Adventure, America, Countries

Say hi to Donald from me

Are you in America now it’s open again to UK and Irish visitors… if so, say hi to Donald from me if you’re in Orlando.

Orlando will be the first stop for visitors from these, and Irish shores, as our favourite US holiday destination.

We hooked up with our friends from Roller Coaster City.

And they took just enough time off the rides to update us on the thrilliest, spilliest place on Earth.

Stars in my eyes

Now in a Galaxy’s Edge far, far, away in Disney’s twin centre in Anaheim… well, two years ago I got a glimpse into the future in the first party to try out Star Wars world. 

And the future is here now in the present and ready for y’all to see it both in California and here in Orlando.

Of course Mickey, Donald and their pals have been celebrating since last month their 50th birthday (well, not theirs, they’re much older but Disney World’s).

On a theme

Rat-a-tat-tat: Food for thought

And the four theme parks and beyond have been in fine song.

Among the most anticipated attractions, and the ones we’ve zeroed in on are:

Disney Enchantment, a new all-new nighttime extravaganza at Magic Kingdom Park, featuring captivating Disney music, enhanced lighting, stunning fireworks and immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.

And we’ve danced along to Mickey’s In Da House party on that very street and can advise that you lose all inhibitions (or was that just me, Mickey and Donald?)

Then there’s Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot, where guests shrink to the size of Chef Remy and race through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure.

You like your French gastronomeee, oui? 

Then La Crêperie de Paris is a new restaurant located in the France pavilion at Epcot which offers both table and quick-service options and features a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse.

The Showbiz Lion and I

Scots wahey: With Bev in Orlando

Now as a veteran of the Orlando theme parks I know how nothing sits still (well, it wouldn’t with you twirled this way and that).

Personally, I prefer a wet one, as my old sparring partner, Lady Lyons, Bev, of Showbiz Lion fame, would say.

And so we both loved Aquatica Orlando. AO can now boast Florida’s first-ever duelling waterslide, Riptide Race, which opened in the spring.

You’ll start atop a 68-foot tower and race side-by-side at top speeds, navigating tight loops and accelerations through indoor and outdoor sections.

While Florida also loves its natural as well as animated animals. And it has those in abundance, particularly flamingos.

In the Pink

Pickin’ ma pocket: Flamingo time

The Flamingo Mingle at Discovery Cove is a new, exclusive animal experience where guests can feed and learn about our pink friends in an outdoor setting. 

Another old pal I met back then in Anaheim is The Jurassic Park VelociCoaster which opened in June at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

The ride sends you catapulting up to 70mph and over 150ft in the air with the swiftest of prehistoric predators.

If you like your fun irreverent and green and ogre-like then you’ll love Shrek (guilty).

And his DreamWorks friends. So you’ll be excited about DreamWorks Destination, an all-new, interactive character experience, opened in the KidZone area of Universal Studios Florida.

Guests can interact, dance and be photographed with multiple beloved characters from DreamWorks Animation’s hit film franchises, including Trolls, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda – all in one location.

And seeing it’s all about you in ’22 then here’s what’s still to come. 

Wet, wet, wet

Twirl power: SeaWorld Orlando

Ice Breaker, SeaWorld Orlando’s first launch coaster, will open in February and riders will shiver through family-friendly adventures featuring four launches, both backwards and forwards.

It all culminates in a reverse launch with a 93ft tall spike with 100-degree angle, the steepest vertical drop in Florida.

Aquatica Orlando’s newest water slide, Reef Plunge, will launch in spring with guests sliding through translucent cutouts and rings.

You’ll get to twist and turn though 330ft of fiberglass; and zoom past a vibrant array of marine life.

Commerson’s dolphins, leopard sharks, sardines, and a variety of other cold-water fish will be part of the new dynamic habitat.   

Peppa party

Hamming it up: Peppa and pals

Again, they like it pink in Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida Resort will open the world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park  on February 24.

The standalone theme park will feature multiple rides, interactive attractions, fun live shows, themed playscapes and water play areas.

Phew, and you’ll be looking for somewhere to stay, but not just somewhere but the best Star Warsy place of them all.

Starry hotel

In control: Star Wars time in Anaheim

Walt Disney World has unveiled plans for its immersive Star Wars-themed hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, opening March 1.

Guests will “board” the starship Halcyon for an all-inclusive experience that puts them into the immersive world of Star Wars.

The hotel will debut as part of the new Disney 360 vacation concept that gives each guest a storyline upon arrival. 

So, plenty of stories of your own to tell, like mines the week I met His Royal Quackness.

So, say hi to Donald from me if you’re in Orlando.

And remember all our favourite airlines, Virgin, British Airways and TUI . And, of course. Ireland’s national airline carrier, Aer Lingus.

And Attraction Tickets who will look after your every care when you book with them. 

 

 

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe

Thrillsrael

There’s little record what they did for kicks in the Old Testament but it’s always been right there for them in Thrillsrael.

Our time-out from travelling because of the pandemic has only increased our appetite for foreign shores.

And allowed us to expand our horizons or dip our toe in a different part of the sea.

Best foot forward: In outdoor activities

And so while most of us in Western Europe know the Med from its northern shores there is a beautiful south too.

With Israel leading the way in vaccinations and being at the head of the queue in opening up our attentions switched there.

And the news keeps getting better with Israel announcing today that from Monday it will be accepting individually vaccinated visitors.

Shalom Sharon

The Southern Med: From Israel

Sharon Bershadsky, Director of the UK & Ireland Tourist Office said “I’m very excited to be able to share the news.

‘the Ministry of Tourism along with our colleagues in the industry have been working tirelessly over this difficult period and we are thrilled to be able to welcome visitors back to Israel”.

Now Israel is obviously about the Holy Sights and there will be plenty of us giving thanks for emerging safely from this crisis.

But we’re due some rewards too.

And it’s worth remembering that for all its antiquities Israel is a relatively young country at a sprightly 73 years old.

And an outdoorsy people with plenty of opportunities to indulge in general sportiness.

Float On

Dead handsome: Jerry and Jimmy

The Dead Sea: Now they’ve kicked us off with the floatathon which is the Red Sea.

Which we enjoyed from the other side in Jordan with G Adventures when we got all muddied up.

And a shout-out here to St Lucia’s finest, Jerry, the Big Rapper who said he was plenty black enough.

Madder for Masada

If the rocks could talk: Massada

Masada: And yes, we promised you Biblical history and Masada is, of course, where 960 Sicari rebels committed mass suicide.

All rather than surrender, in the First Jewish-Roman War.

Abseil away

Give me enough rope: Abseiling

Rappelling in the Nachal Tamarim Canyon: And full disclosure here I had to check that abseiling and rappelling were the same.

Which they are.

Now having wimped out in the Rockies in Colorado I couldn’t back out of this canyon.

You’ll encounter amazing scenery and panoramic views of the Dead Sea and the Moav and Adom mountains.

Zig zag through waterfalls and trek past fig trees for a day’s hike with a difference.

For a new twist try the night hike, which is particularly atmospheric with a full-moon!

Mammy Dolphin

Smile: You’re on camera

Dolphin Reef: When it comes to swimming with dolphins you’re probably thinking more SeaWorld in Orlando but did you know you can find the finned ones swimming away in the Red Sea.

I didn’t get far enough down in my snorkel in the Red Sea (my guide told me my moustache got in the way) to see them.

But you can. Get down to Eilat and get up close and personal with these remarkable creatures.

Up, up and away

Watch out for the hang gliders: When you’re ballooning

Ballooning in Israel: Now just like the kiddies’ balloon that gets let loose… hot air ballooning has always floated out of reach.

In England, in Orlando, in South Africa.

Of course all of the above look beautiful from the air. And it is worth reflecting that our forebears weren’t able to see their world from the skies (unless they were birds). 

If you like exploring places you haven’t been before, try 500 metres up in the air! See Israel from a whole new vantage point from 500m up in the air.

With breath-taking views of the country’s rolling green hills and valleys, famous historical sights and the hustle and bustle of the cities.

For a truly unforgettable ride, book a sunrise tour to see the stunning landscape coated in the morning sun’s pink and orange hues.

Whichever activity you choose make sure it’s in the Promised Land.

And particularly now with the new more tourist-friendly regulations. Enjoy your Thrillsrael.

 

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Sport

Tirol-blazing

Ja, it’s the Austrian region that lends itself to trend-setting, or Tirol-blazing if you please.

Little did I know when I waved Auf Wiederseshen to Tirol a couple of years ago that they (and the rest of the world) would be thrown off course.

And that a full, proper ski season would have to wait until 2021. But there it is.

Now we all know that the Austrians love a rule or two and so without further ado over to them to set out the regulations.

Der rules

Like an Alpine skier: In the Austrian Tyrol

*No general restrictions on opening times for bars and restaurants, no general restrictions on ski lift capacity, no general social distancing.

*Ski resorts must apply the 3G Rule (ie all visitors must prove they have been tested, vaccinated or have had and are recovered from Coronavirus.

•Apres-ski locations will be subject to the same rules as nightclubs. From Level 2 these venues will impose the 2G Rule (access only for people who are vaccinated or have had and are recovered from Coronavirus).

*Christmas markets where food and drink are served will be subject to the 3G Rule (does not apply to Christmas markets without food and drink).

*Further measures above and beyond Level 3 will be targeted mainly at unvaccinated people.

*Everyone who gets vaccinated now can be sure of having access to all areas this winter (ski lifts, restaurants, concerts, cinemas, etc).

Now without any more shilly-shallying, some hotels and chalets.

Alpine hand

Exclusive Chalets at St. Anton am Arlberg. © Arlberg Photography, Privat Chalet St. Anton

Golden Marmot and Silver Fox: Exclusive chalets at St. Anton am Arlberg
Two new, exclusive luxury chalets are opening in St. Anton am Arlberg.

The Chalet Golden Marmot – with three apartments for eight to ten guests each and a small spa area – is located just a few metres from the bottom station of the Nasserein cable car and the entrance to the Arlberg ski area.

The sister chalet, Silver Fox, will also open its doors in December:

The three apartments – each with a spacious living and dining area – are perfect for a cosy get-together around the fireplace with your family or group of friends.

You can also relax in the sauna of the in-house spa area.
www.chalet-stanton.com

Solden this too

The Skybar THE VUE in the new Hotel “The Secret Sölden”. © Zuchna Visualisierung

It’s time to reveal some secrets: The Secret Sölden
An opulent golden entrance, copper-coloured metal panels: “The Secret Sölden” attracts all eyes even from the outside.

From December 2021, the exclusive apartment resort with 44 residential units will reveal its secrets.

The Secret Sölden is not a classic hotel but instead it aims to impress with an innovative overall concept.

And an open-house approach. LA‘ LIV – the living room of the house – will be the heart and central meeting point.

Breakfast buffet in LA‘ LIV or undisturbed breakfast in your apartment? You choose!

Guests can also help themselves to a fine selection of snacks as well as drinks throughout the day.

In the evening, LA‘ LIV transforms into a chic restaurant.

But that’s not all.

The absolute highlight during your stay at The Secret Sölden will be the spectacular sky bar THE VUE with a glass ceiling.
www.the-secret-soelden.com

Zillertal have that

Hotel Berghof in Mayrhofen © Ing. Thomas Buchberger

Beautiful new spa area at Hotel Berghof in Mayrhofen
This season, winter sports enthusiasts can also look forward to two further, freshly renovated hotels in the Zillertal valley.

The first one is Hotel Berghof in Mayrhofen:

Since the summer, the new garden SPA has a rooftop sunbathing lawn (adults only and suck it up kids).

And a spacious wellness landscape with an indoor and outdoor pool, children’s pool and family saunas await guests. www.berghof.cc

Kristall clear

Hotel Kristall in Leutasch. © Barbist Architecture

The classic one with a new look: Hotel Kristall in Leutasch
Hotel Kristall is a traditional establishment which has been in this beautiful spot in Leutasch on the Seefeld Plateau since 1973.

And it has been run by the Pfeffel family since 2004.

In 2021, the hotel is being fully renovated with these new features.

The hotel lobby and bar are being redesigned and expanded, the restaurant will shine anew.

And an additional floor with rooms and suites is being created.

“But our highlight is the new Sky-SPA with a heated outdoor pool, panorama sauna, indoor and outdoor lounging areas and panoramic view of the Wetterstein mountains and Hohe Munde,” says hotelier Bernhard Pfeffel.
www.hotel-kristall.at

Adventure, America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, UK

Craig Sera Sera

Craig Sera Sera, that’s a wrap from the 12th Bond.. and he’ll sure miss those exotic missions.

So which countries has 007 visited most, other than England where he works?

Well of the 50 he’s been to, Italia would seem to have been his favourite with the spy having touched down in Il Bel Paese eight times. 

Pasta Master

Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

Rome, Venice and Como have inevitably been stick-on locations for any filmmaker and international man of mystery.

And this time it’s the European City of Culture for 2019, Matera, which is getting its place in the sun this time. 

With its houses. built into caves, cobbled streets and high arches a dramatic backdrop for the opening scenes.

And Felice Giorni for Matera with the town’s mayor, Raffaello De Ruggieri, predicting its association with Bond will be worth $20 million to the local economy.

In truth this is probably the highpoint of the movie, and all before the credits and Billie Eilish’s disappointing dirge of a soundtrack.

As Daddy’s Little Girl rightly pointed out the best bits were the locales. 

Live and Let Spy

Love a duck: At Epcot Centre, Florida

With Britain and America enjoying that much feted special relationship it is unsurprising that The Oo Es of Eh is his next favourite stop-off.

And we particularly enjoy his forays into Florida and its keys… whose pleasures I had to put off on the outbreak of Covid but where I intend to fulfil just as soon as.

Ski another day

Like an Alpine skier: In the Austrian Tyrol

Next up might be less predictable, Austria, but then we have to remember its stunning snowscapes and Bond’s love of winter sports which of course we share.

Although we have never seen him on the slopes of Soll while we have enjoyed skiing alongside some dapper fancied-dressed folks.

And we look forward to seeing a penguin-suited Bond on the piste some time soon.

For Bond anoraks it’s an easy question but which is the only country in a film title?

The spy who came in from the Red

Dance away: Russia

Yes, the old Soviet Union, or Russia as we knew it in shorthand.

And as well as the titular film From Russia With Love, Bond turns up in Fabergeland another three times.

Turkish crossroads

Hamam bam: Istanbul

It has been the crossroads for espionage since first the first looked out over each other at either side of the Bosphorus.

And, of course, Istanbul, has been an ideal backdrop for Bond’s adventures… and yours, and mine with three films taking in Turkey’s biggest city.

Three’s a charm

Limber up: The next Bond?

And among those countries where Bond has a trio of visits is Hong Kong, Spain, the Bahamas, Scotland, his homeland and Jamaica where Ian Fleming penned the books.

And the West Indies’ biggest island is where we first fell in love with Bond on the Laughing Waters beach in Ocho Rios.

Or Sean Connery to be more precise, even if you were a red-blooded bloke, you actually wanted to be him.

Wear a swimsuit: Craig as Bond

And be with Ursula Andress.

There was much fuss too about Daniel Craig with his take on coming out of the water, ripped and in a pair of budgie smugglers.

Only thing is a budgie has more charisma.

Craig Sera Sera… whatever will be, will be.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Sport

Walking in Vegas and Memphis

And WC Handy will still look down on him… Rainy Days and Songdays celebrates Tyson Fury as he goes Walking in Vegas and Memphis.

The Gypsy King has become as big a headliner in Vegas as Celine Dion, Elton John and The Osmonds (yes, really).

The World Heavyweight champion brought the house down when he adapted another American classic in the ring after defeating Deontay Wilder, who really ought to have had the home fans in the palm of his destructive hands.

Memphis history

That’s Handy: In Memphis

Now we’ll forgive Tyson for being disorientated.

And not quite knowing his surroundings after Wilder put him on the seat of his pants during the fight.

Because WC Handy was an Alabaman, who made his name in Memphis, Tennessee, as the Father of the Blues.

A couple of feet: Off of Beale

Tyson would be a thousand miles away though if he had touched down in the land of the Delta Blues.

The Delta being the juncture in the Mississippi.

Although we will give him his Beale (Avenue) in Las Vegas which we stumbled upon in Neon City.

Although the Beale which Marc Cohen was referring to was Beale Street in Memphis.

On the Strip

VIP: With the Rat Trap

Mind you Vegas can recreate anywhere in the world in their own image.

Head down the Strip and you will almost think you have been transported to Paris or ancient Egypt.

And an anecdote here to prove my point.

Jetlagged on my arrival in Vegas I laid down on my triple bed in The Palazzo in the afternoon.

And against my better judgment I fell asleep.

Only to be woken up by a call from our host Tryphavana to say the party was sitting down for dinner at the Venetian.

The Grand Canal

The one in.., Vegas

Wiping my eyes, still in sleepy mode, I passed by gondolas on the Grand Canal.

And walked through to the restaurant and an Italian feast.

Looking up I saw a fresco of the Creation of Adam.

Sure, Vegas can recreate the world in their own image.

So go ahead, me and Tyson Fury love Walking in Vegas and Memphis.

Countries, Deals, Europe, Sport

Portyogal

Lyra did things to me that should never be done to a man (and definitely not before dinner). Welcome to Portyogal.

And while the Algarve conjures up images of Sun, Sea and Sagres to most, Sport is the order of the day at The Campus in Quinta do Lago

Portugal’s popularity for golfers is well established but more and more of us have been discovering its other activities.

Among them tennis, with lessons from Judy Murray, and the Iberian favourite padel, a hybrid of tennis and squash.

Sun, steak and sardines

Hands up for yoga: in Quints

With all that sun, steak and sardines (and I can do sibilant alliteration all day) you’ll be wanting to swim it off.

Yes, and the ancient practices of yoga too. It’s not called Portyogal for nothing!

If you don’t know your Downward Dog from your Cobra, and if you do, then you’ll want to know you’re with experts

And our old friends at Travel Department know their Portugal and know their yoga.

My type of TD

Tranquility: Portugal

TD offers a guided trip where your vinyasa/hatha practice will be varied and themed each day.

Your MOONS yoga teacher will help you focus on slow, mindful movement with stronger holds.

And if you’re very good teacher will allow you out to take in Sagres.

The beer? Yes, but also the region.

With walks along the coast, the sun, surf and siestas.

The TD Algarve Yoga Holiday is from €639pp including three nights’ B&B with all yoga activities.

Depart May 5 and October 13.

Yoga moves

Toning up: In Tobago

And so since you’ve been practicing your yoga over lockdown you’ll be ready to go.

I know I am having limbered up under the tutelage of my old pal and Nidra practitioner SLM who I exercised with in Tobago.

That is when we weren’t clinking beers on the Nylon Pool sandbank in the middle of the Caribbean.

 

 

 

Adventure, Europe

Climb every mountain and ski down them

The salopettes are out from the attic after a year and a half in cold storage (sorry) as the invites snowball ahead of the renewed ski season. And we climb every mountain and ski down them

Enough snowing and winter analogies already!

But then having set up Ireland’s only weekly skiing column in a national newspaper during my time there with the help of the award-winning Catherine Murphy, it’s hard to shake the habit.

Sloping off for a ski day?

Like an Alpine skier: In the Austrian Tyrol

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of the Ski Club of Ireland and Topflight for what they have done for ski tourism.

Salzburgerland were in town last weekend (that town being Dublin) but your Bandanaman on the slopes unfortunately couldn’t meet with the Austrians.

Drawn away on a family mission to Liverpool and the Lake District to see the Son and Heir.

But I will continue to share their news and those across the board both here in Europe and around the ski world.

For today though I’ve been clipping in the binds and talking to les skieurs de France.

And reconnecting with old friends who only know me on dry land, walking and getting into misadventures in a walking trip in Interlaken in Switzerland..

Bienvenue

More on my rescuer Rosie in a mo but firstly let’s pop in on Les Menuires & Saint Martin de Belleville.

The Gateway to Les 3 Vallees, the clue is in the name with social distancing never a problem across that range!

For those taking a first holiday in a couple of seasons space is a key consideration and Les 2 Alpes too offers plenty.

Whoever goes up must come down which is the whole point of skiing really.

And when you do you’ll want authentic old skiing village life which is exactly what you’ll get in La Clusaz, just an hour from Geneva.

And for gastronomes it really is the big cheese with its farmers markets and that distinctive nutty Reblochon fromage.

Get on your bikes

Hurry: The ski season is back

For those who like to extend their winter fun beyond skiing Le Grand Plagne offers electric moon bikes.

All of which I got the lowdown on from Rosie the Rescuer with whom I trotted around Interlaken on the trotti bikes.

Just time too to check in on Tignes before turning to the Apres, and those miniature schnapps in my globe drinks teolley.

Enfin

So we’re ready enfin to climb every mountain and ski down them.

Although technically we’ll be taking gondolas and ski lifts!

 

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Sport

Prost to Johnnie Fox and Tirol

It’s apt that the launch of Ireland’s Austrian ski return should be held in Ireland’s highest pub… Prost to Johnnie Fox and Tirol.

Johnnie Fox is one vulpine who only enhances the countryside of the Dublin Mountains.

To call it a pub is to underplay it.. it is a recreation of a bygone Ireland.

Irish family: With English and American

Of snugs as cottage front rooms with dressers, pans, open peat fires, and the ilk.

And enough Irish sayings, wit and wisdom and whimsey to impress your diaspora pals.

As well as Irish dancing, hooleys and the best fish and Guinness.

Old Ireland

See I said Old: With Old Irishwomen

It’s still my favourite Pint of Plain and Chowder anywhere on the island.

You’ll see then why Johnny Fox’s is a magnet to Hibernophiles and returnees.

And as such it was always a pit stop on a tour of Dublin and Wicklow when friends and family came a-passing.

With venues difficult to organise in these Covid days Johnnie Fox’s courtyard and surrounds are ideal.

And so the Great and Good of Irish Travel will assemble next Friday at the fully heated area of the Haggart Outdoor Area.

Slope off to Ski Club

High life: With the Scary One in Soll

There is another very good reason why Johnny Fox’s has been chosen.

The Ski Club of Ireland is housed nearby.

Skiing’s popularity among the Irish is often underestimated, particularly by those who can’t see beyond a hurling stick.

And still talk about Garrison Games.

But I would like to think I championed skiing in my time in Ireland.

And also realised that I was best leaving the writing in the hands of multi award-winning writers Catherine (Murphski) Murphy and Isabel Conway.

Memories of Soll

Have skis will travel: In Austria

I would, of course, go off-piste myself, or when I accidentally skied off course.

Like I did in Soll with the always supportive Topflight.

All the Austrian ski crew will be there…

The vintage VIPs

Tale of the slopes: And the Alps

We can look forward to hooking up with…

Yvonne Rosenstatter of Salzburgerland State Tourist Board, Elena Protopopow, of Tirol Tourist Board, Wilma Himmelfreundpointner, of St. Anton am Alberg Tourist Board)

Together with Ski Instructors from Flachau and Obertauern and the Ski Club of Ireland Team

And the most important person of all, Dagmar McGuinness, of Advantage Austria who are bringing in the Austrian wines.

The Ski Club of Ireland is pushing on to promote this winter for the big bounce back.

It is holding an Alpine Fest on Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25.

I may have to save that pleasure.

Sites for sore eyes

And once you get the knack: Fun on the slopes

In the meantime here’s a brief introduction to my friends..

Salzburgerland – https://www.salzburgerland.com/en/, Obertauern – https://www.obertauern.com/en/, St. Anton – https://www.stantonamarlberg.com/en/

Flachau – https://www.flachau.com/, Tirol – https://www.tyrol.com/, Great Outdoors – https://greatoutdoors.ie/

Ski Club of Ireland – https://skiclub.ie, DLR Tourism – https://www.dlrtourism.ie/, MountainPeople.ie – https://www.mountainpeople.ie/

And Topflight.ie – https://www.topflight.ie/

And finally a big Prost to Johnnie Fox and Tirol.

 

Adventure, Africa, Countries, UK

Tale of elephants in Edinburgh or Africa

You probably wouldn’t expect to bump into elephants here but I aim to please so. read on for this tale of elephants in Edinburgh and Africa.

Lulla-Bye certainly wasn’t there the last time I traipsed through the Princes Street Gardens.

But the two and a half tonne sculpture is a welcome addition to the gardens.

And is a poignant tribute to a much-regretted part of Edinburgh’s story, the Mortonhall Ashes Scandal.

The ashes of hundreds of babies were buried or disposed of secretly at Mortonhall Crematorium over decades.

Despite parents being told there were no remains of their children.

Edinburgh’s elephants

Lulla-Bye: A poignant tribute

 

It would seem that Edinburgh has somewhat of a history with elephants.

And that as well as the elephant in the Zoo there used to be one who lived in the best accommodation in town, Edinburgh Castle.

Ellie (my name for her) was the mascot of the 78th Highlanders who brought her back from Sri Lanka in the 1830s.

It seems she made herself well at home drinking beer, just like the locals.

That’s nailed it

Some nails on that: Our elephant friends

Her toenails are now on display at the National War Museum on Castlehill.

Of course, elephants belong in their natural habitat and that’s Africa and Asia.

One of schoolkids’ favourite animal questions they like to stump you with is how you can tell the difference.

And the obvious answer would be that if you’re in Africa which I was (Eastern Cape) it’s an African.

And if you’re in Asia then it’s an Asian.

But, yes, Africans have much larger ears while Asians have smaller, rounder ears.

Ears looking at you: Definitely African

Of course such beautiful creatures are favourite ornaments and you can easily bump into them in your lodge in South Africa.

I’ve heard too of destinations where they roam freely through the lobby of your hotel which is as it should be…

After all, they were here first!

All of which heavy thumping around the subject brings me to an important matter in hand, their protection.

And a very important initiative being run by Holly Budge.

Holly is the founder and director of the non-profit international organisation How Many Elephants which has been heralded by none other than Sir David Attenborough.

The elephant’s friend

Taking a snooze: The gentle elephant

Holly has raised over £400,000 for environmental projects.

She truly is the elephant’s friend and it is no exaggeration to say that without hers and others’ efforts their very survival is at risk.

Ninety-six African elephants are poached every day for their ivory, and at this rate, they’ll be extinct within a decade.

Herd about their plight: Elephants on the move

Holly’s global travelling exhibition displays 35,000 elephant silhouettes to show the annual poaching rate in Africa.

She can’t do it all alone, of course and that’s where Margot Dempsey comes in.

She launched World Female Ranger Day to support female rangers on the front line of wildlife conservation.

And she speaks passionately about the subject which again you are best checking out online.

Lest we forget and famously elephants never do… they were here first.

And it warms the heart, this tale of elephants in Edinburgh or Africa.

 

Adventure, America, Countries, UK

John Muir, the wild Scots-American

And in a celebration of John Muir, the wild Scots-American, a quote from his dad, Daniel.

Bairns, you needna learn your lessons the nicht, for we’re gan to America the morn

Scots explorer and conservationist John Muir’s faither Daniel Muir

My own uncles had a similar spontaneous tale to tell just like John Muir, the wild Scots-American.

They had taken shelter in the opening of the American Embassy from the pouring Glasgow rain.

And they then decided to seek their fortunes anew in the States.

The Muir story

The Muir statue in Dubar: And Murty

Millions have followed a similar path.

With those from my own homesteads, Scotland and Ireland, up there proportionately with any of them.

John Muir’s story has crept up on me where, of course, it ought to have been front and centre of my Scots education.

And now I’m living in the East Lothian of his informative years, his presence is more visible.

And a playground: For my Luminous Laurie

But it is true that the Great Conservationist is more celebrated in his adopted America where he and his family went to live when he was 11.

Than in his own homeland of Scotland although he would visit here in later life.

And he would write lovingly, and often, about how Dunbar, 30 miles east of Edinburgh, had shaped his life.

Where it all began

The Muir house: And the two flags fly proudly

You can learn all about John Muir at his birthplace in the main street of the once fishing and farming town where the population would be split between Shories and Streeties.

Dunbar has reinvented itself around Muir with a statue in the high street of the Great Man exploring nature.

And a country park and adventure playground on the way out of town.

It is as Muir, the great protector of Yosemite National Park  in California would have wanted it.

Again, rather than waffle here, pick out the John Muir birthplace museum in Dunbar, or better still visit it, to learn more about this remarkable man.

The Scot and America

Epic: Muir’s 1,000 miles

This month, but for the vagaries of our airlines, I would be making my annual pilgrimage to the States for their Travel Fair , this year In Las Vegas.

It was while at a previous Travel Fair in Washington DC that I spoke to a delegate from America’s National Parks 

Her eyes lit up when she heard my Scottish accent and the first words that she spoke were ‘John Muir’.

She would go on to tell me about a celebrated Ranger who had been interviewed on American television.

Taking on the world: John Muir

When asked if someone were to put to him that he only had one day to visit Yosemite what would he do, he shot back: ‘Cry’.

I told the very same story to the guide at John Muir’s Birthplace and it was about the only thing that Elaine didn’t know about the Dunbar man.

I left with my Muir passport, determined to walk the 134 mile John Muir Trail from Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland to his birthplace Dunbar.

And have my book stamped along the way.

Walk this way

Going for a walk in Tenerife

Sure, I’ve done it all before.. the Camino, the Via Francigena, the Canaries.

Still, even if I do it, it will be as nothing compared to Muir’s 1,000 mile jaunt from Indiana to Florida, his much-celebrated 1,000 mile walk to the Gulf.

 

His five days trekking in America’s Great Outdoors with President Theodore Roosevelt, he of the Teddy Bear.

Or the circumnavigation of the Earth which you can track on the globe at his old birthplace.

That’s John Muir, the wild Scots-American.