Countries, Europe, Sport

England here for der beer in Gelsenkirchen

Three Lions fans will be in their element, with England here for der beer in Gelsenkirchen at Euro 24.

Engerlund will kick off their procession to becoming European champions at the Veltins-Arena against Serbia on June 16.

Oh, didn’t you know? They’ve already decided that ‘Football is coming home.’

Despite their old enmities, Ruhrland, the football heartland of Germany should be Nirvana for England supporters.

Coming home: England Expects

With Schalke 04’s ground a drinking arena masquerading as a football operation.

The Royal Blue Army may have surrendered their Bundesliga tenure at the end of last season.

But they remain the toast of German football for its Veltins beer which is piped five miles into the ground.

Toast of Ruhrland

Scarf time: Come on ye Blues

Schalke have 15 bars/restaurants and 35 food and drink kiosks.

With the beer, and you’ll be drinking the Veltins of course coming in at €3.60 for half a litre.

With a surcharge for your cup which you then return.

Sign me up: A true Royal Blue

Although from the looks of it on the day we visit a lot of the beer ends up on the floor.

With the soles of our shoes sticking to the stone.

Face in the crowd: Schalke fan board

With all that beer swirling around you might feel like you’re seeing things.

Like the very pitch being slid into the ground.

Munich boxfest

Prost: The Oktoberfest in Munich

But that’s exactly what happens.

With Schalke maximising the space by using the ground for multi-entertainment outside match day.

Now we had hoped that our own wee Scotland would be placed here.

But instead we’re going to Munich, Cologne and Stuttgart.

Although there might be a barring order still in place from me from the Eighties.

You’re barred

Win or loos: Essen

When I returned lubricated from a Bayern game and tried to split up a fight between the football supporting girlfriends of two German lads.

Never a good idea, the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance to get my nose repositioned.

Before hailing a taxi and relying on the driver to work out the campsite I was staying in.





Countries, Culture, Europe

Julius Caesar tour of Rome

They’re big sandals to fill but that won’t stop us. On a Julius Caesar tour of Rome.

And, yes, Brutus you can come too.

To mark the new BBC retro of the oul’ Roman emperor, Julius Caesar: The Making of a Dictator, we’re walking you through his life.

Iconic: Jules

Was With help from those who know his story best, his friends, Romans, countrymen.

So lend me your ears, or better still your eyes, and I’ll tell you the best places to soak up Jules’ La Citta Eterna.

Do it yourself

My empire: On the Spanish Steps

Now there’s always an operator quick to part you with your denarii.

But we’re about letting you keep more of your hard-earned coin.

You know the ones with Caesar’s head on it, although the taxman always takes it as quickly as you make it.

So we advise you do it yourself in the Italian capital.

And take in Caesar’s Forum, the Roman Forum and the Temple of Julius Caesar.

The march of time

My empire: On the Spanish Steps

Now because Julius Caesar’s fascination endures there is a new old landmark.

The Roman authorities have opened up for us this year,

The Largo di Torre Argentina, where Brutus and his co-conspirators cut Caesar down to size.

It has hitherto been below street level.

And includes the remains of Pompey’s Theatre and four temples, which date back as far as the 3rd century BC.

Lend me your ears: Jules’ oratory

Behind two of the temples lies the ruins of Pompey’s Curia, a hall that hosted the Senate

You’ll pay just €5 to move through a walkway at ground level and view the structures up close.

Meeow Mia

Furza Italia: Cats rule Rome

Cats, of course, pay nothing as it should be.

For the past 30 years, the fourth temple has housed a cat sanctuary.

And offers sterilisation and adoption programs for an estimated 350 cats.

So with Italy on the radar for next year we might even channel our inner Brutus on tbs Ides of March.

For our Julius Caesar tour of Rome.

Countries, Europe

The advent of the Advent calendar

It makes sense that the biggest one is in a Black Forest town in Germany where the world witnessed the advent of the Advent calendar.

Gengenbach in Baden-Württemberg boasts the world’s largest Advent Calendar House or Das weltgrößte Adventskalenderhaus.

And has done for 20 years, commissioning its rathaus, or town hall, into service.

Window of opportunity: The Black Forest

With the 24 windows which face the town square turned into advent squares.

With all the pomp and ceremony that involves.

Open the doors

Picture postcard: Gengenbach

So that if you’re in Gengenbach this month at 6pm you’ll be witness to a ceremony where the next day’s window is unveiled and illuminated.

The ceremony is led by a herald who tells a short story in verses while children sing and dance.

And maybe look out for anyone looking like Augustus Gloop… there is a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory link

The windows are decorated with a festive Christmas scene.

In the loop: With Augustine Gloop

And we have it on good authority too that there have been Andy Warhol works.

And scenes from the Gruffalo, Harry Potter, and Scandinavian favorite Pippi Longstocking .

Nor is the Advent Calendar the end of the showmanship in Gengenbach.

Fool’s Museum gold

Towering prospect: The Easter festival

With the Narrenmuseum im Niggelturm, or Fools Museum, a must visit for those who have made a life out of playing the fool.

Although you’ll have to wait until April, peak time for jesters, it would seem.

Every year, on the Saturday three and a half weeks before Ash Wednesday the town is awakened by the Hemdeglunker.

He’s the “Rogue”, the main character of Gengenbach Fasend, don’t you know, and he lives in the 118ft tower.

And on this day they go through a reenactment of a peasants uprising with the Rogue taking centre stage.

Climbing the 132 steps of the tower and taking plaudits from the mob below.

There are fireworks and poetry and masks and three weeks of carnival.

Harlequin exhibition

You having a laugh: Jesters and harlequins

The museum is open April through October, Wednesday and Saturday, 2pm to 5pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm. Admission is €2.50 for adults and 1€ for children.

Mind you, the good news is that there is a Harlequin festival until December 23.

With an exhibition by renowned town artist Walter Eberhard.

Strasbourg in France is the nearest airport and is a 45-minute drive.

So you have another couple of weeks to get out to Gengenbach to see the advent of the Advent calendar.

And as confirmed Germanophiles and looking to build on our trip earlier this year further north in Ruhrland our interest is piqued.

It will put your own chocolate-fest into sharp contrast.


Countries, Culture, Europe

Give Greece her Marbles back

And as British leader Rishi Sunak has a huffy and snubs Kyriakos Mitsotakis why won’t Britain give Greece her Marbles back?

Probably because Britain likes to keep what it finds.

Even if that finding involves chiselling Classical friezes away from the original and shipping it away from its Athenian home.

Hills and thrills: The Acropolis

So that you can show it off in a museum along with all the other treasures you’ve purloined from around the world.

Of course Britain isn’t alone in this, it’s just that it’s done more of it than anybody else.

Mitsotakis’s moan

Mona Sassy: And the Greeks share the tude

Now Mitsotakis made a drama out of a crisis when he lyrically expressed what the separation of the Marbles, the other half is in Athens looks like to the world.

That it was akin to ‘cutting the Mona Lisa in two’ and giving one half to a foreign museum.

Now in what is tantamount to art treason and outing myself as a philistine I would tender that I’d rather have my own Tobago mill pic.

British Museum’s stance

One we stole earlier: The British Museum

The Marbles though are a different story in aesthetics, history and longevity.

Which is why the British Museum is so keen not to give them back.

Saying in its defence: ‘Around 50% of the original architectural decoration on the Parthenon is now lost.

‘Having been destroyed over many centuries in the ancient world and later.

‘It is therefore impossible to reconstruct the monument completely or reunite it with its sculptural decoration.’

Which, of course, comes as a great disappointment to our Greek friends.

As they have a spanking museum in their capital, the Acropolis Museum, to reunite the Elgin Marbles with its partner.

Destiny calling

Made in Scotland: Stone of Destiny

Elgin, embarrassingly, a Scot who probably learned his devious ways from his neighbours.

Of course, in this little northern part of this septic isle we call Britain we know all about the light-fingered English.

And how they stole the Stone of Destiny upon which Scottish kings were crowned in 1296 and brought it down to England.

And despite entreaties and a smash and grab by nationalistic students to get it back our English overlords decided to keep it.

Until it was finally handed back to be be houses in Edinburgh Castle in 1996, just a few years before we got her extant parliament back.

Work like a Trojan

Horsing around: To get Marbles back

Now we hope that common decency will prevail over the Elgin, or Parthenon Marbles.

And that it doesn’t take until 2512 for Britain to give back its loot.

But while Rishi Sunak plays Empire Games, backed by champion of anti-returnism Lord Cameron, a different tack is called for.

And as a kiss and make-up gift to sulky Sunak perhaps a Wooden Horse is the way.





America, Asia, Countries, Europe

I do like Mondays, Cyber Mondays

Tell you why I do like Mondays, Cyber Mondays… I wanna book the whole day now.

Because that’s the way we roll now and how we’ve been doing it for 18 years now.

Since Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation and Scott Silverman had the wheeze to put out a release.

Entitled ‘Cyber Monday’ Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year’.

It’s a fixture on the calendar now just like Black Friday.

Now where led others have followed and because we know you can surf for yourself.

I loveholidays

Costa little: Costa Dorada

We’re honing in on one of our own go-to online travel behemoths, only the award-winning

Who revealed their plans for worldwide domination.

Through an expanded long-haul arm at a high-powered, well-lubricated travel professional lunch in Dublin.

Loveholidays kicked it all off with their Black Friday promo blending through this week until midnight on Thursday.

Holidaymakers can secure up to 30% off selected hotels.

Deal us in

Ten out of ten: Tenerife

Some of the best deals on offer include a seven-night summer 2024 break to Costa Dorada.

Starting from as little as €42 per person per night.

And a seven-night winter sun break to the Algarve for just €28 per person per night.

Meanwhile, highlights from holiday hotspots Tenerife and Lanzarote include deals from €410 and €465pp during spring.

For those looking to explore further, there are long-haul discounts including New York, Florida and Dubai.

Customers have the flexibility to secure their holiday with deposits starting from just €25pp and convenient pay-monthly plans.

Long haul of fame

Yo ho: SoHo

The Big Apple, you say… yes, the 4* Hotel Arlo, SoHo, five nights from February 23.

That’s €562pp (€112pp/pn) room only, flights departing from Dublin with Aer Lingus.

Easy Rida: Florida

The Sunshine State too?

Yes, The Avanti Resort, International Drive.

Seven nights from January 16,€520pp (€74pp/pn), room only, flights departing from Dublin with American Airlines.

Hi to Dubai: The Gulf

Or Dubai?

Loveholidays have the 5* JA The Resort – JA Beach Hotel, Jebel Ali.

That’s five nights from September 6, €831pp (€196pp/pn) €996pp B&B, with direct flights with Turkish Airlines, departing from Dublin.



Countries, Europe, UK

The best European stag dos

It’s become a thing since my days nearly 30 years ago when I had my last hours of bachelor freedom in Aberdeen… the best European stag dos.

Mine was in the Granite City when my brother ploughed me with drink, I reluctantly left the party early and spoiled my fiancee’s plans.

By being laid out unwell on the bed when she got back.

Of course, for the longest time now budding brides and grooms take their last hurrahs to party cities.

Of which online slots site Slot.Day tell us London and Prague lead the way.

Slotting in

Going to the Wall: Berlin

Slot.Day analysed the quality of nightlife and the cost of accommodation with BudgetYourTrip in all European capitals.

And focused on the number of highly-rated nightlife spots in each, listed on TripAdvisor, specifically those with four stars and above out of five.

And for accommodation they used a three-night stay for a group of ten with rooms of two.

Now as is our way we’ll let you skim through the findings before putting our gloss on it.

With the number of 4 and 5 star nightlife slots the first figure and the three-night accommodation second.

Starter for ten

Just swimmingly: In London

London: 854; £350.61

Prague: 418; £176.7

Sofia: 112; 125.6

Skopje: 20; £114.4

Tirana: 61; £121.8

Bucharest: 109; £134.9

Belgrade: 133; £140.4

Warsaw: 99; £136.7

Berlin: 375; 228.8

Sarajevo: 29; £127.4.

Czech it out

Look at the head on that: Zatec, Czech Republuc

Now you’ll notice that the list is crammed with capitals from capitals from the former Soviet bloc.

Where as a rule of thumb prices are lower.

With the stand-out being Prague which because of its location in the centre of Europe is more westernised anyway.

So you can enjoy a melting pot of cultures all coming to the Czech capital to party.

And, oh how the Bohemians like to party, with there being more Czechs who drink beer per head of population than anywhere else in the world.

More surprising to see might be the jewel of the Balkans, Sarajevo.

Which is much more than the siege we know from the wars of the Eighties.

Don’t miss Sarajevo

No place like dome: Sarajevo soup

Because remember it is precisely because Sarajevo lies at the crossroads of cultures that it has become so prized in history.

And, of course, you need to fill in time between the drinking so head for the Mosque area and indulge in the best Bosnian feasts.

And channel your inner Gavrilo Princip at the Archduke Franz Ferdinand museum where the First World War broke out.

There will likely be carnage at your bachelor party but make sure you’re in the right city.

One of these, the best European stag dos.

While of course we’ve been down this road before with an alternative list of bachelor party spots.

But then it’s your party so you pick ’em. 


Countries, Europe

It’s my Geburtstag and I’ll lie in if I want to

It’s my Geburtstag and I’ll lie in if I want to.

And read my messages from pals, near and far, including a virtual bunch of roses from meine Freunde in Wengen, Switzerland.

I left quite a mark on Hotel Bellevue… on their breakfast room ceiling when in my rush to get to the slopes I left the shower on.

And was met with a wry smile and an enquiry into my day on my return followed by the disclosure of that morning’s breakfast.

Best bar none: And a toast to me

Now I’ve had plenty of practice at apologising, in fact it’s my opening gambit with The Scary One.

And I’m glad to say the charming crew at my Swiss hotel took my suppliant sorries in good part.

Birthday boy

Say it with flowers: Birthday flowers

And they have faithfully sent me gifts galore every birthday over the past eight years

Those roses, fish platters, chocolate cake, dessert and the most picturesque scenes.

Peak performance: The Alps

Note to wife… and the anaemic half cup of tea sans bagels this morn.

Of course, the best present of all is to get out to share these places on earth that are heaven like the Hotel Bellevue.

Light up: Hotel Bellevue

Thankfully mine hosts and those dream makers who make it all happen, our travel providers, have stuck with me.

Including my Scary One here at home.

And Rosie and Heaven Publicity who charitably gave me a chance to redeem myself in Val D’Isere last winter.

Heavenly havens

Danke: A welcome from the proprietor

Heaven, as we’ve come to expect, are all over Black Friday, and we will be too.

That celestial dreamscape is different for us all but it would be difficult to argue against these heavenly havens…

Scotland, Venice & Verona, the Maldives, the South Atlantic and Japan.

Ladies of the valley: Rosie and Pippa

All of which are on Heaven’s radar, and I’ll share with you after I indulge in birthday bingeing.

And mine as I pick out which gifts to treat myself to.

Holy cow: Wengen

In my scratcher because after all it’s my Geburtstag and I’ll lie in if I want to.

Countries, Europe

Her Maj-orca and Diana’s love island

Pedants and peasants aside, on the launch of the final series of The Crown, we’re looking at Her Maj-orca and Diana’s love island.

Yes, only the king or queen gets to be called Her, or His, Majesty.

And Diana was Her Royal Highness… or the queen of hearts.

But Elizabeth and Charles can wait because our focus now on the Netflix blockbuster is on Diana’s last summer in Majorca.

Because for all her riches and privilege Diana was just like us.

A party animal looking for romance on Love Island.

Balearic belle

Did he? Dodi

Diana’s love affair with the Balearic Island began when she and Prince Charles would visit King Juan Carlos’s and Queen Sofia’s Palma royal residence.

And if royal watchers are to be believed she even dallied with the Spanish king.

The last series of The Crown hones in on her final days.

Culminating in the summer yachting around the French Riviera and that ill-fated trip to Paris.

But the summer before Diana spent three days in the Hotel La Redencia in Deya.Waiting it was said for Dodi.

Now if you want a bit of Diana fairy dust rubbing off on you, and The Crown brings her back from the dead.

Then, you’re bound to be interested in an Airbnb that features on the show.

Hello yellow

Golden vision: The Yellow Castle

While originally reserved for royalty, The Yellow Castle now opens its doors to all.

This regal retreat offers guests the opportunity to experience the grandeur and elegance our royal overseers do. 

This yellow castle, nestled near Puerto d’Andratx in Spain, is accessible by both land and sea.

Lush gardens envelop a picturesque pool, a hot tub, and a terrace adorned with shaded living and dining areas.

Fine dining: At the Yellow Castle

For the adventurous at heart, an exclusive rock cave provides a unique retreat within the estate.

And the only photographic intrusion for you will be your partner, or kids, trying to get you in on their Insta pic.

So get into the Crown spirit and channel Her Maj-orca and Diana’s love island.






Countries, Deals, Europe, Music

Czech Rieu out at the opera

Now if you always thought those who watched the tenors had pokers up their ariases stuffed shirt then you’ve never got to Czech Rieu out at the opera.

Because Praguers, unlike ourselves in Britain or Ireland, put the music before the formality.

Instead of penguins you’re more likely to find yourself drinking next to dressed-down monks in the bar at the interval.

Our friends at the Institute for Culture Travel in Ireland get that too that too which is why they’ve brought opera to the masses.

Rieu knew

Gimme five: Andre Rieu

The Institute are offering André Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra in Prague on June 5 from €1,179pps including:

  • Return flight from Dublin, (taxes and transfers)
  • Four-nights in the Boutique Jalta Hotel with breakfast
  • Guided tour of Prague Castle Complex
  • Visit Lobkowicz Palace; featuring world-famous paintings by Bruegel, Canaletto, Velázquez and more; ceramics spanning five centuries and hand-annotated manuscripts by many of the world’s greatest composers, including Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.
  • Walking tour of Prague’s Old Town
  • Excursion to medieval town of Kutna Hora
  • Pre-performance dinner in hotel, with tea/coffee and glass of wine
  • An evening with André Rieu in concert (tickets – stalls downstairs)
  • Private transfers and local guide according to the programme
A night at the opera: In Prague

Or if you want to branch further afield then the Institute will take you to Lisbon to see Andre on October 30 from €1.389pps, with excursions and a Fado dinner show which my old pal Jose insists originated in Coimbra.

While they will also offer you Andre in Budapest too on November 7 from €1,2899pps.

Now, it’s always the performers and performances you don’t take up that you live to regret and Andrea Bocelli, an MSC cruise launch and a very overentitled freelancer in my gift spring to mind here.

Sometimes it’s best just to be selfish and I’m loath here then to tell you what I know.

Brilliant Bocelli 

Home Andre: Bocelli

That the Institute have Andrea Bocelli in Warsaw on August 22 from €1,389pps includes:

  • Return flight from Dublin, taxes and transfers
  • 4 nights in the 4* Polonia Palace hotel in Warsaw with breakfast
  • Welcome lunch (flight time depending)
  • Full day tour of Warsaw, lunch included with:
  • Entrance to F. Chopin Museum in Ostrogski Castle
  • Chopin music piano recital
  • Half day excursion to Wilanow Palace and Park
  • Full day excursion following Chopin’s footsteps: visit Zelazowa Wola (Chopin’s birthplace) and
  • Sanniki Palace, an open-air museum in Lowicz with lunch en-route at a local restaurant
  • 3-course pre-concert dinner at the hotel
  • Ticket (Lower Ring A) for Andrea Bocelli concert on 24 August 2024 at PGE National Stadium
  • Free time for independent sightseeing
  • Private transfers and local guide according to the programme

So Czech Rieu out at the opera or tell them what Warsaw in Poland when Andrea Bocelli was singing to us.


Asia, Countries, Europe

Banging the drum for Bodrum

How do you follow a belly-dancer on the traditional Turkish night… with a kiltie Scot banging the drum for Bodrum.

And I even won a prize, a watch which duly stopped working after one dip in the pool.

Hey-ho, the real prize was Turkey and the Turkish people.

Give it a whirl: A dervish

And I have been fortunate enough to return and absorb the many moves of the Ottoman including their whirling dervishes.

And thrown in a few of my own on a booze cruise on the Bosphorus.

My first time

Lie back… and think of Turkey

But you never forget your first and Bodrum and its locals was the start of my Turkish love affair.

When they took instantly to the Son and Heir when we would pass by the daily market and we would call for Ally.

Who the traders took for Ali and swing around… hard to do now at 6ft 3ins.

Our choice of accommodation has improved since that Bodrum trip when The Scary One insisted we switch to a clean room.

No such problem at the much-anticipated Leading Hotel of the World member Maxx Royal Bodrum.

It’ll be Maxx’s third property, alongside Maxx Royal Belek Golf Resort and Maxx Royal Kemer Resort in Antalya.

Living to the Maxx

Set to enhance the Aegean Sea resort’s vibrant beach scene, the property will also be home to the first Turkish outpost of the bohemian Scorpios Beach Club.

The resort boasts seven restaurants, all with a farm-to-table.

Culinary highlights include an outpost of Caviar Kaspia.

As well as an Italian concept restaurant overseen by the internationally-acclaimed chef Alfredo Russo.

Culture vultures

Vista: And R&R

Other highlights include a flagship 4,500sqm Maxx WellBeing Spa, a Maxxi Land Children’s Club.

And a variety of cultural experiences.

Now if Maxx want a kiltie Highland dancer then they already know what I’m at and where to find me.

And I’ll continue to be banging the drum for Bodrum. Room rates TBC.