Adventure, America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, UK

Craig Sera Sera

Craig Sera Sera, that’s a wrap from the 12th Bond.. and he’ll sure miss those exotic missions.

So which countries has 007 visited most, other than England where he works?

Well of the 50 he’s been to, Italia would seem to have been his favourite with the spy having touched down in Il Bel Paese eight times. 

Pasta Master

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

Rome, Venice and Como have inevitably been stick-on locations for any filmmaker and international man of mystery.

And this time it’s the European City of Culture for 2019, Matera, which is getting its place in the sun this time. 

With its houses. built into caves, cobbled streets and high arches a dramatic backdrop for the opening scenes.

And Felice Giorni for Matera with the town’s mayor, Raffaello De Ruggieri, predicting its association with Bond will be worth $20 million to the local economy.

In truth this is probably the highpoint of the movie, and all before the credits and Billie Eilish’s disappointing dirge of a soundtrack.

As Daddy’s Little Girl rightly pointed out the best bits were the locales. 

Live and Let Spy

Love a duck: At Epcot Centre, Florida

With Britain and America enjoying that much feted special relationship it is unsurprising that The Oo Es of Eh is his next favourite stop-off.

And we particularly enjoy his forays into Florida and its keys… whose pleasures I had to put off on the outbreak of Covid but where I intend to fulfil just as soon as.

Ski another day

Like an Alpine skier: In the Austrian Tyrol

Next up might be less predictable, Austria, but then we have to remember its stunning snowscapes and Bond’s love of winter sports which of course we share.

Although we have never seen him on the slopes of Soll while we have enjoyed skiing alongside some dapper fancied-dressed folks.

And we look forward to seeing a penguin-suited Bond on the piste some time soon.

For Bond anoraks it’s an easy question but which is the only country in a film title?

The spy who came in from the Red

Dance away: Russia

Yes, the old Soviet Union, or Russia as we knew it in shorthand.

And as well as the titular film From Russia With Love, Bond turns up in Fabergeland another three times.

Turkish crossroads

Hamam bam: Istanbul

It has been the crossroads for espionage since first the first looked out over each other at either side of the Bosphorus.

And, of course, Istanbul, has been an ideal backdrop for Bond’s adventures… and yours, and mine with three films taking in Turkey’s biggest city.

Three’s a charm

Limber up: The next Bond?

And among those countries where Bond has a trio of visits is Hong Kong, Spain, the Bahamas, Scotland, his homeland and Jamaica where Ian Fleming penned the books.

And the West Indies’ biggest island is where we first fell in love with Bond on the Laughing Waters beach in Ocho Rios.

Or Sean Connery to be more precise, even if you were a red-blooded bloke, you actually wanted to be him.

Wear a swimsuit: Craig as Bond

And be with Ursula Andress.

There was much fuss too about Daniel Craig with his take on coming out of the water, ripped and in a pair of budgie smugglers.

Only thing is a budgie has more charisma.

Craig Sera Sera… whatever will be, will be.

 

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Food & Wine

Jamaica? No, she came of her own accord

And apologies for the old schoolyard gag: I took my wife on holiday to the Caribbean… Jamaica? No, she came of her own accord.

You see nobody needs a second invitation to Jamaica.

Unless, of course, you’re me.

And herein hangs a tail with me being off in another corner of the world when the first invitation came in.

I had sent a colleague to Orlando at the same time the second invitation came in and I had to stay back in the office to cover for him.

My old buddie Kevin Gleeson was the beneficiary of that mix-up.

Going back to that old joke (groan) and our friends in Yeah Mon Island are shining the light on the romantic side of the island.

Social island

Jamaica reached out across social media to invite followers to share their special romantic memories.

And understandably Negril Beach, one of the best beaches in the world was namechecked.

Rockhouse was highlighted as one of Negril’s most scenic dining venues.

Overlooking the volcanic cliffs on to the brilliant Caribbean Sea. Also named as an ideal spot

While the Martha Brae River through Jamaica’s breath-taking greenery is another favourite.

And the Rio Grande River is a fave boating route, specifically along the aptly named ‘Lovers Lane’.

Strawberry Hill Forever

Got it all: Strawberry Hills Hotel

 

Strawberry Hill Hotel  is just as beautiful as it sounds, with beautiful views of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains.

And it was the location of choice for musical legend Bob Marley’s romantic getaways, set in 26-acres of vivid mountaintop gardens.

From Bob to Bond and GoldenEye, the home of Ian Fleming was  named the ultimate proposal spot.

The resort was designed as an idyllic retreat attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the world.

With beautifully appointed villas enclosed in a lush jungle of tropical plants and trees.

Montego Bay

Shining light: The Half Moon

Now Jamaica seems to have the copyrwright on lyrical names (and a good few Scottish and Irish ones too).

And few are more recognisable than Montego Bay.

For foodies, the Sugar Mill Restaurant at the Half Moon counts the Queen  and John F. Kennedy amongst its previous guests.

And for you lovebirds (no, not those two icons… I don’t want to end up in the Tower)

There are secluded spots for a proposal such as the candlelit overwater Sunset Gazebo.

So Jamaica? No, she came of her own accord. Of course.

 

Caribbean, Countries, Flying

Netflix and chill in Anguilla with Timberlake

Well, if it’s good enough for Justin Timberlake who opined: ‘Forget your face, I swear I will, St. Barths, Anguilla anywhere I chill’. An invite then to Netflix and chill in Anguilla with Timberlake and the jet set.

JT isn’t alone in singing the praises of the British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean.

Just dance: Justin Timberlake

Paris Hilton is a fan of the Anguillans and called it her ‘secret island’.

She only revealed this was her dream getaway after she’d left.

Jay-Z and Beyonce decamped to Anguilla in the early days of their courtship.

Paris style: Paris Hilton

While Paul McCartney and his wife Nancy are visitors.

As are Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, Leo DiCaprio, Sandra Bullock and Michael Jordan.

Yeah: Macca’s going to Anguilla

Although not that we know all at the same time.

For us we are restricted to watching on and living our dreams vicariously through things like Netflix.

Money to throw away: Leo DiCaprio

And such as the World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals Season 2.

Each episode explores one unique, one on a budget and one luxury option from destinations around the world.

On the Waterfront explores the ultra-luxury Long Bay Villas Anguilla.

And thanks to our friends at Anguilla Tourism we are reminded that the prices range from £180 to £24,000+ a night.

Flutter by butterfly

Lie back and think of… Anguilla

The Little Butterfly: And this is a one-bedroom luxury apartment on the mezzanine level of Papillon Villa.

Feel like an emperor or empress butterfly.

Social Butterfly: And you can be one

With a king-sized bedroom and Jacuzzi tub, open-plan living and dining areas, and an outdoor deck with vistas of the Caribbean and the mountains of St Martin. Prices are from £183 per night.

Cove love

Peace and quiet: At the Cove

Fletch’s CoveInspired by modern Mexican architecture, Fletch’s Cove is a two-bedroom oceanfront villa which opens onto a pool terrace with views of the Caribbean and the neighbouring islands.

Prices are from £320-£680 per night for two in one bedroom. And from £497-£760 per night for four guests in two bedrooms.

Long and short of it

Walk this way: The Long Bay Villas

Long Bay Villas AnguillaA celebrity spotters’ dream, only they’re secluded, so you’ll have to shell out the £2,500-£10,600 for your five bedrooms in this 7,000sqft villa complex.

The trio of these villas is title Sand, Sea and Sky… sounds ethereal.

You’ll have an oceanfront terrace with heated infinity pool and hot tub and exquisite living and dining areas.

Five-star bespoke services are provided by the butlers, beach attendants, house keepers and concierges.

Villa thrilla

Light up: The Cerulean

Cerulean VillaRight, that’s two at our end of the price budget but we do love to dream so here’s the exotic Cerulean Villa.

Sold in a private group basis, this is a nine-bedroom and multiple beachfront 20,000sqft villa.

With dining and lounging terraces, expansive pool deck, infinity pool, tennis courts, private gym and dedicated spa room.

Guests can choose one of two options: Cerulean A La Carte or The Cerulean Experience.

The Cerulean Experience offers a staff of 18 including a private chef.

Prices from £73,200-£124,425 per week for Cerulean A La Carte while prices for the Experience are on application.

Green for go

A corner of a British authority: Anguilla flies high

And the good news is that Anguilla is green from October 4 for fully vaccinated visitors.

British Airways (Gatwick and Heathrow) and Virgin Atlantic (Heathrow) fly out to Antigua followed by a short flight to Anguilla.

Or by KLM/Air France via Amsterdam/Paris  to St Maarten followed by a boat or plane transfer.

And our friends at American Airlines  which is launching twice-weekly flights between Miami and Anguilla from December 11.

So Netflix and chill in Anguilla with Timberlake and the jet set.

Caribbean, Countries, Culture

Sandals Jamaica I dig it

They’re the best pools, where you don’t have to swim and just drink in the pool and play volleyball. Sandals Jamaica I dig it.

The volleyball is the favoured entertainment of the American visitors.

And if you ask nicely they’ll let you join in.

Be prepared to high five after every winning point.

Pool Sandals

Of course the Sandals pool allows gentle swimming.

Preferably to the bar in the middle.

Or up to your room if you’re lucky enough to get a swim-up room.

As tempting as it is to spend your entire holiday on the hotel grounds.

And enjoy the restaurants, bars, pools and sea, an island of fun is waiting just outside the gates.

Mine was, and is, Barbados but Sandals is part of island life right throughout the Caribbean.

Integrating your holiday between your hotel, your activities and your day trips will enhance your Caribbean getaway.

And pacing.

Constant refills

So while there are refilled comp mini-bars and Champagne, make sure to refuel at the breakfast bar.

And if you’re out limin’ (pre-drinkin’) then plenty of water.

And dance it off at a Mas (a music party).

At the end of your day out (and you’ll snorkel, swim or do water sport of your choice) you’re back at the Sandals gates.

And drowsy of head (and rum) you’re awakened.

And with a jerk you put your arms straight out and hands together in a volleyball dig manoeuvre.

Set for pool volleyball

You’re replaying your pool volleyball match from the morning.

And practising for the next day’s match.

Although it will be tough as the Americans haven’t left the pool all day.

Jamaica remains my next cab on the rank, and that cab is pointed towards Ochi Beach.

The Butler at your service

Where Sandals Jamaica is offering a stay in a Butler Village Poolside one-bedroom villa suite.

Seven nights luxury included. Travel to Marleyland in June from £2199pp.

Save up to 45% off plus up to an extra £700 booking bonus on select rooms and suites.

British Airways Club World Sale is bookable until September21.

Bring on Sandals Jamaica I dig it!

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, UK

Woah we’re gaun tae Barbados

 

Woah we’re gaun tae Barbados… but this time from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Scotland has long had a footprint in Barbados but this direct Virgin Atlantic flight represents it dipping its toe in the West Indies.

As Scotland’s only Caribbean route.

Two Scotlands

This is where the rum is: Mount Gay distillery

That Scotland is reconnecting with Barbados should not be surprising

As we stood side by side with them centuries ago when the British Empire first set foot there.

And used Scottish indentured servants to do their dirty work.

The MacBajans

At the cricket: With Jevan

The Bajans have never forgotten us MacBajans, naming their inland district of Scotland after us.

Giving over St Andrews Day as their national Day of Independence.

Encasing the Scottish Saltire in their coat of arms (a slave’s clenched fist holding two sugar canes in an X cross).

Which is on their dollar notes.

St Andrew’s people

Soca time: With the locals

Scotland sits in the district of Saint Andrew and, better than our own northern European, Scotland is hot, hot, hot all year round.

So better wear your boardies rather than your kilt, although some MacBajans might.

And there is plenty of time anyway during May’s Celtic Festival.

Scotland and Barbados

Irie: Rum time

One of our own, my old student days pal Jevan, of Trinidad and Aberdeenshire, is waving the Scottish flag in Barbados.

As owner of Red Advertising & Marketing Ltd which means he knows everyone.

And introduced me to them all over their carnival, Crop Over, and the cricket.

So our new route from Edinburgh to Bridgetown will be welcomed by those of us who will be screaming Woah we’re gaun tae Barbados.

Old Scotland

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

And those MacBajans who will be coming our way.

Though I expect their suitcases will have a few more woollies.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Music

30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes

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

When will there be?

Sweet music: Isley Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t it always seem to go?

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

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

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

Welling in my eye

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

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

And alas it’s getting bigger Julian. 

The right Cash

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

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

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

Bob’s the job

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

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

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

To the rescue… here I am.

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

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture

Yeah Mon Jamaican Independence Day

Yeah Mon Jamaican Independence Day is in full swing and naturally will last a week.

It’s 59 years since the Jamaicans led the way by becoming the first Caribbean country to break from the UK.

Following the experiment of the West Indies Federation between 1958 and 1962.

Where Jamaica led (and leads) its Caribbean neighbours followed.

More independence

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

And Trinidad & Tobago also took the plunge that magical year of 1962.

Barbados followed in 1966 before there was a rush of freedom in the Seventies.

With the Bahamas in 1973, Granada in 1974, Dominica 1978 and St Lucia and St Vincent in 1979.

And Antigua & Barbuda in 1981 and St Kitts & Nevis joining the gang in 1983.

All of which means that there will be a landmark every year to keep us all going for the next few years.

Jamaican jewels

Get down: In Jamaica

Now where once Britain left its footprint on the Caribbean,West Indians have transformed British life.

In the years since we put out the call to come here to help rebuild the post-war UK.

So we probably all think we know the Windies well by now, and Jamaica, and Jamaicans, in particular.

And its British, and more specifically Scottish and Irish links.

Jammin’

Bobbin’ along: Marley

But did you know?

That Jamaica is more than reggae, though there’s plenty of Marley which is good for me.

Try out the ska, mento, dancehall, ragga, dub and rocksteady. And soca, although there’s more of that in the southern Caribbean.

And it’s not just Usain Bolt though who has ripped up the sporting world, though he’s plenty good for us too.

Usain follows in the spikesteps of the marvellous Marlene Ottey and the Don, Don Quarry.

Other kings and queens of sport

Howzat! Chris Gayle

While Elaine Thompson-Herah led a Jamaican 1-2-3 in this month’s Olympics ahead of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson.

Mikey Holding, Courtney Walsh and Chris Gayle are just three of the calypso cricketers; Mike McCallum and Trevor Berbick are Caribbean kings of the ring.

While who can forget the Winter Olympics bobsleigh team who gave us Cool Runnings and the Jamaica football team who reached the World Cup.

Thank God for Jamaica

Praise the Lord: Gospel singing

That the island has more than 100 Christian denominations may come as a surprise.

And more churches, 2.75 per square mile, than any other country in the world.

And, of course, a morning in church (and it will be a morning) and a gospel choir should be on your must-do list when you visit.

And rum

Rum-making

As should the rum bars where for hardened rummies this is what you should order…

Jancraw Batty, which translates as ‘vulture’s ass’ and is under the rum bar counter.

There will be plenty Jancraw Batty raised today.

Yeah Mon Jamaican Independence Day.

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Food & Wine

Blue blue Curacao

And as The Scary One likes to remind me she has sailed the world, and drunk in Blue blue Curacao in the Caribbean.

In a lyrical sense, she was only seven.

We’ve made up for that since when I’ve turned cocktail waiter for my Saturday night Jocktails.

Drink it in

They’ve got the moves: Curacao

And Blue blue Curacao is my entry point for the Caribbean island.

Through a Mai Tai, a Blue Lagoon or a Blue Hawaian.

All of which will be on order at your pool bar at my first entry point to the Caribbean – Sandals.

Open-toe Sandals

All-inclusive: The Royal Curacao

The all new Sandals Royal Curacao is offering a 45% saving on all room categories for travel from April 12.

You want to get out around the island.

Well, you can pedal around on a Dutch bike (without the Amsterdam canalside shouts of BIKE).

Curacao is one of the Dutch Leeward Islands.

Dutch of class

Blue blue Curacao

If bikes are too much energy in the 84 degrees heat then Sandals will give you your own comp Mini Cooper.

For those staying. In the Kurason Island Suites and Awa Seaside Bungalows.

Every Caribbean island is unique.

Caribbean cheer

Ri-Ri and Me-Me: In Barbados

Whether it’s Rihanna’s Barbados and its Crop Over carnival.

Or Robinson Crusoe’s island Tobago and its goat racing.

And Curacao in the Dutch Antilles is no exception.

Capital Wilemstad is known for its colonial pastel-coloured architecture.

While where else would you get a floating bridge, the Queen Emma bridge?

Or a sand-floored synagogue, the 17th Century Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue?

Oh Coral

Blue is the colour: Curacao

Of course the Caribbean has some of the best coral anywhere so for those of you who can hold your breath under water…

You’ll get a warm welcome all across the Caribbean.

But only in Curacao will you get a Bon Bini at the airport which is Papiamento, the islanders’ language.

Welcome, welcome, welcome

Nightlife: Curacao

Which is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English, African and Arawak Indian.

No polyglot me but I expect Mai Tai will get me by.

And a Blue blue Curacao speaks for itself.

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Europe

Italia und Deutschland

They’ve been wanting to welcome us back, and now they can… bella bella et Wunderbar Italia und Deutschland.

Italy and Germany are heading up a tranche of countries green-listed for us to visit again.

That also includes two of my other go-to countries Austria and Switzerland.

Ciao now Bergamo

Buon Giorno Bergamo

That Italy should be leading the way is reward for the efforts they have made in the last year and a half.

The good people of Bergamo have a claim to the title of huggiest people you’ll meet.

Having got into the Guinness Book of Records just five years ago.

When 11,460 Bergamaschi embraced each other, and that’s 5730 couples.

Huggy bears

Atalanta fans: With Matteo in Betgamo

All of which is revealed in the council offices, an antidote to the heavy subject of Covid, which I was there to discuss with the Tourism Minister.

And isn’t it refreshing to count in cuddles than casualties?

It is, of course, what we miss in these days of restricted engagement when we travel.

And so when I wanted to hug my host Matteo for his friendship after we said Ciao we knew we could only elbow.

Give us a cuddle

My Swiss Miss: In Interlaken

Which used to be what you did when you wanted to get rid of somebody.

Now the peoples of some countries seem to be able to get by without the need for physical contact.

My hugginess then is probably more my Irish than my Scottish half.

Sometimes a smile a clink of glasses and a Prost with your eyes fixed on each other.. a la Germany, the Austrians and the Swiss.

Caribbean dreams

My Tobagonian pals: Auntie Ali, Uncle Kenneth

But quite how my Bajan and Tobagonian pals will get by without enfolding each other in their arms…

I haven’t had the chance to see for myself.

For now I have my sights set again on Italia und Deutschland.

I’ll be back then as soon as I can to throw my arms around Bergamo.

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture

Caymankind Paradise Capers

It’s a First World problem at the American Travel Fair, IPW and you get invited to the Cayman Islands and you get thinking Caymankind Paradise Capers.

Only you’re double booked.

But thankfully Young Travel Writer of the Year Melanie May was free to fill in.

And it’s a question I have often been asked is my process in running a team of writers to travel the world.

I would often be accused of favouritism to which I would gladly plead guilty.

It’s just that I would always reward ability and attitude.

Come what May

Beach life

I could always tell what kind of job somebody would do by their response to assignments.

If they referred to the commission as a junket they immediately put me offside.

I would always seek out and receive feedback from the holiday providers on how they conducted themselves.

Respect and gratitude should be a given but tales are legend in Travel of writers who go all along for the journey.

And try to ditch the party or refuse to take part in the activities.

Headline act

Best bar none: Cayman

Melanie has always been a dream, going that extra mile on a brief.

I could always tell too how good a piece was if I could nail a headline within a few paragraphs.

And so with the Cayman Islands I quickly fell upon Paradise Capers.

A positive spin on something we all associate the Caymans with… a tax haven.

The Caymans clearly preserve their status as a seductive destination because of their good management and planning.

Which is why I’m not surprised but obviously delighted that the Caymans have now set out a five-point plan for full reopening in 2022.

Yes Minister

Minister’s call: Kenneth Bryan

Minister for Tourism and Transport, Hon. Kenneth Bryan fills us in.

“My colleagues and I in government have worked tirelessly to develop this phased approach in preparation for the opening of our borders to international travellers.

“And we are pleased to announce the wait for paradise is almost over!

“Our guests will appreciate the impactful developments and enhancements we’ve made to the destination – surely proving that Cayman is worth the wait.”

And obvs there are palm trees

West Indians are famous for their welcome and accessibility the world over.

Which is why Government ministers are expected to be at hand for their people.

And so can be expected to be at the cricket in Barbados (in shorts and polo shirt though maybe don’t do that, Boris).

Or finish off their rum punch on the Anguilla beach to make your Zoom meeting.

And so the Cayman Minister for Tourism is making himself available to us travel professionals to speak individually with him.

Access all areas

And turtles

I’ll share with you, as always happens in the Caribbean, the chat, our chat.

But just to put out some further good news,

Quarantine requirements will be removed for all securely verified, fully vaccinated travellers on October 14.

Which is phase four, and the real game changer for us.

Of course you can only truly get a proper flavour of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

And there are four direct flights from Heathrow to Grand Cayman this autumn/winter.

Caymankind

And there are regular flights

So what does Caymankind offer?

There’s the Seven Mile Beach (self-explanatory really), the iconic Stingray City Sand Bar, the Cayman Caves.

And what I know my own green-fingered goddess will appreciate, stunning orchid gardens.’

I’m a great believer in never allowing an opportunity to pass you by.

And that means going back to ask again.

Which I’ll certainly do when I speak to the Cayman Minister for Tourism about Caymankind Paradise Capers.