Riding from the south up Ditches Lane, you climb out of a patch of woodland into the uplifting open space that is Farthing Downs in the Happy Valley Park. From here, the short ride down to Coulsdon is both fast, except for the odd cattle grid, and picturesque. Far in the distance, you can just make out the clutch of skyscrapers in the City of London.
Sunday, 16 September 2018
Wednesday, 15 August 2018
A secluded boutique hotel tucked away in the hills north west of Benidorm, Casa rural Finca el Tossal combines sweeping mountain views with superb home cooking and tasteful decor. Although the access road is steep and narrow, it can be navigated successfully with care and you are very unlikely to encounter a vehicle coming the other way. Boasting four-poster beds and wrought iron balconies, the seven rustic rooms are comfortable and well-equipped, if you don't need a fridge. The swimming pool and jacuzzi are also well designed and maintained, while breakfast and dinner on the terrace are memorable both for the modern European food and the rural vistas, marred only slightly by the plastic sheeting obscuring many of the local crops. You can just about see high-rise Benidorm shimmering in the sun. Although breakfast is basically a cold buffet, the cheese, meats, fruit and bread are fresh, and the good coffee is plentiful. The four course dinner (about 30 euros a head including tax) is pre-set and takes time, but each dish is lovingly prepared and presented. The reasonably-priced wine and beer is also available from the honesty bar during the day. However, the proprietor can seem over-protective and a car is a must - the rugged and rubble-strewn locale means walking or cycling from the hotel isn't a very appealing option. Still, Casa rural Finca el Tossal makes a relaxing place to stay for a few days, if you just want to chill. 7/10
Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Although it is within easy reach of Benidorm, Altea is a world away from the high rise, low rent resort to the south. Cobbled streets lined with white-washed houses, sporting wrought iron balconies, span out from the central square, making their way down to a fairly smart restaurant-lined seafront, complete with palm trees and tasteful paving stones. In some of the narrow streets, blossom and canvas paintings add a splash of colour. Although the beach itself is full of pebbles, the water can be clear and inviting. The square is dominated by the La Mare de Déu del Consol with its exotic octagonal blue-tiled domes. Altea conjures up North Africa.
Monday, 13 August 2018
Sunday, 12 August 2018
Saturday, 11 August 2018
A complex of space age buildings a few miles from Valencia's medieval core, the City of Arts and Sciences was built in the decade between 1996 and 2005. The white-washed avant-garde architecture, the shallow lakes and the wide paved areas give the area a sci-fi feel. Each of the five major structures has a different character, with the striking Hemisferic resembling a giant eye, and the brooding Museo de las Ciencias an angular animal carcass. The elegant Umbracle is a giant arched greenhouse, while the Parque Oceanografico features water lily-shaped buildings overlooking its aquariums. Finally, the aerodynamic Palacio de Las Artes looks like a track cycling helmet. Together, they make a remarkable composition.