St. Francis in Dubrovnik

Franciscan monastery, Dubrovnik

 

The Franciscan Monastery of Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is a town which rises beyond its reputation. Even when drowning under a sea of summer tourists, as cruise boats arrive by the score and unload their passengers, there is much to do here, and places to escape the sunburnt crowds. Aside from the beauty of the Adriatic lapping at her feet, and the wealth of museums and sights within the town (not to mention her cafes and restaurants), side streets stretch off in all directions, begging to be explored. There are hidden nooks at every turn, lined with ancient houses and walls of crumbling stone.

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My Walk In A Medieval Sky

The Rooftop of the Duomo, Milan

 

Walking on the Rooftop of the Duomo, Milan

 

It took a while for Milan to grow on me. The city lacks the obvious historical romance of a Paris, or the vibrancy of a Barcelona. Her charms and delights lie hidden, separated by a sprawling metropolis. Milan is not walkable like Florence, and she lacks the quaintness of a small town such as Assisi.

It’s easy to find the heart of a small town, where locals live and promenade of an evening, and the cafés and restaurants are full of locals and tourists alike. In contrast, the first face Milan presents to the visitor is of a large, rambling city, filled with dirt and pollution, and buildings which have seen better days. Yet scattered through this lie pockets of wonders, such as the Duomo, the area around Sforza Castle, her art galleries – and, of course, Leonardo’s Last Supper.

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A Volcano, A Dinosaur and Clouds.

 

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New Zealand is a land of mountains. Flying into the South Island I saw nothing but an enormous snow-capped range, smothered in white clouds lying trapped on their peaks. Little wonder the Maoris called this land Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud). Not four hours from Sydney (it takes me longer to fly to Perth), yet a completely different land lay below me.

With mountains come volcanoes. Cruising The Bay of Plenty in New Zealand’s North Island, I shouldn’t have been surprised when the boat circled a smoking volcano rising from the sea. Only a small part of White Island is visible; most of the mountain lies beneath the sea.

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Dawn in Hoi An

 

It is autumn, and dawn comes late, and the darkness early, in Hoi An. Autumn by the calender, but not by feel, for it is easily 30C each day, the humidity reaching the 90s.

In the darkness of the pre-dawn, the air felt cool. Once on the water, a sea breeze played around us as we set out over the waves. Around us, were struggling with their nets in the darkness, somehow balancing in their tiny boats. Larger boats circled around them, buying the fresh catch from the fishermen and delivering it to the markets, or straight to the restaurants of Hoi An.
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Walking the Île St Louis, Paris

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For the short while I had in Paris, every day I would venture down to a little supermarket on the Île St Louis. I never left empty-handed: a smoked chicken, some quail, or perhaps some cheese; yoghurt in its own ceramic pot (which I collected and brought home), a bottle of red. Consisting of two aisles barely wide enough for people to pass one another the place could hardly be classified as a supermarket, yet it was not a corner store, for in that small shop lay a wealth of offerings to put any supermarket to shame. The shop was simply the essence of the Île St Louis.

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In Search Of A Perfect Japanese Curry

I never eat hospital food. I used to, some twenty years ago, if my break coincided with their irregular hours. The food was cheap, plentiful, and grey – including the vegetables. One evening as I searched for something to eat, I turned the wrong way coming out of the lifts and found myself outside the morgue. I never ate in the cafeteria again.

Luckily, every hospital nowadays has a private café, usually near the entrance and doused in sunlight. There are even express lines for those flourishing a hospital ID. The range of food extends from sandwiches and pies to offerings such as Persian rice salad or glass noodles. Last time I waited for my coffee I noticed a Japanese curry.

Until discovering the works of Haruki Murakami, I never thought of Japan as a land of curries, my knowledge instead restricted to sushi, sashimi, sake and Iron Chef. (Nor had I had associated Japan with truck stops, but in Kafka on the Shore I found both.) In Murakami the curries fed both body and soul; the curry I ordered tasted brown. So began my quest to find a true Japanese curry.

 

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