A Single Girl’s Guide To…. York

Travelling without a partner is actually harder than it sounds. For some reason holidays seem primarily geared to couples, so I am determined to show you how you can see some of the best cities in the world either alone or with friends. Last month I popped over to York for a few nights with my lovely friend Anoushka. Here are the highlights:

Where To Stay

We stayed at the Travelodge, York Central which is just outside of the centre but a quick 10 minute walk and next to a reasonably priced car park that you can top up via an app on your phone. Hello not having to leg it out in your pyjamas at the crack of dawn!

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The curse of the single girl’s struck as we had been booked into a double room and the only other room available that could be changed to a twin was a disabled one. Not a major issue for us though. It is basic, budget friendly and very no frills. But ultimately all we needed was a bed for the evening.


Glasses for water would have been better than the plastic we were left but the tea and coffee making facilities were adequate. On arrival there were some cleanliness issues in the bathroom with hairs in the sink and gunk around the taps, this was sorted immediately on request.

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If you are in a rush yet peckish in the morning you can grab a handy breakfast box. They’re not the healthiest but they have a fairly good selection inside and you can always pop some in your bag for later when you are exploring.

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A little further out and more expensive is Hedley House Hotel. They have a small car park on site, an award winning restaurant and refurbished rooms, worth a look if you have more money to spend on your accommodation.

What To See


When in York a visit to the Minster is a must. I’ve wandered around the building alone many times. Being a place of worship it is quiet and serene meaning you can just take it all in with your own thoughts. You can take in a trail to learn more about the history of this incredible building or explore the new attraction, the undercroft. Delve under the Minster into a 2000 year old chamber and learn about the lives of the Roman garrison as well as the staff, clergy and volunteers in the 21st century.


Take some time out and, if the sun is shining, sit under one of the beautiful monuments next to the Minster for some rest and relaxation. A picnic, a good book and an iPod. Just perfect.

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Just up the road from the Minster is the Imaginarium, a beautifully quirky store complete with a beautiful golden carousel horse in the window. I bought a beautiful tea light holder with little birds on that spin when the heat of the tealight hits them. If you need a unique gift for a friend or loved one,I defy you to walk out of here empty handed.

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Probably not something you will want to do alone, unless you don’t scare easily, is the York Dungeon. It’s a quick 75 minute attraction into over 2000 years of horrible history in York. Theatrical actors, special effects, sets and scenes bring the history to life. It’s frighteningly funny and they have a special Jack the Ripper show on until 6th September. Make sure you watch your back!

Where To Eat And Drink

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For self guided wine tasting give Veeno a try. Their Sicilian family owned wines are just beautiful and there is no rush, no awkwardness trying to get to know new people, no fuss. Sit down with your paired foods and when you are ready to try each wine, your server will pop over and tell you about the wines in turn. You could easily do this alone or with a friend. You can take as long as you need whilst gossiping and, no doubt, ordering more wine.

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For a quick yet tasty lunch we visited Piccolino on the river Ouse. The 2 course lunch is a bargain at £15 and there are some healthy options to be had too. The vine tomato soup with cherry tomatoes and basil was piping hot with a lovely tang from the cherry tomatoes and a gentle kick of pepper. For mains I had the chargrilled chicken escalope with peperonata. The perfect dish for the clean eater – a lightly marinated chicken escalope with a colourful mix of roasted vegetables.

Whilst wandering the windy cobbled streets of York we found a lovely little bistro called Thirteen Thirty One. There’s an impressive collection of wines and cask ales with the chef specials covering the walls. I love that, yes there is a menu, but the amount of specials on offer you can easily find something seasonal and fresh to try.

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We indulged in a jug of Pimms, well it was Wimbledon, and I ate this massive pie! Golden shortcrust pastry filled with juicy chunks of beef, vegetables and an extra jug of gravy. The chips were the best I’ve had in a while, and I’ve eaten a fair few chips! They were just like my Gran used to make in the deep fat fryer meaning the inside was soft and fluffy whilst they had the best crunch on the outside. Whilst this is a fairly intimate and romantic place to dine, the staff were amazing and really friendly. Our server was funny and had a great sense of humor, I would feel completely at ease eating here alone.

So there you have it. A day in York either on your own or with a friend. Now where shall I go next?

Restaurant Review – Bem Brazil, Altrincham

I love me a bit of churrasquiera. Ever since I was introduced to the delights of an all you can eat buffet style BBQ in Tenerife as a little girl, I’ve longed for something similar in the UK. With this knowledge you will be surprised to hear that I have yet to visit Bem Brazil in Manchester. I just haven’t gotten around to it for one reason or another, so when invited to Bem Brazil in Altrincham I was excited to see if it was similar to my favourite one in Tenerife. You may remember I really enjoyed Fazenda, a similar style of restaurant, recently.

The venue is fairly small but there is an upstairs with the same set up for the overflow which is welcomed. We visited on a Wednesday evening so it was fairly quiet yet there was still live music in the form of a pianist serenading the diners. He wasn’t my cup of tea and it was fairly loud, we had to raise our voices significantly to hear each other. That said when he didn’t sing and just played the piano it was very pleasant, especially for a Wednesday evening.

We were warmly greeted and taken to our table where we were advised that all day on Wednesday and Friday they offer 2 for 1 on their, pretty impressive I must say, cocktail menu. We didn’t indulge but it is certainly something I would go back for.

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The buffet style selection is small yet adequate with some lovely Brazilian cheese dough balls being the star of the show and some surprisingly good albondigas, meat balls to you and me, that have a lovely kick of heat. I was surprised to see the lack of fries at the selection but impressed when a basket of them arrived at the table. They were fresh rather than left to go soggy under the heat lamps, a lovely touch.

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Now we all know we weren’t here for a bit of a self serve food, oh no, we were here for the meat and everything that comes with it.

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We were asked how we would like our meat cooked and it came exactly as we had asked. I noticed the server came to each table in turn so all the cuts arrived in the same order no matter what time you entered the restaurant. I loved this as it meant we didn’t get the same cut back again too quickly, unless we asked for it, and we didn’t miss any either.


Some of the meat was a little salty but I loved the filet mignon with cheese and bacon as well as the cap of rump which was rich in flavour and soft in texture. You will also see a particular good skirt of beef which is buttery in texture and chicken hearts which seemed an interesting addition. Not for me but certainly something a little different. Something else a little different was the garlic bread served the same way as the meats which was soft and smothered in garlic butter. We asked for this several times so we could eat more of it, it was so good, and a great one for mopping up those meat juices.

To finish we were served grilled pineapple dusted with cinnamon. A great, juicy and sweet way of cleansing the palate to either start again or leave with a full tummy. We did the latter but would definitely make more of an effort one lunch time on an empty stomach.

The service throughout the evening was impeccable and the staff really are a credit to the restaurant. The price is a little high, especially being the same as the restaurants in Manchester at £25.95 in my opinion, but I don’t think you’ll find anything else like it outside of the City Centre, A great option for a group and those cocktails, blimey they looked good. I’ll be back for my Brazilian drinks soon.

We dined as guests of Bem Brazil and weren’t asked to pay for our meal. 


Big Kahuna Summer With All Star Lanes – Manchester

With this dreary, wet and miserable weather anyone would think we were at the back end of October not the Summer month of July. Fear not, All Star Lanes have brought a little slice of Hawaii to you with their Big Kahuna Summer Specials.

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Staff are dressed to impress in Hawaiian shirts for the boys and vintage style for the girls, paper garlands hang from the ceiling and surfer style music plays in the background. There are a number of cocktail specials to be had, mostly fruity and sweet, with a great offer of 2 for 1 weekdays between 4pm-6pm.


I started with a Business Class which is a tropical blend of Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh mint, cherry syrup and lemon topped with tonic and laden with cucumber. It’s light, fresh and fruity yet also very sweet so perfect for me, but not so much for those without a sweet tooth.


We kicked things off with yet another sharing platter, this one cheaper than our Grill on the Alley at £12.50, and slightly different to the norm which was welcomed. The chicken quesadilla were lightly spiced and filled with chunks of juicy chicken, three cheeses, courgette and sour cream. The wings were on the small side with very little meat although the BBQ sauce was tangy and sweet, just the way I like it. The loaded nachos were okay, I love the guacamole here for its injection of garlic but they needed some melted cheese for me. The pickles were crunchy and light with a real kick of spice whilst the ribs were the star of the show. They were fat and meaty with a tangy sauce and no gristle.


Onto what we had come for, the Big Kahuna Specials. My friend chose the lobster roll which is pretty pricey at £14 without any side orders. The flavours were spot on, the lobster soft and fresh with a lovely buttery tarragon and lemon dressing. The sweet brioche bun also complimented the flavours and it was a lovely dish, just really expensive for what it is and I would have expected more lobster meat to match the price tag.


I couldn’t resist the Big Kahuna burger and I knew I had made the right choice when I saw the cocktail umbrella and mini mai tai shot on the side! The burger was slightly overdone and cooked through when I had asked for it medium, but that was the only niggle with this one. Well, that and I’ve have liked my mini mai tai to have alcohol in but I completely understand why it doesn’t. The porter cured bacon was crisp, the monterey jack cheese melted and oozing, the pineapple ring chargrilled and sweet to finish it off perfectly. I may need to go back for more.

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After our food we dabbled in a spot of bowling occupying a lane within the private bowling room which is available to hire for parties and large groups. It turns out we were both as bad as each other but it was hilarious getting excited at knocking over just one pin!

You can grab the Big Kahuna Specials all summer, I hope you are better at bowling than us.

We dined as guests of All Star Lanes and were not asked to pay.

The Thomas Cook Airlines Burger Takeover With Grill On The Alley

Dear friends and readers, you are in for a treat. Thomas Cook Airlines are celebrating their newest American routes direct from Manchester by holding a burger takeover at Grill on the Alley. They recently started flying to New York and Miami with Boston and Los Angeles set to hit their roster early next year, so the fabulous chefs at Grill on the Alley worked their magic to create some very special themed burgers. What’s more, if you order one of the takeover burgers before the end of July, you are entered into a competition to win two flights to one of the destinations. With just Boston to tick off my travel hit list I was in like a shot.

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We visited on a Tuesday evening and the restaurant was really quiet, just the way I like it. Settled in a corner booth we argued over the burgers, him because he likes burger, and me because I love all three of the American cities I have visited so far. I travelled to Miami with Thomas Cook last month so was nearly swayed by the pickled watermelon, pineapple and horseradish coleslaw, we actually had to order a starter whilst we procrastinated over it.


The sharing platter is rather pricey at £15.75 but the ribs were beautiful with the tangy BBQ sauced ribs falling off the bone at the slightest touch and the chicken skewers meltingly soft with the sweet and sticky honey glaze. The salt and pepper calamari was overdone with too much batter so it had gone quite crunchy, whilst the sweet potato wedges were pleasant with a touch of seasoning.

Onto the burgers and my friend chose the one place I’ve yet to visit from the list, Boston.

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A medium cooked burger topped with prawns, crayfish, garlic butter and back bacon. The bun itself was a lovely change from the brioche version we have come to know and love in Manchester. It is more like a crusty cob giving it that bit more stability. The prawns were juicy and fresh whilst the bacon was salty and crisp. The crayfish were soft and buttery but there just wasn’t enough of them to get a hit of the flavours when eating the burger as a whole.


I finally gave in and went for the NY Deli. New York has held a special place in my heart since my first visit in 2000 and my fourth, and last, in 2009. I need to go back I really do, Lady Liberty is calling me. Anyway, the burger topped with pastrami, pickles and Lancashire blue cheese was lovely and the flavours worked really well together. The slightly salty pastrami, the lightly spiced pickles and the strong yet creamy blue cheese give a lovely depth of flavour. I was initially disappointed at the addition of a local cheese in an American inspired burger but I’m not sure what else would work as well as this. Answers on a postcard please.

To enter you need to book into the restaurant HERE and order your favourite. I may just get time to visit again for the LA burger with its onion rings, guacamole, chipotle mayo and beer battered pickles. LA was one of my absolute favourite places I visited on my road trip last year, if only for Hollywood and the tour of celebrities houses.

Good luck and let me know what you order.

We dined as guests and were not asked to pay for our food.



Summer Menu Review – Browns, Manchester

When Room closed its doors at the top of King Street I must admit I was a little worried for Browns. It was very similar in so many respects from the beautifully ornate building to the menu choices on offer. It is a popular destination for the suited after work crowd and their £5 signature cocktail menu Monday to Thursday is definitely worth a look. I popped in to see how they were getting on and to try their new summer menu.


Charlie went classic and had a Margarita whilst I was persuaded by the fizz and chose a  British Royal. The Margarita called for choosing your own tequila which is then added to the lime and sugar. It is a lovely touch and allows you to pick the perfect tequila for you. The British Royal was very fruity and sweet with rosehip and rhubarb cordial and apple as well as a very slight dryness from the prosecco. It needed a stronger alcohol kick for me as, despite the generous serving of Black Cow vodka, it went down far too easily and would have been slowed down by a bit more booze.

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Onto the starters and Charlie stood with the classics opting for the prawn cocktail.The prawns were on the small side but the lobster infused Marie Rose sauce added a little twist as did the pretty chicory leaves. I expected these to be used throughout the dish but the prawns were served on a bed of iceberg lettuce. Obviously a classic but it would have been nice to have the chicory as a bed. Some of the iceberg lettuce was a little brown and limp around the edges which was a shame.

I went light and chose the asparagus wrapped in prosciutto with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. I had been looking forward to dipping my al dente spears of asparagus in a runny yolk but sadly, this wasn’t meant to be. Unfortunately the yolk was hard which meant the flavours were slightly different to what I was expecting although the hollandaise had a good sharpness against the salty prosciutto.

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The mains came quickly and Charlie chose well with the pan roasted British chicken with crackling. The juicy chicken with a crisp skin was served with baby potatoes, tenderstem broccoli that still had bite, soft chunks of Garstang blue cheese which yielded beautifully to the aromatic spring onion broth which is served on the side for you to pour over the dish yourself. As the cheese melted I couldn’t resist dunking my chips in and, boy, it was good.

I took advantage of it being a Thursday, therefore lobster night at Browns. My lobster was all prepared so no mess whilst eating and was seasoned with a lovely garlic butter.The lobster meat was soft and tender, just the way it should be. The chips were seasoned well with a light crunch, nothing to write home about but perfectly fine.

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After a short break we argued it out for a while over who was going to have which dessert, there was a great choice and we narrowed it down to two but couldn’t pick one, so we shared.

The Great British mess is a twist on the classic made with clotted cream custard and scone pieces with the original additions of strawberry compote and meringue. What arrived was a small mountain dotted with fresh strawberries. The flavours were perfect and the scone addition genius. I’ll definitely be recreating this over the summer but will be adding more compote as I think it would have added a bit more fruitiness.

The vanilla panna cotta has also had a summery twist with Pimms and mint jelly as well as candied cucumber. All combined this created a beautifully light and fresh tasting dessert that I’ll be back for. To enjoy with my next selection of £5 cocktails…


In summary the food was good, some highlights, some ‘ok’ moments. The cocktail deals are great with a good selection at the £5 offer price. For me, Browns is lacking something but I’m not quite sure what that is. There isn’t really anything standing it apart from other traditional style restaurants in Manchester and, we have so many of them now, I need something a little bit more to entice me in.

We dined as guests of Browns and were not asked to pay for our food or drinks. 

Beauty – Ahava The Brightest Stars Set Review

As I get older skincare is much more important to me. I usually stick to my old faithful routine but have recently started to try other things to keep my skin fresh and plump. I’ve become a bit of a fan of a wipe off cleanser, they are so easy at the end of a busy day to just apply and wipe away the grease and grime but, I’ve yet to find one that takes off all my make up. IMG_5833 This set from skincare brand Ahava contains three of my favourite things. So many of these sets have something in them that I won’t use but this one is great – a cleanser, a mask and a moisturiser. It is also great value at £38 and comes in a great sized zipped bag too. Something else that can be a bit rubbish and small, I like to be able to reuse these type of things and this one is good for travelling. IMG_5838 Ahava uses dead sea minerals to create, what they call, unique products to improve the skin’s well-being and youthfulness. The products are paraben and SLS free so they are kind to sensitive skin. They don’t test on animals either making them an ethical brand. IMG_5836 IMG_5843 The all in one toning cleanser that is gentle enough to work over the eyes but tough enough to remove makeup. It can be applied to the skin and then wiped away with a cotton pad with no need to rinse making it an option for those with easily irritated skin although I did find, when doing this, that it didn’t remove my waterproof mascara. The addition of witch hazel means the skin is less likely to end up inflamed and I like using this in the morning for that exact reason. I follow a more vigorous routine in the evening to remove the day’s makeup and grime, but this is great for the morning and stops my skins going bright red and blotchy. Thanks to the flower water it has a lovely floral yet fresh scent and it is a lotion consistency so easy to move around the skin. IMG_5840 IMG_5845 The purifying mud mask contains a blend of natural mud and minerals from the Dead Sea to deeply cleanse and purify the skin. The mask is thinner than other mud masks I have used and doesn’t set quite as quickly meaning there was no nasty skin tightening or harshing rubbing to remove it. This also means it is easy to move around the skin and doesn’t stick to certain patches the way other masks do. I used this in the bath applying a thin layer to my face and neck, chilling with my book for a bit and then removing. Afterwards my skin felt clean and refreshed, smoother and more even. I was told recently that I should use a face mask more often and this generous 100ml tube will keep me busy for quite some time. I am a huge fan. IMG_5834 IMG_5839 IMG_5842 The active moisture gel cream is described as an ‘advanced skin conditioner’ which comes from Dead Sea water, believed to bind to skin layers and lock in moisture. The description of ‘gel cream’ is spot on and it glides onto the skin leaving it feeling instantly hydrated. It sinks into the skin quickly and helps to reduce redness from a morning wash making it perfect for pre makeup application. For my skin this isn’t rich enough for the evening but I love it for the daytime and it really speeds up my morning routine as I don’t need to wait ages for it to sink in to my skin. I’m really quite impressed by the Ahava brand and they have some great offers on their eBay store at the moment. This set is currently £31.99 and also includes a sample of the Dead Sea Osmoter concentrate and the essential day moisturiser. I don’t plan on swapping out my gel cream just yet though.

Items sent for review purposes.

Competition – Win Tickets To Leeds Festival And Hunter Wellies

I’ve told you many a time I’m not the festival going kind. It just isn’t me. All that mud and having to sleep in a tent whilst battling it out to be near the front of a stage just does not appeal to me. That said, if I was going to go to any festival in my lifetime it would definitely be Leeds festival. I love the heavier aspect of the music and Metallica are playing this year as well as Everything Everything, two of my favourites.


You could win 2 tickets to the festival and some lovely Hunter wellies with Mainline Menswear just by filling in your details here. There is also a second chance to win when you share your favourite festival story. Did you meet the love of your life fighting to get to the front of the stage? Or perhaps your partner proposed whilst you sat atop their shoulders listening to your favourite song? Share your best story at the same link above and Mainline will pick one of their favourites to win. Your story will also feature on their blog. What have you got to lose?

Image courtesy of Mainline Menswear. 


Eat in with Hungry House

I’m the world’s worst for carrying cash. I often say I am like the queen as I brandish my bank card to pay for a £1.50 greetings card at Marks and Spencer. The same goes for when I’m being lazy and can’t be bothered leaving the sofa to make any tea. A takeaway is on the cards but I have no cash. Nightmare… that’s where Hungry House come in and I gave them a go when I moved back in with my parents a few weeks ago.

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The idea is simple. You tap in your post code and, if you want to, the type of food you fancy eating. The site will then list the takeaways in your area with reviews from previous diners to help you make your decision. The menu options are all online so there is no searching for that scrap of paper in the drawer and you can pay by card so, hurrah, no need for cash!

Believe it or not I never found a decent Chinese who delivered in the city so was excited to see what the deepest depths of outer Stockport could offer. Unfortunately for me Hungry House only had one Chinese restaurant registered so there wasn’t much choice on that front. We decided to go for it though and placed our order which was pain free and also allowed for us to leave any comments before confirming. This is ideal for the country lane where my parent’s live as their house can be really difficult to find.

The food was 20 minutes earlier than the estimated time given and, considering it had travelled 5 miles to get to us, was piping hot. There were some free samosas and prawn crackers thrown in too, a lovely surprise. The food itself was really good and tasted freshly made. That could have been the time of evening as it was fairly early, around 6pm. Still it was welcomed as we were starving.

There are a few online takeaway sites out there that offer a similar service to Hungry House. Obviously the number of takeaways registered for where my parent’s live is a bit frustrating but I do like their blog page and they write monthly about new restaurants that have registered to the service as well as the best freebies to be had. Now let’s hope more sign up and there is more choice at my new house…

Image credit to Hungry House. I dined as a guest of Hungry House and was not asked to pay for my food.


It’s Back And Bigger Than Ever…. The International Cheese Awards 2015

There was a day last year that I will never forget. It was a day that saw me eat my body weight in cheese and discover that I actually like Irish whiskey with cheese, who’d have thought it? Well my friends, it’s back, and it’s bigger than ever. The International Cheese Awards 2015.

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The record for most entries to the awards has been smashed with a whopping 4592 entries to compete for one of the coveted awards. There are entries from all over the world competing for lots of awards but, most importantly, the prize of ‘Supreme Champion’, which was won last year by Colston Bassett Dairy for their whole blue stilton.

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The International Cheese Awards is part of the Nantwich Show and takes place on the 29th July so there isn’t long to wait. You can get tickets here. The cheese marquee is bigger than ever built to house all the different producers from the big guns to the small independents, desperate to show you their wares. As well as the mountains of cheese you will also see an exceptional line up of celebrity chefs with James Martin, Will Holland, Jonathan Harrison and Sean Wilson taking to the stage to do cooking demonstrations.

Introducing Victoria Highfield Jewellers – Didsbury

Picture the scene – you’ve met the man or your dreams. Things have been going really well; you’ve met the parents, gone on holiday and moved in together. As time goes on you start to talk about marriage and you start to picture the perfect proposal, the perfect dress and the perfect venue. One day, you find yourself in a restaurant with a piece of chocolate cake you haven’t ordered and you see that twinkle in his eye, you know what is about to happen. Then, as you find that sparkly ring amidst the cakey goodness and your heart sinks… how could you marry a man who chose THAT ring? Unfortunately by this time it is too late. But you can steer him in the right direction before he gets to this point and that is where Victoria Highfield come in.

Victoria Highfield are a jewellers based in Didsbury Village who recently won the coveted award for Bridal Jewellery Retailer of the year at the Retail Jeweller UK Jewellery Awards this year. Their innovative technology, expert knowledge and friendly yet honest feedback create the perfect environment for you, or your significant other, to create the perfect piece of jewellery. They can create you something from scratch that you can see on their monitor screen as you design your piece or you can take in a piece of jewellery to be redesigned into something else, the opportunities are endless.

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As well as this bespoke service they also have a variety of one off pieces as well as collections that I have never seen anywhere else on the high street. I saw these beautiful Whitby jet and rose quartz sets that were so affordable for their uniqueness.


And the Chlobo collection was one of my favourites. Inspired by the designer’s time in Bali they have some beautiful friendship style bracelets with a variety of charms to collect. Like many collectable jewellery pieces they can be stacked so perfect as a gift for a friend or loved one. I’ve always said if I got a tattoo, and it is getting closer to happening, I’d have a feather. There’s a beautiful feather bracelet in the Chlobo collection that I absolutely fell in love with. They are so delicate yet have such lovely meaning behind them. This is definitely going on my wish list should anyone wish to treat me.

It is worth the trip into Didsbury Village for a nosey. They’re not pushy and are so passionate about their pieces, it is difficult not to be swept up in their enthusiasm. If I ever found a guy stupid enough to want to propose, I’ll be taking him here. And I won’t even be subtle about it!

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