Countries, Culture, Europe

Italy’s history written on the walls

It’s often called a living museum and as we shake down the new UNESCO sites and celebrate Il Bel Paese’s pre-eminence.. Italy’s history written on the walls.

The addition of Bologna’s porticoes and Padova’s frescoes makes Italy numero uno with 58 recognised sites.

Arches of triumph

Walk this way: Bologna

Donata McGlynn (she married an Italian) would tear her luscious brown hair out teaching me Italian of a morning.

We would do whistle-stop visits around her homeland in the exercises she set to test nostra lingua.

And we, of course, passed through Bologna’s porticoes which gave us plenty of practise our directions.

The porticoes date back to the 12th century and span over 39 miles with most found in the city.

Made of wood, stone, brick, or reinforced concrete they serve as entrances to arcades and workshops.

And naturally have become hubs for Italians to chatter, or chiacchiera, a beautiful onomatopoeic word.

Of course all with the hands, or parlare con le mani.

Padova’s frescoes

To the greater glory: Padova

Of course, Renaissance Italy all started out with… Giotto in Padova.

Long before Michelangelo got to work on his Sistine Chapel Giotto was setting the template in Padova.

His showpiece the Scrovegni Chapel.

All of which you can learn about by googling. But much more fun coming with me on my Padova journey

UNESCO didn’t just stop there although you could easily while away an afternoon… and I did.

And an advance party to Venice

There are eight religious and secular building complexes which make up Padova’s 14th century fresco cycle.

So why not start your UNESCO Historic Sites of Italy in Padova.

Where its Botanical Gardens are already rightfully on the list.

And take a gentle boat ride to Venice.

Sites for sore eyes

Caesar the day: In Rome

Italy is, of course, an ancient land of regions and cities.

And it is only right that UNESCO should celebrate le citte as a whole.

And La Citta Eterna stands foremost of them, although, of course it’s a high bar.

See Naples and Die

So you should dwell a while in Florence, Sienna, Naples and Verona.

And Ferrara which bills itself as the City of Renaissance although Giotto and Padova might have something to say about that!

So check it all out… Italy’s history written on the walls.

 

America, Australasia, Countries, Music, UK

Keep On Running

And as the Olympics really kicks in with track and field, the songs on my running machine… Rainy Days and Songdays Keep On Running.

Go ahead

Jump, Van Halen: And a random story to accompany this slice of Californian rock.

From my schooldays and a sadist PE teacher.

Hessy would take pleasure from spanking our arses with a sandshoe if we forgot our kit.

And in the long jump heats for sports’ day he swiped his foot when he was taking off for the pit.

Bar, bar, bar

Raise the Bar, Bonnie Anderson: You’ll know her better as Bea Nilsson from Neighbours.

But Bonnie (and she is) was marked out from stardom early when she won Australia’s Got Talent at 12.

There’s lots of good Aussie music that never comes to our shores.

Not sure this is it but she looks Bonnie.

Born To Run

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen: Baby, we were born to run and I was too.

Although my specialised discipline Cross Country Running isn’t one of the sports included which is quire hard to do.

Not sure either if muddy public school grounds was what New Jersey‘s Bruce had in mind either.

Nae havering now

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) The Proclaimers: And I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more for Fife‘s finest.

And there are some who do, the waddling Olympian penguin people.

Now having been a member of a running club as a kid walking was giving up.

Put it there

Big Shot, Billy Joel: The Wee Noo Yoiker might struggle to lift, never mind twirl that big iron ball.

Billy is more in his element tinkering ivories than the shot put.

But who knows, he could have nailed it because it’s still track’n’roll to him.

Keep on running.

Countries, Culture, Europe

Amber lists and you’re a gem

I put my foot in it with a colleague, so just to say there will be no more gags about Amber lists and you’re a gem..

The amber threat has had holidaymakers panicking and fretting about getting back from foreign countries and then paying through the nose for self-isolation.

And the latest countries in the firing line are two of our favourites, France and Italy.

But the fossilised tree resin is something to be treasured as a precious jewel.

And also a healing property for hippies, whom I lean to….ooooohhhhhhm!

Museum pieces

Craftwork: amber

You’ll find amber really wherever you’ll find trees, or where trees once were, which is pretty much everywhere.

And among all their magical qualities they also seem to have a magnetic pull on women.

Particularly when you’re on your holiday with la famiglia in the coastal town of Southwold in England’s East Anglia.

And the evidence is somewhere at the bottom of the Scary One’s Jewellery box.

Though not the 2.2 kilo exhibit… it would only drag her neck down.

Pole stars

Shine bright: The colour of the sun

 

Now every day’s a school day when you’re meeting holiday providers from around the world.

And while feeding our bellies with big bowls of Polish soup and warming our hearts with their vodka, our Polish friends gave us the rundown on Gdansk.

And its impressive history with amber.

What’s more it’s even better than it was before with the new Amber Museum of Gdansk opened to the public only last week.

Amber is brilliant in tone and hue and can act naturally as a receptacle for all the things that can get stuck in trees, like bugs.

While it is a great building block for jewellery yes, but from spoons to chess sets to Fender Stratocaster guitars.

Opening gambit

The voice of Dresden: With Ingrid in Dresden

Museum director Waldemar Ossowski said: “Amber items are delicate and sensitive, and the susceptibility to damage increases with the age of the item, which is why many amber masterpieces have survived in fragments and are missing many figurines.”

We’re told too that it sits in the pantheon with the the collection of the Danish royal family, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Grünes Gewölbe museum in Dresden.

Something begotten in the state of Denmark

Walking on air in Nyhavn, Copenhagen

And if you know your Copenhagen you’ll know the museum is located in Kanneworff’s House in Nyhavn which dates back to 1606.

You’ll be taken on a 30-50 million journey and needless to say Denmark is at the heart of it.

And there will be a celebration of Scandinavian forests and their traders.

While there’s also chess too, naturally.

The Russians are coming

And take a tour of the ramparts: Kaliningrad

Whisper it around Poland where they like to claim amber as their Baltic gem but the Russians are coming with their own amber museum in Kaliningrad.

Well, like all things Polish, they’ve already settled and are flagging their own museum.

Should you be in the region then lucky you. So have a look around.

Obviously at all the amber and the many exhibitions including the Fifth Russian Contest of Gallery Art.

But also take a guided tour of the rampart to learn about the history of the growth of Konigsberg fortification power.

So that’s our Amber lists and you’re a gem all of you who are called Amber.

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

UNESCO Europe Spa Towns

They’re extra-spacial, our thermal favourites, now officially UNESCO Europe Spa Towns.

Eleven towns were selected to represent Europe from Britain, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Bath time

When in Bath

Bath, naturally flies the flag for the UK… it’s in the name.

And in Germany where they’re known as Bad as in Baden Baden, Bad Ems, Bad Kissengen.

As well as Baden bei Wien in Austria.

Czech these springs

Sip it up: Spa Triangle

We’ve lain back and thought of Western Bohemia In the Czech Spa Triangle of Karlovy Vary, Frantiskovy Lazny and Marianske Lazne

Italy boasts Montecatini and France Vichy.

While, of course, Spa in Belgium just had to be included.

As we owe the Belgian town for bestowing the name for our favourite health-giving relaxation.

Water of life

Meeowssage

Water is, of course, the source of all life and our spas but the Belgians are all too aware of its devastating force too.

And our friends at the European Historic Thermal Towns Association revealed how they had worked hard and held their breath to see if Spa would be hit.

The original Spa

Spa in Spa: Belgium

Spa though was blessed, perhaps because of its status as a healing centre.

With its qualities recognised as far back as Pliny the Elder.

He sayeth: ‘This water purges the body, cures fevers, and dispels calculous affections.’

Royal seal of approval

Henry after his spa

While King Henry VIII’s physician Agostino introduced the monarch to the waters… and dare say he needed it.

It was no surprise then that his descendant Charles II should take exile here from Cromwell.

His warts and all skim could have used some treatment.

Spas, while popular with the rich and famous are not their preserve.

And I happily joined the Great Unwashed in Marianske Lazne.

Though I did indulge myself by bathing in King Edward VII’s bath.

Forgotten somewhere?

Ready Eddie: King Edward VII

So congratulations to UNESCO Europe Spa Towns.

Although this doesn’t let UNESCO dumping Liverpool off its Heritage List or https://visitbelgium.comyears before the reconstructed Renaissance City Dresden.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Music, UK

Get Bach to The Beatles

There have been many candidates for the Fifth Beatle, George Martin, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston. But we want to Get Bach to The Beatles.

The book of Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach died on this day 171 years ago more than a hundred years before The Beatles formed in Liverpool.

Bach in Liverpool

A German composer, you say

But Paul McCartney credits the great Saxon (no, not the band but the state) for inspiring his work.

Merseysider Macca cites Bach in Blackbird while the trained ear will pick up a Bach piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane.

That Baroque sound is also unmistakable on the orchestral section in All You Need Is Love.

But it wasn’t just The Beatles who caught the Bach bug.

New York Bach

Simon and Bachfunkel

If it feels like Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and American Tune are timeless.

Then it is because it has its roots 100 years before as Rhymin’ Simon tells us on a US chat show.

In the Liepziger’s four-part chorale O Sacred Head Now Wounded.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale sounds like the title of something Bach would rattle it out.

Californian Bach

The Bach Boys

Because it pretty much is and repackaged as Procul Horum’s Sixties classic.

While The Beach Boys’ melodies from California also borrow from Saxony’s finest.

You’ll hear it in their reworking of his Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring for Lady Linda.

Of course, a good toon is a good toon and we’re sure if Bach has done words he’d have found a rap rhyme to Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Modern-day Bach

Baaa, Baaa, Baaa, Bach

Detroit’s favourite rapper Eminem sampled the great German in Brainless.

Only to be followed up (upBached) by Bonkers from Yonkers Lady Gaga and her Bad Romance and its harpsichord intro.

So Get Bach to The Beatles and a host of music royalty.

So think on it the next time you’re going to write a classic… dig out Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, South America, UK

Olympic anthems

It’s not always the official song, so as we all zone in on Tokyo, here’s Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems.

You go, Subo

In the pink: SuBo

Wings to Fly (Tokyo): Were you surprised too to see Scottish nightingale Susan Boyle trilling out Wings to Fly to accompany the release of those doves in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo?

Not bad for a wee lass from Bathgate, Scotland, where the birds disturb the peace by dropping their stuff on you.

Houston, we have an anthem

Smile and style: Whitney

One Moment in Time (Atlanta): Now there was no female singer in the world in the 1990s than Whitney Houston.

And the warbler was the obvious choice for the signature tune for the 1996 Olympics in Georgia. Alas, this had all the saccharine of the city’s most famous soft drink.

What Katy Did Next

And she’ll be in Vegas soon

Rise (Rio)Katy Perry too was stellar, and still is, at the last Olympics in 2016 but she didn’t rise to the occasion with this overproduced piece of schtick.

Too earnest, we’d have far preferred Fireworks. And there are plenty of them in Rio by the sea-o.

Dream Small

Small wonder: Heather

Proud (London): Big hair, big smile voice, Heather Small was Big in the late 80s with dance band M People.

And big again when Heather re-released her solo song Proud as the anthem of the London Olympics in 2012.

We see Heather more now on reality TV, Strictly, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage but would rather hear That voice.

Barcelonaaaaaaa

Catalan cantatas

Barcelona, Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé: And one we definitely see, overblown opera with Fandango Freddie and Spanish Soprano Montserrat.

All against the backdrop of brilliant Barcelona.

Your Olympic anthems

But what would be Freddie’s discipline? A lover of ballet, we’re thinking rhythmic gymnastics.

But what are your Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems?

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Sport

The Olympics Pokémon Hunting

The Olympics start today in Tokyo but what event do you wish was included… how about The Olympics Pokémon Hunting?

The playful Pocket Monsters have been with us for 26 years.

Caught in the act

Pokemon races though have not been endorsed by the International Olympic Committee… YET!

It’s a pity really

You see, the perfect venue has just opened, Pokémon Wonder in a 4,500sqm forest within Yomiuriland, a theme park outside Tokyo.

C’mon Pokémon

I reckon too that I would be a natural.

Catch me if you can

As a former Scottish national cross-country champion I have run through more than my share of forests.

And it’s got me thinking that it would have been more fun if the routes were littered with Pokémons along the way.

  • In there somewher

There are 50 species of Pokémon species including favourites such as Oddish, Diglett, and even (and I don’t know either) Rowlett.

And contestants will be given the rundown before the hunt from the research team of Professor Kureso and Pikachu.

Stop the pigeon

You looking at me?

And for those who poo-poo Pokémon as a sport I give you…

How about Horse Long Jump at the 1900 Paris Games or Town Planning at the four Games between 1928 and 1948.

Although as I sit here drowsy after another broken sleep one sport lost to the Games looks very appealing for a comeback.

Pigeon racing which flew during the 1900 Games with more than 300 birds taken out.

You not want to participate… well fly somewhere else, preferably out of my earshot.

Peekaboo Pokemon

In contrast our Pocket Minsters are actually podgy, playful little fellows who are very welcome in our world.

And they will be up until next April 3.

Now as for the row circling around Tokyo over whether it should be held at all with Covid gripping Japan.

Well, I’d always ask that everything possible be done to allow Travel and Sport, my two great loves, to continue.

Let the Games begin

Yes, we love a video game

And I believe precedent is a great example and cite the last time the world was gripped by a pandemic, the Spanish Flu in 1920.

And the Games went ahead in Antwerp, Belgium.

Never mind all those original Olympics held against the backdrop of Greek wars and interfering and vengeful Gods and Godesses.

Now maybe there are more events from the ancients which we should bring back.

I ca see you

But one step at a time… for starters let’s trial The Olympics Pokémon Hunting.

 

 

America, Countries, Ireland, Music, UK

Tapestry 50 years

My life has been a tapestry

Of rich and royal hue

An everlasting vision

Of the ever-changing view

Carole King (Tapestry for 50 years) 

The richest of rich tapestries and officially the best-selling by a female artist, Tapestry, was cut 50 years ago.

Rainy Days and Songdays, our weekly music feature that transports us in our minds to exotic places, today celebrates Tapestry.

Brooklyn’s finest

Brooklyn Bridge

Proud New Yorker Carole had gone west in 1971, following the break-up of her marriage to Gerry Goffin.

Her pal James Taylor had urged her to put her own voice to her tracks after pumping out classics for others through the Sixties.

Gerry Days: With Gerry Goffin

The push and pull of home and away informs Tapestry as Carole takes us on a journey we all can share.

And Californian too

The Angel of LA

Making a new home for herself in Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, Carole pines for home in the early tracks.

In Far Away a clearly homesick Carole asks:

‘Doesn’t anybody live in one place any more/It would be so nice to see your face at my door?’

Further down the line back playing in NY she elicits home support with a nod to Brooklyn.

A Real Homebody

Early days: Making songs for others

But showing how timeless Home Again is Carole updates it here for our Covid times.

Of course Carole occupies a place for her listeners which is universal.

Which is where You’ve Got A Friend resides and that friend is ours too, James Taylor.

Still rockin’ it: Carole now

Oh heck here they are again in another place we all know and all go in Will You Love Me Tomorrow?

We’ll Love You Tomorrow

Carole and James: Legends

And, of course, she famously wrote it when she was 17, gave to The Shirelles, took back, slowed down, and dropped the ‘Still’.

Carole professes that she ‘always wanted a real home with flowers on the window sill but if you want to live in New York City, honey you know I will’.

Amusingly Carole confesses she went cold on the song as she grew and considered Where You Lead belittling.

Momma and daughter

Me and my girl: Carole and Louise

Until she reinvented it as a duet with her daughter Louise Goffin.

For her Hyde Park concert which was the same year as me and my Natural Woman, my Sadie, rocked up for her musical Beautiful in London’s Theatreland.

It’s as is she was shouting out to us with her ‘If you wanna live in London, England, honey you know ai will.’

The Richest Tapestry

Our Carole started early

Yes, 50 years on Carole King, where you lead I will follow.

And I’d urge you if you haven’t got Tapestry your collection go out and buy it.

And you’ll have a friend. For me it’s Tapestry for 50 years.

 

Africa, America, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Route 66 in an electric car

It’s the world’s favourite road trip… but get your kicks on Route 66 in an electric car.

In the style of this site, of course, I’m working backwards!

I’ve forgotten something

At the end of Route 66, Santa Monica Pier, Southern California, on a scorching summer day.

Or a motorbike

Rev up: For Route 66

Your motorbike, the cooler choice, will have to pull up before the pedestrianised pier, and landmark.

We were first introduced to Route 66 from the classic song where we were encouraged to get our kicks.

As an introduction we are told it’s 2000 miles from Chicago to LA.

Smalltown America

There are bridges too

And in time-honoured American songs fashion a list of smalltown US follows and states.

We get Saint Looey, Joplin Missouri, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff Arizona, Winona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino…

You get the picture.

And yes, I still have to get those stickers for my luggage.

Although I have a clunking keyring to fool people into thinking I‘ve done the hipsters’ highway.

Why am I flagging up Route 66 today? Well, why not?

But it also tops a survey commissioned by Continental Tyres for the new Extreme-E.

The Great Road Trips

Drive your ass off: On Route 66

Route 66 holds off Pacific Coast Highway and the Great Ocean Road in Australia for the top spot.

Wild Atlantic Way

While a cursory glance of the top ten also highlights Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and South Africa’s Garden Way.

Now like all of those with adventure in out blood I have relished getting out on the road though perhaps not the iconic ones.

Snow in Mississippi

Rocket man: In Mississippi

And so I drove/was driven through the flatlands of the Blues Trail in Mississippi on my Deep South odyssey.

Where I fell asleep through the repetition and woke up with the fields covered white.

And, no, I wasn’t dreaming. Mississippians call cotton Snow.

Driven around the bend

Magical mystery tour: In Baviaanskloof

Or our own circuitous route around Monaghan’s townlands trying to find the Patrick Kavanagh Centre.

And being driven aimlessly around a South African park in the Eastern Cape late at night.

And that’s why the Lord gave zebras white stripes

Continental Tyres runs down the top 10 UK road trips and Scotland takes the plaudits with its North Coast 500.

While it’s good to see the Coastal Circuit in Northern Ireland getting a namecheck too.

The vital spark

Now electric cars are to be commended but I’m not sure how popular they would be with the Route 66 set.

I mean how many charging points would you need over that 2,000 mile expanse.

Never mind keeping up the cool quotient.

But the highway’s going nowhere and you’ll get longer to enjoy it.

So Get your kicks on Route 66 in an electric car.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Music

Way to go Joe America reopening

Just the news we’ve been waiting for… Way to go Joe America reopening.

We never doubted it for a minute, the new American President ain’t no Sleepy Joe.

President Biden gives us encouraging news this mid-July of throwing the gates open.

Striped for action: Joe Biden

Guten tag Angela

Joe has been talking it through with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.

And encouragingly he said that he would say more ‘within the next seven days’.

Biden is shaping up as the US President the world wants to do business with and building an administration of all talents.

Pool of all talents

With the Rat Pack in Vegas

The best in British and Irish Travel are building up to to pool their talents too for IPW, the American Travel Fair.

Vegas is a magnet for talent and dreamers with an act.

And it is the ideal destination for the filming of America’s Got Talent at the Luxor Hotel on November 4.

Simon Cowell and his pals are doing rehearsals there with the wannabes just now.

And in typical Vegas style there are back stories which will bring a tear to a glass eye.

Hoop dreams

Matt’s the way: Matt Mauser

Such as 51-year-old Matt Mauser who has gone viral after his heartrending rendition of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds.

Father-of-three Matt’s wife Christina taught school basketball which brought them into the sphere of superstar Kobe Bryant.

The legend: Kobe

Alas, the dream turned into a nightmare when Christina died in the same helicopter crash that killed Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six others.

Matt gives the performance of his life in front of the judges and will have the public right behind him when AGT screens.

Surf dude

Dogg gone it: Snoop in Huntington

The Huntington Beach native also has that wholesome athletic SoCal look which is so endearing.

And we expect that it won’t just be this AGT season that his name and billboard will be up in lights in Vegas.

That’s a rap

Life’s a Huntington Beach

He’s already every bit as big a hit back home in Surf City USA as the likes of this rapper who just happened to put on a show for us two years back.

We’ll be planning to check out what else is happening in Vegas when we visit in September and reporting back on some of it

Because thanks to Mr President whatever happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas.

I’m betting on Vegas

Way to go Joe America reopening.

And a shout-out here too to the holiday providers who have been patiently and conscientiously keeping our dreams alive.

All the time waiting for the green light.

Our American dream

The Whip Its in Harrah’s, Vegas

We don’t know yet if Angela and the EU are ahead of the UK but if they are then check out American Holidays and Tour America.

And we’ll bring you all the offers from wherever you are when we can say with certainty again Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.