Diary of a digital nomad

As the pandemic gently recedes into history, many of us have been embracing the liberties that have followed. For anyone whose work relied on a desk, a chair and a computer, video-conferencing services such as Zoom left us questioning long-held assumptions about the need for those increasingly anachronistic offices to which we once trudged. The thought of traipsing across town to sit in front of the same computer perched on a slightly different desk suddenly felt absurdly outdated.   But just as we became accustomed to typing in our slippers, more adventurous feet began to itch. Being stuck in a corner of the sitting room all day could be just

The rise of the ‘workation’

The biggest single driver of last year’s property boom was the surge in working from home. For many, the commute went from daily chore to occasional concern, enabling them to move to areas that previously seemed beyond reach, from the Cotswolds to Cornwall. But others have gone further still – swapping ‘work from home’ for ‘work from anywhere’. These digital nomads typically ditch the nine-to-five or find flexible employers to enable them to decamp to sunnier climes in the greyest months of the year. And during a winter of high energy bills and soaring living costs at home, the trend has been growing. For the estimated four million solo freelancers

48 hours in Lisbon

Lisbon is, as they say; ‘having a moment.’ The Portuguese capital has become something of an international hotspot of late, with a deluge of, not just global tourists, but those decamping to become ‘alfacinhas’ – the local term for those living in Lisbon, which adorably (though mysteriously) translates as ‘little lettuce.’ The appeal is abundantly clear from the moment you arrive. This is a city which has atmosphere in spades. Aside from the sunshine, there is a feeling to Lisbon that immediately grips you: colourful façades, grand squares leading out to the Atlantic Ocean and the distinctive yellow trams cutting a precarious path down vertigo-inducing streets. The architecture is a glorious hotchpotch of gothic, baroque and Neo

Another fallen idol: the myth of Ferdinand Magellan debunked

Who would you choose to judge you long after your death? How about a professional historian? How about Felipe Fernández-Armesto? Much lauded and read, this professor of history at Notre Dame, Indiana is the author of many books including short histories of humankind and the world and longer ones of exploration, Hispanic America and the year 1492. As you begin Straits, his account of the life and voyages of Fernando de Magallanes, known in English as Ferdinand Magellan, the explorer credited with the first European navigation from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the straits at the tip of South America in 1520, you may quail at the thought of

Why second-homers are buying in Portugal

In recent years Portugal’s been pulling away from its image as a place for golf-playing retirees. Now it’s a fashionable and increasingly upmarket destination for home buyers who are drawn by its tax benefits coupled with its unspoilt coastlines and low-octane lifestyle. As of December 2021, there were 42,071 Britons resident in Portugal, according to the SEF, the Immigration and Border Service, the second largest group of foreigners behind the Brazilians. It is extraordinary that although the figure has fallen a little since 2020 – the pandemic has played its part – prior to Brexit, Britons made up only the sixth largest group of foreign residents in Portugal. But the Portuguese

Euros 2021: Hungary’s lockdown lesson for the world

Hungary (Orban 1, 90) 2 Europe and the WHO 0 Now THIS was a proper game of football. Fractious and furious, bitterly contested in front of 61,000 magnificently partisan Hungarians in Budapest. Scarcely a mask in sight and certainly not a knee. Orban has had enough of lockdown: Hungary took us back to the old world, that world we quite liked. The Magyars, roared on, fought for everything, inspired by Laszlo Kleinheisler (a Danube Swabian? One of Hungary’s ethnic Germans, persecuted of late and often expelled?) They were undone, cruelly, by a deflection and a penalty, having had a goal of their own disallowed. How I hoped they might win,

The forgotten joy of spontaneity

If you ask people what they’ve missed out on since the pandemic, they’ll probably lament their cancelled plans. Weddings postponed, birthday parties axed and family reunions moved to Zoom. Me, I’ve missed the unplanned. The spontaneity that knocks your routine, muddles your diary and lands you tipsy in the pub on a Monday night when you were supposed to be at the gym. For more than a year, our lives have been ruled by the principle of ‘safety first’. Accidents — even the fun ones — have been avoided at all costs. It has been illegal to act on a whim or at least, in the better times, very strictly

Portugal’s secret sanctuaries: why it pays to roam far

My trek along the entire length of Portugal began on a small boat with Captain Juan standing beside the outboard. Accompanied by five other rucksack-laden pilgrims who I met during an extended Camino de Santiago pilgrimage to escape UK lockdowns, we were crossing the Minho River that serves as the border between Spain and Portugal’s northern edge. It was all rather dramatic and felt a bit like a Special Forces’ insertion, additional frisson coming from uncertainty over whether the border was actually open. It didn’t seem the issue was much on the mind of Captain Juan either way. The following 560-plus kilometres of hiking due south brought ancient towers, castles, cathedrals and

Where to beat the crowds in Portugal

Following the news that Portugal, including Madeira and the Azores, has a place on the UK’s green list, many of us are writing off other destinations and eyeing up its travel potential for the first time. There’s more to Portugal than the Algarve: whether you’re in search of vines, hiking trails or secluded shores, it’s possible to pull off an extremely varied break here.  The Coast As popular as Portugal is for its beaches, its long Atlantic coastline and wealth of islands means there’s plenty of coastal seclusion to be found. The Serra da Arrábida Natural Park near Lisbon covers more than 100 square kilometres and is the setting for several sandy stretches

My taste of lockdown freedom on the Camino pilgrimage

A few of the hip young things sitting along the Lisbon quayside turned their heads my way as my walking sticks scraped along the pavement. I didn’t slow down, though, because I was self-conscious about how I looked. Hiking 2,000km along an extended Camino pilgrimage from the French-Spanish border through northern Spain then down through Portugal will do that to you. My beard had gone feral, my greying hair was out of control. The gaze of my eyes was increasingly unhinged; one friend cautioned similarities to King Lear. Nevertheless, I tried to hold my head high. Little do you know (I silently said to the quayside beauty pageant), but this

Coronavirus is straining an already fractured EU

When EU finance ministers ended their crisis meeting this morning, they had spent 16 hours trying to establish what collective help, if any, they wish to offer to the countries most affected by the epidemic: Spain and Italy. They agreed on not a thing. Instead, the meeting broke up acrimoniously with Italy, Spain and France demanding that the European Central Bank issue ‘coronabonds’ to help finance economic recovery – while Germany, the Netherlands and others resisted. So we see the EU split along the same lines as did the 2008/09 crisis, and indeed along the same fault lines that have been growing ever wider over the past three decades. The