Sunday, 8 November 2020

The Thames, East of Greenwich, London


On a surprisingly mild November day, the Thames is like a millpond. The meandering moody stretch between the Royal Naval College and the Thames Barrier is marked by industrial debris, shards of greenery, flashy riverside apartments, the O2 dome and the soaring cable car over the river.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Giardini Luzzati, Genoa

Stumble on Giardini Luzzati early in the evening and you might find talented eight year olds kicking a ball around and locals sipping aperitifs in this versatile open space in Genoa's old quarter. The square also affords views of some of the city's most venerable landmarks, including the charismatic bell towers of the 12th century San Donato church (below) and the Church of Sant'Agostino Genoa (above).

Chiesa di Santa Maria di Castello, Genoa


Dating from the 12th century, this well-preserved Romanesque church and convent of Santa Maria di Castello sits proudly on high ground in the heart of Genoa.

Hotel Palazzo Grillo, Piazza delle Vigne, Genoa


You may have to navigate some very narrow and seedy alleyways to reach the small square which is home to Hotel Palazzo Grillo. But it is worth the effort. Staying in this dignified and handsome historic building, which dates from 1545, is a treat.  Many of the 25 bedrooms, which are comfortable and well-equipped, still have striking period features and look out over the charismatic buildings clustered in the heart of the old city.

Le Rune, Salita Inferiore di Sant'Anna, Piazza del Portello, Genoa

One of many good restaurants woven into Genoa's tight-nit historic centre, Le Rune stands out for serving exceptional Italian cuisine at very moderate prices. With a regularly changing selection of five or so dishes (costing between €10 and €20 each) per course, the food is both imaginative and generous.  For example, one of the primo dishes (pictured above) combines the delicate flavours of three different porcini mushrooms with some excellent carpaccio. The pasta and secondi dishes also major on fresh ingredients expertly prepared. You can order a respectable bottle of local wine for just €15.  The outdoor tables are spread over a multi-level garden, which backs on to a funicular railway, adding to the atmosphere. With patient and friendly service, Le Rune's proprietors have perfected the art of the neighbourhood restauranteur.  9/10

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Santa Margherita Ligure, Liguria, Italy


One of a clutch of resort towns on the Italian Riviera, Santa Margherita Ligure is a colourful and comfortable place nestling below the green hills of Liguria. Better still, it is easily reachable from Genoa via train. The beach is all pebbles, but that doesn't stop the locals lounging about in the sunshine.

Via XX Settembre, Genoa


The main shopping drag in Genoa, Via XX Settembre features elaborate mosaics, classical colonnades,  lofty stone arches, period street lamps and grandiose 19th century buildings. Although most of the shops are nothing special, this distinguished avenue is well worth a peek. 

Travello Beach, Near Rapello, Italy


A lovely little stretch of seaside, marred only by the continuous stream of high season traffic, Travello Beach has tall colourful houses, a pebbly bay and a wooded cove, which also serves as a memorial to locals that died in the Great War - many of the trees bear small plaques. There are also dreamy views across the small boats to the hills sloping down into the sea. Overlooking Travello is a sixteenth century watchtower. This is a fine spot to linger if you can find sufficient space to spread out.

Piazza delle Erbe, Genoa


A buzzy and colourful clearing in the midst of the narrow alleyways of Genoa, Piazza delle Erbe is a popular spot for an early evening al fresco drink.

Via San Lorenzo, Genoa


One of old Genoa's most atmospheric and longest streets, Via San Lorenzo runs through the heart of the city and past the elegant cathedral after which it is named.

The Italian Riviera, near Rapallo


The dramatic coastline near Rapallo 

Chiesa di San Giorgio, Genoa


The latest in a succession of churches to occupy this site, the neo-classical exterior of the Chiesa di San Giorgio was constructed in the mid 19th century.

Santissimo Nome di Maria e degli Angeli Custodi, Genoa


 Hidden away in the back streets of Genoa, the ornate pastel yellow facade of the Santissimo Nome di Maria e degli Angeli Custodi provides a striking splash of colour in a gloomy neighbourhood.

Chiesa di San Pietro in Banchi, Genoa


The construction of this handsome sixteenth century church was financed by the rent from the shops below it, according to the Comune di Genova. Today, a couple of gaudy retail outlets continue to bring Chiesa di San Pietro in Banchi back down to earth.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Via XX Settembre, Genoa

A grand neo-classical and dead straight nineteenth century thoroughfare, Via XX Settembre stands in stark contrast to the higgledy-piggledy medieval maze that makes up much of historic Genoa.  Behind its ornate archways are many of the city's main retail outlets.  About half way down is the aptly-named Monumental Bridge.

Belvedere Castelletto, Genoa

With commanding views across Genoa and its port, the Belvedere Castelletto is a fine vantage point from which to get the lay of the land in Italy's sixth largest city. You can reach it via a couple of ornate elevators, which whisk you up from the medieval streets below. Note, you are supposed to buy a ticket for the ride.

Trattoria Rosmarino, Salita del Fondaco, Genoa


Located close to the Piazza De Ferrari, Trattoria Rosmarino offers tasty and authentic Italian fare at competitive prices in sleek surroundings. But the service can be painfully slow when the staff struggle to cope with a full set of covers.

Via Garibaldi, Genoa


Via Garibaldi is lined with handsome UNESCO-listed palazzos built in Genoa's heyday in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Today, these grand ornamental buildings, many decorated with elaborate frescos, are owned by banks or serve as municipal buildings and museums.

Isola delle Chiatte, Genoa


The pleasant stroll along the Via al Mare Fabrizio de AndrĂ© (a jetty) past Genoa's vast aquarium, offers sweeping views over the city's harbour and the eclectic ships it shelters.  You'll spot the Neptune, a Disney-esque replica of a Spanish galleon, as well as some massive cruise liners marooned by the pandemic. You'll end up on some floating barges, where you can sit down and soak up the maritime atmosphere.

Piazza De Ferrari, Genoa


Venturing out into the wide open space of Piazza De Ferrari from the narrow alleyways in Genoa's old town can be something of a surprise. With its vast circular fountain, polished flagstones and distinguished nineteenth century buildings, the square feels like it doesn't quite belong in this otherwise gritty maritime city.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Osteria Le Colonne, Piazza Invrea, Genoa

With socially-distanced tables laid out in the piazza in front of the handsome Cattedrale di San Lorenzo,  Osteria Le Colonne serves well-presented Italian food with a view. The menu mixes classic and unusual dishes, such as a prawns and courgette spelt salad (pictured below). Selecting one of the latter can be a tad risky. But for a first course and just 10 euros, the cannelloni filled with spinach and ricotta cheese and accompanied by walnuts (pictured above) is a bit special.  The waiters are friendly and talkative, helping to justify the punchy cover charge. Although it is a little pricey by Genoa's standards,  Osteria Le Colonne is a memorable and enjoyable place to eat. 8/10

Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Genoa


With its distinctive monochromatic striped marble walls and soaring arches, the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo is one of the symbols of the maritime city of Genoa. The current building dates from the eleventh century, but it was remodelled in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in the Romanesque style. Today, its magnificent facade is marred by some longstanding scaffolding.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Cycling a Circuit through Le Bar Sur Loup and Gourdon, Alpes-Maritimes, France


With just over 600 metres of climbing in less than 30km, this scenic, and sometimes spectacular, ride is one big up and down. The long drag up to Gourdon is rewarded with sweeping views across the thickly-wooded landscape down to the Med.  Although the clifftop village is a tourist trap, it is a dramatic one with some charm. The ride back down to Le Bar Sur Loup is fun and fast.

Riverside Walk from Pont de Loup, Alpes-Maritimes, France

If you follow the verdant riverside path north from the hamlet of Pont du Loup, overshadowed by the remains of the bridge, you should soon find a secluded spot where you can use the rocks to dip in and out of the cool clean water. Overlooking cascades and some small stretches of white water, the path climbs through the trees eventually reaching a narrow green iron footbridge straddling the Loup below. If you turn back here, the round trip is probably about 3km. A very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, 7 August 2020

Cycle Ride East of Le Bar-sur-Loup, Alpes-Maritimes, France


Taking in the medieval settlements of Tourettes-sur-Loup (pictured below), Vence,  Sant-Paul-de-Vence (pictured above) and Le Colle-sur-Loup, this 40km circular route from Le Bar-sur-Loup is both scenic and stimulating. However, the traffic can get a bit dicey in places. 

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Windsor Great Park, Berkshire


From the higher elevations in the eponymous Great Park, you can see Windsor Castle rising above the treetops, like something out of fairy tale.

Windsor, Berkshire


Lightening up the mood in Windsor, three customised white mopeds strike a pose in a town centre almost devoid of tourists.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Dawson's Hill, South East London

Dawson's Hill is a small park with a big view. You can pretty much see the whole London skyline from the sloping lawns where teenagers like to gather with a few beverages on a warm summer evening.  It backs on to a blocky housing estate, which some imaginative commentators have likened to a Tuscan hill town. 

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Brockley View, South East London

The aptly-named Brockley View offers vistas of Canary Wharf, as well as a diverse mix of housing.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Grand Union Walk Housing, Regents Canal, North London

Designed by Grimshaw Architects, the submarine age Grand Union Walk comprises 10 three-bedroom houses, a one-bedroom maisonette and a bedsit, built in 1988.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Hyde Vale, Greenwich, South East London

Part of the West Greenwich Conservation Area, Hyde Vale curves round and down from the Blackheath escarpment to Greenwich.  "Hyde Vale rivals Crooms Hill for its architectural pretensions, with an impressive sequence of eighteenth and nineteenth century villas and town houses," says the conservation appraisal report, which also notes the street has fine examples of granite cobble gutters and single or double kerbs - a distinctive feature of the area.

College Approach, Greenwich, South East London

One of a group of a grade II listed buildings on the car congested College Approach, the Admiral Hardy pub was built in 1836. Like every other pub in England, it is closed during lockdown.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

The Millennium Bridge, The River Thames, Central London

Connecting St. Paul's Cathedral and The Tate Modern, the steel Millennium Bridge is both muscular and elegant - and unusually empty during lockdown.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

General James Wolfe Statue, Greenwich Park, South East London

Built in 1930, this Grade II listed statue of General James Wolfe (1727-1759) commemorates his victory against the French at Quebec which secured Canada for the British. Wolfe, whose parents lived in Macartney House on the edge of the park, died in the battle.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

The Darent Valley, Kent

Fackenden Lane
Running down from Dartford in the north to Sevenoaks in the south, the Darent Valley is a bucolic stretch of Kent countryside, which is a pleasure to cycle around (if you don't mind some challenging hills). It is home to several aesthetically-pleasing villages, such as Eynsford and Shoreham, castles and manor houses. The rich history and verdant landscape draw day-trippers, but much of the area remains surprisingly rural and surprisingly peaceful. Although the southern end of the Darent Valley is ringed by motorways, the river itself is home to rare wildlife, such as otter and water vole, according to the Darent Valley Landscape Partnership.

Friday, 22 May 2020

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall, Central London

Dating from the 1860s, the Italianate Foreign and Commonwealth Office is  one of the most handsome buildings in Whitehall.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The Golden Hour, Blythe Hill Fields, South East London

On a sunny May evening, Blythe Hill Fields offers a small, but perfectly-formed picnic venue with commanding views of the empty office blocks of Canary Wharf and the City of London.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Belair Park, Dulwich South London

Built in 1875, Belair House gleams in the early evening sunshine. The "country villa" is grade II listed.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

Riding around Regent's Park, Central London

The outer circle of Regent's Park is a magnet for local road cyclists looking to crank up the wattage. A full circuit constitutes a glorious couple of miles of fairly flat road with just one or two traffic lights. On your left is the green space of the royal park and on the right is the fine white neo-classical architecture of the 1820s. In front of you will be a wheel that you can draft.

Friday, 15 May 2020

Westminster Bridge, Central London

The view down the Thames from the Grade II-listed Westminster Bridge towards Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall.

Smithfield Market, Central London

Traditional telephone boxes flank the colourful Victorian ironwork of Smithfield Market, one of the largest wholesale meat markets in Europe.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Gangers Hill, Woldingham, Surrey

Farthing Downs, Coulsdon, Surrey

 An expansive stretch of elevated chalk grassland with distant views of the City of London, Farthing Downs is an uplifting place for a cycle or a stroll during the lockdown. The car park is closed.

The Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens, Central London

Unveiled in 1872, The Albert Memorial commemorates the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, who died of typhoid fever at the age of 42.

The Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, Central London

Grade I-listed, the curvaceous and ornate Royal Albert Hall opened in 1871. It is famous for hosting the Proms concerts each summer, but is a memorable and atmospheric venue for all kinds of performances, including the Cirque du Soleil.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Dulwich College, South London

The Italianate buildings of Dulwich College bask in the evening sunshine during lockdown.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Primrose Hill, North London

Even with the pressure to keep moving during lockdown,  the captivating view from Primrose Hill persuades people to pause and survey the cityscape.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Mountain Biking in the North Downs, Kent-Surrey Borders

In the greenbelt land west of Biggin Hill airport, there are enough bridleways and country lanes to piece together a fun mountain bike ride. The Condor Cycles' Kent & Surrey Cyclo-Cross Ride does just that. Highlights include the Spitfire Bridleway, which cuts through some picturesque woodland in the rolling hills near the airport, the descent from Chelsham Court Road into lush farmland and sweeping views over Woldingham as you swoop down from Botley Hill. Later in the ride, the single track down through Frith Wood will get the pulse racing. Although you'll be on-road for much of the semi-circular route, the lanes are very picturesque in places, particularly near the ridge at the top of the North Downs.