Thursday, 5 July 2018

Ikea Hacks... Repainting Bathroom Cabinets & Bathroom Remodel On A Budget

Readers, I’ve got another DIY blog for you tonight. I’ve got a bit obessessed about painting wood. I did crates and blackboards for our wedding earlier this year, made a shoe rack recently – it got painted too – and now, I’ve just finished my biggest project yet.

3 years ago we moved into our tenement flat in Glasgow and whilst we’ve done some stuff like put in new windows, decorated from top to bottom, painted the beautiful old storm doors etc, that’s as far as it’s gone.  We always knew we’d never be here long enough to justify a Pinterest worthy kitchen or bathroom.  Our Ikea units have held up well (we think they are close to 10 years old now) and we chose our huge kitchen diner here over a tiny designer galley kitchen offering when we moved.  

The bathroom’s always been a bit of a sore point – even my non interior design mum called it “old fashioned"recently.  We’ve made the best of it – it’s got a toilet (essential), big double sink (actually quite nice) and a large, fairly powerful shower (for the win!) It’s just the décor around it, we’ve always found a bit, well, questionable.  There’s the “fossil” tiles, but less said about them the better.  Then the dingy, dark wooden cabinets, which just made the already narrow bathroom feel, well, like it was closing in on you.  The room gets so much natural light, so it was time to try and enhance it.
ikea hack painting bathroom cabinets before
Before - dark, dingy and a bit tired looking

After spending weeks pouring over Pinterest, reading folks blogs and learning about the joys of painting Ikea furniture, I ordered my bits and tackled it with gusto.  And the result? For less than £200, I’ve fallen back in love with our tired old bathroom.

Was it easy?  Fairly.  Time consuming?  Most definitely. A few set backs on the way? Of course.  Does it look good?  I’m SO PROUD OF MYSELF.

Anyway, I’ve knocked up a quick guide for any first timers looking to paint their Ikea furniture or re-model a room on the cheap… Happy DIY’in guys!


I can’t stress this enough. USE A GOOD PRIMER.  Make sure it’s oil, not water based, or it won’t stick. I can’t recommend B.I.N. Shellac Primer enough.  Even with chalk paint (which apparently goes onto all surfaces) I used this. Touch dry in 20 mins, re-coatable in 45, it was a saving grace when the paint went on.
Don’t skip this step.  Also, this primer is non sand, so you’ll save a bit of time there!
what claire did ikea hack bathroom remodel during priming
First coat of primer goes on. Also - note the glass door and glass drawer that no longer exist

Choose a fresh colour

Our bathroom was just a bit beige and brown before.   With the help of a bit of a light colour on the wood, it’s transformed the space.  When the sun shines in the window, it’s beautiful and airy now.   For those wondering, I used Rustoleum Laurel Green on the cabinets and painted 2 coats on top of the primer.

what claire did ikea hack bathroom remodel painted cabinets during
First coat of paint goes on!
Pick funky handles

Get rid of those bog standard handles that come with your flat pack furniture and treat it to some nice, custom bought handles. Lots of places sell handles and knobs.  I picked up a pack of 6 lovely white marble style door knobs for £6 in TK Maxx, which really added to the finished look. 
finish ikea bathroom cabinet repaint what claire did
Check those funky door knobs... compare with original above!

Do it properly!

Make it a job done well!  If you’re serious about it, remove all doors, shelves etc from your units and paint them separately.  Honestly, it makes for such a better finished look.   You won’t miss any bits this way.

Also, don't be afraid to shake up a bit - the old freestanding cabinet had glass doors I hated.  So I painted them to make them look solid. I removed a drawer and left it as an open storage area for nicely rolled towels.  Now's your chance to change those bits you aren't sure of.  Plus, the open space means I have to keep it tidy... 
ikea cabinet ikea hack repaint what claire did finished
This door used to be glass.  Also, I accessorised with a new artificial plant 

Don’t skip the varnishing

It’s so important to finish your look. I used to chalk paint, which has a gorgeous matt finish, but marks so easily. Rather than waxing, I used a clear, matt varnish on the top, did 2 coats and it’s helped to seal my units.  It’s especially important in high traffic areas where things are likely to get bumped and knocked.
ikea hack painting bathroom cabinets finished look what claire did
The finished article - I'm so proud of what we've done with the space!

Invest in Other Updates Too 

Don't just do the painting and hope for the best - spend a bit of cash on some other accessories for the room. My purchases possibly cost more than the actual renovation (which came in at about £70 for two cabinets) however, I wanted to do a complete overhaul.  So I spent some money on the new Joseph Joseph bathroom bin and loo brush which are game changers, bought a new toothbrush holder and soap dispenser, bought a load of new towels for display and guests coming and then got some plants (a mix of real and artificial) to make it all a bit more homely.  We had some vouchers we got as wedding gifts, which we put towards some of this stuff, softening the blow a little. It's been well worth it though. 
succulent in bathroom what claire did
Investment in some gorgeous succulents for the window sill

I'd love to hear from you if you take on your own project. I promise it's not that scary... GOOD LUCK! 

Sunday, 24 June 2018

What Claire Did... Round Up Time!

 Readers, in my head recently I thought "I’ve got all these exciting things I’ve done recently, that I’ll have a ton of content and be able to write so many blog posts".  As it turns out, life generally gets in the way and it doesn’t quite go to plan. So rather than not posting at all, I thought I’d do an early summer round up for you all.  Here’s what I’ve been up to, over the last few weeks.

Mac and Cheese Themed Weddings

You might have seen over on Instagram, that my lovely pals Emma and Mark from Foodie Explorers, recently got married at our local pub and enjoyed a mac and cheese themed surprise wedding, at the end of the mac and cheese festival, that they organise each year.

foodie explorers mac and cheese wedding what claire did

I was sworn to secrecy, but had a blast creating their mac and cheese themed wedding cake – ft dessert mac and cheese (it’s amazing what can be achieved with yellow jelly beans, yellow chocolate and some desiccated coconut…)  I was tearing my hair out the night before, after a fondant disaster, but was so proud of the end result and the press seemed to love it too!

Daily Record Mac and Cheese Wedding What Claire Did

Smokehead Whisky Event

Just before my 30th and my trips away to The Lake District, the lovely PR team from Smokedhead Whisky, collaborated with Dram and Smoke on an amazing food and whisky event at SWG3 in Finnieston.  We enjoyed Smokehead cocktails, drams on the table and an amazing smoky 3 course dinner to boot.  Was it fun? Hell yes it was.   I shared some stories on the night and some other Instagram content which you’ll see here.

Smokehead Whisky What Claire Did


We headed off to see the big mouse again at Disneyland in Orlando for Mr WhatClaireDid’s 30th alongside his family.  We had an absolute blast – hosting a fancy dress bbq for his actual birthday, at our villa. Everyone else had a bit of a prehistoric theme, but I went as Snow White because the costume was cheap on Ebay… 
florida fancy dress what claire did

We had a few days at the parks – I still love The Magic Kingdom -  and I’m hoping to do a Florida Guide post as part of my travel blog content over the coming weekends.
magic kingdom what claire did

I won't say too much on Florida for now and will aim to get some more content up in the coming weeks. 

Vegas Baby!

You’ve probably seen my other post on our trip to Momofuku in Vegas – so you’ll know that we went to Vegas on our USA trip too.  It’s actually really easy to do from Orlando. We got cheap flights with Spirit (cheap = delays both ways, however I'm trying to block that from memory).It got us there. It’s a 5 hour flight from Orlando – so one to time right if you are going.  We stayed for 2 nights at New York New York again.  All in, our trip cost £170pp for the 2 nights and was worth it for a change of scenery for a couple of days.
bellagio and caesars palace las vegas what claire did

We also went to Carlos Bakery in Vegas (I’m a massive fan of the show) and completely got overwhelmed ordering rainbow cake… which I then ate in bed the next day after Vegas well and truly defeated me.
carlos bakery rainbow cake las vegas what claire did

The final highlight of our amazing Vegas trip was David Copperfield at the MGM Grand. Honesty, if you are ever in Vegas and get the chance… go.  He was nothing short of amazing.

Just a short post from me tonight readers… and I promise more coming soon!

Claire x

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Restaurant Review – Momofuku Las Vegas

Readers, hi! Hope everyone is well?  I’ve (surprise surprise) been off on my travels again this month – hitting up Florida and Las Vegas for Mr WhatClaireDid’s 30th birthday.   We’ve had lots of excitement recently, from our llama trip to the LakeDistrict which I wrote about here and then it was off to the USA a week later.

For fans of Ugly Delicious over on Netflix, I’m certain you’ll know about Momofuku – from Milk Bar, the bakery, then the first noodle bar which opened in 2004, Momofuku is on its way to international domination. There’s cookbooks for your own make at home version, their famous sauces can now be bought by the bottle and David Chang was called “one of the most influential people of the 21st century” by Esquire. 

All in, this company’s a powerhouse.

Our Vegas visit was very much a last minute decision to book a table and go to Momofuku – we’d fancied going somewhere nice for lunch, we’d done Lago on our previous trip and after 10 days of eating American food, I was craving a taste of Asia.  As luck would have it, we got a table for a late lunch at 2.30pm.
momofuku las vegas strip

The restaurant was fairly quiet by then – it was a Thursday – so we were able to enjoy our food in relative peace.  Service was quick and efficient. We’d decided we wanted to share a few dishes between us, so asked for a few recommendations.  The bao buns were a definite and at $7 each, didn’t break the bank.

bao at momofuku las vegas

We didn’t hit the raw bar (although I’ve heard great things) instead choosing the pear & burrata salad with truffle, hazelnut and sourdough croutons as our starter sharer.  It was delicious and the term “small plate” is definitely different to Europe.  We had more than enough to share.

The rest of our dishes came one by one from the kitchen when they were ready – chicken ginger scallion noodles (to be honest for $21 it would be more than enough to feed one person for lunch) – we just wanted to try as much as we could when we were there.

My absolute favourite, outstanding contribution to lunch, was the shrimp bun.  By far my favourite dish, although the pork belly one was tender, the meat falling apart, it just didn’t do it for me in the way the shrimp got me going! Honestly, if you’d lined up 10 of them in a row, I’d probably have eaten them all.

At $48 from the ssams menu, the five spice rotisserie duck was the most expensive dish we ordered – it came with lettuce wraps, ginger scallion rice and homemade kimchi.  Mr WhatClaireDid isn’t the biggest fan of duck, but I ate more than my halves worth to support him.
momofuku las vegas duck

The food all arrived hot, beautifully presented and my other top spot is reseved for the $10 crispy potatoes that were cooked in honey mustard and toasted garlic.   Definitely don’t forget to add these onto your order if you’re going!
momofuku las vegas strip

My only regret of the day was having so much food (and eating most of it) that I was way too full to enjoy a delicious piece of cake or a soft serve and cereal from Milk Bar that I’d heard so much about. However, never fear, I’ve confirmed there is a Toronto branch, so I’ll be able to have a trip there in October.  Yay!

Lunch at Momofuku was around $150 plus service – including a well crafted cocktail for me, beer for him and a selection of 5 dishes to share.    We’d recommend this as a great shout for couples who love Asian food, for those who are fans of Ugly Delicious and want to try and piece of the action for themselves and those who love a stylishly designed restaurant, away from the cheap, greasy American grub that can be found in some places on the Vegas strip.

Momofuku is located inside the modern Cosmopolitan Hotel on the strip.

vegas high roller what claire did

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Llamas, Lounging and The Lake District


How are you? I’ve got a travel blogging piece coming up tonight.  We’ve just returned from a little weekend break to the Lake District.  It’s been ages since I spent time there for fun. My mum and dad took me on a family holiday when I was 16. There was no phone signal and I was a bored, grumpy teenager.   Fast forward 14 years, I’ve refined my tastes, enjoy escaping people now and had 4G coverage meaning I didn’t miss any royal wedding coverage unfolding on Twitter.  Bonus.

Big news, I turned 30 on Saturday.  As we’ve had our own version of a Royal Wedding this year already, we decided to keep the big birthday thing on the down low.  I decided I wanted a mini break for mine and we’re away for Mr What Claire Did’s birthday.  He’s 30 too.

So off we trotted to the north lakes this weekend.  From Glasgow, it’s about a 2 hour drive – or a little less on a good run.  The sun was shining, we had the tunes on and life was good!  Our first stop of the day was my birthday treat.  A trip to trek with a llama.  Setting off from the Llama Karma Kafe, just 10 minutes from Penrith, we arrived had a cake and coffee and then joined our small group walk.
llama karma kafe trek what claire did

Barney was our llama for the walk (I picked the biggest… typical) and we shared him between the two of us.  The trek was more of a gentle meander up to the castle, which meant it was suitable for a range of ages and abilities.  Barney was lovely, gentle, friendly and didn’t try to eat any grass on the trip.  The walk lasted round an hour and gave us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. 

Next up, we headed off to The National Trust site of Aira Force, on the edge of Lake Ullswater.  Make sure to have change with you.  Its £5 for 2 hours parking if you aren’t a member of The National Trust, but it’s worth paying for to keep the area well maintained.  There’s lots of lovely walks around the falls and if it’s a great day (like we had on Saturday) there are plenty of picnic opportunities.  We were prepared and took a full picnic down the road with us. I’d also recommend B&Ms £4.99 picnic blanket with waterproof back – it was ideal for 2 of us to have a semi civilised picnic lunch!
aira falls by what claire did

The highlight of our mini break was a DBB overnight stay at Appleby Manor Hotel.  Tucked away, not far from the main road, it’s a lovely old manor house that’s been carefully extended, had an AA Rosette restaurant and a lovely garden spa that opened in 2015.  We ended up with a buy a gift voucher which we chose to use at the hotel, so really, the trip didn’t cost us more than a couple of drinks in the bar and a massage at the spa (thanks husband).  We had a classic room in the main hotel building which wasn’t the biggest, but was ample for our one night stay.
appleby manor photo by what claire did

The rooms are a little tired – you can see the hotel’s working through renovating its public areas.  The spa was lovely, my treatment at £35 for a half hour back, neck and shoulder massage was well priced and it’s Elemis products they use, so quality assured.
staircase appleby manor by what claire did

We had dinner at the 1871 Bistro – 3 courses and a glass of wine was included with our deal and both of us enjoyed the views to the hills beyond from the bistro’s conservatory.   Food was delicious, well cooked and filling, whilst the glass of wine was a nice touch. We also tried these fabulous gin and Appletiser cocktails… so good we had a few each!
conservatory at appleby manor

We absolutely lucked out with the weather, so managed some drinks on the terrace before dinner, then after, sat in the conservatory watching the sun go down. The hotel provides board games for guests to entertain themselves (get in quick though) and there’s also a room with a table tennis table and pool table if you so desire.
terrace at appleby manor

Breakfast the next morning was a lovely affair, served til 10am.  We had a choice of continental buffet and ordering from the menu – as ever, I went straight for panics with blueberry compote and syrup… can’t help myself.

All in, we had a lovely weekend break to the Lake District.  Only 2 hours from Glasgow, there are loads of activities on the doorstep to get back to nature and enjoy the great outdoors!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Reader Offer - 25% Off at Gordon Street Coffee


I’m here to offer something lovely to you all. Gordon Street Coffee – located inside Central Station in Glasgow, has its own in house coffee roaster (he’s called John, you’ll find him upstairs in the café and he’s dead friendly).  There’s such demand for their coffee, that it’s available for delivery direct to your home, office, holiday home in Fife, Granny’s gaff down the road… you get the picture.

From the ever popular Glasgow Roast (my favourite) to the Charles Rennie Macintosh with its notes of red cherries and walnuts, to the current Eurovision Roast which will “keep you up all night”- there’s something to please everyone. 

AND until 31st May, I’m offering readers a whopping 25% off a coffee order direct from the Gordon Street Coffee website.  Just enter my coupon code WHATCLAIREDID at the checkout and you’ll get a quarter off the cost of your coffee, delivered to your door.

It’s limited to 20 coupons and for one order… so don’t hold back.

Valid on coffee only… Spend over £25 and your coffee will be delivered to your door free of charge.

P.S. There's also really cool re-usable cups in store and if you bring yours in when you get your morning coffee, you'll get a discount off each cup you buy. Saving money and saving the planet. Double win.
Gordon St Coffee Glasgow Roast

Saturday, 14 April 2018

DIY Tutorial – Creating a Custom Wedding Blackboard

Readers, something a bit different for a post today – a wee DIY tutorial. 

Since the wedding, I’ve been meaning to share a blog post and some content around our day.  I did my first ever DIY wedding cake last year, which I wrote about on the blog (the moral of that was DIY all you want, but offer to DIY for someone else, not your own big day!)

Anyway, I massively enjoyed the creative side of all our planning and right from the start, knew I wanted to put a load of individual touches to our day.  We had a reasonably long engagement, giving me time to source stuff in sales, buy up Xmas decorations (honestly) from sales in places like Poundland (I know, again, you are like WHAT THEY HAVE SALES?!) and curate a load of simple and rustic style décor for our wedding.  

I hired in sashes for our chairs from a supplier, as I knew she’d do a way better job than me and enlisted the help of friends and family to help us set up the venue, but most of the décor, we did ourselves, collecting it as we went (and bonus, you can sell it on afterwards!)

In the midst of a load of stuff going wrong before the big day (long story short, our venue burnt down, some bad news about family and friends etc) I found the whole process of working on my décor projects as a bit of a relief and focus.

And today I’m sharing how you can DIY your own blackboard for less than £30… if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.  And make sure you buy markers that clean off with water and fairy liquid, so someone else can use your lovely piece of artwork again…
ikea hacks wedding blackboard what claire did
Image Credit: Ally Stuart Photography

Step 1 – Procure Blackboard
Here’s my big secret. I went to children’s Ikea. This started out its life as a kid’s toy.  It’s a blackboard on one side and a whiteboard on the other… I painted over the whiteboard side to make it look like the rest of the painted wood. 

Step 2 – Buy paint and sandpaper. Get some brushes and white spirit for clean-ups
I managed to paint this using 2 tester pots of sage green paint from Homebase’s value range. £1 each.   Maybe stretch to buying one more in case you need several coats. I also cheated and did 2 coats on the front and one on the back because nobody saw that anyway.

Step 3 – Preparation is key
Sand down all the wood with the sandpaper, then using a cloth and white spirit, clean it down before painting. 

Mask off the edges of the actual blackboard.  Nobody wants paint on there.  
DIY wedding blackboard What Claire Did

Step 4 – Paint
Go for one coat and see what you think. It might need two, depending on the colours you are using.  Let it dry between coats.
DIY wedding blackboard What Claire Did

Step 5 – Start work on your Stenciling.
You’ll need a printer, paper, greaseproof paper, pencils and a chalkboard marker.

Step 6 – Choose Fonts and a Size, Find a New Use for Greaseproof Paper
I created a canvas on MS Publisher, but there are some great tools out there like Canva that allow you to create designs. I created the canvas to the size of the blackboard, designed it, saved it as a PDF and then printed it.  It took up 6 pages of A4, but I stuck these together to make a big sheet of paper, the same size as the blackboard.

Then, cut a sheet of tracing paper / greaseproof paper, to match the size of this.  Overlay it onto your text sheets and trace out the text you want on your blackboard.  Once you’ve traced the front, trace the reverse, so there’s pencil on both sides of the greaseproof.

Step 7 – Onto the Blackboard We Go
Once you’ve traced out the wording or signage onto your greaseproof sheet, pin it to your board and using a dark pencil, trace over the front again, to leave a light imprint on the board.  Once you’ve traced it, there might be some gaps, so go over them on the board with a pencil (straight onto the board this time).

Once you’ve traced directly onto the blackboard, it’s time to get your whiteboard marker out and fill in the letters,after you've outlined them with the marker. Keep a damp cotton bud handy, to clean up any mistakes.

I’m a leftie, so I started from the bottom right and worked back on myself, so I didn’t smudge the text as I went.  Right handed, normal people probably won’t have issues with this.   Let the chalkboard ink dry properly, before deciding if you need a second coat or not.

Decorate your board with candles, flowers, fake ivy etc, to create a gorgeous looking rustic piece of décor, that nobody would know was an Ikea kids toy! 

If you manage to create your own, let me know. I’d love to see it!

Claire x

Monday, 9 April 2018

Glasgow Living Part 30 - Dinner at Amore, Merchant City

Readers, how are you? It finally feels like Spring is on the way. As I type this, I can still almost spot daylight out of the window! I’m catching up tonight on a restaurant review from the weekend before last – trying out Amore, the family run Italian and pizzeria on Ingram St, Merchant City.

It’s not somewhere we’d been before, but an invite from the PR company to go along and enjoy the atmosphere on a Saturday night wasn’t one we wanted to turn down. We had a table at 7pm and I was surprised firstly by how big Amore Merchant City is. It’s absolutely huge AND it was packed to the rafters!
It’s the type of place people start their night, but it attracts a massive demographic – from groups of girls chatting on a night out, to families celebrating birthdays (they dim the lights and the place flashes neon FYI, if you’re planning a happy birthday celebration). We saw young couples, dressed up to head out on the town and older people tucking into huge pizzas with big smiles on their faces.

Amore really does please all the generations. It’s got the feel of a giant Italian café – with exposed brickwork like a pizza oven, a rotunda space in the middle to seat a group (must be the VIP space) and fast moving service. We were quickly seated on a arrival, given some huge menus to peruse and our drinks arrived quickly – an Italian frascati for me and a Modelo for Mr WhatClaireDid.  We didn’t have to wait long for our starter orders to be taken and the food followed soon after – piping hot.
amore merchant city photo by what claire did
amore merchat city photo by what claire did

We’d suggest you prepare yourself for dinner here. Maybe don’t eat for 3 days beforehand?!  I am of course joking, but the portion sizes are incredibly generous. So turn up hungry.   I had the mozzarella triangles to start, mozzarella fried in breadcrumbs with a Napoli sauce.  They were so good… and I probably could have shared my starter with Mr WhatClaireDid, but he’d ordered the bruschetta and demolished that with little room left for mine.
amore merchant city starters photo by what claire did

Onto the mains we went, with me opting for Ravioli Casalinga and Mr WhatClaireDid going for Pollo Milanese.  My ravioli was also an incredibly generous portion (I didn’t manage to finish it – possibly a first) and it made me smile – all too often you order ravioli in a restaurant to be presented with 6 bits of pasta and you’ve eaten them before the rest of the table have made a dent in their mains.  At £10.45 a portion, it’s good value for the amount you get.  The Pollo Milanese came shallow fried in breadcrumbs and served with spaghetti napolitana.  It came with two portions of chicken, so again… come hungry.   The restaurant also does a half and half option with its pizza and pasta, so you can have a half pizza, half portion pasta if you’re unable to decide. We didn’t have this, but did see a few people tucking in! 
ravioli amore merchant city photo by what claire did

Amore makes for a good place to go for a group – be that a family, where you’re trying to please multiple generations from kids to grannies – or a group of friends starting a night out. Amore Merchant City is also a good shout for a pre gig feed, if you were going to a concert or the theatre, as the service is speedy, even when the restaurant is packed.
desserts at amore photo by what claire did
Some great choices, but we were too full! 

Dinner for 2 (two courses and a drink) from the al a carte menu would give you change from £50 – probably enough for another beer or two!

Amore Merchant City is located at 30 Ingram Street in Glasgow and you can keep an eye on their menu online, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Disclaimer: I was invited to dinner for two in exchange for a review, any opinions expressed are my own. 

Monday, 2 April 2018

Dominican Republic Travels - A Historic Day Trip to Santo Domingo

Readers, I’ve got a travel post coming up for you today, after a recent collaboration with Go Dominican Republic to the historic and colonial city of Santo Domingo.

As you’ve probably seen over on Instagram – we headed off to the Caribbean region of the Dominican Republic – staying at the Excellence El Carmen Resort on honeymoon. We’ve done Excellence before – staying at the Playa Mujeres resort in Mexico and I might well do a comparison blog in the near future, to talk about both.  We enjoyed 10 days of taking it VERY easy and decided that we should at least leave the resort for one day... 
Excellence El Carmen Beach Sunset photo by What Claire Did

As part of trip, the national tourist board "Go Dominican Republic" organised for us to go off on a day trip to Santo Domingo – the capital and home to around 3 million of the Dominican Republic’s 10 million person population.

We’d managed to avoid early starts for most of our honeymoon, but headed off at sunrise for this one – being picked up in a mini bus at 6.30am.  We then met a bigger coach nearer to Punta Cana and were transferred over to the new bus, to go as a big group tour, with other visitors from around the world.  Hats off to Nacho – our energetic comedian tour guide who had a tough crowd to entertain on the early morning journey.

Around 10am we arrived in Santo Domingo, to blue skies and temperatures in the high 20s (Celsius) to start our day of historic visits.   For those who don’t know,  Santo Domingo was discovered in December 1492, by the European explorer Christopher Columbus and is considered the first city discovered in the Americas.  It’s the oldest continuously inhabited city and our trip helped us to learn more about the history of Santo Domingo and Dominican life.  For us Europeans, we are lucky to see some great architecture from a a similar time period, across our continent, however for our American cousins, this must be fascinating to see, especially if they’ve never been “across the pond” to Spain, Portugal and other places in central Europe.
Colonial District Santo Domingo by What Claire Did

Santo Domingo is home to the first castle, monestary and fortress in the Americas – part of the Colonial Zone which we visited on the tour – listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.  The first cathedral of the Americas was also built in Santo Domingo and we had the chance to visit this on our tour too.

The Colonial Zone is popular with tourists and Dominican school groups who are going to learn more about their history and we visited here first. It’s probably wise as I can imagine the buildings would get incredibly busy as the day went on.
santo domingo dominican republic by what claire did

We experienced it all on the day – including a buffet style lunch at a traditional Dominican restaurant where we saw dancing and singing, before heading off for a walk around the square and cathedral area in the afternoon.  The Catedral Primada de America was stunning inside – with beautiful historic architecture and we learned that Pope John Paul II visited here twice during his time in post.  It was also lovely to watch the world go by in the square after we left the cathedral.
Cathedral Santo Domingo Dominican Republic by What Claire Did

We went from the very old to the very new – visiting a 4D cinema experience showing a short film about the English pirate Sir Francis Drake and his invasion of Santo Domingo. It was great fun and an interesting way to learn - particularly if you were a family on the tour.  

Nacho our guide was with us every step of the way – providing humour, wit and interesting facts about Santo Domingo throughout the day.   He cared about us all, constantly reminding us to drink the free water they’d brought along for everyone!

Our day ended with a bus tour around some of the remaining tourist parts of the city – starting off at the National Palace and then on to a drive past the Columbus Lighthouse (spoiler – it’s not a lighthouse as we know it).  We would have loved the chance to walk around Columbus Lighthouse, as Nacho had talked a lot about it on the day, however, our tour didn’t have the time to stop off for a walk around at the end of the day, which would have been a nice touch.  

We got back on the bus around 4.30pm for our drive back to Punta Cana, stopping off at a great chocolate shop en route to buy some souvenirs for home.

The tour is around 14 hours from leaving in the morning to getting back to your resort (drive time from Punta Cana around 2.5/3 hours each way, so we’d recommend this for couples and families with older children (probably age 10+). Younger children could go on the trip, but we are aware that it's a long day and they'd need to be a point they are interested in learning. about history.  There wasn’t too much walking, so suitable for all athletic abilities and the tour would be of particular interest to those who like European history, architecture and learning about new cultures.
Flowers in the window Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

Thank you to Go Dominican Republic who arranged the day out for us.  We travelled as part of the Amstar DMC tour which included all transportation, entrance fees and lunch.  English tours run daily except Sundays and are priced from 70 USD per person. 

Disclaimer: we received a complimentary day trip for 2 people. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Glasgow Living Part 29– Bibimbap Korean Restaurant, City Centre

Readers… It’s feast or famine over here at What Claire Did.  We did 2 restaurant reviews in quick succession after not doing any for ages and there’s another lined up for next week.

I am all over this one though.  I love when something new opens in Glasgow.  But not just a new restaurant. Something that’s actually different.  And Bibimbap is ticking all of those boxes with its genuine Korean menu.  Fast service, lots of kimchi, and the most amazing dumplings. The restaurant’s also got a fan base from Asian international students living in Glasgow AND has a Korean chef heading up the kitchen.  Bibimbap is the real deal.
bibimbap korean restaurant glasgow

We rocked up last Thursday night to a full of atmosphere, busy restaurant with foliage on the walls, umbrellas hanging from the roof and some sweet neon signs and lighting around the bar.  The restaurant was busy – full of a young(ish) crowd tucking into the Korean delights and some amazing cocktails mixed behind the bar and delivered to the table.
bibimbap cocktails glasgow

The problem with the menu… there’s so much choice.  I wanted to eat everything.  I love Asian food at the best of times, so when something new rolls into town, I’m usually keen to try the whole menu.  That said, we held back, asked for some recommendations of things to try and kicked off our night with a couple of cocktails. I went for a gin based Kibun whilst Mr WhatClaireDid went all naked with his Grouse, trying the Nunchi. Cocktails are between £6.50 and £9 – around average for a city centre venue.

Then we were onto the food. The food comes as its ready, hot, fresh and straight to the table for you to dig into. We started off with the Korean fried chicken – a small to share (£4.50) which for two was more than enough.  The highlight here was the yum yum sauce.  I’d never tried anything like it before. It was AMAZING. We also tried two small plates – the pork dumplings and the potato pancake, which I could only describe as Korea’s answer to a tattie scone.  It was so good.  And fried.  The dumplings were also brilliant.  I do think though that if I was on death row, I’d probably order dumplings for my last meal.
bibimbap cocktails glasgow

fried chicken bibimbap glasgow

For the main event, Mr WhatClaireDid went for the Bi Bim Bap – the restaurants signature hot stone pot with rice, beef and vegetables topped with a fried egg.  He thoroughly enjoyed it. Although we’d suggest you go hungry as the portion sizes are massive.  A bowl would easily fill you up without the need for sides as well.

I went wok fried – trying the stir fried marinated beef with salad.  I also went for a fried rice on the side, because who doesn’t love fried rice?! The beef was soft, tender, full of flavour and came served with lettuce, to make  beef lettuce wraps. If you were doing low carb, this would be more than enough for one without the rice as well.

For a new opening – the front of house team have got the place running like clockwork.  The food came quickly, it was piping hot and although it’s freshly cooked, there aren’t massive wait times for the dishes to come from the kitchen.  It’s been a while since we’ve gone to somewhere and though “THIS IS REALLY GOOD” but we’ll definitely be back to Bibimbap.  It’s a little taste of Korea in Glasgow city centre.  And I’ve still a lot of the menu to sample….

Bibimbap is on West Nile Street, a short stroll from Glasgow Central Station.  You can find out more by visiting their website or following their ultra sleek Instagram

Disclaimer: we were invited to Bibimbap to review their new restaurant. Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Glasgow Living Part 28 - Smashburger on Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

Readers, hi! Welcome to my new look blog.  Thoughts?  Do you like it? It was time… after 5 years we needed to freshen up.  Content is pretty much the same – food, travel, recipes etc but presented with a fresh new look and name.
Anyway, after a bit of time away from reviews to do the whole LETS GET MARRIED thing (I might post on that soon) I’m back at it, with a trip to Smashburger in Glasgow… all the way from Denver, Colorado.
smashburger glasgow photo by what claire did

Glasgow is awash with burger joints and these guys are aiming to stand out with their “smashed” patties – they fork the meat in store, then hand press into burgers – it’s not machine made stuff at Smashburger.  They do sit on the more premium side – around £12 for a burger, side and soft drink with unlimited refills from one of those cool machines that you can add in fruit flavours to your Sprite and more.  So all in, you’re looking about £25 for a meal for two. It’s more of a treat venue than a lunchtime stop off. 

The staff are really friendly, including Fareed (I hope I’ve spelt your name right!) the manager who took some time to talk to us about the way the meat is “forked” then shaped into burger patties.  It’s not a mechanical process.  He also told us about the concept that had come all the way from Denver (which for those interested in the pub quiz points, is 4373 miles from Glasgow).

Fareed talked us through the menu – I liked the create your own section – for those who don’t want a straight up option – but this time went for the new “Triple Bacon Triple Double” which came with two beef patties, three slices bacon, triple cheese and the usual salad options served on a burger bun.   Mr WhatClaireDid decided on the Spicy Jalepeno Baja as he’s a big fan of chipotle (and it even came on a chipotle bun).
smashburger glasgow photo by what claire did
My bacon and cheese burger

For sides, we shunned fries in favour of the new tater tots.  I LOVE TATER TOTS.  It’s potato in a deep fried breadcrumb for those not in the know.  These came with bacon, cheese and bbq sauce which in my eyes is always a winner.  There is a spicy jalepeno version as well for those who love heat.
smashburger glasgow photo by what claire did
Tater Tots with Bacon and Cheese

We also tried the haystack onions – these are not traditional onion rings – and I’d recommend these to share.  You’d probably struggle to manage a whole portion solo.
smashburger glasgow photo by what claire did
Haystack Onions

Smashburger is located on Sauchiehall Street and chances are, if you’re going after dark, you’ll need to be looking for it. It’s located further down the road than the main restaurant area, across the road from M&S if you were heading in the direction of Buchanan Street.  

We enjoyed the food at our Smashburger Glasgow experience, the staff were very helpful and we didn’t have to wait long to be served which is a bonus if it’s the warm up to a night out or a gig. The restaurant is spacious with a mix of tables and booths for different sizes of group.

We went on a Friday and it was quiet which may be due to the location, as most other stores in the surrounding blocks were closed by 7pm.  The service was friendly and food was good, but keep in mind this isn’t the place to go if you’re in search of a cheap eat.  One for the burger aficionados perhaps? 

Follow the Smashburger UK takeover by visiting the website or keeping an eye on their Instagram for cool burger pics. and new menu releases.

Disclaimer: we received a meal for two in return for a review. Any opinions expressed are my own.