Wednesday, May 24, 2006


The investment performance of property

May 2006

Total returns on cash invested, over the past year:


Bulgaria 137 %

Cyprus 85 %

Florida 54 %

France 68 %

Greece 2 %

Italy 30 %

Northern Cyprus 32 %

Poland 47 %

Portugal 40 %

South Africa 41 %

Spain 52 %

Turkey 34 %


Monday, May 22, 2006


ZUG in Switzerland; Marc Rich

Zug, pronounced tsoog, is a German speaking Swiss canton. It is rich and has connections to Marc Rich.

Rich, born in 1934 to a Jewish family, has lived in Zug since 1983. He is wanted by the US justice system for having traded with Iran and for tax evasion. (see below)

Margaret Thatcher likes Zug.

Zug has clean air, lakes and Alpine foothills which are rich in flora and fauna.

The lakeside city of Zug is thirty minutes from Zurich or Lucerne. Zug is a rail junction.

The city of Zug is reputed to be the richest in Switzerland. Zug’s taxes are said to be the lowest in Switzerland.


The city of Zug has fancy offices and malls, but also superb examples of medieval and Renaissance buildings, including timber-framed houses with pictures painted on the walls.

Lake Zug

Zug has an attractive lake promenade. You can sail on Zug lake in a steamer. Boats sail from Zug to Walchwil and other lakeside places several times a day.

Zug mountain

If you want to walk, paths lead up, through trees, to the top of the 3,255-foot-high Zugerberg (Zug Mountain). You can also journey up the mountain in a cable car. There is a small hotel on the mountain, with a restaurant on a terrace. The view is of Lake Zug, parts of Lake Lucerne, Mount Pilatus, Mount Rig, the Jungfrau, the Eiger, and the Finsterahorn.


Hotel Zum Ochsen, in the center of the old town, charges around $142 for a room. Parkhotel near the railway station, charges around $193. The Lowen near the lake has rooms from around $88.

We recommended the Parkhotel.

There is a campsite 2km west of town on the lakeshore at Chamer Fussweg 36.


The waterfront square and the adjoining alleys have both cafes and restaurants for the rich and not so rich.

Hecht restaurant , Fischmarkt 2, is a historic lakefront restaurant. You can eat fish from the lake.

Widder restaurant, Landsgemeindeplatz 12, in the Old Town, has terrace seating in summer.

Zug is famous for Kirsch (cherry brandy) and Zuger Kirschtorte, a rich almond tart with Kirsch.

Marc Rich

Reportedly, Marc Rich lives in Zug.

According to an article at :

"Marc Rich the commodity bandit and "spook" was so interwoven with the White House of George Bush The Elder and later, Bill Clinton, you could not hardly tell whether the White House dirty tricks department was in Washington or Zug, Switzerland, one of Rich's outpposts. To escape being prosecuted, Rich did not return from Zug to face the big-time Federal Criminal music in the 1980s. At the time the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Rudolph W. Giuliani (later N.Y. city Mayor), wanted to put Rich in jail. A Bush Family confidant, Giuliani nevertheless found out too late that Marc Rich was the American CIA's laundry man and was immune."

Marc Rich, Switzerland and a Sheikh from the United Arab Emirates.

According to '7DAYS', a number of people are involved in an allegedly illegal law suit that has kept a Sheikh’s money frozen in a Swiss bank account.

These people reportedly have connections to Marc Rich.

This a story involving Sheikh Mohammed bin Saqr Al Qassimi. He is reportedly the victim of a conspiracy to defraud him and thousands of others out of millions of dollars they had invested in the global foreign exchange markets.

For 10 years, the Sheikh’s money has been frozen in a bank account in the Swiss canton of Zug.

A company called Creative Finance had its assets frozen by the state prosecutor in Zug.

The Sheikh's company, Al Wafa Broker, had used Creative Finance to carry out foreign exchange transactions.

Around $20 million of Creative Finance’s frozen assets were Al Wafa’s.

The state prosecutor in Zug was unable to find any proof of criminal action by Creative Finance and charges of money laundering and other charges were dropped. The assets remained frozen.

There was a suspicion that certain people in Switzerland, linked to Marc Rich, were responsible for the situation.

Marc Rich is the billionaire commodities trader who fled to Switzerland in 1983 to avoid tax evasion charges in the USA.

The US government apparently tried to extradite Rich from Switzerland, but failed.

One version says that the Swiss wanted to hold on to one of their biggest tax payers.

"Rich was represented in Switzerland by Rudolf Mosimann, the chief prosecutor for canton Zug, who was also a director of Marc Rich AG, as well as thirty three other foreign firms registered in Zug."

Another version is that Rich is well connected to the Clintons, the Bush family, the CIA and Mossad.

In 2001 when Rich was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak mentioned Rich’s contributions to Israel’s "national security" in phone calls to Clinton, according to statements from Barak’s spokesman, Gadi Baltiansky.

A letter from former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit to Clinton confirmed that Rich had given "assistance" to Mossad.

Zug’s former Mayor, Othmar Kamer, reportedly said: "We have six large tax contributors who influence our financial budget. Marc Rich is one of them."

Source for the above:

Rich and Abramoff

According to an article at Lookingglassnews:

Indicted GOP lobbyist Abramoff operated sex, spy ring at Watergate ...

"Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury heard several agents testify in April that the 'Watergate, Ritz-Carlton and Sheraton Hotels in Washington, DC were used to compromise legislators and news-people with prostitution services, the financing of which is directly linked to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Marc Rich and Abramoff,' said national security expert Thomas Heneghan."


Thursday, May 18, 2006


Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai in Thailand

October 2000

AIDS is now the main cause of death in Thailand. In Thailand's villages they are not dying so much of heart attacks as of AIDS.

There are more than one million Thais in the sex industry and more than one million Thais with HIV.

I got bad vibes, in Bangkok.

It was supposed to be the land of smiling people, but the three girls at the door of the seedy hotel were not smiling. The taxi driver had insisted we stop at this place. "There are girls like young film stars," he had said. My protestations had been ignored.

The girls looked a picture of utter misery. They had probably been kidnapped and were missing their mums.

I refused to get out of the taxi and got driven safely back to Bangkok's Asia hotel.

Bangkok is now regarded as the CRIME CENTRE of Asia.

In Thailand's capital city, the Russian mafia deal in extortion, the Germans and Australians export women, the Chinese deal in the small arms trade, the Korean mafias go in for kidnapping, the Japanese....

Turf wars are leading to shootings.

A few months ago on the road from the airport, gunmen from Macau's 14K triad executed 3 Shui Fong members.

On September 15th 2000, seven hitmen ran into a Bangkok flat used by a top Indian mafia boss. The boss's lieutenant was killed instantly. The don was critically wounded.

A Pakistani gang leader, wanted for robbery and extortion, was recently gunned down in Bangkok.

In March 2001 a bomb wrecked a Thai Airways plane at Bangkok's international airport. Police suspect the attack could be linked to prime minister Thaksin's pledge to crack down on drug smuggling.

(In September 2001 the entire board of Thai Airways resigned. Prime Minister Thaksin had said the airline "sucks" and that if he had any choice he would not fly with it. Mr Thaksin had a narrow escape when a Thai Airlines plane exploded, killing one crew member. In September 2001 two Thai Airlines flight s were delayed by bomb scares.)

When I visited Pattaya, the vibes got worse. There was an aura of evil. Nobody seemed friendly, in any genuine way.

On the beach I got chatting to a businessman called Panya and his friend who was a local policeman. They suggested I might like to join them for lunch at a fish restaurant. It was a super meal, but muggins had to pay.

I met a pretty girl called X. Her father was dying of AIDS.

What I read in the local newspapers came as a bit of a shock.

48 year old tourist Peter A was found dead in his hotel room in Soi Pattayaland 3, in Pattaya. The deceased's room had been ransacked and there was blood all over the bathroom, according to the Pattaya Mail.

40 year old tourist Erich B fell from his Pattaya hotel room to his death. Earlier, a local Thai had been seen coming out of his room, according to the Pattaya Mail.

43 year old Oleg C was found dead in his Pattaya hotel room. He had been beaten.

A tourist in his 50's was found dead in a locked room...

"Within a two month period, there have been 7 foreigner deaths (in Pattaya)" reported the Pattaya Mail in a recent edition.

42 year old Peter D was assaulted by a gang of knife wielding thugs and had to receive 70 stitches. The attack took place at a bar on Soi 2, in Pattaya.

35 year old Brian E lost most of his valuables when his South Pattaya hotel room was burgled....

The Pattaya Mail had a recent report about money being extracted from tourists, by the police.

"There are police behind the scenes helping the foreign mafia do their dirty work," reported the Pattaya Mail.

Female tourists are not necessarily totally safe in Thailand.

23 year-old Johanne M from Cheshire was raped and murdered by a Thai monk. Her body was found south-west of Bangkok.

24-year old Kirsty J was raped and killed in a guesthouse in Chiang Mai.

On the island of Phuket a 22 year old student from Lanarkshire was brutally raped.

There is now a website urging people to boycott Thailand. urges tourists to avoid Thailand because of incidents like the following :

There was a fire in a hotel. Several young girls, who had been chained to their beds, were burnt to death.

The main risk to the tourist may be the "mysterious death" in a hotel room. The tourist is found dead. His money is gone. He has been drugged. The police say it was a heart attack, or suicide.

How about Bognor this year? It rains a lot, but at least they speak English.


Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Rawalpindi: imagine Flashman, games of cricket, mosques and minarets, churches, blue three wheeled taxis, samosas, and men looking like bin Laden.

It's not all that different from parts of Delhi or Bombay. You can smell the spices mixed with traffic fumes.


tourist information.

Rawalpindi, in Northern Pakistan, is joined to Pakistan's modern capital Islamabad. (Think of Buda and Pest making Budapest)

Rawalpindi, population 2 million, is famous for its bazaars, its restaurants, and its dramatic views of hills and mountains.

Rawalpindi was a garrison town in the days of the Raj and is now the HQ of Pakistan Army.

Climate - cool winters and very very hot summers.

Where to stay- The Pearl Continental Hotel, The Mall Road PO Box 211, Rawalpindi.

This large bright modern luxury hotel has several restaurants- 1. The Tandooori, designed like a village, serves traditional Punjabi and barbecue dishes 2. The Taipan, the hotel's Chinese restaurant 3. Pakistan and continental food is also on the menu at the Marco polo, where one can have a choice from both buffet and a la carte.

Recreational facilities include a swimming pool, tennis court and an exercise room.

Restaurants in Rawalpindi - try the samosas in places like College Road and the Dahi Bhallas of Sarrafa Bazaar

What to see in Rawalpindi.

1. The bazaars: the 2 main bazaar areas are A. Raja Bazaar in the old city (Take at least a day to explore and take photos) and B. Saddar Bazaar which is in what is called the cantonment (the area between the old city and the Mall/Grand Trunk Road). Saddar Bazaar is the place for hotels, banks, airlines and travel agents. The heart of the bazaar is along Kashmir Road and Massey Gate.

2. You will enjoy wandering through the cantonment which dates back to the time of British India. It has Christian churches, spacious bungalows, a club, a cricket ground, a mall and the colonial-style Flashman's Hotel. Stop for a cup of tea. Behind Flashman's is Saddar Bazaar.

3. The Army Museum, near the Pearl Continental Hotel, is not my cup of tea but you might enjoy it. You'll find a collection of weapons, uniforms and paintings showing Pakistan's military history. Hours are 9 am to 3 pm in winter, 8 am to noon and 5.30 pm to 7 pm in summer.

4. Ayub National Park, on Jhelum Road, is a pleasant park covering an area of about 2, 300 acres. It has a children's play area, a boating lake , an aquarium and a garden-restaurant. Rawalpindi Public Park is located on Murree Road near Shamsabad. It has a playland for children, grassy lawns, fountains and flower beds. A cricket stadium was built in 1992 just opposite the Public Park.

5. Golf -Situated near Ayub National Park, Rawalpindi Golf Course

6. For some interesting views, take an organised tour to Margalla Pass, 26 km west of Islamabad on G.T. Road. Margalla is mentioned by historians and emperors like Alberuni, Ferishta and Jehangir. There is an obelisk right on the top of the Pass, built in 1890 in memory of Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (died on 23 September 1857) A small part of the ancient Shahi (Royal) Road can be seen just across the pass, left of G.T. Road. This road was first built by the Persians in 516 BC and later developed by the Afghan King Sher Shah Suri in 1540s. An inscription on the western side of this stone pavement shows that it was again repaired in 1672 AD.

7. Wah Gardens was once a campsite of Mughal rulers. Wah Gardens is 12 km west of Taxila on G.T. Road. Beautiful cypress trees line the canals, and in the distance are blue mountains. Gorgeous.

8. Murree - take a half day or whole day trip to this town in the green Murree hills. Murree was once a hill station for English army officers. There is an interesting Bazaar

Dangers- see below.


Rawalpindi is world famous because of:

1. a US TV report.

A CBS Report on US TV by Dan Rather and Barry Petersen, 28 Jan 2002, suggested that Osama bin Laden was in a Pakistani Military hospital in Rawalpindi on 10th September 2001, the day before the Attacks on America.

The Pakistani military HQ in Rawalpindi is used by resident US military and intelligence advisers, who routinely report to Washington.

If this report is correct, this suggests that the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden on September 11 were known to the Bush Administration. .

"CBS News has been told that the night before the September 11 terrorist attack, Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan.

"He was getting medical treatment with the support of the very military that days later pledged its backing for the U.S. war on terror in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan intelligence sources tell CBS News that bin Laden was spirited into this military hospital in Rawalpindi for kidney dialysis treatment.

"On that night, says this medical worker who wanted her identity protected, they moved out all the regular staff in the urology department and sent in a secret team to replace them.

"She says it was treatment for a very special person. The special team was obviously up to no good. 'The military had him surrounded,' says this hospital employee who also wanted his identity masked, 'and I saw the mysterious patient helped out of a car.'

"'Since that time,' he says, 'I have seen many pictures of the man. He is the man we know as Osama bin Laden. I also heard two army officers talking to each other. They were saying that Osama bin Laden had to be watched carefully and looked after.'

"Those who know bin Laden say he suffers from numerous ailments, back and stomach problems.

"Ahmed Rashid, who has written extensively on the Taliban, says the military was often there to help before 9/11.....

"PETERSEN (on camera): 'Doctors at the hospital told CBS News there was nothing special about that night, but they refused our request to see any records. Government officials tonight denied that bin Laden had any medical treatment on that night.'"

2. Daniel Pearl was in Rawalpindi.

3. Other possible links between Rawalpindi and the Attacks on America.

Michel Chossudovsky, (Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa) wrote on 2 November 2001 ( Global Outlook Magazine .) that Pakistan's chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad "was in the US when the attacks occurred."

Ahmad arrived in the US on the 4th of September, a full week before the attacks.

He had meetings at the State Department "after" the attacks on the WTC. But he also had "a regular visit of consultations" with his US counterparts at the CIA and the Pentagon during the week prior to September 11.

A report, published in the Times of India, revealed the links between Pakistan's Chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad and the presumed "ring leader" of the WTC attacks Mohamed Atta.

The Times of India article was based on an official intelligence report of the Delhi government that had been transmitted through official channels to Washington.

Quoting an Indian government source Agence France Press (AFP) confirms in this regard that: "The evidence we [the Government of India] have supplied to the US is of a much wider range and depth than just one piece of paper linking a rogue general to some misplaced act of terrorism."

In assessing the alleged links between the terrorists and the ISI, it should be understood that Lt. General Ahmad as head of the ISI was a "US approved appointee".

As head of the ISI since 1999, he was in liaison with his US counterparts i n the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Pentagon.

Also bear in mind that Pakistan's ISI remained throughout the entire post Cold War era until the present, the launch-pad for CIA covert operations in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Balkans.

The existence of an "ISI-Osama-Taliban axis" was a matter of public record.

The links between the ISI and agencies of the US government including the CIA are also a matter of public record.

The Bush Administration was fully cognizant of Lt. General Ahmad's role.

In other words, rather than waging a campaign against international terrorism, the evidence would suggest that it is indirectly abetting international terrorism, using the Pakistani ISI as a "go-between".


Olongapo City, North of Manila

If you live near Lakenheath, or any other US base, you'll be interested in Olongapo.

WHERE: Olongapo City, in the Subic Bay area, is 127 kilometers North of Manila, in the Philippines. Think of a port city surrounded by mountains.

WHO WILL LIKE IT: adventurous travellers. The Philippines is not particularly comfortable these days: too many American soldiers, too much crime, too big a gap between rich and poor.

POPULATION: around 400,000. Languages: Filipino and English. The people are beautiful, relaxed and friendly.

This was once a sleepy fishing village. But then the Americans arrived. There is a high crime rate in many parts of the city.

FAME: Olongapo is famous because of the Subic Bay Freeport, because of diving to explore wrecks, and because of the former US naval base.

CLIMATE: Temperatures 25 -28 degrees C. Wet from June to October. Driest from November to April.

TRANSPORT: By car it's 2 hours drive from Manila to the city of Olongapo. You can also travel from Manila to Olongapo by bus or by boat. In Olongapo you can travel by colourful Jeepney. They are colour coded according to route.

HOTEL: Whiterock Resort Hotel 2 Pools, 1 Coffee Shop,Tennis Courts, Basketball Court, Private wide white sand beach, Volleyball Court, Rock Climbing, Water Sports.


Grotto of Our Lady of Pardon - near the side of Kalaklan Bridge in Barangay Mabayuan. Colourful and evocative.

Marikit Park - for children, very central, scenic playground.

Friendship Park - next to the main gate of the Subic Bay Freeport, this long, narrow park stretches along the Perimeter Road. A mini-children's park lies at the Northern side.

Festivals: October: Mardi Gras. Philippinos like to enjoy themselves.

Bicentennial Park - a good picnic spot for families.

Pamumulaklakin Forest Trails - Ideal for eco-tours and jungle trekking.

Subic Bay - A top-class diving area for wreck divers.

Enchanted Castle - Situated on a coral reef not far from the shoreline of Baloy Beach Resort. It is a drinking and eating place for visitors, as well as a good scuba diving spot.

Dungaree Beach - Ideal for picnics

Shopping: Royal Subic Duty Free Mall

Triboa Bay Mangrove Park - Home to a nursery and breeding site for birds, fowls, and fishes.

Waterfront Boardwalk - Offers a view of Subic Bay and the mountains of Redondo Peninsula.

Cubi Point Zoo - A mini-zoo that has monkeys, a python, wild pigs, turtles, eagles, and a Butterfly Farm.

MAGSAYSAY DRIVE AND RIZAL AVENUE - There used to be lively chains of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and sauna baths. The business center of Olongapo City.


In October 1987 in Olongapo City a 12 year old died as a result of a sexual vibrator breaking inside her body. A foreign tourist was found guilty and given life imprisonment. He said the US navy framed him. Olongapo City prosecutors recommended a retired American sailor, George Tomkins, be charged with the rape and sexual abuse of two small children.

Dave Welsted, an active US serviceman who allegedly abused the same children, had similar charges dismissed against him.

In 1988 an undercover operation was mounted by the U.S. Investigative Service to discover the extent of child prostitution rings operating in Olongapo City.

The official reports of the operation revealed that the undercover agents were offered, for the purpose of prostitution, children as young as four.

They contacted social workers at a government run center and three girls aged 12 and under were identified as having been victims of child prostitution and could identify two Americans involved in the child prostitution.

The reports were submitted to the local politicians and police but none of the suspects were formally charged.

An 18 month old baby was found to have been infected with Gonorrhea, allegedly by three US servicemen.

After revelations of a sex ring selling young Filipina women as sex slaves to Hong Kong, a US serviceman was sacked from the Navy and arrested.

Legal documents at the Olongapo city prosecutors office revealed that between 1981 and 1988 fifteen cases of sexual abuse of children between the ages of 11 and 16 were filed in their office against US servicemen; all were dismissed.

At least another 82 cases against young women 16 and older were also dismissed.

Most cases of sexual abuse go unreported.

Computer records of Navy and Marine Corps cases since 1988 show bases in Japan with a total of 41,008 personnel, held 169 courts martial for sexual assaults.

This was 66 percent more than the second location, San Diego, California, which had 102 cases out of 93,792 personnel.

A similar pattern of abuse has been recorded by women's organisations in South Korea.

A Korean Congressional report estimated that more than 30,000 crimes were committed by U.S. military personnel against Korean civilians between 1967 and 1987 which included murder, brutal rapes and sexual abuse, according to Yu Jin Jeong, director of the Seoul-based National Campaign to Eradicate Crime by U.S. Troops in Korea.

Women's organisations warn that the recently signed Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows for the resumption of joint military exercises and U.S. warship visits to the Philippines, will only make the problem of prostitution worse.

"We believe the ratification of the agreement will exacerbate the ongoing sexual exploitation of our people, particularly poor women and children who are vulnerable to prostitution," says Aida Santos, director of the Quezon City, Philippines-based Women's Education, Development, Productivity and Research Organisation.

*************************************** ****

Kosovo: in August 2000, Staff Sergeant Frank Ronghi pled guilty to sodomizing and killing an 11-year-old Kosovar girl in January the same year.

"The Kosovar girl's right jaw was fractured, practically bisected," said Lieutenant Colonel Kathleen Ingwersen.

"There was trauma to the neck muscles, the trachea and the carotid artery," Colonel Ingwersen said, adding she had found evidence of "blunt trauma" as the child was apparently beaten, choked and forced to kneel, face to the ground, as she was sodomized.

Four wives at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the former home base of Staff Sergeant Ronghi, were allegedly killed by their Sergeant husbands when they returned (via England) from active duty in Afghanistan, during the same week that Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman went missing.

(A team of psychiatrists decided that a certain suspect was unfit to appear in court. He was then "sectioned" under the Mental Health Act 1983 and remanded to a high-security psychiatric hospital, before being charged with any offence. While still a teenager the suspect had allegedly had consensual sex with his girlfriend, who was only 15-years-old at the time, an offence known as statutory rape. He was never charged with an offence however, and his former girlfriend, now age 21 years, recently confirmed it was a mutual crush. Source: Joe Vialls)

God bless America.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006



I am in the world's oldest restaurant in Europe's highest capital, a city of 3 million people that was once the centre of a mighty global empire.

The restaurant is called Botin and it is at Cuchillleros 17, Madrid Centro. It dates back to 1725.
Madrid is 2,120 ft above sea level.

I am eating excellent roast pig in a room with wood-beams and tiled floors.

"Is Madrid safe?" I ask my dinner guest Carlos, a middle aged academic who looks like Salvador Dali.

"It is safe, if you are careful about the traffic and AIDS. Very few people ever get killed by terrorists."

"Who are the terrorists?"

"Most well-informed people believe that it is western governments who organise the terror. Sometimes they recruit Muslims for minor roles."

"Why would the CIA and its friends want to bomb Madrid or Casablanca?"

"The US wants to send more and more troops into North and West Africa. They've already sent troops into Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Niger, and they're already working with the security forces in Morocco and Algeria. The US Sixth Fleet may be moving from Italy, to the southern Spanish port of Rota. Why? The US National Intelligence Council believes that by 2015 West Africa will supply 25% of the oil used by the US. Why the bombs? They give the US an excuse to send in the troops. It's just like in Afghanistan."

"But the bombs let the Socialists take over."

"The CIA, and its friends in the Spanish security services, may have miscalculated. They may have thought the Spaniards would rally to the Popular Party. But how do you know that the Socialists are not controlled by the CIA? Back in 1982 the Socialists promised a referendum on whether or not Spain should rema in in NATO. After winning the elections in 1982, the Socialists under Felipe González adopted a pro-NATO stance. They signed an agreement for the renewal of the US military bases in Spain."


Crime -

Watch out in hotel lobbies, airports, train and bus stations, on public transport, in supermarkets and car parks. Take particular care in the Puerto de Sol and surrounding streets including the Plaza Mayor, the Retiro Park and Lavapies.



I flew into Barajas Airport 13km northeast of the city. The metro took me from the airport into the city centre (about 30 minutes).


I stayed at Opera Hotel, a clean, relatively cheap hotel in a central location near the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor and the Metro system, a five minute walk to the central shopping area.


MARCH is a good time to visit Madrid. The freezing winter weather should have ended and the great heat of summer has not yet have arrived. February and March have 'carnivale'; the Fiesta de la Comunidad de Madrid is on 2 May and the Fiestas de San Isidro is on 15 May.

In June-July the city's districts celebrate their various saints' days.



I explored Madrid on foot, walking between the Royal Palace and Madrid's forest, the Parque del Buen Retiro.

The 18th century Royal Palace, open to the public, is grand, elegant and magnificent. It should be viewed from both back (North) and front (South). Don't forget the red and gold throne room inside and the gardens outside. Look out for Tiepo lo ceilings, frescoes by Tiepolo, paintings by Goya, Rubens, Valezquez, and El Greco and various rococo decorations.

The Prado has Velázquez, Goya and da Ribera, as well as Flemish and Italian masters.

Finally, I took a stroll in Parque del Buen Retiro. There is a rose garden and a boating lake and there are busk ers.

Also worth visiting - the Puerta de Atocha train station which has a tropical garden and the Plaza de Cibeles


Madrid nightlife does not start until 11-12:00.

The streets surrounding Cheuca subway, made famous by the movies of Pe dro Almodovar, are full of life.

The working class district of Cheuca, north of Gran Via, has Tapas bars, restaurants, discos and bars.

Plaza de Cheuca, the centre o f the gay community in Madrid, has fire-eaters and musicians. The LL Bar, at midnight may have a flamenco drag queen.



The emir of Córdoba is said to have built a fortress on the future site of Madrid in AD 854. It was one of a string of forts marking the frontier between Al-Andalus in the south and the Christian kingdoms to the north.

Madrid's Muslim era ended in 1085 when King Alfonso VI of Castile won control.

Isabel and Ferdinand united the Castilian and Aragonese Crowns in 1474.

Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Spain, fell in 1492.

In 1492, Columbus set sail on the journey that would bring vast wealth to Spain.

Isabel and Ferdinand's grandson, Carlos I, succeeded not only to the throne of Spain but also to that of the Austrian Habsburgs, becoming Holy Roman Emperor over lands stretching from Austria to Holland and from Spain to the American colonies.

Carlos' son Felipe II made Madrid the capital of Spain in 1561.

Over the next hundred years, Spain became poorer, due to a series of wars and massive inflation caused by bringing in much gold from its colonies.

Habsburg Spain came to an end in 1700 with the death of Carlos II.

Spain was defeated at Trafalgar in 1805; it lost its American colonies; and was taken over temporarily by Napoleon.

There followed various coups involving 'fascist' and liberal wings of the army.

Spain lost Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the imperialist USA.

In the early 20th century, opposition to the monarchy continued to grow.

In 1930 a republic was declared.

The country was split between right and left.

The National Front was beaten by the Popular Front in the elections of February 1936.

Three years of civil war began in July 1936 when troops in North African led by the fascist General Franco rebelled against the government.

Madrid held Franco's fascist nationalists at bay until 1939.

Under the fascist dictator Franco, Madrid's poor suffered poverty and repression.

Franco died in 1975, having earlier named Juan Carlos, the grandson of Alfonso XIII, his successor.

Under King Juan Carlos, Spain became a democracy.

The Pentagon has an interest in Spain.

In 1981, there was an attempted military coup in which the CIA allegedly played a part.

Most of the Spanish people were reportedly anti-NATO.

After winning the elections in October 1982, the Socialists 'changed their position and the new government of Felipe González quickly adopted a pro-NATO stance. Three months later they signed an agreement for the renewal of the US military bases in Spain.'


Tuesday, May 16, 2006



A true story: DARLINGTON: late 20th century: Diane Brownlea, aged three and a half, said to her granny, "I'm going to visit my granny in Dundee now."

"You don't have a granny in Dundee," said granny.

"No," said Diane, "I mean my other granny that I used to go to see in Dundee when I was a little girl before, when I went on the train over the big bridge."

Granny tried to explain that Diane had absolutely no connections with Dundee or Scotland.

"I lived in Scotland," said Diane, "when I was here before and my granny lived in Dundee."

A month later, Diane said to her Darlington granny, "I fell into the water when I went to see granny in Dundee. I was with my other daddy and we all fell into the water when we were on the train."

On 28 December 1879 part of the Tay Railway Bridge collapsed and a passenger train fell into the river. 75 people died.

(Source "Life Before Birth by P and M Harrison, Futura.)

Dundee is like Athens, a city of hills.

A world class view can be had from the LAW HILL in the centre of Dundee. You can see the wide majestic silvery River Tay and its two incredibly long bridges. You can see Fife and Tayside, purple hills and dreamy spires, ships and the sea.

Dundee is a place for poets and dreamers.

Jute used to be brought here from mysterious India.

Jam making is connected with the nearby fruit gardens.

Journalism means Dundee's D C Thomson and hordes of comic characters.

Dundee also means Investment Trusts, and medical research, and universities.....

Dundee means the SNP. And William Wallace's old school and a lot of history.


Dundee is one of the few places in Scotland that still has a railway station. It's a short hop from London's Kings Cross.

Dundee is crammed with wonderful evocative Victorian and Edwardian buildings (plus ugly tower blocks which should be torn down).

Dundee is a place for walking up and down hills, like in San Francisco.

Have a look at the High School and St Paul's Cathedral and Caird Hall. Could be St Petersburg.

Camperdown Park has a grand mansion built by Admiral Duncan, the victor of Camperdown (after the French Revolution). This is a place of tall trees and ghosts.

Caird park has the 16th century Mains of Fintry castle. More ghosts.

In the Nethergate, look for the 15th century Old Steeple.

Visit HMS Unicorn, built in 1824 (Britain's oldest British warship).

Tour the DISCOVERY, built for Captain Scott's voyages to Antarctica!


From Dundee you can visit St Andrews and the beautiful coastal towns of Fife.

From Dundee you can visit Arbroath and other fascinating coastal towns in Tayside.

WHERE TO STAY? The ANGUS Hotel. or in Broughty Ferry, the Beach House.

Eat at the ROYAL OAK, 167 Brook St. has some details.



Jakarta has had a bad press: bomb explosions (13/9/00) and people having their heads cut off (1999); army barracks and millionaire generals; drugs and gambling; murderous schoolboy gang fights; unsafe buses and taxis; few pavements; fundamentalist Moslems calling for jihad against Christians (fundamentalists got virtually no votes in the election and most Moslems are extremely moderate, hospitable and kind); people mysteriously disappearing (Jakarta Post 16/8/00)-allegedly the work of the army's special forces KOSTRAD; Chinese women raped and many hundreds slaughtered in the May '98 riots; groups of para-militaries and gangsters....


1. Jakarta is probably no more dangerous than London, Colombo or New York. And it's safer than Mexico City or Sao Paulo. An Asiaweek reporter (25 Aug 2000) stated how surprised he was at the pleasant atmosphere in Jakarta during a recent trip.

2. The people (most of them) are incredibly friendly.

3.Jakarta is the BIGGEST CITY IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE; it's the capital of the FOURTH BIGGEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD in terms of population; it's the capital of the world's largest Moslem country.

4. The bombs and riots are reportedly orchestrated by one faction of the military or another.


Jakarta has disappeared from travel brochures.

However, you can fly QANTAS or SINGAPORE AIRLINES (and many other airlines) from Europe to Jakarta via Singapore.

British Airways take you as far as Singapore where you switch airlines to Qantas. Avoid Garuda.

Note that some airlines take very indirect routes.

Jakarta airport is modern.

BLUEBIRD taxis are generally OK. (Some taxi drivers have kidnapped passengers).

HOTELS - there are loads of cheap 3 star hotels like Hotel Garden (South Jakarta) and Ibis Kemayoran ($35 a night according to but beware of street crime in Kemayoran).

You could try Marco Polo Hotel in Menteng or Hotel Indonesia, made famous by the film "Year of Living Dangerously."


the best way to get around is with a Falkplan street atlas and a taxi rented from Bluebird taxis.

You should try OJEKS (motorcycle taxis) or BAJAJ (3 wheel taxis) - good at nipping in and out of traffic.


1.Palatial Shopping Malls with cheap designer goods (Chanel, Armani...) and ritzy cafes.

2.Nightlife is relaxed (try the Sportsman's bar in Blok M or BATS at the Shangri La)

Be aware that Tanamur Disco seems to have few fire exits and mobs occasionally burn down places of entertainment.

Visitors to one very seedy Blok M bar were kidnapped in a taxi and later found in a river.

3.The slums next to the sea -people living in flooded shacks/ kids dying of typhoid/ houses on stilts.

4. Various old Dutch buildings. Indonesia was a Dutch colony famous for spices.

5.Ancol amusement park is a bit like DISNEY WORLD, BUT THE PRICES ARE LOWER AND YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO QUEUE. Most of the people you'll see around there will be army wives and their children (the elite).

6. Ragunan zoo - big, dark and tropical and containing Komodo dragons and Orang Utans...

7.Pondok Indah - see the palatial homes of crooked bankers, gangsters, civil servants, and multi-millionaire generals; and there is a posh mall.

8.Pasar Majestic - a typical market with fabrics, clothing and most other things; and massage parlours.

9.The Oasis Restaurant (if still open?) - a wonderful old colonial house with Italian statues in the garden.

10.Taman Mini Park - A huge park with boating, amusements and houses from all parts of Indonesia.

11.The third class children's ward of Rumah Sakit Cipto hospital where kids dying of TB etc may not be getting any medicine.

12.The Istiqlal Mosque (enormous and modern) and the Catholic Cathedral.

13.The Army HQ where Indonesia's real rulers are based.

14.China Town - scene of riots, burning and looting in May 1998.

15.The Pondok Indah Hospital - a good private hospital if you get Dengue fever (from mosquitoes) and start vomiting blood; or if you get typhoid (present in Jakarta all year round).

16. Above all the KAMPUNGS (poor housing areas) with their red tile roof houses, little fields of bananas and corn, chickens and goats, kids flying kites, tiny mosques, and friendly smiling people (most of them). Jakarta is still a collection of villages (once you get away from the horrid main roads).


Some top destinations

1. CAPRI in Italy
2. BOGOR in Indonesia
3.FES in Morocco
4. GIRNE in Turkish Cyprus
5. BOMBAY in India
7. RIO DE JANEIRO in Brazil
8. VENICE in Italy
9. TOLON in Greece
10. TIREE in Scotland.

These are not in any order and are subject to change!


The dishy little island of Capri has spectacular walks, pink villas and bougainvillea. It is a comfortable place that attracts some of the top people. From Capri, a ferry will take you to the mainland where you can visit ghostly Pompeii with its dead Romans, naughty Naples waiting for its next earthquake or volcanic eruption, lovely Ravello with its gardens and villas and so on. There are boats and trains and buses to whisk you to most places. The wine and pasta are great and the people often beautiful (although Torre del Greco...)


It's some kind of heaven for walkers who like to tramp through heavenly villages and meet heavenly people...fields of tapioca, buffalo, mangoes and bananas, the aroma of burning wood, a volcano... an unspoilt Bali. (Indonesia has recently been somewhat unstable. Avoid buses and local airlines; choose your taxi company carefully; remember that people get murdered on some trains here; avoid mobs)


This is a mysterious medieval world. Men in turbans, women on donkeys, palaces and mosques, twisting little streets, and a feeling you're being followed. It's safe as there hasn't been a massacre of Europeans for some years now.


Some people say there has been too much new building work around Girne, also known as Kyrenia. But I remember the giant wild flowers, the pretty harbour, the castle, the mountains, and the friendly people. I remember thinking that this was the most beautiful place I'd seen since the Amalfi coast. The Greeks once threatened harm to any aircraft flying in to Turkish Cyprus but never carried out their threat. You can only fly in via Turkey. (Britain has no extradition treaty with Turkish Cyprus so it could be useful place to have on your list).


It's the most foreign place I know. I can picture the women in the cages, the children whose limbs had been twisted by their owners, the monsoon floods up to one's knees, the rows of people defecating at the side of the road, the giant flying cockroaches...Read BEACH BOY by Ardashir Vakil before you go. (Bombay occasionaly has deadly riots. Stay in your hotel if the killing begins)


There are few tourists in this lovely Caribbean country of gingerbread houses and voodoo. It's a mixture of France and Africa and will appeal to any reader of Graham Greene.


It's said to be the world's most beautiful city. Think of Corcovado with the statue of Christ, Sugar Loaf mountain, Copacabana, Barry Manilow....(Rio is dangerous. Take a body guard)


You can see the home of Arsenal, the home of the ghetto and all these theatrical palaces and dreamy spires. Apart from Venice itself, you can take a boat to wildly colourful Burano, and a boat and a bus to the fascinating fishing stllements of Pellestrina and Malamocco and Chioggia.(Venice is expensive)


Tolon is typical unspoilt (relatively) Greece. Beaches and coves and clear blue water.

WHY TIREE? Bonny Scottish scenery and lots of sunshine!



Would our girls spot Prince William in St Andrews?

We stayed at Kilconquhar Castle which is approximately 3 miles inland from the small coastal resort of Elie.

"The estate is set within 130 acres of mature woodland and immaculately kept formal gardens. Here you will find the castle suites and villas, ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, each furnished to luxury standards."

The estate is a wonderful place for children who want to play 'cowboys and indians'.

However, the formal garden looked rather boring.

Our castle suite was comfortable in the way that Skegness boarding houses or elderly airport hotels are comfortable. The place was in need of some refurbishment.

The activities on offer, such as hiring bikes, seemed vastly over-priced.

The restaurant was nothing-special and expensive.

We cycled to Elie which reminded me of coastal villages in Brittany in France; the views were the sort that would attract artists; children should love the beach; the Deli and the Pavilion Cyber Cafe proved friendly.

The fishing village of Pittenweem, which has a remarkably good arts festival, is a must visit place; strikingly attractive in a gypsy manner.

St Andrews is a wealthy University town on the coast; this is the place to come for your shopping, for golf, for second hand books (Quarto book shop and charity shops) and for lots of History.

The people are generally friendly here, as elsewhere in tourist Fife.

We dined at the excellent Pizza Express in St Andrews.

Not everwhere in Fife is prosperous and happy. There is some unfortunate poverty in Methil, Buckhaven, Benarty, Lochgelly, and parts of Kirkcaldy and Dumfermline.

In some places 40% of the old people are on income support. Many children take drugs.

And Prince Andrew? Would I tell you if we bumped into him in the charity shop and he invited us round to his flat for a coffee?


Ischia, Capri, the Bay of Naples

Beautiful boys and girls, la dolce vita and some of the world's top tourist sites, such as Capri's Villa San Michele, haunting Pompeii, ravishing Ravello, William Walton's tropical garden and the dramatic Aragonese castle: that's your trip to Ischia and the Bay of Naples.

Think of erect volcanoes, grand old hotels, topless beaches, swaying palms, mysterious villas, palatial yachts, and the Mafia.


Ulysses, Aphrodite, Tiberius, Michelangelo, Elizabeth Taylor, Henrik Ibsen, Garibaldi, Graham Greene, Krupp, Visconti, Gore Vidal....

Tourists these days tend to be well-heeled, retired Germans who like to do a lot of walking. Young folks who love the night life of Ibiza or Benidorm might find this place not to their taste.


In the good old days, Italians may not have had much money, but they knew how to smile and flirt and make friends.

According to a recent survey Italians are now the grumpiest people in Europe.

( The international social survey programme collated results from 37 countries. The happiest are the Swiss, of whom only 3.6% are disgruntled. Britain's dissatisfaction figure was 8.5%. Some 27% of Italians are not happy with life and it shows!)

The Mafia?

Today, 60% of businesses in the Naples area are alleged to pay protection money to the local mafia, the Camorra.

The good old days?

Norman Lewis's book "Naples '44" tells what happened towards the end of World War II. Cholera and malaria were widespread; up to one third of the female population was forced into prostitution to survive.

On my third day in Ischia, the morning newspapers had a story about an explosion in Piazza Garibaldi in Naples, and about alleged corruption by Berlusconi, Andreotti and other politicians. Witnesses against Andreotti say that within the Mafia he is known as Uncle Guilio and that he is linked to certain murders. European Commission president Romano Prodi is alleged to have had links to the KGB, Milosevic and the murder of Aldo Moro.


I flew with a well known package holiday company in a crowded and rather scruffy plane with little leg room.

Naples airport had a Third World feel about it. It took a little while to find the holiday reps at the airport.


A ferry journey of about 45 minutes brought us from Naples to the Island of Ischia where I was staying at the four star Hotel X, located in Ischia's main town.

The hotel is one of the most beautiful in the world.

Guest rooms are set in a collection of villas within the exotic gardens.

The public rooms feature polished marble, terra-cotta floors and the sort of furniture you'd expect to find in an expensive Italian town house.

The basic holiday price for 2 weeks half board was just over £700.

Why so cheap?

1. This was May rather than July.
2. I booked over the internet.
3. The hotel is well inland from the beach and it's a long walk along a busy road to get to the centre of things. Buses can be crowded.
4. My room was relatively small.
5. There was sometimes a package-holiday feel about the hotel - some rude staff at reception, a wine bill that contained many items I had not ordered, breakfast orange juice that seemed to be out of a packet, unhelpful and unfriendly staff at the hotel's health spa.
6. Some local people seem hostile to tourists, especially the British (thanks to the up to 250,000 civilians killed in Iraq since the invasion).
7. Traditionally most tourists to Ischia are Germans and the German economy has reportedly been in some trouble.
8. Italy can be expensive for the British tourist.
9. The Bush/Blair war on Tourism.

Opposite my hotel was a school with a fair amount of graffiti on its walls. The children seemed better behaved than many in Sheffield or London or Manchester, but they did push off and on the buses.

Don't take travel cheques to Italy. My hotel said that they no longer deal with travel cheques. It cost me 11 Euros to change 200 Euros at a bank. Take a plastic card instead.


Ischia is a small hilly island with about half a dozen small towns/villages.

It reminds me of some Caribbean islands because of the lush vegetation and steep pointy volcanic hills; but it lacks the joie de vivre of the Caribbean.

Ischia can be seen within a week, but, during a second week, ferry boats can take you to Capri, Procida, Sorrento and Naples.

From Naples you can visit places like Pompeii.

Ischia Town is the best transport centre and is the most suitable place to stay unless you want a very quiet holiday.


Ischia Town has an old-fashioned beach area with fishermen's cottages, washing hanging out, and views of the Aragonese castle.

If you're lucky you may hear the excellent town band.

The visually stunning castle is on a small, steep island reached by a causeway. The castle and its surrounding buildings and gardens provide fabulous views of mountains, bays and boats.

Ischia Town has sections of beach which are free and sections which you pay to enter.

Ischia Town's small, colourful port is usually crammed full of ferry boats and expensive yachts. You could imagine you were on St Lucia.

The main shopping streets of Ischia Town have smart boutiques and smart cafes, including a useful internet cafe (123 Corso Colonna).

The hinterland of Ischia Town has some narrow roads and quiet tracks, villas and wild flowers, a small Roman viaduct, some relatively poor houses and the usual graffiti on houses and schools.


A number 5 bus will whisk you swiftly from Ischia Town through the middle of the island to its destination which is called Maronti. Maronti is possibly the best BEACH on the island, and is within walking distance of the little town called St Angelo.

The number 5 bus leaves from the small bus station at Ischia port and bus tickets can be bought there or at any tobacconist. A ticket which covers 7 days use of local buses costs 15 Euros. Maronti beach is long and backed by low crumbling cliffs. Pallone is a pleasant beach restaurant, built mainly of wood, which overlooks the action on the beach. For 13 Euros I had sardines, fried potatoes, water and wine. A gentleman in a funny hat, a young woman in a short skirt and a young boy wheeling a baby in a pram, provided my entertainment within the restaurant.


What is Victoria Amazonica? She opens near nightfall. Next day she has changed sex and become male.

Victoria Amazonica is a water lily and can be viewed at LA MORTELLA, the huge gardens built on the site of a hillside quarry by composer Sir William Walton and his wife, who both came to live on Ischia in 1949.

The world famous gardens contain many hundreds of rare plants and trees and have views of mountains and of the coastal resort of Forio. There is a tearoom where not-very-happy staff serve weak tea. I recommend the wine.

In the Walton-museum section there are regular concerts.

The gardens are open from April to November on Tuesdays, Thursdays and at weekends, from 9am until 7 pm.

To reach La Mortella, I took an expensive 'rip-off' tour arranged by Thomson holidays, using a local tour company. Their bus arrived late and was driven too fast. The much cheaper alternative is to take a local bus - buses number 1 or 2 or CS which depart from Ischia port. Get off the bus just before it reaches the town of Forio.


I took a CD bus to the Ischian town of Forio. Why not walk to Forio? The steep narrow S-shaped roads are not always suited to walking.

Forio had deep litter on the beach and some graffiti on walls. The harbour is undistinguished.

I walked inland from Forio on little country roads but soon came up against signs saying 'private'. The best feature of Forio is the view of the pink-orange mountain with the white-walled villas and the flowers at its base.

Lunch was excellent lentil soup and pasta with tomato sauce in an empty and rather dull restaurant.


I walked from Ischia town to the next-door seaside town of Casamicciola which struck me as being a place of road repairs, building works and boring buildings.

I walked on to nearby Lacco Ameno and found this had more character: a pleasant church, boutiques, flowers and a friendly street cafe serving bruschetta with tomatoes, wine and Italian ice-cream.


Bus 1 or CD or CS take you to St Angelo, which has become a bit un-natural and boutique-ish. It's superficially pretty, with its little harbour and painted houses. But it has a Disney-feel about it.

MOUNT EPOMEO (789 meters)

Take a CD bus to the village of Serraro Fontana. From the main square, follow the signs for the track leading up the mountain.


At Ischia Port I bought a ticket for the Caremar ferry to the nearby island of Procida. The carabinieri police at Ischia port look menacing in the extreme - mafia dark glasses, tall leather boots. On the ferry I had a drink in the bar and then looked through the pollution haze towards Vesuvius and various islands.

If Capri seems very wealthy, and Ischia seems well-off, then PROCIDA could be said to be relatively poor and scruffy. It is not the interesting scruffiness of some Italian settlements. The main port has bleak tenements and the usual graffiti and road works.

The main interest is Marina Corricella, a small harbour within walking distance of Procida's port. A seat in a cafe in Marina Corricella can give you a view of the prison and colourful tenements, while you sup vinegary wine.


The fast aliscafi hydrofoil from Ischia to Naples (Molo Beverello) costs 22 Euros return and is not recommended because of the fixed return time. Much better to get a single on an ordinary Caremar ferry and then your time of return is more flexible.

Once in Naples I walked towards the railway station. Take care and avoid disreputable types hanging around quiet stretches of street near the docks.

Piazza Garibaldi, next the railway station, was deep in stinking garbage and the populace seemed made up of beggar women and evil-looking pimps.

Naples has some of the loveliest and some of the most venal-looking faces in the world.

From the station I took the Circumvesuviana train that heads to Pompeii and Sorrento.

Naples and its surrounds have deteriorated dramatically.

The Circumvesuviana trains and most of the stations are completely covered in graffiti.

My train contained at least one madman and a horde of intimidating young men.

Pompeii was full of sometimes impolite parties of Italian school kids. But Pompeii is still fabulous: acres and acres of Roman streets and buildings.

I did not travel on to Sorrento. I had heard that, like Naples, it also has deteriorated.


Capri was the highlight of my trip. It is a spectacular little island, almost traffic free.

I took the Caremar aliscafi hydrofoil to Capri, a boat journey of 40 minutes, costing about £15 return.

I walked from the port, Marina Grande, up the very steep twisting road to Capri town: wonderful views of villas and flowers and yachts, but a long walk.

I would recommend taking the funicular, instead of walking! Tickets for the funicular are bought at a hut next to the pier (turn right as you exit the pier). You can buy a ticket that will include buses and last all day. The entrance to the funicular is opposite the pier.

This was May, but, unlike in Ischia, Capri Town was crowded with tourists, mainly large tour groups of the portly and elderly, but also a few people with film-star good looks.

From Capri Town I took a bus up to the town of Anacapri. This narrow, steep, z-bend road has been known to suffer from rock falls.

I got off at the first stop in Anacapri, crossed the road, and followed the sign for Villa San Michele.

It's a short walk along a path to one of the world's great sights.

At the age of 18, Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe visited Capri and decided that some day he would build a house on the island. Its loggias would be full of light, and there would be a small chapel, a vineyard, and old statues in the garden. After practising in Paris and Italy, Munthe became in 1903 physician to the Swedish Royal family.

THE STORY OF SAN MICHELE (1929) is an account of Munthe's experience as a doctor in Paris and Rome, and in semi-retirement at the villa of San Michele on the island of Capri. Both realistic and mystical, the book became a world-wide best seller, one of the most famous books ever written.

Munthe built his villa on the site of a villa of the emperor Tiberius, high up on the rocky ledges just northeast of Anacapri, at the foot of Mount Barbarossa.

Villa san Michele: a villa and garden decorated with beautiful pillars and statues; a curving terrace with views down to Marina Grande.

At the other end of Capri is Villa Jovis to which Roman emperor Tiberius retired in 27 AD, allegedly to live a life of vice and debauchery.

To get there, start at the main square in Capri Town. The route is free of motor traffic. Follow Via Botteghe out of the square. There are signposts.

It's about a half hour walk up gentle slopes.

You pass wonderful villas with beautiful gardens and have views of distant islands.

Villa Jovis is a bit of a ruin but it only costs 2 Euros to get in.

The gardens next to the vill have some of the world's most amazing views - of cliffs and stacks and distant domes and distant mountains.

Close to Villa Jovis is a gorgeous little open-air restaurant where you can enjoy wine and mozarrelo with tomatoes.



Paris - pouting schoolgirls

Paris smells of dark coffee, pouting schoolgirls, Magic Noire and tobacco.

Its sounds range from Piaff and Ravel to Algerian souks and speeding metros.

It comprises leafy faubourgs, boulevards sided by Belle Epoque buildings, and grim housing estates from which emerge young Parisians with that certain je ne sais quoi.

An Irishman, after quite a bit of Chateau Neuf du Pape, exclaimed, "The Parisians are not fat brain-washed philistines like some people across the Atlantic and they are not beer swilling louts like many people across La Manche. The Parisians are chic."

Well, Parisians are mainly chic.

And Paris is only three days journey from Scotland by Virgin Rail.

Where to STAY.

You may be on a package tour, in which case you won't need to read this.

For the independent traveller- Well, I have a flat near the Jardin du Luxembourg.

But may I suggest a hotel called RAPHAEL, 17 Avenue Kleber, in the 16th arrondissement. This hotel, being quiet and away from the centre, attracts French celebrities, and its decor is beautifully decadent. Expect to pay about the same as at the Ritz.

AGORA, 7 Rue de la Cossonerie, is a very cheap but clean hotel near Metro Les Halles, and the Pompidou Centre.

To be honest, a package tour would be simpler?

Where to EAT.

Some tourist restaurants in Paris are awful. You don't need to be told to look for the places full of 'locals'.

You might like to try the following:

At 22 Rue du Grenier-Saint-Lazare, near the Pompidou Centre, is AMBASSADE D'AUVERGNE (metro Rambuteau) which serves tres bon lentil cassoulet and potee auvergnate, a casserole of pork, sausages, and vegetables. Reasonable prices and the chef is French.

PERRAUDIN, 157 Rue St Jacques (RER line B Luxembourg) has low prices and excellent beef bourguignon and apple tart.

What to SEE.

If it's your first visit, then everything will be interesting and you'll love the Eiffel Tour, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysee, Musee D'Orsay (Cezanne, Monet, Renoir), Sacre Coeur (my favourite) and the funny loo in your hotel.

If you're lucky, the maid who cleans your hotel room will be wearing one of those somewhat revealing maid's outfits. Check that's she's not Brazilian and male.

Here are some ideas for the second time visitor:

The MOSQUE at Place du Puits-de-l'Ermite (Metro Monge) reminds us that France once ruled a huge empire including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.(Avoid Fridays and lunchtime: as it's closed then). This is the place to sample some fine Moorish-Spanish architecture, turkish baths, and mint tea and tasty pastries in the cafe.

PALAIS DE L'UNESCO, 7 Place de Fontenoy, (Metro Segur) is a moving and wonderful example of mid-20th century architecture. Think of dark wood and Japanese gardens. (Open Monday-Friday). Look for the art work by Miro and the zen garden.

SAINTE-CHAPELLE, 4 Boulevard du Palais, (Metro Cite) is a 13th century chapel within the Palais de Justice. It has the world's most stunning stained glass windows. Try getting them on film.

POMPIDOU CENTRE / BEAUBOURG (Metro Chatelet) (closed Tuesdays) looks like a beautiful multi-coloured oil refinery and inside there is lots of contemporary art. Wonderfully exciting.

MAISON DE VICTOR HUGO, 6 Place des Vosges (Metro Bastille). This is where Victor wrote bits of Les Miserables. I loved the furniture.

French films are the best in the world. Go to the CINEMA. Try CINEMATHEQUE FRANCAISE, Musee du Cinema, Palais de Chaillot, Place du Trocadero (Metro Trocadero). This cinema shows classic films both French and non-French.

The terrace of the Palais de Chaillot is a great place for taking photos of the Eiffel Tower.

JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG (RER line B Luxembourg) has a gorgeous pond (for sailing little boats) and the stunning Palais du Luxembourg (home of the Senate). You can roller skate, take a donkey ride, play boules or kiss someone under the plane trees.

JARDIN D'ACCLIMATION, Bois de Boulogne (Metro Les Sablons) has merry-go-rounds and an open air circus. Suited to little people.

Where to SHOP.

For teenage girls, try Agnes B Lolita, 3 Rue du Jour. (Metro Les Halles)

Lolita Lempicka, 3 bis Rue des rosiers (Metro St Paul) has classic clothes for the super rich elderly lolita.

Pierre Cardin espace boutique is at 59 Rue du faubourg Saint-Honore (Metro Madeleine). Some good ready to wear clothes for men and women.

Forum des Halles, (Metro Les Halles) is a shopping mall that is a maze of tunnels. Take a look at Videotheque where you can choose a video and watch it all there and then.

Second hand clothes can be found at the open air MARCHE DE LA PLACE DE JOINVILLE (Metro Crimee) (Open Thursday and Sunday 7.00-13.30). A fantastic place to brouse and take photos of people.

MARCHE AUX PUCES PORTE DE MONTREUIL (Metro Montreuil) (Saturday, Sunday, Monday 6.30-13.00) is another superb place to find old clothes.

MARCHE AUX PUCES PORTE DE SAINT-0UEN (Metro Porte de Saint Ouen) (Saturday, Sunday, Monday 7.30-19.00) is for antiques, vintage clothes, and all sorts of jumble and junk. Wonderful.

Nice place; shame about the Yanks.
RAWALPINDI / Islamabad !!!
AFGHANISTAN's women and children.
PATTAYA for Christmas!!!
OMAN - Arabian Nights
IBIS Euston - not clean/poor food
Air Safety

Monday, May 15, 2006



In 1997, British Airways began selling tickets online.

Now 81% of journeys on British Airways are by passengers using an e-ticket.

These can now be used on about 150 routes or 70 per cent of the network and more routes are being added each month.

A British Airways spokesman said: "Electronic tickets offer a whole host of advantages. They are secure and hassle-free. They cannot be lost, because they are contained within British Airways electronic system; they can be e-mailed; they can be easily changed through the internet, and travellers do not need a 'replacement' ticket following any changes they make to bookings."