Monday, 27 May 2019

Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath, North London

A stately home at the north end of Hamsptead Health, Kenwood House was built in the 17th century and remodelled extensively in the 18th century. Originally the seat of the Earls of Mansfield, the house now belongs to English Heritage and is home to a historic art collection. The surrounding parkland adjoins Hampstead Heath

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Specials, Brixton Academy, South London

Brixton Academy and seventies ska band The Specials feel like soul-mates. Both the venue and group are long-standing icons of multi-racial Britain. Ironically, the crowd flowing through the timeworn foyers and up the staircases of the Academy to see The Specials is overwhelmingly white.  Although they are again producing popular new music (briefly topping the album charts with Encore in March), The Specials still attracts an ageing, but enthusiastic, audience, made up mostly of thick-set, clean-shaven men with short hair.

Monday, 6 May 2019

View down Gypsy Hill, South London

The view down Gypsy Hill brings together Victorian architecture, leafy green suburbs and the distant skyscrapers of the City of London

Monday, 15 April 2019

Tynemouth Lodge, Tynemouth Road, Tyne & Wear

A longstanding real-ale pub between Tynemouth and North Shields, Tynemouth Lodge has kept a laser-like focus on the quality of its beer, making it perennially popular with legions of middle aged locals, many sporting beards. The decor is dated, but no-one comes here for the decor.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Cycling National Route 1, Tynemouth to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Tyne & Wear

Picturesque in patches, this 30km stretch of the Coast and Castles section of the N1 cycle route can be windy and desolate. While the ride along the seaside from Tynemouth to Blyth is quite scenic, taking you through rural areas and sand dunes, the stretch from Blyth to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea takes in battered old industrial sites and bleak suburban housing estates. Still, Blyth itself has character, with its quirky mix of docks, red brick back streets, wind turbines and gentil parks. Moreover, there is a fun winding undulating detour inland along the River Blyth. Once you escape Bedlington and Cambois, Newbiggin itself is also quite easy-on-the-eye. As the N1 is pretty well signposted and generally off-road, it is easy to stay on route and stay safe. 7/10

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Hadrian's Cycleway, Newcastle to Tynemouth

You can now ride from Newcastle Central Station to the coast at Tynemouth almost entirely off-road using a stretch of the Hadrian's Cycleway route. From the station, you need to traverse a main road or two to get down to the Quayside from where you can ride past Newcastle's iconic bridges, the elegant Baltic Art centre and the eye-catching Sage cultural centre. The route soon leaves the river bank, rising up to follow a tarmac path surrounded by greenery, with occasional glimpses of the Tyne below. Be careful, as this stretch can be strewn with broken glass discarded by local drinkers. At Wallsend, you'll pass close to the remains of the Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum. On your way to Tynemouth, you'll also take in some fine landscaped parks, robust industrial architecture and the atmospheric waterfront of North Shields, as well as some featureless suburban backwaters. The final, typically blustery, stretch affords wide views across the Tyne to South Shields. At about 20km, this is the long way round, but it is much safer and more scenic than mixing it with the traffic. 8/10

Friday, 12 April 2019

Canova Hall, Ferndale Road, Brixton, South London

An unusually large cafe-bar housed in an atmospheric period building, Canova Hall attracts a steady stream of bright young things sporting laptops. The spacious interior, the quirky crockery, a wide variety of tables, ample sockets and exposed industrial fittings successfully conjure up a start-up stroke loft vibe. The food and drink is reasonably priced, while the service is chirpy. What's not to like?

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Hotel Ibiza, Les Deux Alpes

A short walk from Les Deux Alpes' main drag and the speedy Diable chairlift, Hotel Ibiza is both eccentrically named and eccentrically decorated with pop paraphernalia, including vinyl-lined walls in the lift and dozens of concert posters on the walls. The spacious bar is draped with fake leopard skin coverings and sumptuous furnishings. Cleverly, various board games, such as scrabble and monopoly, are secured beneath perspex covers on the tables: You can get the counters from reception. There is a large games room downstairs, as well as a decent swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, boot room and a ski hire shop. Although it is south facing, the large terrace is pretty bare with just some pub garden style tables from which to admire the broad views of the mountains.