After a few days in the sun, there are three words guaranteed to bring you back to earth harder than a 747 with a blowout: Cold, Rain ... and Luton. The pilot told us to expect all three, in that order, as a wobbly budget jet that seemed to shudder in sympathy, broke through the clouds over Bedfordshire to the sound of trolleys being stashed and air crew strapping themselves in.
Ten minutes later, a handful of Brits and a few well-fed Italian families trudged their way against a spitty cross-wind smudging the mascara of the hostess trying to smile us through to Arrivals.
When any slice of Italy remains undiscovered by the demonstrably Italiophile British tourist, you have to wonder why.
And given the beauty and diversity of Basilicata, it can only be down to its history - which is strange and exotic. The Jews who first peddled their wares along the Appian Way in the third century CE are long gone (even from Naples, the nearest major city, which once had a substantial community), as are the stonemasons who worked the quarries before emigrating to build New York's skyscrapers.
There was an episode of the classic TV comedy show Alan Partridge that featured the hapless TV host suggesting programme ideas to a BBC1 executive. Monkey Tennis, Inner City Sumo and Arm Wrestling with Chas and Dave were his creative gems. Well, how about this, Alan - Flirting in Malta?
Flirting in Malta sounds like the latest in the series of those horrible Sky Three programmes about drunken louts trying to mate on holiday, but it is an actual holiday idea.
Zipping along skinny country roads, past craggy moorland and sweeping fields as puffs of clouds drift in bright blue skies, it's hard to place this hidden corner of England. It's wilder than the Cotswolds and quieter than the Lakes, and hidden is how those who know about it would like to keep it.
The Forest of Bowland is one of England's most beautiful country escapes, for ramblers, foodies, cyclists and city-slickers seeking a slower, simpler pace of life.
Robin Hood will be riding through the glen yet again this month, at least on the silver screen - and no doubt Ridley Scott's epic is not the last we'll see of Friar Tuck, Maid Marian or Robin himself. Nor of Merlin, Lancelot and King Arthur, for that matter, given the fact that myths and legends are woven into our national psyche, and we seem to love keeping them alive.
To make it easier to follow in the footsteps of Robin and other legendary heroes - not to mention a fair few real and legendary villains - Visit England has launched a new Myths and Legends map and website.
As friends' plans for exotic holidays were dashed by volcanic ash clouds, it was hard not to feel smug as we strolled, dog in tow, through the dappled sunshine of the New Forest on a perfect spring weekend. When heaven lies on the coastal fringes of Hampshire and Dorset, who needs to take to the skies?
It is no surprise that the odd coven of white witches has settled in this corner of ancient Wessex - and that should be taken as encouragement to visit.
I had been in Portugal for less than 12 hours when I had my first pinch-myself moment. Five courses into an epic supper at Restaurant Arte Náutica near the beach at Portimao, I caught a glimpse of the starry sky. There, twinkling above me, was the plough. A few metres away, the calm waters of the Atlantic gently lapped the sandy shore.
And all around me was nature: palm trees, white sands, mysterious sounds from night owls and other birds. It was idyllic, and there wasn't a golfer, binge drinker or package holiday maker in sight.
The genteel seaside resort of Easbourne may be an unlikely setting for world-class modern art, but its Towner Gallery is one of Britain's best. So good, in fact, that within a year of reopening in a new building, this excellent institution has already been shortlisted for the nation's top museum award, the national Art Fund Prize.
Garish pink and silver curtains drew open, drums rolled and out came the dancing girls. A moment later Phillipe, the compere asked the audience (in French) 'anyone here from Pas de Calais?' Hands went up accompanied by cheers. 'Étrangers bienvenus' – welcome strangers – he chuckled.
Strangers? We were enjoying a dinner/cabaret spectacle at Le Prestige Palace, av du People Belge, (think mini Moulin Rouge) in Lille, located in the Nord Pas de Calais region of Northern France bordering Belgium.