Rum, literature, hot water, Cheshire, what more could I want?

As I eat, drink, read, listen and watch my way around the world, I always have an eye on the countries that await me and so it was with Christmas morning excitement that I embarked on this week’s trip to Colombia; even though I had failed to find Colombian wine or even a bottle of their national spirit Aguardiente. Part of the anticipation had to do with opening a bottle of delicious Rathlee rum — grown in Colombia and brewed in Cornwall — and the fact that I planned to use it for this Colombia cocktail which takes the stripes…


China dream and lychee martini — and so the adventure begins

Within minutes of arriving in China I accepted that exploring a land of 1.4 billion people, 100s of cultures, 300 languages and dubious land borders with 14 countries and maritime borders with a further seven was going to take more than a week. But how much time should I devote? China’s population is 18,000 times larger than Andorra, so I could justify spending 18,000 weeks or 349 years. This seemed a little too long, so I plumped for a fortnight instead.


Drinking Pisco sour for over an hour

I first became aware of Chile was when I read Isabel Allende’s masterpiece House of Spirits and became aware of magic realism. She’s one of my all-time favourite authors and so had been looking forward to this week’s book, her historical novel about the founding of Chile Ines of my Soul. After reading so many traumatic books recently, I was glad to have found a novel that steered clear of outlining the recent horrors of Augustus Pinochet’s brutal massacres. But of course nations are rarely founded in glory and so the book was full of ancient horrors visited upon the…


Sometimes my drinks are non-alcoholic

From the forests of Central African Republic we head north towards the Sahara and our first Sahel country.

But what, is the Sahel?

I will answer by trying out some more words I have learnt on this trip… It is the liminal, ecoclimatic, biogeographic region where the Sahara meets the Sudanian Savanana. Or as this week’s book describes it — the desert’s edge.

Having spent the previous week reading mainly European accounts of how many of today’s African borders came to be, it was a blessed relief to spend a week reading local peoples’ accounts of their daily life. This…


Palm wine, fufu and 750 pages of traumatic African history.

Sometimes armchair travels can be tricky. Not tricky like trying to explain to an Indonesian bus driver that you really need the toilet NOW, but difficult none-the less. There were, however, silver linings. For example although Google was utterly unwilling to find me a novel set in the Central African Republic (CAR) it did introduce me to Ann Morgan, a woman who has already read a book for every country in the world. But she read hers in one year…

Putting aside my disappointment that there is always someone out there who can one-up you, I took her advice and…


Red stripe, dragon stout AND Jamaican carrot juice…

The Cayman Islands are tiny. A sixth of the size of greater London, but with 8,843,052 less people. It was uninhabited when Christopher “the coloniser” Columbus arrived and was initially called Las Tortugas after the large number of turtles. Sadly they were too delicious to live and so later visitors renamed it after the caimans (alligators) who obviously put up more of a fight.

The Caymans were part of Jamaica until 1962, when the Beatles released their first single and Jamaica achieved independence. It is now a British overseas (non-self-governing) territory and an excellent place to launder money due to…


Cocktail #1 in had something to do with Cahaca — Lusophone countries stick together!

This week we are on an archipelago of ten volcanic islands, 350 miles to the West of Senegal and 900 miles south of the Canary Islands. We are in an African country that has pretty much never been to war and was uninhabited when the Portuguese discovered them in 1456. It is a land that offers more protections to LGBTQ+ people than most African nations, meaning people such as the titular lead in this week’s film Tchindas, are able to live openly and play a key part in island life. The documentary reveals the day-to-day lives of a small gay…


Tim Hortons — pah!

O Canada, you giant beautiful land of Indigenous Peoples, Queen-loving immigrants and Québécois circuses. I love you more than you love hockey, more than you love poutine, more than you love to cover yourselves in maple syrup and dress up as Mounties, and lumberjacks. I was so excited about spending a week Armchair Travelling to you that I bought Moosehead Beer and maple-syrup glaze several months in advance. …


Action shot, bottle top in foreground for those who appreciate such things…

If I’m honest, it can be a bit of a bumpy landing when my armchair arrives in one of the countries I’ve visited in real life (or IRL as the Zoomers say). It brings back memories of a time when passports and wheely bags weren’t just ornaments and you could up and leave if you had money and time. But those simpler times move further into the distance with every dumb move our governments make and so, with my armchair grounded for a while, I start this Cameroonian journey by sipping on a Beaufort lager (bought from Jennies’ African Goods…


On rare occasions the sun shines in Brum, one must take advantage

Week 32. Britain is opening up; friends can visit; parenting becomes shepherding; and my limited free time is reduced to nothing. I have to wake early to fit the Armchair adventure in and as I look at the title of this week’s book I wonder if this whole experience is going to take a toll on my mental health.

First they killed my father.” Really?

I’ve only just finished reading a child’s-eye view of the tragic killings in Burundi, is it wise to now embark on the true story of a 5-year-old in the Cambodian killing fields? …

Armchair traveller

Zero carbon lockdown travel through books, drinks, food, films, music and the magic of living in multicultural #Birmingham.

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