Published Work

World Travel Guide – April 2015 – In search of Barbizon

After unearthing three etchings in a soggy car boot sale, David Middleton goes in search of the place they depict and discovers Barbizon, France’s bohemian village.

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Metro – October 2014Ripped to Pieces

Some men’s growing desire for the perfect physique to post online with the #mirin hashtag is driving them to take risks with their health, as David Middleton reports.

Mirin

France Magazine – September 2014Choosing contractors for your French house

As Matt Montgomery embarks on his second French renovation, he shares insights on choosing contractors and navigating the bureaucracy with David Middleton

Bouteillac House

World Travel Guide – September 2014 Unlocking the Secrets of St. James’s Way

From headless saints to homicidal poets, David Middleton unlocks the secrets of St. James’s Way, Europe’s most famous pilgrimage route.

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ETC Magazine Sussex – August 2014Grass Routes

David Middleton meets a Hove couple who are revolutionising the way we view grass.

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Daily Mail – 02 June 2014 ‘Aortic Aneurysms’

Ten-minute scan that can save lives of men over 65: Ruptured arteries kill thousands of older men – but there’s a simple way to spot the danger.

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My Wiltshire – May 2014 – ‘Fly Fishing’

Wiltshire boasts some of the most beautiful waterways in England with rivers like the Nadder, Bourne and Avon meandering through our county along with tranquil lakes and peaceful reservoirs…

My Wiltshire – May 2014 – ‘French Ardennes’

The French Ardennes will be a major focus of the First World War centenary events and commemorations taking place over the next four years in the regions towns and villages…

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Rocroi – Ardennes

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Fly Fishing in Wiltshire

Bluffer’s Guide -16 April 2014 – Bluffer’s Guide to Lisbon

On 24 May the 2014 UEFA Champions League Final will be played at the Estádio da Luz (Stadium of Light) in Lisbon, Portugal. Millions of fans will look on awestruck as some of the richest footballers in the world assemble for a virtuoso display of luxuriant hairstyles and exotic Maori-style body art. But there’s more to Lisbon than the visiting peacocks. Bem-vindo a Lisboa!

Living North – April 2014 – ‘Yorkshire and the Great War’ 

The role of Yorkshire in the First World War examined in a series of exhibitions across museums and galleries in the region.

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Welsh Border Life  – April 2014 – ‘This Year’s Model’

The Leighton estate in Powys was once a showcase for modern farming, but fell into decline.  Now, its striking Victorian buildings have been transformed into a state-of-the-art 21st-century stud farm…

Welsh Border Life Cover 04.2014 Welsh Border Life 04.2014

Bluffer’s Guides 

24 March 2014 – Bluffer’s Guide to Fairy Tales

On 2 April Hans Christian Andersen, one of the world’s greatest writers of fairy tales, will be 209 years old. But where did the great man, the prodigy of a poor shoemaker and a lowly washerwoman, get his fantastical ideas from? Are you sitting comfortably? Well, once upon a time…

17 March 2014 – Bluffer’s Guide to Pagans

Pagans are a misunderstood and often overlooked lot. For instance, they were leaping around on 17 March long before Ireland put her patron saint’s brand on it, and no, it’s not just an excuse to run naked into the woods to dance around a gnarled old oak tree.

11 March 2014 – Bluffer’s Guide to the Cup of Tea

13 March marks the 250th birthday anniversary of Charles Earl Grey after whom the famous bergamot blend of tea is named.  So what better way to celebrate than dunking a tea bag in a large mug of boiling hot water?  Cue Lady Grey, spinning around in her tomb with horror.  “A tea bag?”

Oops! Tea drinking etiquette aside what else should we know about the beverage?

21 February 2014 – Bluffer’s Guide to the Kensington Oval, Barbados

Bluff up on the sacred ground that is the Kensington Oval, Barbados – the ‘Mecca of Cricket’

You’ve seen them thrashed in Australia and now Indian bowlers are busy lovingly polishing their balls in anticipation of their visit this summer. But before all that the England Cricket team has another opportunity to get slaughtered by the West Indies in Bridgetown, Barbados.  The hallowed ground that is the Kensington Oval Barbados – the ‘Mecca of Cricket’ – is the next gladiatorial venue for England in the Twenty20 series this March.

The Independent Traveller: 48 Hours in Grenoble

This French city’s got it all – bags of culture, mountain vistas, sunshine and this summer, it’s even organised a beach, says David Middleton

Les Bulles over Isere

WHY GO NOW?

Snow-capped mountain peaks still encircle this handsome city in the valley of the Isère, but the summer celebrations are in full swing. A former Winter Olympics venue, Grenoble is one of the sunniest places in France. It enjoys 2,000 hours of sunshine each year, and to prove it an artificial beach – la Plage de la Bifurk (1) – will be in place until November (00 33 4 76 23 57 16; www.plagedelabifurk.com). Grenoble is easier than ever to reach, with direct flights from Britain and good train connections.

TOUCH DOWN

Saint-Geoirs (www.grenoble-airport.com) airport is about 45km north-west of the city, served from Stansted by Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com). The transfer bus to Grenoble station (2) takes around an hour for a fare of €4 (£2.75); see www.transisere.fr for times. There are also regular direct buses from Lyon-Saint Exupéry airport, about 100km north-west of Grenoble, which is served by British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) from Manchester, Birmingham and London Heathrow, and from Stansted by easyJet (0905 821 0905; www.easyJet.com).

By rail, you can travel on Eurostar (08705 186 186; www.eurostar.com) from London via Paris to Grenoble in under seven-and-a-half hours, for around £119 return.

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Grenoble’s old town, the lively Notre Dame district, occupies

the Left Bank of the Isère. It is packed with interesting shops, busy bars (meeting the demands of a big student population) and numerous restaurants in a maze of narrow s

CHECK INtreets. Above it all, on the other side of the river, stands the fort of the Bastille (3). The main tourist office (4) is at 14 rue de la République (open 9am-6.30pm Mon-Sat, 10am to 5pm Sundays and public holidays; 00 33 4 76 42 41 41; www.grenoble-isere.info). To the east is the quieter Ile Verte district where the Museum of Grenoble (5) is located. In the west is the main commercial district and to the south is the modern extension to the city, which arrived courtesy of the 1968 Winter Olympics and has beautiful parks and sporting facilities.

For a sense of history, book a room at the 17th-century Hôtel de l’Europe 

(6) at 22 Place Grenette (00 33 4 76 46 16 94; www.hoteleurope.fr) – Grenoble’s oldest hotel. Despite its age, it has an up-to-date fitness room and sauna, as well as well-appointed rooms that cost from €43 (£30) to €75 (£54); breakfast costs €6 (£4.40). The four-star Park Hôtel Grenoble (7) at 10 Place Paul Mistral (00 33 4 76 85 81 23; www.park-hotel-grenoble.fr) has lavish interiors where leather armchairs and wood panelling lend a gentleman’s club atmosphere. It is closed until 28 August; doubles from €165 (£113), with breakfast an extra €15 (£10.70) per person.

Of the three Mercure hotels in Grenoble, the Hôtel Mercure Grenoble Centre (8), south of the centre at 12 boulevard Maréchal-Joffre (00 33 4 76 87 88 41; www.accor hotels.com) has spacious rooms and reasonable access to all parts of the city. Doubles from €111 (£80), breakfast €12 (£8.50) per person. The hotel’s Le Magnolia restaurant is noted for its Dauphinoise cuisine and fine wines.

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TAKE A VIEW

A return ticket is €5.80 (£4).Go to the Bastille (3). The Les Bulles cable-car ride (00 33 4 76 44 33 65; www.bastille-grenoble.com) from the quayside base station (9) takes you to a height of 498m above sea level for fantastic views across the city and mountains. Below is the river Isère; the old town with its red -tiled roofs; and long, straight boulevards cutting clean lines through a city that is remarkably flat, given the surrounding terrain.

TAKE A HIKE

Start a cool morning walk at the corner (10) of rue Lafayette, one of many pedestrian thoroughfar

es in the centre, and rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau. At number 2 on the latter you’ll find the house where the philosopher stayed in 1768. Number 14 was the birthplace of Henri Beyle, aka Stendhal (1783-1842) – the influential leader of French Romantic writers. To the west is Place Grenette (11), the former venue for public executions. Through an arcade at the start of rue Montorge are the rose garden and tree-lined pathways of the Jardin de Ville (12). On to rue Hector Berlioz you come to Place Saint-André (13) and its 14th-century church: the dark interior houses some huge religious paintings hung high up in the vaulted ceiling. Opposite is the former Parliamentary building (14), founded in 1453, which is a mixture of gothic and renaissance architecture. Through Place aux Herbes (15), and a very busy fruit and vegetable market, turn left onto rue Renauldon and then rue de Lionne. You’ll see a footbridge: passerelle Saint-Laurent (16), crossing the river and connecting the city centre with the Saint-Laurent or Italian Quarter. Over the bridge on the Right Bank is a magnificent serpent and lion sculpture representing the city taming the river.

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LUNCH ON THE RUN rue Chenoise, which has several 14th-century houses and beautiful interior courtyards (check out number 10). Continue on to Place Notre-Dame and its cathedral (17) and former Bishop’s Palace, now the Musée de l’Ancien Evêché. The lofty Fontaine des Trois Ordres commemorates the centennial of the French Revolution.

La Boîte à Sardines (00 33 4 76 44 27 84) at 1 Place Claveyson (18) is a central and very spacious corner café; almost every table has a window view. This is a former creamery, and retains its rustic charm. It serves imaginative sandwiches from €5 (£3.50).

WINDOW SHOPPING

On Place Sainte-Claire (19) is “Halle Sainte-Claire” market, built in 1874. Alternatively, head for rue Bayard and rue Voltaire in the old town for a trip to antique heaven; there’s everything from jewellery and books to furniture.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

The Museum of Grenoble (5) at 5 Place de Lavalette (00 33 4 76 63

44 44; http://www.museedegrenoble.fr) is one of the best museums in France. It has a superb collection of ancient and contemporary art and is situated in a beautiful park on the edge of the old town. On Saturdays, at 3pm, there is a guided tour to help you get the most from your visit. Artists in the collection include Gauguin, Matisse, Bonnard, Chagall, Klee, Magritte, Miro and Picasso. Open 10am to 6.30pm daily except Tuesdays, admission €5 (£3.50).

AN APERITIF

Le Sporting Café (00 33 4 76 44 22 58) on Place Grenette (11) is in the heart of the pedestrianised area with two lively bars, and heated terrace. It is popular with tourists and locals, and is ideal for people-watching. Cocktails are served all day from around €7 (£5).

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

The proximity of the Italian border, 80km to the east, is reflected in the menus of Grenoble. But there are still plenty of traditional Dauphinoise (French Savoy) options with tartiflette, fondue and raclette featuring high on the menu. Le Chasse-Spleen (00 33 4 38 37 03 52) is opposite the Museum of Grenoble (5) at 6 place de Lavalette. A seasonal Dauphinoise menu includes Chartreuse cheeses, salads, roasted walnuts and superb ravioli. It is an upmarket affair, but is reasonably priced – main courses cost between €19 (£13) and €26 (£18). Unfortunately it is closed on Saturday and Sunday so Friday night is the only weekend option. La Ferme à Dédé (20) at 24 rue Barnave (00 33 4 76 54 00 33) is all you imagine a traditional French restaurant to be, complete with gingham tablecloths and scrubbed pine floors. OK, our waiter was from Cheltenham, but his French was faultless and the food is hearty and delicious.

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

The Cathedral of Notre Dame (17) has a history spanning hundreds of years.


OUT TO BRUNCH
elebrated at 9.30am, otherwise it is open daily except Tuesdays, 10am to 7pm. The recently discovered Baptistry, dating from the end of the fourth century, is accessed via the adjoining Musée de l’Ancien Evêché; open 9am-6pm daily except Wednesdays (1.30pm-6pm) and Sunday (10am-7pm), admission free.

The Café de la Table Ronde (21) on Place St-André (00 33 4 76 44 51 41) has an impressive guest list. Stendhal and Rousseau used to meet here, and the Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel was a more recent visitor.

A WALK IN THE PARK

Parc Paul Mistral (22) was named after a former mayor of Grenoble who organised an international fair on hydroelectric power in 1925. The only remaining structure from that era is the Tour Perret, but there are gentle hills, a soothing stream and tree-lined pathways as well as sculptures by Gregor Apostu, Gigi Guadagnucci and Robert Roussil.

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ICING ON THE CAKE


You can’t leave without sampling the region’s aromatic chartreuse liqueur, with its distinctive green or yellow colour, flavoured with orange peel and peppermint. Be warned: it is very strong, so try it as a digestif after a large helping of potato gratin (gratin dauphinois) and Saint-Marcellin cheese.

easyJet Inflight magazine – January 2011 –  Weird Cider 

A feature exploring cider traditions and rituals throughout Europe

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