Monthly Archives: February 2012


Next Time I’m Getting A Flu Shot

Plague doctor image from early manuscript.

Until, ooh, about six weeks ago, I was one of those irritating people who’d bang on and on about their marvelous immune system and how they NEVER get sick when travelling. You know the sort… Oysters in Thailand. Ceviche in Kenya. Mysterious stews in Guatemalan eateries with pigs foraging in the mud around the tables, […]


The Friday Photo: Rice Terraces


This time next week we’ll be in the Middle East, landscapes of deserts, river, rock and mountain. But rice terraces form some of the loveliest human-made landscapes on earth: this one’s from Sapa, Vietnam.


A Big Day Out

Houses of Parliament

How much of London can you see in a single day? Armed with a London Pass and the very best intentions to get out of bed early, the boy and I endeavoured to find out. You might not have heard of the London Pass — I certainly hadn’t. But it’s a smart card that lets […]


The Friday Photo: Tower Bridge


We’ve spent most of this week being tourists in London, which used to be our home town. And Tower Bridge, the late Victorian edifice that spans the Thames besides the Tower of London, is a London icon: the middle part splits and raises so that tall ships can pass through. It doesn’t have the scale […]


On the Politics of Museums

Parthenon Sculptures 1

The more time we spend in museums around the world, the more I come to realise how very, very political they are. Take the National Museum of China. When it closed for refurbishment a couple of years ago, exhibits were arranged according to the Marxist theory of history: Primitive Communism, Slave Society, Feudalism, Capitalism, etc. […]


In Which I Lose My Child. Again.

Mum I'm In The Metro

“Yeah,” I say to Z. “It’s too cold to walk a mile in this. Let’s catch the Metro…” After our chilly arrival, we are beginning to, umm, warm to Sofia a little. Or, at least, to accept that, given we only have a day here (I hate travelling fast), we should get out of our […]


The Friday Photo: Ready For Some Beach


The beaches in Kuta, Lombok, where we learned to surf, are some of the prettiest I’ve seen in Indonesia — even including the wonders of Pulau Derawan and Morotai. But the Middle East, where we’re headed next, has some amazing beaches, too. And, right now, I need me some of that.


Yes, Minus 22 Degrees Is Pretty Chilly, Thanks


One of many difficult questions I faced in balmy, lovely Indonesia was: “Is it cold in England?” Because, what do you say to folk who find 22°C (71.6°F) a bit nippy, pile on four jumpers and their thickest coat should the mercury drops to the freezing depths of 15° C60°F), and have never seen ski […]


The Friday Photo: Sofia Cathedral


Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, isn’t on many people’s bucket lists. But the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, an enormous Byzantine revival edifice erected to celebrate the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1878, is as splendid on the inside as it is on the outside. And that is pretty splendid.


The Cutest City You’ve Never Heard Of…


Plovdiv Old Town is the single prettiest place we’ve visited since beautiful Lijiang in China. The city’s history is written in its walls. Successive generations of conquerors — Macedonian, Roman, Bulgar and Ottoman — have left their mark here, cannibalising each other’s buildings to build and defend anew. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities […]