Virginia: Civil War

IN RICHMOND, the Museum of the Confederacy occupies a Colonial brick building that sits back from the White House of the Confederacy next door. Both huddle in the shadow of the skyscraper blocks of a modern hospital, cast high and dry by the passing tide of history in the century and half since President Jefferson Davis made his home here in 1861. He lived in this White House for the next four years of what later came to be called the “War Between the States“ during which some 620,000 soldiers died – one in four of those who fought. Continue reading “Virginia: Civil War”

Alberta: Calgary Stampede

THE TRIO of steer and two horses explode out of the box at a hard gallop, throwing dust as they chase across the dirt arena. In an instant, the first cowboy has lassoed the steer’s head, then keeps tension on the rope so it is presented in proper position for his partner to lasso the back legs. Continue reading “Alberta: Calgary Stampede”

Cayman Islands: Lion Hunting

“WE WATCHED them coming through the Bahamas, which they just devastated,” she says. “They lay 25,000 eggs every four days and have no predators here. They will literally eat everything on the reef.”

I am sitting on a shady terrace in the Cayman Islands, watching the sun ripple off the Caribbean and sipping a fruit punch, while Nancy Easterbrook tells me about the threat to local coral reefs from the invasive lionfish. She is a dynamic bundle of energy who, with her husband, runs local diving company Divetech and their livelihood depends on preserving some of the best diving in the Caribbean. Continue reading “Cayman Islands: Lion Hunting”

Panama: Canal Zone

THE TRUCK, belching black diesel smoke, slithers and slides as it struggles up the steep incline of the wet road. It is not much of a road, although it used to be once, sure. Then the weather and the jungle got at it, patiently aiming to outlast it. Now this stretch is a collection of potholes stitched together with some tar, tiptoeing past dramatic gullies washed away by landslips.

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Washington DC: Monumental City

PERHAPS the best place to appreciate Washington, D.C., is from the heights of Arlington Cemetery. Here, looking out over the city spread before me, I can see the National Mall, stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument and beyond. The rows of marble gravestones, laid out with military precision around me, echo the mathematical layout of a city designed by French-born architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant to have the grandeur of Paris. Diagonal avenues bisect the grid of streets that run north-south and east-west, wide boulevards that stretch out to symbolically reach the rest of America. Of course, the reality is that they just run into the Beltway, the congested ring road that has become a symbol of Washington’s isolation. Continue reading “Washington DC: Monumental City”

Nicaragua: Keeping Faith

“THE GUYS were lying down behind the barricades and a woman started shouting at us,” says Francisco Roiz. A guide at León’s Asociacion de Combatientes Historicos Heroes de Veracruz, a museum of the 1972–1979 Revolution, he is telling me about his experience in this revolutionary stronghold as government forces attacked. “She was cursing us and asking us if we were waiting for everyone to be killed. Then she picked up a .22 rifle and started shooting at the National Guard. That made us all get up and fight. She saved our lives.”

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Arlington, Virginia: Past glories

THERE is nothing like Arlington in Britain, a national cemetery for all who have died in the service of their country. London has St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, with their grand memorials, and the great graveyards of endless war dead in Flanders, Changi and Normandy. But Arlington is all those, and more.

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Dominican Republic: Friendly faces

WAS it only last month I was saying the Caribbean has little to offer once you get past the rum bar and white sand beaches; that it’s hard to distinguish one island from the next?

The Dominican Republic has gone straight into my list of favourite places – and that’s without going anywhere near its famous beaches. Whitewater rafting in the mountains, horse-riding to a waterfall, dancing merengue until late at a carwash (!), visiting historic colonial buildings or a fascinating tour of the world’s largest cigar factory – it’s been an interesting week.
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Honduras: Treasures Island

MOST VISITORS to Roatan arrive in the cruise port of Coxen Hole, a rather unfortunate name for a fairly unprepossessing dock, dominated by chain-link fences and swarms of tour buses.

Things improve the further you get from the harbour, and that’s something (with no disrespect to the quirky Afro-antillean charms of Coxen Hole) that’s true of the whole island. Continue reading “Honduras: Treasures Island”