Monday, 30 June 2014

The Lost Art Of Etiquette - Cycling Etiquette

Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist EtiquetteAs a Cambridge girl myself, I'm both an occasional cyclist as well as a motorist in our fair City and I've gathered many thoughts on this topic over the last year or two. With Le Tour De France about to race on through Cambridge City centre and the surrounding villages en route, I've been thinking more and more about cyclist etiquette. In my own personal experiences, everybody seems to have road rage...and I mean EVERYONE. Cyclists, dogs, motorists, pedestrians, absolutely everyone - in fact, we all need to calm the heck down, chill out and put our manners into practice every which way. Cyclists like to blame motorists for bad behaviour, motorists like to shout about cyclists and dogs like to do whatever they want... Come on guys, let's all follow some simple rules whilst out and about and keep the peace whilst wheeling! Here's my guide to cycling etiquette...     Cyclists:  First rule of thumb, please don't expect that just because you have one light on at dusk that everyone can see you whilst cycling in dark clothing, even if it is still technically light outside - we don't always see you! Reflective and colourful gear makes it easy to spot you as motorists pass, dark clothes make it tricky to see you right away. Both front & rear lights need to be prominent, no bags hanging over your rear light please, it's simple sense. Do acknowledge it when a car gives way to you, especially if they have right of way at that time. Be nice to each other share the road, there's far too much agro between cyclists and motorist, which in turn leads to more accidents, so please be nice to motorists and help to keep the calm if they allow you some space. Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist EtiquetteThis also goes for vehicles who give you a wide birth when driving past you, I know personally that there's nothing more scary than a motorist who almost clips your handlebars. So, please, acknowledge and show your thanks when a driver gives you plenty of space, a simple nod and/or hand risen in thanks shows your appreciation of their gesture. Don't be a road hog, stay as close to the lines as you can where possible, motorists can find it highly irritating to have to pass a wobbly cyclist in the middle of the road when there's a designated cycle path right next to you. And please don't double/triple up on group rides, especially on city roads. The amount of cyclists I see chatting away to each other as they swerve around side-by-side is very high up on my personal pet peeves! Get off your phone whilst cycling. No further explanation needed, surely? If it's dangerous for motorists to be doing at the wheel, it's most certainly equally so whilst cycling. It's a scarily high volume in my own experiences on the road, cyclists making AND taking calls whilst wobbling around in the road... Please stop to take your call and save us all the potential dangers and hazards! DON'T jump red lights - ever. There's no excuse, getting somewhere a minute quicker isn't going to change your life. As cyclists we are as responsible for our actions as car/lorry drivers are for theirs. I've personally seen accidents where a car has hit a cyclist in town, who decided to jump a red light on a cross roads, it's scary just HOW many people I see doing this - why would you do this?!?!?! If cycling through a highly populated pedestrian area, please dismount and show some patience if required. As required of motorists, watch the road ahead and gauge any potential hazards before approaching. I've personally experienced passing fellow pedestrians in Cambridge where somebody has literally pushed me off the pavement and into the road - a cyclist nearly hit me and stopped to scream, swear and spit at me. It was as unexpected for me as it was for him, but he didn't care to show me some patience, even with an apology from me regardless - road rage doesn't just occur from motorists!   Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist EtiquetteCycling Groups: Come prepared when cycling in a group, bring plenty of water and follow the right nutrition for your ride, make sure that your tyres are at the right pressure and that you have the relevant emergency supplies in case of a puncture or other such incident. Slowing down a group die to poor planning is bad etiquette and won't go down well with the other cyclists, so show consideration and be prepared. Always point out the road conditions when riding in a group - if somebody is riding fourth wheel, then the chances are they won't see a danger up ahead, such as a pothole, so help each other out and signal accordingly. Never criticise someone's riding style or their bike and don't leave them behind, make sure you stay as a group for everybody's safety, including the motorists you may encounter.   Motorists: As listed above, please give cyclists a wide birth when passing where possible, especially in tougher weather, as there's nothing more terrifying than a fast-moving vehicle almost brushing you as they pass. Please be patient and don't get aggressive because you may to be able to pass right away, it's intimidating to square up, so do bare this in mind. Cyclists WILL wobble, perhaps because of a large pothole or because they're sipping water as they steam ahead, so a bit of space is a safe precaution. Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist Etiquette Fitzbillies If you hit a cyclist it will hurt them far more than you, but it will AFFECT you. It may just be the insurance claim, it may well be the blood on your hands. THINK. There's no excuse, getting somewhere a minute quicker isn't going to change your life as much as an accident could. Please do not drive OR park in designated cycle lanes, even if you are "just going to be a minute" - this is infuriating for any cyclist and makes it dangerous should they need to swerve around your vehicle into the road, not to mention, I'm pretty sure this is illegal as well as darn right irritating. Look at the road as well as the cyclist. If you're approaching a junction, don't over take a cyclist and cut them up by turning left. Is there a pinch point coming up? Yes, well, stay back and hold off overtaking until it's 100% safe ahead.   Le Tour De France comes through Cambridgeshire on Monday 7th July 2014, will you be joining in with the festivities? What are your pet peeves when it comes to this topic? I'd love to hear from you below! Cambridge Tour De France Cyclist Etiquette Fitzbillies Miss Sue Flay   With special thanks to those who helped with advice on this subject: Dan - @Moosola Dave Jackson - @CambridgeAroma    

Monday, 23 June 2014

What's The First Thing You Do When You Check Into A Hotel Room?

Ravenwood Hall Hotel Secret Stays I've stayed in my fair share of luxury hotels and spas over the last year or so and I must say that I'm enjoying my chance to review such beautiful and grand venues, I'm always excited when checking into a new temporary home-from-home. However, I've become a creature of habit and have formed some "quirky" traits when checking into a new hotel room for the evening, one or two that frustrate the heck out of my traveling companions, but are 100% essential when reviewing a new boudoir for the night. It got me thinking, are these new hotel traditions normal behaviour? Great John Street Secret Stays HotelDoes everybody have their quirks when it comes to sampling a new spin on the mini bar or checking out the bathtub before heading out to nosey around the neighborhood? I recently read an article based on a survey carried out by Marriott, which stated that 32% of hotel guests check out the view outside their window before they do anything else. I have to say, this is in fact one of the very last things I will do when checking in, it's never top of my priorities whilst snooping. SO what is the first thing I do when checking into a hotel with my "Secret Stays"? Here's my top (and most annoying!) activities when running around "oohing & ahhing" over the boutique venue facilities on offer to me for a short while. Get Snap Happy Yep, you guessed it, before ANYTHING (luggage AND companions included) Hanbury Manor Hotel Secret Stayscan enter the room behind me, I have to run around and get snap happy - ensuring that everything is photographed prior to using it. There's nothing worse than unmaking a beautifully made bed, as however much you try, you can never make it back up to the standard it was when you found it on arrival. I adore a freshly made bed and I equally love to photograph it before I jump onto (or into) it, so the first thing I must do is to take photos of absolutely everything, all whilst my luggage and companion may be sat in the doorway for fifteen minutes before they can follow me inside. This is a mild annoyance that any traveling companion of mine must endure if they wish to tag along - no apologies on that score I'm afraid! Congham Hall Hotel Secret Stays Snoop At The Toiletries  I've been met with every bottle shape and size imaginable, sewing kits, shower caps, ear buds, flannels, fluffy towels, bath robes, slippers, soap bars, toilet roll folded into intricate origami and massage oils to add to the bath or rub into your skin after a hot shower. These can make or break a bathroom and (after photographing them, naturally!) I love to open them up and smell them, plot a long and rare soak in a copper bathtub and plan a relaxing lounge wrapped up in a robe with a good book. I'll consider a hair mask and conditioning session after a swim if the right hair products are placed in front of me - the toiletries will shape my stay, as geeky as that may sound ; ) Henlow Grange Spa Secret Stays My Inner Housekeeping Nerd Will Kick In I will sweep my finger across door frames, check showers for cobwebs (oh so many I've found on my journeys!) and peek behind headboards to find all kinds of bizarre trinkets and the like. I once found a toy soldier under the bed in one hotel and a bag of dog mess on the patio of another... The hotel inspector in me comes out before I've unpacked my suitcase, I want to know that the room I'm sleeping in is clean and tidy before I start making myself at home... I'm yet to find a "perfectly" spotless boudoir, I'm sad to report, no matter the quality of the venue I've stayed in, nowhere has yet been entirely faultless or spotless! Congham Hall Hotel Secret Stays Unpack.... And I mean UNPACK! I'm quite anal when it comes to staying away, I'm very much as I am at home... everything must have its place. Even if I'm staying away for just one night, I have to unpack absolutely everything before I can leave my room and explore. My toothbrush has to go in the holder at the bathroom sink, underwear in a drawer, makeup and hair straighteners at the dressing table (or, a desk in most cases) and my iphone charger has to be plugged in at the wall. I'm an odd creature I fear, but I can't leave until I have an empty bag, carefully & neatly tucked away in the wardrobe with my coat, jacket, rain-proofs and shoes... yep, I'm a nerd, I warned you! Goats at Ravenwood Hall Hotel Secret Stays Take Some More Pictures Once I'm happy with my room, the view and I've unpacked, I wander around the venue and get even more snap happy. I love the tiny details dotted around a well thought out hotel. The walking boots lined up against the entrance hallway wall, the silver ornaments on a fireplace, the ornate chandeliers dropping from the ceiling and the furry friends that occupy a country retreat - I can't help it, I have a problem. Hotel-anonymous may well be needed in a short while! Congham Hall Hotel Secret Stays What Else Is There To Do, But....? Well, once I'm settled, I've taken a million photos & I've Instagrammed / Tweeted / Facebooked my share of awesome shots and checked out the food & drink and the spa facilities, I'm ready to head back to my room and suss out the bed! Who doesn't love to flop onto a nicely made bed, to test the bounce, cuddle up to feel the thickness of the duvet and see just how fast those goose feathered pillows deflate under the weight of your head?!.... If they do this quickly, then a call to reception to request more pillows has been known on many an occasion! The Angel Hotel Secret Stays What do you do on checking into a hotel yourself? Do you head for similar traits or do you just dump your luggage and run for the nearest tourist attraction/pub/etc?     I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!   Miss Sue Flay   Boots at Congham Hall Hotel Secret Stays

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Ask Miss Sue Flay: Where Is The Best Afternoon Tea In Cambridge?

Over the last five years, I've been reviewing and sampling many, many afternoon tea tiers - it's truly a tough job, but somebody has to do it, right?! Afternoon Tea At Hotel Felix Hehe. This is a common question and I get asked it so regularly that I felt I needed to update my previous recommendations and share some thoughts on the best afternoon tea in Cambridge. When it comes to our favourite British pastime, I am very, very particular and I can be extremely fussy at this point in my afternoon tea-based career. If it isn't loose leaf tea in my teapot, then I can get very stroppy and start to judge a venue very quickly from there. Afternoon tea has a huge following and people want quantity not only when it comes to their food, but with their tea as well, myself included. There's nothing more disappointing than a stewed "cash & carry" tea bag in place of a pretty leaf and please don't get me started on cold, curled, pre-prepared finger sandwiches - you'd be surprised as to how many places offering afternoon tea get these little touches so wrong. I must say, I'm always torn when I answer this question, as it really depends on your needs. A venue that might be perfect for a relaxed afternoon tea for two may not be suitable for a large family celebration, so it's really tricky to answer without getting personal on why you would want it. Hopefully this might help you to make a decision when looking for somewhere for your afternoon tea cravings in Cambridge. One thing I would say is this, I've had some TERRIBLE afternoon teas in Cambridge City centre and I wouldn't recommend many at all. In fact, there's currently only two I would rate within Cambridge itself- I'm yet to find another one to highly rate, so I'm open to suggestions if anybody finds one worthy of a mention. Hotel Felix  With such a modern and relaxed vibe, this hotel on the outskirts of town is perfect for a booking of any size. The seasonal treats and friendly service make this the perfect venue for a celebration of most needs, at just £ . its worthy of a mention. John Lewis This was surprising even to myself, but in the John Lewis Brasserie in Cambridge, they have a dedicated pastry chef preparing delicious & seasonal treats for the many different tiers on offer for afternoon tea. You can enjoy a full on afternoon tea, or just the cakes, or just the finger sandwiches, depending on your fancy. Did I mention the architectural views of Cambridge from their floor to ceiling window seats, no?! Congham Hall Spa Hotel Or why not go for something a little different?! Sometimes you might just be looking for a venue that offers a great wedge of cake, a quality cup of coffee and a chilled atmosphere. These might not be "afternoon tea venues" as such, but are places I love to visit once in a while to put together my own treat menu. Afternoon Tease  Open Tuesday to Sunday, this recently new opening on King Street is the perfect venue for a slice of homemade cake and a cup of "Caravan" coffee served in vintage teacups. This is a quirky coffee shop (check out their bathroom for some fun reading material!), also open for brunch over the weekend...I'm plotting to try their "eggy bread-style" crumpets with streaky bacon & maple syrup - heaven on a plate! Gog Magog Farm Shop These guys do scotch eggs & sausage rolls very well indeed, this is my "go to" venue when I'm out walking with the dog as he's welcome to basque in the sun outside over a lazy lunch within the grounds. The scotch eggs are soft boiled eggs wrapped in a crunchy and meaty coat with a choice of a traditional or honey & mustard seasoning, both are irresistible. Two Little Cats Bakery Based in my own village of Cambourne, Two Little Cats bakery produce large and highly addictive cupcake creations. From an Elvis-inspired toffee and popcorn cupcake through to chocolate orange and lemon meringue pie concoctions, this cupcake sorcery can now be sampled at the new street food event, #FoodPark near to Cambridge railway station. Warming Your Cockles This cute little coffee van can be found doing the rounds about town, with pit stops including Fridays at Clerk Maxwell Road and along the riverside behind Newmarket Road. They serve the most divine gluten free salted caramel brownies and one of the best flat white coffees I've ever sampled, hunt them down next time you need a quality caffeine fix! Or better still, get out of town for a while! Afternoon Tea Etiquette I'm a country girl and I also love to visit new places, so if you're looking for a fantastic afternoon tea that can be recommended to you personally, these are some of my favourite venues from around and about - try them out, I don't think you will be disappointed (I hope)! Teacake Of Shepreth Ok, not technically an afternoon tea venue when simply calling in for a delicious homemade scone or ginger tiffin with a cup of tea within this chocolate box thatched cottage. This tearoom is a destination venue for cycling groups at weekends, complete with a picturesque tea garden for an al fresco cuppa if pooch is in tow. However, for larger bookings, you can secure an afternoon tea tier with a selection of tasty delights by simply calling ahead to book. I highly suggest you do... And tell Christine & Morris that Miss Sue Flay sent you, they're my favourite couple working within the afternoon tea scene, they are just fantastic and can't do enough to make you feel at home whilst visiting. Paddocks House This stunning hotel near to Newmarket is part of The House Collection (the brand behind Poets House in Ely) and has a very grand feel to proceedings. Complete with butler service, you can spend a romantic afternoon there as a couple or book out their private lounge for a larger and more secluded afternoon tea event. I took my family here for my 30th birthday celebrations and the food kept coming, even satisfying my cousin who required a gluten free option on booking. My four year old nephew was also catered for, with a hot chocolate, selection of finger sandwiches and a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, he slipped in a kip on the sofa under the windows to finish off. Congham Hall This hotel & spa is situated in Norfolk and is very close to Sandringham House to make for a memorable day trip. Afternoon tea can be enjoyed in the stunning garden or in the library, which is covered, floor to ceiling, with books and atlases to keep any book work happy for days! The fresh finger sandwiches are so more-ish, using locally sourced ingredients and herbs fresh from the grounds. Not only warm scones and a cake selection to pass out to, you're also provided with a chilled lemon posset with berry compote to tuck into. This is an indulgent afternoon tea and well worth the journey. Afternoon Tea Ely Rosey Lea  This is more of a coffee shop to me, as it's been a while since I enjoyed a chunk of their classic Victoria Sponge and a cup of Darjeeling. This place, for me, is where you go for a naughty Sunday morning brunch... The "Elvis" American pancake stack filled high with fresh banana, peanut butter, streaky bacon and maple syrup, yes this is one unhealthy option, but it's oh so worth the drive to Bishop Stortford to sample, take my word! Bedford Lodge Hotel This spa hotel is within Newmarket, very close to the racecourse and offers one of the best afternoon teas I've ever had the pleasure of sampling. Everything arrives individually, so freshly prepared finger sandwiches, with a refill should you so desire, followed by warm scones (both fruit and plain) and then a large tray of stunning cakes and tarts to finish. This is perfect for a relaxed family retreat or a civilised hen party, of which I've seen happening here. It's done very well and there's so much food on offer that a doggy bag had to be taken for a second wind later on, it would have been rude not to!   Where is your favourite afternoon tea venue in Cambridge? Or do you venture further out for your high tea fix? I'd love to hear from you below with your own experiences & recommendations. Miss Sue Flay