Breaking news… meet the new Scotland boss. From Big Eck tae Auld Wreck.
Danny McElhinney was the prize guy again at the French Travel Media awards at Medley, Fleet Street, Dublin, with the best City Break feature (Paris, My First Love).
And your roving (or should that be raving?) reporter was there to join in the celebrations as he was two years ago when Murty won the blue -riband gong, the Travel Destination Feature, for Le Boat D’Azur and Danny also picked up an award.
In a fantastic night for the oul’ Travel section which I edited for four years Catherine Murphy was short-listed for Waving The Flag for the Sports Feature and Eddie Coffey took that prize for Ici Ryder, both of which I commissioned.
Big shout-out to Anne Pedersen, Marine Teste and all the charmants (is that the right plural, he says thumbing through his schoolboy French notes?) representatives from https://www.france.fr.
And the formidable Niamh Waters of https://www.travelmedia.ie for organising the whole shooting match. She’d never say it but I imagine she was glad to get shot of us by the end of the night.
France remains the No.1 most visited country in the world and like a good oul’ French market place they displayed their wares for us all to see.
So, without any further ado, un, deux,, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept (ah, it’s all coming back to moi). Here are the regions who flew the flag last night.
Don’t call it Grande Bretagne… it’s too close to the bone and too soon, and I was too clumsy, so we just reverted to Brittany for the purposes of the fact-finding mission.
It’s all about slow tourism, so this slow tourist was taken by the glamping… you can forget about all those poles and hooks, merci bien. Southern Brittany offers four wooden tree houses overlooking the Villaine Valley, available from February to September. Visit https://www.brittanytourism.com
NICE COTE D’AZUR
We all know this region of France for its ‘beautiful people’ although it’s also a favourite destination for school leavers on their first big foreign blow-out trip.
I’m thinking that after 37 years I might be allowed back in Frejus /St Raphael by the gendarmes.
The had given us a chasing for holding up the traffic with a wave of our hands back in 1982 (a la Danny McLaren in Mountains of Mourne).
I’d be more cultured now and take in the Victorine Movies Studios which turns 100 this year and boasts a who’s who of the film industry including Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Lauren Bacall and, of course, their adopted princess, Grace Kelly.
And then you can also pay tribute to Pierre-Auguste Renoir who died 100 years ago in Cagnes-sur-Mer. He made quite an impression. Visit https://www.nicetourisme.com.
Yes, Normandy and the D-Day Landings will be the focus this year with the 75th anniversary of the Allies’ liberation of France to be marked on June 6, and it will be particularly poignant, and still poignant after the showpiece memorial (avoid the crowds and go after June 6).
But it is worth remembering too that most of the soldiers were young men with the same unquenchable thirst for life that all young men across all the ages have.
Even more so as they were looking into the face of death.
So dwell a while on that when you’re sipping the famous Normandy cider in one of the villages, just as the soldiers did back in 1944. http://www.normandy-tourism.org.
Imagine driving round and round in circles for 24 hours… it just feels like going round Dublin’s one-way system.
The fact is that France does do 24-hour races, as we all know, and very well. This year you can see Matt Damon and Christian Bale, whoo-whoo, on the big screen in Ford v Ferrari, the true story of their battle to win the famous race. Vroom, vroom.
Also take in the ever-expanding Machines de l’ole in Nantes, with its giant elephant, robotic spider, carousel of sea creates and a 120-kilo sloth suspended from a branch. The kids will lllllllove this! Visit https://www.atlantic-loire-valley.com
How many fish are there in the sea? OK too big a number. How many then in that big tank? Sorry, you didn’t come to this blog to work this hard., but there are 22,000 new ones since we last counted.
We are talking big numbers at Nausicaa. Europe’s largest aquarium has been drawing in similarly huge numbers of visitors. One million, our delegate boasted.
World Oceans Day is on June 8. Lille airport is 50kms from Boulogne-sur-Mer. Visit https://www.nausicaa.co.uk.
The answer to our prayers.
The new flight route from Dublin to Lourdes, that is. Ryanair will fly from Dublin to Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees from April-October.
So that fits in with the candlelight procession at the Sanctuary Notre-Dame de Lourdes from April 7-October 27.
Of course the Irish know their way to a Marian site, all right, and every years 2000 of us come together for the pilgrimage organised by the Diocese of Dublin. http://www.lourdes-infotourisme.com.
There is plenty to do too outside Lourdes with the Pyrenees on your doorstep, while this year will see the 34th Summer Festival of Gavarnie take place.
Gavarnie, you ask… well you’ll get to see an outdoor performance of Don Quixote. All of which, and going off on a tangent as I will do from time to time, brings me back to a mule which came with a B&B we stayed in in the West of Ireland.
I never did find out his name but he was always Donkey Oatie to Me.
And with that, it’s Amen from me for the night!
Buildings are more than sheer bricks and mortar, they are touchstones where we connect with our surroundings and each other.
And dedicate ourselves to higher things. And that is why we are so deeply affected when a beloved monument such as the Notre-Dame erupts in flames.
A mainstay of Paris life for a thousand years in its various guises, it has been at the heart of all of the pivotal moments in French history, revolution, the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of France, the funerals of several presidents and the triumphant singing of the Magnificat to celebrate the Liberation of Paris in 1944.
But it is perhaps best known as the backdrop for the heart-rending tale of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
This Parisian institution is indeed the stuff of romance and a higher purpose.
Hallowed be thy name!
TO THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD
Five churches that lift us higher… and higher.
St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican:
The largest church in the world, and reputed to be the burial site of St Peter, the Rock on which Christ built his church, and the first Pope, it’s grand all right.
But you can find solace in the small chapels inside and confess your sins in the old-fashioned way, and in your chosen language (look for the flag signs) in one of the confessional boxes along the aisles.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain.
The reputed burial place of St James the Great… having one of Christ’s apostles buried in your church certainly does give you kudos.
The holy of the holies for peregrinos who have trudged their way along the Camino.
The Pilgrims’ Mass where the red-cloaked clerics, or Tiraboleiros, swing the Botafumeiro incense-burner which is lowered down on a rope from a roof is a sight to behold.
Best stay in your pews though in case you want to be clocked by it though.
The Cathedral, alas, is closed for renovation work until next January.
For the best Camino experience, visit http://www.caminoways.com.
Westminster Abbey, London:
They’ve been crowning kings and queens here since William the Conqueror in 1066, and it’s probably felt that long in the waiting for Prince Charles too.
It’s also the final resting place for many a monarch, eight prime ministers, Thomas Parr who died, aged 152 and saw ten sovereigns on the throne, the Unknown Soldier, and the great and good of British life. Its Poets Corner houses, if that’s the correct word, Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, Edmund Spenser and has memorials to Shakespeare and Byron too.
But it’s not all pomp and ceremony, one of history’s greatest campaigners, William Wilberforce, who championed the end of slavery in the British Empire is honoured too. A real who’s who of British history.
Frauenkirche, Dresden, Germany:
The beauty of this church is that it has been rebuilt in exact detail in just eleven years after being destroyed in the Dresden firebombing of the Second World War and being left in ruins throughout the entire Communist occupation.
In an act of redemption, the son of one of the bombers made an orb for the roof to honour those who his father killed, an act that had filled him with remorse all his life. Martin Luther, whose statue guards the church, would be proud of the diligence and reverence of his fellow Saxons.
Whitefriars Street Carmelite Church, Dublin
OK, a homer here.
And no, it’s not St Patrick’s Cathedral, as much as I love it with its splendour and its 800 years of history and Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels (it would have sold more if it had been Gulliver’s TravelsTravelsTravels) who was Dean there.
No, it’s Whitefriars where St Valentine’s bones are buried which we all fell in love with.
Of course, you know it already, but it’s worth the retelling that we owe it all to Irish priest Fr John Pratt who persuaded Pope Gregory XVI to dig up St Val’s bones and take them home as a gift for his compatriots.
Don’t be too hard on Fr John, Hallmark wasn’t around then, nor all-night garages,
…and with you soon… reviews of Paris with ma famille, Rome (and a special pilgrimage), losing my way on the Camino, London calling, and a rare oul’ time in Dublin… and much, much more.
Tell us what you think. And Meet You On The Road.
MY SHORT ROAD TO FREEDOM: SOUTH AFRICA
In the shadow of the Great Man. With Siseko in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. And look out for my review of the Eastern Cape coming soon on this blog.
MURT AND MART
You know you’ll always get 100%, Gaffer!
WOAAH, I’VE GONE TO BARBADOS
Dee-Dee and Me-Me at Crop Over! And isn’t it about time to reprieve my Barbados adventures. I’ll post up my reviews of Barbados soon in lieu of having to pull out of a planned trip there around about now. I’m not bitter. Now where’s that rum!!!
I belong to Glasgow
Dear Old Glasgow toon
And there’s nothing the matter with Glasgow
Even if you’re ball ain’t roon,
Murty’s take on the auld Glasgow music hall song.
Growing up just a Johnny Sexton (or back then more a Mike Gibson) kick over the stream (or burn, as we call them in Scotland) to the Glasgow High playing fields I would often jump over into the grounds and practise kicking over the posts.
No, I didn’t become the next Andy Irvine (I am Scottish after all), but I did go onto play at school, report on the game, and become a lifelong fan.
For 51 weeks a year the oval ball game plays second fiddle to football in Glasgow but on May 25 it will have to share centre stage when Celtic Park will host the Pro 14 Final, Celtic will be contesting the Scottish Cup final with Hearts the same day at Hampden Park.
WHERE TO STAY
I found a standard room for two at the ibis Glasgow City Centre – Sauciehall Street (it’s actually just two minutes from Sauciehall Street on 220 West Regent Street) for two nights from May 24-26 from €320. Visit http://www.booking.com.
WHERE TO EAT
Glasgow’s national dish is not haggis as you might have been told but ‘a cheeky wee Ruby’, no she’s not a good time girl from the Gorbals. A ‘Ruby’ or ‘Ruby Murray’ is Jockney slang for a curry.
And the best place to go for a ‘Ruby’ is the West End. Try the Shish Mahal http://www.shishmahal.co.uk 60-68 Park Road or the Koh-I-Noor http://www.hoh-i-noor-glasgow.com on 235 North Street.
And did you know that the Chicken Tikka Masala was invented in Glasgow when Ali Ahmed Aslam, the owner of the above mentioned Shish Mahal improvised by putting tomato soup and some spices into a chicken curry for a Glasgow bus driver who had complained that the original offering was too dry?
Not to be confused with the Chicken Tikka Mo Salah which has Egyptian spices and is served in Liverpool!
WHERE TO DRINK
The Park Bar, 102 Argyle Street is a popular hang-out for Heelanmen and women, or Highlanders to you and me.
Serving tips: don’t wear ‘colours’, that’s hats and scarves with the colours of your sporting team, greens and blues are particularly divisive on account of the two big soccer teams Celtic and Rangers. A pint of heavy is what we know as a pint of ale or Smithwicks and even if it is pronounced the same they spell whiskey without the e. It tastes just as good though.
The Horse Shoe Bar, 17-19 Drury Street http://www.thehorseshoebarglasgow.co.uk, down an alleyway, or close, near to Glasgow Central Station, is where Rod Stewart goes to drink when he is in town.
Of course the island bar is why it’s called the Horse Shoe Bar. Upstairs you can get a three-course lunch for a fiver… you don’t believe me?
It’s all good wholesome stuff. I’d opt for the soup of the day (tomato is a favourite) followed by the sausage and mash or Scotch pie, chips and beans, while for dessert (get away, it’s called puddin’ in Glasgow) then it’s vanilla ice cream or a caramel apple betty for me.
Slainte, enjoy the rugby if you’re there for that, or if you’re just in Glasgow for other reasons then have a rerr time. Tell me how you get on and we can share. And say hi to my maw!
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton