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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

New York’s fascinating Tenement Museum

Inside the Tenement Museum

Our visit to the Chinatown Heritage Centre in Singapore, a museum that revealed much about the lives of the poorest of immigrants to the city state, prompted memories of my favourite museum in New York City. The Tenement Museum on the bustling and traditionally working class Lower East Side, explores the experiences of German, Irish […]

Exploring Singapore’s Chinatown

The busy and colourful streets of Chinatown

I’ve been to good museums and bad, but among the best have been the ones that reveal what life was like for the poorest of the poor back when the Georgian and Victorian rich were living the high life. There’s the excellent Tenement Museum in New York, for example, which offers a compelling account of how poor […]

King Ludwig’s Linderhof

Linderhof

King Ludwig II of Bavaria lived a strange life. Forced to surrender the independence of his kingdom to the all-consuming Prussia, reclusive and sexually confused, he sought consolation in the theatrical scores of Wagner and fantastical architectural projects. The palaces he built are among Bavaria’s most popular tourist attractions but for the king they sustained […]