The good, the bad, and Barcelona – Gaudi on Sunday (Catalonia, Spain)

June 15, 2015

In the crowded hotel lobby, my daypack zipper sounds conspicuously loud. I poke a hand inside: a woollen vest, an apple and a light rain jacket – nothing more. I rummage about. Still nothing. Everyone looks when I tip the contents out. A euro coin rolls across the tiled floor, hits the dark timber architrave […]

The Flower Girl and The Lizard King – Père Lachaise (Paris, France)

February 8, 2015

There’s a raspy laugh, parted purple lips, a toothy gap and shining silver orb perched on a pierced tongue. “French? Me?” Mascared eyes shine from an impossibly pallid face. “Like…God no.” There’s a slight lisp, the word ‘God’ stretched for effect, the intonation classic Celtic.  Layla is barely 120cm tall in patent platform boots shining […]

Jigsaw Days – secret pieces (Picardy, France)

April 28, 2014

From Berlin I’ve flown to Paris late winter, driving north for 2hrs and overnighting in the hamlet of Behen, a classic French Chateau with stately entry paved for WW2 German tanks, towers and walls from 15th and 18th centuries, the stables once bombed by American war planes. Graceful shapes glide on a Monet pond; a […]

Lost Pearls and Pomegranates – from red towers to whitewash (Andalusia, Spain)

December 8, 2013

The phone rings late afternoon: my girlfriend having just arrived. We meet and trudge uphill from Granada station, through the 15th century Gate of Pomegranates to this Alhambra citadel – ruddy stone towers, roses, oranges and myrtles – a garden-fortress built to house a Moorish army of 40,000. Boabdil was born here, imprisoned in the […]

Bells and Whistles – mothers and fathers (Tuscany, Italy)

September 25, 2013

Dragano is an editor initially from up north. He’s tall and rakish, the wisp of a moustache and sleek brown hair; has the habit of whistling unexpectedly, as he ponders the ways of an unjust world while stroking a precocious black cat. His villa is classic Tuscan, the bricks and terra cotta gables more orange […]

Touching the Sky – Spanish castle magic (Granada)

May 1, 2013

I meet Candelaria at a café on the slopes of the Albaicin – the old Moorish quarter – and sip peppermint tea from petite porcelain cups. She orders almond cookies and apologises for her Spanish. The courtyard is open, with large paved flagstones, the tables squarish, small and scattered. Surrounding high walls on three sides […]

Of Music, Madness and Fame – one week in Prague (Czech Republic)

April 8, 2013

On my last night here, I’m dining with Bohdan at the Jindrisska belltower; a rustic restaurant occupying the top three floors. Panoramic views span the famous `one hundred spires’. Just above us hangs the c1518 St Mary’s Bell, our tiny table and chairs tucked between great Gothic beams. A flickering candle catches empty pilsner bottles and […]