Asia, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Sing for the Canaries

And at last they listened. To me, my English Canarian pal Mathew Hirtes and to the Tinerfinos and their cousins across the islands.

The Canaries are back on the UK exempt list, and I’m breaking out the Malmsey, the Canarian wine, much beloved by Shakespeare.

Part of the scenery: Jimmy, the Tinerfino

The Canaries, as I reported this week, have been returning rates of Covid infections way down on the UK.

And as Mathew has been telling us for months we’re safer over there than we would be here.

It’s also worth restating here how liberating this is for the Holiday Trinity that always infuses our sector… the holiday providers, the hosts and the holidaymaker.

And so without further ado…

Deal me in

My walking party

Jet2.com and Jet2Holidays, the UK’s largest operator to the Canaries, are recommencing flights.

To Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, from Friday from Glasgow and Edinburgh, Belfast and six other UK airports.

TUI holidaymakers haven’t seen the Canaries for 89 days but are already carrying their clients to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

There must be a plane waiting for me. And happen that my Tinerfino walking guide Eva is waiting for me to take me to Afur.

With Canaria Ways, of course.

A quick walk around the Maldives

And again…. sarong, but oh, so right

It’s more ambling than walking on Kuramathi.

The holiday notes advise you wear flip-flops and you can walk around the Maldives island in just half an hour.

While if you run out of puff in the all-year round 30C heat you can pull up a lounger or have a dip in your own villa infinity pool.

All with a regulatory Strawberry Daiquiri, of course.

And again I know a man who is in Kuramathi right now… and another man in Ireland from Turkish Airlines who will get you there and look after your every need.

While in the UK you want Kuoni.

A trip around the Greek islands

My waterfall: Kythera

And it’s a bit like the hokey-hokey with Greece.

Mykonos is in, but Crete, Lesbos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos is now out.

Which means you don’t have to self-isolate on your return from my own two faves, Corfu and Attica island Kythera.

And with Greece obviously, you never know where your odyssey will take you…

Wonderful Copenhagen

Bet you didn’t expect that: Copenhagen

And finally Denmark, the Little Mermaid et all.

I took my own Little Mermaid there on my cruise around the Norwegian fjords with MSC Cruises, and check out how their recovery is going.

As well as seeing the Little Mermaid, you need to get your photie taken with Hans Christian Andersen.

Not many people there: Leichtenstein

But sorry Leichtensteiners

No, me neither. I don’t know why tiny Leichtenstein has been removed from the exempt list.

Or if indeed it’s right to use the plural.

Well, this is what Leichtenstein has to offer. I’ll just have to get out there to find out for myself… when I’m allowed.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Forte forte and Italy

Me and Sir Rocco Forte are taking on the world.

Bit by bit.

The international hotelier shared his thoughts on Italy, Covid and how we should get tourism back in track.

He reported that the holiday experience is seemless in Sardinia at his Forte Village Resort where the health and safety measures are not invasive.

And but for the staff wearing masks and the regulations we are all getting used to follow you wouldn’t know things were any different.

Sir Rocco has been lobbying government throughout the crisis.

Put it on a pedestal

And the news of airport testing, at £80 with the results within an hour, being introduced at Heathrow for flights to Hong Kong that opens up an opportunity for Italy.

Before I flew to Bergamo last week I had to get a home test from a pharmacy, pay £150, courier it £10) and await the test’s return 24 hours later.

All within a 72-hour window before departure which Italy requires.

I asked Sir Rocco if he had lobbied the Scottish Government too.

My cup of ciocolatta: Bergamo

‘The First Minister is determined to make it more draconic than the rest of the UK,’ he told me.

‘I’m not very confident she would listen. It would fall on deaf ears.’

Perche? I can vouch that Italy, the entry point for the virus, is coping better than us with it now.

Forza Italia and Scotland and the UK, I mean Mamma Mia!

Balearic amigo

And word comes to us too of how our friends in the Balearic and Canary Islands are being proactive and inventive too in trying to get us back to their shores.

It is something of a bug bear of mine that a special case was not made for the Spanish islands.

But that was then.

The Spanish Government has put forward this protocol and it is worth reading.

The taskforce suggests a test pre-departure, funded by the visitor, and a test prior to their returning to their home country. At no cost to them.

If visitors are requested to self-isolate while they are away accommodation would be provided.

Me and my pals Lizzie and Mathew In Tenerife

If any additional medical costs is required this would be covered.

Today the accumulated infection rate in the Canaries was 35.29 per 100,000 are (based on the last 14 days).

In the UK it is 329.2 per 100,000.

Drink up and Kissimmee quick

The Margaritaville cocktail king

And after all that I was ready for Happy Hour with some of my favourite people in the Travel world, Experience Kissimmee.

They sent me a hamper with Margarita glass, can… and Covid accessories, branded mask and gel.

And a very helpful Floridian cocktail king from Margaritaville showed us how to make them.

And the king cocktail drinker himself

I’ll share all their news as soon as… Happy Hour extended into Happy Evening.

And, of course, you know how I love Florida and Disney World, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens and the cities, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

MEET YOU ON THE ZOOM

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Bergamo – time to say goodbye

Time to say goodbye, Paesi che non ho mai, veduto e vissuto con te, Adesso si, il vivro, con te partiro, su navi per mari che, io lo so, no, no, non esistono piu, it’s time to say goodbye. – Andrea Boccelli

Una ciocolatta di caldo densa at Balzer in Bergamo

Ciao Bergamo e grazie mille. Molamia, miei amici, stay strong my friends.

It’s time to say goodbye, although on my terms and not Signore Johnson’s.

I have made it my mission to come to Bergamo since the start of the outbreak to find out why the pandemic came here first.

What it was like for the Bergamoschi to live through.

And something a little stronger

And how they are living today and how they see tomorrow.

Peace to Bergamo

The overriding feeling I have found is one of peace (except for the raucous ragazzi e ragazze outside my window at midnight although this is how the young should be.)

I spend my last afternoon reading the stories on the picture boards in the piazza they are using as a testing centre.

And, of course, nothing tells a story quite like a picture, or a photograph.

Mars, Venus and love in Accademia Carrera

I wish mia moglie, the long insufferable (sorry, suffering) Mrs M was here to put her award-winning photo skills to work.

A work of art

I have come too from the Academia Carrera where I have been enjoying Titian, Canaletto and trying out Lotto (no, not the lottery, but the artist.

I have just enough time to treat myself to my Italian guilt pleasure, una ciocolatta di calda densa, a hot chocolate that wants to be a dessert.

Una fotographia di Bergamo in Covid

At a Bergamo institution Balzer cafe. Near my 4* Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

And here’s to beer

And then a Grumge IPA at Gate 11 in the airport.

I plan to have molti.

I am going back to a madhouse. And Britain is not much better.

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

Bergamo – alta e bassa

What’s Italian for phew’ I’ve been walked off my piedi today in Bergamo Citt’alta e Citta Bassa (City High and City Low).

And phew too… Johnson, Schnapps and Co. are too late to quarantine me on my return. I was always flying back tomorrow evening anyway, so Sunday is troppo tardi, idioti!

David and Goliath: The Basilica

That’s if I don’t decide to quarantine myself anyway with the Bergamoschi (the people that is, not the local sheepdogs who share their name. Although…!)

La Prima Citta

Bergamo, as we all know by now, is where Covid-19 entered Europe.

To the greater glory of God

But they have taken the worst it can offer and are coming out the other side, and will prevail.

Or as they say here ‘Molamia’ (stay strong).

Chin-Chin

The Bergamoschi have done just that since Covid visited in March and shut the town off from the rest of Lombardy, Italy, and the world for four months.

To the greater glory of beer: With Matteo

But not from each other… or not in the ways that matter.

Matteo, my tour guide volunteered to help out the old and infirm.

Restaurateur Niccolo the same with his original ice cream and food.

Stay strong: The Bergamo credo

And model citizen Emmanuele, who lives in a palazzo on the hill too, as a volunteer.

All are heroes… and all Bergamoschi are an example to us all

La Storia

Perhaps it is in the blood. It is certainly in their history.

I am standing in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Ciitt’alta.

The Bergamo bear: With Matteo and Atalanta Bear

Where the Bergamoschi built a new church after they were delivered from the plague in the 12th century.

And filled it with frescoes, magnificent paintings and special picture boards of other scenes where humanity prevailed over adversity.

Noah anyone?

Pasta Basta

Ma mi scusi. I have just eaten my own weight in food and drunk today, a small lago di vino and must now repair to my bed in the Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

I scream for ice cream: With Niccolo

A Domani.

And if you want to slip on the Italian Boot to follow in my footsteps, here’s my Via Francigena, into Rome

While as the Veneto region is just over the horizon to the east, here’s the City of Frescoes Padova.

INCONTRA A VOI NELLA VIA

 

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, UK

Holidos and don’ts – the Road to Bergamo

At the umpteenth time of asking I’m on the road again… this time to Bergamo, Italy.

Where Europe first witnessed the virus, but now, Grazie Dio, it is a tourist destination again.

The journey, like so many these days does not begin in a travel agent but in an Edinburgh pharmacy with a Covid-19 home kit.

That’ll be £115 to you and me with a £10 courier service to get the sample to Belfast (no, me neither)

Wash those handsies: Edinburgh Airport

The test is invasive and involves you scraping the tonsils (or back of the throat if you’re sans tonsils).

Break the swab stick in half and insert it into the tube provided.

Then break the swab in half and repeat for the nose.

Love a duck: The kerching shop

And if you think I’m going to do that to myself you have another thing coming.

The indomitable Mrs M is my willing assistant in this.

And she seemed a bit too enthusiastic too about the task, saying she was ‘going tae stick it right up me, pal!’

I felt my only brain cell too being scratched as the water welled in my eyes.

Follow the science

When you’ve stopped blinking fill out an online form.

And then sit back and wait for them to email you the next day verifying they got your samples.

Then within 48 hours they’ll email you again to tell you if you’re positive or negative.

You’re on your way.

Check, of course, that your politicians haven’t changed the rules regarding the country you’re visiting.

Or in the country you’re imprisoned in.

And make your way to Edinburgh airport.

Airports are normally a hive of activity but with a vastly reduced number of passengers now it’s refreshing to be able to breathe.

Or it would be if I wasn’t wearing the compulsory medical mask that you have to sport when you’re on the move.

I saw one imposter wearing a bandana around his mouth (the very thought!) but better not risk it.

Not that the staff in Edinburgh are airstapo or anything… they are, in fact, delighted to see you and are I’m sure smiling behind their masks.

Seeing this is a whistlestop visit I’ve taken only a small rucksack and a slightly larger rucksack with wheels.

Ryanair: Those clouds are lifting

Which meets the Ryanair regulations.

And it all cuts out the need for the electronic bag drop off which I hate.

So you’re now through the first test of the Crystal Maze and into the shopping and eating and dining concourse.

Flying safe

It’s all pretty much the same although there are no wee whisky or gin plastic samples.

I guess you’ll just have to buy the stuff.

The kerching souvenir shops are still pedalling their merchandise and you can, of course, still buy your Saltire rubber duck and fridge magnet.

Grab a seat, buy your bottle of water (unless you’re an airport drinker even if this is 7.30am) and pour it into your own container.

Better still if you can find yourself next to a plug to keep your phone charged… the Scary One is bound to text.

And besides if you’re under the age of 30 you’ll have your ticket and documents on your phone.

All the time remember to hand sanitise after everything you do.

Make sure you’ve got all your possessions and documents and sit under the departure board.

Particularly your passport and evidence of your negative test to show at the gate.

Made it: Bergamo

And, maybe go to the toilet before you board.

Now barring being stopped at the gate I’m back on the road… to Bergamo.

Now, what could possibly go wrong?

And seeing this is my first time in Il Bel Paese for a couple of years I’ve been taking a trip down Memory Lane…

And Rome, Padova and Venice. Bella, bella.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, UK

Holiday Snaps – Amsterdam attics and grand hotels

I really should try harder, or even try at all, to get back to church.

That would mean me filling out a form on the net which is as nothing compared with the Mass Rocks of Ireland, the nooks of England and the attic of a canal town house in Amsterdam.

Our forebears whether they were Catholic, Protestant. Muslim or Jew, or any other belief would go to greater lengths than we do now to practise their faith.

Fit for my queen

We all know about how Anne Frank  and her family and friends lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

And it is truly humbling to hear the words from her diary spoken as you walk through the confines of their attic retreat.

That truly does put our own lockdowns into perspective.

As does the Ons’ Lieve Here op Solder.

The Ons’ Lieve Where?

That’s the Lord of the Attic Museum the ‘Our Dear Lord in the Attic’ built in 1663 when Catholics lost their right to worship in their own way.

Genke will show you around the Dylan

You’ll have a lot more room, and comfort. in George and Amal’s favourite Dutch billet, The Dylan Amsterdam.the Keizersgracht, one of the city’s most famous canals in the stylish Nine Streets shopping district.

Where, of course, their peerless personal service, will ensure you know everywhere to go in Amsterdam, from brown cafe to Sunday chapel.

Doubles start from €223 per night including breakfast.

Fit for yer man, the President

A sign of the times that the most bombed hotel in the world was now hosting the most important couple in the world of the times, the Clintons.

The Europa Hotel also entertained another stellar group, the Republic of Ireland’s finest journalists, to see a Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco jazz cabaret.

The Europa.

The Europa is undergoing an extensive refurb of its bedrooms to be completed by March.

Of course, the staff can’t be improved on, and they’re always there to clean up after you… when you leave your room like a bomb-site, as I do.

All llamas great and small

If like me you’ve been enchanted by the new version of All Creatures Great and Small on the telly you’ll be warning to seek out the Yorkshire Dales in England.

For those who don’t know the story it’s the real life tale of how a Scots vet won over the suspicious people of ‘God’s Own County’.

Let me remind you of a particularly humorous incident sees James Herriott lose his watch up a cow’s bum.

But they’re certainly there now. The Nidderdale Llamas  experience offers treks through the farm in the company of llamas and alpacas.

The best stay is at the nearby Grantley Hall.

You’ll never want to get up

Where you can get pampered at the Three Graces Spa and get restorative treatments from Ila and Natura Bisse.

Dip in their 18-metre indoor swimming pool, indoor to outdoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and snow room (me, neither).

You’ll also have six drinking and dining outlets.

Rates start from £385 per room per night, including breakfast.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Driving entertainment in lockdown

It’s all come a long way since the days when a drive-thru was getting out of the car and picking up the family’s takeaway.

Now because of COVID we can stay in our hermetically-sealed cocoon and enjoy all manner of thrills.

Park by the Pole

Steamy windows

Lucky Devil Lounge, Portland, Oregon: And here’s where you can get extra with your bun… two buns actually!

Customers who order food can pay $30 per car and driver (plus $10 for any passengers in the car) to use the drive-thru and watch a show.

In normal years I find myself in the US around Gay Pride.

And my friends at the American Travel Fair, IPW, put on a fabulous Gay Pride night… Washington, Denver, Los Angeles/Anaheim.

Bless me, Father

Two Our Fathers and Three Hail Marys

Limoges, France: Maybe you’ve not been out enough over these lockdowns to have compiled enough sins but come on, all that food and drink.

And Sainte Jeanne d’Arc in Limoges will hear your darkest secrets from your car.

When all this is over, of course many of us will be going all Medieval and giving thanks to the Great Redeemer.

In France, that’s Lourdes, in Portugal it’s Fatima, Italy is Rome, Spain the Camino and Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Probably the best gig

Mads for it

Denmark: And Mads Langer doesn’t let a small thing like lockdown make him down his mic.

Mads sold 500 tickets for a concert at Tangkrogen outside Aarhus, Denmark’s second city after Copenhagen.

The cars were rockin’ and rollin’!

Airport movies

Bringing some colour into our lives

Edinburgh AirportAnd all of this drive-thrumania has been triggered by the news that my local airport Edinburgh is putting on a Halloween offering.

Drive-ins were always the stuff of James Dean movies (the first drive-in cinema was actually New Jersey, not LA).

You never forget your first time though and that for me was Toronto and a Bond movie, The Living Daylights. And while our first albums are usually embarrassing I’m happy with that choice.

Anyhoos back to Edinburgh. You’ll get Ghostbusters, Hocus Pocus, Coco, The Lost Boys, Jaws (not nearly as terrifying at Universal Studios Hollywood) and Halloween.

November brings us Back to the Future, Rocketman, Mamma Mia and more.

There’s entertainment galore, food and drink from local producers Cold Town Beer and Alandas plus DJ Captain Calverto will entertain you before each film with car discos. singalongs and quiz fun.

They’ve offered me (and I guess you too) the chance to win tickets.

And you might even see a plane flying overhead… and hopefully I’ll be on it.

 

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Holly Dolly Christmas

So how many days out can you release a Christmas album? 84 if you dress up like a Christmas Tree like Dolly Parton.

Dolly has been trailing her Christmas album which she released at the start of the month.

While her god-daughter Miley Cyrus who herself has a new album to promote at the moment followed her onto the Graham Norton Show in the UK.

I know all about Christmas in Dolly’s neck of the woods, Tennessee.

Of course the best place for all things Dolly is Dollywood.

I visited there, Tennessee, though Dollywood itself is a pleasure I’ve yet to savour, and Mississippi.

And my party was treated to a Christmas song recital in an antebellum houses in the Deep South.

There’s some of the old standards on the Dolly album like Holly Jolly Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

But there are more Dolly originals.

There are others who are getting their Christmas requests in early…

 

It’s usually all about the bass with Meghan but but this proud daughter of my beloved Massachusetts is all about the gifts in October,

She has a new album A Very Trainor Christmas.

The Dolly that we know and love has always been adorably irreverent.

Although not as saucy as Tobagonian Soca Parang music.

We’ll bring you more about the culture and traditions of Parang as Christmas comes closer.

But for now I’ll leave you with something that will definitely lift your spirits, a hot new 2020 Soca Parang Mix.

Adventure, Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

What the world really looks like… Africa and South America

Empiricists love to boast about how the sun never went down on the British Empire which is probably why our little island is on steroids on atlases.

But not just us… the US obviously but also China and randomly Greenland.

So who loses out here? Well Africa and South America mostly.

Well this site is nothing if not a vehicle to change the world so let’s do just that and flag up to why these two continents should be on our radar.

Wendy Wu Tours have been telling us for years.

They have just released their 2020-2021 Treasures of South America brochure.

And they have put in some incentives just for us.

Their Essence of Argentina & Brazil is a 12-day tour from £4,090pp with flights which, of course, includes Rio, Buenos Aires and Iguazu. Pure redemption!

Hit the peaks in South America

Twelve days, of course, is never long enough, 28 is a bit more like it.

That’ll give you more than enough time to see…

Lima, Urubamba, Agues Caliente, Cusco, Puno, Huatajata, La Paz, Uyuni, San Pedro de Atacama, Santiago, Mendoza, Buenos Aires, Iguazu and Rio.

Fancy a waterfall?

And if some of those names are new to you it’s because they reduce the size of those countries on your map.

Ultimate South America, 28 days from £8,690pp, including flights.

Who hasn’t whiled away a coffeetime looking at our atlas, and picking out African names, say?

G Adventures will take you there… they laid me on my back in Jordan and came back for me.

And I promised to come back for them!

Now having dipped my toe into the Muddle East, and North Africa on a memorable trip to Morocco.

The pride of Africa

And realised a dream by visiting South Africa, I just have to do the bit in between.

So picking out Tanzania here which as you can see would dwarf Germany if we would only let it…

The sun also shines: Kilimanjaro

It’s all about the safari, the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro but there are beaches too, and exotic Zanzibar.

They have 19 days Kilimanjaro, Serengati & Zanzibar from £3356.65.

Tanzania was calling me in South Africa when my hotel in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape played Toto’s Africa on a constant loop.

Wild beasts of South Africa

I know that I must do what’s right. As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.

Famously, writer David Paich had never visited Africa when he penned the song….

Perhaps he too had been looking at his atlas with a magnifying glass, of course, to pick out the names!

MEET YOU ON THE RESERVE

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Lennon’s revolution… 80 years a working class hero

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

We could pick any number to define our times as we mark John Lennon’s 8Oth birthday this week. Suffice to say his was a life lived.., and how.

We’ll never know for sure how he would have spent the last 40 years since his murder outside the Dakota Building in NY.

Blue for you. www.johnlennon.com

But it would be safe to assume he would have been at the forefront of all the great struggles of our day.

The Fall of the Wall, Apartheid, Black Lives Matter, Freedom from Covid.

Lennon bestrode his world, leaving his imprint, and still does.

And as his adopted New York celebrated his legacy by turning the Empire State Building blue, here are four Lennon cities.

Liverpool Lou Lennon

Liverpool 4

Oh Liverpool Lou, lovely Liverpool Lou, why don’t you behave like other girls do?

And we have Yoko Ono to thank for knowing this, that John would sing this song, his Mum’s fave, around the house.

John’s statue stands alongside his pals on the Liverpool waterfront near the Beatles Story museum.

Lennon is everywhere in his home city and the under-threat Cavern Club is a good first stop while let someone else do the work for you on their Magical Mystery tour.

Growing up in Hamburg

I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.

Not that John was dissing his home city, it was just that he was giving an honest reply to a reporter.

Lennon and the boys (five of them then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on board and with Pete Best instead of Ringo Starr) lived in Hamburg between 1960-62.

And Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour Das Original will take you all over their favourite haunts.

John was his favourite and she had his poster above her bed.

She will take you to the St Pauli door where he posed for a shot later used for the Rock ‘n’ Roll covers album and much, much more.

John’s New York

If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself

While we all know that John died in NY let’s dwell on his life in the Big Apple.

John loved its vibe, its people, its energy and put it down in song on New York City off the album Some Time in New York City.

Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial where the music never stops are obviously on the itinerary.

For the rest, check out this video.

The Lennon wall in Prague

The Lennon Wall, Prague

What to make of it when you’re told that the Lennon Wall in Prague now has ‘Fuck Trump’ messages on it?

It put off my Czech guide who remembers the wall well from the days when it was an organic centrepoint of protest against the Communist.

‘Appen though John would approve.

And let’s not let Amsterdam and Montreal lie

Of course, this is where John and Yoko had their Bed-ins for Peace.

At the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

And I hope that John would approve as I find myself compiling my thoughts here bolt upright in my bed.

While waiting to get back out there travelling again.