Christmas dream routes through East Germany

Erfurt, Potsdam and Rostock, in East Germany, rival many of their big city cousins, especially during the Christmas season

Christmas dream routes through East GermanyLike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, emerging from a world of black and white, East Germany has been transformed into a Technicolor version of its former self. While relatively unknown to those outside of the country, the cities of Erfurt, Potsdam and Rostock have been transformed into vibrant tourist hot spots that rival many…

Holiday reading: Get lost in Lands of Lost Borders

Kate Harris’s book is a must for the travellers on your gift list; discovering Norway and Iceland; indulging in a wellness weekend

Holiday reading: Get lost in Lands of Lost BordersModern explorer Kate Harris’s story may not compel you to follow in the skinny tire tracks she left on an often-gruelling bicycle trip on the ancient Silk Road trading route. But one thing is for sure: She’ll leave you breathless with her beautiful writing about her 10,000-kilometre cycling odyssey through 10 countries in her book…

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…

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 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 by a few…

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…

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…

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…