Quite apart from having six floors of books (you can happily spend hours browsing) this store has a handy cafe and bar on the fifth floor which I found nice and relaxing having dodged into the store to get out of the rain!
203-206 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LE
+44(0)843 290 8549
Google map: bit.ly/W4Nfj8
Austins, the world's oldest department store, is a stunning building located in the Diamond, square at the very heart of the city centre.
It is well worth popping into. It is a quaint, in many ways, old fashioned kind of store but with top of the range goods in every department.
Best of all is the Roof Top Restaurant on the third floor with wonderful views over the city. I had a gigantic scone, butter, jam and a mug of coffee for an amazing £1.60!
Later I went back for lunch and had the lunchtime special. A main course, pudding, and a pot of tea or a coffee for £4.95, with good big portions. It was very busy! A wonderful mix of Derry ladies of a certain age, businessmen, mothers and toddlers. I staggered out after lunch and managed to cross to the benches in the square where I sat in the sun to let it all digest before tackling the walls of the city!
Sometimes it is the joy of the unexpected which surprises. Driving around the Bracknell/Ascot/Windsor area we came across a country pub at Newell Green in the parish of Warfield. From the outside it looked pretty plain but once through the door it was a big surprise.
An old fashioned English pub (claims to be over 500 years old), it has been taken over and beautifully refurbished as a bar and restaurant. It is a clever mix of old and new inside and the atmosphere is at once one of warmth, professionalism and high expectations. Tables were beautifully set with white cloths, starched napkins and gleaming glasses and cutlery.
The menu was excellent and featured local produce and game, all cooked to order. I had a brilliant local shot venison burger with quite simply the most fabulous hand cut chips I have ever tasted. I'd return for the chips alone!
My colleague and I, having paused for a quick bite to eat, found ourselves relaxing and enjoying the tranquil atmosphere and excellent food. We lingered on a bit but at no time whatsoever did the staff make us feel our time was up and they wanted us out!
We drove away well fed, well served, well relaxed and marvelled at coming across such a hidden gem. If in the area it would be well worth driving for a meal. Might be best to check if tables available at night. I'd bet this place is well known to the locals and very popular at night. It's a true find!
Probably the best kept travel secret is Southern Trains advance fare, bookable on the Internet, of £3 to and from Gatwick Airport. The journey takes only a minute or two more than the Gatwick Express and the trains are just as comfortable. This fare is more than five times cheaper than a one way fare on the Gatwick Express.
Newly opened, this cafe, bakery and deli is a welcome addition to the Queen's Quarter area of Belfast.
There is an instant glow of expectation when you step inside as the colours, comfy sofas, tables and chairs create a wonderfully warm ambience. Being new, the staff are welcoming, keen as mustard and seem genuinely pleased to see you. I popped in intending to have a quick sarnie but was tempted by the all day breakfast which was plentiful, filling, came with a large coffee and was a mere £4.95! The menu seems to have all sorts of light bites and more substantial dishes too.
I rather suspect this is going to become a firm favourite with the nearby university staff and students not to mention visitors to the newly opened Ulster Museum. My advice is to hurry in and sample the pleasures before too many other folk want in as well!
The French Village Cafe, Bakery & Deli,
Botanic Avenue at the juntion of Botanic and University Street.
(two mins walk up from Botanic station towards the University)
Google map: tinyurl.com/ye24ot8
This is a find! Birthplace of the Jacobean playwright John Fletcher (he was as well known as Shakespeare in his day) this charming house is now Fletcher's Tea Rooms.
A great place for morning coffee, light lunches and afternoon teas. The size of the scones is amazing and makes other cafe's scones look a trifle midget! The owners are gracious and charming and there is a warm welcome.
Upstairs is a quaint, but stunning, private function room. Perfect for a small party or gathering. I was invited to a private funtion and the buffet was absolutely stunningly presented.
The house is situated right beside the church in Rye, one of the quaint Cinque Ports. Lamb House, a National Trust property, is close by. It was home to the authors Henry James and, later, E.F. Benson creator of the 'Mapp & Lucia'novels. The fictional 'Tilling' is in fact Rye and you can walk around and see the houses and locations used in the TV series.
We loved Rye and the atmosphere and food at Fletcher's. Well worth a visit!
If visiting Hastings it is well worth walking in the direction of the St. Leonard's end of the town. You can't miss it as there is a stunning 1930's art deco apartment block called Marine Court which looks like a land locked liner.
Close by, just a few minutes walk from the promenade and seafront, I discovered a wee gem of a restaurant called St. Clements. It has a simple brasserie look inside with attentive staff. The food is all fresh produce and, being Hastings, the fish is excellent. Curently they have an amazing two course set luncheon for £10 or three for £13.50.
I went in, not expecting much, but was treated and served as if I'd ordered more expensive dishes. I had chargrilled aubergine, courgette, roasted pepers, feta, and mint as a starter and beautifuly cooked Grey Mullet for my mainj course. Portions were excellent. And it really was only £10! Well, £15. 20 with a nice glass of wine to go with it all!
This is one of those places you leave wanting to come back. I intend doing so several times before my holiday is over!
This is one of Hastings best kept secrets which I came across on a walk round the centre. A stuning cafe with comfy leather chairs just minutes from the promenade and the sea. Excellent range of simple fresh food. It is an oasis of peace and tranquility. Super friendly staff and newspapers to read. If only all cafes could be so comfortable!
At a time when so many hotels no longer include breakfast, St. Martins in the Fields is truly a bargain. This church is slap bang in the centre right beside Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. The cafe hidden in the crypt does a full English breakfast with tea/coffee for a mere £6.50. A bargain!
If up near the castle it is well worth wandering down through the Grass Market as a previous reader has remarked. Where the road continues into West Port there are some splendid shops tourists might not otherwise find. Just by walking a bit more I came across a wonderful shop, Cabaret Antiques and Curios, which is spread over two floors and has an extraordinary selection of antiques, knick knacks, curios, books and other treasures. I found presents for several people in here and the prices seemed very reasonable. The owners seem happy for you to browse and take your time. It was an unexpected surprise and proves it is well worth exploring sometimes away from the usual tourist areas. Edinburgh is definitely a city for walking and exploring, especially the old town bit all around the castle which so dominates the city.
137 West Port
0131 229 4100
It is fun to go see and opera or ballet performance in this glorious old Opera House. Top price tickets are usually about £28 ($50) with lots of lower prices. Website has an easy to use online booking system in English. Productions can be a bit hit and miss but it just rather fun to be in a Grand Opera House - treat yourself to a box and you'll feel very grand indeed!
Three glorious old continetal style cafes worth visiting for cakes and coffee are:
Ruswurm (Buda Side - tucked down street near castle
Gerbaud (Buda side - very polular)
Cafe inside Hotel Astoria
All three are atmospheric, great coffee and cakes and marzipan stuff for those with a sweet tooth
Head out to the Indian Ocean beaches at Cottesloe (15 mins on train from Perth) and go to the Blue Duck overlooking the beach. Time it late afternoon and sit on the outdoor terrace with a mango daiquiri and something simple to eat from the extensive menu (the potato wedges are great!). If you've timed it right you'll be able to watch a stunning sunset over miles of glorious beaches. A second mango daiquiri will prove to you life doesn't get much better than this!
If passing through Singapore's Changi Airport and you have five hours or more between flights, you can have a FREE tour of Singapore. Just look for the Free Tour Desks and sign up. They take you on a quick coach tour into the centre - you get a short trip on a "bum boat" as well - and bring you back to the departures lounge. Its easy to do and its free!
Singapore Changi Airport
The Day Tripper Fare ($15 - about £6) allows use of ferries, trains and buses. It's a great way to see Sydney from the water. Use it to nip round to Darling Harbour. Use it to scoot over and explore the various creeks and landing stages where the rich folk live. When you want a change, ferry back to Circular Quay and just jump on the next route! And when you need a coffee - just take the big Manley Ferry (it has a cafe/kiosk on board). Be sure to take a late afternoon ferry across to somewhere and come back to circular Quay when it is dark to see the buildings all lit up. The view by day and by night are excellent. AND the ticket is valid up until 4am the next morning after the day you buy it. A GREAT way to spend a day exploring!
Want to combine stunning views with a nice drink? Then head for the Shangrila Hotel, take lift to 36th floor, enter bar and be stunned! Table 9 (corner by glass windows) will show you a view from Darling Harbour, round over the Bridge, Harbour, Opera House and you can see out to the Heads and across to Manley. On a sunny clear day the views are stunning, the harbour traffic fascinating to watch, and you can view it all whilst partaking of a nice cool drink at the same time.
Tall hotel by The Rocks at the harbour (Circular Quay)
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