The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

“If you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your own way” - Nichiren


Christmas is a great time of the year to introduce some magical traditions into your family’s advent calendar, especially if these involve giving to those less fortunate or helping charities and other good causes.

The Lanterns at Chester Zoo is a lantern-lit fairytale world with ticket proceeds helping to fund the zoo’s fantastic conservation work.


Visitors not only experience an illuminated Christmas journey, they also help to prevent the extinction of endangered species both in the UK and around the rest of the world.


Now in its sixth year, this years event has been created in partnership with Wild Rumpus, the award-winning specialists in creating extraordinary outdoor events. 

Last night I took my family along to the opening night where we were taken on a magical trip through a Christmas sorting office. 


Young visitors are encouraged to take their own letters to post to Santa.


The journey came to life as twilight fell across the zoo. Theatrical performances, dancers and live musicians were hidden around every corner. 


We were given our own lanterns to guide us on a route filled with an Antelope Narnia, a Spectacled Bear Airship, an Insect Orchestra and, my favourite, a Flamingo cocktail lounge.


It’s a lovely way to spend an evening in the build up to Christmas. 


Although suited to younger children, there's something about illuminations at this time of year which perfectly captures the festive spirit, making it a magical evening for all ages. 


The event will take place on the following dates:

  • 24th - 26th November
  • 1st - 3rd December
  • 8th -10th December
  • 15th - 17th December
  • 20th - 23rd December
  • 27th - 30th December

Tickets can be purchased via The Chester Zoo website

Penhaligon’s, Chester

"Find your perfume before you turn thirty. Wear it for the next thirty years.” - Caroline de Maigret, How to Be Parisian

Throughout my 20’s I rotated between three fragrances, Chanel No. 5 for evenings and Alien or Flowerbomb for daytime. As much as I still love these perfumes, I felt it was time to find something a little bit more special to take me through my 30s. Unsure of where to begin, I was pleased to learn that Penhaligon’s in Chester offer a fragrance profiling service to help people find their signature scent. 

Penhaligon's is an exclusive British perfumery which dates back to 1870. William Penhaligon launched a barbershop in London where the fragrances were sold. The first perfume, Hammam Bouquet, was inspired by the heady, musky aromas emanating from the neighbouring Turkish baths on Jermyn Street.

The original shop disappeared in 1941 when it was destroyed in The Blitz during the Second World War, but the fragrances remained. Many of the original scents have since been modernised and the company remains committed to using the finest perfume ingredients. There are over 32 perfumes in the collection, both men’s and women’s, in addition to several unisex options. All of the fragrances are made in England and have even earned a Royal Warrant. If it’s good enough for The Royals it’s good enough for me!

I was recently invited by Penhaligon’s to visit the Chester store to experience the profiling service. Fragrance profiling explores which scents you like and dislike and then helps you build a profile to establish the exact type of perfume you are looking for.

The store is perfectly situated in the old Chester Rows. I arrived with my friend and was greeted by the lovely Meghann who is a perfume expert. She showed us around the shop and explained the history of the brand before offering us a cocktail each. Walking around the shop was like stepping back in time, old cabinets house candles, soaps and of course the beautiful fragrances.

We were then taken through to a private room at the back of the store where we were seated on a chaise lounge with some Rococos Chocolates to enjoy while Meghann explained Penhaligon’s history and philosophy. 

Laid out in neat rows on a table before us were lots of little Penhaligon bottles, each filled with individual scents. The bottles are based on William Penhaligon's original design, clear glass adorned with ribbon, which adds to the apothecary atmosphere. 

We told Meghann what our favourite perfumes are, she was then able to decipher which of the scents we would most likely enjoy. She gave us countless fragrances to try, explaining the different notes in each and the history of how they were formulated. One of the most interesting scents was Juniper Sling which was inspired by one of my favourite drinks, Gin! 

Meghann summed the experience up perfectly when she told us that fragrance is “liquid emotion”. Each scent unlocked a different feeling or memory, reminding us of people and places from our past. The sense of smell is tied to the centres in the brain responsible for memories and emotions, which is why we are often transported back in time when we smell certain scents. 

Whilst we were sampling the fragrances, Meghann paid careful attention to how we reacted and made a note of any we liked. After half an hour or so of oooohing and aaahhing at the beautiful perfumes, Meghann was able to narrow our choices down to four each. She then placed a drop of each on our scent points (wrists and inner elbows) and told us to let the fragrance settle for 15 minutes or so and then come back to them to decide. We ate some more chocolates while we deliberated over our choice.

It’s amazing how fragrances take on completely different characteristics once applied to the skin so it is important wear the scent for a few minutes to see how it works on you. Two of the perfumes I had previously liked just didn’t suit me and I was then left with my two favourites to choose from, Vaara and Equinox Bloom. 

Vaara is an Oriental fragrance which can be worn by both women and men. It was launched in 2013 and has top notes of rose water, carrot seeds, coriander and saffron; middle notes of rose, freesia, magnolia and peony. The base notes are honey, white musk, cedar, sandalwood, benzoin and tonka bean.

Equinox Bloom is a recent addition to the collection. It was inspired by high tea and Spring flowers. Notes of Chantilly, Frangipani and Brown Sugar are blended with violet leaves, orange blossom absolute and jasmine sambac, rounded with the deep, Oriental richness of Benzoin Siam and Ambrox.

Having left the scents to settle for some time, there was a clear favourite for me, Equinox Bloom. It has a delicious sweetness to it which then develops into a heavier perfume. Meghann explained that the top notes contain the smallest molecules and are the quickest to evaporate, usually after about 20 minutes. Middle notes generally last about 40 minutes and the base notes, which evaporate the slowest and contain the largest molecules, can last the whole day.

We honestly could have sat there all day chatting with Meghann. She had an incredible knowledge of the fragrances and was able to help us identify our favourite scents. It was such a relaxing and enjoyable experience in beautiful surroundings. Especially so when you have delicious chocolates and cocktails to enjoy at the same time. We left two very happy ladies with a little bit of Penhaligon’s to take home with us wrapped in a lovely gift-bag.

Thank you to Meghann and the rest of the Penhaligon’s team for such a wonderful experience. I can highly recommend fragrance profiling to anyone interested in buying an exclusive perfume. It would make a lovely, memorable gift for a loved one. We thoroughly enjoyed trying the different fragrances. The service is complimentary but is subject to appointment and generally lasts between 45-75 minutes.

22 Eastgate St, Chester CH1 1LF

01244 318 905

Go Ape, Delamere Forest

If I told you that I knew of a way to burn 1,000 calories in less than two hours and that afterwards you will have had so much fun that you will want to do it all over again, you'd probably think I was joking?

My sister-in-law, May, visited Go Ape Tree Top Adventure at Delamere Forest and had such a great time, I asked her to write a guest post about her trip....

We began the day being fitted into our safety harnesses followed by a comprehensive safety briefing at which we were informed that 1 in 1,000 visitors require some form of first aid treatment. There's nothing like a bit of danger to focus the attention! 

The Tree Top Adventure staff are excellent. They take their time to talk you through the safety procedures and really emphasise that, although you're there for fun, safety must always come first.

You're provided with a legal disclaimer to sign to state that you understand that there is danger involved - after all, you are hanging out of trees - and that you promise to follow the instructions of the instructors and pay attention to the safety signs found at each stage.

If you have any concerns the instructors are always nearby and you're provided with a safety whistle should you require their attention.

The location in Delamere Forest is beautiful. We were the first group of the day and there were very few people around. Mist was still on the ground and the sunlight was just breaking through the trees. The course takes you through the forest and to the edge of Blakemere Lake.

Arriving early did have one downside: it was pretty chilly and we had to buy woolly hats to stay warm: I'd recommend bringing a bobble hat and fingerless gloves if you're visiting during the colder months.

During the course you will climb rope ladders, swing like Tarzan, grapple along cargo nets and balance on wobbly bridges. All great exercise. Many of the stages have two routes, a difficult route and an easier option.

You do need a reasonably good level of fitness. If you can climb a flight of stairs twice in quick succession without being too out of breath you will be just fine, and if the going gets tough you can quite easily skip a stage. 

There are five stages in total with the final stage being the toughest.

During Stage 5 you climb to almost twice the height of any of the other stages and the zip wire at the end is the fastest and longest. 

I highly recommend that you wear old clothes and trainer shoes with a thick sole. The landing areas for the zip wires will catch you out (everybody in our group elegantly landed on their bums instead of their feet and as a result ended up covered head to toe in tree clippings and mud!) and the tight ropes could hurt your feet if you wear flat shoes or plimsoles. 

Go Ape is magical. You begin the day climbing into the trees with the worries and trepidation of an adult, yet by the end you've been transported back to your childhood; exhausted, but giggling uncontrollably with the adrenaline rush.

Plan to spend anywhere between 2 to 4 hours there. You'll be having such good fun that the time will (literally!) fly by. 

We booked at short notice and paid £33 per head, so it's not cheap, but it is excellent value for money. 

I can't wait to go back!

Go Ape

0333 220 4361 (there is a £3 booking fee if you book via phone)

Forest Park, Northwich, Cheshire, CW8 2JD

And the proof of the pudding:

Rococo Chocolates

UPDATE: Rococo Chocolates in Chester is now permanently closed.

With Easter kicking off early this year, it's perfectly acceptable to start indulging in Easter treats. I’ve discovered the perfect little place….

Founded in 1983 by Chantal Coady, Rococo Chocolates has elevated chocolate on a par with fine wines by using rich organic cocoa beans. 

The first Rococo shop opened in 1983 on London’s Kings Road, an emporium of fine chocolates, which quickly attracted a loyal following. Soon after two more shops in Marylebone and Belgravia opened and, most recently, a beautiful little shop in Chester which is the first foray outside of London.

Rococo works closely with the Grenada Chocolate Company, a cocoa farm in Grenada to produce fairly traded, ethical chocolate. Rococo has even built a bridge in Grenada to help organic cocoa farmers get harvest from the land over a river. The Cocoa is made into chocolate on the island in a small, solar powered factory.

It is shipped to the UK with a zero carbon footprint, and then added to the Rococo House Blend of chocolate, which is used across the whole Rococo range.

Chantal Coady is like a real life version of Joanne Harris’s Vianne from Chocolat, with a dash of Jo Malone’s facility for mixing unusual perfumes - but she started before either of them.
— Financial Times

I recently visited the Chester store to taste some of the gorgeous chocolates and to learn more about the Rococo Easter collection. 

The store is based at the front of the Chester Grosvenor Hotel and is a warm and inviting Aladdin’s cave of chocolate. I met assistant manager, Peter Kubica, who talked me through the chocolates on offer. 

He explained that the truffles, ganaches and caramels on sale were all hand crafted in small batches in Rococo’s kitchens in London by principle chocolatier Karen Waller and her team. The chocolates are then transported to Chester in heat controlled delivery vans to protect the chocolate. Rococo suggest that the chocolates must be stored in a cool dark place at around 18°C, avoiding refrigeration if possible. 

There are all sorts of intense flavour combinations dotted around in beautiful packaging. My favourite of the chocolates was the Anglesey sea salt caramel ganache. Chantal Coady believes the Rococo team were “the first people to create salted chocolate.”

The Easter collection includes exclusive Roald Dahl eggs for children. One of which is filled with 6 milk and white chocolate green mini crocodiles. 

A cube of ‘Superior Seagull’ Fleur de Sel eggs, salted caramel ganache covered in milk chocolate.

Various packs of colourful Hunting Bunny Foiled Easter eggs. These would be perfect as an Easter Sunday treat or for egg hunt prizes! 

A cube of 5 praline quail eggs. Realistic looking with a French hazelnut praline.

‘Rococo City Farm’ - milk and white chocolate praline animals from the Rococo farm. Ideal for children, containing praline bunnies, ducks, lambs and chickens.

A ‘stroppy teenager’ Easter egg, containing 4 praline quail eggs and 4 salted caramel Superior Seagull ganache eggs. 

Half a dozen real hens eggs blown and filled with delicious fine hazelnut praline in a cute egg crate.

And my favourite, a hand-painted Easter bunny made with white chocolate and backed with fine milk and dark chocolate.

We left with bags full of goodies to try at home and promises to return for a chocolate tasting evening which the Chester store frequently hosts.

If you’re unable to visit any of the Rococo stores in person, you can buy the treats online at as well as Harvey Nichols and John Lewis. 


Chester Grosvenor Hotel, Eastgate, Chester CH1 1LT

T: 01244 895 610

La Brasserie, The Chester Grosvenor

There aren’t many restaurants that can keep custom for decades but The Chester Grosvenor does just that. I was first introduced to The Grosvenor by my parents, who have dined there for nearly 30 years. In all the time that we have visited, it has never disappointed. 

The Grosvenor was established in 1865 and has been at the heart of Chester for the past 150 years. Located in the centre of the beautiful Roman city, alongside the iconic Eastgate Clock, it has become one of the city’s greatest landmarks, set in a grand black and white Grade II listed building.

Inside there is a luxury hotel and spa with two restaurants; 'Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor' (formerly known as The Arkle), which has retained its Michelin star for 26 years, and La Brasserie, an elegant bar and restaurant set at the front of the building overlooking Chester’s cobbled high street. 

The interior of La Brasserie oozes Parisian charm with black leather chairs, granite tables and oak-panelled wood. The menu is similarly inspired by sophisticated French cuisine. 

I visited the restaurant last weekend with my parents. Upon arrival we were given a menu each and were told that we could select dishes from either the Light Bite menu, served in the bar area, or the main à la Carte. We opted for the à la Carte menu and were then shown through to the restaurant. 

While we studied the menus we were offered some homemade bread which was served in a wooden boat accompanied by creamy salted butter. The freshly baked bread is one of my favourite things about The Grosvenor. The selection on offer is impressive and we’ve been known in the past to order a banana loaf to take home with us (which was baked there and then for us by the chefs). 

Although we hadn’t planned to eat so much, the menu got the better of us and before we knew it we had ordered a three course meal. 

I began with a French Onion Tart (£9.95) which had salt baked beets, creme cru and frosted walnuts. 

My mum opted for Dived scallops (£13.95) served with Yogurt, Indian spices and golden raisins. 

My dad had Artichoke Soup and Brioche (£7.95) poured over the truffle and chestnut dumpling in front of us. 

For mains, both dad and I had Peperonata (£16.95). This was baked burrata cheese with winter pumpkins, a crispy duck egg and toasted seeds. Possibly one of the best, if not the best, meals that I’ve ever had. Full of flavour and beautifully presented. 

My mum had Gressingham Duck (£21.95) served on a salad of dandelions, burdock root and smoked Magret. 

Finally we went all out and ordered a dessert each (purely for blogging purposes, of course). My dad chose to have a cheese board at £8.95. The selection of Artisan style cheeses are as good as the homemade breads and are selected from a specialist cheese trolley.

Mum had Cafe Gourmand (£8.50), this was a tasting plate of mini desserts including a macaron, rose turkish delight, chocolate with champagne spirals and a lemon parfait. 

I had the Caramelia chocolate miroir (£6.95). A real treat of caramel chocolate mousse served with cocoa crisps, popcorn ice and salted kernels. 

The food was outstanding, as always. The serving team were all excellent, extremely efficient and very accommodating of me photographing the meals whilst they were serving. 

After our mammoth meal we bid farewell to the hotel’s top-hatted doorman and went for a little walk around the beautiful city of Chester. 

It’s not the cheapest of places to dine but if you have a special occasion to celebrate, I’d heartily recommend La Brasserie at The Chester Grosvenor.