Friday, 26 June 2015

Inner Temple Gardens, central London

A lush riverside oasis within striking distance of the City, the Inner Temple Gardens contain three acres of well-tended lawns, flower beds and a variety of mature trees. The gardens, which were home to the forerunner to the Chelsea Flower Show at the start of the twentieth century, are normally open to the public from 12.30 to 3pm each weekday. On sunny days, they are peppered with office workers from the nearby Inns of Court and City firms west of Blackfriars, but rarely feel crowded.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Silk Road Restaurant, Camberwell Church St, South London

A simple, but very popular, eatery, the Silk Road specialises in the spicy cuisine originating from China's north-west frontier province of Xinjiang. The decor and furnishing are simple and not that comfortable - wooden benches line cramped wooden tables, but it is overshadowed by the enthralling and authentic food, which you eat with chopsticks and with plenty of napkins. Helpfully, the many noodle dishes and stews on the menu are marked with chill-peppers, signalling how strong their kick on a scale of one to three. The signature dish - the medium plate chicken (about £16 for enough for two) - is excellent. It is a huge broth containing a dozen or more pieces of chicken on the bone, chillies, potatoes, anise and garlic swimming in the juice. Once you have waded your way through the meat, the staff may add piles of chunky, tasty noodles to soak up the liquid. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

King's Bench Walk, The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, central London

A well-preserved seventeenth century terrace in Inner Temple, King's Bench Walk flanks one of the four remaining Inns of Court in central London. Most of the chambers housed in the building were rebuilt in 1678, following a disastrous fire in 1677, and some still have their original panelling, according to the Inner Temple Library.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Walk up to Parc du Château, Nice, France

As you climb up out of the old town, there are fine views across the rooftops of the city. The bell tower of the Couvent Saint-François de Nice is one of the most striking landmarks

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The King's Troop in Hyde Park, central London

The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery with their First World War-era 13-pounder guns  in Hyde Park 

Friday, 22 May 2015

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, central London

Main Avenue at Chelsea Flower Show - like Oxford Street at Christmas, only busier, greener and more aromatic

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Sky Garden, Fenchurch Street, central London

Although you have to book tickets a couple of weeks in advance, entrance to the Sky Garden (at the top of the so-called Walkie-Talkie skyscraper) is free and open to anyone - a prerequisite for planning permission, apparently. Once you have been through security, a fast, silent lift whizzes you up to the 35th floor, where you are greeted by a huge wall of glass panels facing the space age Shard. You will be drawn out, through the revolving doors, on to the balcony to take in the sweeping views over the Thames and south London sprawl. Back inside, you can climb the stairs through the lush, green shrubbery to another wall of glass overlooking the Gherkin and Cheesegrater skyscrapers, next to the ageing NatWest Tower. As you climb and descend the staircases, there are fine views west, taking in St. Paul's Cathedral, and east, taking in the Tower of London and Canary Wharf. Finally, you should buy an expensive drink from the self-assured, smartly dress bar staff, grab a seat and enjoy this extraordinary airy space. The orange and raspberry fruit juice (£3.50) is particularly good. 8/10

Monday, 4 May 2015

Walks around Polesdon Lacey, Surrey

At the far end of Polesdon Lacey's car park, you'll find a big sign charting several colour-coded walks, varying in length from about 1.5 miles to 4.5 miles. Most of them take you down the steep hill into the Mole Valley that nestles between the Edwardian country house and Ranmore Common to the south west. Virtually devoid of any development, this Arcadian countryside contains the odd farmhouse and a charming Youth Hostel that looks like it belongs in the 1930s. It is hard to believe you are less than five miles from the M25 - London's heavily congested circular motorway. The longer walks climb up towards Ranmore Common, from where there are viewpoints back to the National Trust property. All the routes end up looping round through the bucolic woods and fields south east of Polesdon Lacey.  If you are National Trust members, you can stroll back to the car park via an 18th century belvedere on to the Long Walk, which leads to the foot of the lawn tumbling down from the elegant mansion. Lined on one side by a hedge, punctuated with white statues, and on the other, by woodland, this narrow lawn offers heart-warming views over the tranquil Mole Valley. 8/10