Thursday, 14 January 2016

Eats | Delrio's Restaurant, York

For a Christmas meal with some old work colleagues, we recently headed to Delrio's, a Sardinian restaurant in York. Set in a basement, the restaurant is deceptively large but full of romantic nooks and alcoves, perfect for a special date or for a larger party. 

The menu is varied - covering everything from traditional pizza to specialities of the chef - so there is plenty to choose from. I began with the Beef Carpaccio and rocket salad, which was very nice (apologies for the picture below - this was taken after I had dowsed the whole thing with balsamic vinegar, which is my favourite addition to this dish). I then had the beef stroganoff with rice, which was rich, flavoursome and generous in portion size. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Others had a variety of pizzas and I was particularly recommended the seafood pizza by a fellow diner.

The restaurant is always busy and has a great atmosphere. I can't comment on the desserts as we didn't partake, but we were served well, wine was free flowing, and a pleasant evening was had by all. As ever, menu choices dictate cost - my stroganoff was almost twice the price of my friend's pizza - so it is a special occasion place, definitely. 

Booking recommended as it gets busy, but definitely one worth checking out.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Stays | The Negresco Hotel, Nice, France

On our recent trip to France we took the train from Paris down to Nice. Although it was November, the temperature was a pleasant 17 degrees and we benefited from avoiding most of the Riviera crowds. We were also able to spend a lot of less to pay to stay in what is arguable the most iconic hotel in Nice, the Negresco.

Situated on the Promenade des Anglais, the hotel is a belle epoque masterpiece, which is essentially a private art museum as well as a hotel. Each room, corridor and bar was filled with artwork, ranging from Napoleonic portraiture to some very bewildering modern sculpture. It was amazing to simply walk round the place (we visited each floor of the hotel as they are all a different theme) and admire the place. 

Our room was very beautiful. We had paid only for an inside room but due to the lack of guests, the hotel kindly upgraded up twice, to a room on the front of the hotel overlooking the whole beach and Promenade. The view was spectacular and a real highlight of the trip. The room itself was spacious and comfortable, if slightly eccentrically furnished (notably the golden bathtub and sink). 

Breakfast was a generous buffet with hot, cold, French, British and American style options, and the restaurant Brasserie on site was filled with courteous waiters. The staff of the hotel were friendly and very willing, at all hours, to assist you. 

This hotel was an amazing experience; it was a great base for exploring Nice during a very celebratory holiday, and I would love to go back.

Resolutions and Plans | 2016

It's a few days into a new year and it's the time when think about what we would like to achieve or focus on in the coming months. 

I am not one for resolutions really (I am not good at keeping them for a start) but I thought I'd write a little post about my plans for the next year and what I would like to focus on.

  1. Improve my French. Having been to France last year again, it reminded me that my French is passable for an embarrassed tourist but not for anyone who wants to feel comfortable. I would like to use some of my spare time to keep up with my French, perhaps with books, watching some of my favourite French films or using an app like Duolingo to keep my hand in.
  2. Make time for reading. My GoodReads challenge for 2016 has been set at 75 books. Ambitious for me, but I wanted to see if I could do it.
  3. Make time for family. I live away from much of my family and so I do not get to see them as much as I would like. In 2016 I want to make a concerted effort to get together if possible, and not just via FaceTime.
  4. Go on a couple of trips away from home. I am a keen traveller but with a fairly tight budget this year (see below) and not much time off work, I have to choose wisely. At the moment some plans are in motion for potential trips to Scotland and Portugal. Watch this space.
  5. Save some money. This one should be on everyone's list but is particularly important to me at the moment as I recently got engaged and so am now making wedding plans. I am hoping to put away a reasonable amount of my salary each month without too much difficulty - especially when I know it will be for paying for a wedding and a honeymoon.
  6. Make plans for a wedding. See above - though I confess at the moment it seems like a mammoth task and probably one which won't happen until we have some idea of a budget. Any tips welcome.
  7. Exercise. I work a long day at an office desk and very rarely find time to even get up for a walk around the room, so this one is pretty crucial. I am not proposing I will become a fitness fanatic, but I want to walk (maybe even run) more and swim when I am able. 
  8. Look after myself a bit more. This is rather an all encompassing plan or goal for the year, I know, but I think amidst all my plans of action this coming year, it will be important to take some time out to make sure I look after my emotional health. Whether that means some time in the bath with a face mask, or watching book tubers videos, or sitting in Starbucks, drinking an enormous, full fat Hot Chocolate, I promise to remember to give myself down time in the coming year.
I'd love to hear about other people's aims/resolutions/thoughts/plans for the coming year, so please let me know below.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

What I've Been Reading | December 2015

I had a really productive reading month in December, which was mostly down to a long Christmas period off work after a busier early month, quiet evenings and some serious reading time on my part. I am pleased to say I read a total of 64 books in 2015.

As a side note, if anyone wants to follow me on GoodReads, please go for it.

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith was a retelling which was leant to me by a friend. I have always enjoyed the original Emma and so, after this sitting on my shelf for a while, decided to try this out. It didn't take long to read and to be honest, I am glad it was a quick one. I found a lot of the characters irritating and the retelling style not really to my taste. The principal issue for me was that Emma Woodhouse, in Austen's original, is proud, thoughtless and arrogant - but still kind, generous and loving. The Emma Woodhouse in Smith's retelling has none of those redeeming qualities as as such, you cannot love her even after her redemption, let alone before. For die hard fans, this might be worth it - but if you're choosing between the novels, please, please, choose Austen.

I then moved onto historical fiction with The Captive Queen by Alison Weir - another I had borrowed, this time from my Mum. The story revolves around Eleanor of Aquitaine, a Duchess in her own right and Queen, at different times, of both France and England. The story follows her from her disastrous marriage to the King of France to her subsequent divorce and love match with Henry Plantagenet, who subsequently becomes Henry IV of England. It is a long ride which decides very much to portray Eleanor as a powerful woman in her own right, although often ruled by passion. This physical aspect of the book can be a bit trying but nonetheless becomes more poignant as Henry and Eleanor's relationship develops and they become estranged. The story is engaging and you trust that, with Weir at the helm, the historical accuracy is going to be reasonable. I would describe this as an 'intelligent historical romp'.

Moving onto crime, I then picked up The Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson, which is one of her latest books in the series based around Josephine Tey. Set predominantly in the Suffolk countryside and using a history murder, The Red Barn Murder, as a basis for the book's story, I found this novel much more engaging than the previous ones I have picked up in the series. It was an easy and engaging read, with some interesting twists and turns, particularly at the end, which stayed with me after I had finished.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas followed, as I was keen to finish up to the end of this series as it currently stands, before the end of the year. I have enjoyed seeing how this series has grown and flourished, providing greater scopes for character growth, world building and a sense of a climax ahead. I don't know how many more books there will be in this series but I look forward to the next. An entertaining, easy fantasy read.

My final printed choice this month was a non fiction book I have had on my shelves for a few months but not had the time to read it. Burghley by Stephen Alford is a biography of William Cecil, Secretary and later Lord Treasurer to Elizabeth I of England. Having studied Elizabethan politics quite a lot when I was at university, I always loved Cecil and was very happy to engage with a book which focussed on his life. Alford's approach was interesting and offered some new perspectives on Cecil, particularly a greater insight into his home life that I have found in previous books. This isn't one to read if you are unfamiliar with the reign of Elizabeth I - several important events were glossed over, with an understanding that the reader would know the details, characters and outcome - but if you are an aficionado and interested in reading more about the life of this government minister, I recommend this one highly.

Finally, on the audiobook side, in December I listened to The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue. A collection of short stories, mostly historical, inspired by women from history - this sounded right up my alley. The collection is diverse by permeated with Donoghue's writing style; a style I find at times compelling and at others irritating. Such was the case with this collection, which did lend itself well to audiobook form. Some of the stories were easily forgotten, even seemingly a little pointless; others were thoughtful, emotionally engaging and occasionally disturbing. One story - entitled 'Cured' - I made the mistake of listening to late at night. Without giving too much away, it is about a woman who goes to a doctor for treatment for her back pain. The twist in the story left me gasping with horror and that story has stayed with me ever since. However, this was a rarity in this collection. Others may feel differently, but it wasn't for me.

Eats | Khao San Road, York

The other night we went for a seriously delicious Thai dinner with a couple of friends. 

Not pictured; amazing spring rolls and coconut tempura prawns for starters, some excellent beer/mango juice and a buzzing atmosphere. 

Pictured; 2 thai red curries, 1 duck curry with a creamy sauce, and 1 king prawn Pad Thai. All very delicious. 

The Khao San Road is not mind blowing food and it isn't always cheap; our meal came to £25 each. However, it is always full of people, the staff are friendly and the fare is tasty. Try it out.