Strolling along the River Regnitz into Bamberg, the gentle gurgling of the river accompanied my footsteps. Small wooden boats bobbed on their moorings, and the real world seemed so far away. Gorgeous gardens stretched down to the water, each filled with flowers, vegetables, and even smoke-houses. Behind them stood old timber houses, each one lovingly maintained. Wild flowers grew along the verge. Anything could be happening out in the wider world and I’d have no idea, safely ensconced in this peaceful bubble.
This part of Bamberg is called Kleine Venedig (Little Venice), the old fishermen’s houses beautifully restored. It lies…
I lay in bed, staring at the flood-lit towers of Notre Dame. The sky-light in my room looked straight onto the cathedral. Founded by Saint Landry in 651 AD, the Hôtel-Hospitel Dieu was the first hospital in Paris and still cares for ill Parisians. The ghosts of some 1300 years of medical history glide along its marble corridors, whispering in consultation outside the wards, before passing into the old-fashioned lifts to visit the fourteen quiet hotel rooms hidden on the sixth floor.
Hotels can be seen as merely a place to sleep, or they can be another layer in all…
It was still dark as my guide led me through the jungle. Tree roots spread thick fingers across the path as the noises of the night scuttled around us. Most tourists reach Angkor Wat via the front entrance, where a grand causeway stretches over a wide moat. Instead, we entered from the east, (unusually for Khmer temples, Angkor Wat faces the setting sun, traditionally the symbol of death.) I stumbled over fallen logs and mossy stones before suddenly the temple rose before me: the grandeur of a world long gone.
For nearly six hundred years the area around the once-sleepy…
Once called Fragrant Harbour because of the perfumed breezes which drifted out to greet incoming ships, the smell of Hong Kong is now more distinctive, a mix of heat and unrecognisable spices, a place where drying seafoods and traditional medicines mingle with wet markets and lush vegetation. Then there is that piquant touch which comes from being one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Like Proust’s madeleines, the unique tang of Hong Kong has become locked in my memory.
As a child, the wall of odours crashed over me as soon as I stepped from the plane…
Barcelona simply enchanted me. Drenched in glorious sunshine, she is a city where glimpses of spires and cathedrals beckon from winding alleyways. Every building seemed to be Catalan Art Deco, covered with an elaborate façade, or else boasting balconies with iron railings or statues peering out from the roof corners.
Not far from where Christopher Columbus stands on his towering pedestal and points out to sea, we caught one of those hop-on hop-off buses which now populate every city. A heat wave was brewing, but for the moment the sea breeze kept us cool.
A forgotten wall
Of ancient blocks,
Dressed in moss
Casts no shadow
In the mist.
Across the stones,
Fingering every crack
I’m not cold
No wind blowing
No scent of jasmine
Of small animals.
If only the wall slept under a tangle of vines,
With flowers tumbling over the stones as
The scent of blossom fills the air.
Perhaps a stone seat nearby, looking over a landscape
Of rolling hills and sunsets of soft purple.
Somewhere a hidden gate opens onto
An inner courtyard. …
I didn’t know what I would find when I first went to Saigon — or Ho Chi Minh. Perhaps I was expecting Saigon, a place of past French colonialism, or was I looking for Ho Chi Minh, a city racing to embrace the future?
Against the darkness Mont St Michel rose from the sea, unchanged from medieval times when the island became a mystical emblem of the heavenly Jerusalem, an earthly image of paradise.
Like many a pilgrim before me, I crossed the causeway and entered through the Porte de l’Avancée, passing under the King’s Gate before wending my way along the Grande Rue. The only way around Mont St Michel is by foot. Along with Rome and Santiago de Compostela, Mont St Michel became one of the most important places along the pilgrim route. …
At 10 I discovered travel, books and philosophy. Now I pass my days with a camera in one hand, a notebook in the other, looking for the perfect coffee.