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 Waterfront, Anstruther, Scotland

I stayed at The Waterfront in Anstruther on Scotland’s east coast on a Sunday night in November 2017. I’d been keen to say there for some time, as it gets very good reviews and I hadn’t been to Anstruther for ages. With a single room at The Waterfront often costing £60+, I was on the lookout for a lower rate.

I found a single room including breakfast for £40 on the HotelsCombined price comparison site. I always check if it is cheaper to book a room directly with the hotel. Most times it’s cheaper through a third party booking site, but in this case the room was £35 if booked directly.

I didn’t read any mention of a sea view in any of the room descriptions, which I found a bit strange. The reason for that became apparent when ‘i was shown to my room. The accommodation is up an alleyway behind the restaurant

My single room was on the top floor. I felt that the room was a bit cramped. There was a large chest of drawers with a TV and the tea and coffee making facilities on top.

There was a door next to the bathroom door, which I assumed was a wardrobe. but I couldn’t get the door open. There wasn’t anywhere to lay my suitcase, so I had to leave it on the floor next to the bed. Although there was a wooden chair, there was no desk space, so I had sit on the bed with my Chromebook balanced on my legs. There was a lovely garden view from the small window in my room. There was also a velux window in the celing, which had a blind.

The bathroom was a good size. The towels were fluffy and there were plenty of toiletries.

The bed was comfortable and the room was in very good condition.

Breakfast is included in the room rate. It’s served in the restaurant, which has sea views.

The breakfast was very good, with a good selection of fresh fruit.

I chose smoked haddock with poached egg from the menu, which consisted of a large piece of fish and two eggs.

For me, The Waterfront in Anstruther was a mixed bag. It felt a bit clausrophobic in my attic room and I missed having desk space at which to work. The room was well maintained. The breakfast was really good.

McCaig’s Tower in Oban

If you visit the town of Oban, on the Scottish west coast, I recommend that you go up to McCaig’s Tower.  It was designed by the Scottish banker James Stuart McCaig as a monument to his family and a job creation scheme. But it was never completed.

It was a beautiful sunny September evening during my most recent visit to McCaig’s Tower.

There are wonderful views over the bay towards the island of Mull.

The structure has total of 94 arches with fifty on the top tier and forty four below.

I had planned to stay to watch the sunset. Although there was bright sunshine, the codl wind had me scurrying back to the warm of my hotel room before dusk.

Revealing Characters & Face to Face at McManus Galleries in Dundee

The Revealing Characters and Face to Face exhibitions runs at the McManus in Dundee until 20 May 2018.

Below are photos of my favourites pieces at the exhibitions,

 False Posiive, False Negative by Jane and Louise Wilson

Young Man in Landscape by Robert Colquhoun

Sacrifice by David Cook

Uphill by Lex Braes

2 Local Sporting Heroes: Liz McCougan & Jackie ‘Jock’ Gordon

Father by Simon Reekie 

Self-portrait by Margaret Milne

It’s free to visit the exhibitions. The McManus Galleries are open Monday to Saturday 10.00 to 17.00 and Sunday 12.30 to !6.30.

A Day Trip to Alora from Malaga

When I visited Malaga for the second time, I decided to take the train to the typical white-washed Andalucian village of Alora, which lies around 40 kms north east of the city of Malaga.

Alora is at the northern end of the line C2 of the Cercanias network, of which line C2 runs from Malaga Centro-Alameda to Fuengirola via Malaga Airport. Trains run in both directions between Malaga and Alaro once an hour.

There didn’t appear to be an option to purchase a return ticket at the ticket machine. It cost 3.6 Euro each way.

The most attractive station on the journey to Alora was Aljaima.

The scenery became prettier as the train headed toward Alora.

There were lots of citrus and olive trees, with mountain scenery in the background.

The train was quiet and very clean.

On arrival in Alora, I decided to take the local bus the village centre, to avoid the 3km uphill walk in the midday heat. The ticket price of 1.55 Euro seemed disproportionately expensive, have paid 3.6 Euro to travel 40 kms on the train. It was unclear where the bus stop back to the station was located. I would’ve been happy to walk downhill but not on the road on which the bus had come, as it was some sharps bends and no pavement.

A few hundred metres uphill from the bus stop was small park with a play area and views over the roof tops.

The Alora maps painted on tiles were attractive and useful.

I walked a bit further uphill and was rewarded with great views.

Unfortunately, there were some pavement renovations on the walk to the main square. You can see the start of the works behind the fountain.

The noise from these works made sitting outdoors unappealing. Plus the tables were all the sun, and I thought that I’d already had more than enough exposure to the sun that day.

I went inside a cafe to have a light lunch and a coffee. I had no luck on the food front. I asked for a Tortilla, but that was only available on Fridays. Then I asked for a Hamburger, that was also unavailable. The only food on offer appeared to be a ham sandwich. I then recalled that I had seen a cafe at Alora station, so I decided to arrive at the station at least 45 minutes before my train was due to eat there.

Google Maps came in very handy as it showed me a faster pedestrian route back down to Alora railway station.

As I headed down hill, I was curious about the building pictured below. Upon returning to our apartment, I discovered that it is the Tomas Garcia Municipal Library.

I had some views of Alora Castle.

The cafe at Alora station was decorated with pretty tiles. I requested a menu. You’d think that was an insult, as I received a very strange look upon this request.

I spotted some prawns in the cold counter, and asked for three. They were served with some salad and a slice of bread.

I enjoyed my day trip from Malaga to Alora. But I was quite tired on arrival back at in Malaga, which made me think that it might have been a good idea to book at taxi in Malaga to return to my hotel.

Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness at Dundee Contemporary Arts

The Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness exhibition runs until the 27 May 2018 at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA).

It is a exhibition of works by various artists, curated by John Walter.

I really liked the exhibition. There were several colourful sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, whose work I have saw at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, France.

Andrew Logan’s sculptures, constructed with broken tiles, mirrors, jewels, resin and glitter, appealed to me. The head in the cage below reminded me of Louise Bourgeois’ cells, which I’ve seen at Tate Modern in London. Although Logan’s subject looked a lot happier, and more glamourous, than the occupants of Bourgeois’ cells.

If you’re in Dundee, why not take a look at Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness at DCA. It’s free to enter. It’s open every day from 10.00 to 18.00, with late opening until 20.00 on Thursday. My Dad is a fan of the Jute Cafe Bar at DCA.

Visiting Kellie Castle Garden in Scotland

I visited Kellie Castle gardens in early October.

It was a beautiful sunny day.

I had a picnic lunch in small gated garden. The flowers there made it seem like Spring instead of Autumn.

There’s a recreation of  Hew Lorimer’s scuplture studio.

In a continuation of that theme, the Talking Heads @ Kellie Castle features three animal sculptures by local secondary school pupils.

There are three alpacas grazing in the field at the front of the castle.

Edinburgh Lumen

You’d better move fast if you want to see the Edinburgh Lumen display, as it only runs until tomorrow, Sunday 11 March 2018. There is no entry fee.

There are three light installations around Edinburgh city centre. But I only had time to visit two, as I wanted to catch the last train back home to Stirling before the start of the dreaded evening bus replacement service.

The Ocean Of Light on the Mound was beautiful. It is nine metres square, consisting of 12,000 suspended light bulbs and you can walk through it.

The displays start at 5pm and end at 10.30pm.

I’d recommend that you visit after 6.30pm, once it’s dark. I walked past the Ocean of Light around 5.20pm, on my way to the Drawing Room at the RSA. As you can see from the photos below, the display didn’t looked great in the daylight.

The other installation which I saw was Serenity Gardens in St Andrew Square.

Our Whistle-stop Tour of Airport Convenience and Luxury

You’ve most likely let out a deep and dutiful sigh at the idea of venturing to the airport. While it’s a means to an end, the process of travelling there and waiting in a departure lounge feels like being sent down the mines for a day’s hard graft.

If you’re travel-phobic then you’ll feel this reluctance to hop on a plane more than most. Chances are you’ll simply keep the end goal in sight and trudge through airport security with your head held low.

But travelling can be enjoyable – you just have to know how to do it right.

To prove our point, we planned a trip to Luton Airport and made price no object in the road to convenience and luxury.

Why Luton?

Realistically we could have chosen a major airport like Gatwick or Stansted, but Luton provides a far more common experience for the average air traveller – it’s petite for an airport but still teeming with facilities you might not know about.

This Google Review from user Boban Andreski proves our point, “The airport is of a good size and frequency of flights but it is a bit old and old-fashioned. The prices in the shops and coffee places are just about right, not too expensive. The staff is friendly and helpful through the security checks. It has no ramps to pop directly in the plane, you have to go down a stairway then to walk to the airplane yourself.

So there you go – it has its pluses and minuses, much like any other mid-sized airport, making it the perfect test-case for our experiment with airport luxuriousness.

How our trip turned out

To start our airport trip we drove our way there and used one of the many private Luton Airport parking facilities available, saving us the bother of having to find a decent spot close to the terminal ourselves. The Meet and Greet service we chose cost under £90, a decent price since the company was keeping our car for seven days.


On entering the terminal, we already knew what to expect of our security checks, having taken look at the procedure online. We’d recommend you do this too, not least because no one wants to feel like a fool for not taking their shoes off at the right time in front of three burly security attendants.

After a brisk search by the guards, we made our way to Luton Airport’s VIP departure lounge. While there are a few private departure lounges on offer, we chose the Aspire option which cost £26 per person.

Sitting in the Aspire lounge felt like a real treat and allowed us to relax away from the hubbub of the airport, which flies over six million passengers every year. Supplied in the lounge was fresh food, coffee, a spa for a pampering session and plenty of alcoholic beverages if you wanted to start your holiday early! Our only regret is that we didn’t reach the lounge earlier to enjoy more of the amenities on offer.

Then it was time for our flight, so we grabbed our bags and, having priority booking, made our way to the plane without queuing for a significantly long time.

And that was that. We were on our way to Paris without any of the usual strains presented by air travel.

So if you’re a nervous flyer, or simply don’t enjoy the busyness of airports, we’d recommend these great shortcuts for a more pleasurable journey.

Hidden Gems at City Art Centre Edinburgh

The Hidden Gems exhibition at Edinburgh’s City Art features some less well known pieces. Its’s free to enter and the exhibition runs until 13 May 2018.

Below are my favourites at the Hidden Gems show.

The first three are tapestries.

Relief (739) by Louise Hopkins

Cockerel by Archie Brennan

El Greco by Alice Hannigan

I liked the bold white outline of the head in the piece below.

Head of a Woman by Anthony Hatwell

I’ve seen many sculptures by Henry Moore, by not many paintings.

Upright Motives by Henry Moore

I was interested in the two screen prints below, as I have been attending screen printing evening classes at my local college.

The Romance of the Civil Service by R B Kitaj

Seated Figure by Frank Auerbach

Mixed media on canvas was used to create the piece below.

Vainish I by William Dick

Aberdeenshire Landscape by David Morrison Buyers

The Sou’Westers, Arbroath by Morris Grassie

This Stoney Rubbish, The Son of Man by William Crosbie