Posts

Restaurant Review: Villandry Grand Cafe, Bicester Village

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of reviewing the wonderful Villandry Grand Café at world famous tourist attraction Bicester Village, one of the biggest designer retail outlets in the country. I was visiting with my two close friends for a girly day out and all the shopping, gossiping and walking around had left us seriously starving and totally thirsty by the time lunchtime had arrived! Villandry was our first port of call and here’s why…

Known for it’s French and Mediterranean inspired menu, Villandry is a popular choice with locals and tourists alike. With just three restaurants in the entire country, two in London and this one in Bicester, Villandry is a small chain of upmarket eateries offering luxury dining in exclusive locations. We ate at lunch time and it was absolutely HEAVING – pretty much every table was full and there was a queue 0ut the door when we arrived; if that’s not a sign of a good restaurant I don’t know what is!

 

villandry menu

 

Despite the busy lunchtime rush we were seated within around 5 minutes and were shown menus whilst we waited so we could drool over the sumptuous range of dishes that were on offer! We decided to share a couple of pizzas and a couple of portions of fries between us so opted for the French goats cheese, spinach and caramelised onion and the prosciutto, pesto and mushroom pizzas with truffle oil and parmesan fries. The food was INCREDIBLE; the toppings on the pizzas were delicious and the dough was cooked just right. We particularly enjoyed the fries with the truffle oil and parmesan giving an added flavour to the dish.

 

Other options on the menu included small plates, sharing platters, salads and hot sandwiches. Guests looking to enjoy main courses can expect to be treated to a number of impressive dishes including duck confit, lobster linguini,  roast salmon and moules frites as well as ever changing seasonal specials.

 

 

 

Villandry’s décor is beautiful, with elegant touches and classy designs throughout, allowing diners to relax and unwind in luxurious surroundings. The charming conservatory is light and spacious with views across to the rest of Bicester Village and its bustling shopping streets. Outdoor seating is available during the summer months for a true taste of al-fresco dining in the Great British sunshine.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BCaGJAAkCbh/?taken-by=villandry_bicester

 

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BEOjcA9ECUi/?taken-by=villandry_bicester

 

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week from 8.30am – 10pm, and with fantastic themed events including Steak Nights, Pizza and Prosecco nights and Afternoon Tea, Villandry offers something for everyone. Located in the classiest of settings amongst designer stores and high end outlets, Villandry Grand Café should be your number one choice for fresh food and delicious dining at the heart of the luxurious Bicester Village.

To make a reservation or to enquire about catering or private hire please contact Villandry Grand Café directly.

Love Jess x

NB. Some of the photos on this page are courtesy of Villandry’s website and Instagram page.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BDS0Wh-kCaU/?taken-by=villandry_bicester

 

British Summertime Festival: London

1 3

Hi everyone,

This week we are set for a heatwave here in Britain with temperatures in some parts of the country reaching as high as 33 degrees! I love a good old British summer, with the sun shining gloriously one day and then the skies pouring with rain the next! It looks as though we are in for a good few months of warm weather though so fingers crossed it stays that way. Luckily my family are one of the thousands that have booked a stay-cation and we will be holidaying in the UK this year. We are off to sunny Cornwall at the end of this week so I’ll be posting about that on my return, in the meantime you can check my Instagram account while I’m away to see all my seaside snaps!

2

Anyway, back to this post and in line with the GB theme that’s present throughout many of my articles I thought I’d bring you a review of a summers day out I recently had in London. I headed to Hyde Park in the capital on for the annual British Summertime Festival that returned for its second year running. This year the line up was huge, with headline acts including Kylie Minogue, Blur, Taylor Swift & The Who. Spread across two different weekends, the concerts provide a fun filled day out for all the family with plenty of food stalls, bars, kids activity dens and fairground rides. I attended with one of my close friends on Sunday 21st June and our headline act was global superstar Kylie Minogue featuring disco band Chic & Nile Rodgers, pop star Mika, icon Grace Jones and the up and coming Years & Years and Foxes. There was a real festival vibe throughout the venue and it was very chilled, the weather was great and we had a fantastic time!

4 5 6 7

General admission was at 1pm so we caught a late morning Oxford Tube from Thornhill Park & Ride direct to Marble Arch – this is a brilliant way of travelling from Oxford to London and our adult return fares were just £14 each! After we were allowed in we checked out the attractions around the park, got our faces painted for free by the Palmolive promo team & had a ride on the fairground. Just be aware that once you’re into the park and your tickets have been scanned you aren’t allowed out again so there’s no chance of popping back to Oxford Street for some last minute shopping!

810 1115

We were worried that we’d have so much time to waste before the concert that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves, but by the time we checked out the surroundings and had something to eat the music was nearly starting and the concert was in full swing! Food-wise I opted for meatballs, chips and garlic bread (£10 with a drink) and my friend had a BBQ pulled pork sandwich with chips and a drink (£13). The food is a little on the pricey side but the portions were a very good size, larger than we expected, and included a drink which was a bonus. There is so much choice with cuisine from all around the world as well as plenty of sweet treat stalls including Spanish churros and Belgian waffles – they were to die for!!

12 13

On to the music which started just before 4pm, with newbies to the pop scene Years and Years performing first on the Great Oak Stage. They were followed shortly by Mika who really got the crowd on their feet with his famous pop tunes. After an interval dance legends Chic and Nile Rodgers took to the stage and added to the party atmosphere getting everyone to sing along to their greatest hits. Over on the Barclaycard stage we watched young Louisa  , also known as Foxes, perform some of her well known songs. Shortly afterwards the iconic Grace Jones performed some of her wacky songs back over on the Great Oak Stage in a choice of rather revealing outfits until it was time for the main event to take place. We had all been waiting for Kylie and Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills provided an entertaining countdown to her set whilst the crowds flocked towards the front of the stage. There was a Barclaycard VIP arena for celebs and people with priority tickets but we were stood in the general admission area with good views of the stage and there were plenty of big screens around aswell.

18 19 21 23 24

Kylie’s set was fantastic and she was certainly the star of the show! unfortunately we had to miss the end as the Oxford Tube’s from Marble Arch finished early but we were actualyl glad to be able to get back and beat the crowds so it all worked out well in the end. We had a fantastic day out at British Summertime Festival and can’t wait to return next year! I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for the 2016 dates and line ups once they’ve been revealed!

9 17 22

Love Jess x

Winter city break to Reykjavik, Iceland!

DSCN8987

Hey everyone,

So as most of you probably know, I’ve not long got back from a brilliant trip away to the beautiful city of Reykjavik in Iceland and I had a truly amazing time so wanted to share my write up with you all! I’ve reviewed quite a few aspects from the holiday on my separate Trip Advisor account so I will post links to those where appropriate. And as if by magic you can now BOOK the exact same trip I planned in one easy step – scroll down and read the last paragraph for details! In the meantime though, here’s what we got up to in Reykjavik…

THE HOTEL

When booking with Easyjet Holidays we opted to stay at the 4* Reykjavik Lights hotel, which only opened in June 2013, and it turned out to be the perfect choice for us! The hotel was immaculate, with modern features including a brilliant power shower, flatscreen LCD TV and free wifi throughout.

DSCN9033 DSCN9032

Breakfast was included in the deal and was plentiful with lots of pastries, cereals, breads, cheeses, hams and fresh fruit available along with hot drinks, milk and fresh juices to choose from. The bar area was located alongside the reception and the breakfast was served at the bottom of this room too, so everything was together which see it easy and very accessible considering the lift was 50metres away!

recep recep2

Our twin room was bright, airy and spacious with large windows letting lots of light in and the beds were so comfy! I just wish we had a view from our room as front facing rooms looked out across to the snow topped mountains which would have been incredible, but unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to be allocated a room with a view.  A word of advice though; email the hotel directly before you travel and if you ask for a mountain view room you should be able to get one!

DSCN9011 DSCN9012 DSCN9013 DSCN9014

My only slight criticism about the hotel was its location from the city centre as it was a good 40 minute walk away and was too far away for us to travel to day and night. We did however benefit from the mini strip which ran along side our hotel and was home to a number of restaurants, shops, a bank and  a pharmacy which came in useful. Had we not been on the mini strip we would have got taxis into the city each night to go out for dinner, but we wanted to save our money for tours and the sights that we were going to see!

You can view my Trip Advisor review for the Reykjavik Lights Hotel here.

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

Our hotel was located just outside of Reykjavik city centre, around a 40 min walk or a 10 min taxi ride away. We were a five minute walk away from Laugardalur, Reykjavik’s well known recreation centre, which was home to the botanical gardens, family zoo and park, the sports hall, ice skating rink and the famous outdoor thermal pool. We visited nearly all of these attractions as they were so close to our accommodation and also booked a number of tours through Reykjavik Excursions who operated a pick up and drop off service directly to the hotel which was brilliant.

DSCN9045 DSCN9052 DSCN9054 DSCN9055

The outdoor swimming pool and the family zoo were our favourite attractions; we loved the water slide (big kids!) and the pool was a lovely 30 degree temperature which we didn’t want to get out of! Just a warning though, in Iceland and other parts of Europe you are required to shower naked before you enter the pool area. There are communal showers but there are also a few private showers allocated so don’t worry if you panicked like us about stripping in front of strangers! There were hot tubs around the pool area which was very relaxing; we visit around 7pm and stayed for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel area for dinner.

pool1 pool2

The zoo was very small and low key, more of a farm park than a zoo but it was very cute and we did enjoy ourselves! There were daily shows where the keepers fed the reindeer and seals and there was a mini aquarium and farm area with pigs, cows and sheep. I wouldn’t recommend it for a day out as you can only spend around 2hours max at the park but for kids it’s great or you can go there to kill some time if you have a late flight.

DSCN9269 DSCN9280 DSCN9299 DSCN9308 DSCN9335cow

THE EXCURSIONS

We booked a couple of tours through Reykjavik Excursions, one of Iceland’s biggest tour operators and we certainly weren’t disappointed with the service we received! We booked two trips whilst during our stay; The Blue Lagoon Tour and The Golden Circle Tour both of which were incredible! We only had three full days to fit everything in and also wanted to spend some time exploring the city centre so choosing these two tours gave us enough flexibility to do this.

DSCN9089

The Blue Lagoon is a large geo thermal spa which is set on a large power station in South West Iceland and is one of the country’s most famous attractions, listed as ‘One of the 25 Wonders of the World’ according to National Geographic! We booked to go in the evening so we could see it all lit up and it looked absolutely stunning. We were picked up by Reykjavik Excursions from our hotel and taken to the site via a comfortable 1hour coach journey with a few more hotel stops along the way.

DSCN9101 DSCN9111 DSCN9125 DSCN9127

On arrival we made our way straight to the lagoon to make the most of our time there. The water was a sweltering 40degrees but it was amazing and as soon as we got in we knew we didn’t want to leave! There were jets of natural steam surrounding the lagoon which added to the atmosphere and there were wooden boxes around the pool areas which contained the famous silica mud face masks, designed to leave your skin feeling incredible. We then stood under a powerful waterfall which gave a rejuvenating head, back, neck and shoulder massage as you stayed under it for as long as you could manage; it genuinely felt as if there were human hands massaging my body it was incredible!

DSCN9099  DSCN9120 DSCN9116  DSCN9114

There was a bar located in the lagoon itself which served drinks and refreshments- you could purchase these items using wristbands which were allocated to you on arrival, and could then pay at the end before your departure. On site there was a cafe serving drinks and snacks as well as the well regarded Lava restaurant which was fully booked during our visit. The Blue Lagoon shop stocked all the natural skin products on offer in the spa as well as the usual tourist souvenirs, and there was also a viewing platform where you could see the lagoon lit up in all it’s glory.  The coach collected us at 9.30pm as the last trip of the night and we were dropped safely back to our hotel by around 10.30pm. ! The tour was brilliant and we were so glad we booked – I would definitely go back if I were to visit Iceland again.

DSCN9153 DSCN9202 DSCN9229

The Golden Circle Tour was a shortened version of the full eight hour day trip organised through Reykjavik Excursions and is probably the most popular tourist destination in the whole of a Iceland. Visiting the same attractions but with shorter stops at each one, we were on the road for six hours. Firstly we visited the UNESCO World Heritage site, Pingvellir National Park, which gave some stunning views over the mountains, rivers and hills surrounding the area. This park was historically important for many famous events in Iceland and is renowned for its geological significance.

DSCN9156 DSCN9158 DSCN9160 DSCN9162

Next up was the geothermal field of Haukadalur, home to the spectacular phenomenon that is the ‘Great Geyser’. The area is a natural wonder of hot springs and boiling mud pools, with the Strokkur Geyser erupting every 5-10 minutes shooting up a column of hot water and steam into the air. We were lucky enough to see the Geyser erupt three times and I caught one on film which was brilliant, the memories will stay with me for a long time and I showed my family and friends when I got home and they were amazed! The souvenir shop on site was excellent with lots of lovely gifts and there was also an informative museum detailing why the Geyser’s erupt as they do.. We had a wonderful time at the Geyser’s and I managed to take some brilliant photos!

DSCN9193 DSCN9202 DSCN9217 DSCN9220

Our third and final stop was Gullfoss, or the Golden Waterfall as it is also known. Gullfoss is apparently more powerful than the Niagra Falls and we walked down the 110 steps to get there before we were able to take in the sight ahead of us; it truly was breathtaking! After admiring the waterfall and learning about the history of it, we made our way back up the steep steps and headed for yet another souvenir gift shop! Afterwards we made our coach journey back to the hotel and then headed out to dinner after a long day out on the road.

DSCN9230 DSCN9231 DSCN9244 DSCN9251

On our last full day we headed straight to Reykjavik city centre to explore the local shops, restaurants and landmarks. I particularly liked the famous Hallgrimskirkja cathedral which was definitely worth visiting, as well as the eye catching Harpa building which is home to popular Icelandic concerts and shows. We spent the day shopping for souvenirs and had lunch in a lovely restaurant located near the city’s popular club scene which supposedly comes alive at night!

Unfortunately we weren’t also able to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights as the weather was pretty cloudy during our stay and we had booked ourselves up with the other tours we had already committed to!! I would love to go in search of the Aurora Borealis again though, whether that be via a return trip to Iceland, or somewhere different like Finland or Norway – watch this space!

DSCN9385 DSCN9414

DSCN9453DSCN9454DSCN9451  DSCN9431DSCN9402  DSCN9450

On Friday 7th November we headed back to Iceland via Keflavik airport, and their excellent duty free section! Overall we had a brilliant trip full of fun, adventure and memories which will stay with me forever! I would highly recommend Reykjavik as an exciting city break or weekend away with friends, family or partners and would love to return to catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights which we unfortunately weren’t able to see!

DSCN9458 DSCN9462

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post about everything that Iceland has to offer, please contact me if you have any questions or would like to know more on certain areas of the country! As mentioned above, you can now book the EXACT trip I did in one easy step – just click on the link below for more details and to request a quote!

Get a quote for this trip

Love Jess x

Birmingham weekend: Shopping and Disney on Ice!

Hey everyone!

So I’ve not long returned from a brilliant weekend away in the popular city of Birmingham for a shopping and theatre trip with one of my closest friends. We headed to the Copthorne Hotel in central Birmingham which was excellent value for money at just £54 for the night! The hotel was positioned perfectly for exploring everything that the city has to offer, and we loved being able to walk everywhere rather than having to get a taxi!

image image image

On arrival we left the car in the hotel parking lot (£12 for 24 hours) and checked straight in. We were a bit early and unfortunately our room wasn’t quite ready so we left our bags with the reception staff who were super friendly and nothing felt like too much trouble.

We headed for a day of shopping at the well known Bull Ring centre which was home to hundreds of big store names including Debenhams, John Lewis, New Look, Forever 21, The Disney Store, Hollister and many more. We took a particular liking to The Disney Store (obviously!) and were also pleasantly surprised to see a large cuddly Olaf from Frozen waiting to greet customers outside Build a Bear!

image image

The Bull Ring was great and I’d love to return to do some serious Christmas shopping as you can buy pretty much anything from the diverse range of shops on offer. If however you prefer strolling up and down the traditional high street rather than staying in one mall then Birmingham City centre can give you that too. There are plenty of well known stores from Primark and H&M to Armani & Lipsy so there’s definitely something for everyone. Both offer lots of restaurants and eateries so you can easily stop to recharge your batteries and take some time out from your shopping!

After a good few hours of exploring we headed back to our hotel (5 min walk away) and got changed and ready for the main event, and the reason for our trip, which was the wonderful Disney on Ice show at the NIA arena. We’d had the show booked since the summer and couldn’t wait to get there and watch it; being immersed in the world of Disney sounded like heaven to us! Anyone that knows me will know that I’m a complete Disney fanatic which is why I was so excited about this trip!

image image

We had bought some Minnie ears outside the arena for just a fiver from market stall sellers as we knew the official merchandise inside the arena would be super expensive! We did however buy a programme (£9) and there was lots of choice for Disney fans inside we just couldn’t afford to buy anything else!

image

The show was incredible with the story telling, famous music and the lighting all making it truly stunning and we thoroughly enjoyed the hour and a half long performance. There was something for everyone; from a Disney Princess showcase to scenes from Aladdin, Pinnocchio, The Incredibles  and of course The Lion King with repeat appearances by Mickey and Minnie throughout.

image image imageimageimageimageimageimage

There was also an amazing finale with all the characters coming back out to a final performance of The Circle of Life and parading round the rink posing for photos- we were so jealous of people with the rink side seats! It was so magical we didn’t want it to end! Starting at 6.30pm, with a 15 min interval, the show finished around 8.30pm and everyone slowly filtered out of the arena and back to reality – shame!

image imageimage

We wanted to eat out somewhere for dinner and found lots of lovely restaurants dotted around the pretty canal and bridges near the arena. We did however decide to eat at a brilliant Chinese restaurant at the hotel which was amazing, but if I were to return I’d eat near the canal and go for drinks afterwards on the main strip which was just round the corner.

image image image

Overall we had a fantastic weekend in Birmingham and are already planning our next trip back up there in the Spring time when there’s another Disney show on!

This week I’ll be busy packing for my upcoming holiday to Reykjavik which I am so excited about! I’ll be posting details about this trip when I am home on 7th November, but for now I’ll concentrate on getting everything ready and making sure I don’t go over my allocated baggage limit.. wish me luck!

Love Jess x

Weekend in London!

Hi everyone! This weekend I headed to the best city in the world with one of my closest friends for a night at London’s O2 arena to watch Lee Evans on tour. I bought tickets last November and had been looking forward to this weekend for so long that I couldn’t wait to arrive! image I met my friend at her house in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, and we caught the train to Kings Cross station before navigating our way across the tube lines until we arrived at the famous Millennium Dome. I’ve been to this venue before to see various shows and concerts and it’s size and stature has always blown me away and I absolutely love it’s design! 02  02 pic The O2 isn’t just a concert venue, it’s so much more than that. With a multi screen cinema, bowling alley, numerous bars and plenty of well known restaurants you could come here just for an evening out with friends or to spend the afternoon lunching. You could even climb the roof of the dome if you are feeling a little more adventurous… That’s definitely on my to-do list for the next time I visit! cinema cabana After arriving at the venue just before 5.30pm we had plenty of time to kill before the show and so we headed for some dinner and drinks to help pass the time, plus we were incredibly hungry! There was so much choice that we could’ve eaten in about ten places but we opted the all you can eat Chinese, The Water Margin, which was great value for money and the food was brilliant! The dinner deal was £14.80 per person with drinks payable separately and this entitled you to as many food courses as you could manage; with three plates each it’s safe to say that we certainly made the most of it! chinese After our meal we headed to the ticketing entrance and made our way up to block 410 to take our seats (row R, 671-672) which I must say were very high up but we had a great view of the stage and the whole arena. We were directly opposite the stage and I’d sat in similar seats at a concert there last year so knew what kind of view to expect. empty arena me n steph Lee came out on stage at 8pm and played a fantastic show until 11pm so he kept us entertained for hours! He was absolutely brilliant and so funny with all new jokes that had everyone in stitches; my cheeks were hurting so much from laughing! There was a short interval at around 9.30 and a brilliant finale which involved Lee donning a sparkly jacket and playing the piano dedicating a song he’d written to his wife who was in the audience that night. He sang brilliantly (I didn’t know he was that talented!!) and then ended the show with his famous rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody which had the whole audience rocking and everyone was on their feet. It was a fantastic end to a truly amazing show and we had a brilliant night! lights After making our way to the packed tube station and heading back to King’s Cross via the Northern line we arrived back at Hatfield train station at around 1am well and truly exhausted and ready for our beds! But I had a brilliant time and am already planning my next show night as I can’t wait to return to The O2! me n steph kings cross My next trip is a spa day in Oxford which is coming up on 18th October so I’ll keep you posted on that and the other adventures I’ve got planned for the rest of the month! For now, thanks as always for reading, and I’ll write again soon. Love Jess x