Monday, 31 December 2018
An unspoilt Cotswolds pub, the Ebrington Arms serves decent food at punchy prices in convivial surroundings. The menu can be aspirational (duck breast, pommes anna, carrot & star anise puree & Russian kale for £24), but there are also some cheaper staples, such as fish and chips with mushy peas (£15), and beef burger and chips (£17). The portions are fairly generous and the food is hearty fare with plenty of flavour. There are also some smooth ales, such as Yubby, on draught. The service is pretty attentive and chirpy, but some of the rooms can get smoky when the open fires are going strong. 7/10
Labels: More Gloucestershire
Friday, 30 November 2018
|Images from the National Theatre web site|
For a contemporary play about the tense and multi-layered world of British politics, I'm Not Running is too slow, laid back, disjointed and detached from real world events, which right now are more absorbing and profound than the fictional events covered in David Hare's new play. His focus on the NHS and healthcare seems narrow and dated, given this play was written in the era of Brexit, nationalism, Trump and Corbyn. Even the staff shortages in the NHS, which are being exacerbated by Brexit, don't warrant a mention, while the collapse of the political centre, the civil war in the Tory Party and the battle for the soul of the Labour Party are also ignored. In an apt metaphor for the script, the set, which is basically two revolving walls and some furniture, fails to fill the expansive stage of the Lyttelton Theatre.
Labels: More London entertainment
Saturday, 3 November 2018
Lisbon's neoclassical City Hall was built in the middle of the nineteenth century, after a fire destroyed its predecessor, according to aviewoncities.com. It is the most striking building in a beautifully-tiled square, which is also adorned by a spiral column built from a single block of stone in the eighteenth century, symbolising the enforcement of justice.
Getting a ride on one of Lisbon's ancient wooden trams, which date from the 1930s, is far from easy. There isn't much space inside the atmospheric Remodelado' trams, which rattle around the city's streets and there are lots of tourists wanting to squeeze in. Route 28 is particularly popular with both travellers and pickpockets. If you are desperate, take one of the trams heading out west into some of the less scenic parts of the city. You can use your day pass, which costs about 6.5 euros, on the trams, buses and metros.
Guards stand outside the official residence of the President of Portugal. Renovated in the late 1800s it was turned into the official home of the President in 1911, according to Lisbonlux. On site are gardens and a museum, as well as the palace itself.
With several fine parks, gardens and major historical sites, the suburb of Belém should be on any Lisbon itinerary. Although a dual carriageway and a train line has cut the town centre off from the riverfront, Belém is a pleasant place to wander and enjoy a beer of a coffee in the sunshine.
An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sixteenth century Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is both vast and impressively ornate, with intricate carvings around its enormous main gateway and its domed bell tower. Built during the Age of Discovery, the monastery commemorated Vasco da Gama's discovery of the maritime route to India. Today, it is a magnet for tourists. In the morning, the queue to see the apparently spectacular interior can be several hundred-strong, but it seems to subside around lunchtime.
Reminiscent of a Game of Thrones set, the Torre de Belém is a charismatic fortress standing in the Tagus Estuary, near the point where it flows into the Atlantic. Built in 1515, the nautical tower is adorned with quirky carvings of ropes, a rhino and shields. To get inside, which can take some time, tourists queue on a wooden jetty. Unfortunately, from some angles, the view of the tower is marred by an industrial plant on the other side of the river.
The terrace of Miradouro Sophia de Mello offers broad views over Lisbon, taking in the Castelo de S. Jorge, the suspension bridge, Ponte 25 de Abril, and the pastel colours of the old city. Although it is a stiff climb up to the viewpoint and it is popular with selfie-seeking tourists, this is a fine spot to sip a beer in the shadow of Igreja e Convento da Graça and soak up Lisbon's history.
Friday, 2 November 2018
It can be tricky to get a table at Maria Catita, a plain, but popular Lisbon restaurant serving decent local cuisine. The atmosphere is buzzy and the service is cheerful, but slow, even by Lisbon's standards. Still, the food is generally worth waiting for. The shellfish stew (two portions for 46 euros), served in a copper pot, is brimming with expertly-cooked fresh seafood, while the steak and chips (16.5 euros) is generous for the price. But the fried cod loin, fried potatoes, onion and peppers (16.90 euros) isn't quite as exciting. If you are patient, Maria Catita makes for a fine meal out. 8/10
The forbidding Baroque facade of Igreja do Menino Deus, an early eighteenth century church that survived the 1755 earthquake.
Next to a public toilet hidden inside an archway, this comic mural tells the history of Lisbon through the centuries. Painted by Nuno Saraiva, this charming piece of public art can be reached via the Rua Norberto De Araujo stairway.
architecture has turned it into a Lisbon landmark. As the gateway to the tourist trap of Sintra, its elegant ticket hall can be inundated with people trying to access the machines or the booths. Best to get there early and avoid the mid morning scramble.
Built in 1929 to host sporting and cultural events, this ostentatious building was renamed after the Portuguese athlete Carlos Lopes, who won the Los Angeles Olympics marathon in 1984, setting a new Olympic record. Recently renovated, it now looks brand, spanking new. The striking blue tiled sections depict scenes from Portugal’s history, and the two large sculptures by the entrance represent Art and Science, according to Lisbon Lux
On the brow of a hill overlooking downtown Lisbon, the Jardim Amália Rodrigues is one of the best places from which to survey the wider city. It also overlooks the Palacete Henrique Mendonça, a grand century-old mansion just a hundred yards to the north.
It is a long haul up the wide tiled ramps to the top of the Parque Eduardo VII, but the sweeping view down the lush green slope, across the box hedges, into the city and to the river Tagus beyond is worth the effort. From here, you can also admire an enormous Portuguese flag, while watching the steady stream of TAP planes descending towards the city's airport.
Save Sintra for a sunny day and get there early, very early. Even on wet days with the verdant hills and historic palaces shrouded in mist, the historic town can be packed with tourists. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to some extraordinary and fanciful architecture, but the many transport bottlenecks means it can feel like a overcrowded tourist trap
Thursday, 1 November 2018
You can ride an elevator up to this concrete-laden vantage point, but the steps via a graffiti-splattered back alley are the more rewarding route. From here you get commanding views across Lisbon's centre and the Tagus on its way out to the Atlantic.
Surely one of the largest squares in Europe, the Praça do Comércio is lined by grand eighteenth century arcades on three sides and the riverfront on the fourth. Although it lacks the intricate patterned cobbles that are a hallmark of historic Lisbon, the square's grandeur and harmonious architecture more than compensates. The imposing Arco da Rua Augusta and the handsome statue of Dom José I on horseback add theatre and charisma.
An attractive and compact square between Chiado and Bairro Alto, Praça Luís de Camões celebrates Luis de Camões with a monumental statue standing on a pedestal. The 16th-century epic poet towers above statues of several other literary figures. Depicting sailing ships, anchors and the like, the square's decorative black and white tiling is a delight. Nearby there are two Baroque churches: Loreto (pictured below) and Encarnação.
Housed in the charismatic and airy Ribeiro da Cunha Palace, Embaixada is an eclectic collection of arty boutique shops in the happening neighbourhood of Príncipe Real. Leading up from the cafe on the ground floor, the palace has an impressive staircase and atrium adorned with opulent sculptures and paintings.
Built on a steep hillside near the heart of Lisbon, the nineteenth century Botanical Gardens are a calm and lush oasis of exotic greenery featuring thousands of subtropical species. Although the gardens are a tad shabby and overgrown, there are many quirky corners, the hard landscaping is tasteful and the atmosphere peaceful. If you have any interest in botany, a visit is well worth the modest entrance fee.
One of the many atmospheric squares that give Lisbon its distinctive character, Largo Trindade Coelho has a quirky statue of a ticket conductor, shady trees and a fine view of the trams ambling their way up the handsome Rua da Misericórdia.
Winding its way up from behind Rossio Station to Bairro Alto, Calçada do Duque is a series of steep stone staircases lined with compact cafes-bars, restaurants and shops. When you pause for a rest, you can admire the view of the castle and the colourful houses below, framed by the elegant period buildings that tumble down the hillside. There are a lot of steps, but if you want to get some exercise, this is the most scenic route to Bairro Alto from the centre of Lisbon.
A multi-purpose, but nondescript, square in the heart of Lisbon, Praça da Figueira serves as an outdoor food and drinks market, a transport hub and a modest tourist attraction thanks to its grand statue of King John I on horseback and several period four-storey buildings. This is a good spot to sample Portuguese cheeses and cold meats, washed down by a beer or glass of wine.
With its rippling mosaic cobbles, large circular fountain, and towering column topped by a statue of Pedro IV, the solider king, Praça do Rossio is a striking reminder of Lisbon's grandiose history. A popular meeting point and the scene of many a protest and execution, the square is also home to the national theatre, two of Lisbon's best-known cafes and a distinctive Neo-Manueline railway station, which serves the Sintra region.
You can reach Lisbon's sprawling hilltop Mooorish castle by following Largo do Chão do Loureiro and then Costo Do Castelo. This atmospheric route will take you up some steep steps and through gnarled cobbled streets lined with appealing tiled cafes. The plentiful graffiti is a ready reminder that Lisbon is an edgy city, rather than dolled-up museum for tourists. But once you pass through the grand archway near the top of Costo Do Castelo, you'll need to pay to enter the 11th century fortress.
With its classical pillars, bourgenvilla, cobble-stones and ornate tiles, this terrace is a romantic spot from which to survey one of Lisbon's oldest quarters, the cruise liners in the docks and the distant Vasco da Gama Bridge, a 17km long crossing of the Targus.
Probably one of the most photographed panoramas in Lisbon, the view from the Miradouro das Portas do Sol Observation Deck takes in the São Vicente de Fora Monastery, overlooking the old district of Alfama, the Igreja de Santo Estêvão and the Tagus River. With a harmonious mix of pastel-hued period buildings with red-tiled roofs tumbling down to the waterfront, Alfama is one of the best-preserved parts of the Portuguese capital.
Wednesday, 31 October 2018
A traditional Portuguese establishment that makes few concessions to tourists, Velho Macedo is a good place to soak up an authentic Lisbon experience. With white table cloths, traditional crockery and wall-mounted wooden wine racks, the interior is old-school. The serious-minded waiting staff appear to speak little English and offer even less guidance, but you can't go far wrong with the seafood, which is tasty and good value. A very soft, creamy and smelly local cheese (called Azeitão) arrives unbidden, while you are waiting for the dishes you ordered. At 5.5 euros for a hefty and delicious helping, it is more than welcome. The only cause for complaint is the pricey bottled water, which seems to cost more than the beer. 7/10