Adventure, Asia, Countries, Culture

Hello Dubai

And as Paul McCartney put it… I don’t know why you say hello, I say Dubai.

The morning begins as it so often does these days with Zoom meetings with Meet Travel Media bringing the world to all us Travel professionals… and first up was our friends from Dubai.

And Lila who is confident about getting us all back out to the desert dreamland.

They have in fact been open to us all since last summer (it’s just our politicians who are dragging their feet).

We just need a PCR test withing 72 hours of deparature which I’ve done myself when I visited Bergamo last Autumn.

And I can confirm that it really isn’t that much of an inconvenience and is worth it to get away.

Dubai, as across the UAE, is also progressing well with the vaccine so all good.

Expo experience

And there is a lot to look forward to this year in Dubai with the postponed Expo 2020 which will welcome 190 countries (and you and me) from October 1 through to March 31.

We know too from almost 30 years ago when we drove from the Algarve to Seville.

And because of the vagaries of the Spanish road system almost found ourselves in Madrid. But Expos should not be missed.

So where do you stay when you get there?

Just desert?

Camel ye out to the desert

Well, the desert obviously. No better place, looking up to the stars as we did in Jordan with G Adventures.

So carry on glamping where the only noisy neighbours you’ll have are the gazelles, oryxes and camels.

Of course you can combine that with city living if you love to wake up to views of the skyscrapers and the awesome 1,921ft Burj Khalifa.

Floating on air

Dubai high: The RIU Dubai

May we recommend the RIU Dubai, opened in December, with 800 rooms and a splash water park and whether it be Majorca or Florida, we all love fun on the water?

We love an oul’ infinity pool too and Address Beach Resort has that at 694ft 2 ins. And, of course you’ll get the feeling that you’re floating or swimming on air.



Adventure, America, Countries

Rollercoasters, VelociCoaster and Orlando

It’s all been a bit of a rollercoaster, only without the thrills so it’s good to be able to bring some good news…. VelociCoaster.

Now Veloci and I are old friends from California when he was being premiered for VIPs in Hollywood Universal.

Just a nibble

You’ll soar 155ft in the air and be catapulted up to 70mph alongside a pack of Velociraptors.

You’ll find Veloci (and me, God willing) in the Universal Orlando Resort‘s Islands of Adventure theme park from June 10.

What goes up….

Now this puts a new spin on interactive.

And Veloci fans will be able to reacquaint themselves with Owen Grady, Claire Dearing and Dr Henry Wu.

The Veloci pack

The pack, obvs, Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo. Bravo!

Hang on…

There will be rocks, hell yeah, and the watchtower.

The doc will even give you the lowdown on his ‘carnivore expansion’ and Claire will help with reassuring words.

Water thrill

You’ll be sped through the paddock, hug the water.

Heck, over to my old pal Jon from Universal Orlando to describe the rush.

Ride of your life

Get ready to encounter a series of intense manoeuvres along the coaster’s 4,700 feet of track.

All including near misses and a barrel roll right above the Islands of Adventure lagoon, high-speed launches.

Upside down you’re turning me

And the fastest will reach 70 mph in 2.4 seconds.

The signature move is the ‘Top Hat’ which propels riders 155 feet in the air.

Before immediately taking you into an 80-degree drop – Universal’s steepest drop yet.Aaaaawlando!

And for more Orlando remember it’s all a beautiful escape.




Adventure, Countries, Europe, UK

How I met my princess in England’s royal county

Only the best people get to marry a Newbury girl… and Prince William.

I met my life’s partner on the road from Scotland when I rolled up in Reading in the Royal County of Berkshire

So why have I taken a detour down Memory Lane.

Well, because I have been guided there by my friends in the Great West Way?

The Great West Way, you say? Well, it’s the pathway, cycleway, canalway, railway from London to Bristol, or Bristol to London.

Now you know the way from London to Bristol, don’t you?

Along the canal

Where you’ll be able to visit such architectural gems as Henry VIII’s pleasure dome Hampton House.

And his great-great-grand whatever Betty’s Windsor with its castle, and Kintbury royalty in Her Sadieness, the wife.

They’ve been here for some time

The Kennet & Avon Canal runs through the bottom of her old family home’s garden where they had a little rowing boat moored there.

Where we took many a gentle journey during our courtship (very English Victorian, eh) along.

Who wants a modern car?

When we weren’t in her local boozer, the Dundas Arms.

Which was where my parents stayed on the eve of our wedding up at the local church.

A permanent union

I had a specially-commissioned painting made up for Herself when we relocated to Ireland as a thank you for the work she had done on our new home.

And it is with me now in my lounge in North Berwick, south of Edinburgh.

Tick off the landmarks

So that a little corner of Her England is always with us.

For verdant Kintbury in West Berkshire which has a towpath to Hungerford Common and the town.

Water way to travel

And for much else including Avebury and Stonehenge, Jane Austen’s Bath and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Bristol then check out the Great West Way site.

Let the train take the strain

Now for an afternoon snooze under our painting… I can almost hear David ask if I want my usual, a pint of Courage Bitter.


Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Deals, Ireland, Sport, UK

Holidos and Don’ts – the alpha and the omega

So, the alpha and the omega of Holidos and Don’ts as there’s so much disinformation out there.

Greece lightening

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

No, you didn’t misread that…

I’m here to lighten the load for our Greek friends who have been painted as super spreaders.

We’ve got Public Health England to blame for the hue and cry.

They reported that the largest number of infections between June and September came from returning holidaymakers from Hellas.

They made up 21% of new cases, compared with 16% from Croatia and 14% from Spain.

The report which still needs to be peer reviewed, of course, doesn’t factor in that that was a pre-vaccine world so let’s not panic.

And book our Greek holidays with confidence.

Our old friends at Travel Department are offering a range of Greek breaks with Athens & The Island Short Break immediately catching the eye.

Amble along the Neighbourhood of Gods in the Plaka district and head up to the Acropolis.

Tip here: take an impossibility cheap taxi with your driver (who will look like Adonis) suggesting you pay what you like.

Travel Department will throw in a full-day cruise of the Saronic Gulf: Hydra, Poros and Aegina.

So that’s four days B&B from €749pp with departures in June and October.

And for a teaser on all things Greek… here’s my odyssey.

Digital Green Passports

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

And it makes sense that the Irish Travel Agents Association should welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Green Passport.

The idea is that it will be proof that you’ve been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid.

Of course there’s no pain, no gain.

And I’d take the Scary One drilling that stick up my nose and down my throat.

Like I did to travel to Bergamo…

And thoughts to the Bergamaschi and all our Italian amichi as they tackle lockdown again… Molamia.

Olé for Spain

Hugs for Spain and Catalonia.

And Olé for Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto who is championing our return to Espana.

She told the TV station, Antenna 3: ‘We could be in a position to start implementing the digital passport when FITUR (Spain’s Travel Fair) in Madrid starts on May 19.’

The government over here in the UK has held out May 17 as the date when travel can resume from England.

Although that relies on the findings of the Global Travel Task Force report on April 12.

The Spanish jewel of the Med, The Balearic Islands have already stepped up.

And they have said they will be happy to trial it.

And as a signpost that the British are coming with Jet2 informing the Majorca press to expect a ‘massive’ arrival in June.

Watch this space for updates on Travel returning and…


Adventure, Countries, Europe

A breath of Swiss air

It’s a breath of Swiss air to see that things are still running like clockwork in Switzerland despite Covid.

And that our friends in Tobleroneland are working feverishly to get us back to the mountains and valleys again.

No such problems for Swiss cows, of course, who have been jangling their way through the last year, as ever they did.

Cowboy in Switzerland

With the summer promising to bring continental travel again we’ll all be taking to the Great Outdoors to free our spirit.

And where better than Switzerland where you can social distance to your heart’s content and choose who you mix with…

I say the cows.

Mooove over

The cows were my daily (and dairy) companions on my journey around Interlaken and its environs.

They were everywhere even on the balcony of our hotel.

And in pictures on the noticeboard where there were reminders of my own Scary One back home… no, I’m not making it up.

All of which mooanderings around the subject brings me back to what’s happening in Switzerland in advance of our return.

E-bike in the E-Alps

Ring your bell Ermentrude

I’d be safer on these (probably) than the Trotti scooters favoured in woodland and the open road.

You can cross Switzerland in one week from north-east to south-west on la route verte, or the green tour.

And run into some Swiss cows on the mountain paths.

And literally too if you overdo it on your stop-offs to meet the various different winegrowers on the way.

You’ll meet friendly farmers too and some country folk only too happy to show you their strange musical instruments.

The tour is 470km long and starts in the German-speaking city of Schaffhausen, and passes through six Swiss Nature Parks, finally ending up in French Geneva.

A good walk

Are we there yet?

And a hike in the hills is nothing to the Swiss, young and septegenarian young alike, such as yodeller Brigitte who had us eating dust on the way up the peaks.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Via Francigena was just a weekend stroll to a woman of Brigitte’s phenomenal energies.

As every Bandanino or Bandanette knows from reading these posts over the last couple of years in the year 990 Sigeric, the Archbishop of Rome began the Via Francigena tradition.

Sigeric had returned to England from Rome crossing Switzerland via the Jura and the Alps.

I nibbled into the route from Viterbo in Lazio into the Eternal City, but my 100km feel quite paltry comparative to Sigeric’s labours.

On the Via

I say 100km, but wanderer that I am I went off-piste and swore I saw some snow-capped mountains in the distance.

I did get back on track eventually and lived (just) to tell my own Francigena tale.


Let the train take the strain

Now you’re durable Swiss is used to staying in huts as they traverse the peaks but you’ll be wanting something a bit plusher, I suspect.

The way of it these days is to go eco so why not try out a Whitepod eco-luxury hotel in Valais?

Saving water, recycling waste and purchasing locally is all part of the strategy to keep their environmental impact as low as possible.

The quirky shape of the pods has not only been an aesthetic choice but also a resource and energy saving one.

Driving Miss Swissy

The only way is up: The Jungfraujoch

Swiss trains run like something that you would find on a time dial.

And I’m reminded of the Twentysomething whom I shared control of the train going up the Junfraujoch railway, the highest in Europe.

She did cope rather better with that task than riding the gondola, though let’s put that down to the Swiss beer Hell.

It’s actually heaven unless you drink too much of it watching the football.

Swiss Air

Hitting the heights: Swiss Air

There’s probably never a dull day when you’re a Swiss Air pilot flying over the Alps and the lakes and valleys.

And it’s livery is instantly recognisable with its simple, clean and brillaint whtie and white cross on a red background on the tail.

These too-good-to-be-true Swiss are only helping to save the planet too, with our help.

Swiss International Airl Lines is offering its customers the chance to to offset their flights’ C02 emissions.

By donating to climate protection projects and purchasing alternative fuels.

It wil help customers to take resposibility for their actions and contribute to a more sustainable aviation industry.



Adventure, Culture, Europe, UK

Your staycation stays the same in Aberdeenshire

In my previous incarnation in Edinburgh I set my holiday radar for the family for the UK, my fave our staycations in Aberdeenshire.

Language, culture and a lack of money all played their part.

But the sheer variety of holidays, activities and destinations was, and still is, a great selling point.

England’s finest

The Scary One Pottering around

We variously checked out the Laurel & Hardy Museum in England’s Lake District, Shakespeareland in the English Midlands.

There was Churchill’s War Rooms in London, Harry Potter in Watford and Dickens World in Kent before we even got to Scotland.

And Scotland’s too

Burns Cottage, Alloway,Scotland

And here in my homeland we hiked in the Highlands, channeled an innner Robert Burns in Ayrshire and performed poetry too.

That was over the sea to Skye and wolfed down whisky in Islay.

Whet your appetite? Well, you may very well be staycationing this year so the good news is that it’s a great holiday.

The bad news is that unscrupulous businesses are hiking up the prices, sometimes by double.

So to redress the balance in favour of those who welcome you into their homes and hotels for the love of Travel and their customers.

I give you one such in my beloved Aberdeenshire.

Stonehaven for the ages

Relaxed living

Kelly McAlpine is the managing director of five-star Dalriada Lodges, eight self-catering lodges on the coasts of Stonehaven, nearAberdeen.

Kelly said: ‘It’s unfortunate that some operators seem to be taking advantage of the pent-up desire to travel and the lack of confidence in overseas trips, to inflate their usual rates.

‘We’re a family-run business and we strongly believe that it’s important for us to keep our rates the same as they were pre-pandemic.

Pristine kitchen

‘Our loyal customers are important to us.

‘They love to come to our clifftop locations overlooking Stonehaven for a break.

‘We have many families returning several times to us.

Someon’s made the beds

‘And they like that they can book adjacent lodges.

‘So different generations can holiday together but still have their own space.

‘Without these guests we couldn’t have established Dalriada Luxury Lodges as successfully as we have.

‘And we’ll undoubtedly need these loyal customers to help us on what will be a long road to recovery from the events of last year.

“We’ll be holding our prices at our usual rates.

‘We understand the value of long-term relationships with our guests.”

Lodge an interest

And the sun always shines

The Dalriada family-run lodges occupy a prime spot overlooking Stonehaven bay. Each lodge has two en-suite bedrooms.

A spacious lounge and fully equipped kitchen with combi-oven, dishwasher and washing machine,

South-facing decking offers great views over the coastline, as well as private parking.

Someon’s been here before

And you will have  access to secure storage for golf equipment, cycles and outdoor gear.

Dalriada is pet-friendly too, and the site includes electric charging points for vehicles.

Guests can customise their  stay, including locally sourced breakfast packs, golf packages – and a round of golf for free.




Adventure, Countries, Deals, Europe, Sport

Holiday Snaps – United for Malta

I’m in good company, with footballers Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof and Brandon Williams all fans of my honeymoon island… we’re all United for Malta I guess.

The three Manchester United players were only too happy to flag up the jewel of the Mediterannean.

With Malta the club’s official destination partner.

Gozo views

French World Cup winner Pogba said: ‘It’s beautiful, there aren’t a lot of people and I can go there with my family.

He picked out St Peter’s Pool in Delimara.

While Lindelof is rightly taken by Comino.

Valletta you better you bet

The idea is to put together a postcard (remember them) of Malta.

And you can check it out on

The jewel of the Med 26 years ago was my wee treasure… only what they don’t tell you is that gems have rough edges!

A cheeky wee Algarve

The loved-up Miss F dragged me away to the Algarve for our first summer holiday together although in truth I didn’t need much dragging.

On a budget then we were taken by the Algarve tradition of taking your litre plastic bottle down to the local wine shop in Cabanas.

Algarve wine country

Where the owner would fill it up with house wine for a few escudos (yes, it was that long ago).

As Portugal awaits the green light for us to return to its shores we welcome too the push for Algarve wines.

With Cliff in the Algarve

And what’s more they’ll even share their art with you on the Quinta dos Vales estate.

Get a three-hour induction in winemaking in the Bottle Blending Workshop from €62pp.

Even better stay the night, you’ll need it to put your boozy head down, from €75 per night.

And here’s a toast from past travels in Quinta do Lago.

Our bit for charity

Charity begins at home and seeing we’re all holed up at home let’s all do our bit.

Bike4tourism is a multi-continental charity ride which is hoping to break the Guinness world record for numbers of participants.

Register for the event, on May 30, Fees start from €18 and free for under-18s.

With part of the money raised going to an environmental cause and helping Travel companies affected by Covid-19.

Now my cycling has come on a lot since collapsing on the roadside in the Algarve way back then.

Probably the vino collapso!

And Machu more

If running, or swimming, is more your thing and you want to help out, say, the Machu Picchu porters, then join me in this challenge.

This month we’re being invited to run, swim (OK, or bike) 25 miles to help out the Machu porters who are currently packless.

Twenty-five miles is the length of the famous Peruvian trail.

And £25 provides funds to purchase one essential food parcel for a Peruvian porter and their family for a month.

If like me you’ve taken your foot off the pedal during lockdown then this is your chance to rectify that.

Or alternatively you can donate £25 to Peru 25for25. Visit the Lata Foundation.

And when you do get out to Peru then it’ll be with our old pals at G Adventures.

They are offering seven days Cusco to Cusco from £620, down from £729, Valid on November 1.


America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – baseball in England

And judging by what a mess England are making of their cricket Test series in India, maybe they’ll go back to baseball.

There are few things more American than baseball.

And that obviously means that it came from somewhere else.

And this somewhere else is England where it had been a folk game.

Lord’s, the home of cricket, gave itself over to baseball for the first time when it hosted the Boston Red Stockings and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1874.

And Slugger Jimmy in the USA

So for all the big Wembley and Tottenham Stadium American Football matches it’s not a new phenomenon.

To bring American sporting franchises over to the Old Country.

We do, of course, have splendid memories of Aer Lingus‘s biennial American Colllege matches at the Aviva. Happy days!

For the record Boston beat Phladelphia 24-7.

In truth Beantown and Philly are winners when it comes to sport and you can’t visit without being touched by their love of their athletes.

Paris, non

Bravo: On World Cup final day

And the hairy-arsed Scots who make a biennial pilgrimage to Paris to converge around the Arc de Triomphe.

And watch their Bravehearts lose to Les Bleus were unable to do so this year.

So too did the Scotland rugby team whose match against Les Bleus of France was called off when the home outfit was hit by Covid.

Paris hasn’t always been kind to this hairy-arsed Scot either.

I had my butt kicked when I kipped down for the night in Paris Saint-Lazare railway station in my summer holiday down on the French Riviera after schoool.

The butt-kickers en force were the Gendarme…

And it wouldn’t be my first brush with the French law who took offence to me stopping the traffic in Saint-Raphael.

Let’s be Frank about Bruno

This year? When I’ll be back in Vegas

For those of us whose golden years (so far) were the Eighties Frank Bruno was ubiquitious, know what ah mean, Harry.

And his story was inexorably tied up with that of Mike Tyson’s though he was merely a punchbag for the Baddest Man on the Planet.

Sky Documentaries’ excellent Bruno v Tyson chronicles Frank’s story.

From inauspicious beginnings in South London through to him becoming the Gentle Giant of the Nation.

Las Vegas looms large as the two fights were held there…

The first Bruno v Tyson clash was set to be held in London before Iron Mike pranged his car.

The Las Vegas Hilton was the venue for the first fight and the MGM for the second.

With Vegas our venue for the American Travel fair this year we’re all hoping there will be boxing on then.

And with a seniors circuit now kicking in in which Iron Mike figures.

Let’s get this Bruno v Tyson III on in Vegas in the Fall.





America, Countries, Sport, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Jerusalem

I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till we have built Jerusalem, In England’s green and pleasant land Jerusalem (William Blake)

And they’ll have to do a bit of rebuilding with England‘s sporting chariot derailed of late

Whisper it around Scottish parts though but their anthem Jerusalem is a lot more rousing than our dirge Flower of Scotland.

The Corries’ call to arms was adopted by Scottish sporting teams some 40 years ago after pressure from the fans.

The Flower of Scotland

Which was around the time that Scotland’s rugby team last beat England at Twickenham… before last week.

Before that it was the British national anthem God Save the Queen for the Scots which Wales and Northern Ireland can all play.

And England still do.

And did those feet: The Last Night of the Proms

The thing is that God Save the Queen is British, while Jerusalem is quintessentially English.

The song has an interesting history dating back to Victorian times and the great aesthete while randomly San Fransiscans love William Blake.

You know him too, the way-out-there poet and artist who also wrote about fiery lions, meek lambs and God’s plan.

Do you need a bow of burning gold? William Blake

And God’s plan of course was to restore England from the Industrial Revolution chasm it had descended into its previous rural idyll.

It’s unsurprising that this assertion of Englishness should have been taken up by The Last Night of the Proms.

But it equally conjures up images of St Andrews beach in Scotland too and Olympic hero Eric Liddell in the film Chariots of Fire.

Everything is cyclical of course.

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Music, Sport

Rainy Days and Songdays – Weeknd & Canada dudes

A Blinding performance from The Weeknd at the Super Bowl Half-Time Show I think you’ll agree.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed on America’s Big Day, not least by me, that they drafted in a Canadian, The Weeknd, to lead the parade.

And so this Rainy (more snowy) Day and Songday I’ll toast the Torontonian The Weeknd and Canada.

And run through a fave five Canadian singers.

Joni, remember me

Smiling now: Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell, Fort MacLeod, Alberta: Who Mountie John MacLeod was I’ll have to do some digging to find out.

But he must have had some Scottish in there somewhere.

Joni has history with my homeland of Scotland of course, and not that far from an old workplace.

The singer-songwriter was allegedly thrown out of The Doric bar.

On Market Street just down from the old Scotsman newspaper building.

Whether she is prepared to look at things from Both Sides Now you’d have to ask her.

Leonard, the Montreál thing

Alleluia: It’s. Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, Montreal: I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel lyrics and those dirty New York stories which always appeal to an adolescent.

The poet laureate of pop is rightly revered in his home city of Montreál, an arts city par excellence.

And you can do the whole Leonard thing on a tour of his haunts around the city.

Alanis’s jagged little thrill

She smiles too: Alanis Morisette

Alanis Morisette, Ottawa: Capital cities come in many different shapes and sizes but often it’s the ones that aren’t the biggest cities that enchant the most.

Proud Ottawan Alanis burst onto the scene in 1996 with her cynical classic Jagged Little Pill.

And isn’t it ironic that it’s in sharp contrast to the chilled vibe of Ottawa.

Where locals put on a summer yoga class for hundreds on Parliament Hill

While there are few cooler things to do than skate on the world’s largest naturally frozen rink, the 7.8km long Rideau Canal.

The Groover from Vancouver

And the chicks love him: Bryan Adams

Bryan Adams,Vancouver: And we’ll even forgive Bryan his annoying Robin Hood ballad ‘Everything I Do’.

Because he gave us the rousing nostalgia favourite The Summer of 69.

Vancouver reminds you that Canada is the second biggest country in the world with a Pacific vibe quite different to the Atlantic Canadians on the other side.

Regularly ranked in the world’s top five of liveable cities (you can both hipster and whale watch) it has a stunning backdrop.

Drake’s Toronto

Stay your distance Drake

Drake, Toronto: I, and every red-blooded male, should by rights hate him for Drake taking Rihanna off us.

Quite what they’re Facebook personal status is is almost certainly just toying with us.

Toronto is as we know home to hundreds of cultures but there is a special fusion with the Caribbean.

Not that that gives this uppity Torontonian the right to lay hand on my Ri-Ri.

Under the famous CN Tower the city is teeming with life and entertainment although Brady and Mahomes would go largely unnoticed.

In the Big Four Gridiron (they call it Canadian Football lags behind Ice Hockey, Baseball and Basketball.

All of which the Torontonians have beaten their neighbours at over the years. Eh!