Category Archives: Destinations

The Botanist – where steampunk meets botanical magic

Delicious treats
Delicious treats

Do you ever read those advertising magazines that are spread across the desk in your hotel room? I have to confess – Sometimes, maybe, but usually I just brush them aside to make room for all of the travel books, casual books, magazines, and electronics that I brought with me. It is not like I just push it all onto the floor – I neatly clean off the paraphernalia that is “littering” the top of the desk so I can organize what I brought with me and see where all the outlets (or lack thereof) are located. At some point during the trip I may eventually take a quick flip through one of their magazines. I know, probably not the best habit for a travel writer, but I am working on changing that.

On a recent excursion to Chester, England I actually took a moment to stop and flip through that colorful magazine before I swept it off to the side – scanning headlines, reading the occasional recipe, reviews of the seasonal spirits, or the most noteworthy up-and-coming restaurants.

One brief headline caught my eye, The Botanist – an eclectic dining experience steeped in charm and style. There are so many ‘wine bars’ and ‘brewers’ that this caught my eye. The name was just enough to give a little intrigue and interest without giving away what it was all about. It was so steampunkish!

The lobby at The Botanist
The lobby at The Botanist

I was not disappointed! The atmosphere was so amazing and unique! It gave the feeling that you had stepped back in time to a garden sanctuary. The exterior of the restaurant was decorated in wrought iron panels with vines growing over them. The interior was decorated with wood accents that had a weathered-gray finish to them.

steampunk decor
steampunk decor

The bar area was quite impressive with an expansive front bar that had ample room for the botanical mix-masters to work their magic with herbal infused liquor and spirits. The back bar consisted of a massive shelving system that contained a sizeable assortment of liqueurs infused with berries, herbs, and fruits in addition to a fabulous selection of craft beers and ales.

Our mix-masters
Our mix-masters
The bar at The Botanist
The bar at The Botanist

Their menu is a beautiful and tasty selection of dishes inspired from delis and rotisseries of the UK and the comfort food from grandma’s English kitchen. Note worthy menu items that had a unique table presentation were the Hanging Kebabs (a very savory dish available in chicken, lamb kofta, prawn or beef and slathered with sweet chili, ginger, and garlic butter), Chicken Liver and Rum Pate that is brought to your table in a mini terracotta flower pot on a wooden plank with Turkish flat bread and a plumb and apple chutney that is served in a mini wheelbarrow.

Chicken liver and rum pate
Chicken liver and rum pate
Hanging lamb kabab
Hanging lamb kabab
carrot cocktail - it was actually good
carrot cocktail – it was actually good

Other favorites include the homemade Scotch Egg (fried to perfection so that the breading is crispy on the outside but the egg still has a soft center) and the Salt and Pepper Onion Petals served with a herbed sour cream sauce.

Scotch egg
Scotch egg

 

Craft ale and cocktail flight
Craft ale and cocktail flight
watermelon cocktail - great for hot summer days!
watermelon cocktail – great for hot summer days!

The food was delicious, flavorful, and wholesome! What a great find tucked in a narrow little side street off Eastgate St. and Northgate St. The Botanist is a great place for lunch, dinner, or a place to meet friends in the evening for cocktails and to listen to live music.

 

For more information on locations, hours and menu items check out their website at http://thebotanist.uk.com/

The Smallest House in Britain

 

Smallest House in Britian
Smallest House in Britain– the itty bitty red one on the side!

Tucked onto the end of a row of houses near the walls of Conwy Castle is Britain’s smallest house. The Quay House, with a footprint measuring a mere 10’ by 5.9’ and a total height of 10’2” to the eves, pained fire-engine red, is located in Conwy, Wales. The house got its name because it is located on the quay, a wharf or reinforced bank for the loading or unloading or ships or boats. The Quay House was a residence from the 16th century until 1900. The last resident was a fisherman by the name of Robert Jones, he was 6’3”.

The Quay House, which is still owned by descendants of Robert Jones, hosts thousands of visitors a year. Visitors to the house are amazed and awed that a house, which is so small, is still so practical and efficient. The Quay House is open from 10am to 4pm during most days. Late visitors and school trips please contact The Quay House here . The cost of admission is 50p for children and £1 for adults.

Other places of interest to visit while you are in Conwy are:

Aberconwy House
Aberconwy House

The Aberconwy House is a 14th century merchant’s house from medieval times, which has survived six centuries of a turbulent history. Upon visiting the house, you can learn about the daily life through the centuries by an audio-visual presentation.

Conwy Castle
Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle was built during King Edward I’s second campaign in North Wales between 1283 and 1289. Conwy Castle sits on the location of Deganwy Castle, the former stronghold of King Henry III that was destroyed by Llywelyn the Last in 1263.

Fishing boats waiting for the tide

It is a little known fact that Conwy was once an important pearl fishery and harvested as much as 4 kilograms of pearls per week in the 169th century. Musseling the old-fashioned way is still active in Conwy today, but now practiced on a much smaller scale. The Conwy Mussel Museum provides the history behind the Conwy mussels, their uses, and the mysteries involving a royal crown.

conwy wales

 

 

 

Try these yummy dishes at your next pub visit

lamb burger
lamb burger

The UK is best known for their warm, hearty and flavorful foods. Recipes which have been handed down for generations are a mixture of delightfully flavorful vegetables such as carrots, turnips, rutabagas, peas, potatoes, and meats such as lamb, venison, chicken, and veal.

Sweet potato Chips (fries)
Sweet potato Chips (fries)

If you want to sample this countries vast and unique array of savory dishes, pubs are a great place to accomplish this. The pubs of the UK are as diverse as the people who inhabit the country and the food that they eat. Familiar menu items in a pub are their hearty and savory pies which they call pudding, made with a selection of vegetables and meat in a delicious thick brown gravy topped with a flaky buttery pastry top and a side of mashed peas.

Steak and Kidney pudding Quick Recipe:

1 package of Pre-made pie crust (2 crusts  per box)

1 packet of Brown Gravy mix

1 lb, of stewing steak

4 oz. of kidney (lamb or ox)

Preparation

  1. Line a greased pie pan with 1  of the pie crusts

  2. Cut meat and kidneys into small pieces

  3. Mix the meats together and put into the pie pan

  4. Pre-mix the gravy and pour over meat

  5. Put the other pie crust on top sealing the edges by dampening your finger in water and running it around the bottom pie crust.

  6. Bake at 350 for approximately 3 hours or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are just starting to bubble out

A pint of Guinness or a Stout is a great accompaniment with this dish. Just saying… pretty yummy!

ploughman's platter
ploughman’s platter

Another great dish you will find is the Ploughman’s Platter which consists of a tasty selection of roasted and cured meats, aged cheeses, both hard and soft, and a small loaf of freshly baked bread that has a crispy buttery top sprinkled with oats and a warm soft interior that makes it an excellent pull-apart bread. There will also be small sides of homemade berry jams and churned butter.

When you are done with your main course and you still feel a bit peckish, try one of their dessert items such as the Bread Pudding that has raisins that have been plumped by soaking them in brandy or whisky, the Jam Suet Pudding (much better than it sounds) or the cranberry orange scones with a spot of tea or coffee.

ahhh! Dessert!
ahhh! Dessert!

Monumental Monday: William Wallace Monument

Monday is Monumental Monday here at Whats New Adventure. The topic of conversation?….. Yup, you guessed it, monuments! The world is full of absolutely amazing monuments! Monuments that are grandiose, extravagant and seen by millions of people to small plaques that only a few local people know about. Do you have a favorite monument? Do you know of a monument that could use more recognition? Share your comments below! I would love to hear from you about them!

w.wallace
William Wallace Monument

The William Wallace Monument located in the stone age settlement of Stirling, Scotland, a city that surrounds the fortress Stirling Castle and the medieval old town of Stirling. Stirling, at one time was the capital of Scotland, is now a flourishing city for local government, higher education, retail and industry. Due to its strategic location near the Highland Boundary Fault between the Scottish highlands and lowlands it is considered as the “Gateway to the Highlands”.

The William Wallace Monument, also known simply as Wallace Monument is a very tall and impressive tower designed by Glasgow architect, J.T. Rochead built from 1861-1869. The massive tower built at the summit of the Abbey Craig dominates the landscape for miles and is a constant reminder of the fierceness that Scots have shown for their freedom and for their independence. The Abbey Craig is a tall hilltop that is comprised of quartz-dolerite. Archeologists have also found evidence  of an early Iron Age fort on the Abbey Craig by the remnants of “vitrified” walls, walls that were created, not in the usual fashion of building out of rocks but by melting stones in a matrix of wooden posts which were then burned to form the ‘vitrified’ wall.

There are numerous walking paths that are used by locals and tourists alike. For those who are more physically fit and up for the challenge (or maybe for young kids who have energy to burn off!) you can hike up to the top of the Craig from the parking and visitor area via the trail (about 20 minute walk, uphill), or you could just take the shuttle bus as well and save your energy for other exploring, shopping, pub crawls…. you choose!. It is a very beautiful walk with awesome views and many picturesque opportunities, well worth your energy expenditure.

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pretty flowers
image
so many pretty flowers on the walk
image
walk the trail

The Monument, which was built-in the 19th century, commemorates Sir William Wallace,The Guardian of Scotland, a 13th century Scottish hero who gave his life for his country in the fight for freedom and independence. The tower was built-in the Victorian Gothic style from sandstone and is an impressive 220 ft (67 meters) tall and has a whopping 246 steps in its spiral staircase that lead you to each of the three exhibition galleries and the ‘crown’ or viewing platform at the top of the monument where you can see for miles.

The first gallery that you will encounter is the Hall of Arms. Here the walls are lined with banners and plaques that tell the story of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, how it was fought and won on September 11th in 1297. The  Battle of Stirling Bridge had major significance in Scotland’s history and in the history of medieval warfare. Some have described the battle as marking the end of the middle ages because until 1297 armies of heavily armed men and mounted knights were unstoppable. The Battle of Stirling Bridge was commanded by Sir William Wallace and a common army of enlisted spearmen which defeated feudal knights in full armor.

w. Wallace
Story time line

This battle was of particular significance to the Scottish people because it was the first time that a major English army had  been defeated since the Dark Ages. This victory destroyed the myth that the English were invincible and empowered the Scots drive and determination to triumph over the English.

The second gallery is the Hall of Heroes. Here there are 16 busts of men who are considered heroes in the fight for freedom and reform. These busts include some of the more historically important men such as King Robert the Bruce, 1274-1329, Robert Burns, 1759-1796, a poet who attacked various government establishments and the high taxes that were levied, James Watt, 1736-1819, inventor of the steam locomotive which was the springboard for the Industrial Revolution, John Knox, 1510-1572,  and other religious men who spurred reformation of the church.

w. wallace
Hall of heroes

The third gallery is the Royal CHamber. Here you can learn about the trials and obstacles that had to be overcome in the building of the monument. Obstacles included who would build it by having a competition to find a designer, where it would be built, what it would look like, funding and over budget woes to name a few.

For those who make the trip to the top of the monument, the Crown, they will be rewarded with a breath-taking view of Scotland’s amazing country side, from Ben Lomond and the Trossachs in the West, to the city of Stirling and the Ochil and Pentland Hills in the East.

w.wallace
The Crown
w.wallace
the beautiful view from the crown

The Amazing Stories We Would Hear if the Wall Could Talk!

Pubs are transporters into the mysterious past. Each pub has its own distinct feeling, charm  and character that greets its guests at the at the ancient carved door that has had so many hands push it open the wood has been aged to a deep mahogany brown and polished to a smooth satin finish. When you first walk up to the entrance you are greeted by ornate carvings of gargoyles, angels, horses, dogs, green men and any slew of other characters in stone that graces the roof tops, eaves and trim of the pub. The architecture is amazing! Take a moment to stop and think about how they were created, by hand, each piece was individually carved and chiseled for that one particular pub, a single job that took a stone mason months to complete, you can not help but be in awe over the craftsmanship. Above the ancient entry door you will see the year the building was created carved in the stone,  sometimes easily dating back to the 1500’s. Again, wow! The amount of history that is in one building is staggering! How many billions of hands have pushed open that heavy, hand hewn door with spikes that were pounded by the blacksmith in his furnace.

pubs
Gargoyle on a roof top
long term patron
long term patron
Interior of a pub
Interior of a pub

As you cross over the thresh hold take notice of the step, see how it is worn? See the deep grooves in the weathered step that has been created my generations of feet walking through that door? You are greeted by the smell of aged wood that has been permeated by years upon years of wood smoke, cooking fires, and floors that have been preserved in the rich hearty juices of ales and heady Guinness that has sloshed over the edges of mugs as they are clanked together with cheers. It is a very comfortable, wholesome and easy feeling like old books (read about that here). As you sit at the bar, booth or table, which ever you choose, you look around and notice the distinct charm that is in that particular pub. Perhaps you notice the worn path in the steps to the door from all the feet that traversed through the door over the centuries. Or perhaps your eyes are drawn to the windows that have so many small panes in them and you notice some of the glass has wavy circles embedded in them or have imperfections such as small air bubbles and then it dawns on you, again, the history, the age, those windows were not forged in a factory, but by hand in a wood or coal kiln.

stairs
stairs worn by foot steps

For centuries pubs have  been a place of gathering for village members. They would meet for a pint or two to discuss the day, to share the good times and the bad, or work business deals (at one time that would have been trading chickens, sheep or wool). It is where families meet to have a dinner of savory meat pies filled with steaming vegetables and tender chunks of lamb, venison or chicken mixed in a thick rich gravy or a lighter fare of a ploughman plate consisting of a small freshly baked loaf of bread with cheese and cured meats.

pubs
plougmans platter
Scotch Eggs
Scotch Eggs

Today, pubs are still the standard where travelers can rest their weary feet, where neighbors can relax and catch up with their friends and family. Business deals are still negotiated around the same table that was used to haggle and barter for  livestock. They still serve the savory meat pies and ploughman plates to fill and nourish empty stomachs.

red lion
Red Lion
pubs
Marlborough Arms
golden lion
Golden Lion

A hidden gem in the Yorkshire Dales

Forbidden Corner
Enter if you dare!

Tucked away in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in Tupgill Park is a fabulously fun hidden gem for young and young at heart called The Forbidden Corner. On a recent tour of the UK we discovered this very entertaining park. The Forbidden Corner is a 4 acre maze with tunnels, chambers, labyrinth and many hidden surprises designed to thrill its visitors at each twist and turn.

But beware of the many doors that may lead you astray, for no-one can safely say that there’s a way to escape every alley way

Forbidden Corner
Forbidden Corner Entrance
Forbidden Corner
Walk through the mouth!

First, you enter The Forbidden Corner through a tower that is designed to look like a face with a gaping mouth and when you walk through to the other side there is a loud and exaggerated belch. Yep, that is the start of the surprises that you will encounter when you visit. It was so much fun exploring rustic tunnels built at angles that opened up into underground labyrinths designed like an elegant ancient parlor room which in turn wound deeper into the earth passing large animated rats learning about cats and then opened into a large room lined with doors, most of which went nowhere, some only open one direction, the challenge is to find the door that opens in the direction that you want to go.

As we wound our way through the hedge maze we encountered the massive wood cutter with his gargantuan ax, a molten glass pyramid that turned out to be the roof of one of the caves below! We were surprised by a motion activated waterfall over one of the trails and a Pan fountain that sprayed water at out feet. This might be a good time to mention that if you go, bring a towel, and a change of clothes might be a good idea as well!

Forbidden Corner
Underground tunnel
Forbidden Corner
Axe man
Forbidden Corner
Top view of glass pyramid
Forbidden Corner
underground view of glass pyramid
Forbidden Corner
Cute little Pan sculpture
Forbidden Corner
Not so cute when he catches you by surprise and drenches you!

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A BIT OF HISTORY

Originally built as a private folly park for the exclusive enjoyment of friends and family of Mr. C. R. Armstrong CMG, OBE in 1989 through a series of events and evolving ideas The Forbidden Corner began to take shape and evolve into what it is today. First the firs were planted to shield the Tupgill stables, then a tower was built to view the beautiful Coverdale Valley. As the construction of the tower was under way a suggestion was made to build a grotto. During the building of the grotto heavy rains filled the 25′ deep hole, so then a tunnel had to be dug to empty the hole and then to make matters worse an underground spring was discovered. Well, I bet you can guess what all that water did to the dirt walls of the tunnel and grotto, yup, that was one huge mud puddle!

The following year saw the stabilizing of the grotto and the tunnel walls. The building activity and creativity started to take off then with ideas flooding in from all around the world as to what to add to make it what it is today.

In July of 1994 The Forbidden Corner was officially opened to the public with about 100 showing on opening day. Since then, several features have been added to the park, such as the Green Man and the Faucet Tower.

The Forbidden Corner was so much fun I would highly recommend it as a must see if you are in the Yorkshire Dales! Treat your family to a days adventure of exploring mazes, tunnels and labyrinth and when your little toes are tired and you need to rest your feet take a break in their cafe and have a slice of their very delicious carrot cake with a cup of tea and then meander their gift shop for unique finds and trinkets to take home to remember your day!

2015 Opening Times: Everyday 28th March – 31st October then Sundays until Christmas. Monday – Saturday 12 noon – 6 pm (or dusk if earlier). Sundays and bank Holidays 10 am – 6 pm (or dusk if earlier). – See more at: ADMISSION AND HOURS

At the airport!

The long anticipated day has finally arrived! We are at the airpot! Yeaaa!!! Yippy skip!! We are all so excited, all the prepwork and planning, I can take a breather and relax at least until we get off the plane in London. 

I will admit that I was a bit concerned about going through security at DFW because of the TSA shake up last week, but we went through very easy and smoothly. Alex and Ian, our two boys, thought for sure that I would be held up because it happens so frequently to me when I fly.  I will admit that there are times when I have things in my carry-on that make the TSA cock their heads and say, “huh?”. Like when I brought back hand-painted sinks from Mexico or coral tiles, also from Mexico. Then there was that time when we were coming back from Mexico and customs thought we had a bag full of bullets and a guard armed with a machine gun all of a sudden appeared behind my husband with his gun pointed at my husband. They were talking very stearnly and aggressivly to us, my husband was asking me what I put in his bag.  They unloaded the bag with much caution and hesitation and more armed guards. It turns out that what they werre seeing in the x-ray was the weights on our casting net for fishing! That was a very a very tense and a bit scary! 

Hopefully, we won’t have to many scares this trip, but they do make for great stories afterwards! I will make as many posts as I can during this trip and keep you up to date on the memories we are creating on this trip that we will be recalling for years to come and that we will be able to laugh about when we are old and gray….. at least older and grayer than we are now! 

Stay tuned!