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Month: July 2017

The Fabulous Ugly Duckling Pub & Restaurant, Longlane Telford

The Fabulous Ugly Duckling Pub & Restaurant, Longlane Telford

Just north of Telford, in Shropshire, can be found the high end Gastro pub ‘The Ugly Duckling’.  It’s unusual to find such a high end pub, selling modern British food, at such reasonable prices.

 

The Ugly Duckling

Opened in August 2016 The Ugly Duckling has quickly grown in popularity, due to the superb food, inviting and relaxing décor. It is recommended to book, especially on weekends.

Front Entrance

I booked a table on Saturday night as a treat to us both before Marianne goes into hospital. She is very generously donating a kidney to her best friend Kate.  We’ll save the details of that for another blog post!

The Bar Area

 

The Bar

Looking at the menu it is obvious that The Ugly Duckling offers so much more than the stereotypical gastro pub.

We arrived about half an hour before our reservation at 7 pm and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink (Marianne was behaving and had lime cordial), whilst taking in the relaxing décor and all the ‘duck’ art work.  It is obvious that the owners saved no expense when they carried out the refurbishment and they have really done a fantastic job.  It is said you can judge an eatery by the care they take on back of house – and even the toilets are nicely decorated!

We were sat down by our waitress and offered drinks and water to have with our meal and efficiently presented with our menu.  The menu offered about 8 different starters with the average price £6 – £7 with both meat and vegetarian options, the specials board was read out and explained including all the trimmings (of which there were many !!)

Marianne chose the Lamb & Spring Onion Cigars at £7.95 and I ordered Scallops & King Prawns served with a Lobster Bisque at £10.50.

What can I say – they were really delicious, you could taste the freshness with a real depth of flavour in my dish, and the balance of the Lamb, spring onion and mint sauce with the broad bean humus made Marianne speechless (doesn’t happen often !!) – both dishes, we would recommend and would definitely have again.

We couldn’t resist the Gin & Tonic Granita when offered.  We expected a frozen gin and tonic sorbet – I not a big fan of gin and tonic but loved this – it was beautifully presented in a small flute glass with lime shavings and went down a treat.

Gin & Tonic Granita

For the main course – The menu offered a choice of about 15 main courses, plus daily specials with prices starting from £10.95.   With Chateaubriand on the special board how could we resist.  Chateaubriand is from the tenderloin fillet and is considered one of the best cuts of beef you can get.  Due to the size of this dish with all the trimmings it is for 2 people, so Marianne and I decided to go for it.  Priced at £54  so £27 each – it was the most expensive main course but, due to the occasion we decided to splash out.

Well – seriously – to say a main course at £27 each was worth every penny means it must have been good right.  It was – it really was.  We asked for it to be cooked medium and it was cooked exactly as we wanted it.  Accompanied by Heritage tomatoes, asparagus wrapped in Parma ham, homemade chips, baby carrots and watercress and Parmesan salad.    The peppercorn sauce that it was served with, was really really good!  I don’t like tomatoes but I ate these, they were like confit tomatoes and tasted so different to your normal tomato – thanks chef I ate a tomato!!

Chateaubriand

Both of us really didn’t have much room for pudding, but bumped into friends and after catching up and sharing stories we decided that enough time had passed to be able to manage a pudding !!! so we decided to give up the fight and went for it!! – Rhubarb & White Chocolate semi-fredo served with Limoncello Ice Cream.  It was a wonderful way to finish off a superb meal.

Rhubarb & White Chocolate Semi fredo

The service throughout the meal was very efficient, friendly and relaxed which together with the superb food made the meal thoroughly enjoyable.  We wouldn’t hesitate in coming back and highly recommending The Ugly Duckling to those in Shropshire, looking for beautifully and thoughtfully prepared, fantastic food, sustainably produced and sourced locally (They aim to purchase local food and to source most food from within a 20 mile radius.  Obviously being in the Midlands fish, has to come from slightly further afield, however their ‘catch of the day, is delivered fresh on a daily basis), sold at a great price, in a thoroughly desirable venue with service that welcomes and includes guests.

We had the pleasure of meeting the Head Chef Will Mason, after the meal, to find out where he learnt to cook such delicious food.

Chef Will, originally from Telford, started cooking from an early age, and at the age of just 11 followed his mum to work, who managed the Hundred House in Norton, just outside of Telford.  This obviously sparked a passion for food and he went on to work, until the age of 19, at the Raven Hotel, under Chef Steve Biggs.  Will wanted to learn the classics and ventured over to the resort, Courchevel 1850, where he stayed for 9 months.  Will has also worked at the Courmayeur in Italy and Austria before returning to work under Chef Nigel Huxley at The Drapers Restaurant in Shrewsbury.

Will & the Team

Will has been Head Chef at The Ugly Duckling since it has opened and his passion to produce great honest food was obvious.  Talking of fresh, it was so nice to discover that the only frozen food is their ice cream and everything served is made on site, including the ice cream.  This was obvious from the wonderful flavour of the food we had.

Some of the great staff we met – Say Cheese !!
To find our more information on the Ugly Duckling check out their web site here

 

A few more Pictures:

 

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A Day at Shrewsbury’s Dragon Boat Contest

A Day at Shrewsbury’s Dragon Boat Contest

Sunday 9th July we were invited to attend the annual Shrewsbury Dragon Boat race, with the team from the Princess Royal Hospital.

The event held at the Shrewsbury’s School’s Pengwern Boat Club (can also be viewed from the Quarry Park)  is organised to raise money for the local Severn Hospice.

A total of 39 teams competed and each had a team tent along the river bank where they relaxed and many had BBQ’s.

The local hospital team ‘ Stitched Up’ was knocked out after 2 rounds but it was a really great day with many teams dressing in fancy dress.

Team from the Princess Royal
Stitched up by Stacey

 

There were lots of great imaginative fancy dressed teams, here’s some of the best ones we saw

 

Meeting Lara Croft was the highlight of my day !

 

 

And of course Sloth from the Goonies – “
Hey you guys”

 

Or How about the Ninja Turtles
May the force be with you

 

Pirates of the river Severn

 

The boats raced to the music of Hawaii five o  and Marianne was spotted doing her special Hawaii five 0 boating dance – most entertaining.

Overall the day was most enjoyable – thanks to the people in Shrewsbury for making us feel so welcome and joining in all the photos.

Check out our Face Book page for the full selection of pictures we took and make sure you subscribe to our blog and follow are journey as the TREAD the Globe for ever more.

My First week blogging – Panic, Papers and Interviews

My First week blogging – Panic, Papers and Interviews

As the recovery from the leaving party settles and Marianne heads off to work on Monday morning, I arise with enthusiasm and dread thinking of the amount of work to be done.  It’s not work as we know it, sat at the desk answering emails from the boss, but there is a lot to do to get ready to travel full time.  There’s working out how to sell all our ‘stuff’, learning about the tech that we will need as full time bloggers, from photography, go pros, video editing software, You Tube channels, Gimbals, drones and so much more that I haven’t even heard of yet.

I was keen to get some basics done, to help promote the blog and our journey – and it has been a very eventful week.

Our first TREAD the Globe T shirt  was delivered.   We initially only ordered one to see what it looked like and check the quality, but were pleased with the results.   I decided that we needed a message on the shirt “Blogging / Vlogging in progress” so people know what we are doing, rather than looking like a complete loony whilst we have fully blown conversations to a go pro, as we walk around and it may give a bit more credibility when we ask complete strangers for a photo.  Let us know what you think of it.

So to clarify Vlogging is video blogging. It’s not the same as flogging so I haven’t started to enjoy getting whipped !!

 

We also managed to get some great publicity through both the local newspaper (The Shropshire Star) and BBC Radio Shropshire.  Sophie Madden the chief reporter for the paper came over to the house to interview us, on our plans to sell up and TREAD the globe for evermore and to discuss Marianne’s plans to donate a kidney to her best and longest friend Katie Bridgett.

 

Sophie Madden Chief Reporter

 

She is an amazing woman and there’s not people that would go through this for their friends.    At this time we are not allowed to say where or when the surgery is taking place as there are a total of four people involved as Marianne is not a direct match with her friend.  Over the coming months we will share our experiences on this and hope that we can raise awareness of the living donor scheme to help other people in similar situations.  Marianne also wants to show the world that there is life after donating a kidney to hopefully inspire people to do the same.  She wants to show that you can still jump out of an aeroplane, swim with sharks and travel the world.  I’m not convinced on the jumping out of a plane, as she has already ticked this off her bucket list) but Marianne is definitely someone that’s up for a challenge – any other suggestions on things for her to do after she has recovered are welcomed !!

Huckleberry Finn eat your heart out

We had great fun with Steve the photographer as we ran around the house looking for a couple of sticks and some chequered shirts so we could end up looking like we were from the adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The rucksacks I had prepared looked far too normal!

 

A picture in the TREAD van

 

 

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On Saturday morning we had the pleasuring of going to the BBC Radio Shropshire studio for a live interview with Eric Smith, the morning presenter.  As we waited it gave us a similar feeling to that of a job interview.

We had originally been told that the interview would last about 20 minutes but Eric was certainly very curious about our plans and the fact that so many people talk about selling up but no one actually does it.  As we had already gone through a long thought process of why we wanted to TREAD the Globe permanently we were able to answer all of his questions.

He did think we were insane when we explained we wanted to swim with schools of hammerhead sharks off the Galapogos Islands and I am not sure we fully convinced him that sharks are really misunderstood fish!!!

The interview flew by as Eric made us feel so welcome, and it lasted about 40 minutes.  We ended up staying in the studio until Eric’s show had finished.  But, before we left, we agreed we would go back to the studio as we set off on our travels for a cuppa and a chat !!

With DJ Ryan Kennedy

 

 

Overall the first week as a blogger has been very busy, but most enjoyable.  Watch out for our next post as we head off to the Shrewsbury’s annual Dragon Boat race.

Why I decided to quit my job & sell my belongings to travel the world

Why I decided to quit my job & sell my belongings to travel the world

We have always loved to travel and experience what our wonderful world has to offer but I would never have actually imagined, that I would one day quit my senior management job to travel permanently…..

As we sat on a beach on the beautiful island of Mabul, in Sabah Borneo, Marianne and I listened with envy as a couple told us they weren’t on holiday – they were just travelling.  Here we were, having saved up all year, for a 3-week rushed trip around the far east, cramming in as much as we could, talking to a couple, who seemed to have no stress and we’re casually talking of their plans, saying maybe we’ll head here or there.  They weren’t the only people we had met on our travels that had such a lifestyle, and deep inside it planted a seed that grew over several years.

  On the  beach in Borneo

Both Marianne and I are from hard working career minded families. I was brought up to study hard, (although as a child I didn’t really- sorry Dad!) to work hard, go for that promotion and save to get a mortgage for a nice house. As we went through life together, we worked hard so we could afford the mortgage and all the wonderful belongings we have accumulated over the many years since we have been married.

I spent many years working every hour possible in 5 star hotels in Singapore, Australia and England.  In this time we had even bought our own pub and set up an internet business called Martial Mania selling Martial Art training DVDs (as one job was never enough!).

I spent the last 9 years as the Head of Catering Services at The Shrewsbury and Telford NHS trust.  Marianne also works for the NHS and it highlights the fact that life is very precious and every moment should be enjoyed to the fullest.  As you get older you do realise that none of us are guaranteed a long-life journey.

One day, it hit us like a bolt of lightning.  So here we are in our late 40’s, with a nice house full of beautiful things, most of which we don’t use.    We both started questioning our purpose and goals in life.  What’s next?  Do we keep working for another 20 years until we reach retirement age and during this time we can pay the numerous bills and buy more stuff?

We both work very hard, to be able to live in a nice house and buy things that we think make us happy, but do they really? Is there not more to life than doing the same routine every day, and chasing the latest gadget or updating tech because your TV doesn’t have 4k (which none of the TV channels currently televise anyway)

I know, that when I am on my death bed, I will not be lying there saying that I wish I had more money in the bank, I wish my house was cleaner or I wish I had worked harder.  I can however, see myself wishing I had walked the great wall of China (or the great wall of Mexico if President Trump ever builds it) or wishing I had dived with a school of hammerhead sharks off Galapogos.  Yes, we both like diving with sharks, who are misunderstood, but I’ll save that for a future blog post.

So, Marianne and I got into a discussion, what do we want to do when we retire, what would we do if our numbers came up and we won the lottery and what would we do if we knew we only had a year to live?   The answer for all of these questions was that we would quit our jobs and travel the world forever more.

But was it possible?  How could we afford it when we haven’t had the fortune of winning the lottery?  The research then started on how could we do it.  The details on how it’s possible will appear in a future blog post (after we have started) but the key was not to sell our house and initially to live on the rent.

So, as I sat in a meeting, under pressure to get action plans, forecasts, reports, audits etc done, my mind started to drift back to the conversation we had on the beach.  I walked out of that meeting knowing that I would draft my resignation and I emailed it to my boss that night.

 Goodbye office

It is the interactions and experiences you share with people that will give you a much greater sense of fulfilment rather than buying the latest gadget which will only give you short term satisfaction (or so you believe).  The more gadgets and equipment you have, the more it seems that something breaks and needs replacing.

 

 Goodbye tea with Staff at the Princess Royal Hospital Telford

Although travelling and the dream of selling all the belongings you have spent your whole life accumulating, is not everyone’s dream, I would urge you to live your own dream, whatever that is, as expression says “life is not a dress rehearsal its real”!

The first chapter of our new life is beginning, as we plan on quite how we are going to empty our house (yes, we have an attic and garage like many of you – full of stuff) we will initially be blogging about and promoting the wonderful locations and events we have here in the UK.

 Getting rid of all this in the garage may take a while !

Stay tuned for our next post as we get ready to TREAD the Globe.

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