Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Sustainable Tourism

Heaven is a place on Earth Day

And this is when thoughts turn to where you get away from it all and where Heaven is a place on Earth Day.

And where they actually do put the Earth first.

Deliver Jordan

The Dead Sea, Jordan

Our friends at G Adventures with whom I traversed the Dead and Red Seas and Wadi Rum are all about sustainability and community support.

And while others do the old cultural appropriation thing (Boris Johnson in India anyone) G actually put something back.

G shares its good fortune with local communities in partnership with Planeterra Foundation, its non-profit partner.

And they build organic farms and restaurants in Jordan et al.

And provide tourist opportunities for trekking and cycling enthusiasts.

Colossal Colorado

Rocky mountain high: Colorado Rockies baseball team

Now as you’ll see from my cover page Brad left an impression on me when he told us in the Rapids…

This is our office so look after it.

Colorado truly is America’s Playground and you’ll find Brad and his man-bunned freestyling the Rockies.

And even one or two dry-skiing along the side of the road, all protecting their greatest asset.

Protect our skies

By hook or by crook in Tenerife

And so we’ve done the Earth, now the Wind (or we’ll call it the skies) before we alight on the Fire.

And there are few clearer skies than the night ones in Tenerife

Where at the top of Mount Teide National Park you can be among the stars.

Yes our CanariaWays all-action walking party but also the Bull, Bear, Saturn and Uranus (no yours).

And all because they keep their island clean.

Clear the air

Safari time: In South Africa

Now we can all do our little bit to arrest global warming.

And Raggy Charters Whale Watchers and Dolphin Watchers in Gwberha (Port Elizabeth when I visited) do more than most.

As they plant a speekbom plant every time they take the boat out to the island to rebalance emissions.

And for those of you who pay attention (and I’m also talking to you up the back) it might just save air travel.

Land of ice and fire

The Northern Lights: Iceland

And, yes this is the Fire bit of the Earth, Wind and Fire elements.

And we have our old chums at Hayes & Jarvis to show us around Iceland.

They urge us to embark on a South Island road trip from Reykjavik around the Golden Circle.

And you’ll take in the Strokkur Geyser, Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park.

While all visitors to Iceland naturally take a dip in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon.

While if you’re very lucky you’ll get to see the Northern Lights on a clear night.

And so you’ll have your own go-to places but try these out.

And you will find Heaven is a place on Earth Day.

 

Africa, America, Countries, Ireland, UK

A town called Patrick

Happy St Patrick’s Day everyone and here off pat around the world we celebrate you if you’re from a town called Patrick.

And there are surprisingly few too.

There are only eight Patricks across three countries.

McCool kid

My cup of TT: The Isle of Man

And even more startlingly none are in the country where St Patrick is most celebrated, Ireland.

But in an island in the Irish Sea, all right, the Isle of Man.

Patrick (population 1,576) is in fact more of a parish, in the west of the isle, than a town.

The Isle of Man, of course, is a well-trodden soil for the Irish…

Mighty craic

Giant helpings: Finn McCool

And the craic there is always 80.

Of course it was invented when Irish giant Finn McCool was chasing a Scottish giant across Ulster.

He picked up a handful of earth and chucked it at him…

The sod created the Isle of Man and the crater he left behind is now Lough Neagh.

Moving on, and such was the footprint that the Irish have left on the USA that you won’t be surprised to see some Patricks there.

Off Pat in the USA

Doll’s house: In Mississippi

And so you’ll see a Patrick in Mississippi, Nevada, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky and Texas.

Whisper it but the Patrick commemorated isn’t our snake-chasing saint.

The Nevada one is an American soldier Patrick McCarran, who bought the land and also begat a US senator.

The Texas a postmaster Patrick Gallagher.

Both obvs Irish-American.

Flagging it up: Lesotho

Now we can only imagine Patrick and its region St Patrick (see we got one) in Lesotho is the Irish missionary influence in Africa.

The land-locked mountainous country is completely encircled by South Africa.

But it is timely to mention that it resisted the interference of South Africa and continues to do so.e

Even if it that means a continuing water dispute.

Water of the good life

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

Of course, today is more about the Guinness than the water.

And so if you’re a Patrick, come from a place called Patrick, or a region St Patrick’s.

As in the region north-west of Sir Grantley Adams Airport, Barbados.

Then you’ve got an extra reason to celebrate today on St Patrick’s Day.

We celebrate you if you’re from a town called Patrick.

Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, South America

Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues

Celebrating 35 years of one and the toppling of another… from Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues.

Bandanini and Bandanettes will recognise this as a pet subject here.

And how we prefer to champion statues of extraordinary ordinary people (and animals) than dubious war leaders and slave traders.

Fannie Lou Hamer died this day 35 years ago and is marked in the fist-clenched statue in Ruleville, Mississippi in the Deep South.

The Civil Rights activist who ‘was sick and tired of being sick and tired’ and upstaged LBJ at the Democrat Convention.

And Putin, the imperialist whose waxwork has been removed from the Paris Grèvin Museum’s gallery of world leaders.

The erection of statues and their deselection and destruction are a touchstone of where we are in society.

So it’s timely to ask where we are with totems of tyrants.

Putin on a podium

Gotcha: Vladimir Putin

Few things say narcissist more than erecting statues of yourself or having someone do it for you.

And if your palm has been greased to the tune of $1.2million by a Russian-sponsored development agency.

Then you’ll be happy to put up a statue of the Russian megalomaniac in your ski resort in his puppet state of Kyrgyzstan.

Stalin structures

Go away you little people: Joseph Stalin

To the rest of us he was the perpetrator of the deaths of millions in the Soviet Union.

To some fellow Georgians (though not my old pal George, their ambassador in Dublin) Joseph Stalin is still a favourite son.

As he is in Russia, Mongolia and even more frighteningly outside a nursery school in Asht in Tajikistan.

Mao how

Clap of thunder: Mao

But in a game of Top Trumps psychopaths even Stalin would lose out to the master of the Cultural Revolution in China.

And yet Mao Zedong is still revered in Tianfu Square, Chengdu, Sichuan.

Where he is larger than life, a 100ft statue of the despot still looking down on the little people.

Chavez on high

Time to go, Hugo: Hugo Chavez

The further south you get in the Caribbean the more interest the locals show towards dystopian Venezuela just a few miles across the sea in South America.

Particularly the Spanish Ladies who make Trinidad & Tobago their home.

Venezuela is depending on your viewpoint a brave resistor of American imperialism or a tinpot Latin American dictator.

Either way you can see Hugo Chavez’s likeness marked everywhere in Venezuela in the 17 or more statues and busts and countless tat.

A good Korea mood

Here’s to me: Kim

And in North Korea it was even something of an export industry until the UN and their sanctions stepped in.

You get the Kims (obvs) but our browsing threw up a trade in statues for abroad.

From the Mansuade Art Studio in Pyongyang.

Where they do a roaring business to dictators, particularly in Africa.

Shake on it: Robert Mugabe

The hold that dictators can have on us was brought home to me by a Ranger on our game drive.

In Mount Kamdeboo in the Eastern Cape in South Africa where when I asked the Zimbabwean emigree his thoughts on Robert Mugabe.

And he surprised me by saying that in Zimbabwe the people still respected their elders.

Come on your Rangers: And a Zimbabwean in South Africa

And where there is a demand the capitalist communists of Mansuade were always happy to oblige.

Something to dwell on as we recap today on where we are now. From Fannie Lou to Putin a sweep of statues.

Africa, Countries

Hakuna Matata on Kenya’s Pride Rock

It’s lion in wait there for you sundowners and Disney buffs… no worries, it’s Hakuna Matata on Kenya’s Pride Rock.

Bet you didn’t even know you knew Swahili (until Signature Experiences alerted me).

But then again we’re all polyglots aren’t we with those couple of words we learn for our summer holidays.

High old time: Simba

Now few things conjure up Africa more than The Lion King.

And Kenya in central/east Africa is at the heart of it.

Which is probably why Disney chose it for the inspiration of The Lion King’s Pride Rock.

Simba’s scene

The Borana Conservancy in Northern Kenya is where you’ll find Rafiki holding up Simba for the whole savanna to see.

And Elton John belting out The Circle of Life.

While the Rekero camp in the south-west’s Masai Mara right in the middle of the Great Migration Country replicates the lions’ stalking grounds.

Now we’ve all heard tales of the mark the traditional tribesmen people, the Masai Mara, can leave on western visitors.

And read or watched programmes where Westerners marry a warrior and move over to Kenya.

But it has been known to sometimes work the other way.

Masai Marry

Out of Africa: Kyoso Leerat and Ethiopia’s finest Meseret Tekalign

Like when my old friend Adams & Butler’s Siobhan Byrne Learat returned from her trip to Kenya with the best souvenir, her very own Masai Mara warrior Kasao Leerat.

And much like those of us kilted variety, Kasao rightly and proudly dons his African robes to promote his country and his and Siobhan’s brand.

All of which only piques the interest to visit the land of Leerat and Lions.

Elsa’s land

Elsa’s lions: In the Meru Game Reserve

Where you can also visit that other well, lion, of cinema, Elsa, popularised in the Oscar-winning Born Free.

And see her graveyard in the Meru Game Reserve Joy and George Adamson set up.

So whether it’s Hakuna Matata on Kenya’s Pride Rock.

Elsa the lioness or the Masai Mara then magical Kenya, as they brand themselves, will surely cast a spell.

And if you want to get a flavour before hotfooting it out to Africa…

Disney on stage

Then take in a production of Disney’s The Lion King wherever you find out.

And for me that was Disney on Broadway’s visit to Anaheim.

Hakuna Matata all you cool cats.

 

 

Africa, Countries

Ghana this day

And the lesson is self-determination… Ghana this day.

Father Bobi, a proud Ghanain, is big about family as he preaches his message at the pulpit in North Berwick, east of Edinburgh.

And he begins March 6 with a shout-out to his West African country and his sister who shares her birthday with the national day.

This day in 1957 the British colony Gold Coast became Ghana (strong warrior king), the first sub-Saharan state to break free.

We’re naturally drawn here to countries asserting their own self-determination.

And celebrating with carnivals and parades.

In Ghana that’ll be from the capital of Accra on the scenic coastline of the Gulf of Guinea to the northern heritage-rich city of Tamale.

Local foods, such as the Ghanaian joll of rice (a spicy rice dish with meat and vegetables), serve as centrepieces in many homes.

The Ghanaian diaspora

Pride of Ghana: Father Bobi

Ghanaians have increasingly enriched our lives across the world.

From pulpits in Scottish seaside to metropolises London and Paris to the Caribbean.

Where the descendants of slaves have progressed their culture.

African tourism has, of course, expanded in the last thirty years.

With intrepid travellers seeking out still authentic parts of the world.

And for us students of history we will always explore the history and culture of a country.

Which in Ghana means seeking out the slave castles dotted along the coast.

Slavery history

Pioneers: With Issy and ‘George Washington’ in DC

Slavery history is not mawkish and we are in fact encouraged to keep their history alive.

It is our history too whether in Scotland where the tobacco lords became rich and the triangular traffic from Bristol and Liverpool.

Or in Tobago and Barbados, the only foreign outpost George Washington visited.

And in the city he gave his name to and the Great Liberator Frederick Douglass and his house looking down on the city.

And the inspiring African-American Smithsonian Museum in DC.

Then there is the Slave Haven Underground Railroad in Memphis Tennessee in the Deep South.

West Africa

The real Ghanaians: And a cat too

A trip to West Africa has long been on the radar to square the circle.

And reflect on the Original Sin shame of slavery.

One Ghanaian in particular will be flying his flag high today in my new town of North Berwick here in Scotland.

While millions there and around the world will join him too.

Should you be an intrepid traveller too you’ll naturally levitate towards the holiday firm of that name.

Intrepid will provide tailor-made trips.

From the horse’s mouth

Palm trees anyone? Ghana beaches

Often our interest in a country or region is piqued by word of mouth, from friends and family.

I can’t say I know Rick from Intrepid’s site.

But I am persuaded by his review of Benin, Togo and Ghana from 2020.

‘Usually I travel independently, but for destinations in which infrastructure challenges make solo travel prohibitively inefficient.

‘Intrepid is worth every penny for combining easy of travel with the very best of cultural educational opportunity.

‘Superb pre-trip information, guides, and selection of destinations.’

Thanks Rick, and I’ll also be having a word in Father Bobi’s ear.

My cup of tea

Stamp of approval: Independence Day

Over tea and biscuits which he has restored to the church hall.

Two years after he had to pull that post-Mass experience because of Covid.

Happy Ghana Day Father Bobi and all the Ghanaians.

Ghana this day.

 

 

 

Africa, Countries, Europe

Olof Palme the Swedish moral pioneer

What Olof Palme the Swedish moral pioneer would think of Russia threatening his country over their choice of friends isn’t hard to work out.

It’s easy to think that neutrality amounts to diffidence and non-commitment.

When it allows a people to retain their independence from power blocs.

And question any and every human right violation wherever in the world they see it.

That independence of spirit and voice doesn’t comes though without sacrifice.

Citizen of the world

Table mountain of beer: The Red Location

And for former Prime Minister of Sweden, Olof Palme, that came at the ultimate personal cost with the Swede losing his life because of his opposition to Apartheid.

Thirty-six years ago today.

But apart from eliciting our admiration for his strong moral compass and bravery why does Palme matter to us globetrotters?

Because it’s in our DNA to care about what happens to our global fellow travellers on the journey of life.

And the gift of our giving we get back a hundred fold such as in Gqberha (and here’s how to pronounce it) in the Eastern Cape of South Africa .

You might know it from your old maps as Port Elizabeth.

Where in the Red Location in the New Brighton township they named the street of their heritage museum after the Swede.

Road to redemption

Siseko, Nelson and Bandanaman: The Voting Line in South Africa

Olof Palme has been rightly honoured across the world for his sacrifice with 20 countries naming thoroughfares after him.

We see it too on a bigger scale with Nelson Mandela remembered too across the globe.

Who will come out of the Ukraine crisis as the figures we will give street, square and building names to remains to be seen.

But South Africa has proved that every country and its people are redeemable.

And that moral pressure, economic sanctions and sporting boycotts can isolate bully boy regimes.

Be assured though we will all return to Russia and Ukraine.

Olof Palme the Swedish moral pioneer would want us to.

 

 

Africa, Asia, Countries, Deals

Mother-in-law’s Death on the Nile

And the Further Adventures of Bandanaman took another unexpected turn with the Mother-in-law’s Death on the Nile.

After the Scary One sabotaged the car, and my trip to Dublin to hook up with my Travel pals from around the world at their fair…

I had to occupy myself in North Berwick instead.

Nile high

Hair-raising: Poirot

And that meant being frogmarched out to the cinema to see Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Death On The Nile.

So there I was being sandwiched between two Mummies in antiquarian Egypt.

It is after all where the Scary One had detailed me to take her all those years ago.

Holy Grandma Batman: Laurie & Angela

The thing was though that the invitation which came in for us was from my Travel pals to the gated resort of Sharm El Sheikh.

Would she go for that… well, what do you Sphinx?

G force

Yes toot and come in: The pharaoh

Egyptophiles come in two shapes, those who want to swim, dance and drink with people from their own country, in the sun.

Or those who channel their inner Tutankhamon in the Valley of the Kings.

Like all things Middle Eastern and cultural I always fall back on my go-to travel providers G Adventures.

Pyramids along the Nile

Carry on Cleo: Pharaoh play

G Adventures offer a single-country eight-day Best of Egypt tour from €799pp from Cairo.

Sample trad fare with a Nubian family in a local village.

Barter in bazaars in Aswan and Luxor.

Mega Middle East

Desert prat: The Bandanaman

And a 22-day Best of Egypt, Jordan and Israel package

And of course sail the Nile in a traditional felucca but watch out for a tight Belgian detective with waxy moustache.

Now if Egypt whets your appetite then you may want to attach on Jordan and Israel and G Adventures allow you to do that.

This tour will mean you can see the Great Pyramids of Giza too.

And overnight in Jordan in a Bedouin tent, learn how the Nabataeans told the time in Petra, and float in the Dead Sea (tick, tick, tick).

Mt Nebo, Jordan

Of course Jordan being the middle of the Middle East you can see out over the historic towns of Jerusalem and Nazareth in Israel.

Before closing it out in swish Tel Aviv before jetting off home.

And leave behind you Mother-in-law’s Death on the Nile.

 

 

Africa, America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland

Give Bono his own airport

With all the talk of honouring James Joyce in his native city I’d suggest he defer to another Dub wordsmith… give Bono his own airport.

Now Paul Hewson (his Sunday name) may not have the classical allusions JJ has but he is inarguably the greatest Irishman.

And rather than name the city airport after the author of Ulysses, published 100 years ago, that tribute should go to the U2 man.

Now full disclosure here I’m not a fan boy.

Character: Bono

It’s only that airports, just like statues, shouldn’t be the preserve of dead people.

Not that I’ve got anything against the legends.

Leonardo Da Vinci (Rome), Charles De Gaulle (Paris) or JFK (New York) the latter where I piloted a plane into, albeit a simulator.

It’s just that the recipients don’t ever get to see their names in lights or a podium.

And Billy Connolly too

Comedy hero: Billy Connolly

And I would say the same about Billy Connolly and Glasgow and Sean Connery and Edinburgh.

So in just about the same time as it takes to Ryanair to pitch their on-flight offers.

I come around to a celebration of those living people who have had airports named after them.

Cristiano airport

Madeira whine: Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo Airport, Madeira: No danger of Ronnie being coy about seeing his name attached to his own island.

There is already a statue of the Great Man outside although you might not recognise him if you didn’t know already.

Clintons runway

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, Little Rock, Arkansas: And ever since he burst onto the political scene Clinton has been flying by the seat of his pants.

And Bill has been sure to give Hill equal billing ever since.

Dutch of class

Orange is the only colour: For Queen Beatrix

Queen Beatrix Airport, Aruba: Now the Dutch connections with their little corner of the Caribbean.

And you see it too in Sint Maarten and the airport that has taken Prncess Juliana’s name through her life and continues to do so.

Lech’s go round again

Lech Walesa, Gdansk, Poland: We first made acquaintance with the moustachioed shop steward in the docks in the Eighties.

Now the union man who took on the Commies and went onto become Pres has his own airport. General Waruzelski anyone?

Bob’s the job

Food for thought: Mugabe

Robert Mugabe, Harare, Zimbabwe: And you’d think that after The Great Dictator died then they’d have changed the name.

But as I found out from a Zim tracker on a game drive in the Eastern Cape in South Africa elders are respected… mmmm!

So yes, it would be the sweetest thing but deserved.

Think again

The Artist: James Joyce, that is

If the politicians pushing for Dublin Airport to be renamed James Joyce Dublin Airport thought again.

And renamed it to give Bono his own airport

Africa, Asia, Countries

The Year of the Tiger

Ya dancer… today is the Year of the Tiger.

If you’re a tiger you’re a thrill-seeker, crave attention and are short-tempered but kind.

Shere genius: Shere Khan

Although you wouldn’t be saying that if you’d had your carcass ripped apart.

But we’ve seen both faces of the tiger from our childhood films, as hippoty-hoppity Tigger or cunning Shere Khan.

Immerse yourself in the world of the Jungle Book by hopping on board any of a number of travel providers to that other powerhouse of tigers, India.

Yes you Khan

A palace for my love: The Taj Mahal

Exodus Travels gives you a 17 days India Tigers Safari from £3,499 including flights.

Where your tiger of choice is of course the Bengal Tiger (and don’t let Shere Khan put you off).

Our old friends at Hayes & Jarvis have a 15-days £4,099pp guide price for their trip around India.

And you’ll obviously get to enjoy the charms of the great cities of Delhi and Mumbai and the Taj Mahal.

They came from Africa

Pussycat, pussycat: Panthers in South Africa

Now we’re not sure why tigers moved from Africa to Asia around 2 million years ago.

But if you’ve been out on a drive and stood in awe at its kin, the panthers and lions, you’ll want to get out to Asia to see the tiger.

Now what of tiger watching in China… well, for everything in the Far East we defer to the expert Wendy Wu.

The Year of the Wu

Wendy and our buddies are holding a week of virtual events all week so we’ll know even more about tigers by Fiday.

And what to do when you’re faced with a tiger (and not one of those paper tigers).

Well our Chinese friends tell us to wear red socks and underwear although by that stage I’d suggest the nearest tree is the answer.

Happy Chinese New Year, the Year of the Tiger.

Africa, America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Food, Ireland

Pie are squared and round

Excuse the grammar but the gag doesn’t work otherwise so on today’s National Pie Day let’s say Pie are squared and round.

And we’ll pick out six pies from around the world.

All because we’re an island here of pie lovers in Britain, and Scots up and down the country have grown up on Scotch pies and beans.

Then long before American fast food pork pies were the go-to snack in England, and not just for ploughmen.

Mr American Pie

Eat your heart out Prue Leith: In Colorado

Apple Pie: National Pie Day was started in the mid-1970s by a nuclear engineer, brewer and teacher (talented man) Charlie Papazian.

It was then that he declared his own birthday, January 23, to be National Pie Day and it took on.

So now fast forward to a Can’t Bake, Won’t Bake visitor to Ginger & Bake in nearby Fort Collins under the watchful eye of the ever-patient Deb.

Say it loud and say it stout

More please: Jamie Oliver’s Steak & Guinness Pie

Beef and Guinness Pie: If you’re like me (and the Irish) and feel that drink is the food of life then read on.

You see this variation on the British steak and ale pie in Ireland naturally is enriched with Guinness and bacon and onions.

And it s on every bar menu in Ireland… and inevitably in the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver’s cookbook.

Custard with that?

Bobotie on the menu: In South Africa

Bobotie pie: It’s a different world in the one-track town of Cradock in the Eastern Cape In South Africa.

That’s where the owner of the Die Tuishuise & Victoria Manor has put on a buffet of Karoo food that fuses easy.

So let me give you Bobotie pie, a curried raisin-infused Shepherd’s Pie with a savoury custard topping.

Pie Irie

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby: Cooking and baking in Barbados

Macaroni pie: And something from the Old World embraced by the new in the Caribbean.

It is known there just as pie or Bajan Pie in Barbados this is island comfort food.

This tubed pasta with creamy cheese sauce is served either as a main dish in Bim.

Or more likely to the side of their favourite chicken and fish. Irie?

Pizza and understanding

Slice of life: Pizza pie

Pizza pie: So when we first got a taste for the Italian staple on this island we would call it pizza pie.

The best pizzas which we know are in Pizza City, Naples.

But a tip here for those who might otherwise be stung dining out near the Spanish Steps or Pantheon in Rome.

Instead pick up the long miniature pezzos from stores scattered through the Eternal City.

Sweet pie

The Key to good living: Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie: Now just as many pies are sweet as are savoury.

And in the land of American pie there are as many variations as there are numbers after 3.14.

But as it’s darn tasty and the Florida Keys are on the radar.

For a long rescheduled road trip it’s Lime Key Pie for me.

And so whatever your pick it’s good to know pie are squared and round and make the world go round.