America, Countries, Music, UK

Meat Loaf, Vegas and a life in the fast lane

Marvin Lee Aday truly is a sinner before the gates of heaven, but I’d back him to get around St Peter with tales of Meat Loaf, Vegas and a life in the fast lane.

Old rocker Marvin was known as Meat from an early age.

And that is the name he answered to Meat Loaf, Vegas and a life in the fast laneof course through his adult life and fame.

And that is how Northern Irishman and editor Martin was invited to address the rock legend, who passed away this week aged 74, when they met in Vegas.

Now obviously I would have loved to have been a bystander.

The Whip-Its: Rattling out 70s and 80s standards in Harrahs in Vegas

As Meat invited Mart to party the night away in Sin City.

And not least because as large as Meat was Mart is certainly more of the greyhound variety.

As our party in Las Vegas found out when he dangled mid-air on the Slotzilla zipline across Fremont Street in Downtown Vegas.

And had to be rescued… there was not a dry eye in the house!

Meat you in Vegas

All in: Bandanaman in Vegas

Meat was, of course, no stranger to Vegas… in fact they were made for each other.

In fact the larger-than-life rocker from Dallas, Texas played there right up to near the end of his career.

Meat’s stories were the stuff of legend and he cheated death on three occasions.

Which I dare say was more than JR Ewing.

Meat ran off the road, in a car not a bike like the hero of his famous Bat of Hell song, while he also had heart problems on stage.

And then he was hit by a 12lbs shot putt by the Dallas champion.

No taste

Larger than life: Meat Loaf

It was though in Reading, England at the popular music festival that our paths almost met.

Meat was playing there in 1988 across the road from where I was working.

When a punter filled his plastic bottle with his urine and hurled it on stage towards the rocker.

And hit him squarely on the nose and broke it.

Brave (and pretty grotty) fella.

Now Meat sang about the Lord’s place (Heaven Can Wait) and the Devil’s gaff (Bat out of Hell).

But it was here on Earth that he made his biggest splash.

And it’s here we toast Meat Loaf, Vegas and a life in the fast lane.

 

 

 

Countries, Europe, Flying

Turkish Airlines’ 12-hour flit

You pack the box in and pull down the car boot but the glass smashes… this house mover should have asked Ilker Ayci, mastermind of Turkish Airlines’ 12-hour flit.

If you’re in the middle of a house move and wondering how you’ll get it all done in time then check out National Geographic’s documentary which showed this week.

And see how TA moved 5,000 workers and 47,300 tons of materials (that’s 33 football pitches) from Atatürk Airport to Istanbul Airport in 2019 in half a day.

Mega relocation

In there somewhere: At Turkish Airlines H

The national flag carrier paused all flights for 12 hours for the ‘Mega Relocation’.

Throw in 12,000 parcel and some 1,000 vehicles and what you have amounts to a military exercise.

I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying TA’s hospitality both at Ataturk and Istanbul Airports.

And had the privilege of being invited behind the scenes at TA HQ and even got to fly a plane myself.

The pilot episode

The simulator gave me the chance to fly in over the Hudson at JFK Airport in New York.

And to witness the rescue operation complete with slide and ice pool where the staff learn the drills.

In truth, if you’d been on my plane and had me as your pilot you’d have needed to know how to slide and plunge.

As I overshot the runway and skidded off it.

It’s always best to leave it to the experts.

TA is the business

Boy Racer: In Turkish Airlines Business Class

And TA is the world’s fourth largest flight network and flies to 315 international destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

And that makes it the largest mainline carrier in the world by number of passenger destinations.

Anyone who has flown with TA will have enjoyed the experience thoroughly.

I’m driving this: In TA Business Class

And particularly if you’ve treated yourself to their world-beating Business Class with its Flying Chef and sleeping booths.

You’ll appreciate it if you happen to be en route to one of their long-haul dream destinations like Kuramathi in the Maldives.

The layovers of layovers

Playing my tune: TA Business Class

And the airport layovers to beat all layovers.

The Turkish Airlines Business Lounge where you can drive on the range (I’m safer there), the model fast cars, go the cinema, have a nap and massage.

And eat, drink and be merry.

And to think they did all this on Turkish Airlines’ 12-hour flit.

America, Countries, Europe, Flying

Why airports are museums

For some they are stressful thoroughfares but for the rest they are objets d’artes and why airports are museums.

If you are a seasoned traveller then it is inevitable that you will have spent hours on end in airports.

Go Broncos

Blue Mustang:  I want to jump on

Denver: Now if you have found yourself with eight hours before your next flight from Denver you might wonder what you’ll do.

Where’s a mini-golf course when you need one?

Well, yours is at the south end of Jeppesen Terminal in the pre-security area.

That Denver International Airport should have a mini-golf course should come as little surprise.

Psychedelic: Blue Bear in Denver

To those of us greeted by a giant blue Bronco installation, entering the airport.

The hip and humorous hombres from Denver have a thing for big blue animals as we know from our own perigrinations in Mile High City.

When in Rome

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Rome: It would have been the preserve of the Gods, of Mercury, to fly in Ancient Rome.

And so in today’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport they celebrate their seafaring past.

And so when I last visited the Eternal City they had an exhibition to Ostia.

Of course it wouldn’t be Rome if they weren’t honouring their most famous citizens with sculptures scattered through the airport.

And an array of mosaics including part of a mythological depiction of signs of the Zodiac and the four time zones, or the four seasons. 

Epic Athens

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Athens: Now what the fast food chain was in the days of Socrates and Plato is anybody’s guess but I’m thinking Figs on the Run.

Civilisations meet near the Burger King on the upper level of the main departures hall (before security).

And there you’ll see 172 authentic artefacts dating from the Neolithic and Early Hellenic eras to the post-Byzantine period.

I will be back to check them out only I’d messed up my connections through Munich and had a date with Athene on a hill. But that’s another story.

Amsterdam in miniature

Holland Boulevard, Schiphol

Amsterdam: The Netherlands have long been a crossroads from these islands, Britain and Ireland, where I live.

And, while of course, we should always take time out to see its largest city, the gem that is Amsterdam, there are times when Schiphol Airport will be a layover.

Now I’m a long-term advocate for art galleries, and believe that there is never a wasted minute, hour or afternoon spent in one.

Drink up: Amsterdam Airport

And so if you have time on your hands, and even if you don’t, then you should check out the Rijksmuseum.

Which became the first art museum in the world to open a branch at an airport in 2002.

And where travellers can visit the museum free of charge, 24 hours a day.  

Qatar welcomes the world

Animal magic: The oryxes in Doha

Qatar: Now Qatar will be welcoming peoples from around the globe at the end of this year when they host the World Cup.

So we’ll all see the herd of metal oryxes, a nice treat in arrivals.

Have a lie down: And there are more funky sculptures

As well as the jumbo yellow Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer after departures, security and passport control at the South Node.

Or the wooden toy Small Lie  which looms 32 feet over passers-by in the North Node.

And the larger-than-life sculptural Playground.

All of which we’ll appreciate all the more as we get back out flying again.

That’s why airports are museums.

 

America, Countries

Forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday

If someone has pinned you down to tell you that this is the unhappiest day of the year, tell them Forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday with these great escapes.

They, of course, will be full of woe and be all too quick to tell you.

About how today has the worst of the weather, the longest of nights and how you’ll be skint after Christmas.

Thank the heavens then for my friend Rachel.

For she brings sunshine into my life with a steady stream of far-off exotic destinations some of which I’ve still to tick.

Dip your toe in

Poolside party: In West Hollywood

The London West Hollywood, California, USA: Now I made a splash in West Hollywood when I would jump from breakfast to the lobby swimming pool.

But today’s offering is a different inn, The London West Hollywood which houses a gorgeous rooftop pool and cabanas.

Just imagine swimming towards panoramic views of LA and Beverly Hills.

Your garden oasis sweeps from downtown LA all the way to the Getty Centre and beyond.

Blue skies

Go Broncos: Sporty Denver

Denver, Colorado, USA: Now closer to the skies was I 1600 metres up in the sky in the Mile High City.

And the sun too with 300 days of the big yellow ball every year.

The RiNo neighbourhood is the hip area, while it’s a great sporty city too.

The home of the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rockies and Colorado Avalanche.

The air being thin up there in Denver the locals will tell you it takes half as much time to get twice as drunk.

All of which appeals to the thrifty, but partying Scot in me.

Lakes and rivers

The Romans were here: Heviz Spa

Lake Balaton, Héviz Spa, Hungary: The gift of Travel is in the people we meet, more magical than any sunset.

It is beholden on us too to all be ambassadors for our individual countries.

And that is why I’ll always believes Hungarians must be as charming as my Topflight for Schools pal Edina.

I dare say this Magical Magyar would be better at talking you through the inner sea, Lake Balaton.

It is home to picturesque landscapes surrounded by ancient fortresses, underwater cave galleries, vineyards and historic towns.

But don’t just take our word for that (well, actually do) but visitors have been relaxing here since the Ancient Romans.

Héviz Spa is a hotspot in Europe for relaxation and mineral treatments. www.visithungary.com

Shimmering seas

Tomori Beach, Kyushu, Japan: Now we’re probably more used to images of its bustling cities and cherry blossom parks.

But it’s the sunny seaside which we’ll focus on here and in the island of Amami, ‘the Blue Angel.’

Tomori Beach in Kyushu is considered the best on the island and just ten minutes from the airport.

And it is also a haven for snorkellers.

Blue murals and sculptures

Sacramento, California: Now for those who think California is only about the Big Two, Los Angeles and San Francisco had to sit up and take notice.

When Greta Gerwig wrote a ‘love letter’ to her native Sacramento, the multi award-winning Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan.

Fans of the rites of passage movie will instantly recognise the American Market & Deli in the hip Midtown neighbourhood.

And its exterior mural depicting a Lady Bird-appropriate peacock with a large fan of feathers.

Store co-owner Gurpreet Singh makes a cameo appearance selling Lady Bird cigarettes, a lottery ticket and a Playgirl magazine.

Having just turned 18, she is buying every previously forbidden item now legally available to her.

I can identify with that and I know you fun Bandanini and Bandanettes do too.

And that is why today you’ll forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Deals

Cop a load of San Francisco

Its windy streets are ideal for car chases (think Steve McQueen and Bullitt), and you can see why when you cop a load of San Francisco with American Holidays?

San Fran famously boasts the Golden Gate Bridge, a gateway to explore Awesome Oakland.

Long and winding road: San Fran

But San Fran is. in truth, a gateway to a number of cool destinations.

Which is where AH come in with their multi-destination offers.

January Sales

Didn’t he do well? Michael Douglas

All backed up with their January Sale discounts.

Michael Douglas first came to our attention 50 years ago.

As the bulbous-nosed Karl Malden’s junior on The Streets of San Francisco.

And MD didn’t do too badly after bowing out in the final season to become a teacher!

By the time we got to Michael and Karl in 1972 our heads were already spinning from that car chase from Bullitt.

Bullitt proof

Fast car: The Bullittmobile

Frank spent ten minutes in his green Ford Mustang GT being chased by a black Dodge Charger 440 Magnum.

And took in Columbus Avenue at Chestnut Street, Chestnut Street between Leavenworth and Jones, Leavenworth Street at Chestnut and Kansas Street at 20th Street.

And, of course the Golden Gate Bridge.

Magnum opus

I can go fast too: Magnum PI

Talking of Magnums, of course, San Francisco is the gateway, albeit an aerial one, to the home of Magnum PI, Hawaii.

The moustachioed one, Tom Selleck, whom I was oft-mistaken for at the time, stomped his beat on the island of Oahu.

And that slice of heaven was also used for Hawaii 5-0 as well as Honolulu.

San Fran and more

Shirts required: The Hawaiian look

American Holidays offer a range of San Francisco multi-holidays with Vegas, or LA, or Seattle, or part of a Californian road trip.

Or with the 50th state, the Pacific idyll that is Hawaii.

All of which is reason enough to spread your wings.

And cop a load of San Francisco with American Holidays. And Hawaii.

Deal us in

Book ‘em Danno: Hawaii 5-0

You can see that here is a three-night in San Fran and a 15-night Hawaiian Princess cruise with flights from Dublin from €3355pp.

You’ll fly out from Dublin in October.

Book ‘em Danno!

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture

The letters S and D for San Diego

Today’s show is brought to you by the letters S and D for San Diego. 

In Europe that’s Amsterdam with its cats, cheese, tulips, smoking pipes and spectacles museums.

And I dare say a few others, with a notable mention to Zagreb in Croatia.

It’s there where a separated couple set up the Museum of Broken Relationships.

And so in the spirit of catharsis they kicked it off with their own artefacts, asked others to donate, and it took off.

It even popped up in Hollywood for a time although research shows it is in abeyance while looking for new premises.

It’s all Geek to me

Penny drops: Big Bang Theory

Now relationship tipping points are endless and I’m sure I’m crossing off plenty.

I’d say though that an obsession with comic characters must be right up there.

Not that that’s one of them for us but I take my cue from the super geeks of The Big Bang Theory which is set in SD.

Although if you’re in LA, and you can’t get down to San Diego on this trip, you can check out the Big Bang flat set in Warner Bros studios.

Or sit in Sheldon’s place in our recreated living room, put up for us for the American Travel in Anaheim.

Child’s play in San Diego

Twirl power: Big Bird

San Diego really will bring out the big kid in you.

And we have even more to look forward to this year.

With the opening of the Sesame Place, a theme and water park in March.

There will be seven Sesame Street-themed rides, an interactive musical play area.

And 11 water attractions including one of the largest wave pools in southern California.

It’s a fantasy

Wally’s allowed: In San Diego

Then there’s the Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park in July.

Museumgoers can expect rotating exhibits, an education centre, a 4K video theatre.

And a gift shop filled with comics, graphic novels, branded souvenirs and more. All from $14.

It’s not for nothing that it’s nicknamed America’s Finest City…

So let’s spell it out in true Sesame Street style. The letters S and D for San Diego.

How to get there

For us here in Edinburgh in Scotland we’re told Aer Lingus, Finnair and numerous operators fly to San Diego with stops and under 20 hours.

 

America, Countries

Why Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids

It would be an easy mistake to make after months holed up on a ship, which is why Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids.

Twas on this day in 1493 that Chris saw the three ‘mermaids’… really manatees and described them as ‘not half as beautiful as they are painted.’

Now for those who make their care and rehabilitation their life’s work the Italian explorer was talking out of his Columbass.

Man and manatee

Team Manatee: JP and team at SeaWorld

One such is Jon (JP) Peterson who is the Dr Doolittle of SeaWorld Orlando.

Of course JP does much as our group discovered on our trip out to Orlando.

And was there ever in truth such love between a man and his manatee?

Smile: The manatee

JP talked us through his affection for the sea cows and his passion for nursing them back to health and a return to the sea.

As always it’s man and his ways which is the biggest threat to the manatee.

A little more conservation

Little Mermaids: No, not manatees

And SeaWorld can claim success in the field having rescued 35,000 animals.

While they were also preaching plastic long before many others and banned single use plastic nearly ten years ago.

Now it takes you rather less time to reach the New World these days.

And, of course, all major airlines serve Orlando.

The main attraction

Ppppick up a penguin: In SeaWorld

And our old friends Attraction Tickets, who took out any stress and found us ways to save, in SoCal (Southern California) and Orlando.

Watch Attraction Tickets’ Nikki with Mr Manatee himself here.

And check out Attraction Tickets’ latest multi-park offers in the Sunshine State.

With their 3 for 2 ticket encompassing SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens offer having another seven days’ window.

And coming in at £139 for adult and £139 for child.

Why Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids may indeed be because of tiredness, or rum.

But half an hour with JP in SeaWorld and you’ll believe manatees are the most beautiful creatures in the world.

 

 

America, Countries, Deals, Europe, Flying

Goodbye to pre-departure tests

If a week’s a long time in politics then a day’s an absolute lifetime as we say a tentative goodbye to pre-departure tests.

The UK and Ireland are not exactly throwing their doors open… we still have to put those little sticks up our nose.

But it’s enough to see punters bombarding their travel agents for summer holiday ideas.

Special agents

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

Our holiday providers have reported business up 150%.

With operators at the likes of Jet2Holidays (flash sale) and Barrhead Travel here in Scotland glued to their phones.

A kinda Christmas come late.

For us Caribbean converts in Scotland (I’ve always been a believer) there has been a rush.

To get on the new Virgin Atlantic Edinburgh to Bridgetown, Barbados route.

While old favourite Tenerife (and why not take in the north and west of the island too) is also seeing brisk business.

State of redemption

Acting Goofy: And a big dog in Disney World In Orlando

The Oo Es of A is always a dream destination with Orlando warming up nicely with a whole raft of attractions.

See you there in June (although I’ve jinxed that on so many occasions I’m loath to name it in case I can’t claim it).

While start spreading the news, New York is among the dream destinations we are lining up as our big comeback holiday.

Now if you’re a UK/Ireland hopper like me then you’ll always favour going through Dublin for your transatlantic trip.

You skip pre-clearance you see.

Aer of optimism

Stairway to US heaven: Brohna Tinnelly and Sean Ryan at the steps of an Aer Lingus plane in Dublin

Our old pals at Aer Lingus are always front and centre with their deals.

Ireland’s national airline carrier has a January Seat Sale.

They have two million seats on sale including up to 20% off European and UK* travel.

As well as flights to North America from just €169 each way as part of a return trip.

And as they reminded us when I was over in Dublin for our American Thanksgiving catch-up their VeriFLY app takes all the work out of it for us.

That way you can upload your Covid-19 related documentation required for your destination,

And that way all of your Covid documentation is verified before travel.

Ya dancer: Ryanair seat sale

As usual we’ll bring you the best deals and destinations right here.

And with that in mind Michael O’Leary and Ryanair never miss out on the opportunity to seize the moment.

And they are offering 100,000 seats from €16.99.

Politicians watch out

Edinburgh Airport Covid rules

So let’s say a tentative goodbye to pre-departure tests.

Safe in the knowledge that politicians being politicians then they’ll likely change all the rules next week.

Let’s not let them.

America, Countries, Sustainable Tourism

150 years of Yellowstone

Some take it for granted but as we mark 150 years of Yellowstone it is worth reprising the words of a Ranger who was asked what he would do if he had just one day in the US National Park.

‘Cry’ was his rather laconic but revealing message.

‘Twas Ulysses S. Grant, hero of the North, who opened Yellowstone National Park, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, on March 1, 1872.

Although we prefer to mention the work our very own Scottish explorer John Muir did there and elsewhere in the States which earned him the mantle ‘Father of the National Parks.’

But it is important to acknowledge that the Native Americans (Red Indians in 19th Century parlance) had been there for 11,000 years.

Thanks a million

Is that a bear coming? Yellowstone

No wonder our Ranger of course would weep if he was only offered one day in Yellowstone.

Because there are 2 million acres of the park.

And while we’ve all heard of Old Faithful, you’ll also want to take in Lower Falls and Yellowstone Lake.

One million of us visit Yellowstone every year (in a Covid-free year) and with that amount of space you’ll never feel congested.

And here are some useful tips for our visit.

Yellowstone tips

The Big Country: The Great American West

The entrance fee for each of Wyoming’s national parks (Yellowstone and Grand Teton) is $35 per vehicle to visit for one to seven days. Entrance fees for other National Park Service sites, such as Devils Tower National Monument, vary.

Reservations are required to camp anywhere within Grand Teton National Park and open six months prior to the date you wish to camp. Book early to reserve a spot.

Reservations are required within certain campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park. Plan ahead and reserve campsites early.

Backcountry permits are required to backpack within national park boundaries.

Pets are only allowed where vehicles are allowed in national parks and must be kept on a 6-foot leash. Pets are prohibited on trails, pathways, and swimming in any park waters.

The wildlife is wild. Do not approach, chase or feed animals, and stay in your vehicle if you’re stuck in a wildlife jam.

Grizzly bears reside in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Stay safe by carrying bear spray, being alert, making noise and traveling in groups of three or more.

Masks are required on all federal lands when social distancing isn’t possible.

How to get there

Sweep of nature: In Wyoming

There are smaller airports around Yellowstone but we’d advise the old Road Trip around the Great American West.

And we’d suggest the eight-hour 532-mile drive from our favourite Denver in Colorado.

Bandanaman and the Bandanettes In Denver

In an RV mind, and not the rodeo which we’ll tell you more about soon.

And a shout-out too for bespoke Travel providers G Adventures who are offering eight days Jackson to Yellowstone National Park from £2399. Valid on Jun 19 2022

So get your 150 Years of Yellowstone up and running. You’ll cry with joy.

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Happy Euro Year

It was the perfect start to 2002, we were being given money… so where are we now as we mark Happy Euro Year 20 years on?

And what has it meant for those of us whose every instinct is to travel?

The truth is that for millions of millennials in Europe they won’t have travelled with anything else.

While for everyone who travels under a British passport we’ve always been told to look at it as board game money.

I say that, though ex-pats, of which I was one for 13 years living abroad have had to adjust quickly.

It usually starts when you’re buying booze in the supermarket.

And it’s only when you stop baulking and having to make mental adjustments at the price of a bottle of wine.

It’s more than a tenner… that you’ve truly assimilated.

Europhile, Eurosceptic

I’m in the money: Euro millions

 

So as this day is designated Happy Euro Day, was the Euro a good idea and is it right that Britain stayed with the pound?

Like everything there is the economical argument and then the emotional one.

And whenever that arises the emotional always prevails.

In countries too that have come over to the Euro there is still a sentimental attachment to the old currency.

Now if you’re a Fortysomething, Fiftysomething or later then you’ll probably remember well the frank, Deutschmark, peseta, escudo, lira or drachma.

And if you’re like my Dear Old Dad then you’ve probably got a box somewhere with all that old coinage.

A careful man, I imagine that he thought he might have use for them again if the Euro experiment failed.

Dinar time

Anyone want an old note: Foreign currency

So what do we miss about our old foreign money?

Well, it was the only time in our lives that we could really feel like a millionaire…

When we got our hands on lira.

The trouble was working out that it cost thousands to buy groceries.

And if you did try the lingo a queue would quickly form as you’re asking the teller how much you’d get for your few pounds.

Of course more of the world is outside of the Eurozone than in it.

Now I’m not about to go all numismatic on you but I do have a Jordanian dinar stuck on the side of my bookcase. And old Turkey notes too.

A souvenir of my Istanbul adventures with Turkish Airways, and with G Adventures trip to the Middle East.

But in truth just some money of such little value that I couldn’t get rid of it.

Any old money

Saddam it: What are you doing here?

Airports do take your old money in those glass boxes in the terminal.

And the descendants of the Nabataeans too in Petra where a trader tried to flog us notes from Iran with Saddam Hussein’s face on them.

Now doubtless there would have been many who would exchange dinar for Hussein.

But they had more than the look of a Monopoly note with Saddam’s face drawn on.

Working for the Yankee dollar

By George: Issy, Jimmy and the First Prez

There are some notes which are gladly accepted wherever you go and they’ll grab your hand off in the Caribbean for the Yankee dollar.

And there are 39 currencies around the world pegged to the dollar.

As a guide your yellow reggae bus in Barbados cost half of the Bajan dollar, $1, when I rocked it there a few years ago.

In the States itself you can buy Confederacy money at fairs in the Deep South on your road trip.

But the real money is in the Union dollar.

Money to burn: And the US here I come

And the more Benjamins (Franklin), or $100s, you have in your pocket the luckier you are.

Conversely, the $1 note is named for the Greatest American of them all, George Washington.

So be careful when you’re tipping.

Me? I always make sure I keep a fistful of dollars with me!

Happy Euro Day everyone or whatever currency you deal in… just, maybe avoid Saddam notes though.