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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Stonehenge


Go to Stonehenge in the winter. There will be fewer visitors and if the weather is miserable, cold or even snowy, you will enjoy the atmosphere of the place so much more than on a hot summer's day with half a million tourists and their coaches getting in the way. Last time I visited you couldn't get very close to the stones - understandable given the numbers there - but years ago, before the tourist boom, I was able to walk amongst these monoliths and touch them. They've been there for 4000 years and when you see them you can't help but wonder why and how they got there.
While you're in the area, go to Avebury as well - you can walk amongst the stones there.

There are many books about Stonehenge - follow this link to browse and buy one (or two). To see more old postcard of the stones, click here.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Blackpool, Lancashire


Vulgar, brassy and quite superb ! If you ever get the chance, go there ! A great sea-front full of shops and amusements, a wonderful amusement park, piers and of course Blackpool Tower and the Ballroom. And then there's the beach. At low tide the sands are vast, loads of room no mattter how many visitors on a hot August day. Plenty of fish and chip shops, pubs and every fast food chain in the universe. Add in a plethora of hotels and boarding houses and there's everything you want. Oh and of course there are the trams which run along the front and up to Fleetwood - and in October the whole place is lit up with fantastic lighting - a bit overrated I always thought but people go there in droves to see it. No date for the postcard, but look at the crowds on the beach !

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Brighton, Sussex


This is England's premier seaside resort, situated on the south coast, just an hour's train-ride from London. Brighton is first and foremost a lot of fun. There is plenty to amuse the visitor with a world-class aquarium right on the sea-front, a super pier (the Palace Pier - the West Pier burned down a few years ago but is scheduled to be rebuilt I believe), some excellent fish and chips, loads of cafes and restaurants, and plenty of pubs where you can drink to your heart's content. The beach is a bit pebbly except at low tide when there is plenty of sand, the swimming is good and there are lots of dirty postcard shops - at least there were when I was last there. The shopping is as you would expect from a large town which gets a lot of visitors, but in addition there are the Lanes, a maze of small alleys which contain antique and other shops, and restaurants too. And there's always the Royal Pavilion to visit should this take your fancy. There is a miniature railway along the east part of the sea-front on which you can ride for a mile or so to Black Rock. Brighton is almost as much fun in the depths of winter, although of course not so lively and with many places closed down for the season. Nevertheless there is always something to keep you amused, so go there and have a good time !
The postcard, which shows the Aquarium and the Palace Pier, was mailed in 1909.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Richmond-on-Thames, Surrey



Another place I lived for a while, in the early 1960s. Richmond hasn't changed much in the intervening years, and is a great place to live, if you can afford it, and to visit. It's a south-west London town now, in its own London Borough, on the Thames in a beautiful and historic setting, surrounded by parks and open spaces. It has an excellent rail service to Waterloo, as well as being on the District Line, some good shops and a great theatre. Richmond Green - where we used to have a flat - is in the centre of the town, with a couple of good pubs where you can get a pint and drink it on the Green in the summer. There are plenty of restaurants and some nice little alleys with a mixture of independent shops you can poke around to your heart's content, and of course the river, with pubs, boats for hire and plenty of good walks. Kew Gardens is a short stroll or bus ride away, and nearby Richmond Park is a huge open space with herds of deer. Old Deer Park is the town's sporting venue. We'd love to live in Richmond - does anyone have half a million quid to spare ???

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Nice, Cote d'Azur


Nice has become our favourite holiday resort over the years. It is a bustling city, always full of life (well in the summer when we've been there, but probably less so in the winter). It lies on the Baie des Anges which is a long sweeping bay with Nice Airport at its western-most end. So when you arrive, it's only a short taxi or bus ride to the city centre. The famous Promenade des Anglais (great for cycling !) runs almost the entire length of the bay, and contains the city's best hotels, notably the Negresco (outside which Isadora Duncan met her tragic end), and some which ought to be very good but are not ! The beach has one disadvantage - the pebbles - so if you have delicate feet buy yourself some plastic shoes from one of the many shops selling beach paraphernalia. The Mediterranean is beautiful, a lovely azure blue - hence Cote d'Azur - and pleasantly warm. Many of the hotels have their own private stretch of beach where, for a few euros a day, you can sunbathe in the lap of luxury and be waited on hand and foot - try the Beau Rivage Hotel Beach, excellent food ! You should also visit the Cours Saleya, which is basically a market area, close to the seafront, with lots of restaurants. You can dine outdoors in a very pleasant atmosphere and then poke round the shops and stalls after. During the day there are various markets, depending on the day of the week - antiques, flowers, fruit and veg etc. Then walk into Old Nice (Vieux Nice) and make your way along this maze of streets, full of shops and cafes - and if you are bold enough, try a tomato and basil ice-cream !
Plenty of other parts of the town to visit too - the main shopping street, Avenue Jean Medecin, with its comparatively new shopping centre, Nice Etoile, and a Galeries Lafayette; another restaurant area on the Rue Massena, which has some slightly classier restaurants than the Cours Saleya; the Russian Cathedral; the Opera - and a lot more.
Go to Nice if you get the chance and enjoy it! (The postcard is from the 1920s)

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Venice


Wherever else you want to go, forget it and go to Venice. OK it can be cold and wet, and the place can flood, or it can be unbearably hot and smelly, but it is still one of the greatest places to visit and stay a while. There are museums and galleries galore, concerts, plays, plenty of restaurants, no traffic and above all a great atmosphere. And take your camera - every street, every canal, every square and every building is a photo opportunity. Do the touristy things, take a gondola ride, sit in St Mark's Square - and then walk round and see what else you can find. Contrary to popular belief you don't have to take a boat everywhere, you can walk round all day if you want. So do your level best to go there !

Monday, 8 December 2008

Moscow


My only visit to Moscow was in 1986, just for a weekend. This was of course in the communist days and the city must have changed dramatically since then. It was fascinating - the buildings, the people, the general atmosphere all so different from the west, and no doubt some of that will have changed too by now. The metro system was amazing, a labyrinth of tunnels and passages, all so clean and uncluttered. Red Square had a cathedral-like atmosphere with hushed crowds lining up to see Lenin's tomb. The shops on what was then Gorky Street were beautiful, even palatial, with marble interiors but few items for sale. The people were very friendly, they wanted to chat to us but often seemed afraid to do so openly. Go there, you'll love it !
The postcard is of the Bolshoi Theatre.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Oxford


Oxford has so much to see that it's difficult to know just what to write. It is of course a university city with many of the colleges right in the middle of the city. The mixture of old and new buildings, some excellent shopping, myriads of pubs and restaurants, students and visitors creates a great atmosphere, all in a comparatively small area, yet if you want to escape from the hustle and bustle it's only a short stroll to peaceful meadows and the river.

We recommend two interesting old pubs, the "Eagle and Child" on St Giles (where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to meet and drink), and the "White Horse" on Broad Street (opposite the Sheldonian, between the two entrances to Blackwell's). Both serve a good pint and acceptable pub grub.

Parking in the city centre is not easy, but there are I think at least three Park and Rides on the outskirts and a good bus service from them to the city centre, so use them !

Do some research before you go so that you see what you want to see - and enjoy your visit ! If you have the opportunity to go there, take it !!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England


OK I'm biased ! Stratford-upon-Avon is my home town - I was born, bred and educated here, and I love the place, even though (or perhaps, because !) I moved away many years ago. It is of course the town where Shakespeare was born, it has a lovely theatre in a delightful setting and contains some beautiful old buildings. As a result, the town receives thousands of visitors every year, which will no doubt dissuade some from visiting. But go there anyway. In the summer the river, the Bancroft Gardens and the Rec are beautiful. Go for a boat ride, stroll by the river and the theatre. Walk round the town - it's not that big - poke round the shops, have a pint in one of the many pubs. Lots to do, lots to see - a great place to visit, and to live !
The postcard - which can be seen on our website at this link - dates from the late 1930s.