My boyfriend and I ate at The Square Kitchen for my birthday and it was a wonderful dining experience! Having lived in Bristol for a year we were delighted to find this little gem, tucked away just off the top of Park Street. Not only was the food excellent but the service was second to none and the venue had a boutique arty feel with beautiful prints on the wall by Katalina Bath. I will definitely be going back to enjoy lunch on their lovely terrace in the summer!
Just two hours from Madrid by train Ávila is a real medieval gem. It boasts the most complete Romanesque city walls in Spain and walking on top of them gives you a real feel for the days of El Cid and the vast Castilian plain. The city is crammed with Gothic churches and the cool vaults of the Cathedral are a welcome relief on a hot summer’s day. Known as the City of Stones or Saints Ávila’s most famous inhabitant was Saint Teresa, who gave her name to the delicious sweet pastries known as Yemas. These are found in many pastry shops the best being the famous La Flor de Castilla.
Hilltop town favoured by the Etruscans and wealthy Renaissance families who valued the cooler climate. Well preserved Roman Theatre and other ruins in the archaeological park with lots of Etruscan artefacts in the Civic Museum. A Combo ticket also gives admission to Ethnographic Missionary and Bandini Museums (small but worth it for the painted panels).
Eating wise there are two good restaurants (l'Polpa particularly good) at the bus terminus on Piazza Mino or take a picnic on the panoramic terrace with wonderful views of Florence.
Take bus no. 7 either from outside the main railway station or from Piazza San Marco - about three an hour. Lots of hairpin bends up to the town. Double decker Florence sightseeing bus also goes there.
Piazza Mino, 21/22, 50014 Fiesole, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/XDwbVI
The 'Pedalata dei Castelli' is a non-competitive cycle ride that takes in medieval castles and picturesque villages that are largely undiscovered by non-Italians, against a backdrop of the stunning Apennines in Northern Tuscany.
There are two stops at castles along the way where you get to taste the best local delicacies and be entertained by reenactments of medieval sword fights. At the end there is a slap-up Slow Food or, as it is known locally, Zero Km lunch.
Full support is provided for cyclists and all types of bike are available for hire, including electric bikes, making it very accessible. Advice on accommodation is available.
Non-cycling partners and families need not miss out, as there is also a guided tour (in Italian, but it doesn't really matter if you can't understand Italian as you get to have a good look round) that includes the local food tastings, as well as the opportunity to join the cyclists for lunch.
It is a fabulous combination of the best local food, combined with sightseeing and cycling. Last year's event was great fun with nearly 300 cyclists participating despite poor weather.
Just an hour's drive north-west of Madrid is the ancient city of Segovia, which stands proudly beneath its splendid cathedral. Nestled under the city's imposing roman aqueduct sits Meson de Candido, a family owned restaurant attracting food-lovers from far afield. Upon the recommendation of our local friends we dined, like everybody else that afternoon, or so it seemed, on the house's speciality, "cochinillo" or roast whole suckling pig. The waiters and chefs alike are proud of this dish, and so they should be. Cooked in vast, traditional ovens (ask nicely and you may get treated to a tour of the kitchen, as we did), the pork is a delight. Start with Granja, a local white bean soup, and savour the surprise "sorpresa" pudding, a gorgeous cakey, eggy, ice-creamy affair. If you're in Madrid and have a spare day, then Segovia is a glorious city of romance that you must visit, especially in late summer: potter, enjoy the sun and most importantly, make the most of what Meson de Candido has to offer. You won't regret it! Food and wine all in for around 35 euros.
The Train de la Fresa (Strawberry Train) is a historical, cultural and gastronomic route between Madrid and Aranjuez which runs from the end of June until mid- July and from the 1st of September until the end of October. This journey, which started in 1851, transports you to an old age of train travel on an early 20th Century coal engine train trough scenic countryside. Ideal for families or for an interesting day out to Aranjuez.
It leaves from the Museo del Ferrocarril (Train Museum) at Atocha Station (Paseo de las Delicias 61) and takes about an hour to arrive into Aranjuez. During the trip, stewardesses dressed in period costume go round the train distributing boxes of strawberries for passengers to taste. The views from the train are of the beautiful countryside outside Madrid. Travellers are then taken by coach to Aranjuez for a guided visit to the Royal Palace, its beautiful gardens and the Museo de Faluas. Travellers can choose to remain in Aranjuez and return back to Madrid on a normal service train using the same ticket.
Aranjuez has many interesting sights, including the Royal Palace with its Royal gardens and the "Casita del Labrador" (Farmer’s House) a Royal pavilion built by King Charles IV.
Tren de la Fresa (return) tickets are around €29 for adults and €21 for children between 4 and 12 years old. Children under 4 years old travel free if they sit on their parents’ lap. The ticket includes the free guided tour of the palace and museum.
For a guaranteed pick-me-up after our long winter head to Brodie Castle in Moray for a fix of bright yellow sunshine. The park around the castle has thousands of daffodils, part of the National Collection and some of them very old cultivars. Warm yourself up in the tearoom with some excellent homebakes before heading to the Culbin Sands for more colour - this time big blue skies and miles of white sands. End your day at The Loft at East Grange with an organic beer from the Black Isle Brewery and good, local produce. Winter blues replaced with spring colour!
From Buttermere to the Kirkstile Inn return, around Crummock Water.
This will take you about five hours including an hour’s stop for lunch at the Inn.
Begin in the small village of Buttermere, following the path to Crummock Water. This skirts the lake on its western shore. The path is clear and hugs the water’s edge.
Spring is coming, heralded at last by the sound of water as the frozen waterfalls melt, there is the gold of gorse, birds nesting and the bleat of lambs.
We recite lines from Innesfree:
‘I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore’ and sing snatches of song as our spirits soar as we tramp along.
Mellbreak soon flanks us as we tramp the mile or so along the path to Dropping Crag’s sheer face, on to High park and then by road to the Kirkstile Inn.
I sampled delicious home made bread and soup and a wonderful plum and cinnamon crumble washed down with half of the local ale before setting off to Lanthwaite wood.
This takes us back towards the lake and her Eastern margins. A path again follows the water’s edge, light glittering on rock and water, milder air.
The last bit is along the road into Buttermere but can be avoided with some careful map reading.
The Sky Tea Rooms are still open for home made ice cream or cream tea to round off a perfect day out.
In Castle Hedingham, Essex not only can you explore this magnificent Castle, you can walk around the beautiful grounds filled with daffodils and bluebells in spring time. There are lots of events that take place here, from jousting tournaments to wedding fairs. A short walk away brings you to the village pub 'The Bell.' This family pub serves hearty, excellent value meals and stocks local ale and ciders. If the pub isn't your thing there is a lovely tea rooms opposite serving up light lunches and home-made cakes.
Balkan restaurant with a delightfully wacky interior – yes, those are upside down chairs you can see hanging from the ceiling! There’s also a gorgeous garden which is open in summer if you really can't cope with the riot of colour on the walls but the real attraction here is the food. The grilled octopus was beautifully presented and tasted delicious which came as something as a shock given this is a landlocked country. Despite being popular with Czech celebs like Karel Gott (their answer to Cliff Richard) and Oscar winning screenwriter/director Zdenek Sverak, the prices are reasonable – and the welcome is as warm as you would expect in the Mediterranean. I deeply regret having strolled past this place, assuming it must be as a tourist haunt – don’t make my mistake!
Újezd 33, Praha 1, Mala Strana
+420 257 212 388
Google map: bit.ly/17o6yw8
* Lisette is our Been there local for Prague. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/prague-local-lisette.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LisettePrague
While in Madrid you can take a train to Aranzuez, around an hour's trip on which they celebrate and eat strawberries each spring, served by staff in costume, stopping in Aranzuez, a charming town that was a royal residential palace. You can tour this, or if preferred go to the Aranzuez gardens, the place that inspired Rodrigos' 'In the Gardens of Aranzuez' classical piece. On the same line you can continue your day trip to Toledo, around 40 minutes train ride or so, a fascinating fortified citadel on a lovely hill with a beautiful blue river in the valley below. Toledo has a history dating back to the Visigoths. Both Aranzuez and Toledo offer lovely resaurants and caffes and children are always welcomed as is delightfully usual. The same train line will return you to Madrid central station via Aranzuez. Fares are low, a little higher on the specific strawberry train, with strawberries provided of course! Allow a longish day as the trip really is interesting for all tastes and preferences. Madrid will still be open and buzzing when you return, into the small hours.
Demonstrating butter churning with an abundance of fresh, new, springtime cream, is a man in a tricorn hat. Nestled in the shambles at Bewdley Museum, lies 'The Copper Pot', a replica Georgian shop selling seasonal, historically-researched foods for people to buy. The smell of spices and chocolate gets into your nose as soon as you walk in. With tasters on offer, historic games to try and authentic decoration to feast your eyes on, time literally stops still in here.
Bewdley Shambles, Bewdley Museum, Load Street, Bewdley, DY12 2AE
Open April-Oct, Thursday-Sunday from 10am-4pm.
Kidderminster is the nearest train station, but the Severn Valley Railway stops in Bewdley.
Google map: bit.ly/16L7GGT
We love visiting Low Sizergh Barn a dairy farm just south of Kendal in the rolling hills of South Lakeland. Time it right and you can watch the cows being milked while you sip leaf tea at your table - there’s a glass panel in the tea shop and it overlooks the milking parlour. The food they serve is straightforward but delicious, with an emphasis on quality – the scones are fresh, the butter is good and there’s no spray cream here! The cakes and scones are made on the premises and you can buy more to take away from the shop downstairs. The ethical ethos permeates the whole visit - there is a social enterprise nearby called Growing Well (www.growingwell.co.uk/), where volunteers grow vegetables and support is offered to help them return to employment. You can buy their veg in the farm shop, which sells a wide range of other yummy local food, including cheese made from the farm’s dairy herd. Foodie heaven. You can also buy crafts and some lovely quirky gifts from the shop. Or there’s a two mile farm trail to work up an appetite and admire the free range hens whose eggs you have just bought. A lovely afternoon, or morning. And for southerners visiting the Lake District, it’s perfectly situated on the A591 between Kendal and the M6 for a stop off to stock up on Cumbrian delicacies for your way home.
The Shipwrights Arms overlooking a beauiful creek in Helford changed hands in 2012, and re-opened in time for the Easter weekend 2013 after a re-fit. It was very long overdue a refurbishment and new energy, because the location has to be one of the most beautiful in Britain, with views down the Helford River, but it had been going downhill for a number of years. I popped in for a quick pint after walking Frenchman's Creek, and enjoyed a very well kept locally brewed beer (Harbour Light) and checked out the menu. There is something to be said for a pub menu which is not complicated as you know the the chef will focus on doing a few things really well - this one looked interesting, and also had a few pub staples (fish and chips for £10, pasties for much less). Definitely worth dropping in for a look and a bite to eat - even the soup and bread should be good - the manager is well known locally for making her own artisan bread which is sold in the region.
Helston Village, Helston TR12 6JX, England
+44 (0)1326 231235
Google map: bit.ly/16mvhgS
Low Sizergh Barn, three and half miles south of Kendal, is definitely not "just another" open farm.
In addition to being an exciting place for all ages with lots to see and do, it is a place where great importance is attached to good husbandry – using the 138 hectares (341 acres) of land to its greatest potential while at the same time protecting and nurturing it for the future. This is a place where past and present seem to seamlessly merge. "Sizergh" is an old Norse word meaning "summer pasture." The farm has been part of the Sizergh estate since 1239, providing milk and other produce for the occupants of the nearby castle.
Some of the older remaining farm buildings, including the Westmorland stone barn which now houses the farm shop, date from the seventeenth century. Also over 400 years old are some of the hedgerows and the ancient semi-natural woodland to be found here. The land is now owned by the National Trust and since 1980 the farm has been leased to the Park family, in whose caring hands it has now thrived and prospered across two generations.
This is the take-away arm of one of my favourite places, Cafe Retro. Serves food and drink in compostable packaging! I also bought reusable sandwich wraps which are brilliant for the kids' packed lunches. Full marks for sustainability (and their stuff tastes good too!)
Alliumphobic? Take a trip to the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight and face your fear.Taste scapes, giant baked elephant garlic, breads, dips and chutneys. Garlic sculptures, topiary and murals satisfy the art lover. Ride on the farm tractor to tour the growing fields. Plait it, buy it, eat it, smell it. Learn curious snippets and historic facts at the heritage centre.
From the café watch the red squirrels scurrying past while sampling the menu of food cooked with …
If you’re feeling really adventurous, try some garlic ice-cream or a garlic Bloody Mary. And for the positively dedicated garlic lover, join in the festival frolics with 25,000 like minded enthusiasts in August.
Some people skip dessert and some people eat it first. If you're the latter, then visit either the ChikaLicious Dessert Bar or Club across the street from each other on East 10th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. I recently visited the popular Dessert Bar with a friend and had a three-course dessert served by Chika herself. Desserts are of the beautiful, fanciest-meal-of-your-life variety. You can pair them with wine, sherry, or tea. My favorite detail: Everything comes on pretty china! I visited on an unusually slow night, but there's usually a long line. If that's the case, you can pick up something less delicate to-go across the street at ChikaLicious Dessert Club. ChikaLicious Dessert Bar is at 203 East 10th Street. The Dessert Club is right across the street at 204 East 10th Street.
204 E 10th St, New York, 10003, United States
+1 212 475 0929
Google map: bit.ly/YspNS2
+1 212 475 0929
* Amanda is our Been there local for New York. You can check out her page here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/new-york-local-amanda-green.jsp and her own NYC blog here: www.noisiestpassenger.com/. She's also on Twitter: @amandagreen
Low Sizergh Barn tea room not only serves really great food, much of it from the farm or local area, but it comes with a great view.
Every afternoon around 3.30pm you can head for the tables by the windows overlooking the farm's parlour for a bird's eye view of milking time, or you can watch the action relayed live on large screens.
Should you miss milking time, you can enjoy Cow Cam throughout the day. It provides entertaining viewing of the herd's ladies indulging in a satisfying scratch on the oversized brush suspended from the cowshed rafters.
And it's just a small part of what's on offer just off the A591 near Kendal, there's also a well stocked farm shop, working farm, farm nature trail, and craft, clothing and gift galleries.
A family run dairy farm set in rolling Somerset countryside with an incredible restaurant. Food is sourced from the farm and neighbouring land celebrating all that is fresh and local. A warm welcome, fair prices and food created with love.
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