The jolting bump and screech of the aeroplane’s tyres as they touched the runway was but the first of many such landings. And, in starting to think back over my travels here, it seems only right to begin with this, the first of those trips. I've since travelled to several different parts of Europe – Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Greece, to name a few. Many parts of Asia too – China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. America. Egypt. And also more remote parts of the world, some I’d only touch down in, others where I’d stay a while – Alaska, Guam, and Azerbaijan.
ão Vicente, Cape Saint Vincent, with its sentinel lighthouse, the most south-westerly point of Europe – the place which the Ancient Greek Geographer, Strabo (64 BC-24 AD), believed was the most westerly point of the known world. A little further along the coast to the west is the Fortaleza de Sagres, built in the 15th century on the high flat promontory of the Ponte de Sagres, the site of a famous navigation school – although it is thought to have largely been destroyed either in the 16th century during raids conducted by Sir Francis Drake, or, more likely, during the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. The Fortaleza de Sagres was long thought to be the place where, supposedly at the behest of Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) navigation was taught, perhaps using the still extant rosa dos ventos, or wind compass, a 43 metre stone circle, initiating the Portuguese ‘Age of Discoveries’. At the time this was reputed to be a place in which learning and art combined in refining the skills of cartographers, navigational instrument makers, and master mariners alike. I remember it as a bleak and wind-blasted place, high on a headland. Looking out from the walls, it was easy to feel the allure of setting out into that vast expanse of ocean, the great unknown of the heaving grey-blue waters of the Atlantic – as had Christopher Columbus before he set out on his most famous voyage of discovery. Perhaps, as the memory of this stark and desolate place has long haunted me, perhaps it was this place too which launched me on my own personal voyages?