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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

Murty Gras in Orlando

I’ve a Gra for Mardi Gras… ask your Irish friends. Or a Murty Gras if you like.

Forget the soggy pancakes, you guys in the Americas and the Caribbean have got it right with your dancin’, drinkin’ and dinin’.

But if you can’t get to see how they do Mardi Gras around the world just now then why not let our Travel friends bring the world to you?

Murty Gras In Orlando

And who better at it than Universal Orlando?

Universal is serving up a real treat with its International Flavors of Carnaval from February 6 to March 28.

Eat around the world

When it will showcase dishes from New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, Brazil, Spain and er Germany (who knew?)

Glasgow Bar with owner Karl in Tobago

Of course carnivals have long been choreographed to the minutest detail so you’ll not even notice social distancing.

There will be floats throughout the park and a Big Easy Bash.

Jambalaya mia my-oh

And from personal experience it is the done thing to start at breakfast time with Jambalaya, a Sazerac and a jazz brass band.

You want a taster of some of the other culinary delights.

Moe’s and Jimbo’s

  • Cajun cuisine from New Orleans, such as a Crawfish Boil, Jambalaya, Beignets and other Big Easy delights.
  • Classic Carnaval dishes from the islands, such as Pernil & Mofongo from Puerto Rico, a vegan Pholourie from Trinidad & Tobago and Jerk Chicken from the Bahamas.
  • Pork Schnitzel Sliders and Bavarian Pretzels from Germany, iconic Paella Mixta and Leche Frita from Spain and Belgium Liege Waffles from Belgium.
  • Other flavours from Brazil (Moqueca de Camarao), Canada (Beef Short Rib Poutine), Colombia (Carnitas Arepas), Cuba (Cuban Sandwiches), Italy (Caneloni), France Poached Pear Creme Brulee Crepe) and more.
Can you give me some Spanish pulpo please?

There will also be themed menus on CityWalk and at the Universal Orlando Resort Hotels while there are rides aplenty.

And isn’t it just what you need? A bit of escapism, either Harry Potter’s Wizarding World or The Simpsons’ Springfield.

 

 

Countries, Food & Wine, UK

Islay – isle of whisky

If I have to be locked up for the next month then just give me the keys to a distillery in Scotland’s whisky isle.

Scotland’s islands are in a lower tier than the rest of us and all eight distilleries on the 25-mile long distillery are closed to us

But not I should imagine the janitor who has all that golden peaty whisky at his disposal.

For peat’s sake

You, of course, can have whisky on tap and a distillery at your disposal if you rent out a function room.

And that’s social distancing for you

For, say, a humanist/Buddhist!/Scottish wedding reception.

The kimonos and kilties were waving in the wind and the sake and whisky were flowing at Ardbeg’s for Stewart and Hisayo’s big day.

Cornering the market

Islay is a haven in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland.

Served by tbe Caley Mac ferry, Caledonian MacBrayne and Logan Air.

Not out of place in Islay

With only 3,228 guid folk inhabiting the island you’ll see more animals and sea life than human and ain’t that sweet?

Bowmore https://www.bowmore.com/

is the capital and, of course, it has a distillery too.

And that other staple of island life, the church.

Bowmore’s is distinctive because it is cylindrical with no corners for the de’il, or devil, to hide.

Capital stuff: Bowmore

While there is also one of the best public swimming pools anywhere with a window out onto the Atlantic Ocean.

Now that’s an infinity pool for you!

Wash all over you

Everyone will have their favourite distillery but for sheer location Laphroaig in the harbour is the one for me.

The barrels are kept in the cellar where the sea laps up and seeps through the walls.

To give the whisky its distinctive salty, smoky, seaweedy taste.

Do you want water with that? Laphroaig

For a comprehensive tour of the island’s distilleries until we can get back out there and do it yourself then here’s a Swedish videographer

Or dig into your favourite whiskoiseur’s ramble around the drinking tours of the world.

And back to Islay, just be careful when you’re in the whisky and you have to ride your bike back to your rented house.

I have the scars to prove that it’s best to walk home.

Countries, Cruising, Flying, Food & Wine

New Year Revolutions

And as the Alt-Right tries to wage a Second American Revolution in the US a look at the revolutions we do need.

The air

United we atand

And clearly the challenge is carbon emissions where EasyJet can take a bow.

The budget airline topped a London School of Economics report in a top five which also includes Alaska Air, Qantas, my old friends at United who flew me to the Deep South and JetBlue.

The seas

Norway wood: In the Norwegian fjords

And high up for the haters in this Covid and Climate crisis are our cruise ships.

Where my old faves MSC whom I sailed with around the Norwegian fjords, Royal Caribbean who showed off their wares in the English Channel and in Barcelona.

And Celebrity Cruises who treated us all like, well Celebrities, off the coast of Florida on their $1bn state-of-the-art Edge.

A nod here to Princess Cruises who had us on board when they stopped off in Dublin on their way round Britain and Ireland.

And Paul Gauguin Cruises who drew us a picture of tantalising Tahiti who have been keeping us going through lockdown with their images and news.

The food

Food for thought: A tajine

And now more than ever we have to watch what and where we eat.

So that means avoiding markets we know little about in countries we are visiting for the first time.

So for me that was Morocco and I should have gone with the professionals.

Northern Africa and the Middle Eastern food is bright, spicy and often new for Western palates so don’t be afraid to ask.

And if you can find Zuhair, G AdventuresJordanian host extraordinaire then all the better.

All our cultures and culinary ways should be celebrated around the world and animal welfare should be central to our approach.

A joint resolution

I’ve probably already broken my own personal resolutions already so it might be presumptuous to ask my Travel pals to take on these targets.

But, in truth, we’re all in it together…

This past year’s challenges have brought opprobrium upon Travel professionals but lockdown has only reaffirmed how vital it is to us all.

So let’s build it back even better this year.

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

Jimuary, Ginuary, Veganuary, Japanuary

And whatever you’re having yourself… January is after all what we make it.

Jimuary in Scotland

Jim O’ Shanter

And for me and all of us of a Scottish disposition then January is Robert Burns’ Month.

Burns is Scotland’s National Poet and January 25 is his birthday… he would be 252 this year.

Wherever they are in the world Scots put on kilts and start eulogising little mice and the like… ‘wee sleekit timrous beastie, oh what a panic’s in thy breastie.’

It’s all the whisky we drink you see!

Alloway Bridge

Burns’ Village is a magical place with Burns’ Cottage, Alloway Kirk and Brig o’ Doon.

Where you can let your imagination run wild.

Three Scots mice

January is also the month when Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday is commemorated.. he was born on January 15 but Martin Luther King Day is actually January 18..

I was fortunate enough to attend the 50th commemoration of his assassination and followed the MLK Trail from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi.

Ginuary in Ireland

G&T O’Clock

And you could do worse than Co. Monaghan, the border county where a ginoisseur will guide you through each gin and tonic.

The Scary One turned her nose up at the juniper when presented with a tray of samples only to then dig in and minesweep them all.

Veganuary

And if it’s good enough for Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Barry White (and he had a healthy appetite, and for food).

Veganuary has really taken off in recent years and I’ve visited the oul’ plant-based food before on this site.

But seeing that the calendar has come around again and that you’ll be performing a public service by not visiting the shops.

Here’s to all those things in your flower beds which also includes the majestic tulip.

And Japanuary

Thanks here to our friends in The Land of the Rising Sun for always keeping it fun and funky.

So Japanuary?

Well, we’re all being encouraged to get on our bikes and in Japan you can do worse than following the Tanesashi Coastline and bike hire is just £10 per day.

They advise stopping off at fish restaurants and temples while ensuring that through the cycling your body remains a temple.

If that’s too sedentary for you then why not canyon through the Sarugajo Gorge.

Talking of temples you shouldn’t go to Japan and not visit a Zen Buddhist temple.

Oh, and in the year when the Olympics are coming to Tokyo then they’re challenging us all to get our adrenaline vibe on.

And ski a volcanic crater in Niseko.

Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, UK

Brew’s up – the perfect Covid beer cure

The Blood Service give you a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive but maybe they’ll now follow Brewdog’s lead of giving beer after a Covid vaccine shot.

The Aberdeenshire beer chain have come up with an inventive and public-spirited way of getting us all to get our shots.

I’ll take all four

They plan to throw open their closed bars as vaccination centres.

And they have asked the public for help in naming the new vaccine-themed beer.

Only here for the beer

As a steer they have mocked up a Vaccine Canteen, Little Prick, Community Immunity and Jab Lab.

All good, but why in the 13 years I was away from Scotland did we start saying jab instead of jag?

Breweries are a staple on tour itineraries and it is always welcome to sample a region’s or a brand’s beer.

I’ve sent many a Wish You Were Beer message from my travels around the world.

Interior decorations

And listened through the spiel from the Master Brewer about the mashing process and the like.

And prayed silently that nobody would ask a question which would require an answer that would eat into the drinking time.

The same goes for any vaccinations.

I mean, do you really want to be left waiting for your complimentary beer because somebody is firing off questions.

That would be a little prick.

Serve it uo

BrewDog Dog Tap in Ellon, near Aberdeenis one if your more accessible brewery tours.

And you get an insight into what must be one of the better places to work.

You can bring your per to work… and, oh, all that beer!

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Happier New Year

As the Scary One never tires of reminding me I went away a dozen times last year which I, of course, didn’t have the courage to correct her on…

It was nearer 14! 2020 though was a quieter affair for some reason.

Voyage of the Jim Treadee

That said, it’s always about the quality, not the quantity. Hell, who am I kidding? It’s always about the quality and the quantity!

I made some new friends and hooked up with some old ones…

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

And that’s before I made the biggest journey and commitment of them all by returning (for good, I’ve been told!) to my homeland, Scotland.

I make sure that I contact all those dream-makers at the end of every year who have hosted me over the course of the previous 12 months.

Fur Elise: My Travel partner Elise

And this year has been no exception.

And this year I add those who have tried to get me away but something has got in the way.

While my heart, and any help I can ever give, I give to those for whom 2020 saw them lose their jobs or business.

Bohemia. Beer and Beethoven

Na Zdravi: In Prague

This time I was let off the leash in one of my favourite cities and given a monastic brewery to sup in and a Hoptown.

But heck, my pal Katarína knows how I roll.

And she’d arranged a walk through Bohemian Switzerland which is the Czech Republic which is Narnia.

In the frame: In Zatec

Confused? Well this is the centre of Europe, battleground and playground for the continent’s great powers.

And where the Great and Good came to compose and repose.

Czech mate: Well, she is Slovakian but Katarina is my Czech Tourism pal

We stayed in the Beethoven Spa, where Beethoven himself had a room, and where they have his hearing horns and his death mask.

There was a nuclear bunker, an opera and much else.

This one is Fur Elise (no really, that is her name), my travel partner… I do hope you got to Russia.

Stastnejsi novy rok.

Bergamo Stay Strong

Bergamo life: Una ciocolatta di calda dens in Bergamo

And because I’m a journalist, and a contrarian, I rush for trouble where others run away from it.

So that when images of Bergamo in lockdown, here in Western Europe, shot onto our screens I vowed I would get out there.

Which I did in the Autumn when I saw a city, and its citizens, blending in with the changing of the seasons and nature’s ways.

Bergamo stay steong

Nature had not been kind to the Berganaschi with the Northern European city Covid’s European epicentre in March.

But here they were back out in the piazzas, looking beautiful and cool, even behind their masks.

Fun of the Funiculare

Well they all speak with their hands anyway (parlano con le mani).

And they have much to tell us about their city.

About their favourite sons Papa Giovanni XXIII who gave his name to the hospital we were all transported to in March.

And composer Gaetano Donizetti who is ubiquitous in the city which throws an annual operatic festival to him.

A poplar choice

As ubiquitous as Italian hero and freedom fighter Guiseppe Garibaldi who on his Expedition of the 1,000, his march on Rome, drew heavily from Bergamo.

Which has given the city the moniker, La Citta dei Mille (the city of the thousand). My kinda people.

 Anno nuovo piu felice.