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.

 

Asia, Countries, Deals, Sport

Umpire seat in the Maldives

Back in the day hotels with tennis courts were exotic… now we expect them, and a tennis pro coach with you in the umpire seat in the Maldives.

Some Maldives islands are, in truth, little bigger than tennis courts.

Best thing in small packages

King of the court: Maldives

On Kandolhu there are 30 villas, four a la carte restaurants, a bar, beach dining experiences as well as in-villa options.

And an oceanbank of coral to gurgle in and gawp at the fishes and the turtles.

At 200m x 150m though understandably they couldn’t quite fit in a tennis court.

Courting popularity

Fun and games: Football and cricket

There are though on neighbouring big sister island Kuramathi, though it’ll be more leisurely club tennis than all-action Rafael Nadal rallies.

As I can vouch for, having raced after the younger, fitter Sri Lankan staff on my Atoll Tale adventure.

Life’s a pitch: And it’s hot, hot, hot

On their football pitches and cricket grounds.

While couples and leisure-seekers amble around Maldives islands in their flip-flops those of a sporty nature are indulged too.

And the good news for those who drown in shallow water is that tennis is an option.

With real-life tennis professionals.

Slamming professionals

Anyone for tennis: And much mote besides

Such as Davis Cup winner Viktor Troicki

Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences welcomes the Serbian champion who won the cup with somebody you might have heard of, Novak Djokovic.

For a two-week residence for mid-term, October 26-November 6.

Viktor follows in the tennis shoe steps of some big-hitters.

Pooling your talents

Newly crowned Olympic champion Alexander Zverev and bro Mischa.

Awesome Aussie Pat Rafter and most recently Russian pro.

And former world No.1 Angelique Kerber.

Judy’s protegé

Keeeeep dancin’: With Judy Murray in Portugal

Now don’t be mistaken into thinking you get things any easier with a female coach think again.

As I know only too well from my fumblings under the tutelage of Judy Murray in Quinta do Lago.

 

Abercrombie & Kent offers seven nights from £4336pps.

Price includes B&B, flights and transfers. Based on travel between October 26-November 6.

And you in the umpire seat in the Maldives.

 

Countries, Europe, Sport

The Marathon Men

We’d all like to turn the clock back and pushed on and become one of The Marathon Men.

But that’s enough about my love life.

The Marathon is the closest Olympic discipline to my own athletic talents.

Having pounded the streets of the UK as a promising road runner in my youth.

Running through my head

Homer run

I could more than relate to how the commentators were calling the race.

And perhaps weigh in with my own contributions based on having covered the original Marathon course in Greece.

And my Olympic efforts.

I’ll keep how much of it to myself.

It is still though to see the signposts for Marathon in Athens.

Or a bunny run

And the stadium for the first Modern Olympics bang centre in the downtown capital.

Which brings me to a gripe about the Games becoming overmodernised.

With the imperious Eliud Kipchoge taking the finishing line on a non-descript street in Tokyo.

Instead of the traditional finish inside the stadium.

Tracking Marathon’s history

And I’m ready to make my move

 

And we can blame the English for that having ditched the 385 yards around the running track in 2012.

For London’s Pall Mall which was followed by the Sambodromo in Rio, the parade area that serves as a spectator mall for Carnival.

True, it means that the public, rather than corporate get to see the runners break the tape.

Greek god: At the Acropolis

 

Although I suspect that the bigwigs have probably nabbed that vantage point too.

But while World Marathon holder Paula Radcliffe regaled us with the importance of history to the Marathon…

Stadium is perfect stage

And where the race should finish

The entry to the stadium is one now denied us.

And today’s runners won’t get to sample the outpouring of emotion, congratulations and scattering of laurels at your feet.

Which the third leg in the winning Scottish Schools Road Relay champions of 1982 in Grangemouth Sports Stadium got to enjoy.

The Marathon Men are coming.

 

Africa, Countries, Ireland, Sport, UK

Lions in Siya Africa

Now I know a thing or two about  Lions in Siya Africa.

The Lions are on the Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve in the Great Karoo in the Eastern Cape.

Which is just around the corner from where the British and Irish Lions are playing their Test series with the South African Springboks.

Well, a rather big corner, the Cape of Good Hope.

Heroes in Capes

OK, it’s a cheetah but the Lions were hiding

Cape Town‘s beauty and its Table Mountain are legendary.

Less well known, at least outside of South Africa, are the charms of the Eastern Cape. 

From where Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, Pride of Port Elizabeth, hails.

You’ll see his influence in the oldest township in South Africa from where he set out on his heroic journey to become Springboks skipper.

South Africa needs leadership

The pack: With SpringJock Iain and pals

And to place that in sense of importance within the Rainbow Nation…

Didn’t the Eastern Cape’s own, Nelson Mandela don a Springboks jersey to greet Francois Pienaar at the 1995 World Cup final against New Zealand?

South Africa could do with Madiba now as it wrestles with social unrest in the wake of Jacob Zuma’s imprisonment, and its Covid crisis.

But in Kolisi it has a champion.

A different Test

Panorama: With South Africanophile Rachel

It is of course a matter of regret that the Lions aren’t touring South Africa.

And an even greater one that Port Elizabeth, where the Lions have a decent record, hasn’t hosted a Test match against the Lions since 1980.

The Eastern Cape is solid rugby territory and a visit to the township reveals that the Boks are now embraced by all its peoples.

A Scot in exile

Rugby fans: Siseko, Nelson Mandela and your Bandanaman

Now mine host Iain is a proud Springboks fan and thinks nothing of taking his Jeep out to travel across country to watch his rugby.

But as his name reveals despite living in solid eastern Southern Africa his roots lie up here in Scottishland.

However the series evolves he will take take great joy from a healthier than usual representation from North Britain.

And we are not immune either from adopting Afrikaners either with Dusan Van der Merwe.

We call them SpringJocks.

It should be a great old journey with the Lions in Siya Africa.

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Sport

The Olympics Pokémon Hunting

The Olympics start today in Tokyo but what event do you wish was included… how about The Olympics Pokémon Hunting?

The playful Pocket Monsters have been with us for 26 years.

Caught in the act

Pokemon races though have not been endorsed by the International Olympic Committee… YET!

It’s a pity really

You see, the perfect venue has just opened, Pokémon Wonder in a 4,500sqm forest within Yomiuriland, a theme park outside Tokyo.

C’mon Pokémon

I reckon too that I would be a natural.

Catch me if you can

As a former Scottish national cross-country champion I have run through more than my share of forests.

And it’s got me thinking that it would have been more fun if the routes were littered with Pokémons along the way.

  • In there somewher

There are 50 species of Pokémon species including favourites such as Oddish, Diglett, and even (and I don’t know either) Rowlett.

And contestants will be given the rundown before the hunt from the research team of Professor Kureso and Pikachu.

Stop the pigeon

You looking at me?

And for those who poo-poo Pokémon as a sport I give you…

How about Horse Long Jump at the 1900 Paris Games or Town Planning at the four Games between 1928 and 1948.

Although as I sit here drowsy after another broken sleep one sport lost to the Games looks very appealing for a comeback.

Pigeon racing which flew during the 1900 Games with more than 300 birds taken out.

You not want to participate… well fly somewhere else, preferably out of my earshot.

Peekaboo Pokemon

In contrast our Pocket Minsters are actually podgy, playful little fellows who are very welcome in our world.

And they will be up until next April 3.

Now as for the row circling around Tokyo over whether it should be held at all with Covid gripping Japan.

Well, I’d always ask that everything possible be done to allow Travel and Sport, my two great loves, to continue.

Let the Games begin

Yes, we love a video game

And I believe precedent is a great example and cite the last time the world was gripped by a pandemic, the Spanish Flu in 1920.

And the Games went ahead in Antwerp, Belgium.

Never mind all those original Olympics held against the backdrop of Greek wars and interfering and vengeful Gods and Godesses.

Now maybe there are more events from the ancients which we should bring back.

I ca see you

But one step at a time… for starters let’s trial The Olympics Pokémon Hunting.

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Sport

Open again for golf

A lot has happened in the last two years since I sat drenched on the banks of the Royal Portrush greens but now we’re Open again for golf,

It is doubtful whether the demure folk of Royal St George’s in Sandwuch, Kent on the English south coast will holler their man home.

The way the Northern Irish did County Offaly’s Shane Lowry on that deluge of a day in County Antrim.

Champion Golfer

Open for glory in Belfast

Shane has been a unique Champion Golfer of the Year in that his reign has spanned two years.

After last year’s tournament was cancelled because of Covid.

A bit like your Travel Editor of the Year who was honoured by Irish Travel as their Travel Editor of the Year in 2019 before the world shut down.

And is yet to truly open again.

Ben Sayers outside my house in North Berwick

Golfers have, of course, been waiting excitedly to get their clubs packed again for foreign trips.

Shane knows he has little to worry from this direction as I usually stick to the driving range.

But here’s a mixed bag of my golfing misadventures abroad. Fore!

Quatre en France

Captain’s choice?

The Old Course, Cannes, France: And continental Europe’s oldest course is where to play with Cannes’ Fast Set.

You’ll even have la joie of traversing a small stream between holes on a boat.

But be sure to remember the international language of golf when slicing your shot.

As I was reminded by the match behind to shout Fore. Needless to say it wasn’t Bryson DeChambeau!

My Ryder

Are you watching Pádraig Harrington?

Quinta do Lago, Portugal: Word had obviously reached Paul McGinley and his Golf Academy in the Algarve.

That I was open for golf again.

My driving was better than my riding with me going off road on our cycle and almost ending up with the spoonbill birds.

Another round in Vegas

Hotshot: In Vegas

Topgolf, Las Vegas: And in Vegas the pitchers are the jugs of booze.

They come to your golf range table with chicken wings and dips. And it helps with your golf driving.

As I also found on a Liverpool course as a guest of Irish Ferries and Jameson Whiskey where a drinks trolley would come round every few holes.

What a Player

My pal Gary Player

Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, Wirral: The north-west of England rivals Scotland as Golfland and where I wrote a golf column.

And where I got the tip that a Japanese TV station were filming a round with Gary Player and would I like to join them.

While I channeled my inner Gary at the Press round before an Open and putted back off the clubhouse wall as Gary did in ‘74.

Turk that

Swing time in the TA lounge

Turkish Airlines Lounge, Istanbul Airport: And the dream of golf nuts who will find every opportunity to play…

An airport lounge driving range on the way back from Istanbul.

Just go easy on the cornucopia of food and drink at the TA lounge or you’ll follow through.

And fill up with Turkish treats

So we’re Open for golf again and there’s an Open invitation to you all to come and see us in North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland.

Although my cousin Greg is still avoiding me after he stood too close to me on the tee box at North Berwick Golf Club

When we were kids and I clunked him on the head. Fore!

 

Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

Anyone for tennis and Andy Murray?

Do you have a battle for the remote between the Euros and Wimbledon? Anyone for tennis and Andy Murray?

The Bionic Man of tennis returns to the Centre Court to play Canadian Denis Shapovalov this afternoon.

And Mum Judy will be watching.

Mixed Doubles

Will I lead? In Quinto with Judy

It’s reassuring to think that the supercoach who honed my forehand in Portugal does the same for her wee boy.

Judy put me and my international party through our paces at The Campus resort in Quinta do Lago.

Without giving away any of Judy’s trade secrets she starts with the basics and short tennis before building up to full courts.

Easy Ryder

With my pal John pitching for a Ryder Cup spot

If you haven’t a lifetime to become one of the world’s elite athletes then this sportified corner of the Algarve is where to go.

You’ll be the envy of the park with your drop shot and sliced backhand.

While you can prepare for this month’s renewal of The Open by visiting Quinta’s Paul McGinley Academy.

In the swing of it

Paul’s pals will dissect your swing, let you practise it on the range and then let you on the course.

And yes, the clubs are in the bag, of course, ready for The Open at Royal St George’s Kent on the south coast of England.

An aside here from a previous life when I ran a newspaper sports desk.

And I had asked the secretary to arrange accommodation for our golf writer for that year’s Open.

Not easy but she was excited to find accommodation within a 20 mile radius.

The French name of the guest house ought to have given it away.

Back to Portugal and we’re all hoping for a clear run at it without the switching of traffic light colours.

Portugal’s delights

Our Port

Portugal is of course The Algarve but it is so much more, Lisbon, Porto, our old tour guide pal Jose Madomis’s home town, Coimbra….

And his hero Cristiano Ronaldo’s island, Madeira.

Cristiano has left the building at the Euros and we trust Our Andy won’t go the same way in London.

If he does, of course, football-daft Andy will have more time to watch the Euros.

Prize guy: Our Andy

When asked this time whether he’d support England now his beloved Scotland are out, he blocked it as if at the net.

Andy had playfully worn the jersey of England’s then opponents Croatia at a previous Euros in his youth,

But this time the Surrey-based national treasure wished them well.

Andy’s castle

Do I have my own suite here?

Otherwise he’d be taking refuge in his newly-acquired hotel, Cromlix, near his home town of Dunblane, back in Scotland.

Which is where your favourite blogger’s Travel journey began with his first trip 30-odd year ago.

Now myself and The Scary One could form a Mixed Doubles team against my old mate Judy and Andy.

Anyone for tennis and Andy Murray? Or Jimmy Murty?

America, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

Water Unesco splash in Liverpool

The two Liver Bird cormorants have stood sentry over the Mersey for 110 years so why the Water Unesco splash in Liverpool now?

Unesco are threatening Liverpool with the removal of the World Heritage status it has held since 2004.

The UN cultural body do not like the Liverpool Waters Project and the Everton FC new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock one bit.

Liverpool history

Serious deterioration? The Mersey

They say those developments have resulted in “serious deterioration and irreversible loss of attributes.”

All of which sounds like a Kop-out to use a Liverpool football reference point which relates to Everton’s great rivals Liverpool FC.

I have history with the city of Liverpool having spent time down there working and the Son and Heir being born there.

The Three Graces

The Cunard Building

And whether Unesco pull their recommendations or not I will always flag up Scouse City.

Liverpool’s waterfront will, of course, be altered by the erection of Everton’s new ground.

But whether it will be enhanced or diminished by its construction depends on which side of the Mersey you’re perched on.

Although judging by the blueprint (and of course it’s blue) I’d say the new ground will be eye-catching rather than eyesore.

The Liver Building is but one pillar in the city’s Three Graces, the other iconic buildings, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building.

Liverpool boasts too Albert to Dock, Walker Gallery, Chinatown and her favourite Sons, the Fab Four, The Beatles.

Liverpool’s boys

Scouse about us? The Beatles

It shouldn’t, of course, be forgotten that Liverpool has given us so much more great music too… and sport.

And as much as we’ll miss the neighbourly proximity that the Liverpool Reds and Blues share across Stanley Park a waterside stadium is special.

Try telling the fans of London club Fulham FC that their ground is unappealing.

Well-healed fans turn up at Craven Cottage by Thames-side boat while their signature tune is London Calling ‘we live by the river.’

San Fran Water Giants

Aw no, did it go in the water: San Fran

Or the San Francisco Giants faithful who also take to boats and wait in McCovey Cove, just a home run over the AT&T Park.

For the ball to come over so San Franciscans can snatch it for a collector’s piece.

The Arnos Vale Ground in Kingstown, Saint Vincent is home to the Windward Islands Cricket side.

And a towering six will have you swimming in the Caribbean to retrieve the ball.

It won’t come to that at Everton’s new ground and it leaves us asking Water Unesco splash in Liverpool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

We’ll always stay friends Croatia

And while all those of a Scottish variety will be hoping we beat them today we’ll always stay friends Croatia.

Scotland’s Euro 2020 hopes hang on them winning against the Balkan belters.

In 2018 Croatia’s international dreams were far higher.

As they prepared for the World Cup Final against France.

One Dalmatian

Pearl of the Adriatic: Dubrovnik

The Croatians who I’d got to know and love while living in Ireland.

As a guest of their embassy and Croatia Tours were filled with excitement.

And good Dalmatian wine.

All of which I helped them imbibe on the morning of the World Cup Final.

Before, and this is to my eternal shame, I switched camps and saw the game and celebrated with the French at their embassy.

The World Cup Final

Shout it from the rooftops: Croatia

And this allows me to say that I watched France win the World Cup Final in France.

The embassy land always belonging to that country.

And the Croatians being the good eggs that they are they didn’t hold any of that against me.

And put out the red and white checked carpet for me when I went on another different type of pilgrimage, to Medjugorje.

Now geographic pedants will point out that Medge, as it’s known to devotees to the Marian site, is in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

And yes it is, but try telling that to the Croat-daft residents of that village for whom the only religion to rival Catholicism is football.

The Gods of Medge

Dressed to kill: Medjugorje

Captain Luka Modric is something of a God in Medge with tops with his name emblazoned on them hanging from every shop.

And it is a familiar aspect of other countries I have visited for religion and football to coexist in such harmony.

I saw it first hand in Rome where Francisco Totti is as omnipresent as the Pope.

And again in Fatima in Portugal where Cristiano Ronaldo is a deity.

I witnessed just how passionate the Croatians are about their football when we were taking downtime from church in Medge.

And we were watching the Champions League in the Irish Centre.

Dynamic Croatians

If onlys: Beaten World Cup finalists Croatia

Which for ‘Elvis’ the name our group had given the owner meant his beloved Dynamo Zagreb.

Apologies again for not memorising the club song he blasted out on the speakers before the game.

So that’s twice I haven’t taken up the Croatians’ clarion call.

And national identity and an accident of birth means I again will have to make my apologies when Scotland eliminate Croatia.

I hope though we’ll always stay friends Croatia.

 

Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

Scotland v England and museum pieces

And for the day that’s in it we give you Scotland v England and museum pieces.

Tonight’s Euros meeting at Wembley is after all the 114th iteration of the oldest international football rivalry of them all.

Next year will be the 150th year since the first fixture.

Howzat!

Bring on the English

Oddly enough played at a cricket ground, Hamilton Crescent, in Glasgow.

They took the stumps out first!

The story of this match, which finished 0-0 and the history of the game in Scotland, can be found in Glasgow.

Glasgow to Manchester

Engerlund: The National Football Museum

At the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park.

And from the England perspective at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

The chronicles of the time relate that Scotland had a goal chalked off.

When the umpires deemed that the ball had cleared the tape, the early crossbar.

And that that was the moment the Scotland hard luck story was formed.

Kings and Queens

It’s never been fair: An Englishman fouls a Scotsman

For those Scots looking for omens tonight.

The Scotland team of 1872 was wholly represented by players from Queen’s Park.

And their captain tonight is Liverpool’s Andy Robertson whose career began at Queen’s Park.

For many a visit to a new city is an opportunity to check out its sporting cathedral.

A Real Treat

Lucky for some: Thirteen European Cups.

Madrid is synonymous with its, and Europe’s, most successful club, Real.

The 13-times European Cup/Champions League winners’ history is a storied one.

And with football being a small village the highpoint among many peaks was Real’s 7-3 European Cup Final victory over Hampden in 1960.

When Hungarian hero Ferenc Puskas scored a hat-trick.

You’ll already have had a glimpse of the Hungarians’ appetite for football already these Euros.

Hungary for Puskas

The Mighty Magyar: Ferenc Puskas

When 60,000 Hungarians packed in the Ferenc Puskas Arena in Budapest.

And they became the first country to host such a crowd post-Covid.

Puskas, the Galloping Major, is one of the game’s enduring figures.

He was the fulcrum of the Mighty Magyars who won 6-3 at Wembley.

Puskas fled his native land and Communist aggression.

He forged an illustrious career at Real and is said to have poo-pood the hoo-ha over Peke’s 1,000 goals.

When he told Bobby Charlton he had reached that goal in considerably less time and in more meaningful matches.

And his pal Slim Jim

Fan-tastic: Jim Baxter. http://www.bbc.com

All of which Scotland great Jim Baxter regaled to me.

When his agent and myself went to collect him for a speaking engagement in Aberdeen.

Now Slim Jim’s performance at Wembley against the-then World Champion English was up there with Puskas.

As he played keepie-uppie in front of the English players as Scotland toyed with the opposition on their way to a 3-2 win.

Slim Jim alas is performing football tricks now up there in the clouds.

But tonight it is time for new heroes to join him.

And take their place in the lexicon of Scotland v England and museum pieces.