Saturday, 16 July 2016

Lambeth Country Show, Brockwell Park, south London

Brockwell Park simmers in the sunshine

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Alfriston, Sussex

At the foot of the South Downs, the village of Alfriston is dotted with half-timbered buildings with lead-paned windows and period lamps.

Cycling the South Downs Way, Southease to Alfriston, Sussex

Approaching one of the many gates that can interrupt your ride on the South Downs Way
Big skies, lush grass and a rolling route: The South Downs Way in Sussex. The roundtrip from Southease station to Alfriston is about 22km with 450 metres of climbing - an enjoyable and energising workout on a mountain bike.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Le Vieux Port, Cannes, France

Île Saint-Honorat, near Cannes, France

About a mile off shore from Cannes, the peaceful and petite Île Saint-Honorat has been home to a community of Cistercian monks since the fifth century. About one mile long and four hundred yards wide, the island houses the elegant Lérins Abbey, which is predominantly 19th century and superseded an earlier fortified monastery that still stands on the shoreline. The monks produce wine, welcome tourists and run a restaurant.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Dean's Yard, Westminster, central London

A peaceful oasis in the heart of London, Dean's Yard is tucked away behind Westminster Abbey and seems to be missed by most tourists. This area originally housed monastic buildings and the Abbot's garden known as "The Elms". Today, it is a rich jumble of historic ecclesiastical architecture. On the east side, the Abbey administrative offices and Westminster School buildings still incorporate much of the 14th century cellarer's quarters and guest house, according to the Westminster Abbey web site. On the west side is the Abbey Choir School and to the south is Church House. The quadrangle of grass was first laid out in 1815.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

York House Hotel, Park Ave, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear

A well run and pristine guest house in a quiet quarter of the seaside town of Whitley Bay overlooking a patch of green, the York House Hotel is a pricey, but pleasant, place to stay. A riot of swirling patterns and soft fabrics, the decor won't be to everyone's tastes. And, if the heating is on, the hotel can be excessively stuffy as the numerous radiators pump out heat. However, the accommodation is spacious and well-kitted out, the beds are comfortable and the WiFi is fast. The rooms are also quiet and equipped with smart en-suite and self-catering facilities. Downstairs, there is a plush lounge complete with sparkling chandelier and gleaming marble fireplace. With a large bay window and plenty of space, the dining room is also impressive, as are the breakfasts. You are served good filter coffee at your table, along with chunky toast, accompanied by small pots of Bonne Maman jams and marmalade. The cheerful staff also offer a small selection of hot dishes. The English breakfast is made with fine ingredients, while the special might be a tasty bagel stuffed with smoked salmon, chives and cream cheese, topped with hard boiled egg. The cold buffet includes an appealing fruit salad, granola, blueberries, small boxes of cereal, yogurts, an array of decent fruit juices and even a bottle of bubbly in an ice bucket.  Although Whitley Bay has seen better days, the York House Hotel is in its prime. 8/10

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Katy B at the Brixton Academy, south London

As she belts out high tempo dance tracks to an appreciative local crowd, Peckham-born Katy B knows how to put on a show.  Sometimes flanked by energetic gyrating dancers and bathed in a flashy light show, Kathleen Anne Brien cranks out her catchy hits, such as Lights On and Broken Record, with gusto. Although her own dancing isn't great, she keeps moving with enthusiasm through the short, sharp set. Kay B may perform for less than an hour, but the tickets aren't expensive. The ideal size for an atmospheric gig, the O2 Academy in Brixton has stalls with a sloping floor offering good vantage points from just about everywhere.  The surreal set, with classical balustrades and balconies above the stage, looks like something out of Romeo and Juliet. There are a few ledges to sit on, which is a good job because there can be a lengthy break between the succinct support acts and the main gig. The bars offer bog-standard wines and beers, such as Tuborg, at toppy prices. Although they are well-staffed, you might want to get a two pint plastic glass to cut down on the queuing. Katy B and Brixton Academy make for a good combo. 7/10