The Lowry Bedroom

A little reminisce…..

Where do you go to spend some time with your partner before baby is born or infact whenever the fancy takes you? A five star hotel that’s where.

When I put my cast out for a localish babymoon to mark our last date night before baby two arrived several hotels got in touch (how lucky am I?). Since our last visit to a ‘Leading Hotels of The World’ in 2013 in the form of The Landmark London we’d been craving to stay somewhere else from the prestigious selection so when The Lowry Manchester got in touch we accepted their kind invitation.

So the date was set for Friday 24 July (31 days before due date) and Tiffany Rose the gorgeous maternity and nursing brand were sending my dresses of choice, well a woman has to look good no matter what stage we are in our lives.

We were so excited bags were packed in advance (a first for me). We wanted to make use of every minute so even the school run had been sorted so I didn’t have to get up and rush to get me plus one ready (being 34 and a bit weeks pregnant was depleting my energy lots).

So the 24 of July arrived and so did my little baby boy! (another story). H2B contacted the hotel and spoke to the concierge and explained that alas we wouldn’t be reviewing that evening. My hospital bag was my overnight hotel bag so check me out on the hospital ward with a slinky nightie (yes I was heavily pregnant but I looked fab so slinky and hotel worked but slinky and hospital post C Section, not so much).

Fast forward a few months and we finally made it to The Lowry!

After a car journey from Durham to Manchester we were ready for a lovely evening. The sat nav kept wanting to take us to the rear of the hotel where there is no parking so I’d advise you take a quick look at google to navigate where you need to be. One side of the hotel is classed as Salford and the other Manchester and it’s a hop skip and a jump from Spinningfields where I’d pre signed us up for one of their yellow discount cards.

I must admit that the exterior of the hotel didn’t do it for me in terms of grandeur but I was looking forward to going over the threshold.

Check in: This was seemless. Five star hotels are no longer stuffy and pompous like they were in the past, we definitely agree with the Lowry’s tag line of ‘Where things happen for the modern luxury generation’. The Lowry Hotel went through a full refurbishment in 2015 and was looking good!

The room: We checked into our superior deluxe corner room.  As we entered the room there was a walk in wardrobe on the left and a bathroom on the right. One step further and there was an orange chaise longue in front of floor to ceiling windows (of which I tweeted about immediately).

The bed was massive and conducive to having a little cat nap. The pillow and duvet were just right.

The mini bar: I was a bit peckish so H2B popped to the local supermarket to buy some supplies as we saw the five star prices of the contents. It is really well stocked but be mindful of the potential midnight feast.

The bathroom: If you are a lover of gigantic bathrooms then this isn’t the place for you ‘compact and bijou’ is what you will find. There was a good selection of toiletries by Aromatherapy and I loved the squishy bathrobes.

Breakfast: In the morning we headed to the River bar and grill for breakfast. A hotel stay can be completely ruined if this isn’t good. A fabulous selection of buffet and a la carte was available.

The buffet was adorned with cereals, breads, pastries, cheeses and some of the best smoked salmon I’ve had in a long time alongside the traditional ingredients of a full English breakfast.  My H2B bumped into someone whilst at the buffet and I heard him say, ‘after you Mr. Bridges’, yes the magnificent Kevin Bridges was at breakfast along with Romesh Ranganathan. H2B loves a bit of celeb spotting alas I of course had to trump him. As he was telling me about Mr. Bridges I lifted my head only to see the legend that is Ian Wright on the opposite table sporting a fabulous pair of moccasin slippers. H2B was beside himself and the appearance of one of the Neville brothers made his day.

The art: Around the hotel were some fabulous artwork and this gallery changes on a frequent basis.

Super touch: The Lowry staff knew that we had a baby and thought we’d be bringing him along for the weekend too so a cotbed with teddy had been placed in the room. It was so lovely but I must admit we got housekeeping to remove it. Teddy made his way into our suitcase though and sits on Luke’s drawers.

Thank you for a lovely stay with celebrity spotting included.

 

We love London town. Today we are heading to The Cavendish an establishment whose heritage dates back to the 1830’s.

Along the road from The Cavendish is the infamous Fortnum and Mason, how big were our smiles. Piccadilly is such a great London location.

What drew us to the hotel is its greenness. The greenness is subtle to the untrained eye but to us it hit us like a sledge hammer. It has several achievements under its belt including ‘Gold’ in Sustainable Tourism Business awards and a Gold Award in Green Tourism for London, and they are extensively committed to the environment.

The restaurant also has three star accreditation by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. This list really does go on.

Here’s what we thought?

Location: 81 Jermyn Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y6JF. The Cavendish is bang in the centre of London minutes from Piccadilly and seconds from Fortnum and Mason, another British institution – it’s been in the same location since 1707!

From arrival to departure everything was seamless. The car was valet parked and stayed in place until we left (parking is not complimentary so please don’t get caught out).

Check-in: professional, quick and informative. There had been an error in our booking which was rectified without a blink of an eye by David. Two nights bed and breakfast with an evening meal to enjoy.

The room: Our room was on the 15th floor and had everything you could possibly need for a short stay. I opened the window covering to be greeted with a fantastic panoramic view of London and stood and looked at it for ages. Nicola on the other hand loved it but didn’t want to get too close due to a slight height phobia!

The wardrobe had ample space and the tea/coffee tray met our approval being fair-trade, British or organic. The bathroom, albeit small had everything we needed, the only downside was the shower head which was fitted so high on the wall that it was no good for me at 5ft 4”.

There was a secondary shower head attached for rinsing of hair whilst in the bath which was good. The bed was very comfy and conducive to a good sleep, however, there was an underlying noise which we couldn’t put our finger on, sorry Cavendish we should have brought this to your attention.

Petrichor Restaurant:
Dinner – we didn’t get into London until around 19:00 so decided to have dinner in the restaurant. Recently awarded an AA Rosette, the restaurant’s seasonal British menu marries traditional favourites with a contemporary twist. The service was excellent.

Nicola and I have a habit of sitting and chatting for ages before consulting the menu (another reason why our blog name is apt) and this was the case here too but it was never an issue with Carlos the waiter who was looking after us. We had a glass of wine each and three courses and they were all lovely.

Breakfast: a breakfast banquet rather then a buffet and the selection was amazing. There was also a made-to-order selection and we partook in some rather yummy and cooked-to-perfection poached eggs.

The lobby bar: Small and intimate, equally easy to drop in after work as well as lovely for the guests. The staff were friendly and knowledgeable (which we had come to expect).

Along with the restaurant championing local food the bar supports local drinks providers too. Two examples are Meantime beers which are brewed in Greenwich, a district of south London. The beer travels under eight miles from its inception to the Lobby Bar, so the carbon footprint is greatly reduced.

The second provider is Sipsmith, with their Gin, Vodka & Sloegin. Sam and Fairfax are the founders of this small distillery based in Hammersmith, London. 5 out of 5 – the whole dining experience was fabulous.

Overall opinion
Well trained staff made this stay a truly terrific experience. Impeccable was the word we used repeatedly to describe our stay. We simply cannot recommend it enough. Thanks to all of the staff who looked after us so well.

Top Tip: It’s definitely worth following The Cavendish on facebook and twitter as they have lots of lovely exclusive offers for you to enjoy over and above the ones that already appear on their website. (We’ll definitely be taking up one of their great offers to stay there again).

Winter break rates are from £189 per room per night including VAT and Full English Breakfast from 14th December till 20th March 2016.

Keep an eye out for more offers coming soon.

Suz-and-Sandie

When I was a teacher, the holidays were planned for us. And let me say, they were always very much needed by the children as well as the staff!

Working for myself, I’ve made a conscious decision to stick to the school holiday timetable (without the six week summer holiday of course) but having a mini-break to look forward to every six weeks keeps me fresh and is just great I make sure we travel outside school holiday times.

Suzanne and I had the pleasure of attending the launch event of Barrhead Travel , an independent travel agents who have opened their first branch outside of Scotland in Intu Eldon Square, Newcastle. The staff were all super friendly, professional and knowledgeable, I’m looking forward to seeing what they can offer for a girl’s weekend away for us.

venice

Amongst all the nibbles and flowing wine, I found myself staring at the beautiful image of Venice on their wall, daydreaming about my next trip away, so far this year we’ve headed to Rome and have Nice to look forward too.

Amongst the guests it was lovely to catch up with Sandra Tang who is off on her own very exciting round-the-world trip in a matter of weeks (we really are VERY jealous Sandie!) she was also lucky enough to win one of the prizes on offer – a mini DFDS break. Suzanne had her fingers crossed for the Emirates flights, well who wouldn’t, they would have been perfect for a honeymoon! Suzanne has always loved to travel and realised she would be spending together forever with her H2B whilst travelling round the world. Although her plans are more moderate now having to accommodate two little ones taking time to travel will always be a priority in her life. STA used to be her agency of choice but Barrhead Travel is definitely more attune to the needs of a forty plus lady.

explore

Needless to say but we think it’s so important to take time out and travel, whether this be to the other side of the planet or just around the corner. To coin Nike – ‘Just Do It’.

Where are you heading to this year? We’d love to be inspired by your favourite trips.

 

St. Mary's Inn

It was going to be a long and busy week and the thought of a Friday night away just the two of us was what was keeping Richard and myself going.

The rural getaway was at St. Mary’s Inn the little sister to the renowned Jesmond Dene House. St. Mary’s Inn is in the village of Stannington north of Newcastle and just a hop, skip and a jump from the town of Morpeth.

Dinner, bed breakfast and fingers crossed a lie in; here we come.

The journey

Stannington is really well signposted off the A1 and there are signs for St. Mary’s Inn and even more poignantly St. Mary’s Hospital which are easy to follow. I knew my way to the Inn from memory but the winding road may benefit from a couple more signs.

Arrival

We arrived at 5:00pm and were welcomed by Zoe who showed us to our room we decided we quite fancied a nap before dinner.

Our bedroom – Greenlee Lough

When we opened the door we were greeted with an expanse of space and beds so high they were reminiscent of ‘Princes and The Pea’ – yay and I know a certain daughter of mine would have loved to bounce on them.

I’m a stickler for white bed linen and I was not to be disappointed. I love a chunky pillow or two and we got four, plenty to go around. The duvet was heavy but not too heavy. Simple quality. Of course “Mr. I sleep on the thinnest pillow in the world” didn’t like the pillows but he could cope for one night.

There was not one, but two sitting areas, one right next to the TV and the other with a lovely table to sit and read or work at.

bedroom

Having worked with Marlish Water in the past I was happy their water was on the tea tray alongside another local brand, Ringtons. I’m sure fresh milk would have been available if I had requested it too.

I crossed my fingers before I entered the bathroom. I so wanted a bath, we moved house in Feb 2015 and we have a double shower instead of a bath (this seriously needs to be rectified) and hotel stays are the only time I get to take a dip and luxuriate in some bubbles.

The bathroom was great. I loved the velux window in the ceiling, the sumptuous towels and I was looking forward to trying the products supplied as I hadn’t tried them before.

Relaxing time before dinner

I love the fact that Richard had packed us a cheeky bottle of prosecco, a perfect accompaniment to a bath filled with lovely bubbles (which H2B ran without prompting). I truly relaxed. We lay on the bed and drank and chatted before dinner (the TV wasn’t working). It was lovely. Even though we live together it seemed like an age since we’d had a chat that wasn’t interjected by, ‘mummy or daddy’ or the sound of our baby boy.

Thank you St. Mary’s Inn for the peace and quiet.

Dinner

Although tempting to stay in our lovely room, we were hungry so headed over the outdoor courtyard and downstairs to the bar admiring the frequently changing artwork on the way.

Before dinner, Richard opted for a pint of Peroni whilst I chose  St. Mary’s Ale made by the wonderful Wylam Brewery as my tipple. I knew from first sip that I’d be drinking it for the rest of the night unless of course I got the taste for gin!

At 7:30pm we decided to head along to the restaurant and I loved all of the areas and the relaxed feeling throughout. It was akin to a warren, people all chatting away with quite a few dogs (both real and wire sculptures) looking happily at home.

We were greeted by Phil the Duty Manager and chatted about the menu. He was genuinely enthusiastic about both the menu and St. Mary’s Inn. I appreciated the fact that many of the items on the menu were sourced locally, so locally in some cases that the chef could reach out of the window and place the veg onto the ‘Entremetier’ station.

The short and simple menu featured many starters and main courses that we wanted to try. To start, Richard opted for Lamb Koftas and I chose Smoked Haddock and Clam Chowder with Whisky and Bacon. Both were really tasty, but I wouldn’t have chosen to have mussels as part of the chowder.

starters and mains

For main H2B had the Aberdeen Angus Beef Burger which came with cheese, mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, pickles, coleslaw and home made fries, he’d sworn he was off bread but couldn’t resist.

I chose the steak and went for the bone marrow and parsley fries. The steak was cooked to my liking medium rare and the fries were good but I had chip envy and loved the look of the chunky ones on a nearby table.

Richard swore he didn’t want desert but there were two that I fancied so gluttony prevailed and I ordered both.

DESSERT

To satisfy my sweet tooth I opted for the custard tart with honeycomb and vanilla ice cream and for my savoury love was the selection of British cheeses with rye crackers and preserves. This was my absolute favourite course and Richard did help me (I promise). The custard tart was amongst the best I have ever tasted and instead of the typically dense consistency this was delicate and the bitterness of the honeycomb cut through the sweetness.  The selection of cheeses was just enough to end the meal.

Phil tried to lure us into coffees but we were embracing the no child night and the calling for bed was so loud.
We made our way to our room but we were waylaid by the bar as I did fancy a gin and I was happy that they stocked Fentimans tonic. Richard’s eyes were heavy so I selected a book from the shelves in one of the snug areas and we headed to bed.

Sleepytime

Our tummies were completely fit to burst so up the dancers we went. We crawled into bed at 10:30 and he was asleep within 10 minutes. I lay and read for a while which was an absolute luxury.

Alas I woke up a few times in the night as it was so warm (thermostat set to 71 degrees Fahrenheit, I have no idea what that is in metric) I’m also used to being awoken several times in the night and thirdly I thought I’d lost my other half, turns out that the bed is sooo big we could easily fit our family of four in the bed with room to spare.

Breakfast

This can be an absolute deal maker or breaker for me.

Zoe showed us to our table, she assured us she had been home as she was still serving at the bar when we went to bed.

This was the room we could see from our bedroom. It was light and bright and there was just us (well for a few minutes until many faces that we saw during dinner the night before).

continental and full English

Our toast and drinks order was taken and then we got to peruse the continental breakfast and gluttony raised its head again. Smoked salmon and meats donned our plates and the quality was fantastic.

We both ordered full English breakfast no beans for me, we both ate the lot, oink, oink. We drank copious amounts of coffee we have definitely missed our breakfast dates.

Full English

Before checkout I had little nosey in all of the nooks and crannies and decided that I really did like this place and would love a local like this.

Overall opinion

Although it’s known as Jesmond Dene House little sister I think St. Mart’s Inn has  everything it needs to have a stand alone reputation. It isn’t trying to be something that it is not. It is by definition a house providing accommodation, food, and drink, especially for travellers and this was done to perfection. I even forgot that it is unmanned overnight so the guests are left to their own devices, well sort of, we couldn’t have our very own lock in.

Having the right staff is so important and I think the brilliance of the staff shone through with their friendly and knowledgeable demeanour and nothing was too much trouble even bringing up an iron and ironing board before dinner.

We had a fabulous time and with a few tweaks it would be perfect. Before I left I was already recommending the Inn to a friend who was coincidentally staying at Jesmond Dene House as a surprise anniversary treat from her husband: major brownie points.

Incase you fancy a visit St. Mary’s Inn is open 8am to 11pm each day with dining until 9:30pm. Remember to book your table don’t just turn up and expect to be served.

Our stay would have been £140 for dinner, bed and breakfast and personally I think that it was most definitely worth that.

Now for the unexpected personal bit which I chose not to place at the beginning of the review.
There was a distinct reason that I wanted to stay and it wasn’t until we were offered a meal at the Inn that I looked into the history and I felt like an idiot when I put two and two together. I actually got a knot in my stomach and a tear in my eye.

As you may have already read St. Mary’s Inn is situated in what was the administration building of St. Mary’s Hospital, the old Gateshead Borough mental institution. We were originally supposed to just head there for dinner but when I read the history of the site I asked if we could stay. A member of my family had spent quite a lot of time at St. Mary’s hospital and visited him often and unfortunately he didn’t have a pleasant stay there. I hoped a visit would air some demons. I haven’t taken the turn off for Stannington since 1995 and I was on auto pilot driving and the hospital signs were still in situ and threw me. What the heck was I doing when potentially I was unearthing a bad memory of a location.

I am glad I came as even though the admin building is clearly recognisable there were very few other points of reference and thinking of my uncle made me smile.

You can keep up to date with St. Mary’s in via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you Phil and Nicky for having us and we hope to visit again when we are in the area.

Premier Deluxe Suite Lounge, Beamish Park Hotel

When life is going super fast, it’s good to take your foot off the pedal and enjoy what’s on your doorstep. For us that’s Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham.

The Beamish Park Hotel, is a local, independently run business – just the kind we love to stay in.

A hidden gem, Beamish Park balances leisure and business needs perfectly, with the most helpful staff you could wish for!

Set in a beautiful rural location 15 minutes from Gateshead and Newcastle, Beamish Park is only five minutes walk away from the Causey Arch bridge, the oldest single span railway bridge in the country.

Although the bridge is only used as a walkway now, the sound of steam engines adds to the ambiance as they make their way along the Tanfield Steam Railway line. If you love a ramble, several routes pass the hotel and it’s within easy walking distance of the Beamish Museum (less than a five minute drive if you prefer).

The Room (42 bedrooms in total)
We stayed in a Premier Deluxe Suite, which was fantastically presented, clean and tidy. Alongside the super king sized bed (super comfy) and the usual offerings (tea, coffee etc), the Premier Deluxe has a separate lounge area with a desk to work from, two plasma screen TVs, a Bose sound system and a power shower cubicle large enough for two!

The room was very comfortable, suitable for a longer stay or a business traveller needing to spread out and work.

The Golf
There is a fully equipped, 9 hole, par three, golf academy on site next to the hotel. Being an absolute novice,  it was good to know that there was plenty of opportunity to practice in the driving range and on the putting green before setting out on the actual course!

Golf may not be my next big thing, but I had absolutely loads of fun, helped by the fact that my fella is an incredibly patient teacher.

Dining area

Food and events  
If you’re looking for somewhere to have a celebratory meal or event, the hotel offers a variety of deals and different facilities and hosts wedding receptions each year.

The food was absolutely delicious; a well cooked and thoughtful menu including many local ingredients all beautifully presented. The menu has altered since our stay but you can check out the new one here.

The Prices
Room prices start at £95 per night for the Executive Rooms and you can check out all the offers and availability here.

Thanks to Sandra and all the staff at the Beamish Park Hotel, we’ll be recommending you wherever we go!

Nicola x