Another Chelsea Morning – With Apologies to Joni Mitchell

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning and the first thing that I saw…

…was a pair of well dressed ladies in red and pink silk and chiffon day dresses worn with stilletto heels and architecturally impossible hats.  Helped by a gent in full formal morning suit, tails and dove grey vest, they are moving folding chairs, a portable lawn marquee and a box with his top hat from a blue Maserati Ghibli to a Porsche Cayenne hatchback.

They disappear around a corner.

Next comes a supermarket delivery van, double parking as normal to drop off someone’s groceries.                                                                               And behind it, a Kensington & Chelsea Enforcement vehicle – aka a big, flatbed tow truck. The driver of the tow truck must be hung over because he thinks he can pass the double parked delivery van with its big, sticky-out wing mirror.

Something’s gotta give.

Re-enter the well dressed party of three, bearing square, blue chiller bags from Carluccio’s Al Fresco and heading for the Porsche Cayenne.

Just in time to see it taken out – as well as the Maserati and the sticky-out wing mirror -by the K&C tow truck. So much for their Closing Day at Royal Ascot outing. Might as well comfort yourselves with the champagne now.

And, from the likely insurance bill, so much for the tow truck driver’s job too.

Just another Chelsea morning, folks.

Read guest reviews and find a boutique hotel in Kensington and Chelsea on TripAdvisor.

 

 

A Café for Windsor Castle at Last!

Windsor Undercroft
The 14th-century Undercroft at Windsor Castle will be developed into a visitor cafe as part of the £37 million Future Programme developments at Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House. Royal Collection Trust / (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

April 5, 2016 – The Royal Collection Trust, the charity that makes the UK’s Royal Palaces available to the public, has just announced it will spend £37 million in the next two years on improvements to Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh. The plan, rather unimaginatively to be known as  Future Programme, will:

  • add more welcoming entrances and learning centers to the palaces,
  • open up previously unseen and private areas of Windsor Castle,
  • create themed pathways through the castle and palace, offering visitors more choice and
  • create the first ever café for visitors in Windsor Castle….Hallellujah!

If I seem overly excited about the prospect of a café in the stony Undercroft of the castle, pictured above, it’s because it is about time this long overdue and much needed facility was added.

Starve, Die of Thirst or Just Leave

Windsor Castle is huge and fascinating; the sort of place most people can easily spend a whole day visiting. Unfortunately, it has never had any place to take a break, to relax, to look over your  brochures or your pictures and to fuel up for your next foray into a gallery, exhibition or series of fabulous rooms.

The most the Queen ever offered members of the public was the chance to buy a bottle of water and, in winter, to stand outdoors on the windy castle hill to drink it.  The alternative was to leave the castle at lunch time, try to find something besides a Big Mac in the unpromising retail precincts of Windsor town, and then return to the castle to continue your visit – permitted with your ticket but inconvenient and unrewarding.  So the prospect of a casual café by 2018 is very encouraging.

Appropriately, the Undercroft, where the new cafe will be located, was used for centuries as the refectory where the royal household staff took meals. We hope there will also be some space for families and groups to bring their own packed lunches.

Works Getting Underway

Designs for Future Programme are getting underway now and construction is set to begin in 2017 with completion planned for 2018. Windsor Castle and Holyrood  will both remain open to the public as normal during the works. Financing for the £37 million project is coming from admissions to the castles, palaces and houses in The Royal Collection as well as associated retail sales.

Book a Windsor, Bath and Stonehenge Tour with Rail Europe

Find out More About Visiting Windsor at About.com United Kingdom Travel:

Windsor Castle under a moody sky.
Photo by Craig ccl

 

Short Breaks in UK Landmarks

My Latest for About.com United Kingdom Travel

© Ferne Arfin
© Ferne Arfin

Step Across a Threshold into The Past

 Step across a threshold into the past. Don’t just imagine staying in a medieval house; rent a quirky, restored landmark from the Landmark Trust.

Imagine a getaway in a historic landmark that’s all yours for a few fantastic days. You might spend a while living like a medieval knight – the steward for a local nobleman, perhaps. You could host family and friends at your grand country house in the Regency/Georgian style. Or maybe you’d fancy locking yourself away in a solid fortress by the sea while outside the waves crash and seabirds call.

The Landmark Trust, a charity that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, gambled that a lot of people would like to take their fantasy vision of historic Britain literally by staying in a lovingly restored and domestically scaled piece of it.

Since their foundation, they’ve acquired and restored manor houses, castles, follies, towers, forts and cottages – just under 200 in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands …

Read more at About.com

London’t Top 5 Shopping Spots for Christmas

My Latest for the Heathrow Express

London’s Top 5 Shopping Spots for Christmas

  • 12 Nov 2015
  • Things to do in London

Each month we ask a London expert to give us their Top 5 for the best in the capital’s shopping, dining, nightlife and more. With the holiday season fast approaching we asked travel journalist and inveterate shophound Ferne Arfin to pick her favourite shops for gift inspiration.

1. Boxpark

Shopping - Boxpark 448x250

What’s it like? Forget pop-up shops. Shoreditch claims the world’s first pop-up mall, set up in a double layer of recycled shipping containers. About 30 compact shops and 15 food and drink outlets occupy the site, each decorated to enhance its tightly curated merchandise and target “tribe” – from a minimalist outlet selling nothing but hip wrist watches to a fragrant branch of a Parisian perfumer where you can drop £50 on a single scented candle. Dip into one mini-shop after another for moderately priced one-offs from international designer start-ups, jewels, kitchenwear, clothing and trendy street style.

Who to shop for? All the Gen Z’ers and Post Millennials on your list

Why I love it: It’s bursting with energy and after shopping, the urban views from the bars and cafes on the upper level are smashing.

How to find it: 2-10 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6GY. 020 7033 2899

READ MORE At Heathrow Express Travel

German, Victorian or Dickensian – The UK’s Best Christmas Markets

My latest article on About.com United Kingdom Travel

As November and December nights draw in, the best Christmas markets spring up all over the UK. Think flickering candlelight, the smell of evergreens, the aroma of holiday goodies.

Glowing market booths and stalls fill to bursting with tempting, exotic goods. Visit one of these for original gifts, delicious foods, mulled wine and entertainment.

Check out 18 of the best holiday markets all over Britain.

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market

Birmingham stages one of the biggest and longest German Christmas Markets outside of Germany. The West Midlands city is twinned with Frankfurt, and the Frankfurt traders go all out to bring real German gemütlichkeit to Britain. It spreads across most of the city’s important squares and continues for more than a month. Alongside the German Market, a Christmas crafts fair highlights regional producers and artisans as well as more exotic gifts from Asia and Africa. Add in ice skating, a big wheel and a jewellery market and Birmingham is a very festive place indeed for most of the winter.

  • When: 10am to 9pm, Nov 12 to Dec 22 (in 2015).
  • Where: Victoria Square, Centenery Square and New Street

Find a place to stay in Birmingham, England

READ MORE

Featured photo by Guy Evans, Creative Commons

Breakfast at Muriels

Five London Breakfasts Worth Waking Up For

My latest article on About.com United Kingdom Travel

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then London is surely the best city in Europe to get up early for it. You can eat your way around the globe within five square miles of Central London, you can indulge in different variations of the classic Full English Breakfast (we call it a fry up and you can guess why) or you can sample the great variety of spins London chefs are increasingly putting on favorite breakfast ingredients these days. The French may boast of their cuisine but when you compare their coffee and croissant breakfasts with what London can offer in the morning, hey guys, it’s no contest.

1.  Muriel’s Kitchen – Home Cooking Like Grandma Wished She Could Make

Muriel’s granddaughter and her husband run this popular, eponymous group of London cafés. Inspired by Muriel, they serve what they call “home-cooked style” dishes in a modern, slightly rustic setting that always seems to be packed.

The menu changes monthly and the breakfasts are always imaginative and different. The Champion Breakfast, pictured here, of scrambled eggs with chives and diced avocado dressed with chili on toast, is amazing – the eggs tender and full of flavor, the avocado perfectly ripe. It costs £7.99/$12.50 in 2015. A a side of bacon or hot smoked salmon – as pictured here, is extra.

Book a London hotel before December 31, 2016 and save up to 30%

Another top breakfast treat is the Ultimate Sausage Sarnie for £8.75/$13.77  made of three fat Cumberland sausages on a thick chunk of toasted granary bread with roasted tomatoes and red onion. It’s a whopper of a sandwich so share it if you must – but you must try it. Incredible.

If my gran made breakfasts like Muriel I would have never left home…READ MORE

Riverside museum

The Riverside – A Big Splash on the Glasgow Waterfront

My latest article on About.com United Kingdom Travel

Glasgow’s Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel is wonderful. It’s tremendously entertaining even if you always thought that walking around a museum looking things on wheels and rails wasn’t your cup of tea.

Believe me, I know. I have dutifully slogged after enthusiastic pals in transport museums hoping they’d soon tire of marveling at double decker buses so the ordeal would be over.

The Riverside has nothing whatsoever in common with those experiences.

It is simply sensational.

It begins with the building

Award-winning, Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid met the museum’s requirement for a column-free, flexible display space with a deceptively simple structure (actually one of the most complex structures built in the UK when the museum opened in 2010). It flows between the city and Glasgow waterfront on the River Clyde like a giant wave….READ MORE

Photo by Ferne Arfin

Puffin

England’s Best Place To See Nesting Seabirds Just Got Better

You don’t have to be a birdwatcher to be impressed by the sight of the 250,000 sea birds that gather to nest and breed on the Bempton Cliffs in East Yorkshire. From April to October, visitors can witness the annual spectacle as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Bempton Cliffs Reserve, overlooking the North Sea, plays host to thousands of noisy gannets, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars and puffins.

The reserve is favorite for families and novice birders as its six, safe clifftop viewing platforms (two of which are wheelchair and pushchair accessible) make it easy to get close enough watch the birds and learn about their differences and behaviors.

In spring 2015, the opening of new seabird center at the reserve made it easier to to enjoy the birds and learn more. It includes an exhibition area and large TV screens with live images from the cliffs. So if it’s too cold or windy for you, if you’re not comfortable with heights – or frankly, all the noise and smells, you can still get a good view.

If you get the birding bug while visiting, the center’s shop boasts the best selection of…READ MORE

Photo by Pete Hewitt courtesy of RSPB Bempton Cliffs

View from Kirkstone Pass ©Ferne Arfin

Ten Steps to a Perfect UK Tour Itinerary

If you’re a free spirit and an independent traveler, planning your touring itinerary in advance might seem dull. What about spontaneity?

Yet, without the framework of a plan, you are more likely to have confusion and stress than spontaneity; without at least a loosely organized plan, you can end up using up all your energy rushing from one place to another on motorways with no time to enjoy anything. Or you might waste precious time seeing a boring attraction when the one you would have really enjoyed was just five minutes down the road – if only you’d left time visit it.

These ten steps will allow you to plan a touring vacation that suits your style and leaves your free spirit plenty of space to fly.

…Read more

Put Magna Carta into Your UK Itinerary

My latest article on About.com United Kingdom Travel

On June 15, 2015, the world marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, considered by many to be the foundation of modern democracy and civil liberties.

Find out more about Magna Carta and what it means to us here.

If you are interested in history, politics, law or civil rights, you may want to visit a copy of the Magna Carta or add a few landmarks associated with the famous document, and the Barons’ Rebellion that led to it, to your travel plans.  Luckily there are quite a few scattered around England.  When King John put his seal to Magna Carta, copies were sent to every corner of the realm. Four of those original 1215 copies still exist.

Almost as soon as he sealed the Great Charter – as Magna Carta is also known, King John tried to renege on the agreement so there are later editions, some…Read more

Travel writer, web editor and author