Stirling Central Scotland Most visitors go to Scotland for the scenery, the culture, eventful history and the cold-Caribbean-like coast. As a base for exploring the Highlands, with shops and society yet no city throngs, Stirling is a bonny option. The dramatic castle towering above the town nudges into every view, ensuring no visitor forgets to visit, but book ahead for special Christmas lunches in the intimate Green Room, and carols on 15 Dec, and the play A Christmas Carol (20-22 Dec). Stirling Winter Festival has a long list of events, from a Family Ceilidh on 14 Dec to children’s show Snow Play on 20 Dec. It would be rude not to go for a hike, so choose your Ben – Ben A’an and Ben Lomond are goodies (but make sure you are properly prepared for the likely conditions). Less taxing is the climb to the Wallace Monument for views over the city. After dark, you could target Andy Scott’s illuminated equine sculptures, the Kelpies, south of Stirling at Falkirk, for … [Read more...] about Winter weekenders: 15 picturesque UK towns for a pre-Christmas break
Royal opera house
Salt, 8 Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6HB (01789 263 566). Meal for two, including drinks and service: £70-£110 Paul Foster is living other chefs’ fantasies. He has the thing they all want: the small but perfectly formed restaurant where he can be himself. From a distance he has made this look effortless. I’m sure it wasn’t. I first ate his food at a hotel in Suffolk I had never heard of back in 2011, where he was ravaging the river banks for ingredients, pairing roasted chicken wings with brown shrimps and laying pieces of hake on swollen beads of bright green tapioca, flavoured with fiery wild watercress so it looked like frogspawn. There was a poise and balance to his cooking that won him a bunch of awards, including the Observer Food Monthly young chef of the year award. Which is obviously The Only Award Worth Winning. He went from there to a country house hotel and onwards to this spot in Stratford-upon-Avon. It is his own, or the modern … [Read more...] about Salt, Stratford-upon-Avon: ‘I have skin in the game. I want this place to be great’ – restaurant review
Prince Andrew may have withdrawn from public duties, but the latest claim by an alleged victim of Jeffrey Epstein has put him in the spotlight once more. The woman has spoken to lawyers representing others who say they were abused by Epstein. It follows Virginia Giuffre’s explosive claims that pervert Epstein trafficked her to have sex with Andrew three times when she was a teenager. A lawyer is checking the new allegations against Epstein to decide whether to include them in a lawsuit against the deceased financier’s estate. A source said they would do “a rigorous investigation”. There is no indication that the woman claims to have been coerced into having sex with Andrew. If her case is presented to a judge she would become the second woman to state on oath they had sex with the Duke of York as a result of his friendship with the convicted sex offender. Virginia Giuffre alleges Epstein trafficked her to Andrew and they had sex three times from 2001 when she … [Read more...] about Second Jeffrey Epstein victim tells lawyers she had sex with Prince Andrew too
So, there you are, having worked your way through a crowd denser than a Brexit negotiation, standing in front of your prize. The Mona Lisa in the Louvre. What do you do? Look more closely at that enigmatic smile? Wonder at the subtle gradations of light and shadow in Leonardo’s rendering of the face? Admire the illusion of depth? No, of course not. You turn your back on the painting, whip out your phone and take a selfie. And then you move on to your next prize. You could be forgiven, amid the Brexit fracas, for not having noticed that Wednesday was Museum Selfie Day, a “fun day to encourage people to visit museums”, in the words of Mar Dixon, whose brainchild it was. A fun day? Not to the critics. “Art is serious. It is not light entertainment,” the Guardian’s Jonathan Jones wrote sternly in 2015, adding that selfies were a “spiritual menace” to museums and galleries. This might seem pompous and overwrought. For selfie enthusiasts, such … [Read more...] about Here’s me and the Mona Lisa. Who says that art and selfies can’t mix?
In late 2007, Waddesdon Manor – that neo-Renaissance palace oddly plonked in the Buckinghamshire countryside – acquired Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin's Boy Building a House of Cards (1735) on long-term loan from a Rothschild family trust. The picture shows a young lad absorbed in the tricky act of balancing a playing card on top of its fellows. One puff of breeze or buttery fingers and the whole structure could go flying. Full of drama yet preternaturally still, the picture speaks of a moment of pause, one in which both the boy in the painting and the rapt spectator don't dare draw breath for fear of spoiling everything. It is certainly not the kind of painting you would expect to see at Waddesdon, which has always been associated with a more swaggering type of pre-revolutionary French art. On the mansion's ornate walls, originally curated by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the late 19th century, a grand Madame de Pompadour by Boucher rubs shoulders with a glittering … [Read more...] about Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin: rhythms of patterns on the cards