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

Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Liam Neeson will find you, and he WILL green you

What I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career – Bryan Mills (aka Liam Neeson), Taken.

And make no mistake Liam Neeson will look for you, will find you, and WILL green you.

Irish eyes are smiling: Liam Neeson

Yes, Big Liam is fronting a new online video for St Patrick’s Day with footage shot around Ireland.

A Giant was here: The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

At locations like Dingle, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle, Kilkenny Castle, Derryclare Lough, Newgrange and Titanic Belfast.

Taken with a green filter

The Greening Tower of Pisa

The footage will be interwoven with images from Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative.

That will see famous landmarks and iconic sites illuminated in green each year on St Paddy’s Day, Wednesday, March 17.

The Taken actor waxed lyrical about his native country.

London calling

He said: ‘This year, more than ever, seeing the world turn green for St Patick’s Day will help to bring positivity and hope to millions on 17 March.

‘This is a reminder of the beautiful island that awaits when it is safe to travel again.’

The man himself

The announcement of the new landmarks to be greened around the world has always been a highlight of the year and this year is no exception.

And may even be more dramatic with the absence of us to spoil the view.

An Irish Opera: Sydney Opera House

The Tourism Ireland initiative began on March 17, 2010, when the Sydney Opera House was bathed in shades of green.

And it quickly caught on with The London Eye, Niagara Falls, the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China...

Phew (pause for breath) Rio‘s Christ the Redeemer and the One World Trade Center in New York among the more than 300 around the world going green.

Viva Green Vegas

I’ll put it all on green: Vegas

While the Welcome sign in Las Vegas will be emerald too…

Hopefully in preparation for the delegation of Travel professionals from this island going out to their American Travel Fair in the Autumn.

Our friends at Tourism Ireland earlier this month announced details of those famous attractions and reminded us too of the debt we owe to Wales.

It is after all the birthplace of St Patrick, where the village of Portmeirion will green up.

The Mannekin Piss in Brussels

Over the coming week, Tourism Ireland will roll out its St Patrick’s film in 12 markets around the world.

Including Britain, the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, the Nordic countries, the GCC (Gulf Cooperaton Council), the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.

Seth’s magnus opum

For a broader sense of Ireland’s Greening of the World, check out the beautiful book of that name by renowned Irish journalist Seth Linder.

And because every picture tells a story, here is a further selection from his book.

Rio de Greeneiro

Should it not be Moulin Verde?

I Greensterdam
Colossal: The Colosseum
Empire state of green mind

A little bit of Scotland

The Kelpies in Falkirk

Of course, there will be a corner of North Berwick, here in Scotland which will be Forever Green.

 

Africa, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe

World Book Day – a leaf through the world

Happy World Book Day… I’ve been turning over a new leaf by re-reading some old favourites from around the world.

Some will be yours, others I’d recommend as they namecheck places you’ll want to visit, and the people too.

Czech’s in post for this classic

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis: Or you can have The Trial.

OK, I’ve not read either, but I have checked out Kafkaesque Prague, his home city.

And he’ll be glad to know that the Czechs still retain his take on the world around him and its leaders…

Bureaucracies overpowering people often in a surreal, nightmarish way.

Anne’sterdam

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl: It’s chilling to listen to the audio of Anne‘s words in the diary she wrote in her family’s hideout in Amsterdam.

And I make no apologies in saying that I choked up.

When I heard that the vibrant young girl destined for Auschwitz had wanted to become a journalist.

Anne, of course, made a lasting impression, and has gone on to inspire generations of chlldren and adults alike.

Eastern Eden

Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Olive Schreiner’s The Story of An African Farm: Olive may not be on every, or any, schoolchildren’s radar in the Northern Hemisphere.

And athough its style is of its time, the 19th century, this chronicle of South African life in the Eastern Cape, is required reading.

A feminist and ahead of her time Olive railed against the prejudices around her .

And she also moved in some pretty famous circles. Required reading.

Crusoe in Tobago

Give ‘em rope: With Levi and Bandanaman the goat in Tobago

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Tobago: And if you’re lucky enough you can even reprise the actions of some of your favourite literary characters.

Like in Tobago where Robinson Crusoe swept ashore and took years to get off.

For all his protestations I think he probably enjoyed it. And we know that he made some friends of the local goats.

The Odyssey

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Homer’s Odyssey: And this one I did read, or at least study, and then parts of it.

As a Classics scholar (or messer) at school.

I had my own odyssey trying to make my way through Munich Airport and on way to Greece and over to its islands.

There’s nothing like walking in the footsteps of your legend’s… so there’s an invitation to you.

And it’s been flagged up that I’ve been down this road before with this book collection. See if my choices have changed and tell me your faves. 

 

 

 

Africa, America, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Ireland

Water waterfalls

Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to – TLC

Only I do go chasing waterfallsor rather they go chasing me.

And probably you too… after all they are a staple of your holiday day tours.

Angel’s from heaven: In Venezuela

But like rivers and lakes usually once you’ve seen one then you’ve seen them all.

Chasing rainbows: Niagara Falls

The must-sees are obviously Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls and Angel Falls.

The Big Three

The first of them I have ticked off in Canada on a trip to see family in Toronto.

The second on the list is with my friends from Ethiopian Airlines en route to Namibia.

Victoria tall. www.victoriafallstourism.com

While the third in Venezuela I’m inching closer to having acquainted myself with the Venezuelan Spanish ladies of Tobago.

Not all waterfalls have to have come down from the highest heavens.

Caribbean scream

Nor do they have to be at a neck-craning height to be blessed by the gods.

Water world

As I discovered in Kythera in Greek Attica.

Keeping dry in Kythera

Whether you’re gazing on nature’s wonders among the world’s great mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees

Rockie waterfall high

In the valley of the Rockies. cruising through the fjords.

Or with the sun on your back in the Caribbean waterfalls are one of the Gods’ gifts.

There are trolls up there in the fjords

Unless, of course, it’s Powerscourt’s waterfalls in my old back yard of Co. Wicklow in Ireland which you have to pay for.

Power of Powerscourt

Powerscourt, its gardens and splendid hotel and grounds and best-value restaurant is one of the country’s jewels.

Spray that again

All of which waterfall waffling brings me to the subject in hand, an invitation from one of the best Travel providers in the business.

Monty zoomer: Montmorency

American Holidays are flagging up their Canadian market and as well as Niagara Falls, the less well-known Montmorency Waterfalls.

The Montmorency Falls in Quebec are actually 30m higher than its much-vaunted Ontario neighbour.

You can decide for yourself which you prefer on your nine-day tour of Canada’s great Eastern Cities.

Toronto A

Where you’ll spend three nights each in Toronto, Montréal and Quebec.

You’ll fly from Dublin to Toronto and return from Montréal from €1539pp.

MEET YOU BY THE WATERFALLS

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A year on – Ireland and Scotland and further afield

That was the year that was – it’s 12 months now since I left my beloved Ireland for my first love Scotland.

I had though little intention of spending all my time in Scotia.

And instead had a long list of destinations to fill out the year.

So to mark the anniversary I’ll share the year that never was.

Off to a flier in Czech Hoptown

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery, Prague, in the Czech Republic

The Chinese lady with the mask on in the airport in Prague Airport seemed a curio at the time, a reminder of the latest virus that only affects Asia.

A few weeks later the fun and intimacy of the Czech Republic  were but a warm embrace I clung onto as I entered lockdown in Scotland for the first time.

As I came out of isolation I engaged with my Czech friends again over the new-fangled Zoom app we were all compelled to use and toasted each other in time-honoured fashion Na Zdravie.

I was heartened to see them lay out a table for a feast along the Charles Bridge in the early summer and wished that I was back there again in Prague or in the Czech Republic’s Hoptown, Zatec.

I know this though that the Czechs will get through this because they have the best beer in the world, Pilsener Urquell.

Trump steals my Keys

Limin’ at a Key Lime shop in the Keys

Suitcase packed, bandana on, I was all set for my fly-drive around the Florida Keys when Donald Trump (remember him) closed the country to visitors while encouraging Americans to gather… at his rallies.

And so Hemingway’s six-toed cats, key line pie, Florida sunsets and easy living will just have to wait.

Of course the beauty of it is that Papa’s pussies won’t have had any idea that anything was even different about the past year.

Exile me in St Helena

Napoleon was here

And another on the back-burner is Napoleon’s island. No, not his birthplace, Corsica, or the one the British sent him to initially, Elba, but the one where he ended his days, St Helena.

St Helena, 1200 mile west of southwestern Africa is one of the most remote inhabitable islands in the world and is an ecological dream.

All of which makes you think that exile was a pretty good option back in the day. And if I end up needing to self-isolate anywhere then I’ll be back in touch.

Vegas or bust

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

Now I’ve always felt bad about leaving Cami from Utah at the bar at Harrah’s Las Vegas a few years ago and knowing she goes down there every weekend knew that she’d be there when I revisited in June.

The American Travel Fair was scheduled for Neon City and I was all booked and ready, my chips at the ready to make my million.

But alas I had to leave Cami waiting again and to get my fix of Vegas I had to make do with watching the world’s greatest band The Killers perform from the ceiling of Caesars Palace on YouTube.

The fair, IPW is slated for the Fall, and I’ll be expecting an Access All Areas ticket, Brandon.

And maybe even reprising my Mr Brightside from the Rising Star Karaoke Bar, CityWalk at Universal Orlando a few years ago.

The Norman request

Perfect for a selfie?

I would have put my Monet on getting to Normandy

for the Monet festival back in late summer.

And even get a painting lesson in his back garden.

But as the UK travel corridor policy became as chaotic as the Spinal Tap boys trying to get to their gigs, again I found myself blocked.

Now what is the French word for cup-de-sac?

Bergamo go, go, go

Bergamo fountains

And just as the year was petering out and I was resigning myself to my best chance of a trip down to North Berwick beach, Mamma Mia but one came off.

And in spectacular style.

The journalist in me had me tracking the evolution of Bergamo through the pandemic, it being the gateway to the virus in Europe.

And just in time I got over to Northern Italy to talk to the Bergamaschi and ask how they had got through it all and their advice on how we should all progress now.

There was specialist Lombardy food and wine, culture, history Donizetti music and art aplenty.

But the most beautiful picture was that of the emboldened Bergamaschi in the backdrop of their historic city, both in Citta Alta and Citta Bassa, the High and the Low City.

Now there are worse places to have spent this last year, with the view of the Firth of Forth from my window, Bass Rock bookending the beach and Edinburgh just along the road.

I’ve chosen to live by the sea all my adult life. It’s a primal thing knowing that exciting lands lie beyond.

I know that we’ll visit them again soon, and hopefully I can fill in the blanks above and add San Francisco, Chicago, New England and a host of other trips I had planned last year, and many to come.

All for your enjoyment.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Food

Holiday Snaps – Capes of good hope

And, yes, you read that right. I’m talking of the Eastern and Western Capes of South Africa and the Good Hope of returning ine day.

TV chef Gregg Wallace has been conjuring up memories of the Eastern Cape foe me in his ITV travelogue series, sponsored by Saga Holidays.

Where last week he went on safari at the Amakahla Game Reserve, just north-west of Port Elizabeth, and this week goes west to Table Mountain et al.

Chin chin: Gregg Wallace in South Africa

Of course Gregg got stuck into biltong, the dried cured meat they all eat out there.

The promo video shows Gregg toasting us with a South African white you can almost taste.

But a piece of advice, Gregg, if you really want to go native then you need to put ice in the wine.

Bergamo stands alone

Bergamo Molamia: Stay strong

Mola Mia… and I’m glad to see that Ryanair is giving Bergamo back its name in its latest tranche of offers and not just aa an appendage of Milan.

They flag up the medieval jewel of Lombardy at up to €30 off which takes you to their €23.99 one-way deal for Milan Bergamo.

Bur hey, Bergamo wasn’t built in a day… and I’ll share all its history and how it has rallied from being the doorway for Covid in Europe.

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

Book foe Bergamo and a raft of destinations by January 13. Travel between April 1 and October 31.

Ryanair helpfully shares where you can get a Covid test near you.

Sandals in the sand

Blessed: Saint Lucia

Or more accurately on the runway. Actually the plane on the runway but then my hour in Saint Lucia just whetted my appetite.

My Saint Lucian pal Jerry, the Big Rapper, from my G Adventures tour of Jordan had given me the skinny on his island.

And how he had plans for writing a guide book.

Look out for that when you’re out in Saint Lucia at Sandals who have a January sale on.

They have seven nights at the Sandals Regency La Toc with travel dates in September and October.

Fly with British Airways and stay in a honeymoon luxury.

Now I’ve experience of a couples hotel in Barbados and a Sandals on the south of the island too,

While, if you want to island hop, Saint Lucia is the stop-off for another prize destination Tobago.

Africa, Countries, Culture, Food

Tagine genie and Morocco

It all looked so exotic under its earthenware cone… I only wish I’d known what to look out for in a Moroccan tagine.

I didn’t know then but do now about the Tagine Cookery Class With A Local in Marrakech class which you’ll need to check out when you visit Morocco.

Anyone who has been to the Pink City will learn quickly that you’re always best to have a local show you around.

A taste if Morocco

And not the False Guides who proliferate around Marrakech and in whose clasp I found myself when a chancer offered to take me to a Turkish barber.

But the credited guides, and ours was particularly knowledgeable and was also a sight better at bargaining on our behalves.

The class souk

They also obviously know their way through the souk which also helps, particularly when there’s a funeral procession running through it.

One we made earlier

And this is what your cookery course organisers will handle, taking you through the souk where you will get advice on what herbs and spices to buy.

Before they get you to cook the tagine for yourself and your party in a riad. And all for just £45.15pp.

The perfect course

Cookery courses are all the rage on holiday and I’ve learned how to make a Tobagonian chicken curry, and a Colorado apple pie

And yes, this would have headed off a battering at the pass that I took at the pass in the Atlas Mountains on a stormy day in Ramadan.

Our friends at the Moroccan tourist board are rightly flagging up the.charms of the Atlas Mountains and its environs.

The camel treks, the Berber song, drum and folk dance in the desert and the chance to sleep out under the stars.

Which for everyone else was in a tent but for me was in a toilet with no flush… lock on the door, or roof.

A trip to the Berber

If only I’d known about the Marrakech cookery class.

Still, you do get a better star show from an open-roofed shack in the Atlas Mountains.

Africa, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Flying, Ireland

Christmas cards on the table

Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale and a Happy Christmas to you all.

And merci, gracias, grazie and thanks a lot to all my friends who have sent me Christmas cards this year.

I’ll even let you off cancelling your Christmas parties and not sending me a Christmas hamper this year.

So here are a few of the Christmas cards I’d like to show off to you…

Christmas in my Sandals

Open-toed: In Barbados

And yes that’s just how they roll at Sandals and in the Caribbean.

Where what they lack in chimneys and fireplaces they make up for in mango trees.

And Santa can soothe his feet in a Sandals swim-up pool.

My old friends in Ireland

Top point: Harvey’s Point

And while my Dear Old Mum will be spending her Christmas in a Glasgow care home, a nod to her homestead of Donegal.

Donegal, in the north-west of Ireland has all the warmth of the peaty sod and will be wonderful this Christmas.

So here’s to all Donegallers everywhere and thanks to the award-winning Harvey’s Point.

Scandi Claus

When I was thinking of going to Sweden this year my first port of call was my old Irish pal and Scandiphile Alan.

Happy Christmas… in Swedish

And a God Jul to you too and destination specialists Hadler DMC.

I got a tantalising view of Sweden on my MSC Cruises trip from Kiel, Germany through Denmark and up to Norway.

Cruises WILL be back in the New Year and of course that means river cruises too as well as the big seabreakers. Anyone for MS Arena?

Another year younger

And how long they look: Ethiopian Airlimrs

I’ve told you once or a hundred times about the lifegiving qualities of Enkutatash, Ethiopia’s New Year.

Because they live by the old calendar.

Back in the day an invite came through for Women’s Day from Ethiopian Airlines and a trip to celebrate womenhood in Ethiopia.

From where Lucy, the first women we have bones for derives.

I offered to drag up. But in the end I sent a colleague.

Bohemian wrapsody

Prague rocks

Of course we know who looked out on the Feast of Stephen.

Only the bustling Wenceslas Square will be empty this Christmas.

The Czechs are the most wonderfully resilient people, situated as they are between Europe’s great powers.

They will be back and so will we… Urquell in hand by the beautiful Vlatva River.

We wish Wu a Merry Christmas

Panda-monium

And isn’t it just like that? You get a card in and you panic that you haven’t sent them one.

So to Wendy Wu and the two Johns thank Wu for everything this year, particularly the legendary Chinese New Year lunch in January in Dublin.

And I know you’ll look after The Son and Heir when he heads to China next year.

And a Felice anno nuovo too

These Italians have style

And in the most fallow of fallow years I will always treasure my Autumn trip to Bergamo with Omio.

Miei amici have gone back into the strictest zone as they predicted when I visited but I’m sure it will all pay off.

And we’ll all be eating stracciatella gelato soon in Citta Alta.

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

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland

All our Christmases

And because you know exactly what I want you’ve only sent me a few of my favourite places…. and how they do Christmas.

We wish you a braai Christmas

South Africa: They do things differently in South Africa which you find out early when a local puts ice in your glass of white wine.

Being in the Southern Hemisphere where Christmas falls in the summer you might find yourself at a braai, Afrikans for barbecue.

Where there’s no shortage of meaty delights, there’s plenty of fruit on the side with watermelon a Christmas favourite.

As a Watermelini aperitif… just open the link and the magic will happen.

Which the Assistant Food & Beverage Manager Ashwin Rysn (and there must be some Irish in them with that name).

At the Saxon Hotel Villas and Spa outside Johannesburg, will serve you up.

Galicious Galicia

Galicia: And you’ll not be surprised to hear that you’ll get a fishie on your dishie at A Quinta da Auga

So that’ll be the Galician clams, sea urchins and red (si) cauliflower on Christmas Eve.

This being North-West Spain, which I know only too well from my Camino you’ll be lured in with very hot capons.

In this case it’s Galician nut-stuffed capon chicken on Christmas Day.

And prawn and saffron ‘pil pil’, oysters, blue lobster and Galician beef roll on New Year’s Eve.

Rounded off with the traditional 12 grapes at midnight.

Big Appletini… or Tequilini?

Lorra bottle

New York: And a hint here for the Son and Heir.

He bas taken over the mantle of Cocktail King and has a bottle of Tequila with the cap off in the kitchen.

This one, Tropic in Wonderland, comes to us courtesy of The Peninsula New York.  And

Peninsula New York recipes copy.

And if that has you salivating, try this recipe that they’ve given us…

A Salad of Charred Chicory, Butternut Squash, Fennel, Buttermilk Dressing and Everything Spiced Prawn.

And a decadent Roasted Whole L. I Duck Pastrami with Roasted Apple Gastrique.

See, I promised you apples.