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.

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

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

My blooming Valentine – the pick of the bunch

Say it with flowers. Happy Valentine’s Day.

And here is the pick of the bunch of my flowers from around the world.

Of course my fave is right here at home.

California blooming

Purple reigns: In Beverly Hills

Jacaranda, Southern California:?No, not the name of a Hollywood actress but these vibrant purple blooms in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

The best time to see them is in June when the jacaranda showers its blooms on passers-by which was me.

See www.visitcalifornia.com and https://www.weho.org.

Edelweiss in Austria

Austria’s flower

Edelweiss, Austria, Switzerland: They should write a song about this

We know it from The Sound of

Music and as the national flower

of Austria Soll Mates but you can

also find it all around Switzerland

Swhisskey on the rock

Visit https://www.austria.info/en and https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/. And get out that old soundtrack.

This flower lasts for ever

Something for everyone

Sempre viva, Kythera, Greece: Yes, I love yellow but there are other golden flowers other than daffodils.

Take the sempreviva flower from the Attica island, off Athens, which is so called because of its hardiness.

A bit like the old men and women of the island…. https://visitkythera.com. And My Greek odyssey.

The miracle flower

Pride of South Africa

The spekboom, South Africa: The good people at Raggy Charters https://www.raggycharters.co.za would take us out on Algoe Bay in the Eastern Cape in South Africa…

To spot bottlenose dolphins and penguins.

But they would always plant a spekboom to counter the fuel consumption from the boat.

Read about this magic plant in This plant can save the world and What’s new pussycat?. And visit https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/.

A Mimosa for me

Model flower

Mimosas, Cannes, France: Drink it in… they’re flowers and cocktails!

And Mandelieu-La-Napoule, near Cannes is awash with them during the week-long Mimosa Festival https://www.mandelieu.com/evenements/mimosa-festival-4 which takes place from February 19.

And of course I got in the spirit of things too… The Boat D’Azur.

The flower of peace

Where once was mud

The poppy, Flanders, Belgium: It was the only flower that could grow in the mud of No-Man’s-Land in Flanders.

During the carnage of the First World War.

Lest we forget it is a beautiful flower and symbol all year around and the Fallen should be remembered all year round.

See In Flanders fields and www.visitflanders.com.

And always…

My wee flower

Tulips from Amsterdam: They are the flower that were the gift among royal courts.

The must-have status symbol of the 17th Century in the Netherlands.

And the flower that fed the starving Dutch in the last winter of the Second World War.

Read more about them in Pictures of Amsterdam and What’s new pussycat?.

Visit www.iamsterdam.com and also take in the Tulip Museum https://amsterdamtulipmuseum.com.

While the Netherlands’ other great flower, the crocus, is just as regal… Crocus gold… Valentine’s in Amsterdam and Ireland.

Happy Valentine’s everyone and tell us your favourite flower and destination.

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Bananaman meets Bandanaman

Happy Birthday Bananaman, 40 years old on Saturday, although his alter ego, Eric Wimp still retains his schoolboy looks.

The Bash Street pupil who like all comic characters is condemned to be stuck in time and never grow up first appeared in ‘Nutty’.

Man of peel. Bananaman. www.wikipedia.com

Before going onto become a star of the Beano and Dandy.

Enough Banananaman already… here’s Bandanaman around the world…

Dublin and Portugal

I didn’t need asked twice to promote a barbers in Dublin who would green me up one Christmas…

Me and Cami with the long blonde hair

Cami liked my bushy bear while l stroked her luscious hair.

As we danced on the floor at Carnaval Court off the Strip in Las Vegas.

Visit www.lvcva.com and Strip… the light fantastic.

Towelled down in DC

We might not get tomorrow

Tonight, give me everything tonight.

And I did, grabbing R&B star Ne-Yo’s sweat towel at the American Travel Fair in Washington DC.

And we DID get tomorrow. Easy DC & https://washington.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyNz25NbO5wIVjbTtCh0y-Aj4EAAYAiAAEgLDx_D_BwE.

Maldives and a sarong

Sarong but oh, so right

I made sure that The Scary One didn’t send the sarong to the charity shop when we were moving.

What do you mean that nobody else would be seen dead…

Visit https://island-marketing.business.site and www.visitmaldives.com.

Trolls in the fjords

Norway would: On the MSC cruise

The wind was blowing in my beardie but not my bandana.

But I reckoned I looked full Viking on my MSC cruise www.msccruises.co.uk and The call of the fjords.

South Africa’s rand plan

Voting Line in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

They like their headdresses in Africa.

So I was right at home, particularly as my new friend Siseko chanelled his inner Bandanaman on a return visit last month for Holiday World,

Visit https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ and when I had to lie down in a thicket… What’s new pussycat?

Lie back and think of Jordan

So what else would you do in the Dead Sea!

Although you do get salt everywhere and it’s a divil to get the bandana on and off. And…

Read The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time and see www.visitjordan.com.

Countries, Culture, Europe

Crocus gold… Valentine’s in Amsterdam and Ireland

When it’s Spring again we’ll sing again ‘Crocuses from Co. Waterford’.

Yes, I would and, when I can afford it, do cover my flower beds with tulips from Amsterdam.

And one we enjoyed on our visit to Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Dylan promise: At the Dylan in Amsterdam

Where we also took home ice cream tulips (think raspberry ripple colours) from the Amsterdam Museum https://amsterdamtulipmuseum.com.

And got a Spring out of them before we handed over the keys of chez notre maison in Ireland.

To someone we can only hope appreciates the opportunities as we did.

My wee flower in Amsterdam

The history of the crocus is also captivating.

We can date the crocus back to the Egyptians, Greeks and Menoans.

With a few pounds of corn served as a loan of gold and jewels.

The best place to see crocuses in Ireland is the Mount Congreve Gardens in Co. Waterford.

Purple reigns… in Co. Waterford

The gardens will open early this year on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

To showcase more than 20,000 crocuses in flower at the beautiful gardens located just ten minutes from Waterford City.

Which is a two-hour drive south of Dublin.

Which we all know is served regularly by our friends at Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com and Ryanair www.ryanair.com.

For more on what the gardens have to offer throughout the year visit www.mountcongrevegardens.com.

The crocus story doesn’t finish there.

The Crocus Project from Ireland

The Crocus Project was launched in Ireland in 2005 by the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland.

Intended for pupils aged 11 and over it provides schools with yellow crocus bulbs.

To plant in memory of the one million and a half Jewish children.

And thousands of other children who died in the Holocaust.

The yellow flowers recall the yellow Star of David all Jews were forced to wear under Nazi rule.

Which Anne Frank had up on her wall of the attic house she, her family and friends hid away in from the Nazis during the War.

A giant: Anne Frank in Amsterdam. http://www.twitter.com

On this the 75th anniversary year of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, where Anne and her sister Margot died, and Auschwitz were liberated, pay tribute…

By either visiting those sites or the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam… https://www.annefrank.org/nl/.

And also make use of the wonderful city pass https://www.iamsterdam.com/en.

While all major airlines fly to Amsterdam I like to promote national airline carriers and recommend KLM www.klm.com.

Me, I’m off to buy crocuses and tulips for someone who deserves them… and also The Scary One.

And I’ll get back to you on Friday, Valentine’s Day, with more blooming marvellous places to visit for gardens and flowers.

Adventure, Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Food, Food & Wine

Oscar bravo to Korea

It’s the pinnacle of your Korea as an actor. OK that’s enough puns (he lied).

South Korea is on everyone’s lips after Parasite’s sensational Oscar triumph yesterday in Hollywood.

And it gave me a little thrill to see Hollywood in all its glamour after visiting last year… https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/things-to-do/the-beginners-guide-to-hollywood and www.visitcalifornia.com.

All the colours of Seoul

So Chughahabrida to Korea and it. may again hold the world’s attention…

If they are successful in their joint-bid with the North to hold the 2032 Olympic Games.

Seoul hosted a memorable 1988 Olympic Games which was attended by all after the boycotts of Moscow 1980 and LA 1984.

The South Koreans came a-visiting just last month at the Holiday World Show in Dublin.

And wowed us with their pitch.

You won’t need second helpings

For a country that boasts old Buddhist temples, hilly countryside, coastal fishing villages.

Traditional food (look out for the bibimbap with its distinctive raw egg and sliced beef on top).

Sub-tropical islands, the volcanic Jeju island, and high-tech cities such as Seoul, the world’s third largest island, of course.

While Busan City is the country’s second largest, with mountains, water, a super cool bridge, and the world-famous Jagalchi Fish market.

Neon glitz in Seoul

I’m reminded here of my two brushes, indirectly, with the two Koreas.

My old Northern Irish flatmate who taught English as a foreign language to the public back in the Eighties.

I fear the poor souls will be going around saying ‘howabite ye?’ ‘yer man’ and a ‘wee fry.’

While my Orlando www.visitorlando.com and Why I love The Donald host Cory relayed us with tales from her year there where she was warmly welcomed.

By a nation where more than 90% of the population is indigenous.

Blooming marvellous

The South Koreans http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto want us to come to learn more about their culture and we theirs.

G Adventures www.gadventures.com has eight days ‘the Best of South Korea’ from €1399, down from €1749.

This trip embraces, rather than skirts, Korea’s troubled history with an excursion to the Demilitaised Zone separating the two Koreas.

Temple culture

You’ll visit spectacular Seoul, folk villages, temples and the bustling markets of Busan.

G Adventures can help point you in the direction of flights…

This offer is for departure date on March 13, and also March 20.

While there are 15% reductions for April 17 and March 30-June 7.

I can recommend first hand how interactive and how immersed in the local culture G Holidays are.

Shopping heaven: Traditional markets

With the best hosts… take a bow Zuhair.

From my visit to Jordan… The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time and www.visitjordan.com.

So maybe this year your G Adventures trip will be to Korea… better start practising your Gangnam Style.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

On your marks, get set, GOAT in Tobago

You’d easily miss the ‘No Squatting’ sign on Englishman’s Beach on the Caribbean island of Tobago. Robinson Crusoe did.

Convenient that, a seafarer remaining abandoned on this idyll for 28 years!

Daniel Defoe’s castaway has become the source of enduring fascination these past 300 years.

A modern-day Robinson Crusoe

Defoe, who drew on many shipwreck tales of the time tells us that his vessel sank within ‘sight of the great island of Trinidad’.

Which can only be its sister island of Tobago.

Oh, that… and also because of the goats. More of which later.

Which their government opportunistically renamed Isla Robinson Crusoe in 1966.

So would Crusoe recognise Tobago now?

The Englishman’s first challenge, of course, after making shore in 1719, would have been to find food.

With Attenborough’s pal William Trim

And through good fortune, or good judgment, he managed to avoid the poisonous yellow berries on the beach which our hosts warn us about.

Instead he shook the trees for coconuts and bananas and picked the mango groves.

And gladly lived off the other fruits of the land and the sea.

Which we, a party of five, who are guests of the Tobago Tourism Agency enjoy at a range of restaurants.

The Argyle Falls: And I won’t let my dye wash

Where the fish are close enough to jump out of the sea and onto your plate.

And where owners are friendly enough for you to call them ‘Auntie’ Alison and ‘Uncle’ Kenneth.

Tobago has been settled 32 times including randomly by Latvians.

Me…. I belong to Glasgow as the old music hall song goes but I’ve never been to a Glasgow bar like this.

Glasgow boys: Karl and I

It overlooks Parlatuvier Bay, every bit as beautiful as it sounds, and run by local Karl Glasgow.

Who, alas, has never been to Scotland, although his bar is bedecked with Scotland flags.

In an island just 12km wide and our three authentic billets allowed us either breathtaking views or close access.

For golfers Mount Bay Resort has its own course, while for those whose favourite hole is the 19th, it has the best rum punches on the island.

With Jeanelle and Porridge at Castara

Castara Retreats is a hidden-away gem.

And with its hammock on the balcony, and kitchen, buzzing village and bonfire party on the beach, it’s an indulgence worth rewarding you with.

And for convenience Kariwak Holistic Haven is ‘just around the corner’ from the airport, the Strip (with its bars, restaurants and a casino.)

And Sunday worship where you can repent those sins and ‘praise the Lord’ with the locals.

In search of more locals we head for the rain forest and the bird and animal sanctuaries.

Where the colourful hummingbirds, mockingbirds, black hawks and woodpeckers are in good voice.

Today’s intrepid explorer has rainforest expert William Trim who counts David Attenborough as an admirer.

Bird expert Ean Mackay and animal conservationists Ian Wright and Roy Corbin all there to reveal to us more of Tobago’s natural secrets.

I bet you Crusoe did the same.

And a cure for flu.

Which Crusoe would have experienced.

The barebacked turtles crawling out of the sea to lay their eggs on the beaches.

You’ll go limin’ (pre-drinking), jumpin’ and chippin’ (dancing on the stone chips).

No trip to Tobago would be complete either without a trip to Sunday School in Buccoo on the south of the island.

No, not that type of Sunday School, but a steel pan and Soca (Soul of Calypso) celebration.

Where the whole of the island comes out to drink and dance to the wee small hours (rum punch is the libation du jour).

Although Christmas feels more measured than back home possibly because it’s too warm out here for Christmas jumpers.

Here in Tobago amid the 30C temperatures don’t be surprised if you find Santa in a Christmas T-shirt on the beach.

But they are in fact racing goats who are in training for the Buccoo Festival at Easter..

And I bent over backwards at yoga too

And jockey Levi who shows me the ropes and how to handle my giddy goat Bandanaman… who comes with loose-fitting chord around his neck.

Before the starter cuts to the quick and shouts ‘Ready, Steady, Goat’, or at least I do.

I’m a natural, letting Bandanaman lead me 100 metres up the grass track by the football pitch.

Bonfire party

Today though it is his former mentor Terry Williams holding fort, tiring his young son Elijah out by having him run up a wind to help fly his kite.

It looks hard work in this heat and after my own exertions with the goats I welcome the prospect of a cool down.

On another day it’s the Nylon Pool in the middle of the Caribbean on a boat and snorkelling trip.

Princess Margaret would be proud

It is here that Princess Margaret honeymooned and was so taken by the waters that she described them as being as clear as her stockings (nylon).

Nylon Pool also has the added advantage of being a raised sand bank amid deeper water.

So you can have a bit of fun by standing around in the sea for some afternoon drinks.

And I started a party at Nylon Pool

No Man’s  Land, a small sandy island, is where we drop anchor for our own bespoke Christmas party. 

And where I suspend belief and indulge in rum punch instead of sherry, and mahi-mahi (like swordfish) instead of turkey. 

Party boy Brendan brings a festive feel to proceedings in his Santa hat.

And he listens to my Christmas wish list although I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted here anyway.

It’s my hammock

Between Lover’s Bay, Pirate’s Bay and Crown Point’s Store Bay Beach where the Trinis (Trinidadians) will pop over on a 20-minute flight for the afternoon.

All of which we try, for research purposes you understand, in case Crusoe had ventured this way.

It is on Pirate’s Bay Beach where we meet a German party who emerge almost Crusoe-like from the thickets.

What a picture: I captured the island on canvas

And a clearing having walked the width of the island from its biggest town Scarborough.

My last day I spend as Crusoe would have done, in reverence to the Divine Creator.

And the sun sets on our Tobago break

And while Crusoe’s most solemn wish would have been to be rescued..,

Mine’s is that my big bird never arrives to fly me off my fantasy island.

The lowdown

Tobago Airport: It’s tiny

British Airways (www.ba.com) flies from Gatwick from £475pp (€560) return; Virgin Atlantic flies from Gatwick from £496pp (€586) return. All major airlines fly into London from Ireland.

Drivers and guides can easily be arranged at hotels to get you around Tobago. Car rental starts at around £44 (€51) per day.

WHERE TO STAY

Mount Irvine Bay Resort (www.mtirvine.com), A week with BA Holidays in January 2020 from £965pp (€1135) for a week’s B&B and return flights from Gatwick. Based on two sharing.

Holistic Heaven: But still time to have a cocktail

Kariwak Holistic Haven (www.kariwak.com):  A week with BA Holidays in January 2020 is priced from £1,195 (€1,405) per person for a week’s accommodation on B&B basis including free daily yoga, and return flights from Gatwick.  Based on two people sharing.

WHAT TO DO

The boat that rocks

Waterholics: Take a boat ride out to Princess Margaret’s honeymoon swimming spot, Nylon Pool, a sand bank deep in the sea, where you can also stand up in the sea, She said the waters were as clear as her nylon stockings. Visit www.ilovetobagott.com for information and prices.

The boat ride Jim did was $120pp. Waterholics do exactly what they say on the tin… coastline tours, glass bottom boat tours, dolphin watching, fishing trips, booze cruise for small trips et al.

Their mantra is ‘just add water’.

WHERE TO EAT

Macaroni and cheese with everything

Jemma’s Tree House, Charlotteville-L’Anse, Fourmi Rd, Hermitage. https://m.facebook.com/pages/Jemmas-Tree-House-Restaurant-Speyside-Tobago/352296588174092

Jemma’s Treehouse: Naturally there are birds

You’ll need to get used to sharing your table space with the hummingbirds but I suppose that comes from eating in a treehouse.

How much fun is that?

The ice cream: Rum’n’raisin naturally

Order mahi-mahi, a type of swordfish, and so good they named it twice.

IMPORTANT WEBSITE

For more information: (https://www.visittobago.gov.tt).

Adenture Farm and Nature Reserve Adventure: For the best bird-watching (and a villa to stay over in and wake up to the sound of hummingbirds and mockingbirds) https://adventure-ecovillas.com

Cannon fodder: At Fort King George

Fort King George and Museum http://nationaltrust.tt/location/fort-king-george-tobago/

Tobago Cocoa Estate: https://www.tobagococoa.com

Corbin Local Wildlife: http://www.tobagowildlife.com

And if you want more Caribbean fun see Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Thirteen years an Irishman – My capital cities (and Istanbul)

I belong to Glasgow,

Dear Old Glasgow toon,

But there’s nothing the matter with Glasgow

Because It’s going round and round.

I’m only a common-or-garden chap,

As anyone here can see.

But when I have a couple of drinks on a Saturday,

Glasgow belongs to me

I’m a city boy, always have been, always will be, and am going back to one of my favourites.

Edinburgh, or Embra as we say in Scotland.

But what of the others, I’ve been keeping you going with my top cities so here we go again:

Capitol idea

Washington DC: Four score and seven years ago (well, three years in my case) I fulfilled a lifelong ambition by visiting the US capital.

It’s still to be beaten for me as an American city.

The Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Washington Monument.

All the Smithsonians, and particularly the National Museum of African American History and Culture https://nmaahc.si.edu/splashify-splash and the National Museum of the American Indian https://americanindian.si.edu.

Arlington https://www.arlington.ie, the Kennedy graves, Robert E. Lee’s house, Frederick Douglas’s house. Oh, and the Capitol https://www.visitthecapitol.gov and the White House https://www.whitehouse.gov too.

Visit https://washington.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx66X0f2v5wIVh7HtCh1YpQ9FEAAYASAAEgL9uvD_BwE.

Roman holidays

I’ll be back… and I was

My former colleague and still my pal, the office PA, Rebecca, is in Rome and asked me for some pointers.

Well, she’ll know the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps.

St Paul’s Basilica, the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel.

But she should try out the Capuchin Crypt where the bones and skulls of dead monks were used to build the three altars. Now that’s eternal.

Visit http://www.cappucciniviaveneto.it and https://www.rome.info and Small roads lead to Rome.

And before Rome there was Athens

An old relic… and the Acropolis

Socrates was here and so was I and two very helpful taxi drivers who got me here after I was late the first time… a case of Acropolis Later.

Athens is beautifully chaotic which is why I feel I belong there, there where you can get stuck in a restaurant lift for half an hour.

And walk in on an elderly couple post-coitus because the rooms were mixed up and the manager sends you up a couple of bottles of wine as an apology.

Visit Athens www.athensattica.com/things-to-see/ and My Greek odyssey.

And the crossroads – Istanbul

With my good pal Onur from Turkish Airlines

The crossroads of Europe and Asia and where I’d planned to get engaged 25 years previously.

On the Bosphorus where I made up for last year.

On a boat cruise with me singing along to Abba’s Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy (A man after midnight) and my pal did his Dancing Ian.

And, of course, the Hagi Sofya, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, whirling dervishes and the hamam where Florence Nightingale and Kate Moss went (https://www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr.

Visit https://www.turkishairlines.com/en-int/index.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu9Tm8aSw5wIVhbTtCh3HQwB5EAAYAiAAEgIwDPD_BwE and https://visit.istanbul and of course Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Harbour of my dreams

Valletta, a safe betta

I’m going to have to put this in as it was Malta where I actually did get engaged. I’d bent down to tie my laces and she yelled ‘Yes’.

The harbour is the most beautiful in the world… my survey and you should sail between the islands.

And Valletta’s Fortifications and the Caravaggio in the St John Co-Cathedral.

Visit www.maltaireland.com and Malta easer.

And tomorrow, five more from Northern Europe.

Countries, Culture, Europe

Thirteen years an Irishman – five top cities

For fear of causing an international diplomatic incident, here’s five more of my favourite cities.

In Northern Europe although, in truth, they stand comparison with any in the world.

So let’s get started with some of that rock’n’roll music… and…

Hamburger city

Hamburg (https://www.hamburg.com/visitors/): The Rieperbahn obviously but also the Elbphilormonie, or Elbe https://www.elbphilharmonie.de/en/… it’s not just for the stuffed shirts.

Then there’s Stefanie Hempell’s Early Beatles-Tour, her infectious smile, Der Fab Four anecdotes and songs on her ukulele… http://www.hempels-musictour.de

And, of course, eating hamburgers like a local in Dulf’s Burger https://m.facebook.com/dulfsburger/. Hamburgers and ships.

And a model railway museum which could seriously turn me… Why German trains always run on time.

I Amsterdam

Pictures everywhere

Amsterdam: Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Breughel, the tulip museum and the story of the world’s best flower… and cheese, and a cheese not a cheesy museum.

The Ann Frank Museum and a stirring reminder of how we need to remain vigilant against racism.

Canals, narrow bars and Middle Eastern food… who even needs to visit the Red Light District.

Visit www.iamsterdam.com and read Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Prague springs

Give peace a chance

Prague: Lennon’s wall and the Astronomical Church, obviously, but also the Castle which is really a district.

The Charles Bridge with its sculptures and jazz musicians.

The world’s second ugliest attraction, from Communist days, and they’re very proud of it. And one of my favourite statues ‘Piss’.

Visit https://discover-prague.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIuJH_8KCz5wIVRrTtCh0ofAEHEAAYAyAAEgKhOvD_BwE and https://www.czechtourism.com/home/. And read Holiday Snaps – Prague for under €100.

Bergen’s charms

A lager is how much?

Bergen: The old wharf and traditional Norwegian buildings of Bryggen where you can always find a wooden (or real) troll.

The Floyen mountain with funicular and breathtaking views of the fjord and your ship.

And the Kode museum http://www.kodebergen.no with its Munch and Dahl (the landscape artist whose paintings drew the first 19th century cruises) exhibitions.

Visit https://en.visitbergen.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIiM-726Wz5wIVSrDtCh3vLQROEAAYASAAEgJIZvD_BwE and The call of the fjords.

Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – My cup of tea

What is it about tea that the Irish and British love so much that it’s become the national drink?

So much so though that here in Ireland there’s a schism over which brand you drink.

Barry’s in Cork and Lyons in Dublin.

While I’ve been here for 13 and a half years but don’t know which the rest of the country prefer.

My pal Ines who runs the Milena guest house in the Marian site of Medjugorje http://www.pansion-filipovic.com takes a diplomatic stance.

She stocks both…

Get the kettle on.

I always try to spread the message wherever I go around the world.

And I flagged it up to the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse in Colorado… https://www.boulderteahouse.com.

Dushanbe’s story is unique and inspiring: it came about as the result of a friendship.

Between the Tajikistan town and its sister city Boulder.

The Tajiks built it out there, it was disassembled, crated up and transferred across the world during the Cold War… Go West.

Of course the way we drink our tea is different from many countries in the world.

And in Muslim countries and the Middle East they prefer it spiced, minted, and with any number of infusions.

I first fell in love with Turkish tea in, get this, Turkey where I also fell in love with the people.

That was on a much-storied family holiday but I have, of course, been back… Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

And this is the evidence where every visitor to the historic hamam of Cagaloglu gets a refreshing Turkish tea… or stronger wine https://www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr.

Going local in Istanbul

The wine doesn’t flow as freely in Jordan, a drier country, but their teas are a great substitute.

And the Kawon Once Upon A Time vegetarian restaurant in Madaba with its big library of books and games is to be recommended… https://kawon-once-upon-a-time.business.site/posts/979636663081914742?hl=en.

Which tea?

As obviously is Jordan with G Adventures http://www.gadventures.com and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

I’ll get back to you on more of my favourite cups of teas (and my frontrunner is rosehip).

While, of course, I’ll tell you where I love my traditional tea, the way we drink it.

MEET YOU IN THE TEAHOUSE