Thursday, 15 September 2016

Eat. Walk. Talk. Bristol food tour.

I am, by nature, greedy. I have no shame in taking the last After Eight, or even the last roast potato, so being invited try out a walking tour around Bristol where you stop every few minutes to eat something? Perfect.

We met up with our guide, Brian, at Temple Meads Station for the Old Town tour. As well as the food part of the tour, there's also the history aspect. I love a good history fact (hello National Trust Membership) and Brian was well versed in the dates and story of the Bristol icons that we passed. Even having lived here for the best part of a decade, I know there's still so much I don't know, so having a guided tour is fascinating, even in your home town. As well as group walks, Eat. Walk. Talk. will also do private and bespoke tours, so if there's something in particular you want to focus on, you can do that.

Our first foodie stop is a Bristol icon in its own right; Hart's Bakery. I've been a devotee of Hart's for a long time, having tried one of Laura's custard tarts on (I think) Gloucester Road many moons ago. She opened her bakery in one of the station arches a few years ago, and it has gone from strength to strength. As well as the superlative custard tarts, my other favourites are Saturday Bread (think sticky toffee sauce with a fluffy dough duvet and crispy, sugary top), the raisin and fennel sourdough (only available on Saturdays, makes incredible toast, and is brilliant with cheeses), sausage rolls and *jazz hands* the cinnamon buns. And lo and behold, it was the cinnamon buns that we were trying! They're made from a croissant-like dough, and lots and lots of cinnamon. Did you ever do that challenge where you have to eat a doughnut without licking your lips or fingers? (Was that just my family?!) Well, I do that with these too. The cinnamon buns are my Train Picnic treat of choice, so I always leave time to head to Harts before I travel!

Fortified for our journey, we wended our way into town. The short distance and gentle pace mean that this tour is accessible to most, and all the stepped parts have sloped access alternatives for those less able to manage steps.

I did wonder that as someone who loves and takes advantage of Bristol's amazing food scene, whether I would know all of the stops on the tour, but there were several places that were new to me, including one that's on my walk into town from home. I won't spoil the surprise for those of you who might like to take the tour, and instead I'll just mention a couple of the other stops that I'm sure you'll already know, and one that you might not.

One of the stops I didn't already know was The Bristol Cheesemonger. If I'm remembering correctly, I think Rosie has done pop-ups at Hart's Bakery in the past, and now she has a bricks and mortar shop on St Nicholas Street, so very close to St Nick's if you're in the area. She shared a selection of amazing local cheeses with us, including Old Demdike by local legends Homewood Cheeses. She also stocks preserves from Bishopston Preserves, another local supplier whose products I use almost daily. If you've not tried Danielle's rhubarb ketchup, it's a revelation and Rosie has some in stock at the moment (I have about 4 bottles in my cupboard; I like to stock up!) Another cheese I really loved was the Mayfield Swiss which was really full-flavoured and creamy.

In St Nick's Market, we visited Pieminister, and tried three different pies. I forgot to write down what we tried, but there was a creamy chicken one, a beefy one (I think the Moo pie?) and the last I do know for sure was the Heidi Pie which has goats cheese, sweet potato, spinach and red onion. The Moo has been my favourite for a long time and is one that I have very fond festival memories of eating one with mash and gravy while being freezing cold and surrounded by mud. Comfort food at its best! And here you can even eat it without getting muddy!

And the other stop that I must mention (because barely a day passes where I don't mention it anyway) is Swoon. The most apt name there has ever been. I am absolutely evangelical about Swoon. Their pistachio gelato is one of the best things I've ever eaten, no question. My husband and I love them so much, we had Swoon as the evening pudding at our wedding. And at this stop, we tried EVERY FLAVOUR. I couldn't quite believe my luck!

I was offered a complimentary place on the tour, but I wasn't obliged to write a positive review; I honestly loved it! Brian was friendly and knowledgable, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the tour as a fab way to get to know Bristol a little better.

Our hashtag for the day was #BBEWT if you want to have a look at some of the other photos and posts, and discover where else we visited!


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Wedding Sessions

The Forge. Beautiful!
I love to learn new things. I wonder if it's that my Teacher Brain loves to switch off and let my Student Brain take over? I've attended workshops and lectures in everything from an advanced level knitting sock pattern design workshop, to one on the representations of witchcraft in medieval drawings and then another on how to make rainbow-coloured meringues.

I always find that after I've attended a workshop, I'm all fired up and full of ideas. There's something so exciting and inspiring about learning from other people. At uni, the tutorials were always my favourite part, so I think it's an extension of that. I love listening people talk about something they have a passion for, then having conversations all together and asking questions. I know that I fall into the trap of always having the same conversations with my friends, over and over. We moan about work, or we talk about programmes we've watched, or we complain about money, but as important as it is to have those conversations to get things off our chests, when was the last time you had a conversation that left you feeling really inspired and motivated? I think that's the magic of workshops; you talk about things out of your ordinary. You're surrounded by women (and for whatever reason, it's always been women at the workshops I've been to) who all have this shared interest and shared focus, and from that comes a shared energy, and a feeling of, "Yeah! I can do this!"

The slogan of today's workshop could not have been more appropriate then; 'Shine Brighter. Think Bigger. Be Different.' Held by Kirsten of The Little Wedding Helper at The Forge, The Wedding Sessions is designed for people who're in the wedding industry in some form or another, and are looking for guidance on how to grow and develop their business. The day also featured Jo from who talked to us about social media, and Helen from who talked about writing copy for websites, and gave us tips for submitting to blogs and magazines.

Now, I'm not actually in the wedding industry at the moment, but I got married very recently, and I wanted to find out whether it's something that I can make into a career somehow. Weddings exist in a sort of parallel universe. I didn't so much as start planning a wedding, as fall down a rabbit hole into Wedding Land. And I say this as someone who announced at seven that she wasn't going to get married (fail), and that she was going to get a motorbike (balance problems mean that I can't do this one, so I'm giving myself a pass) and live in Cornwall (this I have done). So weddings and being a bride were just not on my radar. I had no vision of my wedding, or of what it might look like, or what I wanted to wear, anything like that. Having been a guest at many weddings, and worked at lots as a teenage waitress, I did have a fairly strong vision of what I didn't want. And this I suppose is my crux; if there's me falling down the rabbit hole, looking for someone to help me make sense of it all, then there's going to be others like me who I can help. Women for whom a wedding isn't a magnum opus, it isn't the pinnacle of every dream they've ever had, and it isn't their chance to finally be a princess. Is there a market out there for rational, practical, logical wedding planning that isn't about making 'dreams come true' as such, but is more about helping a couple to have a simple, relaxed wedding that reflects the values that are important to them every single day?

I went into the workshop without any real idea of what my wedding niche might be, but I very quickly realised that the parts I enjoy (and the strengths that I have) are in the planning and the research. I'm an ardent researcher. For every holiday, I read books and blogs and scour Instagram for tips. I make lists and timetables and plan routes. (I'm very lucky that my best friend is exactly the same as me, and that my husband is incredibly laid back and happy to follow wherever I lead us. Score!) It was interesting to hear Kirsten talk about how she's very much not a wedding planner because it helped me to focus on the fact that that's actually the part I enjoy the most.

Jo gave us a task to think about who our target client is; not a nebulous, 'female, 25 - 35,' etc etc, but to give them a name, a job, a wedding budget. I really enjoyed doing it! In my mind, it tied in with the advice throughout the day of not being afraid to be different. You wouldn't want to work with every couple, so don't be afraid to hold out for the ones who are right for you. I had not really considered this, but hearing it rang so true. I've just left one job because it wasn't giving me joy. Why would I want to go into another that might do the same?

Helen's input on creating effective copy was really thought provoking. I'm definitely guilty of not really considering what I'm writing. I read it back and check that it (mostly) makes sense, but I don't plan in advance, or think about style or SEO. She's given us some notes and I know I'll go back to them again and again in an effort to improve.

Setting up a business, however gradually and gently you do it, is quite a scary thing to do. Talking to women who are already out there and doing it is motivational on a really profound level. The other attendees today are all doing amazing things in their respective fields and I was really humbled being around such talent! Something Kirsten mentioned, and something I definitely felt at the workshop today, is that the wedding industry is such a positive and supportive one. No one made me feel like I shouldn't be there because I'm just a newbie!

The hashtag for the day is #theweddingsessions. Over on my Instagram, I shared some more pictures from the day, and following that tag you'll find all the other attendees.

So if any of you are in need of a wedding planner, you know where to find me!

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