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.”
I finished March with a big commission – that’s why it’s taking me so long to catch up with site updates.
Myself and another Daily Telegraph writer spent a long weekend on the Isle of Man with a few to producing a series of articles for both print and online to showcase aspects of the island’s tourism offer for this year.
My brief was to cover three key areas: heritage, family travel and food.
It was a packed few days of steam trains and country roads, seafood and local ales, sea views and country escapes.
I felt by the end of the trip I had finally got to understand more of the island and its low-key charms after a previous visit left me unconvinced.
Best of all, I had the opportunity to meet local of interesting local characters, including Will and Charlotte from the Apple Orphanage [pictured above] outside Peel.
The passion and dedication of these local food heroes, and many more like them, proved to me that there’s a quiet foodie revolution taking place on the island.
* I’ve been away in Rotterdam for my first assignment of the year. I’ll be posting some personal asides from the commissions during these trips. This is the first.
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I met an old friend again last week.
It’s been a few years since I was last in Rotterdam but they hadn’t aged a day.
Dudok, my favourite Rotterdam café, is buzzing with the gentle hum of chatter and the delicate clink of coffee cups – even at 4pm on a wintery Monday.
Located in the central-north Laurenskwartier, Dudok is named after the architect Willem Dudok, who designed the imposing building with its Art Deco-style facade [pictured above].
Inside, three giant photos of local businesses and a cast-iron, retro clock above the door dominate the high-ceilinged room.
I pull up a chair at the central reading table and peruse the rack of magazines, choosing between an Arcade Fire interview in Oor magazine and Trent Reznor on Johnny Cash in the latest copy of Electronic Beats.
Across the way, a group of ladies at leisure are tucking into the high tea of sandwiches and patisserie.
Nearer me, several bearded, intellectual types are stroking their chins while pouring over the politics sections of the daily newspapers.
At the other end of the reading table, a multiple-pierced student looks to be finishing her college assignment while riding the free Wi-Fi.
As dark clouds gather outside over the tram-lined boulevards, I happily work my way along the shelf of Euro pop-culture magazines over cups of milky coffee.
But, also, I love the traditional Dutch apple pie, served warm with cinnamon ice cream. The mix of crumbly pastry and soft filling, tinged with cinnamon and spiced with plump raisons, is as classy as I remember it.
The food even comes with a little edible label: “Dudok original.”
For a traveller alone in the city, Dudok feels like home.
Do you have a favourite bolt hole in Rotterdam? Or can you recommend another place-visit place in Holland? Post below.