Sunday 29 May 2016

York House Hotel, Park Ave, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear

A well run and pristine guest house in a quiet quarter of the seaside town of Whitley Bay overlooking a patch of green, the York House Hotel is a pricey, but pleasant, place to stay. A riot of swirling patterns and soft fabrics, the decor won't be to everyone's tastes. And, if the heating is on, the hotel can be excessively stuffy as the numerous radiators pump out heat. However, the accommodation is spacious and well-kitted out, the beds are comfortable and the WiFi is fast. The rooms are also quiet and equipped with smart en-suite and self-catering facilities. Downstairs, there is a plush lounge complete with sparkling chandelier and gleaming marble fireplace. With a large bay window and plenty of space, the dining room is also impressive, as are the breakfasts. You are served good filter coffee at your table, along with chunky toast, accompanied by small pots of Bonne Maman jams and marmalade. The cheerful staff also offer a small selection of hot dishes. The English breakfast is made with fine ingredients, while the special might be a tasty bagel stuffed with smoked salmon, chives and cream cheese, topped with hard boiled egg. The cold buffet includes an appealing fruit salad, granola, blueberries, small boxes of cereal, yogurts, an array of decent fruit juices and even a bottle of bubbly in an ice bucket.  Although Whitley Bay has seen better days, the York House Hotel is in its prime. 8/10

Sunday 15 May 2016

Katy B at the Brixton Academy, South London

As she belts out high tempo dance tracks to an appreciative local crowd, Peckham-born Katy B knows how to put on a show.  Sometimes flanked by energetic gyrating dancers and bathed in a flashy light show, Kathleen Anne Brien cranks out her catchy hits, such as Lights On and Broken Record, with gusto. Although her own dancing isn't great, she keeps moving with enthusiasm through the short, sharp set. Kay B may perform for less than an hour, but the tickets aren't expensive. The ideal size for an atmospheric gig, the O2 Academy in Brixton has stalls with a sloping floor offering good vantage points from just about everywhere.  The surreal set, with classical balustrades and balconies above the stage, looks like something out of Romeo and Juliet. There are a few ledges to sit on, which is a good job because there can be a lengthy break between the succinct support acts and the main gig. The bars offer bog-standard wines and beers, such as Tuborg, at toppy prices. Although they are well-staffed, you might want to get a two pint plastic glass to cut down on the queuing. Katy B and Brixton Academy make for a good combo. 7/10

Friday 13 May 2016

Aparthotel Adagio Access Nice Acropolis, France

A kind of hybrid of a hotel and a block of self-catering apartments, the Aparthotel Adagio Access Nice Acropolis is a cheap and grim place to stay. The rooms are spacious, but they have harsh tiled floors and the extractor fans in the kitchenettes can be noisy and impossible to switch off. There is some basic air conditioning and the Wi-Fi works, but this stark establishment was furnished on a budget and the views from the windows tend to be dispiriting. You can get breakfast, but you'll probably find better value and better food at one of the local cafes or boulangeries. Still, there is a small roof-top pool and you will be staying slap bang next to the Acropolis conference centre if you happen to be in Nice on business. 5/10

Thursday 12 May 2016

Jetée Lucciana, Monaco

 “Ulysses” by Anna Chromy, which was installed on the Jetée Lucciana, Monaco, in 2014.

A Ferrari on display in the Yacht Club de Monaco

The Marina, the Yacht Club de Monaco

The eclectic and expensive yachts clustered into the marina outside the Yacht Club de Monaco

Gare de Nice-Ville, France

Completed in 1867, Gare de Nice-Ville retains its nineteenth century elegance and charm. A soaring roof, cast iron pillars, palm trees and stone archways combine to conjure up the grand tours of Europe in the golden age of travel.  From here, you can still catch brightly-decorated trains to Marseilles and Monaco.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France

One of the nine themed gardens at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, an early 20th century country house on the French Riviera. 

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Tuesday 3 May 2016

The Italian Gardens, Kensington Gardens, central London

Grade II listed, the 150 year old Italian Gardens can be found on the north side of Kensington Gardens near Lancaster Gate. The elegant Italianate pump house is surrounded by immaculate formal gardens, fountains and ornate cast iron railings. Story has it that the Gardens were a gift from Prince Albert to his beloved Queen Victoria. The Royal Parks, which manages the Italian Gardens says they "consist of four main basins with central rosettes, all elaborately carved in Carrara marble, and the famous Portland stone and white marble Tazza Fountain. These are surrounded by intricately carved stone statues and urns. The urns have five main designs - the Swan's breast, woman's head, ram's head, dolphin and oval."