Tag Archives: Lonely Planet

Online Travel Journalist of the Year

Funnily enough I was awarded Online Travel Journalist of the Year at last night’s Travel Press Awards.


This is me getting a nice big paperweight from Francine Sheridan, LAX Los Angeles World Airports.

It was quite noisy so I couldn’t hear what they said, but the judges (thanks judges) liked my work with the Guardian, especially a special live Q&A for travellers stranded by the eruption of the Ejyafjallajökull volcano, as well as blog posts and use of social media.

The event was at Paramount at the top of Centre Point, one of London’s most iconic buildings. The views of London at night, especially St Paul’s and the City, were magnificent.

By the way, if you’re not in the US, you may have missed my recent appearance on Entertainment Tonight, talking about my specialist subject, the upcoming Royal Wedding.

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Behind the scenes at Talking Travel: Lonely Planet & PRI The World’s podcast

The latest Talking Travel podcast went live today, talking about the World Cup, South Africa and, just to broaden the appeal, the Houston Rodeo.

Bush House - from London to the world

Recording the podcast is always fun, and requires a trip deep into the labyrinth of studios and corridors of Bush House, the iconic home of the BBC World Service. The inscription above the door of this wonderful building reads ‘Dedicated to the friendship of English-speaking peoples’.

Bush House is on Aldwych (definitive articles need not apply), the oddly-positioned buffer between the Strand and River Thames beyond and Holborn and Covent Garden to the north and west. Best known to older Londoners as giving the name to a disused stub of Piccadilly Line, the area is also home to the London School of Economics, the Indian and Australian High Commissions. Two superb churches, St Clement Danes (with Samuel Johnson lurking round the back) and St Mary-le-Strand, marooned in the middle of the busy road, can be found close by. Robert records from BBC America’s studios in midtown Manhattan, while Clark drives from PRIs HQ in Boston, Massachusetts, from whence sprang musical genius Jonathan Richman.

The podcast is a joint effort between Public Radio International’s The World programme and Lonely Planet, and contributors reflect this. Here’s a little more about the voices on the recording:

Clark Boyd

Clark Boyd in Hungary

Location: Boston, Massachusetts USA

Favourite destination(s): Edinburgh, Scotland, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, Bryce Canyon, Utah, US

Next destination: Moving to Brussels, Belgium

What I like about recording the podcast: I normally cover technology for the show, so hosting Talking Travel gives me a chance to explore something new and different. I feel like I’m learning loads about one of my favourite things to do: travel.

Robert Reid

Robert Reid in Mexico

Location: New York City

Favourite destination: Home after a long trip, when curiosity radar is still activated and you see familiar things in new light; or Mexico

Next destination: A hobo convention in Mississippi, seriously

What you like about recording the podcast: It is simply a pleasure to be a part of, and I enjoy listening to the result – and learning from Tom and Clark – as much as making it.

Tom Hall

Tom Hall in X-Ray Machine, Manchester Airport

Location: London

Favourite destination: Paris, Rome or anywhere in Africa

Next destination: Cardiff, Wales

What you like about recording the podcast: having a chance to explore themes and destinations in detail, and the transatlantic banter.

We’d welcome your comments and suggestions for what you’d like to hear on Talking Travel, so get in touch if you have any thoughts.

Notes from Northern Ireland: pubs, murals and an airport named after a footballer

As you might expect from a city at the northern tip of an island in the Atlantic Ocean, Belfast is not always a dry place at the end of February. It poured down from the moment I stepped off the plane at George Best Airport until I took off again.

An artful long pass from the city centre

George Best Belfast City Airport is the only one in the world named after a footballer. Unless Buenos Aires or Três Corações get around to renaming their air terminals after hometown boys Diego Maradona or Pele there will be no airborne association with a more gifted player. Best is everywhere in Belfast and a true unifying figure in a city which still has visible divisions, even if today’s Belfast is very much looking forward to a shared future.

King of pubs

I was only in town for one night but dropped in on the Crown Liquor Saloon. This pub is a Victorian folly that somehow made it as a boozer, complete with ornate woodcarvings, neo-Gothic decor and huge private booths that hide you from the outside world. I congratulated myself on snagging one, only to realise you’re totally left alone once inside and that it was more fun chatting at the bar. Strolling the city in the evening drizzle I happened upon bands setting up to play gigs in the bars tucked away in the cobbled Cathedral Quarter and hotels like the Fitzwilliam offering upscale drinking and dining that was too trendy for a soggy corduroy-clad hack like me.

Belfast Wheel by night

The next morning I had a chance to look around. City Hall, the visible expression of the nineteenth century prosperity, the end result of Belfast’s status as one of the world’s manufacturing and shipbuilding powerhouse has excellent exhibitions and a great guided tour. It’ easy to find, next to the Belfast Wheel which is the best place from which to see the changing skyline. If big ships are your thing – and the giant Harland & Woolf cranes which are visible from all over the city prove that it was Belfast’s thing for generations – then don’t miss the fascinating Titanic Trail and accompanying boat tour. Both take in sights associated with the ill-fated ocean liner which left here – working perfectly, as locals will point out with tongue firmly in cheek – a hundred years ago next year. You’ll also find an art trail hugging the banks of the Lagan River, including this fishy fellow below.

A visit to West Belfast, still home to large working class Catholic and Protestant communities, is the best way to get a handle on the Sectarian divide which shaped the twentieth century history of the Northern Irish capital. Many come on excellent and informative Black Taxi Tours. I opted to go on foot, and suspect I was the only person to walk down both the Shankill and Falls Roads that day. Both areas are aware of their attraction to visitors and the both local communities and the city council have signs and maps to direct casual visitors around and make you feel welcome.

Martin Luther in the hood

It is hard to avoid the sense that these murals belong to the last century, not this one. The first mural you come to walking west along the Shankill Road no longer homages the loyalist cause but makes a proud claim on the area being the earliest of Belfast’s settlements. Yes, you’ll still find militaristic and political murals, and other monuments while exploring both sides of West Belfast, but the more recent renewals are more benign and hopeful and in many places offer outlets for imaginative local artists. My favourite, found elsewhere in the city, is this one devoted to one of Science’s most philosophical questions. I passed it while out running so was camera-less.

Interesting place, Belfast. It has centuries of history, a few cracking hotels and anyone who grew up with Northern Ireland looming large in the news would do well to go and see it for themselves. The city sits in the shadow of some towering mountains and is close to some lovely coast, meaning with a few extra days you could see a lot of what Northern Ireland has to offer. Bring an umbrella.

Articles you may have missed

Here are a couple of articles posted on the Lonely Planet website that you may have missed.

Jump the queue! – Unmissable sights in Europe you can book in advance. Originally published June 12.

Europe’s ten finest train stations, originally published August 11.

More to follow.

– Tom