Although I manage to get "abroad" once a year - and sometimes twice - that is not the full extent of my travelling. In some respects armchair travelling is just as exciting, particularly when your guide is a past-master at taking you to the right places.
There is no better guide for me than Paul Theroux. I have been across Europe, down South America, through China with him. I have read "The Old Patagonian Express" and "The Great Railway Bazaar" at least a dozen times
Now I am settled by the fire on a bleak, typical March-lambing weekend, when the sky is blue one minute and the next minute it turns pewter grey and the wind sends sharp gritty pellets of snow battering into your face. Do I care about the weather? No, because I am reading Theroux's latest book "Ghost train to the Eastern Star", which has Theroux travelling as near as possible along a route he first took thirty three years ago.
Chapter three "The Ferry to Besiktas" has stopped me in my tracks. I have read it three times and I don't wish to go any further. I want to stay "here" and wallow in it, soak up the atmosphere. Where is "here?" We are in Istanbul, that marvellously ancient city that straddles both Europe and Asia.
I've been there once - for a week in 1986, before setting off to look at the archaeological sites of Pergamum, Didyma, Troy, Ephesus and the like. The highlight of the week in Istanbul was to set off from the Galata bridge on the ferry to Sariyer - down the Bosporus - Europe on one side and Asia on the other - that grand waterway that ends at the Black Sea. Along with standing on the Great Wall of China and boarding the Trans Siberian express it rates as one of my greatest ever experiences.
Nobody for me describes a place like Theroux. Here he is describing stepping out of the station when he reached Istanbul:-
"Istanbul is a water world, and your first view of it, stepping out of Sirkeci Station, is the pin-cushion profile of minarets on domes seeming to rise from steep dark islands, turbulent ocean all around, the Sea of Marmara to the right, the Golden Horn to the left, the Bosporus straight ahead. Walk forward, walk anywhere, and you approach water splashing at the shores of the city, which is spread across three distinct promontories. Across the Sea of Marmara, dappled with raindrops this afternoon - past the ferries and cargo ships and fishing boats, those silhouettes of battlements and villas - is the shore of Asia, the twinkling edge of the Eastern Star."
If you want to go there, do read this book. Given Turkey's appalling human rights record as far as Kurds and Armenians are concerned, it is probably the best option these days. Enjoy!