America, Countries, Ireland

Irish Bobby Ewing

We were told that all that time he was away that he was in the shower, but maybe Irish Bobby Ewing was just retracing his roots.

Fans of Dallas will know that the Ewings patriarch and Bobby’s Daddy is Jock, the common parlance for a Scot.

But as with everyone American all roads lead back to Ireland.

And as the actor playing him carries his Irishness around in his name, Patrick Duffy was always going to seek out The Old Sod.

And our friends at Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland are always there to help.

Finding Ireland

Toast of Ireland: Mark, Patrick and Linda

Along the way they are filming for the pilot episode of a new TV series which will air in the US in 2023.

The series, with the working title of Finding Ireland, will shine a spotlight on Ireland.

And it aims to encourage the Diaspora audience in the US to trace their Irish heritage.

Viewers will see Duffy and Purl visit Dublin, Cork and Mayo.

Sayo Mayo

A little cow told me: Kilmover, the Duffy homestead


They will film at various locations – including Kilmovee in Co Mayo, from where Duffy’s ancestors hail.

Both actors will also be sharing photos on their social channels, including Instagram and Twitter.

The diaspora

Mark Henry, Tourism Ireland’s Central Marketing Director, said: Our aim is to encourage the Diaspora in the United States.

’To follow in Patrick and Linda’s footsteps and return to Ireland to trace their roots.

‘And to showcase the wonder of a visit to Ireland to fellow Americans, whether they have Irish DNA in them or not.’

Just take it from Irish Bobby Ewing.



America, Countries, Food & Wine

Hoppy 4th July

Hoppy 4th July… let’s celebrate American Independence Day the way the founding fathers would have, with good ale.

Because while we think we can drink we have nothing on Washington, all the Adamses, Franklin and Co.

Colonial Americans drank roughly three times as much as modern Americans, primarily in the form of beer, cider, and whiskey.

And uisce beatha (Gaelic for water of life) is probably what the Spirit of 76 was all about.

Our old friends at Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon, have already been on.

And they’ve been showing off their wares with a new product for Independence Day.

And they remind us (OK, we didn’t know) that they begin their process by brewing an artisanal American Ale from scratch.

They use locally malted barley, ale yeast, and a slow, low temperature fermentation.

We love our American whiskies and we will return to them in due cours.

But to make the tortured pun in the title of today’s blog work it’s all about the beer on today’s Independence Day.

Drunken Sam

A bucket of booze: In boozy Boston

Sam Adams: Now the great Bostonian rabble-rouser spent so much time swigging ale in radical public houses that his enemies nicknamed him Sam the Publican.

Sam, of course, took it as a badge of honour, and the Bostonians repaid him by putting his badge on their beers.

Now there is no one Sam in Boston.

And you will be able to digest a range of his ales in the Samuel Adams Tap Rroom next to Faneuil Hall in Old Boston.

As well as Tap room merch, and I am already seeking out where they might sell Old Fezziwig for my can holder I bought there recently. 

There’s also Oktoberfest (the next beer date on my calendar).

And St Paddy’s Day as well as any number of other reasons to swill.

Sam’s namesake, John, the first vice-president, and a future president is cited in a letter to his wife during the days of British overtaxation.

He wrote: ‘I am getting nothing that I can drink, and I believe I shall be sick from this cause alone.”

He died at 90 of old age.

By George

Hail to the Chief: Issy, George, and Jim

George Washington: Now America’s first president and its saviour on the battlefield was more of a wine and whiskey man than beer.

But we dare say he imbibed ale as a chaser.

Washington even boasted one of the largest whiskey distilleries in the country at Mount Vernon.

And it produced 11,000 gallons in 1799, the year he died.

Mount Vernon in Virginia even boasts a small beer recipe the Great Man wrote up.
And he had produced for his soldiers during the French and Indian War during the 1750s.
And that’s a blend the Virginians still swear by today.
They put it on for their visitors with their Battlefields and Brews tour in Northern Virginia.
And I, of course, road tested it for you while out there.

Revere for the beer

Can I sign up? Outside the Green Dragon Tavern

Paul Revere: And probably because he was talking to children, although they drank too, Longfellow played down how boozy Revere’s ride was.

But it was effectively a pub crawl, starting out from the Green Dragon Tavern, a version of which exists to this day.

Revere isn’t just immortalised in poetry.

He’s also commemorated in pewter with Liberty Ale, named for him.

First brewed on 18th April 1975, it celebrates the 200th anniversary of his Midnight Ride.

The tasting notes tell us it is brewed as a single hop beer, Cascade, with 2-Row pale malt and a top fermenting yeast.

Franklin my dear

A Bell’s: Whiskey or Beer in Philly

Benjamin Franklin: Now not to let the truth get in the way of a good story.

But Ben likely didn’t say ‘beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.’

Instead his letter to a French noble waxed lyrical about wine.

That was his favoured tipple. But it got lost in the translation and is now the accepted version.

A brewer and distiller in his own right, Ben gave us too The Drinker’s Dictionary.

It has over 200 euphemisms for getting tore up including Piss’d in the Brook, Wamble Crop’d, and Been too free with Sir John Strawberry.

Although a proud Bostonian, he came to be associated more with Philadelphia which he made his home.

A good choice as they’re blue-collared people who love their sport and know Sir John Strawberry only too well.

Now we’re not sure if it still exists but our gurgling googling turned this up

A Three Horshoes pub in Northamptonshire in the English midlands with a brewery with his name.

There is a connection you see with Franklin’s Uncle Thomas and a forge… happy horshoeing.

Martin Van Boozen

Drink up: But Martin Van Buren had a boozy Presidency

Martin Van Buren: And one from left field here.

The eighth President was said to have been born on the floor of his father’s tavern and got a taste of ale there.

The New Yorker is quoted as saying: “If you’re asking if I’d rather be president or not get drunk I think you damn well know the answer to that.”

And that is probably among the reasons he didn’t get re-elected.

Worth noting that the Founding Fathers all drank.

And most of the 45 presidents, bar George W Bush and Donald Trump…

And the latter at least could probably do with a pint just to calm him down.

Rewind too now to the drafting of the US Constitution and the 55 signers celebrated the birth of the fledgling nation with a full-bore blowout.

They put away 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight bottles of whiskey (phew)

Twenty-two bottles of port, eight bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.

The punch was said to be large enough that one observer said: ‘ducks could swim in them.’

So cheers, and a Hoppy 4th of July to y’all.





America, Countries, Music

Caught in a trap in Elvis’s wardrobe

Can you just help me leaving… I’m caught in a trap in Elvis’s wardrobe?

Anybody who has been to Graceland (and you should) will know that you can get lost.

In the warehouses that stock his jumpsuits and his planes, bikes and cars.

Or was that just me? And I must admit I had a suspicious mind about my party leaving me there on my own to get lost.

Movie masterpiece 

Jump to it: Late Elvis

We get glimpses of Graceland in the epic Baz Luhrmann biopic of Elvis which we sang all the way through at the cinema.

But what you can’t appreciate until you actually get there is just how homely and remarkably unremarkable it is.

Sure, we’ve heard of the Jungle Room, but it’s really just a man cave with some Seventies wildlife furnishings.

Scary stuff: The Jungle Room

While the dining room is a presentable front room where a family and their friends would feel comfortable.

It is here that Lisa Marie would say that Elvis would hold court in his hearty Deep South droll and they would all eat soul food.

The upstairs are roped off as that’s Priscilla, Lisa Marie’s and their family’s quarters.

Lisa Marie’s memories 

Seventies chic: Graceland

But Elvis’s only child leaves us with a lasting image of the King in an audio reveal in the house.

When she explains that they would hear Elvis before they saw him come down the stairs.

On account of his clinking jewellery.

  1. Butterfly collector: Elvis on stage

Elvis the icon, the superstar, of those jumpsuits and cars and planes, and guitars, pianos and platinum discs we already know.

But only in visiting Graceland and Memphis will you get an insight into Elvis’s home life and downtime.

Elvis’s Memphis

I’ll have what Elvis is having: Memphis diner

In the diner where he would come to eat his banana and peanut butter sandwiches.

And where he would leave his golf buggy outside.

There is still staff there who will say they met him and that they would exchange good wishes to each others’ families.

Where it began: In Sun Studio

You can visit to landmarks in Elvis’s life… Sun Studio where he cut That’s Alright Mamma, and Lansky Bros on Beale Street.

And they proudly proclaim they are Clothier to the King.

All of which you’ll see in its glory in the jumpsuit warehouse I’m happy to be stuck in.

Elvis’s legacy

We all will be received: In Graceland

Elvis Presley continues to bring colour to our lives 45 years after he died, aged only 42.

And you get stuck in a trap in Elvis’s wardrobe.

I’ll take that, particularly if his music is on a reel, and I’m in great Graceland in magical Memphis.


America, Countries

Gold rush to beat cost-of-living crisis

Go West young man (or woman) and join the gold rush to beat cost-of-living crisis… just like they did, of old.

Tuolumne County’s Gold Country is one of those heritage holidays we love.

And we’re told it is alive with thriving historic towns including Jamestown, Sonora and Columbia.

Experience the Old West like nowhere else by taking a ride on the famous Sierra No. 28 locomotive, panning for gold and taking a drive along Historic Highway 49.

As the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, Tuolumne’s Gold Country has a three-day itinerary.

And that will feel like you’re in an old-style Western.

Morning has broken

Dead man’s hand: Or is it?

Heading out of San Francisco and Sacramento, Jamestown is the first town in Tuolumne County.

And you’re starting point on the first morning.

Jamestown is where gold was first discovered in the county.

And several of the town’s buildings that date back to the 1870s are now quaint historic inns, restaurants, shops, microbreweries and wine tasting rooms.

The kind which bring back memories from Knott’s Berry Farm for me, which those of you know SoCal, Southern California will be familiar.

For a true Gold Country experience, start your day by getting your hands dirty panning for gold like the 49ers once did.

Busy on a sunny afternoon

Outlaw: But I broke out

Visit Railtown 1897 State Historic Park to explore 24 acres of preserved Sierra Railway.

Take a guided tour of the historic roundhouse and locomotives and be sure not to miss the Movie Railroad Exhibit.

Hop on a train for a 45-minute trip through the scenic Sierra foothills.

And before leaving, stop by The Depot Store, a railroad specialty store for authentic souvenirs.

We’re thinking Waltons and Little House on the Prairie here but we’re open to being surprised.

Some enchanted evening

Grab a bite at Jamestown’s Main Street.

There are a variety of local restaurants in historic inns that will suit all tastes.

And the Jamestown Hotel is a great historic option as it was built in 1858.

After dinner, take a short 15-minute drive to Columbia State Historic Park, which preserves the historic downtown district that was once a bustling, lively gold town.

And you’ll stay in the heart of the park at one of two historic Victorian Inns – the City Hotel or the Fallon Hotel.

The next day

Ride on: California’s pastures

Wake up in Columbia State Historic Park where travellers can stop by the working blacksmith shop.

Take lunch at Columbia Kate’s Teahouse, then explore the unique shopping opportunities available at Columbia Merchants to find the perfect souvenir.

Spend the rest of the afternoon experiencing an authentic stagecoach ride.

Dip your own candle and dress up in costume for an old-fashioned photo or catching a show at the historic Fallon House Theatre. 

After exploring Columbia, drive 15 minutes to reach Sonora and wander around the town’s iconic shops in historic buildings, each with their own unique story.

Tour the Tuolumne County Museum, which is housed inside the former county jail built in 1866. 

And as you can see I’ve got form, although also for breaking out. 

Enjoy dinner at local hot spot Flappy’s Pizza Co.

And head to the quaint mountain town of Twain Harte, to experience more history in the ‘Gateway to the Sierra’.

Named after Mark Twain, Connecticut’s finest, and Bret Harte, the small town charm will win all hearts.

With a selection of charming B&Bs, rustic resorts and quaint cabins to choose from. 

And finish with a flair

Saddle up: In Colorado


After grabbing breakfast at Bean Around the Block, head east on Highway 108 for more adventure and some breathtaking scenery.

Saddle up for a horseback ride, and Colorado Jim would be proud of me, into the wilderness to see the Sierra as the pioneers did.

Seasonal trips  are available at Aspen Meadow Pack Station or higher up in the mountains at Kennedy Meadows Pack Station

Take a short drive to the town of Tuolumne for a bite to eat at Cover’s Apple Ranch.

It serves lunch and handmade traditional bakery items, fresh-pressed cider, jams and sauces.

Go Issy, go: On the plains

Afterwards, enjoy an easy hike along the West Side Trail, which follows the old railroad line of the Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valley Railway.

This idyllic trail features interpretive signs, scenic vistas and colourful wildflower meadows.

And it is the perfect end to a historic stay in Yosemite’s Tuolumne County. 

Head south to stay and enjoy the wonders of Yosemite National Park, or east to experience the incredible High Sierra.

Whichever route you choose, there’s no wrong way to end your trip to Tuolumne County. 

 But keep your find to yourself… you know those nuggets you got from the gold rush to beat cost-of-living crisis.



America, Countries, Music

Get Mac with 80 years of Paul McCartney

Being a globetrotting superstar means you adopt fave destinations around the world, and so on the day that’s in it, we Get Mac with 80 years of Paul McCartney.

In My Life (and there will be a few of these) I’ve followed in a few of the Great Man’s footsteps.

So here’s Something Macca-related to add to the Rainy Days and Songdays catalogue from around the world.

Live and Let Liverpool

In my ears and in my eyes: Penny Lane

Liverpool: And back in my days in Liverpool in the Nineties, alas a dilapidated McCartney’s Bar sign was all that advertised that Paul had even been born here.

Liverpool City Centre is all Beatled up now to go alongside the Beatles Story at the Albert Dock and the Cavern Club.

Need a singer? The Cavern Club

And there are no shortage of Beatles coach tours to take you around Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, and even Macca’s family home.

And passing the baton along, Holly Johnson’s brother takes the Magical Mystery Tour.

Hamburg on the run

Der Star: The Beatles in Hamburg

Hamburg: And Hamburg is the city where The Beatles became men.

And where Der Fab Four honed their skills with five-hour sets in the bierkellers.

Ja, and when they were leather jacket-clad Teds.

Let the ukulele-strumming Stefanie Hempel take you down Memory Strasse and give you a Beatles set in St Pauli.

Mist rolling into the sea

Mull of Kintyre: When Scotland claimed the Irish-Scouser as their own.

And Macca gave the kids a taste of Highlands life.

If it’s isolation you’re looking for then the peninsula in the west of Scotland is perfect.

And you can belt out the song yourself on Saddell Bay about seven miles from Macca’s old stead, High Park Farm.


I’m all right Jack: Macca with Jack Sparrow

Jamaica and the West Indies: And we immediately associate Macca with Jamaica because of James Bond and Live and Let Die.

And The Green Grotto Caves on the north side of the island.

Macca has become a great fan and supporter of the islands.

Even playing Jack Sparrow’s uncle in Pirates of the Caribbean.

And holidaying with Nancy in St Bart’s at the the Eden Rock Hotel (not shabby).

Sings over America

American girls? Macca’s type

USA: We know, of course, that Macca has a thing for American women (who hasn’t?)

And while we know too that Jo Jo left his home in Tucson, Arizona, Macca and Linda saw out her last days there on the family ranch.

McCartney and The Beatles, of course, wowed cities the length and breadth of the States including the Hollywood Bowl and Red Rocks.

They are probably most associated with Shea Stadium in New York.

Strumthing else: Macca on form

The site US Discover Music will give you a more definitive guide.

And so now we’ve travelled with Macca across the universe and just let it be.

And get the records out because we should all Get Mac with 80 years of Paul McCartney.


America, Countries, Ireland

Escape room to victory with Universal Orlando

Now I could lose myself in a telephone box so I’d deffo need some help with this one, an escape room to victory with Universal Orlando.

I’ve been in escape rooms before.

And some would say the story of my travels has been one of trying to escape from various scrapes and detours.

Thankfully though I’ve been rescued by any number of Good Samaritans.

And holiday providers, to get me back on track.

I got the hump: The dinosaurs

Chief among them are our friends at Aer Lingus.

I suspect too the Irish national airline carrier might have been having fun with me.

And that’s why they set their media partners an escape test challenge in Dublin a couple of years back.

Aer to go

The Great Escape: The Aer Lingus Escape Room

I was grateful to my old colleagues then, Eoin and Danny.

For coming up with the Crystal Maze solutions to get us outta there.

Although we were slower to get to the end than the other teams.

And hence we missed out on the big Transatlantic flight prize.

Mind you though, I have always been brought up to share the love.

And Aer Lingus have been nothing but generous throughout my Travel years.

In facilitating my journeys to the Land of the Free.

Escape to the movies

Here Dino, Dino: At Universal

For other reasons, this year I was unable to join my fellow Travel professionals in Universal Orlando for IPW, the American Travel Fair.

But I am happy to report the bounceback in the States and particularly in Rollercoaster State.

The latest innovation this autumn is Universal’s Great Movie Escape which channels Jurassic Park and Back to the Future… read on.

Concepted and designed by the same creative masterminds responsible for the wildly immersive haunts of Halloween Horror Nights.

Universal’s Great Movie Escape will bring two distinct and extraordinary escape adventures to the heart of Universal CityWalk.

Through interactive state-of-the-art missions, captivating storytelling and intricately detailed sets.

How do I get outta here? The Back to the Future Escape Room

And guests will be swept into the dinosaur adventures of Jurassic World or the time-traveling chaos of Back to the Future.

Solving as they do, their way through a multi-sensory experience like no other.

Universal’s Great Movie Escape will open later this year and tickets will go on sale in the months ahead.

Scare us up some more fun

White face, fright face: Halloween

Talking of Halloween Horror Nights which our pals from out in Halloween have toured around the UK and Ireland on media nights…

Halloween’s relentless slasher Michael Myers makes his vengeful return to Universal Studios’ Halloween horror night.

All kicking off on September 2 and September 8, the show sizzles in haunted houses inspired by the classic 1978 film

The franchise’s latest trilogy concludes with Universal Pictures’ release of Halloween Ends on October 14.

And guests will venture back to where it all began.

Inside eerily authentic haunted houses that depict the most chilling moments from the critically-acclaimed original film.

On both coasts, this year’s harrowing experiences will transport guests to Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night

When Michael Myers first donned his notorious mask to embark on his brutal rampage.

As guests make their way through his dilapidated home.

They’ll narrowly dodge attacks from the knife-wielding Myers as he stalks their every move.

Lie back and think of scaring: Michael Myers

Both events will run on select nights through Monday, October 31, and additional details and haunted houses will be revealed soon.

Tickets are available via a number of travel partners including (our old friends from West Hollywood, LA and Anaheim).

And Floridatix, Orlando Attraction Tickets, Travel Republic and Ocean Florida.

What though if you’re having so much fun you don’t wanna leave?

Well, maybe you can get stuck in that Escape Room to victory in Universal Orlando.



America, Asia, Canada, Central America, Culture, Sport, UK

Queer how offside Qatar is to the world

It’s become a fixture on the party and social calendar in the West but, of course, Pride is a revulsion elsewhere in the world, and in this World Cup year isn’t it queer how offside Qatar is to the world?

Now the football world (a different universe, of course) turned a blind eye to the Emirate’s discrimination and criminalisation of the LGBTQIA community when awarding Qatar the hosting of this winter’s World Cup.

Flagging up an issue: With Qatar

And quite what that’ll mean to LGBTQIA football fans who are wanting to follow their countries’ fortunes then we’ll try here to decipher.

While we all know too that of the hundreds of footballers, coaching staff and officials taking part not one will be LGBTQIA.

And that will get FIFA off the hook… and there won’t be anybody queer in that organisation either.

A word from the sponsors

Take that: The Qataris

Football’s World Cup is, of course, more than a sporting event.

It is a cultural, educational example and the tourist trip football fans have been planning for years.

So make of these welcoming words if you will from Qatari official Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Ansari

‘If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to really take it to really insult him.

‘But to protect him. Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him).

‘Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.

‘Reserve the room together, sleep together – this is something that’s not in our concern. We are here to manage the tournament.

‘Let’s not go beyond the individual personal things which might be happening between these people… this is actually the concept.’

Right, where do we start? The Major General’s assertion that he really wants to protect ‘them’?

Qatari protection

Sheikh it off: The Qataris

So, protecting them then would be not exposing them to a punishment of up to seven years in prison and a fine.

And the possibility of death penalty if you are indigenous.

Of course this is for men because just like in Victorian Britain lesbianism wasn’t even considered thing despite upper-class society’s obsession with all things Classical where the Sapphists were chronicled.

Maybe here too Major General you might think.

About criminalising the people who would attack an innocent person simply because which sex they love.

And then what about their concession to gay visitors that they can ‘reserve the room together, sleep together’?

Well evidence this very year has shown that FIFA recommended hotels in Qatar are actively refusing to accommodate same-sex couples.

Or ‘these people’ as the Major General calls them.

Of course it’s not as if we hadn’t been warned.

Bla, bla Blatter

Out of touch: Sepp Blatter

That bastion of integrity, former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter had thought it all a big joke.

When he was asked about a lack of gay rights in Qatar shortly after they were selected in 2010… ‘They should refrain from any sexual activities.’

And the Qataris, naturally, must have seen this as a green light.

Because three years later the head of Qatar’s World Cup bid team, Hassan al-Thawadi, said that everybody was welcome at the event, so long as they refrained from public display of affection.

‘Public display of affection is not part of our culture and tradition’.

To which you can justifiably add… and particularly not when you’re holding hands with, or kissing, a member of the same sex.

American continental LGBTI army

The right path: Pride in West Hollywood

We can console ourselves somewhat that the next World Cup will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Where people are allowed to express themselves and love each other how they want.

Let’s hope too that by then there will be more than one openly gay professional footballer in the English league structure.

And that this is replicated throughout the country.

And that the sports whitewashing by Middle Eastern and Gulf countries who are buying up, or have bought up Europe’s biggest clibs, does not deter LGBTQIA players from coming out.

Now we’ll leave this heavy but necessary subject.

To get back to checking out where I can get my best Pride experience around here in sleepy North Berwick, near Edinburgh.

A Dutch of class

The future is Oranje: The Oranje Army

But before we go, big hats with feathers off.

To the Dutch politician who suggested that the Netherlands national team play in pink rather than their traditional orange, in solidarity with the LGBTI community.

We’ve not heard whether that this is being taken up by the Dutch football federation.

But having partied with the inclusive Oranje Army on the way to Rotterdam to see them play Greece a number of years ago…

We know the supporters’ only rule is that you love Total Football.


America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries

And mine’s started ‘Woke up this morning’ (the Bluesman in me), not nearly as observant as Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries.

Eighty years have passed since Otto Frank gave Anne a diary for her 13th birthday in Amsterdam… and the rest is history.

And for the rest of history we have to rely on diarists, and today’s chroniclers, your humble bloggers.

We have, all my favourite Bandanini and Bandanettes, shared in wonderful odysseys, and with Bandanaman at the tiller, that’s obviously meant detours.

A Homer run

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

Homer’s Iliad: And isn’t the journey home always better when you’re diverted to exotic destinations?

We think Odysseus though was just using my excuse for His Scary One that it was a working assignment.

To linger longer in the islands of Attica Region such as Kythera…. or Corfu where we honeymooned and Odysseus dallianced.

Byron Alpshausen

Mad, bad, adventurous to know: Byron Country, Switzerland

Lord Byron’s Alpine Journal: And when Byron was exiled from England for getting ‘too close to his family’ where did he go?

To heaven’s ceiling in Interlaken, Switzerland, of course.

And where you can dine at the very hotel, the Hotel Interlaken, the Bad Boy of the Romantics quaffed wine. And this Swiss swisher too.

Where Twain shall meet

Yale, Connecticut

Mark Twain, a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: And as prolific a traveller as Connecticut’s Samuel Clemens was this was his most epic journey.

Across 14 centuries and an ocean.

Twain is for many the Father of Modern Travel Writing.

And his home was tantalisingly up the road on my latest trip to New England.

What the Dickens?

Way to go, Joe: With hotel boss Joe at the Hotel Envoy, Boston

Charles Dickens’ American Notes, Pictures from Italy: The Great Victorian Age author of course stripped bare the England of his days.

But his curiosity and enthusiasm to explore the foibles of human nature stretched way beyond that… to America and Italy.

Which just so happen to be two of my favourite countries anywhere in the world.

Dickens was particularly impressed with Boston (good judge) of which he said: ‘Boston is what I would like the whole of the United States to be.’

But he seemed to have a conflicted view of Rome, observing on first viewing that it reminded him of London (no harm there).

But then being captivated by the Colosseum and just as quickly let down by the smallness of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What the Dickens!

Fits the Bill

Peachy: Georgia

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: And, of course, we could pick from any of his vast collection of travel diaries/books.

But we’ll plump for his trek along the Appalachian Trail, probably because we’re jealous.

I know I could persuade the Boss to allow me the five and a half months to walk the 2,100 miles from Maine down to Georgia.

And that’s 14 states, and five states I’ve still to tick off.

Counties to Synge about

My Life’s Traveller: Sadie in Greystones, Co. Wicklow

JM Synge, Travels in Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara: And full disclosure here, mine have been more in Wicklow.

Although I was captivated by Kerry and Connemara will always be the land of my childhood holidays.

Described as capturing ‘the embers of a dying culture’ and accompanied with drawings by Jack B. Yeats it’s a reminder…

That you can always come home to Ireland.

For today though we share Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries and ask whose are your favourite diaries?





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

Win win on Ginoisseur Day

Now, just to prove there’s no such thing as a new idea I can’t claim to have coined this… but it’s still win, win on Ginoisseur Day.

I came to gin late in life, piqued by the mid-2020s craze for the juniper.

And the row of gins and their fancy tonics laid out in front of me at Teach Aindi in Monaghan in the Irish Midlands.

They have 101 although time constraints limited us to six.

Not the Grapey One’s drink of choice you understand, though for research purposes, she mineswept the bar.

Unbeknownst to me, but logical as we invented everything else, it was a Scot behind the G&T.

Gee, G&T

Shake it up: Gin cocktails

Gin & Tonic: Doctor George Cleghorn explored in the 19th century if quinine could cure malaria.

The quinine was drunk in tonic water but proved too bitter and so army officers added water, sugar, lime and gin.

Now as my own paper the Daily Record is my go-to for reference I checked out what they recommended.

Although they could have asked me to roadtest them!

But the top three are Arbikie Nadar Gin in Arbroath, Tayside, the Isle of Harris and Kintyre Gin.

Dry and high

Czech me out: At the Bond hotel

Dry Martini: And James Bond’s classic drink of choice before Daniel Craig rebranded him.

We first meet Bond at Casino Royale, or more accurately at the Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czechia.

Of course the Dry Martini is gin, vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist… and shaken not stirred.

The Tom Tom Club

Supersize it: Tom Collins

Tom Collins: And an example of transatlantic co-operation between the UK and USA.

With Jerry Thomas, ‘the father of American mixology’, chronicled the gin, lime juice, sugar and carbonated water drink.

Of course with every British convention that crosses the Atlantic it has lost something in location and John became Jim became Tom.

The Italian Twist

Mine’s a gin: In Bergamo


Negroni: And few things disappoint when given the Italian twist.

And grazie to our amici for their one part gin, one part vermouth rosso and one part Campari, garnished with orange peel.

Now it’s been a year and a half since I was last in il bel paese and every drink tastes of a memory.

And mine is Bergamo Citta Alta, the high town in the Lombard city.

Taking the Rickey

The 47th President of America: In Washington DC

Gin Rickey: And being Washington DC this is obviously a capitol drink.

But did you know that it originated in Shoomaker’s Bar in the 1880s by bartender George A. Williamson?

Purportedly in collaboration with Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey.

The bartender is said to have added a lime to the Civil War veteran’s ‘mornin’s morning.’

It is a daily dose of Bourbon with lump ice and Apollinaris sparkling mineral water.

The gin twist? Well, that came from the popularity of the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

And in particular the Japanese rickshaw… and then the gin rickey with gin growing in popularity.

And that means it’s a win win on Ginoisseur Day.




America, Countries

The USA the land of the free from Covid pre-tests

And let’s sing it from the rooftops… the USA the land of the free from Covid pre-tests.

But what do I do now with my Prenetics test kit?

The talk was a month out from the announcement that the pre-tests would be lifted only for President Biden’s attention to be diverted.

But now by the grace of God we can at last report that the restrictions have at last been lifted.

It’s all about us

This is the best news for travel providers who deal with the American market, the US, our countries and most especially… us.

Because the stress and the fear for families who sat nervously the day before departure to see if anyone tested positive was off the scale.

Not to mention the cost.

For this Americanophile thankfully my test was negative and I got myself out to New England.

A New England, New US

The key to Yale: With Handsome Dan XI

Where I found the Stars and Stripes waving proudly, the people of good cheer and most importantly delighted to welcome us back.

It has been a long two years that’s for sure.

We could, of course, dwell on what we’ve missed out over that time…

A road trip in the Florida Keys, a Chicago prohibition trip, Dublin in California, Vegas revisited, whale-watching in Oregon and Universal fun in Orlando.

But it is better to look ahead to a whole New World opening up again to us.

And the American Travel Fair moves on from the resounding success of IPW 2022 to San Antonio 2023.

And the completion of a mission to see the most famous fortification of the frontiers.

Bigger in Texas

Every year I would meet these proud Texans at their stand and we’d discuss its progress.

And, yes, I always remember the Alamo.

And that and many adventures await now that we can say finally it’s The USA the land of the free from Covid pre-tests.