America, Canada, Countries, Cruising, Deals

New York Princess

They start out a wide-eyed wanderer but end up a New York Princess. And may it always be so.

And for every Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) there’s a Josephine from Monaghan, Kathleen from Donegal and Celia from Galway.

My Irish aunties could only have dreamt of beginning their new lives in America off a cruise.

And spend 11 nights in luxury accommodation with entertainment and the best food and drink.

All of which you’ll get aboard Princess Cruises on September 24.

Cassidy Travel will fly you out from Dublin and stay in an inside cabin in this majestic fleet with full board basis from €1,099pp.

And, of course, this isn’t just a one-stop to Ellis Island.

The itinerary

Ronan reigns: Saoirse Ronan

You’ll sail from Southampton and visit Corner Brook and Sydney in Canada (no, me neither).

And Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and then New York.

Southampton, we know, it being the cruise capital of England, and it is that tbf, a through town.

September is the best time we’re told to see Corner Brook in Newfoundland with the trees just starting to change colour.

Captain Cook it

It’s there: Captain James Cook

But did you know that Captain Cook (yes, him) was here?

He made his name, of course, discovering Australia, although to be fair the Aborigines knew about it for thousands of years already!

Sydney we all know is Thomas Townshend, Baron Sydney, the-then UK Home Secretary at the time of Sydney’s foundation.

One can only baulk at the thought of some poor immigrants shack town in Rwanda being built with the signpost Pateltown (or Palace).

Another Sydney

Another string to its bow: Sydney, Canada

Sydney found himself in the post at a special time of change with the American War of Independence raging at the time.

And the Canadians, or more specifically the Nova Scotians, found themselves on the wrong side and ended up with the Brits… and the Home Sec.

In keeping with its Scotianess you won’t be surprised to see the Cape Breton Highlanders Museum.

And I guess that’s what The Big Fiddle is all about, the largest in the world.

Mad George’s wife’s town

Skip to it: King George

 

Charlottetown, named for Mad King George’s wife, has echoes of an olde world, with what looks suspiciously like jarvie racing (they call it harness racing) at the Red Shores Horsetrack.

Don’t hang around though, get a gallop on, because you know the ship won’t wait for you.

And the Big Apple

Laddie and Lady: On the Hudson

Whether you’re a prince or a New York Princess.

The Big Apple is waiting and there’s no time to waste.

 

 

Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Car hire and higher

Off on a road trip, well it’ll cost you because it’s getting car hire and higher out there.

And nowhere more so than my spiritual home Ireland where in some counties they’re a must.

My old mum would oft refer to her homestead of Donegal in north-west Ireland as the ‘forgotten county’.

And it didn’t help when they ripped up the rail tracks in 1959.

Donegal driving

Donegal Mammy: And son at Doon Well

So now if you want to get about you need to either have a car, rent a car…

Or your hotel or B&B can get Eileen to ask Aoife who knows Niamh is passing and can get you halfway.

Where Bladhana can get you to Sorcha, but make sure you’re ready or they’ll leave without you.

By the end of it all, of course, you’ll feel one of the family.

Of course, many of us prefer our independence, but alas that comes at an increasingly greater price.

With DiscoverCars.com revealing the average cost of hiring a car in 2022 rose by 267% on the previous year.

Site for sore eyes: Discover Cars

Their data highlights an average increase of 47% worldwide.

With the average cost of a one-day car hire rising from £43 to £67.

So to get on the road in Ireland you’ll shell out £155 (yes, we know they’re in the Euro), up from £42.

Now we would never let a small thing like expense put us off a destination… we’re just giving you the road manual.

On the road again

Obrigado: With the Scary One in Portugal Centro

The world’s second biggest country takes some getting around.

And that no doubt is the spiel for a spike of 264%.

Full reveal here on the third biggest mover here, Portugal-Azore Islands.

Because when we toured Hidden Portugal, Portugal Centro, we had the services of a driver/guide/historian and Coimbra’s most famous son.

Jose Madomis of Madomis Tours.

Now we’ve availed too of the services of our own fellow Britons, ninth with an 85% rise, but still cheaper than the trains.

With Katarina in Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic, fifth at 131% but again with a history lesson thrown in… and Becherovka and salty age-defying water.

While Greece is tenth at 81% which may persuade you to do a Pheidippides and run the 26 miles or so from Athens to Marathon.

There’s no rhyme nor reason why the other countries on the list should have seen such hikes.

But Israel, Iceland and Albania are countries where you need wheels because donkeys correctly have rights now.

Slowly does it

By hook or by crook in Tenerife

Of course with everything on the rise sometimes the best we can hope for are small increases.

And the Canary Islands at just 2% leads the way here.

Though if you do hire a car (at only £25 the cheapest on the list) then why not walk some of the way.

With CanariaWays where you’ll experience the many Tenerife eco-systems before refuelling at the Franco-theme Bar in Afur.

Fly drive

Love a duck: At Epcot Centre, Florida

Now for many of us getting behind the wheel of a car in a foreign country requires a deep breath.

And my only attempt, in a Fiat 500 in Cannes, and it’s dashboard gearstick, never got out of the car park.

Although I kept that quiet from the organisers of the Florida Keys road trip.

Alas, but fortunately for other road users, it got cancelled by Covid.

Cut-price cars

Rocky mountain high: Colorado Rockies baseball team

Unbowed, I’ll be back though to the Sunshine State and you will too particularly with a 23% decrease in the hire of a car.

Bookended in the top four is America’s Playground, Colorado.

That’s when you’re not roped into their abseiling, freestyle rock climbing, white water rafting or roadside skiing.

Who is squeezed in between the two, why Guadeloupe and Australia… let’s go Outback.

And let’s not be put off when we see the car hire and higher.

 

 

 

America, Asia, Canada, Central America, Culture, Sport, UK

Queer how offside Qatar is to the world

It’s become a fixture on the party and social calendar in the West but, of course, Pride is a revulsion elsewhere in the world, and in this World Cup year isn’t it queer how offside Qatar is to the world?

Now the football world (a different universe, of course) turned a blind eye to the Emirate’s discrimination and criminalisation of the LGBTQIA community when awarding Qatar the hosting of this winter’s World Cup.

Flagging up an issue: With Qatar

And quite what that’ll mean to LGBTQIA football fans who are wanting to follow their countries’ fortunes then we’ll try here to decipher.

While we all know too that of the hundreds of footballers, coaching staff and officials taking part not one will be LGBTQIA.

And that will get FIFA off the hook… and there won’t be anybody queer in that organisation either.

A word from the sponsors

Take that: The Qataris

Football’s World Cup is, of course, more than a sporting event.

It is a cultural, educational example and the tourist trip football fans have been planning for years.

So make of these welcoming words if you will from Qatari official Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Ansari

‘If he (a fan) raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, it’s not because I really want to really take it to really insult him.

‘But to protect him. Because if it’s not me, somebody else around him might attack (him).

‘Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.

‘Reserve the room together, sleep together – this is something that’s not in our concern. We are here to manage the tournament.

‘Let’s not go beyond the individual personal things which might be happening between these people… this is actually the concept.’

Right, where do we start? The Major General’s assertion that he really wants to protect ‘them’?

Qatari protection

Sheikh it off: The Qataris

So, protecting them then would be not exposing them to a punishment of up to seven years in prison and a fine.

And the possibility of death penalty if you are indigenous.

Of course this is for men because just like in Victorian Britain lesbianism wasn’t even considered thing despite upper-class society’s obsession with all things Classical where the Sapphists were chronicled.

Maybe here too Major General you might think.

About criminalising the people who would attack an innocent person simply because which sex they love.

And then what about their concession to gay visitors that they can ‘reserve the room together, sleep together’?

Well evidence this very year has shown that FIFA recommended hotels in Qatar are actively refusing to accommodate same-sex couples.

Or ‘these people’ as the Major General calls them.

Of course it’s not as if we hadn’t been warned.

Bla, bla Blatter

Out of touch: Sepp Blatter

That bastion of integrity, former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter had thought it all a big joke.

When he was asked about a lack of gay rights in Qatar shortly after they were selected in 2010… ‘They should refrain from any sexual activities.’

And the Qataris, naturally, must have seen this as a green light.

Because three years later the head of Qatar’s World Cup bid team, Hassan al-Thawadi, said that everybody was welcome at the event, so long as they refrained from public display of affection.

‘Public display of affection is not part of our culture and tradition’.

To which you can justifiably add… and particularly not when you’re holding hands with, or kissing, a member of the same sex.

American continental LGBTI army

The right path: Pride in West Hollywood

We can console ourselves somewhat that the next World Cup will be held in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Where people are allowed to express themselves and love each other how they want.

Let’s hope too that by then there will be more than one openly gay professional footballer in the English league structure.

And that this is replicated throughout the country.

And that the sports whitewashing by Middle Eastern and Gulf countries who are buying up, or have bought up Europe’s biggest clibs, does not deter LGBTQIA players from coming out.

Now we’ll leave this heavy but necessary subject.

To get back to checking out where I can get my best Pride experience around here in sleepy North Berwick, near Edinburgh.

A Dutch of class

The future is Oranje: The Oranje Army

But before we go, big hats with feathers off.

To the Dutch politician who suggested that the Netherlands national team play in pink rather than their traditional orange, in solidarity with the LGBTI community.

We’ve not heard whether that this is being taken up by the Dutch football federation.

But having partied with the inclusive Oranje Army on the way to Rotterdam to see them play Greece a number of years ago…

We know the supporters’ only rule is that you love Total Football.

    

America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

The ten homes of whisky

It’s the golden seal every country strives for, to be the home of something… so where are the ten homes of whisky?

You’d probably not to be surprised at the top five.

And so it’s more of a case of shuffling that pack to see who is tops.

The next five though is a bit more surprising.

So on this World Whisky Day join me for a distillery tour.

But do me a favour please, don’t ask about distilling or the mashing process.

It just holds us up on our way to the sampling.

Scotch Wahey

Fergie’s dram: Sir Alex’s bottle in his cabinet near Aberdeen

Scotland: And the reach of Scotch (just whisky in Scotland) became clear when the distillers held a whisky-tasting in Barbados.

Now we can blind you with science and stats… 44 bottles of whisky are exported from Scotland every year.

There are five designated whisky regions… Cambeltown, Highland, Lowland, Speyside and my own fave Islay.

They’re all heavenly and 

But my No.1 is Laphroaig. It’s so peaty, just like a bowl of water in an ashtray but stick with me here.

After all you have tried haggis.

United Nips of America

Mark of a whiskey drinker: Kentuckian Mark, Cath and Mum

USA: And, of course, when the Scots left home they took their whisky and its secrets with them.

And adapted it to the new world of America and went on to produce nectar such as Kentucky’s Woodford Reserve bourbon.

But US whiskey isn’t restricted to the Deep South… branch out to Oregon.

Where Westward Whiskey have released a reimagined single malt for World Whisky Day.

Green, malt and gold

The oul’ sod: The oldest distillery in the world

Ireland: And Teeling only made it into our Barbados tastings.

While Bushmills lays claim to being the oldest distillery in the world, established in 1608.

They were also responsible for the extra ‘e’, well the Irish are the masters of using two words when one will do, and more letters too.

Land of the Rising Suntory

Made in Japan: Suntory

Japan: Now this is a love story that drams are made of.

And is the result of a relationship between a Japanese chemistry student at Glasgow University Masataka Takaretsu and Jessie Roberta Cowan.

Masataka had been dispatched by the Settsu Shuzi liquor company.

A love Suntory if you will.

Maple leaf

We’re in the Club: Canadian Club

Canada: Right, we’re told that Canadian whisky has its origins not in its big Scottish diaspora.

But because the natives, the First Nations, got a taste for what they called the traders’ firewater.

It was a meld of rum and ‘high wine’ which developed into Canadian whisky, of which Canadian Club is the most recognised.

Sikh beatha

Basket of goods: Indians love their whisky

India: Or Sikh of life, my twist on the uisce beatha which is Gaelic for water of life and is what Scots call their favourite drink.

And long may the Indians keep up their love affair with whisky which they have been producing since 1948 since Amrut entered the market.

More than half of all whisky drinkers in the world come from India. 

Wizards of booze

Bonzer: Aussie whiskey

Australia: And we should have come to expect this with our ne’er-do-wells sent over there as convicts.

Specifically Tasmania is whisky haven with the best Aussie whiskies Sullivans Cove, the best Single Malt at the world awards, and Lark based there. 

A Swede whisky

That way, Sweden

Sweden: Now here’s something you don’t get at your local Ikea with your meatballs but should.

Mackmyra was Sweden‘s first distillery and the Swedes got it right first time, winning the First Edition Gold Award in 2013.

The Isle of Tai

Gold standard: Taiwanese whiskey

Taiwan: You see what we’ve done there. Yes, Taiwan‘s connections with the West probably plays its part here.

Kavalan whiskey won the World’s Best Single Malt at the awards in 2015 and the island’s distillery produces 9 million bottles a year. 

Ja beauty

Dram busters: Germans on the whisky

Germany: Now some of us have ripped it up in Germany at the Oktoberfest where it’s lager obviously but also schnapps chasers.

The Germans though are open to everything and they have around 250 distilleries and around 130 of them are focused just on whisky production.

So, on this World Whisky Day a big Slainte to the ten homes of whisky.

 

 

 

 

Canada, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

The Queen’s platinum destinations

When you’ve already visited 120 countries (there are 195) then it’s difficult to choose your best… but here to mark her 70th anniversary of her coronation today, are the Queen’s platinum destinations.

But some stats before we go travelling…

Her Maj has sailed over one million miles on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now docked along the road from Murty Palace in Leith.

And she has travelled the equivalent of 42 times around the globe (and to think My Queen has only been round once!)

All of this too without the need for a passport.

African queen

Her Majestree: Kenya

 

Princess Elizabeth was on her travels, naturally, when she succeeded her Dad, King George VI in 1952, in Kenya.

The 70 years actually starts from this year as that was when she was crowned.

The story goes that she was up a tree at the time with her husband, Prince Philip.

Although this was no shinnying up the bark, or a kiddies’ treehouse.

It was the three-room hotel, Treetops, built into the top of a large tree.

And only closed last October because of Covid.

And in one of the other rooms, hunter Jim Corbett stayed awake to make sure no wildlife got near.

Queen of Scots

Armoured and dangerous: Funtime Jimmy

No such problems in Aberdeenshire in the north-east of Scotland.

It is said to be the Queen’s favourite place in the whole wide world.

It was in the Balmoral Estate (a favourite too of Queen Victoria’s) that she took refuge from the storm after Princess Diana’s death in 1997.

Of course the 54 countries of the Commonwealth have taken up most of the Queen’s time.

Canadian HRH

Loyal subjects: Canadians love the Queen

And Canada most of all where she has visited 27 times.

A favourite too of her parents.

There were in fact contingency plans in place for the Royal Family to take refuge there from the Nazis in Britain’s darkest hour.

It’s hard to imagine, of course, now but the most famous woman on the planet was once a navy officer’s wife.

Albeit that officer being a prince, Philip.

Malta monarch

The Queen was here: Malta

And she lived on base with Philip in Malta, the jewel of the Mediterranean.

Where she is said to have loved the easier pace of life than back home.

Among other aspects of her life which are less known is that the Queen is a Francophile, a fluent Gallic speaker, and that she also likes German.

No Teuton gags here or it will be oaf with der head!

Friend of Ireland

Her Maj has naturally been a regular visitor to Northern Ireland.

But it was only in 2011 that she set foot in the south of the island.

Where she was an instant hit, not least when she blethered with a stall holder in the English Market in Cork.

The Royal Bucket List

Flagging it up: Cuba

That leaves just 75 countries for Queenie to visit too (and she won’t let her 95 years put her off).

Among them Greece, where Philip had some unresolved issues, Madagascar, Cuba, Israel and Peru.

And that leaves the rest of us in the ha’penny place (her head was on that too) when it comes to the Queen’s platinum destinations.

And as the gratitudes are handed out over the course of the year, what most people will be glad of, is the four bank holidays Britons are getting this year.

 

 

 

 

America, Canada, Countries, Europe, South America, UK

Benefits in going Cold Turkey

It’s a country I love and where I should be this month, and it might surprise you, but there are benefits in going Cold Turkey.

Turkey is for ever set at a crossroads, of continents and civilisations and change.

And diverse colours, hues of peoples and views.

And that changing perspective is as true of Nature and the seasons as it is of the peoples of this multi-faceted country.

As holidaymakers we’re more used to seeing Turkey when it’s roasting.

But it’s resplendent too when it puts on the winter whites.

Cappadocia caps it

Balloons for all seasons: In Cappodocia

Don’t just take my word for it though (well do) but Cappadocia glistens more than anywhere in the world according to our Instagrammers.

Wellness experts at Area 52 have looked at locations across the world and analysed Instagram hashtag data to see which are the most relaxing winter destinations to de-stress this year.

And Balloonists’ Nirvana Cappadocia tops the list with 

I’ve something of a history with balloons having missed out on the pleasure in locations as wide as the South of England, South Africa and Florida.

All of which makes me think that the best is just waiting for me when I get back on board with my favourite Turkish Airlines carrier.

And join the 257,000 Insta clickers who have got there first.

Lapping it up

Northern Lights too: Lapland

And yes you would expect Santa’s home in Lapland to be a favourite for winter worshippers.

And, particularly children which is why I put an old colleague and her nipper first… and incurred the wrath of Daddy’s Little Girl.

Lapland has been the focus of 222,000 Insta followers. 

Give a little Whistler

Whistler while you ski: Canada

With our attentions switching back to the full return of skiing my own revival on the slopes is on course.

Back in the day when I first took up pen my old boss used to snap up the Whistler trips.

And joined the thousands who broke off to snap the Canadian vista on Insta, 45,700 in all.

NY in winter

Icescraper: New York

Now when you’ve seen The Big Apple in the sweltering summer you’ll be glad to chill out in the winter.

This year I’ll leave it to my Irish-American relatives to enjoy their Thanksgiving Day (bucket list) but I’ll be doing the next big thing.

And break bread with my Irish family and friends at Visit USA in Dublin. 

Insta Kings

Now because we just know that you all love a list, here’s a rundown of the other favourite Insta winter destinations.

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Location

Instagram Hashtag

Cappadocia, Turkey

257,000

Lapland, Finland

222,000

Missoula, Montana

124,000

Whistler, Canada

45,700

Prague, Czech Republic

27,200

Dolomites, Italy

27,200

Bled, Slovenia

26,500

Lofoten, Norway

10,500

Tromso, Norway

10,400

South Coast, Iceland

8,800

New York, USA

6,700

Mt.Cayambe, Ecuador

5,200

Lapland, Sweden

4,200

Highlands, Scotland

3,600

Yosemite, California

2,700

Rila, Bulgaria

862

Swiss Alps, Switzerland

845

Lake Baikal, Siberia

169

 

Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Central America, Countries, South America, Sustainable Tourism

Where to drink the water

And all the focus on COP26 just along the road in Glasgow has got us all thinking about water, the source of life… and prompting us to bring you Holidos and don’ts where to drink the water.

And particularly when we think back on how we were always warned against drinking the water when we were abroad (mostly in those days, Spain).

Sup up: And something to clench your thirst

The fact though is that Spain is safe to drink from the tap and so there is no need to buy plastic bottled water from the supermercato.

Even better, of course, is to find yourself a stream in the country, and better still if you can stumble upon a Camino along the way and follow it through the Santiago.

Water of Rome

Flask resort: Flasks are always better

The same applies incidentally in Italy where you’ll find crystal clear streams on your Via Francigena into Rome.

La Citta Eterna, of course, prides itself on its water.

The fountains which are around every corner and in every piazza.

But also the beautifully adorned taps with carvings of Romulus and Remus and their wolf mother which proliferate around the city.

Wolf down the water: With La Famiglia underneath the wolf and Romulus and Remus

In the cloying humidity of a Rome heatwave you’ll be glad of a tap to fill up your flask.

And didn’t Silvio Berlusconi just know it when our guide told us that he wanted to start charging the locals for the water… something not even Benito Mussolini dared try.

Back to our friends at Globehunters and they reflect that the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan have the best water.

All of which means that you need to take more care in south-eastern Europe, much of Asia, Africa, Central America and South America and it pains me to say the Caribbean (although ‘rum is mi only medicine’ there).

Holy water

Water of life: In the Pyrenees

There are, of course, parts of the world, those where Our Lady has visited, where the water is straight from Heaven.

And yes, I know, that all water comes from the heavens, although a politician in Ireland when I was living there didn’t.

When he railed against the idea of water charges by saying just that ‘that it was’t as if water fell from the heavens’.

The Maryest of Marian sites is, of course, Lourdes, where the Pyrenees water in Cauterets is among the purest and spirited of anywhere.

So be sure to sup from the streams and the waterfalls.

Your own water

Wait for it: Guinness and its magic Irish water

It was always a matter of great pride that your own country had the best water.

And this has always been credited as the magic ingredient of Ireland’s famous Guinness stout.

And Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y.

So now we’re all back out on the road then look out for the taps in towns, and the streams and waterfalls in the country.

And fill up your flasks.

Ditch the plastic

Heat map: Of where is best to drink your water

It also tastes better when it’s not out of a plastic bottle.

And the fishies in the seas, my old pal Mother Turtle Vanessa in the Maldives, and our future generations will thank you.

Be warned too that now we’re all travelling again I’m hardly going to stop here with Holidos and don’ts where to drink the water.

And I’ll back with more Holidos and don’ts… in the blog that’s not all blah, blah, blah.

Well, at least, not the type of blah that will destroy our beautiful blue planet.

 

 

Africa, America, Asia, Canada, Countries, Europe, South America, UK

World Rivers Day and the flow of life

We can’t survive without it so it’s only right today to celebrate World Rivers Day and the flow of life.

With the publication of B-WELL CBD’s most loved European rivers on Instagram, we’re stretching it out to include the world too.

Of course you can’t ignore European waterways so I’ll dip my toe in them as well.

Top ten Euro rivers

On the Elbe, Dresden

The oils and cosmetic products company has tracked our habits and unsurprisingly namechecked this top ten.

1 Thames, 2 Danube, 3 Elbe, 4 Seine, 5 Ural, 6 Douro, 7 Loire, 8 Rhine, 9 Vistula, 10 Tiber.

Wading through it I’ll definitely sing the praises of London’s Old Father Thames, its towers, bridges and the country towns it dissects.

The Danube has remained just along the river if you will when I’ve visited Central Europe.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see the Elbe more popular than the Seine.

And I would recommend taking a river cruise in Dresden to see the fine riverbank houses and enjoy a fireworks display.

Wine and Rhine

Disney it look magical: The Disney castle in Neuschwanstein

I daresay if a dacha along the Ural is good enough for Russian communists and oil billionaires I should pay it a visit.

And I’ll confess I know more about the Tagus from Praia do Ribatejo in Portugal Centro than the Douro in Portugal and Spain.

The flow of the Loire is only bettered by the running wine from its vineyards.

But I confess a soft spot for the Rhine and its fairytale castles, especially The Wonderful World of Disney‘s opening title. Neuschwanstein. 

The Vistula in Poland is still a pleasure to enjoy as is Polska unless being hosted by the Embassy in Dublin counts which it does!

While just squeezing into the top ten (and I feel like DJ Alan Freeman here pop pickers) is a river I feel is a friend, the Tiber.

When in Rome

The holy of holies. At the end of the Francigena in Rome

Just walk the Via Francigena into Rome and your final long stretch to St Peter’s Square will be along the Tevere.

While staying in the bohemian Trastevere you’ll soon get to know the river well by taking wrong directions.

And the bridges of Rome stand comparison with anywhere in the world.

Particularly the Ponte Sant’Angelo, its statues on the railings and its centre point, the magnificent Castel Sant’Angelo,

A notable exception on the list was the Vltava through Prague with its magnificent Charles Bridge.

The World

Tis Grand: With Tara and Tryphavana at the Grand Canyon

Now I know I promised you the world.

So let me show you the river of rebirth, the Jordan between the country and Israel.

Where pilgrims go to be baptised where the Israelis claim John baptised Jesus.

It’s a different type of water activity along the Colorado river.

Take the bird’s eye view from a helicopter through the Grand Canyon.

Or do like the Americans and use it as your playground.

Water is our most precious commodity and America’s West survives and thrives because of one of my Modern Wonders of the World, the Hoover Dam.

Although, incredulously it has not been recognised as such on the official list.

Quality of Mersey

The boat comes in: The Mersey

So I’ll throw in another couple of favourite rivers which speak for themselves.

The Mississippi, with its Dolly Parton bridge in Memphis (think about it) and the Hudson and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

Of course the Amazon, the Nile, the Congo, the Ganges, the Yellow, the Makong and many others deserve our attention.

And so I’ll be patient in getting back out abroad.

And I will continue to enjoy the rivers and bridges where I am.

I spent the last week walking by and sailing on the Ferry Across the Mersey.

So a thought… where would we be without our waterways.

Let’s hear it for World Rivers Day and the flow of life.

 

 

 

 

Canada, Countries, Deals

Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns

I was there at the birth and the wobbles of the last year so I share the Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns.

The announcement of Ireland’s national airline new Transatlantic route would always be a matter of fevered excitement among the Travel circle.

And Toronto came very much from out of left field when it was revealed in 2018.

Toronto, oh brother!

Spell it out: Toronto

It shouldn’t have. Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and closest to America, both geographically and culturally.

And it has done much to disprove the putdown of raconteur Peter Ustinov who described it as ‘New York run by the Swiss’.

True it is cleaner than NY and my brother who lived there for eight years explained it to me.

It was because of the first generation immigrants who took such pride in their city.

There was also the occasion when I heard the subway train coming and I made to rush for it.

Only for my brother to tell me that there would always be another along in a couple of minutes.

Another good reason for leaving the homeland.

Eh Lingus

All White on the night: Aer Lingus

And another is the renewed Aer Lingus fight, back on the tarmac from the end of last week.

With fares from €149 each way.

So what’ll you do when you’re out in Tronno (as the locals call it).

Eh? As the Canadians will always say at the end of everything

Well, there’s the CN Tower, once the world’s tallest building.

And the Niagara Falls just down the road.

As well as the natural playground which is Lake Ontario.

But it’s also a food hub with Chinatown, Koreatown, Greektown, Little Italy and Little Portugal marking it out as very mych the match of New York.

City of sports

Enraptured: Toronto Raptors

On another (and some say best) grade it, it is a great sports city.

The Toronto Raptors were on the drawing board when I checked in on my brother.

Despite being out of the NBA loop, Toronto was there at the start of the hoop dream.

And in fact played the first game against the New Yoek Knickerbockers (Knicks) 50 years before.

Like all dinosaurs the Raptors took some time to get going.

But 24 years after Toronto’s renewal as a basketball team they were ready to stand tallest again.

As they swept all before them, winning the 2019 NBA Championship.

Wrapped it all up

Blue is the colour: The Blue Jays

The Raptors though have a ling way to go to match the winningest (as they like yo say in North American circles) team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team have won 13 Stanley Cups, the last in 1967.

While the Toronto Blue Jays, a nascent franchise when I visited, have won two World Series, back to back in 1992 and 1993.

Ice one: Toronto Maple Leafs

And so you see Toronto knocks it out of the park.

And so does Aer Lingus… a winning team.

Which is why I’m in Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns.

Asia, Canada, Countries, Europe

Bonne Fête Nationale mais non Bastille

Oui, the French are celebrating their national day today… Bonne Fête Nationale mais non Bastille.d Fr See e ex

But why did nobody well us that the French aren’t celebrating the storming of the Bastille at all?

And that it is only a coincidence that the day falls on the samed date as the start of the Federation of France.

Bastille daze

Oui mais non… Bastille

So, a tip ici. Don’t wish your amis Happy Bastille Day.

All of which makes sense.

I mean who’d make a thing of freeing seven prisoners.

And two of them lunatics, and one an Irishman who thought he was Julius Caesar?

Well without further adieu Bonne Fete National around la monde.

La Mère ship

Grab an Eiffel

Paris, France: Naturellement. And as you would expect it’s all fly past entertainment, fireworks and flag waving.

And free entry to the Louvre… say bonjour to Lisa and the Parisiens.

The Montréal thing

Vive Montréal

Montréal, Canada: And emigrées are toujours more Francaisez

Canadiennes whoop it up in French Canada with all the Paris pyrotechnics but a Canadian twist with their r own home-grown Montréal Cirque Festival.

Something to Prague about

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Kampa, Prague, Czech Republic And you might not associate our Czech chums with July 14

We don’t know if it’s a throwback to Bohemia to Napoleon tor if it’s shared experiences of 1968.

But it’s jazz time in Prague with thousands in the square by the Vlatva River and on Charles Bridge. Ah oui, la joie de sax.

Tahiti treatment that

Ooh, really rela la: Tahiti

Tahiti, French Polynesia: And doesn’t July 14 and every fête remind us all how interconnected we all are?

Coconut cracking, fire walking (ouch!), stone weight lifting, food tasting and beauty pageants in Papeete’s To’ata Square anyone?

It’s all part of the Heiva i Tahiti Festival since independence day from June 29. Maeva Tahitians.

Indian Côte D’Azur

Vive L’India

Pondicherry, India And this little bit of the Tamil Nadu in the south-east of India will for ever be France.

Which is why it’s often called the Indian Côte D’Azur (not to be confused with the original French one) or the Riviera of the East.

So fly the flag for India and fly the flag for France. Et a La Tricolore.

And we’ll return to morel in vexilology treats at a later date…

Only today belongs to the French et Bonne Fête Nationale mais non Bastille mon amis.