Bugger of a year, I think we’ll all agree. This is the first time since 1986 that I have not left the country – the UK in my case – which gives me pause for thought and a huge dose of travel wistfulness.
In 2007 Lisa Wright left a promising career as a UK ecologist catching protected reptiles and amphibians, and kissing frogs, to move to beautiful green Galicia in northwestern Spain. Her new memoir Plum, Courgette & Green Bean Tart is an engaging mix of anecdotes, letters, recipes and stories from the stunningly beautiful area she now calls home.
It’s hot in a face-searing, bone-sapping, migraine-inducing way that they definitely don’t warn you about before they open the plane door – “Welcome to Berlin where the local temperature is WHAAAAAT the…”.
The boat chugs out of Virpazar harbour along a reed-fringed channel backed by stands of willow. Dense thickets line each side, blocking any view. The water is dark, cloudy, murky. Lake Skadar, we’re told, is the largest lake in the Balkans, but as yet there is no actual lake to see.
Stick a geologist in front of the Giant’s Causeway and this is what they’ll say. Sixty million years ago, give or take a week or two, molten lava erupted through the chalk beds of the Irish Channel and formed a huge, bubbling lava field, hundreds of thousands of square kilometres in size.
The leaflet promises ‘Authentic Slovakia’ and while I regard the word ‘authentic’ as suspiciously as the next travel writer, I’m assured by the tourist office assistant that this is the real deal.
It’s all in the intonation.
“May God help you!” – the rising word ‘God’ stretched out across several syllables and the ‘help you’ a dismissive, downbeat ‘help ya’, as the officer waved us through.
What were you doing forty years ago this summer? (I will accept the answer ‘not being born yet grandad’).
I was born in Ghana in West Africa but I come, if anywhere, from Huddersfield, an old mill town set amid brooding Pennine hills in West Yorkshire.
Originally posted on Trust-Me Travel:
You’ve written a new ebook. Congrats! That’s weeks or months of work, and then days of preparation as you format the manuscript and submit it for publication. It may be your first book, or your hundredth, but it’s still your baby, your life, your pride and joy. So why would…
Let’s say you were going to write some new travel books, and design and launch a new travel publishing website to promote them. Would you A) take the current temperature of the world in turmoil and decide not to do any of that or B) . . .?
I’ve gone with B.
Montenegro only has two train lines – to be fair, it’s a small and wildly mountainous country – which makes it all the more remarkable that one of them turns out to be a candidate for Europe’s most thrilling train ride.
The cruise ships are pretty much the first thing you notice about the tightly packed medieval town of Kotor. And they are both blessing and curse.
I had dinner with Lisa Stansfield once, as it turns out, in London. I saw Oasis play in Adelaide, and Blur in Washington DC. In Las Vegas I once had a front-row table for Engelbert Humperdinck, and THAT is a story my friends, I can tell you.
Like the departing dolphins in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, I’m leaving the planet that has sustained me for decades, with some regret and with great gratitude.
Titanic. It’s a famous story, but the bare facts lose their power over time. The last survivors – babies on the voyage – succumbed to old age and not an icy sea, and the Titanic story has largely become one of myth and legend. Fiction intrudes upon memory, so that Leonardo and Kate speak to us – “I’ll never let go, Jack” – in a way the actual passengers never could.
For decades, visitors – who wouldn’t dream of stripping off to cool down in the chilled waters of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, or lie on the High Altar of St Paul’s Cathedral for a better camera angle – thought little of desecrating an ancient site in the heart of the Australian desert.
The Montenegrin Pompeii, some call it – crumbling houses facing streets that go nowhere; sketchy foundations that refuse to give up their mystery; wild flowers spreading through heaped stones; and empty windows framing isolated walls and distant views.
“You can’t possibly get lost” says the lady in the national park office.
“Did you know there are snakes in Montenegro?” says Elaine.
I am comforted by neither of these statements.
NEW VIDEO! To see Europe’s greatest train ride in under 4 minutes, check out my new video – filmed on the Bernina Express on 30 July 2019. The greatest train ride in Europe starts under the cavernous vaults of Zürich’s main railway station, where the 7.07am to Chur is about to depart. Grab a breakfastContinue reading “The Bernina Express – Europe’s greatest train ride”
Stazione Centrale, Milan – 1,558 miles, and the end of the trip Day 8 of my big summer train trip around Europe finishes in Milan, after a thrilling ride on the Bernina Express train from Zürich that travels right across the roof of the Alps. All I can say is – wow, what a finish!Continue reading “Over & out – Milan, via the Bernina Pass”
Sargans Bahnhof – 1,374 miles into the trip Day 7 of my big European summer train trip means I spent Night 6 on the train. On the face of it, taking the night train from Zagreb to Zürich seems both like an incredibly odd yet romantically adventurous thing to do – pick two random EuropeanContinue reading “In & out – Liechtenstein & Zürich”
Zagreb Glavni Kolodvor – 840 miles into the trip Day 6 of my round-Europe train trip – 9 countries in total, from Germany to Switzerland via a very roundabout route – puts me in Zagreb, capital of Croatia. It’s a lazy two-and-a-half hour trundle along the river from Ljubljana, but I saw precious little ofContinue reading “In & out – Zagreb”
Ljubljana – 754 miles into the trip Day 5 of the summer train trip = Slovenia, which is a new country for me, which means my ‘been’ app has jumped me up to 57% of Europe visited, though obviously I am still smarting over the break-up of Yugoslavia which has basically required me to visitContinue reading “In & out – Ljubljana”
Bratislava-Petrzalka – 520 miles into the trip Day 4 – and, frankly, it’s too hot to blog – too hot to breathe – let alone travel to Bratislava, but needs must when you have promised to cover every station en route from Berlin to Milan. And this blog won’t write itself, so here goes. MindContinue reading “In & out – Bratislava”
Vienna Hauptbahnhof – 424 miles into the trip Day 3 of my round-Europe trip by train puts me slap-bang in the middle of Vienna, also in the middle of something else – a record-breaking heatwave. Still, I am staying in a hotel obligingly called AllYouNeedVienna, which only costs €49 a night but, given its name,Continue reading “In & out – Vienna”
Praha Hvalni Nadrazi – 217 miles into the trip Day 2 of my round-Europe summer train trip and it’s Prague, capital of the Czech Republic – half of what used to be Czechoslovakia if you’re reading this in black and white and smoking Soviet-era roll-ups, also Stag Party capital of Europe and purveyor of devilishlyContinue reading “In & out – Prague”
Berlin Hauptbahnhof – 0 miles into the trip Day 1 of In & Out Europe – my Big Summer Train Trip around 9 countries in 9 days – finds me in Berlin and I cannot tell a lie. Believe me, I’d like to. I could distract and dissemble; I could embellish and embroider; I couldContinue reading “In & out – Berlin”
And I’m off – it’s the big summer train trip around Europe and I’m asking you to join me. Could be a lot of fun,
The Man in Seat 61 makes it easy to arrange train trips, and shows you how it’s done, step by step, but what he really does is package dreams. Here’s the world, he says. You don’t have to fly. Take the train. It’s romantic.
Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.