Wednesday, 31 December 2014

White Hart at Crystal Palace

The White Hart on the Triangle at Crystal Palace is the closest to what could be described as our local in London. We had lunch there. This is not the cheapest of establishments but the food quality is excellent. The staff are friendly as well. I particularly recommend the fried white bait.

Croydon Shopping Centre

We visited Croydon shopping centre this morning. I hate shopping at the best of times and I regard the activity not as a "retail experience" but as a chore that requires my reluctant parting with cash. So my view of shopping centres automatically starts as a negative. Nevertheless, I was not impressed by Croydon. A rather dreary, uninviting place. The only interesting point about the place is that it is on the tram system (I like trams!) Fortunately, it was a short visit. Shopping done and we caught the train back to Crystal Palace.

Railway Telegraph at Forrest Hill

The Railway Telegraph pub was the venue for lunch yesterday. It is in Forrest Hill, a couple of stops down the line from Crystal Palace.

I had the mackerel salad. I was a bit disappointed as it was a touch too salty. The other dish consumed was mushrooms on toast.

Despite my small reservation about the amount of salt in my salad (mackerel is after all a sea food so I shouldn't be complaining too much), the meal was good, the staff member was friendly and it is an interesting building.

Feeding the birds in frozen Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park is only a few minutes' walk from our flat and I visit it every time I am in London. There is a large lake in the park which supports lots of water fowl and seagulls. Yesterday we took along a bag of wild bird seed and old bread. We weren't the only ones. These birds must be among the best fed in London.

They know the routine: humans appear clutching a bag - the birds head straight for the humans.

Do not expect the food to last long.

Much of the lake however was frozen yesterday.

The Harvester at Beulah Hill

After leaving South Norwood Park on Monday we headed to Beulah Hill for lunch. I'm not a great fan of restaurant and pub chains but we decided to opt for the Harvester.

The food is not anything special - after all, menus in pub chains are the same throughout the whole business. But it wasn't bad. There is of course the as-much-as-you-can-eat salad buffet.

For a modestly priced lunch, it was okay.

South Norwood Park

We visited South Norwood Park in Croydon on Monday. It was hardly the warmest of days but it was quite a bracing walk around the lake. The lake is the former reservoir for the Croydon Canal which was dug in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The canal was later bought out by the local railway company which wanted it for the route of the new Croydon to London railway. Fortunately the reservoir survived and forms the centre piece of South Norwood Park which was created around it.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Ponte Nuovo in Crystal Palace

We had dinner at Ponte Nuovo, an Italian restaurant on Westow Hill, Crystal Palace, on Sunday evening.

We went for the £14.95 Sunday dinner option which included 3 courses. Whilst this is a competitive price, we felt the meal was disappointingly mediocre. The asparagus soup was a bit stringy. I opted for the turkey was main course and it was a bit dry with no great taste.

That said, the staff were friendly and helpful though there was quite a gap between finishing the starter and serving the main course. We decided not to have the dessert so we were offered coffee or liqueur instead, an offer we took up.

We have eaten here before and previous experience of the the food was better. I'm hoping this was just one not-so-good day.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Silver Cross, Whitehall

After Trafalgar Square, time for lunch. We went to Silver Cross, a pub at the top end of Whitehall. Watch out for central London prices but the food quality was good. The staff coped well, despite the large number of customers.

Trafalgar Square

Our final port of call before lunch was Trafalgar Square.

At the centre is Nelson's Column. I guess Trafalgar Square is on the must-visit list for people visiting London. Watch out for the traffic. This is a major junction and the Square is surrounded by lots of vehicles.

Admiralty Arch

Walking from the National Police Memorial to the end of the Mall took us to the Admiralty Arch which I think has now been sold for apartments and a posh hotel.

You will have to pass this building to get there. I think it is an MoD bunker. It certainly looks as though it could survive a direct nuclear hit!

National Police Memorial

At the top end of the St James's Park on the Mall is the National Police Memorial. It commemorates the 4000 police officers killed whilst on duty in the UK. According to Wikipedia, it was designed by Lord Foster and Per Arnoldi and was unveiled in 2005. We visited it whilst walking towards Trafalgar Square.

St James's Park, Whitehall

We took the train into central London yesterday for a day out. A short walk from Victoria Station took us past Buckingham Palace to St James's Park.

One of the royal parks, it is always busy. It's not just people in large numbers. Expect to see lots of grey squirrels and water fowl, all of which expect to be fed by passers-by.

The nightmare rail journey

I came down to London on Saturday, the day on which Network Rail announced their engineering works on the East Coast line outside Kings Cross had overrun from the Christmas break. Trains from the North East were only running as far as Finsbury Park. Many were terminating at Peterborough. I was due on the 3pm train from Newcastle but got to the station at 2.30pm. On the platform was the delayed 2.23pm train that would terminate at Peterborough. I decided it was pointless getting that train as the 3pm was due to go to Finsbury Park and all announcements were that the 3pm train was running on time. The delayed train was also due to stop at 6 stations on the way south. My train was due to make 2 stops and would probably overtake the delayed train. All booking restrictions were cancelled but I took the decision to wait for the 3pm train. At 2.45pm the delayed train headed south half empty and as it was pulling away from the platform, an announcement was made that the 3pm was cancelled.

To add insult to injury, the 3pm then arrived from Edinburgh full of passengers. The train pulled up to the platform and the doors opened. No one got off the train so people on the platform, myself included, decided to get on the train and battle it out for the last available seat (I won) thinking the announcement about the cancellation was in error. A somewhat pyrrhic victory as just I was taking the seat, the train guard announced that the service was cancelled and everyone had to get off. The result was that everyone was crammed onto the platform until the next train at 3.30pm was able to take us as far as Peterborough. It was packed all the way but this was nothing compared to the connecting service (which did not arrive until an hour after we arrived at Peterborough). It was standing room only to Finsbury Park. I managed to get a standing space next to the buffet bar.

From Finsbury Park, things got much better. I got a tube immediately to Victoria and then ran to catch the overland train to Crystal Palace. From the house in Gateshead to the flat in London it was 7 hours. Despite that, I still recommend travel by train. Driving is not among my favourite activities. And I hate driving to London. Yes, there was disruption on the train but the roads aren't much better. Accidents and roadworks are just waiting on the roads to slow me down.

Chi Oriental

The Chi Oriental is a Chinese restaurant on Westow Hill, Crystal Palace. I visited it earlier this month after getting back from Barcelona. It is not an establishment I had visited often before.

Food was excellent and service was faultless. The prices were competitive. A good experience and good value for money.

It's a Wonderful World at the Bridgehouse Theatre

I have previously written about eating at the Bridgehouse pub next to Crystal Palace Park in Anerley, London. What many people don't realise is that on the top floor of the building is a theatre. Earlier this month, after getting back from Barcelona, we went to a performance of "It's a Wonderful Life" which also happens to be one of my favourite films. It was presented as a 1949 style radio performance. Loved it!

Gurkha Cottage

The Gurkha Cottage is a Nepalese restaurant on Westow Road, Crystal Palace. We have visited it regularly for the past 15 years when in London. I ate there again earlier this month.

Food is good though not outstanding. Poppadoms always come free. Service is good. Prices are reasonable. Worth a visit.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Barcelona Photos

A wide selection of the photos I took in Barcelona (December 2014) is on Flickr and can be seen on this link.

Impressions of Barcelona

I've been back from Barcelona for a week. I've been asked by plenty of people what I thought of the city. The answer is - a great place to visit, get there if you can. My favourite part was the old city. I loved the narrow street and the buildings closely knitted together.

Outside the old area, the city is easy to get around as it is based on a grid system, a bit like New York. The streets are clean and there were teams of street sweepers out everyday making sure it remained clean.

People were friendly. It was noticeable that many of them keep dogs. We saw lots of people out exercising them.

When travelling abroad, we always ensure that we eat the local food. We ate well in Barcelona. First class food.

I guess this is the same across the whole of Spain but we found cash machines were excruciatingly slow. You have to answer a load of questions before you cash is released, far more than at UK cash machines. It was more like a digital version of the Spanish Inquisition!

And finally, people in Barcelona seem to take a bizarre delight in models of people taking a poo. The shops were full of models of world leaders squatting to relieve themselves. The model above was in the Christmas decorations outside the City Hall. Quite why the city takes such a delight is something for which I have no answers.

Nevertheless, if you get the chance to go to Barcelona, take it. It's a city well worth visiting.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Hotel Antibes

In Barcelona we stayed for 5 nights in the Antibes Hotel on Carrer de Diputacio. The holiday was booked through eBookers and we paid £340 for the two of us - flight, hotel and breakfast included (though we decided to eat out for breakfast, indeed all meals, each day except the final Sunday). The hotel was well placed for us. It was about a 15 minute walk from the city centre. There were plenty of bars and cafes within a few minutes walk as well. A metro station was just along the road (though we got around the city on foot and by taxi).

The outside appearance of the hotel was nothing to write home about but we were interested in having a modest place to sleep and keep our stuff. It didn't matter to us that it did not look like a palace to passers-by.

It may have been a bargain price but we were quite happy with the hotel. The room was clean though it lacked a kettle for making tea. The en suite bathroom was quite adequate.

Breakfast was buffet style and reasonable quality.

Hotel Antibes ticked all the right boxes for us: competitively priced, clean, functional, conveniently located, food a reasonable quality. A hotel to be recommended.

Paella at Harmonia

We couldn't visit Spain without having paella for a meal. It was our last day in Barcelona so we went in search of a cafe that could serve up what we were after. We found the Harmonia cafe on Carrer Del Comerc. The paella was superb!

Picasso Museum

Our final visitor attraction of our holiday in Barcelona was the Picasso Museum. This is something of a must-see by anyone visiting the city. It was smaller than I expected and unless I missed it, I found nothing about the 1920s to the 1940s. There was plenty about his early years and about the period after 1950. I was left scratching my head about the bit in between.

Barcelona Cathedral

Our next stop was Barcelona Cathedral which, unlike places such as St Paul's Cathedral in London, does not charge to go inside. I'm still not sure why there were chickens, ducks and geese in the inner courtyard, but they added to the interest of the building.

Coffee at Bastaix Cafe

After leaving Placa de Sant Jaume we headed further into the old city, aiming to get to Barcelona Cathedral. We found Bastaix cafe on Fossar de les Moreres.

I only had a coffee there but the service was pleasant enough though they were a bit slow in giving us the bill once we had asked for it.

Christmas nativity scene in Placa Sant Jaume

This must count as the most elaborate model nativity scene I have ever seen. We found it in Placa Sant Jaume, in Barcelona's old city, near the City Hall. I'm more used to a model donkey and a manger with a doll in it as something passing for a Christmas nativity scene. I wasn't quite expecting a scale model of Roman Jerusalem!

Cava in the market

Whilst in the Mercat de Sant Josep, we stopped at a bar in one of the alleyways and had a glass of cava. What a pleasant way to spend half an hour. Note the octopus for sale for lunch.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria

The main reason we headed for La Rambla was to visit the covered food market Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. I love visiting markets abroad and I especially enjoyed this one. Fantastic colours and scents, it gave a good picture of the sort of food Barcelona households are eating. I've only been able to include a few of the photos here that I took but the others will be available on Flickr shortly.

La Rambla

La Rambla is a largely pedestrianised street starting at Barcelona's Placa de Catalunya and stretching all the way down to the harbour. We visited it on Saturday morning last week. It is tree lined but clearly under the influence of tourism with lots of shops and cafes directed at the visitors to the city. Nevertheless, it is still possible to find interesting points and splashes of colour, even in DEcember.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Cafe Lido

We had a bit of a late start on Saturday last week, the last full day of our holiday in Barcelona. Breakfast was an early lunch of tapas at the Cafe Lido which we found on the corner of Avinguda Gran via les Cortes Catalanes and Carrer do Casanova. The weather was warm enough for us to sit outdoors again. I think this is the first time I have had codfish doughnuts, squid rings, cockles and olives for breakfast.

Siempreviva Restaurant

After leaving the Catalonia History Museum, it was time for dinner. We found Siempreviva on Passeig de Joan de Borbo. Slightly more upmarket than we had been visiting on the holiday but well worth a visit. We had great tapas there - sauted potatoes, grilled squid and grilled sardines. Very nice!

Catalonia History Museum

The Catalonia History Museum is a definite must-visit in Barcelona. My knowledge of Catalonian history was at best sketchy. The museum filled the large gaps. It covers the prehistoric period right up to the present day. I loved it. We spent hours there.

The museum itself is next to the harbour and is in a converted warehouse.

The top floor is worth a visit as well. It has a terrace bar with great views over the marina. We popped in for a beer.

Barcelona Marina

From the Maremagnum we headed towards the Catalonia Museum. As it was on the other side of the bay, we walked around the marina. Boats of all sizes, including some whoppers.


Sadly, no area in the world seems to be free of shopping arcades that look the same anywhere on the planet. At the end of Rambla de Mar, Barcelona's harbour-located shops can be found. We walked through and didn't stay for long. It looked very much like the Metrocentre back home in Gateshead.

El Chipiron

The walk along the Rambla de Mar took us to the shopping mall at the end (Maremagnum). We found El Chipiron, a tapas bar awaiting our custom. We stopped only for a coffee and beer. The food looked superb but we had planned to eat elsewhere. Good service as well.

Rambla de Mar

The Rambla de Mar is a wooden walkway into Barcelona harbour which is effectively an extension of La Rambla. It has an interesting wave structure built along its length.

When we arrived, we were nearly mobbed by a flock of seagulls being fed by visitors.

There is a bridge part way along the walkway which rotates to open and allow boats in and out of the marina.

Two Harbour Statues

After coffee we headed towards the harbour, visiting two statues on the way. The one above is of Romul Bosch i Alsini, a local politician and businessman from the end of the nineteenth century who had a strong role in developing the harbour. You can find it on Placa de Sant Jaume.

The second was of Christopher Colombus which is at the lower end of La Rambla.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Coffee at La Cava Universal

We headed off to Barcelona's harbour area again but called in for a coffee at La Cava Universal on Placa Del Portal de la Pau. We sat outside in the December sun - it was a bit of a sun trap here despite the large rooted tree providing a bit of shade.

We rather enjoyed the puppeteer's performance who spotted we were something of a captive audience!

Breakfast at Davinci

Friday morning last week - we left the hotel and went in search of breakfast. We found Davinci cafe on the corner of Girona and Diputacio.

Potato omelette in a bagette. Very pleasant.

Pizza Virona

We came all the way to Barcelona to eat Spanish food but on Thursday evening last week, we ended up eating a pizza in a kebab shop on Carrer do Diputacio. The reason was that most other Spanish places were closed. I ordered the large pizza. This was a mistake. It should have been called gigantic. I was unable to finish.

A bottle of wine at FOC

We found bar and restaurant FOC on Passeig de Joan de Borbo next to Barcelona's harbour and decided to pop in, not to eat, but to have a bottle of wine (I had had my fill of coffee by then). Very much a Latin American theme but with lots of English pop music playing. Service was friendly but as we didn't eat there, I can't comment on its quality.

Transbordador Aeri del Port

Barcelona's Transbordador Aeri del Port is the cable car that runs from the harbour. Sadly we did not take a ride on it but it is a significant landmark. You can't miss it!

La Barceloneta

After lunch we walked along the beach front and harbour area known as La Barceloneta. It reminded me a bit of Copacabana beach in Rio de Janiero which I visited in 2005 - lots of muscular men flexing themselves in an outdoor gym and lots of women parading in the latest expensive fashions.

With the sun going down I chose instead to admire the sculptures rather than the human bodies! The above was produced for the 1992 Olympics. Below, the fish sculpture by Frank Gehry.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Lunch at Platja Ca La Nuri

We got to the beach at Barceloneta and walked along the broadway until we found Platja Ca La Nuri, a restaurant with a beachfront location. We decided to eat here.

The food was excellent but not too pricey.

Sadly, there service was fraying at the edge. There was a considerable time lag between each of our meals being served and the waiter ignored me twice. When I did manage to get his attention to order another coffee, it was a while before it arrived. The new waiter who brought it however was much more pleasant and willing to engage with us. Situation saved.

David and Goliath Sculpture

We left Barcelona Zoo and headed towards the beach but spotted the David and Goliath sculpture on the way. Designed by Antoni Llena for the 1992 Olympics, it ran into a few problems and was inaugurated in December 1992, after the Olympic athletes had long packed up their PE kits and left for home.

Barcelona Zoo

Barcelona Zoo is in the Parc de la Ciutadella and it cost us 19.90 euros each to go in, making it the most expensive of the locations we visited in the city. We felt it was worth it.

The zoo is quite small and compact but well laid out. There is a modest mix of animals. We stayed there for about 2-3 hours.

Watch out for the peacocks wandering around the paths.

Breakfast at La Pubilla

Thursday in Barcelona last week started with breakfast, naturally. We found a cafe called La Pubilla on Avinguda Meridiana on the way to the zoo. So we ate there, sitting at a table in the street.

Spanish omelette. Very nice. The tea pot however was a bit of a challenge when pouring it. Most of my tea ended up on the table instead of the cup!

Set de Gotic - toilets and tapas

I'm not sure which to recommend more highly - the toilets or the tapas at Set de Gotic, a restaurant on Carrer Montsio. We found it in the old city after finishing our walking tour of Gaudi buildings. I don't think I've photographed toilets before but visiting them was quite a surprise. Incredibly ornate tiling throughout. I had to whip out the camera whilst in the loo.

If you didn't need to spend a penny, enjoy the tapas instead.

Block of Discord

After leaving the Cafe de la Pedrera, we headed for a set of Modernista buildings called the Mancana de la Discordia, the Block of Discord. The buildings are said to be so contrasting that they are in an argument with each other. I can imagine back in the UK, council planning officers having a hernia at the prospect of such buildings going up in what most people would describe as a posh area! At the start of the 20th century in Spain, what were presumably much more drab buildings were converted into apartments by Gaudi, Lluis Domenech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch. Instead of being visited by angry planning officers, they rapidly became an accepted part of the built landscape. The photo above is of the Casa Lleo Morera with its notable ornate tower on its roof.

The Casa Battlo by Gaudi is my favourite of the three. The roof looks like the curved back of a fish.

And finally the Casa Amatller.

La Pedrera

The next port of call for us after seeing the statue honouring Narcis Monturiol was La Pedrera, another of Antoni Gaudi's Barcelona buildings. It's official name is Casa Mila but is better known by La Pedrera, which means stone quarry, which its facade resembles. It was built between 1906 and 1912. We did not go into the main building, which houses a cultural centre. We did however sample yet another coffee in Cafe de la Pedrera, on the ground floor.

I guess this was the poshest of the places we visited on this bargain holiday. The ceiling in particular is worthy of note. Lots of waves and ripples, very Gaudi.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Submarine Sculpture in honor of inventor Narcis Monturiol

We stumbled across this sculpture whilst walking to Pedrera. It is in honor of Narcis Monturiol, the visionary Catalan inventor of a submarine launched in 1859. When it was destroyed in a collision, he invented a bigger one, this time powered by an internal combustion engine. Sadly for him, he was not able to go into mass production and sell submarines. He died a broken man. He is however something of a hero to the Catalans.

The best chocolate fudge cake in Barcelona

After the Sagrada Familia, we headed up the Carrer de Provenca and discovered Cafe Chill. Time for a coffee, we decided. I spotted chocolate fudge cake on the menu. No harm in trying a bit. Conclusion: the best chocolate fudge cake in Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia

After breakfast we walked to the Sagrada Familia, famously known as the Unfinished Cathedral. Designed by Gaudi, work on building it has been going on for decades. When we saw it, much of it was covered with tarpaulins and scaffolding. Sorry if this offends, but I was not impressed by the bits of the building that were finished.

If you feel the need to buy souvenirs of Barcelona, there is a market next to the Sagrada Familia. We had a look around. No purchases made!

Breakfast at the Cafe Mocay

Our first day in Barcelona last week and we decided against breakfast at the hotel as we wanted to try out as many eating establishments as possible. Se we headed off and found the Cafe Mocay on Avinguda Gran Via de les Corts Catalana.

Pleasant enough.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Our first tapas

Go to Spain and eating tapas is a requirement. We were also hungry so in the evening we found the Campeon Restaurant on Carrer de Diputacio.

Mushrooms, peppers, octopus and squid - very nice.


Having had a coffee at the El Nogal cafe, we went for a walk around the city, sticking mainly to Carrer de Diputacio. We ended up after a while at Osbar, a gay coffee bar where another coffee beckoned.

It was quiet when we visited (had people heard we were coming?) The music felt like a rerun of Smooth Radio back in the UK. Pleasant enough.

El Nogal Restaurant

Okay, so we had arrived at our hotel and I was gasping for a tea or coffee. We headed out into the city and one block along Carrer de Diputacio we arrived at El Nogal restaurant.

It was in El Nogal that we discovered most bars and restaurants have hams hanging up.

We also found something that was typical of all the bars, cafes and restaurants we visited in Barcelona - service was pleasant and helpful (though one minor example a couple of days later at a different restaurant was a small fly in the ointment on our visit.)

The journey to Barcelona

I am just back from a five day visit to Barcelona so for the next few days I will be posting up about the trip. It started on Tyneside on 8th December where I live rather than from London (which I visit often as I have a flat there). I rarely drive to London. I let the train take the strain so for me the first leg started at Newcastle Central Station. Once at Kings Cross I took the tube across London to Victoria and then an overground train to Crystal Palace to stay in the flat overnight.

A taxi at 6.30am took us to East Croydon station from where we took a train to Gatwick. We were greeted by the sunrise as we arrive at North Terminal.

We were flying BA so we knew there would be food served during the flight. However, we were not expected to fly until 9.40am so we made our own refuelling stop at the Armadillo cafe, which appears to serve up food of a Mexican nature.

Despite not being a lover of retail and restaurant chains, Armadillo turned out to be reasonably priced and the food of a reasonable quality. Deciding to eat at this point also turned out to be a good move. We boarded the plane and then got stuck on the reserve runway for two hours. Barcelona had a storm blowing and were restricting landing slots. Eventually we took off, headed south and then on the run in to Barcelona we discovered just how stormy it was. I thought it was fun but lots of other people were reaching for their sick bags.

The best way to get from the airport to the city centre was by bus. It cost 5.9 euros each, much cheaper than a taxi. The terminus was in Placa de Catalunya. It took about 15 minutes to walk from there to the Hotel Antibes at 390 Carrer de Diputacio.

And so began our bargin holiday - booked via eBookers for £170 each.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Monday, 24 November 2014

Lunch at Heworth Golf Club

I was the guest speaker at a lunch at the Heworth Gold Club in Gateshead on Saturday. The last time I had a meal at a golf club was in 2001 at the Nuwara Eliya club in Sri Lanka. Then it was a very colonial style afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off and scones and cream. On Saturday it was a two course lunch. I spoke before the lunch and it seems I did not put anyone off their food!

In the UK there is always a danger that vegetables in restaurants are overcooked. At Heworth they were cooked as they should be, not turned into mush. I had roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and veg followed by lemon cheesecake. A good meal. One to be recommended (though I think to eat there you need to be the guest of a member.)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Catch up: Porto December 2012

I have been sorting through video files on my laptop recently and found a number I shot in Porto, Portugal's second city, in December 2012. So, as a bit of catch up, this is the video of the whole holiday. We were there for a week and, as we often do, we looked for last minute bargains. This one certainly fitted the bill. It cost about £450 for the two of us.

We found Porto to be very competitively priced, though at the time, the Portuguese economy was in a dire mess and had to get itself back into shape. Food generally was good though we experienced one cafe where it was so bad we walked out (after paying for the meal). As it was December, we were outside the tourist season. The weather was not brilliant and we saw quite a storm (as you can see from the video) when we were at the mouth of the River Douro on the Atlantic coast.

At some point I will post up individual location videos and photos, hopefully before I go to Barcelona next month.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Barcelona but no Andorra

We have booked a short (and cheap) holiday in Barcelona which we will take before the end of the year. £350 between the two of us, flying BA, 5 nights, is a bargain. Thank you eBookers. We will spend some time shortly checking out places to visit. I have visited over 50 countries but Andorra is not on that list. My aim is to visit as many countries as possible but sadly, it looks like on this holiday, we won't be able to get as far as Andorra. There are no direct train services from Barcelona and it takes 3.5 hours to get there by bus. We would only want to visit Andorra on a day trip from Barcelona but we would end up spending more time travelling than visiting the country. That doesn't seem worth it. So we will spend the whole of the holiday in Barcelona instead.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Deanos Trattoria in Whickham

After a late meeting on Thursday evening, we headed to Deanos Trattoria on Whickham Front Street. Whickham in Gateshead, North East England, is home turf for me and we have eaten before at Deanos. I think the prices are competitive but the quality does not lose out. For £6.95 I had a bowl of minestrone soup followed by spaghetti carbonara and a coffee (I could have had ice cream as an alternative to the coffee. Come to think of it, I did have ice cream as well as a colleague did not want hers.) The staff were really good as well.

One to recommend.

First class return

I used the return part of my free first class East Coast rail ticket to London on Monday. A rather uneventful journey but I wanted to show you two photos, one taken at the start of the journey and another at the end. The redeveloped Kings Cross Station is a great improvement and looks fantastic, as you can see in the photo above. The 2nd was taken as we crossed the King Edward VII railway bridge over the Tyne, approaching Newcastle. I always know when I am just about home from London when I see this stunning view of the River Tyne gorge and the bridges that span it.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The farm in Crystal Palace Park

In the corner of Crystal Palace Park in London is a small farm belonging to a local college. It is open to the public and we visited it on Sunday. As a goat keeper, I was pleased to see the farm has golden guernseys (I have one myself as a milking goat).

There are also pigs, poultry, rabbits, tropical animals and so on. It takes about half an hour to have a good look round.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Bridge House at Penge

We had Sunday lunch at the Bridge House in Penge on Sunday. We had eaten there previously and our experience was positive, hence our return. Whilst it is more pub than restaurant, the food was more restaurant than pub. Very good quality though not cheap. A typical main course was around £15. Nevertheless, we felt it was worth it.

My only word of warning is that the Bridge House is popular with young families. So for Sunday lunch at least, expect lots of kids to be running around and quite a bit of noise.

Crystal Palace Park

The Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition in 1851. Once it had closed its doors, the Crystal Palace was moved to its new and permanent home at the top of Anerley Hill. And to accompany it, a park was built. The Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936 but the park lives on. It is famous for its dinosaurs though few dino-scientists would argue that the concrete animals resemble any creature that lived millions of years ago. Despite the advances in our understanding of dinosaurs, it is still fun to see them, which we did on Sunday.

There is a big lake in the park which is home to a large amount of water fowl, most of which are used to being fed by visitors. In the past, we have bought bird food for them from the building opposite the cafe though I'm not sure whether such purchases are now available.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Made in Dagenham at the Adelphi

The reason for the trip into central London on Saturday was to go to the Adelphi on the Strand to see a performance of the musical version of Made in Dagenham. Not a bad performance and the writers certainly seemed unimpressed by the late Harold Wilson, Prime Minister of the UK from 1964-70. It was set in the late 1960s.

I have been to a number of performances in London but this was the first time I had been in the Adelphi. If you go there it is worth popping into the Wellington, just a few metres away, on the junction of Wellington Road and the Strand. We did for a quick drink. On previous visits, we had eaten upstairs. A modest menu, prices not too exorbitant for central London.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Studio 6 in Gabriel's Wharf

Gabriel's Wharf on the London South Bank is full of arty craft shops. But it also has a number of food outlets, one of which is Studio 6. We have eaten there a number of times before but chose to eat there again yesterday. Whilst the usual warning about London eating-out prices applies, the quality is good, indeed, very good! I particularly recommend the salmon fishcakes.

A walk along the South Bank

We had a day out in central London yesterday. The reason for the visit was the Adelphi Theatre. We had tickets for a performance. More about that on another post. The train took us to London Bridge. The first sight on leaving the station was the Shard. A magnificent building and one I intend visiting at some point in the future.

Across the road we walked through Borough Market. We had hoped to look around but it was very busy so we headed for the South Bank. This too was busy but gave us great views of London - and the views are free. Lots of famous bridges, St Pauls, the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern: all there to be seen and enjoyed.

And there is often free entertainment to be found:

Crystal Palace Food Market

The Crystal Palace Food Market in London is well worth a visit. It is held weekly, 10am to 3pm on Haynes Lane. The aim is to provide quality food produced as locally as possible. Judging from our visit yesterday, it seems to fit the bill.

Antenna Cafe in Crystal Palace

Hidden away at the end of Haynes Lane, Crystal Palace in London, is the Antenna Cafe. I didn't know it existed until I visited the Crystal Palace food market yesterday.

Pleasant and friendly, worth a visit for a coffee and snack. I had cappuccino.

First class on the East Coast

I am in London for a few days and because I travel regularly on the East Coast, I have built up quite a stash of points on their loyalty scheme. The points are a bit like a railway version of airmiles. 450 points got me a free first class return ticket from Newcastle to London. I came down on Friday and return home tomorrow.

I took the photo above as we were travelling through Durham City. It is one of the classic views from the East Coast.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Kastellet in Copenhagen

The Kastellet is a star shaped fortress which I visited in Copenhagen in June 2014. It was a significant part of the defenses of the city. Construction started in 1626 and though it is now a visitor attraction, it continues to be used as a military base. The good news is that it was free to go in.