Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tonight's Tipple.. Caledonian Brewery, Newcastle Werewolf

This bottle has been kicking around in the fridge for a little while and noone seems entirely sure who put it there, after a bit of research online it would appear that it was a 'limited edition' beer from 2011/2012?!? Although it definitely has not been in my fridge for that long!!

The labels profess a 'blood red ale' with 'mellow overtones of sweet berry fruit' then 'a bite of bitterness suddenly cuts through, long, deep and lingering'.

It delivered on the sweet berry notes at the start and there was a lingering bitterness at the end but I'm not sure the change was sudden and I found the bitter notes quite sweet.

I found it quite light and easy drinking on a warm summer's evening even though it's sold as a 'Fall' beer. I'm not sure it really has the body to get you through a Scottish autumn.

As far as red ales go, this one is fairly middle of the line. The rye malt means it's not overwhelming hoppy, which is all good by me.

Perfectly fine as a session beer, the flavours are light, it's inoffensive and at 4.5% it won't completely blow your socks off once you've had a few.

xx Caz

Afternoon Tea at The Turquoise Thistle

Afternoon Tea

I was delighted when I received an invitation to the launch of the afternoon tea menu at Turquoise Thistle, it'd been on my list of places to try for a long time, so it was great to finally find a time to go.

The setting is fantastic, the dining room with large windows on to York Place offer plenty of natural light even though it was slightly dreich the day we were there. 

I was very impressed with all the savouries on the afternoon tea, rather than the usual sandwiches, we were presented with egg vol-au-vent, salmon on a tattie scone, cucumber on rye crispbread and ham & brie on a croissant. Everything was fantastic and I couldn't pick a favourite out of the lot.

The scone was fabulously fluffy, the shortbread was crunchy and buttery. We were off to a good start!! Unfortunately, I felt the sweets were a slight let down.. The lemon drizzle cake needed a bit more zing, the filo pastry on the fruit tartlet was slightly greasy and as the cranachan cheesecake was served in a tall shot glass it was much more cranachan and not really any cheesecake.  

The chocolate profiteroles had caught my attention from when the stand was delivered but maybe due to it having sat out for a good while, the pastry ended up a bit wet. The chocolate truffle looked promising but was a bit doughy and dry.

What was the most disappointing was that we didn't actually have TEA when our afternoon tea was served..With there being quite a large group of us, it's not always easy to get the timing right for things, but surely getting people's tea orders should be high on the list?! My tea didn't arrive until after I'd got through most of my savouries and although the menu promised a selection of loose leaf teas my earl grey was a tea bag.  Having served afternoon tea in a previous lifetime, I am a firm believer that 50% of an afternoon tea really does lie in the quality of the, well, TEA... You don't need to serve a large range, but you really should have both English Breakfast and Earl Grey as loose leaf.

Overall, I loved the savouries and look forward to finding a time to return for dinner and would happily return for afternoon tea if a few tweaks were made to the sweets. 

xx Caz

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tonight's tipple.. Atom Beers Dark Alchemy

Atom Beers' Dark Alchemy was absolutely delightful!

The fact that it has no hops made it especially endearing. As much as I love beer, I really don't love hops...
The label on the back promised "a complex malt bill with the bitterness and aroma from lots of cardamom & coriander to create a porter rich in body and brimming with character" and it certainly did not disappoint.

Smooth, light and very easy drinking..Full bodied and velvety chocolate on the palette with a slight hint of bitterness at the finish. The good kind of bitterness.. like eating 80% chocolate.. you want it to linger a bit so you can savour the flavour just that little bit longer.

Paired especially well with my slow cooked ribs in a slightly spicy BBQ sauce.

Will definitely be picking up more of this next time I'm at the bottle shop!

xx Caz

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Tonight's Tipple... Drygate Brewery Outtaspace Apple Ale

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I often post a "Today's tipple" or "Tonight's Tipple", part of me things I should just jump on the blog and post a few tasting notes each time, as much as a record for myself as well as for sharing my thoughts on the things I'm drinking.. I was asked tonight on facebook about what I thought of tonight's tipple so here's we go..
Very, very appley on the nose and palate.. very sweet and quite sugary at the finish, then a slight hoppy bite at the end with a lingering sweetness in the mouth... Great for a sunny day though probably couldn't drink more than one with it being quite sugary and also slightly syrupy
As much as I enjoyed the Apple Ale, I think I prefer fruity beers that have a bit more tartness. I'm looking forward to trying more beers from Drygate and hopefully getting to visit their brewery in Glasgow soon!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Japan Trip 2014 ~ Itinerary

Overview of my 3 weeks in Japan~

21/03 Friday - Arrive Narita - Narita Express to Shinagawa, Shinkansen Hikari to Shizuoka, local train to Nishiyaizu - 157 mins - Total:¥ 9,450(Fare:¥ 4,750  Seat Fee:¥ 4,700)

22/03 Saturday - Visit Kakegawa Castle

23/03 Sunday - Peter's Wedding!

24/03 Monday - Travel Fujieda to Nagoya - local train to Shizuoka, Shinkansen to Nagoya - 89 mins - Total:¥ 6,670(Fare:¥ 3,670  Seat Fee:¥ 3,000)
                        - Visit Inuyama {Oldest Castle in Japan} - Meitetsunagoya to Inuyama on Meitetsu Ltd. Express - 49 mins - ¥540

25/03 Tuesday - Visit Gujo Hachiman - Wide View train to Minoota, Nagaragawa railway to Gujo Hachiman - 155 mins - Total:¥ 4,190(Fare:¥ 2,490  Seat Fee:¥ 1,700)

26/03 Wednesday - Travel Nagoya to Hikone - Shinkansen Hikari to Maibara, local train to Hikone - 45 mins - Total:¥ 3,740(Fare:¥ 1,490  Seat Fee:¥ 2,250)
                             - Visit Hikone Castle & Gardens, Genkyu-En

27/03 Thursday - Visit Uji - Special Rapid Service to Kyoto, local train to Uji - 82 mins - ¥ 1,320

28/03 Friday - Visit Ryotan-Ji in Hikone
                     - Travel Hikone to Shin-Osaka - JR Rapid Service to Kyoto then Osaka, Hankyu line from Umeda to Mikuni - 95 mins - ¥ 2,130

29/03 Saturday - Visit Osaka Castle, Kema Sakuranomiya Park, Namba - Osaka subway day pass ¥ 600 {weekend & holiday price, normally ¥ 800}

30/03 Sunday - Visit Nara - Hankyu line to Umeda, Yamatoji Line Rapid Service Osaka to Nara - 70 mins - ¥ 990
                      - Visit Floating Garden in Osaka {fantastic night views of the City}

31/03 Monday - Had planned for Koya-San but missed the train & next connection wasn't for another hour so just picked a destination at random from the train station at Osaka
                        - Visit Kobe - local train Osaka to Kobe - 30min - ¥ 390 - Should have got off at Sannomiya as that seems to be where most of the tourist attractions are, getting off at Kobe put me down by the pier which turned out to be quite nice as well. Mostly shopping malls & a Science Centre for children but offered a great view of Kobe Port Tower
                         - Visit Hyogo - local train Kobe to Hyogo - ¥ 120
                         - Visit Osaka Castle at night

01/04 Tuesday - Travel Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima - subway from Higashimikuni to Shin-Osaka, Shinkansen Hikari to Hiroshima - 144 min - Total:¥ 10,410(Fare:¥ 5,800  Seat Fee:¥ 4,610)
                        - Visit A-Bomb Dome, Gardens & Museums
                        - Visit Miyajima to see Floating Torii at night - Street car to Nishi-Hiroshima, local train to Miyajimaguchi, ferry to Miyajima ¥ 160 + ¥ 500

02/04 Wednesday - Visit Miyajima - local train from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi, ferry to Miyajima ¥ 580

03/04 Thursday - Travel Hiroshima to Tokyo - Shinkansen Sakura to Shin-Osaka, Shinkansen Hikari to Tokyo, Yamanote line to Akihabara, Chuo/Sobu line to Asakusabashi - 312 mins - Total:¥ 18,560(Fare:¥ 11,660  Seat Fee:¥ 6,900)
                         - Visit Akihabara

04/04 Friday - Visit Ueno, Asakusa, Tokyo Skytree, Asahi HQ

05/04 Saturday - Visit Odaiba to see the Gundam, Shibuya, Shinjuku

06/04 Sunday - Travel Tokyo to Nagano - local train to Akihabara then Tokyo, Shinkansen Asama to Nagano - 122 mins - Total:¥ 8,200(Fare:¥ 4,000  Seat Fee:¥ 4,200)
                      - Visit Zenkoji Temple

07/04 Monday - Travel Nagano to Hakuba - Wide View Shinano to Matsumoto, Oito line to Kamishiro - 160 mins - Total:¥ 3,970(Fare:¥ 2,270  Seat Fee:¥ 1,700) -- There is also a bus that runs between Nagano & Hakuba which takes 60-90 mins and costs ¥ 1500-1800

08/04 Tuesday - Snowboarding Goryu & Hakuba 47

09/04 Wednesday - Snowboarding Goryu & Hakuba 47

10/04 Thursday - Travel Hakuba to Tokyo Narita - Oito line to Matsumoto, Azusa to Shinjuku, Narita Express to Terminal 1 - 378 mins - Total:¥ 10,860(Fare:¥ 6,260  Seat Fee:¥ 4,600)

It was a pretty action packed 21 days and I feel like I covered a LOT of ground.. this is probably not the way most people like to travel but I wanted to maximise my time as best I could... I was absolutely shattered by the end of it.. Luckily train travel in Japan is pretty easy and stress-free and most importantly very comfortable..

I had to make a few last minute changes of plan due to weather as well as difficulty finding accommodation due to Hanami {Cherry Blossom Viewing}.

Apart from Koya-San, I also gave up going to Okayama for a day exploring Miyajima. If I had a do'over, I might have done Hikone as a day trip from Nagoya rather than spending two nights there as Uji is easily accessible from Nagoya as well, although in the end I quite appreciated having some time in a small town and not having the hour travel time back to Nagoya and being able to go straight back to the guesthouse after a very wet day.

The only bonus about doing day trips is not having to pack and unpack luggage and lug it to a new place.. which, after 3 weeks on the road and amassing quite a bit of shopping, is an absolute Godsend..
xx Caz

Friday, 28 March 2014

Hostel Etiquette - If you are leaving early in the morning...

I'm blogging a facebook status I posted a few days ago.. as this was one of the comments...
"I love how you are sharing this, as if it would actually educate some fool. Except well, you don't suffer fools.....so probably this isn't really going to help anyone, except well crack a smile that it was you and not us."
So, I've decided to come out of blogging hiatus to make a public service announcement:
"if you are leaving early in the morning, have your stuff packed and ready to go, do not spend half an hour rustling plastic bags at 5am.. It's massively annoying for other people trying to sleep.. Also do not put your alarm on snooze then bugger off to the bathroom.. Your alarm also does not need to be at max volume.. And no, don't turn the main room light on to check if you've left anything.. Use the light on that phone you didn't bother to put on silent last night.. Oh and loud conversations in the hallway are really not necessary either..."
I should also add, if you anticipate coming in late at night, to have the things you might need next to or on your bed so you're not having to fossick around in your suitcase/backpack for them when people are already asleep or trying to sleep.. I generally leave my pj's next to or under my pillow when I head out during the day and my toiletries bag next to my bed (under the bed if I'm in a bottom bunk or out next to my luggage if I'm in a top bunk).. that way if I end up coming back late, I can drop off my day pack, grab my pj's, towel, toiletries bag & hit the showers with as little time in the room & making as little noise as possible. I make sure everything I need is in my toiletries bag.. from face/body wash, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush/toothpaste etc. to all my lotions and potions as well as a clean pair of underwear.

Alternatively, just come in and pass out in your bed fully clothed which has proven to be a popular option on many occasions in my hostel coming's and going's...!! Not personally.. I hate sleeping in my clothes.. but it is something which I have often witnessed over the years..

There are many other things I've learnt about hostel life and living.. I did live in a hostel for a year and have cumulatively probably spent about that again, in hostels during my travels.. maybe I'll do a series of 'Hostel Etiquette's..??
xx Caz

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Hitting a wall...

I've hit a wall today... I woke up.. I got out of bed to see off a house guest.. I changed the bedding in preparation of another house guest arriving tonight... I did some cleaning and...


I am now sitting on the couch feeling just rather blah about life... It's a beautiful sun shiney day outside my window and I just can't muster up any energy or enthusiasm about it...

I think I need a holiday... After a super busy July and a busy start of August... I think I am tired and run down and getting far too caught up in things that really don't matter..

I think I need some time alone... Even though I like to think I present a pretty authentic self... it still sometimes feels like an effort to be surrounded by people.. to be engaging... to be social... things which I just can't be bothered with right now...

I either need to go away and think far too much about things and process it all or just go away and not think about things and start with a clean slate... I feel like I'm stuck in this limbo at the moment where I can't do one or the other and it's just the same empty thoughts that have taken up residency in my brain... cluttering my mind with I don't even know what...

It's one of those days where I feel like I might burst into tears for no apparent reason other than 'just because'...

Maybe I just need to umplug... switch off and lose myself in a good book... I don't remember the last time I read a book....
xx Caz