Adventure, Countries, Europe

My Football Weekend – The English (or Scottish) Game

With no football on we’ve had to delve into the past for our fix but who knew that we’d be going back 137 years?

We’ve all become experts these past few days in lockdown, on Victorian football.

Through the new TV drama ‘The English Game’ from Julian Fellowes, he of Downtown Abbey fame,

Gritty Scots: Netflix’s The English Game

Which should have ‘or Scottish’ in brackets.

Because of the efforts of Fergus Sutar, credited as the first professional, who transformed football from kick and rush to a passing game.

Suter the shooter

And championed the Northern English mill and industrial towns into bastions of football.

With Liverpool the inheritors of that legacy, as European champions.

Fatima: Say your prayers

The influence of Scots on the growth of English football cannot be understated with early Liverpool known as ‘the team of Macs’.

Pride of Lions

It is a link that has remained strong throughout the club’s history with its great teams of the Seventies and Eighties, like most in England, boasting a spine of Scots.

None though as Scottish, or local, as the storied team, the Lisbon Lions, who won the European Cup in 1967.

Not Portuguese though, you understand, but Scottish, that Celtic team all hailing from within 30 miles of Glasgow.

Lisbon, here we come

And as I binged on football from my couch I followed up The English Game with BBC’s Glasgow 1967: The Lisbon Lions.

It is, as the title might suggest, a love letter to two cities with the good people of Glasgow endearing themselves to the European Cup final hosts Lisbon,

And putting Portugal on the map as a favourite tourist destination for generations of Scots to come.

Of which I am one… and I got to don my football top too out there and even learned how to play tennis properly https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/ and https://www.thecampusqdl.com/en/.

Here’s a recap… SPORTUGAL while I delved deep into Secret Portugal on another trip to the land of Football, Fado and Fatima…

With The Special One, Jose, a huge Academica Coimbra fan. No, not that Jose, but the peerless Jose Manuel Santos https://www.madomistours.pt.

Jose also leans towards Sporting Lisbon, who live too long in the shadow of the aristocrats Benfica but produced one of the world’s greatest-ever players, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Who play in green and white hoops.

See https://www.visitlisboa.com/en and https://www.visitportugal.com/en.

MEET YOU ON FACETIME

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

SPORTUGAL

It’s the footwork, dahling… turn your toes in. And keep the hands open, and dahling, trust your partner.

I half expect to see Craig Revel Horwood sitting opposite, giving out and holding up a 2.

Thankfully I’m not being judged on my dancing but my tennis by my mixed doubles partner Judy Murray.

Yes, that Judy Murray, tennis supercoach, mum-of-two Wimbledon champions, and just as importantly in our house a Strictly Come Dancing legend.

Europe’s new four ball: John and Jim

Judy has had half an eye on Ashley, Faye, Lauren, Stacey, Joe, Charles, et al this series.

Only half an eye though as her main focus has been making tennis players out of the flotsam collection of wannabe racquet tyros I’m assembled here with.

In the new Campus sporting development in Quinta Do Lago in the Algarve.

Judy is running a series of tennis coaching lessons for young and old, good and bad, studious and messers, which, er, would be me.

That cow’s still got his name on it

In my defence her starter hooter was too inviting not to play keepie-uppie with.

Judy, though, as well as being very good at sport is a very good sport and even allowed me to waltz her around at the end.

Another very good sport and one that you won’t have heard so much about is padel which is more popular in the Iberian Peninsula than tennis.

Former rugby international Max Evans who with soccer great John Terry took to the game on a trip to the Algarve, describes it as the baby that tennis and squash would beget.

And wash it down with some Portuguese vino

Played to the same scoring system as tennis, the big difference is in the non-string bats, the underhand serve, the fact that you can play off the side glass walls.

And, dare I say it, that it might just be better fun than tennis.

Judy’s work done, she gets a deserved breather. Me, I’m off to bother the gold pros.

For four days I will have a team of experts tasked with trying to make an athlete of me, just as they can for you too.

With a Paralympian legend: Me and Brian Rohan

The professional at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy shows off the latest golf technology, tracking machines, sensory guides et al.

It can turn the most ordinary club member into a Rory or a Tiger, or at least on the odd shot.

If you concentrate that is.

But there’s always one messer who gets distracted.

Water trap: Have a chip with your dinner

In this case drawn to Paul McGinley’s buggy from when he captained Europe to Ryder Cup success at Gleneagles.

There’s a good reason why the big boys and girls in our party get to play The South Course, one of three Championship courses here at Quinta do Lago, while yours truly is kept to the driving range.

I do get to drive me a buggy, though not Paul’s Ryder Cup cart, which sensibly is kept where it is.

And I get to see the course, safely for me and the golfers, or at least that’s the plan before the boy racer in me kicks in.

My boat comes in

And I cut up the buggy in front and almost drive into the lake that skirts one of the greens.

I dare say I would have come up with my pockets bursting with stray golf balls.

Maybe I’ll fare better on two wheels.

Quinta do Lago means Farm by the Lake and Quinta is at great pains to keep human athletic exertions and the natural world in perfect harmony.

Or a dip after your lunch

The Ria Formosa reserve which runs parallel to the course, is more geared to Shiny Ibises and Spoonbill birdies.

And yes, get off your bike, get your binos out and you really will see these fascinating birds scoop up their prey with spoonlike beaks.

I’d like to say I planned my disembarkation but the truth is I took one sandy corner too many and too sharply in my obsession to lead the party.

Eyebrows may have been raised as to my suitability to go back with the sensible ones on the roads, but hunger called.

The new mixed doubles

That hunger was sated as it invariably is in these parts by the harvest of the seas.

The world literally is your piscine pleasure in Portugal and no fish is safe, so I felt not a pang of guilt in devouring Dory’s pals, the lobster, prawns, clams, seabass both here at the island restaurant Casa do Lago at the Campus.

And more of that later.

For golfers, there is a green in the water for diners to shoot at but it was wisely out of bounds for us on the day. 

If the Scotland manager is watching

The appeal of The Campus is its infrastructure and expertise.

Why else would it attract Premier League side Burnley, Champions League winners Olympique Marseille and Rio Ferdinand who runs a soccer camp.

While Irish Paralympian, road race great Brian Rohan runs The Bike Shed, which is so much more than just that.

Ask him kindly and he might even let you hold one of his Olympic gold medals.

And I’ve got my goal celebration sorted

Of course when it comes to sport we’re all of us experts, and so my last night was spent at a sports bar where I watched THREE soccer games simultaneously on the big screens (and who said men couldn’t multi-task?).

I’d like to say all the games were thrillers but I was in my element all the same.

I was tackling (cleanly) a chicken casserole for two, to soak up the beer you understand, while exchanging sporting trivia with my Portuguese hosts.

I was less good at the Halloween pub quiz I have to admit but always back myself against any Dancing Dad when the house band appears. 

Get the yoga in

There’s always a price to pay of course for revelry and that is invariably a sore head the next morning.

Yes, the art deco style Magnolia where we are staying specialises in fixing that too…

The Mag burger, beef, bacon, cheese and lettuce burger and fries, with a special peppery sauce the secret of which the Chef, naturally wasn’t sharing, and a pineapple, OJ, coconut and SPINACH smoothie.

Are you watching Craig Revel Horwood?

I felt invincible again and was ready to show off to my new No. 1 fan with my moves, a dive into the pool (yes, strictly against the hotel  rules).

But nobody was watching apart from Judy Murray that is.

Keeeep practising!

IMPORTANT WEBSITES: The Campus, Quinta do Lago https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/ with costs for the night at the Magnolia Hotel at €105, and Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com with prices from €39.99.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in January 2019.

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

Los Lounges Story… and other word games

Don’t worry about me, I’m enjoying the Los Lounges life… in my boardies, pulling my surf stunt, with my Beach Boys music on, and a Strawberry Daiquiri waiting for me.

They are memories and pictures that I can pull up to transfer myself to a favourite place.

And just one of the distractions to being holed up indefinitely.

Surf’s up: In Surf City, Huntington Beach http://www.surcityusa.com

Which has at times happened on my travels.

West is best… West Hollywood

Obviously when I’ve been struck down like the time when I got food poisoning on my LA break https://www.discoverlosangeles.com and www.visitcalifornia.com and www.ticketsdirect.com and had to stay in bed for a day.

Peerless: Kimpton La Peer Hotel, West Hollywood

With diversions to the toilet.

Still if you are forced to remain in barracks then I’d recommend the Kimpton La Peer Hotel https://www.lapeerhotel.com/?utm_source=Google%20My%20Business&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=GMB&utm_term=lapeer. In West Hollywood https://www.weho.org.

While, yes. I missed that day’s itinerary which had involved a trip to the Warner Bros Studios and their sets https://www.wbstudiotour.com.

Budge up Sheldon

And the chance to sit in Sheldon’s spot but I did get to do just that when Hollywood My Weekend With Marilyn came to Anaheim for the American Travel Fair, IPW.

And to check out Disneyland’s https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disney-california-adventure/hollywood-land/ newest residents Stair Wars.

Formidable Four: With Mark, Issy ad Rachel in South Africa http://www.southafrica.net

It won’t surprise you that today’s conversation has gone off on a tangent… a bit like Alan, one of our coach drivers snd guides in the Eastern Cape in South Africa… http://mobi.alantours.co.za.

Alan’s magical mystery tour

Of course with five wordsmiths in the coach we were never short of a word game or two to while away the time we spent lost in the South African national park…

And enjoyed the delights of South Africa What’s new pussycat?. And Day in the life of a township

Those arrows should point upwards: In Tenerife https://www.visitingtenerife.com

While in Tenerife A walk through the ages… Tenerife we ratcheted it up after stumbling upon a Franco-themed pub in Afur.

Franco and the dictator grocery game

At the end of a particularly challenging climb on our CanariaWays.com trip…. www.CanariaWays.com.

And started a game of ‘supermarket dictator’ after I’d suggested somebody ask the owner of the Franco pun is he had any Tito crisps.

By hook or by crook: In Tenerife

The best of our offerings came from our friend and host Maria with… Lennoncello.

So let me know your suggestions for our parlour game of destinations around the house.

My Finnish pal Paula from our trip to Orlando Why I love The Donald and https://www.disneyworld.co.uk got us going on this one… with Los Lounges.

I weighed in with Ayia Crapper..

Now it’s over to you. Tell me your favourites.

Adventure, America, Caribbean, Food, Food & Wine

Fort Lauderdale and Miami – a tale of two sittings

Early morning deep midwinter and the rest of the rest of the world is huddling under the duvet.

The rest of the world can go whistle! I’m up with the larks.

Because of the jetlag, yes, but also because rate are the chances to see winter in Technicolour.

It’s 32C outside, the sunny Miss America weathergirl on the box cheerfully tells us and the light streaming in through the curtains is beckoning me outside.

Fort Lauderdale in December

5.45am. Time to hit the Fort Lauderdale beach I fall out of bed and onto the Strip. It’s that close.

Nothing is open, obviously, well the 24/7 store, but you’ll not find one of those on Fort Lauderdale’s showpiece front.

What you will find is a stretch of untrodden glistening sand and sea and barely a soul to break the peace.

Out there on the horizon, cruise ships are bound for the Bahamas and the Caribbean (Fort Lauderdale is a cruise hub), and down the road in Miami the party people are just tuning in.

Here in Fort Lauderdale though they are more retiring.

Everyone’s fit

Fort Lauderdale does, it’s true, attract its fair share of senior citizens who choose the Sunshine State for their autumn years.

But it is also a magnet for American families also here to escape the northern chill… snowbirds.

Meanwhile, off the Strip and you’ll find condos and holiday homes, all with swimming pools and community programmes.

The Stars and Stripes flutter in what little wind there is.

George HW Bush has passed on when I visit and flags are at half-mast.

Florida has been kind to the Bushes. It was here that the 2000 Presidential election swung in George W’s favour and here that his brother Jeb was Governor.

Reflections of Miami

Every news bulletin and morning conversation references ‘this man of honour’.

To gauge how Floridians feel about the Bushes, weather, sport, the traffic and any other topic under the sun the best place is the diner.

And the best is the Primanti Brothers Pizza & Grill, just off the Strip.

Bluff it and ask for over easy eggs or sunny side up, spitball with the server who refills your coffee mug…

And let the night owl on the next stool tell you his life story.

This is the America you’ve seen in every road movie.

Only for the wall of heat outside, and the palm trees.

Breakfast in Fort Lauderdale… it must be lunch in Miami then.

Haven for seniors

Which means Little Havana.

The thing is though that our concept of size is rather different to the Americans.

While navigating all those double-digit street names scramble your brain in the December heat.

And so what looks like a brisk walk is in fact never tackled by any American on foot, other than perhaps Forrest Gump.

The Marriott on Biscayne Boulevard to Little Havana, I’m told is 7km though I’m sure I walked just that to get to Downtown.

All this, of course, after giving up on ever getting to South Beach.

Miami architecture

I guess the huge causeway between us and the Beautiful People should have been a clue.

The answer is a hop-on, hop-off bus, believe me!

The thing though about being an accidental tourist is that you stumble upon hidden treasures.

Take, for example, Caja Caliente on 2634 NE 2nd Avenue… see what I mean about the numbers.

I’d rather presumed that this was Little Havana although it looked an awful lot littler than I had imagined… just a stall and a yard and a couple of bars.

Floridians, though, and most Americans I’ve met on my travels, even in the big cities, are very polite to visitors.

And are devoid of our sarky gene.

The signora was very welcoming, the tacos were fabulous, there were all kinds of chilli sauces.

Golden skies

And sombreros and ponchos scattered around, guitars on tables and a makeshift sand pit.

And a Cuban flag.

A holiday and a city isn’t always what you expect. Make of that what you will.

The Caja Caliente is my Little Havana though.

Now. It’s yours too. Heck, I don’t mind sharing.

Areeba, Areeba, Areeba!

And Herself gets in in the act

TRAVEL FACTS

How to get there: Multiple airlines fly Dublin-Miami return. Aer Lingus flies to Miami from €227.99 each way as part of a return trip.

Where to stay: I stayed in W Fort Lauderdale (www.marriott.com). The Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay (www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/miabb-miami-marriott-biscayne-bay)

Where to eat: Primanti Brothers, Fort Lauderdake Caja Caliente.

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

My Weekend With Marilyn

Goodbye Norma Jean!

So, this is where Marilyn finally found her rest from the lascivious attentions of the manipulative men who hounded her to her death.

Unsignposted and in an unassuming square at the back of a Los Angeles office block lies the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

But who’s this lying next to her?

Norma Jean

Only Playboy owner Hugh Hefner who bought the drawer next door for $75,000… he was surely the last man she would have wanted to spend eternity with.

Marilyn and Hefner had history.

It was Hefner who bought the nude pictures that she had posed for in her sallow youth before she became famous for just $500 and put them on his first cover of Playboy.

She never got a dime.

Stars align

Marilyn doesn’t deserve this company.

She should be shining brightest in a galaxy of stars.

And on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, she is.

The actress is one of 2,600 famous characters, human, animal, animated, immortalised on a mile and a half of sidewalk along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street.

Her hands and feet are outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with the imprints of a century of Hollywood celebrities. 

Hers are worn out from the millions who have wanted to touch a bit of her.

If you feel her presence on the stairs of the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held then her spirit is playing tricks on you as her only appearance was at the nearby Pantages Theatre.

Still we all pose for a diva’s shot in homage to her anyway.

Marilyn seems to be everywhere I turn. I see her looking down, smiling from out of a window on Venice Beach.

And I’m wearing Bandanas by Murty

Brightly dressed and warm as the sun. We lift our heads from our catch of the day in Larry’s diner off the boardwalk, in my case the lightest calamari, and smile back.

Jim Morrison is all swagger on the other wall. 

Today’s Venice Beach though has its own characters, a rasta artist on rollerblades playing guitar, an old man who wheels his grand piano up the strand to tinkle the ivories.

And a random Latino Conor McGregor who is punching and kicking the hell out of a punchbag in the square.

In Southern California, or SoCal, it is all about the image, the Body Beautiful.

My kicks on Route 66: The end in Venice Beach

And this is where Californian body builders come to work out, at the outdoors Muscle Beach Gym, once the home of Arnold Schwarzenegger and ‘The Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno.

There’s always a show on, even if it is only the tourists posing by a muscleman mannequin on the boardwalk. Guilty!

Up the road in Santa Monica the busy pier gives little clue that this is the beach used for Baywatch.

All these nuggets and more are at the fingertips of our driver Chris from Starline Tours provided by our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct.

Muscle man

He tells us of a loose association with David Hasselhoff and a girl who was the Hoff’s Proms date.

I would be more impressed if Chris had dated Sandy… well, we do pass Rydell High.

And he shows us too the site of the party hotel, the Garden of Allah where Joni Mitchell hung out, and ‘they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.’

You’ll find today’s Hollywood celebrities hanging out in West Hollywood, so where better to bunk down?

Aye, aye Cap’n

The La Peer Hotel, just a couple of blocks down from Beverly Hills, its cop shop and Rodeo Drive, is a Kimpton.

It is a boutique hotel which is much more than that as befits West Hollywood, with its heated outdoors swimming pool as an extension of the bar.

The hotel’s restaurant Viale dei Romani serves up the best Italian food if you want to stay inhouse.

And I’d also recommend the Wood Grilled Octopus and its garden of warm potato salad, oil cured olives, preserved lemon and saffron aioli.

Hollywood party

But there are no shortage of great restaurants too to sample in West Hollywood where best of all you can also indulge in the favourite pastime of celeb-spotting.

And so we also visited Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump’s eponymous lounge and restaurant PUMP.

Where Lady Gaga made the news a few years back after falling outside on the sidewalk.

Lisa is there the night we dine on truffle mushroom chicken (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)

Now where’s that cop? Beverly Hills

Though no sign of Gaga. Perhaps the gay icon will be back the following week for Pride.

West Hollywood is already putting out the bunting for Pride when up to 200,000 will take to the streets.

Although, in truth, it is always in a state of readiness with its rainbow zebra crossings.

I’d recommend a night in one of the many friendly gay clubs, I even managed to walk, rather than fall out of.

Old LA

Although a bulky cop, or I think he was, reminded me that I couldn’t drink on the sidewalk.

If you want to get closer to the stars, get onto the right tours and get on the sets of the TV shows and movies we watch.

Our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct will help with pre-booking which will save precious time and money.

They will take you to Warner Studios where you can sit in the very same couch used in Central Perk in Friends or visit the Ellen set.

A day in Universal Studios Hollywood will immerse you in movie history and the future now.

We take a coach tour through the sets of Pyscho, Jaws, a Mexican town and through a tunnel where a scene from Fast and Furious is simulated all around us. Great fun.

Psycho anyone?

Great fun too the Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest cinema show with vibrating seats and water mist effects,.

While fans of rollercoaster rides will love The Simpsons and Harry Potter rollercoasters.

I prefer to sit back and watch others take the heat although I didn’t expect to see a stuntswomam set on fire in the Special Effects show.

All your favourite animated and sci-fi characters are here and all in great form, all happy to pose up.

No, he hasn’t a Scooby either

Shrek, Scooby-Doo, the Transformers, a dinosaur, no, not me, but a ‘real’ T-Rex which is trailing Jurassic World – The Ride.

We all have our favourites but it is the Boy Wizard who will always cast a spell on me.

Muggles, myself included, are besides themselves at the prospect of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure storycoaster in the sister resort in Orlando.

Universal Hollywood’s Potter experience feels smaller than its Orlando world but it is still intimate and enchanting.

And its Dark Arts light show is a thundering good jape with a cascade of creepy crawlies climbing up to attack a crumbling Hogwarts Castle in the dead of night.

Magical: The Potter show

Only for the forces of good to prevail, all against a heart-pounding musical score and moral message.

And that it seems is Hollywood and the LA story in a nutshell, an aspirational, illusory dream sequence.

Where you can stand in the Hollywood Hills, and you can hike up to the Griffith Observatory and view the iconic letters.

Or take a waitering job and hope to serve a Steven Spielberg.

Or get your star on the Walk of Fame.

A couple of proper Charlies

It’s a rollercoaster journey all right and you can’t pick who you’re next too but I did spot four stars unfilled…

And I reckon I’d be a more than deserving candidate for one of them.

I’ve been an angel

HOW TO GET THERE

Jim flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin Airport with pre-clearance to LAX.

WHERE TO STAY

La Peer Hotel is quintessentially West Hollywood with bright, funky finishings, spacious and comfortable bedrooms and fine and filling food. As well as a heated swimming pool and fitness centre. Doubles from approximately €315 per night. Visit www.lapeerhotel.com.

She vants to be alone

ACTIVITIES

Deluxe Grand City Tour with Starline from €73pp.

Hollywood Hills guided hike – departing from the Greek Theatre. It’s a 2.5 hour gentle hike, offering mountain and city views and photo opportunities of the Hollywood sign. The tour ends at the Griffith Park Observatory (admission included). From €46pp.

Starlight Dinner Cruise from Marina Del Rey’s. From €107pp (not including drinks).

Universal Studios Hollywood – one-day admission ticket from €96pp/Express Pass from €167pp/VIP Experience from €305pp.

Visit www.attractionticketsdirect.ie or call free on (01) 6498558.

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

The Old World – a salute to Seventysomethings

I’ve always hung on the words of the old because they’ve got more, not less, life than the rest of us, and that is even more so abroad.

Where the elderly retain more respect than we give our senior citizens in the Ooo K.

And so as the UK wrestles with what to do with its Seventysomethings – and locking them away at home is being proposed…

Here are some of the older people who this energetic 54-year-old struggles to keep up with.

The Tobago touche

Auntie Ali and Uncle Kenneth: Tobagonians have more uncles and aunties than the rest of us on account that everyone who is old is… it’s a form of respect.

Auntie Ali and Uncle Kenneth run the Blue Crab in Robinson, Scarborough where Ali wiggles her bum-bum and Uncle Kenneth (and me) make the chicken curry.

For more on Tobago see www.visittobagogov.tt and here’s my take on it Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago.

The Barbados walkers

Geraldine and Betsy; The American sitcom King of Queens has Carrie’s pal Holly walk Arthur… for us it at Club Barbados it was Angela around the Platinum Coast.

That’s me and Betsy from the Virginia Ski Club of America.

An education on Virginia and Barbados and Angela even went the extra mile when she burnt a soca CD for me. See www.visitbarbados.org and My kiss with Rihanna.

Swiss seniors

Brigitte the yodeller, Switzerland: It was a stroll in the park on our summer walking trip around Interlaken.

Where 72-year-young Brigitte put us through our paces, stopping only to let us skim our stones and for her to yodel (no, honestly!)

Visit https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/ and Swhisskey on the rocks.

Prague pensioners

Czech your stride, Prague: I’m just getting feeling back in my legs after My guide had walked the bones off me and my colleague Elise in Prague.

She also had a typically Americanised and underplayed way of describing those who had left a trail of destruction through her city… Stalin, for example, was a ‘bad guy’.

See www.czechtourism.com. And Hope springs eternal.

Over the hill in Austria

Ehrwald Presley: And they’re off… the walking groups from Ireland I trekked with in Austria, bombing ahead up the hills as I was just limbering up.

Before settling down at night for some oompah music with Austria’s answer to Elvis Presley.

See https://topflightforschools.ie.

Vegas neon

Liberace’s pal: Well, it wouldn’t be Vegas without the bling.

And Beverley didn’t disappoint, sporting the jewels given to her when she worked at Li’s gaffe while also telling her lots of tales of Neon City.

See www.lvcva.com and https://www.neonmuseum.org and Strip… the light fantastic.

Dresden’s fraulein

A walk through history, Dresden: Schoolchildren wanting to know about history, and Dresden, would do better to talk to Greta.

Than dig out a history book… because Ingrid and her family straddle the Nazis and the Communists.

Visit https://www.dresden.de/en/tourism/tourism.php and Dresden’s renaissance.

Pioneering pensioners

Colorado: There’s a message on a blackboard at the white-water rafting centre near Boulder, Colorado which flags up a nonagenarian

Barbara was in already to go without that challenge… alas, in the churning rapids. And broke her ribs.

Visit www.colorado.com and here’s my ride through the Wild West… The New Frontiersmen.

Even African dictators

South Africa: And in Africa too where no matter who you are you deserve respect when you are an elder statesman, or woman.

Even when that elder statesman is Robert Mugabe.

Which was our big game drive ranger in South Africa Hewurt’s reasoning for why Robert Mugabe still held power.

While it is always worth stopping people in the course of their work, to ask them about themselves.

Like the charming old hotel worker Amos in Cradock in the Eastern Cape who had fought with the resistance and Nelson Mandela.

Visit https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ and here’s a nod to those South Africans who really do respect their elderly…. What’s new pussycat?

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Women’s Day – my own heroines

And by order of the management my heroines are – The Scary One, Daddy’s Little Girl and my Dear Old Mum.

All of whom have been wonderful (and challenging) fellow travellers on life’s unpredictable journey. Never my fault, of course.

Love boat in Amsterdam

Where do I start? I give her one thing to do, remember my dates for our weekend away in Monaghan Monaghan’s country roads.

While we almost ended up by taking the wrong bus from Hamburg, to east Germany rather than Kiel.

Springtime in Bergen

En route to our MSC cruise www.msccruises.co.uk up the Norwegian cruises where we almost missed our ship in Bergen. Moi???

It was always going to be a challenge on the slopes with Topflight www.topflight.ie to Soll Soll Mates.

Hamburgers on the menu

But we stayed out of trouble in Central Portugal, Secret Portugal all down to our perfect host Jose https://www.madomistours.pt.

While we were on the same wavelength this time in Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

My Queen of Dragons in Belfast

Because the previous time, 23 years earlier, when there was a fork in the cycling route and we ended up going 10kms out of the way.

Then there was the adventure of 13 and a half years in Ireland with The InterCon… what a Ledge! a particular highlight.

Mum Champagne

Get a grip

My first holiday companion… I was in her belly en route to her homestead, Co. Donegal https://visitdonegal.net and we’ve been back countless times.

Latterly when I would take her up from my home in Co. Wicklow.

On one occasion I was tasked to drive her and my Auntie Ronnie who was grieving her husband, my Uncle Tom, up from Dublin… in Ronnie’s automatic sports car!!!

My Mummy… and just as old

Then when I accompanied her to New York https://www.nycvb.com/about/ for my cousin’s wedding… and suddenly I was back to 12 years old again.

While she wimped out of the Red Hot Chill Pipers concert when we were VIPs in my home town of Glasgow https://peoplemakeglasgow.com at the World Pipe Band Championships https://www.theworlds.co.uk.

Daddy’s Little Drinking Girl

Piping hot

Now there are only good memories… from the time in England’s Lake District https://www.golakes.co.uk when she asked me to find a friend for her.

To a family camping trip in Co. Wicklow https://visitwicklow.ie… when she was nine and she swigged from my whisky flask and claimed that she thought it was tea!

With my trekking pal Big Jim Gallaghet

There was no pretence when we attended a cocktail night at the Dylan https://www.dylan.ie

Well, she is her Grannie’s grand-daughter… and don’t even get me started on the other Grandma, the storied Bamba.

*And now I’ve got started I’ll move onto my heroines from my own personal Travels.

Adventure, America, Canada, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

My Sporting Weekend – at the races

You should never beat the local pool champion in his local… and you should never beat your sister-in-law at the races in her home city of Toronto.

But I did one of them, in a close finish at the Toronto races https://www.seetorontonow.com.

Racing abroad is always a thrill

Livepool lose

I’ve had mixed fortunes at the Aintree Grand National, losing in a photo-finish in my year working in Liverpool https://www.visitliverpool.com..

But returning years later to stay with my brother and sister-in-law I used some local knowledge to get a 1-2.

And repay their hospitality with a slap-up meal.

Have a night out on the town in Liverpool

A foot in the Algarve

Myself and The Scary One, back when she was just Slightly Intimidating, holidayed in the Algarve https://www.visitportugal.com/en.

Where we met two brothers, one of whom was a racing nut.

Terry hit the jackpot at The Derby and took us all out for dinner.

I don’t think I’ve had as good a meal out in Portugal on any of the occasions I’ve been back and I’ve had some good ones… Secret Portugal.

Cheltenham week

All of which ramblings is because I’m prone to drift like an unbroken horse when I should be sticking to the subject matter… the Cheltenham Races.

Which are on from Tuesday to Friday… https://www.cheltenhamfestival.net.

When, of course, Ireland empties for rural Gloucestershire.

Now if, on a whim, you decide you want to go then you’ll struggle to get accommodation but whether you want to go out of season or for next year…

Plum draw in Barbados

And a paintathon too

Then here’s what you want to check out… https://www.visitcheltenham.com.

They have 25 festivals in all throughout the year including a Literary Festival, a Music Festival and a Paint Festival…

And I’m up for that having painted Barbados purple at Foreday Morning as part of Crop Over… Let’s rumba in Barbados and www.visitbarbados.org.

Now maybe I’m doing myself down because I put Issy through her paces in Colorado a couple of years ago… The New Frontiersmen and https://www.colorado.com.

While if it’s goat racing you want then it has to be Tobago… www.visittobago.gov.tt.

MEET YOU AT THE RACES

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, Pilgrimage

St Paddy’s Day crawls

You’ll see them, clad in their green cassocks enjoying the craic, with St Paddy’s vital accessories, his crook or crozier staff… and a pint of Guinness.

It’s the St Paddy’s Day procession only, in fairness, there is very little proceeding… unless it’s to the next pub.

St Paddy’s staff, or crook with cross on top, is a symbol of his high status but probably not the best walking aid.

It’ll turn your beer green

I’ll get onto walks around Ireland with IrelandWays www.IrelandWays.com but first a walk around the houses.

My Dear Old Dad, a doctor, and perhaps a sainted figure himself by now would always advise people use walking sticks.

I must say on my first Camino A pilgrim’s prayer and www.CaminoWays.com I thought differently of those clicking their sticks into the holds on the Ryanair www.ryanair.com flights.

My Way… the Camino

How wrong I was.

I could have done with a stick as I stumbled along the Via Francigena Small roads lead to Rome and www.FrancigenaWays.com.

On top of the world… well, Germany at least

I had one, hewn from wood, on my historic walk through Austrian and German history with Topflight for Schools… https://topflightforschools.ie

In fact two, three, four, five… they are left around the mountain by previous walkers.

Who, like me, forgetfully leave them behind as they take photos and selfies of the breathtaking scenery.

And I could have done with one on my toughest trek yet in the height and heat of a Tenerife autumn day…

I’ve got style and stile

On a storied climb up to Afur.., A walk through the ages… Tenerife and www.CanariaWays.com.

While walking through the Bohemian Switzerland section of the Czech Republic Hungry and Thursday – Czech please and www.czechtourism.com.

Czech me out in Bohemia

And on the actual Switzerland… it’s definitely worth a walk too https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/ and Swhisskey on the rocks.

So take your stick with you on your IrelandWays trek.

With particular reference to my old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow, the Garden County.

Hike the Wicklow Way

Follow peaceful paths through ancient forests and open mountain trails to Glenmalure, Ireland’s longest glacier valley… and finish in Dublin.

Duration: Up to eight nights. Price: From €900pps.

And my best walking companion

The Kerry Camino

In olden times, Dingle was one of the departure points for ports for the north-western port of A Coruna.

From here set on foot for Santiago de Compostella

Duration: Up to four nights. Price: From €410pps.

*Book before March 31 to get a 10% discount off your trip.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Adventure, Africa, Asia, Countries, Cruising, Flying, Food, Food & Wine

Under the Red Sea

We’ve all been let down by the promise of a panorama which turns out to be a speck in the distance… but get this, you can see four countries from the Red Sea.

The one I’m in in Aqaba, Jordan, The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time and three others Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Sail on: It’s actually blue

Which also means two continents – Asia and Africa.

Now having dipped my toe in the Jordan part of the Ref Sea, I’m ready to try Egypt, Israel and Saudi.

The only way to ride

Now let’s start with Egypt and our friends Travel Department www.traveldepartment.ie and let’s start in its capital, Cairo.

There you will absorb the ancient sites including a full-day guided city tour.

Taking in the Egyptian Museum and a visit to the Khan El Khalili bazaar.

Then head for the Pyramids of Giza and thr Great Sphinx on a half-day guided tour.

Fancy a relaxing river cruise on the 4* HS Radamis II down the Nile?

Sphinx can only get better

With a range of excursions along the way taking in the Temple of Horus, the Valleyof Kings, the High Dam and the Temples of Karnak and Luxor.

Finally, you’ll enjoy a three-night stay in Hurghada, the beautiful beach resort toen stretching 40km along Egypt’s Red Sea coast.

Egypt is over there somewhere

Prices start from €1,629pp for 12 nights including return flights, 7 night full-board 4* river cruise, 4* and 5* B&B/half-board hotel accommodation, transfers, and excursions with expert local guides, departing April – November 2020

For more information click here. And visit www.traveldepartment.ie