17 December 2015

Oh My Gin. A Spanish Gin?

I'm a bit of a creature of habit when it comes to gin. I nearly always buy Bombay Sapphire as I like the clean, crisp taste and there is also a distillery near where I live so I feel like I am buying local. If there isn't any Bombay, then I'll always try to choose a London Dry Gin like Tanqueray

So, when the Naked Wines Christmas case included a bottle of gin from Spain, I was intrigued. Had I ever tried a gin from Spain? I don't think so.

The Rambla 41 Mediterranean Dry Gin is made in a small, artisan distillery in Spain by Stefan Lismond and Philippe Geeraert and is made just for Naked Wines. 

According to the blurb, all the ingredients come from the Catalan region near Barcelona. The base spirit is made from Grenache and Carignan wine lees (the left overs from the bottom of red wine tanks). It is then infused with botanicals like Almonds, Juniper and Angelica which are apparently gathered by hand from the hills around Priorat. They then add orange and lemon peel and some special water from the gin makers' well. All impressive stuff.

I've never really looked at the ingredients of gin before, but much of the base ingredients seem similar to others I've tried. For example, Bombay Sapphire is made with Juniper, Angelica, Almonds and lemon peel. So although the method of production is more artisan, it shares many of the common ingredients to gins I've tried before.

However, the biggest difference in production seems to be the filtering method. Rambla 41 is non-chill filtered whereas most big brands chill-filter their gins as a cosmetic procedure in order to make the spirit clear.

Because Rambla 41 is non-chill filtered, it is slightly cloudy as the botanicals have not been stripped out. 

Ok, so enough about the ingredients. What was it like?

Well, the bits floating around in the gin didn't bother me at all. I mean, once you've squished some lime in your gin, it always ends up slightly foggy anyway.

If you look carefully, you'll see
the botanicals floating about
But I have to say, it does have a unique taste. It is very aromatic and fruity and quite unlike any gin I've ever tried. It is also very smooth and not at all harsh. 

But at £34.99 (£24.99 Angel Prices), it's not cheap. So is it worth it? Oh My Gin, I loved it. A really delicious treat that I will definitely buy again. On the Naked website, Angels can review things they've bought. And 98% of the 224 people who have reviewed this gin say they will buy it again. Which is a pretty strong accolade IMHO.

The gin makers recommend serving it with Fever Tree tonic, lime, a grape cut in two (presumably because a whole one would be a choking hazard - jokes) and some orange zest. I'll give that a go next time I buy some.

The bottle is also very beautiful (label below) if you like that sort of thing.

4 December 2015

Back on the Baron hunt! Mini-me style!

Look out for the stickers in
Shop windows
On the Baron Trail you say? Didn't you write about this in the Summer? Ended in September no? Well, it's back! Mini-me style! 

That's right, there's currently a Christmas Baby Baron trail in Salisbury. My dog, Baxter, is slightly less excited about being dragged on this trail because it involves visiting a whole load of shops in Salisbury town centre. Whereas last time it was all outside so he got extra walkies while I searched for the Barons.

There are 27 Baby Barons in total to be found. And, if you find them all, you're in with a chance of winning a £50 shopping voucher and a Baby Baron! 

Here's the rules:

- There are 27 Baby Barons in shop windows around Salisbury. Some of them are easy to find and some of them are in disguise or hidden!
- Most of the participating retailers have a sticker in their window which lets you know they are participating. 
- Next to or near to each of the Baby Barons is a card with a letter next to a corresponding number.
- Pick up a leaflet from one of the participating retailers and enter all the letters into the puzzle to complete a phrase. 
- Once you've found them all and found the phrase, put your email address on the back of the leaflet and hand it into any participating retailer. Bingo Bango!

Pick up one of these leaflets
Once again, I could use the map to help me find the Baby Barons. But where's the fun in that? I'm hoping to stumble across them all whilst wandering around Salisbury. It's a great way to see Salisbury at Christmas and all the lovely window displays in the various independent shops in Salisbury city centre.

I'm giving away one of the locations but... The GREAT news is that one of the participating retailers is Cambridge Wine merchants so you can stop off for a bottle of your favourite festive tipple while you search for Barons. Win, win. 

2 December 2015

What I'll be drinking this Christmas

If it lasts that long! 

Every year, I order a case of wine at the start of December, with the intention of it seeing me though until the New Year. It never does and I doubt my purchase this year will be any different!

In the past, I've bought cases from different companies. I like to buy a mixed case as it gives me the opportunity to try different wines that I otherwise might not have bought. And, Christmas mixed cases often come with some little freebies. Win win! 

Without a doubt, the best value Christmas mixed case I've found has been from Naked Wines. I've bought it for the last three years and have been delighted. 
My 2015 Naked Wines Christmas case

In 2013, I bought the case which should have been £296 and I got it for the Angel price of £164. I received a free wine aerator that I still use today and a pair of Schott wine glasses (which my husband smashed!). Plus 20 bottles which included two bottles of fizz and a port.

In 2014, the Naked Wines Christmas case brought me 18 bottles (including a port and two bottles of fizz), a Schott wine decanter, some Naked coffee and some olive oil. All for the Angel price of £159 rather than £306.

I've just received my 2015 Naked Wines Christmas Case. It went on sale last week and has already sold out, which shows you what great value it is! 

I tried to take a photo of the package and I'm not sure it does it justice! It contains 18 bottles (again, a port and two fizz), a bottle of the new Naked Wines gin, some Naked coffee, two Schott wine glasses and some quality olive oil. All for the Angel price of £169 rather than £326.

As usual, I've already tucked into my case, so it won't last until Christmas, let alone New Year! So far, my favourite wine is the Carlos Rodriguez Seleccion de Barrica 2011 (pictured). Full of ripe fruits and oaky tobacco and a bargain at £14.99 a bottle.
My favourrite wine to date. With my 2014
free decanter and one of my 2015 glasses

I'm also really looking forward to trying the bottle of gin that came with the case. The Rambla 41 Mediterranean Dry Gin is the first Naked Wines funded gin. The read-up says it is non chilled filtered which apparently leaves it slightly cloudy but leaves a better taste. I'll let you know what I think.

If you're thinking about getting the Naked Wine Christmas case in 2016, then get in early as it always disappears.

** If you're wondering what Angel prices are, then read my earlier article on Naked Wines. Happy drinking. Do it sensibly and all that.

28 November 2015

How do you review wine in 140 characters?

I was recently lucky enough to be asked to join the Aldi Wine Club. I say ask. I begged and they accepted. 

If you haven't heard of the Aldi Wine Club, it's basically a club for amateur tasters to review some of the wines the supermarket has on their shelves. The deal is, they send me wine every month and I have to write a review on Twitter.

Which means writing a review on a bottle of wine in 140 characters. And, using the #AldiWineClub hashtag.

So, I was delighted when my first batch of wines turned up this week. A bottle of Prosecco and a Chardonnay. 

At first, I was quite excited because I'd received two wines I wouldn't generally buy. 

I like white wine, but I'd usually buy a Sauvignon Blanc rather than a Chardonnay. So the Chardonnay Pays D'oc wouldn't be something I would generally buy. And, I love Prosecco, but it's the sort of thing I would choose for a special occasion and would probably splash out. So the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Spumante DOCG retailing at £7.49 wouldn't be something that would end up in my basket.

But I love to try new wines, and I was super excited to receive something different to the usual. Plus, I could tell friends and family I was a wine taster for Aldi. Recognise.

However, my initial excitement quickly turned to panic. How do I review a bottle of wine in 140 characters? 140 characters is nothing! And, I'm opening the first bottle this weekend, so any advice would be gratefully received!

20 November 2015

I went to Majestic to buy a bottle of wine.... And bought 2!

Yes, that's right, I went to Majestic and didn't have to buy six bottles of wine. 

Majestic has recently merged with Naked Wines and new CEO, Gormley, is making a whole load of changes at the wine retailer. The first of which is to scrap the ridiculous rule where you have to buy six bottles of wine

Anyone who reads my blog will know that I am a big fan of Naked Wines. If you are interested in them, you can read all about them here. So, if I'm going to buy in bulk, then I generally buy them from Naked Wines.

But, I really like some of the wines in Majestic and I'd much rather buy from there than a supermarket. Which is why I am absolutely delighted that they've ditched their six bottle rule.

So, I went into the Salisbury branch of Majestic today. It's perfect for me because it's on my usual afternoon dog walk and they let me come in with the dog (and the baby!)

I think the store helpers all thought I was a bit mental because I must have said about five times how excited I was that I could now buy single wines. But, there are very few places to buy wine in Salisbury (outside of supermarkets) and I'm nearly always on foot with the dog and six bottles is too many to lug around. And, it was a silly rule anyway.

The great thing about Majestic is that they always have a selection of wines open to try. And, you can come in and help yourself. No pressure, no hard sell. The dog and the baby love it.
The tasting counter at Majestic Salisbury

You can look on the website for your local branch and it will tell you what wines they have on the tasting counter. This week, they had a selection of Malbecs (as well as some white wines, a whisky, a rum and a brandy) that I was really keen to try. 

When I walked in, the trainee manager, Luis, welcomed me. He was really friendly and explained to me about the new pricing structure. Basically, you can buy individual bottles, but you only get discounts if you buy six. They call it "mix six" and it basically means that you'll get at least 10% off if you buy six or more bottles.

The labels are a bit confusing because they display the individual price and the "mix six" price. So they explained it to me three times when I was in the store. But I guess it is new and people will get used to it. 

I really like Malbecs and they had four on tasting. The Definition Malbec 2014, the Marcelo Pelleriti Malbec 2014 Valle De Uco, Mendoza, the Argento Malbec 2014 Mendoza and the Villa Nueva Malbec 2014 Mendoza.
The Malbecs that I tasted today

My favourite was definitely the Definition Malbec. The Definition range is Majestic's new own label range which they launched in September. But, it's certainly not a cheap white label. To give you an idea of the price, it costs £11.99 a bottle of £7.99 a bottle if you buy six. 

The Definition Malbec is from Argentina and is rich, plummy and chocolatey and easily my favourite from the day. I also bought a bottle of the Villa Nueva Malbec which was also lovely, but perhaps less punchy. I intend to do a blind taste testing with my husband tonight to establish whether I really did make the right decision or if my eyes were swayed by price.

I'll let you know the results.

14 November 2015

What I drank this weekend: Pinot Noir (of course)

I was once told that the best Pinot Noir comes from either Burgundy in France or Marlborough in New Zealand. This is due to the climate and soil as Pinot Noir tends to like cool climates.

And since then, I've been a bit of a snob about it and tend to only buy my beloved red from those regions. The same with Sauvignon Blanc.

However, recently I have started to stray into trying different regions. Don't get me wrong, I love the light and earthy taste of a Marlborough Pinot Noir, but lately I've been trying some from South East Australia and Oregon.

Oregon is cooler than most Pinot sites in California and so tends to produce a lighter wine more similar to the Burgundy and less fruity and punchy than those from Sonoma. I have particularly enjoyed drinking the Underwood Pinot Noir from Marks and Spencer. At £13 a bottle it isn't cheap, but I think worth every penny. It doesn't have the smoky, mushroomy taste of some Pinots but its fruity and full of ripe cherries and raspberries and of course violets.

Now, when it comes to Australia, I'd generally be inclined to buy a Shiraz or a Cabernet. However, the South Eastern region can be cooler and I've recently become a fan of the Telegraph Station Pinot Noir. Made exclusively for Tesco it is half the price of the Marks and Spencer Pinot Noir at £6 a bottle. And it is delicious. Again, not mushroomy like the Burgundies but bright and fresh and full of raspberry and black cherry. In fact, it has recently been awarded a  International Wine & Spirit Competition Quality Award IWSC Bronze award.

So, if you're coming to visit me over my birthday or Christmas, feel free to bring either of these two reds. They are both great, but I think the Marks and Spencer wine is the winner. So, I'd be especially pleased if you brought this.

Slurrp sensibly and that :) 

30 October 2015

Just text for wine!

If you follow me on Twitter or regularly read my blog, you'll know that I am a huge fan of the company Naked Wines.

I first became a member (or an Angel) in 2015 when Eamon FitzGerald came to a conference I was attending and waxed lyrical about buying wine with a social purpose. You can read my original article here.

They have loads of wines on the website, so I always spend ages trying to decide which ones to order. In the past, I've often ended up buying a prepared mixed case because I know I'll get something different to try and it means I don't have to give myself brain ache trying to narrow my selection down to 12 wines.

I have now discovered that Naked Wines has a new service called Text for Wine. It's amazing and does exactly what it says on the tin! 

All you have to do is register for the service online and then you can just send those bods at Naked Wines a text and they will send you wine. So you can do it any time, any place. I won't tell you what I was doing at the time!

And you can be as vague or specific as you like. So, for my first order, I asked for 12 bottles, for the wines to be around £10 a bottle, a mixture of red and white and told them the sorts of wines that I liked. And that was that!

The next day, a box of wines came through my door. The total cost was £105 (including my Angel discount) so actually worked out a bit less than £10 a bottle. And, I was really pleased with the selection. There were a couple of wines in there I'd ordered before such as the Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet 2014 and the Dominic Hentall Malbec 2014. But there were some new ones to try such as the Christian Patat Primitivo Puglia 2014 (which was really nice) and a delicious bottle of Benjamin Laroche Chablis 2013.

Apparently this is the first service of its type in the UK and currently only available to Angels (monthly subscribers to Naked Wines). But I think it is brilliant and I'll definitely be texting for wine in the future!

30 September 2015

Our anniversary meal at the River Cafè

Possibly cheaper than an eternity ring

If you follow my blog, you'll know that I had a rather fabulous wedding in Tuscany, Italy in 2014. For our wedding anniversary this year, rather than get each other presents, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at the Hammersmith based Italian restaurant, the River Cafe
Enjoying an Aperol Spritz
at the bar

We've wanted to go there ever since we watched a TV programme featuring all the celeb chefs who earned their wings there including Theo Randall, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. And, we thought we deserved a treat since we'd been setting up our new business and we'd barely left the house since our son was born. Essentially, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to reminisce about being a carefree couple in Italy before life got serious and we got responsibilities. 

Adam with the restaurant
behind him. You can just see the
big, pink pizza oven!

So we packed our son off to his Nonna and got the train up to the big smoke. 

Although it was mid September, we were lucky enough to have a really warm day. So, after a drink at the bar (an Aperol Spritz of course as that's what we had at our wedding), we decided to sit outside in the sunshine over looking the Thames.

We were so lucky to be able to
sit on the terrace in the sun

Inside, the restaurant was very open plan and industrial but with a huge, pink Pizza Oven right in the middle. Outside, the tables were simple, no fuss with the brick warehouse buildings to the side and the Thames out front setting the scene. We were surrounded by very chic, elegant looking couples and families dining in the sunshine. All oozing effortless class and making us feel very colloquial. Even the perfectly dressed children seemed perfectly at home, ordering the char grilled squid with chilli or risotto with clams without blinking an eyelid.
My Rabbit Pappadelle.
The nicest thing I've
ever eaten

The menu itself was fairly simple. Just a couple of printed sheets of paper with a concise list of antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci. We'd poured over the sample menu on the train to decide what to have and then the menu was completely different when we got there. Different, but better.

To start, we both had rabbit and fennel pappardelle. I ordered this because it reminded me of the most delicious rabbit pasta I'd had at a restaurant called Trattoria Chiribiri in San Gimignano when we'd visited prior to getting married nearby. Up until that meal, that was the best pasta I'd ever tasted. Until the River Cafè. Now, that is the best pasta I've ever tasted. It was nothing over elaborate and looking at it you might not think it to be that special. However, it was an absolutely dream on the palate and the balance of flavours was just perfect. I could have eaten five plates of it.
My white fish with clams

For main, my husband had the Grouse which he really enjoyed and was served with the most amazing, buttery pumpkin. I chose a clam and white fish main with Swiss chard- yum. To follow, I had my staple favourite, Affogato with Espresso and Adam had a selection of cheeses (his staple favourite). 

A sommelier offered to help us select wines to match our meal. And, the sophisticated couple at the table next to ours did just that and had a different wine matched to each course and dish. However, we were on a trip down memory lane and when it came to the Tuscany memory lane, it had to be a Chianti. We ordered the Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012 which I know was completely too strong for all of my dishes, but I didn't care. It was absolutely delicious and we enjoyed every last drop of the two bottles we ordered.
Probably completely
wrong for our meal. But
completely delicious

And, to top it off, halfway through our main course, a couple arrived to have their wedding reception on the lawn in front of us. It couldn't have been more fitting. 

The River Cafè often gets criticised because of it's hefty prices. And, don't get me wrong, it was expensive (although no-one around us appeared to be looking at the prices). But was it worth it? Absolutely. The staff couldn't have been nicer. They were really friendly and helpful even though we were obvious paupers compared to the other clientèle. We even got a free scoop of ice-cream with "Happy Anniversary" written around it in chocolate. 
A nice touch from the

Maybe it was the copious amounts of wine we consumed. Maybe it was being 85 miles away from my baby. Maybe it was the September sunshine. But, the whole day was just perfect.

As my husband said, if we were rich, we'd eat there every weekend. However, we are not rich, so it might be some time before we are able to go back. Until then, I'll lick my lips over that rabbit pappardelle. 

2 September 2015

Bring on the Barons - an update!

My favourite Baron
After originally writing about the Salisbury Baron Trail in June, I have now, finally found all of the Barons! 

There are 25 in total. And, although you can download a map online, I wanted to try and find all of them myself by simply stumbling across them. However, I've kind of been really busy since then setting up my business so I haven't been to many places to come across the Barons.

Well, today, I finally found the last three! And, I got to hang out at Salisbury fire station. So a double reward.

If you want to go and find the Barons, then they are hanging around until Sunday 6th September when they will all be auctioned off in aid of the Trussell Trust.

Each of the Baron sculptures are decorated by a different artist. I think my favourite one is called "Astro Baron" and is outside the Salisbury Museum. It's decorated by Jenny Leonard and it's modern, space-age theme means it really stands out in its historical setting.

My son playing in the light installations
Although not part of the Barons' trail, I didn't mention the Salisbury Cathedral light installations in my last blog. They are also on display as part of the Magna Carta celebrations so go hand in hand with the Barons' Trail. The interactive Enlightenment which, although has a ridiculous name, is really fun and great for kids and babies to have a sensory experience. It's going to be on display until 7th September too.

So, if you haven't seen any of the Barons or the light installations yet, get yourself down to Salisbury. According to my BBC iPhone app, its going to be quite nice in Salisbury over that weekend.

To read my original article, click here.

30 June 2015

Tasting wines at Chateau Teyssier with Tom Harrow

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to an 40th birthday party staying at Chateau Rigaud near Saint Emilion in the Bordeaux region of France. 

Me tasting Le Dome 2009 at Chateau Tessier
One of the fabulous excursions that was organised (as well as a helicopter ride over Saint Emilion!!) was a wine tasting trip to a nearby Chateau, Chateau Teyssier. This was hosted by wine expert Tom Harrow from Honest Grapes who had also done a vertical wine tasting for us at our Chateau the previous night.

Although we were in the heart of Bordeaux, we had been drinking Tuscan reds for most of the week, thanks to the birthday boy's love of Italian wines. So it was organised that the wine tasting should be a comparison of a couple Italian 2009 reds vs a couple of the Grand Crus produced in 2009 by JCP Maltus wines.

The Chateau itself is hugely opulent, modern and immaculate. We were fortunate enough to be greeted by Lyn Maltus, one of the owners and a pair of gorgeous Gordon Setter dogs. After a brief tour of the production, we were led through to the tasting area, which was cool despite it being a 30 degree day in France, which overlooked a beautiful swimming pool with relaxed outside eating areas. Overall, it had a very decadent feel.

The wines we tasted at Chateau Teyssier
Now, anyone who reads my blog knows that I love wine. But I really wouldn't class myself as an expert. I suspect like a lot of wine fans, I drink a lot of it and I know what I like, but that is about it. One day, I hope to take my WSET and become more of an expert, but for now I am content being a happy novice. 

So, some of the talk about terroirs and South Bank and Left Bank wines went a bit over my head. But I have to admit, all of the wines we tasted were absolutely delicious and the whole atmosphere was amazing. And it was good to compare wines with similar grape composites from different countries from the same year.

Outside Chateau Teyssier
Having got married in Tuscany in 2013, I obviously absolutely love Italian wines. But probably my favourite wine of the day was Le Dome 2009. Apparently JCP Maltus only produced around 1,000 cases of this so it weighs in at a hefty £131 a bottle. But when you taste it, you can see why it has such a glamorous price tag. It is smooth, fruity and velvety and was given 99 points by Robert Parker who said the Dome was Johnathon Maltus' finest wine to date.

My next favourite was probably Le Macchiole Paleo 2009 from Tuscany. This has a more affordable price point of £45. Made with 100% Cabernet Franc, it smells of plums and cherries and tastes of spice and tobacco.

We also tried the Vieux Chateau Mazerat 2009 vs the Castello di Ama L'apparita 2009. Both of which were great, but the Bordeaux probably had the edge with its Cranberry and white chocolate flavours.

I've done lots of wine tastings around the world. But even in Sonoma in California, I've never been somewhere as elegant as Chateau Teyssier or tried such fine wines. An absolute once in a lifetime experience and thanks to everyone who made it happen.

29 June 2015

Bring on the Barons

If you've been to Salisbury recently, you might have spied some multi-coloured statues littered around the town centre. 

I hadn't heard these little hunched over men were arriving. But they suddenly popped up all over the the place, with a team of stealth volunteers putting them up in the dead of night. And apparently it's the biggest mass participation public event ever to be held in Salisbury. 

The statues are Barons as part of the Magna Carta 800th celebrations and there are 25 of them all over Salisbury town centre. Why Barons? Well apparently there were 25 Barons that originally formed a committee to oppose evil King John and to help ensure he complied with the terms of the Magna Carta. 

They are all designed by different artists so I've had fun trying to collect photos of all of them. And, my Instagram and Facebook are littered with people taking selfies with them. 

You can pick up a map of the Baron Trail at the tourist information office in Salisbury or you can download one online, but where is the fun in that? To date, I've managed to stumble across 19 of them and I have until September to find the remaining 6. 

As well as being a fun way to see different parts of Salisbury, the Baron Trail also supports the Trussell Trust, the UK's leading poverty charity. If you enjoy the trail, you can text TBCS15 £5 to 70070 to donate £5 to the charity. Plus they are all being auctioned off in October to trial even more money for the Trussell Trust. 

19 June 2015

What happens when you miss your Monarch flight

On 2nd June 2015, we missed our Monarch flight from Gatwick to Tenerife. We've never missed flights anywhere before and, with Monarch, it turns out to be a massively stressful and expensive thing to do. Here is what happened to us and why we were so cross about the situation.

How we missed the flight

OK. So we were late to the airport. Everything that could have gone wrong on the journey there did go wrong. Roadworks on the M3, a breakdown in our feeder lane on the motorway and a nightmare finding a space at the long stay car park.

But we got there in time and we managed to check onto the flight. We were flying with our 8 month old baby so we had quite a lot to check in including his buggy, car seat, his travel cot as well as all of our suitcases. We breathed a sigh of relief when we checked in as we thought, "we've made it". 

We then went through the airport as quickly as you can when carrying a baby. But I obviously couldn't run and we had bottles and food for the baby, all of which had to be checked and tested. We didn't stop to change the baby, we didn't get a drink or any food, we didn't even go to the toilet. We couldn't have gone any quicker than we did. 

Yet, when we got to the gate, we found that they'd closed the flight and taken our luggage off the flight. Our travel cot, car seat, buggy and suitcases were all sat on the Tarmac in the rain.

We were all pretty tired
when we finally caught
our Monarch flight
And, for the next 15 minutes we had to sit there and watch the plane not moving. We had to go back through immigration and then back to check in and only the stewardesses could take us through. It was 15 minutes until the plane even moved so we just had to sit there and look at it. But once your bags are off the flight, that is it apparently. 

To be fair to the stewardesses, they were really nice. And they kept telling us that Monarch are generally really good in situations like ours and let you transfer your ticket over to another flight. Well, that is not what happened. They were not good. We had to buy a new ticket based on the cost of the flight on the day, which was £1,014 single to Tenerife. They were "good" enough to include the cost of our original flight within that, but given we had booked months before, it was a drop in the ocean. 

How Monarch did not help the situation 

Now you could argue the situation was our fault for arriving at the airport late. And, while I take your point, here is what annoyed us:

  1. When we checked in, we weren't told that it'd be really tight for us to get to the gate on time. We weren't even told to rush. I asked how far it was to the gate and I was told that "it was pretty far". But we were not told that we had to really hurry and if we didn't, we wouldn't make the plane.
  2. Given that we were carrying a child, couldn't run and given how long it takes to get bottles etc through security, it would have been impossible for us to have got to the gate any faster. On that basis, we believe it was impossible for us to have made our flight. The Monarch staff should have known this and should either have not checked us into the flight or offered us some sort of assistance or advice for getting through security more quickly.
  3. After we arrived at the gate and were told we would not be allowed to board, it was a good 15 minutes before the plane moved. There would have been plenty of time for them to reload our bags and let us on the plane without delaying the flight. We were told that, once the bags have been been taken off the flight, they could not be reloaded. This seems like a ridiculous rule and one which neither of the air stewardesses could explain the rationale behind.
  4. The cost of the replacement flights was ludicrously expensive. We flew to Australia at Christmas for a similar sum. And, the flight wasn't even nearly full so those seats would have been empty on the flight anyway. It felt like the airline was profiting from our desperate situation.
  5. Our bags were clearly left on the runway for quite some time as they were utterly drenched when they were returned to us. Our son sleeps in a Sleepyhead Grande sleep pod which cost us £150. It was totally soaking and shrunk as a result and is therefore ruined.

View from our seats when we finally
caught our Monarch flight
Overall, it was an incredibly stressful day and one which was not helped by Monarch. We relayed the story (as you can imagine) to quite a few people over the next few days and no one could believe how uncaring Monarch were, especially as we were travelling with a baby.

We finally arrived at our destination at 9pm and we were all exhausted. An experience we hope never to repeat and I urge anyone reading this not to repeat!

17 June 2015

Travelling to La Gomera by ferry

For my Mum's 70th birthday, we booked a villa through our Hotel Property Bond (HPB) scheme on the little known island of La Gomera. If you've never heard about HPB, you can read about it on my blog here

La Gomera is one of the Canary Islands and is located 18 nautical miles just West of TenerifeTo get there, you can either fly to Tenerife and then get a ferry across. Or you can fly to La Gomera's small airport which receives one flight a day and just 32,000 passengers a year. 

We chose to arrive by boat and so flew the Tenerife South Airport and then transferred to Los Cristianos port. From there, we got a small ferry over to San Sebastián port on La Gomera. 

The ferry only takes around 50 minutes, is a very pleasant journey. It's a beautiful way to arrive at the island where the pretty coloured houses on the hillside greet you. The ferry is operated by Fred Olsen, who runs three ferries a day and you can buy tickets online for around €34 return.  

I guess most people get put off by the additional travelling required to get to La Gomera. Which is probably why so few people have heard of the island. But it's very easy and quite a fun journey. The island is remote and beautiful and the Garajonay National Park on the Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site so it is definitely worth the extra travel. 

6 June 2015

Using gNappies on holiday

Since our little one was first born, we have used reusable nappies. We mostly use Charlie Bananas and Bumgenius Freetime, but we also have some Bambino Miosolo nappies. We also use cheeky wipes dipped in water which I think are kinder to his skin than wet wipes.

However, on holiday, we have always had to resort to disposable nappies. Reusables simply take up too much space in the suitcase and it can be difficult to store and wash dirty nappies. When we went to Australia at Christmas, we used disposables and wet wipes and he got ever such a sore bottom.

Drying my gNappies in the
So when we went to La Gomera this June, we were keen to use an alternative to disposables.

Fortuitously, I was gifted some preloved gNappies. These are like a halfway house between reusable and disposable. They are a three part nappy system with a washable fabric outer, a breathable plastic snap in pouch into which you put a disposable insert. The insert is 100% biodegradable and you can put wet nappies in the compost heap and they will degrade in 100 days. The rest gets put in the wash.

We never found that wet nappies leaked through to the fabric, so we could just take out the insert and use the same nappy and snap in pouch. And, even with soiled nappies, although the pouch got dirty, the actual fabric nappy stayed clean. So we just snapped in a new pouch and a new insert and we were off. 

The little changing station I
set up in our room
They are good for travelling because you only need a few of the fabric nappies (we had 3) a few of the snap in pouches that hold the inserts and then a stash of the inserts. I found that a pack of 32 inserts was perfectly sufficient for a week's holiday. We then washed the nappies twice during the week, but if we'd have had more of them, say 7, we probably wouldn't have needed to do a wash at all.

The gNappies themselves cost from £14.95 new, the disposable inserts cost £8.95 for 40 and the pouches cost £12.95 for 6. So, it probably won't save you money compared to disposables. But once you have the gNappies and the pouches, they will last you a while and I guess the inserts are a comparable cost to disposables. Plus, they are obviously much better for the environment.
My little one crawling around
in his gNappy

My son didn't get a sore bottom at all during the week and, although not fully reusable, it felt more natural and gentle than using scratchy, sweaty disposables.  They also looked much cuter when he was crawling around in his birthday suit. 

I've noticed on the gNappies website that they also do cloth inserts so you can use the system and be 100% reusable. They come in packs of 6 and are made from 2 layers of micro fleece and 2 layers of hemp and cotton. I'm off to France at the end of June, so maybe I will give those a try. 

15 May 2015

Where to go for lunch with a baby in Salisbury

When I first had my son, I used to panic a bit about where to meet my friends and family for lunch. I needed somewhere that was child friendly, big enough to fit a buggy (or several buggies) and with baby changing facilities. It is astounding how many pubs and restaurants in Salisbury don't have baby changing rooms or have steps up to the toilets. 

So, in the last 8 months, these are the places that I have found to be most child friendly. I haven't been everywhere, so if you have any recommendations then please let me know and I'll update this little post. I was going to take photos of the changing rooms, but I concluded that would be just strange!

Happy lunching mothers (and fathers)!

Cosy Club

49 New Street, Salisbury 
When eating at the Cosy Club, you can choose to eat in the bar area, the restaurant or outside in the courtyard garden. The best for buggies and babes is probably the bar area where they have sofa sections that are perfect for little ones. However, you can book tables in the restaurant online and request extra space for strollers and in my experience they have been very accommodating. The changing rooms are stand alone which means both mums and dads can change the little ones. They are on the ground floor round in the restaurant. 

Salisbury Cathedral Refectory

Salisbury Cathedral, the Close, Salisbury,
This is a staple Tuesday destination for me and my Mum friends. The toilets are large and smell nice and never seem to be occupied. Again, they are stand alone so not just women have to do the changing. There's lots of space for buggies and they have large booth areas that are perfect for families and groups of parents. They have really nice high chairs, not those dreadful wooden ones which large kids can escape from and small kids wobble around in. They also have a kid's toy area, so all-round a great choice. 

Another great thing about the Cathedral, is the Cloisters area is calm, quiet, dry and sheltered. I used to spend hours walking with my buggy round and round there on windy and wet days. The tap tap of the paving stones worked every time to lull my baby off to sleep. I guess it'll probably be less quiet during the height of the tourist season!

Chapter House

Johns Street, Salisbury 
I have written about this place in my blog before as it is very friendly and allows for dogs in the bar area. They are also very child friendly and have even offered to hold my little one during a meal! He was going a bit mental at the time! 

Lots of space in the bar area for buggies and stand alone baby changing rooms through the restaurant, round by the hotel reception. 


Silver Street, Salisbury, Starbucks Salisbury
I thought I would mention Starbucks because I think it is the most child friendly of the coffee chains in Salisbury. I wouldn't even go into Costa on the Market Square as its a nightmare trying to navigate round all the tables and chairs. Really nice staff, stand alone baby changing downstairs and lots of room for buggies. 


Out of all the Italian chains in Salisbury, this is probably the best with babies. The tables are well spread out, so lots of room for buggies (unlike Prezzo which is a nightmare!) and baby changing downstairs. 


I've only been here a couple of times because it is a bit of a walk out of the town centre. The main cafe (there are two now) is large and spacious, plus you get free coffee with your Waitrose card. Toilets can get pretty busy and can therefore be a bit dirty sometimes (but nowhere near as bad as the ones in Debenhams). But the toilets are stand alone so men and women can do the changing. 

I don't want you to think I have spent my entire maternity leave being a lady who lunches. But there has to be some benefits to all these sleepless nights and weight gain! 

I look forward to hearing from you with your suggestions of new places we can try. 

17 March 2015

Mother's Day lunch at the Chapter House, Salisbury

My son turned 6 months old the day before Mother's Day, so we had two reasons to celebrate my first ever Mothering Sunday. 

We decided to go out for lunch just as a family. The pub round the corner from my house has recently reopened so we thought we would try there. The Pub used to be called the Chapter House, then the Lazy Cow and now it is the Chapter House again. 

Mother's Day menu
It reopened in December and pretty much has the same decor as the previous incarnation but with a bit less clutter and freshened up. It's pretty funky with cow hide seats and trendy lighting but with perhaps more of a traditional feel.  

We had the second lunch sitting (2.30pm) and it was packed which was a good sign given it was so new. The staff were really friendly and they even gave us a water bowl for our dog (dogs are allowed in the bar area) and helped to clear space for our buggy. There was a British Bulldog at the next table and she and our Border Terrier soon became friends. 

A selection of the food we ordered
They had a special Mother's Day menu which was reasonably varied although might not have offered that much choice for vegetarians. Much more affordable than the previous pub, the Lazy Cow, and the food was more traditional pub fair rather than the pretentious food they served before. I think the owners must have a South African connection as there were some interesting choices on the menu which gave it an unusual twist. 

Adam opted for the Boerewors with Chakalaka to start! These were South African meaty sausages with relish. He then had the largest serving of ribs I ever saw and he nearly demolished the lot. I was so proud. I had calamari and chorizo to start followed by roast beef. I was really impressed with the roast beef as it came rare whereas it is often over cooked in pubs and with a huge Yorkshire pudding. No aunt Bessie's here. 

Backsberg Pinotage
I decided to treat myself to a glass of wine and chose a bottle of Backsberg Pinotage from South Africa. It was very fruity and herby but not too heavy, very delicious. It was £23.95 a bottle so not too bad. I had a glass and the hubby finished off the rest! Their cheapest red wine was a Chilean Cab Sav at £16.95 a bottle. 

All the food was really good quality and the staff were very attentive throughout. The bill came to £60 which I think is reasonable given we had starters, mains and a bottle of wine. 

Baxter enjoying his lunch
If you're looking for a town centre pub in Salisbury, this place is definitely now in my top 3 along with the Cosy Club and Bills. It's got 15 rooms as well for those travelling from out of town. Nearest parking is Brown Street car park or the multi storey at the Old George mall

We will definitely be back, especially since we know our furry friend is welcome. Well, it is our local after all and you should support local.....