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Embracing weirdness and wildness in Portland

Oh, that lo-fi Portland buzz. It’s all under-the-radar, no try-hards please, yoga-or-die, meme-worthy hipster cliches here, but I dare you not to love it. As something of a pilgrimage spot for things I love the most in life (cheese, beer, bookshops), Portland was already on my radar as somewhere I wanted to go one day. When a family wedding in the city compelled me to book a ticket, I put up zero resistance. My only regret is that I couldn’t spend longer there — in Portland itself, but also in Oregon and the wider Pacific Northwest region. If you ever…

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The best of Rome

Visiting the cultural, historical, gastronomical, architectural behemoth that is Rome without a plan of attack would be a fool’s errand by any stretch of the imagination. With a blow-by-blow itinerary that included tactical naps, pre-booked, timed tickets, backup bars and restaurants and backups for the backups, there was no way I was going the Eternal City slip through my fingers on my very first trip. I know — I sound like the tourist of nightmares. But I’d like it to be known this is not my preferred approach to a city break. Ideally I’d like to stay for a month,…

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Wild swimming in Puglia’s hidden coves

Crunk! Like distant cannon fire, the thunder bounces long and menacing around the rocky rounded inlets due south of where we stand. The sky is split in two as starkly as a half moon cookie, and Porto Selvaggio sits on the dividing line. Just as we settle ourselves on an outcrop to the north of the bay where the sky is still pale, lightning slices through the sky above the squat, square Torre Santa Maria dell’Alto. There is nothing for it, we must turn on our heels and retrace our steps to the car with everyone else on the beach.…

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Birthday at The Pig, Brockenhurst

The Pig is nothing if not built for maximum comfort. At every turn there is something soft and squishy to throw yourself onto.

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Holy snakes! I see dead people!

Carried by the crowd, I moved from the searing heat into the shade of the church. The priest muttered quiet prayers and incantations, and approached me with his arms outstretched before him. He raised the snake and pressed it to my forehead, to my lips, to my chest. He turned to the old woman next to me, a widow, and repeated the gesture. She clutched her walking stick and received the blessing gratefully with a series of sharp nods which sent the tail of her black headscarf billowing into the air. It was the hottest part of the day in…

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