Back by popular demand, the latest in the World of Travel. Every Saturday, or at least those Saturdays I don’t wake up with a thumping hangover!
I’ll be sitting in judgment.
THE HAIRY ONE AND THE SCARY ONE
So who’ll get to sit on the Iron Throne?
The answer is YOU. The Game of Thrones Touring Exhibition has reached Belfast and will stay there for the summer.
Fitting really as the North is Thrones Country.
I’ve been doing a crash course in GoTology from The Scary One, aka Mrs M, and visited Belfast earlier in the year to check out the GoT tapestry in the Ulster Museum and one of the GoT doors in the Duke of York ‘Dark Horse’ pub in the Cathedral Quarter.
Of course, they were hewn out of the fallen trees that we know better as The Dark Hedges.
The exhibition offers you the chance to visualise the lands of Westeros, see the majestic costumes of the Thrones characters up close and personal and get a real sense of how regal Cersei is and how short Tyrion is.
You’ll get the chance to wield swords, dress up, hang from a rope, and play dead. What’s not to love?
I’ll also bring you my review of Belfast’s Fitzgerald Hotel and some Game of Thrones tomfoolery between trying to finish off seasons 1-7.
THIS ONE WILL RUN AND RUN
And he’s off… the Son and Heir found his feet in Bulgaria when we took him on a family holiday back in 1997, lured by the offer of free flights for under-2s.
Unfortunately the newly liberated post-Communist Bulgarians were still playing catch-up which meant no high-chairs when we sat for dinner and us running around trying to get him as he proceeded to run up corridors and onto busy pavements.
Still Bulgaria was tremendous value and a family we met that September had saved so much on their Spring holiday there that they were able to come back in the Autumn.
TUI offers seven nights self-catering from 279 euro pps, staying at the 3* Aparthotel Rose Village, Sunny Beach. Visit http://www.tuiholidays.ie or call 1850 45 35 45.
If you are up in Belfast for the GoT Exhibition and bump into the Son and Heir don’t be surprised if he’s distracted. No, not because of his impending assignment for his university Masters course, but because of the stresses of being a Liverpool fan at this time.
Back when he was just a bump I went for an interview in Bournemouth and one in Liverpool… I got the latter. If I’d been offered the former then he would have been born a Bournemouth fan, and his life would have been a whole lot easier. It IS the hope that kills you.
Bournemouth, on England’s south coast, is the English Riviera and beach huts can sell for as much as £250,000. Nearby Sandbanks where many a football legend, such as Graeme Souness and Harry Redknapp live, is the world’s most expensive coastal real estate.
So worth a mini-break to the beach then.
Ryanair’s cheapest one-way flight is 9.99 euro to Bournemouth., 12.99 euro one-way to Liverpool, rising for a bunch of other well-priced flights both to the UK and the continent. Visit http://www.ryanair.com.
IMAGINE… LENNON AND PRAGUE
And continuing on the theme, another famous son of Liverpool… John Lennon.
Lennon became something of a hero for the citizens of Prague during the Communist suppression and they used to congregate at the Lennon wall in the city where they would imagine what life would be like if they were allowed a voice.
Of course that day came with the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
Prague, for all its reputation as a stag and hen destination, is alive with culture and, yes, lager.
The Astronomical Clock is the most popular tourist spot in the city but I prefer the Franz Kafka Museum and the swivelling statues who pee on a map of the Czech Republic, a poke at what politicians have done and continue to do to the country.
Click&Go offers a three-night Prague City break from 199pps B&B, based on two sharing, in June, staying at the 3* Charles Central Hotel. Visit http://www.clickandgo.com.
And watch out for my review of Prague and the Spa Triangle where I drink from the well of youth… and lager.
For those of you with tickets to see Stevie Wonder at the 3Arena on July 9 I officially hate you all (as does Daddy’s Little Girl for not taking her!)
Motown may be 60 this year but its appeal endures, not least because of the success of The Motown Story musical but also because young people, DLG especially, get it.
Of course, Berry Gordy’s stable of stars, Stevie, Diana Ross, Martha Reeves, of Martha and the Vandellas, and Motown fans such as Paul McCartney all do so much to promote the world’s most famous music factory.
Of course all workplaces run on fuel and the fuel for Stevie was Baby Ruth peanut butter candy bars. His fellow stars would leave a bunch of dimes on top of the candy machine to help Stevie and he would scan the buttons knowing exactly which row and which number to press. Find out more at the Motown Museum http://www.motownmuseum.org.
If that’s given you food for thought then Detroit, home of Motown, has much, much, more. The Mo of course is an abbreviation of Motor and Henry Ford, the original Motorman, and descendant of Cork folk bestrides Detroit and Michigan.
You cannot go to Michigan and not visit The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation http://www.thehenryford.org in Dearborn where you can see the car in which John F Kennedy was shot and the bus where Detroit’s most famous schoolgirl Rosa Parks made her stand by refusing to give up her seat.
Michigan is part of the greater tourist region The Great Lakes, one of America’s great natural treasures. Pennysylvania and New York also skirt the lakes but they aren’t in this region, and anyway they have their own separate charms which I will highlight elsewhere.
So we’ll give Minnesota where Aer Lingus http://www.aerlingus.com will be flying direct into Minneapolis-St Paul this summer, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin a shout-out here particularly as The Great Lakes team http://www.greatlakesusa.co.uk wined and dined us last night at the Morrison Hotel, Dublin.
Yes, you can get your extra fix of Game of Thrones up north – and we have, or rather The Scary One dragged me up to Belfast, though I needed little persuasion – but you can do the GoT thing too… and soak up the sun in Dubrovnik.
Who can forget the Walk of Atonement, certainly not Cerse? The Apartments Matusko are just a 15-minute drive from The Jesuit Staircase.
Budget Travel http://www.budgettravel.ie/(01) 435 0024 has a five-night June Bank Holiday deal from 339 euro pp with flights and accommodation.
Dubrovnik’s West Harbour is stunning, yes, but to GoT fans it is much, much more than that as it is where Stannis’s fleet approached King Landing ahead of the Battle of Blackwater. Stay for five nights at the 4-star Villa Avantgarde. Depart June 2, prices from 409 euro pp.
Right, you’ll have to help me here as I’m still working my way through the box set (who am I kidding, the football’s on, but I will?) but you can visit Gradac Park, the set of the ‘Purple Wedding’ and be reminded of Joffrey’s death.
The Apartments Dubelj are just 15 minutes away. Depart May 30. Prices from 579 euro pp.
Twenty-five years after breaking the chains of Apartheid, South Africans go to the polls next month. But what would Nelson Mandela make of his country now? I go to his home region, the Eastern Cape to find out.
Surround yourself with art, it lifts the spirits. I know I do and have Van Goghs hanging on the wall around me in my home office as I write. Not originals… give me time, Jim Murty’s TravelTravelTravel is only just launched after all.
Art should never be seen as the preserve of the hoity-toity, Vincent saw that everyday folk are as glorious as any saint or king, while Rembrandt rewrote the rules on portrait art, and Breughel the Younger pricked society’s pomposity.
Amsterdam is a rich canvas, great art, culture, food, cycling, canals… and of course the humbling memorial to a young girl who dreamt of becoming a journalist and whose life was cut short by the Nazis, but whose legacy has gone onto inspire the generations of dreamers and writers who have followed.
In this week when the shining light that was Lyra McKee was dimmed (I refuse to credit the coward who killed her by saying it was put out) it is worth highlighting what an inclusive and fun city Derry really is. And nobody does fun quite like Tom Sweeney. Read his unmissable blog and thoughts on Derry. tomsweeneytravels.blogspot.com.
And, of course, my review of Amsterdam, where I’ll introduce readers to my one and only Scary One!