Asia, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine

Water into wine in Israel

For fear of poking the Almighty an old joke about changing water into wine in Israel.

Jesus at the Marriage Feast of Cana and he announces he will change H20 into vino when St Peter pipes up.

‘No, you don’t, you’ll buy your round like everybody else.’

The wine was certainly flowing at the Travel Connection Group’s Media Getaway in Leeds this week.

And wine was on our lips too as we talked The Promised Land with our Israeli friends.

Holy wine

Where’s the vino? The Marriage Feast

A thought here the destination team around Israel then might have done with the likes of exhibitor Carla.

I mean ‘the home of vino’ would have been better than ‘the land of milk and honey.’

Because if you read the story of Jesus or listen to your preacher.

Or dwell on the centre point of the Catholic Mass, the transubstantiation, you’ll know how important booze is in Jesus’s life.

Because he’s still feeding the people, changing water into wine.

While at the back end of his life too he was using wine to promote his people, his life, at the Last Supper.

And so endeth the lesson and onto Carla’s message that the wine still flows freely at Eilat on the Red Sea.

Festival time

And soak it up: The Red Sea

Of course, we know that all too well from the Jordan side of the Sea, from cruising and snorkelling on our memorable G Adventures trip.

And they’re quaffing too over there in Eilat.

Every Friday to be specific with a wine tasting… and what better way to celebrate the Sabbath.

And this means you don’t have to wait until the Wine Festival Batzir in the Autumn.

Across the wine regions of Israel, the Golan Heights, Galilee, Coastal Plain, Judea, Central Mountains and the Negev.

Jerusalem juice

Or two: Let the wine flow

Of course along with with everything else in Israel all palm-lined roads lead to Jerusalem.

And from August 20 with the four-day Jerusalem Wine Festival.

Be one of the 20,000 gathering to sample the hundreds of wines.

Again there are free wine tasting opportunities.

Along with a culinary oasis of stalls offering cheeses, chocolates, olive oils, exceptional sauces, and jams.

Wine water of life

Glass act: Little wine drinker me

With the party getting started every night with two different live music concerts.

We do expect a lot, too much, at times from our hosts when we traverse the world.

But they will do everything for you, short of changing water into wine in Israel.

Because there’s plenty enough of the grape to go around for everyone.

Countries, Europe, Food & Wine

World Championchips of French Fries

They’re the planet’s most popular side food so it makes sense that there should be a World Championchips of French Fries.

Only it’s taken us until now to get the contest up and running, or more accurately the French have got it going.

There is, naturellement, so much to learn about French fries that we thought we knew, but didn’t.

Lords of the fries

Grab a mouthful: A full plate of fries

Firstly, and you’d think this was obvious, they are French and not Belgian.

Because you might have been duped, as I’ve been, into thinking that they were created by their neighbours.

And that the Americans, who didn’t take the time to differentiate Belgian from French misnamed them.

Mais non! French fries are, in fact, made from vegetable oil, and Belgian fries from animal oil.

On such splits wars have been fought.

Thankfully we, the sensible ones, now settle our differences in the sporting or culinary field.

And so without further adieu a précis of the World Championchips.

Arise Arras

What’s your order? Arras

La Championnat du Monde de la Frite will be held for the first time on Saturday, 7 October in Arras’ Grand Place.

That’s Arras, near Lille in the north-east of France.

Notre amis in the Haute-de-France region of Gaul-land tell us that Arras holds a particularly hallowed place in l’histoire des pommes de terre.

As the birthplace of the 16th-century botanist Charles de l’Écluse who conducted one of the first studies on potatoes.

L’Écluse planted this little-known tuber from Peru in his own experimental garden, and so promoting it among great European Lords.

Well before Monsieur Pomme de Terre Antoine-Augustin Parmentier in the 18th century.

Get frying

Homer run: Simpson’s a fan

Pre-selected contestants will face off in a number of different categories: family fries, authentic fries, creative fries.

While a category is reserved for catering professionals who will give chefs a chance to express their creativity and concoct the best sauce.

Professionals will also be able to display their best sauce.

And extending our knowledge from red and brown sauce… the Low Countries love their mayonnaise.

A jury of professionals and fries fans will give its verdict.

The public get to savour delicacies at the French fry stands installed for the occasion.

A semi-final will be held in the morning and a final in the afternoon.

European Region of Gastronomy

Saucy: Dip in

A ‘French Fry Village’ will also be open, where visitors can grab a bite to eat, meet local producers and take part in activities.

And what would a World Championchips be without the best local beers to wash it down with in what we learn is Artois country.

While we’re promised entertainment and concerts… we’re thinking some band called the Fry Fighters.

The first Championships will be sponsored by journalist, author and food critic François-Régis Gaudry.

The World Championchips of French Fries is expected to be one of the highlights of the European Region of Gastronomy 2023 calendar.

Be sure to pencil it in via your flight to Lille.

And all of this comes to you by dint of notre ami Marine from Atout France, all at the Media Getaway in Leeds.



Countries, Europe, Flying

Van Gogh Museum at 50

It’s apt that the Dutch are celebrating the Van Gogh Museum at 50 with sunflowers, it’s blooming marvellous.

Flowers are one of the things the Dutch are known for which is why Vincent and his fellow artists are so darned good at them.

I’m thinking my school art teacher Mr Cairney missed a trick with us budding Scottish artists giving us apples to draw.

Although he probably thought the Scottish national flower, the thistle, might not have been the most aesthetic.

Flowers of Amsterdam

My wee flower: In Amsterdam

Flowers are at the heart of the Dutch story with tulips the must-have status symbol of the 17th century.

The rarest of which was as expensive as a Dutch townhouse.

With the demand in the bulb causing a run which led to the world’s first financial bubble.

All of which you can learn more about at the Tulip Museum in Amsterdam and check out Breughel’s observations.

And how tulips saved the Dutch during the last winter of the Second World War.

Vincent Sun Gogh

Bloomin’ mad: Another flower girl

Whether Van Gogh was giving in allowing others to paint the Dutch national flower (unlikely) we’ll never know.

But he never painted one tulip in his lifetime although there is one named for him, a reddish-brown one that reaches 50-60cms.

Perhaps though he’d realised that sunflowers were more his thing.

They’re certainly the Dutch Royal Family’s.

With Queen Juliana symbolically presented with a sunflower at the museum’s opening back in 1973.

And Princess Beatrix the same, although a new flower obvs, this week at the Museumplein.

Drone rangers

Pictures of Vincent: A changing scene

Earlier in the day, employees distributed tens of thousands of sunflowers, transforming the Museumplein into a sea of flowers.

As a gift to the city of Amsterdam, a drone display took place at 11pm.

The Sunflowers represented generosity to Van Gogh and he painted three in the Yellow House in Arles.

And hung two in the guest room when Paul Gauguin came to stay.

One of which the Frenchman asked if he could have which may have sparked the row which saw Vincent hack his ear off.

Play to the gallery

Eat up: Potato Eaters

We’ll never know but we do know he painted two more and we’re just grateful one hangs in the Van Gogh Museum.

Alongside the Potato Eaters, Bedroom in Arles and Almond Blossoms among others, Starry Night is at the MOMA in New York.

The Van Gogh Museum is indeed the gift that keeps on giving as you explore the Pictures  of Amsterdam.

So as we celebrate the Van Gogh Museum at 50 we’ll be sure to add again to there  53 million who have already been through its doors.

And we’ll be flying into Schiphol, one of our fave airports, with Dutch airline carrier KLM… check out site for best offers.

And maybe pushing the boat out to stay at George and Amal’s fave Dutch hotel, the Dylan.



Countries, Europe, Sport

The Essen Socca Sixes World

I’m thinking I hung up my boots too early… I’ve only been sent a personal invitation to The Essen Socca Sixes World Cup.

Perhaps, my efforts on the Meadowbank indoors court reached the Ruhr region of Germany.

Particularly a solo goal when I rounded the whole opposition and my own team to slide one home, perhaps my last goal.

Of course, the Ruhr region is the beating heart of German football.

Yellow wall: Dortmund’s stadium

And the Socca World Cup is just the lift they need following Borussia Dortmund’s heartbreaking near miss for the Bundesliga title to nemesis Bayern Munich.

And don’t just take our word for it, well do, but the German Football Museum (and me last month) is there.

Where Der Mannschaft’s four World Cups (count them, as many victories as Scotland have won games in WC competitions) are celebrated.

And one proud Essener, Helmut Rahn, who played for Rot-Weiss.

And scored two goals in the final over the Magnificent Magyars, including the winner.

A new pitch

Nae messin’: Essen

Helmut is alas long since now up in the sky having a kickabout with the rest of those German heroes of 1945.

But that only means there is an opening for a new Essen hero, or at least another World Cup winner, deep in the heart of this Ruhr city.

You’ll have heard me rave about the Esseners’ efforts at rebuilding itself into a post-industrial, cultural destination for visitors.

And they have shown ingenuity again by erecting a six-a-side stadium in the middle of the city.

EMG Managing Director Richard Rohrhoff takes up the story, saying: ‘Not many people dare to build a stadium in the middle of a city centre.”

‘The pictures of this World Cup and thus of Essen are going around the world.

‘It’s great advertising for the city and tourism in Essen.”

Platz where to go

World in my hands: The World Cup in Dortmund

Forty-four teams from five continents will compete against each other over games of 40 minutes each.

Not only are the game lengths shorter but a team also consists of only six players with the pitch only 46 by 27 metres.

If you want to watch the game, simply go to the mobile stadium in Kennedyplatz.

And btw, neighbouring Schalke 04 have a real-size pitch they wheel into their ground every game).

The Kennedyplatz stadium seats around 3,000 people and admission is free.

Or watch the games live on DAZN which broadcasts around the world.

Germany open up against Cyprus tomorrow, June 2, at 9pm.

Best bar none

You win, you loos: The quirky bar urinal

One place certainly to watch the match if you can’t get in and are in Essen is the 11 Freunde Die Bar (11 Friends Football Bar).

Where the only thing I could hit was the novelty ball and goal in the toilet urinal that they have in the gents.

And, of course, this is just another example of one of the world’s great myths that the Germans do not have a sense of humour.

So take in The Essen Socca Sixes World Cup.

Friends: Where everbody knows der name

Because all us amateur after-work footballers can identify with it and believe we should be playing in it.

And remember that Germany is just a Lufthansa flight away from all major airports.

And as well as free attendance for the Socca, the soccer is also far better-priced than the English Premier League.

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

Pride in London and Berlin

I must be losing it, 20 minutes into the LGBTQ+ party in San Antonio and I wasn’t propositioned once… I’m persuaded to turn my attentions to Pride in London and Berlin.

Particularly as my travel provider friends in Ireland, Cassidy, have flagged up the European powerhouses for this Pride.

Dressed to kill: In California

Pride is a life-enforcing celebration of gay rights yes, but human spirit.

And all of us are the better for it as I’ve discovered from West Hollywood through Vegas and Denver and Washington DC to Dublin and Barcelona.

Cami over to my place: With Cami in Vegas

And that’s only because I’ve not been in any of the other great cities of the world when Pride has been in full flow.

Although I’ve tried to raise a smile (or more) from the rather staid seaside town of North Berwick, east of Edinburgh, where I now live by wearing a feather boa around town.

And now because Cassidy share my love for Pride and have these packages at their fingertips join me and getting your vibe on with Pride in London and Berlin.

Let the gay Thames roll

In the pink: And the green

And because my gay friends love a pun and a double entendre almost as much as I do here’s a slice of London life

Pride Weekend Package: London

Travel 1st July

2 Night Package

4* Britannia International

Package includes flights and accommodation.

€289pp (based on 2 people sharing)

From Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall Place, witness over 500 groups and 30,000 participants marching in the iconic Pride in London Parade.

Drop into Cassidy Travel today or contact them on 01 9695550.

Ich bin gay Berliner

As John F Kennedy would have said had he been addressing Pride in Berlin.

Pride Weekend Package: Berlin

Travel 21st July 2023

2 Night Package

3* Mercure Hotel Berlin Mitte

Package includes flights and accommodation.

€389pp (based on 2 people sharing)

One of the largest Pride parades in Europe runs from Kurfürstendamm to the Brandenburg Gate,

It all ends with a lively concert which welcomes special guest stars and goes well into the night!

Drop into Cassidy Travel today or contact them on 01 8224000.

Europe, Sport

Anyone for tennis and Bandanaman

It was beyond even Judy Murray so what chance would Annabel Croft have but that’s the challenge… in the Algarve it’s anyone for tennis and Bandanaman.

All predicated by an Active Lives survey from Sport England which has flagged up the highest figure recorded for tennis since the survey began with 915,000 adults now playing tennis regularly.

Which, of course, will delight all those Engurlish racquet and ball fans.

Didn’t they try to claim Oor Andy as their ain and are still waiting for their first men’s Wimbledon champ in 87 years?

Coastal fun: At the Pine Cliffs

Still, you’ve got to feel sorry for them!

With that and tennis on my mind as it always was when bringing up the Son and Heir in Co. Wicklow in Ireland it’s timely.

To remind y’all about how the next British champion could well hail from Algarve.

Croft original

At your service: Annabel Croft

The Annabel Croft Tennis Academy at Pine Cliffs offers tennis camps over five days.

With ten hours of coaching focusing on different skills each day, or weekend courses.

Or for those that want to play a casual game.

And if there’s anyone for tennis and Bandanaman then players can simply rent a court and play with friends and family.

The resort is perfect for families – earning it an award for ‘The Best Family Resort’ in Europe by the World Luxury Hotel Awards.

The resort offers an extensive selection of activities for the whole family to do.

Including the Porto Pirata Children’s club with life size pirate ships, MIMO Algarve – a cooking school with family classes.

Cliffs’ Algarve

No, not that Cliff: But his wine is all over the Algarve

Pine Cliffs’ tennis facilities include five floodlit courts – two clay courts, three hard courts and a padel tennis court, which can be booked by the hour or as a block for the week by contacting the academy directly.

And padel, of course, if you hadn’t come across it in your travels was best described to me as ‘the child which tennis and squash’ would have made.

The Junior Tennis Camp (4-13 yrs) and Teenage Tennis Camp (13-17 yrs)  comes in at €295 and Adult Tennis Holiday- €365.

Private lessons can also be booked for €75 /hour or shared lessons from €45 /hour per person.

Off court

Moulded in clay: And learn how to play on all surfaces

Of course, there’s plenty to do off court too with a nine-hole golf course.

And Serenity Spa – The Art of Wellbeing – with a myriad of treatments and its indoor Thermal Oasis with a herbal sauna, hydrotherapy pool, jacuzzi, steam room and a salt sauna.

The resort offers hotel accommodation as well as luxury suites, apartments, and private villas, for self-catering.

There are eight swimming pools, as well as 11 restaurants and bars, which offer a wide variety of cuisines and dishes to cater to every taste.

Ya dancer: With Judy Murray in Portugal

Two adults can stay at Pine Cliffs Hotel in June from €385 per night including breakfast. A family of four can stay in a Two-Bedroom Pine Cliffs Gardens suite in June 2023 from €515 per night.

And if you see the awesome Annabel slamming her racquet on the ground and uncharacteristically yelling ‘You cannot be serious’ then it’s because she is coaching. Anyone for tennis and Bandanaman.




Asia, Countries, Europe, Flying

Plane tips for flying toddlers

We were so grateful for the air steward’s unorthodox way of calming our screaming baby we thought it might make these plane TUI tips for flying toddlers.

You know, putting lukewarm teabags over your kiddie’s lugs to curb air pressure.

Babe in arms: With the Son and Heir in Liverpool

All of which meant we and the Son and Heir hit the ground running on that TUI trip.

Treat them to a new toy

Build it up: Lego

And also make sure you pack some of their existing toys (ours was Lego).

It’s even worth investing in a couple of new toys if you have a longer flight.

This tip alone can help to keep your little one entertained throughout the entire flight.

Let them watch out the window

Window to the world: A window seat

We can all remember feeling like we’re floating on a cloud.

On those first giddy flights as children.

Which is why we should treat our kids to a window seat.

And let them follow too the world map on the sensor to help your child identify where you are.

That’s entertainment

Quick on the draw: Colouring book

Dig your old colouring books out of the attic or garage.

While sticker books are always reliable and try theming it with your holiday.

Read them a book

Put it there: Bring a Potter book

Taking a flight with your child gives you a great opportunity to bond.

For the Son and Heir a memorable trip to Turkey saw him holding his place in his Harry Potter book as he walked through market.

In-flight entertainment

Screen time: Download movies

Not that we’re against modern technology.

Where there aren’t screens for films, you can download movies to a device they can watch.

Keep them refuelled

How bazaar: But we love a Turkish marketplace

So let’s start at the very beginning with babies.

It’s definitely worth taking a bottle of milk for the flight or breastfeeding on take-off and landing.

The sucking motion can help to stop their ears from popping.

You can carry more than 100ml through security and the cabin crew can heat it up for you on the plane.

If your child is older, try giving them a drink or something to eat instead.

So seeing that TUI has us covered on their planes let’s jump on this sample Turkey offer with a free child place.

Deal us in

Hats off: To Turkiye

And because Turkey is the ideal destination for kids and big kids here’s what’s on the radar.

Seven nights self-catering at the Club Candan on August 21 from €1,849 (2+1), €2,439 (2+2).

Countries, Europe, Food

Hungry in Budapest

Hungry in Budapest… well you’d trust a Fat Boy, wouldn’t you?

Just like as they say never shop at a skinny butcher’s.

But this isn’t a cheap sizeist dig, that’s the mantle our food tour guide party goes under.

Mate mirth: Your host

And with our recent experience of a culture tour in Dusseldorf where the food part was overlooked we’re drawn to this grub crawl.

For those Magyarophiles who find themselves Hungry in Budapest on their Ryanair City break from under £40…

They sprinkle the culinary delights into the culture tour.

From visiting the famous thermal baths to exploring the city’s many museums and galleries, there is no shortage of attractions in Budapest.

In a stew

Meaty joy: The ghoulash

One of Budapest’s most popular food tours is the Taste Budapest – Fat Boy Foodies Walk.

Where with the help of knowledgeable guides, everybody can embark on a culinary gastronomic journey.

During the Taste Budapest – Fat Boy Foodies Walk tours, the guests can taste a wide variety of local dishes at seven different locations.

From the classic stew we grew up with and also devoured in Prague to lesser-known delicacies.

Such as the mouth-wateringly sweet trumpet cake (something to blow about) and traditional Hungarian sweets.

Have a butcher’s

Group grub: With Mate

The four-hour walking tour will also see you trawl the local markets and butcher shops.

The Fat Boy Foodies Walk is the brainchild of Máté.

During the tour, the guests can taste hot, cold, sweet and salty traditional Hungarian dishes in the city centre.

‘The favorite food of our guests is usually the lángos (fried flatbread),’ he tells us.

Down the Market: Budapest

‘It’s a typical Hungarian delicacy,’ he explains before adding…

‘And the chimney cake, which can be ordered in countless flavor variations.

‘We always tell them in advance that they arrive with an empty stomach.

‘As we will also eat a filling bowl of beef stew with dumplings, which we will wash down later with a selection of five cakes.’

Walk this way

Pizza the action: Grub crawl

The Fat Boy Foodies Walk food tour also visits places of historical significance, including a 150-year-old cafe, where the writers used to write their poems.

And the Andrássy street, where there are many designer shops, and restaurants.

You’ll also get to wash it down with fruit spirit pálinka.

Now we’ll be exploring the stalls and riverwalk of San Antonio, Texas for the American Travel Fair over the next few days.

And we dare say there will be some stewy delights with an American twist just the way we grew to like it back when in Tennessee and Mississippi and New England.


Countries, Europe, Sport

Moment in Italian golf

It was a seminal moment in Italian golf that’ll likely be replayed on a loop this Italian Ryder Cup… Costantino Rocca sank a 60ft putt on the 72nd hole of the Open but my Dear Old Dad missed it.

He’d left Rocca in the Valley of Sin, the gully in the 18th green at St Andrews, to drain the putt which gave him a play-off which he eventually lost to American John Daly… because he wanted to beat the traffic.

As ever my Mum went with it just as she had years earlier when we turned back as a family on the road to Troon in the west of Scotland for the same reason.

This year all roads lead to Rome, as they have always done since the days of the Caesars, although there is little evidence that Jules, Augie or Nero wore multicoloured v-necked sweaters and talked high business on the links.

Team Murty: A Ryder Cup veteran

Golf’s biggest event (sorry The Open and the Masters) returns to the continent of Europe for the first time since Paris 2018 which was on everyone’s minds when we played Europe’s Old Course, in Mandelieu-La-Napoule on our Riviera Odyssey.

And our old Irish friends Cassidy Travel are on it… as they are with all major sports events.

So let’s rip it and grip it as Long John Daly would say and as I showcase below in Quinta do Lago at former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley’s academy

Si Si Ryder 

Ryder Cup 2023!

Rome – Weekend Packages

Sunday Package: 30th September – 3rd October

3 Night Package

Cross roads: The Cross Hotel, Rome.

4* The Cross Hotel, Rome

Package includes Return Flights, Accommodation, Airport & Event Transfers and Access to Sunday Final Day Ticket.

Prices from €2249pp (based on 2 people sharing)

The traditional Cross Hotel is located in Rome’s tranquil historic and archaeological district.

Walk this way

Sightseeing: The Basilica in the background

Now every road in La Citta Eterna has a story to tell but you’ll be wanting to know how far you are from the iconic sites.

And the Cross Hotel helpfully tells us where they’re placed in relation to those landmarks.

  • The Colosseum 1,6 km
  • Roman Forum 2,2 km
  • Trevi Fountain 2,6 km
  • Piazza di Spagna 3 km
  • Castel Sant’Angelo 4 km
  • St. Peter’s Basilica 4,9 km
  • Vatican Museums 5,1 km

All of which you can reach by public transport but like all the great cities they’re best found a piedi, or on foot.

On the right course

The Marco Simone golf course is 17kms out of Rome city centre.

And, of course, you’ll want to know how to get there and that’s where the Ryder Cup website comes in handy.

As a sample of their information they say that there will be three park and ride locations, giving easy access from all directions.

Tickets for car parking are now available for purchase.

From the dedicated park and ride car parks there will be free shuttle buses to and from the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.

Now, of course, there will be some who will want to beat the crowds and leave the event ready.

Otherwise you’ll miss your moment in Italian golf.






Countries, Europe, Food

Big cheese in Sicily

I’d be more parliamo Glasgow (ask your parents about comic Stanley Baxter) than parliamo Italiano but that didn’t stop me trying to be the big cheese in Sicily.

She’d said ‘yes’ the night before and we were enjoying a day tour in Sicily from our base in Malta.

And I was keen to impress her with my smarts on a low base of schoolboy Italian classes.

And so when the waiter asked for my dish I put on my best voce and waited for my treat.

Of course when he returned with a plate of cheese I proudly shook it off.

Insisting to herself that I knew what I was getting all along.

Brilliant Sicilians

Make you an offer: TD will

Now the islanders will quickly tell you that they are not Italians.

But Sicilians, and their dialect is very different from standard Italian.

All of which Travel Department understand knowing Italy’s biggest isle, like the back of their mano.

And they’ll bring you to the Syracuse Archaeological Park, Phoenician settlements, Roman amphitheatres, Greek temples and Aragonese churches.

They’ll take you up Mount Etna, of course.

And that’ll give me the chance to return the stones I took from the famous old volcano.

Just eat Italia

We’ve been here: Roman Villa Casale in Piazza Armerina

For many of us though no holiday, and especially, one to Italy is complete without shovelling away the food.

And in the capital, Palermo they’ll keep you fuelled on your trip.

Around Baroque landmarks and mosaics at the Roman Villa Casale in Piazza Armerina.

And recommend where to sample the best Sicilian cuisine in a typical restaurant.

Just maybe not act the Big Cheese in Sicily and leave it to those who do know.

Dish of the day: Cheese

Your waiter and your guides at Travel Department.

Also, TD are currently running a promotion until May 19 based on their Italian holidays of 7 nights or more.

Departing in June and July where customers can save €50pp by using promo code: ITALY50.