Adventure, Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

What the world really looks like… Africa and South America

Empiricists love to boast about how the sun never went down on the British Empire which is probably why our little island is on steroids on atlases.

But not just us… the US obviously but also China and randomly Greenland.

So who loses out here? Well Africa and South America mostly.

Well this site is nothing if not a vehicle to change the world so let’s do just that and flag up to why these two continents should be on our radar.

Wendy Wu Tours have been telling us for years.

They have just released their 2020-2021 Treasures of South America brochure.

And they have put in some incentives just for us.

Their Essence of Argentina & Brazil is a 12-day tour from £4,090pp with flights which, of course, includes Rio, Buenos Aires and Iguazu. Pure redemption!

Hit the peaks in South America

Twelve days, of course, is never long enough, 28 is a bit more like it.

That’ll give you more than enough time to see…

Lima, Urubamba, Agues Caliente, Cusco, Puno, Huatajata, La Paz, Uyuni, San Pedro de Atacama, Santiago, Mendoza, Buenos Aires, Iguazu and Rio.

Fancy a waterfall?

And if some of those names are new to you it’s because they reduce the size of those countries on your map.

Ultimate South America, 28 days from £8,690pp, including flights.

Who hasn’t whiled away a coffeetime looking at our atlas, and picking out African names, say?

G Adventures will take you there… they laid me on my back in Jordan and came back for me.

And I promised to come back for them!

Now having dipped my toe into the Muddle East, and North Africa on a memorable trip to Morocco.

The pride of Africa

And realised a dream by visiting South Africa, I just have to do the bit in between.

So picking out Tanzania here which as you can see would dwarf Germany if we would only let it…

The sun also shines: Kilimanjaro

It’s all about the safari, the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro but there are beaches too, and exotic Zanzibar.

They have 19 days Kilimanjaro, Serengati & Zanzibar from £3356.65.

Tanzania was calling me in South Africa when my hotel in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape played Toto’s Africa on a constant loop.

Wild beasts of South Africa

I know that I must do what’s right. As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.

Famously, writer David Paich had never visited Africa when he penned the song….

Perhaps he too had been looking at his atlas with a magnifying glass, of course, to pick out the names!

MEET YOU ON THE RESERVE

Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – let’s Moroccanroll

And when you fall off the camel the best thing to do is get back on… only it’s a bike. But then when in Morocco…!

Morocco keeps coming up when I least expect it… and that’s just the beef tajine in the Atlas Mountains.

For many Morocco is Marrakech, the Punk City, and the Sahara Desert but there is much more.

The Moroccans are flagging up their mountain hiking, golf (and, yes, there is plenty of sand to find).

And lesser-celebrated towns Tangier (the capital), Rabat and Fez and the seaside resort of Dakhla.

Morocco is currently off the UK exempt list but when it returns (and it will) then join the half a million British visitors who go there every year.

Turkey shoot

Turk that: With Onur Gull of Turkish Airlines in Istanbul

The new strategy the UK government is applying to the exempt lust is now to ignore the stats even they apply.

Which is why Turkey is now off the list because the UK doesn’t trust the figures of infections they supply.

They are reporting 12.9 cases per 100,000, down from 14.2.

The British, of course have always been so reliable on reporting about Turkey.

The sun will rise again… in Poland

Remember the ‘Turkish threat’, the invasion of people decamping in Europe and the EU, a key plank of the Brexiteers’ campaign for the referendum!!

Poland and three Caribbean islands have also been added… Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. But Barbados is free. Irie!

While Scotland has finally followed England’s lead and put.Madeira and the Azores back in the map.

By Hook or by crook

No witches overhead yet…. Hook lighthouse, Co. Wexford in Ireland

And Halloween being around the corner our holiday providers have been busy stirring the pot to find a magic potion to save Samhain.

Which is the traditional pagan name for the All Souls Festival.

Now I’m reminded of a tale I was told in Bowmore on the Inner Hebrides island of Islay of the circular church where the ‘divil had nowhere to hide.’

Bow I don’t know the angles at the Hook Lighthouse in Co. Wexford in Ireland but why not find out for yourself?

Spooky tours of the 800-year-old Hook Lighthouse will be on offer from October 29-31 from 6-8pm every half hour.

You will be met by a goos witch on every floor (and some surprises).

While there’s pumpkin painting (€7pp) and slate painting (€5pp) from 12pm-4pm in Saturday, September 31- Sunday, November.1.

Each session will be available to a maximum of six children. Book in advance (051) 397055.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Africa, Countries, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Flyday Freeday Friday – Ethiopian have you covered

Yes, you’ve read that right, our friends at Ethiopian Airlines are giving it away…

EA have launched their Sheba Comfort Insurance policy which covers customers for medical costs if you contract Covid-19 overseas.

EA have been busy, busy, busy… they’ve refurbished their passenger terminal at Bole Airport in Addis Ababa.

A clean bill of health: Ethiopian Airlines

And they remind us that they work with their Star Alliance partners via Frankfurt, Stockholm or Istanbul.

I wonder if I can get off in Crossroads City and rejoin them later.

Aer we go for 2021

You’ll keep going back: The Rovers Return, Manchester

And Ireland’s national airline, Aer Lingus, carrier are spoiling us again… with flights from only €25.99.

Which is Birmingham where you’ll need to take in Cadbury World in Bourneville and Manchester whose jewel is their Coronation Street tour.

Dublin-London is €29.99 and a few euro more from Knock in the West at €32.99.

Beefy: In London with a local

You want to get to the continent? I thought you would, and you’ve got the same taste as me, then I give you…

Living like locals in Saint-Pauli

Hamburg and Amsterdam from the Irish capital for €35.99. From Cork Clog City is just four euro more.

And Ireland’s national airline carrier will, of course look after you if circumstances change.

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Student Bangers

Would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our stereos? – Braveheart

As students continue to be consigned to house arrest, they’ll only get through this with the staples of Uni, drugs and rock’n’roll.

No sex please, we’re British!

And so in a nod to our future parliamentarians, pioneers and care providers.

Here are some old bangers which got me through my young days.

And the places it took me too.

Tennessee waltz

With WC Handy in Memphis, Tennessee on my Deep South journey

On highway number 19 the people keep the city clean – Tina Turner, Nutbush City Limits

Nutbush City Limits and Tennessee (Ike and Tina Turner): And Nutbush was one to get everyone on their feet in the students’ union (alas no longer there).

I little thought then that I’d be bombing along highway number 19 on my Deep South American Odyssey 30 odd years later… The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

Mine’s a 99

Ninety nine dreams I have had, In every one a red balloon, it’s all over and I’m standing pretty, In this dust that was a city – Nena, 99 Ref Balloons

99 Red Balloons and Germany (Nena): You couldn’t qualify as a student when I were a lad if you didn’t march for the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Nuclear Disarmament or to Free Nelson Mandela.

And this anti-Communism clarion call by this German ball of energy played endlessly out of the window of the girls in the next flat.

The wall came down five tears ago and while I have still to make my mark on today’s wall, I have since visited behind the old Curtain.

Ich bin ein Dresdener

To see the revival of Dresden, the Venice of the Elbe, and learn about the Prague Spring and a nuclear bunker.

Mandela days

With my friend Siseko in Port Elizabeth

Are you so blind that you cannot see? Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea? Free Nelson Mandela, I’m begging you, Free Nelson Mandela – The Specials

Nelson Mandela and South Africa: And, no, Free Nelson Mandela wouldn’t be one for the dance floor although maybe we pogoed to it.

It really came into its own on protest marches, demonstrations and the Free Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley.

Where me and my old pal from Cardiff student days clung onto our old undergrad days for just one more summer.

And while I never got to meet The Great Man I did get out to his home province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

And stood in his Voting Line.

So, for every student in the land, turn your boom boxes up loud and channel your Labi Siffre

Your light will shine so brightly it will blind them.

Tell me what your University bangers and we’ll share

Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

Happy Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah, Happy Jewish New Year, and because we want to see off this bloody year, and pray to Yahweh for a better new year, here is when and where all our cultures see out the old and bring in the new.

Hello, Chinas

Pandamonium

The Chinese New Year: And sitting down for our annual Chinese New Year celebration with Wendy Wu Tours in Dublin in January at Chai Yo we gave sympathy and Chinese tea (and every food known to man that you can eat with chopsticks) for the plight of the poor people of Wuhan.

Little did we know, of course, that we would be suffering too within weeks. The Year of the Rat should have been a warning.

And what are you all having?

Next year when it will be celebrated in February will be the Year of the Ox and he is much more our reliable carrier of all our human burdens.

And rest assured I’ll be back in Chai Yo next year with Wendy’s friends, the Two Johns, before hopefully we follow The Son and Heir out to Wuhan’s neighbour Chongqing.

Iran the bells

Smiles from Iran. http://www.itto.org

Nowruz (Iranian New Year): And there is a diary date in my calendar which I can’t bring myself to delete – my trip to Iran which was deferred after the Americans fell out with them again and then this virus came along.

I do hope that when I do get out there it’s in a March when they celebrate Springtime when it coincides with the Northward Equinox.

They trumpet in the day, colour eggs and eat a hearty soup, Ash-e-Reshteh noodle soup.

Sri Lanka is my cup of tea

Sri Lankan New Year: And here we have two Sri Lankan cultures celebrating a date, April 14.

Aluth Avuradda, the Sinhalese New Year, marks the end of the harvest and is one of only two occasions when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

You’ll be eating small oil cakes called kavum and plantain dishes.

The Tamils of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka celebrate with new clothes, music, sweets and rice colour kolams (street art).

The Tamil Diaspora too celebrate April 4… so Malaysia, yes, and The Maldives too where one pasty-faced Scotsman once became an honorary member of the staff’s football and cricket teams. Yes, Mr Jim is coming back to Kuramathi.

While if you’re Irish (lucky you) you’ll know about the greatest Sri Lankan-Irishwoman, my old friend Tess De Kretser and her Olcote in Ceylon resort.

Ethiopia will take years off you

Enkutatash, Ethiopia: And this has become a fixture on my calendar in Dublin over recent years thanks to my friends at Ethiopian Airlines.

It, of course, takes years off you, not just the meaty food which you scoop up with your bread, and wine and Ethiopian coffee.

But also because it’s on the Julian Calendar which means that this will take seven years off you.

Scotland, the home of Hogmanay

Scottish Hogmanay: And in the words of the greatest dustman in television soap opera Norman ‘Curly’ Watts who decided the Scots owned New Year.

Well, they do own Hogmanay. And why Hogmanay which is what we call New Year’s Eve.

An early reference to the term is from The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence as deriving from the Greek word agia mine or ‘holy month’.

More like a hooley though as many libations are taken to keep out the cold.

Which is probably where the tradition of bringing coal, shortbread and whisky with your when you go first-footing, being the first person to cross someone’s threshold (first-footing).

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO WHOEVER YOU ARE AND WHEREVER YOU ARE

 

 

Africa, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

My cousin, the Chief of the Igbo tribe of Nigeria

So, the Chief of the Igbo tribe of Nigeria, my cousin, Father Donald McGlynn, has gone back to the Great Spirit in the Sky.

And I will never get to ask him of his life with the Nigerians and what powers being chief of the Igbo gave him.

Which is, of course, a pity.

The saintly seven.., and their parents

It strikes me that I have two choices.

Try and find out from his relatives at his funeral or go out to Nigeria and discover it for myself.

Happen, I’ll do both.

Father Donald was that most impressive of men.

Nigeria

You know the type… smart as a tack, well-travelled, well-balanced and non-judgmental.

And somebody who would let someone else take the floor and vent their spleen.

Without any knowledge of the subject on which he would have been an authority.

Don’t I look monkly? In Medjugorje

And so it was when he told us of his empathy for the Palestinians as he discussed a recent tour of The Holy Land.

After the Mass that he officiated at at my parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary.

Father Donald and his Brother and five Sisters (and I cap them deliberately) were a regular presence in our house growing up in Glasgow.

And that vestment would certainly fit me

The progeny of my Mum’s Uncle and Auntie, Danny and Norah McGlynn of Brockagh, Co. Donegal.

The patriarch was even personally blessed by Pope John Paul II when he visited Ireland.

And all of that rubbed off on me. Because like every Catholic boy in Glasgow I flirted with becoming a priest.

Before I discovered girls.

I have though made it my life’s mission to get round the Marian sites… Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje

But Father Donald, missionary extraordinaire, you did and you were the best of us.

And as they say in Ireland…

Go raibh mile maith agat.

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

The Sapeurs – the colours of Africa

We all remember them Made of More from the Guinness advert… the stylish Sapeurs of the poorest country on Earth, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And La Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (Sapeurs) or the Society of Elegant Men of the Congo got another outing.

Now I used to have a pair of yellow trousers

On the excellent BBC show Africa with Ade Adepitan.

In the most recent episode, Ade meets the men who put much needed extra colour into their lives.

And those around them with their peacock clothes and dancing.

Have kilt, will travel

I was particularly taken, naturally, by the dude who dressed up in a kilt, Prince Charlie jacket and Tam O Shanter.

Dressed to thrill

Looking something like Usain Bolt when he wowed the Glasgow crowd with his lap of honour at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

The colours of Glasgow: The Jamaicans in 2014

The Sapeur explains that he got his look from Prince Charles, and I’d pay to see Charles sashay like this bloke… or maybe not.

With Adams & Butler’s Kasao Learat and Ethiopian Airlines’ Meseret Tekalign Bekele

Needless to say I want to get out there to meet this Kinshasa chameleon.

Ethiopian Airlines flying high

I’ll have to put it on the long gyrating finger for just now but I have hope.

My cup of coffee

My friends at Ethiopian Airlines with whom I have enjoyed an Enkutatash (New Year) or two in Dublin fly London to Kinshasa from £609 return.

While Adams & Butler, with whom I have also broken bread, offer high-end travel all over Africa.

Bandana Africa

The Sapeurs say that it is not about the suit but the man in the suit.

So when I get out to Kinshasa I will have my kiltie with me with my own personal stamp… my bandanas.

I’m not skirting around the issue

And, because it is never the done thing to wear the same thing twice, my Maldives sarong too.

Africa, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

The grand oldest man of South Africa

They breed them tough in South Africa where the oldest man in the world Fredie Blom died this week at the grand old age of 116.

Fredie, who hailed from the Eastern Cape, lived through the Boer War, two world wars, Apartheid, Mandela and the Rainbow Nation.

And in a blow-off to the tobaccostapo Fredie had the last word, or puff, as he smoked very much up until his last breath.

In fact very nearly his last dying wish was to have a cigarette but lockdown had made it more difficult for him to get his tobacco.

Where the township meats: The braai

Fredie’s secret of longevity seemed to be hard work. He was a farm labourer and a construction worker.

And a love of cycling and walking.

And family.

Fredie lost his own, all to the Spanish Flu of 1918, but found a reason to live again.

Meeting the locals

When he met Jeanette at a dance, married her and helped over 46 years to raise her three children with five grandchildren following.

His grandson Andre Naidoo spoke for the whole family when he said: ‘Two weeks ago our oupa (grandfather) was still chopping wood.

‘He was a strong man, full of pride.’

I’ve seen first hand in the Red Location in the New Brighton Township, Port Elizabeth how families live on top of each other.

And I don’t want to leave

In conditions resembling wastelands.

But in the township wealth is measured in love, loyalty… and a good braii (barbecue).

And I’m sure Jeanette will have been waiting for Fredie on a fluffy cloud with a packet of cigarettes.

Just watch out for the falling ash.

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

Give us this Day – Ramadan a ding-dong

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

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

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

We still love Morocco… we think!

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

Fast and furious

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

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

What’s all the fuss?

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

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

A light show in the sky

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

I’m all right, Jock

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

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

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

And the train moves on

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

I’ll be coming round the mountains

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

It’s all well and fine the Berbers singing on

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

The rains had abated though… Praise be Allah!

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

Africa, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Liverpool scouse

And if you’ve felt too silly to ask what it is, the food that gives its name to Liverpudlians as in Liverpool scouse, this week’s Hungry and Thursday is all about Liverpool scouse and stews around the world.

Scousers have been getting their voices heard (and what’s new there?) these past few weeks, culminating in their fireworks party as they lifted the Premier League title at Anfield yesterday.

But seeing this is a food and drink post, and I already give you a sporting post, My Sporting Weekend every weekend, I’ll stick to scouse.

In a Stew

Which will stick to you teeth or in them. Because it’s really just stew with extras.

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Ally in red, naturally

I first had myself a plate of scouse in Albert Dock, Liverpool, as I waited for my interview at the Liverpool Daily Post back in the 1990s.

I had pulled a sickie to attend and was to go on and stare inside the studio where the British morning magazine programme This Morning was televised, only for the camera to turn on me.

Just the job

Which is when I got a shiver down my back as I thought of my boss’s wife watching from up in Aberdeen and reporting to Jim that I was really down on Merseyside when I should have been at my desk.

Still, I got the job so it wouldn’t have mattered.

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Back to the scouse and the word derives from ‘lobscouse’ which was a Scandinavian and Northern German stew brought to Liverpool by sailors.

The Liverpudlians, of course, reciprocated and sent exports of their own to these parts… The Beatles. And you can hear all about that in the city they made their home, Hamburg.

Hamburgers… and stew

On Stefanie Hempell’s Beatles tour (and you won’t get better).

While scouse isn’t the only comfort food that the Hamburgers have exported with great success. See Hamburgers and ships.

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A Star in Hamburg

So what’s in Scouse?

Scouse consists of mutton, lamb (often neck), or beef with vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots, and onions. Serve with pickled beetroot or pickled red cabbage and bread.

Ethiopia and the world

While I leave my Liverpool-born son to make his way back from the festivities to Scotland, or indeed the phone call to bail him out of jail, I’ll take you on a gristlestop tour around the world of stew.

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With the queen of Ethiopia, Meseret

Meat of Africa

Ethiopian chicken stew: And I’ll miss those Ethiopian  New Years in Dublin which I shared with my friends Carole, Lorcan, Tony and my Queen of Ethiopia Meseret.

Because Enkutatash runs to the old calendar which means that you actually lose time. I, of course, lose all sense of time when the wine starts flowing which I only do to soak up the Ethiopian stew which you eat with your hands soaking it up with bread.

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And you can get a fancy dish too

Balkan bellies

Bosanski Ionac, Bosnia & Herzegovina: And they love their homely food in the Balkans and it unites the different cultures and traditions.

Whether you’re with the ultra-Catholic Croatians of Medjugorje of Marian Pilgrimages  or in Muslim Sarajevo in the Bey Mosque district What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know?.

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Let’s waffle on about Belgian stew

Belgian bulge

Carbonnade, Flanders, Belgium: And the brave soldiers who went to the Front in the First World War would take their pleasures where they could.

So that meant wine, women and song… or in Ieper, dark beer (there’s lots of it in this dish), women (they’re the same the world over) and drinking shanties. All right up a Tommy’s street and the best people to go with are GTI Travel and Visit Flanders.

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Catch of the day: Fish stew

Portuguese please

Caldeireada, Portugal: And if you’ll eat anything as long as it swims in the sea then Portugal and Quinta do Lago SPORTUGAL and Portugal Centro  is the place for you.

Load your plate up with shellfish and don’t be liberal with the squids and octopus.

You’ll need a rich base of onions, white wine, olive oil, and tomatoes, and season with a variety of fresh herbs and spices such as saffron and nutmeg.

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They’ll be the dumplings then

Cesky goulash: Not to be mistaken for Hungarian goulash. All right, it is quite similar. Mop it up with the obligatory Czech dumplings and sauerkraut.

And, of course, Pilsener Urquell.

They had a big post-lockdown feast on the Charles Bridge in Bohemian Prague recently and I[m hoping there were leftovers!

And with apologies to Irish stew and other meaty greats from around the world.

Heck for fear of being force-fed vegetarian I’ll return to this subject.