Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

Happy Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah, Happy Jewish New Year, and because we want to see off this bloody year, and pray to Yahweh for a better new year, here is when and where all our cultures see out the old and bring in the new.

Hello, Chinas

Pandamonium

The Chinese New Year: And sitting down for our annual Chinese New Year celebration with Wendy Wu Tours in Dublin in January at Chai Yo we gave sympathy and Chinese tea (and every food known to man that you can eat with chopsticks) for the plight of the poor people of Wuhan.

Little did we know, of course, that we would be suffering too within weeks. The Year of the Rat should have been a warning.

And what are you all having?

Next year when it will be celebrated in February will be the Year of the Ox and he is much more our reliable carrier of all our human burdens.

And rest assured I’ll be back in Chai Yo next year with Wendy’s friends, the Two Johns, before hopefully we follow The Son and Heir out to Wuhan’s neighbour Chongqing.

Iran the bells

Smiles from Iran. http://www.itto.org

Nowruz (Iranian New Year): And there is a diary date in my calendar which I can’t bring myself to delete – my trip to Iran which was deferred after the Americans fell out with them again and then this virus came along.

I do hope that when I do get out there it’s in a March when they celebrate Springtime when it coincides with the Northward Equinox.

They trumpet in the day, colour eggs and eat a hearty soup, Ash-e-Reshteh noodle soup.

Sri Lanka is my cup of tea

Sri Lankan New Year: And here we have two Sri Lankan cultures celebrating a date, April 14.

Aluth Avuradda, the Sinhalese New Year, marks the end of the harvest and is one of only two occasions when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

You’ll be eating small oil cakes called kavum and plantain dishes.

The Tamils of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka celebrate with new clothes, music, sweets and rice colour kolams (street art).

The Tamil Diaspora too celebrate April 4… so Malaysia, yes, and The Maldives too where one pasty-faced Scotsman once became an honorary member of the staff’s football and cricket teams. Yes, Mr Jim is coming back to Kuramathi.

While if you’re Irish (lucky you) you’ll know about the greatest Sri Lankan-Irishwoman, my old friend Tess De Kretser and her Olcote in Ceylon resort.

Ethiopia will take years off you

Enkutatash, Ethiopia: And this has become a fixture on my calendar in Dublin over recent years thanks to my friends at Ethiopian Airlines.

It, of course, takes years off you, not just the meaty food which you scoop up with your bread, and wine and Ethiopian coffee.

But also because it’s on the Julian Calendar which means that this will take seven years off you.

Scotland, the home of Hogmanay

Scottish Hogmanay: And in the words of the greatest dustman in television soap opera Norman ‘Curly’ Watts who decided the Scots owned New Year.

Well, they do own Hogmanay. And why Hogmanay which is what we call New Year’s Eve.

An early reference to the term is from The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence as deriving from the Greek word agia mine or ‘holy month’.

More like a hooley though as many libations are taken to keep out the cold.

Which is probably where the tradition of bringing coal, shortbread and whisky with your when you go first-footing, being the first person to cross someone’s threshold (first-footing).

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO WHOEVER YOU ARE AND WHEREVER YOU ARE

 

 

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

Hungry and Thursday – Weird Vending Machines

To think they used to only save you from starting a family.

Which is why today Hungry and Thursday turns its attentions to those magic boxes, vending machines.

And a big thanks to my Japanophile friends who have set me off on this latest ramble.

Where’s the larvae?

Something with a sting in it

Canned bees and wasp larvae, Japan: To sip down the coke.

Bees and wasps larvae are harvested from their nests.

And they are cooked in sugar and soy sauce to make the delicacy of Hachinoko… and yes, it’s crumbly.

Stock up on it in Inokashira Park, Tokyo and nibble away on your Three Star Road route.

Start out in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and trace an arcing line through the mountains to Ishikawa Prefecture.

The best bar none

Anyone want a bar?

Gold, Abu Dhabi: As you never know when you’ll put your hand in your pocket and realise that you’re down to your last bar!

The five-star Emirates Palace Hotel installed the first bullion ATM in its lobby.

Bubbles

Champagne, Selfridge’s, London: If you’re having to slum it without your comp champagne which is changed daily with the laundry at Sandals in Barbados.

And you’re in the vicinity of Selfridge’s in London then you won’t be able to get through the day without your bottle of bubbly.

Hair today

It’s all her own

Hair extension, Philadelphia: OK, so it might be too late for me but there was a time when I tried a pony tail.

Although it met with a putdown from my old late pal Gadge who maintained that ponytails should only ever be on ponies.

These tails belong in Phabulous Philadelphia, Freedom City, so that’s all right by me.

The cat’s whiskers

Form an orderly queue

Stray cat and dog feeder, Istanbul: I can’t say I saw these when I visited the Bosphorus.

In fact the kitties are well looked after judging by how they’re pampered in the Grand Bazaar.

But if you do want to spoil the cats and dogs of Istanbul.

Then slot in a plastic bottle into the machine and then pop out come the goodies before poop…

Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

The name’s Beyond, James Beyond

Bond is back.. or at least we got a trailer yesterday of Bond when he does return.

For many of us Fiftysomethings our first introduction to the world’s most exotic destinations was through James Bond.

So here is a pick from some of my fave Bond films, some of which I’ve dropped in on, skiing and waterskiing, of course.

I’m all in

We’ve been expecting you, James

Casino Royale, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic: You might not expect it in the heart of Europe but the Czech town of Karlovy Vary is a movie hub.

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has been running since 1946 and it was to here, the Grand Pupp, that Daniel Craig came to play the tables.

The festival is slated to return from November 18-21 and I expect they’ll keep my seat for me, you know the one I share with Richard Gere.

No bull in Istanbul

Istanbul, From Russia With Love: And Aussie model George Lazenby’s sole excursion as 007 took him to Istanbul.

Bond is in Istanbul to pick up potential defector Romanova.

And he obviously performs his derring-do through the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia and on the Bosphorus.

Double O Venice

Roger Moore, Moonraker, Venice: And, yes, Bond was in Venice for Casino Royale and From Russia With Love but also the lunar escapade, Moonraker.

Roger arrived by gondola, obvs, and patronised some pretty decent billets. Me, I prefer a vaporetto.

But however you get here, and I went AWOL here with two newbies from a party in nearby Padova, get here how you can.

Jamaica? No, she came of her own accord

Sean Connery, Live and Let Die, Jamaica: And the Caribbean is a fave of James (no fool him or us).

Jamaica was one of the settings for the first Bond film, Dr No, but it was really in Live And Let Die where it became a main character.

Never mind that it’s Rasta rather than Voodoo in Jamaica (you’d be looking at Haiti for that) the Caribbean character is a great fit.

The Man With The Golden Pun

Roger Moore, The Man With The Golden Gun, Hong Kong: That’ll be me then the Pun bit, while Bond nemesis Scaramanger, wonderfully cast for Christopher Lee, is The Man With The Golden Gun.

Channel your inner Bond at the Peninsula Hotels’ Grand Dame.

Bond girl Andrea Anders arrived here in one if those iconic green Rolls-Royces, and it has one of the largest collections of Rollers.

From HK$4580/£455 per room per night.

So which is your fave Bond location? Tell me and we’ll share.

MEET YOU ON LOCATION

Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe, UK

Vote for Turkey

It’s gone under the radar but remember when we were warned to keep Turkey out of Europe… well now we want to keep Europe out and bring Turkey in.

While Greece gets added to pretty much the rest of Europe in being pulled from the exempt list holidaymakers returning from Turkey are safe from quarantine.

Which is as it should be. No, not the Greek bit, but the Turks bit.

JettyHolidays in Turkey

And as it happens we’ve got some deals for you to snap up some late summer sun.

Jet2Holidays has additional seats to Antalya and Dalaman from my local Edinburgh Airport.

What about this all-inclusive family holiday the Grand Yazici Club Marmaris Palace in Icmeier in the Dalaman area from £398pp?

Pool your talents

You’d rather ditch the family you’ve spent the last six months in lockdown with… well, here’s an adults only package.

The Flora Garden Hotel on the North side of Antalya area from £709pp. And there are private plunge rooms available too.

Water way to go: On the Bosphorus

Turkey was our first family holiday abroad, and our first in October when being further south you’ll still get the sun.

Of course, Turkey has its foot in Asia and in Europe so maybe those scare tactics that the Leavers used were pointless.

Constantinople, Byzantium, Istanbul… whichever of its iterations, has always been proudly in Asia and in Europe.

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

Hungry and Thursday – super soup

My Dear Old Dad would never tire of telling us that he studied Higher Spanish.

So when the gazpacho was served up in the hotel in Ibiza on our family holiday he insisted he knew that it would be cold.

A meat and two veg man, my Mum was up all night with him, cradling him as the gazpacho came back up.

Anyhoos, here are five soups around the world…

Vietnamese please

Vietnamese Beef Noodle soup: In Belfast

Vietnamese Pho: No, that particular pleasure awaits me but who knows as we plan to visit the Far East next year?

So, Son and Heir get yourself out to teach English there so we can come visit.

Ally introduced us to a Vietnamese speciality Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup in, of all places, Belfast at Madame Pho’s.

And when we do get out there we will, of course, go to our friends Wendy Wu first.

Bustin’ Boston

Catch of the day

Boston chowder: American diners give a special flavour to food.

And while San Francisco has its harbour and Florida its Keys, you never forget where you had your first chowder.

And for me that was in Boston where I spent a summer after university and would set myself up for night work.

With Boston chowder and a sealed packet of crackers.

Johnnie Fox‘s. the highest pub in Ireland, up in the Dublin hills, runs it a close second. With a pint of Guinness, of course.

Life is a minestrone

Yes to the second bowl www.bbc.co.uk

Minestrone: As Manchester 70s band 10CC said…

And that staple of your Mum’s cupboard is unrecognisable from the real thing.

Try any trattoria you like but mine’s is in Padova, upstreaam of Venice.

Onion bag

Ooh la la

French Onion soup: Talking of your Mum, or maybe it was just mine but French Onion soup was always her go-to for dinner parties.

Not too heavy to fill you up before your main meal.

And if you want to get really fancy then top it off with bread and gruyere cheese.

It should be gooey. Like it is in Biarritz.

Cock a leggie

And you want a third bowl

Cock-a-leekie: Now anything that conceals the taste of leeks which seem like just a green receptacle for water.

This is eaten at traditional dinners like Burns Suppers and I’d recommend the Sheep’s Heid in Duddingston, Edinburgh.

And the Yacht Club in Bray, Co. Wicklow particularly when Yours Truly is giving his Toast to the Lassies.

Out of India… and England

Creme de la creme

Mulligatawny: Now that surprised you, yes!

But as Indian curry is the English national dish then this isn’t such a big leap.

Its got carrots, potatoes, celery and much else as well but most important is the curry powder and that it’s creamy.

MEET YOU AT THE FIRST COURSE

Asia, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – Israel by sea

They got there how they could… by Cyprus and overland across the desert, but how about cruising imo Israel?

You can with our old friends at Royal Caribbean on Odyssey of the Seas with a 12-night with Holy Land With Overnight in Athens.

Master of all he surveys: In Athens

From £1176, leaving Rome. Depart September 7, 2021. And with Athens thrown in too. Efcharisto.

pexels-photo-2002604
Ship ahoy: There’s a cruise ship off here

Imagine digging into your milk and honey at breakfast as you cruise into The Land of Milk and Honey.

No, who am I kidding? It’s all about refuelling on the meats of the world at the buffet on Oasis of the Seas.

 

Don’t worry, you can work it all off on the FlowRider surf simulator through the day.

The closest I’ve got thus far is across the narrowest stretch of the River Jordan.

Channeling my inner Moses at Mt Nebo

At the purported Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

And at Mt Nebo where Moses looked out onto a Promised Land he would never be allowed to enter because he’d had a tiff with God.

Lord, I am heartily sorry… and a favour about that Royal Caribbean cruise to Israel.

An Italian teaser

IMG_0835
Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

And another oasis… a glimpse of the city on the lagoon, Venice, from down water on the River Brenta.

When I visited neighbouring Padova which has its charms too with one of the oldest universities in the world and Giotto’s fresco which inspired a certain Michelangelo.

Unknown-2
Our own Le Boat

Venice and its environs have been refreshed by the lockdown and have never been more beautiful.

And of course the best way to see this region is on the water. Try Le Boat, your private craft which sleeps four to ten and where you get your own sundeck.

Venice is a given, but why not head to Trieste too where you will see what seduced James Joyce of all people.

Unknown-4
A tavola pronto: Dinner on the water in Italy

While go the other way to the south and enjoy the nature of the Po Delta and the colourful villages.

A seven-night self-catered cruise, started and finished at Le Boat’s base at Casale, on board the Caprice, sleeping up to six, arriving September 19.

Priced from £1429 per boat/£238pp. Transport to and from the base is not included. Le Boat (023 9280 9124).

MEET YOU ON THE WATER

 

 

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.

senso-ji-temple-japan-kyoto-landmark-161251
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.

image004
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.

IMG_6746
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.

IMG_6741
Wendy crew

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

IMG_6740
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!

Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe

Lay your hands on me… the best massages

I’m looking forward to having a beautiful young woman lay her hands all over me… and maybe later I’ll have a massage

Some people need a humour transplant.

Back in the day when I edited Ireland’s then award-winning Travel section I had some massage fun in a Barbados article.

Only by the time it got to the inhouse clickbait site it was edited out.

As it didn’t sit well with The Third Wave of Feminism overseers.

Who missed the point totally as Barbados is gloriously irreverent and saucy.

And which is why this Scot just clicked with the Bajans.

And I will have to work off this belly

Now you’re nice and relaxed

I’m floating on air as I write this post after being a guinea pig for my daughter as she keeps her skills up.

And I’m thinking of my five fave places where I’ve just laid back and thought of..

Acting all goofy in Orlando

Animated in Orlando

Orlando: Travel trips often throw the most unlikely people together but I found that I had a lot in common with Finnish Paula.

Not least when our hotel in Orlando mistook Mrs Murray for my wife (lucky her).

And to this day, and today is that day I greet her as Missus.

A massage is just the thing after cricking your neck and being twisted this way and that on a Disney World rollercoaster.

And this drink Becherovka is a healing potion

The Czech Republic: And it’ll come as little surprise that in this land of spas and wellness that you’ll get a great massage.

Especially in the Spa Triangle.

Watch though whose dressing gown you pick or you’ll have a small Japanese woman shrieking at you.

And a swim will relax the muscles

The Maldives: Because you’ll be stressed out on this island Kuramathi with no traffic bar the golf buggy buses.

Bur it’s hot, hot, hot. And so is the weather outside.

A floating massage parlour

The Western Med: It’s often been said that I need my head looked at.

And who better than a cruise and what better than an Indian head massage?

And for a minute I thought I was going to end up with a revolving head like Clunk from Stop the Pigeon.

Sweat off the rum and food

Barbados: I’m guided as always by my friends and Travel professionals Michael and Niamh and Bronagh.

Who helped to prompt this tour around massage destinations.

By flagging up the Irish-owned Sandy Lane on the island’s Platinum Coast.

But equally you can travel with Tropical Sky pop next door to Club Barbados for your massage.

Without having to sell off a vital organ to pay for it.

MEET YOU IN THE PARLOUR

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holidos and don’ts – the exempt list

I never thought the fortunes of Brunei and Malaysia would mean so much to me.

But the half-island country and the peninsula in south-east Asia are giving hope to deflated travellers.

Because they are back on the exempt list of countries from where you don’t have to self-isolate on return to the UK.

Brilliant Brunei

Which means that those countries that have been stuck back on the exempt list, most notably Spain and Portugal have a way back.

And I am still spitting that the Covid-lite Canary Islands, 1500 miles south of Spain, are on the list.

And the same goes for Portuguese islands Madeira and the Azores

Splendid isolation in Tenerife

Both are known for their lush gardens, and the mother-in-law has long been hankering to go out to Madeira, mentioning it again only yesterday.

With the current lightning changes you can find yourself rushed away from your destination, or forced to sit it out until things change.

Madeira is a piece of cake

So when you do get out there Even Scarier One then don’t feel you need to rush back. Enjoy yourself.

Most of us wouldn’t have noticed.

But the UK Government slipped the change in Brunei and Malaysia’s status into their most recent pronouncements on the exempt list.

Which saw Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas put back on the naughty list.

Normandy landing… get me there

Us Francophiles are now getting nervous about our plans for France.

And again our politicians are stubbornly ignoring the option of selective lockdowns.

Because Lyon, Paris and the Riviera aren’t Normandy. I said they aren’t Normandy!

Now back to those exotic destinations Brunei and Malaysia, if they want me to sample their wares they know where to find me.