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".
Living in London, as I do, one tends to think of the Thames as nothing more than a dividing line between the lovely North and the grotty South. Unfair on many levels, but mainly because, having just spent a weekend in the Berkshire village of Hurley - midway between Henley and Marlow as the river flows - I now know it to be a divine stretch of waterway teeming with life and beauty.
And what's more, if, like me, you were under the aforementioned illusion, it can be shattered moments after arriving in this delicious slice of England's green and pleasant land.
The Greeks knew a good thing when they saw it. Arriving on Sicily's lush eastern coast nearly 3,000 years ago, they settled, prospered and expanded until they had colonised most of this fertile island suspended between Europe and Africa.
Their spirit remains alive and well in what is today an exquisite holiday playground. The fact that the warmest welcome and loveliest hotels and villas are concentrated in the east is attributed by locals to the nous of the commercially-minded Greeks whose descendants are Sicily's congenial hosts.
I was mugged in Helsinki. In broad daylight, they came. I am a Londoner and we Londoners have a confidence about walking around the world's great cities. Strange urban landscapes do not scare us, and we have a radar that can usually detect trouble before trouble detects us. On top of this sixth sense, as a journalist I've been to war zones. Well, one. The point is, I like to think I am one savvy, streetwise dude.
While wine, womanly pursuits and song are not the most obvious reasons to visit Israel, the country is nevertheless becoming a fabulous holiday playground for hedonists.
Even those who thought they knew the country well may be surprised to find its vineyards are winning international prizes and opening up to visitors. And where there is wine, centres of well-being are never far away, particularly in the north, close to Israel's most noted spas and retreats offering numerous opportunities for New Age-style spiritual renewal.
Tolstoy loved it, Queen Victoria did too, Wagner got through a chunk of an opera here and Mark Twain was on a positive high wandering the streets. Where is this? Lucerne: a postcard-perfect Swiss lakeside town, tucked into the Alps within easy reach of Italy, Austria, France and Germany.
Right now, it is home to the greatest music-makers in the world - Vladimir Ashkenazy, Riccardo Chailly, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Mariss Jansons and Claudio Abbado.
Pay attention: this is a story of salt and honey, of wine and chocolate and truffles. Oh, and donkeys. In the 17th century, high up in the mountains of Italy's Piedmont region, above the village of Santo Stefano Belbo, lived a community of monks. Their monastery clung to the hills of the Ligurian Appenines, surrounded by the vines and truffles of the valleys. They had migrated from Provence and built the monastery in 1619, bringing with them their knowledge of wine-making.