Tips for a Great Day Out on a Canal Boat

If you’re looking for a great day out with a difference then I would absolutely recommend hiring a canal boat for a day. I recently did this with 9 of my friends, hiring a boat from Ellerbeck Narrowboats for 8 hours. It’s completely different to a party boat experience, as you get full control of the boat. You can steer it along a 12 mile stretch of the Leeds Liverpool canal in whichever direction and at whatever pace you fancy, moor when you feel like it, and it’s a no-stress situation because you aren’t allowed to pass through any of the locks (which would make things more technical). It’s as simple as steering your boat along the canal at a leisurely pace, whilst enjoying a party atmosphere with whatever food, drinks and games you bring along.

Canal boat day hire

We had such fun on our canal boat and I think it’s the perfect day trip for a birthday or celebration, so I’ve decided to share these 10 tips for making sure you have the most fun on your narrowboat day trip.

1. Go with a fun crew

Everything is fun when you’re with the right people, so choose your crew wisely! It helps when at least one of your group is great at driving, but it’s a low pressure environment and it wouldn’t really matter if you were all rubbish at it. Our boat capacity was 10 people and although it is quite a squeeze, it is worth having all the extra hands on board so that a few people can drive whilst others prepare food.

Canal boat friends

2. Have a nautical dress code (just for fun)

We decided to embrace a nautical theme for the day, which was pretty fun and makes our photos look extra special. A dress code is obviously optional.

3. Have a go at steering

Everyone on board should give it a go at the helm. Canal boats travel at a low speed so there’s really nothing to be worried about, although turning them around is slightly trickier.

Canal boat at the helm

4. Cook up a tasty breakfast

The first priority after setting sail has to be a delicious breakfast. Our boat had a hob and grill on board, and sausage sandwiches and bucks fizz were a welcome morning treat.

5. Enjoy the views

Take some time to enjoy the picturesque scenery and, at certain points, gaze enviously at luxurious waterside houses that you can’t possibly afford. Make the most of the scenic photo opportunities so you’ll always have reminders of your memorable day.

Canal boat day trip

Canal boat day hire 2

Canal boat day hire 3

6. Play games

No day of fun is complete without a few games, and it’s simple enough to moor up the boat so that everyone on board can join in.

7. Serve Pimms and afternoon tea

Once breakfast is done you’ll need to consider other meals, and I think something typically English like Pimms and afternoon tea would be perfect. We had a kettle on board for making hot drinks.

8. Moor up for a break

We moored up once for games and a second time to pay a call to a waterside ice cream parlour. I’m sure there are plenty of other stops we could have made too, if we’d fancied visiting a pub or having a short stroll.

Fredericks Ice Cream

9. Prepare for the weather

It’s England and impossible to predict the weather. We prepared for everything, with blankets for the chilly morning, wet weather wear in case of rain, and (luckily, because it turned out glorious!) sun cream.

10. Take it easy

This is not a fast paced day by anyone’s standards. It’s a leisurely, casual, fun-filled, fun one, so enjoy the slow pace and take the chance to relax with friends.

Canal boat day hire 4

Why Outdoor Theatre Should be on Your Summer Bucket List

If you read my summer bucket list earlier in the year, you may have seen that Outdoor Theatre was on the list, and a couple of weeks ago I ticked this off when I watched As You Like It at Ordsall Hall.

As You Like It - The Handlebards

This was a production by The Handlebards – a group of 4 actors who cycle around the country carrying their sets and props on their bikes with them. They even incorporate cycling paraphernalia into the shows with handlebars, bells, helmets and horns featuring as costumes and props.

Open Air Theatre - Handlebards

Open Air Theatre - Handlebards As You Like It

The show was set in the gardens of Ordsall Hall, and we enjoyed the humorous interpretation of this Shakespeare comedy with a picnic on a lovely sunny evening. I’d definitely recommend this particular theatre group for a fun show and great performances, but here’s why I think everyone should give any outdoor theatre a go this summer:

Summer is about spending time outdoors

Getting outside is what summer is all about, and open air theatre will be one of your most memorable summer activities.

The weather is all part of it

We may be in England and it may seem like a risk to book an open air show, but even if you aren’t as lucky as we were for As You Like It, it is still lots of fun. When we watched Pride and Prejudice at Brockholes the weather was windy and raining, and the cast simply made it part of the show in a hilarious way. And as long as you prepare for the worst (bring rainwear and warm clothes) it doesn’t have to spoil your fun.

The laid-back atmosphere

Set up your own deckchairs and blankets in plenty of space and enjoy the chilled atmosphere, good humour and some fresh air with your theatre.

Enjoy a picnic and a glass of prosecco

If eating a delicious picnic with a glass of prosecco in an al fresco setting isn’t appealing to you then we do not share a wavelength!

Discover beautiful locations

Every venue is different and it’s a chance to discover some of England’s nicest stately homes, nature reserves and gardens that you might never have heard of otherwise.

The prices are relatively cheap!

Tickets are cheaper than for regular theatre, which makes it a nice reasonably-priced summer activity. There are plenty of family shows too, so it’s a great activity for children without breaking the bank.

It’s a unique experience

Due to small casts playing several roles each and limited sets and costumes, open air theatre  productions have to be very creative and they are often interactive. So it’s something very different from your usual theatre experience.

Outdoor Theatre - Ordsall Hall

I’ve decided that my summers won’t feel complete without an outdoor theatre experience, and there are plenty of options all over the country. Here are just 8 of the many places to watch outdoor theatre in the Manchester area this summer. (And many of the shows are coming up in August so check them out now if you don’t want to miss out!):

Ordsall Hall

Walkden Gardens (Sale)

Chorlton Park

Heaton Park

Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens

Brockholes Nature Reserve

Dunham Massey

Hoghton Tower

Pin for later!

OutdoorTheatre

7 Book reviews from 7 months

As you can see from the title of this post I am averaging 1 book a month, which has dropped off slightly since last year but I’m pretty happy with that. And since March I have been attempting a WhatsApp book group with some friends, which means that this list of recent reads is quite varied (which is the point of a book group after all). I have listed my mini book reviews from most to least favourite, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books and some recommendations for what to read next.

7 book reviews

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

I am so in love with this book, I can’t even explain! I didn’t know much about it other than it being set during World War II, and I’m not sure knowing what it is “about” really does it justice. It’s narrated by Death, who tells the story of a young girl living in Nazi Germany, during which time her foster parents hide a Jewish man in their home; and she discovers her love of reading books. But it’s not really the story that I found so entrancing about this book – it’s just so beautifully written! It is poetic, thought-provoking and emotional, with characters and relationships that develop gradually though the book. I’ve thought about it so much since I finished it, and I actually cried buckets during the last chapter. There aren’t many books that have such a major effect on me, and I’m so glad that I finally got around to reading it!

Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

This is a little bit of a lie because I’ve only read The Fellowship of the Ring, which (depending on how you want to look at it) is either only a third of a book, or 2 books out of 6. I first read LotR when I was about 15, but decided that as I am so obsessed with the films and I really enjoyed reading The Silmarillion last year I’d give it another go, and I enjoyed it so much more this time round! In a book filled with so many minor characters, it really does make a difference being able to picture some of them. And I really loved those extra bits that were cut from the film, so it’s been a really nice adventure for me to read this. I’m looking forward to reading the other parts at some point too.

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts

This is not the sort of book I’d pick out for myself, but it was highly recommended by a friend so I wanted to give it a try. It was also the first audio book I’ve ever tried, which was an interesting experience in itself. Shantaram is the story of an escaped Australian convict, Lin, who ends up living in India, and it’s about the friends he makes there, his time living as a slum doctor, and his dealings with the local mafia. Many aspects of it are based on the author’s real life, which makes it all the more interesting and amazing!  It’s also a love story between Lin and a beautiful but complicated woman, Karla. But mostly it’s a book about India, and you really get a feel for the character of the country reading it. It’s very long though, and a lot of people complain that the author “over-writes”. I have to agree he tries very hard to be poetic and philosophical, which can be quite annoying at times. But overall it was one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read, so I think it was worth it.

The Hand that first held mine, Maggie O’Farrell

I’ve now read 3 Maggie O’Farrell books and have enjoyed them all. I just love her writing style and the way she focuses on details to make something interesting out of the ordinary. This story is set both in the 1950s, following Lexie as she leaves her rural ordinary life to make something of herself in London; and also in the current day, where we see Elina and her partner Ted struggling to adapt after just having their first child. I enjoyed reading Lexie’s story as she falls in love and starts working as a writer, and I really got a feel for the exciting world of 1950’s London through a young woman’s eyes. Elina’s story was harder to read as it was about a woman losing herself and her creativity because her new baby takes over her life, but it was very well written and I could completely empathise with her. There is a connection between the two stories which adds an element of mystery, and although I did guess what it might be about two-thirds through, I didn’t think it was obvious.

Life after Life, Kate Atkinson

This was my second Kate Atkinson book, and this one definitely had more of a concept. Ursula is a character who lives her life over and over again. Every time she dies (the first time being the moment she is born) she unconsciously learns something which prevents her from dying the same way in her next life. In the book we read about many versions of her life, and because her adult years are set during World War II we see different perspectives of England and Germany during this time. It’s an interesting idea – what would you do with your life if you could live it again? Some of her stories are sad and others more positive, and I enjoyed seeing the changes she made in her life after experiencing a particularly bad one. I also thought it gave a real sense of what it was like to live at that time. But it was quite a slow read and hard to get into.

Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver

This is a young adult book, and the only one I have read that has been set in the present day. It’s actually similar to the above book in that the main character Sam re-lives her last day on earth over and over again, making changes to see if she can escape her death. After reading the first chapter I wasn’t sure I could continue – Sam is a selfish teenage girl, part of the popular clique and not a nice person. It was like Mean Girls but without being funny or ironic! But I persevered and thought it was worth it – the first chapter has to be written the way it is to make Sam’s changes of heart rewarding to read. I liked the way different characters were gradually developed, how certain secrets were revealed and how Sam discovered new feelings each day. It also made me want to appreciate every single day and to value the most important things in life, which is never a bad feeling to have.

Funny Girl, Nick Hornby

On paper this sounded promising – set in the swinging sixties, Northern girl Barbara decides to move to London to try and make it as a TV comedy star. However, this was my least favourite book in the list for a reason. I thought it was very lazily written, with no attention to detail, no tension or pace, no character development and no interesting relationships… it was basically just a list of events in Barbara’s life, as if it were the biography of a real person. Except it wasn’t! And it may as well not have been set in the sixties at all, as I didn’t really get a feel for the era while reading it! It wasn’t awful, but it was very disappointing.

 

If you liked this, try these:

What I’ve been reading in 2016

Yes, it’s another book post

 

 

Trend Edit: Head to the Tropics

I’m not sure about you but the recent heatwave really gave me the summer feels, and now I can’t stop looking at all the tropical trend pieces that are in the shops. There’s nothing that says holiday more than fruity, floral and foresty fashion. Even if you’re UK-based this summer, it’s still great to think of exotic destinations while filling your wardrobe with colourful summer fun! And as you can see from my tropical trend edit, it is not just limited to your clothes and accessories. Pineapples, palms and flamingos are a fun way to bring summer into the home too!

Tropical trend

If you’re feeling inspired by my exotic paradise edit, shop the trend:

  1. Cold shoulder cami top, Dorothy Perkins
  2. Copper pineapple storage pot, Oliver Bonas
  3. Frill trim swimsuit, New Look
  4. Tropical plant, Next Home
  5. Palm clutch, Skinnydip
  6. Pineapple bag, Primark
  7. Palm print cushion, JD Williams
  8. Palm strappy dress, Warehouse
  9. Tropical ruffle dress, ASOS
  10. Tropical peplum skirt, Dorothy Perkins
  11. Rose gold flamingo float, Paperchase

I think my personal favourites are the floral frill one-piece swimsuit (maybe I need to book another holiday just so I have an excuse…) and the copper pineapple pot, which ticks that rose gold box too.

What trends are catching your eye right now?

A week in sunny Salcombe

An amazing thing has happened. We booked a week’s holiday in the UK, and the weather was glorious! This never happens to us, and I can’t tell you how lovely it was to spend time relaxing in the sun instead of trying to look for things to do on a drizzly day. Seaside towns are best on sunny days!

Salcombe harbourMill Bay beach DevonKingsbridge estuary view

Salcombe is a pretty seaside town in South Devon, and thanks to the heatwave we spent a whole week lying on its pretty beaches. Our favourite one (Mill Bay) was accessible by a cute ferry ride across the Kingsbridge estuary, which took less than 60 seconds. This ferry also helped us locate our favourite drinking spot – the Ferry Inn, situated right on the water’s edge with a view of the beaches opposite. Lovely!

Ferry Inn SalcombeSalcombe war memorialKingsbridge estuary view

Salcombe has a cute high street, which is perfect if you are looking for nautical striped fashion or lovely (but pretty expensive) unique homewares. We spent many an afternoon wandering the pretty shops before settling down in a beer garden or in harbour with some fish and chips. Have you noticed how sitting outside feels like you’re doing something amazing if it’s sunny? Another of our favourite places, The Fortescue had an extensive gin menu, complete with complimentary tonics and garnishes, and made the most amazing stone baked pizzas. Definitely a place worth visiting!

And speaking of gin… Salcombe has its own gin distillery which makes the award winning Salcombe gin. Their stylish gin bar upstairs looks out over the estuary and we made sure we paid a visit. After all, we were staying in the cottage across the road! If the main street of Salcombe is pretty and seaside-y, Island Street (featuring our cottage and the distillery) is the cool and creative back street. It was a fantastic street to stay on, full of art galleries, crafty spaces, workshops, boat building yards and independent shops (also, did I mention a gin distillery?) My favourite shop was Will Bees Bespoke – makers of unique British bags. This was such a cool store, with an entrance on Island Street and the back of the shop open to the water, and full of their gorgeous bags ready to be embossed instore.

Salcombe GinSalcombe Gin and Tonic GalleryWill Bees BespokeNautical stripesArtist on Salcombe South Sands

So… gin, beach, food, shopping… a perfect little break in the sun.

Harry Potter and the list of random stuff

I cannot believe it was 20 years ago that the first Harry Potter book was published. They say the series has shaped a whole generation of millennials and I know it will always feel like a huge part of my life. Seriously – did Hogwarts, Dumbledore and muggles really not exist before I was 13?! Anyway, to celebrate this momentous occasion, here is a list of random things about me and my love for Harry Potter.

Harry Potter List

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has overtaken Pride and Prejudice as my most read book ever.
  • Since my recent birthday I now apply my makeup with wands!

Harry Potter wand makeup wands

  • I recently discovered that my dad has no idea who Voldemort is or what a muggle is… I find this extremely shocking indeed!
  • The order of my favourite books (best to worst) goes:
    • Deathly Hallows
    • Goblet of Fire
    • Philosopher’s Stone
    • Half-Blood Prince
    • Prisoner of Azkaban
    • Chamber of Secrets
    • Order of the Phoenix
  • I am a Ravenclaw. Obviously I have always known this, but it’s been officially confirmed with this quiz.
  • I’ve recently realised how much I love Professor McGonagall. She’s so underrated and is now my favourite female character!
  • But if I was going to do a Harry Potter fancy dress costume, I’d be Luna Lovegood.

Luna Lovegood

  • When I watch the Deathly Hallows movie with Craig I always have to set aside time afterwards for him to moan about Harry snapping the Elder wand. Also for me to explain everything I know about Hallows and Horcruxes that was left out of the movie.
  • I do not find Fred and George Weasley funny in the films at all. But I do always chuckle at this guy…

Horace Slughorn

  • I own Fleur Delacour’s wand and use it to attempt to cast spells such as “Accio chocolate”.
  • I know not everyone did, but I actually loved reading The Cursed Child. I’d waited such a long time to hear something new about the characters I loved (and some who I thought we’d never hear from again!), I even had a little cry.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

  • I enjoyed my first sip of Butterbeer. I did not enjoy the rest of the glass.
  • I attempted to get to platform 9 ¾ late one night. The gate did not appear to be open.

Platform 9 3/4Kings Cross Platform 9 3/4

  • Magic is all well and good, but I always think that the wizarding world could really benefit from using mobile phones. And the internet. Imagine if Hermione could just google Nicholas Flamel.
  • In the films this irks me…

Harry Potter's eyes are not Lily's

  • I never doubted Snape for a moment. But that’s mainly because I never doubted Dumbledore’s judgement for a moment.

Happy Anniversary Harry Potter! I’ll love you… Always

 

If you liked this, try these:

The Making of Harry Potter

Where to Stay When Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour

The Book Blogger Tag

 

Lush Spa – The Comforter?

It’s been on my bucket list for a while, and last month I finally got around to visiting a Lush Spa! I’m a big fan of Lush and their products, so I knew I’d love any of their spa treatments, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. My nearest Lush spa is actually in Liverpool (although here’s hoping that Manchester eventually gets one), and me and my sister booked ourselves in for The Comforter?

Lush spa - Liverpool

All Lush spas are themed to give the impression of a rustic English country kitchen to give off a homely vibe, and we certainly received a very friendly Lush welcome. We had a ten minute consultation before the treatments and were talked through the products that would be used – both of which are unique to the spa and cannot be bought from the store. The Comforter? is a full body exfoliation treatment and first uses a luxurious hot chocolate scrub which is melted into a teacup, and after the warm cacao scrub has been applied and removed it is followed by a delicious rose serum which is massaged into the skin. For the duration of the treatment we were kept cosy and warm under heated duvets, and only the portion of the body being worked on at the time is uncovered.

The Comforter Hot Chocolate scrub

The concept of this particular treatment is to remind you to take life less seriously and there are some cute surprises (I won’t reveal them) which add to the quirky nature of the spa. As with all of the Lush treatments a special soundtrack has been created to add that special touch to the experience, and for this one there is a chocolatey, playful and nostalgic vibe with plenty of recognisable tunes. Here you can hear a sample of the music that set the tone as we entered the room, which was glowing pink with twinkling starlight.

Lush spa - The Comforter?

I found this Lush treatment to be a luxurious, fun and magical experience, and one that I won’t forget easily. On top of that my skin felt (and smelled) amazing afterwards because of the gorgeous products that had been used. At £85 it is quite expensive for an hour-long treatment, but well worth it if you want something that is unique and a bit more special than your average massage.

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