Thursday, 16 October 2014

Secret Stays & Reviews: Spa Sarome

So far in my experience of reviewing some amazing spas and country retreats, I haven't yet bathed in the Mediterranean sunlight whilst I'm retreating. That is, until now. Spa Sarome Setting The Scene:  I recently enjoyed my first holiday in 7 years, I haven't had a stamp in my passport since then and it was about time I enjoyed a week away, completely away from distraction, namely the technology that surrounds me. Going "cold turkey" wasn't as tough as I thought it might be and switching off for 8 days showed just how tired I was, mentally as well as physically - I slept... a lot! Whilst enjoying a visit to Sainte-Maxime and Sainte-Tropez whilst in this area, I stumbled upon a very secretive spa called "Spa Serome", nestled within a holiday resort on the beaches of Port Grimaud, just a few miles away from these stunning locations along the French Riviera. This was no ordinary spa, with (fish pedicure tanks) nestled within the cool, relaxed reception area and outdoor facilities to enjoy some pampering in the glorious coastal sunshine, this was like no spa I've enjoyed before. Spa Sarome Somehow, I managed to pick a quiet Thursday, being the only person within the spa, I got to indulge selfishly in my own company, even better. The Welcome:  My first spa experience was twenty minutes in the heated jacuzzi, where I could choose to take a bubbling seat under a shaded canopy or out in the open to bask in the warm afternoon sun - I chose the latter. The staff here were so warm and friendly and they tried to speak English to me, most likely out of pity of my terrible broken French attempts. This was heavenly, I truly didn't want to leave it, even spotting a little gecko darting across the wooden boardwalk before I scurried up to the top of a palm tree, this was, hands down, the most exotic spa I've found so far. Spa Sarome I was then given the choice of twenty minutes in the sauna or the Hammam, a large steam room with an impressive mosaic wall and floor. I went for the steam, as mixed with the warmth already glaring down on me, I didn't feel I'd cope well in the drier heat on this particular visit. Perhaps if chilly outside this would be the perfect warmer from the short walk between here and the jacuzzi. The Spa:  Each spa experience area was shaded and covered by tiki-style wooden flooring and walls, with gaps between to see out and enjoy the scenic beach view. However, having walked past this spa several times before visiting, it took me a while to realise what was inside and you can't see in from the beach or boardwalks around it, it's a very clever design indeed. It almost looks like a little fort with spiky turrets, it's a very relaxed place and I couldn't stop wishing I could come here more regularly already... After a quick spray down with cold water with the shower inside the Hammam, I wrapped myself in my towel, walked over a boardwalk, taking in the glistening sea view as I disappeared into the next spa area...the private pool. Spa Sarome This is a small pool with seating on one edge, but as I was the only one here, I swam up and down and stretched out my back - I'm petrified of swimming in the sea, so I got to look at this whilst I swam in a refreshing plunge pool, perfect! I put my feet up, layer back on the comfiest, cushioned lounger I've ever sat on, enjoying the sea breeze fanning me through the wooden slats of this outdoor room and watched the world go by. I think the staff may have forgotten I was there for a while, as I nodded off a couple of times and had to drop back into the pool for a quick dip to revive me. There's something very special about enjoying a spa visit outdoors in the sunshine, you dry off quickly, you feel relaxed and this would be a very romantic place as a couple or relaxed for a group of friends to chill out together. Follow up your spa stay with a relaxing massage in their small outdoor pod for a private rub down, leaving your flip flops outside the door to make other spa-goers aware of your need for peace & quiet. Spa Sarome The changing rooms were at reception and was one large room, of which I'm guessing you would need to take turns to use, as I believe there's only one female and one male room. This had a large cabinet with wicker drawers, of which my beach bag "just" fit into. I'm used to lockers and keys, so felt ever so slightly nervous about leaving my possessions unlocked and that far away from me. Other than that, it's clean, modern and I'm heading back there as soon as I get the chance! The Little Extras:  There was no need to time my spa experiences, a member of team popped by every twenty minutes to help me out of each room and show me how to use and make the most of the next, it allowed me to switch off entirely. Spa Sarome After a good twenty five minutes of swimming, I took a seat on the poolside loungers and helped myself to a cup of warm mint tea which had been thoughtfully provided for me to enjoy from a swish looking thermos. This was a really nice touch, as I've learnt by now that you do need to keep hydrated whilst spa-ing, especially in the South of France... For the English speaking around me, the staff here speak a little English, however they were so friendly that I felt relaxed enough to practice my Fran├žaise.. And they didn't laugh at me, we actually conversed and they taught me some words as we went, they were adorable. The Little Niggles: A visit to this day spa simply consists of 1 hour, 20 minutes within 3 different spa areas and I didn't feel this was long enough to relax. At €17 (approx £12?) this wasn't a great deal of money, but a little longer, or at least the option would have been nice. I can't complain however, as I was the only in there, the team allowed me to stay in there a little longer than usual and snooze on the outdoor loungers. Spa Sarome No towels, slippers or a shower to wash off afterwards were provided, so I had very messy hair of which I had to tie back into a clip for the rest of the day - my fellow frizzy-haired friends will agree that this isn't the most glamorous look for beers on the beach at sunset afterwards! I had to use my beach towel, of which was sopping wet following my visit, making it unavailable for sitting on at the beach later that afternoon. Final Thoughts:  This is a spa worth visiting if you are in the area, it's bound to be the perfect shaded retreat whilst sunbathing on the adjacent beach in the hottest months and I could imagine would be quite cosy on the chillier days too. Spa Sarome To view my full photo album of this stay, simply click here. Miss Sue Flay   You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge"                                                                         and other Secret Stays & Reviews here.   Please Note - I paid my own way at this venue and I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this location, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions or to discuss an independent review or"Secret Stay", please do email:   All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

What's The Latest Must-Have Accessory In Europe's Luxury Hotels?

The Latest Must-Have Accessory In Europe's Top Hotels On a return-flight to the UK from Nice recently, I was flicking through the Easyjet-owned "Traveller" magazine and clocked a striking question midway through reading. It was asking me what the latest "must-have" accessory was in Europe's luxury hotels... It was so striking in fact, that a blog post was bubbling up within me before I'd even read the true answer to this mysterious question before me. I'm a nervous flyer, having recently renewed my passport after 7 years firmly routed to out beautiful British turf and so this magazine was the perfect nerve-buster as I left the warm French soil behind me. And so, to the question itself... Have you guessed the answer yet?  The Latest Must-Have Accessory In Europe's Top Hotels I was considering it to be a technological feature, having recently heard a hospitality webinar discussing the likes of bespoke personal training equipment for hotel guests worldwide and even the worlds' first "Twitter hotel", yet the answer surprised me slightly - pleasantly so! The answer is in fact, dogs. Pups, puppies, canines, our four-legged companions... My own one true love being my 10-year-old collie cross; Eddy. The Latest Must-Have Accessory In Europe's Top Hotels This feature made me smile, focusing on the fact that wo/mans' best friend is the latest hotel room trend - gone are the days of sneaking Fido into your accommodation, places are now welcoming our furry friends into their plush surroundings with open arms. With the abbreviation "PAW" (Pets are Welcome) becoming a common sight in booking a room for the night, dog owners are being offered welcome packs for their pooches. Beds, bowls topped up with luxury munchies (some venues offer gluten-free options for your pampered pooch!) and fresh water, special treats left with your turndown service and even dog-friendly walks, complete with local maps are being provided to serve our four-legged friends. The Latest Must-Have Accessory In Europe's Top Hotels Some hotels are providing luxury welcome packs or services to include pyjamas & cashmere sweaters with four arms, dog spa treatments, special dog rooms with private gardens, dog-sitting services, even shampoo for the love of our life, although I'm not sure personally I would be prepared to share my bubble bath with Eddy, as my own scruffy friend malts more than I do!  Hotels such as The Bath Priory, Ace Hotel in London, W Opera in Paris, the Rome Cavaliere and Inn on the Lake in Amsterdam are not only the perfect getaways for us human-folk, but all unique examples of being particularly "canine-friendly" destinations. There is such a thing as a dedicated pet concierge service, where you can find assistance in booking a holiday around your pup. The Latest Must-Have Accessory In Europe's Top Hotels As crazy as it sounds, it's a fast-growing sector within the travel industry, with a growing demand for overseas needs - we are no longer bound to the UK for pet-friendly holidays. James Lohan of Mr & Mrs Smith is quoted within this feature, advising that even they have had a dedicated pet-friendly hotel section throughout their own website for sometime, however recently they're seeing far more interest within this area. He goes on... "A lot of top hotels are realising there's a real market here and they're fast cottoning on. The kind of pampering you get now is pretty insane"! Whilst sunbathing in St Tropez this week, I spotted no end of furries digging in the sand or playing in the sea - small Chihuahuas & (Terriers) through to German Shepherds and even a Rotweiller... dogs of all breeds were sunning it up with their owners on the French Riviera. The Latest Must-Have Accessory In Europe's Top Hotels Needless to say, no matter how dog-friendly my next tropical destination may be, there's an entirely different story to explore when it comes to actually traveling (stress-free!) with my vocal, chicken-legged friend... As loyal and loving as he might be, simply popping to the shops with him is somewhat of a mission! Do you travel with your pets?  Have you found a gem of a destination that catered (or didn't!) particularly well? Please do leave a comment below with your ideas, thoughts & recommendations! Plane view with Easyjet Miss Sue Flay Logo

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Secret Stays & Reviews: 42 The Calls

I was recently invited to a very exciting event with my friend, Lynn Hill of The Clandestine Cake Club, where I was invited to a tea party to sample the Autumn range of cakes with Bettys of Harrogate - who would say no to this invitation?! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Bed With this, I found myself talking to a fantastic looking hotel in the centre of Leeds and even managed to book myself a first class ticket in a sale with East coast trains, I was set and ready to travel in style. My first experience of "first class" travel left a lot to be desired.. Between London and Peterborough the chair covers had become very creased (yes, I'm that picky) and they had run out everything except a chewy & crusty (and rather greasy) bacon roll as my breakfast option. Some Yorkshire Tea was offered with a splash of milk in my cup... as well as all over my table, of which wasn't cleaned up or apologised for by the pourer. For a bargain bucket price, it seems I received the "Wetherspoons" special of breakfasts... it wasn't quite the Orient Express, of course. You also get to play the fun game of "Yorkshire Tea Roulette" as you sip without trying to spill the contents of your mug down your Sunday best with every twist or turn of the carriage - for me, some dribble occurred, "Audrey Hepburn" I was not! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Exterior Setting The Scene:  Luckily, my luxury 4 star hotel for the night was a much more glamorous affair and it was worth popping up the night before for a much-needed pampering in my own company. The very reason that I had been in touch with this particular hotel was through Twitter, discussing their ever so tempting afternoon tea menu after I spotted them on the National Afternoon Tea Week hashtag. Naturally, I booked myself in for a champagne tea prior to checking in for my first of many indulgences here at 42 The Calls. Traveling alone, although it can seem a little daunting, is sometimes the very best way to do it, you can eat what and when you like with no negotiations, you can selfishly sit in silence to read, write and watch the world the go by... and you can lay in until whatever time you like after hogging the luxurious bath for hours on end. This hotel allowed me to do all of this in such a way that I didn't feel as though I was in the middle of a City, I felt so relaxed and comfortable within this hotel as a lone traveler, I could have easily mistaken for a country retreat. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Afternoon Tea Shot The Welcome:  There was nobody else in the lounge, but me, I felt like a modern-day Marie Antoinette. The afternoon tea filled my table and I was provided with a glass of chilled Prosecco on being seating, followed by a pot of hot water with a selection Twinings teas to add to it myself, I loved this touch - no tea menu required. Everything was prepared freshly and although the minimum number catered for with afternoon tea is 4, I hadn't realised when I booked it that they were going the extra mile to accommodate me, I'm so thankful for their hospitality. Very thinly cut sandwiches, of which I loved as it allowed me to enjoy more than I usually would. The fillings were a plain cucumber, chicken breast & chili jam, smoked salmon and a coarsely seasoned egg mayonnaise, which was my favourite by far - truly delicious! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Afternoon tea Sandwiches Then there were the sweet treats. My 2 warm fruit scones with a light whipped cream and homemade strawberry jam, moist flapjacks topped with fresh berries, a bake cheesecake with (as Greg Wallace would say...) a buttery & gingery biscuit base, gooey chocolate brownie with even more chocolate sauce and a white chocolate & raspberry mousse to put me into a food coma for the rest of the afternoon. Oh, not forgetting the miniature macarons with raspberry coulis to adorn the very top of the black slate cake tier. For £19.95, this champagne tea (or £16.95 for afternoon tea) it's true value for money and I enjoyed this completely undisturbed - it was the best introduction to my new digs for the night. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Afternoon Tea I had arrived early, so I enjoyed my afternoon tea at a leisurely pace, whilst reading a book (unheard of for me) and enjoying a pampering at a nearby hair salon as I waited. The wait was more than worth it as I was shown (totally unknowing that this was about to happen) to the penthouse suite for the evening - All I can say is wow, what a room! I'm starting to very much fall in love with Leeds, it's a beautiful and stupidly exciting City with plenty of fantastic places to dine and stay, I may even be tempted to visit much more often given the opportunity. In fact, as one client lives here, I've started to proactively look for others in this area, this is how much I love it and the friendly people who live here! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Bed Linen The Bedroom:  All bedrooms at 42 The Calls are unique, designed around the original features of the cornmill it once was, complete with industrial girders, oak beams and original mill mechanisms still protruding from the walls and ceilings once used to haul grain up and down. There are many different types of bedrooms, including Study Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Director Rooms, Family Rooms, Junior Suites and The Penthouse Suite. On arrival, I presumed that I would be checking into a Study or Deluxe room, but I had been upgraded to The Penthouse Suite... my jaw dropped to the floor as she explained the newly updated technology within the room and the view worthy of a Penthouse. As a solo traveler, I was in my element, I really should have jumped up and down on the bed and ran around naked, but I'm a classy lady, I don't do these sort of things... ahem. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Lounge The Penthouse Suite is room number 302 and is home to a large bedroom with king size bed, en-suite bathroom with a beautiful ornate bath and rainforest shower, a separate lounge and dining area, a long entrance and hallway along with not one, but two toilets, both separate from the en-suite. Each bathroom sink had a small signature frog-shaped soap perched on the edge or on a shelf, they are such a cute touch, I've never seen a shaped bar of soap such as this before, my best friend asked me to return one to her should I get the chance, so I did and made her week! The bed was very comfortable, for somebody with a bad back, I was truly hoping not to be laying on a hard mattress, but this was firm, with some bounce, wrapped in luxury cotton sheets, goose down pillows and a nice heavy feather duvet. I do love a duvet that doesn't move with you as you sleep, this rested on top of me and moulded to my body for the perfect nights' sleep as I drifted off watching the plasma TV hovering up on the ceiling, fixed to the wooden beams above me. It was positioned in such a way that as I lay on the bed, it was in the perfect position in front of me, however if you moved around the room, it wasn't as easy to watch... but that's what the entire separate lounge is for - my "Coronation Street" fix after a nice long soak in the bath!

42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Bathroom

The main hallway had a privacy hatch to the side, so should I wish to order room service, a newspaper or a glass of wine I didn't need to see a member of staff, it would simply be left in the hatch for me to collect from my side of the door. There was a mini bar stocked with the usual drinks and snacks, bottled water, complimentary tea and Grumpy Mule coffee for my morning fix, homemade shortbread and fudge to nibble on something sweet. It was refreshing to see topped up not only in the shower, but over the deep, luxurious bath as well, The White Company toiletries - shampoo, conditioner, body wash and body lotion. I ensured that I got as much use out of those four bottles every time I used the bathroom to pamper myself (twice within the space of 24 hours in fact) and liked the fact that I didn't have to resort to my own, of which does happen from time to time. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Bed Linen Opening all the doors, cupboards, drawers (who doesn't do this?!) I spotted a bible, the obligatory trouser press and iron/ironing board, even a shower cap and shoe polishing kit, the room is very well thought out and The Penthouse even has an emergency phone above one of the loos, I found this quite amusing, I'm not sure why. The Breakfast:  I was headed to a very special event with The Clandestine Cake Club & Bettys of Harrogate that morning, so I opted out of breakfast, purely for reasons based around my waistline. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Jams & Preserves However, the team at 42 The Calls are very proud of their locally sourced breakfast, complete with 12 varieties of seasonal sausages, an array of homemade jams, marmalades & curds, cereals and everything else you could possibly imagine desiring. In fact, their sausages (with choices such as venison, pork & chive, garlic & tomato or pork & black pudding) even have their own Twitter hashtag: #thefamous42sausages and I'm trying as many as I can next time I visit! The breakfast is served in The River Room, with a view of the River Aire between 7am - 9:30am, with a stunning and dramatic room, large floor-to-ceiling pictures on the walls and low wooden beams, this is a breakfast room with true character. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds What To Do:  Being in Central Leeds, you can simply step out and walk across the road to find yourself at The Corn Exchange (the perfect place for a quirky shopping experience) and the Trinity shopping centre not far from there. The Trinity Kitchen plays host to a very exciting "street food" scene, with street food vans traveling from around the country to reside here for a month at a time, making it different every time I visit. In fact, I recently learnt that in order to get your van inside this venue, they have to lift off the roof and pop the vans in by crane... I would personally LOVE to see this happening! 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds The Corn Exchange Laynes Espresso is the perfect independent coffee shop if traveling by train, it's just to the right of the station and I end up in here for a while every time I visit the City. Great coffee, chilled out vibe, fantastic music selections and no wifi - peace & quiet guaranteed. If you want to do the touristy stuff, you have the Armley Mills Industrial Museum, Royal Armouries, Harewood House and if you wish to travel a little further out, you could visit York, or head to the Yorkshire Dales for some fresh air. Parking & Getting There:  There's no on-site parking, but the nearest car park is the Markets NCP located on New York Street next to the Bus Station and a ticket for this can be purchased from Reception at the cost of £14.75. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Mask If coming by train, this hotel is simply a 10 minute walk from the station and very easy to find on foot. Everywhere within town is walkable, I didn't need to use a taxi once, everything is very close by. East Coast trains had a sale on their tickets from Peterborough to Leeds, so I nabbed quite the bargain on this occasion - it's well worth keeping an eye out on their website for these sort of deals, it's working out cheaper to head to Leeds than to London for me lately. The Little Extras:  On being shown to my room, my luggage was brought up for me after my tour of the hotel and my suite, it was seamless and I had in fact forgotten I didn't have it with me. The staff were knowledgeable and friendly, I really couldn't fault their welcome at all. 42 The Calls Frog Soap With a stay in this particular suite, you are offered a complimentary glass of wine, of which I was allowed at any time to suit me, all I needed to do was call down to reception when I fancied it, perfect. I noted that this is a dog friendly hotel, they are even happy to fill up a dog bowl on arrival and suggest the perfect walk for you and your four-legged friend, noted for my next visit, Eddy would love the canal and river paths. Free wifi is offered all guests staying within the hotel, with a dedicated password being provided on arrival, this lasted for the duration of my stay and allowed me to listen to my Spotify playlists as I chilled out. I had not one problem with getting onto it, very fast and simple, that's what I like to see. 42 The Calls Leeds The Little Niggles:  On getting into my bath, I stupidly hadn't put the latch on my hotel room door, although it didn't occur to me to do so right away, as I had been too busy getting acquainted with my humble abode. As I was soaking and starting to drift off, I heard somebody walk into the entrance to my room, shout to see if anybody was in (obviously a member of staff) and then apologise and swiftly leave. This left me slightly spooked and I started shouting from the bath a simple "Hello?..." to see if they were still there. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the stay with my door bolted shut. One of my pillows had a loose pillow case, of which kept rolling up the pillow as I slept. I noticed the pillow itself had a slight stain on it, so I made the reception team aware and this was swiftly sorted. I could not fault the hotel team one bit, they seemed to be a fairly small team and nothing was ever too much trouble. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Breakfast Room On packing the next morning, there was a rushed knock at my door and one of the housekeeping members started shouting something through my door, I ran to them as fast as I could (it's quite the maze in that suite!) and she asked me if I'd had anything from the mini bar, crossed me off her sheet and walked away... I found this most odd, surely this would be obvious on cleaning my room once I'd left? A small point, but I have never experienced such confusing conversation - could they have not called my bedroom phone to ask the same question in a less invasive manner, perhaps? Final Thoughts:  My suite comes in at around £240 - £260 per night, as a guide - breakfast not included. I stayed mid-week and the hotel was very quiet indeed, the room overlooks the river and it's truly peaceful during the day, but can be a little noisy of a Friday evening. However, this did not affect my stay in any way, the bedroom was across the hall and I didn't hear a peep from my king sized bed. They also offer private dining and meeting room space for conferencing and events, this would be a mighty fine place to host an event, so this is a venue worthy of mentioning. 42 The Calls Hotel Leeds Sewing Machine 42 The Calls often have a discount or offer on some of their rooms, so please do check out their website for the latest news. If looking to book afternoon tea with this hotel, please note their minimum number is 4 people, I only learnt this on chatting to one of the team, so do call ahead to discuss your requirements.

42 The Calls Hotel Leeds

To view my full photo album of this stay, simply click here.    Miss Sue Flay Logo   Please note - This stay was complimentary (I simply paid for my afternoon tea and additional drinks), following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:   All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.  

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

#BettysCakes With The Clandestine Cake Club

[caption id="attachment_3634" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] I recently visited my new favourite city in the form of Leeds, it's such a friendly place to stay and it's full of inspiring coffee shops, restaurants and independent businesses - I absolutely love it. As a long-serving member of The Clandestine Cake Club, I've visited the Leeds Cake Club events a handful of times over the last few years and made some fabulous friends through this welcoming club over a few cups of Yorkshire Tea & a wedge of cake...or two, even three! If you don't know what The CCC is, then where on earth have you been?! It's a national (in fact, now international) club, with one in many towns across the country. You simply find your local event, join the club, bake a cake, visit the agreed venues at the scheduled times and share cake, talk about cake... generally geek out about baking and other such topics with your fellow cakey enthusiasts. It provides you with a superb social life and any old excuse to get your bake on, should you need an excuse! Bettys Cakes event with CCC Lynn Hill, creator of the CCC invited a select few to a very special afternoon tea at her HQ (her gorgeous dining room table, adorned with Yorkshire Tea and teacups aplenty to match the cakes on offer on this special day) to trial the new Bettys Autumn Collection. My fellow guests (we were also joined by the gorgeous Kayti Peschke who owns a vintage ice cream van and took some stunning photos on the day) and I all got our geek on, we nattered about cakes (and Bettys, naturally!) and even took some "selfies" with my new selfish stick... it was a great afternoon, such a laugh - this is why I love these guys so much! Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate are a British institution, THE place for afternoon tea in the North and their signature bakes such as their dainty french fancies and their Fat Rascals are just some of the sweet treats that can be taken or delivered to your home after your visit. Their champagne tea in the Harrogate cafe a few years back was one of my top teas since I started blogging about this topic and their tasty delights never fail to please my tastebuds, Bettys Coffee Cake The new Autumn Collection at Bettys includes a Lebkuchen squirrel biscuit, Yorkshire Gingerbread, Cantucci biscuits, even milk chocolate ganache mice-shaped fancies. There's a huge selection to choose from and even birthday celebration cake options for a seasonal birthday, should you need one. This new collection is on offer for a short while on the build up to Christmas, where it will then be all change and ready for a more festive collection... It might be rude not to head over there in a short while to try the next selection - ahem. All of the Bettys biscuits, cakes & chocolates are handmade at their Craft Bakery in Harrogate and you can just tell even at simply the design and look of each cake and treat, so much thought and love goes into each and every one of them. [caption id="attachment_3637" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] Throughout the afternoon we managed to sample the following goodies: Marzipan & Sponge Apples  These are beautiful "princess cake" style treats, with a Genoese sponge, filled with vanilla buttercream and covered in a marzipan casing. Miniature Chocolate & Hazelnut Gugelhupfs  These were my favourite, like a mini Bundt cake, these chocolate & hazelnut cakes coated in an almost crisp Grand Cru milk chocolate frosting - truly delicious and genuinely melts in your mouth. [caption id="attachment_3638" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] Grand Cru Ganache Chocolate Cake This was a dark and dense chocolate loaf cake with an equally dark ganache topping, it would be perfect with a coffee and you really didn't need much, it was a much heavier slice than it looked! Yorkshire Parkin  Not my most favourite, but still a distinctive flavour of black treacle mixed with a hint of ginger (I'm not a ginger fan)... so the Stem Ginger Cake, although it looked stunning had to be the slice I passed on for this event. Bettys Squirrel Fox Cupcake Brownies These were hefty little blighters, a deep chocolate brownie base, topped with buttercream, marzipan and royal icing... these had to be sliced into quarters and shared for a naughty nibble. Lemon & Lime Loaf  I must say I didn't realise this was lime, I thought it was simply a lemon drizzle, so the lime doesn't come through as strong as perhaps you would expect. It was so light and moist, a slice to yourself is easily on the cards, just beautiful. [caption id="attachment_3640" align="aligncenter" width="622"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] Chocolate & Praline Torte This had a surprisingly crisp Praline base, it was amazing! Every bite was rich, creamy, crunchy and moreish... a firm favourite around the table. Coffee & Walnut Cake A beautiful and creamy coffee cake, it was like no other coffee & walnut cake I've tasted before - it's a stunning afternoon tea addition to any table. It's also decorated with finely crunched meringue pieces and I couldn't get enough, I took a sneaky piece away with me for the train journey home... Bettys Cakes event with CCC And don't forget the Swiss milk chocolate owl - twit twoooo!  You can check out the entire Autumn Collection here.  [caption id="attachment_3643" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Kayti Peschke Photography at Bettys Cakes event with CCC 2 Kayti Peschke Photography[/caption] This includes the gorgeous Bettys tea caddy, of which I own myself from a previous visit and it makes the perfect jewellery box, putting a smile on my face each and every day - I love this brand, it makes me proud to be a British cake lover.   Miss Sue Flay Logo

Monday, 15 September 2014

Suitcase Glory: How To Pack A Suitcase

Suitcase Glory I'm not usually one for entering competitions, mainly because I always seem to miss the deadlines... I have every best intention, I diarise it, prioritise it, plan it, enter it, then realise I've left it a day late. This is the story of my life. I recently came across a stunning suitcase company called Suitcase Glory, who are also host to a superb blog with travel advice and reviews to boot and they recently hosted a giveaway to win not one, not two, but THREE of their stunning printed cases for one lucky entrant. Suitcase Glory What did I do? I had every best intention, I diarised it, prioritised it, wrote my entry, then realised I had left it a day late - naturally. With a recent visit to Leeds (I get to visit some pretty exotic locations, I tell you!) I had been caught up in my Penthouse accommodation and food geekery and by the time it came to writing and entering my post on board the "Vomit Comet" aka the Saturday night Leeds to London East Coast train, I opted to snooze into my first physical book in years, drifting in & out of sleepy consciousness for two hours. Instead of crying into my pot of tea about the lost opportunity today, I've decided to publish my planned entry regardless, in the vain hope that this wasn't a complete wasted effort. I feel very inspired when I read a story of a new business owner turning their expertise and passions into a fully fledged business (see more on these sort of tales over at my business website, Stir Up Media) and Laura Daniel is no different in these stakes. Laura has worked in the travel industry for years, picking off suitcase after suitcase from the convertor belts, she realised there was a gap in the market for more colourful and funky designs to spot in the blurred sea of suitcase normality. Starting with three simple, yet stunning designs, Laura has big plans for her company and the designs will grow over the coming years which is an exciting prospect indeed. At £129 per design, these aren't the cheapest option, but in my opinion, their design is comfortable to carry or move around and they provide the user with a TSA-approved lock and a tough shell, sturdy enough to take the knocks and scrapes it may encounter as it flys around the world. So, my intention was not to tell you all that I'm a few weeks away from a luxurious break in the South of France, partnered with a frayed, "greying" black suitcase with some very sorry tales of "travel" to tell. No, I wanted to provide you with some of my recent nerdery learnt from my Royal tutor, to teach you all a few little tricks on how to pack your suitcase whilst headed to your very own luxury destination... You'll be stocking up on tissue paper and sticky labels before you know it. So what's so special about the designs at Suitcase Glory I hear you cry? Well, firstly, if I owned one of these beauties, it would mean I could incinerate the abomination I currently own and with THREE of them, I would have a different case for every trip within my "Around The World In 80 Stays challenge", alternating them depending on my mood - who has that one luxury alone?! Suitcase Glory With the strapline: "Throw our your black or blue suitcase and join the revolution!"... I'm that exact person who would be actioning that EXACT motion. With the likes of Cherry Healey stating that she needs the cherry-printed suitcase in her life and a 12-month guarantee slapped onto these British-designed, four-wheeled, lightweight beauties, who wouldn't want one?! With a current choice of patterns including a beach hut and even a travel stamp print, these cases will stand out on any airport conveyor belt, providing a very smug and swift collection in a sea of dull colours - I want one just to offer this smugness to my traveling companions just once! So, to my packing tips... here's just some hints on how to pack your suitcase and make the most of that precious suitcase space:
  • Firstly, we are always told to roll our items of clothing to avoid creases, but if you want to be crease-free the "Royal" way, you'll get yourself a stream of tissue paper and will use this between folds to avoid those dreaded creases. When folding a shirt for example, place a sheet of tissue paper into the "back" of the shirt and fold around it, wrapping in tissue paper and sealing with a sticker (printed with your family crest as an optional extra!) for the paper will take on the creases as it travels.
  • If traveling with a suit, instead of folding your suit jacket and packing it into your case, simply roll up sheets of the tissue paper and place inside the arms of the jacket to help keep their shape whilst compressed into a case. As soon as you arrive at your destination, taking out to hang will ensure limited creasing.
  •  Make use of the corners or edges of a suitcase, placing belts, makeup or toiletry bags, even underwear into these parts will use up space in those hard to use areas.
  • If, like myself, you find it hard to feel at home until you've unpacked on arrival, simply place all "dressing table" items into one separate bag/compartment, all "bathroom" items into another, everything required for your first night (pyjamas, medication, toothbrush, etc), making life very simple on unpacking. Each bag goes directly to the right place within your accommodation and this saves much time rifling through the entire contents of your case.
  • Don't pack straight into your case, collect everything you need first of all and then assess what can be left behind if push comes to shove, you may find that you are packing items you don't really need to be taking. It's much easier to remove items from your list before packing it into your case.
  • Consider a shoe bag for obvious reasons, or, if you don't have such a bag, place shoes sole-to-sole to avoid dirtying anything else.
  • Create an itemised packing list, take a copy with you so that you can check you have rounded everything up that you brought with you on leaving for home. You can find a helpful packing list with Suitcase Glory to get you started.
  • Think about what you are going to be actually using on your trip. If staying in a  decent standard of accommodation, do you really NEED all of those shampoos/body potions/tissues or that hairdryer? Or will your room have all of this already? All of these items, once removed from your case can make a difference in added space, so pack wisely - most hotels will now state which of these items are provided within your stay.
  • Don't pack your sunglasses and suncream into your case, no matter how cold it is on leaving, if you're headed to a hot location, you are going to need them as soon as you step onto the tarmac at the other end. On the flip side, you may have just visited tropic climes, but if headed back to blighty, that chill is going to hit you on landing, so have a pullover of some sort to wrap into as glamourously as humanly possible - be super organised, you'll thank yourself!
  •  Leave a little room for keepsakes & souvenirs... You are always going to come back with more than you went with, no matter how hard you try not to! So, if you don't want to be that crazy "bag juggler", ensure some space is created for those unexpected extras in your return.
Suitcase Glory If you STILL need some help on how to pack a suitcase, here's a rather amusing retro video from Mr Bean himself   on how NOT to pack a case.... Bon Voyage!   Miss Sue Flay Logo   Please Note: This is not a sponsored post in any way, I simply like the product being discussed and would like to share my tips with you for your own use and enjoyment. As part of this particular giveaway, a blog post was requested, so I have decided to post regardless, as I have in fact been meaning to write a packing guide for some time, so it fits perfectly.   You can read more about my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge here! Pip Pip!