From Bangalore to Beirut and Bethnal Green to Bermondsey, Helen Yuet Ling Pang, writer of our Copenhagen guide, shares some of her favourite places.
Tell us your three favourite places (where you live): one restaurant or bar, one shop and one thing to do!
Restaurant: Pizarro, Bermondsey Street, London
A place I visit regularly and which consistently serves creative, well cooked dishes. I pop in for lunch after food shopping at Maltby Street Market, and friends visiting London love being taken there. Jose Pizarro’s tiny tapas bar Jose down the road is also extremely popular.
Shop: Conservatory Archives, Bethnal Green, London
Over the last year I’ve been buying more indoor plants as it’s just more fun to potter indoors than garden outside on a cold, rainy day. Conservatory Archives is my go-to shop for more unusual plants such as the ric rac, Buddha’s temple and beautiful ceramic and concrete pots. The interior is so well stocked with plants that no matter how well I plan ahead with a shopping list, I always end up buying far too many things.
Thing to do: Room 95, British Museum, Russell Square, London
Visit Room 95 at the British Museum. Having just returned from Seoul, I realise how fortunate we are to have so many treasures that are free to view in London. The British Museum is generally always busy, however Room 95 has stayed remarkably free of visitors ever since the Sir Percival David Chinese Ceramics collection was moved there from Gordon Square. Even when people do go in, they don’t stay long, so you can peruse the magnificent collection of nearly 1700 pieces at your leisure.
Tell us your three favourite places (anywhere in the world): one restaurant or bar, one shop and one thing to do!
Restaurant: Koshy’s, Bangalore, India
Since the 1940s, this charming old school restaurant and cafe has been popular with journalists, creative types and students, even hosting various foreign dignitaries. During my stay in Bangalore to attend a wedding, I must have visited Koshy’s at least four times, for drinks (Koshy’s Special Coffee and delicious lassi), snacks (the classic chicken liver on toast) and dinner (more chicken). But Koshy’s isn’t really about the food. It’s full of character and characters, from the elderly male waiters in white jackets to the customers, some of whom sit there for hours and must have been frequenting for decades.
Shop: Yido Pottery, Seoul, South Korea
I love shopping for ceramics and pottery when travelling and on my recent trip to Seoul, came across this modern handcrafted ceramics shop and cafe in Bukchon. It was started by a female ceramic artist and also has an atelier where fellow artists can exhibit their work. On the first visit I managed to escape with just one beautifully designed celadon mug, but couldn’t resist returning a few days later to buy more objects.
Thing to do: Explore the spectacular Frasassi Caves in Ancona, Le Marche, Italy
Discovered in 1971, only one of the 18 kilometres of caves is accessible to the public on one of their tours; another is large enough to hold the entire Milan Cathedral! It’s also possible to join their Blue Path tour, which involves wearing protective gear and much clambering about in small caves off the main path. Sadly, photography is not allowed at Frasassi, but have a look at their website to get an idea of the scale. Since Frasassi, I’ve been looking out for other caves to visit, and managed to get to Jeita Grotto, the longest cave in the Middle East, north of Beirut.
And if I’m allowed another one: Cafe Brasilero, Montevideo, Uruguay
An elegant, wood-panelled cafe in the Old Town or Ciudad Vieja, customers have been going there since 1877 to read newspapers and enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s the perfect place to have a rest after exploring the Old Town area on foot, and they serve light food as well.
Favourite city or place to visit.
As I’ve already covered Copenhagen in my Herb Lester map, I would choose Beirut as my favourite city to visit. The first time I went to Beirut was in the summer of 1991 after the civil war had just ended. It was a beautiful but sadly broken city, but I still remember the incredible food and generous hospitality of everyone I met. In July 2016 I decided it was time to return. The city has been rebuilt but retains much of its charm and here and there you still spot war-damaged buildings and archaeological ruins among the modern architecture. This time, I was finally able to visit Baalbek, which was too dangerous to visit 25 years ago. An enormous archaeological site in the Hezbollah-controlled Bekaa Valley, it was known as Heliopolis in Roman times and is home to some of the largest Roman temples ever built. If you go to Baalbek, time it for the famous international summer festival and stay overnight.
A travel tip or best travel item.
My recommended travel item would have to be my Bose QC35 wireless noise-cancelling headphones in silver. They are expensive but once you’re on the plane, train or bus and put them on, you’ll be truly grateful that you made the investment! And something I’ve just discovered and am about to order is the Native Union Jump Cable, which doubles up as a charging cable and portable battery booster for the iPhone. I only use my iPhone 7 Plus to take photos and this cable will allow me to shoot with ease on long days out.