And so, after my big 2016 roundup, let’s move swiftly on to 2017, shall we? What does this year have in store? Lots of happy times and adventures I hope. As you know, I’m a huge Disney fan: I adore everything from the theme parks to the beautiful cruise ships. It’s such an exciting year for Disney magic, with so many new Disney travel adventures to choose from. I thought you might like a sneaky peek at a few of the things I’m really looking forward to in 2017. So if you’re planning adventures for next year now, I hope this helps give you a few ideas too:
From Boston, we drove south, through some utterly beautiful countryside, to get to our next destination, Plymouth. Plymouth, Massachusetts is a hugely famous and historically important town, well known for being America’s Hometown – the place where the Pilgrim passengers of the Mayflower first settled. It’s a gorgeous place, full of pretty, colourful houses, wide, tree-lined residential roads and beautiful beaches. Our destination, The Mirbeau Inn & Spa, took us by surprise, though, as we drove up the windy road, and came face to face with a pretty French style Chateau. The glowing, ochre manor house, inspired by the soft colours of the paintings of Claude Monet, even has elegant gardens and water features inspired by Monet’s own garden in Giverny. It’s a breathtaking sight, and the experience only gets better as you’re greeted by a polite doorman, who won’t let you carry a thing.
So I told you recently about visiting Boston with Norwegian. Oh, we completely fell in love with Boston. My friend Erica visited a while back and I was surprised when she said she liked it more than New York. Having visited, I can totally see why. It has a small town vibe and everything is really accessible by foot. We walked and walked for hours, shopping, sightseeing and photographing, and really could have done with staying a few more days.
Recently we were lucky enough to spend a heavenly weekend at The Grove, the beautiful luxury hotel just 18 miles from central London and a stone’s throw away from the Warner Bros Studio Tour London – the making of Harry Potter. It’s really not far for us, just a quick 20 minute drive, and I often visit to walk around the lovely gardens with my friend David, the Head Gardener. The estate gardens are utterly beautiful at this time of year, and we were lucky enough to arrive just as the most incredible sunset was lighting up the sky with a display of pinks and oranges.
Last time I visited Disney Springs was back in February 2016 when Amy and I were experiencing a fabulous Disney stay and cruise holiday, combining a few days of fun at the parks before heading off on a relaxing cruise on board the Disney Dream. Disney Springs was very much a work in progress, with lots of building work going on and most of the new shops, bars and restaurants still hidden behind hoardings. During our latest visit, we were delighted to find that most of this brand new shopping, dining and entertainment venue is now open and the whole area is looking absolutely gorgeous. Here’s all you need to know about Disney Springs.
I meant to tell you that we finally visited Bill’s in Berkhamsted. I’ve been meaning to go for ages, so my Mum and I decided to go for a Friday evening catch up and a glass of fizz. It’s a lovely old building, right in the heart of Berkhamsted high street. I’ve lived near Berkhamsted my whole life and it’s been various cafés and restaurants over the years, but this particular incarnation looks so twinkly and welcoming, we’ve been desperate to go and sample the food. Here’s how we got on…
One of the elements that impressed us most during our wonderful family cruise on Celebrity Eclipse was the quality of the dining. From the great fast food options to the main dining to the speciality restaurants, we really couldn’t fault any of the dining on board Celebrity Eclipse. Most evenings are smart casual, but there are a couple of evenings that are listed in the ‘Celebrity Today’ leaflet left in your stateroom as ‘cruise chic’. There’s never any pressure to dress in any particular way but it’s always tremendous fun to dress up a bit and step out in style. I really enjoyed a bit of people watching – there was everything from ladies in ballgowns and men in white dinner jackets to a few people in full military costume!
…and some old favourites. So last time, I told you a little about Walt Disney World Resort, Florida’s fabulous free dining offer. This time, I thought I’d bring you an update on some fabulous new experiences at Walt Disney World, including stunning new dining options and new attractions. I’ve also added in a few things that aren’t new, but that I experienced for the first time too. So sit back, grab a cuppa, and I’ll begin… Read more
One of the incredible dining experiences of our recent foodie trip to Leeds was a visit to Stockdales of Yorkshire. I’d heard great things about this very stylish restaurant in the heart of Leeds city centre, with a menu that celebrates the best produce that Yorkshire has to offer, including some stunning 28 day aged black Wagyu beef, sourced from a farm in nearby Doncaster and cooked on a state of the art Josper charcoal grill. Read more
Remember I told you that a couple of weeks ago, Erica and I went up to see Laura in Leeds for a little culinary tour? Well, I promised to tell you a little more about a couple of the restaurants we ate in and I can’t wait to tell you about one of our favourite stops: La Rambla Tapas & Wine.
As usual, I’d like to start by saying that I’m not ‘reviewing’ these restaurants. I don’t see myself as any kind of food critic, we just love to eat out and share the experiences that we’ve had. We live quite near Berkhamsted: one of the prettiest towns in the Chilterns (if you’re in London, it’s literally half an hour from Euston and full of lovely places to eat – you should come!) and often visit the market (fruit and veg on Saturday is amazing) and for dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants.
If you’re thinking of visiting Berkhamsted and the surrounding Chilterns, or just generally heading to the south of England, do check this really useful interactive south of England travel map, complete with loads of ideas for attractions to see, activities to do, and more suggestions for places to eat too.
Here are our top five foodie experiences in Berkhamsted:
This weekend, I travelled up to Leeds to meet up with two of my original Disney friends, Laura and Erica, for #eatLeeds2016 (we love a hashtag) – a weekend discovering the best food and drink the city has to offer. After a bit of a false start – I got on the wrong train – I was ambushed at Leeds station with bear hugs and squeezes, and we caught up over lunch at one of Laura’s favourite tapas restaurants, La Rambla (more of this later).
As you might know, it was my birthday over the Easter weekend. One of the things I was determined to do was head out for a family meal with NO EXCUSES (we make so many plans only for the boys to suddenly remember that they have to be somewhere else or they’re double booked) with my Dad. We love Pizza Express for relaxed family dinners, so we booked there for Easter Saturday to celebrate and try out their new spring menu.
On a chilly day, is there anything better than a proper English pub with a roaring log fire? Well, yes, actually, there’s The Hinds Head, Bray. Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the tiny village of Bray, about 5 mins from Maidenhead, to try out Heston’s glorious ‘gastropub’ (I always think that’s such a weird term – let’s just call it a pub please?). The beautiful 15th Century building is the most welcoming, cosy pub and restaurant with leather chairs, dark wood panelling and low ‘duck or grouse’ beams: just Heston enough to have a Michelin star, but pub enough that the clientele is a mix of excited visitors (me) and the locals just popping in for a pint and a chat.
Years and years ago, Allan Pickett taught me to fillet a fish. My knife skills are appalling (think Nigella but with considerably less dexterity) and he was very sweet and patient. It was at a special event at Billingsgate for Seafish, and by the end of it, I remember feeling quite clever as we sat down to eat fish we’d prepared ourselves. I still buy the odd whole fish now and give it a go, just to keep my hand in. At the time, Allan was head chef at Plateau in Canada Place, but we’ve kept in touch and I’ve known for a while that he’s been planning to open his own restaurant.
There was a really good article somewhere recently (of course I have no idea where I read it now I need it) in praise of the affordable restaurant. Of course, heading out to a lovely, expensive restaurant is something that I love to do for a special occasion, but there are so many times – family birthdays, Sundays, get-togethers with friends – when you want great food at a good local restaurant.
- The weekend wishlist: new spring summer 2017 favourites February 18, 2017
- Korean crispy lamb February 16, 2017
- Estée Lauder travel beauty – pre-flight pampering tips February 14, 2017
- The weekend wishlist: Valentine’s Day loveliness February 11, 2017
- Strawberry and Cointreau layer cake with coconut cream February 9, 2017