Lisa | That British Betty Blog
A Manchester lifestyle blog by Lisa Valentine. Featuring food, travel, vintage fashion and general ramblings.
A Manchester lifestyle blog by Lisa Valentine. Featuring food, travel, vintage fashion and general ramblings.
Bar the odd trip to the cinema, I have never really explored The Printworks in much depth before, despite walking past it at least once a week!
Having previously associated The Printworks with nights out, the idea of a family day there was a new concept for me. However, they offer a plethora of family friendly venues inside this former printing house. A building seeped in history, it once produced publications such as the Manchester Evening Chronicle and the Daily Mirror, until it was closed in 1985 – my inner geek loves a little bit of architectural knowledge, especially anything related to printing and publishing.
After lying dormant for over ten years, the 1996 bomb attack in Manchester City Centre spurred on redevelopment for the area now known as Exchange Square. In November 2000 Alex Ferguson and Lionel Ritchie were the guest celebrities opening the doors to The Printworks as we now know it, and the rest is history.
Adam, Lucie, her friend Olivia and I headed into Manchester, looking forward to a fun-filled day ahead. I parked up at the NCP carpark, just a few minutes walk away from the Printworks and we made a hasty dash inside, thanks to the notorious Manchester rain! If you are travelling via train, then Victoria station is just next door, along with handy Metrolink stops opposite. I appreciated the fact that The Printworks is all under one roof, keeping us dry and warm.
First on our agenda was a trip to the Odeon cinema. Boasting 20 screens, across several levels, this is definitely one of the biggest complexes I have ever seen. This also includes the IMAX and The VIP Gallery.
I took advantage of the array of concession stands available and opted for a Costa and popcorn, whilst the kids enjoying a Tango Ice Blast and few bags of sweets. We caught a late afternoon screening of Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice. Being big DC Comic fans, Lucie and I had eagerly anticipated this one for some time.
I won’t spoil things for any of you guys yet to watch it, but the movie did not disappoint. Darker than it’s rivals latest offering, with a more serious storyline, we were all enthralled throughout the entire film. With a few familiar characters in the mix (we may have named our cats Lex and Luthor) my parenting pride peaked as Lucie instantly recognised the presence of a very special female character early on. We even had a little blub during one particularly sombre scene!
After our movie session, we headed to Peachy Keens for an evening meal. An all you can eat, multi-cuisine buffet, this was the ideal choice for our little clan. Between us, food can be a bit of a debate as our tastes vary rather dramatically. With over 40 main course dishes from around the world and a huge selection of salads and sushi, we were spoilt for choice!
Alongside the pre-prepared foods, there are also stations with chefs available, ready and waiting to create you something fresh and bespoke. I especially liked the idea of the ‘make your own stir fry’ stand. The place itself was warm, friendly and had a lovely family feel. Clean and tidy, with attentive staff on hand to clear up any spills or mishaps, our first impressions were good.
We were greeted by the duty manager and shown to our table, whilst being offered a round of drinks. Peachy Keens have an extensive drinks menu so after we’d sorted beverages, it was time to head over to the self-serve buffet. I ended up with a rather eclectic mixture of chill, beef in black bean sauce, boiled rice, spring rolls, meatballs and egg friend rice whilst Lucie and Olivia settled for a traditional Indian curry each. The food was satisfactory and great value. Lucie even went back for seconds – mainly consisting of half a plate of olives!
Being an utter sweet-tooth, I was keen to give the dessert section a go. With a chocolate fountain, ice creams, cakes, jellies, apple crumble, creme brulees and more, it didn’t take long for me to fill a plate full of goodies. They were perfectly portioned and tasted divine. The kids soon followed and Olivia put my gluttonous ways to shame, heading back to our table with a plate full of healthy fruit and jelly!
With prices varying from just £4.99 to £14.99, depending on what day and time you chose to dine, Peachy Keens is excellent value for money and offers much more freedom than a tradition restaurant. Overall, we enjoyed a lovely Sunday afternoon and will no doubt enjoy many more family days together at The Printworks in the near future.
*Our food and cinema tickets were provided FOC however all opinions are my own.
As I get older, I seem to find it harder and harder to come up with new ways to keep the kids amused or novel ideas for a night out with my girlfriends, that doesn’t end up with me missing a shoe in a drunken 3am haze! (yes, this has happened more than once…)
The iconic Great Northern building in Manchester is home to All Star Lanes and offers the perfect solution to my dilemma. Being a big fan of all things rockabilly and old school Americana, the idea of a 1950s style bowling alley with modern twist certainly appealed a lot more than my childhood days spent at a generic ten pin bowing alley, with a soggy burger and Slush Puppy thrown in if I was really lucky!
Adam and I have a rather competitive relationship. Board games and the like generally end with tensions running high, so I was pretty certain of how our afternoon was going to play out! (pun intended) We were greeted by friendly reception staff and shown to the bowing registration area. Here, we gave our names and swapped our shoes for the notoriously glamorous bowling footwear! I was wearing open toe pumps and had forgotten to bring any socks with me, however All Star Lanes had it covered and swiftly offered me a pair to use. It’s a good job one of us is organised, eh?
Heading to our lane, I was impressed by the decor and warm atmosphere of All Star Lanes, with old school vibes, subtle nods to the rockabilly era and pin up girl posters dotted around, along with a unique soundtrack – ranging from Elvis to Dick Dale – that made me feel right at home.The lanes were bustling with like-minded folk, enjoying their Sunday afternoon with friends and family.
We settled in our spacious booth and after taking a look at the extensive drinks menu, settled on a deluxe milkshake each. Adam went for Strawberry Cheesecake (strawberry and vanilla ice cream, topped with crumble) and I opted for the Oh Sweet Jeez (chocolate, caramel, peanut butter and banana) These were brought over to our lane and were as delicious as they sound.
Our game started out well. I got a strike on my first turn, which lead to cries of disbelief from Adam and a smug little victory dance from me! Sadly, I was very much the bowling equivalent of Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest this year. After a few impressive turns, my ego was soon brought back down to Earth when I completely missed my last 3 attempts! Not a single pin went down, much to my dismay.
Adam became the metaphorical version of Ukraine and swiftly trumped me to the top spot at the last minute. After a few expletives and a little sulk, I accepted the worthy defeat and we collected out shoes.I noticed the celebrity score board above the desk.
We were in good company, with the likes of Rhianna, Drake, Lady Gaga and Ashley Young all spending time at All Star Lanes in the past. The sweet counter, offering an array of American confectionery, didn’t pass me by either – one of my ultimate weaknesses!
Next up was our meal. We were shown to our table by our lovely server, James, and handed a menu each. All Star Lanes have come up with a brand new special for May. Designed especially for National Vegetarian Week, let me introduce you to the Courgette and Avocado Chilli Burger. Consisting of pan fried courgette & avocado slices cooked in a chilli spiced panko crumb, homemade tomato relish, jalapenos & chipotle mayo in a brioche bun, I was curious to give this a go.
Being a non-vegetarian, I would usually have gone straight for pulled pork, but the mention of avocado had lured me in. Adam went for a starter of Popcorn Squid, the Fried Chicken Burger main and a side of sweet potato fries. The Courgette and Avocado Chill Burger certainly gave my taste buds a challenge! I enjoyed the crunchy courgette and the soft brioche bun, however, the chilli panko crumb and jalapenos proved a little too much for my delicate palette and I had to admit defeat half way through my burger. Adam thoroughly enjoyed his meal and managed to finish every morsel.
As it was my birthday the day before, I decided to try another offering from the May specials – The Strawberry Gin Spritz. A blend of Bombay sapphire, fraise liqueur, elderflower cordial, lime, cucumber and fresh strawberries topped with soda water, this contained pretty much all of my favourite things in one glass. Beautifully presented and refreshing, the flavours worked perfectly for spring.
After our main, we were offered a peek at the dessert menu. Again, being a fiend for all things sweet, I had to take a look. After toying with the idea of Salted Caramel Cheesecake or Double Chocolate Brownies, I settled on classic American pancakes, topped with Nutella, bananas and toasted nuts. Despite being nicely full from our meal, Adam and I managed to devour most of the pancakes between us, which were insanely tasty.
We left All Star Lanes happy and will most definitely be back again soon. If you fancy unleashing your inner Stephanie Zinone or Johnny Nogerelli, then this is the place for you!
A couple of weeks ago, I headed back to my home town of Bury, Lancashire. I head home fairly often, however, this time, I was a little more excited than usual. You see, I was off to spend the day at the hidden gem that is Arcade Club.
Having spent most of my youth playing video games with my Dad and sister, nostalgia and intrigue were the driving force behind this trip. Me, Adam, Lucie and a bunch of our like-minded friends decided to meet up and see for ourselves what the Arcade Club was all about.
Hidden away on the 3rd floor of the unassuming Ela Mill, Cork St, it would be easy to miss. With games such as Street Fighter, Golden Axe (two of my personal favourites) Asteroids, Black Widow, Hot Rod, Pacman, Point Blank, Frogger, Sega Rally Twin, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, House Of The Dead 2, Ikaruga, Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat II, Shinobi and Vulcan Venture alongside pinballs machines like Addams Family and Metallica and Twilight Zone – to name just a few – I genuinely could not wait to get inside.
I even got to chat with the owner Andy Palmer and his mum Linda to learn a little more about Arcade Clubs origins.
They began their venture in Haslingden, Lancashire after placing a few machines in the computer repair shop that Andy runs. This became so popular that the opened the very first Arcade Club in Haslingden, starting with around 30 machines. Soon expanding to over 120 machines, people were queuing out of the door, with the Arcade Club then having to enforce a ‘one in one out’ policy!
As with a lot of people, arcade games have always been a love affair for Andy and he began his collection over 20 years ago, now boasting over 300 machines. Their passion for Arcade Club is clear to see. With volunteers helping out on a regular basis, Linda explained to me that the main goal here is community.
“We are big believers in the local community, with parents bringing in their children of all ages to enjoy some rare family time, away from the modern technology of phones and the internet. People love coming in and reliving their teenage years. It also opens up classic arcade games to a brand new generation.”
My friend Lewis and I were also given access to Arcade Clubs other floor in Ela Mill, not currently open to the public. I was in awe, with so many games from my childhood being repaired and getting ready to be used upstairs. Some of the machines here are over 30 years old, which is mind blowing given that some of them were only initially made to last for a few years maximum. Andy has plans to expand this space in the months ahead, bringing in a potential board game club, pool tables, a bar, LAN gaming, tournaments, competitions and much more in the future.
I was also surprised to see just how many of the younger generation were in attendance on our visit, having – somewhat naively – assumed that the main audience would predominately be my own age group, looking for a hit of gaming nostalgia.
The Arcade Club is the biggest collection of retro arcade games in Europe, with people even flying in from Germany and America to attend. You can also hire Arcade Club out exclusively, which I am seriously contemplating taking advantage of for our next big occasion. Linda even told me that some people have expressed an interest in getting married there – Adam and I definitely missed a trick with that one!
With no advertising or corporate agenda behind this venture, Arcade Club rely solely on word of mouth as their means of promotion. Given that this is a hugely popular concept, I could very much imagine this kind of venue would be right at home in the Northern Quarter, Manchester. However, it was almost refreshing to hear that profit is the last thing on Andys mind. They charge just £10 per adult and £5 per child to come along and spend as much or as little time here as they like.
They also offer an array of retro and gaming memorabilia, a pick and mix selection (yes, we indulged) and soft drinks priced from just 50p, along with bottled beers and hot dogs. Open Fridays from 6pm – 12am as an over 18s only night, Saturdays from 11am – 11pm and Sundays 2pm – 8pm for all the family, this is a unique and fun way to spend the weekend.
Even 12 year old Lucie and her friend had a great time, heading straight for the Sega Rally Twin then kicking my arse on Point Blank! We ended up staying at Arcade Club for a good 4 hours or so, to enjoy all of the free play games and will most definitely be going back again soon.
If you’re in the area and fancy stepping into this little time machine, let me know what you think and say hello to Andy for me
In fact, I have a rather embarrassing confession to make. On mine and Adams very first date, we went to Manchester for a bite to eat and the inevitable, awkward few hours of chit chat that first dates often bring. I ordered beef brisket and Adam ordered his first ever plate of nachos. Not only did I eat all of my food, but over the course of our evening, managed to eat most of Adams nachos too. Classy eh?
When Chilango invited me along for a VIP burrito night at their brand new restaurant in Manchester, I was excited to see what they had to offer. Knowing that Adam is also a big fan of Mexican food, I dragged him along too!
The only Mexican restaurant that I’ve ever really fallen in love with is based in Edinburgh, which I stumbled across during one of my trips to the Fringe Festival. Sadly, it’s about 200 miles too far away for me to visit very often, so I have been waiting for something more local to come along.
We found Chilagos new home at 50 Oxford Street, Manchester with ease. Upon arrival, the decor immediately caught my eye. With custom graffiti walls, a neon shrine and various other artwork, the nod to Chilangos vibrant, Hispanic-inspired roots was clear to see.
Adam and I tucked into the huge pile of nachos on our table. The first thing we both commented on was the guacamole. Made by hand, with fresh batches produced on site every couple of hours, I can honestly say that it was the best I have ever tasted! A bold statement but true. We also quickly become fans of the Seven Brothers sauce – made with real beer – that complimented our bottles of Seven Brothers ale perfectly. I love that Chilango have brought a local, Mancunian based company on board with them in this new venture.
We also got the opportunity to enjoy a drink with Chilango co-founder, Eric Partaker and food quality manager, Luis Castro.
Eric grew up in Chicago where he fell in love with both Mexican food and the hospitality industry. He grew up on the stuff, in one of the largest Hispanic communities in America. Eric helped pay his way through school with various restaurant and bar jobs and graduated from the University of Illinois with a Finance degree in 1999. Before Chilango, Eric worked together with fellow co-founder Dan Houghton at Skype in London – a pair of passionate entrepreneurs who had an idea. In 2007, Eric and Dan launched their first restaurant in Islington, London and the rest is history!
Luis hails from sunny California and attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. He joined Chilango just 3 months after the first restaurant opened and has been responsible for sourcing the stampede of Mexican flavours ever since. Luis has worked with food all his life – from his very first job working with a fruit and veg retailer to working with dairy farmers, and then food quality assurance and food manufacturing.
The genuine excitement and passion that these guys have for Chilango shone through when they speak about the brand. I asked Eric why he had chosen my beloved Manchester for his next project. Eric told me that it was the vibrancy and variety of the city that first drew them here. They were both fabulous company, happily answering my questions along with a little general chit chat – I’m excited to see what the future holds for them.
Adam and I then created our very own signature burritos, with a little help from the talented head chef, Carlos and other lovely team members. Each and every one of these guys was incredibly knowledgeable and more importantly, fun!
We began by toasting our tortilla wrap. After filling it with a little rice, we then had a big decision to make. The backbone of the burrito – the meat! We were given a choice of pork belly, prawns, chicken or steak. All cooked to perfection in their own unique mix of herbs and spices, I went for chicken and steak, whilst Adam opted for prawn.
Next, the team helped us create the perfect combination, advising us on what would compliment our meat. We were talked through all of the ingredients and I was surprised at the amount of attention that went into each product, all freshly made. I went on to fill the rest of my burrito with black beans, lettuce, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and of course, the Seven Brothers sauce.
I was unsure of how to eat this bad boy, so abandoned my manners and tucked right in with both hands. No cutlery required for me! The food was so good that we are actually going to visit Chilango again next week. Uh-oh…
We were treated to a bucket of bottled beers and the mammoth ‘Lagerita’ (pictured below) along with a good selection of soft drinks. Perfect for a boozy evening with friends! Alongside the legendary burritos, they also offer a range of nudos, tacos, nachos and salads, to eat in or take away.
The Oxford Street branch is the only one outside of London for these guys right now, however, Chilango will most definitely be expanding within Manchester soon. I’m not allowed to say much more about these plans on here but keep your eyes peeled!
Chilango opens to the public today (22/04/15) and will be giving away free burritos from 12 – 8pm to celebrate. Yes, you heard me. FREE FOOD. What are you waiting for?!
‘Dive in…crawl out…’
Last week, I was invited to the brand new Dive NQ in Manchester to sample some of the delicious food and drink on offer. I love discovering new places to eat in town, so of course I went along for a nosey! Located on Tib St in the Northern Quarter (next to Afflecks) it’s easy to find and in an ideal spot, with Picadilly and Victoria train stations both within walking distance.
I arrived at Dive NQ around 6.45pm and waited in the bar for 3 fellow bloggers. I’ll be honest, this is a new step for me. I have been following these girls via their blogs and social media pages for while but we had never met up ‘in real life’ before. An introvert’s nightmare but in the spirit of new things, I forced myself to be brave. Turns out I had nothing to worry about. Steffany, Lorna and Sophie greeted me with a smile and we were shown to our table by a friendly member of staff.
The décor was modern yet rustic with lots of reclaimed wood and bronze features – the light fittings and leather effect booths were particularly striking. There were several screens around the venue showing a big football match that night. Due to this, I expected it to be solely filled with sports fanatics however the range of clientèle was broad. From large groups of friends enjoying food to colleagues grabbing a quick beer after work, it was a genuinely nice, relaxing atmosphere.
Dive NQ has only been open for around 3 months but is clearly proving popular as even on a cold February week night, it was almost full! They are open until 5am on weekends with a large dance floor, various DJs and entertainment on offer then open again from 12pm everyday, if you fancy somewhere to nurse your inevitable hangover with some light bites.
Here, I discovered what their concept of a Dive bar is. It’s most certainly not the somewhat down and dingy beer hole as I had half anticipated, far from that in fact! The vision here is to provide the food in smaller portions – similar to tapas style dining – so that customers can order a variety of different dishes to share between the table. A true casual dining experience. If you relate to Joey from Friends and sharing food is not your bag, then you do have the option to order a larger solo portion instead.
After deliberating over the extensive American ‘street food’ style menu for a good 15 minutes or so, we still couldn’t choose so asked the lovely Allen, who was looking after our table, to surprise us with a selection of food. We were not disappointed! As dish after dish landed in front of us, the smell was incredible. From chicken tacos, pulled pork sliders, shredded chicken nachos, sweet potatoes wedges, cheese steak subs, garlic mushrooms and more, we ended up with an array of choice.
I personally found this to be a great idea as I ended up trying – and thoroughly enjoying – foods that I possibly would have never ordered myself. Pulled pork sliders in particular will always be a winner for me and these ones definitely exceeded other offerings I’ve had in the past.
The American-inspired cocktails also caught my attention. Sadly I was driving so opted out of these but I had my eye on the ‘Mad Hatten Iced Tea’ containing an impressive nine spirits and the ‘Parma Violence’, made with gin, violet liqueur, egg white, grenadine and fresh lemon. Given that us girls ended up unintentionally staying at Dive NQ past 10pm, I can see this hidden gem becoming our new favourite place to make some drunken memories together in the future!
*My food and drinks were provided FOC however all opinions are my own.
Sherlock Holmes was one of my favourite fictional characters as a child. Finding the clues, putting the pieces together then ultimately, solving the crime. Being a British child of the 80s/90s, I also discovered the wonder that was The Crystal Maze. I remember the excitement and anticipation clearly. Would the contestants ever make it out in time? Which room would they pick? Would they be locked in forever?! The sheer excitement was almost too much for the 9 year old me to handle some Saturdays.
When I was approached by the guys from Breakout Manchester and invited along for a game, I genuinely squealed a bit. BRING IT ON! I rounded up a few like-minded friends and decided to book the John Monroes Detective Office. With a 3/5 difficulty rating, I figured it would be a good place to start for Breakout virgins such as ourselves.
If you haven’t heard of the ever-growing concept of escape rooms yet, where have you been for the past couple of years?! Beneath a rock? I jest of course. The idea of Breakout is this: In teams of 2 – 5, you have 60 minutes to escape a locked room using only the power of your brain. Along with cryptic clues and puzzles, each room is uniquely themed and has a back story for you to follow.
Seems easy right? Hmmm, you’ll see…
On Monday evening, we headed over to the Brazennose Street location, next to the Town Hall (they also have rooms on High Street, Manchester so do be sure to check when you book) The 4 of us then waited in the Breakout reception area, which was filled with puzzles and locks for you to get your brain in action with beforehand.
John Monroe was a famous detective. Sadly he was murdered in his office and you are being framed as his killer. You are on the run and have gained access to his office, the crime scene, for one hour. Can you save yourself by finding out who killed him, why someone killed him and how they killed him?
We entered the game room with Breakout team member Adil. He gave us a brief run through of the health and safety policies and rules. We were asked not to dismantle any plug sockets, electrical equipment nor try and climb through the ceiling panels. I scoffed and giggled at this statement until Adil told us that these things had actually been attempted in previous games. I guess us Manchester folk are thoroughly determined after all eh?
Next came the fictional tale behind this particular room. John Monroe was a famous detective. He was murdered in his office and we were being pinned as his killers. Whilst on the run, we miraculously managed to gain access to the crime scene for just one hour. Here we had the chance to clear our names by finding out who killed him, why John Monroe met his fateful end and how this ghastly crime was carried out.
Adil appointed me team leader and handed me a satchel with a padlock attached. He wished us luck, locked the door behind him and the countdown began. We had just 60 minutes to try and figure this out! The Breakout team monitor your progress through the game via CCTV and use a TV screen in the game room to give you a countdown clock. This can also be used to give players a few subtle hints if they (or you – you can give them a signal) think you may be struggling.
We quickly figured out the combination code for the locked satchel and inside was our next clue. I can’t divulge too much after this as I would hate to spoil any future games for you guys! The next hour involved the four of us frantically scouring the room, trying to figure out the array of puzzles and codes.
During our game, we were completely focused on the task ahead. I think we made the perfect little dream team as some clues that I had no idea with, Adam solved immediately and places that he would never have looked for codes, I managed to uncover whilst the others worked on different challenges around the room. We left nothing unexplored, searching underneath chairs, tables, drawers, pictures and pretty much anything else we could think of!
As the time flew by, the panic and frustration built. There were a few occasions when we pleaded with the camera and gratefully received a tip via the screen, which helped moved our game along. We finally put together the last piece of this gruesome puzzle…AND ESCAPED!! There was a genuine sense of achievement when we realised that we had solved the crime and had OVER 10 MINUTES left to go. Hurrah!
Adil came back into the room and congratulated us – we had escaped (fake) prison, justice was served and peace had been restored. We were practically god-damn superheroes here! Ok so he may not have said those exact words but that’s what I heard in my glorious bubble of victory, along with a few imaginary fireworks for good measure. Just call me Sherlock…
We were asked if there was anything we had liked/disliked, how easy we found it, any changes that would have helped etc. It transpired that a few of the ‘red herring’ clues in the room had actually been solved by Adam which was pretty impressive! Also, we were informed that we had initially disregarded some pretty big clues which would have made our game somewhat easier.
All in all, we had an awesome evening. I would highly recommend Breakout for a variety of occasions. A birthday, team building, first date (how cool would that be?) family afternoon out – you name it. If I get the opportunity to visit again, would love to up the ante and try the notoriously difficult ‘Madchester‘ room. Maybe even bringing the kids along for some good old family fun/heated arguments…
Ironically, as I wrote this piece, an exciting email from Breakout pinged into my inbox, informing me of a brand new room in the making – Most Wanted: Dead Or Alive.
‘Think of yourselves as bounty hunters of the Wild West breaking in to a saloon in search of loot! It’s another race to escape although this time the bigger reward you collect, the higher up on the leaderboard you will go! Your escape time is important…but the reward means more to your team! Make sure you’re out by the time the sheriff returns; even if it means leaving some of your riches behind or you’ll end up spending the night in a cell as Breakout Manchester’s Most Wanted!’
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Growing up watching Westerns with my dad, I simply have to give this one a go at some point. Have you ever tried any of the rooms at Breakout? If not, please do give it a go and I’ll happily answer any questions you may have You can book online, via email or give the team a call on 0161 839 8012.
*Our game was provided FOC however all opinions are my own
I know who makes the best burgers (in my humble opinion of course) the best place to go for a greasy fry-up or to sip the most lavish champagne. When I was recently contacted by Revolucion de Cuba, Manchester and invited to try out their brand new brunch menu, I was intrigued to find out more.
Adam & I headed into Manchester, eager to see what they had in store. With an array of dishes on offer, we found it difficult to choose just one! From porridge brulee, Spanish omelette and granola berry parfait to a full grilled breakfast, there was plenty of variety. We ordered our drinks whilst we deliberated. I asked for the Mexican Breakfast cocktail (Tequila, grapefruit, orange and lime mixed with mandarin marmalade) without the alcohol as I was I driving. I was informed that this was unavailable so settled on a cafe mocha and Adam opted for a cappuccino. They also offer bottomless Mimosas and Bellinis at just £12 per person, so well worth the money if you fancy a little extravagance one weekend.
After a while, I finally decided on the Huevo Rancheros and Adam on the Brekky Buritto. Our food arrived promptly (within 10 minutes) and smelt amazing! My plate was loaded with a tortilla topped with spicy black beans, tomatoes and mushrooms, finished off with a fried egg and spicy rum sauce served with crispy patatas and a fresh salad. Adams Brekky Buritto was a floured tortilla roll filled with sausage, egg, chorizo, refried beans, jalapeños and cheese, topped off with crispy bacon. Whenever we eat out, we always like to try a little bit of the other persons meal, just to prevent any potential food envy from arising! I was impressed with both and although the portions didn’t look large, I found myself comfortably full after eating. I think next time, I’ll be trying either the Cubano Benedict or the Avocado Brunch.
The atmosphere was relaxed and the setting was vibrant. There was a live band playing whilst we ate, which provided background music without being too overbearing. Revolucion de Cuba also host salsa dancing classes, private parties, rum tasting sessions in both the restaurant and the Havana club downstairs. In my ongoing effort to try new things, I am determined to give the salsa dancing and rum tasting sessions a go this year 💛 I think my love of spiced rum could give an alcoholic pirate a run for his money so hopefully, Revolucion de Cuba can help me add a few more favourites to my growing collection!
*Our food was provided FOC however all opinions are my own as always
We knew it was going to be an emotive day and realised we had two options; go big or go home! So go big we did, choosing to spend Christmas Day in Disneyland, Paris.
As I clicked ‘confirm’ on our flights and hotel booking, I began to wonder if I had finally gone mad. No friends, no family, no home comforts, no Christmas morning traditions or piles of gifts; surely this was not going end well?!
This would be our second trip abroad with me as the only adult in charge, so I was still a little nervous about the huge responsibility. As it turns out, it was the best thing we’ve ever done!
I had added a few sneaky plans in there for the kids, including a dinner and Wild West show with Buffalo Bill and a luxury Christmas dinner on the 25th December in the New York hotels stunning ballroom, accompanied by Mickey and friends.
On the evening of 23rd December 2014, we exchanged gifts at home. With the mulled wine on tap, Christmas tree decorated within an inch of it’s life and snow on the ground, we began getting into the festive spirit.
By 3am on Christmas Eve, we were en route to Manchester Airport and ready for the adventure ahead. After a short flight, we navigated our way around Charles De Gaulle airport and hopped on to the pre-booked Disney bus to our hotel.
After an hour or so, we arrived at Disneys nautical-themed Newport Bay Club, our home for the next 4 days. We have stayed here before but arriving on Christmas Eve with that impeccable Disney decor was an experience to be remembered.
As we entered the lobby, the excitement kicked in. Surrounded by stunning Christmas trees and with carols ringing through the air, we checked in and got all of the information and paperwork we needed for the duration of our stay from the helpful staff at reception. After a quick shower, we did what anybody would do – headed straight to the parks!
Our hotel was only a 10 minute walk from the main attractions. The iconic Disney castle was soon in the distance and I think that we all turned into overexcited children for a split second. Megan had spotted Minnie Mouse and simply couldn’t contain herself! She ran over at rate of knots, leaving Lucie and I laughing and racing to catch up. I had bought the girls personalised autograph books before we left England so we were on a bit of a mission to meet as many characters as we could find. After the obligatory photo opportunity (and hug) we were also lucky enough to bump into Pluto and Buzz Lightyear on our travels.
By 8pm, we were tired out from our early start so decided to head back to the hotel and rest up, ready for Christmas Day. One tradition that our little family have always had is to read our favourite Christmas book before bedtime on Christmas Eve. I had packed ‘The Night Before Christmas’ in my suitcase, not wanting to forgo this little ritual so we all snuggled down in the king size bed with hot chocolates and this special story book.
As my girls slept, I stayed away for a little while. This was unlike any Christmas Eve we’d experienced before and I began to feel a little bit nostalgic, for our home and the Christmases gone by. My girls were growing up so very fast and I was determined to cherish every single memory we would make together in this magical winter wonderland.
I awoke on Christmas morning before the kids and took a moment alone to adjust to our new surroundings. Despite the luxury, it did feel somewhat strange not waking up at home with two excited children holding stockings full of gifts, telling me that Father Christmas had been.
After a while, I gently woke my girls up. To my relief, they were just as enthusiastic as any other Christmas morning! We headed down for breakfast where everyone we met along the way – staff and guests – were all in high spirits. We enjoyed a cooked breakfast and pot of tea before walking over to the Disney Studios.
The Ratatouille ride had been recommended to us by a friend, so that was our first port of call. This 4D ride took us through the sights, sounds and smells of Gusteau’s famous Parisian restaurant. A unique experience unlike any other. Next up was the infamous Space Mountain rollercoaster; a fast-paced and thrilling ride that left us rather flustered. We then debated tackling the famous Tower Of Tower…before all wimping out!
It was soon time for our Christmas lunch at the New York Hotel. We entered wide-eyed as the doors to the ballroom opened; it was spectacular. With twinkle lights on the ceiling, elegant table settings, Christmas music and fresh Christmas trees filling the room, we were shown to our table. The air was filled with that classic Disney magic through and through.
Megan and I enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and we tucked into to our traditional Christmas lunch. A prawn cocktail starter, a main of roast turkey with all of the trimmings and cheesecake for dessert. We were joined by Alice, The Mad Hatter, Peter Pan, Wendy, Goofy, Chip N Dale, along with a few other familiar Disney faces. Happy, full and in the festive spirit, we left the hotel and headed back to the Studios. Our afternoon consisted of yet more rides before we managed to catch the enchanting and festive Christmas Parade.
With the snow falling and bells ringing, we watched in awe as the characters appeared on their perfectly decorated floats. A fairly new set of faces to the family were Ana and Elsa of Frozen fame. As they arrived in their horse-drawn carriage, the smaller children around us went absolutely crazy! We congregated around the castle as it lit up the night sky and admired the array of colourful fireworks whilst clutching our hot chocolates to stay warm; the perfect end to a lovely Christmas day.
On Boxing Day, we decided to enjoy a lie in and spend some time winding down in the hotel spa. Steam rooms, saunas and a few hours in the nautical themed pool definitely did the trick. I’m fairly convinced that Lucie is part mermaid; she adores being in the water! Eventually, I had to coerce her out of the pool before she shrivelled up like a prune.
After a chat with friends and family via Skype, we went back to the park to meet up with one of my lovely friends for a coffee. She also happened to be in Paris over Christmas so it was the perfect opportunity for a catch-up, given that we live a few hundred miles apart in England! It was quite comforting to see a familiar face and we enjoyed each others company for an hour or so.
Next up was our dinner at the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in the Disney Village. We visited here a long time ago, when the kids were practically toddlers so I was excited about the evening ahead. We had fabulous lower tier seats with a perfect view of the arena.
The show began, we donned our stetsons and food was served. As we enjoyed corn bread, chilli, chicken wings and unlimited beers/soft drinks, the venue was awash with live animals, such as horses and buffalo. Along with Minnie, Mickey, Chief Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley and the Rough Riders, we watched the drama unfold. The atmosphere was electric! With fabled adventures, shoot out and chases, we were all highly entertained throughout the evening. The crowd cheered as the show heated up and we giggled a Goofy’s comedic timing.
The next day was our last in Disneyland. We wanted to take advantage of this so went straight to the studios after a quick continental breakfast (aka stuffed our faces with delicious fresh pastries; when in Paris and all that jazz..)
We managed to catch the live action stunt car show. With fire tricks and plenty of stunts, this was definitely a novel way to spend an hour or so! We even got a glimpse of the famous ‘Cars’ character, Lightening Mc Queen.
We enjoyed some last minute shopping in the numerous Disney stores and blew a fair few Euros in the Lego shop along the way. We were even lucky enough to snap a quick selfie with the legendary Spiderman himself!
As we packed our suitcases, boarded our plane and arrived at Manchester Airport, I was saddened to come back to reality. Those few precious days with my girls, in the most magical place in the world, is something that I wish I could hold on to for just a little bit longer. I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing you again soon Paris; thank you for the memories. Next stop – Florida!
The living room was fit to bursting with fabrics, buttons, paints, threads and numerous other haberdashery bits and pieces. All of a sudden, it was January – and I hadn’t managed to make a single thing. Disheartened, I vowed to start earlier next year and get myself organised. So here we are!
Recently, I went on a little online shopping spree. I found myself gravitating towards Hobbycraft and before I knew it, my basket was full. I bought green and red scalloped cards, vintage style buttons, glue, festive paper, decoupage pieces, ink pads, stamps and more.
This week, I roped my little family in and basically forced them to enjoy a few evenings of crafting with me, slightly against their will. Lucie was the only one that ‘broke’ – I’m still not 100% sure if this was purely out of pity but I’ll take it regardless.
In the end, we had a great time. With festive tunes on in the background and the occasional cat butting in to steal ribbon, the freehand results were pretty cool! A great way to get in the mood for Christmas.
Sure, I could have picked up a few packs of cards from my local supermarket, which would have been easier and cheaper. Personally, I’m a big lover of all things handmade. Hopefully, our friends and family will appreciate something a little more bespoke and thoughtful to display in their homes this year – if I actually get around to posting them that is!
Adam and I got engaged! That’s right – we’re getting married *cue excited squeal*
It’s something we’d discussed a little over the months and on the first night of our adventure, the question was indeed popped. Of course, I said yes! We opened the bubbly and spent the next few days in a complete daze. I couldn’t stop looking at my beautiful vintage ring and thinking about what lay ahead for us.
Just twelve months ago, I could have never envisioned being so content and in love. This is absolutely the right time for us and I’ve learnt over the past few years that life really is too short to be anything but truly happy. You just have to be brave, grab it by the balls and take the chances when they arise.
We have 100% approval and love from the people around us who matter the most. I am lucky enough to be ‘inheriting’ a wonderful family of in-laws along with my incredible, kind and supportive future husband. My girls are delighted and I cannot wait to make our relatively new unit official in the next year or two. A life filled with adventures, travelling, nest building, more cats (obviously…) dogs, family, friends and if nature allows, perhaps even a mini – Valentine or two one day.
Now to fall into a whirlwind of dresses, table plans, invites, venues and party planning! I’m a little bit crap at this whole wedding malarkey so if anyone has any tips or advice, it would be most welcome.
Here’s to the future!
One year already – how time flies, eh? We could have gone abroad to one of the many destinations on our mutual bucket list but after a chat, we both decided that we needed some time away from everything to truly relax for a while.
No wifi, technology, people or pressure. Just the two of us, a hefty supply of booze and the glorious Lancashire countryside. Heaven! My Mum had kindly offered to stay at our house and look after the girls and cats for a few days so we could enjoy some time alone.
We arrived at Wryesdale Park on Friday afternoon. After being greeted by the owner Sally, we parked up and headed to our home for the next few nights. The tent was gorgeous! We had a hot tub, log stove, shower, sofa, dining table, porch and three beds. Only a few yards from the lake, it was prettier than I could have imagined and so secluded; just us and approximately 300 quacking ducks! We lit candles, snuggled down into our feather duvet and cracked open a ginger beer.
The next few days passed in a bit of a blur. No phone nor real concept of time meant we could truly switch off. I guess in the midst of a normal, hectic working week, the chance to completely and utterly wind down just isn’t possible. Adam and I filled our days with books, board games, BBQs and camp fires by the lake. I am aware that this makes us sound like a pair of OAPs but for us, this was perfection.
On Sunday, we enjoyed a short walk in the sunshine to the Apple Store Cafe, which is also run by Sally. Located in a gorgeous English garden, the setting was quaint and filled with greenery. As per tradition, we opted for a Sunday roast with all the trimmings and a pot of tea; the beef dinner was perfection. Made with fresh produce, it was the best Sunday lunch I’ve had in a long time.
Adam and I then went for a longer walk to embrace the beautiful British countryside in it’s Autumnal glory (and to burn off the trillion calories from our lunch…) We came across sheep, wild pheasant, blackberries, holly and pine cones. Days like this remind me just how lucky we really are to live in this stunning corner of the planet.
We spent the rest of the evening in the hot tub with a few drinks. Monday morning approached and it was soon time to leave. I was so sad; the idea of going back to reality and our responsibilities seemed too much like hard work!
As I drove home, I began to reflect on what really matters to me. I spend so much time online! If I can’t sleep, I pick up my phone. When I’m eating, I browse Pinterest. If I’m watching a movie, my phone is never far from my hand.
Over the four days we were away, I can honestly say I did not miss my phone, iPad or the internet one little bit. It has it’s place of course (it’s also how I make a living…) but I realised just how much it consumes my personal life.
The simple life may just be the way forward after all.
The event was hosted at The Vintage Beauty Parlour which may now be one of my favourite places! Set in a residential area of Chorlton, Manchester, the salon has some cute vintage touches, beautiful décor and lots of windows to give a great atmosphere and ambience.
As more and more ladies arrived, we all began to chat away like old friends, complimenting each other on our vintage style dresses, bags and makeup. It was such a lovely feeling being around other like-minded girls who share the same giddy excitement for a somewhat eclectic lifestyle.
The class consisted of around 15 ladies in total and lasted for 3 hours. I took my camera to document the evening and remind myself how to recreate some of the styles. It also happened to be Cherry’s birthday, so we all arrived pre-armed with cards and a few little gifts (being the hardcore fangirls we are!)
Cherry is absolutely gorgeous; there is no denying that. It was a little bit surreal to actually meet her in the flesh after watching her numerous online tutorials over the years. She began the class by showing us how to create a full vintage makeup look. This included the classic glamour of red lip and winged eyeliner. I’ve always found liquid eyeliner a difficult thing to master and judging by comments from the other girls, I’m certainly not alone in this.
I personally swear by Supercat liquid eyeliner by Soap and Glory; easy to use, cheap and lasts for AGES. Cherry also recommended using an eyelid primer before applying any eye makeup, to help the longevity of the products. Lips are a fairly simple process with lipliner being an essential tool of the trade; the trick is to use the liner to fill the lip completely, creating a lasting base and then use a brush to apply the corresponding shade of lipstick.
My personal favourite is the Lime Crime Velvetine in Reddest Red. This is a stain-like lipstick and I swear, it’s almost bulletproof! I wear this regularly on nights out and it survives gin, food and boyfriend kisses with no issues. I find myself having to scrub it off at bedtime! Magic.
Cherry then showed us how to perfect the elusive victory roll, which seems to be another challenge for us rockabilly ladies! The key is backcombing, bobby pins, hairspray and a lot of patience. You can see a full tutorial here.
After a little break, Cherry then showed us how to create another classic vintage hair style on her model for the evening, Rachel of Vintage Folly, using pin curls and a little pampering. Doesn’t she look lovely?
After the seminar, the stunning Ewa and Bethany surprised Cherry with a birthday cake and cava (Ewa is an incredibly talented makeup artist and hairdresser based in Manchester. She has created some fabulous looks on me in the past) Vicky and I stayed around for photos and a chat with Cherry and the other girls.
I discovered that Cherry and I even have a lot of the same tattoos, which was very cool. It sounds incredibly cheesy but it felt like’ home’ being around such like-minded ladies; I was truly in my element.
I have had a love affair with all things vintage and pin up related since a very young age. As I grew up, I realised that this wasn’t a particularly cool nor mainstream style to follow and as a teenager, I found it hard to find friends that I could truly relate to. I’d always yearned for more. During adulthood, I’m happy to report that I managed to meet some wonderful guys and girls with the same passions and lifestyle, through the world of burlesque, vintage meet ups and social media; I’ve finally found my people!
Cherry Dollface truly is the modern day queen of rockabilly style and an all round fabulous lady; I do hope I get the opportunity to meet her again one day <3