A Glasgow Weekend – Architecture, Irn Bru & Ashleigh’s Birthday Surprise (2/2)

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I’d been organised enough to get us a lunch reservation at Hutchesons, a beautiful venue in the Merchant City district of Glasgow, but nothing else, so we had plenty of time to explore Glasgow’s centre.

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We went straight into Costa’s for… an Irn Bru. Then we went into a sweet shop where we were offered Irn Bru bonbons, Irn Bru rock, and all the Irn Bru sweets. I sampled the lot of them.

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You know how everyone in England (apart from me, and my mum) searches the Coca Cola bottles for the one with their name on? Well, in Scotland they look for their family tartan on Irn Bru bottles. That’s true… look.

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We wandered through the city, watched people sliding around on the icy paths, observed the street performers, spotted some really special hair on a lady, and ducked in and out of the shops.

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Sarah bought out most of Lush’s stock. I watched on. A  sales assistant sidled over and told me that she had something-or-other-urticaria and she had to have cold showers for three weeks.

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At the end of every street was something of significance to see. All perfectly planned. The layers of dirt that clung to the stone walls of the buildings told stories of industry and trade, shipbuilding, engineering, and wealth.

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Sarah asked if this was a map for blind people. I love Sarah!

We ate our lunch at the magnificent Hutchesons (more on that soon) and marvelled at it’s splendour. The staff were lovely and they told us all about the history of the building, they also told us about Glasgow’s steepest hill. So, that was our next stop!

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I don’t think they were having us on, I think they got the name confused. It was not steep, it was a disappointment. Still, I did see a shop called Dumpling Monkey, and then Sarah told us they are going to get a dog called Glitter Fairy, so the mood was soon lifted.

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After popping back to the hotel to get ready, we headed off to Ashleigh’s party.

I was expecting a rave. There was a buffet and a stripper, I wasn’t expecting that.

When the stripper, dressed as a police man, came into the room I couldn’t help but turn my attention to the faces in the onlooking crowd. Women were laughing, Ashleigh’s husband Colin was almost hysterical, and the majority of the men were looking on in bewilderment – maybe taking mental notes.

The stripper man got Ashleigh to lay down  on the floor while he kind-of squatted over her. At one point he put a kilt on. I think this was something to do with Burns night.

As the evening went on I decided it was my duty to bust out my best moves for the benefit of others. I didn’t warm up properly and an over vigorous approach to the dance floor caused me the rather debilitating issue of a ruptured Achilles tendon. Next time I will do pre ‘running man’ lunges.

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On Sunday morning we had breakfast with Ashleigh and Colin, reminisced about banger times and laughed at Colin’s wonderful stories. He did offer us a tour of the local scrapyards, which I would have loved, but we wanted to save some treats for a return visit.

Our sightseeing tour of Glasgow not only included a non-steep, steep hill, but also a drive-by of the Irn Bru factory. I’d imagined something Wonka-esque, with tall orange chimneys and a sweet, sweet smell.

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Oh well! I’m sure it’s lovely inside.

After all that excitement it was time to come home… and go to the doctors with my extreme dance injury.

(I just googled Irn Bru and found this article in the Telegraph – Can Irn Bru really cure Ebola? The Scottish really do love that stuff!)

A Glasgow Weekend – Staying at Garfield House Hotel (1/2)

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Did you do anything special for Burns night? We went to Scotland.

Sounds like we were super organised and canny there, but I didn’t even realise until a couple of days before. We were heading up to Glasgow to help Ashleigh celebrate her 30th birthday in style – or something!

We picked Rob and Sarah up in Grimsby and went for lunch. A massive lunch, with all the chips in Lincolnshire. It was tiring, there was so much eating to do. Sarah had to have a power nap in the car.

As we drove into the clouds of Cumbria, Europe’s Final Countdown intermittently played on the radio. We we forced to fill in the gaps, and that was okay. The rain was so heavy there was nothing to see, not even the road.

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It was dark when we arrived at Garfield House Hotel. We checked in, dumped our bags in our rooms, and went down to the bar for a drink.

There were a few people in the main bar – slumped in their chairs, sitting upright, but not right. After further inspection we realised they were asleep and there hadn’t been a massacre so we went to the other bar and got a couple of drinks before opting for an early night.

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Our room was in the old part of the hotel. Tall ceilings, fancy plasterwork and big windows. A very large drum light shade hung from an ornate ceiling rose. The room was plenty spacious, warm and clean.

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Before I went to bed I found the biscuits. Shortbread. Result!

We slept well in the big soft bed, and then it was morning. There had been some kind of dusting of whiteness in the carpark. It looked bright and cold. Frost or snow.

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I was pleased to see that Garfield House Hotel had a good range of carpets, five beauties for me to add to my collection. Nice!

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Rob and Sarah met us downstairs for breakfast. We saw five snowflakes flutter past the window.

We’d missed the proper snow just a few days before, the lady on reception told me. I told her we came from a flat and snowless land. When I mentioned that we’d had to go to a dry ski-slope for sledging on Christmas Eve she laughed heartily.

With fingers crossed for proper snow, we headed out of the hotel, off into Glasgow in search of tartan and Irn Bru.

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Garfield House Hotel is situated in the Glasgow suburb of Stepps, just 8 miles outside the city centre.

The average rate for a double room (like the one we stayed in) is £96.90 per night, for two people, including breakfast.

Thanks to the Garfield House team for a great stay, and to their interior designers for decorating in lots of lovely grey! 

Do You Want to see Some Kittens?

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I knew it! Who can resist kittens hey? Not me. Although I didn’t bring any home… this time.

If you are worried that you will accidentally sign up for a new kitten, a dear little kitten who needs you, then look away now, because these three are very cute and you won’t be able to resist.

Thats right, look away.

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My friend Liz worked with the Cats Protection League for almost fifteen years, and she still does whatever she can, for all animals.

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These fluffy little boy cats turned up one day with the very timid tabby cat (the mummy cat) that Liz had been feeding outside her kitchen door.

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They are now about five months old, neutered, vaccinated, wormed, litter-trained, and really ready for new homes. Being long haired cats, the tabby two really need to be able to live inside, rather than as feral cats, as their lovely fur would get very matted and cause them lots of problems in the wild.

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I always thought feral kittens would be more stand-offish, and a bit scratchy. I was surprised…. they are so gentle, and even purr when they see you! I think Liz’s calm and kind approach to them has really helped.

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The little black witches cat is going to stay with Liz, he is so shy and fearful, and cuddles up close to her when she holds him. The two tabby chaps, who I am sure Liz told me are called Robert and Squirrel, are a little bit more outgoing though, and would make perfect pets, they really would.

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If you think you might have a nice, safe, friendly home for the tabby two, please do get in touch.

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Leave your email address and Liz will happily drop you a line.

The Legend of the Chelsea Bun & Other Stories

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I’ve been desperately trying to get to see the Silent Partners exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Last time I attempted it I didn’t get very far down the road, there was a boing and a jingle and half a front spring shot out from my wheel. So that put a damper on that… boom boom!

Today I got closer, much closer. Really close… to the CLOSED museum. Damn it! Now it looks like I am going to travel to Paris to see the show when it opens there in April (I wish!)

Still, it was okay. I had good company, excellent company, my friend Aoife.

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We popped into Fitzbillies, famed for it’s Chelsea Buns, it’s a proper Cambridge institution and I couldn’t wait to get inside.

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Behind the fabulous 1920’s facade with it’s magical art nouveau styling, is a more modern space,  simple, comfortable and welcoming, with the occasional quirky touch, and bustling with activity.

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People were chatting and laughing, the atmosphere was relaxed. We sat towards the back of the cafe, with a view of the kitchen and the specials boards. I ordered the ‘tart of the day’, a flavourful mushroom and red pepper tart, with amazing crispy, buttery, melt in the mouth pastry. At first I thought it didn’t look too big, but it was plenty filling and tasty too.

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Aoife had a steak sandwich and I did, at first, have a bit of food-envy when it arrived! Fitzbillies make their own speciality breads and look to use the best local and seasonal ingredients in everything they produce.

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We still had room for pudding, didn’t we? Probably not, but I really wanted to try a Fitzbillies Chelsea Bun. They are famous you know? They’re so popular and well loved that people order them from around the world. Seriously.

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The bun was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. A soft, sticky, delicious lump. I could smell the cinnamon in the air.

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We shared puddings, and good job too, because the Coconut Cake was also fabulous. So soft and fluffy, cool and milky.

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The legendary Chelsea Buns are made by Gill, head baker and guardian of the secret recipe. In the 42 years that Gill has been with Fitzbillies she’s made around two million buns. TWO MILLION BUNS. I had to bring a bun home for Adam, it would have been unfair not to.

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The food is simple and good, the setting is comfortable and relaxed, and the staff are genuine and friendly. There’s a real sense of pride and enthusiasm in everything they do. It was all good… I even found a lucky penny under my chair!

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Fitzbillies are so renowned for their cakes that customers sometimes don’t realise that they do dinners.

They do dinners?! I’m going back!

You can find Fitzbillies at 51-52 Trumpington Street, Cambridge.

If you like buns I strongly suggest you hurry there now… grab what you can (and bring it to me!)

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Thank you ever so much to Alison and the Fitzbillies team for having us as guests for lunch. As always, my opinions are my own, and I did all my own eating too! 

 

Otis the Cat & The Hare Arms

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Susie and I had our lunch at The Hare Arms the other day. It was my choice. Last time I left Susie in charge of lunch venues she tried to take me to a truck stop and a nudist caravan site, all in one day.

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I feel like a bit of a regular at The Hare Arms. I have my favourite lunch, the mushroom and stilton ciabatta, and I like to sit in the conservatory, (which is, coincidentally, made by the same people as the one on our house), so I can keep an eye out for chickens, peacocks and Otis the cat.

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Everyone loves Otis!

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I remember the first time I visited The Hare Arms. It was Adam’s birthday and we met up with some friends in the garden there. It was peaceful and serene, the sun was shining. Two fabulous peacocks sauntered down the road, swaying their magnificent plumage from side to side. The next thing we knew, Adam had jumped up from the picnic bench, leapt over the chunky hedge, and was chasing them down the road! Turns out, one of them had dropped a couple of feathers and he was on a mission to retrieve them. No birds were hurt.

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The Hare Arms is rammed full of all sorts of weird and wonderful things. All the things. Everywhere.

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You might think The Hare Arms is in the middle of nowhere, and it kind of is, but the beautiful village of Stow Bardolph is well worth a visit. Although small, it has so much going for it and a really tangible sense of it’s history. Visit the Stow Hall Gardens, pop to Church Farm and/or get slightly unnerved in my favourite church, which I have written about before, here. 

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That reminds me, I must get my piano accordion out!