Africa, Countries, Deals, Food & Wine

Moroccan cookin’

If only they’d taught me Moroccan cookin’ then I might have avoided being up all night star-gazing in the Sahara Desert.

But then I hadn’t been introduced to the vibrant Medina of Marrakech, Hotel La Maison Arabe by then.

Or the good services of Tropical Sky.

I can recommend a riad which is far more preferable to a makeshift loo.

In the Sahara with a corrugated roof which was missing when I got there.

Maison around

Tagine by the pool: La Maison

La Maison offers traditional cooking classes in the hotel restaurant which will come in useful later (believe me)!

At the half-day classes participants can learn the secrets of Moroccan cuisine.

The workshops are run by a dada (a traditional Moroccan chef).

And they include a visit to a nearby spice market and communal bread oven.

The rest of us of course, in the Western World, were taught at a stove by a mama…

Worth remembering with Mother’s Day around the corner.

A little local knowledge

A wrap: Know your tajines

Knowing your way around a tajine will come in handy during your stay in Morocco.

Particularly if you stop for one in a roadside cafe on the Atlas Mountains.

You’ll know what to look out for.

And you’ll avoid Marakech revenge from the rumbles and the tumbles down the dunes.

Even though your camel will try and make it as smooth as possible.

A little local knowledge to know how to avoid false guides and hawksters will also come in useful.

A seven-night stay at Hotel La Maison Arabe is priced from £825pps on a B&B basis, including flights and transfers.

And you can become a tajine genie and learn Moroccan cooking.


Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe

Split for Croatia

It’s certainly worth checking out when a German couple you meet by the Rialto Bridge in Venice tells you that Dalmatia is even better… and you should split for Croatia.

We’ll never downplay the City on the Lagoon of course only I expect Wolfgang and Ingrid were hankering back to another stunning coastline without the hordes.

The good news though is that you don’t have to choose one over the other.

Adriatic see

Game for anything: Croatian Game of Thrones

As our old Irish Travel friends Cassidy Travel know only too well.

They are only offering a luxury Italy & Croatia fly/cruise all-inclusive offer for a week.

For August of this year.

Suite spot

Venice: & let’s catch a gondola to Padova

You’ll sail out from Fusina, across the lagoon on the mainland.

And as well as Venice on your doorstep you’ll visit Trieste with its James Joyce links, Zadar and Hvar.

While ‘the Pearl of the Adriatic’ Dubrovnik, Split and Opatija (Kvarner Bay) are also on your itinerary.

The price includes return flights from Dublin with luggage allowance, private door to door pick-up and private transfers.

Your seven nights cruise will be in a Vista Suite and include all excursions,

You’ll get $300 on board spend and your very own butler!!

And what’s more there is a January sale attached with the price from €4,600pp (Exclusive offer – Save €500!)

Trust Cassidy

Paradise on Earth: Dubrovnik

Now, of course, the cruise is the ultimate in you-do-it-yourself holiday where every one of your needs is taken care of.

And that’s always best when I try the old independent travel lark.

Having had to depend on my old Travel pal Constance Harris to get me and my pal ‘Dragon’ back on the train to Padova for a function.

While left to my own devices I had to get off my bus from Medjugorje to Dubrovnik because I had my old passport on me.

Best then to let Cassidy look after everything and help you split for Croatia…

And for those who like to hear the friendly sound of your Travel dream-maker at the other end, then call 01 8779890.



America, Countries, Deals, Music

Elvis – How Great Thou Art

And I shall bow in humble adoration

Elvis – How Great Thou Art

Happy 88th birthday Elvis – How Great Thou Art.

And if there is a heaven then Elvis will be on a cloud singing to Gladys and Vernon and his twin Jesse.

It was to How Great Thou Art, one of Elvis’s favourite hymns, that The Great Man was guided to his rest at his funeral service.

All of which was fitting as The King of Kings was at heart a gospel singer.

And How Great Thou Art was one of his gospel standards.

Elvis’s last stand

Key to the door: Graceland

There is surprisingly little evidence of how important faith was in the life of the Southern Baptist Boy around his home Graceland.

And visitors’ attention is mostly focused on the Jungle Room.

But the most moving corner of his Memphis home is outside in the Memorial Garden where Elvis lies for all eternity.

Next to his parents and the twin who did not survive birth.

Green is the jungle: Graceland

And in the Games Room where Elvis, his girlfriend Ginger, and his cousin Billy and his wife Jo kicked back on his last day.

And played racquetball,

But more importantly where Elvis played two songs on his piano, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain and Unchained Melody.

It is poignant to reflect that were Elvis still with us today then none of us would get beyond the big black door.

Priscilla’s promise

Your Scary Bear: The Jungle Room

And, of course, we have Priscilla Presley to thank for that.

Alas, with every passing year there are fewer of those in Elvis’s inner circle to relay how Elvis lived.

With Billy Smith, the last survivor of the Memphis Mafia.

Although Priscilla, Lisa Marie and her kids are regular visitors where they stay in the roped off quarters upstairs.

For the rest of us, of course, there is Downtown Memphis within easy reach of Elvis touch points.

Sun Studio, Marlowe’s restaurant, where he had his own booth (well, you would) and Beale Street.

Be our guest

In the building: Sun Studio

Or you could stay at the Guest House Graceland where you can attach a Graceland package.

With a stay, VIP tour + planes package for two from $335 or a Graceland Experience Package from $269.

All of which will mean you can devote the whole day to Elvis’s home and the warehouses which house his clothes and cars.

Of course music is always in the air as a reminder of his enduring appeal. Elvis – How Great Thou Art.




Countries, Deals, Europe

EasyJet Booksing Day sale

It’s standard Travel abbreviation pp for per person but the EasyJet Booksing Day sale could just as easily be Portugal and Prague.

A favourite fly and flop and a fun city break it’s no surprise that EasyJet are flagging up these jewels for its sale.

Running from today until the end of January the Big Orange Sale (its livery obviously) EasyJet is offering up to £300 off package holidays.

Helpfully EasyJet map out price ranges across £200pp/£300pp/£400pp/£500pp or less.

And maybe if you’ve shelled out this first post-Covid Christmas then you’ll lean towards the £200 band.

PP Perfect

Golden vision: The Algarve

And that’s where you’ll find Portugal and Prague.

You and yours can kick back in the beach front Dom Jose Beach Hotel, Quarteira, Algarve from £391.

For three nights B&B in Faro from Thursday, January 12-Sunday January 15, flying out of Bristol.

Or three nights SC (self-catering) at Flor Da Laranja, Albufeira, 3.5km from the beach.

Again from Bristol and from Monday, January 16.

The Paladim Alagoamar, also in Albufeira, 1.2km from the beach.

Yes, Bristol is your starting point here too and you’ll be leaving on January 12 and get three nights in the sun.

If Spain is more your style then the Costa Blanca and Lanzarote are also on offer.

While Malta is also a draw… and all flying out of England.

And PP Pilsener

Bridge of highs: On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Of course there are those of us who prefer the Pilsner and the pubs and the Czech capital has both in abundance.

The Grandior Hotel is a city centre hotel which is handy as you won’t have to trek up the hilly Castle at the end of the night.

And yes, it’s timely too with Boxing Day falling today.

When we all know that Good King Wenceslas last looked out… on this, the Feast of Stephen.

So check out the pp offers aa part of the EasyJet Booksing Day Sale.



Countries, Deals, Europe

Balloons in Turkey

It’s up there among your holiday must-dos, watching the balloons in Turkey… or whirling dervishes if you like.

Or did you think that we were talking about the balloons above those rock-hewn villages in Cappadocia?

No, I’ve yet to savour that pleasure despite my oul’ pal Onur at Turkish Airlines flagging it up every time we meet.

And I will.

The only balloons on show when we visited Istanbul though were the dervish dancers in the early evening of a very busy day taking in the Great City’s sites and sounds.

Twirl power

How Bazaar: The Grand Bazaar

Bazaar, yes that too, but back to the dervishes and while they are enmeshed in Turkish culture and spirituality they are an acquired taste.

Entering the stage they freeze like statues before building up to a crescendo where they rotate their robes circulating as they go…

Hence the whirling dervishes. A kinda twirl power if you like.

To give it all context you can learn what it all means on the boards leading into the show.

And see for yourself up close the costumes and the history.

All of which came back into focus with the launch of our old friends’ Wendy Wu Tours Turkey special.

Treasures of Turkey

Turk that: Onur and me in Istanbul

Treasures of Turkey is a 16-day special from £2,690pp with varius 2023 & 2024 departures.

So you’ll get return flights, 4* accommodation, all meals, all transportation in destination.

There will be expert guiding, all sightseeing and entrance fees and authentic cultural experiences.

And Wu’s better at giving us a bullet-point rundown of what we’ll get.

Wu hu, Turkey’s for you

Up, up and away: Cappadocia

  • Explore Istanbul’s iconic landmarks, like the Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia
  • Experience Istanbul’s UNESCO-listed Fener & Balat districts
  • Enjoy a private cruise along the Bosporus Strait
  • Visit the moving war memorials of the Gallipoli campaign
  • Explore the ancient ruins of Troy and Pergamon
  • Discover the well-preserved roads, facades and theatre of Ephesus
  • Sample local wines and olive oil in the pretty village of Sirince
  • Visit Magnesia and enjoy an exclusive guided tour of archeaological sites which are not usually open to the public
  • Marvel at the spectacular calcium pools of the ancient spa city, Hierapolis
  • Explore the ancient Greek city of Perge and the Roman ruins of Aspendos
  • Spend 3 nights in Cappadocia soaking up the fantastical topography and exploring villages carved into the unusual rock formations and enjoying those balloons in Turkey.

Yes, the gloriously coloured canvas globes above your head amid those rock-hewn homes.

But also the whirling dervishes… each to their own and it’s a culture we love.






Africa, Countries, Deals

Paying for the jerseys in Marrakech

And as Morocco roar in the riads and the Portuguese souk it up a personal tale of paying for the jerseys in Marrakech.

Twas back in the day when I was playing five-a-sides and awaiting the inevitable call-up from the Scotland national manager.

And I would collect football tops on my travels to show off to my pals when I got home.

And so I’d channeled my inner Cristiano Ronaldo by buying a Sporting Lisbon top in Portugal.

And my Pierre Van Hooijdonk with my Fenerbahce jersey in Turkey.

Marrakech express

Moroccan roll: Exotic Marrakech

I don’t know who I’d be following with my Morocco top from Marrakech.

The only Moroccan player I knew being a little-known winger Hicham Zerouali, plying his trade with Aberdeen.

Following Morocco’s heroics in the World Cup quarter-finals we’ll know a lot more of their players.

Back to Marrakech though and I was on a mission.

And having had an early introduction to bartering in Turkey earlier that summer I was ready for the Moroccans.

Only I wasn’t.

Square deal

Fantastic: Moroccan fans

Marrakech’s main square Jemaa-el Fna is Barter Central.

Where savvy traders play tourists for every last dirham.

And send you on your way with a polyester jersey which wares in the wash.

While you’ll always lose out to the market hustlers in Jemaa-el Fna then it’s good that there’s always someone you can fall back on.

And when it comes to Morocco then Sunway certainly know one end of the camel from the other.

Sunway to go

Take it as red: The Moroccan national team

As it happens Sunway is offering a band of offers this month.

With three night breaks from €448, seven nights from €396.

Or 10 night breaks from €495.

Or next month three night breaks from €214, 7-night breaks from €310 or 10-night breaks from €382. 

Who knows where we’ll be by the time you get out to Morocco this month?

You may be on the lookout among the fez-wearers for a World Cup winning top.

But be wary that could mean paying for the jerseys in Marrakech.


Countries, Deals, Europe

Devilish fun in Majorca

You don’t have to be on a lads’ week away (although it helps) to have devilish fun in Majorca.

Just bring along daring kids (the ones not umbilically attached to their phones).

Instead those who see it as a rite of passage to take on the hardest ride in the splash park.

Which in Majorca’s case is the Cola del Diablo.

In the Western Water Park, Magaluf.

Making a splash

Only way is up: Climbing fun

Yes, you’ll see the salmon-coloured Brits bulging out of their boardies coming down the chute.

But if you just ensure you’re a couple of places back in the queue.

To ensure you don’t get the splash back and an eyeful of their builder’s bum.

Then you’ll get that Dad/lad Balearic holiday experience and the bragging rights at that night’s dinner.

A word on eating out too in your Majorca (or anywhere in these parts) holiday.

Try to avoid those restaurants where there are pictures of what you’re about to eat on boards outside.

They rarely are what they’re billed as.

And if you’ve got an ambitious lad who wants to try the Spanish specialty maybe disavow him of the notion.

All of this, of course, when you put yourselves in the hands of those with local knowledge.

A holiday for TUI

Toe in the water: Holiday Village Majorca

And for us our go-to people are TUI.

Holiday Village Majorca, especially, is a hit with the whole family.

Facilities include a spa trip and a trio of à la cartes, as well as a splash park, a football pitch and an Aerial Adventure course.

And best of all you’ll get spending money out of €1,000.

So that’s €849pps, €2,499 (2+1) or €3,479 (2+2) for seven nights on an all-inclusive basis.

With flights departing 16 May.


Countries, Deals, Europe, UK

Dreaming of a green Christmas

Those with soil under their fingernails like my own wee horticulturalist are dreaming of a green Christmas.

And they are not alone with our old Irish friends at Travel Department.

Catering for those who are happier in a flower bed than a feathered bed.

TD has a host of garden tours for us to look forward to when it’s spring again.

And we can sing again of a new trip to Keukenhof, the biggest flower park in the world.

And to Cornwall to discover the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan.

Flowerbulb moment

My wee flower: The green-fingered one

Keukenhof & The Bulbfields of Holland: And who would go to the Netherlands and not explore their fields of flowers? 

Certainly not us as my wee horticulturalist dragged me along to Keukenhof.

As payback for agreeing to see the Oranje national team play Greece in Rotterdam.

Keukenhof is considered by many as the ‘Garden of Europe’.

With approximately 7 million bulbs planted there every year, including 800 varieties of tulips.

And we all know how much the Dutch love their tulips.

And how they have enriched them and energised them over their history. 

Admire the indoor and outdoor displays of bulbs, tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, which covers over 32 hectares with colour and fragrance.

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Discover the Tea Garden of Jacqueline van der Kloet, the international garden designer.

Renowned for her artistry in combining bulbs with perennials, shrubs and trees.

You’ll also visit individual private gardens in the Northeast Polder, explore the Hortus Bulborum museum garden.

And drive along the famous Bulb route to see vivid displays of colourful tulips.

And there’s a full day in this three-day trip to uncover the highlights of Amsterdam, including a canal tour… and Amsterdam canal pilots are priceless.

This tour will be led by Rosie Maye aka the Insomniac Gardener.

And she will be available at all times to help and advise you, although I suspect my wee horticulturalist would fit that bill perfectly too.

The trip departs on 17th April and comes in at from €1479pp including return flights, transfers, three nights’ B&B in the 4-star Leonardo Boutique Museumhotel and guided by Rosie Maye (aka The Insomniac Gardener). 

Cornish bestie

Pod’s plan: Eden project

Gardens of Cornwall: And the UK’s equivalent is Cornwall (whisper it around Kent) because of the Gulf Stream giving it one of the mildest climates on the island.

You’ll have an opportunity to see rare, exotic and tender plants, sent by plant collectors for over 200 years.

Magnificent rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias flower here in the spring.

You’ll be based on the coast in Falmouth, beloved too of football tours (and again apologies for past misdemeanours).

Wiser now I’d stay out of the nightclubs and lap up the day trips to the restored Lost Gardens of Heligan.

And the now fully developed and innovative Eden Project as well as other private gardens.

The tour will be accompanied by Iain MacDonald, a qualified and experienced gardener and guide throughout the tour.

Departs on 12th March from €1199 pp, including return flights, transfers, four nights accommodation on a half board basis at The Falmouth Hotel and garden expert.

All something to think about so start dreaming of a green Christmas.



Caribbean, Countries, Deals

Dive into honeymoon St Lucia

It’s the first dip into marital waters and where better than if you take a dive into honeymoon St Lucia.

Splashing around in the water is one of the joys of your first holiday as a married couple.

When you’re floating on air and think you can walk on water.

But you end up swallowing half of the Aegean Sea… or whichever water you choose.

All of which you’re reminded of when you catch up with the old Caribbean friends you have met over the years.

And they dangle a competition over your head if you’ve been paying attention and remember how many dive sites there are on the island.

Which one unambitious entrant (no, not me) had it pegged at just five.

Dip your toe in

Peak performance: The Pitons

There are, in fact, more than 22 on an island of 617 square kilometres.

And so you’ll near enough have the Caribbean or Atlantic waters to yourself.

Now it may be that your partner takes to the water like, well a water babe, and is a snorkelling natural.

All of which will mean your honeymoon will go off like a splash.

And it is guaranteed to in St Lucia which has been named the world’s leading honeymoon destination for the fifth year running.

Sanctum sanctuary

View to a thrill: The Sol Sanctum

Should you be ahead of us already you and your loved one might be in St Lucia now.

And if so you’ll witness a veritable fleet, of 200 boats, descend on the island.

With the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the world’s biggest trans-ocean sailing event set to arrive on Sunday.

Helpfully, our St Lucian hosts recommend Sol Sanctum as their hotel of the month.

Sail away: The Atlantic Rally

Sol Sanctum is a multi-purpose wellness space.

It offers meditation, breathwork, yoga, pilates and tai chi classes as well as energy healing and other practices.

Sol Sanctum look Iin the heart of Rodney Bay Village in the north of the island is just five . minutes from Reduit Beach.

We found five days from January 15-19for $1,000.

I’ll live to regret that as someone angles after a second honeymoon.

If she sees me flagging up a dive into honeymoon St Lucia.



America, Countries, Deals

The Vermont Trapp family

When you climb every mountain as a pastime then if you have to relocate then you want some peaks around you, which is exactly the case with the Vermont Trapp family.

Vermont Trapp family, come again?

But while Salzburg, the hometown of the Von Trapps, naturally celebrates its most famous singing family, the Austrian singing troupe have more history by now with New England.

And more specifically Vermonters… they and their ancestors have lived in this Austrian-infused idyll for the past 80 years.

Just like Austria: Von Trapp Lodge, Vermont

With everything Von Trapp, it is best to start at the very beginning… that’s a very good place to start.

And join a Sound of Music tour in Salzburg where they’ll show you locations from the movie and put you right about a couple of things.

Such as the route Baron Georg, Maria and the kids took out of their home on their flight from the Nazis.

Which would have led them directly into Adolf Hitler’s retreat, the Wolf’s Lair.

The real Von Trapp journey

Team USA: The Vermont Van Trapps

Rather, the Baron, who had Italian citizenship, took the family to a train station in Italy from where they emigrated to America.

If you remember too from the movie that the Baron was a naval officer the that helps too in his story.

Because that dates back to the Austro-Hungarian empire when the now-landlocked Austria had a shoreline along the Balkans and most importantly in Trieste.

And it was because the Baron hailed from Trieste, by the 40s in Italy, that allowed him entry into Il Bel Paese.

All of which you’ll hear embellished, and much more besides, if you avail of the subject of today’s focus, the Platinum Premium Guide Tour, and their New England offering. And book and pay by December 5 to save up to 20 per cent.

A bountiful region

The highlight of their Beauty and Bounty of New England eight-day Guided Tour in the US for us would be staying in Stowe, the home of the Von Trapps.

You’ll also take in Boston, the cradle of the American Revolution.

But also more, much more, of New England and savour the many flavours of the region.

Including a maple syrup farm, where you can taste the sweet golden liquid tapped straight from the trees.

And ride a gondola at Loon Mountain Resort in New Hampshire‘s White Mountain Mountains and see as far as Canada.

Platinum flag up too Maine‘s oldest lighthouse in Portland and to celebrate your trip with a decadent fresh lobster dinner.

The world’s your oyster

Over the Loon: New Hampshire


Folks after our our heart as that is exactly what I did after my summer working in Boston when I bade a temporary farewell to my buddy Neily.

By insisting that we dine on my last night there at the most expensive, exclusive and oldest restaurant, the Union Oyster House, near Faneuil Hall.

And, of course, it is still there, and I daresay providing customers with bibs for their bucket of all that you can eat from the harbour.

Platinum’s offer is from €3440, and reserve with a deposit starting form €100.

Now that’s the sound of music to our ears… New England and the Vermont Trapp family had their home.