Monday, 31 October 2011

More Strictly Come Dancing News!

Of course, we all tuned in on Saturday to see Russell storm through the show! What a success! And Russell and Kylie - we think that's a winning combo!
Here's more from Russell himself......

Down to London from our energising practice sessions in North Wales more fun and games with Zoe on Thursday night in "It Takes Two". Friday morning found me swapping tales, choosing the music with Chris Evans on Radio 2 and it ranks as one of the most exciting and enjoyable radio experiences ever. I always enjoy dropping in to Radio 2 and whether it’s with Chris or my regular spot with Steve Wright we always share a little gentle banter and a few laughs.

Friday and Saturday were fabulous in more than one way. Of course there were the practice sessions with my magical Muse Flavia – now that’s always a delight and I thought the show and the backstage build up to it was one of the best, but you’ve probably heard I’ve been getting a bit of a twinge in my knee every now and again. It doesn’t stop me walking, exercising or dancing so no worries there – the show must go on – so on with the show!

Saturday’s show was a hoot! Kitted out as ghouls, vampires and in all kinds of “shriek and scream” outfits. A bright red devil emerging from the flames I Sambad my way onto the dance floor to the strains of Kylie’s “Better The Devil You Know” theme. Eleven million people got a chance to see my tail – I hope you’ve recovered!

Len said I gave everyone the “Feel good factor”. Alesha asked “Kylie and Russell what more do we want?” Bruno claimed I had “Turned Hell into a camp heaven!”. Although everything didn’t quite go as Flavia and I had planned we still had a great time and judging by the cheers from the audience they did too.

Chelsee wasn’t happy with her Tango with Pasha but still got a wonderful 32 points. If that’s the sort of score they get when they think they haven’t performed to perfection what wonderful things are we about to see in the weeks ahead?

Alex and James treated us to a perfect Paso Doble and were rightfully cheered to the rafters. Getting 31 points and comments like “Erotic”, “Intense”, “Dramatic” and “Atmospheric”. It was exciting and energising to watch and a brilliant performance.

What can I add to what has already been said about Holly and Artem’s American Smooth. 35 well deserved and well earned points and a standing ovation! To echo the judges: “Stylish”, Exquisite”, “Incredible”, “Beautiful”, “Terrific”, “Artistic”. What will they produce for us next week? All I know is that it’s going to be great!

Harry and Aliona earned yet another standing ovation with their tantalising Tango, the judges raved, the crowd cheered and so they should. It was “Intense, hypnotic and erotic” and above all “Beautiful”. They have to be the ones to watch. They are a great couple and lovely people.

Robbie and Ola after his brush with the camera gave us a great Paso Doble. Bruno was “Lost for words” but he although he was tongue tied he kept his eyes open. Len saw some “Wobbly bits” and Craig was “Amazed”. Need I say more?

The amazing flying Lulu and her Paso Doble was great entertainment with a flying entrance and heart stopping exit. Truly “Great”.

Can anything be added to the judges’ comments about Jason and Kristina’s Quickstep? Bewitching, beguiling and bewildering. Brilliant and perfect. Once again they danced elegantly to the top of the night’s score.

We were all sad to see Nancy and Anton bow out. Nancy has been such fun and has always had an encouraging word for those of us who don’t have her lovely long legs!

Now I am back in Wales and looking forward to seeing Flavia later today and getting to grips with “Team Flavant’s” unique twist on the Paso Doble! I might nip down to The Oakeley Arms for one of their great Sunday carveries.

More from me on Thursday about how the practice sessions are going. Thanks again for all your wonderful messages and the affection and generous support you are giving me. You’ll never know how much it means to me.
“Thanks for being there!”

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Strictly Come Dancing Update!

Strictly Samba!

What's Russell been up to this week then? 
Another tough week of training, but hopefully some fun and smiles along the way!
We're rooting for you Russell and keeping everything crossed for the knee healing sharpish!! Good luck on Saturday, and over to you....

Monday was a strange day. First of all there was a breakdown of communication somewhere along the line and Flavia missed her connecting train up to North Wales. By the time she arrived Monday was almost over and done with. On top of that I had to schedule time in the afternoon to visit our local hospital. The knee has continued to play me up so the doctors thought it would be a good idea to have an MRI scan to see what’s going on.

It is rather painful and I will have to watch what I get up to, but luckily this week’s dance is the Samba and that means a little less wear and tear on the knee.

The BBC film crew have been staying at the Oakeley again. This is the fourth week a crew have stayed there. Every week it is a different team, but they all enjoy their stay and say the same thing, "The food is great!" and so it is.

As we approach Halloween we shouldn't have been surprised to encounter one or two inexplicable happenings in our rehearsal rooms which are over 100 years old. First of all I heard some call “Russell”, but there was no-one to be seen. Then Flavia heard someone cry out, but again there was no-one to be seen. To top it all I saw a figure run along the back of the balcony and apparently this is not the first time that people have seen this strange apparition in the hall! It’s all very spooky!

Although the practice sessions have been shortened by Monday’s events everything has gone very smoothly. Flavia and I both love the Samba. It has its origins in Brazil and it is THE dance of the carnival season so that should be fun for everyone! Flavia says many people find it one of the more tricky steps to master, but I feel quite at home with this rhythmical, exciting dance. And Flavia agrees!

There’s a whole host of the kindest and most thoughtful letters and cards to read through and answer and that’s always a priority. Thank you to everyone who has written in – your encouragement and support means so much to me.

Thank goodness for an early night Wednesday. I was wacked out after a totally taxing, tiring time over the last couple of days. A lovely bit of smoked haddock for tea and in bed for ten o’clock because Thursday is an early start.

Up before 6.00 and off we go leaving our lovely Wales and heading south to London. Today’s schedule has a lot of press interviews and joining Zoe for “It Takes Two” in the evening and somewhere along the line Flavia and I need to find time to practice our Samba.

Friday morning I shall be dropping in on Chris Evans to join him for his breakfast show and then back to the ballroom for some last minute rehearsals.

It certainly is a demanding time. The days fly by and there is hardly a spare moment to rest and relax. But I am loving every minute of it. This is definitely THE time of my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know the rest of the gang will have been working just as long and as hard as I have and I am sure we are all feeling the pace one way or another.

I think you’ll enjoy Saturday’s show and although we will all be having a great time it will be tinged with sadness as we will have to say goodbye to one our small band.

See you Saturday

“Thanks for being there!”

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Welsh Mountain Adventures

Outdoor Life

What are you up to this weekend? Having a lie-in? Watching a film?  Painting the kitchen? Taking the kids shopping? Coming to see us at the Oakeley Arms?

It's true that the sun has truly set on summer, but that doesn't mean the outdoor fun has to stop. Ok, so we know you don't want to go and sit on the beach in the snow (although it has been known!) but how about a trip out to explore some of the breathtaking Snowdonian scenery that's right on our doorstep.

Alwen Williams is a local mountain leader, who has been working with our customers and guests since she set up her mountain leading venture last year, and she's been a great hit so far.

From a quiet local walk, to tackling our highest peaks, Alwen will make sure you have the best experience possible. If you want to brush up on your navigational skills, learn some new route-finding proficiencies or discover a prowess for map reading that you didn't know you had, then Alwen is on hand to help.

Alwen can suggest routes (and she knows all the best, quietest ones) and take you to new places. Having grown up among the hills of Ffestiniog, there isn't a valley or nook she doesn't know about.

A qualified mountain leader with over seven years experience, Alwen's passion and enthusiasm shines through in every aspect of her work in the mountains. You can book her for half day, whole day or even overnight expeditions. And if walking's not your thing, then get on 'yer bike and into the famous woods of Coed-y-Brenin because Alwen also offers guided biking tours and trips.

You can check out Alwen's profile, find out more information or contact her at the Welsh Mountain Adventure website.

Get out there and explore! And after all that, we promise you've deserved a pint of Oakeley Dokeley! See you at the bar :)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Strictly Come Dancing News!

Strictly Come Dancing enjoyed record viewing figures this weekend, so it seems the nation has finally got the dancing bug. And of course, we're all tuning in to see how Russell's getting on!
Here's another update from our dancing star! Over to you Russell......

Well… it was touch and go Saturday night especially for me. During a punishing practice week of not only dancing but scrambling up and down the majestic hills and valleys of North Wales with a BBC film crew in tow my leg and ankle was playing up even more than usual. So much so that at one point there was a question as to whether or not I would be able to dance on Saturday!

But “The Show Must Go On! So with the knee supported and with an ice pack strapped to the inside of it we and the remaining eleven took to the floor.

Wasn’t it lovely to see Edwina in the audience? She is so kind, generous, supportive and always encouraging.

But, there I go again getting ahead of myself… lets go back to frantic Friday when I dropped in on “Loose Women” at lunchtime and then rushed round to the Beeb where we had great fun with Zoe on “It Takes Two”. Lots of people love this show as much as Saturday’s performances and if you haven’t tuned in yet you mustn’t miss it this week.

Saturday is a busy practice day, but we still have time to have a chat here and there. Lulu and Anita are great fun and we spend lots of time chatting and chunnering over the week’s events and what lies ahead. Anita was very nervous, but she needn’t have been she produced a truly elegant performance packed with glamour and sophistication. Even our dear Craig “Loved it” calling Anita’s dance “Classy, sophisticated and a consummate pro”. Anita wowed the audience and pulled off a wonderful 32 points! Great Stuff!

Another energising and entertaining show from Robbie and Ola got a standing ovation but only 27 points. I loved it all and enjoyed seeing them at the football ground and what a wonderful response they had from the thousands of fans.

What can I say about Chelsee and Pasha’s Quickstep except to echo the judges? Craig: “1st Class”. Len: “Fantastic”. Alesha “Ended too soon”. Bruno's “Pocket Rocket”. They were fabulous and pulled off one of the most deserved highest scores so far. A wonderful well-earned 36 points!!!

So from the top of the score board to pretty near the bottom. 24 points for Flavia and I. Are we downcast? Are we downhearted? Not one bit of it. We produced an imaginative and creative dream sequence which flowed on naturally from those shots from atop the mountains of Wales. My partners were Teddy and Flavia and both were about to perform to perfection.

The huge cheers that greeted us and Bruce’s gag about “The huge R’s” got us off to a great start and the standing ovation at the end brought a tear to my eye.

It was lovely of Bruno to call me a “Brilliant Sleeping Beauty” and an “Entertaining” from Craig was pretty good. Len pronounced it a “Whimsical and endearing performance, full of charm” and Alesha was kind enough to proclaim me a “Strictly Legend!”.

Sir Bruce threw in an “Amazing” and a “Marvellous” and suddenly it was all over.

It certainly was all over for big hearted Rory and Erin who also scored 24 points. It was oh so sad to wave them the fondest of farewells on Sunday evening. Their kindness, encouragement and support will be missed by us all. The show will miss them but the show must go on!

Next week Flavia and I are dancing the Samba! Let’s hope the knee holds up, it certainly will be a test. I am aiming for more than 24 points next week so we will be hoping to pull all the stops out.

Thanks again for all the support coming through the post and via email, Facebook and Twitter. So many friends, so many well wishers – Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

See you Saturday
“Thanks for being there!”

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Strictly Keep Dancing Russell!

This post comes from a very special guest blogger; ladies and gentlemen put your hands together for Mr Russell Grant, as he fills us in on some fabulous Strictly goss!

It takes two to Tango and that’s what I'm finding out this week with Flavia to guide me through the steps of this passion packed ballroom dance.

It was a late night journey back to Wales, but it went quickly as I was over the moon to have made it through another week.

There really is no place like home. But then I was up bright and early to deal with the pile of fan mail that has started to flood in. Then down to the practice rooms to let Flavia put me through my paces.

This week the BBC have also done some filming around my house and the fabulous scenic Snowdonia. I think you’ll enjoy seeing the house and the mountains. The BBC film crew are staying at the Oakeley and they give the special “Oakeley” ribs a big thumbs up!

It’s a precise, non-smiley, aggressive dance to get a handle on but Flavia makes everything seem so simple and straightforward. She is a great teacher and a wonderful charismatic partner as you’ll see on Saturday.

Monday saw me doing my regular slot with Steve Wright in the Afternoon and Flavia came along with me to the BBC studios to make a very special guest appearance that everyone loved. Steve was delighted to hear Flavia and I am sure it made his day – well it would wouldn’t it! Praise indeed from Mr. Wright when he told Flavia that it was my “infectious enthusiasm that made me so watchable”.

A blustery, showery Wednesday with a definite nip in the air saw more outdoor filming and a gruelling practice session that left me wearily wacked out but all fired up for what I hope will be a scintillating Saturday.

Lamb chops for dinner! The waning waistline keeps on shrinking. I feel on top of the world and hoping and praying to make it successfully through the weekend.

The fabulous support and affection that have come my way since the show began have been wonderful from Facebook and Twitter to email and snail mail so many messages of encouragement have come flooding in it takes my breath away. Thank you all so much.

See you Saturday
“Thanks for being there!”

We know who we're rooting for, and we can't wait till Saturday. You can do it Russell; big cheers from all at the Oakeley! xx
We'll be hearing more from the Strictly camp next week so check back for an update soon!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Halloween Hoot

Support the campaign to save Porthmadog's cinema

If walls could whisper their secrets, then Porthmadog's Coliseum Cinema would have a lot to share. Standing proud since 1931, the distinctive cinema building has been the centre of social occasions, town events, childhood memories, teenage dreams and even film premiers for eight happy decades, and now it needs our help.

Last year, the treasured Coliseum Cinema was facing complete closure, until a group of ambitious, hard-working and dedicated volunteers decided to tackle the closure head on, and launched a campaign to save the cinema.

Phil Creamer is a voluntary Director of the Friends of the Coliseum and a member of the campaign committee, and he was thrilled to tell the Oakeley Arms all about the committee's latest fund-raising .

"We're really excited about our fabulous Halloween event" says Phil. "The 'Spirit Of The Coliseum' Halloween fancy dress party is at the Hercules Hall, Portmeirion on Friday, 28th October at 7.30 p.m."

As well as a well-known local DJ Y Bwgan (aka Carwyn Jones, ex-member of Genod Droog) there'll be a late bar, plenty of spooky surprises and an opportunity to see the premier of a Coliseum themed film by local film-maker Stuart Murray.

"Of course, fancy dress is strongly encouraged" laughs Phil. "There's an additional £2 fine for those in civilian dress!"

Entrance fee is £5 (or £7 without fancy dress). There's also a shuttle taxi service from The Ship Inn in Porthmadog every half an hour from 7.30 p.m up until 10 p.m, costing just £1, half of which will be going to the SavetheColiseum fund.

Phil has been involved with the campaign since it's inception, and believes it's hugely important for the local area. 

"The Coliseum in the right hands can once again be a focal point for the local community, and can also provide a source of entertainment throughout the day for local people and visitor alike. Not only is the beautiful art deco, 1930's building a very important and historic centrepiece for the town but a sympathetically restored and renovated Coliseum will provide jobs and boost the local economy".

What more of an excuse to do you need to party? Have a fantastic Halloween hoot and help a very worthy local cause at the same time. See you there! 

Find out more about the campaign and buy party tickets online at the Save the Coliseum's official website.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Chocolate Heaven

Chocolate Week!

Did you know that this week is National Chocolate Week? No, we didn't either, but now that we do know, we'll be celebrating in the best way - by trying out lots and lots of lovely CHOCOLATE!

We like to think that we know a thing or two about chocolate here at the Oakeley Arms, after  achieving many collective decades of consumption, testing and critiquing.....

But what we didn't know a lot about is the history of chocolate, so after some chocolatey inspiration and a bit of research, read on for what we know now!

The lovely stuff has been consumed by humans for over 4,000 years, but originally it was drank rather than made into a food, and in fact, the chocolate we know today would have been nothing like the bitter "cocoa water" that the Mayans and Aztecs would have quaffed.

Cocoa Bean (by Glorgana, Flickr)

When the cacao pod was brought to Britain in the 17th century it was taxed so highly, that only the very rich could afford the fatty, bitter drink that was said to revitalise, refresh and invigorate. It wasn't until the 18th century that a revolutionary process was discovered that separated the cocoa butter from the powder, so creating the first varieties of solid chocolate.

It didn't take long for industry giants to get involved in the chocolate making process, and by the end of the nineteenth century, the British chocolate industry, and indeed the global market was pretty much controlled by the well known chocolate men, George Cadbury, Joseph Rowntree and Joseph Storrs-Fry.

They would have been very proud to know that today, the chocolate industry in the UK is worth a whopping £3.5 billion a year (with the Oakeley Arms contributing just over half of that, haha, just joking, although it does seem that way sometimes!)

But our absolute favourite chocolate here at the Oakeley Arms has to be anything by our local chocolatier Cathryn Cariad Chocolate. Based just up the road, Cathryn makes some of the best chocolates and sweet things we have ever tasted.

They are all home-made and some are so delicious they have been awarded Great Taste Gold Awards. You can find the full range on the website or you can catch Cathryn at the Porthmadog Local Produce Market on the last Saturday of every month (9:30am - 2pm). Mmmmmm, we'll meet you there!!

You can read more about National Chocolate Week and all the chocolatey-events here

Are you a choc-a-holic? What's your favourite chocolate? Or do you have a favourite chocolate recipe? Let us know by commenting below!

by Ambrozjo

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Come on Wales!

We'll be cheering for Wales this weekend in their semi-final World Cup Clash with France!

Of course, we couldn't let this momentous occasion slip past without a shout out on the blog! After an outstanding performance last Saturday against Ireland, the Welsh Internationals are all set to face their European rivals, France, at the Eden Stadium in Auckland.

Photo by "Unofficial England Rugby's photos", Flickr.

Predictions are positive for a win against Les Bleus, which would take the Welsh team to the finals, to fight against the winners of Sunday's match between hosts The All Blacks and their Tri-Nations rivals, Australia.

During the team's glory days of the late 1960's and early 70's, the Welsh team were considered one of the finest rugby squads in the world, but more recently the Welsh team has sometimes been troubled. But, to celebrate the fact that our fantastic national team are on the up again, here are some fabulous Welsh Rugby facts!

  • Wales are ranked 6th in the world by the IRB (International Rugby Board)
  • Wales first played The All Blacks in 1905, where they beat them 3-0
  • Wales hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1999, although many matches were played outside of the country. Sadly Wales were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Australia.
  • Ten players from the Welsh team have been inaugurated into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.
  • The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) was formed in Neath in 1881
  • Wales were the first team to win three consecutive Triple Crowns in the Five Nations Championships (now the Six Nations) during the 1970s.
  • Current sponsors of the team Admiral Insurance are the only Welsh company on the FTSE 100.
  • The Prince of Wales Feathers logo that adorns the shirt was chosen over 100 years ago by the WRU over a leek emblem. It was to show Wales' loyalty to Britain.
  • The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is the team's home ground, and it regularly sells all of the 74,500 seats on international match days. 
  • If Wales are successful on Saturday, then it will be the first time they have ever played in a World Cup final.
Good Luck boys! Just play with your usual grace, patriotism and charm and you'll do us all proud.
We'll be cheering so loud you'll be able to hear us in New Zealand!
Don't miss it! 9am Saturday morning, ITV

Picture by Al-Green, Flickr

Monday, 10 October 2011

Back to your Roots

It was reggae-a-g0-go at the Oakeley last weekend as we welcomed members of one of Britain's best loved Reggae bands, Misty In Roots.

The band, who have been playing together since 1975, were in the area to head up a new festival held at nearby Blaenau Ffestiniog. The DrumHouse Ffest filled the area with a sunny Carribbean vibe last weekend, all held in the atmospheric surroundings of the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. By all accounts the festival was a huge success, with next year's line-up already in the planning stages.

Other acts included great performances from Zion Train, Nucleus Roots and Babyhead, as well as a stunning display by one of the best Mountain Bike Display teams in the country.

We were delighted that Misty in Roots chose to stay at here with us, and we had a great time hearing all about their current projects and how much they enjoyed the festival. We hope they come back soon!

Keep an eye on the festival website for details of next year's events.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Oakeley Dokeley

There's a new regular at the Oakeley Bar!

Are you a real beer lover? Do you go ape for a new real ale? Are you always on the hunt for a fab real ale in Wales?

Then pop down to the Oakeley Arms to sample our very own new brew!

Oakeley Dokeley is a fabulous new ale, made especially for us by the fantastic chaps at the Great Orme Brewery, and, even if we do say so ourselves, it is rather delicious. Of course, it took days of mixing, sampling, tasting and testing (well, someone had to do it....) but we think we've stumbled on the perfect blend of genuine Welsh Real Ale.

At 4.5%ABV, its hoppy, fruity and fresh with a subtle hint of autumn spices and yet is light and temptingly mysterious (ooo move over Jilly Goolden). We know you're going to love the Oakeley Arms' great new addition.

So come and try it, ask us for a little taster, and see if you can work out who are the "faces" of Oakeley Dokeley!
See you at the bar!!

What do you think? Let us know what you think of Oakeley Dokeley - any suggestions, improvements or comments gratefully received.