Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Food & Wine

Blue blue Curacao

And as The Scary One likes to remind me she has sailed the world, and drunk in Blue blue Curacao in the Caribbean.

In a lyrical sense, she was only seven.

We’ve made up for that since when I’ve turned cocktail waiter for my Saturday night Jocktails.

Drink it in

They’ve got the moves: Curacao

And Blue blue Curacao is my entry point for the Caribbean island.

Through a Mai Tai, a Blue Lagoon or a Blue Hawaian.

All of which will be on order at your pool bar at my first entry point to the Caribbean – Sandals.

Open-toe Sandals

All-inclusive: The Royal Curacao

The all new Sandals Royal Curacao is offering a 45% saving on all room categories for travel from April 12.

You want to get out around the island.

Well, you can pedal around on a Dutch bike (without the Amsterdam canalside shouts of BIKE).

Curacao is one of the Dutch Leeward Islands.

Dutch of class

Blue blue Curacao

If bikes are too much energy in the 84 degrees heat then Sandals will give you your own comp Mini Cooper.

For those staying. In the Kurason Island Suites and Awa Seaside Bungalows.

Every Caribbean island is unique.

Caribbean cheer

Ri-Ri and Me-Me: In Barbados

Whether it’s Rihanna’s Barbados and its Crop Over carnival.

Or Robinson Crusoe’s island Tobago and its goat racing.

And Curacao in the Dutch Antilles is no exception.

Capital Wilemstad is known for its colonial pastel-coloured architecture.

While where else would you get a floating bridge, the Queen Emma bridge?

Or a sand-floored synagogue, the 17th Century Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue?

Oh Coral

Blue is the colour: Curacao

Of course the Caribbean has some of the best coral anywhere so for those of you who can hold your breath under water…

You’ll get a warm welcome all across the Caribbean.

But only in Curacao will you get a Bon Bini at the airport which is Papiamento, the islanders’ language.

Welcome, welcome, welcome

Nightlife: Curacao

Which is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English, African and Arawak Indian.

No polyglot me but I expect Mai Tai will get me by.

And a Blue blue Curacao speaks for itself.

 

 

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

Who is beerier than Prague?

Whisper it around the Czech capital but they’ve relinquished their boozy crown. So who is beerier than Prague?

In a word Asheville. Ashe-where?

Asheville is a city in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

And it’s renowned for its arts scene.

Carolina on my mind

Asheville: In the Blue Ridge Mountains

Well they know already that they have more breweries per capita than any city in the US… that’s roughly 100 local beers.

But now they can add the prestiguous title of Best City in the World for Beer Drinkers as compiled by money.co.uk.

The researchers mark the cities on breweries per 10,000 people, bars, pubs and clubs per 10,000 and average price per pint in sterling.

Asheville scores 2.80, 7.86 and £3.58 from which I can only draw the conclusion… get me out there!

Czech out the beer

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery in the Czech Republic

Particularly as second and fourth on the list are beer cities I know well, Prague and Fort Collins, Colorado.

While the third beeriest is one The Son and Heir knows well, Krakow, Poland.

Where it was more ale than hail when he was a youth leader for World Youth Day.

While in Prague the most exercised you’ll get is walking back up from Wenceslas Square to The Castle.

But get this… £1.34 a pint.

Wade in with Colorado beer

Beertown Fort Collins

In Fort Collins you’ll be required to do some white water rafting although you’ll get the reward of a local brew at Paddler’s Pub.

And in FC that’s £2.87 a pint although you’d probably double that with the American tip.

It wouldn’t be a beery list, of course, without Dublin, and the Fair City comes in eighth.

Pure Genius: Guinness Storehouse

The Guinness Storehouse is on every tourist’s list in Dublin’s capital.

Although some local knowledge here and pick your way through tourist trap Temple Bar.

Where you can pay nearly double the £4.70 money.com relays.

Islands of beer

Auld Boozie: In Auld Reekie, Edinburgh

It seems we’re well off too in my local city Edinburgh too although the doors are only a few weeks reopened.

Auld Reekie comes in 16th and will glory in coming in well ahead of London, back in 39th of 40.

Beer bucket list

Blowing a trumpet for Denver

So, who is beerier than Prague? Well, maybe the question should be let’s set a beer bucket list.

And tick off all 40.

Amsterdam, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, Rome (all again) and a number of others.

We’re only here for the beer.

Countries, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

A wee Irish breakfast?

It’s the question every Irish guest house landlady or hotel waitress will ask you… a wee Irish breakfast?

Of course no Full Irish breakfast is ever anything like wee.

So to celebrate the reopening of Irish guest houses and breakfasts this week on top of hotels last week a celebration of The Wee Irish.

And a Sunday confession from where they do it best… Northern Ireland.

Tis Grand

The Grand Central menu

The Grand Central Hotel Belfast puts on one of the best breakfasts you’ll find anywhere on the island. Or anywhere anywhere.

Alas the Observatory Bar with the best views of Belfast does the best cocktails too.

The wine flows like water at the Europa Hotel.

Where if you’re lucky you can take in a cabaret dinner watching Van Morrison and his jazz pal Joey DeFrancesco at the Europa Hotel.

While the combination of two Scotsmen abroad finishing off with an orange stout nightcap in the iconic Crown Bar…

Full Irish

Soda bread: With Irish fairy dust

And so when the Full Irish arrived the next morning my eyes quickly sent a message to my belly.

And I could touch neither pork sausages, crispy bacon, scrambled or poached sausages or black pudding and mushrooms.

All of which nearly saved me for my reunion with The Son and Heir at his digs and a walk around town and through the Botanical Gardens.

Now while the Grand Central offers up an Irish Breakfast for inclusivity, a couple of words more here on The Ulster Fry.

The Ulster Fry

One night in Belfast: With Tom

The Hairy Bikers point us in the right direction.

And for those who want to know how an Ulster Fry might deviate from a Full English, well…

Potato farls anyone? Well they’re a delicious potato and flour flat fried savoury cake.

Soda bread? And there was always this slice of Ireland on our breakfast table in our Scots-Irish house growing up.

It’s pretty much as it says on the packet, if the packet is in the shape of a wee Ulster mammy, of which my Dear Wee Mum is one.

The Nine Counties

Belfast boys: With the Son and Heir in Belfast

The secret ingredient is, of course, magic Ulster fairy dust.

More too here on Ulster and I’m not being political here but the province is bigger than the country Northern Ireland.

So that’s the six counties of the North, Armagh, Antrim, Down, Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone.

And the three from the South, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal, with my Mum’s county Donegal in the South but further North.

Irish logic

Well, that’s Irish logic for you.

Only to mention this because I did manage to get my Ulster Fries of my Donegal youth.

And when on best behaviour with the Scary One elsewhere in the Northern Irish capital, and in Monaghan.

So a wee Irish breakfast anyone?

Well, yes, but watch out for the wee night out the night before and the invitation for a wee drink?

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – Martiniqis in Martinique?

So what is their national cocktail? I took a stab at Martiniqis in Martinique.

It was all part of the Caribbean island’s quiz during their three-day webinar.

All of which I missed, of course, because of my technophobia. And has logging on and off ever worked for anybody?

So apols all you lovely Caribbeanies.

And, of course, not to put you off but my pals in Barbados and Tobago and Jamaica can tell you what I’m like.

No show without Punch

Do It Yourself: Ti’ Punch

I do know though a lot more about Martinique now after trying to nail the quiz… and as ever I’ll share with you.

So the real national cocktail of Martinique apparently is Ti’ Punch which they’ll get you to do it yourself.

Ti’ sounds good. Ti’ Punch though isn’t patois for the it’s actually an abbreviation of petite. And remember this is the French Caribbean.

Ti’ punch is easy to make… it’s rhum agricole, a sweetish rum, with sugar syrup and a squeeze of lime.

Colombo… and another thing

Out of Sri Lanka

It’s offered before meals, and if you want to go local you will, of course, be eating the curry, the Chicken Colombo.

Chicken Colombo has its roots in the Indian Sub Continent, the Colombo being the Sri Lankan capital.

The Sri Lankans and the Indians came here as indentured labourers who worked the sugar plantations in the 19th and 20th century.

And brought their spices with them, the coriander, cumin, yellow mustard seeds, fenugreek, fennel, pepper, turmeric and allspice.

And here’s how to do it courtesy of someone who knows.

Josephine of Beauharnais

The Empress Josephine

Martinique will, of course, puts on its best face as The Island of Flowers.

Its most famous flower, the fragrant Josephine of Beauharnais, Napoleon’s squeeze, whose humble home you can visit.

Quite what she did to put old Boney off his stride we can only hazard a guess.

But perhaps if she’d put a Ti’ Punch and Chicken Colombo in front of him rather than that hoity-toity French cuisine we might have Un Petit Boney ruling France today.

Chez Josie

So let’s get in a round of Martiniqis in Martinique.

Martinique is open, and welcoming, without isolation regulations to tourists for those with 72-hour PCR negative tests.

With Air France the flagship, or should that be flagplane, carrier?

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine

Water into wine Israeli delicious

Jesus and the Apostles at the Marriage Feast at Cana. Jesus announces ‘I’ll turn this water into wine.’ Peter pipes up: ‘No, you won’t. You’ll buy your round like the rest of us.’

Just a wee joke as old as the Bible to illustrate that wine dates back to The Chosen People themselves.

And to ask where is the Israeli wine on our supermarket shelves?

Glass act: Israeli wine

Thankfully my Israeli friends sent me a bottle of the golden nectar to celebrate Shavuot with them.

Cheese and wine party

Shavuot marks the wheat festival in the Land of Israel.

And the commemoration of the anniversary of God’s giving of the Torah to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai in 1312 BCE.

So how do Jews celebrate this, the Feast of Weeks?

Kibbutz in Israel

Well with dairy and the fermented juice of the grape, making it one of the oldest cheese and wine parties in history.

This, and more, we learned from our Israel hosts who warmed us all up on a cold mid-May morning.

Israeli delicious

Land of Milk and Honey they say.

Well each varietal of this elegant First Page 2017 wine from Givat Yeshayahu in the Judean Hills is separately fermented for seven months before blending.

Then 50% is aged in French oak and 50% in stainless steel producing a perfectly balanced and aromatic wine with hints of citrus and green apple.

The blend is 50% Pinot Gris, 40% Riesling and 10% Semillion.

And that bit about the Land of Milk and Honey… well, Israel is also the soil of Terra Rossa, clay and limestone.

No wonder the wedding guests turned to Jesus when they ran ou of this.

Kibbutz for hippies

Israeli trad music

The winemakers at Sphera focus solely on white wines.

Now for many an old hippy, like me, Israel and its communal kibbutzes truly represented a Promised Land.

And an Israeli tour guide from Kibbutz Ein-Carmel on our conference call and tour gave us an insight into the best of Israel.

And showed us how to dance a Hora.

Israel is  Promised Land I have still to set foot on although I have viewed it from 100ft away on the other side of the River Jordan.

On my G Adventures odyssey in Jordan.

And from atop Mt Nebo where Moses looked out onto the Land of Milk and Honey only for God to deny him access.

Worth the wait

Mt Nebo, Jordan

It famously took the Chosen People 40 years to reach The Promised Land following their release from Egypt.

And centuries longer after the various Falls of Jerusalem.

These are challenging times for an Israel which has in so many ways shown the way to the world in Covid vaccinations.

And where Travel routes have just been restored from England.

Promise us a miracle

Site of Jesus’s baptism on the River Jordan

So in this Feast of Weeks, we lift our glasses and toast each other, all of us and the power of miracles.

Water into wine Israeli delicious.

Now back to my First Page 2017 although I will be back to tell you more about Ancient wine.

And give a nod to my old friend from Colorado whose a  specialist in ancient food and wine. 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Food & Wine

Tabasco Irish Louisiana and the source of the sauce

When you drink your next Bloody Mary you might just drift off to Avery Island and think of Tabasco, Irish Louisiana and the source of the sauce.

Every year I seek out Charlie Whinham of the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Among the hundreds of exhibitors at IPW, the American Travel Fair to talk hot sauce.

And a certain Donegal entrepreneur, and as you know by now Donegal entreneurship is in my blood.

Saucy Edmund

Tabasco is the brainchild of Edmund McIlhenny.

Himself a descendant of the north-westernmost county in Ireland whose family then made good in Maryland.

It was commonplace for the names of the Irish diaspora to America to be altered.

Because the book keepers would not understand the thick brogue or decipher the signature.

The same was said to apply to the Irish streaming over to Britain.

Which is why it is possible that the Murtys started off life as Murtaghs.

What’s in a name?

I prefer though to think that we are descended from the ancient High King of Ireland Muircherach Mac Lochlainn.

Either way the Irish grew a reputation for being hot-headed.

And Edmund McIlhenney’s original Tabasco was guaranteed to make your head overheat.

Edmund had decamped to New Orleans around 1840.

And in true resolute Irish style he made a fortune as a banker.

He lost it in the Civil War, and went off to reinvent himself in a whole different field… as a gardener and inventor of a hot pepper sauce.

The bould Edmund had his in-laws to thank for both putting him and his family up in their plantation in Avery Island after the Civil War.

The man himself: Edmund McIlhenny

And giving him a garden to tend.

We’ll pass over the story that has it that Edmund was given the Mexican tabasco peppers and tabasco recipe by plantation owner Maunsel White.  

And move to the 1870s when Edmund obtained a patent.

And started to trade the sauce around the US, before his sons expanded the business worldwide.

It’s more Guinness, Smithwick’s Ale and whiskey down at my Dear Old Mum’s old family bar, now the Ramblers in Brockagh, Co. Donegal.

And back to Tabasco Louisiana

But I dare say that if they do get some exotic out of the county type like said Mum asking for a Bloody Mary then they may have a bottle of the oul’ McIlhenny’s out back.

Lotta bottle: It’s Tabasco time

Because Donegal never forgets its sons. 

So let’s hear it for Tabasco, Irish Louisiana and the source of the sauce.

We’ve done Mississippi but not to its terminus in New Orleans. 

So off to the Big Easy for us in the future.

And we’ll make that two hour 45 minutes drive to Avery Island to take the Tabasco tour and finish it all off with the best Bloody Mary in the world.

 

 

Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, Ireland, Music

The world is open again

And, yes, we know that England has a habit of pronouncing that the world means them.

But on the day when England begins to emerge from lockdown our friends at Meet The Media over in Ireland brought the world of Travel together again.

Highlight of the year

The annual meet is a highlight of every Travel professional’s year.

Go Westbury

And this year, while different being run remotely, was even more important in championing our industry.

In praise of Dublin

I’ll keep you going with all the latest as the day evolves but to kick off as the world can’t come to Dublin yet let’s bring Dublin to the world.

The Westbury Hotel, off Grafton Street, is where old friends get together to exchange the past year’s tales and experiences and look forward to the coming year.

We’ll have that filled soon

And good wine flows before we all retire at the end of the day to the hotel bar Balfe’s.

Grafton Street, between Merrion Square and St Stephen’s Green, is where Dubliners mill (and milliner with Brown Thomas boutique where the glam set go to shop).

A slice of life

Between the buskers and mime and statue entertainment.

High tea in the Westbury or people spot from the balcony of Bewley’s Oriental Cafe with your hot chocolate and cinnamon swirl (guilty!).

They’ve been coming ti Bewley’s for years

The spirit of rock guitar great Phil Lynott still hovers above the eponymous statue outside Bruxelles, a favourite meeting place.

And a must-do selfie. And if you have a plectrum leave it there in tribute to the Great Man and Proud Dubliner.

Our Meet the Media would traditionally end in one of my favourite Dublin bars, Mary’s on Wicklow Street.

Where surrounded by good Guinness and great craic and a reconstructed traditional Irish bar and hardware store we’d listen to great music.

And plan with our international friends where we’d go next.

Both that night and the rest of the year.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland

Paddy’s Day Snaps Pt1 – Johnnie Fox hooley

Sláinte… sure aren’t we all Irish today anyway, St Paddy’s Day, Ireland’s national day?

Paddy’s Day, of course, will be different this year with the streets of Ireland (and the world) empty.

But that just allows the whole world to link arms and party.

Fantastic Johnnie Fox

Old foxes: La Famille at Johnnie Fox’s

It’s something of a tradition to take relatives and friends up to Johnnie Fox’sin the Dublin Mountains.

At any given time but particularly on St Paddy’s Day.

 

This year one of Ireland’s fieriest firecrackers, Bláithnaid Ní Chofaigh will be throwing the hooley.

It will be livestreamed from Johnnie’s and also Dick Mack’s in Dingle and The Duke of York in Belfast.

And she’d be up dancing too

And there will even be some Riverdance thrown in.

There’s also a Guinness demo on how to pour the perfect pint which I know how to do from Vegas of all places. And to drink it.

And someone has greened up for today: At the Duke of York

The party which Tourism Ireland are putting on will be on your screens from 7pm-8.30pm here in Europe and 9.30pm-11pm in North America.

Go to the Facebook page, YouTube or Ireland.com. I know what I’ll be watching.

America, Countries, Culture, Food & Wine

Oregon and a Gallery of Rogues

I’d miss the flight, stuck in the Westward whiskey tasting room and lounge in Portland Airport, but I’d be happy to… to toast Oregon and its Gallery of rogues.

Our pals at Travel Oregon put on a Happy Hour for us yesterday as they looked forward to opening up their doors again.

Map it out: Oregon

And British Airways are looking at direct flights from London Heathrow to Portland in 2022.

And, of course, provided us with the tools to join in… a hamper with Westward whiskey and Rogue Hazelnut Beer.

Get the picnic glasses out

Now Oregon being The Great Outdoors the locals holster up and throw their Pendleton rugs over their shoulders.

Love is a rug

So when in Portland do like the Portlanders and lay your rug out on an open field and picnic with that other household we’re now allowed to meet.

A word or two about Westward Whiskey… they’re only multi-award winners at last year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Bottle it up: Westward

Founded in 2004, Christian Krogstad came to whiskey from beet and wine.

And when he rocked up there were only three dozen craft distilleries in the US… now Westward are among more than 2,000.

Let ‘Er Buck

As they say (and remember I’m holstered up here albeit with a rug) ‘Let ‘Er Buck’

You old Rogue you PtI

So that’s your whiskey chaser, or the American Whiskey Elevated cocktail, the recipe which they sent ahead), let’s talk beer.

Rogue nation

We have Rogue founder Jack Joyce (and I’m detecting an Irish flavour in his name here) he rented his Ashland premises from Mohava Niemu.

Jack had dropped in out of a snowstorm to Mo’s Chowder in 1989.You old Rogue PtII

By the time he’d left he had rented out her garage and large vacant space to set up Rogue Ales Brew Pub with two stipulations…

To feed the fishermen because they sustain us.

And to put a picture of her naked in a bathtub above their bars as she always wanted to be above a bar.

I’m now off with my Rogue Hazelnut Beer to the tub for a wash and a selfie.

I’ll place my rubber duckies sensitively around me!

LET ‘ER BUCK

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine

Czeching back in for the beer – a year on

When the good people of Prague built their bunkers it was to protect themselves from the atom bomb.

But they were way ahead of the game for lockdown too.

Maybe it was prescient that I spent a couple of hours in a nuclear bunker in Prague this time last year as I’ve been confined to something similar for most of the last year.

And I’ve often thought the food would be better in that Czech bunker too!

I have become good friends with the Czechs over recent years on their many visits to Dublin and also on my trips out there.

Look at the head on that: Zatec, Czech Republuc

Zoom session

And it was little surprise that they were one of the earlier destinations off the block to run a Beer Zoom session.

While early summer saw long tables laid out on the Charles Bridge for the locals to feast.

Like the rest of us though that proved a false dawn and we’re all doing our eating and drinking back indoors now.

Mind you the wonderfully resilient Czechs have been getting on with it, fuelled of course by their water of life, their beer.

Beer, of course, as they have long known isn’t just for drinking, although they do plenty of that.

They consume more of it per head of population than any other country in the world.

Call me keg: In Zatec

Hoptown

But it is also the centrepiece of a Beer Festival in Zatec where among the competitions is the biggest beer belly contest… I’ve been practising during lockdown.

There is an astronomical clock there too themed around beer.

In fact Hoptown Zatec is so engrained (sorry) with beer that they have a Hops Museum there.

And they have a history of foregoing water in times of drought to make sure that the beer harvest doesn’t suffer.

The one beer pleasure I have missed out on my visits to Czechland, and just another reason to go back soon, is a beer spa.

On my knees praying for beer: In the Spa Triangle

Spa Triangle

Now while we went from tap to tap in Karlovy Vary in the Spa Triangle it wasn’t beer we were supping but lukewarm, salty age-defying spring water.

While unbeknown to me then there was a Beer Spa in town.

The First Beer Spa is the place to go where you will recline in a royal oak whirling tub filled with brewer’s yeast, varieties of hops, malt and peat extract.

While bathing you can drink unlimited dark and light beer which the experts tell us will hydrate us (we’re not arguing).

They insist it will release tension, fatigue and stress, wash out harmful substances and regenerate our skin.

Lennon would have liked it here: In Prague

Only here for the beer

Other spa towns boast beer spas, and all I can think of is that the Czechs had heard of my reputation before my first visit to their country, with Jesenik in Moravia standing out.

Now I know what you’re thinking… if I mention Prague and the Czech Republic she’ll know that I’m just going out there on the lash.

Well, the answer is take her with you. They do a double bath in the Novosad Harrachov Beer Spa in the apron of the Krkonose.

If you’re only staying in Prague (and I’d recommend you veer further afield) then ZOTO Beer Spa is where you want to go.

Fill the bath up… with beer

Hello duckie

While going underground again the Sladovna Beer Spa in Cerna Hora has a rich selectio of beer procedures.

As it is I’ll just fill up my bath as I do every Sunday with my Dead Sea salts and my rubber ducks.

And sip my Strahoven beer and dream of getting back out to the Czech Republic for a spa weekend.

Now that should fool her!