Travel Stories

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Glencoe, Scotland: The past on the wild wind

8 Jun 2010  |  3 min read

The plaque at the reception of the Clachaig Inn at Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands reads: “No hawkers or Campbells”. It is amusing -- I’m sure Naomi would be welcome should she show up in this beautiful but largely unpopulated region -- but it also reminds you of a fault-line of deep feeling that runs through Scottish history. It was here in these once remote... > Read more

Nye, Oregon: The man who could draw air

2 Jun 2010  |  2 min read

He introduced himself at breakfast as Hippie Mike -- his business card had a nuclear disarmament sign on it -- and told a story. "One time I walked into this bar with my walking stick, wearing my big hat, and moccasins and the whole place went silent. You could hear a pin drop, man." I believed him. Mike stood two metres tall, had long thick greying hair down to the middle... > Read more

Natchez Trace, Mississippi: The highway like Heaven

24 May 2010  |  6 min read

One of the guidebooks we took on a recent drive across America wasn't particularly helpful when it came to scenery. Then again, the Rock'n'Roll Traveler USA was always going to be more interested in directing you the field in which Buddy Holly's plane crashed, and the Taliesyn Ballroom in Tennessee where the Sex Pistols played the second concert of their notorious and short US tour in 78.... > Read more

Guangzhou, China: The sour sound of respect

30 Apr 2010  |  2 min read

When you travel to foreign parts it is good to be respectful of local customs, and usually they are common courtesies or pretty obvious: you don't wear shorts or a halter-top to St Peters -- or in various Muslim states -- and you should always take your headgear off (or put something on, depending on the faith) when you enter a place where people communicate with their God. In parts of Asia... > Read more

Pompeii, Italy: New days in the old place

28 Apr 2010  |  2 min read

Alfonso lives in the hills behind Sorrento and is Neopolitan by birth. "But the two places are very different, you know. I don't want to say anything against the Spanish . . ." he says, but the pause is the giveaway. "But when that pope, you know the one maybe 400 years ago, when he came to be pope he appoint a Spanish king -- and all the trouble in Napoli come from then.... > Read more

Kakogawa, Japan: Taking the heat

23 Apr 2010  |  1 min read

Wisdom is not -- perhaps fortunately - contagious. But of that triumvirate of desires alongside fame and wealth it might be the most valuable and so actually be worth working toward. At the end of the race it might be nice to go out thinking you actually knew a thing or two. Miki-san did. And he also possessed that rarest of gifts, a sense of humour. Head monk at the Kakurin-ji Temple in... > Read more

Kaua'i, Hawaiian Islands: The land where giants walked

19 Apr 2010  |  5 min read

The beach bungalow where the King once stayed, just a short stroll from the white sand shore, is a sad and sorry sight today. The roof has caved in, the windows are blown out and the walls look perilously close to collapsing. It looks even worse in the wider context of this beautiful Pacific playground. Over there at the lagoon where he was married in a ceremony witnessed by hundreds... > Read more

Sydney, Australia: The Coastal Track

9 Apr 2010  |  6 min read

To tell the truth, I lied. When The Coastal Track people sent information about their three-day hike through Sydney’s Royal National Park there was a section asking about my fitness. I exaggerated enormously and said I exercised “once a week“. And on the first day when I queried Colin, our guide, about the route he pointed to his map and said,... > Read more

Amsterdam, Holland: Another invisible city

5 Apr 2010  |  2 min read

To be honest, to this day I couldn't tell you what it was all about, but I spent the best part of an afternoon trying to figure it out. It was in Amsterdam and I had done all the right art galleries and museums, and had been to one of the hidden churches in the red-light district. Tomorrow I would leave so on this warm afternoon I settled in at Rasta Baby, a popular coffee shop on the corner... > Read more

Liverpool 2010: Forty years after the divorce

5 Apr 2010  |  5 min read

The divorce was as messy as most when, 40 years ago in April 1970, the Beatles broke up. As John Lennon put it later that year on his Plastic Ono Band album, “the dream is over”. But it was Paul McCartney who first made it public and official. In April 1970 McCartney released his first solo album -- Lennon and George Harrison had already been involved in individual... > Read more

The Beatles 1958: In Spite of all the Danger

Austin, Texas: The dream deferred

31 Mar 2010  |  2 min read

For a sensitive, gay New York Jew he sure picked a helluva place to live: Texas, the home of rednecks, Stetsons, and chicken-fried steak, that peculiar delicacy which is a perfectly good piece of steak deep fried in thick batter. But Austin in Texas is where David now calls home, and where he runs Summit House, his tastefully decorated, gay-friendly, biker-friendly, animal-friendly, b'n'b... > Read more

Kolkota, India: A confusion of Nevilles

26 Mar 2010  |  3 min read

He said his name was Stephen and my father and I were too weary to disbelieve him. It was only mid-morning near Kolkota's Dalhousie Square and already we were worn down by the press of hands-out humanity, hucksters and humidity. So when Stephen walked up and introduced himself we just kept on moving. He did the usual persistent questions: Can I help you in any way gentlemen, would you like... > Read more

Portland, Oregon: A light in the window

26 Mar 2010  |  2 min read

Dusk was dropping into night when I saw her. She was on the corner of North Russell and Mississippi in an industrial area of Portland, Oregon. She looked old and slightly painted up when I spotted her near the underpass, but she was inviting with her stories of shanghai-ed sailors and musicians who had taken comfort in her company. So I decided to spend the night. The following morning I... > Read more

Flagstaff, Arizona: Night of the hunter

22 Mar 2010  |  2 min read

Brent was a mountain man. That said, as he sat in the bar of the Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff -- drinking what I took to be another of the many whiskies he'd got through before I arrived -- he didn't seem like a Grizzly Adams or Jeremiah Johnson. He looked like woozy, if fit, hardware salesman in town to buy a new line of garden tools. But as the layers fell away he told me his story. He... > Read more

Belfast, Northern Ireland: History by taxi

19 Mar 2010  |  3 min read  |  1

Billy Scott is probably the most famous taxi driver in Belfast. He didn’t tell me this -- he was too busy telling me other things -- and I only found out later he’d appeared on television travel shows, podcasts and the like. That was understandable because Billy is witty, chatty, knowledgeable and over-flowing with Irish charm and wit. I figured about a third of what he said was... > Read more

Hanoi, Vietnam: Milking it

17 Mar 2010  |  2 min read

Marcel was so French you could spot it across the cafe. The shrug of the shoulders, the downturn of the mouth and sulking bottom lip, the sleepy eyes and cigarette permanently attached. He was a beret short of a stereotype. It was Hanoi on a hot afternoon when we met, both of us escaping from the sticky humidity. I had been around the city for a few days and he had just arrived back from... > Read more

Outback, Australia: The speed of the sound of loneliness

15 Mar 2010  |  6 min read  |  1

Eventually curiosity gets the better of me and, on a typically empty stretch of tarseal some 100kms west of Alice Springs, I stop the car and climb a rocky outcrop. For the past half hour I have had the magnificent MacDonnell Range on my right but 10 minutes ago a strange, irregular wall of bricks ran parallel with the road on my left. I’m puzzled as to who might have built it way out... > Read more

Vancouver, Canada: A user's guide

14 Mar 2010  |  5 min read

To be honest, I can’t tell you whether you can get a decent cup of coffee in Vancouver, coffee doesn’t interest me much. What I can tell you however is that you won’t be short of a cup. On fashionable Robson St right outside my hotel was a Starbucks, and two blocks down on the corner of Thurlow a couple more faced each other across the intersection. Within an hour... > Read more

Sydney, Australia: I'll be back. Or not.

14 Mar 2010  |  2 min read

My recollection is this, that after having interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger for some ludicrous and subsequently unsuccessful movie I went back to my room overlooking Sydney Harbour and read the booklet about my expensive hotel's many merits. Among them was a cigar bar and -- having talked cigars with Arnie -- I decided this might be a nice place to adjourn to after a dinner on Circular... > Read more

Crescent City, California: Redwoods and dead wood

14 Mar 2010  |  2 min read

So, he said leaning over me in a slightly menacing manner, how do you get to meet people when you travel around? "Just like this,"I said, and the big man looked puzzled. "By coming into a bar, buying a drink and talking with people. Like you." The big man with the bleary look paused just long enough for it to be uncomfortable, then realised what I was saying wasn't... > Read more