Where to stay in Murcia, Spain: La Manga Club

So today we’re heading for glorious, sunny Spain to the province of Murcia. The region sits between Andalucia and Valencia on the Mediterranean coast and is one of the truly unspoilt places in Spain I’ve visited. You’ll find plenty of beaches – 250km of them on the Costa Calida and also the fabulous Mar Menor (small sea) which is the largest natural lake in Spain and the largest salty lagoon in Europe. It’s separated from the Mediterranean by a narrow, sandy strip called La Manga del Mar Menor. Manga means sleeve in Spanish and this long-sleeved area is a favourite for holidaymakers from all over Spain.

Murcia is also a major producer of fruit, vegetables and flowers for the rest of Spain and the whole of Europe. This amazing fresh produce means that the food is fabulous wherever you go.

We’re staying at the rather swish La Manga Club at the five-star Hotel Principe Felipe which is part of the resort which covers 1,400 acres (560 hectares) and offers myriad sporting, eating and relaxation opportunities. Here’s why it’s so fabulous.

Five-star delights at the Hotel Principe Felipe

This plush hotel overlooks two of the resort’s three golf courses. It’s one of those places that instantly lifts your spirit as you walk in the door. It’s luxurious, light and glitzy and even smells delicious.

Principe Felipe: hotel

The stylish hotel is set on the golf course

The beautiful, comfortable rooms

I do love a plush hotel room and these are right up there. The beds are large, with crisp linen and squashy pillows leading to the best night’s sleep ever. Bathrooms are large with separate bath and shower and the balconies overlook the peaceful greenness of the golf course.

La Manga: rooms

The comfiest of elegant rooms

La Manga: rooms

The balconies have lovely golf course views

Perfect poolside lazing

So how’s this for a pool? With comfortable loungers, serenity and beautiful views it’s certainly one that’s hard to drag yourself away from. Unless you’re heading for a snack or a drink at the poolside restaurant, Sol y Sombra – which means Sun and Shadow. What a great name for a restaurant.

Principe Felipe: Pool

The sparkle of the pool welcomes you

The Las Lomas apartments on top of the hill also have a fabulous spot for poolside indulgence and a cafe called La Pergola.

Principe Felipe: Las Lomas pool

The crystal, azure water of the Las Lomas pool

Total sporting heaven

La Manga Club is sport…pretty much whatever sport your heart desires. There are three world-class golf courses, a 28-court tennis centre and eight FIFA-standard football pitches. On weekends you’ll see games of cricket being played, there’s a bowling green and a Par-47 golf course to get in some short-game practice. The resort also offers a wide range of sporting academies which also include rugby and mountain biking. Or you could take a boat trip, snorkel, try some kayaking or scuba diving.

La Manga: West Course

The stunning view from the 18th tee on the West Course

And then there’s the fitness centre, complete with a large, well-equipped gym – just what you need if you’re going to do justice to all that fabulous Murcian cuisine.

La Manga: gym

Work off some calories at the impressive gym

There are also whirlpools, an indoor pool, saunas and a spa offering a wide range of extravagant treatments.

The restaurants and variety of cuisine

There are plenty of restaurants within the resort. These include the rustically pretty La Cala, which is on the beach – a stunning and somewhat precipitous drive from the hotel. Their paella is legendary.

Principe Felipe: La Cala

The restaurant at the seclusion of La Cala

Amapola at the Hotel Principe Felipe is their signature restaurant and serves fabulous Mediterranean dishes made using the freshest of local ingredients. Try to get a table on the terrace so you can look out across the golf course and towards the Mar Menor in the distance.

Principe Felipe: Amapola

Enjoy Mediterranean delights on the terrace at Amapola

You can also enjoy Asian delights at Asia, tasty Italian at Luigis, bistro-style dishes at The Village, Indian cuisine at Dharma, tapas at La Bodega and snacks at the poolside bars.

Oh, and although it doesn’t involve any eating, you have to pay a visit to the Piano Bar with a live pianist and plenty of opportunities to sing along to your favourite songs. Just be prepared for a late night and very probably a sore throat the next day.

The surrounding area

Another of the real joys of La Manga Club is that you have the beauty of unspoilt Spain right on your doorstep. Just a short drive away you’ll discover fabulous beaches complete with chiringuitos (my favourite Spanish word – it’s a beach bar) and quaint villages.

Cabo de Palos

Cabos de Palos is a busy little fishing village where you can relax on the harbour with a glass of your favourite tipple watching the world go by. Boatfuls of divers come and go, families fish off the pier and fishing boats deliver their catch of the day to the very restaurants you’re eating in.

On Sundays there’s a fabulous market – my favourite market in the world. An early morning start makes it easy to get parking (this is one popular market) and gives you the chance to take a rejuvenating walk along the beach and over the cliffs, around the coastline as the sun slowly rises higher in the sky. There’s no better way to start the day.

La Manga: Cabo de Palos

Starting the day beachside at Cabo de Palos

The market sells an incredible array of fruit and vegetables – well, it would wouldn’t it – with so much grown locally. You can smell the peaches from 100 metres away, become the proud owner of a large bag of fresh garlic for €1 (seriously, €1 for about 8 bulbs) and sample tomatoes that taste of sweet sunshine.

La Manga: Cabos de Palos market

Cabos de Palos market is simply the best

And don’t forget to search out the other bargains, too. I’ve bought amazing shoes, shorts and dresses for such great prices.

Mar de Cristal

Mar de Cristal on the Mar Menor is another favourite destination – who couldn’t love a place called Sea of Crystal. This little town has a busy beach full of happy families, a lovely little chiringuito and a great beachside restaurant called Arena. It serves a wide variety of tasty local delicacies – including some of the best patatas bravas you’ll ever taste.

La Manga: Mar de Cristal

The view from my sunbed at Mar de Cristal’s chiringuito

La Manga: Bonobo

Beautifully crips patatas bravas with spicy sauce

Or there’s also the aforementioned sleeve with its wide expanse of sand, warm, inviting ocean and fabulous restaurants.

La Manga: The strip

While away hours on the beach along the La Manga Strip

The excursions

If you’d prefer to be guided on your explorations, the hotel offers different excursions every day. You could visit the unique Calblanque Park, get a culture fix in historic Cartagena, check out local markets and beaches or take to ocean for some snorkelling, sailing or kayaking.

If you don’t have a car for your stay the MangaBus is free and will take you anywhere on site on demand.

And finally, here’s an aerial shot of La Manga Club and its incredible surroundings. Now if that doesn’t look like paradise, I don’t know what does!

Principe Felipe: aerial shot

The stunning aerial shot of the resort

You can find out more about La Manga resort by clicking here.

Tasty seafood and stunning views at Gaaitje in Paternoster

The beach-side charm of Gaaitjie

Today we’re heading up South Africa’s West Coast to the charming seaside town of Paternoster at Cape Columbine. Known for its crayfish and white-washed fisherman’s cottages it’s a picture perfect little spot that appears in the distance as you come over that final hill. More about what to do in this beautiful place later. But first we are getting down to the important business of lunch. After our two-hour drive from Cape Town we were ready for some refreshment so we headed straight for the sea in search of Gaaitjie (which mysteriously means little hole in Afrikaans).

Gaaitje is quite simply the perfect restaurant for me. A basic white-washed fisherman’s cottage right on the beach serving food made using fresh local produce. And no holes in sight. Just expansive beach and ocean views.

Gaatijie: view

Welcome to Gaaitjie, beautiful in shades of blue and white

What’s on the menu

We settled in happily on the verandah with a bottle of Rose to peruse the menu which offered a lot of delicious fishy favourites. The local calamari came with charred corn, pickled red onion and garlic aioli. The prettiest of plates with calamari that literally melted in the mouth. Wow! Calamari will never taste like this again…

Gaaitjie: Calamari

Beautifully tender calamari with a slight crunch

My Saldanah Bay mussels were in a white wine broth with cumin and lime leaves, garlic and onions. I’ve eaten so many mussels in my time in Cape Town I’m thinking of writing a guide to mussel dishes around the peninsular! They are so tasty at this time of year and so versatile. Today’s choice came in a curry-style broth which I’ve never had with mussels before and it worked beautifully. I mopped up all those juices with our wonderful rosemary pot bread.

Gaaitjie: mussels

Plump mussels in a curry-flavoured broth

The special of the day was written up on the board as we walked in – Masala prawns. No need for Terry to look at the menu then, Indian flavours are his favourite. The prawns were enormous, juicy and beautifully spicy and served on the tastiest of savoury rice.

Gaaitjie: prawns

Giant masala prawns with savoury rice

To complement our meal these delightful little pot breads were delivered to our table piping hot from the oven. Soft and delicate, the fresh butter melted in creating little bites of heavenliness – all flavoured with fresh rosemary. It’s almost worth going to Gaaitjie just for the bread!

Gaaitjie: tin bread

Stunning little loaves of tin bread

The food at Gaaitjie is both simple and perfect. The best ingredients wonderfully cooked, a warm welcome and great service and those views! I want to go back there right now!

Gaaitjie: front

Gaaitje in its shades of blue

Gaaitjie: boat

The Gaaitje boat at the front of the restaurant

 

Gaaitjie: interior

Inside there’s a lovely beach-house feel

Today’s price point

Lunch for three which consisted of two starters, a main course and a bottle of Rose cost R565 (£34 at todays exchange rate).

As a general guide starters are around R80 (4.80) and main courses up to R200 (£12).

Gaaitje is off Sampson Street on the beach in Paternoster.

Where to stay in Mexico: Grand Velas Los Cabos

Loving life at Grand Velas Los Cabos

I’m still slightly reeling from my fabulous year of travel in 2017. I visited eight new countries, two new continents and completed my full house of seven continents visited when I set foot on magical Antarctica. What a trip that was, you can read more about it by clicking here.

And one of my new countries was fabulous Mexico. An overnight flight to Mexico City, a short hop to the little airport of Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsular and a drive through the cactus-lined desert and we arrived at the glorious Grand Velas Los Cabos.

This five-star all-inclusive resort overlooks the sparkle of the Sea of Cortez and has everything you could possibly want for a heavenly beachside escape.

Here’s what I loved about it.

The views

The hotel is designed so that no matter where you are there’s always a stunning azure sea view, punctuated by the blue sparkle of the pools, the greens and vibrant colours of tropical plants and palm trees and of course the perfect white sandy beach. What a combination!

Grand Velas: pool and sea

Views in different shades of blue

I even found myself up early in the morning (extremely early) watching the golden sunrise from my balcony and taking endless sea vista pictures. Views don’t get better than this for beach babies like me.

Grand Velas: balcony view

The stunning view from my balcony

The beach

The beautiful white sand was perfect for early morning meanders – especially as often I was the only person around. How I loved leaving the first footprints of the day in the sand.

Grand Velas: beach

The pool leads on to the quiet beach

And little cabana-style beds on the beach are the perfect place to chill and enjoy a cocktail or two.

Grand Velas: Beach beds

Chill out on your private beach bed

Grand Velas: Beach

My footprints on the beach early in the morning

The pools

There are plenty of beautiful lounging opportunities at the cleverly designed beachside infinity pools with their tempting, comfy beds. And of course the chance for an instantly refreshing dip any time of day.

Grand Velas: pool and sea

Escape to a land of blue sparkle

My personal concierge

Grand Velas Los Cabos is all-inclusive and that includes all food and drink and your own personal concierge. We swapped mobile numbers at check-in and I was instructed to text or call her if I wanted anything. Not that I ever needed to as she seemed to appear as if by magic every time I even thought about asking a question. These angels will make all your wishes come true, bring you food and drink anywhere on the resort, book spa sessions, print out boarding cards (and anything else you may need printed)…generally make sure you want for nothing. Superb.

The suites

The rooms are beautifully decorated in shades of blue and white with huge beds, a desk and seating area, great wifi and a large balcony with totally stunning sea views.

Grand Velas: Room

How I loved my beautiful, spacious room

The mini bar

And a mini bar…worth a mention on its own. Constantly restocked, it has a wide choice of liquor and soft drinks, tea and coffee making facilities (with a wide range of beautiful teas to choose from) and a stylish bottle of local tequila. Delicious it was, too!

Grand Velas: Mini bar

Happiness is…a fully stocked mini bar

The fabulous food

Grand Velas Los Cabos is culinary heaven. It has seven restaurants – yes seven, and eating at all of them is included. You’ll find Mexican, French and Italian cuisine as well as fabulous seafood and steaks. Cocina de Autor does an amazing tasting menu with some truly inventive dishes inspired by local ingredients. The presentation was a sight to behold and the flavours so beautiful. Plus we had the chance to try plenty of Mexican wine – a first for me. I’m now definitely a fan.

Grand Velas: Cocina de Autor

Delightfully exotic dishes at Cocina de Autor

Grand Velas: sole

Delightfully sweet sole in a delicate foam

If you can’t drag yourself out of your stunning suite you don’t have to! Of course you wouldn’t have to – Grand Velas Los Cabos is that sort of place. It’s like they have anticipated every wish you could have and are ready to make them all come true. The 24-hour in-suite dining menu offers so many choices. I couldn’t resist this beautiful tuna tartare served with guacamole, salsa and tortillas. Every fish dish I sampled was out of this world – and as for the guacamole. Mexican avos rock.Grand Velas: Room service

Room service for tartare and guacamole

The food by the pool is also fabulous. There really is something special about lying on a sun lounger looking at the ocean and tucking into a fabulous fresh ceviche while sipping a mango daiquiri. Really – does life get better than this?

Grand Velas: poolside food

More fresh tuna, this time at the pool

The breakfast spread in Azul is jaw dropping. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a bigger array – it’s seriously a three-course breakfast type of place. And with more spectacular views it’s the ideal way to start your day.

Grand Velas: Azul

Sunny breakfasts on the terrace at Azul

The spa and gym

After all that breakfast feasting it’s just as well there’s a superb gym. Large, packed with equipment and with blue views over the sea to keep you motivated to work off some calories so you’re prepared for your next foodie treat. And yes, I did use it.

Grand Velas: Gym

The view from the gym makes exercise more enjoyable.

There’s also what the hotel describes as a lavish Water Ceremony. It’s basically the biggest jacuzzi I’ve ever seen with plenty of clever ways to massage different parts of your body and loungers to relax on if it all gets too much for you!

Grand Velas: Spa

The best jacuzzi in the world in the stunning spa

And the spa is like paradise within heaven. We had amazing massages and lay back afterwards with warm pillows and the softest of throws. Boy was it difficult to get up off that bed.

The sunsets and sunrises

How I love a good sunset (or rise), though being more of a nighttime sort of person I don’t see many of the rises. However at Grand Velas Los Cabos I found myself awake and ready to witness the dawning of the day before my early-morning walk on what felt like my private beach.

Grand Velas: sunrise

The best sunrises and sunsets ever

The excursions

Grand Velas Los Cabos is halfway between the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Both lovely places to visit with trendy shops and boutiques, bars to try and lots of water-based activities to enjoy. We went sailing out into the blue, saw amazing jumping manta rays leaping all around us, plunged into the balmy waters for a swim and sipped myriad cocktails as we sailed into the wind. Tequila Sunrise anyone?

Grand Velas: Sailing

Sipping cocktails while sailing the ocean blue

Grand Velas: Arches of Cortez

The Arches of Cortez against the azure sky

The Spanish-ness

Okay here’s a different one. Of course I was aware that Spanish is the language of Mexico but I guess I hadn’t computed that it would remind me very much of Spain. And my love of Spain is well documented – I visit at every opportunity I get. So I immediately felt so at home in this beautiful Spain-like country on another continent. And fell in love with its people too.

I really, really loved the paradise that is Grand Velas Los Cabos. Here’s my happy, sun-kissed  selfie to prove it.

Grand Velas: Beach selfie

And of course…a beach selfie

I flew to Mexico with AeroMexico, direct from London to Mexico City with an easy connection to Cabos San Lucas.

Check out the website at grandvelas.com

Antarctica: a blue and white wonderland

So 2017 was an amazing year of travel for me when I explored eight new countries and two new continents. Which gave me a full set of continents visited when I landed on the wild and dazzling Antarctic peninsula. Serious lump-in-the-throat stuff.

We went on a never-to-be-forgotten cruise from the bottom of Argentina (Ushuaia) via the Falkland Islands and South Georgia to the Antarctic and back again through the infamous Drake Passage. You can read all about my time on the magnificent island of South Georgia by clicking here.

Antarctica isn’t owned by anyone – it’s a continent dedicated to peace and science. It’s uninhabited by humans, except for during the summer when there are a few stations where scientists stay while studying the wildlife and the changing shape of our planet.

When you say you’re going to Antarctica, the immediate reaction is: Ooh, polar bears. Although some of my friends did react with: Are you mad!? Wrong in both cases. The bears live up in the Arctic, rather we were heading for the land of penguins, seals, mountains, ice shelves and, most beautiful of all, myriad icebergs in different shades of blue.

Antarctica: icebergs

Icebergs come in many shapes and sizes; and many shades of blue

That first sight of an iceberg is impossible to capture, either in words or pictures, though obviously I’m trying. Who knew they’d be so beautiful? I was entranced by every one and took another million pictures, including way too many iceberg selfies. Like taking pictures of penguins, you just can’t help yourself.

Antarctica: chinstrap penguin

A dainty chinstrap penguin with a glacier in the distance

We had five onshore expeditions around Antarctica at Yankee Harbour, Deception Island, Cuverville, Paradise Bay and Port Charcot.

Communing with gentoos at Yankee Harbour

Yankee Harbour has a natural stone gravel spit that extends for about a kilometre and protects the harbour. We had our first sighting of chinstrap penguins – so cute and delicate. My love for penguins was growing by the day.

There was also several thousand pairs of gentoo penguins nesting and inspecting their latest visitors. These curious little creatures come right up to you without fear. I felt so in harmony with the natural world in this magical place.

Antarctica: Le Lyrical

The perfect combo of gentoos, ice and Le Lyrial

Antarctica: Chinstrap penguin

Chinstrap penguins having a little rest

Deception Island is out of this world

Next stop, Deception Island – by now it felt like we were on another planet! It’s one of the most famous islands of the South Shetland archipelago which was originally discovered by sealers in the 1820s.

The deception is in the fact that it has a doughnut-like shape, like someone’s taken a small bite out of the doughnut which forms a narrow entrance into the flooded caldera of what is an active volcano. The entrance is so narrow that many early visitors sailed straight past, unaware of what was waiting inside.

The volcano is still active which makes for the weirdest natural phenomenon I’ve ever witnessed. The day we went ashore it was cold and snowing and as we stepped off our little boats we noticed the steam rising from the water. The water was hot – in the snow! We wandered around this otherworldly place with its ramshackle buildings, graveyard and whirling snow. Such an incredible experience.

Antarctica: Deception Island

The graveyard in the snow of Deception Island

Going onshore was always incredible, and everywhere was different. And once we’d headed deeper into the icy blue world our boat journeys in the seas around our ship (which were always glass-calm) also become a highlight. All that ice with its unique beauty that we were so fortunate to get so close to. Now I know exactly what ice blue looks like – and I really do need the addition of garments in that exact shade to my wardrobe.

Antartica: icebergs

Our little Zodiac inflatable is dwarfed by an iceberg

Antarctica: Icebergs

The most beautiful iceberg in Antarctica

Playing in the snow and ice on Cuverville Island

Cuverville Island is at the northern end of the Errera Channel. By now it was getting icier and snowier – though not terribly cold – it was the middle of summer after all. Here we saw loads more breeding gentoos, perfectly at home in the snow and ice, protecting their eggs from the large and sometimes aggressive skuas (birds) homing in for a nice eggy dinner.

Antarctica: Le Lyrical

Gentoo penguins, icebergs and beautiful Le Lyrial

Antarctica: reflections

Snowy, crystal clear reflections

Antarctica: Ice

A Christmas-day expedition among the ice

Antarctica: Icebergs

Big ship, little boat in iceberg heaven

Antarctica: gents

Antarctica: Icebergs

A towering iceberg and its reflection

Antarctica: icebergs

And there’s even archway icebergs

Antarctica: Christmas

Christmas Day iceberg selfie

Antarctica: Leopard seal

A leopard seal chills out on his iceberg

Antarctica: Leopard seal

We got oh-so-close to the leopard seal

Antarctica: Paradise Bay

The snowy mountains of beautiful Paradise Bay

Antarctica: Iceberg

Another splendid iceberg

Antartica: my seventh continent

Cheers Antarctica: A toast to landing on my seventh continent

Antarctica: penguin highways

The gentoos follow their penguin highways

Our luxurious home from home – Le Lyrial

We cruised on the beautiful Le Lyrial on an Abercrombie & Kent expedition. On Christmas Day we were anchored in Port Charcot and after our expedition morning in the ice and endless Christmas hat iceberg selfies we came back on board to a Christmas Day BBQ lunch served on the deck of La Comete Restaurant (one of two onboard restaurants). I can’t imagine anyone had a more beautiful venue for their festive lunch.

Antartica: Christmas Day

The deck all ready for our Christmas Day lunch

Our time onboard Le Lyrial lasted 15 days and many of those were at sea. We travelled over 3,000 nautical miles with an expedition team of experts on every subject Antarctic-related. Every day at sea there were talks in the plush theatre so I learnt about all the explorers of the region, the birds, mammals, geology, well pretty much everything that there was to learn. I wish my brain was less full (by which I probably mean younger) and I could have retained it all! How I loved the passion and knowledge those people hold deep in their souls – I salute them all.

And then there was the food. Fabulous, diverse, gourmet, exciting…and never-ending. Every meal was an event, and all accompanied by amazing wines. There were also never-ending cocktails, gin and tonics and hot drinks after onshore expeditions. One of our new on-board friends Mike introduced me to hot chocolate with a dash of peppermint liqueur. So good I had three one day – only one day as I did feel a little over-indulged afterwards! The perfect Antarctic beverage.

Antarctica: Le Lyrical

The sparkling La Celeste where we enjoyed many a delicious dinner

Our staterooms were spectacular with large comfy beds, balconies with never-ending views, bathrooms stocked with never-ending Hermes products and 24 room service. Oh and a Nespresso  machine just in case you needed a quick caffeine hit.

Antartica: Le Lyrial

The luxurious bed and expansive views from the stateroom

The breakfast buffets in La Comete were the breakfasts of dreams. And we often had them on the deck (fully decked out in our cold-weather gear).

Antarctica: Le Lyrial

Bottomless bountiful breakfasts and buffets in LA Comete (Deck 6 aft)

The ship had special stabilisers so it could cope with the potentially rough crossings. Drake Passage is particularly notorious for its wild seas so we came prepared with a bagful of seasick tablets – we did take a few “Just in case”, but they were left largely untouched. In a perverse sort of way we were looking forward to seeing how we’d cope when the going got rough, but it never did. The biggest the swell we experienced was three metres and that made for really fun sailing. Also, the weather was very kind to us. The worst it got was on Deception Island, with lots of wind and some snow, but somehow that seemed so perfectly appropriate. The ship provides jackets, over trousers and boots to suit the conditions and of course you make sure to dress appropriately (something you are briefed in detail about). I was never cold or uncomfortable and did enjoy wearing my selection of newly-acquired hats!

What more can I say? The trip of a lifetime indeed! I’d never have believed as a child growing up on a farm in Zimbabwe that I’d get to visit all seven continents in my lifetime. And that I’d toast my landing on Antarctica with champagne on a small boat within touching distance of the magnificent icebergs. What a moment that was.

Antarctic v Arctic the differences

Antarctica is a continent surrounded by the ocean at the South Pole. The South Polar ice sheet covers 98% of the land. The mean annual temperature at the South Pole is -50C. Yes -50! It’s home to marine mammals (whales and seals) but there are no terrestrial mammals and there are less than 20 bird species. And most beautiful of all, it’s the land of penguins. I miss those penguins every day.

The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by continents at the North Pole. It has limited land ice. The mean annual temperature at the North Pole is -18C. It’s home to terrestrial mammals, including reindeer, wolf, musk ox, hare, lemming and fox as well as marine mammals (whales and seals). There are more than 100 bird species. And of course there are polar bears.

Find out more about this life-changing cruise to the land of penguins, seals, icebergs and peace by clicking here.

Travel: 24 hours in Brighton

Today we’re heading to Brighton at the seaside, less than an hour by train south of central London. I love train travel and this journey is almost too short, through picturesque quintessentially English countryside to the coast.

I visit whenever I have the chance, which really isn’t often enough. This time it was because my niece Maxine was visiting from Cape Town. Maxine sees a different side of Brighton to me through her dedication to her favourite YouTubers Zoella (Zoe Sugg) and her boyfriend Alfie Deyes who live locally. While I am clearly not their target market I did watch several vlogs with Maxine and can see their appeal.

They have certainly increased Brighton’s popularity among the international youth! And they do recommend places to go in Brighton which makes a good starting point as there are a bewildering amount of establishments to try. There are more restaurants per head in Brighton and Hove than in any other place in the UK with a ratio of one restaurant for every 250 people. There’s also one drinking establishment for every 320 people with over 1,400 licensed premises. See what I mean.

So here’s what we did in our (just over) 24 hours on a bright Autumn day (and night) in Brighton.

Wandered along Brighton Pier

I love the striking whiteness of the Pier which is 524 metres long, though it seems much longer. Some sort of optical illusion?  It was designed by Richard St George Moore and work on it began in November 1881. It finally opened in a grand ceremony on 28 May 1899. The Pier is now a Grade II Listed building that has more than three million visitors a year. It looks particularly sparkly at night – with 60,000 twinkling light bulbs.

The arcade buzzes with people playing games, there are thrill rides at the end and there’s a range of quirky shops. And it’s fast-food heaven – from fish and chips, sausages, hot dogs, burgers, milkshakes, crepes and of course ice cream – there’s plenty to tuck into. The chips are particularly good and it seemed appropriate to wander the pier snacking on piping hot chips wrapped in paper and doused in vinegar. Trust me, you need to do it.

Brighton: Pier

Exploring the pier on a sunny autumn day

The vibrant colours of the carousel looked stunning alongside the blues of sea and sky.

Brighton: Carousel

One of the many ways to keep entertained on the Pier

Enjoyed a beach-side beverage

Brighton Beach is a pebbly one so not so great for walking along. No problem, there’s a long promenade alongside the beach to get a good helping of bracing sea air and some endorphin-inducing exercise.

The arches along the beachfront have been developed into shops selling everything from the work of local artists, clothes, jewellery, and various souvenirs. And of course, food and drinks, from luxury seafood to ice cream. We were there on a beautifully sunny autumn day so ordered coffee from one of the cafes to take away and sipped it sitting on the beach with views across the sea to the pier.

Brighton: the beach

Spend time beach-side enjoying the view

Promenaded the length of the beach

I’m a big fan of a seaside promenade and there’s plenty to see along the four miles between Brighton Marina and Hove Lagoon. Of course there’s the pier and towards the other end of the beach you’ll find the delightfully colourful beach huts that the area is famous for. The huts are much sought after – well, having a place to shelter even in the middle of the English summer makes sense. There are a couple for sale if you have a spare £18,000!

Brighton: beach huts

Its worth walking down towards Hove for a view of the beach huts

You’ll see the Victorian influence in the architecture everywhere in Brighton. I particularly love the seaside bandstand which first opened in 1884. It hosts a variety of bands every Sunday through the summer and is also available for hire as a wedding or party venue. Even when it’s empty I swear you can almost hear the music playing!

Brighton: Bandstand

The beautifully intricate bandstand

Ate lunch at Red Roaster 

Situated at the bottom of St James Street in Kemptown, Red Roaster is a bright, plant-filled contemporary space with a tasty selection of breakfast/brunch dishes, sandwiches and salads – and they serve great coffee.

Brighton: Red Roaster

The trendy, brightness of Red Roaster

Brighton: Red Roaster

Red Roaster’s scrumptious chicken burger with curly fries

Brighton: Red Roaster

Drink up: the freshness of elderflower and mint

Tucked into a luxurious breakfast at The Breakfast Club

So here’s another reason for a long morning promenade. So you have the excuse to tuck into one of The Breakfast Club’s substantial brekkies. It’s their first venture outside of London, like all of them doesn’t take bookings and is extremely popular. The no-booking system is one of my pet hates – but as it happens we only had to wait about 10 minutes before being ushered to a table in this cool venue. The menu makes your mouth water, really – it’s taking breakfast to a different level.

I tucked into this delightful bowl of chorizo hash: chorizo, grilled peppers, mushrooms, caramelised onions and crushed potatoes all topped with a soft poached egg and served with a lemon and feta sauce. Yummy, yummy, yummy, it tasted as good as it sounded.

Brighton: Breakfast Club

And how’s this for the ultimate comfort food. Disco fries! Bacon, beer cheese, fried eggs, skin on chips, chimichurri and spring onions. Seems likely this dish was invented as a hangover cure – think I need to go back with a hangover and test it out.
Brighton: The Breakfast Club

Marvelled at the Royal Pavilion

The spectacular structure that is the Royal Pavilion does look somewhat out of place in modern Brighton. It was built as a pleasure palace by the sea for King George IV and is a mix of Regency grandeur and the style of India and China. It’s said the Germans didn’t bomb Brighton in World War II because Hitler wanted the Royal Pavillion as his seaside home. Can’t blame him – it certainly has wow factor.

Brighton: Royal Pavilion

The sight of the beautiful pavilion always amazes me

Visited doughnut heaven

Dum Dum Donutterie is a sight to behold. There’s a variety of doughnuts and cronuts (a cross between a croissant and a doughnut) beyond your imagination. Like the Galaxy cronut that’s made of butter croissant dough filled with blackberry and lemon butter cream and finished with a swirled fondant. The doughnut selection comes in standard and mini sizes and includes the delectable creme brûlée and chocolate creme options. Eating doughnuts will never be the same again.

Brighton: Dum Dum Donutterie

An array of doughnuts and cronuts to delight

Brighton: Dum Dum donutterie

Ready to go with a bag of tasty takeaways

Meandered through The Lanes

This famous area of the city comprises a collection of narrow lanes, creating a maze of alleyways and small, quirky shops. At first it all seems a bit bewildering but you soon pinpoint landmarks and realise they are simpler to negotiate than you thought. Like Choccywoccydoodah where you can marvel over the fabulously creative chocolate creations.

Brighton: Lanes

A must-visit destination for chocolate lovers

Sampled fabulous ice cream

Well, you can’t go to the seaside and not have some ice cream can you? No matter what the season. It’s no exaggeration to say there’s ice cream everywhere you look in Brighton. We picked Boho Gelateri for its hand-made Italian ice cream and over 20 flavours to choose from.

Brighton: Boho Gelateri

Ice cream is compulsory at the seaside

Indulged in a meaty dinner at The Coal Shed

For dinner we decided on elegant steak restaurant The Coal Shed. They describe themselves as “born from the love of cooking on fire”. Perfect. The focus on top-quality ingredients means dishes are kept simple and arrive bursting with flavour.

Brighton: The Coal Shed

The welcoming frontage of The Coal Shed

The space is contemporary, yet cosy and the menu easy to negotiate. The Black Angus steak burger was served with Bourbon relish, lettuce, pickles, tomato, onion and chunky beef dripping chips.

Brighton: The Coal Shed

The tastiest of burgers with beef dripping chips

I headed straight for a classic – sirloin steak with bearnaise sauce – one of my absolute favourite combinations. The tastiest of sirloins cooked to perfection and the creamiest of bearnaise. What more could you want?

Brighton: The Coal Shed

The perfect medium-rare sirloin with sweet baby potatoes

Brighton’s the sort of place I want to keep going back to. I love exploring on foot and it’s a great town to walk around – and a great town to sit around in too! All those bars and restaurants in such a relatively small area – mind boggling!

Where to stay

We stayed at the New Steine Hotel which is a five storey Georgian Townhouse in central Brighton, only a few minutes walk from the Brighton Pier and city centre. With its French influence and modern chic interior design, it is ideal for all travellers, families or business users alike, and boasts an award winning Sussex Breakfast using local produce, with full options for Vegan and Vegetarian. There are 20 rooms, from modest singles, to Deluxe Twins and Triples, with views over the New Steine Square and the sea.

Brighton: New Steine

The welcoming entrance to the hotel

Our ensuite twin room was very comfortable with modern British-themed decor (love a Union Jack), lovely crisp linen, tea-making facilities and a safe. All the essentials covered there.

Brighton: New Steine

Your comfortable home away from home

Find out more at newsteinehotel.com

Breakfast delights at La Bottega di Finestra in Prague

La Bottega di Finestra

Today we’re in Prague tucking into an energy-building brekkie before embarking on a walking tour of the city.

La Bottega is a  contemporary bistro and Italian deli with a dining area at the front where they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tasty goodies on shelves and in cases surround you: bread and authentic Italian pastries baked fresh daily, home made pasta and desserts and chocolates.

At the back of the shop you’ll find fresh meat and veg daily, a fabulous array of salami, ham and cheese. And an impressive wine selection.

The breakfast menu offers old favourites and some different dishes, too. Starting with an Italian-style omelette with Fontina cheese, served with crispy bacon.

La Bottega di Finestra: omelette

Cheese omelette and crispy bacon

I went for the delightful-sounding three minute eggs in the glass with clarified butter and chives. Sort of like buttery boiled eggs without the shell – a perfect light breakfast treat.

La Bottega di Finestra: eggs in a glass

Delicate and buttery: eggs in a glass

Scrambled eggs came wrapped in marinated salmon. A classic.

La Bottega di Finestra: scrambled egg

Classic scrambled egg and smoked salmon

Or for a healthier option how about the banana omelette served with fresh fruit and greek yogurt. Novel idea!

La Bottega di Finestra: Banana omelette

An omelette of banana with fruit and yogurt

The coffee is fantastic here. Fresh and professionally made and presented. There’s also a lovely range of fresh juices – I had beetroot – sorry for not taking a picture of it. It was tasty and beautifully pink.

La Bottega di Finestra: cappuccino

Cappuccino that looks and tastes wonderful

Fresh loaves of bread are displayed on the counter to tempt you.

La Bottega di Finestra: bread

Bread is freshly baked daily

There’s a also a range of salads waiting for the lunch-time rush.

La Bottega di Finestra: salads

An array of freshly made salads

And of course traditional Italian sweetness.

La Bottega di Finestra: cakes

Tempting sweet treats in many colours

The interior is bright and contemporary with plenty of space for viewing the displays of wonderful offer and floor-to-ceiling windows giving you a great outdoor perspective, too.

La Bottega di Finestra: interior

The stylish interior lined with goodies

We liked Bottega di Finestra so much that we went back the next day. Its excellent food, friendly welcoming service and mouth-watering deli displays made it too good to resist.

Today’s price point

La Bottega is great value.

Breakfast dishes ranged from around £4-£7. A latte cost just over £2.

La Bottega di Finestra is at Platnerska 11, 11000 Praha 1