THE SUNSEEKERS GUIDE TO FUERTEVENTURA
BY SARA DARLING
While the UK is buying winter bonnets and stocking up on Lemsip, sun lovers are stocking up on sun screen and flip flops and looking more than a little bit smug.
If you want to banish the winter blues, and get away from premature fairy lights, Fuerteventura offers laid back luxury at any time of year; But is particularly pleasant in the winter, as it’s a hidden gem.
Blessed with year-round sun, azure waters and miles of sandy beaches, Feurteventura has lots to tempt warm weather lovers. With legendary sunsets, the clear sky is also a paradise for night owls and star-gazers wanting to explore all aspects of the island.
Stay in the luxury Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real, which has a prime beachside location and you will be at the heart of the unique island vibe, and have access to the best action, wellness and culture that the island has to offer.
WATER SPORTS AND ADVENTURE
Winter in all the Canary Islands just means less crowds, but those in the know flock to Fuerteventura for the waves. The weather conditions are perfect for surfing, kite surfing, waterskiing, paddle-boarding and swimming- with the Windsurfing World Championships are hosted in Fuerteventura every year on Sotavento Beach.
However, you don’t have to be a pro- the island wide beaches also have plenty of inlets for beginners and an abundance of surf schools available to help you perfect your hang ten. Divers, snorkelers and swimmers are also catered for, with marine life and sheltered beaches which don't get the water sports fans.
If inland adventures are more your bag, join a jeep safari (cycle or hike) through Europe’s largest desert, which includes the Betancuria, Pajara or El Cardon mountains. Stop at the Corralejo National Dune Park which houses the dormant volcanic craters, and take time to feed the friendly chipmunks.
Apart from the sand, sea and sunshine, the island’s diverse landscape deserves a mention and the Ajuy Caves on the west side of the island attracts many visitors. Consisting of cavernous chambers they were formed 70 million years ago and are the oldest rocks of the Canary Islands. The black sand fossilised beach offers a very different, almost mythical experience similar to Mount Tindaya.
The Del Carmen Saltworks provide insight into the inner workings of salt mines and the use of the island’s most natural and renewable property, whilst the Atalayita Archaeological Interpretation Centre enables visitors to take a step back in time to discover how life once was including the old Aboriginal houses built into caves.
Although it’s an island, the food in Fuerteventura is very advanced, with Casa Santa Maria restaurant having appeared in Guide Michelin multiple times. Housed in a renovated 17th century farmhouse, this diners enjoy a rustic experience of locally inspired food with a creative, international twist.
Further Michelin stars, can be found at the romantic bolthole- La Cúpula at Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real. Head Chef, Carles Gaig wines and dines his guests with locally sourced seafood, with remarkable results!
Sushi fans will love the immersive Yamatori restaurant on site, which offers a Teppanyaki experience along with freshly made sushi.
And the Alacena Real restaurant features over 230 healthy breakfast options and a huge range of natural tropical juices to set guests up for a day by the pool or on an adventure.
The perfect end to a strenuous day is a massage, and the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real is the proud home of the largest spa on the island. Offering a huge range of treatments and massages designed to synchronise mental and physical health and wellbeing, the Spa specialises in local ingredients, such as Aloe Vera, which has many holistic benefits.
Guests can also start their day with yoga or Pilates classes on the terrace at the Beach Club. Overlooking the ocean and neighbouring islands of Lobos and Lanzarote, you can’t get much more zen than this.
If you need any more inspiration on getting away from it all, check our this winter offer from Love Holidays for a seven-night stay at the five-star Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real (atlantisbahiareal.com)
Prices starting from £650 per person, based on two people sharing a bed and breakfast basis. Flying from London Stansted on 30 November 2019.
For more information, please visit
MUSIC IN MADRID
By Sara Darling
Madrid has a reputation for being a chic city destination; with terraces, rooftops, beautiful people and a climate that grows great avocados (all year round natch!). It's no wonder that the hotel business is thriving, and marketing teams are bending over backwards to come up with new ideas on hooking clients.
The Aloft hotel, Gran Via is small and perfectly formed with a great location in the buzzy heart of Madrid. With an open plan reception stacked with contemporary art, comfy sofas, and trendy staff, you can enjoy self service breakfast until 11am, making it a hot spot for visitors who want to enjoy what the city has to offer.
This urban bolthole attracts a young crowd, and has funky rooms, with trademark platform beds, 49” Chromecast TV, walk-in rainfall shower along with fridge and daily free water bottles, as well as a kettle and complimentary tea and coffee.
Perfectly situated for the city’s Gran Via and Preciados shopping districts, it is also within walking distance to the iconic squares of Callao and Puerta del Sol and Madrid’s buzzing nightlife. But when you want to chill out, head to the rooftop oasis where you can enjoy the Splash Pool or just lounge with a cocktail and soak up the sun and the views from the WXYZ® Bar.
With a stunning view of Madrid’s skyline, the rooftop terrace is the ideal place for live music, and this September hosted the Live At Aloft Hotels Homecoming Tour in collaboration with Universal Music Group.
Mala Rodriguez is a Madrid native and is the first (and only) female artist to win both Best Urban Album and Best Urban Song at the Latin GRAMMYs and brought her unique sound to the intimate rooftop stage. Fusing Latin hip-hop, she has a reputation for producing contemporary, intelligent lyrics that she incorporates into her set. Using her native flamenco musical influences, she has set the bar for Spanish language hip hop, as well as switching it up to a more melodic, acoustic sound.
As one of hand-picked Live at Aloft Hotels Homecoming Tour artists, she performed a one hour set, and had a meet and greet with fans- joining the chosen eight musicians who have been performing at Aloft newest and most notable hotels around the world. The once in a lifetime experience was further customised by using an interactive art experience app, designed by British ‘GIF-ITI’ street artist INSA. This innovative, augmented reality experience allowed users to film and personalise their concert experience.
From eclectic music to inventive food to traditional flamenco, Madrid has it all, and it's worth getting lost in its elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks. Renowned for its classical art and countless museums, the city is also the home of an emerging contemporary arts scene, with 23 year old street artist Mister Piro making an impact with his work being commissioned for an eclectic range of projects and walls in places as diverse as Italy, India, Honduras, South Korea and the United States, which all have his unique acrylics and water mark.
After honing skills in graphic design, he now switches up both studio and street work, with his trademark metaphoric style which he superimposes, blurs and intermingles in an ethereal puff of clouds. One to watch.
For more details on the Aloft Homecoming Tour Dates check here
To book the Aloft Hotel, Gran Via, Madrid
Check out Misterpiro here
Review: Christopher George
Set in the heart of Central London, on the back streets of Covent Garden, Little Kolkatan is a hidden gem, offering a tapas version of modern Bengali influenced Indian cuisine from Kolkata.
Unlike general Indian restaurants offering delicious but heavy foods, Little Kolkata offers lighter versions and smaller dishes to share in the tapas style- where you can indulge in several options.
The restaurant is set in an almost 1950s style, with booths, stooled tables and a canteen vibe for a more relaxed dining experience, which is much more welcoming after rushing around the capital between work, shopping or the theatre.
The staff are casual, friendly and attentive with their service, and the booths offer more privacy if you would prefer a more intimate meal! The atmosphere is great for a chilled lunch or dinner, with the menu offering a range of dishes and sufficient mix of vegetarian and fish options. If like us at SoEdited, you have cut out the meat, and always looking for delicious veggie choices, Little Kolkata has a great selection.
One of the most appealing items about Indian food is the vast variety and flavours for vegetarians and vegans, which includes the delicious Indian deserts. Enjoy an Indian beer from the well stocked bar, or try the non alcohol drinks such as the traditional lassie.
If you enjoy a lots of options, spices, and freshly cooked food, Little Kolkata will welcome and feed to your hearts content!
51-53, Shelton Street,
London, WC2H 9JU
Closet Tube Station is Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus
Untouched, underdeveloped and the perfect place for adventure
Feature by Sara Darling
If you’re craving some winter sun, and let’s be honest, who isn’t in January? The Canary Islands might be just what you are looking for. Tropical climes, desert landscape, stunning beaches and an abundance of water sports, are just what you need to shake the winter blues away. Although it’s part of Spain, the second largest of the islands, Fuerteventura is only 62 miles from Africa, and it possesses a kind of barren, desert-like beauty more reminiscent of Morocco than anywhere in Europe, which makes it an exotic destination at any time of year. Despite the volcanic terrain, it has some of the best beaches in the Canary Islands and is the least developed of the archipelago’s main islands by far.
Of course you can head to the beautiful island of Fuerteventura just to relax on a lounger. With plenty of resorts, the four star Suite Hotel Atlantis is all-inclusive and has eight on site pools to tempt you. With numerous buffet style restaurants, adults only areas, sporting facilities, kids club and drinks on tap, you might not want to leave the complex.
However, if you do venture out (and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you!) expect to spot lots of bleached blond boys and toned, tanned girls who make the place look pretty with their bouncy hair and surf boards. The island is super popular with international visitors who descend for the water sports- thanks to the near-constant breeze that blows across the island, but seemingly they fall in love with the easy going culture, sun and lifestyle, so end up staying.
If you’re feeling adventurous, there is plenty to tempt you in the way of water sports and you can hire equipment or have lessons in everything from kayaking, kitesurfing or windsurfing to stand up paddle boarding and surfing. And although it isn’t as tacky as Tenerife, you can also get jet skis in certain bays.
I achieved a childhood ambition, and poured myself into a wetsuit for a surf lesson with Fuerteventura Surf School; Conveniently located at the uber cool Sunset Bar, in the north of the island, the tanned, tousled instructors will whisk you off in their surf wagon to the beginner’s beach. Don’t expect any special treatment with the waves though, they might not be as gigantic here, but they are still pretty daunting! For any skeptics, it is possible to stand up.. But only if you have impeccable balance. Small groups are led by two (very patient) instructors who give beachside training and are with you in the waves to help give you the confidence to stand up on an eight foot piece of fibreglass which is bobbing in the waves. Invariably you will fall off, but that is part of the fun. And if all else fails, you can just mount the board and paddle, whichever way you look at it, its a perfect prelude to some cocktails back at the Sunset bar!
With over 100 beaches scattered across the island you can discover one suited to you. Whether you like people watching or are looking for something more deserted or even nudist; There are even beaches with white, black or golden sand and some beaches are renowned for their waves, whereas some have none. You will be spoilt for choice, but you will need to hire a car and go and find them.
Fuerteventura is an arresting patchwork of bone-dry plains, gnarled lava fields and craggy volcanic ridges, and was formed approximately twenty million years ago when volcanic activity under the ocean caused molten magma to rise to the surface; The result after cooling is the group of Canary Islands. Anyone remotely interested in geology will be in their element. Visitors cannot ignore the island’s volcanic origin but there is more to see than just craters and cones; the landscape is remarkable consisting of sandy roadsides, sand dunes and desert. An ochre backdrop is a natural paradise and conservation is prioritised over development and resorts are in keeping with the scenery and the skyline is not marred.
The surroundings are best soaked up by car or off-roader. I booked a day with the Mehari Experience, to see the real island, and kick up some dust! Big enough for three passengers, a day’s itinerary takes you to the island’s hotspots, including camel riding, cruising along Mirador Risco de las Peñas between Betancuria and Pájara, where you can park up and do some chipmunk spotting and volcano climbing at Lajares Volcanos, followed by lunch at the beautiful old fishing harbour of El Cotillo.
The famous El Cotillo lighthouse is in the exposed North West corner of the island, and has impeccable ocean views all the way along the rugged coastal drive. The sea surrounds the lighthouse in a large horseshoe and the waves crash in every direction, seemingly battling for attention, and wowing the windsurfers. However, the piece de resistance is the Parque Natural de las Dunas de Corralejo. A National Park consisting of endless, surreal sand dunes. It’s no wonder they featured in Star Wars- they are truly out of this world! Being chauffeured in the windowless buggy means you can enjoy the scenery without having to concentrate on avoiding the bumps, and admire the goats being herded across arid plains.
Most holidaymakers head to the south-western resorts of Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas and Costa Adeje where the bulk of the island’s holiday accommodation is located, but there is a different vibe in each suburb, and visitors are welcome. Watch the sunrise, and sunset, and enjoy strolling around the pretty whitewashed villages or jump aboard a catamaran to see dolphins and whales up close.. Even if you don’t want to test your limits by doing something adventurous, the vista of sand and sea, and surfers makes it a magical place to be at any time of year.
Alpharooms (0114 407 0241) offers seven nights in Fuerteventura from £741 per person based on two adults sharing staying at the four-star Suite Hotel Atlantis Fuerteventura Resort on an all inclusive basis, flying from London Gatwick.
Price is from £641 per person on 11 February 2019.
Return airport transfers with Holiday Taxis to Suite Hotel Atlantis Fuerteventura Resort in a Private Minibus (5 - 8 people) is £70 one way.
Or enquire with Alpharooms about the five star Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahia Real www.atlantisbahiareal.com
HOLIDAYS ARE COMING
BY SARA DARLING
Everyone loves holidays a lot more than aftershave or socks! So why not book a bargain break for you and your loved ones for summer 19. Not only will it give you something to look forward to, you will get some brownie points too and a great deal too!
Marigot Bay Resort and Marina is ideally situated on the pretty island of St Lucia in the Caribbean and offers a vast array of pools, cuisine and activities, and is booking now for families who are looking for somewhere magical for their 2019 summer vacation.
Book now and snap up a bargain break, where kids aged 12 and under stay and eat for free, and two grown ups get to enjoy a complimentary 60-minute spa treatment in truly luxurious surroundings.
With heaps of attractions available for kids, the Zando’s club includes team sports, arts and crafts, pirate-themed fancy dress, nature walks and storytelling, so no nipper will be bored, whilst mum and dad can relax and enjoy a signature rum cocktail (or two).
Off-site, there are plenty of activities for the adventure seeker. Water sports, horseback riding, fishing, diving and hiking are available all year round. Just don't blame me if you don't want to leave!
The offer is valid for travel between July 1, 2019 and September 3, 2019 for two adults and up to four children. Stays must be booked before February 28, 2019 in a one-bedroom suite or higher room category.
Numerous flights from London (Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and TUI) and Manchester (Thomas Cook Airlines) with St Lucia and Marigot Bay within easy reach.
For more information on the hotel and the deal, and how to book, visit marigotbayresort.com
Review: Christopher George
London is full of the most fantastic restaurants, serving truly international cuisine, and across London from north to south, you are never short of many a dining experience. The city is known especially for its new restaurants popping up all over the capital, and equally closing not long after in many situations due to the high competition.
That is why we were intrigued to visit Simpson’s in the Strand, as it is far from a pop up newbie restaurant, with well over 150 years of fine dinning under its silver serving trolly!
Simpson's in the Strand has now unveiled a new body of illustrations by the restaurant's Artist in Residence, the satirical cartoonist Zoom Rockman. Rockman first generated interest at The Beano which published his comic strip ‘Skanky Pigeon’ when he was just 12-years-old. At 16 he became the youngest contributor to Private Eye. Now eighteen, Rockman has produced a series of six new artworks celebrating the Simpson's in the Strand's most eminent patron, Sir Winston Churchill, which are displayed throughout the historic building.
All this activity happening at Simpson’s ‘drew’ us down to the fine location to experience 170 years of dinning and ambiance.
Simpson’s opened in 1828 originally as a gentleman’s chess club, with dining beginning a little later in 1848. The restaurant has now been serving the finest cuisine for 170 years, so If that’s isn’t a reason to make a reservation at this land mark restaurant and location, then here are some other reasons.
Simpson’s is in the heart of Londons entertainment district The West End: home to the global theatre business and central for a night out, or days shopping and strolling around London Town. Simpson’s is not as stuffy as you would possibly expect it to be. In fact, I was extremely surprised by its relaxed nature, informal ambiance and helpful staff.
Set in what is the incredible dinning room and part of the SAVOY buildings, Simpson’s actually opened before the SAVOY Hotel did in this landmark architectural gem. This is one of those destinations as a visitor to London is on the list, and as a resident of London is often just walked by and not entered but always known. Simpson’s is pretty much laid out to its original design of 1828, with the dining booths and tables arrangement from 1848 that have served a multitude of politicians and celebrities ever since. It’s mixed range of clientele ranges from business professionals and the mature gentry, to a more laid back international younger crowd. The atmosphere is more dining and chatting, than trying to communicate over loud music in a crowded space.
What I found so endearing about Simpson’s is not only the beautiful setting and interior of the restaurant, the live pianist playing on the grand piano every night. The lack of any agenda with timing during our meal is also a rare touch. This is not a fast food chain or a restaurant where the staff are breathing down your neck encouraging you to leave soon after you’ve tucked your napkin on your shirt! Much to the contrary; during our 3 course meal we felt extremely relaxed in the surroundings, and we were able to slow down our pace of life for a few hours eating and chatting. Something that is often missing in the London restaurant scene, and with the pace of life in the city, where you are pushed to a poky table and expected to make a quick choice of food, eat and leave.
Defeating the whole object of dining out and ‘making a meal’ of the experience, excuse the pun…
The waiting staff are incredibly helpful and are knowledgable about the menu and wine list, without making you feel intimidated as you stumble over the impressive choice of wine. And while the menu is advanced, it is by no means pompous or stuffy. In fact it is quite a simple harty menu with dishes to leave you full, and not famished wanting more.
Within Simpson’s there is also the Knights Bar on the 1st floor where you can enjoy cocktails before your meal, beautifully decorated in a traditional sophisticated style, you can loose yourself in a large soft sofa with that special friend, or hold a private conversation surrounded by the idea that many an influencer has enjoyed a private drink here long before the internet was even considered. In fact, before the TV was even invented. Imagine that for a moment…
One of the endearing points of Simpson’s is the ability to find some privacy while not being isolated. After all, a night out is supposed to be social to a certain degree, it just depends how cluttered you want that evening to become. And it is not going to become cluttered at Simpson’s.
We have become big fans of Simpson’s for its inclusive exclusivity!! So much, we may just start to hold out meetings down there over a bottle of wine.
For reservations please call
+44 (0)20 7420 2111
Simpson's in the Strand
100 Strand, London,
Review: Christopher George
Cafe Forty One launches its new Christmas Vegan menu, and not being much of the Christmas fan myself, but a fan of Vegan-ism; this was all the excuse I needed to get a little bit festive and take a long lunch of yummy health and fabulous Vegan food and some mocktails.
Londons first Vegan French Patisserie offering seasonal and delicious breakfast and lunch menus, just 3 minutes walk from Bayswater Tube, means here is a great excuse to be good to your body, as during the Christmas season we can all take too much intake of the naughty foods and drinks!!
Cafe Forty One will be cooking up a feast of vegan winter foods in the heart of London, with an alternative to the traditional Christmas menu being served. This lunch menu will be launched on the 1st December, just I'm time for the Christmas shopping runaround, and available untill the 24th December, when I do all my Christmas shopping, and still find time to take in a Vegan lunch.
Also during these dates Head Chef Clarisse Flon will be adding French Patisseries to the popular afternoon tea menu. So from me, Happy Christmas Shopping !!!
Reservations +44 20 73138484
La Suite West Hotel. 41-51 Inverness Terrace. London W2 3JN
Sara Darling discovers the delights of the newest hotel on the block.
Sometimes you don’t need frills to make a memorable stay, you just need crisp white cotton sheets, a giant TV and fluffy towels- which East London Hotel in Bethnal Green has that and more!
A hop skip and short shimmy up Cambridge Heath Road, the Bethnal Green station is almost as close as an Uber can get. The latest addition to the Shoreditch scene is perfectly situated for nightlife and day activities, with rooms overlooking the park and The Museum of Childhood. The former Balls Brothers wine warehouse has been transformed into a chic, no frills crash pad for urbanites and business types who need a stylish place to lay their head.
The rooms are compact, but luxuriously so, and the modern design means all space is utilised. A large double nestles next to the wall, with suitcase storage space underneath the bed, and there a plenty of plug points, a Krups coffee machine, Rituals bathroom products and safe, which tick all the necessity boxes. The bathroom on the other hand is perfectly proportioned, with room enough for two to do their ablutions at once, at a push.
Considering that this is a city hotel, on a busy main road, traffic noises are pretty much non-existent. There could be screeching fire engines or 4am boy racers, but thankfully the main road and train tracks are diffused by soundproof glass, so you get the view without any sound.
However, the amount of time you will spend in your room is negligible. You are in the best city in the world after all! The Due East bar and restaurant on the ground floor is the perfect place to start your night with the signature cocktail. Utilise the hotel-wide free wifi, and plan your night. It would be rude not to pop to the pretty much adjacent bars in Paradise Row (which give discounts to guests) and there are plenty more which the friendly staff can advise on. Just ask.
Start the night in the bar, and sample the house specialty, the Paradise Rose if you like it strong and fizzy, this will start your night off with a bang! But it would be rude not to venture out to explore the neighbourhood, if not further afield; Good luck if you make it past the Experimental Cocktail Bar on the adjacent, Paradise Row.
In the daytime, the hotel restaurant, Due East focuses on locally sourced East End products: smoked salmon from Forman’s in Hackney, beers from Redchurch Brewery and gin from the East London Liquor Co. It is also a great spot for people-watching, and you could stay there all day chewing the fat! Breakfast is a la carte, and offers a range healthy options such as porridge with berries, a range of fresh juices, but I plumped for the most delicious avocado bagel I have had this week! I forgot to ask if it came from the local bagel bakeries on Brick Lane, but as the rest of the produce is sourced locally, I can only presume it is.
If you’re looking for all the essentials at a competitive price, this hotel does exactly what it should. You even check yourself in and activate your own key card- you can’t get much more Shoreditch than that!
Check out the site for more information and booking.
The East London Hotel
309-317 Cambridge Heath Rd, London E2 9LH
Article: Christopher George
With a huge student population bringing a youthful energy to the city of Toronto, there is a vibrant and active coffee culture, a myriad of multicultural restaurants, edgy music and art scene; Fashion is also a major past-time with high street and high end shops located around Queen Street West, and secondhand/ vintage stores in the West Queen West area.
The West Queen West district has been tipped as one of the coolest hoods on the planet by Vogue magazine, meaning by now many artists have been priced out of the area and are creating that new cool hub yet to be exposed. However, Toronto is a city of diversity, creativity and modernity that has ensured it as a destination, not only for the global traveller, but for settlers looking to broaden their life ambition and cultural development.
Architectural fans will have some footwork to cover the city, which showcases excellent examples of brutalist architecture, alongside more traditional early 20c urban streets, and a clash of a modern skyline towering above in glimmering steel and glass. This is an impressive city to explore!
Renting a bike on a sunny day is an excellent way to really see the main central part of Toronto, with the roads being flat, and relatively free of heavy traffic compared to many cities. It is an easy and practical way for any level of cyclist to get around. There is much to soak up, from City Hall during the day, to the CN Tower, taking in some lunch or visiting some of the many museums and galleries.
A short cycle to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) where you can spend hours checking out a small section of the museums exhibitions, which includes many familiar names such as Warhol and Picasso to name a couple.
The current show is one of the most important contemporary artists working within the field of art and politics. Rebecca Belmore’s show Facing the Monumental, is a diverse yet cohesive body of work, built over the last thirty years. Celebrating the forgotten, listening to the marginal, speaking to the silenced, and facing the monumental, with passion, beauty, intuition, this is an exhibition which should not be missed.
Just over the road from the AGO are some great independent galleries that have taken over some of the original 19th century houses providing unusual gallery spaces. While in this area there is a great noodle house Touhenboku Ramen that is a low key but a very hip spot to eat.
I managed to get a window seat at lunch just before a huge queue appeared. The vegetarian ramose dishes were delicious, the atmosphere relaxed and the service easy, friendly and chilled.
Torontos art scene is vast- from the numerous museums across the city to smaller independent galleries, along with the thriving graffiti scene. One of the biggest art events in Toronto is the Nuit Blanche, Less Sleep More Art, which takes place during the month of October.
During this time, the city is taken over as the event spreads across the city and encompass the Scarborough Town Centre area. Many iconic buildings become gallery spaces for the evening between the hours of 7pm and 7am, hence the Less Sleep More Art!
One of the prominent show spaces is City Hall and its surroundings. Visiting during the day and then at night is really captivating. City Hall is designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and was opened in 1965. Standing on what was the old China Town, the first incarnation for the new City Hall was abandoned due to its bland and design lack vision. At that point an international design competition was held with over 500 applicants. Viljo Revell, the winning architect and his associates transformed Toronto’s City Hall into one of the most iconic and important buildings of the mid century. For any fan of modern architecture, City Hall is a mecca to visit. I found myself spending two hours just wandering around the area, absolutely inspired and transfixed by by the architecture and its surroundings.
As if this area is not iconic enough as a architectural landmark, this vision of utopia is transformed into what is almost a dystopian setting during the evening. After dark, the central corporate power seemingly collapses during the night events, and a festival carnival atmosphere replaces the general corporate way of life. Activities from an installation video projected within City Hall almost criticising capitalism and government, to the 12 hour long performance art and poetry within a church, narrating the struggles of the ethnic minorities, are representative of contemporary art. While in the basement carpark of City Hall a DJ is playing dance music, while an installations reporting the progression and trauma of the LGBT community over the past 50 years, has been pasted on the walls.
The art itself throughout the city during Nuit Blance, however impressive becomes the side show, and the actual city of Toronto is the major attraction as an art piece in itself.
Wondering through its busy streets and around the open buildings late at night is quite bizarre, and seems totally alien. Throughout the night, the city is full of activity with thousands of people bustling around as if at a huge festival set amongst this concrete electric jungle.
Many of the art events are interactive, such as Inversion by Simoni + Kilty held in the foyer of the Drake One Fifty tower block. This multimedia interactive installation captures on large screen the movement of your feet, however you want to do the self performance is it to you, but I did get a few claps from spectators watching me hopping back and forth across the 20ft projection. Always one to entertain! The installation is questioning the differences we have as humans, but at the same time referencing the similarities we all share.
One of my favourite items was a video work shown at the Laurier Tower titled ‘From Toronto with Love’. 24 vintage suite case, each one uniquely transformation by individual artists. Ashley Bowes creation involved a film camera strapped to her case and wheeling it around the streets of Asia. Its a griping, fun, brilliantly edited and really engaging short video. All the artists involved in these works reflecting on the idea of journeys and destinations, with the privilege and limitations of health care at home and abroad.
With over 70 art installation throughout the city of Toronto during the Nuit Blance, it is about doing your research to see a selection of artists works, and take a cross section to move around the city. Part of the fun is just being in the crowds of people late at night and mulling around.
A huge part of the event and fun for me was getting lost in the city and discovering items without the conservative guide and map system, however this is really useful as a starting point and information guide.
At one point I turned my back to see something catching my eye, and in that 2 seconds I had lost everyone… This is however where the fun began for me. I then spent the next 2 hours just wondering amongst the thousands of strangers late at night discovering a small section of the city, this being City Hall and its square.
My absolute favourite piece of work was a sound and video installation by artists Tal Rosner and Christopher Mayo titled Lament. The huge installation was placed in the darkened City Hall itself, where bodies were scattered around the floor watching a double sided screen. The piece was inspired form a 1969 poem by renowned Toronto artist bpNichol.
Incorporating music, spoken word and video projections, the project illuminates and animates a style of writing know as concrete poetry, which celebrates visual images created in written text.
Consisting of a basic “you are city hall my people” the sounds and vision investigate civic politics and the responsibility of each citizen for the actions of their government. An item and statement we should all be extremely responsible and aware of in the present times that we live!!
This project placed in the vast City Hall of Toronto and over a loud speaker system, with the only light from the video piece its self was just incredible. The atmosphere was hypnotic and dystopian within the chambers of this iconic government building. It was hard for me to leave not only for the sound and video installation, but also being in the City Hall late at night was a real trip!!
During the day and running throughout the year you can take a free graffiti tour with the ‘Tour Guys’ from 3pm for an hour or so (donations recommended please!) If you’re lucky you’ll get Jason who is an expert on graffiti art and extremely informative and energetic. He will guide you through the graffiti scene of the Toronto’s Queen Street area, and provide the historic narrative around the whole graffiti movement form its early days in New York of the late 1960s.
It's a very enjoyable few hours walking around the streets.
Around the Queen Street area you can grab some lunch at the many diners or just meander around the easily accessible shops. With low level buildings in the Queens Street area, on a good day, the view is spectacular of the surrounding high-rise buildings towering above.
Away from central Toronto, the district of Scarborough and Lawrence Avenue is a mix of diversity where you can explore global cuisine. The closet tube station to Lawrence St is Lawrence East and around 30 minutes from St. George station in Toronto. Here you can find a vast choice of cultures and historic recipes preserved by the immigrant population laying roots in this area.
This community is extremely supportive of all nationalities, and you really feel the love and independence in the food shops. A very relaxed environment worth the excursion for a few hours. I would recommend GHADIR serving Lebanese and Middle Eastern food which you can find in a market area. And for deserts, take a 5 minute walk to Crown Pastries serving traditional Syrian baklava deserts from the 100 year old recipes passed down by the owner's grandfather who was killed during conflict in Syria. Crown Pastries is potentially the best place for deserts on the planet, let alone Toronto. And this is coming from a non sweet eater. I couldn't fill my mouth or pockets enough!
Although a train journey away, it is worth a visit to get out the city and buy some deserts- the sweets really are that good. This whole area is preserving the history of culture via foods, and lessons should be learned across the globe how Toronto’s diversity and respect for all cultures is a proven method of success.
With Scarborough’s huge immigrant population and explosion of housing, downtown Toronto has begun to span its arts scene to involve this diverse community and interact further with them.
This season during the annual Nuit Blanche Toronto, Scarborough has been opened for the first time with its own arts installations around the town centre. This area is a version of the planet, having every nationality happily working, shopping and eating together. The exhibition is asking questions on the emerging immigrant population and neighbourhood, and the positive effects it has on Toronto's culture and art scene.
However, may we never forget, Canada is a country who’s population is generally immigrants, with the indigenous people paying a huge price during the colonisation of the country from the 15th century. Canada is at this time making positive steps to embrace the new immigrant population and should be extremely proud of its diversity, especially in Toronto.
NUIT BLANCHE TORONTO
Art Gallery of Ontario AGO GALLERY
Tour Guys TOURGUYS
Pastries CROWN PASTRIES
Travel by Sara Darling
Have you ever fancied a last minute get away, but can’t commit to going too far? Our friendly cousins in the Channel Islands might just be the answer. The second largest of these, Guernsey is just a short hour flight from London and is the perfect place for a weekend away. Closer to France (just 27 miles away) it is almost like heading to Europe, but you can still spend the GBP, so it has the best of both worlds (and no VAT on shopping!)
The indulgent accommodation at the Duke of Richmond Hotel transports you back in time, and is full of traditional frills. However, the fresh air, and rousing walks are a perfect remedy to shake away the cobwebs of city living.
But fear not, it still has the perks of being a cosmopolitan island, and the refurbished PJ Parker wine bar and cellar is the perfect place to get acquainted with local life whilst enjoying a pre-dinner tasting session.
Banish your hazy morning head with a brisk walk. Being an island, the scenery is incredible. Whether you are a hiker, biker, twitcher or fisherman, Guernsey is packed with outdoor activities, which can be enjoyed at any time of year. If you’re here for a weekend break, it would be a shame to stay in your hotel, however luxurious it is. Venture out and enjoy a lunchtime crab sandwich at one of the beachside cafes, and take a hearty stroll- after all you will need to work up an appetite to be ready for your next meal!
If you go in summer, you might be tempted by some water sports. All the beaches are incredible; White sands, clear water and clean bays are paradise for serious swimmers, kids and the more adventurous. Paddle boards and kayaks can be hired if the urge takes you, and you can also learn to surf in Vazon Bay.
A car is useful to get to the less crowded beaches, and families love Pembroke Bay. The long stretch of inviting white sand leaves plenty of room for children to build sandcastles, whereas Petit Bot bay is the ideal destination for couples. Smaller and more secluded, it has limited parking, but that adds to the exclusivity. Take a towel or something more waterproof. Even though the tide goes out far, it comes in quickly, so the sand is always moist, but the sunsets are worth hanging around to see!
Port Soif is where to head if you have a sense of adventure. The sheltered bay is reached via steps within the grassed sand dunes; This horseshoe shaped bay is a dreamy spot for snorkelling.
Fresh clean air, healthy living and great food, what more could you want from a break? Guernsey cows are famous around the world, so it follows that any visit should include at least one cream team, ice cream, cheese tasting and breakfast toast butter fest! If you are already familiar with the delights, visit the farm where you can meet the cows, and buy up your stock from the local shop (which is incidentally cheaper than Waitrose at home).
You won’t be able to avoid historical references on the island, and Guernsey’s ancient royal fortress, Castle Cornet stands guard over the capital St Peter Port harbour. Featuring five museums telling the story of various aspects of the island and the castle's maritime and military history dating back 800 years, it is a must for any fact fans.
During World War II the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be invaded and occupied by German Forces. This has left a visible scar on the island. and observation towers, Nazi bunkers and underground tunnels are still unmissable. War buffs will appreciate the conserved La Vallette Underground Military museum, which is full of military regalia and artefacts, which war enthusiasts will love.
However, in recent years, Guernsey has become a magnet for well to do inhabitants, with the most pricey house selling for more than 2 million pounds! Whizzing through the rural lanes in the safari truck gives you a great vantage point to peer over tall hedges and see how the other half live! At only 2 miles long with an area covering approximately 24 square miles you could do this by bike, but booking an excursion with Guernsey Tours gives you a much better vantage point. Solid period houses (some built as early as 17th century) are set in stunning grounds- indicating that they are very well maintained. Even if the owners only use them as a holiday home!
The unusual jeep trip will take you off the beaten track, which will more than likely end up at the Roquette Cider farm, in the Fauxquets Valley, where you can visit the orchard and see the cider being made. Followed by a well deserved tasting session, with the affable Craig, your Scottish host, you can sample the cider, spirits, apple juice along with cheese, chutneys and liqueurs in the beautifully maintained grounds. An unmissable experience, but advisable to do in afternoon or evening, or you’ll be tipsy for the whole day!
But it’s not just cider which is popular with the inhabitants (although they do swear by it on a picnic), there are several gin distilleries who have created their version of the clear stuff. Blue Bottle, Wheadon’s and Unit Six Gin are produced in Guernsey, and Guernsey only five star hotel, The Old Government House, has over 150 types on offer. You can even pick up the Gin Passport, which gets stamped every time you try a new one.. And if that’s not an excuse to come back, I don’t know what is!
Foodies will love Guernsey and seafood takes centre stage. There are plenty of dining options to fulfil even the fussiest eater- scallops with bacon or locally caught monkfish, crab or sea bass are the specialties, but the culinary scene is cosmopolitan and you can track down pretty much anything. Summer nights are spent eating outside Mediterranean style, whilst watching the sunset, but in winter you will be welcomed into cosy, candle lit restaurants with roaring fires and heart warming food options.
Guernsey has around 50 hotels ranging from cosy boutiques to its 5 star hotels- The Old Government House (OGH) is the most well known, and has several restaurants on site including The Curry Room, The Brasserie and Harry's Bar which offer more informal dining. It also has an outdoor pool, sauna and steam room if you can’t bear to go to the beach!
Most of the nightlife happens in the pretty, cobbled street, capital, St Peter Port. Boasting a bustling marina, there are plenty of pubs, shops, cafes and restaurants to keep you entertained if the weather takes an unexpected turn. With gift shops, high street stores and galleries, everything is here, you can treat yourself with an ice cream on the harbour, enjoying the views of the smaller neighbouring islands of Herm, Jethou and Sark.
It is also the place to pick up the speedboat to the third largest of the Channel Islands, Alderney, which boasts over 300 species of bird. Launched this summer, the Little Ferry Company is the nippiest way to get across (if you don’t want to fly). The twelve- person hydraulic speedboat whizzes passengers across the choppy waters in just over an hour and it’s like you are stepping back in time. With hardly any cars (or people on a Saturday afternoon), Alderney is the ideal place to come for peace, tranquility. There are 28 miles of coast packed with golden beaches, cliff top paths, scenic walking trails and lots of nature; Incidentally, for such a small landmass, it has the highest number of pubs per head for residents! It’s no wonder everyone seems to know each other, and visitors keep coming back.
Whether you are looking for some R&R, a romantic break or a weekend with the girls, the Channel Isles should be on your radar. From paddle boarding to kayaking to windsurfing to foodie foraging, or just enjoying the local gin, butter and ice cream, you will not forget your trip.
Exposing the roads less trodden around the globe. 55Travels with the notion to encounter a more cultural and creative experience.