One Night in the Hilton Nottingham

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On Friday night we took the Hilton up on their offer of a complimentary stay at their Nottingham hotel. We’d stayed here before and not enjoyed it because of the street noise (single glazed windows) and the creaky floors above (I thought an elephant was preparing to attack!)

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We stopped in at The Paper Mills in Wansford on our way. I enjoyed a delicious crayfish and lemon mayo sandwich whilst Adam had what he calls a ‘salad sandwich with bacon’ (BLT!)

Wansford is a pretty village with a big, wide road through the middle of it, and a narrow bridge that encourages aggressive drivers to force passive drivers backwards when they meet half way! There are a couple of pubs, a hotel, a bistro and a nice little boutique selling plenty of Vivienne Westwood.

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In Nottingham we went and put flowers on Adam’s aunts grave. I have never in my life felt compelled in any way to visit the grave of someone I have known, even though I have a fascination with cemeteries and graveyards (and as a child I tended a random grave from the 1800’s with my friend Emma!) But this is different, it’s someone I knew and cared about, and someone who Adam loved/s dearly.

We popped to Ikea and looked at lots of things, I criticised the majority of them and we left, only stopping to by some bunny juice! Then we headed into the City centre and checked in to our hotel.

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Having traipsed along the corridor, passed all the 520’s and 510’s, I found our room, 523. At first I thought they’d accidentally booked us in to a cupboard, but then I saw the bed, the toilet, and the complimentary bottle of wine and realised everything was okay! Poor Adam though, it took him over half-an-hour to find a parking space.

For dinner we ate in the hotel restaurant – Nicholson’s Bar and Diner.  The decor in Nicholsons is a disjointed and eclectic mix of  modern European boutique and retro styling (a la Austin Powers). ‘Our unique style of diner takes sophistication to a new level’, their website says. Interesting!

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Adam and I both had the ribeye steak, to which I say, ‘Hmmm’. For pudding Adam had baked cheesecake, which I am sure was from a packet mix, but my pudding was even more comedy. Hot and Cold Apple Crumble Sundae, turned out to be vanilla ice-cream with frozen berries, some chunks of brown uncooked apple and a broken digestive biscuitÂ… in a tall glass! I know it was digestive biscuit because some of the bits were quite large and had the little dimples in them.

The waitress was very lovely and apologetic, offering to bring me something else, but it was getting late and the creaky little bed was calling to us from the room that felt like a caravan (I thought they’d said ‘suite’ but maybe they said ‘sweet’, as in bijou!)

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Our room was at the back of the hotel, so far-away from the street noise, but the single glazed windows didn’t block out the whir of the air-con machines. I am so used to the peace, quiet and absolute stillness of the Fens, so I know I’m going to be more alert to any noise, and although it’s an ugly view, I’m really into industrial buildings, so it’s okay!

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I wasn’t so keen on the decor of the room though, it really, really did need some refurbishing, and it’s not right or fair to paint over the light above the bathroom mirror!

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At breakfast I noticed a lot of big hair and shiny ribbons – the hotel was FULL of cheerleaders! I ate my granola and banana chips as fast as I could. This is not the breakfast of champions, this the breakfast of someone who is not good at eating breakfast!

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It’s an interesting building, but very, VERY tired. The staff were friendly, and I loved the great big fish tank in reception and the colourful tiled floor in the bar (top image), but I wouldn’t be going back there if I hadn’t accidentally left two jackets in the wardrobe and not been able to get them posted to me!

The room rate at the Hilton Nottingham was £96 including breakfast and our 2 course meal and drinks came to £41. We paid £1. I’m not being ungrateful, I’m just being honest 🙂

Mexican Market Eating at Wahaca, Covent Garden

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After a proper full-on day of frivolity, it was time for dinner. We’d trotted round the Country Living Spring Fair (carrying our sick bags!), eaten our way through Borough Market and marvelled at the incredible history of the St Bride Foundation, we deserved some decent nosh before we headed home – back out into the wilderness.

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I’ve eaten in places that claim to be Mexican restaurants, but now I can confidently say, they are all cheeky liars! The food at Wahaca was delicious – attractively presented, really tasty and genuinely Mexican. I was too busy eating to take photographs of all the food (and rightly so!). I had the Pork Pibil Tacos (above) and Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla, with a side order of crispy fried sweet potatoes.

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The drink above is a Citrus Fizz. It’s the only time I have ever enjoyed drinking sparkling water, and I think it’s because of the addition of ‘crushed lime and torn mint’. I also drank the drink of my dreams – Horchata – almond and rice milk with cinnamon. Glug, glug, yum!

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Louise had some delicious green rice, some kind of Quesadilla and these things below. To be honest, I was too busy thinking about my own food to make a mental note of what Louise was having. I’d never make a food writer, but I am an awesomely skilled food eater!

2014 03 21 wahaca london 06We went to Wahaca at Covent Garden, but they have several restaurants across London, all with different decor and styling, and all, I’ll put money on it, with a menu full of lovely yummy food.

 

Borough Market & St Bride Foundation

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Our trip to London was far too epic to fit into one post! After leaving the Country Living Spring Fair in Islington we ran free in the cool breeze and found ourselves at Borough Market on a baclava mission!

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We succeeded. Our senses were stunned, we were hit by sugar-blindness. We entered an altered state of mind  where I thought it was the right thing for us to both take part in a TV advert for Which? magazine. Poor Louise!

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Have you ever watched Mongrels? The chap who got us to sign the consent forms reminded me of the cat, Marion.

So, anyway, the advert is for a new  Which? guide on growing your own fruit and vegetables! Of course, Louise and I had to dumb-down our gardening expertise (they don’t call me Percy Thrower for nothing you know!) and I managed to mumble something about beetroot whilst Louise expressed her desire for blueberries. Louise had her own personal fan – just the one, and he was fabulous. He supported her by throwing her the V’s whilst clutching his can of Special Brew.

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Louise said I need to hit my peach tree with a shovel – another piece of invaluable garden knowledge imparted whilst under the influence of high-sugar sweet treats. The advertisement is going to be aired late April, on Sky and Freeview channels. So, that will be a treat for the nation! (That’s twice in the space of a week that I have been filmed for TV – I hope its not for You’ve Been Framed!)

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After our brush with fame we headed off to the St Bride Foundation, just off Fleet Street. It’s one of the most awesome places, full of secrets, hidden away amidst the hustle and bustle. We’d gone to visit John, photographer and friend, who manages the exhibitions in the theatre bar (amongst many other things!) I met John quite a few years ago, he took part in an exhibition I curated in Derby. We were all struck by John’s eye for an image – you know that point where something a bit bizarre is happening, you feel too embarrassed to look and turn away? That’s when John gets his camera out! Brilliant.

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We were very lucky that John had a moment to spare and gave us a quick tour of the building. The history of this place is immense, it was built in 1894 as a printing school, and besides the amazing library and magnificent print room, my absolute favourite thing is the disused swimming pool. In the theatre auditorium there is a small trap door, which, once opened, reveals a set of wooden steps leading down into the empty, beautifully tiled, crypt-like pool. Down in the pool, under the floor, it was dark and strangeÂ… so we climbed out again!

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The print room is totally magical, its like stepping into a museum but all of the artefacts are touchable and useable. Louise was in her element here, she is a printmaker herself so it was an extra-double-treat for her.

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This is an original lithographic stone. They (‘Who?’ you ask. I don’t know, just they!) used to use big chunks of limestone for printing. Oil and water don’t mix, so the image/text was put on with oily ink, and the rest of the stone would get treated with a chemical mixture which etched it. The etched surfaces would retain water, allowing the image/text area to be inked, and the image/text printed onto paper. Or something!

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And this is a door.  I don’t have any vague technical details to share. It looked nice, so I took it’s picture.

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We had such a full and fun day, there’s still more to come!

The Country Living Spring Fair

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I was lucky enough to be sent two complimentary tickets to Country Living’s Spring Fair, by Rachel Jackson – amazing artist (I have shown her work in the past) and one half of The Museum. Rachel and her partner Matt won a place at the Fair with their beautiful artefacts and wowed the crowds with their wondrous wares!

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Me and my lovely chum Louise hot-stepped it to the Fair. Upon arrival we were given paper bags to carry around. Louise’s immediate reaction was to ask, ‘Is this in case we are sick?‘ After the initial shock of how packed the place was, and a quick stop for Louise to bang her head against the wall, we managed to work our way around most of the stands.

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The queues around the ‘nonsurgical facelift’ stand were immense. I took to counting men because they were so scarce. There were many, many women, and they all looked very much alike.

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There were a couple of stands that I thought stood out and looked a bit more individual, including the one  above (nice display) and another by jewellery designer Phoebe Sherwood-Moore whose silver and oak acorn cufflinks really took my fancy. We agreed that Phoebe’s stall was our favourite of the day, and awarded her as such!

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We were both surprised by the amount of massproduced (probably imported from China) items there were, but we did our best to hunt down the more individual things. I had expected more ‘Country’ stuff, you know – outdoor pursuits, good foods, antiques, that kind of thing. Apparently there were some lambs there to pet, two of them. We didn’t find the lambs, but I imagine they may have been made into slippers or ripped apart by over-zealous identical women all wanting to have their photo taken.

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And. Alpacas! Those Alpacas have been getting busy with it! There were lots of  stands selling Alpaca goods, lovely soft Alpaca goodness. I met Arlette Lee and did a bad job of taking her photo for Twitter, but then couldn’t find her stand later to have a good look at her Alpaca Ruanas. Sad times.

Pretty Packages & Special Things

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Last week I told my friends that I had started writing a blog. They were very kind about it.  There was much discussion about peas, some people defended them, but Becky said they were the devils eggs and that was the end.

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When I was in Spalding the other day to see the South Holland Open Arts exhibition I took a bit of time to look around. I also stopped in Holbeach on my way home. I love living out in the Fens and being able to explore. Years ago I used to drive out to the villages near where I now live, and marvel at how different everything seemed, and how weather worn and muted the colours were. Now I live amongst it and it’s good to be reminded sometimes of how unique a place it is.

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They have a courtyard at the back of this shop where they test the guns!

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A package arrived from my friend Emma and it contained this amazing book of Simple Nature Projects. I am going to have endless hours of fun plucking urchins from their shells and dismembering starfish!

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Adam and I met up with Matt and Natasha for dinner at the Hare Arms in Stow Bardolph. Their dining room has pretty handprinted wallpaper and they have peacocks in their gardens. We had a lovely time, and very excitingly, they asked me if I would photograph the birth of their twin girls who are due to arrive next month! Natasha wondered if I would find it a bit creepy (she is having to have a caesarian) but although it definitely is a bit weird, I don’t think its creepy, it’s pretty bloody amazing! (Check back next month to hear how creepy it really is ha ha!)

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Mummy Harvey and I had a day out and went for afternoon tea at the Whipper-In in Oakham. We sat at a copper topped table that had a coin in the centre of it, surrounded by cakes, scones, sandwiches and stuffed creatures.  

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The evenings are getting brighter and longer. Winnie and her chubby little legs enjoyed some sunshine on her new favourite chair.

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