Sunday, 13 September 2015

Stays | Aldwark Manor Golf and Spa Hotel, York

Recently Alan and I treated ourselves to a nice spa break at a hotel about 25 minutes drive from York - Aldwark Manor Golf and Spa Hotel. We booked a package which included a 1 night stay, lunch, dinner, breakfast, access to the spa and a 1 hour treatment each. 

Set in a Victorian mansion, the hotel featured 3 lounges, 1 restaurant and a set of spa facilities which included a pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna and lots of treatment rooms. We tried out the pool and jacuzzi on our first day and really enjoyed it. A light lunch was provided which was served in a bento box, which included a chicken wrap, crudités with hummus, a noodle salad, fruit and a little brownie and cream (perfect for my sweet tooth).

After lunch we both headed off to our individual treatments; I had a neck, shoulder and scalp massage (divine) followed by a lower leg and foot exfoliation and massage (a touch more painful but so good for my circulation). Afterwards I was shown into a warm and quiet 'relaxation room', where I spent a wonderful 20 minutes feeling the after effects of my massage and reading the Sunday Times Travel Magazine - dreamy.

Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the spa facilities so apologies for that, but it was a nice comfortable and clean area. Only suggestion would be that the lounge next to the pool needed a few more sofas.

Our room was a comfortable king size, with a good bathroom, 3 chairs, and a pretty view. We were surprised to come to our room and discover a complimentary bottle of prosecco had been provided, which we enjoyed in the quiet time before our dinner. 

We enjoyed a nice dinner in the Brasserie, for which I have done a separate review. Watch this space for that.

After we checked out the following morning (nourished by a pleasant buffet breakfast featuring lots of hot and cold options) we continued to enjoy the spa facilities and the lounges for a couple of hours before heading home. Just before we left there was a fire drill, and I can only be thankful as we stood out in the car park for 5 minutes that I was not in the pool at the time!

Aldwark Manor is a nice little hotel which offers a good set of package deals for 1 night breaks. I do not think we would have stayed any longer than we did, purely because, as a result of the golf course, there is very little outside space which is available for guests to stroll through. We like a good country stroll, Alan and I, and could have done with one to work off some of the indulgent food we had. 

Still, for the package above (which cost £109 each), it was worth it. Recommended.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Eats | Cote Brasserie, York

For a generous, French style brasserie lunch, I recently decided to try out the Cote Brasserie in York. The restaurant does a set menu at certain times but we were taking out choices from the a la carte.

Decor is minimalist, with slight art deco touches by simple and clean. The most beautiful aspect of the restaurant was definitely the lovely tiled floor.

To begin my dining companion had the chicken liver parfait, which came with toasted brioche and a fine chutney. I sampled the calamari, which came with a tartare sauce. I can report that the calamari was cooked well, not too chewy, and the batter was actually flavoursome, with tastes of herbs and slight citrus - a detail often missing from other calamari dishes and much appreciated here.

For main course I had moules frites, which was good quality, lots of mussels and a good sauce. The frites were also crisp and well seasoned. My dining partner had the fish stew, which he told me was pleasant but not as rich as he had expected - he had had better, in other words, but couldn't point out any negative aspects to this stew.

We enjoyed our meal and accompanied it with a nice bottle of Bordeaux. Service was friendly and attentive, although it was quiet when we were there.

This meal wasn't cheap - it came to around £65 for both of us - so I would probably not eat here very often given that it is, essentially, a brasserie. I'd be interested in giving the set menu a go though. 

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Eats | Gatehouse Coffee, Walmgate Bar, York

It was August Bank Holiday Monday in Britain - so of course it was raining. I wanted to go somewhere cozy to begin reading a history tome, and as I was strolling along I saw a sign for a coffee shop, set in the gatehouse of the ancient city walls of York. I made the decision to go and check it out.

I think the best way to describe the atmosphere and decor in this lovely, friendly little place was 'Gryffindor Common Room'. Essentially, it was a coffee shop inside an ancient castle. It was full of little nooks of seating and eclectic furniture. It even had a terrace area on top of the gatehouse, but due to the rain this was closed.

I had a hot cocoa with cream and marshmallows, with a mini brownie. It was all brought to me in my little reading nook and I was delighted to discover that the brownie had been heated to gently melting deliciousness. So delighted was I that I proceeded to have 2 more brownies after that. After all, for 30p each, who can complain? The hot chocolate was also very good and the range of teas and coffees looked broad, if you are a tea/coffee drinker.

This was a wonderful place to spend a rainy afternoon, so much so that I hesitate to tell anyone about it in case it gets too popular. Nevertheless, go and check it out - take a book or a friend and get cozy.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

What I've Been Reading (II) | August 2015

Another few books that I have had the pleasure of reading this month, as we welcome in September! Two were from the library and one was a loan from another blogger, for whom I did a guest review. See below for details.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

I have been lusting after another of Knisley's books on Amazon - 'Displacement' - so I was pleased to find this one in the library for me to have a taster. French Milk is a graphic memoir which follows the author and her mother on a month long trip to Paris for significant birthdays. What follows is a commentary on the French city, particularly focussed on the art and the food (clearly both beloved topics of the author). Being a fan of Guy Delisle's travelogues, I expected to enjoy Knisley's work in a similar manner, and I did. It was not as polished as Delisle, and perhaps that detracted a little from my enjoyment; however, the style of drawing and writing was pleasing and I hope to look for others of hers in the future. 

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

This novel was also from the library and I picked it up as I am a sucker for historical fiction and have read all the previous books in this series, called The Cousins War, which is set during the English Wars of the Roses and follows significant royal and aristocratic women of the period. The White Princess focusses on Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and wife of Henry VII. The story takes place after the Battle of Bosworth and the defeat of Richard III, when Henry VII becomes king and claims Elizabeth as his bride, to 'unite' the Lancaster and York factions of the country. As ever, Gregory is able to weave a consistent narrative around actual events whilst holding to her own interpretation of character's motives. This series (which begins with The White Queen) remains an enjoyable read, for those who know the period and those who need an introduction - especially those who appreciate a female perspective on an essential male dominated world.

Abraham Lincoln: Pocket Giants by Adam I P Smith

I was kindly asked by HistoryASM to review this book and I provided a guest review which can be read here. An excellent introduction and overview of Abraham Lincoln's life, this book was short, informative and well written.