A Culinary Tale in a Cute C17th Blewbury Inn

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Unlike the Thomas Hardy novel, Wessex Tales, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen located in the novel’s title is far from a tale of unrequited love. The home-made bread served at breakfast is in direct opposite to Hardy’s style – instead it’s full-filling, nurturing and satisfying.

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Dating from 1612, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen is a characterful and charming 17th century Inn with 3 rooms, hidden away in a quiet corner of the ancient village of Blewbury which lies at the foot of the Berkshire Downs in south Oxfordshire, also known as Wessex.

Chef and proprietor Phil Wild and wife, Arden, took over this dining pub a little over a year ago and re-opened in March 2016.

The menu for me is the clincher for a visit and this, without a doubt is a well-hidden food destination – a deserved hit among locals, yet to be discovered by tourists.

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“We didn’t want it to be over the top, but we have items on the menu that are quirky,” says Phil.

Take the Frog’s Legs as a case in point. A first for me, and astoundingly good. The starter is awash with a succulent and tasty garlic sauce and caper-combo served with the most delicate of green salad leaves.

My partner and guest for this trip went with the waiter’s recommendation of octopus and wasn’t disappointed either. Perhaps it’s something to do with the freshness as fish deliveries come to the Inn at 1am the previous morning, I’m told.

Service, like the food is impeccable.

The two staff (in smart uniforms) have been here for over a year and live on site. They’re professional and attentive without the over the top-ness that’s also avoided in the menus.

With original features, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen has been decorated using vintage, country antiques and quirky finds with just 3 beds completing the Inn for an intimate touch.

It’s understated here, warm and cosy.

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But you really should come here for the food and service, with the rooms being a comfortable place to rest your head (my partner and I slept very well here) and sundry to the dining experience.

Phil’s locally sourced, seasonally-changing menu is modern and unique. It features British dishes with French influences. There’s also a cosy, oak-beamed bar with additional dining space, a working Inglenook fireplace and flagstone floors. Outside, an orchard garden for summer dining and drink with views over neighbouring fields to complete your eating experience.

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The village of Blewbury is also well-known for its literary and artistic connections. Kenneth Grahame who penned Wind In The Willows was a regular at The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen. Barbara Euphan Todd writer of Worzel Gummidge, and the ex-jockey and thriller writer, Dick Francis also lived here, while Agatha Christie lived in the nearby village of Cholsey.

The bookishness is reflected in the snug while we take a night cap for the evening by the ample fire – there’s a full book shelve to peruse.

We take a spring stroll around the village before leaving. Daffodils jostle against a backdrop of thatched cottages and a church keeps compass for our freestyle trek as it’s centred in the village.

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With top-notch food and cosy rooms in a little known literary spot like Blewbury, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen is well-worth a visit and with room prices starting at £95 it provides value for money too.

Accommodation was provided by The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen, Chapel Lane, Blewbury, Didcot. For more information visit theredlionpubandkitchen.co.uk or to book call 01235 850403 or email eat@theredlionpubandkitchen.co.uk

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Review: The Luminous LED Light Treatment That ‘Lifted’ My Mood

I always say that low-mood is the bread and butter of the schizo-spectrum diagnosis and it’s not uncommon for me to take a long time to complete simple tasks or to stay in bed for a few hours in the daytime.

So when I heard that EF MEDISPA’s ‘Luminous Lift’ could improve my mood my interest peaked.

It uses a rainbow of bright lights to improve skin-tone and lift your mood.

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So, I recently had a one-off treatment at the Kensington branch. While I didn’t notice any decrease in wrinkles or signs of aging, it did power me through a long weekend down in the Capital (I went on a Friday).

It was very relaxing as I lay under the treatment machine in a small and clinically-impressive room.

I couldn’t see the colours during the treatment but on the outside you could – perhaps like a disco for the mind.

The best colour that works on mood is the blue light which targets the Epidermis; kills infections; helps the healing process and helps combat symptoms of SAD – something I suffer from and which has been particularly bad this winter.

In just thirty minutes I experienced a warm, blushing feeling in my skin which gave me a boost whilst balancing that with the calming effects of having an expert facial.

There’s something about nurturing our appearance that always gives me a lift and I feel any one-off beauty treatment can be good for our mental health – whatever it is. It’s true what they say: “Look good on the outside, feel good on the inside.”

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The Luminous Lift gave my skin an instant radiance and, helped put a spring in my step.

Plus, it was a comfortable and relaxing experience, so it is particularly of benefit to people who are reluctant to use aggressive treatments or anxious about invasive procedures.

Of course, it didn’t cure my schizo-affective, and I’ll probably never stop taking my medication to stay well. But the LED Luminious Therapy got me out and about in London for the weekend, which is no mean feat.

Cost: One-off treatment: 150.00

Course of ten: £1,500  (with an extra 3 sessions)

For more information or to book, visit www.efmedispa.com

Review: Image Skincare’s Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser

As an avid smoker of 20 years I’m all too aware of the negative effects my habit has – the yellow fingers, the bad breathe, the chesty cough and the pain it causes my wallet are all real.

It can also lead to premature wrinkling and aging and has, in the past, caused me to have a faded, grayish complexion.

Until now.

There’s a new product that’s actually changed the way my tired skin appears.

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The answer to my prayers has been Image Skincare’s Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser. It’s a pharmaceutical-grade, high potentency facial cleanser that gently removes makeup and impurities. All the essential antioxidants and vitamins it contains have smoothed my tired skin and given it the boost it needed.

It’s also paraben free.

To use: I dampen my face and massage the cleanser in for a few minutes, then wash off. As simple as that.

But it’s not just worked on my face, it’s also worked wonders on my body. You see, it’s universal – it can be used for both face and body.

It’s been a nice surprise to discover it’s also excellent for shaving sensitive skin – so, no more red, bumpy, itchy legs for me!

It smells heavenly too.

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(me after the treatment)

It works by quenching the skin with essential vitamins and gently removing makeup and my smoking residue from the skin, improving both texture and tone.

I know I have to give up my smoking habit at some point – but at least I’ve now been able to reverse some of the negative, aging effects it had on my skin.

Where to buy

Tel: 0345 504 0461 or email: info_uk@imageskincare.com for your nearest stockist

 

Sip Sip Hoorah – it’s the luxury liquor from Yorkshire!

Ay up! It’s a ‘boot time for a winter tipple…. from the back growths of Northern Yorkshire!

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Yes, that’s right. The proud Yorkshire business, Raisthorpe Manor, has produced a gorgeous Gooseberry Gin Liqueur that bagged a gold star in the Great Taste Awards last year – made with love from scrumping in nearby hedges.

The drink boasts the flavour of gooseberries and the character of the fruit, and it also comes through with little bursts of green acidity – adding a splash of colour and tutty fruity to the bleak winter landscapes.

Movers and makers (and cocktail shakers?) Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods is run by husband and wife Julia and David Medforth in deepest darkest North Yorkshire. The conception of their food and wine venture started out with humble (or crumble?) beginnings: with Julia foraging for fruit in nearby hedges.

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Raisthorpe’s Damson Port was one of 125 British products out of nearly 10,000, that picked up a trio of Gold awards at the as ‘the Oscars of the food world’ last year.

The Gooseberry Gin makes a good after drink for a roast dinner and a more luxurious and knowing nod to the North than your average Yorkshire pud.

Happy winter everybody!

 raisthorpemanor.com

Forget the church! Here are 10 more imaginative ways to get married

In case you haven’t already got the memo, you don’t have to get married in a white dress in a church.

Fancy flying to the moon for your wedding?

What about a traditional Thai blessing like Kate Moss and Madonna?

Or perhaps the ocean is a good metaphor for the depth of feelings you share with your fiance?

Whatever takes your fancy, there’s a weird and wonderful nuptial package to make your wedding album stand out from the rest and give your guests a day to remember.

From balloons and Vedic ceremonies to medieval hand-fastings and Buddhist blessings, here’s a round-up of some imaginative ways to tie the knot and celebrate your love for one another.

1. Balloon brides

An increasing number of couples are getting hitched in hot air balloons and there’s some stunning backdrops to choose from like in New Mexico.

The balloons can host up to 12 passengers and a small party might even spot cupid up in the clouds.

Just be sure to bring your minister and your witnesses.

 A couple of lovers sit on hot air balloon at Pablo Ecological Valley in Zhuzhen, Liuhe district
(Picture: Wang Xin/VCG)

2. Hand-fasting and jumping over the broomstick

For centuries, couples have ‘jumped the broomstick’ and promised each other friendship and fidelity in a hand-fasting ceremony that was traditionally Pagan.

It’s a fun way to celebrate your love and is still offered as a non-legally binding ceremony in the UK, such as at Tutbury Castle.

3. Vedic wedding

Don your best robes and flower garlands for a Vedic wedding, a traditional Hindu ceremony, at places like Bhaktivedanta Manor.

With water and fire blessings, these are tremendously opulent and will see the bride and groom together for several lifetimes (if you believe in that sort of thing).

Maharashtrian Indian Bride And Indian Bride Groom Perfoming Mangalshutra Vidhi In Wedding Ceremony.
(Picture: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

4. Tsok Puja

Celebrate the Tibetan Buddhist way with a social gathering, a Lama’s blessing and offerings of plenty of food.

A ‘Tsok puja’ takes up to about an hour and consists of chanting, and a little quiet time for some mantra recitation in the middle.

You can also enjoy the ceremony without the wedding, like at the Kagyu Samye Dzong in London.

5. Wedding on the slopes

Combine your love of skiing with your nuptials and hope to God your marriage doesn’t go downhill too soon!

Companies like Wed ‘n’ Ski offer packages for snow enthusiasts, with ceremonies taking place while they’re skiing or snowboarding.

There’s even an option in Switzerland to wed in an igloo. Go on, melt a heart.

Kelley McGhie , left, Sander Wyjad , both 30, of Nederaland, kiss together after attending a mass wedding ceremony at the top of Loveland Ski Area
(Picture: Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

6. Prisoner of love

Give a whole new meaning to the term ‘ball and chain’ by getting married in a former prison.

The Malmaison Oxford is based in a medieval castle and used to be a prison.

But it is also, I’m told, a beautiful venue for weddings.

7. Cabaret kisses

Fancy being a burlesque bride and a groom with glowsticks?

Then dance on to Cafe de Paris, a notoriously decadent London nightclub and cabaret spot that can be hired for wedding receptions, too.

Burlesque diva performing burlesque show act.
(Picture: Getty)

8. Cave wedding

The path to love doesn’t always run smoothly, so why not have your wedding among the Slovenian mountains?

Predjama Castle is set against the rocky backdrop of a towering cliff and is the largest cave castle in the world.

And, you can host your wedding inside the enormous cavern of its cave.

9. Thai long drum parade and a water blessing ritual

Kate Moss and Madonna both had Buddhist blessings to show their affection and cement their relationships.

The best place to go to have your own is Thailand.

There are a number of all-inclusive packages, including for a traditional Thai wedding at the Manathai Koh Samui.

10. At sea

Cruise lines often offer weddings at sea.

Norwegian for example, offers an itinerary featuring the exchanging of vows at the summit of an Alaskan glacier, helicopter ride, sparkling wine, flowers, and a wedding certificate and cake.

Go on, sail off into the sunset together.

See the original in Metro UK here!

Where to Holiday like the Fit and Famous

With the celebrity cult well and truly on the wellness wagon, scenic social media snaps of hikes in Ibiza and treetop yoga in St Lucia are evoking worldwide workout wanderlust. Letting you in on the celebrity secret, Health and Fitness Travel, the leading specialists in wellness holidays worldwide, share where to holiday like the fit and famous. From a Thailand wellness retreat frequented by the Beckhams, to a health sanctuary in Spain graced by the likes of Kylie Minogue and Demi Moore, add a touch of star quality to your healthy escape.

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Spain: SHA Wellness Clinic

Spa like the stars at Spain’s pioneering SHA Wellness Clinic, a celebrity wellness hotspot boasting scenic ocean views and sweeping mountain vistas. Frequented by Hollywood stars and music moguls, SHA prides itself on offering distinctively tailored wellness programmes, with healthy breaks to help combat insomnia, stress, weight loss, smoking and more. The world’s first macrobiotic wellness resort, combine a tailor-made macrobiotic nutritional plan with rejuvenating spa therapies and complimentary classes, from yoga to Tai Chi.

Famous Fans: Demi Moore, Kylie Minogue, Simon Cowell, Naomi Campbell, Madonna and Yoko Ono.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at SHA from £2,330pp or £2,775 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.

hibiscus-1393855St Lucia: The BodyHoliday

Nestled in a peaceful cove on the stunning Caribbean island of St. Lucia, The BodyHoliday, has offered a wellness sanctuary to many celebs in search of a haven to refocus their minds and re-energize their bodies. Inviting guests to be as active or relaxed as they need, a dynamic offering of spa treatments, sports, fitness and wellness activities ensure you’ll soon glow like the stars. Explore your tropical surroundings on a scenic bike ride or ocean kayaking adventure, before making the most of a wide array of group classes, including yoga and spinning in the treetop studio.

Famous Fans: Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Church and Emma Bunton.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at The BodyHoliday from £2,140pp for single or double occupancy. Price is all-inclusive, with a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.

 India: Ananda in the Himalayas

Rejuvenate your senses at this celebrity hotspot, a secluded wellness retreat set at the foot of India’s serene Himalayas. With a holistic wellness approach designed to unite mind, body and soul, revive your well-being with Ananda’s array of experiences, from ancient Indian Ayurvedic spa therapies, to meditation and healthy cooking demonstrations. Mere miles away from Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, yogi enthusiasts can enhance their practice before immersing themselves in the Himalayan foothills during guided mountains treks, a must-do for everyone, celebrity and civilian alike.

Famous Fans: Uma Thurman, Heidi Klum and Ricky Martin.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Ananda in the Himalayas from £3,440pp or £4,340 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of wellness programmes, return flights and transfers.

Ibiza: The Body Camp

A newcomer, already a growing favourite of the fit and famous; experience a full mind, body and soul transformation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza with The Body Camp. The go-to celebrity hotspot for London’s heiress stars; satisfy your workout wanderlust as you shape up in the great outdoors with a variety of fun fitness activities, from beach circuit training to sea swimming and yoga. Take part in educational cookery classes and mindful coaching workshops, before unwinding after an active day with a revitalising dip in the mineral-rich salt water pool.

Famous Fans: Millie Mackintosh, Caggie Dunlop and Madeleine Shaw.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at The Body Camp from £1,890pp or £3,030 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a wellness programme, return flights and transfers.

Thailand: Chiva Som

Get the VIP treatment when you escape to the Hua Hin coast of Thailand at world-renowned health and fitness retreat, Chiva Som. Dedicated to a holistic approach to wellness promoting overall well-being, celebs from football stars, to supermodels and Hollywood royalty have sought sanctuary at this award-winning retreat. With tailor-made wellness programmes, from stress relief and yoga to detox and fitness, expert health and fitness advisers utilise the best in specialist exercises, spa therapies and nutrition to help you achieve overall well-being.

Famous Fans: David and Victoria Beckham, Elizabeth Hurley, Hugh Grant, Elle Macpherson and Kate Moss.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Chiva Som from £3,395pp or £4,535 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.

Turks & Caicos: Parrot Cay Yoga & Pilates

Holiday like one of the A-list and discover paradise on the private island of Parrot Cay, where many stars have chosen to build their own holiday homes. Guaranteed to leave you feeling like a million bucks, feel the soft sand between your toes as you practice daily yoga and Pilates looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Further improve your yoga knowledge as you open your mind and calm your senses through Vedic yogic philosophy group discussions, before raising the pace with mountain biking and windsurfing or unwinding in luxury at the world-renowned COMO spa.

Famous Fans: Donna Karan, Bruce Willis, and Keith Richards.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Parrot Cay from £2,485pp or £3,885 for single occupancy. Price includes breakfast, a yoga & Pilates programme, return flights and transfers.

 Thailand: Kamalaya

Set overlooking the stunning southern coast of Thailand’s Koh Samui island, Buddhist monks once used the cave at the centre of Kamalaya as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat. Now a wellness sanctuary for civilians and celebrities alike seeking long-term health transformations, tailor-made wellness programmes include; sleep enhancement, ideal weight, yoga, optimal fitness and learning how to embrace change. With a holistic approach to wellness, unwind with stress relieving spa therapies inspired by ancient healing traditions and classes, from yoga to Tai Chi. 

 Famous Fans: Sarah Ferguson, Annie Lennox and Oliver Stone.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Kamalaya from £2,502pp or £2,915 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, with a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.

 For advice, guidance and booking visit www.healthandfitnesstravel.com or call 0203 397 8891

Art’otel Amsterdam – blending culture, food and comfort

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Part of a small chain of boutique-style hotels, art’otel Amsterdam has 107 guest rooms and an innovative mix of design, art and upscale hospitality.

The iconic and historic art’otel seamlessly fuses art and life in the very heart of cosmopolitan Amsterdam. Within the hotel, guests are exposed to a myriad of artistic experiences.

The work of Atelier Van Lieshout permeates every corner, a spectacular 12-metre art curtain displays emotive footage and the 300-square-metre 5&33 art gallery hosts a varied programme of exhibitions from emerging and established artists.

Add to that a comprehensive library featuring lectures and publications and a dynamic cultural agenda of events and workshops, and the atmosphere is one of creativity and inspiration.

A dedicated art curator is on hand to stimulate, advise and engage guests in their artistic adventure. Offering tours of the most impressive displays, the art concierge also shares Amsterdam’s cultural agenda, recommends galleries and exhibitions and, above all, conveys an infectious enthusiasm for all things cultural.

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Each of the 107 guest rooms feature an unique piece of art by signature artist by Atelier Van Lieshout, ultra-comfortable beds with a choice of pillows, mood lighting and a generous selection of Elemis guest amenities offering a sleek, modern escape during your stay in the city centre..

art room – art rooms offer at least 25 square-metres of luxury, with a work desk, lounge chair, a plug and play device, an in-room entertainment system and a 42-inch flatscreen TV

art room – iconic view – the art room – iconic view option is slightly larger, with all the facilities of an art room. The art room – iconic view provides uninterrupted views of Amsterdam’s iconic Central Station, the city attraction first encountered by most visitors.

art room xl – the art room xl option includes 43 square metres of space and offers all the facilities of an art room with an additional seating area.

art room xl – iconic view – the art room xl – iconic view option features at least 37 square-metres of luxury with all the facilities of an art room, plus uninterrupted views of Amsterdam Central Station.

masterpiece suite – Measuring at least 69 square metres, our four masterpiece suites offer the ultimate in contemporary luxury with a separate living room, extra sofa and two 42-inch flatscreen TVs.
All rooms have rain showers, bathrobes and slippers, while an illy espresso machine, a stocked mini bar, a bottle of water and the breakfast on us add to the welcome, as well as:

 5&33 – 5&33 is an exciting restaurant within art’otel amsterdam combining an all-day and late-night kitchen, bar, library, lounge and multi-functional public gallery. The innovative concept 5&33 fuses food, people, art and design to present a uniquely creative environment across two floors for art lovers and foodies alike.

For further information, please visit http://www.artotelamsterdam.com/

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