For my birthday weekend, Danny & I stayed in Manchester’s Northern Quarter at the (almost brand new) Cow Hollow Hotel. For a night of cocktails, cake and Netflix, it was the perfect destination. We arrived in the afternoon and apart from a coffee pit stop headed straight to check in. If you’ve seen the website then you’ll already the interior of this place is insane. Every detail has been considered and for me, that just made it heavenly.
The entrance is bright, the décor beautiful and the staff are amazingly friendly. After a very swift check in process and welcome, we filled in a breakfast notecard (time, beverage choices etc.) and were shown to our room. With the summer weather we are having it was great to have some cooler temperatures inside, plus we slept beneath the ground floor and that helped with both noise and heating (I was worried with it being a Friday night, but it was lovely and peaceful). We stayed in Room 2; the room itself had a modern finish, with a rustic twist. The bathroom opened through two-barn style, white painted doors into a copper finished, slater stone tiled bathroom. The waterfall shower head and ornate oversized mirrors added a touch of luxury, whilst the high ceilings really opened up the space. We stayed in a Standard King Room but you can go Deluxe if you would like a little extra floor space.
The large double bed was super comfy, and rested against an exposed stonewall behind the headboard. Inside we found a flat screen TV with Netflix (ready to go), a Bluetooth speaker, sparkling and still water as well as a few other little bits and pieces. After being handed our key (along with a little bag of sweets, which I happily enjoyed), we headed down the hall where there was a coffee machine at our disposal. Day or night if you needed a cup of tea or a hot chocolate, which for me is definitely a bonus, I popped on my slippers and had my drink in 5 minutes (or I sent Danny to go get it for me). Inside the room you have the bar menu with it’s drinks (as you can get these delivered to your room), a useful stuff card (like the Wi-Fi password) and even one that tells you about all the freebies included in your stay.
Between 6-8pm there were Prosecco and nibbles on offer at reception / the bar area. However we skipped this because of the hotels location, there are so many cool bars on your doorstep. I’d wanted to go to Allotment for quite some time and it was worth the wait. Danny opted for a few ginger beers (not being a big drinker), whilst I tried a couple of cocktails. First up we had the ‘Lemon Sherbet Swizzle’, very refreshing and sweet it was definitely needed on such a sunny afternoon. Then I had the ‘Nutella-tini’, now this really knocked my socks off, sprinkled with hazelnuts it was so smooth I could have easily had 4 or 5 but my bank balance might not have thanked me for that.
Once back at the hotel I stopped by their bar to try one of the cocktails with the help of Danny (who picked for me), a ‘Daisys Gin Cherry’ which was pink and lovely. Then back in the room we decided to order some food for the night and had seen that Pizza Express offered some exciting veggie options, just down the road. A bonus is if you get food delivered to reception, with a note to say which room you are in they’re happy to bring it to you. Our Vegan Giardiniera was delivered in just 20 minutes (from ordering) and it tasted pretty damn good too! We made our way through some comedies on Netflix, made the most of the room’s facilities and then at 10-11pm the next ‘free stuff’ item arrived. This was such a cute little added touch, you have to let reception know and they will deliver it to your room. It’s a crate style tray of glass bottle milk and cookies! It made me feel a like a little kid getting a birthday treat, or when you used to leave cookies and milk for Santa at Christmas.
The rest of the evening was spent watching movies, and luckily the hotel is far enough from Piccadilly gardens that we didn’t really hear too much outside noise at all. I have to say this is the first time I’ve stayed in a hotel in Manchester before and it does make the whole process easier, to get up and go straight out rather than the pain of traveling in was a welcome change. I noticed a few food places to try as well on the walk around the hotel, including Alabama’s who do phenomenal shakes and pancakes. We actually went there the next day but I don’t want to overload this post with information.
Breakfast was delivered at 10am exactly (when we asked for on our note card at check in), again on a beautiful little wooden tray. Two brown bags tied with bows, accompanied by cute brown paper take out cups. As we delved inside we found fruit, pastries, granola, yogurt and sugars for our coffees. Once we had finished and tided away our stuff it made sense to head out into Manchester for the day, although I would happily have stayed in bed. It was honestly absolutely brilliant, I couldn’t think of a more perfect birthday night in. Talking to Danny I think we will be staying again nearer to Christmas so we can spend a day exploring the markets, drinking hot chocolate before heading back for a festive film night (which I know he will hate, the scrooge). Looking forward to seeing you again soon Cow Hollow.
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Since moving to Northwich, I find theres some Artisan market on nearby almost every weekend! I went to the ‘Makers Market’ in Knutsford a few weeks ago. I’ve been a couple of times now and it’s a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Running from around 11am to 4pm, the streets are full of wooden stalls selling local ales, crafts and baked goods. There’s so much food on offer it’s difficult deciding which treats to buy and I usually end up going a little overboard. With my trusty little Manchester bamboo travel coffee cup in hand to keep me in caffeine (I actually picked this up in the Northwich Artisan Markets), here's what I've gotten up to on my visits so far.
It’s a pretty small place and parking isn’t always ideal in my experience. If you do have to park then Booths is a good place as it’s free on a Sunday, for 2 hours, enough time to make the most of the markets. I apologise in advance if this post makes you hungry, about 75% of the stalls are some form of food whether that be relishes, pies, flapjacks, watermelons or brownies. It’s a good idea to make sure you have a healthy appetite when you go, Every time I go, I try something new. There's tons of tasters on offer when you walk around, helping you make decisions when deciding what to buy.
Whether or not the sun is shining it doesn't stop me from grabbing an ice cream (I absolutely love ice cream, in any weather), my favourite so far has been the vegan ice cream (made from crushed bananas) which was a lot more refreshing and guilt free, although the toppings weren't exactly healthy (pictured top of post). I snapped up one of these adorable ‘Beer Can Cacti’ last time and added it to my windowsill. I really love the window boxes though and am pretty tempted to pick one up when they next pop up. Plants are such a great home addition and being a graphic designer (as well as lover of craft beers), the cans really caught my eye. The most difficult decision was finding the perfect combination or beer can design and cute cactus.
The markets are great for picking up hand crafted homeware and decorative bits and bobs. I often see a lot of prints I’d like to hang on my wall, but I do tend to design this sort of stuff myself. If you know a crafty person then it is an ideal hotspot for birthday or christmas gifts. It is for a specific audience I feel, those who enjoy high end brand store shopping, probably won't find this all too appealing. The outdoorsy dog lovers however, will appreciate the atmosphere and I definitely fall a little more into this category (most of the time). As Danny would say I'm a bit of a hipster.
There’s this vintage crockery stall that sells mismatched teacups and saucers, that makes me fell a bit like Alice down the rabbit hole. If only I had a tea party planned they would be perfect. If you're into gardening then theres countless floral bouquets on offer to add to your home or garden. I stick with the cacti because they're a lot harder to kill, (more independent that most plants) but it's a very colourful affair with some blooming beautiful flowers.
Then when it's time to stop for a bite of lunch. If you’re not already stuffed from all the goodies on offer they do have a kind of food court set up. This ranges from stonebaked pizza made fresh in front of you (I always tend to be drawn to this, I really should do a pizza post), hotdogs, noodles, burgers and loads more. It’s hard to choose just one, I always say go with someone else (one or two friends preferably) and then split your options. That way you can try a little bit of everything you fancy! The watermelon bowls are another favourite of ours because they don't feel all that bad for you (unless you add the cream of course), I try my best to stick to the healthier options. However, I do usually take home a sweet treat box for with a cup of tea when I get home (a scone, brownie or cinnamon bun will do) because it would be rude not too. Support your local businesses!
If you're in Knutsford (the markets are the first weekend of every month) I would recommend heading over to Tatton Park if the weather is nice, it's full of wildlife and a perfect place to relax in a little afternoon sunshine. There is also a delicious local honey shop just a short drive from the town, (check it out) that sells every flavour infused honey you could imagine, candles, lip balms and jars big or small. I've already had 3 jars from them and each was sweeter than the last. Not going to lie I think for me this will be a monthly thing, it's a different pace from my usual working weekday or weekend of hiking. Plus, enjoying a coffee with a box of macaroons never gets old.
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We're Going Shopping!
Yesterday we decided to head over to the Trafford Centre in Manchester, on the understanding that after I had done my mini shopping haul, food and Spider-man: Homecoming were on the agenda. The sun was shining when we arrived just after 10am. After a quick stop off for our daily caffeine fix, I was off to find some bargains.
The Trafford Centre is one of my favourite shopping destinations! It's not often I get to go and I always try to be sensible, but with so many stores under one roof its difficult to leave empty handed. It is an absolutely stunning building offering a unique shopping experience because of its unorthodox style of architecture. The centre is filled with all the biggest brands and labels from food to fashion which attracts the majority of shoppers. When it originally opened in 1998 it was the largest shopping centre in the UK. However, it lost that title soon after in 1999.
First stop, TOPSHOP! My go-to store, I always find that their collections suit my particular sense of style and combining that with a SALE, I figured I couldn't go wrong. It actually turned into a pretty disappointing selection this time. Nothing quite jumped out at me and I've been on the hunt for some statement pieces lately, anything out of the ordinary, that will really stand out over summer. I did manage to find a delicate little gold typographic necklace with the word 'mermaid' on it and an iron on pearl stitched shell patch. I instantly fell in love with these, on my third lap of the store, but my phone died before I could get a picture. As the queue was ridiculously long, I missed out on purchasing them but will have a browse online to see if I can find them!
Next PULL & BEAR caught my eye. This store is a perfect blend, I find it is affordable like H&M but offers way more in the way of fashion similar to Topshop. They have a huge selection of quirky illustrative tees, hoodies and sweatshirts. As well as the more adventurous patterned pieces, including tulle shirts and a shell print bra top, that made me feel like a mermaid for a minute. A quick visit to the changing rooms proved unsuccessful, but I did find some cute items that I considered buying.
Including a grey sweatshirt that had the phrase 'Yes But Not With You' written across it, I was tempted by this but managed to resist as my collection of hoodies is already pretty substantial. There was a cool camo shacket that was on sale for just £9.99 and a tulle oriental print blouse, that was sadly a little too transparent for my taste. In store I was completely in awe of a pair of mom jeans that I knew I wanted! They came in a bleached denim with paint strokes splashed down the legs, and ripped patches. Unfortunately, they only had these in a 6 which were a little too snug of a fit, or sizes 14 and up so I was forced to leave them behind. This did influence the rest of my shopping trip and spurred me onto a hunt for the perfect pair of mom jeans...
I then ended up in ZARA, after a few other fashion store stops along the way still not proving fruitful. I have only a couple of items from them but they really do have some out there fashion choices available, perfect for what I wanted. I always forget to check out Zara online when I am shopping but after today I think it will move further up my list! The SALE signs were bold and I was staying optimistic, despite the day so far being a bit dissapointing.
You really can't beat those red stickers though! Finally I found what I'd been searching for. A stunning pale pinky peach blouse, that was similar to an oversized tee but in a heavier cotton blend, with fluffy trim sleeves. It instantly caught my eye and I was in love, I knew I had to have it! It helped that the top had been reduced to just £5.99 and there was one left in a small, it was fate. Next, I made my way over to the denim, still lusting after the Pull & Bear jeans. It was quite the gold mine, so much so I bought not one but two pairs!
The first wear a standard ripped and pleated mom jean with a cutout ankle, these were just £9.99 reduced from £29.99. The fit was great and paired with some heeled boots I knew they were exactly the cut I had been looking for. They were lacking the paint marks but I figured I could always get a little creative with them myself, not that they need it. My favourite purchase of the day had to be a stunning pair of floral embroidered cropped fitted jeans. ZARA had large selection of embroidered denim on offer, but the pink palette and delicate flower bouquet on this particular pair was super pretty. These had also been reduced to £19.99 from £39.99, an absolute bargain and in my opinion I was basically saving money. Especially as I have always loved embroidered jeans but find they are often way too expensive, usually around the £50 mark in TOPSHOP and RIVER ISLAND.
Along the way I stopped into a few of my other favourite stores. Trying on some summer shades in RIVER ISLAND, I have recently purchased a couple of new pairs but I think they're my new weakness. The 'Old Sweet Shop' which had brand new vanilla latte pop tarts, it was difficult not to walk away with the whole stand. LUSH smelt just as amazing as always but my bathroom is so full of bits from my last visit, I gave it a miss on this occassion. SELFRIDGES always gets a look in, more so for the Food Hall and Art Prints sections personally. I've been on the hunt for these prints by Fred Birchal, after getting a 'Back to the Future' one the last time I was in store. As you can see below he creates graphic fashion prints based on popular characters from tv, film and music. I've been keeping an eye out for the 'Fight Club' one but not been lucky enough to find it yet. I was definitely considering the 'Indiana Jones' and 'Star Wars' one, but for now I'm holding out.
Love at First Bite
After working up an appetite from all the shopping over the last couple of hours, it was time to eat! We decided to try the Italian restaurant Est Est Est, it was a good choice. Danny had the Calzone A Vedura, stuffed with roasted Mediterranean vegetables & mushrooms in pomodoro sauce, he opted for it without the cheese (he's not a fan). I went with the Zucchini 'Spaghetti', spiralized courgettes with goats cheese, Mediterranean roasted vegetables, fresh basil and olive oil, accompanied by a salty side of olives.
The service was really good and the food itself was delicious! I've never had 'courgetti' before and was pleasantly surprised, it reminds me more of noodles and isn't as heavy on the stomach as normal pasta. The goats cheese and roast vegetables complimented it well, it was quite a healthy choice that left me satisfied without feeling stuffed like I usually do with pasta dishes. I also ordered a Strawberry & Basil Smash, a mix of strawberries, basil and a dash of agave lengthened with soda water, a great alternative to sparkling water. There is so much choice in the food hall at the Trafford Centre that it can be difficult to make a decision, I find every time I go we eat somewhere new. Although they have such a wide range, no matter what you fancy I'm sure you can find somewhere to cater to you. I would also recommend trying out GIRAFFE you won't be left hangry.
Popcorn & Peter Parker
After lunch we had a an hour to kill before the movie started and this gave us chance to go for another quick browse. Anyone who has seen my tattoo post will know I recently got an inking of the little blue alien Stitch. The DISNEY STORE had so much new merchandise I couldn't help snapping a few cute pictures. SELFRIDGES had also got in on the Disney action with some cute Mini Mouse themed cupcakes being sold on one of the pop up stalls, at the front of the store. I didn't pick anything up because I couldn't decide on any single item, so to prevent coming home with a bag of Disney magic, I managed to keep my spending in check.
It was soon time to head back over to the ODEON for 'Spider-Man: Homecoming', popcorn and pick & mix in hand, I was pretty damn excited! I've always been a pretty big fan of marvel, the 'X-Men' franchise is my usual go to. Either that or 'Guardians of the Galaxy', and after enjoying the previous Andrew Garfield 'The Amazing Spiderman' films I was optimistic about this one.
The film itself was the perfect blend of action & comedy, unlike the more recent marvel films, this one focused on the main character. It didn't get too distracted by pulling in other heroes from the marvel universe, but rather gave an insight into Peter Parker both with & without his Spider-man persona. I won't say too much on this because I wouldn't want to produce any spoilers, but stay for the after credits scene, both of them. As a graphic designer, I really have to mention the end credits animation! This was really well executed, in a collage scrapbook style of comic, the colour was eye catching and the imagery had a really sketchy feel. The soundtrack was awesome, since the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' playlists I have found myself just as excited for these, as the film itself.
The guys in charge of the soundtrack never fail to reintroduce me to some classics I have forgotten about, as well introduce me to some new gems I wasn't even aware of.
Finally, after a very long day we headed home. Stopping at Mr.Pretzel on our way out for a bag of cinnamon sugar pretzel bites, these tasted so good! There were even a couple of extra bites buried beneath the sugary sand at the very bottom of the bag. Saturday calories don't count right? I picked up a Blueberry Blast Smoothie from BOOST for the sunny car ride back as well, my sugar quota for the week was well and truly met. Any trip to the Trafford Centre turns into a full day event, I'm thinking another trip before Christmas is on the cards. I love Christmas shopping and with such a selection under one roof, I can usually get the whole family done in just one visit! Maybe I will nip to do a final Trek America shop for supplies as well, any excuse to do a bit of shopping...
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Cocktails & Carbs
As an early birthday treat, I went into Manchester after seeing on Instagram a restaurant called 'The Laundrette' with the most amazing cocktails! So, I made a reservation & dragged Danny with me to go and give it a try.
We headed into Manchester around 5pm as the booking was at 7. Walking from Piccadilly station towards the O2 Ritz, you turn left at the top of the road, just past Dog Bowl on your left, and go under the bridge to find yourself in a very modern looking built up area filled with lots of food and bar choices.
We arrived a little early but got seated straight away, it wasn't busy for a Saturday night but picked up as the night went on. Sat in a little booth, next too some girls hen or birthday party down the far end (I couldn't be sure which but they were certainly having a good time, by the number of empty cocktail glasses across the table), and what we assumed was a first date right to the left of me by the number of awkward silences, and pieces of small talk we were able to hear.
Obviously, I started with the cocktail menu as this was the main reason I booked it! Instantly I was drawn to the Raspberry Flossi, a pink creamy cocktail that came in a jam jar style glass and a massive ball of vanilla candyfloss sat precariously on top. For presentation this place gets a 10 and the service was really efficient, the first drink arrived and we then moved onto food.
We both went with pizza, avoiding starters to ensure we had room for dessert. Mine had spicy sausage, nduja, salami and mozzarella on it, (Danny went for a classic mozzarella and basil) the side of fries was perfectly sized for us to share and it arrived piping hot withing 15 minutes of us ordering. The food itself was such good quality, I love a fresh made pizza and you could really taste that. It was doughy, thin and similar to my favourite pizza place 'Pizza Pilgrims' in London, this came a pretty close second.
By this point I had finished my first cocktail and moved onto the Blueberry Gin Mojito. The colour of this was mesmerizing it looked incredible, tasted it too. A very refreshing blend, I love mojitos and will try every combination I can get my hands on. This one almost beat out the strawberry ones I had whilst on holiday in the Gran Canaria a few years ago.
Dessert next, I was determined to attempt one as I don't know when I will get to visit again. Torn, I went with the Peanut Butter Popcorn Cheesecake, over the Hot Coffee Pudding, not realizing it would be a ball of popcorn stuck on top with pure smooth peanut butter. Nonetheless, it was delicious but a little too heavy for me and the slice was way too big! As you can see Danny was sensible with his choice of vanilla ice cream and so helped me out a bit with the monster cheesecake.
Finally I wanted a surprise, so got a random third and final cocktail, this one was called the 'I Scream For Ice Cream' a smooth blend of cola and amaretto topped with salted caramel ice cream. Now I absolutely love salted caramel and ice cream floats are very strange but so satisfying. This was like another dessert and definitely a struggle to finish but that may had had something to do with all the food!
All in all I was really impressed it is somewhere I plan to take my mum and sister next. The pricing was really reasonable, cocktails being about £8 each and the pizza was only £10 so I think if you're looking for a great evening in Manchester maybe before a gig at the Apollo check it out!
I am loving this blog as an excuse to go try more food places!! Next stop Black Milk Cereal.
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Aby, 24. Northerner.