Dundee has really changed for the better over the last couple of decades. It has transformed from a down at heel city to a bright, fun place to visit. There's lots to do and see for everyone, shops, museums, theatre and the beach and castle at Broughty Ferry.
You can read my guide to Dundee at
I was in Harrogate for work; my son had started at Bradford University the week earlier. We met up for me to hand over his new laptop which had arrived the day after he left for uni. I offered him lunch at Bettys, where we had last eaten when he was still in a high chair, but the queue out the door was too daunting.
Then that evening he just missed one train back and had a long wait so, rather than dive into the nearest pub, he opted to try Bettys again and we found it still bustling at 8 o'clock in the evening but with the teeniest of queues.
Greeted with heartwarmingly friendly service and the tinkly tink of the pianist who plays every evening, we each demolished a brown bread ice cream sundae before he dashed for the next return train back to student land and I headed back to my hotel.
An idyllic little spot tucked away in a beautiful part of England on the Welsh border. This is the hotel Al Gore stayed at when he was at the Hay Festival last year. As well as the hotel, though, there are also two comfortable and stylish self-catering apartments in an old threshing barn, on one side of the hotel's courtyard garden (sleeps two or three). We stayed there with our 10-year-old son last year - it's very special place.
A meal at Daphne Lambert's Award-winning Penrhos organic restaurant was our treat of the year. A welcome organic goodies pack was good, too. We had a week of magnificent countryside, on-top of-the-world views, hidden valleys, picnics by streams, great walking, castles, sunken lanes... it is truly glorious but this part of the world remains a closed book to most British holidaymakers. When we told people we were going to Herefordshire for a holiday, several of them asked where it was!
The Coasthopper bus service (between Sheringham and Hunstanton and on some journeys, Kings Lynn) makes the north Norfolk coast very accessible if leaving your car at home.
We stayed at Salthouse, travelling by train from Woking to London, then Norwich, then to Sheringham. Quick shopping trip to stock up on groceries and then on to the bus to holiday cottage. We did beg lifts at the start and end of the holiday between home and station and took a taxi once during the holiday late at night.
Otherwise we walked or took the bus... very reliable and always on time when we wanted it. Compared to travelling by car in this area in the past, we found that the elevated view from the bus gave us a whole new panoramic perspective on surrounding cliffs and fields. And it was so wonderful not to have to worry about finding a parking space when we arrived at places.
Salthouse is home to Rick Stein food hero Cookies Crab Shop and the annual Salthouse art exhibition in the church which overlooks the village and salt marshes. Salthouse 07 is from July 5th to August 5th.
Fantastic online retailer of sun protection kit which I couldn't find in the high street for the kids. Really helpful lady on the phone and I got it really quickly.
Web address is www.beachfactory.com and London phone number 020 8332 7467
A vast, shambolic natural stadium. Or is it natural? It's an enormous hole in the ground, anyway, the scale of which can't possibly be appreciated from the outside. It's where Bradford so-called "Bulls" play. (Yuk! that's Bradford Northern to anyone with a sense of history).
Despite recent reductions in capcity and demolition of the terracing at one end, I can't recommend a visit to this unique place too highly. It was once (before the legislation which followed the disastrous fire at Valley Parade) officially rated as the biggest stadium in England and held a crowd of 107,000 in 1954, which was more than Wembley could take.
If you have no interest in rugby league, never mind - this place is worth seeing anyway. I doubt if any professional sport is played in a more gloriously eccentic stadium anywhere in Europe.
As you enter, look between your feet and you'll observe there's a pitch down there somewhere. The vast expanse of concrete terracing reaches only half way up the hill. Ascending it from the bottom, you may find the graffiti I came across a few years ago still legible on one of the crush barriers about a third of the way up. "Chris Bonnington gave up here" it says.
The tip about the view from the top of Queens Park is fine, but Ruchill Park is even better. 360 degree panorama of the city, including the canal and Firhill Basin, Partick Thistle's ground (Firhill Park) is more or less below your feet and you can see half the game for free. Half is probably quite enough these days!
You also get a view down the river to Erskine Bridge, Dumbarton Rock and the Old Kilpatrick Hills, which are largely obscured from Queens Park.
A much less salubrious part of Glasgow, of course, than Queens Park.
Damn the naysayers, The Crown is a classic. Wood and brass everywhere, huge snugs less conducive to intimacy than getting to know some gregarious locals, the sound of conversation and smoke in the air – everything a pub should be (even though the smoke will soon be a thing of the past). As for the toilets, well, you’ll hardly be lingering when there’s so much going on outside. Some reputations are well earned.
The world's only regular Slow Food Market. Held at St Nicholas Market on Corn Street on the first Sunday of every month, the market features stalls of fresh, local food of the very highest quality.
Now the largest food market in Bristol, its undoubted highlights include artisan bread from the Thomas Bakery, the lush Chocolate Workshop, top juices from St Nicholas Market stars The Big Banana, the almost legendary Pieminister Pies, Ginger Gallery's sensational brownies, organic meats, locally grown veg and much more.
This is the place to find out what south west food is really all about.
Seriously the place to be in London for the youth today. This is no ordinary market selling rubbish from the back of someone's truck. These are seven highly unique and exclusive retail venues. Everything happens here and you can buy anything from the newest clothing straight from Paris to the oldest records, straight from someone's garage. You will find food from all around the world, with over three hundred stalls devoted to Chinese, Indian, Italian, Malasian, Mexican, American and many many more. You will also find the most interesting mix of people from all walks of life.
Camden Market is situated by Camden Lock. Easy to get to on the tube, get off at Camden Town and you will be in the middle of the market. You can also get there by bus. Best day to go is on a Sunday as this is when all of the markets are open.
It is a pub, right at the top of the town. It has recently been taken over and is wonderful. The food is some of the best I have ever tasted, beautifully presented and delicious. I bet soon this is a place you will have to book a table for weeks in advance.
Why am I telling you this? Because it desevers it, it really is head and shoulders above any other pub I have eaten in.
Risotto, hot chocolate pudding, the yummiest chips, veg so fresh it's almost rude, on and on I could go. And not silly london prices either, lunch for under a tenner.
Brilliant, it can be done, go there soon. You won't regret it.
Leechwell Street (off Kingsbridge Hill), Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6BY - tel: 01803 863324
Other read posts directed me to Yang Sing in Manchester, where I had the worst Chinese meal I've ever eaten yesterday.
Food was barely edible, service was slow and unfriendly. If you want great Asian food, go to London, New York, Paris or Hong Kong.
Wonderful food, nice atmosphere.
My wife & I booked up to go between Christmas & New Year - it was almost full, so booking is necessary. When booking, I mentioned we were vegetarian, and was asked "fish or no fish?" which gave me confidence that they knew that real veggies don't eat fish.
That was it as far as menu choice goes. No choice at all - the only menu one is offered is a wine card (from £10.00 up). This was refreshing to us - we hate spending hours deciding what to have, and it's justified by the statement "why bother choosing - we give you everything". The menu changes weekly.
Starters for us was a large portion of baby sweetcorn in tempura batter, small veg likewise, and mushroom & coriander in little wanton wrappers - deep fried. These came with saucers of soy sauce, sweet chilli and a hot chilli, ginger & soy sauce dips - very nice - the latter definitely homemade. I know there were little spicy pork cakes for meat eaters - the table of elderly people next to us complained that one found them too hot, likewise the spicy sauce - which seemed medium to my palette. They also asked if some real Thai music could be put on instead of this English stuff, which amused me, as the English stuff was in fact Thai pop music (and definitely in the background).
Mains. A large plate of sticky white boiled rice is provided, then we had thinly sliced sweetcorn, green beans, garlic, galangal & chilli in a gravy; pak choi in 'oyster' sauce - this was the vegetarian mushroom based version of 'oyster' sauce; and a large heater full of a wonderfully fragrant coconut, mushroom & cauliflower soup heavily laced with lemon grass & galangal. As our plates emptied, we were asked if we needed more rice, or more of any of the dishes - we didn't as we were quite full (but not stuffed).
Afterwards, a choice of lemon or mango sorbet (or a mixture), and coffee.
Set price as at 29/12/06 is £24.50 plus wine.
Staff: front of house are all English, very efficient & friendly - all dishes are explained well. I'm pretty sure that the male owner out front is married to a Thai woman who handles the cooking.
Upstairs is a B&B - Cardynham House, run by the same people, I assume - but I can't comment as I've never stayed there, living just down the valley in Stroud as I do.
We really enjoyed the meal & atmosphere. Good tip left & I will visit again (and I don't often tip).
Tibbiwell Street, Painswick.
Tel: 01452 813452. Coming from the north (Cheltenham) on A46, turn L just before the church, then left again - you'll see the restaurant in front of you - park in the car park just past the church on the A46.
This is a really unusual little restaurant, attached to a health spa (but with its own entrance). The menu is vegetarian with multiple Eastern and European influences and some really unusual but very tasty dishes. Lunch is also good. Mid price. In the summer you can sit outside by a quiet private branch off Birmingham's canal network. Book in advance at peak times as the restaurant isn't huge.
Canal Square, Browning Street, Birmingham, B16 8EH (best approached on foot from Sheepcote Street - there is a driveway to apartments off the west side of the street which leads to a footbridge over the canal, the restaurant is on the right). www.bodyandbeing.co.uk/sibilasnew/index.html +44(0)121 456 7634. About 1/2 mile from Five Ways station.
One of the finest small art galleries in Europe, hidden away in south Birmingham. When Lady Barber set up the gallery in memory of her husband, she specified that the artworks collected should be of the standard of the National Gallery and Wallace Collection. The result is an exquisite, wide-ranging collection with works by many of the greatest Old Masters and Impressionists. Entry to the gallery is free. There are also regular concerts in the splendid wood-panelled concert hall in the centre of the building. While visiting the gallery, take a short wander around the attractive adjacent campus of Birmingham University, the original 'redbrick' university.
Off Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham B15 2TS. www.barber.org.uk/ +44 (0)121 414 7333. 10 minutes walk from University Station, on the Cross City Line from New Street.
Great fun and so inexpensive, especially in awful weather. A rucksack with a flask, sausage rolls, ham sandwich, jaffa cakes, thornton's choccies, warm clothes and a travel card. In between peak times you can sit almost alone upstairs near the heater and you're warm and comfy while London rolls by. Enjoy festive decorations you can't see from street level. See lovely balconies and secret gardens. Meet gargoyles face to face. Marvel at the architecture. Read all the blue plaques and pub signs - hop off at a really interesting one, have a pint (and a pee) and get on a bus in another direction.
Watch London life unfold at the traffic lights. Read famous street addresses. Actually visit places you've only seen pictures of. Get lost somwhere amazing and ask the driver how to get back when you've had enough. Revisit. Take pictures, keep a journal. Do it again the next day.
Get your travel card at any news agents. The bus employees are great to deal with in most cases and ask other travellers at the bus shelters for directions. Read your A-Z and the fronts of the buses or contact the London bureau.
This superb celebration of food and drink has become an annual event in the run-up to Christmas and is the perfect place for presents for the food-lover in your life. Or just a great place to hang out, stuff your face and get in the festive spirit. The stalls set up in front of the City Hall offer a huge variety of fresh and cooked produce: Indian, Thai, kangaroo burgers, paella, all kinds of salamis and cheeses … the list goes on. A personal favourite are the huge bratwurst sausages washed down with an even bigger stein of German lager. The market, including the bar, stay open late every weekend in December, and the atmosphere is as worth sampling as the food.
Location: Outside the City Hall.
World class orchestras, giving live performances all year round at the Bridgwater Hall. As well as giving fantastic symphonic performances, the programs often include concertos with famous soloists from all over the world. Recently we saw Sabine Meyer performing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic at the Bridgwater Hall and it was a fantastic performance. I think it was also broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Mill Green Museum is a fully working watermill (undershot wheel) run by volunteers and housing the local museum for Hatfield, Herts. You can watch milling of organic flour every week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, and see the waterwheel in action every day (except for Monday when the mill is closed), which my children love to see.
Lots of gears and cogs and flour leaking out. Children can try grinding corn the hard way or the easy way. In the summer there is a small cafe with outdoor seats in the sensory garden. There is also a local collection of bits of history, with things for children to find.
And it's all free.
Herts AL9 5PD
Tel: 01707 271362
Nearest station is Hatfield (Herts) 23 mins from London Kings Cross every 30 mins (Mon-Sat), 1 fast per hour Sundays, plus two slower. Then either a 20 min walk, 5 mins on a bike National Cycle Network route 12 or bus 301 or 603 every 15 mins, 5 mins ride.
By car, follow signs from A1(M) junctions 3 or 4.
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