Travel Stories

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

New York, USA: Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning

21 Aug 2011  |  3 min read

Stanley liked to talk but, to be fair, he had a lot to talk about. Stanley -- portly, smiling, intense -- was the manager at New York's famous, notorious even, Chelsea Hotel at 222 West 23rd St. He had inherited the position from his father David Bard who bought it in 1940, and Stanley had grown up in the corridors of this building which was the tallest in Manhattan when it opened in... > Read more

Edinburgh, Scotland: Lauriston Castle and New Orleans

18 Aug 2011  |  3 min read

Although separated by culture and the vast Atlantic Ocean, there is a curious link between the multi-cultural, musical city of New Orleans and an antique-filled castle in a leafy suburb of Edinburgh. Lauriston Castle – more a refined stately home than a castle with cannons – is one of those fascinating places where cultural history, oodles of money and interesting... > Read more

Bali: Turn off your mind . . .

28 Jul 2011  |  2 min read

Being a travel writer – as I have sometimes grandly described myself – means never being able to say you're on holiday. Every destination – even the most mundane or local – may hold an experience, a story, or a character you feel compelled to explore and perhaps convey in print. And so I have gone out of my way to see a bizarre museum dedicated to Elvis Presley... > Read more


Edinburgh, Scotland: Rosslyn Chapel and the Da Vinci Code

3 Jul 2011  |  3 min read

Given the straitened British economy you wonder if someone might bend the rules and put the name of the American writer Dan Brown forward for some royal acknowledgement come Queen's Birthday: Services to British tourism perhaps? Brown's blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code – over 83 million copies sold – is single-handedly responsible for many of the 25,000 who annually who... > Read more

Baton Rouge, Louisiana: The Kingfish in his kingdom

20 May 2011  |  2 min read

The bullet holes from the shoot-out are still there. It's a narrow corridor so you can imagine what the gunplay must have been like: shots echoing around, one man falling from his wounds and the other shot dead, the shouting and clack of heels resonating off the marble floor . . . Today of course all is quiet, just a few people getting in and out of the hissing lifts or going about their... > Read more

Bushmills, Northern Ireland: The sweet smell of morning

18 May 2011  |  4 min read  |  1

This is how every working week should start: it’s 10am on a Monday and already the aroma of fine Irish whiskey — people around here would say “the finest” — is filling our lungs. Outside the North Atlantic crashes on ragged rocks and the wind whips over green fields, but here inside Bushmills Distillery on the northern coast of Northern Ireland the air is warm,... > Read more

Brian Kennedy and Shana Morrison: Irish Heartbeat

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana: In Cajun country

15 May 2011  |  10 min read

Norbert shuts off the small outboard and pulls the propeller out of the brackish water. He loosens the weeds which have fouled it and tosses them away. We sit in the silent stillness of Lake Martin beneath cypress trees and Tupelo gums, some of which are 300 years old. They have their roots in soil more than a metre below the still surface. A crane flies low over the trees. "Now,... > Read more

Jambalaya Cajun Band: C'est Fun

Queenstown, New Zealand: And the Dream Goes On

1 May 2011  |  6 min read

Nine months ago my life wasn't like this. Everything was different. Then, the hard white sun would melt the early morning cool and the air would thicken with the smell of decaying jungle vegetation. On the cracked pavement of the town's only main street women would squat in doorways avoiding the equatorial heat as they sold their meagre produce. Men walked aimlessly in the alleys,... > Read more

Dublin, Ireland: Hold your hour and have another

1 Apr 2011  |  4 min read

The black and white image of the man on the small television screen looks like something from a remote world of more than a century ago: wearing a white shirt, braces to hold up wide flannel pants and heavy work boots, he shaves timber slats into shape, arranges them carefully and then hammers an iron hoop around them. Against the backdrop of a factory where steam wheezes from huge... > Read more

Dropkick Murphys: Peg O' My Heart

Sacramento: The Ghosts of Sacramento

1 Apr 2011  |  3 min read

In the few hours after dawn there is nothing here but ghosts. As sharp California light spreads across the empty streets of Old Sacramento the homeless who sleep under the nearby flyovers emerge, shaking their milkshake containers as they look for handouts. But there is no one around yet to bum coins off, just other ghosts pushing supermarket trolleys of their belongings and rummaging through... > Read more

Sydney, Australia: Up, up and away

20 Mar 2011  |  4 min read

The American poet William Carlos Williams had an astute and true observation about travel: “I have discovered that most of the beauties of travel are due to the strange hours we keep to see them.” There was certainly some bleary-eyed beauty at Parramatta Park west of Sydney as night wheeled towards a red dawn to the sound of cockatoos and rosellas. And on the way here... > Read more

San Francisco to Sacramento: The road less travelled

1 Mar 2011  |  5 min read

Bill Foster never saw an animal he didn't like. And like so much that he'd shoot it, have it's head chopped off and stuffed, and brought back to his bar in smalltown Rio Vista, halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. While most hit Interstate 80 and speed between SanFran's Bay Bridge to California's capital in a couple of hours, there is a more rewarding day-long drive down the older... > Read more

Sorrento, Italy: In the tower of the Saracins, luxury travel

21 Feb 2011  |  6 min read  |  1

Over cocktails Lionello -- who owns a luxury hotel in Sorrento -- insists we go to his friend Gennaro’s restaurant. “He is a master, he has a gift,” he says enthusiastically, advising us away from his own dining room which had, the previous night, offered food that redefined the word sublime. “But is he fat?” I joke. “I don’t trust a thin... > Read more

Alberobello, Italy: Toytown in late summer

6 Feb 2011  |  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

Glasgow, Scotland: Art-i-tecture as far as the I can see

31 Jan 2011  |  2 min read

Locals call it “the Armadillo” but it's a rather obvious name for the striking building by the River Clyde, once the heart of Glasgow shipbuilding. With a suspicious similarity to a more squat Sydney Opera House, the Armadillo huddles almost fearfully in the shadow the enormous, now redundant, Finnieston Crane, a muscular reminder of the city's industrial past. Designed by... > Read more

Sir Harry Lauder: Stop yer ticking Jock (originally 1906)

Dumfries, Scotland: Oor Rab

24 Jan 2011  |  4 min read

One of the most cherished books in our house when I was a boy was a collection by Robert Burns, or “Rabbie Burrrns” as my mother said. The book was little bigger than a matchbox, its cloth cover an increasingly threadbare tartan, and the edges of the pages were painted gold. It was as much a treasure to look at as for the ringing songs and poems within. Peculiarly... > Read more

Eddie Reader: Ye Jacobites (from the album The Songs of Robert Burns)

Hua Hin, Thailand: Luxury with a private pool

24 Jan 2011  |  4 min read

Three hours drive south of Bangkok -- on a typically terrifying journey of close encounters and near-misses along the highway -- is the town of Hua Hin, little more than a shop-lined wide spot in the road for some tourists, and ignored completely by most others. But while the islands of south-east Thailand are becoming a clutter of beach bungalows and young players from Europe looking for a... > Read more

London, England: Inglin swings, and more

17 Jan 2011  |  6 min read

With due respect to Dr Johnson who said, “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life“, he was speaking before the chaos of modern life: Tube delays; pubs with pokie machines and football on the flat screen; young bankers with few lagers in them who think they are East End ‘ard men . . . It’s possible to be very tired of London. That said, no journey... > Read more

Roger Miller: England Swings

Elephant Polo in Thailand: Days of the Raj remembered (2006)

17 Jan 2011  |  5 min read

"The English invent the most stupid of sports," says John. He should know, he's English and we've been talking about cricket. We're sitting at the poolside bar in the sumptuous Anantara Resort and Spa near the coastal town of Hua Hin, three hours south of Bangkok. The reason for his outburst is the game we have spent this September day watching: elephant polo. At the Somdej... > Read more

Sydney, Australia: Family, friends and fine dining

9 Dec 2010  |  4 min read

Lucio pauses mid-stride as he passes my table and then – perhaps because he can recognise the colour and bouquet, or maybe he cheated and peaked at my order – says enthusiastically, “Ah, but you are drinking a wine from my region, Liguria”. He claps his hands gently then stares at me for a moment. What happens next is beyond cheating and peaking: “But... > Read more