Category

Europe

Air travel’s collapse in competence [UPDATED]

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I went back to Canada for a couple weeks in October to visit friends and family. This journey required six flights — three in each direction — every one of which was delayed. I traveled on three airlines: Lufthansa, Air Canada and SwissAir. All failed in multiple ways despite charging me far more money and delivering far less than in the past, with the exception of physical discomfort which...

Edith Durham and the Balkans

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Edith Durham, Albania’s ‘mountain queen’ When I hiked through the Accursed Mountains in Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania last June, I met older Albanians who still referred to Edith Durham as their “mountain queen” for her staunch advocacy of Albanian independence and her love of its people. I’d stumbled across a copy of her 1909 book High Albania while preparing for my trip, and...

Bayonne

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Bayonne, where tall half-timbered buildings reflect their greens and reds in the Nive I spent my last Basque days in Bayonne, where tall half-timbered buildings reflect their greens and reds in the Nive and Adour rivers. The riverside has a Middle Ages feel about it. It’s easy to imagine those same narrow buildings gazing down at the water traffic that made the city such an important commercial...

Bygone glory in Biarritz

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Inspecting bikinis on the Grande Plage Biarritz was once synonymous with glamour. Not just your run-of-the-mill glamour, either, but royal glamour.  It started in 1855, when Napoleon III’s wife Eugenie built a palace on the beach.  Empress Eugenie was born in the Spanish city of Granada, and her husband wanted her to have a home close to the border of her old country so she wouldn’t...

Bumming around the French Basque 

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French Basque country Two sun soaked days of freedom on the Côte d’Argent, and then we shifted our base to the riverside town of Bayonne for a taste of French Basque country. It began with a drive through the foothills of the Pyrenees, where small villages locked architecture into a cultural time capsule and grew the staple foods of French Basque cuisine. Espelette shutters painted pepper red...

Crashing waves on the Côte d’Argent 

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Surf’s up on the Silver Coast Winding mountain roads overburdened with speed cameras and toll booths led us over the edge of the Pyrenees and into France, where we’d take a brief detour from Basque country to swim on sparsely populated beaches up the coast. The geography flattened into an unremitting expanse of pine forests sheltered by massive sand dunes, and beyond them, beaches that...

A night out in Spain’s culinary capital

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San Sebastian’s picture postcard beach The Spanish village of San Sebastian makes an appearance in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, the brilliant first novel that would propel the expat writer and his sparse, direct style to international fame, and eventually to remaking American literature. It tells the story of a group of American and British expats who travel from Paris to Pamplona...

Sampling cider in Santillana del Mar

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The streets of Santillana del Mar On my second day in Basque country, I left Basque country — but only briefly. We were heading to France in a few days, and I wanted to see more of northern Spain before wandering Basque villages on the other side of the border. We set course for Santillana del Mar, a beautifully preserved medieval village of cobbled streets and tanned stone walls lined with noble...

Bar hopping in Bilbao

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Bilbao, in the heart of Spain’s Basque country. I took a short trip to Basque Country to mark the end of Berlin summer with a week of overindulgence in what’s been called the foodie capital of Europe. The Basque people claim to be the oldest group to inhabit the European peninsula. No one knows exactly where they came from, but their presence in the region straddling the northern border of...

Lazarus in the gossip panopticon

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I drove back to the barbershop in Zejtun a month after we left the village. The door rattled aside on its warped metal track. The chihuahua behind the counter barked and glared. An old lady reclined in a chair like the sheeted dead.  I smiled and said hello to the receptionist, and she smiled too. But when the barber turned to look at me, he staggered back a step and froze.  The smile...

Ryan Murdock

Author of Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Columnist at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

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