Friday 27 February 2015

Dublin Legends

A What's Good To Do Review

This week we have been to Manchester to review The Dublin Legends for What's Good To Do. We had a fantastic night out which would have been even better if the two annoying girls behind us had stayed in the bar to chat rather than talking throughout the performance. They were obviously fans as they knew a lot of the words but when they weren't singing they were chatting which was very irritating.

Here is the review we wrote.

The Lowry is very easy to get to as it is just off the M602 motorway and there is plenty of parking in the large multi storey car park next to the theatre. If you eat in one of the restaurants at The Lowry Centre next door you can park for free, otherwise it costs around £5.50. The theatre is lovely and clean and all the staff are very helpful and friendly. All the seats have a good view of the stage and there is ample leg room. The Quays Theatre is a perfect size for an acoustic band, large enough that there is an atmosphere yet small enough that you are close to the stage and can take part in the performance.
In 2012 the world famous Dubliners celebrated their 50th year and and also mourned the loss of founder member Barney McKenna. It was decided that the band would come to an end and so the Dublin Legends was born. Sean Cannon, Eamonn Campbell had been members for almost 30 years and have been joined by Gerry O’Connor and Paul Watchorn.
With so many years on the stage between them it is no wonder that the performance was so effortless. Not only are all four extraordinary musicians but they know exactly how to interact with the audience with a perfect balance of Irish wit, memories and even a bit of dancing thrown in for good measure.
The night started with a number of tracks sung mainly in English but with the odd Irish track too. There were also a couple of instrumental pieces where Gerry showed off his amazing fiddle skills. The audience were soon clapping and tapping their feet in time with the music and singing along with many of the choruses. Songs included I’ll Tell Me Ma, McAlpine’s Fusiliers, All for Me Grog, and a real favourite with the audience, Fields of Athenry.
Sean and Eamonn mostly played guitar with Paul on 5 string banjo. Gerry played both fiddle and tenor banjo with amazing skill, especially good were the instrumental tracks including a piece written by Gerry about his father-in-law.
Like a good wine this band gets better with age. Whilst some of the members might not be quite as agile as they once were Eamonn, who sat down for most of the performance,  was up on his feet to play Dirty Old Town  and put on an amazing performance that would put many younger men to shame.
The second half of the show included many more of their well-known songs including my favourite, Manchester Rambler and Sean singing a brilliant little song about the sad introduction of pool into Irish pubs.
The night finished with some of the old favourites, Dirty Old Town, Whiskey in the Jar, Wild Rover and a rousing rendition of Molly Malone that had everyone singing and dancing in their seats. 

We left the Lowry on a high, seeing The Dublin Legends perform live was a great experience and  we would certainly encourage anyone to go and see them. They did joke that their return to Manchester would have to be soon given their advancing years so I wouldn’t leave it too late to see them.

Sunday 22 February 2015

The Library of Fragrance Review - Bulgarian Rose

Last year I helped with some research for The Library of Fragrance and they recently got back in touch to see if I would be interested in reviewing one of their fragrances. After looking through the list of 101 scents available direct from The Library of Fragrance website it was quite difficult choosing just one as they all sounded fantastic. After a lot of deliberation I finally decided on Bulgarian Rose. 

The Library of Fragrance launched in the UK in September 2014 but has been a favourite in America for almost 20 years under the name of Demeter Fragrance Library. The range comprises of scents that smell exactly as they sound, the idea being that you choose a fragrance based on the sort of things that you like. An added bonus is the scents can be layed together to create new fragrances that are unique to you.

With 101 different fragrances available on their website there really is something to suit everyone. There are classic floral fragrances like Bulgarian Rose, Lavender and Jasmine and also more unusual ones like Rain, Gin & Tonic and Play-Doh! If you prefer to try the fragrance before you buy Boots stock 28 of the fragrances and as well as the traditional fragrances they do stock some more unusual ones like Fireplace and Moonbeam!!

Unlike some of the more unusual fragrances which I wouldn't have a clue what they would smell like I did have an idea of what the Bulgarian Rose fragrance would be like and I wasn't disappointed. It is initially quite strong so you really don't need much and I was quite impressed at how long the fragrance lasted, I could still smell the faint fragrance on my wrists a few hours later which is great for a £15 perfume. The simple but elegant glass bottle is the perfect size for my handbag and means I can stay smelling of roses all day. 

The fragrances cost £15 for 30ml but they are currently on offer at Boots for £25 for 2 bottles.

I have been looking at the fragrances in Boots and think I will try the Rain fragrance next as I think that will go well with Bulgarian Rose.

Ullswater Steamers

Yesterday we visited Ullswater Steamers to do a review for the What's Go to Do website. We had a lovely run up to Glenridding and went over Kirkstone Pass. It was a bit grey and there was snow on the tops but the weather improved as we reached Glenridding.

Here is our review of the trip.

For over 150 years boats have been sailing up and down the length of Ullswater in the Lake District. Originally introduced to move cargo they now operate a passenger service to tourists.

It is well worth looking at the website before you visit as they list plenty of suggestions of activities along the length of Ullswater that can easily be linked with the Steamer cruises.You can also download a copy of walking and cycling guides from the website. 
They have a full programme of special events that run throughout the year with a couple of family friendly days that encourage children to dress up or bring a teddy. Participating children then travel free - a great idea to help save money on family days out.

We parked at the car park by the pier at Glenridding and paid £3 to park for the whole day (other charges apply in high season). There is a small gift shop and cafe on the pier selling hot and cold drinks and a range of snacks and gifts. There are also a couple of displays on the wall telling the history of the steamers which were interesting to read. We were given a small booklet titled “Explore Ullswater” which had a handy map of the lake and information that linked up with the free commentary app as well as the boat timetables. 

We walked out onto the pier and didn’t have long to queue for the next boat and our sons enjoyed looking at the boats whilst we were waiting. The boats are all similar designs with outdoor seating with a canopy on the upper deck and an indoor area below. The boat was quite large with plenty of seating and there were standing areas at the front and rear of the boat. Like most of the other passengers we decided to brave the elements and sit outside for a better view of the Lake District scenery. 

The only minor criticism of the trip was we did find that a number of the benches were wet and we felt that it would have been better if the staff had dried these prior to us getting on board rather than us having to brush the water away and sit on damp benches. 

Expecting it to be cold on the boat we had wrapped up well with thick coats, hats and gloves but eventually the cold wind got too much for us and we decided to take shelter below decks in the warmth of the saloon. There are tables and comfortable benches and also a small bar serving hot drinks and snacks. Toilets are also available on board.

Many of the passengers use the boat to travel part way down the lake to the stop at Howtown Bay and then return on foot along the lake shore. With the wintery weather we decided to stay on the boat for the whole journey to Pooley Bridge but it would be nice to return in summer and go for a walk among the beautiful fells. 
The journey to Pooley Bridge took about an hour but there was plenty to see on the trip. Being February it was very chilly and we didn’t see any wildlife but there are red deer, red squirrels and plenty of birds who make their homes around the lake.
I would recommend that visitors download the excellent Ullswater Steamers app before their visit as it gives lots of useful information such as timetables and fares along with maps and a brilliant audio commentary.
We really enjoyed our trip on the lake and it really is worth wrapping up warm and sitting on the top deck as the Lakeland scenery is stunning.
A family ticket costs £33.50 and this gives you the freedom to hop on and off all day and journey round the lake at your leisure. In summer it would be nice to take a picnic and try one of the local walks.

Disclaimer - We received a free family ticket for the purpose of this review. All words, opinions and images are our own.

Sunday 15 February 2015

1st bike ride of the year

We haven't been out on our bikes for a while but as it was such a lovely morning we decided to go out and have a ride. I am not quite sure what type of weather Luke was expecting, he wore sunglasses combined with a fleecy neck tube!

We didn't venture too far as it was our first trip of the year so did a circular route of 11 miles. Considering it has been a few months since I last rode my bike it wasn't as hard as I was expecting and we had a nice ride. On the way back Luke and Mark did a slight detour and did a spot of off-roading on a bridle path. It was a bit muddier than they were expecting and Luke was in his element!

Hopefully the weather will stay nice and we will be able to fit in a few more rides this week and make the most of the school holidays.

First signs of Spring

I was walking around the garden today and noticed that the snowdrops are now out and lots of bulbs are starting to come up. The hyacinths that I planted last year are all coming up and will look very colourful in a few weeks time.

The wooden planters have a mix of bulbs in them and they are all starting to come through.

Mum planted mini cyclamen around the trees and over the years the clumps have got larger, they look really pretty and add a bit of colour to the garden. 

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Unusual Flower

I have had this plant for many years and it lives in the kitchen window. I am no botanist so I don't have a clue what the plant is but it has a really unusual flower that is bright pink with green and purple stems dangling out of it. Mark's Mum usually knows the names of plants but she wasn't sure what this one is called. If anyone knows please let me know!

Sunday 8 February 2015


This weekend we went up to th Lake District and stayed at the Windermere Hydro hotel with Mark's Mum and Dad. Going away in February is always a risk as you can't guarantee the weather but we were very lucky and we had lovely weather. Last year was very wet so we didn't manage a walk but this year the weather was perfect, it was very cold but we were well wrapped up so it didn't matter. We met Mark's sister and family on Saturday morning and we went for a walk from Ambleside to Rydal Water and returned along the Coffin Trail.

There was snow on the mountain tops which looked lovely against the blue sky.

There was a huge cave so William and Luke did a bit of scrambling.

We had a lovely weekend and it was nice to get away and spend time with Mark's family.