Probably the most enjoyable way to spend a rainy weekday evening in Blaenau Ffestiniog. The choir rehearses once a week at 7.30pm in a secondary school and visitors are welcome to come and listen, especially if they ring first. Entirely in Welsh.
Cwmorthin is an abandoned slate mining village just above the village of Tanygrisiau, and close to Blaenau Ffestiniog - both have railway stations, the latter on the mainline. The piles of slate and empty cottages create a calm but slightly eerie effect. In the sunshine, especially just after rain, it's hard to take a bad photograph there. Follow the path along the left hand side of the lake at Cwmorthin and you'll find a roofless stone chapel.
Charming steam train that chuffs from Blaenau to Porthmadog and back on most days during the spring and summer. The hike between Tanygrisiau, Dduallt and Tan-y-Bwlch stations is particularly beautiful. The train traces a loop around a lake to reach Dduallt, and waiting at the halt feels a bit like standing in the middle of a giant train set.
Time Out is terribly keen on this place - I don't know why. It's in a dodgy area of Little Saigon in the Tenderloin. The decor and vibe are supposed to be retro-hippy; in fact, it feels like a motel in Arizona c1978, and not in a good way. Yes, there's a pool, but it's for posing around and is too small to swim in. And the help-yourself breakfast is penny-pinching. Avoid.
601 Eddy St; tel: (415) 776 1380;
I was suffering from hepatitis A when last in San Francisco, and would have been even unhappier had we not ended the stay at the St Francis. The beds are fantastically comfortable and the views from the top floor enviable: with a pair of binoculars you can survey half the city. In other respects it tends towards the corporate, but there are plenty of more interesting restaurants nearby.
335 Powell Street; tel: (415) 397 7000;
Two thousand metres up and with blissful views, La Bergerie serves a very good gratin and decent steak. Those who are squeamish about offal will want to avoid the andouillette (tripe sausage), which is large and horrible.
But if you're willing to wait for service and don't mind paying over the odds for Evian (water has to be hiked up the mountain), it really is a beautiful spot.
At the top of the Planpraz telepherique
Tel: 04 50 53 05 42
This extinct volcano is visible from everywhere in Edinburgh and you can hike up it in a quarter of an hour, if you're reasonably fit. Beware of the weather up there, which can change abruptly: I went up in sunshine and came down in a hailstorm.
Modern Scottish food intrigues, but there is not enough of it. La Garrigue does great things with duck and other Languedoc specialities, and the cheeses and lavender brulee are very good indeed.
www.lagarrigue.co.uk/ 31 Jeffrey St, Edinburgh
It's free and it's utterly absorbing, even for an Englishwoman with no known Scottish heritage. The Tower Restaurant in the roof is rather expensive but has one of the best views in Edinburgh.
www.nms.ac.uk/scotland/home/index.asp Chambers St, Edinburgh
The harbour city of ancient Rome, which was abandoned when the shoreline moved. Beautiful mosaics on the floor of the old baths, a necropolis, virtually intact buildings, and relatively few visitors.
Metro to Piramide and then train to Ostia Antica; www.ostia-antica.org/
Big (and heated) open air swimming pool, opened in 1929. Entry costs £4.60, but the pleasure of floating on your back and gazing at the sky is absolutely worth it. You can also sunbathe by the pool. Fabulous.
20-minute walk from Highgate tube, or Hornsey rail from King's Cross. Then a steep walk.
Experimental cooking in a basement near the big parks. Take a dictionary, and try the chilli chocolate cake and the acorn bread. Expensive, but worth it, particularly as you won't spend much if you stick to tapas on every other night.
Calle Juan de Mena, 14, 28014 Madrid; tel: 91523 44 78 or 91531 10 39; www.restauranteviridiana.com/
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