Category: Travel Writing

The best hotels in Liverpool to see the Giants

Image: istock

My latest article for Independent Travel is a guide to the best hotels in Liverpool.

It’s a timely piece to plan a visit to the area for the forthcoming Liverpool Dreams event, the street performance by French giant-puppet troupe Royal de Luxe over the weekend of October 4-7.

Featuring the likes of the Hope Street Hotel and 2 Blackburn Terrace, here’s a preview:

The city on the Mersey is celebrating 10 years since its successful tenure as the European Capital of Culture and has continued to boom since. Based in the Northwest, I’ve seen Liverpool’s fortunes ebb and flow with the tides of the Mersey estuary. Today, it’s a vibrant city with a strong cultural scene and a hedonistic nightlife. But it also has a rich heritage of classical architecture, notably the Unesco World Heritage-listed sweep of the waterfront.

Read the whole story, Liverpool hotels: 10 of the best places to stay.

And plan your Giants itinerary here.

How a nostalgic return to Paris made my summer special

It looks like an innocuous apartment building.

It is in many ways but, to me, that faded-green front door represents far more.

Welcome to 60 Rue Letellier [pictured above], located near Place Cambronne in Paris.

This was my home from September 1992 for one year as part of my study-abroad placement via Leeds University.

It was a year in which I really learnt to speak French, discovered the joie-de-vivre of Les Inrockuptibles and embarked upon a lifelong quest for the perfect Couscous Royale.

And no 60 was the epicentre of all the madness — a tiny, second-floor apartment just a few minutes from the green Metro line to Montparnasse.

Prodigal return

I stood outside that green front door again this summer.

It was 25 years since my last visit and I was back in Paris on a Monet assignment for France magazine. I’d stopped off for a nostalgia trip en route from seeing the Water Lilies at L’Orangerie.

There were so many memories forged in that flat, accompanied by a soundtrack of Screamadelica and a diet of Pelforth Brune.

But one of the most memorable was the bar opposite, where Salar and Messaoud ran a ramshackle café-bar on an Algerian motif.

It was the place to start every big night out and to put the world to rights with a mix of English-abroad innocence and undergraduate change-the-world confidence befitting our formative ages.

It was as much of my Paris experience as the Eiffel Tower and Musée Rodin.

The bar had long since gone, of course but, I stop there, a waiter in the now pizza restaurant told me he still remembered Messaoud.

“It didn’t end well,” he frowned. “People say he ended up living in the Metro.”

Moving on

A lot has changed in those 25 intervening years. But standing back on Rue Letelier brought me a sense of peace.

Afterwards I headed to Place Cambronne and had lunch at a pavement cafe, sitting alone with a plat du jour and a glass of rosé in the sunshine. The square was as lively as ever.

It was the defining moment of my summer.

Older but maybe also wiser. I may not the same person who lived in that little apartment. But I’m not that different either.

I’ve still got that Screamadelica CD and still love a good Couscous Royale.

And, by going back, I’m all the more ready to move forward.

How To Spend A Family Day Out At Tatton Park Cheshire

Stuck for a family day out this summer holiday?

Here’s a suggestion based on my latest article for The Guardian and centred around my home patch of Cheshire — well, East Cheshire but it’s near enough.

It centred on a new attraction for the summer holidays at Tatton Park. The Farm [pictured above] is designed to introduce kids to the idea of provenance.

Here’s a preview:

The dramatic highlight is a visit to The Slaughterhouse where the opening salvo is a projected image of a pig hanging upside down from a winch.

It’s a Horrible Histories-style audio explanation of slaughter process, explaining how parts of the animals are used for different products and the importance of good animal husbandry.

Morrissey fans look away now.

Read the whole article: The Farm at Tatton Park, Cheshire, review

The amazing story of the Normandy artist behind the Water-Lilies

Just back home.

I spent last week on the Monet trail In Normandy, exploring sites associated with the father of the Impressionist art movement.

It was scorching hot and peak-season chaos but I could still get a sense of the delicious tranquility of Monet’s garden at Giverny [pictured above].

And, by visiting places in the Seine Valley between Paris and Rouen, I could also get a sense of the man behind the movement.

Best of all, a visit to the Musée d’Orangerie offered me a chance to get up close with his master opus, the Water-Lilies cycle — les Nympheas in French.

The article is for the November issue of France Magazine but, meanwhile, here’s a taster.

To get up close to the Water-Lilies requires a visit to Musée de L’Orangerie, tucked into the corner of the Tuileries Garden in Paris.

The eight compositions, moving from dawn to sunset across two light-filed rooms, form the striking centrepiece of the overall exhibition.

In the words of Monet himself, it was created to give “… the illusion of an endless whole, of a wave with no horizon and no shore”.