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 www.maltonyorkshire.co.uk 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 www.tallshipsblyth2016.com.

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, www.bayroberts.com.

Find out more about Newfoundland and Labrador on the www.newfoundlandlabrador.com website.

See www.explore-canada.co.uk 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.

 

Travel Cube international travel adapter.

Kit review: Travel Cube

Travel Cube is a multi-socket travel adapter with two fast-charge USB ports.

The Travel Cube allows a user to plug in a piece of electronic equipment on the top of the device then connect it to a socket.

It can be slipped into electrical sockets that take three rectangular pins (type G, as used in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore), two round pins (type B, as used in much of mainland Europe, most of South America plus much of Asia), two parallel flat pins (type A, employed in North America and Japan), or two angled flat pins (type I, used in China, Australasia and Argentina).

Travel Cube international travel adapter.

Travel Cube international travel adapter – the USB sockets.

Functional in 200+ countries

In total, this piece of travel kit can be used in more than 200 of the planet’s nations.

It is not, however, designed for electronic devices that require high amounts of power, such as hairdryers. A message of caution, to that effect, is enclosed in the packaging.

Choosing between the various socket settings is simple. A button on the side of the Travel Cube has to be pressed then slid along to the desired option (marked UK, Europe and USA/AUST).

Switching between type A and I needs the user to twist the flat pins manually, into the required position.

A blue LED light, located close to the USB ports, indicated whether or not the Travel Cube is switched on.

Travel Cube international travel adapter.

Travel Cube international travel adapter – two round pins.

Two USB charging ports

The device has two USB ports charges at up to 2.1 amps.

The product fits easily into an adult hand and is relatively light. It’s rectangular and can slip easily into a pair of training shoes or some other suitable space in a suitcase.

Travel Cube is produced by Mayhem and is available in black, white or purple. It has a recommended retail price of £16.95 in the United Kingdom and is available from Prezzybox.com.

Travel Cube international travel adapter.

Travel Cube international travel adapter – three rectangular pins.

Travel Cube technical information

AC power rating of 6A maximum, 100 to 240V (660W max at 110V, 1380W max at 230V), 50/60Hz

USB ports have a power output of 2100mA, 5V

There is no AC-AC voltage conversion and no grounding.

Travel Cube international travel adapter - two flat pins.

Travel Cube international travel adapter – two flat pins.

 

The Charles Bridge in Prague, Photo © Dagmar Veselková.

The Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

Few bridges match the romantic ambiance of Prague’s picturesque Charles Bridge. The structure is one of the best-loved landmarks in the Czech Republic and spans the River Vltava between the Malá Strana district, the site of the city’s vast castle, and the Staré Město, Prague‘s Old Town.

Many bridges are purely functional – a means of traveling between two points – yet the Charles Bridge has become a popular attraction in its own right.

A popular Czech attraction

If you’re visiting on a sunny afternoon be prepared for a crowd of camera toting tourist ambling over the cobbles of this structure, which was pedestrianized in 1950.

Hawkers sell souvenirs and artists display works depicting the landmarks of Prague. Those include, of course, the famous bridge that’s known to locals as Karlův most.

Prague and the Charles Bridge. Photographed by Michal Vitásek.

Prague and the Charles Bridge. Photographed by Michal Vitásek.

When to photograph the Charles Bridge

Photographers will tell you the best time to see the bridge is just after dawn, when the sun rises over the Gothic tower on Old Town side of the bridge. Early in the evening—when the the crowd has departed and street lamps cast their warm glow on the well-trodden cobbles—also proves popular. Even foggy mornings have an evocative charm.

It wasn’t until 1870 that this 16-arch stone structure became officially known as the Charles Bridge. That name is in honour of the Bohemia’s King Charles IV – also the Holy Roman Emperor – the man who commissioned its construction in 1357. It was completed in 1402 but, remarkably, until 1841 it remained Prague’s only bridge across the Vltava.

Numerology and the bridge

Ask a local and they may well recount a legend that says Charles himself laid the first stone, at precisely 5:31 on the morning of 9 July 1357.

Those who believe in this tale will tell you the monarch was an avid believer in numerology and deemed it auspicious to build on the foundations of a numerical bridge; 1357 9/7 5:31.

Others dismiss the legend as an urban myth fabricated in the modern age.

History and Baroque sculptures

Looking towards the Old Town Bridge Tower you‘ll see the spot where the heads of 27 Protestant rebels were displayed following their execution in 1621, in a macabre show of imperial power.

The 30 Baroque sculptures and statuaries that now line the bridge were not added until late in the 17th century. The original works, by celebrated sculptors Matthias Braun and Ferdinand Brokoff, are now within the National Museum.

The most famous figure, with a halo of five stars, depicts St John of Nepomuk, who was thrown into the river on the orders of King Wencelas IV for refusing to divulge the queen’s confessions. John drowned but became the patron saint of Bohemia and, perhaps a touch ironically, of bridges.

Strolling across this one gives insights to more than six centuries of Czech history and some fine views of the nation’s capital.

The Charles Bridge, photographed by Libor Sváček.

The Charles Bridge, photographed by Libor Sváček.

Further information

See the Czech Tourism website for travel information about the Czech Republic.

The images illustrating this feature were supplied courtesy of the Czech Tourism Authority. The featured image is by the photographer Dagmar Veselková.

Statue of Queen Elizabeth II in Regina, Saskatchewan.

With a Local: Regina, Saskatchewan

Regina is the provincial capital of Saskatchewan in Canada.

Search the internet and you’ll see it has produced a string of talented ice hockey players who have made it into the NHL.

Yet it’s uniforms of a different type that draw many visitors to Regina. All Mounties receive their initial training in Regina and visitors can see cadets drilling in their ceremonial uniforms during the Sunset Retreat Ceremony, held on Tuesday evenings from the start of July until mid-August.

I spent a week driving around Saskatchewan with Jodi Holliday, a Media Relations Specialist, who lives in Regina and provides insights into her home city.

Why do you think people should come and see/do your home town?

We are home to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Every RCMP cadet in Canada is trained in Regina at the ‘Depot’ Academy. There is also a museum, the RCMP Heritage Centre (5907 Dewdney Avenue), which goes through the entire history of the RCMP.

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

I love Wascana Centre, an urban park that takes up a large portion of the middle of the city. Wascana Centre is a 9.3 square kilometre (2,300 acre) park around Wascana Lake.

It was designed by the Seattle architect Minoru Yamasak, who is famous for designing New York’s original World Trade Center.

It also encompasses many of my favourite places: the University of Regina, the provincial Legislative Building, Darke Hall, MacKenzie Art Gallery, CBC—the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Conexus Arts Centre, and the Science Centre.

Façade of Saskatchewan's Legislative Assembly.

Façade of Saskatchewan’s Legislative Assembly.

If you were going to take a guest to lunch/dinner, where would you choose and why?

I love Crave Kitchen and Wine Bar (1925 Victoria Avenue; tel. +1 306 525 8777). It’s housed in the historic home of the Assiniboia Club, features dishes made with local ingredients, including delicious beer from Rebellion Brewing, and never disappoints.

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

I always love going to O’Hanlon’s (1947 Scarth Street; +1 306 566 4094). It’s right downtown, across from Victoria Park, has a great non-smoking patio and a fantastic beer selection, including many local craft beer taps. Their breakfast pizza is to die for!

Stained glass window depicting a bugling Mountie.

Stained glass window depicting a bugling Mountie.

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

I am always interested in indigenous culture, in particular, the Métis population.

Saskatchewan’s Métis are descendants of First Nations women and mainly Scottish and French explorers and fur traders. The merging of two very different cultures created a vibrant new culture.

In 1885, Louis Riel led Métis and First Nations people in an armed uprising against the Canadian government. The uprising became known as the North West Resistance, and was the last military conflict on Canadian soil. Visitors can experience this fascinating and defining moment in Canadian history at Batoche National Historic Site. Louis Riel was executed for treason in Regina.

Also, Regina used to be called ‘Pile of Bones’, the English translation of the Cree place name ‘oskana kâ-asastêki’, because of the large amounts of bison bones on the banks of the Wascana Creek.

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

Wander around downtown or in the Cathedral Village where there are many restaurants, cafés and shops. Or get out of town to Lumsden Valley and Regina Beach.

Take a look at the Tourism Regina and Tourism Saskatchewan websites to find out more about the city and the surrounding region.

Mounties marching in the Sunset Retreat Ceremony at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Depot in Regina.

Mounties marching in the Sunset Retreat Ceremony at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Depot in Regina.

Alain Bossé, the Kilted Chef, on the deck of his home in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Cooking with Alain Bossé, the Kilted Chef

Alain Bossé is known as the Kilted Chef. Standing in the kitchen of his home in Pictou, Nova Scotia, I can see why—he’s wearing a blue and green tartan kilt and a double-breasted chef’s jacket.

He welcomes me with a glass of Selkie, a type of bottle-fermented sparkling wine. Alain is a culinary ambassador for Atlantic Canada and doesn’t miss the opportunity to explain how Selkie is a product of the cold climate viniculture practised in Nova Scotia’s vineyards.

Atlantic Canada’s food ambassador

Alain regularly travels around the world promoting produce from Atlantic Canada, particularly the region’s lobster and seafood. He also offers culinary consulting and cooking lessons to groups of up to eight or 10 people. The classes last all day and involve visits to local producers, giving people a chance to see where the ingredients come from.

He invites me to wash my hands and roll up my sleeves, then ushers me towards the island workspace in the centre of his vast kitchen. Glancing around I can’t help but feel a tad envious of his spacious, well-lit kitchen with glass-fronted refrigerators. It’s a lovely, spacious place in which to cook.

Dessert laced with rum

We’ll be making peppered strawberries with locally produced rum, a combination I’ve never even considered previously. Alain reveals he has been cooking the dish since the 1980s.

He invites me to pick up a knife and remove the leaves and stems from freshly picked strawberries—it’s known as hulling them in this part of the world.

Of course, I can’t resist chomping on a couple between placing them in the bowl that’s on the bench in front of me. Nothing beats fresh, seasonal fruit. The strawberries are delicious and sweet.

When I’m finished Alain gives me a useful tip—lemon juice helps remove the sticky redness of the fruit.

Origins of the Kilted Chef

Inevitably, I can’t help asking Alain, who is of French-Canadian heritage, why he wears a kilt.

He explains that many of Nova Scotia’s present day residents can trace their heritage to Scottish settlers who arrived in the Hector in 1773. A replica of the ship stands moored at Pictou’s Hector Heritage Quay.

Alain first wore a kilt at a fund-raising event for the Heatherbell Pipes and Drums group and realised it could form part of his branding.

Dining on the decking

He demonstrates how to layer up the dish then encourages me to grab a glass of wine.

We head outside into the sunshine and tuck into the dish, featuring meringues that are crispy on the outside but chewy in the middle, while chatting about Nova Scotian food.

Pavlova topped with chantilly maple cream and peppered strawberries.

Pavlova topped with chantilly maple cream and peppered strawberries.

Here is the recipe we made for you to try at home, supplied courtesy of the Kilted Chef:

Pavlova topped with Chantilly maple cream and peppered strawberries

Serves six

To assemble:

Place half of the Chantilly cream onto the cooled Pavlova. Spread to within one inch (2.5 centimetres) of the edge.

Top with peppered strawberries then repeat on the second layer.

Meringues

Use the meringues as the base for the pavlova.

Ingredients

4 egg whites

½ a cup of sugar

¼ a teaspoon of cream of tartar

½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract

Method

In a spotlessly clean and dry bowl beat the egg whites with cream of tartar.

When soft peaks develop in the mix, slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time.

When it is glossy add the vanilla and beat for seven to eight minutes, until the meringue mix is no longer grainy.

Place the mix on parchment paper in individual portions and bake at 300F (150°C) for 60 minutes.

Peppered strawberries

“This is truly one of my favourite summer desserts,” says Alain about this delicious dish.

Ingredients for two

1 pint of fresh Strawberries (½ litre)

Half an orange

2 tablespoons of butter (30ml)

5 tablespoons of sugar (75ml)

1½ ounces of Sea Fever rum (45ml)

Black pepper – 50 turns of the pepper mill

Method

Remove the leaves and stems from the strawberries.

Cut the berries in half.

In a skillet melt the butter, add the sugar and stir constantly until the sugar is a nice caramel colour.

Add the juice of the orange.

Add the Strawberries and let simmer in the syrup for a few minutes.

Add the rum and allow the alcohol to cook off. Add fresh ground pepper; about 50 turns (don’t be shy!).

Chantilly maple cream

Makes two cups

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons of white sugar

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Method

Place all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whip until stiff peaks form.

Further information

Find out more about Alain and see more of his recipes on the Kilted Chef website.

The Nova Scotia website has a section dedicated to the province’s food, drink and culinary experiences.

Alain Bossé, the Kilted Chef, with his cookbook 'Mussels'.

Alain Bossé, the Kilted Chef, with his cookbook ‘Mussels’.

 

A Snugpak Softie Vest on a Union Jack flag.

Kit Review: Snugpak Softie Vest

The Snugpak Softie Vest is a lightweight, body warmer style jacket designed for wearing when a chill grips the air.

As such it’s a good piece of kit for early morning walks on summer days, when the air temperature hasn’t quite warmed up, or evenings, when temperatures again begin to drop. I wore it on a dawn photo session then during a barbecue and found it fine for both.

The sleeveless top ensured I could move unencumbered while setting up photographs, both with and without a tripod, and crouching to capture low shots of wildflowers.

The Snugpak Softie Vest also looks good, so I didn’t hesitate to don it on an evening, first to the barbecue and then for a stroll into the neighbouring village for a drink at last orders.

Stitching gives the vest V-shaped ribbing on its front and back. The sides have horizontal stitching. The effect is a slim-line look.

A folded, silver coloured Snugpak Softie Vest.

A folded, silver coloured Snugpak Softie Vest.

A lightweight insulated vest

In fact, quite a few of the fellas at the barbecue were impressed by the vest’s lack of weight—if only they’d say the same about me. The Extra-Large version of the vest weights just 410 grams. It comes in sizes from XS (280 grams) to XXL (450 grams).

Falling to below my buttocks and to the pocket line on my trousers, I found the Snugpak Softie Vest to be a comfortable length, both while I was active and relaxing.

The vest packs down well, so proved easy to carry. After the rural morning photo shoot I folded and slipped it into the outer pocket of my equipment bag.

Detail of the collar, which features a draw string, on a Snugpak Softie Vest.

Detail of the collar, which features a draw string, on a Snugpak Softie Vest.

The spec of the vest

The Snugpak Softie Vest is made from Paratex Micro fabric, a hardwearing fabric with a reputation for being windproof and water repellent. It also has the advantage that ketchup wipes away easily, in the off-chance some dribbles from a roll during a barbecue.

The inner surface is a lightweight version of the same fabric. The insulating material, known as Softie Premier, is made from polyester and supplied by a Swiss-manufacturer, Härdi. It is said to trap more air than regular insulators and is also used in Snugpak’s sleeping bags.

Both the collar and the lower hem feature drawcords, meaning I was able to tighten or loosen them to my liking.

All of the jacket’s three pockets have zips. The two outer side pockets are set back within an unobtrusive fold. The inner pocket is large enough to simultaneously carry a notebook, a couple of pens plus a smartphone.

A Snugpak Softie Vest laid out on a Union Jack.

A Snugpak Softie Vest laid out on a Union Jack.

Four colours of vest

My Snugpak Softie Vest is the silver version. I’d have called it light grey, rather than silver, if I’d been asked to name its colour and hadn’t read the delivery note. It’s also available in olive green plus two types of camouflage.

Why in A-TACS and multicam? Snugpak kit has been worn by members of armed forces around the world since the Falklands Conflict of the early 1980s.

Snugpak make this kit at a mill in Silsden, West Yorkshire, which is why I decided to photograph the Softie Vest with a Union Jack flag.

The Snugpak Softie Vest can be purchased online and has a RRP of £84.95.

Further information

Find out more about Snugpak on the company’s website.