London: World Centre

The official center of London is at Trafalgar Square, marked by a small brass plaque in the pavement beneath a statue of Charles I on horseback. “Stand here and you will eventually see everyone you know in the world,” they say. And it’s true I once bumped into someone I worked with a decade before in Africa.

The square is dominated by the Greco-Roman columns of the National Gallery and the tall Nelson’s Column with four massive lions at its base. Despite the warning notices, children and those who should know better clamber over the bronze lions, polishing them ever further. Proud parents and giggling friends photograph the fun. Camera phones, GoPros on sticks and every possible size and brand of camera are in constant action. But most people are just sitting or strolling, taking in the view and the people around them. Continue reading “London: World Centre”

Lisbon: Looking out for No.1

AS any Sharpe fan will know, and hopefully most of the rest of us, too, Portugal is Britain’s oldest ally. Visiting Lisbon, I was reminded of the link between the countries by one iconic image: the bright red pillar box.

Lisbon’s post boxes are the old British Victorian design, given a local makeover with a ‘Correio’ stamp instead of our regal ciphers, and a glass-fronted dial to show the next time of collection.
They also bear a number and, after noting this, the latent trainspotter in me couldn’t resist looking out for No.1. Continue reading “Lisbon: Looking out for No.1”

Armenia: Taste of the old order

IT’S HARD NOT to go to a country from the former Soviet Bloc without a James Bond moment. I had a perfect one on arrival at Yerevan Airport, a pleasing concrete flying saucer of a building. A police officer kept staring at me.

Perhaps I should have been a tad more nervous but, despite the severe green serge uniform and over-large Soviet-style peaked cap, her pointed stilettos were oddly attractive. Well, perhaps not oddly at all. Continue reading “Armenia: Taste of the old order”

Star Clipper: Sail through the centuries

WE TEND to think of the Mediterranean as a small sea, almost a lake. But, when you’re actually on  it, you find it is  a pretty big place.

From Gibraltar to Sicily, Alexandria to Dubrovnik, it spans three continents and many countries and cultures.

It can turn fierce, sink ships and pummel shores. Or, in its more usual calm mood, it can be one of the most idyllic places on Earth. Continue reading “Star Clipper: Sail through the centuries”