Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

G – On track to see my Son and Heir and China

We’ve all got our suitcases packed and labels filled out… and for my Son and China (plate… mate) that’s Chong Cheng.

We’ve been mapping out our itinerary since The Son and Heir announced that he was off to teach English in China last year.

That’s been pushed out to Easter.

But that gives us time too (and our politicians) to plan how we’ll get out there to see him.

Our go-to people in such odysseys are G Adventures  .

And they have the very thing a 16-day Trans-Mongolian trip from Moscow to Beijing, valid on April 23, 2022, from £1799, to lure us in.

Take it as Red in Moscow

I’ve been mugging up on all things Mongolian in the many Travel programmes I’ve been taking in during lockdown.

And I can thoroughly recommend the excellent the Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan when he dons one of those onesies for a bit of Mongolian wrestlng… which is me all over.

Your journey will kick off in Moscow where you’ll get a day to yourself to check out Lenin’s Mausoleum, the Kremlin, the Hermitage.

Or you can always head for St Petersburg first and make your way to Moscow along the St Petersburg Express.

Siberia is VERY big

You ever been 88 hours on a train? Well it’ll just fly by as you cross the Ural Mountains and Siberia.

Enjoy the charms of Irkutsk on a walking tour before driving to the village of Listvyanka.

You’ll overnight on the shores of Lake Balkal and dig into local cuisine…

And try a banya, or Russian sauna to you and me.

Mongolia, yes we Khan

Before you enter Genghis Khan’s Mongol kingdom of.

And you’ll be able to fulfil your life-long ambition to stay in a traditional ger, or yurt, and channel your Genghis with a spot of archery.

Nothing finishes off a day better in Mongolia of course than a bit of throat-singing… best leave it to the locals though.

A yen for Beijing

You’ll get two clear days plus time either end in Beijing.

And, of course, no trip to China would be complete without a trip to the Great Wall, and yours will be a walk along the Mutianyu section.

For most of us that’ll be enough train travel for a while.

But for others, we’ll be taking another eight-hour journey to Chong Cheng…

After all the Son and Heir will want his Mammy there to do his washing!

 

 

Asia, Countries, Ireland, Sport

Sri Lanka, 73 years and more a Resplendent Island

Happy Independence Day to all my Sri Lankan friends.

It’s been 73 years since you took back your ancient island from British control.

And although today’s National Day won’t have the colour and spectacle that any of the 47 before I’m sure that you’ll make the most of it all the same.

A more solemn affair this year it was marked with a tree-planting ceremony as part of the theme this year which is ‘Prosperous Tomorrow – Prosperous Mabimik.’

It was under Palm Trees that I became an honorary Sri Lankan. No, not in the Resplendent Island, but others south of the Sub-Continent, in the Maldives.

The Sri Lankans populate the teardrop Atoll islands in the Indian Ocean where they work in the resorts.

In the Palm of my hands

And it was to the Sri Lankans that I graduated in my time off from my party in Kuramathi in the Maldives.

The staff would spend their spare time in their favourite pastime of cricket.

And following my mantra of seeking out those who play and pray whenever I’m away I asked for a game.

They welcomed me with open arms which is what I did too letting the ball come between bat and pad and landing me LBW.

But not before I had broken my previous best score of 0 from my schooldays.

Did I say though that I had scored two in my previous innings before running myself out and grazing my knees and hands on the synthetic pitch?

Of course us of the Scottish variety are more adept at kicking a round leather ball around the pitch so I was confident that I would be able to hold my own in their football game.

Football crazy

Wrong again as I hadn’t factored in my age compared to these athletic Asians, and the fact that they were more used to the 30C heat than this native of a frozen Northern European land.

And so when my opponent whose multi-syllable first name I hadn’t a chance of pronouncing took up the ball on the wing he just glided past me and left me doubled over and gasping for air.

All of which they took in the most magnaminous manner and with the kind of manners that we could all do with emulating.

And so when I hooked up with my party again the word came back of the Sri Lankans who wanted to know when ‘Mr Jim’ was returning to the island to play cricket and footall with them.

Of course the best place to see Sri Lankans is in their own backyard.

Our Little Corner of the Earth

And anybody in Ireland who may have considered visiting Sri Lanka will immediately have been advised to go to the most famous Sri Lankan/Irish citizen Tess de Kretser.

Tess is the owner of Olcote in Ceylon, which stands for Our Little Corner of the Earth, and is a fusion of Sri Lanka and her adopted home of Ireland.

Tess has regaled me about her hotel both at her Sri Lankan nights in Dublin and also when we lunched together.

We could all do with a little corner of the Earth right now, and I’m sure I could find myself a cricket pitch nearby. I would even make up the numbers for the local team, as long as it’s a children’s team.

 

 

 

 

Asia, Australasia, Countries, Deals, Europe

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Day oi oi oi

G’day my Antipodean friends and good to see you’re able to celebrate it publicly.

Which no doubt Smutley, Brownie, PC, Roscoe, Brad et al will mean getting shitfaced.

I never got to Australia but Australia got to me in the Eighties when I did back-to-back Oktoberfests in Munich.

I had booked me a seat and a bed (which were pretty much the same thing) on a ten-day Topdeck bus trip to Bavaria.

But innocent abroad that I was I neither knew that Earl’s Court in London was an Aussie enclave nor that Top Deck was an Aussie firm.

Aussies in Aberdeen

Forward fast three months and the Hilton district of Aberdeen was also an Aussie enclave.

When Smutley and Brownie turned up and asked to stay for the weekend…. and stayed for a year.

And they brought their pals too much to the pleasure of the female student population of Scotland’s Granite City.

Aussies abroad

Now Aussies show us the way when it comes to travelling and Topdeck know what’s most important to them.

That it’s cheap and cheerful, and my two Oktoberfest trips at just £84 were the best value holidays I have ever purchased.

Now knowing that you’ll want to get back out on the road when all this virus eases up Topdeck have you covered.

Europen odyssey

Of course we can’t jump in a Topdeck machine to go back and get 1985 prices but they are offering 25% off.

Spirit of Europe is an 11-country, 24-day odyssey starting and ending in London coming in from £2,193 down from £2,924.

You’ll see England, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands.

Japanese promise

All roads lead to Japan this year with the Olympics, or at least this one road we hope.

Japan Highlights is a 12-day tour leaving and returning to Tokyo, down from £3,278 to £2,485.50.

Indian treasures

While if India is more your thang… Namaste India is a ten-day trip, starting and finishing in New Delhi, down from £1,429 to £1,071.75.

And if you should ask the whereabouts of the person you first meet on the bus and he says he’s from Perth…

Then it’s Perth, WA, not Perth, Scotland… ‘and we’re all from Australia or New Zealand, mate.’

Happy Australia Day, mates.

And while we’re here a rousing call to arms from the original Aussie singing superstars The Seekers and I Am Australian.

And tell me too your fave Aussie bands and singers.

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

Jimuary, Ginuary, Veganuary, Japanuary

And whatever you’re having yourself… January is after all what we make it.

Jimuary in Scotland

Jim O’ Shanter

And for me and all of us of a Scottish disposition then January is Robert Burns’ Month.

Burns is Scotland’s National Poet and January 25 is his birthday… he would be 252 this year.

Wherever they are in the world Scots put on kilts and start eulogising little mice and the like… ‘wee sleekit timrous beastie, oh what a panic’s in thy breastie.’

It’s all the whisky we drink you see!

Alloway Bridge

Burns’ Village is a magical place with Burns’ Cottage, Alloway Kirk and Brig o’ Doon.

Where you can let your imagination run wild.

Three Scots mice

January is also the month when Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday is commemorated.. he was born on January 15 but Martin Luther King Day is actually January 18..

I was fortunate enough to attend the 50th commemoration of his assassination and followed the MLK Trail from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi.

Ginuary in Ireland

G&T O’Clock

And you could do worse than Co. Monaghan, the border county where a ginoisseur will guide you through each gin and tonic.

The Scary One turned her nose up at the juniper when presented with a tray of samples only to then dig in and minesweep them all.

Veganuary

And if it’s good enough for Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Barry White (and he had a healthy appetite, and for food).

Veganuary has really taken off in recent years and I’ve visited the oul’ plant-based food before on this site.

But seeing that the calendar has come around again and that you’ll be performing a public service by not visiting the shops.

Here’s to all those things in your flower beds which also includes the majestic tulip.

And Japanuary

Thanks here to our friends in The Land of the Rising Sun for always keeping it fun and funky.

So Japanuary?

Well, we’re all being encouraged to get on our bikes and in Japan you can do worse than following the Tanesashi Coastline and bike hire is just £10 per day.

They advise stopping off at fish restaurants and temples while ensuring that through the cycling your body remains a temple.

If that’s too sedentary for you then why not canyon through the Sarugajo Gorge.

Talking of temples you shouldn’t go to Japan and not visit a Zen Buddhist temple.

Oh, and in the year when the Olympics are coming to Tokyo then they’re challenging us all to get our adrenaline vibe on.

And ski a volcanic crater in Niseko.

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.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

The Land of Milk and Honey and Vaccines

They know all about plague and pestilence in Israel and how to address it which is why they will vaccinate ALL their citizens by the end of next month.

Israel has pledged to do what every country’s leaders are required to do, and that is, look after all its near 10 million citizens.

Which beggars the question why can a nation of that size offer security from the virus this quickly when the countries closest to my heart can’t?

That’s Ireland and Scotland – combined population 11 million.

The good news then is that Israel is living up to its own billing as The Promised Land.

Or if you like The Land of Milk and Honey and Vaccines.

Wall to wall coverage

And you can visit The Holy Land safely when of course you provide your negative test,

The Holy Land

Which we’ve been dragging our feet on, or just plainly getting wrong, despite what our leaders have been claiming.

Western perceptions about other countries have often been misleading throughout the Pandemic, fed often by digital fake news.

And I recall the feeding frenzy last year over a fake news picture of thousands of pilgrims worshipping at the Waiting Wall in Jerusalem.

For my authority on such matters I check with my old pal Arthur who runs a news fact-checking agency.

And I push out the facts and info on Travel, and for Israel.

Over there

The land which I yearned for from the banks of the Jordan at the site of the Baptism of Jesus.

And Mt Nebo where Moses looked out on the Promised Land but could not visit on account of him falling out with Yahweh, or the Big G.

Dead cool

Another G here, and heaven-sent too, are my friends at G Adventures

They have the Middle East covered and are offering Israel Explorer, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an eight-day tour from £1274, valid on August 13. Was £1499.

The best of both

Or if you want to tie it with Jordan, and you will, then the 15-day Explore Israel & Jordan is from £3049, depart March 21.

Israel that-a-way

And G Adventures will find you the best option for flights when you call.

G Adventures remain close to my heart… and my health with my G Adventures snood my go-to mask this past year.

MEET YOU BY THE WALL

Asia, Countries, Culture, Pilgrimage

O Little Crown of Bethlehem

We can, of course, take historical re-enactment too literally but there are deffo no inns open today.

Like at the start of Covid when Palestine locked down for 30 days.

Which meant the holy sites.

Although for the Palestinians lockdown was nothing new.

Because as occupied territory Palestinians have become used to having to stay at hime and having their travel restricted.

Silent Night

The red flag was waved in February when a group of Greek tourists visited a Bethlehem.

The Church of the Nativity, on the site where Jesus was born, was shut then, and is shut again today….

To Wise Men from the East, shepherds in the fields… and us.

But it won’t always be.

There was much fanfare when EL AL rolled out its route from Dublin to Tel Aviv at the start of the year.

Holy flight

Joining the aerial map of lines into the Holy Land.

Today the Christmas Tree which was hoisted into position in Manger Square brought some much-needed cheer to these most resilient of townsfolk.

Some had attended a much more subdued Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity.

And Betlehem is across the faiths

Most though mark the day with their own kith and kin in their own domicile, which of course is what the Holy Family did.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph (as they exclaim in Ireland)! I got within 50 metres of Palestine!

G Whizz

When I visited the Baptismal Site of Jesus on my G Adventures tour of Jordan

And I witnessed a group of Russian Orthodox pilgrims duck each other in the Jordan from the other side.

Intermingled on the banks. of course, by rifle-wielding female soldiers.

Which would put anybody off trying to swim across.

Promised land

I’ll have to get there by more conventional means.

Which I would have done had I taken up the invitation to extend my Jordan tour with a trip around Israel and Palestine.

And where the Jordanians say Jesus was baptised

That I didn’t was because I didn’t want to leave my workmates with my workload for the two and a half weeks I’d been away.

A month later I had left said work.

And that’s my lesson for 2021.

Take up every opportunity, and for me that’s visiting Bethlehem and all the holy places.

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, Pilgrimage

Rainy Days and Songdays – Happy Hanukah

And I’ll light a candle in unison for a Happy Hanukah though, in truth, The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl have the place looking like a Meatloaf video already.

Hanukah’s status has grown in modern times.

Mainly in North America as part of a better recognition of other cultures and religious observances in December.

So it’s commonplace now, and rightly so, to wish your Jewish friends Happy Hanukah.

Which, in fact, Matisyahu does more tunefully than I ever could, even if I were swollen with sweetened Israeli wine.

Matisyahu’s song touches all the right points, to be fair, King David, Maccabee, Mount Zion, and, of course, candles.

Matisyahu means ‘gift of God’ .

He has, as you might expect from one who terms himself thus, a confidence about himself.

Gift from God

Matthew Miller is actually a Pennsylvanian who is a foremost proponent of Jewish rock, Jewish hip hop and fusion reggae.

We all have our images of Judaism.

And, in truth other than my own home address the place names in The Promised Land’ from the Bible were the most familiar of my childhood.

Anne Frank Statue, Amsterdam

The Jewish story I learned in my early years has infused a lifelong interest in the Chosen People.

Alas that has mostly meant visiting Holocaust markers, Dachau concentration camp on a booze bus trip to Oktoberfest in Munich.

Charles Bridge in Prague

And the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

In every city around the world, as much as the Irish or the Scots, or more, there has been a Jewish diaspora.

Venice ghetto

I found it in the first ghetto in Venice and again in the Jewish quarter in Prague.

But it is to modern-day Israel that I am drawn most.

And saw up close and personally at the Site of St John’s Baptism of Jesus in Jordan on my G Adventures trip the other side.

When Russian Orthodox pilgrims doused themselves in the River Jordan from the Israeli side just 50n from us in Jordan.

I’ll make it over one day, and hopefully soon, but in the meantime give Happy Hanukah an oul’ lesson.

It’ll make a change from Marish Carey and The Pogues.

Asia, Countries, Culture, UK

Me and Indian Murty money

Hi And why if I’m related to Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer have I not received the biggest bale-out?

Let me explain.

There’s the official family history we’re fed, the one we discover for ourselves and then perhaps the real one that is hidden.

And that’s why Who Do You Think You Are? is such a TV hit and genealogy and roots tourism is such big business.

Bear with me and I’ll tell you my family’s own chequered history, the one I know about.

But firstly a word on my kinswoman Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty.

The Murtys of India

Her name came on my radar when The Guardian did some digging into her business dealings to try to undermine Dishy Rishi.

The pair wed in 2009 and while businessman Rishi is a suitable boy Akshata is a more than suitable girl.

Her Dad co-founded the IT company Infosys so she is worth a rupee or two.

And with Akshata’s man in charge of Britain’s family silver then I ought never to have to worry again.

In some quarters they are said to be richer than the Queen.

Alas we’re of a different arm of the family, Armagh weavers in the 18th century who left for Glasgow.

Rather than the Indian arm of the family unless Mum’s Indian milkman was popping by with more than just bottles.

Happen I should get out there to India to find out if there is a fortune waiting for me.

Like I should have done when my altruism got the better of me back in the day, and I sent colleagues to India for yoga and culture instead of me.

Intrepid trips

Intrepid Travel offer eight days India’s Golden Triangle, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur with a rural heritage stay, from £516.

They are running a Cyber sale of up to 20% off 2021 trips. Book now and save on trips before December 15.

So you’ll get Friday, February 5-12 at £540, down from £675.

And book your own room from an extra £130.

But book now as offer ends today.
Which may seem tight but those two colleagues I sent to India, well I turned it around for them in a busy afternoon.

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