I stand in front of the lines of bottles at La Canne à Sucre and take stock. Once again I am in the presence of copious quantities of rum. But here no bottle appears the same, all are superior quality, and after 30 years they are jostling for space in the nursery. Children have grown up and moved on, but the rum will stay and probably last forever - the owner is even writing a book on the subject.
Jean-Claude and Christiane’s rum bar behind Place Sablon is a loving homage to several years spent in the French Antilles: banana plants, banana leaves, unobtrusive steel pan music and a glowing fruit-adorned bar. There is a food menu that features recipes from Martinique, Réunion, Guadeloupe and Mauritius, but more than anything it features rum.
But first, Christiane suggests I try an aperitif. She hands me the drinks menu and leaves me to peruse it for some while. There are 250 cocktails to choose from: enough for weeks (years?) of cocktail drinking.
While we sip our delicate creations and allow the rum to creep up on us, Jean-Claude is cooking. Not the intriguingly-named “poisson à la sauce chien” this time; but parrotfish in a creole sauce of lime and coconut milk, and the same fish prepared in absinthe. Not only do these turn out to be delicious, but it is also the first time I’ve eaten such a photogenic fish.
Our chef is an experimenter. He tells us he’s currently trying out a variation of the staple deep-fried Belgian croquette, but with chicken inside and accompanied by a mango sweet and sour sauce. “I tried it out on my friends”, he says. We nod encouragingly and say it sounds good. “Yes, that’s what I thought”, he muses.
Later on Friday and Saturday nights, Jean-Claude sheds his chef’s clothes for something more comfortable, and joins in with the group of musicians and drums in the corner. Fridays and Saturdays from around 10:30pm is the time to pitch up: there’s no need to eat, just pick a cocktail (at random?) and make the most of it all. A place that should appeal to everybody!
Rue des Pigeons 12, 1000, Bruxelles
+32 0475 472023
Google map: bit.ly/LL1U2X
* Bec is our Been there local for Brussels. You can view her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/brussels-local-rebecca.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/Becinbrussels
Whisper the words “cocktail bar” and probably associations of classy, candlelit establishments, muted pianos and mojitos will come to mind. There are plenty of cool-kid places in the Saint-Géry area which will mix you a pretty decent cocktail, catering for the tastes of 20 and 30 somethings who flood this area, seeking beer and more. A few strides from all of these bars is Coaster. It has peeling brown walls, candles tilting precariously from rum bottles and an operating table light casting a dim glow over proceedings. You could say this is a cultivated neglected look, as if the squatters have moved in and the Bar Police haven’t the time or inclination to evict them. The clientele doesn’t mind about roug decor and approximate spirit measurements, which anyway still produce good results.
We are generally young, cradling glass shakers protectively as we huddle around copper- topped tables. Meanwhile, the pulsing 90s dance mix is discouraging us from lapsing into conversation (even on a Monday), and why would we want deep conversations anyway while the blackboard has a list of around 40 cocktails to peruse, a twitchy dancing barman, and the television in the corner, inexplicably showing an evening chat show with my least favourite person on French channels, Laurent Ruquier. Every day between 20:00 and 23:00 except the day of rest, Coaster offers the appealing prospect of two 10cl or 15cl shakers for the price of one - it’s Happy Hour seemingly for most of the time the bar is open, or at least the hours when you’re most likely to want to frequent it. Well, I exaggerate: I haven’t yet hung out here until 6am! But I have slunk into the office wearing my hangover in a secret smile. Like a proper self-respecting Belgian bar, Jupiler is on tap. And of course the cocktails (be they mojitos, jet sets or teddy bears) are generous and colourful. And definitely not wimpish.
Rue des riches Claires/ Rijke Klarenstraat 28,
Google map: bit.ly/KCw1bM
This is the real tapas experience and tremendous fun. Great atmosphere and very friendly guys behind the bar and cooking the tapas. Each time you order a beer (a cana of approx 33cl draught Alhambra poured expertly) a shout goes up and a few minutes later a hot tapa plate will appear from the kitchen (the more beers ordered the larger the plate, a shared experience). A new one comes every 10-15 minutes and as long as you order every now and then you seem to get more plates than glasses, though by that stage you don't care. The food is really good - great seafood cooked beautifully and in huge variety, with occasional extras.
We loved the place: it's friendly, efficient and high quality. There's more room at lunchtime and seats outside.
Calle Navas, 28, 18009 Granada, Spain
+34 958 22 70 70
Google map: bit.ly/NXQ4T6
There are many little bays and coves in the nature reserve of Lower Kamenjak but Lampajina is probably the most stunning of its beaches. You'll find laminated white rocks offering natural sun lounging by the emerald waters of the Adriatic Sea, and a spot where locals cliff dive from a height of about 10 metres. The nearby Safari Bar is a classic, with its “Lord of the Flies” kind of atmosphere - the food in general might not be great but the calamari sandwich is worth the wait. It's also a good place to hide from the throbbing heat.
Bubion is an unspoilt village nestling into the hillside of the southern Sierra Nevada.
The white wash walls of the traditional Moorish properties are providing stark contrast to the deep blue sky above.
The area is laced with a myriad of walking trails that, with the exception of the odd mountain biker, horse rider or donkey, are your own private wilderness for miles on end.
Should this be too remote there are shorter walks to the neighbouring villages of Pampaneira and Capileira, on either side, both having their own charms.
There is no better way to celebrate an enjoyable days walk than by returning to one of the villages few, but beautifully positioned bars where you can enjoy a cold cerveza, and free tapas as you enjoy the view across to the Atlas Mountains of Morroco.
In terms of things to consider - the public transport infrastructure is rural at best - and you would be wise to hire a car, or bike to assist in getting about; Granada may appear close but requires you to circumnavigate the Sierra Nevada range - it is still worth visiting, however; and lastly, it is worth noting that few locals speak English, and the local dialect can be hard to grasp even if you are a Spanish speaker.
Google map: bit.ly/OiubQ0
Do you want to finish your night out in Madrid as a proper Spaniard? This is your bar! Pure flamenco atmosphere with gypsies and Andaluz performers will delight your night until 6am. If you are lucky enough you can attend jam sessions downstairs where famous flamenco players and dancers drop in with their guitars without previous notice so you will never know who is performing until you get there. That's what I like! Amazing music and company to finish your Madrid night out as a real flamenco dancer - you cant miss it!
Calle del Olmo, 2
+34 91 467 33 82
Hours: 11pm-5.30am, Sat&Fri till 6am
Google map: bit.ly/K2ENuO
On 21st October 1805 the residents heard the roar of the cannons of the Battle of Trafalgar in this classic “ white “ village of Andalucia, perched 200 metres over the ravine of the Barbate River beside the Costa de Luz. Climbing the hill you reach a Moorish walled ancient town with churches, old convents boutique hotels , forts, bars and artisan shops. The many narrow cobbled streets seem insistant that you explore all their secret nooks and crannies. At the Convento de San Francisco, now a hotel, guests and locals breakfast, drink and chatter all day in it’s massive old refectory. We while away summer afternoons in the shady Plaza de Espana with it’s wonderful frog embellished tiled fountain. For night cool try the Janice Joplin bar a magnet for “beautiful people”. A must just 6 Km south is an extra special sculpture park created by the NMAC Foundation.
After a day spent wandering the enchanting alleyways of Dubrovnik, a well hidden hole in the city walls leads to this stunningly located bar on the rocks. Watch the sunset over the Adriatic with a cold beer, while locals plunge into the water from the high rocks next to you. An astonishingly beautiful place.
'Crijevićeva 9, Dubrovnik' is the address, but ask a local for directions or head to the city walls and look for the 'Cold drinks this way' sign!
Crijevićeva 9, 20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia
+385 98 361 934
Google map: bit.ly/LUUW9t
A tiny hamlet with tumbledown cottages and magnificent views just below Cruz de Fero, the high point of the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago. It's totally quirky, with the most amazing medieval style bar, Gaia, just like the Inn at Bree in Lord of the Rings, serving fantastic food. Unless you're a pilgrim you won't get to stay in a tiny chapel, lit all night by candles, and be inducted into the order of Templars by the eccentric hostel warden, nor the extremely funky hostel Monte Irago; but you can hang out with clusters of pilgrims, visit the chapel built by a 12th century hermit, and stay in the pension next to Gaia. Recommended for its combination of eccentricity and total peace.
Visit Figueras in Catalonia, home of the quite simply fantastic Salvador Dali museum. Running over five circular stories this charts the opening of a fabulous mind (rock figurine paintings) through to his famous dreamscapes, taking in a Mae West's lips sofa trompe-l'oeil along the way. While the museum itself is not to be missed, a whole range of European clothing stores have sprung up to provide hassle free shopping in this compact town. For those who like to party check Rachdingue 'Discoteca Surrealiste' nearby which is a bona fide nightclub replete with glass cased mannequins from one of Dali's proteges, hosting techno inside and deep house on the terrace, and the annual Rachingue Festival in June.
Plaça Gala-Salvador Dalí, 5, E-17600 Figueres
+34(0) 972 677 500
Google map: bit.ly/Kvg1Fb
Carrer Call, 17493 Vilajuïga, Spain
+34 972 53 00 23
Google map: bit.ly/Mnb5V2
Though Hvar is known for its posh port and brilliant beaches, those with steel knuckles and a set of wheels can go for a joy ride on the narrow, twisted back lanes of the island's old roads. Not for acrophobes, the summit near the charming village of Grablje reveals heart-stopping panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea and Croatian mainland. Ancient stone walls mix uniquely with modern patchworks of lavender bushes and olive trees; dense pine forests nestle below the horizon. Back at sea level, stop in tiny Milna where inexpensive fresh fish, delicious omelettes, and perfect white stone beaches reward hardy souls in the only open-air alfresco cafe.
Great location to sit and drink and watch the world go by, on Piazza Santa Croce. The Santa Croce church is just yards away.
For such a prime location, the prices were surprisingly good. We only had drinks but at €3.50 per large glass of house white we were not complaining.
Service was good.
Decent bar a few streets off the main Borgo Stretto street, north of the Arno river. While it does feel a 'student type' of bar, we saw all ages there. A Counting Crows album was playing in the background the afternoon we visited.
Quite a big bar which has some free nibbles on the bar. Good choice of beers - the beer I had had an unusual passion fruit tinge to it!
Prices were very reasonable.
For a bar in the heart of Florence, it feels like a bar in a small town in Italy. Bar serves small tapa like portions (from 75c) as well as larger paninis.
What really struck me about this place was that people served themselves (both wine and food) and paid for it at the end. From the crowds of locals milling about the place on the road outside (as there is very little room inside) it seems like a popular spot.
Via de' Neri 65, 50122 Florence
Google map: bit.ly/LPLoZ2
For a bar in the heart of Florence, it feels like a bar in a small town in Italy. Bar serves small tapa like portions (from 75c) as well as larger paninis.
What really struck me about this place was that people served them selves (both wine and food) and paid for it at the end. From the crowds of locals milling about the place on the road outside (as there is very little room inside) it seems like a popular spot.
Via dei Neri, 65-red, 50122 Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 2723
Google map: bit.ly/LCocAS
Good find just off Piazza Santa Croce, this bar has a lot of outdoor seating along the roadside. For Florence the prices were very reasonable. Beer was about €4.50 a pint with wine about €4. The food menu is limited with meat and cheese platters served.
Centro Servizi Borgo Dei Greci Srl Piazza dei Peruzzi, 50122 Florence
Google map: bit.ly/LN2nNB
The eastern Alpujarras is much less visited by tourists than the Granada end of these Sierra Nevada foothills and as such can give the feel of stumbling across ‘undiscovered’ hamlets.
After making our way from Almeria, our hire car laboured into the village of Fondon early one Sunday afternoon, the engine fan a high-pitched wheeze as it battled the Andalucian heat.
A bar in the main square was packed with what seemed like the entire population of the settlement with a huge 1970’s TV set placed high on a corner shelf blaring out a weekend football match.
Hungry after the journey, it was then time to put our rudimentary Spanish to the test, ordering tapas from the counter.
For those of you who like your bars to be truly special then look to Mickeys at Elbow Beach. Situated right on the beach overlooking the Atlantic, this bar has it all, the perfect setting, wonderful staff, great fun, but most of all, the secret drink, 'the Special.' Only two members of staff know how to make it. The fun part is getting to know which ones they are.
60 South Shore Road Paget 0, Bermuda
+1 (441) 236 3535
Google map: bit.ly/KeYpBJ
Between Covent Garden and the Thames, down Villiers St off the historic Strand awaits Gordon’s Wine Bar. This is London’s oldest wine bar and must be one of the world’s best. Visiting Gordon’s is a unique experience of London’s history. Before becoming a wine bar in 1890, the building was home to Samuel Pepys, and also an illustrious brothel or two. Outside, in Villiers St, the building now has the appearance of a deserted and condemned old building from Dickensian London and is often unrecognised by the most dedicated visitors. The only clue is the dusty original gas-lit lamp above the door, labelled “Gordon’s Wine Bar”. Take the narrow steps down into the unlikely darkness.
The bar has the appearance and feel of a dark basement untouched since Pepys left. Nicotine stained walls of tongue-n-groove boards, history-stained stone floors, and rickety tables and chairs under the low, brick-domed ceiling of the original wine cellars are not retro but original features. Candles light the reticent faces of illicit encounters. The staff are efficient and friendly and pull schooners and beakers of sherry, Madeiras, or port from the barrels stacked behind the bar. Excellent wines are also available by bottle or glass. Recently homemade food has been introduced, and the tables spill out into Watergate Walk to the side. But stay indoors to enjoy the uniqueness and excellence of Gordon’s Wine Bar, and drink deep the history of London.
Discovered this very good restaurant and winebar on the way back to Gare Du Nord. Its only 10 minutes on foot from checking in for the return Eurostar journey to London.
A godsend! Calm, pleasant environment with extremely tasty meals and wine. The serving staff were pleasant and helpful.
We will be back!
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