Wednesday 31 October 2018

Taberna do Vilarinho, Rua das Canastras, Lisbon

A bohemian establishment serving earthy Portuguese food and cheap wine by the carafe, Taberna do Vilarinho is a refreshingly friendly and unassuming place to eat in a touristy part of Lisbon.

Velho Macedo, R. da Madalena, Lisbon

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

Friday 26 October 2018

The Queen's Walk, Waterloo Bridge to Lambeth Bridge, Central London

Away from the tourist hordes and directly opposite the Houses of Parliament, this riverside promenade provides for a fine central London walk. You get to admire the ornate dolphin lamp standards as well as the quirky architecture of St. Thomas' Hospital. 

The Houses of Parliament, Central London

The riverbank next to Lambeth Palace is a great spot to admire the Gothic charm of the Palace of Westminster.

Warterloo Bridge and Somerset House, Central London,

 From the balcony at the top of the Royal Festival Hall, you get a distant view of the neoclassical splendour of Somerset House, the onetime Inland Revenue buildings dating from the eighteenth century, beyond Waterloo Bridge, a prosaic structure completed during the Second World War.

Sunday 21 October 2018

King Street, Covent Garden, Central London

The elegant and distinctive eighteenth and nineteenth century buildings lining King Street are now home to upmarket boutiques and appealing eateries.

Autumn in Lincoln's Inn Fields, Central London

The venerable old trees in London's largest public square put on an eye-catching show in the low autumn sunshine

Friday 19 October 2018

The Thames from Waterloo Bridge, Central London

Right on a bend in the Thames, Waterloo Bridge affords some of the broadest views of the London skyline.

St. Paul's from the South Bank, Central London

St. Paul's Cathedral sits serenely overlooking the hive of activity in London's financial district.

Stories, The National Theatre, the South Bank, Central London

Performed in the National's intimate Dorfman theatre, Stories is a no-holds barred exploration of what it is like to be a 39 year old single woman desperate for a child. Written by Nina Raine, the play follows Anna's attempts to persuade various men to donate their sperm for her cause.  As she does so, she is haunted by childhood memories of a family friend dying childless. Although it deals with some deep issues, the dialogue is surprisingly light, which keeps your emotions in check, for better and worse. Although you never engage with her as deeply as you might, Claudie Blakley gives Anna a stoic demeanour, thereby preventing Stories from turning into some kind of therapy session. And there are some poignant reflections on childhood - one of the best lines is about how kids allow you to relive all those experiences you've forgotten, such as the first time you taste lemon. The play is also enriched by some interesting ethical dilemmas, such as whether the 26 year old boyfriend should have allowed his relationship with Anna to last three years, knowing she wanted to settle down and have children. Stories' script is also at pains to consider the impact of anonymous sperm donors on the resulting child and their sense of their own identity.  Another of Raine's themes is how the realities of childhood and parenthood can starkly differ from their portrayal in children's books and Disney films.

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Cycling in Battersea Park, Central London

Sadly, in Battersea Park, you are not supposed to ride along the riverbank path which faces Chelsea's handsome mansion blocks. Instead you have to take the road, which affords glimpses of the Thames, while taking you close to London's striking Peace Pagoda. As flat as a pancake, but plush and picturesque, Battersea Park is a pleasant place to go for a spin with the kids.

Autumn Colour in Brockwell Park, South London

 Fiery red leaves light up Brockwell Park's ponds

Saturday 13 October 2018

Mountain biking around Leith Hill, Surrey

Leith Hill

From Dorking station, it is few miles ride by road over to Westcott, from where you can take a trail from behind the church up towards Leith Hill. You can climb gradually through Wotton Common following Wolvens Lane and the single track that runs in parallel. The steep final ascent up to Leith Hill is tough and technical - if you don't pick the right line or have to dodge walkers, you could well be pushing your bike up this stretch. Once you have stopped to take in the view, you can enjoy a descent down through Pasture Wood, before climbing up to Holmbury Hill, another great vantage point. From here, there is a fine, swooping, twisting and turning run down towards Peaslake. When the time is ripe, you can work your way back the way you came, admiring the verdant hills as you go. The single track riding around Leith Hill is a lot of fun.