Last weekend I packed my things and got on a rickety, hot and sweaty slow train to the Yorkshire countryside with four people I met on the internet.
No, this wasn't some sort of weird fetish mini-break, I was going away with Pamela, Vicki, Sophie and Sophia...my closest fellow foodie / fitness bloggers, who I'd 'met' about a year / eighteen months ago on Twitter and Instagram.
Over the past few months we've met up IRL loads, going from organised blogger events to nights out, brunch dates, dinner and now, a weekend away together.
We hired the most beautiful cottage from Air b'n'b; an 'upside down' glass-fronted place with bedrooms tucked away downstairs and a light, airy open plan living space on top. It was called Swallows Nest and the photos don't do it justice - it was adorable!
The influx of natural light beaming down from every angle was too much in the way of excitement for us food bloggers, and we set about trying to snap up as many food pics as poss.
Other than than, Friday night was spent catching up over antipasti, prosecco and a lush cake Pam made for Vicki's birthday.
Cue brunch: smoked salmon, smashed avo, poached eggs & coffee for days.
Afterwards we donned our walking gear and headed off on a big ass country walk to explore the surroundings. We ended up ditching the map and found a reservoir that we walked around, before ending up in the village for coffee.
Slaithwaite during the day is quaint, cute and very kitch. Mink painted cafes selling artisan bread and lattes, art galleries and a lovely big Aldi (essential).
We ate at Vanilla Bean on Saturday night, and found out they'd just had a re-launch with a new menu. I'd really recommend the place! The food was so delicious and we definitely overdid it on the tapas...
My two favourite dishes were the spicy chorizo in red wine sauce, and the king prawns. Insane.
(I've also since learnt that Vanilla Bean filmed with the Hairy Bikers on their Meals on Wheels series, and if it gets the Hairy Bikers approval, I'm in...)
Slaithwaite at night (or "Slawit", as the locals call the town..) didn't quite do it for us and so we retreated back up the mahussive hill to chat and eat chocolate.
On Sunday, we thought it would be a great idea to run downhill for 2 miles, to then come back up, running (on what can only be described as the steepest hill that went on forever) for 30 secs, walking for 30 and lunging for 30 (annnnd repeat to the top), before our glutes had had enough.
We were then really kindly invited by one of the guys who works at the local fitness centre to try a class for free, and so Soph & I gladly drove to get involved with the Les Mills Body Balance class that was taking place. It was a blend of vinyasa yoga, pilates and tai cai, and it was epic. Really helped the hamstrings chill out after our tough hill runs, and everyone at the leisure centre was lush. I'd never done a Les Mills class before then, but I'd definitely give another one a go! I didn't realise the class is taught on the same week everywhere in the world, which I thought added a really strong sense of community to the workout.
This makes it sound like we were constantly sweating it out. Believe me, we spent so much time on Saturday and Sunday lying out in the garden, baking, eating, drinking and chilling, I went home feeling really refreshed (James was dying from a hangover and was not impressed, ha).
I would absolutely recommend the cottage (it sleeps 5) to anyone looking to escape to the countryside who lives around Manchester. It took about 45 mins on the train and not too much longer in the car either. The scenery is so beautiful and the pace of life is lovely and slow (unless of course, you were sprinting up the hill at 9am on Saturday morning...)
It was such a perfect weekend - a proper "good food, good wine, good people" vibe and so relaxing (even if my glutes were still on fire on Monday).
I guess the essence behind this post is that friends come in all shapes and sizes and are met through different means and mediums - but it doesn't mean that they mean any less. My "internet" pals are no different to my "non-internet" friends, in the sense that I respect them, value their opinions, look to them for motivation and inspiration, they make me laugh.. and are great fun to get pissed with!
Watch this space, the #BlogGalsOnTour have plans!!
PS. If you liked this post, you should check out my weekend away in Dartmouth, and escaping to France in the winter...