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.