Along with Charlotte Square, St Andrews Square shows off the splendour of Edinburgh's New Town. Old and new buildings come together here with the Palladin country house (now housing the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland) and the famous Harvey Nichols store on the southern side of the square.
St Andrews Square lies at the eastern end of George Street and is just a 5 min walk from Edinburgh's main bus station.
Charlotte Square is the 18th century showcase of Edinburgh's New Town. The garden in the square's centre is tranquil and a great place to rest and appreciate the Georgian architecture of the houses surrounding the square.
Charlotte Square lies in the heart of the city centre at the western end of George Street (behind Princes Street).
The world's last surviving cable car powerhouse and carbarn (1887) houses a free cable car museum.
In addition to historic cable cars (including an original 1873 cable car), displays, informational video and souvenirs, you can watch and hear the motors and sheave wheels moving the cables underneath the three remaining cable car lines of one of America's few moving National Historic Landmarks (1964).
1201 Mason St (at Washington St), Nob Hill, San Francisco;
tel: (415) 474 1887
To get there ride Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable cars to Washington and Mason car stop;
If you believe in it, you can kiss the Blarney Stone on the top of Blarney Castle, about ten kilometres from the city. The legend derives from Cormac Teige McCarthy who, when he promised loyalty to Queen Elizabeth l, but would not give in to her, got the response from the Queen that he was giving her, “a lot of Blarney.”
If after climbing the Medieval stone staircases, hanging upside down over the edge of the castle you still feel like kissing the stone, well and good. Me, I can’t help thinking about everyone else who has kissed it!
With two sides of the tower in red sandstone and two sides in white limestone. “Partly coloured like the people, red and white is Shandon Steeple,” goes the local doggerel. The famous chimes of 8 bells can be rung by visitors for a few Euro. It was known locally as “the four faced liar” as each of the four clocks on the church used to show a different time. Now modern technology means they all show the same time. Ah well, it’s progress!
Church Street, Shandon
OK, it's tacky and touristy, but it's fab. Hang on to the side while you race down toward the Bay, or better still, late at night shooting down California Street. Better than a fairground ride.
There are cable car turnarounds at the bottom of California Street and at the bottom of Powell Street;
This is the most visited monument in Britain after the Tower of London, but it should be remembered that it is a working military establishment. Inside, roam the Crown Room and the Great Hall. Listen for the one o’clock gun fired daily, except on Sundays. Ponder the Witches’ Well, where women found guilty of witchcraft were put to death.
Situated on rocky outcrops, the castle rears over Princes Street, the main shopping thoroughfare, and an elegant, wide avenue, graced by public gardens with the tapering spire of the Scott Monument at one end.
tel: 0131 225 9846;
At one time, because Edinburgh was built on such hilly ground, the planners built bridges in an effort to even out the city. Gradually the arches of these bridges became shelters for traders and small manufacturers and as buildings grew up on either side they and their alleyways became absorbed into the surroundings, and forgotten - until recently when rediscovered and opened up.
A tour will take you through a doorway of ancient oak with creaking hinges that sets the teeth on edge, down dubious stone staircases echoing with footsteps older than your own and into the damp gloom of a cobbled lane that once was open to the air but now lies brooding with its memories.
No noise reaches here and only the drip of water from glistening walls of old brick, green with moss and algae, breaks the uneasy silence.
Everyone talks in whispers, if at all. The air is chilled and seeps into the bones.
We are taken under a low arch into a dark recess where the only light is that of the guide’s torch. Above curves the flaking brickwork of a vaulted ceiling with stalactites from limestone seepage hanging in one corner.
The guide talks about the history of the vaults and what they were used for but it is difficult to concentrate in the penetrating cold.
As we shuffle out into the alley to go to the next cavern, it is hard not to look back into the gloom and wonder.
Another vault is reputed to be haunted by the tormented soul of a small child, Wee Annie. Visitors, in order to bring comfort to this soul, have left dolls, teddies and pennies.
As you leave the grinning dolls with their over-large eyes and the teddies with their mildewed fur, you cannot help but think that later in the darkness of the mouldering caverns there will be…
Mercat Tours specialise in walking tours around haunted sites in Edinburgh;
Take a walk to Old Greyfriars Churchyard, where in 1858 a man by the name of John Gray was laid to rest, and although no stone was to mark the spot it was not forgotten. For fourteen years after his death, John Gray’s faithful Skye terrier, Bobby, kept guard on his master’s grave until his own death. His own grave, with a little statue of himself close by his master’s, is marked with the inscription: “Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”
Greyfriars Place, Edinburgh;
tel: 0131 226 5429;
City Lights Books, in North Beach, is sacred ground for fans of the beat movement. Still run by the octogenarian poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, it retains something of the bohemian charm of its heyday. When you've finished browsing its impressive array of titles why not head next door to Vesuvios - Jack Kerouac's watering hole of choice - for the authentic beat experience?
261 Columbus Avenue;
tel: (415) 362 8193; fax: (415) 362 4921;
Open daily, 10am - midnight.
I'm almost reluctant to share this one in case it gets too popular - but the seafood here is out of this world. Tadich is a San Francisco institution. Reputedly the oldest restaurant in the city. Check opening hours as it's in the financial district so may close earlier than expected.
240 California St, near the Embarcadero Center, between Front and Beale Streets;
tel: (415) 391 1849
The bar on top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel is a famous and historic bar. It has a fantastic view of the city and a relaxed atmosphere. Here you can have a drink at "weepers corner" where the wives/girlfriends of the sailors in WW2 watched their loved ones sail off to war, many to never return again. Truly mesmerising views.
1 Nob Hill (999 California Street) - you cant miss it, it is visible from all of San Francisco;
tel: (415) 616 6916;
This was the largest public swimming pool and was ruined in the 60s. The ruins remain just at the entrance to the park. I went on a windswept day and was amazing.
Also, there is the Cliff House right beside it with shop, cafe and bar - amazing. I went after going to the Legion of Honour art museum. Very compact but sweet, and the best baristas - very friendly, in an incredible location
1090 Point Lobos Avenue, near Lincoln Park;
tel: (415) 386 3330;
If you and your kids like walking and don't mind a bit of a climb the Saturn Steps will take you up from the Castro to the Randall Museum and Corona Heights Park with rocky outcrops and breathtaking views. Surprisingly underused. Walk back via the Vulcan Steps into the Haight Ashbury
The Randall Museum: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114;
tel: (415) 554 9600;
Classic beat hangout just across Jack Kerouac Alley from City Lights Bookstore. Good beer on tap; fascinating decor; try to get an upstairs table.
255 Columbus Avenue; tel: (415) 362 3370;
Open: 6am-2am every day of the week;
You are taken around all the important historic sites in San Francisco's gay area. The $45 fee includes lunch. Last time I was there, our group was introduced to Armistead Maupin on a street corner! Unfortunately, Trevor Hailey has retired as of August 15, 2005 and she was the epitome of Southern Charm.
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!
Get the bus out along Geary Blvd to The Cliff House - which is reputably fantastic if you are not on a budget ;-) we ate at the diner just up the hill for a tenth of the price. But the views from the Cliff House over Ocean Beach on the Pacific are pretty special. Then head down to the old Sutro Baths to check out where the San Franners used to come for their r n' r.
A classic Greek portal opened to a massive glass enclosure containing seven swimming pools of various temperatures. There were slides, trapezes, springboards and a high dive. Together the pools held 1.7 million gallons of water and could be filled in one hour by high tides. There were 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels for rent.
Balmy temperatures and abundant plants enhanced "California’s Tropical Winter Garden." The Baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time. Now all that remains are the ruins.
From here you can head through the little tunnel down by the baths and up the hill to the trail which leads along the coast all the way around to Chinia Beach via an increasingly impressive panorama of the GG.
Surfers take on the Pacific swells just below you at the base of the cliffs. You re-enter civilisation at China Beach and could probably walk up to the Palace of the Legion of Honor about half way around if you had time.
Walk through China Beach past the millionaires row of ab fab homes and if you still feel spritely, you can continue along the coast path to the GG or if not, grab a bus on Lincoln Blvd into the city - a lovely untouristy gem of a walk that is pretty easy to reach via public transport and not too strenuous (I did it with a 1yr old on my back!)
Lencois is, to all intents and purposes, the hub of the Chapada Diamantina highlands. It is a sleepy (for now, at least) town which is reached from Salvador da Bahia in around six hours bus ride. From there, you can arrange day excursions on walks and/or to places of astounding beauty, including grottoes and caves some of which allow visitors to snorkel in, as well as longer treks through the hills to the 'Fumaca' Falls (pronounced 'Foo-Massa' = 'Smoke').
The town itself is a wonderfully relaxed place to go to either after the tropical buzz of Salvador or, if you're coming in from Brasilia or another place in the interior, it's a great point to stop off before hitting Bahia's state capital. One of the walks to Fumaca allows walkers to stop at the 'Escorregadeira', an exhilarating natural rock waterslide which may or may not make your local osteopath a few quid in years to come, as well as some stunning pools that precede an under-reported classic experience of travel in Brazil: showering under a waterfall.
The land is known as Chapada Diamantina because it used to be a hunting ground for diamonds. The boom is over, with eco-tourism now a main source of wealth for the region; diamonds aren't forever, but my memories of walking up to Fumaca will be with me for a lot longer.
Bahia state, six hours inland.
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