Tuesday 30 December 2014

Brixton Road, south London

Running from Kennington Park down to Brixton, Brixton Road is still endowed with rows of handsome Regency terraces. Most of them retain their tall sash windows and cast iron railings. Many of the side roads, such as Lorn Road and Groveway, are also lined with well-preserved period properties dating from the early nineteenth century.

Saturday 27 December 2014

The Fleece Inn, Bretforton, Worcestershire

An unspoilt period pub in a peaceful village in the Vale of Evesham on the fringes of the Cotswolds, the Fleece is a museum piece owned by The National Trust. Dating from the seventeenth century, the timbered frame building was badly damaged by a fire a decade ago. But it appears to have been painstakingly restored and the interior takes you back in time. The low ceiling is held up by blackened timbers, while the flagstone floor is heavily worn and uneven. The windows are lead-paned, the fireplaces are ancient, the walls are lined with antique crockery and pewter, and the wooden furniture is a pleasing mismatch of benches, chairs and snugs. With the fires roaring on a cold winter's day, The Fleece is one of the cosiest pubs you can hope to visit.

Friday 26 December 2014

Circular Walk from Stanton Village, Worcestershire

Stanway House's impressive gatehouse
From the postcard-pretty village of Stanton, follow the Cotswold Way across the fields south west towards Stanway House - a handsome and extensive Jacobean manor house built from golden Cotswold stone. After you round the corner, you are confronted by the extraordinary three-storey gatehouse with its lead-paned windows and towering gables. When you hit the road, follow it east, taking care until you join a bridleway heading north east that climbs steadily up through Lidcombe Wood, overlooking PaperMill Farm. In the woods, you might hear the churning of a pump, which uses gravity to power a 300-foot fountain in the grounds of Stanway House. At the top of the lengthy climb, you will emerge from the woods and onto an exposed hill top at an altitude of about 300 metres - the top of the Cotswold escarpment. A track north west enables you to rejoin the Cotswold Way and descend steadily back through the fields down into Stanton. It is a short climb through the village up to the Mount Inn. After this satisfying and stimulating five mile round trip, you'll deserve a drink. 8/10

Friday 19 December 2014

Southwark Bridge, central London

The view north west from Southwark Bridge, which dates from 1913. It was restored and repainted in 2011 using 13,000 litres of green and gold paint.

Friday 12 December 2014

The Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill, Boundary Street, East London

On the top floor of a converted Victorian warehouse, the Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill has an open terrace with views over Shoreditch, outdoor heaters and an pergola enclosed in glass. Surrounded by pot plants, creeper plants and cool, contemporary lighting, you can sit on canvas chairs at a wooden garden-style table. The Mediterranean menu up here is fairly limited, but it is difficult to go wrong. The starters and hors d'oeuvres can be very good, perhaps featuring dressed yellow beetroot, salami with rocket and bruschetta topped with vegetables, parmesan and olive oil. The latter is particularly delicious. Among the main courses, the rib-eye steak (£24), served with béarnaise and anaemic chips, is juicy and enjoyable. You can get various side orders at about £4 a pop. The wine list, starting at £20 a bottle, is short and French. Although the wine is served in tumblers, it is decent stuff. Among the deserts (£6), neither the creme brûlée nor the chocolate mousse, topped with fresh fruit and cream, really make their mark. Although it is not the ideal winter venue, the Boundary Rooftop Bar & Grill must be a atmospheric place to eat on a sunny evening. 7/10

Sunday 7 December 2014

Jamie's Italian, Piccadilly, Denman Street, central London

A multi-storey, mega-restaurant, this branch of Jamie's Italian tries to bring an edgy east-end feel to the touristy and more salubrious west end.  With brick walls, distressed wooden furniture, exposed vents, wooden floors and metallic tables, Jamie's Italian has the well-honed hallmarks of a Shoreditch eatery. But the clientele is more Highgate than Hoxton. In crisp white shirts, the young waiting staff are cooler-than-thou, but seem a little world weary.  On the menu, the bread basket (£3.95), which contains rosemary focaccia, ciabatta, seeded crackerbread, sourdough and grissini sticks and comes with an addictive olive tapenade, is tempting and tasty. But you might only get a mouthful of each variety. Among the main courses, the sausage pappardelle (£11.95) is pleasant and satisfying, but nothing special.  The prawn linguine (£13.50) gets better reviews, while the beef burger (£13.95 with chips)  contains a large and filling slab of meat topped with smoked mozzarella. The side dishes are nicely-done, but modest for the price tags. The rocket salad with parmesan (£3.55) is delicious, but sparse, while the market vegetables may just be a plate of finely-sliced courgette doused in garlic. For desert, the chocolate brownie (£5.45) is best avoided. Although the brownie is warm, soft and sweet, it may be served with a jarring frozen yoghurt and topped with sickly caramelised popcorn. To drink, the Crystal beer - a cool, flavoursome lager - is excellent. 7/10

Angler Restaurant, South Place Hotel, Moorgate, central London

Images from Angler's web site

A refined Michelen-starred fish restaurant on the top floor of the stylish South Place Hotel, Angler is a fine choice for seafood-lovers looking for a special meal. While the architecture is both high-end and high-tech, the crisp white tablecloths, smart waiting staff and gleaming cutlery are just high-end. At Christmas, you can either plumb for the three-course festive menu (£48) or go a la carte. Either way, you will eat well and be treated to several free appetisers - the mushroom mousse is very, very good, while the sourdough bread is seductively warm and soft. The very extensive wine list starts at £21 a bottle, but if you aren't an aficionado, you can get a bottle of clean Chilean white for £25 that goes well with seafood.

Monday 24 November 2014

Street Art, Bellenden Road, Peckham, South London

Walter Kershaw's interpretation of the seventeenth century painting, Landscape with Windmills near Haarlem, brightens up an end of terrace house on Choumert Road in Peckham's long-standing French quarter.

Anderson & Co cafe, Bellenden Road, Peckham, south London

A gourmet cafe on Peckham's prosperous Bellenden Road, Anderson & Co. offers an array of tempting cakes, pastries, sandwiches, quiches and breakfasts. Although the front area can be crowded on a weekday lunchtime, there is more seating at the back, overlooking the kitchen, plus a conservatory. Anderson & Co. produces delicious scrambled egg, nicely seasoned with olive oil, on sourdough toast.  If you are hungry, you can order it with four small chorizo sausages, for about £6.50.  The coffee is also decent. Although Anderson & Co. isn't cheap, the fine food, the stripped back white decor and the alluring ambience takes it a cut above the average cafe. 7/10

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Poppies, Tower of London, central London

Marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation progressively filled the Tower of London's moat with 888,246 ceramic poppies. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war. Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, the temporary installation attracted tens of thousands of visitors. In a ceremony every evening, the Last Post was played at sunset, followed by a reading of the names of some of the fatalities from the Commonwealth forces.

Friday 7 November 2014

The Breakfast Club, Battersea Rise, South London

At weekends, there are often queues outside the Battersea Rise branch of the Breakfast Club. On weekdays, you should be able to walk straight in, but there won't be many tables to choose from. The decor is a fashionable mix of battered furniture, lino flooring, old school signs, SMEG fridges and the like, in a mix of bold and pastel colours. Surprisingly, given the toppy prices, many of your fellow diners might be teenagers or young folk in their early twenties. The hip staff can be a little bit too attentive, but they don't hustle too hard. As you'd expect, the menu offers most of the breakfast permutations you could possibly want. If you aren't looking for a fry up, the porridge with mixed berries, toasted almonds and honey (£4.50), is hearty and fairly healthy. If you're hungry, the 'Full Monty' English breakfast (a tenner), featuring bacon, sausage, black pudding, eggs, fried potatoes and more, looks pretty appealing and pretty filling.  The Breakfast Club also serves competent coffees, starting at £1.60 for an expresso up to £2.90 for a mocha. 7/10

The view from Peckham Library, south London

The view from the front: An autumnal sunset over Peckham's gritty High Street.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

The Barbican, central London

Built on a site devastated by the Blitz, the Barbican is a vast landscaped post war housing estate-come-theatre complex in which three towers rise out of the seven-storey blocks of flats below. A fine example of so-called brutalist architecture, the Barbican isn't too everyone's tastes, but it is an absorbing anomaly in an area dominated by glass and steel office buildings.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

The City of London

Reflecting on glass, steel and London's greatest church

St. Mary-Le-Bow, Cheapside, central London

Standing proud in the heart of the city, St. Mary-Le-Bow is a seventeenth century church designed by Sir Christopher Wren, renown for its beautiful bell tower and steeple. To be a true cockney, you need to have been born within earshot of the bells of this church.

St. Lawrence Jewery, Guildhall Yard, central London

One of the largest and most striking of the seventeenth century churches still standing in the City of London, St. Lawrence Jewery's spires give it a fairytale quality. The official church of the Corporation of London, St. Lawrence Jewery's imposing Corinthian facade overlooks the Guildhall, forming a historical pocket in London's mostly modernistic financial district. In the Guildhall Yard is a surviving police call box - a sky blue miniature Tardis.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Casa Tomada at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York's HQ, King's Road, central London

Made from two casts of human skulls, twigs and rope, Rafael Gómezbarros's ants symbolise displaced immigrants.  The exhibition is called Casa Tomada (House Taken Over) Rafael Gómezbarros lives and works in Bogotá, Colombia.

Friday 17 October 2014

Unstoppable Spirit Exhibition, The Southbank, London

A collaboration between Italian artist Nino Mustica and Land Rover design director, Gerry McGovern, the Unstoppable Spirit sculptures incorporate full-size models of Land Rovers.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Lunch at the Ting restaurant, Hotel Shangri-La, the Shard, London

Offering lunch with a view, the Hotel Shangri-La's Ting Restaurant is half way up the Shard - reputed to be the tallest building in western Europe. Although service can be slow and the portions on the small side, the understated oriental decor is cool and contemporary, while the view can be spectacular. At lunch time, the set menu is priced at two courses for £27 or three courses for £30.

The View on a Grey Day, The Shard, South London

The view north from the 72nd floor of the Shard on a grey day in the Big Smoke

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Savoy Hotel, Ferdinand Bolstraat, Amsterdam

Images from the Savoy website
A tired, workmanlike hotel in the business district of Amsterdam, the Savoy Hotel is a world away from its London namesake. In need of a facelift, the décor, with swirly carpets and crude blocks of colour, feels a bit naff. The rooms can be quiet, but the curtains might not stretch across the windows, meaning light can pour in from the courtyard behind, which is also overlooked by the local police station. The wifi is free, but quite sluggish, while the buffet breakfast is passable. Although the scrambled egg can be congealed and the machine coffee lame, the bread, fruit and yoghurts are worth sampling. In any case, the breakfast room has no natural light and there are a couple of good cafes nearby, such as Kofi-t, doing fine coffee. If time allows, you may want to make an early exit from the Savoy. 6/10

Yamazato Restaurant, Okura Hotel, Ferdinand Bolstraat, Amsterdam

Images from the Okura website
Inside the Okura hotel in Amsterdam's business district, the Yamazato Restaurant is a lavish Japanese restaurant with elaborate decor, impeccable staff and a rather special seven course taster menu. The Sukiya-style slatted wooden screens and lighting strives to conjure up the age of the Samurais, while the authentic Japanese food is everything you would expect from a Michelin starred establishment.  Perhaps the only downside is you may be surrounded by men in suits. 8/10

Wednesday 8 October 2014

The Commerce Club, the Peachtree Tower, downtown Atlanta

The view north towards Midtown Atlanta
On the 49th floor of a skyscraper in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the bar in the Commerce Club has an old school feel. As well as offering captivating 360 degree views over the city and its leafy suburbs, the Commerce Club is distinguished by its dark wooden panelling, conservative furnishings and charismatic bar staff with a entertaining line in patter. The food is fairly standard fare, but good enough.  Early in the evening, the bar seems to attract local office workers, as well as the odd financial advisor building relationships with clients.  But the views are the main draw and if you get the right table you'll be treated to a beautiful sunset beyond the shining glass cylinder of the Westin Hotel. 8/10

Ellis Hotel, downtown Atlanta

In the heart of Atlanta's eerily-quiet downtown district, the Ellis Hotel is housed in a handsome brick nineteenth century building, which is dwarfed by the nearby skyscrapers. Although the rooms can be quite luxurious and comfortable (they seem to have been refitted recently), the ones at the front can be a bit noisy, even on the seventh floor. All night long, there seems to be a constant hum from the surrounding city's generators and air conditioning units. Although the bedrooms are equipped with irons and ironing boards, they lack safes.  Still, the WiFi is free and pretty good, as are the large flat screen televisions. The en-suite bathrooms boast limestone floors and walls, Kohler rain-shower heads, and granite countertops. But the Ellis Hotel needs more soundproofing. 6/10

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Atlanta, Georgia

The view of Atlanta's skyscrapers, rising out of the city's extensive tree canopy, coming into land at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Saturday 4 October 2014

The Ride of the Falling Leaves, south London

Organised by cycling club Dulwich Paragon, the Ride of the Falling Leaves is a fairly laid-back jaunt over the North Downs into the verdant Kent countryside. You depart from Herne Hill Velodrome, where you are offered a timing chip, a decent cup of coffee and a pastry (part of your £20 entry fee). You warm up with a lap of the recently-resurfaced track. Temporary signs then direct you out through leafy Dulwich into suburbia and south into the rural hills beyond West Wickham. After a steady ascent, you swoop west down towards Warlingham before taking on a gruelling climb up into the North Downs overlooking the M25. At this point, you can choose between the short route (approximately 80km), which takes you east into Westerham, or the long route (approaching 110km and 1,350 metres of climbing), which heads south into rolling Kent countryside.

Thursday 2 October 2014

St Alban Church, Wood Street, central London

Survival in the city. Rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in the late seventeenth century after being destroyed by the Fire of London, St. Alban Church was badly damaged in the Blitz. All that remains today is the tower - apparently a private home - on a traffic island, dwarfed by the surrounding glass and steel. A tree guards the doorway.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Walk around Aira Force, near Ullswater, Cumbria

Owned by the National Trust, Gowbarrow Park incorporates the Aira Force waterfall, which drops about 65 feet, a series of quaint stone bridges and an arboretum containing more than 200 species of conifers from all over the world. There are several short, but dramatic, walks following footpaths that hug steep tree lined slopes tumbling down to the river below. For kids, the park is a lush, green adventure playground with fallen trees, rocky crags and stony stairways to scramble over and clamber along.  Several fallen trunks have hundreds of coins hammered into them. Moss and ferns cling to the rocks, while some spectacularly gnarled and deformed trees are dotted around the park. 

Queen's Head Inn, Tirril, Penrith, Cumbria

A traditional thick stone pub on the edge of the Lake District, the Queen's Head Inn has several bars and dining rooms kitted out with homely bric-a-brac.  The menu majors on pies sourced from local business, the Piemill, each named after local fells.  Although it looks a little too neat and tidy, the Carrock pie is very good. The juicy lamb and mint filling is encased in light, fluffy pastry, but the portion isn't huge. It is served with a choice of new potatoes, mash potatoes or chips, plus vegetables. For desert, the sticky toffee pudding is very sweet and hits the spot. However, it also looks like it may have been mass produced. In any case, it is worth making the trip up from Ullswater to Tirril for the beer - the delicious Dizzy Blonde, a golden ale from Robinsons' brewery, is refreshing, yet full of flavour. 7/10

Ullswater Steamers, Cumbria

A fleet of five venerable ships, of varying shapes and sizes, ferry tourists up and down the three legs of Ullswater, in the north east corner of the Lake District.  These ageing wooden vessels, which typically have inside and outside seating, stop at Pooley Bridge, How Town and Glenridding. It is worth braving the cold to sit in the bows and sterns, from where there are sweeping views of this nine mile long lake, the wind surfers, sailing boats and stunning surrounding fells. A day-long round-the-lake pass costs adults £13.40 and children half that, but you can also pay with Tesco vouchers. In the autumn, the steamers typically run every couple of hours, with the last journeys in the late afternoon. 8/10

Barton Hall, near Pooley Bridge, Cumbria

A handsome and substantial Victorian house a mile outside of Pooley Bridge at one end of Ullswater, Barton Hall oozes old-school character.  Spread over two floors and two wings, its comfortable guest bedrooms have very high four-poster beds, vintage wallpaper, velvety curtains and lampshades, distinguished wooden furniture and thick carpets. Some have en-suite bathrooms with roll-top baths, but others rely on spacious communal facilities with lovely old brass fixtures and fittings.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Ullswater, Cumbria

Evening sunshine on Ullswater near Pooley Bridge

Walk up Hallin Fell, Ullswater, Cumbria

You can catch the steamer from Pooley Bridge to Howtown from where a path winds up Hallin Fell. It can be a steep haul up the summit, but it is worth the pain for the sweeping view of two of Ullswater's three legs.  From the cairn, there are several trails back down through the heather on the hillside towards Howtown. Kids will enjoy scrambling up and down the stone crags that jut out of the hillside. Before reboarding the ferry, you can stop for a drink in the tiny bar of the Howtown Hotel, which has a hillside ornamental garden. Hallin Fell makes for a fine family walk. 8/10

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Mercure Hotel Berlin am Alexanderplatz, Berlin

A fairly grim hotel in a fairly desolate patch of Berlin, this branch of the Mercure chain does have the virtue of being only a five minute walk from the iconic Alexanderplatz, which hosted one of the largest demonstrations in the history of East Germany in 1989. The check-in process can be slow, cumbersome and bureaucratic. For dinner, the staff recommend a couple of local restaurants - one is a traditional Berlin outfit (Der Alte Fritz) which is okay, but can lack atmosphere - the waiters seem miserable. Still, the fried meat balls (bouletten, 13.80 euros) - served with a pile of potatoes and green beans in a decent sauce - is a pretty satisfying dish. 

Saturday 30 August 2014

Castell d’Empordà, near La Bisbal d'Empordà, Catalonia

Dating from the fourteenth century, Castell d’Empordà is perched above the rolling farmland north of La Bisbal d'Empordà near the Costa Brava. Medieval towers constructed from golden stone form the atmospheric centrepiece of this luxurious hotel, which also features a modern wing, an outdoor pool, a spacious sunbathing terrace and a renown restaurant. The garden rooms in the modern block have balconies and large glass windows with far-reaching views taking in the surrounding villages. They are well-equipped with comfortable beds, free Wi-Fi, safes, minibars, rain showers, bathrobes and flat-screen televisions. Kitted out in a cool, contemporary style, these rooms have oak floors and stylish, sold furniture. And unlike the accommodation in the castle itself, the garden rooms are served by a lift.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Lunch at Castell d’Empordà, near La Bisbal d'Empordà, Catalonia

 A historic castle-turned-hotel, Castell d’Empordà serves a fairly lavish lunch with a view for just under 20 euros before water and other drinks. The tables are laid out on a broad spacious terrace in the shadow of the medieval keep shaded by a modernist roof constructed from interlocking rusted iron discs. The set menu offers a choice of three dishes per course. For a starter, the salmon tartar is fresh, nicely dressed with lime and dill, and served with crisp radish, but the portion can be meagre. Among the main courses, the paella-like rice casserole contains generous chunks of fish and black sausage. It can be a little salty and some might find it bitter. Alternatively, the entrecôte steak, served with potatoes, is a big helping of juicy meat, typically cooked rarer than you ask for. For deserts, the creme brûlée is sweet, creamy and satisfying. Leaning heavily on Spain, the wine list is fairly priced For example, a bottle of Ruchel Godello Valdeorras - a crisp, clean, dry white wine - is good value at 17.7 euros.  Castell d’Empordà's good value lunch deservedly attracts plenty of punters and you'll enjoy the buzz, the history and the views across the surrounding fields. 8/10 

Monells, Baix Empordà, Catalonia

Another well-preserved Catalan medieval village, laid back Monells only attracts a smattering of tourists on August evenings.  The distinctive main square is lined by attractive stone archways.

La Bisbal d'Empordà, Catalonia

Best known for its pottery and ceramics, La Bisbal d'Empordà is a quiet old town surrounded by rolling Catalan countryside dotted with medieval villages and tailor-made for cycling. The town's landmark building is the Palace Castle of the bishops of Girona (pictured above), which is surrounded by a small warren of old streets with pavement cafes and restaurants. It is also worth strolling along the tree-lined Daró river bed, which is now dry (pictured below), and along the Avenue de les Voltes with its elegant arcades (also pictured below). 6/10

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Restaurant La Cantonada, C/Del Bisbe, la Bisbal d'Emporda

Pretty much off the tourist trail and not open every evening, Restaurant La Cantonada serves superb, beautifully-presented Catalan food. This unpretentious eatery with unremarkable decor offers a three-course menu for 20 euros (includes desert/coffee and water), with supplements for certain dishes. Before you tuck into your starters, the gruff, but helpful, waiter will bring you some appetisers, such as a crostinis, topped with a tapenade, and a thick creamy soup in a small glass.  Among the starters, the gorgonzola ravoili with feta cheese, pesto and tomatoes is both excellent and filling. There is also a rich, thick and delicious, gazpacho-style dish, served with a big dollop of cream. It is quite sweet. The humous and parsley salad and the parmesan salad are both fresh and large.

Peratallada, Baix Empordà, Catalonia

One of the finest of the many medieval villages in the Baix Empordà region of Catalonia, Peratallada has largely been bypassed by modern development. Enclosed by crumbling walls, the village is still a maze of cobbled streets clustered around an ancient castle. On the edge of Peratallada is the stately twelfth century Romanesque church of St. Stephen.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Restaurant Ibèric, Valls, Ullastret, Catalonia

Although it has some comfortable seats on a pleasant terrace facing Ullastret's medieval stone walls, Restaurant Ibèric can be devoid of diners in the evening when the day trippers have gone home. The food is quite good, but doesn't make up for the lack of atmosphere. On the a la carte menu, most of the fish dishes are expensive by local standards - costing around 20 euros each, but the meat dishes are more reasonable at about 14 euros apiece.  There may also be a long list of specials, substituting for dishes that are off.  After you've ordered, a waitress might bring you some moist and delicious pieces of tortilla as a (free) appetiser. Among the starters, the tuna salad (8.85 euros) is generous and well seasoned. The chunks of fish, which are fresh and meaty, are accompanied by tomatoes and onions, as well as greenery. The steamed mussels (8.80 euros) are also plentiful, but are soaked in vinegar, which won't be to everyone's tastes. For a main course, the boar stew is a rich, meaty dish, served with a thick sauce, complete with mushrooms and onions. It is satisfying without being scintillating. The Catalan broad beans, however, are laced with too much fennel, giving the dish a strong aniseed flavour. You may not need desert, as you get a pile of tiny chocolates with your coffee, providing the needed sugar kick. Unfortunately, Ullastret seems quiet in the evening and the looming stone walls opposite Restaurant Ibèric can get a bit oppressive after dark. 6/10 

Monday 25 August 2014

Pals, Catalonia

The heavily-restored and touristy medieval village of Pals rises above a flat plain running down to the Mediterranean. The ancient fortifications, stone houses, cobbled streets, Romanesque tower, time-worn archways and verdant pot plants give Pals an undoubted charm, but, in August, you may have to enjoy this period piece with coach loads of tourists. Although there are plenty of pavement cafes and souvenir shops catering to the visitors, the commercialism is low key and restrained. Pals is certainly worth a wander round, but try and avoid peak season. 7/10

Sunday 24 August 2014

Cycling in Parc Natural del Montgrí, near L'Escala, Catalonia

Criss-crossed by hiking and biking trails, the Parc Natural del Montgrí is a fine place to take a robust mountain bike for a traffic-free spin. Although there is a fast stretch of newish tarmac near the campsite on route to L'Escala, you'll spend much of your time bouncing over loose stones and rocks, making some of the climbs quite challenging. It is easy to get lost - the trees can obscure your views of the sea, so look out for the occasional green sign marking the long-distance coastal hiking path. If you work your way from L'Escala across to Estartit and the imposing Castell del Montgrí, you'll probably end up climbing several hundred metres and travelling a good ten kilometres  You might even have to navigate the odd flock of sheep barring the way. There are a couple of lovely old country houses tucked away in the hills above Estartit and it is not clear where their private land ends and this recently-designated national park begins - more signs are needed. Still, it is fun to explore this peaceful patch of greenery. 7/10

Saturday 23 August 2014

Cal Galan, Corriol de l'Usach, L'Escala, Catalonia

Tucked away in the back streets between L'Escala's small bays, Cal Galan is an enticing restaurant serving hearty food at heart-warming prices. The walls are covered with black and white prints celebrating the town's longstanding fishing industry. Still, the appealing menu is meat-heavy. To start, the cured ham served on bread is delicious and generous, as are the local anchovies on bread, particularly if you like a salt kick. Both dishes are just five euros.

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.