Adventure, Africa, Asia, Australasia, Countries, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Flyday Friday – Holiday World

Must fly… I’m scooting around the 30th Holiday World.

The annual Travel Extra fair which has moved onto Dublin from Belfast and Limerick.

And I’m catching up with a fleet of Travel providers if that’s the right collective noun.

So that’s me with Colombia Charges D’Affaires Patricia Cortez Ortiz.

Colombia hat

In my Colombia hat. And you thought it was a Panama Hat.

Well Panama used to be a part of Colombia so it really should be called a Panama hat.

There are various ways to get to Colombia with a stop-off.

I’d recommend through Amsterdam with my old pals at KLM…,

And maybe stop the night… Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Free coffee: With Ethiopian’s charmingly named Free at Ethiopian Airlines’ stand

While, of course, here’s Free, my new Ethiopian pal.

Ethiopia and other destinations

And here’s some really good offers which are as good as free.

Ethiopian Airlines has a these destinations from Dublin…

Its capital Addis Ababa: From €501.

Victoria Falls: From €552.

Sao Paolo: From €804.

Kilimanjaro: From €519.

I got a headstart for this weekend of Travel networking at the Wendy Wu lunch Hungry and Thursday – Chinese Wu Year and yesterday.

Where I talked all things up in the sky and down on the ground.

All the world: Finnair & El Al, Wendy
Wu, Bandanaman. Emirates

With Wendy’s flight partners Emirates and

Emirates sale

Just a reminder that the Emirates sale ends January 26 which, through this funk of drink, I know is Sunday.

So Emirates has these round trip deals:

Bangkok from €519.

Dubai from €549.

Kuala Lumpur from €569.

Phuket from €679.

Perth from €1119.

Sydney from €1119.

The Promised Land

El Al of a country

The big news at El Al is the three non-stop flights from Dublin to Tel Aviv from May 26 from €326.

Now I’ve seen Israel from the Red Sea and the Dead Sea… and right up close with

And personal, across the River Jordan The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time where the Israelis say John the Baptist baptised Jesus.

Although the Jordanians say it was further into their country.

And yes I’ve seen it too from atop Mount Nebo where Moses saw the Promised Land.

Next stop Israel

But couldn’t get in because he’d fallen out with God.

I’m making sure I’m staying on HIS right side as a Eucharistic Minister.


So that I can fulfil a lifelong ambition to visit Israel

Maybe this year, God willing, whoever He or She may be.


Adventure, America, Canada, Countries, UK

My Sporting Weekend – go transatlantic

It wasn’t just from another country, it was from another century.

Of cloth-capped flat beer-swilling coal-miners and weavers who you couldn’t understand.

And who liked putting ferrets down each other’s trousers – Rugby League.

It was only played in the north of England and in Australia.

Tackling head on

And maybe New Zealand but only by those who weren’t good enough to be All Blacks.

But then someone had the bright idea of spreading the word to London and setting up a team there.

And then changing the season to Spring-Autumn.

In fairness they were one of the first sports to tap into regular screening of matches.

A real man’s game

And the dulcet tones of Eddie Waring waxing lyrical about ‘up and unders’ could be heard every Saturday from our living room.

So there you have it, Rugby League has always led while others followed.

From the days they broke away from rugby union and demanded players get paid to the dawn of transatlantic sport.

Ready to go to war

Now American Football has been dipping their toe in the UK for decades with the odd game held in London.

Rugby League though has dunked itself right in with the admission of super franchise Toronto Wolfpack.

I predict that this will be a hugely successful union, sorry marriage.

Sports city: Toronto

Toronto has a recent history of launching teams who have gone on to take home the silver.

Both with the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and last year’s NBA champions the Toronto Raptors.

One of the arguments used against trans-atlantic sport is the distance.

But it’s only seven hours from England-Toronto.

Springboks everywhere

And whisper it around the north of England but their 15-a-side union cousins in Europe assimilated the South African club sides.

And London-Cape Town is 11-and-a-half hours.

No transatlantic sport is the next big thing… long-haul travel is pitched at an accessible price now for you and me.

And we’ll love checking out Canada (and New York) which is being slated to jump on the bandwagon.

A PS here and a shout-out to Irish Gaelic Games who have been crossing the pond for years.

North Americans love their sports as much as we do.

Sometimes they’re the same sports, sometimes they’re different.

I always make a point in my travels of checking out where people play and pray.

And here’s a sample of where… Easy DC, Go West,

Adventure, Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

Hungry and Thursday – Chinese Wu Year

It’s the biggest feast of the year (forget Christmas). It’s the Chinese Wu Year.

A Chinese New Year

When I get together with my friends at Wendy Wu ahead of Chinese New Year which this year is the Year of the Rat.

The Rat Pack

Now I’m not going to rat on these guys… how could I?

When they invite us to the event of the year… the Wendy Wu Chinese New Year at Chai Yo Teppanyaki in Dublin.

So let’s talk about Asia and in the best Asian traditions let’s not beat about the Dragon’s tail.

The length and breadth of the Great Wall is the distance between London and Dubai.

So the virus won’t catch you.

How long?

Which made my pancakes, crispy duck, ribs, satay chicken, spring rolls (burp) go down a lot better.

And because Asian travel, China, Japan, Vietnam et al, is as mich about the cuisine as the culture…

Japanese girls

While she also likes a bit of South America.

Who says he’s not real?

I’ll keep you updated with more Wendy Wu news but for now I just need to sleep off my Chinese…

But before I go here’s In Pursuit of Pandas, nine days from £2,190. Flights inclusive from the UK. All meals.

Tour ticklist:

Walk on the Great Wall

•Feast on Peking Duck

•Explore the Summer Palace

•Face the Terracotta Army

•Travel on a bullet train

•Watch giant pandas play.

And you know I love playing with pandas.

Adventure, Canada, Countries, Culture, Deals

Meghan BC: British Columbia

Meghan ‘Before Crown’. Or Meghan BC ‘British Columbia’.

The Duchess of Sussex is going back to the future by setting up home again in Canada.

So why BC? Well, no doubt you’ve met someone who has been and says it is the best place on Earth.

Lose the stress

This is their boast… that time spent in nature can make us less stressed and that its majestic wild can improve short-term memory by 20% and boost creativity and problem-solving by 50%.

They call it the British Columbia Effect.

Breathe in the air

And so like Ms Markle we’ll let someone else do the work!

Find clarity in the mountains

Kootenay National Park celebrates 100 years in 2020. From grasslands and glaciers to narrow canyons and extensive mountain ridges, Kootenay National Park is a land of awe-inspiring contrasts.

Stay in an “oTENTik” (part tent, part cabin) visit Radium Hot Springs (part of theHot Springs Circle Route)

Or hike the 17.5km Kindersley-Sinclair trail; one of Kootenay’s most epic day hikes.

National Park admission is priced from £5.80 per adult.

The water of life

Retreat to the mountains with Mountain Trek’s health programs near Ainsworth Hot Springs.

Offering all-inclusive wellness retreats, guests will enjoy daily Nordic Hiking, detox in the on-site spa, take on a gourmet nutrition plan.


And practise mindfulness. All-inclusive programs are priced from £4,162pp excluding flights and transfers.

Wide, wid rivers

Get your heart pumping with CHM Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures new Alpine Heli Trail Running and Full Zillmer Canyon Via Ferrata trips, available from July 2020.

These heli-supported mountain adventures run from the Bugaboos Lodge and newly renovated Cariboos Lodge.

Previous mountaineering experience is not required to explore the Zillmer Canyon’s slots and waterfalls

Hit the trail

While trail-runners can expect to cover up to 25km per day across ridgelines, forest trails and mountaintop terrain.

Three-day trips are priced from £2,084 per person, excluding flights.

What a sunrise!

Go hut-to-hut on the Spearhead Traverse, Whistler.

The new Kees and Claire Hut at Russet Lake offers 38 bunks across six sleeping areas along the remote Spearhead Traverse.

With a further two brand new huts planned to open this year.

The 40 km route crosses 13 glaciers over 2,000 metres between Whistler and Blackcomb.

Hikers are able to stay for as little as £26 per night.

Chinatown: Vancouver’s Eastern flavour

Head North for BC’s first Northern Lights Festival in Fort Nelson, held 12-21 March.

Watch the Aurora Borealis dance across the sky and enjoy a series of cultural and musical events in BC’s Northern climbs.

A Full Festival Package includes access to all events.

It is an overnight trip to the Fort Nelson First Nations Lodge at Liard Hot Springs, a sled dog ride with Streeper Kennels and a snowmobiling adventure.

With Jag Adventures, priced from £706 per person excluding flights and transfers.

Bridge of highs: Vancouver

Wander in the Rainforest

Step into the wild with new operator Coastal Rainforest Safaris this spring.

Safari-style camping on the secluded Branham Island in the Great Bear Rainforest.

A whale of a time

Whale and bear watching and unique insights into the local Indigenous Kwakwaka’wakw culture.

Three-day safaris are priced from £2,292 per person based on double occupancy in a safari-style tent.

Including all meals and activities, excluding flights and transfers.

Beach life: British Columbia

Homalco Wildlife and Cultural Tours will continue to offer new Indigenous led wildlife and cultural experiences on the edge of the Great Bear Rainforest.

Join the Great Bears of Bute excursion and see some of BC’s most iconic predators.

Or the new full-day People Water Land excursion, running from June – August.

Showcasing Homalco culture in Bute Inlet. Prices to be confirmed.

A great stay

(Sleep…and) Be Soothed by the Sea

Re-connect with the North Shore at the new waterfront Seaside Hotel in Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood.

The hotel’s design echoes the outside elements offering guests world-class comfort inspired by a unique waterfront ambiance.

Across 71 rooms and suites, the Seaside Provisions restaurant and The Waterfront Spa.

Room-only priced from £213 based on a mid-week May 2020 arrival.

Cool BC. Photo by B B on

Sunshine Coast

Disconnect in Desolation Sound at the newly reopened Lund Resort at Klah ah men.

The first, full-service Indigenous Resort on the Sunshine Coast.

The redesigned Back Eatery features a seasonal indigenous inspired menu.

And the new Sweet Shack coffee shop offers the Resort’s exclusive 13 Moons Coffee.

A spa is set to open onsite in late 2020. Standard Queen rooms are priced from £125 based on a mid-week May 2020 arrival.

Seaplanes, yes please. Photo by Vladislav Vasnetsov on

Island of dreams

Check in to the newly renovated Kingfisher Oceanside Resort & Spa on Vancouver Island.

As part of its $17 million renovations the resort has revealed 14 newly appointed Ocean Courtyard guestrooms.

With stunning views of the Georgia Strait.

Modern swish. Vancouver. Photo by James Wheeler on

Spa fun

The renovated Pacific Mist Spa is focused around the life-giving power of water.

The resort also offers two new restaurants; the AQUA Bistro & Wine Bar and Ocean 7.

Which use fresh ingredients from local purveyors and exercise sustainable practices in all menu creations.

Standard rooms are priced from £122 based on a mid-week May 2020 arrival.

For more information on The British Columbia Effect, visit:

For more information on British Columbia, visit:

And because I know you just love a seaplane… then come with me on this thrill

Adventure, America, Countries, Deals

Holidos and don’ts – Rollercoasters

Every holiday has its ups and downs and rollercoaster holidays have more than most.

Of course you’re probably a big fan of the corkscrews otherwise you wouldn’t have booked this type of holiday.

Well, maybe, but then it could be a family holiday and Himself or Junior are the rollercoaster junkies.

Me, I’m a nervous rollercoaster but I will put myself forward.

Well, someone has to make a dent in it

But as tempting as it is may be you ought to miss out on the bacons, sausages, eggs, omelettes, pancakes and muffins.

Particularly if you’ve been down at the Irish duelling piano bar Pat O’Brien’s in Orlando

And CityWalk’s Rising Star karaoke club. Doing giant Hurricane cocktails and shots.

Been there, done that

In my unforgettable trips Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and Why I love The Donald with and

Don’t overdo the Duff at Moe’s

Motion sickness tablets: Right you get to the rollercoasters and your tummy starts doing somersaults.

You want to go on but you worry that you’ll bring up your breakfast over that cute excited little girl in front of you.

And that’s where motion sickness tablets come in handy.

Choose your rollercoaster: Don’t be a hero.

My old pal Colin is as tough a bloke as you’ll meet and will run through brick walls on a football field.

But he doesn’t like big dippers. That’s fine, there are plenty of attractions, funky characters and food… on the ground!

While some of us love a corkscrew or a loop the loop while others (me) like a vertical drop.

Harry’s game

And then there are those 4D carts like you get in Harry Potter which tilt and play with your senses.

To give the illusion that you are riding on your broomstick around Hogwarts Castle.

And playing quidditch with Ron Weasley.

The feeling of disorientation will pass, the memories never will.


All that was left were the glasses

For many of us (me) we feel safer if we have water to cushion the fall.

And so for me it was Wet ‘n Wild Orlando which alas closed in 2016.

Dropping down through a trap door down the chute and round some loops

Before thundering into the final splash was one of the most exhilarating rides of my life.

So, Wet ‘n Wild has gone, you’ve still got Aquatica.

And in California

Disneyland Park, Anaheim has it all.

And now something else again which for you Star Wars fans is something else again… Stair Wars

The way to do any of these theme parks, of course, is priority booking.

And the people to do it with are Attraction Tickets


Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Europe

My Sporting Weekend – Records

Talk Sport Radio has been a Godsend these past few months.

And my ears pricked up that little bit more with the latest cricket Test match.

Between England and South Africa coming from my old stomping ground of Port Elizabeth.

And they love their rugby in SA too

Now I’m not putting myself on the same level as Shoaib Akhtar or Brett Lee.

The pace aces bowled over 100mph there in the World Cup.

It’s just that the less-vaunted PE in South Africa is a city I fell in love with last year…

It got me thinking too about other destinations that have become tied in with world records.

You want a 401… call on Murty

Brian Lara, 400 not out, St John’s, Caribbean, 2004:

Any excuse to showcase the Caribbean I hear you say but there is a tale here about Lara and me.

My old university pal Jevan had taken me to Foreday Morning on my first visit to Barbados.

And introduced me to his old Trinidadian pal Brian.

I’m a Bajan: I don’t give a damn

He told me he was over for the cricket and I naively asked if he played.

I didn’t expect the greatest modern-day batsman would ever wear anything other than cricket whites or one-day burgundy!

Olympic champions

Stefan Kraft, Vikerssundbakken, Norway:

Now there are some sports we all do and those that are just death wishes.

Where’s the peloton?

Me, the Tour de France, 2019: Yes, here I am atop the 6,939ft Col du Tourmalet, the Tour de France’s most used climb.

And I’m not even out of breath. No wonder I needed some magic muscle-soothing water.

Climbing mountains is in the genes for Scots… I give you King of the Mountains Robert Millar.

Where’s the next record?

Me, white water rafting, Colorado:

The record for staying in the water tub long enough on the Poudre River…

Of course British Columbian Hazel Amos puts me to shame as the oldest rafter in the world at 96.

And yes, it’s another from the Wild West, but hey, I was born to be a cowboy.

Waltzing to the next title

Samuel Groth, world’s fastest serve, Busan Open, 163.7mph:

No, nor me, but this is it…

Of course my on serve after being coached by Judy Murray at The Campus, Quinto da Lago wasn’t chronicled.

That’ll be then.

Michael Austin, world’s longest drive: At 515 yards that’s some power.

Mike gripped it and ripped it at the Winterwood Golf Course in Las Vegas in 1974.

Blasting it 65 yards past the flag on the par-four 5th hole.

Vegas, baby: And Murty hits it into the next state

Me, I drunk it and sunk it… that’s my pitcher of beer at Topgolf in Las Vegas

On my Vegas trip a couple of years ago… Strip… the light fantastic.

While I also showed them how to do it in Quinto…

And hopefully I’ll be back to break my own record at the American Travel Fair


Adventure, Europe

Here we snow – Crystal Ski deals

Growing up in Scotland snow became a plaything.

Like the time when I threw a snowball at a driving car (don’t).

Only for the motorist to then turn up at the door (karma).

And, no, my Mum didn’t buy my story that I was throwing it at a pal across the road and the car got in the way.

Or in my first year at university when Myself and Nutty Nigel (the clue is in the name) built a giant snowball.

Fun and games in the Pyrenees

And blocked the entrance to the door of our block of flats.

Replace headmaster, angry parent with Halls of Residence manager.

And then there was the time during a week away with my then-girlfriend and her pals…

When I careened into her on the nursery slopes and soon became an ex.

But this is just for the cameras

Which is why with one brief return to the slopes with the (still) First Mrs M Soll Mates with I have hung up my skis.

Choose from these countries

The start of the year is fine enough time for booking your ski holiday.

Flying by the seat of my pants

With Crystal Ski offering €100 off your March deals.

Including: seven nights Andorra, departing March 15, staying at the 4* Hotel Canaro, Soldeu/El Tarter. Half-board. From €775pps.

Austria: Depart on March 7, stay at the 3* Haus Edelweiss, Zel Am See, B&B from €579pps.

Italy: Depart on March 15. Stay at the 3* Hotel Martin, Sauze D’oiux, half-board, from €795pp.

France: Depart on March 21: Stay. At the 3* Plagne Lauze Apartments, La Plagne. S/C from €975pps (four share).

From €375pps. Visit

So I’ll maybe leave the Franz Klammer (I’m showing my age) and Lindsey Vonn stuff to my old pal and multi award-winning ski writer Murphski and Co.

Adventure, Culture, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day: the day Jesus was baptised

You’d be glad of a cool down in the 30C heat of a Jordan May. but Jesus wasn’t complaining.

Today is designated the sacred day when we commemorate The Baptism of the Lord.

It is in truth a little cooler in Jordan than when I went, at 11C but I can’t imagine the Lord was shivering.

So for the day that’s in it let’s take a deeper look into baptisms.

The first question is: where exactly was Jesus baptised.

The Jordanians claimed that he was doused further inland at Al-Maghtas.

Here in ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’ in what is modern-day Jordan.

The Israelis for their part believe that he was baptised on their banks.

And this is where the Russian Orthodox Christians believe there are healing waters and they go full immersion.

The Jordanians claim Jesus was baptised here

All of which I learned on my G Adventures trip to Jordan last year….,,

While decide for yourself which you think it is…. or like me just soak it all up and maybe sneak some holy water…

So for us Gentiles it’s worth reflecting that of course John, Jesus and all those who were being baptised were all Jews.

And that John though the most famous baptist would not have been the first.

Today at Mass

Ritual immersion had been part and parcel of Jewish culture, or mikvehs for some time.

Jews would ritually immerse themselves for spiritual purity before worshipping.

Washing is, of course, central to the daily and spiritual life of Muslims.

Water of Islam

As I have found out on my trips to Marrakech and Morocco

And more recently in Istanbul and Turkey

And Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina

The boys in the Blue Mosque

It is, of course, a primal act to wash as well as being hygienic.

And you can find it in Sikhism through Amrit Sanskar.

While in Hinduism they like to immerse statues of Durga and Ganesh during the final stages of the festivals Durga Puja and Ganesh Charturthi.

Water of death

And purification is as much part of death as it is a spiritual birth.

A ritual bath in pure water is performed for the dead in many religions including Judaism and Islam.

For more on this pilgrim’s progress… read, and Fatima in

Adventure, Countries, Europe

My Sporting Weekend – Olympic year

It’s not the best start to Olympic year with two-time London Marathon champion Wilson Kipsang provisionally banned for anti-doping breeches.

Which beggars the question now: can we have faith any more in the Games?

Or will every gold medal come with the suspicion that it has been artificially enhanced?

Today’s Marathon has share of walkers

Now it wasn’t squeaky clean when I were a lad and running around the tracks, fields and roads of the UK.

But it wasn’t Tour de France proportions.

Mind you a trawl back to the Greek Games suggests they were at it too.

It must be that scrotum I ate

According to 1st Century BC physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia animal hearts and testicles were the anabolic steroids of the day.

Now I enjoyed my meat and two veg well enough when I visited Athens last September…

Don’t worry, I won’t eat your heart

But to the best of my knowledge…

Although I did sprint up those hills of the Attica island of Kythera and swim like a fish in the Aegean Sea.

While I leapt with joy higher than any high jumper when I finally got to see the Parthenon.

You can sit anywhere

And ne’er a fungus, bread with opium, or Galen’s recommendation, the boiled hooves of an Abyssynian ass, in my system.

We’d passed by the stadium which had been used for the 1896 Games, the first of the modern era.

And all along the way there were signposts to Marathon.

Phillipedes, as we all know, covered the 26 miles and 385 yards, back in 490BC.

To convey the news that the Athenians had beaten the Persians.


Built to last: On the Acropolis

Now, of course we’ve got TV, the net and social media.

But will they last as long as Pericles’ great legacy.

And here’s a leaving thought: when will the Games return to its spiritual home?

With Tokyo this year, Paris in 2024 and LA in 2028 then 2032 is the earliest Greece could host it.


What’s in that potion?

And Seoul is likely to get that.

And Seoul athletics fans will recall was where seven out of the eight finalists in the100m…

At various points in their career to violate the rules over drugs.

And a PS here… I know I called it wrong when I said it was New England Patriots’ year again This Sporting Weekend – Touchdown Vegas in American Football.

What else am I getting wrong… let me know!


Adventure, Ireland, UK

Puppy New Year… Northern Ireland for your doggies

Now this is animal magic… dog-friendly destinations, with Northern Ireland leading the way.

Our friends in the North have given us a nudge about their pet-friendly hotels, bars, restaurants and walking (or should that be walkies) locations.

So here is the pick of the pooch-friendly places to go:

Lusty Beg Island Hotel, County Fermanagh: Lusty Beg boasts Northern Ireland’s fist GOLD Paw Grading from Dog Friendly NI’s PAW Grading Programme. Woof, woof!

There are two areas where owners and dogs can dine together, they offer solo traveller assistance for people visiting on their own with their pets.

What are you waiting for? At Lusty Beg Island Hotel

And there’s even a dog wash for muckie mutts. Visit

The Inn on the Coast, Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route: Between the harbour towns of Portrush and Portstewart in County Antrim.

You’ll find dedicated pet-friendly rooms on the ground floor for up to two dogs.

Back home late: At the Inn on the Coast

And your best friend is welcome at the seating area of the foyer and in the reception where you can relax and enjoy a drink or meal.

The Inn even awards a Good Behaviour Certificate and a treat for your furry friend to check out. Visit

Red carpet treatment

The Dirty Onion, Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter: Your doggie’s favourite pub in the capital. With a Doggie Dock which serves complimentary water and doggie treats.

And there is a huge beer garden to stretch the legs and a peat fire to slumber in front of… that’s for the dogs obvs. Visit


Slievenaslat Walk Trail, Castlewellan, Co. Down: Climb through the frost to the summit of Silevenaslat (272m) where you’ll have fantastic views of the Mourne Mountains. Visit

The Divis Ridge Trail: Now the Son and Heir is all over Belfast, though whisper it he’s more of a cat fan than a dog fan.

But he does like a walk and often needs walkies… even though he’s 24.

The Divis Ridge Trail is a 4.2 circular route located in the scenic Belfast Hills.

With spectacular views over the great old city and the Mourne Mountains, my own Bonnie Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Your dog will be ahead of you, of course, and get to the 478m high point first.Visit

And tell me where you’ve gone with your dog and liked.

Here are some doggie-related thoughts on the subject… and and

I must confess that the Americans strike me as the doggie-daftest people on Dog’s (sorry, God’s) Earth but you might think differently.

And, of course, you know how much I love Northern Ireland so make sure you go…,

And check out their website…