Monday, March 11, 2019

Going back to The Glen

The Little Magpie Gleneagles Hotel Review
Photos by Kirsty McLachlan | Our stay with Gleneagles was very kindly complimentary but they did pay me £1b to say nice thin...I jest, all glowing opinions on Gleneagles are, of course, my own

Hey pals! Today's post is all about a stay at one of my favourite Scottish escapes... no, not the Irn Bru factory, The Gleneagles Hotel! I visited early last year (you can have a read of the post here if you missed it) and it really is one of the loveliest hotels I've ever been to, so it's always a pleasure to go back. This time we were there for a Galentine's overnight stay so, without further ado, here's what we got up to.

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Figleaves grey cashmere robe (so comfy it hurts)

We arrived around midday and headed straight over to The Dormy, a restaurant I'd yet to eat at. As I've mentioned a few times before - cough, seven hundred - I've got a good few food allergies and thankfully the staff couldn't have been more lovely about it; they gave my aggressively large list to the chef, who in turn made me up my own ristotto from scratch (something I can't normally have) and also emailed the list ahead to all of the other restaurants in the hotel so that a) they could prepare some dishes in advance and b) so that I didn't have to feel like a wally whapping out the list at every meal. If you're someone who suffers from allergies yourself you'll know how rare/welcoming this is! After filling up on delicious risotto and pizza alike, we headed back to the room and good golly was it beautiful. It was different to the one we stayed in last time and this time round had two separate bedrooms within the one 'room' - each with their own free standing bath, I should add - which would be very handy if you were there as a group of friends or with parents etc and wanted both your own space and a communal area to hang out in... Or if you were there as a couple and have a tendency to starfish (/would like to schedule in a post-dinner fall out). After admiring the room we headed over for a golf lesson which, initially, I was a bit unsure of. Every time I've seen golf on tv it's made me want to fall into a deep, eternal slumber - sorry, Dad - but I genuinely absolutely loved the lesson! We were taught by the lovely Steve which I think made all the difference as he was so attentive and didn't do even the slightest of giggles when I missed the first three shots (you know when you're trying to sing along to a song and the singer rudely changes the words last minute to the ones you know in your heart of heart are correct? Same thing with a golf ball; you line it up perfectly, swing the club and suddenly it's not in the same spot at all and all you connect with is air. It's one big conspiracy...). As I'm sure you know, Gleneagles and golf are synonymous so it's nice to say I've finally done some there and in snakeskin cowboy boots no less, which could be a first for the grounds. Just as a sidenote, you don't actually have to be staying at the hotel to use the putting green so, if you live nearby and the notion hits you on a Sunday morning then you're more than welcome to head along.

 After that we headed over for an equally strenuous activity... the pedicure. We visited Bob & Cloche on our last stay at the hotel and it was just and welcoming and homely this time! We had a wee tea and a coffee (respectively, we're not mad) and settled in to get some disco toes awwwn.

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The rest of our afternoon was spent having a wee massage in the spa - Gleneagles has one of my favourite spas I've ever been to, and that's not only because they offer complimentary flapjacks and yoghurt raisins - unwinding a little after a hard day of putting and pedicuring. That was, until I choose to have a deep tissue massage. It was so, SO good but good GOD does it hurt; it felt like there was about two decades worth of tissue being broken down. Kirsty, on the other hand, opted for a firm, but still very relaxing, massage... I'd absolutely recommend both depending on what you're after but just be sure to note that one will leave you writhing around like you're under the cruciatus curse. Make sure you leave enough time to check out the saunas, vitality pool and relaxation time either before or after your treatment! Again, not just for the yogurt raisins but... they don't hurt.

 The rest of the evening was spent having some cocktails (not strictly advisable after a spa afternoon but Galentine's Law says you must have cocktails so you see our predicament) and some food at Birnham Brasserie. By the time we got there they'd made me up and printed off my own special allergen-free menu which was so considerate it almost made me well up. That could also have been due to the alcohol or the fact I'd been recently pulverised, it's hard to say. Very, very satisfied we toddled off to bed. 
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The next morning, however, Grandma Amy woke up and had to roll out of bed because it was too sore to actually lift my own head up*. That deep tissue massage had well and truly done it's job. We were supposed to go off road driving - which I'm honestly so, so sad to have missed - but we had to cancel this time round because I had a vision of Kirsty driving, me stiff as a board beside her, and the other hotel guests thinking there was a Weekend at Bernie's situation going on. So instead we ordered breakfast to the room, got our robes on and watched a really bad (but incredibly good) romcom in bed. Which actually worked out in our favour because we hadn't had the chance to enjoy the room much up until that point!

*This is perfectly normal post deep tissue massage, especially for someone who's on a laptop all day and has gargoyle posture, so nobody panic.
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And how else to wrap up another beautiful stay than with afternoon tea. One of life's greatest extravagant pleasures. I think the joy of Gleneagles is that what they offer is so varied that there's no specific group of people its geared towards. You see families, groups of friends, people on honeymoon, couples... it's one of those special places that moulds around you and what you want from your trip. It really does have a special place in my little Scottish heart; from the people who work there to the decor to the activities they offer to the beautiful food... if it's one than's on your to-visit list then definitely keep it firmly on there!

Amy

The Little Magpie Gleneagles Hotel Review

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Feeling Grand at The Edinburgh Grand

The Little Magpie Guide to Edinburgh
Wrap dress from Monki (now in sale, woohoo!)

The Edinburgh Grand
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The Little Magpie Guide to Edinburgh The Little Magpie Guide to Edinburgh
All photos by yours truly apart from the white tuxedo photos which were taking by wee cutie Adele Russell 

Hey pals! 

Told you another travel post was coming your way soon, didn’t I? Last week’s was Amsterdam - which you can catch here if you missed it - and today’s is taking place a little closer to home in ye olde Edinburgh. Despite living so nearby, I still don’t feel like I know Edinburgh all too well - generally I tend to be through for the day for a shoot and then I’m straight back over to Glasgow - but last month the beautiful Edinburgh Grand invited us for a wee stay and I finally, finally got the chance to explore a bit more. Now - I will say this. THIS IS NOT AN EDINBURGH GUIDE. Boo, hiss, I know, feel free to throw tomatoes at me in revolt. My aim is to get a big guide together later on in the year when I've had the chance to try a few more places out, so for now you're getting a round up of what we did during that weekend (which, I hope, may at least bring to you a couple of ideas).

The Edinburgh Grand is relatively new so it might not be on your radar just yet but it definitely should be. It’s so, so well located;  it's a two minute walk from Waverley station, is right between George street and Princes Street and about a five minute walk from the old town. It's also right next to Multrees Walk and Harvey Nichols for those of you who like to shop till u drop and, fooodwise, is right beside the delicious Dishoom, The Dome and The Ivy. The building itself is an old converted bank so, as the name suggests, is oh so grand. Look at that decor! It's art deco heaven. There are 50 apartments altogether, the biggest of which can hold up to six people. That view across Edinburgh you see in the second last photo is from the penthouse suite (we weren't staying there, we just sneaked in like the nosy little peasants we are to take some snaps*) but my personal favourite room is the Director's Suite which you should have a wee nosy of on the website for some interiors inspo! Our own apartment was perfect for a city break. For starters it had its own - very well equipped, may I add - kitchen and living area so if you fancy just chilling in one night with some homemade food, or perhaps having breakfast in the apartment each morning to save a bit of money, then you can do just that. It also had that gorgeous big jade-tiled bathroom you see above and a big marshmallow bed. Despite being an apartment, it did have the benefit of coming stocked with a few bottles of water, teabags and instant coffee and the apartments are also serviced daily too, which was a lovely touch. If you fancy escaping your room for a bit, the hotel also has a cosy, and beautifully old-timely, bar you can visit as well as a games room - complete with table tennis and chess! 


* I jest, we were invited in to have a look - I'm not quite at the stage where I'd invade someone's hotel room to get a photo... yet.
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(last snap is by Kirsty from a previous visit, I just wanted to show you a wee snap from Circus Lane!)

And what did we get up to, you ask? On our first day we took a little wander down to Stockbridge - which is a really lovely area to walk around, especially on a sunny day. You'll probably have seen many a photo of the famous Circus Lane, actually, where that last photo there was taken! This time we had brunch at The Pantry followed by cake at Cowan & Sons (who do hands-down the best gf brownie I've ever had FYI) followed by a drink - or three, but it's a Saturday so who's counting - at Under the Stairs which is another of my favourites. That was followed by some late night pizza at Mamma's on The Grassmarket - another glorious GF find - and an extravagant, candy floss filled cocktail at Dragonfly. I often get asked about which bars to visit, something I don't know all too much about at the moment, but this is one I'd add to your list! Sunday morning was quite slow (rumours that I was hungover are grossly exaggerated and not to be believed) with a brunch at the cafe I recommend to everyone going to Edinburgh - whether they ask or not, to be honest - and that's Urban Angel! Boy oh boy is it good. A slow wander round the shops on George Street followed and next came a wee visit to The Milkman - I pretty much just visited all my favourite places in Edinburgh like the predictable soul I am - which is the lovely wee cafe you can see above in the snap where I have a tartan suit on (a photo Kirsty took on a previous visit because my camera battery had given up by this time). After that we headed to Mysa - the wee shop you see above which is SO GOOD, make sure not to miss it if you're around the Royal Mile area - and then, alas, it was time to go home. I should mention, there's one set of photos above that weren't from this stay and that's the three of a meal at The Stockbridge I had a little while back - I've mentioned it before but I just wanted to add it in here again along with my other recommendations as it's a really, really lovely place to eat and one of my top dinner spots in Edinburgh! So, although it's not my usual bursting guide I hope it gave you a few starting points as well as a recommendation for a truly wonderful place to stay!

Amy 

Our stay at hotel was complimentary but all words and opinions are my own. Even, sadly, the bit where I said I might sneak into a hotel room for photos.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Guide to Amsterdam

The Little Magpie Guide to Amsterdam Pulitzer Hotel Review
Oh hey there! It's a while since we've had a wee travel post around these parts, isn't it? Well, just like waiting for a bus, after a dry spell there's a whole host of them now coming at you. There's Edinburgh, New York & Brooklyn (that's a whopper so maybe prepare yourself an entire Sunday roast never mind a cup of tea to accompany that one) and today's: Amsterdam. I've been a few times now and so have been gathering recommendations like a wee squirrel with nuts (is it weird to refer to yourself as a wee squirrel? It felt a bit weird) so brace yourself for those.

WHERE TO STAY
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It's somewhere that's so, so easy to get to from the UK so is perfect for a long weekend away. This time around we checked into The Pulitzer for a few nights after a brisk 50 minute flight from Liverpool. And what a stay it was! Before I get to the good stuff, one thing I will add quickly is that the first night we were put in a room directly across from the bar and were awake until the early hours of the morning with the noise - if you're a heavy sleeper then you might be ok but, if you're like me, and a bit more a light sleeper then it might not be the best room if you've got an action packed weekend ahead. Now - I'll give you a little bit of background to the hotel first because it's got a really interesting history; back in 1960, twelve 17th and 18th century canal houses were purchased by Peter Pulizter - that's right, Grandson of Joseph Pulitzer, Pulitzer Prize founder, there's some pub quiz trivia for you - to make Amsterdam's first ever five star hotel. Since then, the number of canal houses that make up the hotel have grown to twenty five to make it the grand ole property that it is today. Location-wise, it couldn't be more perfect - it's slap back in the middle of De Negen Straatjes, or the Nine Streets, which I'll come back to in the 'what to do' section and is a five minute walk from Anne Frank House and Dam Square. Jordaan, which is one of my favourite neighbourhoods, is also only a short wee walk away.

Breakfast was a beautiful affair with fluffy pancakes, heavenly truffled eggs and fresh fruit. I'd also recommend a dinner at the hotel's restaurant, Jansz, whether you're a guest at the hotel or not. As well as serving incredible food, they were so understanding and careful about my many food allergies - I won't go into how many there are because I don't want to depress you but it's in the double digits - which doesn't always happen. You can expect beautiful fresh fish, lobster risotto, steak and much more... I've actually just seen that it was voted Time Magazine's number one place to eat in Amsterdam which is very exciting. There's also the Pulitzer Bar which sadly we didn't get to visit (we were there right before Christmas so it was super busy) but looked incredibly cosy and welcoming. As the hotel describes it themselves it's, 'the kind of place where the glasses weigh more than your shoes and sitting on the leather lounges feels like a really good man-hug' which, as well as being apt, is incredibly adorable. As well as their standard rooms, the hotel also has themed suites. We got a wee tour of the Pulitzer Suite and the Music Collector's Suite, which you can see above, and I'm desperate to go back to have a nosy in the Book Collector's Suite at some point in the future (an archway made of BOOKS. Heaven).

WHERE TO EAT
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Now, where to eat. I have many recommendations when it comes to food so I'm going to pop them all down in list form to make things easier:

- Omelegg: More omelette options than you could ever imagine! It's in the De Pjip area which is great for a wander round. It can get quite busy, especially on weekends, and they don't take bookings so make sure to get there nice and early!
- Coffee & Coconuts: located in a former 1920s cinema with very minimal, Scandi decor, serving up some extremely tasty brunch. There are even gluten free pancakes on the menu (rejoice!)
- Cottoncake: A lovely boutique shop that not only has a beautiful selection of jewellery and clothing but also has a tiny cafe inside serving up more than you'd imagine - from smashed avo to homemade cakes. One of my favourite stops in amsterdam!
- Bakers & Roasters: Described as a 'New Zealand style cafe with a heavy dose of Brazil', you'll find yourself one truly delicious - and very hearty - brunch here. 
- Foodhallen: I think you might have guessed what this is. A huge big food market with lots of different stalls and bars. I haven't tried it myself, but I have it on good authority that the veggie popcorn hot dog is amazing.
- Things I Like, Things I Love: This is not food at all so I'm not sure how I've managed to sneak that in there, but one of my favourite shops in Amsterdam! Lots of lovely homewear and clothing at a really good price (it's great if you're on the hunt for gifts, especially around Christmas time)
- Jacketz Global: Oh. My. We had the biggest jacket potato of our lives here a few years ago and I still think about it often. They have loads of different topping options and cater for gluten free, vegan and veggie
- Chocolatl: A little chocolate shop claiming to have 'the best drinking chocolate in Amsterdam'. You, or your stomach, will not be disappointed
- Pancakes Amsterdam / The Happy Pig Pancake House: Two lovely pancakes houses that both have GF options! 
- Vegabond: I've lost count of the number of times I've been here now. A little vegan cafe that does the most incredible cakes and healthy juices! They also do lunch but I've never made it past the cakes.
- Piqniq: A really lovely little cafe in Jordaan!
- Hiding in Plain Sight: We didn't make it ourselves but a few people recommended this speakeasy-style cocktail bar. 
- De Silveren Spegel: 'mucho expensive, special wan' is what I had down as the description for this in my phone notes. It dates right back to the 17th century (Mamma mia! I know) in a building that has been totally kept in its original state and serves up delicious traditional Dutch food.
- De Kas: Another one at the higher end of the price scale but it sounds pretty fantastic. It's set in greenhouses that date back to the 1920s and all of the vegetables and herbs are grown right there on the property. 
- Greenwoods: Another one that we've yet to make it to but has been recommended lots - they're supposed to do a great breakfast!
CafĂ© ClichĂ©: Very, very cosy and welcoming - you'll feel right at home here. The home of a very good cook, that is.
- Mastino: The best gluten free/vegan pizza I've ever eaten. The dough doesn't taste gluten free and the cheese doesn't taste vegan and I have that on record from someone who is neither coeliac OR vegan (and you know how much they like to complain about... 'our' food).
- Little Collins: Aussie/Dutch owners serving up more delicious brunch
- Meatless District / Vegan Junk Food: As you've probably guess by the names, both of these restaurants are vegan paradise and come highly recommended
- Koffie Academie: their coffee beans are imported from all around the world and, as well as coffee and cakes, the art and the handmade furniture here is on sale as well! Another highly recommended coffee bar is Lot Sixty-One, run by two Australians serving up some delicious coffee.
- If you're an afternoon tea fan, then The Duchess and De Bakkerswinkel are both supposed to be fantastic!

WHAT TO DO
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What to do, what to do. On one of our previous trips we picked up an Amsterdam City Card on our first day which I'd really recommend because, as well as unlimited public transport, it'll get you free and discounted entry to lots of attractions and museums around the city. 

The Tuschinski Cinema: An old theatre that's a beautiful building both inside and out and was built in 1921 for a cool 4 millions guilders. We went to see Bohemian Rhapsody in the main auditorium which, before the tears blurred my vision, was a truly magnificent sight to behold and a gorgeous room to watch a film in. One I'd definitely add to your list!
Canal tour: You can't really go to Amsterdam and not see it from the water, can you? We've been on  a few but this time we went on the Pulitzer's own canal boat which dates back to 1909 and just so happens to be the first canal boat built with tourists in mind. 
Dam Squaare: Always worth a wee wander through to a) look at the buildings and b) see what's on as there's always different events popping up; we once saw a Christmas Choir materialise out of the blue which, yes, I cried at ok.
 The 9 Streets: My favourite place to wander; nine lovely streets that run between the canals and are filled with cafes, concept shops, florists, vintage boutiques and more. 
Anne Frank House - Harrowing, of course, but somewhere that I'd definitely recommend visiting if you haven't before. Book online if you plan to go as the queues can get very long. 
Van Gogh Museum: Which, I am ashamed to say, I still haven't been to. It has the world's largest collection of Van Gogh pieces and is also worth noting that it's open late on a Friday. Just around the corner it the Rijksmusem, which is admiring for the building alone if you don't quite have time to make a trip inside, as well as the Moco museum which I loved! You'll also find the ice rink here in Winter time.
Vondelpark: Beautiful at all times of year but well worth visiting in Spring/Summer to either walk or cycle round with a picnic in tow. There's often open air concerts popping up so keep an eye out for those! 
Heineken brewery: I'm not normally a huge fan of brewery tours but I really enjoyed this one! There's a wee tasting room at the end too which is always a fun way to end things. 
The Amsterdam Lookout: We went here at sunset which I'd say is the perfect time. Get the free Buiksloterweg ferry over from behind Central Station and it's 12e entry (and 5e extra if you dare to do the over-the-edge swing) and then finish your time there with a cocktail - or, like me, a delicious hot chocolate - at the bar on the 20th floor which has view across the city.
Hoxton Photobooth: Another lovely and well-located hotel in Amsterdam! It has an old photobooth right at the entrance which I'd recommend squeezing into your itinerary at some point.
Drink outside, whatever the season: There are lots of outdoor bars lining the canals that are equipped with patio heaters and I'd recommend a wee drink at one, whatever the weather. They make a great spot for people watching and taking in the atmosphere. 
NDSM: Not somewhere I've managed to visit myself yet, but it's a former shipyard that's now home to bars, cafes, restaurants, a beach (that shows outdoor films on a Tuesday from June to August) as well as a flea market and live music performances. There's also a huge industrial crane there that's now a three-room-hotel, complete with a hot tub right at the tub for guests and a bungee that's open to the public. Again, a free ferry service will take you there. 
Street markets! One of the most popular being the Albert Cuyp Market, where you'll find everything from flowers to vintage clothing to delicious stroopwafels. 

And in regards to when to visit Amsterdam, anytime! That's the joy of it. I've now been in Autumn, Winter and Spring and saw and loved a different side to it each time. You can walk most places in Amsterdam - just have your wits about you as those cyclists aren't slowing down for nuthin' or no one - or, of course, you can grab a bike yourself. I'm sure it was voted the most bicycle friendly city in the world but, if you're feeling nervous, then you can always start with a guided tour to ease yourself into it. Now of course this is by no means an extensive guide to Amsterdam; there's SO much to do, SO much to see and SO MUCH to eat, but I hope it gives you a good starting point! I'd also recommended checking out the I Amsterdam website as they've always got new and amazing recommendations on what to do, where to eat, where the best rooftop bars are and everything in between.

AmyThe Little Magpie Guide to Amsterdam Pulitzer Hotel Review

Our stay with The Pulitzer was part-hosted!Most of the snaps are mine and a couple are by Kirsty McLachlan from a previous visit