Travel Stories

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Shrewsbury, England: Charles Darwin and the evolution of an industry

27 Jun 2022  |  4 min read  |  1

The birthplace of Charles Darwin was the large family home above the important and historic market town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire on the River Severn. And for strange personal reasons I always wanted to see it. When I went to university I had a very clear career in mind. I would be a marine biologist. Inspired by Jacques Cousteau's television series where he sailed around under... > Read more

Stockholm, Sweden: The silence the goddess craved

12 Jun 2022  |  3 min read

The famously reclusive goddess of the silver screen Greta Garbo finally got what she wanted. She is, as she wished, alone. But the melancholic Swedish solitary is surrounded by more than 100,000 others in eternal death at the vast, exceptionally beautiful and restful Skogskyrkog√•rden (Woodland Cemetery) in suburban Stockholm. The cemetery – where Garbo's gravestone stands... > Read more

Falkirk, Scotland: The wheels of science and art

5 Jun 2022  |  3 min read  |  1

It's not true that central Falkirk in Scotland is the deadest town I've ever seen. I've been to Pompeii. And for sure there was a CCC (close Covid contact) crowd laughing and drinking in the Wheatsheaf Inn up an alley off the main street. But step outside that joyful old pub, which was opened at the end of the 1790s, and there was nothing happening on the main street on a Saturday... > Read more

Callander, Scotland: The empty hotel

28 May 2022  |  4 min read

The Dreadnought Hotel in the town of Callander, halfway between Loch Lomond and Edinburgh, is very hard to miss. As you come in from the west it announces itself on the left as a massive baronial block, like some moored battleship dominating the street and the town beyond. As with most travellers who use Callander as little more than a start and end point for hikes in the Trossachs or to... > Read more

Colonia, Uruguay: So pretty, so mundane

23 May 2022  |  3 min read  |  1

Excluding the journey by boat from Buenos Aires (an hour each way), the time difference with Argentina (another hour) and queuing for tickets then Custom’s clearance (yet another hour), our “day” in Uruguay came down to little more than six hours, some of which involved embarking and disembarking at both ends. However, I feel confident enough to offer an in-depth... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #13 (2022): Home here and there

16 May 2022  |  2 min read  |  4

A peculiar thing happened a few weeks ago, the day before we left Edinburgh. When we stopped at a service station to fill up the rental I glanced across the road and on the other side was the Maybury Casino. I knew behind it was West Craig Crescent and the house I grew up in. I’d come halfway around the world and, after more than 60 years, arrived back home. The definition... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #12 (2022): Looking at the wider world

9 May 2022  |  2 min read

The old British music hall song She Was Poor But She Was Honestcame with a singalong chorus: “It’s the same the whole world over, it’s the poor what gets the blame. It’s the rich what gets the pleasure, isn’t it a blooming shame?” More than a century on that refrain is still true. Media coverage of the widening chasm between the have-nots and the... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #11 (2022): Sights passed at speed

2 May 2022  |  2 min read

Although I’m writing this on a fast, comfortable train hurling us towards London, this isn’t my favoured form of transport: you race past interesting places, just as this one is doing. Oh, that was Lindisfarne in the distance we just passed. That’s why I prefer a car: to stop, explore backroads and take your own route as we’ve done from Brighton in the south of... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #10 (2022): Hubris, arrogance and autocrats

25 Apr 2022  |  2 min read  |  1

There are few places quite as dispiriting as the broad moor outside Inverness which takes its name from the nearby Scottish village: Culloden. Here in 1746 the short-lived Jacobite rebellion came to a bloody end when the weary followers of 24-year old Bonnie Prince Charlie faced the government troops lead by the Duke of Cumberland, who’d celebrated his 25thbirthday the night before.... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #9 (2022): Lessons from history

15 Apr 2022  |  2 min read

In a museum deep below the soaring Gothic majesty of Yorkminster, down where the pillars of the Roman garrison fort in York are still visible, there are remarkable objects on display. Among them a horn from about 1030 presented by the Viking nobleman Ulf to the Christian church as a symbol of his gift of lands. It also represents an extraordinary confluence of cultures. The horn is carved... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #8 (2022): Travails of travel

7 Apr 2022  |  2 min read  |  1

Because I’m not a scientist, I can’t confirm that irritability is a side effect of Covid. But that – and a blinding headache every time I coughed – was certainly evident. Perhaps that’s just a local variant brought on by trying to negotiate Bristol’s one-way streets, roadworks, dead ends and traffic changes. It’s a remarkable city but the devil of a... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #7 (2022): Can you travel with Covid?

7 Apr 2022  |  2 min read

Because a couple of RATs were ambiguous, while in Brighton staying with my son and his partner, I did a lab test. Six hours later and NZ$190 lighter, Covid was confirmed. Although the notification said, “you are no longer legally required to self-isolate”. Within 24 hours everyone else tested positive, so the question now was not, “How do you travel during Covid?”... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #6 (2022): There's good news, bad news and worse news

27 Mar 2022  |  2 min read  |  1

By definition, you can’t prepare for the unexpected.  So  traveling through the  maskless  Covid lands means a certain inevitability about being infected at some point.  We  each do an  RAT  once a week;  so far, so good. A positive test would not be unexpected and we’d just have to hole up... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #5 (2022): Another strangely normal

21 Mar 2022  |  2 min read

Travel in Europe during Covid can offer inconveniences, but fewer than masked-up/scan-in New Zealanders might think. That’s because – and this bears repeating for those at home who are frustrated – the countries we’ve been in, Sweden and England, have passed peak Covid and the rates of infection, hospitalisation and death are declining rapidly. In England... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #4 (2022): Normal transmission resumed

13 Mar 2022  |  2 min read

When Russia’s President Putin unleashed his murderous fury across Ukraine, television screens filled with images of bombed and burning apartment blocks. They seemed very familiar here in Sweden because Europeans have long been apartment dwellers, so it’s been chilling to see images of what could be the neighbours’ building hollowed out by an explosion. And you are... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #3 (2022): The cold Cold War frontline

4 Mar 2022  |  2 min read

Like many people, we celebrate our wedding anniversary, usually at a decent but modestly priced local restaurant but sometimes, if we’re flush, by going away for a couple of days. This year, being in Stockholm, we decided to go to the World Heritage listed, medieval walled town of Visby on Gotland, the largest island in the Baltic Sea. The route south from... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #2 (2022): Feet on solid ground

26 Feb 2022  |  2 min read  |  1

As someone who grew up in a house where there was an open atlas on the lounge coffee table and a framed world map of PanAm routes in “the back kitchen”, travel was always part of life’s agenda. The “Fasten Seatbelt” sign announced a new adventure, and these past few years I'd missed seeing it. So here we are in Stockholm where two of my sons live.... > Read more

TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF COVID #1 (2022): Time to fly

20 Feb 2022  |  2 min read  |  2

Nobody has called us crazy, stupid or full of arrogant disregard. However in this increasingly angry climate I'd expect all those accusations to be leveled. And worse. That's because we're leaving for Sweden, Britain and back home via Singapore. Travelers in the time of Covid. Our reason is the same as many trying to get home: family. My wife has a niece and her baby in Bristol;... > Read more

McCloud, California: You are what you eat

25 Apr 2021  |  4 min read

This is just an opinion: but nowadays it seems more difficult to find a really bad meal than a good one. That is unless you are in McCloud, a small town at the base of photogenic Mount Shasta in northern California. McCloud isn't on too many tourists' agendas---it is well off the highways and seems to be at the end of long dead-end road---and that is probably just as well if the kitchen... > Read more

Jerash, Jordan: A city of goats and ghosts

14 Mar 2021  |  3 min read  |  1

The Bedouin boy smacks a stick on a bleached rock and his small herd of goats, alarmed, leap forward a few metres then begin again fossicking for weeds and tufts of grass in this parched landscape. As the late afternoon sun creates long shadows and the blue sky turns a watery orange, you might wonder how often – over thousands of years – this same scene has been acted out... > Read more