Sunday, 31 May 2015

Put a spring in your step

This pretty London mosaic door step sign always cheers me up. The White Hall Hotel, somewhat confusingly, is nowhere near Whitehall. It’s a Georgian townhouse hotel in Montague Street, Bloomsbury, and a very good place to stay.

Monday, 25 May 2015

North Euston (plus a secret in a shed)

Users of London Euston station might be surprised to hear that there is a North Euston too – 250 miles away.

North Euston is in Fleetwood, Lancashire. A friendly place with an interesting story, Fleetwood was the first Victorian planned town. It was designed by Decimus Burton (so named because he was the 10th child) for Peter Hesketh, an MP and estate owner with big ideas.

Hesketh saw that Fleetwood could make a successful port and a holiday resort for working families, and set about making his vision a reality. At the time, there was no rail link between London and Scotland, so he put his energies into creating a rail link to Fleetwood from Preston, enabling passengers to make the final leg of the journey by sea from Fleetwood. Fleetwood’s first buildings were started in 1836, along with its railway, and the North Euston Hotel, facing the waterfront, was built in 1841.

Queen Victoria used the rail link in 1847. To welcome her, the council lit all the gas lamps, but they ran out of gas before the Queen arrived. Hesketh’s dreams of commercial success were ruined a few years later when the rail link from London to Scotland was built over Shap Fell (an engineering feat that had been considered impossible), making Fleetwood’s role of transport terminus redundant.

The oldest building in town is the Fleetwood Museum, which has also been a custom house, town hall and hotel. With lovely staff, great cake and a secret in a shed (I’m not spoiling it for you – you need to go and discover it for yourself), the museum is worth a visit; follow it up with a gusty walk on Fleetwood’s seafront and remember the pioneering Victorian with the big idea.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The middle way

When in London, have the courage to veer off the main streets and into the little alleyways and narrow lanes. You’ll be rewarded with some of the more interesting sights of the city.

Middle Temple Lane is just off the Strand, where it meets Fleet Street. It is one of London’s four inns of court. Nip down here and you feel you’re in a different century. It was the home of the Knights Templar, those medieval crusaders. Set up as hostels and schools for lawyers in the 13th century, Middle Temple now houses barristers’ offices (or chambers). Worth a visit for its picturesque cobbled lanes, gardens and church.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

No tractors on weekdays

Welcome to Reykjavik. Cool, happy and peaceful, Reykjavik will only tolerate tractors on its main road outside of rush hour, thank you. The ring road around Iceland connects all its main inhabited areas. It was completed in 1974 – before that, going by sea was the way to reach other parts of the island.