London Daily Photo: Maximum Height

LDP 2014.04.23 - Maximum Height

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Wandering Round Walthamstow, Northeast London (OneTravel)

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At the northern end of the London Underground’s Victoria Line lies the quaint and quirky Walthamstow. Wedged between the ancient Epping Forest (yeah, a real forest in London), the River Lea and some of East London’s more ‘authentic’ (read edgy) areas, Walthamstow is an London-y as it gets in a lot of ways while still keeping its own charm and distinctive style.

Here’s a list – which would have been next to impossible to compile if not for the knowledge and passion of Walthamstow resident, @DolceDini – featuring some of Walthamstow’s best bits.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Untitled

LDP 2014.04.22 - Untitled

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London Daily Photo: Welcome to God’s Own Junkyard

LDP 2014.04.21 - Welcome to God's Own Junkyard

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SPOTLIGHT: Interview with Cooksister Blogger, Jeanne Horak-Druiff (CheapOair)

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Jeanne Horak-Druiff is a South African who lives in London. Her delicious and photo-rich food and travel blog, Cooksister, is held in high regard among London’s eclectic mix of bloggers and foodies. The blog for Jeanne is a side project, as she has holds a regular full-time job. Still, she manages to travel the world while updating her site regularly to share her experiences with her readers.

Somehow I managed to catch Jeanne when she had some free time, and she kindly agreed to the following interview …

Read my complete post at the CheapOair blog.

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London Daily Photo: Untitled

LDP 2014.04.20 - Untitled

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London Daily Photo: … Bunny

LDP 2014.04.19 - ... Bunny

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London Daily Photo: Purple

LDP 2014.04.18 - Purple

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Win Dinner for Two at Notting Hill Kitchen – Courtesy of Zomato

Win Dinner for Two at Notting Hill Kitchen – Courtesy of Zomato

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been blogging a good deal about a recent trip I took to Portugal, especially about how much I enjoyed all the great food and wine while I was there. Well, thanks to a team up with online restaurant discovery guide, Zomato, I’m offering one lucky reader the chance to have a taste of some of the best Portuguese cuisine in London with a free dinner for two at Notting Hill Kitchen.

Before I took off on my Portugal Please road trip, I attended the launch of a “Festival of Food in the Alentejo” at the Portuguese Ambassador’s Residence (yeah I know, they’ll let anybody in at these things). I’ll blog more about the Alentejo foodie fest later on (it was a key ingredient of my travels), but what makes that event relevant to this giveaway is that the extraordinary food served during the evening was the delectable work of NHK chef, Luis Baena.

Having a taste of Baena’s rustic yet refined cooking whet my appetite for the gastronomic adventures that lay ahead for me. And now that I’m back in London, it’s a relief to know I can simply pop round to Notting Hill next time I’m craving some sabor Português (which will probably be soon!). So when the folks from Zomato got in touch to see if I wanted to run a competition for a free meal at Baena’s London restaurant, I thought “perfect timing!” and let them know I was totally up for sharing such a fine treat with my readers.

You can see from the reviews of Notting Hill Kitchen on Zomato, that a lot of folks really love this gem of a restaurant. With a menu which includes “a variety of shellfish and seafood from the cold waters of the Atlantic, as well as a focus upon Portugal and Spain’s enduring love affair with the black pig,” it’s easy to see why! The location, in the heart of Notting Hill, is pretty awesome too.

To be in with a chance win dinner for two at Notting Hill Kitchen, simply tweet the following:

RT to win dinner for 2 at @NottingHillKTN compliments of @Zomato and @tikichris! #YouSayZomato http://bit.ly/Rubigv

Good luck. Please take a moment to read the terms and conditions before tweeting!

T&C

I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 25 April at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive one voucher for a three course meal for two at Notting Hill Kitchen with a validity until 18 May 2014. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the voucher can be posted.

Notting Hill Kitchen is located at 92 Kensington Park Road, W11 2PN.


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About Zomato

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Zomato was created to help people find and connect with great places to eat around them. Find out more at zomato.com.

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Portugal Please: Suckling Pig Paradise, Bairrada

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From Aveiro, I drove south to the town of Mealhada for a meal that had me squealing with piggy delight. Mealhada and its region of Bairrada (still within the greater region of Centro) seem to be the suckling pig capital of the world, where the main drag through town is lined with restaurant after restaurant boasting leitão à Bairrada (as suckling pig is called there). For my feast, I paid a visit to one of the most popular and best established eateries, the rather prosaically named Restaurante Típico da Bairrada.

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The cavernous and family owned Restaurante Típico da Bairrada is a pleasant place to enjoy leitão. For around €25 per person, diners get a heaping plate of meat (with ace crackling), freshly made potato crisps, lots of green salad, local sparkling red wine (perfect with the roast), dessert and coffee. All in all, I thought my experience was exceptionally good value – especially considering how damn tasty everything was. That lunch was one of the best meals I had during my trip … and that suckling pig some of the juiciest, most succulent meat I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.

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The restaurant slaughters and roasts its own pigs out back where it has its own abattoir and massive ovens. The dude there in charge of the roasting has been doing it for more than 30 years. I got a behind the scenes tour of where the animals are hung and how they’re roasted. Maybe not for the squeamish, I really appreciated the chance to see and applaud the folks at the restaurant for showing me around their impeccably clean facilities and to admire the simplicity of their roasting process. They just use pig fat, salt pepper and garlic to stuff the pigs before roasting them in wood fire ovens using clipping from locals vineyards. For details about the restaurant, go to restaurantetipicodabairrada.pt.

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Although suckling pig seems to be the main claim to fame, Bairrada is also well known for its wines. After lunch I checked out Quinta do Encontro, just a short drive away from the restaurant is the Quinta do Encontro winery. Home to a smartly designed production centre with a restaurant and event space offering views across the rolling vineyards. Quinta do Encontro is part of the Global Wines/Dão Sul group. While at the quinta I enjoyed tasting a range of Dão Sul labels. Ones I particularly liked include two reds from this winery – the very affordable and easy drinking QdoE and the award winning Encontro 1 – as well as the elegant and well balanced Casa de Santar Reserva from the Dão region to the north. More info at daosul.com.

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My delicious but far too brief excursion to Bairrada was part of an invited opportunity to try out some suggestions from bespoke tour provider, Sunvil. The Centro region of Portugal is the latest addition to the itineraries offered by Sunvil. I loved everything I experienced in Centro. did not get enough of this largely undiscovered area and am keen to return. If Centro sounds like the place for you, I recommend looking up Sunvil for expert assistance in planning your trip.

Be sure to check back soon for future instalments of my Portugal Please miniseries.

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Ai Weiwei at Lisson Gallery, London (OneTravel)

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Just announced are the details of an upcoming exhibition by firebrand artist, Ai Weiwei, at London’s renowned Lisson Gallery.

The show will be the Chinese conceptual artist’s third solo exhibition with Lisson Gallery, and for the show he has created a “monumental new installation of bicycles” as part of an ongoing series Forever alongside a number of hand-carved, domestic-scale copies of some highly personal objects such as a marble recreation of his father’s armchair; two sets of humble cosmetics bottles fashioned from jade; various handmade facsimiles of coat-hangers and pairs of handcuffs; and the window handles taken from Beijing taxis made in clear glass.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog post.

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Portugal Please: Charming and Cheeky Aveiro

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Know as the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is an attractive little coastal canal-crossed town in the Centro region of Portugal. I spent a couple of days in this part of the country, marvelling at how awesome the region was yet how largely undiscovered by tourists it seemed to be. Pretty, walkable and full of lovely shops, bars and restaurants, Aveiro was a particularly fine place for my introduction to the area.

Picking up my hired car at the airport in Porto, I drove down to Aveiro to commence ‘phase two’ of my Portugal Please adventure. The drive took about an hour (and that included a patch of rush hour traffic through Porto). Once checked in at my hotel, I roamed round town, grabbed an especially delicious bite to eat and called it a night. The next day I took a morning stroll (admiring Aveiro’s more than fair share of Art Nouveau architecture) before heading off for more explorations in the region.

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Centro is the latest addition to the itineraries offered by bespoke tour provider Sunvil, and my visit there was an invited opportunity to try out Sunvil’s suggestions. I loved everything I experienced while there. After Aveiro, I hit Mealhada – the suckling pig capital of the world – for a lunch of epic proportions and got to see the historic university town of Coimbra. I did not get enough of this region and would be keen to return. If Centro sounds like the place for you, I recommend looking up Sunvil for expert assistance in planning your trip.

STAY

In Aveiro, I stayed at four star Hotel Moliceiro. With a huge balcony over one of Aveiro’s main canals, I really enjoyed my evening in the hotel’s “Oriental Suite.” I also got my first taste of the local sparkling wine and the city’s ovos moles delicacies while here. For sightseeing around town and taking in the local nightlife, you can’t beat Moliceiro’s location.

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EAT AND DRINK

I had a fantastic meal at O Bairro, a cheeky and characterful little bistro just round the corner from my hotel. Next to the city’s famous fish market, it was an excellent place for a taste of the local seafood specialities such as an exceedingly moreish caldeirada fish stew along with ace local wines and a super yummy and custardy double decker cheesecake with orange sorbet.

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Be sure to check back soon for future instalments of my Portugal Please miniseries.

Posted in Art, Design, Drink, Food, Hotels, Portugal, Portugal Please, restaurants, Shopping, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

London Daily Photo: Cosy

LDP 2014.04.17 - Cosy

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Portugal Please: Amarante Quickie

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Halfway between Provesende and Porto (or at least that’s how it seemed riding around in the press trip van), is Amarante. Like so many of the places I visited in Portugal, Amarante was sweet, cosy and somewhat kitsch without ever crossing over into being twee or cloying.

With the others in my party needing to catch and flight (and me with a tight road trip itinerary of my own), I was really only in Amarante long enough for a short walk and (of course) a tasty snack. However, I saw enough to know I would love to return and reckon if you’re thinking about visiting Porto or the Douro Valley, you’d be wise to consider a stop in Amarante too.

Believed to have been founded in the 4th century, Amarante is home to lots of Romanesque buildings still in great condition, a little Roman bridge over the pretty Tâmega River and plenty more including at least one exceedingly stroll worthy street, Rua 31 de Janeiro, where two shops in particular caught my attention:

Adega Kilowatt: This invitingly tiny alcove of a bar has been serving up rustic charm alongside plates of charcuterie and cheese and plenty of local wine since 1929. It’s an idea setting for elbow bending sessions tinged with history. More: adegakilowatt.blogspot.co.uk

Confeitaria da Ponte: Since One of many eggs-centric sweet shops in Portugal, this one’s top of the line though and features a lovely balcony over the Tâmega and an array of traditional goodies such as pao de lo and all sorts of doçaria conventual including (what turned out to be my fave) super juicy pingos de tocha. Details: confeitariadaponte.pt

From Amarante, I was taken to the airport in Porto (a speedy and hassle-free ride) where I said a sad so long to the Discover the Origin peeps and picked up a car to use for the rest of my time in Portugal. Next stop for me was the seaside town of Aveiro, in Portugal’s scenic and central region of Centro for a couple of nights of wow before heading south to the Alentejo. More on the second leg of my trip to come. So please be sure to check back soon for future instalments of my Portugal Please miniseries.

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A Look at a Few of England’s World Record Sites (CheapOair)

Chetham's Library

Photo/ChrisD90

England. It’s a land that’s as celebrated as much for its pomp and circumstance as for its more subtle eccentricities. Those who know the English well are aware of their love of competition – whatever the contest. No matter how big, small if you can have a first … or a biggest … or a smallest of something, there’s a good chance you’ll find in England.

Here’s a look at few of the most interesting world record sites to visit in England …

Read my complete post at the CheapOair blog.

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Portugal Please: Morgadio da Calçada

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Situated atop a plateau yielding (yet more) beautiful panoramic views of the Douro River and its undulant valley, the tiny ancient village of Provesende was my final stop in the area. Here I took a quick wander round the village and a proper snoop inside 17th century mansion (with contemporary accommodations) Morgadio da Calçada.

Still owned by descendants of the same folks who built it, Morgadio da Calçadahas been impressively restored. With its centuries old collection of antiques and family heirlooms ranging from prehistoric to not-quite-vintage and a whole lot of properly old stuff in between, the mansion has the atmosphere of a secret museum of Old World charm.

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I was only at Morgadio long enough for lunch and a look round its grounds. But I reckon it’d be a great place to stay for anybody wanting to get away from it all (but still only be about an hour or less from Porto) and seeking somewhere distinctive and comfy. The eight rooms here (in the converted stables) are modern and pleasant with plenty of outdoor space and a pool. I thought it was super cool how private the rooms were, but how the mansion was right in the centre of the village if you wanted to hit the local bar or check out the interior of Provesende’s over-the-top Baroque church (quite the contrast to its unassuming humble exterior).

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Judging from my epic lunch (an amazing cod and olive soufflé thing), gourmand guests at the mansion are treated right … with phenomenally prompt service and by candlelight if so desired. Morgadio has its own small vineyard right outside the mansion. Their wines were among the best I had while touring the Douro. I especially liked the Tawny Port Reserve.

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Be sure to check back soon for future instalments of my Portugal Please miniseries.

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App Review: Cruising with “Two Taps” from Addison Lee Minicabs

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If you’ve been paying any attention at all to this blog over the past couple of weeks, then you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been bouncing round between airports a lot more than usual (and having an absolute blast between each bounce). On the ground here in London, the new and improve iPhone app from minicab maestros Addison Lee has been significantly simplifying how I’ve been getting to and fro my flights as well taking a chunk of hassle out of more locally-minded jaunts around town.

The app allows Addison Lee customers to personalise their profiles with favourite addresses and to select which category of vehicle they prefer, from six-seaters to executive saloons and hybrids. Among the updated apps most convenient features of thie app is its “take me home” function, enabling folks to book a car in two taps. The app shows live tracking of Addison Lee’s 3,500 vehicle fleet along with “the dynamic pick-up time updates in real-time right through the booking process” and provides a completely transparent fare system, showing the actual price from pick-up to drop-off, with no “surge-pricing” when demand is high.

It’s really come in handy for me lately and seems to be more useful and reliable than similar apps I’ve used – especially when being picked up from the airport (no subterfuge parking arrangements or touch and go miscommunicaitons). It highly recommend adding the Addy Lee app to your arsenal of transportation options. It’s free to download, anyway. So, there’s no reason not to.

Find out more at addisonlee.com.

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Portugal Please: Even More Douro Valley Quintas

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No, I didn’t just lounge around at a couple of scenically situated hotels while in the Douro (although, that would be a terrifically recuperative way to spend one’s time). When I wasn’t enjoying my stay in the luxury laps of Quinta do Vallado and Quinta Nova, I was bopping all over the rest of the valley trying to visit as many different vineyards as possible – and loving every minute of it. Here are a few brief notes about the rest of the Douro Valley quintas I visited, including Quinta do Crasto, Quinta da Pacheca, Quinta do Panascal and Quinta do Seixo.

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Quinta do Crasto

Since returning from Portugal, I’ve had dinner out with some friends – at the very yummy Eat17 in Walthamstow, where I was pleased to see this small winery’s red and porto on the drinks menu. I was even more pleased when my dining companions trusted my judgement and went with the red (and loved it).

This rather remote quinta isn’t accommodating overnight guests yet. But with an infinity pool + an epic view across the valley and a quaint old house for maximum rustic relaxing, when they do (and word is it will be soon) Crasto definitely will be worth keeping in mind. More: quintadocrasto.pt

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Quinta da Pacheca

This “wine house hotel” on the outskirts of the villages of Lamego and Peso de Regua was the first quinta I visited in the Douro. Lunch here was a dream; I had an amazing serving of octopus, and I frickin’ loved their 30 Year Old Tawny. I didn’t spend the night here but got a great tour of the place. From the tree lined drive, to the rather verdant dining room and its great selection of comfortable and well furnished rooms, this is a very pretty winery worth keeping in mind for when you visit the area. Details: wonderfulland.com/pacheca

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Quinta do Panascal

Back in 1992, Panascal become the first winery in the Douro to open its doors to the general public and offer overnight accommodation. Built snug along steep slopes slanting down to the babbling Tavora River (and offering a range of facilities and activities for guests), it’s a gorgeous place to stay. Food’s extra nice too. Orange marinated kid lamb was a tender, juicy treat as was an egg custardy crème brûlée.

The vineyards here are one in a trio of vineyards supplying Fonseca.I’ve been trying to be as even handed as possible writing about the wines I tried on this trip. But, if I had to pick one favourite, without a doubt it would be the Fonseca’s Guimaraens Vintage Port – an supple yet pronounced expression of fig and tamarind that stopped me in my tracks upon first tasting. Find out more: fonseca.pt/en/visitors-centre

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Quinta do Seixo

The Quinta do Seixo Wine Centre is fortified wine heavyweight Sandeman’s showcase vineyard in the Douro Valley, and with good reason. Perched atop a hill with commanding views, this a fabulous place to learn about and drink some of the world’s most popular ports (I especially liked the LBV Port 2008). Beyond the amazing vistas and excellent wines the quinta features a tasting room that’s as dramatically set as it is plush; a gift shop that’s well stocked; and the guided tour of the high tech facilities and ancient cellar that’s thorough and engaging. More: sandeman.com/visitus/douro/en

Be sure to check back soon for future instalments of my Portugal Please miniseries.

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London Daily Photo: The Longest Outdoor Street Market in Europe

LDP 2014.04.16 - The Longest Outdoor Street Market in Europe

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Portugal Please:  Quinta do Novo de Nossa Senhora do Carmo

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A lovingly restored 18th century manor cum 21st century four star hotel and the centrepiece of a lofty patchwork of vineyards rolling down to the Douro River: Quinta do Novo de Nossa Senhora do Carmo was my home for a night. Leaving Vallado for a full-on day of winery visits around the Douro, my second evening in this idyllic valley wound down in equal parts elegance and comfort.

Nearly ten kilometres of walking trails, two chapels (are those wedding bells I hear?), “winecaching” itineraries (geocaching around vineyards), biking excursions, masterclasses with the property’s expert chef, boating daytrips to/from Porto, and access to fun stuff at other facilities in the valley … Quinta Nova does it all and is a lovely setting for just about anything you can think of getting up to.

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Food and drink here are excellent. Chef Jose Pinta wowed my supper time palate with a wholesome bowl of pumpkin soup with fresh herbs and a glass of aromatic and acidic Grainha Reserve 2012; a wonderful dish of locally sourced, melt-in-your-mouth veal cooked in a Port and jus reduction and served with Quinta Nova Reserva 2012; and an orange cake with almond “crush” paired with a 30 year old nonfiltered Clã Special Reserve Port. Yeah, another epic Portuguese foodie feast to add to my list – you’d do well adding it to yours.

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As much as I loved the food and wine at Quinta Nova, the best part of my visit was simply the chance to take in the quinta’s extraordinary views. Even from the bath in my room, I had a sweeping panorama to admire. Walking around the grounds during the different times of the day, seeing how the light changed was such a treat. It’s a gorgeous place.

Be sure to check back soon for future instalments of my Portugal Please miniseries.

Posted in Drink, Food, Hotels, Portugal, Portugal Please, restaurants, Shopping, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Great Authors to Take with You on Your Next Trip (OneTravel)

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Text messages, emails, tweets, status updates – when’s the last time you read something more than a few paragraphs long and solely for the sheer joy of reading it? Got a long haul flight or some time lounging by the pool lined up?

Here are five acclaimed travel authors to keep you company …

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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Portugal Please:  Sniffing Around Quinta do Vallado

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After a quick sightseeing jaunt and overnight stay in Porto, I was off to the Douro Valley to the Douro Valley for a few days of scenic sipping. My first night there, I had the ultra-luxe pleasure of spending some time – and a very restful night – at Quinta do Vallado. To put it plainly, I loved everything about this place. It hurt a little to have to leave and I’m aching to return for another chance to admire in situ this wine hotel’s blend of tradition with modern design; savour more of its homey food; and, of course, enjoy its fabulous wines.

Established in 1716 and once owned by the legendary Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira and still in the hands of her descendents, Vallado is one of the oldest and best known of the Douro quintas. The grounds are gorgeous with modern accommodations and facilities joined with the age-old structures and rollicking terraces of the vineyards. It’s a juxtaposition of styles to be sure but one that works well (in my humble opinion anyway), functioning as a bridge between Vallado’s past and its activities today.

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For me, being there was like experiencing the best this fabled valley had to offer. My room featured lovely views across the valley (as all of the quinta’s rooms do) from my spacious private balcony. I loved strolling around the place (with the family’s puppy tagging along) to check out the pool, all the orange trees and lush gardens, and the thoughtfully curated design elements throughout the hotel.

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That essence of Douro feeling resonated even moreso over a fantastic dinner. Maybe all the luscious wine influenced my opinion, but I remember the meal as one of the best I’d had in a very long time.

From the homemade and smoky alheira sausage and nibbles served with a floral and crisp Muscatel Galego … to the obligatory (and scrumptious) course of cod matched with a subtle and lemony Reserva Branco … to the seasonally obligatory roast lamb (gorgeous!) with a currant-rich and juicy Sausa … to the amazing dessert of sliced oranges in a white Port reduction dusted with cinnamon and dark chocolate enjoyed with a glass of 20 year old tawny … (and finally) to the Alentejo cheese and pumpkin jam paired with Adelaide Vintage Port – it was all good.

So good in fact, I enquired about the chef at the end of dinner. My host, general manager Francisco Ferreira, gave me a satisfied glance and explained that they didn’t have a chef, “just cooks who grew up learning to cook the local recipes.” A few minutes later, a couple of young women walked out of the kitchen (one of whom, appearing to be several months pregnant, had checked me into the hotel earlier that day) to accept credit for such a phenomenal feast.

Be sure to check back soon for future instalments of my Portugal Please miniseries.

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London Daily Photo: Happy Easter Opening Hours

LDP 2014.04.15 - Happy Easter Opening Hours

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Portugal Please: Porto

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My Portugal Please tour commenced in the compact and cosy city of Porto, which proved to be an excellent gateway to the Douro Valley and a fine place to visit in and of itself. If you’re looking for somewhere to visit for a city break, Porto is only a two hour flight away from London with plenty to see and do and eat and drink and browse and buy. Here are some highlight from my all too brief time there.

As I was in Porto to “discover the origin” of Douro wine and Porto, my first stop was the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto. With a mission to “promote the control of the quality and quantity of Port wines, regulating the production process, and the defence and protection of the Douro and Port denominations of origin and the geographical indication of the Douro Region,” the IVDP is one part state-of-the-art laboratory, and one part epic wine shop. Housed in an impeccably restored grand manor (that’s worth a peek whether or not you like wine), the institute is open to the public with a tasting room next to its retail space and offers tour showing the stringent process of Port and Douro Wine certification.

There’s way more to Porto than its grape juice though, including some amazing churches, the world’s most beautiful bookstore, one of Europe’s coolest train stations and so on. It’s really a dynamic town, and I’d love to get back there.

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STAY

I spent the night at Hotel Teatro, a design boutique hotel situated in an old theatre in the heart of the city centre. Everybody I encountered who worked there was friendly and attentive. Indeed, I had some ‘remote office’ issues to attend to and members of the desk staff were most helpful. One quibble: much of the hotel was extremely dark. It was an attractive design feature and suggested a distinctively theatrical mood but made things a bit difficult when trying to find a pair of matching socks while sifting through my suitcase. Still, my bed was super comfy and my walk-in rainfall shower was a dream. For sightseeing, I reckon the location couldn’t be better. Visit the hotel online at hotelteatro.pt.

EAT AND DRINK

Not only is Porto dynamic, it’s also delicious. The thing about the region’s wines (and pretty much all Portuguese quaffs) is that they go so well with food – and the food in Porto is ace!

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Mercearia das Flores: This quaint grocery and wine bar featuring regional and artisan food and drink was a lovely setting for a mid afternoon snack. I had some awesome cheeses and sausages, tasted some really nice tea from the Azores (which makes Portugal the only European country to produce its own tea) and a refreshing pint of locally produced beer, Sovina (I went with the stout). More details visit merceariadasflores.com.

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Vinum at Graham’s: Across the river from Porto in Vila Novo de Gaia are the cellars for Port producer Graham’s (along with all the cellars of the other big Port producers). It’s a phenomenal facility open for the public to visit and home to the wonderful award winning restaurant, Vinum. With lofty and romantic views, quality service and a modern menu adhering to traditional gastronomic values – the meal I had at Vinum was exquisite and set a high bar for the rest of my dining during the trip. Catch of the day, John Dory, was a delicate delight and a “vaca velha” rib steak was one of the most gorgeous cuts o’ cow I’ve tasted in a very long time. Obviously, the wines were excellent. Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny and 1969 Single Harvest Tawny were my two faves.

I kinda loved this restaurant and reckon my dinner there will end up being remembered as one of this year’s best … but if you continue reading this series of posts you’ll see that I felt that way about a number of eateries I visited during my week in Portugal. Find out more at vinumatgrahams.com.

Be sure to check back soon for future instalments of my Portugal Please miniseries.

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London Daily Photo: The Money Shop Pawnbroker

LDP 2014.04.14 - The Money Shop Pawnbroker

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Portugal Please: Wão. What a Trip!

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Does it ever seem like far too many folks are stuck in the same tired rut of a far too well beaten path, only hitting a few main sites in a short selection of only a few Western European countries – namely Spain, France, and Italy – and never realising that there’s so much more to explore just as close, just as scenic, just as steeped in tradition … and often accessible at far greater value than most of the EU? Not you and me though. We’re going to Portugal!

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In actuality, I’m just back from a fantastic week wining and dining my way across this gorgeous little country and am now most keen to share the best of those experiences and help you make the most of planning your own perfect Portuguese itinerary.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Spain, France, and Italy too. I’m keen to carry on visiting all three and would be hard pressed to come up with any list of my all time favourite destinations without including places in these countries. Still, I don’t see why you hear so much about this trio and hardly ever anything about Portugal. And when you do hear about travelling to Portugal, it’s all about the Algarve (somewhere I’ve never been but hear is ace for beach-y breaks). I reckon Portugal’s an overlooked, underrated and in many ways an ideal place to visit – no matter what you’re into.

Me? I’m into food and wine, ancient history, scenic country driving, getting away from it all, meeting friendly salt-of-the-earth people …. and to be sure Portugal had all that and more.

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For my Portugal Please road trip, I flew from Gatwick to Porto and wound my way down via the Centro region by car to the Alentejo, eventually flying out of (but spending no time in) Lisbon for Heathrow. I flew with TAP and experienced no hassles or delays. I would be more than happy to recommend the airline to anybody thinking about flying to Portugal or any of TAP’s routes. Heck, I even enjoyed the simple tuna sandwich I had as my meal on each of the flights.

My itinerary was a blend of two press trips. One, a tasteful tagalong with the Discover the Origin campaign to the Douro Valley to find out about (and drink lots of!) the region’s phenomenal wines as well as Portugal’s most iconic quaff, Port. The other, an especially delectable opportunity to “road test” the new Festival of Food offering from British tour operator, Sunvil. I had a wonderful time during both legs of my trip and really look forward to blogging about my adventures over the next week or so.

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Significant aspects of my trip were made especially splendid through the hard work of kind folks at the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (big thanks to Maria Cabral for being such an excellent host); Visit Centro de Portugal (Muito obrigado Silvia Aires for sharing your time and expertise); and Turismo do Alentejo (Patrícia Martins in Portalegre was particulary generous with her time and efforts).

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London Daily Photo: Booth

LDP 2014.04.13 - Booth

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Good Stuff

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Good Stuff and lots of it! Here’s the low down on some fine things to see, sip or savour – all of which I’ve recently come across and thought were worth sharing with you. Enjoy.

Dodo Chilli Dipping Sauce

I recently got hold of this tasty Mauritian dipping sauce. Priced at £2.49 on the Mauritius Foods website for a 180g jar, I’ve been using this mildly hot and sweetly flavoursome sauce more as a spread for my toast that as a dip.

Generator London

Whoa! Hostels sure have gone through a sprucing up since I was a twentysomething backpacker rambling my way round the globe! Or maybe Generator Hostels has upped the game for the entire industry. I had a grand time at the launch of Generator London and am happy to recommend the place if you’re looking for budget friendly accommodations that are stylish, clean and in an excellent central location. I wouldn’t be against considering a stay at some of their other properties myself! The Venice hostel looks especially welcoming, and Kemey’s raved about her stay at one of Generator’s Berlin properties a few years back.

L Manze Eel, Pie and Mash Shop

Eel, pie and mash shop, L Manze, on the High Street in Walthamstow is something of a comfort food institution – and a right bargain too if you love pie and mash. I was there yesterday (big thanks to DolceDini for organising such a fantastic “E17 Safari” itinerary) revelling in the austere and ultra East End ambiance of this Grade II listed eatery.

Shoryu Kingly Court

Continuing seemingly to take over Soho one bustlingly ramen bar at at time, the latest addition to the Shoryu portfolio of yum is a new and compact outlet at Kingly Court. As far as I could tell from last week’s super packed press launch, the new venue offers the same excellent food as at the others along with ace drinks – including the super icy Kirin Frozen served with a -5 degrees frozen whipped top – with some outdoor seating available in the courtyard just off Carnaby Street.

Tommi’s Burger Joint

I’ve blogged about Tommi’s before and am happy to do so again – especially now that I can share the news that Tommi and his crew of Icelandic fry cooks have opened a location on the King’s Road. I can vouch from a visit to the launch party (when I actually got to meet the one and only Tomas Tómasson himself), the burgers at the new Chelsea joint are as awesome as the ones at the original London branch in Marylebone.

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London Daily Photo: Slim Slow Slider

LDP 2014.04.12 - Slim Slow Slider

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Celebrate Record Store Day in Soho, London (OneTravel)

London, May 2006

Photo/karl frankowski

Fingering your way through crate after crate of vinyl discs in search of that one final piece of sonic perfection that’s been eluding your otherwise complete collection of cherished LPs is a lot like hunting for Easter eggs, just way more gratifying to the eardrums. So, it makes sense that this year’s Record Store Day – Saturday April 19th – falls on Easter weekend. And should avid rekkid collectors find themselves in London for this momentously musical occasion, they’ll be in for a treat!

London’s indie record store mecca of Soho will see a range of festivities to celebrate Record Store Day with free outdoor performances, along with retailers hosting in-store activities throughout the day and more. Area record stores will open at 8 o’clock in the morning with DJs, music quizzes and parties throughout the day along with an open air market along Berwick Street with plenty of foodie treats and shops without direct musical connections joining in on the fun with discounts and special offers.

Most of the festivities will take place in and around Berwick Street, a destination for vinyl record collectors since the 1980’s and home to central London’s largest concentration of independently owned record shops. Check it out …

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Billy

LDP 2014.04.11 - Billy

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Istanbul in an Instant

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For my birthday, Kemey and I spent a long weekend in Istanbul. Yes indeed, ya gotta do the Blue Mosque/Hagia Sophia/Basilica Cistern/Topkapi Palace/Grand Bazaar shuffle when you’re there, but there’s so much more to see and do in this massive and dynamic city. Here are just a few of the “other” highlights from our trip.

The Full Bosphorus Cruise to and from the Black Sea was a picturesque way to begin to get a sense of just how massive and beautiful Istanbul is. And at just under £7, I reckon it was good value too.

The Whirling Dervishes Mevlevi Sema ceremony at the Sirkeci “Orient Express” train station was one of the most amazing and serene things I’ve ever seen in my life. Wow!

A great Turkish coffee in a cosy and contemporary cafe was had at Momo in the upscale neighbourhood of Cihangir. Looking for a place start writing that novel or to simply chill out? This just might be it!

Got pastrami? They do at Cankurtaran Gida! Located in Istanbul’s bustling Spice Bazaar, this deli has been selling traditional cured meats and cheeses since 1946. Pick up some treats to take back home or grab a freshly made pastrami sandwich for a meaty snack.

I got a great shave, haircut, ear waxing, etc etc etc at the Atak Saloon barbershop (for about the same price I usually get a trim here in London) just at the entrance to the Çemberlitaş Hamam before paying a visit its the historic 16th century baths. I don’t think I’ve been so clean cut or squeeky clean in my life!

Based on its stellar TripAdvisor rating, we decided to stay at the humble Sultan House hotel in Sultanahmet. It was comfortable, clean and affordable. The guys working there were incredibly polite and helpful. If you’re planning to ‘do’ all of Istanbul’s big historic sightseeing attractions, this would make an excellent base.

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London Daily Photo: Gold

LDP 2014.04.10 - Gold

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25% Off Food and Drink at Punch Tavern, Fleet Street EC4

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Yep, that’s right. There’s no typo in the title you just read. I have teamed up with Fleet Street’s historic Punch Tavern to offer you folks a sizeable discount on some properly yummy pub grub. How do you get a quarter of your food and drink bill sliced away? Just tell ‘em tikichris sent ya! Keep reading for the details of this awesome offer.

Back in March, I paid Punch a visit to sample some pies (tough job I know but somebody’s gotta do it). I was really impressed with the pies – and everything else actually: the atmosphere … the craft beer selection … the friendly reception … the traditional British menu. During my dine, I got to chatting to Punch owner, Sunnil, about his place and how I thought people reading my blog would love it. That convo spilled out into a few friendly emails and here I am today with the pleasure of offering a bit of incentive to my readers to pay this fantastic pub a visit.

When you visit Punch Tavern mention the “tikichris special” for 25% off your total food and drink bill.

For the time being, there’s no end date for this discount. But check this post for any updates or maybe call ahead to the pub to be sure. It’s a good idea to explain that you’d like to take advantage of the “tikichris special” at the beginning of placing your order. The discount only applies if you’re ordering food  – and NOT if you’re only having drinks. Discount or not, if you’re planning to go to Punch for its celebrated Sunday lunch, you’d be wise to reservation a table.

Punch Tavern is located at 99 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1DE. Find out more at punchtavern.com.


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London Daily Photo: Sloane Square

LDP 2014.04.09 - Sloane Square

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