Adventure, America, Countries, Europe

Get on your bikes – cycling around the world

It’s obviously not how cyclists would have planned it but after years of being pilloried THEY now rule the roads.

Back when I was nearer Sir Chris Hoy’s age than Eddy Merckx’s I would cycle everywhere in Edinburgh.

And take my life in my own hands like the time I was cut up at the roundabout by an elderly driver.

I was cycling straight on while Mad Motorist was on the outside lane but decided to turn left.

Not a car to be seen in Amsterdam

Picking myself and my bike up from the ground I was met by s screaming pensioner telling me I should have signalled!!!

Or there was the time I was waterbombed by some hoodlums from a tenement flat.

Ridden off the road

While I was also sprayed in the face with party foam while cycling through Edinburgh’s New Town.

Mmmm… I’d like to see them try any of those stunts in Amsterdam.

When in Amsterdam

Where you’d probably be pushed into the canals by locals shouting CYCLISTS!

But they have a culture there, properly wide and thought-through cycle paths, and lanes separated by small walks beside dual carriageways.

Dutch driving

Which makes it a pleasure for all to enjoy the city with your IAmsterdam city pass www.iamsterdam.com Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Le Tour de Murty: The Pyrenees

France prides itself as the home of cycling where families cycle together The Boat D’Azur and https://uk.france.fr/en.

Or if they’re holding you back then you can always climb the mountain to Le Pic du Midi.

Tour de force

Where cyclists either climbing or whizzing down the mountain have right of way.

The same applies in Scandinavia and Northern Europe where the bike is often the preferred mode of transport.

The best cycling culture in the world probably: Denmark

And where my old University pal New Yorker Tom turned up for our meeting by old Hans Christian Andersen’s statue on his bike.

Wonderful Copenhagen

See https://www.visitcopenhagen.com and fit a day in on your MSC Cruises trip around the Norwegian fjords https://www.msccruises.co.uk and https://www.msccruises.ie. The call of the fjords.

Tom’s own New York may not immediately strike you as a shining example for cyclists but we’re probably thinking Manhattan here.

Staten Island Bicycling Association http://www.sibike.org

And that’s another reason to explore the five other boroughs… for example Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

American cycling dream

While when you do do Manhattan and The Bronx I’d recommend walking tours and here’s where you can get a start Old New York: Hamilton. And www.nycvb.com.

Look at the space you have to cycle

California is all about the outside life where cyclists don the latest fashions and pose on their two wheels.

On the Venice Beach www.venicebeach.com and Santa Monica https://www.santamonica.com/things-to-do/santa-monica-beach/… And My Weekend With Marilyn. And www.visitcalifornia.com.

With a Paralympic champion in Quinta do Lago

Sportugeezer

And my cycling experiences? Showing off on my Sporting break at The Campus in Quinta do Lago in Portugal.

And took a straight road too sharply.., https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/. And SPORTUGAL

Remember too in these days of social distancing if you are a driver give cyclists some space.

America, Asia, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday… whiskies around the world

I’m indebted to my old pal Tony Flynn for this lockdown game… use the initials of your Christian name for what you need when you’re holed up at home.

But Tony, I know you better than that… Tea, Onions, Noodles, Yogurt?

And you know me better too… and that’s why I went for Johnnie Walker, Ardbeg, Mossburn, Elements of Islay, Springbank.

You must have known I’d have used my full Christian name… more whisky, you see.

It’ll put a smile on your face

And in this regular feature, ‘Hungry and Thursday’ that’s what it’s all about, and being in lockdown my whisky is my best friend.

And while punters snap up the cheap lager from the supermarket shelves I’m happy to report that there’s still plenty of uisce beatha, or water of life, to be had.

So here’s a trawl of whiskies around the world…

Smoky Scotch

For peat’s sake

Scotland: The original and the best, Scotland is the home of whisky.

It has five clearly defined regions, of which the smoky and peaty whisky from the isle of Islay is the best. Think an ashtray of water… no, seriously, it will grow on you.

See www.visitscotland.com and https://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk.

Irish highs

We’ve been drinking here since 1608

Ireland: Yes, the Irish dispute that Scotland is the home of whisky and with some justification.

Bushmills https://bushmills.com/distillery/on the Antrim coast is the oldest licensed distillery in the world.

King James, a Scot to his boots, had granted the Ulstermen a license as early as 1608.

The Kilbeggan, from 1757, is thought to be the second oldest althougb when it comes to quantity Scotland has seven of the top eight.

With Glen Garioch near my old stomping ground of Aberdeen Aberdeen – a light in the north a particular favourite.

And Meldrum House where they keep adopted son of Aberdeen Sir Alex Ferguson’s whisky in a special locker for him…

And check out www.discovernorthernireland.com and www.tourismireland.com

The American dram

With my Portland pal Laura

USA: You might not expect to see the Oo Es of Eh third in a top ten of the oldest distilleries in the world.

But that is the claim of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, two years ahead of Scotland’s oldest, Glenturret.

I have my fave cousin Kath’s husband Mark, a native Kentuckian, to thank for introducing me to proper bourbon and rye.

And that’ll be Woodford Reserve and Bulleit Frontier Whisky.

I drank my way through the Deep South https://www.deep-south-usa.com. Sign up for the Civil War… it is Virginia

And my American Trilogy The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

While I’ve let ‘er buck with my friends in Portland which has it’s very own distillery, House Spirits, in its airport www.travelportland.com.

Swiss swhisssky

Switzerland: Who’d have thought that you could get whisky at the top of the Alps?

In the Ice Bar, at the end of your Jungfraujoch train, the highest railway journey in Europe.

In a nod to Scotland too you can also have a game of curling up there too… www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks

Czech out the whisky

Fill ‘er ip

Czech Republic: I was too busy testing the beers… for research purposes obvs.

So I didn’t even know of Czech whisky.

Hammerhead is considered the Father of Czech Whisky, the Cold War whisky.

And I got a taste of Prague’s Cold War history on my recent trip to the Czech capital, a city I love… www.czechtourism.com and Hope springs eternal.

Read more about how Vaclav Sitner fed the bourgeois tastes of wealthy Czech and Russian officials… www.scotchwhisky.com.

And back to the lockdown word game and the initials of your Christian name…

I bet you that Celtic player of yesteryear wishes it was a surnames game…

I mean your pantry would be packed if you were called Jan Venegoor of Hesselink.

Japanese (and Scottish) girl

Masataka Taketsuru, the Father of Japanese Whisky

Japan: When the Japanese put their minds to it they go all in.

Masataka Taketsuru, the third son of a sake brewer, switched to the Japanese elite fave whisky.

And even came over to Scotland to visit the distilleries, study science at Glasgow University and marry a Scot Rita.

And take his knowledge back to Japan and spawn the Japanese whisky industry. Visit https://www.japan.travel/en/

And while we’re in lockdown I’ll try to revive my Jocktails feature Jocktails – Whisky Sour particularly now the Son and Heir is home.

And he has taken over the shaker and improved on his Old Msn.

Slainté

Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Rainy days and songdays

Music places us in a time, in a place, with friends…. and nobody knows that better than musicians which is why I give you Michael Rafferty.

Of Northern Irish powerhouses The Minnows and his covers band The Handsome Princes.

All while he is one half of a top duo, PR stalwarts Duffy Rafferty, with fellow Travel expert Lawrence Rafferty.

Stena style

They boast StenaLine www.stenaline.co.uk as one of their clients and they have literally continued to negotiate the stormy waters.

Still sailing

Continuing to sail from Ireland to Scotland and even delivering The Son and Heir, who had become an adopted Belfast Boy Belfast Chilled, back to us in Edinburgh.

Back to the story and Michael is putting a smile on all our faces with his daily songs and transporting us to dreamlands… and is also taking requests.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound: On Stena on the way back from Northern Ireland to Scotland

And you can check out The Minnows on their Facebook page… https://m.facebook.com/theminnows/.

A Rising Star

As for me and my singing prowess I was done up like a kipper at the karaoke concert hall in Rising Star in CityWalk Universal Orlando https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/

When my hosts Fiona and Natalie put me up to sing Lady Marmalade, although I did not learn my lesson and reprised it with Mr Brightside.

No, I haven’t a Scooby either: At Universal Studios Hollywood

No, I don’t have a Scooby either. At Universal Studios Hollywood

You can read all about my Orlando adventures in Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital, Why I love The Donald,

And more Universal in Hollywood Studios https://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/web/en/us/ and My Weekend With Marilyn.

But back to video of Bandanaman singing.

Now where better than the Bosphorus on our visit to Istanbul https://visit.istanbul with Turkish Airlines https://www.turkishairlines.com.

And Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

And showcasing my pal Ian Bloomfield of Irish Travel Trade News… www.ittn.ie

Move aside Bjorn and Benny, we’re taking your places opposite the girls. Bagsy me Agnetha.

And I’ll bring you more songs that transport me back to fave destinations in the coming days.

Tell me too your songs from your holidays.

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

Carole King… you’re Beautiful

There are some mornings I wake up without a smile on my face to show the world all the love in my heart.

Today though is not one of them.

Today, I have the widest smile on my face.

Because today I am going to see Beautiful The Carole King Musical.

She’s Beautiful (as is my wife).

Carole King and her breakthrough 1971 solo album Tapestry has been something of a soundtrack to my adult life.

Since I first heard it in a record store as an 18-year-old and asked them to play it again…

You’ve got a friend

Before buying it there and then before going on to wear out the needle.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow? summed up my feeble attempts at wooing… of course, they didn’t even love me that night,

Then it was You’ve Got a Friend when She came along,

So Far Away was when she was pregnant with the Son and Heir in Aberdeen.

And trying to sell the house and me starting a new job in Liverpool.

Close-up? Selfie time

And since then Home Again as we have taken an Oydyssean journey around these islands.

It is the beauty of this timeless album that I won’t be the only one for whom it tells a personal story.

Of course, it’s Carole King’s story that Beautiful tells.

It is a story that begins with her selling her first song while still at school.

Through the ups and downs of her marriage to songwriting partner Gerry Goffin.

To her grand redemptive performance at Carnegie Hall in her native New York.

Hands on decks: Some ambient music at the Radisson Blu

Along the way we thrill to the Sound of the Sixties which she and Goffin and their friends Cynthia Wiel and Barry Mann shaped.

With such classics as On The Roof, Locamotion, One Fine Day, Pleasant Valley Sunday and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, On Broadway and a bunch of others.

At the end of a fast-paced joyful paean to Carole who has inspired generations of singer-songwriters and still performs to this day, she had performed Tapestry in full with her daughter Louise.

I feel the earth move

Up the road at Hyde Park in the summer, I’m up dancing and clapping wildly to I Feel The Earth Move.

While I’m here at the Aldwych Theatre in London’s West End to pay homage to Carole King there’s time enough for some other kings.

And some queens and princes too at the Tower of London.

Pasta master: Fill yourself up

William the Conqueror built it nearly 1,000 years ago to fortify the capital of his new kingdom, King Henry VIII had two wives beheaded here.

Near to where I’m standing by the Bloody Tower where King Richard III had his two nephews suffocated in their sleep,

Another queen, Lady Jane Grey, was also executed here…

She spent only five days as monarc.

Before she had to make way fro Queen Mary, or Bloody Mary if you will who then made way for Queen Elizabeth.

Beefeater anyone?

It’s another Queen Elizabeth we’re chiefly here to see, the current queen, Britain’s longest serving monarch at 64 years and counting.

Or more accurately we’re here to see her bling, the Crown Jewels.

Talking of counting, try counting the number of gems in her crown.

On your walk around or the number of salt bowls or how many drinks you could get out of that punch bowl.

All of which can make you quite thirsty.

Fat as a king

I feast like a king at my palace for the weekend, the Radisson Blu Edwardian in Mercer Street, Seven Dials, near Covent Garden.

Our breakfasts are king-sized.

Instead of choosing buffet or continental they do both while evening meal is a Peruvian/Italian tapas fusion.

It works and the DJ with his decks and his ambient music add to the vibe.

A watery grave: Olde London

Fat as a king, I need to work off the half a dozen meat, fish and pasta tasting dishes and rich Peruvian chocolate dessert which means a stroll around the city of Westminster.

It is a ten-minute walk from Seven Dials across Waterloo Bridge and along the South Bank.

I try to ignore the garish and overpriced Dungeon and Shrek tourist traps and opt instead two read William Wordsworth’s thoughts inscribed on the walkway.

What a Wordsworth!

The great Romantic poet loved London and waxed lyrical about the Thames gentled gliding by.

I despair then at what today’s town planners are doing to this great old city.

With their London Eyesore and Gherkin (and who builds something in the shape of the bit of the burger nobody wants?)

The West End: And that boy Potter

I avert my eyes and, of course, am drawn instead to the Mother of all Parliaments. I cross Westminster Bridge and think on Wordsworth’s Upon Westminster Bridge.

And I consider knocking on Downing Street to give Theresa May a piece of my mind.

But Big Ben’s chimes tell me it’s too late, baby, it’s too late. I have an urgent appointment with another wordsmith.

What a picture: Herself

HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to Gatwick airport with Ryanair… http://www.ryanair.com

WHO TO GO WITH

We had two nights on a SuperBreak https://www.wowcher.co.uk/travel/hotels/uk-hotels/ package in 2016 and took in the Beautiful: The Carole King Story at the Aldwych Theatre in the West End of London.

Don’t despair though there are one or two other offerings still running!!!

Visit https://www.nederlander.co.uk/aldwych-theatre

Save, save, save

Save 30% on theatre tickets with a hotel and ticket package from SuperBreak. http://www.superbreak.com. Also visit www.radissonblu-edwardian.com/MercerStreet‎.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in November 2016.

And don’t you know I only got to see the next best thing to Carole, Jessie Mueller, who sang three songs from the musical only centimetres from the American Travel Fair in Washington DC… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/obama-washington-dc/.

While for more Tales from the Thames… The London life

Adventure, Countries, Europe

My Football Weekend – The English (or Scottish) Game

With no football on we’ve had to delve into the past for our fix but who knew that we’d be going back 137 years?

We’ve all become experts these past few days in lockdown, on Victorian football.

Through the new TV drama ‘The English Game’ from Julian Fellowes, he of Downtown Abbey fame,

Gritty Scots: Netflix’s The English Game

Which should have ‘or Scottish’ in brackets.

Because of the efforts of Fergus Sutar, credited as the first professional, who transformed football from kick and rush to a passing game.

Suter the shooter

And championed the Northern English mill and industrial towns into bastions of football.

With Liverpool the inheritors of that legacy, as European champions.

Fatima: Say your prayers

The influence of Scots on the growth of English football cannot be understated with early Liverpool known as ‘the team of Macs’.

Pride of Lions

It is a link that has remained strong throughout the club’s history with its great teams of the Seventies and Eighties, like most in England, boasting a spine of Scots.

None though as Scottish, or local, as the storied team, the Lisbon Lions, who won the European Cup in 1967.

Not Portuguese though, you understand, but Scottish, that Celtic team all hailing from within 30 miles of Glasgow.

Lisbon, here we come

And as I binged on football from my couch I followed up The English Game with BBC’s Glasgow 1967: The Lisbon Lions.

It is, as the title might suggest, a love letter to two cities with the good people of Glasgow endearing themselves to the European Cup final hosts Lisbon,

And putting Portugal on the map as a favourite tourist destination for generations of Scots to come.

Of which I am one… and I got to don my football top too out there and even learned how to play tennis properly https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/ and https://www.thecampusqdl.com/en/.

Here’s a recap… SPORTUGAL while I delved deep into Secret Portugal on another trip to the land of Football, Fado and Fatima…

With The Special One, Jose, a huge Academica Coimbra fan. No, not that Jose, but the peerless Jose Manuel Santos https://www.madomistours.pt.

Jose also leans towards Sporting Lisbon, who live too long in the shadow of the aristocrats Benfica but produced one of the world’s greatest-ever players, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Who play in green and white hoops.

See https://www.visitlisboa.com/en and https://www.visitportugal.com/en.

MEET YOU ON FACETIME

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

SPORTUGAL

It’s the footwork, dahling… turn your toes in. And keep the hands open, and dahling, trust your partner.

I half expect to see Craig Revel Horwood sitting opposite, giving out and holding up a 2.

Thankfully I’m not being judged on my dancing but my tennis by my mixed doubles partner Judy Murray.

Yes, that Judy Murray, tennis supercoach, mum-of-two Wimbledon champions, and just as importantly in our house a Strictly Come Dancing legend.

Europe’s new four ball: John and Jim

Judy has had half an eye on Ashley, Faye, Lauren, Stacey, Joe, Charles, et al this series.

Only half an eye though as her main focus has been making tennis players out of the flotsam collection of wannabe racquet tyros I’m assembled here with.

In the new Campus sporting development in Quinta Do Lago in the Algarve.

Judy is running a series of tennis coaching lessons for young and old, good and bad, studious and messers, which, er, would be me.

That cow’s still got his name on it

In my defence her starter hooter was too inviting not to play keepie-uppie with.

Judy, though, as well as being very good at sport is a very good sport and even allowed me to waltz her around at the end.

Another very good sport and one that you won’t have heard so much about is padel which is more popular in the Iberian Peninsula than tennis.

Former rugby international Max Evans who with soccer great John Terry took to the game on a trip to the Algarve, describes it as the baby that tennis and squash would beget.

And wash it down with some Portuguese vino

Played to the same scoring system as tennis, the big difference is in the non-string bats, the underhand serve, the fact that you can play off the side glass walls.

And, dare I say it, that it might just be better fun than tennis.

Judy’s work done, she gets a deserved breather. Me, I’m off to bother the gold pros.

For four days I will have a team of experts tasked with trying to make an athlete of me, just as they can for you too.

With a Paralympian legend: Me and Brian Rohan

The professional at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy shows off the latest golf technology, tracking machines, sensory guides et al.

It can turn the most ordinary club member into a Rory or a Tiger, or at least on the odd shot.

If you concentrate that is.

But there’s always one messer who gets distracted.

Water trap: Have a chip with your dinner

In this case drawn to Paul McGinley’s buggy from when he captained Europe to Ryder Cup success at Gleneagles.

There’s a good reason why the big boys and girls in our party get to play The South Course, one of three Championship courses here at Quinta do Lago, while yours truly is kept to the driving range.

I do get to drive me a buggy, though not Paul’s Ryder Cup cart, which sensibly is kept where it is.

And I get to see the course, safely for me and the golfers, or at least that’s the plan before the boy racer in me kicks in.

My boat comes in

And I cut up the buggy in front and almost drive into the lake that skirts one of the greens.

I dare say I would have come up with my pockets bursting with stray golf balls.

Maybe I’ll fare better on two wheels.

Quinta do Lago means Farm by the Lake and Quinta is at great pains to keep human athletic exertions and the natural world in perfect harmony.

Or a dip after your lunch

The Ria Formosa reserve which runs parallel to the course, is more geared to Shiny Ibises and Spoonbill birdies.

And yes, get off your bike, get your binos out and you really will see these fascinating birds scoop up their prey with spoonlike beaks.

I’d like to say I planned my disembarkation but the truth is I took one sandy corner too many and too sharply in my obsession to lead the party.

Eyebrows may have been raised as to my suitability to go back with the sensible ones on the roads, but hunger called.

The new mixed doubles

That hunger was sated as it invariably is in these parts by the harvest of the seas.

The world literally is your piscine pleasure in Portugal and no fish is safe, so I felt not a pang of guilt in devouring Dory’s pals, the lobster, prawns, clams, seabass both here at the island restaurant Casa do Lago at the Campus.

And more of that later.

For golfers, there is a green in the water for diners to shoot at but it was wisely out of bounds for us on the day. 

If the Scotland manager is watching

The appeal of The Campus is its infrastructure and expertise.

Why else would it attract Premier League side Burnley, Champions League winners Olympique Marseille and Rio Ferdinand who runs a soccer camp.

While Irish Paralympian, road race great Brian Rohan runs The Bike Shed, which is so much more than just that.

Ask him kindly and he might even let you hold one of his Olympic gold medals.

And I’ve got my goal celebration sorted

Of course when it comes to sport we’re all of us experts, and so my last night was spent at a sports bar where I watched THREE soccer games simultaneously on the big screens (and who said men couldn’t multi-task?).

I’d like to say all the games were thrillers but I was in my element all the same.

I was tackling (cleanly) a chicken casserole for two, to soak up the beer you understand, while exchanging sporting trivia with my Portuguese hosts.

I was less good at the Halloween pub quiz I have to admit but always back myself against any Dancing Dad when the house band appears. 

Get the yoga in

There’s always a price to pay of course for revelry and that is invariably a sore head the next morning.

Yes, the art deco style Magnolia where we are staying specialises in fixing that too…

The Mag burger, beef, bacon, cheese and lettuce burger and fries, with a special peppery sauce the secret of which the Chef, naturally wasn’t sharing, and a pineapple, OJ, coconut and SPINACH smoothie.

Are you watching Craig Revel Horwood?

I felt invincible again and was ready to show off to my new No. 1 fan with my moves, a dive into the pool (yes, strictly against the hotel  rules).

But nobody was watching apart from Judy Murray that is.

Keeeep practising!

IMPORTANT WEBSITES: The Campus, Quinta do Lago https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/ with costs for the night at the Magnolia Hotel at €105, and Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com with prices from €39.99.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in January 2019.

Africa, America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Flying

In defence of Travel people

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts – Mark Twain

Cathy’s clown: DC Easy DC and www.washington.org

The next time you see a cinema usher, a football steward.

Ave Maria: www.CanariaWays.com In defence of Travel people

Or if you even run into a sports writer, then I trust you’ll pick them up on getting in for free!

Muriel, my pal: With Muriel Bolger

Only you won’t because you’ve got class.

King Louis: Friends of racing in Tobago, Louis, Nadine and Clem. www.visittobago.gov.tt Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago

And you know that they’re doing their job.

Kythera: My Greek odyssey www.athensattica.com

And that they’re good at what they do or else they wouldn’t get asked.

Herr for the beer: Hamburgers and ships and www.hamburg.com

My friends

I ran a gauntlet of abuse on my way to becoming Ireland’s Travel Editor of the Year – and from the very people I was helping, my own staff.

Aer we go: With Paula and Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com

Who would, and to be fair it wasn’t all of them, put me down when I was on my Travels (in my own time).

Oo Es of Eh: www.visitusa.ie and www.kennedyspacecenter.com

And snidely refer to my trips which always produced articles, written on time and to the brief I was given, as…

Wooah. Barbados: www.visitbarbados.org Let’s rumba in Barbados My kiss with Rihanna

Junkets, Jollies, Beanos, freebies.

Of course it didn’t apply when I sent them.

Fab Four: With Maria www.spain.info/en Eoghan www.travelextra.ie and Sharon www.ttc.com

And they would be the ones who would be late with their copy.

Petra time: With Zuhair… www.vistjordan.com and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time

Sometimes even embarrassing themselves and a host.

Your Onur: And www.turkishairlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

While their articles would often have to rewritten..

Your USA: With www.visitusa.ie

And all because it was a ‘junket’ and not given the same attention as any other article.

I would then have to apologise profusely to the providers who thankfully and very generously considered me worthy of the ultimate accolade…

Your South Africa www.southafrica.net: With Siseko in Dublin What’s new pussycat?

Their Pleasure To Work With award which was sneered at when I got back to the office.

LA story: Universal Studios’ www.universalstudioshollywood.comJon, The Scottish Sun’s Heather and Tickets Direct’s www.ticketsdirect.com Kate. And My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

Back then, and it’s only a year ago, I would call on the services of the finest freelancers who never let me down.

Star women: The Irish at IPW

On the other side

Now I’m on the other side of the fence I have been glad to say that the holiday providers I cultivated then and many writers and editors remain the best of friends.

Zach the lad: My old pal Zach from my Deep South The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings odyssey www.deep-south-usa.com,

And you always know who your friends are in your time of need.

Give it a twirl: At Pic du Midi. www.hautes-pyrenees.com and The Lourdes prayer

Don’t Cancel

So that’s why I’ll not rest in promoting our industry which, like Twain, I believe is vital to the human condition.

Live like a Royal: Messi around on the water In Barcelona www.barcelonatourisme.com withPaula and www.royalcaribbean.com.

And that’s why I’ve been sprinkling this polemic with pictures of us around the world.

Grand oul tome: With BA’s Tara and Queen of Vegas Tryphavana. And www.lvcva.com and www.ba.com. And Strip… the light fantastic and The grandest canyon.

So join me to support #DontCancelPostpone and #tourismstrong.

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – the off-sales

It’s what I use my one walk a day for… to go to the offie,

No. that’s not a misprint… I’ve been isolating from the office for nigh on a year since branching out on my own.

You may know it in your country as the liquor store or the wine store.

I was relieved then to hear that the offie ranks along the chemist and the supermarket as one of the stores that can stay open during the Coronavirus crisis.

Ned in Glasgow and NZ

Now we each do things a little bit differently and, at its rawest, the Glasgow offie is a cultural touchpoint in itself.

Now unsurprisingly I never saw a bottle of this New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon, The Ned, in my offie when I was growing up.

It has gooseberry tastings don’t you know.

The drink du jour of The Glasgow Ned (the Non-Educated Delinquent) was, and still is, I dare say, Buckfast tonic wine.

Buckie is best drunk from out of the bottle and wrapped in brown paper while sitting on a park bench.

Not perhaps what the monks in the West Country of England had invented it for I should imagine.

The sight of a Ned. or Dublin gurrier, or whatever you call them in your country, swigging booze on a park bench might not be what you’d want to see…

When you’re pushing a pram.

Boston, full of beans

And I was reminded of how the good folk of Boston deal with that dilemma when I was watching the movie Ted 2 the other night.

Mark Wahlberg was drinking his can, which was wrapped in brown paper, with his Teddy bear on Boston Common.

And it took me back to the English guy who had attached himself to our group, Nick, on our post-University summer in Boston.

And didn’t know about the rule about drinking in public and the need to cover it in wrapping which he had some trouble in explaining to the cops.

‘OK to throw tea into the harbour and blame it on the Indians but God help you if you drink a can of beer without the brown paper covering it!’ Officer.

That Boston summer remains a glowing memory and Beantown came back on the radar yesterday when I was invited out for August, COVID-19 allowing.

With a tour of Fenway Park included and the chance to sit on the Boston Red Sox Green Wall. See https://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston and https://www.discovernewengland.org.

South African township

Of course while I say that every country’s off-sales is different my eyes were opened by the familiar grill bars at the South African shebeen.

In the Port Elizabeth New Brighton township in South Africa where we stopped off for a braai Day in the life of a township and https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/.

And a braai is a barbecue and a shebeen what started out as an illegal Irish drinking den.

More high-brow perhaps is the Tenerife wine shop https://www.visitingtenerife.com on our walking trip with CanariaWays www.CanariaWays.com where we ordered Shakespeare wine…. A walk through the ages… Tenerife

Is that a Malmsey I see before me?

That’s the court wine Malmsey, or Malvasia, which the Bard references in his plays and is still sold there.

Me, I’ve finished off my Ned wine and have resorted to draining the schnapps miniatures in my globe drinks trolley.

From the schnapps shop in Ehrwald in Austria https://www.tyrol.com.

So whether it’s Prost, Failte, Salute, Na zdravi or just Cheers I’m looking you right in the eye and toasting our holiday providers… #DontCancelPostpone.

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

In defence of… air travel

If you’re reading, Greta Thunberg and the Flygstam (or flying shame) brigade…

I can’t tell you how many air miles I racked up last year.

I was away more than a dozen times with everywhere from Tobago www.visittobago.gov.tt and Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago

Through the Oo Es of Eh www.visitusa.ie and https://www.visitusa.org.uk and living the California life www.visitcalifornia.com My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

Down to South Africa www.visitsouthafrica.com What’s new pussycat? and up to Jordan www.visitjordan.com The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

I only mention them over the other equally fabulous and welcoming destinations who hosted me because they were at the extremities of my Travel footprint.

Do I feel guilty, or should you? Well, yes. How could we not the way Greta goes on?

Of course there’s a multitude of evidence out there on the world wide web to back up Greta.

And like everything on the net you can find anything to support your view.

But I wax taken by the research done by https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/how-bad-is-air-travel-for-the-environment-51166834/ on the subject.

And their contention that air travel was better for the environment than car travel.

They estimate that the world’s drivers go through 1 billion gallons of fuel a day against 750 million gallons for air passengers.

Of course the fact that one form of transport is less harmful than another is not a strong enough argument.

Against that I would propose the positive effects of air travel… in expanding our minds, our frontiers and our appreciation of other peoples.

While fielding the accusations of the Flygskam brigade that the world is only in lockdown because of selfish air travellers who carried it across the globe…

In big monstrous metal birds.

Just imagine though a world in which our possibilities were restricted by a lack of air travel, or if you will, the past.

A world where we only learned about other peoples through the books and information we are given.

Now I’m not suggesting Boris Johnson or Donald Trump are feeding such a narrative but here is a cautionary tale of what could happen when we close ourselves off from others…

Legend has it that the people of Hartlepool in the north-east of England hanged a monkey who they mistook for a French spy during the Napoleonic Wars.

I have always believed that we are at our best as humans when we are being progressive rather than regressive.

While obviously being respectful of the world around us and those with whom we share it.

And being aware of our limitations with many a salutary tale out there from time immemorial of when to pull back.

Such as the tale of Icarus who flew too close to the sun only for the wax on his wings to melt.

This, and many more moral fables of how we should live with the natural environment around us, are all around you in Greece.., https://athensattica.com and My Greek odyssey.

But like Odysseus I have gone off on a tangent.

I will deal with the other forms of transport in the next parts of my ‘In Defence of’ series which will include cars,.

And no car hater me… how could I be? I should by rights be driving through the Florida Keys right now.

But to leave you on an up… the South Africans have discovered a balancing solution to carbon emissions under their feet.,, This plant can save the world.

And our shared history has shown too that our medicinal cures too can be found in the natural world.

So here’s to when we can all travel again.

And a shoutout to all our friends in the aviation industry who are our dreamcatchers… #DontPanicPostpone.#loveairtravel.

Countries, Cruising, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Messi around on the water

Only one man walks on water in Barcelona.

He’s everywhere – in every shop window, on the backs of every family of tourists or parading his skills before 100,000 worshippers at the Cathedral of Sport, the Camp Nou.

Only on the day I visited the Spanish city, he’s not.

The ubiquitous Lionel Messi is back in his native South America on International duty playing for Argentina rather than curling in free-kicks for his adopted Barca.

Barcelona has a vacancy for a sporting hero then…

And I’m thinking if I nail it I might just get my name on the back of the football top that big fluffy bear is wearing.

He’s sitting in a sports car on the shopping area of a cruise ship in port at the foot of La Rambla.

Such are the trappings of fame… and I want some of it.

And I have the chance.

To walk on water on Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas’ surf simulator FlowRider.

And I only have the best in the business to get me up to speed, Irish surfing superstar Gearoid McDaid.

We’re lucky to have Gearoid here, his feet rarely touch the ground.

Gearoid is not ling back from a couple of months surfing in Chile, was in Indonesia before that and is on his way to Portugal.

Gearoid is not what I expect though, no man bun, goatee beard, tattoo sleeve… just a regular Sligo boy.

Although he is pals with Kian Egan.

Thankfully there is one Fiftysomething who keeps up appearances with his bandana and windswept beard.

But boy can he surf… Gearoid, that is!

The simulator is on the 15th deck of the €1.4bn Oasis of the Seas cruise ship which is on its way to Majorca, France and then Italy…

With 6,300 passengers. enjoying five pools and numerous bats, restaurants and shows… and a park, ‘Central Park’ (you’ll forget you’re at sea).

But alas without us who’ll have to get off kicking and screaming before sail time, if they can find us hiding away down in the staff quarters.

The idea of the simulator which is 40ft long, is that a rush of water shoots out to build up the swell.

Which you then surf against.

It’s all in the knees, back and arms – and the trick is to sway and not panic.

Too late, the board went that way and the bandana and everything under it the other way.

It’s official. I don’t walk on water (but my family could tell you that). Maybe I’ll have better luck on my knees.

Eureka or ‘goooooal’ as Lionel Messi might shout.

I manage to master those waves in the prayer position on a boogie board with more than a little help from Mauritian teacher Kai.

Suddenly I feel indestructible. And here I was worried that I’d be caught with my shorts down.

And quite literally I almost was at half-mast.

I hadn’t pulled the cord tightly enough before the surfing class and the waves carried me away.

To be avoided – particularly if you’ve booked up for my next challenge, the 82ft Zip Line.

Nobody nine decks below on the Boardwalk wants to have Stars and Stripes boardie trunks land on them, believe me.

When they’re out shopping having an early-afternoon drink or are on their way to lunch.

Thankfully I can’t do much damage in the Spanish restaurant, other than embarrass myself and my party by getting my maracas out (steady!)

Well, once in we weighed into the plates and plates of tapas and a big jug of sangria (when in Spain).

Fuelled with patatas and shrimp al ajillo we swagger off the ship, only taking time to pass by an eight-year-old boy twisting and turning on the other simulator..

And onto the famous La Rambla shopping and market thoroughfare.

Christopher Columbus is still there where I remember him from the last time I visited Barcelona 15 years ago.

And drew back the curtains of my balcony cabin.

He is proudly guarding the city and pointing out to sea.

To be fair, the arm is right, though I’d maybe bend the elbow and those legs are way too straight.

Sorry, Chris, but you’d be no use on a surfboard either.

TRAVEL FACTS

The deal: Sail the Western Mediterranean for seven nights on Oasis of the Seas from €1049pp based on two sharing, departing Barcelona. Visit Palma, Marseille, Florence/Pisa, Rome (Civitavecchia), Napless and arrive back at Barcelona. www.royalcaribbean.ie. Flights not included.

How to get there: Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com and Ryanair www.ryanair.com.

Where to stay in Barcelona: Hotel Concordia www.hotelconcordiabarcelona.com is a central hub and has a rooftop pool that will tempt you to linger. Pride was on when we visited and the neighbourhood was jumping. €135 per room per night.