Friday 28 September 2012

The Galerie du Roi, Brussels

Upmarket shopping Brussels-style

The Grand Place, Brussels

The Grand Place gets ready for a gig

Monday 24 September 2012

Radisson Blu, Atatürk Airport, Istanbul

A good option if you have an early flight out of Atatürk Airport, the Radisson Blu is spacious, clinical, modernist and highly-service orientated. Even the standard rooms are large and well-equipped. The beds are big, the efficient air con is quiet and there are free bottles of water. There is also free Wi-Fi, but you don't seem to be able to log on with more than one device. The strong service ethos means reception staff will go the extra mile, letting you print out boarding cards using their computers, for example. The sleek bar, which will probably be showing football on the TV, serves competent, filling food, but it is a little pricey. There is a free shuttle bus on the hour to the airport. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes and you can grab a cereal bar, a bottle of water and machine coffee from the self-service kiosk on the way out. If you like a spaceship look and feel, the Radisson Blu is a very pleasant place to stay. 7/10

Sunday 23 September 2012

Best Western Eresin Taxim Hotel, Topcu Caddesi, Taksim, Istanbul

The view over breakfast at the Best Western Eresin Taxim
The Best Western Eresin Taxim would be just another midmarket city-centre hotel, if it weren't for the impressive buffet breakfast on the tenth floor with great views of the sun rising over the rooftops of Istanbul. Although you can't quite see the Bosphorous, there is plenty to survey as you munch on the freshly-baked bread, unusual croissants and pastries. The buffet also features meats and cheeses, plus plenty of juices and half-decent coffee.  The accommodation is less enticing. Although the cramped bedrooms have modern, inoffensive Ikea-style decor, they have no wardrobes or chests of drawers. Instead you have to make to do with a hanging rail. And there is only free Wi-Fi in the compact lobby. Still, this hotel is well-placed for Taksim Square - one of Istanbul's bustling hubs. 7/10

Saturday 22 September 2012

Sunday 16 September 2012

Cycle ride from Battersea Park to Hammersmith, central London

This approximately 12-mile round trip along the Thames is almost entirely traffic-free, flat and fun for families.  Although you are supposed to ride along the road, rather than the riverside, in Battersea Park,  you still can see the Thames in the distance and the park itself has been beautifully-landscaped. From here, you can ride west along the smartly-paved Thames Path, past an endless series of futuristic glass and steel apartment blocks, lining the river. Although the route occasionally takes you on to a road, these stretches are short and usually quiet. You skirt past London heliport and the heaving Ship Inn before reaching picturesque Wandsworth Park with its avenue of mature trees overlooking the Thames. After navigating through the traffic on Putney Bridge, you ride for a mile or so along the riverside road, lined with pubs and then boathouses, before reaching a more rural section of the Thames Path. You can admire Craven Cottage, Fulham FC's ground, on the other side of the water. The route then skirts past the London Wetland Centre and the handsome and historic Harrods Repository. If you cross Hammersmith Bridge, there are some pleasant pubs on the north bank where you can enjoy a drink with a river view. Although the Thames Path can get busy on a Sunday, this is a rewarding ride. 8/10

Friday 7 September 2012

Sunday 2 September 2012

Buona Sera, Northcote Road, south London

A long-standing and buzzy Italian restaurant selling competent pizzas and pasta dishes for less than a tenner apiece, Buona Sera attracts gangs of lively twentysomethings, but also older diners. The philosophy is "pile it high, sell it cheap" and it works. Buona Sera is a large restaurant, but the tables are closely packed and its popularity means it can feel quite cramped inside.  Like the food, the drinks are keenly priced for London - a glass of prosecco is £4.80, while beer comes in at £3.50 for a bottle. Unfortunately, the décor is white and a rather sickly, luminescent green - it needs updating. But with fast and efficient service, it is easy to see why Buona Sera has been round for so long. 7/10