Author Archives: Karen Bryan

About Karen Bryan

Hello, I'm Karen Bryan, I created Europe a la Carte in 2002 to highlight the best places to visit in Europe with travel tips, photos and no fluff reviews. I’m also an artist; my artworks are often inspired by my travels

Review of The Steam Packet Inn, Isle of Whithorn

I stayed at The Steam Packet Inn in Isle of Whithorn in Dumfries and Galloway on a Sunday night during the last weekend in May 2018. I paid £30 including breakfast, for sole occupancy of a triple room on the eBookers website. It was clearly stated in the hotel description that the room was located at the back of the hotel, with no harbour view. The harbour view rooms were all already booked. I thought that the consolation for no view would be that I wouldn’t hear any external noise.

Upon arrival in the village of Isle of Whithorn (which is not an island), I checked in at bar in The Steam Packet Inn. It was really hard to unlock the door of room 5.

The room was lovely and cool, as it was in the mid 20 degrees celsius outside. The room was very old fashioned, but spacious. I missed having a desk area at which to work. Both the chest of drawers and the small table on which the TV sat where too high to use as a desk.

The bathroom was large. There were plenty of nice toiletries.

I was very keen to get online, as I’d had no mobile phone or broadband signal all day. However the WiFi signal in my room wasn’t strong enough. I assume that’s because there must’ve have been so many bar and restaurant customers connected to the WiFi, as I heard the notifications ping on my mobile phone around 11pm, the time at which the pub closed.

I was pretty tired after a long day attending a couple of outdoor dance performances at the Dumfries Arts Festival and visiting several studios on the Spring Fling. I was almost asleep when there was a lot of noise at the back of the hotel, which I assume was staff moving beer barrels. After that racket, I had a reasonable night’s sleep. The mattress was a bit soft for my taste. But I rarely sleep really well away from home.

I appreciated the generous supply of tea, coffee, drinking chocolate, small milk pots, bottled water and biscuits in the room.

Breakfast was served in the lower restaurant, which has views over the harbour.

It’s a characterful room, adorned with work of local artists.

I opted for the vegetarian breakfast, which was good.

I thought that at £30 a night including breakfast that The Steam Packet Inn Isle of Whithorn offered good value for a night during a Bank Holiday weekend. The breakfast was good. But it was annoying being disturbed by beer barrel noise and not being able to get online.

Click here to check availability and price at The Steam Packet Inn Isle of Whithorn.

Raqib Shaw | Reinventing the Old Masters at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Raqib Shaw’s Reinventing the Old Masters exhibition is on at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art until 28 October 2018.

Much of Shaw’s art is inspired by the Old Masters. In the photo below, you can see Lucas Cranach’s An Allegory of Melancholy on the left, and Raqib Shaw’s take in his Allegory of Melancholy.

I have to say that I was  really impressed with intricacy of the work, and colours of the enamel paints used to create the works. To illustrate this, there are two close-ups of the work below under the photo of the whole work.

The golden light streaming into the top of Kashmir Danae is dazzling.

I attending the June Drawing Room art workshop which was held in the Raqib Shaw exhibition rooms. I was so transfixed by the art, that I didn’t really concentrate of trying to create my own piece inspired by the exhibition.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is open daily from 10am to 5pam. It’s free to see Raqib Shaw| Reinventing the Old Masters exhibition.


Make Your Business Trip a Memorable One with Staycity Serviced Apartments

Travelling across Europe for business purposes is very common is almost all the reputed MNCs. Most of these business trips appear as a part of last minute plan and people tend to mess up. Your work trip also becomes hectic and gives you less of free time to enjoy the place you travel. For employees, who are given the opportunity to enrich their career experience with such trips, tend to get less time to explore the places they travel. Gone are those days when work trips only meant business meetings and loads to work to do!

Let your work trips be a comfortable one with services apartments!

Staycity serviced apartments makes your business trip a memorable one with an array of amenities for comfortable stay. Most of the business meetings seem to be a struggle to employees as they have to rush to get snacks for the team or look for proper Wi-Fi to make their presentations. It is an endless struggle where employees are busy from morning to evening in several meetings and later worrying about the laundry or how to manage a formal team party. TripAdvisor offers an array of hotels to make your lives an easy one! But who wants to stay in a hotel when you can easily avail serviced apartments for your work trip? Staycity serviced apartments comes with a list of facilities to make your work trips a seamless one.

  • The centralized location of the apartments is a major advantage. You can easily travel to major business hubs and this short commute is sure to save a lot of your time!
  • A video chat with your family, checking work mails or a brain storm session with important videos becomes so easy with unlimited free Wi-Fi connected to all your devices.
  • Whether it is time to chill after a hectic day of work, snuggle on your sofa or even organize a meeting in your apartment-everything is so easy for the loads of living space. The additional space lets you be super productive and also relax after a tiring meeting.
  • The fitness room is like an icing on the cake that lets you shed the excess calories you gulped down at business meetings! You can also energize yourself for the next day by working out with no disturbance.
  • A 24×7 friendly reception takes care of the people who comes to visit your and lets you stay safe while you are resting after a tiresome day at work.
  • The fully equipped kitchen in the apartments is a perfect savior to cook a small meal for your team mates or grab a beer in the evenings after work!
  • Looking for some lobby space for meetings with clients? Yes, Staycity offers you the perfect lobby space to grab a coffee with your team mates, collaborate with your potential clients or conduct informal meetings easily.

Located across places like Birmingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Paris, York, London, Manchester, Marseille, Dublin and Lyon, business meetings in Staycity services apartments are now not a boring and hectic one anymore! It is more in a relaxed atmosphere with a comfy bed awaiting you each night while you energize yourself for the next day ahead.

Liberty Art Fabric & Fashion exhibition at Dovecoat Studios

The Liberty Art Fabric & Fashion exhibition at the Dovecoat Studios runs until 12 January 2019.

I love fabrics, which is one of the reasons that I enjoying creating collages. I was really looking forward to seeing the Liberty Art Fabric & Fashion exhibition, and I was not disappointed.

I loved the Liberty fabric shoes.

The embroidery on the Art Nouveau style dresses was beautiful.

Admission prices are £9 for adults, £7 for students and unwaged, under 16s are free (but must be accompanied by an adult). Dovecoat Studios is open daily from 10.30 to 5.30pm during August. For the rest of the exhibition, the studios are closed on Sundays.

Review of Travelodge Perth Central

I stayed at Travelodge Perth Central on a Sunday night in late March 2018. I booked the room during a Travelodge promotion which offered £10 off selected Friday or Sunday night stays at their hotels. This meant that the original price of £35 for a flexible rate room was reduced to £25

I liked the location of the Travelodge Perth Central, as it was only a five minute walk across the bridge over the River Tay into the Perth city centre. There is a free car park at the back of the hotel, but as it is shared with the adjacent restaurant. I reckon that you couldn’t be certain of finding a space.

I requested a room at the back of hotel. Although you’d get nice views over Perth from a room at the front of the hotel, there’s quite a bit of traffic on that road. I decided that I’d rather go for a good night’s sleep.

However, the downside of my room was that it was a twin room, I would have preferred a large double bed.

I think that was a wise choice to stick with the room at the back of the hotel, as my night at the Travelodge Perth Central was one of my quietest ever hotel stays.

The room was large by Travelodge standards with space for two chairs and a area for hanging clothes.

My second floor room had a slopping wall with a velux window. The bar across the window, to hold the curtains flush to the window, was loose at one side. The room did have a slightly dated feel. I suspect that the wooden headboards and large wooden desk were a legacy from the previous from the days when the hotel was called the Isle of Skye.

That bathroom was also a good size.

I thought that at £25 for the night, that the Travelodge Perth Central was good for value for money. The bed was comfortable, the room spacious and I wasn’t disturbed by either external or internal noise.

Joana Vasconcelos’ Gateway at Jupiter Artland

I was keen to see the Gateway exhibition by Joana Vasoncelos, a Portugese artist, at Jupiter Artland. The exhibition runs until 30 September 2108 and is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.

I was really glad that I arrived at Jupiter Artland soon after the opening time of 10am, as I had the ballroom, in which the rotating Red Independent Heart was suspended from the beautiful ceiling, to myself.

In the garden outside the ballroom was a giant sculpture of a high heeled shoe called Carmen Miranda.

It was constructed with stainless steel cooking pans.

There was a collection of ceramic animals, covered in crochet and lace, on the first floor of the Steadings Gallery.

My favourite was the frog.

The wolf’s mouth was so large that it reminded me a crocodile.

I wasn’t so keen on any of three pieces on the ground floor of the Steadings Gallery.

The one below looked like a kitsch take of a Roman fountain.

The blue one was suspended from two large stainless steel shower heads.

The piece below had too many different patterns for my taste.

Green Man by Lucy Skaer at Talbot Rice Gallery Edinburgh

Lucy Skaer’s Green Man exhibition is on at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh until 6 October 2018. It is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.

The first thing which I observed upon entering the Talbot Rice gallery was that there was so much more light coming in. That’s because the gallery windows had been opened up.

I really liked the flora and fauna inspired paintings in the Green Man exhibition.

It’s free to see the the Green Man exhibition by Lucy Skaer. During July and August the Talbot Rice gallery is open Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday 12 noon to 5p. But during September the gallery is shut on Sundays.



Art of Glass at the National Museum of Scotland

The Art of Glass exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland runs until 16 September 2018.

I’d been intending to visit the Art of Glass exhibition for a while. I did pop into the National Museum of Scotland one day before meeting our son for lunch, but I couldn’t find the exhibition. It’s on the third floor in the new extension.

My favourite exhibit was the Glass Cyphers installation by Griet Beyaert and Paul Miller.

Below are more photos of the Art of Glass exhibition.

It’s free to get into the Art of Glass exhibition. The National Museum of Scotland is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

How to Travel Around Europe On Your Motorcycle

Europe is not just known for its large and beautiful cities like Paris, Munich, Rome, and Amsterdam, the continent has a very scenic countryside as well. What better way to explore European culture, the scenic valleys, the art, the history and the food than to set out on your trusty motorcycle and enjoy the nature unadulterated. In this guide, I will throw some light on the technicalities of riding your bike through Europe.

Safety First

We have heard this phrase repeatedly. Although many of us shun it trying to be daring, it is actually for our own good, especially when riding a motorcycle. Riding a bike exposes your entire body and in the event of a mishap, your body receives most injuries. Considering you will be traveling from one country to another in this state on a bike,you should be prepared. I know you adore to go on your European adventure and I am not here to stop you. So, the first thing you need, which I feel is most important, is a helmet. Look for stylish motorcycle helmets for sale and pick the one that best suits your personality. For better safety, select from extra large motorcycle helmets.They provide better protection.

Increase Storage Space

Since you are going on a cross-country trip, you need essential stuff. This would have been easier if you had a car to keep your luggage and essentials but no worries. Fortunately, there are accessories you can buy for your bike to add space. Look for well-built side bags. These bags come in various sizes and shapes, so search carefully and choose the right ones. If side bags aren’t your thing, look for hard top boxes that can be fitted to the rear end of your bike. These cases keep your stuff safe in all kinds of weather, however, they cost more than the side bags.

Draft a Route

Obviously, there are so many so many countries and places to explore in Europe but you cannot see them all, at least not in one go. Therefore, I suggest you to draft yourroute on a map before you set out on your trip. Mark which countries you want tovisit, which routes you will take, where you will stop etc. Planning ahead can save you time on the road. I know nobody likes to be lost or stranded in an unknown place.

Intelligent Packing

Packing is an art that only a few are good at. If you are one of those who have mastered it, you are in luck. Others need to learn and learn fast. To start off, you won’t be able to take so many things with you, so cramming things together in your side bag won’t help you out. Your essentials should be properly placed where you can reach them easily. Always pack your things based on their priority of use. Think about the items you will need more frequently and pack them in the last or keep them handy in your backpack.

Prepare Your Bike for the Journey

Before you leave the safety of your home, inspect your bike for any damages, change tires if you need to and repair any faulty part. The last thing you want is a mishap like a broken bike chain in the middle of the highway with nowhere to go and no one to help. I suggest you allow a motorcycle mechanic to take a look and inspect all the essential components for a seamless journey.

Once you are done with the preparation, sit back, relax and wait for the day you get to have your very own European adventure.

Tesco Bank Art Competition for Schools 2018

The Tesco Bank Art for Schools Competition 2018 exhibition runs at the Scottish National Gallery for Modern Art in Edinburgh until 16 September 2018.


There are six categories, each with a different theme, in the competition.

Nursery: A Place to Live

Primary 1 -3: Cats

Primary 4 – 7: Makers of Magic

Special Education Schools – Hair, Fur and Feathers

Secondary 1 – 3: Energy

Group: Any of the Above Themes

The Tesco Bank Art for Schools Competition exhibition will then move to  Forth Valley Hospital from 22 September 2018 to 2 January 2019. The final port of call will be the McRobert at Stirlin University from 15 January to 14 April 2019.