Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Restaurant Review - Hidden River Cafe, Brackenhill, Longtown, Cumbria

I'd heard a lot of good  reports about the Hidden River Cafe so was looking forward to going for the first time with my cousin Glen. It's name is appropriate, it is well hidden in the countryside east of Longtown, but we eventually found it ok with the aid of sat nav.

The setting is beautiful, the cafe is on a hill overlooking the wooded valley of the River Lyne. You can also see one of the gorgeous luxury log cabins that you can rent nestling within the trees. There is a seated area outside which would be a lovely place just to relax with a glass of wine.

 The cafe itself is quite small, modern-rustic in style. The menu was European fare, varied and different, it was hard to choose what I wanted as there was so much that tempted me.



In the end I chose the smoked salmon, burnt orange and walnut salad which was delicious. Glen had hummus, heritage tomato, feta and olive salad which was loved. For the main course I chose chargrilled herby chicken with summer vegetables and Jersey royals, it was very good. Glen had smoked salmon pasta and she also enjoyed her meal. For dessert we both went for tiramisu with pistachio ice cream, a treat for me on my diet, which was excellent!


The service was friendly and professional, the atmosphere was relaxed and it cost us £34 for three courses and an alcoholic drink each.  The Hidden River Cafe may be a bit out in the wilds but it is well worth the drive. 

Monday, 1 July 2019

Stratford upon Avon - 4th - 7th June 2019

4th June 2019

After a smooth rail journey I met my friend old school friend Marian at Stratford station. We walked the short distance to our apartment, which turned out to be really lovely with good quality furnishings and everything we needed as well as being very central.  There was also milk, tea and biscuits there for us, most welcome after a long journey!

The Dirty Duck
After settling in we had a walk around the town. It was late afternoon so the tourists were dissipating and it was pleasant just wandering around.  We ended up at our favourite pub The Dirty Duck which has many fond memories for us from our first visit with school in the early 1970's (we were given a lot of freedom and being under 18 wasn't a problem!) It hasn't really changed very much. We had a meal, I chose chicken and asparagus salad followed by a yummy gin, blackcurrant and prosecco cheesecake, All washed down with a perfectly made Pimms, this pub by far makes the best Pimms I've had!


Afterwards we crossed the road to where the swans were coming out of the river to what appeared to be a preening place which was covered in their white feathers. One swan was very cheeky and came up to me and then started following me! I was careful as I know swans can be aggressive and are strong! Luckily he was very docile, just curious I think. We walked along the path by the river and it was so peaceful and tranquil, something I remember from every visit I've made to Stratford, there is just something really relaxing about the stillness of it on a pleasant summers evening, good to see it is something that hasn't changed over the years.

Evening by the River Avon
June 5th

We had lunch and then crossed the river an walked past the new big wheel there, somehow it just didn't look right in Stratford, and we only saw people on it once during our stay.

We went to the Butterfly Farm, a place that has been there for a long time but I had never visited it. Inside it was very hot and humid, full of tropical plants, ponds, butterflies, Chinese quail and loose iguanas that stayed well out of the way. There was a little archway covered in vegetation and there was a sign beside it saying to beware as the iguanas like to sit on top of it and defaecate! And yes, when we looked up there was an iguana there so we went through the archway quickly! There were butterflies everywhere many very colourful and often landed on you. We never saw the Chinese quail but we could often hear their mournful call. There was a case containing pupae and you could watch the butterflies slowly emerging their wings at first crumpled then slowly spreading out in all their beauty. All in all it was really fascinating to see and learn  about the lives of butterflies.
There's an Iguana Watching!

Afterwards we sat and relaxed in the lovely small garden around the farm. It was warm and sunny, we could smell the herbs from a little herb garden nearby and I watched a big, fat bumble bee squeezing into snapdragons to get the pollen prize hidden inside. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best.

In the late afternoon we went to The Opposition restaurant in Sheep Street and we chose something from the very reasonable pre-theatre menu. We both had the same, rarebit to start, Mediterranean lamb for mains and delectable Eton mess for dessert. washed down with red wine, all delicious, we agreed it was definitely the best meal we had whilst in Stratford on this visit.

Stained glass in
the Swan Theatre
After our meal we walked the short distance to The Swan Theatre to see The Provoked Wife by John Vanbrugh. The Swan is a small theatre holding 426 in a Globe-like galleried design that means all the audience is close to the actors. This theatre was not open when we first came to Stratford all those years ago.  It has the most beautiful stained glass windows,

The play was a typical Restoration romp, funny, witty while also looking at the trap of a loveless marriage plus other sub-plots. It was performed in period costume which I generally prefer. We both enjoyed it very much.

June 6th

As it was another warm, sunny day Marian and I decided to cross the bridge to the other side of the river and do a walk we found in a book in our apartment.

We crossed over the Avon and passed by the new big wheel which seemed a bit incongruous in a place like Stratford, we only saw someone on it once. We took the path that followed the  bank of the river, and it was lovely, warm with the wind rustling gently through the willow trees, a few people messing about on the calm river, others walking their dogs. We saw a heron on the other side of the river that stood perfectly still for five minutes. We crossed a footbridge to the other side of the river and walked through a residential area where we fantasised about buying one of the apartments that had large balconies overlooking the river, what a sight to wake up to each day!

At Trinity church we again walked along the riverside path back into the centre of Stratford. We popped in the The Dirty Duck for a late lunch.

Later we set out from our apartment to look for a place for another pre-theatre meal and were tempted in to another  place in Sheep Street called Wildwood by the offer of free garlic bread! We had bruschetta and pizza and the food was good.

Afterwards we went to The Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see As You Like It. We hadn't seen that play for a long time were really looking forward to it. The play was joyous, colourful and there was a lot of audience inclusion, also some signing. The set was sparse but the space was well used. At the end a huge puppet of Hymen, the Greek god of marriage literally unfolded on stage, very effective.  We enjoyed last night's play but Shakespeare always has the edge on other playwrights!

On the way home we were accompanied part of the way by two mallard ducks! They were picking up food from the pavements outside cafes. It was late and they were a bit from the river but they seemed to know where they were going.

Once more we had a wonderful time in Stratford upon Avon, and once more we were blessed with great weather too. We have decided to go back in two years time to celebrate 50 years (yikes!) since our first visit as schoolgirls.

As You Like It
Swan Fountain

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Copenhagen December 2018

Copenhagen has always been on my bucket list and so I was really pleased to be able to visit at the end of last year, here's a write up of that trip.

4th December

We arrived at the airport at 8pm and  found our way to the station to get the train into the city. It was a short journey and we were amazed by the station itself which was wooden, very beautiful. Our Hotel the Copenhagen Star, was literally 200 yards from the station couldn't be handier! Our room was basic but clean and had all we needed.

We went out and had a meal at a restaurant called Cafe du Nord which was opposite our hotel. The meal was good but pricey, but only to be expected in Scandinavia. Whilst there we noticed that, although the area was not particularly seedy, it was a red light area as there were girls hanging around on street corners.

5th December

Little Mermaid
After breakfast at the hotel and went to the tourist information and bought a combi for the hop on hop off bus, boat tour and entry to the Tivoli Gardens. The bus tour was good, we saw the Little Mermaid (which was really little,) the colourful houses of Nyhavn, palaces, interesting modern buildings and much more.

The boat trip went to some of the same places but you saw them from a different viewpoint. The weather was cold, but bright and sunny.

Nyhavn
After getting off the boat we visited a Christmas market which was lovely. Older areas of the city were interesting but I preferred Stockholm for that. Copenhagen is very flat and bikes are everywhere and you have to look out for them.

Tivoli Gardens
That evening we went to the famous Tivoli Gardens. It is said that the inspiration for Walt Disney's theme parks was inspired by a visit to he took to Tivoli and you can see how it could have influenced him. The Gardens were on the other side of the station
Tivoli Gardens
from our hotel so they were very handy for us. They first opened in 1843 and have been going strong ever since. We were stunned when we went in as it was magical, due to the time of year the Christmas theme was evident (the gardens have different themes depending on the time of year.) Lights everywhere, huge Christmas trees, decorations, fairground rides, shops, cafes, restaurants, concert hall, theatre. Lots of fun and laughter, I've never been anywhere like it. Some of the rides were very old, for example the roller coaster is the original 1914 one, that added to the charm of the place.

After a couple of hours we were beginning to feel a bit cold so we had a meal in a restaurant in the gardens called Paaflugen. It was cosy and warm inside and the food was good.

We both loved the Tivoli Gardens, it was such a unique experience especially special at Christmas time. The photos here don't do the place justice.

6th December

We visited the National Museum of Denmark today. Outside it had an old facade but it was very modern inside. The ground floor was dedicated to Viking culture and had some fabulous exhibits. Lots of beautiful, intricately worked gold artifacts. There was also a floor dedicated to classical culture and I was especially interested in the Ancient Egyptian section. There were some amazing exhibits and the good thing was that you could actually touch some of them and throughout the museum you could also take photos which is really good.

Later, in the evening Marian and I went on the Food Trail tour. Our guide was Bryony from Wales who was studying in Copenhagen.
Best Hot Dog Ever!
and loved the city. Our first stop was a hot dog van in the main square. I don't like the hot dogs we have in the UK they taste like nothing, but I had heard how good Scandinavian hot dogs were. And boy it was good! The sausage was tasty and it had ketchup, remoulade, mustard, onions, sweet pickle on it with some crispy onions on top. Absolutely delicious and really warming on this cold night.
Then we went to a pub called the Taphouse and sampled two small glasses of beer, in all they have 61 types to choose from! Very good they were too.

We then walked to a food market and there tried Fiskedellen which was fish and potato mixed together, fried and served with bread and remoulade. Again it was really tasty.

Smogasbord
The final destination was was another pub called Skaal. Here we sampled traditional smorgasbord, open sandwiches. There were two types, pickled fish and potato. I didn't like the fish, I've never been keen on raw fish. The potato one was nice and the rye bread they were on was really good.  To finish off we had a Danish pastry and that was the end of the tour. It was great to sample real Danish food like this and we were certainly full at the end of the tour!

We had no idea where we were but with the aid of my mobile we found our way back to the hotel.

And that was the end of our trip to Copenhagen, a lovely city well worth visiting - and if you do, get a hot dog!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

U2 Experience and Innocence Tour - Dublin November 2018

3rd November 2018

Debbi and I flew in to Dublin airport from different UK airports (I go via the cheapest/best times place, this time it was Glasgow.) We met up at the airport and got the Air Coach into the city as there was a stop very close to our apartment.  We had no problems finding it and it was really nice. We got the shopping in from a nearby Spar, then ordered a Chinese takeaway and had that with wine. It felt good to be back in Dublin, our second home!

4th November

We had been due to go to our friends Ken and Elizabeth's for a meal that evening but Ken had been taken into hospital. But Elizabeth suggested meeting her at an Italian place called Bianconi's on Merrion Road near the hospital instead. It was good to see her again and we had a good chat and the food was delicious too.

Afterwards we got more shopping in at a nearby Tesco's before heading home. Later Debbi went out to meet her friend Paddy, I opted out as I was tired and just wanted to chill.

5th November

First gig today, we arrived at the 3Arena in the late afternoon. We intended having a meal at the nearby Gibson Hotel like we did last time the band played the arena, but they were not letting non-residents in. We ended up having a meal at a place called Ruby's just behind the arena which was cheap and really good.

We went into the 3Arena and our seats were really good, we could see the main stage, b-stage, walkway and hanging screen. Because the arena is so small the walkway was much shorter. The show was good, the Zoo part and the new songs, which fit so well into this show, are my favourite parts. I prefer this tour to the Innocence one as it all gels together perfectly.

The only downer was the crowd. I'd say most stayed sitting down, many more interested in talking or their phones than the show. Very disappointing, especially for a home crowd.

The Beautiful Samuel Beckett Bridge
Afterwards we met up with our friends Declan (who was suffering from man flu,) Jane and Sharon and had a chat for a while, everyone had enjoyed the show. Missed  my friend Dianne who had to cancel coming to Dublin just days earlier. Afterwards we walked up the quay, across the Liffey and back home.

Paddy came round to our flat at 2am! Good job we stay up late after shows. He recently turned 50 and we had set up a little party and gifts for him which he seemed to really appreciate. We had lots to eat and drink and there was lots of laughs and conversation putting the world to rights. Paddy left at 5am and we crashed out afterwards.

6th November

We'd had a very late night so we took it easy today. For this show Debbi had a GA ticket but I had chosen to have a seat as the crowd in Dublin can be a bit "lively." It was another really good seat even though it wasn't a top price one.

What a difference a day can make, the crowd around me were great, up dancing and singing along from the word go. The crowd was loud and the energy between them and the band bounced back and forth. You could tell Bono was really emotional at times, after Get Out of Your Own Way the fans kept singing long after the band has finished and he just stood smiling. It must be especially great for an artist when the audience is singing one of the new songs like that.

I loved the whole show but highlights for me included the great Zoo segment, and MacPhisto's speech where he really let rip about Donald Trump.  This part was also a bit more personal than it had been as Bono said that he saw his dad in him when he looked in the mirror that day and hoped that he would be proud his sons.

It's amazing how different shows can feel. For me this was one of those special ones where the magic happens, where you're on an emotional rollercoaster. And it's after shows like this I know why I have been a fan of this band for 35+ years.


I met up with Debbi outside the arena and she felt the same as me about the gig and loved it. We walked back home and had something to eat, wine and chilled. Our apartment is lovely but there were a couple of strange things there. One, a leprechaun hat (which explains the photo) and the other being a bottle of absinthe that was between two glass panels beside one of the doors!

November 7th

Today was our designated lazy day where we just mooch around where ever we are and have a few bevvies. We had been due to meet up with Jane and Sharon at lunchtime but they had to cancel. We were also due to meet up with Declan that evening but he cancelled as his man flu was even worse. This was the trip of cancellations!

We first went to Sam's Bar but didn't stay long as it was quiet and there was no atmosphere. Next stop was Kehoe's which was great, it's one of our favourites. Our final port of call was  O'Neill's another favourite, where we had their delicious chips and the best onion rings in the world!

November 8th

We took the DART to Dalkey today and had lunch in Finnegan's and then coffee in nearby Queen's. It was raining so we didn't go on to Killiney as we'd planned.

That evening we went all touristy (we've been coming here so long that we don't normally do things like that) and went of the Irish Food Trail. We met our guide, Grainne, at Dublin Castle and were joined by people from Canada, America, England and Iceland who were all really nice.

Our first stop was the Boxty House where we had potatoes three ways. My favourite were the boxty chips, different from normal chips and delicious.

Next stop was Gallagher's where we had the choice of three mains. I chose fish and chips which were wonderful.

Dakota's on the Irish Food Trail
Final place was Dakota's where we had dessert which was a Bailey's cheesecake and very good it was! We also had a bit of fun and made our own Irish coffee, mine didn't really work out lol!

All in all the tour was excellent and good value for money We learned new things about the city and its history and also sampled good food in places we'd never been to before. Grainne was a knowledgeable and friendly guide and I would definitely recommend the tour.

9th November

Nasty weather today, howling wind and torrential rain so we didn't do much during the day. Later we went to a bar near the 3Arena for a meal, which was cheap and filling but not great.

We met Paddy, who had our tickets, outside the arena and went in. For the third time I was able to go in without my bag being searched which I don't think is good in this day and age. Our seats were really good. I got chatting to a lovely woman beside me whose birthday it was. She had been a fan of the band since 1987.

The show was good but spoiled to a degree by security making people sit down! They kind of gave up in the end as people wanted to stand. The woman beside me kept saying about Bono, "Isn't he good?" which he is! When he talked about Brexit and the hard/soft/no border she turned to me and said, "There is no them, there's only us" quoting the song Invisible which I thought was so nice. We got Dirty Day for the first time today which was a bonus.

I felt a bit emotional during One as I wondered if I'd ever see the band live again. Bono looked tired and I think illness and his accidents have taken their toll on him. Plus he's said a few times that they are going away. And of course I'm not getting any younger either, I was very tired by the end of the week.

We met with Declan briefly after the show, he was still suffering from man flu and chatted with him and Paddy before getting a taxi and heading home.

It was the end of our week in Dublin and the tour for us. We had fun as usual, I love the touring life! We were sad it was over and can only hope there will be another tour to enjoy in the not too distant future.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

U2 Experience and Innocence Tour - London, October 2018

Greenwich, London 22nd October 2018

We arrived in London the day before our first concert and soon settled into our lovely apartment overlooking the Thames in Greenwich. We had a meal in the Slug and Lettuce in the O2 and finished off with macaringues which we both loved!

23rd October 2018

After breakfast we went out for a walk. There was a lot of building going on and some new buildings since we'd last been there. We walked right round the O2 a pleasant walk in the sunshine.

Edge looking good, me not lol!
Later we went to the pier to wait for the band arriving, there weren't very many fans. The band's boat arrived and Edge was the first to come off. He was lovely, shook hands and chatted with people. Then Bono arrived and it got a bit chaotic with two big men pushing people out of the way. I just stood back then I noticed that Edge was still meeting and greeting further on so I went across said, "It's me again" and asked if I could get a photo with him. He said of course and I looked behind me thinking Debbi was behind me (to take the photo) and she wasn't. I mumbled that I wasn't very good at selfies (which is true) and Edge immediately said, "I'll do it for you" and took my phone, set it up, was impressed that I had a countdown on it and snapped the photo. I thanked him and he said, "No problem." It was a good photo of him but not so much me lol! Such a lovely man.

We went back to the flat as our friend Marian was joining us there, and, after a cuppa, we all went to the O2 to find somewhere to eat. It was very busy but we managed to find a table at a place called Iguana and had a real good meal there.

Moon rising over the Thames
We then went into the arena which took a long time with all the security checks, but that's not a problem for me, it's to keep everyone safe. We had good seats on the same side as the Manchester ones but a bit higher up.  Again the shows was great, the Zoo section being my favourite part. There was a slight change to it, instead of finishing that section with Stay they did Wild Horses and it was very impressive as the screen came down around them as they played and disappeared from sight. The crowd took a long time to get into the show but they eventually did. Bono managed to mess up the lyrics to One but he covered it up well lol!

Afterwards we walked the short distance home (bliss after the awful hike we had last year when they played Twickenham.) We had some prosecco and chatted well into the early hours.

October 24th 2018

Marian left to go home first thing, I saw her off and then went back to bed as we'd had a late night. In the afternoon we went to the pier again to see if we could meet Bono this time. There was a lovely security woman who was chatty, her main job was in social services looking after troubled children which she loved. She did the security work when she could. At one point some people who were waiting for the London Clipper boat mistakenly stood with the fans, eventually security sorted it, the boss asking us are you waiting for the clipper or ....? So funny, not really trying to keep quiet about who was coming as most security people do.

Bono arrived quite late and although there were more fans they were well behaved. He looked his 58 years (he told a fan further down the queue to wash her hand after shaking his as he had a f------ virus.) He was warm and friendly as usual and shook hands with people, didn't talk much as he was saving his voice. He was soon past us and that was it.

The security woman came back and she was all giddy she had spoken with Bono, Another woman who'd been on the pier had a lovely photo of her with Bono, she was giddy too lol. The effect he has on females!

For this night's show we had GA tickets. Debbi went into the crowd by the b stage but I stood back a bit as I'm small and would just be looking into someones back if I was in the crowd. There was plenty of room and I could easily move if someone got in my way and I had a good view of the b-stage and screen. The show had minor changes from the previous night and the atmosphere was good.

Towards the end I moved to where Bono would walk out at the end and soon Debbi was there too.  Security was keeping that way clear but a woman wanted to go back in the arena and went ballistic when she wasn't allowed to. She roughly just pushed me out of the way, screamed at the security people and tried to hit one of them. Everyone tried to calm her down and she did a bit , she was standing in front of me and I asked her to move which she did. Security ended up letting her back in which I thought was wrong as it only encourages that kind of terrible behaviour. Anyway, Bono passed right by us shortly afterwards as he left the arena and that was the end of the London shows. I'd been a bit concerned about having GA for the show as I'm not a spring chicken anymore but I was fine, I think it helps if you can walk about a bit and lean on things.

Once home we had a few drinks, pizza and chatted much of the night away. I love when we are on tour like this!

25th October 2018

We had decided to have another day in London after the shows as we wanted to do our usual afternoon in Claridges which had become a bit of a tradition for us when visiting the city. We had sharing platters of duck spring rolls and cheese and biscuits washed down with a lovely bottle of white wine. The bar is very relaxed and not snobby at all and you are well looked after without the service being over-bearing. We stayed for three hours and thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was a great way to end our visit to London, next stop Dublin!



Sunday, 17 March 2019

U2 Experience and Innocence Tour, Manchester 19th October 2018.

Finally got round to updating my blog! I just haven't been into writing it recently but now am ready to catch up with all I have been doing in the last few months.

Manchester 19th October 2018
Debbi and I met up at Piccadilly station and went to our favourite Thai restaurant for a late lunch. We then went to our hotel, the Trivelles, which was a bit out of the centre but near Salford Crescent station. It wasn't the best of hotels, but it was cheap.

Later we headed to the Metro Arena and took our seats. It was a bit thought provoking going there after the awful terrorist incidents when so many young people lost their lives not that long ago.

We had good seats on Edge's side. The set up was much like the Innocence tour, main stage, central walkway that ran almost the full length of the floor with an equally long screen above, then at the end of that a round b stage.

Selfie Time
The band's entry was low key, they just walked out onto the stage and immediately went into The Blackout, which really rocked and I liked it much more live than on the album. I was surprised how emotional I suddenly felt, the power of U2 live is stunning. This was followed by Lights of Home, then two oldies, I Will Follow and Gloria that were very well received, then Beautiful Day which I can do without nowadays.

Then screen sprung into life and lowered and much to my surprise Edge's unmistakable intro chords to Zoo Station blasted out and Bono did the "puppet" dance as I call it (those who saw the band in the Zoo days will know what I mean!) and walked onto the walkway to sing Zoo Station, it rocked, absolutely loved this version. Again I was overcome with emotion, so many great memories flooded back, and to hear this song after so long took me right back to great times. This was followed by Stay, Who's Gonna Ride your Wild Horses and The Fly. It was just wonderful and this Zoo segment was the highlight of the show for me. I could hardly believe I was hearing these songs again. It also made me realise what amazing songs they were. Bono was in good voice and there was a lot of energy.

There was a short intermission and when the band came back on they went onto the b stage and went into Elevation, Vertigo and others. At one point Bono once more becomes MacPhisto, his best ever character, this time his make up was digital and it worked quite well the older version with proper makeup. MacPhisto was as evil as ever, good to see the old man again. The band then went into Acrobat which again was a surprise for me, what a great song that is. It was followed by a beautiful acoustic You're the Best Thing About Me.


The rest of the show was a mix of old and new songs, well put together. The show had, as usual with U2, a low-key ending with the beautiful 13 (There is a Light.) Where Bono stayed on the b stage while the others disappear along the walkway into the darkness. There's a model of his childhood home on the stage and he opens the roof and out comes a light bulb symbolising the light bulb in his childhood bedroom,which he swings before leaving the stage through the crowd.  An echo of the Innocence tour where the light bulb makes an appearance near the beginning of the show, everything has come full circle.

The screen throughout the show was stunning and at times simply beautiful. It didn't take away from the music, it complemented it perfectly. I thought the screen and stages were used to a better advantage than on the Innocence tour. It all flowed perfectly and our seats enabled us to see it all very well.

Afterwards we headed back to our hotel, and picked up a Maccy D from the place opposite our hotel. We had it with a bottle of champagne we had, strange combination but it went down well! First show done, and we were not disappointed, there was another show in Manchester the following night but we were not going to that one, London and Dublin were our next shows.