Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music

Rainy days and songdays – Belfast and Jamaican Wailers

Belfast is one of the last places you might expect to find a reggae footprint but The Wailers are alive and well on the banks of the River Foyle.

Nathaniel Ian Wynter was a regular visitor to Island House, Bob Marley’s home in Jamaica where he would jam.

There was jamming’ to be done too when Natty spoiled us all in the unlikely setting of my old homestead, Greystones, Co. Wickllow.

Natty look

Natty, you see, had been lured to Ireland by a caílin, and stayed.

He came to Greystones to play Bob’s hits before an intimate gathering a few years ago.

Two greats: Bob and Natty

And we had the pleasure too to listen to Bob’s music, and the best Soca, at the One Love festival in Crop Over in Barbados.

They are few now of those who played with the Great Man Marley and we lost the last regular member of the band only this year.

Bunny on the money

Bunny Wailer left us last month, drawn away by the invitation to play the best reggae gig anywhere… in Heaven with Bob and Peter Tosh.

Gosh, it’s Tosh: Peter Tosh

Nothin’ will stop a Jamaican jammin’ and our island friends have been putting on shows for us the past year.

And they are movin’ Heaven and Earth to get us back out there to jam with them.

Flying high

We already had the good news of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic announcing new services to Montego Bay from Heathrow and Gatwick.

Where at the top end of luxury resorts we were attracted by the Geejam Hotel‘s opening of their Marumba Studios, any musico’s dreams.

Chill: Geejam www.booking.com

There are the 12 rooms and all the fineries but with a recording studio, events area, live stage and DJ booth.

If you want more old school then a Bob Marley tour is a must.

Tour de force

Get on a seven-hour trip to Marley’s Nine Mile from Montego Bay Hotels from £93.41.

Take in Bob’s home and hood and the Mt Zion of many a song where the Great Man visited.

Our room down there: Holiday Inn Resort, Montego Bay www.tui.co.uk

So which holiday provider to get on? Well, we’re nothing if not loyal, and always return to our first, TUI

Hey mon Damian

TUI is offering a week in the Holiday Inn Resort from €898pp.

Biggy Ziggy

And with us celebrating all things reggae today the world is indeed lucky to still have Damian and Ziggy Marley banging out their tunes.

Irie!

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Flying, Ireland, UK

Rihanna at the gate as Barbados Airport reopens

Rihanna was there to meet me but where was my party?

Ri-Ri is the first face you’ll see as you walk into Grantley Adams Airport, Bridgetown, Barbados, through its open-air entrance.

Follow the signs

She’s there draped on the wall in the arrivals area along with the world’s greatest-ever cricket all-rounder Sir Gary Sobers.

And, yes, I’m talking about you Laura

And from this past week she has smiling excited visitors to greet again as Grantley Adams reopens.

Sign here

We’ll be filling up soon

In the balmy heat of an early Bajan summer evening I found myself spending more time with the superstar than the party I was there to meet.

I hadn’t picked out Barbados tourism’s board or that the blonde Afro traveller a few groups ahead of me in the queue was heading that way.

Incoming flights from the UK and Ireland

And so I found myself on my own in the airport long after everyone else had left.

The friendly Bajan airport staff allowed me back through customs to double check if my party were there before connecting me with a taxi firm and my hotel.

That’s far

And a bottle of rum to go please

In said taxi I asked the handsome Twentysomething driver about his family and if he had a partner.

To which he said that the Bajan girls were all after the same thing.

I had heard from my West Indian pal that there were three women to every one man on the island.

Can we get off yet?

I asked him to turn the taxi around to remove me from such temptation.

But I then thought better of it, and besides what would the poor staff at the Grantley Adams Airport make of me showing up again so soon.

Barbados Aer

And, of course, my Rihanna

And for our Irish friends, Aer Lingus are now on board too with new flights through Manchester from October 20. With fares from £199.

And you can attach on the connecting flights from Dublin and Cork from €249 and from Belfast from £239.

MEET YOU AT THE AIRPORT

Countries, Culture, Europe

Here’s to the next 1600 years, Venice

Up there with those to avoid in life, like taxmen and Ed Sheeran, are those who say Venice is dying… well, on this, their 1600th anniversary year, here’s to the next 1600.

Firstly, the world’s most famous city on a lagoon, has thrived for 1600 years already through plague, foe and the elements.

And despite the doom mongers’ prophecies Venice is actually better placed for the next 1600 years than any of the 1600 before.

No, not because of that picture of that dolphin returning to the Grand Canal which proved the effect of climate change.

No, that was a fake. But because, surprise, surprise, the Venetians know more about preserving their unique way of life than anybody else.

The celebrations have been in full flow since late last month and will run until March 25 next year.

So plenty of time to plan for Veniceophiles (OK I made that term up) to return to a city we have been away from too long.

We return too to the Chronican Altinate (no, me neither) and diarist Marin Sanudo for detail on Venice’s beginnings.

Sanudo referenced the San Giacomo di Rialto as being the first church, begun on March 24, 421.

These days, of course, we have the internet to go to.

And as mia moglie will tell you I’m always happy to let someone else to do the heavy lifting.

Just follow the Venezia calendar on their site for a host of cultural and historical events which you can follow.

And our breakaway party from our trip to Padova

And per tua informazione Venice I’m free pretty much the rest of the year.

Heck, it’s Venice, I’m free l’intero anno.

MEET YOU ON THE CANAL

America, Countries, Culture

Native American signs point the way

I’d advise anyone who is thinking about taking a summer out before work to spend it in ‘At or about the great hill’. Or Massachusetts to you and me!

You see, we all know more Native American language than we thought.

Always in the big tent

But imagine if somebody came to your country and changed all the names of the places which the settlers did.

AIANTA, the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, have got us on board for their initiative Mapping Indigenous Place Names.

Where is..?

Do you know the way to?

Now as the United States took shape and they formed new settlements they went for names from the Old World and then just put New in front of them.

Some though were more inventive and took Native American names.

So, let’s play a game of what does that American state mean?

Rivers run through it

All kinds of everythng with Carol Dana, language master for Penobscot Nation

Starting with A, of course, and Alaska is from the Aleut word alexsxaq, meaning ‘the object towards which the action of the sea is directed’.

K is for Kentucky, a hallowed place in American Country music, is Iroquoian for ‘at the meadow’ or ‘on the prairie’.

While Michigan who we met up again with this week at MTM21 and are close to welcoming us all back, nods to the Ottawa mishigami, ‘large water.’

Dressed to thrill

Our magical Mississippi, whose old man river just keeps rolling, is derived from the Algonquian language Ojibwe. meaning ‘big river’…

And yes, there’s a theme here.

Utah, another we caught up with at MTM21 and where we’ll visit after the American Travel Fair, IPW, means ‘high up’. Naturally!

Follow the trail

They were here first

When we all get travelling again we should definitely add Native American experiences to our lengthening list.

Helpfully AIANTA has done the heavy lifting for us and pointed these information packs our way.

That bbbbbuckin’ Bronco

Top Ten Experiences: https://www.aianta.org/ten-native-american-tourism-experiences/

Pre-Columbian Sites:  https://www.aianta.org/pre-columbian-sites-in-the-us/

Native American Tours: https://www.aianta.org/native-american-tours/.

Must fly, I’m being called back to ‘the Place Where The Scary One Breathes Fire’, sometimes called ‘Home’.

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland

Oh Ireland in the Sun – Montserrat

There’s an advert on Irish television where the winner of the EuroMillions lottery buys a tropical island for his friends and family… oh Ireland in the sun!

Didn’t he know there was a Caribbean island there already which is more Irish than Ireland?

Montserrat is the tiny 39 and a half sqm Emerald Island of the Caribbean because of its Irish links which run deep.

The Irish have been around the Leeward Island since 1632, sent there from neighbouring St Kitts and later Virginia.

Fly the flag

Sounds of Ireland: The oul’ harp

Montserrat was to build a thriving economy around tobacco and indigo (that’s blue dye) and later tobacco and sugar.

Fast forward to today by way of Cromwell’s transportations, and if it wasn’t for the sun, palm trees, volcano and rain forest you’d swear you were in Ireland.

It’s there in the island flag with its figure of a cailín standing by a cross and holding a harp. We’ll gloss over the Union flag in the corner.

While a shamrock adorns Government House.

The oul’ Shamrock and the oul’ Jock

So why then is Montserrat not a throng of Irish visitors from the Old Country?

Possibly because they prefer the Canaries and there is a lot to like about them but say that it’s Tenerife you love then you’ll love Montserrat too.

Hot-Hot-Hot

The volcano and Arrow’s hot-hot-hot too

There’s the volcano which gives you the distinctive black beaches shared by both islands, though there is one white beach that we all love too on Montserrat.

While there’s evidence of the volcano’s activity in the form of a buried city, and now St Vincent’s has awoken and is erupting the focus switches south to the ghost town of Plymouth.

The best place to view it is from the Garibaldi Hill viewpoint or the viewpoint from Jack Boy Hill on the east of the island following a short hike.

Combined, of course, with a trip to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

Your own beach?

While Montserrat’s Irishness is all around you in its symbols (the shamrock stamp in your passport), names of villages and they say too in an Irish brogue it goes into overdrive around St Patrick’s Day.

When the Montserratians tie in their own commemoration of their slavery past with the saint’s day.

For the craic, yes, but also because it is steeped in their history.

St Paddy’s Day, mon

Irish pubs everywhere: Martin Healy and his band in Montserrat

On St. Patrick’s Day in 1768, the African slaves on the island rose up and it is alleged nine slaves were hanged.

And they have never been forgotten with St. Patrick’s Day now heradling a ten-day festival to honour their Afro-Irish heritage.

Again there are too few of the Irish who go out to Montserrat, and we mean to do something about it.

Green for go

Martin Healy and his band have been pioneers over recent years.

And trawling through the records we’ve seen that Martin is a regular visitor out to the Emerald Island

Caribbean craic

Stay there… the Caribbean

Where he was a special guest at Governor’s wife Sujue Davis’s popular latest Coffee Morning on Tuesday, March 11 before that same evening performing at the Uncle’s bar/restaurant a popular night spot in Flemings.

And the Montserrat Reporter (are you employing?) chronicled that ‘the three-man Irish band performed throughout the week at probably every ‘rum shop and bar’ and is a major performer in the popular “Pub Crawl’.

So Montserrat, all 4,900 of them, celebrates their Irish roots with good trad music then, and also its Caribbean heritage with our favourite Soca Music.

Arrow hits the mark

Golden Arrow

Hot-hot-hot? Yeah, you now it, mon. It’s this classic from one of Montserrat’s favourite sons, the legendary late Soca star Arrow

So to get there… you’ll fly out of the UK to Antigua where it’s only a 15-minute flight out to your Ireland in the Sun.

And here’s where you’ll stay with a wide range of hotel rooms, guest houses, villas and apartments all flagged up on the Montserrat site.

Tropical Mansion Suites on Montserrat

And with less than 5,000 people on the island, everyone practically knows each other, and if you say you’re Irish you’ll get a warm welcome from Warren and Cherise!

Slainte!

And no, you don’t get away that easily… here’s why we love the Caribbean so, from Trinidad and Tobago to Barbados.

And next up is Jamaica where we’ll bring you all the news of how they’re jammin’.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Meet the World – all turned out wellness in the end

Travel is, of course, good for your health… and health is good for your Travel.

That is the recurring theme coming out of the Meet the Media international Travel fair.

That our industry’s health depends on acknowledging that holidaymakers will now put our wellbeing front and centre of every trip from hereon in.

Veloci for Victory: In Orlando

And so every destination will need to show that they are safe.

And that social distances are observed, and discreet, so that we all feel we are actually on holiday.

As ever, our American Travel friends are leading the way with their innovative organisation.

And so in our usual scattergun way let’s see how the world is opening up again.

Ride on

We’re waiting for you: Universal Hollywood

Universal: And our friends at Universal, and that includes you Veloci and your VelociCoaster, are waiting for us in Orlando.

Even better than that, if that’s possible, is the reopening of Universal Studios Hollywood on Friday.

To Californians at first (drat!) but to us later (yeah!).

Hello Pet

Knight Rider at Universal Hollywood Studios

And a chance too to try out the all-new Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash and Jurassic World – The Ride.

As well as the famous Studio Tour.

Join the tour

Get your ticket to ride!

We’ll do a sweep of the States from Utah to Michigan to New York State as we go.

The morning after

But as is the way… the morning after the Meet the Media international Travel fair always comes with a monster hangover.

And this year’s digital get-together was no different.

All of which has me looking for some medical intervention!

Medical Czech

Ever since sipping from the magic sippy cup in the Czech Republic’s Spa Triangle I have been enlivened by this magical land.

You too can be born again by drinking from the magic waters from the ubiquitous fountains.

And the magic beer in Hoptown, Zatec,

Why not put the two together in the beer spas which are a thing around Central Europa.

Long Covid cure

Look at the head on that: Zatec, Czech Republuc

All of which shouldn’t come as a surprise because Beethoven among other luminaries of the day would come a-visiting.

You’ll not be surprised to see that the cutting-edge Czechs are leading the way too in pandemic treatment.

Such is their place as pioneers in medical tourism.

We’ll bring you more on how they’re addressing Long Covid and attracting inquiries from abroad from those of us who want a cure and the best beer.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, Ireland, Music

The world is open again

And, yes, we know that England has a habit of pronouncing that the world means them.

But on the day when England begins to emerge from lockdown our friends at Meet The Media over in Ireland brought the world of Travel together again.

Highlight of the year

The annual meet is a highlight of every Travel professional’s year.

Go Westbury

And this year, while different being run remotely, was even more important in championing our industry.

In praise of Dublin

I’ll keep you going with all the latest as the day evolves but to kick off as the world can’t come to Dublin yet let’s bring Dublin to the world.

The Westbury Hotel, off Grafton Street, is where old friends get together to exchange the past year’s tales and experiences and look forward to the coming year.

We’ll have that filled soon

And good wine flows before we all retire at the end of the day to the hotel bar Balfe’s.

Grafton Street, between Merrion Square and St Stephen’s Green, is where Dubliners mill (and milliner with Brown Thomas boutique where the glam set go to shop).

A slice of life

Between the buskers and mime and statue entertainment.

High tea in the Westbury or people spot from the balcony of Bewley’s Oriental Cafe with your hot chocolate and cinnamon swirl (guilty!).

They’ve been coming ti Bewley’s for years

The spirit of rock guitar great Phil Lynott still hovers above the eponymous statue outside Bruxelles, a favourite meeting place.

And a must-do selfie. And if you have a plectrum leave it there in tribute to the Great Man and Proud Dubliner.

Our Meet the Media would traditionally end in one of my favourite Dublin bars, Mary’s on Wicklow Street.

Where surrounded by good Guinness and great craic and a reconstructed traditional Irish bar and hardware store we’d listen to great music.

And plan with our international friends where we’d go next.

Both that night and the rest of the year.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Asia, Countries, Culture

Holidos and don’ts – suitcases

And I am indebted to my friend and Travel mover and shaker, French-based Irishman, Michael Collins for sparking me to revisit an old series, Holidos and don’ts.

Michael flagged up that at his local supermarché the aisles selling suitcases and headrests are interdit, or blocked.

Mad hatters: And when I used to take a full suitcase to America

Which beggars the question: how essential are suitcases?

And who doesn’t have one anyway?

Nothing to see here

As all Travel professionals do I like to take advice from seasoned pros, like doyen and Americanophile JP Thomson, erstwhile of the Sunday World.

JP always packs a half-full suitcase to leave space for what you take home.

Half full

Irish Travel professionals, nay all Irish people, love few things better than hitting the shops after they get off the plane.

Possibly the afternoon after they hit the bars.

Anyone got scissors?

And so when our Irelando party hit Aaawlando, and they set aside a couple of hours at a shopping mall, it was like the Olympics 100m final.

Needless to say they all returned with half the mall in their bags, while I bought a tee-shirt.

New suitcase

The fact is though that shopping in America is great value.

Irish and Scots on tour in Orlando

So why not take the opportunity to update your wardrobe and send the outdated clothes you’re standing up in to the charity shop.

The same applies, of course, if you go on a sun holiday.

Pack light

So that the members of my party who took full suitcases to the Maldives found they only needed their swimwear and summer clothes.

Who needs a suitcase? The Maldives

Some of us, of course, found that all you need on dry land is a sarong and flip-flops.

While we’ll not talk about those women who took heels.

And make it snazzy

And in the last instance why not just go out with hand luggage, or better still a rucksack that doubles as a wheelie?

Here’s to hitting the airport again

And buy a suitcase when you’re out in a country where, Zut Alors!, they don’t stop you buying suitcases from their supermarchés.

And for more Holidos and don’ts advice here’s a reminder of how we roll from where we last rocked up… Bergamo.

America, Countries, Ireland, Music

Shay Healy 1943-2021

We shared a fondness for Eurovision and Country music although he typically was a legend of both, rather than just an observer like me.

Shay was the star columnist in the award-winning Weekend lifestyle section of the Irish Daily Mail which I edited for five years.

His life was, of course, one well lived and any time in his presence was time well spent as Shay, like all Dubliners, was a natural storyteller.

Prize guy: With his IFTA Lifetime Achievement Award. www.ifta.ie

The hand that life deals us all had been unkind though to Shay in his latter years after he lost his beloved wife Dee Dee.

And he contracted MS which frustrated him as he could struggle to articulate himself.

Me doin’ my Nashville thang

All of which made his Irish Daily Mail column so much more precious.

As a vehicle to talk self-deprecatingly about his own condition and his life in music in general.

Our year: Shay wrote What’s Another Year for Johnny Logan

Music gave Shay the opportunity to travel and to sample life in another country when he went off to live in Nashville.

And it was while in Music City that he brushed shoulders with the Father of Rock’n’roll himself, Chuck Berry.

Shay regaled the tale in his own inimitable way recalling how he had found himself back stage at a Chuck concert.

Pals: Shay wrote for Billy Connolly

He had been given clearance to approach the great man and knocked on his dressing room door.

Beckoned in he found Chuck with a blonde sitting on his lap.

Chuck looked up with a big smile on his face and said; ‘You get two questions’.

Roll over Chuck Berry

To which a stunned Shay said: ‘Are you joking?’

And Chuck shot back: ‘One question left.’

There will be laughs aplenty and the best music tonight in Heaven.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

America, Countries, Culture

Twenty years of Shrek

Of course Happy Ever After can yield another and another and another in the movie fairytale world, particularly when it yields as many dollars as Shrek.

Shrek exploded onto our screens 20 years ago next month and it’s fair enough to say nothing was ever the same again.

More Shrek

And although we thought the release of Shrek Forever After, also called Shrek: The Final Chapter in 2010 would tie up the franchise why give up on the gift that keeps on giving?

They’re part of the audience. https://www.attractiontickets.com/en?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu7Ol7bLz7wIVlIXVCh1NIgigEAAYASAAEgKsefD_BwE

And so we’ve had the spin-off Puss In Boots.

While Shrekkies were given a real treat when it was announced that there would be a Fifth Shrek film next year.

So where does Shrek live?

Shrek’s home

Well, when he’s not in his swamp, Universal Resort Orlando is where you’ll find him hanging out.

The dynamic duo

There are other action heroes who will leave you sickly green at Universal with their stomach-churning rides.

I’m talking you Hulk, my first corkscrew ride in Orlando with Attraction Tickets

Which makes you regret that omelette and stack of pancakes you took at breakfast.

He’ll be all right

No, Shrek 4-D is a tamer, more family fun interactive experience, but no less fun for all that.

Shrek’s ride

When we last left the layered one in Shrek Forever After he was grappling with fame in a Shrek lite theme park.

Before Rumpelstiltskin tricks him into giving it all up for just one day of his old life.

Big in Japan

Spoiler alert here.

But our favourite author extricates himself from his sticky moment and we caught up again in Universal Studios Hollywood on our superheroes’ get-together.

And both being of the Scottish variety, and both sharing some nasty habits we both got on like a swamp on fire.

Hear them roar

He’s invited me back so, of course, with a new film coming and Universal Resorts cranking up again for visitors.

With something new all the rime… I’m talking about you VelociCoaster me.

Shrek around the world

And because Shrek is beloved around the world and is big in Japan, our friends over there are enjoying him too.

Now for 2021 I’m thinking because it’s the Fifth Shrek we can have 5-D!

I’m on my way from misery to happiness ptoday, uhu-uhu-uhu-uhu!