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, 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, For more about the country as a whole see

Vaultcard, a device designed to prevent data skimming.

Product review: Vaultcard anti-RFID skimming device

Concerned by the risk of contactless card fraud while you’re travelling? Vaultskin has developed a product, Vaultcard, to counteract technology-enabled theft.

In recent months you may have heard rumours about thieves using wireless devices to read cards while they are still in people’s pockets. By coming within a few centimetres of wallets, it’s said they are able to skim data and subsequently make purchases.

The good old days?

Whatever happened to the good old days of muggings and robberies, eh? Life was so much simpler back in those sunny days of old. For all the downsides of being robbed, at least you knew immediately that you’d lost something.

These days anybody with access to the internet, from teenagers to tech-savvy pensioners, are able to syphon funds from your online bank account. Whether you’re enjoying sunshine on vacation or slumbering soundly in your own bed makes little difference.

And, of late, it seems they can pick your pocket without even touching you.

The hand of a man holding a Vaultcard.

The hand of a man holding a Vaultcard.

The risk of contactless fraud

In the middle of 2015 the consumer group Which? published a report suggesting that the risk of contactless fraud was greater than many people had previously realised.

However, subsequent stories, published elsewhere, have suggested that contactless fraud is not a widespread issue within the United Kingdom.

Nonetheless, products are now coming to market that counteract ‘electronic pickpocketing’—that’s the common term for radio-frequency identification (RFID) skimming from cards and other devices holding microchips and antennae.

Simpler, lo-tech solutions to counteract RFID skimming include wrapping cards in metallic foil.

A Vaultcard in a wallet.

A Vaultcard in a wallet.

Vaultcard by Vaultskin

A Vaultcard looks and feels much like a credit or debit card and is 1.1mm wide, so able to slip into a wallet or purse just like a credit card.

According to Vaultskin Vaultcard uses “military-grade electromagnetic jamming signals” and is able to adjust its power to counteract the equipment used by RFID skimmers.

A Vaultcard, I was informed, is able to protect several cards at any one time, though to do so it needs to cover roughly half of the surface area of each card. The signal emitted from a Vaultcard protects cards up to 4cm on either side.

Credit and debit cards can be used as normal, so long as they are held 20cm or more away from the Vaultcard.

From a non-techie perspective Vaultcard is a neat looking, easy to carry solution that helps minimise risk.

I tested a Vaultcard by holding it next to a debit card while attempting to pay for goods in a Tesco store and at a Metro ticket machine. The payments did not go through. I repeated the test when the cards were inside of a wallet, again the transactions were not processed. I then held my card away from the Vaultcard and the transactions completed.

If you are wandering around foreign cities, perhaps using one of these cards will put your mind at rest that you’re doing everything possible to protect your data. They are available to order for £24.99.

Further information

See the Vaultskin website to find out more about the company’s products, including Vaultcard.

If you are concerned about the risks posed by using contactless cards, taking a look at the UK Card Association website may allay some of your concerns. The association represents the financial institutions that issue cards.

A Vaultcard. The card is designed by Vaultskin, a company based in London.

A Vaultcard. The card is designed by Vaultskin, a company based in London.

Tom Naylor-Leyland, outside of the Talbot Hotel, in Malton, North Yorkshire,

With a Local: Malton, North Yorkshire

Malton is a small market town 17 miles north-east of York. It is building a reputation as a destination for foodies.

Tom Naylor-Leyland is the founder and director of the Malton Food Lovers Festival. Tom’s family has owned land in and around the town for more than 300 years. He was happy to provide tips and suggestions relating to the town, which has an impressive array of pubs.

Why do you think people should come to Malton?

It’s a food town. Not only is it a food town, it’s known as Yorkshire’s food capital. Why? Because we’ve got one of the biggest food festivals in the north of England, the Malton Food Lovers Festival [27 and 28 May 2017] and a fantastic food market, Malton Monthly Food Market.

We’ve got Malton Cookery School and fantastic restaurants. We’ve also now got Made in Malton producer units that you can visit. You can go and see a coffee roastery, a gelato maker, 24butchery, a baker, fresh pasta and Britain’s first butter parlour—it’s a foodie heaven.

What is your favourite place in the town (and why)?

My favourite part of Malton is, without doubt, the Groovy Moo Ice Cream Co.!

Michelle and her son Ashley opened a year-and-a half ago and it has really captured the imagination of people from across the county and the whole of the north of England. People come from Sheffield, York, Birmingham and London. They even had a guy from Hong Kong who’d heard about it.

It has Italian style gelato made with Yorkshire cream from St Quentin’s Creamery.

Ice cream served with a smile at the Groovy Moo Ice Cream Co..

Ice cream served with a smile at the Groovy Moo Ice Cream Co..

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

I think there are two places in town, The New Malton (2-4 Market Place; tel. 01653 693998), which is a really good pub.

It’s one of those place. It has two little fires. Gemma and Anthony have been running it for six or seven years. It’s a great place. They are modest, they probably wouldn’t even call it a gastropub but it has brilliant food. You know what? Terrible name dropping but I took Antonio Carluccio there and he enjoyed it.

The other place is the Malton Brasserie (in the Talbot Hotel; tel. 01653 639096). The whole idea is fantastic Yorkshire food done simply. So it’s no frills but fantastic fish and chips and the best pork or game pie. Personally I love liver, not everyone does, but they do some fantastic calves’ livers there—kidneys on toast—and a cracking steak.

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

I think The Spotted Cow pub (Spital Street; tel. 01653 697568) is hard to beat. There’s Suddaby’s (12 Wheelgate; tel. 01653 692038) too.

I’d probably take people to the Brass Castle Tap Room (10a Yorkersgate; tel. 01653 698683). It’s not open all the time. It’s almost like a pop up pub. The beer in there is superb. Those guys, they make beer in a garage at the back and yet they’ve won several UK awards for their beers. They currently have the champion lager [Helles] and have awards for a few other beers. They are serious brewers.

Traditional Yorkshire fayre is served on a wooden platter in Malton.

Traditional Yorkshire fayre is served on a wooden platter in Malton.

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

The Talbot Hotel is meant to be haunted but the tale that’s known in these parts is about Charles Dickens.

He used to visit his friend, Mr Smithson, and used to stay at the Talbot Hotel. Mr Smithson had an accountancy. Charles Dickens based Scrooge’s counting house, in A Christmas Carol on Mr Smithson’s office, in Chancery Lane. They have a plaque there. It’s slightly pooky and extraordinary.

In the book he talks about the bells of St Leonard’s. St Leonard’s is just up the hill—it’s almost like A Christmas Carol is coming alive in Malton.

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

Malton is the gateway to this part of Yorkshire.

For history and heritage we have Castle Howard…it is Vanbrugh’s palace. When you see it you just can’t believe it—utterly beautiful.

Walking on the North York Moors is so popular. Outside of London and Cornwall, there are more tourists coming to the North York Moors and coast area than anywhere else in the country.

It is 18 miles to the coast, about 20 minutes by car. Filey, Whitby, Scarborough—they are all fantastic and very accessible.

Further information

To find out more about Malton take a look at the website.

The Georgian era Subscription Rooms in Malton.

The Georgian era Subscription Rooms in Malton.

A tall ship docked in Lisbon, Portugal.

North Sea Tall Ships Regatta at Blyth, Northumberland

From 26 to 29 August 2016 30 rigged sailing ships will moor in Blyth, Northumberland. Participating in the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta, the vessels will then depart in a race to Gothenburg, Sweden.

Not so long ago I witnessed the grand sight of mainsails billowing as tall ships sailed out of Lisbon, Portugal. The tiny size of Vasco da Gama’s reconstructed ship surprised me as I saw it moored, making me appreciate all the more his achievement in navigating halfway around the world.

The idea of climbing into the rigging did not appeal even in the calm of the harbour. Great Britain would never have been a maritime power if grappling up a ratline to set the topgallant sail in a choppy sea had been left to me.

From Halifax to Tahiti

To find out what that experience is like I chatted to Ian Butterworth from Halifax, West Yorkshire, who spent time aboard the Søren Larsen, sailing between islands in the Pacific Ocean such as Moorea, Bora Bora, Tahiti and Rarotonga.

His duties, which were “hard work and fun” encompassed going aloft to stow and unfurl sails, keeping bow watch and making bread in the dead of night. He also spent time swabbing decks and at the helm, following a bearing set by one of the officers.

“Sometimes the ship’s compass would be covered and at night we would sail by the stars. I remember steering the Søren by keeping the reddish star Antares from the constellation Scorpius on the starboard side of the course yard arm,” he recalls.

“I would always keep the ship on course until an officer passed by when the compass would nudge itself way off course and the officer would give you a sarcastic grin.  I’m certain they had magnets in their pockets,” he jokes.

The Sagres tall ship sails on the River Tagus, under the 25 April bridge in Lisbon.

The Sagres tall ship sails on the River Tagus, under the 25 April bridge in Lisbon.

Sailing into the sunrise

“We worked a traditional watch system—four hours on and eight hours off.  The best watches were 0400-0800 and 1600–000 where you saw all the sunsets and sunrises” says the Yorkshireman.

“I found out I could take a sabbatical from work, up to six months unpaid leave whilst retaining benefits such as pension, share scheme and job,” says the employee of Halifax Bank.

“The only thing you weren’t guaranteed on your return was a chair to sit on—it would most likely go missing. It was an opportunity I had to take. To be honest, I don’t know why I chose sailing but once I did it seemed the right way to spend time away.  It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life,” he says, recalling the adventure.

“It was exhilarating, exhausting and life-fulfilling,” he says of the experience, which he recommends to others.

Being watched by dolphins

“Sailing into Bora Bora, I was up on the yard arms helping stow the sails.  The sun was setting and the captain was playing guitar down on deck. I suddenly spotted dolphins swimming upside-down off the bow. They were looking at us—life felt fantastic,” he adds fondly.

“The tradition, history and sense of nostalgia and heritage,” were aspects Ian most enjoyed about spending time on a sailing ship.

“It was the sense that, not too long ago, this was a way of life for thousands of our ancestors—so much so that there are so many sea faring terms engrained in the English language which we still use today,” he adds.

Volunteers and permanent crew

“I was a volunteer and paid to be on board…I could do as much or as little as I wanted. I took every opportunity to take part, the only thing they wouldn’t let me do was “flaking” the anchor and chain.  It was considered the most dangerous job on the ship and only permanent crew members could do that,” says Ian.

“The permanent crew—officers and deckhands—were the main workhorses. Boy, did they did work hard! They were paid a small wage and it was their job to keep the Søren ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’. The term was coined for ships taking the trip up the Bristol channel,” he adds.

I briefly became a member of the permie crew, and thus the Merchant Navy, on a stopover in Tahiti for a week. I spent the week sanding down and varnishing the toilet seats and bowsprit.  It was one of the best weeks of my life,” reveals Ian.

Being a volunteer on the Søren Larsen also meant parties, often in fancy dress, plus formal dinners with the captain on Sundays.

What? You want me to climb up there while we're moving?

What? You want me to climb up there while we’re moving?

Ahoy, a rum tale

Like every sailor, Ian can tell a story.

“One night the ship was rolling quite badly in rough seas. I was on the 0000-0400 watch and it was my turn to make the bread. The ship took a roll and the bread mix went all over the galley floor. I took to my hands and knees to wipe up the mess and start again—my head was spinning, my stomach was churning. I started the mix again and put it in the oven. The next duty was to make the tea with one sugar, black coffee with half sugar, lattes, mochas and all combinations of hot drinks for the watch crew.  I wasn’t in the mood and told the crew I was making a bucket of tea with milk for everyone,” he recounts.

“As I was exiting the galley with six cups in my hands, the ship took a roll, I slid towards the holes in the side of the ship that let water flow off the deck and the cups went overboard.  The following morning I asked a crew member what the holes were called–scuppers. That made sense. The previous night I was nearly well and truly ‘scuppered’!”

The experience taught Ian a big lesson. “For most of us, the course of our lives is in our hands. It doesn’t have to be sailing but there is something we can all do to better our lives,” he says.

For me will include getting to Blyth over the Bank Holiday Weekend to unwind while viewing the ships.

Further information

Find out more about the event at Blyth Quayside on

The Visit Northumberland website has information about attractions in and near Blyth.

A tall ship docked in Lisbon, Portugal.

A tall ship docked in Lisbon, Portugal.

Moody...Bay Roberts in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

With a Local – Bay Roberts, Newfoundland and Labrador

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. A chance meeting while walking a heritage trail in the town of Bay Roberts in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, resulted in me meeting Glenn Littlejohn.

Glenn explained how, as a boy, he used to play with friends on Fergus Island, where Bay Roberts residents would let their sheep graze over the summer. Visitors tend to snap images of the island because it bears a striking resemblance to a sleeping Newfoundland dog with outstretched paws.

He was on the town council for 14 years and served as mayor of Bay Roberts from 2005 to 2011. Who better to answer questions for the latest With a Local column?

Why do you think people should come to Bay Roberts?

Bay Roberts dates back to the early 1600s as a settlement on the north shore of Conception Bay.

The Western Union Cable Building is a National Historic Site. It featured the hotline for Roosevelt and Churchill in World War Two—a very important communication link at that point in time.

It’s very scenic. The historic trail takes you to the east of Bay Roberts, where you can see the origins of the town settled by the English and the fishery. The fishery was important in establishing the town as a regional service centre.

Over the summer the Madrock Theatre Troupe puts on productions and they are a laugh-and-a-half.

What is your favourite place in Bay Roberts (and why)?

My favourite place in the town is the heritage trail. I guess it’s because it’s peaceful, scenic and overlooks the ocean. It’s a place I can go to gather my thoughts.

When you get to Mad Rocks you’re not only looking out over Conception Bay but also across the Atlantic Ocean to our friends in England!

A woman plays the violin during the Toutons and Tunes tour at Bay Roberts in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

A woman plays the violin during the Toutons and Tunes tour at Bay Roberts in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

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

I would go to Madrock café (723 Water Street; tel. +1 709-786-4047).

The owners noticed there were more and more individuals walking the heritage trail and established it about 15 years ago. Their idea was to serve coffee and muffins and ice cream, and to see how it went. It’s expanded into a 365 operation.

You get a little bit of the local flavour. It’s in an old saltbox house and the owners are from the east end of Bay Roberts. Their fish cakes are to die for!

Last year they won a contest for their toutons, which is a Newfoundland speciality and basically fried dough. They’re known for having the best toutons in Newfoundland and Labrador.

They have traditional food, including pea soup, and it’s a wonderful place with great atmosphere.

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

If I was going for a drink, I’d go to Kelly’s Landing (182 Water Street; tel. +1 709-786-0244).

The owner has a lot of memorabilia about sport in the town. There’s a lot of pictures on the wall. If you want a bit of local history and to be entertained Donna does a wonderful job there.

It’s a pub in the traditional style of England, it’s more a bar. But when people go in there’s walls of memorabilia and it’s a walk through the sporting history of the town over the past 20 to 25 years.

Capelin fish and toutons served at Bay Roberts.

Capelin fish and toutons served at Bay Roberts.

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

There’s legends of ghosts and fairies in the east end of Bay Roberts. The Toutons and Tunes walk, with a local guide, gives you a chance to hear them on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.

In Bay Roberts in the late 1800s there was a murder because of mummering. Mummering is a Christmas tradition here that continues [people dress up, mask their identity and go from house to house].

And, of course, there’s the sleeping Newfoundland dog [Fergus Island] having a nap in the afternoon sun.

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

Cupids is the oldest English settlement in Canada. That’s about 15 minutes’ away. John Guy settled there in 1610.

Next to Cupids is the little, picturesque and historic community of Brigus. Hawthorne Cottage, the home of the northern legend Bob Bartlett, who took many explorers to the Arctic, is there.

The Brigus Blueberry Festival is the biggest of its type in the province and held in mid-August.

There are some great places to eat in Brigus and Cupids.

Further information
Take a look at the Bay Roberts website,

Find out more about Newfoundland and Labrador on the website.

See for more about travel and tourism in Canada.

Can you see the sleeping Newfoundland dog? Fergus Island at Bay Roberts.

Can you see the sleeping Newfoundland dog? Fergus Island at Bay Roberts.

Afternoon tea served at St Mary's Inn in Northumberland, England.

Afternoon tea at St Mary’s Inn near Morpeth, Northumberland

From 8 to 14 August 2016 it’s Afternoon Tea Week in the United Kingdom. To mark the occasion I headed into Northumberland and visited St Mary’s Inn at Stannington near Morpeth.

Did the big week make your diary? Maybe you were hungover from IPA Day (7 August)? Or were you simply too focused planning events to mark the concurrent National Allotments Week?

UK Afternoon Tea Week

Of course, you might not have time to squeeze in downtime during Afternoon Tea Week? After all, there’s barely a moment to spare, what with plans to celebrate International Cat Day (8 August), World Lion Day (10 August) and International Left Handers’ Day (13 August).

Fortunately afternoon tea is one of those pleasantries that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. And there’s always time for a cuppa. Remarkably, Britons brew up around 165 million cups of tea every day of the year, according to the Afternoon Tea Week website.

A cup of Earl Grey

After being ushered to a fireside seat in one of the rooms off the main bar I decided to order a cup of Earl Grey. After all, the bergamot-flavoured tea is reputed to have been first blended for a Northumbrian. The family seat of Charles, the second Earl Grey and a former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland, was at Howick Hall, a 35-minute drive further north up the A1 from Morpeth.

St Mary’s Inn, within a neo-Gothic building with a clock tower, also has a history. It opened in its current guise as recently as November 2014. Previously the premises were used as the administrative building for Gateshead’s county asylum, which operated until 1996. As many as 2,000 patients were once cared for at the hospital.

A fruit scone served with butter.

A fruit scone served with butter.

A dog-friendly boozer

As I started tucking into a sarnie I overheard a former nurse talking to a member of the inn’s staff about how much things had changed. She spoke of the spooky noises that echoed down the corridors when she was working nights.

The inn is now an inviting, dog-friendly place to drink and dine. It struck me that the furnishings—such as the stove fireplace, pew-like banquette plus artwork depicting flat-capped mine workers—hinted at times gone by but the room was bright and comfortable.

Coming out of the loo—where black and white photos of the 1962 Blyth Spartans football team are displayed—I was nebbing at the food served on a neighbouring table rather than watching where I was walking.

Momentarily, I thought was about to tread on a pooch. I spotted the figure out of the corner of my eye. Fortunately I was able to take evasive action then noticed it was one of the wire sculptures created by Gary Tiplady. The lifelike floor decorations are placed at various locations around the inn.

An attractively served afternoon tea

The afternoon tea was attractively presented on bespoke wooden boards held within a wrought iron frame. The lower level held a selection of sandwiches, made with white bread, plus three different types of scone. The desserts were on the upper board.

The sandwiches were filled with egg mayonnaise, roast beef and horseradish, tuna mayonnaise, plus ham and pease pudding. For me, the latter was the pick of the bunch due to the thick slice of succulent ham.

Sandwiches and scones, part of the afternoon tea served at St Mary's Inn.

Sandwiches and scones, part of the afternoon tea served at St Mary’s Inn.

An object of scone?

Tucking into the cheddar cheese, spice fruit and blackberry and plain scones prompted a debate on the correct way to pronounce ‘scone’. Should it rhyme with ‘cone’, ‘corn’ or ‘on’? If you have a view why not post a comment? You might help settle that argument.

By the time the discussion subsided both the pot of clotted cream and its neighbour, holding delicious home-style raspberry jam, had been plundered empty.

A rush and sweet surrender

The upper board held four different types of impeccably presented desserts. After munching on the raspberry red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting then devouring a pineapple mint and milk chocolate macaroon I’d satiated my desire for anything sweet.

Before tucking into the lemon balm and mango panacotta or the chocolate and vanilla marshmallow truffle I raised a white serviette in surrender.

Danny, my affable waiter, was kind enough to offer to box it up for me to take home. St Mary’s Inn is, it transpires, does not just welcome dogs, it’s also doggy bag friendly.

Visiting St Mary’s Inn

St Mary’s Inn (tel. +44 1670 293293) is at St Mary’s Park at Stannington near Morpeth in Northumberland. The pub has 11 guestrooms for overnight stays on a bed and breakfast basis. The website displays up-to-date information regarding prices and opening times.

A macaroon served as part of the afternoon tea.

A macaroon served as part of the afternoon tea.

The lighthouse at Burntcoat Head Park in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Tide watching at Burntcoat Head, Nova Scotia, Canada

In 1975 Burntcoat Head in Nova Scotia, Canada, entered The Guinness Book of Records as the place where the world’s highest average tide was recorded. The difference in the water level between low and high tide was measured at 47.5 feet—around 14.50 metres.

I learn those facts from Nancy, my guide, while we’re watching the tide lap in. She’s quick to add that spring tides rise as much as 53.6 feet (16.34 metres).

We’re standing opposite an eroded island. A number of overhanging trees with exposed roots look like they’ll soon be claimed by the cold Atlantic water.

“Ice, three to six feet deep, built up on the back side of the island in January. It expands and takes the mud with it…we call the ice flows chocolate marshmallows here because that exactly what they look like,” says Nancy with a laugh.

Dining on the Ocean Floor

She points to the area below us and explains that, at low tide, it’s possible to dine at tables set out on the ocean floor. The event is known as Dining on the Ocean Floor and held several times each summer. An expert takes participants foraging for ingredients and local seafood is served.

Nancy is one of the interpreters working in Burntcoat Head Park, close to the former shipbuilding community of Noel. Look on a map and you’ll see how the headland juts out from Nova Scotia’s western shoreline, between the Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay.

Burntcoat Island is lapped by seawater.

Burntcoat Island is lapped by seawater.

The Burntcoat Head lighthouse

The lighthouse at Burntcoat Head was decommissioned and burnt down back in 1972.

In the 1990s locals approached the Coast Guard acquired the plans of the landmark that had stood from 1913 until the early 70s. The wood-built lighthouse that you’ll see today was officially opened on Canada Day—1 July—1995.

The first lighthouse was erected at Burntcoat Head in 1858 but, ultimately, became a victim of land erosion.

Erosion reveals fossils

The destructive power of the sea regularly reveals fossils embedded in the muddy shoreline. They include dinosaur tracks, plants and skeletons dating from the Carboniferous Period, around 299 to 360 million years ago.

“A white line is usually the outline of a fossil,” states Nancy.

Amethyst is often found in the area during April though Amethyst Cove, near Cape Split, is a more reliable source. Agate and jasper also wash up here.

Nancy wears shoes while out on the ocean floor because it’s not uncommon to find glass, which she terms mermaids’ tears, “because every time we throw garbage into the ocean a mermaid will cry.”

Locals pick up the smooth, sea-worn glass to create jewellery.

Nancy shows off a burl in woodland at Burntcoat Head Park.

Nancy shows off a burl in woodland at Burntcoat Head Park.

Wildlife and birdlife

We’ve already strolled through the woodland close to the lighthouse and seen humming birds.

A woodpecker drills into a nearby trunk and the noise reverberates through woodland also providing habitat to deer, chipmunks, skunk and groundhog.

Nancy says it’s common to spot fox and raccoon feeding on the ocean floor at low tide.

“I love this place because, to me, it’s an opportunity to show people that we’re all connected—this ocean, this planet, these people who come to see this. You can’t come here without feeling love. People who come here from away, when they come up to you and look at you with wonderment in their eyes, there’s nothing better than that,” says Nancy.

The power of nature

“I’ve looked for home my entire life and this is home. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. It’s healing,” she adds with emotion.

The area is popular with locals and people from further afield. Some come for picnics, others to experience nature or to take a look at the interpretative exhibitions within the lighthouse.

“It talks to people. I’ll take people out on the ocean floor and I usually stand next to the water. People will look at me and ask me what I’m doing and I’ll say I’m checking whether the tide is coming or going. Usually I ask people to stand there, close their eyes and feel the power,” answers Nancy when I ask her what she thinks makes the area special.

Further information

See the Burntcoat Head Park website for information on the lighthouse and nearby attractions.

The Nova Scotia Tourism and Explore Canada websites also provide information about the headland and surrounding region.

The Nova Scotia and Canada flags at Buntcoat Head Park.

The Nova Scotia and Canada flags at Buntcoat Head Park.