America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying

Rainy Days and Songdays – Travel toons

Our planes may be grounded, our ships docked, out trains in their stations but we’ve still got a song in our hearts.

And we’re keeping ourselves going with a playlist of Travel Songs.

Here are ten until we can travel again.

Life’s a Beach

Sloop John B, Beach Boys, California

Only I didn’t, and don’t, wanna go home.

There are few songs, or singers more synonymous with their home than the Beach Boys.

You get it about California when you see the Boys in Anaheim, as you do, and Mike Love touches your hand.

The Beach Boys Get Around all right by boat, plane, car or surf board. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Hail Mary

Proud Mary, Tina Turner, Mississippi

Home of the Delta Blues: The Mississippi

 

Watching those river boats, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ down the river to Mississippi made me Mr Happy.

And reminded me of Proud Mary… and Proud Beverley.

Pumping her arms and rolling her body on stage at Rising Star Karaoke club on CiyWalk at Universal Orlando… 

Proud Beverley that is, a proud Scot who was supposed to be the warm-up act for my Lady Marmalade but who absolutely slayed it on our Orlando recce.

The Mississippi is, of course, America’s South to North artery and a playground or play waterway if you like.

And it’s how you really want to do The Deep South although that’s to take nothing away from our unforgettable road trip through Tennessee and Mississippi.

Hit the Road Jock

Jack, Ray Charles, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

With my Jazz partner and global travel pal Agnetha in Prague

You might not immediately associate Ray Charles and Jazz with the Czech Republic.

But then you can’t have been or you would have seen the saxophonists on Charles Bridge in Prague.

It was probably Hit the Road Jock when I dance with Swedish Agnetha in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic’s Spa Triangle back when.

Jazz has truly travelled the world and is in itself a music of travel with many a song of a vagrant worker eking out a living on the road.

Sounds all too familiar.

On the sunny Caribbean Sea

Dance away: Wukkin’ up in Barbados

Woah, I’m going to Barbados, Typically Tropical, Barbados

Now I’ve never been on Coconut Airways and I wasn’t off to see ma girlfriend Mary Jane…  at least that’s what I told the Scary One and I’m sticking to that story.

No, it was Virgin Airways, and I was the guest of Visit Barbados and then the second time with Tropical Sky.

Woah, I’m going to Barbados may not be the pure Soca they so love in Barbados and me too but they will sing along too.

As the house singer at Club Barbados who had a bow tie and dress shirt designed on to his T-shirt delivered without any degree of corniness.

I can’t wait to be…

On the Road Again, Willie Nelson, Pilgrimages in Spain and Italy

The Sun shines on the righteous on the Camino

And my go-to song when I’m out on the road is Willie Nelson’s standard… it’s my mission statement when I hit a pilgrimage, and my friend Aileeen Eglington’s Destination Anywhere radio show on Dublin South FM.

You’ll get plenty of time on your own when you’re on your Camino on your way to Santiago  or your Via Francigena into Rome.

And yes, of course, I can’t wait to be…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

Countries, Cruising, Flying, Food & Wine

New Year Revolutions

And as the Alt-Right tries to wage a Second American Revolution in the US a look at the revolutions we do need.

The air

United we atand

And clearly the challenge is carbon emissions where EasyJet can take a bow.

The budget airline topped a London School of Economics report in a top five which also includes Alaska Air, Qantas, my old friends at United who flew me to the Deep South and JetBlue.

The seas

Norway wood: In the Norwegian fjords

And high up for the haters in this Covid and Climate crisis are our cruise ships.

Where my old faves MSC whom I sailed with around the Norwegian fjords, Royal Caribbean who showed off their wares in the English Channel and in Barcelona.

And Celebrity Cruises who treated us all like, well Celebrities, off the coast of Florida on their $1bn state-of-the-art Edge.

A nod here to Princess Cruises who had us on board when they stopped off in Dublin on their way round Britain and Ireland.

And Paul Gauguin Cruises who drew us a picture of tantalising Tahiti who have been keeping us going through lockdown with their images and news.

The food

Food for thought: A tajine

And now more than ever we have to watch what and where we eat.

So that means avoiding markets we know little about in countries we are visiting for the first time.

So for me that was Morocco and I should have gone with the professionals.

Northern Africa and the Middle Eastern food is bright, spicy and often new for Western palates so don’t be afraid to ask.

And if you can find Zuhair, G AdventuresJordanian host extraordinaire then all the better.

All our cultures and culinary ways should be celebrated around the world and animal welfare should be central to our approach.

A joint resolution

I’ve probably already broken my own personal resolutions already so it might be presumptuous to ask my Travel pals to take on these targets.

But, in truth, we’re all in it together…

This past year’s challenges have brought opprobrium upon Travel professionals but lockdown has only reaffirmed how vital it is to us all.

So let’s build it back even better this year.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Flying

Electric Qatar

They arrived from the East, the Three Wise Men, and as we mark the Coming of the Magi tomorrow, another favour… please send some more.

Because as we witness the Gulf celebrating New Year with real-live people, watching real-live performers, it’s clear they can teach us how to zap this Pandemic thing.

These are good times for the Gulf with a New Year bringing new hope too for solving some differences between neighbours.

Qatar star

Saudi Arabia has reopened its air space to Qatar ahead of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar three and a half years ago over allegations that they supported terrorists.

For all of us who are climbing the walls looking to go somewhere exotic (and Celtic FC) then the Gulf is always enticing… and there’s actual life happening.

The Gulf, as we all know, is a favourite stop-off en route to other great locations although we’d recommend staying a while.

Qatar Airways has the magical Maldives from London, one stop, from £365.14pp.

While we found this London to Dubai offer on the Sky World Travel site flying Qatar Airlines from €290pp.

Tweet music

And Doha will keep you captivated with the golden opportunity to see city and sand.

With Doha: Private Combo City Tour & Desert Safari from £152.01.

Qatar has something for everyone: Angry Birds World Qatar anyone? Or Circus World.

And if you want something more cultural then there’s the Museum of Islamic Art and Katara.

Where you’ll find those staples of Qatari life, the Katara Mosque and Beach.

And as for Banana Island, well we’ll let you find out for yourself.

America, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

New Year’s Holiday Snaps – Happy New Aer

And because America is at a turning point don’t we all want to get on board.

Especially when on board is with our friends at Aer Lingus who early last year had me all booked up for the Florida Keys when…!

Ireland’s national airline carrier has a January €148 sale for this summer to North America which is Toronto.

Waving the flag for DC and Aer Lingus

While my old favourites Boston, New York and Washington is pitched at €164.

And you know the deal it’s each way as part of a return trip.

Cruise into ’21

Yea, they’ve got forks too!

Or a Happy Blue Year, the kind of blue you only find on the sea

Or the blue of Greece. So let’s put them together.

Royal Caribbean have on the Eastern Mediterranean sailings we’ve zeroed in on in 2021.

Oh, how I would have loved to have spent the last year on a wee Greek island.

My pals at Royal Caribbean only have a range of Eastern Med packages as we plan to cruise again in 2021.

An old relic and the Acropolis

A six-night Greece and Croatia cruise, leaving from Venice (Ravenna) on Rhapsody of the Seas from €569pp taking in Split, Olympia and Athens.

And you know what I always say… there’s no party like a Royal party.

United in tribute to The Doc

Me and ‘Baby Doc’ Peter

And it might be apt that former Scotland manager Tommy Docherty, an old friend of the Murtys, should die on Hogmanay.

The Doc’s son Peter was one of my earliest pals in Glasgow before his Dad took the family off to Manchester.

Of course being a football man and someone who joked that he’d had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus there’s no single destination to point you too.

But perhaps Manchester United is the club he’s most associated with.

So let’s point you in the direction of a football match day package.

If you’re an Irish United fan, and there are many, you’ll no doubt know about Celtic Horizons and Abbey Travel.

And the important thing is that we will all be together again soon in a football ground.

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

Holiday Snaps – Repose en paix Pierre Cardin

French Riviera: The invitation to Pierre Cardin’s Bubble house must have got lost in the post.

Seeing it from the outside would have to suffice.

But seeing it from a speed boat on the French Riviera is a pretty good vantage point.

The Palais Bullas,, or Bubbles Palace, was put back on the market a few years ago – well, fashion god Pierre was well into his 90s by then.

For £300m the specs for the 12,000sqm complex, the haunt of many a celeb, included.

Ten space-aged rooms, three swimming pools, a 500-seater amphitheatre and lush gardens.

Chic: On the French Riviera

Now Cannes is not cheap but Mimoza’s in neighbouring Mandelieiu-La-Napouke is within your budget.

And it has A golf course nearby, Continental Europe’s first, The Old Course, which Pierre’s gaffe doesn’t.

Still, repose en paix, Pierre.

Our thoughts with Croatia

Check out Croatia

Croatia: And our prayers go out to our friends in Zagreb and Croatia where they are recovering from the effects of a second earthquake in two days.

I am always drawn to a city which boasts a daily ritual…

View of Washington from Arlington

I’m thinking a Changing of the Guard, in Arlington the Beefeaters in London or the One O’Clock Gun in Edinburgh.

And Zagreb has a cannon which fires out paper.

My old friends Croatia Tours are the people to go with from Ireland.

From the UK…? I’m open to offers.

And a Happy New Air

Ryanair, flyin’ air

Flying: And we will be which is what Ireland’s national airline carrier Aer Lingus and Ryanair

Low-fare Ryanair are offering sizzling summer deals from €19.99.

And they’ve dropped their flight change fees for all new bookings made for travel before January 31.

And I’m noticing my faves Amsterdam, Hamburg and Lourdes in among the €19.99 tranche.

Lady Liberty is calling

Just because the shops are closed won’t stop us checking out the January Sales… and Aer Lingus.

They’ve got 30% off flights and checked bags to Europe, and Barcelona catches the eye.

While they’re all over North America with €149 sale deals which means I can swop Zoom for my cousins’ front rooms in New York and Washington DC

Africa, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Flying, Ireland

Christmas cards on the table

Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale and a Happy Christmas to you all.

And merci, gracias, grazie and thanks a lot to all my friends who have sent me Christmas cards this year.

I’ll even let you off cancelling your Christmas parties and not sending me a Christmas hamper this year.

So here are a few of the Christmas cards I’d like to show off to you…

Christmas in my Sandals

Open-toed: In Barbados

And yes that’s just how they roll at Sandals and in the Caribbean.

Where what they lack in chimneys and fireplaces they make up for in mango trees.

And Santa can soothe his feet in a Sandals swim-up pool.

My old friends in Ireland

Top point: Harvey’s Point

And while my Dear Old Mum will be spending her Christmas in a Glasgow care home, a nod to her homestead of Donegal.

Donegal, in the north-west of Ireland has all the warmth of the peaty sod and will be wonderful this Christmas.

So here’s to all Donegallers everywhere and thanks to the award-winning Harvey’s Point.

Scandi Claus

When I was thinking of going to Sweden this year my first port of call was my old Irish pal and Scandiphile Alan.

Happy Christmas… in Swedish

And a God Jul to you too and destination specialists Hadler DMC.

I got a tantalising view of Sweden on my MSC Cruises trip from Kiel, Germany through Denmark and up to Norway.

Cruises WILL be back in the New Year and of course that means river cruises too as well as the big seabreakers. Anyone for MS Arena?

Another year younger

And how long they look: Ethiopian Airlimrs

I’ve told you once or a hundred times about the lifegiving qualities of Enkutatash, Ethiopia’s New Year.

Because they live by the old calendar.

Back in the day an invite came through for Women’s Day from Ethiopian Airlines and a trip to celebrate womenhood in Ethiopia.

From where Lucy, the first women we have bones for derives.

I offered to drag up. But in the end I sent a colleague.

Bohemian wrapsody

Prague rocks

Of course we know who looked out on the Feast of Stephen.

Only the bustling Wenceslas Square will be empty this Christmas.

The Czechs are the most wonderfully resilient people, situated as they are between Europe’s great powers.

They will be back and so will we… Urquell in hand by the beautiful Vlatva River.

We wish Wu a Merry Christmas

Panda-monium

And isn’t it just like that? You get a card in and you panic that you haven’t sent them one.

So to Wendy Wu and the two Johns thank Wu for everything this year, particularly the legendary Chinese New Year lunch in January in Dublin.

And I know you’ll look after The Son and Heir when he heads to China next year.

And a Felice anno nuovo too

These Italians have style

And in the most fallow of fallow years I will always treasure my Autumn trip to Bergamo with Omio.

Miei amici have gone back into the strictest zone as they predicted when I visited but I’m sure it will all pay off.

And we’ll all be eating stracciatella gelato soon in Citta Alta.

Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Mac Black Friday – your Scots pal’s round-up

And the first Black Friday had nothing to do with shopping and everything to do with sheeping.

The Scottish Highlanders were only 128 miles from London on Friday, December 6, 1745, when they decided to turn their army around and head back to their sheep.

It was an ill-fated retreat and their English pursuers caught up with them at Culloden, near Inverness, on April 16, and smote them, a thing they did then and very sore.

These days the only injuries you’ll pick up are sore shins in the shopping rush, although this year it’ll be ‘digital finger’.

Your favourite Travel blogger is always happy to take one for the team so here’s my round-up.

Flyday Friday

And it’s not just off-the-rail fashion or white goods that are Black Friday regulars… we all love our airline giveaways too.

Ireland’s national airline Aer Lingus carrier have a headline offer of €100 off for a family of four bringing two checked bags to Gran Canaria in May.

While also flagging up plenty of other sun spots from which to choose.

Ryanair pride themselves on giving more away more often and are championing ‘Every Friday is Black Friday.’

Friday cruiseday

And our floating hotel firms are all about the sails.

Princess Cruises are offering deals with peak season sailings from €769pp through November 30.

They have 14 UK-based voyages from seven to 14 nights, departing between May and October.

Eleven of those voyages will travel round-trip from Southampton to destinations across northern Europe (maybe taking in here), the Med (and this) and the Canary Islands (us too).

The 3,560 guest Regal Princess will be based in the UK from April to October 30.

Fares start at €769pp for a seven-night cruise during peak season and €1209pp for a 14-night cruise.

And I’ll drink to that. On board Royal

Royal Caribbean is combining Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

And they are recommending booking a cruise this weekend and get up to $400 onboard credit and save up to $150 instantly.

And why wait? Because this is what you get and here too.

Friday skiday

Slope off to the mountains, where there’s plenty of social distancing, with Crystal Ski and get €150 off any booking up to April 2022.

All 2020/2021 holidays come with Covid Cover and free amends up to 28 days before departure.

And because Andorra is a favourite of Irish skiers. Depart January 10, stay self-catering in 3* Sant Roma Apartments, Arinsal from €292pps (four people sharing).

While Italy is mine. And why not spend yours in Sainte D’ouix, at the 3* Hotel Martin, half-board, from €544pps.

Offer runs through to Monday. Includes flights from Dublin.

And I’m not stopping there… more Black Friday deals coming up.

WATCH THIS SPACE

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying

Flyday Ferryday Friday

I’m channelling my inner Oleta Adams (the darling of the Gulf War soldiers) by saying I don’t care how I get there I’ll get there if I can.

And so I’m flagging up airplane, sailboat and maybe even camel too today although Oleta it’s not just an Arab man who uses the ‘ship of the desert’.

Canary Orange

The future is orange

And obviously this caught our attention. Prosaically because the latest map for the European Centre for Disease control has classified Ireland and the Canaries orange.

Which means that anyone returning from the Canaries doesn’t have to restrict their movements upon their return, having done a pre-departure test 72 hours before departure.

Unlike the canary Aer Lingus isn’t flying out there until December 27.

But from then you can be sure of availability out to Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and my old fave Tenerife.

A word on canaries and the Canaries and, no they’re not named after the birds but after the latin name for dogs because they had big mutts.

And as for orange canaries, well they’re really Red Canaries which can have an orange hue. Now you know.

French fancy

We are sailing

France, we’ve missed you. Like so much else this year I had my bag packed ready for an arts and culture trip to see you when this pesky bug got buggier.

But we and my ferry friends aren’t going to let this beat us and Irish Ferries are preparing for a better year next year.

Irish Ferries will operate daily overnight sailings from Dublin to Cherbourg with their new cruise ferry WB Yeats (or WB Yachts as I call it) throughout next summer.

I’ve met WB, the ship that is, but that was in Dublin Port… next stop Cherbourg 2021.

And it truly is a pleasure to sail around French shores

Cruise away to 2022

Enchanted Princess

And the thing about cruises is that you usually have to save up for them.

So Princess Cruises are giving us plenty of time to do just that with their 2022 brochure.

They will have five ships on the seas.

Pick of them (heck they’re all mouthwatering) is Enchanted Princess which will be sailing around Russia snd Scandinavia from Copenhagen.

While we’re intrigued about their festival packages.

So you can take the Crown Princess to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo,

And I promised you a camel

He’s got the hump

Now this is the one I rowed back on, the 15-day G Adventures Jordan and Israel Adventures trip.

Because I didn’t feel it was right to leave my work without me for that length of time!

It’ll take you from Amman whose charms and that of Jordan I did enjoy, to Jerusalem and every stop in between. From £1954 (was £2999). Valid from January 15.

And as I now know after making new Israeli friends at the World Travel Market you’re just as likely to need a camel here too.

Because the land of milk and honey is a half sand.

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES, SEA AND SAND

Asia, Countries, Europe, Flying

WTM Holiday Snaps – China in our hands

Now we have skin in this game with the Son and Heir planning to decamp to Chongqing next month for a year.

So I dragged myself out of my scratcher, and in the dark of a November Scottish morning, for the Chinese Tourism Market Recovery at World Travel Market Virtual.

Wall, what is it good for?

Now every country has its own different approach and the Chinese meeting was more like what I would imagine the National Congress might be.

In short, China leads the world in tourism recovery (I read that off a slide) but judging by the scenes of people enjoying themselves now.

And their projection that the back end of next year will be when we will see a bounce back for international travellers.

They were also optimistic for small group travel which our friend Wendy Wu knows already.

Everything makes sense in black and white

Wendy is running a Black November offer with free worldwide flights for travel through 2021 and 2022 saving £800pp.

Taking the Michael

Fun and air: Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary

The Chinese could certainly do with Michael O’Leary’s presentation skills.

The redoubtable Ryanair CEO waxed lyrical on the failings of politicians to deal with the pandemic.

And the wisdom of Ryanair keeping its planes up in the air throughout it all.

Michael also gave us hope by predicting that next year will see airline companies and hotels dangle discounts at us.

Best of all, of course, is Michael’s unparalleled Irish humour and he had me smiling from the off.

When he reflected on how he brought down the turnaround times on the runway.

And that prior to his intervention pilots needed ‘to have an hour and a half for a smoke and a shag’.

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

Holiday Snaps – United’s States

No, you didn’t read that wrongly. Our friends at United Airlines might just get us back on transatlantic planes out to Bidenland as we’re now calling it.

United have launched the world’s first free transatlantic Covid-testing pilot programme.

For customers travelling from November 16 through December 11 from Newark to London Heathrow free of charge.

Mississippi… do you remember me?

I touched down in the land of the Delta Blues with United a couple of years ago.

When I flew into Memphis from Newark for an MLK50 (Martin Luther King) road trip.

And sat beside a Memphian coming home who pointed out the Mississippi below.

As we drank craft beers and discussed the future travel for America.

And on the tee…

Mountain a challenge at Slieve Donard

I thought it was just an hour the clocks went back… you know the old saying Fall back Spring forward.

But then I find that one of those Spring rites of passage, the Masters golf tournament will be held this year from this Thursday, in Augusta, Georgia.

Glittering prize

Of course there will be more than a few references to azaleas, or the lack of them, this week.

We’ll miss the galleries though and the hollers of ‘You’re the Msn.’

And this year’s Champion Golfer is…

I was one at Royal Portrush at last year’s Open Golf Championship when we were 20 deep shouting on Ireland’s Shane Lowry to victory.

All of which deviation off the tee brings me to Hastings Hotels and Slieve Donard‘s richly-deserved recognition as Northern Ireland’s Best Golf Hotel at the World Golf Awards.

Once I get these fingers repaired I’ll be bringing the game I’ve developed.

From watching from out of my window onto North Berwick on Scotland’s Golf Coast.

And on the toboggan run…

Now I don’t need an Austrian toboggan run to shred my body.

A shopping trolley and a supermarket car park will do just as well to break my fingertips and tear off my nails.

Of course the prospect of a toboggan run as a detour during my famed booze bus trip to the Oktoberfest had me salivating.

I didn’t trouble the Winter Olympics talent scouts at Kirchberg and Kitzbuhel.

Though with rider and toboggan going separate ways seconds after launch.

I reprised the high jinks on my Topflight for Schools trip to Ehrwald in the Austrian Tirol last year.

Who needs a toboggan or sled anyway? I’m the human sled!

Awesome Austria

Enough already… let’s get back on piste and Kitzbuhel is reopening to recreational skiers from November 30 with Covid restrictions.

Return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck with EasyJet are from €62pp and from Dublin to Munich are from €80pp.

And anything can happen in Munich… or is that just me?