Google launches Touring Bird – a one-stop shop for tours, activities and experiences

When it comes to planning a trip there are two types of traveller: those who love spending hours and hours researching what to see and do in each destination and those who – quite frankly – find it a faff.

If you fall into the latter camp, check out Touring Bird – a brand new app from Google that collates attractions, activities, tours and local tips (because for many people the best kind of trip is one based on local knowledge) in over 20 destinations.

London bound? Check out my tips for Touring Bird at the link below - and feel free to hit me up for more little known London attractions and quirky corners

Touring Bird: London

Take a dip in a London landmark: Brockwell Lido


When the sun is shining, few things are as appealing as London’s open air swimming pools, with the art deco lidos – built in the first 30 years of the 20th century – of particular interest.
Ask any Londoner for their favourite lido and chances are they’ll answer: Brockwell Lido.
This much-loved local landmark has been at the heart of the local community since 1937 and houses an Olympic size 50-metre outdoor swimming pool, Jacuzzis, and saunas in an Art Deco Grade II listed building. (People flock to this Dulwich Road spot as much to admire the beautiful 1930s art deco design as to actually enter the water).
Feeling hungry after all that swimming? Look to the lovely Lido Cafe which offers freshly ground coffee and a fabulous menu focused on seasonal produce.

Get a culture fix at the world's oldest grand music hall: Wilton’s


Looking for a London culture fix? Leave the West End to the masses and make for Wilton’s Music Hall, a true hidden gem that’s situated down a small pedestrian path called Graces Alley.
The oldest – and arguably most loved – grand music hall in the world, Wilton’s completed a £2.5 million renovation in 2015, while losing none of its rustic charm.
Today the Victorian music hall stages a year round programme of exceptional live music and world-class productions in a Grade 2 Star listed building.
Theatre not your bag? Stop in for a swing dance class, history tour given by passionate heritage experts who work full time at Wilton's raising funds to save one of London’s most beautiful buildings, or perhaps just a drink and bite to eat in one of Wilton’s two bars.


Eat your way around SW9: Brixton Village


Planning on paying Brixton – the birthplace of David Bowie – a visit?
Arrive with an appetite because Brixton's dining scene is among the most dynamic in London thanks largely to Brixton Market. 
This covered arcaded under the railway arches, underwent a renaissance back in 2009 when empty market stalls were leased for free for three months to encourage new restaurateurs.
The result? The original Caribbean stalls (Brixton isn’t known as ‘London’s little Jamaica’ for nothing) have been joined by bakeries, artisan coffee shops, Mexican, Thai spots and even a champagne bar – and half the fun is taking a chance on any place you like the look of.
Standouts include Federation Coffee for brunch and, as its name suggests, a great cup of coffee, Fish, Wings and Tings for a taste of the West Indies and KaoSarn for tasty Thai fare, at prices that won’t break the bank.

Quaff cocktails against a backdrop of St Paul’s Cathedral: Madison, One New Change


There can’t be many, if any, better rooftop terraces in London than Madison.
Perched on the penthouse spot of One New Change (a stunning glass shopping centre designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Jean Nouvel), this rooftop terrace overlooks the iconic St Paul’s Cathedral and boasts supreme views of the London skyline. 
You can drink in more than the views at the bar and lounge which serves small plates and top notch cocktails. Two to try include the signature Madison Garden (cucumber, Death’s Door vodka, Kamm & Sons, Regal rogue lively white) and the cheekily named Hot bitch martini (sweet vanilla vodka flavours, passion fruit liquor and plenty of prosecco), which is designed to be shared with friends.
There’s also a more formal restaurant serving superb grills and and slow cooked classics.
The rooftop space can be enjoyed year round thanks to Madison’s umbrellas and heaters.

Catch a film at an independent cinema: The Ritzy Cinema


Whether you’re into arty flicks, subtitled shenanigans or Hollywood blockbusters, there’s a seat in the dark with your name on it at The Ritzy Cinema.
Built in 1910, this Grade 11 listed building shows an eclectic mix of films on its five screens. But this Brixton institution doesn’t just attract filmgoers. Drinkers and foodies flock to its bars and cafe, the latter of which spills onto Windrush Square whose name commemorates the arrival of the Empire Windrush from Jamaica in 1948, and a new era of Caribbean settlement in post-war Britain.
Meanwhile Upstairs at The Ritzy always has something interesting going on from complimentary live music (think blues, jazz and reggae) to dance lessons, club nights, stand up shows and exhibitions.
Bottom line? The Ritzy Cinema is the cornerstone of Brixton’s community.


Sip in secret: Evans & Peel Detective Agency


London has fallen hard for the speakeasy trend. Consequently you’ll find speakeasy (the word was first coined in the US during the prohibition era, when the sale of alcohol was generally illegal from 1920 to 1933) bars across the capital but the most hidden is Evans & Peel Detective Agency.
Located on the cusp of zone two but less than a five minute stumble from Earls Court tube station – the first London station to install escalators in 1911 – this is where Londoners head when they want to pretend it’s Prohibition time in the 1920s.
However in order to enter the bar that’s disguised as a detective agency, you'll have to convince the person in the ‘office’ that your case is worth investigating. Pull that off and you’ll be rewarded with a brilliant cocktail bar: the Old Fashioneds are a particular highlight.

Fall for football: Wembley Stadium


Football. You can’t escape it, especially in London which must have more clubs than any city in the world. 
However the one trip that every true football fan must make is to Wembley. This 90,000 capacity stadium, is renowned around the world for its iconic, 134m high arch that towers over the North stand, and has hosted some of football’s biggest spectacles: think England’s glorious World Cup victory in 1966, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona’s stunning UEFA Champions League triumphs or the historic ongoing tradition of The FA Cup Final.
The excellent 75 minute Wembley Stadium tour takes you behind-the-scenes of what footballing legend, Pele, once called “the cathedral of football, the capital of football and the heart of football”.
Expect to see inside the dressing rooms, press room and players’ tunnel, and be taken pitch-side before climbing upto the iconic Royal Box to have your photograph taken with a replica of the world-famous FA Cup.
All told if you're a football fan, you won't regret making a pilgrimage to the beautiful game's spiritual home (that's as famous as the players it welcomes), unless you forget your smartphone.

Drink like Winston Churchill: Effra Social


Situated on the site of a former local Conservative club, the Effra Social (not to be confused with the nearby Effra Hall Tavern), now appeals to a different party faithful. 
It’s out with politics and in with DJs and bands, one of Brixton’s best Quiz nights, book clubs, cinema clubs, comedy and poetry – all of which fill this Effra Road hot spot each week.
Yet while the Brixton boozer is no longer tied to its political past, its walls are still painted Tory blue and lined with memorabilia: think portraits of prominent local party members, club posters and old correspondence.
Fans of Churchill won’t want to miss the carefully restored Churchill Lounge, with its flock wallpaper, fireplace and own bar, where Britain’s wartime leader used to enjoy a tipple or two.

View my London tips for Touring Bird at:

10 things to taste in Moscow

The top Russian foods you have to try

Beef Stroganoff
Supposedly named after count Alexander Grigorievich Stroganoff, this Russian dish dates from the mid 19th century and consists of sautéed pieces of beef served in a sauce with smetana (sour cream).

Blini are Russia's version of the thin French crêpe and a staple on most Moscovian menus, typically made with buckwheat for savoury fillings or white flour for sweet toppings. Accompaniments can include smoked salmon and sour cream but for the ultimate indulgence opt for red black sturgeon caviar.

This beet and cabbage soup is served with or without meat, potato, herbs (usually dill) and a dollop of smetana (Russian sour cream) and is sure to warm you up during a Moscow winter.  A staple of Russian cuisine, it would criminal to leave Moscow without sampling this soup at least once.

Muscovites go crazy for Caviar (or ikra as it is also known) which is offers served on dark, crusty bread or with blini. Caviar can be red (obtained from salmon fishes) or black (obtained from sturgeon fishes). Black caviar, the roe of the female sturgeon fish, is one of the world's most prized and expensive food items.

Medovik is Russia's popular honey cake: super sweet, rich in taste and with an interesting story about its historical origins. Legend has it that the first medovik honey cake was created in the 1820s by a personal chef for Empress Elizabeth, the wife of Tzar Alexander I. Try it and you’ll soon see why the Empress was mad about Medovik.

Mushroom Julienne
With a similar taste to stroganoff, but without meat, this creamy mushroom dish is found on almost every menu as a hot appetiser. It’s made with thinly sliced mushrooms, cheese, sour cream and cream and broiled/grilled for a crusty top before being, served in a dainty metal dish. 

Olivier Salad
Known as Russian salad around the world, Olivier is a variation of potato salad invented in the 1860s by Lucien Olivier, a Belgian chef plying his trade at a popular Moscow restaurant. The ultimate comfort food, the Olivier features boiled potatoes, carrots, eggs, peas, pickles, and boiled chicken or beef.

What makes Russian dumplings (pelmeni) so special? That would be the tasty herbs that are added to the meat packed pastry.  Pelmeni can be served several ways: alone, slathered in butter, topped with sour cream, or served in a broth.

Solyanka soup
A hearty soup made from thick chunks of beef and/or pork, cooked for hours over a low flame with garlic, tomatoes, peppers and carrots.

Tula Gingerbread
Tula Gingerbread is a very Russian take on the classic gingerbread recipe. Expect spicy gingerbread made from honey and filled with jam or condensed milk. It is customary to imprint the bread with intricate designs and engravings.

Moscow mania

In last night's recording of 'Talking Travel', producer James & I shone the spotlight on Moscow. 
Tune into Women's Radio Station all next week to catch the episode in which we reveal the Moscow must dos - and give those of you who aren’t a paid up member of the football tribe, a primer on the forthcoming FIFA World Cup which is taking place in Russia for the very first time.
Let the countdown begin!


2018 FIFA World Cup: everything you need to know

The festival of football that only happens every four years is set to kick off in a matter of weeks.
That's right – the highly anticipated 2018 FIFA World Cup, a tournament that brings together the finest footballers on the planet – is almost upon us.

Not a paid up member of the football tribe? Fret not. Best in Travel has your back…

When is the World Cup?
The 2018 World Cup kicks off on 14 June when host nation Russia takes on Saudi Arabia in a Group A match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, and runs until 15 July which is the day of the final.
Germany are the reigning champions after winning in Brazil in 2014. They beat Lionel Messi's Argentina in the final.

Where is the World Cup?
The tournament is being held in Russia, the largest country in the world that’s home to approximately 144.3 million people, for the very first time.
Russia was granted the license to host the FIFA World Cup on 2 December 2010. The FIFA matches will be played in 11 cities and 12 stadiums.The biggest stadium is the Luzhniki in Moscow, which will host the opening game and the final.

Why should I watch?
The World Cup is the biggest, most compelling event in the sporting world and if you don’t follow the competition, you’re letting the rest of the world go to the party without you. (The 2014 World Cup Final was watched live by over one billion people).
You’ll get to see of the greatest football players in the world work there magic and watch some intriguing storylines unfurl. Case in point?  Barcelona ace Lionel Messi has not seen his national side, Argentina, win a World Cup in his entire lifetime (Argentina last lifted the coveted trophy in 1986 and have lost three straight major finals  – two in the Copa America and the 2014 World Cup – in three years). Can the Barcelona talisman stop his country’s World Cup rot?

Which players will be in Russia?
The aforementioned Lionel Messi will be in Russia as will Portuguese superstar (and contender for the 2018 Ballon D’Or) Cristiano Ronaldo.
You can also look forward to seeing South American stars such as Luis Suarez and Neymar playing for Uruguay and Brazil while, from Europe, Premier League players Paul Pogba and Alvaro Morata will be turning out for France and Spain respectively.
Other in-form players to watch out for are  Egyptian sensation, Mohamed Salah, and England ace Harry Kane.
Nations have to name their chosen 23 men for the World Cup by 4 June 2018, 10 days before the tournament begins.

What are the groups?
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

Who is the mascot?
The big question: who is the mascot for the FIFA 2018 World Cup? Best in Travel can reveal that  Russia 2018's mascot is Zabivaka – a wolf who's name means 'the one who scores’. Zabivaka was chosen following a vote in Russia which saw one million people cast their votes!

Who are the referees?
The list of match referees and assistant referees was released by Fifa in March and I can be viewed here:
There are 36 match referees in total and 63 assistant referees selected. 

Is VAR being used?
It is. FIFA confirmed back in March that video assistant referees will be used in the Russia 2018 Fifa World Cup. “It’s not possible that in 2018 everyone in their living room knows a few seconds after the play whether a referee has made a mistake and the referee doesn’t,” explained FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “We need to live with the times. We wanted to give the referees tools so they can make better decisions, and in the World Cup some very important decisions are made.”

What ball will be used at the 2018 World Cup?
The official 2018 Fifa World Cup ball is the Adidas Telstar . Designed to be a modern interpretation of the iconic 1970 Telstar ball, the ball only has six panels in an innovative design whereas the original Telstar had 32 panels fastened together.

Who are the kit providers?
Adidas: Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Spain and Sweden.
Nike: Australia, Brazil, Croatia, England, France, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea.
Puma: Senegal, Serbia, Switzerland, and Uruguay.
New Balance: Costa Rica and Panama.
Umbro: Peru.
Hummel: Denmark.
Errea: Iceland.
Uhlsport: Tunisia. 

How can I watch the World Cup?
If you haven’t yet scored tickets to the World Cup, look to the ‘last-minute’ sales phase which runs  until 15 July  2018 (i.e the World Cup tournament final). These tickets will be implemented on a first-come, first-served basis.
Ticket prices range from £79 for a second-round group match up to £829 for the final. Russian residents will be eligible to obtain cheaper tickets with prices starting at £17.
All fans attending matches at the World Cup will need to apply for a FAN ID, a free official identity document required by the Russian authorities. The FAN ID includes benefits such as visa-free entry to the Russian Federation, as well as free use of public transport on match-days. 

Can’t make it to Moscow?
UK audiences can watch World Cup matches on both the BBC and ITV. The first game, Russia vs. Saudi Arabia, will be aired on ITV while BBC's coverage begins the next day.
Online streams will be available to US audiences on fuboTV.


Let the countdown begin!