Saturday, 23 July 2016

36 Hours In Dublin - July 2016.

When it comes to buying birthday presents, me and Ashlea sometimes buy each other a city break trip. We've done Paris, Prague, Barcelona, Edinburgh and most recently, Dublin.
I've been to Dublin once before back in November but Ashlea never has, so decided this would be a great one to do together now that I kind of knew my way around the city. 

I booked us on an early flight on a Monday morning - 06:30 from East Midlands flying with RyanAir. It's amazing how cheap a return ticket costs, for the both of us, this came in at just under £40 which is crazy.
The flight took around 40-45 minutes so literally went so fast and before we knew it, we had arrived!

Once at Dublin Airport, we made our way towards the bus stops. They have a really handy service that runs every 10 minutes, all day every day which is called the Airlink 747. At just 10€ for a return ticket, you can't really go wrong! Unless your destination isn't on route of course.

For our accommodation, I chose to stay at the same hotel as I'd previously stayed in as it simply ticks all of the boxes.



This is Blooms Hotel. You can't really miss it to be honest. I found this hotel on booking.com last year and booked it straight away.
It's located smack bang in Temple Bar so is perfect for anyone wanting to be close by to the pubs and bars. It's also a great base for exploring the city as it's location is very central to all of the main attractions for tourists. 
For room only, this cost me 119  however breakfast is available at an extra charge. Compared to hotel prices within Dublin, this is extremely reasonable. 
The hotel has it's own bar called The Vat House. Guests receive a complimentary drink in here during their stay which is a nice touch. 
Open at weekends is Club M, the hotel's very own nightclub. Entry is included within your room rate too. 

As for the hotel itself, it does its job. It's nothing too special. You get a nice room, a comfortable bed and if you're lucky like we were, you'll get one of the rooms with balconies. For the amount of time we actually spent in the room, it's perfect. 

As we arrived early in the morning, we dropped our bags off at reception and went for a wander around the Temple Bar area. As the room wasn't ready yet.




The cobbled streets and traditional Irish buildings look stunning. It was great to see the area so lively on a Monday afternoon. The weather may have had an impact on that though, it was around 30 degrees.
As you walk past the bars, you just know you're in a happy place. The atmosphere is amazing. Everyone is so friendly and the live music really sets the mood. Even as a person who doesn't drink alcohol, I enjoy it here.

We decided next to head over to the Guinness Storehouse. It is within a walking distance of this area but is quite a trek. We made it half way before getting lost, giving up and getting a cab. Even the taxi drivers are super friendly!







The Guinness Storehouse is a must if you're travelling to Dublin. I mean, it's the home of one of the most recognisable beverages in the world.
The tour costs 20  each (I think it's cheaper if you book in advance online) and takes you on a journey from the very beginning all the way up to the present day. There are 7 floors to make your way around full of fun and facts before finally ending up at the top where you can enjoy the view of the capital from the Gravity Bar. 

My favourite part of the tour has to be the The Guinness Academy where you are taught how to pour the perfect  pint of Guinness. I'll not spoil it for you, but there is a very specific way to correctly pour and serve a pint of Guinness. There's more thought in it than you'd initially think. 
Having worked in a bar before, I have done this several times, so knew the basics already. So when our tutor asked if anyone had poured one before and I raised my hand, I had to go first out of the group!



Following our Guinness Tour, we walked back towards the city centre along the River Liffey which was beautiful in the hot weather. It's along here that you'll find the famous Ha'penny Bridge which has lead pedestrians to the other side of the river since the early 1800's. Now that is old. I didn't get a close up picture of this bridge though.





By this time in the day, we were getting hungry. We decided to have a late lunch at The Elephant & Castle in Temple Bar. There's one of these in New York City too which is very popular. Due to this, they serve an American style menu and are very well known for their Chicken Wings.
Luckily, we didn't have to wait long for a table. There can sometimes be quite a wait if you're risking a walk in at peak time. 



Ashlea couldn't visit without sampling these wings. I would have had them myself, but the sauce is too spicy for me. I know, I'm a wimp!
Instead, I had a simple Caesar Salad and we shared a bowl of Herbed Frites with Sage & Rosemary. I lovely alternative to the usual of fries. These were so light, crispy and covered in flavour. 

As for Ashlea's wings, he loved every bite. Pretty much every table had at least one basket of these wings on the table whilst we were there. Only comment we had was that a finger bowl would have been useful. 
My Caesar Salad was great too. The chicken was lovely and great quality, the dressing very tasty and it was covered in Parmesan cheese which is a bonus! A great light lunch for a humid day.




Our next wander took us to The Rolling Donut. They've been making and selling their delicious sour dough donuts on O'Connell Street for over 40 years and is still going strong. 
Made fresh on a daily basis and a variety of crazy flavours, you're spoilt for choice. 
We shared a Vanilla Glaze and oh my goodness it was amazing. The vanilla pod glazing was so creamy and thick. The donut itself was light and fluffy. With the dough being a sour dough, it added a strange flavour to the donut but it works! 
Now I'm a big fan of The Nottingham Doughnut Co. so nothing will beat theirs, but these from Rolling Donut come in second. 

On our travels, we managed to randomly come across Dublin Castle. It's a lot closer than I thought it would be, around 5 minutes from our hotel.
We didn't pay for entry to the grounds, but we did have a walk up to take a close look.




For the rest of the evening, we spent some time soaking up the atmosphere in the bars. We visited both The Temple Bar & The Auld Dubliner before retiring back to our hotel room for a well deserved rest and prepare ourselves for another long day tomorrow.



The next morning, we took our time to get ready before checking out of the hotel and heading off for more exploring. As I'd paid for the hotel at check in, there was nothing to settle and we were free to go.
One little thing did annoy me here as it's quite petty. We asked to store our bags in the luggage room like we did the previous morning as our flight home wasn't until later that evening. However, as we were no longer classed as guests, they wanted to charge us both to do so. As stubborn as I am, I refused to pay and dragged my suitcase around for the day.

Our second day was mainly spent on the High Street browsing the shops. I have to admit that most of my time was spent in Penneys which is what they call Primark over in Ireland. 
We stumbled across Ann's Bakery where there were cakes and bread galore.
We bought some bread and it was so good. You know when you just get an amazing piece of fresh bread that's crunchy on the outside so so soft inside and still warm. Yum.




After traipsing around the shops for a few hours (mainly to take advantage of the air conditioning) we relaxed by the river for an hour or so before catching the bus back to the Airport. 

So, there you go. That's how I spent my 36 hours in Dublin.
I love to read blog posts like this, so thought I'd share with all of you guys.












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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

MEXIco - Intu Derby.





If you're a regular visitor to intu Derby, you'll have noticed that there's been a lot of new restaurants popping up besides the food court. The latest to open is MEXIco which sits nicely next door to Zizzi's.
There were a lot of rumours as to what they were going to have in this spot. Originally, it was set to be a Chimichanga so when MEXIco opened it's doors, I was quite surprised. I hadn't come across MEXIco before, but that's because it's the first of hopefully many to come.
The concept was created by chef Johnny Hernandez who wanted to share his love of the cuisine with others and promising a true Mexican experience.

A few weeks back, I'd received an invitation to the launch night which was attended by lots of other local bloggers and press. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the event but was asked to return so that I didn't miss out.

Me & Ashlea popped by on a Wednesday night, just two weeks after opening. It was great to see the place packed full of people when we arrived. Luckily, we had a table reserved so didn't need to wait in the queue.







What stands out instantly to any diner or even passer by is the bright colours. It makes the place feel so fresh and spacious. Totally different to any other restaurant in the shopping centre.
The walls are covered in authentic Mexican decorations which were shipped over especially. Even the newspaper that they travelled over in was saved to use as wallpaper in the toilets - no wastage here!



We were left to browse the menus after a quick introduction as to what was what and ordered a couple of drinks. A Dos Equis Mexican Lager for Ashlea and an Agua Fresca for me. Apple & Mint, very refreshing. 

We had decided right from the beginning that we were going to have the most Mexican themed drinks and dishes that we could. For our main course, I had Cheese Enchiladas with the Pulled Chicken Tinga as my filling. Our waitress let me know that although they try their best to remove them, there may possibly be a couple of little bones in this filling. This was fine and great of them to let you know before hand so that you don't get any surprises.

Ashlea went for a Burrito (minus the cheese - crazy person) with a Beef Fajita filling. We decided to order a side of fries to share.
As time went by, we noticed how long it was taking for our mains to be served and how other tables were getting theirs before us. We weren't too fussed as we were in no rush, but it's just one of those things that you clock. Finally after 45 minutes, we had food!



We couldn't wait to get stuck in, we were both starving! Both dishes were excellent. They were full of flavour, the mild chilli sauce that both were served in was delicious and was great to dip the chips in.
As mentioned, I was on high alert for any little bones that may have made their way into my chicken enchiladas but as time went by, I didn't have any which was great. But then I realised, I'd been eating a Beef one all along! It took me that long to realise! I didn't bother saying anything to anybody at that point as I'd nearly finished my food - I just told our waitress as she cleared our plates. 
She was so apologetic and assured me that a message would be passed onto the kitchen.
Luckily, I like Beef & Chicken so this wasn't an issue for me but know it may be for others.

Now onto desserts. After a quick browse, me and Ashlea deiced on the same. The Churros Ice Cream Sundae. I am a huge fan of Churros but wanted something a little different, the sundae was perfect. 
Basically, it's pieces of Churros, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Dulce De Leche which I've always known as a caramel made by heating up condensed milk, it might not be though.. and whipped cream all served in a tall glass.




Mmm just look at those. It soon came apparent that these were the most popular choice in terms of dessert. Pretty much every table was ordering them and I don't blame them. It was amazing. Very sweet though so if you're not a fan of that, I'd probably chose an alternative. 

After devouring our desserts, we were asked if we wanted to sample the 1800 Coconut Tequila. MEXIco have a wide range of Tequilas on offer at all times. Ashlea decided to give it a go but as I don't drink alcohol, I asked if I could try their Mango & Passionfruit Slushy instead which wasn't a problem at all. I even got to drink mine from a shot glass cup so I wasn't left out.
The slushy was amazing. I'd go back here purely for the slushy. It was so fruity, refreshing and tasty! Usually these come served in jars which looks really cool. I'll be back for more slush.
Ashlea isn't a fan of tequila but drank this one anyway. It was so strong. It smelt of coconut alcohol. I can imagine if you are a tequila fan though, you'll fit right in at MEXIco. 



Soon after, we decided to make a move back home. I enjoyed my time at MEXIco and would return for more. 
If you're heading to intu Derby sometime soon, why not give them a try for yourself?
Great food, absolutely fantastic customer service and brilliant upbeat atmosphere. When they're in full swing, this place will be great. They did only open 2 weeks ago!

See what it's all about here.

Thanks for reading,



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Saturday, 16 July 2016

Terrace Launch Night at Pitcher & Piano, Derby - July 2016.


A couple of weeks back, I received a message from the guys over a Pitcher and Piano in Derby asking me if I'd like to come along to the launch of their refurbished roof terrace.
To me, it sounded like a great idea. I've never actually been to P&P Derby before, it was on a Friday evening and there were free drinks. Winner.

We headed in straight after work, so by the time we arrived it was around 6pm. After being checked in on the guest list and escorted up the stairs with an Aperol Spritz (not that I drank mine with me being a teetotaller) and left to take a seat.











I thought the terrace looked adorable with the fairy lights draping here and there. I'm a big fan of the colour scheme. It's very Farrow & Ball. Oh, and the seats were comfortable too which I think is actually really important! It's a great little secret hideaway in the centre of Derby and I can imagine it to fill up pretty quickly up there on a warm summers day. Being July, we had hoped for some lovely weather to enjoy on the terrace however it was raining. Luckily, there are covered areas either side to take shelter in such conditions.

After taking advantage of our complimentary drinks, we decided to order a bite to eat as by that point, we were both getting quite hungry.



We just ordered a couple of sandwiches over at the terrace bar, nothing too large. I chose to have Grilled Cheese & Pickled Onion and was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I love cheese so with a combination of Cheddar, Red Leicester and Mozzarella, I'm in heaven. The pickled onion was a fantastic addition. I've never had it in a sandwich but as we already know, they're a match made in heaven. The skinny fries were also delicious and very crispy which is a big thumbs up from me. 
Emily went for a Homemade Fish Finger Buttie which also came with skinny fries. Likewise, she thoroughly enjoyed hers and we had no complaints whatsoever. 

Just before we decided to head back home, we caught the beginning of a live music set by local singer songwriter Steve McGill. It set a lovely atmosphere ready for the night ahead. 

Overall, A lovely evening with great grub on a beautifully refurbished terrace at Pitcher & Piano Derby.

Thanks for inviting me along, I'll be back soon!



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Thursday, 14 July 2016

#PanasonicSlowJuicer


A few months back, I applied to be a brand ambassador/ influencer for the Panasonic Slow Juicer.
After being told I'd been shortlisted for the campaign, then finally being chosen out of the hundreds that had applied, I couldn't wait to receive it as I've never owned a juicer before. 

What's special about this device in particular is that it's a slow juicer. Now, I had no idea what a slow juicer was and presumed it takes longer to squeeze the fruit. Wrong!
Although the motor does spin slower per minute, it doesn't take any longer than any other juicer. The fruit is pressed in a way which you would if you squeezed by hand, but this does it for you. It's a very thorough process meaning that all of the nutrients in your fruit/ veg is used and not wasted. 





As well as tasty juices, the Panasonic Slow Juicer makes frozen goodies too. Included in the box is a frozen attachment which is specially designed to process frozen food. I haven't used this attachment myself yet, but have plans for delicious sorbets as a healthy alternative to an ice cream. 

I've used my juicer on a few occasions now, one of them being a day at work. I made four different flavoured juices fresh during the day for everyone to try (in plastic shot glasses). I thought it would be a great way to get some feedback from others. 



Flavour 1 was Orange for simplicity. It's a classic isn't it!? The Slow Juicer does a great job with this. Most of the pulp is extracted although there are a few bits. I like the bits though!

Flavour 2 was Apple, Strawberry & Lime. Wasn't sure how this one would go down but it turned out to be my favourite. It would be great to drink on a summers day. A great alternative to a fruity cider! 

The last two flavours weren't great. Purely because of the ingredients that I chose. I wanted to give vegetables a go but we weren't fans. Flavour 4 included Beetroot which didn't seem to juice too well either. 

Over the weekend, I was able to have a proper play and used the Panasonic party pack which had kindly been sent out to help us along.


Even Bob the Beagle wanted to join in!

After use, the Panasonic Slow Juicer is really easy to disassemble as it is to put it together in the first place. 
When it comes to cleaning, it's dishwasher safe, however we don't have a dishwasher and is equally as easy by hand. You even get a little brush to use for those hard to reach places that may have a little pulp stuck. 

Other great thing about this juicer is how compact it is. If you're leaving it out on the worktop, it doesn't take up much room at all. It's a little on the heavy side though. It's also a lot quieter than I was expecting too which was a nice surprise. 

I was hoping there to be a little booklet included in the box with a few simple recipes inside, but there wasn't. Luckily, I was sent this book inside my party pack, but it's something to bare in mind if you're raring to go once you've unpacked it. 



In terms of the question, "Should I buy a Panasonic Slow Juicer?", I'd say yes but only if you're on the lookout for a high quality piece of machinery. At an average cost of £199, it's not just something you're going to want to buy, only to end up in the cupboard forever. If you're going to be using it regularly, then I'd definitely say it's worth the investment. 

Thanks for reading! Thanks to Panasonic & Come Round for this opportunity.



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