Countries, Deals, UK

A hunch about Richard III

A hunch about Richatd III and the Lake District … the Dockray Hall  pub doorways are built this small to accommodate his stoop.

I know, the Shakespearean baddie and royal gargoyle is associated more with the Tower of London and a Leicester car park than Penrith in the north.

But Tricky Dicky was here!

Tricky Dicky was the Sheriff of Cumberland, his role to keep the revolting neighbouring Scots at bay.

Richard was here

Stooping to conquer: Richard IiI

Richard is said to have lived at Penrith Castle for spells between 1471 and 1485.

Except for a period when building work was being done and he kipped in Dockray Hall.

And who could blame him?

Dockray Hall was a sensible choice… a 307-yard tunnel from the castle which his grandfather built.

While we instead opted for the front door!

Fit for a Plantagenet

Richard was here: Dockray Hall

Dockray Hall offers banquet-sized meals in old-style ambience with wooden panelling which wouldn’t have gone amiss in Richard’s day.

And our man Richard still has a room in Dockray Hall, the Gloucester Hotel, and we hope it’s well-cushioned for that famous hump.

While in another nod to the Plantagenets dynasty (Richard was the last) the family plant, the planta genista or broom plant, grows in the hotel garden…

Every day is a War of the Roses schoolday.

We sup up our Loweswater Gold draught ale and wine and stroll along the road.

Lounging around

Lounge people: In Penrith

We have booked a room in our way back from Liverpool to breathe in one of our favourite regions in England.

The Lake District, which enchanted William Wordsworth, John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter among others.

Our billet is The Lounge Hotel, a snip at £79 a night, with the type of plumped-up beds fit for a kong or queen.

Today’s goblets are filled for the modern sweeter palate with Hello Sailor and Aperol Spritz cocktails

Penrith home base

Where’s that wall? At Hadrian’s Wall

The beautiful olde worlde shopfronted Penrith is an ideal base for the Lakes.

There are 16 with Ullswater the closest to Penrith which is also served by train

The Lakes have transfixed everybody from the Romans through the Plantagenets and the Romantic poets to today’s motorbike packs who throng the roads.

Alas we are on an overnight stay and can only dip our toes in the lakes and their wooded walks.

We must return from whence we came, Scotland, stopping only to take in Hadrian’s Wall.

Legend has it that it was designed as a military outpost from which to invade Scotland.

Or just as likely the hairy hordes coming from the north… these days they come on motorbikes.

And so to sum up, a hunch about Richard III and the Lake District was borne out and the only hump I have is that we had to leave.

 

Canada, Countries, Deals

Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns

I was there at the birth and the wobbles of the last year so I share the Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns.

The announcement of Ireland’s national airline new Transatlantic route would always be a matter of fevered excitement among the Travel circle.

And Toronto came very much from out of left field when it was revealed in 2018.

Toronto, oh brother!

Spell it out: Toronto

It shouldn’t have. Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and closest to America, both geographically and culturally.

And it has done much to disprove the putdown of raconteur Peter Ustinov who described it as ‘New York run by the Swiss’.

True it is cleaner than NY and my brother who lived there for eight years explained it to me.

It was because of the first generation immigrants who took such pride in their city.

There was also the occasion when I heard the subway train coming and I made to rush for it.

Only for my brother to tell me that there would always be another along in a couple of minutes.

Another good reason for leaving the homeland.

Eh Lingus

All White on the night: Aer Lingus

And another is the renewed Aer Lingus fight, back on the tarmac from the end of last week.

With fares from €149 each way.

So what’ll you do when you’re out in Tronno (as the locals call it).

Eh? As the Canadians will always say at the end of everything

Well, there’s the CN Tower, once the world’s tallest building.

And the Niagara Falls just down the road.

As well as the natural playground which is Lake Ontario.

But it’s also a food hub with Chinatown, Koreatown, Greektown, Little Italy and Little Portugal marking it out as very mych the match of New York.

City of sports

Enraptured: Toronto Raptors

On another (and some say best) grade it, it is a great sports city.

The Toronto Raptors were on the drawing board when I checked in on my brother.

Despite being out of the NBA loop, Toronto was there at the start of the hoop dream.

And in fact played the first game against the New Yoek Knickerbockers (Knicks) 50 years before.

Like all dinosaurs the Raptors took some time to get going.

But 24 years after Toronto’s renewal as a basketball team they were ready to stand tallest again.

As they swept all before them, winning the 2019 NBA Championship.

Wrapped it all up

Blue is the colour: The Blue Jays

The Raptors though have a ling way to go to match the winningest (as they like yo say in North American circles) team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team have won 13 Stanley Cups, the last in 1967.

While the Toronto Blue Jays, a nascent franchise when I visited, have won two World Series, back to back in 1992 and 1993.

Ice one: Toronto Maple Leafs

And so you see Toronto knocks it out of the park.

And so does Aer Lingus… a winning team.

Which is why I’m in Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns.

Countries, Deals, Ireland, UK

Fifty years of Belfast’s Europa Hotel

Once the world’s most bombed hotel, after being targeted 33 times, it’s metamorphosed in the Fifty years of Belfast’s Europa Hotel.

Part of the fixtures and fittings of the daycent old town they call Belfast.

It has been a favoured hangout for journos all that time.

Back in the day the Irish Times Belfast office relocated there (to work!) after their offices were gutted following a car bomb.

While there have been a pantheon of celebrated journalists who have frequented the Europa.

And those who reported on The Troubles are Trevor McDonald, Kate Adie and John Sergeant.

And yours truly and a group of journos from south of the Border.

Your only man

The Penthouse Poppets: Belfast’s bunny girls

We got bombed too (drinks!).

And don’t get all PC on me as our Nordie pals are all about the gallows humour.

The night was a Van Morrison cabaret dinner and the drink was flowing. 

While there was also the obligatory stumble across to Belfast institution the Crown for a nightcap or two.

In this instant orange stout, and I kid you not.

The Europa has been owned by the inimitable Hastings family for the past 30 years..

And as you would expect they’re laying out the red carpet for the big 50th anniversary celebrations. 

Hastings the last word

Former US President, Bill Clinton with concierge Martin Mulholland.

They have invested over £40m in renovations and have added 88 new luxurious bedrooms to the existing 184.

A new renovation programme is currently underway.

It will see the 90 front-facing superior bedrooms, 85 classic bedrooms and six suites redesigned and upgraded.

Of course, there will always be some rooms which are kept for Presidents (and Travel Editors of the Year).

Clinton fits the bill

Survivor: The Europa Hotel

And as well as yours truly, Bill Clinton has been a visitor, in 1995.

He booked 110 rooms for his entourage. He returned to stay in 1998.

The Europa story was told in a book published ten years ago called In The Headlines because it always was. 

Julie noted

The bould boys: At the Europa

And CEO Julie Hastings proudly recalled: ‘My father had the courage and optimism to buy it when nobody else wanted to.

‘He invested heavily at the time despite the bombings that followed over the next three years.

‘It was his confidence and that of many others that led to Belfast, and Northern Ireland, to begin its journey, to become the well-loved tourist destination that it is today.’

The Europa has launched a Golden Moments package from £115 per room which includes a plush stay, full Irish, signature cocktail in the Piano Lounge, signature truffles and exclusive golden Hastings duck.

And for those of you who haven’t stayed in a Hastings hotel, and if not why not, then you’ll know that rubber ducks are their signature.

Eider expect Julie will have one lined up with a typically punny name to join the likes of her others in the past such as Rory Quackilroy.  

Countries, Deals, Europe

Love this island Mallorca

Now that it’s cleansing itself from those fame-hungry reality TV stars it’s time again to love this island Mallorca.

The largest of the Balearic Islands offers much more than sun, sea, sand, stripping off and something else beginning with ‘s’.

And that ‘s’ is style as Soller.

Sun, sand and Soller

Love and carriage

Soller in the north is less charted course for most British and Irish who tend towards Magaluf on the west coast.

And you’ll hear more Guten Tags and God Dag than Awrite mate or Howiya.

The best way to reach the town is by tram which comes down from the hills.

And in two years’ time it will celebrate its centenary.

And also instead of salmon pink bodies you’ll see more tanned Teutonic and voluptuous Viking.

Drift away

Saturday night on Mallorca: The cabaret

The beauty of Mallorca though is that wherever you go on the island you can easily avoid the tourist traps.

And so on our stop-off from our Western Med cruise we stayed a few hundred metres away from Magaluf.

And a world away.

With a dinner cabaret night with The Drifters… Saturday night obvs.

Classy Cassidy

Our friends at Cassidy Travel are offering the type of Mallorca villa we all love.

Without the Stepford (or should that be Southend?) Wives and Husbands.

Stay in one of their luxury villas for seven nights from €295pp.

Their four bedrooms can accommodate eight people

And best of all the Irish Travel Agents holiday are putting it on for next month.

And that means all those Love Islanders will be gone.

So you can love this island Mallorca.

 

Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe, Ireland

Cassidy’s Sundance Kids

My Dear Old Mum would visit the same Travel Agent every year to book our family holiday and I’m sure it’s the same for Cassidy’s Sundance Kids.

Cassidy, as all in Ireland know, is the country’s biggest independent Travel Agent.

And it has made generations of holidaymakers dreams come true.

Which is why families continue to go back to them again and again to book their holidays.

Now there have been many heroes over this Covid year and a half and our health workers, teachers…

And heck, all of us should take a bow.

But I’d like to give a shout-out to our Travel Providers who have often worked without pay and in their own time.

And all to make sure customers get away or are refunded or have their holidays rescheduled.

Now there are those who say that getting away is not a matter of life and death.

But if self-isolation (and the Son and Heir is facing that just now) has taught us anything it is that humans do not belong caged up.

And so we are delighted to report that Cassidy Travel’s doors are open and filling our inboxes with their offers.

And so without further ado…

On trend

Last year’s blond: ‘The Donald’ in New York

Here’s where they want to take us and I’m indebted to the awesome Aileen who has taken over babysitting us Travel professionals.

Here are the trends (as the kids say):

The late Autumn deals, New York and Las Vegas shopping breaks, Christmas markets, Lapland, Christmas and New Year Sun.

Take a breath…

New Year and January Ski, Cruising, Florida 2022 and Villa Holidays.

And, yes please to them all.

But we’ll pare some of them down to these Three Cheers.

Ola Barcelona

To the Lord: At Gaudi’s centrepiece La Sagrada

We all know Barcelona in the summer where it’s hot, hot, hot.

And I’m sure I’m still the subject of the proud, brusque Catalan waitress who I managed to draw a smile from when I asked for a hot chocolate on the hottest day of the hottest heatwave.

Thankfully we got to take to the water for a cruise stop.

flights and 3 nights accommodation at the 3*Hotel Leo for the incredible price of €149pp (based on two people sharing)!

Flight departs Dublin 13th and returning 16th October 2021.

Call Cassidy Travel on 01 8901000 or book in one of their 10 stores across Dublin.

You’re a Celebrity too

On Celebrity Cruises’ Edge

And Celebrity Edge is the ultimate in cruising with its floating tender… and yes, love me tender.

Cassidy will get you on board for a scoot around Italy and Greece aboard next summer 2022.

Get on this deal for seven nights in an interior cabin including full board.

Plus Always Included Promotion Classic Drinks package, internet package and tips for only €1929pp.

Setting sail from Rome and visiting Naples and the stunning Greek islands of Santorini, Rhodes & Mykonos,

And phinally Phuket

Phuket, we’ll finish with a land, Thailand, and resort, Phuket, where I sent many a young adventurer and page designer and scuba diver Podge in my time as a commissioning editor.

Cassidy has 50% savings included for a ten-night stay in the 4* Old Phuket Karon Beach Resort from only €998pp for next May.

Stay in a Deluxe Sino Wing room, beautiful period accommodation influenced by Sino-Portuguese architecture.

And enjoy the magnificent pool, mountain views and beach side bars.

Prices are based on two sharing and include flights, taxes, private transfers and hotel accommodation.

Book by September 30 to avail of this amazing deal!

And aren’t these all good reasons to pitch Cassidy’s Sundance Kids.

 

 

America, Countries, Deals, Europe

Bonjour Mickey enfin

For those who have missed out on a summer holiday the mid-term break takes on extra significance… so it’s Bonjour Mickey enfin.

Mickey et amis have been waiting patiently for nous retour at Disneyland Paris.

And our old friends at Click&Go are bringing us back together again.

Click, you’re on camera

Minnie break: With Ms Mousr

Click&Go have three nights at Disney Santa Fe for a family of four departing October 23 with flights from Dublin.

And that’s a saving of €287.92. And tickets for the park are included.

All of which allows us to reflect on an American in Paris, Monsieur Mouse.

An uneasy alliance

Yes, it got Goofy: With ma pal

Mickey isn’t typical in being an American embraced in France.

With a frosty relationship having built up in Gaul land towards the Americans over the years.

It wasn’t always the case.

The French stood four square behind the rebels during the American Wars of Independence.

And George Washington’s great friend, the Marquis de Lafayette is honoured in his city Washington DC.

With his statue in Lafayette Square within sight of the White House.

Sons of Liberty

Laddie Liberty: In New York

The French and the Americans revelled in their self-proclaimed status of trailblazers of liberty.

And the French gifted the Americans the Statue of Liberty to mark the 100th year of American independence.

The Americans repaid the generosity in twice coming to France’s aid over two world wars.

Over to Donald

I am not worthy: With Donald at Epcot, Florida

So where did La Bromance go wrong?

Well, it may very well have been the fault of an interfering Scot (no, non moi).

But Groundskeeper Willie out of The Simpsons who called the French ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys.’

On account of them not supporting the US in their invasion of Iraq.

Not that things got petty or anything for the then Republican Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

Bob Ney renamed the menu in three Congressional cafeterias Zut Alors.

A common language

Magic Kingdom: Fireworks

Thankfully our favourite animated figures act like grown-ups.

And Mickey, Donald and their pals chose Paris to set up their European home.

Perhaps it’s the common language they share.

Bonjour Mickey enfin.

 

 

Asia, Countries, Deals, Sport

Umpire seat in the Maldives

Back in the day hotels with tennis courts were exotic… now we expect them, and a tennis pro coach with you in the umpire seat in the Maldives.

Some Maldives islands are, in truth, little bigger than tennis courts.

Best thing in small packages

King of the court: Maldives

On Kandolhu there are 30 villas, four a la carte restaurants, a bar, beach dining experiences as well as in-villa options.

And an oceanbank of coral to gurgle in and gawp at the fishes and the turtles.

At 200m x 150m though understandably they couldn’t quite fit in a tennis court.

Courting popularity

Fun and games: Football and cricket

There are though on neighbouring big sister island Kuramathi, though it’ll be more leisurely club tennis than all-action Rafael Nadal rallies.

As I can vouch for, having raced after the younger, fitter Sri Lankan staff on my Atoll Tale adventure.

Life’s a pitch: And it’s hot, hot, hot

On their football pitches and cricket grounds.

While couples and leisure-seekers amble around Maldives islands in their flip-flops those of a sporty nature are indulged too.

And the good news for those who drown in shallow water is that tennis is an option.

With real-life tennis professionals.

Slamming professionals

Anyone for tennis: And much mote besides

Such as Davis Cup winner Viktor Troicki

Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences welcomes the Serbian champion who won the cup with somebody you might have heard of, Novak Djokovic.

For a two-week residence for mid-term, October 26-November 6.

Viktor follows in the tennis shoe steps of some big-hitters.

Pooling your talents

Newly crowned Olympic champion Alexander Zverev and bro Mischa.

Awesome Aussie Pat Rafter and most recently Russian pro.

And former world No.1 Angelique Kerber.

Judy’s protegé

Keeeeep dancin’: With Judy Murray in Portugal

Now don’t be mistaken into thinking you get things any easier with a female coach think again.

As I know only too well from my fumblings under the tutelage of Judy Murray in Quinta do Lago.

 

Abercrombie & Kent offers seven nights from £4336pps.

Price includes B&B, flights and transfers. Based on travel between October 26-November 6.

And you in the umpire seat in the Maldives.

 

Asia, Countries, Deals

Carbon neutral in Mauritius

Climate change will continue to hover over Travel but we are addressing it and will always promote best practice such as the resorts that have gone Carbon neutral in Mauritius.

Small islands stand particularly exposed to the warming seas.

And Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is particularly vulnerable.

They are though meeting the challenge.

And Heritage Resorts and Veranda Resorts have stood up.

With the first carbon neutral hotels in Mauritius.

The Resorts will offset all CO2 emissions that would be generated by a hotel stay.

How does it work?

Crystal clear: The Indian Ocean

Well, we’re told this will be achieved through the purchase of carbon credits.

With the Aura Group, an environmental commodity trader and through local carbon offset projects including the construction of a solar farm.

Guests at Veranda hotels can make a voluntary contribution to the projects.

It’s all happening under a Mauritian model (no, not that kind of model but there are plenty of them there) called Now For Tomorrow

Over to you, Thierry

Stitched Panorama

Thierry Montocchio, CEO of the VLH group, puts flesh on the bones.

He said: ‘Our conservation programme that created ten artificial reefs in the Bel Ombre lagoon has enabled significant regeneration of the corals.

‘And we have seen 20 new species of fish.

‘Our Heritage Training Academy has empowered local communities.

‘And offered them a career in the hotel industry.

‘Our new water bottling unit enabled us to avoid using the equivalent of 27 tons of plastic bottles in 2019.

‘And in addition, 65% of our waste has been recycled.

‘Now for Tomorrow is also a first in the sector.

Because it promises carbon neutrality through clearly defined objectives and an action plan.

‘Acting for the climate and the environment means identifying and neutralising our greenhouse gas emissions.

‘And coming up with concrete initiatives to achieve carbon neutrality.’

Local produce

Palm trees: Obviously

The group has also committed to include from the beginning of next year 100% of the fruits and vegetables, seafoods, poultry and meat consumed in their hotels will come from Mauritian farmers and producers.

Or from regional partners in the Indian Ocean.

They are looking to recycle 75% of its waste by 2022.

‘And aims to reduce food waste by committing to a pilot project carried out in collaboration with The Pledge on Food Waste.’

It’s a deal

Meet the locals: I feel peckish

So now you’ve signed up to doing your little bit to save the planet what are you getting for your bucks?

Well, Heritage Resorts has Heritage Awali.

It is billed as the best 5* all-inclusive resort in Mauritius offers you €193 per night per adult.

And the Heritage Le Telfair, your refined small luxury hotel from €124 per night, per adult.

It’s an even better deal

And some monkeying about: But friendly residents

Should your budget not stretch that far.

Then Veranda Resorts has Veranda Palmar Beach  €25 per night, Veranda Paul & Virgine €44 per night and Veranda Pointe aux Biches €54.

And a nod to others

Food for thought: Exotic foods

Now, we all love to let ourselves go when we’re away but excess doesn’t equate to success.

It would be wrong too to accept that all holidaymakers particularly those from my bailiwicks, Britain and Ireland, just go on holiday for the sun, sea and sangria.

And care little about the country they visit or its people.

We take, of course, our inspiration from those for whom conservation isn’t the latest fad.

And have been banging the drum for years.

Luscious landscapes: In Mauritius

Such as G Adventures and their initiative Planeterra.

I saw first it hand in Jordan and they employ it across the world.

While we’re also glad to see that our friends in Mauritius are leading the way on the future coral.

Which my old buddies from the Maldives and Tobago will fully subscribe.   

And finally

The whole planet’s future depends on us doing the right thing… and our small nations are standing up and being counted.

So, let’s hear it for Carbon neutral in Mauritius.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Deals

Hail Caesars Palace

Hail Caesars Palace and 55 years of the most famous entertainment hotel on Earth.

Caesars has no apostrophe maybe because the Ancient Romans didn’t use them, although the pitch is that it’s becasue everybody staying at the hotel is treated as a Caesar.

The pedant in me would say the apostrophe should go after the final ‘s’ then.

But leave your pedants Caesars and Vegas is all about pleasance.

Fab, fab, fab

Yes, it’s Fabulous: Las Vegas

The resort, on the west side of the Strip between Bellagio and the Mirage is truly immense with 121,181 sqft of gaming space, a 22,450ft Colosseum showbiz venue which all the greats have, and do, perform at with Celine Dion the latest.

And 3,960 rooms so there will be one free for you!

You want to know what’s on offer. Me too.

Hail Caesar

Iconic: The Caesars’ statues

Joe Biden who we have all had such high hopes for is dragging his feet on allowing us back in (or is that just me).

And he’s supposed to be making an announcement on Labor Day, Monday, September 6, which makes it tight for me attending my American Travel Fair, IPW

Fear not though whatever happens in Vegas will not stay in Vegas either way and I’ll continue to bring news of Caesars and all the resorts and fun you can have in Sin City.

Deals, deals, deals

Miss America meets Mr Scotland in Vegas

Caesars is offering 25% off rooms.

Our friends at British Airways have given us more skinny on what Caesars Palace has to offer. 

The Palace has a choice of eight pools, at the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis.

And you can even play swim-up blackjack. Or unwind in your private cabana with attentive waiters on hand.

Every woman loves a shop and you can treat yourself to luxury retail therapy and enjoy fine dining at Caesars’ exclusive shopping destination, The Forum Shops too.

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

BA is offering three nights in Vegas for less than £1,000, actually £927 which gives some extra bucks to splash on the tables.

While our old friends at Harrah’s which is linked to Caesar’s will offer you party bar fun.

And more than just a room for the night

Hail Caesars Palace. And a big thumbs-up from us.

 

 

 

 

Countries, Deals, Europe

Step into Seville

It’s an image we all hold dear of Spain, flamenco dancing, and I would get my fix every year when I would Step into Seville.

My friends Teresa, Maria and Kathryn from the Spanish Tourist Board are legendary in Irish circles for their hospitality.

I’ve ‘run with the bulls’, made pulpo and done the whole Feliz Navidad thing.

And every year the boys from Seville (and girls) would skip into Dublin to put on a very special dancing display.

Flamenco moves

But you try doing it

Of flamenco in the lofty surroundings of Trinity College Dublin.

With our favourite Balearics being messed about on the traffic light system our attentions have switched back to the big peninsula on the left.

Our old faithfuls, Travel Department, are all over Spain and are offering an awesome Andalucian adventure.

Columbus city

Anyone know where we’re going?

You’ll be based in Costa de la Luz which is tucked around the corner from the Straits of Gibraltar.

You’ll take a day trip to explore this old Moorish gem with its impressive cathedral, La Giralda tower and the Alcazar Palace.

Seville is from where Christopher Columbus set off for the New World.

And you thought it was Barcelona from the statue of Chris in Las Ramblas, only he is pointing towards Constantine, Algeria.

Drink it in

Reflections of Valencia

Well, Chris wasn’t the greatest navigator, he’d gone west to try to find the east and India.

To find out more about the famous Genovese take in the Muelle de las Carabelas

You’ll have earned your vino at the end of all that education and that’s just what you’ll get.

And I’m that my Tres Amigas had that on tap at those famous Seville nights.

Deal me in

And, of course there’s oranges

September and October will still be warm in the old city and Travel Department have dates for September 6, October 4 and 22. And next March.

And I’ve drunk too much orange juice

Prices from £799pp for seven nights half board.

So join me and step into Seville and Andalucia.