La Camargue is a French brasserie in Leith not too far from the Royal Yacht Britannia. A large lobster hangs over the door which does give you a clue that it is very much seafood orientated. What do you expect? Leith is a port after all! It does however cater for meat eaters as well, so fear not.
A two course of starter and main costs £16 and is good value. Starters include lobster soup, mussels, oysters and salmon. Mains range from fish such as Dover sole and halibut to meat such as venison and steak. Check out the website for the menu, but for £16 it allowed me to try things I have never tried before such as oysters. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable. The bar next door, Cameo bar, is worth a visit as well.
23 Commercial Street, Leith; tel: 0131 554 9999;
Transport: take the (very frequent) bus 22 from Princes street to get to Commercial Street;
Great pub on Edinburgh's Grassmarket. Can I say anymore? Well, ok, I will. Few of the pubs on the Grassmarket are worth recommending but this is definitely one. Staff are friendly and the food is good, and at very good prices. A lunch here would not put a dent in your pocket and leave plenty of cash for drink. I have recommended this pub to many folk around the world and they have not been disappointed.
74 Grassmarket, EH1 2JR;
tel: 0131 225 4851
What can I say? Appearances are deceptive. When you walk into this place you think its just a dark bar with some pool tables. OK, it is but there's more to it. It serves great food at really great prices. Menu ranges from sandwiches, salads and burgers to goulash, cous cous and lamb in flatbread with hummus. Ideal as a pit stop for anybody looking for good food at good prices.
19 Blair street, in the old town (just off Royal Mile a few doors down from the IBIS hotel, behind the Tron);
tel: 0131 220 0125
A lovely out-of-town place with a wonderful pub, The Cramond Inn, which has a big beer garden and parking space, and serves loads of good and traditional food for really good prices and has also drinks from a small, independent brewery Scintilla and spectacular beers and ales.
Its near the wonderful seaside promenade, with about 45 min if walked in full.
The path to Cramond Island is only walkable when the tide is out, so take some water with you in case you'll get trapped there with the tide rushing in.
Nice for doggies, kiddies and their owners as there is a big beach, too.
Take bus no 41 directly to Cramond or 42 to first walk the seaside promenade to Cramond;
Cramond Inn: 30 Cramond Glebe Road, EH4 6NP;
tel: 0131 336 2035;
Make a stop at the Scott's Deli en route to the Meadows Walk. It's a simple deli - top value snacks, cheap and fresh coffee - smiling staff and an array of fresh pastries til' late on in the day. That do not come from a chain shop.
10, Gillespie Place, EH10 4HS (by Bruntsfield Place, opposite pitch & putt links course and next to The Meadows;
tel: 0131 228 5200
Many of these are not noted for their singing quartets, or even any evidence of a pair of scissors. Worth knowing that plenty of them have back rooms for a little more (less?) than your average 'short, back and sides'.
If you go to a hairdresser's that actually does cut your hair, chances are you will get your hair washed, your scalp massaged very nicely and a decent haircut. If it's 30 rmb for a bloke's haircut and wash, all in, then that's pricy. It's a bit of luxury, but allow about an hour. Otherwise, pay 3 to 5 rmb at a cheap (genuine barber) place on the street, and it will be much quicker.
All over town
Parkgate is either part of Neston, or just next to it. Nice to walk along the front there, even if there is a chill wind. A couple of nice pubs down there, chippies, too, great bird life (and a brass plaque with info on birdies and the view over to Wales), as well as delicious home-made ice cream from Nichols. Can't miss it - nearly always a queue there.
Short walk from Neston, not far from Chester, or take the train or bus from Liverpool.
Set up by two Sudanese brothers, the Nile Valley Cafe may not have the best decor in Edinburgh, but the food is fantastic and the prices are cheap. Sudanese food includes a lot of Middle East staples such as falafel, hummus, babba ganoush etc as well as things you've probably never heard of or tried before but are really worth a try. And if you're in a hurry between shows they do great takeaway filled flatbreads and pittas.
9 Chapel Street
0131 667 8200
Nothing sums up 'Gallus' Glasgow better than a Saturday morning trip to the Barras. Here, Glasgow's answers to Del boy and Rodney make their Southern cousins look like shy introverts, as they sell anything not bolted down, from fur coats to football strips and computers to car parts.
The market has expanded from its humble beginnings to include hundreds of stalls and shops selling everything and anything. Barras are rented out on a daily basis, meaning an ever-changing stock and providing an ad-hoc sales channel for anyone with stuff to shift.
Never one to miss a trick, the Barras has evolved with the times, reflecting the changing needs of a varied clientele. Nowadays, Maggie's original fruit barra has evolved into a farmers' market, which takes place on the last Saturday in every month from 8 am (but get there quick, because stock sells out by lunchtime), and the modern market does a roaring trade in computer software of perhaps dubious origin. Never mind, it's all yours for a tenner.
The Barras was there long before Versace and the Italian Centre, and despite constant raids from overworked and frankly exasperated trading standards officials, it will still be there a long time after they're gone too. Margaret Russell would be proud.
Near Bell Street
A couple of RMB/yuan for entrance to the gallery up the stairs. Art book shop downstairs, and art supplies on sale in the lobby. Occasional visits from international artists/exhibitors.
From TianFu Square, standing at the base of the Mao statue, facing Mao, turn left (west) and after a stroll of just over 500 metres, you will see the gallery on your right.
One of the pleasant surprises about visiting San Francisco is that it has fantastic food. Not indigenous US food, but the food-culture imported by its immigrants from south of the border. Taquerias provides authentic, very tasty, cheap Mexican-style food to locals everywhere - especially in The Mission District. The best one is El Toro Taqueria on Valencia St. It is vegetarian-friendly (ie: it definitely doesn't cook beans in lard).
El Toro Taqueria: 598 Valencia St;
tel: (415) 431-2535;
Here's a photo: www.flickr.com/photos/bryceedwards/134769479/
San Francisco has some fantastic graffiti. The best is possibly found in the Mission District, and is normally quite political. Just wander around and you'll see a fair bit of it.
This is one of the photos I've taken of SF graffiti:
Just off Fisherman's Wharf there are a couple of platoons that've been taken over by basking seals. They sunbath, swim, fight and generally provide a surprisingly entertaining show.
I took this photo:
Right beside Powell Station on Market there is a little hut selling tickets for the old cable cars. If you buy a one-day or multi-trip MUNI ticket you can ride on the old trams, buses and new trams operated by MUNI. Saves walking up all those hills! I think it was $11 a day but well worth it if you are on foot.
May also be available in nearby shops.
Walk around the Mission District, the heart of the Latino district. Eat at any place (I miss the food so much), and go into a few supermarkets for special treats. At night there are many good bars (Divas for their mojitos), movie theatres and clubs. Check out the area during the day first to familiar yourself with the streets if you are the easily-scared type. Some people think the area is a bit unsafe. This petite female never had any problems.
Around Valencia, 16th and 24th streets;
Going to SF on a fairly tight budget, you can't beat renting a bike for a day (eg. at Blazing Saddles on Fisherman's Wharf). Very easy ride across the bridge, and down to Sausalito or Tiburon. Amazing views and a sense of achievement, all for $35 each including ferry ride back across the bay.
This is a great place if you want something a little different from the norm. They have done a great job restoring it and the prices won't break the bank. Very old fashioned with lots of plants everywhere! We stopped here for about 6 nights and although it was a little tricksy with a baby, we preferred it to the more upmarket boring places that were available for a dime a dozen. It's nice to experience a bit of history and then sleep in it!
A 1930's themed Hostel on Mazowiecka just off Al. J Slowackiego. The double and dorm rooms are all named after classic actresses, the breakfast is simple, but free, as is the internet. Rooms are also simple, but the bathrooms are impeccable with free laundry facilities.
Not many rooms though, so it's advisable to book ahead in high-season.
Mazowiecka, a 10 minute walk north west of the old town.
Recife's main city centre is a baffling and confusing place but I grew to love it there; it's not a conventional place to hang around but since when did travel always have to be about things that are beautiful in an obvious sense? Olinda and Porto de Galinhas are mainly idyllic, beautiful locations, of which Pernambuco state has no shortage, but Recife's main central islands have a strange charm.
At night, you need to be a bit streetwise, but there are the clubs and bars in the Recife Antigo area and the Patio de Sao Pedro and it's a great night out, but in the daytime, Recife city centre's more mundane sights are something that for some reason captivate me. It's not one thing in particular - it's the whole place. At certain times of the day, you get old men selling decrepit vinyl albums lined on the walls of the square to the side of Avenida Dantas Barreto. Near Igreja do Carmo, you'll find men singing Embolada, a mesmeric poetic duel that'll make you wonder how the hell they can summon the power to make you lose sense of where you are using just their voices and a pair of tambourines. You'll find people barbecuing meats and cheeses in unlikely corners and men fishing for crab off the bridges.
The oldest law faculty in the Americas is here, cheek by jowl with some of the best and cheapest lunch restaurants you may ever find; there are some faded Deco-style buildings and plenty of Portuguese colonial-style architecture too, with wrought iron British-designed bridges connecting the three islands, as well as a former prison that doubles up as a craft centre.
Among the narrow streets, men use makeshift sound systems to promote the clothes or radios or cutlery their shop is trying to sell you. This sort of thing would be considered noise pollution in most developed countries, but it makes for a strange sort of music in Recife; "Clothes shop MC on the M-I-C", said my friend.
Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.
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