which made the trip all the more magical.

Navigating the roads was initially a little stressful, let's just say the Italian’s drive like madmen and there were a few moments I genuinely feared for my life! The route was pleasant and we even drove past the famous Pompeii on route!

After about an hour, the roads started to narrow and we arrived at the most wonderful boutique 5* hotel; Hotel Capo La Gala, located just outside Vico Equense, a small town about 10 minutes drive from Sorrento. The hotel boasted the most romantic, cliffside location overlooking the fascinating gulf of Naples. 

Italian luxury at its finest, this five-star resort is located in the very heart of the Sorrento Peninsula. Capo La Gala is a renowned boutique design hotel on the water's edge, a jewel rising in the Mediterranean nature of the Sorrento coast; enjoying its very own privileged position to easily reach many of the most evocative corners of the region. Basically, my kind of place!

To keep all surprises under wraps, luckily, Alex had fed me some cover story on the plane. Basically he admitted that he had already been looking at engagement rings, which was an excitement in itself, however, he immediately dismissed the possibility of it happening anytime soon as it would still be at least a couple of weeks until he would be able to order anything in my size. 

Upon hearing this I immediately discarded the idea from my head that this could be the weekend that Alex proposed (well-played Alex, I must say!). Looking back, I'm so glad he said what he said as I truly had no inclination as to what was about to happen. 


Paradise Room

Upon arrival, we were asked to wait within a reception area and offered a glass of bubbly on arrival, nice touch! (little did I know at this point Alex must have been seriously nervous and the staff were all in on the surprise). We were led down some cliffside steps towards an elevator which would take us to our room. 

Now I think about it, the receptionist didn't even stick around to show us the room or explain any finer details, as this was all part of the plan so I could myself, reveal, the luxurious private terrace that stood hidden behind the blue shutters. 

We were staying in the most beautiful room; a "Paradise room" directly overlooking the gulf of Naples. The room was awash with bright white walls and nautical blue and white tones throughout, with scattered shells and seahorse ornaments dotted about the room. 

The most breathtaking part of the room was located behind the blue shutters, which upon first inspection I was convinced must have housed a brick wall or some sort of noisy generator (little did I know - the noise was actually the sound of the outdoor jacuzzi warming up!)

Funnily enough, I really struggled to get the back door open and kept calling Alex's name to help me open it (Again, little did I know, he was hiding in the bathroom frantically trying to get the ring ready in his pocket for "the proposal"). 

Eventually, I managed to poise the shutters open myself, which opened onto the most romantic private terrace with our very own hydro massage pool perched above the cliff edge. 

The view was literally breathtaking, not only because of the twinkling lights from the hotel that lined the cliff, but because there were pink rose petals scattered across the entire terrace and a big bottle of bubbly sat in the middle of the table surrounded by a heart of rose petals. My heart melted! 

Still... I had no idea.

It Happened!

I walked over to the edge of the hydro pool, feeling a little overwhelmed with such a romantic birthday surprise! Next thing I knew, Alex came up behind me, cuddled and held me close as we soaked up the romantic, cliffside setting. 

And I'll never forget those next few words which Alex muttered under his breath... 

"There's something else quite important I need to ask you..."

I spun around on my heel and at that moment, and only in that moment, I knew what was about to happen. 

Alex asked me to marry him in the most beautiful setting. The rest of the evening was just incredible and all a bit of a loved-up blur; we spent the whole night on our private terrace in the outdoor jacuzzi, popping bubbles, toasting glass after glass to seven years of cherished memories so far, chatting, reminiscing, drinking, cuddling, laughing. 

I've never had such a huge smile on my face and that moment couldn't have been more perfect!! 

If you've ever been to Italy you'll know that there is something quite magical and charming about the place. It is very romantic by nature, however, Italy now holds an even more special place in my heart and I'll never forget that weekend. 

An amazing couple of days followed with a day trip to the island of Capri and a road-trip along the Amalfi Coast in our Fiat 500. 

I'll have further posts to come all about our separate adventures in Capri and visiting the Amalfi Coast.

http://www.hotelcapolagala.com/
Capo La Gala Hotel and Spa
Via Luigi Serio, 8
80069 Vico Equense, na
Sorrento Coast, Italy
t +39 081 801 5757
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11.2.17

Travel: Ockenden Manor and Spa - Luxury Hygge Escapes in West Sussex

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Explore the best of both worlds at Ockenden Manor; with a modern spa attached to a quaint old hotel, complete with spectacular views of the South downs and a stupendous outdoor pool.

The Hotel and Location 

Ockenden Manor is a fine Elizabethan manor house with 28 lavishly decorated rooms, an outstanding spa and a fine-dining restaurant set in eight acres of beautiful grounds overlooking Cuckfield Park.

With its history and character, the elegant sitting room warmed by a roaring log fire and cosy, wood-panelled bar, Ockenden Manor is a wonderful place to escape to and it's less than an hour from London. 

The perfect countryside hygge-escape!

Ockenden Manor and Spa is located in Cuckfield in West Sussex and is part of Historic Sussex Hotels; a collection of three privately owned hotels in Sussex. There is also The Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa in Midhurst and Baliffscourt Hotel and Spa in Climping, West Sussex.

There is a range of accommodation on offer to suit all tastes; from fabulous over-sized contemporary spa suites with roof terraces (located in the spa building) to charming period suites and elegant, individually decorated rooms located within the main manor house. 

One thing I love about living in Sussex is that it is full of historic manors and Georgian houses which have now been converted into luxurious hotels with lavish gardens and grounds.

Spa

The contemporary spa poses a startling contrast to the manor with its modern, glass-walled architecture and outdoor box-front structure. 

Inside you'll find an indoor and outdoor pool, outdoor hot tub, and indoor jacuzzi walk through rain showers, steam room, sauna, gym, relaxation area, airy sundeck and a guest lounge and cafe. 

Ockenden Manor's spa is open till 9 pm mid-week and 10 pm on the weekend which is ideal for those who would like to take an evening dip in the outdoor heated pool or the steaming outdoor hot tub jacuzzi. 

The spa is set across a very open space, with lots of floor to ceiling glass windows spanning its entirety and adding to its luxury feel. The mezzanine level has an area with lots of relaxing loungers - with a direct view onto the pool, and outside there are further loungers scattered across a roof-top sitting area which provides views over the South downs. 

With lots on offer - there’s something for everyone. Whether you just fancy a relax in the sauna or steam room, the indoor pool leads out onto an outdoor heated pool. I decided to take a dip in here before dinner, the outdoor pool was the perfect temperature; while freezing outside but delightfully warm under the water's surface. It was nice to feel the crisp, fresh air on my cheeks. 

Little luxurious extras - a quirky ice dispenser to keep you hydrated, complimentary fluffy towels, robes, and slippers galore. 

Can’t afford the full works? 
  • If you’re looking for a girly evening, why not mix things up a bit and book yourself into the spa for an evening spa escape? I can’t imagine anything better than a glass of bubbles in hand whilst soaking up the outdoor jacuzzi. This would be an ideal thing to do on Sunday evening before heading back to work. 

The Spa Suite

As mentioned before, the spa itself is located in a separate building to the main manor house. The spa is still fairly new in structure and poses a stark contrast when compared to the older main manor house. 

The spa has taken the liberty to provide luxury spa seekers with an optional extra during their stay - the option to stay in one of their luxurious spa suites for the night. With six luxuriously spacious bedrooms complete with shutters in the bathroom that open out onto the bedrooms. Each spa suite includes an enclosed roof garden with superb views. 

The spa suite was huge, with plenty of space for two. The bathroom, immediately on the left as you enter contains itself within a separate area complete with rainfall shower, separate enclosed toilet, large bathtub and his and her sinks. The bathroom shutters which open onto the bedroom are a lovely addition. 

The bedroom/living area housed a huge bed, sitting area, Nespresso machine, and outdoor sitting area. The decor was warm with red, green and gold tones and even though very spacious throughout, it still boasted that cosy feel. Wardrobes housed super fluffy dressing gowns and cosy spa slippers - the finishing touches for the ultimate hygge-escape! 

The best part? 
  • The six spa suites have direct access to the spa; with late opening hours, who wouldn't want an evening dip in the outdoor heated pool? Bliss! 

Dinner

Dinner was again, a luxurious affair, guests have a choice of a fixed price menu or a foodie lovers seven-course tasting menu. We chose the a la carte menu which will set you back £65 pp for 3 courses. 

To start, I had the white onion soup; with a side of trenchmore farm beef bites. The soup was rich, sweet, but light in texture with warming flavours and the beef bites added a crunch and a further touch of french finesse!

For mains, the Tournedos Rossini British beef fillet with truffled savoy cabbage and bacon and crispy potatoes was cooked to perfection and a small pot of rich and tender beef ragu with fresh pasta accompanied. 

To finish; I had the caramelised lemon tart with blackcurrant sorbet. To be honest, this was far too sharp for my palette and believe me, I have a very sweet tooth! The lemon tart was super sharp and I was expecting the sorbet to complement with a balance of light, fruity flavours, however, the blackcurrant was just as sharp, if not more and every mouthful made my face wince! 

Overall we had a wonderful stay and although quite pricey, one day I would love to come back, and treat Alex to an overnight spa stay - the suites are divine! 

Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa
Ockenden Lane
Cuckfield
West Sussex
RH17 5LD

To make a reservation, call to book: 01444 416111

(*) Our overnight stay and food and drink at Ockenden Manor and Spa were provided on a complimentary basis in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All opinions expressed here are my own (*)

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23.1.17

Food & Drink: Sunday Lunch at The Loopy Shrew, Shrewsbury

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During our press trip to Shrewsbury, the Sunday afternoon we were booked in for a late lunch around 3 pm at The Loopy Shrew - a wine bar, coffee bar, restaurant, and boutique hotel in the center of Shrewsbury town. 

The Loopy Shrew is a family-run business located in the heart of the town. It is actually the sister restaurant to Darwin's Townhouse, the Georgian townhouse where we had retired to the previous night. 


Bearing in mind we had already devoured a huge full-English breakfast at Darwin's Townhouse earlier that morning (around 9.30am) so it was inevitable I would still be struggling for room around 3 pm, however, we were determined to sample an array of eateries during our time in Shropshire, especially with the nibbles on offer at the loopy shrew. 


So whats the food like?

Believe it or not, boys will be boys, Alex was able to stomach a HUGE roast dinner, which looked absolutely delicious with an enormous homemade yorkshire pudding stacked on top, whereas, I decided to stay small, with Loopy's famous scotch egg served with piccalilli and a herb salad (£6) as well as grabbing myself a side of sweet potato fries with aioli (£3.50). 

The scotch egg was just what I needed, the perfectly oozy egg drooled all over the shiny white plates and piccalilli complimented while packing a punch in every mouthful. 

Whether you want to slouch in a comfy armchair with a glass of wine or enjoy a three-course meal in the dining area, The Loopy Shrew caters for all occasions. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual with an array of mismatched furniture all-over. With a breakfast, brunch, lunch, evening and vegetarian menu theres plenty of choice for everyone. 


Personally, in these kind of surroundings I always favour a menu that offers a variety of casual bites with a range of small plates and sharing boards. 

Not ready to leave? How about a Sunday Sleepover?

It's worth mentioning that the Loopy Shrew also have a great "Sunday Sleepover" deal whereby a boutique room for the night will only cost you a mere £25 if you happen to spend £70 or more in the bar or restaurant during the day/night of your stay (which really isn't hard at all between two of you if you having a couple of courses each and some drinks).

I was so tempted by this offer but unfortunately we had to head back down south on a three hour journey straight after our meal. 

If you are local, why not treat yourself to a staycation before work? I know I definitely would and I think it would definitely help to banish those Monday Blues! 

For more information on where I suggest you visit, stay and eat and drink while in Shrewsbury read my blog post: Shrewsbury: Where to visit, stay, eat and drink

The Loopy Shrew, 17 Bellstone, SY1 1HU


(*)  This post was in collaboration with Original Shrewsbury who organised a press trip for me to explore the town. All food and drink at the Loopy Shrew was provided on a complimentary basis in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All opinions expressed here are my own (*)
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17.1.17

Travel: SHREWSBURY - Where To Visit, Stay, Eat and Drink

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Recently I worked on a post with Original Shrewsbury. They organised for me to go on a weekend press trip to Shrewsbury and discover what it has to offer. 

Shrewsbury is a quirky town packed full of genuine one-offs, independent shops and cool cocktail bars – great for a short break in an eccentric and buzzing medieval town nestled in the heart of the Shropshire countryside. The town center itself is packed with timber-framed black and white buildings, steep narrow streets and alleyways. 

Shrewsbury is home to many crisscrossing medieval streets, the river Severn forms a loop around the town center offering gentle riverside walks,  a myriad of boutique shops to explore and even a cinema in an ancient elevated market hall. 

Where To Stay - Darwin's Townhouse


We made our trip towards the end of November, on the run up to Christmas so knew we were in for a treat because Shrewsbury town would have just put their Christmas lights up. 

For the duration of our stay, we were eloping to Darwin's Townhouse, one of Shrewsbury's newest boutique hotels in the heart of the town center. With 20 perfectly sized rooms, we were excited for our bed and breakfast experience within this charming Grade 2 listed, Georgia townhouse.

Did you know Charles Darwin was born in the town?

Our room was located in the main house, a beautifully appointed deluxe room with a king size bed overlooking the immaculate gardens. All rooms feature creature comforts and bold tributes to Charles Darwin himself, ours, in particular, featured a rustic wooden map and framed parrots above our bed.

Upon arrival we were in awe, this beautiful three-storey townhouse felt like a home from home. With a huge circling staircase and a homely living room full of plush sofas and a huge Christmas tree stocked with presents, I was wondering when I could move in!?

With a fireplace beautifully decorated with festive holly sprigs, warming lights and bold red stockings we immediately felt like it was Christmas time. We checked in our bags, oohed and ahhed at the room then quickly wrapped up in our warmest attire for a quick evening walk around the town to see the Christmas lights.

One of the main reasons we loved our trip to Shrewsbury so much was because it was the first moment we both actually acknowledged that if felt like it was soon to Christmas time and immediately felt excited for the Christmas period ahead!

I urge anyone visiting Shrewsbury to pick Darwin's Townhouse as your bed and breakfast of choice. Deluxe rooms ranging from £75-£110 per night.

More to come on our stay in this charming and quaint Georgian townhouse, but for now feast your eyes on their website: http://www.darwinstownhouse.com/


Darwin’s Townhouse: 37 St Julian's Friars, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1XL. Tel: 01743 343829

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Where To Eat - House of The Rising Sun

If your dining in Shrewsbury, it's cobbled streets are packed with quirky places to eat from cool cafes to one-off delis.

On an evening there's a host of bars and restaurants to choose from, for us, Original Shrewsbury organised us to dine at House of The Rising Sun, an enticing fusion restaurant doused in a mix of oceanic blue hues and timeless timber tones which provided a sumptuous and luxurious atmosphere to enjoy a fusion of global dining.

The menu itself offers a tapas-style menu; modern Australian cuisine combines Pacific Rim flavours, mixed with Indonesian and South East Asian influences. As you can imagine there is lots of choice on offer with "around the world dining" delivered straight to your plate.

A separate post is to come all about our tapas experience at House of the Rising Sun, complete with lots and lots of pictures to make you very jealous (and very hungry), but for now, why not drool over the tempting menu - http://www.hotrs.co.uk/

The tempura pork belly with smoked apple ketchup (£7.00) with a perfectly light and crispy batter was a favourite dish of mine!

House of the Rising Sun, 18 Butcher Row, SY1 1UW. Tel: 01743 588040


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Where To Eat Sunday Lunch - The Loopy Shrew

On Sunday we were booked in for a late lunch at The Loopy Shrew - a wine bar, coffee bar, restaurant, and boutique hotel. 

The Loopy Shrew is a family-run business located in the heart of the town. It is actually the sister restaurant to Darwin's Townhouse. 

Bearing in mind we had a big breakfast at Darwin's House on Sunday morning so I knew I would still be struggling for room around 3 pm, however, was determined to sample some of the nibbles on offer at the loopy shrew. 

Alex was able to stomach a HUGE roast dinner (which looked absolutely delicious), whereas, I decided to stay small with Loopy's famous scotch egg served with piccalilli and herb salad (£6) and a side of sweet potato fries with aioli (£3.50).  The scotch egg was just what I needed with a perfectly oozy egg and piccalilli with a punch. 

Whether you want to slouch in a comfy armchair with a glass of wine or enjoy a three-course meal in the dining area, The Loopy Shrew caters for all occasions.

More pictures and a full review of our lunch at the Loopy shrew here.

Or see the website here: http://www.loopyshrew.com/ - they offer boutique rooms also!


The Loopy Shrew, 17 Bellstone, SY1 1HU


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Where To Visit - Shrewsbury 

The Quarry Park

Down towards the River Severn, you'll find Shrewsbury's Quarry Park which is packed full of petals and open parkland – there are 23 acres in total. The main attraction of the Quarry Park is the Dingle: a sunken garden designed by Percy Thrower. 

The best part is the relaxing riverside walk, which loops the tower center. On Sunday morning we went for a relaxing riverside stroll after we checked out of Darwin's Townhouse. The riverside was littered with dog-walkers - we always love meeting a local pooch and stopping for a friendly stroke. Once we had walked enough of the riverside we then made our way towards the town center. 


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Shopping

Shrewsbury’s secret ‘shuts and passages’ (the crooked medieval alleyways), cobbled streets and squares make shopping pretty unpredictable. Shopping here is really rather special because the independents outnumber the chains, so you can find everything from handmade goods to vintage pieces. If you head on up towards Wyle Cop you'll encounter a variety of retro shops alongside cutting edge couture – an uninterrupted row of more than 50 independent retailers!

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(*)  This post was in collaboration with Original Shrewsbury who organised a press trip for me to explore the town. All food, drink, and accommodation was provided on a complimentary basis in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All opinions expressed here are my own (*)
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4.1.17

Food & Drink: Autumn/Winter Menu at Strada, Horsham

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Fancy a taste of authentic Italian cuisine? 

Recently I was asked to review my local Strada restaurant, in Horsham’s popular East Street which has recently undergone a refurbishment.

The recent renovation has included the introduction of modern hanging lighting, fresh furniture and new classy neutral colour scheme throughout. When I visited in November it felt very festive because they had also added holly and berry garland around the individual quirky lighting pieces.

The restaurant boasts a new contemporary look, however still boasts the warmth and vibrancy that embodies all things, Strada. To be honest the recent decor up-lift now makes the restaurant even more inviting. The main reason for a visit to my local Strada this time around was to review the recently introduced autumn/winter menu, which features an array of comforting options for all Italian food lovers.

For starters, we had Arancini (£5.95); if you are not familiar with these little balls of delight it is basically Crispy rice balls stuffed with melting mozzarella. The arancini at Strada is served with a spicy tomato passata and sprinkled on top is aged Parmesan.

As well as sneakily stealing an arancini ball or two from my plate, Alex had a small Antipasti (£6.45) which was served on a classic wooden board with Prosciutto, Spianata piccante, salami Napoli, mortadella, baby mozzarella, semi-dried tomatoes, avocado, bread, and olives.

For mains, I had the Creamy Chicken Casarecce (£11.95) with pan-roasted chicken in a mushroom and tarragon sauce with lemon, garlic, parsley and Parmesan. Again, really not my usual choice, but I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and choose something different. 

Personally, I've never been a big fan of mushroom, mainly due to their harsh texture, however, I do quite like the taste of creamy mushroom sauce so thought the chicken casarecce dish would be a good choice. 

Alex had the Seafood Linguine (£12.95) - Passata and white wine sauce with tiger prawns, fresh mussels, capers, a little chili and fresh parsley.

Next time I’d love to try the Risotto Luganica (£12.25) with herby spiced Luganica meatballs, pancetta, chestnut mushrooms, fresh herby breadcrumbs, and Parmesan. Doesn't it sound delicious? I'll definitely be heading back soon to try this out.

For dessert, it had to be the Pannacotta (£5.45)Smooth and creamy and served with smashed honeycomb and fresh berry compote. Alex had the classic Tiramisu (£5.45) - your typical Italian dessert with layers of espresso soaked sponge and sweet mascarpone with a dusting of cocoa.

Dessert was my favourite course out of the three, usually, a dessert course would be my last choice, I’d always choose a savoury option to start over something sweet to finish. However, the vanilla pannacotta was absolutely delicious, very creamy and super indulgent. It is one of the only desserts which is handmade on site and you can really tell by the freshness.  

Horsham
West Sussex
RH12 1HH


To make a reservation, call to book: 01403 248887


(*) The food and drink at Strada Horsham were provided on a complimentary basis in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All opinions expressed here are my own (*)
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