I went to sleep a few nights ago craving the rare experience of waking under canvas, I had a weird hankering to go camping... I miss the sound of the traditional British rain on canvas, lanterns, thermos full of tea, card games and warm beer with friends.... What's crazy, I thought, is the fact that I have all the gear ready to go after a fair few camping excursions over the years, so what was stopping me?! A Saturday morning of the last bank holiday weekend of the year, that's what! Every campsite along the Norfolk, Kent & Suffolk coast was booked up, pitch by pitch. Just as I was losing all hope (and baking a banana & chocolate chip loaf cake to console myself) I received a call back from my most favourite campsite (Sandie & Graham at Bailiffs Cottage in Hollesley are just superstars!) in Suffolk to advise me of a cancellation... this pitch was mine! So a quick shower, a quick fanning of the loaf cake to cool it down, wrapping it up in a tea towel for the journey and I was off on my very first adventure for my "Around the world in 80 stays challenge". This wasn't quite the exotic, luxurious stay I was hoping for to kick off this challenge, however with a small budget required and the peace and quiet of the outdoors, it truly appealed and really was a fantastic way to start me off on my way after a hectic few months at Stir Up Media. The UK has some truly stunning scenery and places of beauty, with Suffolk being one of those places never to be ignored. I've had my fair share of stays in Aldeburgh, Dunwich & Southwold, but I much prefer to go a little off the tourist trail and head to Bawdsey, Orford (take a walk on Orford Ness if you EVER get the chance, it's a curious, eery and equally relaxing place) and Shingle Street for a much more isolated & relaxing retreat. Bailiffs Cottage is host to a stunning secret garden full of rose bushes, vegetable patches and hens laying eggs for your breakfast, it's a superb place to pitch up for a few days. With only a handful of well-spaced pitches, it's wise to book ahead (ahem!) and as it's a "Caravan Club" location, it's not easy to find online and doesn't attract hoards of people - it's perfect for a quiet break. Along with my Vango Icarus 500 tent (a beast it is too!) and even own a duo camping stove with foldaway pots, pans & kettle, it was the perfect home away from home... however we forgot the gas canister needed to prepare any means of hot food or drink. So, instead of scrambled eggs on toasted sour dough bread (sourced from Pump Street Bakery), I had to make do with warm cheese sandwiches and some sweet treats (their butter tart was the single best sweet tart I've ever eaten - next time, I'm not sharing!) from said favourite bakery. Luckily, I had prepare a large thermos of hot water to make tea & coffee on arrival to go with the banana bread (with an extra topping of Nutella & fresh banana, ooooh!) so we were still happy and toasty warm on the chilly mornings throughout the trip. In fact, this decorative thermos came all the way from the Philippines and the water stays hot for over two days, it's blimmin' terrific - who needs a hotel with a luxury tea tray and shortbread biscuits when you've got this sort of deliciousness under canvas?!... Ok, don't answer that! There's been a fun little game I've wanted to play for some time, simply titled "Roadside Bingo" where you stop at those little side tables along the road and stock up on the random food and produce on sale at each stop to create a meal or two. We stopped at many different stands over the two days, collecting homemade blackberry & plum jam, various boxes of eggs to take home... we even spotted a nifty cool box hamper with fresh Cromer crabs to take down to the local beach - I love Suffolk! The weekend involved early mornings curled up in fluffy blankets, 50p pieces for a hot shower, puppy walks along the stony beaches, reading magazines & books between afternoon power naps, exploring castles & old WW2 bunkers along the coast (and a few banged heads along the way!) as well as roast dinners in cosy pubs (The Sorrel Horse a mile down the road is perfect!) and cream teas overlooking the local quay. If the only luxuries I need with me to make it homely are a few cups of Yorkshire tea, some home-baked treats (that could have won me some new friends, SHOULD I have fancied sharing!) and a "real feel" inflatable king sized bed, then I'm all for it - I love a bit of a camping. For £16 a night, we pitched our tent for 2 nights, paying an extra £1 towards Cats Protection for my puppy companion tagging along for the ride. Sandie & Graham welcome you with open arms and freshly grown produce a plenty, so do expect to enjoy locally sourced & seasonal food throughout your stay. In fact, a little tip...they can get low on eggs at Bailiffs Cottage (a very popular option for the resident campers & caravaners) so nab some on arrival to avoid disappointment. My first #80Stays trip was just what I needed to help relax me... It didn't cost the earth, I've enjoyed some leisurely long walks and delicious, simple food and I haven't come home with a cricked neck (for a change!) so, a good call all round! The one downside to camping, especially with a puppy in tow?!.. The sand, mud and dribbled water... Everywhere! I believe I've been on my knees with a dustpan & brush at least four times like a good little tent-wife...gah! Oh, and that feeling of "I really don't want to get the tent down in that wind and rain" and deliberating for a good two hours whilst it spits large raindrops....only to actually take it down in an all out hail storm - just typical of my luck! Now, to make the second stay just as relaxing and fun... But, where to go?! Read more about my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge here & please get in touch if you would like to help or get involved in any way. More information on Bailiffs Cottage here.
Saturday, 30 August 2014
Friday, 22 August 2014
It's been a while since I reviewed a venue worthy of a full-throttled mention on my doorstep and this is a little gem that I would quite happily keep to myself if I wasn't all for sharing these things! Catesby's is a new shop nestled on the cobbles of Green Street, in the very heart of Cambridge City centre, offering beautiful and unique goods for your home and garden. This shop is set within a stunning Georgian townhouse, complete with stripped back wooden floorboards and staircases with ornate banisters and elegant wall decor throughout. It's very clean and minimalist in style and it immediately makes you want to fill your arms full of hand-painted doorknobs, ornate ceramic teacups and luxury picnic blankets for countryside jaunts. It has only just dawned on me that I have been to the original shop in Norfolk within the last year or so (I knew I recalled the name from somewhere and it's only just come back to me as I write this post!) where I enjoyed a stunning cream tea after a beach walk with the pup in Wells-Next-To-The-Sea. Catesby's was born back in 2011 within a Georgian home on the Norfolk coast belonging to Jonathon & Neil, complete with panelled rooms and a relaxing tea garden for customers to enjoy a cup of tea within as they browse. The goods on sale here are made of natural materials and neutral colours, mixed with an elegance that makes everything feel very special - it's the perfect place to search for an unusual gift. As you walk through the door, both in Norfolk and in the Cambridge house, you feel right at home as soon as you step foot inside. We were greeted by a young lady with a warm smile, but she allowed us to browse, no pressure or breathing down our neck which was a relief for me - I'm not a fan of being followed around these type of shops, so it was nice to be allowed to browse peacefully. There were cake stands with antlers as the dome handle, cushions with bold prints, cosy looking blankets & throws, candles and holders, enamel mugs & crockery, unusual cutlery, unusual trays and cloches, the list goes on... This is a shop that really does feel like a house, it allows you to wander upstairs and touch, even use the items on sale through their first floor kitchen. This is a hidden gem of a coffee shop in Cambridge, with white furniture, giant cutlery on the walls and beautiful china to eat & drink from, you can stop and enjoy a cuppa and a bite to eat, so that's just what we did. I was on a very rare shopping excursion with one of my very best friends and we nattered over the menu for so long that the waitress serving us had to come back several times for our order, she was so patient - a huge thank you to her! The menu was simple, with a selection of sandwiches and salads, teas and coffees, as well as a choice of delicious looking cakes on stands perched proudly in one corner of the kitchen. K ordered a cup of English Breakfast tea and I was happy to see a selection of locally sourced "Hot Numbers" coffee blends on offer, one of which Neil (who I met on leaving later on) mentioned was designed especially for Catesby's - just fantastic and worth the visit for alone. It was a very smooth blend and I enjoyed this as we gossiped, avoiding cake on this occasion, but there's time to pop back another day! We had arrived at this coffee stop around 4pm on a Saturday afternoon and it was still very busy, even though there are only around 6 tables, it was buzzing without being overcrowded. What we did find hilarious was that whilst checking something online through our phones, we picked up a neighbouring wifi connection that advised us just how terrible the nearby restaurants' signal was.... hilarious! If you are looking for somewhere a little more hidden away & unusual in Cambridge, perhaps this is the perfect meeting place for you plus one or two friends (any more than this may not guarantee you a table in this instance) with quality produce, Catesby's is the perfect solution. They have an online shop, as well as their two humble abodes, so do take a look and enjoy a cuppa if you are headed there over the weekend...
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
I've read posts written by others in the past who share tips on the best films to make you feel happy or even the top ten films to make you cry... I've always wondered why you would ever want to watch a film to make you purposefully cry, that's always baffled me. But then, my fellow human beings can be baffling individuals, so I'll continue to wonder. It's no secret that I'm a huge film fan, I'm a Cineworld Unlimited card holder and I've recently upgraded to the premium membership, as my first year has now passed. For just £16.40 per month (I believe it's a little more for central London) you can go as many times as you like... Hence the "unlimited". Last year I saw around £392 worth of films, that's one heck of a lot of viewings and I've seen some pretty epic films, as well as some complete dross! I'll very rarely turn down a trip to the flicks, I'm always bumping into people I know at one of my four most local screens, it's a small world! It takes a lot to get me emotional when it comes to films, apparently I have no reaction when watching a thriller, I don't jump (well, very rarely) and I am usually bizarrely good at guessing the twists and turns, I just can't help it! But, when it comes to a good sob, it usually takes a lot to get me going... And when I do, it can sometimes take me a while to stop. I'm a little like Zach Braff in one of my most favourite films of all time (Garden State) and I simply have very little emotion, but when it's turned on, I'm a wreck! Here are some of the films that have got me going recently, don't judge me! About Time This is a gorgeous film, directed by Richard Curtis (the same guy behind the genius films such a Four Weddings and a Funeral & Love Actually) about a father (Bill Nighy) and his son who can travel back in time and as many fantastically romantic scenes as it may offer, the sad moments will have even the strongest of hearts melting... Ahem! Steel Magnolias A real retro chick flick with a young Julia Roberts & Dolly Parton, this has a big "feel good" lead up to the main catastrophic final scenes... Don't sit down to watch this without a massive bar of chocolate and some tissues - I'll condone such girly actions just this once and that goes for the guys too! Dallas Buyers Club Matthew McConaughey has always been a bit of a joke to me over the years, with corkers behind him such as How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Failure to Launch, Magic Mike and Sahara (all just terrible!) you can forgive 100% for his latest films. He's all of a sudden come into his own and he's making me blub like a baby... Well, actually, Jared Leto does in this one, but I can't rate this one enough. Heavy content (it's about AIDS in 1985 Dallas), but just fantastic. Marley & Me This was advertised as a usual "Owen Wilson" laugh-a-minute comedy, of which it was for the first half of the film... Then BAM... The dog gets ill and nowhere on that advert does it tell me the dog will die an the entire cinema will be reduced to a blubbering mess. And even though I know what to expect, every time I catch it on the TV lately, it gets me. Every. Single. Time. Up The most emotional start to a film ever created belongs to this Disney Pixar beauty. The beautiful scene of two kids meeting and growing up together, falling in love, getting married and growing old together within the space of minutes. It's so clever and reduces even the most emotionally strong viewer to mush as their life story unfolds and sets the scene for the next two hours. This is one of my most favourite films in the world. The Fault In Our Stars I don't normally go for films taken from books like this, it's a young adult novel based on two teenagers who meet at a cancer patients' support group. Willem Dafoe plays an arse of a writer who really gets your goat, even at his best (I do love him as an actor!) and this film had EVERY lip quivering and nose sniffing as the credits rolled, even I didn't see the plot twist mid-way through. Saving Mr. Banks Any film with Emma Thompson (except The Love Punch, god awful film!) and Tom Hanks is a winner for me. This is the "real" story behind our beloved Mary Poppins and the father of this chirpy family. It wasn't all roses, animated penguins and dancing chimney sweeps when it came to the real man behind this childhood character, as much as Walt Disney wanted to make it out to be. It's truly a tear-inducing tale behind the reality that led P. L. Travers to depict her version of events. I laughed and cried in equal measures and can't watch Mary Poppins in the same light again. What gets your eyes watering when it comes to films? I'd love to hear from you in a comment below... Do you agree with my sad film choices or can you add something better to the mix?!
Sunday, 17 August 2014
A friend of mine (Cat at The Teatime Treatery) recently introduced me to the wonderful and luxurious world of Jo Malone London, a beautifully British brand of colognes, scented candles and bath oils. I had no idea that tucked away off Cambridge Market was a Jo Malone shop on Rose Crescent, within the very same building that used to house my favourite art gallery in Cambridge until around a year ago. As soon as I stepped through the door, the memories of champagne schmoozes and meeting my favourite artist to sign my own piece of him came flooding back, I loved this small building nestled on the cobbles of one of the more peaceful areas of my hometown and I'm even more in love with it now. Cat had booked us in for a complimentary arm and hand massage treatment with the beautiful Amie, a passionate ambassador of the brand who travels from Norwich to Cambridge every day for her job, she's impressively dedicated to her work and I think I would be too if I worked for this elegant brand. As soon as you walk up the steps into this sophisticated parlour, you are greeted with friendly smiles and a homely scent that relaxes even the most stressed of human being immediately. Everything is displayed on glass shelves, from body and hand washes, colognes and spritzers through to candles, body oils, shampoos and cremes, everything can be sampled, in fact that is very much encouraged. What I loved most about his experience was that we weren't pounced on as soon as we walked through the door, you're given time to browse and there's a member of staff on hand if you need help. Personally, I would usually be too scared to ask for advice, I'd simply sniff everything and try to make an informed decision after overloading myself with an array of lotions and potions... ...my advice? Book yourself in for a complimentary, no obligation arm and hand massage treatment. It was the best hour of my day and it's (without wanting to sound cheesy) changed my complete outlook on perfumes and scents for the better. I'm a girl who actually prefers to wear men's deodorants and sprays, I love the deeper, spicier smells and I like to make an impact when I walk into a room. I sometimes feel that the lighter, feminine scents don't stay with me for as long. This stems back to accidentally buying a male spray in my teenage years and sticking with these sort of smells ever since. The Jo Malone range is in fact unisex, not that I'd share any of these stunning products, but they will smell different on everyone and they can be combined to produce unique and personalised scents to match your taste. We both sat at the comfortable massage table and were introduced to the Jo Malone shop, offered a chilled glass of lime water and discussed our current scents whilst Amie really got into what turns us on within a scent. She picked up on our preferances and produced their orange blossom bath oil at first, using a mini coffee whisk to whip it up into a thick foam in which she massaged our hands and arms to get them feeling silky and smooth, offering a similar experience to lathering up in the bath - it almost sent us to sleep! After rinsing off this lathered bath oil with a hot scented towel, she then massaged us using their peony & blush suede body creme, which was so thick and heavenly, you didn't need much to benefit from this and I could have easily sat there all afternoon, it was lovely. If only every morning could be like this when it comes to getting ready! What Amie was teaching us was that creating a memorable and long-lasting perfume isn't simply a quick spritz and away you go, you need to layer your body with varying products and complimenting scents to create something that will linger and make an impression. This isn't something I'd ever thought of doing and am usually guilty of dousing myself (and my clothing!) in cheaper sprays in the hope they'll last...they usually don't and now I know why. She then finished by showing us how to choose the perfect cologne and how to apply it, by spraying ever so lightly onto our arms, then dabbing it with her palms up the length of our arms. I went for "154", a scent that includes mandarin, grapefruit, lavender, basil, nutmeg and vetiver. This combination of scents was stunning, I've never loved the way I've smelled so much in my entire life, with honestly no exaggeration. A small bottle of cologne costs around £40 and the body creme around £50, making this a very tricky decision for somebody on a tight budget, so I decided to take my time on my purchases and come back another day, which was absolutely fine. What I didn't expect was that I would spend the rest of the day pressing my nose up against my arms, taking in long draws of breath to enjoy the aromas soaking into my body. I woke up the next morning and I had received a text from Cat advising me that she still smelled amazing, to which I took another whiff and confirmed that I did too... This was so alien to me, I never stay smelling so great for that period of time, this was some kind of luxury voodoo! I sat on my hands all morning until I couldn't bare it any longer, I roped in another friend for a coffee in town and we just so happened to be "passing" Jo Malone. We spent some time in other luxury scent shops, but they
just didn't were never going to cut it for me, so Kass took me by the arm and marched me to Jo Malone to just get it over with. As of today, I'm walking into rooms and causing a sensation...! I visited my local BBC radio station this morning and the first thing the presenter said to me was just how delicious I smelled, before absolutely anything else. My whole reasoning for wanting a new scent was to make an impact when networking my little behind off and after just one hour of wearing my new combination, it's only gone and worked, I'm so stupidly impressed I just had to share this fascinating experience from a gal who very rarely pampers herself of late! Money. Well. Spent. Jo Malone London, (in Cambridge specifically)... I curse AND salute you in equal measures, as well as very much look forward to the new wood sage & sea salt scent due out in September - I could be very tempted shouldn't be allowed to pop back anytime soon! You have a new convert and ambassador in "Miss Sue Flay"! www.jomalone.co.uk
Thursday, 7 August 2014
I don't know about you, but I get itchy feet from time to time and lately... well, I've not stopped itching! I'm not too adventurous when it comes to travel, I've visited Egypt alone on a day trip to Cairo whilst holidaying in Cyprus, but that's about it. I've taken myself to Cornwall, Devon, the Lake District and have enjoyed a beautiful & snowy weekend break in Prague, but something is missing from my life. After all of the redundancies and other such exciting moments in life, it's now a little calmer, I'm happily running my business and support network over at StirUpMedia.com and I'm allowing myself to work from wherever I may be sat in the world. Reviewing hotels and spas across the UK has given me an appetite for bigger and more exciting things and I've decided to set myself a
little interesting challenge.... I'm going to travel around the world in 80 stays. This might find me jetting off to Milan, hot-air ballooning across the desert, cruising on the med, or enjoying a weekend break in New York... or it could just see me taking a poodle up to Edinburgh for a day or two... I'm very excited! I'm opening my mind, allowing myself to say yes to opportunities that I may have once said no to and I'm going to see where it takes me. I am on a slight budget have no money saved up to do this, so I'm going to be relying on time (to save up the pennies where needed) and on the generosity creativity of my new friends and yourselves to help me along the way and to make this a unique itinerary - I want to stay in places people won't get a chance to stay on a normal trip! Perhaps you have a friend who goes away on business a lot and they their cat needs feeding in their LA Manchester apartment whilst they're away (i'm trained to a Royal standard in Household Management, so I'm perfect for house sitting!)... or you might need some help for a few days on a project and are happy to offer me a bed & some home-cooked food to earn my keep! The support of my readers and social media followers will be important.. a stay could be with a friend, not just in a hotel. I'd love to sample supper clubs or real family meals around a table with cultured strangers (and brand new friends to be made!) and I may even agree to car sharing with somebody off on their own adventures who may be in need of some company. I'm going to attempt to be a "yes" girl and see where the wind takes me... Any ideas where I should hop off to first?... Paris? Texas? Australia? Cardiff? Sicily? Peru? Essex? I'd love to hear from you if you can make any suggestions, offer an interesting experience or stay and I'll be blogging every single stay, from a day out through to mini adventure. I'll be taking selfies, photos and writing journal-type posts as I go, it's one rather large idea and one that all of a sudden is starting to feel quite overwhelming... Bring it on! If you are on Twitter, follow my progress and chat to me @MissSueFlay...I've even created a hashtag #80stays