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

Sing for the Canaries

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

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

Part of the scenery: Jimmy, the Tinerfino

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

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

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

And so without further ado…

Deal me in

My walking party

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

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

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

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

With Canaria Ways, of course.

A quick walk around the Maldives

And again…. sarong, but oh, so right

It’s more ambling than walking on Kuramathi.

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

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

All with a regulatory Strawberry Daiquiri, of course.

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

While in the UK you want Kuoni.

A trip around the Greek islands

My waterfall: Kythera

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

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

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

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

Wonderful Copenhagen

Bet you didn’t expect that: Copenhagen

And finally Denmark, the Little Mermaid et all.

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

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

Not many people there: Leichtenstein

But sorry Leichtensteiners

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

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

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

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, UK

Holiday Snaps – Amsterdam attics and grand hotels

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

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

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

Fit for my queen

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

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

That truly does put our own lockdowns into perspective.

As does the Ons’ Lieve Here op Solder.

The Ons’ Lieve Where?

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

Genke will show you around the Dylan

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

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

Doubles start from €223 per night including breakfast.

Fit for yer man, the President

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

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

The Europa.

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

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

All llamas great and small

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

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

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

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

The best stay is at the nearby Grantley Hall.

You’ll never want to get up

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

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

You’ll also have six drinking and dining outlets.

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

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Adventure, Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

What the world really looks like… Africa and South America

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

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

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

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

Wendy Wu Tours have been telling us for years.

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

And they have put in some incentives just for us.

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

Hit the peaks in South America

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

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

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

Fancy a waterfall?

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

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

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

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

And I promised to come back for them!

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

The pride of Africa

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

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

The sun also shines: Kilimanjaro

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

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

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

Wild beasts of South Africa

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

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

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

MEET YOU ON THE RESERVE

Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Wednesday – Marvel heroes in Tenerife

And because the Canary Islands and all other small groups of islands have been something of a cause celebrate for me over COVID, and they are jewels of the world at any time.

This one, from our pals at MSC, is for those of you love your action heroes.

Spider sense

You’ll sail on the MSC Magnifica, departing Southampton on May 16. You’ll call first at Tenerife.

Where you’ll get to walk around Europe’s most popular national park, the awesome Teide National Park.

The Wildman of Teide and his pals

And seeing you’re a comic book nut then you won’t need me to tell you that this is the backdrop for the much-anticipated The Eternals.

And that famous battle scene, which is set for release next year.

Princess diary

While you all should know by now our misadventures on our trip around the fjords with MSC.

Prices start from €1495pp for a 12-night sailing based on two people sharing a cabin.

Catch a tram in Lisbon

And you’ll visit Lisbon, Funchal. Las Palma de G.Cranaria, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Arrecife de Lanzarote and Vigo.

The price includes a premium drinks package and service charge.

Hay’s days are here again

And I’m always interested in meeting fellow cruiseheads which is why I’m sharing a virtual spot today by the rail with Hay’s Travel.

So let’s jump in with their Iberian Special.

Hays are offering as their Cruise of the Day this wet old day (at least here in the OoooK) six nights visiting Spain & Portugal with a balcony cabin for May 28 for just £599.

You’ll sail from Southampton on Princess and you’ll get to avail of their Medallion magic key which gets you everything you wanna on the ship.

You’ve found me by my Medallion

And I have mine burning a hole in my drawer from seeing how it works on Princess’s stop off in Dublin last year.

But if you want a reminder Hays recaps that it will allow you to order food and drinks from your Medallion wristband.

Or you can clip it on the tape of your shirt.

Karaoke cruising

While it also helps you track down your loved one.

Well, there are bars galore on the ship if your Scary One needs to find you, if you’re anything like me, that’s where you’ll be!

Again what would a cruise be if you didn’t get a chance to warble on the karaoke machine and The Voice at Sea will give you that.

While there are Movies Under The Stars.

And I kid you not on one cruise they had Dirty Dancing on when I passed by the pool one evening.

Which meant I had to look out for a waif of a woman to lift above my head for my Murty Dancing reprise.

If it’s pampering you want then Princess has been voted Best Spa at Sea.

And get this! There’s a free upgrade to balcony class.

A new cruiseday

And if you’re checking your calendars, yes, you’re Cruiseday Tuesday special has now moved a day to become Cruiseday Wednesday.

I could tell you it’s a well thought out master plan. Let’s go with that and see if it sails.

MEET YOU ON THE SEA

 

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, UK

Orlando’s Dinosaur Rollercoaster

What do you get when you cross a paleontologist with a coasteroligist? Universal Orlando’s VelociCoaster that’s what?

Great news from our old pals in Florida that the coaster we’ve been we’ve been waiting a year for is ready and snarling.

Jurassic Park VelociCoaster will roar into life next summer and we’ll be first in line.

But let’s go back in time for a minute… to Spring 2019 when I met Veloci at A VIPs event in Universal Studios Hollywood.

Hello sailor

Maybe not at my best having shaken off 24-hour sickness bug to make my meeting.

Although, I wasn’t quite ready for rollercoasters then – and I know you have to be at your fighting weight from my past visit to Orlando.

You want a sneak preview of VelociCoaster… well, that was it.

A world of wonders

I caught the rollercoaster bug on a mostly-Irish trip there… Irelando, if you will.

And have been back there and up the road to The Donald’s place.

So here’s what our holiday providers have lined up for for us for 2021…

The American Holidays Hot Offer is a seven-night Universal Orlando Resort Stay including Park tickets from €975pp.

And, of course, you’ll get the run of three theme parks and a water theme park.

Harry’s Hollywood

You’ll have a wizarding time, we promise you.

Contact Tour America who have been serving you for 25 years which is all the recommendation you need and they’ll sort out your beat deal.

While I would always direct you to Attraction Tickets who took this young dinosaur to Orlando and then Hollywood.

.

Caribbean, Countries, Deals, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Staycations and Dubcations

So one of you loyal Bandininis and Bandanettes has asked where the term Staycation originated?

And the answer is Stacey Shun!

The more prosaic explanation is that it belongs to the Canadian comedian Brent Butt from the TV show Corner Gas in the episode Mail Fraud from 2005.

And a view of the gardens

I guess he’s the Butt of all jokes!

Of course the times we’re in has thrown up a whole plethora of new terms.

I’m hungry

To which our friends at our fave Dublin hotel, the InterContinental Dublin, have added Dubcation.

The InterCon, as anyone in Dublin’s rugby heartland knows, is the old Four Seasons.

And that it is Ireland’s greatest international that never was Ross O’Carroll-Kelly.

I’m looking forward to, as I always do at this time of the year, to the new Ross book with COVID at the heart of it, and Staycationing and Dubcations.

Bed down

Try out their new Lobby Lounge among all the other old faves including ESPA pampering, and watch out for my interview with ESPA founder soon.

Their Luxury Dining Escape Package is available from €145pps per night, including bed, breakfast, dinner, complimentary car parking and access to the Wellness Area.

Sing Montego Bay

I think I remember but it’s twice as good, Like how cool his rum is from his silver tray, I cool to be thirsty in Montego Bay – Bobby Bloom

It‘s the first thing you’ll be offered, even before water… a rum punch, and usually. a steel pan band.

Jamaica has long been on the radar. I recall being asked in Barbados what my favourite Caribbean island was.

The answer had, of course, to be Barbados, but there was an onus on me to collect islands with which to compare. Which led me to Tobago.

Irie. So this brings me to my old faves Sandals and their new Montego Bay On Sale package.

Seven nights at the Sandals Ochi Beach from €1445pps. Travel dates: June 1-July 31.

You’ll stay in a Riviera Bamboo Grove Premium with Virgin Atlantic flights thrown in.

And a big welcome here to to the new Barbados Minister for Tourism Lisa Cummins… you know where I am, Minister!

Virtual odysseys

And with our leaders around the Western World keeping us under house arrest, for fear that we might catch foreignavirus, we’re all going on a Virtual Odyssey.

It does allow more of the world into our homes though while we wait to get back out there.

Japan, where it will be next year with the Olympics in Tokyo, have a Matsuri Presents weekend live streaming on website and social media channels.

A Virtual AsianCation of you will.

You’ll get to see martial arts, kamishibai theatre performances and food demos.

The programme will run from 10am-8pm on Saturday, September 26 and 9pm-8pm, Sunday, September 27.

I’ll get my kimono out or borrow one from my old friends Stewart and Hisayo.

I’m sure they’ll have one in the wardrobe from their Scots-Japanese wedding on the island of Islay.

When we broke the sake box and wished them Koun o.

And now I have the bit between the teeth and I know you like a series why don’t I kick off a series Virtual Odyssey.

MEET YOU ON THE VIRTUAL ODYSSEY

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – Bahamian rhapsody and a tale of two Serenas

And it remained tantalisingly close but not out of reach… the Bahamas.

From my $1bn Royal Caribbean wonder ship Celebrity Edge.

We’d got off their revolutionary tender which moved up and down the side of the ship to take on the theme of the floor it attached to… the Eden lounge, the bar etc.

That’ll be Nassau then

And when we all got on the smaller boat for a spin out on the sea we saw the Bahamas in the distance which is where you’d be going on your shore excursion.

Now the Bahamas had come on to my radar years before of course when I dallied with a home-made career in Cocktail making and the Bahamas Breeze.

A tale of two Serenas

You don’t need me to tell you you’ll want dark rum, banana liqueur, apricot liqueur, coconut rum, grenadine syrup, honey, lemon juice and orange juice, pineapple juice and ice cubes.

And there are some tips on measures, although if you’re on a Royal Caribbean ship there’s no scrimping.

Bahamian queen: Serena Williams, left
The other Serena Willams

While back in the office in Dublin I felt that somebody was calling me to get me out to the Bahamas, although not any somebody you might expect.

Serena Williams called me one day to ask when I would be publishing an article I had sent a writer on.

And, yes, as her email makes capital out of it… No, not that one. She is, of course, a Bahamian smasher.

Love me tender

All this Bahamian fun is because my old friends at MSC have been in touch to tell us of their plans for 2021 which include

Their Escape to the Tropics offer where you’ll spend three nights in Miami .

Feast of Exen

And then four nights on board MSC Armonia en route to Nassau and the exclusive private island Ocean Cay MSC Mraine Reserve.

Prices for this cruise on May 3 start from €401pp for a four-night sailing based on two sharing a cabin, price includes a premium drinks package and service charge (gratuities).

Countries, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Ryanair’s a homer’s odyssey in Ireland

Ryanair has always retained its Irish quirkinesses on its way to conquering the world as the major low-fares airline.

Its harp, its name after founder Tony Ryan and its home passengers saying rosaries. playing the lottery and clapping on arrival.

Some unpronounceable name below

And they never forget where they came from and want us to visit, offering seven days in Cork, £17.23pp return, Monday, September 28-Monday, October 5.

Five days to Shannon, Sunday, October 11-Friday, October 16. down from £24.23 and five days in Dublin, Sunday, October 11-Friday, October 16. See terms, conditions.

Another great aspect of Ryanlife is introducing you to places you’d never heard of to keep the costs down.

Ergo the sale which offered among others, Lublin 106 miles south-east of Warsaw then I’ll let you know of the next i e.

They were offering €9.99 one-way in your Ryanair September sale. It ended midnight last night, Tuesday, September 15.

More Aer time

This is your captain speaking

And Ireland’s national airline carrier Aer Lingus want to fly us away too… for the price of a night out.

With prices from €29.99 they’ll whisk you away to Athens, Alghero and Alicante.

Now that’s the As I’ll give you a ‘V’ as in Verona and let you run through the other letters.

The offers end variously between September 29 and 30.

Lost in France

Everything you need

I may paint a picture of a Dickensian upbringing but, in truth, my Dear Old Mum did spoil me as the baby of the family.

And I’ll forever be grateful for everything she, and my Dad, did for me, including giving me my wings.

And allowing me to go off on a post-school camping trip to France, at the sane time my aunt stopped my cousin going.

Chic: On the French Riviera

All of which pricked a lifelong interest for Cannes and the French Riviera.

It all feels just now like being a schoolboy all over again as we wait for permission to travel abroad.

I’m still smarting that my Normandy and Monet trip has been deferred but it has merely whetted my appetite for France.

And here’s one resort too look forward to that is pure heaven.

My room (or floor)

Evian Resort in Evian-les-Bains, has the mineral H2O, of course, and the wellness centre with all those lovely spells.

But it also has family fun, sporting activities and camps, and even opera.

Families booking into the 5* Evian Resort (with free stay for under-13s) can also avail of their Le Fabuleux Jardin rooms.

And there is also a flexible 24-hour cancellation policy.

And the view is all mine too

Evian also have a Freedom offer, promising 20% discounts on accommodation from €264 per night to £238 per night for Hotel Royal.

And from €152|£141 at Hotel Ermitage.

And here’s an Ibiza beezer

It’s always sunny

My Dear Old Mum has always been a sun worshiper which is why one year she left my Dad and brothers at home while we went off to Ibiza.

Which is how I grew to love the Balearic Islands.

And you’ll always be outside

7 Pines Kempinski has new 2021 early booking offers, a new Villa experience and a Pershing Yacht Experience package.

The table is set

There is 20% off their 2021 daily rate (starting from €300 per night) as well as a Long Stay Offer with 25% off for stays of eight nights or more.

Oh Mexico

As James Taylor sang to us in the RDS in Dublin ‘it sounds so simple I just got to go, the sun’s so hot I forgot to go home, I guess I’ll have to go now.’

And particularly as my pals at Caribtours/email escapes@caribtours/ are offering a third off seven nights at the Unico 20N 87W Hotel Riviera Maya.

From €2,059pp sharing an Alcoba room on an all-inclusive basis.

Travel 19 December 2020-31 October 2021. From price based on 17 June 2021 departure with British Airways via London Gatwick.

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

Venice – the City of Masks

They know all about plague in Venice and what happens when you don’t heed social distancing.

But the City of Masks survived it before and they’re not about to have it curtail their lives any more than they have to.

Hence them coming out in full regalia for their famous regatta.

Here’s a choppy history of Venice but be buoyed by their recovery.

Stick your oar in

Quarantino in Dubrovnik

The Italian word for 40 days (but you knew that already, si?) it was first implemented on the Adriatic port city of Ragusa which is modern-day Dubrovnik.

And sailors and traders in 1377 were told ‘they should not enter [Ragusa].

Or its district unless they spend a month on the islet of Mrkan or in the town of Cavtat, for the purpose of disinfection.’

It was actually started as a trentino (30 days) but got extended, partially because of science but also because of religion.

Survivor: Dubrovnik

Because 40 days was always the Biblical go-to number and it was thought that locals would get on board with that better.

The Plague Doctor

Now you’ll have seen these in the shops in Venice.

But luckily for you nobody in person wearing them, or in full cloak, hat and mask (unless you’re at Carnivale).

The bad news for you back in the Middle Ages was that the menacing Black Doctor wouldn’t cure you.

The general practitioner might but the Plague Doctor would be an enumerator, counting the casualties.

Oh, no, he’s come for me

He looked after himself, of course, filling his mask with aromatic herbs in the hope that it would keep him safe.

Thought for the day: it didn’t.

The Plague island

While you relax with your Cappuccino or Aperol Spritz by the Rialto Bridge you’ll be oblivious to those poor souls.

Those who would have given their lives for the soothing balm of a glass of water.

Those who were plague-ridden and were sent to the island of Poveglia.

The Island of Ghosts

The Island of Ghosts where they sent their virulent, 160,000 of them over the centuries.

Classic Boats Venice will take you there and show you around, and it is only ten minutes from St Mark’s Square.

Who was that masked man?

Yes, who was that masked man, you say?

The big one, of course, is the Carnevale which you can look forward to, from Saturday, January 30- Tuesday, February 16.

Venice may have its grisly past but it makes mask-wearing fan.

And maybe come back with a Plague Doctor’s Mask.

If nothing else it could keep the In-Laws at bay. Maybe!

Fresh Aer

And who to go to Venice with?

Well, Ireland’s national airline carrier, Aer Lingus has Venice, down from €45.99 to €29.99 for September. See terms and conditions.

And if you like The City of Masks then why not check out The City of Frescoes, Padova, up the water.

MEET YOU IN THE ALLEYS

 

 

 

Countries, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, UK

Hop springs eternal in the Czech Republic

They know all about masks in Prague with every Communist schoolchild back in the day put through a daily drill of fixing on a gas one.

And woe betide anyone who didn’t do it quickly enough.

Today’s masks in these COVID days are cloth and less restrictive.

And the revellers at the long table on the King Charles Bridge at its grand reopening in July are lowering them onto their chins.

I know the management

To help them gulp down their Urquell Pilsner beer.

No country on Earth, not even Scotland, drinks as much proportionately as the Czech Republic (official).

And they even bathe in the stuff… close by in the Original Beer Spa.

Beer is everywhere in Czechland.

Monky business

Ya dumpling

Plain-clothes monks produce it and clink glasses on a night out up the hill in Prague’s Castle area.

The superannuated refresh with Pilsner after taking the waters and the treatments in the spa town of Teplice.

And the burghers of Hoptown, Zatec, notch up how many they’ve drunk on their beer mats.

In the Hope Museum next to the Beer Astronomical Clock which is better than the more visited one in Prague.

Here a skeletal figure next to the dials, and Satan himself, mock the teetotal.

They hold a Hop Festival too here in Zatec, eery year where among the competitions is a biggest belly contest.

I’m here to work on mine.

Just as soon as I get out this nuclear bunker.

Have I got nukes for you?

That’s all outside, we’re safe

Radoslav had warned us to stick together as we made our way through the myriad dark, dark passageways five stories down in the bowels of Parukarka Hill in Prague.

Where the only company is mannequins in protective suits and gas masks and the ghosts of Communist past.

Here is where 5,000 Czechs would have come to see out the end of days.

Let’s hope that they had plenty supply of Urquell then to wash down all that tinned meat.

The Czechs would, I believe, have prevailed. They are a durable lot, toughened by a lifetime of being fought over by the ‘Great Powers.’

But they’ve always had a Pilsner to pull them through.

I’m only here for the beer

Something I cobbled together

Beer is at the heart of the Czech story, believed to be the oldest in the world, dating back to 993BC at Brevnov Monastery.

For 250 years in fact only monks were allowed to brew beer.

Which you can only imagine they gave up reluctantly.

They certainly haven’t lost the habit judging by the fun they’re having.

At the Strahov Monastery Brewery close to my opening night billet.

You’d be hard pushed though to recognise them as monks as there is barely a tonsure between them.

In the corner, two British girls on a hen night ply a local with shots and for advice on which bar to go to next and there is no shortage of options.

I am happy where I am though, with my waiter guiding me through the beer menu.

As I sup down my beer onion soup and beer goulash with dumplings.

Mild, followed by dark and finished with IPA, is the answer. But I’m not finished there as I’m given a tour of the brewery with samples at every stop.

Thankfully, it’s all downhill home to the Golden Key Hotel were I will sleep in a triple bed under a wooden ceiling with a sauna in the morning.

And wash it all down…

Roll over Beethoven

My hosts probably feel that they can’t trust me in Prague’s Beer Spa and that I’d drink all the suds.

So they take me next instead to the spa town of Lazne Teplice which is the last word in massage, saunas, bathing pools and medical practices.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Well do, but the luminaries of yore came here to take the waters.

Among them Beethoven who also sought a cure for his failing hearing…

And this is where he stayed

And you can see the horns displayed in the glass cabinets in the Hotel Beethoven corridor.

While you can also ask to be taken to the room where he stayed, although we didn’t get in.

He may very well still be in there and just not have heard the knocking.

Beethoven, the 200th anniversary of who’s birth it is this year, was clearly well looked after in Teplice.

Masked man… old Ludwig

And he would certainly have feasted on the town’s speciality chocolate cake in the titular cafe.

All of which I’ve been told I must work off next, as the Czechs themselves do, in Bohemian Switzerland.

Cerny statues

So, that’s where baby’s gone

No, I’ve not taken a wrong turning although I’ve not been myself since that first night in Prague.

Bohemian Switzerland is the park named for the two Swiss climbers who came here in the 19th century and were reminded of their own homeland.

It truly is an enchanted land and got the official stamp of approval.

Bohemian Switzerland… in Czechland

When the makers of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe used an arch in the park and set Aslan there.

The Czech Republic is full of surprises and I spend my last night back in Prague which too has many still to reveal.

Two iron figures outside the Franz Kafka Museum, whose waists revolve and who shoot out water onto a map of the Czech Republic.

Hangin’ about: A Cerny statue

It is the work of experimental sculptor of David Cerrny and it is believed to represent what the European Union has don to their land.

The Czechs are wonderfully irreverent to their leaders.

Walk around Prague and you’ll see Cerny’s mark everywhere.

Babies in the tower

A man holding an umbrella hanging from a building a Communist Brabant car on leg and Babies Climbing a TV Tower.

You can get up close and personal to the babies in the tower cafe.

But be careful looking out the window because these weans have no nappies on.

Cerny’s statues blend seamlessly with the Medieval ions, King Charles IV, the nation’s patriarch chief among them.

St John and St Jimmy

Tourists though are urged toward the statue of St John of Nepomuk, who fell out with King Wenceslas, and, no, not the Good One.

This Wencesclas ordered Archbishop John to be thrown off the bridge when he refused to divulge Weneslas’s wife’s confession.

It’s good luck to touch his statue and make a wish and that wish will be lifted up to the heavens.

Me? I think St John of Nepomuk might just have drunk too many Urquells and fallen off the bridge that way.

Where to stay

Ooh missus! Teplice Spa

Hotel Golden Key: The Castle area of Prague from €70. Reception will help you out with maps and directions for the sprawling and tiring Castle area Also that yourself to a spa and the relaxation room. See Asten Hotels.

Stay in Teplice Spa: Beethoven hotel: Price per person per night in off peak season is €87 – including room, treatment. daily entrance to Thermalium pool and enjoy the water features, sprays, cold baths and spas. Lots of Beethoven features dotted around the walls and you can even see the room where he stayed. And full board.

Enjoy your trip

Trip to Bohemian Switzerland and see the arch from the film of CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. – €120.

Where to eat

Strahov Monastery Brewery in the Prague Castle area. When in Prague do like the Czechs and eat goulash with dumplings, of course. Go for a starter too – onion soup  with an infusion of beer. Heck. go the full three course and dig into the apple strudel.

Flights

With Ryanair – to Prague if purchased way in advance from €40-€120.

Important websites

Spa Teplice, Zatec brewery, Bohemian Switzerland, Hotel Golden Key in Prague, Mlynec restaurant  Ginger & Fred  State Opera