I’m just back from a weekend in Galway, the southern Irish city that will be next year’s European Capital of Culture.
The west-coast city has always been something of a cultural hub with its annual summer arts festival. It’s also known, of course, for its traditional pubs [pictured above] and hospitality.
But, as I found over a couple of days in the city, the whole cultural regeneration associated with the European title comes at an interesting time for a place outside of the Westminster-Brexit bubble.
As Bridgette Brew, Head of Tourism for Galway 2020, told me:
“Galway has always had a freedom of mindset, an ability to see a different perspective. It comes from our hinterland looking out to The Atlantic.”
From the Wild Atlantic Way coastal driving route to an interesting take on the burgeoning slow-food scene via a Sunday morning stroll with Galway Food Tours, the weekend offered me plenty of new angles on the familiar story of the illusive Irish craic.
Read the full story in Telegraph Travel soon and look out for other stories over the next few months.
Strawberry Field, the childhood refuge of John Lennon, re-opened to the public last weekend.
I attended a preview a few days before, writing an article for iTravel.
Here’s a preview of my feature:
The former Salvation Army children’s home, made famous in the 1967 Beatles song, has re-opened with a new permanent exhibition about Lennon’s early life [pictured above], a community garden and café.
The young Lennon would often play in the garden after he moved to live nearby with his aunt Mimi when his mother started a new relationship.
He would meet Paul McCartney at a local church fete in the late Fifties.
But Strawberry Field remained, as Lennon later expressed in the song’s lyrics, a place where, “Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about”.
“John always said Strawberry Field was his favourite song and he referred to it as his psychoanalytic poem,” says Julia Baird, Lennon’s younger, half-sister and the Honorary President of the Strawberry Field project.
I’ve got form with Montpellier, where I spent an early summer visit on assignment for a couple of publications.
I remembered it from student days as my favourite French city, but then had a mixed experience on a more recent visit.
I was back in early July on a group press trip with tourism officials for the opening of the city’s new contemporary art museum, MOCO.
The city has certainly grown, expanding into new districts towards the beach and bustling with language-exchange students.
I still love the Old Town with its cobblestone backstreets and labyrinthine passageways. But I was less grabbed by some of the modernist architecture of somewhat soulless outer districts.
Here’s a taster of my story:
The opening of the art museum, Montpellier Contemporary (MOCO) is the latest development in a city embracing art. There was always a flirtation with street art and a regular summer arts festival but MOCO has really put the city on the map as a hub for all things conceptual.
I finally feel like I’ve got a better sense of what makes Montpellier tick.
Just in time to recommend some places to visit, such as the new Marché du Lez [pictured above], to my daughter, who is due to visit on a school exchange next Easter.