Countries, Europe, Flying, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – Pigeons and high-fliers

Not everything is grounded just now and the clearer skies have been a Godsend to pigeons and their fanciers.

Pigeon fancying sounds like it should be the preserve of old men in anoraks.

But try saying that to sporting hard men Mike Tyson and Duncan Ferguson.

Which one is yours?

Iron Mike, the self-styled ‘baddest man on the planet’ is even said to have thrown his first punch at 10 after a thug ripped the head off his pigeon.

Struggling for sports to report on during lockdown…

Britain’s award-winning radio station talkSPORT has been turning its attention to the Sport of Wings.

And educating us in the ways of birds – it transpires that pigeon-fancying originated in the Lowlands of Belgium.

So that’s where they go

They came in useful during the First World War and In Flanders fields to carry messages.

But had in truth been a sporting pursuit since the mid-19th century and was taken up and developed after the war.

And why do we think that these are perfect circumstances for new pigeon racing records.

Well, it’s said that pigeons find their way back the 100-1,000kms distances through sound.

Spread your wings

And there are fewer distractions in the skies right now.

For more on pigeon fancying (and they are the perfect social distancers) then visit

Now Venice’s St Mark’s Square, Dam Square, Amsterdam, New York’s Washington Square and London’s Trafalgar Square may be renowned for their pigeons.

And here are some thoughts that will make you coo with delight.

Fuel for the journey

In, and,, Pictures of Amsterdam and and The London life.

But if you want to hear some other birdies twittering then try and

Adventure, Asia, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

Big up Japan

Twice the population of the UK, five times the numbers of cities over 200,000 and more people by square metre… but Japan is free of COVID-19.

Britain’s rates meanwhile have hit 40,000 (and climbing), although they have rolled out a ‘game changer’ new track and trace system which has been beset by technological problems on its first day.

So where are we in Travel? Well our providers are only trying to batter down Home Secretary Priti Patel’s door to get her to fall in line with the rest of Europe and bin the 14-day quarantine rules for travellers.

Fabulous Fuji

But back to Japan.

And before all this COVID business broke out they were only planning for the Olympics which will now take place next year while eggchasers are waiting anxiously to see whether they have a game to go back to.

Rugby is scrumthing else in Japan

They have to work out how to scrum, maul and ruck at a social distance.

The great modern inventors, the Japanese, will probably work it out and you can rely on them too to have all the infrastructure and planning sorted out for the Rugby World Cup on their soil in 2023.

Reflections on pagodas. Photo by DSD on

All of which plodding around the subject like a sumo wrestler brings me onto our holiday providers’ plans for 2021.

Which brings me to my friends at Wendy Wu who are flagging up their 13-day fully-inclusive Classic Group Tour from £5390pp.

It’s all part of their Worldwide Sale 2021 with a saving of £500pp on tour.

Wok this way. Photo by Vital1na on

Which includes an ascent up Mount Fuji as the high point (sorry) of a cultural trawl across the Land of the Rising Sun.

Tokyo highs

You’ll also get to see Matsumoto Castle and Kyoto’s Shrines… and Tokyo, one of the world’s great cities, of course.

And you’ll get the chance to learn some authentic Japanese skills. They don’t say anything about sumo wrestling but what about Washi paper making, Miso seasoning and best of all Gold Leaf making.

Spelling it out, the natural beauty of Tokyo. Photo by Evgeny Tchebotarev on

The dates fall between late September 2021 and the end of that year so things will be back to ‘the new normal’ by then which has to be better than ‘the new normal’ that we have just now.

Visit and

And we love Japan for many things, not least its eccentricities. So check this out. Cocktail Hour around the world, Countdown to Japan: Monkeys, Teddy Bears’ window to the world and How the seasons pass.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, UK

Keep’em Cummings – Barnard and other castles

What’s a Cummings in golf parlance? A long drive out of bounds.

All joking aside, Dominic Cummings’ controversial 60 miles round trip is probably not how Barnard Castle would want to promote itself.

But then it’s often said all publicity is good publicity.

The truth is that the north of England is well worth a road trip (when it’s allowed).

And here are some others the self-isolating Cummings might fancy:

Wham bam

Open the drawbridge

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland A beautiful backdrop I think you’d agree but it’s really what’s inside that will grab your attention.

Innovator William Armstrong was known as The Magician of the North.

And you can explore his life, and aviation and military artefacts from the world wars.

As well as unravelling the clues to Spike the Dragon’s Trail or become a Bamburgh knight… a little boy’s dream…

Distance: 69 miles.

Every Englishman’s home

Living history

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland: And here are some open-air events that Dom and his family might fancy taking in in his next trip up to nearby Durham.

Rocketman Outdoor Cinema is slated for August 29 and Disney The Lion King Outdoor Cinema on August 30.

If he and the rest of us are allowed. Visit

Distance: 55 miles.

On your doorstep


Brancepath Castle, Co. Durham And this one is only 5 miles from the university city so not too much strain on Dom’s eyes here.

Now every kid, and big kid, loves a dungeon and Brancepath, a medieval castle turned family home, delivers.

Their tours normally run April-December but are suspended for just now.

Although Dom may have a lot of time on his hands soon and December is a long way off. See

Distance: 5 miles

Roll out of bed

All the students have gone for now

Durham Castle Museum, Co. Durham: And Dom can just roll out of bed.

Or seeing he has billed the family cottage as a glorified shed, his haystack.

The Castle Tours are on hold just now but Dom ploughs his own furrow anyway. Visit

Distance: None.

And last but not least

Fancy a stroll?

Barnard Castle: Barnard Castle and derives its name from Bernard de Balliol from the 12th century.

And it was developed by the Beauchamps before passing into the hands of Richard III.

The big drawing points are Richard’s boar head emblem and the sensory gardens.

Known locally as ‘Barney’ maybe Dom’s boy thought he was being taken to see everyone’s dinosaur.

Now talking about extinct creatures, maybe one for the museum soon.. Domisaurus anyone?

Distance: We all know by now.

And if you like your castles then why not check out my series King of the castle: EdinburghThe other Lourdes… a castle, eagle and fishCastles of the world – Czech ’em out Disney’s castle and Germany.

Adventure, Culture, Deals, Ireland, UK

Covid-day Snaps – Good news from Ireland

And as no new deaths are reported overnight in Ireland further good news with our Travel industry starting up again.

It will come as little surprise to Hibernophiles (people who love Ireland) that Connacht is to the fore.

Well, as the old traditional song goes The West’s Awake!

Let there be fire

The West has a special place in my affections as it was here that I spent my first holidays cut from my Mum’s apron strings.

As I holidayed with my Dublin cousins in Salthill, Co. Galway.

I don’t think it was entirely altruistic as my parents did get a chance to globetrot.

Still as an early teenager I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

The Wild Atlantic

Picture postcard

I dipped my toe in Spidal (quite literally) with my Uncle and cousins avid swimmers.

And I did the same on the dating scene where again I was left hopelessly out of my depth.

We went over the county border too to Co. Mayo and the Marian site of Knock which surely left a mark.

As I have ticked off Lourdes The Lourdes prayer, Fatima Secret Portugaland Medjugorje What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know since.

All of which meanderings brings me back to Hotel Westport’s plans for the revived summer season.

Estate of the nation

Fill up my bowl

Westport Estate stretches to 400 acres – plenty of room for social distancing there. And it is also at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way

And it is overlooked by St Patrick’s mountain Croagh Patrick.Which that very same Mum never tired of telling us she walked up barefooted and without a good breakfast when she was pregnant.

I let her off because it was my brother she had on board.

Westport is an ideal set-up to showcase what I believe will be a new direction in how we take our holidays… slow travel.

Carry on camping

Round the campfire

Take their Family Bush Camp which will give families the chance to reconnect with nature through bush crafting and survival activities.

Packages start at €79 pps for Bed & Breakfast  and bookings can be secured at

The upside of our clamour for more space in our post-lockdown holiday is that we will reacquaint ourselves with all those great country houses.

Where families can run around the corridors to their hearts’ content.

Westport House is an 18th-century manor house also on Westport Estate and just a stone’s throw away from the hotel.

Visitors can stroll through the grounds and enjoy the gardens and take in the 3.5k looped Lakeland and woodland walk.

House about that?

Caravan of love

The house itself is open to day-visitors and they will be able to immerse themselves in 300 years of Irish heritage.

Camping and caravan breaks will be in vogue when we all get out on the road again. And you can take advantage too in the onsite 3* park on the Westport House Estate? Visit

For those for whom gastronomy is central to their holiday experience. And the Irish food experience is rightly celebrated around the world then here’s some more good news.

The owner and head chef of Cian’s on Bridge Street, Cian Hayes, will be opening a pop-up restaurant experience in Hotel Westport this summer.

If you have been keen to stretch your legs, and you will be fitter than you think with all those laps around your neighbourhood.Then you will be eager to get out on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Ride on!

Can I cycle for ever?

And for cyclists then Clew Bay Bike Hire have a fleet of two-wheelers with your name on them.

Guests at Hotel Westport can truly experience the wild Atlantic west by hiring bikes on site.And then cycling an exclusive and accessible 10km loop through the estate, the harbour, and the town.

And if you’re feeling ambitious, why not take on the breathtaking Great Western Greenway?

And meanwhile in the Disunited Kingdom

I’ll let the pictures from Bank Holiday Weekend in the United Kingdom.Where England has different rules to lockdown than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland speak for themselves.

Southend, England
Aberdeen, Scotland
Portrush, Northern Ireland

And I love all parts of this Disunited Kingdom so when the time is right, and be patient.

See,,, and

Countries, Cruising, Europe, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – bowling all over the world

The Ancient Greeks and Romans did it and Sir Francis Drake kept the Spanish Armada waiting until he’d finished his game.

And now those of us in Scotland, where it was turned into a modern sport, will be able to get out and roll some bowls again.

Was it an unprecedented restriction on liberties? No, we’ve been here before.

Drake’s game

Our Medieval predecessors who had less choice of pastimes loved a good oul’ bowl.

But monarchs from Edward I to Henry VIII. banned the sport of lawns – possibly because it got in the way of archery practice.

Keep ‘em rolling

Now I picked up boules long before I even rolled grown-up bowls.

A summer in Menorca in the Balearic Islands with Uwe, a German boy, on my last holiday with my parents.

Neither of us knew a word of English but Uwe being a German knew that he had to win at all costs.

Nein! Uwe was delightful company and i had found my friend for my holiday.

Beach life will be different for a while in Menorca and other sunspots with parents and children asked to adapt.

Island in the sun: Menorca

But as a wee Scots boy and a German Junge prove you only need a set of boules… or mobile phones!

For more on the Balearic Islands visit And its biggest island Majorca on a cruise

Of course while us Scottish people will roll our bowls in a genteel fashion our continental neighbours will pitch theirs.

Visit any small town in France and Spain and you will see a group of chain-smoking men huddled around their boules.

For me it is quintessential Basque Country

Water life: Biarritz

I dipped my toe in the French side of Basqueland on a thalassotherapy and cultural trip to Biarritz and Water way to go in Biarritz.

While my earliest holiday memories, even before Uwe and Menorca were in family-friendly Santander.

I’m noticing that the Scottish Bowls Championships still look to be on from Sunday, July 26-Saturday, August 1 in Ayr.

So, if I practise hard enough here in North Berwick, the Biarritz of the North and

Although as the Scary One will be quick to remind me I am not the bowler in my family.

Full with child (the Son and Heir) she took me down on the lawns of Blackpool in the north-west of England.

Culture, Europe, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – masked fans

Sports supporters have long had a gallows sense of humour and it’s hardly surprising the Covid-19 crisis has thrown up the masked fan.

Enterprising businessmen and clubs have been busy marketing masks with their team’s crests and colours.

And they have been snapped up by fans who are never left wanting when it comes to the latest merchandise.

The Belgians have been leading the way.

In Brussels Molenbeek have face masks going with club logos which reportedly fetch €7 a piece.

And champions Club Brugge, Liege’s Standard and Ghent’s KAA have been weighing into the initiative.

With charity a major beneficiary.

Wear your own colours: In Belgium

Which isn’t surprising as the Belgians remain one of the most empathetic nations in the world.

On account of their challenging history… In Flanders fields and

The craze has caught on too in the UK with some of the less fashionable clubs to the fore.

So a shout-out to Bournemouth, Dundee United and Dumfermline.

Ja beauty

Yellow peril: Borussia Dortmund.

The Germans are kicking off again today with the eyes of Europe taking a greater than usual interest in the live afternoon game Borussia Dortmund v Schalke.

Dortmund fans are renowned for their passionate support.

But alas their ‘Yellow Wall’ of fans at the Westfalenstadion will be bare as the game will be played behind closed doors.

If I need to pick a side it would be Dortmund because if the small gesture from a visiting Borussia reporter.

Who handed out small crested Borussia pins to the Press Box for a European match at Celtic Park.

If it was a subtle way of getting the Glaswegians on their side and subconsciously reducing Celtic’s chances it failed… the Scots won.

Schalke though have their passionate fans too, none more vociferous than Greta who almost converted me.

On a boat cruise down the River Elbe in Dresden Dresden’s renaissance and Dresden too have their storied club Dynamo.

For more on the Bundesliga and Germany

Gone fishing

You’ll need a bigger boat

I hope you’re staying alert on the court and the golf course now that Boris Johnson is allowing the English to get out there playing.

If you’re in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you’ll have to keep your clubs and racquets in the shed for now.

But we can all get our fishing rods out.

On our first summer holiday, to the Algarve, myself and The Scary One went out with a local boatman for a spot of fishing.

No sooner had we dangled our lines in, and I’d caught a tiddler, than we had to head back.

She only needed a toilet break! It was either that or searching out the nearest island… Madeira!

Portugal, as I’ve been keeping you informed, is ahead of the curve and ready to welcome us all back… if we’re healthy.

They’re encouraging watersports, with safe distancing so that’s surfing and angling then.

Which you’ll find in Portugal Centro Secret Portugal and

While when everything is normal again in Quinta do Lago then you’ll be able to hone your golf skills.

At the Paul McGinley Golf Academy and


Adventure, Asia, Countries, Culture, Uncategorized

G – I miss my Jordan pals

Zuhair Zuriqat is quite a mouthful of a name for a Western audience.

But our Jordanian G Adventures guide made it light-hearted for us.

By telling us we’d remember it by thinking of an animal sanctuary and what’s on the top of our head.

Sophie’s choice companion

It’s been a year this week since I first met and last hugged Zuhair.

And Jerry and Hannah, Beatrice and Banni, Sophie, Rick and Harry.

The memories are never far away The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

But they were heightened yesterday when founder Bruce Poon Tip caught up with us by video call.

And told us why we’ll all be reunited soon.

It’s all about the group

Hannah Mirabilis: With Hannah in Wadi Rum

Because it is in our human make-up to come up with the technological solutions.

And adapt to our changing circumstances.

And because the desire is there to connect again with each other and the destination.

Most importantly though it’s the communities we form and meet when we travel.

Beatrice, a boatie and a beardie

G Adventures puts the group dynamic at the heart of much of what it does (although they now have an independent traveller arm too).

And I was encouraged to share a room like the others when I travelled to Amman last year.

I got into the bedroom early in the morning and was met with a bare bum hanging out of a duvet, the bum belonging to Aussie Harry.

And the camels are the friendliest locals of all

We came face to face a couple of hours later when the phone went and I handed it to him… it was a wrong number.

High jinks

It set the tone for the trip from the Dead through to the Red Sea with stop-offs in Petra and Wadi Rum.

West Indian Jerry joked that there was no point in him blacking up with the mud in the Dead Sea as he browned me up.

Jim and Jerry

Wadi Rum in the desert was where one of our number who will remain nameless emerged from our canvas-thin tents.

To complain about the snoring the night before.

Zuhair the hero

What’s your headwear of choice?

One I will own up to was my flirtation with snorkelling.

When the group could barely hide their anticipation about swimming through the coral to see a sunken tank and aeroplane.

I was in and out quicker than you could say Zuhair Zuriquat… my bushy top lip was stopping the air from getting to my nostrils.

G – I wish I could be back there in Jordan

Bruce almighty

And for the best take on how Travel will move forward…

Read Bruce’s e-book Unlearn: The Year the Workd Stood Still on Apple Books or Kobo in Canada.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine

Czechpint Jimmy

BYOB – Bring Your Own Budvar and beer expert Joshua will show you how.

You’ll forgive me for joining you late today as I’ve been sleeping off my Budvar hangover – firstly in front of the TV and then in my scratcher.

The answer on how to pour is to turn your bottle upside down, pour it into a glass and leave three fingers depth of head.

I got my beerface on: My Czech night at home

And don’t drink out of a bottle. It won’t employ all of your senses, and besides it doesn’t feel very hygienic, particularly now.

Three fingers then… I took Joshua at his word and poured and drank three bottles of Czech finest.

Which must have oiled my rusty brain cells because I only won a spot prize in the quiz.

The real opera… La Boheme in Prague

The whole point of the evening which also involved a DJ set was to promote the Czech Republic and learn more about this fantastic country.

And bring us up to speed with when we can all get out to the Czech Republic

Beer o’clock: In Zatec

Which is now if you have been cleared through testing of the Coronavirus.

I held back of course from telling those on the ZOOM chat that I have already been out there this year.

To ‘Hoptown’ Zatec, Teplice spa, the Bohemian Switzerland park which doubles as Narnia and to see David Cerny’s climbing babies, a World War II bunker, and the opera in Prague.

Roll out the barrel: In Zatec

You see if I had boasted about my good fortune in front of this party I might very well have ended up with Michael, our host, punching me.

Through the screen from his home backdrop of the State Opera House.

Now the Czechs who have been at the crossroads of the major powers at the centre of Europe know all about resilience in adversity.


Where’s Aslan? Narnia in Bohemian Switzerland which is in the Czech Republuc

But there’s one thing that has always remained a constant and a release during troubled times, their beer.

They are rightly proud that they drink more beer per head of population than any other country in the world.

The Zatec Astronomical Clock

While in Zatic in February I was already making plans to get back out one day for their Hop Festival.

Where among the competitions is ‘biggest belly.’

I’ll need to get into practice.

No, not beer this time but their restorative spring water

And now for something to whet your appetite… Hungry and Thursday – Czech please,  Bye, bye baby – Cerny’s Prague Give us this Day – the stars of Prague Hotel Beethoven – Fur Elise

And Hope springs eternal.

America, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Sport

COVID-day Snaps… Florida Keys for social distancing

In a spin on an old favourite Holiday Snaps here’s Covid-day Snaps with fresh news of the Travel industry getting back on its feet…

Keys to the door

Open spaces… in the Keys

And what’s missing? Yes, your favourite Bandanaman at the front of the shot.

I was bound for the Keys the weekend Donald Trump shut the country down.

So what’s this?

The newly opened Sunshine Tiny House Village at 3801 Overseas Highway near Bahia Honda State Park is just 30 miles from Key West.

And it features five colourful houses at $250 (around £191) per night plus tax.

The 399-site Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina which houses two-six features a full-service marina, a recreation centre.

And a stepladder access to an open-water swimming area from a sunset pier.

For more information on the Florida Keys & West, visit

And when you’re in Florida why not take in the great cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami… 

Port in a storm


And it was me next

My body has never been the same since Dinah got hold of it… my Scary One would say she’s welcome to it.

Let her get hold of you too with her yoga (torture) classes on Fridays via Instagram Live from The Campus at Quinta do Lago @thecampusqdl.

Well, if it’s good enough for Rio Ferdinand and the Irish rugby team.

Dinah did stretch my soul’ limbs for those roundhouse volleys and spins when I met up with on-site tennis (and dancing) coach Judy Murray… SPORTUGAL.  Also see

Cruising again


Let’s get back out there

Why should the fish and the whales have the seas all to themselves? There, I’ve said it.

If you’ve been missing the big ships on your coast (and, yes, I know we don’t all live on an island) then you’ll be glad to know that our cruise friends have been busy planning for the day they can get back out on the water.

Our friends at Princess Cruises have embarked on a £300m product innovation and cruise ship renovation campaign which puts the guest at its heart. As ever.

They are offering us award-winning chef Curtis Stone, Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz and family fun from Discovery and Animal Planet.

Best of all they are offering reduced fares from €584pp on more than 800 voyages departing from December-May 2022 as part of the Princess Sale with seven-night sailings available from €584pp. Open for booking from May 1-June 30, 2020.

Among the sample voyages are:

*A 7-night Scandinavia cruise on Grand Princess, departing November 15, 2021. Sailing round-trip from Southampton, calling in Oslo, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Kristiansand. Prices from €749pp.

And I’ve had a zip around Norway The call of the fjords and want more of Scandinavia.


Wear it on my lapel: My Medallion

*A 7-night western Caribbean cruise on Caribbean Princess,, departing February 7, 2021. Sailing round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, calling at Princess Cays, Falmouth, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Prices from @584pp. And again I got a whiff with I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here and want more.

Now I’ve still got my Medallion magic key Cruiseday Tuesday… The Princess’s Medallion Man from my visit to Dublin Port, so I’m ready to go.

And with all this social distancing argument going on, maybe the sea is the way to go. I’ll try to unpick what’s going on in the air in Flyday Friday. But meanwhile…


Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture

Rainy Days and Songdays – the Rhythm of South Africa

And I swear this happened…

There I was tapping my two index fingers on the table with All-4-One’s Alfred Nevarez on my first night in Port Elizabeth in South Africa.

Who knew that PE, as the locals call it, is an entertainment hub for international R&B acts?

Californian Alfred, or Alfza as his pals or lagered-up Scotsmen call him, was in fine form after bringing the house down in the hospitality suite with the band.

African adventures: With Mark, Isabel Conway and Rachel Lewis

And we, that’s me and esteemed and steamed Travel professional Mark Evans, had him telling us all about life on the road.

With the Grammy-winning band and the power of music.

Rhythm & Blues

A window onto Port Elizabeth

None of which I could possibly share, of course.

Because I was too far gone to remember any of it, and isn’t that always the way.

Truth is that it was great to get out back and sit by the fountain in the balmy weather.

And just spitball and talk about music we love.

Toto rubbish

African nights: In PE

With not one of us flagging the song ‘Africa’ by Toto.

Too obvious. Well, not to the Port Elizabeth hotel we were staying in who blared out the song morning, noon and night.

It didn’t take a lot to get me away from you, Toto.

But Alfred, I could have stayed longer than the two memorable hours we spent at the tip of Africa, just listening to your melodious and chilled tones.

And here’s a reminder of what All-4-One sound like…

They know South Africa

Mandela’s Eastern Cape: With my pal Siseko

Port Elizabeth and South Africa’s Eastern Cape were everything I expected and more.

And as revealing and beautiful the country was it was the locals who really stole my heart…

*Which songs remind you of a special place and memorable holiday? Let me know and we’ll share.

A footnote here on All-4-One and Toto.

The R&B boys as you can see still tour, more than 20 years after they formed, are critically lauded and have also been part of the well-received ‘I Love the 90s’ nostalgia rush.

A little local knowledge

I’m One of the locals now: In PE

While keyboardist David Paich who wrote the song had never even been to Africa when he wrote the song.

Which you could probably have worked out from his mixing of his metaphors in the line:

‘As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serangetti’. Oh, heck, you make up your own mind…

And that’s something you could never level against Alfred and the boys from All-4-One.

*Which songs remind you of a special place and memorable holiday? Let me know and we’ll share.