Rooms with a Tower view

21 Aug 2014, by Travelwrap Guest

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red is the Tower of London’s evolving installation marking the start of the First World War. Since the first poppies were planted in early August, a tide of crimson has been steadily creeping across the moat. By September 11, 888,246 ceramic flowers – each one representing a British fatality during the war – will encircle the castle. I’ve visited twice in recent weeks, and standing on the public walkway overlooking the moat, I’ve thought about the 1,600 City workers who enlisted on this very spot. Only 50 of them survived the war.

Mindful of the sacrifice these men made, one of the Tower’s neighbours has pledged to do its bit, too. Until November 11, Cheval Three Quays will be donating the profits from one of its luxury serviced apartments (apartment 7P, to be precise) to the service charities benefiting from the poppies installation. For guests it’s a win-win situation: stay at one of the capital’s finest riverside developments, and support a worthy cause at the same time.

Admittedly, I’ve never noticed Cheval Three Quays before I visited earlier this week, though it really is just steps from the Tower, right next to the Tower Millennium Pier. Turns out it only opened in March – an opening that was delayed when archaeologists discovered a Roman wall and a dry dock beneath the building. Given the property’s historic location, it was always going to be a difficult build – its exterior walls, for example, had to match exactly the stone on the Tower’s reveals. But it was worth the wait: these contemporary studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and penthouses have some of the best views in London. From the penthouse apartments you can see virtually every iconic building in London, from the Shard and the Walkie-Talkie building to the London Eye and St Paul’s Cathedral.

And 7P? It’s a lovely one-bedroom apartment with wall-to-ceiling windows and a modest balcony overlooking the Tower of London and the river (binoculars are provided – not that you’ll need them). There’s a welcome basket packed with British products, including shortbread and jam from the Tower of London Gift Shop, and Arran Aromatics products from Scotland in the bathroom. Oh and the bed has a bespoke mattress, exclusive to Cheval, so you will sleep rather better than the Tower’s ‘guests’ ever did. Like all of the apartments at Cheval Three Quays, 7P has a well-equipped kitchen and though there are no restaurants or coffee shops on site (yet), there are plenty within a stone’s throw. Not that you will want to spend much time away from 7P…

When the Tower of London holds its centenary ceremony on September 11, the exterior of Cheval Three Quays will be bathed in red light as a mark of respect. I plan to be back to see it.

7P costs from £291 per night. Further information, www.chevalresidences.com.

Books on the beach

19 Aug 2014, by Travelwrap Guest

Picture via Designboom

Outdoor cinemas are everywhere this summer. But there is another en-plein-air trend we like even more: libraries on the beach. So if your Kindle batteries die or you finish your paperback, you can find something else to read without leaving the beach. Genius.

Apparently, it’s all thanks to Ikea. When it celebrated the 30th birthday of its Billy bookcase in 2010, it put 30 of them on Bondi Beach, filling the shelves with hundreds of books. Not surprisingly, Bondi’s pop-up library (pictured top) was a huge hit.


Picture via Albena Resort

One of this summer’s biggest pop-up beach libraries is in the Black Sea resort of Albena, where some 2,500 books are arranged over 140 shelves. Don’t speak Bulgarian? No problem – books are organised in more than 10 different language sections, each marked with a national flag. Look out for a collection of short stories by Bulgarian author Yordan Yovkov, published in six languages, and entitled, appropriately, Albena.


Picture via Designboom

The most stylish pop-up beach library has to be the Bibliothèque de Plage in Istres, on the south coast of France. With 350 titles, ranging from Jane Austen to contemporary fiction, the library is a collaboration between its designer, Matali Crasset, and the town’s municipal library, and is intended to be a reminder, says Crasset, of the importance of maintaining physical, personally curated collections of books. Just so.


Picture via lirealaplage

In Normandy, they do things slightly differently, arranging their bookshelves not on the sand but in purpose-built cabins with a reading terrace. The Lire à la Plage scheme was launched in 2006 and this year includes 14 cabins on or next to beaches between Criel-sur-Mer and Le Havre. The white huts with scarlet roofs and matching chairs are not difficult to miss, though bibliophiles will have to move quickly as they close for the season at the end of this month. Further information, www.lirealaplage.net.

Similar to the Lire à la Plage cabins, is the Biblioplatja in Vinarós, Valencia, which co-hosts workshops and readings as well as operating a lending library. Incidentally, this beach town organises several Cinema under the Stars evenings, too, so visitors to Vinarós this summer get two trends for the price of one.

The Netherlands, Albania and Israel are three other early adopters. And though we haven’t heard of any in the UK yet, we’re sure Books on Bognor Beach is only a matter of time.

Camber Sands without the crowds

14 Aug 2014, by Travelwrap Guest

Mile upon mile of golden, shell-studded sand, edged by grassy dunes, Camber Sands is surely the most beautiful beach on the East Sussex coast. The downside is that it gets very crowded in summer. In August, thousands of families, laden with deck chairs, windbreaks, cold boxes, and plastic buckets and spades, trudge from the car park through the dunes to the beach – where they set up camp as close to each other as possible.

So when a friend, who runs a B&B just outside Rye, suggested a trip to Camber Sands last weekend, I wasn’t that enthusiastic. Just as I was setting off, she texted me. “Shall I book The Gallivant for lunch?” The Beach Bistro at The Gallivant hotel (really more of a restaurant with rooms than a hotel) is the best beachside restaurant in Camber. A former roadside motel, it has been restyled to resemble an airy New England beach house. Head chef is Ben Fisher, who has worked at both Tom Aitkins and the French Laundry in London, and the menu features fresh, local produce – the catch of the day comes straight from Rye’s fishing boats. I quickly agreed. Minutes later she texted again. “It’s fully booked. Let’s have a picnic”.

Trying not to mind missing out on The Gallivant, we shopped for provisions. We stopped first at Dengate Farm Stall, just outside Rye, where David and Suzanne Dengate sell a huge range of home-grown produce, including apple juice made from their own apples.The only problem was which one of the seven different varieties (sometimes there are nine) to choose. In the end, we went for a ‘medium-sweet’ bottle of Worcester and Bramley. Next up was Rye Bay Fish to buy fresh local crab for our sandwiches. Run by Shane Haddon and his father Terry, this is one of Rye’s best fishmongers and we couldn’t resist buying some glistening prawns and creamy scallops for later.

Camber Sands was just as I remembered it – crowded and noisy, and though still early, the Kit Kat Café was doing a roaring trade. But we weren’t stopping: after pausing to admire the dozens of power kites dipping and soaring at the eastern edge of the beach, we set off in the direction of Rye Harbour. Gradually the crowds thinned to a trickle of mostly dog-walkers, until we had the beach almost to ourselves.

Then we climbed up into the dunes. Taking several nude sunbathers by surprise, we found a perfect spot and tucked into our picnic. The crab sandwiches were perfection. Later, while my friend went for a swim (the tide was out and it took her nearly 10 minutes to reach the water), I lay back under the marbled blue sky and read my book. I could hear nothing but the screeching of gulls overhead and the far-away crash of the waves. On a sunny day in August, Camber Sands is really rather heavenly… Just don’t tell the crowds down by the Kit Kat Café.

Further information on The Bistro at The Gallivant, www.thegallivanthotel.com.

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Welcome to Eat, Sleep & Simply Be…our little blog that does what is says on the tin. Alongside myself, our selected guest bloggers from the Luxury Travel Industry will be posting their thoughts as to some of the loveliest places to eat in, sleep in… & sometimes to simply be. Our thoughts will always be our own but at times with a sense of mischief and slight irreverence. Follow us and just see where in the world it leads.
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