America, Caribbean, Countries, Flying, UK

Dominica where tall is her body

What does your country mean… and surely it isn’t as lyrical as Dominica where tall is her body?

The good people of Dominica came-a-calling yesterday as part of our Caribbean Tourism Organisation conference.

And we kicked off, of course, with their biggest calling card, the Waitukubuli Trail.

At 115 miles long, in 14 segments, it is the longest trail in the West Indies and will take you ten to 14 days to compete.

Named by the indigenous Kalinago people it showcases the 29.2 miles high north-south island.

With peaks as high as 4,747ft.

What’s in a name?

Sway to go: Dominica

And Waitukubuli is, of course, where the poetic Kalinago came up with the name.

There are other appealing place names and attractions across the island such as Boiling Lake, Champagne Reef, Trafalgar Falls…

And wellness, spas and warming springs aplenty.

Our friendly smiling Dominicans put up with good grace when people mistake them for the Dominican Republic.

Rises and falls: Reviving waters

Which is about 600 miles from Roseau, the capital of Dominica!

Your best way (and what a way) is by a short boat ride from Guadeloupe where Death In Paradise is filmed.

And Guadeloupe is served by American Airlines from Puerto Rico.

Then Nevis

Our friends in Nevis, a twin island with St Kitts & Nevis, has to field similar calls.

With mountaineers mistaking this island in the sun with my island in the snow and its largest mountain, Ben Nevis.

And Hamilton, of course

Step on it: Hamilton

Scotland and Nevis, of course, have a very topical association through a son they both share.

And he spawned the most famous opening lines in the history of musicals when Alexander Hamilton’s nemesis Aaron Burr sang:

How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a
Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten
Spot in the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor
Grow up to be a hero and a scholar? 

Of course it is forgotten no more and not just because of its association with the Founding Father and hero of New York, but it all helps.

And his birthplace on Nevis is a must-see for fans of Hamilton.

A better Montpelier

Dip your toe in: Montpelier in Nevis

Holiday hopefuls too get a pleasant surprise when they go looking for Montpelier in France…

And find the luxury Montpelier Plantation & Beach hotel in Charlestown set on a 300-year-old sugar plantation.

While Restaurant 750 offers diners views of St Kitts.

And yes, we’ll meet you on the road.

And reveal more of these lyrical islands.

Such as Dominica where tall is her body.

 

 

 

Caribbean, Countries

Beardie Burns and the Caribbean

Were The Scots Bard alive today he’d be liaising with the West Indians too… I give you Beardie Burns and the Caribbean.

But let’s rewind a second… beardie you say?

Well, the Beard Liberation Front are positing the view that Rabbie was rough aroon the chin.

And the clean-shaven look was manufactured to appeal to polite society.

Whether or not that was the case, we do know Burns was seriously considering decamping to the Windies.

To get out of his financial problems before the release and acclaim for his poetry sparked a rethink.

Jamaica my day

See you Jimmyaica: Let’s dance

Twas Jamaica that Burns wrote of in correspondence and verse.

He had the offer of a role as a bookkeeper.

But would a beardie Bard have been seduced by the island to the south named the Bearded One after its low-hanging plant?

I know this bearded Bard (Edinburgh Fringe 2002) was, on his trips to Barbados.

I have, in fact, been long intrigued by the Caribbean from a childhood love of cricket and their music.

Caribbeans to my door

Me-me and Dee-Dee at Crop Over in Barbados

My friends in the Caribbean have been throwing their arms open again to us now Covid is easing.

We all know about the new Virgin Atlantic out to Barbados.

And the good people at 02 Beach Club Barbados and the Sea Breeze Beach House and the South Beach Hotel are keen to show us their wares.

As I’ve mentioned here the Bajans’ most common question to visitors is what’s your favourite Caribbean island.

A challenge if ever I heard one.

Island hopping

Nylon Pool, Tobago

And with Tobago tucked under my belt and Jamaica and its many Scots links, and 60th anniversary of independence this year, I’m away island hopping.

With Montpelier Plantation & Beach on Nevis (sounds Scottish yes) coming calling.

I heart Belize: Central American delights

And Aruba (Aruba, Aruba, Aruba), Dominica and the Central American side of the Caribbean in Belize too.

It’s no coincidence that the Scots (and Irish) left a big footprint in the Windies and continue to do so.

So on today, his national day, we celebrate Beardie Burns and the Caribbean.

 

 

 

Africa, America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Food, Ireland

Pie are squared and round

Excuse the grammar but the gag doesn’t work otherwise so on today’s National Pie Day let’s say Pie are squared and round.

And we’ll pick out six pies from around the world.

All because we’re an island here of pie lovers in Britain, and Scots up and down the country have grown up on Scotch pies and beans.

Then long before American fast food pork pies were the go-to snack in England, and not just for ploughmen.

Mr American Pie

Eat your heart out Prue Leith: In Colorado

Apple Pie: National Pie Day was started in the mid-1970s by a nuclear engineer, brewer and teacher (talented man) Charlie Papazian.

It was then that he declared his own birthday, January 23, to be National Pie Day and it took on.

So now fast forward to a Can’t Bake, Won’t Bake visitor to Ginger & Bake in nearby Fort Collins under the watchful eye of the ever-patient Deb.

Say it loud and say it stout

More please: Jamie Oliver’s Steak & Guinness Pie

Beef and Guinness Pie: If you’re like me (and the Irish) and feel that drink is the food of life then read on.

You see this variation on the British steak and ale pie in Ireland naturally is enriched with Guinness and bacon and onions.

And it s on every bar menu in Ireland… and inevitably in the ubiquitous Jamie Oliver’s cookbook.

Custard with that?

Bobotie on the menu: In South Africa

Bobotie pie: It’s a different world in the one-track town of Cradock in the Eastern Cape In South Africa.

That’s where the owner of the Die Tuishuise & Victoria Manor has put on a buffet of Karoo food that fuses easy.

So let me give you Bobotie pie, a curried raisin-infused Shepherd’s Pie with a savoury custard topping.

Pie Irie

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby: Cooking and baking in Barbados

Macaroni pie: And something from the Old World embraced by the new in the Caribbean.

It is known there just as pie or Bajan Pie in Barbados this is island comfort food.

This tubed pasta with creamy cheese sauce is served either as a main dish in Bim.

Or more likely to the side of their favourite chicken and fish. Irie?

Pizza and understanding

Slice of life: Pizza pie

Pizza pie: So when we first got a taste for the Italian staple on this island we would call it pizza pie.

The best pizzas which we know are in Pizza City, Naples.

But a tip here for those who might otherwise be stung dining out near the Spanish Steps or Pantheon in Rome.

Instead pick up the long miniature pezzos from stores scattered through the Eternal City.

Sweet pie

The Key to good living: Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie: Now just as many pies are sweet as are savoury.

And in the land of American pie there are as many variations as there are numbers after 3.14.

But as it’s darn tasty and the Florida Keys are on the radar.

For a long rescheduled road trip it’s Lime Key Pie for me.

And so whatever your pick it’s good to know pie are squared and round and make the world go round.

Caribbean, Countries, Food, Food & Wine, Music

Let the bells parang out for Christmas

Let the bells parang out for Christmas in Trinidad & Tobago and from the Caribbean to the world.

West Indians are all about family and senior members of the community deserve the respect of being called Uncle or Auntie.

And so when you visit Tobago you return with a unique souvenir… no, not the goat you’ve raced.

Feast: The Blue Crab

And in my case that’s Auntie Alison.

Ali and her husband Uncle Kenneth run the Blue Crab restaurant in Scarborough.

And we all got on famously with Kenneth even allowing me to help out cooking the meal, island chicken curry.

Party time: At the Blue Crab

Kenneth and Ali are the ideal double act.

While he cooks she entertains the room with tales of their marriage.

With tips of how she keeps their long marriage fresh…

Culture trip: And Tobago and Irish fusion

She demonstrates how she keeps her knickers in the bottom drawer.

And she even wiggles her behind to show us.

This old girl has the moves and a laugh that fills the room.

Uncle Kenneth: A wizard of food

It’s that kind of spirit which underscores Trinidad and Tobago’s special Christmas parang music.

It’s Soca and South American-infused party music with cheeky end-of-the-pier entendres.

And it’s all the better for having the sun, a beach and a steel band at your back.

Can I help: With Uncle Kenneth

This is how Christmas should be.

Full of laughter, music and full to the belly with Auntie Ali’s Christmas dinner

Asia, Australasia, Caribbean, Countries, Deals

Back in Black Friday

Now that we’re all travelling again my take on today’s saveathon is Back in Black Friday.

And Wu have we got some deals for you?

And with Wendy Wu you know that she will bring you the world.

Simply book one of our selected fully-inclusive group tours with just a £99 deposit per person and your partner Flies FREE on any departures in 2022 or 2023.

And if you’re travelling solo you can enjoy the same savings with 50% off you airfare.

And Wendy’s generosity doesn’t just stop at that. She’s including a free Airport Lounge Pass with every booking.

So without further AWu.

Wu deals

Shape of things to come: Japan

Japan –  Save up to £350 per person

Southeast Asia – Save up to £300 per person to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and more

Central Asia – Save up to £400 per person to Uzbekistan, Georgia and the Silk Road

New Zealand – Save up to £350 per person

South America – Save up to £400 per person to Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina

Far East – Save up to £300 per person to South Korea and Taiwan

Middle East – Save up to £250 per person to Egypt,and Jordan.

Offer ends Monday 29 November. Book online or Call 0808 2580 600.

Sandals in the Windies PtI

Here’s to Sandals: And Barbados

Sharing is caring and I’m either full of Christmas spirit or just too damn kind.

Because i’ve passed over a place on the inaugural Virgin Atlantic flight from Edinburgh to Bridgetown so a Barbados virgin can get on board.

No, not one of them, but a work colleague who has never been to Bim like Bim Jim has.

It was luxury all the way with Sandals then and we have remained pals with the swanky hotel chain keeping me abreast of all their offers.

Like their Black Friday Flash Sale which offers customers the chance to save an extra £100 off your next Luxury included holiday with code BF100.

And so you’ll get change out of £2,000 at £1,949pp for seven nights at Sandals Royal Barbados for travel on September 22.

Where you’ll stay at the South Seas Crystal Lagoon Club Level Barbados Suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub. Including flights with Virgin Atlantic, of course.

Sandals in the Windies PtII

Of course the question you constantly get asked when you’re in a Caribbean island is which is your favourite.

To which you need to answer… I’ll tell you when I’ve been around them all.

Jamaica has to be next on the horizon and I’m always happy to flag up Scotland’s island in the sun. 

Sandals Ochi comes in at £1,399 for seven nights. You’ll be staying in a Butler Village Poolside One Bedroom Villa Suite. And again our friends at Virgin will be flying you there.

Book by midnight on November 30.

Yes, now we’re travelling again, I’m all behind the Back to Black Friday.

And I’ll give you more of our favourites over the weekend.  

 

 

Caribbean, Countries

Barack and Barbados and me

He was crestfallen to have missed me at the Waldorf Astoria… we were all there, Barack and Barbados and me in Edinburgh.

We know that the former US Pres, who was staying there while attending COP26 in Glasgow, can throw some shapes.

And he would deffo have enjoyed steel pannist David ZigE Walcott and singer Philip 7 and their band.

The Bajan Safari

Cheryl amour: With the wonderful Cheryl Carter

Billed as the Bajan Safari, the cream of Scottish Travel limed, dined and danced the night away.

And had Obama not turned in for the night it would have been Barack and Barbados and me.

We were, of course, looking forward to next month’s inaugural Virgin Atlantic flight from Edinburgh to Bridgetown.

Home of rum: Mount Gay in Bridgetown

Now even if I had wanted to stay incognito there was little chance as my old escapades in Bim continue to follow me.

And MC Marc happily picked me out as his stooge among the tables to flag up the merits of the Crop Over and Foreday Morning carnivals.

And urged the guests to check out the pictures, and, of course, I’m happy to reprise and oblige.

Barbados parties

Blending in with the Bajans: In Barbados

From my Crop Over and search for Rihanna.

Of course the Bajan party added a lot of colour and warmth on their trip to Edinburgh with Caribbean kilties and dreadlocked dudes.

Mixologist Alex Chandler shook up a storm with his rum punches, talking through the process with a voice as rich and sweet as anything in the glass.

Any trip to the Caribbean should include pushing yourself forward on any cocktail and culinary demonstrations.

And I’m always the first in the queue to push myself forward both in Bim and also in Tobago.

Woah, we’re going to Barbados

Scotland, yes, really: With Dwayne in Scotland region in Barbados

Virgin Atlantic is flying twice a week through the winter season from Edinburgh to Bridgetown from £417.

Woah, we’re going to Barbados again!

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.

 

 

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.