You would have little inkling of Hungary's turbulent history from its elegant, unhurried capital, Budapest, which bears a striking resemblance to Paris in the layout of its wide boulevards and Empire architecture, much ofit adorned with exuberant stone decoration.
Until the Chain Bridge was built in 1849, Pest was linked to historic Buda by ferry. When the unified city emerged as the capital in 1872, Jews were an integral part of it, having arrived during the Roman period, and forming a quarter of Budapest's population by 1939.
Looking out from the privacy of our villa terrace at Coco Palm Bodu Hithi, the view is almost exclusively sun, near cloudless sky and sea, punctuated on rare occasion by a fellow guest snorkelling in the lagoon. Other than the waves of the Indian Ocean lapping against the stilts on which our secluded villa stands, barely a sound intrudes.
Sibling rivalry can be a painful business. One moment you are the focus of family attention: pretty, petite, gorgeously turned out and perpetually seen in all the most chi-chi spots. Then along comes a younger sister, more beautiful, better attired and with other enviable assets.
There is nothing like a train, as the old song nearly had it. Just how true that is I am about to learn. Cruise ship old hands will know the joy of not having to pack and unpack for a multi-centre holiday. Now the last word in luxury travel in India, the Maharajas' Express has launched itself as a palatial hotel on wheels and my home for a glorious week.
Hull is not Britain's most obvious tourist destination, but Philip Larkin has put it firmly on the map. Several buildings closely associated with the controversial poet - who lived in this coastal city for the last half of his life - have been highlighted on a trail recently launched to mark the 25th anniversary of his death.
A logical place to start is Paragon Station, where a statue of the writer, born in 1922, will be unveiled on December 2. He took many rail journeys and was a regular at the nearby Royal Hotel, where he enjoyed many a lunch in the Brigantine Room.
Ostend enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s, '60s and early 70s but - like the clothes, furniture and hairstyles of the period - it is making something of a comeback. And with LD Lines offering a new direct ferry service from the UK, autumn - or spring - is a great time to acquaint yourself with the Flemish seaside city that was a favourite of Belgium's kings, Leopold I and II.
It is 10am and I am sitting on a hillside on the southwestern shore of Kinneret, puddles of sweat collecting on the ground below. I have been riding, with a friend, in the July heat for four hours. We are not sure where we are or how we are going to get down the hill. I ran out of water half an hour ago.
I am in the Galil to explore two short sections of the 85-mile bike trail that winds up, down and around the hills that surround Lake Kinneret, the lowest freshwater lake in the world.
It was a warm, sunlit day in the cathedral city of Reims, France's Coronation City, in the Marne region of Champagne Ardenne. But inside it was a cool 10 degrees with 85 per cent humidity, the lights were dim, Je t'aime - the song Radio 1 banned for being too sexy, remember? - was playing. Above me were a bas relief of frolicking naked cherubs, and at the bottom of the stairs was Silus, a Frenchman, waiting to take me into a room full of guitar-playing finches.
The first - and last - time I went skiing was when I was 14. It was a school trip to Alpe D'huez in France, and the teachers told our parents that since we might not enjoy the feeling of hurling down a white mountain in freezing temperatures, it wasn't worth spending hundreds on kit - better to borrow.
So I spent the week in a borrowed all-in-one in bright yellow, purple and brown, and completely a relic from the 1980s.
As you stroll around Tallinn, you realise that you're in a place where history hasn't just happened – it has left a lasting mark. The result is that the Estonian capital, which will be European Capital of Culture in 2011, is actually two towns, one wrapped around the other.
There's the quaint old town whose battlements serve to remind visitors of past invasions, not to mention the structures within it that still bear the wounds of devastating Second World War bombings. Graffiti remains from what Estonians soberly call "the Soviet times".