Adventure, America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Countries, Deals, Europe

Working abroad revisited

Where do I start? In Boston singing Happy Birthday Ole, Happy Birthday from Harry’s, Happy Birthday Ole.

Is as good a place as any.

It’s the rite of passage for British and Irish university students to go and work in North America after finishing their degrees.

Beantown: Boston

For fear of spooking you I’ll maybe skip the story of me being chucked out of the YMCA after nicking the bed of a Colombian.

I think he was called Escobar.

USIT www.usit.ie are the people to go to for students, teachers and trainees.

San Fran

And here are the options:

•Camp USA or Canada and work as a counsellor anywhere from Calgary to California.

•Coaching soccer with the chance to work in Chicago, Atlanta or Boston.

•J1 Summer work in the USA in San Diego, Montauk or Myrtle Beach.

•Intern in New York or San Fransisco on a grad visa.

Once upon a time… in Copenhagen

•Interrail across Europe from Copenhagen to Bucharest in one adventure.

•Volunteer or travel to Vietnam, Thailand or Laos.

Our friends at USIT in 19 Aston Quay sent me a brochure of their wares, and seeing I’m a caring, sharing sort…

So let’s start in North America.

You’ll be looking for a one-year graduate USA visa which is the only option where you don’t need a job before travelling.

You’ll want to check out www.usavisa.ie and www.J1Online.ie.

I’ll turn you into Messi

And here’s one I’d do if I fell between the age range of 18-35, Coach Soccer USA.

After wowing them in The Campus in Quinto da Lago www.quintodalago.com.

For Canada it’s the two-year IEC Visa. Applications open but don’t hang about. Visit www.usit.ie.

Fancy a bit of opera

For Australia you can decide to stay on for another year.

And take up a third year visa you will need to do six months of regional work in your second year.

For New Zealand and a tip here. If you’ve used up your one-year working visa you can now apply for…

The New Zealand Skilled Visa.

And also check out the Land of the Long White Cloud for teaching jobs – they’re crying out for us.

The Rest of the World and try out volunteer jobs in:

Thailand, Nepal, India and Vietnam.

The Taj Mahal… no, not the restaurant

And again www.usit.ie is where to visit.

Now let’s talk Interrail… we did a thing called Transalpino after school, down to the French Riviera.

You can get a range of trips with USIT.

I’ve just got back from the Balkans so I’m pushing this:

The Balkans for Beginners: Ten days pass from €277.

You’ll take in Genoa up through Austria, down through Slovenia and Croatia and into Bosnia & Herzegovina.

And you’ll love Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. Visit www.interrail.ie.

Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe

Smooth sailing around the Western Med

He stood on the ship bridge, togged up to the nines, his hand shaking as h publicly reconfirmed his love to his wife. ‘I’ve got Parkinson’s,’ he said. ‘This is our 50th wedding anniversary. We really wanted to do this because I don’t know if we’ll see my 51st.’

The story was told to me on the first day of my mini-break on an Island Cruises jaunt around the west Mediterranean.

I had inquired as to what a lectern and a Bible under a glass case were doing at the heart of a control room.

Which I could only liken to my vague memories of sitting awestruck in an aeroplane cockpit as a boy.

I imagined the couple holding hands and looking out of the waves, letting their minds drift over their years together.

I hope they celebrated 51, 52, 53 years together and are still going strong. Because if any holiday can be life-reviving then that holiday is a cruise.

We took off from Toulon, halfway through the liner’s tour from Italy round to the Balearic Islands.

But although only on the mothership (its size must really experienced to be believed) for a few days it became my floating home from home.

Home that is if you enjoy the life of a country gent or a Beckham.

Life on board

But let me killl off some preconceptions straight away.

You’re stuck on it: Well, why would you want to get off when you’re in the middle of the sea. And you’ve got the sun beating down on you and you can look over the rails at the waves swishing comfortingly below.

The sea is always the same: Only if the weather remains the same, you’re stuck in the same spot and it’s always the middle of the day.

I was next up: Photo by Oliver Sjöström on Pexels.com

The sea is constantly changing and so are your surroundings, so much so that you’ll think that you’re wasting time by sleeping particularly if you can be taking in a breathtaking sunrise.

The onshore excursions are too short: Yes, if you just go to a plaza an sit drinking beer. But I would defy anyone not to get spring in their step whey they are awoken by the captain announcing you are in Barcelona.

And you look out for the first time on the statue of Columbus pointing to the US.

Las Ramblas is a shoppers’ paradise but personally I found the sea front more alluring and spectacular.

I was also put off by the market stall on the main thoroughfare where hens in cages are sold.

For the best way to see Barcelona, take advantage of the helicopter option. If you’ve never been in a chopper, don’t worry about noise.

You get earphones or turbulence because it’s like I imagined Aladdin felt on his magic carpet. Landing too is a skoosh like stepping off a stair.

Sports action

Sports mad? There seem to be more pools, football arenas and studio per square metre the any other city I’ve been to.

For the soccer-mad Briton a visit to the Nou Camp is awe-inspiring. The dilemma is deciding whether to ty to pack in more sights or to return to the liner to enjoy a few extra on-board activities.

Beautiful sunsets. Photo by Shawnna Donop on Pexels.com

Just don’t cut it too fin or they’ll leave without you.

Don’t imagine you will run out of things to do on board. You can swim, drink, eat, and of course, eat.

You’ll never be bored

The buffet is an eat-all-you-like when-you-like, what-you-like treat… that comes at a price!±

Out guide told us that on average people put on a stone a week during a cruise.

He said this while downing a large glass of water. He has come down from 25 stone to 18 with a plan which involves drinking litres and litres of H2).

You can also gamble on board in get ship’s casinos. Or having sampled foods from around the world in any of he exclusive restaurants you can burn it all off in the gym.

Have a go on the rowing machine while looking out over the swell or opt for a massage in the on-board health suite.

Or simply do nothing.

When do we ever really give ourselves that luxury,

Turn off the mobile phone and just relax by the pool.

Even if somebody wanted to see you you couldn’t get to them so you might as well ignore that phone.

In the evenings it’s sheer indulgence to be able to saunter on from your living room (read, the restaurant) to your lounge (read, the theatre) to enjoy West End-style shows.

Delights around every corner. On Majorca. Photo by Zach Besley on Pexels.com

Majorca adventures

But then the dy finally comes – damn, I’m only halfway down the cocktail list when we have to get off.

Thankfully though, it’s not Old Blighty yet. As part of our package we have a couple of nights stop-off in Palma, Majorca.

We stayed in Santa Ponsa, in a lovely secluded hotel called the Jardin del Sol Suites & Spa which is close enough if you want to be near the busier main village.

We used the hotel as base and what a luxurious base it was. A Jacuzzi bath and a shower with sprinklers.

You will get hot if you go to Majorca in high season but that’s great, it gives you the chance to have a bath and a shower.

And if you want a siesta, then you can sprawl out on the hotel’s triple beds!

Michael and Catherine

The balcony looks out on the swimming pool and the glistening sea.

Drag yourself away from it all though and get out into the north of the island, it’s the most picturesque part of Majorca. But don’t just take my word for it.

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have a home there.

You’re in the high part of the island here and the views from the top of the passes are stunning.

The pick of the tourist attractions is the monastery at Valdemosa.

The best Chopin: At Valdemosa. http://www.seemallorca.com

Let’s go Chopin

It would be interesting enough for its history, religious relics, position and scenery.

But it is all the more fascinating because of its association with Frederic Chopin, the composer and his lover George Sand.

Ostracised by the religious zealots in the village, the sickly Chopin was taken in by the monks and nursed by Sand.

You can still see his manuscripts and what is claimed to be his piano.

There’s only so much high culture you can take though, and any trip to Majorca would not be complete without some Spanish dancing.

The Son Amar show in a huge arena in the middle of the island crams it all in.

And that’s just the food which is shovelled on to plates and whisked away while you’ve still got your fork in your hand.

Still, there’s a show on.

Still not finished: La Sagradia Familia Photo by Enrico Perini on Pexels.com

The least said about the comic the better – maybe humour doesn’t always travel but the flamenco dancers and the magic art were well, magic.

But like the sun setting on the horizon over the Med on the liner, so it had to set on my cruise.

With my in-flight magazine on my lap and looking out on home soil again, I thought of circling Barcelona in a helicopter and the view at sunrise on my Island Cruise trip.

Reasons to cruise the Med

I’ll give that a go: Flamenco dancer. Photo by Mark Neal on Pexels.com

Watch the sunrise: You can watch the sunrise anywhere but you can’t watch it appear over the horizon with a cooling breeze around you on board a luxury cruise. Pure poetry!

Take in a cruise show: You can just watch while nursing a cocktail in your hand, or budding thespians can take part in one of the talent shows.

Step ashore in Barcelona: And then a take a flight over the city. It’ll be the smoothest flight you’ve ever had. Swirl over forests, haciendas, Las Ramblas, the specatacular seafront rebuilt for the Barcelona Olympics and the statue of Columbus.

Join the monks in Majorca: Visit the monastery that housed the hard-living hard-loving George Sand and her composer beau Frederic Chopin. Their short life together on Majorca could make a Hollywood blockbuster.

Learn flamenco in Spain: The La Mer Show is good old-fashioned Spain for the tourists, bu too less enjoyable for that.

El deal

She’s got the whole world in her hands. Arty Majorca. Photo by Tim Savage on Pexels.com

Operating out of Palma, Majorca, until October, Island Cruises offers 14-night cruise-and-stay packages from £675pp.

Comprising a seven-night cruise followed by a seven-night stay in one of 29 Majorcan hotels.

Cruise and stay packages at the Jardin del Sol Suites & Spa with accommodation on a half-board basis start from £965pp.

Flights are available from Glasgow and Edinburgh, supplements apply.

For more information and recruitments call Island Cruises on (08707) 500 414 or visit http://www.islandcruises.com.

*Since this article was published in The Scotsman in 2003 Island Cruises has gone through a number of changes with TUI now moving the previous brand forward with great success. Hence you being redirected to https://www.tui.co.uk

And remember for your Cruise News it has to be Cruiseday Tuesday on the day between Monday and Wednesday…. and we’re still pushing Stena’s spanking new ship. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/01/13/cruiseday-tuesday-stena-estrid-what-a-maiden/

While for a whizz around Barcelona here’s what I found when I went back with Royal Caribbean… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/23/surfing-the-seas-in-barcelona/.

Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe

Cruiseday Tuesday – Beethoven cruise

It was the classical music of my childhood days – the Beethoven tune that played out from my Mum’s jewellery box.

Beethoven’s Fur Therese. Come again… should that not be Fur Elise?

Well, no, if you plump for Therese Mulfati as the most likely candidate for Elise ahead of Elisabeth Rockel and Elise Barensfeld.

Light up: Strasbourg

Which I am with my Mum a Teresa who in her poetic youth styled herself Therese.

All of which stuff and nonsense brings me around to the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Amsterdam tales

Take a river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel.

Taking in Ludwig’s house in Bonn, a live concert in Amsterdam’s Dominicus church.

Call (0808) 115 832 or email sales@amadeus-riveramadeuscruises.co.uk.

Majorca corker

There’s a ship out there

Where was your first cruise and did it live up to expectations?

Mine’s was Majorca. It’s in the mists of history now but warm in my memory.

And soon to be part of your cruising experience too after I found some old cuttings in my early Spring clean…. Smooth sailing around the Western Med

Which I’ll write up for you once The Scary One gives me a coffee break.

But back to Majorca and my old friends TUI have savings of €200 per booking on sailings from May-October.

Highlights of the Mediterranean: Dublin to Majorca. Board the Marella Discovery for seven nights all-inclusive and enjoy an inside cabin from €1029. For May 2.

Harbour your dreams

Colourful Coasts: Dublin to Tenerife. On the Marella Explorer in an inside cabin. All-inclusive. Seven nights from €992pps.

Visit www.tuiholidays.ie.

And here’s a reminder of what a wonderful island Tenerife is A walk through the ages… Tenerife: you’ll really want to stay longer.

So, where was your first cruise and was it your best? Let me know and we’ll share the love.

MEET YOU ON THE SEAS

Countries, Deals, Europe

Holiday Snaps – The last word in rubbish

Now, I’ve stayed at some rubbish hotels but this Greek hotel is good rubbish.

Because it’s all about sustainability with word reaching us about 18 Micon Street in Athens.

Now, that’s a view

It’s an old tool-making outlet with many recyclable materials used.

And it’s within stumbling distance of a number of other recyclable Greek retail businesses.

Blue and white, naturally

Prices at 18 Micon Street which has views of the Acropolis https://www.18miconstr.com/en/ from €152 (£130) per suite.

It’s all got me swaying to a return trip to Greece this year for another chapter in my odyssey… My Greek odyssey.

Where you can get extra help from the certified guides www.thisisathens.com on all the museums and sites.

Spring cleaning and Majorca

 

Beach life: In Majorca

We’ve been up in the attic… I think I’ve got a child there who I forgot about.

There were though a couple of articles lining the Scary One’s keepsakes.

From Majorca and Biarritz, and don’t worry I’ll get them the oul’ blog on this site soon.

It’s been too long since I’ve been there… a family holiday and then before that a stop-off on an Island Cruises trip.

My old friends at TUI www.tuiholidays.ie have a range of offers but the one I picked out is for free child places.

And because I know Ireland doesn’t start and stop in Ireland…

Shannon to Majorca, seven nights at the all-inclusive 5*Holiday Village Majorca, Cala Millor.

Two adults, one child from €3,029 or from €4,089 for two adults, two children.

Blow Monday

 

He’s hot style

Every Monday used to be Blue Monday when I was a wage slave.

Not now. And I’m four-square behind the Canary Islanders and their campaign against such doom mongering.

How could you ever be blue in a set of islands where whistling is a language and there is a plethora of eco-systems?

As you know A walk through the ages… Tenerife.

Well, the islanders have asked their ninos and this is what they said… https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=lBQy-gsv_x4.

It’s all part of this campaign #StopBlueMonday. Visit www.hellocanaryislands.com.

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Europe

My Sporting Weekend – Records

Talk Sport Radio has been a Godsend these past few months.

And my ears pricked up that little bit more with the latest cricket Test match.

Between England and South Africa coming from my old stomping ground of Port Elizabeth.

And they love their rugby in SA too

Now I’m not putting myself on the same level as Shoaib Akhtar or Brett Lee.

The pace aces bowled over 100mph there in the World Cup.

It’s just that the less-vaunted PE in South Africa is a city I fell in love with last year… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/homemyoffice/whats-new-pussycat/.

It got me thinking too about other destinations that have become tied in with world records.

You want a 401… call on Murty

Brian Lara, 400 not out, St John’s, Caribbean, 2004:

Any excuse to showcase the Caribbean I hear you say but there is a tale here about Lara and me.

My old university pal Jevan had taken me to Foreday Morning on my first visit to Barbados.

And introduced me to his old Trinidadian pal Brian.

I’m a Bajan: I don’t give a damn

He told me he was over for the cricket and I naively asked if he played.

I didn’t expect the greatest modern-day batsman would ever wear anything other than cricket whites or one-day burgundy!

Olympic champions

Stefan Kraft, Vikerssundbakken, Norway:

Now there are some sports we all do and those that are just death wishes.

Where’s the peloton?

Me, the Tour de France, 2019: Yes, here I am atop the 6,939ft Col du Tourmalet, the Tour de France’s most used climb.

And I’m not even out of breath. No wonder I needed some magic muscle-soothing water.

Climbing mountains is in the genes for Scots… I give you King of the Mountains Robert Millar.

Where’s the next record?

Me, white water rafting, Colorado:

The record for staying in the water tub long enough on the Poudre River… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1Q7Z0dkvzUc&feature=youtu.be.

Of course British Columbian Hazel Amos puts me to shame as the oldest rafter in the world at 96.

And yes, it’s another from the Wild West, but hey, I was born to be a cowboy.

Waltzing to the next title

Samuel Groth, world’s fastest serve, Busan Open, 163.7mph:

No, nor me, but this is it… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uKeL-W7xft0.

Of course my on serve after being coached by Judy Murray at The Campus, Quinto da Lago wasn’t chronicled.

That’ll be then.

Michael Austin, world’s longest drive: At 515 yards that’s some power.

Mike gripped it and ripped it at the Winterwood Golf Course in Las Vegas in 1974.

Blasting it 65 yards past the flag on the par-four 5th hole.

Vegas, baby: And Murty hits it into the next state

Me, I drunk it and sunk it… that’s my pitcher of beer at Topgolf in Las Vegas https://topgolf.com/us/las-vegas/.

On my Vegas trip a couple of years ago… Strip… the light fantastic.

While I also showed them how to do it in Quinto…

And hopefully I’ll be back to break my own record at the American Travel Fair www.ipw.com.

MEET YOU ON THE PODIUM

Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Flyday Friday – It’s Baltic

Quite why people from Chilly Jockoland (or Scotland to you or me) should tease Baltics people about the cold is anyone’s guess.

But tease them we do with every cold day referred to as ‘Baltic’.

I guess we’ll just have to find out for ourselves, particularly as Air Baltic have a fantastic sale on.

St Petersburg

How about Tallinn from €59 and Riga from €69?

Those cities will be familiar to us as being part of the Baltic States.

Stockholm

But that also applies, of course, to Scandinavia, and Stockholm and Helsinki are also pitched at the same price.

And to St Petersburg. From €85. And Moscow which is nowhere near the sea (but we’re not going to tell) from €89.

Helsinki

The sale finishes at 23:59 on Thursday. For travel until December 17. Visit www.airbaltic.com.

Hamburg

Now it’s where you kick off your Baltic cruises The call of the fjords.

And from where you’ll jump off en route to Hamburg Hamburgers and ships.

Camel ye to Abu Dhabi

And they’re off

Right, I’ve done the goat racing in Tobago. Now for the camel racing.

So that means Abu Dhabi although I might leave that to the experts as you can see.

I’m a bit shoogly on Humpy here in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Etihad www.etihad.com has Abu Dhabi as your sole destination or as a stop-off.

Anyone betting on me?

Return tickets from €947.

And if you go further afield as part of a multi-city flight deal then Etihad will put you up in an Abu Fab premium hotel for free.

Sentimental journey

Hey, Lady

Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com has been going on a sentimental journey of its own with its first new uniforms in 22 years.

So I guess that was what was behind the musical background for their January Sales deal.

It has 30% off Europe and North America from €188 as part of a return deal.

Planes or trains

I may be away for some time

I can’t, and won’t, as a Travel writer preach on flygskam ‘flying shame’.

But I will say that as a cruise fan that FlyBe www.flybe.com has always provided an invaluable route from Ireland to Southampton.

Amid the navel-gazing over FlyBe’s problems one thought: make trains cheaper!

America, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – funny food

Food should be fun and taken out of the hands of foodies… and chefs.

I’m writing this while eating my Swedish ‘vacuum cleaners’ or dammsugare for fika. These are named after the tube-shaped vacuum cleaners of the Fifties.

I had been given them in my godispase, or goody bag.

Clean sweep

The godispase had come courtesy of the Stena Estrid, Swedish ferry cruise company‘s http://www.stenaline.ie and www.stenaline.co.uk maiden journey between Holyhead and Dublin.

It is, in truth, the closest I will get to a vacuum cleaner but it shows the Swedes’ sense of fun.

The Swedish dammsugare

To name this sweet after a common household gadget.

And it’s good to see that the world has been watching because it’s not for nothing that Jim Henson looked to Scandinavia for his madcap Swedish Chef.

You like your marzipan?

Music is the food of life

Now if that gives you a taste for Swedish food why not visit http://www.swedishfood.com/swedish-food-recipes-biscuits-cakes/376-arrack-rolls-or-vacuum-cleaners-punschrullar-eller-dammsugare?

The dammsugare got me thinking about other funny food you can pick up around the world.

Every city with a well-known red light district obvs like Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Where they also have Middle Eastern food skewered on an actual scimitar in Bazaar, a remodelled old mosque in fashionable De Pijp http://www.hotelbazar.nl/en/restaurant-bazar-amsterdam/ And www.iamsterdam.com.

Get a grip

But also unexpectedly in Portugal Centro Secret Portugal and www.visitportugal.com where I found a shop selling chocolate penises.

While this mug gives a new spin on your hot chocolate.

Get a handle on this

What else is out there I hear you ask.

And where are the sweetie cigarette, cigars and pipes we used to have as children?

Probably replaced with chocolate joints.

And, of course, any excuse to plug this fun for food fixture from my trip on Celebrity Edge around the Bahamas… www.celebritycruises.ie.

With I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here.

The Germans are funny… full stop. Which gives a lie to the myth that they have no sense of humour.

And there is no elegant way to eat a hamburger… ich bin ein Hamurger Hamburgers and ships and www.hamburg-tourism.de.

While the Norwegians have a playful relationship with their trolls… The call of the fjords and www.visitnorway.com.

 

Fjord fiesta

With my very own Scary One… and MSC Cruises www.msccruises.ie.

While I love the taste of the sea too and few do it better than my own wee country Scotland and my adopted one Ireland, north and south…

 

Slurp it up

That’s www.visitscotland.com, www.discovernorthernireland.com and www.tourismireland.com.

With a tasting menu of the best of Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

 

With Catherine Fulvio at Ballyknocken

America http://www.visitusa.ie and http://visitflorida.com and is the country who put fun and funk into dysfunction and my safari food out with Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge http://www.disneyworld.disney.go.com in Florida brought me this nature feast below… it’s all natural.

 

And seeing we’re talking food then let’s finish on the country that leads the way on food… Italy.

With Italy specialists Top Flight www.topflight.ie and Catherine Fulvio at her cookery school in Ballyknocken, Co. Wicklow www.ballyknocken.ie

And some amateur cuoco…

 

Pasta master

OK, OK… mes amis in France http://www.atoutfrance.fr will disagree. And I don’t know what I was eating here but I was smokin’…

 

Send in your Fun With Food, what’s amusing to eat and where.

MEET YOU AROUND THE TABLE

Safari in Florida
The big smoke: In the French Embassy in Dublin
America, Canada, Countries, Europe, Ireland

The model uniform… Aer Lingus and kiltie me

Somebody dropped a pen in front of us… had it been Victoria it would have been no trouble because she’s wearing Aer Lingus’s new rip-resistant, extra comfy cabin crew slacks.

Victoria tells me that she had a split when she bent down (it’s a regular part of the job on the cabin crew) when she was wearing the trousers of a previous airline.

Louise’s special touch

Aer Lingus http://www.aerllingus.com showcased their new uniforms yesterday at a glitzy event in Dublin.

It is the first uniform change in 22 years, but again it is designed by the Petra Pan of Irish fashion Louise Kennedy,

Behind the Madonna soundtrack and the crew putting on their vogue on the runway the most important thing is…

How comfortable the uniforms are for the staff.

And let’s be honest here lads, it’s really about how the lasses feel.

On the bridge: We’ll look after you

Of course the look is important – no self-respecting woman wants to go to work in something they don’t feel a million dollars in.

After gliding across the runway, Victoria shared with us her delight with the new uniform.

Particularly with the trousers which she said she could see herself wearing in both hot and colder climates.

There are 25 redesigned garments including those new trouser options for female with Kenmare Green.

Girl power: And there’s style and comfort

The turquoise/blue ‘Kenmare’ shade captures our national colour.

And ‘Midnight’ navy blue skirts and trousers a good choice if you’re handling food and all the other things you have to do on a flight.

The new uniforms will be rolled out by the 4,000 cabin and ground crew around the world from February 10.

They used to be brown!

It would be safe to say that the Aer Lingus uniforms have come a long way…

Since those Sybil Connolly military-style rich brown suits from 1945 – the green came in in 1948

So as they say it’s Kenmare Green for go.

Victoria, Oisin and me.. and that glass didn’t take my leg off but if it had they’d have helped out!

I’ve always found that Aer Lingus flies the flag with distinction.

And I’ve seen first-hand how the ground staff and cabin crew go about their business.

With a friendly smile while also solving any amount of problems in an unfussy and efficient manner…

Here’s https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/07/04/aers-and-stripes/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/11/13/grazie-aer-lingus-new-italy-and-more-usa/.

And here’s a shout-out too to those who sometimes get overlooked… the guys and gals back in the office. Take a bow!

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES

Adventure, Europe

Here we snow – Crystal Ski deals

Growing up in Scotland snow became a plaything.

Like the time when I threw a snowball at a driving car (don’t).

Only for the motorist to then turn up at the door (karma).

And, no, my Mum didn’t buy my story that I was throwing it at a pal across the road and the car got in the way.

Or in my first year at university when Myself and Nutty Nigel (the clue is in the name) built a giant snowball.

Fun and games in the Pyrenees

And blocked the entrance to the door of our block of flats.

Replace headmaster, angry parent with Halls of Residence manager.

And then there was the time during a week away with my then-girlfriend and her pals…

When I careened into her on the nursery slopes and soon became an ex.

But this is just for the cameras

Which is why with one brief return to the slopes with the (still) First Mrs M Soll Mates with www.topflight.ie I have hung up my skis.

Choose from these countries

The start of the year is fine enough time for booking your ski holiday.

Flying by the seat of my pants

With Crystal Ski offering €100 off your March deals.

Including: seven nights Andorra, departing March 15, staying at the 4* Hotel Canaro, Soldeu/El Tarter. Half-board. From €775pps.

Austria: Depart on March 7, stay at the 3* Haus Edelweiss, Zel Am See, B&B from €579pps.

Italy: Depart on March 15. Stay at the 3* Hotel Martin, Sauze D’oiux, half-board, from €795pp.

France: Depart on March 21: Stay. At the 3* Plagne Lauze Apartments, La Plagne. S/C from €975pps (four share).

From €375pps. Visit www.crystalski.ie

So I’ll maybe leave the Franz Klammer (I’m showing my age) and Lindsey Vonn stuff to my old pal and multi award-winning ski writer Murphski and Co.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food

The best hot chocolates

I’d given up on finding my ciocolatta di calda densa after the owners of Campo de Fiori in the next town went home to Italy,

But Tomasso at Caffe Delle Stelle here in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, put a bit of colour into my grey winter’s day.

Chocolate is a gift from the gods so much so that the Incas believed it had magical spiritual powers.

So who am I to disagree?

And here are a few of my favourite hot chocolate dens.

The Caffe Pedrocchi, Padova https://www.caffepedrocchi.it Venice has its St Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge and its masses but there’s a quieter, hidden Veneto city.

Where Giotto’s handiwork inspired Michelangelo and you can find St Anthony’s tongue!

This grande cafe dates back a hundred years and hits the right note between posh and prego.

And for more Padova perambulating… Padova – city of frescoes.

The Old Chocolate Shop, Bruges, Belgium: I can’t recall Colin Farrell sipping hot chocolate here in the cult movie In Bruges.

But he would have been more chilled if he had.

This canal city is famous for its choccies but don’t press your noses up against the windows… come in.

The Old Chocolate Shop https://www.oldchocolatehouse.be looks straight out of a nursery rhyme… and you should deffo try the gingerbread and truffles too.

And Bruges is a great release at the end of my World War One Battlefields Tour with https://www.gadventures.com. A pilgrim’s prayer

Jacques Torres Chocolate Shop, New York: I’ve developed a mantra as I’ve evolved… only choose friends who hail from wonderful places.

And it also helps if they have fantastic jobs… as is the case with my old University pal Kate.

She is the Editor of a Food and Drinks magazine in her native New York and took La Famille Murty to…

Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Shop https://mrchocolate.com/blogs/locations/soho-hudson near Greenwich Village where we sampled the rich and silky Wicked.

That is after sampling the bacon-flavoured chocolate in their tasting kitchen. We left with a hamper. And you know what I think of New York but here’s a reminder… Old New York: Hamilton

The Cafe Savoy, Prague: Everyone raves about Vienna, and it’s not to be missed.

But cafe society permeated throughout the whole of the old Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire.

And finds itself stamped all over Prague… Hope springs eternal

The Savoy http://cafesavoy.ambi.cz/en/ is the place to go for your hot chocolate (or two hot chocolates)!

Its Savoy Hot Chocolate which uses hot milk hails from the Dominican Republic; the Savoy dessert hot chocolate is made of Valrhona chocolate and hot chocolate.

It is served with whipped milk and you can add it to the cup to melt with the chocolate.

Hot chocolate is one of life’s little gifts to yourself.

Barcelona for hot chocolate

It can be drunk in hot and cold weather despite what my waitresss Mardy Maria thought as we lunched inside from the 30C Barcelona heat… Surfing the seas in Barcelona

My Catalan isn’t that great but her hand gestures suggested f****** eeji or something like that.

Tell me where your fave hot chocolate is and I’ll share the love.

MEET YOU IN THE CAFE