Friday, 27 February 2015

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

Sometimes I crave a burger. Not just any old burger mind you… it's got to have flavour, it needs to be big and mighty meaty, sometimes it just needs to be epic. When I say epic, it needs to be EPIC.

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

I'm talking about big juicy, meaty burgers dripping with juices (yes, sometimes doubling up and melting cheese inbetween helps), a good quality (ever so slightly toasted) brioche bun that will hold it together and not forgetting the super-memorable trimmings such as tangy sliced gherkins or pickles, BBQ mayo and thick bacon with a bite to make it even more of a mighty fine meaty treat. Well, this is precisely what I've stumbled upon at Rhode Island in Cambridge – this place has been on Cherry Hinton High Street for just over a year and I recently realised that I hadn't yet visited, shame on me!

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

However, a recent Instagram post from Rhode Island changed that for the better. Cambridge Spotlight – Rhode Island (Video Postcard): [youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U90xDK-XOQI[/youtube] Introducing Rhode Island: You don't immediately consider this part of Cambridge the best place to look for something to curb your meaty cravings, but Rhode Island is an American-style establishment worthy of a mention, owned by the creative and super friendly Aksara Inamdar.

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

As soon as you walk through the doors, instead of being met with the stereotypical "American Diner" interior that so many burger joints tend to put their spin on alongside this sort of food, it actually satisfied the total geek in me and my dining partner much more than anticipated. The walls are covered in striking, hand-drawn comic strips and adorned with colourful comic books that gently flap under the gentle stream of air from the restaurants' air con. The tables are covered in fun games board designs and there are plenty of playful touches as you look closely, such as the riddles etched onto the cushions and the graffiti artwork on the beer-barrel stools – I was in nerdy heaven from the start and I hadn't even ordered my drink! The Menu: This is ever-changing and adapting, with the Rhode Island team listening to what their customers want to munch on, with the meat being supplied locally from a butcher on Mill Road, this venue is highly supportive of local suppliers. They are fine supporters of local food and drink producers & suppliers, stocking goods from independent brands such as Breckland Orchard or Kandula Tea.

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

The burgers are the star of the show here, with 12 specials throughout the year up for grabs (one a month appearing on the menu boards) including 6 veggie burgers to include the local vegetarians in the excitement too. The current special is "The Wild Game", a 7oz venison burger, with a heart of beetroot, marinated & topped with red slaw, homemade BBQ sauce and pickles. "The Dirty Cow" is the real rock star though, topped with pulled pork, treacle cured bacon, a fried egg and similar trimmings, but with the addition of a stack of crispy fried onion strings – double it up for a corker! They use brioche bread for the buns from Dovecote Bakery to top it off perfectly – in fact this was such a monstrous burger that the top bun rests by the side, rather than on top.

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

We decided to share our doubled up Dirty Cow and also nibbled on some pulled pork sliders with their homemade BBQ sauce on the side for dipping. My god… be warned, you may experience a meat coma after a visit here! You can drink from an entire board of craft beers, with a few regular offerings, as well as many many guest beers to pick from. You can pick from brewers such as Black Bar (a local micro brewer), Brew Dog, Wild Beer, Rogue and Beavertown to name a few. If you fancy a classic root beer float or a cream soda, you can enjoy sipping on a tall drink of something sweet, as well as an array of milkshake options to suit every tooth-type. We shared the salted caramel shake in place of a pudding and it was so thick & dreamy, I couldn't take too much after my full-on meal, but my bearded companion trooped on through (he said I wasn't allowed to mention this to you all here, but then changed his mind, as it was SO GOOD!).

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

Breakfasts and coffee with cake is also an option at Rhode Island from 8:30am weekdays and 10:30am at weekends. Coffee is supplied by Hot Numbers and cakes from Norfolk Street Bakery (mmm who doesn't love their stunning buttery pastels de nata?!) and treats from the very talented Stella at Little Cake Pot (check out her photography on Instagram, it's stunning!). With wifi available to customers, even breakfast milkshakes up for grabs, this is the perfect meeting place for clients or friends alike – I for one will be using this place more for making my Cambridge-based meetings more of a treat! The Little Extras: We were struggling to choose our milkshake when it came to it, but our knowledgeable waitress reeled off all the choices and even discussed her favourites and why… she was fab. There was no rush to clear the table for the next diners, we had a leisurely meal and were in fact the last men standing after spending far too much time geeking over the comics – oops!

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

On leaving, Aksara took our picture with a polaroid camera to add to their "Wall of Shame" – I love this wall… in fact there's more than one wall now… with hundreds of snaps of happy and very full diners of the past, some with their own notes or hashtags scribbled along the bottom of their pic – such a great idea! The Little Niggles: It might be worth noting that the mains don't come with sides unless stated, so if you want fries, you need to order them separately. The "Some Like It Hot" fries sounded too spicy for my liking, so we chose the courgette fries which had a crispy shell and a soft centre as I would have expected. It was actually quite nice to have something to nibble on between mouthfuls of meat – perhaps a salad next time?

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

I guess location always puts people off in Cambridge, but trust me, get yourself out to Cherry Hinton – I feel you won't be sorry! We all know that healthy eating should be encouraged, but from time to time, a treat such as Rhode Island just has to be done – if you want generous and satisfying portions, this should be your next stop. To view my full photo album for this visit, simply click here.

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

For me, this is true romance. www.rhodeislanduk.com MSF Miss Sue Flay logo Green Brush   Please note - This visit was complimentary following an invitation 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 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:hello@misssueflay.com You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge" here.

Cambridge Spotlight: Rhode Island

All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.  

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Weightloss Motivation - What Happened To My Mission?

Miss Sue Flay Weightloss with Primal Performance It has been a while since I updated on my weight loss, mainly because between May and September 2014 I really lost focus (just look at my latest food reviews - ahem!). Yep, that "break" was a heck of a long time – wanna know why? I'll be completely honest with you. If you don't know, I was totally "on it" with my personal training sessions and I was losing stones worth of weight at a rate of knots… This was a miracle for me, having found it hard to get motivated by this sort of activity in the past, I adored it and still do! I was doing very well indeed. I was running 5k routes without stopping, cycling miles and miles at the weekends and I was even lifting weights in the gym (deadlifting was my ultimate in fun!) and I was addicted, pure & simple. Primal Weight Loss Diet Then, after a particularly long weekend of cycling, combined with an old back injury from years ago (yes, I slipped on my dogs dribble 7 years ago and landed in the "splits" position –oof!) I was training in the sunshine with my PT (Sarah at Primal Performance is just one of the best things that happened to me in a long long time, she's awesome!) and something went very wrong. I was doing some sort of ridiculous circuit in Sarah's gym garden and whilst attempting 200 bicycle crunches (blimey, these are horrid, but great for the legs & buttocks!) something literally clicked and I couldn't move. Sarah had to peel me off the floor and I cried in pain, it was incredible - needless to say, the session ended there for the day and I went home to rest. Miss Sue Flay Weightloss with Primal Performance Queue months (literally) of agony, discomfort, sometimes even unable to get out of bed in the morning without help, I was in a really bad way. The doctors put me back on painkillers (I hadn't taken these for years and was so stubbornly reluctant to get back on them, but had no choice) – I was literally stopped in my tracks. Sarah was fantastic within these summer months, she helped where she could by continuing our sessions, focussing on simple stretches to help ease the pain, massages to help keep me moving and just generally being a shoulder to cry on when I was suffering – I can't thank her enough for her continued support, she's bloody amazing and anyone that trains with her will confirm, I'm sure of it. Miss Sue Flay Weightloss with Primal Performance To cut a very long story short, it turns out I had a prolapsed disc and an MRI scan late last year helped me to know what the issue was (I had been fobbed off at the time of the accident as a girl with a bad back and told to "learn to love the pain" by my NHS physio at the time) finally. Slowly, but surely, after some life-changing moments for me towards the end of 2014, I finally started to feel more like myself after lots of rest and de-stressing. In fact, after I met an awesome new guy in my life, the pain disappeared almost completely. Sarah and I (after discussion at length about this) reckons that the stress in my life was contributing hugely to my pain and *touch wood* it's now manageable and allowing me to get back on it. And that, my friends, is exactly what I'm doing – no excuses. Within the last 8 weeks, I've lost a thrilling 8cm from my waist and 6.5 kilos on the scales (that's just over a stone) - hurrah. Miss Sue Flay Weightloss with Primal Performance The pain hasn't gone completely and I still have a slipped disc to manage over time, so I know I've got to be super careful in everything I do, even walking the dog or heading out in the car, but it's not stopping me. I'm joining Sarah in the gym once a week to throw myself at the equipment again (and I'm loving it!) and I even join her new girls' only circuits group on a Wednesday night from 6pm at Dry Drayton Village Hall (TEAM GO is the best medicine for a mid-week laugh whilst you exercise) – I truly can't rate it enough, so if' you're looking for something inspiring yourself, get to this and your first session is free to try it out… you've literally got nothing to lose - other than a few lbs! Sarah puts her trust into you to weigh in weekly and take your figures and measurements yourself, adding it to your own confidential chart within a jam-packed folder of exercise and nutritional advice that you get to keep. She's there to help if you need her, but it's a sensible way of eating (I'm never hungry and I'm back to feeling great and sliding back down the scales) and the circuits vary every week. The group get to chat for 10 minutes or so at the start, swapping notes, stories and tips from their week – the support in just this is brilliant and we can all chat through a dedicated Facebook group through the week too if we need it. Miss Sue Flay Weightloss with Primal Performance We do everything from playing "Tag" or "British Bulldog" to get warmed up – giggles aplenty, it's hilarious, you can't help but have fun! Then we enjoy a varied circuit training session, mixing up the session with cardio work and strength training – it's hard work, but how else are you going to lose those wobbly bits? So, now you know why I went quiet for some time and why I'm now totally gung-ho on my weightloss mission. I'm currently enjoying a varied exercise schedule, including these training sessions, walking my lovely pup, swimming, playing Badminton and back to training for a couple of 5K runs later this year – eek! Miss Sue Flay Weightloss with Primal Performance Not only do I have one gorgeous and supportive boyfriend to impress, I want to feel healthy and good for myself and lastly (and most importantly) I want to look as hot as I can be by the poolside when I head to sunnier climes this April - so exciting, my very first long haul trip for my #80stays challenge hehe, so watch this space! MSF Miss Sue Flay logo Green Brush I'm always looking for new and inspiring ways to get fit and healthy, so drop me a line if you can help or get me involved in something new. Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general! You can older posts on my weightloss mission by clicking here. Miss Sue Flay Weightloss with Primal Performance  

Monday, 16 February 2015

Afternoon Tea With: Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge Cambridge is my hometown, full of fantastic new offerings when it comes to food & drink, but over the last few months I've seriously cheated on it with Norwich…. Shhh don't tell anybody! So, when I was invited through one of my favourite social media platforms (Instagram) to enjoy the new afternoon tea menu at the Doubletree by Hilton in the City centre, I was first in line to sample their new tasty treats beside a peaceful riverside location. Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge Setting The Scene: If you aren't familiar with this hotel, I'll quickly fill you in... The Doubletree by Hilton is just off the Mill Pond (one of the most picturesque punting and al fresco beer drinking hotspots) in central Cambridge. This luxury hotel overlooks the River Cam and offers parking for visitors wanting this unheard of hotel convenience in these lands. This hotel offers a health club, complete with swimming pool, sauna and modern, well-equipped gym, as well as their Marco Pierre White Restaurant Bar & Grill of which has recently taken over their Riverside Brasserie within the last year. You can stay in one of 122 guest rooms, some even come with a private balcony and peaceful views of the river and meadows (of which you might spot the famous cows grazing and stealing peoples' picnics if you are lucky!) or why not splash out on their two-room King Suite Penthouse, complete with walk-in shower, outdoor seating and a separate dining area for six, should you fancy entertaining in style?! This would be the ultimate in Cambridge stays, should I be invited back again, I'd love to stay here for my "Around The World In #80Stays" challenge and entertain friends in this fantastic sounding suite! But, yes, I know, the reason you are reading this post is to find out more about their new afternoon tea, so let me tell you all about it!

Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

The Afternoon Tea: This was my very first afternoon tea of 2015, so it was exciting stuff! It's actually been a while since I last enjoyed a generously smothered scone with jam and clotted cream, however it was my new manfriends' very first afternoon tea. Ever. This was special. And it didn't let me down, it really did me proud for his very first "High Tea" experience and I even managed to teach him a little afternoon tea etiquette geekery as we went – success. Video: Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

[youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XVNlGBLiyc[/youtube]

The Menu: This was a modern twist on a classic afternoon tea, comprising of traditional finger sandwiches cut into triangles with the crusts cut off, freshly baked and warm scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream and a wide selection of dainty desserts and slices of traditionally "British" cakes.

Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

What I loved about this afternoon tea was how colourful it was, so many offerings can be a beige nightmare, so I do love a splash of colour to make you drool on serving. We were pleasantly full after our finger sandwiches and scones. So, of course, we did what anyone would do and continued to the cakes and petit fours like the troopers that we were... The menu for this hotel is as follows: MARCO'S AFTERNOON TEA Served from 1pm – 6.30pm TRADITIONAL AFTERNOON TEA – £19.50 per person Classic Sandwiches Smoked Salmon / Cucumber & Cream Cheese / Egg & Cress / British Ham & Mustard Traditional Fruit Scones, served with Clotted Cream & Strawberry Jam Selection of Mini Desserts including a raspberry parfait wrapped in a miniature chocolate waffle cone, fruit cake, lemon drizzle cake and the mini pink truffles were filled with popping candy for an extra tangy surprise - I loved these! Served with your choice of tea from our Twining's Tea selection or Musetti Coffee GLUTEN FREE AFTERNOON TEA – £22.50pp A Gluten Free version of the Traditional Afternoon Tea LAURENT PERRIER CHAMPAGNE AFTERNOON TEA – £30pp Traditional Afternoon Tea with a glass of Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne With a glass of Laurent Perrier Rosé Champagne – £36pp

Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

The Restaurant: We were originally booked to dine in the main restaurant with the tables lined up perfectly and covered in crisp white linen, however, it seemed very quiet on arrival. Our waiter advised that due to the snow that day, they had received several cancellations and it felt as though it was lacking atmosphere. This wasn't the case the last time I visited a couple of years previously, as when it's buzzing, it really does feel quite alive within this space. I asked if we could slink into the privacy of a sofa surrounded with a black netted curtain in the very trendy bar adjacent to the restaurant and they were more than happy to allow us to find a seat and curl up wherever took our fancy. We managed to turn this afternoon tea into a stupidly relaxed affair, reclining in the comfiest armchairs we had ever found, whilst watching the world go by along the river – perfect, that is how afternoon tea should be done!

Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

The Little Extras: We opted for the Champagne tea, enjoying a glass of bubbles at a leisurely pace before being served the menu, the choice was entirely ours as to how we enjoyed our afternoon, it was truly relaxing watching people wander along the river, I could have easily fallen asleep. Our waitress mentioned that the afternoon tea menu changes seasonally, so I will be excited to learn what's on the Spring and Summer menu later in the year - I'm sure it will look and taste delicious. If dining at this venue, you can park here for 3 hours free of charge in their carpark adjacent to the hotel, charges are then incurred after this time if not an overnight guest - perfect, this gave us chance to walk off some of our treats for a bit before heading home!

Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

The Little Niggles: Our food was served promptly and the friendly waitress went through everything on the plates, so that we knew what we were about to be tucking into. However, no plates or napkins had been set for us. This may have been partly our fault, as we had asked to move to the bar, but we had to wait a little while for any to be brought to us and we had to ask a second waiter to have some brought over. The tea menu was absent from our table, so when were asked which choices we would like to order, it was tricky to know what we wanted. On asking what the tea menu consisted of, we were told "everything you can imagine"... it still didn't help really, so we went for a pot of Earl Grey and one of Darjeeling. The finger sandwiches were a little dry on the edges, which was a shame, as this is one of my favourite elements of afternoon tea. However, pre-prepared sandwiches seems to be the norm, so adding these to the "ok" pile when it comes to the best finger sandwiches out there. I did like that they were simple fillings, not overly fussy, with quality ingredients.

Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

www.doubletreecambridge.com MSF Miss Sue Flay logo Green Brush Please note - This visit was complimentary following an invitation to view this venue and meet up with the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions or to discuss a review or if you would like to be featured, please do email: hello@misssueflay.com You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge" here.

Afternoon Tea at Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge

All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.  

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Cambridge Spotlight - The Cambridge Chop House

Cambridge Spotlight - The Cambridge Chop House There are many eateries and drinking holes that I pass on a day to day basis in Cambridge and the surrounding area, some of which I am guilty of knowing plenty about from word of mouth, but haven't yet popped in and sampled for myself. The Cambridge Chop House is one of those such venues, it's in one of the most iconic locations in Cambridge, overlooking the stunning Kings College on Kings Parade, it has THE view to watch the world go by - it's simply a fantastic place to stop for a bite to eat for this view alone. Cambridge Spotlight - The Cambridge Chop House (Video Postcard)

[youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWCzlfJjH9E[/youtube]

This is one of two Chop Houses, amongst various other fantastic venues owned by Cambscuisine, a group of five restaurants and an event dining operation in Cambridge.  This particular restaurant has different levels of seating, with the basement cellar offering a clandestine space to enjoy a bite to eat by candlelight or the ground floor seating area with views of the Chapel, the iconic grasshopper "Corpus Clock" and a few yards away from the bustling Cambridge Market. Cambridge Spotlight - The Cambridge Chop House The food served at The Cambridge Chop House has a no nonsense, traditionally British presentation to it and you can expect to find interesting cuts of meats and chops, served by a highly passionate and knowledegable team. Even the decor, if you look closely, nods to the "meat theme" with a butchers block in the window, a deer skeleton on the wall behind the ground floor bar and lamps adorned with antlers - it has recently been re-vamped by the same interior designers who got to work on making "SmokeWorks", one of their other retaurants stand out from the crowd - it works perectly. They also support local breweries and offer a selection of real ales from sources such as the Milton Brewery, The Growler Brewery, Brewsters and Tydd Steam to name but a few. Cambridge Spotlight - The Cambridge Chop House My reason for visiting this week was to check out their brand new Coffee House offerings, where they are now open between 8:15am - 12noon for coffee, tea and pastries - this is one of the best locations in a long time of which I've enjoyed a good quality cuppa, a tasty sweet treat and a place to get some much-needed blogging finished up. Even their WiFi code is "Meat" related! All coffees are fairtrade and can be ordered as a takeaway option with your favourite milk option, even a shot of your favourite flavour, so I would urge you to support this local offering if it's on your route to work or you need somewhere to perch for a while, it's not somewhere I would have considered before I had heard about it. Cambridge Spotlight - The Cambridge Chop House If you are a tea drinker, they have a wide selection of loose leaf Brew House Teas, with the more traditional English Breakfast and Earl Grey blends, as well as the more unusual blends such as the Fruit Punch tea which smells intensely of strawberries and looks beautiful in an individual & elegant glass teapot. If you are looking for somewhere to meet a friend or catch up on your diary whilst in town, this is a quieter, relaxed way to enjoy a cup of tea and a chocolate twist - go on, treat yourself! Cambridge Spotlight - The Cambridge Chop House To view my full photo album of this visit, simply click here. http://www.cambscuisine.com/cambridge-chop-house Miss Sue Flay   Please note - This visit was complimentary following an invitation 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 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:hello@misssueflay.com

You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge" here.

All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.



Wednesday, 4 February 2015

VIDEO: Top Tips For New Bloggers

Miss Sue Flay - VIDEO: Top Tips For New Bloggers   I was recently asked what my top tips would be for any budding bloggers (thank you Cath for the great question!) out there and it got me thinking... The answer really depends on what element of blogging you would like tips on, so instead of trying to cover absolutely everything (I would be there filming my response all day in the ice and snow - brrr!) I am going to answer the question in bite sized video blogs. Here's the first video on thoughts to consider when blogging, covering simply the basic thoughts on blogging to start with - I hope you find it useful. Be true to yourself and your beliefs - your readers will see straight through you if you aren't sharing your passions and interests. Your followers and readers will follow you for YOU.... if you aren't passionate about what you are saying, why would they want to continue reading? Don't apologise for radio silence! People follow so many blog posts and social media accounts, they won't miss you as much as you think, so don't apologise for not blogging for a while... life WILL go on without you! Miss Sue Flay What are your top tips when it comes to starting a blog?  Do you have any burning questions for me when it comes to starting a blog?  Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Around The World In 80 Stays: The French Riviera

Around The World In 80 Stays South of France Having recently composed a blog over at my sister site (Stir Up Media) about the importance of taking a holiday as a self-employed business owner, I realised it had been 7 years since I took a proper holiday myself - 7 years!? Blimey. Setting The Scene:  Stupidly not following my own advice, combined with the fact that I've set myself a challenge to travel around the world in 80 stays, I knew it was time to stop hopping to Leeds or London for a mini break and actually take in some real sunshine. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France I'd been offered the opportunity to stay in a French villa owned by a family friend and leapt at the chance to re-explore the French Riviera, a beloved holiday destination of mine 14 or so years ago. I had studied A Level French and went there to practice the language of lovers...only to meet a group of German tourists, finding out that my true calling was in ditching my awfully mumbled French vocabulary for the German lingo! The Journey:   So, my Easyjet seat with extra leg room and Speedy Boarding was booked and I flew from London Luton to Nice, where myself & my traveling companion collected a suitably French hire car, ready for a sunshine-filled adventure. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France The first (and really the only) issue was that neither of us had ever driven on the "wrong" side of the road before and the toll roads made no sense to us ridiculous foreign drivers - oops! My best advice would be of somebody gives you a bag of change to use whilst away, check that they are actually Euros and NOT Turkish Lire - the toll booth attendant was not a happy bunny - only MY luck ; ) Stopping the use of technology was also on the agenda, I went "cold turkey" and thoroughly enjoyed no distractions. I read two books from cover to cover and enjoyed lazy mornings, late nights, exploring old French villages and walks on new beaches. If you need a book recommendation, I can't rave enough about "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn and also "The Suitcase Entrepreneur" by Natalie Sisson for the more adventurous and travel-hungry business owners! Around The World In 80 Stays South of France The Accommodation:  The villa itself was a few miles out of Le Muy, a small market town, situated up in the hills in a place called Domaine Des Canebieres, of which provided a stunning scene below me from the plunge pool and patio deck as I sunbathed in 25*c Autumn warmth. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France This peaceful and spacious villa had it's own fully equipped kitchen, a choice of two bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as a TV with British freeview should it have been required - I "may" have indulged in a few episodes of "Real Housewives of Beverley Hills" - cough, cough. At night, the lights in the villages and towns below looked beautiful and sat on a bench under the trees just up the road from where I was staying, I enjoyed sitting to watch bats darting around, quietly clicking as they went. It was a relaxing holiday from start to end, no matter where I was sat or what I was doing, this was how a break should be. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France You can't visit France without pulling up to a roadside Boulangerie and ordering a baguette, freshly baked and warm from the oven to go with your cheese & wine or a slice of gateaux or Millefeuille whilst you're there... I also enjoyed a round of freshly hatched croissants, some buttery brioche with jam and two versions of a Religiiuex, which can be likened to two large ganache-filled profiteroles, decorated to look like a nun. I enjoyed a chocolate flavoured pastry and also a coffee creme patisserie filled pastry, both from different bakeries on my travels and one equally as delicious as the other. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France Rude not to, right?! Watch the introduction to my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge on YouTube:

[youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHTZpJnO1c0[/youtube]

What To Do: So. Whilst in this region, I managed to enjoy a little tour of the area and enjoyed some simply stunning scenery from the castle ruins in the old village of Grimaud, the peaceful sunset on the rocks of Sainte Maxime harbour and the extremely steep drive up, around and down into Plan De La Tour, a quaint and hidden French town for the perfect destination off the tourist trail. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France Without a hire care, there simply wouldn't be as much exploring, you would be very limited on where you could go, so it's a must. Visiting St. Tropez out of season is actually a great time to take a trip (literally one day left on the boat taxi from Port Grimaud - they stop running on 4th October) and I enjoyed a sun-drenched walk around this stunning place. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France I had expected to eat out along the port, but for up to €25 for a plate of mozzarella & basil, I decided an ice cream to be much more in my budget! There are two ice cream parlours very close together, one being "Barbarac" with queues out the back door as well as through the front... or there's the parlour a few doors down with nobody waiting or queuing. Usually I wouldn't bother to line up, but I felt there was a reason people were going mad for this place and I really wasn't wrong!! I opted for a scoop of Oreo and a scoop of coffee ice cream and the flavours were intense, it was like tasting a cup of coffee in cold form, just beautiful! The waffle cone was also crisp and the generous serving kept me going all afternoon - I'm a cheap date (two double-scoop ice creams came to €9) even in the South of France it seems. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France St Tropez from Port Grimaud with Navette-Bateau.com cost just €12 per adult for a return trip. I could have driven there, but a boat trip in the Mediterranean sun is pure heaven, don't miss out on this breezy journey amongst the luxury yachts and impressive liners. I managed to make use of the local supermarkets (Casino, Carrefour, etc) and enjoy some home cooked meals, even a BBQ with some tasty Toulouse sausages and roasted vegetables. But, it's not a French coastal holiday without beers & frites on Port Grimaud beach under the palm trees to watch the sunset - just stunning and still so warm from 8pm onwards. Whilst say there one evening, a huge black cloud rolled in behind me and lit the sky with epic sheet lightening and 2 or 3 bolts at a time (no thunder!) so the drive up the windy hills back to the villa was a little scary for a girl who's petrified of thunderstorms! Around The World In 80 Stays - South of France After the 29th September, parking in Port Grimaud is free, so I ended up parking here a fair bit for my beach fix. The beach here is beautiful, the port itself is stunning and for just €1 per person you can climb to the top of the church within the harbour and enjoy the best views for miles. From here I spotted a castle in the hills (La Garde Freinet) and later that same day we drove, following our noses to find it for exploration - it boasted an amazing view of the sea and ports, making it well worth the random road trip to hunt it down. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France The Spa: Whilst visiting the Côte d'Azur, I managed to hunt down a tranquil outdoor spa, surrounded by palm trees, complete with panoramic sea views - Spa Sarome is well worth a visit for some much needed relaxation. €17 gains you access to this beachside paradise for an hour, allowing you to indulge in their secluded hot tub, sauna, Hamam and heated plunge pool. It's the perfect getaway from a busy beach in the height of summer. I will never tire of the beautiful & scenic coastal drive between Le Muy and Grimaud, the beaches of Sainte Maxime twinkling as the sun hits the water, it's stunning and inviting me to stay... so very tempting! Around The World In 80 Stays South of France The Food: Brioche, Millefeuille  (oh my goodness!!!), Bon Mamon puddings & tart selections or Gu desserts that you can't get here in the UK, Lauderee in St Tropez harbour are all treats you can expect to find here. I also found a supermarket one day with amazing Pain du Chocolat freshly baked and stacked on the shelves - I couldn't wait to eat them for breakfast the next day as planned and had to nibble on one in the car as the smell was très irresistible. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France I got to day 5 and craved a Croque Monsieur - how could I forget to sample a French version of one of my most favourite sandwiches?! I enjoyed this on the beach with a beer watching the sunset - heavenly. Traditional baguettes and cheese for a beach picnic did the job during the daytime - delicious and warm bread fresh from the roadside Boulangerie en route. If you get a chance, you must also try a Melieneux (a meringue ball with chocolate ganache) and a coffee Religiuex - delicious patisserie, the ones I enjoyed the most whilst here. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France Final Thoughts:  The road signs are hilarious - as you leave a town, there's just the name and a giant Red Cross through it to show that you've left - amused me at the "abruptness" of the signage, I ended up shouting the names of the towns as we drove out of them as a fun game.  Aqualand is close to Le Muy, towards Sainte Maxime, but it was closed at this time of year - earlier in the year and this could be a fun place to spend a few hours on the slides and wave machines. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France Supermarkets and shops seem to be closed on Sundays - noted for next time, be a little more organised when needing food for meals! Also note, if driving from the airport, have cash/coins at ready for the toll road (Turkish Lira doesn't work, naturally!) 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. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France Please Note - I paid my own way on this occasion and I am in no means obliged to blog or write about my experience, 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: hello@misssueflay.com All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance. Around The World In 80 Stays South of France