Blog

Once again, my trail has brought me to Glasgow to see Mum. The hiking boots and the rucksack went south and I came north. Just a Virgin train and the No 4 bus from Central Station and I'm quickly back in another world. I had said that I would come...

Monday. Our last day and we woke in the cotton-sheet, fluffy-towel, feather-pillow luxury of Grosmont House to a day already hot. Breakfast was served by the lovely Selma and her sidekick, Mary, the perfect understudy for Mrs Overall and a purveyor of morning cabaret - curt, grumpy and graceless meets...

On Friday we spent the day walking across three of North Yorkshire's glorious moors. Their names are intriguing: Live Moor, Carlton Moor, Cringle Moor. An Aussie hiker had asked me at breakfast to explain what a moor was. The question had surprised me and my reply, I'm sure, did not...

We were in Keld. All was fine. Monday evening spent happily in Keld Lodge, a former youth hostel, now a simple hotel at the halfway point on the C2C. On Tuesday, a dry, mild day of weather at last and the glorious riverside trail along the Swale. A highlight because...

I've found myself checking the symptoms of fatigue, trying to find out whether climbing too many hills and walking in the worst of weathers can bring it on! This year it all seems so much harder than last. A year older, of course, but the difference feels greater than that....

Day 5 is the last day in the Lakes, with the highest point on the whole journey, Kidsty Pike, the final frontier between the Lake District and the gentler landscape of the Eden and Lune Valleys. It's another hard day: a steep trail for several miles to reach Kidsty and...

Two days blog to catch up. Last night I was in a state of near shock, so getting something written was beyond me. No, not the Election results, although the exit poll did play its part. No, the shock was from the day we spent out on the Lakeland hills,...

Today we reached Grasmere. Chocolate-box Lakeland, a village full of country hotels, letting cottages and, thus, tourists. We never really want to tarry here, but Coast to Coasters, it seems, often take a rest day here especially the ones from Oz or the USA. They have a day off, perhaps...

Well! Looks like Noah is hereabouts. Last night as we walked the short distance from the Fox and Hounds pub, where we had dinner and exchanged raucous stories with fellow travellers (mostly Aussies with a smattering of Yanks), rainwater was streaming down the road, rivulets forming in the tiny ridges...

The thing about the C2C is that you walk no matter what the weather. There's no choice unless, perhaps, you chicken out and take a taxi to the next overnight stop. As if! The forecasters had warned of dire weather and, as we woke in our grim room at the...

Back at St Bee's. Back again at the start of the famous walk across England, the Coast to Coast (aka C2C or even 2C2 which, if you say it out loud and quickly, trips nicely off the tongue). This is our fourth time. I love it and keep wanting to...

So we have a full day to go and we are almost packed – so much so that Jim is painting again and I am writing this. What’s left is a day tomorrow when we might have time to walk one of our favourite walks once more. The mood changed about...

We were out walking again the other day, returning to the Cabo de Gata Parque Natural to hike a new trail. Come lunchtime, we needed somewhere to shelter out of the strong, cool wind, to hunker down and tuck into our cheese and tomato sandwiches. We found a perfect grassy...

Yesterday we met Raoul and he told us about how the land is dying. It seems counter to all that we’ve seen here while we’ve been out walking, the flowers that have captivated us with their abundance, colour and fragrance. But Raoul knows differently and he showed us how to...

If you take the coast road south from Bedar, you pass the tourist playas of Mojacar and then along a road that sweeps like a silver ribbon around the coastal Sierra Cabrera. The A5106 is a feat of engineering – fantastic views out to sea as you round another dramatic...

If you read last year’s blog from Bedar you may recall my surprise at discovering, in this modest little pueblo, a gym packed with exercise machines, weights, punchbags and mirrors, reverberating to the chest-thumping beat of workout music and offering various fitness classes. My blog piece, Bedar Boot Camp (25/1/16),...

Yesterday we went walking. We returned to Los Josefos and Cariatiz where, two years ago, we stayed when we first came to Spain to retreat from winter’s worst. I must admit, though, that this wasn’t the plan when we set out. No, we had planned a new walk to an...

  Bar La Montana (BLM), as its name suggests is up a mountain. Well, up a hill might be more accurate, the hill above Bedar, in fact, where it stands in a tiny pueblo called El Campico, reached by a series of sharp hairpin bends. It looks like a great little...

Natasha has been visiting – so lots of blethering and much less blogging since Thursday. A long weekend was all that could be spared – so now back to the routine. But first, the airport run. She flew home from San Javier airport, on the coast about 25km from Murcia and...

I bring my bread-making things with me to Spain. My sourdough starter, tenderly nurtured over the last couple of years in Teddington, makes the journey, carefully fed before we set out and gently stowed in the boot of the car along with a cast-iron casserole well past its prime but...

I call Glasgow every evening. It’s just the same when I’m at home, the evening call to Mum. But, somehow, when I’m in London I don’t think of it as the Blighty Nightly. Well, when you’re actually in Blighty you don’t think of it as Blighty, do you? And, in...

It’s been snowing on the sierras. We woke on Thursday morning to a sprinkling of the white stuff on the slopes just above the village. Bedar is at 404 metres above sea level so the snow line is at about 420! Quite a shock, I can tell you, this wreaking...

I changed my mind about Garrucha. I struggled with it last year (see the blogpost of 5 February - Garrucha: one town, two worlds). From the little rented cortijo where we’re staying, we look at it across the scrubby coastal plain, and beyond it the sea. It’s unattractive this land...

There’s a bar on the corner of the seafront in Garrucha. It stands out from the rest of the seafront bars for its air of tradition: wooden shutters, old letters spelling out Meson de Adriana, a dark doorway with intimations of plants and tiles, barrels, lace-edged tablecloths. A taberna in the...

Friends are visiting. Liam and Jilly have dropped in from Hastings for a few days. So we’ve swopped our usual routine of working, walking and reading for a new one of talking, walking and eating. It’s been great! We were headed for Lubrin this lunchtime. Into the hinterland far away from...

Back in Spain. Back on the blog. The third year of taking time out, escaping winter, sloping off to the sierras. It’s Day 3 – still settling in. Jim is into his stride quickly: his easel is up and a canvas is already well worked. In fact, I see he’s leaning...

Just when you thought I'd gone again for a while, I'm back. Sitting in Teddington musing over my recent musings I discovered that the blog record is incomplete. Lovely Patterdale has been left out thanks, I think, to the vagaries of the Patterdale YHA internet connection and the failure of...

Reaching the end of the C2C you feel relieved and bereft all at once; a strange mingling of mirth and melancholy. A bit like finishing a really long novel that’s engrossed you completely, you close the book and feel a sense of loss. It’s been a part of your life...

On our last morning we awoke to fog as thick as parsnip soup. It wasn’t raining but it was dull and damp, like a curtain had been drawn low across the land. After 15 days of dry, often sunny weather, this was a shock. It was as if the end...

In the rich lexicon of place names that has guided and amused us, two standout entries sit alongside one another on the way from Blakey to Glaisdale. Our penultimate day, we've covered 170 of the 200 miles so more silly names to add to the already long list (Gobble Hall...

After crossing the heather-clad expanse of Urra the trail meets the disused Rosedale Ironstone Railway at Bloworth Crossing - more fabulous names. Four miles of walking along the cinder-lined track takes you past Farndale Moor to Blakey. Sweeping right and left in long, soft curves and with barely a gradient,...

Another great name - Urra. Earthy, primitive, rolls wonderfully off the tongue. We looked across to Urra when we came down off the hills on Sunday. That night we stayed in the rather dated and drab Wainstone Hotel in Great Broughton, about 2.5 miles off the trail. We discovered (rather too...

It's interesting what you learn about your fellow hikers as you pass them and are passed by them over the days. Sometimes these short exchanges by the trail are filled out by longer conversations over a meal in the pub or a breakfast at a shared B&B. There are so...

We saw the North Sea again today, off in the distance as we looked out from high ground towards Hartlepool and Teeside. Within reach of the eye but still three days away on foot. Distances become times when you're walking - how many days or hours will it take? Yesterday...

On Day 12 we have left the Swale and are heading towards the Cleveland Hills and the North York Moors. It's been the least interesting and enjoyable day despite (or maybe because of?) walking over flat terrain. On top of that, to use the eloquent Scottish vernacular, it was a...

Here we are on Day 11 and for four of those days we've had the burbling company of the River Swale. As we came down off the bleak Pennine ridge, we picked up this sublime river at Keld and we have meandered on or near its banks ever since. Overnighting...

There's great representation from the colonies. I've counted 22 Australians (4+4+14) keeping pace with us on the C2C - or perhaps more accurately, we're managing to keep pace with them! The first 4 were Aussie-cum-Kiwis; they took a rest day in Patterdale so we've left them behind, sadly. We liked...

The contrasts could not be greater. 24 hours after walking across the great emptiness up on the Pennines, we spent today following gentle grassy trails through meadows of buttercups and clover along the north bank of the River Swale, following it as it chatters and murmurs its way east through...

Pure white heads attached to fabulously fluffy bodies in a fashionable mocha brown, Herdwick sheep are like horizontal cappuccinos on legs and, by some distance, are the most attractive of the sheep we've encountered on this sheep-strewn journey. The lambs are black from head to toe, making the Herdwick 'en...

They call this the backbone of England, here, just east of Kirkby Stephen, where our C2C route crosses the great watershed of England, the west/east divide, the Pennines. Hmmm - this is one soft, spongy, spine. England's backbone is a great big bog. Believe me, I'm a Scot, and we...

To walk the C2C is to travel through a world of miraculous stone walls. Timeless reminders of man's impact on the landscape, the scale of these incredible structures takes your breath away. Hundreds of years old, they have outlived generation after generation of shepherds, farmers, landowners and labourers. Some have...

Here's what I would have written yesterday had the spirit and the flesh been equal to the task and the atmosphere in the Crown Inn's most raucous of bars been conducive to creative thought! Tranquil Patterdale, tucked away and somehow still untarnished by the tourist mob that regularly colonises its bigger...

Sitting in the Crown Inn in Shap at the end of Day 5 having a taste of Cumbrian life! It's a real 'boozer' filled with locals out for a few on a Saturday night. Two widescreen TVs blare from either corner, one showing football, the other motor racing, and there's...

Sitting by Grisedale Tarn, reflections of sky and hillside, even of sheep moving along one of their trails on the far side of the tarn their movement echoed perfectly in the still surface of the dark water. Some cloud and patches of blue are reflected too, but this bit of...

26 May and Day 3 dawned overcast and cool but dry. A day of adventure when I realised that memory is extremely episodic - well mine is anyway. You see, it's just 9 miles from Rosthwaite to Grasmere, today's destination. Not a breeze but our recollection was of a steady...

Day 2 and it's a welcome surprise, on waking up in the comfy king size at the Fox and Hounds, that all my body's moving parts are still moving. There are some distinctly reluctant limbs here and there and some tetchy reaction from muscles preferring to continue sleeping rather than...

24th May 2016 You forget how tough this is. You forget how sore you feel at the end of each of the first few days. 14 miles is no walk in the park but it's not a marathon either. And being the first day somehow it always feels like much much...

23rd May 2016 We're about to do one of the great walks crossing the north of England from the west coast to the east. Coast to Coast. Shorthand for this is C2C - the only short thing about it, frankly, as it's 200 miles not counting any detours, planned, unplanned or...

So we’re getting ready to leave. We just packed up and cleaned the cortijo to a gleaming spotlessness, repositioning bits of furniture we had moved to accommodate our particularities (mainly making space for books), hoping that we’ve returned everything to its rightful place. The diary checking started a few days ago:...

Rambling has another connotation here in Spain – in addition to walking and wittering on (and yes, I agree, I have a capacity and a penchant for both). A Spanish rambla is a ravine or watercourse – although as is obvious from other blog posts, the ‘water’ is a misnomer...

AVE – the Spanish acronym for Alta Velocidad Española – the high speed trains. Of which Spain has the most extensive system in Europe in terms of miles of track laid. ‘Ave’ is also the Spanish for ‘bird’ – so I guess a happy coincidence? The AVE, at least seen from...

So, onto lunch, and one of those eccentricities that travel has a habit of throwing up. Imagine the scene. We’re back in the one-horse pueblo of El Pozo, with its 200 Spanish souls (and that’s a generous guess), its bar on the main street and a tiny foodstore but not much...

So now you’ve met Amaya. We were invited to spend a day with her and her husband, Miguel, last weekend. They live in Almeria but spend the weekends in the house they used to live in and still own in a tiny pueblo about an hour’s drive south from our cortijo. We...

Firstly, apologies for blog blackout in recent days. A mixture of distractions – some work (yes, real work) involving writing several thousand words, which left me speechless, or rather blogless; it seemed to use up all my verbal capacities, and then back they came just in time for the internet...

Sitting outside Casa Enriqueta for a tiny tapas lunch of cheese and bread with some tomatoes on the side unadorned save for the sprinkling of salt and a drizzling of the most delicious olive oil, bright green and full of fruit. Enriqueta served us herself – an enigmatic woman running...

I think I mentioned Garrucha in an earlier post and I think I said I would write more about it by and by. I’ve been struggling a bit with Garrucha; there’s something odd about the place. From our cortijo we look across to it every day so it’s always ‘there’;...

You didn’t misread that – yesterday we walked to Tenerife! At 394 metres (that’s 1292 feet and towering over Box Hill!), Cerro Tenerife (‘Hill’ Tenerife – ‘Mount’ would be overstating it) is the highest point of the Sierra Almagrera, a rocky spur that runs northeast to southwest close enough to the...

We’re more than half way through our time here, which makes me pause for thought. It takes a while to settle into a rhythm in a strange place. It’s not a holiday, but a transfer of life for a few weeks – well part of life at least – and...

I wanted to write about the flora and fauna hereabouts and came up with a witty title for the post – Aloe Aloe! Well, it would appeal to anyone who watched the classic 1980s BBC sitcom with the incomparable Rene, who would, no doubt, have had some risqué things to...

An action-packed few days since my last post. Boy, have I been through my paces! Seemed like a good plan to get some discipline into the routine here and get fitter. So, the training regime has started and my body aches in places I never knew existed – but oh,...

On fiesta day, Lubrin is full of colour. Every first floor balcony is adorned with a flag in either green and white or red and yellow stripes, alternating in perfect harmony along the main streets, displaying a high degree of neighbourliness or an ironfisted local mayor with an eye for design....

Yesterday, what a day! The Berlingo eased through the low gears in the morning, handling the hairpins like a wannabe rally car - what a motor! We were headed into the back country on a spectacular road, high up in the Sierra de los Filabres, destination Lubrin. The journey was...

Sunday morning and we have walked into the village in search of some Spaniards. Beyond the señoras of the supermercado, the panaderia and the peripatetic Postie, sightings have been rare. Not that we’ve been in the least exhaustive in our efforts to locate them. We’ve been reasonably contented on our...

I had a little episode with the postal system, the Correos, last year. I’ve been at it again. I have a parcel to post to Scotland. A long story attaches to the contents of this parcel. In brief, one of my handwoven items, conceived and partly manufactured in Scotland, has come...

Still no luck working out how Filabres might translate into English but I’ll keep trying. Meanwhile, here’s a funny story shared with me by Tom, geologist, artisan bread-maker extraordinaire and now, raconteur. He posted this as a comment to my blog piece on Bedar. Tom recalls: “Sierra de los Filabres...

A couple of chums have commented that I haven’t yet posted anything about the weather. Most un-British - have I gone native? The Spanish, it seems, rarely talk about the weather except, perhaps, to discuss worries about drought, on which there is much, very much to be worried about here...

I can always tell if the Artist has his Muse because of the tuneless humming, occasional whistling (equally tuneless), that starts to accompany his studio sessions. It’s been a bit of a worry. He’s been all listless and doubting, silent and fretful, feeling blue, but in the metaphorical as opposed...

Here I am sitting in the coolth of the living room in Cortijo el Curato. This translates as the Parish Farmhouse - although the Curate's Farmhouse would somehow be more intriguing and suggestive ……. Our cortijo is a modest, squat little house, its stone-clad walls blending quietly into a south-facing hillside....

So we got some sleep, recovered from the journey and in between we unpacked and settled into our cortijo - of which much more soon. We’re staying on the edge of the pueblo of Bedar, up in the hills but in sight of the Med. Whitewashed houses, cobbled streets and terracotta...

It was quite a journey. 1286 miles not counting the bit of cross-channel lurching twixt port and starboard, Portsmouth and Le Havre courtesy of Brittany Ferries and the sea state of La Manche. As the ship and I rolled about this way and that, my mind turned to the huge...

I’m back! Back in Spain’s deep south. Back on the blog. Last year was our first attempt to see out the worst of the winter in sunny Spain. The adventure was cut short by the call back home to nurse my Mum and so, I forsook the sunny sierra for Glasgow’s...

The time comes again, time to go, travel’s inevitable destination. Feeling ready to go home but not feeling ready to leave. Time of ambivalences and contradictions – I call it brimful of emptiness.  I wrote some of this when I was still in Buenos Aires but I couldn’t finish till...

So as the days count down to journey’s end, a few reflections on some of the charms, quirks and oddities of this intriguing city. Forgive the silliness of alliteration but a string of B-words was just too tempting: bumpers, bicycles, bulldogs and beef. I tried to find F-words but alas,...

For a rapid transition from the ‘real South America’ of Bolivia to the bustle of one of the continent's great cities, what better than Street Art? So, off the plane, some shut-eye, a bit of freshening up and I was off to join a tour. Buenos Aires is famed for its street art, helped no...

A little tribute to Doña Elizabet is necessary. The visit to Candelaria was incredible - but it could have been quite different. You can't help being from another place, another planet, certainly another era, with your modern dress, your money, your view on the world. What made the difference for us...

Isabel is 26 years old. She’s been weaving for 10 years and now has the skill to make the most exquisite pieces on her crude loom - just a couple of strong vertical poles of wood notched to support two horizontal ones. Isabel’s mother died when she was very young...

I think this was my first hacienda; the next one has a lot to live up to. An earlier hacienda built by the Jesuits had fallen into disrepair and the land into disuse. A few owners bought and sold it over the years, including a rather colourful old rogue who made...

There is so much to say about Candelaria, where it is, what it is, what it meant and all the many trains of thought that it set off in my head. Far too much for a single blogpost, so there will be a few. The communities around Sucre are renowned for...

Like I said in the last blog, in Sucre you are in a much more indigenous society. Skin tone and facial features are striking - smooth skin the colour of burnished walnut, high cheekbones and jet black hair distinguishing the majority of the city dwellers. How they dress sets apart...

You need to walk around the streets a bit to pick up on Sucre's little quirks. For a start, it's the chocolate capital of Bolivia, famed for producing wonderful, mainly dark chocolate that vies with the Ecuadorian stuff to be the finest in South America. The range of flavours is...

The city is bigger than I imagined, sitting in a valley surrounded on all sides by gentle hills. Red brick buildings have crept up all these hillsides, many of them looking like works in progress, but this is South America so you can never tell! The colour is arresting as...

Eek the errors! I put it down to the soroche! Twas not anyone 'in your skulk trying tondig theur way out'!! Although that about sums up the headache. But, 'someone in your skull trying to dig their way out'. Apologies.        ...

Sorry about the little break in blogmission in the last few days but, well, since having that bad air day, we've been flat out - and I use the term advisedly.  Flat out busy being tourists and, alas, forced to be flat out suffering from soroche. All this has kept...

We booked to go to Bolivia for 5 nights, leaving Wednesday and making the most of public holidays over Easter when Natasha was off work. Destination Sucre, the old capital of Bolivia and a centre of textiles, weaving and chocolate - paradise in other words. A connecting flight in Santa...

The Palacio Barolo is a secret masterpiece of neo-Gothic extravagance hidden right in the heart of Buenos Aires, just down the road from Congreso (parliament). It's not established on the tourist trail of must-see destinations, but for the culturally discerning or the visitor looking for something quite bizarre and incongruous, it...

The asado is an institution here, Argentina at play 'en familia', the focal point on a warm weekend, a feast of food, drink and company, when the hombres flex their culinary muscles and set to work feeding family and friends. My tiny dictionary, the one that makes it to the...

The city is a spectacular blend of order and chaos, a contradiction that has you thrilled and flabbergasted. First off, it's on a huge, flat coastal plain and, with no hills to navigate, the town planners could just put down a perfect grid. Long vertical avenues are intersected by long...

I was back with the abuelas on Thursday. They have a regular outing to the Plaza de Mayo on a Thursday afternoon at 3.30 so I planned my day around it. I wasn't sure what to expect from this, a weekly ceremony that's become iconic, a real destination event. So...

24 March is a big day in the national calendar. It's the day the dictatorship or Dirty War started in 1976. It lasted 7 years and cost more than anyone here could count; most indelibly fixed in the minds of the Argentinian people, it cost the lives of 30,000 desaparecidos...

I don't know if I should be worried that my daughter decided on Day 2 of my stay that a visit to a cemetery would be a good plan...

Buenos Aires packs so many punches it's difficult to know where to start. But an hour on the No 63 bus scorching rubber through the endless streets to the south-western suburb of Mataderos is as good as any. And I do mean scorching rubber. Bus travel here is akin to...

Sao Paulo airport on a humid Saturday morning. Escape from the confines of caring these past few weeks; time for a bit of R&R away from the late winter chill. I saw the sun rise here, a little reluctantly it seemed as it struggled out from a grey-white shroud -...

It's cold, 4 below in fact, clear, sunny and still. The kind of day when Glasgow winks at you in a knowing way - knowing it's looking its best. The sandstone of the West End, red and gold, just sparkles in the sunlight, its big, bonny buildings braced for admirers. I'm...

  ……..I mean the stuff about Glasgow never seeing the daylight. Since Thursday the sun has been shining on the snowy hills that cradle the city to the south and north. We (my big sister and me) were walking in Rouken Glen, the local park, with its glen walk, waterfalls, all...

So, not great being back in Blighty. Glasgow is snowy, windy and bitterly cold. Feels like it doesn’t get fully light. But boy, it's good to be back to the BBC. For all the criticism it gets, some of it justified, it sure beats the hell out of its commercial...

Strange concept huh? But lo, I blog from the deep and wide valley of the River Clyde and can confirm that the barrancas hereabout do not lack for water. Nope, they are brimful and regularly replenished. Unscheduled return on account of the aged mother being a poorly soul and in need...

Have you ever done that quaintly British thing whilst on a holiday to the Costa Brava/Blanca or Sol? You know the one where on about your second day you buy the postcards to send home, write them rather wearily towards the end of the holiday and then panic about getting...

Like I said, we came away from our tapas experience pondering what it must be like to live here permanently, inhabiting a strangely hybrid society of disconnected individuals in the corner of a foreign land. Of course, one makes all sorts of possibly scurrilous and certainly baseless assumptions about the lives...

Today was a ‘big walk’ day. This is to distinguish it from the ‘regular walk’ days that are every day – except on the big walk days – OK clear? So the routine is this. Get up in the morning, have breakfast and then head out onto the sierras and up...

Devoted readers will know of my dislike of, nay prejudice against microwaves. Darn things, I can never work out how to set them. Just as I think I’ve got it sorted, all the watts and the times and the little pictures of a trussed chicken or a dead fish are...

So, Almeria. Maybe it’s a city. Not sure. One of those in-between places. Massive port though with all sorts of ships moored alongside regular ferries to Morocco – a crossing that takes anything from 5 to 9 hours – I think that’s more about destination rather than simply that some...

Just an hour down the road – and what a road – is the lovely town of Almeria. But before launching into its delights, I have to tell you about the journey. From Los Josefos the N340a (a road that seems to pop up all over the place) takes you West....

As I counted down the weeks and days to setting out from London bound for here, I contemplated the culinary opportunities that a long stay in a country rich in markets and produce would offer. In particular, I decided I’d get down to some serious experimentation – and after some...

Artist’s impression of where we’re staying is attached to this post (I hope).  Before you get any ideas, we are tucked away at the back. See the stairs going up to the roof terrace? Well our front door is left of those and that’s our wee bit. Attached to the...

So, let’s start with where we are - 1,370 miles from London virtually due south. Three days of driving in the super sexy, deeply dependable, beautiful blue Berlingo brought us here. What a motor! Our village or ‘pueblo’ is called Cariatiz and claims 55 inhabitants (now 57, of course!). Were you...

I'm back! Blogging from Spain's very own Deep South. We've swopped the trains, hostels and cities of southeast Europe for a rural backwater in the driest corner of this amazing continent. 7 weeks here to escape the damp chill of a Blighty winter, another blog is, well, irresistible. So, Tales...

Can you hear the haunting sound of the bugle? Yep, this is the end of the road and I'm posting this from Teddington where the sun is shining and the living is easy. The last leg of the journey and another adventure! Those adventures, they pop up when you least...

Smoking! We had forgotten how much it used to be part of our culture and how dramatic the change has been in the UK these last ten or twenty years. The further east you travel, the more you travel back to a time when smoking was the norm. Lots and...

Brands are what unite is, reaching across language and culture. Starbucks is where the world comes together. Were we naive to think we would escape the dreadful corporate with its truly terrible coffee? Yes, probably. The first shock was early on. There's a Starbucks in the Grande Place in Brussels...

It seemed an appropriate place to end the continental part of the journey, not least because it's one of the few points where you can get across the Channel 'on foot' as it were! Pitch up on spec for Eurostar and you'll need a bank loan; our precious interrail passes...

I wrote this yesterday as we sat in a very crowded ICE train between Koln and Bruxelles. The 'journey' is nearly over and I have so much in my head that blog posts are starting to go forth and multiply. Travel like this, with long periods where you surrender responsibility...

For any German-speaker, apologies but I can't find the Umlaut for Koln. A very long day on the trains started with the 0852 from Vienna's West Bahnhof and ended at 1815 on the doorstep of the cathedral here, The Koln Dom. Quite a setting for a cathedral, right by a massive...

A day in Vienna and you don't even scratch the surface of all those amazing buildings that look like they're cakes, nay gateaux, decorated with magnolia icing. A bit of a fairy-tale city, too much really. Could not be more different from Istanbul. We had a day. I suppose we...

We arrived at the dull but adequate Tulip Hotel and the night concierge was already on duty. Jim thought he had something of the Herbert van Rompuy about him, so he called him Herbert, but I prefer Ernst. So let's call him Ernst - it suits his style. Mid-50s, balding,...

We had planned to reach Istanbul about the time our interrail passes expired and then take a flight back to the UK. Ahead of schedule by several days, we had the option of heading home by rail, but couldn't quite face the night trains or buses through to Sofia and...

Sights (not sites), sounds and other stuff The city has a great transport system, from the most sophisticated to the most archaic and much in between. Top of the archaic category is the little trolley bus that trundles slowly up and down Istiklal Caddesi (Istanbul's answer to Oxford Street) and must...

[caption id="attachment_288" align="alignnone" width="300"] Just a regular mosque Mosque[/caption]...

[caption id="attachment_287" align="alignnone" width="270"] Detail of the Blue Mosque[/caption]...

A sketching and writing stop beside one of the gates to the Topkapi palace. Jim perched on a wall, Lizzie a few yards away under a tree. Enter Ahmed, tall, dark, with a neat beard, twinkly eyes, denim jeans and a pale blue shirt, immaculate. The ultimate Turkish cool? Perhaps...

There's a huge mosque just the other side of the Galata bridge and another one up on the hill further left, near the Grand Bazaar. These are the attention grabbers as you walk over the bridge and approach the old part of Istanbul from the north and you are amazed...

Impossible to do justice to this amazing city but here goes. We're sitting at the water's edge on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. The sounds are those of the sea and boats; ferries pass by back and forth across this small stretch of water so frequently that you can always...

I've  got to thinking that the worst possible arrival point in a major city is the train station. They're often dismal places with dark unpleasant corners where rubbish collects and people loiter. Ironically, the opposite is true in Istanbul where the Sirkeci station, located just below the Topkapi palace and...

So, in Sofia we are nearing our journey's end - at least in the sense of achieving the goal of Istanbul. Trains become really quite complicated the further east you go; there are few options and those that are available are slow and dismal as a rule. Work on bits...

No, we don't know if his name was Boris but it's an odds on possibility given the number of Borises in Bulgarian history. In any case he's Jim's new buddy and they shared and exchanged views on matters political and economic. His is an interesting story that's probably been repeated...

The language stuff I keep blogging about is probably getting a bit tiresome now. But just to say, the famous four words are much more of a mouthful than in the other Balkan countries but that 'ciao' travels very well. The really tough thing, though, is that if you shake...

Introducing a couple of characters we encountered on our short stay in Sofia. Hostel Nightingale - charming name, flattering leaflet we picked up in Belgrade, it's a bit down on its luck these days, a little scruffy, not always fragrant thanks to the age of the building and the inadequacy...

Sofia's central station has all the features of a communist era low-budget structure, whose mean concrete lustre has faded while its contents slowly crumble - every escalator is broken, paving stones cracked or ripped up, unlit corridors connect grim platforms. Under grey skies we climbed down from the night train, tired,...

The night train to Sofia - it sounded so romantic, exotic and adventurous as we sat at breakfast in Arlington Road one winter's day sometime late 2013. We'll take a couchette, the perfect way to get a decent night's sleep. 'Couchette' - it has an alliterative quality somehow - cushiony,...

The language thing gets easier. All four former Yugoslav nations basically share a language with only a few local variations. The Serbs have resolved the Zbogom issue for us - they have adopted 'Ciao' for their goodbyes. But before saying ciao to Serbia, a few things Serbian that we came...

Our last day in Belgrade before catching the overnight train to Sofia just before 10pm tonight. We knew it would rain but right now it's absolutely tipping it down, bouncing off the pavement type of rain! A perfect day for seeing the galleries but most of them are closed for...

Lodging at the economy end of the market here in Serbia's jaded but fascinating capital, we're staying in the Hostelche hostel. Housed in a rather forbidding block of flats, it's a warm colourful place with a fridge stocked full of beer and a rack stocked full of leaflets to entice...

We had hoped to travel via Sarajevo, dropping into the famous city in the 100th year since its most famous event. They've even reopened the City Hall where the infamous Princip did the deadly deed. However, to say train travel to Bosnia, in Bosnia and from Bosnia is problematic would...

So I learned the usual four words in Croatian. Hello (in the 'Good day' sense) and thank you are the same as Slovenian - really helpful and now tripping effortlessly off the tongue! 'Please' has similarities (molim rather than prosim) but 'Goodbye' is a whole different ball game. Hello, as...

Zagreb redeemed itself today. What a great city. Fabulous buildings, lots of green spaces, hidden nooks where there's usually a beer or a coffee to be had and you can slip away from the crowds, trams in the brightest blue cross-crossing the city, a Museum of Arts and Crafts with...

Sitting in the Gallery of Modern Art and lucky to be here when a huge thunderstorm set off! Seeing how unprepared we were for the weather (shorts, sandals) the staff here suggested we just take a seat in the gallery and wait for it to pass.Jim set to sketching to...

So the 'Human Fish' thing got resolved on a trip to the Tivoli Gardens here in Ljub. A billboard display of Slovenian ecology has a picture of the Olm, or'human fish' in the direct translation from Slovenian. A cave-dwelling amphibious creature that was first identified here and lives down in...

In another example of how things get a little lost in translation how about the top billing on this board standing outside a little bar in Stari Trg - one of the many quaint backstreets of Ljubljana (which I will call Ljub) whence this latest blog comes. It is a...

Grow your own They're all at it in Slovenia! From the moment we crossed the border at Jesenice they're all around. Vegetables. Allotments run along the side of the railway line, planted in pleasingly straight rows, so many varieties, tightly packed and at that perfect stage of bloom - out and...

Jaka, who runs the place where we're staying, suggested a walk to the Vintgar Gorge might suit folk like us. I guess she has us down as 'bright light refusers' - either she's very astute or we're easy to read. In any case, we cleared out of town early, with...

So, we trod gingerly down the 1 in 6 gradient to the station this morning, knees tender and complaining from the efforts of yesterday, and caught the 11.11 to Villach. There we changed to a Slovenian train to take us across the border, destination Lake Bled. Hmmm - the lake is...

A little tribute to the wonderful Helga, owner of the Fruhstuckspension Sunnhauesl in St Veit and a supreme example of Austrian hospitality. The name of her establishment may be a bit of a mouthful, but her welcome was faultless, the place spotlessly clean, comfortable and quiet and her apricot Kuchen...

The hills are alive with ...

So, salzburgrooms.com, despite its lack of 'soul' was a triumph - clean, comfortable, and with sufficient kit that we could self-cater for dinner. And we both had a fantastic sleep setting us up perfectly for today and the next leg of the journey...

The 0909 from Ulm to Munich and just beyond Augsburg our first glimpse of the Alps. Trying to work out the economics of the German railway system. This is a standard 2nd class carriage on an ICE train. It's morning and close to peak time. Yet the train is almost...

Agnes done good! Four splendid train journeys each one punctual to the half minute. What joy - oh, and the sun was shining too! Hopped on the 0833 to Strasbourg and with changes at Offenburg and Karlsruhe we finally reached Ulm (however it's pronounced) just before 2pm.   A footbridge across...

Before I catch up with today's progress I have to share the story of Agnes. As we braved the rain yesterday, thoughts turned to our next destination on the trail ever southwards and eastwards. We had some ideas and I had found a gem of a hostel on the way to...

Whose idea was this? Ah yes, Jim had this notion that continental Europe is perpetually sunny from about mid May. And I was gullible enough to believe him! Who's he kidding? We tossed a coin at Bruxelles Midi Zuid this morning and the 10.33 to Luxembourg just pipped the Frankfurt option...

Room 303 (three times worse than Room 101) at the Hotel Continental - sounds very grand but is anything but. Strangely, the TV in the lobby is tuned to Sky Sports 2 and 1-day cricket between England and Sri Lanka! I have to tell you all that the omens are astonishingly...

Monday afternoon, Teddington - and creating this blog is one of the many things that should have been done many weeks ago so that I would wow you all, my audience of friends and family interested in (amused, concerned, stupefied by?) the forthcoming journey of Lizzie and Jim, with my...