Friday, 7 February 2020

Cardiff Bay .... a bit of fresh air

After a difficult time following my second chemotherapy we decided to visit our daughter in Cardiff. It's her birthday soon .... my next treatment day so we celebrated a little early. 

We have visited Cardiff and Cardiff Bay many times since she moved there, staying at various hotels and renting apartments. This time we stayed at the new Premier Inn in the Bay; it's only been open five months and is close to all the bars and restaurants which was good for my walking although I did more than I expected ... sea air must have given me a boost. 

Night time view from the top floor of our hotel looking
over Cardiff City
The same view in the day, you can see the Principality
 Stadium on the left
The hotel staff were very good, giving us a high floor so we had views instead of looking on to other buildings. Early morning there was a bright orange glow from a gap in the curtains, I thought it was a street light .... not on the top floor hee hee. Although looking towards the foundries and a busy road it was a beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise from our window
Beautiful sky
It was windy with a nip in the air but being wrapped up we strolled into the Bay. I love the Pierhead Building, it's brown brick can be seen from all around the Bay.
Chilly but enjoying the fresh air
Last time we visited there were Lego figures on display, this time a huge animated T-Rex. We could hear it's roar from round the corner. There were plenty of excited young children fascinated by the huge monster; quite a few adults taking photos too!
After a steady stroll around the Bay we settled back at the hotel, where else but in the bar. After completing Clare and Philippa Drop the Gin it was lovely to have a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc. One small glass was plenty, my body has enough to do to fight the medication and there will be time enough to enjoy my wine when things get better.

Drinks in the bar
Saturday we took an Uber into the City and had breakfast at Wally's. It's a super delicatessen in the Royal Arcade with a Kaffeehaus upstairs. It was our first visit but it won't be our last.... our breakfast bagel and coffees were delicious.

Great hidden gem in the Royal Arcade
Smoked salmon bagel and coffee - perfect breakfast
We had a lovely time on our much needed break, Cardiff Bay has so much to do ... or not do if you want to take it easy.

The Millennium Centre lit up at night - beautiful
What a surprise when we arrived home - beautiful flowers from Majestic Leicester, thank you so much. It was especially nice that it included a packet of sweet pea seeds so I can plant them for the summer.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Yeah - we made it

Philippa and I made it through Dry January, I won't lie there were many days when I could have done with a large glass of wine and I'm sure Philippa did too.

Thank you for all your support, we have been overwhelmed by your kindness. Clare and Philippa Drop the Gin has raised over £1500 which will be split between my local hospital's Breast Care Unit and Cancer Research - thank you all so much 😘

Chemotherapy is not easy, I seem to be living in a different world, everything takes ages and my bum seems attached to the sofa! Over the weekend I have  begun to feel brighter, having everyone at home always helps.

To celebrate our non-alcoholic achievements, and to get some air, we had lunch in the garden on Saturday .... well wrapped up in two blankets and thick scarves.

I have fond memories of our visit to Champagne Autréau in 2018 and meeting Eric Autréau - Champagne Autréau blog post  - it was a delight to open a bottle of their Blanc de Blanc as our first drink of 2020.

Celebrating with Champagne Autréau
Cheers and thank you 
Nippy but good to get some air
Although Dry January is over I will not be having many alcoholic drinks during my treatment, it's tough enough without a 'wine head' too. I don't have the best taste buds just now either. Hubby and I will be hosting a wine tasting for our scouting friends, and we've tickets for Love Wine Guildford, but I'll be using the spittoon (now that's something I didn't think I'd say 😉)

Hubby and I did open a bottle of white yesterday, just a small glass for me. It was a bottle given to us back in November, before the world turned upside down, when we had a superb evening with Cellier des Dauphins, meeting Laurent Paré and enjoying our favourite French wine.

Cellier des Dauphins Prestige Blanc 
Thank you Jo, Louise and everyone at Cellier des Dauphins, my glass of Cotes du Rhone Prestige Blanc was superb, just perfect - the last few flowers too, since 9th January 🙂

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Non-alcoholic January

We have 4 days to go to complete our Dry January, I have found it quite hard some days and I know Philippa has too. The toughie moments seem to have been:

dinners with friends   -    gigs and concerts    -   relaxing days
family events   -   stressful times

We have been overwhelmed with everyone's support and donations; they have helped me get through the start of my chemotherapy and its side effects, helped Philippa feel she is doing something too and will certainly help those in the future who will sadly be travelling this path too ... thank you.

Headwear time
In my previous posts I mentioned Ceder's Gins and they have certainly been a huge help. I would drink these again if trying to reduce or not have any alcohol ... my issue is they cost as much as gin and recommend double quantity per serving!

I have also had all three Sainsbury's non-alcoholic wine, they all served a purpose, the red wine was great to have when our friends came for dinner. All the wines were pleasant drinks but you would find more flavour in fruit and soft drinks, and wine does need the alcoholic depth.

Sainsbury's red
My overall opinion is these non-alcoholic wines are not going to replace wine, however they are pleasant drinks.

They are great for the 'mind' - the pop of the fizz bottle for that special occasion, the pouring from a wine bottle into a wine glass at a dinner with friends, the pouring of a chilled white after a busy day

.... a bottle of wine gives more than it's nose and flavour, think how you feel when you hear a cork pop or a screw cap twist .... the satisfaction starts right there!

I've taken great comfort from still having a G&T in my large gin glass. It was nice too to have a 'bottle' with my dinner at the pub, although again my Kopparberg was expensive, more than Hubby's pint! There is certainly a psychological side to having an alcoholic drink.

My alcohol free Kopparberg 
I was delighted last week to have been chosen as one of the winners of Fever Tree's competition to win a case of their Ginger Ale. Absolutely perfect for me just now with not only Dry January but the chemotherapy has altered my tastebuds and what my tum wants (it's like having a piccy toddler) - Ginger Ale is great for both, although I am looking forward to trying one with a 'wee dram'.

My Ginger Ale prize 
'A wee few from our Scottish holiday'
my competition entry photo

Huge thank you again to everyone for your support, Dry January will soon be complete but I do have a longer road to travel .......

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Drop the Gin is going well

I must start this post with a HUGE thank you to everyone who has supported our fundraising for Cancer Research and my local hospital's Breast Care Unit. Philippa and I are so grateful and for me personally it gives a focus through some difficult days.

Chemotherapy smiles
It's half way through our Dry January challenge and Philippa and I are doing ok. I have discovered some lovely non-alcoholic gin, tried some no alcohol wine and Philippa is enjoying Elderflower cordial.

Quite refreshing
although it's the same price as real gin !
My non-alcoholic rose wine
I am starting to think about a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc, mainly because I'm feeling better after my first week of chemotherapy. I'll hold out though for our bottle of Champagne Autreau chilling nicely for 1st February. It's a bottle we purchased when we had a superb visit to their domaine in 2018.

The beautiful flowers in my non wine photo are a surprise gift from Jo and everyone at Cellier des Dauphins - I have fond memories of being at their launch evening last November, here's the link to our super evening. My flowers are still looking lovely a week on, thank you Jo.

Today I had another surprise; a rose, some tea and some shortbread from Brittany Ferries. We've travelled on many of their boats; one of our early sailing was in 1992 and last year I woke up on my birthday onboard Normandie with room service breakfast- so lovely as you can see in my 'Our petit tour de France' post.

Thank you so much to the Brittany Ferries team, you made my day.

This week I am feeling more like myself, although I don't seem to have much energy. Next week they say I'll feel good, there's more hospital appointments and a dreaded blood test before my second round of chemotherapy. It's a totally new world to Hubby and I: scary, worrying, confusing but we are hoping to resume our little trips away as the weeks progress.

Thank you again to everyone for your kindness, I really do appreciate it 😍

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

2020 starts with a Challenge

Life for me turned upside down early December when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The weeks up to Christmas were daily visits to either our local hospital or Coventry for numerous scans and tests, hard for anyone but with my severe needle phobia each visit was quite traumatic.

Just after Christmas I had three lymph nodes removed and yesterday I had a titanium clip inserted in the tumour. I now face 6 months of chemotherapy followed by a second operation to remove the lump which should by then be tiny.

Nick has been amazing, it hit us both out of the blue, our holiday to Copenhagen had to be cancelled and some of our Christmas plans altered. It's a blessing we are both retired and can work together through this.

2020 will be a tough year for us, and always up for a challenge Philippa and I have decided to do Dry January. It will give me a purpose and a focus away from treatments and needles.

We have set up a Virgin Money donation page 'Clare and Philippa - Drop the Gin' and will be splitting any monies given between George Eliot Breast Care Unit and Cancer Research.

Starting at midnight with just the New Year toast we plan to stay alcohol free until midnight January 31st .... we have Nosecco ready for today's New Year lunch and plan to try some of the non-alcoholic gins that are now available.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year
 - here's hoping it progresses as planned for us all.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

St Andrew's Day and Dram Fest

I love to match our dinners to special days, not just birthdays, Easter and Christmas but saints days and country celebration days too. It's a great way to try new food and recipes.

November 30th is St Andrew's Day, the Patron Saint of Scotland but as our main Scottish celebration day is Burn's Night early in the year yesterday's meal was a 'nod'.

Our main was steak - Aberdeen Angus steak - from Aldi, we have tried many other supermarkets and butchers but still prefer theirs, great value too.

I found a new recipe for Scottish baking which included a marmalade cake, quite different as it was made using oil not butter. A very moist cake with plenty of orange flavour, next time I might crystallize some orange peel for the topping.

Of course it would not be a Scottish meal without a 'wee dram'. Hubby and I learnt so much about whisky on our trip to Scotland last May, you can read about our adventures in my May posts. I really enjoyed our visit to the Glen Moray Distillery and I especially liked their Chardonnay Cask, my St Andrew's Day toast.

Earlier in November Hubby and I, along with three friends, visited Dram Fest in Leicester, a superb day hosted by 23 Wine and Whiskey. We have done many wine tasting but never a whisky tasting - but we will again !

It was a superb day, over 250 whiskies with a chance to chat to the actual distillers, so much to learn, so much to taste. We all had an amazing day as you can see from the photos.- thank you to everyone.

A super day had by all ...

.... and we were 'papped' 

Monday, 18 November 2019

Cellier des Dauphins

Hubby and I have been enjoying Cellier des Dauphins wine for many years. Our must do on holidays in France with my dad when our children were young was dinner at Flunch.

Flunch is a self service restaurant found within supermarket complexes in most large cities and towns. It caters really well for children with their meals including an ice cream and a toy .... we still have a Flunch kite!

However we are not the kind caring parents my above paragraph portrays .... our reason for eating at Flunch was because their wine was Cellier des Dauphins. Hubby, Dad and I looked forward to our Flunch meal and red wine, always a highlight.

Dinner at Flunch 
A number of years later, enjoying Cellier des Dauphins in France and bringing many bottles home in the meantime,  we met Jo Thompson at a wine fair in London. Jo is owner/director of Belleville Marketing who promote this superb French wine here in the UK.

In 2016 as part of our superb holiday in the Cotes du Rhone (Visan to Chateauneuf-du-Pape) Jo kindly arranged a wine tasting for us with Cellier des Dauphins. What a superb tasting it was, having enjoyed their wine for many years we felt very privileged to have a private tasting. You can read about our amazing day on my Cellier des Dauphins dedicated blog page.

Les Dauphins is the UK labelling for Cellier des Dauphins so for a number of years we have been very pleased to be able to buy at home. However the Cellier des Dauphins label will now be the UK branding and last week Hubby and I joined Jo at Noize Restaurant in London to meet Laurent Paré, Cellier des Dauphins new Chief Oenologist.

It was lovely to meet Laurent and talk about
our favourite French wine and our holidays.
Another great evening with Jo
Noize Restaurant was a super venue, their cellar a perfect venue for tasting French wine. Throughout the evening they served amazing canapes; pork, prawns, cheese gougeres and mushroom palmiers.

Based in Tulette Cellier des Dauphins has been a wine co-operative since 1967 with 2,300 winegrowers and 12,500 hectares of vines covering around 20 appellations including many of the Cotes du Rhone named villages.

Our evening's tasting began with Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone Blanc made with Viognier and Grenache Blanc. A clean white wine with a floral nose and delicious citrus finish.

Les Dauphins Blanc
Cellier des Dauphins Reserve Blanc is also a Viognier Grenache Blanc wine but with Marsanne and Roussane. This wine was very elegant, a lovely rounded wine with flavours of apricots.

Both white wines were superb, great examples of white Cotes du Rhone and both very much enjoyed.

Cellier des Dauphins Reserve Blanc
The first red in our tasting, Les Dauphins Rouge, is made from Grenache Noir and Syrah. It was full of ripe dark fruits with a hint of spice on the finish. This wine is very similar to the wine we used to drink in France, a memory in every sip.
Les Dauphins Rouge
Cellier des Dauphins Reserve Rouge is a full bodied Syrah Grenache wine with soft tannins full of black fruits and a long comforting finish. In the 16th Decanter World Wine Awards this wine scored 97 points and was awarded the Platinum Medal.
Cellier des Dauphins Reserve Rouge
Vinsobres, one of the named villages, is made with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. This village rises giving altitude to its vineyards. It's a wine full of cherry and black currant flavours with hints of spice and an edge of vanilla.

Cru des Cotes du Rhone Vinsobres 
Puymeras and Plan de Dieu are two of Cellier des Dauphins wines that feature photographs of the wine growers on the label: Puymeras is produced by Laury and Plan de Dieu by Mathieu.

Puymeras village is at the foothills of the southern Alps. This named village wine is full of rich dark fruit, it's made from Grenache with great depth and body and a warming finish.

Plan de Dieu is a wine region on the flat plains and is made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Another deep wine of black fruit and high spice notes with a herby edge.
Puymeras and Plan de Dieu
Every bottle of the Cellier des Dauphins wines was superb, all slightly different but with a background similarity of Cotes du Rhone. As well as the wines mention above we also tasted Cairanne from their Cru des Cotes du Rhone, another superb wine.

Cellier des Dauphins Cru des Cotes du Rhone 
Thank you Jo for our Gifted bottles, my 2CV wine holder is now complete with its illuminated Les Dauphins bottle.

Cellier des Dauphins to us is far more than a wine; it's an old friend who brings fond memories and great enjoyment with every glass.

Hubby and I had a wonderful evening, thank you Jo, Laurent and Pauline.