Friday, 19 May 2017

A to Z Dating... G is for Go Ape!

G is for Go Ape!
Ghost Tour - Gig - Gin tasting - Glamping - Go karting - Golf

Our alphabet dating so far has seen us enjoy afternoon tea and beer festivals and daytrips around the local area playing tourist in our own country. For G we thought it was time to live life adventurously and Go Ape!


Go Ape is a treetop adventure company with bases up and down the UK. There are 2 locations in Scotland - our nearest one being at Crathes castle. We last vsited this Aberdeenshire landmark just a few days after our wedding and I was more than happy to return! Situated near Banchory, the Go Ape tribe have made good use of the woodland in the castle grounds.


After being fitted into our harnesses we were given a quick run down of how to work the clips and taught the number one rule - always stay attached! Each of us got to practice using them before starting the course but our guide made the mistake of using me as an example! Flashbacks of tough mudder's King of the Swingers obstacle suddenly filled me with fear and it took what felt like an embarrassingly long time too coax me onto the sample zip wire. It was like a foot off the ground! I developed a little tactic of sitting into my harness rather than jumping off the platform which saw me round the rest of the course.


The course is divided into 5 sections, each with it's own challenges. From tarzan swings, to stepping stones and skateboard zip lines. We were left to our own devices to enjoy the experience at our own pace. Theres always a crew member on hand should you get into any difficulties and each harness has a litte whistle to blow incase you need to grab their attention. All the staff were super nice which helped me feel more relaxed along the course!


My arms eventually stopped shaking after the initial shock of the height wore off and my confidence grew, along with my adrenaline levels! Gordon on the other hand, as a scaffolder with rope access tickets, sailed through the course like it was all in a days work. He took all the difficult routes while I chickened out and took the easy option at every chance.


I loved Go Ape and I'd definitely go back to tackle the parts I missed but I have to admit I was glad when it ended - purely for the fact I was back on solid ground and could breathe again! You can go back to your favourite parts and have another go if you like but once was enough for me. Plus our bellies had started to rumble after two hours of monkeying around.



We headed into Banchory afterwards for a bite to eat at the beautiful Birdhouse cafe. A cosy eatery with a gorgeous hanging centerpiece. Our eyes were bigger than our bellies and we over ordered with Meme's mango chicken open sandwich for me, "pleased to meat you" for him and a huge bowl of warming broccoli, cauliflower and cheese soup each.


The portion sizes were more than generous, with salad and tortilla chips on the side. So much so that I took half of mine home for later! Maybe they could just do a little teacup of soup to go with sandwiches for greedy b*tches like me in future. The cakes looked an absolute treat - there were gluten free and even vegan options - but we just didn't have room!



All fueled up we then headed off to nearby Scolty Hill for a short but steep walk to the top. The views up here were amazing with it being such a sunny day. We climbed the steps of the tower and spotted the various iconic hills of the area including Clachnaben, Mount Keen and Lochnagar to the west! 


Go Ape at Crathes castle was one of my favourite alphabet dates so far! If you fancy giving it a go you can find your nearest one here. Have a look at my video below to see what you're in for, and make sure you get out and explore the area while you're at it. Crathes castle is a brilliant location as you're not only surrounded by breathtaking Scottish countryside, but you can spend some time in the castle, its gardens and even the tearooms as well! 




Huge thanks to Big Partnership and the Go Ape tribe for inviting us along to Crathes!

*Our treetop adventure was complimentary in exchange for review. As always all views are my own and 100% genuine.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Spanish Stories: 5 Things to do on the Costa Blanca

When we think of the Spanish costas, we picture sandy beaches, perfect blue seas and lazy days lounging by a pool, cocktail in hand. While all of these sounds fab, it's not all boozy Brits on beaches. There is so much more to Spain and I'm hoping this post will inspire you to discover it!


Shop at the local markets


The Costa Blanca is a popular holiday destination for us Brits, and has a big expat community too. I love that about the area - you'll find people from Germany, Sweden and the UK wherever you go - but one of the best ways to meet the locals and sample the Spanish way of life, is to head to your nearest market!


I've spoken about this before but the sheer variety and size of fresh produce on offer is unrivalled. I love stocking up on juicy strawberries, huge peppers and delicious oranges - perfect for sangria! You'll usually find rotisserie chicken, all the chorizo and cured meats, huge chunks of cheese, the most amazing selection of pastries and cake and of course - olives! So many flavours and varieties of olives, sun dried tomatoes and pickled onions. My favourite thing to do is grab a toothpick and work my way along the samples - wasabi olives definitely stood out!


Many stall holders will hand out tasters and freebies, and it's all cheap as chips. Fresher and cheaper than any supermarket. It's not all food either - you'll find books, scarves, clothes, jewellery and all sorts of souvenirs. Also, it's the perfect place to practise your Spanish and talk to the locals! We love the Wednesday morning market in San Miguel de Salinas, and Playa Flamenca on a Saturday. This is a pretty extensive list of Costa Blanca markets but ask at your hotel or a local café for the days and times of your nearest one!

Visit Rio Safari, Elche


Less than an hour from Benidorm and only 30 mins from Torrevieja, you'll find Rio Safari, Elche. It's more of a zoo than a safari in my opinion, but the enclosures are all open air and you can spend the day learning about all sorts of animals, jump on the safari train and even take a dip in the pool in the summer months.


You'll find everything from kangaroos to tigers to goats! My personal favourite was the playful chimpanzees. There's an entire reptile zone, a bird area, farm animal petting zoo and sea lion shows (which we chose to miss) but the most interactive experience for us was visiting the giraffes. They were more than happy to come say hello and suss out if we had any food for them!


I'm not going to lie, the entry fee is pretty expensive in my opinion but you could spend a whole day here, especially with kids. As well as the pool you'll find cafes, picnic areas with kid's play parks, trampolines and a go kart track so there really is something for everyone.


Eat Tapas


While the safari is more of a typical tourist attraction, tapas takes us back to traditional Spain. It's one of the best ways to sample local cuisine, but not all tapas is created equally! At one particular chain we ended up with five plates of bland, beige food. You could argue it's down to bad ordering, but we found that some places just don't offer the variety and flavours you'd expect from traditional Spanish tapas. Perhaps they're catering more towards typical tourist tastebuds?


Anyway, this wasn't the case at The Hen's Teeth in Villamartin Plaza - the best tapas experience we've had on the Costa Blanca yet. Our waiter, Tony, was fab and made such an impression that Gordon actually sad "I'm going to miss Tony" as we left! Holiday bromance right there.


Here we tried a beef and red wine stew, meatballs in a tomato sauce, patatas bravas, garlic and chilli king prawns, a more English styled black pudding dish with egg and peppers, and my personal favourite - the chicken with chorizo and olives! Not to mention the fresh bread with lashings of aioli and then there's the cocktail list.


I enjoyed a Pornstar Martini, with cava rather than prosecco, and he sipped on a glass of vino tinto. In hindsight, the red wine would have accompanied the food much better than my choice!


If you've ordered right you shouldn't have space for dessert after tapas, but you know me by now, my inner fat girl can't resist! A mojito cheesecake, full of zesty lime and mint flavours, was a bit too gelatine-ish for me as opposed to the light, creamy texture I'd expected. Gordon enjoyed his tiramisu!


My top tips? Ask for recommendations and order a variety of flavours, colours and textures. Explore the meat, fish and veg dishes, and most importantly share! You could even do a tapas tour - a kind of bar crawl where you sample one or two dishes from a few different restaurants!

Take a Day Trip


On our first trip to the east of Spain, we visited Cartagena and the ancient Roman theatre. More recently, we took a drive into Alicante city and hiked up to Santa Barbara Castle. I can't recommend it enough. Hire a car, jump on a bus or take a boat tour - just get out there and see more of the country. Explore different cities and learn about their history and culture.


Valencia is next on my list, but eventually I'd like to go further afield and visit beautiful Ronda!

See the Pink Salt Lakes


Head south of Alicante and you'll discover the pink salt lakes. Torrevieja is the home of two breath taking lakes - one pink, and one green. The deep pink hues come from the algae that thrive in the salt water environment. Aside from being a beautiful nature spot, and a great photo opportunity, the salt water is famously good for your skin and many people will bathe in the lake! You can also visit the town's Sea and Salt Museum to learn more about the lagoons.


I'd love to hear your suggestions of things to do on the Costa Blanca - is there anything I've missed?


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Spanish Stories: Lolyta Cafe, Torrevieja

Ah, Lolyta Café. The prettiest café in the world, right?



Just look at that ceiling! I have to admit, it was the décor that attracted me to Lolyta and even after visiting, it's still the main reason to go. That and the gin list, but that's for another day! Lolyta Café is just a short stroll from the marina in Torrevieja. We parked in the underground car park and walked up for lunch before a day of sightseeing.


The menu is short and sweet with a range of breakfast pastries, sandwiches and toastadas - a traditional Spanish breakfast usually topped with tomatoes, but with some more unusual toppings on offer at Lolyta.


Gordon's smoked salmon and cream cheese toastada went down a storm, and he's now obsessed with recreating it at home! Mine was a random concoction of cheese, topped with cranberries, pistachios, walnuts and honey. Sounds odd but it worked.


The main attraction - after the décor and the gin of course - is the vintage glass case of beautifully hand crafted cakes teasing you as you enter. How could we leave without a taste? Of course we needed some drinks to go with it...



"Un te verde y un café con leche por favour!"

A green tea and a white coffee please! I wish I'd asked that confidently! Instead there was a lot of pointing and a mixture of English and Spanish words thrown around, while the waiter looked at me despairingly. He spoke perfectly good English so it's always easier just to speak English... but I feel rude not even trying!


Back to the cake! A chocolate donut for him, and a huge chunk of chocolate and cherry heaven for me - so big he had to help me finish it! It arrived at our table topped with biscuits and pretzels, and tasted like blackforest gateau. What kind of evil genius looks at a slice of cake and thinks "You know what this needs? Chocolate biscuits!"


Lolyta Café is a must on your trip to Torrevieja. It's a breath of fresh air in a city of run down looking cafes and tourist trap restaurants. The interior is lovely, the cake is top notch, the staff are sharply dressed with their braces and bow ties, and I hear the milkshakes are awesome too!


Stop by for coffee and cake in the afternoon, or work your way through the gin list and cocktail menu in the evening - you could do that in the afternoon too I guess. Why not, you're on holiday!

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