Brodsworth Hall and Gardens

We’ve had some fabulous weather lately, and there is nothing like sun and blue skies to get us to venture to new places. A few weeks back on a particularly beautiful day, we decided to take advantage of our English Heritage membership and visit Brodsworth Hall and Gardens in Doncaster.

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I am by no means a gardener – that’s become a hobby of Richard’s – but I can definitely appreciate a beautiful garden when I see one and Brodsworth Hall boasts a number of unique gardens. Each of the gardens has its own style and is home to a variety of flowers without much repetition in flower types amongst the gardens.

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The hall is set on 15 acres, and it is an easy walk around the grounds. There is also a nice playground on the grounds, which our girl was keen to find. Some of the play equipment was a bit too big for her, but she always manages to have fun and that day was no different.

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After some play time, we walked up to the house for some lunch. With the weather as it was, we enjoyed our food al fresco in the outdoor dining area just off the tearoom. There was a range of hot and cold food on offer, and we all found our sandwiches to be delicious.

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We decided to walk around the grounds a bit more and allow our girl to stretch her legs. She also had a fun time playing hide-and-seek with us amongst the trees and bushes. The West Lawns are a great place for kids to run. On that day, they had an area set up for croquet complete with mallets and balls.

It was great to visit a new place and to see so many families spending the day together in the sunshine!

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Our Quick Visit to Lake Windermere

This summer, we attended a wedding that I was told was in the Lake District. Yet, when I mentioned to a friend that we were going to this wedding in “The Lakes,” she asked where in the Lakes, and I replied with, “Carlisle.” It was then, after months of thinking I was finally going to visit this beautiful part of the country, that I realized I had been had. Carlisle is not in the Lakes. (I should mention though that the wedding, although not in the Lakes, was stunning and romantic. We stayed in a log cabin along the River Lyne with some of our best friends and had an incredible weekend!)

Lucky for me though, we decided to do an overnight visit to the Lake District over the Christmas break. We booked into the Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa on Lake Windermere for the night of our anniversary.

In the month or so leading up to our stay, there was a lot of flooding in the Lake District. It was devastating for the area. I half wondered if the flooding was going to reoccur because of the incredible amount of rain we had around Christmas and Boxing Day, but the weather report for the 29th of December was clear so we headed north on the day.

Funnily enough, my former boss and mentor from college was returning from the Lakes as we were heading there, so we met her, her husband, and two of their friends at Low Sizergh Barn, a farm shop and tea room not far from Lake Windermere. It was so great to see them again and to have them finally meet Richard! (The girl and I took the train to Liverpool in July 2014 during one of their visits to see family, so they loved seeing how much our girl had grown since then.) It always makes me happy when my life in the US collides with my life in the UK, and this meet up was wonderful. It didn’t hurt that we had a lovely lunch to go with the conversation. I only wish we had more time with them – next time!

We parted with lots of hugs and ‘see you soons’ and continued on our way for another 20 minutes until we reached the town of Bowness-on-Windermere. As we drove in, we could not get over just how many tourists there were in the town. The temperature was mild yet getting colder and there was no sun to be seen, but the town was certainly bustling.

After we checked into the hotel, we put our girl in the backpack and ventured out for a walk. We walked along the lake for a bit and then turned back to head into the town for a little nosey in the shops. I love towns and villages like Bowness with their narrow streets and range of shops. There were a few Beatrix Potter-themed places (as she penned her stories in the area), independent shops, chain stores like Joules and Fat Face as well as a mix of restaurants and cafes. We enjoyed our wander, even treating ourselves with a few items from the after Christmas sales.

We had booked into the restaurant in the Old England for dinner that night. Being that we had our girl with us, we chose to book for as soon as they began serving the evening meal, which was 6:30 PM. We arrived and were the first guests there. Our arrival was followed shortly by an older couple who appeared to be regulars at the hotel and restaurant. Our table was great as we were against the windows and in the corner. (Too bad it was dark out or we would have had a spectacular view of the lake!)

The regular menu had some excellent options for us and the children’s menu had macaroni and cheese, which made our sweet girl happy. Our food was delicious. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our food choices. However, the service was lacking. I was really disappointed to see a place with so much staff seem to forget that we even existed. Our starters came within a reasonable amount of time, but once those plates were cleared, there was no sign of more food coming our way. After I noticed that the older couple who came in after us was leaving after eating a two-course meal, I managed to get the attention of a server and ask if our mains were ready. A couple of apologies later and our mains were delivered to our table. Our girl was getting tired at this point, so we finished our food and chose to return to the room to order dessert from the room service menu.

The room we were in was very nice and spacious and looked out onto Lake Windermere. The bed was comfortable and the shower had excellent water pressure. (A huge plus in my book.)

After a good night of sleep, we woke up to driving wind and rain. Over a delicious breakfast in the hotel, we discussed our plans for the day. A walk was just not on the cards because of the weather, so we decided that we would check out and head north to drive the full loop of the lake making stops as and when we pleased. We soon set off to be encountered by puddles the size of ponds across the road in a couple of places. We had visions of more flooding as this rain was not letting up and chose to make the drive home instead. Our trip was cut short, but it was still nice for the three of us to get away and see a different part of the country.

As we drove away, I found myself thinking about the chapter in Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. Not only did I have a good chuckle thinking about him walking into the residents’ lounge of the Old England Hotel to find it “casually strewn with ageing colonels and their wives,” but also about the conversation that followed when one of the said wives took it upon herself to discuss all of the shortcomings of America only once she realized that he hailed from the U.S.

There was one especially poignant part that struck me, even after such a quick visit to the region. It was when Mr. Bryson discussed the relatively small budget that the Lake District National Park has to function on each year. He wrote, “That the Lakes are so generally wonderful, so scrupulously maintained, so seldom troubling to mind and spirit is a ringing testament to the people who work in them, the people who live in them and the people who use them.” 

And even after the area had experienced such extreme flooding, this statement hit me especially hard to witness this beautiful area thriving and recovering because of the people who love it so.

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(I only wish I had some photos to show that do it justice. However, the measly 4 pictures that I took are quite depressing. I’m not sure what I was doing with the camera that day, but it clearly wasn’t working!)

 

 

A Magnificent Day in Malham

This past weekend was Richard’s birthday, so we decided to have a family day out since the weather was to be nice. We brainstormed, and I did some Google searches when I stumbled upon a walk to a waterfall in Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. I mentioned it to Richard and he said, “I was going to suggest Malham!” He had been before on a school trip when he was 17 and I have never been, so we were both looking forward to a family hike and enjoying the sunshine.

We set off on Saturday morning and decided to keep an eye out for a place that sells sandwiches that we could take on our hike for a picnic. We were getting close to Malham when Richard spotted Town End Farm Shop, so we swung in and ordered some simple sandwiches to go. It was such a cute little place with a tea room that was packed to the brim with cyclists stopping for a quick refuel. The three of us shared some delicious homemade granola bars whilst we waited. As you can tell from the photo below, our girl particularly enjoyed the one with walnuts with chocolate.

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Arriving in Malham we came across a line of cars already parked on the roadside, so we pulled in behind them. There is a sign stating that parking in the village is free however they ask for a £1 donation into the giant milk jug. We were happy to oblige for a prime parking spot. If there is no roadside parking available, there are a couple of car parks in the village although I’m unsure if they charge for parking.

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Whilst at the farm shop, Richard picked up a brochure with a few walks around Malham. We found one that went to Malham Cove as well as Janet’s Foss, the waterfall that I had seen online. It was roughly 4.5 miles long, which was perfect for us. We set off toward Malham Cove and it’s quite an impressive limestone wall as you approach it. The cove along with the cows in the vibrant green field and the beautiful stream make it truly an idyllic site.

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The walk then took us up the hillside to the top of the cove into a field of limestone flags. From there, we could see for miles – some of the best views in Yorkshire for sure! The directions on the map were a bit mysterious, so we ended up needing to backtrack a bit and managed to get back on course. It was all fine though as we were so enjoying the weather and being together. Our sweet girl is a connoisseur of animal noises at the moment, so the theme tune to our walk was compromised of her humming, moo-ing, and baa-ing. It kept us laughing and smiling the entire way!

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Once we got to the bottom near Gordale Scar, we grabbed a seat in the grass and enjoyed our sandwiches. They were the simplest sandwiches, but they tasted so good after all of that walking. Our girl finished her lunch and decided she would set off on her own adventure. We sat and watched her wander around as other walkers gave us little smiles when they spotted her enjoying her walk. I love that she brings joy to nearly everyone who sees her.

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Once we rounded her up, we decided not to go further into Gordale Scar and instead turned around to grab ice creams from the refreshment van parked along the roadside. It was the perfect treat to continue the birthday celebrations of our favorite guy.

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We then set off again in search of the waterfall, Janet’s Foss. I thought we still had a bit further to walk, but it was more or less across the road and through the trees! It was beautiful and there was quite a crowd gathered around the waterfall soaking up the day in the shade of the trees. We enjoyed the rest of the walk through the beautifully lush forest before it ended on a trail through some fields leading us back into the village.

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I’d love to go back and check out the village as well because it looks adorably quaint. We really enjoyed our family day celebrating Richard’s birthday walking around Malham. I’d definitely recommend a visit to the area as it truly is stunning!

Back to Sherwood Forest

A few weekends ago, we went to CenterParcs in Nottingham with Richard’s side of the family. It was the third time in as many years that he and I have visited the lovely holiday resort. This time though, we stayed in one of the Exclusive Games Lodges, and it was amazing! It was the perfect size as there were 6 adults and 2 little ones in our group. It had four bedrooms all with en-suite bathrooms, a full kitchen, dining area, and a lounge with fireplace. The best parts though were the games room with pool table and giant beanbag chairs, the massive outdoor hot tub, the sauna, and the steam room. It was nice to have so much space and not have to tip toe around since the little babes were with us and went to bed early.

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(I was so busy enjoying time with my family that I didn’t take many photos. However, I blogged about CenterParcs Sherwood Forest one other time and there are some photos there.) 

As I mentioned in my first post about CenterParcs from 2012, you are only permitted to drive through the resort during check-in and check-out times, which makes it a great place for families. Kids can ride bikes and scooters on the road or you can push a pram without constantly dodging cars. We enjoyed a lot of walking during the weekend bundled up against the cold.

On the day we arrived, we went for a swim in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The swimming area is really great with the pool, rapids, water slides, kiddie pools, and hot tubs. If you plan to spend the day swimming, there is a cafe inside as well, so you don’t have to worry about leaving. It is a fabulous set up. We had a great time swimming with our girl. I take her swimming once a week, so I think she loved having her daddy there because she did not stop smiling and giggling the entire time. We spent most of our time in the big pool, but also checked out the kiddie pool. She kept trying to crawl in the water and had us cracking up because her legs would float not allowing her to get far at all.

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That evening, after she went to sleep, Richard and I snuck away for a meal at Rajinda Pradesh, which serves Indian food. We’d eaten here last year and enjoyed it, so decided to make a date of it this year. If you go to CenterParcs, I would definitely recommend this restaurant. (And maybe stay away from the Viognier on the wine list…it was quite possibly the strongest wine I have ever had and I was feeling tipsy after a half of a glass!)

On Saturday, the three of us went for brunch at The Pancake House on the lake. I had a nice stack of American pancakes with a side of crispy bacon. Just like home! That heavy meal was followed by me taking a yoga class. It was nice to have a little bit of me time and get a nice stretch in during our weekend away. The afternoon was spent relaxing in the hot tub and hanging out around the lodge. That evening, all eight of us went for a meal together at Cafe Rouge. When we got back to the lodge, we played poker and Richard came out on top winning us a little pot of money!

Sunday was also relaxed with a game of bowling and more swimming. We ended the evening with a walk to pick up some takeaway and enjoyed our pizza on the sofa watching television. It was the perfect finish to an enjoyable and relaxing weekend with family.

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I really recommend CenterParcs to anyone. We’ve been with and without kids and had fun during all of our trips. It’s a nice place to getaway without having to go far from home. Definitely consider it as an option if you are looking for a weekend away within the UK!

To Londontown We Went

Last year, during the last weekend in October, Richard and I went to London for our last getaway before our baby was due. This year, unknowingly, we booked the same weekend for the three of us to travel down south for a couple of days in our favorite city. In 2013, we had no idea what we were in for with a baby on the way, but I do know we hoped she would be an easy traveler and that she would just go with the flow. So far, she has proved to be an awesome addition to our travels – both near and far!

We had no real plans for our time in London aside from taking her to Hamley’s and Harrods to check out the toys. She is extremely curious about everything around her, so we were both excited to see how she would react to these two places full of sensory overload. If we had to do it again, we would skip Hamley’s. It was just too crowded.

Harrods toy department, on the other hand, was really enjoyable and just the right amount of hectic. It probably also helped that we got there just as it opened on Sunday, so we avoided a lot of the normal tourist onslaught. Our little lady loved looking around at everything there was to see, and we loved gawking at some of the crazy (expensive) gifts on offer. We actually found her Christmas gift there, which we think she will really enjoy.

After we left the toy shop, we wandered around the children’s clothing department and happened to notice The Disney Café. It was lunch time, so we thought we would give it a go. We really enjoyed it! The food was top notch, which we had expected from a restaurant in Harrods. The girl had a ham and cheese toastie cut into the shape of Mickey Mouse, Richard had a savoury crepe, and I had the mini cheeseburgers (and I was pleasantly surprised when the server asked how I would like them to be cooked). And, imagine my surprise when Richard ordered us a bottle of wine! It was such a nice lunch, and we loved watching our girl (wearing Minnie Mouse ears!) chomp away at her toastie whilst looking around at all of the older kids. She was in her element for sure!

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After leaving Harrods we walked towards Hyde Park Corner to Buckingham Palace and on to St James’s Park. We stopped in St James’s Park because it was time for the girl to be fed. (Yes, she had just eaten, but sister needed her milk!) I plopped down to feed her underneath some fabulous towering trees. When she finished I sat her next to me in the leaves and she was amazed by them. She examined them and played for awhile, and it was fun to just see her taking in the textures and the colors of the leaves. Richard would pick up bunches of leaves and throw them up in the air, which absolutely amused her!

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After leaving the park, we headed to Westminster and crossed the Thames at Westminster Bridge to the Southbank. There is a carousel on the Southbank, so Richard took the girl for a ride. She was unsure when they first sat down on the horse, but after a thorough inspection, she smiled big whilst pointing directly at me stood along the side. (Someone had to look after the pram and our shopping!) She seemed to absolutely love the ride, and Richard laughed the entire way around. And me? I could not stop smiling! I love those unexpected moments that we share when we are all together.

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After the carousel ride, we decided it was time to call it a day (plus we had to get back to watch the Strictly Come Dancing results), so we set off walking back to Islington. Once we were near the hotel, I happened to spot an advertisement for Chipotle, and it was all I could think about since it has been ages since I’ve had anything remotely resembling decent Mexican food. We located said restaurant and grabbed takeaway to enjoy in the comforts of our hotel room. The day ended with us plopped on the bed in comfy clothes chowing down on delicious burritos and chips and salsa.

That weekend was made up of so many little moments that were completely unplanned. We smiled a lot and laughed hard and introduced our daughter to a number of new places and experiences. I don’t think either of us could have anticipated how much joy we would get from observing our daughter absorb the world around her. It was great to slow down and really watch her take everything in. This trip allowed us to look back on where we were a year ago – full of wonder about what our daughter would be like and what we would be like as parents – and realize that we are living our life as a family of three in the best way that we know how. And, in my mind, that is a great way to be.

I’m hopeful that we now potentially have a new family tradition of spending an October weekend in London! (What do you think, Richard?)

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Frightwater!

Growing up, although Halloween was enthusiastically celebrated by my friends, it was never a holiday that excited me. However, as our girl is growing up in England where Halloween is more of an up-and-coming holiday, a certain part of me is keen to make sure she has the opportunity to experience many traditions that I grew up with in the US. She’s still a bit too young to understand exactly what is going on, but this past Saturday, we ventured to Lightwater Valley Theme Park in Ripon for some Halloween festivities.

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The theme park transforms into Frightwater Valley for the Halloween weekend. A lot of the park is decked out in Halloween decor and the staff contribute to the atmosphere by dressing up or painting their faces. There are a number of additional Halloween-themed attractions just for the weekend like the Live Scare Maze and the UV Monster Puppet Show. A few of the attractions didn’t open until after 3 PM and some aren’t suitable for an 11-month old, so we couldn’t check them all out, but we could still enjoy some of the walks and the actors that took their roles seriously as zombies/creepy people.

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Richard and I are major wimps when it comes to scary movies, haunted houses, and the like, so that part of me is glad we weren’t able to ride the haunted train and venture into the haunted forest maze, but I do wish we could have experienced them so I could give a proper review of all of Frightwater. Maybe next year! It was funny to watch our girl look at some of the Halloween decorations and the actors walking aimlessly with blank looks on their faces. You could tell she was trying to process it all, but it just wasn’t making sense!

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We were happy to be able to experience Lightwater Valley as a family and to take the little one on some of the rides. We enjoyed the Lightwater Express train ride around the park, Eagle’s Creek Farm in which you ride in tractors around a little farmyard with a variety of animals in it, and the Lightwater Wheel. We did plan to take her on some more rides, but when Richard went to take her out of her stroller, she was completely zonked out! So, that idea was short-lived and instead we walked around and enjoyed the day. Richard did ride The Ultimate, which is Europe’s longest roller coaster, and thought it was great. We also enjoyed wandering through Lightwater Valley Falconry, which is home to a number of birds of prey and some reptiles, ferrets, and rabbits as well. It was amazing to see some of these gorgeous birds up close.

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Of course, my American mind pictured a massive amusement park similar to Six Flags or Busch Gardens right off the motorway, but I was pleasantly surprised at the manageable size of Lightwater Valley and its beautiful rural setting. As a theme park, it is a good blend of rides that has something for everyone from our young daughter to those seeking something more thrilling. Being spread across the gorgeous grounds makes it feel as if you aren’t constantly fighting crowds. We really lucked out with the weather whilst we were there, and it must have made for a great last weekend of their regular season.

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I’d definitely recommend Lightwater Valley for a family day out. I’d also recommend what I saw of Frightwater. Lightwater Valley is closed for the season, but they do have a few special event weekends coming up, such as Meet the Gruffalo and the Santa Experience. It is a place to definitely keep in mind if you are looking for a day out with the family!

Our tickets to the park were kindly provided to us by Lightwater Valley for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Big thanks to Lightwater Valley for a fun day out with my two favorite people!

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Ox Pasture Hall Hotel: All of The Food!

Not only did we enjoy the hotel and the property at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, but we were extremely impressed with the food. When you read this post, you will think that all we did was eat…and well, it is sort of true! We were spoiled with afternoon tea, an evening meal, and breakfast the next morning. All of which were delightful.

After a visit to Scarborough, we headed to the hotel as we were booked to have afternoon tea at 3 PM. (Booking is required for afternoon tea.) We weren’t exactly sure where tea was served, so we asked Lynsey at the front desk and she told us we were welcome to be seated in the lounge. The lounge boasts a couple of leather sofas, and we cozied up on the larger of the two as we waited for our tea. We browsed some photo albums of weddings held at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel when Lynsey appeared with two glasses of fizz for us to enjoy! It was a welcome treat after being pounded by the wind on the seafront.

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Next, out came our tray of scones, sandwiches, and miniature desserts. It was presented nicely on the traditional three-tiered tray. We tucked into the sandwiches whilst waiting for our tea to be served. The sandwich selection included roast beef, prawn with Marie Rose sauce, and brie with chutney. Richard raved about the prawn sandwich. We both liked the roast beef sandwiches. However, Richard doesn’t like soft cheeses, so I ate the brie with chutney sandwiches. The selection was a bit different than the traditional choices, but they were nice.

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Our next course had us enjoying scones with absolutely delicious and silky clotted cream with our choice of jam. I’m a clotted cream enthusiast and Richard realized he is as well, so we constantly found ourselves adding more and more to our scones. With the scones demolished, Richard dove right in to the mini desserts whilst I took a little breather. There were two of each of these allowing us to indulge in lemon cheesecake, a fudge-y brownie with pistachios, parkin, and a chocolate cake with icing. I most enjoyed the brownie and the cheesecake. The cake and its icing were a bit too sweet for me. Richard had both his and my slice of parkin, so I’d say that must have been good! All in all, we enjoyed our afternoon tea and having a relaxing afternoon in the lounge at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

The second food experience we had was the evening meal. We ended up pushing our booking back from 7:30 to 8:15 for two reasons:  1) the afternoon tea left us feeling quite full and 2) the results show for Strictly Come Dancing finished just before 8. Priorities, people! We were slightly early, so we wandered to the bar in The Bistro. We were both planning to order a drink, but before we knew it, the bartender asked our room number and suggested we take a seat on one of the sofas in front of the fireplace before bringing us two glasses of prosecco whilst we perused the menu. We both commented on how we really like it when restaurants give you an opportunity to sit in the bar and have a drink whilst you leisurely look over the menu and place your order for starters and mains before being seated at your table.

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Although you can eat in The Bistro, we were having our meal in the Courtyard Restaurant. The Courtyard Restaurant has been awarded 2 rosettes for culinary excellence and is listed in the Michelin guide as a recommended restaurant, so we were both very much looking forward to this meal. Once we were seated at our table, the waiter brought us an amuse bouche of a delicious tomato bisque. He also came around with the bread basket, and we both opted for a slice of the fruit and nut loaf that tasted like it was fresh from the oven. And, the best part was the pats of butter on the table that were perfectly room temperature to top the bread.

For our starters I went with the Ham, Egg, Peas, which is a mini ham hock with pea mousse and a slice of a a hard-boiled quail egg. It had pickled vegetables as an accompaniment and the tanginess complemented the ham well. This isn’t a dish I typically would order and I’m not sure I would again, but I did enjoy it. Richard went for the Yorkshire Coast Fish Cake topped with a perfectly gooey poached egg. I tried a bite, and the egg really made the dish.

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Next up, our mains were delivered to our table. Richard went with the pork, which had belly pork, stuffed tenderloin, and homemade black pudding. I ordered the cod, which was perfectly cooked and served atop fondant potatoes, chorizo ratatouille, and a red pepper coulis. We both agreed the main courses were absolutely delicious, and I can say without a doubt that we both would order them again. All of the pieces of our meals meshed extremely well together in terms of flavor.

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Although we were both feeling full after two courses, we can never pass up dessert. After a peek at the menu, I decided on the apple and pear crumble. It was served delightfully warm with vanilla ice cream on the side. Richard chose the Caribbean Cocktail, which was a platter of four tropical desserts. He surprised me with his decision because if sticky toffee pudding (and it was!) is on the menu then he will usually order that, but he was so happy with his choice. I stole a small bite of the piña colada and it was a great blend of tropical flavors without it being too overwhelming on the coconut side as I find tropical-flavored desserts to sometimes be. We returned to our room incredibly impressed with the food and the service.

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When we went to sleep that night, we both wondered how we would manage to eat breakfast the next morning, but we did. Breakfast was served in the Courtyard Restaurant and we had a lovely table beside the windows overlooking the courtyard.

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For breakfast, there is a buffet of cereals, fruit salad, croissants, yogurts, and fruit juices plus you are able to order a cooked meal. We both ordered tea, and toast and jam were soon brought to our table. Richard went with the full breakfast, which was definitely one of the most well-presented full breakfasts both of us have seen. He said it was extremely tasty as well. I am not a fan of the full breakfast, so I ordered the goats cheese and tomato omelette. The fluffy omelette was cooked to perfection with cheese oozing in all of the right places. The breakfast was the perfect end to a great visit at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel.

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Our dining experience at Ox Pasture Hall was impressive. We particularly enjoyed the evening meal and the breakfast. I feel they truly excelled at those two meals, and the evening meal at Ox Pasture Hall is definitely one we would be glad to indulge in again. It was a fabulous 24 hours of food!

Our stay and our meals were kindly provided to us by Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Massive thanks to Ox Pasture Hall for the opportunity!

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel: The Hotel

A couple of months ago, Richard and I were talking about how great it would be to have a night away just the two of us. We love our girl something fierce, but I think most parents can agree that it is so good to have child-less time for mom and dad to relax. This past weekend, Richard and I had the pleasure of doing just that thanks to Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in North Yorkshire. We truly enjoyed our stay at the hotel, which is set in the countryside two miles from the seaside town of Scarborough.

We headed there on Sunday morning and the drive took about two hours from our house in West Yorkshire. After a lovely and extremely windy visit to the seaside in Scarborough, we hopped back in the car to make our way to the hotel. I settled into the passenger seat expecting at least a 20-minute drive, but about 5 minutes later, Richard was telling me that the satnav had told us that we had passed the hotel. We drove a bit further and there was the sign indicating we were in the right place. It is amazing that in that short of a distance you can feel like you are in a completely different town altogether. The contrast from the hustle and bustle of the seaside and the tourists enjoying the front in Scarborough to the green and peacefulness of the countryside is remarkable.

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When we turned onto the tree- and lavender-lined drive, we were greeted with a view of the beautiful hotel and grounds. The view made me even more excited for our stay. After checking in and being shown to our room, we both acted a bit like kids and checked out the spacious Hornsea Suite. The bathroom was definitely a favorite for us both with the double sinks and drencher shower head. It was especially nice to have a lounge area to sit and completely relax with our feet up. As we don’t drink coffee and we rarely drink tea in hotel rooms, I was happy to see two large bottles of water placed in the room free of charge.

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After enjoying afternoon tea, we decided to explore the grounds. Despite the wind, it was a lovely autumn day. The rustic grounds are full of wild flowers that add to the charm of the country setting of the hotel. There are gazebos throughout the grounds that are a perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon or, even better, to get married under.

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Ox Pasture Hall would truly be a lovely place to hold a wedding. There are a number of locations both inside and outside of the hotel where you can be married by a registrar, so if you are looking for a countryside wedding, I would definitely recommend Ox Pasture Hall. Had we not gone for a destination wedding, I definitely think we would have chosen somewhere like Ox Pasture Hall. The wedding reception can be held in the Dovecote Suite, which seats 150 for the meal and can accommodate 180 for the night do. The Dovecote Suite has vaulted ceilings and exposed beams that add to the rustic feel of the setting. I was impressed with the size of the bar in the suite as it  definitely would accommodate a large wedding. There is also the option of hiring the entire hotel for exclusive use for you and your wedding guests, if you would like to go that route. If you chose to do this, a great way to take advantage of the entire property would be to host the wedding meal in the Dovecote Suite, to hold the evening do and dancing in the Courtyard Restaurant, and to use the bar in The Bistro.

Ox_Pasture_-7Photo provided by Ox Pasture Hall

Ox Pasture Hall 003aPhoto provided by Ox Pasture Hall

Ox_Pasture_Hall_Spring_WeddingPhoto provided by Ox Pasture Hall

As well as the seventeen acres that the hotel is set on, there are a number of places (with car parking available) to hop on to lovely walking trails through the forest. We chose to walk (instead of drive) down the road (turning right out of the hotel’s drive) and happened to stumble upon a nicely maintained trail. It was such a peaceful afternoon exploring that part of North Yorkshire.

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We headed back to the hotel and decided a nap was in order before our evening meal. The bed was perfect – from the duvet to the mattress – and I honestly could have slept straight through the night, but I’m glad I didn’t as I would have missed a delicious meal (my food review will be posted in a couple of days). That bed left me looking forward to a restful night of sleep.

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Both Richard and I were extremely happy with the entirety of our stay at Ox Pasture Hall. We felt so comfortable there, and it was the ideal place to relax and have a quick getaway full of laughs and conversation. A big thank you to everyone there, especially Lynsey, for making our stay so wonderful.

Our stay and our meals were kindly provided to us by Ox Pasture Hall Hotel for the purpose of review. All of the opinions are honest and all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted. I promise to always share my honest perspective when doing reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Massive thanks to Ox Pasture Hall for the opportunity!

Exploring London with Our Girl

A few weeks back, Richard was to be in London for work, so the girl and I tagged along with him. Because we were driving, we decided to stay at the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford to allow us a place to park and easy access to the tube. It also was convenient for me because there was a Waitrose just below the hotel, which became our go-to for quick and healthy food for me and our girl.

The two days we were there were boiling hot, so I wanted to be sure to enjoy the summer weather but also make sure that the little one was comfortable. So, on the first day, we walked a 5 minutes or so to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where the London 2012 Olympics were held. We wandered around enjoying the flowers and the buildings until we settled in under the shade of a tree along the river. Our girl and I had a nice little picnic, which resulted in her being covered in strawberry (her favorite food) juice!

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The park was a nice place for us to chill. If you have older kids, there are water fountains that squirt up at various times and it was full of kids running and laughing through the water. There is also a sand and water play area for kids. It was a pleasant surprise to see how much they have transformed the park to cater to families. The thing I wish I had known though is that the Aquatics Centre to open to the public. How cool would it have been for us to swim in the Olympic Pool?! Next time, for sure!

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We walked around the park a few times during our stay and really enjoyed seeing all of the buildings we saw on television. Although we were lucky enough to watch the women’s beach volleyball finals and the women’s marathon during the Olympics, neither of those events took place in the park, so we had never made our way out there until this trip. During our walks though the park, it was always full of people enjoying the weather and the beautiful surroundings. I hope that this area continues to bring people in, and hopefully its proximity to Westfield will help with that.

I definitely recommend checking out Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park if you have some time and are in London. It’s especially great for families. You can access it easily from Stratford Station via the DLR and the Jubilee and Central lines.

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With Westfield having such great access to the tube, our girl and I hopped on the Jubilee line the following day and headed to Green Park, so we could meet up with a friend who works near there. We did a little sightseeing first, and I made sure to take her picture in front of Buckingham Palace. We then headed over to St James Square for a picnic with our friend. It was a great place to get some relief from the heat and escape the busy-ness of the city during the summer.

We had such a lovely time down south that we’re already planning a trip back in autumn over a weekend, so Richard can join us for our jaunts around London.

PalaceSNot impressed with the Palace.