Rediscovering Leeds 

While Leeds is only a 40 minute train journey for me, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t actually been since graduating from the University of Leeds 4 years ago. With the start of the summer holidays, and no travelling booked for another week, I decided it was definitely time to return!

My first stop was the university just for nostalgia and boy did I get a pang to return to my student days! I also had to drop off some library books for the boyfriend who has just finished his teacher training course there, but took the time to revisit one of my old haunts- Opposite (opposite Parkinsonism Steps, obviously) for a quick cup of tea. I was quite impressed with my ability to remember the shortcuts through town to get to uni from the train station, proving 3 years is definitely enough to get a good homing pigeon sense developed!

I then headed back into town, past Dry Dock (another favourite, a pub in a boat) and the more scenic old buildings en route to Leeds City Museum for a quick nosey. I think I visited only once as a student  (what a bad historian!) but it was a pleasant enough half an hour reading about the history of Leeds and looking at the ancient collection- the mummy being a fascinating favourite. It’s small but it is free and has loads of stuff for kids to do, so definitely could be a whole afternoon’s worth for families.

The main appeal of Leeds however is of course the shopping! I love wandering around the old arcades and visiting the small boutiques, but being on a budget is stuck to one purchase- a tea strainer and some loose leaf Dream Time tea from Whittard’s which is so fragrant and relaxing as I’m writing this post now! I could totally buy so much of that shop it’s unreal, even now I’m still thinking of the mango and passionfruit flavour I loved but didn’t buy. This might become my latest indulgence habit…

After perusing several shops I made my way to the Trinity shopping centre to meet a friend for lunch. It wasn’t even complete when I left Leeds as a graduate so it was still new and exciting to me, and strangely easy to get lost in with the various exits! (My sense of direction is shocking) I still had a lovely browse of all the shops and some serious window shopping of all the designer brands.

We naturally went straight to Trinity Kitchen which I’d heard so much about online- we quickly decided on Pho for Pho Xao- Vietnamese chicken and prawn wok fried noodles, which were very tasty but very messy. I am hopeless with chopsticks and eventually snook over to get a fork and admit defeat. We contemplated the handmade ice cream or mini nutella pancakes for dessert but in the end we were just too full from the noodles to want much more, although they did look amazing.
I definitely should have revisited Leeds before now, and had a really lovely day out so hopefully I will be back again soon to keep exploring!


A trip to Bassenthwaite, Cumbria

 Last Easter we took a short break to the Lake District, and stayed in Ravenstone Manor near Bassenthwaite for two nights. It was a beautiful old manor house with a large en suite room overlooking the lake, and lovely communal rooms with a fire and library. The breakfasts were huge- we got a selection of toasts and pastries, and then a cooked breakfast that you ordered the day before. However, I’m not one for sitting around in the hotel, so we packed plenty in during the day!

When we arrived, we dropped our bags and then quickly went out to visit the Lakes Distillery on the other side of the lake. Not only do they distill whisky, but also gin and vodka which made for a really interesting afternoon. We booked onto the last tour of the day (there were only 2 other people on it), but had a little time beforehand to browse the shop and walk around the back of the distillery down to the river and to see the alpacas! The hour long ‘Distillery Tour’ will cost you £12.50 but you do get a £5 voucher for the shop so its not bad value. You also get a tasting of all three spirits at the end, which is everyone’s favourite! It was really interesting to see the vodka and gin being made, as I’d been to a whiskey distillery before but this was something really new and different.

The next morning looked pretty good for the weather, so we decided that this was the day for a hike. After asking the nice lady in reception, and filling out a route summary for her just in case we got lost, we headed out. There’s a path just behind the hotel up towards Ullock Pike, and from there around to Carl Side, following a circular walk back to the hotel. We didn’t have a proper OS map but were given a PDF print out, had walk instructions downloaded from here and the lady reassured us that the route was clearly marked, which it was. However, as we started to get close to the summit of Ullock Pike the weather turned- it was freezing, foggy and getting quite windy, and on loose chip paths at quite a height we were starting to slip as we climbed. We decided perhaps this wasn’t the best idea as we weren’t really dressed for bad weather (it was mid-April after all) so turned back. We weren’t too disappointed in our aborted hike as we’d seen some amazing views of the lake before the fog descended, and fitbit reckoned we did over 15,000 steps just in the time we did have. There’s really no point continuing if you aren’t enjoying it, and especially if you’re starting to feel uneasy about safety so this was definitely the right decision. A note for the future- bring your full hiking kit and woolly hat even in April in the Lakes!

After a quick cup of tea in the hotel room to warm up, we headed back out but this time somewhere a little more sheltered! The small town of Keswick seemed just the right place for lunch and something less adventurous! After consulting Trip Advisor over our sandwiches, we went in search of the Puzzling Place, mainly on the basis that it was inside and it was still raining a bit. For £3.75 you can enter their ‘World of Illusions’ with lots of optical illusions of all sizes and shapes. I loved it, but the boyfriend didn’t really get into the spirit of things and being a big kid so we didn’t stay long. (This may be part of the reason he’s now an ex, the boring old fart!)

The weather had started to clear by this point so we headed out of Keswick and towards Castlerigg Stone Circle just outside of the town. After finding a parking spot on the side of the narrow road, and deciding it was too cold still for a visit to the ice cream truck we crossed the field to enjoy the view over Helvellyn and High Seat. While obviously nowhere as impressive as Stonehenge, Castlerigg is among the earliest British circles, raised in about 3000 BC during the Neolithic period and was a nice bit of history for me, especially with the mystery of nobody knowing exactly what this circle was for as there’s no sign of burial sites here but archaeologists believe some of the stones are specifically aligned with planets or stars. I took so many photos of the views here as they really are stunning, but hard to find one with no other people in!

Our final morning gave us one last chance to do something before the long drive home, and we decided on a trip to the Lake District Wildlife Park. At £9.50 it was a little expensive for a small zoo but we still enjoyed ourselves, watching a flying display with the hawks and cooing over the very cute sleepy red pandas. However, my personal favourite was the very photogenic meerkats who were out playing in the sunshine.

This was a lovely get away, and it was totally worth splurging on a nice hotel for our base for this trip. I definitely need to return to the Lake District again soon as there’s so much to explore in this beautiful landscape, but next time I will definitely remember my woolly hat!

Eden Camp, the Modern History Theme Museum 

Eden Camp is an old WW2 prisoner of war camp situated just outside of Malton in Yorkshire. I was visiting as part of my preparations for brining 90 year 9 pupils in a few weeks time, and had a pleasant afternoon wandering around the site. Although the concrete buildings aren’t great to look at from the outside, the inside is definitely worth seeing.

There are 28 huts, and the majority are used as part of the museum, with a few being used as the café, gift shop and toilets etc. Each one is crammed with information and many have immersive re-creations of scenes, such as WW1 trenches, a German U-boat and a Blitzed street, complete with sound effects and even smells! These are a lot of fun for children and adults alike, although some of the models are a little dated and creepy looking!

While I was visiting, there was also a WW2 re-enactment group on site, which certainly brought the place to life with realistic looking soldiers from the British, US, French and even German armies walking around and answering questions. Although this doesn’t happen every weekend, it was certainly a nice surprise and if you can organise your trip to coincide with one of these themed weekends, I would suggest you do so!

As part of the same event, there was also a D-Day veteran named David Teacher (MBE) in the gift shop selling his autobiography of his experiences on Juno Beach to raise money for a return trip to the same spot. He was absolutely lovely and such an interesting guy, although who I presume was his publisher did most of the talking! Apparently they’re usually based at the Imperial War Museum in Manchester if you are interested and willing to make the trip- I only wish he was around for my year 9s to meet as that would be an amazing experience for them, but he did say we could email him with any questions which is pretty cool.

The canteen also houses walls full of memorials to soldiers who died in the war fighting in various Yorkshire regiments which was a nice touch and would definitely be worth looking at if you know of any family from the area who died in WW2.

Overall, it is a pretty interesting day out, and has loads to do for the kids outside- lots of bomb shelters to play in, tanks and planes to look at and even an assault course to burn off some energy! Even if you’re not the biggest history or museum fan, this place really does bring it to life and so might be more your cup of tea.




Harrogate Turkish Baths and Spa

On a cold February morning, all I can think about is warming up and relaxing before the end of the half term holidays! Luckily for me, and all you Yorkshire folk, we have Harrogate Turkish Baths right on our doorstep. The Royal Turkish Baths building first opened in 1896 during Harrogate’s heyday as England’s leading Spa town, offering a whole range of treatments. With regular Royal visitors, the Turkish Baths interiors were given a beautiful and lavish Moorish style with great Islamic arches and screens, walls of vibrant glazed brickwork, arabesque painted ceilings and terrazzo floors, laid by the very best Italian experts. It is honestly such a beautiful building, and the refurbishment in 2004 kept all of these features, turning it into luxurious modern spa experience.

There are a range of sessions available, ranging from £15.50 to £29.50 depending on the time you visit. They also offer several ladies only slots, plus a new male only slot as well as the regular mixed one we went to. However, be warned that while swimming costumes are compulsory in the mixed sessions, they are not during the single sex sessions which took me by surprise a little! I started off in the cooler Frigidarium where the lockers and changing rooms are, which is supplied with comfy beds and magazines. However, the lure of the steam room quickly got the better of me, and I probably spent far too long in there relaxing and feeling the benefit of the steam on my poor cold-filled nose!

I then moved onto the Hot Room Chambers which are split into three by thick velvet curtains- the Tepidarium (warm), the Calidarium (hot) and the Laconium (hottest). There were plenty of recliners and benches to relax and chat on, and a water fountain for when the dry heat became a little too much… although being a California baby I don’t think I have ever found my optimum temperature!

After a while though, I did feel the need to cool down a little so braved the Plunge Pool. It was horrifically cold and made me squeal like a little baby but I guess was refreshing in a way. I decided a cool shower was maybe more for me after revisiting the steam room and hot rooms again as there was no way I was getting back in that pool!

Image result for spa treatment harrogate turkish bathsThe Turkish Baths are not only a baths facility, but also have a modern spa available which the boyfriend treated me to and got me full body relaxation massage for our anniversary! Although more expensive than other massage places in Harrogate it was absolutely lovely and a perfect way to relax. You also get access to the Jacuzzi room as a spa customer which was pretty good too, plus it has little tables where you can order food from a café linked to the Turkish Baths which we enjoyed. Clearly the best bit is the complimentary fluffy dressing gown and slippers to lounge around in, although the boyfriend reckons his personal highlight was the original Thomas Crapper toilets…. each to their own!

If you’re ever in Harrogate and feel the need for some serious relaxation and pampering, this is the place to go, and will always bring a smile to your face just by being in such a beautiful building!

None of the photos used are my own, as you obviously can’t take photos while visiting so they are all courtesy of Google images. If they’re yours, let me know if you want credit or removal.



A Day Trip to Durham

This week I decided to make a trip to Durham and make the most of the last of the Christmas holidays. I’ve never been but knowing it was only an hours drive made it a good choice for a day out. There’s 3 park and ride stations on the main routes into the city and this is by far the easiest option rather than trying to find parking in town, and is only £2 for a day pass on all routes.

My first stop was the indoor markets off the main square. While most of the stalls were either food or tit-tat sellers, one really stood out- an exotic looking light shop, shown in the photo. In a dimly little market is really drew you in with the bright colours but also the pretty ways the lights were hung to make interesting patterns. I wish I had bought one now as this stall has stuck in my mind.

I then headed up the hill to the cathedral which was free to enter but under a fair bit of scaffolding so hard to take a good picture. Inside cameras and phones were banned but it was beautiful with huge patterned pillars, soaring ceilings and colourful stained glass windows. It also houses the tombs to St Cuthbert and the Venerable Bede which was quite interesting.

The most interesting part of the cathedral however was the cloisters which were used in the Harry Potter films- I wish I had a cloak to swoosh around in but alas, as a mere muggle I could only look! The cathedral was used several times for interior and exterior shots of Hogwarts in the first two films in particular.

Across the green was Durham Castle. You have to book a guided tour as the only way to enter for £5 from the library and they do sell out fairly quickly- when I arrived at 11am I could only get onto the 1.15 tour. This is beacuse the castle is still used as university accommodation and they don’t want loads of tourists swarming around. We had a lovely guide called Caitlyn who was very entertaining and clearly knew her stuff and was worth the money to find out a little more about Durham’s history.

My final stop was the Palace Green Library next to the castle. It had 3 exhibitions on which to be honest I wouldn’t bother with, but at least they were free. The ‘Hearing Voices’ one was a little odd and the Northern Poets not really my cup of tea and pretty brief. The archaeology exhibition was better but pretty basic and aimed at kids (as as history graduate I am always as little snobby about these things!).

Although Durham is small, it is a lovely place for a day out and a stroll around with a few interesting things to do and plenty of nice cafes to warm you up on a cold January day!

Cream tea in Chilham Village, Kent 

Our annual trip down to Kent to visit family left us with a few days to spare before the Christmas festivities began, but after a 5 hour drive yesterday we decided to have a quiet easy one today. Chilham is only 10 minutes from where we are staying and seemed the perfect spot for a late morning stroll. It has been referred to as a “quintessentially English village” even making it onto Top Gear and Agatha Cristie’s Poirot! 

The village is beautiful and the main square retains much of the original medieval/Tudor feeling. There’s a little gift shop in one of these, selling cute trinkets and homemade Christmas decorations. The history geek in me was very happy wandering around Chilham and soaking up the atmosphere. We dropped into St Mary’s Church to have a look around, which was surprisingly also full of history and monuments to the important people of the village.

Having had a walk and exploration of the village, we decided to fuel up on a cream tea at Shelley’s tea room. Again in one of the quaint old houses this was a perfect spot for people watching through the old warped windows facing onto the square. We went for the Cream Tea for two which supplied us with several cups of tea each plus two enormous scones accompanied by unhealthy amounts of jam and clotted cream. The service was really fast and friendly and just what we needed on a windy December day.

We then had a short ‘what can only be described as a waddle’ one last time around the village to try and burn off some of the calories! We passed the Woolpack Inn which has been there since the 15th century and past Chilham Castle. Unfortunately it only opens its gates once a month between May and September so we couldn’t actually see the Norman keep, but got a glimpse of the Stuart era manor house which looked huge and impressive through the gates.

We maybe spent an hour and a half here enjoying a stroll and our cream tea- there’s not a lot to do but it is a lovely village to pop into and have a mooch around.

Valley Gardens, Harrogate 

The Valley Gardens are English Heritage Grade II Listed gardens in the Montpellier Quarter of Harrogate and open all year round to enjoy for free. My grandparents visited Harrogate this weekend, and after a trip to Bettys (previous review here) we wandered down to Valley Gardens to burn off all the cake! While we love going for just a stroll, it was lovely to get my more knowledgeable grandparents to explain all the plants we saw- although we still haven’t figured out what the giant rhubarb looking plant was….

Despite it being the beginning of autumn, the gardens were still very colourful and full of the final blooms of the flowers. I can imagine in a few weeks when the leaves of the trees turn it will be even more beautiful! It is a huge area to stroll around, and you can even reach RHS Harlow Carr (another review here) if you walk through it for long enough. Throughout the year there are events and concerts on and has great little areas for kids to play in, as well as a little café and ice cream shop, so there’s something for everyone.

There’s not a lot more to say about it, but hopefully the pictures will give you a bit of an idea about what it’s like, and if you’re in Harrogate persuade you to make a visit.