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Danube Travel – BP Portrait Awards

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The National Portrait Gallery in London (half way between Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square, right behind the National Gallery) is one of my favourite London museums or galleries and each year the BP Portrait Award – ‘the most prestigious portrait painting competition in the world’ – is one of my favourite events there. It’s on right now until 23 September 2018.

Short listed painters who don’t take out one of the big prizes are also eligible to apply for the Travel Awards, which funds them to go travelling and bring back portraits from their travels to be shown at the following year’s exhibit. This year I was one of the judges for the Travel Awards and we decided the winning painter was Robert Seidel, who is German from Leipzig.

◄ This is David, his entry in the BP Portrait Award from a visit to San Francisco. Robert is going to travel down the Danube River using a variety of forms of transport including bicycle and paint portraits of the people he encounters.



The Danube flows through four European capitals and coincidentally I’ve visited all of them in the past few years. In March this year I was in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

▲ Looking down on New Bridge or Nový most and other Danube River bridges from Bratislava Castle. Officially it’s SNP (‘Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising’) but it’s often referred to as Most Slovenského národného povstania or the UFO Bridge because of what looks like a flying saucer landing on top of it.

▲ Our MGBs board a Danube River ferry as we cross from Bulgaria into Romania.

Last year my Silk Road trip – driving from Bangkok to London in an old MGB sports car – took me through Budapest in Hungary and Vienna in Austria on the last week of our long drive. I had visited both cities on earlier occasions. Two years earlier in late-2015 I visited Belgrade in Serbia, hometown of Nikola Tesla. The international airport is named after him and he also has a fine museum in the city.

Kiribati – the Outer Islands

30 November 2017 | Places

My visit to Kiribati featured North and South Tarawa, but it was was too short to explore any of the outer islands, you’d have to at least overnight and flights don’t operate every day. Plus you’d have to allow extra time, just in case weather or Air Kiribati malfunct...

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Kiribati – North Tarawa

27 November 2017 | Places

▲ Having looked around crowded South Tarawa it was time to move to uncrowded North Tarawa. The road that runs from one end of South Tarawa (Betio) all the way to the other end (the airport at Bairiki) continues a bit further and then crosses a bridge to Buota, the fir...

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Kiribati – South Tarawa

27 November 2017 | Places

In the British colonial era it was the Gilbert half of the Gilbert & Ellice Islands. Kiribati gained its independence in 1979, became a member of the United Nations in 1999 and has a population of 115,000. Over 50,000 of that population are crammed on to the strin...

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Myanmar-Burma, Rohingya (the Muslim people) & Rakhine State (the area where they live)

7 November 2017 | Living

I’ve just been at the Irrawaddy Literary Festival in Myanmar. I put a lot of thought into it before I went, assorted people told me I should not be going, that by turning up I was ignoring the ethnic cleansing or even genocide going on in the Rakhine area, the western...

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Lonely Planet’s Cities of the World

24 October 2017 | Places

Lonely Planet’s second Cities Book is about to hit the shelves. In the first edition, I came up with Ten Cities that Didn’t Make the Cut. Cities that for an assortment of reasons I found really important, interesting or inspiring, but didn’t feature in the book. Some ...

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How to Destroy the American Shipping Business

18 October 2017 | Living

For all Trump’s bleating about trade agreements hitting American business the USA has some blatantly unfair trade restrictions which not only hit other countries’ businesses, but also damage the very country they’re supposed to protect, ie the USA. Starting with the J...

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Avoid SSSS on Your Boarding Pass

12 October 2017 | Transport

A recent story underlined why it’s not nice to have SSSS stamped on your boarding pass in the USA. It means you’ve been lined up for Secondary Security Screening Selection and getting shuffled into ‘Secondary’ in the US is often not a pleasant procedure. At t...

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Iran Air’s Airliner Order

11 October 2017 | Living

Donald Trump’s announcement that he would like to decertify the Iran nuclear deal – if it really happens and that is far from certain – could reimpose sanctions on Iran. Which conceivably could stall Iran Air’s aircraft orders. When the sanctions were shelved Iran Air...

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In North Korea

9 October 2017 | Media

There’s absolutely no shortage of books about North Korea, I’ve even tackled the subject myself in my book Bad Lands. Donald Trump’s recent forays into the topic, with his less than successful verbal assault on the country’s ‘Rocket Man,’ only focused even more attent...

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Two Steps Forward – along the Camino Santiago

5 October 2017 | Media

I had the pleasure on Tuesday night of launching the new Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist novel Two Steps Forward. In alternating chapter as Martin (recently divorced English engineer) and Zoe (recently widowed Californian artist) they set out to walk the Camino Santiago...

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