The Origins of Travel: Grace Under Pressure

  We are often told that travel is freedom. It’s a romantic view of what is essentially leisurely migration. I don’t see it that way. Not anymore. Wanderlust: one of the most beautiful words in the English language (and typically of Germanic origins) is an evocative word that breathes mountain air and wistful breezes. But…

The Voyages of a Devoted Reader

Literary Travel Guide to Europe and the Americas   Travel guides. Is there anything more miserable, more cliché-making, complacent and sheepish than those small, compact dictionaries-of-places that you can conveniently, nay embarrassingly, carry in your pockets? All you need to scream out ‘tourist’ even louder is a sun-hat, bermuda shorts and sandals. What happened to…

Cenote of Maya Blue – Part I

  The smell of the suckling pig flew into the air like the musical aroma created by a butterfly’s flapping wing. If you go close to it as it marinates in the banana leaves you could smell the potently acidic citrus that comes from the bitter orange that drowns it. Angelica moves past me and…

Day of the Dead

In the Xicotencatl, somewhere in the soul-deserting streets of the Coyoacan neighbourhood, Alicia found La Santa Gula. It was the only place in the whole of Mexico City where she could hope to speak Maltese. Her Spanish was pitiful, lazy, and speaking it elicited painful memories that used to be happy. No: she changed too…

Pool, Bulls and Humanity

What does Mosul and the festival of San Fermin have in common? Humanity. A photograph I saw recently on Twitter (the featured photo above), of a group of Mosul residents, including children, playing pool in a recently liberated district of Mosul where IS previously forbade pool, filled me with that rarest of elements: hope. Hope…

Valletta: the European Capital of Hipsters

    “On the long dinner table a field of food waved yellow in the dim light of dusk. The Cuban prepared deep fried pork rinds like they did in Cuba, but the rest of it was Maltese stuff; cold pasta, timpana, Maltese bread and sausages, aljolli, and saucers with olives and capers.” The above…

Why Attenborough’s Planet Earth II Matters

Ps put this on while reading: “Metaphysics must flourish. He who understand baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.” Charles Darwin The seemingly irreverent, joking quote of Darwin rang incessantly through my mind as I watched the whole of BBC’s Planet Earth II series from beginning until last Sunday’s Desert episode. It’s a phrase…

The Real Good Stuff in Fiction

  For a couple of centuries now, at least since the likes of Henry James and Dostoevsky, the literary world has been in the grasp of the psychological novel. All the major masterpieces since then have been, in some way or another, a psychology-centred work. Gone are the days of the adventure novels, of Moby-Dick…

3 Tips On How To Eat Local

  And why is it important to eat local when you’re abroad? Why not just go where fellow tourists go, in places made by locals, for tourists? These are run-of-the-mill questions that inspire an existential answer. At least, if you’re existentially minded. And if you travel, you probably are, even if you don’t know it….

5 Lessons Learned After Running Away From Toledo

  Ever notice the apathy on the faces of people who say, about a holiday, or an experience, even a marriage: “Been there, done that?” No one says that to brag or celebrate; it’s dry sarcasm meant to topple and politely insult. I was never one for clichés. I don’t like tired expressions. And yet,…

Blood in the Sand

Travel Essay on Bullfighting and Creativity Theatre and cinema are the only other art forms that demand such grand arenas. Myself and thousands of people crammed into the shady seats of that red-brick amphitheatre of Madrid; here to watch a performance that lies somewhere between art and sport and incorporates the best and worst of…

Madrid: Salsa and Tacos

    Madrid has been described as the most Spanish of cities – a capital who, like a mother, gives up her own identity and ambition for the sake of her children. There are very little things you could call Madrileño. Maybe churros, the callos de Madrid, cocido Madrileño and a few other dishes. For…