Sunday 23 October 2016

DoubleTree by Hilton, Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, California

A big boxy building overlooking the busy Hawthorne Boulevard, the Torrance DoubleTree franchise is a typical soulless mid-market hotel. If you have a room at the front, you will have to put up with the extraordinarily noisy air conditioning units. Although they seem to quieten down as the night progresses, there can still be a steady hum from the nearby highway. You probably won't spend much time on your compact balcony. Still, the en-suite rooms themselves are quite comfortable and fairly plush, if predictably decorated in browns and beiges. It is a lengthy walk down to the ocean front (more than two miles), but the hotel is on several bus routes and there are coffee shops and restaurants within walking distance. And you get free cookies when you check in. 6/10

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Hotel Plasky, Avenue Eugène Plasky, Brussels

Some of the quiet and comfortable rooms on the sixth floor of Hotel Plasky have fine views over the north side of Brussels. In one room, the basic and clinical en-suite bathroom even has its own balcony overlooking the suburbs below.

Charles Buls Fountain, Rue du Marché aux Herbes, Brussels

The Mayor of Brussels at the end of the nineteenth century, Charles Bruls is credited by Wikipedia with protecting Brussels' historic heart from redevelopment by King Leopold II.

Lycée Emile Jacqmain, Rue Béliard, Brussels

Housed in the former Institute of Physiology,  a beautiful building, Lycée Emile Jacqmain is enviably situated on the edge of Leopold Park in Brussels' European district. Its pupils can be seen running around this hilly green space.  In 1927, the building hosted the fifth Solvay Conference, which brought together Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Marie Curie and more than a dozen other Nobel prize winners to discuss Quantum Theory. 

Edificio - Bibliothèque Solvay, Parc Léopold, Brussels

The stunning interior of this 114-year old building is something of a shock after the fairly restrained stone exterior. Reopened in 1994, after extensive and painstaking restoration work, the centrepiece is a magnificent lecture hall lined with wood panelling, leather bound books, lead-paned windows and intricate wrought iron work, and sheltered by a soaring arched ceiling. Built as the Institute of Sociology and bathed in natural light, the Edificio - Bibliothèque Solvay is a sublime work of art in its own right.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

South Dock, Canary Wharf, south London

A newly-built twisted skyscraper with 45 stories, Baltimore Tower is designed to be a green apartment block with solar panels and a brasserie-bar at the top

Tuesday 4 October 2016

The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping Wall, East London

A historic riverside tavern, the Prospect of Whitby has a stone floor dating from the original inn built in 1520. Rebuilt in the early nineteenth century after a fire, today's hostelry retains its period charm despite some garish touches in the downstairs bar. Decorated in a nautical theme and with black and white prints of twentieth century celebrities, the upstairs rooms are particularly atmospheric and have far-reaching views across the Thames.