Category Archives: Travel- Europe

BERGERAC – the town with the big fake nose

Cyrano - Australian readers may notice a striking resemblance to John Bell playing the role at Sydney Theatre Company.

Australian readers may notice a striking resemblance to John Bell playing Cyrano for Sydney Theatre Company many years ago. And is that Roxane at the window?


‘How long will it take us to find a statue of Cyrano in Bergerac?’ I ask as we drive into that French town.

Though there was once a real Cyrano de Bergerac who inspired Edmond Rostand’s classic play about the poet with panache and protruding proboscis, there’s no reason to think he ever visited the town in his lifetime.

That doesn’t stop Bergeracians cashing in on his reputation. We park in front of Boulangerie Cyrano, drink café in Café Cyrano, walk a block and find the man himself in front of Maison Cyrano. Continue reading

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LOURDES – no quick fix

Is it just harmless fun or cashing in on people's gullibility?

Is it just harmless fun or cashing in on the gullibility of desperate people?

I find Lourdes disturbing.

It worries me that some people can be so credulous as to think that making a visit to a town in the south of France on Planet Earth, circling an undistinguished star on a remote arm of the Milky Way galaxy, will somehow bring them closer to the creator of the universe.

And it worries me to find myself scoffing at something which is apparently at the core of some people’s lives. Continue reading

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THE TALE OF THE LAGUIOLE KNIFE – were we skinned?

If a deal is too good to be true...?

If a deal is too good to be true…?

Browsing the brocante market in the French town of Bergerac, our friend Carla spots a bargain.

It’s a Laguiole sommelier’s knife, brand new, still in its box. In a typically kind and generous gesture, she buys it (‘for a song,’ she assures us) and presents it to me as a gift. Continue reading

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ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREAT COASTAL DRIVES

The Rope Bridge - no, we didn't walk across it ourselves.

The Rope Bridge – no, we didn’t walk across it ourselves.

The Giant’s Causeway must be the most photographed location in Northern Ireland, the more so since it’s been featured as a Game of Thrones location. We’ve been close a couple of times, but this is the first time we’ve had our own transport and could drive along one of the world’s more spectacular routes, world heritage listed as an AONB – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Continue reading

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WILD LIFE TOURISM ON MULL – where the bloody hell are you?

Grey seals - 'Quick get under water guys, here come the wildlife spotters!'

Grey seals – ‘Quick, get under water guys, here come the wildlife spotters!’


It looks so easy when David Attenborough does it. He whispers a few lines to the camera, parts the bushes and there’s the beast in question doing something photogenic.

We’re learning that real wildlife spotting involves good days and disappointing ones, even on Scotland’s Isle of Mull, a mecca for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

Fortunately, although our trip is billed as the Around Mull: Wildlife Explorer itinerary there are plenty of other attractions to keep us happy in the Hebrides.
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A MINI-VIENNA ON A MINI-BUDGET

The Slovak National Theatre is a sort of reverse Tardis - big and grand on the outside, surprisingly intimate inside.

The Slovak National Theatre is a sort of reverse Tardis – big and grand on the outside, surprisingly intimate inside.

I had to hold back on a full report on my brief stay in the Slovakian capital. Now this article has been published in the paying press I can release it on the blog.

That’s a fine way to start a new year, and Bratislava is well worth a few days of any traveller’s time…

We canny travellers don’t usually buy the most expensive opera seats, but in Bratislava I make an exception. They’re a fraction of the price of the cheapest seats in that swanky opera house in that swanky city up the river.

I had my brilliant ‘Visit Bratislava’ idea just seconds after blanching at the hotel prices in neighbouring Vienna, the only place where I’ve seen ATMs issue €100 banknotes. They know you’ll need them there. Continue reading

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GO WITH THE FLOW – cycling by the Danube

It's one of Europe's most popular cycling routes - hundreds of kilometres of safe, car-free bike path.

It’s one of Europe’s most popular cycling routes – on safe, car-free bike path.

We cyclists hate stopping. When you stop pedalling a bike, it starts to wobble, then topples over. It takes far more effort to get a bike moving than it does to keep it rolling along at a steady speed.

That’s why cyclists run red lights and ring angry bells at pedestrians blocking their bike path. It’s also why, when enlightened planners lay several hundred kilometres of flat, smooth, wide, almost uninterrupted bike path along the iconic Danube River, we come in droves to roll along it. Continue reading

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