America, Countries, Music

RESPECT Aretha and me

RESPECT Aretha and me. And to mark the imminent release of the biopic of Aretha Franklin, a walk in her footsteps.

The Queen of Soul was born into music.

The daughter of a Memphis Baptist Minister, he was ‘the man with the million dollar voice’, CL Franklin.

Mum Barbara being a singer and pianist then there was only one thing Aretha was going to do with her life.

Musical legacy

Early days: Aretha

We, of course, associate Aretha most with Detroit, where the Frankins decamped to when she was two, via Buffalo, NY.

The route north was a well-trodden one for a more prosperous life. 

Either to the Eastern Seaboard or the Northern Cities of Detroit and Chicago.

All of which created musical magic with Motown and Chicago Blues.

But, of course, that sound was formed in the black churches of the Deep South.

And taking a tangent here to recommend The   Black Church: This is our story, this is our song.

Which is on the excellent PBS, the American Public Broadcasting Service.

Winner, winner, US diner

I’m looking at you: Aretha

Aretha, of course, was an actress as well as a singer.

And she gave an unforgettable cameo performance in the Blues Brothers.

As she gave a ball-breaking ultimatum to her husband and fellow cafe owner…

Trying to keep him from the clutches of Jake and Elwood getting the band back together… Think.

Aretha, of course, has transcended the cities where she put down her music.

And you’ll find her sung out across the land, across the world.

It’s the instinctive go-to singer in an American diner.

And ny jukebox pick

Off for a jig: Aretha

In my case DC when a regular, down on his luck, gave me his life story.

RESPECT Aretha and me. And Jennifer Hudson who is a stick-on guarantee in the part.

 

Adventure, America, Countries, UK

John Muir, the wild Scots-American

And in a celebration of John Muir, the wild Scots-American, a quote from his dad, Daniel.

Bairns, you needna learn your lessons the nicht, for we’re gan to America the morn

Scots explorer and conservationist John Muir’s faither Daniel Muir

My own uncles had a similar spontaneous tale to tell just like John Muir, the wild Scots-American.

They had taken shelter in the opening of the American Embassy from the pouring Glasgow rain.

And they then decided to seek their fortunes anew in the States.

The Muir story

The Muir statue in Dubar: And Murty

Millions have followed a similar path.

With those from my own homesteads, Scotland and Ireland, up there proportionately with any of them.

John Muir’s story has crept up on me where, of course, it ought to have been front and centre of my Scots education.

And now I’m living in the East Lothian of his informative years, his presence is more visible.

And a playground: For my Luminous Laurie

But it is true that the Great Conservationist is more celebrated in his adopted America where he and his family went to live when he was 11.

Than in his own homeland of Scotland although he would visit here in later life.

And he would write lovingly, and often, about how Dunbar, 30 miles east of Edinburgh, had shaped his life.

Where it all began

The Muir house: And the two flags fly proudly

You can learn all about John Muir at his birthplace in the main street of the once fishing and farming town where the population would be split between Shories and Streeties.

Dunbar has reinvented itself around Muir with a statue in the high street of the Great Man exploring nature.

And a country park and adventure playground on the way out of town.

It is as Muir, the great protector of Yosemite National Park  in California would have wanted it.

Again, rather than waffle here, pick out the John Muir birthplace museum in Dunbar, or better still visit it, to learn more about this remarkable man.

The Scot and America

Epic: Muir’s 1,000 miles

This month, but for the vagaries of our airlines, I would be making my annual pilgrimage to the States for their Travel Fair , this year In Las Vegas.

It was while at a previous Travel Fair in Washington DC that I spoke to a delegate from America’s National Parks 

Her eyes lit up when she heard my Scottish accent and the first words that she spoke were ‘John Muir’.

She would go on to tell me about a celebrated Ranger who had been interviewed on American television.

Taking on the world: John Muir

When asked if someone were to put to him that he only had one day to visit Yosemite what would he do, he shot back: ‘Cry’.

I told the very same story to the guide at John Muir’s Birthplace and it was about the only thing that Elaine didn’t know about the Dunbar man.

I left with my Muir passport, determined to walk the 134 mile John Muir Trail from Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland to his birthplace Dunbar.

And have my book stamped along the way.

Walk this way

Going for a walk in Tenerife

Sure, I’ve done it all before.. the Camino, the Via Francigena, the Canaries.

Still, even if I do it, it will be as nothing compared to Muir’s 1,000 mile jaunt from Indiana to Florida, his much-celebrated 1,000 mile walk to the Gulf.

 

His five days trekking in America’s Great Outdoors with President Theodore Roosevelt, he of the Teddy Bear.

Or the circumnavigation of the Earth which you can track on the globe at his old birthplace.

That’s John Muir, the wild Scots-American.    

America, Countries, Culture, Music

The Deep South have a lot to sing and write about

‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy… that’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ And doesn’t Harper Lee’s state Alabama and the Deep South have a lot to sing and write about.

That great novel, To Kill A Mockingbird was 60 years old last year.

And it is regularly listed as one of the public’s favourite books and Harper Lee is rightly celebrated in the Deep South state.

So much so that the good residents of her own Monroeville homestead live the story every year.

With the locals actually becoming part of the cast alongside Jem, Scout, Boo Ridley, Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson.

Part of the cast

Every April and May, a version of Mockingbird  is put on by people from the community.

And you’ll see the jury preside over Tom Robinson’s trial is selected from the audience before each performance.

While just a short drive away lies Montgomery where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived from 1931-32 and where Scott worked on Tender is the Night.

You can visit the Jazz Age couple’s Felder Avenue home is now the site of the F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.

And a two-bedroom apartment that can be booked by literary lovers on Airbnb.

The Sound of the South

With Rosa Parks in Jackson, Mississippi

It is no coincidence that Hollywood mines the Deep South for epic movies.

William Faulkner, the Poet Laureate of the South says it better than ya’ll could.. certainly this scribbler.

Faulkner is the author of the classic The Sound and the Fury.

And he opined: ‘I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.’

And you can learn much more about Faulkner and other alumni from the Magnolia State including Richard Wright and Eurdora Welty on The Mississippi Writers Trail.

All of which is a good bookend to the Mississippi Blues Trail which of course is richly infused through the Civil Rights Struggle.

While Faulkner will forever be linked to the Deep South, that too is the case for Tennessee Williams. Well, how could it not as he carried it around the state in his name?

Good ole Southern Boys

Graceland: And a reason to believe

Like many famous Tennessee legends, like BB King and Elvis Presley he is in fact a Mississippian.

The Deep South includes AlabamaKentuckyLouisianaMississippi & Tennessee.

And to immerse yourself in the region is to step right into the pages of these great storytellers.

Yes, truly, the Deep South have a lot to sing and write about.

 

America, Countries, Culture

Freedom Ride through Civil Rights history

The Greyhound is more of an adventure than a coach trip but 60 years ago it was a Freedom ride through Civil Rights history.

The first group of Freedom Riders set out from Washington DC in 1961 to integrate interstate buses.

That buses were the frontline in a social revolution is hard to believe but the Civil Rights Movement saw them as a vehicle for change.

Ever since Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger back in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, and thus challenged segregation.

All of which I witnessed myself on an unforgettable odyssey.

Through the Deep South taking in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis which incorporates the Lorraine Motel room where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated.

And the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

King’s heirs

Iconic: Dr Martin Luther King

Civil Rights, is of course, a journey which still alas is anywhere near completion.

As Dr King himself, and his followers predicted.

And which is evidenced in the unfinished statue to the Father of the Movement in DC.

We can though track the history of the Civil Rights Movement throughout the South by visiting 120 landmarks across 14 states.

Not that you have to worry about working any of it out for yourself as our friends from Alabama have only pointed us.

In the direction of an invaluable companion book.

And when we say our friends we only mean Dr Bernice King, Dr King’s youngest.

Stuff of history

Action: The Civil Rights Movement

More on the book:

The 128-page hardcover book showcases former Southern Living photographer Art Meripol’s pictures.

The historic photos, paired with more than 200 images of the landmarks today, underscore the transformative experience of the trail and its endured relevance. 

‘The Civil Rights Trail is a one-of-a-kind cultural travel experience that everyone should visit.

‘To renew their perspective and gain a deeper appreciation for those who fought before us,” said Dr. Bernice King.

‘Each landmark across the trail serves as a reminder.

‘Of where my father and many other brave activists fought tirelessly for our fundamental freedoms so that future generations of Black Americans could enjoy a better life.’

The heroes and heroines

Legacy: With Myrlie Evers

Travellers can draw inspiration from the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And follow the harrowing stories of 14-year-old Emmett Till.

And Mississippi leader Medgar Evers, whose indomitable widow Myrlie I met in Jackson at the opening of the Mississippi museums.

Also take in the story of the Birmingham Sunday School attendees.

And the Selma voting-rights marchers and Nashville Freedom Riders.

While reading their stories and retracing their footsteps at sites along the trail. 

The magic bus

Legend: With Rosa Parks

The Greyhound is of course a misnomer as your journey goes at snail’s pace. 

But ever since I took my first one from New York to Boston with my fellow pale-faced Scots.

And mingled with Native Americans, blacks and a melting pot of nationalities.

I have sought out the bus as my preferred mode of transport in the US.

And enjoy the bus the way it should.

And consider too its place in American culture with the Freedom Ride through Civil Rights history.

The book also underscores the movement’s present-day relevance by featuring historic destinations such as the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C., alongside new memorial sites including the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. 

How to stay informed

The story: Civil Rights Trail

For more information about the book or to plan your journey on the trail, visit civilrightstrail.com.

Consumers can purchase the book from Amazon.com (will ship to the UK) or at This is Alabama.

 

America, Australasia, Countries, Europe, UK

North South Seas and Treasure Island

So what do the North Sea South Seas and Treasure Island share in common?

The author Robert Louis Stevenson who I’ve got to know these last 18 months.

Since moving to North Berwick, south of Edinburgh.

Where his grandfather, the eminent Scottish engineer of his time (also Robert) made his mark.

Robert’s piece de resistance was the Bell Rock, the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse, built on an outcrop of the Inchcape reef and accessible at low tide. 

Young Robert might have expected to follow in the family lighthouse design business.

The real Treasure Island

Treasure Island: Long John Silver

Robert Louis (originally Lewis) though did base his Treasure Island on the Fidra Island in the Firth of Forth.

Where David and Thomas Stevenson built theirs which has been automated since 1970.

And which the Scottish Seabird Centre has its cameras set on to keep an eye on its seabird population.

Travel bug

Wall art: In a North Berwick alley

It was here then that Robert got his Travel bug which would see him circumnavigate the globe.

Stevenson’s love of Travel was both lyrical and practical as he sought warmer climes more conducive to his bronchial problems.

And he would say: ‘We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world.’

That and. his marriage to American Fanny Van De Grift led to him seeking out many of the familiar, but also the wildernesses of this world.

Travel books

Samoa the merrier: A recreation of RLS’s rooms in Western Samoa

 

And so he gave us a rich legacy of Travel books as well as his bumper fiction books. 

With his entry into this world showing what a master he was with his 200km hike in south-central France, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.

A passion we both share for Southern France and hiking. And Robert was to return to France and Belgium for another venture, canoeing this time, in An Inland Voyage. 

The Amateur Emigrant, Across the Plains and the Silverado Squatters covers RLS’s American peregrinations and there is a museum there too in the Napa Valley in California

And then we get In the South Seas, a celebration of Samoa where he set down roots and lived out his days.

RLS truly loved the South Seas island of Samoa and championed their rights in the face of exploitation from the super powers in letters to The Times.

In RLS’s footsteps

From the author’s mouth

And the West Samoans loved him back erecting a museum to the man they called Tusitala ‘Tale Teller’ on the 100th anniversary of his death in 1994.

Check out their excellent site with its Following in the Footsteps of RLS.

Western Samoa is a three and a half hours flight from Auckland, New Zealand

So let’s hear if for North South Seas and Treasure Island.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, UK

Madonna Holiday

If we took a holiday/Took some time to celebrate/Just one day out of life/It would be/It would be so nice Madonna Holiday

And that’s why I’m pushing for a public holiday for us all on Madonna‘s birthday which is as it happens is today.

And to mark The Queen of Pop’s 63rd birthday (really?) here’s five belters from her catalogue which transport us to magic worlds.

Matadoronna

Birthday girl: Madonna

La Isla BonitaAndalucia, Cuba, San Pedro, Belize: And this is where Madonna goes all Hispanic on us.

Or more specifically Andalucian.

Madge fans like to identify La Isla Bonita as San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize but she says it is generic.

Although it is heavily infused by Cuban rhythms.

Go-on-delier

Venice dancer: And no danger of falling in the Canal

Like A VirginVeniceAnd Madge certainly announced herself on the scene with this bells, whistles and Venice lions vid.

Of course, a nod here to Signorina Ciccione’s Italian heritage.

With her dancing around on a gondola in front of The Bridge of Sighs.

And well ducked La Madonna.

California Praying

Racy: Madonna

Like A Prayer – San Pedro, Los Angeles Mission Maria Stella Maris church: You might associate this with the Deep South.

But the church where all that Jesus being reborn as Madonna’s fantasy figure happened in this Latin Church in California.

And while LA is ahead of the times and trends it grew out of a small Spanish settlement… Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula.

Or Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula.

Oh what a circus

Miss American pie: But with an Argentinian twist

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina ~ And Madonna’s life’s dream, to play Eva Peron in a musical.

Naturally it’s shot in Buenos Aires but also Hollywood… and Budapest!

Time goes by so slowly

Raunchy: And with all the moves

Hung Up, London – And this was during Madge’s English phase of her life as she likes to call her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

London shows itself off with the Trocadero being used for the games arcade scenes and also approximating Paris, The Bronx in New York, and Chinatown for Shanghai.

All of which fits with Madonna’s status as a world icon.

And which is why we should all get the day off for a Madonna Holiday.

 

 

America, Countries, Deals, Europe

Bonjour Mickey enfin

For those who have missed out on a summer holiday the mid-term break takes on extra significance… so it’s Bonjour Mickey enfin.

Mickey et amis have been waiting patiently for nous retour at Disneyland Paris.

And our old friends at Click&Go are bringing us back together again.

Click, you’re on camera

Minnie break: With Ms Mousr

Click&Go have three nights at Disney Santa Fe for a family of four departing October 23 with flights from Dublin.

And that’s a saving of €287.92. And tickets for the park are included.

All of which allows us to reflect on an American in Paris, Monsieur Mouse.

An uneasy alliance

Yes, it got Goofy: With ma pal

Mickey isn’t typical in being an American embraced in France.

With a frosty relationship having built up in Gaul land towards the Americans over the years.

It wasn’t always the case.

The French stood four square behind the rebels during the American Wars of Independence.

And George Washington’s great friend, the Marquis de Lafayette is honoured in his city Washington DC.

With his statue in Lafayette Square within sight of the White House.

Sons of Liberty

Laddie Liberty: In New York

The French and the Americans revelled in their self-proclaimed status of trailblazers of liberty.

And the French gifted the Americans the Statue of Liberty to mark the 100th year of American independence.

The Americans repaid the generosity in twice coming to France’s aid over two world wars.

Over to Donald

I am not worthy: With Donald at Epcot, Florida

So where did La Bromance go wrong?

Well, it may very well have been the fault of an interfering Scot (no, non moi).

But Groundskeeper Willie out of The Simpsons who called the French ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys.’

On account of them not supporting the US in their invasion of Iraq.

Not that things got petty or anything for the then Republican Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

Bob Ney renamed the menu in three Congressional cafeterias Zut Alors.

A common language

Magic Kingdom: Fireworks

Thankfully our favourite animated figures act like grown-ups.

And Mickey, Donald and their pals chose Paris to set up their European home.

Perhaps it’s the common language they share.

Bonjour Mickey enfin.

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Music

30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes

We are on UN’s red code to Save the World and 30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes since I first heard Julian Lennon’s song,  Rainy Days and Songdays now hails those singers who’ve been addressing the crisis for years.

When will there be?

Sweet music: Isley Brothers

Harvest for the World (Isley Brothers): Gather every man, gather every woman, Celebrate your life, give thanks for your children, gather everyone, gather altogether, overlookin’ none, hopin’ life gets better for the world.

The sonorous tones of Cincinnati, Ohio’s finest, carry on them a wonderfully stripped-back message we can all take on board.

My own focus on Cincinnati has been honed since sending one of my writers there back in the day.

I’d plan out the travel pieces they came back with early in the week for the weekend publication and was relaxing in the Dylan Hotel, Amsterdam (as you do) having mapped out the early draft.

When said writer texted me in a panic saying I’d misspelt Cincinnati and that this was jeopardising his contacts with them.

Despite it, of course, being an early draft and me being back in the office two days later. Hey ho, between us we gave the Cincinnatians what they wanted a justifiable celebration of their city.

Don’t it always seem to go?

Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell): And the Canadian chanteuse always caught the zeitgeist with her uniquely on-point lyrics.

‘They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum and charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em’ refers to the Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu.

Encroaching tourism is as big, if not bigger, threat than when Joni and the other hippies were trailing a blaze. Go and see it before they ruin it.  

Welling in my eye

Saltwater (Julian Lennon): It’s 30 years since John’s boy released this song, a classic in its own right.

And when I hear about the hole in the sky saltwater wells in my eyes.

And alas it’s getting bigger Julian. 

The right Cash

Don’t Go Near The Water (Johnny Cash): The King of Country was a lifelong advocate for ecology and the American landscape. 

And you can learn more about his passion for Nature at his museum in Nashville.

Johnny. of course, was a man of the land, Arkansas in his case, and he would turn in his grave…

Bob’s the job

The Sun Is Shining (Bob Marley): Marley, of course, loved the land so much he tried to smoke it all.

But joking aside his Rasta songs were inspired by a union with Nature.

Chicago‘s The Rock and Roll Playhouse knew it and held an Earth Day celebration concert featuring tunes by the great master of reggae two years ago.

To the rescue… here I am.

If only… because 30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes something has to be done.

 

 

America, Countries, Deals

Hail Caesars Palace

Hail Caesars Palace and 55 years of the most famous entertainment hotel on Earth.

Caesars has no apostrophe maybe because the Ancient Romans didn’t use them, although the pitch is that it’s becasue everybody staying at the hotel is treated as a Caesar.

The pedant in me would say the apostrophe should go after the final ‘s’ then.

But leave your pedants Caesars and Vegas is all about pleasance.

Fab, fab, fab

Yes, it’s Fabulous: Las Vegas

The resort, on the west side of the Strip between Bellagio and the Mirage is truly immense with 121,181 sqft of gaming space, a 22,450ft Colosseum showbiz venue which all the greats have, and do, perform at with Celine Dion the latest.

And 3,960 rooms so there will be one free for you!

You want to know what’s on offer. Me too.

Hail Caesar

Iconic: The Caesars’ statues

Joe Biden who we have all had such high hopes for is dragging his feet on allowing us back in (or is that just me).

And he’s supposed to be making an announcement on Labor Day, Monday, September 6, which makes it tight for me attending my American Travel Fair, IPW

Fear not though whatever happens in Vegas will not stay in Vegas either way and I’ll continue to bring news of Caesars and all the resorts and fun you can have in Sin City.

Deals, deals, deals

Miss America meets Mr Scotland in Vegas

Caesars is offering 25% off rooms.

Our friends at British Airways have given us more skinny on what Caesars Palace has to offer. 

The Palace has a choice of eight pools, at the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis.

And you can even play swim-up blackjack. Or unwind in your private cabana with attentive waiters on hand.

Every woman loves a shop and you can treat yourself to luxury retail therapy and enjoy fine dining at Caesars’ exclusive shopping destination, The Forum Shops too.

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

BA is offering three nights in Vegas for less than £1,000, actually £927 which gives some extra bucks to splash on the tables.

While our old friends at Harrah’s which is linked to Caesar’s will offer you party bar fun.

And more than just a room for the night

Hail Caesars Palace. And a big thumbs-up from us.

 

 

 

 

America, Australasia, Countries, Music, UK

Keep On Running

And as the Olympics really kicks in with track and field, the songs on my running machine… Rainy Days and Songdays Keep On Running.

Go ahead

Jump, Van Halen: And a random story to accompany this slice of Californian rock.

From my schooldays and a sadist PE teacher.

Hessy would take pleasure from spanking our arses with a sandshoe if we forgot our kit.

And in the long jump heats for sports’ day he swiped his foot when he was taking off for the pit.

Bar, bar, bar

Raise the Bar, Bonnie Anderson: You’ll know her better as Bea Nilsson from Neighbours.

But Bonnie (and she is) was marked out from stardom early when she won Australia’s Got Talent at 12.

There’s lots of good Aussie music that never comes to our shores.

Not sure this is it but she looks Bonnie.

Born To Run

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen: Baby, we were born to run and I was too.

Although my specialised discipline Cross Country Running isn’t one of the sports included which is quire hard to do.

Not sure either if muddy public school grounds was what New Jersey‘s Bruce had in mind either.

Nae havering now

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) The Proclaimers: And I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more for Fife‘s finest.

And there are some who do, the waddling Olympian penguin people.

Now having been a member of a running club as a kid walking was giving up.

Put it there

Big Shot, Billy Joel: The Wee Noo Yoiker might struggle to lift, never mind twirl that big iron ball.

Billy is more in his element tinkering ivories than the shot put.

But who knows, he could have nailed it because it’s still track’n’roll to him.

Keep on running.