America, Countries, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – slam dunk, the NBA

I was immediately marked out as a spectator and not a player.

When my cousin Maura threw me into a game of pick-up basketball with her boyfriend John in Queens, New York.

Basketball had always been a novelty game for milk bottle white Scotsmen whose only connection with the game was The Harlem Globetrotters.

A free throw anyone?

Until I got to America.

And saw the importance of the game on that visit to see my cousins in New York and then four years later in Boston.

Where I would pass by the statue of Boston Celtics’ legendary coach Red Auerbach.

Outside Quincy Market at Faneul Hall where I was a bus boy at GuadalaHarry’s and ice cream salesman at a parlour.

Anyhoos I had myself my basketball team.

And despite warming to all the teams in North American cities I’ve passed through in the years since.

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, LA Lakers and Clippers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.

nba-orlando-magic-mickey-mouse-basketball.jpg

I was a Celtics fan. Which wasn’t a huge jump from my young days following a football team, Celtic in Glasgow.

This was my year for my long-awaited return to Boston 33 years but COVID has stalled that on the plate.

When I would also fulfil an ambition I didn’t even know I had.

The home of baseball: Fenway Park

To walk the Fenway Park Green Monster perimeter where I’d seen the Red Sox hit their home runs that 1987 season.

The NBA play-offs are playing out in a DisneyWorld bubble in Orlando.

And you should catch it on whichever channels you pick up.

MEET YOU ON THE COURT

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Aberdeen postponed

My Sporting Weekend normally addresses what is going on… not what’s not, but this weekend I’m kicking off with Aberdeen postponed.

Now Aberdeen is a city I adore.

It’s where I grew up through four years at university while I returned in my mid-20s.

To work as a sports writer and cover the local favourites, Aberdeen FC, the Dons.

Aberdeen’s Pittodrie Stadium backs on to the Aberdeen Links golf course and seagulls clack above you when you sit in the stands.

Listen to me: And Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes is leading by example

It is the first all-seater stadium in the UK and is a fulfilling experience.

Except when the Dons lose which is a lot more regularly when I covered them.

And they were the unchallenged second best team in the land, behind Rangers.

The Granite City

So just why a number of their players were in a bar after the match and contracted COVID-19 is beyond me.

Because the legends from Alex Ferguson’s teams of the Eighties which conquered Europe would have gone home and hidden.

In a dark room if they had been beaten by Rangers.

Today’s scheduled game with St Johnstone has been postponed.

Which I hope will give the players some time to think about how they have let their club down.

Neigh Dublin Horse Show this year

Ship ahoy/ The Stena Dublin Horse Show

The summer highlight in the exclusive Dublin 4 area of the Irish capital is the Dublin Horse Show.

Out of rugby season (the only winter game in this part of town) it’s all about the Horse Show, sponsored by Stena.

Now to say that Stena put on a show for their friends is selling them short.

Because after being wined and dined and schmoozed you’ll be as floaty as their ferries.

While there’s nothing like getting up close and personal with those wonderful horses and seeing them leap over those huge fences and skyscraping wall.

This might seem like a refusal at a fence just now but surely we’ll get some movement for next year.

Snooker, a longer cue

And in a former life too I was a snooker writer.

I annually covered the Rothmans Grand Prix and the local Reading scene in the south of England.

In those days in the Eighties the snooker world was smaller, British and white Commonwealth countries.

Asia was beginning to embrace the game with James Thaiphoon Wattana the standard-bearer.

The game has exploded in the Far East since and it is surely only a matter of time until we have an Asian world champion.

Which will be a bit like the game coming home as it was India where it was born.

Golf, but no galleries

You’re the man: Vegas

The USPGA Championship is being played out in front of only the birdies at the TPC Harding Park, San Francisco.

San Fran is a city I had intended to visit for the first time this summer.

Having ticked off West Hollywood and LA last summer when I joined the galaxy of stars and Star Wars with Visit California.

And I reckon I have game too which I showed in Las Vegas.

No crowds means no crush although you only really appreciate the contours of a green when you get to the course.

But you are spared a fat polo-shirted and shorted balding guy shouting ‘You the Man’ from behind the tee.

I’ll just have to do it from the sofa instead.

 

 

 

Countries, Deals, Europe, Sport, UK

Fun on the water in Corfu and Lake Geneva

I know you think I walk on water but I really don’t.

I’ve swallowed more sea… in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Mediterranean, and the Red Sea doing water sports than a puffer fish, who incidentally I never did get deep enough to see.

But I do persist and got to see me my turtles and rainbow fish in the Caribbean,

Let’s walk on that… Corfu

All of which messing around on the water brings me around to Corfu where Ryanair will fly you for €24.99 single which is 30% off.

And where my waterskiing career dived just as it began on honeymoon though thankfully the marriage bit has lasted,

Because I learned early where the Scary One is concerned that ‘when she wants my opinion she’ll give it to me.’

Window to the world: Ryanair

Ryanair has a range of offers which end midnight tomorrow, August 6.

But we’re zeroing in on this sample on Greece with Chania (€31.87) and Thessaloniki (€29.99).

And Greece’s Second City my Hellenophile pals assure me from my Greek Odyssey is the real jewel of Greece.

Or surfing in Switzerland

Pictures of Switzerland

And yes you know it, you can surf in the most surprising places as I did on that cruise ship in Barcelona.

With my old friends Royal Caribbean and my new pal, Irish surfer Gearoid McDaid, on Odyssey of the Seas.

All you need is a board, a body of water for a swell which you can get too in landlocked countries.

Zurich-West is one of the places to see and be seen with its urban surf centre, flowing drinks, sumptuous food and rocking music.

Professional instructors are on hand and I do hope they have more to work with than Gearoid had with me on FlowRider.

Watery playground

Zurich, of course, has its own natural watery playground, Lake Zurich where you can learn to sail or be sailed.

As well as the public outdoor pools where you can enjoy your pool experience.

Switzerland we all know from skiing but those mountains are transformed in the summer into hiking heaven.

Jump in: Lake Geneva

Stay at the grand dame Baur au Lac Hotel overnight stay including breakfast and two-hour vintage boat trip on Lake Zurich.

The real deal

With driver and Baur au Lac pucnic basket for two from 990CHF (€906/£819) and each additional night 450CHF (€411/£371.71) for two.

Baur au Lac has rooms from 695CHF (€634/£573) per night based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Double on room-only basis.

MEET YOU ON THE SWELL

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, Sport, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Austria you to me are everything

I could move a mountain when my hand is in your hand – The Real Thing

Whether The Real Thing had the Alps in mind I don’t know but they know the band all right in Soll… and Austria you to me are everything.

Songs often jump up and hook us randomly in the places we hear them the most.

And You To Me Are Everything rocked out every night at the Whisky Muhle.

I skied some of those mountains… yeah, right!

Where Alex Johnson, the singer, belts out rock classics, while the locals pour Jagermeisters down his gullet.

And he announces every night that You To Me Are Everything is the best song of all time.

And Alex does the ‘best song of all time’ justice, and a bunch of others with his ‘Candy’ well worth a mention.

I even forgave him saying that Paolo Nutini had ripped it off REM.

I’ll be in one of those huts

All this, and did I say that they have a game where you hammer a nail into a block of plywood with the acute end?

Which funnily enough you won’t see in the pubs of Glasgow, Liverpool or Dublin.

We travelled to Soll with ski specialists Top Flight and I have hiked up the hills with them too since.

And that’ll be the beer then

Top Flight, who also with good reason call themselves the Italy specialists, are suffering like so many in Travel.

And they had to make the heartbreaking decision to let some staff go last week.

Which I know from dealing with them would have been the last thing they would have wanted.

It may seem like all uphill right now while downhill doesn’t seem too appealing either.

And the locals are real friendly

But skiing proves that we can ride the bumps and come out still standing at the end of it all.

And there’s a Jagermaester at the end of it all at the end of it all and a rocking music set. It’s apres-ski and it’s everything.

*Everything – The Real Life Story which chronicles the career of the first all-black British band to reach No.1 in the UK charts screens on BBC Four on Friday at 9pm.

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, UK

Give us this Day – Ramadan a ding-dong

Whatever you’re doing I hope you’re having a good Eid and a good feed Abdullah, after our Ramadan a ding-dong in the Atlas Mountains.

Because I know that Abdullah, just like all my Muslim friends, has earned it after all that fasting.

I don’t know how they do it, and I don’t know how Abdullah did it as he whizzed around the Atlas Mountains.

We still love Morocco… we think!

On not even a drop of water or a water biscuit.

Fast and furious

There was water though, and when it falls in Morocco, it does so in epic proportions.

And as quickly as Abdullah swept the rain off his minibus window than Allah chose to drop more rain on it.

What’s all the fuss?

And all this while negotiating his way around the narrowest and highest bends with cliffs eroding and crumbling on us.

Quite what he thought of us piling into a chicken tagine while he starved he was courteous enough to keep to himself.

A light show in the sky

But Abdullah would have the last laugh only he was spiritually cleansed.

I’m all right, Jock

Because your favourite Travel writer took sick in the Sahara Desert.

I did though get to ride my first camel (my second would come on my G Adventures trip to Jordan).

And see a light show in the sky, complete with shooting stars, as I spent the night on the toilet seat.

And the train moves on

Looking out above as there was no roof on the shack… and no flush either.

I’ll be coming round the mountains

And I was still paying for it the next day when my host Alice came looking for me in my tent.

It’s all well and fine the Berbers singing on

And as punishment I had to ride my camel back to the minibus and back around those winding mountain roads.

The rains had abated though… Praise be Allah!

I would, of course, now go with my friends at G Adventures, while equally Sunway in Ireland pride themselves in being all over Morocco.

Adventure, America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

On the Road again

Seeing we’re back on the road. and spurred by the excellent PBS series ’10 that changed America’ https://www.pbs.org/show/10-changed-america/which also includes monuments and bridges among others…

I give you my favourite streets I know from around the world…

The Beale Deal

That’s Handy…. Memphis

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee: And naturally I channeled my best Marc Cohen, took a selfie next to WC Handy, partied the night away at BB King’s Jazz club and scoured Elvis’s tailors Lansky Brothers.

Visit https://www.deep-south-usa.com/ and The Promised Land.

The road BC

man sitting beside building
And a desert runs through it. Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

King’s Highway, Jordan: And the ancient traders of the Middle East, Asia and Asia Minor have been here before.

Carrying silk and gold, frankincense and myrrh and exchanging it for water in Petra. And you can still follow that route today. See www.visitjordan.com, http://www.gadventures.co.uk and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Royal march

red telephone booth
History under your feet. Photo by Anna Urlapova on Pexels.com

And a walk I would regularly and will yet do again. At the top of Edinburgh’s High Street is the Castle, in the middle St Giles kirk where Jenny Geddes threw a chair at the preacher.

Then there’s the spot where Deacon Brodie, the inspiration for Jekyll & Hyde was hanged on the gibbet he invented where locals spit on the ground in disdain. Before you get to the foot and see the new Scottish Parliament and the Queen’s residence, the historic Holyrood Palace.

And there’s also a Medieval street underneath the Royal Mile which was closed odd during the Black Death https://www.realmarykingsclose.com. See http://www.edinburgh.org, Edinburgh – an old friend and http://www.visitscotland.com.

Appian I know it, clap your hands

When in Rome. The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl on the Appian Way

Appian Way. Rome: What did the Romans do for us? Well, they built roads to last.

We didn’t get to the Appian Way and the Catacombs when Mrs M treated me to a 40th Birthday treat but it was all the better for taking the kids half a dozen years later.

See https://www.rome.net/, Small roads lead to Rome.

She’ll crucify me if I go without her

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem: And the one I have still to visit when I will walk in the footsteps of Our Lord. The winding route from the former Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is about 600m.

And particularly as I put work first and turned down and joint Jerusalem and Jordan trip because I didn’t want to leave my employer in the lurch for a fortnight. See https://www.itraveljerusalem.com.

So I’ve missed out your favourite. Let me know and we’ll share. And I won’t tease you. I’ve got another five More on the Road coming hot on the heels.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Royal Portrush

The rain in Northern Ireland is horizontal and the bar was 20 deep, pushing me to the apron of the canopy. My Sporting Weekend this weekend last year was Royal Portrush.

As golf reflects on its missed Open this weekend we all hark back to that magical week last year.

When the game’s oldest and greatest competition returned to Northern Ireland after 67 years.

Come rain or Shane

And Ireland’s own Shane Lowry crowned it all by taking the iconic Claret Jug.

The good news for Shane is that he is still Champion Golfer and will hold onto the trophy for another year.

I just about handed it back after I got the obligatory picture at Portrush.

The Co. Antrim course is credited with putting on one of the best Open Golf Championships in many a year in spite of the pelting rain.

Fantastic

The hospitality and the interactive golfing activities in the tents were second to none while the banter of the locals was relentless.

The course was set up wonderfully well with the intersections across the holes allowing you to take in multiple games.

Of course to get the best view you want to either get your steps out to see over the tall American in front of you.

Or just hunker down by the apron of the green.

Those trousers will dry themselves out.

Northern exposure

Though if you want to you can take shelter in the grandstands.

All of this, of course, makes us hanker after the return of spectators to the Royal and Ancient Game.

While Shane rightfully took the plaudits he would be first to accept that Northern Ireland was as big a winner over the week.

Sometimes we take for granted what we are used to.

And Northern Ireland is an old friend (jeez it’s the Murtys homeland from before the 18th century when they decamped to Scotland).

Clayton comforts

But from the moment that we arrived at the Clayton Hotel in Belfast http://www.claytonhotelbelfast.com.

And ate one of their famous ‘wee’ Ulster Frys to set us up for the final day on the course we were treated like Kings.

By our friends in the North, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board http://www.discovernorthernireland.com.

With the air full of optimism (and water) last year the hope was that the Open http://www.theopen.com would be returning to the Antrim coastline soon.

Get the drinks in

The only thing I would change is that I get to the bar quicker.

And that Scotland produce a player in the next couple of years.

To bring the Claret Jock back to the Home of Golf.

And for more on Northern Ireland, check out Belfast Chilled and Belfast’s rich tapestry

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Boxing clever

And in the blue corner ‘Jugular Jim’ Murty and in the red corner ‘The Clones Cyclone’ Barry McGuigan.

We ought to start at the very beginning here when a sallow cub reporter was sent by his news editor to talk to the boxing champion.

Barry was appearing in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and I asked the former World Heavyweight champion which dwarf would he be playing.

Take that: Barry in action against Eusebio Pedroza

He bristled before regaining his composure.

On returning to the office my news editor fell upon the idea of us putting on a pretend sparring session.

All of which circling around the ring brings me onto the return of boxing in England this weekend.

There won’t, of course, be a crowd but one of the upsides is that we’ll be able to hear every thud and grimace more clearly.

Which you can only really do otherwise if you’re ringside.

Which I was lucky enough to be in my spell as a boxing writer in the Nineties covering the likes of Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn and Pat Clinton in Glasgow https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/.

A broad canvas: The Garden

Of course the Mecca for boxing is the US and it is every boxer’s dream to fight at Madison Square Garden and Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.

Next year: In Vegas

And every fight fan (hands up) too… and while I love both cities https://www.google.com/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/28/old-new-york-hamilton/amp/ and Strip… the light fantastic I’ve yet to see ring action there.

See also www.lvcva.com and www.nycvb.com.

MEET YOU RINGSIDE

Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – Hamilton, Monaco and Barbados

You know when you think you’ve seen someone famous, like Lewis Hamilton or me. you convince yourself it’s just someone who looks like them.

And so I had a job in persuading my fellow revellers at Grand Kadooment, the closing parade of the Barbados Carnival, that it was actually Lewis on the float.

Lewis should be there right now… he is, every year in the land of his forefathers. As should I as was before Let’s rumba in Barbados My kiss with Rihanna

But www.visitbarbados.com instead he is in Austria whizzing around the track in that country’s Grand Prix.

Alas without the cheering petrolheads who go from circuit to circuit following their favourite boy racers.

One solution would be to have a series of purely road races so we could all see.

And nobody does that quite like the most famous race of them all… Monaco.

Me? I can’t even get out of the pit lane in my Fiat 500.

Don’t worry, Lewis, I’m no threat. And besides I’d rather be driven around the Cote D.Azur in a speed boat anyway… The Boat D’Azur and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/about-france.com/mobi/index-amp.htm.

Everyone should visit Lewis’s home, Monaco (it’s one of four globally actually) if they’re in the French Riviera on holiday.

It’s only one of those great French train journeys around stunning cliffs and we took it from our camp base in St Raphael.

Full reveal here… we pulled down the shutter when the ticket conductor came around.

Not the first, or last, time we tested the officials, or gendarmes’ patience on that post-school holiday.

Visit https://www.francethisway.com/places/saint-raphael.php and https://www.visitmonaco.com/en.

And back to Lewis’s beloved Barbados. We chased him down the street… he’s used to everybody being in his slipstream.

His float though was going a little slower but as you can see from the picture he ended up giving us the bum’s rush.

So until the next time it’s back to playing with my toy racing cars.

I only wish I had a track like this one in Istanbul Airport’s Turkish Airways www.turkishairlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – You’ll Never Walk Alone

Unless you’ve been living under a rock then you’ll know by now that Liverpool have won their first league title for 30 years… you’ll never walk alone.

Which is of course their salute to each other and when I say ‘their’ I do of course mean ‘our’.

Because we used to live in Liverpool www.visitliverpool.com and the Son and Heir was born there and took the team with the city’s name in it as his club.

Setting the pace

Little would Gerry & The Pacemakers know when they released their cover of the Rogers and Hammerstein song from the musical Carousel in 1964…

The Celtic Way. www.uefa.com

But this song would become the most famous ‘football’ song in history.

Interestingly too it is shared with the first British winners of the European Cup, Celtic.

Liverpool may be obvious because Marsden is a Liverpudlian.

Celtic tribe

And the-then manager Bill Shankly is said to have swooped on the song when he met the singer.

But Glaswegian giants Celtic https://peoplemakeglasgow.com is less obvious and in fact dates to 1966 when the two teams met in European competition.

Yellow wall: Borussia Dortmund. www.bvbbuzz.com

There has never though been any rivalry over the song between the two clubs whose fans have enjoyed a long bond with each other.

The anthem has been taken up by teams abroad with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s former club Borussia Dortmund playing it.

Ja beauty

And as you know my mantra when going anywhere is to seek out where they play and pray… https://www.germany.travel/en-mobile/index.html.

And whisper it around the Westfalenstadion but my football education in Germany has been in Munich.

The Feyenoord Legion www.feyenoord.com

There are of course two teams in the city and 1860 also play at the Allianz Arena along with Bayern.

The Dutch too have embraced YNWA.

With the Liverpool stadium speaker George Sephton giving FC Twente the song when they moved stadiums.

Dutch of magic

While Feyenoord and SC Cambuur have also taken the song to their hearts.

I’ve been all over Dutch football since I adopted them as my ‘second team’ after watching Johan Cruyff’s side of the mid-Seventies.

In Bruges

And Dutchland since I became old enough to organise my own holidays Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel and www.iamsterdam.com.

In fact wander around Europe (as I do for you, dear reader) and you’ll find more nationalities walking on with hope in their hearts.

Belgian waffling

Brugge is a delightful Medieval city of canals, culture, chocolates and churches In Flanders fields and https://gtitravel.ie https://www.visitflanders.com/en/?country=en_GB.

But it also has a link to Liverpool as it was Brugge who lost to Liverpool in the English club’s first European Cup final in 1978.

But who came away with a song, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

The others are more random but the destinations are right up my street.

Walk this way

I guess it makes sense that CD Lugo, in Spain’s Second Division, should have taken it as their song.

As they hail from Galicia, Camino heartland www.CaminoWays.com and A pilgrim’s prayer.

Why it’s the song of PAOK in Thessaloniki, Indonesia’s Bali United and Japan’s FC Tokyo then that’s one more reason to check out…

Athens’ https://athensattica.com My Greek odyssey little brother https://thessaloniki.travel/en/, https://www.bali.com and https://www.gotokyo.org/en/index.html.