Category Archives: Travel Articles

Travel Article – The Beasts and Beats of Belize (The New York Times)

The Beasts and Beats of Belize  Source: The New York Times

A jaguar preserve loaded with natural wonders is driving an eco-tourism boom in the country’s Stann Creek District. But nature isn’t the area’s only draw…

The Cockscomb Basin Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve in Belize.
© David Ponton/Design Pics, via Newscom
& The New York Times

August 17, 2012

The Beasts and Beats of Belize

By Claudia Dreifus

We were hiking through the woods of the Cockscomb Basin Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve in Belize, the more-than-150-square-mile verdant reserve that is a no-hunting haven for many species of this hemisphere’s wild cats — the puma, ocelot, jaguarundi, margay and jaguar. As we moved along well-tended trails, there were signs of activity — muddy paw prints by a riverbank, bits of jaguar scat — but we were unlikely to actually see any of these magnificent creatures.

A jaguar in the Cockscomb Basin.
© Greg Johnston/DanitaDelimont.com, via Newscom and The New York Times

“They don’t like to get too close to humans,” said our guide, Dr. Rebecca Foster, a staff scientist with the conservation group Panthera. “I hope you’re not disappointed.”

How could we be? Even without a jaguar sighting, the sanctuary was a gorgeous Eden, full of natural wonders. Giant ferns lined the trails. Above us, howler monkeys scampered through the trees, and parrots and toucans glided through the air. Moving quietly, one might catch a glimpse of a deer or pig-like peccary — the jaguar’s preferred prey. After a few hours at Cockscomb, it felt as if we had stepped, full body, into a Henri Rousseau painting.

Given this richness of nature and wildlife, it’s no surprise that the sanctuary is driving an eco-tourism boom in the Stann Creek District, the south-central coastal area of Belize that it abuts. And Stann Creek’s appeal extends beyond the sanctuary. For birders, there are some 300 species roosting in the district’s marshes and forests. At the shore, only a few minutes from Cockscomb, are miles of white sand beaches, facing out onto one of the largest coral reefs in the world. A marine reserve district at the reef ensures first-class skin diving. Stann Creek also has a good supply of lodging at all prices and opportunities to interact with the interesting local cultures.

Right outside the entrance to Cockscomb, for instance, in the village of Maya Center, visitors can stay with indigenous families and learn something of their way of life. The town’s former mayor, Ernesto Saqui, offers plain though spotless rooms with private bath for 60 Belizean dollars, plus tax (about $30; the Belizean dollar is approximately two-to-one to the American dollar) a night at his Nu’uk Che’il Cottages. Backpackers can bunk there for 20 Belizean dollars per night. His wife, Aurora Saqui, a traditional Mayan healer, sells homegrown botanicals and gives seminars in herbalism. (Reservations by e-mail at nuukcheilcottages@yahoo.com.)

Maya Center is also a base for excursions into Cockscomb, though it’s possible to stay within the sanctuary itself at extremely basic accommodations that range from 40 to 300 Belizean dollars a night (belizeaudubon.org/parks/cbws.htm). (Admission to the preserve is 10 dollars, which supports the work of the Belize Audubon Society.)

Ten miles away, the seaside village of Hopkins is home to the Garifuna, descendants of indigenous Caribbean people and escaped African slaves who enjoy sharing their vibrant culture with visitors. At the Lebeha Drumming Center on the north side of town, one can hear or take lessons in traditional percussion. To try especially tasty Garifuna cooking, head to Innie’s, where a lunch of cassava, mashed fish and plantains comes to about 14 dollars.

A Garifuna drummer.
© Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis and The New York Times

Things get far more upscale at Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort (877-552-3483; hamanasi.com), not far from downtown Hopkins and possibly the greenest of eco-lodges in Belize. The resort has won certification from Green Globe, an international sustainability monitoring service.

How can a hotel provide hard-to-please tourists with the types of high-end amenities they demand and yet stay true to an environmental mission? The answer involves paring down on wasteful extras and emphasizing nature. Though the rooms and grounds have an informal beauty, it’s the Belizean countryside that is the resort’s true featured attraction. Instead of playing golf and tennis, guests head out and encounter the tropical wilderness. Hamanasi offers a summertime weeklong package that begins at $1,731 U.S. a person, including three daily meals, air and land transfers from Belize City and five guided tours into the woods or water. (The resort’s owners said that winter rates are likely to be about $2,300 U.S. per person.)

The pool at the Hamanasi Resort.
© Hamanasi Resort and The New York Times

On the day my partner and I checked in, an exhausting list of possibilities was posted on the activities board: night walks through Cockscomb, waterfall climbing, rain-forest trekking, snorkeling, scuba, kayaking.

The next day we rose early to meet up with our guide, Hartsdale Drysden, who took us to a remote part of the rain forest near the Guatemalan border, where we hiked around a 3,000-year-old Mayan pyramid. As monkeys screeched in nearby fig trees, Mr. Drysden, a Garifuna raised in a Mayan village, offered rough translations of the hieroglyphics.

On another morning, we went snorkeling. The coral in the area often looked distressed and bleached out — “hurricane damage,” our guide, Eric Miranda, explained. Nonetheless, Mr. Miranda, a son of a Garifuna fishing family, led us to spots rich with parrotfish, grouper, barracuda and sea turtles.

Another day, the hotel’s ace birder, Pedro Ical, took us to a nearby marsh in search of toucans with multicolored beaks. He knew a place where they regularly roosted. Sadly, they were no-shows that morning, but our consolation prize included snowy egret, blue heron and woodpecker sightings.

Hamanasi finds ways, large and small, to conserve. The hotel’s cars and boats have fuel-sparing motors. Kitchen leftovers are composted for the garden. Staff members sort through and recycle garbage. Soaps, shampoo and mouthwash are offered from refillable bathroom dispensers rather than plastic bottles.

“We do have air-conditioning,” said Dana Krauskopf, a Virginian, who with her husband, David, owns and manages the hotel. “It’s not sustainable, though we’ve developed systems to minimize its use. And we try to incorporate sustainable practices in other ways. For instance, we built the hotel without clear-cutting trees, which keeps the property cooler and attracts wildlife.”

Hamanasi is committed to helping guests connect with its surrounding culture. Once a week, after the dinner dishes are cleared, teenagers from the Lebaha Drumming Center arrive to perform traditional Garifuna music — rhythms and chants that are spirited New World reflections of the Africa their ancestors were taken from.

“Come, join our dance,” one of the drummers beckoned during the performance we attended. Soon, a doctor from Montana, a banker from North Carolina and a journalist from New York City were all up and moving.

Hopkins has nearly two dozen other hotels with varying prices and sustainability practices. Up the beach from Hamanasi, Jungle Jeanie’s (501-533-7047; junglebythesea.com) offers very basic rooms for 50 to 110 Belizean dollars a night. More costly is the Belizean Dreams resort (800-456-7150; belizeandreams.com), where we stayed after our reserved time at Hamanasi ended. For 414 Belizean dollars, we were upgraded to a palace of a two-bedroom suite, with multiple bathrooms and many appliances, not all of which functioned. (The winter-season rate for the same-size suite starts at 1,150 dollars. Though the resort now offers packages similar in price to Hamanasi, drinks, food and tours were all extra.)

In many ways, Belizean Dreams was the anti-Hamanasi. Our suite was pretty, but smelled heavily of chemicals. The property had been clear-cut, paved over and replanted during development. Sprinklers irrigated manicured grounds, while loudspeakers in the public areas blasted Bob Marley, night and day — seemingly aimed at giving disoriented guests some (invented) geographic positioning.

The only respite from the noise was a series of suggested tours: a visitor might take a cruise up the nearby Monkey River, or could head to Cockscomb, where parrots provide the soundtrack and, somewhere in the bush, a jaguar might be lurking.

Travel Article – 10 of the Best Restaurants in Paris (The Guardian UK)

10 of the best restaurants in Paris Source: The Guardian UK

For related topics in The Guardian’s Paris city guide, click here.

10 of the best restaurants in Paris

You’ll find some of the world’s very best restaurants Paris. Food writer Alexander Lobrano selects the best of the best, with a galaxy of Michelin stars between them…

Le Meurice
French fancy … the glamorous dining room at the Hotel Meurice in the heart of Paris

  • by Alexander Lobrano

Le Meurice

Anyone wanting a grand-slam experience of Gallic gastronomic grandeur won’t do better than the glamorous dining room at the Hotel Meurice in the heart of the city. Though it was redecorated by Philippe Starck several years ago, it’s good French bones survived intact – mosaic floor, crystal chandeliers, heavy damask curtains at the windows overlooking the Tuileries Gardens across the street – and the magnificent space is animated by old-school but friendly service that’s as precise as a minuette. Chef Yannick Alléno bagged a third Michelin star in 2007, and his brilliantly inventive cooking is based on a deep knowledge of classical Escoffier vintage culinary technique. In addition to such recent creations as crispy green ravioli with a fricassee of snails and wild garlic, a starter, and spit-roasted red-wine marinated pigeon with red cabbage and apple juice, Alléno has become a dedicated locavore by occasionally featuring rare produce from the Ile de France – cabbage from Pontoise, honey from hives on the roof of Paris‘s Opéra Garnier – on his regularly evolving menu.
• 228 rue de Rivoli, 1st, + 33 1 44 58 10 10, lemeurice.com. Métro: Tuileries. Open for lunch and dinner from Mon-Fri. Average €200. Jackets compulsory at dinner

L’Astrance

L’Astrance

Despite the vertiginous prices of Paris haute cuisine, a meal at one of these nec plus ultra tables is an investment that just can’t disappoint, and snagging a sought-after table at chef Pascal Barbot’s three-star restaurant on a cobbled side street in the 16th arrondissement is well worth persistence. The smallest and most casual table at the top of the Parisian food chain, this high-ceilinged dining room with mirrored walls, widely spaced tables and friendly service offers a decidedly 21st-century take on French haute cuisine. Barbot, who trained with Alain Passard and once served as chef to the admiral of the French Pacific fleet, loves vegetables, fruit and fresh herbs, and his style is brilliantly witty and deeply imaginative, as seen in signature dishes such as his galette of finely sliced button mushrooms and verjus marinated foie gras dressed with hazelnut oil, or turbot with baby spinach and sea urchins, both of which are part of his regularly changing tasting menus.
• 4 rue Beethoven, 16th, +33 1 40 50 84 40. Métro: Passy. Open for lunch and dinner Tues–Fri. Average lunch €80, average dinner €200

Huitrerie Regis

Huitrerie Regis

Tucked away in the heart of Saint Germain des Pres, this snug shop-front table with a white facade and interior is the best place in Paris for a fix of impeccably fresh oysters, which are delivered directly from France’s Marennes-Oléron region on the Atlantic coast. Depending upon availability, prawns, clams and sea urchins can also be added to your plateau de fruits de mer, which will be served with bread and butter. A nice selection of mostly Loire valley white wines complements the bivalve-centric menu, and a convivial atmosphere is created by the jovial oyster shuckers and many local regulars.
• 3 rue de Montfaucon, 6th, +33 1 44 41 10 07, huitrerieregis.com. Métro: Mabillon or Saint Germain des Pres. Open Tues–Sun for lunch and dinner. Average €35. No reservations

Macéo

Macéo

Run by Englishman Mark Williamson – whose Willi’s Wine Bar around the corner is a favourite local bolthole for Parisian oenophiles – this handsome restaurant with oxblood walls, wedding cake mouldings and parquet floors overlooks the Palais Royal in the heart of Paris. Chef Thierry Bourbonnais not only includes many vegetable dishes on his menu – making this a good choice for vegetarians – but features regularly changing tasting menus themed around a single vegetable, such as asparagus or tomatoes. Dishes like scallops marinated in sea weed oil on a bed of quinoa and wild sea bass with baby carrots and mange toute on a bed of cumin-scented bulghur show off his cosmopolitan style. Excellent wine list.
• 15 rue des Petits-Champs, 1st, +33 1 42 97 53 85, maceorestaurant.com. Métro: Pyramides or Palais Royal. Open for lunch and dinner Mon-Fri, Sat dinner only. Closed Sun. Prix-fixe menus €33 (vegetarian), €38 and €48; average à la carte €60

Spring

Spring

Ever since Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose moved from the 9th arrondissement to a renovated 17th-century house in Les Halles in July 2010, he’s been playing to a packed house with his inventive cuisine du marche menu. This talented American shows off just how cosmopolitan the city’s culinary talent pool has become, and Parisians have been swooning over dishes such as Basque country trout with avocado and coriander flowers and grilled New Caledonian prawns on a bed of shaved baby fennel. There’s also Buvette (wine bar) in the basement, with a selection of charcuterie, cheese and several plats du jour; and with reservations tough to land for a table upstairs, it’s a good bet for anyone who wants to taste Rose’s wares without going through the reservation wringer.
• 6 rue Bailleul, 1st, + 33 1 45 96 05 72, springparis.fr. Métro: Louvre-Rivoli. Restaurant open for dinner Tues-Sat, lunch Wed-Fri; Buvette open for dinner Tues-Sat. Restaurant average €150; Buvette average €50

Les Tablettes

Les Tablettes

Signalling a revival of the serious, dressed-up restaurant in Paris (which had lost out as a vehicle for young chefs going out on their own in favour of the bistro) chef Jean-Louis Nomicos’s new table in the swanky 16th arrondissement has a dramatic modern basket-weave interior by French interior designer Anne-Cécile Comar and a dog’s leg banquette upholstered in apricot velvet. Nomicos, who most recently cooked at long-running society restaurant Lasserre, trained with Alain Ducasse and is originally from Marseille – which explains the produce-centric nature of his excellent contemporary French cooking and its Provencal accent with a starter such as squid and artichokes barigoule (cooked with white wine, lemon and herbs) and veal sweetbreads with a confetti of lemon pulp offering good examples of his style.
• 16 avenue Bugeaud, 16th,+33 1 56 28 16 16, lestablettesjeanlouisnomicos.com. Métro: Victor Hugo. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch menu €58; tasting menus €80, €120 and €150; à la carte €90

Le Stella

Le Stella

Since most of Paris’s storied brasseries are now owned by corporate chains and serve wiltingly mediocre food, it’s a pleasure to head to one of the last remaining independent ones in a quiet corner of the silk-stocking 16th arrondissement for a fine feed of such well-prepared French classics as onion soup, escargots, sole meunière, steak tartare, roast lamb and other Gallic standards. The people-watching here might be subtitled “the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie”, service is efficient and this place has what the French call du gueule, or real character.
• 133, avenue Victor Hugo, 16th, +33 1 56 90 56 00. Métro: Victor Hugo. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Average €45

Thoumieux © The Guardian UK

Thoumieux

Previously head chef at the glamorous Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel de Crillon, chef Jean-Francois Piège went out on his own two years ago when he rebooted Thoumieux, a long-running Left Bank brasserie known for its cassoulet and huge resident cat. While the new menu and slick Manhattan supper club décor at this address created a lot of buzz, this gastronomically witty young chef’s talent was never really on display here until he opened an intimate first-floor restaurant with a Las Vegas, rat-pack decor by Parisian interior designer India Mahdavi at the same address last autumn. A veteran of several Alain Ducasse kitchens, the very shrewd Piège understood that the traditional French restaurant experience needed tweaking – people go out now to have a good time, eschew formatted formality, and don’t always want the three-step performance of starter, main and pudding. So here you can order a single dish, maybe a delicious riff on paella comprised of lobster, langoustines, squid, baby clams and cockles in a saffron-spiked shellfish fumet, and still get a suite of hors d’oeuvres to start, a cheese course and dessert. Not surprisingly, this restaurant just won two Michelin stars in one fell swoop.
• 79 rue Saint Dominique, 7th, +33 1 47 05 79 00, thoumieux.fr. Métro: La Tour Maubourg. Open daily for dinner only. Average €75

Yam’Tcha

Yam’Tcha

After training with chef Pascal Barbot at the three-star L’Astrance, young Burgundy-born cook Adeline Grattard – one of the still rare female chefs in Paris – did a stint in Hong Kong during which she fell in love with Asian produce and cooking techniques and met her husband Chiwah, who works as the tea steward (as an alternative to wine, you can be served a different tea with every course of your meal here). At their small charming restaurant near Les Halles, with a beamed ceiling and ancient stone walls, Grattard’s tasting menus change according to her daily shop, but dishes such as grilled scallops on a bed of bean sprouts in bright green wild-garlic sauce and a superb dessert of homemade ginger ice-cream with avocado slices and passion fruit deliciously display the finely honed culinary technique and imagination that won her a Michelin star.
• 4 rue Sauval, 1st, +33 1 40 26 08 07. Métro: Louvre-Rivoli. Open for lunch and dinner Wed-Sat, Sun dinner only. Prix-fixe menus €50 and €85

Ze Kitchen Galerie

Ze Kitchen Galerie

Styled like the neighbouring art galleries on this Saint Germain des Pres side street, this loft-like white space with parquet floors is furnished with steel tables and chairs and decorated with contemporary art. Chef William Ledeuil’s popular restaurant offers an intriguing experience of contemporary French cooking. Ledeuil, who trained with Guy Savoy, is fascinated by Asia and makes imaginative use of oriental herbs and ingredients in original dishes like Sardinian malloreddus pasta with a pesto of Thai herbs, parmesan cream and green olive condiment, or grilled monkfish with an aubergine marmelade and Thai-seasoned sauce vierge.
• 4 rue des Grands-Augustins, 6th, +33 1 44 32 00 32, zekitchengalerie.fr. Métro: Odeon. Open for lunch and dinner Mon-Sat. Average €55

*Average prices are per person without wine

Alexander Lobrano is the author of the Paris food website hungryforparis.squarespace.com

Travel Article – Solo Travel: Absolute Freedom (The Huffington Post)

Here is an article written by Lee Abbamonte for The Huffington Post. Fun fact about Abbamonte? He is the youngest American to visit every country in the world! Enjoy!

Source: Solo Travel: Absolute Freedom The Huffington Post

Solo Travel: Absolute Freedom

By Lee Abbamonte

Traveling alone, whether you’re a man or a woman, is one of those taboo things for some people and is the most adventurous way to travel for others. It can be the single most rewarding travel experience that you will have or it can be lonely and depressing. Solo travel can make it easy to be outgoing or it can make you go further into your cocoon and sit on the Internet all day. It’s all what you make of it.

Solo travel is all about your attitude. If you go into it with a positive attitude and excited to go out there and meet people and do cool things, then that is what will happen. If you are timid, scared or depressed that you’re traveling alone and feeling sorry for yourself then you will have a bad time. It’s that simple. Mix attitude with basic common sense and solo travel can be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.

I get the question, do you travel alone or with friends, family, etc all the time. The answer is yes to all of the above. Sometimes I travel with friends and always have a blast and have amazing memories. Sometimes I travel with family as well which can be very rewarding. All of these have their virtues and can greatly enhance a trip. You can share experiences with people you already know and love. But often something is missing when you travel with others. That thing is what I call “absolute freedom.”

Absolute freedom gives you the ability to do what you want, when you want. If you want to sleep until noon on the road, you can. If you want to sit in a coffee shop and chat with locals and tourists alike, you can. If you want to eat at a certain restaurant, you can. There is no negotiation, no compromise with others. You are in charge of your entire destiny for that trip. You are truly the master of your own domain.

That said, it allows you to get the most out of your trip in ways that perhaps you aren’t used to. Solo travel almost forces you to talk to people, whether it’s locals or other travelers. It forces you to come out of your shell. It forces you to take charge and learn about where you are, where you’re going and where you’ve been. It forces you to be uncomfortable with your surroundings, which is a great thing. Being uncomfortable means you will go out of your way to feel comfortable by meeting people and getting to know the city you’re in. That feeling of being uncomfortable and thriving at overcoming it is what separates travelers from tourists.

I also wanted to touch on the issue of women solo travelers. I get emails and hear from women all the time about how they’d love to travel alone but because of the fact that they are women, they won’t do it. To me, this is nonsense and here’s why.

In all my travels, I have met tons of solo female travelers from all over the globe. They travel the same way I do. They’re street smart, use common sense and are pretty savvy. The one glaring exception in these women that I usually come across is that they are rarely American. This shocks me but I guess it really shouldn’t because as a culture, we protect the female more and discourage them from traveling alone. This is not the case in many other nations.

The Commonwealth countries are the biggest supplier of solo female travelers. The ones I know don’t limit their travel to just Europe, Southeast Asia or Australia where it’s very well-touristed and there are a ton of other travelers. I know women who travel within Africa and the Middle East alone and thrive doing it. How? It is simple: attitude and confidence.

Like anything else in life, if you believe and project positivity and confidence, it will show to others and you will be fine. Obviously, you should dress modestly, not wear expensive jewelry and take all normal precautions wherever you are but traveling is no different than women walking around anywhere alone at night. You stay out of the bad and dimly lit areas, keep your eyes open and don’t cause or look for trouble. It’s the same thing I do both at home and on the road. That’s all I am saying, it’s not as crazy a thought as most women think.

The moral of the story is don’t have a bad attitude, get out there and do it. If you’re scared or nervous but want to travel solo, do it. That’s half the fun! Men and women both, just get out there and do it. Embrace the unknown, embrace being uncomfortable, embrace absolute freedom!

Travel Article – East to West: My Perfect London Day Out by City Guide Editor Ben Olins (The Guardian UK)

In honor of the 2012 Olympics in London, England, I thought I would introduce some articles that are London- and/or Olympics-related. Cheerio!

Source: East to west: My perfect London day out by city guide editor Ben Olins. The Guardian UK

We’ve asked top London bloggers and guidebook writers for their ideal day out in the capital. Here, Ben Olins of pocket guide producer Herb Lester travels from a traditional East End cafe to sophisticated Kensington, taking in fine art and even finer views…

Kensington Roof Gardens, with flamingoes. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

For more than 100 years, busy days have begun at E Pellici, at 332 Bethnal Green Road in the East End, and we can think of no better place to start ours than in this honeyed art-deco-style Anglo-Italian cafe. If possible we’ll take a seat at the rear by the serving hatch and enjoy breakfast with the accompanying back-and-forth banter between customers and staff.

From here we walk to Liverpool Street, we catch the 214 bus to Camden Town, and head to Regent’s Park (royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park), entering at Gloucester Gate. Our goal is Queen Mary’s Gardens, with its fragrant, formal rose plantings, the varieties named after dimly remembered actors and newscasters. Beyond this lies a lake well-supplied with ducks and swans, and a gently cascading waterfall, at the summit of which are conveniently placed benches, a tranquil resting place with a watery soundtrack.

Our next stop is The Wallace Collection (wallacecollection.org), just across the arterial Marylebone Road. This grand 18th-century house is home to a wonderful art collection, among which is Frans Hals’s The Laughing Cavalier, whose grin we always find disconcerting. Despite its location, The Wallace Collection is rarely overly busy, and to prowl its quiet corridors lined with suits of armour has a frisson of trespassing.

We are hungry again, so head to Paul Rothe & Son at 35 Marylebone Lane). This tiny little cafe feels something like a village shop, its shelves full of biscuit tins and preserves. It is an old-fashioned, courteous place, where your simple egg and cress sandwich will be cut into four and brought to your table.

Then it’s onward to Hyde Park (royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park): probably the least painful route is up Wigmore Street and via a subway. It is not a glorious entrance, but the park itself is, and warrants dawdling and dilly-dallying. We head vaguely for the Serpentine, veering east into Kensington Gardens and to the Albert Memorial, which gleams magnificently whatever the weather.

It is a short ride on the number 9 bus from here, Kensington Gore, to 99 Kensington High Street and the entrance to the Roof Gardens (roofgardens.virgin.com). At the summit of what was the Derry & Toms building, and also home to the ill-fated big Biba, are a series of three gardens – Moorish, Tudor and English Woodland, through which, incongruously, pink flamingos totter. There’s a restaurant here, for which you are advised to book, but it’s possible to come just to see the gardens, provided no private events are booked. From this vantage point you can look west and back east over the day’s sights.

• Find Ben’s guides at herblester.com

Travel Article – West End Bars: My Perfect London Day Out by Bar Chick Blogger (The Guardian UK)

In honor of the 2012 Olympics in London, England, I thought I would introduce some articles that are London- and/or Olympics-related. Cheerio!

Source: West End bars: My perfect London day out by Bar Chick blogger The Guardian UK

Where to drink in serious style during the London 2012 Olympics? Expert drinker and blogger Bar Chick reveals the watering holes – and places to line her stomach – she would tour on her ideal day in London’s West End…

Aqua Kyoto rooftop bar restaurant, London © The Guardian UK

First things first: I need a decent brunch so head to The Riding House Café on Great Titchfield Street (ridinghousecafe.co.uk) for a pitcher of Bloody Mary and a smoked haddock kedgeree. After getting lost in Topshop and looking at trainers I can’t afford in Niketown, I leave the hordes on Oxford Street behind and head down Argyll Street to find the entrance to Aqua Kyoto (aqua-london.com) the bar and restaurant on the top of the iconic former Dickins and Jones building on Regent Street. The rooftop terrace is perfect on a sunny day, so I kick back with a Bellini and a newspaper and drink to the best of London‘s skyline.

The West End is where I work and play. Loyal to my local haunts, I head for a light lunch at Sakana-tei on Maddox Street (020 7629 3000), which does brilliant Japanese food. I have a dobin mushi (seafood broth) and some toro (fatty tuna) sashimi, which is the best in town, and it all goes perfectly with a carafe of sake – it is the weekend after all.

After lunch I dive into the den of debauchery that is Soho. The Seven Noses of Soho never fail to put a smile on my face (look up on the wall of Meard Street, at the Dean Street end) and neither does Gerry’s, the best booze shop in the world. Next I like to pop into Mark’s Bar dowstairs at Hix (hixsoho.co.uk) on Brewer Street and, if feeling punchy, will order a deadly Hix Fix, the ultimate pick-me-up (morello cherries in somerset eau de vie crowned with sparkling wine). I also can’t resist the quail’s egg shooters and always pig out on the free twiglets. With dusk fast approaching, it’s essential to line the stomach with a sturdy Guinness at the legendary Toucan pub on Carlisle Street near Soho Square.

Just around the corner there’s Barrafina, whose delectable tapas are hard to resist. I am a regular here and usually order razor clams and chilli chips and sink head first into the extensive wine and sherry list before I head on my merry way.

By this time the night owls are out, so it’s compulsory to join them. Lodged between two sex shops, Mexican cocktail bar El Camion is run by the legendary Dick Bradsell (creator of the Espresso Martini, no mean feat). The reason Dick was put on this earth was to make drinks, very good drinks indeed. I order margaritas, (when in Rome, right?), dance, and polka home at 3am, wearing a sombrero.

• Bar Chick blogs about drinking in London and 30 other world cities at barchick.com

%d bloggers like this: