Luxurious Living At The Baron at Bucknell, Shropshire

Situated in the tiny Shropshire village of Bucknell, the Baron is a pub with rooms.  Nothing out of the ordinary about that, you may think.  However, this year, they have created  most amazing and luxurious garden rooms, elevating this establishment to something very special.

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I came across them on Twitter @Baronatbucknell and spotted that they had a competition running on Facebook to win an overnight stay.  Now you know I can’t resist a competition, so I entered and bingo!  I was picked as the winner.  Not one to let the grass grow, I booked immediately for the following week.

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From the moment we checked in, we were made to feel very special.  We were given a guided tour of the room and facilities (including a huge TV with Netflix, hot tub, swanky bean to cup coffee machine and….wait for it……a private wild swimming lake!).  The room was tastefully decorated and had the most enormous bed, complete with top quality bedlinen and snuggly mattress.  The fridge had fresh milk and chocolate (nice touch) and there were cookies laid out for us to sample.  Lots of quality teas to choose from as well as the fresh coffee.

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First things first, we hopped into the hot tub and gazed out over the adjoining fields, watching the sheep grazing and the rabbits darting about.  We then put a toe in the wild pool and, gorgeous as it was, an English summer just doesn’t tempt me to jump in, especially as the day was cool and overcast.

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For dinner, we nipped across the garden to the pub and enjoyed a tasty ribeye and a couple of drinks before heading back to our trendy lodgings to resume our nature watch.

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Breakfast the next morning was again taken in the pub – lots to choose from: fresh fruit, yoghurt, full English, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

We cheekily asked to look at the other rooms (there are three in total) and Phil, the owner was happy to oblige.  Take a look at the décor.  Wouldn’t you love to stay in one of these?

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Wild Goose Restaurant & Bar Chester

Every now and again you come across somewhere in your vicinity that you didn’t even know existed.  Just such a thing happened today when my bestie Linda and I had coffee and cake at the Wild Goose in Dodleston.  We had no idea it was here!  Hidden in the Cheshire countryside, but only a few miles from home.

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To be fair, it’s only been open for a few weeks.  It’s on the site of Chester Lakes, a fishery which has been popular with anglers for a long time.

Anyway, I had won a Facebook competition for coffee and cake, so it was the perfect excuse to try it out (and follow it up with a visit to the nearby Grosvenor Garden Centre).

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The décor is very country chic, with a quirky bar made up of wine crates.

 

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Outside there are the cutest little huts overlooking the lake which would be perfect on a summer night.  Pity it was pouring with rain!

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The menu looks good enough to tempt us back for dinner too!  PS I can recommend the chocolate cake!

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Walking and running in Malta

April is a beautiful month in Malta.  Wildflowers abound and there are still places on this very small island that you can get away from it all.  We stayed in Mellieha, an ideal base for running and walking as it is in the less populated north.  All the following trails started from our hotel, the Mellieha Bay and all are easy (no more than five miles).

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Our first run/walk started in the hotel grounds.  There is a trail right on the doorstep which starts at the edge of the gardens – just follow the coast path towards Marfa Ridge.  It’s not far until you are rewarded with this amazing view.

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From here, we scrambled across rough ground to a track with a campsite.  Following this road we ended up right on top of Marfa Ridge, on the main road to the ferry at Cirkewwa.  There are clear views of Gozo from here.

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We dropped down to the other side of the ridge, easy running, down to Armier Bay where we stopped at the Victoria café, right on the seafront, for a coffee and a rest before heading back towards Ramla Bay.

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By this point, aside from a few locals in the café, we had met just one other couple out walking. Bliss.

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Carrying on the main road past Ramla Bay you see the Red Fort ahead.  This landmark led us back to Mellieha.

Our next run was into the village of Mellieha.  Not far, maybe a mile and a bit, but uphill (seriously uphill!).  After a mooch around the village, we were able to run back in much more comfort, getting onto the beach at Mellieha for a better view of the sea.

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Our third outing was much more random.  We set out for Anchor Bay where the Popeye Village stands.  No way we were going to walk along the main road, so we followed our noses, starting at the rows of prefab houses opposite the hotel.  This took us right into open country, so we headed for the cliffs and figured we could follow the coastal path.  Wrong!  After climbing to the top of a ridge, all we got was a great view of a sheer drop into the sea.

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Tracing our steps back, we spotted what seemed like a well worn path and took that.

IMG_1452Eventually we spotted the cliff edge and beyond that, what appeared to be Anchor Bay.  Spot on: there it was.

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However, this wasn’t straightforward as there were signs along the cliff edge saying keep out and danger, so following the edge wasn’t an option.  Instead we could see the back of Popeye Village in the distance, so we headed for it, hoping to find a way in.

The place looked shut to be honest and there was no obvious entrance, so we climbed over a small gate and we were in!

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Making our way to the official entrance, we were relieved to find a coffee shop (excellent espresso).

We were not the only visitors.  Sicily’s version of Hell’s Angels had come over for the day on the ferry and all their Harleys were parked up!  We enjoyed giving them a send off.

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The view over to Anchor Bay is absolutely amazing.  The Popeye film set is now a kiddies attraction, but pretty nonetheless.

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The weather was cool enough for running, but from May to September, I don’t think I could do it.  I will come back in Spring again no doubt.

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Tenby Under Moody Skies

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Tenby is a gorgeous place for a weekend getaway: beautiful beaches, quirky shops and cafes and the South Wales coast on your doorstep for you to explore.

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We spent four days there in the winter months.  Everything was deserted but beautiful nonetheless.

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Aside from a couple of dog walkers, I think we were the only people on the beach.

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The town itself is picture box pretty.  Set within ancient walls are a myriad of shops and cafes which kept us amused when the rain came!

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The harbour is famous for it’s higgledy piggledy ice cream coloured houses which even on a grey day looked fabulous!

We used it as a base to visit nearby Saundersfoot (excellent fish & chips on the front!) and St David’s with its magnificent cathedral.

Well worth a visit.

What To Pack For Marrakech

We visited in March when the weather can be very unpredictable – it was 30 degrees when we arrived but by the end of the week, plunged to eight degrees at night.  This is not a dressy place so a casual wardrobe is the way to go. I was strongly tempted to go full on boho, but decided to temper my choices to be age appropriate.  I can keep my boho stuff for yoga classes!

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These are my top tips for what to wear:

  • I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but take sensible shoes.  I have a pair of superlight trainers which take up little space or weight in your 20 kg Sensimar Thomson allowance, and although not particularly stylish, save a lot of heartache in the long run.  Wearing trainers allows you to properly explore – so just do it!  Having said that, there’s no way my fashion sense would let me travel in them.
  • Travel in mules – easy to slip off for security and I pack a pair of cosy socks to wear once we are in flight.  My mules are silver, go with everything and are the only pair of shoes I needed for evenings.  Mine are from Dune.
  • Daytime ‘hanging out’ shoes are my silver Office sliders – metallics just go with everything and these take me from pool to lunch, to a short walk out.  I wouldn’t walk more than three miles in them, but I have my trainers for that.
  • A long tunic style shirt for sightseeing – keeps you cool and is modest.  Mine is by East.
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  • Pool wear – to be honest, I’m not much of a sun lover, but do take one cossie, one bikini and a sarong which is more than adequate for the amount of time I spend by the pool.
  • A cardi – it’s cool at night.  I always travel with a cashmere cardi which I wear on the plane with a large cashmere scarf that doubles as a blanket.  Mine is a burgundy colour from Isle.
  • Jeans: one blue, one white.  These are great for casual evening dressing and I just take a couple of pretty tops in silk or cotton.  My favourite, pictured, is orange silk from Monsoon.
  • One dress.  You never know when a dressy opportunity may present itself, so I have a Phase Eight black stretch dress which rolls up crease free for packing.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t wear it, but it’s a useful option.
  • Now, I did say not too much boho, but I did indulge a bit with a fringed, embroidered kimono which was useful for covering up when out and about.  Morocco is a Muslim country and it’s important to be respectful and not flash too much flesh, so this was perfect.  It’s advised to keep your shoulders covered when out, so anything light over a vest top would work.

 

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  • I would never wear shorts, but my advice if you do, would be keep them knee length.
  • My khaki walking pants – not a great look, but I don’t go walking on holiday without them.  Light as a feather and don’t show the dirt!
  • I carried my trusty leather hobo bag and it was perfect: you need lots of space for shopping!  I bought this in New York last year and worried about the pale colour, but it really is so useful.

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  • A teeny shoulder bag.  Enough to carry my iPhone and to keep over my shoulder when in the hotel.

That’s pretty much it for clothes – I didn’t take much jewellery (and nothing of value) as I knew I would buy some bits in the souks – which of course I did.  I also succumbed to some rather lovely slippers.  Happy packing!

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Marrakech for Softies

I have wanted to see Marrakech since Michael Palin’s Sahara programme back in the nineties.  This desire was fuelled by Pinterest pictures of fabulous architecture and blog posts about getting lost in the souks.  I finally got my way last month and we touched down in the amazing modern airport full of excitement.

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Our excitement was tempered somewhat by a two hour queue to get through passport control (yes, seriously) and by the time we got to the hotel we were wondering what we had let ourselves in for.  However, the next morning, the city was revealed in all its shabby chic glory.  Here are my best bits:

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The Marjorelle Gardens

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I’ve written a full blog post about this which you can read herehere.  So inspirational and it has given me lots of ideas for my own garden.

The Artisan Market

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Next door to our hotel and perfect for shopping if you don’t like haggling.  I bought most of my stuff here.  The tiles in this place are just gorgeous.  You pay a little bit more than the souks, but saves a lot of hassle if you are a hopeless haggler like me.  They did a mean mint tea too.

The Souks

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Amazing warren of tiny alleyways – we toured with a guide as I wasn’t adventurous enough to risk getting lost.  You can buy almost anything here including wrought iron, leather goods, spices and clothing.

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The main square is a cacophony of people shouting; trance like music; and people approaching you with anything from snakes, to monkeys to henna tattoos.  Kids pestered us to buy tissues and were quite persistent.  We escaped to the Café de France to watch the chaos from afar with a mint tea.

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The storks at the Badi palace

At about 25 minutes walk from our hotel (with quite a bit of pestering along the way) this was an easy DIY option.  We had a pop out map with us, but the huge storks’s nest on the ramparts could be seen from afar, so no danger of getting lost.  I loved this place with its souk and these huge amazing birds just flying around above you.

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The whole experience was memorable to say the least – despite us taking the easy option!

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