Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Food

Holiday Snaps – Capes of good hope

And, yes, you read that right. I’m talking of the Eastern and Western Capes of South Africa and the Good Hope of returning ine day.

TV chef Gregg Wallace has been conjuring up memories of the Eastern Cape foe me in his ITV travelogue series, sponsored by Saga Holidays.

Where last week he went on safari at the Amakahla Game Reserve, just north-west of Port Elizabeth, and this week goes west to Table Mountain et al.

Chin chin: Gregg Wallace in South Africa

Of course Gregg got stuck into biltong, the dried cured meat they all eat out there.

The promo video shows Gregg toasting us with a South African white you can almost taste.

But a piece of advice, Gregg, if you really want to go native then you need to put ice in the wine.

Bergamo stands alone

Bergamo Molamia: Stay strong

Mola Mia… and I’m glad to see that Ryanair is giving Bergamo back its name in its latest tranche of offers and not just aa an appendage of Milan.

They flag up the medieval jewel of Lombardy at up to €30 off which takes you to their €23.99 one-way deal for Milan Bergamo.

Bur hey, Bergamo wasn’t built in a day… and I’ll share all its history and how it has rallied from being the doorway for Covid in Europe.

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

Book foe Bergamo and a raft of destinations by January 13. Travel between April 1 and October 31.

Ryanair helpfully shares where you can get a Covid test near you.

Sandals in the sand

Blessed: Saint Lucia

Or more accurately on the runway. Actually the plane on the runway but then my hour in Saint Lucia just whetted my appetite.

My Saint Lucian pal Jerry, the Big Rapper, from my G Adventures tour of Jordan had given me the skinny on his island.

And how he had plans for writing a guide book.

Look out for that when you’re out in Saint Lucia at Sandals who have a January sale on.

They have seven nights at the Sandals Regency La Toc with travel dates in September and October.

Fly with British Airways and stay in a honeymoon luxury.

Now I’ve experience of a couples hotel in Barbados and a Sandals on the south of the island too,

While, if you want to island hop, Saint Lucia is the stop-off for another prize destination Tobago.

Countries, Culture, Sport, UK

The City of Jute, Jim and Journalism

My old colleague ‘The Gadge’ (Scottish dialect for working man) would often say that he’d never met a good boss yet.

I’d mostly share his opinion, and the best advice is that when you get one hold on to them for dear life.

Boss of bosses

My old Sports Editor Donald from Edinburgh days was one such, and this genius headline was all his.

Oor Wullie and Oor Jimmy in Dundee

As it is a play on the moniker given to the City of Dundee.

Jute is for linoleum for which the city on the River Tay in the East of Scotland was known.

Jim is a twist on jam for which Dundee is famous.

But in this case refers to the legendary manager of Dundee United Jim McLean.

The Great Man: Jim McLean at Dundee United

And journalism after DC Thomson, the city’s newspaper company.

Among being one of the world’s oldest spawned its most famous boy, and family.

On a pedestal

Oor Wullie and The Broons.

Tay to go: The Tay Bridge

Wee Jim, which was how Mr McLean was known, but never among his players had to manage his players like scamps,.

Like they were Oor Wullie or his pals Soapy Soutar, Fat Boab and Wee Eck.

One such was Duncan Ferguson who went on to fetch the then biggest transfer in Scottish football history, from Rangers.

I’m a Broon: Grandpaw, The Bairn and the Big Bairn

And then went on to become a fans’ favourite at Everton where he is now Assistant Manager.

But who while at Tannadice paid the price literally in club fines for not following Wee Jim’s rules.

Jim’s rules

While in a more old school form of punishment Wee Jim, who would maybe smile once a year and never in public, had Big Dunc washing his car.

Dan the Man in Dundee

Wonder how that would go down with Neymar, Pogba and Ozil.

Wee Jim may very well be laying down the law to St Peter and the Apostles by now.

But they will be better for it.

Like his players whom he led to a league title, two League Cups, a European final and famous wins such as against Barcelona in the Nou Camp.

Scotland’s National poet Robert Burns

Richer and funnier anecdotes will be told today about Wee Jim,

Funtime and Glumtime Jimmy

But this Jim will always remember him as taking my calls when I was a cub reporter in Aberdeen.

And even getting an apology from him after he cut our call short because of a fire drill.

Minnie and Me

Wee Jim had probably been lighting a fire under Big Dunc.

Now we’ve all agreed that Wee Jim deserves to be put on a pedestal along with Desperate Dan, Oor Wullie and Robert Burns,.

It’s been in the planning and is slated for next year… and it will surely be among these favourites of mine.

Countries, Culture, Deals, Music, Sport

Maradona, you’ve been Tangoed

And to the million reasons I’m proud of the Son and Heir this year I’m adding a radio show, Radio Buena Vida, on Argentinian music with donations to Homeless charity the Simon Community.

To mark the passing this year (although the World Cup Final winning goal aside, he rarely passed) of Diego Maradona.

The Wee Man, as we all know, loved a party, and we loved The Wee Man.

And being Argentinian he had natural rhythm which he brought to the dancing floor.

El Glitterball

Taking in the Christmas Strictly show yesterday, and having listened to my son Ally’s radio show, got me thinking how good it would have been to see him Tango.

I’d put him with somebody similarly small, probably the gorgeous 4ft 11in Cuban-Floridian Janette Manrara.

Diego also had a strong voice and to tempt you into Ally’s prog, here’s a taster of Maradona’s singing.

There are a million reasons too to visit Maradona’s beloved Argentina

My two favourites would be football and football and a match and tour at Diego’s beloved Boca Juniors would be high up on my list.

Pampas and polo

But obviously the music, and I know a man who knows his Argentinian music,

While there’s also the pampas and the polo, which I know they, and an old schoolmate of mine, play on the fields of England.

The former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said of The Iguazu Falls which spills a quarter of a million gallons of water a day: ‘poor old Niagara.’

And while the bustling cities of Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Mendoza are a must, the southernmost city on Earth, Ushuaia is too.

Water, water everywhere

We’d suggest the 12-day Wendy Wu Essence of Argentina & Brazil tour from €4390pp with flights.

While G Adventures pairs Argentina and Chile, ten days Santiago to Buenos Aires from €1317 which is down from €1549.

MEET YOU ON THE FLOOR

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Sport

Owed to Joy – a celebration of Beethoven and Europe

And isn’t it timely that as Britain extricates from Europe we pay tribute to Beethoven today? An Owed to Joy if you will.

This month marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig’s birthday of the Great Man and we would have been there in Bonn with him.

But instead we will be doing the next best thing tonight… listening to the composer and an expert panel.

General Music Director Dirk Kaftan, the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn and guests will be discussing his legacy.

Listen up

We’re reliably informed that you need to be on this link https://www.magenta-musik-360.de at 8.30pm tonight, Wednesday, December 16 and https://www.bthvn2020.de from 8.30pm.

And while we’re being transported to his childhood home to Bonn he has moved on and is spending eternity in Vienna.

Well his bones are… for his death mask, go to Teplice in the modern-day Czech Republic.

Room for Beethoven

Visit the room he stayed in in the Beethoven Spa, and see said death mask and the hearing horns he tried when he was here.

Heard about the Beethoven mask in Teplice

You may even be inspired to pen some music when you visit the cafe there where a piano is the centrepiece.

Ludwig was, and he wrote his Seventh Symphony here.

The Beethoven celebrations continue digitally tomorrow night, Thursday, December 17, with a rendition of Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto.

Move over Ludwig: In Teplice

And his Symphony of Fate No. 5.

By pianist and conductor legend Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

Classical cities

And if all this gets your creative juices flowing then here’s a couple of recommendations of classical music cities from my travels.

What a picture: With The Scary One in Bergen

Bergen for Edvard Grieg, on your MSC cruise, Salzburg for Mozart with Topflight Bergamo forDonizetti with Omio and https://www.visitbergamo.net/it/.

MEET YOU AT INTERMISSION

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Rossmeister, Braywatch and Andorra’s Box

You know Christmas is coming when… the latest Ross O’Carroll Kelly book hits the shelves and he coins another killer pun like Game of Throw-Ins of Andora’s Box.

And as it happens the new Ross book hits the shelves this Friday… and I’ve already told Santa that, roysh, I want that.

The Ledge is back

As well as a Beamer with one of the Seoige sisters (or both) sprawled over the hood.

Andorra was where Ross decamped when he had to get out of town.

From the looks of it Ross is having to make the most of things these days in Bray, the old-fashioned Co. Wicklow resort I know so well.

Although I prefer the luxury of leafy Powerscourt in nearby Enniskerry.

The Sugarloaf frames Bray

Back to Andorra.

And In truth if you do during the winter you’ll not be able to hook a T bar or ride a gondola without bumping into someone you know from Dublin 4..

If you want a taste of Dublin’s Rugbyland and walk in the Rossmeister’s footsteps then the InterCon is where you’ll stay.

And he’ll no doubt have a thing or two to say about Ireland’s win yesterday against Scotland.

Pyrenees please

Andorra is an ideal country to get the skiing kick.

And Pierre & Vacances are all over the Pyrenees with more than 455 rooms and apartments.

It is adding to that with two new residences in the Pyrenees, Hotel Austria and Residence Andorra Degas.

Deal me in

Hotel Austria… but in Andorra

Hotel Austria boasts 62 rooms and is just 1km from the Peretol ski resort.

The Degas Apartments are right on the doorstep to the skiing, just 750m from the Grandvalira slopes.

A seven-night stay at the Hotel Austria at a flexible rate, arriving on March 13 is from €395/£358 for a double bedroom with breakfast included.

And a week at the Andorra Residence Degas is from €757/£685 for an apartment that sleeps up to three. Flights and transfers not included.

I’ve looked up at those Pyrenees from my post-Lourdes tour so this is unfinished business.

Adventure, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Out of my tree

And watching the Scary One plant her pear trees in the drizzle for National Tree Week has sparked memories of where I’ve been out of my tree around the world.

Let’s hear it for the beardies… on Barbados

Beardy trees

Caribbean: The trees certainly caught the Portuguese mariners” eye when they landed in Barbados..

Not the golden beaches, interestingly (well they have their own) but their bearded Ficus citrifolia.

While we all visit the West Indies for its beaches we miss a lot if we ignore its heartland so you should go safari.

Where Dwayne will tear up the woodland in his Jeep and the bowed bearded trees will flick your face.

Eat one of those famous Tobagonian meals of fish which has just jumped out of the sea and macaroni in Jemma’s Treehouse.

And sleep it off in your own treehouse in Castara Retreats in a hammock naturally.

Tree si

Bergamo is a poplar destination

Italy: And my favourite is this much-loved straight up and down tree… it’s very poplar.

My good friend and an Irish Travel Writer of the Year into the bargain, Muriel Bolger, wrote beautifully for me on their appeal, on a trip I sent her on to Northern Italy.

Which I checked out for myself in Bergamo this past Autumn.

I had, of course, familiarised myself with them when I went off-road on my Via Francigena pilgrimage.

Me and the chasing dogs.

Espana fir favor

Does this house look big on me?

Spain: And while the summer is when we all descend on Spain’s beaches here’s my ode to Autumn in Espana.

When nature is in a state of undress, and when she is at her most becoming.

The best way to discover a region is by foot and on my Camino in Galicia I trudged the same tracks the Medieval Peregrinos did.

I dare say that the tree growing out of this house was there then too.

The explorer to Tenerife, rather than the sun seeker, will head north, rather than south.

And the rainforest in the Northern Anaga Mountains. All of which you cam enjoy on your CanariaWays.com trip.

The Power of trees

Crane your neck: The Douglas Fir at Powerscourt

Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Ireland: And when you live in the Garden County of Wicklow then trees are all around you.

The tallest one in Ireland is on the magnificent Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, near Bray, some 60m plus which is it the seventh highest in Europe.

And when you stay in the sumptuous hotel you get a view, and a review, like no other.

And shiver me timbers

Who put that there? On Edge

Celebrity Edge: And trees are the last thing you’d expect on a cruise ship.

But this is just one of the things which separates the $1bn Celebrity Cruises Edge from the other ships on the seas..

Edge which I boarded two years ago for its inaugural trip from Fort Lauderdale to tbe Bahamas boasts Eden, a forested wonder et land of plants.

But then every on Edge transports you to a different world.

MEET YOU UP A TREE

Adventure, Canada, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

Yes Yukon – 125 years since the Gold Rush

Yes Yukon. Happen if I had been a young buck in 1896 I would have been searching for gold in them thar hills.

Listen it’s got so bad in Murty Demesne that I’ve taken to burrowing up in the Pentland Hills around Edinburgh.

Grandpa Murty too went to Canada to try to make his fortune (actually sent there to get himself out of trouble in Scotland).

But that was later.

London’s calling

Yukon has been in the public conscience this year again with the remake of Jack London’s Call of the Wild with Harrison Ford.

Turning back the clock: A bygone age

My good friend Jo, who babysits the British and Irish journalists at IPW, the American Travel Fair, is a mine of information on Yukon.

And she has dug us out this….

Hit the trail

The Chilkoot Trail traces the prospectors’ path from Skagway, Alaska through the Yukon to Bennett Lake, British Colombia.

Across the ravine, the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway chugs over the pass (this woman’s a poet).

En route through the coastal mountains to Carcross village.

Visitors can enjoy Gold Rush tours of the Klondike Gold Fields and also pam for gold.

Dawson City

Jack London fans will love the Jack London Museum and Cabin in Dawson City.

You, of course, will be staying somewhere a lot more salubrious.

The Dawson Lodge is a new ten-bedroom environmentally-conscious boutique-style hotel with Gold Rush ambience.

And Yukon will ensure you don’t feel alone even though there are only 40,000 human types across an area the size of Spain.

You will get a welcome from its 180,000 caribou, 70,000 moose, 22,000 mountain sheep, 7,000 grizzly bears, 10,000 black bears and 250 bird species.

Heavenly dancers

While there’s plenty of life too up there in the skies with those heavenly dancers, the Northern Lights.

It’s just one more frontier for this Wild West frontiersman to cross.

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Holiday Snaps – Hungarian heights

I christened her Funky Gold Edina which she happily went along with despite it probably going over her Hungarian head.

Edina was the ever-smiling Top Flight for Schools host on our walking trip up the Tyrolean Alps in Austria.

Which is no mean thing when everything over your head gives you vertigo.

It’s the people you meet from foreign countries when you’re abroad who inspire you to visit their homelands.

Hungary for cultureEdina’s beloved Hungary is also on Travel Department‘s radar.

Phew Danube

You’ll go right round the bend but you’ll love it on your Danube Bend Walking Holiday.

Spend five nights in the Medieval castle town of Visegard in Northern Hungary.

Enjoy five days of walking with packed lunches with moderate (7-11kms) and challenging (12-20kms) levels.

With Edina and Caroline in the Austrian Tyrol

Among the highlights are Nagymaros, Zebegeny, the Pilis Mountains and a half/day tour of Budapest.

From €1,199pp for seven nights including flights, transfers and 4* hotel accommodation, departing June and September.

Sit down next to me Rosa

Rosa and Thistle in Memphis

There is something iconic about the American bus.

Where else can you see a man in a gabardine suit who looks like a spy when you’ve gone to look for America (ask your folks)?

But not all buses are Greyhound or Peter Pan buses… in the Deep South they were awful segregated affairs.

Until a wee seamstress cast a huge Civil Rights legacy 65 years ago today by refusing to give up her seat.

Her arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, sparked the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Heroine: Rosa Parks

I had the honour of sitting beside Rosa (well kinda) in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

The real bus is in the Henry Ford Museum in the Detroit area near where she moved, like so many African-Americans.

But the real story begins in Montgomery, Alabama.

Malta crosses

Art of Valletta: Caravaggio

Should you see a Catholic priest walking down the middle of a street in Malta or Gozo then you should veer into a ditch to miss him.

It used to be the case too in Ireland though these changed days they’d probably be stepping on the peddle.

The links to the two countries have always been strong and they’ve just been renewed.

Since the end of last month you can get back to Malta from Ireland with a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival.

And when you’re there you can enjoy, the sun, sea and swally, of course, but why not the saints too?

And as I often say the best way to check out a new place is to go where they play and pray.

Grand Gozo

The archipelago boasts more than 360 churches and chapels and having visited St John’s Co-Cathedral for the Caravaggio which means only another 359!

St Augustine Church and St Paul’s Shipwreck Church are on the Malta Pilgrimage Trail and the old convert must think I’lm stalking him.

In Malta yes, but also Rome while I’ve also been on the trail of St John too, on the island of Kythera in the Athens/Attica region of Greece.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Kitmastime

And for many a parent the go-to Christmas present for kids (and maybe vice-versa) was a football top.

My most memorable was, and this is pertinent in a week when we lost Diego Maradona, La Albiceleste.

Or the sky blue and white stripes.

Truth was that my attempts at long hair never came close to the chic cool of the hero of that year’s World Cup, Mario Kempes.

And physical evidence still exists in a picture album of a rather angst-ridden teen standing by the tree.

In truth I hadn’t asked for Argentina and would have preferred the Dutch shirt.

And I did rue the day I left the World Cup winners’ top behind in a changing room.

So in recognition of Diego and also to flag up a very good cause comedian Mark Watson’s Kitmas appeal for donations of old football tops here are my five faves.

Which will, of course, draw you to these countries.

Dutch of class

Argentina and the Netherlands in the World Cup final in 1978.

The Netherlands: And it was probably just as well that my parents didn’t give me the Dutch top in the Glasgow of the Seventies.

Because an orange top is identified in Scotland with King William of Orange and the Protestant team Rangers.

And that wouldn’t have gone down well in my Catholic school.

Thing was though that as an eight-year-old and uncluttered by such nonsense I was dazzled by that colour.

And the Netherlands of Cruyff and Krol.

And I did manage to blend in with the Oranje Army when I treated the-then Miss F to a night out.

Amsterdam to Rotterdam where the Dutch beat the Greeks 1-0.

Portuguese man of awe

Team of all talents: Portugal in 1986

Portugal: And while it’s mostly always the top you get sometimes you need the whole shirt and shorts ensemble.

So that Portugal‘s red top with the addition of green shorts becomes the Portugal flag.

Our guide Jose Madomis told us from the off that Portugal in the days of the dictator Salazar was run on Football, Fado and Fatima.

So much so that among all the stands of Our Lady merch in Fatima you’ll find the Portuguese shirt and Cristiano Ronaldo towel!

Moroccan roll

Green is the colour: Morocco

Morocco: And not just because they were Scotland’s last opponents in the finals of a major competition, a 3-0 defeat in 1998.

But because of the lengths I went to to get myself a Morocco top

On my travels in Marrakech. I picked the green one rather than the red.

Where I got roped in by a trader after some pointless bartering.

To buy his threadbare top off his stall for more than its worth.

Which set in motion a tragical mystery tour from Jemaa el-Fna around the souks.

And that was just the start of my rocky Moroccan roll.

Roman holiday

Hotti Totti: Roma legend Francesco Totti

Roma: And we’re still waiting to get to see the Gods of calcio after Dad here promised the Son and Heir a match only to forget his passport.

But we did get a Giallorossi (red, more of a maroon, and yellow piping) top snd pencil case.

Calcio too is a religion in Rome

And as you come out of the Vatican you’ll find the shops on one side of the street bedecked in yellow and white, the other in Roma red.

Dynamic Zagreb

Blue for you: Dynamo Zagreb

Medjugorje: And, no, you didn’t read that wrongly…. the Balkans Wars just across the Croatian border in Bosnia & Herzegovina is solidly Croat.

Particularly in the Irish Centre, the focal point for your Marian tour.

Where your barman cranks up the volume when his faves Dynamo Zagreb play.

And with my Croatia friends on World Cup final day in 2018

And will accompany it with a tape of his best supporters’ songs.

Outside on the stands and in the shops and the only thing competing for space with Our Lady is…

Yes, you guessed it Croatia’s distinctive red and white checked tops.

And one just for me

Put your shirt on me

Quinta do Murto; And a postscript here… before I was invited out to Quinta do Lago to visit the hi-tec Campus.

I was asked my shirt size.

And when I was taken into the changing rooms where English Premier League sides set up camp there on the peg was…

My own black top with white sleeves with my name on the back.

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Sport

JFK remembered

We have a long-forgotten aide of John F. Kennedy’s to thank on this day as JFK is remembered.

This is why the iconic US President’s grave being open for us to pay pilgrimage.

Kennedy had spoken to the aide from Robert E Lee’s house looking down on Arlington Cemetery in the weeks ahead of his assassination.

He said, with some prescience, that he would like to spend eternity looking down on this view of Washington DC and the Potomac River.

Jackie Kennedy had wanted to bury her husband in the Kennedy family homestead of Hyannis Port in Massachusetts.

The sentry never sleeps

Sentinels have continued to stand watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

There at Arlington House throughout the pandemic, albeit without tourists.

For history tourists it is a must as part of a visit to General Lee’s house.

You can see the recreated office where he contemplated on whose side to fight on during the Civil War.

The Arlington grounds on which the cemetery now stands was used as a military camp.

It served as a resting place for soldiers by Union forces.

A family affair

Kennedy’s grave is a simple. solemn stone, beside the eternal flame and his family

And movingly his and Jackie’s still-born child Arabella and their infant son Patrick, born in the months before his death.

Kennedy’s Irish visit in 1963

Jackie is buried here too.

She lies near his brothers Robert and Edward, and all are tended too beautifully and respectfully by the groundsmen.

Today on the 57th anniversary of his assassination focus will switch to Dallas, his Massachusetts home, and perhaps too his Irish homestead.

A view for immortality onto Washington DC

And all resonant to the man and his legend.

But today I will be reflecting on gardener Old Jorge tending the graves the day I visited.

And how Kennedy would have come to represent his champion.