It must be a nightmare trying to dust in here, I heard someone say as I gawped at the intricate stone-carved walls of St John’s Co Cathedral. The exterior may look more like an old army barracks than a house of worship, but inside it is breathtaking. You don’t need to be Sister Wendy to appreciate Baroque artist Mattia Preti’s gilded carvings of foliage and flowers that stretch up to the vaulted ceilings, where painted cherubs flit between scenes from the life of John the Baptist.
At the time the old Yugoslavia was carved up 15 or so years ago, Slovenia emerged with the thinnest end of a pretty fat wedge —- a country the size of Wales with a measly 25 miles of coastline. But what a 25 miles they are.
They tell an interesting story at Mobile’s Springhill Avenue Temple about a mitzvah a poor congregant performed in the days of slavery.
Too poor to own slaves himself, the congregant was so horrified by the sight of an African family about to be split up at the local slave auction, that he somehow mustered the wherewithal to buy the lot — then dispersed them among friends and family. That was philanthropy, southern-style.
When I reached Alabama myself in 1965 the slaves were free, but equality still seemed light years away.
Surprisingly, even in crowded Britain, there is still one relatively quiet road that can be explored at leisure. It’s called the Hidden Highway, and it follows roughly the line of the Anglo-Welsh border, all the way from Chepstow to Chester. The road — or more properly a series of A-roads zig-zagging their way through some of the nation’s most glorious countryside — has retained a semblance of isolation and secrecy because, today, there are newer and faster routes between North and South Wales.
There can’t be that many two year olds who have burned their feet on a volcano. But my youngest son, Freddie, who is always kicking his shoes off and running at speed in places he shouldn’t be, is one. I’m glad to report his gorgeous little tootsies were fine, just the colour of a ripe Canarian tomato for a few hours after their close encounter with Timanfaya, Lanzarote’s largest and still smouldering volcano. And the episode has already become part of Freddie’s traveller’s tales.
Lille is hosting a city-wide festival of contemporary art until July and celebrations are in full swing.
Getting there is just a 90-minute ferry hop across the Channel to Calais followed by a 45-minute dash by car, or in less than two hours as a foot passenger by Eurostar to this gorgeous Flemish town, one of Europe’s hottest destinations for culture vultures.
I’m sitting on the terrace of the Luxor restaurant, in the shadow of the Acropolis and Europe’s longest wooden roller coaster, when the waitress uncorks an excellent bottle of Spanish wine and sets a gourmet selection of starters on the immaculately laid table. Where am I? One of the last places you’d guess would be a theme park in Benidorm.
It is Vancouver’s little vanity, with its location on the Pacific Ocean, to think of itself as an outpost of America’s West Coast. Or, in more realistic moments, as an annexe of Seattle, its closest US big-city neighbour. Certainly, the coffee culture, for which Seattle is most famous, has migrated north with a branch of Starbucks or a local chain on every block of every street of south-west Canada’s premier city.
It wouldn’t occur to me to go anywhere for health reasons unless I was feeling unhealthy. But apparently some of the world’s healthiest people go to health spas. Such bodily perfect members of our species as David Beckham, Serena Williams and Kate Moss, to name but three, have all signed the guest book at Chiva Som, Thailand’s top health spa.