Road to Bali

Everyone has their own image of Paradise – and let’s face it – palm trees, sunshine, beaches and lush forest would go a fair way towards most of our dreams. Bali has all this – but it has something more too. Bali has Soul. The gentle plonk-plonking of the gamelan, the shimmer of a metal…

The Best Little Whorehouse Museum in Texas

In 1898, a young Mr and Mrs A. Hatton moved to the burgeoning frontier town of San Angelo, and bought the newly completed number 18, East Concho St. The marriage failed almost immediately, and the pair were divorced in 1902. The settlement was simple – they split the building in half. He got downstairs, which…

Napoli Sotterranea

Sixty percent of Neapolitans live above a secret underground cavern of some kind – either man-made or natural. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and other ruptures have taken their toll under the streets of Naples, but far more interesting are the remains of previous inhabitants of the ancient city. Roman engineers, early persecuted Christians, medieval plague patients…

Les Hortillonnages

Sebastian Faulks’s trench warfare epic “Birdsong” begins gently enough. Sketching a world soon to be lost in the carnage of war, Faulks chooses an extraordinary subculture within a sleepy Picardie town-centre as a cipher for French petite-ville normality. Amiens’ Hortillonnages – or floating gardens, are, even at the time Birdsong is set, wonders to be…

Ellora and Ajanta

It was a sepia-tinged 1923 charity-shop find, Wonders of the Past that did it. Grainy monochrome photographs depicting “marvels of ages now remote” had an almost Indiana Jones feel to them, complete with pith-helmeted archaeologists and white-robed assistants posing stiffly next to their latest dig. But the obvious delights of the newly-discovered tomb of Tutankhamen…