London for Sugar Addicts

In this guest article, former pastry chef Andrea Duty takes us on a mouthwatering tour of the best deserts and sweet stuff in London – heaven for sugar addicts!

The torrid reputation of English food is infamous. Time and time again, foodie travelers pass on the UK’s bland traditions in favor of Vietnamese spice or French indulgence. And while it’s true that the culinary scene in London had an exceedingly long awkward phase, it’s since grown into a modern, dynamic contender as one of the best food cities in the world. I could talk for pages about the various curry houses, chippers, chaat shops and pubs throughout the city, but as a former pastry chef, I feel it my duty to bring you all things sugar, from the traditional to the internationally influenced. Thus, my list of absolute favorite desserts in London. Nothing bland about it.

Kouign amann from Parisian chef Philippe Conticini Photo: Andrea Duty

Kouign amann from Parisian chef Philippe Conticini

Kouign Amann

Renowned Parisian chef Philippe Conticini brings the signature bell jars display cases and geometric packaging of La Pâtisserie des Rêves to Marylebone, filling them with manicured renditions of French classics and updated British favorites. His kouign amann – a baton of caramelized croissant dough – negates the need for a trip to Paris on the Eurostar while his carrot cake has forever ruined me to my homemade version.

Merveilleux

Hot on Conticini’s heels is Frédéric Vaucamps, the master of meringues whose Aux Merveilleux de Fred just debuted South Kensington. His dainty “cakes” of crisped egg white, whipped cream and assorted toppings look like the dense cake balls du jour but wow with a cloud-like consistency. Flavors such as speculoos, praline and coffee compete as top sellers…and for space in my stomach.

Aux Merveilleux de Fred in South Kensington Photo: Andrea Duty

Aux Merveilleux de Fred in South Kensington

Sticky Toffee Pudding

All those who visit me in London are treated to a Sunday roast at The Spaniards Inn, a 16th century pub reportedly frequented by the likes of Dickens and Keats. My guests may think the aim here is to show them a bit of British history or give them a little culture, but my real motive is a slice of sticky toffee pudding. The version at The Spaniards is wickedly rich and is pushed over the edge with a dollop of clotted cream. Nab a seat by the fireplace and it’s pure heaven.

Sticky toffee pudding at the Spaniard's Inn in London Photo: Andrea Duty

Sticky toffee pudding at the Spaniard’s Inn in London

Bakewell Tart

Take a buttery tart shell, schmear it with jam, top with dense almond cake and you’ve got a classic Bakewell Tart. There are as many variations of this dessert as there are bakers in England, but my favorite slice so far is at Le Comptoir Gourmand. It may be commercially made, but it’s so rich and homey that I swear someone’s grandma must be running that kitchen.

Bakewell tart at Le Comptoir Gourmand Photo: Andrea Duty

Bakewell tart at Le Comptoir Gourmand

Pistachio/Ricotta & Sour Cherry Gelato

I recently spent two weeks in Italy where I consumed as much gelato as is humanly possible, but BUT (and I feel sacrilege even saying this) none of it was as good as the scoops at Gelupo. Here the flavors are spot on: fresh, not too rich, and not too sweet. They are just…perfect. Plus, there’s a dessert case full of frozen cupcakes, chocolate-dipped cones and a rotation of seasonal treats. Even when we are in the depths of winter, you can bet on finding me here.

Gelupo Gelateria in London Photo: Andrea Duty

Gelupo Gelateria in London

Andrea Duty is a former pastry chef from Austin, Texas living in London, England. She eats her way through other countries in attempt to discover cultural insight from cake and historical relevance through cookies…or something like that. You can follow her travels at This New View.

 

More London dining experiences:

Fine dining favourites at the top London Hotels
Five of the best kept secret eateries in London
An artistic lunch at the V & A – in London

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Lovely Laugharne – on the Dylan Thomas trail in South Wales

I like to imagine the 19 year old aspiring poet, Dylan Thomas arriving at Laugharne on the ferry, taking in the wide open skies of the Taf estuary, the small boats stranded in the marshy channels and the stark, stone towers of the ruined castle, and thinking “YES!, this is where I want to be.”

He later wrote that it was the sort of place where people like him ” just came, one day, for the day, and never left; got off the bus, and forgot to get on again.” Laugharne in Camarthanshire is one of the places that Dylan Thomas is most connected to, living for the last 4 years of his life in The Boathouse overlooking the estuary which inspired him to write some of his greatest poetry.

Even if you know or care nothing about Dylan Thomas, Laugharne is an enchanting place to spend a day, as we did as part of our weekend following the Dylan Thomas Trail, in honour of the centenary of the Poet’s birth.

View of the Taf estuary from Laugharne Castle

View of the Taf estuary from Laugharne Castle

Staying at Brown’s Hotel – Dylan’s favourite pub

We’d spent the Saturday in Swansea, discovering the city that Dylan knew as a young man and wrote about in Return Journey as well as visiting the Dylan Thomas Birthplace, before driving on to Laugharne to stay at Brown’s Hotel. As we pulled up, the evening sun lit up the front of the Georgian pub, a favourite drinking haunt of Dylan that has now been renovated as a bar with boutique style guest rooms.

When he lived here, Dylan’s routine was to sit in the window seat of Brown’s in the morning, studying the papers, or dropping in to see his parents Jack and Florence who lived at The Pelican opposite, before going home to the Boathouse for lunch and working in the writing shed in the afternoon, usually returning in the evening with his wife Caitlin for a few more beers.

Browns Hotel in  Laugharne

Browns Hotel in Laugharne

Our room was The Laques, named after a part of Laugharne that you can see from the bedroom window where Flemish weavers once settled. The style was very much boutique retro, with a stripy carpet, those chalky Farrow and Ball tones of beige on the walls and modern oak furniture with a 1950s air. The double bed had coverings and cushions in similarly muted shades of grey and purple and from the bed we could gaze at the photo-mural opposite – a soft-focus shot of the estuary with waving grasses in the foreground.

The room was small but thoughtfully kitted out with tea and coffee, bottled water, a few old books including a Dylan Thomas selected works and a bedside radio. The adjoining loo and bathroom featured those rectangular white tiles that were popular in the 1930s when a plumbed-in bathroom was a novelty, a bath with white waffle shower curtain and shower above and some delicious Warm Ginger toiletries. As the hotel isn’t really a hotel but a bar with rooms and only does bar snacks, we stuck our noses into the Three Mariners pub next door, but the place looked packed and the music was Saturday-night-loud, so we ended up having dinner at Cafe Culture, a pleasant Italian down the road.

Brown’s Hotel, King Street, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. Tel: 01994 427 688 E-mail: info@browns-hotel.co.uk Rooms are £75-140 based on 2 people including breakfast. Heather and Guy stayed in The Lacques, a Classic King Room which costs £105/ night for weekend stays. Twitter @BrownsLaugharne | Facebook Page | YouTube

Browns Hotel in Laugharne

Browns Hotel in Laugharne

Evening light on the Taf estuary

I took advantage of the evening sunshine to go and explore, following signs along the lane towards The Boathouse, where Dylan Thomas lived with his family. From the lane above the house, now known as the Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk, I caught the beautiful views over the Taf estuary, where the water was gently rippling and glittering in the evening light. The tide was out with the sandbanks exposed at low tide and some wading seabirds picking their way gingerly through the shallows. It was this view that inspired Dylan to write his Poem in October about his walk from here to St John’s Hill where the wood overlooks the town.

It was my thirtieth year to heaven Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood And the mussel pooled and the heron Priested shore The morning beckon With water praying and call of seagull and rook And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall

Taf Estuary at Laugharne in Wales

Taf Estuary at Laugharne in Wales

You can follow the Dylan Thomas Birthday walk yourself, on the route Dylan described in his Poem in October, where there are benches and signs along the way so that you can read each line or verse at the place it was written. There’s a Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk Website with all the information you need and an App of the Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk for iPhone and Android.

Dylan and Caitlin – in life and death

On Sunday morning we enjoyed a good cooked breakfast in the bar at Brown’s Hotel, surrounded by memorabilia and mementos of Dylan Thomas and then walked up the main street towards St Martin’s church. Through the main churchyard gate and over the little footbridge across the lane, we found the plain white cross of Dylan and Caitlin Thomas standing out among the grey gravestones.

In the church there is also a replica of the stone memorial in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, with Dylan’s lines from the poem Fernhill ” Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea”. Dylan Thomas died in 1953 aged only 39, while on a poetry reading tour in New York, of causes which have not been fully explained but were probably a combination of pneumonia, morphine overdose and heavy drinking, while Caitlin was also buried with him after her death in 1994. Dylan’s father, Jack had died only the year before Dylan himself and Dylan wrote one of his most popular and moving poems Do not go gentle into that good night about his father’s illness.

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

It felt a little voyeuristic taking a picture of the gravestone, so we continued up the leafy lane beside the church, fringed by cow parsley and pink campion, taking a short cut to The Boathouse.

Grave of Dylan and Caitlin Thomas at St Martin's church in Laugharne, Wales

Grave of Dylan and Caitlin Thomas at St Martin’s church in Laugharne, Wales

The Boathouse – my sea-shaken house

In 1938 Dylan and Caitlin visited their friends the writers Richard and Frances Hughes at Castle House in Laugharne and decided to find their own place nearby. The couple moved into a tiny fisherman’s cottage and then into a grander house at SeaView where they lived until 1940 until the war years intervened and they moved to London. In 1949, The Boathouse which Dylan described as “my sea shaken house on a breakneck of rocks”, was bought for Dylan by his friend and patron, Margaret Taylor and he lived there with Caitlin and the children until his death in 1953.

Walking down the steps to the whitewashed house, the views across the Taf estuary were striking, not only from all the rooms, but from the balcony running around the house and the terrace at the back where there was originally a landing stage for the coal boats. Under the roof was the main bedroom which is now an exhibition space with mementoes and information about Dylan’s life, while through the small shop was a parlour furnished as it would have been by Dylan and Caitlin and kept for ‘best’ as was the custom. I spotted the desk that had belonged to Dylan’s father and had come from his childhood home at 5 Cwmdonkin Park, since Geoff Haden had told me how he really wanted it back!

Downstairs where the family would have gathered was now a tea room but we were able to sit on the terrace in the sunshine with fabulous views over the estuary where I had a chat with artist in residence, Cheryl Beer, who was playing her ukelele and making up poems with some of the children visiting. Cheryl told me that she was one of 12 different artists who had been invited for a month to create a work related to Dylan Thomas – you can see some of the photos from her month in residence on her blog here. She had noticed the strips of paper in the writing shed like shopping lists of the words that he planned to use, and was asking people to write a line of poetry or prose on a strip of paper, which she could incorporate into one large digital work. Having read some of the passionate, tender and angry love letters between Dylan and Caitlin, she also was planning to write a song that told the story from Caitlin’s point of view, “as a woman who was often being apologised to”

Dylan Thomas Boathouse at Laugharne

Dylan Thomas Boathouse at Laugharne

The Dylan Thomas writing shed

After visiting The Boathouse we walked back along the path to Dylan’s writing shed which the staff kindly opened for me to take photos, although you can normally only peer through the window. Inside Dylan’s writing desk was set out as if he had just left, with cigarette stubs, strips of words hanging up and that inspiring view right across the estuary. The first poem he wrote there was Over Sir John’s Hill, in which he describes the birds stalking their prey and bringing death in the midst of this beauty.

Over Sir John’s hill, The hawk on fire hangs still; In a hoisted cloud, at drop of dusk, he pulls to his claws And gallows, up the rays of his eyes the small birds of the bay

This is also where Dylan wrote his most famous play for voices, Under Milkwood, inspired in part by the people of Laugharne. Dylan described his work in a letter as “a play, an impression for voices, an entertainment out of the darkness, of the town I live in .. (so that) you come to know the town as an inhabitant of it.. utterly familiar with the places and the people.” From the writing shed we dropped down a path to the level of the estuary where we walked back along the paved causeway with the marshland ahead of us until Laugharne castle came into view.

The Dylan Thomas Boathouse, Dylan’s Walk, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, SA33 4SD |Twitter @DTBoathouse | Facebook Page | Open daily 10am-5.30pm in summer, 10am-3.30 in winter Adults £4.20/ Children £2.00. There is a pop-up Dylan Thomas shed, a replica of the original which is on display in various festivals and places around Wales.

Dylan Thomas writing shed at Laugharne

Dylan Thomas writing shed at Laugharne

Laugharne castle, Brown as owls

The final stop on our day in Laugharne was the ruined castle which overlooks the marsh and the estuary, described by Dylan in his Poem in October.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour And over the sea wet church the size of a snail With its horns through mist and the castle Brown as owls But all the gardens Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.

Laugharne Castle was built in the 13th century, probably on top of an earlier Norman castle and it came under siege in the English Civil War and was partly dismantled. When Dylan first came to Laugharne, the castle and its grounds were in the gardens of Castle House next door, owned by writers Richard and Frances Hughes. Dylan was allowed the use of the gazebo in the garden which overlooks the estuary and it was here that he wrote the short stories “Portrait of the artist as a Young Dog”.

A nice touch is that there is a writing desk and old typewriter within the gazebo to recreate how it would have looked when Dylan wrote there. The castle is now open to the public, although it’s really just a picturesque shell of the castle that the Welsh Lords used to dominate the estuary and port at Laugharne before it silted up. You can climb the tower for views over the estuary, and there’s a Victorian Rose garden which is a pleasant place to sit on a summer afternoon.

Laugharne Castle is run by CADW and is open April-October 10am-5pm Adults £3.80

Laugharne Castle  in Wales

Laugharne Castle in Wales

Whether you are a Dylan Thomas fan or not, Laugharne is an enchanting place to visit, for the views of the estuary, the walks up to St John’s Hill, for the Brown as Owls castle, and of course for the fascinating Dylan Thomas connections. Follow where Dylan walked, drink where he drank and be inspired by the beauty of the place and the poetry. In a place like this we might all have a literary masterpiece in us.

For more information to help you connect with Dylan Thomas in Laugharne;

Visit Wales – the official website for everything to see and do in Wales – also on Twitter @VisitWales and Facebook
Visit Carmarthenshire – discover places to see and stay around Laugharne in South Wales
Dylan Thomas 100 – everything that’s going on for the 2014 Dylan Thomas Centenary year
Brown’s Hotel – Dylan’s favourite pub where you can now drink and stay the night
The Dylan Thomas Boathouse – where Dylan lived from 1949-1953
Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk – take a walk inspired by Dylan Thomas’ Poem in October
Laugharne Castle – where Dylan wrote in the gazebo owned by his friends the Hughes

My thanks to Visit Wales for arranging this weekend and allowing me to discover Dylan Thomas in Wales

Read my other articles about the Dylan Thomas Trail in Wales

An ugly, lovely town Part 1 – a Return Journey to Swansea with Dylan Thomas
An ugly, lovely town Part 2 – the Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea

Follow Heather on her travels’s board Welsh Wales on Pinterest.

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Win a Hotel Stay in my Summer Giveaway with Hotelscheap.org

Whether you fancy getting away to enjoy the summer sunshine or are planning a weekend break in the autumn once things have cooled down, I’m happy to announce my summer hotel-stay giveaway in partnership with HotelsCheap.org. I’m giving away a HotelsCheap.org voucher to one of my readers, worth $250 (or equivalent value of £145/€185) which you can use to book yourself a stay in a lovely hotel and treat yourself and that special someone to a relaxing summer break. The voucher can be redeemed for a hotel booking on the HotelsCheap.org website up until spring next year, so if you prefer you can wait until the autumn or even next spring to enjoy your hotel stay.

Hotels Collage 3

HotelsCheap.org is a hotel booking website that specialises in finding discount hotel rates for travellers worldwide and you can use the voucher to book a hotel stay in the UK, US and Canada, Europe and many other destinations worldwide. To inspire you in your choice of hotel getaway, I’ve come up with a few ideas, based on destinations and hotels I can personally recommend. If you’d like to enter this giveaway, please follow the details at the bottom of the article to find out how you can gain the maximum chances to win the HotelsCheap.org voucher.

Winchester Hotel and Spa in Winchester Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Winchester Hotel and Spa in Winchester

 

A historic getaway in Winchester

Why go?

The best of England packed into an ancient market town, Winchester has a very walkable historic centre, plenty of green spaces, river walks, interesting artizan shops and great places to eat. If that’s not enough, you have the beautiful Hampshire countryside on your doorstep, with walking and country houses to explore within a short drive of Winchester.

Where to stay?

The Winchester Hotel and Spa is a short walk from the historic centre and has rooms in August and September Saturday nights for £150 and under. Read my review of The Winchester Hotel and Spa

What to see?

Wander around the medieval market town and visit the famous cathedral where Jane Austen is buried – perhaps you’ll find a farmer’s market in full swing. Shop in the craft markets or artizan shops that line the narrow lanes, walk along the river to the city mill where you can see flour being ground as it has for centuries and perhaps spot some otters in the mill stream. The South Downs Way starts at Winchester so you may like a hike in the lovely Hampshire countryside or walk to the top of the town and visit the medieval Great Hall with King Arthur’s round table.

Read more about Winchester here: 10 ways to spend a wonderful weekend in Winchester

Hotel Valencia in San Antonio Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Hotel Valencia in San Antonio

 

A lively stay in San Antonio, Texas

Why go?

This town is one of the most historic in Texas, set on the San Antonio river, with some buzzing bars and restaurants along the Riverwalk making it a great choice for a relaxing getaway.

Where to Stay?

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk is an elegant boutique hotel on the Riverwalk and has Saturday night stays in August and September for under $200 although you may prefer to wait until the sweltering Texas heat and humidity reduces and take your hotel break in October or November. Read my review of Hotel Valencia Riverwalk

What to see?

Take a boat tour along the Riverwalk or stroll on foot as evening falls and the area buzzes with bars and restaurants. Of course you will want to visit the Alamo, a landmark in the struggle for Texan independence and perhaps drive out to some of the other historic Spanish missions in the area. You can hire bikes and cycle on the path beside the San Antonio river or shop for local crafts and artizan souvenirs in the La Villita Historic district.

Read more about our stay in San Antonio here: Texas Podcast Part 1, Houston, San Antonio and Picosa Ranch

The library in the Ibsens Hotel in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The library in the Ibsens Hotel in Copenhagen

 

A cool weekend in Copenhagen

Why go?

Haven of Scandi-cool, Denmark’s capital has a compact centre that is easy to explore by bike or on foot and in summer you can take in the party atmosphere as locals enjoy the summer in the parks and around the harbour.

Where to Stay?

The Ibsens Hotel is a stylish hotel near the Copenhagen lakes that is furnished with quirky finds from neighbourhood shops and local artizan businesses and has Saturday night stays available in August and September for €130-180.  Read my review and video of Ibsens Hotel here

What to see?

A boat tour of the canals and harbour will help you get your bearings and locate some of the major Copenhagen landmarks, such as the Opera House, Royal Palace and the Little Mermaid statue. Stroll along Stroget where you’ll find luxury Danish design stores and climb the medieval Round Tower, for views over the city. You’ll want to enjoy the food scene too, with some of the best restaurants in the world where Michelin stars abound, but you can also find inexpensive snacks and deli-meals in the Torverhallerne food halls.

Read more about Copenhagen here: In photos: Our weekend stay in Copenhagen

The Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Intercontinental Hotel in Budapest

 

A spa break in Budapest

Why go?

Hungary’s capital has all the sophistication of Paris but with far more affordable prices and warm, friendly locals. There’s so much to see whether you love sightseeing, relaxing in the numerous traditional and trendy cafes or visiting one of the thermal spas.

Where to Stay?

The Intercontinental Hotel is a 5 star hotel that’s centrally located for sightseeing by the Chain Bridge with views of the Danube and there are dates in August and September available from €100 per night. Read my review and video of Intercontinental Hotel Budapest here

What to see?

Take the funicular up to the top of Castle Hill to visit the colourful Matyas church and take in the views from the Fisherman’s Bastion over the Danube and Hungarian Parliament building. You’ll want to visit one of the Hungarian spa baths such as the Gellert or Szechenyi complexes to enjoy a massage or a soak in the warm baths and perhaps afterwards have coffee and cake in an elegant cafe. The House of Terror is a compelling reminder of Hungary’s communist past, while a visit to the Hungarian State Opera House for a concert or ballet is a must for culture lovers.

Read more about Budapest here: 48 hours in Budapest, top things to see on a weekend break

About HotelsCheap

HotelsCheap.org specialises in finding discount hotel rates for travellers worldwide operating in 75 countries for hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and holiday apartments. On HotelsCheap.org you can find anything from hostels and popular brand hotels to boutique hotels to luxury resorts, so getting the best hotel price doesn’t mean compromising on where you stay. You can also find more tips, traveller interviews and accommodation guides on the HotelsCheap blog

Follow HotelsCheap.org on their social media channels for travel inspiration and tips for the places you’ll want to visit; follow along on Twitter @hotelscheap, on Google+ and on Facebook

About the giveaway

I’m giving away a voucher to one of my readers worth $250 US (equivalent value £146 or €185) which can be redeemed on HotelsCheap.org any time before June 2015. The giveaway is open to all readers regardless of your location although the voucher will be redeemed in $US. The giveaway will run for 2 weeks and end on Monday 4 August 2014. To enter the giveaway all you have to do is;

  • Leave a comment below telling me how you’d like to spend your HotelsCheap voucher; which destination would you love to visit, who will you be going with, where would you like to stay?

You can also add 5 additional chances to win by doing any of the following through the Rafflecopter widget below;

  • Like the Heatheronhertravels Facebook page
  • Spread the word about the giveaway on Twitter, for example; I’d love to #win a summer hotel stay with @hotelscheap in the #giveaway at @heathercowper http://ow.ly/zmLnX
  • Follow Heather on her travels on Twitter @heathercowper
  • Follow the HotelsCheap Google+ page
  • Follow HotelsCheap on Twitter @hotelscheap

Entering this giveaway gives permission for you to be added to the e-mail lists of both Heatheronhertravels.com and our sponsor HotelsCheap.org, but you can unsubscribe at any time.

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This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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