Monday, 20 March 2023

A pub crawl around Chester, UK

You might have seen recently I went to stay in Chester, my old stomping ground. This gorgeous city is only small but it has a LOT to offer ...unfortunately it was torrentially raining when we arrived so after checking into Hotel Indigo, we decided the only thing for it was to go on a pub crawl of all the 'olde world' pubs. So below you'll find everywhere we went, as well as everything you need to know and what we thought of each place...

Watergates Bar, 11 Watergate Street

Located in what is said to be the oldest medieval crypt in England, Watergates Bar is actually a Greene King - being part of a chain I expected it to be fairly cheap, and it was definitely more expensive than I thought it would be. Our round of a cider & black and a Carling came to £10.50; they didn't have Dark Fruits or Fosters, our go-to choices, which ended up being a theme of the afternoon... We also ate here, and for a katsu chicken burger meal and a camembert & prosciutto sandwich with chunky chips it was over £22.

However, the decor and the barman made it amazing - obviously it's an ancient crypt, so it was all archways and dark wood, enhanced by fairy lights and hanging vines. There's plenty of information about the crypt and its ghosts, and they show sports in here too. There is loads of seating as well as a 'snug' area which you can hire on request, and the bar is dog-friendly. It even has a roof terrace but due to the aforementioned rain we decided to skip it... My one complaint would be that the toilets were freezing and smelled of broccoli.

My rating: 8.5/10
Kate's rating: 8/10

Bear & Billet, 94 Lower Bridge Street

Our next stop was the lovely Bear and Billet; small but perfectly formed, it was only £7.50 for a cider and a lager. It's an old timber-framed house, and is said to be one of the last of its kind remaining in England. There was a proper fire crackling, comfortable seating, and the food looked really tasty as well as being reasonably priced from what we could see. Also, the food comes up from the kitchen via a dumb waiter which was honestly fascinating to see. They had some decent tunes playing, and there were a decent number of customers for a Monday afternoon. I absolutely adored it in here and can't wait to go back!

My rating: 9.5/10
Kate's rating: 8.5/10

The King's Head, 48 Lower Bridge Street

We headed up the road to the King's Head, which is in some sort of partnership with a haunted hotel youtube show and as such is covered in posters and has some gimmicky merch on display next to the bar. It was really grotty and tired-looking in here, and the toilets were pretty gross. There was a fire, unlit, and it just lacked atmosphere for me. The food looked okay and the barmaids were friendly enough, but I definitely wouldn't go back. It also cost £9.50 for our two pints! Not for me. 

My rating: 4/10
Kate's rating: 3/10


The Pied Bull, 57 Northgate Street

This is a pub I remember going in when I was at uni, but it seems really different now; we didn't get a friendly vibe whatsoever, and the place smelled entirely of a chip fryer. It was also super expensive - £6.25 for two HALVES! We pay just over that for two pints at home, so this was crazy to me. It could be sooooo much better here, but it just lets itself down in my opinion. It has a big outdoor area at the back, though, so bonus points for that.

My rating: 4/10
Kate's rating: 2.5/10

The Dublin Packet, 27 Northgate Street

We popped in here for another drink, and it was quiet but almost cosy - it definitely seems like a 'locals' pub, which is fine. I didn't note down the prices of our drinks here (oops) but I don't remember being shocked so it was probably around the £8 mark for two pints. The pub is named after a boat, and there was some info about this behind the bar which was interesting. It's definitely a more modern pub than some of the others in the city.

My rating: 6/10
Kate's rating: 7/10

Ye Olde Boot Inn, 9 Eastgate Row

Up on the rows, this is a little and very old pub that is a strictly 'digital free zone' - no phones, tablets or laptops allowed, although of course they do accept electronic payment methods (eye-roll). There are posters and beermats everywhere reminding you not to whip out anything electric, but it was only £3.30 for two halves which wasn't bad. They don't do any of your generic branded beverages, so I'm not sure what we actually had - a cider and a lager, sure, but I don't know the names at all. It's the sort of place I would go back to if I was on my own with a good book, but there was a definite lack of atmosphere. Not even any background music allowed!

My rating: 6.5/10
Kate's rating: 6/10

The Old Queen's Head, 97 Foregate Street

This is a much more modern, generic type of pub with drinks offers on and that sort of thing; the barmaid we met in here in the afternoon was sooo friendly, and they have music and sports on etc. Just a nice, big, friendly pub with a bit of atmosphere - not much else to say really! Would be perfect for Friday night pre-drinks before hitting some of the more boujie bars in town.

My rating: 8.5/10
Kate's rating: 8.5/10

Have you been to any of these pubs, or visited Chester? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, 17 March 2023

Ringana Skincare | travel set review

Products in this blog post have been sent to me as PR samples; all thoughts are my own.

It's been a good old while since I blogged about skincare, but when I can combine it with my love of travel then I just *have* to share it with you. Today I'm talking all about Ringana and their FRESH travel set in 'rich', which is for people with dry skin like me...

About Ringana

From the brand's website: Ringana products are the result of the optimum interaction of precision, high-tech and nature which we strive every day to perfect. The products are developed at our laboratory in Hartberg by our in-house research team, and are manufactured using state-of-the-art technology on the basis of the latest scientific findings. This allows us to process our high-quality active ingredients naturally and gently, thus producing positive synergy effects. The result: highly complex formulations using plant substances whose effects mutually reinforce each other.

They are a sustainable and science-based skincare company based in Austria, who create small-batch skincare products that are kind to the skin and the environment. And that's what we like to see!

The FRESH travel set

The travel sets contain 12 products, and retail for €71.70 - there are also four different options, which are light, medium, rich, and men. I opted for 'rich' because it's targeted towards people with dry skin, which is an ailment I know all too well... These travel sets come in a handy clear travel bag, which I will absolutely definitely be taking with me on my next trip (to Albania, if you're interested) as we're hand-luggage only.

So what's in the bag? You get the following products in the Ringana FRESH travel set:
✨ cleanser
✨ tonic calm
✨ cream rich
✨ anti wrinkle serum
✨ body milk
✨ foot balm
✨ hand balm
✨ body wash
✨ shampoo
✨ stay fresh
✨ deodorant
✨ tooth oil

The products range between 5ml and 50ml, and basically cover face, body and hair care. Essentially, the Ringana FRESH travel set has pretty much everything you would need to take with you on a trip, in handy sample size perfect for airport security AND for not taking up too much room in your precious luggage.

Ringana Skincare products

So what do I think of the products themselves? It's a mixed bag for me. Everything smells very natural; the products are perfume-free, which is really good for sensitive skin, and they're all pH friendly too! Some stand outs for me include the cleanser, which is so gentle but definitely does a good job of removing make up, and the shampoo which cleans really nicely. The deodorant is also really interesting; rather than being a roll-on or spray, it's an emulsion which you rub into the skin. This again makes it SO good for sensitive skin, and I actually do suffer with eczema under my arms (TMI?) so I really like this.

For me, the hand and foot balms were a bit 'meh' - I found that they were pilling when I used them, turning into tiny balls which just rested on the skin instead of sinking in, and they also felt quite greasy. So these two, I wouldn't recommend. The tooth oil is also pretty strange, but that's probably because I've never used a tooth oil before - but it's certified organic, so if this is something you're looking to replace in your hygeine regime then it could be worth looking into.

You can get sample sizes of some individual products on the site, as well as some combinations of product samples like a box specifically aimed at facial skincare. So for a lot of the products, you can try before you buy!

My overall thoughts

So what do I think of the Ringana Skincare FRESH travel set? It might seem pricey, but the quality of the ingredients and the ethos of the brand are really impressive. Plus you get a fancy travel skincare bag! If you're looking to add products to your beauty stash which are little better for your skin and the environment, then you could do far worse than trying Ringana!

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Hotel Indigo, Chester | Review

I was invited here as a press stay; all thoughts & opinions are my own.
UK travel can be just as exciting as going abroad, and when the Hotel Indigo in Chester invited me down to stay it was just what I needed - in the midst of house renovations and being busy with work, I was so looking forward to just taking a couple of days off to revisit my old university stomping ground with my girlfriend in tow. We jumped on the train, and made our way to the Hotel Indigo.

Hotel Indigo, Chester - the location

I'd say the Hotel Indigo in Chester is in the perfect location. It took us 10 minutes to walk there from the station, and the hotel is on the edge of Grosvenor Park. It's a 5 minute walk to the main high street of shops, pubs & bars too, so there's everything you need right on your doorstep. The view of the park is lovely, and it just felt like we were in the perfect place.

We arrived quite early, just after 11, and I asked if we could store our bags downstairs - the lovely Coralie on reception said if we signed up to the rewards programme for free we could check in early, so obviously we did that. Really handy to know!

Hotel Indigo, Chester - the room

After the smooth and easy check in process, we headed up to our room on the first floor. We were in room 107 which turned out to be a suite, and I was absolutely blown away. It was SO spacious, with multiple seats (including a chaise longue!) and a big comfy bed. The room also had plenty of plugs - always a bonus. There was a tea/coffee station, and a mini fridge with complimentary coke zero, milk, water etc. The bathroom was big too, with a massive shower that had excellent water pressure. I also loved the Zenology toiletries, which smelled delicious.

The room had a TV which you can control via your phone (magic!) including all the usual channels and radio stations as well as information about the Hotel Indigo, Chester and the city itself - and there's a speaker in the bathroom so you can still hear the TV in there. There's a little device on the wall to control the heating, which was definitely needed as the weather outside was so grim. The towels in the bathroom were actually big enough to wrap around your body (a rarity in hotels) and all the chairs as well as the bed were VERY comfortable.

I genuinely couldn't fault the room whatsoever; I loved the quirky decor too. From grey panelling to local artwork, funky prints, mustard yellow accents... just so chic. And did I mention the chaise longue?! Honestly just fantastic.

Our arrival actually coincided with a test of the fire alarm which we didn't know about & left us, as well as another woman on our floor, feeling quite confused as we darted out of our rooms. But it was just a test and we were allowed to go straight back up to the suite. Also, we only had one set of towels upon arrival but as we headed out to explore we let Coralie know and she made sure housekeeping popped some more in our room.

Hotel Indigo, Chester - food and drink

So the location and room were spot on - but what about the food and drink? The Hotel Indigo, Chester has a restaurant attached called The Forge, independently run and owned by restaurateur Mike Robinson, as well as a bar area. We had dinner included with our stay, and after looking at the menu we were very excited to sit down and eat.

Our booking was for 6.30, and we got down to the bar at around 6ish for a drink - two gins with lemonade came to around £15 which is a decent price for a gorgeous hotel bar. The bartender, Sean, was a delight and chatted away with us. We also got chatting to one of the chefs, who was actually my second year housemate (James) from my time at Chester University - small world! There's an open kitchen in The Forge, and it was amazing to watch the chefs work.

Dinner at The Forge

Zara, our hostess, took us over to one of the spacious and comfortable booths in the restaurant where we ordered another gin and sat down to peruse the menu again. This definitely isn't your average food, and I definitely felt like the guy in the 'Three' advert where he has to look online to see what gravalax is. But nevertheless we decided on what we wanted and ordered a starter, main and side each.

Firstly they brought out some complimentary malt loaf with two types of butter - a chicken stock butter and a chive butter. I have to say that I wasn't fussed on the chicken stock butter, but the chive version was quite literally one of the best things I've ever tasted.

My starter was leek & Jersey Royal veloute with burnt leek dressing and croutons - and it was so flavoursome. Kate ordered crispy whitebait with a chive aioli which she really enjoyed, and I tried them too and also really liked them. So we were definitely off to a strong start!

The mains came out and they were definitely what we call 'Masterchef portions': small but artfully plated up. I was glad we'd order sides too... I had the Bathurst Estate fallow deer pave which came with artichoke, broccoli & bordelaise - and Kate went for the Gloucester old spot pork, accompanied by confit belly, celeriac, chorizo jam and apricot. Both meals were delicious, full of a really rich flavour and you can tell a lot of love goes into the food here.
We were too full for pudding, but we headed back to the bar for cocktails to round off the night. It was absolutely perfect. 


Breakfast at the Hotel Indigo, Chester

The next morning we were booked in for breakfast at 9 - we had late check out, but we wanted to explore a bit more in the sunshine which had finally decided to turn up. There's a continental breakfast and then you can choose various hot food too; I'm actually not a breakfast lover, but Kate went for the full English and it looked really tasty. She definitely enjoyed it! I had a couple of mini croissants and some toast, tired some cheese and meat from the buffet, and then devoured a stunning lemon meringue muffin which came highly recommended from one of the waiters. And it did NOT disappoint!

We went off to explore and then had a really smooth check out process, and that was that. I would absolutely recommend a stay at the Hotel Indigo, Chester if you're looking for a little bit more luxury during your stay in this quaint but buzzing city...

Saturday, 4 March 2023

8 Recent Reads | March 2023

I've accidentally ended up reading *a lot* over the past week or so - I'm not complaining though! My girlfriend goes to sleep super early because of her work shifts, so I always get a solid few hours of reading in while she's snoozing next to me... I'm on track to hit my target of 100 books this year, which might sound crazy, and if I don't get there then who really cares? But anyway, without further ado, here's some quickfire reviews of my 8 recent reads...

The Nursery by Sue Watson

I think the title of this was quite misleading, but that aside it was an okay read - it follows a woman and her teenage daughter living in a flat by the coast, and they get broken into which is particularly worrying because the mum is very obviously keeping a big and possibly dangerous secret. We know this because the end of every single chapter says something along the lines of "if only I knew what was coming next..." - literally over and over. Like, it's a psychological thriller, we get it... there's going to be a twist! This was definitely 'meh' for me, so I wouldn't rush to buy or read it if I were you.

The Daughter in Law by Shalini Roland

If you know me, you know I'm a pub dweller - from working behind the bar to afternoon pints with my girlfriend to watching the match every weekend, me and the pub go hand in hand. So when I discovered that this book was set in a pub, I instantly warmed to it; it's a really enjoyable read about a newly married couple who move into his parents' pub, announcing their marriage and being thrown into working and living together as a whole family unit. Then the secrets and lies start tumbling out, like why did he not tell her he'd been married once before ...and who is she really? I really enjoyed this; it was an easy read, but that's not to say it wasn't well-written!

Better Than The Movies by Lynn Painter

This was the only YA book I read this month, and I thought it was gorgeous. A typical enemies-to-lovers AND fake dating romance, it follows neighbours who have known each other since they were tiny and are now in high school, dealing with everything that comes alongside that. She's obsessed with romance movies and playlists, so the book is peppered with quotes and song references which I loved. From dealing with grief to the importance of friendship, there are a lot of themes packed into this book and I just thought it was a fab read.

The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

If there's one book trope I'm really into it's the "reunion of friends who haven't spoken in X amount of years because of some trauma that happened and now they're getting together to figure out the truth" - and that's exactly what this is. Flicking between then & now, the book follows Ambrosia, a theatre student at an American college who has grown up to work in PR; it's their class' 10 year reunion, and she's been getting some creepy notes and emails in the run up to it. She did something pretty bad to her roommate all those years ago, and as the book goes on we figure out what that is ...with some pretty dark revenge-led consequences! Very big trigger warning for self-harm/suicide in this book. 

No Friends of Mine by Vanessa Garbin

This is another reunion story, with bonus points because they're all trapped there - it's set at a beach house in Australia during a storm, 10 years on from a high school leavers' week where two people tragically lost their lives. Our protagonist is Maz, who attends with her on-off boyfriend Lance; when they arrive, everyone is being weird and nobody knows who to trust. What happened that night has never been solved, and there are some people in the group who will do anything to discover the truth... The twists in this one were genuinely really good; my suspicions were on the right track but I could never quite work it out! I'd definitely recommend this one.

Run Away with Me by Daniel Hurst

I've read a lot of Daniel Hurst's books through my Kindle Unlimited subscription, and this wasn't my favourite but it was still genuinely great; it follows a couple who are due to have their first baby any day now, when he gets home confessing to a crime and begging her to run away with him to avoid going to prison. The book flits between both of their POVs, and we soon learn that he actually has an entirely different plan. She does become suspicious, and we get to see how it all pans out. This is a creepy tale of revenge and drama, and I enjoyed it.

A Game of Two Hearts by Iona Kane

Last month I read a fair few sapphic romances, and this was another one; it follows Tess and Rowan, ex team mates at the local rugby club, who always had a weird thing going on and are now, years later, revisiting whatever that was. Tess is recently divorced with two teenage kids, no job, an abusive ex - Rowan is busy looking after her dad, running the family business and trying to keep the rugby club going. They're maybe an unlikely pair, but the love is very real... For a fun, British, wholesome sapphic romance, definitely read this.

The Ideal Man by T J Emerson

I've read a couple of T J Emerson's books before, which is why I gravitated towards this one - I didn't love it, but it was alright. Split between the POV of three different women, all tied to the same man, it's about Sandy who is in prison for raping a bar maid. The three points of view are from his daughter, another of his victims, and also the woman he has been writing to whilst in prison. It's a question of is he guilty, who's going to stand by him, and what really happened that night. I think it was the subject matter that meant I didn't really enjoy it, but the writing/plot was okay!

So, a real mixed bag in terms of genres and whether or not they were actually good - have you read any of these? Let me know!

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Krakow to Zakopane & Kasprowy Wierch day trip!

On our trip to Krakow last month, we *knew* we wanted to do a day trip to Zakopane - from the photos it looked absolutely beautiful, and we'd read about getting a cable car up a mountain and all that fun stuff. We decided we definitely didn't want to do it on the Saturday, because it would be so busy, so we opted to go on the Thursday. 

Getting from Krakow to Zakopane

I booked our coach Krakow to Zakopane day trip tickets through Flixbus, one of my favourite budget-friendly companies to use while travelling. I paid £17 per person for the round-trip tickets, and we travelled from Borek Fałęcki - it took us around 15 minutes to get here from our hotel by tram, although we did stop off for Maccies breakfast en route so more like 45 minutes...

Upon arriving at Borek Fałęcki tram stop, we absolutely could NOT find the bus stop we needed to get to. There was a bus station, but it wasn't there, and we ended up walking round in circles sooooo many times. We were definitely getting a bit stressed, but by a stroke of luck we found it. I have included photos below of what you can see while you're at the bus stop - so you want to be on the 'main' road (Zakopianska) facing the big yellow building, and the bus stop itself has '03' on it. I've also shared what you can see side on, so I hope that makes sense but please drop me a message if you need any advice if you are planning a day trip from Krakow to Zakopane!

The bus arrived and we boarded just before 9am; we arrived in Zakopane just before 11am, so it was pretty much a 2 hour journey. The coach wasn't too busy, and it was really comfortable too. Getting from Krakow to Zakopane was, in the end, pretty easy...

Zakopane: things to do

When we got off the bus we walked through a lovely snowy park, just wandering really. Our main reason for being there was the mountain, but it was nice to see the town too. From the park we walked onto the high street, where we just mooched and took photos and ate potatoes. There were men shovelling snow off high buildings, little kids on school trips, people just shopping and hanging out; it definitely doesn't feel touristy! There was a lovely little bridge at the top of the high street which we wandered over - it wasn't big or anything, but it was cute.

Some things you can do on your day trip from Krakow to Zakopane are:

  • The Be Happy Museum (we did this in Krakow and it was fab)
  • Muzeum Oscypka (cheese-making museum)
  • Aqua Park Zakopane (an indoor water park)

There's a few churches and nice buildings too! It's mostly a ski resort, so there isn't loads, but it's a nice place to spend some time if you want to then explore the mountains. We popped into Subway and bought some sandwiches to take with us, and then made our way to the taxi rank...

Kasprowy Wierch

We asked a driver to take us to Kuznice, and he told us the price before we set off - I'd always recommend this, as it stops you from getting ripped off as a tourist. He drove us as far as cars can get, and it's signposted where you need to go to to board the cable car - it was a 500m walk, which wasn't the easiest in the snow! It doesn't snow year-round here, and the mountain is definitely at its prettiest in the winter in my opinion, but it still looks like it would be nice in the summer. Anyway, we set off and walked through the grounds of Kuznice Manor and Park Complex; this was nice in itself.

We'd booked our cable car tickets online (the morning of) for a specific time and we were there early, but they told us to just join the queue and we could take the next available car - so we did just that. After queuing for around 10-15 minutes we got into a cable car which fits around 60 people; ours was pretty full, including a couple of prams. It might be a bit claustrophobic if you're that way inclined, but it was so worth it! The price for a return cable car ride is 129PLN per person, so roughly £25 each.

The journey isn't particularly long, though you have to swap halfway - it takes around 15 minutes in total and then you're pretty much at the peak of the mountain. Here you'll find a shop, toilets, a cafe/bar and some general information. The views are quite literally breathtaking; you're above the clouds, and it's just snowy mountains as far as the eye can see. It was honestly one of the most magical experiences I've ever had!

You can just walk along the level you're at, or walk an extra ~30ft up to the very very top; we decided we might as well, while we were there, and off we went. There are walking poles you can borrow, and I wish we had done, because it is STEEP and in the snow it's not easy to manouvre yourself up at all; also do not wear Dr Martens for this... It took a while but we made it to the top, and again the views were stunning. Our hair literally froze while we were up here, which we weren't expecting - probably why most people wear hats, to be fair.

After we'd seen the peak and got some photos, avoided some crazy skiiers and took in the view, we headed back down again. I absolutely hated this bit personally; it felt like my legs weren't working whatsoever, and I had visions of them sending a rescue helicopter because I simply couldn't make my way back down to the level where the cable car drops you off. Eventually, after some panicking and tears and a pep talk from my girlfriend, we made it back down - then we settled down on some deckchairs to eat Subway sandwiches with a view. Amazing! It's well worth doing on your trip from Krakow to Zakopane.

Getting back to Zakopane

After we'd had our food and our fill of stunning snowy scenery, we got back in the cable car down to Kuznice. There's a little igloo bar here if you fancy stopping for a drink, but we knew we had a coach to catch so we decided to head straight back to Zakopane. At this point we were a bit concerned because where our taxi had dropped us off wasn't a rank, and we didn't know any local taxi numers, and cars can't get all the way up to the Kuznice grounds anyway. There were men with horses & carts who were charging around £120 to head back down, which we weren't prepared to pay, so we walked back to where our taxi had dropped us in the hope of catching one before they left.

We waited around 10 minutes and nobody was coming, so I downloaded the iTaxi app and wasn't about to book one to come and get us when Kate spotted a little car park around 100 yards down on the left - this was in fact a taxi rank, and there were plenty parked up and ready to take us back to Zakopane to catch our coach back to Krakow!

Zakopane & Kasprowy Wierch day trip from Krakow.
The best view on a day trip from Krakow to Zakopane.

All in all we had an incredible day trip from Krakow to Zakopane; it was one of the best things we did during our trip and one of my favourite travel memories EVER - my girlfriend still cracks up thinking of me trying to get back down the top of the mountain...