[youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHTZpJnO1c0[/youtube]What To Do: So. Whilst in this region, I managed to enjoy a little tour of the area and enjoyed some simply stunning scenery from the castle ruins in the old village of Grimaud, the peaceful sunset on the rocks of Sainte Maxime harbour and the extremely steep drive up, around and down into Plan De La Tour, a quaint and hidden French town for the perfect destination off the tourist trail. Without a hire care, there simply wouldn't be as much exploring, you would be very limited on where you could go, so it's a must. Visiting St. Tropez out of season is actually a great time to take a trip (literally one day left on the boat taxi from Port Grimaud - they stop running on 4th October) and I enjoyed a sun-drenched walk around this stunning place. I had expected to eat out along the port, but for up to €25 for a plate of mozzarella & basil, I decided an ice cream to be much more in my budget! There are two ice cream parlours very close together, one being "Barbarac" with queues out the back door as well as through the front... or there's the parlour a few doors down with nobody waiting or queuing. Usually I wouldn't bother to line up, but I felt there was a reason people were going mad for this place and I really wasn't wrong!! I opted for a scoop of Oreo and a scoop of coffee ice cream and the flavours were intense, it was like tasting a cup of coffee in cold form, just beautiful! The waffle cone was also crisp and the generous serving kept me going all afternoon - I'm a cheap date (two double-scoop ice creams came to €9) even in the South of France it seems. St Tropez from Port Grimaud with Navette-Bateau.com cost just €12 per adult for a return trip. I could have driven there, but a boat trip in the Mediterranean sun is pure heaven, don't miss out on this breezy journey amongst the luxury yachts and impressive liners. I managed to make use of the local supermarkets (Casino, Carrefour, etc) and enjoy some home cooked meals, even a BBQ with some tasty Toulouse sausages and roasted vegetables. But, it's not a French coastal holiday without beers & frites on Port Grimaud beach under the palm trees to watch the sunset - just stunning and still so warm from 8pm onwards. Whilst say there one evening, a huge black cloud rolled in behind me and lit the sky with epic sheet lightening and 2 or 3 bolts at a time (no thunder!) so the drive up the windy hills back to the villa was a little scary for a girl who's petrified of thunderstorms! After the 29th September, parking in Port Grimaud is free, so I ended up parking here a fair bit for my beach fix. The beach here is beautiful, the port itself is stunning and for just €1 per person you can climb to the top of the church within the harbour and enjoy the best views for miles. From here I spotted a castle in the hills (La Garde Freinet) and later that same day we drove, following our noses to find it for exploration - it boasted an amazing view of the sea and ports, making it well worth the random road trip to hunt it down. The Spa: Whilst visiting the Côte d'Azur, I managed to hunt down a tranquil outdoor spa, surrounded by palm trees, complete with panoramic sea views - Spa Sarome is well worth a visit for some much needed relaxation. €17 gains you access to this beachside paradise for an hour, allowing you to indulge in their secluded hot tub, sauna, Hamam and heated plunge pool. It's the perfect getaway from a busy beach in the height of summer. I will never tire of the beautiful & scenic coastal drive between Le Muy and Grimaud, the beaches of Sainte Maxime twinkling as the sun hits the water, it's stunning and inviting me to stay... so very tempting! The Food: Brioche, Millefeuille (oh my goodness!!!), Bon Mamon puddings & tart selections or Gu desserts that you can't get here in the UK, Lauderee in St Tropez harbour are all treats you can expect to find here. I also found a supermarket one day with amazing Pain du Chocolat freshly baked and stacked on the shelves - I couldn't wait to eat them for breakfast the next day as planned and had to nibble on one in the car as the smell was très irresistible. I got to day 5 and craved a Croque Monsieur - how could I forget to sample a French version of one of my most favourite sandwiches?! I enjoyed this on the beach with a beer watching the sunset - heavenly. Traditional baguettes and cheese for a beach picnic did the job during the daytime - delicious and warm bread fresh from the roadside Boulangerie en route. If you get a chance, you must also try a Melieneux (a meringue ball with chocolate ganache) and a coffee Religiuex - delicious patisserie, the ones I enjoyed the most whilst here. Final Thoughts: The road signs are hilarious - as you leave a town, there's just the name and a giant Red Cross through it to show that you've left - amused me at the "abruptness" of the signage, I ended up shouting the names of the towns as we drove out of them as a fun game. Aqualand is close to Le Muy, towards Sainte Maxime, but it was closed at this time of year - earlier in the year and this could be a fun place to spend a few hours on the slides and wave machines. Supermarkets and shops seem to be closed on Sundays - noted for next time, be a little more organised when needing food for meals! Also note, if driving from the airport, have cash/coins at ready for the toll road (Turkish Lira doesn't work, naturally!) You can also read about Miss Sue Flay's "Around The World In 80 Stays Challenge"and other Secret Stays & Reviews here. Please Note - I paid my own way on this occasion and I am in no means obliged to blog or write about my experience, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. Any questions or to discuss an independent review or"Secret Stay", please do email: email@example.com All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Monday, 19 January 2015
Having recently composed a blog over at my sister site (Stir Up Media) about the importance of taking a holiday as a self-employed business owner, I realised it had been 7 years since I took a proper holiday myself - 7 years!? Blimey. Setting The Scene: Stupidly not following my own advice, combined with the fact that I've set myself a challenge to travel around the world in 80 stays, I knew it was time to stop hopping to Leeds or London for a mini break and actually take in some real sunshine. I'd been offered the opportunity to stay in a French villa owned by a family friend and leapt at the chance to re-explore the French Riviera, a beloved holiday destination of mine 14 or so years ago. I had studied A Level French and went there to practice the language of lovers...only to meet a group of German tourists, finding out that my true calling was in ditching my awfully mumbled French vocabulary for the German lingo! The Journey: So, my Easyjet seat with extra leg room and Speedy Boarding was booked and I flew from London Luton to Nice, where myself & my traveling companion collected a suitably French hire car, ready for a sunshine-filled adventure. The first (and really the only) issue was that neither of us had ever driven on the "wrong" side of the road before and the toll roads made no sense to us ridiculous foreign drivers - oops! My best advice would be of somebody gives you a bag of change to use whilst away, check that they are actually Euros and NOT Turkish Lire - the toll booth attendant was not a happy bunny - only MY luck ; ) Stopping the use of technology was also on the agenda, I went "cold turkey" and thoroughly enjoyed no distractions. I read two books from cover to cover and enjoyed lazy mornings, late nights, exploring old French villages and walks on new beaches. If you need a book recommendation, I can't rave enough about "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn and also "The Suitcase Entrepreneur" by Natalie Sisson for the more adventurous and travel-hungry business owners! The Accommodation: The villa itself was a few miles out of Le Muy, a small market town, situated up in the hills in a place called Domaine Des Canebieres, of which provided a stunning scene below me from the plunge pool and patio deck as I sunbathed in 25*c Autumn warmth. This peaceful and spacious villa had it's own fully equipped kitchen, a choice of two bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as a TV with British freeview should it have been required - I "may" have indulged in a few episodes of "Real Housewives of Beverley Hills" - cough, cough. At night, the lights in the villages and towns below looked beautiful and sat on a bench under the trees just up the road from where I was staying, I enjoyed sitting to watch bats darting around, quietly clicking as they went. It was a relaxing holiday from start to end, no matter where I was sat or what I was doing, this was how a break should be. You can't visit France without pulling up to a roadside Boulangerie and ordering a baguette, freshly baked and warm from the oven to go with your cheese & wine or a slice of gateaux or Millefeuille whilst you're there... I also enjoyed a round of freshly hatched croissants, some buttery brioche with jam and two versions of a Religiiuex, which can be likened to two large ganache-filled profiteroles, decorated to look like a nun. I enjoyed a chocolate flavoured pastry and also a coffee creme patisserie filled pastry, both from different bakeries on my travels and one equally as delicious as the other. Rude not to, right?! Watch the introduction to my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge on YouTube:
Friday, 16 January 2015
It's that time of year... It's cold, the weather keeps promising snow (then doesn't deliver anything other rain or sleet!) and for the freelancers around me, it's that dreaded time of year to prepare for the tax man. I had an amazing Christmas and New Year, I enjoyed a romantic weekend break away in Bath with Travelodge and I enjoyed a break away in Cornwall and Norfolk to recharge my batteries. However. Even with all these lovely parties and treats in store over the festive period, I've come back down with a bump and it seems a common theme between myself and the people around me. I'm, in all honesty, feeling pretty "meh". It's the January Blues and I for one can't afford to book myself into a spa or silent retreat (or eat my weight in leftover Terry's Chocolate Orange to compensate!) to cope with it... So what to do to defeat these horrid emotions when you're on zero budget? Here are some ideas to beat the January Blues whilst on a budget to pick yourself up: Watch my video on youTube: How To Beat The January Blues
[youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKYoNquGquQ[/youtube]Enjoy a home spa - I have lots of Ted Baker gear from Xmas gifts and some luxury spa goodies from my visit to Champneys last year, paired with a Jo Malone candle and some relaxing music... Who needs to spend £hundreds on a spa day right now?! Nail painting - I've painted my nails a gorgeous coral colour and I've enjoyed making myself up when I've been feeling low. Throw in a hand massage, cuticle treatment & a base/top coat and you've got yourself some pretty nails to slip into your Instagram pics (or is that just me?!). Celebrate the little things - once you've finished your accounts, treat yourself and/or a friend to a coffee and an hour reading your favourite magazine. Take out your best tea set, napkins and tea tray and make it ceremonial... Add a candle or a vase of freshly picked flowers to the tray to perk you up. Make up your bed with a new set of fresh linen - I adore getting under fresh covers, even in the middle of the day! Get watching some of your favourite "pick me up" films - or grab yourself a Cineworld card for £14.99 a month and you've really only got to go twice a month to make it worthwhile, I love it! I recently saw Wild on suggestion from "World of Wanderlust"... It's a little depressing, so go for Taken 3 this month to watch Liam Neeson kick butt! My "go to" films to lift my mood are Whip It, Chef, The Way Way Back, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist or Pitch Perfect. Buy some flowers. If you're heading away from home for a few days, buy or pick some flowers and pop them in a vase/jug/teapot and have them and their stunning scent greet you on returning - it's a lovely idea I recently tried whilst working away. Listen to some new music, asking your friends and social media followers for their recommendations for whatever mood you're feeling at the time - you can follow my Spotify playlists here and I'm currently enjoying: Alt J, Daughter, Neon Lights, Hozier, Temples, George Ezra, Bear's Den, Spoon, Jungle, Little Comets & First Aid Kit to name a few...oh and AC:DC! Book yourself a holiday. Give yourself something to look forward to later in the year and aim for - I've booked myself an EPIC adventure for my birthday in April, more info to come on my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge very soon, eek! Break out the box sets, there's more interest in the likes of Breaking Bad (I'm so geeky for it. I've even created a Breaking Bad tea party!) Dexter, Game of Thrones, Madmen and other such addictive shows than actual films... It's so true, they're a great way to save some money and enjoy a relatively cheap date night. Everybody owns box sets nowadays, so ask your friends if you can borrow theirs if you are seriously penny pinching. My faves currently are American Horror Story, Gilmore Girls and Orange is The New Black... I've also got Sons of Anarchy, Boardwalk Empire & True Detective to get into - decisions, decisions! Get blogging - buy yourself a nice notebook (or get a load of mini waiter pads on the cheap if you don't mind what the outside looks like!) or break out your iPad/tablet and jot down the first 20 ideas that come to mind. Then start plotting some blog posts and get inspired wast you have some time to do so. Try meditation - I've been enjoying Headspace (free to try, followed by membership for more access options) and Buddhify (£3.99 one off download fee) to chill me out, even sat at my computer, this can work to help me focus. Read a book - I've got #GirlBoss ready to go for some girly business inspiration, Travel Secrets by Tanya Rose and my Blogcademy Workshop notes to get me stuck into my blogging plans. I also love dipping in & out of back issues of Fire & Knives magazine and my Molly Makes Blogging & Photography magazines to home in on my skills. Go for a walk (you can even borrow somebody's dog if you need an excuse!) or try running with a Couch 2 5K app on your phone (I even came across a zombie run app, which sounds so much fun as you run away from flesh-eaters, yes!) to ease you in slowly - keeping fit doesn't need to be costly. Inject some Radical Self Love into your life - Gala Darling has various options for you to subscribe to on her fantastic website to inspire you to learn to love yourself a little more. You can even get involved in her dedicated hashtags on social media to connect with others on the same mini project, it's fantastic fun and I've recently enjoyed a month of emails to help me enjoy my own company more. If you are really stuck for ideas, start handwriting - it's very therapeutic to write a quick letter or note to somebody and make their day whilst you're at it, doing a good deed! We spend so much time tapping away on our laptops and phones, it can actually be a shock to the system when it comes to picking up a pen, how sad is that?! What are you doing to beat the January Blues? Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general!
I recently blogged about a new concept for a cafe, in the form of the Cereal Killer Cafe... a place where cereal is the dish of the day. Well, it seems the quirky ideas keep coming... Recently, I've not only been re-reading stories and hearing great things about Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium (Yep, you can cuddle a pussy cat whilst sipping on a cuppa... cute!) but I've also recently read about a Japanese spa that fills their jacuzzis full of coffee or red wine... bathing never sounded so much fun! Well, now, off the back of the press (the good, the bad and the darn right undeserved) from the opening of the Cereal Killer Cafe, a new idea is selling out fast... The crisp sandwich shop. This is a pop-up shop in Belfast that has taken the "Comfort Food Cafe" concept to a totally different level... I was undecided for some time on how I felt about the idea of walking into a shop to ask for a "Wotsit sandwich on White bread - with butter"... but the more I've thought about it, oh gosh darn it, the more I am actually craving it. This is the sort of sandwich wizardry I used to enjoy on a Saturday afternoon as a kid when both my parents were at work and they couldn't see what myself or my sister were making up for lunch - it felt really naughty, but tasty bizarrely good. "Simply Crispy" is the perfect name for this pop-up shop and they were said to have sold out within just two hours of opening their doors for the first time... good on them I say! How did the idea come about?... "Simply Crispy" was in fact a mickey-taking name written by a Northern Irish journalist who wrote a feature on the Cereal Killer cafe and mentioned that the next big thing would be a crisp sandwich shop as a throw away comment.... However, shortly after he had written this, the owner of "That Wee Cafe" in Belfast decided to act upon that exact concept as a pop-up. This pop-up will be running for a few weeks, depending on the demand... of which it sounds as though it will do well... offering a choice of bread and crisps with soup (you can even have Monster Munch croutons to boot... hmm) for just £3.50. What next for the pop-up shop world?... I quite like the idea of a biscuit dunking cafe... every biscuit on offer to throw all rules of afternoon tea etiquette out of the window - I'm such a rebel! Do leave a comment below and share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general!
Wednesday, 7 January 2015
It's January, so it's time to start video blogging - I've been promising it for ages, so here it finally is - Happy New Year! I'm starting off with an "Ask Me Anything" video... offering out the chance for my followers and readers to ask me any burning questions they may have for Miss Sue Flay! This month, it's all about my (non) new year resolutions, so here's a quick recap of the questions and answers from this particular session: I've been plotting some exciting travel with my "Around The World In 80 Stays" challenge... Last year, I got to enjoy some amazing stays including a stay in a Penthouse Apartment at 42 The Calls in Leeds, a sunny Spa break in the South of France and a romantic weekend with Travelodge in Bath. I met some amazing chefs and worked with them through a project with Hotpoint at the BBC Good Food Shows in November. I enjoyed an afternoon tea crawl prior to Christmas around some of London's best establishments! Pina asked where I would recommend staying in Norwich for a hotel for the evening - check out St Giles House Hotel or Premier Inn on Duke Street - both perfect City locations for a break in this fine City. My new bearded friend asks where I would like to visit in the UK - Edinburgh & Dorset are next on my hitless for sure! (He also asks what I want for my birthday, so I am hoping he will surprise me with a romantic gesture ; ) Suzzy asks if I found The Blogcademy useful (hell yes!) and what my "don'ts" would be when it comes to blogging... Don't do anything you don't believe in or say anything you wouldn't to somebody's face, your readers can tell! Clare asked where the best first daytime date locations would be in Cambridge - I gave a quick recap on one of my gorgeous first dates that lasted an entire day with my new man friend - I hope it helps Clare! Cat at The Teatime Treatery asks if I'm planning my year ahead (haha... hmmm) and what my favourite apps are atm, which are Party, Party, Instagram and Untappd for th enew beer drinker in me! And what 3 things would I not travel without?.... Please do have a watch to find out! - brew yourself a good cuppa and enjoy! [youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOG7VIlzkDg[/youtube]
Monday, 5 January 2015
I was recently contacted with an invitation to enjoy a pre-Christmas mini break courtesy of Travelodge in celebration of the recent revamp to many of their hotel rooms across the UK ... and I was allowed to pick wherever I wanted to visit. The location choice was mine entirely... It's not the best idea to offer Miss Sue Flay so much free reign on ANY decision making, as she's rather indecisive, ahem! This was a very exciting prospect, as there are so many British cities I've been wanting to explore, so it truly took some wise choosing. There were many days of "ums & ahs", I even took to Facebook to ask my friends where they would pick for a long weekend away just before Xmas celebrations. The ideas fired at me were fantastic, from Stratford-Upon-Avon to York, Cardiff to Newcastle, Brighton to Edinburgh and everywhere between. In the end, I opted for a romantic break in Bath, THE home of the Roman Spa Baths.. Considering my fascination with spa stays (if you didn't know where have you been?!), it was the most exciting and obvious fit for this occasion. SETTING THE SCENE: So, with a double room booked (in my real name so the team couldn't question/look up my alter ego & to make for a fairer review!) at Travelodge Bath Central on George Street for two nights, we had a City base arranged and a very loose plan set out to treat myself & my bearded man friend to some relaxation over a few days away. The plan was to leave early on the Friday before Xmas, waving Cambridge goodbye that morning with festive music on the playlist, homemade mince pies and large coffees in hand to fuel us on our 3 hour car journey. My mum had mentioned a beautiful village in The Cotswolds called Bourton-on-the-Water, advising us that this was a must-visit place en route, so we tapped it into the satnav, taking in the stunning scenery & picturesque "chocolate box" villages on our way. This village didn't disappoint, we parked up for 3 hours, stretched our legs walking along the river and hopping over the tiny foot bridges from shop to shop. There would be hundreds of people here during the summer, so I could imagine it to be an absolute nightmare if you're not a fan of getting caught up in bus loads of tourists - can't you tell I'm a Cambridge resident?! Luckily, it was just us & a handful of others, making it the perfect location for a peaceful frosty walk and a cosy, warm tea stop in the villages stunning new tearoom (Smiths of Bourton) where we sipped on Lady Grey tea with freshly baked coconut cake with a lime curd filling & a slice of homemade creamy carrot cake - if you were to have afternoon tea, breakfast or lunch here, this is the place to visit. The owners were just about to close for the afternoon because it was so quiet that day, but they stayed open for us and we were soon joined by other customers to make it worth their while. Nothing was too much hassle and they were just lovely to chat everything "afternoon tea" with too, we could have settled in here next to the fireplace for the rest of the day. Back on our way, Bath took another hour or so from here, making this a slightly longer route down, but this village was worth the extra few miles. Other towns/villages spotted on our way through the winding countryside were Burford (of which I believe my sweet-toothed friend, Mr Cake was in fact residing in at the very same time we passed through - small world!) and Tetbury. You can't visit The Cotswolds and not take in some of its breathtaking scenery, it would simply rude not to do so! THE WELCOME: Anthony welcomed us at the Travelodge (yes, he was so friendly I still genuinely remember his name...amongst other reasons I'll tell you in a very short while, keep reading my friend, keep reading!), we dumped our weekend bags and set out on foot to explore this fair City. We had a breakfast box each arranged, of which I must say I was pleasantly surprised with... They weren't offering a cooked breakfast, however they were both filled with orange juice, yoghurt, cereal with milk, fruit muffins and cereal bars, so between us, we had enough fuel to start off our days. THE BEDROOM: I shouldn't say it really, but in all honesty, you always know what you are getting with Travelodge and I must say, the room was clean, comfortable and at the perfect temperature. I'm usually a bed snob, but the bed was comfortable and I slept very well in it, the duvet was a nice heavy tog (I'm a fidget, so it's always good when a duvet stays on the bed!) and plenty of pillows to keep a girl happy. The revamped rooms feel much cleaner & fresher as soon as you walk through the door, with a light blue decor, colourful artwork on the wall (we were trying to work out if it was a balloon or Christmas tree decorations in the picture) - Perhaps somebody else can figure out what it might be?... Any guesses? On our second night I had a niggling feeling, wondering what we would do in the case of a fire...I've no idea why I thought it, I don't normally, however at just before 6am on the Sunday morning we were rudely awoken by the fire alarm. It was loud. Very loud. It completely disorientated us, apparently I got quite bossy and panicky as I wasn't sure what to put on whilst still half asleep. We followed everyone else and were evacuated into a freezing cold car park, left shivering for a good 25-30 minutes to find it was a false alarm. Some drunk plonkers had been playing with the fire extinguishers - brilliant idea?! This alarm kept going off and then back on for a good half an hour after we were allowed back in, so not much sleep was had after that. To be fair to the team, they dealt with it professionally and as swiftly as they could, but we were left rather cold, tired and a little grumpy the next day as a result. Room 106, of which we occupied was at the front of the hotel on the first floor and it was over a nightclub, so don't expect complete peace & quiet if staying here on a weekend... It wasn't too bad, but fairly noisy late at night of course. WHAT TO DO: This is the home of "the spa"... So the first stop is naturally the Abbey and Roman Baths for a history lesson and tour of these stunning natural spring baths in the heart of the City. We spent hours here, joining everyone else in snapping lots of photos from the different levels and angles, wanting to desperately dive straight in for a soak, even if you aren't allowed to. Towards the end of the tour you are able to drink some filtered water from the baths, which tastes fairly metallic, but is apparently very good for you - I'm undecided on that, as were the many other tourists tipping theirs away after a sip, very amusing! It was fully booked for the entire weekend of this particular stay, so I didn't get to try it out to time around, but if you want an actual spa break, then you could book yourself into the Thermae Bath Spa for a spot of pampering after being teased on a tour of the Roman baths.... The Jane Austen Centre is a museum for this famous resident of Bath, complete with well-dressed actors outside to tempt you in from the streets. We did take a nosey in the gift shop, but I'm more of a zombie Jane Austen fan than any other personally. If you're crafty, then get yourself down to The Makery for a crafting workshop or to stock up on your materials, a fab space for the craftier readers of this post. For some more unusual shopping, you could visit The Foodie Bugle shop for locally sourced food and drink or vintage-inspired gifts. It's a new offering from this fantastic online shop and indie food magazine creator. I also had no idea that Bath was home to its own Anthropologie shop... I'm a subscriber to their online temptation, so I was like a kid in a sweet shop once I'd stumbled upon this homeware haven! We also enjoyed a breezy walk along the Royal Crescent, taking the obligatory selfies outside to stunning street of Georgian town houses - all of which looked so welcoming with twinkly lights and Christmas decorations in the windows and doorways, this really is a great time of year to visit Bath. There is usually a Christmas market in Bath in the run up to the big day, however it had left the week prior to our arrival, which was a real shame, I would have loved to have sampled this tradition - it gives me an excuse to come back another year! WHERE TO WINE & DINE: Having recently enjoyed a brewery tour in Norwich, I've been introduced to a "beer app" called UnTappd which allows you to note down your favourite tipple and connect WI breweries, pubs and other such beer geekery. So, we enjoyed checking out many of the fantastic drinking holes on offer in Bath, logging our beverages as we went. The Salamander had a superb selection of Bath Ales on tap, I went for a pint of "Spa" to wash down a pack pet of Burts crisps whilst pulling up a stool to sneak Into the warm for a while. The Bath Brew House was a must, but very busy on a Friday night with Xmas parties everywhere, we were very lucky to nab the last wicker sofa and low table. A pint here will cost around £5, so not the cheapest tipple, but a good selection. Colonna & Hunter is an independant coffee & craft beer house serving a limited brunch and snack menu, this is a fantastic place for a quality coffee or a glass of something different by candlelight of an evening, I adore this place, it felt like it shouldn't work, but it really does. It's also located in Milsom Place, a very trendy new development filled with delis, restaurants & unique shops - don't miss a wander around this unusual development if visiting. The Boater was a random pub we walked into through desperation for a bathroom stop, however the live jazz music, relaxed caverns downstairs in the basement and the homemade pork pies & sausage rolls welcomed us enough to stay a while for a pint of "Frontier". I enjoyed the most delicious almond croissant I've ever eaten from The Bertinet Bakery... I took it home to nibble on for breakfast once I'd returned and it helped me to "stay" in Bath just that little bit longer. No visit to Bath is complete without sampling some Bath Buns (soft spiced buns with fruit and topped with sugar nibs) of which are not to be confused with Sally Lunn's buns which are more like a giant brioche roll eaten with either a savoury or sweet filling or even toasted and spread with butter like a giant Teacake. You can eat in at either of these establishments, opposite each other down their little alleyway, or take them home which is the option we picked. If you visit Sally Lunn's and there's a queue, you can bypass it and pop down into the museum for a takeaway option, a smart little tip I learnt later in my stay. Other places spotted, but of which we didn't get a chance to visit this time around were Chandos deli, Claytons Kitchen, Adventure Cafe Bar, Pig & Fiddle (a pub that looked great every time we walked past, but we never quite made it!), The Saracens Head (oldest pub in Bath), The Canary Gin Bar, Paxton & Whitfield cheesemongers and The Wild Cafe - "The bestest full English I've had in town" says Jane Austen apparently! The weather was cold, but dry, allowing us to sit outside for a sip of hot apple & spiced rum at the Popup Après Ski Bar, complete with fluffy throws and blankets to tuck ourselves into and watch the world go by. Sheer heaven. If you fancy a great quality coffee, visit one of the two Society Cafés in bath for a quirky independent cuppa - I actually ordered myself a creamy white hot chocolate and chilled out by the abbey close by to listen to a busker playing some beautiful music as we sipped. Before leaving we snoozed over a Sunday roast at £9.95 in The Kings Arms, following a sign for "the best pub food in Bath"... I'm all for following a gloating sign such as this and it didn't disappoint, it was great value and a quiet pub not far from the Charlotte Street car park. The Cowshed is literally just down the road from this Travelodge and we enjoyed three courses for lunch at £12 per person. This is served between 12noon & 3pm and we managed to bag the last table on Saturday afternoon, eating a starter, main, pudding and drinking a lovely bottle of house wine, we were left feeling snoozy for an hour or two, luckily our bed wasn't far away to do just this (well, we were on holiday!)... THE LITTLE EXTRAS: There was no hot water on the last morning and I didn't realise until I popped down to reception to grab our breakfast boxes. Before I asked for them, Anthony offered an apology for no hot water and it slightly threw me to start with, as I had no idea until this point. This was very annoying, considering our fire alarm adventure a few hours before... But, they redeemed themselves by letting us check out after 1pm instead of the normal 12pm as an apology. THE LITTLE NIGGLES: There wasn't really anywhere to put wet towels in the bathroom or bedroom, so they stayed damp until they were changed - a bigger towel rail would have been handy, as I like to take an evening shower if I've been walking around all day and my towel was cold & wet from the morning. There is no car park adjacent to this particular Travelodge, however a long stay car park on Charlotte Street (just a few streets away) costs us £17 for the duration of our stay (almost 3 days) and seemed as perfectly secure as an outdoor car park can feel. FINAL THOUGHTS: This stay was complimentary as part of this feature, however the cost for a stay on this particular weekend would have cost £198 in total, including breakfast. The Travelodge continental breakfast box can be ordered anytime at £6.65 per person. If you are looking for somewhere a little different to enjoy a spot of relaxation mixed with some Xmas shopping, then is the perfect place for you. I will be back very soon, I'm hooked! www.travelodge.co.uk To view my full photo album of this stay, simply click here. Please note - This stay was complimentary (I simply paid for my food, drinks and activities), following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:firstname.lastname@example.org All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.