Travel Stories

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Travel with seniors: practical advice for older travellers

6 Jun 2006  |  4 min read

We were in a crowded post office in Venice when I said to my mother-in-law Sue, "You know the first thing you pack when you travel? Patience." We needed it that morning. We were sending home unwanted clothes and a few souvenirs. We'd queued to buy the box, queued again to have it weighed and get the necessary paperwork (in duplicate, not to be filled in at the counter), then queued... > Read more

St Maximin, France: The love of life

21 May 2006  |  1 min read

My friend Amanda's reputation -- some might say cheerful notoriety -- is well known around Uzes, a charming medieval town in Provence about 40 minutes north of Avignon. Amanda's village of St Maximin -- 10 minutes outside Uzes and where the writer Jean Racine used to stay -- has visitors and residents from all over the world, and many of them have been guests at Amanda's huge 18th century... > Read more

The Dalles, Oregon: The man who rode the wind

8 May 2006  |  2 min read

We had been at Chuck's bed and breakfast fewer than five minutes -- through the front door into the enormous lounge, into the kitchen and then out past the pool to the back gate -- when I asked him if he wind-surfed competitively. It seemed a fair question. We were standing by his van which had a board strapped to the top, there was another on his deck, the lounge had been lined with... > Read more

Hua Hin, Thailand: Heavy metal in Hua Hin

29 Mar 2006  |  1 min read

The night was noisy, the drinks were free and free-flowing, and this small corner of balmy Thailand seemed like it had been sent down from heaven -- with an endless buffet of European, Chinese, Thai and Japanese dinners. The party at Hua Hin had started just before sunset, the dancers and fashion show came on shortly afterwards, and beneath palms which waved in the evening breeze like a... > Read more

America, driving across the country (April-May 2004)

27 Mar 2006  |  42 min read

PART ONE: LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO AMERICA My fans are troubling me in America. You expect it in the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff, however. This character-filled landmark within whistle-blow of the Santa Fe rail line and just off Route 66 has hosted any number of famous characters, living and dead. From Zane Grey and Humphrey Bogart to John Wayne and REM's Michael Stipe, the... > Read more

Mekong Delta, Vietnam: History and its victim

20 Mar 2006  |  1 min read

Hai was using English again. He'd learned it many years before but it had been beaten out of him. Literally. It was a humid afternoon on a ferryboat on the Mekong when I noticed him through the crowd. He was making his way toward me, his eyes wide with yearning. As with so many Vietnamese he wanted to practice his English, and like so many he had a story to tell. He had been 18 when he... > Read more

Lubbock, Texas: Lubbock or leave it

15 Mar 2006  |  2 min read

There comes a time when anyone who travels becomes Blanche Du Bois, the woman in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire who famously said, "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers". We might not always be as needy as that faded southern belle -- but when you need help strangers are often the ones you depend on. Joe Don was one such stranger. My need wasn't... > Read more

LA by bus: Carless in car town

13 Mar 2006  |  5 min read

In the city of Los Angeles -- which is 19th-century Spanish for "the land where men walk on four wheels" -- it sometimes seems that only the socially disenfranchised take the bus. That's not entirely true, of course. Every day any number of good honest folk ride the MTA -- but so, too, do veterans of the alcohol wars, strange men who mumble and pay their fare in refund money, the... > Read more

Austin, Texas (2004): Deep in the Arse of Texas

6 Mar 2006  |  6 min read

Drive through America's southern states tuned to country music radio stations and you'll hear it; Letters from Home by John Michael Montgomery. It's real catchy, was still in the top 20 of the country charts after six months, and you can guess what it's about. But in case you miss the sentimental message the video is even more literal: photogenic talent-agency soldiers playing cards and... > Read more

Naples, Italy: You have been warned

2 Mar 2006  |  5 min read  |  4

"The thing with Napoli," said Alfonso leaving a pause for effect, "is the tourist people they love it or they do not. But I understand why they do not. The city, she is . . . " To be honest I can't remember exactly what he said next about his birthplace, but it could have been something like this: that Naples is noisy and polluted, the roads are congested, and you can... > Read more

Berlin: Another brick in the Wall

2 Mar 2006  |  7 min read

The first thing you see when you come out of the Bernauerstrasse underground station in Berlin is the ruin: no houses down one side of the road, just overgrown and scrappy wasteland spotted with slabs of crumbling concrete and rusting reinforcing steel. It is as if the homes which once stood here had been hastily bulldozed and their skeletons left for the weeds to take possession of and grow... > Read more

East Coast, North Island of New Zealand: Hawkes Bay the long way

17 Feb 2006  |  8 min read

The handbrake might give you a bit of trouble, says John as he finishes a litany of idiosyncrasies about his beautifully restored 1957 Mark Two Zephyr. I have already heard it can pop out of second, to put in a measure of Valvoline with the petrol, to check the water daily, and that riding the brakes downhill might lead to them overheating and not functioning properly. And now the handbrake... > Read more

The Dalles, Oregon: Hill in a high place

6 Oct 2005  |  5 min read

Sam Hill had a vision fairly common among the wealthy: an agrarian utopia where happy workers would toil in fertile fields, their cheery lives overseen by their benign master -- himself, of course -- from a bastion high on a hill above. Unfortunately Sam -- a railway man and an incurable builder of roads -- picked the wrong hill in the wrong place. It is near The Dalles in north... > Read more

Central Australian Outback: And miles to go before I sleep

6 Jan 2005  |  5 min read

Somewhere about 300km southwest of Alice Springs on a largely featureless strip of the Lasseter Highway I slow down for the laughably named Mount Ebenezer. It is little more than another flat bit, but with a shop, a petrol station and five Aboriginal woman sitting under a tree. Within a minute the car is back on cruise control set at an easy 120kph and I am once more lazily gazing... > Read more