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.

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

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.

Isola delle Chiatte, Genoa


The pleasant stroll along the Via al Mare Fabrizio de André (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.

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.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Blossom in Herne Hill, South London

The late Victorian red brick architecture of Winterbrook Road forms a vibrant backdrop to the annual blossoming of an avenue of Yoshino cherry trees.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Church Town, Godstone, Surrey

Built in 1872, the timber-framed almshouses of Church Town look a lot older. They were designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, a prolific Victorian architect who also worked on the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station, the Albert Memorial, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

View from Brenchley Gardens, South East London

From the footpath running through Brenchley Gardens, there are wide views over the Aquarius Golf Club, which was laid out in 1909 around and on the roof of the Beechcroft Reservoir, which was once Europe's largest underground reservoir.  The reservoir is still operational today and holds 55 million gallons of water.   Originally opened in 1928, Brenchley Gardens now incorporate the old track bed of the Crystal Palace High Level Railway, which was closed in 1954.

View from the General James Wolfe Statue, Greenwich Park, South East London

The view down the Thames towards the City of London competes with the vista of the classical symmetry of the Old Royal Naval College overlooked by the futuristic towers of Canary Wharf.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Blythe Hill Fields, South East London

A charismatic park in Lewisham, Blythe Hill Fields is high enough to provide 360 degree views of London, Surrey and Kent. Although the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf are the most visible, you can also survey the gleaming glass of the Shard and the distinctive profile of the Walkie Talkie.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Welkin, The National Theatre, The South Bank

Images from the National Theatre web site
With a dozen women on the stage for most of the play, The Welkin is an in-depth exploration of what it means to be a mother in a paternalistic, sexist and very unequal society. Set in rural Suffolk in 1759, the plot revolves around whether a young woman convicted of murdering a child is pregnant. If she is with child, she will be spared the gallows. Twelve matrons from across the social strata are drafted in by the courthouse to decide whether Sally Poppy should live or die. Prominent among them is a strident midwife who does all she can to save the downtrodden, yet defiant, Sally. Their deliberations proceed to highlight the wanton abuse of servants, their fragile status in society, and how the odds are stacked against children growing up in the wrong social class.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Hill Street, Mayfair, Central London

Laid out in the eighteenth century, Hill Street is home to numerous listed buildings that have housed dozens of lords and nobles over the past two centuries.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Cycle from Herne Hill to Peckham Rye, South London

Burbage Road, Herne Hill, South London

This 3.5km ride takes you from Herne Hill to Peckham Rye, via Dulwich Village. Cycle down tree-lined Burbage Road, past the grand Edwardian houses, the mural of Elizabethan actor Richard Burbage underneath the railway bridge and the historic velodrome. At the roundabout in bucolic Dulwich Village, take the second exit on to College Road and then turn immediately left into Dulwich Park. Cycle directly across this rather plain park, noting the bizarre elliptical sculptures, and exit through the Court Lane gate. Continue in the same direction, riding up Eynella Road to the traffic lights at the cross-roads with Lordship Lane. Ride straight over on to Barry Road and then take the first right onto Etherow Street, before turning left onto Friern Road, which is lined with compact, but handsome late Victorian terraces. After about  a kilometre of cruising slightly down hill, cross straight over Upland Road, through the cycle cut and you'll soon emerge where Friern Road meets the green expanse of Peckham Rye.

Monday, 20 January 2020

The Royal Victoria Patriotic Building, South London

Grade II-listed, the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century to educate the daughters of servicemen who died in the Crimean War. Today, it houses a mixture of flats, studios and workshops.

Winter on Wandsworth Common, South London

The view over Bellevue Field to Bellevue Road

Friday, 17 January 2020

The River Café, Rainville Road, Hammersmith, West London

It can be tough to secure a table for the winter set lunch at this famous west London eatery. But, if you can, you get a chance to eat reasonably-priced Michelin-starred food from a restaurant that is an intrinsic part of London's culinary folklore - you have a choice of two courses for £28, three courses for £34 or four courses for £42.  The menu changes daily, but with four varied dishes for antipasti, four for primi and four for secondi, you will likely be spoilt for choice. Although the portions aren't that big, you'll get some tasty focaccia rolls upfront, meaning three courses should be sufficient. The hand-cut tagliatelli with Parma ham and cream makes for a mouthwatering primi. For a secondi, the slow-cooked pork with soft polenta is both succulent and full of flavour. The ice cream for desert is good enough, but not exceptional. To drink, the Pinot Bianco, 2018 Cantina Terlano, (£29 for a 500ml carafe) is clean and pleasant.