If you take the crowds out of the equation, London is truly magical at Christmas. It sparkles, glitters and gleams with festive cheer from Winterville to Winter Wonderland. Christmas, Yuletide, Noël, call it what you… More
[veuillez défilez vers le bas pour la version française] Christmas is coming and already my festive socks are out, ‘Fairytale of New York’ has become the breakfast soundtrack and the first batch of mince pies has been baked. I love everything about Christmas: the twinkling fairy lights draped around trees; the scent of freshly-baked festive treats; mugs of hot apple juice; and the promise of snow. (Cambridge has already delivered on that last one. Woohoo!) When I was younger, I used to eat jam tarts while my parents tucked into mince pies; these days, I can’t get enough of these delicious little tartlets. (They’re also the subject of one of my favourite festive jokes: What creeps around the bakery at Christmas? Mince spies!) Once a meaty treat, the mince pie is now a buttery, sugary, citrusy morsel: a bite-sized crumbly shortcrust pastry case filled with a mixture of plump and juicy dried fruits.
Stretching from Prestatyn to Llandegla, the Clwydian Range is a chain of (fairly low) peaks that runs along the border of Denbighshire and Flintshire, in North Wales. Having grown up just across the border, it’s an area that will always hold a special place in my heart. Today, I’d like to take you on an armchair tour of Foel Fenlli, a peak which lives in the shadow of its neighbour, Moel Famau.
London is pillar-box red telephone boxes, black cabs and beefeaters. London is world-class museums, theatres and landmarks. London is, quite simply, a treasure trove for tourists. Over the years, I’ve come to know London rather well, though I’d never claim to know it like the back of my hand like the candidates on The Apprentice so often do. If I don’t have my nose in a book or a crossword, I’ll be scouring the pages of Time Out, keeping my eyes peeled for new things to do in the capital. Beyond the blinding lights of Piccadilly Circus, there’s a bounty of lesser-known gems, just waiting to be explored – and that’s where this series comes in. Just as I did for Paris, I’ll be using this series as a means of documenting some old favourites and newly-discovered gems in the Big Smoke.
I’ve spent more than half my life labouring over gendered nouns, weird and wonderful tenses (pluperfect subjunctive, I’m looking at you here) and obscure grammatical anomalies, but one piece of the language-learning jigsaw still (pun intended) puzzles me: fluency.
Once a maritime powerhouse, Pisa now owes its spot on the well-trodden tourist trail of Italy to something else entirely: an unnervingly wonky tower, which cheerfully photobombs every photo you’ll attempt to snap in the Piazza dei Miracoli. The Leaning Tower of Pisa may draw in hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, but there’s arguably more to this city than its famous tilting tower.
If Oxford is the City of Spires, then Lucca is the City of Towers. (Towers which, in my humble opinion, outshine the iconic Leaning Tower in neighbouring Pisa.) Having spent three days exploring the nooks and crannies of each of the Cinque Terre’s picturesque villages, we were keen to make the most of our time in Italy and, at Laurence’s colleague’s suggestion, decided to spend our final full day in Lucca. It was a hop, skip and a train ride away from Manarola, and we felt it was a day well spent.
If push came to shove, I’d say that the highlight of my trip to the Cinque Terre was the full day that we spent hiking from Manarola to Vernazza, via Volastra and Corniglia. The Cinque Terre is one of those places that looks spellbindingly beautiful whatever the weather, but when the sea glitters and the colourful façades glow in the sunshine, it’s truly other-worldly. Without further ado, let’s pick up where we left off: tracking down the starting point of the trail to Vernazza.