But I’ll tell you more about that, below…
I haven’t done a lot of solo female travel in a while. Fortunate as I might be to travel for a living, the majority of my trips are experienced alongside similarly-careered journos or provide a wonderful opportunity to travel with my nearest and dearest.
When I realised my trip to Lanzarote left from Birmingham Airport and I had no business commitments past the morning beforehand, I hopped on a train and indulged in some pure and simple ‘me time.
In no time at all, I arrived at the Travelodge Central Newhall Street to uncharacteristically blue British skies and a dead phone battery.
Though I’m sure I simply overworked my phone as an on-the-go office during the journey up, I took it as a sign and set off to explore an unfamiliar side.of the city with nothing more than my camera and a bank card.
With no idea where I was going and no GPS to rely on, I stopped off at the front desk to rifle through a few local brochures and maps.
“Where are you off to?”
“…I actually have no idea.”(laughs)
“Well, there are a lot of award-winning curry houses nearby?
“I’m not that hungry. Where would be good to just…walk?”
“Ah!” *the friendly gentleman turns his hands into something of a temporary set of legs* “Go to the end of fhe road, cross the bridge and walk down to the canal. It’s beautiful on days like this! Lovely pubs and all.”
And it was. It was so beautiful I let my camera be my tour guide. I walked the sun-drenched waterside pathways for hours, led by nothing more than visual and mental aides. It reminded me how important it was to switch off. Switch off and talk to strangers. When I happened upon a red carpet premiere, I started chatting to the security guards rather than Googling what it might be (it was the Peaky Blinders premiere, or as the security guard said – “Perky Blinkers”).
Though solo female trekking with a smile invited an inevitable share of twattery (“Hey, baby! Come and sit with us!”), it was worth it. I discovered the most beautifully barren shopping development – The Mailbox – in a city of busy consumerism, treated myself to a glass of champagne, spent a bit too much money in their Harvey Nichols
After an unknown amount of time, I chased the sun back to the hotel, pausing for a quick stop at Rub Smokehouse to pick up a pulled BBQ chicken cobb salad. Because it doesn’t get much better than a night of working and eating in an enormous bed.
The next morning, I filled up on Travelodge’s lovely little breakfast selection and set off for the airport feeling completely calm and happy. I couldn’t think of a better way to travel to an out-of-city airport.
As my previous travel blog on Belfast would suggest, Hadskis is a definitive diamond in the rough.
Though the restaurant is hidden between Hill Street & Donegall Street (in fairy light-covered Commercial Court) and only a few years old, Hadskis has developed something of an unblemished reputation. If I had time for one fine dining experience during my time in Northern Ireland, this was destined to be it.
As the space is modest and uncramped, reservations are recommended; we only managed to book in for a 9pm slot but were thrilled to receive impeccable service from the get-go. Service typical of waiters and chefs that haven’t already been on their feet for hours.
This isn’t, however, a love letter to the service alone: the food is locally-sourced and Michelin quality.
We started with perfectly cooked N’duja-dusted Kilkeel scallops on a bed of cannellini beans and a small serving of jerusalem artichoke risotto with crispy garlic & creme fraiche (also available as a main).
You know that feeling you get when you kiss someone for the first time and you find yourself unexpectedly euphoric? That is the Hadskis feeling.
Continuing their courtship, we moved on to a “Hannan’s Spiced Meatballs” (with orecchiette, harissa & oarmesan – a small serving, per our filling starters’ dictation) and Chicken Cotoletta with grilled gem, topped with Cafe de Paris Butter.
I could pretend the truffle chips with parmesan and honey-roasted root vegetables simply came with the dishes, but no. We ordered those. And they were worth every extra undone button.
By this point we had hit the finish line and decided to run back a proverbial mile to explore the culinary talents of the sweets section. A meringue-scattered Bannoffee Mess for the gentleman and a Creme Brulee-inspired cocktail for myself.
A benefical illustration of gluttony and perfection, indeed.
I fell fast and hard on my first trip to Edinburgh. So much so that I returned for the second time (and my second 48-hour stint) only one month later.
This time, I stayed in one of the beautiful suites at the city’s super-central Radisson Blu on the Royal Mile. The hotel is actually in the last stage of a three-part contemporary refurbishment and – bar a few tweaks left to do in the gym and spa – is a shining collaboration of local and luxury.
After checking in, shaking off the surprise downpour and touring the room (which you’ll see in the travel vlog below!), there was nothing on my mind but food so headed straight down to the hotel’s bar and kitchen, Itchycoo, to fuel for the night ahead.
After a few ‘nibbles’ over Christmas-themed cocktails (a feast which included the most incredible haggis bites imaginable), we moved onto a better-with-each-bite encore of scallops, steaks, and Malbec before jetting off to embark on a Hidden & Haunted ‘ghost tour’ with Mercat Tours’.
To Cliff’s Notes the succeeding 24 hours, they entailed a lovely Scottish breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, an impromptu browse of the National Museum of Scotland, whiskey shopping (coughsamplingcough) at The Bon Vivant, an incredible & astoundingly authentic Mexican lunch at El Cartel, a rain-soaked run through the Christmas markets, an entertaining trip to the Spiegeltent to be mesmerized by Circa: Beyond, and a plethora of debaucherous live music adventures (because nowhere does that, my friends, better than Edinburgh).
Going in with extraordinarily high expectations, Edinburgh still managed to charm the pants off me.
Though it is that kind of city.
The following morning, our sleepy group of travellers spent as much time as possible enjoying our rooms (I, for one, am not to pass up a dangerous but indulgent ‘work in the bath’ opportunity in a hotel that offers complimentary bath salts) before heading off to the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Watch it all come to life in the video blog, below!
This past weekend marked my long overdue return to Leeds for a few days of catch-ups, indulgences, and bittersweet goodbyes.
But, most importantly, the indulgences.
Though I had lived in Leeds for over a year, I never made it to the Firelake Grill House in The Light’s Radisson Blu hotel – despite heavy praise – so decided my return was the perfect opportunity to book in.
Upon arrival, my lady love and I passed through the bar area and made our way to the dining area to snuggle up in a plush, kitchen-facing booth. Aesthetically, Firelake is somehow both expansive and cozy – it has ‘Yorkshire’ written all over it.
Quite literally; I started the meal with the ‘Stubbornly Yorkshire‘ – a beautiful wooden platter of cured meats, pressed pig cheek & ale terrine, beetroot yoghurt and homemade pickles – while my accomplice opted for the much more sensible grilled asparagus starter, paired with parmesan, hazelnuts and lemon.
After quite literally agonising over the decision, she then chose to play Yorkshire’s Advocate with an incredible tray of Champion Yorkshire pork sausages, home-made ketchup, milk-bottled gravy and charred potato mash while I gave into my vices and ordered half a native, flame-roasted lobster with lemon preserve.
In the comfort food stakes, Firelake’s fresh bread (smothered in olive oil) and lobster are going down as an unlikely lead.
Upping the ante on our skinny jeans, we decided to go all out on dessert with warm doughnuts (warm cinnamon sugar, strawberry preserve & cream) and black figs (floating atop lavender custard & salted meringue).
The menu is an unusual delight and one I plan on forking my way through for many Northern trips to come.