Merchant House, Eyemouth

digI recently rented Merchant House in Eyemouth for the weekend to celebrate a big birthday. Standing overlooking the harbour in Eyemouth the smugglers home was perfect for my family to stay in. I booked it through Crabtree & Crabtree but when we arrived I found out I could have booked directly with Gunsgreen House, which would probably have been cheaper.

A four-poster, 2 double rooms, a twin and a room that slept 3 meant everyone had their own space. 3 bathrooms one of which had a roll top bath in the middle of the room also meant no-one was left dancing in hallways. The house is full of secret hideaways and the floors below holds a museum, which unfortunately was closed when we were there.  There was also a fabulous welcome hamper with wine and milk in the fridge.

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For my birthday meal I wanted someone to prepare, cook and serve a meal on the Saturday night as I thought this would be far easier than going to a restaurant with 3 kids under 5. I searched around for caterers in the area and found Sara Event Catering in Ayton.

Right from the start the communication was excellent and Caroline Sara was extremely helpful in preparing a menu for the evening. Nothing was too much trouble and she was great at thinking of meals for children, a vegetarian and a very picky daughter so that everyone got something that they liked.

Prior to the dinner Caroline popped round to check out the kitchen and dishware so she could plan out the meal to insure nothing was left to chance.  On the day she kept in touch and her and her partner arrived in plenty time to make the meal. The meal itself was fantastic and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

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At the end of the evening the kitchen was left tidy and leftovers were all wrapped up or cling-filmed, which was great as it meant we managed to have lunch the following day too.

I’ve never used caterers before but would highly recommend the experience and if you’re ever looking for caterers in the Eyemouth area look no further than Sara Event Catering as everything about their service was excellent and I feel, extremely reasonable too.

 

 

 

 

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Skydiving at Stathallan Airfield

davIn order to tick another item off my bucket list I asked OH for a skydive for my birthday (it’s the 9th – I like wine). Reluctantly he agreed, arguing he didn’t want to watch the love of his life launch herself out of a perfectly working plane and plummet towards earth, nevermind paying for the privilege.

I did attempt to do it a couple of weeks ago but low clouds and the normal dreich Scottish weather prevented me. However, yesterday saw blue skies over the grass runway of Strathallan Airfield so things were looking good for me to do a tandem skydive.

First off, I had to practice the stance to leave the Cesna  – head back, legs tucked under the plane and arms folded. Then the position for landing – hands under knees and legs up. I then had loads of disclaimer forms to fill in.

After that the morning dragged as I watched others go up in the little doorless plane and jump out. There was a small flurry of activity when a tandem jumper landed in a faraway field instead of the airfield and the emergency rescue vehicle had to dash off to pick them up. Apparently they had been let out at the wrong point and blown off course.

Eventually, it was my turn and I had to go get kitted up in a ski-suit, harness and very fetching helmet and have another practice doing the landing position, this time whilst suspended from a platform.

As we waited for the plane to land I watched another tandem land and boy did they come down with a thump.

“Will we land like that?”

“I hope not,” replied Eddie, the guy I was going to be secured to as I did my free fall. By the time the plane came back into land the other guy was still on the ground and a quad was heading out to pick him up. Prior to this I hadn’t been that nervous but seeing their sudden landing did shake me.

I then sat on the edge of the plane whilst Eddie hooked me up to him. We then edged our way back into the plane sliding backwards on our bums. The cameraman, George, joined us and another 2 parachutists who were going to be jumping out before us. dav

Sandy explained he had to lean over me as we took off so his weight would be at the front of the plane. As he pushed his knee between my legs, Eddie held on to his harness to stop him falling out the plane too early. So like sardines, the five of us all squashed up into the front of the plane to allow it to taxi along the runway and take off.

The views were amazing as we flew higher and higher. Green fields and orange trees got smaller and smaller as we climbed to an altitude where the 2 parachutists were going to jump out. They got into position and suddenly they were out and falling fast. My stomach lurched as I tried to lean out the plane to watch them fall.

It didn’t take long for us to get to 10,000 ft and for it to be our turn to jump. Eddie urged me forwards and before I knew it I was dangling right out of the airplane as he sat on the edge. George was half in half out. Ready, Steady Go. Suddenly I was out and screaming as we hurtled downward. The ear-piercing shriek was completely involuntary and I had no idea I was even capable of making that noise. The ground spiraled below and the air rushed past me. Thankfully I managed to stop yelling and take in the exhilarating feeling. digWhat a rush. Eddie tapped my arm and (I like to think) made the classic skydiving arched back arms out pose. I looked for the cameraman but couldn’t see him as we plunged downward. On one hand it felt like we were in freefall for an age but it also felt like it was hardly any time at all before our chute opened and I was upright once more looking over the countryside below. I looked down and saw George having a great time spinning out below me.

On the way down Eddie asked me if I wanted to do a spin. Oh yes please. He whipped us round in a sweeping circle. The ground rapidly rotated beneath me as we sped round. It was incredible!dav

I could see the airfield beneath me getting closer and Eddie got me to lift my legs up. Then thump. We landed. On our bums. I’d like to say it was a soft landing but it wasn’t.

davUnhooked from one another we got up and started to gather the chute. George landed behind us and the 3 of us walked back to the hangar where OH, Mini-him and Teeny-Me were waiting.

After getting out of the ski-suit and harness I headed into the office to finish off the paperwork. A bloke there asked if I had enjoyed it. When I replied I loved it he offered me a £1 if I could tell him what was so great about it. I couldn’t answer then but I have been thinking about it since and now I think it’s having the feeling you’re surely about to die but then realising you’re actually completely and utterly alive.

I know you want to ask if I would do it again.  Oh hell yeah!

Gallaghers Boxty House, Temple Bar, Dublin

Last week Lusa flew over from the states to help me celebrate my upcoming big birthday (it isn’t until the 9th  – but if you want you can send wine at any time). We decided to push the boat out and fly over to Dublin for the weekend as I love it and Lusa has never been before.

Every time I have been in the land of Guinness I have dined at Gallagher’s Boxty House in the Temple Bar area of Dublin and it has never disappointed. I, therefore, booked online well in advance as I knew it would be busy.

When we arrived we were immediately shown to our table in the window where Lusa was able to keep an eye on all the wacky Halloween costumes that were staggering past. The T-rex was my favourite.

We were given 2 menus – the early bird one and the regular one. Wine order taken we  concentrated on the menus.

mdeWe both ordered the Seafood Chowder Fresh & Smoked Fish in a Potato & Fennel Broth, served with Jack Smyth Stout & Treacle Bread. This was a big hit with Lusa, later in the weekend she said it was one of the best things she had eaten all weekend. I wasn’t so keen on the carrots in it but that’s just me being picky. The bread was, heavy, thick and dark just as you’d expect from  ingredients such as treacle and stout.

For her main Lusa ordered the Vegetable Chilli Boxty (V) Vegetarian Chilli with Mixed Beans and Irish Cheddar, wrapped in a Boxty Pancake and topped with Chive Sour Cream. For the uninitiated a boxty is grated raw potato, cooked mash and flour, kneaded with pure Irish butter and is either baked, slow cooked or boiled.

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When her meal arrived Lusa had to recheck the menu to ensure she wasn’t eating meat as it tasted so much like normal chilli. Lusa prefers her meals not to look like replica meat but she enjoyed the chilli nonetheless.

mdeI had the Chicken & Smoked Bacon Boxty (ng) Free-range Irish Chicken Fillet in a Creamy Smoked Bacon & Leek Sauce, wrapped in a traditional Leitrim Boxty Pancake.  This was rich, creamy and yummy with big lumps of chicken, crunchy leek and small pieces of bacon in it.  Sadly, it was so filling I had to leave some – probably something to do with eating all the bread with the chowder.

Dessert menus appeared and we decided on liqueur coffees instead of puddings. My Irish coffee with Teeling Whiskey hit the spot and Lusa was enjoying her Baileys coffee when suddenly we were asked to leave as they needed the table. ptrThis surprised us as no-one had told us that there was a time limit on our table. The waiter told us we would have been told when we arrived. Nope, we weren’t. Plus you didn’t tell us when you brought the coffee that we would need to rush them. I even re-checked my confirmation email for a warning – nada.

I nipped to the toilet and returned to find Lusa speaking to the floor manager who was explaining their policy to her. Lusa pointed out as it was their policy that they needed to be managing it better and not surprising it onto customers, she also added that asking people to leave mid meal was plain rude. The response was a verbal shrug. If we had been told at the start it would have made a huge difference so instead and unfortunately, we left with a bad taste in our mouths, which was definitely not from the fabulous food or the beautiful but quickly downed Irish Coffee.

2 Early Bird menus, 1 liqueur coffee, 1 bottle of wine = €74.50 (my Irish coffee wasn’t on the bill and I am hoping this was because I’m a regular – well, 4 times in 6 years 😉 )