One warm May evening in the Tuscan hill town of Cortona my new fiancé and I witnessed the ritual that is the Italian passeggiata. After the day’s work is done all ages take to the streets for a stroll, catching up on gossip, flirting and maybe enjoying a drink and a snack.
We watched the spectacle from the comfort of a street-side bar and ordered a negroni each, which arrived with complementary olives and breadsticks.
A slow train south from Madrid to the Andalucian city of Granada was the first leg of the first holiday my now wife and I took, just weeks after we first met.
The air-conditioned carriage trundled for hours across the baked earth of Castile as we ate tinned olives and shared icy bottles of Heineken.
Spain stretched out before us with the occasional puff of cloud emerging over the horizon. On arrival in the evening, the southern heat was still overwhelming. Our supper was a large plate of sliced tomatoes, garlic and olive oil with a chunk of crusty white bread. Sleepy after the journey, we held hands as we walked through jasmine scented streets in the dark.
I was told that I wouldn’t need a watch when I first visited Sherkin as an 11-year-old and almost 30 years later the situation is very much the same.
Although only a short ferry ride from the Cork coast, the island is at a step out of time. This far west, the Atlantic commands the pace.
One hot afternoon from the cliffs at Horseshoe Bay, we watched through a telescope a yacht head out to the ocean before we descended along a gorse-choked path for a bracing dip in the turquoise shallows.
But as well as the natural beauty the island has other diversions. The story goes that when asked by summer visitors what time The Jolly Roger pub closes, locals joke ‘October’.
Sherkin doesn't fit with the conventional notion of a desert island but then sometimes paradise is right under our noses.
Monte Alban is less well known than many other pre-Colombian sites in Mexico but it is in a spectacular location on top of a levelled-off ridge at the point where three valleys meet, just outside of Oaxaca city. Views from every vantage point are magnificent, with forest-clad mountains seeming to stretch infinitely towards Guatemala and beyond.
Mexico was the first stop on a world trip my wife and I did a few years ago and this location was significant to me as it was the first time I had been overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of nature. The feeling of eternity among the ruins with the stunning Sierra Madre backdrop made me feel insignificant. However I was surprised at how comforting this actually was. Truly awe-inspiring.
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