Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Dancing down the aisles at my first ballet experience

I'm back in the swing of normal life now after a whistle-stop stay over in Leeds last weekend to celebrate Mum's 50th birthday, again... We had afternoon tea at Acklam Hall on her actual birthday, but as her gift from me, I bought her tickets to see the ballet in Leeds.

Neither of us had actually been to see the ballet before, but I'd remembered that Mum had expressed a want to go and see a performance. The only one playing around the time of her birthday was Casanova performed by the Northern Ballet. Before I gave her the tickets, I was apprehensive as to what she'd think of my gift. Would she actually want to see it? Or would it be a waste of money?

Turns out she was very happy when I handed her an envelope to open saying we'd be off to Leeds in less than a month's time. Yesterday we boarded our train with a bottle or two of Prosecco in hand and trundled along to Leeds.

After a day of food and shopping in Leeds, we went to our hotel, freshened up and were on our way to the ballet for it to start at 7.30pm. Performed in the Grand Theatre in Leeds, it was literally 3 minutes away from the Travelodge we were staying in, which was super handy. We squeezed into our seats in the Upper Circle and got ready to see the show.

We made the error of only getting the programme at half time, as neither of us knew the story of Casanova, we didn't quite grasp everything that was going on. When reading through the programme, it gives you the story of his life and what was happening in each scene. Even without knowing what was going on in the first half, I was secretly pleased that we'd made the decision to come and see it.

northern ballet Casanova first ballet experience

northern ballet Casanova first ballet experience

After reading the story and understanding what we were about to see after the interval, we could follow more easily the story that was being told through the performance.

Every aspect of this production was put together so beautifully and oozed decadence. From the front curtain that had been painstakingly painted to the moving Venetian podiums that formed the mainstay of the background for the first half, to the stunning wardrobe that each and every dancer wore - it all came together to make the performance what it was.

Of course, the 'star' of the show was Casanova, singled out by his white hair, dazzling the audience with his spectacular talent, but the rest of the cast was just as amazing. They each seemed to outdo the last as they told the story of Casanova through ballet.

northern ballet Casanova first ballet experience

Going into this performance, I was unsure of what I would think of it. I thought it wouldn't be 'my thing', but I was wrong. Sitting in such a grand theatre taking in the music, the dancing and the sheer beauty of everything that was happening on stage, it was fantastic. It was so relaxing to sit in silence, be serenaded by the music whilst watching the beautiful dancers and their storytelling.

I already know I want to go and see The Little Mermaid when it's on at the end of the year. I hope to see you all there too...

Sunday, 5 March 2017

How to put together the best Afternoon Tea

I've been out for my fair share of afternoon tea. I've tried the fancy establishments, the casual and the unusual. I love the ritual of venturing out to enjoy copious amounts of tea, filling up on sandwiches and scones and finishing with sickly treats. I know some don't 'get' afternoon tea and that's fine but I like chilling out for a few hours with some delicious grub and a warm cuppa.

Recently I went for afternoon tea at a local venue and was so deeply disappointed. I try not to be an afternoon tea snob, but I'm afraid that's what I've turned into. Following this, I wanted to lay out what I would say makes the best afternoon tea experience.

1. The first is the most important in my eyes. There must be unlimited tea. I don't like to go out to afternoon tea, be handed a cup of tea and then after I've slurped that, be told I need to purchase another. No, thank you. I need a teapot full, will additional hot water, and if this runs out I want to know I'm okay to ask for more. To be honest, it's the cheapest part of the afternoon tea, so why shouldn't we have as much as we want?

afternoon tea elements

2. Fresh sandwiches with flexibility in the fillings. There is nothing worse than getting to your booked afternoon tea and discovering it features sandwiches you despise but you can't change it because they were pre-made hours ago. I think there should always be an option to change the sandwiches if you like as it's your afternoon tea. I'm not saying that they should let you have egg mayo even if it's not an option, but maybe to double up on sandwiches you like and ditch the ones you don't. This also ensures that the sandwiches are freshly made and haven't been sitting around getting soggy developing crusty edges.

afternoon tea elements

3. Warm, homemade scones with the fillings on the side. Having a toasty, freshly-made scone arrive on your platter is the dream. It just adds that little extra to your afternoon tea which makes you feel giddy inside. Leaving the jam, cream (and butter if you're like me) on the side is an absolute must. There is enough controversy around what goes first, the jam or the cream, that you can't be deciding that for people. Also, how do you know how someone likes their scone? I don't like cream so if I see a scone already filled up coming my way, I feel sorely disappointed.

afternoon tea elements
afternoon tea elements

4. Cake. Cake. Cake. Having a good cake selection is a must. I love to see at least three different cakes adorning the top tier of the platter. The variety just adds options to the afternoon tea and ensures that people will like a bigger majority of the cakes available. Also, there must be one of each available for everyone partaking in afternoon tea. Making people fight over cake is a no-go. This is a relaxing past time which I don't want spoiling when someone takes the last piece of chocolate cake and I'm left with Victoria sponge cake!

afternoon tea elements

This may sound a little over the top, but for people who enjoy afternoon tea, I think we all understand the elements that go together to make the best ones.

Who else agrees with my points and what other musts are there for a great afternoon tea?
© this Northerner.

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