You Better Watch Out – It’s Time for Krampus to Return! (OneTravel)

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Oh sure, no child wants to make Santa’s Naughty List. But the dude whose bad side your little ones definitely should keep clear of this festive season ain’t Saint Nick. It’s Krampus (aka the anti-Santa and the Christmas devil) – a beastly horned and furry fellow from tales of Alpine and Central European folklore who punishes children who misbehaved during Christmastime.

In some traditions, Krampus is Saint Nicholas’ companion, with Nicholas rewarding good little boys and girls with toys while Krampus doles out coal to the bad ones. Other stories tell of Krampus working on his one or in a group with other demon types to find bad children, stuff them in a sack and carry them away never to be seen again.

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Winter Light

LDP 2014.12.05 - Winter LIght

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#PukkaPimms Pop-Up Curry House – Saturday 6 December, Bethnal Green Road

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A cold winter’s night, a warming spicy curry … and a refreshing glass of Pimm’s and lemonade? Wha … ? Believe it or not, these elements come together in a moreishly complimentary way as I discovered last night at a preview of the #PukkaPimms pop-up restaurant near the ‘top end’ of Bethnal Green Road. Not sure such a mix would actually go down well? Find out for yourself this weekend when the pop-up opens to the public with celebrity Hardeep Singh Kohli as front of house.

I love Pimm’s but – like most folks – associate it almost exclusively with summer. To be sure, Pimm’s – with some strawberries, mint, cucumber, lemonade and ice – is a supreme quencher on a hot sunny day. But it certainly pleased during my December dinner last night. And I really liked how it paired so nicely with the curry dishes I ate, cutting through the spicy heat to refresh my palate. I found the flavour profile of Pimm’s (whatever the secret recipe might be) worked well with that of the curries too.

Yep, I very much enjoyed my delicious sneak peek visit to this pop-up and can definitely recommend stopping by tomorrow – Saturday, 6 December from noon to 6pm – when food (from world famous East End eatery Lahore Kabab House!) will be served by broadcaster, writer, comedian and chef, Hardeep Singh Kohli who reckons Pimm’s with your favourite curry is a winning combo and a “hidden gem for the perfect Indian dining experience.”

The #PukkaPimms pop-up is located at 133-135 Bethnal Green Road, E2 7DG. Find out more at the Pimm’s Facebook page: facebook.com/pimms.

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London Daily Photo: December Tones

LDP 2014.12.04 - December Tones

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A Victorian Obsession: The Perez Simon Collection at Leighton House Museum

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Recently opened with a run of more than four months, A Victorian Obsession: The Perez Simon Collection at Leighton House Museum brings rarely seen masterpieces of Victorian art belonging to the Mexican collector Juan Antonio Perez Simon – the largest Victorian private art collection outside Britain – to the lavish home of one of the late Victorian era’s most celebrated artists.

The works on show are lush, sensual and romantic depicting in large part scenes antiquity and scenes from classical mythology, the Bible, and legends of King Arthur while presenting a range of representations of women – from distressed damsels to bold heroines. Fans of Pre-Raphaelite art will not be disappointed … nor will folks interested in viewing one of London’s most dazzling interiors.

Located on the edge of Holland Park, Leighton House is among the most remarkable buildings of the 19th century. Owned and operated by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the house was the former home and studio of the leading Victorian artist, Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). The house was built to his precise requirements combining studio space with domestic accommodation and entertaining space. Originally constructed on a modest basis, it grew to become a “private palace of art: visited by many of the great artists of the day and regarded as one of the top architectural sights of London.

Among the 52 paintings on display, the exhibition returns six paintings by Lord Leighton to the house where they were painted. Other highlights include Alma-Tadema’s iconic image of Roman decadence, The Roses of Heliogabalus, as well as works by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John William Waterhouse.

A Victorian Obsession: The Perez Simon Collection at Leighton House Museum runs until 29 March 2015. The museum is located at 12 Holland Park Road, W14 8LZ. Find out more at rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/leightonhousemuseum1.aspx.

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London Daily Photo: Percy Mews

LDP 2014.12.03 - Percy Mews

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December is Write a Friend Month! (OneTravel)

Do you remember the last time you actually put pen to paper to hand-write a letter or a postcard for someone? Yeah, me neither. Oh sure, I’m “writing” to other people all the time these days. But how much meaning really can be convened through a text, email, or tweet compared to, say, a few thought out paragraphs scripted upon a piece of paper?

To be sure, there’s an art to creating a perfectly to-the-point text, a well-drafted email, or superbly succinct tweet. Still, what are we, as literate beings, losing in exchange for such sped up and immediate digital interaction? Are hand-written letters and postcards relevant at all anymore?

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Portbello Road

LDP 2014.12.02 - Portobello Road

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Win a Yeni Raki Drinking Kit and Cookbook #UnrushYourWorld

Win a Yeni Raki Drinking Kit and Cookbook #UnrushYourWorld

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!

More than simply a bottle of premium drink, a couple of glasses to pour it in and a cookbook, my latest competition offers one lucky reader the chance to “unrush your world” with Yeni Raki, whose distillers believe “slow is a luxury” and the “art of extending memorable moments” is a noble endeavour. Hear! Hear! I’ll drink to that!

Raki is a centuries old Turkish tipple with rich aniseed flavor that goes well with seafood food and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s super refreshing, makes a great aperitif, and is a smart sipper to have when you’re chilling out and taking it easy. Never tried raki before (or perhaps you’ve only had some really naff version served at a touristy restaurant during a beach holiday)? Yeni Raki is one of the finest on the market. I’ve teamed up with this premium distiller to share with my readers the opportunity to win a 75cl bottle of Yeni Raki for free along with a pair of drinking glasses and a Raki and Fish: A Mediterranean Seafood Odyssey cookbook.

To be in with a chance to win a Yeni Raki drinking kit and cookbook simply tweet the following:

RT to win a Yeni Raki drinking kit and cookbook from @yenirakiglobal, courtesy of @tikichris: http://bit.ly/12FfjEb #UnrushYourWorld

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 12 December at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive a one 75cl bottle of Yeni Raki, two Yeni Raki glasses, and a cookbook. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the case can be delivered. Obviously you also need to be of legal drinking age to receive this alcoholic product and must be able to show ID that proves your age.

For more about Yeni Raki go to yenirakiglobal.com. For information about drinking responsibly, visit drinkiq.com.

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME! 

Check out more tikichris competitions.

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London Daily Photo: Middlesex Street

LDP 2014.12.01 - Middlesex Street

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Infographic: How Clean is Your Chopping Board?

How Clean is Your Chopping Board?
Click here for a closer look at the above infographic.

According to research,around 40% of food poisoning cases are caused by poor hygiene in the home. [1] The Global Hygiene Council found that almost half of frequently touched items in the UK, including chopping boards, are contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria, such as E.coli.

Lisa Ackerley, Food Hygiene Expert and Global Hygiene Council representative, comments: “When chopping boards are left for hours without being hygienically cleaned, bacteria can build up and be hard to remove – especially from old chopping boards, which have developed deep cuts and scoring. Bacteria such as Campylobacter and Salmonella, found on raw meats and poultry, may contaminate ready-to-eat foods via chopping boards. Although ideally it is good practice to have separate boards for raw and ready-to-eat foods, in a busy household this may not be manageable. Therefore, make sure that any board used for raw meat, poultry, fish or vegetables is immediately cleaned and disinfected using the dishwasher or an anti-bacterial product such as Dettol Anti-bacterial Cleansing Surface Wipes.”

Chopping board facts:

  • Chopping boards have been found to harbour around 200% more faecal bacteria than the average toilet seat. 1
  • 89% of kitchen cleaning cloths and towels, which come into contact with surfaces such as chopping boards, have been found to have unsatisfactory levels of contamination. 2
  • Since more than 50% of raw chicken has been found to be contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria, which is the most common cause of food poisoning in Britain (more than Salmonella), your chopping board could become contaminated. 1
  • E.coli, found on raw meats, poultry and unwashed salads and vegetables, can spread via chopping boards that have not been thoroughly disinfected. 2

Dettol Anti-bacterial Cleansing Surface Wipes (RRP £2.00) kill 99.9% of bacteria and are safe to use on food preparation areas and chopping boards.

Footnotes:

1  www.eatwellscotland.org/healthissues/foodpoisoning/abugslife/index.html
2  www.nhs.uk/Livewell/homehygiene/Pages/food-and-home-hygiene-facts.aspx
3 www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Food-poisoning/Pages/Causes.aspx

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London Daily Photo: Bethnal Green

LDP 2014.11.30 - Bethnal Green

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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.

Common Good Dish Soap

Another Country in Marylebone has introduce eco-friendly cleaning brand Common Good to its household and utility collection, the first time the brand has to the UK. Kemey and I have been doing my dishes with Common Good’s lavender dish soap (compliments of Another Country) and loving the squeaky clean dishes that smell so nice!

Nakd Pecan Pie Bar

Have you tried these yet? Made of only three ingredients – pecans, dates, and almonds – they’re super tasty and very filling. I like everything I’ve tried from the Nakd Bar range but the Pecan Pie is especially worth keeping an out for. I’ve seen them at Tesco and Waitrose priced between 70p and 90p.

Pieminster Christmas Pies

Pieminster has cooked up a range of limited edition Christmas pies. Apparently I’ve been a good boy this year as Santa got in touch with me via Pieminster to send a sample selection my way to review. I really enjoyed the Mistlemoo (made with British beef and free range British prosciutto with Aged Long Clawson Stilton and chestnuts in a rich red wine and port sauce) and the Merry Berry (made free range British turkey and bacon with roast parsnips, sherry, red wine and cranberries). And Kemey certainly didn’t mind having a taste of Pieminster’s Vegetarian Society Approved Christingle pie (made with Cheddar cheese and honey-roast parsnips with leeks and chestnuts). Like all Pieminster pies, these are made using responsibly sourced ingredients such as 100% free range British meat.

Primrose’s Kitchen Raw 5 Seed Butter

Healthy, filling, and (most importantly) delicious, the newly launched Raw 5 Seed Butter from Primrose’s Kitchen is a great naturopathic alternative to peanut butter. Ingredients include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cold pressed sunflower oil, linseeds, chia seeds, hulled hemp seed, cold pressed linseed oil, cold pressed pumpkinseed oil, “and nothing else”. I like mine on a hot piece of toast.

Tesco Own-Label Single Hopped Kentish Ale

Tesco has launched a new own-label Single Hopped Kentish Ale. The beer has been produced in collaboration with UK brewer Shepherd Neame and is in support of the British Hop Association. It’s and easy drink to recommend as well, especially to anyone who lives a clean, light ale that’s still got plenty of flavourful character.

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London Daily Photo: Rebel

LDP 2014.11.29 - Rebel

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Win an Assortment of Positively Good For You Olive Oils

Win an Assortment of Positively Good for You Olive Oils

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME!

My experience has been there’s never too much olive oil in the kitchen – especially when it’s top quality, extra virgin and free! Enjoy the taste and the benefits of the Mediterranean diet with this opportunity to win a selection of products of Positively Good For You olive oils from southern Italy.

Positively Good For You produces a gorgeous range of single estate, extra virgin olive oils from Calabria, Italy, specially selected for their fabulous taste and health benefits. The brand’s complete range includes six naturally flavoured, oils presented in beautiful 250ml, square glass bottles comprising of the following:

• Bergamot,
• Chilli,
• Garlic, black pepper and balsamic vinegar,
• Lemon,
• Mandarin,
• Rosemary, and
• 750ml plain, Single Estate, Extra Virgin Olive Oil presented in a square, dark green glass bottle.

I’ve been enjoyed cooking with PGFY’s range of clean and flavoursome oils over the past few months and am now pleased to be able to share a complete range of oils one of my readers!

To be in with a chance to win a full set of Positively GoodFor You olive oils simply tweet the following:

RT to win a full set of single estate Italian olive oils from @PGFYFood, courtesy of @tikichris: http://bit.ly/1xQe50I #MediterraneanTaste

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

T&C

I’ll pick one winner at random on Friday 5 December at 11.30am BST. The winner will receive a range of olive oils from Positively Good For You. To be eligible to win, you need to have an address in the UK where the prize can be posted. Good luck.

Find out more about Positively Good For You at positivelygoodforyou.com.

COMPETITION IS NOW OVER AND THE WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING TIKICHRIS. PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR LOTS MORE FUN AND FREEBIES TO COME! 

Check out more tikichris competitions.

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London Daily Photo: Whitechapel

LDP 2014.11.28 - Whitechapel

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London’s Top 10 Ice Skating Rinks (OneTravel)

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Winter’s here and the festive season is upon us. Time to get outside, put on your skates and 

enjoy the crisp London air!

Here’s a list of the best ice skating rinks in London …

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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London Daily Photo: Commercial Road

LDP 2014.11.26 - Commercial Road

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Thanks!

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It’s Thanksgiving, and I have plenty to be thankful for. I hope you do too.

I have seen so much of the world this year. I was able to spend a good amount of time with many family members and old friends. Kemey and I (with fluffy compadre Winston in tow) were able to sell our one bedroom flat and move to a house that’s twice the size with three times the rooms (plus a garden). My money situation is okay at the moment and for the foreseeable future. I love what I do and everything work related seems pretty okay.

I am especially grateful to (and for) Kemey for her perseverance with all the home selling and buying stuff … and simply for having the wherewithal to put up with me! There are a few clients and collaborators, who made this year an especially juicy one for me, whom I’d like to thank as well (you know whom you are, right?). And of course, I’d like to thank YOU for taking the time to read this blog. I’ve been blown away by the support and recognition it’s received in 2014.

My family is awesome. I have wonderful friends. The rest of this year is looking good, and I’ve got a strong feeling that 2015 is going to bring all sorts of fantastic fun and adventure.

Ah. Happy Thanksgiving.

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London Daily Photo: Pimlico

LDP 2014.11.26 - Pimlico

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Jerusalem City Break: תודה (Thanks)

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I can think of few destinations I’ve been to that have yielded so much perspective in such little time as Jerusalem. Although I wish I had been able to spend more time exploring this ancient city, my four day “break” proved a decent enough chunk of time and was certainly worth taking the five-hour flight from London. But now my appetite is whet for more of Israel and the Middle East to continue deepening my understanding this captivating region.

To help you browse the posts I’ve published about my visit to Jerusalem, here’s a list with links to all of them:

Jerusalem City Break

The 4,000 Year Old Brand
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial
Israel Museum
Best Hotel in Town?
Old City, New Perspective
Masada and the Dead Sea
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
• תודה (Thanks)

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Cheers for following my Jerusalem City Break miniseries. Please feel free to take a look at all my series and special features.

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Valrhona 12 Buches de Noel (Great British Chefs)

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Talk about a baker’s dozen! This Christmas for the first time ever luxury chocolate maker Valrhona has teamed up with 12 of London’s best pastry chefs to launch a dozen limited edition Buches de Noel – each made with Valrhona chocolate and with individuality, imagination and skill applied by the chefs.

Waaay back in July (when so many Christmassy things get launched to the press) I caught wind of this delectable project via invitation to a special tasting of these treats with the chefs behind the creations on hand. To be sure I was happy to attend!

Here’s a list of all those amazing chefs involved …

Read my complete post at Great British Chefs.

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Jerusalem City Break: Eat, Drink and Be Merry

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A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15).

So said Solomon – one of Jerusalem’s more notable personalities from the past two millennia – and so was the case during my visit to his hometown a couple of weeks back.

I believe I only began to scratch the surface of the good food scene in this ancient city. Whatever the case, here’s the scoop on some of the yummier discoveries from my time in Jerusalem.

Tmol Shilshom

As I said in an earlier piece, I really loved the included breakfast at my hotel and found it to be a highlight of my stay there. But I did manage to get out one morning and try brekkie somewhere else. I chose well too as my “Hearty Morning House Shakshuka” at homey café bookshop Tmol Shilshom was delicious and filling.

In an old house filled with an eclectic mix of furniture and shelving stacked high with books and tschotskes, Tmol Shilshom is situated down a tiny covered alleyway in a quiet courtyard and has a cosy “in the know” feel to it. Looking to finally getting around to writing that novel? This would be a splendid place to draft several chapters (in the mornings anyway as in the evenings the venue has been known to host events with well known writers reading their works).

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As low key as Tmol Shilshom seemed on the Wednesday when I went, this café came very highly recommended. Indeed, it’s listed among the best spots in Jerusalem for breakfast in many a guide and online resource. In fact, Lonely Planet rates Tmol Shilshom’s shakshuka as “one of the ten best breakfasts in the world.”

How someone can make such a claim is beyond me (especially when I’m certain no Lonely Planet writer has ever eaten my momma’s breakfast). Still the shakshuka was an excellent and amply portioned morning meal served with sides of labaneh, tahini, salad, bread, jam, olive oil, balsamic, and especially tasty fresh grapefruit juice. And at 48 sheckles (about $£7.60 or $12), I reckon it was reasonably priced too. Tmol Shilshom’s coffee (in my humble opinion) was just okay though.

Tmola Shilshom is located at 5 Yoel Moshe Salomon Street, 9463305.

Mahane Yehuda Market

I really enjoyed the afternoon I spent strolling around the bustling Mahane Yehuda Market. Treats I liked the most from my Mahane Yehuda forage included scrumptious and cheap falafel stuffed in a pita with all sort of other morsels at the super popular shop on the corner of Mahane Yehuda Street and Ha-Tut Street; an also very cheap shot of “Royal Drink” (with cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne and more) from Uzi Eli, “The Etrog Man” on Ha-Egoz Street; picking up a bag of za’atar for cooking back home; generally just bumbling around taking lots of photos.

Adom

Located at the First Station – Jerusalem’s now defunct original railway station which has become an open air shopping centre with a great variety of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops – elegant yet approachable Adom is a smart restaurant for a fantastic meal. I’d go back! Dishes I sampled worth keeping in mind when you dine at Adom included the schnitzel with fries and tartar sauce; long cooked ossobuco with mash, and seaweed risooto with calamari and split blue crab. So, yeah, not kosher but very Mediterranean in a contemporary kind of way.

Find Adom at 4 David Remez Street, 9354102.

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Barkan Wine Experience

My last few hours in Israel before getting dropped off at the airport were spent at Barkan Wine Experience. About halfway between Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, I thought it was an ideal relax for a few hours in the sunshine before hitting El Al security – and, of course, sample some local wine.

Israeli wine isn’t held in the highest esteem, and certainly much of what hits the market is very much of the plonk variety. But there are quality quaffs coming out of this tiny country with eons of wine-making tradition behind it (even if the industry there is fairly new) – and Barkan seems to be bottling a good number of them.

I was impressed particularly with Barkan’s Altitude range which highlights the altitude of the vineyard where the grapes are grown as a “main influential factor” affecting a wine’s characteristics. Well structured with a long finish and bit of oophm, the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Altitude +720 with grapes from vines in the Upper Galilee at an altitude of 720 meters above sea level was a true delight to sip.

I’ll wrap up my Jerusalem City Break miniseries with one more post to be published soon. Thanks!

Posted in Drink, Food, Israel, Jerusalem, Jerusalem City Break, restaurants, Shopping, Street Markets, Travel, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Daily Photo: Manual Instruction Centre

LDP 2014.11.25 - Manual Instruction Centre

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Jerusalem City Break: Masada and the Dead Sea

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A day out at Masada and the Dead Sea is an excellent excursion easily accessible by car from Jerusalem.

I had a great time visiting these amazing place, both situated the West Bank about 100k from downtown Jerusalem. There are military checkpoints along the way. We didn’t encounter much traffic driving to or fro, but it looked like the roads leading out of Jerusalem could be a nightmare of a parking lot if you don’t time your drive right.

Masada

The ruins of King Herod’s mountaintop fortress and last stronghold of the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 73 AD are fascinating – if only for the cable car ascent/decent, the panoramic views of the Dead Sea with Jordon on the other side, the ibex spotting, and the chance to play call and response with a majorly reverb-y echo. Of course, learning about the history and past purposes of this UNESCO World Heritage Site (and the most popular attraction in Israel) trump even a heap of fun as cool as that. When you go, I recommend doing so with with a guide, as there’s just so much to discover. More at masada.org.il.

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Dead Sea

The lowest place on earth (422m below sea level to be exact) is also one of its most fascinating. And yes you really do float with extreme buoyance when you’re dipping in the Dead Sea! I loved getting caked in the sea’s mineral rich mud and bobbling about in the water, drying off in the hot Israeli sun, and then doing it all over again. Such a relaxing time was had at Neve Midbar health resort. Humble with hardly any upscale trappings, it was nonetheless a very pleasant place while some time away and enjoy an singularly exceptional day at the beach.

More to come soon in my short series of posts recounting my Jerusalem City Break.

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Recipe: Lavender Duck Fried Rice (Gressingham)

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Considering how easy it is to cook duck breast, it’s amazing how much robust flavour it can add to even the simplest of recipes, such as this one for a lightly floral and somewhat zingy egg fried rice. Duck breast is such a juicy and tender meat too. One of the things I like best about this dish is how the chunks of meat blend with the tiny grains of rice and bits of onion for a succulent and multi-textured bite.

As presented, this recipe is good to go as a meal on its own. Alternatively, you could cook the rice and breast separate and serve as different dishes or with the duck placed on top of the rice. You could also cook the spinach and even the crackling in the wok as you fry the rice.  It’s really up to you!

Read my complete Lavender Duck Fried Rice recipe at the Gressingham website.

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Jerusalem City Break: Old City, New Perspective

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Oh my God (pun intended), experiencing the Old City area of Jerusalem for myself was both spiritually uplifting and somewhat anticlimactic … and incredibly enlightening.

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To walk along the Via Dolorosa (the path that cross bearing Jesus is said to have taken en route to his crucifixion) … to witness such devotion in action among the pilgrims at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and those in prayer at the Western Wall or on their way to the Al-Asque Mosque … to see, despite the troubles, the adherents of three world religions worshipping in close proximity … these were profound and touching moments.

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But … to negotiate the tight passage of tacky souvenir shops as I walked in the alleged steps of Christ … to lose count of all the soldiers and their guns positioned throughout this historic quarter … to be aware of the years of tribal, ethnic and sectarian bloodshed over such as small plot of land … well, that was a more grounding realisation that despite its age-old significance Jerusalem is in many regards just another place where people have to earn a living … that there’s not so much any glowing aura about it as there is a banality among ancient attractions.

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If you’ve ever attended church/mosque/synagogue – or watched practically any episode of the nightly news over the past few decades, you’re bound to have some sort of concept in your head about Jerusalem – one that’s certain to be considerably more visceral than other notions about most anywhere else. For me, touring the Old City presented a chance to confirm and to question my ideas about faith and religion … to develop (an albeit touristic and really very safe and sheltered) outlook regarding the current events shaping the Middle East today … to further appreciate the broad perspective granted during my brief trip.

More to come soon in my short series of posts recounting my Jerusalem City Break.

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London Daily Photo: Head Space

LDP 2014.11.24 - Head Space

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Jerusalem City Break: Best Hotel in Town?

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While in Jerusalem, I stayed at the Arthur Hotel. This fairly new 54-room boutique hotel located in a pedestrianised street near to many of the city’s most popular attractions and historical sites was at the time of my visit the top ranked Jerusalem hotel on TripAdvisor. Did it live up to all those online raves?

Disclosure: I’ve been doing a pretty hefty amount of freelancing for TripAdvisor over the past several months and will continue doing so in the foreseeable future … but the Jerusalem trip and my blogging about it have nothing to do with that gig.

000 111 Arthur 35 bed

As mentioned previously in my Jerusalem City Break series, I was in town on a press trip. The choice of hotel hadn’t been mine to make. Originally, I was supposed to have stayed at the considerably more upscale Inbal Hotel (where Obama stayed his last time in Jerusalem). So when the itinerary changed and I was booked in at the Arthur (no room at the Inbal?), I was a little bummed out. However, I ended up really loving the Arthur and (without having ever stayed at any other hotel in the city) could see why it ranks so highly on TripAdvisor.

The Arthur certainly met my basic criteria for quality accommodation: clean room with a comfortable bed, spacious shower with plenty of pressure and hot water, and a strong WiFi signal in my room and throughout the hotel available for free to guests. Plus, the hotel served a truly delicious breakfast buffet with lots of breads and loads of fresh made salads. It did a “Happy Hour” too every evening with a spread to snacks and free wine for guests. Once I got my bearings, I found the Arthur to be an excellent base for exploring Jersusalem – especially the Old City (Jaffa Gate was super close) and Mahane Yehuda Market.

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“Carefully designed to reflect the diverse cultural influences that have been made on Jerusalem throughout the ages,” the hotel’s décor was pleasant with an air of (not too much) nostalgia. My room had a nice little balcony (the view wasn’t all that scenic but I didn’t mind it). Power outlets were adequate but I wish there’d been at least one more. The members of staff I encountered were polite and helpful. I got a kick out of hearing the Cowboy Junkies being piped through the hotel one morning when I was making my way to breakfast.

I would be pleased to stay at the Arthur again and have no qualms recommending it. I don’t think you’ll find a better situated hotel for sightseeing in Jerusalem, and I doubt you’ll come across any better options without having to spend way more money.

The Arthur Hotel is located at Dorot Rishonim Street in the newly refurbished pedestrianised area of Ben–Yehuda. Find out more at atlas.co.il/arthur-jerusalem.

More to come soon in my short series of posts recounting my Jerusalem City Break.

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5 Chinese Festivals You Have to Experience in 2015 (OneTravel)

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Got plans for a trip to China in the new year and looking for some suggestions on when to go to make the most of some of the country’s biggest celebrations?

Check out this list of five of China’s most popular festivals. Have fun!

Read my complete post at the OneTravel blog.

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Jerusalem City Break: Israel Museum

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Nowhere near as potently packed with pathos as my visit to the Yad Yashem Holocaust Memorial, the time I spent at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum was nonetheless a significant highlight of my trip offering a unique opportunity to infuse my imagination with wonder.

Highlights of the collection at the Israel Museum – the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel and one of the most impressive museums I’ve ever been to – include the oldest known figurine in the world (wow); the Dead Sea Scrolls (whoa); tons (literally) of ancient artefacts dating back millennia with many excavated within miles of the museum; an incredibly detailed scale model of Jerusalem during its Second Temple Period; an Art Garden designed by Isamu Noguchi; a collection of more recent works by great artists along the lines of Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin … and a whole lot more!

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I loved so much of what I got to ogle while there. Especially amazing was the free Archaeology Tour (volunteer guide Bernice Fogel was brilliant!) I joined. It really made the exhibits come alive with relevance and meaning and helped me get to some of the key items on display most expeditiously.

My couple of hours here were not enough. Next time I head to Jerusalem I will make every effort to block at least half a day to explore this incredible place. If you are planning a trip to Jerusalem do not miss the chance to experience the Israel Museum.

The Israel Museum is located at 11 Ruppin Boulevard, Hakyria, near the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). Find out more at english.imjnet.org.il.

More to come soon in my short series of posts recounting my Jerusalem City Break.

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London Daily Photo: Soho

LDP 2014.11.23 - Soho

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Jerusalem City Break: Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial

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To say I enjoyed my visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, wouldn’t be an accurate account. But, to say it was anything less than the most impactful and moving experience in a very long time would be a gross understatement.

I can be more crotchety than I like to admit sometimes and often find myself complaining about stuff that in reality I know really isn’t all that bad or simply doesn’t matter at all. A few hours at Yad Vashem put all my so assumed woes in proper perspective though. A 45-acre site atop Har Hazikaron (Jerusalem’s Mount of Remembrance) with the most extensive Holocaust Library and Archives in the world and a mission to commemorate “the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators” and to preserve “the heritage of the thousands of Jewish communities destroyed” while paying “tribute to the heroic stand of the fighters and of the ghetto inmates and honouring the Righteous among the Nations who risked their lives to save Jews” is a must-see ‘attraction’ in Jerusalem. Just be sure you to bring plenty of tissues when you go (I kept my sunglasses on most of the time I was there).

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I spent a few hours at Yad Vashem and wished I had had a whole day there. As emotionally devastating as the subject matter was – particularly at the Children’s Memorial – smart architecture, thoughtful design, and commanding views over the city all worked to elicit an overall uplifting element during my visit. Watching the harrowing and heroic accounts documented in the many videos testimonials throughout the Holocaust History Museum and seeing the results of the dedicated work carried out (still to this day) at the Hall of Names (where the names and personal details of millions of victims have been recorded and preserved) profoundly inspired me and instilled within me a sense of vigilance.

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For a unique opportunity to shake any cranky propensity, go to Yad Vashem. It’s a beautiful place infused with determination to ensure nothing as horrific as the Holocaust ever happens again.

Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, is located at Har Hazikaron, Jerusalem 9103401. Find out more at yadvashem.org.

More to come soon in my short series of posts recounting my Jerusalem City Break.

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London Daily Photo: West End Kiosk

LDP 2014.11.22 - West End Kiosk

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Jerusalem City Break: The 4,000 Year Old Brand

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It was Israel’s bloodiest day in years – 18 November, the day two Palestinian men armed with a pistol and meat cleavers attacked an orthodox synagogue in an otherwise quiet neighbourhood of West Jerusalem and killed four Jewish men. I was there – well, in Jerusalem that is – but miles from the crime scene and in many ways a world away from the horrors I had read about online.

It seemed so out of whack, so incongruous. There I was – one in a quintet of London-based journos on a “Jerusalem City Break” press trip – sitting in the comfort of a boutique hotel freshly showered after just returning from a tour of Masada and a float in the Dead Sea, while five miles away people probably still were mopping up the blood from the day’s earlier gruesome events, Israeli retaliation was being planned, and the homes of those responsible for the attack were soon to be demolished.

We had convened in our hotel lobby to meet with a Eli Nahmias, Director of Incoming Tourism & International Relations for the Jerusalem Development Authority, who’d brought for us a stack of brochures and promotional DVDs along with a couple of gifts (a Lion of Judah lapel pin and a business card holder). He spoke of the attack as matter of fact. He said he wasn’t there to “sell” his city to us and certainly couldn’t put any spin on what had happened anyway. He wanted to present Jerusalem to us in a wider context – as a “4,000 year old brand” that’s endured conflict for eons while over the same stretch of time has welcomed and been influenced by a diverse panoply of people from across the globe.

I reckon Eli had a point. And to be honest if I had not briefly checked the news on my laptop in my room before heading to the lobby for the meeting, I probably wouldn’t have had a clue that such a terrible thing had occurred. My day out was normal enough and actually a lot of fun, checking out two of Israel’s most popular tourist attractions. Since the attack, things have been quiet. At least nothing has happened that would make a major news story.

Of course, you would be foolish to assume the synagogue murders were a one-off. Similarly though, I’m not sure (at this moment anyway) that fear of reoccurring tragedies should put you off seeing Jerusalem for yourself. Would word of a mugging in East London keep you from going out in the West End? Would the Ebola epidemic in only three small West African countries prevent you from going on safari in South Africa or Kenya? Would shitty blusterous politicians anywhere hold you back from engaging with a real place in real time and encountered the real people who live there?

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If you want to see an epicentre of three world religions, a destination oozing with history, and a city that’s as much a blend of old and new, sanctity and sin, unity and division as anywhere ever was, good luck finding a suitable alternative. Jerusalem is safer than you might realise and more captivating than you can imagine. Flights from London Heathrow via super security minded El Al are only about five hours.

Me, I’m glad to have had a chance to experience Jerusalem for myself. And I would love to go back. It’s a place I’ve known of all my life – where the words and actions of people long ago resonate with the moral decisions and spiritual lives of millions today including those closest to me.

Stick with me over the next few days, as I recount my Jerusalem City Break in a short series of posts.

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