The Ultimate Christmas Tradition

Tradition – “A long-established custom or belief that has been passed on from one generation to another”

Hospitality – “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers

*Oxford Dictionary

 

Day to day life throughout the year is subject to so many unexpected variances and changes in both our personal and professional lives. Therefore, that is why there is something so reassuring and heart-warming about Christmas because no matter what else is going on throughout the rest of the year, you know that November and December are going to full of the aromatic smells of well-cooked home meals; the glittering reflections of illuminating lights and decorations and the pure sense of celebration which radiates from parties and gatherings aplenty. Subsequently, without fail we get so excited for Christmas because we know year in and year out what to expect when it comes to that jubilant time of year. Maybe circumstances in your life will have changed for the better or the worse, but ultimately you are safeguarded in the knowledge that at this time of year, the Christmas spirit will always prevail.

This leads us on to the point of Christmas traditions. Every year we get to revel in the joy of celebrating special days such as birthdays and anniversaries and each year we get to choose different ways to celebrate them. However, when it comes to Christmas, some things will never change and as it is a holiday we celebrate every year, it is undeniable that each and every one of us has some kind of long-established custom that we never fail to enact. This is because since birth, we have been raised to celebrate this wonderful time of the year and so it is irrefutable that rituals and beliefs will have been passed from one generation to the next regarding everything from gift-giving practises to the foods we eat to the order of the festivities to the specific way we decorate our trees and houses.

As we explored in our blog last year , there are traditions which are tied to certain countries. For instance, in Poland, Christmas Eve is known as Wigilia and on this day it is traditional to eat the main Christmas meal (consisting of 12 dishes to represent good luck for the 12 months ahead and the twelve disciples) but it is also only traditional to begin eating when the first star in the sky has been spotted! Alternatively, in the capital of Venezuela, Caracus, it is customary for people to roller-skate to the early morning church services held between 16th and 24th December with roads even closing to accommodate this. Finally, a slightly unusual tradition to us is one in Ukraine where due to the prevalence of the Eastern-European folk tale of the Christmas Spider, Christmas trees can be decorated with ‘cobwebs’ as it is considered good luck to find one.

Therefore, it is readily apparent how we all have our own ways of celebrating whether that is on a country level or purely just on an individual level. However, regardless of culture or geography, you can always count on one universal tradition at Christmas that can be found in any home and that is the indomitable spirit of hospitality. Around the world at this time of year, we may all have differing ways of decorating our trees or choosing when to present our meals, but one consistency is that we are always eager to open our homes to strangers, friends and family so that we can all share in the spirit of the season. Christmas is so beloved by everyone around the world because without doubt you know that this is the one time of the year that you will be reunited with those that you hold dearest to celebrate all the love and joy that this time of the year represents.

At Christmas, it is easy to think that the beauty and magic of the festivities purely radiates from the gifts and the decorations and the parties, however it really radiates from the spirit of unity it fosters. To us, there is nothing more wonderful than this unwavering spirit because as we are part of the hospitality industry, there is nothing more that we strive to achieve each day then providing a warm welcome to all our guests and even if they are staying with us for as short as one night, to make them feel on that one night like they are in a home away from home. This to us is what Christmas is all about – family, friends, love, celebrating and hospitality. No matter who you are and where you come from, this is what this holiday should always centre around. Therefore, it is undeniable that while the world will continue to evolve, subsequently altering our lives with it, we hope that if there is one tradition that will forever stand the test of time, it is that hospitality and the spirit of welcoming everyone and anyone will live on. At the very least, this is a tradition that here at The Spires, we will always practise whether it is Christmas time or not.

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We hope you are all beginning to get the Christmas traditions rolling and would love to hear if you have any unique ones that you would like to share. For instance, is there that one notorious festive jumper which Christmas is just not complete without or is there a certain decoration that can never be evicted from the tree? No matter what it is, we would love to hear it! #SharetheJoy

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Get into the Festival Spirit

festivals

Image Courtesy of: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/

In 2015 we were very excited to open apartments in one of the world’s leading festival cities – Edinburgh. With a schedule comprised of 12 internationally renowned events that cover all disciplines from Films to Storytelling and which are spread out over the year, it is irrefutable how Edinburgh is certainly championing the festival scene. However, did you know that Aberdeen, Scotland’s renowned Oil Capital and Silver City, also has its own dedicated festival group? People often think of the golden sandy shores of the beach or the glittering architecture when they think of Aberdeen, but it is really starting to evolve beyond that and developing a rich multi-cultural entertainment and events base. This has culminated in the formation of “Aberdeen Festivals” so that there can be a collective effort towards raising awareness of the festivals and enhancing their offering. The success of “Aberdeen Festivals” is already prevalent with it being discovered how it generated a £2 million economic impact for the region – thus reflecting the number of visitors the collective events enticed and inferring the quality of the festivals. Therefore, if you are thinking of visiting a Festival city, why not choose Aberdeen with its burgeoning events scene that predominantly takes place between February and November? Amidst the stores, the dolphins and the castles, soak in culture in a different way and with 10 prime festivals underlying “Aberdeen Festivals”, there is at least one Festival that will appeal to everyone.

SPECTRA – starting off the year in a blaze of bright light, SPECTRA is officially Aberdeen’s Festival of Light which helps to brighten up the dark winter days. Involving international artists collaborating with Scotland’s creative community, this is a festival that touches all the senses. From gallery installations to imaginative works in public spaces, this festival truly celebrates all that is unique and amazing about the city’s creative scene.

Dates: Normally held in February

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/spectra/

Aberdeen Jazz Festival – for the music fans out there, the Aberdeen Jazz Festival organised by Jazz Scotland should definitely be headlining your list as it is one of the city’s headlining music festivals. Attracting renowned jazz players and incorporating free lunchtime performances for those making their way into the jazz scene; the festival truly encompasses all players in the vibrant Jazz scene. Held in a multitude of locations, Aberdeen’s iconic “Blue Lamp” location plays a prominent role in the festival.

Dates: Normally held in March

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/aberdeen-jazz-festival/

LOOK AGAIN – If the dazzling lights of SPECTRA caught your eye, so will the equally aesthetically attractive LOOK AGAIN festival which is centred on visual arts and design. For a number of days, you have to really be on the lookout as the city centre with its existing structures such as statues are transformed into imaginative and innovative works of art. Popping up when you least expect them, the works of art will really catch your eye so you have to ‘Look Again’. Seeing really is believing!

Dates: Normally held April/May

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/look-again/

May Festival – the title is not a misnomer, you can certainly expect this festival to occur in May! One of the longest standing events in Aberdeen, the May Festival commenced in 2013 and is centred on one of the city’s renowned higher education institutes – Aberdeen University. Celebrating the world-class research that is consistently being carried out at the university, this festival crosses various disciplines and subsequently is a simultaneous arts and science festival.  Comprising of performances from a wide collection of familiar faces including musicians, authors and chefs, this festival is truly perfect for the whole family with there being over 100 events of all genres to be engaged by across 3 days.

Dates: 27th to  29th May 2016

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/may-festival/

Aberdeen International Youth Festival – as inferred by its name, this festival is truly international in its scale and in its reputation both within the city itself and further beyond on the global stage. Formed forty-two years ago, this festival can now attract over 25,000 performers which only alludes to how well-regarded, popular and prestigious it is. A world-class festival celebrating performance arts and which also prides itself on its intimate chamber and classical music performances; it is bursting at the seams with talent and in 2015 held over 80 performances across the 9 days.

Dates: 29th July to 6th August 2016

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/aiyf/

TechFest – it is not just all about music, drama or visual arts however, Aberdeen even has a dedicated festival to all things technological and numerical. An annual festival where people convene to celebrate four major disciplines, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, this event centres around promoting their attraction in an engaging manner to audience members of all ages.

Dates: 3rd to 18th September 2016

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/techfest/

North East Open Studios – One of the biggest Open Studios events in Scotland, it is more than just a networking opportunity for the artists and designers involved, but is also an excellent opportunity to promote Scottish arts, crafts and galleries and to open their access up to the public. Therefore, be prepared to be introduced to some of the finest talent in Scotland and be inspired by their amazing works in their studios.

Dates:  10th to 18th September 2016.

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/north-east-open-studios/

 

True North – One for all the music lovers out there who are always looking to discover the latest talent, True North is all about celebrating Aberdeen’s very own music scene with concerts aplenty all over the city. Whatever kind of music you love, you are sure to hear it and from some of the up and coming talent as well as well-established acts.

Dates: 23rd to 25th September 2016.

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/true-north/

DanceLive – In its 11th year, the name of this festival says it all with this festival being dedicated to the beautiful world of dance. Specifically focusing on contemporary dance, it is a wondrous opportunity to witness spectacular talent from the dancers and choreographers of national and international companies involved and to bring the world of dance to our corner of the world. Combining both intimate studio encounters and performances held on a larger scale, you are sure to be entranced particularly as the programme has been broadened to even encompass masterclasses and workshops.

Dates:  14th to 25th October 2016.

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/dancelive/

 

Sound – another music festival, but this one focuses more on the discovery of new “sounds” meaning it is all about innovation and new kinds of music that you may never have heard of before. A welcome into a world you may never have expected to enter, you can experience it all across a wide range of concerts and workshops that encompass all unique sounds from acoustic to improvised and experimental. Think you know music – experience “Sound” and really awaken your ears!

Dates: 20th to 6th November 2016

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/dancelive/

Although not run by “Aberdeen Festivals”, an honourable mention needs to go to the Energetica festival particularly as the summer season is luring temptingly in front of us. Energetica is a long-term programme centred around developing Scotland’s Energy Corridor in a sustainable and innovative manner and this focus on energy and the environment is mirrored in the programme of events. In its fourth year, this festival focuses on activities which will bring you in harmony with nature including guided walks, wildlife spotting and tours of gardens. Taking place from May to August, most of the activities are free and provide the perfect itinerary for an adventure basking in the glory of nature.

http://energetica.uk.com/festival2016#August

Castle Crazy

Scotland’s Silver City is known for many things: its beautiful parks that have culminated in it winning numerous “Britain in Bloom” accolades; the tranquility and the fun that its sandy shores provide and a cosmopolitan collection of the biggest shopping and dining brands. However, whether you come to see the nature, the beach, the entertainment of a bustling city or even the glittering granite skyline, there is something else that you can see in particular abundance – castles. We are not just talking about a handful of castles, but over 300 and that is because Aberdeen is fortunate enough to be located on the outskirts of Scotland’s Castle Country. As the title alludes to, if you want to find castles, then you are certainly in the right place as Castle Country has more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK. Consequently, whatever shape, size or colour you like your castles in – you are certainly going to find one that fits the bill!

Therefore, if you are staying with us in our Aberdeen apartments and are looking for a fun day trip full of majesty and rich heritage, make sure to check out Scotland’s dedicated “Castle Trail”. Consisting of 17 castles ranging from dramatic ruins to fairy-tale enchantment, there are so many wonders to explore and many are only an hour or so drive away from Aberdeen. For details of all the 17, make sure to check out http://www.visitaberdeen.com/assets/castletrail.pdf to get your Castle itinerary sorted. However, to give you a taster of all the fun that lies ahead, read on below to find out some of our personal favourites.

  1. Balmoral Castle

When talking about castles in Aberdeenshire, there is certainly one that can never be missed out – Balmoral Castle. Castles tend to have associations with royalty and that is certainly the case with Balmoral Castle because if it being located in Royal Deeside was not a big enough indicator, it is the much beloved holiday home of the royal family and this goes all the way back to Queen Victoria’s time who was actually the monarch to purchase the castle as she loved it so much after visiting it on a romantic break. However, the castle you are seeing today is not actually the original because Queen Victoria had it knocked down and then rebuilt – when you are a Queen, you are able to wield that level of power!

Apart from the royal connection, it is a stunning castle to view in its own right with the majestic grounds and the illustrious ballroom being particular highlights to look out for alongside the special exhibits. Due to the grounds and architecture being particularly well maintained and preserved – it is clear that it will stand the test of time and will be enjoyed for generations to come.

  1. Crathes Castle

Complete with the magic of turrets, towers, wielding staircases and gorgeous grounds, this 16th century tower house has all the enchanting features you associate with majestic castles. Complete with the finest and the most elegant decoration on the inside, particularly keep an eye out (or up!) for the lavishly painted ceilings,  there is also so much more on the outside to explore with over 200 acres of quintessential British woodland and countryside to roam. Between the aesthetic beauty and the sweet-smelling aroma of the luscious rose gardens, this is a castle to hit all the senses. Likewise, it is perfect for all the family with a children adventure’s playpark and most importantly of all, the ultimate UK tree-top adventure: Go Ape!.

  1. Dunnottar Castle

Some of us like our castles in a form that is akin to the splendour of those found in Disney movies, however some of us like them a little bit more dramatic – if so, Dunnottar Castle is the one for you. Exhibiting magnificence in a slightly different form, there is nothing quite like the indomitable, breath-taking cliff-side location of Dunnottar Castle which is rumoured to be one of Scotland’s most impressive ruined castles. Surrounded by the ominous North Sea, this ancient and wonderfully gloomy castle conveys the rich stores of its past. With famous historical figures such as William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots having visited the castle, this is certainly a castle for all the history buffs out there particularly as it was the infamous sight where a small garrison held out against Cromwell’s army for eight months and subsequently saved the Crown Jewels. Likewise, even movie fanatics will be particularly taken by this castle because as it tells the stories that are akin to those only found in the movies, it is no surprise that it has actually been featured as the landscape to many a feature film due to its cinematographic wonder. Therefore if you are wondering why the castle may seem so familiar, that is potentially because you have seen it showcased in movies including Hamlet featuring Mel Gibson as well as Victor Frankenstein (it was even partly inspiration for Disney’s Brave!).

  1. Cragievar Castle

However, for those fonder of the traditional castle type which emanates an ethereal and enchanting atmosphere, look no further than Cragievar Castle. A charming seven-storey castle, what particularly makes this castle stand out is its luminous and iconic pink coloured exterior – certainly one for those little girls who dream of being a princess. If you feel a little bit of magic in the air then it would not be surprising because Walt Disney was so taken by the castle, it is supposedly what inspired his pioneering imaginative spirit to conjure the renowned castle motif associated with the Disney brand. Still home to family portraits and ornate ceilings, the castle retains many of the treasures collected by the Forbes family across their 350 year residence there and it is that family atmosphere that really gives the castle that unique and welcoming spirit.

  1. Castle Fraser

Located only a convenient 16 miles from Aberdeen, if you are looking for splendour and grandness there is no castle that quite fills the brief like Castle Fraser which is one of Scotland’s most impressive baronial tower houses. Dating back to the 15th century, Castle Fraser is really orientated around the stories of its lairds and thus is rooted in Scottish history dating from the medieval and Victorian times. Particular highlights include the atmospheric simplicity of the Great Hall as well as the stunning panoramic views that are afforded from the round tower.

Fancying paying a visit to one, two or more of these castles? Of course! Well about challenging yourself and seeing how many you can visit in one day, or alternatively, how about a holiday dedicated to exploring the riches, treasures and captivating stories of these properties? With each of these castles offering something different, you can never explore too many – just make sure to check the opening times of the castles because they are subject to seasonal operating hours.

Images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmoral_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crathes_Castle

http://www.castlexplorer.co.uk/scotland/fraser/fraser.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunnottar_Castle

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/alford/craigievar/

Food for All!

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How many people do you think suffer from coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease which results in gluten intolerance? Well, according to statistics by Coeliac UK, it is a figure that stands at one in 100; inferring that the condition is not as rare as one may think. However, it is not just coeliacs that have special dietary requirements; it can also be those suffering from allergies such as peanut or egg allergies, dairy intolerance, lactose intolerance or those who are vegetarians or vegans or those who abide by Halal food laws. Whether you elect to follow a special diet or your health mandates it, it is irrefutable that it makes travelling that bit more strenuous and stressful because you have to go through the arduous process of sourcing what hotels, restaurants or cafes can meet your special dietary requirements. However, this is where staying in serviced apartments can start to make a difference because as our apartments come with a fully-equipped kitchen containing modern appliances and utensils from an oven to a microwave, you can forget all the stress as you can dictate what you eat and it is just like being at home.

However, ultimately you are still away from home, and therefore you deserve to engage in a little bit of indulgence. Consequently, we thought we would provide you with a list of only a HANDFUL of the cafes, restaurants and chains that might be able to safely satisfy your palette when you stay in any of our city centre locations. If you have any recommendations, please let us know!

Aberdeen

341218-foodstory-aberdeen
   Foodstory 

Image: http://aberdeen.stv.tv/articles/316760-thistle-street-cafe-foodstory-expand-with-coffee-bar-and-live-music/ 

The Bay, Stonehaven – fish and chips are an iconic part of the British diet but just because you are a Coeliac does not mean you have to miss out as the award-winning The Bay in Stonehaven can griddle or bake their sustainably sourced fish.

http://thebayfishandchips.co.uk/

Soul Kitchen – some restaurants will offer a token ‘gluten-free’ dish to appease their diners, however Soul takes it to a whole new level and even offers a full ‘gluten-free’ menu including burgers and steaks.

http://www.pbdevco.com/soul.html

Las Iguanas – with restaurants in all of our major UK city destinations from Aberdeen to Edinburgh to Birmingham, Las Iguanas is perfect for any diner regardless of their dietary requirements. Embodying both a gluten-free menu as well as a dedicated one for vegetarians and vegans, it is clear that Las Iguanas aims to please all with its tantalising Latin food.

http://www.iguanas.co.uk/

Howies – If you are seeking authentic, local and seasonal Scottish cuisine delivered with a smile, look no further than Howies which also has a location in Edinburgh. With a detailed allergen sheet as well as a myriad of gluten-free; dairy-free and Vegetarian dishes, you will be equally spoilt for choice here!

http://www.howies.uk.com/chapel-street-aberdeen/

Fifi’s Café Bistro – those following a gluten-free diet could not have a better selection to choose from then at Fifi’s Café Bistro – Aberdeen’s very first gluten free eatery. Serving everything from cakes to sandwiches, you definitely will not have to worry about what is safe to eat here.

https://www.facebook.com/fifiscafebistro/

Foodstory Aberdeen– healthy, locally sourced and environmentally friendly; the food could not be more pure or natural than at Foodstory Aberdeen where there is a community focused environment. Having been listed as one Scotland’s top veggie cafes, the food provided is predominantly vegetarian, vegan and raw and unique artisan coffees are also offered.

http://foodstorycafe.co.uk/

Glasgow

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  Topolabamba

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gertie_du/14933965291

Burger Meats Bun – pretty self-explanatory but if you are looking for somewhere that is able to offer gluten free and veggie burgers, you have found the perfect place and it has locations in both Glasgow and Edinburgh! Vibrant and busy, it is definitely one of the top spots in the city to grab yourself a decent satisfying burger.

http://www.burger-meats-bun.co.uk/

Café Andaluz – also with locations in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, tapas tend to be a good choice for those with dietary requirements but Café Andaluz takes it to new levels with a strong range of veggie and wheat free products that mean the menu is equally proportioned and balanced. Choice will not be an issue here!

http://www.cafeandaluz.com/

The 13th Note – are you looking for some musical harmony to accompany delicious food? Look no further than the independent music venue The 13th note which is a vegetarian and vegan café but which also offers a tempting array of gluten free options.

http://13thnote.co.uk/

Topolobamba – Fancying something spicy and hot? Look no further than the delicious Mexican restaurant Topolobamba which has such a rich array of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, it actually highlights on its menu those options which are NOT gluten free.

http://www.topolabamba.com/

Red Onion – when people think of eateries that accommodate special dietary requirements, they tend to think of quirky independent cafes or restaurants that are tucked away. However, Red Onion is an award-winning contemporary, modern restaurant that was started by the internationally renowned chef, John Quigley. Have no worries about only having a few token dishes as Red Onion has all its bases covered from a gluten-free a la carte menu to a vegan set menu to a dairy free menu.

http://www.red-onion.co.uk/

Ushas – we have had Mexican, Latin and Spanish, but how about Indian? Ushas is Glasgow’s only Indian dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurant and it offers a tempting collection of authentic street food.

http://www.ushas.co.uk/

For more information, make sure to People Make Glasgow’s dedicated website which has pages dedicated to Glasgow’s plentiful supply of vegan and gluten free dining options:

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/best-vegetarian-and-vegan-restaurants-in-glasgow

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/things-to-do/food-drink/gluten-free-dining-in-glasgow

Edinburgh

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 Hula Juice Bar

Image: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/students/things-to-do/edinburgh-food-drink

Henderson’s of Edinburgh – if you are looking for a vegetarian option in Edinburgh, it is probably best to start at one of the city’s oldest established vegetarian locations – Henderson’s of Edinburgh. A family run business, the warm service that Henderson’s offers is incomparable and with a bakery, bistro and deli – you know you will find a vegetarian option across all the food groups.

http://www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk/holding.php

The Baked Potato Shop – rather specialist, but if you are a fan of a vegan or vegetarian fresh hot tattie – look no further than The Baked Potato Shop which offers everyone’s favourite comfort food as well as some vegan cakes.

 https://www.facebook.com/thebakedpotatoshop

Loudons – everyone loves a homely bakery and there is nothing quite like this charming and welcoming spacious café which serves all manner of tempting goods from gluten free, dairy free, vegan and nut-free breakfasts and brunches.

http://www.loudons-cafe.co.uk/

Union of Genius – one of Scotland’s first soup cafes, this is the perfect place if you are looking for a homely cuppa of soup to warm the soul. Varying with the seasons and fresh off the hob, it offers an extensive selection of options to satisfy everyone from those who are gluten free to those who are dairy-free, even the accompanying breads, oatcakes and rice cakes are gluten free. Perfect for the winter season!

http://www.unionofgenius.com/

Sugar Daddy’s Bakery – keeping on with the bakery theme, Sugar Daddy’s bakery is a relatively new player on the gluten free block. Everyone fancies a good cupcake, brownie, cookies or traybake and you can eat these guilt-free as they are predominantly dairy free, egg free and vegan. Definitely the place if you fancy treating yourself!

http://www.sugardaddysedinburgh.com/

Hula Juice Bar – are you fancying a tempting cake, a revitalizing juice or a healthy fulfilling smoothie? Make sure to check out the award-winning Hula Juice Bar which caters to everyone from vegans, vegetarians and those on gluten-free diets. It is the perfect place for a pick-me-up and to find a natural cleanse for the soul.

http://www.hulajuicebar.co.uk/

For more information on the best gluten free eateries in Edinburgh, make sure to check out this dedicated blog: http://glutenfreeedinburgh.com/

Birmingham

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  Cosy Club Birmingham

Image: http://www.cosyclub.co.uk/birmingham 

The Warehouse Café

If you want to visit any Vegetarian restaurant in Birmingham, then of course you must want to visit the inaugural one which is widely renowned on the vegetarian scene! Birmingham’s original vegetarian restaurant which serves salivating British and contemporary international dishes as well as gluten-free options, is an award-winning restaurant that is tucked away next to the Bullring and occupies an illustrious spot in both new and old Birmingham.

http://www.thewarehousecafe.com/

Bella Italia

Everyone loves a good authentic Italian pizza or pasta, and whether you are vegetarian or have gluten intolerance, this popular chain can satisfy all requirements! With a clearly signposted menu, you do not have to eat in uncertainty of what you should and should not be eating.

http://www.bellaitalia.co.uk/menu/main-menu/?location=Birmingham

Bistro 1847

A restaurant group to be on the lookout for, 1847 is rapidly expanding across the country and caters predominantly to vegetarians but also to vegans and to those with gluten-free requirements. Modern and creative; it is definitely one to watch and to dine at!

http://by1847.com/

Cosy Club

Cosy is the perfect word to describe this group of restaurants as are the words: vibrant, effervescent, unique and quirky. Comfortable and casual, you can really make yourself feel a part of the furniture in this homely environment that also has dedicated gluten-free and vegan menus which can also be viewed online.

http://www.cosyclub.co.uk/

Henry Wong Harborne

It can be rather a challenge finding a Chinese restaurant that accommodates those with gluten intolerance, however Henry Wong Harborne perfectly fills this gap. With a gluten-free menu that is available on request as well as a dedicated vegetarian one, this elegant and refined Cantonese restaurant will definitely hit the spot.

http://henrywongharborne.co.uk/

Welcome To Royal Deeside

Balmoral (36)

When people come to visit the UK, it is often due to the desire of exploring the rich historic tapestry that is often associated with the country. Indeed people want to explore the scenic landscape and its historical landmarks that tell the enlightening stories of times long gone. Moreover, it is not just the stories of the past they crave, but also those that interweave tales that involve the monarchy and royalty because after all, who does not wonder what it would be like to to be a majestic ruler? Therefore, it is no surprise that iconic Great British landmarks are comprised of renowned attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile and Buckingham Palace which are steeped in history with a royal glow. However, when people think of cities like Aberdeen, more often than not they have associations of a corporate destination, as opposed to a place where they could visit for leisure purposes. While Aberdeen is prime business territory, it is clear that it offers much more than that and while The Spires is located only minutes away from the bustling city centre complete with shops and restaurants, it is also important to consider what lies in the other direction – Royal Deeside.

So you may be asking, what makes Deeside so royal? Well, it is the royalty, Queen Victoria in particular, that has made the area so renowned due to it being a popular holiday destination with them both in the long ago Victorian times and even today with Queen Elizabeth. The phrase, “royal seal of approval” certainly applies in this context! A particular royal landmark that particularly cannot go without being missed is the Balmoral Castle seeing as Prince Albert built Balmoral Castle particularly as a retreat for himself and Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was such a fan of the area, she bought land there and even famously proclaimed “Every year my heart becomes more fixed on this dear paradise“. As a regular holiday destination for the royal family, Royal Deeside is unmistakeably a prime visiting spot for any Royal fanatic. A particular sign of interest to look out for on a trail across the towns and villages that comprise Royal Deeside is the Royal Warrants which symbolises the businesses that are a supplier to the Queen’s household – Ballater in particular is a favourite with businesses from butchers and garages being fortunate enough to have the Warrant bestowed upon them.

A particular highlight of Royal Deeside includes the “Victorian Heritage Trail” which has been a tourist favourite for over 150 years and is where you can even walk in the footsteps of the royalty. Along this trail you will encounter all kinds of quaint, charming and scenic villages and towns such as Banchory, Ballater and Braemar which are in stark contrast to be the fast-paced city life of Aberdeen. Braemar in particular is renowned for its Highland Gathering which is known to be one of Scotland’s best and is a major tourist draw – potentially as it remains a royal favourite.

The other element that makes Royal Deeside so iconic is its absolutely stunning landscape which provides the perfect backdrop for all kinds of activity in nature from walking to cycling to skiing to just pure wildlife watching – it is a tranquil haven away from the bustling streets of the city. While Aberdeen is marked for its sparkling granite skyline, Royal Deeside is renowned for the diversity of its nature and the enchanting atmosphere – from mysterious forests to the gentle tinkle of crystal clear rivers to dramatic mountain faces. Every corner is undeniably a photo opportunity and a chance to escape reality!

From castles including Balmoral, Crathes and Braemar to distilleries to heritage centres, there is so much to found and enjoyed in Royal Deeside whether you are travelling by yourself or with the family. Therefore, when you come to stay with us in Aberdeen, do not feel restricted by the city boundaries – there is so much more to be found on a day trip out of the city; particularly with The Spires sitting at the entrance to Royal Deeside.

To learn more: http://www.visitaberdeen.com/royal-deeside/

                                http://visitroyaldeeside.com/

Image: http://www.lifeofpottering.co.uk/2015/05/the-cairngorms-balmoral-castle.html

Christmas All Over the World

Here at The Spires, we are fortunate enough to have a rather global customer base and so we have the joy of welcoming guests from all walks of life and countries – we even have a rather international selection of staff to match! Obviously at this time we speak a lot about Christmas and the festive period, however not everyone spends it in the same way (and we do not just mean who opens their presents in the morning vs the afternoon!) and so we thought we would take a look at the unique ways in which Christmas is celebrated all around the world.

  1. Sweden – Goats play a major role in the Swedish Christmas festivities with a massive ‘Straw Goat’ being configured in Gavle; a major Swedish City. The ‘Straw Goat’ is so infamous because every year it has to fend itself from arsonists and vandals with it only having survived till Christmas Day 13 times since the tradition began in 1966.

Merry Christmas – God Jul

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Image: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/christmas/9708830/Christmas-2012-The-Swedish-goat-that-takes-Christmas-by-the-horns.html

  1. India – ever thought about decorating a mango or banana tree with tinsel and baubles? Well, instead of the usual fir tree, mango and banana trees (or any tree in reach) are used and mango leaves are even used as a festive form of decoration to spruce up the house.

Śubh krisamas – शुभ क्रिसमस

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Image: https://onmogul.com/articles/strange-and-unique-christmas-traditions-around-the-world

  1. Norway – in Norway, gift exchanges happen on the 24th of December and underneath your tree you may receive gifts from Santa Claus or even more unusually from small gift-bearing gnomes known as Nisse who are an integral part of festive Scandinavian folklore. One of the most renowned elements of a Norwegian Christmas is how every Christmas they donate a tree to the UK as an expression of gratitude to the support that the UK people showed the Norwegians during WW2. You can find the tree in Trafalgar Square, London. Another interesting fact is that a national Christmas tune that has all the Norwegians dancing is called Musevisa – a song about a family of mice welcoming in Christmas! Likewise, on Christmas Eve, all the brooms are locked away so the witch cannot come and steal them.

 

Merry Christmas = God Jul

 

  1. Australia – We traditionally associate Christmas with the winter season however in the land Down Under, this is totally flipped around because Australians actually celebrate Christmas in the midst of the summer holidays. Anyone fancy a barbecue as Christmas dinner or Santa in a pair of shorts? It does happen! Something unique about the Australian means of festive decoration is that their houses are adorned with “Christmas Bush” – a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream flowers. There is even a famous Australian tune (“Six white boomers”) which details how Santa swaps his trusty team of reindeers for a rather unique assemble of kangaroos.
  1. Mexico – In Mexico, you can view the traditional nativity scene from a slightly different perspective on Noche de Los Rábanos in Oaxaca– the Night of the Radishes. On this special day on the 23rd, farmers carve special decorations out of radishes including nativity scenes and human figures with the aim of winning prizes.

 

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Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/156007574563811575/

  1. Poland – An interesting fact about the Polish way of spending Christmas is that on Christmas Eve when the main dinner is eaten (Wigilia), tradition goes that you should not start digging in till the first star in the sky has been seen – you better be hoping for a rather starry night! Likewise, we hope you are hungry because there are traditionally 12 dishes served to represent the bringing of luck for the following 12 months of the New Year and to represent the 12 Apostles.

Merry Christmas – Wesołych Świąt

  1. Japan – only in recent decades has Christmas really taken off in Japan but as opposed to being a predominant religious holiday, it is more about joy and happiness. As a result, it is not such a family holiday but actually one more for the lovers out there. Christmas Eve is the highlight of the season and it is a day which is almost akin to Valentine’s Day due to the feeling of romance in the air with couples getting together to exchange presents. Therefore, have fun trying to book a restaurant on the 24th! Of course, what is a meal without dessert and while Christmas cake is an equally traditional dish in Japan, it has a slightly different flavour as it is a sponge cake predominantly decorated with whipped cream and strawberries. Likewise, KFC tends to be the family favourite with sales for the famous fried chicken brand going through the roof on Christmas Eve due to Western advertising!

Merry Christmas – Meri Kurisumasu

  1. Russia – It is not the 24th, 25th or even the 26th on which Christmas is celebrated, but actually the 7th of January. This is in keeping with the Orthodox Church which uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar.

Merry Christmas – С Рождество́м

  1. Czech Republic – The Czech Christmas is full of rather unusual superstitions. For instance, with their backs to a door, single ladies will throw a shoe over their shoulder and if the toe lands pointing towards the door, then this means they will be married within the year. Likewise, if you want to be doubly sure of your fate, on the 4th of December an unmarried lady will place a cherry tree twig in water and if it blooms before the 24th, this is another sign of a wedding on the horizon. There is also a superstition in regards to Christmas Dinner in that if someone manages to successfully fast the whole of the 24th, they will witness the “golden pig”.

Merry Christmas – Veselé Vánoce!

 

  1. Venezuela – There is a rather odd custom in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, whereby between December 16th and 24th, the roads are closed – in order to enable people to roller-skate to the daily mass.

Merry Christmas – Feliz Navidad

 

  1. Ukraine – fancy a Christmas tree with a Halloweeny twist? Well, in Ukraine, spider webs are used as a unique way of decorating the tree. Fear not, the webs are fake but the story behind the tradition is that it will help to garner good luck because there is the legend that a poor family went to bed full of sadness that they could not decorate the tree. However, the spiders in the household took pity on them by decorating the trees with their webs and so the next morning when the family woke up, the webs had turned into gold and silver – changing their fate forever.

Merry Christmas – z Rizdvom Khrystovym

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Image: https://onmogul.com/articles/strange-and-unique-christmas-traditions-around-the-world

  1. The Netherlands – The most important day of the holiday season is on December 6th, when Sinterklaas comes to town with his servant “Black Peter”. They arrive in style on a steamboat (as Sinterklaas does not live in the North Pole, but oddly in Spain) and when they land ashore, bells ring out in celebration.

Merry Christmas – Prettig Kerstfeest

  1. Estonia – A very historic and important Estonian Christmas tradition is how on the 24th, the main celebration day at Christmas, people go to a sauna as a family before the festive activities.

Merry Christmas – Häid Jõule

  1. Italy –January 6th, on Epiphany Eve, is also a special festive day in Italy where there is a slightly different kind of gift-giver. It is not Santa arriving on his sleigh, but an old lady on a broomstick who is considered as a good witch and who goes by the name of ‘Befana’. Like Santa however, if you have been a good child then you will get your candy but if you have been naughty, expect that rather depressing lump of clay!

Merry Christmas – Buon Natale

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 Image: http://www.quirkyguide.com/event/new-year-witch-italy

  1. Iceland – How many of us have asked for more than one Santa? Well, in Iceland, your hopes and wishes would be answered because they do not just have one Santa, but 13 and they go by the name of “Yule Lads”. However, there are still not 13 Santas roaming about the North Pole and flying in by sleigh, as the “Yule Lads” reside in the mountains and they traverse down the mountains one after the other to hand the children their gifts.

Merry Christmas – Gleðileg Jól

 

  1. Canada – What could be more magical than receiving a letter back from Santa once you send him that all-important list? Well, in Canada the magic comes true because if you write to SANTA CLAUS, NORTH POLE, H0H 0H0, CANADA, then you could receive a letter back! Santa can handwrite or type the letters in over 30 languages including braille.
  1. Greenland – Looking for an alternative Christmas dinner? Well Greenland has some rather unique culinary specialities including Kiviak, which is a small auk (a bird) which has been wrapped in a seal skin. It goes through a rather extensive preparation process with it being buried for approximately 7 months and it is then eaten once it has decomposed.

Merry Christmas – Juullimi Pilluarit

  1. Philippines – We have all said at some point that we wished Christmas was every day and while this is not a custom in any country, if you really want to make the most of the festive season, go to the Philippines. The Philippines are known as having the longest running Christmas celebration in the world with it not being uncommon for festive tunes and Christmas carols to have been heard since September and lasting till early January.

Merry Christmas – Maligayang Pasko

 

  1. Austria – Renowned as being a stunningly beautiful country, particularly in the winter season, Austria actually takes a rather scary turn in the Christmas season with men dressing up as “Krampus” – a devil/demon kind of creature who threatens to beat misbehaving children with branches. Their purpose? To scare poor unsuspecting kids and adults – it is Christmas with a dark side!

Merry Christmas – Frohe Weihnachten

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Image: http://checkhookboxing.com/showthread.php?28320-Happy-Krampus-Day-from-Austria!

  1. Portugal – The traditional Christmas feast in Portugal is known as “consoda” and what makes it so unique is that an extra place is set at the dinner table; normally to represent a deceased relative. This is seen as a way of generating good luck and fortune for the family in the following year.

Merry Christmas – Feliz Natal

Wherever you celebrate Christmas and however you celebrate it, we hope you have a magical one with friends and family.

The Month of Mackintosh

Willow Tea Rooms
                                                                                         Willow Tea Rooms

Glasgow is known for many a thing from its dynamic, bustling nightlife to its luscious array of green spaces to the world-renowned warm hospitality offered by its citizens; however what also sets it apart is its exquisite architecture. Barcelona, you can keep your Gaudi as in Glasgow we have our own architectural master known as Charles Rennie Mackintosh. A Scottish-born artist, designer and architect who was an integral influence in the UK Art Nouveau scene, Charles Rennie Mackintosh is remembered as Glasgow’s most famous son and when you see firsthand his architectural masterpieces, there is no doubt as to why his work is much revered and an iconic part of the Glasgow arts scene. The fact that there is a Mackintosh trail is just testament to the mark that Charles Rennie Mackintosh left on his native city.

While Charles Rennie Mackintosh is now internationally renowned around the world as the father of “Glasgow Style”, Glasgow itself did not realise or recognize his talent until after his death in 1928 meaning that although he worked almost exclusively in Glasgow for 20 years, he died predominantly unknown. Attending the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh became part of a group of artists which became globally renowned as “The Four”. Collaborating on designs for things like furniture and illustrations, their imaginative art graphics were known to be some of the most innovative of the time and as a result of their imagination, could be considered relatively unusual and much different from anything else being designed at the time – it was in a world of its own. Although his work did not gain much recognition in his native city to the extent where he departed to live in London, his work was held in much higher regard internationally where countries like Germany and Austria really embraced and admired his pioneering style and he even exhibited in cities like Moscow and Berlin.

Apart from his inventive and original style, what really set Charles Rennie Mackintosh apart was his strong belief that the architect was not just responsible for the exterior of the building, but also for every detail of the interior – rooms were to be a work of art themselves. Consequently, like his architectural style, his furnishings were highly differentiated but still with an elegance and intricacy. While making his work iconic posthumous, it was also for this reason that Charles Rennie Mackintosh was not as greatly respected during his life because many private clients did not have the patience to see his projects through from exterior to interior.

Although Charles Rennie Mackintosh may no longer be with us in person, his work is very much alive and still standing meaning future generations are still able to admire it and be inspired. Read below to discover some of the star attractions on the trail:

Daily Record Building: The former residence of the Daily Record paper up until the late 1930s, the Daily Record Building is often forgotten but is a must-see due to Mackintosh’s ability to bring light and colour into the dimly lit narrow alley.

The Hill House: Once a domestic residence for the famous Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie, this property is now owned by the NTS. This is an example of some of Mackintosh’s most famous interior designs with the pieces still remaining in considerable good condition despite the passing of time. A particular highlight is the inclusion of Mackintosh’s renowned ladder-back chairs as well as the stunning use of decorative glass.

House for an Art Lover: One of Glasgow’s key cultural attractions and a 4 star rated tourism attraction, House for an Art Lover is located just 10 minutes from the city centre. Once an entry for a German competition, Mackintosh’s vision was only fully brought to life in the 1990s and within the attraction you can see the comparison between the original designs and the actual implementation.

The Willow Tea Rooms: Some historical sites cease being used for their purposes in the name of conservation, however The Willow Team Rooms is one of the exceptions to this as to this today it is still serving the purpose for which it was designed – a site in which to enjoy the finest Afternoon Tea. Containing the original doors, windows and mirrors, this is a fan favourite location for local, national and international tourists alike.

The Lighthouse: One of his public commissions, The Lighthouse (which was previously the Glasgow Herald building but is now the Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture) is a must-see on the Mackintosh trail not least because it contains a permanent exhibition to the man himself but also because tours of the building can be taken so you can obtain a real insider view of Mackintosh’s work.

Queen’s Cross Church: As the only church designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, this is definitely a stop for his fans particularly as it is relatively unknown and is therefore a real hidden gem that is located just minutes from the city centre. Now home to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, there is a host of exhibitions and events held throughout the year and so there is always a reason to visit, if not just to admire the beautiful stained glass.

Mackintosh House: He designed some of Glasgow’s most exquisite buildings, but what about the place he called home? A particular highlight of the Mackintosh trail has to be a visit to the splendid recreation of Mackintosh’s home within The Hunterian which contains interiors designed by Mackintosh itself. The recreation considered even the smallest details such as the use of natural light and is a marvellous insight into how Glasgow’s famous son lived.

The Glasgow School of Art: Of course, there is no denying that the star attraction of the trail has be Mackintosh’s master work which was The Glasgow School of Art – his greatest architectural work. Although partly tragically damaged in a fire in 2014, much remains to be explored with award-winning tours being taken that reflect Mackintosh’s journey from student to architecture extraordinaire as well as an permanent visitor centre. Also including the brand new Mackintosh Furniture Gallery, there is no better place to really understand Mackintosh’s inspiration and life.

While a Mackintosh style tour of Glasgow is always an attractive option regardless of the time of year, there is no month better than October because as well as being the month known for giving us an extra hour in bed and many a scare on the 31st, it is also the month of the Mackintosh Festival! The Mackintosh Festival is a month-long celebration of the life and works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the celebrations encompass exhibitions, events and tours meaning there is something for everyone whether you are a Mackintosh connoisseur or just looking for a family day trip. For full details of all the excitement taking place see here: http://www.glasgowmackintosh.com/festival.

Therefore, with the October holidays still in full swing, there could not be a better time to visit our apartments in Glasgow this month!

Sources:

http://www.glasgowmackintosh.com/ 

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/things-to-do/mackintosh

http://www.gsa.ac.uk/visit-gsa/mackintosh-building-tours/charles-rennie-mackintosh/

http://www.crmsociety.com/aboutmackintosh.aspx

Image:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willow_Tearooms