Technicolour Dreams: a day at the France Show 2019

“I wonder if punters don’t just want to read about the romantic Peter Mayle/Place in the Sun fantasy?” remarked a literary agent to me when I was writing A House at the End of the Track. I'm happy to say I’m proving him wrong. Apparently the book is sparking people’s dreams to move to France …

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48 hours in: Lviv

A guest post I wrote for travel blogger Yellobrickroad

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With central European hotspots such as Krakow and Prague becoming overloaded with tourists, I recently visited Lviv, in Western Ukraine, for a short city break in December.

Formerly known as Lemberg, the city of Lviv was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of the First World War, when it became Polish Lwów during the interwar period.

The city endured a tug-of-war status between Germans and Soviets in WW2, before the Soviets took control and it became part of the USSR. This all ended in 1991 when Ukraine became independent, and since then Lviv has become accessible and welcoming to visitors – with more speaking English than ever before. This is only going to increase, now that Ryanair fly direct from London.

Where to stay

I stayed in the Aparthotel Horowitz,whichisveryclosetothemainsquare. This location was great as it’s within walking distance to most sites and tons of dining options.

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Lviv from the top of the Town Hall

The no. 9 tram: December in Lviv

“You from here, then? Only you seem to know what’s what.” I laughed and shook my head at the English couple, fresh off the Stansted flight, and explained, pointing to the large ‘5.00 UAH’ written below the airport bus timetable. “The fare's written here, look,” I said. I was curious to know why they’d chosen …

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My favourite summit: Pic Rouge de Bassiès 2676m

I don’t know why the smooth golden dome of this summit has taunted me ever since I spotted it on the horizon of Pyrenean peaks in the Ariège. Its distinctive profile seemed to pop up everywhere I went. Rising up smoothly on one side, the dome breaks off abruptly where its eastern side has been chiselled away, no doubt by long-ago ice action.
I’ve wanted to stand on that summit for years, although I’d turned back twice.
This October, seeing a window of clear, cool days, I was going to do it.

A journey through photographs: Finding family in Western Ukraine

It was all triggered by old black and white photographs sent to my father long ago... Growing up, I’d heard a lot about Poland, where my father had been born at the end of WW1. Coming to the UK during WW2, he’d been unable to go back ‘home’ when the war ended, as eastern Poland had become part of the USSR. I’d had a child’s simplistic understanding of it, that the Russians took it from Poland. But all we ever heard about was Poland. Nothing about Ukrainian people or language.

Ivano-Frankivsk from the town hall viewing platform

Track changes, eastward bound: London to Western Ukraine by train

When I booked the eight trains spanning four days of travel from London to the ancestral village of my father (formerly in Poland, now lying within western Ukraine), I hadn’t realised that I’d be following the same route, more or less, that my father had driven us as a family in the late 1960s. Some fifty years later I decided to travel east again, although this time it was possible to keep going into Ukraine, to the town closest to my dad’s village - the town of Ivano-Frankivsk

Étang d’Areau from Col de Pause

The Col de Pause is a starting point for some wonderful walks, as well as an up-close view of Mont Valier. This entry describes a walk up to the pastures known by various spellings: Areau, Arreau, Arréou and Areou, and its emerald green lake.