Travel Stories

Some of Graham's travel stories with an emphasis on odd destinations, or a different view of the familiar. Must-see places and some to avoid. and encounters with unusual characters, usually in colourful places in Elsewhere. All stories copyright Graham Reid.

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Arthur's Pass, South Island, New Zealand: The silence of the lands

26 Apr 2024  |  4 min read

It was the strangest thing. We went inside for 20 minutes and when we came out everyone had disappeared. There was also no traffic either way down the long road. Arthur's Pass Village on Highway 73 through the centre of the South Island sits a bit more west than the halfway point between Christchurch and the West Coast, right there in the Southern Alps. It was a warm Friday... > Read more

Broadfield Garden, New Zealand: In-A-Gadda-Da-Canterbury

24 Apr 2024  |  2 min read

The seemingly endless, straight road out of Christchurch to Rolleston cuts through the flat and often undifferentiated Canterbury Plain of farms punctuated by houses and sheds. But along Selwyn Road, an offshoot from State Highway 1, amidst the fields and paddocks is a property hidden from view by a high green wall of hedging. And behind it lies an unexpected and quite magical 3.5... > Read more

McMinnville, Oregon: Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose folly

8 Jan 2024  |  5 min read

In a flat field outside the small town of McMinnville in northwest Oregon is a building so large that cars visibly slow on the highway so the occupants can take a look at it. Even in America -- the birthplace of bigness -- this enormous squat A-frame with its frontage of glass panels is an outstanding structure. And it houses one of the biggest and most eccentric aircraft in the world.... > Read more

Alberobello, Italy: Toytown in late summer

16 Apr 2023  |  5 min read

The undistinguished slice of autostrada is almost deserted. Just us, and a gun-metal grey Mercedes -- a minute ago but a dot in the rear-view mirror -- disappearing into the distance ahead. We're in no such hurry so pull off to the Adriatic Coast which has been somewhere to our right this past hour as we have driven up this east coast of southern Italy  The dismal motels and... > Read more

Balmoral Castle, Scotland: One sugar for me, ma'am

12 Mar 2023  |  3 min read

In early 2022, because we were passing we decided to drop in at the Queen's house, Balmoral Castle, in the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands. Her Majesty wasn't in, but with time to kill on our way to nearby Inverness, we spent a very pleasant morning on this 20,000 hectare estate which the Queen has used for private family holidays in summer, away from royal duties.... > Read more

Ellora, India: Photos of the air around the majesty

13 Feb 2023  |  1 min read

The remarkable thing about the temples at Ellora in Maharashtra state, India isn't in what you see. It's in what you don't. These temple complexes with annexes, tall shrines ornately carved and deep caves where Buddhist, Hindu and Jaina figures dominate the massive spaces were carved between the 5th and 13th centuries. They are among the great wonders of the world for their... > Read more

Thillana, by Jyotsna Srikanth

Fort William, Scotland: He knocked the bugger off

23 Jan 2023  |  2 min read

Henry Alexander wasn't a heroic adventurer in the manner of the great mountaineers, but he did pull off one remarkable feat: he went to the top of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Britain. Yes, a lot of people before and after him achieved that but Alexander did it in a unique manner. He drove to the top and back, through the valleys and cervices, across the open spaces and over ragged... > Read more

Changi, Singapore: The art, the park and other things

23 Jan 2023  |  3 min read

Anyone who has spent time there will confirm that when Singapore decides to build something, it gets on and does it with speed, efficiency and sometimes a real flair for design. Whether it be the huge Tampines Mall – a spacious suburban shopping centre for locals with a library overlooking the football stadium, an indoor free cinema, supermarket, dozens of hawker food stalls and... > Read more

Travelling light: it's in the bag

2 Jan 2023  |  2 min read  |  1

As with most people who fancy themselves as a glamorously casual traveller -- able to pick up and run when a flight becomes available -- I would, for many years, pride myself on how economically I could pack a bag. Regular and brief trips to Los Angeles, Sydney or Melbourne made me skilled in the art of leaving things out. A weekend stopover to interview Arnold Schwarzenegger... > Read more

John Mayall: Fly Tomorrow (1968, see Essential Elsewhere)

Rome, Italy: The only sure thing in life

11 Dec 2022  |  1 min read

It's all in the odd juxtaposition really. Just off the Piazza Barberini in Rome with its magnificent Fountain of Triton by Bernini -- and only a short walk from the more famous Trevi Fountain -- is the Autocentri Balduini on Via Vittorio Veneto. In the window glistening Lamborghinis are displayed like shop mannequins in a clothing store. It is as if you could just happen on it when... > Read more

The Isle of Skye, Scotland: She carried the lad born to be king

2 Dec 2022  |  2 min read  |  1

Bonnie Prince Charlie may be a romantic figure in Scottish history, but in truth he was a dandy, a fool and an inept military leader who couldn't corral – as if anyone could however – the rival clan leaders he lead down from Scotland to within a spit of London, only to turn back and then suffer an ignominious defeat at Culloden. However the woman who spirited him away on a boat... > Read more

The Skye Boat Song, by Emma

Malmesbury, England: Another idiot who flew

11 Nov 2022  |  3 min read

Because I once wrote an extensive travel-cum-history article about going in search of the 15th century Italian, Saint Joseph of Copertino, who flew, I'm always interested in stories about ancient aerialists. As I mentioned in that article The Idiot Boy Who Flew (he was a simpleton but apparently could take to the air), flying saints aren't that uncommon: medieval towns on the... > Read more

Eyemouth, Scotland: The cruel and indifferent sea

4 Nov 2022  |  2 min read  |  1

When we arrived in coastal Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders, halfway between Lindisfarne/Holy Island in England and North Berwick, it was bitterly cold despite the clear sky and the waves being whipped up of the North Sea were crashing over the high seawall. We were taking a break before going north and stretched our legs along the salt-sprayed front where most of the places were closed on... > Read more

Montrose, Scotland: Golf, military secrets and kangaroos, mate

31 Oct 2022  |  2 min read

Roo's Leap was just a few minutes walk from our small hotel and seemed to be the only place open for dinner and so . . . So why not a place with a kangaroo on the logo, Aboriginal dot paintings on the walls, Australian flags, Outback photos and pavlova on the dessert menu? After all, this is surely what we were expecting at coastal Scotland just out from the interesting town of... > Read more

Lewes, England: History at hand

25 Oct 2022  |  3 min read

The medieval walled town of Lewes -- pronounced “Lewis” -- on England’s south east coast, has a fascinating history: battles were fought in and around the crumbling Norman castle which looks across rooftops and a broad landscape to chalk hills in the east, and over the narrow streets below which are crowded with traffic these days. Lewes Castle and Barbican House Museum... > Read more

Hong Kong: When the rain comes they run and hide their heads

15 Oct 2022  |  4 min read

When the serious rains come, that end-of-days Flood you may have heard about, the question won’t be, “Would I get on Noah’s Ark?”. It will be, “Quick, where is it?” In this, I can help. Noah’s Ark -- and you won’t believe this -- is in Hong Kong and if you’ve ever been to that exciting city you probably drove right over the top of it... > Read more

London, England: Pub preconceptions

9 Oct 2022  |  2 min read

The Moon and the Sixpence in Wardour St is much like many pubs in London these days. Whatever genuine historical features it might have had have been air-brushed in a sanitising make-over. The artists, poets and musicians whose portraits are framed on the walls may, or may not, have some connection with the area, and the pub menu is almost identical to that of most others. You have to look... > Read more

Kuching, Sarawak: A clowder of cats, and then some

3 Oct 2022  |  4 min read

I'd just stepped outside into the 36 degree heat and humidity when my phone rang. It was my wife back in New Zealand where the weather was wet and cold. We had a quick chat about various things and then she told me our new cat Otis, described by the SPCA as “a handsome gentleman with a sense of adventure” seemed to be missing me. And had taken to tearing up the furniture.... > Read more

Liverpool, England: Echoes of things passed

3 Sep 2022  |  2 min read

If you want a photo of just them, or just you with them, then get there early. Because by mid-morning there will be dozens of people with their phones out around the bronze statues of the Beatles at Pier Head in Liverpool. These impressive, larger-than-life and realistic figures of the Beatles in their early years – suits, boots, narrow ties and that hair – appear to be ambling... > Read more

Brighton, England: 10 top tips

3 Sep 2022  |  1 min read

The city of Brighton on England's south-east coast is less than an hour by train from central London. Which means on Fridays the station – just a few minutes walk from the centre's narrow streets and the even narrower Lanes – delivers sightseers, hen parties, stag-do guys, shoppers looking for bargains or eccentric goods in the numerous markets . . .  The small town centre... > Read more