Sneaking Down to Spain, Travels With a Three-Legged Cat

•February 26, 2022 • 1 Comment

Every word of what follows is a true story.

‘That’s not a cat up there, that’s a lion‘. The cleaning lady pushes quickly past me, out through the door and hurridly down the steps to the safety of the cactus garden below.

Her departure leaves me alone in an apartment of three floors, five rooms and a terrace, the nooks and crannies of which I am totally unfamiliar with. Alone that is, apart from – somewhere – the beast. There is nothing for it, I have to go in, I’ve come all this way.

I glance down at my thumb where the blood has now dried on the dirty bandage. It’s a painful reminder of my last close encounter with what lies waiting within. Deep breath, here goes…

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Ready to Travel Again? – Here is a New Way

•June 21, 2021 • 4 Comments

“Jobs fill your pockets, adventures fill your soul”

I had forgotten just how much you, dear readers love to travel. I shouldn’t have. Travelling is after all how I met ninety percent of you.

The world has been a tricky place to explore over the past 16 months or so, but thankfully there are signs now that it may soon be possible to resume where we all were halted in our tracks (I am still ‘stuck’ on 99 countries visited).

One of these signs is my ‘inbox’ – slowly gathering dust over the past year – suddenly springing to life again. ‘Thomas, we are planning a trip to’…, ‘Thomas, friends of ours want to visit’…, ‘Thomas, we’ve never met, but…’ Three or four messages per week at least, all different, but all ending ‘can you help?’

Indeed adventures do fill my soul and I genuinely love planning trips, whether for myself or others. Putting together an itinerary over a long breakfast (usually when I do my best work) is my favourite way to start the day – I am instantly transported to that little terrace restaurant in Minerve, the Japanese room of my favourite Paris hotel or Mini Hollywood, dreaming about being Lee Van Cleef.

But, I can’t keep up, or rather, I can but no longer totally for free. I have my little Akash to look after. Jobs do indeed fill my pockets, and on behalf of my fellow guides, I can tell you, that Covid has emptied them for most of us. I originally started the Tour Guide tips section (look right on this page) of 2CoT to help defer this ‘demand’ for advice. However, it is not the same and I want to do better so…

Welcome to 2nd Cup of Tea Travel (Please click to go to my new standalone website)

I don’t think anything like this exists. It’s very simple: you email me your travel dreams/plans/wishes – I get back to you with a few more questions – then following your answers – I will send you my suggestions/itinerary FOR FREE. You, your friends, boss, colleagues, cousin, then pop off on vacation and IF, and ONLY if, my suggestions were worth it, you send a tip – at your discretion – when you return. Clever? Well, I am crossing fingers…

Tour Guides – or rather our knowledge – has a funny sort of limbo role when it comes to value. I don’t know anyone who would say, ‘my friend is as dentist, he’ll fix your crown for free’ or ‘my pal is a lawyer, he’ll sort your divorce and not charge’. However, for some reason, almost everyone says – ‘my friend is a guide – he’s bound to know all the best places in France, email him’.

This is knowledge accumulated over years and years of trial and error and in these days of injections, no one has injected all our languages into our brains. Many friends have suggested that I charge up front for this, but there are three reasons I don’t want to:

  • I want travel to be accessible to as many people as possible – we all have different budgets. I am equally happy to help two 18 year old backpackers (I was one many moons ago) as the boss of Boston Whaler – they can afford to pay differently
  • I love doing this and I want to help as many people as possible, so I prefer to keep ‘costs’ to a minimum
  • There are so many poor agencies out there, that above all, do not care. It’s all about the money. In general people should be entitled to be happy with anything they buy in life. By asking for a tip/donation ONLY if you are happy, well it seems to me, 2CoT Travel guests have nothing to lose

So, let’s see if this works ladies and gentlemen. Please do refer anyone you know – if you trust me – to 2CoT Travel. If I can’t help (remember there are still 96 countries I have NOT been to) I will let you know, but if I can, well I think I will truly make your vacation special. Of course, I can also make bookings if languages are a barrier and double of course I can still be hired as a guide to come along, but you will appreciate, these things I charge for. Finally, let me wish you ALL – happy travels, whomever you get to help you, please do remember:

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”

Briançon Old Town – A Guided Visit (Part 3)

•May 23, 2021 • 4 Comments

Your guided stroll through the old town of Briançon with Darren and myself concludes in this final episode.

In Part 3 – no guided visit is complete without a visit to at least one church (and this is a good’un), learn what exactly it was Vauban invented and what made it so special and finally, Darren and I plan our next trip; where to next?

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for following this far and watching all the way through until the end. Well, neither Spielberg nor the Cohen brothers, nor PBS nor even the BBC have called – so for me, it is back to the day job. There is no doubt travelling is better in person and the net is now filled with an increasingly large number of these ‘virtual visits’. It is just not the same when you can’t hear the river below the bridge, taste the cheese, or sip the wine in person; I get that. Maybe the most I can hope with these videos, is to inspire you to get back on the road as soon as conditions permit.


Anyway, take a final 8 minute break out of your day, sit back and press PLAY.

Thank you so much those who have watched all three episode and especially to all who pressed ‘like’ or took the time to send a comment – your kind words do mean a great deal.

Tips for optimum viewing:

  1. Press the little cog (down on the right) and pick the highest number your internet speed allows.
  2. Then press the perforated square (further right) and watch on full screen.

Happy Viewing – hope you enjoy…

Briançon Old Town – A Guided Visit (Part 2)

•May 22, 2021 • 6 Comments

Continue your trip through the old town of Briançon with Darren and myself.

In Part 2, while it is time for a quintessential French lunch, you will discover; what is in Darren’s bag, learn more about Vauban, just how did Charles de Batz de Castelmore, better known as d’Artagnan die and, whatever you do, always avoid living in the shade.

The ingredients to this film were inspired by me as much younger guide once giving tours of Vauban’s château in Burgundy, then years later ending up living in Briançon itself (In The Shadow of Genius – Living Underneath Vauban) and now finding myself back in the area. Add to a dose of 2020/21 and both Darren and I having some time on our hands, we thought; ‘why not make a short film?’ So we did…

A few years ago I had the idea to create a sort of TV series for the 150th year anniversary of the publication of the fabulous; The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain. Following in the footsteps of that famous cruise. I got so far as pitching it to a producer, who – in a kinder manner than it sounds – told me; ‘the trouble is – you are nobody‘. What he meant is, I am not famous, not a celebrity. It has always frustrated me that so often on TV people travelling and showing us the world are celebrities from all sorts of other fields – football, acting, music – anything but actual tour guiding it seems. Granted some are good, but many are not. My grudge has always been that just because I am – shall we say, a decent? tour guide – I am not granted a cameo on the left wing for Manchester Utd. So why should some footballer be chosen over me (or my colleagues) to be your TV travel guides? How about having someone that actually knows their field instead? See my point?

Anyway, rant over so take another 8 minute break out of your day, sit back and press PLAY.

I hope to see you all back for the concluding Part 3, tomorrow (same place, roughly same time).

Tips for optimum viewing:

  1. Press the little cog (down on the right) and pick the highest number your internet speed allows.
  2. Then press the perforated square (further right) and watch on full screen.

Happy Viewing – hope you enjoy…

Briançon Old Town – A Guided Visit (Part 1)

•May 21, 2021 • 6 Comments

Here is something a little bit different for you; part one of a three part mini series – Discovering Briançon Old Town – released over the next three evenings.

Join local film maker and producer, Darren Turner and myself as we stroll through the old town of Briançon, high in the French Alps on a beautiful day in April. In Part 1 dodge ‘murder holes’, be introduced to the genius that is Vauban, cross the scary – yet stunning – Devil’s Bridge and ‘gargle’ down the main street as we unravelled the fascinating history of this, Europe’s highest, town.

For the many of you that come to this site as you have travelled with me somewhere in the world, this is a little flashback to the past, or a glimpse even of the hopefully near future. For all of you, hopefully and enjoyable ‘trip’ to Briançon. For your viewing pleasure, we have cut this film into three, easy, bite-sized parts (so you don’t have to put up with me for a full half hour).

Many of you have over the years been kind enough to say I ought to be on TV – well, this is a chance for you to eat your words, or, in the event that after watching, you stand by that, share this with anyone looking for a TV guide to Europe and beyond. Have hat, will travel…

Anyway, without more fuss, take an 8 minute break out of your day, sit back and press PLAY.

I hope to see you all back for Part 2, tomorrow (same place, roughly same time).

Tips for optimum viewing:

  1. Press the little cog (down on the right) and pick the highest number your internet speed allows.
  2. Then press the perforated square (further right) and watch on full screen.

Happy Viewing – hope you enjoy…


A Year of Visits to Aran-Akash

•May 12, 2021 • 18 Comments

“Fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man” – Frank Pittman

And that’s a car, and that’s a car, and that’s a car, and….’

One of the favourite things I re-learn every month from my son, is the wonder and sheer improbability of the world he and I share with you all. On my monthly visits, as we walk down the street (usually the same one) over and again in Catalan suburbia where he lives, there is nothing more fascinating it would appear than noticing – and crucially pointing out – cars.

That’s a car, and that’s a car‘, he says, time and again as we walk along the pavement. Sometimes in front of one, though I am not sure why that particular one, he will stop, point to the next parked vehicle and ask, ‘what’s that Papa Thomas?‘ ‘That’s a car‘, I tell him (sometimes adding the name of the colour for variety). ‘Si, si,’ he mutters and we walk on towards new, yet unexplored, stationary vehicles.

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The Flight of The Eagle – Meeting Napoleon

•March 21, 2021 • 13 Comments

My father came and got us from the stable; “Napoleon is in La Mure. The cows can wait until the Emperor has gone.” – Seraphique Troussier, March 1815

A little over a year ago, Google sent, for the first time (to me at least), something called ‘Your Timeline‘. It was an image with a wee map of the world showing all the countries I had visited (was it for that month, or that year?) Below was a number, representing the percentage of the world that constitutes. I don’t recall the details, but as this arrived in February 2020 – one month B.C (Before Covid) – I remember looking at it and thinking; ‘The UK, Spain, Nepal, Bhutan, Israel and Qatar, ok not bad for just two months into the year. This will be fun to post at the end of the year; show off a little how much I always travel‘.

Well, here we are thirteen months A.C (After Covid – which should really be ‘D-uring’ C of course) and the last several of these reminders – they now seem to arrive monthly – have mostly featured just two comparatively forlorn looking pins; Vaujany and Barcelona.

Occasionally, it has rather optimistically, included a third pin somewhere like, Narbonne, Perpignan or Montpellier. In the classic travellers debate; can one count as having been to, a country where all one has visited is the airport? Google, with a nudge from Corona, is now responding in the affirmative – for cities and train stations at least. So, I gaze from the window of my train each month, as it sits, inevitably delayed, at a platform of one or other of these Southern French destinations. Scant comfort drawn from the fact that if we sit for more than five minutes, with luck, Google will get excited and award me with a pin for this.

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Happiness is a Place – Travel with 2nd Cup of Tea in 2021…

•February 7, 2021 • 7 Comments

Got 2 minutes? It’s 2021 so probably, like me, you do. Ok, then just press play below. I will ‘see’ you in the text afterwards…

Looks good? Yes, yes and yes are the answers you might now be looking for.

Yes, this really does exist, yes you really can visit and yes I have created my own trip – Bhutan: Happiness is a Place – for 2021 and will be your Tour Guide in November (was that a fourth yes?) If ever there is a place that lives up to the over-used ‘once in a lifetime‘ – then Bhutan is it. Promise.

All I am asking at this stage, is are you interested? If so…

How can you join me? Please read on…

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(My) Immigrant Song

•August 9, 2020 • 5 Comments

This week one of the UK’s most vile, selfish and contemptible politicians (I use the term in its loosest sense) posted an image on his Twitter account of a solitary rubber dinghy landing on a beach in Southern England. The singular vessel contained, if I am not mistaken seven or eight adults and maybe three or four young children. In the low-lit shot, they can be seen moving away up the beach, presumably trying to distance themselves as quickly as possible from the photographer. The photo was captioned by the comment; ‘EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE OF BEACH LANDING BY MIGRANTS – Shocking invasion of the Kent Coast taken this morning’.

For someone as obsessed with people crossing borders, one might think the poster of this video, might know the difference between ‘migrants’ and ‘immigrants’, ‘refugees’ and asylum seekers’. Assuming they did not sail from neighbouring East Sussex or down from Essex, that would for a start make them immigrants – not migrants – and were they to prove asylum seekers, well then they are breaking no law sailing across the channel and applying for, well… asylum.

You Don’t Remember Me, But Happy Birthday…

•March 1, 2020 • 5 Comments

You don’t remember me, but I have never forgotten you.

It’s two years since you came into my life. The first I knew was a photo, sent from your mother to my phone. And I knew you existed. It was three months before we finally met, but thanks to technology I felt I knew you already.

I’ll never forget waiting by the elevator, the one at the top of Las Ramblas on the left. I had bought and was wearing a yellow t-shirt for the occasion, something bright. I thought a bright colour might be good for babies. First I saw the top of your mother’s head as the glass elevator brought you both up, then your pram and eventually your little face – you were asleep.

You don’t remember me, but you have left footprints on my heart.

I wondered how I’d feel, I was in love with your mother, but how might one feel about a child with whom one shares no blood? People adopt all the time, there are step dads, mums, brothers and sisters. I had never given much thought to such relationships.

Over the next weeks and months as we became friends, you grew to become the most important thing in my life. Flesh, blood, genes, irrelevant. All that mattered was love. I remember feeling as nervous as a father when you started kindergarden, so proud when you could put your head under water at swimming class, worried when you were sick and happy when you ate the lunch I’d make you.

You don’t remember me, but we were friends.

I admit, I was not great, perhaps not natural father material. I would report to your mother how many times you had cried during the day, when she returned from work. And when that gradually and more often, became zero, I don’t recall feeling more proud of anything before, or since.

You were the only person I think ever to enjoy my guitar playing (though I appreciate as you would grow and develop a taste, that might not have lasted). When the guitar I had just bought for you fell off the wall and broke, and I could not afford another, I was devastated.

You don’t remember me, but I was your bath buddy.

Ahh bath time. Along with my playing guitar, you are also the only person ever to smile and try to sing along to my singing. How many times did we play and sing Octopus’s Garden? I will never forget the words.

My favourite photo of you is from the house we all too briefly shared. I am on the couch and you are sitting amidst all your coloured balls on the soft letters you had. I am holding a rabbit you loved, looking down at you. With your huge eyes and mouth wide open you look up at me, listening, learning, or maybe thinking; ‘who is this crazy person?’

And today you turn two. I think you are getting a bicycle. I would have loved to see your face. But I have not seen you for many months. And I miss you. It’s hard to accept that ones dreams end, that one is powerless to do anything – that following my heart, means encountering doors that are shut.

But I will always be grateful for every moment we shared. I am very fortunate that throughout our brief time together, I knew and really felt how lucky I was each and every single day; I realised it at the time.

You don’t remember me, but I love you.

Happy Birthday little astronaut… maybe you remember this:

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