Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Azzurro, 255 Eltham High Street, Eltham, England

I do enjoy Italian food! So when my daughter and son-in-law booked dinner for us at Azzurro in Eltham, I was looking forward to the meal as well as the company. The restaurant is quite small and very busy but everything is spotlessly clean and the service is attentive, but not intrusive.azzurro out

Azzurro in Eltham is a family run restaurant and the food is freshly cooked to order, so it is not fast food. But it is delicious food. My husbad and son-in law shared a garlic bread pizza for starters while my daughter and I nibbled on some marinated olives. azzurro-italia

For our main courses my son-in- law and I chose pizza while my daughter had pasta and my husband tucked into an Italian lamb dish. Only my husband had room for a pudding and enjoyed the tiramasu and we all had teas and coffees to round off the meal.

The restaurant is not austentatious, but it is good value. I highly recommend Azzurro, if you are in the area.

Val Penny

 

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Star of India 267 Eltham High St, Eltham, London

There are no local Indian Restaurants in our village, so, on a recent visit to London my husband and I treated ourselves to a meal at the Star of India, 267 Eltham High St, Eltham, London. What a lovely meal we had. star of india inside

We went for dinner fairly early after visiting relatives. The restaurant was cool and the service was relaxed and unobtrusive. The crisp, white linen table cloths made the place look clean and fresh. We ordered drinks and then our meals.

My husband started with chicken pakora while I had a poppadum with pickles. Both of us enjoyed these very much.star of india outside

For our main courses my husband chose lamb passander and I ordered saag paneer. We requested basmati rice as well as side orders of daal and aloo gobi. It was all absolutely delicious. We thoroughly enjoyed the meal and our evening at the Star of India. If you enjoy Indian food, this restaurant is well worth a visit.

Val Penny

 

Premier Inn, Five Ways, 738 Sidcup Rd, New Eltham, London

On a recent visit to London my husband and I stayed in a Premier Inn Hotel. It was very conveniently situated for the plans we had and the price of accomodation was most competitive. So we checekd in to the Premier Inn, Five Ways, 738 Sidcup Rd, New Eltham, London.

Our first experience of the hotel was checking in. It all went smoothly. The check-in clerk was professional, courteous and very helpful. She took time out to look up the first place we were visiting on her computer and directed us as to the best way to get there. It took a few minutes, but she could not have been kinder.premier inn room

We got up to our room and found it was spotlessly clean. The room was also a good size. It had not only a queen-sized bed, but also a sofa that could have been used as an extra bed, perhaps for a child if we had needed it. The bed was extremely comfortable. There was a courtesy tray with teas and coffees, extra pillows and the bath sheets were a good size.

Unfortunately, the window did not open and we could not adjust the heating, so the room was uncomfortably hot at night. Also the cleaners did not refill the courtesy tray for the later days of our stay and the towels were not soft.

new eltham bathroom

On our first morning, there were not many people in the hotel so the famous, hot Premier Inn buffet breakfast was not on offer, but the cooked dishes were served to order, although the continental breakfast was buffet. The meal was delicious. Later in our stay, my husband was overjoyed when full buffet breakfast returned!premier inn ne

We had an evening meal at the hotel once. It was freshly cooked and tasty. We had drinks in the hotel on another evening, there is no separate bar, but there are comfortable couches in the restaurant area to enjoy a drink.

All in all, we very much enjoyed our stay and will use the Premier Inn, Five Ways, 738 Sidcup Rd, New Eltham, London again.

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”.

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

 

 

 

 

Winchester Writers’ Festival, University of Winchester, West Downs Student Village, Winchester, England

The Winchester Writers’ Festival is held in the middle of June and attracts over three hundred emerging novelists, poets, short story writers, children’s writers, script and memoir writers  from across the UK and the world to the University of Winchester. Delegates attend workshops, talks and one-to-ones with over seventy literary agents, commissioning editors, authors and expert practitioners throughout an inspiring and supportive weekend. This year was the first time I had ever attended The Winchester Writers’ Festival, but it was recommended to me by my friend and mentor, Simon Hall.winchester

I had the opportunity to meet with four agents and publishers, three of whom expressed an interest in my work. However, it was eventually Crooked Cat Books, whom I had submitted my work to, prior to attending Winchester, that accepted my debut crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ for publication.

At Winchester, I stayed in student accomodation. My goodness, it took me back! Accommodation with breakfast is available at the University of Winchester in basic student rooms in the West Downs Student Village and in Beech Glade on the main King Alfred campus.  A free shuttle bus service will run between West Downs and the Festival venues on the main King Alfred campus at key times over the weekend. En suite and Standard (shared bathroom) accommodation is available at very reasonable prices. Beech Glade is much more convenient for the main campus where the talks, meetings and meals are held, but only West Downs has en-suite accommodation, so the deal was set. I was staying in West Downs. The West Downs Student Village is at the top of a steep hill, so I was glad the course ran a shuttle bus morning and afternoon.

winchester university diningThe accommodation is basic, but clean. My room contained a bed, wardrobe, desk chair and book shelves with an ensuite shower room. Basic bedlinen, toiletries and towels were provided too. I was only there for a long weekend, what more did I need? Accommodation includes hot and cold buffet breakfast for the nights you stay. If you are attending the conference for the day, lunch is also included. Dinner is not and requires to be booked and paid for separately. The meals were ample and tasty and there was provision for vegetarians. Prices in the bar are much lower than in the real world.

Winchester makes great play of being inclusive and having rooms suitable for wheelchair users. I did not see any wheelchair users at the conference. The pack I received states that, although there are stairs leading from conference buildings to the bar and dining roomm, there are lifts for those with mobility issues. I do not have mobility issues, but there were delegates who required assistance to walk. The lifts did not work. That was unsatisfactory.

Free, but limited, parking is available at West Downs and further parking is available in the main car park and Medecroft car park on the main campus but as I travelled to Winchester by train, this did not affect me.

lemnsissayThe keynote speech was delivered on the Saturday morning by Lemn Sissay. I enjoyed the talk and found him a motivating and interesting speaker. Unfortunately, as many people queued to buy his books after his talk, we were told he had somewhere else to be. As a result of this, he stopped dedicationg the books and just signed them, then he left. Not all those waiting with books go them signed. This was bad organisation disppointing and tacky. I have never seen this happen anywhere before. I opted not to buy any of his books.

The Winchester Writers’ festival was interesting some seventy-five speakers delivered fifty separate talks, readings and workshops to almost three hundred writers. The accomodation was adequate. However, bearing in mind the conference only lasts three days, it is extremely expensive. I would not attend the Winchester Writers’ Festival regularly, but I may attend again in the future. I believe there are other writers’ events that are better value for money.

Val Penny

 

 

 

Apple Apartments Greenwich O2, 1 Providence Place (27 Blackwall Lane) London, England

One of the great joys in my life is my family. I have two beautiful daughters of whom I am unfailingly proud. It is, therefore, a great delight that they agree the three of us should have a ‘girls’ weekend’ once a year.Apple apts livingroom diningroom

This year we spent our special weekend in London, at Apple Apartments Greenwich O2, 1 Providence Place (27 Blackwall Lane) London, England . It was a lovely weekend and the apartment was very spacious.Apple apts livingroom kitchen

We had three double bedrooms an en-suite shower room and a family bathroom upstairs with a large living/dining/kitchen and small wc downstairs. The concierge was helpful, the accommodation was spotlessly clean and the beds were comfortable, so the most important boxes were ticked. Apple apts main bedroom

Little things brought the apartment from excellent to good. The third bedroom had no bedside light, so I moved one from the main bedroom, only to find it had no bulb, so I needed to move a bulb from the sidelight in the living area. There was a dishwasher, but no tablets to allow us to use it. There was washing up liquid but no cloth or brush to give it effect. There were no dish towels to allow us to dry dishes, so we ended up using a hand towel.Apple apts bed 2

Having said all this there were sufficient mugs, glasses, plates and cutlery for the three of us to enjoy meals in the apartment. There was a tea bag and three sachets of sugar. Happily, we came prepared and the predilection of the British to drink tea continued unabated!Apple Apts bed 3

The bathroom facilities were exceptional. I was pleasantly surprised to have a  downstairs wc as well as the two bathrooms upstairs. It was a very useful and welcome addition to the accommodation. There were plenty of hand towels and bath towels.Apple Apts family bathroom

The beds were all comfortable with crisp white sheets, however, the stairs leading upstairs were quite steep and I was surprised that there was only a bannister on one side of them. Nevertheless this did not detract from our comfort during our stay. Apple Apts ensuite

My daughters treated me to a visit to the Duchess Theatre in Catherine Street where we saw the hilarious show, The Play that went Wrong. Public transport to and from the Apple Apartments Greenwich O2 to the theatre district was good. There is only one underground line from the nearest station at North Greenwich, but trains run regularly.Apple Duchess Theatre

All in all, we had a lovely weekend and I can recommend Apple Apartments Greenwich O2. It offered excellent value for money. We enjoyed our stay and with very small tweaks, this would be truly exceptional accommodation.

Valerie Penny