The Scotsman Hotel, 20 North Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland

scotsman entry

The original 19th century Scotsman building has been converted into a fashionable, 5* boutique hotel. The Scotsman Hotel, 20 North Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, offers parking off site and limo or car hire for travel around the city. The hotel also offers bicycle hire to tour the city. Edinburgh has many hills, so I would advise against this! scotsman entrance

My husband and I visited The Scotsman Hotel, this month when we met her and a group of friends for a special occasion. It was lovely to visit such a marvellous venue. The entrance and grand marble staircase led us to the bar. Where the group gathered to chat and relax in tasteful surroundings with comfortable chairs. A wide selections of beer, wines and spirits is available.scotsman marble staircase

There are many different styles of room available over the 10 floors of the hotel. As it is an old building the shaes of the rooms are not always regular. This can make the rooms quite restrictive or, on other occasions bright and spacious.scotsman bar

The hotel offers wide choices for breakfast, consistent with providing for an international clientele. The Scotsman Hotel is licenced for weddings to take place there. It also offers several meeting and conference rooms for the business traveller, but there is little offered for the younger holiday maker or children.scotsman room 2


The Scotsman Hotel is a beautiful building with unique features. It is situated in the centre of Edinburgh near the Waverley Station, St Giles Cathedral and Edinburgh Castle.

scotsman diningroom

However, there are not the fitness facilities or other ancillary services that I enjoy at a hotel. I would not choose this hotel again, altough I know its situation and old world charm will suit many visitors to the city well.scotsman hotel view

Valerie Penny




Best Western Edinburgh South, Braid Hills Hotel, 134 Braid Rd, Edinburgh

braid hills hotel outsideThere are lots of hotels in Edinburgh, Scotland. On a recent visit to the city, to hear a recent gig by our nephew’s band, Thirty-three Connection, my husband and I stayed over after the performance at the Best Western Edinburgh South, Braid Hills Hotel. I remember the hotel from many years ago, and when Best Western took it over, they must have made a large investment in the property to bring it up to date. The result is very interesting. There is a cosy bar, a bright restaurant and a sizeable function suite.braid hills twin

When we booked our room at the Best Western Edinburgh South, Braid Hills Hotel, there was a price difference between rooms to the front of the hotel with views over Braid Burn Park and rooms to the rear of the hotel with no such view. Had we been staying longer, I would have chosen the view. It is lovely. However, my husband and I were only there for one night so we decided not to splash the cash. The website I used showed me a twin room or a double room at the same price. I chose the double room. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the hotel and found we got both!braid hills double

Downstairs, we walked into the twin room. Going through that into a corridor, we found the hospitality tray in an alcove. and further on was a large en-suite bathroom with a rain-type shower. At the end of the corridor was a fairly steep, but narrow staircase. (I wonder if it originally led to the maid’s room in the old house.) At the top of the staircase was the double bedroom. As we paid by the room, rather than per person, a family could have been very reasonably housed in the accomodation. braid hills bathroom

The Best Western Edinburgh South, Braid Hills Hotel, was spotlessly clean. The staff were polite and helpful and the beds very comfortable. The buffet breafast was fresh and extensive. We thought we had booked a room at the price we aid, but we got a suite. We were very pleasantly surprised. I highly recommend the Best Western Edinburgh South, Braid Hills Hotel. My husband and I enjoyed our stay.braid hills tea place

Valerie Penny

The Doric Tavern 15 Market St Edinburgh

TheDoric_SignThe Doric Tavern is a  17th-century bistro situated upstairs in Market Street of the Old Town of Edinburgh. Although I lived in Edinburgh for many years, I had never been there until my sister invited my husband and I to join a group of her friends for dinner there recently.


The surroundings are lovely, the atmosphere fun and the staff were very helpful and courteous. The building is old, I would guess 17th Century, so the ceilings are low and the windows areTheDoric_Page-Bistro quite small. The dining room heats up quickly when the bistro is full. I recommend a jug of tap water for the table. However, access is up a staircase and, in the old building, there are no lifts so access for the disabled or with mobility issues is unrealisitc.

The menu features many traditional Scottish dishes including the fish soup, cullen skink, haggis and cranachan. The food is delicious, but some of the portions are extraordinarily tiny. My wild mushroom open ravioli was amazing, but my main cousre portion consisted of two pieces of ravioli and a few mushrooms. The mixed side salad was bigger.

the doric inside

My husband’s cullen skink was very tasty, but an extremely small bowl of soup. His fish and chips was not warm and there were only four chips on his plate. When we left, my husband was unsatisfied because his main course had not been hot, and I was still very hungry.

the doric soupThere were 10 of us in her party, 4 of us are vegetarian. There were only four vegetarian choices on the menu. Even when asked in advance, The Doric Tavern declined to offer additional choices for their vegetarian guests. Had any of us been vegan there would have been no choices at all, unless you count a side salad!

the doric foodIn conclusion, we enjoyed the evening because the company was fun and the atmosphere was good. However, one of the biggest offences a restaurant can commit is to have their guest leaving hungry. So, although the food is good, because of poor access and the lack of a satisfactory number of vegetarian options, I cannot recommend The Doric Tavern in Edinburgh.


Valerie Penny

Cactus Cantina,3300 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA

I enjoy Mexican food. Where I grew up in the SW of the USA, it was not difficult to find good, tasty food served in colourful surroundings. However, now I live in the SW across the pond, good Mexican food is much harder to find. So, it was with happiness and excitement that I returned to Cactus Cantina, 3300 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016, USA.cactus-cantina-out

The first time I visited Cactus Cantina was with my friend Maureen, over twenty years ago. I have visited the restaurant almost everytime I have visited the Capital and it is with great pleasure that I was able to introduce my husband and other friends, Lisa and Bill to the restaurant I have enjoyed for so many years.cactus-cantina

Cactus Cantina was founded in December 1990 by Raul Sanchez and Luis Reyes and is a fun, engaging, casual, family-friendly restaurant serving what I think is the best Text-Mex specialties in the Washington Area. It resembles a true, authentic Tex-Mex cantina with capacity for 300 people. While it is best known for our awesome Tex-Mex menu, our restaurant also serves Cuban, Spanish, and South American dishes.

cactus-zooI even enjoy the area of the city in which Cactus Cantina is situated, past Washingto DC Zoo and near the National Cathedral. Tex-Mex fare, margaritas & a patio draw college students and families to this lively, casual spot.Washington D.C.

We started off with tortilla chips and salsa. The boys had beer while Lisa and I treated ourselves to margaritas. My husband wanted to try everything so he had the Matamoros which includes BBQ pork ribs and chicken fajitas. I am vegetarian and chose the vegetarian burrito platter.cactus-cantina-saddle

We had a wonderful evening: great service, fun environment and excellent food. For a good evening with old friends, I highly recommend Cactus Cantina in Washington DC.

Valerie Penny


Il Radicchio Ristorante, 1801 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, Virginia, USA

arlington.jpgI have always enjoyed my visits to Arlington, Virginia, USA. I first visited the State many years ago when my friend Connie was my hostess. It was then I also met our friend Denise. Good times. However, on my most recent visit to Virginia, my husband and I went with our friends Lisa and Bill. We visited their niece, Nika and her beau, Hani and they hosted a pre-dinner drinks party for us. It was such fun. After this we all made our way to Il Radiccho Ristorante, Nika and Hani’s favourite restaurant. They have good taste!radiccio-menu


Il Radicchio is quite a small, family run, Italian restaurant. It has a fun atmosphere and friendly service. There is easy disabled access to Il Radicchio Ristorante and there are lots of choices of food available for vegetarians as well as omnivores. We had delicious plates of bruschetta for the table as a starter. It was fun and delicious. The boys chose beer to drink, except for Hani as the poor guy had a late meeting to attend that evening and needed a clear head. The girls shared a bottle of red wine. The breads and salads on offer were lovely too.


For our main courses we mainly chose a variety of risotto, pizza and pasta dishes. My husband chose the spahetti bolognese and spicy sausage. He has a big appetite and the portion was ample for him. I chose the spaghetti with pureed basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil. It was delicious, but I could not finish my meal! Nevetheless, we all made room for coffee and deserts. My husband had an americano coffee to wash down his chocolate cake while I enjoyed a latte with my icecream sundae. rad-cake

We very much enjoyed the embiance and the food at Il Radicchio Ristorante. Next time you are in Arlington, I highly recommend this restaurant.

 Valerie Penny


Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian,Building A, No. 89, Shuangqing Road, Beijing, China

holiday-inn-beijing-out-dayThe first time I went to Beijing, China, I stayed in the Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian. I was not a great Holiday Inn fan, but the price was right and I was very pleasantly surprised. After a slight hiccup with one of the rooms, which the reception staff resolved, Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian provided a marvellous base for hat trip. I would highly recommend it for busness and leisure travellers as Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian is only 30km from Beijing Capital International Airport and you can commute easily to other parts of the city with the nearby Wudaokou Subway Station.


Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian guestrooms all feature flat-screen televisions, satellite channels, work desks with ergonomic seats and high-speed Internet access.


During this visit to Beijing we often ate out at local restaurants, particularly when we were out and about visiting the sights of Beijing. However there are several available in the Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian.  I enjoyed that we could indulge our appetite at Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant or in our all-day dining, Fusion Flavors, which features authentic Indian cuisine with Indian chef in Ramayana and 24 hours room service.You can also treat yourself to a taste of the UK with a relaxing afternoon tea or start the evening with a cocktail at Melody Lounge and V-Bar at the Basement one.


However, I doubt very much that you will want to spend all your time in this fabulous city in the Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian, however good a hotel it is! Even if you are at a conference take time to visit the Summer Palace, Yuan Ming Yuan which is close by. The Summer Palace is beautiful and is the best-preserved imperial garden in the world. Views across he lake are stunning. Be sure not to miss Tianemen Square with the famous kite flying and The Forbidden City. The latter is the best preserved imperial palace in China and the largest ancient palatial structure in the world.


Wherever you go, there will be a lot of walking and many photo opportunities. If you have any, you can burn off extra energy in modern Fitness Centre although  we did not use that, my husband did relax with a soothing massage while I enjoyed the  sauna and use of the indoor swimming pool.

I was fascinated by the Beijing hutongs are mazes of narrow alleyways linking old single-hutongstory traditional courtyard houses. Lying amid the secret streets and alleys of hundred year hutongs, is the modern pub hub built into an ancient fishing lake called Houhai. The traditional tea shops are fun too. Also, if you have a chance, go to the Beijing Opera. It  is regarded as Chinese cultural treasure.The make up, the face masks, the gorgeous costumes, the unique vocal style make Beijing opera a high-class performance entertainment.


The Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian is located strategically near to a subway station and restaurant hubs. The cleanliness of hotel room is excellent and we received good service from all departments including the front desk and concierge. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Holiday Inn Beijing Haidian and highly recommend it.
Valerie Penny


Barcaccia, Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Italy

icecream-3The first time I ever tasted roated chestnuts was in Larimer Square, Denver, Colorado, USA on a cold winter’s day when I was Christmas shopping with friends. The memory of that happy day and the smell of the chestnuts, is probably more palatable to me than the taste if the products! However, when I smelt the chesnuts in Piazza di Spagna and my husband offered to buy me some, I could not resist.We munched through the portion on a corner of Piazza di Spagna watching a wedding procession led by a bagpiper. It was fun, but quite surreal!

When we went back to Piazza di Spagna a few days later, it wasicecream-2 my turn to treat us and I went to the opposite end of the spectrum. We had double scoop icecream cones from the amazing gelateria that is Baracaccia.

The icecream from Baracaccia is not cheap, but the shop is in Piazza di Spagna, Rome, Italy, so you would expect nothing less. My husband chose strawberry and melon, I had chocolate chip and lemon. All were delicious, and it was a lovely end to the day, standing in Piazza di Spagna, people watching and indulging in delicious icecream. I highly recommend Baracaccia.

Valerie Penny