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

The Beaches of Tynemouth, Tyne & Wear

The remains of Tynemouth Priory and Castle overlook King Edward's Bay

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

Priors Terrace, Tynemouth

A clutch of early Victorian terraces in an enviable location,  Priors Terrace and its neighbours have views over Priors Park, Tynemouth Priory and Castle, and the mouth of the River Tyne. Moreover, some of the elegant period features, such as the wrought iron balconies and the lampposts, remain intact. Unusually, each house has a front garden on the opposite side of the very quiet road.

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.