Thursday, 20 June 2019

Tears for Fears, Hampton Court Palace, South West London

Performing in a tightly-packed courtyard inside Hampton Court Palace, Tears for Fears immediately has the crowd out of their temporary seats and singing along to Everyone Wants to Rule the World. The rest of the set is short, but sweet, as the bands' eighties melodic hits are enriched by a powerful and versatile female vocalist. Although they don't have much chemistry on stage, front men Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith put enough effort into their performance to keep the middle-aged crowd happy.  Most of the classics, including Mad World and Pale Shelter, put in an appearance.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

The Thames, Central London

View from the 32nd floor of the Millbank Tower, which sits on the north bank of the Thames between Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

The Walled Garden, Brockwell Park, South London

Very much in flower, Brockwell Park's walled garden is splashed with colours in early June.  Brockwell Hall's kitchen garden was adapted by J J Sexby of London County Council in the late nineteenth century to create a formal garden of massed bedding, rose beds, and topiary around a central fountain, according to Historic England.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath, North London

A stately home at the north end of Hamsptead Health, Kenwood House was built in the 17th century and remodelled extensively in the 18th century. Originally the seat of the Earls of Mansfield, the house now belongs to English Heritage and is home to a historic art collection. The surrounding parkland adjoins Hampstead Heath

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Specials, Brixton Academy, South London

Brixton Academy and seventies ska band The Specials feel like soul-mates. Both the venue and group are long-standing icons of multi-racial Britain. Ironically, the crowd flowing through the timeworn foyers and up the staircases of the Academy to see The Specials is overwhelmingly white.  Although they are again producing popular new music (briefly topping the album charts with Encore in March), The Specials still attracts an ageing, but enthusiastic, audience, made up mostly of thick-set, clean-shaven men with short hair.

Monday, 6 May 2019

View down Gypsy Hill, South London

The view down Gypsy Hill brings together Victorian architecture, leafy green suburbs and the distant skyscrapers of the City of London

Monday, 15 April 2019

Tynemouth Lodge, Tynemouth Road, Tyne & Wear

A longstanding real-ale pub between Tynemouth and North Shields, Tynemouth Lodge has kept a laser-like focus on the quality of its beer, making it perennially popular with legions of middle aged locals, many sporting beards. The decor is dated, but no-one comes here for the decor.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Cycling National Route 1, Tynemouth to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Tyne & Wear

Picturesque in patches, this 30km stretch of the Coast and Castles section of the N1 cycle route can be windy and desolate. While the ride along the seaside from Tynemouth to Blyth is quite scenic, taking you through rural areas and sand dunes, the stretch from Blyth to Newbiggin-by-the-Sea takes in battered old industrial sites and bleak suburban housing estates. Still, Blyth itself has character, with its quirky mix of docks, red brick back streets, wind turbines and gentil parks. Moreover, there is a fun winding undulating detour inland along the River Blyth. Once you escape Bedlington and Cambois, Newbiggin itself is also quite easy-on-the-eye. As the N1 is pretty well signposted and generally off-road, it is easy to stay on route and stay safe. 7/10

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Hadrian's Cycleway, Newcastle to Tynemouth

You can now ride from Newcastle Central Station to the coast at Tynemouth almost entirely off-road using a stretch of the Hadrian's Cycleway route. From the station, you need to traverse a main road or two to get down to the Quayside from where you can ride past Newcastle's iconic bridges, the elegant Baltic Art centre and the eye-catching Sage cultural centre. The route soon leaves the river bank, rising up to follow a tarmac path surrounded by greenery, with occasional glimpses of the Tyne below. Be careful, as this stretch can be strewn with broken glass discarded by local drinkers. At Wallsend, you'll pass close to the remains of the Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum. On your way to Tynemouth, you'll also take in some fine landscaped parks, robust industrial architecture and the atmospheric waterfront of North Shields, as well as some featureless suburban backwaters. The final, typically blustery, stretch affords wide views across the Tyne to South Shields. At about 20km, this is the long way round, but it is much safer and more scenic than mixing it with the traffic. 8/10

Friday, 12 April 2019

Canova Hall, Ferndale Road, Brixton, South London

An unusually large cafe-bar housed in an atmospheric period building, Canova Hall attracts a steady stream of bright young things sporting laptops. The spacious interior, the quirky crockery, a wide variety of tables, ample sockets and exposed industrial fittings successfully conjure up a start-up stroke loft vibe. The food and drink is reasonably priced, while the service is chirpy. What's not to like?

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Hotel Ibiza, Les Deux Alpes

A short walk from Les Deux Alpes' main drag and the speedy Diable chairlift, Hotel Ibiza is both eccentrically named and eccentrically decorated with pop paraphernalia, including vinyl-lined walls in the lift and dozens of concert posters on the walls. The spacious bar is draped with fake leopard skin coverings and sumptuous furnishings. Cleverly, various board games, such as scrabble and monopoly, are secured beneath perspex covers on the tables: You can get the counters from reception. There is a large games room downstairs, as well as a decent swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, boot room and a ski hire shop. Although it is south facing, the large terrace is pretty bare with just some pub garden style tables from which to admire the broad views of the mountains.

April Skiing in Les Deux Alpes, France

With an a diverse collection of pistes and lifts above 2,000 metres, Les Deux Alpes is a good shout for a family skiing holiday in early April. The fairly gentle gradient on the sizeable glacier and steep descents back to town give Les Deux Alpes an unusual profile. It is not a massive resort, but the runs tend to be long and the lift system is pretty effective: you will be skiing a lot, particularly if you avoid the French school holidays. The slopes can be almost empty and there are some stunning views from the glacier. At the end of day, you might enjoy the run down from 3,200 metres to 1,650 metres in one go – a real leg burner, but you feel like you're travelling. Note, there are also a few enjoyable runs on the facing slopes in an area known as the Vallée Blanche, which may remain open when the main resort is struggling with an overload of snow. This area has more trees, and some fun off-piste, but it will only occupy you for a few hours.

Friday, 5 April 2019

The Pano Bar, Les Deux Alpes

A buzzing mountain restaurant, the Pano Bar is conveniently situated in the heart of the Les Deux Alpes ski area, at the top of the first leg of the Jandri Express gondola. The self-service section upstairs offers large main courses, such as tartiflette, steak haché, burgers, and pasta Bolognese, for around 13-17 euros a dish. They are generally very good, but you have to pay for all extras, such as ketchup and mayonnaise and bread, while the big and rich deserts cost 7 euros. As the drinks are also pricey, a hearty lunch at the Pano Bar will set you back. Still, the interior is spacious, and there is a broad sun deck with fine views and decent dance music blaring out. 7/10

For a cheaper, less scenic meal head to the nearby burger bar, which can get busy. It offers a good value lunch menu – a big burger, chips and a drink for 15 euros - a bargain in these parts, particularly if you can find a seat.  Get there early to beat the crush. Although it lacks the space and views of the Pano Bar, it is much better value.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Regent's Park Road, North London

Large Italianate stuccoed villas painted in pastel shades face Primrose Hill, giving Regent's Park Road a rarefied air.  The stucco was originally intended to be left bare, to resemble stone, according to Lyndon Goode Architects, which also notes that many of the homes feature decorative flourishes such as pediments, keystones and scrolled brackets on windows, eves and parapets.

Primrose Hill, North London

At 63 metres above sea level, the top of Primrose Hill affords far-reaching views across London to the south. In the Victorian era, it was a popular spot for duelling and prize fights. Today, this Royal Park attracts a steady stream of sightseers on sunny winter mornings, venturing up from nearby Regents Park.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Rice Republic, Streatham High Road, South London

More relaxed than many of the Chinese restaurants in the west end, The Rice Republic serves respectable staples at reasonable prices. To kick off, the crispy aromatic duck (£9.50) with pancakes, soy sauce, cucumber and spring onions, is competent and quite generous, while the prawn dumplings (three for £4.20) are delicious and the duo of steamed pork buns (£3.90) makes for a hearty appetiser. For a main course, the chicken in satay sauce is best avoided. It is a bit short of flavour, while the meat is a tad rubbery. The king prawns with ginger and spring onion (£9.50) are far better, while the crispy fried shredded beef is sweet and satisfying. Steamed rice (£3) is nicely done, but a tad pricey, while the egg fried rice (£4) is lacklustre. You can probably do without a small bowl of prawn crackers for a couple of quid.  On the whole, the dishes are good value, but the extras and sides soon rack up, particularly if you are drinking beer (£4 for a 330ml bottle of Tiger) to wash down the spicy food. Still, service at the Rice Republic is very smooth and the ambiance is appealing. A large mural of the Great Wall of China and the light shades that look like bird cages are among the eye-catching adornments. 7/10

Sunday, 3 February 2019

The Thames from Deptford Creek, South East London

From the cycle path hugging the U-bend in the Thames near Deptford Creek, there are fine sweeping views up and down the river, taking in Greenwich, the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Steak Night at the Prince Regent, Dulwich Road, South London

On a Thursday night, the Prince Regent pub has turned its menu over to mouthwatering steaks. A hefty and delicious 9oz sirloin steak (£18) arrives with some decent chips,  a crisp green salad and a moreish Béarnaise sauce. Served in the elegant and well-heated Victorian dining room, you can enjoy your hunk of meat with one of the fine beers on tap. Although the service can be a bit haphazard, it is well-meaning and welcoming. 8/10

Monday, 14 January 2019

Pollen Street Social, Pollen Street, Central London

At any Michelin-starred restaurant in London, a three course lunch for £37 is a bargain. At the expertly-run Pollen Street Social, it is almost a steal, particularly if you steer clear of the pricey wine list. Although there are only three choices for each course, the waiting staff also bring a steady stream of extras, so your taste buds will be well and truly stimulated. These memorable morsels include an afternoon-tea themed mix of appetisers, featuring caviar, smoked salmon, cucumber and a mini-Victoria sponge cake. The miniature mushroom soup, which appears before the main course, is also delicious.