All posts by Polly

Bristol Harbourside Market and Tobacco Factory Sunday Market at Christmas

Bristol Markets and market stalls in Harbourside, including cactus plants for sale, and gifts at the Tobacco Factory, such as t-shirts

There’s nothing like a good outdoor market, whether it’s the Christmas season or not, and Bristol has plenty to choose from.

I’ve often blathered on about Bristol in blog posts: firstly, it’s one of the UK’s best and most vibrant cities, particularly for anyone interested in arts and culture; secondly, both sides of my family have history there, so I think of it as a home-from-home. From Bristol’s coffee shops to its street art, there’s always something quirky to see.

My sister and I were lucky enough to visit our Bristol-based cousin last weekend, and she is as much of a culture vulture as we are (when she lived in London, she introduced me to a fabulously-named café, Tina We Salute You, and countless art exhibitions). Going to a market was a no-brainer for us. read more

Exhibition Review: Dalí Duchamp at the Royal Academy

Dalí Duchamp exhibition poster at the Royal Academy, Piccadilly, London, featuring lobster phone and Fountain

Dalí Duchamp is the perfect injection of humour and zaniness towards the end of an ever-increasingly doom-laden year. Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp are both major names in the art world, but together they’re magnetic.

Some of you may have seen previous blockbuster conceptual art exhibitions in London – I loved the Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia epic at Tate Modern (21st February – 26th May 2008) – and others will be looking at these artists with fresh eyes. Whether you’re an aficionado of Surrealist art and conceptual art, or you’re just looking for a distraction from idiotic political games, you’ll welcome this Royal Academy exhibition. read more

The Word Forest in Estonia: Why it Matters

Word Forest Estonia Independence Project with Name Labels on Pine Trees in Lahemaa National Park

Nearly half of Estonia is covered in forests (49%, to be precise), so it’s hardly surprising one of the big celebrations of Estonia’s centenary involves a newly created Word Forest (Sõn Mets) in Oandu, part of Lahemaa National Park. This project sees individually labelled trees dedicated to journalists who have written about Estonia and its legacy, spreading support around the world.

In fact, when Estonian independence was regained in 1991, the country saw international journalism as a key factor in securing its new-found freedom and keeping its name in the media. The first named trees acknowledge those early visitors to newly independent Estonia, then the names mark key journalists who have visited between 1991 and 2017. read more

The Best Independent London Cafes and Coffee Shops

Independent London Cafes Le Cordon Bleu London Bloomsbury coffee shop and lunch venue

Back in September, the BBC reported that the UK is heading towards its coffee shop saturation point. Even in small towns, you’ll find several different coffee chains and some independent cafes within 100 yards of each other. As for London, you can barely move for baristas, but finding independent London cafes is trickier.

We all like a trip to Costa (the UK’s most visible coffee chain) now and again, yet independent cafes are far more fun to explore: the mystery of a new menu, a different blend of coffee or tea, and finding out if there are books, board games or artwork to enjoy. This is definitely the case in London, though I do realise some independents can take the biscuit when it comes to prices and pretentiousness. With this in mind, here are the best unpretentious and independent London cafes you should try. read more

Why is there a Princess Diana memorial garden in Cuba?

As we approach the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, two things strike me: firstly, I feel old (I was eight when she died, and vividly remember listening to the announcement on the radio in my parents’ room, then – in true ‘overly serious child’ mode, telling myself I would always remember where I was when I heard this monumental news. At the time, I also had a habit of standing up whenever I heard the National Anthem, believing it was an unwritten rule to do so, but that’s another story). read more

Review: Last Resort, at Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Last Resort Guantanamo Bay poster image with man in handcuffs on deckchair in front of watch tower and barbed wire

If you remove the modern political context, the name ‘Guantánamo Bay’ could be just another holiday resort. It’s in the Caribbean Sea, an American enclave on the edge of Cuba. There’s a branch of McDonald’s, and ‘over 6,000 species of flora and fauna’. Perfect package holiday material, right? That’s what 2Magpies, the makers of Last Resort, thought when they applied an all-inclusive tourist lens to the notorious American naval detention camp for suspected terrorists. They’ve created an immersive theatre piece that, for all the surface jollity of deckchairs, sand and Cuba Libre cocktails, successfully chills audiences to the bone. read more

Postcard from the Past: The Funniest Travel Book of 2017

Postcard from the Past Book Review of Tom Jackson's postcard compilation using vintage postcards and messages

One of your greatest holiday reads for 2017 doesn’t have many words, and the pictures are dated, but I promise it’s a work of utter genius: enter Postcard from the Past, extracts from genuine postcards sent by British holidaymakers in the 1960s and 1970s. Yes, decades full of cramped car journeys, discovering Spanish resorts, and trying to get a tan by covering yourself in cooking oil.

Holidays were still expensive, and there was no such thing as a budget airline or a Megabus, so getting a postcard from someone’s travels must have been pretty exciting. Imagine, for a second, how you’d react when this came through their letterbox from a friend or relative: ‘I can’t explain what it’s like here. So I won’t bother.’ Hopefully the sender didn’t go on to present travel documentaries… read more

Book Review: Vietnam Eye – Contemporary Vietnamese Art

Nguyen Dinh Vu artwork, featured in Vietnam Eye book, with men in suits painted on newsprint in acrylic paint with blue floral embellishment

Before I read Vietnam Eye, I didn’t really know or understand Vietnamese art. It wasn’t covered in my History of Art A-Level, or the Fine & Applied Arts section of my undergrad degree (both were unfairly weighted towards Western art, except for a token glance at Japanese woodblock prints), and I’d never knowingly learned about a Vietnamese art movement in galleries around the world.

However, the coffee table book Vietnam Eye (published by Skira) is a chance to understand contemporary Vietnamese artists, and the enduring themes they deal with. Many of the artists are graduates from the Vietnam University of Fine Arts, and their work now sits in galleries around the world. Here are some of my favourite discoveries from this new coffee table book. read more

Pics or It Didn’t Happen: On Losing Travel Photos

Camera on desk credit Markus Spiske via Pixabay

There are plenty of #firstworldproblems travellers encounter, but one of the most frustrating once you’ve returned from your trip is the case of the missing photos. Our digital dependency means we upload these images, maybe back them up to an external device or cloud, then return to them at will, rarely holding a physical copy.

Such was the case with my New York city break last year: four nights of exploring one of my all-time favourite cities, with my parents and former NY resident sister. My photos, spread across two cameras and a smartphone (yes, I’m that gadget-dependent), captured the key moments from our visit: taking in the disturbing but unmissable 9/11 Museum; stumbling upon the Brooklyn Historical Society on Pierrepont Street, and its heart-breaking slavery exhibition. Browsing cute little shops like The Fountain Pen Hospital and Fishs Eddy [sic], and trying out cool restaurants, like Bareburger; walking the High Line and the Brooklyn Bridge. read more

Bog Swimming and Bog Walking in Lahemaa National Park, Estonia

Bog swimmer in Estonia Lahemaa National Park with Tree Line in Background

There’s something ethereal about the bog in Lahemaa National Park, and its many colours: red spongey plants in the water, weird grey-green lichen and moss growing everywhere, and total silence. No wonder Estonians revere the bogs, which cover a fifth of the country.

I arrived with a group at about 5am, hoping to see the sunrise, but it wasn’t to be – cloud cover got the better of us, resolutely refusing to let the sun skim the trees. Nevertheless, we ploughed on, with our guide pointing out the different types of plants and trees surrounding us as the rain tapped out a rhythm on our collection of plastic macs in various sludgy hues. read more