One of the scariest things about getting older is the ever-increasing rapidity of the passing of time. I mean, how can it possibly be three years since I launched Leighton Literature? I was in Beijing at the time, my second stint, and between then and now I’ve been to Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, travelled all around Thailand and lived in Cambodia, Scotland and Spain before heading back to China again. It’s literally felt like the click of a finger.
Hyde Park, September 2015. Every time I come to London I’m always amazed all over again at how green it is. I try to go and visit a different park each year and I’m nowhere near getting through everything. Hyde Park is the city’s obvious biggie at a whopping 145 hectares. Nabbed from The Church by Henry VIII in 1536, it was initially used for hunting, duels, horse racing and most popular of all in those days, public executions!
Elmbourne Road, June 2015. I always enjoy my annual trips to London. With my nomadic existence the way it is, I only manage to make it back once a year. But these visits feel so good for the soul, a much-needed recharge of my internal battery. I can tune in and out of English conversations, stuff myself with all the foods I miss and go and see my beloved QPR at Loftus Road. These days my London home is Tooting Bec in the southern borough of Wandsworth. An old friend of mine has a house in Elmbourne Road on the edge of Tooting Bec Common; so it’s here that I come to remind myself that I am in fact English.
Kairouan, March 2017. I really have been spoilt here recently in the south of Spain. Camino Del Rey is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen; Ronda has that amazing gorge and Granada boasts The Alhambra. Although ever so slightly in the shadow of its neighbors, Córdoba’s main draw is The Mezquita, the world’s third largest mosque. Rather than suffer a tedious two hour forty-five minute bus journey, I opted for the pricier sixty-minute bullet train from Malaga. Having focused all my pre-trip research on The Mezquita, on arrival I was blown away with how gorgeous the city itself is! This charming street sums up the vibe nicely, a cobbled stretch that runs alongside the walls of the historical centre. Illuminated by the afternoon sun, you can also see The Puerta de Almodovar Gate, the entrance point to the old town.
View From The Muslim Quarter, March 2017. I’ve lost count of the number of palaces, castles, forts and royal residences seen during my travels. The Taj Mahal was pretty special, Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque not too shabby. The ghostly ruin of Slovakia’s Spissky Hrad was an underrated delight and Bangkok’s Grand Palace a monstrous love-hate experience like no other. In Spain of course it’s all about The Alhambra, a fourteenth century palace-fortress watching over the Andalusian city of Granada. A unique blend of Christian and Moorish architecture, with UNESCO World Heritage kudos to boot, today the Alhambra is Spain’s most visited monument. This shot was taken from Paseo de los Tristes in the city’s Muslim Quarter.
The Grand Place, July 2008. Once upon a time, the French city of Lille was just a hop, skip and a jump away from my apartment in Brussels. So one weekend I boarded a train and eighty minutes later I was in Lille! My only other French adventure had been a trip to Paris, and while the city of romance hadn’t disappointed, there was something much more laid back and sincere about Lille. Indeed from my first stroll I sensed a distinct lack of pretension. The locals seemed genuinely friendly actually seemed happy and were able/willing to speak English. Was I really in France? Lille’s eye-catching epicentre is this massive square, with enough stunning architecture and atmospheric bars and cafes to rival its peers in Paris and Brussels.