2020 Tours – Preview and Take Your Pick…

•December 9, 2018 • 7 Comments

THANK YOU…

Mireia and I have been truly overwhelmed by the response to the ‘creating our own agency’ announcement. Many people have either commented or emailed. We just had no idea what the response might be. It is truly an honour that so many of you are prepared to trust us with your holiday time and money in the future.

We are so excited…

So, based on what you have requested we have put together this initial selection of 7 tours we would be aiming to run. The first two are in direct response to your emails. The following five are tours that I/we have always dreamt of one day creating.

ALL are of course itineraries in areas we know well, feel we can do better (or certainly different) than the ‘competition’ and love working in. It has always been our belief that there just has to be a market for people who are interested in tours with more of thread, a theme, a purpose. And it is our hope that what we find interesting, so might you.

Note: – all tours would also be small group (max 20 and often fewer). Anything more and we cannot show you, stay at or eat in the places we’d like to.

PLEASE – have as read through the short teasers below and if anything strikes your fancy, shoot us an email (thomas@2ndcupoftea.com). We are hoping to be able to run our first few of these in 2020 – we want to take our time and do this properly.

Israel and The Palestine – The Holy Land

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This year has seen me return to The Holy Land several times as a guide for another agency. One thing has become overwhelmingly clear; 95% of agencies ‘do’ Israel in exactly the same way. Same hotels, same routes, even same breakfast times. This results in enormously crowded sites. Wow. There is such a scope to see more, time things differently, go beyond the obvious and above all understand Israel, of the past and present. And YES – it is safe, absolutely so. Plus Masada should be on every bucket list.

Athens And The Aegean

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One of the questions I have been asked most during my career is; ‘where do you go on holiday?’ Well then, to answer that, we are putting together this rather unique tour. I have always loved Athens. The ‘new’ Acropolis Museum has just added to that love. Delphi too – wonderful, but it’s when you catch a ferry out of Piraeus that Greece in its magnificent complexity, sites, sounds, tastes comes to life. The Aegean Sea; one island more fascinating than the next. Come ‘Island Hopping’ with us on a Tour Guide’s Holiday.

Barcelona and Catalunya 

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Three years ago I first came across a little Romanesque church high in the Pyrenees. As I exited after discovering the secret contained within it’s stone walls, I emailed as many friends as I could and said; ‘if you only ever visit one more church in your life, make it this one’. With Mireia a native Catalan, we’d love to show you the treasures of our chosen home, treasures that include, but also extend beyond Barcelona. National parks, secret WW2 paths, fabulous cuisine, wonderful Paradors and hikes. See why we live HERE.

Cathars and Templars – Southern France

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Over the last few years I have become good friends with perhaps the World’s leading scholar of Cathar history. You’re forgiven for not knowing much (or anything?) about this early Christian sect, wiped out by a Crusade in the 13th Century. But their legacy, how it was interwoven with the Templars and all played out in the stunning setting of Languedoc-Roussillon I can assure you makes for a fabulous ‘excuse’ for a holiday. Travelling with a leading scholar is something everyone should try at least once.

Peoples of The Alps – Ancient and Modern

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Have you ever seen Ötzi The Ice Man? If not, then please add him and the wonderful museum that surrounds him to your list. The Alps have always inspired me. Having lived and worked there for years, the way of life, the food, the customs and traditions and how they transcend borders is fascinating. This tour will include the must-see Mountain Museums of Reinhold Messner, The Dolomites, WWI trenches and bunkers, cheese, castles, wine, and walks all with thread of mountain cultures ancient and modern.

European Folk Tales – A Literary Tour

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A personal favourite of mine this one. Over the years rather surprisingly some of the kindest feedback and nicest comments have been guests saying they have enjoyed my reading on the bus. Wherever I go I try to find snippets of local legend, folk tales, myths and stories to read for just a few minutes each day. Why not start in Odense, the birthplace of HC Andersen and trace the trails of the Brothers Grimm and the history of the European Fairytale? Every day to feature a new folktale. Our imagination is the limit.

GR54 – Europe’s Toughest Hike?

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I have had many requests for ‘more hikes’. I have even guided for walking agencies. This is always tricky; it’s very difficult to pitch the level correctly and guests almost always underestimate or overestimate their ability. Hence this – the GR54 – 180kms, 12.000m up and down over 12 days in a French National Park. The challenge; considerable. The accommodation; rustic. The food; nutritious. The scenery; out of this world. The luggage; transported for you. The satisfaction at the end; priceless. This is a REAL hike…

(Oh and any suggestions for what to call our Agency – gratefully received – best one gets a discount on the first tour)

Please email us if you are interested in joining one of these trips 😉

 

Trading Cows For Magic Beans… 2019

•November 20, 2018 • 58 Comments

Firstly, thank you; to the many of you who have asked.

And, there have indeed been many questions.

This, in addition to being an expression of real gratitude for the interest you have shown in my ‘disappearance’, is therefore also intended to be an answer to many (most?) of those questions. Let’s see…

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YES, I still very much guide. NOPE, not on your nelly for Road Scholar (a long sad story, but what a sorry agency it is evolving into). Yes, still freelance and for various agencies. NO, no longer exclusively in Europe (have broadened horizons to South America and Israel).

YES, I do still remember everyone who has been kind enough to email and to whom I am have not yet had a chance to reply. It has been wonderful to hear from you and I am trying…

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The Psychology of Failure…

•September 29, 2017 • 17 Comments

Or ‘A Lack of Pilgrims Progress’

Experience is merely the name men give to their mistakes

– Oscar Wilde

I didn’t make it. Not really close even. My long walk to Rome ended up as a short(ish) walk to Champagne. There, close to tears – of pain to an extent, but mainly disappointment, it all ended in a pharmacy in Châlons-en-Champagne.

Can you help?‘ said I, as I limped through its doors. ‘I’ll get the patron‘, the young apprentice behind the counter replied, sensing I might be more than a couple-of-paracetamol-tablets sort of a client.

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Stuff for two months…

‘Rest!’, ordered the summoned expertise, taking one look at the swelling. ‘Hmm… let’s just imagine‘, said I, ‘that is the one thing I cannot do. Let’s just for the sake of argument say I need to walk a further 1500 kilometres over the next eight weeks’.

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Kenavo Lionel, hiraezh am eus dit…

•August 17, 2017 • 19 Comments

My good good friend, true Breton and one of the best and certainly most human of guides I have ever met, Lionel died last week.

I will miss him terribly.

Many of you who kindly subscribe to this site will have met Lionel and probably owe your understanding of the word ‘kenavo‘ (goodbye) and so much more of all things Breton, to him.

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I met Lionel four years ago in his native Quimper in Brittany where he lived and worked. As usual I was clueless, a first time visitor to this, now my favourite, corner of France. I clearly needed help.

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As I Walk Out One Midsummer Morning… The Via Francigena to Rome (See you in September)

•July 3, 2017 • 54 Comments

“Well when I write my book, and tell the tale of my adventures – all these little stars that shake out of my cloak – I must save those to use for asterisks!”
― Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac

In 1352 a wealthy London merchant paid a man twenty pounds to go on a pilgrimage in his stead. So, complete with a small fortune, off the medieval equivalent, not perhaps of a body, but surely a soul double, set. His destination; Mount Sinai…

In 2017, having postponed for many years, and for many reasons, I have no desire to pay anyone to walk for me. My destination; Rome, and each and everyone of the intervening 1900 kilometres from Canterbury along the ancient Via Francigena. The time has finally come for me to do this. And to do it alone. Two months, 31 kilometres per day (I think), one tent, one backpack, one heavy heart, one confused mind, two feet.

I am not bringing anything with me. Anything technological that is; no wifi, no phone, no email, camera, nothing. Just a guide book and a compass. Oh and pen and paper of course.

This therefore is my farewell

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I could not be writing in greater contrast to what lies ahead, typing these words as I am in the simply sumptuous, splendid Hotel Danieli in Venice. But come Friday luxury ends…

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Segovia to Malaga – A Journey Better Travelled Alone… (or The Power of Geography)

•May 4, 2017 • 20 Comments

‘cause my head is filled with questions and I can assure you, no answer to any one of them has ever brought me one iota of happiness, except one… And the answer bloody well isn’t 42, it’s yes; undoubtedly, unequivocally, unabashedly; yes.

– Arthur Dent, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy

If I could finally, once and for all describe this ‘pain’ properly, then I’m sure people would understand. If I were a better writer, and could write what it really feels like, then people would have to understand. But each time I try, it feels like I’m trying to capture smoke with a fork. It’s there alright, but you can’t touch it. And if I could do that, touch it, I might even be able to shut this website down.

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But as it is, I’m left with a feeling of embarrassment each time I tell a friend it still hurts as well as the failure of not being able to describe that hurt more accurately. It’s been long enough. It should surely not continue to do so. To hurt. But it does. And on this Tuesday afternoon therefore, I am not alone in boarding the delayed 12:37 from Segovia to Madrid.

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Baseball at Dusk – Farewell Val d’Isere

•April 14, 2017 • 26 Comments

Between heaven and earth,
between darkness and light,
between magic and reality,
lies only my heart…

As I walked home from work this week, I saw a boy playing with the water of a well. I stopped and stared. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, I was more sad than I remember being in years. I just stood and watched. I let the feeling grow, take over and tears appeared in each of my eyes.

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The boy had a piece of wood attached to a string which in turn he was dragging round and round. The wood floated, and together with the white string, formed a sort of primitive vessel. It was one of those old fashioned stone wells, the likes of which scatter Alpine vilages in France, spewing forth delightfully cold, delicious water. He was one of those boys you might see in illustrated story books of the seventies. Brown, neat hair, faceless – I could only see him from the back – blue shorts and a white t-shirt.

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Tissue of Tears… Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb – A Story

•February 10, 2017 • 35 Comments

In February, finding myself with the combination of a couple of cancelled tours and a serendipitous conversation during a walk in West London, I decided to travel to Zagreb to visit the Museum of Broken Relationships (yes, that’s a real place). Here in the museum cafe, I wrote the following short(ish) story, imagining someone doing just that… 

Dedicated to S – who else?

When you are sad, don’t go to Zagreb. And when you are alone, don’t go to Zagreb. And when it is winter and snow is falling, don’t go to Zagreb. And most of all, if you have recently lost someone you wish very much you hadn’t, don’t go to Zagreb. It’s a very grey place. For these reasons, don’t go to Zagreb.

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Alternatively, ignore all that, do fly to the Croatian capital and head straight for the Museum of Broken Relationships. For whatever reason, none of this, none of my own most excellent advice was clear to me prior to boarding. My friend knew, she told me as much; ‘you’ll be lonely’ she sent in a text. But after I arrived. She was right. So here I am… Exactly that, in Zagreb. In the cafe of that very museum. And it’s grey. Everywhere. And it’s lonely. Everywhere.

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No Golden Ticket This Year…

•December 22, 2016 • 18 Comments

We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Well, that was some year wasn’t it? Goodness…

It felt like my Brexit tears had only just dried – going to sleep on June 23rd in Great Britain and waking up on June 24th in Little England – and then November 8th happened.

Usually at this time of year, one can look back upon the previous 51 weeks and, at the same time, ahead to the weeks next year has to offer, doing so without too much concern for the 52nd of this year. But in the current world?

So to us all, let me start by saying happy 52nd week of 2016.

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On this, the 22nd of December, the day of the extraction of the Spanish Loteria –

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More Than 3 And a Half Hours All For… DNF?!? ‘Hot’ Copenhagen Marathon 2016

•May 23, 2016 • 14 Comments

First, thank you so much to all who sponsored me. Once again, when that infamous ‘wall’ – bane of all Marathon runners was struck – this time 5 kms after last time at 32 kms, you once again carried me through. Having sponsors means I cannot even contemplate dropping out.

Time; 3 hours 41 minutes and 52 seconds (no PB, but my second fastest time)

200 metres to go... Will I ever just once look happy at this stage?

200 metres to go… Will I ever just once look happy at this stage?

This was a great Marathon. Must humoured prior to the start by repeated announcements warning us to be aware of the ‘soaring temperatures’ likely to reach 22 degrees.

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