Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – Czech please

Onion soup is a pretty insipid idea – there’s no meat, and it’s not even the best vegetable. Mushrooms are.

But Czech soup? With its secret ingredient – beer!

And not any old beer, but beer from the Strahov Monastery Brewery http://www.klasterni-pivovar.cz in the Castle Area of Prague.

I’m only here for the….

Now I only found this out later in the evening. Not that I was complaining.

I asked Tomas, my waiter, which of the three beers illustrated on the menu he would recommend.

Soak it up

And he suggested ALL three. Welcome to Prague!

The amber beer the tasting notes say is for ghoulash which I will have for my main course (well, when in Prague).

See you at the bar

While the dark beer is for fish and the IPA for pate.

But Tomas suggests I just work through them all.

Last orders at the monastery

The ghoulash looks small around the dumplings but is surprisingly filling.

And the beauty of beef is that the chew factor allows you to enjoy its succulence for whole minutes on end.

By the time I got to the hoppy IPA I was already full and had decided to skip on the apple strudel when Vaclav arrived.

It’s all Czech to me

‘Take it with you,’ he urged as he asked if I would accompany him around his brewery, the still of which is the centrepiece of the restaurant.

Now I normally baulk at brewery inspection trips but seeing I had eaten the man’s food and drunk his beer.

Things are looking up: My hotel bedroom

And so into a room at the back where he blinded me with science and figures, neither of which were my subjects at school.

Still, I know the internationally recognised response: a nod and an uh-huh!

It seemed to work because 15 minutes later after finding out too about the bottling process we are sat at the bar.

The tourists have gone home and the only other people in the restau are the Czech party…

The Scary One’s got the cushions out

Who Tomas tells us are monks from the next door monastery… you’d think they would have pudding bowl haircuts to give me a clue.

Tomas pours me another Dark Beer and Vaclav introduces me to Merunkovice.

Which I’m told is some kind of meringue-flavour liqueur.

And so, head spinning and belly groaning I stagger and roll my way back down the hill.

To my triple bed in my Golden Key hotel https://goldenkey.astenhotels.com/en.

Where I watch the Liverpool game on Czech TV with the light of a chandelier hanging from a wooden ceiling.

Still game

Before Vaclav’s beer beats me and I drop off to sleep… and dreams of babies climbing a TV tower.

No, it is a real thing. And I will tell you about that and more later.

Me? Don’t tell the Scary One, but I’m off to join the monastery.

Visit www.czechtourism.com and http://visitprague.cz.

And in the best traditions of such things here is one I prepared earlier… Hope springs eternal.

Countries, Europe, Flying

Holidos and don’ts – know your airport

Now, it would be silly to suggesr an airport is as familiar as a train or bus station while it is considerably more complicated.

But knowing your airport can take the stress out of your holiday: start badly and it’ll set your break off wrongly.

And as I begin a new journey from a new (old) airport here in Edinburgh www.edinburghairport.com my first thought is that this does save the legs.

An old fave, Turkish Airport, at Edinburgh Airport

Anybody who has been through Dublin Airport (www.dublinairport.com) knows the long hike to your airplane.

It almost feels like you are taking the strain off the plane by walking halfway to your holiday destination yourself.

So leave yourself plenty of time. while it’s easy to mix up your Ryanairs and Aer Linguses.

Flyinair

So don’t leave yourself having to sprint between terminals: Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) Terminal 1 and Aer Lingus (www.aerlingus.com).

Apply this logic too to even bigger airports where it might involve buses between terminals, or even trains.

And ALWAYS read the small print on your information… you may be flying with an auxiliary airline from Munich to Athens.

And the main airline where you are is in another terminal in the airport.

Yes, guilty, and I am forever grateful and still terrified of the Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) reservations manager I had to break the news to… My Greek odyssey.

Adventure, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Cruiseday Tuesday – have a bumper time

Everybody loves a bumper holiday – better still a bumper holiday at sea. Better still bumpers on sea.

For a feardie like me (I blame my brother for throwing me on the waltzer when I was a small kid) the bumper was always my go-to at the fare.

Only I knew them as dodgems, and they became part of my holiday experience.

With Tramore, Co. Waterford and Salthill, Co. Galway particularly fond memories.

With the crew

So what must it be like to be driving around in circles bumping your Mum while on a cruise ship?

Dip your toe in

A gondolier, anyone?

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Look before you Leap – where to propose

I had been planning it for a year since Miss F’s best pal had got married – and it ended up being Malta.

I had a vision that it would have been Istanbul on the Bosphorus but that wasn’t to be but there’s water around Malta. Right?

Only as we traipsed around Bugibba I couldn’t find the restaurant with a piano on the front which I’d been looking for.

Miss F being fair was getting tetchy in the beating sun and the atmos wasn’t conducive for a proposal.

But I went ahead anyway (I still maintain I was only down on one knee to tie my shoelace) and she yelled yes.

The sands of time

I’ve been back (without her, but I hasten to say not with someone else) Malta easer.

If I was to do it all over again, and in this a Leap Year here’s where I’d hope she’d ask the question.

Turkish delight (obviously!)

Istanbul: I fulfilled a lifetime‘s ambition last year by visiting the majestic Turkish city which straddles Europe and Asia… Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

And it surpassed even my wildest expectations.

Yes, Herself knows I like the flesh of an animal and Sultanahmet Koftecisi http://www.sultanahmetkoftesi.com does the best kofti meatballs in the city.

But if she really wants to romance me she’ll take me on the Bosphorus with TTG Travel (Turkish Travel Group) www.turkeytravelgroup.com.

And we’ll have a boogie…

For more on Istanbul visit https://visit.istanbul and, of course, when I head east it’s always my pals at Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com.

The heart of America

He’s lent me his desk

Washington DC: My favourite US city although I’m open to have my mind changed.

Seeing that DC’s most famous resident is half-Scottish I’d say he’d lend us a room.

But where I’d really like to have my romantic moment is at Robert E Lee’s house in Arlington.

Where the National Guard never miss a Passing of the Guard.

And where John F Kennedy told an aide, in perhaps a prescient moment, that when he died he would want to be buried looking down on DC.

Visit www.washington.org.

I love you too Tobago

Wetting my whistle

Tobago: With apologies to Barbados but Id be worried the Scary One would run into Dee-Dee.

I can’t think of many more romantic places to get a proposal than Nylon Beach where Princess Margaret said the sea was as clear as her stockings.

And where you can stand in a sand bank in the middle of the Caribbean with a glass of bubbly or Carib lager in your hand.

Dee-Dee and Me-Me

Still, maybe best that the 5ft 5ins Mrs M doesn’t get down on one knee there.

Visit www.tobagogov.tt and read On your marks, get set, GOAT in Tobago.

All ring roads lead to Rome

I’ll be back for change later

Rome: Because it’s here where She took me for my 40th as a surprise and we returned as a family.

And I, eventually, found the Eternal City, at the end of my Via Francigena pilgrimage www.viafrancigena.ie.

If only there was some roads that lead to Rome!

On my perfect day we’d take in an AS Roma match at the Olympic Stadium, visit the Pantheon where it would rain and she would pop the question.

Visit www.rome.net, http://www.italia.it/en/home.html and read my misadventures Small roads lead to Rome.

Malta and the altar

Valletta, you betcha

Malta: Of course nothing beat that moment we got engaged… she told me to say that.

And our place is still there. Malta remains one of the gems right under our nose.

English-speaking. English-friendly (and Scottish, Irish, et al) you can also day-trip to Sicily.

And beautiful Gozo and Comino. Visit www.visitmalta.com.

Just a few romantic spots I’m proposingtell me yours.

MEET YOU ON ONE KNEE

America, Countries, Food & Wine, Uncategorized

Flipping marvellous – best pancake places

There is no evidence that Jesus ate a round of pancakes before going on to fast for 40 days… but there’s no evidence that he didn’t.

Today we’ll all tuck into our pancakes with the Son and Heir the flipper in our family.

God being good I’ll be on my way to Prague today.

Where I’m sure that being Central Europe there will be a big plate of pancakes a-waiting.

On-flight, British Airways: I’ve never lost the wonder of eating on an airplane since first peeling back the tinfoil as a kid.

In the years since I’ve found that it’s usually beef or salmon, with a vegetarian option.

While now that I’ve enjoyed business class on occasions on long-hauls there are breakfasts too… which obvs means pancakes.

Mine’s were on my flight to Jordan www.visitjordan.com with www.gadventures.com. Read on The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Pile ‘em high

Everything is bigger in America

The big breakfast, America: It’s funny how certain foods and drinks taste better in the countries of their origin.

Guinness in Ireland, risotto in Italy and pancakes in the Oo Es of Eh.

Yes, I know that pancakes are from France because, of course, they invented food.

It’s just that Americans do it bigger and better... pile ’em high at breakfast and make sure you take in a diner.

And sweeter in Barbados

Watch out for predators

Life sweet in Barbados: The first thing you need to know about Barbados is that this is the home of rum.

So that when you come down for your breakfast at Turtle Beach https://www.eleganthotels.com/turtle-beach and Sandals https://www.sandals.co.uk/sandals-barbados/ in St Laurence Gap you’ll get rum pancakes.

Irie as they say in Bim which is why I went back a second time… Let’s rumba in Barbados and A kiss from Rihanna.

Countries, UK

Edinburgh – an old friend

It’s reassuring when you go away for 13 years and people and places are the same as when you left them.

Take my football buddies Cello, Rino and Davy who are still as fit and adept as ever they were – I’m still taking fresh-air shots.

Our old stomping ground, Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh where Ian and Lachie Stewart, and Liz Lynch lit up the 1970 and 1984 Commonwealth Games is gone.

And high-end houses are sprouting up in their place…

I dare say the builders would love to tear down yon big castle on the hill as well.

Of course I copied some of my old routines as I reintroduced myself to my Monday morning football game.

Which means a brown sausage and egg roll and a pot of tea afterwards.

Now if you’re expecting me to now say: in a tartan-clad, pipe-playing kitsch cafe on Princes Street you’d be wrong.

I prefer the honest, down-to-earth Snax Cafe.

To Cafe Royal, all wood and fancy glass but stuffy and impersonal where they think they’re doing you a favour!

And so you want a doubler (£4.40 after 11am, £3.30 before) which gives you a choice of bacon, sausage, eggs, haggis sort of thing.

And the sausage you want is a square one…

I’m not having you on… it’s not as if Scottish pigs are square.

But that reminds me of a trip to my old home in Aberdeen a couple of years ago.

When our host Stevie teased the young Irish group by apologising for not taking them to the haggis farm because he didn’t have time.

And I had to remind him ten minutes later to tell them that haggises weren’t small furry creatures.

Just in case it went into the article.

And here’s why you should go off the beaten track to visit one of Scotland’s truly great cities, Aberdeen… Aberdeen – a light in the north.

Also check out www.edinburgh.org and Edinburgh City Pass www.edinburghcitypass.com which gives you free entry to 22 city attractions.

see www.visitscotland.com

I’ll bring you more misadventures from my homecoming but for now…

And remember Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com and Ryanair www.ryanair.com.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Adventure, Asia, Countries, Europe

You make your bed… now lie in it

There’s someone sleeping in my bed… yes, a dozen pillows.

So as I sit precariously on the edge of the bed in my new chilly billet waiting to get in… here are my fave places I’ve laid down my head.

Never getting up again

I’ll be here for some time

Castara Retreats, Tobago https://castararetreats.com And a hammock on your balcony.

Remember to light your anti-mosquito candle.

Alternatively just sleep out in the open as Robinson Crusoe on the beaches… you won’t go cold.

Visit www.visittobagogov.tt and here’s some mud adventures… On your marks, get set, GOAT in Tobago.

City beach

Sleeping the beer off

Hamburg, Germany: This was made for me.

No long walks home or trying to hail a taxi in the cold.

Just sleep off your hamburger and beer in The Strand Pauli Beach Bar https://www.strandpauli.de.

And relive it in Hamburgers and ships.

Uncle Jim’s Cabin

With a seaview, obvs

MSC Preziosa, the Norwegian fjords: And as you can see I’ve got the pillows off... out of picture, on The Scary One’s side.

Get yourself an infinity cabin for extra space where the balcony door disappears into the sides to give you more room.

So you can smell and see the sea. Visit www.msccruises.ie/www.msccruises.co.uk.

Lie back and think of Jordan

In from the desert

Aqaba: Yes, you’ll go flat on your back on the Dead Sea.

And flat on your tummy, snorkelling in the Red Sea.

So after your Shisha pipe snd Turkish tea, and maybe a game of chess or backgammon with a local, it’s time for…

A triple rollover on this comfy bed in Aqaba. Visit www.visitjordan.com and www.gadventures.com.

No drama on Kythera

I’ll make the bed later

El Sol Hotel, Kythera, Greece: Now you’ll not need many covers on your bed in your island of Kythera bedroom in sunny Greece.

The family-run El Sol hotel is a million miles away from the big multinational hotels.

And it has breathtaking views and a swimming pool you can almost into from your room.

Visit http://elsolhotel.gr/en/, https://athensattica.com and https://visitkythera.com. And read on… My Greek odyssey.

MEET YOU ON… WELL, ON SECOND THOUGHTS

Countries, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – the best bar nun

Pope John Paul II only blessed my Uncle Danny and Auntie Nora.

For rearing six children in south Co. Donegal, all of whom became monks or nuns.

Which, without any signposting, other than maybe me watching Call the Midlife…

I’ve decided to shine a light on our Brothers and Sisters.

I more than fulfilled my holy obligations last year with visits to the holy sites of Lourdes…

See The Lourdes prayer, https://en.lourdes-infotourisme.com and Medjugorje The faces of 2019 – Pilgrimages.

Penguins’ march

And I hope to see Oberammergau in action this year after sampling the preparations last year https://www.passionsspiele-oberammergau.de/en/home.

I had always thought that there was a height requirement to be admitted into the Holy Orders… you needed to be under 5ft.

Slam dunk

Until I was told of a basketball-playing nun in Medjugorje https://www.medjugorje.org on my Marian Pilgrimages tour www.marian.ie.

and, no, she doesn’t run between the opposition’s legs.

Basketball, incidentally, plays a part in the Marian apparitions story…

Our Lady only interrupted the big game on TV that day with her message of world peace and rosaries.

I confess

Monks, of course are great fun too and I wish I’d appreciated the brown-robed, big-bearded ones who regularly came a-visiting.

Way of the world

So what if they’d never heard of Heavy Metal or Celtic and Rangers, they knew exactly what was going on in Africa and the Middle East.

And so to this little Italian Franciscan dude who would do hours and hours of confessionals in Balkan Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Or Sister Elvira whose hostel for drug dependents in the hills above the town.

It’s always good insurance to say a prayer with a monk or a nun.

An Our Father

And particularly when they are Maria dos Anjos, the niece of the Last Shepherd of Fatima.

And I’d love to share her secrets with you.

Only a bolt of lightning would strike me down.

See. www.visitportugal.com and Secret Portugal.

MEET YOU IN THE PEWS

Adventure, America, Asia, Countries, Cruising

My Sporting Weekend – Olympic ‘sports’

It might have escaped your attention but Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis broke the world record this week.

Which beggars the question: what’s the point apart from the bit at the end of the stick?

I mean who pole vaults anyway, or shot putts, or throws discuses?

Bending over backwards. www.wikipedia.com

Field of screams

Javelins have their place… partly because of bonkers Tessa Sanderson who I interviewed in my first job and the force of nature that is Fatima Whitbread.

They could make it even better if they were to time it to when the long-distance runners were on the track.

Long jump? Nothing exciting has happened since Bob Beamon jumped out of the pit.

And high jump? Since Dick Fosbury flopped over the bar in the Sixties.

Give it a hurl www.wikipedia.com

Home run

Baseball: I’m surprised it isn’t in the Games already but it hasn’t been since 2002.

But seeing that the Japanese are pretty good at it..,

Anyway, because I’ve got some game from the Washington Nationals… if the UK team want a Joe DiMurtio.

And check out my Washington adventures Easy DC.

Capital: Slugger Murty

Chairman of the board

For flip’s sake www.wikipedia.com

Skateboarding: Born out of the old outdoor swimming pool in Venice Beach, it should remain there.

Venice Beach life should be experienced though https://www.venicebeach.com as should Muscles Beach https://www.musclebeachvenice.com but they wouldn’t introduce body-building, would they?

Aw, hell, I’ve only gone and given the IOCC ideas.

And also check out www.visitcalifornia.com.

Kicking on

Karate kid

Karate: I’m only surprised it isn’t.

I never got near the oul’ Martial Arts other than having a dressing gown which was dangerously close to a Del Boy fashion item.

Hardly a spectator sport

Get your rocks off

Sport climbing: I don’t even know how they judge this.

But I do know a crowd who do… the Coloradans who spend their days climbing the Rockies.

And their evenings getting stoned at their craft beer and organic restaurants… Go West and www.colorado.com.

Everybody’s gone surfin’

Surfing: And here’s another newbie that I’m pitching myself for.

After roadtesting the Royal Caribbean Flow Rider in Barcelona.

And then throwing some shapes at Surf City USA, Huntington Beach https://www.surfcityusa.com.

I’m only surprised the Japanese haven’t tried to get sumo wrestling included… I’d watch that.

Visit https://www.japan.travel/en/uk/ and https://tokyo2020.org/en/.

MEET YOU AT THE GAMES

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Holiday Snaps – Gardaland, Marrakech, Dubrovnik

For those of us who have Irish blood running through our veins Lake Gardaland sounds like a police theme park (ask an Irish relative).

Pigtales: Peppa. www.peppapig.co.uk

For everyone who books one of their Lake Garda family properties for the summer season.

Souk it up

Souk it up

They say that if you fall off a horse (or camel) you should just hop back on.

Well, maybe after 17 years it’s time for me to climb aboard again in Morocco.

My trip to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains brought a new meaning to ‘ill-fated’.

And I’ll need a stiff drink to relay it but it definitely does fall into the category of ‘accidental tourist’.

Better leave it to the professionals… www.inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk.

They are flagging up a week in the Royal Mansour Marrakech from £5995 two+two family (kids under 12).

There’s all kind of luxury: riads, hamams, fine dining.

As well as lots for the adventurous sort such as dune surfing, horse and carriage ride through the city, riding camels.

And a Bedouin tented dinner under the stars. Oh, yes, I know that one all right!!!

Dubrovnik – to do list

Balkan beauty

And I should have seen all this with my own eyes.

Only I had my old passport on me with my US visa in it rather than my new one sitting back in my Medjugorje hostel.

So I had to get off the bus before the border and head back to Medjugorje.

So I have to get back to do it, and when I do it will be with Croatia Tours https://croatia.ie/croatiaspecials.asp?emailID=5061F645-D5EC-4D7C-9F71-90EB3B944A4A through Mostar which will run in July and August on Wednesdays.

Seven nights to the lushly forested Mljet Island and Dubrovnik, staying at a 3* on June 18, with flights from Dublin from €887.