Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Bergamo – alta e bassa

What’s Italian for phew’ I’ve been walked off my piedi today in Bergamo Citt’alta e Citta Bassa (City High and City Low).

And phew too… Johnson, Schnapps and Co. are too late to quarantine me on my return. I was always flying back tomorrow evening anyway, so Sunday is troppo tardi, idioti!

David and Goliath: The Basilica

That’s if I don’t decide to quarantine myself anyway with the Bergamoschi (the people that is, not the local sheepdogs who share their name. Although…!)

La Prima Citta

Bergamo, as we all know by now, is where Covid-19 entered Europe.

To the greater glory of God

But they have taken the worst it can offer and are coming out the other side, and will prevail.

Or as they say here ‘Molamia’ (stay strong).

Chin-Chin

The Bergamoschi have done just that since Covid visited in March and shut the town off from the rest of Lombardy, Italy, and the world for four months.

To the greater glory of beer: With Matteo

But not from each other… or not in the ways that matter.

Matteo, my tour guide volunteered to help out the old and infirm.

Restaurateur Niccolo the same with his original ice cream and food.

Stay strong: The Bergamo credo

And model citizen Emmanuele, who lives in a palazzo on the hill too, as a volunteer.

All are heroes… and all Bergamoschi are an example to us all

La Storia

Perhaps it is in the blood. It is certainly in their history.

I am standing in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Ciitt’alta.

The Bergamo bear: With Matteo and Atalanta Bear

Where the Bergamoschi built a new church after they were delivered from the plague in the 12th century.

And filled it with frescoes, magnificent paintings and special picture boards of other scenes where humanity prevailed over adversity.

Noah anyone?

Pasta Basta

Ma mi scusi. I have just eaten my own weight in food and drunk today, a small lago di vino and must now repair to my bed in the Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

I scream for ice cream: With Niccolo

A Domani.

And if you want to slip on the Italian Boot to follow in my footsteps, here’s my Via Francigena, into Rome

While as the Veneto region is just over the horizon to the east, here’s the City of Frescoes Padova.

INCONTRA A VOI NELLA VIA

 

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, UK

Holidos and don’ts – the Road to Bergamo

At the umpteenth time of asking I’m on the road again… this time to Bergamo, Italy.

Where Europe first witnessed the virus, but now, Grazie Dio, it is a tourist destination again.

The journey, like so many these days does not begin in a travel agent but in an Edinburgh pharmacy with a Covid-19 home kit.

That’ll be £115 to you and me with a £10 courier service to get the sample to Belfast (no, me neither)

Wash those handsies: Edinburgh Airport

The test is invasive and involves you scraping the tonsils (or back of the throat if you’re sans tonsils).

Break the swab stick in half and insert it into the tube provided.

Then break the swab in half and repeat for the nose.

Love a duck: The kerching shop

And if you think I’m going to do that to myself you have another thing coming.

The indomitable Mrs M is my willing assistant in this.

And she seemed a bit too enthusiastic too about the task, saying she was ‘going tae stick it right up me, pal!’

I felt my only brain cell too being scratched as the water welled in my eyes.

Follow the science

When you’ve stopped blinking fill out an online form.

And then sit back and wait for them to email you the next day verifying they got your samples.

Then within 48 hours they’ll email you again to tell you if you’re positive or negative.

You’re on your way.

Check, of course, that your politicians haven’t changed the rules regarding the country you’re visiting.

Or in the country you’re imprisoned in.

And make your way to Edinburgh airport.

Airports are normally a hive of activity but with a vastly reduced number of passengers now it’s refreshing to be able to breathe.

Or it would be if I wasn’t wearing the compulsory medical mask that you have to sport when you’re on the move.

I saw one imposter wearing a bandana around his mouth (the very thought!) but better not risk it.

Not that the staff in Edinburgh are airstapo or anything… they are, in fact, delighted to see you and are I’m sure smiling behind their masks.

Seeing this is a whistlestop visit I’ve taken only a small rucksack and a slightly larger rucksack with wheels.

Ryanair: Those clouds are lifting

Which meets the Ryanair regulations.

And it all cuts out the need for the electronic bag drop off which I hate.

So you’re now through the first test of the Crystal Maze and into the shopping and eating and dining concourse.

Flying safe

It’s all pretty much the same although there are no wee whisky or gin plastic samples.

I guess you’ll just have to buy the stuff.

The kerching souvenir shops are still pedalling their merchandise and you can, of course, still buy your Saltire rubber duck and fridge magnet.

Grab a seat, buy your bottle of water (unless you’re an airport drinker even if this is 7.30am) and pour it into your own container.

Better still if you can find yourself next to a plug to keep your phone charged… the Scary One is bound to text.

And besides if you’re under the age of 30 you’ll have your ticket and documents on your phone.

All the time remember to hand sanitise after everything you do.

Make sure you’ve got all your possessions and documents and sit under the departure board.

Particularly your passport and evidence of your negative test to show at the gate.

Made it: Bergamo

And, maybe go to the toilet before you board.

Now barring being stopped at the gate I’m back on the road… to Bergamo.

Now, what could possibly go wrong?

And seeing this is my first time in Il Bel Paese for a couple of years I’ve been taking a trip down Memory Lane…

And Rome, Padova and Venice. Bella, bella.

Africa, Countries, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Flyday Freeday Friday – Ethiopian have you covered

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

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

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

A clean bill of health: Ethiopian Airlines

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

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

Aer we go for 2021

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

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

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

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

Beefy: In London with a local

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

Living like locals in Saint-Pauli

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

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

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Deals, Flying, Ireland

Crazy Horses

You know you’re in the Wild West when you see wild horses thundering across the Grand Canyon.

And look out from The Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum at Lookout Mountain at the Great Plains where he once roamed.

The wide open spaces, the freedom, the clean air, the sanctity of nature, the conservation of the animals on whom their very survival depended.

Bandanaman and Issy in Clark, Colorado

It’s how people lived for centuries in these lands before we found ‘a better way’.

I have my Native American headdress on (though not literally though I did have one as a kid), having signed up for the virtual conference from New Mexico next month.

Buffalo Bill’s grave

It’s just that this COVID business has reminded us all to reconnect with the earth.

All of which you’ll find on an Escorted Tour with your American Holidays

Take their Canyon and American Lands Adventure for 2021.

TV broncos star: In Broncos’ Stadium, Denver

Kick it off in Vegas before departing for Zion National Park and hike Angels Landing.

Next up is Bryce Canyon National Park, renowned for its crimson-coloured sandstones, the hoodoos.

On my way to my next million in Vegas

You’ll recognise Monument Valley from all the old movies and here you’ll learn all about its place in Navajo legend.

Travel through the Navajo Reservation to the Cameron Trading Post to pick up jewellery and your dreamcatcher.

Of course you won’t have to wait long for your dreams to come true as you’ll cap off this unforgettable tour in the Grand Canyon.

The First Americans

Watch it from the rim or hike down it… however you take it in you’ll only sample a fraction.

And if that’s not enough Americana for you then you’ll travel back to Vegas along Route 66.

All this for two from €2099. Price includes return flights Dublin-Vegas. Seven nights’ hotel accommodation and tour guides.

Countries, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Lisbon lie-ins

Paris or Munich players will wake up with sore heads tomorrow morning in Lisbon after tonight’s Champions League final.

Just like many a thousand Scot did 53 years ago when Celtic’s Lisbon Lions became the first British club to win the European Cup.

Scots have long had a special relationship with Portugal with it truly being for many back in the day their first foray off this isle.

So amid all the gloom Portugal’s return to the UK exempt list where we don’t have to self-isolate on our return is truly welcome.

And it is good to see that my new local, Edinburgh Airport is reaching out.

To flag up the delights of Lisbon from £128, Porto from £72 Faro from £172 and Madeira from £452.

All on my list and a next stop after our adventures in the Algarve and Portugal Centro.

Where a lie-in in Fatima is disturbed by the Church bells beckoning you to give praise to Our Lady.

Make ski and mend

And a shout-out here to my old pal and contributor and multi award-winning ski writer Catherine ‘Murphski’ Murphy.

For whom lockdown has been torture because she had to spend half the year down here in the valleys with the rest of us.

Catherine has though flagged up some skiing in Ireland.

Sands slaloms

No, she wasn’t hallucinating.

Rather it is sand skiing in the west of Ireland in Co. Mayo.

And if you thought that was mad then in outdoorsy Colorado I only looked out the coach window to find a woman skiing along the road.

On the lay-by in the heart of summer.

The Ski Club of Ireland

Skiheads will grab their pleasures where they fond them.

And in Ireland, that means the Ski Club of Ireland in Kilternan in Co. Wicklow. And you can always ski home down the road.

A day at my Turkish barber’s

With my old friend Onur on the Bosphorus

The conversation turns at the barber’s, as it always will, to where you’ve been, or are planning to go, on holiday.

Only in these COVID days even the most intrepid traveller is mostly confined to barracks.

But while we wait around to get back on the road we can reminisce.

Up, up and away in Cappodocia

Which is what I’ve been doing with my new Turkish pals at the barber’s shop in North Berwick, south of Edinburgh.

About Istanbul and the new airport (Mohammed raised it).

Mohammed flagged up the virtues of the capital, Ankara.

Which I’ve long known about from my old buddy Ireland’s Mr Turkish Airlines himself, and fellow Ankara native Onur.

The cat’s whiskers: Turkey’s ancient ruins

All of which reminisces are well and fine but we must look to the future and researching a trip I’ll keep on the lowdown for now I came across…

My friends at Intrepid Travel are offering £1 deposits for holidays for 2021.

Which includes 15 days Turkey Encompassed from £1186 (down from £1475) starting and finishing in incredible Istanbul.

And taking in Cappadocia, the islands off Kepova, the ancient ruins of Ephesus, the hot springs of Pammukale and the war memorial at Gallipoli.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Flying

Wu, Wu… The Land of the Rising 2021

We all deserve a big treat. And for 2021 we’re looking east, the Far East, and Japan, with our old friends Wendy Wu.

Which is as it should be as it was at the Chinese New Year lunch in Dublin in January that we travel writers first spoke about COVID-19.

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The shape of things apart

There are many reasons to tour Japan at any time but the world’s focus will especially be on The Land of the Rising Sun in 2021.

When the delayed Olympics will take place.

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Geisha load of this

A big cuddly bear… and a panda

Now as often happens with these things Japan’s charms are currently being flagged up on TV by one of our favourite Travel writers… in this case Joanna Lumley.

Who waxes lyrical about Japan’s stunning rail network and routes.

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Pandamonium… that would be me on tour then

As usual Wendy was there first and she has two new tours including the UK’s first three-week fully inclusive rail tour.

Of islands covering the islands of Kyushu, Honshu and Hokkaido.

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Wendy crew

And from now until the end of August there are a range of special offers.

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And what’s for the next dish?
  1. Free single supplements for solo travellers (worth up to £1790pp) plus a range of dedicated solo departures.
  2. Free business class upgrades with Emirates, British Airways, Finnair (ex Dublin and Edinburgh), Air China and many more (worth up to £700pp.
  3. BA World Traveller Plus upgrades (worth up to £600pp)
  4. Free Vietnam Airlines Premium Economy Upgrades (worth up to £300pp).
  5. Savings up to £500pp per person across cherry blossom departures through March and April.
  6. Holidays can be booked with a deposit from £99pp with flexible terms and conditions.

MEET YOU UNDER THE CHERRY BLOSSOMS

Asia, Countries, Flying, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays Alice and Maldives Wonderland

I can’t remember what I sang, it was probably Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel, and I recollect going back up a couple of times.

In my excuse I was on my umpteenth Strawberry Daiquiri.

I do remember though our host Brian McCarthy owning the small stage with a kickass version of My Own Personal Jesus.

Barry (left), an effing legend

But what I remember most about our karaoke night in the Maldives was the contribution of someone who didn’t even take the stage.

A round with Alice

Barry Coughlan (that’s pronounced like the punctuation mark he would remind us) always had something to say.

Usually with an ‘f’ in it.

Island of refuge: The Maldives

Thankfully for Barry there was a song made just for him… Smokie’s Living Next Door to Alice.

Or more precisely he preferred the version by Dutch novelty act Gonpie.

With the Scary One not there and me on my worst behaviour I didn’t hesitate joining in with Barry on the chorus.

Seaplanes over Asia

It is a bit of a hike to get there… three planes, two continents, but an adventure all the same.

Any excuse

That’ll be a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul and then onto Male, the main hub for the teardrop islands.

Before you take a seaplane with a barefoot pilot to Kuramathi where your Atoll adventure really begins.

And lots of bubbles too

I had to check a couple of times on the UK’ exempt list and Ireland’s green list to see that we’re not allowed to go there yet.

I’m sure Barry will have a thing or two to say about that!

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Vienna top of the pops

When will you realise Vienna waits for you? – Vienna, Billy Joel

No, I’m not plumping for the maudlin Ultravox song as I mark the survey that puts Vienna top of the pops for quality of life for newlyweds and families.

The Austrian capital which has eluded me thus far pips Orlando and Amsterdam in the top ten study by Purely Diamonds

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And there’s always a beautiful sculpture

I took Miss F to Corfu for our honeymoon where she only had eyes for me as did the hotel keyboard player!

But Vienna has always been on our radar and Austrophiles that we are, I will waltz her around the square yet… to work off their famous hot chocolate and cakes, of course.

A two-film trip… to Australia!

Many of us are put off travelling to the other end of the world by the time we have to spend in the air.

For airplane (and movie) fans like myself I love it because it means I can see all the latest releases.\

My longest continuous trip has been to Los Angeles where I reckon I got to see all the Oscar nominations for that year.

Now Virgin Galactic are raising the bar by releasing details of their most ambitious airplane ever, their supersonic route from London to Sydney… in only five hours!

The Virgin Group Space flight company announced the first stage design scope for the build of its Mach 3 plane yesterday.

And he’ll be there waiting

They’re also teasing us with less than two-hour flights to New York. So that rules out a Martin Scorsese film then!

Easy does it

How are you all down there?

The more our politicians try to stop us travelling the keener we are to do just that.

And EasyJet are saying that they will fly at 40% capacity, 10% higher than their projections because of better than expected bookings.

And with 84% of its flights full. All of which should leave a spare seat for me.

Automatic for the people

No one to disturb us

Because this is where to come for all your musical touchpoints…  though there will be no REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, here as you’ll get a great sleep in this Automatic hotel.

Just up the road from my old stomping ground of Greystones in Ireland’s Garden County of Wicklow.

Firefly Bray, which is a sister hotel of The Martello, offers the latest in self-service check-in technology with your room key downloaded directly to your phone. And there is no on-site staff.

Firefly is close to the promenade front and the dramatic Bray Head from where you can walk the cliffs to Greystones.

Rooms start from €70 per night. Tell them I sent you!

And as is the way of it you wait for one Holiday Snaps and two come along in quick succession. I’ll be back with more. 

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

American Holidays Jamaica

Ireland’s first automatic hotel

Surfing and beach holidays in Switzerland.

Emirates to Seychelles

Visit Portugal

Florida’s Paradise Coast

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying

Hanging on their Croattails

Are you British, Irish, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch… well, we’re hanging on their Croattails?

As we all mourn the heavy-handed shutdown of Spain and particularly its islands…

Isn’t it reassuring that Croatia is open to 30 European countries?

Sun-kissed

Maybe though not tell Boris Johnson that Forbes has flagged up Croatia (27.8 cases per 100,00) as one of the safest European destinations.

Your own Croat island

Or that Croatia has 617 islands, because he’d only pick them off as he has the Canaries and the Balearics.

I dipped my toe in Croatia although alas not its islands nor indeed Dubrovnik but that’s another story.

If you’re travelling from Ireland go with Croatia Tours through Split as I did on my way to Medjugorje with its sister firm Marian Pilgrimages

And here don’t we know that Ireland’s national airlines carrier Aer Lingus will save me from myself by flying me straight to Dubrovnik’s front door from €39.99.

What’s the Croat deal?

As luck would have it we have some Croatian deals here for you.

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British Airways has three routes to Croatia to Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, with flights from Heathrow and Gatwick.

Ryanair has also resumed flights from London Stansted to Pula twice a week, and to Rijeka once a week.

And because we love an island… Losinj, known as a healing resort, can be reached by private plane or luxury car transfer with Losinj Hotels & Villas.

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From many European airports, with Pula, Rijeka and Zagreb the closest options.

You’ll want to check out the Boutique Hotel Alhambra, an Austro-Hungarian Art Nouveau villa built in 1912 in Art Nouveau style.

And which also boasts the world-class Alfred Keller Restaurant which specialises in seasonal and local produce.

Spend fur nights at the Boutique Hotel Alhambra and enjoy one complimentary night from €954 (£866) based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Park Side Room for B&B. Valid for stays until October 3, subject to availability,

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, UK

Holiday Snaps – We’ll all be safer in Tobago

Life was so much simpler and safer in Tobago in December when I was standing in the Nylon Pool… and it is again.

After the Tobagonian island was granted a ‘Safe Travels’ stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Which means it is a standard-bearer for health and hygiene.

In fact judging by my own experiences out there you’re more likely to have your goat run away from you or fall out of your hammock.

Give me a call next time Boris

Everything in the garden is rosy

I could give you five minutes if you didn’t waffle and got to the point… Boris Johnson should make a special case for the Canaries and Balearic Islands.

So when will our politicians start following the best practices of our neighbours over localising quarantines?

The Canary Islands have had just 2,483 COVID-19 cases over the pandemic, while the Balearics have recorded just 2,290.

And have been proportionately below UK rates.

I just hope the rest of the world don’t think we’re all of us Europhobes in the UK.

And where else?

Of Corisican

And hard on their heels France, Germany, Greece were flagged up by scaremonger broadcasters.

A daily increase of 931 in France, 305 in Germany and 31 in Greece have spooked our communicators of information.

The two European superpowers are mainly mainland but Corsica is proudly independent if not politically so.

While France owes the Med island for giving them their biggest hero Napoleon.

There’s an island over there

There are a plethora of small islands too and St Patrick and the Cistercians had the right idea setting up a monastery in Saint Honorat, off Cannes.

And a scattering too of German islands in the Baltic too which you can spot in your Fjords cruise from Kiel. Oh,, they’re off to.

An island of my own… on Kythera

And Greece. Well, this is the best argument of all.

Six thousand islands. And while Greece has been ahead of the curve our politicians would surely be only too quick to shut tem down too.

And who would visit my honeymoon island Corfuhttp://www.visitgreece.gr/en/greek_islands/ionian_islands/corfu and my getaway island Kythera.

Stars of Ireland

And this garden too

Ireland has a galaxy of stars and in the 13 years I was there one shone brighter than any!!

But it also has beautiful uncluttered and unpolluted skies where the night sky lights up.

The Mountgreve Gardens in County Waterford is one such place. And they are hosting their first Star Gazing night in their 70 acres site on August 15.

Why then? Well why not?

But also because that’s the date of the most spectacular meteor shower of the year, the Perseid Meteor Showers.

Tickets are €12. The Harvest Shop will provide hot drinks and snacks.

The evening runs from 8.30pm-11.30pm and is for over 12s. Pre-book.