5* South Wales

When the post-festivities January blues kicked in, The Boy and I opted for flight not fight, and made the 30-ish minute journey to The Celtic Manor Resort. I’m not a golfer, neither is The Boy, so Celtic Manor might not seem the natural choice for a get-away, but ohhhh my goodness this place is about so much more than golf! It’s a gorgeous place to rejuvenate, with a stunning spa, and plenty of scrummy choice for foodies (and yes, apparently it has some golf courses – I saw a lot of grass, so I’ll believe it).

Despite its proximity to the doom and gloom of the M4, once you reach the grounds of the Celtic Manor, you pretty much forget the outside world. It’s a resort, so once you’re in, you can (metaphorically) emerse yourself in a little bubble of slightly smug contentment. From the moment the private taxi collects you from the car park, you know you’re going to be well looked after.

We opted for the dinner, bed and breakfast package, with an upgrade so that we could indulge at Rafters restaurant – There are several plush eateries to choose from. If you’ve an eye for a bargain, join Celtic Manor’s mailing list, so that you are notified about upcoming packages – The mid-week deals are particularly good, and it’s a brilliant gift for someone you want to spoil rotten.

The standard rooms at Celtic Manor are tastefully decorated (more corporate than boutique, but none-the-less delightful for that) and a decent size, with a mini bar, good-sized bathroom and huge comfortable beds. Inclusive breakfast is a buffet, with the option of cooked-to-order extras, and the attention to detail considering the number of guests is fab! There is a mouth-watering selection of continental and cooked food – I’m a big fan of blueberry muffins followed by Glamorgan sausages for breakfast, mmmm!

As for dinner… Rafters can be found in the Twenty Ten Clubhouse (golfing reference…) and our package included 3 courses. The chef kindly whipped up an off-menu tomato tagliatelle dish for me, and The Boy put two fingers up to his enforced anaemic vegetarian existence at home, and predictably chose a steak. The wine list is extensive, and I opted for a new world Sauvignon – I’m no wine expert, but wow this was good. We both went for the aptly-named Chocolate Heaven dessert, and the brownie was out of this world. I can remember every mouthful and I’d return for that alone! The lovely, attentive waiting team and charming ambience help you to forgive the slightly slow service, and the free taxi back to the comforts of the resort hotel all add to that feeling of luxury.

This won’t be our last visit to The Celtic Manor Resort, and although we’ve only experienced a tiny piece of the resort, I know we’ll be back for the food and drinks, and to ignore the golf once again…

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Beijing

How can I follow Anita’s fantastic Japan post? Continuing with the Eastern theme, I’m going to share my experiences of Beijing. As a Communist country, I didn’t find the same magic Anita found in Japan, but China is captivating in its own right. So here are … Continue reading

Japan

When the lovely, unicorn-loving illustrator Anita Perry said she was heading to Japan with her equally lovely new husband, we all agreed there could be no better honeymoon destination for the quirkiest girl we know! I’ve persuaded her to write a guest … Continue reading

York

I spent a wet and windy weekend in York with The Boy this autumn, and it blew our expectations out of the water! York is unlike any other city I’ve visited, and is more than worthy of being the subject of a blog post, so here goes…

A friend of ours from Doncaster recommended The Star Inn The City pub, and its cosy lounge, in its riverside setting close to the city’s Museum Gardens, gave us some respite from the cold. The food looked incredible, however as we already had dinner plans based on a recommendation from another friend, we confined ourselves to wine and coffee (both fantastic), and gazing lustfully at everyone else’s food. We had dinner at the Mumbai Lounge, an Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant in the heart of York – I’m a vegetarian, so I never expect my restaurant reviews to be respected by carnivores, but WOW this place is amazing! The Boy says his curry was the best he’d ever eaten. Bold statement, I know.

We spent a great morning at the National Railway Museum, and I wholeheartedly recommend this! I confess I’m a total history geek, and lover of all things vintage, so wandering round original royal carriages and exploring the stories of 100-year-old restored steam trains, was a little piece of heaven for me. HOWEVER… The Boy does not share my enthusiasm, and still had a good time, there is so much to see, and if I still haven’t convinced you, there is some really good cake in the tea shop!!

If shopping is your thing, York has plenty to offer. I could have spent all day in Demijohn’s – This is a “liquid deli” where you can try stunning oils, vinegars and a huge selection of drinks from their ‘demi johns’, and take what you fancy home in attractive bottles with hand-scribed personal messages. At home our nearest Demijohns store is apparently in Oxford. We may have to relocate!!! A visit to “The Shambles” is a must. This narrow, cobbled street is over 900 years old, and the slanting higgledy-piggledy roofs of the buildings lining it almost meet above your head. It’s an eerie reminder of the past, and retains an element of mystery and intrigue, however nowadays it’s the home of shops, cafes and tourist attractions, and it gives its name to a brilliant market.

Now for a ‘marmite’ comment… I’m a big, unashamed fan of using Premier Inn for city breaks in Britain. OK so it might not be my top choice for a special occasion, but I honestly think you can’t beat it for a night or two on a tight budget, and if it helps you to experience more of this amazing country (and leaves more spending money!), that must be a good thing right?! We paid £70 for 2 nights in York, with free parking, just a few miles from the centre – Brilliant. So if random city breaks feel a bit out of reach, it’s worth looking at local budget accommodation.

York is a beautiful city, and a great place to visit. We hope next time to head up in summer, to picnic in the gardens, check out the museums, and refill our bottles at Demijohns of course!