Monthly Archives: January 2012


A Balkan Train Ride

A Balkan Train Ride-2

Is it possible to feel sorry for a train? Watching this little steam engine freezing in the snow at Bansko station, I almost did… The steam engine only runs from time to time, but even the regular trains on this narrow gauge railway feel theatrical enough. Almost every station, however tiny, has a stationmaster in […]


Anatomy of a Bulgarian Restaurant


We have spent more time than I am entirely comfortable with in Bulgarian tourist restaurants lately. Here’s what to expect, should you bow to the greeter’s blandishments: EXHIBIT A: LIVE ENTERTAINMENT Live music is popular. This comes in two varieties. A depressed bloke with a Casio keyboard and a passionate hatred for Greeks exacerbated by […]


The Friday Photo: Our Own Private… Bansko


One of the things I love about skiing is when you get the mountain to yourself. Yesterday, we worked our way through a couple of feet of fresh snow down this deserted route in Bansko, Bulgaria, skis hissing on powder and the trees dense with silence. We haven’t been here long enough and it’s already […]


All Ski Instructors Are Not Created Equal

Skiing Bansko

We meet Emil on a run down the mountain. Or, to be more precise, slightly off the mountain, where Z has landed in a half-arsed attempt at a jump, N has followed him, and both appear to be trying to eat their way out of the snow. As Emil yanks N out of three feet […]


How (Not) To Go Skiing On A Budget

Burning Money

Someone once compared sailing to standing fully clothed under a cold shower burning ten pound notes. Which would, I guess, make skiing standing in a blizzard in fifteen layers of clothing burning euros. But you can go skiing on a budget! Here’s what we, umm, didn’t do… 1: Choose A Cheap Resort We got off […]


Some Ill-Informed Observations On Bulgaria


The last time I went to Central Europe, it was Eastern Europe, and it was Communist. The last two countries I visited – Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia – have gone the way of the USSR, and communist youth camps like the one that introduced me, a child of Polish descent, to the land of my ancestors […]


Travel Planning 2012 — Or, Getting My Sh*t Together, Sort Of

Travel Planning Image

I had high hopes for our sojourn in Blighty. By approximately, umm, now, Z and I would have completed a whirlwind tour of the UK, caught up with scores of friends and relatives, and done all the tourist stuff you’re supposed to do in London that you never actually do when you’re actually living there. […]


A Beach. England. January. Are We Mad?

Salt Marshes

There is something extremely English about a trip to the beach in winter. Our beaches, like our weather, our teeth and vast swathes of our national cuisine, are an international laughing stock. Which is not, entirely, fair. This January morning, we walked from Holkham Beach on the Norfolk coast to Wells, a couple of miles […]


The Friday Photo: Yi Lady Smoking


We met this lady from the Yi tribal minority catching the cable car up to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, outside Lijiang, China, to tend to her yaks. I don’t know her first name, which elderly Chinese don’t like to give out, but she did tell me that she is 76 years old and has five […]


5 Things To Do With Kids In London


I wasn’t born in London. But I lived in London from when I was five until I was seventeen, and then again from 21 to 35, and London feels like my (and is my son’s) home town. So here’s my recommendations for five things to do with kids in London. Despite the weather, it’s an […]