Wednesday, 3 July 2019


Unfinished church in St George's

BERMUDA  is famous for its pink sand beaches, turquoise oceans and of course that Triangle, where countless souls have supposed to have disappeared.
Bermuda is thought by scholars to be the island in Shakespeare’s The Tempest about a group of noblemen brought to a magical island by a violent storm. And indeed the tiny 21 mile island was discovered by a shipwreck.
St George’s is one of the earliest English settlements in the New World where British sailors were  shipwrecked in 1609 while travelling to Jamestown, Virginia. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site there is  twisting alleyways leading to quaint shops and cottages and many Anglican chapels including the lovely St Peter’s Church and Their Majesties Chappell. The magnificent Gothic Unfinished Church was meant to replace St Peter’s in 1970 but the project was abandoned. Now the mysterious building, open to the elements and nature, is a popular wedding spot.
Throughout the island one finds hundreds of churches which wouldn't look out of place in English villages and towns. 
St Peters church St Georges

Cathedral, Hamilton

Thursday, 21 June 2018


Back from my first visit to the Hungarian capital Budapest I found myself with a wealth of memories. From chaotic ruin bars to elegant squares, historic castles to modern art galleries – Budapest is a complex mix of styles and atmospheres.
 This is a multi-layered city which could take years to discover in depth. But with only a few days and armed with the latest version of The Rough Guide to Budapest, I did my best to sample some of the city’s attractions.
The guide usefully addresses the city neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Most visitors, like me, start their visit in the popular Belvaros inner city area, with its shops, cafes and promenades. Here we also find insights into Hungary’s rich history by exploring down the embankment of The Danube. The Rough guide not only gives interesting information on main sites such as the Cathedral of the Dominion Greek Orthodox church but also directs us to quirkier finds such as the Underground Railway Museum.
Close by are the Erzebetvaros and Jozsefvaros districts where I enjoyed stroll around the Jewish Quarter. The Great Synagogue is a good starting point and this area also gave me my fist introduction to ruin bars – built in abandoned buildings these colourful and lively bars are a Budapest must-do.
Away from the central attractions, Budapest is diverse.  Until 1873 Buda on the hilly west bank and Pest on the east were two different cities and they still retain distinct personalities; Buda older and classy with its Castle Hill (Var) and Pest with its bustling atmosphere and fascinating Art Nouveau architecture.  Don’t miss the thermal baths – of which there are over 100. And when you get hungry there is no shortage of good cafes and restaurants. Hungarian food is hearty and delicious and The Rough Guide does a good job of providing comprehensive listings to suit all palettes.

The Rough Guide to Budapest, 7th edition. Published January 2018.

Follow this link to buy the book:

Saturday, 9 June 2018


I recently stayed at the charming boutique hotel Riad Star in the heart of Marrakesh's medina. It was once the home of the famous Jazz Age dancer, civil rights activist and entertainer Josephine Baker, who stayed here in the 1940s while recuperating from illness. Tributes to the star and memorabilia abound in this lovely hotel.

Riad Star has just 13 rooms and its own Hamman, perfect for refreshing scrubs and massages. There is a roof terrace with sun loungers and secret shady corners to escape the heat.
Rooms are individually decorated with silk duvets, statues and Moorish touches as well as modern day essentials including TV and free Wi-Fi. Fragrant orange blossom toiletries feature in the shower room.
Delicious home cooked Moroccan dinner is available and breakfast can be taken on the terrace or in the dining room. The Hotel has its own cookery school where local chefs share their love of traditional Moroccan dishes.
The Riad Star is right in the heart of the medina ideally placed for exploring the vibrant historic areas that make this city so fascinating. 
You could spend days just mooching around the old town’s teeming alleyways and souks and marvelling at its vast palaces and gardens. A walking tour with a guide or a tour of the city by horse and carriage will ensure you won’t get lost, although the Riad Star offers guests the loan of a local mobile phone and its App is invaluable. 
Riad Star is the flagship property of Marrakech Riad which has four character hotels in the old medina district. For best rates book direct online,
Room rates at Riad Star from £112 
Phone: 020 7193 7357

For more information on Morocco see

Wednesday, 2 May 2018


The Abacos in The islands Of The Bahamas are famous for their sailing, diving and fishing opportunities, but on land there is colourful history experienced by walking around colonial Hope Town, with its red and white candy cane lighthouse, or New Plymouth with its periwinkle and pistachio coloured wooden houses. The islands were settled in the 1700s by Loyalists escaping the American Revolution. Hope Town's candy striped lighthouse, a favourite postcard subject and wedding venue now, but quite controversial when it was under construction back in 1863 because up until then, the islands residents had been making a comfortable living by salvaging ships that wrecked on the offshore reefs

New Plymouth, a short drive from Green Turtle Cay, feels like a sleepy 18th century English town.
Here we find the quaint  and slightly  ramshackle Albert Lowe museum and the fascinating Loyalist Memorial Sculpture Garden. Stop by the old jail and the characterful coffee and ice cream shops. You may notice that the same names crop up on shopfronts, plaques and gravestones – McIntosh, Pinder and Roberts to name just a few.

Stay at the lovely Bluff House, just a short drive away.
Formerly a private home, Bluff House is one of the oldest resorts in The Out islands and sits on the highest point of Green Turtle Cay

Wednesday, 24 January 2018


Rising out of the jungle in the steamy afternoon heat with the shrieks of howler monkeys in the background is a towering black temple; marked by age and worn by climbing feet over thousands of years ……..This is my first glimpse of the ancient Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala, one of the wonders of the Americas.  We stay until sunset as the sky turns pink over the five magnificent temples and return the next morning at sunrise with the toucans, macaws and parrots. I am told that jaguars and ocelots lurk in the surrounding forest, but we only spot a cheeky coatimundi or racoon like creature scurrying past.

Tikal is one of the oldest Mayan sites with the earliest evidence of human habitation here around 700 BC.  There are five temple pyramids which soar above the forest canopy, with carve stelae and altars in the central plaza. We spot masks carved in the stone as we learn the history of this amazing place with its stories of rulers buried in tombs with precious jade, human sacrifices and royal palaces which at one time were painted in bright colours.


After a long day getting to know the Mayans, my experience is made even more magical when I head to my accommodation for the duration of my stay. Just a short drive away is the fabulous La Lancha rainforest lodge, tucked away in the rainforest high above the clear waters of Lago Petén Itzá – the second largest lake in Guatemala.

La Lancha is part of the Family Coppola Hideaways group, owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola and his family. He fell in love with the jungle while filming Apocalypse Now in the Philippines, and went on to establish three luxury rainforest lodges in Belize and La Lancha in Guatemala.

It is easy to see how he was captivated by this lush, exotic part of the world where every turn brings breath-taking scenes worthy of the most dramatic movie set and where the monkeys, toucans and parakeets provide the soundtrack.

Ten thatched suites and rooms are dotted around La Lancha.  My room is a  Lake View casita -  a pretty treehouse filled with Guatemalan artefacts and crafts, from colourful throws on the beds to the animal masks and huipils (traditional Mayan women’s’ dresses) hanging on the walls.  The wooden furniture is Balinese in style and, as in all the rooms here, there is a terrace with hammocks and chairs which look out to the calm and beautiful lake.  La Lancha is proud of its eco credentials and the spacious bathroom is stocked with handmade, locally sourced toiletries.

Exploring the winding paths around the property I find the two-level swimming pool and the Mirador or look-out deck, complete with huge comfy recliners from which to look over the lake, listening to the birds and monkeys.  La lancha has a number of eccentric touches, such as the Shellphone – a pink conch shell which is actually a telephone for guests to pick up and order a cocktail, food or coffee wherever they are in the property.   Later its time to detox at the   Temazcal, a traditional Mayan sweat lodge or sauna for  cleansing and relaxing with copal incense burning.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in La Lancha’s lovely open-air restaurant under the thatched roof of the Main Lodge with fabulous views over the rainforest to the lake.  In the evening meals are cooked on an open parilla or grill. Food is a combination of traditional and Guatemalan dishes including fresh fish from the lake and Suban Ik (‘God’s meal’), a traditional dish containing chicken, beef, rice and spices. Top class wines are from the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in California and drinks are on offer at the rooftop bar and library or down at the enchanting lake-view bar accessed by a quirky funicular.

Adjacent to the Restaurant is an authentic tortilla hut, where local staff make fresh, homemade tortillas and encourages guests to join them in the tradition.

As well as visits to Tikal, the hotel can arrange rainforest experiences including zip-lining, aerial walkways and canoeing or kayaking on the lake.

Fact Box

La Lancha

Aldea Jobompiche

San Jose, Petén


00 (502) 30450817

Wednesday, 20 September 2017



A new direct flight to Pardubice in the Eastern Bohemian region of the Czech Republic opens up a wealth of opportunities for UK travellers to visit this hidden gem.Ryanair commenced the new route this month.

Pardubice lies in the Labe lowlands, surrounded by meadows, forests and lakes. It is probably best known for its Great Pardubice Steeplechase, the oldest and most difficult cross country horse race on the continent and held here since 1874. Horses play a huge part in Eastern Bohemian tradition – Pardubice’s coat of arms includes the front half of a horse (from the coat of arms of the influential Lords of Pernstein who developed the city) and close by is the National Stud at Kladruby nad Labem, one of the oldest studs in the world. Here we see the magnificent Kladruber horses, bred here since the 14th century.

In the city itself we visit the Pardubice castle which is a Renaissance chateau right in the middle of town. We walk around its Gothic ramparts before examining many plaques on the town walls depicting myths and legends associated with the rulers and families who left their mark on the region. The town received a new lease of life in the second half of the 19th century with industrialisation.

Of course you can’t come to the Czech Republic without tasting the beer! Beer has been brewed in Pardubice since the 14th century and the Pardubice brewery was one of the first modern breweries in Eastern Bohemia, established in 1871. You can tour the brewery and enjoy a tasting of their signature beers including the strong Pardubice Porter with its characteristic dark foam and malty flavour, the classic Pernstein light beer and Taxis, a pale beer made from Moravian malt.

Away from the city a magical tour of fairy –tale castles and chateau takes us to Litomyšl. With elaborate decoration, gables, elegant arcades, romantic gardens and a mysterious underground, this representative seat of the Pernštejn family is one of the most beautiful examples of the Renaissance style and  the chateau complex is now included on the UNESCO world heritage list. There is also Kunětická hora Castle, famous under the religious wars in the 15th century.

Lakes, fish ponds and spa towns add to the region’s gentle attractions and the capital Prague is less than an hour away by train, making it an ideal spot for a two centre trip.

Ryan air flies to Pardubice from London Stansted.

For more information on East Bohemia see 



Thursday, 3 August 2017

Unexpected Uzbekistan

At a time when many travellers are sceptical of travel to Muslim countries, I visited Uzbekistan in Central Asia and found not only a safe, beautiful destination but one positioning itself as one of the world’s ‘must see’ places.

Called the pearl of Central Asia, Uzbekistan, home of the Silk Road, has been traversed by traders, invaders, adventurers and explorers for over 2.5 millennia. The names of Marco Polo, Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great are associated with the nation, drawn by its access to riches and treasures and the route that joined East to West in civilisations of long ago.  

Yet this part of the world is still relatively undiscovered by British travellers. But that looks set to change as Westerners gradually embrace the wonder of cities such as Samarkand; the very name as soft as silk, and a romance and intoxicating beauty found nowhere else in the world.

I was in Uzbekistan at Easter this year when the 5th International Uzbek Tourism

World of Leisure exhibition took place to demonstrate the tourism potential of Uzbekistan and its history and cultural attractions. Stands showcasing the 14 regions of the republic participated with 233 Uzbek travel companies taking part.  But this was no formal presentation. The Uzbeks danced, played, sang and cooked their way into the hearts of the foreign visitors who were there to experience firsthand what this nation has to offer today’s discerning tourists.  Food here plays a big part at any occasion and after a few days I was becoming a connoisseur of plov, the famous Uzbek dish of rice, vegetables and meat, usually lamb.


Uzbekistan is 90% Muslim, so I was surprised to find in Samarkand not only the charming Catholic Church of St John the Baptist but next door to it a Russian Orthodox Church and an Armenian Church, the only one of its kind in Central Asia. On Easter Sunday all had their doors open and my guide was more than happy to escort me to visit. The fact that these churches – and not far away, a synagogue, stand side by side with mosques speaks volumes about the rich history of the Uzbeks and also their accepting nature which embraces all cultures and, in 2017, extends a welcoming hand to tourists of all nationalities and creeds.

Islam here is more cultural than religious. Expect to see as many young women in T shirts, jeans or summer dresses as those in more traditional dress and hijab. Alcohol is widely available – the Uzbeks have been producing some of the region’s finest wines for centuries, although their national drink is tea best enjoyed at one of their traditional tea ceremonies.

Yet is the grandeur of the mosques that took my breath away. There are more than 2000 mosques in the country, ranging from the simple to the dazzling.

Uzbekistan Top five:

The highlight of any trip here is the breath-taking Reghistan square in Samarkand , (built between the 15th-17th centuries)  a space of  majestic madrassas (religious schools) ––the centrepiece of the city, and some say  the most awesome sight in Central Asia. The three grand edifices here are among the world’s oldest preserved madrassas, a wealth of azure ceramics, with interiors of gold.


Tashkent– Uzbekistan’s capital – was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1966, while the country was under Soviet rule, but now rebuilt the old and new stand side by side.Dont miss the atmospheric Chorsu Bazaar and the Kukeldash Madrasah, the best known historical monument in town built in the 16th century.

Bukhara. One of the oldest cities in the world, it is home to the Kalon Minaret, one of its defining symbols, built in 1127. At 47 metres high it is thought to have been the tallest building in Central Asia.

Khiva. The walled open-air city of Khiva is a living museum where it seems time has stood still. Protected by UNESCO it is still populated by Uzbek families and businesses. Dating from the 6th century, it was a successful and valued Silk Road trading city – and its ornate mosques, vast mausoleums and madrassas have been painstakingly restored.

Natural wonders. As well as the cities with their fascinating mosques and mausoleums, Uzbekistan has mountain ranges with great skiing, wild open spaces and waterfalls, rivers, lakes and deserts. You can take a jeep safari through the Kyzyl-Kum and Kara Kum Deserts and even stay in a traditional yurt.