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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Uetliberg

The final part of my Swiss adventure involved a trip to the top of the mountain which overlooks Zurich: Uetliberg.

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From our base at the wonderful Hotel Atlantis by Giardino, it was an easy walk downhill to the train station, passing this cute little troll house on the way (no idea what its purpose was as it was deserted).

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The trains in Switzerland all run on time and this cute little mountain train was no exception. We passed through fields initially, then little villages, until finally reaching the forest.   I was delighted to see that the cows do indeed have bells in Switzerland.  I think this one was a bull actually.

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From the train station final stop, it was a steady 15 minute uphill walk to the very top.  I’d like to say the view of the city was amazing, but as we were above the clouds we saw precisely nothing.  It was worth it for the walk in the forest though!

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On our descent we decided to go into the station café for a bite to eat.  I confidently ordered from the menu in my schoolgirl German, only to be presented with something like a weiner schnitzel.  Not what I ordered but no matter – I need to brush up on my language skills.

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On a clear day you can see for miles from the station we were told, but to be honest, we really enjoyed getting out into the fresh air and into the beautiful forest.

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A Night At One Of The Most Haunted Hotels in Britain: The Adelphi, Liverpool

Why I booked myself into the Adelphi when I am scared to death of ghosts and ghouls is beyond my comprehension, but anyway I did it.

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We were going to a concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic, the Adelphi is on route, it was a bargain price on Late Rooms (£49) and I really didn’t engage my brain.  I just clicked ‘book’.

Then (and I always do this after the fact) I checked Trip Advisor which mostly went along the lines of ‘do not stay at this hotel’.  Hmmm – have I made a mistake here I thought.  People said it made Fawlty Towers look good, or that it was like staying in the Grand Budapest Hotel.  But no-one mentioned ghosts.

I don’t mind camping out in a dodgy hotel if the price is right and it’s only for one night (you can always sleep clothed on top of the covers after all).  I also tend to take Trip Advisor with a pinch of salt as I never review anything myself and I suspect many like minded folk are the same. So I thought, oh well, let’s go with the flow.

Then, a little niggle popped into my mind.  Hadn’t this hotel been on the telly?  Hadn’t I read somewhere that it was haunted.  I always avoid haunted hotels as I know I won’t sleep a wink, so it seemed a mighty cock up had been made here.  Anyway, to check, I googled ‘Adelphi haunted’.

What popped up was terrifying.  Not only is it haunted, it is haunted by multiple ghosts and people actually pay to go on ghost hunting breaks here.  Flippin’ heck – this was getting very scary.   The third floor in particular is said to be possessed by a demon with people reporting being violently ill, feeling someone watching them, or in some cases, seeing someone rifling through their belongings who then disappeared into thin air.

Deciding to man up I turned up on the day and was delighted with the architecture of the public rooms: simply stunning and exactly what you would expect from a grand old hotel built in 1911.  It’s all marble walls and crystal chandeliers – faded grandeur at its best.

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Checking in, we were given a key …..to the dreaded third floor!  I had a momentary panic and thought about asking for another room, but not wanting to look like a nutter, I smiled and said thank you.

The room was huge and although minimally furnished (one tea bag between two people anyone?) it was clean.  The mattress was a little thin but I had no qualms about sleeping here.  Until about 11 p.m. when we were back from the theatre and the reality set in…..I was about to spend the night in a haunted hotel!

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Giving myself a talking to, I dropped off for a little while, only to be woken at midnight by that feeling you get when your mind is alert but your body won’t move.  I get this all the time, so no matter, but it did unsettle me and I decided the best course of action was to sleep with one eye open until at least four a.m. as I figured there would be no hauntings in the morning hours.

I had five blissful hours sleep from four ’til nine and have to say, the Adelphi was actually fine.  No ghosts, no poor service, no dirt.  A bit shabby chic maybe, but I can live with that.

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Would I stay again? Absolutely – although maybe not on All Hallows Eve: don’t want to go looking for trouble do we?

 

 

Zurich City Break

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If you were to ask me what my ideal city break involved, it would go something like this: fabulous architecture, amazing history, a river running through it, a strong sense of identity, foodie heaven, cute coffee houses and quirky shops.  Well, Zurich has all of these things in abundance.  In fact, it is so pretty I’ve had difficulty in choosing photos for the blog as the temptation to just photo-bomb you with pretty squares is huge!  On top of that, we are in the run up to Christmas, so the city’s festive vibe (think hot chocolate, sheepskin seat covers in outdoor cafes, sparkly window displays) only enhanced the experience!

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Not only did my Lonely Planet competition win include flights with Swiss Air and a fabulous stay at the Atlantis by Giardino, we were also given a Zurich City Pass which gave us 72 hours free transport in and around the city.

Steve is drawn to water so the first thing we did was jump on a boat for a lake tour.  The autumn colours were breath-taking!

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The trip takes one and a half hours and is free with the Zurich card.

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The city is right on the waterfront, so it was only a short hop into town to see the Fraumunster and its amazing Chagall windows.  We were very lucky to have popped into the cathedral just as an orchestra was rehearsing for that night’s performance of one of Bach’s cello suites, so we took a pew (literally) and enjoyed the music.

Next was a coffee shop recommended by the hotel: Schobers.  It’s like a winter wonderland in there, with the most amazing cash register I’ve ever seen.

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There are squares in abundance, each with multi coloured buildings that are just so typically European.

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We visited the very grand Metropol Café, famously frequented by Albert Einstein, who, it is said, developed his revolutionary theories in the early 1900s whilst sitting here with a drink.   Just look at those impressive columns.

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We also enjoyed a hot chocolate in café Odeon, where, in the first half of the century, writers, artists and intellectuals would hang out to discuss politics and culture.  The décor is grand and the place just oozes history.

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One of the prettiest areas is the Fisherman’s district where long, low houses lie along the water’s edge.  This district is crammed with antique shops and individual boutiques.

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Split across both sides of the river Limmat, the city is ideal for a city break because it is easily covered on foot.

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The architecture is a real mix of traditional and modern, with some lovely old squares having quite unusual pieces of art.

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You didn’t have to look far for traditional houses though, many with flowers spilling over the balconies.

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This was such a beautiful place to visit in the run up to Christmas.  I’ll leave you with a photo of this fountain in one of the many impossibly pretty squares.

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Day One in New York

The long awaited girls only adventure to New York City started with a very early start at Manchester airport ready for our 9:30 a.m. United Airlines flight to Newark.  Despite the fact it was only 6:30 a.m. when we arrived, we managed to fit in a bit of shopping and our only healthy breakfast of the entire trip.

The flight wasn’t too bumpy, just excruciatingly boring as the TV screens didn’t work and the food was no distraction either as it was inedible (literally).  On arrival at Newark some seven hours later we were met with long queues for immigration then more queuing for the shuttle bus (joy!). Finally though, our taxi arrived and we were on our way through the Lincoln Tunnel and onto Manhatten Island.

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Our hotel, the Metro, is a comfortable four star in the art deco style, on 35th.  The room was big: two doubles and a spacious bathroom on the third floor. No tea or coffee facilities in the room but free tea and coffee 24 hours a day in the breakfast room, plus free wine tasting and canapes between 5 and 6:30 p.m. (from here on referred to a wine o clock).  How very civilised and it would have been rude not to partake.

Bags dumped, we headed off out to make the most of the afternoon, starting with Times Square.  Having been incarcerated on a flight all day we had no idea that Prince had died until we saw the billboards (but every TV station was full of it for the next few days, so it’s fair to say we had the full insight into the situation by the end of the trip).

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We wandered up towards Central Park and saw quite a few characters along the way, including ladies painted in the American flag, wearing nothing but a thong, (no pictures sorry) and an elderly man on roller skates, wearing a bikini.

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Central Park was looking beautiful with lots of cherry blossom.  We did have to run the gauntlet to avoid cab drivers offering a horse and carriage ride (cost varied between $20 and $60).

Next stop was Tiffany to see what we couldn’t afford, then back to our hotel for a rest.  I’d like to be telling you about the dinner and drinks we had, but we were far too tired for anything except wine o clock, shower, trash TV and bed.

Day two to follow.