Monthly Archives: February 2017

The reasons to stay a while

Most visitors race through Guatemala City, keen to get to Antigua’s colourful colonial streets, visit the country’s Mayan sites or explore its spectacular volcanic landscape. But stay a while in the capital and you’ll experience a buzzing modern city that’s emerging from the shadows of its recent past.

Inaugurated as Guatemala’s capital following an earthquake that levelled Antigua in 1773, Guatemala City has grown quickly after internal refugees flocked here during the civil war. Since then, crime has tarnished the city’s reputation and there are still some areas to avoid (ask any local).

But locals also feel that the city is returning to the “golden era” of their parents and grandparents – and it’s worth discovering for yourself. Fresh from her trip, Freya Godfrey picks seven reasons to give Guatemala City a chance.


1. Dancing in the main square is a thing

In the Parque Central, you’ll notice an imposing bandstand covered by an arched roof with swirling decorations. Twice a week, marimba and other music is performed live, and you can join locals dancing in front of the stage.

The Parque Central is also the city’s cultural hub. The National Palace here – often referred to as “The Big Guacamole” for its green exterior – now houses the Palacio de Cultura and regularly puts on events in the square.


2. You’ll find Guatemala’s biggest brewery here

Craft beer has just begun to emerge in Guatemala, with small breweries starting to pop up across the country. But, for the original Guatemalan beer, head to the Cervecería Centro Americana. The brewery has been running for more than 125 years and there’s even a museum, the Museo de Cervecería Centroamericana.

Take a tour around the museum’s red-brick interior walls, lined with large barrels and outdated equipment, from typewriters to original machinery.


The reason lyon should be your next European weekend break

The ingredients for a great European weekend break are simple. You’ll need a walkable city centre, a handful of excellent restaurants, some cool bars, affordable places to stay, interesting attractions and good transport.

Lyon, one of France’s most delightful small cities and the country’s culinary capital, offers all these and more. Here’s why it should top your travel wish list.


1. It’s gourmet heaven

With more than 2000 restaurants and a prestigious culinary history stretching back to the nineteenth century, Lyon easily ranks as one of the top foodie destinations in Europe.

Visiting traditional bouchons for dishes such as andouillette and tarte aux pralines is a must, while the city’s indoor market, the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, will keep you occupied for hours; stop at one of the market bars for locally cured charcuterie and a light red from nearby Beaujolais.


2. It’s the perfect size to explore in a weekend

Lyon is a delight to wander. You’ll spend most of your time between the ancient alleys of Vieux Lyon and the grander streets of the Presqu’île, perhaps with forays into the appealingly gritty district of Croix-Rousse. You’ll rarely find yourself walking for more than half an hour, with café terraces aplenty for stops en-route.

Venture a little further, and there’s even more to discover: inventive contemporary restaurants in the modern quarter of the city; the vineyards of the northern Rhône; the charming village of Pérouges.


3. It’s home to some of France’s best museums

Chief among Lyon’s attractions is the stand-out Musée des Confluences, devoted to science and anthropology.

The city also holds an excellent Musée des Beaux-Arts, with works from the likes of Rubens and Rembrandt, while you’ll find exhibitions by big names such as Yoko Ono and Andy Warhol in the Renzo Piano-designed Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAC). Make time, too, for the Institut Lumière, which celebrates the birth of cinematography.

The city best food experiences

If you really want to get to the heart of Tokyo‘s culinary scene, you’ll need to go beyond the city’s bustling restaurants and best-loved drinking dens. Rebecca Hallett booked onto one of the city’s cooking classes and learnt about more than just the food.

I’m about to eat fresh wasabi. I hate wasabi, but have been assured that it tastes different when grated directly from the root. I’m not sure I’m convinced.

Still, I take the spoon, pick up the tiniest amount and raise it unwillingly to my lips. And…

“See, I told you it tastes different! It’s much more fresh and mellow like this. Most of the green paste you see in cheap sushi-ya is made of horseradish and green food colouring, with just a little wasabi added. It makes it harsh and chemical-tasting, too overpowering.”

This is about the fiftieth nugget of foodie information chef and Tokyo Cooking Studio-founder Yukari Matsushita has served up – and we’re still only making the salad. It’s fair to say that I’m learning a lot at Yukari’s cookery class.

And not everything I’m learning is about Japanese food, either. Yukari is Japanese, but she studied French cuisine and worked in a San Francisco restaurant before marrying a Taiwanese man.

Eventually, she opened the Tokyo Cooking Studio (near Shimokitazawa) in which we’re now making our scallop, avocado and wasabi salad.

Their motto is “think globally, act locally” and that comes through in the class; between the five of us we speak at least four languages and our conversations run the gamut from British cuisine’s unfair reputation to why French-Japanese fusion baking is so delicious. (It’s because “the cuisines rely on different flavour profiles but similar techniques, so they’re very complementary,” in case you were wondering).