It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rose & Crown Hotel, Snettisham, Norfolk, UK

My lovely husband and I were honoured to be asked to be Godparents to our dear friends gorgeous baby, Alexander, in Norfolk.  We didn't know the area at all, and we need an overnight stay, so we asked our friends and checked and they both came up with The Rose and Crown Hotel in Snettisham, the next village over from where we needed to be.

We arrived late, after dinner with friends, and were the last arrivals for the day, but the bar and restaurant were still humming.  We were greeted by name and shown to our room, Beach Hut, on the ground floor near the garden.  It had been freshly decorated and had a large King sized bed and a big bathroom (I think it's also the disabled room).  The bed was very comfortable and the shower the next morning was a dream, great volume and piping hot - bliss.  

On check-in we were asked if we'd like a newspaper the next morning, and when we arrived for breakfast (included in our room rate) our table was reserved with a "Beach Hut" sign and our paper was there waiting for us.

There was a breakfast buffet and a hot menu and we enjoyed both.  Staff were lovely and friendly and helpful.  I had poached eggs on white toast and it was lovely, hubby had the full breakfast and it looked great.  Good coffee too.

Unfortunately we weren't there for an evening meal, as the pub has won many awards for its food, we will just have to visit again!

And just a super duper quick note, I firmly believe that WIFI should be free when you're staying at a hotel, and it's really getting on my nerves that there are a lot of expensive hotels still charging HUGE amounts for it.  You'll be very happy to know that the Rose & Crown provides FREE wifi for guests.  I'm now going cover free or chargeable on each hotel review as I'm sick of the cheeky posh hotels wanting to charge upwards of 20 euros a day to look at your emails.  Yay for the Rose and Crown!

The awards

Norfolk Dining Pub of the Year 2012 - The Good Pub Guide
East of England pub of the Year 2012 - The Good Pub Guide
Finalist Great British Pub Food Awards 2010
Family Friendly Pub of the Year 2007 - The Publican Awards
40 Top UK Hotels, January 2007 - Sunday Telegraph
Young Chef of the Year 2007 - PubChef Food Awards
Pub Restaurant of the Year Award 2006 - Eastern Daily Press
Norfolk Dining Pub of the Year 2004 - Good Pub Guide

The Rose & Crown
Old Church Road
Norfolk  PE31 7LX
Phone:- +44 1485 541382

Monday, December 17, 2012

Annual Flight Count

After a great weekend to catch up with friends in London, and become godparents to gorgeous little Alexander in Norfolk, we notched up two more flights, bringing the running annual total to 35.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Great Silk Furnishings at Jim Thompson Factory Outlet, Bangkok, Thailand

After spending the last 12 years living in 8 different rental houses that you can't really alter, I've become a dab hand at decorating with cushions and fabrics.  You can really brighten up a plain room by using cheery cushions, and one of my favourite places to get gorgeous (and affordable) Thai silk and cotton cushions is Jim Thompson in Bangkok.

You can find Jim Thompson stores in all the upmarket malls and a lot of the hotels, but I think the best place is their outlet store on Soi 93.  The outlet runs over 5 floors and has a huge range of interior soft furnishings and 2-3 floors of fabrics that you can buy by the metre.  There's even a cafe on the top floor if you need to take a load off your feet and rest your shopping bags down.

I've always taken a taxi along Sukhumvit Road for less than 100bht, but there's also a Skytrain (BTS) stop that's very close, jump off at Bang Chak and walk back a few blocks and then down Soi 93.

Jim Thompson
153 Sukhumvit Soi 93
Prakanong, Bangkok, 10260

Monday, December 10, 2012

Great Thai Food at Suda, Bangkok, Thailand

Ah, Suda, I'm always so thrilled each time I visit Bangkok to find that you're still exactly the same.  I would eat there every day if I could (and sometimes I do!).  I was introduced to Suda by a local when we lived in Bangkok and it's pretty much the first place I go each time I arrive back in Bangkok - when I'm sitting in Suda I really know I've arrived back "home".

Suda has fantastic, cheap, safe Thai food.  It's one step up from street food (the little stalls you see on the side of the road), but it's certainly not fancy restaurant food.  It's a place for locals and it's another place that you won't find in the guidebooks.

It's semi open air dining, down Soi 14 off Sukhumvit Road (closest Skytrain/BTS stop is Asok) and it looks a bit basic and grotty.  Let's be honest, it is a bit basic and grotty, but it's FANTASTIC!

I almost always order Khao Phad Gai with Prik Nam Pla (Thai fried rice with a little bowl of chilli and fish sauce) and a can of Diet Coke for the princely sum of 80 baht (€2).  It's absolutely scrumptious and I leave a tip of 20 baht.  They have a big menu and everything I've ordered has been great.  If you've got room, try their mango and sticky rice for dessert - swoon!

My lunch at Suda - cheap, cheerful and so tasty

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fantastic Nails at KaeKai, Bangok, Thailand

Bangkok is busy 24/7 and it's constantly changing, so it's always fantastic to go back to a favourite place and find that it's still there, and the staff are the same.  KaeKai is one of those places.  It was recommended to me over 10 years ago by a friend, and it's still doing what it does and doing it well.

KaeKai is a nail/hair salon.  It's cheap, cheerful and local.  You can have your hair done on the ground floor, and manicures or pedicures on the first floor.  You don't need to make an appointment.  I've never had my hair done there, though it's very popular, but I go for pedicures and they do a fantastic job.

A standard pedicure is 170 baht (less than €5!) and nail art (hand drawn art on each nail - you choose from huge binders full of designs) starts from 10 baht/per nail.  Essentially, you can walk out with two perfectly pedicured tootsies for 270 baht.  But please factor in a tip, these girls live off their tips and they do a great job - about 50 baht for your pedicurist and 50 baht for the nail art girl (if you have that done).

KaeKai is another one of those places that's quite hard to find unless you know it's there.  It's down Soi 39, off of Sukhumvit Road (closest Skytrain/BTS stop is Phrom Pong) and there's not much signage.  Basically, turn off Sukhumvit Road into Soi 39 and walk down about 200-300 metres - it's on your right and there's plants and things on the verandah - and usually a few staff members too!

Nails are done upstairs and you need to thread your way through all the hairdressers and clients, heading to the back of the salon, through the door and up the stairs.  Leave your shoes at the top of the first flight of stairs and go on up the second flight barefoot, through the sliding glass doors and into the room full of arm chairs.  Someone will tell you where to sit, and then you can choose a colour from the huge selection of polishes and make yourself comfortable.

Because they don't take appointments, you can be waiting for a while, but it's cool up there and I take a book along with me to kill some time.

Please bear in mind that this is a place for locals, it's not shiny and glitzy and you won't find it in guidebooks, but it's been there for at least 10 years and they do a great job.  I go there at least once every visit, though their pedicures last for about 4 weeks.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Great Handbags at Pharaoh, Bangkok, Thailand

Pharaoh - Best Bag Shop in BKK!

Along with cowboy boots, handbags are my other weakness - and Bangkok has enough handbags to make even the most hard core shopper happy.

When we lived in Bangkok I had a favourite place for bags, Penny's, in the basement of a local mall, but that mall has now been demolished to build a newer and better mall.  One thing you'll notice about Bangkok is that it just oozes malls.  There are malls and shopping strips everywhere.  Even if you're not  crazy about shopping, you'll find you gravitate to the malls purely because of the air-conditioning - it's cool inside!

After I discovered that Penny's was no more, I asked around our friends who still lived in Bangkok to find out where they went for bags and they all recommended Pharaoh in MBK - and that's where I've been going ever since.

Bangkok is a mecca for copy/faux goods.  You can see faux Lacoste, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger clothes everywhere.  You can see faux Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry and Hermes bags everywhere - but Pharaoh does the best copies.  They seem to favour Mulberry, Hermes and Todd bags in good leather that are well made - they don't do Louis Vuitton or Gucci.  Their bags are not dirt cheap like you can get at the markets on the sides of the road, but their bags don't look like copy bags - they look like the real thing.  The copies you buy on the side of the road LOOK like they're copies.

MBK is a huge, vast, giant, enormous (big, it's really, really big) multi storey shopping mall - not as fancy as some of the new ones, but it's a fantastic place to explore.  Pharaoh might be a bit hard to find as MBK can be a bit confronting on your first visit, so here's how to find it ...

  • Catch the Skytrain (BTS) to National Stadium stop
  • After you exit through the ticket barrier, enter MBK through Tokyu department store, direct from the Skytrain platform - there is no need to go to street level
  • Walk straight ahead until you hit the escalators
  • Turn left and exit Tokyu through the doors opposite Bata shoe store
  • Turn right and keep walking past the autobanks
  • Keep to the right of the mall and keep walking
  • You will walk past a bunch of handbag shops and you can stop if you see something you like and see what their price is, but don't buy until you've been to Pharaoh - if Pharaoh don't have what you want, go back to the other place
  • You might think you've walked too far, as Pharaoh is a fair way down, but you'll get there, and once you do you'll find a store so crammed with handbags and purses that you have to shimmy along to get inside and see what's what
  • If you can't reach what you're looking for  in Pharaoh, just ask, the staff are really friendly and helpful
  • The initial price they give you (which they will probably type into a calculator and show you) can be bargained down, but, as with everything in Thailand, do it politely and with a smile
  • If you buy more than one thing, you can negotiate the prices down again
  • If you're the first purchaser of the day, they might take your cash (cash only, no cards please) and touch it onto a lot of other goods in the store to bring them good luck - this is normal

Bangkok Skytrain (BTS) Map - get off at National Stadium!

Now you've got your bags, go and explore MBK - it's fantastic!  If you're hungry, head up to the 6th floor food hall for a meal, it's so yummy (and clean, safe and cheap).  One tip for the food hall - the stall owners don't take cash, you have to buy vouchers at the voucher stall at the entry of the food hall first.  Any vouchers you don't use can be taken back to the voucher stall and they will give you your money back on the same day.

Pharaoh's business card with all the info - they don't have a website