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Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Country Life Grand Ball 2014.


I must apologize as this post is rather belated. The Country Life Ball at the Natural History Museum was almost two weeks ago now, but what with me being away on the Isles of Scilly and then straight back into work, I've been too busy to blog about it. My friends and I got our tickets to the ball a while ago, and after a distinct lack of balls in my life this year compared to previous years, I'd been looking forward to it for weeks! We were promised glitz, glamour, and a whole host of entertainment. We weren't disappointed. 

Being sponsored by luxury jewellery brand Boodles, and with Prince Michael of Kent in attendance, naturally it was a given that the event would be filled with only the most glamorous. I headed to Lotte's after work on the Wednesday so we could get ready together, and after a couple of gin and tonic's to get us in the mood, we jumped in an uber to make sure we arrived in style. I was in a bit of a sassy mood that week so decided to wear my classic black dress and red lipstick. It's always the fail safe option really; it always impresses and always makes me feel like a million dollars.

Catherine Lux Country Life Ball 2014 Natural History Museum

We arrived at the Natural History Museum to it all lit up in pretty lighting, and hundreds of people in black tie making their way through security and inside. We met some other friends outside, and we all headed in together to get the party started. Free-flowing wine and champagne ensued, as did delicious canapes (the mini-burgers were my favourites!). We headed into the central hall where the huge Diplodocus dinosaur skeleton is housed, and where the entertainment was taking place. The evening started with a rounding rendition of Jerusalem by Meeta Raval and Oliver Gerrish. 

Country Life Grand Ball 2014 at the Natural History Museum

Country Life Fair Ball 2014

Country Life Fair Grand Ball 2014 at the Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum Ball

Country Life Fair Grand Ball at the Natural History Museum

There was an awesome 'Ginkhana' where you went round different stations testing different types of Gin. I bumped into Asa at one of them, who I hadn't seen for months, so he got a #selfieambush (aka, we were chatting, I turned to get my drink, and all of a sudden he was ambushing me with a selfie - I think I carried it off quite well...).


After Jerusalem and a spot of Ginkhana there was scottish reeling going on (hence Holly's beautiful Scottish-themed dress further up ^), and even a fashion show! I of course missed these, and stayed in the central hall where the epic Sister Sledge, Lettice Rowbatham, and T'Pau were entertaining everyone! 

T'Pau at the Country Life Ball at the Natural History Museum

Lettice Rowbatham at Country Life Ball at the Natural History Museum

Country Life Fair Grand Ball at the Natural History Museum

Country Life Fair Grand Ball at the Natural History Museum

Country Life Ball at the Natural History Museum

After getting very hot from dancing wildly to the music, Laura and I decided to leave the others to it and go and get some air. We bumped into Lotte and Charlie on the way, so we all wandered out to the cool fresh breeze that greeted us as soon as the security man opened the doors for us. There's nothing quite like that fresh breeze when you're feeling all hot and sweaty! We spotted Jasiminne and Henry sitting on a bench, and as we hadn't seen them for a couple of hours we spent a while all sitting out there chatting and taking photos.

Country Life Grand Ball at the Natural History Museum


Natural History Museum Ball

Natural History Museum Ball

We headed back inside and I found a friend on the way... 

Natural History Museum Ball

Country Life Grand Ball at the Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum Ball

These two dresses were two of my favourite that I saw throughout the night. I love the colour and shape of the red one, and the entire outfit of the black just oozes class.

Country Life Fair Ball Fashion

James finally arrived after a heavy pre-drinking session that lasted a lot longer than planned, and he was very merry....so merry he attempted to pick me up...his face is priceless! I did warn him...


So he put me down and did what he always does when drunk...









I think the state James is in in this photo and the way he's holding me up just shows perfectly the effect the party had on everyone. While everyone else went on to the after-party, Lotte and I were good as we had work the next day. The two of us and her boyfriend Charlie got an uber back to their place, had a nightcap, and then Charlie being the gentleman he is let me get into his side of the bed, and Lotte and I watched Romy & Michele's High School Reunion before falling asleep. The perfect end to a really awesome night with fantastic friends! I do love a bit of Romy & Michele.

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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Isles of Scilly as a Holiday Destination.


Whenever I tell people about the Isles of Scilly, 90% of the time they've never heard of it. Most people don't even know that it's part of the UK and just 30 miles off the coast of Cornwall, barely an hour's flight from Exeter, and just a half hour flight from Newquay. I always respond with 'it's a tiny group of paradise islands off the coast of Cornwall', because to me, they really are. During the summer when the full sun is shining on the ocean, it's crystal clear and the loveliest shade of turquoise. 


Getting to the Isles of Scilly


There are two ways of getting to Scilly; boat or plane. I've only been on the Scillonian III boat once, and it takes around 2 hours 40 minutes from Penzance in Cornwall. It really is an incredible experience approaching the archipelago on the boat, floating past the islands and arrived in the quay on St Mary's, the main island. The other times I've been by plane, which is much quicker and easier. You can fly from Exeter, Newquay, or Lands End. The planes are very small, but that's all part of the experience, and I actually prefer smaller planes to bigger ones! If you're a UK citizen you don't need a passport to fly, just a form of ID like a drivers license or credit card. 


























The Islands


Deciding which island to stay on depends on what type of things you enjoy doing and seeing. If you're not a huge fan of isolation and enjoy being near a town then St Mary's will be best, however if you really want to get away from it all, my favourite islands are Tresco and St Martins. St Martins has the best beaches, and Tresco is just beautiful with breathtaking scenery and the Abbey Gardens. It's important to remember though that you can easily do day trips to each island as there are regular boat services running between them all, which are posted on a board a day before. The boats cost £2.50 per person each way, which is well worth it and goes towards the running costs of the boats.



Accommodation on Scilly


There are plenty of options for accommodation on Scilly, most of the islands have a hotel or B&B, camping sites, and holiday rental homes. Tresco is the main tourist island, particularly for families or those who enjoy luxury travel. I stayed at the New Inn Pub and Guesthouse (read more in my post here), and can highly recommend it. The rooms are small but light and airy, and mine had a huge sash windows overlooking the ocean and neighboring island Bryher. The staff were really helpful, there was free wifi, and homemade cookies and loose tea in the room!





Things to do on Scilly


This really depends on which island you're staying on, whether you're planning to visit any other islands, and how long you're there for. Tresco has an abundance of things to do and see as you might have seen from my previous post about my trip to the Abbey Gardens and Cromwell Castle. Most of the islands have similar activities though, which include; boating, fishing, birdwatching, walking, boat excursions, snorkelling trips with seals, beaches, caving. On St Mary's there's much more to see and do, including an interesting little museum on the history of the Isles of Scilly. There are also various events going on all-year round, so it's worth seeing if there's anything happening that interests you.
























Weather on Scilly


The weather on the Isles of Scilly is always pretty good, being one of the mildest and warmest climates in the UK. Even during winter it doesn't often go below 6 degrees celcius, and in summer it doesn't often dip below 18 degrees c. However, it is quite often very windy on the sea and surrounding coastline, so even if you're visiting in the height of summer, always take a jumper and coat!



















Food on the Isles of Scilly


The food on the Isles of Scilly is honestly some of the best I've had. Most of the food served is local and the seafood freshly caught. Fruit and veg is home-grown, and the islands have their own dairy and beef farm. There are plenty of pubs, restaurants, and bars on the islands, ones I can personally recommend are the New Inn on Tresco, the Flying Boat Restaurant on Tresco, and the Hell Bay Hotel and Hell Bay Crab Shack on Bryher.
























The Isles of Scilly is honestly one of the most outstandingly beautiful places in the UK. It's the ideal holiday destination for families, couples, and friends, with something for everyone, especially if you love the great outdoors! It really is quite something, and I can't wait to come back again. For more information on travel, the islands, and accommodation on Scilly, please visit www.visitislesofscilly.com, and click here to see my previous posts on my trip to Tresco & Bryher.





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* I was a guest of Visit Isles of Scilly throughout my stay on the islands. To discover more about holidays and events on the Isles of Scilly, go to www.visitislesofscilly.com.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Tresco & Bryher Food Festival Day 2.


On Sunday after my adventurous trek to Cromwell's Castle and King Charles's Castle on Tresco, I caught the boat over to Bryher for the last day of the food festival on the Isles of Scilly. It's a big old wooden boat which transports residents and visitors between the islands. They've recently invested in a brand new speed boat as well, which I went on in the evening and as my shuttle between Tresco and St Mary's when catching my flights. If you read my first blog post on Tresco, there's a photo at the end of that post of my grandfather and ancestors in one of the old original wooden boats!



Anyway, so I got the boat across to Bryher and it dropped us off on a tiny jetty on a beach. I looked all around me and realized that this island was very different from the others I'd been to. Bryher was the only inhabited island I hadn't been to before, and all of a sudden it felt very isolated and rugged, however the scenery was beautiful (just look at the photo above!). Luckily a lovely man was taking some people to the Hell Bay Hotel in his van, so he offered me a ride to the community centre where the food festival was being held. 

Tresco and Bryher Food Festival Isles of Scilly


We passed the church on our way, and I made a mental note of where it was so I could come back later and investigate the cemetery to see if my 5x great grandmother's family were buried in there, as they all came from Bryher. I arrived at the full community centre to countless food stalls and a lovely big table and chairs in the middle for people to sit down and eat their slices of homemade cake and fajitas! I had a wander, sampled some tasters, and bought some bags of Veronica Farm Fudge.

After sampling the food I then walked down to the church, but sadly couldn't find anything - the cemetery was tiny! So I walked back up towards the Hell Bay Hotel and went onto the beach. I sat for a while lost in my own thoughts and a couple of small birds came to join me, they were very friendly and quite happily sat there on the rocks near me, before I got up to partake in some beachcombing, which was a task in itself due to the amount of seaweed washed up on the shore.

Birdwatching on Isles of Scilly

Beachcombing Bryher isles of scilly

Bryher Isles of Scilly beach

Man in a rowing boat Isles of Scilly






















Man in rowing boat Isles of Scilly

Bryher Scilly Isles

View from Bryher Isles of scilly

Pebbles on Bryher Isles of Scilly
After beachcombing, and then eating an entire bag of chocolate fudge by myself, I walked all around the south half of the island, and then back to the huge hill in the centre. 

Bryher Isles of Scilly


Bryher Isles of Scilly

Bryher Isles of Scilly






















I then had a couple of hours to kill before dinner at the famous Crab Shack, so I wandered into the Hell Bay Hotel bar and got myself a drink and bag of crisps (because I hadn't eaten enough already that day/weekend). I got chatting to the lovely barman, and then a man who was sitting on a table nearby with a large group of older people invited me to sit with them as I was by myself. Seriously, why is everyone so nice here!? I chatted to them all for a good hour, before leaving to head to the Crab Shack. The lovely people I'd been chatting to told me how it's always booked up, so next year they're going to hold it four nights a week instead of just two. Apparently Judi Dench and James Corden were in there a few weeks ago!

The Crab Shack is in a tiny stone outhouse in the middle of a field. There's a small marquee attached, which is where the kitchen is, and everyone sits on big long tables all together, so you're mingling and chatting with the people sat around you. To start with I chose scallops cooked in the lemon and chive butter, a medium crab for main cooked in the parsley and garlic butter, and then the eton mess for dessert. Despite the sign saying all dishes are for sharing, I did not share. I don't share food. Now, just a small warning, major food porn below...

Menu of Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack on Bryher Isles of Scilly

Kitchen at Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack on Bryher Isles of Scilly
People dining at Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack on Bryher Isles of Scilly

Scallops at Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack on Bryher Isles of Scilly

Scallops at Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack on Bryher Isles of Scilly






















The scallops were the freshest I've ever had the pleasure of tasting. They melted in your mouth and the presentation was wonderful; each scallop was served in a shell resting in your chosen butter. Each shell was then placed in one of the huge Portuguese cataplanas which were used for both the starters and mains.

Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack Isles of Scilly
The interior of the Crab Shack was rustic and intimate, and I got chatting to a lovely young-ish couple. They were adventurous sorts who travel round the world doing exciting things like scuba diving and kayaking. I admitted to them that I only ever kayak when the water is completely flat, however they were very impressed when I told them about how I saved a kayakers life a few years ago. When it came to discussing scuba diving I daren't tell them I hyperventilate just from snorkelling! 

Anyway, next up was the crab. I've only recently been a fan of crab, but now I'm hooked - I had it three times whilst on Scilly! The crab is caught daily, and whatever isn't used at the Crab Shack is sold to the locals the following morning. When it arrived and I exclaimed I had no clue what to do, one of the waiters very kindly showed me how to twist out the joints and break the crab's legs (sounds horrid doesn't it!) and hook out the meat with the meat picker. 

Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack on Bryher Isles of Scilly


Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack Bryher Isles of Scilly


Soon enough I was digging in and getting myself covered in crab and butter! Thank goodness we had our aprons on! I quite liked the darker meat in the body, however after a while it does get a bit much as it's very rich. It's good in small doses. I did however dip my fries into the sauce - mmhmm! 

Hell Bay Hotel Crab Shack on Bryher Isles of Scilly
Despite being full from the crab, and with only half an hour to go until our boat back to Tresco, I ummd and ahhd over whether or not to have dessert. Eventually after seeing everyone else's I went for it. It did not disappoint. A huge mountain of cream, meringue, strawberries, and strawberry coulis, naturally I wolfed it down and then regretted it, as usual. 

Eton mess at the Bryher Crab Shack

Bryher Crab Shack Eton Mess




Before I knew it it was time to head back to Tresco, luckily we didn't have to walk in the dark, as the man who'd given me a lift earlier in the day drove us all down to the beach so we could get the boat. The Crab Shack was such a fun experience, it was great to really get hands-on with the food and it was a total ice-breaker as everyone had a great time laughing and joking together. It really does make you appreciate ready-prepared crab though! It's hard work!

Dusk over Bryher Isles of scilly


This time we took the speedboat rather than the old wooden boat, and within a couple of minutes we were back at New Grimsby on Tresco. I wandered back to the New Inn and packed my bags. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, it'd been a lovely weekend of being surrounded by peace and tranquility, beautiful scenery, and the knowledge that I was literally stepping in the path of my ancestors. It'd been quite a busy weekend with a lot of walking, and a lot of eating sumptuous meals, however it had been a much needed weekend away by myself, to think and really rejuvenate after a few busy months with no time to just stop and think. A huge thank you to Visit Isles of Scilly for organizing the trip for me! 

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post where I'll give you all the information on the Isles of Scilly as a holiday destination!

Night on Tresco Isles of scilly







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*I was a guest of Visit Isles of Scilly throughout my stay on the islands. To discover more about holidays and events on the Isles of Scilly, go to www.visitislesofscilly.com.