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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...

Rebecca Lowe: Cycling through the Middle East’s fractured mosaic

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Rebecca Lowe In 2015, Rebecca Lowe set out on a year long cycling trip from London to Tehran, passing through the Balkans, the Levant and North Africa, crossing over to the Arabian Peninsula and ending in Iran. The Syrian civil war was raging, and Western newspapers were filed with stories of conflict and crisis, the sort of images that have come to dominate our impressions of the region we’ve...

It took two years to get a smile 

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I noticed the old lady across the street watching me all summer when I slipped outside at 2am to put out the trash before bed.  There would be a movement behind the slats of lit shutters and the window would open very slowly. It happened more often when the summer heat was at its worst.  Sometimes a full moon shone down on our alley, and I would stop for a moment to look at it because I...

Festivals and autumn storms

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Dust crusted summer absent of rain By the end of summer in an island without rain, the roads were crusted with a carapace of filth.  Trees were burned brown. What grass there was had withered to straw. Only the prickly pear and olives retained a pale green.  Old ladies polished their front doors at dawn with buckets and rags, to no avail. The island thirsted for cleansing rain, as...

Visitors arrived that summer

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Grand Harbour view from Valletta I didn’t suffer the entire time Tomoko was abroad because my old friend Zachary Peoples stopped by with his new wife on a round-the-world honeymoon.  I’d met Zack at a border crossing in Central America in my late twenties. We traveled together for a while, and he became a main character in my book Vagabond Dreams. We’d last crossed paths in Tokyo a decade...

Fending for myself in the village

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From the vegetable vendor around the corner My peaceful reading and writing routine was disrupted that autumn when my wife decided to take a trip home.  “I’ll explain the shops to you,” she said before we left for the airport.  “How hard can it be to buy food?” “You’d be surprised. So, there’s the food you buy from vendors, and the food you buy in shops…” I knew about the bread man. He...

Martha Gellhorn with biographer Caroline Moorehead

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Martha Gellhorn Martha Gellhorn wanted to be known as a novelist. Instead, she’s remembered as one of the 20th century’s greatest war correspondents. She wrote about what war does to ordinary people, and the despair of those who have lost everything. She covered the Spanish Civil War, and went ashore on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.  But she also wrote about her travels in China, Africa...

A legend is gone

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Dervla Murphy (Photo from ) You may have already heard the sad news. But for those who haven’t… Dervla Murphy has died, aged 90.  Her journey ended peacefully at home, with her daughter Rachel by her side. Old age was finally catching up to her. She continued to travel well into her 80s, but she wasn’t getting around very well in recent years. She never lost her curiosity, though, or her...

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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