Saturday, 6 September 2014

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Windsor Castle shimmers in the evening sun

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Eton, Berkshire

An aerial view of the hallowed public school

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Castelló d'Empúries, Catalonia

A pleasant old town perched on a small hill, Castelló d'Empúries is a network of narrow medieval streets clustered around an unexpectedly substantial thirteenth century Gothic church. With its magnificent ornate doorway overlooked by statues of the twelve apostles, Santa Maria is well worth going to see.  Home to several other fine medieval buildings, Castelló d'Empúries is a good place for a drink on route to Figures and Cadaqués.  7/10

Cycling in and around L'Escala, Catalonia

The leafy 2km cycle path that separates the Greco-Roman ruins of Empúries from the fine beaches north of L'Escala can get pretty busy in the summer. You'll find yourself weaving around pedestrians, but the mildly undulating ride is both fun and scenic.

Scale Bikes, Avinguda Riells, L'Escala

Just returned Scale bikes bearing mud from the off-road trails north of Empuries
Offering very reasonable hire rates on respectable off-road Scott bikes, Scale Bikes is situated near the start of the coastal cycle track between Riells and L'Escala. It is also well placed for rides on the trails that criss-cross the forested hills of El Montgrí between L'Escala and Estartit. There may only be one shop assistant on duty meaning you may have to wait, but otherwise the service is exemplary. Available in adult and children's sizes, the hire bikes seem new, comfortable and well-maintained. Hire rates start at eight euros for four hours up to 70 euros for two weeks. Helmets are an additional two euros. 8/10

Friday, 22 August 2014

Hostal Restaurant el Roser, Carrer Església, l'Escala, Catalonia

Between Monday and Friday, Hostal Restaurant el Roser offers a three course menu for 14 euros. It looks like a good deal on paper, but don't be tempted. You'd probably be better off going for the 28 euro menu, a la carte or finding another restaurant. With the cheap menu, there are several options for each course, but the food can be disappointing and crudely improvised. The starters tend to be mediocre. The eggs cooked with tomatoes and peppers lack flavour, while the vegetable soup is okay and the spaghetti (billed as ravioli) with cheese and pesto is passable. The reasonable Russian salad lacks seasoning. Things may go down hill when you move into the main courses. The pork and sausage stew may mysteriously morph into a plate of leathery lamb and chips, while the squid a la plancha can be missing the promised tomato sauce. Although the calamaris are cooked well enough, they come with no other accompaniments, except some garlic seasoning. The seabass with stewed vegetables is the pick of the bunch, even though it can be a bony fish. For kids, the cannelloni (eight euros from the a la carte menu) is quite good, except the meat can be overwhelmed by the cheese sauce.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The city of Girona, Catalonia

Girona is a gem. The core of this charming Catalan city is an extraordinarily well-preserved and diverse medieval quarter on the east bank of the Riu Onyar. Stone steps and alleyways thread their way through the arresting ancient buildings climbing up the steep slopes to the lofty city walls. Wrought iron balconies, ornate lampposts and stone archways adorn the atmospheric old streets. There is an abundance of stylish shops, restaurants and bars on the tree-lined Rambla de Llibertat, the neighbouring streets and the tightly packed Jewish Quarter. Architecture buffs will admire the Catalan Gothic Cathedral, the nearby Esglesia de Sant Feliu and many other handsome remnants from the Middle Ages. Although you will spend much of your visit wandering around the Barri Vell, it also well worth crossing one of the footbridges to explore the nineteenth century Mercadel district and the nearby Parc de La Devesa with its towering plane trees. 9/10

Girona Cathedral, Catalonia

The west front of Girona's grand Catalan Gothic cathedral, which dates from the eleventh century. The lavish sculptures of the eighteenth century Rococo facade have mostly been replaced by 1960s copies, according to the Rough Guide to Spain.