Countries, Deals, Europe

Winter abroad to save fuel

Turn off the heat, lock the door and winter abroad to save fuel this winter.

Well, we need no second invitation, Click and Go and what Ireland’s online Travel specialists are offering.

We’ll pass over, of course, that they have us down as pensioners as we’re sure this applies just as well for all ages.

A winter’s tale

You’re on holiday: And a friendly smile

My old pal and C&G CEO Paul Hackett explains: ‘We have had many clients booking holidays for the winter.

‘Because it’ll be cheaper to be on holidays in Spain in a 4-star hotel than heating their homes in Ireland.

‘These offers are perfect for retirees or for people who are able to work remotely.’

Bully for us: With Sara and The Son and Heir

‘We have incredible deals from November to March in the Algarve, mainland Spain, and Malta.

‘The day to day cost of living in these destinations is much less than Ireland. It is amazing that you can discover a new place while saving.”

With dinner, bed and breakfast from just €40 it isn’t hard to see why.

So click and go…

Three and easy

Go native: In Fuengirola

3 weeks

*Fuengirola in a 4-star hotel, half board, for three weeks from €869pp. Find out more.

*Benalmadena in a 4-star hotel, half board, for three weeks from €949. Find out more.

*Torremolinos in a 4-star hotel, half board, for three weeks from €979pp. Find out more.

Extend your stay for another week from just €280!

Month of sun days

Do the Flamenco: Spanish culture

4 weeks

*Fuengirola in a 4-star hotel for four weeks from €1,099pp. Find out more.

*Benaladena in a 4-star hotel for four weeks from €1,229. Find out more.

*Torremolinos in a 4-star hotel for four weeks from €1,259. Find out more.

Prices are per person and include flights and accommodation.

The Click&Go website allows for stays up to 90 day.

So that’s us all sorted and where we want winter abroad to save fuel.

 

 

 

Countries, Europe

Will Giorgia’s trains run on time?

As Italy votes for its most right-wing leader since Benito Mussolini we ask will Giorgia’s  trains run on time?

Il Duce had a far more grandiose vision for Italy but his lasting legacy to the world was that he got the trains to run on time.

Although revisionist historians now reckon Mussolini propagandised a dispatch from American journalist George Seldes.

On the right track

Well, my train is on time: Mussolini


All of which he was adept at, basking in the glory of the Firenze-Bologna works, ‘the world’s longest double-track tunnel.’

Even though it was a previous government’s brainchild while he made a horlicks of the trains over the course of the war.

Now notwithstanding that the macho Italians don’t even have a female form for Il Duce the Italians have big hopes for their Fit Controller Giorgia Meloni.

Fare play

Just the ticket: Meloni

Roman Giorgia has an advantage on me here (well many) in that she knows the timetables out of the capital.

And she’s not likely to get stuck in a one-horse town 20 miles from the destination in the dead of night.

And her Italian is considerably better than mine.

Local knowledge

Time is right: The Rome timetable

Italy, and particularly in the countryside, works on local knowledge.

And it was my good luck to find an ex-pat on the train who calmed my panic by telling me of a 3am onward bus.

All of which involves a leap of faith as you sit on your suitcase in the clammy Lazio night.

Road to salvation

Mussolini’s legacy: In Bergamo

This being a God-fearing country the first, and best, point of reference is a prayer upstairs.

And when a wave of immigrant passengers emerged from around the corner I gave thanks to Dio omniponte.

Hat’s the way: On the Via Francigena

And the bus driver who got me to Viterbo, albeit at 4am.

So I could make my 8am start for my 100km Via Francigena walk back into La Citta Eterna.

Now the best way to see will Giorgia’s trains run on time or not is by getting out to Il Bel Paese and doing that rail holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Europe

Scotland’s Secret Bunker

There are some secrets you want to share particularly as we might be needing them soon, so I was intrigued by the signpost to Scotland’s Secret Bunker.

The bunker, amusingly, is located near St Andrews, the Home of Golf but they’re more interested here in nukes than niblicks.

Scotland’s Secret Underground Nuclear Centre, to give it its Sunday name, wasn’t advertised, naturally, back in the day.

But thankfully with the end of the Cold War (no, really) it is a tourist site.

Down on the farm

Get your tin helmet on: In the Bunker

The bunker stands a hundred feet down with the entrance hidden in an unsuspecting farmhouse.

RAF Troywood, which was built in 1953, covers 24,000sqft of Command Centre.

It incorporates the radar technology of that era, dormitory, plotting room and mess.

The visitor attraction is open from February 1 to November 30.

It’s £13.95 for adults, £9.95 for children and £12.95 for concessions with a 2.2 family rate coming in at £37.95.

The bunker was primed for 50 years before it was put in mothballs but has thankfully been spruced up for our amusement.

Czech out the Bunker

Behind the Mask: The Communist Tour

Going underground gives a perspective into another world and you don’t have to be a military historian to enjoy it.

Of course, it stands to reason that while we were hunkering down in preparation for them attacking us.

The Warsaw Pact were doing the same over on their side.

Which I saw first hand in Prague in Czechia. On my Prague Communism Tour.

Where I was taken behind the thickest steel door imaginable on the side of a mound.

And taken down into the bowels of the Earth to see how the Czechs prepared to hide away from our bombs.

Needless to say the food was tinned meat an the likes although the Czechs would have stocked up on Urquell Pilsner.

They probably underestimated too how many loos they would have needed for full-blooded Pragueites.

Hitler’s hideaway

You’re Herr: The old site

Check out (sorry) too nuclear bunkers from Arizona to Asia for similar experiences.

While to experience what life must have been like in the most famous bunker of all head for Berlin.

Alas Hitler’s Reichstag in the German capital is no longer there but they have recreated it for you here… it’s the next best thing.

And, of course, we’ll be there just as soon as we can.

For now though we’re looking into Scotland’s Secret Bunker… just in case we need it soon.

 

 

Countries, Europe, Food

Pile in on World Paella Day

For the day that’s in it and because I fear The Scary One is leaving us with ‘heat-ups’ (her word for leftovers) tonight, let’s pile in on World Paella Day.

It’s a date on the calendar I should have marked in her diary alongside our anniversary which was three days ago but didn’t.

So it’s just as well that my old amigi Sara and Kathryn from the Spanish Tourist Board in Dublin flagged it up.

And a wee Rioja: With Sara

By inviting the cream of Irish Travel (I’m confined to barracks just now) out for a big paella.

Which is paella round-grain rice, bajoqueta and tavella (varieties of green beans), rabbit, chicken, sometimes duck, and the lima or butter bean garrofo, cooked in olive oil and chicken broth.

Mellow yellow

Man v Paella: And the paella always wins

With the yellow colour we know and love infused by saffron.

Paella, meaning frying pan in Spanish, has come to be the city and the country’s biggest food export.

But foodies will tell you that the dish derives from Valencia, while historians will point to the Moors from North Africa who introduced rice cultivation.

Paella is of course international now and the Valencians even host a World Paella Cup with the best chefs from around the world.

And thankfully without those ubiquitous ‘celebrity chefs’ we have all come to loathe.

Less Oliver: And more Paellaman

You know the ones who pimp their paellas like mock cockney Jamie Oliver who uses chorizo by Jamie Oliver or the rice, chicken, squid, chorizo ​​and clam version by chef Gordon Ramsay.

OK, I don’t have anything against you putting in whatever the heck you like into the pan to make your paella because after all anything with rice in a paella, or pan, is eh, a paella.

It’s just Oliver’s fake chumminess and Ramsay’s fake fecking puts me off my food.

Although writer Ana Vega ‘Biscayenne’, citing historical references, showed that traditional Valencian paella did indeed include chorizo.

And he exclaimed: ‘Ah Jamie, we’ll have to invite you to the Fallas.’

Paella on the pounds

No need for plates… just dig in

And what we all want to know in these straitened times is can it feed the masses?

Well Valencia restaurateur Juan Galbis claims to have made the world’s largest paella with help from a team of workers on 2 October 2001.

He claims to have fed about 110,000 people and this is even larger than his earlier world-record paella on 8 March 1992, which fed about 100,000 people.

Galbis’ record-breaking 1992 paella is listed in Guinness World Records.

So pile in on World Paella Day, there’s enough for everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Europe, Sport

Anyone for Raducanu and Maldives

So where has Britain’s sporting darling gone… well, anyone for Raducanu and Maldives?

Emma I think it would be right to say can do with some time out of the spotlight.

And that is what last year’s US Open tennis winner is getting with her engagement in the Indian Ocean atolls.

Emm-meet and greet

Oh OK then: Emma’s invitation

Emma will share her skills and pro tips with guests at Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences on Baa Atoll from 25 October -2 November.

Emma will give a 60-minute tennis clinic at the resort’s jungle-clad, US Open-standard tennis courts.

She will also attend a meet-and-greet and just like any other 19-year-old is excited about going out to the teardrop isles.

She said: ‘I’m delighted to discover the Maldives for the first time. I will have an amazing time there.’

Kings and queens of court

Off Pat: Rafter is a fan

Baa Atoll has become something of a magnet for the cream of tennis.

With former World No. 1s Angelique Kerber and Pat Rafter and Olympic gold medallist Sasha Zverev and Davis Cup winner Viktor Troicki all gracing its courts.

And those of us who have been out to the Maldives have always been mighty glad to have an alternative to water sports.

Because as enjoyable as they are, if like me you weren’t born with a snorkel in your mouth scuba diving doesn’t come naturally.

Howzat!

Lounging around: In Kuramathi

And you’ll be glad for a game of football or cricket with the staff as I did in Kuramathi.

And cool down later in your own infinity pool.

All of which should appeal to the jet set tennis player.

Something of which I got to know when we signed up for a Judy Murray masterclass in Quinta do Lago in Portugal.

Ace

Bandanaman is coming: Emma

And that’s the beauty of it for us and the scrutinised tennis star, here’s an escape from the humdrum of home.

Anyone for Raducanu and Maldives… I know I am.

 

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe

Where Princess rules the waves

It’s the only place on God’s earth where we’re happy to pay royal homage… where Princess rules the waves.

We’ve come to stand in awe port-side over the years at the majesty of the ships that transport us to the four corners of the globe.

And so we are instantly drawn to the new ship on their rank, the Sun Princess.

Their biggest ever, it houses 4,300 passengers.

It’s telling too that the name ‘Sun Princess’ is returning to operation because as we all know the sun is our guiding star.

The Sun King

No place like Dome: On the Sun Princess

Just as Louis XIV was to the French of the 17th and early 18th century who called him Le Roi Soleil ‘The Sun King’.

And whisper it in the 13-hour queues in London to catch a glimpse of the unopened coffin of the queen but…

French Louis is still the longest-serving monarch in history at 72 years and 110 days.

Sun Princess will have all the majesty we’ve come to expect for the livery.

Currently under construction at the Fincantieri shipyard it’s scheduled to debut in February 2024.

And if you’ve been paying attention, again the 175,500-tonne vessel is the largest Princess ship ever constructed.

A slice of Piazza

Glass act: And plenty of Vitamin C

It embraces Italian heritage by featuring the brand-iconic Piazza and new feature ‘The Dome’.

It’s a cutting-edge entertainment space inspired by the terraces of Santorini.

Sun Princess will also feature the exclusive Princess Medallion badge, worn by the best.

It, of course, extends Princess’s leadership position in delivering exceptional personalised experiences.

Sun Princess will sail an inaugural spring/summer season of Mediterranean cruises from February 2024.

And then Western and Eastern Caribbean voyages out of Port Everglades, Florida in autumn 2024.

So let’s take you inside the palatial ship.

Where the Piazza is the centre-point, spanning three storeys with oceanside views.

An LED screen is also showcased in the centre of the Piazza that can be moved and configured to deliver live entertainment programming.

Oh, did we say there are 29 (count them) bar and dining experiences?

Dome from home

Toast of the seas: Princess

The other stand-out structure onboard Sun Princess is The Dome which is inspired by the terraces of Santorini.

The first glass-enclosed Dome on a cruise ship, here’s a multi-level covered deck.

It features an indoor/outdoor pool, and a unique water feature in a comfortable and relaxed space.

At night, the pool becomes a stage, and The Dome transforms into an entertainment venue with a South Beach vibe.

Shweet suites

Lie back and think of… Princess Cruises

And more on the numbers… it has 2,157 total staterooms, including 50 suites and 100 connecting rooms.

The 21-deck Sun Princess features more outdoor balcony space and all balcony accommodations feature an in-room sofa.

Also launching exclusively on Sun Princess will be a new level of suite accommodations, the exclusive Signature Collection.

Club Class accommodations and all other ships, will now be called Reserve Collection, the best-located mini suite staterooms.

Within the Reserve Collection will be Reserve Collection Cabana rooms, resort-style staterooms that offer a balcony.

And private cabana, an extra-large outdoor lounge space.

These premium accommodations also include access to the Reserve Collection Restaurant.

Trips of a lifetime

Badge of honour: Medallion Man

The inaugural season begins in February 2024 with Mediterranean itineraries. The ship’s first three voyages went on sale at 00:01 on Friday, September 16.

Fares start from €2,075pp for a 10-night Grand Mediterranean voyage, departing 28 February 2024.

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Europe

Winter fell in Narnia

Winter is coming to a theatre near you… that fantasy world of fauns when Winter fell in Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Long before Game of Thrones came the worlds of Narnia and Middle-Earth (my favourite).

We were first introduced to the winter world of Narnia as schoolchildren back in the Seventies…

When the teacher would read us the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.

The stage is set

I love Lucy: In Narnia

Now, of course, we can see the fantasy four on the big screen.

And also in the stage presentation of the UK’s favourite novel at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London.

And on our travels in locations from CS Lewis’s Belfast to Czechia,  New Zealand with stops too in England.

Whether Lewis had Czechia in mind when the children stumbled through the wardrobe is doubtful.

The Aslan Arch

Archway to Narnia: In Bohemian Switzerland

But the location managers fell upon Bohemian Switzerland when they visited the Czech Republic as we did.

And they had themselves their Aslan Arch… and much more.

Such as the forbidding wintry rock formations through which Lucy emerges from the wardrobe and meets Mr Tumnus.

That’s Tiske Steny towering above the village of Tisá, about 50 miles north of Prague.

And if you are so minded then the cliffs provide an ideal spot for experienced rock climbers.

Lion in wait

How can I protect you? Aslan

The real photo grab, of course, is the Pravcicka Gate.

Narnians will recognise it from Peter, Susan, and Lucy leading the beavers walking on it.

While escaping the wrath of the White Witch and her wolves.

They stop to look at the Table Mountain above the frozen river where Aslan should be.

And a reveal here and because of the old movie maxim of never working with animals or children.

But they didn’t use a real lion for Aslan but created it with the magic of CGI effects.

The Pravcicka Gate they walk on though is for real.

And to give you a sense of its scale it is only the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe with a span of over 25 metres.

What a delight

Fab frosting: Turkish delight

Now to protect it you can’t stand on it, but rather under it.

But you can view it from the Falcon’s Nest hotel alongside.

Where you can find a well-preserved period restaurant.

And I dare say you’ll not have to ask if they have any Turkish Delight.

So if you’re either a Lewis fan or are wanting to mug up before the stage show then get out to Bohemian Switzerland in Czechia.

Where Winter fell in Narnia.

 

Countries, Europe, UK

Cor phew it’s King Charles

Keep your eyes peeled the next time you’re in Greece because you might just have cause to exhort… Cor phew it’s King Charles!

Because the Greek island of Corfu off the coast of Albania is only the new king and his queen consort Camilla’s favourite holiday bolthole.

And seeing that Charles has probably been around the globe more times than we’ve had hot dinners then it’s worth exploring.

And that is exactly what us honeymooners, the lovesick Mrs M and myself, did 28 years ago.

Little knowing its significance in royal circles.

But getting a glimpse of its idiosyncratic British leanings with its cricket pitch in the capital Corfu city.

Phil’s back yard

Do you want to go to Greece on holiday? Liz and Phil

Royal watchers, of course, know that the Greek island is the home island of Prince Philip.

And that the Duke of Edinburgh had a lifelong love of cricket.

His first born Charles veered more towards polo and skiing and would go off piste on the slopes.

With Verbier in Switzerland a favourite where he spent many of his happiest family times with his sons and Diana.

But it was to Corfu that he took his second wife.

Again those who have been following his life in photographs over these years will recognised his love for Greece.

You dancer

Strictly royal dancing: Chas and Cam

 

And here Mrs M has a claim to fame as a former Royal Photographer of the Year.

Charles can be seen in kodachrome doing his best Zorba with locals in Crete.

And again that’s obligatory from king to commoner when you holiday on any of the Greek islands.

And yes guilty to that too… I blame the Metaxa brandy.

I dare say that our new King would have handled any water sports rather better than yours truly.

As I ended up swallowing large gulpfuls of the Aegean.

Aberdeen love retreat

My Aberdeen castle: Well Huntly and it’s someone else’s

Now while the future King and his Queen Consort chose Corfu as their love getaway, it wasn’t where they honeymooned.

That was in Birkhall in Aberdeenshire.

And where did we return to from our honeymoon in Corfu… only Aberdeen where we lived and loved (too much information) for four years.

And where I had studied and started my first scribblings as editor of the student newspaper Gaudie.

Before going on to meet my beloved, a photographer on my first paid-for newspaper in Reading, Berkshire… just down the road from Charles’s childhood home.

I guess we’re due to meet then on holiday where yes, the corny side will get the better of me and I’ll exhort Cor phew, it’s Charles.

 

 

 

 

Countries, Deals, Europe

Athens an epic city break

Any city where the cabbie asks you how much you want to pay has a jump start on others… yes, it’s Athens an epic city break.

But don’t just take my word for it (well do) but the Post Office’s annual City Costs Barometer makes Athens your alpha city.

The beta, gamma, delta and epsilon (I knew Greek would serve me well one day) are outliers Lisbon, Krakow, Riga and Budapest.

The Post Office took a dozen common holiday purchases.

From a travel card and entrance to a museum to a cup of coffee and two nights in a three-star hotel.

And Athens came out on top at £207.18.

Metaxi

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Now famously the Greeks bankrupt themselves partly because they supposedly saw underground fares as optional.

I don’t know about the veracity of that having enjoyed the services of my old Athenian pal George’s driving.

And Athens’ peculiar taxi service.

Where they’ll quote a fare of €15 or €10 or whatever you’ve got to get up from your downtown hotel to the Acropolis.

And then if you get the right return driver it could be €10 to get back to your hotel.

Or as my own chilled cabbie put it pay if you can.

Dublin’s fare city

The Travel pack in Dublin

T’wouldn’t catch on in Dublin though where the latest incomers bag a licence.

And then take you halfway around the city just to ramp up the fare.

That and the think of a number drink fares around Temple Bar put Dublin down at 17 on the list at £436.12.

Just behind Pricey Paris at £423.42.

And only ahead of Copenhagen (£455.75), Venice (£456.92) and Amsterdam (£592.79).

Some local knowledge is, of course, helpful which is what you get over 13 years living and working in the Irish capital.

Some personal favourites

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

We’re pleased to see, of course, that some personal favourites make the top ten.

With Prague at £248.50 which leaves plenty in your pocket for Pilsner.

And Rome at £347.17, although we can show you some short cuts around La Citta Eterna.

The top 20

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome
  1. Athens – £207.18
  2. Lisbon – £218.03
  3. Krakow – £218.55
  4. Riga – £220.32
  5. Budapest – £220.95
  6. Prague – £248.50
  7. Madrid – £298.81
  8. Berlin – £316.97
  9. Dubrovnik – £318.30
  10. Rome – £347.17
  11. Barcelona – £384.80
  12. Bruges – £389.05
  13. Florence – £397.87
  14. Vienna – £401.64
  15. Stockholm – £421.16
  16. Paris – £423.42
  17. Dublin – £436.12
  18. Copenhagen – £455.75
  19. Venice – £456.92
  20. Amsterdam – £592.79

So that’s the alpha to the omega from your local post office.

And if you didn’t know it before then here’s confirmation what we already know about Athens an epic city break.

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, Music

Be a part of it Tenerife

Start spreading the news, our favourite Canary Island is going New York New York for its carnival next year… be a part of it Tenerife Tenerife.

While the Americas and the Caribbean grab the limelight for carnivals, we have the second biggest in the world here in Europe.

And you thought it was the Notting Hill Carnival.

There’s no denying that Rio is the world’s biggest carnival with two million people taking to the streets but a quarter of a million attend the Santa Cruz carnival on the island.

So what’s it all about and when is it?

Well, it’s rooted in Christian tradition and so that’s two weeks before Ash Wednesday.

And for those of you who forgot that man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return then that’s January 20-February 26.

And now for the history

Party Girls: Bandanaman and his walking troupe

The history of the Carnival falls into three distinct periods…

The Iberians’ religiosity, the more spirited Twenties-orientated festival and the reinvention of the party from 1961 when it took on many of the features we enjoy today.

Now for a timetable of event and what it all mean we got the Tinerfenos to do the heavy lifting.

And with memories of our hike on the island with CanariaWays and our walk through the ages we know they do it far better than us.

So over to them.

The Queen of Tenerife

Spanish meal anyone: And preparing the dish of the day

And that would be Eva from our walk up to Afur which she took in her stride and then did yoga up at the Franco-themed bar (don’t ask).

And I’d vote for her for the Carnival Queen.

15 February – Carnival Queen Election Gala

The Carnival Queen Election Gala is when the Carnival Queen is crowned, who is chosen amongst over a dozen candidates.

The contestants wear the most spectacular costumes, made mainly of feathers, plastic, metal and rhinestones and weighing up to 400kg.

And this year we will see the first-ever junior Gala King.

Reign on our parade

Queen for a day: The carnival

And what would a carnival be without the sing-song?

17 February – Opening Parade of the Carnival

The carnival is a sea of colour, featuring the lead Carnival Queen.

Murga street music groups, comparsa bands and rondallas playing traditional old carnival songs parading down the streets of Santa Cruz.

All in it together

Take to the streets: On Tenerife

And that means a dance.

21 February – Big Carnival Parade in Santa Cruz

The Coso Apoteosis is arguably the highlight of the entire festivities.

Visitors from all around the world flock to Anaga Avenue in Santa Cruz to witness the spectacle.

It features all the Carnival Queens and Carnival groups, floats, incredible dance routines and musical performances.

Catch of the day 

Packed in like… sardines

Now Spaniards and Canarians have their own particular take on carnivals which means:

22 February 2023: Burial of the Sardine – A humorous and grotesque procession of mourners saying goodbye to the carnival celebrations.

19 February & 25 February 2023: Daytime Carnival – A popular event for children and families, featuring plenty of activities to keep all entertained.

26 February 2023: Parade of Vintage Cars, Piñata and End of Party – And there’s nothing like whacking a bag of sweeties to get the juices flowing.

Free-for-all

Me-me and Dee-Dee at Crop Over in Barbados

In addition to the ticketed official carnival events, there are a number of spontaneous street events/activities to enjoy for free.

We’re advised that one of these night carnival parties is a must.

And we know all about what dancing in the dark is all about from Crop Over in Barbados.

And a glossary

Echoes of the Canaries: And special wine

Of course, when you’re in Espana then it helps to have a couple of words.

And I’m reminded on my landing in Galicia that my Camino guide gave me two words that helped me along my 100km to Santiago de Compostella.

Albergue, meaning hostel, and pulpo, the Spanish word for octopus.

Carnival Groups

A carnival group is a group of people who work together creating ideas, costumes, music, choreography, who all march together in the parade.

Tenerife Carnival features hundreds of different groups but two of the key ones to look out for are below:

Murgas: The Murgas are Spanish carnival groups that feature satire artists, performing songs about current political and world events.

Comparsas: The “comparsas” represent the Brazilian influence on Tenerife’s Carnival, filling it with rhythm, colour and joy.

Nowadays, the comparsas own the street with the undeniable quality of their live performances to surprise even the most frequent carnival-goers on their nights out.

Rondallas: The Rondallas are carnival groups that consist of only guitars, bandurrias, lauds and octavinas.

And of course there is a museum celebrating it all…

At La Casa Del Carnaval, located in Barranco de Santos next to the bridge Puente Galcerán

Maybe add to that glossary for next year Noo Yoikas… because they want to be a part of it Tenerife.