Favourites This Week (14 Aug 2016): The Holiday Edition

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Welcome to a new feature I’m imaginatively calling ‘Favourites This Week’ – a place to talk about the fun stuff I’ve been getting up to, new products I’ve been sent to try, and other miscellaneous things that won’t fit anywhere else!

For my first trick, I’d like to take you on a mini tour of my holiday at the beginning of August, when my husband and I went oop north to celebrate our wedding anniversary in Blackpool, Manchester and the Yorkshire Dales!

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Whitworths very kindly sent me a week’s worth of these delicious fruity treats, and I have to say, they’re absolutely fantastic. I’ve been tucking them into my pockets and bags and taking them out during our long walks – they’re just the thing for a bit of energy when you need it. (They’re also fabulous with a cup of tea… Just sayin’.) You can buy Whitworths Shots in most major supermarkets, and they come in a huge range of flavours. My favourites were toffee and pecan, and tropical coconut!

By the way, did you notice that handsome lil bag up top, posed precariously on the floor of Blackpool Tower? My new favourite bag, an anniversary gift from my husband – a dark blue Edie crossbody from Lulu Guinness. (I knew I had to have it when the lovely Briony of A Girl, A Style mentioned there was a sale on!)

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(Not only did my husband buy me a bag, but he also arranged for rose petals in our bedroom, the softy!)

I *love* the metal lip clasp on this baby – you can pick up similar designs still at Lulu Guinness, although the Edie has now been replaced by the Zoe crossbody and the Gertie tote.

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During the week, I have to say, the trusty combo of sunnies and umbrella proved to be an essential addition the Edie – I purchased a tiny umbrella as well from Lulu Guinness, and it’s the perfect size to keep stowed away in case of rain. Check out the whole range here, there are some gorgeous ones! (My current favourite is the black and red Bloomsbury stripe!) And, I have to give a shout-out to my new Ray-Ban aviators. I never thought I was cool enough to pull them off, but one advantage of being in my 30s is that now I don’t care whether I look cool or not…

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If you visit Blackpool, my recommendations are: afternoon tea in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, drinks on the seafront at the Beach House Bistro (above), and fish and chips with a cup of tea near the Prom (I recommend The Sea Fish and Chips Restaurant, 1 Foxhall Lane, right by Madam Tussauds!)

Anyway, onto Manchester! For the remainder of the week we stayed in Airbnb places (use my code linked here and get £25 off, and I will too!). It was so much cheaper than a hotel and a lot more convenient as well! I have two awesome restaurant reviews to share with you soon, but until then, here’s a preview:

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Apart from two incredible restaurants, we spent a lot of time hanging around outside the set of Coronation Street, meeting famous people (one of whom knew who we were and seemed really pleased to see us. What a great actor!), and walking. Lots of walking. Oh, and this…

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…But that’s a story for another day…

The part of the trip where I really got involved was when we got to the Yorkshire Dales! We stayed in an adorable cottage with a loft bedroom, with absolutely no phone signal or wifi whatsoever. We made it out alive, but just barely. Luckily, the cottage was absolutely gorgeous!

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On the first day, we went to Ingleton Waterfalls, a private trail set up when you can view around nine waterfalls (honestly, what defines where one waterfall starts and another ends? This is a question that now haunts me) along a four and a half mile loop. (Current costs are £6 per person. Trust me when I say you can make a day of this very easily.)

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This was a definite wake-up call that I’m nowhere near as fit as I should be, because I was nearly dead by the time we got to the top. It’s hard work, okay…

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There’s also a cute tradition of pressing coins into trees and logs, which dates back to the 1700s in the North of England, and Scotland. There are some amazing examples right at the start of the trail here. I pressed my tuppence in and now I want my wish, please!

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The following day was our final one of the trip, and we went to visit the Wensleydale Creamery – a heaven made of cheese and dairy products. We attended a demonstration of cheesemaking, looked around the museum and giftshop, tasted a LOAD of cheese, and had a delicious lunch in the cafe.

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If you visit, promise me you’ll try their famous Wensleydale and ginger cheesecake – I’ve been dreaming of eating this again since my mother-in-law made us some one Christmas! I bought a huge wedge to bring back and make my own – it’s currently sitting in the freezer, waiting patiently for my birthday!

That was my week… what about yours?

 

 

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The Ultimate Afternoon Tea Experience: The Blackpool Tower Ballroom

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I’m no stranger to afternoon teas. Whether it’s champagne afternoon tea at The Ritz, or tea for two at the local farm shop, I love the tradition of gathering for tiny sandwiches, pieces of cake, and that all important jam and cream-topped scone.

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But if you had to ask me what the ultimate afternoon tea experience had to be, after my visit, I wouldn’t be able to say anything except afternoon tea at The Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Seriously, I had the best time of my life!

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Perhaps one of the aspects of the afternoon tea that made it such an incredible experience was that I was not at all prepared for one of the major aspects of the appeal – the dancing! I thought it would be tea served on the ballroom floor in opulent surroundings, and of course, I was totally down for that. But instead, I got dinner and a show, because for the entire time we were there, we were entertained by live music from the Wurlitzer, and dozens of couples taking to the floor to waltz and whirl in perfect unison.

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Usually, an afternoon tea would be judged (by me at least) heavily towards the food, with bonus points for the surroundings. This experience was a 180!

But, let’s talk about that food for a minute. When it comes to afternoon tea, I have high standards. I expect the sandwiches to be dainty, the scones to be light and fluffy, and the cakes to be tempting and irresistible. Blackpool Ballroom delivered on all of these – with traditional fillings and tasty little cakes, and a hearty and generous scone, I thought every part was perfect. It certainly wasn’t experimental, or foodie-orientated, or themed in any way (like the Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley, for example), and it certainly wasn’t as refined as The Ritz (the handful of crisps on the plate would never fly in Mayfair, darling), but it provided honest, good, Northern fayre with an emphasis on quality, variety and generosity.

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My husband is simultaneously the joy of my life and the bane of my existence (won’t any married woman tell you the same thing?). He’s wonderful in almost every way except he’s a bit of a fussy eater, and raisins are one of the things he just won’t eat. So when we were told they only served fruit scones, I winced – until the waitress suggested an alternative of a piece of cake. Instead of a scone, he was presented with a generous slice of chocolate and caramel cake, which was absolutely gorgeous and devoured in an instant.

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I, of course, am a staunch character and will only accept an offering of fruit scone with clotted cream and jam. There was a generous portion of cream, and the Tiptree jam even came with this cute Ballroom label, which was a lovely touch.

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Onto the cakes – and as any afternoon tea salwart will tell you, this is where you’ll usually run out of steam, despite having the best intentions… But these cakes were too good not to eat – a strawberry tart, millionaire’s shortbread, mini pavolova, and a lemon cheesecake. The only problem you’ll encounter is how to allot them between two (although we went for the time-honoured tradition of splitting them down the middle…).

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I must explain the reasoning behind us running out of room for the cakes – we were served ten different flavours for the sandwich course! I don’t even know how they managed to fit them all on the plate, but we had ham, cheese and mustard; bacon, lettuce and tomato; cheese; tuna and mayonnaise; salmon, cucumber and cream cheese; egg salad; egg mayonnaise; plain ham; plain turkey; and chicken mayonnaise. I highly suspect if the fancy came upon you that you could request any combination of the flavours you wanted, as it looked as though all of the sandwiches were made in the kitchen at the back of the hall.

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The Blackpool Tower Ballroom Afternoon Tea is truly an amazing experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as one of the must-do experiences in Blackpool when you’re on holiday. It has the perfect combination of old-world, British grandeur with a pinch of cheesy seaside frivolity. And, don’t forget that classic afternoon tea menu – it always looks dainty, but trust me, you won’t need to eat dinner that day (and we were even offered more food too!). Oh, and the tea – of course, your choice of flavours, including Yorkshire tea, pride of the North (although a Southern lass like me is just as happy with an Afternoon Tea blend!)… or coffee, if you prefer.

The Blackpool Ballroom Afternoon Tea is available priced at £50 for 2, £70 for 3, or £80 for 4 people, and includes entry to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. You can also splash out for the champagne experience (£69.95 for 2, £85.85 for 3, £99.95 for 4). There are sittings for afternoon tea (12, 12.30, 2, 2.30) and you can book online at http://www.theblackpooltower.com, or by phoning 0871 222 9929.

My afternoon tea experience was complimentary – my words, photos and opinions are my own.