Saturday, 16 July 2016

and is reunited with old friends

Isn't it nice when something long lost turns up again?

It happened for me this week. Not human, nor animal friends,  but my sunglasses which had been lost,  and feared gone forever for several weeks.
They weren't new, nor even this year's style.  Disclaimer, I'm not entirely certain what even *is* this year's style. But I liked them. They were comfy and just the right degree of shadiness,  which meant they were wearable in our not completely sunny climes. And then at the end of last month following an afternoon of gardening they were gone.
I was pretty sure I had been wearing them. But where could I have put them? Not in my bag, nor on my desk. Not in the car. Nowhere to be seen in the garden.  I searched and remained hopeful for a few days, then gradually resigned myself to the fact they were gone.  Perhaps I hadn't been wearing them after all,  perhaps I'd left them in a shop or cafe in town?  I even went back and asked.
And then, two days ago I was in the garden. Standing beside the trug I'd been using,  I glanced  down on a pile of weedy debris. Hang on, what was that glinting?
My sunglasses! Yippee! But I'd checked that pile of weeds, and looked into the trug.  And now there they were. A little mossy but nothing a good clean couldn't fix.
Obviously the woodland creature who'd borrowed them knew what was this year's style.
But as far as I'm concerned.  Woodland creatures 0 Marina 1

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

but is no 24 hour party person

Manchester. Meeting up with the GlamourPuss and Profski (who was there for a conference). A couple of days catching up, chatting, exploring;  maybe a cocktail or two? I researched dog friendly places via my regular dugswelcome haunt and this blog and was really pleased to find out there were lots, and in the Northern Quarter, I remembered that district fondly from my last visit.  We'd really enjoyed walking around there. And so we returned....

I had a list of places in my head and thought we could wander and then just  choose the one we liked best. And so on a lovely sunny, late Spring evening that's what we did. We wandered about looking for somewhere for a drink and something to eat.

Perhaps at this point I should introduce the "Perfect Teashop"concept. Back in days of yore, before DogStarke was even a gleam in anyone's eye, indeed even before her mother was born, on Sunday afternoons MrS and I would drop MasterS off at his dad's and go for a drive. Sometimes to the seaside sometimes to the country. We would have a walk, maybe visit an historic site, admire dogs. And then come mid afternoon I'd get a hankering for tea, and perhaps cake. And so the search would begin..... This one would be too busy, these cakes too generic, those cups too clumsy. And so on. Until even the ever patient MrS would grow exasperated, and thirsty.  And lecture me on the futility of my search.
very nice, but this was lunch

nice, but not a teashop

maybe I should stick to coffee

or wine?

Cut to the Northern  Quarter, and that lovely sunny, late Spring evening. Four mature adults and one cute dog. I had my list.We wandered. Now, where shall I start on my list of "nots"? This one's too busy, that one too noisy, this one looks nice? Ah, nothing 'til 10pm. Eventually two very lovely young folk, with an equally lovely dog, suggested very tactfully that Bluu would maybe suit us; it was big so we should be able to get a table, dog friendly and "smarter". A very tactful way of saying, suitable for oldies.  I even liked the music*.

Anyway, I got my cocktail, we ordered some wine and dug into ribs and brisket. In our banquette we could hear each the speak. And DogS was a great hit. So the evening ended well.

Next day with Profski duly waved off to his lectures the rest of us set off for Didsbury, where after a short bus trip (no. 42, there's a choice of services, nb  the tram does not allow dogs)

a scritch from the long arm of the law

on the bus

DogStarke was able to have a lovely run around the park and we had a late, late breakfast at Lounge.

very GlamourPuss

what none for me?

But what of our evening? Friday evening to be precise.

afternoon cocktails

We didn't venture out. We cocooned in our big Novotel room with some drinks and snacks and watched the Chelsea flower show  and a gem of a documentary about the flower trade.

chill zone

I know how to party.

Marina x

*it has a 80s theme

Saturday, 7 May 2016

and enjoys some new ones

This week I had a quick trip back to  Edinburgh to meet up with friends and grab a bit of culture (and shopping).  I love my life here in Argyll, it's certainly not a cultural desert, we've a fab local cinema, there's music, and lots of creative people producing great arts and crafts, but one thing we don't have so much access to is "big name" exhibitions and last time I was  in Edinburgh I'd  spotted an ad. for Masters of the Everyday, Dutch Artists in the Age of Vermeer at the Queen's Gallery at Holyrood Palace. So I decided to combine a visit to it, with a catchup session with some girlfriends.

getting in the city mood, a century of Vogue on the  train 

I like the Queen's Gallery, it's just the right size and as you might imagine puts on some pretty good shows, after all H M has one of the world's largest art collections,  so there are loads  of great paintings to choose from.  And to use a much abused word,  the exhibitions are always well curated, with just the  right amount to see. I get sensory overload if I go to a really massive exhibition and much prefer smaller shows that leave me wanting more.

I'm sure the GlamourPuss has a pair like that

card players were a popular subject

Vermeer detail

The exhibition runs until the 24th July, catch it if you can.

the gallery itself is lovely

After my culture fix I had a quick trip to the shops and then had lunch at The Forth Floor Brasserie at the top of Harvey Nichols. It's an old favourite of mine from my Edinburgh days, I love the views and the buzz.

tea with a view

And where did I stay? Here!

respite from the heels

The Hub by Premier Inn, on East Market Street  between Waverley station and the Royal Mile. It's pretty new and a good addition to the budget hotel scene. Rooms certainly are compact but very well designed, with a good amount of storage, comfy beds and generous showers. I don't know how much I'd like to share the space but it was great as as solo traveller. One proviso, if you're short and have reduced mobility you could have a problem getting into bed;  the non hanging storage is underneath so  they are quite high. My feet couldn't touch the floor when I was sitting on it (I'm  quite short, 5'2). Still  that didn't put me off and I was all set to rebook for my next trip south but prices had risen so I'm trying out yet another budget option then.

homeward bound

But before that, I've an  island safari to look forward to,  and MrS and Dogstarke  get to come on that.

Until then

Marina x

Monday, 2 May 2016

and ponders on "friendliness"

Dog friendliness to be exact. You may have noticed a certain doggycentric slant to my posts. Since Dogstarke came to live with us back in 2012 she has become a very important part of our lives.

Who could resist this smile?

And so she comes with us when we travel. I heard a piece on the radio recently reporting how hotels were responding to the demand for pet friendly holidays. I know I've been on my soapbox about this before but it didn't really chime with my idea of what  dog friendly means. High up on the list of things were special dog menus and beds. Now I don't know whether we are exceptional but DogStarke fares best when she eats her regular diet, which we always take with us and her own blanket and bed to make her feel at ease. Dog spa treatments got a mention too...DogStarke likes to seek out her mud and seaweed fixes herself and hates grooming, so not much appeal there.


So what do I look for?

1) Friendliness, to people and pets. I think if you can't be friendly to customers then really you shouldn't  be in the business.

2) Somewhere to walk. It doesn't need to be a massive garden but that is a plus. It's good when rooms have suggestions for local walks too.

3) A bin for the inevitable waste. One very nice inn we've visited several times not only has no bins on site, there  are no waste bins in the village. But if you do fail to find a bin that is no excuse for leaving little bags around the place. Take it away!

4) Having an eating area and some public space accessible to dogs and their owners. It's not really friendly if poor dog has to be locked in the car when their people leave the room, and very unwelcoming to non drivers.

5) A sensible supplement for cleaning, because, well rooms should be thoroughly cleaned after every guest, dog or human.

Everything else is just window dressing.

DogStarke on her travels

And for our part we dog owners should abide by certain minimum standards of behaviour.

1) Always pick up your dog's waste.

2) Clean your dog, wipe their paws etc after those lovely muddy walks and...

3) Don't bath your dog in the hotel bathroom, that just spoils things for future guests, I know of a least one formerly dog friendly hotel that throw refuses dogs because of this. Many hotels/inns in country areas offer outside taps/towels. Use them.

4) Don't allow your dog on the beds/furniture even if they are allowed at home.

5) Keep your dog under control and don't let it wander about, not everyone is a dog lover.

6) Have fun with your dog, go for walks, play.  A happily tired dog after a great day out with its people will be more likely to settle down for a snooze under your chair.

have ball, happy dog

Well I've just finished booking a short break  at various dog friendly places, I'll let you know how we all get along.

Marina x

Saturday, 23 April 2016

..and puts the heels back in the box.

So I'm back from my weekend in the city and it's been back to my more usual footwear

although on sunny days I've worn these.

This means that Dogstarke has been very happy because it's meant lots of "walkies" for her. And coupled with some lovely sunny weather it's brought smiles all round.

As well as one of our regular walks, taking in not one but two of Dogstarke's favourite beaches we also explored another one from the excellent walk highlands site.  It was in many ways a perfect walk; circular, close to a coffee stop, excellent views, historic interest and for Dogstarke a friendly dog to play with (because she's not so big on views)

looking north

Dounie castle

across to Jura

We ended the week with  a lovely lunch at The Hawthorn Restaurant at Benderloch and then (partially) walked it off at Tralee beach. It has to be said, DogStarke did most of the calorie burning, and she hadn't eaten lunch. But I did have a paddle.

Today the weather has turned a little cooler but we still had a lovely walk and enjoyed the Spring flowers.

We have visitors next week so I  hope the sun doesn't go too far away. And after that I might just be dusting down the heels for  another city outing.

Until next time

Marina x

Monday, 18 April 2016

and found some!

We've been on more "walkies",   DogStarke  describes them here, but I'll concentrate on urban things and our visit to Edinburgh. This time we decided to travel by train and didn't need to choose a hotel with parking. I had a look at what was available for our dates and settled on Motel One Princes Street. I hadn't heard of this brand before, but reviews were good and prices low, so decided to give it a try.

Entrance to Waverley Station, right opposite the hotel

It definitely leads the field in the  budget range. I arrived early but was able to check into my room. The process was very quick and friendly, and DogStarke was made particularly welcome. I was pleasantly surprised by our room,  bigger than I'd expected with a king sized bed.

There are no wardrobes just two hanging rails,  though they have "proper" hangers not those awful fixed on things, and a small shelved area. If you were staying for a longer period or had lots of formal outfits,  storage might prove to  be a problem but for a weekend break it's just fine. Rooms also have a full length  mirror, hairdryer, free WiFi and the usual kettle and mugs.

The shower room was compact but the shower itself was good, though the towels were a bit skimpy.

We didn't check out that "One Lounge" because while the hotel is dog friendly they are only allowed in bedrooms, not in any public areas. That didn't matter too much as DogStarke was getting her own special treat, staying at MasterStarke's for a night.
Actually she wasn't only one looking forward to seeing him, and I really enjoyed our lovely night at Nonna's Kitchen on Morningside Road.

The restaurant is a favourite of his and GGGF, and deservedly so, it has good food and a great atmosphere. You can always tell a restaurant has something right when it's regularly full on a midweek night;  for five or six years I would pass by on my way home from my Pilates class on a Wednesday night, and it was never less than buzzing.
He can't remember, but when MasterS was just a little boy he loved, and was welcomed at The Patio on Hanover Street which was the Stornaiuolo family's former restaurant.

On Saturday came the reason for our trip, we travelled down the coast to  The Granary at Balgone just outside North Berwick, where my friend was celebrating her Ruby wedding anniversary. It's a great place with plenty of space to spread out, inside and out, there's even a covered heated pool. We didn't test that out at the party, but as the weather was kind (mostly) we were able to enjoy the gardens. It was a lovely afternoon with four generations of family and lots of friends enjoying good food and company.

Back in Edinburgh we had planned to pop down to V deep in Leith for the evening as  I'd discovered it was dog friendly, but we'd eaten so well at the party and were quite tired, so just cocooned in our room and watched TV instead.

Sunday saw us back on the train and heading home.

And that's where I am now.

Marina x

Sunday, 10 April 2016

and meets herself coming back.....

Well, sort of.....Actually I'm stealing Dogstarke's subject matter with this post. Yes it's a post about walkies! On Easter Monday we drove to Glen Etive, which you may have seen in a certain movie  a few years ago, and walked westwards along the north shore of Loch Etive.

looking north to Glen Etive, Easter Monday

 Yesterday we drove up from the Connel Bridge, where the Falls of Lora were in full flow, past Ardchattan Priory to Bonawe where the public road ends. We parked up and set off east ,towards the head of the loch.

looking north from slightly further south, yesterday

In the best tradition of Winnie the Pooh we fortified ourselves with ", pro, things we take with us..." and stopped for a picnic lunch along the way.

everyone got a picnic

Now Loch Etive is nearly 20 miles long and even though we'd started our walk nearly half way along we had  no plans to walk all the way to the head of the loch, we were aiming for the spot we'd turned around on our eastward trek. But tempted by signs for this bridge

quite a bouncy bridge....

.......over this

we took a detour, passed by this offgrid hideaway and then after finding ourselves in quite a boggy spot had  a final cup of coffee and  decided it was probably time to head back home.

If you like the sound of this walk you can find another description here

Today I was pleasantly surprised that  I wasn't too stiff but my toes were sooooo happy sunshine let them  get some respite from boots.

putting my feet up, today

Soon we're off on a mini break back to Edinburgh so I'm hoping to report on some nice clean sheets. Last time we stayed at the Novotel on Lauriston Place but this time we'll be trying out somewhere new. I'll be sure to let you know.

Marina x