Sailing into Marseille, the Basilica de la Notre Dame de la Garde greeted me even while my boat was still far out to sea. Her golden Madonna has been calling sailors home down the centuries. Then came the Chateau D’if. How could I sail past without thinking of The Count of Monte Cristo?
Part of what I love about sailing into a port is how so much of the old town lies by the water waiting to be explored. Like many a Mediterranean town, Marseille began as a village by the sea, and this is where her heart still lies. Palaeolithic cave paintings have been discovered nearby; the village of Massalia was the first Greek settlement in France, established around 600 BC. It was conquered first by the Romans, then by various other nations and city-states during the sea-sawing of alliances which marked medieval and Renaissance Europe. Continue Reading →
This photo encapsulates Hong Kong for me. Walking through LKF I spied a moomintroll – of course. Tove Jannson and her moomins are a world away from Hong Kong. Yet they are here, because everything is here.
That’s what I love about Hong Kong – from the fake antiques along Cat Street, a forgotten nunnery in Kowloon, the gathering of maids on their day off as they gather in parks and along walk ways, chattering away like sparrows, the tranquility of her bush walks – I always find something completely unexpected.
Always a reason to return.
I fell in love with Greece a long time ago, without actually ever going. Gerard Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals bewitched me. I read it as a child, and then to my own children. He painted an idyllic countryside of olive groves and woods running down to the sea; of pink houses covered in vines and filled with intellectuals and free spirits who came to lunch and stayed for the summer.
I’ve treated old soldiers who fought in Greece during WWII and the chaos which followed. They spoke of the warmth of the people who kept them alive during the freezing winters, of their first taste of yoghurt as they hid in the hills from the Nazis.
Then I discovered Byron:
The isles of Greece! The isles of Greece
Where burning Sappho loved and sung
Were grew the art of war, and peace
Where Delos rose, where Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer guilds them yet
But all, except their sun, is set.
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Bruges, Brugges, Brugge – there are as many variations on the name as there are languages spoken in this medieval town.
I visited in late autumn, and found a magical town. Bruges is a delight for wandering, for eating, for museums (an exhibition of the Flemish Primitives was showing) – and for chocolate. I was lucky enough to see the famous Dog of Bruges before he died. The old town is criss-crossed with canals, and cars are few.
A delightful place to explore the past. This photo brings back the smell of damp leaves after a crisp autumn day.
The church bells were calling as I sailed into Kotor. I had entered a fairytale. The soft light of dawn danced across the Adriatic. Rugged mountains rose from the water, the stretch of lush land at their feet peppered with quaint villages and the spires of churches. I expected to see a horse and carriage trotting along under the morning light.
The Gulf of Kotor, Montenegro, is a fjord. Limestone cliffs plunge into a water coloured the blue of minerals. No wind ruffled the surface, as if the bay lay magically protected. When a soft rain fell the place became even more beautiful. Continue Reading →
I fell in love with Barcelona as soon as I arrived. She is designed, it seems, for tourists: transport is easy (most of the cars on the road are taxis and the subway is excellent), the food is amazing, and there are simply too many sights to see. Barcelona is great for wandering and getting totally lost, while the Catalonians seem to have an Australian way of looking at the world. Perfect.
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