Come off the M6 at junction 35. Morecambe is just a wonderful place for a stop off, and only a few miles from the motorway. Park anywhere along Marine Road, and take a bracing, and hopefully sunny walk along the sea front. If you're there late afternoon, the light can be glorious and taking photos of the sands, the boats with the Cumbrian hills over the bay is just a dream. Finish off with a cup of tea and scone at Eric's Cafe on Marine Road, which is just behind the delightful statue of Eric himself.
Eric's Cafe: 245 Marine Road Central, Morecambe LA4 4BJ
+44(0)1524 412 051
Google map: bit.ly/oKuoyX
This is how motorway service stations ought to be. Banish the garish signs, 60s concrete structures and ubiquitous fast food 'restaurants' and replace them with attractive log cabin buildings overlooking fields and a duck pond. Tebay service station has been around for a while but strangely the concept doesn't seem to have caught on in many other places. Family-run by farmers who sold land for the M6 construction, but who wisely retained the bordering land to develop at a later date. It offers a beautiful cafe with views away from the traffic, a home-made ice cream bar, a farm shop and a butchers counter and free wifi. And it's one of the few retailers I've found who stock V Pud - a vegetarian black pudding - so any family members visiting my nephew at university in Glasgow are not allowed to drive home without stopping off to pick some up for me.
The food is lovely, the views are amazing - perfect stop off when travelling through this part of the country. We've stopped here four times in the last four years when travelling from Scotland back into England, each time the food was fantastic. Local seasonal produce at reasonable prices.
Last year stopping here possibly saved our lives, after our annual trip to 'T in the Park', we stopped for lunch on our way back to Lincolnshire, a 'regular' noticed a bald tyre on our car and pointed it out to us - we visited a local garage who advised us the tyre would have blown at any time. We returned this year to the Manor Inn and enjoyed another lovely meal and bought our guardian angel a drink as a thank you for stopping us driving off last year with the bald tyre.
This is a service stop in Cumbria, on the edge of the lake district. However it serves lovely food overlooking a lake and fountain which is home to many birds and wildfowl. It also sells local farm produce, handmade cakes, local beers etc to take away.
If you usually avoid motorway service stations, you would probably drive past this one. Don't! It does not look much when you arrive but appearances are deceptive. Pop in, grab a cuppa and head out the back to the terrace. Suddenly, you are in the borders! Soft, rolling hills and a beautiful lake bathe your road-sore eyes. You can sit on the deck and just take it all in, or go for a walk around the lake and have a picnic. The kids can play, the dog can run around - everyone's happy!
On the M74 between Carlisle and Glasgow (on junction 16): DG11 1HD
Google map: bit.ly/q8xiCi
Probably the most surreal motorway stop off in the UK. The Llama Karma Cafe is a bistro cafe with a varied selection of food which you can enjoy amongst real live llamas! You can enjoy a coffee while being watched by llamas through large glass windows. There are walking tours with the llamas should you wish to stretch your legs a little further. A deli, the 'deli llama' and gift shop for that essential llama cuddly toy. Definitely a memorable stop off.
Just off the M6 at junction 40.
An oasis of karm (sorry!) just a mile from junction 40 of the M6. The Llama Karma Kafe offer tasty home cooked food and great coffee in their light, airy bistro (caters for vegans and gluten free). They also run excellent llama treks through the beautiful surrounding countryside. We stopped for a mid-trek picnic near a pretty church with our new found friends. Don't forget your panpipes from the gift shop on your way out!
A lovely, relaxed restaurant in a former convent fuses incredible food with a warm atmosphere. Very romantic, reasonably priced and inventive; you're presented with an assortment of incredible starters for 12 euros - don't be scared.
Some of the best food we've eaten abroad, well worth the effort to find it, even if it took our cabbie four stops to ask for help!
I have hesitated to tell the Guardian readership about Cafe Ariete in Moffat as it can be hard enough to find a table on some busy Saturday mornings already. However, it is the best stop-off on a UK motorway, so it had to be done. Cafe Ariete is a slice of Scottish-Italiano in the charming little town of Moffat; a perfect distance from the north-west for a stop-off. My current favourite choice for my second breakfast of the day is a scrambled egg roll with crispy onions and a tall glass of hot Vimto, garnished with a slice of fruit, but you may prefer the excellent coffees. Before eating, we call in at the paper shop next door to buy our Guardian and after eating we walk around the square window shopping, stopping to buy melt-in-the mouth Scottish Pancakes from the bakery for later. If walking around the pretty, bustling square isn't enough for you, then there is a pleasant two km circular walk along the river Annan to walk off the second breakfast. Really, Moffat deserves a page all to itself, but this will give you a flavour of this Scottish gem.
For gentle walks around Moffat check out:
The site also has information on longer walks and the Moffat Walking Festival in September.
The home page will take you to all the useful information about Moffat you need.
10 High Street, Moffat, Dumfriesshire DG10 9HF
+44(0)1683 220 313
Google map: bit.ly/osyE4V
Beautiful, rustic tavern, still running after all these years by a number of old Limenos, in the beautiful Pueblo Libre district, surrounded by the gorgeous colonial homes of the colonial Spanish elite, daubed in irridescent colour. Typical Peruvian dishes offered to a high standard, particularly recommend papa rellena: a jacket potato filled with mashed potato, egg, meat and olives. Superb.
A small creole restaurant next to the beach is perfect for anyone who wants to sample some traditional Creole cuisine. You will need to be patient as it will take at bit of time for drink and food to arrive. Sundays are their busiest time during lunch. It takes at least 10 minutes for a bottle of wine or drinks to arrive to your table, and at least 15 minutes for the food to be in front of you. One good thing is that you can order first, and then go for a dip in the sea or sit out to sun tan to build up your appetite while waiting for the food.
The best dish to order is balaou fish. You can ask for it coated in breadcrumbs or tempura like.
The grilled lobster with sauce chien is also good, but will take at least 20 minutes to arrive.
The restaurant doesn't have air conditioning, but you would not need it as you will be lunching or dinning while wearing bathing suit.
Avenue Robert Deloy - Grande Anse 97217
Les Anses-d'Arlet (Martinique)
+596 (0)5 96 48 33 47
Open from 12h - 23h. CLOSED on Wednesday.
Say what you want about Italian ice creams, and God knows they are divine, the real apex for me is called Berthillon. And you’ll find their glaces in the St Louis island of Paris. Each boule (scoop) is small and pricey but there is no word to describe the ecstasy of their gianduja with orange peel, verbena sorbet and raspberry à la rose. You can enjoy Berthillon ice cream at the salon de thé or just in cornets from their stands.
Take the lift to the roof-top terrace for smashing views over the harbour. Open from 11.00 till 01.30 at the weekends and till midnight during the week you can book a meal or just enjoy a drink and the view. There’s live music and cocktails too. It’s a great place to cool off and chill out.
Exhausted and thirsty after negotiating the crowded Rambles? Tired after traipsing around the shops on Portal del Àngel? Pop into this four-star hotel on the Plaça de Catalunya itself and relax in the shade of the apsis of Romanic Santa Ana Church. (That’s two secrets in one.) Incredible as it may seem, 30 seconds from Plaça de Catalunya is a Romanic church complete with beautiful cloisters; this hotel backs onto it and you can see parts of it from the terrace. Open all day so you can have breakfast, a set lunch and a la carte dinner, as well as drinks. Don’t miss it.
Plaça Catalunya 19, 08002 Barcelona
+34 93 316 87 00
Instead of passing straight through after landing here on the ferry, stick around for a while. It no longer has the grandeur it once had, when it was a stopping point for cruise ships about to cross the Atlantic but it still has a rough and ready charm.
Drive up to the museum on the top of the hill for a superb view and assorted curios in the museum itself.
Go to the Nez de Jobourg to feel like you're at the edge of the world.
Go to the beach at Équeurdreville. Look at locals' houses that back on to the beach and admire the graffiti.
Then come back in to town and get delicious pastries from le Petit Jean while taking coffee at the Café de l'Étoile before taking dinner at Ty Billic for galettes and crepes.
Le Petit Jean
10 Rue Ile de France, 50130 Cherbourg-Octeville, France
+33(0)2 33 78 03 03
Google map: bit.ly/n2gRFE
Cafe de l'etoile
2 Rue des Portes, 50100 Cherbourg-Octeville, France
+33(0)2 33 93 29 70
Google map: bit.ly/rgwJMB
73 Rue Blé, 50100 Cherbourg-Octeville, France
+33(0)2 33 01 11 90
Google map: bit.ly/pbosMF
There are any number of reasons to take the ten minute detour off the roaring M1 to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and art is only part of it. Feast your eyes on monumental Moores, Hepworths and Paolozzis, at the same time filling your belly with interesting grub, all the while perched above it all on a glass and steel balcony. Stroll through 500 acres of carefully kept parkland, bumping into Gormleys and Goldsworthys before settling in the impressively modernist cafe, located above the posh shop selling Jaume Plensa fridge magnets and James Turrell torches. I might have made the last one up. Dishes of the Day are chalked up on a huge board, and might include local asparagus with poached eggs, rocket and a dill and mustard dressing, or fishcakes with minted peas, home made tartare sauce and chips. But the cakes are the thing. Scones the size of elephant’s feet, fat slabs of Bakewell tart or a nicely dusted lemon pie hit the spot, particularly since the coffee is so good. Yep, you heard it right. The barrista working the Gaggia last week turned a macchiato into an art form. Frink, Caro, Borofsky and Creed; culture and cuisine pleasingly wed.
If travelling via Cherbourg, take a side step into the Val de Saire and the charming Barfleur, site of the Norman departure in 1066. Protected from the Atlantic winds, the coastline and beaches are great for walking and swimming. Five miles further south is St Vaast la Hougue, a fishing port with lots of activity and delightful sea-food. Don't miss the local oysters, thought by some to be the best in France. Try them at the Chasse-Maree at the end of the port, an unmissable stop for us,each time we're in the Cotentin.
Tebay: a diamond in what’s otherwise the slag heap of British motorway service [sic] stations. Both sides of the M6, in Cumbria between junctions 38/39, it’s independently owned and run by Westmorland Ltd and the cafes serve local food as much as possible, including lamb and beef from their own farm. Two extensive shops carry mostly artisan and organic produce including fresh bread and a butcher’s counter. I can’t resist stocking up on their Gloucester Old Spot pork pies and recently bought a wedding present from a display of hand thrown pottery. They have all the usual necessary facilities, plus large kids play areas, views of the hills rather than the traffic, dedicated dog walks, and a proper campsite which is great if you need to break the journey to/from Scotland. My only slight grouse is that it’s become quite pricey lately, but I guess no more so than the incomparably inferior chains. Roll on their new place on the M5 (due 2013).
Twelve-year-olds aren't the only ones who giggle when ordering a plate of balls at a restaurant. We can all do it at Meatball Shop, a restaurant devoted to... Meatballs! Diners get a dry erase menu and marker and can pick and choose from an array of meatballs and sauces. I suggest ordering a handful of different meatball sliders -- my favorite are beef with spicy meat sauce. (I'm boring I know.) You can also order sides and desserts with your balls. There are two Meatball Shop locations -- one on the Lower East Side at 84 Stanton Street and another new location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 170 Bedford Avenue. Be prepared for a wait. It's worth it.
Mont St Michel is much visited and for very good reason, but visiting with three small children we had to find a new twist to add to its appeal. So we used the Disney-line: the excitement of catching glimpses of the mount as we approached as this was the very location of Mickey Mouse's dungeon from The Three Musketeers; the crowded streets the place to buy beignets like Tiana made in The Princess and the Frog. But the best find of all were the mussel and oyster bars which stretch along the coastal road along the edge of the Bay of Mont St Michel. Cheap, child-friendly and with fantastic views of Mont St Michel - our three devoured bowlfuls of mussels and oysters dug fresh from the sandy bay - without even a mention of what Sebastian from The Little Mermaid might make of it all!
Take the D155 from St Malo, then onto the D797 at Le Vivier-sur-Mer heading towards Mont St Michel.
Google map: bit.ly/ojp0gQ
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