Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Carole King… you’re Beautiful

There are some mornings I wake up without a smile on my face to show the world all the love in my heart.

Today though is not one of them.

Today, I have the widest smile on my face.

Because today I am going to see Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

She’s Beautiful (as is my wife).

Carole King and her breakthrough 1971 solo album Tapestry has been something of a soundtrack to my adult life.

Since I first heard it in a record store as an 18-year-old and asked them to play it again…

You’ve got a friend

Before buying it there and then before going on to wear out the needle.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow? summed up my feeble attempts at wooing… of course, they didn’t even love me that night,

Then it was You’ve Got a Friend when She came along,

So Far Away was when she was pregnant with the Son and Heir in Aberdeen.

And trying to sell the house and me starting a new job in Liverpool.

Close-up? Selfie time

And since then Home Again as we have taken an Oydyssean journey around these islands.

It is the beauty of this timeless album that I won’t be the only one for whom it tells a personal story.

Of course, it’s Carole King’s story that Beautiful tells.

It is a story that begins with her selling her first song while still at school.

Through the ups and downs of her marriage to songwriting partner Gerry Goffin.

To her grand redemptive performance at Carnegie Hall in her native New York.

Hands on decks: Some ambient music at the Radisson Blu

Along the way we thrill to the Sound of the Sixties which she and Goffin and their friends Cynthia Wiel and Barry Mann shaped.

With such classics as On The Roof, Locamotion, One Fine Day, Pleasant Valley Sunday and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, On Broadway and a bunch of others.

At the end of a fast-paced joyful paean to Carole who has inspired generations of singer-songwriters and still performs to this day, she had performed Tapestry in full with her daughter Louise.

I feel the earth move

Up the road at Hyde Park in the summer, I’m up dancing and clapping wildly to I Feel The Earth Move.

While I’m here at the Aldwych Theatre in London’s West End to pay homage to Carole King there’s time enough for some other kings.

And some queens and princes too at the Tower of London.

Pasta master: Fill yourself up

William the Conqueror built it nearly 1,000 years ago to fortify the capital of his new kingdom, King Henry VIII had two wives beheaded here.

Near to where I’m standing by the Bloody Tower where King Richard III had his two nephews suffocated in their sleep,

Another queen, Lady Jane Grey, was also executed here…

She spent only five days as monarc.

Before she had to make way fro Queen Mary, or Bloody Mary if you will who then made way for Queen Elizabeth.

Beefeater anyone?

It’s another Queen Elizabeth we’re chiefly here to see, the current queen, Britain’s longest serving monarch at 64 years and counting.

Or more accurately we’re here to see her bling, the Crown Jewels.

Talking of counting, try counting the number of gems in her crown.

On your walk around or the number of salt bowls or how many drinks you could get out of that punch bowl.

All of which can make you quite thirsty.

Fat as a king

I feast like a king at my palace for the weekend, the Radisson Blu Edwardian in Mercer Street, Seven Dials, near Covent Garden.

Our breakfasts are king-sized.

Instead of choosing buffet or continental they do both while evening meal is a Peruvian/Italian tapas fusion.

It works and the DJ with his decks and his ambient music add to the vibe.

A watery grave: Olde London

Fat as a king, I need to work off the half a dozen meat, fish and pasta tasting dishes and rich Peruvian chocolate dessert which means a stroll around the city of Westminster.

It is a ten-minute walk from Seven Dials across Waterloo Bridge and along the South Bank.

I try to ignore the garish and overpriced Dungeon and Shrek tourist traps and opt instead two read William Wordsworth’s thoughts inscribed on the walkway.

What a Wordsworth!

The great Romantic poet loved London and waxed lyrical about the Thames gentled gliding by.

I despair then at what today’s town planners are doing to this great old city.

With their London Eyesore and Gherkin (and who builds something in the shape of the bit of the burger nobody wants?)

The West End: And that boy Potter

I avert my eyes and, of course, am drawn instead to the Mother of all Parliaments. I cross Westminster Bridge and think on Wordsworth’s Upon Westminster Bridge.

And I consider knocking on Downing Street to give Theresa May a piece of my mind.

But Big Ben’s chimes tell me it’s too late, baby, it’s too late. I have an urgent appointment with another wordsmith.

What a picture: Herself

HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to Gatwick airport with Ryanair… http://www.ryanair.com

WHO TO GO WITH

We had two nights on a SuperBreak https://www.wowcher.co.uk/travel/hotels/uk-hotels/ package in 2016 and took in the Beautiful: The Carole King Story at the Aldwych Theatre in the West End of London.

Don’t despair though there are one or two other offerings still running!!!

Visit https://www.nederlander.co.uk/aldwych-theatre

Save, save, save

Save 30% on theatre tickets with a hotel and ticket package from SuperBreak. http://www.superbreak.com. Also visit www.radissonblu-edwardian.com/MercerStreet‎.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in November 2016.

And don’t you know I only got to see the next best thing to Carole, Jessie Mueller, who sang three songs from the musical only centimetres from the American Travel Fair in Washington DC… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/obama-washington-dc/.

While for more Tales from the Thames… The London life

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

Old New York: Hamilton

There is much more that’s old about New York than new.

It’s just that we don’t always see it.

Walk through Broadway as I did en route to my Kimpton Hotel in Little Brazil, or 130 W 46th Street and you can’t fail to notice the giant billboard for Hamilton.

It is, of course the hip-hop musical that has taken the world by storm and it is playing at the Richard Rodgers Theater.

It’s the hottest ticket in town and you’d almost need to be the President or Vice-President to get one.

Where dreams are made of: Manhattan

Veep Mike Pence did, and such is the status that the actors in Hamiton have that they felt empowered enough to lecture him on his politics.

His big pal, the Greatest Living New Yorker, wasn’t impressed and dissed their stand on Twitter demanding – hilariously – that they apologise.

Shame there’s no evidence he’s ever seen the production because The Alexander and The Donald have much in common.

Messing about on the river: On the Hudson

Both are big business, both half-Scottish and both ladies’ men, both egotists and both bestrode their age.

And yet just before the musical reconnected Americans with Hamilton, appartchiks were planning to have him replaced on the $10 bill.

It would have been a particular kind of humiliation for the man who saved the nascent Union from bankruptcy and set up the financial system.

The one that has served The Donald and countless others so well.

The city that Alexander built

And yet other than on Broadway and on the $10 bill where in New York will you find ‘The Greatest Ever New Yorker’?

The best place to start is Central Park.

Another Central Park celeb

You’ll see a steady flow of tourists stopping by to pay tribute to John Lennon who only actually lived here for a few years.

He was always going to go back to England anyway and wouldn’t have been any good in a war.

He’d be lying back in bed talking about, well ‘giving peace a chance.’

Where would the New Yorkers and the Americans have been with someone like him?

My relatives came by here

Hamilton, by contrast, fought bravely in the defence of New York.

And represented them proudly in government, both here when New York was the nation’s capital from 1875-1878.

And in Philadelphia and Washington DC.

Where is Hamiton, though?

He’d appreciate a visit.

His statue is in Central Park, on East Drive, opposite 83rd Street, on the way to Harlem.

And seeing as you’re in the neighbourhood and it’s a Saturday then why not sign up for Jimmy Napoli’s Outside In Hamilton tour http://www.hamiltonsnewyork.com in Washington Heights and Hamilton Heights.

But not on this ship: A submarine on the Hudson

And find out more about this larger-than-life character.

Visit the actual Morris-Juliet Mansion that Washington chose as his HQ at the Battle of Harlem Heights.

And where Hamilton was by his side.

Hamilton history

It was later the home of one-time Vice-President and our hero’s nemesis Aaron Burr.

And it was from here that Washington and Hamilton looked down the peninsula to Manhattan burning in the distance.

Some bigger buildings would block their view today.

Jimmy’s hour-long, one mile walking tour will take you to other important landmarks in The Great Man’s life, including the restored Hamilton Grange National Memorial.

The McNultys, my mum’s people (Irish and American).

If there’s anything he’s missed out – and there won’t be – you can always catch up at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on 226 W 46th Street.

My VIP pal

Again you’d probably need to be pals with the President or Veep to get a ticket.

Good job I am.

The Commander-in-Chief has a pitch on Times Square, near the Naked Cowboy, but more appropriately near Hamilton.

And it’s a beautiful pitch… a beautiful pitch.

Travel facts

How to get there: New York is served by airlines from airline.
And you can get pre-clearance from Ireland. And by bus and trains if you are in the US. I took a Peter Pan bus from DC. It takes nearly five hours.

Where to stay: Kimpton Muse has an executive room, one king bed, two adults from the equivalent of €307.66 for the sample dates of Friday, August 4, to Saturday, August 5. See http://www.kimptonhotels.com. Also visit http://www.nycvb.com.

I’ll revisit New York, mine and my Irish family’s entry like so many others, to America in this blog.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in 2017.

It is part of a series America’s Capitals that also includes Washington DC http://Easy DC and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/philadelphia-freedom/

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

Los Lounges Story… and other word games

Don’t worry about me, I’m enjoying the Los Lounges life… in my boardies, pulling my surf stunt, with my Beach Boys music on, and a Strawberry Daiquiri waiting for me.

They are memories and pictures that I can pull up to transfer myself to a favourite place.

And just one of the distractions to being holed up indefinitely.

Surf’s up: In Surf City, Huntington Beach http://www.surcityusa.com

Which has at times happened on my travels.

West is best… West Hollywood

Obviously when I’ve been struck down like the time when I got food poisoning on my LA break https://www.discoverlosangeles.com and www.visitcalifornia.com and www.ticketsdirect.com and had to stay in bed for a day.

Peerless: Kimpton La Peer Hotel, West Hollywood

With diversions to the toilet.

Still if you are forced to remain in barracks then I’d recommend the Kimpton La Peer Hotel https://www.lapeerhotel.com/?utm_source=Google%20My%20Business&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=GMB&utm_term=lapeer. In West Hollywood https://www.weho.org.

While, yes. I missed that day’s itinerary which had involved a trip to the Warner Bros Studios and their sets https://www.wbstudiotour.com.

Budge up Sheldon

And the chance to sit in Sheldon’s spot but I did get to do just that when Hollywood My Weekend With Marilyn came to Anaheim for the American Travel Fair, IPW.

And to check out Disneyland’s https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disney-california-adventure/hollywood-land/ newest residents Stair Wars.

Formidable Four: With Mark, Issy ad Rachel in South Africa http://www.southafrica.net

It won’t surprise you that today’s conversation has gone off on a tangent… a bit like Alan, one of our coach drivers snd guides in the Eastern Cape in South Africa… http://mobi.alantours.co.za.

Alan’s magical mystery tour

Of course with five wordsmiths in the coach we were never short of a word game or two to while away the time we spent lost in the South African national park…

And enjoyed the delights of South Africa What’s new pussycat?. And Day in the life of a township

Those arrows should point upwards: In Tenerife https://www.visitingtenerife.com

While in Tenerife A walk through the ages… Tenerife we ratcheted it up after stumbling upon a Franco-themed pub in Afur.

Franco and the dictator grocery game

At the end of a particularly challenging climb on our CanariaWays.com trip…. www.CanariaWays.com.

And started a game of ‘supermarket dictator’ after I’d suggested somebody ask the owner of the Franco pun is he had any Tito crisps.

By hook or by crook: In Tenerife

The best of our offerings came from our friend and host Maria with… Lennoncello.

So let me know your suggestions for our parlour game of destinations around the house.

My Finnish pal Paula from our trip to Orlando Why I love The Donald and https://www.disneyworld.co.uk got us going on this one… with Los Lounges.

I weighed in with Ayia Crapper..

Now it’s over to you. Tell me your favourites.

Africa, America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Flying

In defence of Travel people

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts – Mark Twain

Cathy’s clown: DC Easy DC and www.washington.org

The next time you see a cinema usher, a football steward.

Ave Maria: www.CanariaWays.com In defence of Travel people

Or if you even run into a sports writer, then I trust you’ll pick them up on getting in for free!

Muriel, my pal: With Muriel Bolger

Only you won’t because you’ve got class.

King Louis: Friends of racing in Tobago, Louis, Nadine and Clem. www.visittobago.gov.tt Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago

And you know that they’re doing their job.

Kythera: My Greek odyssey www.athensattica.com

And that they’re good at what they do or else they wouldn’t get asked.

Herr for the beer: Hamburgers and ships and www.hamburg.com

My friends

I ran a gauntlet of abuse on my way to becoming Ireland’s Travel Editor of the Year – and from the very people I was helping, my own staff.

Aer we go: With Paula and Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com

Who would, and to be fair it wasn’t all of them, put me down when I was on my Travels (in my own time).

Oo Es of Eh: www.visitusa.ie and www.kennedyspacecenter.com

And snidely refer to my trips which always produced articles, written on time and to the brief I was given, as…

Wooah. Barbados: www.visitbarbados.org Let’s rumba in Barbados My kiss with Rihanna

Junkets, Jollies, Beanos, freebies.

Of course it didn’t apply when I sent them.

Fab Four: With Maria www.spain.info/en Eoghan www.travelextra.ie and Sharon www.ttc.com

And they would be the ones who would be late with their copy.

Petra time: With Zuhair… www.vistjordan.com and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time

Sometimes even embarrassing themselves and a host.

Your Onur: And www.turkishairlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

While their articles would often have to rewritten..

Your USA: With www.visitusa.ie

And all because it was a ‘junket’ and not given the same attention as any other article.

I would then have to apologise profusely to the providers who thankfully and very generously considered me worthy of the ultimate accolade…

Your South Africa www.southafrica.net: With Siseko in Dublin What’s new pussycat?

Their Pleasure To Work With award which was sneered at when I got back to the office.

LA story: Universal Studios’ www.universalstudioshollywood.comJon, The Scottish Sun’s Heather and Tickets Direct’s www.ticketsdirect.com Kate. And My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

Back then, and it’s only a year ago, I would call on the services of the finest freelancers who never let me down.

Star women: The Irish at IPW

On the other side

Now I’m on the other side of the fence I have been glad to say that the holiday providers I cultivated then and many writers and editors remain the best of friends.

Zach the lad: My old pal Zach from my Deep South The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings odyssey www.deep-south-usa.com,

And you always know who your friends are in your time of need.

Give it a twirl: At Pic du Midi. www.hautes-pyrenees.com and The Lourdes prayer

Don’t Cancel

So that’s why I’ll not rest in promoting our industry which, like Twain, I believe is vital to the human condition.

Live like a Royal: Messi around on the water In Barcelona www.barcelonatourisme.com withPaula and www.royalcaribbean.com.

And that’s why I’ve been sprinkling this polemic with pictures of us around the world.

Grand oul tome: With BA’s Tara and Queen of Vegas Tryphavana. And www.lvcva.com and www.ba.com. And Strip… the light fantastic and The grandest canyon.

So join me to support #DontCancelPostpone and #tourismstrong.

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK, Wine

Hungry and Thursday – the off-sales

It’s what I use my one walk a day for… to go to the offie,

No. that’s not a misprint… I’ve been isolating from the office for nigh on a year since branching out on my own.

You may know it in your country as the liquor store or the wine store.

I was relieved then to hear that the offie ranks along the chemist and the supermarket as one of the stores that can stay open during the Coronavirus crisis.

Ned in Glasgow and NZ

Now we each do things a little bit differently and, at its rawest, the Glasgow offie is a cultural touchpoint in itself.

Now unsurprisingly I never saw a bottle of this New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon, The Ned, in my offie when I was growing up.

It has gooseberry tastings don’t you know.

The drink du jour of The Glasgow Ned (the Non-Educated Delinquent) was, and still is, I dare say, Buckfast tonic wine.

Buckie is best drunk from out of the bottle and wrapped in brown paper while sitting on a park bench.

Not perhaps what the monks in the West Country of England had invented it for I should imagine.

The sight of a Ned. or Dublin gurrier, or whatever you call them in your country, swigging booze on a park bench might not be what you’d want to see…

When you’re pushing a pram.

Boston, full of beans

And I was reminded of how the good folk of Boston deal with that dilemma when I was watching the movie Ted 2 the other night.

Mark Wahlberg was drinking his can, which was wrapped in brown paper, with his Teddy bear on Boston Common.

And it took me back to the English guy who had attached himself to our group, Nick, on our post-University summer in Boston.

And didn’t know about the rule about drinking in public and the need to cover it in wrapping which he had some trouble in explaining to the cops.

‘OK to throw tea into the harbour and blame it on the Indians but God help you if you drink a can of beer without the brown paper covering it!’ Officer.

That Boston summer remains a glowing memory and Beantown came back on the radar yesterday when I was invited out for August, COVID-19 allowing.

With a tour of Fenway Park included and the chance to sit on the Boston Red Sox Green Wall. See https://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston and https://www.discovernewengland.org.

South African township

Of course while I say that every country’s off-sales is different my eyes were opened by the familiar grill bars at the South African shebeen.

In the Port Elizabeth New Brighton township in South Africa where we stopped off for a braai Day in the life of a township and https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/.

And a braai is a barbecue and a shebeen what started out as an illegal Irish drinking den.

More high-brow perhaps is the Tenerife wine shop https://www.visitingtenerife.com on our walking trip with CanariaWays www.CanariaWays.com where we ordered Shakespeare wine…. A walk through the ages… Tenerife

Is that a Malmsey I see before me?

That’s the court wine Malmsey, or Malvasia, which the Bard references in his plays and is still sold there.

Me, I’ve finished off my Ned wine and have resorted to draining the schnapps miniatures in my globe drinks trolley.

From the schnapps shop in Ehrwald in Austria https://www.tyrol.com.

So whether it’s Prost, Failte, Salute, Na zdravi or just Cheers I’m looking you right in the eye and toasting our holiday providers… #DontCancelPostpone.

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

In defence of… cruises

The world is a book. And those who do not travel read only one page – ST AUGUSTINE

And I don’t remember the page where it says pandemics were God’s message to us to stop travelling.

In defence of Travel

So while we are confined to barracks let me get some things off my chest and address why Travel is essential to our very existence in my Defence of Travel.

Despite what the naysayers, who are dancing a jig because some dolphins have been seen in the Grand Canal in Venice, are saying.

You’d think cruise ships were parking at the Rialto Bridge than far off.

While I know one or two who would only be too happy to discuss cruise ships too… and you’d want to keep your social distance for your own safety.

We’re all of us seafarers

Of course those of us who are Travel professionals, and those for whom it’s their life investment, are in the frontline when it comes to this release of schadenfraude.

Cruises: There is a fanatical, almost religious zeal which drives those who want to remove cruise ships from the face of the earth.

Who mock cruiseheads as ‘overfed, newly-wed and almost dead’ and guess what cruise chiefs have a sense of humour snd cams up with that themselves.

It’s not a sin to have fun

While they moved on from that years ago and we now have cruises for every age and every niche…

While also providing the best food, drinks, entertainment, activities, shows and stop-offs.

And for whom the sight of cruise companies docked in port and suspending operations because of Coronavirus was seen as vindication.

Dolphins in Venice

And which reached fever pitch with the return of those dolphins to the Venice lagoon, seen by many as divine retribution for the ‘sins’ of cruising.

I never have felt stained by taking the decision to cruise, and nor should you.

Because don’t we celebrate the journeys of Odysseus My Greek odyssey, Sinbad, Marco Polo, Drake, Magellan, Columbus Messi around on the water, Francis Chichester, Ellen MacArthur.

And we should never forget today’s sailors…

Let’s hear it for the crew

The crew’s untiring work, their distress at the loss of passengers, the 24/7 work done back at base to compensate customers and the loss too of their livelihoods.

And that people are at heart seafarers… after all didn’t we all come from the sea anyway, haven’t we been harvesting it since the day dot?

And for all those divine retributionists I guess they would have been screaming for Health & Safety to burst down the doors of Noah’s Ark.

To arrest the oul’ fella and release the animals two by two.

#DontCancelPostpone

So #DontCancelPostpone, and support our cruise companies.

Be rest assured that I’ll be hopping on board to promote cruise companies when we get back on board with…

MSC https://www.msccruises.co.uk and https://www.msccruises.ie, Celebrity Cruises https://www.celebritycruises.co.uk and https://www.royalcaribbean.com/gbr/en. http://www.princess.com

All of whom I’ve sailed with… The call of the fjords, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here and A Royal Party.

While I’ll also flag up those I haven’t sailed with, but you have, and I will.

I love a dolphin too

And now to show you that I love a dolphin as much as the next man, or woman, I’ll talk to you tomorrow about how we can tackle Flygskam, or ‘flying shame’.

I hope you’re reading, Greta Thunbetg.

MEET YOU ON THE SEAS

America, Countries, Culture

Stair Wars

I wonder what Mickey thinks of this Science Fantasia.

The Galaxy’s Edge is far, far away from Walt Disney’s vision.

And its centre-point, Millennium Falcon even further from my standpoint.

Which is at the back of a snaking queue in the bowels of the new 14-acre €1bn Star Wars section of Disneyland in Anaheim, California on the very weekend it opens.

Stars align

It has taken me half an hour to get even this far.

I have passed by the inviting diversions of Walt’s Main Street USA, a jazz band on an island next to the Mark Twain Riverboat.

Something to chew on

And a host of our favourite smiling, singing, hugging Disney favourites before arriving in this dark place.

Chewbacca does envelop a middle-aged Asian woman in his arms but I am too slow off the mark to get my picture taken.

While the Storm Troopers brush me aside.

Rasta Masta

Personally, I’d have a welcoming party of Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, Princesses Leia and R2-D2 instead.

Still I persevere and hang on the words of those in the line, a grown man with a light saber among them, who have been waiting light years for this moment.

They point out the fine details of the futuristic world we are passing through in hushed, reverential tones.

Apparently, we are in the middle of the Black Spire Outpost which is on the Outer Rim planet of Batuu.

They could be speaking Yoda for all I know.

And on and on we go, scaling the ramps. Whole battles don’t last this long.

Screen time

Star Wars? This is more like Stair Wars.

And finally we are ushered through to a holding area, a hangar where a rasta dude intergalactic pirate. Honda Ohnaka, clues us in on our mission.

With a reprise from Chewbacca.

Smugglers’ Run

And informs us that the more we succeed the more rewards he gets. I bet.

The idea is that Chewy needs some supplies for the Resistance but Rasta Dude has borrowed the craft and is using the opportunity…

To get us to smuggle some coaxium from Corellia for him which is hyperfuel from Han’s homeland obviously.

Thanks Brad from Texas for that.

But still the anticipation and the exhaustion (it’s now been an hour and a half) builds as we have to trudge further.

Before finally being given our briefs for the starship’s mission, Smugglers’ Run.

Who put those meteors there?

A little more about this 114ft hulk of flying saucer which has grown men and women clicking away…

It was manned by Han Solo and Chewy….

And was the second fastest in the Star Ward pantheon at 105kph and is a highly modified YT-1300.

But then, you know that yourself.

The action is set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker and played out on a video screen before us.

Poetry in Motion

Myself and Hiro are gunners and Jill and Lesley are the pilots.

I can’t remember the names of the two engineers at the back of the cockpit but one had to be Scotty…

Or is that the other Star one?

And finally we are hurtling through space, dipping and swooping, dodging enemy battleships and giant asteroids.

Mine’s and Hiro’s job is simple, press square and round buttons to fire laser beams at the foe until the light goes out.

It is an interactive experience but I’d be surprised if my efforts are making a blind bit of difference.

And this is what I spent five years at Space University for.

And then our ten minutes on the motion simulator are over.

Donald and the Mexicans

I guess it’ll all make more sense when I actually watch the movies – I was never going to admit that in the queue.

I know how privileged I am and that there are millions who would gladly climb over me.

And queue a whole day to get to see Millennium Falcon and play Smugglers’ Run and the Rise of the Resistance.

Which will follow hard on its heels later this year.

And that it will be a huge success particularly when they space out the waiting times.

But it’s just that get I don’t Stars Wars.

I retreat instead to simpler pleasures and a star who never lets me down, the original, and still the best, The Donald.

My pal The Donald

I find him outside the Golden Horseshoe saloon with Jose and Panchito, the Three Caballeros, playing it for laughs.

And I’m sure The Donald remembers me from Orlando a couple of years ago, he even wrote to me when I got back and signed it too.

And when your ask… yes, he really does love Mexicans.

My Travel Buddies

In this part of Disneyland there are only smiles.

The Jazz band are belting out ‘Everybody Wants to be a Cat’.

I am nibbling on my fried chicken, corn and rice. I’m truly at my happiest.

This is one place where a middle-aged hiply won’t be glowered at.

Here. And on the Pirates of the Caribbean water ride where I’m almost mistaken for Jack Sparrow.

The ride is gentle, more my style but if you want seat-of-the-pants thrills.

Fireworks

Disneyland has no shortages.

Splash Mountain, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones… too many to mention.

But in your cart, going through Jack’s world, you’ll get just gentle drops.

I’m all right, Jack

What really makes a ripple on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride through caves and coves are the intricate fun sets which immerse you in Jack’s world.

Look out for the old rogue popping up on the islands, semi-hidden from view.

Keen eyes will see him in a vat of rum though and I want to join him.

Harking back to the Star Wars section of Disneyland that really is the best thing about it – Disneyland, which has rightly prided itself on its family-friendly image.

And kept alcohol outside its doors for 60 years for the general public, is now allowing you to have a snifter in Oga’s Cantina.

I could have used my time more profitably.

This being a corporate launch, I took a rum punch earlier from the tray of a passing waitress to settle my nerves for the simulator.

And have gone back to stock up long after I got off the ride.

There is no shortage of choice of diners to line your stomach for those hairy rides if you don’t want a rumbly tumbly, and alternative entertainment if you want to take a weight off.

Duelling pianos meld in well with the Classical surroundings of Olde Worlde buildings and the open spaces simplify the sound.

The Castle

Nowhere is this better evidenced than the Disney Castle.

We sit down on the benches and grassy banks off Main Street to watch Mickey’s Music Extravaganza flash up on the Castle.

Mickey introduces his pals, Aladdin, King Louis. Elsa from Frozen among them, and they take over.

Light show

You can’t take your eyes off this light show or your hands from clapping along.

It is a kaleidoscope of colour and crescendo, of sound, a Mickey Mix of Magic.

All the standards are there but for a younger audience.

It has been sassed up with modern tunes getting us all up on our feet.

Of course, it’s all about Da Mouse in Da House though and he brings the party to a spectacular climax.

The fireworks pop off into the night sky and all eyes shoot upwards.

While in a galaxy far, far away – or across the park at least – the lights have long gone out.

Get your Mickey out

TRAVEL FACTS

How to get there: I flew Dublin to Los Angeles LAX with Aer Lingus with Aer Lingus, Ireland’s only 4-star airline. It operates a daily service from Dublin direct to LA.

With fares starting from €259 each way including taxes and charges when booked as a return trip.

The year-round service reduces to five times weekly during the winter season.

Where to stay: I stayed at the Hilton Anaheim, a 15-minute walk from Disneyland Resort. King bed Disneyview for the sample dates of June 28-July 1 from $347 (€281).

Where to go: Attraction Tickets offers a range of offers and discounts and help with pre-booking which will save precious time and money.

Its two-day Disneyland California 1 Park Per Day Ticket is from €198 per adult and €186 for a child including Star Wats: Galaxy’s Edge.

The three-day Disneyland California 1 Park Per Day Ticket including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is from €266 for an adult and €249 for a child.

Africa, America, Countries, Culture

#DontCancelPostpone

I was supposed to have been driving around the Florida Keys https://www.fla-keys.co.uk this weekend… #DontCancelPostpone.

And San Francisco https://www.sftravel.com and Las Vegas www.lvcva.com and Strip… the light fantastic in May/June #DontCancelPostpone.

Chicago some time in between. #DontCancelPostpone.

While there’s St Helena, Napoleon’s final refuge, squeezed between. #DontCancelPostpone.

And New England for this year’s Mayflower celebrations #DontCancelPostpone.

And a number of other planned adventures… #DontCancelPostpone.

#DontCancelPostpone is the Travel industry’s response to the worst possible thing that can happen to it… the suspension of Travel.

And it is a mantra that I and my fellow Travel scribes will be taking up.

Because for anybody who has stepped out their door (something we no longer take for granted) then there has been a Travel provider there to hold your hand.

So this is what we’ll do… our friends in the Travel industry will keep sending me their destinations and we’ll make a pinkie promise to advise people #DontCancelPostpone

I’ll satisfy myself with the memories of times spent in California last year… www.discoverlosangeles.com and www.visitcalifornia.com.

As a post-University bus boy in a Mexican restaurant in Boston https://www.bostonusa.com and visiting Manchester, New Hampshire https://www.visitnh.gov and New England https://www.discovernewengland.org

St Helena, for those who didn’t get their atlases out at school, is off the coast of South Africa and my trip to the second most inhabitable island in the world will involve…

A stop-off in South Africa where I dipped my toe in the Eastern Cape… https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en and

Chicago https://www.choosechicago.com/explore/chicago-style/first-time-visit/? Well, the lure of it has only grown as it is dangled in front of me and then draws further out of my grasp.

My second attempt at going out to Windy City has stalled because of that COVID-19.

After my first invitation had to be turned down because of the sheer selfishness of an oul’ woman who only went and turned 90 the day of the trip.

I checked in on her yesterday on a business (remember that) trip to Glasgow https://peoplemakeglasgow.com where there is restricted visiting.

It didn’t happen because I was too late but God help the nurses there… they’ll be praying that THEY could self-isolate.

The statues in Glasgow, my home city, were standing proud, the buskers singing their hearts out.

And the chippies who fed the populace during the War still dispensing fish and haggis suppers (that’s with chips).

More tales of that oul’ woman tomorrow with a Mother’s Day special.

Now back to home life and the Scary One wants me to do some chores… #PostponeDontCancel.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Life’s a drag… queen

There’s no photographic evidence that it ever happened and I don’t know what it says about the ‘nurse’ who agreed to date the drag queen me.

Nursie clearly had second thoughts the following day and didn’t turn up at the bar.

Although my much-storied Australian flatmates had great fun in telling me every five minutes that I’d missed her.

All of which diva prancing around (the occasion was a student ‘Tarts and Tramps’ party.

Oh Nicki, you’re so fine: Ms Minaj

Where the guys dressed as women and the women as hobos) brings me to RuPaul’s new season of Drag Race which also showcases Nicki Minaj and Michelle Visage.

Which is, thanks to Daddy’s Little Girl, a big fave in our house.

I particularly love RuPaul and the beautifully pink Trini, that’s Trinidadian and Tobagonian to you and me Nicki Minaj.

And as you know I love a bit of colour and make-up and slapped it on in Tobago in December.

While Nicki also likes to tear it up at Tobago carnival… www.tobago.gov.tt and Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago. And https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lt9dXQ-YmZ8.

All of which stuff and nonsense allows me to talk about the divine divas I’ve sashayed with on my travels.

Sugsr bum-bum: The Drag Race girls

Vegas baby

Cami, Las Vegas: What happens in Harrah’s in Vegas stays in Harrah’s in Vegas.

Dance the night away

And when that mad. glad joint off the Strip kicks into life again then myself, my travel companions and Cami who comes down from Utah will be there.

Now who wants a shot… and a drink too?

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

Pride of Barcelona

Pride, Barcelona: Barca. the football team may be the pride of the Catalonians.

And Lionel Messi… but how about Lionel Missy?

I’ve been watching too much Drag Race… my favourite is Heidi N Closet from Missouri.

While my Drag Name is Shirley Brassy.

But sun on your back, on the streets of Barcelona with a Sangria Familia is where to spend Pride.

And it’s the perfect place to kick off your cruise when we get back on the water.

Visit https://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/, and www.msc.com.

Dee-Dee and Me-Me

Purple reigns in Barbados

Dee-Dee, Barbados: Don’t smudge my make-up, mon.’

But the husky-voiced Dee-Dee broke out a smile that was as warm as the Barbados night on Crop Over at Barbados Carnival.

I was in for a dime in for a Bajan dollar with my purple painted beard.

Visit https://www.visitbarbados.org and My kiss with Rihanna.

LA is my laddie

LA -La

LA ladies, Anaheim: ‘At last my man has come along’… she could have been singing to me at Platinum Triangle in Anaheim on Pride night.

We stole a moment later and a pic for my scrapbook.

But what kind of gentleman am I… I forgot her name and didn’t call.

Visit https://visitanaheim.org www.visitcalifornia.com and My Weekend With Marilyn.

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

My Weekend With Marilyn

Goodbye Norma Jean!

So, this is where Marilyn finally found her rest from the lascivious attentions of the manipulative men who hounded her to her death.

Unsignposted and in an unassuming square at the back of a Los Angeles office block lies the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

But who’s this lying next to her?

Norma Jean

Only Playboy owner Hugh Hefner who bought the drawer next door for $75,000… he was surely the last man she would have wanted to spend eternity with.

Marilyn and Hefner had history.

It was Hefner who bought the nude pictures that she had posed for in her sallow youth before she became famous for just $500 and put them on his first cover of Playboy.

She never got a dime.

Stars align

Marilyn doesn’t deserve this company.

She should be shining brightest in a galaxy of stars.

And on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, she is.

The actress is one of 2,600 famous characters, human, animal, animated, immortalised on a mile and a half of sidewalk along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street.

Her hands and feet are outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with the imprints of a century of Hollywood celebrities. 

Hers are worn out from the millions who have wanted to touch a bit of her.

If you feel her presence on the stairs of the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held then her spirit is playing tricks on you as her only appearance was at the nearby Pantages Theatre.

Still we all pose for a diva’s shot in homage to her anyway.

Marilyn seems to be everywhere I turn. I see her looking down, smiling from out of a window on Venice Beach.

And I’m wearing Bandanas by Murty

Brightly dressed and warm as the sun. We lift our heads from our catch of the day in Larry’s diner off the boardwalk, in my case the lightest calamari, and smile back.

Jim Morrison is all swagger on the other wall. 

Today’s Venice Beach though has its own characters, a rasta artist on rollerblades playing guitar, an old man who wheels his grand piano up the strand to tinkle the ivories.

And a random Latino Conor McGregor who is punching and kicking the hell out of a punchbag in the square.

In Southern California, or SoCal, it is all about the image, the Body Beautiful.

My kicks on Route 66: The end in Venice Beach

And this is where Californian body builders come to work out, at the outdoors Muscle Beach Gym, once the home of Arnold Schwarzenegger and ‘The Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno.

There’s always a show on, even if it is only the tourists posing by a muscleman mannequin on the boardwalk. Guilty!

Up the road in Santa Monica the busy pier gives little clue that this is the beach used for Baywatch.

All these nuggets and more are at the fingertips of our driver Chris from Starline Tours provided by our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct.

Muscle man

He tells us of a loose association with David Hasselhoff and a girl who was the Hoff’s Proms date.

I would be more impressed if Chris had dated Sandy… well, we do pass Rydell High.

And he shows us too the site of the party hotel, the Garden of Allah where Joni Mitchell hung out, and ‘they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.’

You’ll find today’s Hollywood celebrities hanging out in West Hollywood, so where better to bunk down?

Aye, aye Cap’n

The La Peer Hotel, just a couple of blocks down from Beverly Hills, its cop shop and Rodeo Drive, is a Kimpton.

It is a boutique hotel which is much more than that as befits West Hollywood, with its heated outdoors swimming pool as an extension of the bar.

The hotel’s restaurant Viale dei Romani serves up the best Italian food if you want to stay inhouse.

And I’d also recommend the Wood Grilled Octopus and its garden of warm potato salad, oil cured olives, preserved lemon and saffron aioli.

Hollywood party

But there are no shortage of great restaurants too to sample in West Hollywood where best of all you can also indulge in the favourite pastime of celeb-spotting.

And so we also visited Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump’s eponymous lounge and restaurant PUMP.

Where Lady Gaga made the news a few years back after falling outside on the sidewalk.

Lisa is there the night we dine on truffle mushroom chicken (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)

Now where’s that cop? Beverly Hills

Though no sign of Gaga. Perhaps the gay icon will be back the following week for Pride.

West Hollywood is already putting out the bunting for Pride when up to 200,000 will take to the streets.

Although, in truth, it is always in a state of readiness with its rainbow zebra crossings.

I’d recommend a night in one of the many friendly gay clubs, I even managed to walk, rather than fall out of.

Old LA

Although a bulky cop, or I think he was, reminded me that I couldn’t drink on the sidewalk.

If you want to get closer to the stars, get onto the right tours and get on the sets of the TV shows and movies we watch.

Our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct will help with pre-booking which will save precious time and money.

They will take you to Warner Studios where you can sit in the very same couch used in Central Perk in Friends or visit the Ellen set.

A day in Universal Studios Hollywood will immerse you in movie history and the future now.

We take a coach tour through the sets of Pyscho, Jaws, a Mexican town and through a tunnel where a scene from Fast and Furious is simulated all around us. Great fun.

Psycho anyone?

Great fun too the Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest cinema show with vibrating seats and water mist effects,.

While fans of rollercoaster rides will love The Simpsons and Harry Potter rollercoasters.

I prefer to sit back and watch others take the heat although I didn’t expect to see a stuntswomam set on fire in the Special Effects show.

All your favourite animated and sci-fi characters are here and all in great form, all happy to pose up.

No, he hasn’t a Scooby either

Shrek, Scooby-Doo, the Transformers, a dinosaur, no, not me, but a ‘real’ T-Rex which is trailing Jurassic World – The Ride.

We all have our favourites but it is the Boy Wizard who will always cast a spell on me.

Muggles, myself included, are besides themselves at the prospect of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure storycoaster in the sister resort in Orlando.

Universal Hollywood’s Potter experience feels smaller than its Orlando world but it is still intimate and enchanting.

And its Dark Arts light show is a thundering good jape with a cascade of creepy crawlies climbing up to attack a crumbling Hogwarts Castle in the dead of night.

Magical: The Potter show

Only for the forces of good to prevail, all against a heart-pounding musical score and moral message.

And that it seems is Hollywood and the LA story in a nutshell, an aspirational, illusory dream sequence.

Where you can stand in the Hollywood Hills, and you can hike up to the Griffith Observatory and view the iconic letters.

Or take a waitering job and hope to serve a Steven Spielberg.

Or get your star on the Walk of Fame.

A couple of proper Charlies

It’s a rollercoaster journey all right and you can’t pick who you’re next too but I did spot four stars unfilled…

And I reckon I’d be a more than deserving candidate for one of them.

I’ve been an angel

HOW TO GET THERE

Jim flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin Airport with pre-clearance to LAX.

WHERE TO STAY

La Peer Hotel is quintessentially West Hollywood with bright, funky finishings, spacious and comfortable bedrooms and fine and filling food. As well as a heated swimming pool and fitness centre. Doubles from approximately €315 per night. Visit www.lapeerhotel.com.

She vants to be alone

ACTIVITIES

Deluxe Grand City Tour with Starline from €73pp.

Hollywood Hills guided hike – departing from the Greek Theatre. It’s a 2.5 hour gentle hike, offering mountain and city views and photo opportunities of the Hollywood sign. The tour ends at the Griffith Park Observatory (admission included). From €46pp.

Starlight Dinner Cruise from Marina Del Rey’s. From €107pp (not including drinks).

Universal Studios Hollywood – one-day admission ticket from €96pp/Express Pass from €167pp/VIP Experience from €305pp.

Visit www.attractionticketsdirect.ie or call free on (01) 6498558.