Thursday 22 August 2019

The Merchant Hotel in Belfast

Review: The Merchant of Belfast, BT1's most decadent hotel 

Thomas Breathnach checks-in for showtime grandeur. If every city claims to have its grande dame hotel, then The Merchant, draped in all her gilded finery and sipping on vermouth with a twist, is surely Belfast's ultimate showgirl. Formerly the salubrious HQ of Ulster Bank, today the 19th century treasure is a Grade-A listed building and Laganside's most illustrious five-star bolthole. I checked-in to the Northern belle in search of swing and swagger in champagne bucket loads.

Picture perfect: The Strawbery Banke museum

Travel: Christmas cracker in New England 

'The holidays are coming." From a team of Budweiser Clydesdales cantering through the snow to a convoy of Coca-Cola trucks trundling into a fairy-lit town, sometimes nothing says Christmas more than a good ole side order of Americana nostalgia. New England, with its old-world allure, conjures perhaps the greatest festive romanticism of all US regions. And so, I paid a festive visit to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the nation's self-proclaimed "Capital of Christmas".

Thomas, centre, smiles for a koala kodak moment in Cleland wildlife park

Allow yourself to get lost in 'Radelaide' 

It's that time of year again – when the unveiling of Lonely Planet's annual destination hotlist sends tourist boards across the globe into an anticipatory flurry. Perhaps one of this year's most unlikely announced winners was Adelaide, the South Australian capital which has long lived in the shadows of Melbourne, with its kooky coffee culture and Sydney, with its unabashed bling and beach-life. On a recent visit to the city and its surrounds, however, it didn't take me long to appreciate this city's new found standing as an international Best in Show.