Stately, dog-friendly, splendour in Truro

The Alverton Aerial View

Hidden away, but only minutes from the town’s centre, the 34 bedroom Alverton Hotel in Truro is impressive to say the least. The east wing was built as Alverton Manor in 1830, and later became a nunnery. A chapel, now known as the Great Hall, and designed by the same architect as Truro Cathedral, was added. In 2012 the building was converted to a dog friendly luxury hotel, the city’s only 4 star hotel, which recently won the best wedding venue award in Cornwall at the South West Wedding Awards 2015.
We were given an executive suite. Spacious with its own small lounge area, it was stylishly decorated in shades of green and fawn, with mullioned windows, that was typical of the rest of the building. Near the billiard room, there was easy access to beautifully maintained gardens for Poppy, my dog.
The restaurant is designed in a way that doesn’t make it look empty if there are only a small number of diners. Their new head chef Simon George is talented. The menu is small with beautifully presented food. I wasn’t sure what to eat, but was pleasantly surprised as my meal tasted better than the menu description. The kitchen were also happy to alter my starter of pan-fried scallops to exclude cream, creating a delicate white wine reduction flavoured with grain mustard. For the mains, I had lamp rump that came pink as requested. Dessert, chocolate orange fondant, chocolate sponge cake oozing with dark chocolate, was served warm, Sadly their wine list is limited as is the choice of wine by the glass.
IMG_0773
The hotel presents well and is stylishly decorated with courteous and helpful staff.IMG_0781_2 What is so surprising is the lack of detail. We stayed in an executive suite and yet for a 4 star hotel there was no towelling dressing gown or slippers. There was a good selection of toiletries by the upmarket brand Gilchrist & Soames, and yet there was only one shower gel to share between the two of us. While I appreciated the tea and coffee making facilities in the room, I had to ask for herb teas. The big plus, however, was that Poppy was welcome everywhere except in the restaurant, and had we chosen to, we could have eaten in the bar and had her with us.
T. 01872 276633 IMG_0782

Posted in Hotel, Pets, Restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A View to Die For

IMG_0820_2
The main reason for staying at the 60 bedroom, Greenbank Hotel in Falmouth has to be its location overlooking the harbour and of course for me the fact that they have dog-friendly bedrooms. Ours, with picture windows looked over to the hamlet of Flushing, with lots of boats between bobbing on the water.
Below our bedroom, I could see a small patch of sand and, of course, hear if not see the inevitable seagulls. Above us, a gutter had moss growing out of it perhaps a bird was nesting. Our room is quite small and the decor dated except for a flat screen television. There are several dog-friendly bedrooms and ours was one of them. The bathroom is old fashioned too. Their executive rooms are larger and more modern, with the deluxe category also having a small balcony. This is a truly typical English seaside hotel.
IMG_0826_3
Downstairs the bar and lounge have been modernised. The dining area was extended with a new chef Nick Hodges who is currently finding his feet. There are picture windows everywhere to make the most of their amazing position on the water’s edge. Outside the lounge, an open area has tables and chairs and is a great place to enjoy a drink, weather permitting. Poppy, my dog was allowed in this area but smokers are too and at night, perhaps because of its location if anyone is smoking, the place smells of tobacco, a deterrent to sitting there.

The hotel dates from 1785 when it was a coaching inn and is Falmouth’s oldest hotel overlooking a stretch of water formerly called “King’s Road” where packet ships moored whilst awaiting mail, cargo, and passengers from London. Rat and mole from Wind in the Willows first came to life in a series of letters written here by author Kenneth Grahame to his son in 1907.

The Fal River Festival, on for 10 days from May 22 to 31, 2015 has a diverse mixture of events which take place at dozens of locations around the water. The programme includes outdoor theatre, circus performances, stargazing, foraging, underwater photography workshops and film screenings on the King Harry Ferry.
http://www.falmouth.co.uk

FullSizeRender

Posted in Hotel, Pets, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazing Holiday Value in Italy

Valle Di Assisi, Italy

view of hotel and Assisi

Valle di Assisi is a 4 star dog friendly hotel in Umbria just below Assisi of St. Francis of Assisi fame. From the outside, my heart fell as I looked at the two storey modern building with Best Western emblazoned on the front. Appearances can be deceiving. Once inside I was in a smart, high tech hotel.
Set in 70 hectares surrounded by vineyards, olive trees and organically cultivated fields there are also villas and self-contained apartments. It produces its own wine and olive oil. Guests can go fishing in their pond, and there is an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and bikes, available for use by guests within the property.
It took a while to work out the high tech electronics in my bedroom. The lights only worked when the plastic key was in the slot but then I had to work out the illuminated buttons, which turned on the lights or stand in the right spot for the lights to come on. The shutters on my floor to ceiling windows were opened and closed by remote control, opening completely if I pushed the button in the right way to reveal an outdoor veranda with table and chairs, and the most wonderful views of the landscape with Assisi in the distance, 5 kilometres away. In my bathroom the deep corner bath had its own whirlpool and back rests on two sides so that, had I been with a partner, there would have been space for us both.

Swimming and whirlpool

Swimming and whirlpool

The Assisi Cantico Spa has a swimming pool with two whirlpools, a sauna and steam room. An ice-making machine was there for anyone brave enough to cover themselves with ice, and hot and cold showers with colour lighting, appropriately blue and red. A heated room with loungers finished off the experience where I was able to relax with a glass of water while some of my colleagues were pampered with a massage. Sadly time didn’t allow for me to enjoy this experience. The hotel is family friendly with a children’s swimming pool which is in its own self-contained area.
Dinner was served in Recanto, their semi-circular first floor restaurant with floor to ceiling windows where in the distance we could see the twinkling lights of Assisi. The outdoor terrace was not in use as it was too cold but must be a very romantic spot to eat in the warmer months.
What better way to start a meal than with a glass of Prosecco, Italian white sparkling wine. Our menu introduced us to some of the specialities of the region. Prosciutto, thinly sliced pieces of cured pork; bruschetta, slices of bread rubbed with garlic and baked in the oven with extra virgin olive oil; omelette with slices of black truffles; and spaghetti coated with olive oil, and sprinkled with truffle shavings.DSCF2316
If visiting the area, I would definitely recommend both the hotel and restaurant. Worth looking at for an economical stay as the hotel, out of season, is very reasonable with flights into Perugia courtesy of Ryanair.

T. 0039 0758044580 www.valediassisi.com

http://www.umbriasi.it

Posted in Culture, Pets, Restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Great Moroccan Restaurant 404 in Paris

404 Restaurant

DSCF2283Although I haven’t been there for ages, Momo the Moroccan restaurant in London has in the past been one of my favourites. An invitation to 404 in Paris, with the same Moroccan owners, was definitely worth accepting.
I went as part of a group. Is this a good idea? I’m not sure. The benefit was that because there were so many us we had the opportunity of tasting more dishes than if I had been left to choose on my own. On the other hand, I prefer choosing what I want to eat as having too much choice results in an overload of food and not fully appreciating all the different flavours and tastes of the individual dishes. My opinion, it might not be yours. Read a more detailed account of my experience on the foodtripper website at:
www.foodtripper.com/Restaurants/Article/Restaurants/1058/RestaurantReview404MaraisParis.aspx
Whichever way you go, for Moroccan food and a lively atmosphere, 404 is a fun place to visit. If in a group of up to ten, book the elevated area which provides some privacy while being incorporated into the main restaurant, and where you can still enjoy the buzzy atmosphere.
There is also an outside courtyard where the smokers congregate even in the cold that looks very enticing. Somewhere to try when the weather gets warmer and they start serving food outside.IMG_0627

404
69 Rue des Gravilliers, Paris 3e, France
T. 0033 142 74 57 81
www.404-resto.com

Posted in Restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Changes to Pet Passport Scheme

Poppy

Poppy

New changes designed to improve the security and traceability of your pet have come into effect since 29 December 2014. The changes include a new style pet passport with a unique passport number printed on every page, laminated strips designed to cover the pages with the pet’s details, microchip information, and all rabies vaccinations entries. The vet issuing the pet passport will also need to fill in their details on a new ‘Issuing of the passport’ page and must make sure that all their contact details are included when they certify vaccinations and treatments.

Existing passports will remain valid for the lifetime of the pet or until all the treatment spaces have been filled.
If you travel with your pet in the EU you may be asked for your pet’s passport when entering another country.
All pets entering Britain on approved routes will continue to be checked by the carriers either prior to boarding, for rail or sea, or upon entry by air.

Your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before being vaccinated against rabies for the purposes of pet travel.
If you have more than five pets and wish to travel with them within the EU and/or return to the UK (unless you are going to a show or competition) you will need to comply with additional rules.

The main requirements of the scheme remain the same. All dogs, cats and ferrets travelling with their owner still require:
• micro-chipping
• a vaccination against rabies
• a blood test 30 days after vaccination if returning or travelling from an unlisted third country
• a pet passport issued by an authorised vet or third country certificate issued by an official vet
• a waiting period after primary vaccination and prior to travel:
– 21 days if travelling from another EU country or a listed third country
• a waiting period following blood sampling
– 3 months if travelling from an unlisted third country
• treatment against the EM tapeworm for dogs
Pet Travel Scheme Helpline:
T. 0370 241 1710 Mon – Fri 8am – 6pm (closed Bank Holidays)
www.gov.uk/government/news/changes-to-pet-passports-to-strengthen-travel-scheme
IMG_0594

Posted in Pets, Travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Tate Britain – Victorian Sculpture & Photography

IMG_0600Two new exhibitions have opened at London’s Tate Britain Linbury Galleries. Sculpture Victorious and Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860.
Sculpture Victorius is the first major exhibition devoted to sculpture produced during Queen Victoria’s reign. The country had a monarch and a consort who commissioned and encouraged sculptors. Queen Victoria was the subject of more sculpture than any previous monarch. The State commissioned a range of sculpture and decoration to ornament the new Houses of Parliament. Gothic in design, most of the country’s leading sculptors were employed by architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin. The chamber of the House of Lords was IMG_0602decorated with 18 statues representing the barons and clergy who forced King John to agree to the terms of the Magna Carta. New scientific technologies made it possible for sculptors to work in a wider range of materials, and to mass-produce small-scale versions. The exhibition includes the sculpture of Lord Winchester, made with new technology.
Sculptors collaborated with manufacturers to create elaborate silverwork, jewellery and ceramic ornaments. Britain’s increasing marine power helped bring antiquities to the UK, and made it easier for artists to travel.
A curator’s tour with Greg Sullivan takes place on 17 April from 18.30 – 20.30 £15.
Sculpture Victorius runs until 25 May 2015.
IMG_0607Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860 is the first major exhibition in Britain devoted to salt, the earliest form of paper photography. The exhibition of 90 prints features some of the rarest and best early photographs in the world.
William Henry Fox Talbot unveiled his groundbreaking process in 1839. He made the prints by soaking paper in silver iodide salts to register a negative image which, when photographed again, created permanent paper positives. The photographs ranged in colour from sepia to violet, mulberry, terracotta, silver-grey, and charcoal-black and often had details drawn on. In an age of steam trains and ships, photographers travelled the world to capture traces of the past.
However, in an age of modern invention and innovation, the phenomenon of salt prints was soon replaced by new photographic processes.
The exhibition is accompanied by a programme of talks and events which will be held in the gallery.
Salt and Silver runs until 7 June 2015.
Open daily 10.00 – 18.00
Admission for each exhibition £10.90. A joint ticket £15.00. Under 12s go free.
www.tate.org.uk/britain T. 020 7887 8888
IMG_0608_2

Posted in Culture, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

New Concept Restaurant LARTE in Milan

IMG_0005-3
During a recent visit to Milan, we ate at a new concept Italian restaurant LARTE which is near to the renowned opera house, La Scala. It is open all day so people can drop in for a coffee or an aperitif as well as having a full blown breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It’s aim is to showcase the best of Italy by mixing food and wine with art and design. The Mediterranean cooking is based on fish, vegetables and the inevitable pasta, never to be missed from an Italian meal.
Not just a restaurant it is a retail outlet too with the furniture and decor, by renowned designers and artists, on sale. The kitchen is glassed with diners able to watch the chefs at work.

See through kitchen

See through kitchen


Open Monday – Saturday from 8am to 11pm
Via Manzoni 5, Milan
T. +39 02 890 96950 www.lartemilano.com/en/

My article on Milan can be read using this link on the website http://www.justabouttravel.net/2015/02/09/milan-more-than-a-fashionista-city/

Posted in Restaurants, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment