As we’re heading to Brazil for Christmas (traditional Christmas destination!) I’ve been cramming in the extra festiveness. I had my Christmas decorations up by 24th November – I don’t care what you say, I like Christmas.  And as part of that mission, we visited the Fourteas tearoom in Stratford upon Avon for their Christmas Ivor Novello Afternoon Tea.

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

The Fourteas is a forties themed tea room and all the waitresses are in headscarves and floral print frocks. The menu is presented in a ration card and the crockery is that chunky teal pottery.

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

The tiered stand includes around of sandwiches each. I enjoyed the Churchill Club sandwich on toasted brown with chicken, bacon, lettuce and tomato. A scone each and a selection of Christmas themed cakes and biscuits. The festive Ivor Novello comes with a glass of fizz or mulled wine.

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

Between the five of us, we weren’t able to finish off all our afternoon tea and they provided us with a cardboard box, akin to the evacuee’s parcels, to take home our leftovers in.

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

Festive Afternoon tea is £20 per person including fizz, £15 per person without. The Fourteas normal Ivor Novello afternoon tea is available all year round but takes on a festive twist in December.  The place gets busy so it’s worth booking in advance. Open 9.30 – 5pm Monday – Saturday, 11am – 4pm on Sunday.

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

Festive afternoon tea at fourteas in stratford upon avon

 

Tom and I were invited to try out the George Inn in Barford St Michael, near Bloxham. The pub is owned by Michael (who I believe also owns the White Horse in Duns Tew) to offer a welcoming smile and was behind the complete refurbishment of the pub, which has now been open a year.

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

It’s clear that the George is a popular place with villagers, I spied my old headmaster enjoying a pint amongst the crowd, and with the twinkling Christmas tree, you certainly felt very festive.  

Trying out the George Inn in Barford St Michael

The thatched pub is essentially divided into three key areas – the cosy fireplace and bar, the larger dining room and a separate nook for private parties. We were sat in the dining room which in the summer has large glass doors which opens on the york stone beer garden.

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

And if you’d had one too many or are planning a heavy night, there’s a selection of cosy rooms both above the main restaurant area and also an extension looking out onto the gardens.

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

Here’s what Tom and I had…

Charcuterie board starters

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

Pork loin with chorizo butter and cabbage…

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

Milanese chicken with garlic tenderstem broccoli. Tom and I both ordered sides – I had fries and definitely did not need them as my main was a considerable side, whilst Tom ordered a side of mash and we both felt that maybe this should have come with it anyway.

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

For dessert – chocolate and salted caramel tart  – We were originally going to have the bread and butter pudding, but Michael suggested that actually, the chocolate tart was the best on the menu – he wasn’t wrong, it was delicious (but I did overhear another waitress saying to the table behind us shortly after that they were out of our first choice…!)

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

Anyway, we both enjoyed our meals and I’ve since recommended it to my parents and aunt and uncle as the next one they should be trying. Let’s face it, if it’s good enough for my the headmaster, it’s good enough for me. And with prosecco at a very comfortable £6 a glass, I’ll be back for sure.

The George Inn in Barford St Michael

 

Blood Brothers New Theatre Oxford

If you a regular reader of this blog, you’ll have figured out that I am a musicals fan which I inherited from my Mum.  

And on discussing our mutual love of musicals from a recent trip to the theatre, I also came to the conclusion that my favourite musicals tend to be the sad ones – Evita, dead from the start; King and I, dies at the end; Les Mis, pretty much everyone dies.

It is not surprising then that Blood Brothers which is playing at the Oxford New Theatre this week has quickly joined the ranks of my favourites, not just for the amazing score from Willy Russell but (mild spoiler) everyone dies (you do find this out from the very beginning!)

Blood Brothers is the story of Mrs Johnstone, a single mother to seven kids living in the back-to-back social housing in Liverpool, who discovers she’s due not one extra baby but two.  Mrs Lyons, from the posh family who employs ‘Mrs J’ as their cleaner, desperate for a baby of her own, offers to take one of the twins when born.

Blood Brothers New Theatre Oxford

A pact on the bible is made and we see what becomes of the Johnstone twins.  It’s a story of different social classes and nature vs. nurture – as Willy Russell says ‘if she’d picked the other one out of the pram, would it have been any different?’

This production directed by Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson, sees Mrs Johnstone played by Linzi Hateley, an Olivier award winner and overall theatre stalwart, and she gives a heart-breaking performance, swelling to the climax for the show’s most well-known number, ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’.

Robbie Scotcher, plays the prophetic, doom-peddling narrator, a constant reminder to characters, Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons, of the pact they made and the guilt they carry.

The twins are played by the same actors all the way through, behaving as seven-year-olds in the first half, and moving through as teenagers and then to adulthood in the second acts.  

Sean Jones (playing Mickey Johnstone), who seemed really familiar but I can’t quite put my finger on where from, was really engaging; a funny seven-year-old morphing into the tragic ex-con twin – a victim of unemployment, high crime levels and low self-esteem. The pathos was almost palpable, I loved every minute!    

Blood Brothers New Theatre Oxford

Mark Hutchinson playing Mickey’s twin, Eddie, has a long association with Blood Brothers having placed Eddie in the West End, on tour in Toronto and Broadway.  

To be honest, every member of the current cast has quite a background with Blood Brothers, having either appeared in previous UK and international tours or in the West End or Broadway. It makes for a gripping show, which had everyone on their feet at the end.

You can still catch the current tour in Oxford until 1st December 2018 and then keep an eye out for dates via: http://www.bloodbrothersmusical.com/

As we are going to be on a boat for three weeks over Xmas, I’m extending the festive period so that it starts in November (I don’t care, I like Christmas, so go on shoot me!) and we went to our first Xmas market of the season last weekend. This was the first time we’ve visited the Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market.

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

We’ve been to both Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market and are regulars at Blenheim Festival of Lights, so this made a nice a change. Gloucester Quays is an outlet shopping village, based around the old dockyards. It’s really grown in the last ten years since we’ve been heading there and the Xmas market is one of the highlights.

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

All the stallholders dress up in Victorian costume and there are character actors milling around to engage you in some ‘ye olde chat!’ The Victorian Christmas market will be open at Gloucester Quays from Thursday 15 November 2018 to Sunday 25 November 2018. So this is the last weekend you have to visit this year!

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

Here are our five top tips for visiting:

  1. Parking is busy

Ok this is a boring topic, but just be prepared for the fact that this is a popular event and there is never enough parking – the car park by Gloucester Quays itself was full and closed by the time we got there at 1.30pm.

However, there are lots of car parks in Gloucester – a quick ‘google map it’ job will give you a clear steer when you’re there. We parked in Gloucester Docks Car Park. Just be patient, you’ll get a space eventually.

  1. Hetty’s Hot Chocolate

I saw people milling around with these enticing looking hot chocolates. I eventually found Hetty’s stand where she was dishing up traditional Belgian hot chocolate, piped with a topping of sticky marshmallow which she then blowtorched! It was as epic as it sounds.

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

There are two or three different food areas at the Victorian Xmas market, so make sure you fully explore before you plump for your choice. The Healthy Hotdog stand was particularly popular this year and always had a super long queue, but it was tasty. I think though on reflection Tom had the better choice, as he went for lamb kofta naanwich from another stand. 

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

  1. Vintage fair rides and ice rink

    Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

Nothing says Victorian Xmas Market like a carousel or a helter-skelter. Both attractions were actually at different ends of the market stands which was a good idea as it kept people moving through the market, rather than clustering at one end.  The open air ice rink is £9.50 for adults and £7.00 for a child.

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

  1. Shopping!

This year the Xmas market has 160 stallholders – artisan producers from all over the area (and country!) This year there was A LOT of gin, but who’s complaining. Our particular favourites were the British Cassis supplier, the marshmallow guy, Tilly’s tearoom in Tewkesbury plus the Dutch cheese people.

 

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

 

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

  1. General festive-ness

Despite the fact that it is called the ‘Victorian Xmas Market’ I was actually slightly taken aback with how Christmassy it actually felt – it was the first time I’ve heard Christmas songs this year! Do time your trip so that it includes early evening when it feels super festive with the twinkly lights.

 

Gloucester Quays Victorian Christmas Market - our top five favourite things to do!

So the title of this blog post is a bit disputed in the Cotswolds Bloggers Facebook group. If you’re in Stow on the Wold, then it’s Coach House Coffee, in Cheltenham it’s School House Cafe. But if you live in the North Cotswolds, then everybody knows that it’s Bakergirl in Great Tew.

 

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for, frankly, years. In fact, I had a whole bunch of pictures lined up, but then the Bakergirl closed its doors on it previous location at Wykham Farm near Banbury, after their lease ran out.

Bakergirl in Great Tew

After many anguished months, it finally found a new location in Great Tew, the place to celeb spot in the Cotswolds with Soho Farmhouse attracting both Beckhams and the latest royal newlyweds (or so it’s rumoured.)

The best artisan bakehouse in the Cotswolds.

When Bakergirl re-opened, first their bakery in Wroxton and then the cafe in Great Tew, such was the joy that people queued for hours just to get their hands on one of their infamous cinnamon buns. See this post if you don’t believe me!

The artisan bakehouse is the creation of Sharon Tomkinson and Sarah Jeffery, who moved from London and felt that they couldn’t find any real bread in the area. So they created their own, establishing a micro home bakery.  And four years later, Bakergirl was born.

Bakergirl in Great Tew

Bakergirl in Great Tew

Personally, I did like their old location – it had that barn loft feel, large and airy – but a tad industrial. The aesthetic has translated quite well to their new location in Great Tew, with its chocolate box cottage front and inside is cosy.

Bakergirl in Great Tew

The best artisan bakehouse in the Cotswolds.

The most important thing though is that the bread, croissants, pastries and coffee all remain melt-in-the-mouth delicious! And if you’re lucky, you might get to see a Duchess tucking into a doughnut.

Bakergirl in Great Tew

Bakergirl is open four days a week, Thursday to Sunday, 10am – 3pm. Lunchtimes are always busy, especially at weekends. A loaf costs about £3.50 but it’s worth it and remember to park in the car park on the edge of the village – otherwise, you’ll have the locals after you!  

Bakergirl in Great Tew

Bakergirl in Great Tew

Bakergirl in Great Tew

Bakergirl in Great Tew