Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Deals, Ireland, Sport, UK

Holidos and Don’ts – the alpha and the omega

So, the alpha and the omega of Holidos and Don’ts as there’s so much disinformation out there.

Greece lightening

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

No, you didn’t misread that…

I’m here to lighten the load for our Greek friends who have been painted as super spreaders.

We’ve got Public Health England to blame for the hue and cry.

They reported that the largest number of infections between June and September came from returning holidaymakers from Hellas.

They made up 21% of new cases, compared with 16% from Croatia and 14% from Spain.

The report which still needs to be peer reviewed, of course, doesn’t factor in that that was a pre-vaccine world so let’s not panic.

And book our Greek holidays with confidence.

Our old friends at Travel Department are offering a range of Greek breaks with Athens & The Island Short Break immediately catching the eye.

Amble along the Neighbourhood of Gods in the Plaka district and head up to the Acropolis.

Tip here: take an impossibility cheap taxi with your driver (who will look like Adonis) suggesting you pay what you like.

Travel Department will throw in a full-day cruise of the Saronic Gulf: Hydra, Poros and Aegina.

So that’s four days B&B from €749pp with departures in June and October.

And for a teaser on all things Greek… here’s my odyssey.

Digital Green Passports

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

And it makes sense that the Irish Travel Agents Association should welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Green Passport.

The idea is that it will be proof that you’ve been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid.

Of course there’s no pain, no gain.

And I’d take the Scary One drilling that stick up my nose and down my throat.

Like I did to travel to Bergamo…

And thoughts to the Bergamaschi and all our Italian amichi as they tackle lockdown again… Molamia.

Olé for Spain

Hugs for Spain and Catalonia. https://www.google.com/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/24/messi-around-on-the-water/amp/

And Olé for Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto who is championing our return to Espana.

She told the TV station, Antenna 3: ‘We could be in a position to start implementing the digital passport when FITUR (Spain’s Travel Fair) in Madrid starts on May 19.’

The government over here in the UK has held out May 17 as the date when travel can resume from England.

Although that relies on the findings of the Global Travel Task Force report on April 12.

The Spanish jewel of the Med, The Balearic Islands have already stepped up.

And they have said they will be happy to trial it.

And as a signpost that the British are coming with Jet2 informing the Majorca press to expect a ‘massive’ arrival in June.

Watch this space for updates on Travel returning and…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Adventure, Countries, Deals, Europe, Sport

Holiday Snaps – United for Malta

I’m in good company, with footballers Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof and Brandon Williams all fans of my honeymoon island… we’re all United for Malta I guess.

The three Manchester United players were only too happy to flag up the jewel of the Mediterannean.

With Malta the club’s official destination partner.

Gozo views

French World Cup winner Pogba said: ‘It’s beautiful, there aren’t a lot of people and I can go there with my family.

He picked out St Peter’s Pool in Delimara.

While Lindelof is rightly taken by Comino.

Valletta you better you bet

The idea is to put together a postcard (remember them) of Malta.

And you can check it out on https://www.manutd.com/en/videos/detail/pogba-williams-and-lindelof-create-their-perfect-postcard-with-visitmalta#

The jewel of the Med 26 years ago was my wee treasure… only what they don’t tell you is that gems have rough edges!

A cheeky wee Algarve

The loved-up Miss F dragged me away to the Algarve for our first summer holiday together although in truth I didn’t need much dragging.

On a budget then we were taken by the Algarve tradition of taking your litre plastic bottle down to the local wine shop in Cabanas.

Algarve wine country

Where the owner would fill it up with house wine for a few escudos (yes, it was that long ago).

As Portugal awaits the green light for us to return to its shores we welcome too the push for Algarve wines.

With Cliff in the Algarve

And what’s more they’ll even share their art with you on the Quinta dos Vales estate.

Get a three-hour induction in winemaking in the Bottle Blending Workshop from €62pp.

Even better stay the night, you’ll need it to put your boozy head down, from €75 per night.

And here’s a toast from past travels in Quinta do Lago.

Our bit for charity

Charity begins at home and seeing we’re all holed up at home let’s all do our bit.

Bike4tourism is a multi-continental charity ride which is hoping to break the Guinness world record for numbers of participants.

Register for the event, on May 30, Fees start from €18 and free for under-18s.

With part of the money raised going to an environmental cause and helping Travel companies affected by Covid-19.

Now my cycling has come on a lot since collapsing on the roadside in the Algarve way back then.

Probably the vino collapso!

And Machu more

If running, or swimming, is more your thing and you want to help out, say, the Machu Picchu porters, then join me in this challenge.

This month we’re being invited to run, swim (OK, or bike) 25 miles to help out the Machu porters who are currently packless.

Twenty-five miles is the length of the famous Peruvian trail.

And £25 provides funds to purchase one essential food parcel for a Peruvian porter and their family for a month.

If like me you’ve taken your foot off the pedal during lockdown then this is your chance to rectify that.

Or alternatively you can donate £25 to Peru 25for25. Visit the Lata Foundation.

And when you do get out to Peru then it’ll be with our old pals at G Adventures.

They are offering seven days Cusco to Cusco from £620, down from £729, Valid on November 1.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – baseball in England

And judging by what a mess England are making of their cricket Test series in India, maybe they’ll go back to baseball.

There are few things more American than baseball.

And that obviously means that it came from somewhere else.

And this somewhere else is England where it had been a folk game.

Lord’s, the home of cricket, gave itself over to baseball for the first time when it hosted the Boston Red Stockings and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1874.

And Slugger Jimmy in the USA

So for all the big Wembley and Tottenham Stadium American Football matches it’s not a new phenomenon.

To bring American sporting franchises over to the Old Country.

We do, of course, have splendid memories of Aer Lingus‘s biennial American Colllege matches at the Aviva. Happy days!

For the record Boston beat Phladelphia 24-7.

In truth Beantown and Philly are winners when it comes to sport and you can’t visit without being touched by their love of their athletes.

Paris, non

Bravo: On World Cup final day

And the hairy-arsed Scots who make a biennial pilgrimage to Paris to converge around the Arc de Triomphe.

And watch their Bravehearts lose to Les Bleus were unable to do so this year.

So too did the Scotland rugby team whose match against Les Bleus of France was called off when the home outfit was hit by Covid.

Paris hasn’t always been kind to this hairy-arsed Scot either.

I had my butt kicked when I kipped down for the night in Paris Saint-Lazare railway station in my summer holiday down on the French Riviera after schoool.

The butt-kickers en force were the Gendarme…

And it wouldn’t be my first brush with the French law who took offence to me stopping the traffic in Saint-Raphael.

Let’s be Frank about Bruno

This year? When I’ll be back in Vegas

For those of us whose golden years (so far) were the Eighties Frank Bruno was ubiquitious, know what ah mean, Harry.

And his story was inexorably tied up with that of Mike Tyson’s though he was merely a punchbag for the Baddest Man on the Planet.

Sky Documentaries’ excellent Bruno v Tyson chronicles Frank’s story.

From inauspicious beginnings in South London through to him becoming the Gentle Giant of the Nation.

Las Vegas looms large as the two fights were held there…

The first Bruno v Tyson clash was set to be held in London before Iron Mike pranged his car.

The Las Vegas Hilton was the venue for the first fight and the MGM for the second.

With Vegas our venue for the American Travel fair this year we’re all hoping there will be boxing on then.

And with a seniors circuit now kicking in in which Iron Mike figures.

Let’s get this Bruno v Tyson III on in Vegas in the Fall.

MEET YOU AT A VIRTUAL SPORTS EVENT

 

 

 

America, Countries, Sport, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Jerusalem

I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till we have built Jerusalem, In England’s green and pleasant land Jerusalem (William Blake)

And they’ll have to do a bit of rebuilding with England‘s sporting chariot derailed of late

Whisper it around Scottish parts though but their anthem Jerusalem is a lot more rousing than our dirge Flower of Scotland.

The Corries’ call to arms was adopted by Scottish sporting teams some 40 years ago after pressure from the fans.

The Flower of Scotland www.sixnations.com

Which was around the time that Scotland’s rugby team last beat England at Twickenham… before last week.

Before that it was the British national anthem God Save the Queen for the Scots which Wales and Northern Ireland can all play.

And England still do.

And did those feet: The Last Night of the Proms www.royalalberthall.com

The thing is that God Save the Queen is British, while Jerusalem is quintessentially English.

The song has an interesting history dating back to Victorian times and the great aesthete while randomly San Fransiscans love William Blake.

You know him too, the way-out-there poet and artist who also wrote about fiery lions, meek lambs and God’s plan.

Do you need a bow of burning gold? William Blake

And God’s plan of course was to restore England from the Industrial Revolution chasm it had descended into its previous rural idyll.

It’s unsurprising that this assertion of Englishness should have been taken up by The Last Night of the Proms.

But it equally conjures up images of St Andrews beach in Scotland too and Olympic hero Eric Liddell in the film Chariots of Fire.

Everything is cyclical of course.

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Music, Sport

Rainy Days and Songdays – Weeknd & Canada dudes

A Blinding performance from The Weeknd at the Super Bowl Half-Time Show I think you’ll agree.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed on America’s Big Day, not least by me, that they drafted in a Canadian, The Weeknd, to lead the parade.

And so this Rainy (more snowy) Day and Songday I’ll toast the Torontonian The Weeknd and Canada.

And run through a fave five Canadian singers.

Joni, remember me

Smiling now: Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell, Fort MacLeod, Alberta: Who Mountie John MacLeod was I’ll have to do some digging to find out.

But he must have had some Scottish in there somewhere.

Joni has history with my homeland of Scotland of course, and not that far from an old workplace.

The singer-songwriter was allegedly thrown out of The Doric bar.

On Market Street just down from the old Scotsman newspaper building.

Whether she is prepared to look at things from Both Sides Now you’d have to ask her.

Leonard, the Montreál thing

Alleluia: It’s. Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen, Montreal: I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel lyrics and those dirty New York stories which always appeal to an adolescent.

The poet laureate of pop is rightly revered in his home city of Montreál, an arts city par excellence.

And you can do the whole Leonard thing on a tour of his haunts around the city.

Alanis’s jagged little thrill

She smiles too: Alanis Morisette

Alanis Morisette, Ottawa: Capital cities come in many different shapes and sizes but often it’s the ones that aren’t the biggest cities that enchant the most.

Proud Ottawan Alanis burst onto the scene in 1996 with her cynical classic Jagged Little Pill.

And isn’t it ironic that it’s in sharp contrast to the chilled vibe of Ottawa.

Where locals put on a summer yoga class for hundreds on Parliament Hill

While there are few cooler things to do than skate on the world’s largest naturally frozen rink, the 7.8km long Rideau Canal.

The Groover from Vancouver

And the chicks love him: Bryan Adams

Bryan Adams,Vancouver: And we’ll even forgive Bryan his annoying Robin Hood ballad ‘Everything I Do’.

Because he gave us the rousing nostalgia favourite The Summer of 69.

Vancouver reminds you that Canada is the second biggest country in the world with a Pacific vibe quite different to the Atlantic Canadians on the other side.

Regularly ranked in the world’s top five of liveable cities (you can both hipster and whale watch) it has a stunning backdrop.

Drake’s Toronto

Stay your distance Drake

Drake, Toronto: I, and every red-blooded male, should by rights hate him for Drake taking Rihanna off us.

Quite what they’re Facebook personal status is is almost certainly just toying with us.

Toronto is as we know home to hundreds of cultures but there is a special fusion with the Caribbean.

Not that that gives this uppity Torontonian the right to lay hand on my Ri-Ri.

Under the famous CN Tower the city is teeming with life and entertainment although Brady and Mahomes would go largely unnoticed.

In the Big Four Gridiron (they call it Canadian Football lags behind Ice Hockey, Baseball and Basketball.

All of which the Torontonians have beaten their neighbours at over the years. Eh!

America, Countries, Culture, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – Reagan, The Gipper and the Super Bowl

Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush will be watching the Super Bowl on a cloud up there shouting ‘One more win for the Gipper’.

Ronnie’s most famous acting role, other than as the 40th President of the USA, was as Notre Dame great George ‘The Gipper’ Gipp in the 1940 film Knucke Rockne, All American.

And like all the best method actors he even took it into his own life off the screen, adopting the persona in his political campaigning.

As we mark Reagan’s birthday today (he would have been 110) we can look forward too to the Super Bowl tomorrow too.

It features the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And while nobody is saying Ronnie was a Patrick Mahomes nor Tom Brady, he had some American football acumen having turned out as a lineman for Eureka College in his native Illinois.

And like both he boasted Irish heritage.

Ronald Reagan’s Irish heritage remembered in his Library

The Great Communicator made California his home, of course.

And that’s where you’ll find him now, and where everything Reagan related is kept at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. in Simi Valley 40 miles from Downtown Los Angeles.

Keepers of the Reagan flame

Just like Ronnie himself, the keepers of the Reagan flame are charm personified as I soon discovered at the American Travel fair, IPW.

And like the best friends they always stay in touch.

The good folk at the Library have put on a virtual event which does justice to the Great Man, livestreamed on YouTube at 12.30pm Pacific/3.30pm Eastern.

Portrait of the Great Man

The commemoration includes brief remarks, a three-volley salute, musical entertainment, and the laying of the Presidential Wreath on President Reagan’s gravesite.

A word or two from Ronnie

Of course as it should be Ronnie, his life, achievements (and remember he oversaw an economic boom and helped end the Cold War), and words are to the fore.

His old office: A replica of the Oval Office

True to the wit of the man, the Library has adapted a famous story from his life to mark the 110th in their spiel for the Big Day.

‘President Reagan would have joked that it is the 71st anniversary of his 39th birthday. As President Reagan quipped on his 73rd birthday ”Even though this is the 34th anniversary of my 39th birthday, those numbers don’t faze me at all. I believe Moses was 80 when God first commissioned him for public service. And I also remember something that Thomas Jefferson once said. He said, ”We should never judge a President by his age, only by his works.” And ever since he told me that, I’ve stopped worrying.’

And someone else who fills out the seat of office

Ronnie’s distinguished Vice President and a future President himself, George HW Bush spoke emotionally at the Republic Convention in honour of his great friend in 2004.

He’s up there somewhere

When he exorted the audience by saying ‘this time we can truly win one for the Gipper.’

George HW Bush passed away a couple of years ago when I was in his adopted state of Florida.

I saw then the affection then in which he, and ex-Presidents, are held there and across the country.

So tomorrow, whoever wins, let’s here the clarion call: ‘Just one more win for the Gipper.’

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Ireland, Sport

Sri Lanka, 73 years and more a Resplendent Island

Happy Independence Day to all my Sri Lankan friends.

It’s been 73 years since you took back your ancient island from British control.

And although today’s National Day won’t have the colour and spectacle that any of the 47 before I’m sure that you’ll make the most of it all the same.

A more solemn affair this year it was marked with a tree-planting ceremony as part of the theme this year which is ‘Prosperous Tomorrow – Prosperous Mabimik.’

It was under Palm Trees that I became an honorary Sri Lankan. No, not in the Resplendent Island, but others south of the Sub-Continent, in the Maldives.

The Sri Lankans populate the teardrop Atoll islands in the Indian Ocean where they work in the resorts.

In the Palm of my hands

And it was to the Sri Lankans that I graduated in my time off from my party in Kuramathi in the Maldives.

The staff would spend their spare time in their favourite pastime of cricket.

And following my mantra of seeking out those who play and pray whenever I’m away I asked for a game.

They welcomed me with open arms which is what I did too letting the ball come between bat and pad and landing me LBW.

But not before I had broken my previous best score of 0 from my schooldays.

Did I say though that I had scored two in my previous innings before running myself out and grazing my knees and hands on the synthetic pitch?

Of course us of the Scottish variety are more adept at kicking a round leather ball around the pitch so I was confident that I would be able to hold my own in their football game.

Football crazy

Wrong again as I hadn’t factored in my age compared to these athletic Asians, and the fact that they were more used to the 30C heat than this native of a frozen Northern European land.

And so when my opponent whose multi-syllable first name I hadn’t a chance of pronouncing took up the ball on the wing he just glided past me and left me doubled over and gasping for air.

All of which they took in the most magnaminous manner and with the kind of manners that we could all do with emulating.

And so when I hooked up with my party again the word came back of the Sri Lankans who wanted to know when ‘Mr Jim’ was returning to the island to play cricket and footall with them.

Of course the best place to see Sri Lankans is in their own backyard.

Our Little Corner of the Earth

And anybody in Ireland who may have considered visiting Sri Lanka will immediately have been advised to go to the most famous Sri Lankan/Irish citizen Tess de Kretser.

Tess is the owner of Olcote in Ceylon, which stands for Our Little Corner of the Earth, and is a fusion of Sri Lanka and her adopted home of Ireland.

Tess has regaled me about her hotel both at her Sri Lankan nights in Dublin and also when we lunched together.

We could all do with a little corner of the Earth right now, and I’m sure I could find myself a cricket pitch nearby. I would even make up the numbers for the local team, as long as it’s a children’s team.

 

 

 

 

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