Saturday, 31 December 2016

Aimetu's review of 2016

As always it was a busy year for us - we do like to travel, we do like socialising and we do enjoy wine so it's no surprise we are always doing something.

The highlight of my 2016 was completing Clare's Challenge 50 in London with my fabulous Hubby, lovely son and darling daughter, as well as friends. It was the final leg of 8 trips to London to complete the route of the marathon. An amazing time which you can read about here - Clare's Challenge 50 
My fantastic family with me on the final stage.
It was my birthday so extra special and our daughter surprised me with messages from the Welsh rugby players and Leicester Tigers players. I do enjoy watching rugby and over the last year have been very lucky to go to quite a few games including Wales v France at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Principality Stadium - Cardiff 
Another highlight of the year was our holiday touring France. We booked everything independently and spent 18 days traveling around visiting gorges, chateau, cities and vineyards. We had a lovely visit to Domaine Jaume and a privileged wine tasting with Les Dauphins - all in my Visan to Chateauneuf-du-Pape post.

As I mentioned before we enjoy wine, learning all about the many varieties and producers. Here at home we enjoy visiting Majestic Wine in Leicester, especially their wine tasting evenings. One such evening was a Fine Wine Tasting - what a great night.

And what an honour to be asked by Aldi to make and review some cocktails. It was very good of them to send all the spirits and I had great fun following the recipes and making the cocktails - if you fancy making some the recipe links are here - Cocktail Time

Bellucci Job
One of our weekends away was just so good it's being repeated next year - Cuvée Reserve is a wine forum I host where we chat about ...... wine !! Last March we had a weekend away renting a house in Stratford Upon Avon - such a great time.

Fantastic weekend away
I'm hope 2017 is as good as 2016, although it's not off to a great start as Hubby and I both have colds with aching limbs and shivers - unfortunately this means we'll be home tonight (probably in bed early too) instead of being with friends and partying.

There are a few companies I must just say thank you to as without them our 2016 would not have been as special - see you all in 2017

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year 

Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas Wine

Last summer Nick and I enjoyed a visit to the famous village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and enjoyed a tasting at Cellier des Princes. Our visit is in my previous post Visan to Chteauneif-du-Pape.

We brought three bottles home and decided to open one yesterday with our Christmas dinner - it was lovely.

We opened the 2010, a lovely inviting red colour with scarlet highlights. Such a good wine filled with small dark fruit and a subtle spice - a real treat, rich and full bodied.

Our other Christmas dinner wine was a Philippe de Mery 2012 Nuits-Saint-Georges Chablis, a beautiful white burgundy.

A lovely pale yellow wine with a apply nose. A lovely flavour of apples, melon and light citrus with a creamy finish - a great accompaniment to our smoked salmon and prawns

My other wine for the day was a Luberon - one of my favourite french wines. Such a fresh crisp white wine from the warmer sunnier south, perfect with cheese after our Christmas dinner.

Our Christmas day wine was all from France, thoroughly enjoyed, however we have wine from other countries to enjoy ... I best go and pop another then !!

Friday, 23 December 2016

A Night in Towcester

Wednesday was my lovely Hubby's birthday and I surprised him with a day of treats and a night away. I had great fun planning it all and he had great fun on the day.

His first treat was breakfast at The Miller's Hotel near Sibson. We have been here for a meal a few times, it's an Old English Inn. Our breakfast was lovely, cooked to order which is always good. It's always good service there and our waitress was no exception, a great start to Hubby's day.

Our breakfast stop 
Our next visit was quite a few miles south on the A5 to a small village we both visited on school trips many many years ago, not the same schools or years though. On our recent journeys to London we have commented on the canal and mentioned we should visit Stoke Bruerne again ... so we did.

The village has a major transport route running right through the middle, not a motorway but the Grand Union Canal. Because the canal rises there is a set of 7 locks at Stoke Bruerne.  In the height of barges being used for transporting goods this canal was so busy the locks were doubled (two locks side by side so boats could be moved up and down with less delay). The double locks are still there but no longer contain water, just one lock at each level with 7 locks in total.

Stoke Bruerne Locks
Grand Union Canal
We were hoping to visit the Canal Museum but although stated open on Wednesdays in the winter on their website (and on the opening times posters at the museum) it was closed. We did however walk along the towpath to Blisworth Tunnel - one of the longest canal tunnels in the UK being 3076 yards and wide enough for two narrow boats to pass.

Hubby at Blisworth Tunnel
Travelling again, but by road we drove to Towcester and our overnight hotel. Another Old English Inn, the Saracen's Head, one of the oldest in the town having had Charles Dickins stay there. In his novel The Pickwick Papers in Chapter Fifty One Mr Pickwick and his friends arrive at the Saracen's Head Inn on a very wet day and Sam suggests stopping for the night

'There's beds here sir, good little dinner ... everything clean and comfortable. 
You'd better stop where you are sir, if I might recommend' 

I totally agree - the bed was comfy, the room clean and dinner was very very good, a nice steak with a good bottle of Malbec wine.

The Saracen's Head 
Modern reception in keeping with it's age

Our cosy room
Beautiful room laid for a Christmas Party
We had a stroll around Towcester before our dinner, and a visit to Towcester Museum. It was very interesting to find out about the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, the plague, a fire and the two World Wars. Such a lot for a small town, mainly due to it's location on one of the UK's ancient roads - the Watling Street.

I surprised my Hubby with an evening out, not a carol service although there was one being held in the church but a brewery tour at Towcester Mill Brewery. It was a great evening, the Tap Room at the brewery is a very popular place - we both had a half pint to start the evening off. I had a Christmas beer and Hubby had Mill Race (their signature beer). We have done many brewery tours before, this was a first to take your drink round with you, great idea.

Where it all starts
Ray - our great host

It won't work without it 
He's not tasting it - but gauge reading
'Which one do we take home?'
After the tour we returned to the Tap Room and had a tapas of beer - three glasses, a third of a pint each set in a wooden pallet - a great way to try the different beers - my favourite was Black Fire as I do like a dark beer.

Towcester Mill Brewery
Great beers
As I said I really enjoyed planning and booking Hubby's birthday - thank you to Old English Inns particularly The Miller's Hotel and Saracen's Head, Towcester Museum and especially Towcester Mill Brewery. Hubby and I really enjoyed our visit and will be back again.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Ansley Church Christmas Tree Festival

Every year my family church holds a Christmas Tree Festival - 60 real trees decorated in very individual ways. Charities, social groups and individuals sponsor a tree and decorate in their own style.

I always cross stitch the ornaments for my tree - this year my theme was Family Tree and all the ornaments were names within a family.

The trees are all amazing, so many very clever ideas and lots of patience to prepare. if you are near Nuneaton it really is worth a visit - open every weekend to Christmas:

 Saturdays 11am - 5pm      Sundays 11.30am - 6pm 

Ansley Church 

Remembrance Tree
90 Glorious Years
My 'Family Tree'
Too shiny for the camera
Another amazing year of amazing trees, a great fundraiser for church and Mary Ann Evans Hospice - it's pure pleasure to be part of such a great event, thinking caps on for next year. 

Monday, 14 November 2016

Fine Wine at Majestic Leicester

We purchase our wine from a variety of outlets; major supermarkets, smaller one, individual shops, and wine stores. Majestic is our favoured wine merchant, their variety in grape, producer, country and prices means we can usually find something that is just right for the occasion be it a celebration, dinner party or just a good bottle to enjoy!

We have enjoyed various events at their Leicester store, a very good wine course, many seasonal tasting and featured events. Last Friday was their Fine Wine Event - tasting we have not previously attended.

It was a lovely evening, just the right number of people to enjoy good wine with and share our findings. Majestic provided a good variety of food matches too - goats cheese, Cheshire, Gorgonzola and Stilton cheeses as well as some lovely pate. It's always an interesting to see which food matches which wine.

On arrival we were greeted with an offer of a glass of Jeeper NV Champagne, a lovely glass of bubbly.

It is made from all three grapes used in champagne with a slight difference in that the chardonnay has been oaked. The glass held lively small bubbles and released a grassy, slightly yeasty nose.

Jeepers is a smooth champagne, not dry or overly sharp - a very elegant start to our evening.

To my utter delight our first white was Sancerre, this has to be my all time favourite white. Sauvignon Blanc from France always wins with me and of course it's hard to beat a wine from this exclusive village - Sancerre Vacheron, 2015.

A beautiful pale gold colour with a delicate nose of citrus, floral, crispness all blended to a smoothness, a smoothness that continued on the palate.

Creamy, but not; syrupy, but not; just a smooth smooth wine with a delicious long finish - superb with the goats cheese on a slightly salted biscuit.

I was reluctant to move on, wanting to savour my Sancerre, but with the next wine also from France I finally offered my glass to be filled with Pouilly Fuisse Cordier, 2015, from Burgundy.

This southern Burgundy white had depth to it's nose with high notes of pineapple and hints of oak.

It had a slight thickness to its velocity but was not sweet. Full of pineapple, peach and pear with a long mouth watering finish. The hint of oak certainly enhanced the depth of this wine.

In the flash of a pour we were transported to the other side of the world - our next wine being from New Zealand. Dog Point Chardonnay, 2013, has been oaked for 18 months in French barrels.

It's nose was quite surprise with quite a petrol hit, something I associate with Riesling, although there was a hint of vanilla.

The barrels used for this wine are always brand new which gives it its clean oakiness and to me slightly rubber/tar flavour. Again a mouth watering wine but not quite to my taste.

Back to Europe for our final white, Cometa Planeta, 2015, from Sicily. This paired very nicely with the salty Gorgonzola cheese.

Made with 100% Fiano grapes it's very light colour hides its fruity nose reminding me of childhood sweets, possibly pear drops although sherbet also came to mind.

It was full of crisp pear and tropical fruit with a sharp edge that blended perfectly with the cheese leaving a lovely intense finish. It was quite a weighty white to finish on, one that I really enjoyed.

Time for a drop of red and we returned to the New World for Pereguine Pinot Noir, 2012. This wine has been in French oak barrels for 10 months and I was interested to try this as Pinot Noir is not a grape we chose very often.

Its nose was full of dark fruit and cherries with a slight mineral hint. Quite a surprise in it's taste, full of damsons, quite fruity with a white pepper high note giving it a very enjoyable finish.

We tired this with the pate - a great pairing. I had actually thought of Sunday Dinner when tasting this, for me it would pair really well with pork.

Unusually the next red was in a brown bottle - something I have not seen for quite a while. Moving back to Italy this red was Ciabot Berton Barolo, 2011.

This Nebbiolo red is 2 years in oak but surprisingly in Slavonian oak. With such an abundance of tears in the glass it was however no surprise to discover it was 14.5%.

It had a slightly floral nose with a hint of mace. Its was  palate full of dark fruit with some tannin and for me a light fizz on the finish.

Staying with Old World we moved onto to Bordeaux, Charmes de Kirwan, 2011. This left bank Margaux was very deep in colour, almost black in the glass.

It's nose reminded me of old buildings, in a nice comforting way, with a underneath hint of liquorice. It wasn't a fruity wine and I was struggling to describe it until someone suggested 'savoury', a perfect description.

It's light tannins were smoothed by the Cheshire cheese we paired it with, overall a good red but not a weighty enough Bordeaux for me.

Hopping over the border our next wine was a Spanish Ribera del Duero, Torre Silo Cillar de Silos, 2014. This 18 monthed oaked red was very dark in colour with highlights.

White pepper was my immediate thoughts on it's nose, not so evident with fruit.

The fruit came to life in the taste; rich dark fruit, blackcurrants and a smooth background of dark chocolate, not overpowering or off putting it certainly added to its depth.

Our final red was certainly my favourite - d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz, 2011, from Australia.

I just sink into a good Australian shiraz, so warming, such spice, so rich and this was no exception.

When poured it was so dark and glossy it could have been liquid chocolate, and the nose was immediate with spice, pepper and dark fruit.

The blackcurrants, dark cherries, plums all shouted out in this spicy red. A warming long finish is the perfect end from this intense full-bodied wine.

The last wine of the evening was matched with Blue Stilton cheese - not a match we've had often but a match that does work - dessert wine and blue cheese.

Tokaji 5 Puttonyos, 2009, is a Hungarian dessert wine made from Furmint and Harslevelu grapes left to shrivel resulting in the rich syrupy flavour.

It was like liquid gold when poured, so syrupy it slide into the glass.

Rich marmalade and cinnamon fragrances hit your nose giving an instance feeling of comfort, richness and joy.

So so smooth, this dessert wine was full of orange peel, dried fruits, and honey with a lasting finish to savour - the perfect end to a great evening.

Thank you Majestic Leicester for another enjoyable, informative evening with the opportunity to taste some great fine wines. 

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Third visit to Icmeler

Listening to the news it's understandable that people are nervous about visiting Turkey, no-one wants to be in a troubled place, but it's a very large country and Icmeler is at it's most south west point. You only go to that part of Turkey to get to the town, it's not a through way to anywhere else.

We have been to Paris and Brussels, both much nearer to home, and we were not far from Nice this summer, no-one knows what will happen. That being said we were quite prepared not to go to Turkey should any warnings be given but we are so so glad we did - it really is a beautiful place.

This was our third visit to Sentido Sea Star hotel - the first in 2014 when the hotel was new and last year when the hotel was 100% full as it was an immediate 'must stay at' for many Icmeler visitors. Many people who had been staying in the town for years soon chose a holiday at Sea Star.

View over the pool to the dining area - our
room was second balcony down on the left
You can read about those holidays here;  2014 Icmeler the place to relax  -  2015 Beautiful Icmeler

As we travelled the same week each year we knew the flight and transfer times which made our journey quite smooth and easy - although I think the pilot on the way out was new as every turn he made he then had to compensate a little the other way, It was the same with up and down in altitude - I wasn't feeling my best for the last hour in the air !!

Landing at Dalaman it's just under two hours to Icmeler - mainly due to dropping other holiday makers off at hotels in Marmaris which is a bigger town just before Icmeler. The first part of the journey is through Dalaman passing shops, schools and beautiful mosques. After which the road passes through countryside as far as the sea at Akyaka before turning south over the mountains. The view into Marmaris is spectacular, the town being on the east side of a bay with Icmeler on the west. The bay is curved 240 degrees with mountains all around and just one sea route in and out for boats.

From the air - Icmeler is the bay around the small island in the centre of the
photo, Marmaris is where the light dots are and you can just see the sea at
Akyaka in the distance on the right - lovely to fly over on the way home.
This year we had room 421 - one of the end rooms looking straight out to sea. It has a beautiful balcony with glass panels so you can see all the pool, the promenade, the beach and the town. The room has dual aspect patio doors with the balcony wrapping round to join both, perfect as the sun goes down to move round too.

View from our sea facing balcony
Sea Star is an immaculate hotel, everywhere is clean and the staff work so hard. Our room was cleaned every day with fresh towels and a restocked complimentary minibar. The bathroom has an amazing walkin shower with rain shower head as well as the conventional hand held/wall mounted shower hear. The decor, the facilities and the shower certainly help to make it a relaxing holiday.

A welcome from our room maid
Our welcome gift

We were greeted like family by Melis and the hotel staff, it really felt like coming home. As we checked in the lounge barman served everyone with refreshing non-alcoholic cocktails and the bell boy seemed to take everyone to their rooms without anyone waiting in reception. We certainly felt looked after from the moment we arrived.

There was a welcome gift in our room with a lovely letter thanking returning guests. Turkish wine is not at all like wines we are used to, it can appear to be a little 'rough' but is quite enjoyable if chilled first.

We certainly enjoyed our welcome bottle, accompanied by nuts, and dried fruit, whilst enjoying the view from our balcony - relaxed already!

We are not really beach or pool holiday makers, I find it quite uncomfortable to lie on a sunlounger to read and being in the direct sun for long doesn't suit me either. Mehmet is an absolute star looking after the beach and the pool area; sunlounger cushions appear as soon as you arrive and he is an expert on when to put the umbrella up, very much appreciated even on our short visits to the beach. As this was our third trip to Icmeler we had no reason to do lots of sightseeing either. However our week flew by and was quite busy.

To the side of the pool is a covered area with tables and chairs, perfect for sitting in the shade reading (or sewing) whilst enjoying a morning coffee. In the afternoon this is the snack bar area where pizzas, burgers and other snacks are served. The bar is always with alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks served non-stop; the mornings often flew by with lunch being served in what seemed like five minutes since breakfast.

The dining room and pool side dining area are kept so clean, the staff are always cleaning, dressing and setting the tables but as with the bell boy you don't notice, it's all done so efficiently and quietly. Breakfast is served 6 - 10 with a late breakfast after, lunch 12- 2 followed by dinner at 7 (with the snack bar open all afternoon) so it is a consistent set up and clear down - our waiter for the week was Sercan, a lovely young lad who remember everyone's preferences which for me was to enjoy a Turkish coffee after lunch and dinner.

Over the week we enjoyed an Italian themed dinner, a Turkish themed dinner and an A La Carte dinner. The first two were as all meals served buffet style but with additional dishes.

I love Turkish night as the tables are laid with beautiful Turkish cloths and the food includes wrapped vine leaves, kofta, baklava and Chef has a full kebab cooking on the outside grill.

The A La Carte meal was available to guests for one of their dinners per stay, we decided to enjoy ours mid way through our holiday. The A La Carte tables are set up on the opposite side of the pool to the main restaurant and is a served meal. It was a four course meal with a cold, then hot starter, a main (we both chose beef and it was superb) and dessert, all served by the lovely Sal who is a credit to the hotel.

It was 'wine tasting' on the night of our special meal, a little surprising in being just one bottle of rose for guests to try, but a very nice aperitif for our dinner.

Wine tasting
Our hot starter
Olive oil cake dessert
Icmeler is a stroll away, along a wide flat promenade past the other large prestigious hotels, although we noticed this year some had already closed for the seasons and most were also quite quiet. The restaurant, shop and boat hire chaps are so friendly, always asking if you'd like a drink or to buy but never pushy if you refuse. I do feel a little sorry for them as it must have been a tough year.

This year we wandered a little further into the town to Old Town, although I think there was still more further down the road. I just couldn't resist two new handbags and new slippers but this year we did resist buying more mosaic items, they are beautiful but we have quite a few pieces from our previous holidays.

We also took the small ferry boat to Turunc, a smaller village just round the bay. It's lovely on the little boat sailing along though the cliffs. Turunc is like a very small Icmeler but closer to the sea with variety of bars along the beach, a row of shops behind and hotels climbing up the hills, one even has it's on vernacular railway.

View from Turunc beach
Looking out to sea
The hotel has two cats, or rather the two cats have the hotel as they are in fact wild. They wander around the pool area and the outdoor dining tables, however they do not jump on the chairs or tables, and they do not enter the actual hotel. Some guests give them tip bits and if invited they will sit on the outdoor sofas for some fuss. Last year the ginger cat seemed to be my constant friend if I was outside. He even arrived the morning we left to say good bye.

We'd been outside no more than two hours before he came to us, no noise just sitting by, another warm welcome back. At night he'd find us and sit on the sofas, or if I called he'd come running. He did have a few other favourite guests and some nights chose their company. Our last night he at with us all evening, the next morning whilst enjoying a final coffee he just appeared, let me pick him up for a few minutes fuss then calmly walked away. He's a lovely creature who I hope will stay safe over the winter (he already has a few bits missing on his ears and this year had a scratch on his nose)

My hotel friend
This holiday really is our chill down before coming home for the winter. The view from our room is something I will never tire of - the way the hills roll into the sea, the sun coming up, the sky turning red reflecting the sunset behind us and in the moonlight. It is just stunning.

Even on a cloudy day the view is amazing 
Sun rise 

Thank you Sea Star for another amazing holiday - we are missing the hotel, the view and all the staff already. It certainly is a special place where time doesn't matter and we can really relax.

Another great time in Turkey