Category: Journalism

How a Liverpool children’s home inspired a Beatles classic

Strawberry Field, the childhood refuge of John Lennon, re-opened to the public last weekend.

I attended a preview a few days before, writing an article for iTravel.

Here’s a preview of my feature:

The former Salvation Army children’s home, made famous in the 1967 Beatles song, has re-opened with a new permanent exhibition about Lennon’s early life [pictured above], a community garden and café.

The young Lennon would often play in the garden after he moved to live nearby with his aunt Mimi when his mother started a new relationship.

He would meet Paul McCartney at a local church fete in the late Fifties.

But Strawberry Field remained, as Lennon later expressed in the song’s lyrics, a place where, “Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about”.

“John always said Strawberry Field was his favourite song and he referred to it as his psychoanalytic poem,” says Julia Baird, Lennon’s younger, half-sister and the Honorary President of the Strawberry Field project.

Read the full story in iTravel here.

How to visit the most historic harvest festival in North Wales

North Wales today hosts the annual Conwy Honey Fair, a historic harvest festival dating back to the reign of King Edward I.

I was in Conwy last week to preview the event and find out more about the walled city with its Unesco-listed castle.

I also visited the National Beekeeping Centre of Wales [pictured above].

Here’s a sample of my story:

The Fair dates back more than 700 years to the reign of Edward I when local beekeepers were given the right to sell honey, without charge, within the walls of the town for one day only.

Harvest festivals were always part of the church calendar but the right to hold the Honey Fair was formally decreed by the King in the town’s 13th-century Royal Charter.

“It’s an event frozen in time,” says event organiser Peter McFadden, “and still generates a huge sense of community.”

The town also hosts the Gwledd Conwy Feast, a weekend food festival with street food, show-cooking displays and live music from October 25-27.

Read the full article in Telegraph Travel, Is this Britain’s sweetest town?

Five great reasons why Montpellier is the best city break this summer

I’ve got form with Montpellier, where I spent an early summer visit on assignment for a couple of publications.

I remembered it from student days as my favourite French city, but then had a mixed experience on a more recent visit.

I was back in early July on a group press trip with tourism officials for the opening of the city’s new contemporary art museum, MOCO.

The city has certainly grown, expanding into new districts towards the beach and bustling with language-exchange students.

I still love the Old Town with its cobblestone backstreets and labyrinthine passageways. But I was less grabbed by some of the modernist architecture of somewhat soulless outer districts.

Here’s a taster of my story:

The opening of the art museum, Montpellier Contemporary (MOCO) is the latest development in a city embracing art. There was always a flirtation with street art and a regular summer arts festival but MOCO has really put the city on the map as a hub for all things conceptual.

I finally feel like I’ve got a better sense of what makes Montpellier tick.

Just in time to recommend some places to visit, such as the new Marché du Lez [pictured above], to my daughter, who is due to visit on a school exchange next Easter.

Read my Rough Guide feature.

Read the Independent Travel article.

How to celebrate 100 years of afternoon teas at Bettys Cafe Tea Room, York

To York on the hottest day of the year for a magazine assignment for Immediate Media.

It was a special birthday party.

This year marks 100 years of Bettys Tea Room Cafe, a Yorkshire institution for its afternoon teas with a frisson of Swiss style.

Plus the fact it has done away with its possessive apostrophe.

The Swiss baker, Frederick Belmont, first founded the company in 1919, creating a niche in Yorkshire for high-quality cakes and pastries, served the old-fashioned way.

Today, the third generation of the family runs the business with two Bettys in York, including the Art Deco-style café at St Helen’s Square, plus the first café in Harrogate.

The company is hosting a series of events, and offering special souvenirs, as part of the year-long centenary celebration.

A recreation of one of Frederick’s famous cakes currently takes pride of place in Bettys front window [pictured above].

But the must–try treat is a Yorkshire Fat Rascal, Betty’s signature fruit scone, served warm with a pot of Taylors tea.

I combined afternoon tea with a visit to York Minster and stroll around the walls, the resulting city-break guide to York due out this winter — watch this space.

More: Visit York