It’s so good to be home…

Oh yes, it’s so good to be home! I have been away for 21 days out of the last 42, with my last week away this year being in Leicester. This time I stayed at the IBIS in Leicester, but I wasn’t that impressed and I won’t be back. It was one of those hotels, where nothing MAJOR went wrong, but lots of little things did which meant I didn’t particularly love it. Namely….

  • The batteries went on my TV remote control and I had to get out of bed, get dressed and go down to reception as I couldn’t turn the TV off.
  • I am pretty sure the housekeeping team broke my vanity mirror.
  • During breakfast I couldnt make the drinks machine work because the drip tray was full, which took far too long to figure out.
  • During another breakfast there were no plates and I had to chase staff down to replace them.
  • The sheets were scratchy.
  • The loo in my bathroom didn’t flush properly and when reported, the hotel didn’t do anything about it.
  • The pillows were hard.
  • The toilet door didn’t close properly, or at all.

One morning, whilst eating my toast in the hotel bar/cafe, I saw a prostitute come out of the lift. “How do you know it was a prostitute?” you ask. Well it might not have been, but I don’t know how many women sport thigh high boots and pigtails at 7am.

Also, I went out for dinner on my own on my first night there, and on arrival at Nandos, I found it had inexplicably closed 3 hours early! So I had to walk a little further into Leicester to find something to eat. On that walk I became a little uneasy and as someone that isn’t easily spooked walking on my own, I wasn’t happy. The town had a very odd vibe and to be honest, even though it was 6:45pm, it felt more like 2:00am. Needless to say, after that I didn’t bother and just ate at the hotel.

I did like the decor of the hotel, it was sort of Ikea meets Japanese pod. Also randomly, there was an android phone in my room to use.  I didn’t use it. The ONLY good thing about the hotel was the super-fast internet, which meant I could FaceTime M and it worked perfectly.

Ibis 3/10 🌟🌟🌟 – I won’t be back.

G x

 

North West Days Out | Martin Mere | Review

Yesterday was a Sunday and as I had been craving the beach, we had planned to go to Lytham St Annes for a lovely walk. We haven’t been for about 4-5 years since we lost Peggy-dog and so I was really looking forward to it.

However, perhaps trying to get to Lytham St Annes on the same day as the Blackpool Air Show was a mistake as very quickly we got stuck in a massive load of traffic ?. As we approached a junction we decided to make a swift exit and after a small discussion, we decided to go to Martin Mere which is a wetlands centre in Burscough in West Lancashire.

First impressions were good as the approach is well signposted and there was plenty of room in the car park. It was £12 each to get in, which we Gift Aided and very quickly we were in. We didn’t spend too long in the main building as it was full of children (well it is the Summer holidays). We only realised later that if we had investigated a little we could have got a map and some food for the birds.. maybe next time.

I want to say right off the bat, that we loved Martin Mere. As soon as we came out of the main building,we were met with a small picnic area, a fenced off play area, snacks kiosk and FLAMINGOS!!! The flamingos are all together on an island with only with a small body of water and crucially no fence between you and them. Loved it!

Then for the rest afternoon we wandered around the large wetlands meeting SO many ducks and different birds, most of which were either wandering around freely or behind very low fences.

As well as the birds, there are also lots of wetlands and fab little things to find in amongst the windy paths and foliage. We particularly liked the bug hotel and criss cross obstacles and walk ways.

In the far reaches of the wetlands there are also a series of hides where more serious bird spotters can sit for as many hours as they like, spotting and photographing the beautiful wildlife that have made Martin Mere their natural habitat.

Another thing we spotted was a version of Top Trumps a kind of game for younger visitors to Martin Mere had to spot various animals and birds around the park. Love this.

Overall, we had a brilliant day. We were stuck in traffic for 1 ½ hours before arriving and this whole experience rescued the day. It was as calm as it was entertaining and so much fun. We loved wandering around and finding lots of new bits of the wetlands – it was so much bigger than we expected. A great day out.

So ????? Martin Mere, I’ve not doubt we will be back.

G x

Vigour Kitchen – The way St Helens should be.

So first of all, I have blogged before about how I think St Helens Town Centre has died. If you’ve visited gilliblogs before you will know I live in Newton-le-Willows, which is part of the St Helens borough.

We are surrounded by the towns of Wigan, Warrington & Widnes, all of which have had quite a lot of investment in their shopping centres with huge multi-storey car parks, American style malls, swish indie cinemas and bowling alleys.

Saldy, St Helens has not had quite the same luck with the main shops and brands you would expect to see in a thriving town disappearing one by one. My local councillor would scream “Austerity” at this point, but whatever the reason, St Helens Town Centre has become less and less like somewhere  I wanted to visit.

However, this weekend M and I had to visit one of the few thriving shops in St Helens as he had to pick up some new glasses. I suppose people’s eyesight will continue to deteriorate no-matter how many pennies are in the purse.

After our appointment was done and M could once again read his Twitter feed without squinting, we decided to pop into a new(ish) healthy eating restaurant on Bridge Street called “Vigour“.  As we walked in we were greeted by a New York industrial style cafe with upbeat music, exposed brick, long oak benches and (surprisingly) comfortable stools.

We went to the counter and the staff were friendly and attentive and offered us either the breakfast or regular menu – we went for breakfast and ordered a Breakfast Bagel  and something called Avocado Smash.

We took our seats at one of the free benches and didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive. Our mouths were already watering at other people’s plates being brought out – always a good sign and we weren’t disappointed.

I had the breakfast bagel with sausages and bacon and honestly the sausages were seriously so good, so tasty and full of flavour that I literally shoved the food in my face! M had similar thoughts about his Avocado, poached egg & bagel combo and before long we both had empty plates! I actually only left my bagel because I was too full! We only ate one dish off the menu, but it was enough to convince us of Vigour’s pedigree and standards.

There will always be a place in every town centre for Greggs the Bakers and life would be dull without somewhere to get a vanilla slice, but similarly a cafe that promotes healthy food is such a WIN for the town.

People want to work out and stay healthy, that’s an undeniable fact so a healthy eating style restaurant is a gorgeous idea. Inside it has the brilliantly buzzy feeling that there might be a kernel of positive change for the town centre and long, long may it continue.

Well done Vigour – we will definitely be back. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

G x

 

Is Southport past its best?

Today, somewhat on a whim, we decided to go to Southport. This wasn’t somewhere we ever really went to when I was as a kid and I only really discovered it when I learned to drive. I have spent a bit more time there in recent years, as for a while, I was looking after a work Team based at Southport Football Club.

In case you didn’t know, Southport is about 20 miles or so from Newton-le-Willows here:

So we had a little drive and when we arrived, the first hurdle was where to park. It wasn’t easy. We did a quick Google to see if we could find a multi-storey or even a surface car park in the town centre, but no luck. So in the end, we parked on  Ocean Plaza, which is a retail park about 10 minutes walk from Lord Street, which is effectively Southport’s High Street.

So we headed into Southport, past the pier and I am sad to say that it wasn’t too long before I was a bit disappointed. British seaside towns have really suffered over the last 20 years as European Holiday’s have become so cheap, not nearly as many people are staying in the UK. Southport was, I am sure, once a vibrant holiday/day trip destination, but today it was just a bit rough around the edges.

The pier was your typical fair rides, candy floss and ice-creams type deal with mini trains and boat rides. But beyond that, things looked a little… tired. We had a wander up and down Lord Street, which used to be full of “high street” shops of a certain calibre – I definitely remember a trip into the very high brow Laura Ashley some years ago. But today, Lord Street basically went, Coffee Shop, Jewellers, Shoe Shop, Charity Shop, Empty Shop. We ventured off Lord Street too, to find Boots and Primark, but we wandered around feeling a little bit like this wasn’t the Southport we remembered.

We also passed a Bikers meeting point (around 100 motorbikes parked up with riders milling around) as well as some visiting football fans outside pubs. Both these things weren’t necessarily intimidating, but not the friendliest image ever.

But on the plus side, I spotted some Prince’s Trust staff and young people’s photos pinned up on a Community noticeboard and we did have a wander through something called Wayfarers arcade, which M used to visit as a child. He sent a photos of the interior to his mum as a quiz to see if she knew where we were and she replied almost immediately with the right answer! Brilliant.

Cheeky trip to Southport.

A post shared by Gill Lysons ? (@gilliblogs) on

 

But overall, even though M and had a good day, it’s was more the company than the destination. I gave Southport 3/10 as place to visit – not sure we will be back. ?

G x

 

Wardrobe Make Over

It’s funny you know, I have tried to start this post a few times as I am worried that it’s going to sound like I’m bragging, which would, you know, be a bad thing. But I just really wanted to document how totally chuffed I am with our new wardrobes – I mean REALLY pleased.

I lived as a singleton for a long time when I left home at 21 and only ever really had the need for a single wardrobe. So when M and I moved in together we were desperately short of storage space and so we bought ourselves a couple of sets of matching draws and wardrobes.

Wardrobes bought in 2005

Wardrobes bought in 2005

They were from Ikea and we thought they were ace. We had them in the old house in Haydock and then they moved brilliantly with us to N-le-W. However, after we moved we quickly realised that we had more stuff than wardrobe space and had to invest in a garment rail too so that everything didn’t feel squashed.

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But that made our bedroom start to feel untidy so finally about a month ago, we decided to invest in some new fixtures and fittings thought we would give Ikea another go. We firstly tried the PAX Planner thingy, which went horribly at first but after some perseverance we managed to get it working and came up with this design.

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PAX is the self build wardrobe range from Ikea that has mix and match interiors which include everything from pull out shelves, shoe racks and soft close, glass fronted drawers. Wardrobe porn basically!!

Anyway, we went to Ikea in Warrington and even though they carry some lovely furniture, their customer service techniques are patchy at best. We went initially to get a quote and were served by a young girl who looked like she tolerated us rather than valued out custom. Then when we returned to actually order the wardrobes we had to search the windowless and cavernous shop for an assistant as the wardrobe section was empty of anyone. BUT once we located someone she dealt with us fairly efficiently. However, here is where we me the 1st of 2 stumbling blocks. Ikea advertise that they will deliver the wardrobes for £35 and install them for 20% of the purchase price. So even though we thought that was quite expensive, we agreed in lieu of an alternative.

However, it turns out that the £35 is paid to Ikea but the installation people are 3rd party, need paying in cash on the day and will only come a few days after the wardrobes (bits) are delivered. So that was a NO from us. Instead we just asked Ikea to deliver to us on a particular day and organised the ever BRILLIANT Handy Macky to come and install & build.

So on the prescribed day and without too much fuss the many, many, MANY boxes of wardrobe parts arrived… which made me think, you don’t actually buy a wardrobe so much as a wardrobe jigsaw.

It took Handy Macky 2 full days to put 1st the carcasses and then the sliding doors together and  of course the girl in Ikea had ordered to wrong size doors which saw us hotfooting it back to the horrid store. To be fair to Ikea they refunded us £10 of the delivery charge and then picked the correct door sizes for us, despite them usually being self-serve and them being so busy, there were people queuing to get in!

But we did get the right doors without too much stress and honestly if you ever need a handyman around the Widnes/Warrington/St Helens ish area, then Handy Macky is your man. He worked SO hard to get things ready!

So whilst all this was going on, M and I had been to Ikea the week before and picked all our interiors, which of course came flat pack and we had to spend a good few hours putting together. This actually was quite fun and so when the carcasses were finally erect, we actually had everything else ready to go…..

It took us (well, M) another couple of days to get the runners and rails in place to accommodate the various draws and shoe racks, but finally they were ready!!

My particular favourite bits are the shoe shelves and M’s pull out tray for his little bits and bobs. But my ultimate favourite part and the thing I think set the whole arrangement off, are the lights. They come on when we slide the doors open and they are just BRILL!! They give off a lovely soft light and I feel like now I can really see my clothes properly!

We have also had a MASSIVE clothes clear out and both the old clothes and the old wardrobes and drawers were donated to The British Heart Foundation. They weren’t new, but they were well looked after.

Getting wardrobes from Ikea has pros and cons. The pros being that they were very interchangeable in that we could pick from a different colours, door styles, interiors, lighting and sizes. The cons being basically the complicated flat pack nature of the wardrobes and the hit and miss customer service of Ikea.

But overall, we are very pleased with the final product and the trade-off for the cons was the reasonable price. This post wasn’t paid for but I have to say, I am still a fan of Ikea furniture and the like. The shop is AWFUL, it’s the only place M and I come close to falling out and the staff can be invisible but their furniture is stylish and competitively priced. You are my guilty pleasure Ikea, a bad boyfriend. You give me a headache and cost me money, but I keep coming back!

G x