Visiting Liverpool in search of John Lennon’s first muse

Sixty years ago, John Lennon’s mother Julia was killed. He never got over the loss and you can find echos of her influence in Liverpool

Visiting Liverpool in search of John Lennon’s first museThe city of Liverpool has intrigued me ever since I heard my first Beatles record and my youthful idolization of John Lennon always made me want to go there. But what tipped the scale was reading the 2007 book Imagine This by Julia Baird, his younger sister, and seeing the 2009 movie Nowhere Boy, made…

The meaning is sometimes lost in translation

The tradition of mangling English in restaurants, hotels and public places continues

The meaning is sometimes lost in translationPARIS - Gerard Hoffnung was a raconteur and wit on the BBC in the 1950's. His speech to the Oxford Union, available on iTunes, is a classic piece of period of humour - a must listen to recording. Amongst the gems on that CD is a selection of letters received after inquiring about hotel accommodation…

The Bohemian jewel in Europe’s glittering crown

Český Krumlov often catches the first-time visitor by surprise, arousing a feeling of wondrous awe

The Bohemian jewel in Europe’s glittering crownČESKY KRUMLOV, Czech Republic / The child in all of us yearns for a magical land where we can hide away from all our cares – places like Camelot, or Brigadoon, or Shangri-La., or Český Krumlov. Český Krumlov? Graced with a name that to the North American ear sounds like a suppressed sneeze, this medieval…

A town-to-town hike along the Ligurian Sea

Cinque Terra offers astonishing vistas of beauty and a rigorous test of your hiking fitness

A town-to-town hike along the Ligurian SeaWhen I was first asked about going to Cinque Terra, I didn’t have a clue where it was. “Northern Italy – on the west coast, north of Pisa,” I was told. “Not quite on the French border. At the top of the boot!” I consulted my iPhone Google atlas and read some travel essays. What…

Discovering Monet’s lifelong fascination with architecture

London’s National Gallery exhibit offers rare glimpses into the artist’s examination of the play of light on human structures

Discovering Monet’s lifelong fascination with architectureOne of the great things about being a retired museum and art gallery CEO is that you know most of the basic tricks of the trade. For instance, you can get a very quick gauge of an exhibition’s successes and high points by talking with the gallery security staff. So as soon as we had…

Giverny and Monet’s Gardens

Stop in Giverny at least for a few hours to wander among Monet's gardens and you'll feel like you've entered one of his paintings

Giverny and Monet’s GardensIf you love Impressionist paintings, why not plan a visit to Giverny, in France, and see Monet’s garden, flowers, pond and bridges for yourself? It’s been said the Impressionist art movement acquired its name from one of Monet’s paintings called “Impression, Sunrise.” Giverny was Monet's home during the last half of his life. He painted…

Everything you’ve ever heard about Paris is true

But like a flirtatious mistress, she will drive you to distraction while capturing your soul

Everything you’ve ever heard about Paris is trueEverything you’ve ever heard about Paris is true: Expensive. Unfriendly. Grimy. Noisy. Gaudy. Congested. So why do I ache with longing whenever I hear the name? And why do I spend every cent I can spare to fly there again and again when there are a thousand-and-one other places in the world I’ve yet to…

Our tips for planning your vacation to France

Planning a vacation in France can be a daunting task, but here are some short cuts which can help

Our tips for planning your vacation to FrancePlanning a vacation in France can be a daunting task, but there are some short cuts which can help. First, understand France as a group of very different provinces. For example, the Riviera is a very different kind of place from the Luberon which is again different from Normandy. Read about the regions and link…

A minibus ramble through Scottish Highland history

As our minibus pulled to a stop, I felt suddenly that my grandmother’s love of the Highland landscape was surrounding us all

A minibus ramble through Scottish Highland historyI count myself lucky to have had a Scottish grandmother. She was a Graham of Montrose, and came from humble beginnings. I remember her describing something called a byre, and explaining that her mother lived in a crofter’s house with the cattle. From the moment I learned this, I have wanted to travel to northern…

The hardships of Orkney link to Canada’s early days

Displaced from their homes, many citizens of the Orkney islands ended up in Canada working for the Hudson Bay Company

The hardships of Orkney link to Canada’s early daysThe Standing Stones of Stenness on Mainland, the main Scottish island of Orkney, date back to approximately 3,100 BC. Stonehenge, to put the Orkneys in time perspective as a Neolithic parent to western Europe, was constructed from 3,000 to 2,000 BC. What was it about these outpost islands that attracted the earliest agriculturalists to their…

Decoding Orkney by channelling the subtle Norse air

Part 1: A Scottish contribution to Canada’s Arctic genome can be found in the deep history of these remote islands

Decoding Orkney by channelling the subtle Norse airWhen you hear mention of the Orkney islands, off Scotland’s northeast coast, what do you think of? For me, they conjure up a northern vision of Orkneymen, the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Co. on May 2, 1670 (I still recall this date after wearing hundreds of HBC clothing labels over the decades), the Arctic…

Fado’s heartfelt strains infuse Portuguese life

The wistful working people’s music traces its roots to class struggles, but is now widely embraced – and is a soundtrack for everything, including haircuts

Fado’s heartfelt strains infuse Portuguese lifeLISBON, Portugal - Fado is the essential working people’s music of Portugal. It’s rooted in the class struggles and awareness of the early 1800s, and first celebrated the lives of sailors, agricultural workers, tavern dwellers and ladies of the night. It evolved at the same time as the classic Portuguese guitar, a 12-string instrument crafted…

The Algarve: Portugal’s magnificent beach of a south coast

Imagine golden sand, 25C with a blue sky in May, and the cleanest blue-green ocean you’ve ever seen. Add boardwalks stretching for kilometres and fabulous food

The Algarve: Portugal’s magnificent beach of a south coastImagine golden sand, 25C with a clear blue sky in May, and the cleanest blue-green ocean you’ve ever seen. Add boardwalks that stretch for kilometres across salt marshes and sand dunes. Every so often, include colonies of beach lounge chairs, arrayed under stretched blue canvas canopies. Add swirls of swallows and gulls above, and cue…

5 German cities you must visit on your next Euro trip

Germany’s collection of regional identities gives travellers a peerless wealth of diverse cultural, historic and culinary options to explore

5 German cities you must visit on your next Euro tripWhile Germany is not the first location that comes to most people’s minds when they are planning a Euro trip, for travellers who have already been there before it is usually an absolute must to come back. Germany has been at the heart of Europe for centuries and features some of the richest history and…

Touring the unknown wonders of Europe

Before you go, it’s important that you apply for a European Health Insurance card so you are covered for your trip

While the wonders of the world are very well known, there are a huge number of natural wonders located in Europe that are relatively unknown. With an intoxicating blend of natural beauty and wonders, art, architecture and wilds, you are certain to find a huge number of natural wonders when you explore Europe, that are…