Osso, Peebles

On Valentine’s Day I managed to grab a last minute bargain at The Park hotel in Peebles (B+B for £48) so as I had made such a saving on the accommodation I booked a table at Osso’s just across the road for an evening meal.

After a beautiful walk along the Tweed in the afternoon, working up an appetite, we went into Osso’s for our dinner.

We were immediately greeted at the door and shown to our table. With wine chosen and menus in hand we were given an amuse bouche and some popcorn but because I was taken by surprise I can’t remember what they were – I seem to remember one being a smoked fish and the other being a haggis bonbon but I may be wrong, regardless, they were both delightful. OH dived right in hence why one is missing from the pic.

For a starter OH went for Warm crab vol ou vent, fennel, pickled kohl rabi & sea herbs. OH loved it – he hadn’t had crab for a long time and said it reminded him of being in Rhodes drinking ouzo and eating seafood.

I chose the Scottish hand dived scallop, celeriac broth, apple and celery. Since a camping holiday in Tayvallich I have refused to pay good money for scallops as the group I was with dived for them and they were plentiful, free and fabulous so this was an unusual choice for me. However, they were absolutely amazing and I can safely say this is the best starter I have had for a long time. Everything about it was amazing. The texture, the flavours the portion size. Just lush.

For mains OH went for Feather blade of beef, roasted root vegetables, watercress and mash. The beef fell apart beautifully and was very rich tasting. The vegetables were done to perfection and as well as having mash he also ordered a side of Parmesan and truffle chips, which arrived with a garlic butter dip that was really garlicky. I had the Grilled plaice fillet, mussels, fennel, dashi potatoes, seaweed and mussel sauce. It was always going to be hard to compete with my starter but this gave it a good go. The plaice was tasty and the mussels small. There was some similarities with my starter as the textures and flavours were akin but not quite, which just highlighted again how good the starter was.

We did ask for dessert menus and we did get them but we waited and waited for someone to ask OH what he wanted – he had decided on the Poached pear, dark chocolate mousse, warm almond sponge. Unfortunately, although service had been excellent up to this point no-one appeared and as the wine was finished we decided to just ask for the bill instead.

A bottle of white, 2 starters , 2 mains and 1 side = £67.50 for a very, very wonderful meal…

…and in case you are wondering the bed was comfy and the breakfast spot-on at The Park.

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The Inn at Loch Tummel

My son and his partner gave me the present of an overnight stay in the beautiful Inn at Loch Tummel for my birthday and this weekend was the date they had booked for OH and I to visit.

As you can guess from the name the Inn overlooks Loch Tummel and enjoys some amazing views with the loch in front and the snow covered Munro, Schiehallion, to the right.

When we checked in we were personally taken to our room and the girl explained that when my son booked he had insisted we were given the largest room in the Inn so we had the only room with a roll-top bath and a walk in shower. The room was beautiful with a very comfortable king-size bed and stunning views. The bathroom was huge with the large bath taking pride of place in the centre. There was also complimentary toiletries, still and sparkling water, home baking and whisky! In fact, the only thing the room lacked was a television and, as it turned out, there was no tv to be had anywhere in the Inn. OH was quick to point out I would now have to speak to him. As there was no wi-fi either he was right. Turns out he no longer works in Woolworths (I’m kidding!).

We booked our evening meal for 7 and were sat at a cosy candle lit table – hence why the pics are a bit dark. The menu was the perfect size with 5 choices of starter and 6 mains. OH started with Shetland steamed Mussels with garlic, white wine, cream sauce and homemade bread. The mussels were lovely and the sauce rich and creamy and not in the least bit salty as it often can be. I went for the Baba Ganoush (a smokey aubergine dip) as I had never tried it before. It arrived with homemade flatbread and a side salad of leaves and olives. It was an odd texture with (I think) a tomato and onion vinaigrette of on top. I ate it with the flatbread and it was okay but I’m not sure I need to have it again.

For my main I had Pan fried coley, risotto, pomodora salsa and crispy leek. The fish was good however the risotto was a little rubbery and although the crispy leek looked good it became a nuisance as it was inedible and just got in the way on the plate.

OH had the Game pie with roasted carrots, parsnips and tender stem broccoli. The pie came in a dish on it’s own resembling something that Fray Bentos would be proud of. OH said his pie was good and he enjoyed it but felt it was mainly a beef pie as he couldn’t really taste the promised pheasant or hare in it. He raved about the vegetables.

I decided against a dessert and stuck with the house white but OH chose the Plum and hazelnut crumble with homemade vanilla custard. He enjoyed it and felt it was a good portion size and the custard got a special mention for being nice and sweet.

On the whole, it was a good meal that could easily have been a great meal with just a few minor tweaks.

I won’t bore with you too many breakfast details, which was really good – as well as muesli and fruit compote, I had a bacon omelette and OH had pancakes, bacon, maple syrup and berries – but I can’t leave you without saying that the waitress asked us if we wanted tea, coffee OR orange juice. Hmm.

I can’t give you an exact price but it was roughly £190 for dinner, bed and breakfast with a bottle of wine and 2 aperitifs.

A Fishy Weekend in Fife

Mini-me and Teeny Him decided to spend some time with the old foggies this weekend. The pair of them haven’t been well recently and were looking for some TLC. So to try and fatten them up and keeping it simple, MM, TH and myself visited Home Farm View on the outskirts of Kirkcaldy. However, we never call it that as we usually say it’s Chapel View or Hungry Horse due it it’s previous incarnations. It is now a Greene King Inn so as you would expect with a chain it’s a very samey menu, which caters for a wide range and is geared up for families. We went there solely because it has a play area for Teeny Him to play in.

Sat in the play area (£1 extra) we ordered a child’s macaroni cheese with chips, garlic bread and rainbow vegetables, an adults macaroni with garlic bread and green leaves and I went for the seafood mixed grill, which was grilled cod loin, salmon and seabass fillet with butterfly king prawns.

TH ate his macaroni as soon as it appeared and managed a couple of chips before deciding the chute was more enticing. To be fair his plate looked better than his mum’s who struggled through half of it before giving up. I enjoyed my mixed seafood grill although the only way of knowing what white fish was what was that the seabass still had it’s skin on. Unfortunately, it wasn’t crispy. The prawns however, made the plate a winner as they were fat, lovely and juicy. It also had roasted Mediterranean vegetables and fries with their skins on, which I loved.

Considering the price and that it was a stress free meal with a toddler it got big ticks.

2 adult mains, 1 children’s meal, 3 juices and a play area = £30.89

The following day was bright and breezy but with a threat of snow flurries hanging over it. We therefore thought a trip along the coast so we could watch the big waves crashing was in order. This time we swapped TH for OH who has also been suffering with the lurgy recently.

We had been to The Bank in Anstruther before and knew it had stunning sea views so we thought we would take MM there to try and put a smile on her face and to get more calories in to her.

MM ordered a hot chocolate with marshmallows when we arrived and I went for a large white wine. OH, the driver, had a coke. We were also able to watch the huge waves crashing as we pondered the menus.

The options were either from the lunch menu 1 course £7.50, 2 £10.75, 3 £14.50 or the a la carte. OH and I went a la carte and MM went for the lunch menu.

MM had battered fish, peas, homemade slaw, salad garnish and swapped the chips for mashed potatoes. OH had Wild Scottish Venison Haunch Steak, pan roasted with a red wine and rosemary sauce, root vegetables and carrot and potato mash and I decided to have Crispy skin seabass fillets Thai spiced vegetables & sesame egg noodles.

My seabass was beautiful and this time it had the crispy skin I was looking for. The Thai vegetables were nice and crunchy and my only complaint was that there could have been a tad more lime to cut through some of the oils. MM wasn’t keen on her mash after looking forward to white mash (like her mum makes) instead of the yellow stuff on her plate, which she insisted was Smash until I explained different kinds of potatoes tasted and looked different. She did manage to eat all her fish though, which after a weekend of Miss Picky saying cheese tasted too cheesey and garlic bread was too garlicky I was relieved. OH said his venison was a little bland as he thought it would taste more gamey. I thought it looked a little rare and it was a bit chewy but he insists it was good and it was his cold that made it taste bland because he loved the presentation and tastes. He also finished MM’s mash so it was good to see his appetite back too.

We looked at the dessert menu and OH decided on Baked orange panna cotta with dark chocolate shavings lemon shortbread rounds, MM didn’t fancy anything and I ordered another glass of sauvignon blanc but a small one this time.

You might notice that the pana cotta arrived with no dark chocolate shavings. We did ask and were told that some things change on the menu and that’s how the dish arrives now. This was disappointing as one of the reasons OH ordered it was for the dark chocolate and orange taste. He then struggled to find much orange in it as it all ended up on one spoonful, which left nothing for the rest of the dessert so really it should have been described as pana cotta full stop.

Overall the it was a lovely meal and being able to watch Hibs beat St Mirren in the bar next door added to the fabulous afternoon.

A hot chocolate, 1 large, 1 small white wine, 1 coke, 3 mains and 1 dessert = £54.85

Coffee Bothy, Deanston Distillery Visitor Centre, Doune

For Christmas I bought OH 12 different miniature whiskies, which I presented to him in a toolbox instead of a girly hamper (just in case you want to steal the idea). The majority of them he had not had before although I did put in a few favourites. From the dozen wee bottles he decided he liked the 12 year old Deanston best. Since it’s not a whisky you find easily in supermarkets we decided we would take a trip to Doune so OH could buy an adult size bottle for himself.

We parked next to the River Teith and walked along to the visitor centre, shop and Coffee Bothy. The woman who served us was really helpful and explained the difference between the Virgin Oak and the 12 year old. OH got to taste a couple of drams so he could see the difference. He plumped for a bottle of Deanston Virgin Oak, which is finished in a barrel that has never been used before compared to the 12 year old, which is aged in ex-bourbon barrels.

Happy with his purchase we decided to go for something to eat in the Coffee Bothy just next to the shop. The tables and chairs were made from large chunks of reclaimed wood, which could have been floorboards or beams. The walls were adorned with whisky facts and pieces of history. There was also a blackboard with the days specials. 2 soups – chicken and rice or potato and leek soup. There was also 2 wraps – one was cajun chicken and the other black pudding and cranberry.

As we took our seats we were given menus, which listed other sandwiches, burgers, mac n cheese and loads of sweet stuff. We decided on sandwiches and added a mug of potato and leek soup. I had bacon, brie and cranberry on toasted brown bread. OH had spicy chicken and avocado on toasted white.

The soup arrived with croutons and even although it was in a mug it was more than enough. Large lumps of potato and plenty leeks made it a filling accompaniment. My sandwiches were thick and tasty. However, the last one only had bacon on it so it could have been slightly better evened out. I realise now I must have swapped the wrong with OH because when he tasted mine he said he could feel it furring up his arteries. His was more messy to eat as the avocado oozed out and I had to lick all around the sides like I was eating an ice-cream slider. We were both happy with our choices though and didn’t want to swap another.

The sandwiches came with crisps and dressed salad and was a very satisfying plate of food with a good mix of tastes and textures.

I could hear others nearby ordering apple pie and there was a cabinet full of beautiful looking sweet delights but our soup and sandwiches completely satiated us so even OH had no room for dessert.

Drinks were a soda water and lime and OH had a cortado (espresso with hot milk) so the entire meal came to £23.94.

Incidentally, they also do tours – check out the website for more details

The Old Course – the truth

Okay, you read my last blog (DBB at the Old Course). You want to know the truth?

Well yeah it was all good and that but the people that stay in these hotels are faking it and brilliant people watching.

The sommelier talked to us for a good 10 minutes about wines from Aldi – he totally recommended wines and whisky from the cheap supermarket and I think because we were chatty (and knew about Aldi wines) he outstayed his welcome enjoying the relaxed chat.

When we went to the bar at night it was full of amazing sights. A family of Asians all sat in silence welded to their phones/ipads. An Indian family all loudly falling out with each other and another family from (maybe) Hull who were their for New Year but trying even harder than me to fit in. The woman in her tin foil dress spent all her time trying not to show her knickers.

When we went back to our room I was mortified to find that the maids had been in cleaning up and had ‘fixed’ the room by remaking the bed, removing our empty wine bottle and washing the glasses, emptying the bins of our crisp packets and even putting the body lotion back in to the bog.

The next morning at breakfast I saw a man in a gawd awful turquoise and white trackie top trying to shoogle a piece of Italian meat from the fork on to his plate at the buffet and when he couldn’t he just ate it and put the fork back on the table!

Another women had a pair of hotel slippers on and they weren’t even from the Old Course hotel.

The women that was trying harder than me the previous night had on a black sweatshirt with the word Love written over it. Did you see King Gary on the telly recently? Well that. This women was the female version of Tom Davis in the sitcom.

So what I am trying to say is that visiting posh hotels aint all that and there is a funny side but me, like many others, are totally faking it.

DBB at The Old Course Hotel, St Andrews

Just before Christmas I received an email from The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews offering dinner, bed and breakfast for £199. Now, considering to stay overnight is usually around £185, this was a bargain I could not ignore so I quickly booked a room for in between Christmas and New Year.

So off we popped to St Andrews. Prior to check in we decided we would try out their golf academy and whacked 100 balls on to the practice range. The experience was made more interesting with the little screens next to the tees that showed exactly how far the ball was hit as well as it’s trajectory and speed. I’m no Jack Nicklaus but I was pleased I managed 142 yards straight down the fairway.

We then drove down to the hotel to check in. The hotel’s Christmas decorations were beautiful and I was glad I had booked within the festive season. Our room was on the second floor and was large, spacious and very comfortable with the deepest bath ever – ideal for testing out all the complimentary toiletries and large fluffy towels. Unfortunately, the view was of the car park but it being winter (and me being Scottish) I wasn’t paying an extra £30 to see a golf course in the dark.

Dressed for dinner we paid The Jigger Inn a visit for a couple of aperitifs before heading back in to the hotel and up to the Road House Restaurant on the fourth floor. We were given a window seat but as we already knew, it was dark outside so unsurprisingly all we could see was the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, which was lit up at the end of the 18th. Unfortunately, it also meant our table was a little dark as there were no lights above us. Hence my rubbish pics – sorry.

As we were on the DBB deal we were given the set winter menu with 3 options for each course and I ordered a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc from the sommelier. It was not long before he was back allowing us a taste and chatting away about wine. As he blethered he continued to hold our bottle of wine in his hands. I started worrying about his hot hands heating up my cold wine especially as there was no wine cooler in sight. What was even more bizarre was that when our starters arrived he continued to chat away. Thankfully our starters were both cold…unlike our quickly warming wine. Eventually we were allowed to start our meal when the sommelier wandered off still holding our bottle.

For starter OH ordered the Sweet potato croquet, truffled goats cheese, pecan and apple. OH enjoyed it and it was gone before I remembered to take a pic and now it appears it didn’t make much of a mark on his memory either.

I had Duck presse, foie gras, smoked duck and clementines, which was lighter than expected with the orange segments giving it a refreshing tang.

For my main I had Red mullet, shellfish, pancetta broth, cocotte potatoes samphire and saffron nage. This dish was beautiful. The shellfish was plump, juicy mussels and hidden under the mullet, which was a lovely shade of red (not shown at it’s best in the pic). The potatoes were good but nothing special and the samphire could have had more bite but overall it was a lovely dish.

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What I am now starting to discover, since actively reducing my salt intake, is restaurant meals are starting to taste too salty to me so I did find it heavy on the salt but that might just be fish dishes and me nowadays.

OH had Pork belly, red onion marmalade, blackcurrant jus, baby carrots and haggis bon bons. OH felt the pork belly was too dry and chewy. There was only 1 carrot and the blackcurrant jus was just a smear on the plate which by the time OH got the plate it was baked on so there was no taste. Yes, OH was more than a little disappointed in this course.

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Throughout the meal different waiters topped up our glasses so I can only imagine a host of different bottles being kept in fridges and someone co-ordinating how they get back to the right diners. No easy feat but it appeared to work as we were never left dry.

For dessert OH went for the Chocolate and orange deluce, orange segments, caramel crumble and frangelico ice cream. OH says this was the best part of his meal and was just the right taste and amounts to finish off with.

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I went for the selection of artisan cheeses, truffle honey and black grapes. The cheeseboard was lush and I loved it and ordered a port (and extra crackers) to go with it. 4 good sized pieces of cheese all of which were tasty, plenty grapes and I love a cheeseboard with honey, which goes amazing on blue cheese. The truffle honey smelt and tasted highly of garlic but the sommelier (who popped over as he had noticed I had ordered port but not from him) assured us it was truffle oil. I honestly would have argued against this as it was very garlicky but still lovely with the blue cheese.

Breakfast the following morning was busy and often there were people having to wait for a table. They were asked to sit in the bar with complimentary tea and coffee whilst they watched over the links. Our timing must have been spot on though as we were immediately shown to a table.

Breakfast was good with a vast selection of items on offer. Everything from cooked meats, salmon and cheese to cereals, fresh and dried fruit and pastries. The hot plates offered bacon, sausage, lorne sausage, haggis, black pudding, scrambled egg, tomatoes, beans, potato scones and hash browns and on top of this you could order freshly prepared dishes such as eggs benedict, kippers and omlettes etc.

When we checked out our bill for the wine and port came to £42.50 (I had already paid the DBB rate of £199).

Overall, it was a fabulous night away and a great way to set myself up for a good start to the New Year.

And hopefully you are all ready for the new year too so with that in mind I wish you all the best for 2019 and thanks for taking the time to read my blogs over the years x

Fairmont, St Andrews

My mum treated OH and I to brunch at the Fairmont in St Andrews last Sunday. I hadn’t heard of this previously but apparently they have them on the first Sunday of each month – an all you can eat Sunday meal in plush surroundings at £32.50 per head.

Oddly, the International brunch is served between 1 and 4pm, which to me is more of a lunch time thing. This was also echoed in the food being served as there were no omelettes, no pancakes and maple syrup and no eggs Benedict, which I would have expected on a brunch menu (and would have loved). That aside however there was a myriad of other dishes on offer.

The waitress took our order of a bottle of white wine and explained how the buffet worked. We then wandered up and perused what was on offer.

The soup was Cullen Skink, which bizarrely I did not have.

At the starters section there was different kinds of slaws, pulses and nooddles (yummy). Some of the ingredients I had never heard of before and there was a lot I no longer remember but there was things like stuffed vine leaves (one of the favourites from my first trip out), brie, honey and walnuts, chicken terrine, blinis with cream cheese and caviar (I had a few of these), something like fera, beetroot and halloumi, quails eggs, a large variety of Italian cooked meats, smoked salmon, stuffed peppers, pickles, sauces and dips.

From the sea and on ice, there were langoustines (long with googly eyes), oysters, mussels (fat and juicy), prawn cocktails, roll mop herring (lush), anchovies and salmon. Next to that there was crispy duck, pancakes and hoison sauce and a whole host of savoury bon-bons.

In the centre of the room there was a variety of International main meals made with lamb, chicken, salmon, beef and vegetarian dishes so there were curries, rissottos and ragouts.

At the carvery there was roast ham and turkey (but no beef), Yorkshire puddings, pigs in blankets and gravy. At the back of the room there were dishes of buttery mash, roast potatoes, roasted root vegetables and a wealth of (not soggy) broccoli.

At the dessert station, which was like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there was an ice cream freezer where you could make your own cones, a chocolate fountain with strawberries, crispy cakes and sponge fingers (but no skewers or cocktail sticks to stab into the strawberries so you could hold it in the fountain – I dread to think how many dirty fingernails went into the chocolate). There were also doughnuts, individual cakes, muffins, crumble, profiteroles, chocolate sponge triangles, gateaux and pretty blackcurrant and chocolate smoothies.

Obviously, by the end of my multiple trips to the various stations, I was stuffed.

One of the main things I had been looking forward to was the Bloody Mary station. However, it turned out that there wasn’t one and you had to order them from Mathew at the bar. I checked with the waitress that they were included in the brunch and all 3 of us ordered one. I asked for extra spice. When they arrived they looked really boring – long tall glasses with brown liquid at the bottom and dark red at the top. There was no stirrer or straw but a small slither of celery sliced up the stalk and perched on the top of the glass.

My suspicions were confirmed when I tried the drink – it was heavy on Worcestershire sauce and lacking in any other taste. There was no cracked black pepper or celery salt or even any chilli flakes. I struggled through it and when the waitress asked how it was I told her my concerns. She said she’d tell Mathew how to make one to my specifications and I ordered another. It wasn’t quite as bad but as I had asked for a straw or a stirrer it arrived with 2 tiny black straws that would not even have reached half way down the glass. There was also a smattering of white and brown pepper on it, I’m guessing from the pepper shaker on the table.

Of course I soldiered through it (and my mum’s who couldn’t finish her own brown vinegary drink). With hindsight it would have been lovely drizzled over some toasted cheese.

After a coffee to finish off we asked for the bill. When it arrived it had 4 Bloody Mary’s on it at the cost of £11.50 each! An extra £46.

I queried the bill and the waitress took them off but honestly – £11.50 for the worst Bloody Mary I have ever had. I don’t think so!!!

The correct bill came to £130 for 3 Brunches and a bottle of wine.

Bloody Mary’s aside, the food was excellent and it was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Thanks Mum.

Merchant House, Eyemouth

digI recently rented Merchant House in Eyemouth for the weekend to celebrate a big birthday. Standing overlooking the harbour in Eyemouth the smugglers home was perfect for my family to stay in. I booked it through Crabtree & Crabtree but when we arrived I found out I could have booked directly with Gunsgreen House, which would probably have been cheaper.

A four-poster, 2 double rooms, a twin and a room that slept 3 meant everyone had their own space. 3 bathrooms one of which had a roll top bath in the middle of the room also meant no-one was left dancing in hallways. The house is full of secret hideaways and the floors below holds a museum, which unfortunately was closed when we were there.  There was also a fabulous welcome hamper with wine and milk in the fridge.

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For my birthday meal I wanted someone to prepare, cook and serve a meal on the Saturday night as I thought this would be far easier than going to a restaurant with 3 kids under 5. I searched around for caterers in the area and found Sara Event Catering in Ayton.

Right from the start the communication was excellent and Caroline Sara was extremely helpful in preparing a menu for the evening. Nothing was too much trouble and she was great at thinking of meals for children, a vegetarian and a very picky daughter so that everyone got something that they liked.

Prior to the dinner Caroline popped round to check out the kitchen and dishware so she could plan out the meal to insure nothing was left to chance.  On the day she kept in touch and her and her partner arrived in plenty time to make the meal. The meal itself was fantastic and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

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At the end of the evening the kitchen was left tidy and leftovers were all wrapped up or cling-filmed, which was great as it meant we managed to have lunch the following day too.

I’ve never used caterers before but would highly recommend the experience and if you’re ever looking for caterers in the Eyemouth area look no further than Sara Event Catering as everything about their service was excellent and I feel, extremely reasonable too.

 

 

 

 

Skydiving at Stathallan Airfield

davIn order to tick another item off my bucket list I asked OH for a skydive for my birthday (it’s the 9th – I like wine). Reluctantly he agreed, arguing he didn’t want to watch the love of his life launch herself out of a perfectly working plane and plummet towards earth, nevermind paying for the privilege.

I did attempt to do it a couple of weeks ago but low clouds and the normal dreich Scottish weather prevented me. However, yesterday saw blue skies over the grass runway of Strathallan Airfield so things were looking good for me to do a tandem skydive.

First off, I had to practice the stance to leave the Cesna  – head back, legs tucked under the plane and arms folded. Then the position for landing – hands under knees and legs up. I then had loads of disclaimer forms to fill in.

After that the morning dragged as I watched others go up in the little doorless plane and jump out. There was a small flurry of activity when a tandem jumper landed in a faraway field instead of the airfield and the emergency rescue vehicle had to dash off to pick them up. Apparently they had been let out at the wrong point and blown off course.

Eventually, it was my turn and I had to go get kitted up in a ski-suit, harness and very fetching helmet and have another practice doing the landing position, this time whilst suspended from a platform.

As we waited for the plane to land I watched another tandem land and boy did they come down with a thump.

“Will we land like that?”

“I hope not,” replied Eddie, the guy I was going to be secured to as I did my free fall. By the time the plane came back into land the other guy was still on the ground and a quad was heading out to pick him up. Prior to this I hadn’t been that nervous but seeing their sudden landing did shake me.

I then sat on the edge of the plane whilst Eddie hooked me up to him. We then edged our way back into the plane sliding backwards on our bums. The cameraman, George, joined us and another 2 parachutists who were going to be jumping out before us. dav

Sandy explained he had to lean over me as we took off so his weight would be at the front of the plane. As he pushed his knee between my legs, Eddie held on to his harness to stop him falling out the plane too early. So like sardines, the five of us all squashed up into the front of the plane to allow it to taxi along the runway and take off.

The views were amazing as we flew higher and higher. Green fields and orange trees got smaller and smaller as we climbed to an altitude where the 2 parachutists were going to jump out. They got into position and suddenly they were out and falling fast. My stomach lurched as I tried to lean out the plane to watch them fall.

It didn’t take long for us to get to 10,000 ft and for it to be our turn to jump. Eddie urged me forwards and before I knew it I was dangling right out of the airplane as he sat on the edge. George was half in half out. Ready, Steady Go. Suddenly I was out and screaming as we hurtled downward. The ear-piercing shriek was completely involuntary and I had no idea I was even capable of making that noise. The ground spiraled below and the air rushed past me. Thankfully I managed to stop yelling and take in the exhilarating feeling. digWhat a rush. Eddie tapped my arm and (I like to think) made the classic skydiving arched back arms out pose. I looked for the cameraman but couldn’t see him as we plunged downward. On one hand it felt like we were in freefall for an age but it also felt like it was hardly any time at all before our chute opened and I was upright once more looking over the countryside below. I looked down and saw George having a great time spinning out below me.

On the way down Eddie asked me if I wanted to do a spin. Oh yes please. He whipped us round in a sweeping circle. The ground rapidly rotated beneath me as we sped round. It was incredible!dav

I could see the airfield beneath me getting closer and Eddie got me to lift my legs up. Then thump. We landed. On our bums. I’d like to say it was a soft landing but it wasn’t.

davUnhooked from one another we got up and started to gather the chute. George landed behind us and the 3 of us walked back to the hangar where OH, Mini-him and Teeny-Me were waiting.

After getting out of the ski-suit and harness I headed into the office to finish off the paperwork. A bloke there asked if I had enjoyed it. When I replied I loved it he offered me a £1 if I could tell him what was so great about it. I couldn’t answer then but I have been thinking about it since and now I think it’s having the feeling you’re surely about to die but then realising you’re actually completely and utterly alive.

I know you want to ask if I would do it again.  Oh hell yeah!

Gallaghers Boxty House, Temple Bar, Dublin

Last week Lusa flew over from the states to help me celebrate my upcoming big birthday (it isn’t until the 9th  – but if you want you can send wine at any time). We decided to push the boat out and fly over to Dublin for the weekend as I love it and Lusa has never been before.

Every time I have been in the land of Guinness I have dined at Gallagher’s Boxty House in the Temple Bar area of Dublin and it has never disappointed. I, therefore, booked online well in advance as I knew it would be busy.

When we arrived we were immediately shown to our table in the window where Lusa was able to keep an eye on all the wacky Halloween costumes that were staggering past. The T-rex was my favourite.

We were given 2 menus – the early bird one and the regular one. Wine order taken we  concentrated on the menus.

mdeWe both ordered the Seafood Chowder Fresh & Smoked Fish in a Potato & Fennel Broth, served with Jack Smyth Stout & Treacle Bread. This was a big hit with Lusa, later in the weekend she said it was one of the best things she had eaten all weekend. I wasn’t so keen on the carrots in it but that’s just me being picky. The bread was, heavy, thick and dark just as you’d expect from  ingredients such as treacle and stout.

For her main Lusa ordered the Vegetable Chilli Boxty (V) Vegetarian Chilli with Mixed Beans and Irish Cheddar, wrapped in a Boxty Pancake and topped with Chive Sour Cream. For the uninitiated a boxty is grated raw potato, cooked mash and flour, kneaded with pure Irish butter and is either baked, slow cooked or boiled.

mde

When her meal arrived Lusa had to recheck the menu to ensure she wasn’t eating meat as it tasted so much like normal chilli. Lusa prefers her meals not to look like replica meat but she enjoyed the chilli nonetheless.

mdeI had the Chicken & Smoked Bacon Boxty (ng) Free-range Irish Chicken Fillet in a Creamy Smoked Bacon & Leek Sauce, wrapped in a traditional Leitrim Boxty Pancake.  This was rich, creamy and yummy with big lumps of chicken, crunchy leek and small pieces of bacon in it.  Sadly, it was so filling I had to leave some – probably something to do with eating all the bread with the chowder.

Dessert menus appeared and we decided on liqueur coffees instead of puddings. My Irish coffee with Teeling Whiskey hit the spot and Lusa was enjoying her Baileys coffee when suddenly we were asked to leave as they needed the table. ptrThis surprised us as no-one had told us that there was a time limit on our table. The waiter told us we would have been told when we arrived. Nope, we weren’t. Plus you didn’t tell us when you brought the coffee that we would need to rush them. I even re-checked my confirmation email for a warning – nada.

I nipped to the toilet and returned to find Lusa speaking to the floor manager who was explaining their policy to her. Lusa pointed out as it was their policy that they needed to be managing it better and not surprising it onto customers, she also added that asking people to leave mid meal was plain rude. The response was a verbal shrug. If we had been told at the start it would have made a huge difference so instead and unfortunately, we left with a bad taste in our mouths, which was definitely not from the fabulous food or the beautiful but quickly downed Irish Coffee.

2 Early Bird menus, 1 liqueur coffee, 1 bottle of wine = €74.50 (my Irish coffee wasn’t on the bill and I am hoping this was because I’m a regular – well, 4 times in 6 years 😉 )