Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

Pride in London and Berlin

I must be losing it, 20 minutes into the LGBTQ+ party in San Antonio and I wasn’t propositioned once… I’m persuaded to turn my attentions to Pride in London and Berlin.

Particularly as my travel provider friends in Ireland, Cassidy, have flagged up the European powerhouses for this Pride.

Dressed to kill: In California

Pride is a life-enforcing celebration of gay rights yes, but human spirit.

And all of us are the better for it as I’ve discovered from West Hollywood through Vegas and Denver and Washington DC to Dublin and Barcelona.

Cami over to my place: With Cami in Vegas

And that’s only because I’ve not been in any of the other great cities of the world when Pride has been in full flow.

Although I’ve tried to raise a smile (or more) from the rather staid seaside town of North Berwick, east of Edinburgh, where I now live by wearing a feather boa around town.

And now because Cassidy share my love for Pride and have these packages at their fingertips join me and getting your vibe on with Pride in London and Berlin.

Let the gay Thames roll

In the pink: And the green

And because my gay friends love a pun and a double entendre almost as much as I do here’s a slice of London life

Pride Weekend Package: London

Travel 1st July

2 Night Package

4* Britannia International

Package includes flights and accommodation.

€289pp (based on 2 people sharing)

From Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall Place, witness over 500 groups and 30,000 participants marching in the iconic Pride in London Parade.

Drop into Cassidy Travel today or contact them on 01 9695550.

Ich bin gay Berliner

As John F Kennedy would have said had he been addressing Pride in Berlin.

Pride Weekend Package: Berlin

Travel 21st July 2023

2 Night Package

3* Mercure Hotel Berlin Mitte

Package includes flights and accommodation.

€389pp (based on 2 people sharing)

One of the largest Pride parades in Europe runs from Kurfürstendamm to the Brandenburg Gate,

It all ends with a lively concert which welcomes special guest stars and goes well into the night!

Drop into Cassidy Travel today or contact them on 01 8224000.

America, Countries, Cruising, Culture

Friday nighters’ splash in San Antonio

So I dipped my toe in the water today on my Texas trip… and happen if I stay to the end of the week I’ll be joining the Friday nighters’ splash in San Antonio.

I got my feet wet but never my trademark Bandana with an early-morning swim in the open-deck pool at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel.

Before taking to the Riverwalk again… on foot.

Obvious you might think but weekend revellers have been known to end up in the drink.

Which we discovered on our excellent Go Rio Cruises jaunt down the San Antonio River.

Margarita time

Margarita o’clock: With Tara and April

Most of which I’ve forgotten… you’ll forgive me but booze had been taken, Margaritas in one of those plastic yard glasses.

So beloved in Sin City Vegas.

Now despite being named for a saint, San Antonio’s citizens and visitors here know how to sin with bars hugging the riverfront.

Just as well then that the river was named and blessed by a priest.

With its bridges a favourite vantage point for weddings and Jennifer Lopez and Sandra Bullock chickflicks.

Feathered chicks proliferate on the river, sleepy ducks, well you would be in this 30C heat.

And if you’re lucky you might get to see Mother Turtle and her offspring.

Or the caricature version for the kiddies.

Cruise San Antonio

Remember: The Alamo bridge

The riverboat cruise is an absolute pleasure with the knowledgeable guides breezing through San Antonio history.

And pointing out buildings which were physically moved from one point to another on stilts.

This being a river then naturally it has been at the mercy of the elements.

And you’ll learn of the challenges of a flood which rose to 10ft.

It pays then to have God on your side.

And San Antonians built ornate churches by the river complete with gargoyle grotesques carved into the exterior.

Some of which look like me after a night of post-partying at IPW, the American Travel Fair, more of which later.

Fun on the water

Back at the pool: At the Westin Riverwalk

And with that I must return to dry land, another riverside bar or restaurant.

And listen to another mariachi band and keep an eye out for a floral parade which is sure to pass by.

Now taking a bend in thus here tale, much like the San Antonio river did I not set you some homework.

To tell me about a famous fortification where we will bring this party to an end tonight.

The Friday nighters’ splash in San Antonio will have to wait.

Tonight, I’ll get someone to hold my drink, I’m off to fight at the Alamo.



America, Countries, Culture, Music

San Antonio will Mex your day

Whoever won, whoever lost at the Alamo know something, San Antonio will Mex your day.

With the jewel of South Texas a smiling, dancing riposte to Donald Trump’s mission of division.

The missions are a good place to start when exploring San Antonio, southern Texas where the travel world has gathered for America’s annual travel fair.

The Spanish missions which are Texas’s only UNESCO World Heritage site.

Which UNESCO tell us are an example of the interweaving of Spanish and Coahuiltecan cultures.

Footsteps of history 

I remembered: The Alamo

The missions history which includes the unforgettable Alamo is, of course, a challenging chapter of colonisation.

Which we discovered as we walked in the footprints of the first nation Native Americans, Texans and Mexicans (and Germans).

On our 300+ years of history coach tour of the San Antonio environs.

We’d got a taste of the Mexican influences in this, the seventh biggest city, in the country with 1 and a half million, at breakfast.

This being Texas where everything is bigger we’d feasted on barbecue beef, Mexican tacos and chicken and the fruits of the land.

All washed down with Texan cerveja and margarita, the latter which they made us work for.

On your bike

On a bike where they hook up the blender for you to power the mix.

All this brunch partying to extravagantly costumed and oversized-headed Mexican caricatures on a Sunday.

At the natural history and Mexican heritage Witte museum.

And you feel duty bound to beg Deo for forgiveness at any of the well-preserved churches the missions.

Alas, we are too late for the mariachi mass and have to make do instead with paying homage to the muscular friar Francis who founded the Franciscan order.

An order of discipline, devotion to Deo, poverty and great beards.

Monk business: St Francis

And they run in my family too through my mum’s cousins who were at the heart of the Nunraw Abbey near my new homestead North Berwick in Scotland.

And who I followed out to Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina where a Franciscan friar told us how he accidentally set his whiskers alight.

At a candle ceremony.

But I digress… and I have been going around in circles, particularly on the spectacular Riverwalk in San Antonio.

Around San Antonio 

Super trooper: Buffalo Soldier Turner McGarritty

So if I deviate into Buffalo Soldiers, German towns, country, jazz and more.

I always seem to get back on course too.

Know something too though that San Antonio will Mex your day.

But maybe remind me the best way to get to the Alamo to channel my best Davey Crockett.

I should be OK as all signposts on the walk point to the famous fortification.


Countries, Music, UK

Dustin down Eurovision Liverpool

Of course the party will be missing its biggest reveller with the elimination of Ireland but we’re still Dustin down Eurovision Liverpool.

Now there have been many turkeys over the 67 years of Eurovision.

But only one Turkey, the cult puppet and personal pal, Dustin the Turkey.

And you probably saw him taking pride of place amid the VIPs at the semi-finals.

Eurovision is, of course, the hottest ticket in town this week.

Tourist magnet

Easy Ryder: Last year’s UK entrant Sam Ryder

And it is, obviously, a tourist magnet with 100,000 visitors expected to be in Merseyside this week.

With the attendant spike in hotel rates.

One semi-final under our belts and we can see that the contestants have all got the memo about name checking The Beatles.

With the singers and dancers making the pilgrimage to The Cavern.

Hard Day’s Night Hotel

Dynamic duo: And the Fab Four

And many staying at The Hard Day’s Night Hotel, new on my radar but one I imagine could have a hard day’s night and the next morning.

And despite Liverpool beating my own home town of Glasgow to the punch it seems the perfect fit for Merseyside to get Eurovision.

Now we’ve followed The Fab Four from Liverpool, our old stomping ground, to Hamburg… and back.

And it is refreshing to see that in the past 25 years the city has rebuilt itself in their image.

So that you can enjoy The Beatles Story at the Royal Albert Dock and they are getting on board for Eurovision.

As well as the iconic Cavern Club from which tours go out into the Beatles’ Liverpool.

Ours being the Magical Mystery Tour with Jay Johnson, who’ll be Holly’s.

Musical legacy

Magic bus: With Jay on the coach tour

Of course British hopes will be with Mae Muller and I Wrote A Song.

And the Liverpudlians have forgiven her for being a ‘Landiner’ and adopted her as their own.

As they did myself, a Scottish-type person, in my time there.

There has been a history of Scousers singing in Eurovision, of course, even if they couldn’t get the Beatles to enter.

Cilla Black, a huge singing star in the Sixties, came close but decided to pass on succeeding Sandie Shaw.

She thought it unlikely that the UK would back up Sandie’s win so the UK went for Cliff Richard instead.

Alas his Congratulations was misplaced and he came second, although he blamed, of all people General Franco (some truth in it mind).

We’ll pass over Jemini’s efforts, the duo getting nul points, but there were sterling performances from Prima Donna and Sonia, who both lost out to Ireland.

While it was far from Wonderful Copenhagen for Molly who was 17th in 2014.

Puppet on a string

Cavern fever: With Bandanaman

Still this year Liverpool has two entries really through dint of them hosting on behalf of Ukraine… and they’re bound to get a big political sympathy vote. 

Back to my pal Dustin the Turkey and of course he is pure Eurovision following in the legacy of barefooted Sandie Shaw who sang about a puppet on a string.

So I’m right behind him and I’m Dustin down Eurovision Liverpool. Calm down, calm down.



Countries, Culture, Europe

Leave royals in fairytales

An insight on the jamboree that is the Coronation of Charles Windsor in Britain by a German grandee beloved in these parts… leave royals in fairytales.

Of course Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, was more diplomatic.

But he did concede that in his home country people viewed far-off royal spectacles as fairytale or Hollywood.

Germany, like many of the 159 republics in the world, has emerged from monarchies.

While keeping and showcasing palaces for tourists who love a fairytale.

Gold Swan

Disney look bad: New Schwanstein

Neuschwanstein in Bavaria falls into that category.

With the castle on a hill so dazzling Walt Disney that he copied it for Disney Castle.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria had a thing for swans as well as other pecadilloes and he put that stamp on everything around the New Swan Castle.

And most importantly in his bedstead.

But alas he was unable to avail of it all, dying before it was all finished.

And we imagine his passing was a thing of over-the-top theatrical and balletic beauty, a la a dying swan.

Here for the beard: And the beer

Of course, Neuschwanstein is far from the only once-royal palace which still draws the visitors…

More than 61 million people have visited since 1869.

And more than 1.3 million people visit annually, with as many as 6,000 per day in the summer.

Including this refugee from the Munich Beerfest who worked off his hangover by excitedly running up the hill. 

Very Versailles

Grounds for optimism: Versailles

Versailles was the jewel in the French crown but once the people of France decided that it should be used for the state rather than some bling for their king it became a much-visited tourist spot.

While its own people can enjoy the great works of art and settings with free exhibitions and displays.

And so until October 31st, you can enjoy the musical gardens and the Great Musical Waters in the gardens and groves.

Every Saturday evening from 10 June to 23 September, Friday 14 July and Tuesday 15 August, discover the Gardens in the evening.

With the The Night Fountains Show.

While the Sculptures and Mouldings Gallery in the Small Stables is also free to you and me from 12.30pm to 6.30pm every Saturday and Sunday.

Your carriage awaits

A-mazing: More Versailles

Now if you’ve been looking through your fingers at the UK royal show today.

You’ll have witnessed the slowest vehicle in London, the royal carriage.

Guess what though… in Paris you can get up close and personal for free.

Located in the the Great Stables , the Gallery of Coaches is open every weekend afternoons from 12.30pm to 6.30pm.

Of course all of this is run by us, and not by royal decree, or when we say us it’s really the French people.

Viva La Revolution

Come in: And enjoy the rooms

And a reminder of who is in charge is brought home to you in the Royal Tennis court, the birthplace of French democracy.

All of which is linked to an important episode of the Revolution. Every weekend from May to October from 12:30pm to 6:30pm (last admission at 17:45).

Of course, it will be likely a long, long time before it’s Game, Set and Match for the British monarch, if at all.

But for the day that’s in it wouldn’t it be better to leave royals in fairytales and enjoy your favourite Disney film.


Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland

Joyce lived la vita bella in Trieste

James Joyce lived la vita bella in Trieste and began charting Leopold Bloom’s course there.

Probably eating crispy frico lollipops, Toc’ in braid, Spring asparagus orzotto and soft frico bites on a roasted polenta tartlet.

While he put Dublin fare and choice words in the mouth of Leopold.

Upper crust: Pinocchio’s

The inner organs of beasts and fowls, thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs and fried hencods’ roes.

While most of all Joyce tells us ‘he liked grilled mutton kidneys.’

Pinocchio’s by a nose

Odyssey: At Pinocchio’s

Thankfully the good folk of Trieste had the senza to showcase their city in an Italian setting at Pinocchio’s in Temple Bar with best Italian fare.

With Friuli Venezia Giulia chef Manuel Marchetti creating pizzas especially for the occasion.

With toppings consisting of San Daniele Prosciutto and alpine smoked ricotta.

And for dessert, creamy tiramisù, a dessert born in Friuli Venezia Giulia, and Strucchi (no us neither but was gorgeous).

Grazie Ryanair

You dancer: Ryanair

Using Joyce as an entry point Trieste presented the new Ryanair seasonal route.

Available twice weekly until 28 October, with one-way fares start from €19.99pp.

And how Giacomo Joyce as he styled himself in Trieste could have done with a low-fare airlines then.

Portrait of Trieste

Io sono Italiano: Joyce

Joyce had taken a circuitous route to Trieste where he penned A Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man.

To take up a job as a tutor to a young girl Letitza, daughter of Jewish writer Ettore Schmitz.

Whom it is said he based Leopold Bloom around.

With Joyce also so smitten with Ettore’s wife Livia that he remodelled her as Anna Livia a representation of the River Liffey.

Alongside which today’s tourist hub and stag and hen central Temple Bar flows.

Vino de vici

Chin chin: Il vino

As indeed did the Italian wine. No Leopold Bloom glass of Burgundy ecco grazie on Pudding Row.

No, Ireland’s greatest author. Si, si… it was how Joyce lived la bella vita in Italy.



Countries, Culture, Europe

Stick it to art protesters in Dusseldorf

It’s no jackets required in the K21 Standehuis museum where they stick it to art protesters in Dusseldorf.

The worry is that the activists will glue themselves to the art installations.

Now I don’t know the science of how unsticking a jacketed person rather than say a jumpered person helps but them’s the rules.

And if it helps divert the activists away from the galleries then all the better.

Acceptable, the Eighties

Turning Japanese: Little Tokyo, Dusseldorf

Now Dusseldorf in North Rhine Westfalen may be known for a range of things, the fashion capital and its Japanese links.

But for this day tripper the jewel in its crown is its former state parliament.

Its museum, the K21 which with two others forms the Kuntsammlung.

And boasts large scale film and video installations in a celebration of post-80s modern art.

Modern life

Just the ticket: Picasso

If you’re more of a fan of earlier 20th century big-hitters such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse then nearby K20 is where to go.

And postwar American art includes works by Jackson Pollock and Frank Stella.

And pop artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol.

But if it’s immersive, physical art you’re after then the aforementioned K21 that stands out.

In another orbit

Hold on tight: In Orbit

The In Orbitinstallation installation by Tomás Saraceno.

And our guides left this, the best for last.

Suspended 25m above the piazza five air-filled spheres constructed of near-transparent steel mesh.

Encompass an area of 2500 square metres.

But enough science, now for the fun.

Visitors can don suits and shoes with suckers on them to enter one of the bubbles

And crawl into them.

Spider’s web

Everyone’s a spinner: The web

The idea being that we inhabit a spider’s world and movement to strategise our movement.

We, who merely watched, were more like worker bees following our queen who informed us we had to leave.

It felt like being stung but our train back to Essen as part of the German Travel Mart was leaving and we had to be on it.

The K21 Standehuis had been an education and we were happy to compromise.

By cutting short some our enjoyment to queue for our jackets.

All so we could stick it to art protesters in Dusseldorf.



America, Countries, Music

Grammys boomers

They must have seen something in my re-recording of John Lee Hooker to reach out to me for my Grammys boomers.

And ask me for my vote… although I dare say the judges have made up their minds already about who they will be rewarding this Monday, February 6.

Now if you don’t get an invite out to LA for the big prize-giving or miss the broadcasts fear not.

Because the Grammy Museum themselves will give you everything any music fan will ever need.

Disney sound bad

Grammy Museum, Cleveland, Mississippi

The Grammy Museum (no, there are three) are the Disney of musical exhibitions.

And helpfully like Walt’s wonderlands they are spread around to be near you.

If you live in the States.

Or travelling, and believe me if you are near Los Angeles, Newark, Nashville or Cleveland, Mississippi, then tick off a Grammy before you head home.

Hooker by crook

Boom boom: John Lee Hooker


Yes, you’ll get a chance to make your own re-record of Blues legend Hooker.

At the end of your odyssey around the history of music.

But be sure to leave yourself enough time.

Because you’ll find yourself dwelling at all the other boards and exhibitions along the way.

And your party, or the staff, will have to remind you that they have places to go.

The exhibits, of course, are being currently updated alongside the staples.

I want my Mississippi

Screen test: And MTV passed it big time

And so we can look forward to celebrating MTV turning 40 from May 13-February 19.

With the tagline the memorable refrain from Dire Straits ‘I want my MTV’.

While the Deep South, the cradle of the Blues, Soul, Jazz and Rock’n’roll obviously runs right through the Cleveland museum.

And you’d do well too to run right through the Blues trail which covers Tennessee and Mississippi.

Rock it

Sweet home: Skynyrd

Here at the Grammy Museum Cleveland they are in the middle of a year of celebrating the Sounds of Southern Rock too until September 3.

And among the exhibits are Duane Allman’s and Dickey Betts’ Gibson guitars.

And that namecheck just allows me to show off, with me rocking Prince‘s guitars with a colleague strumming BB King‘s guitar Lucille.

Guitar men: In Mississippi

They were all called after her which all BB fans will know but I still like to remind everyone anyway.

And that as they say is a wrap for today.

So enjoy the awards next week and do get along to the museums and take in the Grammys Boomers.



America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Kiss a Ginger Day

I was crimson-faced the day I mentioned to my auburn-haired cousin  that I didn’t care who my kids wed as long as it’s not a carrothead… so I’ll redress that because take it as red it’s Kiss a Ginger Day,

Yes, it’s a thing, and while the rest of the world has its tanned and toned carnivals in the sun, us Celts (Scottish, Irish, Welsh) and Northern Europeans have our fiery festivals.

Red raver: Irish legend Maureen O’Hara

Because with the most gingers anywhere in the world, and Scots are out front, then gingers like nothing better than getting together to celebrate all things red.

With us Celts and Northern Europeans having gone out and multiplied around the world you can even team it with a holiday.

So there’s where they shout… come on you Reds.

A reddy night in Georgia

Chat-up lines: Do you fall for them?

Ginger Pride Parade, Rome, Georgia, USA: And when a ginger in Rome, Georgia, in March then it’s all about the Annual Ginger Pride Parade.

The free parade kicks off in the morning from Broad Street in Downtown Rome.

The spectacle which has been running since 2011 is described as a lighthearted approach to anti-bullying.

A dab of rouge

Let’s hope he’s not playing: Ed Sheeran

Festival des Ch’tis rouge, Arras, France: In France’s northern city of Arras, redheads galore gather for two days.

They have a fashion show, a ‘redheads got talent’ show,stall and more.

And in 2019 Miss France the raven-haired Maeva Coucke flicked her mane in Arras to show that red est magnifique.

An Italian red

Da Vinci code: Leo was a redhead

RossItalia, Milan/Redhead: Sicily And, yes, of course we love a full-bodied Italian red.

RossItalia has been running since 2012 in the fashion capital of Italy, the perfect backdrop for redheads to gather, mingle and celebrate their ginger hair come May time.

In Sicily, in Favignana to be precise it’s all about la famiglia.

And the ginger family lets their red locks down in July/August with a party filled with music, stalls, games, photography, a parade.

And even a ‘Miss and Mister Red Head Sicily’ contest!

The future is oranje

Come ear red: Vincent Van Gogh

The Redhead Days, Tilburg, Netherlands, August: And in the land where they celebrate the Oranje Army, who follow their national soccer team, then it’s not surprising that your colouring is popular.

Redhead Days, or ‘Roodharingendag’ is known as the world’s largest ginger weekender.

And it holds the world record for the largest number of natural redheads in one place.

Red for Hamburg

Look who I met on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg

Redhead Days Germany/Das Rothaarigentreffen Deutschland, Hamburg, Germany, September: And yes, we all know about the Reeperbahn, the Red Light District in Hamburg.

So, I guess too we shouldn’t be surprised that redheads are looked after too.

With hundreds of redheads and their friends attending previous events, Redhead Days Germany is expected to once again bring you group photo opportunities, a pub crawl, exhibitions, talks and plenty more!

But, of course, you don’t have to wait for any of these events because we’ve got today.

So get out there because take it as red it’s Kiss a Ginger Day.



America, Countries, Music, UK

Hank Williams in Alabama

As with so much in life where my great hero Billy Connolly goes I will follow which means to Hank Williams in Alabama.

Billy oft tells the story of how he first got into the banjo, his great musical love.

And the start point of his legendary entertainment career.

The Barras street market in Glasgow might seem an unlikely place to discover a Country legend.

But then many of the best people (Billy and Bandanaman) grew up in these streets.

And it was on one such stall that Billy’s dad bought Hank’s I’m So Lonely I Could Cry which prompted Billy to buy a banjo.

Hank’s for the memories

Music man: Billy Connolly

Billy, whose television travelogues are among the best anywhere, takes us to Hank’s gravestone in his Tracks Across America.

And texts his children and gets a photograph to tell him he’s there. 

This year is a very special year for Hankophiles.

Hiram ‘Hank’ Williams was born on September 17 in Mount Olive, Alabama.

And Alabama naturally makes a big deal of their favourite son with a Hank Williams Trail.

It kicks off with a visit to his childhood home preserved as a museum in Georgiana, where he learned to play guitar from Black street musician Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne. T

Then drive an hour north to Montgomery, where Hank moved in his teens, and pick up lunch as he did at Chris’s Hot Dogs.


Poster boy: Hank Williams

Visit Montgomery’s Hank Williams Museum to see his stage costumes, guitars, and the 1952 blue Cadillac in which he died, aged just 29.

You can pay your respects at his grave, like Billy did in homage to Hank Williams in Alabama.

In nearby Oakwood Cemetery, marked by a marble cowboy hat.

Of course, in a state where music is in the very air, there is always an anniversary.

Muscle memory

Memorial: Hank’s graveside

And April 23, 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of Rick Hall’s FAME studios in Muscle Shoals.

The studios have attracted artists from Alabamian Wilson Pickett, who recorded “Mustang Sally”, Aretha Franklin and Etta James to Alicia Keys.

A new behind-the-scenes tour takes visitors into Hall’s personal office and showcases his collection of instruments.

Respect: Aretha Franklin

Of course this being the Deep South then music is all around you so why not make an odyssey of it in neighbouring states.

And take in Tennessee and the best that Nashville, Memphis and Dollywood have to offer.

And Mississippi and its Blues trail and its Grammy Museum.