Caribbean, Countries, Deals, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Staycations and Dubcations

So one of you loyal Bandininis and Bandanettes has asked where the term Staycation originated?

And the answer is the Canadian comedian Brent Butt from the TV show Corner Gas in the episode Mail Fraud from 2005.

And a view of the gardens

I guess he’s the Butt of all jokes!

Of course the times we’re in has thrown up a whole plethora of new terms.

I’m hungry

To which our friends at our fave Dublin hotel, the InterContinental Dublin, have added Dubcation.

The InterCon, as anyone in Dublin’s rugby heartland knows, is the old Four Seasons.

And that it is Ireland’s greatest international that never was Ross O’Carroll-Kelly.

I’m looking forward to, as I always do at this time of the year, to the new Ross book with COVID at the heart of it, and Staycationing and Dubcations.

Bed down

Try out their new Lobby Lounge among all the other old faves including ESPA pampering, and watch out for my interview with ESPA founder soon.

Their Luxury Dining Escape Package is available from €145pps per night, including bed, breakfast, dinner, complimentary car parking and access to the Wellness Area.

Sing Montego Bay

I think I remember but it’s twice as good, Like how cool his rum is from his silver tray, I cool to be thirsty in Montego Bay – Bobby Bloom

It‘s the first thing you’ll be offered, even before water… a rum punch, and usually. a steel pan band.

Jamaica has long been on the radar. I recall being asked in Barbados what my favourite Caribbean island was.

The answer had, of course, to be Barbados, but there was an onus on me to collect islands with which to compare. Which led me to Tobago.

Irie. So this brings me to my old faves Sandals and their new Montego Bay On Sale package.

Seven nights at the Sandals Ochi Beach from €1445pps. Travel dates: June 1-July 31.

You’ll stay in a Riviera Bamboo Grove Premium with Virgin Atlantic flights thrown in.

And a big welcome here to to the new Barbados Minister for Tourism Lisa Cummins… you know where I am, Minister!

Virtual odysseys

And with our leaders around the Western World keeping us under house arrest, for fear that we might catch foreignavirus, we’re all going on a Virtual Odyssey.

It does allow more of the world into our homes though while we wait to get back out there.

Japan, where it will be next year with the Olympics in Tokyo, have a Matsuri Presents weekend live streaming on website and social media channels.

A Virtual AsianCation of you will.

You’ll get to see martial arts, kamishibai theatre performances and food demos.

The programme will run from 10am-8pm on Saturday, September 26 and 9pm-8pm, Sunday, September 27.

I’ll get my kimono out or borrow one from my old friends Stewart and Hisayo.

I’m sure they’ll have one in the wardrobe from their Scots-Japanese wedding on the island of Islay.

When we broke the sake box and wished them Koun o.

And now I have the bit between the teeth and I know you like a series why don’t I kick off a series Virtual Odyssey.

MEET YOU ON THE VIRTUAL ODYSSEY

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – Bahamian rhapsody and a tale of two Serenas

And it remained tantalisingly close but not out of reach… the Bahamas.

From my $1bn Royal Caribbean wonder ship Celebrity Edge.

We’d got off their revolutionary tender which moved up and down the side of the ship to take on the theme of the floor it attached to… the Eden lounge, the bar etc.

That’ll be Nassau then

And when we all got on the smaller boat for a spin out on the sea we saw the Bahamas in the distance which is where you’d be going on your shore excursion.

Now the Bahamas had come on to my radar years before of course when I dallied with a home-made career in Cocktail making and the Bahamas Breeze.

A tale of two Serenas

You don’t need me to tell you you’ll want dark rum, banana liqueur, apricot liqueur, coconut rum, grenadine syrup, honey, lemon juice and orange juice, pineapple juice and ice cubes.

And there are some tips on measures, although if you’re on a Royal Caribbean ship there’s no scrimping.

Bahamian queen: Serena Williams, left
The other Serena Willams

While back in the office in Dublin I felt that somebody was calling me to get me out to the Bahamas, although not any somebody you might expect.

Serena Williams called me one day to ask when I would be publishing an article I had sent a writer on.

And, yes, as her email makes capital out of it… No, not that one. She is, of course, a Bahamian smasher.

Love me tender

All this Bahamian fun is because my old friends at MSC have been in touch to tell us of their plans for 2021 which include

Their Escape to the Tropics offer where you’ll spend three nights in Miami .

Feast of Exen

And then four nights on board MSC Armonia en route to Nassau and the exclusive private island Ocean Cay MSC Mraine Reserve.

Prices for this cruise on May 3 start from €401pp for a four-night sailing based on two sharing a cabin, price includes a premium drinks package and service charge (gratuities).

Adventure, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

The real Queen of Barbados

There can only ever be one queen in Barbados so I’m not surprised Elizabeth is getting the push for… my queens.

Dee-Dee The First

‘Don’t come too close you’ll smudge my make-up’, Dee-Dee, the Purple Queen of the Foreday Morning, drolled.

To be fair I had purple paint and mud in my beardie and hair. And enough rum to sink a Johhny Depp ship.

Walk this way, Geraldine

And just like a royal corgi I and my new Virginian friend Patsy would get walked every day from Club Barbados around the Platinum Coast.

By Geraldine who would give us her generational view of her island, political correctness and its colonial past.

But also loved her Soca and burned me a Crop Over CD which when I play it here always brings me back to Bim’s West Coast..

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby

In the British vernacular a Ruby is a curry… in my Barbados my Ruby is my cooking instructor.

Ruby at Club Barbados taught me how to make Bajan Cou Cou…

And already a bit Cou Cou, myself, from my morning rum punches she had to pull me into line.

The Saintly Donna

Jimmy, Jevan and Donna

Donna would always bring a friend with her because she needed to be mob-handed for Jevan at Foreday Morning.

And this year they had me to contend with too!

Donna drove us home at about 4am, hosed the paint and mud off us and gave het a Bajan cooked breakfast.

Donna is an angel… and is now looking down on her great love Jevan. Her spirit lives on.

Ri-Ri rah-rah

Where’s that hand?

I spent two trips to Barbados in search of Barbados’s other superstar Rihanna.

I checked out Oiston’s market (that was always too touristy), Bridgetown, the Platinum Coast and the Grand Kadooment, the climax to Crop Over.

But I finally did get my Kiss from Rihanna.

Bajan women rule

Mia my-oh: Mia Mottley

And Mia Mottley rules supreme as Jevan predicted she would when he took me to her rally… and yes, there was rum and soca, my kind of political party.

The head honcho of the Barbados Tourist Board is the redoubtable Cheryl ‘Mrs’ Carter who kept an eagle’s eye on me when I went off piste. Legend!

In the frame: With Cheryl

And Crystal who wouldn’t let the lurgie slow her up, stop her dressing up, getting her nails done (and the Bajans do that in style).

And showed me how to do up a bandana… now look at me.

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

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Music, UK

Cuba – Viva La Evolucion

Were the Vandals and the Pariahs really as bad as we’ve turned them into?

The Vandals, who hailed from the Danube area of Central Europe have been blackened by history.

But were these well-dressed military men really any more destructive than the others who invaded Classic Rome?

Outcasts or misunderstood?

While the Pariahs used to beat the drum from which they got their name and had magical powers before things turned.

All of which ramblings brings me onto how modern outcast states can be pilloried by being tagged a pariah state.

Mind you, while a country can be rubbished with this mantle there can also be retribution.

In the pink: Cuba

And in these crazy days the British Government has given the thumbs-up to Cuba in its latest national profiling exercise.

Otherwise known as the exempt list.

And so more of my favourites, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Jamaica are outah here and Cuba are in.

Music everywhere

Now like us all I have my preconceptions of Cuba, their Fifties classic cars, rumba, cigars and Castro.

And my friends have been urged by all I know who tell me I must continue my Caribbean education there.

Unmistakably Havana

And with my projected next destinations, the Czech Republic and Switzerland (doncha just know it?) now made pariah states by the UK it’s time for a rethink.

I’m reminded too that I have got close to Havana in that I visited San Cristobal de La Laguna in Tenerife on which Havana was based.

And check out these guys for best deals… https://www.audleytravel.com/cuba?

So Cuba, I’m swaying my hips here… quiero bailar la salsa.

Now are you listening out there?

America, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Ireland

Holiday Snaps… why we don’t want 24/7 sunshine

Yes, you read that right, as 24/7 sunshine like we had been getting in the UK means the world is dying that little bit quicker.

While strewth, at the other end of the world, our Australian cousins have been shivering.

And that includes their kangaroos… and snowllabies.

Kangaroos in Australia www.bbc.co.uk

No, best keep the hot places where they’ve always been and the cold ones too.

Imagine Barbados, Tobago and the Caribbean and its people without their sunny disposition.

Thankfully we don’t have to…

Woooah, we’re going to Barbados

With Sandals offering seven nights from £2375pp with travel dates May 1-June 30 at the Sandals Royal Barbados.

You’ll be staying in a south sea crystal lagoon club level Barbados suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub. With flights from Virgin Atlantic,

And I know a thing or two about Tranquillity Soaking Tubs.

A welcome from the Nations

And I’m channeling the good guys

We’re on the eve of the 400th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving Dinner in Plymouth, New England next year.

When the Pilgrims and the Natives shared harvest.

And that alas, if it happened like that at all, is when the sharing stopped and the newcomers took their land and sent them packing.

The pipes of peace

Which is probably where the Choctaw Indians and the Irish were sent to Hell or Connaught by the same British forged their links.

The Choctaw sent money to the starving Irish during the Famine and the Irish reciprocated during these COVID times.

And that’s the subject that remains hanging in the air from the last AIATA webinar.

I’ll return to it and my Native American friends whom I first met in Washington DC and then again in Denver and LA

Wigwam Jim

When I’ll get me the American Travel fair that COVID robbed me of in Vegas.

AIANTA’s will come from Albuquerque next month and will reach us all virtually with the organisers waiving the registration fees.

I’ll be there to bring you all the news.

And it’s gentle cruising

Aran Islands

The sea oh the sea is the gradh geal mo croide. Long may it stay between England and me. It’s a sure guarantee that some day we’ll be free. Oh thank God we’re surrounded by nothing. – The Dubliners

And for the uninitiated those strange Irish words mean ‘sweet love of my heart’.

The song is a celebration of Irish waters.

Including my favourite Meeting of the Waters in my erstwhile County Wicklow home which was immortalised by poet Thomas Moore.

My old friends at Travel Department are used to taking us to exotic places near and far.

Connemara’s old sod

And now in Ireland too.

Galway, Connemara and the Aran Islands is from €599pp for three nights including 3* B&B hotel, transfers, excursions and local guide.

Depart October. Ring (00353) 1 637 1600.

MEET YOU ON THE WATER (AND LAND)

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, UK

Flyday Friday: Tobago no-go and what a Swiss swizz!

Any Port in a storm… and the UK’s newscasters are all aflutter now Portugal has earned a place on the exempt list.

Although my old pals in Tobago are now off limits as are the Croatians (flagged here) while the Greeks thankfully have had a stay of execution.

Quite what the Swiss have done to annoy the Scots who have unilaterally shut the country down is anybody’s guess…

As welcome as getting Portugal back (and not a moment too soon) it begs the question why not the others too?

Testing times

The answer is here

And this is where airport testing would open up our borders again.

Our Travel Agents association here in Scotland, the SPAA (Scottish Passenger Agents Association) which is the oldest in the world, are pushing for its introduction.

But they, and airports, seem to be pushing against a closed door

Our airlines thankfully are continuing to keep routes open and are leaving the decision up to us adults.

Not so splendid isolation

And you’ll have a whole coastline to yourself

Whether we want to self-isolate when we get back.

Although for many who can’t remote work then that will mean a loss of earnings.

Spare a thought too for holidaymakers stuck out in one of the newly banned countries.

Who are having to pay inflated air prices to get home in time before the quarantine kicks in.

One traveller told of his experience in trying to get back to the UK from Croatia.

They won’t be stopped

Ryanair cut to the chase

Which would have involved him making his way across to Italy first and shelling out £450.

In the middle of all this madness Ryanair are still offering cut-price single deals.

Including Pula in Croatia and at a bunch of destinations across Spain from €9.99.

Aer Lingus go green (naturally)

And my friends, the Aer Lingus crew

Ireland’s national airline Aer Lingus carrier knows what sacrifices the public are making.

Which is why they’re making green list countries Greece and Italy even more attractive… if that’s possible.

And so they offer Athens, Rome, Venice and a host of other Italian delights and Greek gifts from €39.99 from Dublin.

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

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe

Happy World Friendship Day Pt 1

Happy World Friendship Day and this post is dedicated to the friends we make around the world on our travels.

And whom we’re all missing so much.

Winnie the Pooh is the patron of World Friendship Day.

And who better than the silly willy-nilly old bear all stuffed with fluff.

I’m forever indebted to Mississippian Zach who looked after me (and the rest of the group but mostly me).

On the second leg of my American Odyssey in the Deep South.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King and honouring the two other Kings, Elvis and BB King.

Hit the road Zach

If it had been left to me it would have been more Tragical than Magical Mystery Tour.

With me leaving my mobile phone back in Cleveland, 124 miles from state capital Jackson.

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Zach keeping an eye on me

Where we were assembling for the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums, the Museum of Mississippi and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

Zach only organised for a friend who he said was travelling up to the opening himself, but who may very well have been enlisted to help this dopey Scotsman, to take the mobile with him.

The story doesn’t end there though.

And when I put my phone down in the huge hall in the convention centre in Denver Zach appeared to warn me:

’We’re not getting someone to travel 100 miles if you forget your mobile phone this time!’

Geraldine, my Soca friend

IMG_2194

We binge-watched American sitcoms when the children were younger (whaddya mean? we still do).

And that meant following the misfortunes of old divil Arthur who had to be walked by his daughter Carrie’s friend Holly.

I’m obviously too young for any of that only I’m not.

And Geraldine walked me and my new Virginian friend Patsy when I went in search of Rihanna at Club Barbados in Barbados

As well as being a reason for getting up early Geraldine went the extra mile for me.

When I showed an interest in Soca music by singing King Bubba tunes.

And on the last day of my trip a CD of her favourite Soca music was waiting for me at reception.

Ich bin ein Dresdener

IMG_0250

If only I’d had Ingrid as my teacher when I was young.

Ingrid took us on a walk through Dresden and Saxon history at the German Travel Mart.

Her grandmother had talked to her about the Red Heaven firestorm that set alight their city at the end of the Second World War.

And told us of life under Communist rule. So good I went back for the same tour after my booze cruise on the River Elbe.

I wear the wrist band pass for the tour to this day.

And also others from my Travels which includes Denver, Los Angeles, the Czech Republic and Portugal.

Jose, the real Special One

IMG_4898
Life’s a beach

I can’t take her anywhere.

Jose Madomis  is taking us around Portugal Centro , wining and dining and us.

And explaining at any given opportunity why his home town of Coimbra is the centre of the Portuguese (and wider) world.

When El Scary One pipes up about how she doesn’t like Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho.

Suck-up that I am I mentioned how inspiring they both were and got my wine glasses filled up and beers bought for me.

What Amann, what a man, what a mighty good man

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Do I pass as Jordanian? With Zuhair

It’s Zuhair, as in zoo hair, our Jordan guide told our G Adventures party.

It’s never easy being a guide and even tougher when you can’t eat and drink while the rest of your party are stuffing their faces and lubricating.

But Zuhair cheerfully took us all around Petra, the Dead and Red Seas and the baptism sites of Jesus, Mt Nebo.

Where Moses looked out onto the Promised Land and Wadi Rum.

And waited for the end of the evening Call to Arms before putting fork to food.

We were an interntational party and it’s well seen that Jordanians are the peacebrokers in the Middle East if Zuhair is anything to go by.

Friends all and friends for life…

And now I’ve begun I’ll bring you more of the guides who have made my trips and the friends from the parties I have been on.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD