It’s a good drying day on Kuramathi but then every day is… the temperature rarely dips below 28 degrees at any time of the year.
And so I’ve got the spare togs and towel hung up on the clothesline by the outdoor shower.
Wet after my early morning swim in my infinity pool which overhangs the Indian Ocean.
But how to dry out myself after a Champagne and cocktail-fuelled karaoke and beach party the previous night?
A leisurely one kilometre walk around Kuramathi is guaranteed to sweat off the booze.
And we’ll meet some interesting characters along the way.
Won’t you join me?
My new best friend
Gordon, my house gecko is the first to greet me, dancing around my feet as I leave my room before scuttling off through the reeds.
Somewhere above him in the palm trees a Xxx warbles a morning song and memories of me murdering The Eagles, Elvis and Neil Diamond the previous evening come flooding back.
It’s 8am on Kuramathi which would be rush hour back home.
But here only the occasional electrical buggy bus or old-fashioned staff bicycle passes by on the sandy path while the only jaywalkers you’ll encounter are cooing couples.
Some gentlemen even hold parasols for their sweethearts to shield them from the sun.
My own sweetheart is probably wrestling with a brolly back home in blustery, rainy Ireland… the thought quickly passes.
Ne’er a flutter of wind comes off the Indian Ocean.
Just as well really as this is a conservative island and it wouldn’t do to have a gust lift up my sarong as I amble along the coast.
Not that you’re likely to see another soul but still.
There’s every chance though that you’ll spot turtles and black finned sharks in the clear blue sea.
If you do see a turtle it’ll likely be Selma, who is something of a celebrity on Kuramathi as is her minder, Vanessa.
A German eco warrior and curator at the Island Eco Centre she claimed Selma as her own turtle and named her.
If you can snap a new turtle with your Go-Pro camera you too can get to adopt a turtle.
On a 1.2km island resort repeat with hoilidaymakers, staff, restaurants and bars and all the necessary infrastructure to make an island bobbing along on the ocean to work only the best husbandry will do.
Luckily Mother Nature lends a helping hand.
I check out Kuramathi’s living, breathing pharmacy of plants on my Botany walk.
They cater for every ailment and condition known to man and are used in the medications.
They also infuse the dishes you will taste at the half a dozen high-end restaurants around the island.
This being Asia you will get your share of Eastern delicacies at the bars and restaurants you pass.
I have my hosts Farooz and Fern and a host of hospitable and knowledgeable waiters to thank for walking me through their dishes.
My favourite the Malaysian chicken curry, while obviously Kuramathi is a fish-lovers’ dream with the red snapper and scallops also worth a special mention.
And being Asia you can even order Chinese at breakfast… well, it works for 1 billion Chinese after all.
The European palate is also catered for with a particularly good Italian specialising in risotto on the island.
And you never have to put your hand in your pocket (just as well if you’re wearing a sarong) as you settle your bill at the end of your holiday.
There are three options, B&B, half-board and all-inclusive.
It probably depends on your appetite and your liver, but if you come all this way and can afford to push the boat out I’d say save yourself the stress and go all in.
Back to my morning constitutional and with the breakfast of champions already in me I’m off to take part in the big game.
Buggy driver Renga helpfully gives me a lift to the palm tree-lined pitch and introduces me to Hassan and the rest of the cricketers.
It’s 38 years since I picked up a bat in anger.
My dear Old Dad had high hopes for me and in my maiden school innings I went in to open only to be bounced first ball before surrendering my wicket the next.
I learn my lesson here watching these big hitters and go in at the fall of the first wicket .
I manage to amass a mighty two before being run out picking up a bruise or two diving for the crease.
Football the next day will be more successful with me setting up the winner.
And by the end of the week my party are telling me that their buggy drivers have been asking if they are here with Jims (sic) who is ‘a very good player.’
‘I’m asked if I would like to come back.
‘Does Roy Keane like a crunching tackle?’
Bruised though I am, I have discovered over the years that I am still considerably safer on dry land than in the water.
The ocean is better suited for the turtles and sharks.
Who I fear will only lick their lips at the sight of my blood the next day as I snorkel off the island of Kandolhu.
It is one of the five islands on this, the Rasdhoo Atoll.
But the sharks are actually quite tame.
And they are clearly so busy laughing at my flapping anyway to be bothered about nibbling my nobbly knee.
I’m consoled too that I’ll get a warm down later (yes warm down in this weather!) in Kuramathi’s spa.
A wee, wee island
When I say Kandolhu is an island, it really is just a bit of sandbank and floating coral.
Beautiful coral, but floating coral all the same.
And there is just 200mx120m of it.
So it would take Usain Bolt 19.90secs to run the whole island.
Not that that curtails them, there are 30 high-end villas and four restaurants on Kandolhu.
So how did we, and the Maldives, get here?
Well, Kandolhu and Kuramathi are just two of 1,190 coral islands situated in 26 atolls or clutches across 90,000sqkms of water south of Sri Lanka.
I had started counting them as I was flown into the main and only truly populous island Male (133,000).
And gazed down in wonder at these teardrops on the ocean.
Even better our barefoot pilot took us up really close to the islands by then flying down on them on his sea plane.
The atolls I am told take up just 10% of the sea mass that surround them, I make a start on drinking the other 90% while snorkelling.
But I did manage to spot me a turtle who, Go-Pro or no Go-Pro, I name Vanessa… or Mother Turtle, my own name for her.
A day and a night
I clearly have a taste for this island life though perhaps not the water activities.
But I will go on to make my own splash on the island and the islanders in the time I’m here.
As a guest of Kuramathi Island resort and Turkish Airlines.
I have flown us here via Istanbul.
It is a 24-hour joyride with all the trappings of business class, and a stop-off in the world’s best business class lounge in Istanbul.
And yes, I tried really hard to miss my flight back to Dublin.
The best taste of island life on Kuramathi though is what comes in the hurricane-shaped glasses with frozen strawberry daiquiris up to the brim.
On our last night on the island we take a sunset cruise out onto the ocean before settling in for the night at the Sand Bar.
I fall into the beanbag on the beach where I almost fell asleep the first night.
And order my Kuramathi cocktail and another and another and listen to house band Limestone.
I had heard them on the way back from the football that afternoon where they gave us a sneak rehearsal of the closing number of their set, Hotel California.
I lie back and look up at the stars while letting the sound of the waves lapping up against the sand wash over me.
The only breaker is Limestone’s natty singer making a better stab at The Eagles than I had done at the Karaoke Bar:
‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’
All right by me!
Resort info, see www. www.kuramathi.ie and www.kandolhu.com. Bookings: www.GoHop.ie/(01) 2412389 or www.TravelMood.ie Tel. (01) 4331000. Kuramathi Island Resort: Beach Villas from €2,155 pp; Over Water Villas from €2,895 pp for seven nights.
Including flight, taxis, transfers, full board. Optional basic all-inclusive package. €59 per day. Dine around select package. €99 per day.
Kandolhu Island: From €3995pp. Jacuzzi Beach Villa.
UltimateInclusions basis. for seven nights, prices correct at time of print.
Based on travel in May/June 2018 inc. flights with Turkish Airlines.
Round trip economy class starting price Dublin- Maldives from €748.59; return business class starting price for same route, €2,166.59.
See www.turkishairlines. com, or call: (01) 525-1849. Baggage allowance: Economy class, 30kg + 8kg hand luggage; Business class 40kg +16 kg for hand luggage in total.
Aer Lingus flies to Miami. Visit www.aerlingus.com. We found a return trip Dublin to Miami from €457.63.
See you in Tenerife
I’m counting down the days to my trip to Tenerife in September.
Travel Department has a Tenerife Coast & Cuntry seven-night full-board guided holiday.
Excursions will include a full-day guided tour of the highlights of the island, a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage colonial city of La Laguna and a visit to Mount Teide National Park.
Prices start from €659pp for seven nights including return flights, full-board 4* hotel accommodation, all transfers and fully-guided excursions with an expert local guide, departing regularly from September – November 2019.
A sweltering hot summer in Boston after Aberdeen University, three jobs, and a thirst on me like a blindfolded man in the desert.
And a party of office workers unwinding in Quincy Market with a jug of Strawberry Daiquiri.
I was in… and from that moment the slushy, ruby-red rum cocktail has always ben my go-to.
It doesn’t have to be a cruise ship although here I am again…
I’ll bring you more Jocktails from around the world as I go but here’s the recipe.
And you might be surprised to hear that I’m the one who makes them around Casa Bandana while the Scary One is the one who devours them.
5 cracked ice cubes
1 measure of white rum
A half measure of strawberry liqueur.
A quarter measure of lime cordial
Garnish with a strawberry.
Jocktail tip: Stick some strawberries in the blender too for extra fruitiness.
Method: put the rum, strawbs and lime liqueur into the blender for 30 seconds. Pour into a margarita glass with the cracked ice in it and decorate with a slice of strawberry. Oh, go on, stick in a cocktail brolly and stick with a couple of maraschino cherries on it.
And because I’m writing about Boston, visit www.bostonusa.com and www.visitusa.ie. Boston is well served by the major airlines from Ireland… look out tomorrow for best deals in Flyday Friday.
I’ve been lucky enough to eat and drink in some fabulous restaurants, in equally stunning locations.
Doing what I do, travelling the globe…. FOR YOU.
But I’ve also enjoyed the comfort food which is often seen as the poor cousin, often disowned altogether by the foodie family, that I’ve encountered along the way.
And the people who serve it and with whom I have got to break bread.
In this weekly series I’ll celebrate both haute cuisine and hot cuisine, Bolly and Buds and everything in between.
First off let’s clink glasses and say Prost… and remember to look into each others’ eyes!
Germany: And the greatest beerfest of them all, the Oktoberfest, where a sallow youth found himself in the company of a busload of Aussies and Kiwis.
Four of us had arranged to go but three dropped out because they couldn’t raise the money leaving this early version of Bandanaman on his own on a coach with said Antipodeans.
Above is breakfast.
Each of us had to make brekkie of a morning on the bus which had a kitchen and seats that turned into beds… and our Kiwi legend Rambo, far right (he usually wore a scarf around his head which immediately endeared himself to me) dispensed with bacon, sausage and eggs and went straight to the schnapps.
Being raised on fizzy Scottish lager (Tennent’s hide your head in shame) I wasn’t ready for the real stuff, the Lowenbrau and the Hofbrau, the quantity of a stein, or their halls or their schnapps chasers. And it went straight to my head.
On your typical Oktoberfest day www.oktoberfest.de/en, and this year it runs from September 21-October 6, half a beerhall will chant Aussie and the other half Kiwi.
So being of the Scottish variety I wanted to redress the balance and climbed onto the bandstand past Gretchen and Greta who were carrying half a dozen beers on their breasts. Where I duly interrupted the oompah band to sing My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.
My Bonnie might but my body soon lay over the front entrance of the Lowenbrau.
More time to look around the Beerfest and try their half chickens on a spit and their sauerkraut. Best not after a rollercoaster ride though.
Barred from that hall I tried the Hofbrau the following year after the football at Bayern Munich’s old ground and did what no man should do, sober or drunk, and tried to split up two women fighting.
I’m sticking to my story that it was her boyfriend who thumped me on the nose. I was outta there and half an hour later in the hospital.
You’ll compile a book of tales from your Oktoberfest and I will return to the glass boot game, Hexengeist burning flame schnapps and why you should never drink and sled and much, much more. And the Aussies who set up Earl’s Court in my Aberdeen student pad.
Top Deck went on to reinvent themselves as Flight Centre who have been a couple of years here now on Dawson Street in Dublin. Visit www.flightcentreireland.ie or call (01) 695 0365. Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com, Ryanair www.ryanair.com and other major airlines fly to Munich.
But for now Prost… oh, bring back my Bonnie to me!
*I’ve only just got started here so watch out for specialist foreign dishes and restaurants and my Jocktails… bet you didn’t know that about me… or The Scary One?
There are those who deserve a break even more than me (or the Scary One). No, really!
Take Ireland’s registered carers.
No arguments here.
Hastings Hotels have taken the first step (and we should all do more to appreciate our Carers) by inviting them to stay free of charge over the summer at Ireland’s tallest hotel, the luxurious Grand Central Hotel in Belfast.
And let me tell you, this hotel really is a landmark in the city. It is my compass when I arrive in Belfast, as I am increasingly doing more regularly now, at Lanyon Station and make my way into the centre to see The Son and Heir.
Until the end of August, accompanying carers can enjoy an overnight stay in a deluxe fully accessible room, plus full Irish breakfast and a complimentary cocktail in the Seahorse Bar.
Those living with cancer and beyond will be pampered with specially-designed nurturing spa packages at Hastings Culloden Estate & Spa and Slieve Donard Resort & Spa.
For more information on the Thank You For Caring and the Nurture Spa Experiences visit www.hastingshotels.com or call (0044) 48 9047 1066.
They’re on many a holiday itinerary and group activity and I’ve probably racked up more castles in my 53 years than Richard the Lionheart, and a fair few racks too! I’ll kick of this series where Robert the Bruce’s nephew Thomas Randolph kicked out the English.
It’s the castle I know best… we’d take every visitor through there from Glasgow when I was a child and as an adult I worked on the same street, the Royal Mile.
Hewn from volcanic rock , it has been inhabited since the Iron Age and was a royal residence of Scottish monarchs from the 12th to the 17th Century.
At the heart of many of the pivotal moments in Scottish history it was besieged 26 times in its 1100-year history, making it one of the most attacked garrisons in the world although today it’s mainly Americans and Asians wielding cameras.
Just in case there’s another siege, although it’s really for ceremonial reasons, at 1pm every day they fire a gun ‘The One O’Clock Gun’ from a cannon (don’t worry, it’s not live ammo).
Also home to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. No, the battalions don’t show off their conquests on their arms, that’s what they call a massed display of miltary bands. If you like kilties and the swirl of the pipes this is for you. Starting Friday, it runs to August 24.
Visit www.edinburghcastle.scot. www.edintattoo.co.uk. www.visitscotland.com. Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com and Ryanair www.ryanair.com both fly to Edinburgh.
I’ve always had the warmest welcome when I’ve stopped off in Monaghan at my auntie and cousins so any chance we get to reciprocate we lay out the red carpet which we did yesterday.
Monaghan, on the border of Northern Ireland, is a treat… great music with the capital of Irish Country music Castleblaney up the road and great food and music (try their craft beer) and trails for walking and biking.
And it’s where Paul McCartney goes in Ireland when he wants to get married.
Start spreading the news… New York is more than just the city, although what a city! So start spreading out to New York State and start to discover its many charms.
Our friends at New York State who are never strangers and regularly come to see us in Dublin were in town again to share their wares.
NYS Partners represents Long Island, Greater Niagara, Buffalo, Wine, Water and Wonders NYS Tour and Dutchess County,
Bandanaman and Long Island are in more than nodding terms… it was my first billet in New York, aged just 17, when I stayed with my cousins.
It may surprise some that Long Island isn’t in New York but it’s not one of the five boroughs: Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island.
But who couldn’t be entranced by the Hamptons mansions on Long Island, the setting for The Great Gatsby and still hang-out for the rich and famous…
New York State has water, and what water with Niagara, wine, and Buffalo with its wings and that’s the nourishment I need.
And if you want the last word on it… then New York State came up with the logo I heart NY. Insert the heart emoji yourself. You don’t expect me to do everything for you!
The R&A, the guardians of golf, except for in the US and Mexico (go, figure) were at pains up in Royal Portrush on Sunday to promote the fact that the golf season now moves on.
From the Open Golf Championship… and that the Solheim Cup is on the horizon for Europe and America’s best golfers at Gleneagles.
Maybe you’re already making a late pitch for Catriona Matthew’s European team or you just want a bit of recreational golf. Either way this package at the world’s Best Golf Hotel (World Golf Awards 2018) will be right up your fairway.
Enjoy an overnight stay and two days’ golf at the 5* Dromoland Castle. Arrive on October 20 for a two-course lunch at the Fig Tree restaurant followed by an afternoon Golf Clinic with Head PGA pro Ian Kearney at the Dromoland Golf Academy. You’ll dine at night at the AA Restaurant of the Year, the Earl of Thomond Restaurant.
Don’t get too relaxed though. After breakfast the next day there’s an 18-hole Ladies competition, teeing off from 9am-10.30am followed by the prize-giving.
From €295pps. If you’ve got time you can avail of the self-guided woodland walks around the 450 acres estate and fun use of the Leisure Centre and swimming pool.
Visit www.dromolandgolf.com/luxury-october-golf–break or call (061) 346 7007.
She sells Seychelles
This week I hope to meet my cousins over here for a family get-together when the conversation will quickly turn to golf… their great passion. And foreign shores.
A favourite holiday destination of my Uncle and Aunt was the Seychelles and my cuzes could sell Seychelles on the sea shore.
And so can Tropical Sky. Particularly at these prices.
Try savings of up to €1700 per person on seven night stays at the 5* Banyan Tree, Seychelles for travel completed before September 30. The holiday is now €3189pp.
Each villa is furnished in a traditional Creole style and comes with a private pool, indoor sunken bath and the option of in-villa dining or BBQ.
Based on two sharing on a half-board basis and including flights from Dublin and transfers. Visit www.tropicalsky.ie or call (01) 664 9999.
Sphinx she knows better
And she’s usually (no, make that always) right. She told me that if she wanted my opinion she’d give it to me.
I know she makes a great Mum but I reckon my Scary One would have made a great Mummy in Egypt too.
She did though pass up on a trip out there a few years ago, though in retrospect I think she was wise to hold out for the real Egyptology over the resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
Luxury Gold has two itineraries in Egypt in 2020. Each journey includes a luxurious voyage along the Nile aboard the deluxe all-suite River Tosca where you can relax on the sun deck, the pool or the shaded cabana.
Book before August 31 and save up to €1,000 per couple on departures between January and April.
Elegance of the Nile is 12 days with up to €1,000 saving per couple while Elegance of Egypt is seven days with a saving of up to €500 per couple. Visit www.luxurygoldvacations.com or call 1800 98 989 98.
All roads lead to Rhodes
You’ve left it late again. Don’t worry there are some great late deals to pick up.
TUI has Dublin to Rhodes, seven nights’ self-catering at the 2*+ Kassandra Apartment at Ialyssos from €449pps on August 28.
Or my old favourite for a late and good budget trip, Bulgaria. TUI has seven nights’ B&B on August 29 from €489pps.
Visit www.tuiholidays.ie or call 1850 45 35 45.
Get your skis on
Are you having a laugh?
Well, no. The sun may be splitting the heavens but the skiers among us never stop dreaming of a white one.
Crystal Ski Holidays has two for one lift passes on select winter holidays to Andorra, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland. With deposits starting from €150pp.
Depart on December 21 and stay in the 3* Borsat IV Apartments, Tignes on a self-catering basis for seven nights from €705pp (four sharing).
Depart on December 21, stay in the 3* Hotel L’Aigulle Rouge, Les Arcs on a half-board basis for seven nights from €879pp.
I’ll come back to New Year later… it would be ridiculous to think of that yet. I’ll leave it a week.
Center of everything
The €233m forest resort that is Center Parcs Longford Forest had a soft opening yesterday.
Special offers from €399 for three or four nights in a two-bedroom lodge off-peak. Visit www.centerparcs.ie for a full range of rates.
You’d be mistaken for thinking that I’m always an accidental tourist. I do like to plan ahead particularly when it comes to our great annual festivals…. Christmas, New Year, Enkutatash.
My first Christmas and New Year invites came in this week. More about Christmas another time apart of course from using it as an excuse to reprise this picture…
But straight to Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year which I will be celebrating with my friends from Ethiopian Airlines in Dublin on September 12 as I have been doing these last two years.
And don’t you think I get younger (and better looking) each year?
That’s because the Ethiopians use an ancient Christian calendar and it is seven years behind our standard Gregorian calendar that we use in the West. So on September 12 it is the first day of 2012.
We reckoned you might want to be there in Addis on the day so we found you a return flight to Addis Abbaba on September 11 and returning on September 18 from £1692 (€1900). Visit www.ethiopianairlines.com.
Drop in on Boris
If you were looking at happenings in London on television through the gaps in your fingers then you wouldn’t be alone.
Truth is though that I wanted to be there… and not just to tell that eejit who was playing the glockenspiel through all the interviews where to stick his, er, stick.
Of course, we take London for granted because it is our back yard but we shouldn’t. It is one of the world’s great cities if not THE great city.
And it is so easy and cheap to get there. Ryanair flies one-way to London Southend for €12.99 one way among other cut-price flights across the continent. Visit www.ryanair.com.
If you’re a bit of an oul luvvies like me, are a big Carnival fan, or you’ve something in mind yourself then you’ll want to know that Aer Lingus has a great London offer just waiting for you to avail of.
Collect Double Avios points along the way on your flight to Gatwick for flights booked and flown between July 25 and August 31. Visit www.fly.aerlingus.com.
Happy 80th Shannon
And doesn’t Shannon look good on it.
Eighty years ago this month a Belgian tri-liner Sabena Daviola Marchetti S-73 landed on the old Rineanna airfield before its passengers were flown off via Foynes on a flying boat, while 500 excited locals watched the plane fly back to Belgium.
Shannnon goes from strength to strength and is a major economic driver while also carrying us to where we want to go and bringing friends, family and visitors here.
So how to follow up an Irish victory at The Open at Royal Portrush.
What about Ireland hosting the Ryder Cup again?
It seems like only 13 years ago since Ireland last staged the biennial event between Europe and the US and Darren Clarke skulled that pint of Guinness in celebration on the balcony.
JP McManus has long had his eyes on the prize for Limerick and this will be a realisation of a dream for the proud Limerick man.
The JP McManus Pro-Am has long been a fixture with all the top golfers and celebrities, and especially Tiger Woods, big fans of the course.
And, of course, where there’s a spanking golf course there’s a splendiferous hotel too.
The Adare House Hotel was only voted the Global Hotel of the Year award in the Virtuoso Best of the Best Awards in Vegas in 2018. And it has since gone through a refurb which has made it even better.
Look out for hotel stay and a round of golf deals. Yourgolftravel.com has one night, one round from £425pp (€475) with B&B and round at Adare Manor Golf Club. Visit www.golftravel.com. Visit www.adare.com.
I dare say too that my game will be in good enough nick even in 2026, so whoever is captain, and I’ll pitch Sergio Garcia, then take a look at this swing and you might well ask how can you go in against the Americans without me.
No, not an Irish version of a suspect colonial wartime sitcom in India.
But a nod to the balmy and clammy weather we’ve been having here in Ireland this week… trust me to get the wind and the rains up in Royal Portrush at the weekend although nothing could dampen our enthusiasm at seeing Shane Lowry win the Open.
Things have been hotting up too across the water in the UK with highs recorded of hot air… from the new resident of 10 Downing Street.
Right across Europe the thermometers have been at boiling point.
Your intrepid blogger has been doing a bit of digging to see which of the European cities is the hottest and was surprised to discover that it is Valletta, courtesy of www.currentresults.com with an on average temperature of 22.,3. Today it’s 33.
Athens, which I had down as the hottest is only second on average according to that website.
Valletta, of course, is one of the great cities in Europe, nay the world. And when the temperatures soar as they are doing just now the thing to do is get out on the harbour.
And also get yourself out to the neighbouring islands of Gozo and Comino.
Ryanair Rooms offers 30% off your stay with the 3* Buccaneers Boutique Guest House in St Paul’s Bay with prices from €66 and the *3 Alexandra Hotel, St Julian’s, with prices from €77. Visit www.rooms.ryanair.com.
Team Murty were out mapping the country at the weekend…. Bandanaman braving the wind and the rain at The Open at Royal Portrush in Co. Antrim while The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl were camping in Tipperary.
I’ve already brought you news of my overnight stay in Belfast at the Clayton Hotel and my round at the Open and lifting the Claret Jock!
I’m beginning to get to know Belfast well with the help of The Son and Heir who is billeted up there now and can even find my way around which even after 13 years working in Dublin I can’t claim to do there.
The Girls were full of country cheer on their return waxing lyrical about the friendliness of Munster people while also urging me to visit Cahir Castle, the Rock of Cashel and go underground to the Mitchelstown Cave in Tipperary.
If you’re a caver then you’ll be in heaven… or maybe your heaven is in the depths of the Earth.
Across in Co. Waterford, The Copper Coast Geopark is a designated area that extends 17 km from Kilfarrasy in the east to Stradbally in the west and is named after the 19th Century mines.
Its rocks and geosites (which include Stradbally Cove, Dunhill Castle and Ballydwan Bay) tell the story of undersea volcanoes, arid deserts (in Ireland???) and dramatic ice-ages.
Explore the Copper Coast Geopark Visitor Centre (open Wednesday to Sunday between 11am and 5pm) or book a half or full day tour to learn all about the site from the knowledgeable tour guide.
Book your stay at the Raheen House Hotel in the vibrant town of Clonmel, County Tipperary from €120 per night for two adults.
Its history dates back to the 17th century and contains 15 elegant bedrooms within the tranquillity of its own 3.5 acre gardens. Visit www.raheenhouse.ie.
Or if you want to do what the girls did and reconnect with the Earth then they stayed at Parsons Green Caravan & Camping Park, Clogheen, Co. Tipperary. Visit www.clogheen.com.
Stars shining above you. Night breezes seem to whisper I love you.
Yes, Mamma Cass and before her Ella Fitzgerald. Yes, stars always make us feel all romantic… and I’m feeling all floaty after watching a documentary about The Mammas and the Pappas.
And I’ll be looking up dreamily at the sky too in Tenerife in the Autumn. Probably best that the Scary One was coming with me with CaminoWays rather than the three amigos (travel pals) I will be trekking with but…
I’ll obviously be looking to avoid asteroids too when I’m there.
Thankfully those heroic scientists on the Canarian island of La Palma all be looking out for me as they man NASA’s 2,396m high Grantecan Telescope, the world’s largest optical reflecting telescope, which is ten years old today.
It’s all part of the Planetary Defence Program you understand which is reacting with urgency to the imminent threat of what’s up there in the sky looking to come crashing down on us.
Take, for example, the 2019 DS1 asteroid which was discovered by Grantecan on February 28 in the Catalina Sky Survey search programme when we were sleeping soundly in our beds. It was then 1,000,000km from earth but forewarned is forearmed.
Not much happens in Space without Grantecan which is located in the Roque de los Muchachos region knowing about it… it has spotted the remotest star in the Milky Way, Icaro, as well as the eldest stars (even older than Burt Bacharach) last April.
So where do you and I come in? Only that The Starlight Foundation organises visits to the observatory as well as stargazing tours daily until September 15. During the rest of the year you can visit on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
You want to see some showers… no, not those showers although it is getting hot and sticky and it would be good for the garden (are we never satisfied?) No, these are meteor showers.
The Perseid Meteor Shower will peak mid-August and is one of the best times to visit the Observatory. Other meteor showers do occur throughout the year: the Draconics, the Orionids, the Leonides and the Germinids.
There are various different, and easy, ways to get to La Palma. Far easier than those little green men on their asteroids. You can come through London and Manchester, or just a short flight from Gran Canaria or Tenerife, or even get there from the bigger Canadian islands by boat. Visit www.visitlapalma.es/en/como-llegar/ and www.fundacionstarlight.org.
Philadelphia is a cracking city… full of history and sport. And that’s what I’m qualified in!
And where better to talk about it or discover what this great city has to offer than in one of many of Philly’s great bars with its famous local craft beer and signature comfort food, a Philly cheesesteak?
Philadelphia was the nascent United States of America’s first capital and home to its earliest and still most iconic national symbols.
The Liberty Bell which was commissioned in 1752 by the Assembly in the city is cast with the lettering ‘Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof,’ in a nod to the Book of Leviticus.
It rung to mark the reading of the United States Declaration of Independence and was also used as a symbol of abolitionism, and Freedom during the Cold War.
It’s also where Betsy Ross is said to have sewn the first American flag.
Bells played a part too in the life of one Rocky Balboa whose statue stands the 72 steps up to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You can also do a Rocky tour of sites in the movies.
Philly really is a knockout and Aer Lingus will get you there for €154 each way from Dublin with pre-clearance as part of a return trip. Visit www.aerlingus.com.
Because we can sometimes be lazy (all right I can be lazy) then Aer Lingus is also offering a 4* Philadelphia getaway from €632pp which includes return flights from Dublin and three nights’ accommodation at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Hotel. So that’s €612.57pp, a total price of €1225.14. Visit www.holidayswithaerlingus.com.
In the words of the New Wave band The Vapors… I really think so.
The Olympics in Tokyo will take place one year from today while the Rugby World Cup is just 58 days away.
Of course you’ll have already made your plans for the Rugby World Cup but the concentration on the pagodas, the sushi, the sumo and the geishas will raise your interest further in the Land of the Rising Sun.
And it may well prompt you into making 2020 the year to finally take that trip of a lifetime.
Japanese culture is still fairly exotic too us as we haven’t all had first-hand experience of it.
I am fortunate enough that one of my closest friends married a Japanese lady and I became immersed in their culture…. the saki, the kimonos, the nod to their forefathers in a humanist/buddhist service on the Scottish island of Islay.
You’ll love it…. and you’ll love this Wendy Wu Tours’ 2020 Early Bird Saver Group Tour with a discount of €200pp.
Wendy has a 13 days Discover Japan Twin Share fully-inclusive tour from €7,090pp. You’ll visit Tokyo, Kofu/Sawa, Takayama, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Koya – Osaka.
So let’s look in more detail:
A Tokyo city tour: You’ll start on the observation deck of the 634m Skytree, the world’s tallest tower before visiting the city’s oldest temple, the Buddhist Sensoji Temple. You’ll sample the Imperial Palace Plaza and the Hamarikyu Garden before finishing your evening with a dinner cruise on Tokyo Bay.
Among the other highlights is a visit on the bullet train (a real treat if you take Dublin’s outdated and unpredictable DART service) to Odawara and cruise on Lake Ashi before taking the Komagatake cable car for views of the lake before. Then if the weather holds (a wee prayer to a Buddha here) it’s up to Mt Fuji’s 5th Station to enjoy the views, Continue to Yatsugatake for an overnight stay.
Because we want to leave you to be surprised yourself we’ll leave you to find out the rest for yourself.
Visit www.wendywutours.ie or call (00353) 14854159.
Didn’t I Star Wars get… and I almost killed a friendship just before it started.
A friend of mine back in the day was nicknamed Yoda which I inadvertently called them to their face.
My excuse that I didn’t know who Yoda was didn’t sail with my pals. Thankfully it wasn’t held against me and I have gone on to enjoy a lasting friendship with them.
I still haven’t watched a single Star Wars film so it hardly seems fair that I was chosen to attend the opening weekend launch of Galaxy’s Edge Smugglers’ Run in Disneyland Resort, Anaheim in May. Still, I wasn’t complaining.
The next big thing in Star Wars is the opening of Star Wars Rise of the Resistance on December 5 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. It will then go onto open in Disneyland in Anaheim on January 17.
So you want to bunk down in a Star Wars themed apartment so that you can stay in part for all the time you’re there?
Of course you do. Which is what Elegant Resorts and Kisssimmee, Florida, have in mind for you too.
Sleep on a TIE fighter, play video games in Tatooine and watch a movie on the Death Star as well as a number of other Star Wars related activities.
There are 11 rooms and it sleeps up to 22 guests.
Elegant Resorts has seven nights’ accommodation in the 11-room villa (W263) and return economy flights with British Airways from London Gatwick departing on September 1. Based on eight passengers. From £1,480pp..
Vist www.elegantresorts.co.uk. Kissimmee is known as the Holiday Home Capital of the World. Visit www.experiencekissimmee.com.
And, of course, Walt Disney World… www.disneyworld.disney.go.com.
I’ll be bringing you all the best on and off-course and in-tent action from the final day of The Open Golf Championship from beautiful Royal Portrush tomorrow.
I’m stopping off at the Clayton Hotel in Belfast first to catch up with the Son and Heir and see one of my favourite cities which gave me my first break in this scribbling lark. Visit www.tourismni.com, www.claytonhotelbelfast.com, www.theopen.com.
And read more about the game Scotland gave to the world in Holiday Snaps and some cosmic action about the Moon on this very special day.
And I did get offered a chance this week to talk to VIPs who were wired to the moon this famous day 50 years ago.
And the special event is being held at the very minute too 50 years ago when President Nixon made his historic phone call to Neil Armstrong.
Unfortunately I couldn’t hotfoot it over to the Richard Nixon Library in California for the exclusive event this evening with such short notice.
But we are friends from our meeting at IPW, the American Travel Fair in Anaheim, and I’ll get there next time.
Amid the great outpouring of national joy at America beating the Soviets to the moon some thought that Richard Nixon was being rewarded for what was John F. Kennedy’s great vision.
But that’s where the Nixon Library will put you right… the Nixons and the Kennedys despite standing against each other in the 1960 election became great friends.
Dick and John were both Cold War warriors, genuinely liked each other and Pat invited Jackie and the kids back to the White House when they moved in.
It is a myth that America is short on history – well, I would say that being an American History graduate.
And the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, 37 miles south-east of Downtown LA is where to go. Visit www.nixonfoundation.org to learn everything you need to know about the only Californian-born President.
And www.visitnasa.com for everything NASA related… there are 14 Visitor Center and space shuttle locations to complete your passport.
No, I’m not going all German on you though there would be no harm in that.
It’s just that the Morgan Hotel celebrated its first birthday since its reopening with a gala night and I awoke giddy of head and ready to share with all I met.
Alas this time breakfast wasn’t in the hotel, as it was back in February, but back home here in Greystones where The Scary One was scaring up some poached eggs on toast to soak up the FIVE cocktails from the previous evening.
If you want a reviving breakfast after a night on the town then The Morgan is ideal. It is a positive oasis from Temple Bar.
You’ll sleep like Rip Van Winkle with nary a sound from outside and the staff are super-friendly even remembering us from our visit in February.
The Morgan is continuing in real birthday mood with a sale with rooms for €149 per night. Book by July 31. Visit www.themorgan.com.
And watch out too for my review from earlier this year of The Morgan Hotel which I’ll get to work on soon. Well, it is the weekend!
The Travel Bible
It’s the definitive Book of Irish Travel.
Travelbiz.ie and its The Irish Travel Directory & Diary 2019.
If you’re not in it you’re not in Irish Travel and there I am – and I swear it was the first page I opened to.
Close your eyes and pick
Do you do the same?
Close your eyes in the departure lounge in the airport and when you open them fix them on the first destination you see on the board and decide to go there.
I’ll tell you what… I cheat too and look for the American destinations.
American Holidays has bumper family holidays for next Easter.
You’ll build memories that last a lifetime and myself and Daddy’s Little Girl will always have our ice skating experience at the Rockefeller Centre in New York.
American Holidays has New York Family Easter Break from €909pp with flights from Dublin to New York, five nights at the Sheraton New York Times Square, travelling April 2020. Based on two adults and two children sharing.
Visit www.americanholidays.com or call (01) 673 3804. Also visit www.nycvb.com. And I would also recommend a City Pass www.citypass.com.
We’re all big kids
I dare say La-La went to a good home but the Son and Heir was beside himself in Donegal when he was a toddler and the Yellow One went walkabouts.
As dutiful parents we did, of course, return to where we thought he’d dropped it but it was late and so it was a case of Good Night Teletubby.
It has seemed like it’s been Good Night Teletubbies too for today’s toddlers with Peppa Pig moving in on their manor.
But that’s probably premature. The Teletubbies ARE alive and kicking at Alton Towers Resort and CBeebies Land just two and a half hours from Holyhead, and Irish Ferries will get you there and give you this great offer.
So that’s a return car ferry, two-day park passes to Alton Towers Resort & CBeebies Land and a three-night stay in the Tillington Hall Hotel. From €595 for a family of 4.
You’ve got 12 themed areas that contain 40 different rides of attractions. CBeebies Land is located within Alton Towers and has 14 rides and attractions including the Teletubbies Big Band Live Show and the Peter Rabbit Hippity Hop ride.
Well, if Majorca’s good enough for Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones.
Don’t be put off by the Magaluf of this world, Majorca is a varied and beautiful island, full of unspoiled beaches, great culinary delights, olde world towns and stunning mountains.
TUI has seven nights Dublin to Majorca, staying at the 3* Protur Bahia Azul Apartments in Cala Bona from €489pps for August 27. To book visit www.tuiholidays.ie or call 1850 45 35 45.
And the Champion Golfer is…
I’m up in Royal Portrush for the weekend for The Open. And staying in the Clayton Hotel in Belfast tonight ahead of tomorrow’s final round.
With bumper crowds over these four days of competition it will be a reminder to those of us who already love the north and an introduction to those who don’t of all it has to offer.
Portrush itself is a gorgeous town and it’s worth going even when the golf isn’t on so that you can get a chance to check out Portrush Whiterocks Beach, Barry’s Amusements, Dunluce Castle and the Causeway Coastal Route.
I’ll share with you the tips I give to the winner when I return.
But in the meantime check out www.tourismni.com. www.claytonhotelbelfast.com, www.theopen.com.
Or if you’re there at the course, I’m the one in the bandana…
She protects the town of Padova like one of her bambini and she is right to… she is beautiful and precious.
Which is why she smelt un ratto when the bould one on her press trip asked for himself and his colleagues, let’s call them Constance and Kieran (for that’s their names) off at the train station when we were given the afternoon off from our itinerary.
Sheepishly I had to admit that I was leading a recce to Venice but swore that I’d have them back in four hours for that evening’s grand reception in the Botanical Gardens.
I’d figured of course without the particular idiosyncrasies of the local rail network.
And so six hours later our motley crew arrived back with one of our number, Kieran, still in his T-shirt and Hawaiian boardies. At least Myself and Constance had taken a change of clothes.
At the risk of offending Mariaclaudia again, and I wrote a glowing letter to her bosses on my return, Aer Lingus has up to 20% off Venice and other hot destinations which makes it €81.99 one-way.
Travel between 21 July and October 16. Book by 22 July. Visit www.aerlingus.com.
And I’ll dig out that article on Padova… Padova, Mariaclaudia, do you hear?
Hard border, soft border… is any other island split like us and faced with this interminable headache.
We don’t have to look too far for the answer in Europe.
Cyprus which even has a buffer zone.
If you’re fascinated by borders check it out. The taxi driver father of a soldier who was stationed out there told me that if either flag was higher and bigger than the other it would cause a diplomatic incident.
Ryanair has 20% off its seat sale for Autumn to Paphos and other destinations. In all it is offering these discount prices on 50,000 seats.
A tip on babies on board
It’s an old wife’s tale but it works. Damp teabags over a baby’s ears to ease the pressure on flights.
And just one of the tips that are passed on down the line by more experienced air stewards to their younger companions.
So as the KLM stewardess gets earache for asking a customer to cover up when breastfeeding, (and I’m not going to slaughter an airline who I’ve flown with and enjoyed,) it’s worth remembering how often families and other passengers are helped out by cabin crew when a baby makes its needs known.
Check with your airline before you travel on all aspects of childcare.
And while I’m on the subject I should flag up Etihad’s Flying Nanny Service. Visit www.etihad.com.
No not us here in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day but those little green men out there in Space.
The next big challenge is to find life on another planet. ‘Life, Jim, but not as we know it.’
Mars is said to have the building blocks for sustaining life and research is going on to see how we get out there.
A NASA astronaut from the NASA Space Center, Jon McBride, who I met here in Dublin told me that the biggest obstacle they have to overcome is sustainability… on such a long mission they will have to recycle everything. everything!
For all things related to NASA Visitors Centers: visit www.nasa.com. And for the US visit www.visitusa.ie.
And now that I’m counting down to the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing on Saturday I’m away to find out more and bring you some out of this world factoids for Saturday’s Cosmic Holiday Snaps.
I’ll be heading up to Royal Portrush for the last day of The Open Golf Championship on Sunday as a guest of Tourism Northern Ireland www.tourismni.com and staying at the 4* Clayton Hotel in Belfast. www.claytonhotelbelfast.com.
And I’ll share all the off-course news with you too when I get back.
In truth we’re something of a golf wannabe family, Every Wednesday which was my Dear Old Dad’s half day he and my Mum would go up to their golf club outside Glasgow for a round.
My Dad had a mantra on the green: ‘Never up, never in…’ which he used the day we went down to the practice day in Royal Troon and he made a passing comment to major winner David Graham by the side of one of the practice green. The Aussie shot back with a withering look.
I’ll be desisting if I see Tiger or Rory on the practice green, but it might be in the genes.
Clayton Hotel rooms from £99 per night. For all the news on the Open visit www.theopen.com.
Back in the day I used to scoot in and out to work to the centre of Edinburgh from my home in Portobello, the Scottish capital’s town seaside resort.
But since relocating to hilly Co. Wicklow I’ve let it slide. Until….
It took my friends at Travel Department to come up with the brilliant and masochistic idea of getting a bunch of travel professionals to cycle one of those multi-cycle trucks around Dublin.
The ghetto blaster might have been boasting about walking 500 miles but we were out of puff cycling 500 metres. Still the playlist of karaoke classics kept us going… Don’t Stop Pedalling as Journey really meant to sing.
We were rewarded though with refuelling stops at the pizzatastic Pizza Yard in Ranelagh with its almost yard-long wooden board of pizza www.pizzayard.ie and Keshk Cafe Restaurant www.keshk.ie on Mespil Road with its array of Egyptian, Greek and Turkish fare.
All of which made us think of the types of exciting foreign destinations TD specialises in.
For 2020 TD is offering cycling holidays with group sizes of 6-16. Imagine then whizzing around Italy, Portugal, Spain and Vietnam.
TD takes care of flights, transfers, accommodation, expert cycling guide and bike hire. Prices start from €2,229 pp for the 8-night Portugal Azure Ocean Cycling Holiday.
Taking a detour for a minute (and I did, trying to find my way along the canal back to my DART station), let’s talk about Albania and how I wouldn’t have been allowed in when I was a young buck.
It’s my hairy-facedness that was the problem. Then it was only a moustache but Enzer Hoxha, their mad dictator (is there any other kind?) had a downer on furry top lips.
Albania, of course, has changed and has opened its doors to the West (and that means us). We had hoped to get in when we honeymooned in Corfu, a spit from Albania, but their Troubles put a paid to that.
So we’ ve unfinished business there. And TD active Holidays do business there. Result.
Take a horseback ride in Antigone National Park, a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Berat, with its collection of Ottoman houses, and a hike in Llogora National Park. Tours start from €1,399 pp for 10 nights.
One of the great joys of travelling is meeting new people and particularly so if you go solo…. as sometimes The Scary one insists I do.
TD knows its solo traveller… It has launched solo twin share options.
You will share a room with a fellow solo traveller (of the same gender) for the duration of the trip. I’m remembering introducing myself to bewildered and befuddled Aussie Harry across the bedroom in the middle of the night recently in Jordan. We became great friends.
This will appeal particularly to value conscious travellers, enabling them to avoid single supplements. The most popular tours for solo travellers booking with TD active Holidays include searching for vampires on the Explore Transylvania trip.
Write your own caption above for this one who has always wanted to go there… in search of her ancestors.
Visit www.traveldepartment.ie and www.tdactiveholidays.ie.
Now that’s grabbed your attention let me toast adidas for selling 1 million shoes made out of ocean plastic last year.
And, no, it doesn’t mean you’ll slip in the penalty box more often and win more penalties.
Do you want to know about Bavarian cobbler Adolf Dassler? Thought you might.
Adi, as he wisely abbreviated his name to, invented the boot and became something of a hero to the nascent post-war West Germany in the process.
Most importantly to the West German team who stunned the Ferenc Puskas-inspired Hungary team to win the World Cup in 1954, he also invented the screw-in stud which allowed them the better of the conditions.
As a further footnote to history that final which the Germans call the Miracle of Berne was played in the Wankdorf Stadium, Berne.
Someone must have pointed it out to the Swiss who renamed the ground when they demolished and rebuilt it in 1991, calling it the Stade de Suisse, Wankdorf. That should do it, then!
So you want to go to Herzogenaurach to visit the adidas museum?
Herzogenaurach which is 23km from Nuremberg and 187km from Munich dates back to the 13th century, has a castle, and a Medieval-themed festival Mittelalterspectaculum.
Numerous airlines fly to Nuremberg. I found KLM, a personal favourite which gives you the chance to stop off at one of the world’ great airports Schiphol with a round trip from £156 (€130).
Visit www.herzogenaurach.de/en. and www.herzo.adidas.com. www.klm.com. www.schiphol.nl/en.
Cramped up in a booze bus to the Munich Beerfest in a tailback of traffic it certainly looked like those river cruise ships were certainly a more relaxed Germany holiday.
I’ve found as the years have glided by that Uniworld River Cruises are the way to amble along the river.
I was particularly taken on my teenage drinking trip when we stopped off at Nueschwanstein, the inspiration for the Disney Castle, with its swan theme. The Rhine really is fairytale stuff.
Uniworld has a tempting range of discount offers on www.uniworld.com. The Castles Along The Rhine has a ring to it though doesn’t it? Eight days on the S.S. Antoinette from Amsterdam to Basel is under £3,000 (£2,999), down from £3,799. Depart September 22.
Flights are included for all 2019 departures. Included flights are from London Heathrow.
And here’s what you get…
Luxury living: On board the SS Antoinette
A Special allure
Royal Caribbean asks if we’re brave enough.
I am. I only did the Zipliner on Oasis of the Seas recently in Barcelona and FlowRider too, and again I’m a veteran of FlowRider having soared on it on Independence of the Seas.
The newly amplified Allure of the Seas is sailing from Barcelona next year.
So here’s what you can expect…
Royal Caribbean boasts that this is the tallest slide at sea… and I dare say the slidiest too.
The great thing about Royal Caribbean, apart from everything that is, is that they’re real party ships.
And the Music Hall is where to party on Allure with some great cover bands… and I’ve been known to sing along.. See my Royal Party on Independence….
Of course ships are known for their culinary excellence and Allure is no exception. I’d recommend Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar. It’s just how Mamma made it.
Now you want to see an offer. What about a seven-nighter Western Mediterannean with weekly departures from May 10 to October 25. You’ll take in Palma, Marseille, Florence/PIsa (La Spezia), Rome (Citavecchia) and Naples. From €1,079 per person based on two sharing., €2158 for two guests. €1pp flights, book by August 12. T&Cs apply. Visit www.royalcaribbean.ie.
A piece of cake… well, it had to be
Broomsticks airlines were running on time… and the mother-in-law had a smooth passage home.
She was asking for advice on where to go this autumn, and seeing as how I didn’t want to be turned into a frog (again) I suggested Madeira.
Madeira is unspoiled and not packed out with tourists. It’s also a great place to visit from a cruise ship.
Princess Cruises has an 11-day Canary Islands cruise, sailing from Southampton and taking in Vigo in Spain, Funchal in Madeira, Santa Cruz De Tenerife, Las Palmas in Gran Canarai and Arrecife in Lanzarote.
From €999 per person based on two sharing an inside stateroom but not including flights. Mothers-in-law come with their own broomsticks, though. For more information visit www.princess.com.
The great thing about the England cricket team is that anyone can play for it.
Including… little old Scottish me. There have been a handful of Scottish players representing England and one, Mike Denness, even captained them in the Seventies.
My dear old Dad was no mean cricketer, playing at a high standard for his school St Mungo’s in Glasgow and had high hopes for me until I got bounced and collapsed to the ground in my first innings. After that I was just a fielder and last man in and didn’t bowl.
I improved on that with a couple of runs (my personal best) when I played with the Sri Lankan staff in the Maldives a couple of years ago before skinning my knees on the astro-turf pitch when I tried to make a dodgy run.
In all 107 players born outside of England have represented England including of the recently crowned World champions the captain Eoin Morgan (Ireland), opener Jason Roy (South Africa), all-rounder Ben Stokes (New Zealand) and fast bowler Jofra Archer (Barbados). That’s almost a sixth of the total.
Now every country does it, it’s the rules, I hear you scream. But it’s just England seem to do it more than most.
It’s a vain hope but wouldn’t it be good to get back to the days when playing for your country was reserved for people actually from the country rather than mercenaries?
And the Jofra Archer case is particularly hard to swallow.
It was 12noon, the mother-in-law had been here for a full day and a half so nobody could blame me for hitting the whiskey.
Thankfully I’ve got a brand new distillery down the road in one of my favourite spots here in Co. Wicklow, Powercourt Estate.
I’d heard all about what they were planning when I stayed over a year last Spring and am delighted to say that it is a fantastic addition to the hotel, the gardens, the centre… heck, everything,
There’s a tour for €20 which will let you in on the whole distilling process and I dare say that there will be whiskey at the end of it.
There’s also a fantastic and well-priced cafe too and a shop where you can buy the water of life and various whiskey-related products.
And the uisce bertha… well, I tried the Fercullen 14-year-old single malt (€92.95) which Niall told me was smoky. I’d say its not as peaty as Connemara or my own favourites the Islay whiskies and had a slight sweetness but it was certainly what the medical man ordered.
Before I developed my palate and got a few bob in my pocket I was wont to drink a Scotch blend Bell’s which was in every supermarket and off that you’d go into.
So I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to pull an imaginary rope on a very real 18th century outside the old Mill which is now the distillery.
Visit www.powerscourtdistillery.,com. And Powerscourt House & Gardens www.powerscourt.com. And Powerscourt Hotel. www.powerscourthotel.com.
And get out to the rest of the county. www.visitwicklow.ie.
Some things were never meant to be finished… take The Scary One (please). She is always finding things that still need to be done to the house.
Word reaches me that Antoni Gaudi’s magnus opus, the Sagrada Família, first begun in 1882 but only a quarter completed by the time of his death in 1926, has hit another snag.
And just when they looked like getting over the line after Barcelona’s city authority granted La Sagrada Familia’s first building permit. I’m not even asking under what terms they built what’s already up.
Seventy per cent is done (so they had chipped away at it at some point since the Great Man died).
Eight of its proposed 18 spires have been completed and the plan is to have it all finished by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
But I guess nobody counted on the 3,000 residents living in the nearby apartments and their objections.
Watching the cranes above the psychedelic spires while draining a jug of sangria recently I couldn’t help wondering whether Antoni had been on something.
And whether they shouldn’t just tear it down and start all over again.
Make up your own mind. Barcelona is a great city for a ramble… or rambla. Visit www.barcelonatourisme.com. Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com and Ryanair www.ryanair.com both fly to Barcelona.
La Fete National
I hope you’re having a good one. I won’t wish you Joyeux Quatorze Juillet, or Bonne Bastille, as the French don’t really do that in the way the Americans wish you Happy Fourth of July.
If you want to find out more French nuances then pop by the French Corner in Dublin where Alliance Francaise Dublin and the French Library with the French Embassy will be putting on free workshops and games and face painting for l’enfants.
From 11-5pm today. City Spectacular, Merrion Square, Dublin.
If that gets you in the mood for a bon vacance… remember that Aer Lingus has a range of offers to French cities from €45.99. Visit www.aerlingus.com. www.atout.france.fr.
Wu Wu… savings
My old friend Wendy Wu is tempting us with discounts on her 2019 and 2020 Asian tours.
She’s giving us an Early Bird saving of €200pp if booked before August 5.
So you love the Cherry Blossoms and the Autumn Leaves. As a sample of the many Asian offers, how about Discover Japan, 13 days from €7,090pp. Twin share.
Every day is the 11th July
As I revealed in one of my random Did You Knows yesterday, the Battle of the Boyne was on July 1 and when converted to the Gregorian Calendar became the 12th of July when it should have been the 11th of July.
Of course we were more interested in commemorating another royal victory this week on the 11th.
The final piece of the Game of Thrones tapestry has been woven in at the Ulster Museum in Belfast to mark the end of the saga.
Before it gets taken to Bayeux where it will be exhibited from September to December.
The Ulster Museum is one of the best cultural and historical museums on this island. And it’s free. Visit it. www.nmni.com.
I’m heading up to Royal Portrush on Sunday for the final day of The Open Golf Championship.
I’m thinking they should start a tapestry to Northern Irish golf royalty… McDowell, Clarke, McIlroy. Visit www.nimadeforgolf.com, www.theopen.com.
Windsor Lego Castle
Back in the day when I first started this scribbling lark, I found myself in the Royal County of Berkshire… where I found myself a wife.
Then where Legoland now is was Windsor Safari Park. Nothing to read into that, just saying.
Berkshire, to the west of London is a great location in its own right for its royal history and quaint villages and is also ideally situated for the Big Smoke.
And that makes it great for families. Cassidy Travel knows it and has put together a great Legoland and football package to keep everyone happy.
If Mum doesn’t fancy the footie, and these days it’s more likely it would be Dad, the shopping in London is unparalleled.
Stay in the 3* Travelodge Windsor Central and choose between Arsenal v Burnley or Chelsea v Leicester City. Package from €379pps based on four sharing. Includes a day pass to Windsor Legoland Resort.
The 12th of July… the day King William III’s triumphs are celebrated in Northern Ireland and among all peoples for whom his victory at the Battle of Boyne protected their values and traditions.
But how much do we really know about King Billy?
Well, Malahide Castle can reveal all.
Firstly that iconic image of King Billy on his white charger may be misleading.
He was really rather small, and asthmatic. Though probably not as small as this image is shown here… it’s bigger in the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.
Our guide on our visit to the Castle pointed out that the painting in the dining room shows that the heroic figure on the horse is probably a general and not William as he is not wearing the royal garter.
Fourteen members of the Talbot family, who built the castle, died at the battle fighting for the Jacobites.
William would also have probably been further back from the battle.
And not on that horse. His was more likely to be brown as white would have made him more of an easy target. And he would more than likely have walked across the Boyne rather than ride across it.
And ouch, worst of all, we’ve missed the real date. That was July 1, 1690. Somebody made a mistake when they changed to the Gregorian Calendar in 1752 and with the new dates it is July 11.
Of course it’s best to do your own homework so visit Malahide Castle. www.malahidecastleandgardens.ie/castle.
Or learn more about the murals in Belfast with Paddy Campbell’s Black Cab Tours. www.belfastblackcabtours.co.uk.
And maybe also take in the Orange Museum in Belfast www.orangeheritage.co.uk which has a green frontage.
It’s a challenging market but it’s good to see that Norwegian is pushing forward and has posted strong Q2 results.
Despite the reduced production growth and grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the underlying operating result before ownership costs more than doubled from the same quarter in 2018.
Our friends at Norwegian have been inventive in the way it has pushed its Transatlantic route, partially because it has got to know us so well.
Take its 24-hour Christmas shopping trip in and out of Stewart, NY State. Stewart is about a 90-minute bus away from Port Authority in the city and costs $20 (€16).
I had a very grateful work colleague and more importantly his toddlers after I sent him on that trip.
Visit www.norwegian.com. From €334.09.
Je Suis Un Rock Star
Is it just me or do you see fewer selfie sticks now? People have become so adept at taking their photos around the world’s most iconic sites like this.
And just like this gent I do find gorgeous women photobombing me.
Get yourself some brownie points and take your loved one over to Paris.
Our national airline carrier has a number of magnifique French deals from €45.99. And naturellement France is more than just Paris. So check out Nice, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Perpignan, Marseille Rennes, Nantes, Montpellier.
And you know the rules. Let me know how you got on. Visit www.aerlingus.com. Fares are one way including taxes and charges. Valid for travel from 1 August until 30 September. Book by 15 July.
Ryan with a view
Ryanair is all about getting you there at a low fare. But it will also set you up with well-priced accommodation too.
What about this room from €29 at the 3* Be Smart Florida in Tenerife.
Ryanair is right across Spain and has many other great offers here.
The mother-in-law flew in… late.
I think there was a splinter on the stick or some moisture on the wood.
I had the chance to take a Segway tour of Washington when I visited a couple of years ago… but as you can see I was unfortunately too busy with matters of State such as by making Ireland the 51st State, by Presidential decree.
Washington is an absolute jewel with the White House and the Capitol building, obviously, and its Smithsonian but it can be tiring.
The three-hour On the Go Tours takes in those iconic buildings and the National Museum of National History, Ford’s Theatre (where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated), the National Air and Space Museum, the Washington Museum and much more.
From €68.07. Visit www.onthgotours.com.
Why should the angry cyclists have all the fun?
It was the one big difference I witnessed between my first time in Amsterdam in 1990 and when I returned last year… the bicycles didn’t have it all to themselves.
Segway City Tours Amsterdam offers an hour and a half ride for €59. You’ll whizz through Jordan, the Dam Square and by the Rijksmuseum and among others. Visit www.segwaycitytoursamsterdam.com.
Now if you find yourself wandering aimlessly around Rome then you’re doing it right. When in Rome and all that. The Romans love to amble along.
I found myself doing just that spending a day and a night doubling back and retracing my steps around the city centre at the end of the Via Francigena and a 100km walk into the Eternal City. With CaminoWays.com www.caminoways.com.
Equally I could have taken any one of a number of themed Segway tours that day which would have saved on the shoe leather.
Bookmundi.com pitches among others Ancient Rome with Segway, a two-hour trip from €68 which will take you to Trajan’s Column and the Capitol Hill, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, Aventino Hill and the Garden of the Oranges. Visit www.bookmundi.com.
And watch out for my Rome on €50.
The beauty of Segways is that they take the strain off your feet… as does lying back on a double bed in a beach bar (really) by the dock in Saint Pauli.
Mindways Segway Citytour Hamburg is a two-and-a-half hours saunter around this buzzing port city taking in, of course, the riveting Reeperbahn.
With typical German efficiency they will ask you for your driving licence. From €64.80. Visit www.segway-citytour.de.
La Sangria Familia… as I like to call it.
Barcelona is a sprawling old city and exhausting in the sweltering heat we had earlier this month.
Best let the Segway take the strain.
Barcelona Sun Segway has a 150-minutes Gaudi’s Works Segway Tour (12kms) with a discount from €65 now down to €59. And you’ll get entrance to the monuments too.
These, of course, are just some of my favourite cities, and you’ll have your own favourites, so tell me about them. Visit www.barcelonasunsegway.com.
And here’s a nod to Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. Move slowly, my friend.
It’s a couples’ dream… cruising. The lingering glances over dinner, the dancing, the spectacular shows, the moonlight walk on the top deck.
Of course, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t occasionally disagree. I find the best advice is the one She gives: ‘When I want your opinion I’ll give it to you.’
So cruising has the advantage too of being big and varied and entertaining enough to give you both enough space to calm down if you get tetchy with each other. Best not have a quarrel on the top deck though, it can get slippy up there sometimes!
I owe Her a trip to the Bahamas after having had a spin around there last December and Sunway and Princess Cruises have the very thing.
They are offering a seven-night Bahamas & Virgin Islands Cruise on board the Regal Princess on February 29…. and you know what that means – Leap Year and all you loved-up ladies can propose to your gentlemen.
You’ll get all-inclusive drinks – Ocean Medallion (I’ll tell you more about that when I get on a Princess Cruises ship in Dublin later this month), wifi, gratuities and $200 onboard spend.
Price is €1599pp and includes return flights from Dublin, one night pre- cruise hotel stay, plus seven night cruise based on two sharing an interior stateroom, all taxes and fees. Transfers are extra. Visit www.sunway.ie/cruise-holidays or call (01) 231 1868. Visit www.princess.com.
Sand and sea
Cruising always leaves you wanting more.
We had a choice last autumn of MSC cruises – the beautiful fjords or dazzling Dubai and the Emirates. We don’t regret catching the fjords, of course, but as the mist and rain drew in I did give a thought to how sunny Dubai would have been. And I settled on doing both.
Temperatures in Dubai hover between 23 and 33 degrees in December which is when you’ll go with Abbey Travel and MSC.
Leaving on Wednesday, December 11 and paying €589.00, you’ll get:
11 nights cruise on board MSC Lirica in an interior cabin.
Free tea, water and coffee package and Wi-Fi Social Package.
Add on a Fantastica package from €30pp.
To book call 01 804715, visit www.abbeytravel.ie. Flights are extra but enquire at time of booking. Visit www.msccruises.ie.
As I famously said when I visited Hamburg last year at the end of that fjords trip.
Hamburg is a city that was very much to my taste and I’m sure you’ll be the same.
Royal Caribbean International is offering a seven nights’ Dutch and French Adventure on Explorer of the Seas, departing October 18 from Southampton, taking in Hamburg, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Paris/Normandy and Le Havre.
From €649 per person based on two people sharing. €1,298 for two guests. Sailing on October 18. Flight required.
And, of course, you’ll get the chance to walk on water with FlowRider which I road tested (again) on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas recently in Barcelona and which I’ll tell you more about real soon. And much, much more. Visit www.royalcaribbean.ie.
Mardy Martina’s face broke out into a smile when I ordered Hot Chocolate on the hottest day of the year in Barcelona recently.
Not such a loco idea though as beer is dehydrating, water makes you go, and besides Hot Chocolate, when it’s done well, is a treat and one I usually reserve for when I’m away apart from Campo de Fiori Rosto Market which I sorely miss from my neighbouring town of Bray.
My follow up of ‘It’s too hot’ was met with a que? and a curled lip from Maria. And me. It was a bit calido.
The best ciocolatta di calda densa is on the Via Francigena pilgrims’ trail www.FrancigenaWays.com. Let me explain… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/small-roads-lead-to-rome/
She’s the Wonder Woman who sews me up and sends me on my way… and very occasionally I come back with everything I left with.
And I’m getting better.
I’m also prompted by RTE reruns of the sumptuous Silk Road by the even silkier Joanna Lumley who agrees about the importance of multi-compartment purses and wallets.
They come in all shapes, sizes and styles (wives and wallets) and all make your life easier.
So what to remember
Your passport obviously. Now you may want to keep it in your inside jacket pocket or perhaps skin tight in your front trouser pocket.
And you will need to take it in and out at the airport but when you don’t need it, it’s best to put it away in the zipper compartment of your folder. If you’re travelling with your partner and your kids maybe put them all in together.
When you get to your hotel room put your valuables in the safe and only take it out if you need it for ID for bars, nightclubs or to get into some sports events.
Your tickets. Keep in another sleeve or compartment. It will be easier to differentiate. Some people (usually younger) are comfortable with having their tickets on their phones but what happens if you run out of battery (Ally?). Be safe do both.
Currency. Save yourself fiddling around in your wallet/purse between euro and a foreign currency and maybe even a third (sterling) if you’re passing through London. Use a third compartment for foreign dosh.
Now you’re on the plane
If you’re on a long-haul flight then you’ll want to keep your vanity case with you… save yourself from having to tap the person sleeping next to you so you can get up to the overhead cabin.
And if you’ve had the good fortune to go Business Class then remember the little overnight bags they give you the next time you travel.
And the earplugs will block out the noise of the snorer next to you.
Overnight bags tend to be the same but different and it’s always nice to find a little new treat.
A little bottle of Eau de Cologne was a particular treat in the Etihad bag I got this week even though I’m the last person who needs it.
Thank you www.etihad.com. And you too www.aerlingus.com, www.turkishairlines.com, www.virginatlantic.com, www.britishairways.com and everyone else who keeps us all refreshed in the air.
Unless you’re just doing an overnighter you’ll probably be taking hand luggage and putting a suitcase in the hold.
Don’t do as I do, but as I say.
Avoid black or blue suitcases, they all look the same on the carousel. Put stickers on it to identify it as uniquely yours, maybe places you’ve been to cheer you up.
Padlock your case up and choose a lock number that’s not 1234 or your birthday or one you might forget.
And always fill out your luggage tag with your address for obvious reasons.
Don’t forget to remember
Make a list. Check it twice and give yourself enough time.
Better if you pack to go home the night before but if you are making the most if your last night on holiday then set your alarm early or get a room call.
Next week: How I didn’t take any of this advice and some of the scrapes I got into (and out of) mostly because of the saints and saintesses who helped me out.
I have spent so much time in bunkers that I got rather good at making sandcastles.
But not quite as good as the craftsmen who created this work of art on Downpatrick beach just down the road from Royal Portrush where the Open Golf Championship will be played from July 18-21.
To help you out it depicts five Northern Ireland icons: Titanic Belfast, the City Walls and the Guildhall in Derry, the Dark Hedges, Rory McIlroy swinging a club and the direwolf sigil of House Stark from Game of Thrones.
Of course you couldn’t argue against any of these spots but there’s more than enough beach for the Carrick-a-Rede bridge, I’d hazard. You get a good oul’ swing there.
We will, of course, be hoping and expecting that Rory McIlroy will be keeping out of the sand at Royal Portrush on his way to lifting his second Claret Jug.
Of course the golfing world and his caddy will have booked up early but you may strike lucky and if you do it’s because of the good services of www.discovernorthernireland.com. And for all things Open-related it’s www.theopen.com.
A toast to the peaks
While the world’s best golfers will be aiming to hit the peaks in Royal Portrush you may prefer to get your highs on the mountains.
I’ve just returned from the Pic du Midi in the French Pyrenees where I was wined and dined at the highest restaurant in Europe, Le 2877. And I will be sharing that with you on this blog soon. Visit www.picdumidi.com.
There’s a certain satisfaction and reward after scaling the mountains (in a cable car of course).
Morzine offers two cracking micro-breweries Ibex which specialises in mountain ales including a 5% IPA Cabin Fever and which this year celebrates its fifth birthday and Bec Jane which is known for its wheaty beers and porters.
You’re in? A seven-night stay in the three-bedroom Apartment 101 in central Morzine, arriving August 17 is priced from £1,436 per apartment/£239pp based on six people sharing. Visit www.moremountain.com. And also see www.morzine-avoriaz.com.
And check out www.skyscanner.net for best flight deals.
A rare insight
Andy had spent a year abroad in of all places the frozen north-east of Scotland before going home to America and becoming a cowboy in the Wild West, and teaching Limeys how to ride horses.
We’d propped up the same bar and probably at the same time 30 years previously, but these two former Aberdeen University students only found each other in the Colorado plains.
If you want to channel your own Roy Rogers our friends at Insight Vacations will be only too happy to introduce you to the Wild West.
Insight Vacations threw a launch party for their North America brochure, appropriately on July 4, and among its other goodies is a Wild West trip.
Ten days Wonders of the American West for this summer from £2,850. Bookended by Las Vegas, you’ll feel right in the middle of a classic Western movie set. Overnight at rustic lodges inside the National Parks. Visit www.insightvacations.com.
And would Andy swop the bracing winds of Aberdeen for the clear blue skies and sun-baked Colorado plains? Go figure!
Get your baubles out
I’m beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And only 272 sleeps to go.
And TUI has only announced day trips to Lapland direct from Dublin. Departing on December 7 and 14.
Adults prices from €749 and child prices from €599. Use code WINTER for an extra €100 off your winter getaway.
And check out www.tuiholidays.ie for late sun deals because it’s still summer.
Let’s go fly a kite
No, I’m not going all Mary Poppins on you although I did get a prompt to watch the new one when I was on board the Etihad 787 Dreamliner www.etihad.com at Dublin Airport this week when I saw it featured on the screen and they told us about their flying nannies.
No, this is kite-flying over at the five-star Castlemartyr Resort where young guests (why only young?) will be given a free kite and you’ll get the run of many Blue Flag beaches.
Let’s Go Fly A Kite at Castlemartyr Resort costs from €249 per night for a deluxe room for two adults and a child up to 12, and is based on two nights B&B with one evening meal in the Italian restaurant Franchinis and that kite kit.
You’ll also get a family entrance ticket to Fota Wildlife park or Leahy’s Open Farm in Midleton. Visit www.castlemartyrresort.ie.
You’ll never beat the Irish
Congratulations to us!
Ireland has been voted Best European Destination for groups beating Prague, Germany, Belgium, Cyprus and Switzerland at the Group Travel Awards in London.
It’s always great to hear from old pals I’ve met on the road… yes, Minnie, but also Paula, although they’re both gorgeous.
Finn Paula who now lives and works in Glasgow and sounds more Glaswegian than me, told me that she did a stint in Disneyland Paris but was not allowed to be one of the characters (don’t tell the kids) because she didn’t have enough French.
Eh, aren’t they all non-speaking? But perhaps the French Minnie needs to have an insouciant shrug!
Abbey Travel is offering a Disneyland Paris deal from €1,699 for a family of four for next year.
You’ll get up to 25% off and free half-board meals.
Three nights in Disney’s Hotel Santa Fe which is themed around the Cars films. And you’re only a 20-minute walk walk or short shuttle bus from the parks.
Visit www.abbeytravel.ie or call (01) 804 7160.
Ross, our Starline Tour driver and guide, had told us that LA was due an earthquake.
There were tremors in Downtown LA from this week’s quake in SoCal, Southern Calufornia. I don’t know though if the Walk of Fame shook.
Still nothing major is affected Travel-wise. Aer Lingus flies Dublin to LAX. With pre-clearance. Visit www.aerlingus.com.
Hat’s the way to travel. Myself and Edwina exchanged compliments on our headgear on board Etihad as the airline showpieces its 787 Dreamliner at Dublin Airport yesterday.
Etihad flies to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, 11 times a week and is operating four additional Boeing 787s through the summer season. They even come with flying nannies!
Etihad features 28 Business Class flat-bed seats and as you can see I was the first in our party to try them out.
And a selection of salmon and spinach hors d’oeuvres and fancy cakes. Etihad serves 90,000 meals a day, and it’s all about the choice. You want steak for breakfast, no problem.
And with Abu Dhabi a hub for flights on to Australia and your body clock being out of whack then that’s not such a big leap.
And the 271 Economy Class seats are not too shabby either, the most appealing feature for me the remote controls on the console and not in the armrest while it is on point with points for your mobile devices.
Abu Dhabi is the jewel of the UAE with its spectacular mosque, the second biggest tourist attraction in the world, and Yas Island.
Etihad Airways is offering a free two-night stopover in the Emirati capital to all travellers flying to international destinations via Abu Dhabi. The free Abu Dhabi stopover promotion is available for bookings online through etihad.com, or via a travel agent, made by 1 December, for travel until 31 December 2019.
Guests can choose from a range of 15 hotels located across the city and experience all that Abu Dhabi has to offer, from cultural masterpieces to architectural highlights and natural landscapes to theme park attractions and sports activities.
And we say Yes to Yas, the entertainment centre which boasts Ferrari World and Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest rollercoaster which hits a speed of 240kph.
And Warner Bros with its six themed lands, Gotham City, Metropolis, Cartoon Junction, Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch and Warner Bros Plaza. And next year SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, the first SeaWorld without orcas.
Etihad offers a range of prices and flight experiences. Visit www.etihad.com. www.visitabudhabi.ae.
For a few dollars less
Our national airline carrier is carrying on its American Independence celebrations with €50 off Aer Lingus flights to North America ending Monday.
And it has 15% car hire on a US road trip with Aer Lingus Cars. Visit www.aerlingus.com and www.cars.aerlingus.com.
Queue? What queue?
It wasn’t one of my proudest moments… or the Son and Heir’s. On our way to the Vatican Museums He decided he wanted to stop for refuelling… a three-course lunch.
I threatened to throw him in the Tiber so we might have been sans son if his mum hadn’t stepped in.
Ryanair is offering a Skip the Line: Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica Tour from €55.27. Visit www.ryanair.com. Follow too for deals to Rome and all Ryanair destinations.
An American Trilogy by Mickey Newbury, but popularised by Elvis Presley
On this 4th of July I commemorate the King of Kings, Elvis Presley, the Southern Boy who grew up and took his influences from his black friends and neighbours and encompassed that in his powerful rendition of this belting anthem.
I wonder what Mickey thinks of this Science Fantasia. The Galaxy’s Edge is far, far away from Walt Disney’s vision.
And its centrepoint Millennium Falcon even further from my standpoint.
Which is at the back of a snaking queue in the bowels of the new 14-acre €1billion Star Wars section of Disneyland in Anaheim, California on the very weekend it opens. It has taken me half an hour to even get this far.
I have passed by the inviting diversions of Walt’s Main Street USA, a jazz band on an island next to the Mark Twain Riverboat and a host of our favourite, smiling, singing, hugging Disney characters before arriving in this dark place.
Chewbacca does envelope a middle-aged Asian woman in his arms but I am too slow off the mark to get my picture taken while the Storm Troopers brush me aside.
Personally, I’d have a welcoming party of Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, Princess Leia and R2-D2 instead.
Still, I persevere and hang on the words of those in the line, a grown man with a light saber among them who have been waiting light years for this moment.
They point out the fine details of the futuristic world we are passing through in hushed, reverential tones.
Apparently, we are in the middle of the Black Spire Outpost which is on the Outer Rim planet of Batuu. They could be speaking Yoda for all I know.
And on and on we go, scaling the ramps. Whole battles don’t last this long.
Star Wars? This is more like Stair Wars. And finally we are ushered through to a holding area, a hangar where a rasta dude intergalactic pirate, Hondo Ohnaka, clues us in our mission with a reprise from Chewbacca, and informs us that the more we succeed the more rewards he gets. I bet!
The idea is that Chewy needs some supplies for the Resistance but Ohnaka has borrowed the craft and is using the opportunity to get us to smuggle some coaxium from Corellia for him which is hyperfuel from Han’s homeland, obviously. Thanks Brad from Texas for that.
But still the anticipation and the exhaustion (it’s now been an hour and a half) builds as we have to trudge further before finally being given our briefs for the starship’s mission, Smugglers’ Run.
A little more about this 114ft hulk of flying saucer which has grown men and women clicking away – it was manned by Han Solo and Chewy and was the second fastest in the Star Wars pantheon at 1050kph and is a highly modified YT-1300. But then, you knew that yourself.
The action is set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker and played out on a video screen before us.
Myself and Hiro are gunners and Jill and Lesley are the pilots. I can’t remember the names of the two engineers at the back of the cockpit but one had to be Scotty. Or is that the other Star one?
And finally we are hurtling through space, dipping and swooping, dodging enemy battleships and giant asteroids.
Mine’s and Hiro’s job is simple, press square and round buttons to fire laser beams at the foe until the light goes out.
It is an interactive experience but I’d be surprised if my efforts are making a blind bit of difference. And this is what I spent five years at Space University for.
And then our ten minutes on the motion simulator are over.
I guess it’ll make more sense when I actually watch the movies – I was never going to admit that in the queue.
I know how privileged I am though and that there are millions who would gladly climb over me and queue a whole day to get to see Millennium Falcon and play Smugglers’ Run and The Rise of the Rise of the Resistance which will follow hard on its heels later this year.
And that it will be a huge success particularly when they space out the waiting times.
But it’s just that Star Wars I don’t it get.
I retreat instead to simpler pleasures and a star who never lets me down, the original, and still the best, The Donald.
I find him outside the Golden Horseshoe saloon with Jose and Panchito, the Three Caballeros, playing it for laughs.
And I’m sure he remembers me from Orlando a couple of years ago, he even wrote to me when I got back, and signed it too.
And when your friends ask… yes, he really does love Mexicans.
In this part of Disneyland there are only smiles. The jazz band are belting out Everybody Wants To Be A Cat. I am nibbling on my fried chicken, corn and rice. I’m truly at my happiest.
This is one place where a middle-aged, bandana-wearing hippy won’t be glowered at. Here, and on the Pirates of Caribbean water ride where I’m almost mistaken for Jack Sparrow.
The ride is gentle, more my style, but if you want seat-of-the-pants thrills, Disneyland has no shortage: Splash Mountain, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones, too many to mention.
But in your cart going through Jack’s world, you’ll get just gentle drops.
What really makes a ripple on the Pirates of Caribbean ride through caves and coves are the intricate fun sets which immerse you in Jack’s world.
Look out too for the old rogue popping up on the islands semi-hidden from view. Keen eyes will see him in a vat of rum though. I want to join him.
Harking back to the Star Wars section of Disneyland, that really is the best thing about it -Disneyland, which has rightly prided itself on its family-friendly image and kept alcohol outside its doors for 60 years for the general public is now allowing you to have a snifter in Oga’s Cantina.
I could have used my time more profitably.
This being a corporate launch, I took a rum punch earlier from the tray of a passing waitress to settle my nerves for the simulator and have been going back to stock up long after I got off the ride.
There is no shortage of choice of diners to line your stomach for those hairy rides if you don’t want a rumbly tummy, and alternative entertainment if you want to take a weight off.
Duelling pianos meld in well with the classical surroundings of Olde World buildings and the open spaces amplify the sound.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than the Disney Castle. We sit down in benches and grassy banks off Main Street to watch Mickey’s music extravaganza flash up on the castle.
Mickey introduces his pals, King Louie and Elsa from Frozen among them, and they take over.
You can’t take your eyes off this light show or your hands from clapping along.
It is a kaleidoscope of colour and crescendo of sound, a Mickey Mix of Magic.
All the standards are there but for a younger audience it has been sassed up with modern toons getting us all up on our feet.
Of course, it’s all about Da Mouse in Da House though and he brings the party to a spectacular climax.
The fireworks pop off into the night sky and all eyes shoot upwards while in a galaxy far, far away – or across the park at least – the lights have long gone out.
How to get there: Dublin-Los Angeles LAX with Aer Lingus with pre-clearance. It operates a daily service from Dublin direct with fares starting from €259 each way when booked as a return trip. The year-round service reduces to five times weekly during the winter season. Visit www.aerlingus.com.
Where to stay: The Hilton Anaheim, a 15-minute walk from Disneyland Resort. King bed Disneyview for the sample dates of June 28-July 1 from $347 (€281). Visit www.hilton.com.
Where to go: Attraction Tickets Direct has a range of offers and discounts which will save precious time and money. Its two-day Disneyland California 1 Park Per Day Ticket is from €198 for an adult and €186 for a child including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is from €266 for an adult and €249 for a child. Visit www.disneyland.disney.go.com. www.starwars.com.
It costs less than the price of a biscuit on the aeroplane.
Royal Caribbean is offering €1pp with selected 2020 sailings to Europe. www.royalcaribbean.ie.
So what you have to do is:
Book an eligible stateroom on the selected 2020 sailings (excluding GTY rooms)
Select your €1 flight
Book by 12th August 2019
And now I’m back from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, I’m dying to tell you all about boogie boarding, surfing/falling zip lining and stomach-filling. In the Irish Daily Star www.thestar.ie and on this blog.
Twenty million reasons to….
Cruise with MSC.
MSC Cruises has reached the 20 million passenger milestone.
Your favourite Travel journalist cruised with MSC and The Scary One last year in the fjords on Preziosa.
And believe me it’s invigorating to swim in the upper deck pool as you approach land (with your bandana on, of course).
MSC Cruises offer some great late deals. Seven nights on MSC Sinfonia. Leaving from Venice and taking in Ancona (Urbino), Split, Dubrovnik, Mykonos and Santorini. Depart July 13 or 20.
Visit www.msc.cruises.co.uk. You will need to book your own flights with this package.
Patrick and Maureen were heading off to Palma, Majorca when I met them at the bar (naturally) on board my day on my cruise ship in Barcelona at the weekend.
The Irish-Chicagoans are in for a treat as Palma retains its Old Worlde charms despite what the Love Islanders and the salmon-pink tourists are doing up in Magaluf to the image of this beautiful island.
TUI offers all-inclusive cruises Dublin to Majorca, Treasures of the Mediterranean. Inside Cabin, seven nights from €1,089pps. Depart on August 27. From €1,089pps. Or Inside Cabin, depart July 13 from €1,179pps. Visit www.tuiholidays.ie or call 1850 45 35 45.
Slap it on… the suntan lotions, creams and sun factors.
But which one to get?
And how to make the most of the sun without getting burnt and making sure we all get a good tan.
All of which is hopefully serving me well this weekend in Barcelona where temperatures have been hitting the late 30s.
Read the label
We can be bamboozled by acronyms. WTF!
SPF is sun protection factor and the categories fall into four bands – low (SPF 6 & 10), medium (SPF 15, 20 & 25), high (SPF 30 & 50) and very high (SPF 50+). The average Irish person is in the 15, 20 & 25) category but if in doubt ask at your pharmacist.
It’s all in the application – How much to put on?
For most of us adults that’s at least six full teaspoons – and I know that you don’t have a teaspoon with you on the beach so practise before you go. Children are all different so again check with your pharmacists, use your common sense and don’t scrimp.
Sun cream should also be applied 20 minutes before exposure to the sun and be reapplied a minimum of every two hours.
And make sure that it is not past its sell-by date. There should be a number, say 24, on the bottle.
And where to apply it
All over. There are of course very delicate areas… steady, I mean the nose and lips. And also ears, neck, hands and feet. And if you’re a hirsutically challenged gentleman then the baldy bit on the top of your head, or all over the bonce if necessary.
What to wear
Best put a T-shirt or better still a long-sleeved cotton shirt, oul’ fella. And long trousers too.
You may think that’s less chic but then a lobster-coloured back and legs and being confined to your hotel room or worse still a visit to the hospital may be the alternative.
Also be sure to wear sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection.
When to stay out of the sun
The hours of 11am-3pm is when the sun is hottest so perhaps stay in the shade then. And you probably only need about 15 minutes at any given time.
A good time to dine but without being a killjoy perhaps go easy on the vino collapse or beer. Plenty of water please. And be particularly careful with kiddie.s
I love an oul’ festival…. they’re almost always not what you expect, and even better too.
Take for example the Festival of the Trays which too me conjures up an image of people banging beer trays over their heads.
It used to be popular in the Seventies and was featured in one of Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life shows I’m sure. I have vague recollections of doing the same one Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve to those not of the Scottish persuasion).
This Festival of the Trays in Portugal though is far more serene. In commemoration of Queen Saint Isabel and the Holy Spirit, this is all about hundreds of young girls carrying trays of gifts on their heads.
The trays are blessed, there are street decorations and quilts in the windows. Flowers are thrown over the procession too, naturally!
The Procession of the Tabuleiros, heralded by pipers and fireworks is led by the Banner of the Holy Ghost and the three Crowns of the Emperors and Kings.
Bringing up the rear are cartloads of bread, meat and wine, pulled by the symbolic sacrificial oxen with golden horns and sashes. Visit www,tabuleiros.org and www.visitportugal.com. The festival starts today and goes on until July 8.
Aer Lingus, Ryanair and TAP Portugal all fly to Portugal, www.aerlingus.com, www.ryanair,com, www.flytap,com.
Climb every mountain
Ah! But if Maria and the Von Trapps had climbed every mountain as The Sound of Music told us they did they would have ended up in Hitler’s back yard.
Sorry, I just tell it like it is and so do the Salzburgers who burst our bubble on a tour of the city…. they do take you to some great Sound of Music sites and it is seriously good fun.
Me telling it like it is, it’s important to flag up what a great summer destination Austria is and what great deals there are out there.
TUI has last-minute deals for July 3, seven nights B&B staying at the *3 Hotel Obermair, Mayrhofen, from €449pps or seven nights half-board at the *3 Pension Hannes, Neiderau from €469pps. Visit www.tuiholidays.ie or call 1850 45 35 45.
An offer you can’t refuse
I went into the doctor and told him that I felt like a small Mediterranean island. He told me to stop being Sicily.
Like many who have visited Malta I spent way too short a time in Sicily on a day’s catamaran cruise. Of course, I will be back and when I do I will take it all in, The Godfather history, the beautiful coastline and vibrant villages.
You can get great value with a late deal to Sicily with Sunway. Seven nights for €499 on July 6. Visit www.sunway,ie,
The best China
Zhuhe, Tang Yixin and Zhang Ruoyun. Which, of course, is congratulations, but you knew that anyway.
And maybe that they are a Chinese celebrity couple who chose Adare Manor to marry.
Tang and Zhang are TV drama stars back home and have 33 million followers on Weibo, the social media platform in China. Now Bandanamann followers with a wee nudge we might make a dent in that!
Tang and Zhang’s combined showbiz name would be Tang, meaning she’s in charge which is a bit like most marriages really!
Tourism Ireland helped the happy couple with trips to Dunluce Castle and the Dark hedges. Visit www.tourismireland.com. www.adaremanor.com. www.visitnorthernireland.com.
The English Beach
If that conjures up images of a packed Blackpool or Brighton or Magaluf then we wouldn’t blame you.
But this is The English Beach in Great King Valley in La Gomera.
La Go-where? Yes, this is the Canaries and it’s the more unspoiled, smallest and less visited of the seven islands which makes it all the more appealing.
Thing is though that they’re peeling off too. Billed as hippy and alternative there’s a clue there. Thing is though that the first post on Trip Advisor said that it’s half and half.
I can only imagine that it was a Swinging Sixties crowd of English that gave it its name.
I leave the choice to you but check out La Gomera anyway. Fly to Tenerife and then get a crossing is the best way to get there.
But if you do decide to go au natural, for goodness sake don’t leave your clothes on the beach. Visit www.lagomera.travel/en.
Let’s duck out of here
Yes, I know any excuse. I’ll tell you what every time The Other Donald tweets something daft or puts us on the brink of war…. and I’m not forgiving him this week after his antics caused the rearrangement of my trip to Iran… then Ill put up a photo of The Real Donald.
And anyway American Sky has a great saving of up to €530 per family on a seven-night stay at the *4 The Grove Resort Hotel & Spa in Orlando, valid for travel before February 11 2021. This holiday now costs from €649.
This is a new resort, just a few minutes drive from Walt Disney World Resort and it includes a kids Surfer Water Park.
There are four on-site restaurants.
Based on two adults and two children sharing and return flights from Dublin with transfers and accommodation on a self-catering basis.
Visit www.americansky.ie or call (01) 664 9900.
For Reasons Unknown Ronnie Vannucci Jnr tried to bat off the well-wisher who approached him at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, Co. Down, and said that he was a delegate at a science convention.
But we were onto him or at least The Son and Heir and The Scary One were… and she let him know that I was their biggest fan.
I know I’ve drip-fed you this story but it’s just that the world’s greatest rock band who were playing up North are headlining Glastonbury tonight.
I’ve got it taped of course while I’m away in Barcelona but I expect they’ll be Wonderful Wonderful.
I’m not surprised that The Killers were staying at the Culloden. It’s only had a £750,000 refurbishment. Visit www.hastingshotels.com.
Two for you
… A double helping of Bandanaman today. Lourdes and the Pyrenees in The Herald and Star Wars Millennium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run at Disneyland Anaheim in the Irish Daily Mail.
It’s all about Pride and London is going rainbow-coloured.
Hazlitts Hotel is in the heart of Soho and the building was once a gentlemen’ s club back in the 18th Century.
A favourite with actors, artists and writers for decades many of the rooms have been named after celebrities. And should you want to you could even sleep in the same room Jonathan Swift did. Superior double from £290.00. Visit www.hazlittshotel.com.
Amsterdam has long been lauded for being gay-friendly.
A cruise along one of its many canals or a romantic walk or crepes by the water are a great way to while away the hours.
And then there’s the nightlife.
There are some great deals out there. The Double Tree by Hilton Amsterdam Centraal Station which is near the historic Cafe ‘t Mandje gay bar has a Queen Room for €227. Visit https://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/netherlands/doubletree-by-hilton-amsterdam-centraal-station-AMSCSDI/index.html
It’s not called Gay Paree for nothing.
It’s iconic and worth spending a bob or two on. The gay-friendly boutique hotel Jules et Jim in Le Marais – 3e Arrondissement, a well-trodden paths for LGBT visitors. It is of course named after the Francois Ruffault cinema house favourite starring Jeanne Moreau.
Each room (there are just 23) has a backlit Hi-Mac shell around the bed creating a relaxing cocoon. It is arty but unpretentious. From £182 per night for the sample date of July 8.
The Pompidou is 10 minutes away by foot, the Louvre 20.
No, not that Great Dane… but it did draw you in, right?
Mind you, this Great Dane ain’t bad either. This is a new Great Dane Airline service from Aalborg to Dublin which will run twice weekly from June 21 to July 26 and weekly between July and October 15.
Wonderful as it is, Denmark is more than just Copenhagen. Aalborg is Denmark’s fourth biggest city. Its known for its revitalised waterfront on the Limfjord, the body of water that cuts through Jutland, also an outdoor pool and nearby is the half-timbered Aalborghus Castle.
Now I like an oul’ fjord, and The Son and Heir came back from Denmark’s second city Aarhuis shouting its merits from the rooftops. Visit www.greatdaneairlines.dk.
Aalborg, I’m Aal in.
My friends at Ryanair have been flying me (and I dare say you and a couple of others around) of late and I must say that I am becoming less of an oul’ grouch and am now beginning to take on their interactive approach.
They’re also as good as anybody at opening up our minds to new destinations.
Yes among their 6 great reasons to travel this summer they flag up London for Wimbledon, Paris for the Tour de France, Galway for the Arts Festival though that’s probably for an international audience, it might be a bit profligate to fly from Wicklow. And Copenhagen for the Jazz Festival and Heidelberg and Karlsruhe for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
But it also promotes Gdansk in Poland under the title Open’er Gdansk… it’s a music festival The Son and Heir tells me where Kylie, the Smashing Pumpkins, Lana Del Rey and the Strokes among others will be performing from July 3-6.
The good people of Poland charmed us with their country’s fares, not least their vodka, earlier in the year and as well as this big musical festival the city has a lot more to offer.
Do visit the European Solidarity Centre as it is a timely reminder of where we are with challenges to our democracy in Europe right now.
It is also a beautiful port city and because of that has a rich culinary heritage and trading story. I’m particularly taken, as is The Scary One, by the power of Amber.
Housed in the same building that once was home to the Prison Tower and Torture Chamber. The centre of the world’s amber trade ( who knew?), you’ll get brownie (or amber) points if you pick out some beautiful piece for Herself.
Flights from Gdansk from €16.80. Visit www.ryanair.com.
Finns are looking up
I do love a sauna…. somewhere to let it all hang out.
I was sorely tempted in Soll in Austria to cause a scene in the breakfast room (and not for the first time).
I had just had a sauna and the Austrians, of course, like to have theirs in the nip.
When I got down the next morning I spotted a woman who had been in the sauna with me. I was all set to go over and say: ‘I didn’t recognise you with your clothes’ on until her burly German boyfriend walked in.
Saunas, of course, originate in Scandinavia. And how’s about this for an airport experience. Saunas in Helsinki Airport Finnair Platinum Wing.
Finnair is to increase the frequency of flights from Dublin and Edinburgh to its Helsinki hub this winter. There will be four extra services on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Visit www.finnair.com.
Just remember to leave yourself enough time to get to the departure gate!
Aer we go
Twenty quid will barely get you a drink and a a few chips here but your money stretches further on the continent so when Aer Lingus offers you €20 off your flight at a great price anyway it’s worth sitting up and taking notice.
Vienna, Lisbon, Faro, Malaga and Nice are all pegged at €44.99 from Dublin, it’s €51.99 from Cork to Alicante and €58.99, while Shannon is €49.99 to Malaga.
Travel between August 1 and October 31. Book by July 1. Visit www.aerlingus.com. Prices are one-way including taxes and charges.
If you’re watching the news and slowly losing the will to live with all the shenanigans over Brexit here’s a little recap of when it all started a few years ago when Theresa May signed off on the whole thing.
On that fateful day I was in Aberdeen, the oil capital of Europe, and the economic driver of Scotland and the UK for many a year.
Hear, hear… no, not some warbling politicians but just a couple of good friends talking Travel.
Aileen Eglington put this relative radio tyro at ease on her Travel show Destination Anywhere on 93.9 Dublin South FM yesterday.
The hour positively flew by as we talked Turkey (Istanbul), LA and Anaheim and Lourdes.
And we interspersed it with a few songs….
Natasha Bedingfield’s These Words, happy memories from when she loved me, she loved me, she loved me, picking me and my purple beard out of the crowd as she sang Purple Rain, the Beach Boys’ Sloop John B which they sang at our set lunch in Anaheim and On The Road Again by Willie Nelson which always reminds me of the Camino and the Via Francigena.
So, thanks Aileen and until the next time…. tune into www.dublinsouthfm.ie/events/travel-show every Monday from 1pm-2pm.
Maybe our friends on the Continent could share some of their sun with us.
The sun is burning hot, hot, hot, just now and it is something that the Corfiots are all too familiar with as we found out when we honeymooned there all those years ago.
They recommended that you hit the hills or take to the seas… you’ll need no second invitation.
Our friends at TUI www.tuiholidays.ie have Dublin-Corfu and a seven-day all-inclusive cruise on the Adriatic Explorer from €1,189pps on July 12. Visit www.tuiholidays.ie
You snooze, you lose the cruise
Here at Cruiseday Tuesday we like to keep you up to date with the great late deals because we know you’ve always got a bag packed ready!
MSC has this great offer for a seven-day spin on Divina around the Mediterranean from £999pp leaving from Cagliari in Sardinia and taking in Palma, Valencia and Marseille and also Genoa, Rome and Palermo. From July 2-9. Visit www.msccruises.ie.
If you haven’t heard me yet… then I’m talking too quietly.
I’ll be on the radio this morning on Dublin South FM, broadcasting on 93.9FM from 2pm-3pm with the awesome Aileen Eglington.
I’ll be California Dreamin’ about my recent trip to Hollywood, West Hollywood and Anaheim and also all things Istanbul (they have a new mayor there, don’t you know and did you see all those people out celebrating in the streets). And then let’s finish it all with a prayer… the Lourdes Prayer.