‘There’s none so blind as those who will not listen’

(Neil Gaiman, American Gods)

Do we want to wear glasses that we may see clearly or blinders that we may only see things one way?

Of late there has been huge discussion on censorship. Be it cancel culture, statues being pulled down or defaced, books being banned in schools/universities or podcasts being censored. Freedom of speech comes with a responsibility. Absolutely. It also comes with nuance and context and many other considerations.  But nuance, context and shades of grey don’t make the headlines, well, unless they’re about Sue Gray….

I listen to and read across many different channels/broadcast outlets from all sides of the political spectrum. I have listened to Joe Rogan from time to time. I sometimes agree with things he has said, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think his guests have valid points and sometimes not. I do not believe he should be taken down and I believe that he is not really the issue. What is far more important than any single Youtuber or podcaster, are the algorithms that suggest content that reinforces rather than challenges. Content which can lead people down rabbit holes and in some cases make them into mad hatters. We are being distracted from the true issue by zooming in on one person rather than the larger discussion to be had.

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A Tale of One City

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”


Behind me I could hear the girl screaming, her cries bouncing off the walls of the narrow streets. The man was a few metres ahead of me, both of us running flat out, and it seemed as if I would never catch up to him. But then he suddenly stopped and turned. He stared at me and slowly bent down, gently placing the phone on the ground, never losing eye contact. In that moment it felt as if someone had hit the pause button.  I saw him. And then he ran off. 

I didn’t see a robber. I didn’t see a wrongdoer. I saw him. I felt this overwhelming feeling of connection. He didn’t have to gently place the phone on the ground, he could have flung it down or continued running, I don’t know if I could have caught up to him. But in that moment the so-called ‘wrongdoer’ did something entirely unexpected and it was in that moment that we connected.  

I had been walking back home in Barcelona and it was about 10:30pm. I had passed a girl dressed up for a night out, something which stood out in a city then largely in lockdown, with no bars or cafes open to dress up for. A few seconds later she had begun screaming ‘ladrón’ (thief) and a man hurtled past me. I gave chase, and as we were close to my house I was able to easily navigate the familiar labyrinth of streets of the old town. And no, I wasn’t being brave. Bravery is overcoming fear and yet I had no fear. I just wanted to get the girl’s phone back to her and was hell bent on doing so. 

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Travel in Times of Corona


Drum roll please. The magician removes the tablecloth; miraculously the plates, cups and saucers all remain in place and everyone applauds. Except this time Corona removed the tablecloth and the only clapping is for the medical profession. Everything still looks the same. Almost. But it’s not actually the same.


This is how I feel about Barcelona, the city I have called home for the past four years, a city which has been ‘the’ destination for decades. The beach is still inviting, but there is rope to cordon it off to ensure that we sheep can be counted onto the sand, to ensure social distancing. The tables and chairs are out, just a little further apart, and the waiter is masked, as much to protect the customers from seeing the pain of the past few months etched upon his face, as to protect the customers from any virus threat.


We can often feel disconnected from the real world, never more so than in lockdown. Even with lockdown lifted I can’t help but feel somewhat of an observer and as if it’s still not quite real. I can go through the same actions, even if it is whilst wearing a mask, and yet it isn’t the mask that disconnects me or is unsettling; it feels like a charade.

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2020 Vision

375262_10151052695125231_415061427_n(As a child, trusting I wouldn’t bounce off the big trampoline…as a child growing up in the 80s, it was a pre-nets, more Darwinian in terms of child rearing 😉


When I was young I enjoyed playing the game whereby I would fall backwards, trusting that friends would catch me. As I am here to tell the tale, suffice to say my trust was not misplaced. As a game it’s a useful analogy for both life and travel.

IMG_5925.png(I got bigger and the trampoline correspondingly smaller, but still managing to bounce through life 😉

In December I was chatting to a friend who has been enjoying some of the best years of her life in her forties. This was because she had stopped trying to control the world around her, fighting to ‘get ahead’. She had decided to trust; she had fallen back into the universe and the universe caught her.


Often people are scared of travel and by extension, scared of life. But what we’re often scared of is what comes next. Our fear of dying can prevent us from living, as we want to live in such a way that we minimise any risk of dying.


Part of our fear manifests itself in our reluctance to lean back and believe that the world is there to catch us. News outlets prey on our fear, portraying the wicked world out to get us. Cities have declared ‘no go’ areas, despite the constant comings and goings of the residents of such areas.  News photographers only ever employ a zoom lens, portraying a world in meltdown, and yet when we visit for ourselves we zoom out and see the whole panoramic. Living in Barcelona, I am constantly asked about the ‘Catalan situation’, but the reality is  (non-newsworthy) boring, with most going about their daily business and few streets dedicated to the (almost always) non-violent marches.


Governments issue warnings on their foreign office websites, warning people to be vigilant, to avoid certain places. All understandable advice, but in constantly reinforcing the negative rhetoric, too many won’t ever leave the ‘safe harbour’.

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An Ode to the Joy of Travel Moments not just monuments



Joie de vivre may be a French expression, but it is the Spanish who truly embody it. Whilst any conversation between you and your average Spaniard will be heard by the entire city (my neighbours seem particularly keen to ‘chat’ with Barcelona and me, every day, particularly about each other), they truly are some of the most content, loveliest, most even-tempered and kindest people I have ever met. Indeed, one of my greatest joys of living in Spain is the Spanish and, fortunately for me, the behaviour of some of my fellow Brits in Spain hasn’t ever been held against me (although this may be due to the fact that being above average height and blonde means I am Dutch in the eyes of most Spanish).



There absolutely are some truths behind some stereotypes; there are reasons they exist. In Barcelona we are a hotchpotch of nationalities and my closest friends are American, Polish and Russian (and yes, we did walk into a bar together 😉 My American friend is relentlessly upbeat, my Russian friend approaches her series of dating disasters (several of her dates stole the tip she left for the waiter) with a shrug and “oh well, my grandparents got together in a gulag”, my Polish friend offers ‘honest advice’ on my Russian friend’s dress sense and I act as the classic British diplomat, my speech bubble belying my thought bubble. There is much to divide us, but what binds us, above everything else, is our shared humour, our shared love of travel and our love of life.


I work entirely with American clients in my work as a tour guide, and almost every single American group has turned up concerned about being perceived as loud and obnoxious. It is at this point I realise Americans really do need to travel more, if for no other reason than to understand that if they want loud, they should try being in a museum with a group of Italians or at a football match with the English, ten p(o)ints down 😉


But in all seriousness, I always tell them that this simply isn’t true. In fact, and I am not just saying this because I work with Americans, they are the most popular tourists (and I am not just saying that because they tip 😉  The reason is that the majority of Americans that I have taken around Europe are kind, enthusiastic, have a sense of fun and are blown away by what they see; they make me see things through their eyes, eyes which are wide open in amazement at the sites which are all too familiar to me and most other Europeans.

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Living not existing


As a former teacher and tour guide/tour manager, I take both students and adults across Europe (and formerly India and North Africa). When I taught History in a secondary school in London, the History department had never taken the students out, even into London. Why? Because of the level of paperwork and health and safety assessments and the threat of what might happen should anything go wrong.  I was the first to take the students out. I am also a proud aunt to two fabulous little girls, so I have some sense of what it feels like from the parents’ point of view. I write this not to criticise, but to provoke a conversation about how blame culture is preventing the next generations from really living.


Living not existing

Today I watched a TED talk  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kidwSFte8-E   (one of my guilty pleasures, up there with Snickers ice creams, but better as it develops my mind rather than my waistline) by the youngest person to have travelled to every single country in the world, Lexie Alford; a twenty-one year old American girl who is truly impressive. She spoke about getting out of her comfort zone and how we should all do the same. Leave the routine behind and embrace our fears. She said that in all the time she spent travelling there was only one occasion she felt in fear for her life, whilst in the Yemen. And this was because she mistook the gunfire from a wedding party for an act of aggression, so it was a cultural misunderstanding rather than a need for fear.  In short, she encompasses how I feel about travel.


Similarly, today I spoke to a friend of mine working with American students who come to Barcelona (where I live) for a semester or so and she said that she was taking the students out to Sitges, a resort town nearby where people go to enjoy the lovely beaches and sea. However, the students were not allowed in the sea. Why? Because of the heat wave. Because if they were ‘kept under the sun’ then that could be construed as the fault of the company and they might be sued. Never mind that these were not three year olds, but college age students who were presumably capable of mentioning if they felt they had spent too much time in the sun. Never mind that part of becoming an adult is about assessing risk for yourself and being a responsible adult means looking after yourself.



This, unfortunately, is an all too common scenario in travel. A focus on existing rather than living. Yes, at the end of it no lives are lost, but then again, no lives were lived either.  It is representative of a larger problem and one I have written about before. Fear. Fear is used to control. It’s used to sell and most of all it’s there to prevent. It prevents you from doing, from being, from living. If the purpose of our lives is to eliminate risk entirely, we also run the risk of eliminating living entirely. And yet, in the travel world, unfortunately far too many school boards and their teachers, for (a very rational) fear of being sued, prevent students from really being able to experience life when they travel. Clearly there is no need for unnecessary risk, but if we are at the stage whereby students are prevented from activities, particularly like going in the water on a hot day, then perhaps it’s time to reflect upon why we encourage young people to travel. If we impose boundaries and limits on the way in which they can explore and live, how much ‘travelling’ are they really doing?

Students themselves often turn up fearful. I ask them to actually detail their fears and they rarely can. They just feel scared at the unknown, believing the world to be a big, bad place. The absolute opposite is true. The problem is the twenty-four hour rolling news cycle which people perceive as ‘reality TV’ and the crimes reported on as a common occurrence.


Parents are understandably worried about their children. My mother still doesn’t like my going hiking alone, at the grand old age of 42, and I can understand her fear. But I have experienced the very best in human nature precisely because of being alone. The moment I reached the top of a Greek mountain without water because I forgot it at the bottom. By the time I realised it was too late to go back and retrieve it but a kind German who gave me almost his entire supply. As well as being my Insta boyfriend for half an hour 😉 Or the group of guys I met who guided me through the slot canyons that I would definitely not have found nor been able to navigate alone (they had to haul me through various parts) and who then helped me with my flat tyre in one of America’s national parks in Utah.

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Italy, Amore Mio


I first fell in love at the age of eight and am still in love thirty four years later. A childhood romance blossomed into a full-blown affair and then settled into an on-off relationship for the rest of my thirties. Despite many break ups and betrayals, this has been the love of my life. Therefore, on this Valentine’s Day, I dedicate this story to Italy, for it is Italy that has been my one, true, constant love.


Italy is somewhere that transcends being merely a country. It is a dream. Romantic, idyllic and breath-taking are but a few of the myriad words used to talk about Italy. Fellini’s Dolce Vita encapsulates this as the film moves between reality and dreams, much as those feel about Italy. Don’t get me wrong, I have many a time fallen out of love with Italy. And yet, like those sailors, I find myself drawn to her shores year after year.


I first came to live here as a child, attending school in Milan. At that point I fell for pizza, pasta, foccaccia and gelato, as any self-respecting eight year old does.  Unable to shake off Italy’s spell, I returned to study at the University of Siena, where I spent lazy days in the Piazza del Campo, sipping on cappuccino and watching the world go by from the outside cafes that lined the square. I returned to live in Rome where I embraced the true dolce vita lifestyle, enjoying long nights out and days spent wandering this open museum of a city.

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Lucy Loves Travel: ‘A Company for All Seasons’


What if there were a way for you to guarantee a one on one with your friend ‘Mona’ in Paris? Or an up close and personal with your friend ‘David’ in Florence?  An opportunity to stay in some of the best hotels and eat at some of the best restaurants, but all without paying a premium price? I have the solution: Welcome to Lucy Loves Travel’s winter collection.


Travelling better is also about understanding when it is best to travel. If you have the luxury of not being constricted by specific vacation times, perhaps it’s time to indulge in luxury travel at more reasonable prices.  Why is it that ‘out of season’ has been so ‘out of favour’? Isn’t it time to think outside the box, or in this case, outside the season? In Victorian times, the winter months were peak season, as the Vitamin-D-deprived English would escape to the south for some winter sun. There they would line the beaches of Nice on the Promenade des Anglais, or wander through Florence with their ‘Baedeker’ in hand.


Europe for and by the locals; authentic Europe. That is what most want to experience. And there is no better way to achieve this than by travelling at a time when the cities are ‘taken back’ by the locals. When cities once more empty out, the cruise ships are back in the Caribbean and you can get a table at the best restaurant in town. Enjoy guided tours whose routes are dictated by more than where the most shade is. Tours where a quick photo of a famous monument is no longer an oxymoron. Fewer people, temperate climates, a slower pace and a general feeling of relaxation; these are but a few of the reasons to travel in what has traditionally been known as the ‘off-season’


There has been a lot of press about the explosion of mass tourism and this is largely to do with people going to see things at exactly the same time of the day as well as in the same weeks and same months. The cruising market has exploded in recent years and cruise ship passengers, for instance, are constrained by the ship’s itinerary, which often sees them in cities early and leaving the city by mid-afternoon. This is because port fees are expensive and cruise ships have to get to their next destination, thereby requiring passengers to be back on board by 5 or 6pm. For precisely this reason, it is often better to visit a city’s most famous monuments in the afternoon, or, even better, to visit when the cruise ships are not in town at all.

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Is Travelling Just a Tall Tale of The (Roman) Emperor’s New Clothes?

You can’t go to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. No trip to London is complete without visiting Westminster Abbey. Going to Rome isn’t the same without seeing the Colosseum.  Why? Said who? There are many inhabitants who have happily spent a lifetime in these cities without setting foot inside the Colosseum, the Abbey and actively avoid being within view of the Eiffel Tower. Indeed Guy De Maupassant went so far as to have lunch every day in the Tower restaurant as it was the one place where he didn’t have to see the Tower. And this doesn’t just extend to cities and their monuments; it also includes choosing where to visit in each country. Many ‘have to’ go to Madrid if going to Spain or ‘can’t miss’ Athens if off to Greece. This isn’t to say that these places are without merit, my question is more to do with the decision making process behind visits to such places.


Sometimes I feel that, much as with the Emperor’s new clothes, we are all somewhat faking it in travel. For every ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ there is a part of me that wonders how much this is really true or are we expressing what we feel we should be expressing. Personally I find it hard to feel great amazement for anything when I am in a crowded room, hot and bored as the guide drones on in my ear.



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A tale of two cities


As the storm clouds gathered over Barcelona this morning, they were an apt metaphor for what was to come. By the end of the day, the gloomy sky was still in evidence, but the violence meted out by the National Police has become the real storm brewing.

In football terminology, football being the true lifeblood of this city, this was a game of two halves.  I saw a polling station in Barceloneta which remained peaceful through the day. The voters queuing up, were watched by four local police officers (Mossos d’Esquadra) who stood at a distance doing little other than chatting among themselves. The mood was upbeat. Initially there had been some technical issues (these were widespread at polling stations across Barcelona) resulting in the crowd chanting ‘votarem’ (we will vote). However shortly after, the polling station opened and those who were first to vote were greeted by applause and cheers when they exited, having cast their vote.  Returning here at various points throughout the day, I didn’t witness any violence and there were no Guardia Civil officers in evidence. Indeed, when a patrol car of the Mossos d’Esquadra passed through the throng, doing nothing to prevent the vote, they crowd applauded the car.



This morning I saw another neighbour, Maria, heading out and she said she had absolutely no interest in voting. Whilst she said she always voted normally, she said she would not be voting today as she did not believe in the legitimacy of the vote nor was she pro-Catalan independence. Chatting to a lady who was waiting to vote in Barceloneta, her feeling was that the pro-remain people who had attended a march yesterday, were largely from other areas and not ‘true’ Catalans. And yet, Maria would call herself a ‘true’ Catalan. Such divisions are rife in Catalonia.

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