Sunday, January 11, 2015

Georgia: An escorted tour in September 2015

I rarely, if ever, escort groups; however, Georgia is a country designed for group tours, and it is probably my favourite destination in the world, so this September I am leading a small group to explore the Wine, Food and Culture of this remarkable country.

We will start, as always, with our arrival in Tbilisi, the country's capital, and following a chance to sleep for a few hours, throw ourselves into the fray. From our hotel we will wander up to the marvellous Vino Underground restaurant where we will have our introduction to the myriad complexities that make up the Georgian wine mosaic.

A leisurely walk through Old Town, and dinner at the spectacularly located Kopala Restaurant will round out the day.

We head out of Tbilisi the next day to visit the ancient capital of Mtskheta, the undeniably chilling Stalin Museum, the wonderful vineyard run by my friend Iago and finally to the Tskaltubo Spa. This spa, formerly the recreation facility for high Soviet military folk, is being refurbished and gradually brought back to life; it houses some truly remarkable historical legacies, and is a fascinating stop.

We continue through the Svaneti Valley to Mestia, the commercial hub of this remote mountain district, and the home of a truly remarkable collection of early Christian artefacts and icons in the national museum. We spend a day travelling by 4WD to Ushguli, a UNESCO heritage site, and a destination recently featured by National Geographic 

Following two remarkable days in the highlands, we will return to Kutaisi, the second city of the country, and enjoy time wandering in the Old Town before dinner and our overnight stay.

From Kutaisi, we follow the ancient path of the Silk Road, as we travel past Tbilisi to the rich agricultural lands of Kakheti in Georgia's east. We cross the Likhi Range en route, the mountains that separate the watershed to the Black or Caspian Seas. We will stop along the way, before reaching our overnight stop at Chateau Mere.

The monastery at Alaverdi has to be one of my favourite places in the country, and we will enjoy both the remarkable atmosphere of the monastery and their wine. Having been making wine pretty much continuously since the year 1011, they have become extremely good at their craft, and you will be able to enjoy their unique creation in the splendour of the 6th century monastery.

Our overnight accommodation will be at the Kabadoni hotel in Sighnaghi, and dinner at Pheasants Tears, a restaurant that I love, and is run by two great friends, John Wurderman and Gia Rokashvili. 

We have a gentle day around this gorgeous town before returning to Tbilisi for the final two nights, and some more sightseeing, wandering, a chance to visit the ancient bath-houses and certainly to shop for some memories of this extraordinary trip.

So, enough of the commercial! The tour is limited to eighteen passengers, the weather will be fantastic, the company convivial and our local colleagues at Living Roots are the most brilliant travel company in Georgia.

It will be an ideal journey, and I look forward to having you join! For more information, please feel free to email me at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Icelandair: Fuel Surcharge Relief

It is with tremendous delight that I can announce that Icelandair has dropped the fuel surcharges that it has levied on their airfares.

This, presumably in response to the huge outcry from the travelling public, and blogs like this one.

Effective immediately, they are dropping their surcharge for flights between Iceland and Europe from £68.50 to £60. This exceptional recognition of the price of aviation fuel, now down over 40% from this time last year, shows exactly what a myth the carriers are perpetrating with this farcical levy.

Be honest, airlines, and put the cost of doing business into the fare, and don't hide it in a miscellany of "Fees, taxes and service charges"

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Airline Fuel Surcharges: Time to review ...

With the price of oil dropping like a stone, and airlines posting magnificent profits, is it not about time that we talked about “Fuel Surcharges”?

Airlines introduced these insidious fees in February 2004/5 at a time that the oil price increased from about $50 to $75 in a very shortperiod. The general idea, at least the one proposed to the US regulatory authorities, was that it would be too complex to refile the thousands of airfares so quickly, and that a surcharge could be introduced to combat the huge expenses that such fluctuations in fuel caused.

Fair enough, one might argue, but a surcharge is inherently a temporary measure.

Airlines, like other users of commodities, have means to hedge their exposure to oil cost fluctuations, and should use them to understand their costs accurately. Once the fuel prices had “stabilised”, or at least once the airlines had been given time to get their house in order, the cost of fuel should have been incorporated into the cost of flying, and the “surcharge” abolished. The price of jet fuel has, in fact, declined by 23.3% in North America in the past twelve months, and globally by 27% (source: IATA fuel price analysis/November 28, 2014), yet this farcical “surcharge” remains stubbornly in place.

For carriers, while the price of fuel appeared to be inexorably climbing, folks accepted the additional fee, even though one wondered what the actual airfare included if it did not incorporate the price of gas; now, however, the charge sticks out like a sore thumb, and has absolutely no place as a separate fee on top of the fare.

The fuel surcharge now has become an interesting way for the carriers to play games; corporate discounts, agency performance payments and other marketing strategies are all based on the “airfare”; low airfares allow carriers to place disgraceful advertisements that imply travel at rates that are often only half of the final price. They are, in short, a major player in the airline industry’s arsenal of deceptive sales tactics.

Now, however, with the price of oil reducing to rates that are even forcing gas stations to reduce their pump prices, the airlines should be forced to explain why the surcharge should remain in place, and what the precise financial levels that cause the surcharge are.

Surcharges are, or should be, temporary; they are imposed in response to a specific and rapidly changing economic environment over which they had no control. Now, however, they do have control of their pricing, and at least should let the public know the price that fuel should reach that will trigger its removal.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Travel Agents in an online world

Being a travel agent is a difficult task, at least, being a good travel agent is.

An agent is supposed to keep abreast of the latest trends, every hotel and air carrier on the planet, foreign exchange trends, weather forecasting, potential security issues around the globe, immigration requirements for each end every country and be up-to-date and cheery with the delivery of this knowledge; and always at the lowest price.

Years ago, well, fifteen or so anyway, travel agents, like practitioners of almost every art, needed to know more than their clients about any single transaction. This was not really too difficult, and their role as the gatekeepers between clients and the principals in the business was well established. And then a funny thing happened; more and more information became accessible to the individual and the role of the intermediary became almost obsolete in many fields.

It is true, of course, that unless value is added to a transaction, there is little or no point in paying for the professional services; an accountant who continuously said “That’s a good idea” to each of your suggestions would not last long in that role.

And a funny thing happened in the travel business; the good agents got better, and the poor ones disappeared. Simple, and good for everyone, one would think, but why do so many travellers cringe at the concept of an intermediary when planning their travel?

I shall give you an illustration. Years ago, the most common question that we received was “What is the cheapest ticket to London?” Our answer was always, “Where in London do you want to go?”, and the responses were interesting. Apart from being able to sort passengers onto Heathrow and Gatwick flights according to their answer, a remarkable proportion, nearly 50%, were in fact going to Hull, Cardiff or another variety of UK destinations. Aware that London was a hub for cheap flights, and unaware of the time-geography of the island, they assumed that getting to London inexpensively was sufficient.

As it happens, one can fly to a variety of UK regional airports including Humberside  (for Hull) and Cardiff for only a small additional cost, and many were delighted and flew to their destination happily and with considerably less expense and frustration. Now, however, the question is the same, and the answer from the Binary Net will always be the most economical fare (or quite often, but that is a different matter), and thus completely unaware that their journey could be fare easier they revel in the fact that they “beat the street” and found the lowest fare to a destination to which they really didn’t want to fly.

The web is, of course, a fine tool, but it is not more a tool than the phone system. It is also worth considering that when businesses spend millions developing their websites, it is to maximise their revenue, and not to minimise your expense; and those are completely different questions and requirements.

The web is where much information is housed; little knowledge is there and the key to successful web-use is knowing the correct questions ask. It is a pasteurising environment, with fewer companies, operating under a variety of disguises, selling fewer products.

It is an addictive environment, and a tantalising one where one knows’ that alternatives exist, but tracking them down and using them as building blocks for your vacation or business trip can be difficult.

And, of course, you won’t miss what you never knew existed.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Munich Airport; a stopover hotel with a difference.

Munich airport is a fine place, and as such, I try to use it as my primary connection point in Europe. For a variety of reasons, I have spent more nights in hotel rooms by airports in the past couple of years that I would normally choose, and the offers from airport to airport vary tremendously, and Munich is no exception.

There are often convenient, but hideously expensive on-airport properties, and then there is the option of travelling into town. This can vary in complexity and cost from Narita airport which lies some 90 kms from Tokyo to London’s Heathrow airport, only 15 minutes (and an eye-watering £20) from the center of the city.

A couple of days ago I needed to overnight in Munich, and unwilling to pay the €300 requested by the Kempinski or head into the city, I looked for a close-by option. It is a lovely hotel, and I have enjoyed staying there in the past, but €300 is a touch steep.

The small town of Neufarhn is only thirteen kms from the airport, and much of that seemed to be spent driving around the runways, and some seven minutes later, with the taxi hitting speeds of 150 km, and the meter whizzing around at a considerable speed, we screeched to a halt by the Gasthaus Gumberger; shaking from the experience and €27 poorer I checked into the property and absolutely loved it.

It was a fairly substantial hotel, and bed & breakfast (a single room) was €99. A comfortable room, an ample dinner at their convivial restaurant and friendly staff were exactly what I wanted. The following morning, however, with more time to spend returning to the airport, I decided to take the train, an option that had eluded me on the previous evening.

The station was a fifteen minute walk from the property, and from there the S1 runs every twenty minutes to the airport for a mere €1.30; I noticed that there was, in fact, another hotel, the Hotel Maisberger adjacent to the station, and at €65 - 85 per night, a fine option, and one that I shall try on my next overnight in Munich.

There are many options like this for spending the night at airports, and many comfortable properties that are completely unlike the soulless airport chain hotels. There are even chain-hotels that are so spectacularly well placed (The Premier Inn at Gatwick), that one can overlook their lack of charm.

It is, however, worth doing a little research before charging on-line to take’s  lowest priced airport option.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Scotland; all fun and games

Scotland is a truly peculiar destination, and touring in Scotland - its Highlands, its Lowlands, its cities or its islands offer visitors more variety than one can shake a proverbial stick at.

It is also, one of those countries that virtually every visitor believes that they know before they arrive; they know because, as the Scots themselves say “Everyone in the world is either Scottish or wishes that they were”; an exaggeration, perhaps, but there is certainly something in this remarkable place for everyone, and most of the jewels need a little fossicking. 

I have been fortunate to have been here many, many times. The first visit was back in about 1972 when, infatuated with a Scottish girl who I had met on a school cruise, I decided to hitch-hike to East Lothian to see her. I recall her bewildered parents when I arrived, and Anne herself (for that was her name) was equally bemused to see me turn up at the farm gate early one morning. In those days, of course, there was no internet, and communication was sparse. I did, however, spend an enjoyable few days, and in the timeless way of fathers was introduced to the joys of farming; having arranged my first driving licence (tractors only), and shown me a field to clear, I enjoyed the first few days and then left hitch back to London, some 350 miles to the south. I still have the licence.

In subsequent years, my visits have taken me in more comfort at times, and from the gorgeous rolling hills and ineffaceable sense of time in The Borders to the remote islands of Shetland, I have travelled the length and breadth of the country.

The islands of the north and west are communities unto themselves; the remote isles of Shetland slowly reviving an identity in the 21st century are most interesting. They are easily accessible either by air or through the splendid services of Northlink, a ferry company serving Orkney and Shetland from Aberdeen. And these islands, steeped in the history of the Vikings, and home to some of Europe’s finest archaeological sites are to be savoured.

In almost complete contrast the rigged islands of the Outer Hebrides are exercises in stoicism, visible in the architecture of everything from the small stone crofts to the concrete bus shelters designed to withstand some mighty gales; there are thriving communities and there are abandoned communities, and one, an island some fifty miles of the western shore was abandoned in the 1930s after hundreds of years of habitation.

A bus shelter on Lewis

The island, St. Kilda, has to be one of the most evocative places that I have visited; it has given its name to the suburb of Melbourne, founded by some of the first St. Kildans to emigrate away from their brutal life of bird catching, bird plucking and bird eating on an isolated, windy and craggy rock in the Atlantic ocean. However it was exactly those features that attracted me to the island, and a few years ago I headed out in a smallish boat to visit Hirta.

Approaching St. Kilda

The Bay on Hirta

Stac Lee and Bororay

The journey took about four hours,  one passenger actually turned a fetching shade of green and spent the whole time on land praying for an airport to be suddenly constructed. It wasn’t, but the weather picked up, and the day on the island was simply gorgeous. Some of the houses on Main Street have been restored by volunteers from the National Trust and somehow the atmosphere of the island still felt inhabited; perhaps by the spirits of the long forgotten islanders, or perhaps from the simple strength of character that has been woven into the island’s fabric during their hundreds of years of harsh tenancy. Whichever it was, I loved the day, and became completely mesmerised by the hundreds of thousands of birds living on the rugged stacks; it was a visit that I would like to repeat.

Main Street
Heading to the Bird Cliffs
 And far from these remote islands, there are hundreds of villages and towns that exude “Scotland”; Dornoch, Huntly, Melrose, Stornoway, Stromness, Brae,  Drymen and so many others are wonderful destinations, and all so easily accessible to visitors wanting to step, just a little, from the beaten path.

And finally, in this note about Scotland, I would be remiss to show my hand, and say that (friends notwithstanding), I prefer Glasgow to Edinburgh! Glasgow is wonderful; heavy, secure, beautiful and with some of the regions greatest museums (a couple of reasonable football teams), fine monuments and terrific restaurants and nightlife. On the other hand, Glaswegians do have a virtually impenetrable accent.

When you visit Scotland, however, be sure to explore; the brands are great, but the soul of the country lies in its depth and lies in the people who live in the remarkable communities that weave the unique fabric that is Scotland.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Scotland; The Northwest in November

Touring in the Scottish Highlands is always a joy, and travelling the far-north of this wonderful destination is always an exercise in surprises.

The scenery is breathtaking, the communities are charming, the food is memorable, accommodation delightful and the weather always a subject of conversation. This trip was no exception, and having decided to spend a few days in the South Of The North Of Scotland, with friends who dwell in Ardgay, I suggested a two-day drive to the north coast.

The A838 - the busy northwestern highway!

I had my reasons; in search of a series of Around Britain driving programs, I needed to find some suitable accommodation and ideas for this part of the country, and besides, I had taken the road from Ullapool around the northwest cape to Durness once before, and it was truly one of themost spectacular roads it has been my privilege to drive.

The Northwest Scottish coast
And so, with accommodation (dog-friendly) arranged at the Borgie Lodge, we set out along the shores of Lochs Shin and More heading to the coast. The sun shone, the copper colours of the fading autumn reflecting in the still waters of the lochs were extraordinary. We stopped to gasp and photograph frequently, and by the time that we reached the “Main Road” at Laxford Bridge, we had completely used up our supply of superlatives, and were almost silent as we headed to Kinlochbervie and the quite remarkable Oldshoremore Beach.
Oleshoremore Beach

Now I drop these names for a reason or two. Firstly, those of you heading to the northwest of Scotland should add them to your must-see list; it is all too easy to pick communities at random, after all, they all look the same on a map, but the cluster of communities at the Rubha na Leacaig (and no, I have no clue what it means) are absolutely delightful. The beaches are superb, if a tad chilly, the villages old and secure in the way that communities many hundreds of years can be, and the atmosphere of the coastline epitomises the region.

It is difficult to quite grasp the lifestyle of sea communities in the far north; obviously fishing and beachcombing are their traditions, but living in such distant and climatically challenging villages makes one perceive the world in a quite different way. I am a tad envious of this perspective, and realising that I am, growing up in the centre of London, as far from a Gaelic seafarer as one can be, look at their lives through rose-tinted glasses. One forgets the danger of the oceans as romantic ideals of the sea flood though one’s mind, and those gorgeous, white-painted cottages that huddle together in the small villages evoke such images that the thought of their heating bills, and drafty stonework rarely impede. In truth, the reality of village life in the distant northwest of Scotland is one of community, and while there are many leaving the region for the comforts and work of the cities, there are many migrating the other way in search of a less stressful existence; one can only hope that each find their own peace.

And so, after letting the dogs run and splash on the beach, we continued north along the now single-tracked road to Durness.

Oldmoreshore Beach
Access to Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly point of the UK is by ferry across the Kyle of Durness which operates somewhat eccentrically. In the off-season, which is now, it operates according to the weather, and only by going to the ferry point and reading the instructions can one get an idea of the possibility of sailing. Yesterday, it simply said “No Sailing Today”, so that was that. We returned to Durness for a sandwich and continued along the coast to Tongue.

Pocan Smoo
The road is truly extraordinary; one jumps hundreds of millions of years at the turn of Loch Eriboll where we are informed that the lands on either side of this waterway are from different millennia, and one can see a dramatic change in the agriculture and features of the land. As we continued from here, the land became flatter and intermittently there were more cattle grazing, and more frequently huge stags peering at us from their vantage points in the moorlands.

Sunset at Loch Hope
And so we continued until dark, which came at precisely 4.11pm, a touch early, and an impediment to full-on sightseeing, but for us it was ideal, and time to enjoy the hospitality of the Borgie Lodge, our destination for the night.

It was, and probably still is a slightly unusual place; rated with four stars by the Scottish Tourist Board, two stars by the AA, and by us as a mixture of the spectrum of stars that we could imagine. More about The Lodge in due course.

Sunset from the causeway at Tongue

Friday, October 31, 2014

Georgia in the Caucasus: Travelling with Journalists

As you probably know, Georgia, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, is one of my favourite countries in the world. Tbilisi, its capital enchants, Svaneti and Tusheti are two mountainous regions beyond description and the wine-growing region of Kakheti and its gorgeous community of Sighnaghi are utterly wonderful.

However, one sometimes gets to believe one’s own rhetoric, and faced with the critical eyes of an audience unseduced by its charms sometimes one’s loves shatter and fade.

And such was the worry when I agreed to arrange a group tour of Georgia for a dozen North American journalists last month.

We met at Tbilisi airport in the wee hours of the morning; most flights to/from Europe whizz in and out between 3.00 and 5.00am, and although the Georgians are quite used to this eccentricity, it comes as a bit of a shock to newcomers. However, whisked off to our hotel, and allowed a restorative six hours sleep, we were duly shaken from our reveries and taken for our morning (well, noon by now) wine-tasting.

Alaverdi Monastery

The wine is good too; with a history of making wine in clay qvevris for 8,000 years, they have learned a thing or two, and it was a joy to see the cheeks of my hard-nosed scribes start to shine with their new found friends in Georgian wines.
Wine is to Georgians so much more than an alcoholic drink. It is one of the very strands that combine with religion, language and history to create the fabric of this most interesting and hospitable country. The vine is a symbol of the nation; when Christianity was originally brought to Georgia in the fourth century by the remarkable woman, St. Nino, her cross was made from twisted vines. She must have been a remarkable personality, for the Queen of the time, Queen Nana requested a meeting, and converted to this new religion, and Georgians have never wavered in their belief.
Ikalto Academy

The next days were a most extraordinary journey; we visited ranches, cities, monasteries, convents, a 12th centurywine-making academy, a museum to Stalin, the ancient capital of Mtskheta, the mountains of Svaneti, the UNESCO heritage village of Ushguli in the high Caucasus mountains, a partly-restored Soviet Military Spa (where we slept for a night, and delighted in the ephemera of the bar/disco), souvenir shops, two national museums and a bath house. We rode with the best guide in the region, Tamara Natenadze on a tour organised with my colleagues from the best travel company in the region, Living Roots.

The incomparable Tamara

And we had fun. We had surprises, and above all, we had a dozen journalists who were quite astonished that Georgia had been able to remain under the radar for so long. I reminded that that they were, in fact, the radar, and that was why they were here. And so, after a few toasts, and promises of endless friendships and everlasting joy, they left to ponder a most remarkable week.

Georgia is a remarkable country; it has every asset that a destination could want from active winter skiing, both heli-skiing and the more conventional variety to a culture that is fascinating and accessible. It offers opportunities to travel on high mountain roads in 4WD vehicles, go white-water rafting on a number of great rivers and enjoy fine accommodation and a bewildering variety of incredible food and wines.

Georgia is truly a destination to be visited now; it is ready, and is the destination that we all want to visit on our worldly wanderings!

United Airlines; an excercise in indifference

I am a relatively lucky traveller; I usually fly in the pointy end of aircraft, enjoy a great deal of international wandering, and am generally one who floats through airports unscathed.

My baggage, however, is a completely different matter and the complete utter indifference of airline personnel when Bad Things Happen is eye-watering; add to that, the insouciance of the security staff, and a day at the airport can translate into blood-pressure medicine (or alcohol) in short order.

As you might guess, I am at an airport; Toronto, since you ask. At around 10.00pm last evening, Trip Case (God love ‘me) advised me that my 1445 flight to Chicago had been cancelled; the advice coming not from the perpetrator, you might note, but from a third-party.

I called United - never easy, as their voice-recognition-technology seems not to understand British accents saying tricky words like “Yes” or “Rebook my flight”, and managed to get the ticket reissued for a 7.30am departure to Chicago via Toronto. Irritating, but I am on my way.

So, perky as one might image, I arrived at the airport, lied about the weight of my carry-on luggage - well, if I gave it to them, I would likely never see it again - and headed to security. Today, they seemed to take delight in closing one of two lanes just as four of us approached, and thus added a good ten minutes to our line-up as they laughed in the manner of a Halloween Demon at our discomfort; shoes didn't need to be removed, but I did anyhow, and waited as a young screener stared at the image of my luggage for what seemed to be hours, but was in fact only about three minutes; she seemed fascinated, everything a potential threat, each item seemingly new to her experience.

Finally she let it through; I was reprimanded for something or other regarding a pile up of plastic trays that I am sure was not my fault, and dispatched on my way.

More security in Toronto; this time, two young screeners clearly infatuated with each other, and giggling sweetly ignored the pile up of bags until it was pointed out that they could delay their courtship until the coffee break; snarling, they went back to work, and we came to the planes.

I would not have thought that asking to be put on a stand-by list for an earlier flight was a trigger for venom; however, the United check-in agents were so completely dismissive of my request that I immediately left, my tail between my legs to ruminate on why travellers and those working to assist in our passage have become so adversarial.

There must be reasons, but I can’t think of them.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Travellers' Curse

This was not meant to be a miserable post, and I hope that it isn’t, but I was minded to ponder my wanderings after rereading an aphorism in a blog that I follow. It is wildly known as the Travellers' Curse, and appears in many variants, and this is but one.

“The more places you see, the more things you see that appeal to you, but no one place has them all. In fact, each place has a smaller and smaller percentage of the things you love; it drives you, even subconsciously, to keep looking, for a place not that’s perfect (we all know there’s no Shangri-La), but just for a place that’s “just right for you.” But the curse is that the more you experience, the odds of finding “just right” get smaller, not larger. So you keep looking even more, but the more that you see, the harder it gets”. 

This is Part A

I love to travel, and have noticed that as an addiction, travel follows the traditional paths of most compulsions, requiring ever more adventure, ever more frequency and ever more “interesting” places to be.

It is the yellow one 

The case in point is the rather tranquil, if not traditionally beautiful, village of Esperaza in the Languedoc region of the south of France. It is not the most glamorous place that I have visited, but it is a destination that captivates me.

Now, the dining room 

In 2007, I bought an old butcher’s shop in the main street of this unprepossessing town on a complete and utter whim. In fact, it was seen at 11.00am, purchased by 1.00pm and by 4.00pm that afternoon we were flying back to Canada; why we did this most reckless thing I have absolutely no idea, but I am delighted that we did.

For some reason, Esperaza ticks more of my boxes than most places; it is lovely, quiet (apart from the periodic concerts in the main square), and nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees ninety minutes from the sea. It is in an area steeped in mythology, Rennes le Chateau is visible from my “office” as I type this, and the belief system of the Cathars still holds many adherents, as do a multitude of unorthodox spiritual beliefs.

It is an area of spectacular walks, remote castles, a river that is ideal for rafting and kayaking, opportunities for horseback riding, medieval markets and beyond all, some quite delightful and fascinating people.

And, because people and relationships are the most important facet of any destination and any journey they form Part B of the Travellers' Curse.

The more you travel, the more numerous and profoundly varied the relationships you will have. However, the more people you meet, the more diffused your time is with any of them, and as you cannot travel with them all all of the time, it becomes harder to develop deep relationships. Yet as one keeps traveling and meeting amazing people, it feels fulfilling; eventually, of course, you miss them all, although many have all but forgotten who you are!
Then you make up for it by staying put somewhere long enough to develop roots and cultivate stronger relationships, but these people will never know what you know or see what you’ve seen, and you will always feel a tinge of separation, and you will want to tell your stories just a little bit more often than they will want to hear them.
Another road trip seems to be the only answer”

Now, I don’t want this to sound melancholy, and I am not sitting here wringing my hands, but it is an interesting phenomenon, and one that frequent travellers know well. It has to be said, however, that few get to the point of permanent vagabonding, and most of us have real roots to which to return.


 But I digress; the spectrum of people in Esperaza is astonishing, and offers a warm and varied posse to join. Part of the reason is the simple variety; as we make friends at home there is more often a common denominator of education, work or children. None of these criteria come to play as you meet other wanderers in later life, and the spectrum of friends can be quite delightful.

And, as one can see from the images of folks trying to seek solace in passing companionship, travelling can be a lonely affair.

Above all, this curious confluence of people, beauty, access (Barcelona is only three hours away, and the redoubtable Ryanair can whisk one to London from the airport forty-five minutes away on a daily basis), activity and the important fact that they make a very nice drop of wine in these parts, combine to have made us stop and buy a toe-hold without a second thought.

I do look forward to returning to Winnipeg, but am grateful for the friends that I have in Esperaza, London, Tbilisi and so many others scattered around this fascinating world of ours.

Xinalic, Azerbaijan - hospitality and friendship are everywhere

And certainly, without Facebook, keeping in touch would be very difficult indeed!