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I can’t believe that until last week I’d missed out on the World Heritage Site of Foz Coa, deep in the wilds of northeastern Portugal. Well maybe I can, as it’s far from anywhere so not easily accessible. Yet ever since rock art was first discovered there in the early 1990s, more and more examples have been found and it’s now regarded as one of the world’s major paleolithic rock art sites. And, equally tempting, the same idyllic region is an increasingly diversified source of Douro wine…

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It’s easy to forget, or simply not to know, that Denmark is made up of over 400 islands. ‘Only’ 70 of them are inhabited, but it means the sea is omnipresent. In the last year or so I’ve written about the gastro-wonders of Jutland, also here, but my latest Nordic exploration took me to north Zealand, i.e. the same island as Copenhagen.

Denmark_Elsinore_Kronborg_Castle

The capital is now umbilically linked to Sweden by The Bridge, of addictive TV thriller fame. But the closest point to Sweden is in fact Helsingor or, as we monolingual Brits call it, Elsinore. And that’s where we went.


Last weekend I found myself doing a bit of time-travel at the Louisiana museum. My last visit was over 50 years ago, soon after it opened and…miraculously I remembered it! That takes some doing, considering the hundreds of museums I’ve visited since, but in this case it’s hardly surprising, as the museum is absolutely stunning. In fact… unforgettable.

Denmark_Louisiana_panorama_room

The location is hard to beat, wedged between sea and forest, perched high above a strait that connects the Baltic with the North Sea. Across the Oresund lies the silhouette of Sweden (above, seen from the ‘Panorama Room’, where you can sit and lap up the view).


It felt like a blissful interlude of limbo, a week on the island of Paxos that I timed for the final run-up to Britain’s EU referendum. Luckily the clear Ionian waters, welcoming tavernas and a gathering of art-oriented people raised my spirits – until I returned to London and Brexit, but that’s another story.

Greece_Paxos_Corfu_ferry

Tiny Paxos (only 30 square km), an hour or so by fast-boat from Corfu, is eminently European in flavour thanks to a nucleus of well-heeled French, Italian, British and Greeks who wisely choose to spend long lotus-eating summers there. Their villas dot the hilly, thickly wooded interior, where cypress trees spike the blue sky between overgrown olive groves, the limbs of their trees stretching gracefully but not exactly productively. Beneath is a carpet of grass and wildflowers.


May is the big kick-off month in Cordoba when the city comes alive between its post-Easter slumber and the furnace-like temperatures of the summer. So, once again, I steered a car towards this beguiling urban labyrinth from my rustic hideaway in the Subbética. Patios were on the agenda, but what I didn’t expect was to stumble across the famous Rocio.

Cordoba_Moorish_walls

I love Cordoba, never tire of its sublime 8th-10th century Mezquita (mosque), its Roman walls (above), nooks and crannies, palm-studded squares, silent churches and noisy tapas bars. Luckily the latter constantly reinvent themselves; even changing the ingredients and/or presentation of homegrown salmorejo…Here’s one of the best versions, at Garum 2.1, with a glass of chilled, local Montilla. Read my post about the city’s tapas bars here – all tips are still valid.


Status titles such as European Capital of Cultural always give a boost to a city, bringing loads of inward investment, extra jobs and a hoped-for explosion of visitors. They also inspire a bit of creative thinking at the town hall. For visitors, though, it can be equally rewarding to go in advance – catch a rising star, or certainly catch lower hotel prices.

Aarhus Latin Quarter café


Our world of travel is shrinking fast – much thanks to the onward march of ISIS/ Daesh through the Middle East & across North Africa. When I scroll back through my photo archives to look at the archaeological and cultural wonders of these regions (recorded during the digital age at least, as many of my earlier pics slumber in fat files of 35mm slides), I realise what we’ve lost. Worse still is the human loss in bomb / suicide / gun attacks on European cities, in Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan – the list just gets longer and longer. (Read too my earlier post on Krak des Chevaliers, Syria’s great crusader castle – before and after the ongoing civil war.)


It’s taken a decade for Ethiopian tourism to lift off, from only 227,000 visitors in 2005 to 750,000 in 2015. These numbers should soar exponentially as so many MENA (Middle East & North African) countries are now off the tourist radar due to fears of terrorism or actual war – think Tunisia and Turkey for the first, and Syria and Libya for the second. Egypt and Morocco are not looking healthy from a security point of view either, so those in search of the exotic are having to go that much further.

Ethiopia_Lalibela_Bet_Giyorgis


Khat overwhelmingly rules life in eastern Ethiopia, where all roads (in fact one only) lead to Somaliland and its port of Berbera. No, not Somalia itself, but a breakaway autonomous region that has existed, unrecognised internationally, since 1991. Thundering along the road past rolling savannah and escarpment are dozens of Isuzu trucks, their open backs piled high with sacks of khat, the favoured drug of the region.

Road_to_Somaliland_Ethiopia

Yemen is a huge consumer, also Somaliland and Djibouti, while exports go as far as Holland, China and, until recent changes in drug classification, the UK and Australia. And sometimes road transport is not a truck but a camel… as above.


Having just emerged from a mega gastro-binge courtesy of Madrid Fusion, Spain’s annual convention of all things foodie and drinkie, I decided a few thoughts about chefs and their chosen paths were called for. The get-together is a rare opportunity to see multiple Michelin stars all a-glitter in one place, packed into a three day program, talking about discoveries, passions, science – plus a bit about cooking. The majority of them took the convention theme “post avant-garde” and ran with it – in all directions. And that is what made me question the role of super-chefs today.

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