I joined a real-ale-themed tour of North Wales recently for Guardian Travel.
It was a trip around the hidden-gem rural pubs and microbreweries [pictured above] often overlooked by the stampede down the A55 towards Anglesey.
Based around Caernarfon, it highlighted the rise of community pubs at a time when our traditional village hostelries are struggling to survive.
There has been an explosion of local microbreweries and craft-ale pubs in recent years with The Albion Ale House in Conwy one of my favourites.
Here’s a preview of the article.
As the afternoon gave way to dusk, I was nursing a pint of Clogwyn Gold from the Conwy Brewery at The George in Carneddi, near Bangor, currently the Gwynedd a Mon branch of CAMRA’s Community Pub of the Year.
It was a tiny, no-frills bar with cheese rolls on the bar, beers stains on the carpet and a queue of people for the pool table but, an early Saturday evening in spring, it was bustling with a mix of regulars and ale-trail day trippers.
Landlord Dewi Sion says: “I still believe that serving a proper pint of local ale in a proper pub can create a place where a community comes together.”
A return trip to France before Easter, then, with an assignment in the Champagne-Ardenees region.
I was in Troyes [pictured above] for France Magazine, exploring the medieval city on foot to uncover the hidden courtyards, historic buildings and lesser-known church cloisters.
That and sampling some of the local bubbles, of course.
Here’s a flavour of the article:
Troyes gets a lower billing in the Champagne region these days with Reims and Epernay better know as homes to the global-brand champagne houses. But it was Troyes that dominated the region during the Middle Ages with wealthy local landowners, the Counts of Champagne, putting the city on the map as a centre of commerce. The medieval fairs from the 11-13th century brought Troyes wealth and status as a crossroads for trade.
It was 50 years ago today. Well, this year anyway.
I spent yesterday in Liverpool finding out about events to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the album Abbey Road, the recording sessions for which were the last in which all four members of the Beatles participated.
The front cover image of Abbey Road, taken in August 1969 on the zebra crossing near the entrance to the London recording studios, is one of the most copied images in popular culture.
A new mural by the street artist Paul Curtis on a wall in Liverpool’s modern-day Baltic Triangle is currently the city’s favourite photo opportunity.
I visited the new Magical Beatles Museum, The Cavern and caught the Double Fantasy exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool.
I also had a behind-the-scenes preview of the August re-opening of Strawberry Field, the former Salvation Army children’s home, which was made famous in 1967 Beatles song.
The famous red gates [pictured above] will be open again for a new generation of dreamers looking for a place where:
“Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.”
Look out for the full story in the June-July issue of Discover Britain magazine.
Today was the opening day at Chester: A Life Story [pictured above], the new heritage attraction in Chester.
I was there early this morning for an exclusive preview of the exhibition, researching an article for The Guardian in the family travel section.
Here’s the recent news item I wrote for the Cheshire Ultimate Guide by way of a preview of the story to come.
A new family visitor attraction has opened in Chester to celebrate the city’s rich social history in time for this year’s Chester Heritage Festival.
Chester: A Life Story puts the emphasis on the often-overlooked stories of ordinary people, using multi-sensory interpretation to highlight the folk who have shaped Cheshire over the past 2,000 years.
Including sections on crime and punishment, and health and medicine, it traces human stories from Roman Chester to the present day via the Middle Ages, aiming to put the story of Chester into a global context.
The heritage attraction is based at St Michael’s Church on Bridge Street, Chester, and managed by Big Heritage, the company that also runs Western Approaches, the wartime secret bunker in Liverpool.
The Chester Heritage Festival runs June 21-29 this year with events around the city.