Countries, Deals, Europe, UK

Farewell Prince Philip, Corfu’s most famous son

He was Corfu’s most famous son but how will the Ionian island remember Prince Philip?

Hail Hellas

Well, probably not at all as ‘Phil the Greek’ as he was rather impertinently referred to by cheeky commoners lived all of 18 months in the island off Albania.

The Turks saw to that sentencing his Dad Andrew to death before he escaped with his son in an orange box.

Anyone for a Greek dance?

The Prince of Greece, unsurprisingly, had no longing to return particularly after finding a warmer welcome with the Windsors, of Windsor.

Wares of Greeks

And he was to say when asked: ‘I certainly never felt nostalgic about Greece. A grandfather assassinated and a father condemned to death does not endear me to the perpetrators.’

That was then and this is now and we’re all jolly good friends, ourselves and the Greeks.

Fly me. Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

Right down to the fact that they have a cricket pitch, the very essence of English culture, in the centre of Corfu Town.

And we’re busy courting the Hellenes, and they us, particularly as a possible green light country under the outline of the Global Travel Task Force.

Global Task Force

On which topic how do we feel about said Global Task Force.

And again I find myself in tune with my friends at the Scottish Passenger Agents Association who are lobbying our politicians north of the border here to get on board.

Jump in. Photo by Tania Nov on Pexels.com

Joanne Dooey, President of the SPAA, speaks for all of us, travel professionals and travel providers alike when she says: ‘Currently, the advice being given today is for travellers to and from England, and in our meetings next week with the Scottish Aviation Working Group we will be urging that Scotland follows suit.’

While she also raises an issue we have long flagged up.

She said: ‘We have some initial reservations on cost and availability of testing, the traffic light system and how vaccination passes will work operationally.

‘Our chief concern is the requirement for a PCR test and the costs associated with this. PCR testing is currently an expensive option which will place financial strain on families who travel together.

‘We would like to see the cost of this driven down or alternative forms of acceptable testing such as antigen and lateral flow.

Your boat will come in

‘The traffic light system has to have clarity and we all need to know the data which will place each country in green, amber or red and importantly what will trigger the move from one category to another.

‘This should be an internationally agreed system as currently this is only one side of the equation and travellers also need to know all the regulations for entry to their destination country.

‘And we’re very keen to hear how the digital vaccination pass will work in practice.’

It’s a deal

All of which brings us back to what we should be looking out for if we do we want to get out to Corfu.

And blue and white naturally

It is an island we know well from spending our first married days there with highlights including a dab at water skiing (or drinking), doughnuts and a flirtation (on his part) with the hotel keyboardist.

Corfu is surprisingly green and has its quirks such as that cricket pitch and the ubiquitous scary-looking Greek monks, though with the types of beards I’ve been trying to grow for 30 years.

The Scary One is never far away though clicking her scissors just in case.

She’d not be out of place in Ancient Greece.

So mid-September is our anniversary month and Barrhead Travel has seven days B&B at the Morfeas Hotel, from £320pp, departing on September 15.

MEET YOU IN THE TAVERNA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Easter in Israel

Easter in Jerusalem would normally be a throng of pilgrims.

But it has been reassuring, if a little surreal, to see masked worshippers following the Path of the Cross.

But it does give us a sense, both metaphorical, and real, of revival, of resurrection.

Israel, and Britain for that matter, have been the great success stories of the vaccine roll-out.

The Promised Land has vaccinated half of their population

While 1 in 12 Britons have had both jabs, although there  are more than six times as many of us.

Common cause

But let’s celebrate both our countries and talk up the preliminary discussions of the UK-Israel route opening up from August.

Yes, May 17, has been mooted for a Travel review but late summer remains more realistic.

A British Government source was quoted in the Sunday Times.

They said: ‘There will be a system of travel corridors to green-list countries with good vaccination rates. Israel, here we come!’

So where are we with our Israeli friends who we touched base with at the digital World Travel Market at the end of last year.

Well, several airlines have added limited routes and slowly increased flights in June and July.

Easy does it

That would then be in line with an August return for Britons so keep an eye on all our old favourites.

EasyJet offers two nights room only at the American Colony Jerusalem on July 2.

Leaving from Luton (hint to our Government to get a move on) £396pp, which means £792 for two.

While Virgin Holidays has tempted us of a Scottish persuasion, and now living up here in Braveheartland.

With seven nights at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem from £3381pp (well, you deserve it) for October 26.

Kayak is many a traveller’s second point of contact (after jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com obviously). And what about the Queen of Sheba for my Queen of Sheba?

The Dead Sea

Three nights and flight at the Hilton Eilat Queen of Sheba Hotel three nights and flight for £1,079

And, of course, our friends at G Adventures who have been trying to get me out to Israel these past few years (you have, you have, you have).

G whizz

They have 15 days from £999 Jordan and Israel Adventure from £1954, valid on December 10 (plenty of time to be super-vaccinated). And this was £2299!

Mt Nebo, Jordan

Now teasingly, as you’ll all know by now, I’ve been taken right to within 50 metres of Israel from the Jordan side at the site of John’s baptism of Jesus.

And so I’ve seen the Promised Land… only the Israeli soldiers on the banks were looking suspiciously at us from the other side.

I’ll just have to leave it to our holiday providers to look after us as always.

MEET YOU BY THE WAILING WALL

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

Happy ‘VJ’ Day

Happy VJ Day… that’s Vaccine for Jimmy Day.

Not to be confused with VJ Day, Victory in Japan Day.

So to mark these momentous dates I’m highlighting something Japanese again, in this year of the Olympics.

Rings of gold

In the swim: And you can train for the Olympics

When we’ll be hoping there will be many victories, and not just for us but for the hosts.

Because the Games always light up when the home country succeeds.

Plush fittings

And I’m ready, steady, go.

Vaccinated and available to travel, either to compete (long-distance running) or to report.

Cherry baby

It’s Cherry Blossom season too and my old pal Wendy Wu will be giving me a briefing this week on what she has planned.

While remember it’s Olympic year, delayed from 2020, in the Land of the Rising Sun too.

Leading Hotels

Dining style

As you all know I only stay in the leading hotels in the world.

And they obviously only deal with the leading Travel writers in the world too.

Gold medal

Views of Tokyo

So it’s no surprise to find the Okura Tokyo giving me a blind invite out to see them!

There is an Olympic link to this one too.

Yoshiro Taniguchi’s team built the original modernist Okura in 1962 ahead of the first Tokyo Olympics two years later.

Yo, yo Yoshiro

Reflected glory

It’s timely then that we are celebrating a reincarnation of the hotel for the coming Olympics.

And it still has those Taginuchi touches from Yoshiro’s son, also Yoshiro.

Favourite Lobby

Food for thought

We are, of course, passing over the ill-fated couple of years when the main building, with its beloved lobby, was pulled down.

And, as can happen, an inferior replacement was erected.

OK Okura

Japanese harmony

Not so the Okura Hotel of today which boasts two distinctly branded wings.

There’s the restrained and elegant the Okura Heritage and the Okura Prestige, a modern, urban hotel. And all for £250 per night.

A work of art

Wide open spaces

The essence of the original Okura has still been preserved.

Either relocated from the original building, replicated, or adorned through its artworks and carpeting.

Blink and you might imagine  that it was the original lobby with its hexagonal pendant lamps and hemp leaf motif screens of hinoki wood.

 

 

 

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – British isle be back

And a return of an old favourite feature here on the back of MSC’s announcement of summer cruises around Britain.

The cruises which will be for us British only will begin with a series of short cruises from May 20 followed by seven-night sailings.

Safe entry: With MSC

My old pal, the exquisitely named UK&I MD Antonio Paradiso assures us that vaccinated and non-vaccinated passengers will be allowed on board.

Just make sure you have a negative test within 72-hours of embarkation.

And MSC will even get you on shore for excursions though having enjoyed their on-board dining and entertainment….!

Barbados is plain sailing

Ruby do: With Ruby in Barbados

Barbados was my first jump-off point too… jumpin’ into the Caribbean to swim with turtles, and jumpin’ at the Crop Over carnival.

And it is the new jump-off too for Royal Caribbean for your island hopping.

Royal Caribbean is offering up to €350 off your stateroom.

They have a lead-in seven-night South Caribbean island hop holiday price.

On Grandeur of the Seas from €434 from Sunday, December 19.

We’re talking Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (home of the blue liqueur), St Lucia and Dominica.

Greek island hopping

And we still have a few Greek islands to hop.

Travel Department is running a nine-night holiday staying in Athens and on board the medium-sized ship The Celestyal Experience.

The Greek Islands & Aegean Sea Cruise is all yours to book for September or October from €2,139pp.

Including everyone’s favourite cruise stop-off Santorini.

MEET YOU BACK ON THE SEAS

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Deals, Ireland, Sport, UK

Holidos and Don’ts – the alpha and the omega

So, the alpha and the omega of Holidos and Don’ts as there’s so much disinformation out there.

Greece lightening

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

No, you didn’t misread that…

I’m here to lighten the load for our Greek friends who have been painted as super spreaders.

We’ve got Public Health England to blame for the hue and cry.

They reported that the largest number of infections between June and September came from returning holidaymakers from Hellas.

They made up 21% of new cases, compared with 16% from Croatia and 14% from Spain.

The report which still needs to be peer reviewed, of course, doesn’t factor in that that was a pre-vaccine world so let’s not panic.

And book our Greek holidays with confidence.

Our old friends at Travel Department are offering a range of Greek breaks with Athens & The Island Short Break immediately catching the eye.

Amble along the Neighbourhood of Gods in the Plaka district and head up to the Acropolis.

Tip here: take an impossibility cheap taxi with your driver (who will look like Adonis) suggesting you pay what you like.

Travel Department will throw in a full-day cruise of the Saronic Gulf: Hydra, Poros and Aegina.

So that’s four days B&B from €749pp with departures in June and October.

And for a teaser on all things Greek… here’s my odyssey.

Digital Green Passports

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

And it makes sense that the Irish Travel Agents Association should welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Green Passport.

The idea is that it will be proof that you’ve been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid.

Of course there’s no pain, no gain.

And I’d take the Scary One drilling that stick up my nose and down my throat.

Like I did to travel to Bergamo…

And thoughts to the Bergamaschi and all our Italian amichi as they tackle lockdown again… Molamia.

Olé for Spain

Hugs for Spain and Catalonia. https://www.google.com/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/24/messi-around-on-the-water/amp/

And Olé for Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto who is championing our return to Espana.

She told the TV station, Antenna 3: ‘We could be in a position to start implementing the digital passport when FITUR (Spain’s Travel Fair) in Madrid starts on May 19.’

The government over here in the UK has held out May 17 as the date when travel can resume from England.

Although that relies on the findings of the Global Travel Task Force report on April 12.

The Spanish jewel of the Med, The Balearic Islands have already stepped up.

And they have said they will be happy to trial it.

And as a signpost that the British are coming with Jet2 informing the Majorca press to expect a ‘massive’ arrival in June.

Watch this space for updates on Travel returning and…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Countries, Deals, Europe

Uber Oberammergau and get on your bikes to Berlin

Guten Tag. And our prayers are being answered with miraculous deals from Oberammergau, while they’ve got on their bikes in Berlin too.

Our German friends have been regaling us with all that’s been going on in Deutschland in the last little while in anticipation of us returning this summer.

And there’s always a bar

Der best Passion Play yet

Oberammergau, or Der Passion Play, dates back almost 400 years.

To when the villagers retold the story of Christ’s passion on their streets in thanks to the Lord for delivering them from the plague.

Sound familiar?

I don’t remember the prams in the original

The Passion Play, as we all know is held only every ten years.

And it was due to be performed last year but has now been pushed out to next year.

All of which gives the good burghers of the Bavarian village more time to make next year the best Passion Play.

Since, well maybe the one 2,000 or so years ago!

That’ll fit me

There’s good news too for the under-28s (a bit arbitrary but an age which I’m sure I can blag).

With a humungous reduction in prices through the Oberammergau site.

All for the new two-day World Youth Days spin-off on May 7 and 8.

The week before the main event, when 8,000 young people will descend on the picture-perfect village.

You probably won’t believe your eyes but they are offering a ticket with accommodation as a two or three-day arrangement.

With costs between €34-92pp in a double or multi-bed room including breakfast.

How they used to do it

And single rooms are available for an extra charge of €23- 34.

And as you know we’ve got a hotline with the Man Who Matters.

So we’ll keep you abreast of all that’s going on in Oberammergau through the year.

The Wheel Berlin Wall

Vibrant Berlin

It was anything but a picnic in No Man’s Land by the Berlin Wall back in the day when the city was divided into East and West.

But now that’s where Berliners recline on the grass with their food and wine, or beer.

Those that is who don’t cycle along the Wall.

Yes, Erich Honecker would turn in his grave which is, of course, in Chile, and not far enough away from Berlin, wethinks.

Now, it may all be more than 30 years ago, but then history is obviously all around you in Berlin.

And the Berliners are always rebuilding their city.

The new must-visit attraction in Berlin is the cultural multi-purpose Humboldt Forum.

While for history buffs you will want to check out the Potsdam exhibition, particularly when we actually get back out there to see it in person.

And the journey there on the S-Banh or regional train will make you feel that just like Churchill, Attlee, Stalin and Truman did way back in 1945.

Now how did that all work out.

And there’s more to come

Now our German friends gave us an expansive tour of what Germany 2021 and 2022 has to offer.

But once they got to the beer that distracted me and had me scurrying off to mein bierkeller.

So I’ll have to get back to you with the rest. But in the meantime check out their official site.

 

 

Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe

Holiday Snaps – The Blowout

The Blowout was a fixture of my university days at the end of every term in the Students’ Union… in truth every weekend was a blowout.

And with us cooped up in our houses, and saving every penny or cent, the prospect of international travel opening up again in mid-May is all that’s keeping us going.

Our friends, the travel providers, have furnished us with the inside track on what’s moving… and that is the blowout holiday.

Multi-generational

Choose your water… and wine

It may come as a surprise to some, for whom living 24/7 with their family this past year has grated, but Abercrombie & Kent are seeing a spike in multi-generational holidays.

With the Maldives in the Indian Ocean a particular favourite.

There’s a JOALI fun time to be had at any of the 73 elegant beach and over-water villas.

Now there’s a big swimming pool outside where you can breastroke all the way to Sri Lanka.

But if you prefer shorter dips then you get your own private pool, indoor and outdoors showers, an indoor and outdoor living area, a dressing room and sun loungers.

Then you can enjoy too a sunset yacht cruise, turtle snorkelling trips, scuba diving, dolphin spotting and private destination dining… and a treasure hunt and picnic to a nearby uninhabited island.

Sarong but so right

And seeing you want to pack it all in then there is a new JOY in Family Time wellness programme with your favourite yoga, meditatioon and BoxFit or group spin classes.

The rooms come in at from $1924 (approximately £1520) per night based on two sharing a beach villa with pool on a B&B basis.

Me? I’ll give my family a treat by leaving them in peace and reprising my own Atoll adventure.

The Greek Corridor

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

It seems like for ever that we’ve been promised a Greek Corridor… and let’s face it with 6,000 there’s one for every one in the audience.

The Villa Collection are tempting us with our honeymoon island Corfu, Santorini, Crete, the Mainland et al.

All because it’s only ever cool to smash plates in Greece and it just annoys the Scary One when I do because I’m stir craz

Cherry aid

I didn’t pay much attention to it growing up in Glasgow but for the fact that the tennis ball I banged up against the garage wall would sometimes land in the cherry blossom tree.

But looking back from this long-off vantage point it was a rare treat to see the candy pink blossom.

The Japanese never take such natural beauty for granted, nor of course our go-to operators Wendy Wu who will be giving us the lowdown on all things cherry blossom later this month.

And, of course, I’ll share with all you Bandinis and Bandanettes out there… and might even rock my pink bandana for my friend Wendy.

Travel aid

So we just need to get back out on the road and we must all play out part.

The ECTAA, the group of National Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Associations within the EU, are calling European and national decision-makers to plan the way for a safe return of travel this summer.

All the prerequisites are there to be able to travel safely this summer. Industry stands ready to set and implement a plan for return to travel this summer.

Pawel Niewiadomski, President of ECTAA said: ‘All we need to do is put the dots together and determine a common European roadmap for return to travel. Travellers and industry need a perspective when and under which conditions travel can resume.’

As often is the case we take our lead from European leaders Germany. The German agency responsible for disease control and prevention, the Robert Koch Institute, has worked out from which countries most foreign infections originated last summer.

The result: the classic organised holiday trip only made a small contribution to the incidence of infections in Germany.

Pawel added: ‘This is proof that organised travelling is safe. But we need the right framework conditions to start up travel based on testing and the use of health certificates to facilitate travel.’

Of course whatever happens the UK will go their own way.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

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

On a clear day – Ireland and Wales

And on a clear day in my old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow in Ireland I could see Wales.

As the nearest neighbours from the east of Ireland, Wales was always the first port of call.

Either for workers, families going over to see loved ones, or later holidaymakers.

And before air travel and budget fares the Land of the Dragon was a seaport of call rather than an airport of call.

Green for go: Irish Ferries

Irish Ferries and the boat to Holyhead are as familiar to travellers as the Luas tram.

It is heartbreaking to see boats carrying haulage on the big sea while us passengers are forced to stay home.

But there is light on the horizon and that is that glimmer of Wales you can see atop Bray head.

Haven holidays we know from family holidays way back then in England’s Lake District.

And of course we know of their Welsh sites too from visiting North Wales too.

Not too deep

Presthaven Beach: North Wales has some of the most unspoilt beaches around even before social distancing.

Haven are offering seven nights at a 25% discount down from €846 to €621.

Everyone loves a slide

Hafan y Mor: And as you can see this is packed with family fun.

What would have cost you just short of a thou for seven days (€989) is now 752.

Upwardly mobile

Quay West: Billed as boasting breathtaking views of New Quay harbour and Cardigan Bay.

This €1125 package for seven days has been reduced to €868.

You’ll have the run of two-bedroom deluxe mobile homes for up to six people on dates in June.

So for a little bit of Haven then just look across the water.

Adventure, Countries, Deals, Europe, Sport

Holiday Snaps – United for Malta

I’m in good company, with footballers Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof and Brandon Williams all fans of my honeymoon island… we’re all United for Malta I guess.

The three Manchester United players were only too happy to flag up the jewel of the Mediterannean.

With Malta the club’s official destination partner.

Gozo views

French World Cup winner Pogba said: ‘It’s beautiful, there aren’t a lot of people and I can go there with my family.

He picked out St Peter’s Pool in Delimara.

While Lindelof is rightly taken by Comino.

Valletta you better you bet

The idea is to put together a postcard (remember them) of Malta.

And you can check it out on https://www.manutd.com/en/videos/detail/pogba-williams-and-lindelof-create-their-perfect-postcard-with-visitmalta#

The jewel of the Med 26 years ago was my wee treasure… only what they don’t tell you is that gems have rough edges!

A cheeky wee Algarve

The loved-up Miss F dragged me away to the Algarve for our first summer holiday together although in truth I didn’t need much dragging.

On a budget then we were taken by the Algarve tradition of taking your litre plastic bottle down to the local wine shop in Cabanas.

Algarve wine country

Where the owner would fill it up with house wine for a few escudos (yes, it was that long ago).

As Portugal awaits the green light for us to return to its shores we welcome too the push for Algarve wines.

With Cliff in the Algarve

And what’s more they’ll even share their art with you on the Quinta dos Vales estate.

Get a three-hour induction in winemaking in the Bottle Blending Workshop from €62pp.

Even better stay the night, you’ll need it to put your boozy head down, from €75 per night.

And here’s a toast from past travels in Quinta do Lago.

Our bit for charity

Charity begins at home and seeing we’re all holed up at home let’s all do our bit.

Bike4tourism is a multi-continental charity ride which is hoping to break the Guinness world record for numbers of participants.

Register for the event, on May 30, Fees start from €18 and free for under-18s.

With part of the money raised going to an environmental cause and helping Travel companies affected by Covid-19.

Now my cycling has come on a lot since collapsing on the roadside in the Algarve way back then.

Probably the vino collapso!

And Machu more

If running, or swimming, is more your thing and you want to help out, say, the Machu Picchu porters, then join me in this challenge.

This month we’re being invited to run, swim (OK, or bike) 25 miles to help out the Machu porters who are currently packless.

Twenty-five miles is the length of the famous Peruvian trail.

And £25 provides funds to purchase one essential food parcel for a Peruvian porter and their family for a month.

If like me you’ve taken your foot off the pedal during lockdown then this is your chance to rectify that.

Or alternatively you can donate £25 to Peru 25for25. Visit the Lata Foundation.

And when you do get out to Peru then it’ll be with our old pals at G Adventures.

They are offering seven days Cusco to Cusco from £620, down from £729, Valid on November 1.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

G – On track to see my Son and Heir and China

We’ve all got our suitcases packed and labels filled out… and for my Son and China (plate… mate) that’s Chong Cheng.

We’ve been mapping out our itinerary since The Son and Heir announced that he was off to teach English in China last year.

That’s been pushed out to Easter.

But that gives us time too (and our politicians) to plan how we’ll get out there to see him.

Our go-to people in such odysseys are G Adventures  .

And they have the very thing a 16-day Trans-Mongolian trip from Moscow to Beijing, valid on April 23, 2022, from £1799, to lure us in.

Take it as Red in Moscow

I’ve been mugging up on all things Mongolian in the many Travel programmes I’ve been taking in during lockdown.

And I can thoroughly recommend the excellent the Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan when he dons one of those onesies for a bit of Mongolian wrestlng… which is me all over.

Your journey will kick off in Moscow where you’ll get a day to yourself to check out Lenin’s Mausoleum, the Kremlin, the Hermitage.

Or you can always head for St Petersburg first and make your way to Moscow along the St Petersburg Express.

Siberia is VERY big

You ever been 88 hours on a train? Well it’ll just fly by as you cross the Ural Mountains and Siberia.

Enjoy the charms of Irkutsk on a walking tour before driving to the village of Listvyanka.

You’ll overnight on the shores of Lake Balkal and dig into local cuisine…

And try a banya, or Russian sauna to you and me.

Mongolia, yes we Khan

Before you enter Genghis Khan’s Mongol kingdom of.

And you’ll be able to fulfil your life-long ambition to stay in a traditional ger, or yurt, and channel your Genghis with a spot of archery.

Nothing finishes off a day better in Mongolia of course than a bit of throat-singing… best leave it to the locals though.

A yen for Beijing

You’ll get two clear days plus time either end in Beijing.

And, of course, no trip to China would be complete without a trip to the Great Wall, and yours will be a walk along the Mutianyu section.

For most of us that’ll be enough train travel for a while.

But for others, we’ll be taking another eight-hour journey to Chong Cheng…

After all the Son and Heir will want his Mammy there to do his washing!