Category Archives: Travel- Europe

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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Filed under Travel- Europe

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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Filed under Architecture, Budget travel, Travel- Europe

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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Filed under Austria, Cycle touring, Cycling

THE ARTIST WHO MADE VIENNA FUN

In a nondescript back street, one facade springs out is unmissable.

In a nondescript back street, one facade catches the eye.

At first I found Vienna and the Viennese a little intimidating. Too grand, too well-dressed, and possibly too expensive. The ATM dispensed 100 euro banknotes – it was the first time I’d seen them.

That Habsburg architecture is impressive of course, though isn’t it also overblown and pompous? Fine for a palace or opera house but would you really want to live under all those cherubs in the cornices?

So it was welcome light relief to discover Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who revamped a Viennese city incinerator and later the public toilet block in Kawakawa, New Zealand, making them surely the world’s most enjoyable garbage disposal units. Continue reading

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Austria

MULLING IT OVER IN SCOTLAND

The Glen Tarsan, between Iona and Mull.

The Glen Tarsan, between Iona and Mull.

It was a great week. Here’s the full article about our cruise around the Isle of Mull, recently published in the Fairfax Press in Australia…

‘I so want that boat,’ says the American lady beside me.

With its dark blue hull and gold funnel, the polished wood of its superstructure catching the light, it bobs on the inlet below us, framed by yellow gorse bushes in the foreground and the rocky shore of the Isle of Mull beyond.

I eavesdrop as a discussion starts among the members of her tour bus party. Is it a local fishing boat? Too clean. A private pleasure cruiser? Too old-fashioned.

Smugness gets the better of me. ‘It’s my boat,’ I say. And for this week, it is. Continue reading

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A FRENCH MOUNTAIN VILLAGE

St Martin sur Vesubie. Not much going on on a sunny Saturday morning.

St Martin sur Vesubie. Not much going on on a sunny Saturday morning.


‘A Jacques Tati square,’ our walking mate Peter calls it. We know exactly what he means.

We sit outside the boulangerie in St Martin sur Vesubie with our early morning cafe and pain au chocolat and watch as the village comes to life, its characters coming and going like figures in a mechanical clock.

Nobody seems in a hurry, including us. We have several hours to kill before the bus will take us back to Nice. Continue reading

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Filed under France, Hiking

HOW TOUGH IS A WALK ON THE GR5?

St Delmas le Selvage. It looks a long way down.

St Dalmas le Selvage. It looks a long way down from here, but it’s where the nearest cafe is waiting.

It’s hard to describe for non-walkers the experience of hiking one of Europe’s great trails, the GR5 over the French Alps.

Here’s my best effort to compare it to an exercise anyone can try at home… Continue reading

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Filed under France, Hiking