Location: Skyros, Greece
Back on Sunday from week-long holistic holiday on Greek island of Skyros. Complete relaxation, with writing class for three hours each morning.
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Back yesterday from four days in Budapest, my first visit to a former Eastern Bloc country. Old fashioned, subdued look about people and buildings, despite hyped boom. Refreshingly free of advertising hoardings. Publictransport clean and efficient. Opera, theatre, orchestral concerts and ballets in abundance. Food awful. Language lovely to listen to.
Last weekend was sunny down in Tramore, Co Waterford, where the campsite was filled with old VW campers, among which my own, at 20, was a youngster. Convoy to great pub near Waterford (Cheekpoint Rd) called Jack Meade's, Dating back to 1705 this pub is a landmark watering hole, situated beneath an old stone bridge. Large beer garden, barbecue, lime-kilns, agricultural museum, walks, animal farm and children's playground. Tramore itself old fashioned seaside town with funfair and wide surf beach.
Location: County Kildare, Ireland
Spur-of-the-moment camping trip with youngest son, aged 11. Set off Easter Saturday afternoon and spent night at a farm near Athy. The Heritage Town was a bit grim - full of run-down, though admittedly authentic, pubs. National Stud and St Fiachra's Gardens much more amusing, especially as there were several new foals to look at.
New press trip organised to Budapest, Hungary, to celebrate Bartok's anniversary. Know next to nothing about the place or the composer and not even sure what the anniversary is, but will return much wiser. Dates are 2nd to 5th May.
Have sent off a deposit for a place on the Plymouth Banjul Challenge, where you drive from the UK to the Gambia in an old banger which is auctioned off for charity at the end. Ten times as many people want to go as there are places, but if I'm lucky (?) will leave on 19th December, coming back three to four weeks later. Would spend Christmas in Marrakesh and miss out on the consumer frenzy here, which is a reason for going in itself.
One press trip organised then cancelled in same week - to the Serra da Estrela in central Portugal. This means I'll be able to make the Tramore VW camper van meet, which is taking place for the third year at Newtown Cove campsite. Forty vans are expected to turn up between April 20 and 23.
Have booked flights to Tanzania, where I'll be spending three weeks in and around the School of St Jude, Arusha. Leaving 12 October, returning 6 November.
Flights also booked to Skyros, Greece, where I'll be doing a writing course between 19 and 27 May. Have just finished rewriting a novel that an Irish publisher is interested in. May wait until after course to re-read and edit it before resubmitting.
Location: vila da luz, lagos, Portugal
Flew to Faro on Saturday afternoon and took taxi to Vila da Luz, about an hour west down the motorway. Checked into four-star apartment at Estrela da Luz, then attended an Irish night in the complex, organised by Irish owner. Wasn't until next morning that Portugal registered. Luz is a tourist town, and lingua franca is English, but villas and apartments are tastefully done and there are no high-rise hotels. Couple of beach bars friendly and the Portuguese are in general very welcoming to visitors. Tourism is Vila da Luz's livelihood. Ten minutes away, Lagos has more of a Portuguese infrastructure with a couple of striking churches, a new marina and some wonderful restaurants. Our group of journalists was taken round the sister complex of Jadim da Meia Praia. The beach nearby is 4kms long and a safe haven for camper vans. Spoke to an English woman with four dogs and a 28ft van. A German man lives at the beach in a makeshift caravan pulled by a tractor and earns a living selling the toys he makes.
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Day before my 50th birthday and I am drawn by a Guardian competition to find a 'grey' netjetter, someone over 50 who will travel for three months and report back to the Guardian website. Got me thinking as to where I'd go. I'd like to point the van south and just keep going. Id hop over to Holyhead, visit my father in Oxfordshire, my sister, nieces and mother in Berkshire, then cross to France and drive down through Spain to Gibraltar and catch the ferry to Morocco.
Ideally, Id like to drive through the desert with the sea on one side, and continue to Senegal and the Gambia. Id like to cross over to East Africa and visit a school near Arusha, Tanzania, which I came across on the net. I've been considering doing some short-term volunteer work there and to that end started learning Swahili. I speak French, Italian, some Portuguese and German, but Swahili was a totally new experience. The school has since changed its policy and only takes volunteers for a year, though it still welcomes visitors. They are invited to stay in local villages with families of the school children, which would be a wonderful opportunity to mix in.
This plan is too ambitious I would need a year, at least. In three months Id have to settle for West Africa and leave the East for another time. But who knows
Maybe I could sell the van en route and complete the trip using planes.
Anyway, all this is just dreaming - and as I'm not a UK resident, I can't enter the competition anyway, even if the boys' father agreed to look after them for three months. I still might visit the school in Tanzania in October, just for two weeks, if funds permit.
Meanwhile, for today's travel, it looks like Dublin zoo with the youngest child, aged 10. And for a photo, the van tootling round County Wicklow.
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Two press trips organised today - one to the Algarve from 18th to 21st March and a week at the Skyros Centre in Greece at the end of May. Trying to figure out best way to get from Dublin to Athens at that time of year, as there don't appear to be any direct flights. In the meantime, taking eldest child to a dentist appointment in Blackrock - pleasant location by the sea - is the most travelling I'll be doing.