Over the weekend

We had our favourite Leeds couple over to visit this weekend.

Much food was eaten.

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I’ve had my eye on the Electro Brunch at Gaucho for a couple of years, but after hearing stories from colleague at work who went recently, I knew I had to make plans to get down there stat. The seating is for two hours and for £50 you get to feast yourself on bottomless food and drink. The french toast was actually a little disappointing albeit the most photogenic item on the menu- everything else however was excellent. The provoleta was my favourite.

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We slow walked over to The Gasworks where we were supposed to relax and digest, but somehow we ended up playing Shufl.

Most. Annoying. Game. Ever.

I could not get the knack of sliding those little suckers but it was strangely addictive. I’m already planning a return trip.

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We crazy golfed our way around Gary at Junkyard Golf.

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Had a much needed tea stop at Home Sweet Home, before going to watch Deadpool 2.

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And ended the evening with greasy pizza and chats.

What I wore, turning 30

Jasmin, newly 30

Dress – Oasis
Bag – Tu by Sainsbury’s (a birthday gift from my mother-in-law, last year)
Sandals – The Poet Sandal maker, Athens

I bought this dress 6 years ago, to wear to my university graduation. Since then, it has seen me through some of my favourite memories of my twenties.

I wore it the day husband and I went to buy our wedding bands. We bought cheap silver rings from Argos and went to Beef and Pudding (since closed) for a celebratory dinner, that cost more than the rings combined.

I also wore it on our wedding day. We had our ceremony at a registry office and then a barbecue with family. I changed out of my wedding dress so I could slather my burgers in ketchup and not worry about ruining it.

And yesterday, I wore it to see in a new decade.

(Maybe I’ll learn how to iron my clothes in my thirties?)

30

Yesterday, I turned 30.

Hotel Chocolat Birthday Breakfast

The day started off with a tea and chocolates. Presents were unwrapped.

Black Sheep Coffee

There were pasteis, warmed slightly and topped with cinnamon. More tea, of course.

Eggs Benedict, Brunch at Fress

Brunch at Fress, with the most spectacular eggs benedict

The Smokehouse, Manchester

After some celebratory drinks, a subsequent 2 hour nap and phone calls with family, we ate ourselves into a food coma.

B is for Bridgewater Canal

Inspired by Roger Oldham’s ‘A Manchester Alphabet,’ I’m exploring this fair city, from A to Z. Read about my wanderings around Ancoats here.

Today’s post is brought to you by the ‘water taxi’ sign that I’ve passed on my way home from work, most evenings, for the past two years. I decided it was time to finally follow the sign and find out what these water taxis were and where they would take me.

Bridgewater Canal - waterfall

The waxis (that’s WAter taXIS), I learnt, leisurely glide up and down sections of both the Manchester Ship Canal and the Bridgewater Canal, stopping at points of interest along the waterways. Since Bridgewater starts with the letter ‘B,’ it provided the perfect opportunity for my next alphabetical exploration.

The canal stretches for over 40 miles between Runcorn and Leigh, with Manchester sitting at the heart of it. Commissioned by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, it was built as a means of transporting coal from his mines in Worsely, in to the city.

Bridgewater Canal - barges

My cousin came over for the day again and filmed our wanders, but I don’t think I’m going to invite her back. That girl is a rain magnet –  we had beautiful weather all week until she arrived on Sunday morning.

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Places we went, places you could go.

Mamucium, map
Strategically situated at a site overlooking the confluence of the rivers Irwell and Medlock, the Roman fort of Mamucium was built. Manchester was born here, in AD 79. Her first inhabitants, merchants and military. Today, you can see a reconstruction of the North gate and its ramparts, and walk around its foundations.

Mamucium

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, here
Liverpool Road
Open daily 10am – 5pm

I’ve only been to MOSI once since I moved here which is a poor show on my part. We started our visit by fortifying ourselves with cups of tea in the Warehouse cafe where we also had some really tasty pastries. We spent a couple of hours taking in the exhibits and could have stayed longer if not for our water taxi booking. The museum has a number of talks and activities on throughout the day and whilst they are aimed at youngsters, we found them enjoyable and entertaining.
Manchester Museum of Science and Industry - entranceManchester Museum of Science and Industry - Tim Peake spacecraftManchester Museum of Science and Industry - engine

Manchester Water Taxi, here
A thoroughly enjoyable 50 minute boat ride took us from Castlefield to the Trafford Centre. Whilst it might not be the quickest way to get there, it’s certainly more fun than sitting in a car. Keep an eye out on their Instagram page because they often post discount codes for tickets. Also, it took us a minute to find the boarding point because of the direction we walked along the canal. The stop is round the corner from Albert’s shed,  where you’ll see their sign. Or, if you’re standing outside Barca, look across the canal and you’ll see a duck house – that’s where you need to wait.
Manchester Water Taxi #WAXI - arrivingManchester Water Taxi #WAXI - all aboard

Old Trafford
Though I technically live in the red part of town, I’ve never actually visited the stadium. The water taxi stops here however which would make a nice day out for a football fan -unless, I suppose, you support city.

The Trafford Centre
We only paused here for a comfort break on this occasion but I’ve been enough times before that I have a favourite parking area and place to eat.* Though I still haven’t had my picture taken on the staircase in the food quarter. Maybe next time? But probably not – can someone please explain the appeal??

Worsley
We skipped the village on this trip as the clouds were fast turning grey, but there’s plenty to see and do, enough for a day trip in itself. Including the Monton heritage trail which is a really pleasant walk on both cold wintery days and warm summer ones.

The Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green, here
Opening times: Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun: 1.30 – 5.00pm

Still a work in progress as volunteers continue to build new exhibits, but worth a visit to learn about local history. The surrounding area was once full of collieries, long since demolished. Now the museum houses Lancashire’s only surviving headgear (the steel frame in the picture below) and engine house where you can find a winding steam engine. It’s a thing of beauty and they run it on a few days throughout the year – I wish we could have timed our visit for one of those days. Although I’m not sure I dare go back. Seemingly, the reverberations of my coins hitting the bottom of the donation box sent two pin-boards flying off the wall of the visitors centre and crashing on top of a collection of commemorative plates. It was a heart stopping moment and luckily nothing broke but jeepers! That could’ve been baaaaaad.**
The Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green - entranceThe Lancashire Mining Museum at Astley Green - machinery

*the Orient car park. Perfectly placed in the middle of the centre so you can do a full circle and don’t have to walk back on yourself. Plus you enter/exit through the food court. Park in the section on the right and go all the way to the back – you’ll find a space  there whilst all the lazy bums fight for a spot closer to the entrance.

**what actually happened is that the command strips had given up at a most in opportune moment, but I still feel guilty.

Tired

The other day, I was complaining to husband about how tired I was.

So tired in fact, that my words came out all in a jumble and I exclaimed, loudly
‘I pooped myself!’

Not quite the phrase I was aiming for.

But now, husband won’t let me live it down…

 

Tired texts

 

6 Alternative things to do in Athens

Greece, Acropolis

Following on from my Paris tips, I wanted to share a few gems for another European city I love.

I first visited Athens in November  2014 and loved it so much that I went back the following summer for a week. The off season was my favourite – cool but sunny weather, far fewer crowds. The hike up to the acropolis was warm but pleasant however I imagine it can get unbearably hot in the summer sun.

Here are a few of the things I enjoyed.

Buy sandals from The Poet
Agias Theklas 2, Athina 105 54

Something of a legend in Athens, the Poet’s shop is THE place to buy a pair of authentic Greek sandals. You’ll be joining the likes of Sophia Loren and Jackie Onassis who all have owned pairs. Surprisingly, for such good quality pair of leather shoes, prices average a mere 35 Euros. The experience of buying a pair is fantastic as well -­ you get properly measure up for your sandal of choice and they alter the straps so they fit your feet perfectly. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and try and go on a weekend afternoon. The shop gets overwhelmingly busy as it is tiny so I left and returned the next day, first thing in the morning and spent a leisurely hour picking out my sandals and getting them sized for my feet. The leather gets darker with wear (in a good way) so you never know exactly how your shoes will end up looking.

See a film at Cine Paris
Kidathineon 22, Athina 105 58

Set in an unassuming courtyard on a busy street in Athens, this charming little nook is a great place to escape and watch a film, under shadow of the Acropolis. The films are shown in English with Greek subtitles and range from classics to more contemporary fair. Popcorn, snacks and drinks are available for cheaper than we’re used to at home which makes it hard to resist! As the sun sets the Parthenon lights up and it can be hard to keep your attention on the film when a great piece of ancient history looks so majestic, up on its perch.

Eat gyros at Bairakta
Pl. Monastirakiou 5, Athina 105 55, 

Greek street food at its best. Gyros are meats wrapped in pita, covered in tzatziki, with a few fries thrown in. Do yourself a favour and get only the gyro to go here. They are delicious and dirt cheap. The sit down food however is overpriced and disappointing. Walk up the road to Puro where you can buy freshly pressed juices to wash your meal down with and then pick up a few pieces of whichever type of baklava looks good at any one of the numerous bakeries in the area. The aim of the game is to try as many as possible ­ because how will you know which is your favorite if you don’t test them all out?

Fresh Baklava, Acropolis

Visit a Greek Island

Island hopping around Greece is on my bucket list but until that day comes, I’ve satiated myself with some of the more easily accessible islands. Aegina is a short 40 minute ferry ride from the mainland port of Piraeus, which is easily accessible by metro. You can visit the island in a day to get a taste of island life but if you’ve got more time, I would highly recommend spending at least one night. Hire a taxi, or take a bus to the opposite side of the island and visit the Temple of Afaia for a history fix. Gorge yourself on fresh seafood on anyone of the restaurants on the sea front.

Go on a free Athens walking tour

I’ve been on a lot of free walking tours around the cities of Europe. I find that when I don’t have much time, they’re a great way of getting my bearings whilst learning some of the local history and getting insider knowledge about where the good places to eat/see/go out are. This particular tour was one of the best I’ve ever been on. Our guide was a Bostonian transplant who had lived in Athens for over a decade. His live and enthusiasm for the city was evident and he took us around some of the sights.

Lucy, the Palace Dog

Watch (or learn!) traditional Greek dance

A trip to the Dora Stratou Theatre will not disappoint. Between May and September, you are invited to see a performance of traditional song, dance, music and dress ­ just the way it would have been performed in Greece years ago. You can even take a dance lesson (which is given in English) if you’re so inclined!

Last week, snapshots

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The most beautiful light at sunset. No filter required.

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What was supposed to be a shopping trip to buy a (very belated) birthday present for my father-in-law, turned into a leisurely dinner with some excellent ramen, and seeing the new Avengers film. Oh. My. Goodness. I loved the film! It was so good and I totally didn’t expect the ending. Although that’s not saying much, really. I never guess the twists in anything. Also, we still haven’t found a birthday present. Must sort that out ASAP.

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We took a quick trip to London on Sunday to see Hamlet at The Globe. Liked but didn’t love. The swapping of gender roles was interesting but the woman who played Hamlet was pretty flat and it felt as though she was reading, rather than acting, her lines. We’ve got a few more plays to see over the summer and I’m very much looking forward to them.

Simplest Eton mess

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It’s not summer yet, but the sun has finally come out and I am SO HAPPY. Eton mess is one of my favourite desserts to throw together because nothing says sunshine like strawberries and cream. Don’t limit messes to warm days though – they taste just as good on the dreary, grey ones as well.

You can play around with this recipe to make it perfect for you. Put more or less meringue in. Mix up the fruits. Whatever you fancy, the mess can take it!

Eton mess, serves 4

1 punnet strawberries (about 400g)
1 – 2 dessertspoons caster sugar (I prefer a tart coulis so I only put one in)
300ml of double cream or whipping cream, depending on how decadent you’re feeling
1 – 2 dessertspoons caster sugar (again, depends on your sweet tooth. I always err on the side of less sugar)
3 meringues nests, broken into chunks

 

Wash and chop the strawberries into bite size pieces

Take two handfuls of berries and place into a saucepan. Add enough water to just cover the berries. Sprinkle in 1 (or more) dessertspoons of caster sugar.

Simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens

Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and set aside to cool.

Add 1-2 dessertspoons of sugar to the cream and whip with an electric whisk on medium until it forms stiff peaks.

Fold in the remaining strawberries (reserve a few to garnish at the end) and the meringue.

To assemble, I like to pour some coulis to the bottom of my dish and then add the cream mixture on top. You could fold the coulis into the mix or pour on top, if you prefer.

Sprinkle a few strawberries on top to garnish, with a sprig of mint or two.

Enjoy

 

The weekend, snapshots

The weather over the weekend was amazing. We made the most of it.

B61EBA35-EB7A-46AF-A3BD-E2DE224D06EBAl fresco pizza at the new Rudy’s on Peter Street. The chocolate cake was also heavenly.

DCD13846-879D-4A2D-9409-4484BF05A5D5Impromptu barbecue at a friends house. We ate applewood smoked steak and sat outside until 10pm. I had bare legs and wasn’t cold.

1048AE26-2AE5-43D3-9EF3-7913F935E861Tea and pastries at The Warehouse cafe

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Canal walks

6 Alternative things to do in Paris

Eiffel Tower reflection{eiffel reflections}

For the last few weeks, I’ve been sorting through my photos so I can get some printed and make an album or two. I’m really enjoying reminiscing about all the wonderful travels I’ve experienced. I love travelling. Like, LOVE love. But I also love planning holidays, so if you make the mistake of telling me you’re thinking of going somewhere that I’ve been before, you will find yourself the recipient of a list of places you should go and things you should do.* In that spirit, over the coming weeks, I’m going to share a few of my favorite spots around the world.

And what better place to start than Paris?

The city holds a special place in my memories. It was the destination of my very first foreign holiday, aged 8. We booked on to a coach trip, the youngest people on the trip by far, apart from one other mother-and-child duo. Whilst the rest of us were ferried around from site to site, they went out on their own, only returning to the coach in the evening for the trip back to the hotel. I remember thinking they were very adventurous. Later, it was the place I visited on my very first holiday without an adult. R, my long-time travel buddy, and I spent a weekend exploring the sites. I practiced my French, we climbed up the Eiffel Tower and spent a day at Disney. I didn’t pack a coat. It was cold. I’ve since learnt to listen to my mother.

And then, back when husband was boyfriend, it was the place we visited on our very first holiday together; my birthday present to him. I found 1p flights with Ryanair, we traveled with hand-luggage and city hopped by plane – on to Girona and then Perpignan. It was the start of many adventures together.**

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So if you’ve got the Eiffel Tower, Laudurée and The Louvre ticked off your list, here are a few places that I am confident are worth your time visiting.

Walk the Parisian High Line
Step back New York! Hidden away in the 12th arrondissement is the original highline ­ The Promenade Plantée. Around the corner from Bastille, you ascend a staircase that takes you to the start of the 4.7km long park which was once a train line. Walking amongst the Parisian rooftops, through bamboo walkways and along the track you can sneak a peek into the windows of those lucky people who get to call this city home.

Eat at the Pink Flamingo
There are a few branches of the pizza shop, but the one in the 10th arrondissement is my favorite as the area is full of cool drinking holes and it makes a perfect stop after you’ve explored Parc de Buttes Charmont (see below). Their pizza toppings that have a decidedly French flair to them (figs and brie, anyone?) and once you’ve ordered they give you a pink, helium filled balloon. Go and find yourself a romantic spot along the canal whilst you wait for your food which will be delivered to you by a guy who’s tracked you down by your balloon. Trés magnifique!

Explore Parc des Buttes Charmont

Sacre Coeur from Parc De Buttes Charmont
{Sacré Coeur from Parc des Buttes Charmont}

A little further out than the major sites but easily accessible by metro, or on foot if you’re a walker, the Parc is a little bit of tranquil paradise. Featuring a man made lake, waterfall, Italian inspired temple and a suspension bridge designed by Mr Eiffel himself, this is a great place to get away from the crowds and have yourself a little picnic. You are also treated to a wonderful view of the Parisian skyline.

Brave a night bike tour, (this is the one I’ve done)
I am a great fan of the free walking tours that you can find in most capital cities across Europe but sometimes it’s nice to give your feet a rest. Whilst you can hire your own bikes all over the city for not much money, I don’t have the steely nerves required to pedal myself around the crazy Parisian roads. With a guide however, I feel much more confident. Paris is just as, if not more romantic at dusk. Taking an evening tour allows you to see the city and its sights as the sun sets. Top it off with an evening cruise down the Seine (included as part of this particular tour) and you might just find yourself proposing to whoever is next to you because it’s so darn romantic!

Visit the Basilica of Saint Denis
Basilica of Saint DenisWhilst the cemetery of Père Lachaise always seems to make it on to top 10 lists, few people seem to venture out of the city to the suburb of Saint Denis, home to a Basilica of the same name. Even if you don’t know much about French history (I don’t, I’m afraid), chances are you will have heard of the famous Marie Antoinette. Although she and her headless husband weren’t initially buried at this church which is the historic resting place of the French monarchy, bits of their bodies were eventually rehoused there. Wander round this great abbey amongst the tombs of the French Kings and Queens of years gone by.

Wander around the Parisian sewer system – Musée des Égoute de Paris
Okay, live with me here. Maybe this isn’t necessarily somewhere to spend precious holiday time if it’s your first trip to Paris but I loved my visit to the Paris Sewer Museum. Seriously, when else are you likely ever to be able to visit a sewer system? It surprisingly doesn’t smell and the tunnels aren’t small and claustrophobic like you might expect.

*The (un)lucky recipient doesn’t really get a choice in the matter.
**I paid for more than just the flights, but I also like to reminisce about the days when Ryan Air were actually cheap so their terrible customer service was much more forgivable. Because you can’t really complain when you’re flight cost less than a chomp bar?