Our Favourite Countries in Europe

From mountain hiking to art gallery hopping

Before we were jubilados (Spanish for retirees) we holidayed in France, Greece, Italy and Great Britain so now we’re visiting other countries


“When did I start calling Kerry Magellan?”

Well, on the original story this morning I (falsely) remembered that perhaps the moniker had sprung soon after I read this blurb and noted it in my diary.

You can take it with you

Ferdinand Magellan. 1519. Destination: Spice Islands. 5 ships, 277 sailors, 213,800 pounds of biscuits, 72,000 pounds of salted beef, 10,080 pounds of chickpeas, 500 pounds of gunpowder, lead shot, cannon balls of iron and stone, 100 corselets with breastplates and helmets, 4,300 arrows, 60 crossbows, 120 skeins of wire for bows, 50 arquebuses, 1 set of astrological predictions of a successful voyage. Lapham’s Quarterly, Volume II Number 3, Summer 2009.

It turns out that was wrong—and the true story, which Lynn reminded us of, began sooner and is much better. Like the story of Magellan the discoverer, history is in constant revision!

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Sometimes procrastination pays off.

For months we’ve talked about writing a story on the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. In October, the journal Nature published proof that the Vikings were the first transatlantic voyagers to the New World—471 years before Columbus—exactly the history presented at the Viking Ship Museum. Suddenly we were eager to have another look and tell you about the world’s best-preserved Viking ships and finest surviving artifacts of the Viking era.

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“Stop, Stawwwp,” I said to Magellan as he was driving our rented motorhome across a small bridge over the rushingVåtedal River in the small Norwegian town of Byrkjelo. I’d spotted a weird assortment of sculptures jammed together on the riverside green. Sculptures so controversial that some Byrkjelo citizens say they cause traffic-danger situations on the E39 and should be removed.

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Rolling and rising across the country, the fourth wave of the pandemic and the wake it’s leaving behind is dampening not only our travel, but our slippery grasp on feeling gratitude this Thanksgiving. Poetry to the rescue!

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If you asked me to name one of the Mediterranean’s most important fishing ports, I couldn’t even guess the country.

Even if you said, “It has the largest fishing fleet in Italy,” I might not guess Sicily.

If you added a clue, “It’s 200 kilometres from Tunisia,” maybe, but I wouldn’t know the city.

If you gave me a last hint,”It’s one of the most Arab-influenced cities in Sicily with a kasbah in the town centre,” I still wouldn’t know.

So how did we find Mazara del Vallo—one of the most delightful places we visited during our three weeks in Sicily? After a tangential online search turned up a marvellous apartment and I said, “We have to stay at Mirabilia Arab House.”

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One of the joys of travelling, for me, is discovering the literature of foreign authors. Like Norway’s Cora Sandel. “She has a place to herself among the finest contemporary writing,” deemed The Guardian. “A masterpiece,” The Observer called her first novel Alberta and Jacob. Her novels, says The Paris Review, “aesthetically and politically, count as feminist classics.” The thing is Cora wasn’t her real name. And she really wanted to be a painter. So, it was with great delight when I discovered the Perspektivet Museum in Tromsø, located in the building where Cora’s family rented an apartment, had an exhibition celebrating her life and work.

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