Thursday doors #10

These magnificent wrought iron doors (just one of a series of matching doors) belong to San Sebastian’s Kutxabank, which is a savings bank mainly operating within the Gipuzkoa region of the Basque country. It’s one of the bank’s many branches but easily the most imposing and it backs onto my favourite square in San Sebastian, the Plaza de Gipuzkoa. Of course, I just love all that gold-embellished wrought iron and the lamps (another of my obsessions) are pretty special too.


On a lobster hunt in Nice

On the rare occasions I take a trip into Nice, I always reflect that I don’t visit nearly often enough. I generally try to steer clear during Carnival, as the traffic is horrendous. Recently my beloved met with a business colleague in Nice on a Monday during Carnival (Parade-free day) which gave me a rare opportunity to visit the Cours Saleya and have a poke around its Mondays-only antique market – better stalls tend to be found towards the centre.

I’m always on the lookout for old linen tablecloths large enough to fit my table, cookery and cycling books, cycling posters and silverware. This time I was also looking for some fine wire to repair one of my chandeliers and there’s a stall towards the rear of the market which sells bits to repair chandeliers but, sadly, not fine wire!

The weather was wonderful and as usual there was a veritable babel of foreign languages. After leaving the market empty-handed, I had a mooch round a bookshop before heading for lunch at one of Nice’s newer lobster bars. As you know, I’m very partial to these crustaceans.

On our previous trip, in December, we’d eaten at Lobsta which had earned a thumbs up from both of us. It’s a very small restaurant in a side street off the Prom. The rolls are prepared to order and, while not a patch on those in New England, were very tasty with plenty of lobster meat. I shall definitely darken its door again.

This time I tried out Super Lobster which unfortunately did not live up to its billing. The restaurant was quiet, pretty much what you’d expect on a Monday, giving the staff an opportunity to give of their best, or not. Sadly, it was the latter. Flabby, burnt sweet potato chips, burnt bun and a flat (totally unforgivable) Aperol Spritz. The bun had more additions (coleslaw and advocado) than the all-important lobster. Generally, the French do their own cuisine plus that from former colonies best. Though in Nice, because of its proximity to Italy, you’ll also find excellent Italian food. But that’s largely it.

Super Lobster is in a poor location, I was hard pressed to find it and I know Nice well. Restaurants are all about location. You have to be really special to thrive off the beaten track. Its offering is definitely inferior to that of Lobsta which, while not in an ideal place, is easier to find. It’s lobster rolls are also superior, more lobster – always a winner in my book – and closer to the real thing. Cuisine doesn’t always travel as much as we’d like to think.

I had assumed my beloved would be lunching with his colleague but he’d not eaten when we met up which gave him an opportunity to try out another newly opened franchise The Copper Branch, this time a vegetarian offering. He tried the falafel sandwich with oven baked french fries. He found the sandwich underseasoned though its garlic aioli dressing was overpowering – I can atest to that!. The first portion of chips were cold but a replacement hit the spot. This restaurant is in the main drag and its salads looked very enticing. I’ll be giving it another go but it’s unlikely to deplace vegan restaurant Gorilla in my affections.

Postscript: We tried out Lobsta again during the recent Paris-Nice bike race. The menu is now better focused, shorter and, more importantly, the lobster is still delicious.

Some of my favourite buildings in Dubai

Over the years Dubai has amazed me with its rapid development, becoming one of the world’s most architecturally innovative cities. Daring to go to great lengths (and heights, literally), Dubai continues its pursuit of intensive urban expansion. In recent years, some of the most iconic – and tallest – buildings in the world have sprung up in Dubai, such as the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab, both well-known structures. But neither of these figure among my favourites. No, I love the traditional architecture of the many mosques (approx. 1,500) found in and around the city.

1. Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque


Another Blue Mosque: this one’s for Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab

Named for a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, it was built in 1986 and subsequently renovated in 2003 and 2011. It’s one of the largest mosques in Dubai with a capacity of 2,000 worshippers. It’s often referred to as the Blue Mosque because its architecture was inspired by Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and is a mix of Ottoman and Andalusian styles. Non-muslims can visit daily except on Friday.

2. Grand Mosque


Grand Mosque

This is one of Dubai’s oldest mosques and consequently the cultural and religious centre for Dubai’s Muslims. Originally built in 1900 as a madrasah for children, it was rebuilt in 1960 and renovated in 1998, though the original structure of the building has been maintained. Its minaret is the tallest in the city. Non-Muslims aren’t allowed into the mosque but are allowed to go up the minaret which offers stunning views of the mosque and the city.

3. Jumeirah Mosque


Jumeirah Mosque

One of the most photographed buildings in Dubai – and you can see why – this stunning mosque was built in 1976, in the traditional Fatimid style. It looks particularly spectacular when it is lit up as the sun goes down. The mosque’s interior features gorgeous intricate designs in pastel shades, Islamic calligraphy and golden chandeliers. It too is open to non-Muslims.

4. Imam Hossein Mosque


Iranian Mosque

This is one of the most famous Shia mosques in Dubai and was founded in 1979 by the Iranian community. The exterior of the mosque and its dome are covered in traditional blue tiles. Its interior shares the same striking blue tiles with green and gold accents, with Arabic inscriptions over them. This is another one open to non-Muslims.

5. Al Salaam Mosque


Al Salam Mosque

This mosque’s stunning red architecture was influenced by the Turkish buildings of old, resulting in a striking mix of Ottoman and Emirati culture and design. The exterior features gold domes and balconies on the minarets. Opened in 2014 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, it can accommodate 1,500 worshippers.


Thursday doors #8

This doorway belongs to the Parrocchia di San Martino Vescovo, an 18th century church built on the remains of a pagan site. It’s in Peschiera del Garda, a place we’ve visited a couple of times in recent years. Peschiera is situated at the south-eastern tip of the lake, on the river Mincio. Its historical city centre is completely surrounded by imposing bulwarks forming a star with five points, surrounded by a navigable moat. The first city walls of Peschiera date back to 101BC. Over the centuries they were destroyed and rebuilt many times until 16th century when they were transformed into an imposing defensive structure.