31 January 2012

Bar Stories - a cocktail bar with a twist

If you are looking for somewhere just a little different to enjoy a couple of cocktails then Bar Stories on Haji Lane might just be the place for you.  We discovered it quite by chance thanks to a magazine article my husband was reading on the plane back to Singapore from one of his many work trips.  

Bar Stories is in one of the beautiful shophouses along Haji Lane, the entrance is unassuming and easily missed, just a door taking you to a flight of stairs.  Once you get upstairs you enter a small bar area and beyond that are some intimate seating areas.  We booked in advance as it was a Saturday night and given the size and popularity of the place I'd recommend you do the same if you fancy making it part of your weekend.

Our seats had been reserved at the bar, we didn't ask to be there but it was a perfect place to sit as this is not quite your average cocktail bar and there are no drinks menus.  Instead of menus the mixologist will make you a cocktail based on your personal likes and tailored to you.  He or she will ask you questions about what cocktails you like, your flavour preferences, if you like your cocktails sweet or sour and so on, and from this proceed to make you a personalised cocktail.  Being sat at the bar meant we got the perfect view of the whole process of our own and everybody's drinks being mixed.  To work here you really need an amazing knowledge of the art of cocktail making, the different flavours and what mixes well together and so on - a real skill.

These were our first two drinks of the night, my husband had a rum sour drink with passion fruit.  He described it as being strong and slightly bitter with an orange after taste as the mixologist had flamed the drink with orange zest whilst preparing it.  My first drink was mojito in style mixed with passion fruit, refreshing and not too strong.  I later had a sake based drink which was really good, and my husband had one with gin.  

It certainly is not the cheapest night out, but for a couple of drinks as part of an evening or on a special occasion it's a lot of fun and well worth it.

27 January 2012

Sentosa Flowers 2012

Earlier this week I popped over to Sentosa with a couple of friends to see the Sentosa Flowers a festival of flowers that has taken place every year on Sentosa since 2005.  The floral exhibition, traditionally ushers in the Lunar New Year and is a chance to see some beautiful displays.

This was my first visit to the festival and also my first time walking over the boardwalk since it opened.  I'd recommend the boardwalk if you have not yet tried it out for yourself.  The cooling breeze from the water, plus the option of travellators (so you do not even have to technically walk that far) and shelter from the sun make it a pleasant alternate way of getting across to Sentosa.

The displays at the festival were beautiful with vibrant colours, carpets of flowers and some very clever floral models, such as the humming birds in the photo above.  It is clearly a popular event too as the place was full of visitors enjoying the show.  You probably would not need much more than a morning or an afternoon there but it is worth taking a look if you find yourself that way.

Sentosa Flowers 2012 is on now until 29 January 2012, open from 10am to 10pm, admission to the festival is free.

You can get to Sentosa via the Sentosa Boardwalk (admission fee to Sentosa island via the boardwalk is $1), by Bus / MRT (admission charges prevail), by Sentosa Express (admission charges prevail), by cable car (admission charges prevail) or by car / taxi (admission charges vary according to time period).

25 January 2012

Chinese New Year 2012 - The Year of the Dragon

Just in case you've missed it Singapore (as many countries have been) has been celebrating Chinese New Year this past weekend, meaning a lovely long holiday weekend for all.  Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) is by far the biggest holiday here in Singapore and indeed the only one where we get more than one day off.  For anybody who is struggling to imagine just how big, it can easily be compared to Christmas in the UK with a massive build up, many important traditions associated with it, auspicious gift giving and a time for being with family and friends.

This was actually my first Chinese New Year in Singapore and although I'd witnessed the build up last year I was excited to be here for the actual event as well.  I've visited the Chinatown area several times during the past few weeks, to soak up the atmosphere and see first hand the crowds mingling through the many stalls, browsing and shopping and the general excitement of it all.

On Chinese New Year's Eve we went out in the evening hoping to catch the fireworks at midnight.  Unfortunately it was raining heavily but this did not stop our enjoyment of them as the sky was ablaze with colour.  I'm afraid I did not manage to get any photos though, partly because of the heavy rain but also because the fireworks slightly caught us out.  They began about 11.45pm as we were still making our way to a suitable viewing point (we should have left the bar a bit earlier) and actually then finished a couple of minutes before midnight!  Nonetheless though it was a great show and a fitting welcome to the year of the dragon.  

Here though are just a few photos taken in Chinatown during this year's build up.  

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

This sign made me laugh

19 January 2012

Geylang Briyani

Looks good doesn't it??  Not long after I arrived I became aware of the very popular and famous blog here in Singapore about some of the best hawker food around, I eat, I shoot, I post.  It is well worth a look if you are looking for hints on where to go to try new dishes or find your favourites.  There is now also an app for a certain range of smartphones which my husband recently downloaded and we've been sampling some of the places that have been suggested on and off ever since.  Visiting more hawker centres and food courts was also on a wish list I drew up for myself whilst I was away in the UK last year so even more reason to try it out!  

Handily enough for us too there are a few recommended places that are not a million miles from our home so there is absolutely no excuse for not giving them a go!  One such being the Geylang Briyani stall at the Geylang Serai Market.

The first time we thought we'd try it out we did not read the opening times closely enough (it is closed on Mondays) and yes we went on a Monday!  So we ended up eating somewhere else that night.  However on our second attempt we got lucky.  The stall is actually only open until 5pm and given that we figured it was probably very popular we decided we'd better make it a lunch stop rather than an early dinner. 

We got there around lunchtime on a Saturday and it already looked like he might be starting to get low.  We got very lucky queue wise and were served very quickly but soon after we'd got ours and started to eat the queue had grown significantly.  Therefore a sure sign in Singapore that it is a good briyani.

Is it worth it?  Yes I think it definitely is.  The stall offers up chicken or mutton briyani, I had chicken which was fantastic but my husband had mutton and if we ever return I think I'll be trying that one as well.  The chicken though was tender and fell off the bone, the rice was wonderful and the dish had just the right amount of spice kick to it for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  My only advice to anyone who thinks they might like to try it too would be, not to leave it too late in the day to go and definitely not to go on a Monday!

Geylang Briyani Stall aka Hamid's Briyani 
Geylang Serai Temp Market #01-327 
9am - 5pm
Closed: Monday

17 January 2012

Liebster Blog Awards

I was recently nominated by the delightful Singapore Actually for a Liebster Blog Award.  I had no idea what these were but having read her post and a few other peoples since I gather they are a way of showing love for blogs you follow - how lovely and thank you!

If you are yet to discover Bookjunkie's Singapore Actually blog you really should do so.  She has a talent for spotting the interesting and beautiful in all manner of everyday things here in Singapore.  I also love reading her viewpoint on things going on here and have discovered many delightful things to see or visit from reading her blog.  The phrase, 'ooh I saw that on Singapore Actually's blog' has to be used at least once by me nearly every weekend!

'Liebster' means 'favourite' or 'dearest' in German (pleased to say that is some German that I do still remember from my school GCSE days).  This award, which originated in Germany, recognizes up and coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.

In accepting the award, the recipient agrees to:

Thank the person that gave the award and link back to their blog.

Copy and paste the award to your blog

Reveal the 5 blogs you have chosen to award and let them know by commenting on their blog.

Hope they pay it forward by accepting and awarding it to bloggers they would like to honour.

The 5 blogs I have therefore chosen to spotlight are:

A fellow expat and thoroughly lovely person who shares her personal experiences on her life in Singapore.  Definitely worth reading and also a great photographer too.

Another lovely expat who I've the good fortune to know in person sharing her experiences of all she is doing here in Singapore honestly and with a fun style.  Absolutely worth taking a look at.

Claire has only been in Singapore a short time but her blog is already a must read on my personal blog reading list.  Particularly as she shares all the new experiences she is encountering on life here since arriving.  It's nice to read, remember and relive all of that again through her blog.

I had the good fortune to meet Kate through a love of pub quizzes and us both writing for the notatourist.sg website.  Her blog is great and her writing style and recounting of her experiences makes for an interesting and insightful read.

Finally one non-expat blog but one I enjoy reading just as much.  Lynne is a good friend from home and a former work colleague.  She shares on her blog all the things she is now doing since her retirement in 2010.  She is also a fantastic photographer and her Flickr stream (which you can access from her blog) is well worth taking a look at too.

I hope to read who they've selected in due course and hopefully I'll discover some other great blogs in the process.

13 January 2012

Art Stage Singapore 2012

This afternoon I was lucky enough to visit Art Stage Singapore 2012.  I don't think you can fail to be impressed by, inspired by, moved by or in some cases left pondering about the pieces of art on display here at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre.

''Lost Paradise 1” (2009-2010) and “Lost Paradise 2” (2010-2011) by THEY (China)
Image from Art Stage Singapore's official website

The painting above greets you as you enter the exhibition and from there you are able to enjoy and appreciate paintings, sculptures and a whole host of art exhibits.  

Now in its second year there are over 100 galleries and 600 artists exhibiting this year as well as a series of lectures featuring renowned art industry professionals and various fringe programmes and activities taking place.  Art Stage Singapore is described as, 'Asia’s premier international art fair' with a strong focus on high quality Asian art spanning many mediums.  

If you enjoy and admire art this exhibition is well worth a visit.  You'll get to enjoy some fabulous pieces and are sure to find something you'll like so get yourself there this weekend if you can!  

Art Stage Singapore 2012 is on now until the 15 January 2012 at the Marina Bay Sands Exhibition and Convention Centre, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Halls D, E and F.

Further information on purchasing tickets and ticket prices can be found here.

This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thanks to Juliana Tan, Marina Bay and the Urban Redevelopment Authority for the kind invitation.

12 January 2012

Chill Out Bars Returns

My husband has written another edition to the series about good chill out bars here in Singapore - enjoy and if you want to read more of the same in 140 characters he's on Twitter, '@AskSirStamford'.

It has been a long while since the last edition of Chill Out Bars, been busy with work based travel (apologies deadly dull but limits the drinking time), more on that later.  In this edition I will feature the following boozers (in no particular order), Bar Bar Black Sheep, Ice Cold Beer, Paulaner Brauhaus, Orgo and The Ink Bar.

Bar Bar Black Sheep has to be one of the coolest names for a bar ever, particularly as we visited the week after we’d been to Big Bad Wolf on Tanjong Katong Road (sadly now closed).  It seemed like we were visiting a series of fairytale themed establishments.  Anyway, the BBS we visited is located at the far end of Robertson Quay (there is a new outlet on Boat Quay and one in Bukit Timah) with tables on the terrace overlooking a quiet part of the Singapore River.  We attended on a barmy Thursday evening (ages ago actually, probably in June last year, that’s how far behind I am) and had a couple of drinks (a rather unadventurous Tiger for me and a wine for Laura) and some excellent Thai food (including a fiery beef dish with basil, I forget what it was called).  As well as the Thai food, you can also order North Indian or Western dishes.  Both food and drinks are ordered at the counter (there is a separate order point for the Indian food).  For a Thursday it was quite busy with plenty of people tucking into all kinds of nosh.

UPDATE - May 2012  Black Sheep on the East Coast - Chill Out Bars Goes Native

The bar has now moved out East as well.

We noticed, from a taxi in March that a renovation was happening at the ECP end of Tanjong Katong Road (near Mountbatten Road, opposite the Canadian International School) which turned out to be a new Bar Bar Black Sheep.  We waited and waited, flew back to the UK for Easter and waited some more.  Finally we noticed the new bar had been born and decided to try it out one balmy Wednesday evening.  We love new local bars opening.

In Katong, the menu is less extensive than at the Robertson Quay bar (I can't vouch for the other two, I have not been) and serves only the Thai options.  We shared a number of dishes, including red curry with chicken, pork with basil and a chicken fried rice, starters were spring rolls with sweet chilli sauce and fishcakes (spicy Thai style), which were all great.  The food was washed down with a wine for Laura and a Kronenbourg 1664 (well two actually) for moi.  If there is a crowd of beer drinkers I suggest that the aptly named tower is ordered, this is shaped like a well known icon / masterpiece of design, Gustave's Eiffel Tower in Paris (the beer is French) and the version in Blackpool, (there was also one in New Brighton on the bank of the River Mersey).

In summary, Bar Bar Black Sheep is worth a visit for fellow East Coasters, Canadian teachers or any intrepid red dot resident.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE - December 2012 I've been meaning to do this for a while but I can confirm that Bar Bar Black Sheep on Tanjong Katong Road now also serves a good selection of Indian dishes, as well as the Thai and a few Western options.  Definitely well worth a visit!

AND ANOTHER UPDATE - January 2015 Bar Bar Black Sheep on Tanjong Katong Road now only serves Indian food the Thai stall is now shut.  Indian food always seemed the most popular choice whenever we were there and I can confirm it is very good!

Guess what? Yep that's right Bar Bar Black Sheep is serving Thai and some Western food again, maybe I should just leave it for you to find out for yourselves in future!! 

Other bars of note on Tanjong Katong Road are Smiths fish and chip shop (well they serve beer with the fish and chips) UPDATE - January 2016 this branch of Smiths is now closed, if you want your Brit style fish and chip fix head to Balmoral Plaza on Bukit Timah Road, Big Bad Wolf (a great selection of craft ales, the Hawthorn was fab as I waited for a curry last weekend SADLY NOW CLOSED) and another new bar, The Dugout (sports bar run by an affable Brit that shows all manner of sports, including Rodeo Riding, situated at the junction of Old Airport Road and Tanjong Katong Road NOW CLOSED).  There is also the excellent Smokeys (Joo Chiat), The Cider Pit (Joo Chiat Road), a host of places in Katong i12 and other places on East Coast Road (and in Siglap), so come out East.

Ice Cold Beer is a more traditional bar, long and taking up one side of the long narrow shophouse, located at the top end of the strip of bars on Emerald Hill (also the location of the previously mentioned den of Jagermeister, Bar No. 5).  It is also one of a number of outlets on the Red Dot (the other one I have visited was on the Singapore Management University, SMU campus).  The bar serves a wide range of ‘ice cold’ beers, including Stella Artois, some other stuff from Belgium, Boddingtons (the Cream of Manchester) and London Pride.  Food-wise, you can get the standard bar fare of pizza, chicken wings and mini-burgers or sliders.  There is ample room to sit inside the bar but also a few tables on the terrace that opens out on to Emerald Hill itself.  The bar is often lively (and can be very busy) but can be a refuge in comparison to the rowdier Bar No.5.  The SMU branch has a pool table, if you feel the need to embarrass yourself.

Paulaner Brauhaus, is a German brewhouse near Suntec Mall that serves great quality Bavarian style beers and food to a bustling international crowd.  Since I changed jobs this has become a regular haunt.  The beers come in a range of sizes ranging from a half pint to an entire litre.  A tad heavy to pick up, it goes warm in this climate and everyone knows it is only the English that like warm beer.  The food is also very good, with a good selection of sausages (of various flavours, I had the curried ones with wedges) and other dishes.  When we visited on a Saturday lunchtime, Laura and I shared a pork knuckle with sauerkraut and potato (it’s pretty big and more than enough for two less than greedy people and is offered with two beers on Saturdays).  The black forest ice cream dessert was also excellent (and that is from an infrequent dessert eater) and the apple strudel looked fab too.  There are other Brauhaus’ dotted around the globe, including in Munich and Jakarta (at Plaza Indonesia) serving a similar range of food.

Orgo, is an excellent cocktail bar, situated on the roof of Colours by the Bay with excellent views of the Raffles Place and Marina Bay Sands (MBS) skylines (especially spectacular at night).  The range of cocktails / martinis is long and very interesting, although the menu is a tad difficult to read in the dark (one needs to be careful as will become clear in the next couple of sentences).  We had two drinks each, first off I had a dragon fruit based martini, which was a little bland so for our second excursion onto the menu I select a watermelon and chili concoction which had quite a kick to it, leaving a fiery taste on the lips.  The second drink spirit of adventure was also taken up by our drinking companion who ordered a chocolate and wasabi flavoured martini (the joke with the waiter was for the addition of extra kick), unfortunately the bar had run out of chocolate so a more conventional form of warfare was selected.  The view and the drinks list make Orgo well worth a visit.

The Watermelon and Chili martini

View from Orgo

The last bar in our boozy excursion is one that I have to admit I have been on many occasions, as the last stop of the night before the taxi home.  It is The Ink Bar at The Fairmont Hotel NB. this bar is now closed (the last Fairmont bar I went to was The American Bar at The Savoy Hotel in London, one comment, just excellent) and offers an excellent range of drinks, a cool live jazz bar (the lead singer is so laid back he’s almost horizontal).  As stated this is usually the last stop of the night, so I often partake in a gin and tonic (served in the proper fashion with cucumber and not lemon or lime) or a grand 18 year old single malt.  The lighting in the bar is soft and low which helps the chilled out atmosphere.  One downside, being a hotel bar in a five star establishment it is not cheap.

Back to those travels, if you happen to find yourself in a non-flooded, non-rainy, non-thundery Bangkok I would suggest that you try out The Moon Bar on the top of the Banyan Tree Hotel (on Sathorn Road South).  It’s sixty one floors up, next to the roof top restaurant (also brill), Vertigo.  The views are stunning at sunset (the bar opens at 5pm), the beers / cocktails or sundowners are excellent and the bar staff are very attentive.  If in Kuala Lumpur (KL), why not try the Sky Bar on the 33rd floor of the Trader’s Hotel (a Shangri-La property).  It serves excellent snacky type food (I had satay sticks) and cold beers beside an indoor swimming pool (dangerous if one too many ales has been imbibed) with a view of a former world’s tallest building, ‘The Petronas Towers’ and comfy booths to sit in.  Finally, in Jakarta it is worth visiting Social House (Plaza Indonesia near the Kempinski Hotel and BCA Bank) for a great and comprehensive menu (Asian and Western food, I have had pizza, sushi and Vietnamese Pho Bo) and great wine.

Enjoying a drink at The Moon Bar, Bangkok

Sunset from The Moon Bar, Bangkok

Finally also remember to check out Chill Out Bars One, Two and Three, in which I describe my experiences in many other bars in Singapore.

10 January 2012

Dependently Speaking

With Christmas and a trip back to the UK, new condo hunting (more on that soon) and getting on with day to day life in general I've yet to share one piece of rather exciting news (at least for me) with you.  This being that I've finally got my Dependent's Pass!  Whilst I imagine there are some who would and probably do cringe at the idea of being classed as a dependent and only able to stay here because of their husband or wife for me personally it is a welcome change to my status in Singapore.

When I first came to Singapore my husband and I weren't married so I did not qualify for a Dependent's Pass.  We hoped I'd be able to get a Long Term Visit Pass instead, unfortunately though the company my husband was working for at the time would not support our application, so that put an end to that route.

I therefore had no choice but to split my time between here and the UK on Social Visit Passes (tourist visas), commence job hunting, hopefully get a job and obtain an Employment Pass in my own right.  Job hunting was not (and has still not been) an easy, or so far, successful process for me and the background I came from in the UK.  Equally though I've not been looking continuously either for work since first coming here.  My reasons for this mainly being because not having a job gave me the freedom to travel back and forth to the UK as I needed to plan and organise our wedding and also to be available to look after my Stepsons whilst they were visiting Singapore during their school summer holidays.

As soon as we returned here after our honeymoon though I set about applying for my Dependent's Pass.  I'd heard good things from many others about how efficient Ministry of Manpower (MOM) were and having now experienced it first hand I can only agree and praise them for how organised all aspects of the process of applying for and collecting my Pass was.  I can't imagine for those moving to the UK and applying for visas the process necessarily being quite as smooth, but I may well be mistaken.

Regardless though I now have my Dependent's Pass and am now organising some of the things for myself that people usually do when they first move here.  Albeit though perhaps (and this is debatable) with a bit more knowledge having had long enough to swot up and learn from others experiences.  My recent trip back to the UK was the first time I'd been able to use my Pass with my passport at the customs desk and as silly as it might sound it was a very exciting moment for me!  Oh and I will be carrying on that job hunting again now too.

05 January 2012

The Marmalade Pantry

Just before Christmas I was invited to sample The Marmalade Pantry's newest restaurant at The Stables close to Bukit Timah Saddle Club.  Here you'll find yourself right in the heart of lush green countryside in a stylish colonial building and what seems like a long way from civilisation.  The Marmalade Pantry also has a location in ION, Orchard Road but eating here allows a true escape from the city.  As you dine you might be lucky to see the rare sight (for Singapore at least) of horses and riders, and perhaps a slightly more common one of a monkey or two. 

I dined here in the evening and enjoyed eating in the pleasant surroundings outside.  Although it had been and was still raining when I arrived the verandah area is fully covered so we could dine and watch the rain as we did so.  The Pantry at the Stables promises 'contemporary bistro cuisine prepared with fresh, seasonal produce'.  Dinner is described as a casual, intimate affair where diners choosing from the all day a la carte menu can enjoy a selection of new signature dishes and some favourites from the Pantry in the City.

Image courtesy of Foodnews PR

We began by sampling starters of Pan Seared Haloumi Salad, Mexican Chicken Salad and Roasted Pumpkin Soup (from the set dinner menu).  The haloumi in the salad squeaked delightfully as I ate it and was served with a delicious sauce and fresh tomatoes.  The chicken salad was really inspired and served over the top of tortillas.  I could happily eat this as a main course let alone a starter!    Finally the pumpkin soup was warming and wonderfully tasty.

Pan Seared Haloumi Salad

Mexican Chicken Salad
Image courtesy of Foodnews PR

Steak and Eggs

The starters were so good that I think I ate too much of them and began to wonder if I had allowed myself sufficient room for the main courses and desserts.  Thankfully though we were able to enjoy a bit of a break between courses to allow us to make room for the rest of the delicious food.  For the main courses I sampled Steak and Eggs, Pan Roasted Red Snapper, Spaghetti Carbonara and Parmesan Chicken (from the set dinner menu).  They were all delicious but I particularly enjoyed the Parmesan Chicken.

Pan Roasted Red Snapper
Spaghetti Carbonara

Parmesan Chicken

Desserts were then served and I sampled Granny Smith and Stem Ginger Pudding, Lemon Brulee Tart, Sea Salt Caramel Cheesecake and Chocolate Ganache Tart (from the set dinner menu).  I'm a big dessert fan and these were all amazing, my personal favourite though was the lemon brulee tart.  I love lemon flavoured things and this was suitably tart and flavourful.  The Sea Salt Caramel Cheesecake was also pleasing, I went to another restaurant recently and sampled a dessert with sea salt in it, not something I would ever have thought of but I'm definitely a fan.

Lemon Brulee Tart (left) and Sea Salt Caramel Cheesecake (right)
Chocolate Ganache Tart

Whilst enjoying our meal I also got to sample several drinks that are available on the menu, two fabulous cocktails, a raspberry daiquiri and a T.M.P. cocktail and some Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc.  The daiquiri was heavenly and the raspberry flavour sharp and refreshing.  Annoyingly I did not note down exactly what was in the T.M.P. cocktail but trust me it was very good.  It was not all about alcohol though as with all that food I was contented to end the night with a Peony Jade Tea.  

A fabulous place to dine in the natural setting of Singapore's countryside, well worth the trip out of the city and perfect for any occasion.

T.M.P. cocktail (foreground) and Raspberry Daiquiri (background)

The Marmalade Pantry at the Stables
55 Fairways Drive 
Singapore 286846

For reservations - (65) 6467 7748

website - http://www.themarmaladepantry.com.sg

Opening Hours - Tuesdays to Fridays – 3pm to 11pm
                        Saturdays and Sundays – 10am to 11pm
                        (Closed on Mondays)

Seating capacity - 64 indoors; 24 outdoors

Dress code - Casual

Modes of Payment - Cash / Major credit cards 

Parking available 

This blog resulted from an invitation and represents the thoughts and opinions of the writer. All information on this blog is provided "as is", with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy or timeliness and the writer will not be liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the display or use of this information. All text and photos on this blog are the original works of the writer unless stated otherwise.

Thank you to Foodnews PR and The Marmalade Pantry for the kind invitation.

04 January 2012

A Cool (but homely) Christmas

After the fun and excitement of my first Christmas abroad last year, albeit away from Singapore and actually in Melbourne.  Where we stayed with friends, enjoying their hospitality and the cricket on Boxing day, this year we travelled back to the UK.  It was our turn to spend Christmas with my Stepsons and we and the boys enjoyed some time with both mine and my husband's respective families, spending Christmas in Southport and the New Year in Maidstone. 

It was a time for a lot of festive eating, good home cooking and a certain amount of drinking too, for TV Christmas specials of some of my favourite programmes, walks by the sea and visits to a few tourist spots including the Wildwood Trust in Kent.  A brilliant place to discover the native wildlife of the UK both past and present if you ever find yourself in that area.  I especially enjoyed taking the boys to places local to my home town and being a bit of a tourist there for a change whilst on our holidays. 

The weather was perfect for warming drinks and festive food, fresh but apart from a couple of days not particularly cold.  No snow (of course) but I loved hearing the wind in the trees, seeing the rain lash down at times, the dark mornings and afternoons and feeling a cool breeze on my face.  The novelty of wearing a coat, scarf and gloves again was good too.  

Here are just a few photos from the trip and may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year and the very best for 2012. 


The journey South begins
Nearly there!

Not reindeer but fallow deer
Herne Bay seafront
Battle Abbey and the site of the Battle of Hastings in 1066
A pretty building in Battle
The Chequers, Loose Village - just a stone's throw from where we got married last October
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