The summer that was...

Again, we find ourselves at the end of the summer, not quite knowing how it happened (or rather if it happened?).

Summer 2014 to me was one of the busiest I've had, despite the poor no show of the sun. Although I didn't have a 'sun holiday' this year, I've been enjoying a few staycations and a city break. In a way it was better as every weekend has been filled up with 'stuff' and there was never a dull moment.

Hotel: York Marriott Hotel
I love this hotel! Granted, it was the very first hotel I worked at, so it will always hold a place in my heart. Located just a mile out of the city centre, it was a great place for us to relax in and enjoy the hotel, rather than just using it as a 'bed for the night'. We were upgraded to a Superior Room, where we had a view of the gardens and Racecourse, bathrobes and slippers and also upgraded amenities in the bathroom. As always with Marriott Hotels, the bed was *huge*.

Prior to arriving at the hotel, we made a stop off at The Raby Hunt for lunch for some casual Michelin starred dining, as you do. It was so delicious, and a great way to start a mini-break off in style. It will certainly not be our last visit - as we hit main courses we were already discussing when to go and stay to take full advantage of a tasting menu and wine matching.
For the evening, we needed some fuel for a night out so we headed to Byron Burger. This place is the benchmark for all burger places - simple ingredients, served well. We spent the night sipping cocktails from Pitcher and Piano and Revolution. One golden piece of advice - if you're walking down Coney Street and anyone asks you if you like House Music - say no and move on.

Hotel: Manchester Marriott Victoria and Albert Hotel
Set right next to Spinningfields, this hotel is quirky and relaxed. The rooms have exposed brickwork, modern touches and everything else you expect from a Marriott Hotel. On the way down to Manchester, we stopped for lunch at Northcote. Only a very short detour, it was a very welcomed break from driving, especially since the food was so good, and well deserved of it's Michelin star!

After much shopping, we hit the hotel bar, and then continued on to The Alchemist. I loved that place - especially as they serve cocktails in a small hipflask for you to take away. Post cocktails, we headed to Brew Dog, where I was surprised they served Pinot Gris by the glass. They don't serve many wines, so they must be conscious to serve only the good ones! To soak up the (many) drinks, we dropped in to Pieminister for a late night 'snack' of this mammoth plate of food...

Hotel: Leeds Marriott Hotel
We again travelled with our friends, and the hotel offered us upgraded interconnecting rooms which were great for lots of space to get ready in while we had some pre-night out drinks. We were also given access to the Executive Lounge, which was a great way to start the night. I would thoroughly recommend upgrading to receive this benefit if you are staying in Leeds. We managed to spend some time in the swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna before our night out, which was nice to unwind after some retail therapy. Breakfast the next morning was fantastic. One of the best ones we had throughout the Summer, it was a great way to soak up the hangover from the night before, and to set us up for the day ahead.

One thing I love Leeds for is Trinity Kitchen. For anyone that loves the Boilershop in Newcastle - Trinity Kitchen is a 7 days a week street food bazaar, whereby the vendors change often enough to keep it interesting. For dinner, we headed to my favourite place in Leeds - Friends of Ham. I first came across this place last Christmas on a day visit. It was even better this time around, as we feasted on meat, cheese, bread and wine - it was delicious. For bars, there are some great places to have cocktails and laid back drinks, such as The Alchemist and 1871 at the Leeds Marriott Hotel.

Hotel: Amsterdam Marriott Hotel
This hotel was perfectly placed in the centre, meaning we didn't really need to take a tram anywhere. A great little touch was the small plate of handmade treats - we were there for Jeff's birthday. The highlight was the breakfast in the Midtown Grill - fresh pancakes, open kitchen offering omelettes and special breakfast orders. We enjoyed end of night drinks in the hotel bar too, offering some delicious nibbles to accompany our red wine.

So we went all the way to Amsterdam to go to Pieminister. It was so good in Manchester, we just couldn't resist. Plus it was quite a useful meal to soak up some of the mid-day Prosecco/Beers that we had. Our main dining experience was the Michelin starred La Rive at the Intercontinental Hotel. It was the best dining experience I've had since L'Enclume back in 2012. The most amazing food, wines and service - it's a must for any visitor to Amsterdam. For brunch, we enjoyed Cafe de Jaren - which was perfect for a bite to eat before our boat trip along the canals to enjoy some of the sunshine. Along with some shopping, the rest of our time was spent sat outside on the canals enjoying drinks and people watching.

Hotel: Liverpool Marriott Hotel
This was our first ever visit to Liverpool, and I loved it. The hotel is very central, which was great to just park the car and be done with transport for a couple of days. Everything is in walking distance, and you are just a stones-throw from the main shopping areas. We were upgraded to a Superior Room, which was great to have so much space in a city centre bedroom. I was pleased to have a Bose Speaker with wireless connection to hook up my iPhone - it makes so much difference being able to play your own music. Note for hotels - if you are attracting the Gen-Y traveller this is a must, along with Wi-Fi. I also loved how the turn-down service included a little note and the traditional chocolates on the pillow - the little touches mean the most.

As a city, it is very much spread out, and a lot of the places aren't places you would just stumble upon. We walked up to Baltic Bakehouse to see what all the fuss was about with their bread - and we were not disappointed. It was a great hideaway from the city to enjoy some time away from it all, with a good old bacon sandwich and a proper cup of tea. The sourdough bread was amazing, so much so we returned the following day to take some home.

For the evening, we checked out the hotel bar for a couple of drinks, before heading out to Almost Famous for cocktails and (hands down) the best burger I've ever had. Ever. It's in a great little spot where all of the bars are quirky and hipster, offering amazing cocktails and laid back cool.

Shopping wise, I have to say, again it beats Newcastle. Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar, Flannels, Cricket - the lot. I just wonder how long it will take until we catch up to other cities. For brunch, we headed to Moose Coffee for the most delicious waffles and pancakes. It was one of those places you wish you could just stay in all day and sample the entire menu. Alas, the food beat us completely, especially after a mammoth Marriott breakfast.

Now I'm in the 'Back to School' mood, endlessly flicking through magazines for Autumn-wear inspiration. Autumn/Winter is my favourite season for fashion - layering, deep colours and stylish coordinates. The most worrying of all thoughts is that we're already talking about Christmas (!).

K x