A Via Rail train in Canada.

The Canadian – Canada’s transnational train service

Rail journeys have long been loved by unhurried travellers who appreciate opportunities to view the landscapes through which they traverse. The Canadian, which runs for 4,466 kilometres between Toronto and Vancouver, is a long-established passenger service and widely regarded by rail aficionados as one of the world’s great train journeys.

Running between Union Station in Toronto and Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station, anyone travelling the entire route without a break will need to block their diaries for three nights and four days. Perhaps surprisingly, the journey takes over an hour longer (three days and ten hours) while travelling from east to west, due in part to slight variations in the route at a handful of places. Many travellers are also surprised to hear that only a handful of main stops are scheduled en route, though a further 55 can be requested by passengers using the service.

A trans-continental rail journey

At its broadest point, Canada stretches for 9,306 kilometres from east to west, from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.

In an age of instantaneous electronic communications and affordable air travel, few people are able to comprehend what that kind of enormity meant in bygone times.

The sheer vastness of Canada is a factor in why railroads played such an important role in transforming North America in the late 19th century. They were regarded as revolutionary—helping open up the west to settlement and making possible transcontinental journeys that only a few hardy souls could previously contemplate.

The track running across Canada was constructed from 1881 to 1886. It was seen essential to creating a sense of unity in the then young nation. Prior to agreeing to become a part of the confederation of Canada, which was established on 1 July 1867, British Columbia pushed for the creation of a rail link with the east. The epic construction project employed 12,000 men, 5,000 horses and, in a land where huskies still pull sleds, 3,000 dog teams.

The exterior of a Via Rail carriage.

The exterior of a Via Rail carriage.

Travelling on the Canadian

Travelling on the Canadian today, much of which involves powering along track belonging the Canadian National Railway, gives passengers an impression of the scale of Canada’s landmass plus opportunities to look on at the ruggedness of its landscapes.

The snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains tower above the nine carriages of the train as the Canadian rolls through one of the continent’s most beautiful wildernesses. On clear days passengers might spot the 3,954 metre (12,972 ft) high peak of Mount Robson in British Columbia. In Alberta the track skirts by cliffs as it runs alongside the Athabasca River.

The route sweeps from Saskatoon through the swaying cornfields of Saskatchewan—cultivated prairie land that’s interspersed by red-painted barns and arching silos. The equally flat landscape of Manitoba gives ways to the high-rise buildings of Winnipeg.

In Ontario, close to the Great Lakes, the track snakes through dense boreal forest and verdant spruces can be seen reflecting in blue surface of the lakes on calm, sunny days. In all, the Canadian’s route cuts across five of Canada’s ten provinces.

The wildlife of Canada

Anyone staring out of the windows for the duration of the journey might count themselves unlucky if they don’t spot a bear, a moose or a deer roaming in remoter areas of countryside. Many people, though, enjoy reading and socialising between the more scenic sections of the Canadian’s journey.

The train’s shining rolling stock is, in some senses, a throwback to the golden age of railway travel. The Budd Car Company built the original carriages—known as cars in Canada—between November 1954 and April 1955, in time for the inaugural journey by the Canadian, on 24 April 1955. At the time it was the country’s only train with panoramic windows.

New, more luxurious, carriages were introduced last year for use by holders of Prestige tickets—the first class section that has been described as a ‘five-star hotel on rails’. It means a personal concierge for the duration of the journey, access to a choice from menus in the elegant dining carriage, plus access to reserved seating in the Panorama carriage, which has a domed, glass roof for viewing scenery.

Canada's national flag on a Via Rail railway carriage.

Canada’s national flag on a Via Rail railway carriage.

Dining on the Canadian

Passengers in the Sleeper Plus category also gain access to the Panorama and dining carriages, and can enjoy live entertainment by travelling musicians, performing as part of the Artists on Board Programme, during the journey. All passengers, including those in Economy, can enjoy viewing the scenery from the comfort of the Skyline carriages.

Dining on board the Canadian provides opportunities to tuck into cuisine inspired by some of the nation’s favourite dishes. At breakfast pumpkin pancakes are served with cinnamon syrup and whipped cream. Bison burgers make the lunch menu, along with a fashionable quinoa salad. During dinner ribs in a rosemary demi-glace plus a pickerel remoulade count among the mouth-watering options.

During the peak season the Canadian departs from its terminuses in Toronto and Vancouver three times a week but that dips to two departures in the low season. Nonetheless, those journeys during wintertime provide travellers with opportunities to see the Rockies and landscapes across the route in snow.

Whatever the season, the Canadian is a way of seeing a great swathe of Canada’s landscape.

Further information

Find out more about the Canadian via the Via Rail Canada website (www.viarail.ca).

In addition to the terminals at Toronto and Vancouver, stops are scheduled at Kamloops, Jasper, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Sioux Lookout and Sudbury Junction.

See the Explore Canada website for further travel ideas in Canada.

Canada's maple leaf on the side of a Via Rail train.

Canada’s maple leaf on the side of a Via Rail train.

Spring blossom in the Setagayapark in Döbling.

With a Local: Vienna, Austria

Renowned for outstanding coffee and as home of Sachertorte, Vienna, the capital of Austria, has lots for lovers of history.

Duncan JD Smith, a British travel writer, is based in the Austrian capital. He’s the sole author and publisher of the ‘Only In’ Guides series of guidebooks, which celebrate the unique and the hidden in Europe’s cities. So who could be better placed to answer our questions and let loose a few of Vienna’s secrets?

Why do you think people should come and see Vienna?

Vienna offers a unique combination of attractions that reflect its longstanding position at the heart of Central Europe.

A 19th century boulevard of impossibly-grand buildings – the Ringstrasse – girdles the labyrinthine medieval heart of the city. A world class legacy of classical music is played out against a fairytale backdrop of period concert venues.

A tangible history stretching back to the Romans encompasses the Habsburg monarchy, the Ottoman Turks, fin de siècle achievers such as Freud and Klimt, and monuments recalling the horrors of the Second World War. Fringed by vineyards and the Vienna Woods, all this can be discovered just 30 minutes from the city’s international airport.

What is your favourite place in the town and why?

After 13 years in Vienna, I never tire of visiting the Mölker-Bastei at Schottentor, which encapsulates much of Vienna’s history in a surprisingly small area.

The place initially struck me as odd because it is a little hill in an otherwise flat part of town. Delving into the history books revealed that it is one of the last remaining pieces of the old city wall, torn down in the 1850s to make way for the Ringstrasse.

Why this piece was left standing is a mystery but I like to think it was to spare the house built on top of it in which Beethoven wrote his only opera Fidelio. Orson Welles loitered in one of the doorways in his memorable first appearance in the film The Third Man and it was also hereabouts that the penultimate emperor, Franz Joseph I, was saved from an assassin’s knife by his Irish man-at-arms.

Where the wall drops down inside the city is a traditional clothing shop called Tostmann. Their secretive cellars were originally used to store wine and later pressed into service as an air raid shelter during the Second World War.

The Mölker Bastei with the Ringstrasse.

The Mölker Bastei with the Ringstrasse.

If you were going to take a guest to dine, where would you choose and why?

The quirkiest place to dine must be Schloss Concordia opposite Vienna’s Central Cemetery on Simmeringer Hauptstrasse.

The vast cemetery requires three tram stops to service it, so be sure to get off at Gate 1, opposite the entrance to the abandoned Old Jewish Cemetery. The restaurant, which is surrounded by trees heavy with mistletoe, is housed in what was once a monumental mason’s studio, and takes the form of a wooden pavilion crowned by a stained glass cupola. The candlelit interior is modest, with worn floorboards and rickety chairs. The menu is idiosyncratic, too, featuring variants on Austrian classics. Highly recommended is the Super Schnitzel, which is filled with lentils and then rolled and coated in cornflakes. It is served on a silver platter surrounded by exotic fruits and vegetables.

Duncan JD Smith tucks into a Super Schnitzel at Schloss Concordia.

Duncan JD Smith tucks into a Super Schnitzel at Schloss Concordia.

If there is a bar or cafe that you could take guests to, which would it be and why?

A pair of Viennese drinking institutions lie so close to each other that I can’t resist mentioning them both. The American Bar on Kärntner Durchgang is an Art Deco gem designed in the early 1900s by the Modernist architect, Adolf Loos, after a visit to the USA. The best gin and tonic in town can be enjoyed here at cosy green leather banquettes beneath a marble coffered ceiling.

A couple of streets away on Stallburggasse is Café Bräunerhof. This traditional Viennese coffeehouse has scarcely changed in a century and is the place to come for a Wiener Melange (espresso with milk and foam) and a slice of Apfelstrudel. A good selection of international newspapers is available and on Saturday afternoons a quartet belts out Schrammelmusik (Viennese folk music).

What is your favourite legend or quirky bit of history associated with your town?

My favourite Viennese legend concerns Blutgasse, a cobbled alley concealed behind St Stephen’s Cathedral. Those entering the doorway at Number 8 will pass through a five-storey lightwell and a narrow passage to enter a surprisingly peaceful courtyard dominated by a plane tree.

According to legend a medieval knight’s sword is hidden deep in its heart. Since the tree is not old enough this can’t be true – but like all good legends there is some truth here. In the 13th century the area was home to the Teutonic Knights, an organisation akin to the Knights Templar, sworn to protecting pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. When the order was suppressed in 1312, the street outside ran with blood giving rise to its name: Blutgasse (Blood Alley).

Fast forward now to the 18th century and the plane tree is a sapling, protected from horses by iron railings. As it grows so the railings break and a fragment becomes embedded in the trunk. Children who have been told about the knights believe that the iron fragment is one of their swords. A legend is born!

The tree in the courtyard off the Blugasse in Vienna.

The tree in the courtyard off the Blugasse in Vienna.

If guests can stay in the area for an extra day, what do you recommend they do and see?

Most visitors would probably try to bolt on another city, such as Bratislava or even Budapest. My recommendation, however, would be to spend a little time in Vienna’s suburbs. After all, that’s where the real Viennese live rather than in the culture-rich city centre.

The 19th District of Döbling, a well-to-do neighbourhood barely 20 minutes out of town, is a case in point. Jump off tram 37 at Barawitzkagasse to visit the wholly unexpected Setagayapark. This Japanese garden is glorious in spring, when the cherry blossom is out, and reflects the fact that Döbling is twinned with the Tokyo district of Setagaya. Walk uphill to take tram 38 to the wine village of Grinzing or walk downhill to find the Karl Marx-Hof, a monument to the city’s Socialist housing schemes of the 1920s, and the world’s longest residential building.

Further information

Duncan JD Smith‘s book Only in Vienna is currently in its 5th edition. It was the first of his ‘Only In’ Guides, and details more than a hundred unusual locations, including Klimt’s last studio, the Fool’s Tower, the Cemetery of the Nameless, and 007 in Vienna.

Only in Edinburgh will be published in November 2016. Look elsewhere on Go-Eat-Do and you’ll be able to read a review of Duncan’s Only in London.

The photos illustrating this post were supplied by Duncan, who owns the copyright to them, and must not be reproduced without his permission.

The Vienna and Austria tourist information websites also have a wealth of ideas of things to do and see in and around the city.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the Sage Gateshead reflect in the River Tyne.

Cruise Lines International Association’s Plan a Cruise Month

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has members in 15 countries and throughout October 2016 is promoting a worldwide campaign, Plan a Cruise Month.

Andy Harmer, the organisation’s European Vice President of Operations, visited Newcastle-upon-Tyne during September. We met at Artisan, a chic restaurant serving modern British cuisine within The Biscuit Factory, a contemporary art gallery in the city’s Ouseburn district.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Harmer discussed CLIA, recent developments within the cruise industry and Plan a Cruise Month.

“We’re encouraging customers to think about planning their next cruise. If it’s their first cruise and they want expert advice then people should speak to their travel agent,” he said about the purpose of holding the month long initiative.

“It gives us, throughout the month, the chance to talk about the different types of cruises that are available. We’ve broken the month up into four weeks. We’ve got a family week. We’ve got a discovery week, when we talk about small ships and destination cruising. We have a week talking about river cruising and a week talking about luxury cruising and cruises for special occasions,” he added.

CLIA’s Plan a Cruise Month

Throughout the month cruise lines will be making special offers available for both first timers and returning cruise customers.

“It gives us a chance to talk about the range of cruise holidays available,” said Mr Harmer, about the purpose of Plan a Cruise Month.

Of CLIA, Mr Harmer said, “We bring together all of the cruise lines into one association. We’re here so that people understand the options and the choice and value offered through cruise holidays. We work with 60 different cruise lines, all offering something very different to their customers. It’s about an industry working together to get more people to cruise.”

Over lunch we discussed the changing demographic of the cruise industry. The appeal of cruise holidays is broadening—it’s no longer true that only older travellers aspire to take cruises.

The city hall in Hamburg, a port of call that can be explored during cruises taking in Germany.

The city hall in Hamburg, a port of call that can be explored during cruises taking in Germany.

The variety of cruise holidays

“There are hundreds of different ships in all shapes and sizes. The smallest we have has 50 guests and the largest around 6,000. There really is a cruise for everyone,” said Mr Harmer, dismissing the stereotype of cruise holidays being characterised by formal dinners on vast, luxury vessels.

“If you’re looking for that big ship experience with loads of activities and lots of restaurants then there is that option for you. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit smaller, that get into some of the smaller ports and focuses on destinations then that’s available. Or if you’re looking for a river cruise—river cruising is really starting to take off. If you want to discover Asia, North America or Europe then a river cruise could be for you,” he suggested.

“I think a cruise holiday is for everyone. It can be whatever you’re looking for. It’s not one stereotypical version of a holiday,” he added.

The state of the cruise industry

The cruise industry has seen marked growth in recent years, I heard, when asking about the recent developments.

“Cruising is growing incredibly quickly. In 2015 1.8 million British people took a cruise holiday. It was a record year. Globally, last year, 24 million people took a cruise,” explained CLIA’s European VP.

“I think the second thing is we’re seeing innovation and creativity. Every time a ship is launched it gives us, as an industry, the opportunity to add on something new and something different,” he added.

“People’s tastes in holidays are changing. The way people go on holiday is changing. As an industry we’re changing very much to keep up with that and to stay ahead of everybody. So whether it’s fantastic dining or a West End show experience; whether it’s excursions; whether it’s kids’ activities; there’s always something new coming out from the industry and that reflects in the demand we’re seeing,” he said about new developments.

“The trend we’re seeing is choice…There really is a cruise for everyone. That diversity of cruise holiday you can choose from really has become significant,” he emphasised.

An altar at Udon Monastery in Cambodia, seen during an excursion during Viking River Cruises' Magical Mekong tour.

An altar at Udon Monastery in Cambodia, seen during an excursion during Viking River Cruises’ Magical Mekong tour.

Cruising’s focus on destinations

“The focus on destination is important—you get to see a number of destinations in one holiday. That’s coming into sharper focus,” said Mr Harmer when I asked about developing trends.

“Places like the Baltic and the Norwegian fjords are starting to grow, in terms of demand from the UK. We love heading out to Asia, because there are some great destinations in Asia that we can choose from, and Australia and South America,” he explained.

“About half of all British cruisers start their holidays from a UK port. We’re seeing huge growth in the number of ships based in the UK, which has increased choice markedly,” he said as we discussed the Port of Tyne as a calling point for cruise ships.

“The great thing about a UK port, and starting a holiday there, is that you can fill your car with as much luggage as you wish and drive to the port. There are none of the restrictions you’d get with an airline,” he added.

Cruise ships call into more than 20 ports around the UK and Republic of Ireland.

Starting from a UK port doesn’t necessarily mean staying within the waters around the British Isles.

“Because there’s growing popularity, there’s lots of choice of different types of ship. It’s easy to get to some of the northern European cities—including Hamburg, Amsterdam and Bruges—and down to the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. If you fancy a longer voyage you can ever head over to North America from a UK port,” said Mr Harmer as our interview concluded.

Destinations, in fact, are the main reason why people choose cruise holidays. On a typical 14-night cruise it’s common for guests to visit as many as 10 different places. The geographical focus is down to the traveller.

Further information

Find out more about some of the destinations that can be reached aboard cruise ships via the Plan a Cruise Month page on the Cruise Lines International Association website.

The skyline of Tallinn, Estonia, whose popularity as a cruise destination is growing.

The skyline of Tallinn, Estonia, whose popularity as a cruise destination is growing.

Brighton Pavilion surrounded by snow.

With a Local: Brighton, East Sussex

Bumbling about in Brighton is always fun.

To find out where to go and what to do there I turned to Jools Stone, a freelance travel, music and arts writer, for the lowdown about his home town.

Why do you think people should come and see Brighton?

Most southern Brits will probably already know it well, but for those from further afield, basically it combines all the best elements of a British seaside town with a cool smaller city.

It’s safe, but a little frayed around the edges, which is part of its charm.

We have a lively pier (plus an atmospherically ruined one, the West Pier, for all you budding Instagrammers out there), some truly beautiful Georgian architecture, the world’s oldest working electric railway, the Volks, so many great independent pubs, restos and shops. I could go on.

There’s lots of indie shops, an incredible array of high quality dining spots for a city of its size and so many quirky and characterful pubs.

More importantly perhaps, it’s an extremely friendly, tolerant and welcoming place with the country’s only Green Party Member of Parliament.

And we have the Royal Pavilion—a building inspired by Indian palaces from the outside, decorated with some extraordinary Chinese interiors—slap bang in the city centre.

What is your favourite place in the town?

I love Jubilee Street, immortalised by the Nick Cave song of the same name, which manages to retain a continental vibe year-round with its row of pubs and restaurants, always busy with people sitting out. It also has the Jubilee Library, a wonderfully airy, luminous place and one of the best in the country, in my opinion.

North Laine is great for shopping and grabbing a coffee, especially at the weekend. So many good quality independents thrive in Brighton and many of them are found there. The Lanes are worth exploring also, but preferably midweek when they’re less packed.

And I dearly love Kemp Town, where I live. It’s a lovely, laidback villagey area with much of the city’s finest Regency architecture and plenty of good pubs, cafes and quirky shops.

The Lanes? A mural on a wall in Brighton.

In one of Brighton’s lanes. A mural on a wall.

If you were going to take a guest to dine, where would you choose and why?

If they like seafood and the sun is smiling on us, I’d plump for English’s a very traditional place with penguin-suited waiters and tables set in a little piazza, where a decent jazz band regularly busks at the weekends. Their seafood platter is honestly the best I’ve had anywhere in the world.

For something spicier, I’d go for Moshimo, an outstanding Japanese place, serving excellent sushi and karagee squid. It was one of the first Japanese places outside of London and has not rested on its laurels.

Or if they prefer something spicier still (and we surely have some of the best, most authentic Indian places in the UK) they’ll have their minds and palates fairly blown by either Indian Summer or The Chilli Pickle.

And if they just fancy a bag of fish’n’ chips—why wouldn’t they?—I’d take them to my local, the Kemp Town Chippy. It’s a very unassuming little place, with erratic opening hours and one of those 1970s plastic letterboards for a menu, but the chips are a piece of triple-cooked, vinegar-soaked perfection.

For dining at the finer end of the scale, Twenty Four St Georges is excellent, as is The Ginger Dog gastropub, and for smaller plates 54 Degrees is always inventive, assuming you can grab one of the few benches available in this tiny place.

We have a stack of amazing burger joints falling over each other too, so many epic ones opening every month it’s hard to keep up with them all…that’s a blogpost for another day! Some of the best ones include Burger Brothers, Stockburger and the Troll’s Pantry in the Hobgoblin Pub.

Savouring the seaside - fish and chips served in Brighton.

Savouring the seaside – fish and chips served in Brighton.

If there is a bar or cafe that you could take guests to, which would it be and why?

The Fortune of War is great place for a lazy sunset-watching pint on the beach and The Colonnade Bar—a gorgeous, cosy little theatre bar on New Road—does a marvellous range of botanical gin cocktails, and the tables out front make a fine spot to people watch from too.

For brunch, I would recommend a few in my neighbourhood of Kemp Town. Egg & Spoon does a fine Cuban sandwich, Cuppa Joe is French run café-cum-vintage-clothing store that does a perfect croquet monsieur and Compasspoint Eatery is a fab, friendly American deli festooned with quirky, mid-century antiques. Go hungry and have some sides!

What is your favourite legend or quirky bit of history associated with your town?

I’m a big fan of Magnus Volks, an inventor who not only built the fantastic Volks Electric Railway, the world’s oldest in operation and still a Brighton must-do in my book. It’s actually cheaper than the bus for a day return! It runs along the seafront, but also an extraordinary contraption known as the Daddy Long Legs.

This was basically like a combination of a pleasure boat, a train and a moving pier, which ran on tracks on massive, 20 foot high stilts above the sea for over two miles.

Sadly, it was beset with technical and weather problems and only lasted a few years, but what a sight it must have been.

I also like the fact that the tunnel connecting Brighton Museum and the Dome with the Royal Pavilion was built simply so that porky old King George could avoid prying eyes and public ridicule.

If guests can stay in the area for an extra day, what do you recommend they do and see?

Once you’ve exhausted Brighton, you should explore the more genteel area of Hove, or wander along the coast in the opposite direction towards Rottingdean, a sweet little Victorian village with a cliffside amphitheatre, duck pond, some lovely pubs serving fresh crab and Rudyard Kipling’s house.

Further information

Follow Jools’ rail travel adventures on Railway Stays and view his work at Jools Stone. If you’ve got questions about Brighton chat to him on Twitter (@jools_octavius).

Find out more via the Visit Brighton website.

A wet weekend in Brighton? Even rain doesn't dampen the fun.

A wet weekend in Brighton? Even rain doesn’t dampen the fun.

George Stephenson's Birthplace at Wylam, Nothumberland.

George Stephenson’s Birthplace, Wylam, Northumberland

Perhaps George Stephenson, the engineer who’s best remembered for his pioneering work on steam locomotives and for overseeing the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, would deem it a tad foolhardy that I’ve walked 10 miles from Gateshead to take a look inside the cottage where he was born?

After all, there’s a perfectly good rail service connecting Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Gateshead with Wylam, and the train journey takes just 18 minutes. Would he be insulted that I hadn’t made use of a transport system that he helped establish?

Walking seemed a great idea when I set out. On a fine autumn Sunday the prospect of a walk along the River Tyne and through verdant fields and parkland represented an opportunity to grab both fresh air and exercise. I feel knackered now though!

That said, if it wasn’t for the painful thumping of my tired feet and aching in my calves I’d probably find standing outside of his birthplace idyllic. The white-painted stone cottage stands half-a-mile outside the village of Wylam in rural Northumberland. Birds are chirping in the trees that tower over the isolated house. Leaves rustle as branches sway in the gentle breeze.

Located by Wylam Waggonway

The mud track that I’ve been walking along for the past couple of miles was once a waggonway used for transporting coal mined in Wylam Colliery. When Stephenson was born, on 9 June 1781, the waggons that ran on it would have been pulled by ponies. Later steam engines would have taken the strain.

The cottage, which today stands surrounded by a chest-high hedge, has been a National Trust property since 1948. I’m greeted at the door by Nicole, whose gentle accent gives her away a native of Woolongong, New South Wales, rather than a native Tynesider.

To my surprise, three-quarters of the cottage is today a private home. George Stephenson lived the first eight years of his life in the cottage, which was then the home for four families whose breadwinners worked in the local colliery. Accommodation was provided as one of the perks of the job. When George’s father moved to a different colliery the family was forced to move.

The Waverley steam locomotive pulls the Flying Scotsman through Wylam's railway station.

The Waverley steam locomotive pulls the Flying Scotsman through Wylam’s railway station.

A home for seven people

Nicole ushers me and three other visitors into a room that I cross in five steps. The youngest person in the room, a local girl with missing milk teeth, is researching a school project about Stephenson’s life.

We hear how seven Stephensons lived in the room; George’s parents and four siblings. A gas lamp hangs in a corner of the room that was simultaneously their kitchen, living room and bedroom. The hearth would have been used to cook and provided heat.

Grey flagstones form the floor. A wood, box-style bed with curtains occupies another of corner of the room. When seven people were at home the room must have felt crowded.

Books about George Stephenson

Books about George Stephenson’s life and achievements stand on a table by the door, under a framed picture of an austere looking Victorian gentlemen in a suit. From these humble beginnings Stephenson, a man who would today be described as a self-starter, achieved fame and helped revolutionise the world’s freight and public transport systems.

With my feet thumping from the walk I’ll be heading to Wylam Station to board the next train heading eastwards. I hope he’d have approved.

Further information

George Stephenson’s Birthplace (+44 (0)1661 843276) is managed by the National Trust (www.nationaltrust.org.uk). See the website for information about opening times and admission prices. The property has a café and tea garden at its rear.

For more information about nearby attractions, see the Visit Northumberland and NewcastleGateshead websites.

A cross country train, running between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle, at Wylam Station.

A cross country train, running between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle, at Wylam Station.

Hand sanitiser and a USB stick with a bottle opener.

Eight handy items to carry during urban travel

Be Prepared. The motto of the Scouting Movement also rings true for travellers. The items you carry on a day to day basis can help you make the most of your time on the road.

Whether you like to carry a daypack or to place items in your handbag or pockets makes little difference. Having a stock of a few items you can help keep you in the right frame of mind to enjoy the place you’re visiting.

Here are some of the items I like to carry, in addition to a note book and camera, when I travel in urban areas:

Hand sanitiser – Having a sanitiser on hand (see the pun) helps neutralise 99.9 per cent of the bacteria picking up while touching surfaces, shaking hands and handling items. Scented 50ml plastic bottles of hand gel are inexpensive and small enough to be easy to carry. Recently I’ve been using Aquaint, a natural product which deodorises and is safe enough to swallow.

Mineral water – Providing I’m not going into a restricted area, where carrying liquid is prohibited, I like to have a 500ml bottle of mineral water with me. Why? Staying hydrated means staying fresh and being able to concentrate on the sights of the city.

Granola bars – Getting hungry while travelling means I tend to lose focus and, heaven forbid, can become grumpy. An emergency cereal bar can take the edge off my hunger. Granola bars don’t melt, they are easy to carry and it doesn’t really matter if they crumble inside the packaging.

Plasters – Ideally shoes won’t rub or cause blisters. I always try to ensure I wear comfortable, tried and tested clothing and footwear. Occasionally, though, too much walking causes soreness. The timely application of a plaster can prevent things getting too painful.

Paracetamol tablets – A strip of Paracetamol tablets can help dull pain or treat the first signs of a raised temperature. They take up very little room and are always worth having available.

A torch – A small flashlight comes in handy in case of power cuts and when cutting across poorly illuminated land. They also prove useful when looking for dropped items under beds and seats. My compact Karrimor torch is powered by a single AA battery.

Spectacle wipes – A handkerchief and exhaled breath does the job of taking city dirt off specs, but spectacle wipes do a better job. I usually then use the wipe for cleaning the surface of my smartphone and laptop screen.

A USB stick – The evolution of the cloud means that many people have given up on USB sticks. But backing up the documents I’m working on is good practice and my USB stick from Munich’s Bier und Oktoberfest Museum has the benefit of being designed with an integrated bottle-opener—always useful, just in case.

A torch and paracetamol tablets.

A torch and paracetamol tablets.

Bread and butter pudding served in The English Restaurant, London.

A guided food tour of London’s East End

“It used to be a dirty little secret,” says Emily, my guide, outside of Old Spitalfields Market at the start of our East End Food Tour of London. She’s talking about the district rather than the walking tour, which has been operating since 2014.

The area that once lay outside of London’s city walls used to be shunned by tourists but times are changing. Hipsters have made Shoreditch theirs—renovating or gentrifying the district, depending on your point of view—and the recent redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station has brought modernisation.

The hipsters, says Emily, are the latest wave of people to make their mark on the East End. French Huguenots, Irish, Jewish and Bangladeshi settlers have all contributed to the evolution of the area, I learn.

Food and London’s history

“The history reflects the food,” she says, adding that the tour we’re about to take is all about authentic rather than gourmet cuisine.

Like one of the barbary lions that, long ago, were kept at the Tower of London, my stomach roars in anticipation of being fed. It’s 10.00am and I haven’t had breakfast. Talk about food is making me acutely aware that I’m hungry.

Rain begins to tumble from the heavy grey sky. Emily suggests we head to St John Bread and Wine (94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ), a welcoming, unfussy restaurant with parquet flooring. It’s the first of eight places myself and the other two guests on the East End Food Tour will be tucking into edible produce.

A quality bacon sandwich

The menu is changes frequently and displayed on a chalkboard. The bacon sandwich that we’re about to taste is a staple and breakfast is served here from 9.00am to noon. Fergus Henderson’s ‘nose-to-tail’ ethos of cooking means dishes are served featuring flavourful cuts of meat such as tongue and cheek—ingredients that long fell out of fashion.

The bacon we’re eating comes from Gloucester old spot pigs reared at Butt’s Farm in Gloucestershire. The meat is soaked in brine for two weeks, then salt and sugar for a further fortnight, before being smoked. Chargrilled, the bacon is served with butter and a fruity home-style ketchup. It’s a proper bacon sarnie.

Always a good start. A bacon sandwich at St John Bread and Wine.

Always a good start. A bacon sandwich at St John Bread and Wine.

Jack the Ripper’s hunting ground

With the edge taken off my hunger I follow Emily past The Ten Bells pub, where, long ago, the prostitutes gruesomely murdered by Jack the Ripper used to socialise between clients.

We head into The English Restaurant (50-52 Brushfield Street, E1 6AG). Spitalfields’ oldest dwelling, dating from the 17th century, survived the Great Fire of London and has hosted a family-run restaurant for over two decades. Before eating we pop upstairs for a look in the wood-panelled function room.

A citrusy portion of bread and butter pudding is served with custard. I laugh when Emily mentions it was known in these parts as ‘dustman’s wedding cake’.

Street art and social history

On our way to The House of Androuet (10a Lamb Street), a cheese shop within Old Spitalfields Market, Emily points out the hand-painted signage of the Donovan Bros. paper shop plus street art on walls and street signs.

In Brune Street we pause outside a former soup kitchen which operated until 1992. The ornate façade dates from 1902 and states it was established ‘for the Jewish poor’. Fleeing persecution in eastern Europe caused London’s Jewish population to swell from 46,000 in 1880 to more than 135,000 20 years later, Emily tells us as rain again begins to fall.

As I’m discovering, this tour is providing fascinating insights into the social history of East London. We wander through Artillery Passage to Gun Street, names who hint at the former military use of area—King Henry VIII used to shoot here. The German bombs, of World War Two, and subsequent slum clearances, brought major change during the last century.

What did the immigrants ever do for us?

Over the past couple of years, immigration to Britain and Europe has become a point of political discussion and proved a key issue in the Brexit referendum. On entering Poppies Fish and Chips (6-8 Hanbury Street, E1 6QR) Emily suggests that British people might not have had their national dish without immigration. In 1860 Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant, came up with the idea of serving battered fish with fried potato chips—a dish which had been popularised by Belgians.

Framed pictures adorn the walls of Poppie’s, which was founded in 1952. On the way down the ‘apple and pears’—stairs in anything other than Cockney rhyming slang—to the loos I spot a boxing poster advertising bouts featuring Ronnie and Reggie Kray.

Poppies’ chips, which are fried in peanut oil, prove knockout. I’m surprised by the light, crisp batter on the fish sourced from Peterhead. For the first time in my life I’m eating good fish and chips in London—as a northerner who appreciates the dish it’s something I’d long doubted could be found in the British capital.

Knockout. Ronnie and Reggie Kray on a poster at Poppies Fish and Chips.

Knockout. Ronnie and Reggie Kray on a poster at Poppies Fish and Chips.

Silk weaving and beer

Many Huguenots, protestants escaping persecution from 17th century France, were skilled silk weavers and worked in airy attic rooms in and around Wilkes Street. Emily explains how they introduced the idea of using hops in beer to south-east England. The Truman Brewery, whose bridge crosses Brick Lane, was once one of the East End’s biggest businesses. These days its premises host food stalls on Saturdays and a market on Sundays.

We taste a glass of beer brewed by the resurrected Truman brewery at the Pride of Spitalfields (3 Heneage Street). Lenny, the pub cat, sits and watches. It’s a proper London boozer serving inexpensive snacks and a good range of hand-pulled ales and ciders.

I could stay a while longer on the comfy red banquette but Emily has other ideas, leading us back to Brick Lane, the strip she describes as “the Las Vegas of curries” adding “there were 56 curry restaurants when I last counted.”

One cool cat. Lenny in the Pride of Spitalfields pub.

One cool cat. Lenny in the Pride of Spitalfields pub.

A curry in Brick Lane

As we pass Brick Lane Mosque our guide mentions the premises were formerly used as a church and a synagogue.

While sampling vegetable bhuna, slow cooked lamb and chicken Madras, served with naan bread, at Aladin (132 Brick Lane, E1 6RU) I make a mental note to remind readers of Go-Eat-Do to turn up to this tour with a healthy appetite. Going home hungry isn’t on the cards.

The penultimate dining stop on the East  End Food Tour is Beigel Bake (159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB), whose sign states the unpretentious shop is open 24 hours 7 days a week. Emily informs us that around 3,000 bagels are served every day as we queue. She points out Sammy, the owner, as he oversees his employees.

Make mine a double? A salt beef bagel served with a pickled gherkin and mustard.

Make mine a double? A salt beef bagel served with a pickled gherkin and mustard.

Salt of the earth cuisine

I plump for a plain bagel layered with salt beef that’s been boiled for four hours and is served with a gherkin and mustard. Though I’m no longer hungry it’s testimony to the tastiness of this dish that I could easily go for another one if pressed.

Instead though we stroll past a smattering of street art and the Boxpark, pop-up shops and food stalls, on our way to Pizza East (56 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ), a popular restaurant with a tiled bar area, for that hipster favourite, salted caramel tart, served with a cup of tea.

Leaving me suitably stuffed, and bursting with information about east London’s street art and social history, the tour reaches its conclusion. I reckon a lengthy afternoon walk will help me digest both.

Further information

Take a look at the Eating London Tours website or call +44 (0)20 32896327 for details of tour times, prices and how to book. In addition to their East End Food Tour the company runs a Twilight Soho Food Tour. Both of the guided walking tours are scheduled to last around three-and-a-half hours.

See the Visit London website for ideas about attractions to visit, city tours and places to stay.

The Visit England site has information about London as well as destinations elsewhere in the country.

Peter Lindbergh with supermodel Lara Stone at the Kunsthal Rotterdam.

Peter Lindbergh’s Rotterdam exhibition

Cindy Crawford stands radiating glamour a couple of metres in front of me. Fellow supermodel Eva Herzigova struts assuredly by amidst a posse of people pointing cameras. Meanwhile, smiling and looking relaxed, Milla Jovovich jokes with a woman who wants to join her for a selfie. Like me, they are in Rotterdam for the opening of the exhibition Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision of Fashion Photography.

A Saturday evening in the company of supermodels might, for some, the stuff of bucket lists. It’s nice to be able to tick that box but the reality is we’re all here because of the German photographer Peter Lindbergh. More than 220 of his powerful black and white images will remain on display in the Kunsthal Rotterdam until 12 February 2017.

Lindbergh has been a catalyst in defining fashion photography since the 1980s. His images caused people discuss gender, sexuality and race in fashion—themes that were then taboo.

Lindbergh and the supermodel

His work was central to launching the supermodel and helped shape the careers of the likes of Tatjana Patitz, Karen Alexander and Nadja Auerman. Yesterday, during a press conference, the models reiterated that Lindbergh made them feel at ease and had the knack of getting them to express their true selves for the camera.

Yesterday evening, by chance, I met Lindbergh in the lobby of my hotel and we chatted for a couple of minutes. He was personable and I can understand why the models feel relaxed around him. He excused himself by saying he had to go to meet his friend Tina Turner, who was flying into Rotterdam on her private jet for a preview of the exhibition.

In the late 80s and early 90s fashion photography was characterised by big hair, lots of makeup and bold colours. Lindbergh’s monochrome January 1990 Vogue cover, of his models looking relaxed in white shirts, was a defining moment in fashion photography. The iconic image, it’s said, inspired George Michael’s Freedom! ’90 video.

Models at the launch of Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision of Fashion Photography.

Models at the launch of Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision of Fashion Photography.

Timeless and powerful photographs

Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision of Fashion Photography is one of those rare exhibitions that lives up to, and perhaps even surpasses, its hype. Storyboards, notes, films and props play a part in the exhibition but, for me, it is the photographic prints that impress. Despite defining an era they have a timelessness quality. It’s not just their composition, it’s the emotions they convey.

The exhibition is curated by Thierry-Maxime Loriot, who was also behind the Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk exhibition, held at the Kunsthal Rotterdam in 2013.

The exhibition has nine sections. Many of the images on display are among the 400 or so photos printed in the Taschen book, also entitled Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision of Fashion Photography (£):

“I went from half a million images,” says Loriot as we chat in one of the exhibition’s galleries.

I assume that parsing down a vast archive to just a few hundred would be a monumental task.

“It was quite easy. Peter gave me freedom to go through all the boxes and even to take out images that were unpublished and other views of images. Some people know one image but we went through the contact sheets. It was a long process to go through all the images, it took more than two years to go through all the images and to do the book,” counters Loriot.

The vision of a humanist

“I think this exhibition will be popular. It’s about dance. It’s about fashion. It’s about social issues. It’s about icons. But also it’s about the vision of a great humanist,” says the Canadian.

“Through his images you see the depth of an image you don’t normally see because we don’t have the direct contact with art prints anymore. Now everybody looks at images on Instagram, the internet or in magazines that they throw in the garbage. It’s unusual to have access to this number of images. I hope people will come, to discover the work of this great artist.”

“I think he is the last living legend of photography. He had exhibitions with Irving Penn, Helmut Newton and Avedon—they were like the three musketeers and he was the fourth,” adds the exhibition’s curator.

Inevitably, there will be people who don’t yet know Peter Lindbergh’s work, though they may well have seen his images. I ask Loriot to put Lindbergh into context, so people can understand where he stands in the panoply of photography.

Peter Lindbergh with curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot.

Peter Lindbergh with curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot.

The legendary Peter Lindbergh

“Historically, Peter Lindbergh is already a legend. His images are striking and different. He brought a unique way to view photography in fashion magazines. He really brought something socially that is important and necessary, mostly in terms of retouching and what he believes in the sphere of perfection. I think it’s also a great message of self-confidence and acceptance towards a young generation and anyone who’s interested in discovering a unique vision,” he answers.

“All of the images that were selected speak to me because of their strength and because of the way they are framed. Peter he frames directly with the camera. It’s not he’s going to crop after,” says Loriot.

Does Loriot have favourite images, among those displayed, I ask, admitting the question might be a touch unfair. The curator shrugs, smiles and looks thoughtful for a moment before answering:

“When you look through the exhibition, of course there are images I’m more attracted to. In the dance section all these portraits of Pina Bausch and even of Madonna for the Martha Graham tribute they are pure works of art. I think it’s very moving. It gives goosebumps when you see these images because somebody like Madonna, everybody photographed her, all the greatest photographers on the planet. She’s the last icon. Everyone knows her—in Africa and China. When you see her like that it’s the only different picture that she did.”

The final section of the exhibition is a Rotterdam gallery, displaying images commissioned for a Peter Lindbergh collector’s edition of Dutch Vogue. For the October 2016 magazine Lindbergh photographed Lara Stone and Elisa Hupkes in the port of Rotterdam. Images from the shoot, printed on sheets of glass, are suspended near the exhibition’s shop.

In April Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision of Fashion Photography will relocate to Munich, Germany.

Further information

The Kunsthal Rotterdam (tel. +31 (0)10 4400300, www.kunsthal.nl) is one of the Netherlands’ leading art institutions and open from 10am to 5pm from Tuesday to Saturday and between 11am and 5pm on Sundays and public holidays. See the Kunsthal Rotterdam website for more information about the exhibition and how to acquire tickets.

The Rotterdam Partners website has information about things to do and see in the Netherlands’ second largest city.

See the Holland website for ideas relating to tourism and travel in Rotterdam and elsewhere in the country.

Selfie time for Thierry-Maxime Loriot, on stage with Peter Lindbergh and supermodels at the Kunsthal Rotterdam.

Selfie time for Thierry-Maxime Loriot, on stage with Peter Lindbergh and supermodels at the Kunsthal Rotterdam.

The function room upstairs at the Bayerische Bahnhof in Leipzig, Germany.

Leipzig’s Bayerischer Bahnhof microbrewery

Leipzig’s Bayerischer Bahnhof has claims to being the world’s oldest railway terminal yet that significant piece of transport history isn’t what drew me here. I’ve come to sample the gose beer that’s brewed in the microbrewery on the premises.

In a nation that’s celebrating the 500th centenary of the introduction of the Reinheitsgebot in 2016—the beer purity law that was introduced in Bavaria in 1516 but now applies across Germany—most breweries are restricted to brewing only with hops, malt, yeast and water.

Gose also features lactic acid, coriander and salt. Brewing this style of beer in Bavaria would not be permitted. In Saxony brewing it under licence from the government is allowed because gose is a regional speciality and a style of ale that pre-dates the introduction of the Reinheitsgebot.

Brewing at the Gosebreuerei Bayerischer Bahnhof

Matthias Richter, the Braumeister—the master brewer—at the Gosebreuerei Bayerischer Bahnhof, tells me how gose was originally a spontaneously fermented style of beer drank in Goslar during medieval times.

Its name is derived from the River Gose, which flows through the attractive town, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the Harz Mountains.

According to legend, gose was first brought to Leipzig in 1738. In the upheaval of the Napoleonic era gose fell out of favour in Goslar but drinkers in Leipzig and Halle continued to enjoy it.

Over time drinking fashions changed. Pilsners rose in popularity during the late 19th century and demand for gose dwindled. In 1966 the last batch of gose was brewed but the recipe was saved.

The Bayerische Bahnhof in Leipzig, Germany. The former railway station is now a restaurant and microbrewery brewing Gose style ale.

A function room at the Bayerische Bahnhof in Leipzig, Germany.

The revival of gose

Clearly passionate about brewing history, Matthias explains how a couple of attempts were made to revive gose in the 1980s. The fall of the Berlin Wall resulted in a Franconian brewer investing in premises in Leipzig.

Standing in front of the polished copper tanks that impress visitors to the pub-restaurant at the site of the historic railway terminus constructed between 1842 and 1844, Matthias tells me that regular gose contains 4.5 per cent of alcohol by volume. The double bock weighs in with at least twice that much booze.

Barley and wheat both feature in the brew, which is made in 1,500 litre batches. The fermentation tanks at the Gosebreuerei hold double that amount.

Most of the beer is sold on site but around a fifth of the capacity is exported. Gose has admirers as far afield as the USA, Italy, Finland, Norway and Denmark.

Matthias leads me behind the scenes to stainless steel tanks that will make it possible for the brewery to produce around 250 hectolitres of beer this year. Meanwhile he’s describing how he enjoys the multifaceted nature of his work. In addition to gose, he brews black beer, wheat beer and pilsner plus a handful of speciality ales. He seems quietly proud of his spruce needle gose adding “spruce needles were used to filter the wort.”

Matthias holds a bottle of gose.

Matthias holds a bottle of gose.

Tasting Leipzig’s gose beer

After showing me a bottle of the liqueur that’s also sold in the pub-restaurant Matthias heads back to work while I step outside into the beer garden. I take a seat and order a plate of spare ribs plus a glass of gose.

Despite the use of lactic acid during the brewing process the beer is by no means as tangy as I’d anticipated. On a warm day it proves a palatable, refreshing drink and pairs well with the ribs.

Further information

The Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof (Bayerischer Platz 1, Leipzig; tel. +49 (0) 341 1245760) is both a brewery and a pub-restaurant with a beer garden.

The Italian-influenced, Neolassical railway building was once a point of departure for rail journeys to Hof, in Bavaria, and then southwards to Austria and Italy. A second building, on the opposite side of the track, was destroyed by allied bombing during World War Two.

It is a short walk from the centre of Leipzig. Take a look at the Leipzig Travel website for an overview of the city’s attractions and how to make the most of a visit.

Leipzig is the most populous city in Saxony. The Saxony Tourism website provides a wealth of ideas about what to see and do in the state.  The Cultural Heart of Germany site also has information about neighbouring states Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt.

See the Germany Travel website for ideas about things to do and see in Saxony and elsewhere in the country.

Matthias by brewing vessels at the Bayerische Bahnhof in Leipzig, Germany.

Matthias by brewing vessels at the Bayerische Bahnhof in Leipzig, Germany.

The Doctor's House Inn and Spa at Green's Harbour in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The inn is on an estate of 100 acres.

A Place to Stay: The Doctor’s House Inn and Spa

“Did you hear the whales singing during the night?” asked a smiling, fellow guest as I headed downstairs for breakfast at the Doctor’s House Inn and Spa at Green’s Harbour in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I hadn’t. Despite leaving my windows open, I’d slept soundly. Clearly though, the woman was thrilled about hearing the whales in Trinity Bay.

“Did you see the whales swimming just off the shore. I was watching them from my balcony,” said another as she entered the restaurant.

I shook my head and tucked into the granola I’d ordered. How come I hadn’t managed to see the humpbacks that everyone else had taken pleasure from? I felt like I’d missed out.

I suppose I’d been catching up with my sleep? Yet the journey to the Doctor’s House Inn and Spa had not been that long. St John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, is just five hours 35 minutes’ flight from London Heathrow and three-and-a-half hours behind UK time. The drive up to Green’s Harbour lasted barely an hour.

A look at the property

The Doctor’s House Inn and Spa is a Tudor-style building with a tower set within 100 acres of rolling land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The quiet, scenic location means the rural property is a popular wedding venue. For travellers such as myself it proved a cosy base for exploring the small towns and coastline on the peninsula north of Conception Bay.

The main building, which has ten guestrooms, was constructed by a psychologist with a practice in St John’s. Locals knew the property as the doctor’s house, hence the name of the inn and spa.

More recently, a spacious, rustic-chic guest house with four additional rooms has been constructed a minute’s walk from the main house, with views over Hopeall Point.

Have a whale of a time...Seats overlooking the ocean at the Doctor's House Inn and Spa.

Have a whale of a time…Seats overlooking the ocean at the Doctor’s House Inn and Spa.

Weddings and corporate events

After breakfast I joined Jerry Byrne, who has been running the Doctor’s House with his wife since the summer of 2014, for a tour of the expansive property.

Like many Newfoundlanders, Jerry speaks with a brogue whose lilting intonations owe much to his Irish ancestry.

We wandered through the gardens, where seven British couples plus one from Ireland married over the summer of 2016, and into the arched wooden hall, which is used for receptions and corporate events. It has a bridal dressing room and, out the back, there’s a fire pit for grilling food.

Animals and Crout’s Way Trail

“Did you see the ponies, goats and sheep already?” asked Jerry before suggesting we wander up to the paddock to feed them.

He mentioned how one of the Newfoundland ponies changes colour with the season. “It’s the one black legs…I didn’t believe it myself until I saw it,” he added, seeing my scepticism about a pony changing colour.

Crout’s Way Trail, which runs between Hopeall and Drogheda, skirts past the property. It was cut by John Guy’s colonists in the early 17th century, to make contact with the Beothuk Indians. Like the much shorter Witch Hazel Trail, following it provides guests with opportunities to get out into nature.

A Newfoundland pony by the barn in the property's 100-acre grounds.

A Newfoundland pony by the barn in the property’s 100-acre grounds.

The Doctor House’s guestrooms

I stayed in Limonene, one of the Doctor’s House, Superior Queen rooms.

With a carved, four-poster bed, dark wood flooring and framed pictures of plant species, along with the taxonomical names, it made a positive impression on me.

Like all of the rooms, it is individually furnished and has a tea and coffee maker in the room.

I grabbed a book, about the photography of Yousuf Karsh, from the bookshelves in the hallway and spent time reading on the sofa on the decking by my room.

A four poster bed in the Limonen guestroom.

A four poster bed in the Limonen guestroom.

Dining at the Doctor’s House

The food served at the Doctor’s House was one of the highlights of staying. Chef Dwayne Davis has developed a three-course dinner menu that draws largely on local ingredients.

I selected the maple ginger carrot soup for my starter followed by Cod Napoleon, one of Dwayne’s creations. The dish features locally landed cod, mussels plus shrimps. For dessert I went for bananas foster bread pudding, primarily because it was a way of tasting the screech rum that Newfoundlanders had mentioned a handful of times since my arrival.

There’s a tradition of “screeching in” visitors to the island and making them honourary Newfoundlanders. The lighthearted ceremony involves knocking back a shot of rum, long a drink favoured by the province’s fishermen.

Due to a busy programme of sightseeing in the area, I didn’t get a chance to take a spa treatment or unwind in the hot tub.

On departing Jerry reminded me that if I was thinking of marrying any time soon he’d be happy to see me return to the Doctor’s House Inn and Spa for the reception. We’ll see…

Cod Napoleon served during dinner at the Doctor's House.

Cod Napoleon served during dinner at the Doctor’s House.

More information

For information about prices and availability see the website of the Doctor’s House Inn and Spa (21 Old Hopeall Road, Green’s Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador; tel. +1 709-582-2754).

The Doctor’s House is about an hour’s drive from St John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, on the scenic Baccalieu Trail driving route. Free Wi-Fi is available to guests.

For ideas about travel in Newfoundland and Labrador take a look at the province’s tourist information website, www.newfoundlandlabrador.com. For more about the country as a whole see www.canada.travel.