The Black Notebook

Night Grasses - English-language readers will be pleased to hear that in 2016 another of Patrick Modiano’s novels was translated from French and is available in the UK. If, like me, and Subscribers to this blog, you have become addicted to Modiano’s writing then this one should be a real treat.The original French version, called L’herbe des nuits has been around in paperback, at least, since May 2014, its literal translation would have been, well, Nights’ Grass, Night Grasses, the story itself holds a clue as the narrator searches for the lost words of a manuscript from the 1960s, one is put in mind of the lines from a poem by Mandelstam:
What pain - hunting for the lost word, lifting these sore eyelids, And, with lime in your blood, gathering night grasses for alien tribes From Osip Mandelstam's poem 'January 1, 1924'
Literary TourismBut my interest is that Modiano’s novel may unlock literary tourism to the book’s opening location in Paris, the secret but ever-changing backs…

Updating my web-site for the new academic year

Just back from fieldwork in Paris, where I went to watch progress on that important tourist site, Notre Dame. You can just see in my photograph the scaffolding around the missing spire, which was only added around 1844 by Viollet-le-Duc to replace the one removed in 1786.  Also did some reconnaissance work at The Hôtel de Lauzun, on the quai d'Anjou of the île Saint-Louis; this private mansion house was designed by  Charles Chamois in 1667.

Now updating my web-site in preparation for the new academic year. Please take a look at the new links from there to teaching resources and research publications.

Masters in Travel Writing

The Masters for Travel Writers and Bloggers The Masters programme for travel writers and bloggers is now open for applications for the new academic year at the University of Plymouth. You can study part-time over two years with just a few visits per year to Plymouth in Devon. You can continue your professional role or job-hunting while you complete your research degree at masters level. Also visit eserve for information.

Google Photos Album from our Travel Writing Fieldwork

See our whole Google Album at

Travel Writing Research at University

Travel Writing research continues
Please also visit my YouTube Channel at


After visitng Concarneau I must admit the town looks nothing like I expected. Today it is not the quaint small fishing village that Simenon describes back in the early 1930’s. Quite the opposite, it is much bigger and less provincial. Yet this is not what surprised me the most. Modernisation can easily cause this to happen. What shocked me the most was that the town is “upside down”. Quai de l’Aiguillon lays to the left of the Hotel Admiral why I expected it to be on its right. And the Admiral hotel itself faces the wrong direction.
The old watch tower at Cabelou was another surprise. I had imagined an old abandoned tower not far out from the city. On the other hand when we made the trip out to visit it we found it to be much further away than anticipated. The abandoned fort, unlike how I had anticipated, was relatively big and a small house shaped building lay on the inside of it. The tower itself on the other hand much smaller that expected. Despite it not reflecting what I had im…


I arrived at Brittany Ferry’s port at 9 o’clock on the dot. The satisfaction of having arrived on time was short lived. I immediately realised that I had forgotten my passport. After spending all afternoon preparing for this trip. Tying up all the loose ends. Getting all my work out of the way. Packing the right things and making sure that everything was in order before departure. And yet throughout the whole day it never even crossed my mind to pack my passport. I can honestly say that this has never happened to me before. I like to think that in my disorderly way of going about thing there is always some form of underling structure that ultimately leads to order. Is it not a common saying that “out of chaos comes order”? I was truly disappointed with myself for forgetting my passport. I had spent a good portion of the day going over the novel The Yellow Dog to ensure that I knew the book well enough and that I wouldn’t make a fool out of myself when it came to discussing it. And th…


“On Y va!” Tonight we leave for Concarneau. Back to France. It’s my third visit in six months. I truly cannot wait to get back onto the continent. More than anything I have missed mainland Europe’s culture. Moving from Italy to England the cultural difference is quite noticeable. I find it much easier to relate to the French way of doing things than to the English way.
This year with my trip to Brittany in October and to Paris in January, I have had a chance to polish up my French. From the age of eleven I studied the language for three years. To my delight I have found that my communication skills are much better than I thought they would be. Being already bilingual I have always found it easy to get to grips with other languages. My Spanish for example is also quite good. So compared to many people that would struggle placed in this different environment, culture and language I cannot wait to get stuck into it. I truly believe that to understand and thrive in another country “We mu…

Food & Drink

I find one of the most exciting things about travelling to a new destination is discovering the local culture. Cuisine being at the centre of this experience. Maybe it is the Italian in me that makes me place so much importance on food. But wherever I go tasting the local traditional menus is nearly as important as discovering the new surroundings. 

I've already been to Brittany, and I look forward to having lunch in a Creperie again. The region is famous for its galletes or savoury pancakes and the prospect of eating them again, while drinking the local apple ciders, is making me hungry as we speak. As a student I don’t exactly have the most exciting meals. Pasta, chicken and potatoes are usually the order of the day. Well I’ve already decided that my dinners in Concarneau will consist of oysters, lobsters and scallops! 

Off the top of my head not much is mentioned about the local cuisine in The Yellow Dog. I do remember on the other hand Simenon describing that in Concarneau “In t…