EGYPT: NILE CRUISING

GUARDIAN I don’t think I’ve ever been so captivated by a narrative I couldn’t understand.  Thousands of symbols, cartouches and countless pictograms made up a vast, sophisticated strip cartoon that patently meant the world to others – but its meaning completely eluded me. Continue reading

SVALBARD: LONGYEARBYEN CITY PORTRAIT

INTELLIGENT TRAVELLER Situated high in the Svalbard Archipelago – some 300 miles above the northernmost tip of Norway – is one of the most northerly human settlements on the planet.  Only the hardiest of souls survive in this inhospitable environment: a place where the polar bear population easily outnumbers the 2000 human citizens.  No roads connect it with any other community – the only means of transport is by boat, plane or snowmobile.  Welcome to the surreal, isolated blue-white world of Longyearbyen. Continue reading

GUYANA: LARGER THAN LIFE

GUARDIAN In the oppressive, dead-weight heat of midday, an improbably polite man ushered me through security at Georgetown’s dusty domestic airport. Behind him I could hear the gurgling of a Dam-Busterish, chocks-away type plane waiting for me on the tarmac – I was euphoric. Old-time civility – a rarity almost everywhere these days – is a quality you’ll find by the trunk-load in Guyana. It’s very old school: a bit knackered, louche and shambolic – traits that I love. Continue reading

OMAN: OMAN’S ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH

GUARDIAN A dramatic combination of sea and mountains is usually the setting for rugged adventure, a signal for bursts of aerobic activity. But there are some places that demand you slow down. Even though the terrain is apparently calling out for crampons and scuba gear, sometimes it’s better to put your feet up and learn to drift. Continue reading

AMERICA: SURFING FOR STARS

DAILY MAIL My star-spotting credentials are a little dubious. I once enjoyed a drink with a nice guy called Johnny; utterly oblivious to the fact that his surname was Depp. And on a film set I casually asked an actress her name; a puzzled Barbara Streisand soon put me right. This lousy track-record needed improving, so I set out to four of Hawaii’s islands to hone my skills and unearth some of the places where A-list stars hang out. Continue reading

CHINA: SHANGHAI CITY PORTRAIT

INTELLIGENT TRAVELLER Shanghai’s modern skyline would be recognised immediately by Buck Rogers. The ever taller and preposterously capped skyscrapers look like they’ve been designed en-masse by a comic-book illustrator from the 1950’s. It is, quite simply, a wonderful twenty-first-century futurama of both beautiful and ugly architecture. Continue reading

UK: SHROPSHIRE & OFFA’S DYKE

The obvious portal to south Shropshire is Ludlow, a delightful township couched beside the river Teme and below the dramatic folds of Clee Hill. It’s a small medieval and Georgian market-town with an astronomic gastronomic reputation. And although I’m not cursed with a shopping gene; when it comes to buying good food my DNA helix goes positively cock-a-hoop. Continue reading

MADEIRA: FROM HIP RELACEMENTS TO HIP HOTELS

GUARDIAN I was warned that Madeira is no place to build sandcastles; but quite how depleted it is of sand still came as a surprise. Its intriguing primordial rawness – a result of ancient volcanic activity – is omnipresent. Toothy mountains tower dramatically above the capital of Funchal, prod clouds and alter the weather patterns on this Atlantic speck. Beaches are pebble-dashed with boulders. Continue reading