The Cafe Royal, 19 West Register Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

I recently met up with a delightful clowder of Cats: some other authors whose books are also published by Crooked Cat Books. We got together at The Cafe Royal, 19 West Register Street, Edinburgh, Scotland.Cafe Royal

It was years since I had been to The Cafe Royal and I had forgotten what a popular, busy pub it is. Hidden away around the corner at the East end of Prince’s Street, it is a gem. The décor is fabulous: Victorian & Baroque, stained glass windows in the Oyster Bar and Royal Doulton ceramic tiles. The staff were friendly and attentive. The wide choice of beers and whiskys is legendary.  cafe royal inAfter we had drunk our publisher dry, but not under the table, we all ordered meals and the food was excellent. Our main courses ranged from fish to risotto, steak pie. All the choices were much enjoyed and all were very reasonably priced.

Cafe royal outWhen we arrived about 3pm the bar was quite empty: by the time we left to find a different watering hole some five hours later, The Cafe Royal was back to being the bustling bar I remembered from years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to The Cafe Royal. The company, the food and the drinks were all excellent, so whether you are looking for a pub to watch a rugby match or a restaurant to enjoy a meal with friends, I highly recommend Edinburgh’s Cafe Royal.

Val Penny

Advertisements

Paul Hollywood Bakery and Coffee, Euston Street, Kings Cross, London

Paul HollywoodIf I were Paul Hollywood, I would be embarrassed to have my name associated with this establishment.

I have never been a particular fan of the celebrity baker Paul Hollywood. (Pause for people to shout at the computer!) However, when my husband and I were meeting our daughter for morning coffee near Euston Station in London the other places were too full for us to find a table so we chose the Paul Hollywood Bakery and Coffee, Euston Street, Kings Cross, London.

I was bitterly disappointed by the service, the drinks, the cleanliness and the decor.

The positive things I should mention are that we did get a table when nowhere else nearby had one for us and my daughter and husband both got what they ordered. So far, so good.Paul Hollywood in

Immediately we walked in, we noticed the decor was shabby. Not shabby chic, shabby. A few seats had grubby cushions, most had had them torn off. The chairs were not comfortable, the tables were not clean and the floor was dirty. We decided not to eat here because of the filth but braved hot drinks. My husband did get his flat white, coffee. My daughter got her tea. I asked for and Earl Grey Tea: I got a PG Tips black tea. I had taken a few sips before I realised, so I didn’t take it back. Paul Hollywood tea

The staff certainly showed no interest in their customers or their environment. There was a notice asking customers to leave their cups, plates and such on the tables and a member of staff will be happy to collect it. In the hour we were there, when the place was not particularly busy, not one member of staff ventured from behind the counter to collect or clean anything. The interest in their own conversations prevented them from having time to do that.Paul Hollywood out.jpg

Would I recommend Paul Hollywood Bakery and Coffee, Euston Street, Kings Cross, London – no. Would I go there again – no.

Val Penny

 

 

South of France Tours by The Good Life, France

This article was first published by The Good Life, France on https://www.thegoodlifefrance.com/feel-good-real-good-fabulous-and-authentic-south-of-france-tours/ .

What if you could really “do” southern France in 7 days in a truly meaningful, authentic and fabulous way? It’s just a week, but, if you know the right people and go to the right places, it really is possible to experience the very best of the south of France. The food, the sights, culture, history, wine and customs – so many things go to making this part of France a very special place. And, at TripUSAFrance they really do understand what it takes to make sure you experience all those things. This is a south of France tour that’s not rushed, not a 5-minute-tick-the-box race – but enjoyed the best way, relaxed, personal and authentic.

Julia and Stephane Girard-Gervois, a father and daughter team, of TripUSAFrance are two of the best guides in France. Their know-how, experience and contacts mean that you get to really know southern France in a very short space of time.

The very best of the south of France

TripUSAFrance’s south of France tours take in the main sites. From captivating Carcassonne which looks like a fairy tale come to life, to magnificent Montpellier (where Julia grew up before moving to the USA). But with this tour you’ll also discover less well known but incredibly special places. On the itinerary are Palavas-les-Flots with an enticing beachside hotel and the Maguelone Cathedral by the sea, once lived in by Popes. In just 7 days you’ll visit legendary sites as well as Provence’s jewels. Avignon with its incredible Palace of the Popes and the stunning Pont du Gard Roman bridge.  St Guilhem le Desert, one of the most beautiful villages in France and St Paul de Mausole where a troubled Van Gogh took sanctuary. Plus the famous underground art gallery Carrières Lumières and much more.

Julia will reveal the best of Nimes with its amazing Roman architectures. And picturesque Aigues Mortes, plus wine tasting at the gorgeous Chateau Flaugergues and at Chateau Jonquières.

You’ll have a real connection with the area, joining a French cooking class and visiting a French market. You’ll even be joining Julia’s mother for a delicious picnic by the water, where she’ll teach you to play the traditional French game of pétanque.

If you’ve got an extra two days to spend in France, you can also visit stunning Aix-en-Provence, the Roman city of Arles, and the famous soap factory of Marseille (talk about the perfect souvenir to take home).

See Southern France at a relaxed pace in a small group tour

Julia and Stephane like to keep their tour groups small so that they can really ensure that this is a journey you relish. You won’t be rushed on and off a bus, given 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. That’s not the southern French way at all! You won’t spend all day on the road getting from one place to another to tick a box. The itinerary ensures you won’t spend more than a couple of hours being transported – meaning you have loads more time to really experience France. They’ve picked the best restaurants and know the chefs and the menus. If you’re a vegetarian, vegan or have food allergies then you won’t be suffering from a lack of choice here.  Julia’s made sure that every chef on their itinerary can offer you something delicious.

Learn French as you go

If you don’t want to learn or practice your French – that’s fine, Julia and Stephane will be with you. And, if you do want to go off for some free time, they’ll give you a cell phone so you can contact them whenever you need to. But if you do want to learn French, Julia will be happy to help you. She’s a teacher in Washington DC when she’s not guiding in France.

Get to know real France as a temporary local

For a feel good, real good, stress-free, everything beautifully organized, authentic, fabulous experience of the real south of France, TripUSAFrance will absolutely deliver. As Julia says “on our tours, you’re temporary locals, not average tourists bouncing around in a crowd or waiting in long lines and getting stuck in tourist traps. We will help you make a deeper connection with the country and understand what it is like to live there, while fulfilling the desire to see amazing sites and make lasting memories”.

Creme De La Crepe, 29, Covent Garden Market, London, England

I was having a wander around Covent Garden, London, England with my daughters when we decided to stop for lunch. There are lots of interesting places to choose from and we decided on Creme De La Crepe. It is a cosy casual little restaurant that offers a wide variety of both sweet and savoury crêpes and smoothies. COVENT_GARDEN_MARKET_BUILDING

The restaurant is spotlessly clean with tables in vaulted spaces with flagstone floors and one or two tables are outside the restaurant. We sat ‘outside’ Creme De La Crepe so that we could still be in the Covent Garden area. I chose the crepe called Billy Goat’s Gruff. This contains goat’s cheese, caramelised onion marmalade, sweet cherrybell peppers, rocket. It was delicious.

My older daughter went with the crepe known as Nick the Greek that is made from falafel, hummus, sunblushed tomatoes, red onion, black olives, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, rocket. She really enjoyed it. My younger daughter ordered a house favourite, Crepe Monsieur. In it is free range smoked ham, mature cheddar cheese, english mustard mayonnaise and rocket. She said it was very tasty.creme de la crepe

We all really enjoyed our meals and I would highly recommend this competatively priced little restaurant, Creme De La Crepe, always assuming you enjoy crepes.

Val Penny

The Apartment, 7-13 Barclay Place, Edinburgh, Scotland

My husband, my mother and I recently went to The Apartment, 7-13 Barclay Place, Edinburgh, Scotland for a celebration lunch together. My husband was treating us to celebrate a successful year which saw my debut crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ published by Crooked Cat Books with a launch date of 02.02.2018. ‘Hunter’s Chase’ is dedicated to my mother. The story is set in Edinburgh and two of the main characters live in Gillespie Crescent, just opposite The Apartment.Hunter's Chase book cover (1)

Although there were only three of us, we are not an easy group to cater for. Mum uses a wheelchair. Unfortunately for her, I am not the best wheelchair driver on the planet, but she is very gracious. Access was easy.  I am vegetarian while my husband and mother are confirmed omnivores.

We had booked a table and the staff were very helpful and kind. We were able to choose between two tables and opted for the one nearest the window. We decided against alcohol in the middle of the day, but we all had different drinks. Mum had a diet coke, I chose a soda water and lime while my husband asked for a ginger beer.The Apartment Outside

Mum did not have a starter, but my husband chose the traditional Scotch Broth soup. I went for the pear, blue cheese and walnut salad. We were both delighted with our choices. The menu is not huge, but it is a carefully chosen mix of meats, fish and vegetarian dishes to suit all tastes. I always feel pleased when I have genuine choices: at The Apartment, I did.

The omnivores both chose the rib-eye steaks for their main courses. Mum requested hers be cooked ‘medium’ while my husband wanted his ‘medium rare’. Apparently both were perfectly cooked. They both seemed to enjoy their main courses. My husband’s only complaint was that there was parmasan cheese on his salad. He believes this to be the cheese of the devil! I chose a halloumi, sweet potato and pepper skewer for my main course. It was served with a beetroot coleslaw, green salad and another side. I chose fires. The beetroot coleslaw sounds strange, but tastes delicious. I highly recommend it.The Apartment Food

Neither Mum nor I could manage a pudding, we shared a plate of truffles. They were tiny but tasty. A delicious end to the meal with a fine coffee. My husband chose the chocolate brownie. This was served warm with a bitter fruit couli cutting the sweetness of the chocolate and a fine vanilla icecream. My husband is very fussy about his coffee, but not even he could find anything to complain about with his Americano.

The service was flawless. This was a first visit to The Apartment for all of us, but we thoroughly enjoyed it, so it will certainly not be our last.

‘Hunter’s Chase’ is available to order from Amazon.

mybook.to/HuntersChase

Val Penny

Hunter's Chase banner

 

 

 

 

Brig o’ Doon House Hotel, High Maybole Rd, Alloway, Ayr, Scotland

I went to visit Alloway with my friend Anna. We stopped for coffee and cake at the Brig o’ Doon House Hotel, High Maybole Rd, Alloway, Ayr, Scotland. The Brig o’ Doon House Hotel, is set on the banks of the River Doon and across from the Burns Memorial Gardens. We took the opportunity to visit the beautiful gardens before stopping in at this tranquil hotel.Burns museum

The Brig o’ Doon House Hotel, is situated in an ivy-covered house is a 6-minute walk from the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. We took a self-guided tour of the property Robert Burns grew up in, Burns Cottage,  as well as a visit to the museum that houses his manuscripts, books, many artefacts and artwork. Burns Cottage, was the first home of Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet and radical thinker. It is located in Alloway, South Ayrshire, Scotland. It was built by his father, William Burness in 1757. Burns is acknowledged as Scotland’s national poet. He was born there on 25 January 1759.Burns Cottage

After our visits in the town of Alloway, Anna and I decided to look for somewhere to stop brig-o-doon outfor afternoon coffee and cake. We were delighted to find the Brig o’ Doon House Hotel, its fine-dining restaurant offers traditional Scottish cuisine, and panoramic views of the gardens and river. The hotel also retains exclusive fishing rights on the river for its guests. Other amenities include landscaped gardens, event facilities and limited parking, but coffee and cake sufficed for us. brig-o-doon entrance

The entrance is beautiful and in the lobby and fire added to the warmth of the surroundings. We so enjoyed curling up in the comfortable armchairs whiling the afternoon away. The coffees were delicious. Anna had a cappuccino, while I opted for a decaf latte. The cakes were fresh and tasty. Anna had an individual bakewell tart, while I had a slice brig o doon insideof apple pie. The service provided by the staff was excellent.

There was a wedding taking place the day we were there. Nevertheless, the service for us was still excellent. We were not made to feel unwanted or in the way at all. The only brig o doon roomsdisadvantage to the Brig o’ Doon House Hotel is that the access for those with mobility issues is poor. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Brig o’ Doon House Hotel and we hope to visit there again.

 

Val Penny

 

 

Ed’s Easy Diner, 11 Euston Square, London, England

I was in Euston Station, London one morning waiting for a train and had a little longer to wait than I expected, so I decided to go for brunch and I decided to find somewhere to have brunch. I noticed Ed’s Easy Diner and decided to go in there for an American style brunch revolving around eggs, but after I sat down, I realised this was going to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I am vegetarian and all the egg dishes included bacon or sausage. I should have left then.Ed's out

I was shown to a table immediately and a menu was brought to me quickly but it was several minutes before a server managed to tear themselves away from conversations with colleagues to take my order. This restaurant styles itself a funky chain diner with a 1950s vibe serving burgers, hot dogs and American comfort food, but I did not find it so. My East European server made it clear that changing dishes as specified on the menu were not possible. Very un-American!Ed's pancakes

Eventually we compromised, I would have the three pancake stack, and orange juice and a black coffee. The drinks arrived without issue. What can you do wrong with orange juice and coffee? When the pancakes arrived, there was bacon on the top. I explained, again, that I am vegetarian and the bacon would have to go. Imagine my surprise when my three pancake stack came back with out the bacon and the top pancake. You have to laugh!

I cannot recommend Ed’s Easy Diner, as I did not eat there. The coffee and orange juice is good and access is easy for those with mobility issues, should they wish to go there.

Val Penny