Liverpool’s secret and forgotten heroes

“The Battle of the Atlantic was controlled from here. The Western Approaches was originally based in Plymouth but with the fall of France and fact that the channel was so dangerous that’s why it moved here to Liverpool in ’41,” says Carmel, who is wearing a navy blue costume and tie, similar to wartime uniforms worn by members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS). “400 personnel would have been working here at any one time, but it would have been a slightly bigger facility. We've been told that the overriding smell was of perspiration and cigarette smoke," she adds.

A peek inside Canada’s ‘bear jail’

“We have a couple bears that are repeat offenders, every year. They're coming into the community doing the same thing; most of those bears are habituated to garbage or food conditioned to garbage. They're older bears that were around during the time when an open dump was in operation here. They were introduced to garbage from their mother, so that's a habit that's almost impossible to break for a bear,” says Brett Whitlock, the man who manages the Polar Bear Alert Program in Churchill, Manitoba.

Fire and ice in Durham

“There’s going to be 12 carvings placed around the city…We're also doing a live carving while we're there. We've got a place where people can have a go themselves…We've also got a sweetie block where the kids and try and get sweets out of the ice,” explained the Mr Chaloner as he carved a Minotaur, the mythical creature with the body of a man and bull's head, from a block of ice. “Heroes and Villains is a good theme. We've got a Transformer, a bumblebee, a Wonder Woman and there's a Lego Batman. They're all really nice sculptures to do. We've got a fireman with a hose spurting water. It was a bit of a challenge to incorporate the prop inside so it'll actually squirt water out. They're all quite diverse,” he explained.

Saalburg Roman Fort on the German Limes Route

In woodland close to Rainau, a small town a little over 80 kilometres eastwards of Stuttgart, I saw one of the tallest remaining sections of the stone wall that was a key element of the Upper German-Rhaetian Limes. Crunching across pine cones and bouncing over sun-dappled ground springy with fallen pine needles, I visited a remnant of the stonework accompanied by Dr Stefan Bender, an archaeologist working at Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Limes information centre in Aalen. “It was known as the Devil’s Wall,” said Dr Bender as we approached the stonework. “People thought in former centuries that the devil had constructed the wall.”

City guide: 48 hours in Lisbon, Portugal

For a romantic view of sundown over the city take a taxi up to the Miradoura da Senhora do Monte, a scenic lookout named after the site’s hilltop chapel. Alternatively, enter São Jorge Castle, shortly before closing time, to enjoy panoramas of the city from battlements over which cannons protrude, then meander through the Alfama district. Visiting the Carris Museum, which tells the story of public transport in Lisbon, is an ideal precursor to a ride on the famous Number 28 tram, whose route passes several of city’s A-list attractions, including the fortress-like Sé Cathedral and São Bento Palace (the meeting place of the Portuguese parliament). Disembarking at the vast Prazeres cemetery means an opportunity to stroll in quietude between mausoleums.

Red carpet experience at Arras Christmas market

“For me, Arras is one of the most beautiful cities in France, maybe in Europe. It’s very nice to work here, with good people and good conditions. For the business it’s a very good place for us. Belgian chocolate is very appreciated here in France they don’t have the same one — we have Belgian chocolate!” said Thomas Laforge at the Doctor Steam Bar, as, instead of trying his hot chocolate, I sipped a cup of his mulled wine fortified with a shot of rum.

A canoe tour of Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia, Canada

Over centuries the Mi’kmaw people, one of Canada’s First Nations, have navigated routes in the region. The Mi’kmaw would paddle along waterways then disembark their birch bark canoes to carry them on portages of up to two kilometres at a time. Cody explains that Todd Labrador, a Mi’kmaw craftsman, operates workshops in which he demonstrates how to strip bark from birch trees and make traditional canoes. Interpretative tours also provide insights to other aspects of Mi’kmaw heritage, including the medicinal use of plants.

Scuba diving at Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

Yesterday I took a leisurely boat ride in the Red Sea: a day trip to experience snorkelling with turtles at Ras Mohammed National Park, at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The mountains of the arid South Sinai region were visible inland but most of my fellow travellers were lying on the backs, facing upwards at the cloudless sky, relaxing on towels spread out on the deck. There was a flurry of activity as we pulled on our flippers and masks then splashed into the water to view the marine life.

Exploring the Géopark de Percé in Canada

The explorer Samuel Champlain named the landmark le Rocher Percé, which means ‘pierced rock’, because of the arches, worn into the vast, cliff-like rock by the sea. Around 433 metres in length and 88 metres high, it is reminiscent of a stone iceberg jutting from the water. Around 150 types of fossil have been found in the limestone rock, which forms part of Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé, along with the nearby Bonaventure Island.

‘Frans Hals and the Moderns’ in Haarlem, Holland

“Van Gogh was obsessed not so much by Rembrandt but by Hals. His works opened Van Gogh’s eyes to colour and a new bravura method,” asserted Ann Demeester, the Director of the Frans Hals Museum, at the opening of the exhibition. She explained that in letters written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, the artist enthused about how Hals used colour to shape his paintings and featured more than twenty colours of black.