Our Honeymoon Cruise

It’s been nearly 2 months since we jetted off on our honeymoon and I still can’t believe it’s been and gone. I can honestly say we had the best time, and I have the most amazing memories. If you missed all my insta-stories, we chose to go on a Mediterranean/Greek Island cruise, which we’d decided would be the most relaxed way to explore lots of different places, whilst also getting to chill out in luxury.

Honeymoon selfieCelebrity ReflectionHoneymoon cruiseHoneymoon champagneHoneymoon cakeShip jacuzzi

It was our second ever cruise and our first with Celebrity, but we have only positive things to say about both Celebrity and their (current) largest ship, the Reflection, which was beautiful. It had lovely spaces, bars and eating spots both in the open air and on the opulent lower decks. We also had a balcony cabin, and it was lovely to wake up to sea views each day!

As with all Celebrity cruises, food is included (excluding certain speciality restaurants), but we were also able to get a drinks package when booking too, so we enjoyed (and I mean really enjoyed!) plenty of “free” food and drink. One of our favourite things to do was visit the Mast Grill on the pool deck for a freshly grilled burger and a beer at lunchtime. And then at set sail time (usually 6-7pm) visit the Sunset Bar at very back of the ship, to enjoy a few drinks in the early evening sun whilst watching the day’s destination disappear into the distance. We also really loved dining in the main restaurant every evening. The food there was amazing and the service just unbeatable!

Exploring a new place every day was probably less relaxing than we’d anticipated – we certainly clocked up a lot of steps– but we made up for it with plenty of relaxing in the Jacuzzi and then the bars later on in the day.

Here are some of our amazing destinations:

Rome

Rome 1Rome 2

Rome 3Rome 4Rome 5Rome 6

Malta

Malta 1Malta 2Malta 3Malta 4Malta 5

Mykonos

Mykonos 1Mykonos 2Mykonos 3Mykonos 4Mykonos 5

Rhodes

Rhodes 1Rhodes 2Rhodes 3Rhodes 4Rhodes 5Rhodes 6Rhodes 7Rhodes 8

Santorini

Santorini 1Santorini 2Santorini 3Santorini 4

Athens

Athens 1Athens 2Athens 3Athens 4Athens 5Athens 6

And now it’s back to married life!

Kahlua Brunch Club

Isn’t brunch just the best?! Eating breakfast food at an hour when it’s reasonable to drink alcohol – what could be better than that? Well something fun has being happening in Manchester – a pop up brunch club hosted by Kahlua! Kahlua is the Mexican rum and coffee liqueur that forms the basis of the Espresso Martini – the classic brunch cocktail, and the Kahlua Brunch Club was running over several weekends this spring.

Kahlua Brunch Club

Kahlua Brunch Club Manchester

Kahlua Brunch Club Manchester The Loft

That’s the reason I started my very sunny Bank Holiday Sunday at The Loft in Manchester. This cool industrial-looking event space was a nice social venue for a weekend brunch, and it was all decked out in tropical plants, flowers and Kahlua colours. When we arrived there was an opportunity to relax with a coffee and play games such as table football and darts before we were seated.

Kahlua brunch club menu

The brunch itself was a set Kahlua-inspired menu including 2 Kahlua-based cocktails:

Espresso Martini: Kahlua, Espresso, Vodka & Sugar Syrup

We started with a classic Espresso Martini, which we prepared ourselves with instructions from our hosts.  Apparently the key to any cocktail is all in the shaking, but particularly for this one to get that foamy layer appearing on top. We of course also added the iconic garnish of 3 coffee beans. I’d never actually tried this cocktail before, and surprisingly really enjoyed it!

Cocktail making

Espresso Martini

Eggcellent Kahlua Stack: Smashed Avocado, Poached Egg and Kahlua & Maple-infused Bacon on an English Muffin.

Is it even brunch without avocado and egg?! Not for me – I loved this dish, particularly with the addition of the Kahlua bacon.

Kahlua Bacon and Eggs

Kahlua Rainbow Pancakes

My brunches don’t often come with a dessert course, but I would never complain about such a think! I really enjoyed the cute pancake stack which came covered with warm Kahlua chocolate sauce, and especially being able to add a choice of toppings (I added them all – chocolate drops, strawberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows!)

Kahlua pancakes

Pancake toppings

Chokahlua Orange: Kahlua, Tequila, Crème de Cacao, Orange & Chocolate Powder

And of course, finishing up with a final cocktail!

Kahlua cocktail

Considering that coffee is not usually my favourite flavour I really enjoyed all the elements of this brunch, even the espresso martini! With 2 cocktails included, I found that the Brunch Club was a really great way to start off a day of social drinking (which is the best way to spend a sunny bank holiday weekend in my opinion!) Unfortunately, I attended the last of the Brunch Clubs, so if you didn’t go along then you’ve missed your chance. But I thought it was an excellent idea and I’d love to see more of this sort of thing popping up in Manchester!

My Very Chilled Hen Weekend

Not being one for typical hen celebrations, we’d decided that my hen weekend should be a quite low-key and relaxing with a small group of some of my favourite people, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be. I had the most amazing and memorable hen weekend with good friends and plenty of fun and fizz, and here are some of the details:

Fairytale cupcake

Venue and Location

We chose the town of Matlock purely because we wanted somewhere within 2 hours drive of Manchester, and then we found our ideal house there. We could have ended up anywhere really, but Matlock Holiday House turned out to be the perfect place to stay. Matlock is also a great base for visits to the Peak District, if you get the time (we didn’t!)

The house itself was a lovely old town house, expensively furnished and decorated with space to sleep 13, a games room and sauna, an amazing covered hot tub in the garden and a huge kitchen which would be perfect for our planned activities. It was also situated right in the middle of pretty Matlock and within walking distance of shops, cafes and bars.

Activity 1: Hot Tub and Takeaway

One of our main venue requirements was a hot tub, and it turned out to be the best decision! What does a bride need a month before her wedding more than relaxation in a hot tub with friends and a glass (or several) of prosecco? This was the perfect addition to the weekend, and one we made full use of. In fact, because we enjoyed it so much, we ended up scrapping one of our Saturday afternoon activities in favour of more hot tubbing! (Worth it). And as always on the first night of “moving in” somewhere, we ordered takeaway.

Activity 2: Escape Room

We’re an Escape Room type of group, and we added this into our Saturday morning schedule at the last minute when we found out Deception Escape Rooms was right around the corner from the house. I’ve written a separate review of the escape room here.

Escape room success

Activity 3: Fairytale Themed “Crafternoon Tea”

I like crafting and I like afternoon tea, so we combined them into one lovely “crafternoon tea”. It was fairytale themed to tie in with the evening’s big event, with cute storybook cupcakes provided by Little Joy Emporium, and a fairytale photo booth prop making session, which I’ve written about here.

Fairytale themed afternoon tea

Flower cupcake

Crafternoon tea

Activity 4: Games and Pampering

We actually spent a lot of the weekend playing games, and this was the general vibe of the weekend! And of course we found plenty of time to pamper ourselves with facemasks and drink prosecco in the hot tub.

Activty 5: Murder Mystery Dinner

And finally, the weekend’s main event was a fairytale themed murder mystery, with various storybook characters coming together to discuss murders, disappearances and poor book sales(!) in Fairytaleland. My and my sister had decided on a murder mystery night rather than dining out, and then found a range of great themed print-at-home game at printablemysterygames.com. Being a huge Disney fan we decided to go with the fairytale theme, and I was Little Red Riding Hood, in a costume almost entirely made of items I surprisingly already owned!

Fairytale murder mystery

Fairytale dinner party

Chocolate Mousse

Dinner was provided by our amazing chef from Dine Indulge, who cooked us a 3 course meal of French Onion Soup, Coq au Vin with Smokey Bacon Mash, and Chocolate Mousse, all from the kitchen in our house! It felt like real luxury to have a 3 course dinner cooked for us at home, and not dining out also meant that we could go to town on our character costumes! If you have budget available for something like this, I’d definitely recommend hiring a chef to cook for your dinner party!

(Not Forgetting Activity 0: The Treasure Trail that we never got around to doing)

Sometimes you plan to do too much in a weekend, and so it was that the Matlock Treasure Trail that we’d printed out never got played. It’s a shame as the town looked lovely and it would have been nice to explore more. Even so, I’m including it in my post as I’m a big fan of Treasure Trails and I genuinely enjoy them.

 

Review: Deception Escape Rooms, Matlock

For my hen weekend a group of us stayed in a lovely holiday house in Matlock, Derbyshire. If you don’t know much about Matlock (we didn’t) it’s a lovely town on the edge of the Peak District with plenty of coffee shops, wine bars, parks, walking routes and cute shops. It’s also driving distance from Bakewell, Buxton and other pretty Peak District towns.

Anyway, one of our (almost) impromptu activities (we only booked it a few days earlier) was Deception Escape Rooms. I love doing an escape room and have now done about 10 in total with various brands. So when I found out that Matlock’s first escape rooms were literally round the corner from the house, I definitely wanted to fit it into our plans!

Deception Escape Rooms - Trapped

The room we did was “Trapped”, which is set in Victorian England in the office of Dr Papet who has returned from war and is conducting creepy scientific experiments in private. The aim is to break into his office and discover the secrets behind some strange goings on and mysterious disappearances.

I thought this was easily one of the best escape rooms I’ve done. A lot of thought had gone into creating a very immersive experience, and the level of detail that has gone into creating the room is brilliant. It’s not just about the inside of the room either – before you even go through the front door of Dr Papet’s office you are stood on a spooky replica Victorian street!

The puzzles themselves were very elaborate and some were very unusual – quite different to anything I’ve seen in other escape rooms. Although I don’t want to reveal any spoilers about what happens, I’ll just say that it was very atmospheric and quite scary at times but that just added to the fun! Although it was quite a tough room we were successful in getting out in time, and my escape rate is still looking pretty good as there’s only one I’ve ever failed!

Escape room success

I’d highly recommending Deception Escape Rooms and I actually wish I lived a little closer so that I could go and try one of their others!

And while you’re here, why not check out some of my other escape room reviews:

Escape from the creepiest motel at Breakout Manchester

BREAKOUT Manchester: the Sabotage room

 

Grand Pacific High Tea

I am famously a big fan of afternoon tea, and after many years of trying out various afternoon teas across the North West, I’ve started to look out for the most unusual ones to try. That’s why the High Tea at Grand Pacific had been on my “to do” list for quite some time, and this month I finally got to experience it in all its glory with my mum and sister. It was an early mother’s day treat and we were not disappointed!

High Tea Grand Pacific

First of all, I have to mention the venue itself as it is just a stunning place. It’s a Grade II listed building, formerly the Reform Club, so as you’d expect it has some gorgeous architectural features. And the colonial themed decor really adds a feel of exotic luxury – it’s the perfect setting for a romantic meal or luxurious afternoon tea!

Grand Pacific Manchester

The High Tea itself is served in 2 courses, unlike the traditional afternoon tea where you’ll receive both savoury and sweet treats on one cake stand. I really liked this for the simple reason that I could really enjoy the savouries without being distracted by cake! Alongside this we had tea and a glass of prosecco.

High Tea Grand Pacific, savouries

High tea savouries 1

High tea savouries 2

The savouries (pictured above):

  • Smoked salmon potato cake
  • Salmon and tuna lomi
  • Classic sandwiches
  • Goats cheese arancini
  • Crumpet with crab butter
  • Eccles cake with cheese

High tea sweet course

High tea sweet treats

High tea sweet treats 1

High tea sweet treats 2

High Tea Sweet treats 3

And then came the sweet treats (pictured above):

  • Lemon tart
  • Passion fruit brulee
  • Jasmine tea bread
  • Sherry trifle
  • Sesame brittle
  • Lamington lollipop
  • Chocolate truffle
  • Pavlova

I think this has to be one of my favourite afternoon teas so far! Even though there were so many items to enjoy, I didn’t find myself as hugely full as I would do with traditional sandwiches and scones. Everything was the perfect size, which meant I could enjoy the whole thing. All the food was very original and felt a little more special than a traditional afternoon tea, with exotic flavours as you’d expect on a Grand Pacific menu. Even though I can honestly say I enjoyed everything, the standout items were the savouries, which is surprising as I’m usually such a sweet tooth! I didn’t find myself missing a scone or a slice of cream cake either, and very much enjoyed the mix of exotic flavours in the desserts.

So overall it’s a glowing review for me for the Grand Pacific High Tea. At £25 per person (including a glass of prosecco) it’s in a similar price range to many of the other afternoon teas in Manchester, and it’s more than worth it for something a bit unusual.

High Tea Manchester

Have you tried this High Tea, and are you a fan of more traditional or slightly quirkier afternoon teas?

Escape from the creepiest motel at Breakout Manchester

Last week I took on another live escape game at Breakout Manchester, and this time it was a room with a creepy twist which made it just perfect for the run up to Halloween. I’ve now attempted 7 escape room games, and I have to say this was one of my faves!

Creepy motel escape room Manchester

The room was “Vacancy”, and we were checked into a very ominous motel room before realising that our host had locked us in and had murder in mind. We then had an hour to escape by solving a series of puzzles and codes. I really loved this room – the puzzles were great and the creepy theme was very atmospheric with an excellent level of detail. I loved that it was a fully immersive experience, even to the point where we had to sign into the hotel guestbook before entering our room!

I’ve tried a few different “brands” of escape room now, and although quite a few have a high standard of game, Breakout are coming out on top for me because they make the effort to really set the scene and create backstory before you enter. This is so much more fun than just being dropped off in a room and locked in, hoping you’d read the synopsis online beforehand. A theme can easily get lost in the chaos of hunting for clues, and the atmospheric intro I’ve always had at Breakout really adds something extra. I also prefer Breakout’s big screen approach to giving hints (always cryptic) when you are lost. I’d much rather this than have the game (and mood!) interrupted by asking for a clue.

Breakout Manchester

Vacancy is quite a tough room (rated 4/5 for difficulty), and the panic started to set in with 5 minutes to go when it seemed we would never check out of the Crimson Lake Motel! However, I’m pleased to say that we escaped with just over 3 minutes still on the clock and we felt very exhilarated afterwards. As I say, it was one of my favourite escape rooms to date, and I would definitely recommend it for a creepy Halloween activity. They have some even scarier sounding rooms if you dare!

Have you ever tried Breakout or any other escape room game?

My favourite lunch spots in Manchester right now

I’ve worked in Manchester’s Northern Quarter for about 5 years, and I have tried and tested so many lunch spots in the city centre. Seriously, there are more than I can remember! But there are a few that impressed me so much that they are regulars, faves, and my go-to places for lunch in the city. (There are actually a few more than this, but I decided they qualified more as “brunch” spots, so I’ll make sure I do a separate post about those). Here are my top 6 lunch spots you may not know about:

West Cnr 

West Corner MCR

Conquistador salad with fried chicken

This very stylish diner has popped up in the Northern Quarter in the past year, and not only is it very convenient for me, it also has my favourite salad dish in the city! Seriously, it tastes so good that I don’t know if it even classes as a salad. I don’t really have the time to dine in on a work lunchtime, but I’ll admit that I get my lunch from their takeaway entrance about once a week.

Slice

Slice Pizza Manchester

They serve amazing pizzas and focaccia by the slice and now have a tasty selection of salads, which are great as a side order or as a meal on their own. This little gem is very popular on sunny days thanks to its outdoor seating area and their delicious selection of Italian gelato flavours. You can eat in here (and enjoy an Aperol spritz), but it’s just as easy to grab lunch on the go. 

Evelyn’s 

Evelyns Manchester

If you like your lunch with instagrammable leafy interiors then Evelyn’s is perfect. It’s tucked away on Tib street and the menu is varied and hip. Healthy options include their “Green Bowl” but I went for this potato hash with fried egg on my last visit, which was amazing!

Vapiano

Vapiano lunch Manchester

Vapiano is a chain you might already be familiar with, but it has made the list because I love the bespoke fresh pasta dishes made in front of you, the bright spacious interior, and the weird (but convenient) paying system which means you don’t have to wait for the bill at the end. You can get your food really quickly here, but the place is very chilled out and you don’t feel rushed. Which makes it kinda perfect!

Oak Street café bar

Oak Street Cafe Bar Manchester

This cute café can be found inside the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and it’s a tiny but peaceful spot with an ever-changing menu of freshly made soups, salads, quiches, stews and cakes.

Ezra & Gil

Ezra & Gil Manchester

Ezra & Gil is the latest addition to my list, because it’s usually so full that I’ve only just had chance to try it out! It’s popular for its amazing coffee and speedy service. It’s very rustic inside, but their menu is tasty with great specials and I loved this unusual dish of butternut squash and feta on rye toast with a poached egg.

Have you “lunched” in any of these spots?