Asia, Culture, Flying, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Sport

Atoll tale – the Maldives

It’s a good drying day on Kuramathi but then every day is… the temperature rarely dips below 28 degrees at any time of the year.

And so I’ve got the spare togs and towel hung up on the clothesline by the outdoor shower.

Wet after my early morning swim in my infinity pool which overhangs the Indian Ocean.

Look at me… still doing my household chores

But how to dry out myself after a Champagne and cocktail-fuelled karaoke and beach party the previous night?

A leisurely one kilometre walk around  Kuramathi is guaranteed to sweat off the booze. 

And we’ll meet some interesting characters along the way. 

Won’t you join me?

My new best friend

My pal Gordon

Gordon, my house gecko is the first to greet me, dancing around my feet as I leave my room before scuttling off through the reeds.

Somewhere above him in the palm trees a Xxx warbles a morning song and memories of me murdering The Eagles, Elvis and Neil Diamond the previous evening come flooding back.

It’s 8am on Kuramathi which would be rush hour back home.

Ttopical flowers

But here only the occasional electrical buggy bus or old-fashioned staff bicycle passes by on the sandy path while the only jaywalkers you’ll encounter are cooing couples.

Some gentlemen even hold parasols for their sweethearts to shield them from the sun. 

I like this kind of traffic

Does this look big in me?

My own sweetheart is probably wrestling with a brolly back home in blustery, rainy Ireland… the thought quickly passes.

Ne’er a flutter of wind comes off the Indian Ocean.

Bus stop: On Kuramathi

Just as well really as this is a conservative island and it wouldn’t do to have a gust lift up my sarong as I amble along the coast.

Not that you’re likely to see another soul but still.

There’s every chance though that you’ll spot turtles and black finned sharks in the clear blue sea. 

Teardrops on the ocean: The Atoll

If you do see a turtle it’ll likely be Selma, who is something of a celebrity on Kuramathi as is her minder, Vanessa.

A German eco warrior and curator at the Island Eco Centre she claimed Selma as her own turtle and named her. 

Turtle power

If you can snap a new turtle with your Go-Pro camera you too can get to adopt a turtle.   

On a 1.2km island resort repeat with hoilidaymakers, staff, restaurants and bars and all the necessary infrastructure to make an island bobbing along on the ocean to work only the best husbandry will do.

Luckily Mother Nature lends a helping hand.

Mother Turtle: With Vanessa

I check out Kuramathi’s living, breathing pharmacy of plants on my Botany walk.

Where they cater for every ailment and condition known to man and are used in the medications.

They also infuse the dishes you will taste at the half a dozen high-end restaurants around the island. 

Chicken lickin’: And I’ve got started on that lager

This being Asia you will get your share of Eastern delicacies at the bars and restaurants you pass.

Tuck in

I have my hosts Farooz and Fern and a host of hospitable and knowledgeable waiters to thank for walking me through their dishes.

My favourite the Malaysian chicken curry, while obviously Kuramathi is a fish-lovers’ dream with the red snapper and scallops also worth a special mention.

And being Asia you can even order Chinese at breakfast… well, it works for 1 billion Chinese after all.

And this is breakfast

The European palate is also catered for with a particularly good Italian specialising in risotto on the island.

And you never have to put your hand in your pocket (just as well if you’re wearing a sarong) as you settle your bill at the end of your holiday. 

There are three options, B&B, half-board and all-inclusive.

It probably depends on your appetite and your liver, but if you come all this way and can afford to push the boat out I’d say save yourself the stress and go all in.

Howzat!

Champagne Jimmy

Back to my morning constitutional and with the breakfast of champions already in me I’m off to take part in the big game.

Buggy driver Renga helpfully gives me a lift to the palm tree-lined pitch and introduces me to Hassan and the rest of the cricketers.

It’s 38 years since I picked up a bat in anger.

Who cares about the world beyond this?

My dear Old Dad had high hopes for me and in my maiden school innings I went in to open only to be bounced first ball before surrendering my wicket the next.

Yes, I learn my lesson here watching these big hitters and go in at the fall of the first wicket .

I manage to amass a mighty two before being run out picking up a bruise or two diving for the crease.

And footie

Football the next day will be more successful with me setting up the winner.

And by the end of the week my party are telling me that their buggy drivers have been asking if they are here with Jims (sic) who is ‘a very good player.’ 

‘I’m asked if I would like to come back. 

‘Does Roy Keane like a crunching tackle?’

I can always do home games

Bruised though I am, I have discovered over the years that I am still considerably safer on dry land than in the water.

The ocean is better suited for the turtles and sharks.

Too many bubbles

Who I fear will only lick their lips at the sight of my blood the next day as I snorkel off the island of Kandolhu.

It is one of the five islands on this, the Rasdhoo Atoll.

But the sharks are actually quite tame.

And they are clearly so busy laughing at my flapping anyway to be bothered about nibbling my nobbly knee.

I’m consoled too that I’ll get a warm down later (yes warm down in this weather!) in Kuramathi’s spa.

A wee, wee island

He does know how to land this thing

When I say Kandolhu is an island, it really is just a bit of sandbank and floating coral.

Beautiful coral, but floating coral all the same.

And there is just 200mx120m of it. 

So it would take Usain Bolt 19.90secs to run the whole island.

Sea plane sailing: With Turkish Airlines’ Onur and my host Brian

Not that that curtails them, there are 30 high-end villas and four restaurants on Kandolhu.

So how did we, and the Maldives, get here?

Well, Kandolhu and Kuramathi are just two of 1,190 coral islands situated in 26 atolls or clutches across 90,000sqkms of water south of Sri Lanka.

Sea planes

I had started counting them as I was flown into the main and only truly populous island Male (133,000).

And gazed down in wonder at these teardrops on the ocean. 

Even better our barefoot pilot took us up really close to the islands by then flying down on them on his sea plane.

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

The atolls I am told take up just 10% of the sea mass that surround them, I make a start on drinking the other 90% while snorkelling.

But I did manage to spot me a turtle who, Go-Pro or no Go-Pro, I name Vanessa… or Mother Turtle, my own name for her.

A day and a night

I clearly have a taste for this island life though perhaps not the water activities.

But I will go on to make my own splash on the island and the islanders in the time I’m here.

As a guest of Kuramathi Island resort and Turkish Airlines.

I have flown us here via Istanbul.

Turkish Airlines Business Lounge… and you can always get a tune out of me

It is a 24-hour joyride with all the trappings of business class, and a stop-off in the world’s best business class lounge in Istanbul.

On our last night on the island we take a sunset cruise out onto the ocean before settling in for the night at the Sand Bar.

I’ll sleep it off

I fall into the beanbag on the beach where I almost fell asleep the first night. 

And order my Kuramathi cocktail and another and another and listen to house band Limestone.

I had heard them on the way back from the football that afternoon where they gave us a sneak rehearsal of the closing number of their set, Hotel California.

I know my way around now

I lie back and look up at the stars while letting the sound of the waves lapping up against the sand wash over me.

The only breaker is Limestone’s natty singer making a better stab at The Eagles than I had done at the Karaoke Bar:

‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’

All right by me!

Travel facts

Mali in the Maldives

Resort info, see www.kuramathi.ie and www.kandolhu.com. Bookings: www.GoHop.ie/(01) 2412389 or www.TravelMood.ie Tel. (01) 4331000. Kuramathi Island Resort: Beach Villas from €2,155 pp; Over Water Villas from €2,895 pp for seven nights.

Including flight, taxis, transfers, full board. Optional basic all-inclusive package. €59 per day. Dine around select package. €99 per day. 

Kandolhu Island: From €3995pp. Jacuzzi Beach Villa. 

And always time for a drink

Ultimate Inclusions basis. for seven nights, prices correct at time of print.

Based on travel in May/June 2018 inc. flights with Turkish Airlines. 

Round trip economy class starting price Dublin- Maldives from €748.59; return business class starting price for same route, €2,166.59.

Yes, palm trees everywhere

See www.turkishairlines. com, or call: (01) 525-1849. Baggage allowance: Economy class, 30kg + 8kg hand luggage; Business class 40kg +16 kg for hand luggage in total.

*This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in early 2018 and I travelled with Island Marketing http://www.island-marketing-business-site.

And if you like a sunshine island… counting Britain and Ireland out obvs… then try the Caribbean https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/04/22/rumba-in-barbados/. And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/my-kiss-with-rihanna/

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe

Get on your bikes – cycling around the world

It’s obviously not how cyclists would have planned it but after years of being pilloried THEY now rule the roads.

Back when I was nearer Sir Chris Hoy’s age than Eddy Merckx’s I would cycle everywhere in Edinburgh.

And take my life in my own hands like the time I was cut up at the roundabout by an elderly driver.

I was cycling straight on while Mad Motorist was on the outside lane but decided to turn left.

Not a car to be seen in Amsterdam

Picking myself and my bike up from the ground I was met by s screaming pensioner telling me I should have signalled!!!

Or there was the time I was waterbombed by some hoodlums from a tenement flat.

Ridden off the road

While I was also sprayed in the face with party foam while cycling through Edinburgh’s New Town.

Mmmm… I’d like to see them try any of those stunts in Amsterdam.

When in Amsterdam

Where you’d probably be pushed into the canals by locals shouting CYCLISTS!

But they have a culture there, properly wide and thought-through cycle paths, and lanes separated by small walks beside dual carriageways.

Dutch driving

Which makes it a pleasure for all to enjoy the city with your IAmsterdam city pass www.iamsterdam.com Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Le Tour de Murty: The Pyrenees

France prides itself as the home of cycling where families cycle together The Boat D’Azur and https://uk.france.fr/en.

Or if they’re holding you back then you can always climb the mountain to Le Pic du Midi.

Tour de force

Where cyclists either climbing or whizzing down the mountain have right of way.

The same applies in Scandinavia and Northern Europe where the bike is often the preferred mode of transport.

The best cycling culture in the world probably: Denmark

And where my old University pal New Yorker Tom turned up for our meeting by old Hans Christian Andersen’s statue on his bike.

Wonderful Copenhagen

See https://www.visitcopenhagen.com and fit a day in on your MSC Cruises trip around the Norwegian fjords https://www.msccruises.co.uk and https://www.msccruises.ie. The call of the fjords.

Tom’s own New York may not immediately strike you as a shining example for cyclists but we’re probably thinking Manhattan here.

Staten Island Bicycling Association http://www.sibike.org

And that’s another reason to explore the five other boroughs… for example Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

American cycling dream

While when you do do Manhattan and The Bronx I’d recommend walking tours and here’s where you can get a start Old New York: Hamilton. And www.nycvb.com.

Look at the space you have to cycle

California is all about the outside life where cyclists don the latest fashions and pose on their two wheels.

On the Venice Beach www.venicebeach.com and Santa Monica https://www.santamonica.com/things-to-do/santa-monica-beach/… And My Weekend With Marilyn. And www.visitcalifornia.com.

With a Paralympic champion in Quinta do Lago

Sportugeezer

And my cycling experiences? Showing off on my Sporting break at The Campus in Quinta do Lago in Portugal.

And took a straight road too sharply.., https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/. And SPORTUGAL

Remember too in these days of social distancing if you are a driver give cyclists some space.

America, Asia, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday… whiskies around the world

I’m indebted to my old pal Tony Flynn for this lockdown game… use the initials of your Christian name for what you need when you’re holed up at home.

But Tony, I know you better than that… Tea, Onions, Noodles, Yogurt?

And you know me better too… and that’s why I went for Johnnie Walker, Ardbeg, Mossburn, Elements of Islay, Springbank.

You must have known I’d have used my full Christian name… more whisky, you see.

It’ll put a smile on your face

And in this regular feature, ‘Hungry and Thursday’ that’s what it’s all about, and being in lockdown my whisky is my best friend.

And while punters snap up the cheap lager from the supermarket shelves I’m happy to report that there’s still plenty of uisce beatha, or water of life, to be had.

So here’s a trawl of whiskies around the world…

Smoky Scotch

For peat’s sake

Scotland: The original and the best, Scotland is the home of whisky.

It has five clearly defined regions, of which the smoky and peaty whisky from the isle of Islay is the best. Think an ashtray of water… no, seriously, it will grow on you.

See www.visitscotland.com and https://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk.

Irish highs

We’ve been drinking here since 1608

Ireland: Yes, the Irish dispute that Scotland is the home of whisky and with some justification.

Bushmills https://bushmills.com/distillery/on the Antrim coast is the oldest licensed distillery in the world.

King James, a Scot to his boots, had granted the Ulstermen a license as early as 1608.

The Kilbeggan, from 1757, is thought to be the second oldest althougb when it comes to quantity Scotland has seven of the top eight.

With Glen Garioch near my old stomping ground of Aberdeen Aberdeen – a light in the north a particular favourite.

And Meldrum House where they keep adopted son of Aberdeen Sir Alex Ferguson’s whisky in a special locker for him…

And check out www.discovernorthernireland.com and www.tourismireland.com

The American dram

With my Portland pal Laura

USA: You might not expect to see the Oo Es of Eh third in a top ten of the oldest distilleries in the world.

But that is the claim of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, two years ahead of Scotland’s oldest, Glenturret.

I have my fave cousin Kath’s husband Mark, a native Kentuckian, to thank for introducing me to proper bourbon and rye.

And that’ll be Woodford Reserve and Bulleit Frontier Whisky.

I drank my way through the Deep South https://www.deep-south-usa.com. Sign up for the Civil War… it is Virginia

And my American Trilogy The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

While I’ve let ‘er buck with my friends in Portland which has it’s very own distillery, House Spirits, in its airport www.travelportland.com.

Swiss swhisssky

Switzerland: Who’d have thought that you could get whisky at the top of the Alps?

In the Ice Bar, at the end of your Jungfraujoch train, the highest railway journey in Europe.

In a nod to Scotland too you can also have a game of curling up there too… www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks

Czech out the whisky

Fill ‘er ip

Czech Republic: I was too busy testing the beers… for research purposes obvs.

So I didn’t even know of Czech whisky.

Hammerhead is considered the Father of Czech Whisky, the Cold War whisky.

And I got a taste of Prague’s Cold War history on my recent trip to the Czech capital, a city I love… www.czechtourism.com and Hope springs eternal.

Read more about how Vaclav Sitner fed the bourgeois tastes of wealthy Czech and Russian officials… www.scotchwhisky.com.

And back to the lockdown word game and the initials of your Christian name…

I bet you that Celtic player of yesteryear wishes it was a surnames game…

I mean your pantry would be packed if you were called Jan Venegoor of Hesselink.

Japanese (and Scottish) girl

Masataka Taketsuru, the Father of Japanese Whisky

Japan: When the Japanese put their minds to it they go all in.

Masataka Taketsuru, the third son of a sake brewer, switched to the Japanese elite fave whisky.

And even came over to Scotland to visit the distilleries, study science at Glasgow University and marry a Scot Rita.

And take his knowledge back to Japan and spawn the Japanese whisky industry. Visit https://www.japan.travel/en/

And while we’re in lockdown I’ll try to revive my Jocktails feature Jocktails – Whisky Sour particularly now the Son and Heir is home.

And he has taken over the shaker and improved on his Old Msn.

Slainté

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

Old New York: Hamilton

There is much more that’s old about New York than new.

It’s just that we don’t always see it.

Walk through Broadway as I did en route to my Kimpton Hotel in Little Brazil, or 130 W 46th Street and you can’t fail to notice the giant billboard for Hamilton.

It is, of course the hip-hop musical that has taken the world by storm and it is playing at the Richard Rodgers Theater.

It’s the hottest ticket in town and you’d almost need to be the President or Vice-President to get one.

Where dreams are made of: Manhattan

Veep Mike Pence did, and such is the status that the actors in Hamiton have that they felt empowered enough to lecture him on his politics.

His big pal, the Greatest Living New Yorker, wasn’t impressed and dissed their stand on Twitter demanding – hilariously – that they apologise.

Shame there’s no evidence he’s ever seen the production because The Alexander and The Donald have much in common.

Messing about on the river: On the Hudson

Both are big business, both half-Scottish and both ladies’ men, both egotists and both bestrode their age.

And yet just before the musical reconnected Americans with Hamilton, appartchiks were planning to have him replaced on the $10 bill.

It would have been a particular kind of humiliation for the man who saved the nascent Union from bankruptcy and set up the financial system.

The one that has served The Donald and countless others so well.

The city that Alexander built

And yet other than on Broadway and on the $10 bill where in New York will you find ‘The Greatest Ever New Yorker’?

The best place to start is Central Park.

Another Central Park celeb

You’ll see a steady flow of tourists stopping by to pay tribute to John Lennon who only actually lived here for a few years.

He was always going to go back to England anyway and wouldn’t have been any good in a war.

He’d be lying back in bed talking about, well ‘giving peace a chance.’

Where would the New Yorkers and the Americans have been with someone like him?

My relatives came by here

Hamilton, by contrast, fought bravely in the defence of New York.

And represented them proudly in government, both here when New York was the nation’s capital from 1875-1878.

And in Philadelphia and Washington DC.

Where is Hamiton, though?

He’d appreciate a visit.

His statue is in Central Park, on East Drive, opposite 83rd Street, on the way to Harlem.

And seeing as you’re in the neighbourhood and it’s a Saturday then why not sign up for Jimmy Napoli’s Outside In Hamilton tour http://www.hamiltonsnewyork.com in Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights.

But not on this ship: A submarine on the Hudson

And find out more about this larger-than-life character.

Visit the actual Morris-Juliet Mansion that Washington chose as his HQ at the Battle of Harlem Heights.

And where Hamilton was by his side.

Hamilton history

It was later the home of one-time Vice-President and our hero’s nemesis Aaron Burr.

And it was from here that Washington and Hamilton looked down the peninsula to Manhattan burning in the distance.

Some bigger buildings would block their view today.

Jimmy’s hour-long, one mile walking tour will take you to other important landmarks in The Great Man’s life, including the restored Hamilton Grange National Memorial.

The McNultys, my mum’s people (Irish and American).

If there’s anything he’s missed out – and there won’t be – you can always catch up at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 226 W 46th Street.

My VIP pal

Again you’d probably need to be pals with the President or Veep to get a ticket.

Good job I am.

The Commander-in-Chief has a pitch on Times Square, near the Naked Cowboy, but more appropriately near Hamilton.

And it’s a beautiful pitch… a beautiful pitch.

Travel facts

How to get there: New York is served by airlines from airline.
And you can get pre-clearance from Ireland. And by bus and trains if you are in the US. I took a Peter Pan bus from DC. It takes nearly five hours.

Where to stay: Kimpton Muse has an executive room, one king bed, two adults from the equivalent of €307.66 for the sample dates of Friday, August 4, to Saturday, August 5. See http://www.kimptonhotels.com. Also visit http://www.nycvb.com.

I’ll revisit New York, mine and my Irish family’s entry like so many others, to America in this blog.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in 2017.

It is part of a series America’s Capitals that also includes Washington DC http://Easy DC and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/philadelphia-freedom/

Africa, America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Flying

In defence of Travel people

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts – Mark Twain

Cathy’s clown: DC Easy DC and www.washington.org

The next time you see a cinema usher, a football steward.

Ave Maria: www.CanariaWays.com In defence of Travel people

Or if you even run into a sports writer, then I trust you’ll pick them up on getting in for free!

Muriel, my pal: With Muriel Bolger

Only you won’t because you’ve got class.

King Louis: Friends of racing in Tobago, Louis, Nadine and Clem. www.visittobago.gov.tt Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago

And you know that they’re doing their job.

Kythera: My Greek odyssey www.athensattica.com

And that they’re good at what they do or else they wouldn’t get asked.

Herr for the beer: Hamburgers and ships and www.hamburg.com

My friends

I ran a gauntlet of abuse on my way to becoming Ireland’s Travel Editor of the Year – and from the very people I was helping, my own staff.

Aer we go: With Paula and Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com

Who would, and to be fair it wasn’t all of them, put me down when I was on my Travels (in my own time).

Oo Es of Eh: www.visitusa.ie and www.kennedyspacecenter.com

And snidely refer to my trips which always produced articles, written on time and to the brief I was given, as…

Wooah. Barbados: www.visitbarbados.org Let’s rumba in Barbados My kiss with Rihanna

Junkets, Jollies, Beanos, freebies.

Of course it didn’t apply when I sent them.

Fab Four: With Maria www.spain.info/en Eoghan www.travelextra.ie and Sharon www.ttc.com

And they would be the ones who would be late with their copy.

Petra time: With Zuhair… www.vistjordan.com and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time

Sometimes even embarrassing themselves and a host.

Your Onur: And www.turkishairlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

While their articles would often have to rewritten..

Your USA: With www.visitusa.ie

And all because it was a ‘junket’ and not given the same attention as any other article.

I would then have to apologise profusely to the providers who thankfully and very generously considered me worthy of the ultimate accolade…

Your South Africa www.southafrica.net: With Siseko in Dublin What’s new pussycat?

Their Pleasure To Work With award which was sneered at when I got back to the office.

LA story: Universal Studios’ www.universalstudioshollywood.comJon, The Scottish Sun’s Heather and Tickets Direct’s www.ticketsdirect.com Kate. And My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

Back then, and it’s only a year ago, I would call on the services of the finest freelancers who never let me down.

Star women: The Irish at IPW

On the other side

Now I’m on the other side of the fence I have been glad to say that the holiday providers I cultivated then and many writers and editors remain the best of friends.

Zach the lad: My old pal Zach from my Deep South The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings odyssey www.deep-south-usa.com,

And you always know who your friends are in your time of need.

Give it a twirl: At Pic du Midi. www.hautes-pyrenees.com and The Lourdes prayer

Don’t Cancel

So that’s why I’ll not rest in promoting our industry which, like Twain, I believe is vital to the human condition.

Live like a Royal: Messi around on the water In Barcelona www.barcelonatourisme.com withPaula and www.royalcaribbean.com.

And that’s why I’ve been sprinkling this polemic with pictures of us around the world.

Grand oul tome: With BA’s Tara and Queen of Vegas Tryphavana. And www.lvcva.com and www.ba.com. And Strip… the light fantastic and The grandest canyon.

So join me to support #DontCancelPostpone and #tourismstrong.

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

Hungry and Thursday – the off-sales

It’s what I use my one walk a day for… to go to the offie,

No. that’s not a misprint… I’ve been isolating from the office for nigh on a year since branching out on my own.

You may know it in your country as the liquor store or the wine store.

I was relieved then to hear that the offie ranks along the chemist and the supermarket as one of the stores that can stay open during the Coronavirus crisis.

Ned in Glasgow and NZ

Now we each do things a little bit differently and, at its rawest, the Glasgow offie is a cultural touchpoint in itself.

Now unsurprisingly I never saw a bottle of this New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon, The Ned, in my offie when I was growing up.

It has gooseberry tastings don’t you know.

The drink du jour of The Glasgow Ned (the Non-Educated Delinquent) was, and still is, I dare say, Buckfast tonic wine.

Buckie is best drunk from out of the bottle and wrapped in brown paper while sitting on a park bench.

Not perhaps what the monks in the West Country of England had invented it for I should imagine.

The sight of a Ned. or Dublin gurrier, or whatever you call them in your country, swigging booze on a park bench might not be what you’d want to see…

When you’re pushing a pram.

Boston, full of beans

And I was reminded of how the good folk of Boston deal with that dilemma when I was watching the movie Ted 2 the other night.

Mark Wahlberg was drinking his can, which was wrapped in brown paper, with his Teddy bear on Boston Common.

And it took me back to the English guy who had attached himself to our group, Nick, on our post-University summer in Boston.

And didn’t know about the rule about drinking in public and the need to cover it in wrapping which he had some trouble in explaining to the cops.

‘OK to throw tea into the harbour and blame it on the Indians but God help you if you drink a can of beer without the brown paper covering it!’ Officer.

That Boston summer remains a glowing memory and Beantown came back on the radar yesterday when I was invited out for August, COVID-19 allowing.

With a tour of Fenway Park included and the chance to sit on the Boston Red Sox Green Wall. See https://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston and https://www.discovernewengland.org.

South African township

Of course while I say that every country’s off-sales is different my eyes were opened by the familiar grill bars at the South African shebeen.

In the Port Elizabeth New Brighton township in South Africa where we stopped off for a braai Day in the life of a township and https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/.

And a braai is a barbecue and a shebeen what started out as an illegal Irish drinking den.

More high-brow perhaps is the Tenerife wine shop https://www.visitingtenerife.com on our walking trip with CanariaWays www.CanariaWays.com where we ordered Shakespeare wine…. A walk through the ages… Tenerife

Is that a Malmsey I see before me?

That’s the court wine Malmsey, or Malvasia, which the Bard references in his plays and is still sold there.

Me, I’ve finished off my Ned wine and have resorted to draining the schnapps miniatures in my globe drinks trolley.

From the schnapps shop in Ehrwald in Austria https://www.tyrol.com.

So whether it’s Prost, Failte, Salute, Na zdravi or just Cheers I’m looking you right in the eye and toasting our holiday providers… #DontCancelPostpone.

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

In defence of… air travel

If you’re reading, Greta Thunberg and the Flygstam (or flying shame) brigade…

I can’t tell you how many air miles I racked up last year.

I was away more than a dozen times with everywhere from Tobago www.visittobago.gov.tt and Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago

Through the Oo Es of Eh www.visitusa.ie and https://www.visitusa.org.uk and living the California life www.visitcalifornia.com My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

Down to South Africa www.visitsouthafrica.com What’s new pussycat? and up to Jordan www.visitjordan.com The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

I only mention them over the other equally fabulous and welcoming destinations who hosted me because they were at the extremities of my Travel footprint.

Do I feel guilty, or should you? Well, yes. How could we not the way Greta goes on?

Of course there’s a multitude of evidence out there on the world wide web to back up Greta.

And like everything on the net you can find anything to support your view.

But I wax taken by the research done by https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/how-bad-is-air-travel-for-the-environment-51166834/ on the subject.

And their contention that air travel was better for the environment than car travel.

They estimate that the world’s drivers go through 1 billion gallons of fuel a day against 750 million gallons for air passengers.

Of course the fact that one form of transport is less harmful than another is not a strong enough argument.

Against that I would propose the positive effects of air travel… in expanding our minds, our frontiers and our appreciation of other peoples.

While fielding the accusations of the Flygskam brigade that the world is only in lockdown because of selfish air travellers who carried it across the globe…

In big monstrous metal birds.

Just imagine though a world in which our possibilities were restricted by a lack of air travel, or if you will, the past.

A world where we only learned about other peoples through the books and information we are given.

Now I’m not suggesting Boris Johnson or Donald Trump are feeding such a narrative but here is a cautionary tale of what could happen when we close ourselves off from others…

Legend has it that the people of Hartlepool in the north-east of England hanged a monkey who they mistook for a French spy during the Napoleonic Wars.

I have always believed that we are at our best as humans when we are being progressive rather than regressive.

While obviously being respectful of the world around us and those with whom we share it.

And being aware of our limitations with many a salutary tale out there from time immemorial of when to pull back.

Such as the tale of Icarus who flew too close to the sun only for the wax on his wings to melt.

This, and many more moral fables of how we should live with the natural environment around us, are all around you in Greece.., https://athensattica.com and My Greek odyssey.

But like Odysseus I have gone off on a tangent.

I will deal with the other forms of transport in the next parts of my ‘In Defence of’ series which will include cars,.

And no car hater me… how could I be? I should by rights be driving through the Florida Keys right now.

But to leave you on an up… the South Africans have discovered a balancing solution to carbon emissions under their feet.,, This plant can save the world.

And our shared history has shown too that our medicinal cures too can be found in the natural world.

So here’s to when we can all travel again.

And a shoutout to all our friends in the aviation industry who are our dreamcatchers… #DontPanicPostpone.#loveairtravel.

Adventure, America, Caribbean, Food, Food & Wine

Fort Lauderdale and Miami – a tale of two sittings

Early morning deep midwinter and the rest of the rest of the world is huddling under the duvet.

The rest of the world can go whistle! I’m up with the larks.

Because of the jetlag, yes, but also because rate are the chances to see winter in Technicolour.

It’s 32C outside, the sunny Miss America weathergirl on the box cheerfully tells us and the light streaming in through the curtains is beckoning me outside.

Fort Lauderdale in December

5.45am. Time to hit the Fort Lauderdale beach I fall out of bed and onto the Strip. It’s that close.

Nothing is open, obviously, well the 24/7 store, but you’ll not find one of those on Fort Lauderdale’s showpiece front.

What you will find is a stretch of untrodden glistening sand and sea and barely a soul to break the peace.

Out there on the horizon, cruise ships are bound for the Bahamas and the Caribbean (Fort Lauderdale is a cruise hub), and down the road in Miami the party people are just tuning in.

Here in Fort Lauderdale though they are more retiring.

Everyone’s fit

Fort Lauderdale does, it’s true, attract its fair share of senior citizens who choose the Sunshine State for their autumn years.

But it is also a magnet for American families also here to escape the northern chill… snowbirds.

Meanwhile, off the Strip and you’ll find condos and holiday homes, all with swimming pools and community programmes.

The Stars and Stripes flutter in what little wind there is.

George HW Bush has passed on when I visit and flags are at half-mast.

Florida has been kind to the Bushes. It was here that the 2000 Presidential election swung in George W’s favour and here that his brother Jeb was Governor.

Reflections of Miami

Every news bulletin and morning conversation references ‘this man of honour’.

To gauge how Floridians feel about the Bushes, weather, sport, the traffic and any other topic under the sun the best place is the diner.

And the best is the Primanti Brothers Pizza & Grill, just off the Strip.

Bluff it and ask for over easy eggs or sunny side up, spitball with the server who refills your coffee mug…

And let the night owl on the next stool tell you his life story.

This is the America you’ve seen in every road movie.

Only for the wall of heat outside, and the palm trees.

Breakfast in Fort Lauderdale… it must be lunch in Miami then.

Haven for seniors

Which means Little Havana.

The thing is though that our concept of size is rather different to the Americans.

While navigating all those double-digit street names scramble your brain in the December heat.

And so what looks like a brisk walk is in fact never tackled by any American on foot, other than perhaps Forrest Gump.

The Marriott on Biscayne Boulevard to Little Havana, I’m told is 7km though I’m sure I walked just that to get to Downtown.

All this, of course, after giving up on ever getting to South Beach.

Miami architecture

I guess the huge causeway between us and the Beautiful People should have been a clue.

The answer is a hop-on, hop-off bus, believe me!

The thing though about being an accidental tourist is that you stumble upon hidden treasures.

Take, for example, Caja Caliente on 2634 NE 2nd Avenue… see what I mean about the numbers.

I’d rather presumed that this was Little Havana although it looked an awful lot littler than I had imagined… just a stall and a yard and a couple of bars.

Floridians, though, and most Americans I’ve met on my travels, even in the big cities, are very polite to visitors.

And are devoid of our sarky gene.

The signora was very welcoming, the tacos were fabulous, there were all kinds of chilli sauces.

Golden skies

And sombreros and ponchos scattered around, guitars on tables and a makeshift sand pit.

And a Cuban flag.

A holiday and a city isn’t always what you expect. Make of that what you will.

The Caja Caliente is my Little Havana though.

Now. It’s yours too. Heck, I don’t mind sharing.

Areeba, Areeba, Areeba!

And Herself gets in in the act

TRAVEL FACTS

How to get there: Multiple airlines fly Dublin-Miami return. Aer Lingus flies to Miami from €227.99 each way as part of a return trip.

Where to stay: I stayed in W Fort Lauderdale (www.marriott.com). The Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay (www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/miabb-miami-marriott-biscayne-bay)

Where to eat: Primanti Brothers, Fort Lauderdake Caja Caliente.

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

Stair Wars

I wonder what Mickey thinks of this Science Fantasia.

The Galaxy’s Edge is far, far away from Walt Disney’s vision.

And its centre-point, Millennium Falcon even further from my standpoint.

Which is at the back of a snaking queue in the bowels of the new 14-acre €1bn Star Wars section of Disneyland in Anaheim, California on the very weekend it opens.

Stars align

It has taken me half an hour to get even this far.

I have passed by the inviting diversions of Walt’s Main Street USA, a jazz band on an island next to the Mark Twain Riverboat.

Something to chew on

And a host of our favourite smiling, singing, hugging Disney favourites before arriving in this dark place.

Chewbacca does envelop a middle-aged Asian woman in his arms but I am too slow off the mark to get my picture taken.

While the Storm Troopers brush me aside.

Rasta Masta

Personally, I’d have a welcoming party of Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, Princesses Leia and R2-D2 instead.

Still I persevere and hang on the words of those in the line, a grown man with a light saber among them, who have been waiting light years for this moment.

They point out the fine details of the futuristic world we are passing through in hushed, reverential tones.

Apparently, we are in the middle of the Black Spire Outpost which is on the Outer Rim planet of Batuu.

They could be speaking Yoda for all I know.

And on and on we go, scaling the ramps. Whole battles don’t last this long.

Screen time

Star Wars? This is more like Stair Wars.

And finally we are ushered through to a holding area, a hangar where a rasta dude intergalactic pirate. Honda Ohnaka, clues us in on our mission.

With a reprise from Chewbacca.

Smugglers’ Run

And informs us that the more we succeed the more rewards he gets. I bet.

The idea is that Chewy needs some supplies for the Resistance but Rasta Dude has borrowed the craft and is using the opportunity…

To get us to smuggle some coaxium from Corellia for him which is hyperfuel from Han’s homeland obviously.

Thanks Brad from Texas for that.

But still the anticipation and the exhaustion (it’s now been an hour and a half) builds as we have to trudge further.

Before finally being given our briefs for the starship’s mission, Smugglers’ Run.

Who put those meteors there?

A little more about this 114ft hulk of flying saucer which has grown men and women clicking away…

It was manned by Han Solo and Chewy….

And was the second fastest in the Star Ward pantheon at 105kph and is a highly modified YT-1300.

But then, you know that yourself.

The action is set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker and played out on a video screen before us.

Poetry in Motion

Myself and Hiro are gunners and Jill and Lesley are the pilots.

I can’t remember the names of the two engineers at the back of the cockpit but one had to be Scotty…

Or is that the other Star one?

And finally we are hurtling through space, dipping and swooping, dodging enemy battleships and giant asteroids.

Mine’s and Hiro’s job is simple, press square and round buttons to fire laser beams at the foe until the light goes out.

It is an interactive experience but I’d be surprised if my efforts are making a blind bit of difference.

And this is what I spent five years at Space University for.

And then our ten minutes on the motion simulator are over.

Donald and the Mexicans

I guess it’ll all make more sense when I actually watch the movies – I was never going to admit that in the queue.

I know how privileged I am and that there are millions who would gladly climb over me.

And queue a whole day to get to see Millennium Falcon and play Smugglers’ Run and the Rise of the Resistance.

Which will follow hard on its heels later this year.

And that it will be a huge success particularly when they space out the waiting times.

But it’s just that get I don’t Stars Wars.

I retreat instead to simpler pleasures and a star who never lets me down, the original, and still the best, The Donald.

My pal The Donald

I find him outside the Golden Horseshoe saloon with Jose and Panchito, the Three Caballeros, playing it for laughs.

And I’m sure The Donald remembers me from Orlando a couple of years ago, he even wrote to me when I got back and signed it too.

And when your ask… yes, he really does love Mexicans.

My Travel Buddies

In this part of Disneyland there are only smiles.

The Jazz band are belting out ‘Everybody Wants to be a Cat’.

I am nibbling on my fried chicken, corn and rice. I’m truly at my happiest.

This is one place where a middle-aged hiply won’t be glowered at.

Here. And on the Pirates of the Caribbean water ride where I’m almost mistaken for Jack Sparrow.

The ride is gentle, more my style but if you want seat-of-the-pants thrills.

Fireworks

Disneyland has no shortages.

Splash Mountain, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones… too many to mention.

But in your cart, going through Jack’s world, you’ll get just gentle drops.

I’m all right, Jack

What really makes a ripple on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride through caves and coves are the intricate fun sets which immerse you in Jack’s world.

Look out for the old rogue popping up on the islands, semi-hidden from view.

Keen eyes will see him in a vat of rum though and I want to join him.

Harking back to the Star Wars section of Disneyland that really is the best thing about it – Disneyland, which has rightly prided itself on its family-friendly image.

And kept alcohol outside its doors for 60 years for the general public, is now allowing you to have a snifter in Oga’s Cantina.

I could have used my time more profitably.

This being a corporate launch, I took a rum punch earlier from the tray of a passing waitress to settle my nerves for the simulator.

And have gone back to stock up long after I got off the ride.

There is no shortage of choice of diners to line your stomach for those hairy rides if you don’t want a rumbly tumbly, and alternative entertainment if you want to take a weight off.

Duelling pianos meld in well with the Classical surroundings of Olde Worlde buildings and the open spaces simplify the sound.

The Castle

Nowhere is this better evidenced than the Disney Castle.

We sit down on the benches and grassy banks off Main Street to watch Mickey’s Music Extravaganza flash up on the Castle.

Mickey introduces his pals, Aladdin, King Louis. Elsa from Frozen among them, and they take over.

Light show

You can’t take your eyes off this light show or your hands from clapping along.

It is a kaleidoscope of colour and crescendo, of sound, a Mickey Mix of Magic.

All the standards are there but for a younger audience.

It has been sassed up with modern tunes getting us all up on our feet.

Of course, it’s all about Da Mouse in Da House though and he brings the party to a spectacular climax.

The fireworks pop off into the night sky and all eyes shoot upwards.

While in a galaxy far, far away – or across the park at least – the lights have long gone out.

Get your Mickey out

TRAVEL FACTS

How to get there: I flew Dublin to Los Angeles LAX with Aer Lingus with Aer Lingus, Ireland’s only 4-star airline. It operates a daily service from Dublin direct to LA.

With fares starting from €259 each way including taxes and charges when booked as a return trip.

The year-round service reduces to five times weekly during the winter season.

Where to stay: I stayed at the Hilton Anaheim, a 15-minute walk from Disneyland Resort. King bed Disneyview for the sample dates of June 28-July 1 from $347 (€281).

Where to go: Attraction Tickets offers a range of offers and discounts and help with pre-booking which will save precious time and money.

Its two-day Disneyland California 1 Park Per Day Ticket is from €198 per adult and €186 for a child including Star Wats: Galaxy’s Edge.

The three-day Disneyland California 1 Park Per Day Ticket including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is from €266 for an adult and €249 for a child.

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A big Squeezy for Mother’s Day

I kid my Dear Old Mum that she IS Nan, the Catherine Tait character who is as sweet as pie one minute and then lays into that person the next.

I came up with the nickname ‘Squeezy’ Teasy (short for Teresa) for her after one incident.

She had let one young family through in the ice cream queue in the local park.

Only to then turn on them a second later. I knew it was coming when she raised her hand to give me a squeeze on the shoulder.

And on this occasion she was regaling that woman from the poorer side of the park and their accent… ‘Brendan, stay away from the wahhhhter!’

We’ve had our moments, me and Mum and on this Mother’s Day when I’m not allowed in to see her at her Nursing Home…

Here are some of our adventures…

Home for the holidays

Ireland: My mother’s homestead and more adventures than clumps of peat in her beloved Donegal www.govisitdonegal.com

Of course she always gets bold when she’s back among her own people.

Like the time we were staying in our go-to hotel Jackson’s In Ballybofey.

And my Mum turned to my cousin and said: ‘I have four brothers and three sons and James (my Sunday name) is the most selfish of the lot.

All within earshot of me… me who had brought her all the way up from my home in Co. Wicklow www.visitwicklow.com.

Star in stripes

America: The Oo Es of Eh was always the Promised Land for my Mum.

Whose aforementioned four brothers had emigrated there in the late Fifties.

She only abandoned me when I was just 13 for three weeks so she could go out to see them.

Never mind that she cooked three weeks of meals for us… the cleaning woman who came in to look after us while Dad was at work made off with half of them.

We went back, Mum and me, together ten years ago for my cousin’s wedding in New York… www.nycvb.com and www.visitusa.com.

Where she insisted on paying for every meal (a very Irish trait) and treating me like a wee boy) – see above.

We had promised to get down to see Fave Cousin in Washington, and I did… Easy DC. Mum had been there before and the National Guard remembered her!!!

Viva Espana

Spain: One year it was Ireland the next it was Spain, that was how it was with summer holidays as a kid.

My Mum is more than likely Black Irish, a descendant of Spanish Armada sailors who were washed up and intermingled with the locals.

And she liked little better than tanning herself on a Spanish beach.

When she wasn’t trying to stop my elder brother teaching me to swim by throwing me in the deep end.

And, of course, it has left me with a lifelong love of Spain… visit https://www.spain.info/en_GB/.

And walk this way A pilgrim’s prayer and A walk through the ages… Tenerife with www.CaminoWays.com and www.CanariaWays.com

Scotland the motherland

Scotland: And she has been repeating her desire to come home to Ireland, and that Scotland isn’t her place despite being 70 years away.

There’s been a lifetime of experiences from her rearing me in Scotland where I’ve now returned to to live.

But as I’ve relocated to Scotland’s Golf Coast then here’s one from when I took her to the Open at St Andrews.

And my Mum sent a randomer into the Portaloos because I was taking too much time.

I got my own back by giving her the slip at the Swilcan Burn when I rushed with the crowd to the apron of the 18th to see Tiger Woods sink the winning putt.

See www.visitscotland.com and My Sporting Weekend – Golf and social distancing

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO ALL OUR MUMS

And remember…#DontCancelPostpone.