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Freelance writer Troy Wilkinson writes: The requirements were simple: A bloke weekend with a close mate, somewhere in Europe we’d both never been, easily accessible for both of us, preferably warm and exotic. Quite how we came up with Yorkshire is a bit of a mystery.

But perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on England’s north. After all, during his two years living in London back when we were in our twenties, my companion Paul succinctly summarises the extremity of his English travels as “Luton in the north, Gatwick in the south, Stansted in the east and Heathrow in the west”, whilst my previous experience with Yorkshire was limited to a brief stop once in the centre of Leeds. That makes it a tick in the ‘never been’ category.

Continue reading “The desolate, windswept moors of Yorkshire”

Part 1: Preparation is overrated
Part two: natural disasters are inevitable; those of the fashion variety are not
Part 3: Look who’s made the news again, this time with its jet-setting ash cloud

Freelance journalist Laura Burgoine writes: In the first and second installments of this blog I self-indulgently ranted about traveling dilemmas I encountered while in Santiago last year. These dilemmas included packing too many shoes and surviving an unexpected but nonetheless epic earthquake. Over a year later I find my latest travel plans back to Santiago, halted by Chile’s volcanic ash cloud, which seems to have mistaken itself for a contestant on The Amazing Race. While I wish I could dispense some kind of practical, yet whimsical, advice on coping with these ‘Acts of God’, unfortunately they are inevitable so I’ll move onto the city itself, like any responsible travel writer should do at some point.

Continue reading “How to light a gas stove, survive an earthquake and other Chilean dilemmas (part 3)”

On the road again

Jul 28, 2011

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To really experience Texas, you have to drive across it without air-conditioning in the middle of July.

No, not really. But we did.

The unrelenting heat may have coloured my impression of the biggest state in the Lower 48 somewhat, but now that I’m sitting in cool evening air at 7100ft high in the Rockies, I like to think I’ve regained a little perspective. The twitches have completely stopped too, which is a good sign, right?

Continue reading “Swimming across Texas”

Italy

Jul 24, 2011

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The Sicilian city of Palermo is an astonishing 2,700 years old, originally settled by ancient Phoenicians. In its long history Palermo has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and Normans before Italian unification in 1860, and the jumble of influences repeatedly appear throughout Sicilian culture, especially in the island’s wonderful food.

Palermo was bombed heavily in WWII after the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, and the post-war period was not a bright one for the city either. Mafia-sponsored development saw cheap housing sprawl northwards without any infrastructure to support it — known as the Sack of Palermo — while the old city remained devastated by the war.

Continue reading “Sunned, stuffed and a little pickled: a trip to Palermo, Sicily”

An Expat Opinion

Jul 21, 2011

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It’s been three years since I lost my job at the BBC, so in the world of the redundant, I would now be a bit of a veteran.  The recession is supposed to be over, but only last month, a major bank over here announced that it was going to shed another 15,000 jobs in the next couple of years. They had already cut 27,500 in 2009.  I mean that’s a lot right?

It made me remember what it was like to pack up the last dedicated work desk I was ever likely to have.  The future was all about hot-desking, a real shift from the time when you had a permanent, personal space to pin your post-its, postcards or photos.

Continue reading “Redundant in London: what does one do when one is unemployed?”

Iona Salter writes: Working overseas. Making a difference. Taking your skills and knowledge to the world. Appealing, is it not? It was certainly the sales pitch that sold me on the idea of volunteering on a newspaper in India last year.

And it was great. I got to meet interesting people, work in the world’s fastest growing (yes, growing) newspaper market, and develop an appreciation for the musical properties of the rickshaw horn. Which you have to really — it’s unrelenting nature drives you to the brink of slipping arsenic in your own palak paneer otherwise.

But I reject the notion that Westerners who trot off to other parts of the globe to “do their bit” all bring valuable and relevant skills with them. It’s imperialistic. And it’s not always true.

Continue reading “From Indian spiritual odyssey to fluff pieces about Kareena Kapoor’s pets”

Ghana

Jul 17, 2011

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“Don’t worry,” says my guide Aggie, giggling like a school girl. “It’s virtually impossible to fall, unless you’re trying to commit suicide.” As I peer out across the treetops at the rope and timber walkway on which I am about to place life and limb, I am not so sure.

“Just don’t walk too slowly,” adds Aggie with a grin. “Otherwise, the walkway will start to bounce and you may fall over. If that happens, just get up and keep on going. It’s perfectly safe!”

I am at Kakum National Park in Ghana’s Central Region. The park, protecting more than 357 square kilometres of some of Ghana’s most diverse and dense forest, is situated 33km north of Cape Coast and is one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions.

Continue reading “Tiptoe through the treetops”

Chile

Jul 15, 2011

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Paul Kearney writes from Chile: Underneath the ashes of the exploding volcano, Chilean students are on strike. At both high schools and universities throughout the country, students have refused to go classes, and are marching through the streets. The education minister even brought the holidays forward two weeks yet the students continue to demonstrate during their holiday time.

But why? The students are protesting against the free market system of education created by Pinochet, which has been responsible for rising costs, inequity, and poor quality of government education. Specifically, students are protesting against the introduction of a law which will increase the costs of university education, but they are also calling for a complete change in the system: they demand a change in the country’s constitution, which will change the government’s duty to provide a good free education. Some students go further, and take control of the school (called a “toma”), occupying it until their demands are met.

Continue reading “Chilean students take control of school to get a better education”

“Is the Ark buried in Poland?” asks Phill, who’s visiting us in Warsaw from the ‘Bra (Canberra, for those not from our nation’s capital). I’ve just been running him through the main options for weekend trips away.

“The Masurian Lakes would be nice — if the weather holds, which it probably won’t,” I say. “And there’s the world’s largest Jesus. It’s in a cabbage patch. And not as big as you’d think. And Wolf’s Lair, where Hitler nearly got assassinated. Like in that film, Valkyrie. The roads are bad there, but there is a converted castle nearby we could stay in. If you like castles, that is.”

“A castle?” Phill’s wife Nina’s ears prick up. She’s been completely uninterested in the planning process to this point, but there’s something about girls and castles.

Continue reading “A matter of (Polish) perspective”

On the road again

Jul 12, 2011

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Crossing the border from southern Mississippi into Louisiana feels more like Queensland to Indonesia, or California to Mexico. The change is dramatic. There’s water everywhere, for a start, and gumbo reigns supreme, and people here even speak differently — the French patois of the true Cajuns has infected the cadences of the rest of the state in easily discernible ways.

Although we crossed our first bayous before we left Mississippi, as soon as we hit Louisiana we started scouring them for our first glimpse of alligators. Many a log was declared to be the first sighting, but in truth, we didn’t spot any until the ones on our plate at the divine Cochon in New Orleans.

Continue reading “Road Trip USA from New Orleans to the Bayou”