Glasgow

Glasgow is great!

Glasgow is gearing up for the 2014 Commonwealth Games which commence tomorrow (23 July). But the Games – which commence on 23 July – aren’t the only reason to visit. Swanky apartments and edgy bridges have sprung up along the Clyde waterfront while modern architecture, hip hotels, top-notch dining and chic bars abound. So cast aside any preconception of Scotland’s biggest city as an industrial hell hole and give Glasgow a go… Just About Travel lets you in on six things you really mustn’t miss

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Shop till you drop
Shopping is something of an obsession in Glasgow and for good reason: the city has spawned world class designers such as Jonathon Saunders (who can count Kylie, Madonna and Thandie Newton as fans). Sauchiehall Street and Great Western Road are lined with boutiques competing for your cash, while the lanes around Byres Road are packed with shops selling secondhand books and antiques. If you’d rather your shopping experience came with an elevator and air conditioning, make for malls such as Princes Square and the Italian Centre.

Quaff cocktails
Forget castles. Glasgow is all about cocktails (and world class cuisine) and consequently is teeming with trendy bars, hotels and restaurants. Aim to start or end your evening over a cocktail (or three) in one of Bath Street’s star bars. Alternatively make for Merchant Street (home to Glasgow’s greatest concentration of pubs and clubs) or the exclusive Conran-designed Zinc in Princes Square. For fine dining, look to the long established Buttery or the Dining Room.

Cruise the Clyde
Taking a cruise down the world famous Clyde River – arguably the heart and soul of the city (it is often said that “the Clyde made Glasgow and Glasgow made the Clyde”) – is a great way to get to grips with Glasgow. The river tells the story of Glasgow’s industrial past and beyond: expect to pass landmark sights such as Finnieston Crane, Bells Bridge, the Financial Services District and Glasgow Harbour – a 120 acre development of former dock and shipyard land that is one of the largest waterfront regeneration projects in the UK. Tours depart during the day but if you can, try and take an evening cruise: the bridges, buildings and trees that line the river banks are beautifully illuminated at night courtesy of Glasgow City Council’s lighting art projects.

Check out Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Creative genius, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 – 1928), was born in Glasgow and as such the city houses the pre-eminent collection of his buildings, drawings and designs featuring leitmotifs like the Glasgow rose. Mackintosh made his mark on three types of architecture – public buildings, private houses and tea-rooms and happily the majority of these still exist today.

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Fall for football
Glasgow is a football mad city with ‘who do you support?’ replacing ‘Hello, how are you?’ as a standard form of introduction in polite society. The focus for this football obsessed city is divided into Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium in the south, and Celtic Park in the north-east but neutral football enthusiasts will want to check out the Scottish Football Museum. Located at Hampden Park, Scotland’s national stadium of football, the museum is houses memorabilia, video clips and displays covering almost every aspect of the beautiful game and the importance it plays in Scotland.

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The people
Glasgow’s  tourism tag line reads: People Make Glasgow. The new slogan says it all: Glaswegians are famed for their openness and friendliness, community spirit, selflessness and gritty can-do spirit. Or as Ian Mitchell – the historian and Aberdeen born author of A Glasgow Mosaic - puts it: “As an outsider to Glasgow, I think there is a definite Glasgow character. A  definite Glasgow sort of collectivist social identity and solidarity.”

 

Spa review: The Ritz Signature Jade Stones

If – like the Haute Time team – you’re suffering from dry, dull and lifeless skin (hardly surprising given the combination of scorching summer and Arctic office air conditioning levels), it’s time to treat your skin to some TLC.

London is hardly short of sumptuous spas and salons where you can get your glow on but if you really want to sparkle like a star, we recommend The Ritz Salon. Perched atop the iconic hotel – whose high profile past guests include Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward and Lady Thatcher - The Ritz Salon provides a perfect sanctuary seven stories above the bustling streets below.

There’s a treatment list a mile long and it’s tempting to sit and read it like a teenager absorbed in a Twilight novel but if you can’t decide whether to indulge in a massage or a facial, then our advice is to sign up for the Ritz Signature Jade stones (£145 for 90 mins)  as it incorporates both.

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Climb onto the massage table in the treatment room – whose calming beige tones created a harmonious environment in which to enjoy some me time – and prepare to recharge something far more valuable than your iPad.

Firstly your friendly therapist (we can vouch for Charlotte) will use slow, sensuous strokes to knead your body from head to toe using warm jade stones. Rocks might be the “in thing” in relaxation right now, but it’s actually a treatment that dates back to ancient civilisation where it was believed hot stones had healing properties for cleansing the body, relaxing the heart, grounding the soul and soothing the mind.

Initially the idea of having rocks rubbed into our body  held little appeal but having tried the treatment, Haute Time can testify that it is pure magic for the muscles.

As the therapist strategically places some small, deliciously warmed pebbles on the body’s charkas – that’s key energy points to you and me – aided by a hydrating Comfort Zone tranquillity oil, relaxation takes hold.

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The warmth and the herbal scents work like a dream to soothe you as you drift away. With every new stone that’s rubbed in a circular motion, another wave of warmth flows from the fingertips to the toes.

The therapist’s movements are never abrupt and the whole process is heavenly hitting all the right spots to soothe away the stresses and strains of modern life.

Next it’s time for the cleansing facial which involves a massage (aimed at improving blood flow) followed by the application of a mask guaranteed to leave your visage looking fresher than a summer fruit bowl.

 

No matter how time poor you may be, we highly recommend booking in for this stellar treatment which offers the kind of complete relaxation you might think impossible. Forced to turn your iPhone off and close your eyes, you’ll find yourself uninhibited by all the familiar baggage and free to unwind. Haute Time emerged radiant and totally relaxed having found the serenity we had been seeking on arrival.

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Discover London with Londoners

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Discover London with Londoners

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Fact: London is the greatest city in the world. Another fact: staying on top of London’s incredible history and heritage AND its latest and greatest happenings can be confusing. And let’s face it hard work…

 

Enter Talk of the Town London. Launching in August 2014, Talk of the Town London is an exciting walking tour company that aims to provide locals and visitors alike, the inside track on the London scene.

 

Our team consists of veteran tour guides, Time Out journalists, actors and life long Londoners so we know where the buzz is coming from – and can share our knowledge in a dynamic, sociable and original fashion with YOU before most people hear or read about it.

 

Our mission is clear: we don’t want anyone to waste a minute of their time in Europe’s most exciting metropolis lost in Leicester Square or chowing down in the chain gang. Not when ‘real’ London is ready and waiting to be discovered.

 

Choose from three ‘core’ tours: Grim Tales of London, High Society and London 101

 

Grim Tales of London

Take a walk down London’s dark, unsavoury past and find yourself immersed in a gory, haunting history, where imprints of spirits and serial killers linger to this day. Wander down old Victorian cobblestone streets, searching for clues to Jack the Ripper’s identity. Learn about executions, haunted castles, plague pits and insane asylums as London lures you down into her seedy underbelly. Strong constitution advised.

Tour runs Tuesday and Friday at 6pm 

High Society

Come join us on a jaunt through elegant Mayfair and see London through the eyes of the elite. Discover the stomping ground of 18th century bachelors, peek into the windows of exclusive private gentlemen’s clubs and accompany blushing débutantes to their first high society ball. The tour also reveals the intrigues and behind-the-scene politics that dominated this distinctive social class and includes an optional afternoon tea at one of London’s most charming venues.

Tour runs Thursday and Saturday at 2pm

London 101

Time is precious, but even if you’re in London for 24 hours, you have to see the blockbusters: Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Palace, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards Parade, Downing Street, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, (a pub break!), St. Paul’s Cathedral, Monument and the Tower of London.  We’ll show you them all in half a day. A great tour for first time visitors.

Tour runs Wednesday and Saturday at 10am

PRIVATE TOURS

Prefer to get to grips with London at your own pace? No problem! As well as our core group tours, we offer private tours – great for families, friends, hen and stag weekends… We can also craft customised itineraries to suit your personality (tell us what you like and we’ll tell you what you will love…), pocket and time frame.

Still not sure whether to try a Talk of the Town London tour? Take two minutes out of your day and check out what people are saying about us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUHL2tryTMw

 

 

For more information on Talk of The Town London and/or to request images, an interview with a member of the team or a complimentary tour, please contact:

Kaye Holland (kaye@talkofthetownlondon.com; 07899 987001)

 

Talk of the Town London

+44(0)20 3151 2565; info@talkofthetownlondon.com; talkofthetownlondon | @tottLondon

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London calling: Kaye Holland

Ahead of the two year anniversary of the Olympic Games, London based journalist and co-founder of Talk of the Town (a company specialising in entertaining tours of the capital), Kaye Holland, opens her little black book to reveal the best places to eat, shop and play in London Town

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Where are you from?
I was born in Watford – the hometown of George Michael and erm, Geri Halliwell. Travel bible Lonely Planet once labelled Watford as the “kind of town that makes you want to travel.” They weren’t wrong: I escaped as soon as I turned 18 and spent my 20s living and working overseas in the UAE, Cayman Islands and China.
But while Watford is a gritty city (you could never describe it as pretty), it always lures me back. I still have friends and family living in WD and if I’ve got a free Saturday and my beloved Watford FC are playing at home, you’ll usually find me at Vicarage Road stadium cheering on the Golden boys.
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What’s the first thing you do when you get to London?
Grab a Flat White – I am a complete caffeine addict. Luckily for me, despite the fact that London is traditionally renowned for tea drinkers, the friendly bubble of coffee perking  can now be heard all across the capital.
Bar Italia is a Soho institution that has witnessed many fascinating glimpses of passing theatrical life. Situated opposite Ronnie Scotts, it’s loved as much for the stories it could tell, as it is for its authentic Italian coffee. Caravan in the new Kings Cross development is another favourite and I love the newly opened Soho Grind - the sister to Shoreditch Grind (an East London institution). These guys also serve booze if you want something a little stronger than coffee beans…

Madison at One New Change
Madison at One New Change

What is your favourite hangout?
Oh wow – that’s an impossible question! It largely depends on which side of the river I’m on and also the season. Right now it’s summer and the sun is (unusually for London) out so I’m loving the rooftop terrace at One New Change. Confession time: I’m part of their ‘Style council‘ so have an affiliation with One New Change but even if I didn’t, I would still head up to the terrace which serves up spectacular views of the London skyline: expect to see The Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye and Tate Modern to name but a few London landmarks. You’ll also find the fabulous Madison there. The restaurant gets rave reviews for its generously portioned  British fare, but I prefer the more fun tapas bar where the emphasis is on small plates that lend well to sharing with friends (the sesame flat breads are to die for). Of course you can just drink here: top notch cocktails include the cheekily named ‘Hot bitch martini’ but in such stunning surroundings, it would be criminal not to try the Thai Chi  – a champagne cocktail with cucumber, ginger, apple juice, lemon juice, vodka and a Lanson champagne top – right?!

What is your favourite restaurant?
I have to say that I am not very faithful when it comes to restaurants and rarely return to the same restaurant twice. I’m always forcing my friends to schlepp across town and  try the latest new opening; I’m sure I drive them bonkers. That said I do have a soft spot for Jeremy King and Chris Corbin’s restaurants: their the dynamic duo responsible for The WolseleyThe DelaunayBrasserie Zedel and the just opened Fischer’s in Marylebone  – the celeb hang out du jour.
Closer to home (I’m a Harrow girl), I love Incanto - a wonderful Italian restaurant situated on the summit of Harrow on the Hill in what was once a post office. For lunch on the run in central London, I’ll head to tibits - a Swiss vegetarian restaurant. Located in the heart of Heddon Street, it’s a refuge from the madness of Regent Street and the food from head chef, Brian Mesmain, is incredible. I’m a veggie but even my most carnivorous friends agree! The colourful interior by the Designers Guild – one of the foremost luxury home furnishings brands in the world – is a further treat.

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What was the last exhibition you saw in London?
That would be Matisse: the Cut-Outs at the Tate Modern. I’m not really an art aficionado (I wish I was but alas it’s a taste I’ve yet to acquire) but John (one of Talk of the Town’s co-founders and tour guides) dragged me along and I’m glad he did. The Cut Outs is an exhibition of the colour-saturated works Matisse made by cutting out shapes from pre-painted sheets of paper during the last 17 years of his life and the sensual shapes and vibrant colours makes for a visual feast. The exhibition runs until 7 September if any readers are interested…

What was the last gig you saw in London?
I went to Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park a few weeks back and had a blast. Traditionally I’ve not been a fan of festivals in the UK – who wants to spend two hours queuing for a beer or sleeping in a soggy field with a few thousand fellow festival goers, all of whom you can be sure will want to use the 10 toilets at exactly the same time the next morning? – but Wireless was a great day out. John Newman, Outkast (their first UK appearance in 13 years), 80s sensations Salt-N-Pepa, Sean Paul and Clean Bandit all performed before the headline act – Hawaiian crooner, Bruno Mars - took to the main stage for a huge performance.
On the theatre front, I saw All My Sons at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (a steeply raked auditorium slap bang in the middle of one of the capital’s prettiest parks). Arthur Miller’s breakthrough play about a family confronting the cost of capitalism remains just as relevant today as it did when it was written nearly 70 years ago.

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What is your earliest London memory?
I remember travelling into town with my Mum, Dad and brother one January – I must have been about six. We went to Trafalgar Square which is famous for the hordes of pigeons that frequent the area. Mum had told me that the pigeons land on your head and I didn’t like the sound of that so insisted on taking my cycling helmet  up on the train and wearing it as “protection” from the pigeons. After we’d ticked off Trafalgar Square, we went to watch the Chinese New Year celebrations in China Town. I loved watching the lively parade and the acrobatics, traditional dance, theatre and song recitals and trying the traditional food but then disaster stuck… We lost my younger brother in the crowd… My parents went into a blind panic, but thankfully we FINALLY found him standing next to a policeman. Later, during our teenage years, when Keith (my brother) was behaving like Harry Enfield’s creation ‘Kevin the Teenager’, I wished we hadn’t…

Brixton Market
Brixton Market

What have you discovered recently in London?
Brixton – I kid you not. Kensington and Chelsea has a certain picturesque charm and East London – in the aftermath of the Olympic Games – isn’t without its appeal, but when all is said and done they are… well London lite. A little bit vanilla, if you like. If you want to see the real London – the capital in all its magical multicultural glory – Brixton is where it’s at. David Bowie was born in Brixton, former Prime Minister John Major grew up there and singer La Roux still lives in the area where West Indian food stalls sit beside chi chi bars. And despite the fact that Foxtons (the estate agent we all all love to loathe) has opened a branch in Brixton and there’s a Waitrose on its way, the area’s strong sense of community remains intact.

What would you do if you were Mayor for the day?
That’s easy. I’d make the London Underground run 24/7 or at least until a much more civilised 2 or 3am. This would eliminate the need to make a mad dash across town for the last tube, endure a long journey on a battered, beer soaked night bus or an expensive cab ride home. London is no Cinderella: it doesn’t shut down, when the clock strikes midnight. Neither should the tube.

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What are your top tips for tourists?
Try not to succumb to the self imposed yet inescapable pressure of the ‘checklist’. You know – the one that demands you visit every site, every museum, every monument that you’re supposed to. Adjust your expectations and in doing so you’ll discover places – little streets, small independent shops – that you might not otherwise had done because you’d have been so busy trying to see everything you thought you had to.
On a practical note if you’re travelling around by tube, avoid doing so before 9.30am and between the hours of 4-7pm – you’ll pay a premium during these hours and spend the entire journey squashed under sweaty armpits.
Lastly – shameless self promotion alert – sign up for a Talk of the Town tour!

Where would you like to stay?
I’m all about Airbnb - the San Francisco online marketplace which allows people to rent their homes or rooms to short-term visitors.
It’s a characterful, affordable alternative to staying in an overpriced bland, beige hotel room. More than that, Airbnb can also help you meet Londoners and bring you closer to the local culture. I use Airbnb when I travel and it’s led to some great conversations and experiences.
However if you are a hotel person, I’d recommend the luxurious Rosewood London. It’s not cheap (prices are as high as the Shard) but if you’re going to make the trip of a lifetime, you might as well do it in style! The hotel (which opened in October 2013) is housed in a beautiful 1914 Belle Epoque building that was once the headquarters of Pearl Assurance. Every conceivable luxury and comfort has been thought of – it really is impossible to exaggerate the glories of this place.

Iconic Selfridges
Iconic Selfridges

What is your guilty London pleasure?
Selfridges. I’ll pop in for five minutes and five hours later I’m still there (this can happen). And preposterously priced cocktails with the girls in a hotel bar: right now Londoners are hanging out in hotels thanks to a slew of red hot and happening new openings such as Firmdale’s Ham Yard Hotel and Andre Balazs’s Chiltern Firehouse.

Thanks Kaye! To book a tour with Talk of the Town, click here

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Hotel of the fortnight: Ham Yard Hotel

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In a city that, this year, has become home to more high end hotels than you can shake a stick at, you might question the need for one more.

However a stay at Firmdale’s Ham Yard Hotel – the new 91 boutique hotel located on Soho’s last undeveloped Blitz bomb site - should put that thought to rest. Building began on the development (which takes its name a neighbouring18th century pub called The Ham), more than three years ago. But trust Haute Time: Ham Yard Hotel is most definitely worth the wait.

Designed by husband and wife team, Tim and Kit Kemp, it’s the most ambitious protect from Firmdale Hotels (the group behind the gorgeous Covent Garden Hotel and Crosby Street Hotel) to date.

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Ham Yard Hotel bears all the hallmarks of a Kemp project

Chances are you’ll arrive at the £100 million hotel a little later than you planned. For Ham Yard Hotel is accessed via a tree filled pedestrianised public thorough-fare that’s lined with 13 individual specialist stores – including Brazilian beach brand Frescobol Carioca and luxury Australian home ware store, Dinosaur Designs – whose shiny wares are sure to lure you in. “We wanted an urban village feel, and for people to stop and have a coffee or browse in one of the little independent shops,” says interior designer, Kit Kemp.

Should you manage to make it to your suite, further wave of happiness will wash over you. Despite being individually designed – no two rooms are alike – all are a riot of colour, pattern, texture and art for which Kemp is world renowned. They’re also luxurious and comfortable: think large elegant headboards, full length curtains and generously sized marble bathrooms stocked with Kemp’s new range of bath products, Rik Rak.

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A Ham Yard bedroom
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Accommodation at Ham Yard Hotel

Beyond the bedrooms, there’s the Soholistic Spa (with its shell mirrors sourced from one of Kit Kemp’s favourite dealers in France) and gym – complete with a hypoxic chamber for altitude training – for those looking to shape up for summer.

The rest of us can hang out in the buzzy, Ham Yard Bar & Restaurant and enjoy  dishes such as Seared scallops with tempura courgette flower and Glazed candy beets with goat’s curd, mustard, orange and walnuts washed down with a Black Margarita.

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Ham Yard Bar
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Ham Yard Restaurant
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Ham Yard Restaurant

Make the most of the  balmy temperatures by eating and drinking al fresco – either on the hotel’s terrace or up on the charming roof top garden that offers sweeping views of the London skyline.

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Ham Yard Library

However if the weather refuses to play ball and reverts to type, panic not. Simply curl up in the lovely ground floor library with its honesty bar, oversized Chesterfield sofas and shelves stocked with carefully curated books by literary expert, Philip Blackwell. Or watch a film in the 190 seat theatre – we love the tangerine orange leather seats – before retiring to the Dive bar (named in honour of a 3ft neon lit lady diver that hangs on the far wall) for a nightcap under neon signs evoking a rock ‘n’ roll vibe.

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The Croc: a four-lane bowling alley

But Ham Yard Hotel’s biggest headline grabber has to the bijoux 1950s bowling alley – imported pin-by-pin from Texas…
Bottom line? With so much on offer, you might be booking your next stay before your first has even finished…

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The 1950s bowling alley

Paris, je t’aime

Planning on popping over to Paris for Bastille Day? Kaye Holland has the inside story on France’s high energy capital

 

Why go
Some destinations are like a loaf of bread: they go stale over time or as tourists traffic picks up. Paris however is like one of its famous fine wines: the longer it’s around, the better it gets. Whether you go for clubbing or culture, Paris doesn’t have to do much to lure visitors -  well who wouldn’t fall head over heels for its considerable charms? This is a metropolis of mayhem and magic: pack your passport and get going

Must see and do
Make no mistake: wherever you go, you will see something iconic from the mighty Arc de Triomphe (a magnificent monument to Napoleon’s 1805 victory at Austerlitz) which towers over Paris’ most glamorous avenue, the Champs Elysees, to the Eiffel Tower with its signature spire. It’s not just the guidebook brigade who come to tick the Eiffel Tower off their list: its charm attracts everyone from explorers  to Chinese tour groups and party going backpackers. Our advice? Head to the tower at dusk and toast the million dollar views over a glass of fizz at the fabulous champagne bar.

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If you’re into churches, wander to Notre Dame - the city’s most visited sight – for an interior so sumptuous it could convert you to Catholicism. Climb the cathedral’s 442 steps for a mesmerizing rooftop views of the French capital. Meanwhile in Montmartre, aka the fabled artists neighbourhood, seek out Sacre Coeur - Paris’ landmark basilica.

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Paris also  has many museums and art galleries to explore including the  labyrinth like Louvre (the world’s largest museum that’s home to the legendary Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo) and lovely Musee Rodin - arguably the most romantic of Paris’ museums. Admire The Kiss – a marble monument to love and other Rodin masterpieces but don’t miss the museum’s rambling sculpture filled garden.

 

Top shops
Paris is synonymous with style – there’s no such thing as underdressing here – and as such the streets are chock full of fashion houses.
The Champs Elysees - aka the soundtrack of expensive Paris – is lined with luxury haute couture shops sure to give your credit card a work out. But you’ll also find plenty of cool, independent boutiques and vintage shops in areas like Village St Paul.

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Elsewhere the elegant Galeries Lafayette - a glorious grand department store topped by a stunning stained glass dome is worth a look as are the street markets. Foodies will want to make for Marche d’Aligre to stock up on all their favourite French wares while Rue Mouffetard is full of charming stalls selling everything from fashion and accessories to antiques, sweets and scented candles. If you’re not a fan of retail therapy – maybe you’re from Mars or something – the markets are worth visiting for the atmosphere alone.

 

Best bites
Food part of Paris’ short break pleasures. From pistachio macaroons to duck confit, crepes, cheese and charcuterie platters,  eating out is Paris’ raison d’être.
Just About Travel can vouch for Brasserie Victor Hugo: not far from the Eiffel Towel it’s the kind of restaurant we always dreamt we’d come across in Paris. The menu is traditional French while the interior is bright and modern. What’s more, the restaurant boasts an attractive terrace where you can decamp during summer months.

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In Paris St Germain, you’ll find Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots from where post war Left Bank intellectuals like Simone de Beauvoir and Paul Sartre used to spill out onto the streets. Prices for a flaky croissant and accompanying cafe au lait at both of these famous early 20th century literary hangouts can be as high as the Eiffel Tower, but it’s worth it for a lively scene straight out of society pages of a magazine.

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However you don’t have to spend beaucoup to eat well. Paris is packed with affordable cafes, restaurants, wine bars and bistros and half the fun is taking a chance on one that you like the look of. Whatever and wherever you eat, wash your meals down with wine – which more often than not will set you back less than a bottle of water.

After dark
Entertainment options abound – it’s simply a matter of choosing your pleasure among the slew of cabarets (Moulin Rouge is a must for first timers)r live music venues and  trendy bars.
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A lively night is always guaranteed in both The Latin Quarter and on Rue de Lappe (Eastern Paris), packed as they are with rowdy pubs and clubs  that rage on until dawn.

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However if you’re visiting during July, August or September, make a beeline for the banks of the River Seine. The great European river has got its groove back following a pedestrianised makeover: the mopeds and taxis have been banished and replaced with pop up beaches and buzzy bars. Two of the best are Wanderlust (which boasts the biggest open air terrace in the city) and Moon Roof. But be warned: the bars don’t get busy before 1am.

 

Excursions
If you choose just one excursion, venture to Versailles. The UNESCO World Heritage listed wonder is within easy day tripping distance of central Paris and rewards a visit: the colossal 700 room palace and vast grounds containing fountained gardens, ponds and canals will cause your jaw to drop. The baroque chateau was the seat of the royal court from 1682-1789 – when revolutionaries massacred the Versailles’ guard and dragged King Louis XV1 and his queen, Marie Antoinette, back to Paris. Queues to enter Versailles are notoriously long so – if you’re not particularly patient – arrive early and avoid Tuesdays and Sundays (the busiest days).

Getting around
Paris is well served by the Metro & RER which, unlike the London Underground, is efficient and inexpensive making navigating the city a doddle. That said, walking is a veritable pleasure. Everywhere has something of interest so wander around and feel Paris’s pulse.

Getting there
Paris has two international airports: Charles de Gaulle and OrlyAirport. Most major international airlines fly to the former which is located 28 km northeast of central Paris while the budget airlines (easy Jet et al) fly to the latter (19km south of central Paris).Letting the train take the strain? Eurostar departs from St Pancras International and pulls in Gare du Nord Train Station in central Paris approximately 2 1/4 hours later.

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Words and pictures: Kaye Holland

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London’s best ice cream

The capital is set to experience high temperatures of 30 degrees this week with today (Thursday) tipped to win the coveted ‘hottest day of the year’ title.

Looking to beat the heat? Nothing beats a cold ice cream, on a sticky summer’s day.

Absolutely everybody loves ice cream (as Walter Williams once sung: ‘I scream you scream, we all scream for ice cream), the origins of which date back to biblical times. Indeed legend has it that the Roman emperor Nero (A.D. 37-68) ordered ice to be brought from the mountains and combined with fruit toppings. However it wasn’t until the second half of the 21st century – when refrigeration became commonplace  – that the ice cream business really began to heat up. In America, there’s even a whole month dedicated to the creamy concoction: sweet toothed President, Ronald Reagan, declared July to be ‘National Ice Cream month’ back in 1984, while also establishing the third Sunday of the month as ‘Ice Cream day’.

The popular dessert can be calorific, make no mistake, but being made from milk it’s also a good source of calcium: something we all need to help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Vanilla remains the most popular flavour, closely followed by chocolate but there’s also a whole host of more unusual offerings out there from smoked bacon and egg (Heston Blumenthal famous creation) to baked beans on toast – available at Moreli’s Harrods outlet in London.

Chances are that by now you’ll no doubt  be craving the cold stuff and fortunately for you, dear reader, Haute Time has made it our mission to find the best ice cream in the capital. A copious amount of cups and cornets later, we can reveal the top ice cream scoops and shops  in London town. Read on for the full low-down.

 

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    1. Marine Ices

    For Italian specialities such as amaretto, tiramisu and tutti frutti venture north to Marine Ices – a bright, busy Italian gelateria that is popular with the Primrose Hill set. Kate Moss, Jude Law, Harry Styles and Sadie Frost have all been snapped strolling along Regents Park Road with a Marine Ice in one hand.
    8 Haverstock Hill, NW3
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    2. Haagen Daaz Café

    The legendary Leicester Square Haagen Daaz Café tempts the taste buds with 24 flavours and just as many toppings. Tip: the Praline caramel crunch (two scoops of pralines & cream combined with crunchy waffle cone pieces, caramelised hazelnuts, hot, butterscotch sauce and finished with freshly whipped cream) comes highly recommended.
    14 Leicester Square, WC2
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    3. Rendezvous Gelato

    Meanwhile next door neighbour, Rendezvous Gelato, specialises in sorbet flavours and frozen yoghurt varieties. Lemon, strawberry, mango, pineapple… why not try them all? 

Meanwhile next door neighbour Rendezvous Gelato specialises in sorbet flavours and frozen yoghurt varieties (including sugar free). Lemon, strawberry, mango, pineapple… why not try them all? You’ll also find an extensive list of gelato, sundaes and ice cream shakes.
    48 Leicester Square, W2
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    4. Golders Hill Park Refreshment House

    Further afield Golders Hill Park Refreshment House serves homemade gelato in gorgeous garden park surroundings – making it the perfect place to consume the cold stuff on a roasting hot day. There’s also a good selection of savoury dishes if – heaven forbid – you’re not a fan of ice cream.
    North End Road, Hampstead Heath, NW3
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    5. Oddono’s

    Last but by no means least is Oddono’s. This Bute Street emporium in salubrious South Kensington serves every conceibvake flavour imagainace and counts celebirty chef Gordan Ramsay (a man who knows his food) as a fan. All of Oddono’s ice creams and sorbets are made on the premises and contain a comparatively low fat and sugar content. Pleasingly they’re also free from preservatives and colourings meaning you can gorge, guilt free!
    14 Bute Street, SW7
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London needs to clean up its act

Oh the irony! Almost three years ago I packed up my bags, and bid goodbye to Beijing where I had been based as Time Out China’s special projects editor.

I loved living in the Imperial City – in my mind one of the most exciting metropolises in the world what with its historical sights such as The Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City rubbing shoulders with cutting edge architecture (the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium) and scores of wonderful restaurants catering to every palette and pocket.

However while Beijing was a dynamic place to call home, it could hardly be classed as a healthy one – thanks to the appalling air pollution. Subsequently despite sporting a pollution mask that made me look like the late, great Michael Jackson, I still managed to succumb to the Beijing cough – a hacking, lung ripping cough that left me gasping for breath on a daily basis.

Beijing

After a year spent suffering from stinging eyes, I decided it was time to say zai jian (goodbye) to Beijing – or ‘Greyjing’ as we Beijingers referred to the city. I knew I would miss China – barely a day goes by when I don’t – but long term I couldn’t live somewhere where I had trouble breathing. And as a 21st century global citizen, I didn’t see why I should have to.

So I returned to London where life is cleaner. Or  rather ‘was’ cleaner. For fast forward to 2014 and it turns out that London is, GULP, the most toxic town on the planet.

Researchers from my old stomping ground, King’s College London, have found nitrogen dioxode levels to be worse on London’s Oxford Street than anywhere else on earth.

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“To my knowledge this is the highest in the world in terms of both hourly and annual mean. NO2 concentrations in Oxford Street are as high as they have ever been in the long history of air pollution,” said David Carslaw, who led the research.

That’s higher than both Beijing and Dhaka – another city notorious for its NO2 levels. Little wonder then that Labour has declared London to be very much in the grip of a “public health disaster”.

But Boris Johnson – London’s (mostly) loveable Mayor – doesn’t seem to grasp the severity of the situation. Indeed a spokesman for BoJo had the audacity to label the figures “misleading”.

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Just About Travel’s Kaye Holland (right) wants a word with London’s mayor Boris Johnson (left)

Sorry Boris but you can’t blunder your way out of this one, with words. We deserve better: nitrogen dioxide triggers asthma and heart attacks and claims around 4,000 lives every year in London alone.

Action speaks louder than words. What is needed is an acknowledgement of the severity of the situation followed by solutions so that Londoners can breathe again.

Just last week London was hailed as the “world’s favourite place to visit’ by the Mastercard Global Cities Index report. High praise – but the capital won’t remain on top if it refuses to clean up its filthy air.

Bottom line? It won’t be easy but while the skyline remains hazy, so too does the future of London – and those of us who call the capital home.

 

ThirtySix

Restaurant of the week: Thirty Six by Nigel Mendham

Brunch – the brainchild of British journalist, Guy Beringer, back at the start of the 20th century – has become of an institution in the capital. Sundays invariably see Londoners loosen their waistbands to eat and drink to their heart’s desire.

Who does the best brunch? That’s like asking “Who is the world’s greatest footballer – Lionel Messi, James Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo or Neymar?” Just as that debate has divided the football world, every Londoner has their favourite brunch spot.

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However if you fancy a civilised Sunday brunch, try Michelin starred chef, Nigel Mendham’s, offering at Thirty Six. Tucked away in Dukes St James – the Mayfair hotel that’s been dubbed 007’s spiritual home (the bar was favourite haunt of Bond author Ian Flemming) – a visit to Thirty Six by Nigel Mendham is akin to visiting the home of an aristocratic Uncle. The classic black and gold decor – the work of much admired designer Shaun Clarkson - provides a seriously good looking space in which to enjoy some brilliant brunch staples.

Rather than opting for the ‘everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-style’ quantities of other brunches, Thirty Six by Nigel Mendham chooses instead to do a few things very well. Haute Time piled our plates high at the beautiful presented buffet with wonderfully flaky, fresh croissants, a selection of charcuterie, breads so good we were tempted to munch our way through the whole basket, ‘make your own granola’ (great fun!), smoked salmon as well as sublime selection of salads (standouts include the Potato and fennel slaw) and cheeses.

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But save room for the a la carte egg options – our omlette of Smoked haddock, gruyere and watercress had us purring with pleasure. And if you can forget about your figure, close with the waffles – served with chocolate, maple syrup or Chantilly cream.

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Wash your brunch down with a glass of champagne or opt for the refreshing St. James’s Champagne cocktail – specially created by Thirty Six’s head sommelier. Service is exemplary making Mendham’s Thirty Six an assured addition to the Sunday brunching scene.

 

Wunderbar! The best of Germany

Germany became the first European team to win a World Cup held in the Americas with a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the final last night – thanks to a dramatic last gasp winner from Mario Götze – and deservedly so. Joachim “Jogi” Löw’s side were without a doubt the best team in the tournament. But it’s not just football that Germany is good at: Deutschland is also a top travel destination. Here’s a few of our favourite German hotspots

 

Berlin

The Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate


Make no mistake, Berlin is a gritty – as opposed to pretty –  city but for history buffs, Germany’s cool capital can’t be beaten. As a first port of call, The Brandenburg Gate, the city’s symbol, is as good a place to start as any. The famous gate, once a backdrop for presidential speeches (it was here that former US President Ronald Reagan declared in 1987: “Mr Gorbachev – tear down this wall!”) and now the setting for New Year’s Eve parties, Pink Floyd concerts and soccer games will transport you back to high school history lessons more than any other landmark.
Adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate stands the sobering Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Reflect on this gruesome period in Tiergaten – Berlin’s largest park where you’ll discover war memorials and victory statues  - before continuing your cultural odyssey over at The Reichstag. Germany’s parliament building received a major face lift after reunification, with a glass dome now perched atop its roof. Designed by Lord Norman Foster, it affords panoramic views of Berlin and pleasingly entry is free (but do go early or late to avoid the long queues).
Ticked off The Reichstag? Head east along the elegant Unter den Linden – a grand boulevard that recalls the glory days of royal Prussia – until you arrive at Alexanderplatz. Known to locals as ‘Alex’, the former heart of East Berlin is a showcase of socialist architecture of which the Fernsehturm TV Tower (Germany’s tallest structure at 368m) is perhaps the most prominent feature.
Elsewhere in what was East Berlin, learn more about the Jewish history of Germany in Kruezberg at the architectural marvel (it’s shaped like a shattered Star of David) that is the Jewish Museum before taking in the East Side Gallery which, at 1.3km, is the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin wall. Seized upon by artists in the weeks following its collapse, this section of the wall (adorned with some 100 or so distinctive revolutionary images) continues to characterise the freedom and collective nature of the German capital.

Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall

Two other Berlin boroughs worth visiting are Schoneberg – where John F Kennedy made his rousing, morale boosting “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech back in 1963 – and west Charlottenburg, home to the Olympic Stadium that hosted the 1936 Games.

 

Brandenburg
Brandenburg’s big headliner grabber maybe Berlin but the rest of the region has plenty to recommend too: the state’s small towns, churches and series of low hills serve as a welcome antidote to the hustle and bustle of Berlin’s bewildering array of bars, museums and modern buildings.
Potsdam – with its fabulous fountains, follies, palaces and gardens – is a particular standout. Most people associate Potsdam with the aftermath of the Second World War: Potsdam’s Schloss Celcilienhof is where the victorious Allies arrived on 2 August 1945 to work out details of the division of Germany and Europe. The city, whose beautiful baroque buildings were badly damaged during the war following a bombing raid in April 1945, was assigned to the Soviet zone and effectively closed to the west when the Berlin Wall went up overnight in 1961. Today you can still sections of the wall near the Glienicke Bridge.

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The Bridge of Spies, as reporters referred to it, is where the United States and Soviet Union exchanged agents and prisoners no fewer than four times during the Cold War. Today the bridge is a beautiful vantage point affording jaw dropping views of Schlosspark Glienicke (castle grounds), Babelsberg Castle and Park as well as the Sacrower Heilandskirche (church of the Saviour).

Cecilienhof Palace is also worth checking out – if only for the fact that this is where the Potsdam Conference (the final big ‘big three’ meeting between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain about the future of Germany) was held at the end of the Second World War.
But if you’re after a holiday not a history lesson, make a beeline for the buzzing Dutch quarter – teeming as it is with trendy shops and cafes.

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Or check out charming towns such as Wolfshagen and Wittenberg – both within easy reach of the  bright lights of Berlin. A word of warning: locals don’t speak much English in these ‘off the radar’ destinations but regardless you’ll be warmly welcomed by residents. Indeed one of the unsung pleasures of a visit to Brandenburg is the chance to meet its people. Rightly or wrongly there’s a stereotype surrounding Germans – they’re invariably portrayed as staid and serious – but, in Brandenburg, Just About Travel was struck by how warm, friendly and, shock horror, funny (our guide Michael was an absolute hoot) the locals are.

The Rhine Valley
Rudesheim – situated in the romantic Rhine Valley (one of Germany’s biggest and most prestigious wine producing regions) – is remnant of an older, miraculously unspoiled world. This is Hansel and Gretel territory, in short the Germany of your imagination: think fairy-tale castles, cobbled alleyways and steep yet spectacular vineyards. An arresting view of the vine clad hillsides is guaranteed from the chairlift up to the Niederwalk Monument: a giant statue commemorating the 19th century reunification of Germany.
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Another  sight worth seeking out is the surreal Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum: a mansion housing a collection of remarkable self playing instruments including hurdy-gurdies, organs and a magical musical chair that plays a tune whenever someone sits on it!
At night Drosselgrasse – a long, narrow alley leading up from the river – comes alive. It’s a cacophony of shop keepers, food sellers and some surprisingly classy souvenir shops (you’ll want a trinket or two to remind you of your stay). On a balmy summer’s evening, locals and tourists alike love to hang out here in one of the olde worlde taverns, sipping wine or the calorific but to die for Rudesheim coffee (hot coffee and warmed Abrasch brandy topped with a generous dollop of sweetened whipped cream sprinkled with chocolate flakes), soaking up the sunshine and scenery.

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More German joviality can be found in neighbouring Assmannshausen. Rudesheim’s sister settlement  looks like the landscape of a dream and not the kind of place where you’ll find a pumping party scene but, believe Just About Time: that’s what you’ll get in the backstreet bars.  You’re guaranteed a lively night for sure though of course this is not the real reason to visit Assmannshausen: you go for the half timbered houses and the breath-taking backdrop of the Mauseturm (Mouse Tower) which was originally used to collect river tolls from an islet in the river before being  destroyed by the French in 1688.

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Tempting though it might be to stay in Rudesheim and Assmannshausen sampling the outstanding local wines, it’s worth venturing by boat to Bingen (the gateway to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley’ UNESCO World Heritage Site’). This quaint town is celebrated as the home of the popular saint Hildegard, for its gorgeous gardens and grassy riverbanks and amazing array of cafes in which to recharge, relax and escape the rat race.

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