Category Archives: Travel articles

So it turns out I like drinking – just for its own sake. Who’d have imagined that?

SBwine

Well – I did it.  An entire January’s-worth of alcoholic abstinence.

And yes, it was a VERY long month.

But the surprising discovery for me is not only that I have far greater reserves of willpower than anyone, including myself, suspected, but that I actually like drinking – just because I like the taste.

I like the taste of it and the smell of it and I love the excitement and pleasure I feel when I find myself drinking a particularly lovely pint of ale or a fabulously tasty glass of wine.

But I don’t drink for confidence, which I suspected I might, and which I know is a reason for people I know to head straight to the bar or have a few ‘sharpeners’ beforehand. I had absolutely no problem walking into intimidating rooms full of complete strangers and introducing myself and doing all the mingling and chatting that you normally do armed with a fortifying glass of something. Continue reading So it turns out I like drinking – just for its own sake. Who’d have imagined that?

Costa Book Awards: celebs, gossip and a worthy winner

Costa Book Awards
First time novelist Nathan Filer with his Costa award-winning book, The Shock of the Fall

My taxi driver was very excited when I said there would be loads of celebrities at the Costa Book Awards.

‘Like who?’ he asked, as he turned off Piccadilly to head towards the event venue, Quaglino’s restaurant.

‘Like, erm, Ian Hislop, and Simon Mayo… and maybe Mariella Frostup?’ I tried to think of some more A-list names who might conceivably be there but I should see his shoulders drop. He was obviously not that impressed.

Of course, it turned out I had slightly undersold the whole thing. The first person I spotted on walking down the stairs to the event was Jerry Hall, looking stunning in a massive halo of blonde hair.  Just nearby was actress Natascha McElhone, and Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri, the gorgeous Neil Pearson, and looming over all of them was the tall, brainy one from Pointless (Richard Osman – he is really rather tall). Continue reading Costa Book Awards: celebs, gossip and a worthy winner

Why you’re never too old to visit Las Vegas

Las Vegas holiday
The Bellagio hotel and casino – our home for the next seven days

Just a few days in Sin City brought about a miraculous transformation in my mother. For several weeks before our Las Vegas holiday, her main activity had been fretting about what to bring.

“Shall I take an umbrella?” she’d asked. I explained the temperature in May should be a balmy 40 degrees. She wasn’t convinced. “How about a mac then?”

Now, after just 48 hours in Vegas, she seemed an entirely different person. She got up from her sun lounger and said: ‘Right, I’m off to gamble and to have a gin and tonic. Can I borrow a hundred dollars?’

It was 10.30am. My 68-year old mother rarely drank and her total gambling experience had been the penny-in-the-slots at the seaside as a child. What had I started? Continue reading Why you’re never too old to visit Las Vegas

True grit: A first-time skier braves a British Military Fitness ski trip in Courchevel

bmf holiday
A bunch of rather nervous newbie skiers try to stay upright, at least for the photograph…

Being escorted off the mountain-side by a French hunk on a snowmobile was not the way I had imagined the end of my first ever day of skiing, but it was certainly exhilarating.

I clung to him for dear life as we plunged and soared across the slopes checking for other waifs and strays as the sky darkened. When he deposited me back to level ground my knees were trembling like a Mills and Boon heroine.

bmf holiday
My mountain rescuer, John-Paul

Why had I not realised before that skiing would be so exciting?A combination of cost, inclination and complete ignorance about anything to do with skiing meant that I’d reached my late 30s without ever been bitten by the ski bug.

Various friends and colleagues would emerge from trips to France, Italy and further afield with tales of black runs and the mysterious ‘après’ but it was a completely alien world to me. Continue reading True grit: A first-time skier braves a British Military Fitness ski trip in Courchevel

So it’s a bar – which doesn’t sell alcohol. Can this be a good thing?

redemption bar notting hill

Visitors to Redemption, tucked away in the unfashionable corner of London between Westbourne Park and Ladbroke Grove, first have to walk past an array of Notting Hill’s pubs and wine bars, packed with Bright Young Things knocking back the very latest in alcohol trends, from finely-crafted cocktails to locally-distilled artisan gin.

Those who ignore such delights and cross the bridge over the railway tracks, find themselves in a different world altogether – low rise seventies-style flats overlooking a row of extremely untrendy shops; a bookmakers, a kebab shop and in the middle, Redemption.

It is almost empty when I arrive at 6.30 on a Saturday evening, but within the hour every one of its five or so tables is occupied, by couples and groups of friends, and the two-strong waiting staff are cheerfully rushing around with orders. Continue reading So it’s a bar – which doesn’t sell alcohol. Can this be a good thing?