Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Birmingham's Best Dog Walks!

As dog owners there are few things better than a long stroll in a beautiful location where your dog can run free safely. We are lucky that Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in Europe so wherever you are you're never far from a park. It's one of the reasons we choose to move here.

So in no particular order here are our recommendations for parks to enjoy with your four legged friend!

Cannon Hill Park
Depending on what you want from your park you can find playgrounds, mini theme parks, lakes, rivers and mini golf! One park combining it all is just outside the city centre and is called Cannon Hill park. Complete with a cafe and plenty of space for dogs to run free or chase squirrels this park is family friendly and great on warm summer days.

The MAC is an activity centre that holds art and music fairs on a regular basis and there are tennis courts if you fancy trying your hand. Plus it has a cafe and toilets so you can spend the day in the park and have everything you need.

Or if you feel even more energetic Cannon Hill also does park runs at the weekend! Turn up at the wrong time and you could well find yourself swept up in a crowd of joggers.

The only downside is you have to pay for parking (£2 for 4 hours or £3 all day - at time of publishing).

If you want more info and location details all park related activities and details can be found here.

Kings Heath Park
Not far from Cannon Hill is Kings Heath Park. This park has the added benefit of a garden centre if you time it just right - it seems to open odd hours but mostly during the week. You can also find puppy schools and dog socialising classes. The reason we love Kings Heath park is an area towards the back of the park, there is a mix of woods and a sunken garden space. It's the perfect spot to let dogs wear themselves out. Every single time we've been we have met lovely dog owners who have had the same idea. It's a safe, enclosed area that means you can easily keep an eye on even the most energetic dog.

Car parking is free but is often busy but you can park on the street near by.

All park details can be found here.

Warley Wood
Our recent favourite discovery is Warley Wood. A green flag park and one of the UK's current top 10 parks this area has a history that you can explore inside the grounds. With trails for Halloween, dog socialising events and plenty of other activities this park has a lot to offer. There's even a golf course!

The signs tell you the history of the park and the fact that it goes back over 500 years. Originally it had Warley Abbey within the 100 acres but only the gardens still exist. (Some of us were more interested in the signs than other...Bisbee!)

Located at the end of an urban area of Bearwood in the area of Smethwick we spent the drive up convinced the Sat Nav had the wrong place. Thankfully it didn't and the unfolding green space provides the much needed breath of fresh air.

We parked in the street but there is a car park.

The area is one third woodland and with 450 million leaves falling in the park each autumn it's the perfect location for dogs who loves leaves or just for autumnal strolls. However if your dog is an all out runner the slight hill that leads up to the woods is a perfect place to wear them out.

The circular routes around the park take less than an hour so it's great for an easy walk but still offers the variety of scenery you'd get to enjoy from the bigger parks.

You can even find fairy doors on some of the trees....this puppy was happy about that!

All details can be found here.

Wasley Hills Country Park
A long time favourite park of ours is Waseley Hills Country Park near Rubery. As the name suggests the area is hilly but it is beautiful. Voted the number one dog park in Birmingham we tried it out over a year ago and have taken everyone we know, and their dogs there. The park has a small cafe and toilets but after you head through the first gate you are in the country.

Highlights for us include the wood that fills with bluebells in spring and the hilltop views over the Cotswold's and Malverns. You also get a great view of Birmingham city if you follow the suggested loop. There are actually a few trails you can follow but we have learnt to go our own way. It's hard to get lost.

We've bumped into cows grazing and have often taken picnics to sit and enjoy the view. We have watched Bisbee run up and down the hills until she's laying out huffed and puffed and we managed to walk 5 miles without noticing. It really is a great location to stretch your legs.

With 150 aches in total this area has plenty to explore.

We do suggest taking at least a drink but a picnic is always appreciated after the hill walking. It's also a good idea to take stuff you can carry easily as there is a lack of bins.

It's also worth noting that you have to pay for the car park. It's not much but does require change and there is no cash point for miles!

All details about the park can be found here.

Clent Hills
10 miles south of Birmingham and technically in Worcestershire are the stunning Clent Hills. Owned by the National Trust this beautiful park has plenty to over - especially if you have 4 legs! Although for those of us on two the views alone are worth the walk.

The National Trust has put in an accessible path meaning those with buggy's or that struggle with uneven surfaces can get to the main vantage point. You know when you get there because of the Clent stones.

Although if you fancy a more adventurous ascent try the horses mane - starting from the road this route is steep and under the cover of trees. Bisbee loved it as there were plenty of squirrels to chase and trees to runaround. We liked it because it was shaded from the sun.

From the top of the hill you can make your way down into woodland towards an abandoned tower or through into open fields. Like the Wasley Hills you are surrounded with great views - the Cotswold's, Malverns and Birmingham are all visible on a clear day. There are also plenty of suggested trails to follow.

This park also has toilets and a cafe. If you are a National Trust member the car park is free, if you aren't you do have to pay. Or there is plenty of road parking.

You can find all the details here.

Have we missed any?

Happy Autumn

Thursday, 19 October 2017

You Should Experience City Kitchen At Least Once And Here's Why

Earlier this month we received a package from City Kitchen containing a wonderful selection of pre-prepared meals. As newbies to the whole 'here's your dinner, just heat it up concept' we were apprehensive. We thought it was about time we embraced it though and it was exactly why we jumped at the chance to be taste testers for City Kitchen.

From the moment we opened the box we were impressed. What was in front of us was a multi coloured selection of food from around the world. You have to check out their website to see that they aren't afraid of colour....

The concept is simple, a variety of fresh, ready made meals inspired by travel. It means you can eat dishes from around the world from the comfort of your own home. Who doesn't love that?!

On opening the box there was a very simple task that needed completing first - who would eat what meal. Here's the thing, I'm kinda fussy. Part of the reason I wanted to try the range was have the opportunity to try something new and not risk doing it in a restaurant.

Laura's selection was:

My selection was:

Laura found it hard to pick a favourite but when pushed thought the paella was her standout. For me it was the katsu chicken curry. Much more flavourful than the one I get from Wasabi.

The surprising thing with these meals is that they are nothing like the usual microwavable meals you usually get. Maybe it's the fact that they haven't been frozen, maybe it's the combination of flavours, it's also definitely down to the quality of ingredients. The taste of the meat was superior to any pre-prepared meal we've ever had and the amount of meat in each dish was more than you'd expect. For example the pulled pork steam bun (which was fantastic) had so much pulled pork in it we actually shared it!

You can tell that thought has been put into each dish. The chef's have clearly done their research and stayed true to the authentic flavours while making them accessible in an easy to eat format.

We're suckers for great packaging and this brand is on point with theirs. The colours grab your attention but my favourite thing was that I had something to read while eating as each meals wrapper gives you details about the meal.

For example here's the story behind the katsu chicken curry:

If you look online you can also get all the nutritional info, see here.

Or the pulled pork bun straight from the markets in Taiwan - such a great lunch!

In addition to the great tasting food they also have great competitions if you check out their chatter page here. It's as if they love travel as much as we do. They are clearly a brand that want to engage with the people they are feeding.

So in short if you want great tasting food, with delicious flavours that you don't have to cook head to your nearest Tesco and find City Kitchen dishes in the fridge area. You certainly won't regret trying them.....and it's cheaper, tastier and healthier than a takeaway!

Let us know which ones you try......

Disclaimer: We were given the opportunity to try City Kitchen free of charge, however were under no obligation to provide a positive review - all above opinions and experiences are our own

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Is Raw Feeding Really Best For Your Dog?!

When we were given the opportunity to try Poppy’s Picnic, raw dog food with a difference, we were really excited and hopeful.

Bisbee has always been an incredibly picky eater – after hearing from the vets that she was underweight numerous times- though we were always trying to get her to eat, we settled on a combination of kibble, wet food mixed in, AND a slice of sandwich chicken for every meal to try to get her to eat, which she still only did begrudgingly. We have daily conversations with her about eating her dinner, and worry about it quite a bit.

We’d wanted to try her on a raw food diet for a while because of the health benefits. We knew with the above combination we weren’t feeding her the most nutritious meal, our focus had been on just trying to get her to eat full stop. So whenever she has been fed proper meat in the past, she has gobbled it up. Would raw meat finally mean that we wouldn’t be pressuring her to eat her dinner?

We hadn’t tried raw previously because of the prep time we believed it would take, the potential cost, and because handling raw meat on a daily basis is not my idea of a good time. When we looked on the Poppy’s Picnic site, we were pleased to see their ‘RAWPLICITY’ system means that the food is all prepared for us – meat mixed together with vegetables and healthy ingredients to give maximum nutrition to the dog with minimal disgust from us, and no cereals or fillers in sight! The cost wasn’t bad at all either. We worked out we’d be spending about £0.80 per day on Bisbee’s food – that is a small price to pay for an eating, happy, healthy dog! I ordered a trial box that had an assortment of chicken, beef and lamb meals right away.

(Excuse the dead plant, but I loved how much effort they went to to hide the package when we weren't home!)

When they arrived in their frozen pack, Bisbee was immediately interested. She seemed to know (or hope!) it was for her, and we were impressed with the adorable packaging as we put each pack into the freezer. We had calculated how much of the food she would need per day based on her weight – and though it looked less than what we currently feed her, we read that dogs need less raw food as it is so high quality, and not filled with cereals etc. Bisbee needs roughly half a pack per day, split over two meals.

We decided to introduce her to Poppy’s Picnic slowly, by putting in a little kibble in with it. When we first put down her bowl with her first meal of Poppy’s Picnic chicken, she looked so suspicious and kept checking with us – was it a mean joke, or an accident, that we had given her actual meat for dinner? With lots of reassurance, she gobbled up the entire meal within the first 10 minutes – which for Bisbee is a record, and for us, a relief!

The next morning, we put down her bowl expecting the same performance. But to our dismay, she didn’t touch it for a few hours. It turned out that the quality food is so filling, that she wasn’t hungry in the morning! We learned to give her a little less, which meant before long she was eating as soon as we put the bowl down, without any encouragement from us – something that had never before happened in the three years we have had her!

Another thing we really like about Poppy’s Picnic is the support you get from the company. We found that Bis wouldn’t eat the lamb one (crazy dog, I don’t know many pups that are picky about the type of raw meat they get!), so when we told Rebecca she suggested we mix it in with the chicken or beef, which indeed worked! Dylan, Rebecca, and the team are always on hand to help with answers to questions or suggestions.

If you considering raw  it is well worth checking out the website: Poppy's Picnic , there is a tons of advice, it shares exactly what goes into the food and how they decide what each meal should include. There is also a blog and FAQ question section full of useful info. 

We were very impressed with Poppy’s Picnic, and what it did for Bisbee. We’ve found that she eats more regularly, better quality food, has a bit more energy, and we are relieved that with the system of defrosting one at a time and keeping it covered in the fridge means the kitchen doesn’t smell, and there is minimum handling of the food.

We’d recommend you try Poppy’s Picnic for your pup! They’ve kindly given us a 10% off code for you to order your first individual packs with! The code is bisbeelovesfood. If you do give it a go, please let us know! We’ll definitely continue using Poppy’s Picnic for Bisbee’s food.

 Disclaimer: We were given the opportunity to try Poppy's Picnic free of charge, however were under no obligation to provide a positive review - all above opinions and experiences are our own.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Gay Travel - Is It Any Different To Straight Travel?!

Gay Travel, travelling when gay - whatever you want to call it's a bit like gay marriage. We call ourselves married not gay married and we travel not gay travel, but anyway there is a distinction in some peoples minds. When travelling to certain places our relationship, our behaviour could get us into a difficult situation. We have to be aware of that. 

LA is super LGBT+ friendly
Virgin Holidays together with Attitude and OnePoll surveyed 1000 LGBT+ people and 1000 straight people  in August 2017 and September 2017 and we wanted to share some of their findings.

As a gay couple who frequently travel, acceptance in other countries is important to us. When we are on holiday we want to relax, be ourselves and enjoy what the destination has to offer. What we don't want to do is change our behaviour or try to hide our relationship.

The survey results were sent to us with the headline 'LGBT+ TRAVELLERS ADMIT TO GOING BACK INTO THE CLOSET – CITING CONCERNS ON DISCRIMINATION' - it got our attention.

Virgin Holidays have also put together this video entitled 'What if we treated straight couples like we treated gay couples on holiday? We thought it was brilliant.

In addition to the video Virgin Holidays have a page on their website dedicated to LGBTQ+ travel called 'lose the labels' - find it here. It is part of Virgin Holidays three year plan to become one of the friendliest LGBT companies in travel. The focus includes 'empowering staff, educating customers and influencing suppliers. This year the tour operator has focused on using its influence to advance LGBT+ equality in conservative regions such as the Caribbean.'

Sir Richard Branson said: “At Virgin Holidays, we believe everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the right to be whoever they are, wherever they are.  That’s why it is shocking that in today’s society some of us can’t even enjoy a simple holiday without fear of discrimination. It’s fantastic that Virgin Holidays are raising awareness around this important issue.”

And so to the stats:
  • One in three LGBT+ travelers have experienced discrimination – including judgement and ridicule
  • This includes being stared at (58%) or laughed at (35%) and a third (29%) had been verbally abused
  • One in ten LGBT+ travelers have been threatened with physical violence on holiday
  • Two thirds of LGBT+ travelers even feel uncomfortable with everyday activities such as applying sunscreen to their partner’s back

Based on these figures Laura and I have been lucky. We have had attention when holding hands but mainly from young men asking to 'join in' - although I'm not sure walking down the street holding hands is something they actually want to do :D

Not our best pic!
The only country we have ever felt being gay was an issue was Russia. Our post on the trip is here. While nothing was said, or nothing we understood was said,we were given a room with two single beds despite booking a double and every night we pushed them together only for them to be separated every day.

Turns out that we aren't alone, in the survey results showed: 'hoteliers played a big role in the issue with a third of LGBT travelers saying they feared judgement from hotel staff and more than half have had their relationship status questioned, including being offered single hotel rooms and having their beds separated by housekeeping staff.'

While unsurprising in some cases the stats were also downright sad:

  • Eight out of ten couples refusing to hold hands on holiday at all, with more than half refusing to hold hands in the comfort and safety of their hotel
  • LGBT+ couples said the discrimination was evident in tourists from around the world (40%) with one in four saying they had been discriminated by other British holidaymakers

I can't imagine not holding Laura's hand and to receive discrimination from a fellow Brit would be dreadful.

Venice Beach where being open and proud was accepted
And here's one final stat: It’s not surprising that 84% of straight couples are at ease showing affection to a partner abroad, in fact, the majority being even more affectionate that when at home. This stands in stark contrast to LGBT+ travelers, with only one in twenty showing open affection with a loved one whilst abroad.

We fall into being the 1 in 20 - maybe we have been lucky with the destinations we have chosen or the fact that we have avoided situations where other have felt the need to couple but I love my wife and showing her that, anywhere any time is something I never want to change.

In Toronto Love is Love
In New York we had a gay state of mind
It was 2012 when we first wrote about the fact that when travelling abroad it's always worth sense checking local laws and the current stand on LGBT rights and sadly things haven't changed a lot in the 10 countries we featured - and it doesn't include Russia where things have taken a step back. The post was here.
Egypt is still on the non-LGBT+ friendly list
Have you ever experienced any discrimination while abroad?

Happy and safe travels wherever you do go!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Travel Guide: Here's Why You Should Visit Matlock Bath and Cromford, Derbyshire, UK

Not two destinations I would imagine are top of many peoples to do list but still worth a visit all the same and here's why!

England, actually the UK, is beautiful. It's hard to go wrong when trying to find a beautiful country walk. I mean only 2% of the UK is actually built on so you have 98% to wander freely in. On a recent trip up to our friends in Sheffield we were lucky enough to add Cromford and Matlock Bath to our 'been there done it list.

Cromford is a Derbyshire village and famous for it's mills. Or it used to be. Now it is a Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site. It's population is less than 2000 and over the years it's main source of industry has switched from the working mills to tourism.

In fact it is a dog walker and canal enthusiasts dream. Thanks to investment the canal paths are walk-able even after rain and the straight layout of the canals make it great for dogs. We spent a Saturday afternoon strolling almost 6 miles along the canal path and back.

Along the route we came across Leawood Pump House. We were lucky enough it was one of the days when the pump house was in full working order so we could see what was involved. The summary is a lot of water and heat. The pump room was taking water from the river and pumping it into the canal. Built in the 1800's the volunteers who operate it dress in traditional clothes and are on hand to tell you about what's involved. It's even dog friendly - as long as they are under control!

On the way back we stopped at High Peak Junction. It is where the now defunct High Peak railway met the Cromford Canal. It doesn't take much imagination to see how the trains would have collected, or dropped off, cargo in the station area. You can even hop aboard an old train to see what it would have been like way back when.

Once we had walked back to the car we were starting to feel a little peckish so agreed that Matlock Bath for a fish and chip supper sounded good.

Less than 5 miles from Cromford is a surprising place called Matlock Bath. Halfway between Buxton and Derby this tiny village is modelled on a seaside resort. As the village has a natural warm spring a bath house was built which attracted visitors from nearby towns as well as high society people - including Bryon who compared it alpine Switzerland! Nowadays it's popular with motorcyclists and those who enjoy a day out.

The facades of the buildings make you feel like you have taken a step back in time and with a great choice of fish and chop shops you can grab supper and relax taking in the slightly bizarre feeling that you are nowhere near the sea. In fact you are in the middle of the Derbyshire Dales.

If you have time to spend in the area in Autumn they have a lantern festival on the canal - it's paid entry - but looked like fun. You can also head up to the Heights of Abraham, via cable car or steep path, named because they look like the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, Canada. The park has existed since Victorian times and offers the opportunity to enter two caves that were previously mined for lead. Sadly the cable cars weren't dog friendly so we didn't go up.

If you are visiting with young kids there is also Gulliver's Kingdom that was voted as the best family day out in Derbyshire! Sadly we skipped this one too.

Our journey back to Sheffield was a picturesque one via the Peaks, it's fair to say that another day out in the north and another list of places we'd love to head back to!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Everyday Myths Busted!

So a while back we wrote this post 'I Am About To Blow Your Mind!' filled with fun facts and address some truths you had grown up believing but weren't sure why.

We received more than a few comments saying that someone had learnt something new so we thought we'd share even more fascinating myth busting facts thanks to the Geek Wrapped team.

Simon from the team shares 'You have definitely heard of the fact that sugar makes kids hyperactive. And of course, you know that you should eat more carrot if you want to improve your vision. It goes without saying all Vikings wore horns (it would not be Vikings with horns, right?) Finally, you have always known alcohol kills brain cells. Now guess what? They are all myths. The GeekWrapped team has done its best to gather as many myths and misconceptions as possible and debunk them in one infographic. You can check the full infographic on GeekWrapped by clicking here.

To get you started we have selected a few of the ones we found interesting:
That's good news right? Not that I go around swallowing gum!

Still super irritating when someone insists on doing it A LOT!

Thankfully neither of us sleepwalk but good to know in case we meet a potential zombie!

Ah ha - I knew this was true I just didn't have the evidence until now. 

Well that's a relief! Still keeping my mouth firmly shut though!

Is your mind blown? Are there any myths you busted that you can share? As you know we love a good fact.