Holidays in a 'nutshell' series- The Greek Islands.

With a myriad of options to choose from, and inspiration from ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ to ‘Mamma Mia!’- deciding where to go in and around Greece and it’s spectacular islands, can leave you feeling confused. So whether you’re a ‘dancing queen’ or need to consider your ‘money money money’, perhaps our suggestions can give you some helpful tips. There’s sandy beaches, turquoise oceans, delicious Mediterranean food and awe-inspiring relics galore. The holiday of your dreams awaits you.

Skiathos
Expect the imposing ruins and castles, set in contrast to vibrant waterside restaurants and bars. Skiathos offers something for everyone, proving itself as a popular destination. The perfect retreat for those seeking tranquillity, boat-trips, and café culture by day, and music, and dancing by night at the more lively resorts if you so wish.
Explore beautiful landscapes (including wonderful forests), and enjoy the promenades and marinas. Or wander to the hill side areas above the port to admire the charm of the plazas, churches, and gardened houses.
Skiathos has the ambiance you wish for during idyllic island holidays,. We’ve been recommended The Skiathos Princess Hotel, another trip advisor favourite, as a great place to stay – it is near the night-life of clubs and tavernas. but surrounded by magnificent and romantic beaches too.

Rhodes
Few places in the world will give you such an insight into ancient history as Rhodes. Even if architecture and archaeology are not on your holiday wish list, then this island has a multitude of attractions.
But the main attraction, is undoubtedly the natural beauty of the island, and its meandering coastline, where lazy days can be spent in an idyllic setting, while the adventurous can try their hand at sports and activities.  
As for the inland areas, why not wonder at the famous ‘Valley of the Butterflies’ or the magnificent mountain terrain that dominates the interior of the island. If you take a little time to explore, you will discover charming villages, and natural splendour, as well as the beautiful bays of southern Rhodes.
There are also several smaller islands that can be reached during a boating day-trip, that combines the wonders of antiquity, with peaceful Mediterranean lifestyle– a truly memorable experience.
Whether you prefer quiet indulgence, and natural beaches, night-life and night-clubs, or are looking for an adrenalin packed action holiday, Rhodes is bound to enchant.
Base yourself near all the attractions at the Atlantic Aegean Blue. It has a trip advisor traveller’s choice award, and is close enough to the city to ensure absolute convenience, yet far enough away from the urban hub of Rhodes to allow for relaxation.

Corfu
How does a week or so of idyllic days roaming through olive groves, meeting friendly locals, enjoying boating adventures and sea swims sound?
The influence of many cultures has added to the ambiance of the island. Meditate on ancient times, and visit the streets and temples that have featured in works of art and literature from the Durrell Brothers to Edward Lear.
For those with a desire for action-packed water-sports and a vibrant night-life, there is no shortage of things to do. Even being compact in nature, Corfu packs in a lot of attractions ensuring that even the most discerning traveller will have a memorable holiday.

A location that’s close to the beaches, lush with greenery, and convenient to local attractions is the key to a great holiday. With many resorts to choose from, and great deals on resorts such as the Aquis Sandy Beach, with it’s good trip advisor reviews, you will have plenty of options.












Dyson Cordless DC59 Review.

Ok, so I might have whinged about moving house in my previous cordless hoover review, but 2015 is the year of the vacuum. Like seriously.

Since having carpets when you have cats is the most ludicrous floor choice, it is all I can do to take my place in the house as resident dust remover, trying out a myriad of gadgets. The Mrs and I have a house-work agreement. I do the washing-up, she does the laundry, and we take it in turns to hoover.



Yet i'll tell you something, with this cordless delight, it certainly makes chores a tad easier. 

The Dyson cordless DC59 model comes in a variety of models, of which our choice, is the obvious animal edition. It boasts many features, including an impressive dual layer dust capturing system, a selection of add-ons like upholstery and stair attachments, a power-boost button, and a really simple to empty bin.

We fixed the hoover with it's own charging station to a wall, admired the, design,  lightness and ability to lie basically flat and get under most cupboards, and waited for it to fully charge.


So our interiors, as mentioned before, are mostly carpeted, and we have some hard floors/lino in the kitchen and bathroom. The vacuum runs when you hold the button down in the handle, which is useful because it saves battery-power when you don't need it, but can also be quite tiring if you are holding it for a full house-clean.

The boost function works tremendously for carpets, it makes pushing it along slightly tougher, but the sheer amount that gets vacuumed up into the bin is ridiculous, by far more than our other more conventional corded vacuum. So as the bin is so compact, you kind of have to empty this a lot. More or less room by room. The other downside to this mode, is that it drains the charge ferociously, in about twenty minutes max. 
The boost is needed much less on hard/solid floorings. Indeed, perhaps it works less efficiently than the normal gliding function. On normal mode, it is really easy to clean in all the corners of a kitchen or behind a bathroom unit. Changing the attachments now and then, for the stairs, or curtain rails. We noticed that the filter simply falls out if you tilt the vacuum upside down, which is oddly disconcerting, but in normal use does not seem to be an issue. It does need regular cleaning however, and dismantling it is very easy. With it's sleek design and clear bin- meaning that dirt is visible- surely it would be weird to clean with something that is not clean itself. 

It's great having a cordless vacuum for cleaning things like your car, and it really is very simple and easy to use. It has completely made the need for any other hoover redundant in our house, and we like how it converts from an upright to a handheld with the click of a button.

The Dyson DC59 range is available at many high-street shops, but can be ordered online via www.dyson.co.uk/ with next day delivery.

Pics courtesy of the www.dyson.co.uk site.


Winter spa wonderland at The Runnymede-on-Thames Hotel.

Staring at the sat-nav, I look up just in time to spot a giant yellow duck adorning a bright purple sign. Having familiarized myself before with the hotel site, I frantically signal for Mr Biscuit to turn in, as it is clear we have reached our destination.

The Runnymede-on-Thames is a tremendously well located hotel and spa, on the banks of the river in Egham, Surrey. Upon arrival in the complimentary car-park, we are immediately greeted by style and design, with extensive sculptures in the grounds. This is inherently a theme that we found extended to the inside, much to our delight.
Check-in is flawless. The staff have an easy grace, and friendly demeanor that is sometimes lacking in luxury hotels, and the entrance’s modern décor, alternates between classic and whimsical in a pleasing fashion.

A pyramid of ducks line the decline of a staircase. Business people discuss work over frothy cappuccinos in the lounge, and families are bustling out of the door to go on their adventures. A casual wonder around the venue reveals an almost ‘mini-resort’ like feel. Areas are carefully designed around ease of use. Both the spa and hospitality areas boast their own entrances, so that health-club members, or wedding goers are separated from the check ins and outs.

There are also an impressive three areas in which to dine, not to mention 24hr room service. The lounge area, aforementioned, is adjacent to the arrival desk. It is comfortable and relaxed, offering light bites and hot drinks for both staying guests and visitors.
The Leftbank is their informal yet stylized buffet style restaurant experience. It has great views, great seating, and a warm contemporary feel. High quality food is available as a wide variety of options, all for a respectable price for the area. Large groups can gather around expansive tables, and a quaint mix up of chairs emphasize the eclectic look. In comparison, the Lock Bar and Kitchen, is the formal dining offering, of which we promptly booked into for later that evening, and which we will detail later.

Our room is defined as a deluxe double, and fortunate enough to have a wonderful riverside view. It features a lovely seating area, all amenities you could need, and a modern bathroom complete with Espa toiletries. Our fave!
It was so difficult to know why the hotel is only 4* with its exceptional attention to detail, that we had to ask someone why. Apparently 5* has specific bedroom sizes to adhere to, as whilst to us guests they seem more than adequate, they are just not spacious enough. Thus, it’s almost their unique selling point that they endeavor to be the most luxurious 4* property around.


Wandering down to the spa, it’s easy to see that in summer, the venue’s amenities lends itself to some great outdoor wining, dining, and relaxing. There is even the most original way to travel on a river that we’ve ever seen- the famous hot-tug- a sailing jacuzzi that you can book to float around the calm water of the Thames. The spectacular view, being right on the river brings an element of calm and countryside to what is otherwise, a place very near lots of busy city-like things. Indeed, near the entrance is a vast wall mural of the local area’s attractions. These range from cultural castle delights, to adrenaline packed theme parks, and all the golf and garden walks you can muster in between. For a bit of pre-stay organization, the interactive things-to-do map on the site is most comprehensive.
The spa has a lovely waiting area, lots of Espa products on display, and great wide windowed doors leading to aspects such as the gym, café, and poolside.
Guests sit sipping fruit infused water in their robes, members wander in grabbing newpapers and magazines, and the gentle hum of a nearby Jacuzzi is actually quite soothing. We are given our respective robes and slippers, and use the changing room lockers to conveniently put away our things. Having both being booked in for the Runnymede’s ‘Winter Warmer’ package, we discover that this heavenly option gives you not only access to the spa facilities, a light lunch complete with bubbly, a back, neck, and shoulder massage, but also a 40-min facial! What an absolute treat!  In our individual rooms, we discuss options over scents and oil preferences, and sink away into the comfort of being pampered.
The beauty therapists are really friendly and accommodating, with Mr Biscuit opting for a more intense almost sport-style massage, and myself choosing a tension-relieving pressure. Any knots and niggles were expertly treated, and I was already on my way to the land of nod when soon I realized I was being urged to actually turn around for the facial. Extensive in cleansing, and soothing with masks, an array of products promptly leaves you fresh and glowing- even for bearded Mr Biscuit- alongside totally wild where hair has been nourished (and disheveled) with a deliciously scented macadamia oil. Despite my best attempt at totally falling asleep, I wander back to the lobby to meet my equally blissful husband, and we find the café together, still robed, and still perfectly comfortable.


A charming waitress comes to our assistance when we struggle ridiculously with the complementary hot-drink machine. She sets the world of hot-chocolate goodness right, and gives us a seat and a menu. The lunch included in our package is a single course option, amongst several choices and daily specials, and a glass of fizz if you so wish. I opt for the quiche and salad of the day, and Mr Biscuit relishes the thought of a good ol’ chicken sandwich. The room starts to fill up with the hustle and bustle of a busy lunch-hour, and where the order was delayed, we were consistently kept in the loop, and offered a second glass of bubbly, which more than certainly made up for it.

Refreshed and rejuvenated, the poolside is our next area of choice. It boasts a Jacuzzi, sauna, and steam room, alongside a decent sized pool and adequate lounging areas. We spend the next couple of hours entertaining ourselves in this peaceful atmosphere, contemplating the joys of belonging to a spa such as this as a permanent member, and every now and then having a chat with the equally impressed other guests. Quite frankly, we come to the conclusion that it might be worth a x2 hr daily commute, just to simply have the luxury of well maintained, clean, and exceptionally managed leisure facility. Showering in the changing rooms, we were particularly thrilled to find high quality, powerful showers with no lack of hot-water. Something very missing from many establishments.


Checking our reservation for dinner that night at reception, we are told that we are more than welcome to come down early, and enjoy the ambiance of the adjacent bar, something that seems very interesting indeed. We use the few hours break we have to wind down (even more), enjoying the view from our room, having some tea, and getting ready for the evening.

The Lock Bar and Kitchen is a lovely area that lends itself to couples seeking a date night, family celebrations, and special occasions. You can dress up, or go smart casual and everything would feel comfortable. We recline in the elegant armchairs of the bar and peruse the cocktail menu. Nibbles are brought over, and we chat and scan magazines while we sip our frothy, delicious drinks. It is a mere few yards to wander when we are ready for our table, finding ourselves in a great spot looking out towards the window, but cosy too on a padded bench.

It seems to be a good mix of guests and local visitors, which is encouraging, as it clearly is considered to be a ‘place to be’ whether you are staying or not. The menu is a mixture of hearty wholesome meals, with added originality. An almost more stylized, fancy gastro-pub style. Mr Biscuit started his dinner with a starter of Hogsback Tea Rarebit, which was well presented, and clearly made with a fine quality cheese. Whereas I tried the waitresses recommendation of the beef tortellini and smoked garlic cream- delish!! The staff were the perfect mix of attentive yet non-intrusive, and even suggested the best wine to compliment our tastes, asking our preferences and referring to the menu.
Our mains of slow cooked lamb with parsley mash, and Surrey Farm Steak and Chips, were amazing, very tasty, and expertly seasoned. The only downside being Mr Biscuits side order was not what he expected, as the tomatoes and shallots were not grilled or sautéed, but more of a cold side salad- which in itself is absolutely lovely, but just different to what he wished for. None the less, his dessert totally made up for it. His lemon tart was described to be ‘the best dessert he had ever had the opportunity to taste, like ever’, and my almond tart was moist, moreish, and errr, marzipan magic.


If you can even contemplate food after such an epic meal, then breakfast choices might be your next to-do. We knew that we would a) probably wouldn’t fancy something lavish in the morning, and b) almost certainly would like a lie-in. So before we went to sleep, we decided on the convenience of an in-room breakfast and placed our order which is on a sign you simply put on your door. It arrived the next day promptly at the time we chose, and after a quick call to reception to ask for a cheeky extended check-out (top tip here- most hotels are lovely enough to let you have an extra hour if you ask nicely!!), Mr Biscuit and I sipped tea in bed, and enjoyed our toast, all in the comfort of our room, for a simple tray charge.


All in all, The Runnymede-on-Thames, is certainly in our top list of hotels we definitely wish to go back to. It is in a prime location for a variety of day-trips, has the most gorgeous spa, and some ever so tempting packages for very affordable prices. We highly recommend it, so it’s a thumbs up from Mr and Mrs Biscuit, being a veritable chocolate-hob-nob of hotels. Surely there is no greater praise?

Pics courtesy of www.runnymedehotel.com/

Mr Biscuit's Fitness Journey Starts Here!!

For the past few weeks I, Mr Biscuit, have been determined. Determined to get fit. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve decided I needed to slim down and get more active, but this time I have a goal.
My goal is to enter Tough Mudder 2015, this gives me a year to go from being a tubby, cuddly man, to a lean, mean, fitness-machine.

I will be helped along the way with collaborations from some amazing brands who have generously sent us some awesome gear and equipment, including-

Helly Hansen’s training range.




And, to track my progress, the Tom Tom Multi-Sport Cardio GPS Watch.

Reviews for all products with be featured in my ongoing journey as my training continues. All of which will be documented on here as the time goes on.
“Why put yourself through this?” I hear you ask. That’s the easy bit, to raise money for The Pituitary Foundation. This charity is very close to my heart and the work they do deserves to be much widely recognized. I will post all information on how to donate once everything is finalised.

It won’t be easy, and it’ll be a long journey, but stick with me guys, and it’ll all be worth it.







Introducing our City Break 'Nutshull' series- Istanbul.

Whilst there are many many guides for those who spend their weekends adventuring, it's often a great feat to absorb all the information/tips that are available, without taking the fun out of your holiday. Many a time have Mr Biscuit and I devised a to-do list of cultural excursions, only to arrive on holiday, trying to relax, and instead either spent the whole time trying to see every possible thing, or perhaps even been slightly disappointed if we haven't managed to tick off every stop. Its only the more we travel, do we realise that yes, of course there are key things to do in every city that you just shouldn't miss, but often you miss out on the atmosphere, the ambience, and the absorption of the culture itself. Sometimes you try too much to find 'that quirky tea room that everyone raved about on trip advisor that all the locals say is their favourite' (I'm sorry trip advisor, please forgive me, I still love you) that you pass by what could have been the most wonderful cafe. Being knackered when you get home instead of being refreshed takes a lot of your holiday, and whilst you have the pics as memories, you were so busy thinking of the next place on your itinerary that you forget to enjoy where you are already.

So in our own take of travel guides, whenever we highlight our city break excursions, we will provide a simple top-tips list of advice, that aren't the obvious.




So here it is, the first in the series.


Istanbul.

1) Stay slightly outside the centre.

When we visited, it was a veritable conundrum as to what area of the city we should stay in. Istanbul is already set into x2 parts, reflecting the x2 continents it falls in- the European and Asian. These more or less sit either side of the Bosphorus river that runs down the middle. Within those halves, are many areas in itself. We chose to go for a mix of staying in the central area of the European side, just 30-mins away from all the popular tourist attractions, in a more local spot called Ortakoy. We were told it was 'near everything without being tourist-y'. For what it lacked in not being directly opposite a museum, it made up with, with quaint stretches of restaurants overlooking the sea, and homely guesthouses with really helpful owners who will shut their business just to walk you to the nearest bus stop when you and your husband are gawping at an upside-down map.


2) Get an Istanbul-kart (roughly translated apparently, this is literally Istanbul-card).
Totally useful when you are staying slightly out of the centre, this is so useful, as it's like the city's very own oyster card. You top it up at local shops, and it discounts bus/tram etc fares around the whole place. It saves on haggling with taxi's (agree a price in advance if you do). Plus trams are fun right?



3) Stay for about x5 days if you wish to do/see everything and not feel like you need a holiday to get over your holiday.

Sure, most of the major tourist attractions are situated around the same area, but there are like a lot of them, and there will be queues, and there certainly isn't any point in rushing. You'll note that most guides give you a 'weekend in Istanbul' list, but this is very limited in it's choices, and leave you no time to just explore, or absorb the culture. If in doubt, trip advisor is just fantastic for deciding where to go, from museums to restaurants, and palaces to tea-rooms.


4) Cruise the Bosphorus.

At the side of the river in an area called Eminonu, you will find boats that, for a very reasonable price, will take you on a tour of the beautiful Bosphorus. On a short break, it's the ideal way to discover the coast of Istanbul, and all the wonderful architecture and hidden castles you might not have found otherwise. We opted for a short cruise, however there are several options from half day, to full day trips that stop off for lunch in quaint fisherman's villages. Get there early though and board the ship with plenty of time as seats fill up fast on the decks, leaving only below available, and the best seats are on the west side of the boat, as you'll get unobscured views of the European side as you go out, and the Aisan side as you return.

To visit Turkey, and find out more about other resorts, tips, and 'at a glance' guides, First Choice have some great info on their site, and often have some fabulous offers. 

(Pics our own- Cafes and quaint streets of Ortakoy, Breakfast overlooking the sea in Ortakoy, Bosphorus cruise.)