I Skied a Volcano

sicilyPublished - Conde Nast Traveller November 2010
At 7.15am, the Messina-Catania highway was empty. A soft January sun, hidden under a thin bank of purple clouds on the horizon, bathed the Ionian Sea in mercury, silver and gold. Beyond the tunnel beneath Taormina, where the road sweeps down towards the lush green plains of Fiumefreddo, I had to pull over and stop. Towering above the still-dark orchards and orange groves, Mount Etna - blindingly white in the early-morning light - seemed to be suspended in the sky. ...Read more

Volcano challenge

icelandPublished - Ski+Board October 2010
April 14, 2010. Not since World War II has the Western Hemisphere seen anything like it: spewing fire, and – above all, ash - the once little known Eyjafjallajökull volcano was playing havoc with air-traffic on the Continent and to and from the USA. For six days, not a single plane could take off or land at any of the European airports. Business as we know it came to a standstill. After its banking collapse and subsequent total bankruptcy, Iceland - the tiny nation on the Western fringe (pop. 300,000) - was scattering its ashes demonstratively all over Europe.
The pictures of an awe-inspiring smoke plume rising into the stratosphere went around the world.
Accompanied by earthquakes, lightning, and a ...Read more

Japan 2010 - A Travelogue

Japan_main_island_2010_037_Custom.jpgUnpublished -

My fondest cinema memory: when Mary Poppins takes the two children to the park where they meet Bert, the Cockney trickster and chimney sweep and busker and screever and how they all take each others hands and step into this beautiful landscape Bert had just drawn on the pavement. Could it be possible? Can one decisive step, into a rabbit hole, or into the depth of a wardrobe, or into a colourful chalk drawing, really take you to a place you never knew, yet always longed for? The Japanese think so. The step one has to take is through a Torji, one of those mysterious gates erected everywhere - made either from wood, or stone, or brass, painted in bright vermilion, or untreated, like a giant Chinese logogram written with a few bold brushstrokes into the landscape. ...Read more

There is only one Berlin


To stay at Berlin’s Adlon Kempinski is not part of one’s usual economy class approach. No crisis frugality here, no brotherly pre-Christmas reunion with the masses, who, clad in dark winter coats, stroll up and down the ‘Unter den Linden’ boulevard - each of its newly planted lime trees festooned with innumerable tiny light bulbs. It is quite snooty actually, particularly when one witnesses the daily drama in front of the hotel, where immaculately groomed bellboys make their bows to arriving guests while chasing away eager onlookers:  ...Read more

Silk road spectacular

Kyrgizstan01smPublished - Ski+Board January 2010

BENDING his massive, plump, six-foot-seven body over a tiny magnifying glass to scrutinise my passport, the Kyrgyz border officer barked: “Who issued this visa?” He resembled a giant sumo wrestler trying to squeeze through a mouse hole. “Look for yourself” he said triumphantly. “It’s a fake!” I screwed my eye to the lens with feigned interest: “How is this possible?” I asked. “It was issued by your own embassy in London!” ...Read more


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