I’ve been an occasional cheese binger — using infrequent forays to Southville Market to load up on chunks and truckles and stuff myself into oblivion on a Sunday afternoon. For others like my long-time vegetarian friend, cheese has been a handy source of protein that’s insidiously sneaked its way into every other meal and is starting to outstay its welcome.
For all of us wanting to give dairy products the swerve in favour of a more plant-based diet there are lots of colourful concoctions to explore, but what about those dishes and times that just need something yellow, melty and tangy? Read on
The craggy walls and drained moat of the Tower of London make for a peculiar contrast with the urban buildings of the City nearby.
The ancient fortress is still holding its ground after 12 centuries as a symbol of royal power, refuge and punishment.
The large, modern ticket office near the entrance and the hefty £20 entry fee are evidence that it still exerts authority – albeit as one of London’s most popular tourist attractions.
To get there, jump on the District Line to Tower Hill and leg it over to the entrance as soon as you can. You’ll beat the crowds and get an undisturbed close-up of the eye-boggling bling of the crown jewels, housed in the Waterloo Barracks.
Head back to the main entrance for a free outdoor tour presented in entertainingly military style by a Yeoman Warrior, or ‘Beefeater’, who regales the crowd with tales about the buildings, executions, and prisoners as he leads you up to Tower Green and the chapel where Henry VIII’s more unfortunate Queens are buried.
Head up the steps off Water Lane to explore St Thomas’, Wakefield and Lanthorn Towers which make up the delightful Medieval Palace.
Here, you can wander through cozy rooms and get a sense of the interiors where Henry III and Edward I lived and breathed.
The White Tower is the heart and origin of the rest of the fortress. This impressive symbol of a new type of kingship in the 11th century is now a store house for a dizzying amount of aristocratic armour and weaponry – including Henry VIII’s notorious codpiece – as well as exotic historic royal gifts from around the world.
Although torture was never an ‘official’ activity at the Tower it certainly went on within its more shadowy sound-proofed corners and an exhibition of some of the eye watering apparatus is on display in the Lower Wakefield Tower.
For doomed Anne Boleyn in 1536, Beauchamp Tower provided a room with a view…of her execution site on Tower Green.
Hubby Henry VIII thoughtfully had her done away with in front of the elegant housing he previously built for her on the green when they were first set to marry.
Unfortunately adultery charges meant her fate was sealed as surely as the Tower’s if one of its six ravens were to fly away…
The Bloody Tower gained its name for the 15th century disappearance of Richard III’s nephews but it also housed what looked like very comfortable lodgings for Elizabethan night Sir Walter Raleigh who went from hero to zero according to Royal whims and intrigues of the day.
You can easily spend three or four hours wandering around and revelling in all the grim details, made all the more atmospheric by drizzly British weather.
Unlike the Tower’s unfortunates who floated by boat through Traitors Gate and never
came out again, you can simply walk out of Water Lane onto a riverside promenade dominated by the arches of Tower Bridge, and views of the futuristic Mayor’s office and sky-piercing Shard, jolting you back to the 21st century.
But head over the bridge and your eye will be drawn back to the Tower, in all its glory, surrounded by modern life but steadfastly safeguarding its potent past.
The River Thames cuts a mighty swathe through the sprawling capital and provides a sometimes mellow, sometimes breezy escape from the urban streets. Along its shores you’ll find meandering promenades, village-like boroughs, restaurants, pubs, arts and shining buildings of commerce. Here’s a guide to some of its most pleasurable corners for those for whom a riverside stroll and a relaxing drink go hand in hand.
Isleworth / Twickenham to Richmond Take the train to Isleworth or Twickenham and head down to their river paths for a pretty stroll to Richmond. The quiet stretch of river from Isleworth has barges and bird life along its exposed shores, and only takes around 30 minutes.
Cross over Richmond Lock and footbridge for a photo opportunity of a quieter part of the river, and walk alongside Old Deer Park until you reach the pubs, restaurants and barges of Richmond’s riverfront.
The area retains a laid-back atmosphere despite its pricey eateries, and if you don’t want to splash the cash there are plenty of benches where you can sit with a sandwich and gaze at the weeping willows drowsily overhanging the water’s edge.
The walk from Twickenham takes longer but gives you a feel for the old ‘Surrey Delta’ when this part of south west London was the centre for many famous ‘60s blues-influenced bands who would head over the bridge with their guitar cases to play on Eel Pie Island. Now the island is a private residential area but still worth a peek.
As you follow the riverside path towards Richmond you’ll pass the eerie Sculpture Park of York House Gardens, and the impressive grounds of stately homes Orleans House and Marble Hill House. There are some great picnic spots along here if it’s a dry day.
Cross over London’s oldest bridge when you reach Richmond and head up Richmond Hill to take in the pastoral view across Petersham Meadows and a bend in the Thames which inspired the painter Turner among many. After drinking in the view it will be time for a thirst quencher at one of the country-style pubs nearby.
Riverside pint: London Apprentice, 62 Church Street, Old Isleworth, TW7 6BG The White Swan, Riverside, Twickenham, Surrey TW1 3DN The White Cross, Riverside, (off Water Lane), Richmond, TW9 1TH Lass O’Richmond Hill, 8 Queen’s Road, Richmond, TW10 6JJ
Hammersmith to Putney Once you’ve escaped the hubbub of central Hammersmith and reached its river’s edge you can leave the modern world behind by ducking into the oldest pub in London, the Dove, which was a magnet for literary types like Hemmingway.
If you’re lucky enough to get a seat on the terrace you can enjoy uninterrupted views over the deep waterway. If the pub’s packed head down towards Hammersmith Bridge for a choice of pubs where you can stand outside with a pint and catch the breeze.
Walk over Hammersmith Bridge to leafy Barnes for a tree-lined route along the water to Putney where you’ll only hear birdsong (especially as you walk parallel to the Wetlands Centre), and see joggers and strollers. There are even some shingle patches near the river if you want to get closer to the water’s edge. Keep your eyes peeled for the Michael Jackson statue illuminated over the other side inside Fulham Football Club’s stadium ground.
Soon you’ll approach the rowing club houses of Putney where there are usually teams of strappingly fit rowers carrying their boats overhead and heading eagerly toward the jetty.
Soak up the boating atmosphere at The Duke’s Head pub or head over Putney Bridge intersection to Putney Wharf and its riverside square with pubs and cafes offering more al fresco choices.
Riverside pint: Dove, 19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith W6 9TA The Old Ship, 25 Upper Mall, Hammersmith Q6 9TD The Duke’s Head, 8 Lower Richmond Road, Putney SW15 1JN The Rocket, Putney Wharf Tower, Brewhouse Lane, SW15 2JQ
Southbank The tempo rises considerable in contrast to the river’s more relaxed residential areas as you explore the south-side promenade between Westminster and Tower Bridges.
This is how central London does riverside living so expect lots of tourists and bustle, wide walkways and a jumble of huge concrete and glass fixtures housing some of the country’s premier arts venues including the South Bank Centre, the Royal National Theatre, and BFI Southbank.
There are bars and restaurants wedged in and around the area catering for different wallet capacities and crowd tolerance.
If you’re seeking to stoke up your imagination with visions of ye olde London past, head along to the Globe Theatre, and nearby pub The Anchor which dates back before the 1600s and boasts a succulent fish supper to complement its watery surroundings.
Ease your digestion by doing the obvious and taking your camera to Waterloo Bridge as the sun sets for an iconic memento.
Riverside pint: Anchor Bankside, 34 Park Street, Southwark, London SE1 9EF.
Greenwich Start at the south end of Tower Bridge for a five mile walk heading east away from the crowds and toward the capital’s maritime heartland. Along the way you’ll encounter old and converted wharfs, views of Canary Wharf, the O2 and docklands.
This is where the Thames supported the nation’s industry and seafaring exploits so soak up the atmosphere as the industrial and modern buildings contrast with the maritime elegance of historical Greenwich.
The World Heritage site has lots to see, including the Royal Observatory, National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark was the fastest sailing ship of her day and is open to the public again after a post fire refurbishment.
The new cultural centre Discover Greenwich will enable you to delve into the area’s seafaring history and boasts The Old Brewery, home of award winning Meantime beers which used to provide liquid comfort to seadogs back in the day.
Give yourself enough time to explore the covered market close to the Naval Gardens where you can pick up some tasty morsels and stroll down to Cutty Sark Gardens and Greenwich Pier.
(If you’re planning to head up to Greenwich Park for sweeping views across the Thames remember that parts of it will be closed for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.)
Riverside pint: The Old Brewery, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich SE10 9LW Trafalgar Tavern, 6 Park Row, Greenwich SE10 9NW Cutty Sark Tavern, 4-6 Ballast Quay, Greenwich SW10 9PD
This article was originally published at http://www.travelbite.co.uk
There are lots of clichés about San Francisco and rightfully so. Its weird and wonderful history is married with a magical layout of rollercoaster hills, pastel houses at crooked angles, and a liberated spirit, all overlooking the misty Pacific Ocean. Just taking in the scenery can be enough.
If you’re there for a couple of days you might only get a taster of its charms but you won’t fail to be intoxicated by just being there.
The city may have been an iconic backdrop for gas guzzler Steve McQueen’s Bullitt but that doesn’t mean you can’t save a few quid by walking some of the signature neighbourhoods, and jumping on a cable car for the hell of it.
When to go
San Francisco is a cooler customer than its Southern Californian cousins in more ways than one. It boasts the beautiful blue skies of the Golden State but tempered by changeable, foggy conditions. Always take layers and aim to go in late spring (April to May) or the end of summer (October) for mild, bright days.
Save transit time and try to get a good flight deal that jets you in over the water straight into San Francisco International airport (14 miles from downtown). Lucky Highway 1 tourists may prefer to motor in along the coastline.
Explore on day 1
You might want to get your mental compass in place by starting off at Union Square, which is handy to take a pew in for a snack and take-out coffee while watching the human traffic. It’s only worth lingering in if you want to dive into the shiny retail stores that surround it. (There’s also a theatre district to the west that’s handy for night time entertainment.)
If not, head up to Nob Hill, one of the city’s swankiest locales. You’ll get great views and photo opportunities (Grace Cathedral is nestled into its lofty heights), and a nosy look at some of the monied apartments and hotels.
Head down (and up) to Russian Hill which fans of Armistead Maupin will recognise as the picturesque setting for his Tales of the City novels and TV series. It’s within a stone’s throw of Lombard Street, ‘the crookedest street in the world’, a dizzying one-way section between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets.
From here it makes sense to walk north east towards Fisherman’s Wharf making a pit stop via North Beach. You might end up tallying at North Beach for longer than you intended. The area is rich in Beatnik folklore and Italian heritage, with plenty of eateries and bars to tempt you into the dark hours. Pop into the landmark City Lights bookstore to get into a literary state of mind, then head over the road to Vesuvio Café on Columbus Avenue. It’s been serving up liquid refreshment since 1948 to patrons including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Bob Dylan.
Freshen up with the touristy, blustery delights of Fisherman’s Wharf with its souvenir stores, famous piers (all aboard to Alcatraz!), and lip-smacking seafood stands groaning with fishy snacks served with lemon wedges, tomato dips, and hunks of fresh bread.
After the sea air it’s tempting to head back to North Beach’s warm trattoiras or the pungent environ of The Stinking Rose which serves up succulent garlic-infused dishes that will give you multi-coloured dreams.
If you’re feeling adventurous give the edgy Tenderloin area the swerve and head to SoMa (South of Market) and the Mission District. You’ll find bars and clubs of most persuasions to keep you entertained way passed the witching hour.
Explore on day 2
Embrace the laid back vibe after a night on the town and follow the incense trail to The Haight. Yes, it suffers from a slightly dog-eared 60s reputation as hippie dippy central for freaks and flower children but it retains plenty of quirky charm, cool shops and a mishmash demographic to make it a memorable part of your trip.
There are plenty of cafes to stop in, vintage shops to buy quirky trinkets, and Amoeba record store for an old-school music retail experience. Edge your way towards Buena Vista Park where George Harrison got freaked out by the crowds in ’67. You might just prefer a light nap or picnic.
Extend your pastoral trip by hopping on a Muni bus to Golden Gate Park. It’s bigger than Central Park, and its 75,000 trees cut an epic swathe all the way down to Ocean Beach. A Japanese Tea Garden is nestled amongst the vegetation providing a peaceful spot for refreshment, and Stow Lake is a great place for messing about in boats.
After an afternoon of pastoral frolics, bring yourself back down to earth with an evening of electric blues. Biscuits and Blues on Mason Street (near Union Square) is worth booking a table if you want to sit back, dine on hearty US fare like Louisiana meatloaf with ‘slaw’ and yam fries, wash down copious spirits and enjoy sensational music from lightning-fingered bluesmen.
This article was originally published at http://www.travelbite.co.uk
The Eternal City is lavishly endowed with iconic culture, style and romance.
How can you possibly fit Rome into two days? Well, if you really must, every waking minute will be filled with unforgettable sights – an intoxicating mish mash of historic grandeur and chic city living Italian-style. Go in spring (March to June) or autumn (September to October) for optimum chance of comfortable sunny weather during your two days.
There are regular (and some cheap) flights to either the international Fiumicino airport (30km from centre) which has a train service into the city every 30 minutes,or the smaller Ciampino airport 15km south east of the centre which has regular shuttle buses.
Even if you threw your guide book in the bin and ambled along random streets in centro storico (historic centre) you could effortlessly stumble across ivy-clad facades, historic churches, statues and fountains. If you want to fit more sights in you might prefer to hop on the metro, bus or tram. If that sounds like a logistical effort, you can quickly get your bearings on a two hour bus tour operated by Trambus, departing from Stazione Termini.
Visiting the Vatican City is a must-do if you’re a first timer to the city so go online to book your tickets in advance to save waiting time. Rome has oodles of beautiful churches but St Peter’s Basilica is the Godfather of all of them with its grand structure and stunning artistic features. There are arguably even more hush-inducing sights at the 15th century Sistine Chapel where you can crick your neck upwards with hundreds of other tourists to marvel at Michaelangelo’s depictions of Genesis. Other notable artworks include the Last Judgement and Botticelli’s Temptation of Christ.
Back over the River Tiber, Piazza Navona is Rome’s main square and a good place to base yourself around. Here you can take a seat and admire its fountains including Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. Within centro storico you’ll also find the 16 Corinthian columns of the Pantheon, an ancient temple dedicated to the classical gods, now a church on Piazza della Rotonda. Further south (take the Metro to the Colosseo stop) the Colosseum is another surreal site from 2000 years ago, where gladiators fought for the Roman Emperor’s dubious pleasure.
For retail and food therapy take a stroll down Via Del Governo Vecchio, off Piazza Pasquino, which has a great selection of eateries and charming boutiques. Once you’re suitable re-charged it’s a good time to walk up to the stylish Tridente neighbourhood and take a seat on the well-worn Spanish Steps for a photo opportunity. The nearby Keats-Shelley House has some fascinating artefacts in tribute to the doomed Romantics. You can move seamlessly from poetry to film by heading east to the Trevi Fountain which gave Anita Ekberg a refreshing late night thrill in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. The 1721 creation features a stunning sculpture of Neptune’s Chariot. Don’t forget to throw a coin in.
Trastevere is a magical place to relax in once you’ve got enough sights under your belt. Its lanes and houses are picture-book pretty, and an easy mix of locals and visitors enjoy the main square Piazza Santa Maria. My favourite spots for some pastoral peace away from the mopeds and urban hum are Gianicolo Hill (also in Trastevere) from where you can see dreamy panoramas across the city’s sun-baked rooftops, and the parkland of Villa Borghese which has bicycles for rent if time is of the essence.
In the evening
Enjoy a nap or a leisurely bath before heading out as most Romans don’t tuck into dinner until 9.30pm (unless you prefer to join the younger crowd and enjoy spun out drinks and canapés). You’ll probably be satisfyingly tired from cramming everything in during the day so enjoy a slow-paced Italian feast over a bottle or two, preferably outdoors in the mellow evening air. Make the effort to smarten up for dinner. Safe bets are Piazza Navona, Via della Place and Trastevere for wine bars and cafes, while San Lorenzo has the cutting-edge nightlife. Whatever your choice, be sure to have a coffee and croissant before turning in.
Food and drink
Eat pizza with your hands and let the melted mozzarella ooze down your chin, and plunge a single fork into your spaghetti and chomp through the dangly bits without shame. Roman dishes are rustic and seasonal although combinations and presentation become more imaginative the higher up the price scale you go. It’s worth dragging yourself away from the carbs and trying some of the local dishes which make ingenious use of meats and local vegetables like courgettes and artichokes, all expertly seasoned. Seafood is fresh from nearby Lazio. Even the most disciplined dieters can follow Audrey Hepburn’s example and cool off with a sweet icy gelato.
This article was originally published at http://www.travelbite.co.uk
New Zealand’s capital is arguably the funkier, friendlier alternative to Auckland. Enjoy a weekend in Wellington and you might not want to leave.
‘Windy Welly’ is a harbour city nestled at the foot of the North Island. Its compact and light-hued cityscape is off-set by the blustery blue of the Cook Straits. Go in spring or summer (temperatures reach around 21°C in February) to enjoy its waterside vistas and pavement cafes.
You’ll already be in New Zealand if you’re contemplating just a couple of days’ visit, so visas will be sorted. Wellington is a bus-travel hub, with companies like Naked Bus providing transport from many North Island destinations including Palmerston North, Napier and Auckland. I think the most memorable way is via the Interislander Ferry from Picton in the South Island. If you go in daylight you’ll see the magical site of Wellington’s San Francisco-style houses and hills come into view as you arrive.
The Wellington CitySights tour can furnish you with information but everything’s so walk-able that I’d recommend enjoying the city on foot. You can do a rough loop starting and finishing at Courtenay Place, which has open-front bars and endless foodie options in and around the main drag. There are also some excellent second hand book stores with comfy chairs to sink in to (most places stay open late so there’s no need to rush).
If you walk east from Courtenay Place you’ll come to the foot of pedestrianised Cuba Street. Wellingtonians excel at laid-back style and you’ll see dudes and dudettes of every type looking casually cool in cut-price threads from the ‘Sally’ Army shop, teemed with designer ‘sunnies’. Incense can be caught on the breeze and there are plenty of independent shops to poke about in, as well more excellent cafes and bars.
Head back down onto the main drag and along the main shopping arteries to reach the sparkling high rises of Lambton Quay. This is the business district but there are also some snazzy stores if you want to give the credit card a work out. New Zealand’s seat of power is here in the distinct shape of the ‘Beehive’ Parliament Buildings.
Keep on until you reach the Wellington Cable Car which provides a charming way of reaching the top of the Botanic Gardens. Have a peak in the Carter Observatory and then meander along the pathways winding through exotic trees and indigenous plants, down to the rose garden at the bottom. If you’re lucky you may hear the clear throated warble of the bell bird.
Next it’s time to pump some leave-in conditioner into your hair and head over to breezy Lambton Harbour for a stroll back along the wooden walkways hugging the city’s edge. Keep your eyes peeled for the many sculptures and quotations dotted about. Along the way you’ll encounter the bold shape of the Te Papa museum, a modern, celebratory showcase for New Zealand culture, history and art.
Continue west along the waterfront and you’ll reach the soft yellow sand of Oriental Bay’s man-made beach, and the seaside promenade complete with joggers and rollerbladers. It’s definitely worth being brave and hiking up the roadside into the Mount Victoria area which has a purpose-built lookout at the top for a photo memento.
As you’re there on a weekend you might have time to check out the City and Harbourside Markets or the Frank Kitt’s Underground Market for local food, crafts and live music. Art lovers should pop into the City Gallery in Civic Square or galleries in Featherstone and Victoria Streets.
In the evening
For drinks and dancing, head to the bars on and around Courtenay Place – many stay open right through the night – or sit out with a ‘flat white’ coffee on an outside table. To quote the Kiwis: “No dramas”. Cuba Street also has some trendy hangouts. If you’re a culture vulture there’s live theatre at Downstage Theatre, Circa Theatre and BATS, and ballet, opera and musicals at Opera House or the St James Theatre.
Wellington is of course the home town of Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson. Film buffs will love the chance to experience Hollywood in ‘Wellywood’ by seeing a flick at the Embassy Theatre which hosted the premier of the Return of the King.
Food and drink
You have the world’s cuisine to choose from and competition is fierce so you can expect and enjoy wonderful service, decor and fusion flavours. Even the kebabs are sensationally nourishing and fresh-tasting after a long night. Fresh takeaway cookies can be found in Lambton Quay or save your sweet tooth for a ‘hokey pokey’ ice cream on Oriental Parade. Bar snacks tend to be high quality: A selection of warm breads with hummus and dipping oils go well with a cold glass of tangy Sauvignon Blanc from one of the wine regions.
This article was originally published at http://www.travelbite.co.uk
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