A Dream Holiday Win: A Week In Crete

Thanks to the very generous people at Silver Travel Advisor and Simpson Travel, we’ve just spent an amazing week in Western Crete at the GK Beach Hotel.  As you know, I’m a keen comper and I always have my suitcase packed for my next trip, so I was able to combine my travel experience with my comping hobby by adding several reviews onto the Silver Trip Advisor website and I ended up bagging this wonderful prize.

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First thing first.  Let me tell you about the first class pre-departure service we received from Simpson Travel.  A personal booking service, the offer of car hire or private transfer to our hotel, a generous 20kg luggage allowance each, proper luggage labels and meet and greet at Chania airport on arrival with a cool bottle of water.

On arrival at GK Beach we were met by Chris and Sev, our Simpson Travel reps who showed us personally to our junior suite (room 1A) and gave us a run down of the facilities.  It was fabulous to have such a personal touch.  Simpson Travel also provided us with a gift of Cretan honey, lavender oil and some oregano (handy for those Greek salads).  As we were on a B&B basis, they also provided a very generous 50 euro voucher towards dinner and drinks at the hotel.

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The hotel is small and friendly.  All the communal space is outdoor and is, in the main, shared with the general public (with the exception of the pool and certain designated sitting areas and sunbeds for Simpson Travel guests only).

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Our room was bright and spacious with a mini kitchen area so we were able to knock up a quick lunch…..well, until, that is we discovered the village bakery at Kalyves, then it was pies all the way (spinach, feta, potato and burger!).

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Breakfast was an absolute delight and included Greek yoghurt, thyme honey from the owner’s hives, feta cheese, a selection of fruit and veg, a cooked selection (eggs, bacon etc), pastries, excellent quality coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, PG Tips, and the yummiest sourdough bread.

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The location of GK Beach couldn’t be better.  It is right on the beach, five minutes to the local supermarket and 20 minutes walk to the centre of Kalyves with its many tavernas and shops (oh and the aforementioned bakery).

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We dined at GK a couple of evenings. The food is fresh and made to order.  We both had this very tasty sea bream.

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We spent our days walking into the town which has a lovely little harbour, mooching about and generally doing nothing.  There is of course much to see in and around the Souda Bay area, but as we are in the process of moving house, we just wanted to chill out.

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The evenings we didn’t spend at the hotel, we tried some of the local tavernas.  In Provlita, right on the seafront, I had the most delicious lamb chops I have ever tasted in my life. The Greek salad served there was a jewelled masterpiece too!

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My favourite thing to do the whole week, was to sit under this tree in the main square in Kalyves, reading my book, and drinking coffee.

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We had a fabulous break!  Thanks so much to Silver Travel Adviser and Simpson Travel for such a wonderful experience.  Crete has worked its magic on us.  We submitted to the gentle pace of life and have come home refreshed and ready to move house!

 

 

 

Don’t Stop Me Now (I’m Having Such A Good Time)

I think it’s fair to say that this year I’ve had quite a new experiences and taken on quite a few new challenges.

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  • First time at the ballet (The Nutcracker)
  • Took up cycling
  • Went horse riding
  • Levada walking in Madeira
  • Haggling in Marrakech
  • Moving house!
  • Salsa dancing
  • Visited Tenerife, Morocco, Madeira, Malta, Crete, Menorca and Mallorca
  • Performed Vivaldi’s Gloria with Caldy Valley Voices at Chester Cathedral

I don’t think being in my fifties is holding me back! In fact, a recent survey by TENA Lady showed that when asked, 55% of women said that the best thing about getting older was that they would have more time to embark on new hobbies.  Many however, say they are deterred from doing as they wish by bladder weakness.

One of the most unwelcome things about being past menopause and in your mid fifties, is the occasional ‘oops’ moment, when a trickle of urine escapes when you sneeze or cough too hard.  This has been a taboo subject for years, but goodness knows why.  Most of us experience it at some stage, whether we have given birth or not.

Depending on how it affects you, urinary incontinence can be just the teeniest trickle, to a couple of teaspoons, and how you deal with it can vary too.

TENA Lady have a range of products to protect you against leaks; from the lightest panty liner, to a more secure pair of knickers (called Pants Plus which are breathable, discreet and comfortable enough for everyday use) should you need the extra protection.  All TENA products offer triple protection from leaks, odour and moisture, helping you stay dry, secure and confident

I’m hoping that yoga and Pilates classes have strengthened my pelvic floor to the extent that I will never have a significant problem.  However, as one in three of women experience bladder weakness at some stage in their life, it’s good to know there is something you can do about it and there is absolutely no way it should stop you exercising – even dancing, running or aerobics shouldn’t be out of bounds.

I’m lucky that my yoga and Pilates teacher, Helen at Bodywork Pilates is 100% committed to teaching us the importance of working our pelvic floor.  We don’t just go through the motions in our classes – we learn how each move benefits the body.  Strength and stability is key to keeping yourself if tip top condition as you age, and this applies just as much to the muscles that hold you together internally as it does to the skeleton that keeps you upright.

I’m loving being 56.  My mantra in life is to keep learning, keep doing and be excited about new adventures.  I’m always planning my next trip!  Coming up in the next three months (apart from the HUGE moving house adventure) is a rail tour of Andalucia, a trip to see Swan Lake and seeing Queen with Adam Lambert in concert.

Happy days.

*this post is sponsored

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Tasting at Veeno Chester

Veeno, just opposite Chester’s cathedral, is an Italian wine cafe and a foodie heaven, offering a great selection of fine wines and gorgeous Italian food.

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Based on the concept of Italian Aperitivo, the ritual of drinking, nibbling and relaxing after work, Veeno was established in Manchester by two Italian guys Nino Caruso and Andrea Zecchino.

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We were invited along to experience the Selezione Wine Tasting: a two hour feast for the senses which involved tasting six fabulous wines from the family’s own vineyard in Sicily, accompanied by a platter of meat, cheeses and appetisers, all from exceptional quality Italian producers.

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We were guided through each wine selection by Anna, the restaurant manager, who explained the provenance of the wine, tasting notes, and guidance on which of the foods to sample with each of the wines.

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I’m no wine expert so I won’t presume to give you my thoughts on each (after all you can taste them all yourself for £26.90) but in summary this is how it went:

We started with a classic Sicilian Grillo: a slightly oaky dry white to match with the light and fluffy buffalo mozzarella.  Next up was a more floral and fruity Zibibbo which perfectly matched the sharp Pecorino cheese.

At no time did we feel under pressure to move onto the next wine too quickly.  Anna was attentive and came back to our table with the next selection when she could see that we were ready.  This made for a very relaxed experience.

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Alongside the meats and cheeses, we had several breads – great for dipping in the excellent quality olive oil and balsamic.

The third wine was a Syrah rose.  Light and fruity with notes of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate, this accompanied the speck (smoked ham).  Speck is quite a spicy ham but it didn’t overpower the wine.

Moving along the spectrum, we then got to the reds.  The first red, a Perricone had a definite taste of red fruits and was robust enough to live with the strong tasting Bresaola.  The second red, my favourite of all, was a deep and rich Nero d’Avola Riserva  with notes of cocoa.  This was matched with a rich and creamy Gorgonzola with walnuts.

Of course, no Italian feast would be complete without tiramisu, which was served with a shot of Limoncello and a sweet and soft dessert wine, Tagos.

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This made for a pretty perfect Friday night out.  It works as a couples experience, but Veeno also offers group wine tasting sessions which would be great for after work, or a Saturday afternoon treat.   They do gift cards too – just in case you are stuck for ideas for Christmas, birthdays or an anniversary treat.

Of course, it’s not just wine on offer here.  There are oodles of cocktails to choose from and coffees too.  While we were there, people were just popping in for a glass of wine and being just opposite Storyhouse I can see it as a great venue for a pre or post theatre drink and nibbles.

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*I was invited to experience the Selezione Wine Tasting in exchange for my honest review.  It was fabulous!

 

 

 

Bosworth Hall Hotel & Spa: Review

From the outside, this beautiful building looks the perfect place for a luxurious weekend away.  Standing in generous grounds, yet just a five minute walk from the chocolate box village of Market Bosworth, it would seem an ideal choice for a quintessential British break.

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Check in was quite encouraging – the entrance is a grand affair, with a huge chandelier and some interesting sculptures in the lobby and plenty of information about the resident ghost: the Grey Lady of Bosworth Hall who met a very sticky end.  So far, so good.

The room wasn’t bad either.  I loved the bedroom furniture – my guess it was early to mid 20th century and original too.  It gave the room a bit of old fashioned Cunard style elegance.  There were some very nice lampshades which set off the style beautifully.

However, here began the issues.

One of my pet hates in hotels is windows that are jammed shut.  As lovely as the original sash windows were, I am a woman in my mid fifties and I need to get the window open guys!  Especially as the heating was blasting away and there appeared to be no way to turn it off.

The next issue arose at dinner (a carvery affair which was included in the very reasonable dinner, bed and breakfast price).  The restaurant was too small for the number of guests, resulting in a bit of a bun fight.  Tables were cleared as fast as the staff could manage, but inevitably there was plate scraping in situ (yuk!!) as bums were accommodated on seats.  The food was generally OK at dinner although we went for mains only as the soup looked gloopy and the salad offerings were heavy on the mayo.

The overspill from the restaurant meant that the bar was full of people waiting to eat and at times, the queue for a drink was ten deep.  The smokers’ outdoor area was right next to the bar and dining room so a right royal gale was blowing through.

We slept well despite the overheating as the sheets were good quality as were the pillows. The Grey Lady didn’t make an appearance – although she is said to roam the corridors at night.  Eek!  Should have checked for ghosts before I booked.

The breakfast experience was similar to dinner- too many people, lots of waiting to get into the restaurant, hasty plate clearing and scraping.  The food was motorway service standard.

In fairness to the hotel group (Britannia Hotels) it must be a nightmare to run this type of building and make a profit.  They have adopted a pile it high and sell it cheap approach which clearly works, as the place was bouncing.

In an ideal world, this grand old building would be home to a superior holiday offering, with tinkling champagne glasses, a piano bar and a fine dining experience to match.  But, as they say: you get what you pay for.

We had booked the hotel via Late Rooms, not specifically looking for a country house hotel, but just somewhere close to the Bosworth Battlefield Centre, where we were attending an event.

I wouldn’t rule out staying again as overall the accommodation was fine.  However, I would book on a room only basis and try out one or two of the pubs and restaurants in Market Bosworth for dinner and perhaps a grab a pastry from a local coffee shop for breakfast.

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If you are a Richard III fan (as I am), then Bosworth is a great place to base yourself.  It’s about a three mile walk to the actual battlefield where Richard died fighting Henry Tudor.  The Battlefield Centre has a restaurant, picnic area and museum where you can read up on the events of 1485 and there are a series of walks around the area, dotted with plaques explaining how the battle unfolded.

The village itself is absolutely gorgeous and so worth a visit.

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Hotel Xuroy, Cala Alcaufar, Menorca

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After the last few weeks getting the house ready for sale, we really needed this break to Menorca!  We’ve stayed here before at the Hotel Xuroy (pronounced shoo-roy) and knew it would be the perfect place to kick off our shoes and get lost in a good book.

We had a shockingly bad experience with Thomson right at the start when we found ourselves bumped off an overbooked flight and bussed to Gatwick from Manchester, resulting in a 12 hour delay.  I kid you not, I can barely write this without steam coming out of my ears, so I’m going to say nothing more, other than our claim for compensation is in.

When we come across poor service, our normal way to deal with it is to vote with our feet, so goodbye Thomson, nice (or not so nice) knowing ya!

 

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Anyway, back to Cala Alcaufar.  The place is drop dead gorgeous.  The water is clear and there are jetties stretching out into the sea where you can climb down from a ladder and just drop right into the sea.

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The Xuroy is only two stars and is basic, but clean.  The food is good but there is very little choice – it’s a bit like going to a friend for dinner and just eating with the family.  There is no aircon so I wouldn’t go in the summer months, but in September it’s just fine.

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At night drinks are on the terrace and the view above is what you see as you sip your glass of rose and watch the sun go down.  Service is a little slow so you have to be patient!

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Our room faced the courtyard at the back.  The rooms have been done up quite recently and are modern and fresh.

The village itself has just one hotel, some self catering places, one shop and one other bar (Piccolo Mundo).  Within walking distance though, you can reach Punta Prima (about 35 mins scramble over rocks) where we had an excellent paella, and S’Algar which is another small village with a few more bars and shops (15 mins walk).

I’d go again, but next time I think we’ll rent a small place in the village and book flights independently.

 

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One Stone Lost and a Moving House Update

Today I reached my one stone weight loss target with Slimming World.  To celebrate, I treated myself to some lovely Freya lingerie from The Lingerie Room in Hoole.  I’m learning to reward myself with gorgeous treats like this and not food!  I went to get measured for the new bra and guess what – no change!  I really thought I would have dropped a cup size, but no.

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I really am very slow at losing weight, but I’m hoping that this slow steady approach will mean I can keep it off.  I’m seeing it as a gradual re-education and a new way of eating for life.

In other news, we have a buyer for our house and have had an offer accepted on a bungalow.  The new property is a bit of a renovation project, so I’m looking forward to having free rein with decoration.  It needs a new bathroom and kitchen as well as central heating.  We also plan to knock a wall down to make a bigger kitchen/diner. Yikes!  Suffice to say, we will be getting professionals in for this!

As I have compromised on location (I wanted to go home to Wales, he wanted to stay close to his dad), Steve has agreed that all décor decisions are mine and has promised not to interfere.  We’ll see!

Anyway, it’s early days for both sale and purchase.  Absolutely anything could happen, so we are keeping an open mind on the new property until we have absolute confirmation.  Luckily we are old enough and ugly enough not to get emotionally attached.

The next few weeks should prove to be eventful if nothing else.

 

Slimming World Progress

IMG_2008Another one and a half pounds off this week – making 12.5 in total.  Very close now to that one stone milestone and I’m determined to get it!

I’ve not been cooking much the last two weeks because of the moving house cleaning and painting frenzy that’s been going on, but I did manage to make the Slimming World crustless quiche (pictured).

So, with the house due to be on the market by Thursday, I have the ideal opportunity to get out and about again and burn some calories.

I’m getting that ‘back to school’ feeling which I think makes this time of year very special.  It’s a time for new beginnings, the start of Autumn/Winter fashion in the shops and an excuse to buy a new pencil case (or maybe a new house if we get an offer on ours).

Feeling positive about the next few months!