Travel tales

Christmas Day has been and gone, and I’m pretty sure my body is about 90% prosecco and cheese right now. But I love this part of the year, when you look back at what you achieved last year before planning the next year. I started 2017 with almost no trips booked and just a few vague travel plans – most of which I totally failed at!
South West Wales was where I spent my first-ever holidays, all beach days and rockpooling. But I can’t say I really appreciated the area’s foodie side, unless you’re talking about choosing my favourite ice cream flavour. But this part of the world is full of great food producers taking advantage of the delicious seasonal produce on their doorstep.
A lot of places boast breathtaking scenery, but this was the first time a view really had taken my breath away. As I looked around I could feel my head spin and my knees going weak. It might have been the bright blue skies and dazzling white snow, or the crisp, freezing mountain air, but then again it might have been the altitude.
The bonus side effect of a busy year of travel is a lot of books read, and although I’ll happily tackle most genres, if there’s a travel link or an exotic location to a book then it’s always a bonus. So I’m back with the latest edition of my Reads on the Road series, featuring my favourite recent travel-inspired reads.
It’s an autumnal Sunday morning in France – couples sit on deckchairs in the sunshine drinking coffee while their kids run around, steam rises from an outdoor pool in front of a glass dome, a swan swims across the lake as a rowing boat splashes past. It’s hard to imagine that just a few years back this whole site was just a patch of muddy farmland in north-east France.
If you’re visiting Prince Edward Island in Canada, then there’s one name you’ll keep seeing – Anne Shirley. Better known as Anne of Green Gables, she might be fictional but has she has a serious fan club which stretches all around the world. There are the purists who’ve read each of the eight original books and there are others who’ve just discovered Anne’s world through new Netflix series Anne with an E.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m planning a European weekend break, I tend to think of the big cities – Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona. But if you’ve only got a few days, you’ve got no chance of seeing a fraction of somewhere that big. So instead I’m starting to go for smaller destinations where you can really get a feel for the place, even in just a weekend.
With as many rooms as there are days of the year, lavishly decorated interiors, centuries of artworks, quirky collections and acres of parkland, Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha is a palace on a giant scale. So it was the perfect place to start my exploration of Thuringia. This province right at the heart of Germany might be small, but it punches well above its weight when it comes to history and culture.
It started on the plane over from Toronto, where every other person getting on board seemed to know each other. There were calls across the aisles asking how the meeting or gig had gone, and my driver got some advice about his dog from his vet as we waited at the baggage carousel. After a long travel day the friendly, relaxed feel was just what I needed, and the perfect introduction to Canada’s smallest – and arguably friendliest – province.
For years I commuted to work in London on the underground to Euston station. I’d walk through its miles of tunnels and down to the Northern Line every day – usually on autopilot and hardly noticing where I was. But I never knew I’d been walking right past the entrance to a network of deserted underground tunnels, some of which have been sealed off for over 100 years.

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