Countries, Europe, Sport

Me-biking at the worlds in Ischgl

How many sports do you get to compete to be the best on the globe… well, how about me-biking at the worlds in Ischgl in Austrian Tirol?

Anybody who has seen me fall off bikes from Islay in the Scottish Western Islands.

To Quinta da Lago in Portugal might think again.

About allowing me to line up alongside other two-wheeled fans.

Or maybe I’ve tricked them with my triumphant picture at the top of a Pyrenees Tour de France stage.

EVERYONE’S a winner

Keep up: At the top of the Pyrenees

Fact is that you, me, or anyone is invited to the E-Bike World Championship from August 31 to September 2.

Where a world championship title for professional athletes and occasional cyclists from the age of ten will be up for grabs.

The rules of the world’s biggest E-Bike race they say are simple.

‘The fastest biker is crowned world champion in the ‘ELITE’ category,’ explains Dr Markus Mitterdorfer (E-Bike World Federation).

‘Participants in the ‘EVERYONE’ category compete against three riding time limits (gold, silver, and bronze).

‘If they fall below one of the three defined limits, the e-bikers will receive an official EVERYMAN World Championship gold, silver or bronze medal,’

Whoever falls short of the gold limit may call themselves world champions.

The most outstanding performers in each age group will be recognised according to gender and classification class.

So, in the words of Hot Chocolate’s Errol Brown ‘everyone’s a winner baby, that’s no lie.’

Although probably more apt in my case would be ‘we’ll put you together again.’

Fantastic Mr (and Mrs) Fox

Look, no hands: But I’ll be holding on tight

If being a world champion and telling everyone when you get home has whetted your appetite.

Then you’ll be ready for the other fun and games they have in store. 

The Ischgl Ironbike Fox Hunt Challenge will take place this year as part of the E-Bike World Championships for EVERYONE on Thursday, 31 August.

E-bikers try to overtake two ‘foxes’ on the uphill course towards Idalp.

The foxes are on the road with a lead run and without electricity.

The participants will follow a little later with electricity running through their bikes.

In two starting blocks, the aim is to catch up to one female and one male fox – the foxes are still a secret.

E is the magic number

Making a splash: And the wheels to handle the puddles

The highlight of the weekend will be the race to the E-Bike World Championship for EVERYONE taking place on two different courses on Saturday, 2 September.

The world championship route for the “EVERYONE” classification class is the longest in length with a distance of 27.1 km.

Participants in the “ELITE” classification class will be asked to do their best on a 37.1km long technically demanding course.

‘Over 1,250 metres in altitude, which has been newly extended, with steep climbs and spectacular single trails.

Trick of the trade: The skills team

Also introduced in both classification classes is the team classification.

A team must consist of at least four people to be classified with the fastest three counting.

And I have form here, even if it is on two feet and cross country or road racing and 40 years ago when my school team ruled Scotland.

There is no upper limit to the number of people in a team.

Those who do not have their own E-Bike can rent one on site for a fee.

It is also possible to book a rental E-Bike for two days.

Registration is now possible online.


Strumthing else: The post-race entertainment

And stick around too for the apre-E (you can have that one) with trick bike artists and live bands on show.

If you register by 29 April, participation costs €59 without a rental E-Bike and €108 with a rental E-Bike. E-Bike rentals can also be booked for two days.

Those who register by 25 August will pay €69 euros. From 26 August, €79 euros will be due.

Further information available at World Championship for EVERYONE 2023

So that’s me, me and you and a dog named Boo are all in for a spot of Me-biking at the worlds in Ischgl.



America, Europe

Democrats voted Hitler

On this National Holocaust Day lest we forget democrats voted for Hitler.

And while we rightly have the notion of the Great Dictators ruling at the point of a bayonet and a pistol.

It was at the ballot box 90 years ago, on January 30, that the Nazis officially won power.

And if that’s not a reminder for us to constantly be vigilant about who we vote for.

And what checks we put on them then we will, and do, pay the consequences.

Chilling: Auschwitz

Now if you thought that your cosy country was immune to being taken over by megalomaniacs authoritarians.

Then that’s just what the Germans thought about Adolf Hitler back in 1933.

And they believed too that he could rid them of a greater Communist threat and then they could put him back in his box.

Nor should we be blindsided by the threat from within or without as the Germans were back in the 30s.

Seduced as they were by a sense of grievance, common bogeymen enemies within the State.

And a zenophobic hatred of foreigners.

Bavarian barbarity

The first: Dachau

Sound like Germany of the Thirties… and America of the late 2010s, Brazil now, Brexiteering Britain and a fascist stream in the French Far Right.

All touchpoints for us as we travel through history and the world.

My first introduction to holocaust history was as an offshoot to a very different holiday, the Munich Beerfest in the Eighties.

But Bavaria was where Hitler had his first putsch and where he installed his first concentration camp in Dachau in March 1933.

All under the noses of Bavarians going about their daily business.

While the ‘disreputables’ were packed away to what were presented to the rest of the world as holiday camps.

It is challenging tourism but vital and rewardingly now memorials are now marked across the globe.

With permanent Holocaust centres, the biggest being the Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam.

But also in towns and cities in every civilised country.

To remind us that racism exists on our doorstep too and genocide grows from unfettered populism.

Cry Freedom

Inspiration: Anne Frank

And that was driven home to me not in Germany, Poland or any of the major arenas of the Holocaust last year.

But in one of the most liberal states in America, the Commonwealth of Massachussets, and its capital Boston .

Where the New England Holocaust Memorial  stands next to the Freedom Trail.

And that marks the key points and figures in the American Revolutionary Story.

Alas, the openness which defines our free societies means that racist zealots can broadcast their vile racism.

As happened when neo-Nazis took a selfie of themselves and put it up on social media.

Of course that should never put civilised people off paying our respects wherever we are and steel ourselves.

Because lest we forget democrats voted for Hitler… we who are still democrats.




Countries, Europe, Food

Matters of the custard tart

Romantics everywhere listen up, head for Lisbon for matters of the custard tart.

Well, they do say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and the Portuguese speciality is likely to go right to it.

We have the monks of the Hieronymites Monastery in the parish of Saint Mary of Bethlehem to thank for our pasteis de nata.

The monks using the left-over yokes from their eggs for the pastry delicacy having used the whites to starch their habits.

On such good husbandry did Portugal earn its stripes in the bakery world.

Phallic baking

Top tip: The phallic sweet treats

Though they do do a roaring trade in a line of pastry penises (or doces falicos) or cakes (bolos).

Not made of course by mucky monks.

But a matchmaking priest from the 13th century called Sao Goncalo, or Saint Gonzalo.

Whether God had blessed him handsomely in the phallic department has been lost to history.

But the good people of his town Amarante at the western mouth of the Douro valley, celebrate him thus with these delicacies.

Twice a year… in January and the first week of June.

The pastries are given as gifts at the start of the year.

So that the recipient will have a fertile year.

And again around his saint’s day in the first week in June.

With a procession, fireworks, penis bunting, fetching penis deely-boppers and a lot of pastry penis gifts to single women.

Capital cooking

Obrigado: With the Scary One in Portugal Centro

All of which cake miscellany which I discovered along the way in Secret Portugal is just by way of getting into the spirit of Valentine’s Day early.

Which the European-based yacht charter group Catamaran Charter Croatia (no us neither) have also shown a particular interest in.

Catamaran Charter Croatia looked at each capital city in Europe.

By analysing Trip Advisor data on the number of romantic restaurants and hotels per million people in each city.

And yes, that’s right, Lisbon came out on top.

Side dishes

Dutch of class: Amsterdam Middle Eastern fare

All of which will come as a severe blow to the French who still insist they invented cooking.

And who come in second (Paris) and third (Monaco).

While the Italians who treat food with suitably less reverence and more fun have San Marino in fourth and Rome fifth.

Andorra is more than budget skiing (who knew?) and places sixth.

While look beyond their crepes (delicious though they are) and Amsterdam, in seventh, boasts eclectic Middle Eastern fare.

Athens, with its table-long banquets would turn even the most carniverous vegetarian.

While if your idea of food heaven is mixing two of three great pleasures in life then ninth-placed Prague with its beer soups is well super.

And if you’ve got money to burn then Reykjavik, in tenth, may be worth stretching the budget a bit.

The Five ‘Fs’

Fin and games: Portuguese love their fish

But it’s Portugal that’s tops, the land of the 5 Fs.

And you thought it was three… Football, Fado and Fatima but add to that Fish and Fertility fare.

And remember too to head for Lisbon for matters of the custard tart.


Countries, Europe

Happy Eva after in Algarve

She was a restless spirit, a TV health expert with wanderlust whose travel needs were entrusted to me… so I’m glad she’s finally found her Happy Eva after in Algarve.

Straight-talking Dr Eva Orsmond made a name for herself with her honest appraisals of contestants on RTÉ’s Operation Transformation.

But our paths only crossed when il capo di capi, no not the Scary One but the bubble-permed CEO of my company, deigned to seek me out on her behalf.

To ask me to organise a week’s 5* holiday in the sun for her and her mum at four days’ notice… and all gratis.

And yes, it was one of those offers you can’t refuse.

Well, you know what they say about making a rod for your own back.

Moroccan stroll

Souk it up: Morocco

I called around my contacts and four days later the bould Eva and mum were heading off for Morocco.

Of course, my work wasn’t finished there and I had to call on all my editing skills.

To extract out of her a story for my award-winning Travel section beyond the mechanics of food recycling… her own recycling.

As you know I normally like a challenge.

And I managed to prise out of her the tale of Ireland’s scariest diet doctor and the only woman she reported to… her Mum!

My mercy mission complete I kept my head down in the hope that Eva’s compo holiday would sate her.

And I could get on with the rest of my job.

Eva’s back

Hamam bam: Istanbul

Only Eva had a hold on the CEO and I worked for the Man, the Bubble Perm Man.

And so a few months later she came asking again… only my options of France, Spain or Turkey didn’t appeal.

With Eva saying she couldn’t possibly go to one of those (I can’t remember which) because it held unhappy memories for her.

Eva has naturally gone off my radar since returning to Scotland after my 13 years in Ireland.

Next port of call

Tranquil: Eva’s place

Only for news to come my way that she has only found a hotspot which she doesn’t need a Travel Mr Fixit to sort.

Her own establishment in Algarve, a place we love, is the Solar Alvura Health Hotel.

The blurb tells us it’s ‘a destination for transformation (channeling her breakout show).

‘The health hotel offers a welcoming environment that enables visitors to unwind, reset, and turn their health aspirations into tangible results.’

And the woman herself says: ‘We believe in creating a relaxed atmosphere at Solar Alvura.

‘Where you can meet like-minded people, experience an array of fun activities, and feel inspired to embrace a healthy lifestyle.’

Fare play

Fly high: Ryanair

Nestled between the stunning coastline of the Eastern Algarve and Sao Miguel Mountain, Solar Alvura is adults only.

The elegant health hotel located a thirty-minute drive of Faro Airport.

The Solar Alvura Health Hotel will re-open on 10th February 2023.

And you will be under strict orders to transform yourself when you’re there.

And find your happy Eva after in Algarve.

Fly Ryanair from £26.





America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

China in your land

Happy Lunar New Year, a day when we celebrate China in your land.

And rabbit on about the Chinatowns we’ve known.

With our favourite roast duck with orange sauce and egg fried rice.

Other dishes are available.

The first Chinatowns

Magic lanterns: Chinese New Year

The first Chinatown was established by the Spanish in Binondo, Manila in the Philippines in 1594.

And as Chinese influence and the Chinese spread across the globe so too did those big gateways.

Bunny love: The Year of the Rabbit

The port city of Liverpool is known for many things, The Beatles, its football teams, the Grand National Aintree course…

And the oldest Chinatown in Europe dating back to the 1850s.

All courtesy of the silk, cotton and tea trade between the north-west English city and Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The Chinese thrived and became an integral and valued part of the city.

Particularly after Chinatown was bombed in World War II and the Liverpudlians opened up Newton Street for them.

Yen in the USA

New York, New York: And its Chinatown

Chinatowns have long been high up on the list of must-visits on city breaks.

And when a food and wine editor is set the challenge of taking a family of four out in Manhattan it’s Chinatown she heads for.

Chinatown’s distinctive arches are also a Godsend as landmarks for the new visitor to a city.

So that when you’re on the clock on a day trip in Philadelphia and you need to get back to Washington.

Then the Philly Gate from where your bus takes off is a welcome sight.

You don’t have to be a metropolis like a New York, San Francisco, Melbourne or London (and Soho sharing tables are a culinary must).

Small town Chinatown

Dress-up: Chinese New Year for kids

Because even the smallest towns can dine out on their Chinatowns.

With my neighbouring town in my 13 years in Ireland putting on its own Chinese New Years along its back street next to the rail track.

All of which earned Bray the nickname Brayjing by the quick-witted Wicklow wags.

So as we celebrate the Year of the Rabbit and China in your land hare’s to peace and prosperity in all your lives.

And to our go-to dream maker and travel provider Wendy Wu… happy Wu Year.

Wendy is only offering savings on up to £1,650pp in their New Year Sale!

Plus, you can enjoy savings on your 2023 or 2024 China holiday when you book by 31 January



America, Asia, Countries, Europe, UK

World’s ugliest building!

So Scotland’s Holyrood is the world’s ugliest building in the world! But we ask about yours and how’s that for a parliament?

It feels a bit unfair to Holyrood at the foot of Edinburgh’s most famous street, the Royal Mile.

Yes, it may not have the river vista of a Houses of Parliament or the Mall walkway of the Capitol in Washington DC.

Capitol idea: On the hill in Washington DC

But Enric Miralles’s £414m edifice with its boats theme (no, me neither) is hardly the Scott Monument rocket eyesore on Princes Street.

Of course beauty is always in the eye in the beholder.

Not that I put much faith in the Buildworkd twitter survey.

And who chose Holyrood ahead of the likes of the J Edgar Hoover Building in Washington DC and the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea?

Brit hit list

Sick building: Royal Liverpool Hospital

On the surface the British entrants in the survey surely should be less aesthetic than Holyrood…

Newport Train Station, Preston Train Station, the Royal Liverpool Hospital and the MI5 Building in London among them.

But then again in this strangest of surveys there are some odd picks among the American buildings.

Some probably more politically motivated, like with Holyrood.

American scream

Golden Vision: Trump in Vegas

And Trump’s name in glittering gold in his titular hotel in Las Vegas will do that for many.

I’d argue too against dissing Denver Airport having spent 12 hours there and availed of their putting course on the roof.

Or the Watergate Complex, other than its association with Nixon’s crimes.

And it seems politically even-handed with liberal Boston City Hall in the cradle of the American Revolution.

On the hit list for the twitter haters.

Now perhaps that’s it that the twitterati dislike more what’s inside Holyrood than what it looks like outside.

Something to Prague about

Ugly Pretty: Prague

But what about you do you think Holyrood is the world’s ugliest building!

And maybe leave you with this… the Prague television tower with its climbing babies was once the world’s second ugliest building.

The Czech capital edifice surpassed by the North Koreans again. And so there’s hope for Holyrood yet.



Asia, Countries, Europe

Flew Monday

And hats off to the Travel PR whizzkid who rebranded January 16 as Blue Monday and help build Flew Monday.

And that’s really the gist of it as we all instinctively dig out the travel brochures when we’re feeling cold and miserable.

While Fiftysomethings might all identify Blue Monday with swaying in their university student union to New Order.

The modern iteration dates back to 2005.

The perfect formula

The future is orange: EasyJet

When Sky Travel dug up psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall to trot out a formula.

Pointing to the third Monday in January as the gloomiest of the year… and ergo when we should all book a holiday

And, of course, we’re all happy to oblige.

Now we’d be happy to give our old friends at EasyJet ‘Flew Monday’.

But they naturally like to push their orange livery.

EasyJet is offering savings of up to £300 off package holidays.

And for those booking on Blue Monday you could win back the cost of your package holiday up to a maximum of £2,500.

Jordan’s jumping

Take it as Red: The Red Sea

EasyJet helpfully pick out three sample fave destinations, all of which are up there for us too.

They are offering the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Aqaba in Jordan.

On the Red Sea for March 14-18 from £640pp, flying out of London Gatwick.

From where you’ll get out on the great sea and maybe snorkel between the fishes swimming through a sunken submarine.

Crowning Croatia

Epic: Dubrovnik

If Game of Thrones is more your thing then you could spend five nights in Dubrovnik rather than bus it like your Bandanaman.

Fly out of London Gatwick on March 26 and stay at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace from £440pp.

Magic Majorca

Rave on: Mallorca

And if Majorca is where the magic is for you.

Then five nights out of London Gatwick at the Sentido Fido Punto Dal Mar between March 14 and 18 from £360pp.

The Big Orange Sale ends on 31st January. 

You can also now book flights for summer ’23 from £34.99 one-way.

All of which makes it more Flew Monday than Blue Monday.


Countries, Europe, Skiing

Winter fjun in the fjords

You’ve heard ski-are stories of little snow in the Alps (don’t believe it all) but if you want to look further afield there is winter fjun in the fjords to be fjhad.

It is in fact the Norwegian fjords which drew the first British tourists largely on the back of the landscape paintings of JC Dahl.

And we are signed-up converts after being introduced to his artwork alongside an exhibition of Munch’s life.

Fjord fiesta: Viking and Viqueen on MSC

In Kode in Bergen on our MSC cruise of the jaggedy Norwegian inlets.

So for that reason, not that we need one, we’re focusing on the coast of Norge.

And exploring a Norwegian town we’re still to enjoy, the adventure hub of Stavanger.

Just two hours from Norway’s fourth largest city you’ll reach winter wonderland Sirdal .

Cross country natural

Dive in: Winter thrill-seekers

Around 200 kilometres of prepped cross-country pistes for all different levels are scattered all over Sirdal, suitable for both long and short ski expeditions.

Better still trek like a Norwegian.

And load your backpack with oranges and Kvikklunsj chocolate (similar to KitKat) and go cross-country skiing.

And seeing that I missed out on the opportunity to join my party for cross-country skiing this time last year in Val D’Isere sign me up.

Snow business

The real Dahl: How JC saw it

As a national cross-country winner it must be easy to cross over!

There are four ski centres from north to south in the Sirdal valley.

So just in case you prefer slalom or snowboarding…

Both Sirdal Ski Centre and Ådneram ski centre have dedicated areas for kids.

And heated areas for breaks. As you might expect, you can rent skis and equipment on-site.

So I think we’ve established there’s winter fjun in the fjords.

And with our old friends KLM offering return flights from £150 then it’s time to get your skis on and book now.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Kiss a Ginger Day

I was crimson-faced the day I mentioned to my auburn-haired cousin  that I didn’t care who my kids wed as long as it’s not a carrothead… so I’ll redress that because take it as red it’s Kiss a Ginger Day,

Yes, it’s a thing, and while the rest of the world has its tanned and toned carnivals in the sun, us Celts (Scottish, Irish, Welsh) and Northern Europeans have our fiery festivals.

Red raver: Irish legend Maureen O’Hara

Because with the most gingers anywhere in the world, and Scots are out front, then gingers like nothing better than getting together to celebrate all things red.

With us Celts and Northern Europeans having gone out and multiplied around the world you can even team it with a holiday.

So there’s where they shout… come on you Reds.

A reddy night in Georgia

Chat-up lines: Do you fall for them?

Ginger Pride Parade, Rome, Georgia, USA: And when a ginger in Rome, Georgia, in March then it’s all about the Annual Ginger Pride Parade.

The free parade kicks off in the morning from Broad Street in Downtown Rome.

The spectacle which has been running since 2011 is described as a lighthearted approach to anti-bullying.

A dab of rouge

Let’s hope he’s not playing: Ed Sheeran

Festival des Ch’tis rouge, Arras, France: In France’s northern city of Arras, redheads galore gather for two days.

They have a fashion show, a ‘redheads got talent’ show,stall and more.

And in 2019 Miss France the raven-haired Maeva Coucke flicked her mane in Arras to show that red est magnifique.

An Italian red

Da Vinci code: Leo was a redhead

RossItalia, Milan/Redhead: Sicily And, yes, of course we love a full-bodied Italian red.

RossItalia has been running since 2012 in the fashion capital of Italy, the perfect backdrop for redheads to gather, mingle and celebrate their ginger hair come May time.

In Sicily, in Favignana to be precise it’s all about la famiglia.

And the ginger family lets their red locks down in July/August with a party filled with music, stalls, games, photography, a parade.

And even a ‘Miss and Mister Red Head Sicily’ contest!

The future is oranje

Come ear red: Vincent Van Gogh

The Redhead Days, Tilburg, Netherlands, August: And in the land where they celebrate the Oranje Army, who follow their national soccer team, then it’s not surprising that your colouring is popular.

Redhead Days, or ‘Roodharingendag’ is known as the world’s largest ginger weekender.

And it holds the world record for the largest number of natural redheads in one place.

Red for Hamburg

Look who I met on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg

Redhead Days Germany/Das Rothaarigentreffen Deutschland, Hamburg, Germany, September: And yes, we all know about the Reeperbahn, the Red Light District in Hamburg.

So, I guess too we shouldn’t be surprised that redheads are looked after too.

With hundreds of redheads and their friends attending previous events, Redhead Days Germany is expected to once again bring you group photo opportunities, a pub crawl, exhibitions, talks and plenty more!

But, of course, you don’t have to wait for any of these events because we’ve got today.

So get out there because take it as red it’s Kiss a Ginger Day.



Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe

Split for Croatia

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

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

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

Adriatic see

Game for anything: Croatian Game of Thrones

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

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

For August of this year.

Suite spot

Venice: & let’s catch a gondola to Padova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust Cassidy

Paradise on Earth: Dubrovnik

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

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

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

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

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

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