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.

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Sport

JFK remembered

We have a long-forgotten aide of John F. Kennedy’s to thank on this day as JFK is remembered.

This is why the iconic US President’s grave being open for us to pay pilgrimage.

Kennedy had spoken to the aide from Robert E Lee’s house looking down on Arlington Cemetery in the weeks ahead of his assassination.

He said, with some prescience, that he would like to spend eternity looking down on this view of Washington DC and the Potomac River.

Jackie Kennedy had wanted to bury her husband in the Kennedy family homestead of Hyannis Port in Massachusetts.

The sentry never sleeps

Sentinels have continued to stand watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

There at Arlington House throughout the pandemic, albeit without tourists.

For history tourists it is a must as part of a visit to General Lee’s house.

You can see the recreated office where he contemplated on whose side to fight on during the Civil War.

The Arlington grounds on which the cemetery now stands was used as a military camp.

It served as a resting place for soldiers by Union forces.

A family affair

Kennedy’s grave is a simple. solemn stone, beside the eternal flame and his family

And movingly his and Jackie’s still-born child Arabella and their infant son Patrick, born in the months before his death.

Kennedy’s Irish visit in 1963

Jackie is buried here too.

She lies near his brothers Robert and Edward, and all are tended too beautifully and respectfully by the groundsmen.

Today on the 57th anniversary of his assassination focus will switch to Dallas, his Massachusetts home, and perhaps too his Irish homestead.

A view for immortality onto Washington DC

And all resonant to the man and his legend.

But today I will be reflecting on gardener Old Jorge tending the graves the day I visited.

And how Kennedy would have come to represent his champion.

Africa, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Subbuteo, yabbuteo!

It seems the more technological we get the more we hanker after more simple pleasures which is why the sporting toy hit this Christmas is Subbuteo.

Table football where you flick a football piece on a semi-circle stand at a mini-ball to a fellow player, on up the green felt pitch and into the goal is back.

It’s not as real as the latest FIFA iteration but that’s much of the charm.

Teams of all talents

I first learned about other countries through sporting competitions and replicated that through Subbuteo.

Why we had the Uruguay team I still don’t know other than the Brazil team was probably sold out.

Your traditional Subbuteo box came with Scotland and England teams and here’s where this gets current.

And Scotland’s greatest ever goal

John Motson, the doyen of English TV commentators is plugging Subbuteo and he is the ideal man for the job.

Because he, and his sheepskin coat, are instantly recognisable and made the perfect accessory for your kit.

You could also get grandstands, fans (remember them), floodlights, the World Cup, and probably a wee VAR room now too.

And England’s glossy kit

The beauty of Subbuteo is that you could get it in other sports too.

And I would often play out the-then Five Nations Rugby Championships.

Anyone for rugby

And the iconic touring New Zealand All Blacks, Australian Wallabies, South African Springboks and Argentine Pumas.

The passing behind made it a little pedestrian but the rugby kicker and scrum machine more than made up for it.

Subbuteo offered cricket too which obviously had its challenges for bowlers but they uses a chute?

While they even did hockey and, get this, soeedway.

And there were some sports which obviously beat the imagineers such as swimming and horse racing!

Watch the lampshades… it’s cricket

There is a Subbuteo World Cup which was lined up for Rome this year but will now take place next year when Spain will defend their title.

And maybe I’ll combine it with a trip to the Olympic Stadium to see Roma after arriving with the Son and Heir there a few years ago without my passport.

We did get to play giant fusbol outside the stadium… but that’s a whole different game.

MEET YOU ON THE FELT

Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Culture

Happy World Kindness Day

And on this, World Kindness Day, a shout-out here to those who have shown me random acts of kindness on my travels… and sometimes me them.

And firstly a recommendation… if you ever leave your mobile phone back in your Mississippi hotel on my American Trilogy in the Deep South.

You only realise it when you’re 50 miles along the highway then here’s your go-to guy.

Hit the road Zach

Zach is back

Zach arranged to get a courier to bring it from Jackson to Cleveland and the Two Mississippi Museums.

The next year Zach sought me out at the American Travel Fair, IPW, in Denver when I left my mobile phone down as I went for a coffee and he tut-tutted. Legend!

Zuhair, a hero

Ramadan the Man….Zuhair

And a shout-out here to all who observe Ramadan which puts a Christian’s Lenten fast into sharp focus.

Zuhair, our G Adventures host on our trip to Jordan, was the ever-welcoming face for his country.

Despite not being able to let a drop of water or morsel to his lips despite the travel and 30+ temperatures and desert until early evening.

When even Petra camels could.

Rachel, a ray of sunshine

Sometimes when you travel the world for a living you forget how lucky you are.

And that’s when you need a star like Rachel to pick you up.

Often it’s wine and a prehistoric South African valley which will remind you that whatever’s happening at home can wait.

And which is why I’m delighted for her (and me in the future) that South Africa is opening up again for international travellers with a negative test.

Your honour, Onur

I’m going where Onur goes… in Istanbul

And I’ve reserved this place for my favourite Turk, Turkish Airlines’ Onur, and very nearly favourite person in our industry.

Which is why he, like me, is also a past recipient of Irish Travel Media’s Pleasure To Work With Award.

Now if there was an award too for Most Accidental Tourist I’d win that too… every year.

I’ve enjoyed Onur’s company on the little island of Kuramathi, too small even for me to get lost.

Though Istanbul is and when I did get waylaid somewhere around the Blue Mosque who cane to collect me?

And I’ll carry your cross

And Finisterre after the Camino

And sometimes I’ll be your hero on your travels.

Just as I was when I carried a tearful American’s backpack on her final steps of a stretch of the Camino with CaminoWays.

Only for her to have to remind me to give it back.

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture

WTM Holiday Snaps and Dr Jane Goodall, a true world leader

It’s taken a pandemic for us all to sit up and start listening to our elders (and betters) like Dr Jane Goodall.

Animal conservationist Dr Goodall was, and always is, deserving of a live audience to hear her impart the knowledge of more than 60 years in Africa.

And who doesn’t want to listen to a woman who can talk to the chimpanzees… who let’s face it make more sense than our political leaders.

And she would have had it too at the World Travel Market in London had it not been for the pandemic.

Bruce Almighty

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of our old friends G Adventures, asked the questions we wanted to put to Jane.

And, of course, the answers will be when we can get out again to her beloved Tanzania and the other natural beauties G Adventures take us to.

And live better alongside those with whom we share this green Earth and its blue seas.

You know too that we like to be the leaders of the Travel pack too on this site and love to get as close and personal as we can with Africa’s finest… in South Africa, et al.

Dr Goodall runs a project Roots & Shoots encouraging children to implement practical positive change for people, animals and the environment.

Which is a good place to start at WTM where this year the watchword is sustainability.

You truly do come to envy those two and three-toed sloths from Costa Rica.

They are a true symbol of the Pura Vida (Pure Life) code.

Ten-toed humans

Which makes ten-toed humans the happiest people in the world and its other species pretty chilled too.

Nowhere has more Vida than the Amazon and Brazil contains more of the Amazon than any other country.

It is, of course, now wrestling with higher Covid rates than most places in the world.

But with the Pfizer vaccine, among others, on the horizon and at the forefront of every conversation at WTM, the Brazilians are planning ahead to bring us all back out.

When we can see for ourselves how they are dealing with the various challenges facing the Amazon.

Now seeing that Michael O’Leary is waiting for us, and he waits for no man I’ll need to keep my islands of the world for our next chat.

Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Our New Common Market

Back in the days when Britons got on with Europeans (a lot of us still do) we called it the Common Market.

Alas, Cummings and Johnson have forced us all to pack up our stalls and leave the Common Market (or European Union)

But in a parallel universe, the one all of us Travel nuts inhabit, there is a much bigger market still, the World Travel Market.

The way it was: WTM in London

Which I’ve admired from afar for years but not been able to get to because of The Man who wouldn’t give me the time off.

This year though I’m my own Man and as for getting there all I’ve got to do is travel to the West Wing of New Murty Demesne.

This year’s Virtual World Travel Market won’t have the bright lights and entertainment of London.

And the Great Old City only grows in our affections because we can’t get there.

But I’ll thrust my London mementoes to the front of my desk, chief among them my Peter Pan piggy bank.

And only promote my international keepsakes when meeting up with the representatives from Jamaica to Japan.

Life as a Wanderer is a different normal to most at the best of times and while these are anything but we’ll make the best of it.

We’ll have the staple of travel fairs, the presentations, talks and stall visits.

And the meeting up between old friends who see each other every second week of November in London.

Now you know what they say, if we can’t get out to see the world let the world come to us.