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No sooner has one service station featured on these pages, than we feel compelled to write about another.  The new Gloucester Services on the M5 is run by the Westmorland Family group who also run Tebay Services, serving home made food from local producers.  Currently the services are only open on the northbound side, but the southbound will be opening next year.

The vegetarian and vegan food is being supplied by The Parsnipship, a great, Cardiff based company, producing unique seasonal food.  In-house bakers have also apparently perfected a gluten free Chocolate and Almond cake – check out the recipe on their blog.

We haven’t had the chance to visit yet, but that all sounds like a services should, and the pictures show a lovely, inspiring design, making for a relaxing break.  We can’t wait to go, but if you get the chance, let us know what you think!

Gloucester Services, between J11a and J12 on the M5 northbound (sounthbound 2015)


We don’t often cover motorway services on this blog, but the original Offmotorway website was created because of the dire state of the food (particularly vegetarian food) served at the UK’s motorway service stations.  The site existed to recommend getting off the motorways and finding alternatives, which is still largely to be desired of course.  However I do occasionally cover interesting developments when something pops up!  And in this spirit, I finally made it to the new(ish) services at Beaconsfield, Junction 2 of the M40.


The services caused a stir when they opened earlier this year as this is the site of the first pub allowed at a motorway services, operated by JD Wetherspoon.  But that aside, this is a slightly different service station, which makes for a pleasant stop.  It feels more like a shopping centre than a services, with a large, airy interior.  There’s a huge selection of food outlets, so no shortage of veggie options, although they are all chains.  Patisserie Valerie are there, a favourite still, despite it’s expansion over recent years to near ubiquity in every town in the country!

What sets this place apart though, is the outside space, with a lake, small walking trail, picnic area and children’s play area.  All free to use of course, even if you bring your own sandwiches and flask of tea.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of having a pub at a motorway services, at least here there is evidence of careful thought having gone into the design.  And you can take a proper, relaxing break here if you want to rather than just be ripped off buying terrible food!

Imagine having your own chocolate kitchen.  Or your own chocolate chef!  Apparently King George I had both of these things – one Thomas Tosier ruled over a small but vital room, preparing the King’s chocolate drink every morning, and for special dinners and entertainments.  Tosier’s wife, Grace, was also something of a celebrity (see Grace Elliot’s blog here) and traded on her royal connections to promote her own chocolate house in Greenwich!

The chocolate kitchen is a recent discovery at Hampton Court Palace and has now been opened up and visitors will also be able to see chocolate making sessions in action.  The demonstrations start on 18th April.  I’m thinking these are going to be a must-see!

With the onset of ‘real’ winter over the last few days, and forecasts of snow coming soon, I’ve been feeling a little desk bound.  My travel wish list is more of a dream-list at the moment, so my imagination is wandering between ideal wintery landscapes and gorgeous sunny getaways.  I also seem to have been reading about (or armchair travelling to) some wonderful places…

White Pod



This eco camp high in the Swiss Alps looks and sounds amazing.  A private ski area, wood burning stoves in each pod, sauna, massage and the promise of a complete escape.  Who could resist!
White Pod

Gillam’s Tea Room


This vegetarian tea room in the Lake District (UK) is run by the great great grandson of J J Gillam who opened a grocers on Market Street, Ulverston in 1892.  This new café and deli promises a real log fire. mainly organic and local food and choices for vegans and gluten free diets.  It all sounds perfect after a day walking in some bright winter sunshine.

Restuarant Kastro Oia



Apparently, this is not only the perfect spot to watch a famous sunset on the Greek island of Santorini, but also a wonderful spot to dine on pomegranate and feta salad and walnut cake.  It seems you have to book well in advance to combine the two, but, you know, I am allowed to dream…
Restaurant Kastro

I have to admit that I’ve only stopped off here for a late night coffee, but Le Train Bleu restaurant quickly became one of my favourite places.  Despite a rather unpromising location above the Gare de Lyon in Paris, it’s full of atmosphere, and transports you to another time and place, whilst leaving you feeling impossibly glamorous!  That’s quite an achievement for a cup of coffee and a couple of macaroons!

Open since 1901, the café claims Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Cocteau,  Salvador Dali, Jean Gabin and Marcel Pagnol as regular customers.  The restaurant certainly lends itself to rendezvous of all kinds!

The main restaurant.

The main restaurant. (c) Le Train Bleu

I loved the old, rather beaten up furniture in the nook where we drank our coffee.

I loved the old, rather beaten up furniture in the nook where we drank our coffee.

Coffee and macaroons!

Coffee and macaroons!


Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, Paris

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