Tasmania: The penal colony of Port Arthur

Port Arthur's laundry

Tasmania, like the rest of Australia, once tried to forget that many of its founding mothers and fathers were convicts, transported from the overcrowded gaols of Britain. These days it embraces it.  Many of the key convict sites across Australia are banded together as a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important […]

Heritage and history in Hobart

Hobart's waterfront

Planning our Australian holiday, friends raised their eyebrows at our decision to go to Hobart in Tasmania rather than the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru. But while Hobart may once have been a backwater, we were drawn by its foodie scene, craft beers and the notorious penal colony further down the coast at Port Arthur. […]

Sydney: Hyde Park Barracks and Watsons Bay

Hyde Park Barracks

Ahead of our Australian holiday I began reading A Commonwealth of Thieves, the excellent Thomas Keneally book that describes the arrival of the First Fleet of convicts in New South Wales in 1788 and its consequences. On our second day in Sydney, we visited two places that feature in the early years of the colony […]

Exploring The Rocks in Sydney

Sydney Harbour Bridge

It’s difficult to picture what Sydney would’ve been like when convicts first arrived in 1788 but remnants of the city they helped to create can still be seen in the district called The Rocks. And it would be the first stop on our exploration of the capital of New South Wales, and the first stop […]

A wintry day in Helsinki

Senate Square and a Christmas market

Spending a day in the Finnish capital Helsinki could be considered a strange way to start a Christmas holiday in Australia.  But there was logic to it as we’d secured business class flights on Qatar Airways for half the price of ones out of London, representing a massive saving on the cost of our three-week […]

Jerez and its sherry

Mr Gonzalez, with the cathedral in the background

Jerez is a city built on the riches of sherry. And ‘sherry’ is a corruption of Jerez. This delicious fortified wine was our main reason for visiting and throughout our short stay we’d taken the chance to enjoy a tipple. Back in Britain it may be regarded as the drink of grannies and Christmas but […]

Jerez: A palacio, archaeology and Flamenco

Tabanco el Pasaje

Sunday in Jerez means religion for many locals but for us it meant visits to the Count of the Andes’ palace, a flea market and a museum. But only after breakfast in Plaza Plateros, where we watched those religious types promenading past on their to one or other of the city’s many historic churches. Their […]

Jerez and its Alcazar

Plaza Rafael Rivero

Jerez and Seville are two of Andalucia’s great cities, and they have much in common. Both were born out of civilisations that were at times pagan, Islamic and Christian and those cultures are written all over the streets and the architecture, and reflected in the way locals live their lives. It’s a fascinating muddle. Jerez […]

A week in Malta

St Julian's Bay

After months of stress and aggravation at work we needed an easy week away to relax and recuperate but October’s an iffy month in the Med, and low season can mean storms and rain. But we had nothing but warm sunshine during our week in Malta, the small but perfectly formed island beached between Sicily […]

Valletta: A city in transition

Malta's new Parliament

I look forward to returning to Valletta one day. And perhaps then it will be finished… Because our trip coincided with a huge building and restoration programme, being carried out in preparation for the city’s role as European Capital of Culture in 2018. Quite a few of its popular tourist destinations, such as St John’s […]

Malta: The ancient splendour of Mdina

The historic walls of Mdina

The glorious fortified city of Mdina in the heart of Malta is a must-see and a magical place, but we nearly didn’t make it there at all. We should’ve hired a car but instead we relied on public transport, and never once saw the inside of one of Malta’s buses. Despite Mdina being one of […]