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).
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…
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.
It’s British Beer Day (or #BeerDayBritain) today, which means it would be disrespectful not to crack open a bottle of something brewed right here.
If you’ve done the Guinness Tour in Dublin – which I highly recommend, even for those of you daft enough to hate the black stuff – and you’ve been to the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam or the Domus Brewery in Leuven, you might fancy a British equivalent. That’s why all the beers I recommend here come with brewery tour options. Cheers!
The Craft Beer Success Story: Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout
This creamy milk stout (4.5% ABV) has won more awards than you’ve had hot dinners, and it’s quite a healthy choice, as milk stouts tend to contain Vitamin B6, Niacin and flavonoids (antioxidants). Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout has hints of chocolate, coffee and fruit, and I find it’s a must-have when I’m in Bristol. Awkwardly, I first discovered it during a family wake at the Tobacco Factory, but let’s just gloss over that…
The British Council has designated 2017 as the ‘UK India Year of Culture’, and there are loads of ways to celebrate, but many of them involve a trip to find India in London – perfect if you can’t afford a flight to Delhi just yet. Here are the key happenings to put on your itinerary, without leaving the UK.
Guards at the Taj, Bush Theatre, until 20th May
The Taj Mahal hasn’t lost any of its appeal since it was built in the 1600s – it’s still considered one of the world’s greatest buildings, and a must-see for anyone visiting northern India. However, the craftsmen and slaves used to create the Taj paid a high price for their part in the most beautiful building in the world, as Rajiv Joseph’s play reveals.
Whereas 2014 was all about knee defenders, awkward profiles of Brits in the German press, and Outlander-themed tours of Scotland, this year has been very different.
We’ve seen terror on the streets, refugees in crisis, and a king reburied half a millennium after his death, and that’s only a snippet of what 2015 involved.
A World in Chaos
With ISIS/ISIL-led terror attacks tragically striking Egypt, France and Tunisia, and with parts of Belgium on lockdown following the recent Paris attacks, it’s been a sobering year. Western tourists have naturally been cautious, but holidaymakers are not the only targets. Locals socialising or going to work also lost their lives. Whilst the travel industry is under pressure to deliver better safety measures and tighter security, anyone driven to cancel their holiday and stay at home won’t be risk-free, because domestic threats are just as common. The sad fact is that we can’t always prevent these attacks from happening, however we can’t live our lives in constant fear.
It had me at ‘free tea and biscuits’. I’ve been to more museums than I can count in my 26 and 3/4 years, but never have I been offered a free cuppa and snacks as part of the deal… until now. Evidently, the Museum of Comedy isn’t your average tourist attraction, but the promise of a good old-fashioned English treat, alongside decades of authentic comedy memorabilia, worked wonders.
Based in a church undercroft between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn, this small but mighty two room venue covers the history of British comedy, from variety acts to TV sketch shows and stadium tours, and all that’s in between.
I’ve unashamedly had Christmas songs stuck in my head since July, and I contemplated buying decorations in September, so let’s just say compiling this Christmas gift guide wasn’t a daunting challenge.
Each item is practical but fun (because, no matter how many times it’s suggested by retailers, it is not exciting to receive a water filter or anti-wrinkle cream), and should stand out amongst the other presents around the Christmas tree. Happy shopping!
Up to £10
The Unusual Notebook (£3)
If you already love Herb Lester’s colourful maps (£4 each), you’ll enjoy the brand’s new notepads (£3 each, or £12 for six) based on fictional hotels, including the Great Northern Hotel from Twin Peaks. The tribute to Agatha Christie’s novel, At Bertram’s Hotel, is similarly tempting. Other Herb Lester products to add to your cart include a set of menu reading phrasebooks (£8), and a guide to visiting New York on your own (£4), which I agree is a good idea! See my solo guide to New York for details.
There’s nothing more annoying for an Instagram addict than realising it’ll cost you a fortune to post that perfect holiday photo online because you’re using your phone abroad. Data charges can be a nightmare for anyone, but it’s extra frustrating for bloggers who’ve promised to provide live social media coverage during a sponsored trip (cue massive phone bill).
That’s why I was pleased to be sent this travel infographic from Three, who have just added Spain to their list of Feel at Home destinations, allowing customers to use their normal data allowance (plus calls and texts) abroad at no extra cost. Time to fill everyone’s Twitter timeline with a drip-feed of Spanish holiday antics – known affectionately as holiday spam…
Zora Neale Hurston, the American writer and anthropologist, once said: ‘Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.’ Yet, when it comes to travel, most of us do very little prep at all, then wonder why we end up with only a vague idea of where we’ve spent the last few days and what it meant to be there.
It’s great to be spontaneous and live in the moment, but a little research goes a long way and means you won’t waste as much of your time off. By all means don’t tie yourself down to specific times, or route march between sights, but do turn up with a fair idea of what you want to get out of your visit. Unless you’ve got deep pockets, you may well only visit a place once in your lifetime, so why take it for granted?