Enjoy the region and take your time: The Interrail diaries

A speedboat cut across my vision and pivoted when the owner caught sight of me sitting on the rocky shore. It was the mid 1980s, in Savonlinna, Finland, and Scandinavia was sweltering under a midsummer heatwave. The boat pulled up and I kept my eyes on the man’s face, trying not to look down at …

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Carcassonne citadel

A stopover in Carcassonne: oui ou non?

Need to buy a replica medieval helmet and sword? Fancy flouncing around in costume like a Kate Mosse character?  All this can be done whilst visiting the fortified city of Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s up there at number 20 of France’s most visited sites. In summer, the main town has a vibrant …

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In search of Dordogneshire: Bergerac in the time of Brexit

Back when I was researching English incomers in the Ariège Pyrenees, many people cited Dordogne as a kind of benchmark. It was a way to disassociate themselves from that stereotype of Little England: 'I think people come here because they don't want that Dordogne thing. They want to take part in the French culture. They …

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Jardins de la Fontaine, Nîmes

A stopover in Nîmes: slow travel in the South of France.

It’s the first day of spring, although the Jardins de la Fontaine smell more like early summer. Half the population of Nîmes is sitting on the lawns of the 17th century park, like the Uber Eats cyclist taking a break, and the other half are in the outdoor cafes of the old town. I walk …

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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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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 de Guzet (and Cascade d’Ars)

The triple waterfalls of Cascade d'Ars are deservedly well known, but it's possible to escape the crowds and make a detour that takes in the étang de Guzet.