Asia, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Sing for the Canaries

And at last they listened. To me, my English Canarian pal Mathew Hirtes and to the Tinerfinos and their cousins across the islands.

The Canaries are back on the UK exempt list, and I’m breaking out the Malmsey, the Canarian wine, much beloved by Shakespeare.

Part of the scenery: Jimmy, the Tinerfino

The Canaries, as I reported this week, have been returning rates of Covid infections way down on the UK.

And as Mathew has been telling us for months we’re safer over there than we would be here.

It’s also worth restating here how liberating this is for the Holiday Trinity that always infuses our sector… the holiday providers, the hosts and the holidaymaker.

And so without further ado…

Deal me in

My walking party

Jet2.com and Jet2Holidays, the UK’s largest operator to the Canaries, are recommencing flights.

To Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, from Friday from Glasgow and Edinburgh, Belfast and six other UK airports.

TUI holidaymakers haven’t seen the Canaries for 89 days but are already carrying their clients to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

There must be a plane waiting for me. And happen that my Tinerfino walking guide Eva is waiting for me to take me to Afur.

With Canaria Ways, of course.

A quick walk around the Maldives

And again…. sarong, but oh, so right

It’s more ambling than walking on Kuramathi.

The holiday notes advise you wear flip-flops and you can walk around the Maldives island in just half an hour.

While if you run out of puff in the all-year round 30C heat you can pull up a lounger or have a dip in your own villa infinity pool.

All with a regulatory Strawberry Daiquiri, of course.

And again I know a man who is in Kuramathi right now… and another man in Ireland from Turkish Airlines who will get you there and look after your every need.

While in the UK you want Kuoni.

A trip around the Greek islands

My waterfall: Kythera

And it’s a bit like the hokey-hokey with Greece.

Mykonos is in, but Crete, Lesbos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos is now out.

Which means you don’t have to self-isolate on your return from my own two faves, Corfu and Attica island Kythera.

And with Greece obviously, you never know where your odyssey will take you…

Wonderful Copenhagen

Bet you didn’t expect that: Copenhagen

And finally Denmark, the Little Mermaid et all.

I took my own Little Mermaid there on my cruise around the Norwegian fjords with MSC Cruises, and check out how their recovery is going.

As well as seeing the Little Mermaid, you need to get your photie taken with Hans Christian Andersen.

Not many people there: Leichtenstein

But sorry Leichtensteiners

No, me neither. I don’t know why tiny Leichtenstein has been removed from the exempt list.

Or if indeed it’s right to use the plural.

Well, this is what Leichtenstein has to offer. I’ll just have to get out there to find out for myself… when I’m allowed.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Forte forte and Italy

Me and Sir Rocco Forte are taking on the world.

Bit by bit.

The international hotelier shared his thoughts on Italy, Covid and how we should get tourism back in track.

He reported that the holiday experience is seemless in Sardinia at his Forte Village Resort where the health and safety measures are not invasive.

And but for the staff wearing masks and the regulations we are all getting used to follow you wouldn’t know things were any different.

Sir Rocco has been lobbying government throughout the crisis.

Put it on a pedestal

And the news of airport testing, at £80 with the results within an hour, being introduced at Heathrow for flights to Hong Kong that opens up an opportunity for Italy.

Before I flew to Bergamo last week I had to get a home test from a pharmacy, pay £150, courier it £10) and await the test’s return 24 hours later.

All within a 72-hour window before departure which Italy requires.

I asked Sir Rocco if he had lobbied the Scottish Government too.

My cup of ciocolatta: Bergamo

‘The First Minister is determined to make it more draconic than the rest of the UK,’ he told me.

‘I’m not very confident she would listen. It would fall on deaf ears.’

Perche? I can vouch that Italy, the entry point for the virus, is coping better than us with it now.

Forza Italia and Scotland and the UK, I mean Mamma Mia!

Balearic amigo

And word comes to us too of how our friends in the Balearic and Canary Islands are being proactive and inventive too in trying to get us back to their shores.

It is something of a bug bear of mine that a special case was not made for the Spanish islands.

But that was then.

The Spanish Government has put forward this protocol and it is worth reading.

The taskforce suggests a test pre-departure, funded by the visitor, and a test prior to their returning to their home country. At no cost to them.

If visitors are requested to self-isolate while they are away accommodation would be provided.

Me and my pals Lizzie and Mathew In Tenerife

If any additional medical costs is required this would be covered.

Today the accumulated infection rate in the Canaries was 35.29 per 100,000 are (based on the last 14 days).

In the UK it is 329.2 per 100,000.

Drink up and Kissimmee quick

The Margaritaville cocktail king

And after all that I was ready for Happy Hour with some of my favourite people in the Travel world, Experience Kissimmee.

They sent me a hamper with Margarita glass, can… and Covid accessories, branded mask and gel.

And a very helpful Floridian cocktail king from Margaritaville showed us how to make them.

And the king cocktail drinker himself

I’ll share all their news as soon as… Happy Hour extended into Happy Evening.

And, of course, you know how I love Florida and Disney World, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens and the cities, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

MEET YOU ON THE ZOOM

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Bergamo – alta e bassa

What’s Italian for phew’ I’ve been walked off my piedi today in Bergamo Citt’alta e Citta Bassa (City High and City Low).

And phew too… Johnson, Schnapps and Co. are too late to quarantine me on my return. I was always flying back tomorrow evening anyway, so Sunday is troppo tardi, idioti!

David and Goliath: The Basilica

That’s if I don’t decide to quarantine myself anyway with the Bergamoschi (the people that is, not the local sheepdogs who share their name. Although…!)

La Prima Citta

Bergamo, as we all know by now, is where Covid-19 entered Europe.

To the greater glory of God

But they have taken the worst it can offer and are coming out the other side, and will prevail.

Or as they say here ‘Molamia’ (stay strong).

Chin-Chin

The Bergamoschi have done just that since Covid visited in March and shut the town off from the rest of Lombardy, Italy, and the world for four months.

To the greater glory of beer: With Matteo

But not from each other… or not in the ways that matter.

Matteo, my tour guide volunteered to help out the old and infirm.

Restaurateur Niccolo the same with his original ice cream and food.

Stay strong: The Bergamo credo

And model citizen Emmanuele, who lives in a palazzo on the hill too, as a volunteer.

All are heroes… and all Bergamoschi are an example to us all

La Storia

Perhaps it is in the blood. It is certainly in their history.

I am standing in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Ciitt’alta.

The Bergamo bear: With Matteo and Atalanta Bear

Where the Bergamoschi built a new church after they were delivered from the plague in the 12th century.

And filled it with frescoes, magnificent paintings and special picture boards of other scenes where humanity prevailed over adversity.

Noah anyone?

Pasta Basta

Ma mi scusi. I have just eaten my own weight in food and drunk today, a small lago di vino and must now repair to my bed in the Hotel Excelsior San Marco.

I scream for ice cream: With Niccolo

A Domani.

And if you want to slip on the Italian Boot to follow in my footsteps, here’s my Via Francigena, into Rome

While as the Veneto region is just over the horizon to the east, here’s the City of Frescoes Padova.

INCONTRA A VOI NELLA VIA

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Holly Dolly Christmas

So how many days out can you release a Christmas album? 84 if you dress up like a Christmas Tree like Dolly Parton.

Dolly has been trailing her Christmas album which she released at the start of the month.

While her god-daughter Miley Cyrus who herself has a new album to promote at the moment followed her onto the Graham Norton Show in the UK.

I know all about Christmas in Dolly’s neck of the woods, Tennessee.

Of course the best place for all things Dolly is Dollywood.

I visited there, Tennessee, though Dollywood itself is a pleasure I’ve yet to savour, and Mississippi.

And my party was treated to a Christmas song recital in an antebellum houses in the Deep South.

There’s some of the old standards on the Dolly album like Holly Jolly Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

But there are more Dolly originals.

There are others who are getting their Christmas requests in early…

 

It’s usually all about the bass with Meghan but but this proud daughter of my beloved Massachusetts is all about the gifts in October,

She has a new album A Very Trainor Christmas.

The Dolly that we know and love has always been adorably irreverent.

Although not as saucy as Tobagonian Soca Parang music.

We’ll bring you more about the culture and traditions of Parang as Christmas comes closer.

But for now I’ll leave you with something that will definitely lift your spirits, a hot new 2020 Soca Parang Mix.

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Lennon’s revolution… 80 years a working class hero

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

We could pick any number to define our times as we mark John Lennon’s 8Oth birthday this week. Suffice to say his was a life lived.., and how.

We’ll never know for sure how he would have spent the last 40 years since his murder outside the Dakota Building in NY.

Blue for you. www.johnlennon.com

But it would be safe to assume he would have been at the forefront of all the great struggles of our day.

The Fall of the Wall, Apartheid, Black Lives Matter, Freedom from Covid.

Lennon bestrode his world, leaving his imprint, and still does.

And as his adopted New York celebrated his legacy by turning the Empire State Building blue, here are four Lennon cities.

Liverpool Lou Lennon

Liverpool 4

Oh Liverpool Lou, lovely Liverpool Lou, why don’t you behave like other girls do?

And we have Yoko Ono to thank for knowing this, that John would sing this song, his Mum’s fave, around the house.

John’s statue stands alongside his pals on the Liverpool waterfront near the Beatles Story museum.

Lennon is everywhere in his home city and the under-threat Cavern Club is a good first stop while let someone else do the work for you on their Magical Mystery tour.

Growing up in Hamburg

I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.

Not that John was dissing his home city, it was just that he was giving an honest reply to a reporter.

Lennon and the boys (five of them then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on board and with Pete Best instead of Ringo Starr) lived in Hamburg between 1960-62.

And Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour Das Original will take you all over their favourite haunts.

John was his favourite and she had his poster above her bed.

She will take you to the St Pauli door where he posed for a shot later used for the Rock ‘n’ Roll covers album and much, much more.

John’s New York

If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself

While we all know that John died in NY let’s dwell on his life in the Big Apple.

John loved its vibe, its people, its energy and put it down in song on New York City off the album Some Time in New York City.

Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial where the music never stops are obviously on the itinerary.

For the rest, check out this video.

The Lennon wall in Prague

The Lennon Wall, Prague

What to make of it when you’re told that the Lennon Wall in Prague now has ‘Fuck Trump’ messages on it?

It put off my Czech guide who remembers the wall well from the days when it was an organic centrepoint of protest against the Communist.

‘Appen though John would approve.

And let’s not let Amsterdam and Montreal lie

Of course, this is where John and Yoko had their Bed-ins for Peace.

At the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

And I hope that John would approve as I find myself compiling my thoughts here bolt upright in my bed.

While waiting to get back out there travelling again.

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

Hungry and Thursday – Smashing Trumpkins

No, I didn’t invent them, Smashing Trumpkins, although I wish I had.

I don’t know either which President was first honoured by having his face carved into a pumpkin.

But I do know the first tome I saw one… the Obama pumpkin.

Yes we pecan! www.twitter.com

When I took my family over to New York for the first time.

Every four years, of course, Halloween shares its season with politics, and the Race for the White House.

And carving the candidates into the face of a pumpkin has become a bit of a tradition.

We saw our Obama pumpkins on the doorsteps in Staten Island, the forgotten borough of old New York.

The Free Ferry. www.siferry.com

Staten Island is best known, of course, for its free ferry which carries 25 million passengers a year.

On the 5.2 mile 25-minute run between the St George Terminal and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

I wouldn’t for a minute put you off the wonderful boat trips around the Statue of Liberty. And in particular The Beast speedboat.

It’s just that you can see Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Heights and Lower Manhattan.

The historic borough of Staten Island

Staten Island has a museum, a zoo and Historic Richmond Town.

Of course, The Greatest Living New Yorker, Donald Trump, knows the Ferry from seeing it from his chopper.

I diverse from pumpkins and the recipe here for a Trumpkin pie I gleaned from the net.

But let me leave you here with a thought, The orange-faced pumpkin is made for the 45th President of the USA.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Holiday Snaps – Remote Dubrovnik, sign me up

It used to take me an hour and a half from my home in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, to get me to work in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

But in these COVID days I’ve reduced the hike to my office to a second and a half which, of course, is sending me stir crazy.

The Pearl of the Adriatic

Thankfully the Digital Nomad Visa Scheme is at hand to offer us the chance to move our workplace to, say Dubrovnik.

Nor is it new… George Bernard Shaw did, calling Dubrovnik ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’.

And that ‘those who seek Paradise on Earth should come to Dubrovnik’.

So if you can swing it to take three weeks, say, then our friends at Adriatic Hotels will help out.

Sail of the century

Reckon it’ll be nicer than home… and warmer!

They recommend the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace and the https://www.adriaticluxuryhotels.com/hotel-excelsior-dubrovnik/.

Buffalo Bill, Denniston and us

Glasgow rides again

And Dennistoun in the East End of Glasgow, the birthplace of my Dear Old Dad and Buffalo Bill’s stomping ground, has won its rightful place in the world’s hearts.

Dennistoun is the unlikely inclusion in a top ten of a Time Out list of Coolest Neighbourhoods.

Eighth behind Esquerra De L’Eixanple, Barcelona Downtown LA and Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York.

Billtown, Glasgow… http://www.dennistounconservationsociety.org.uk/page.asp?Title=Buffalo+Bill&Section=11&Page=13

And ahead of Haut-Marais, Paris and Marickville, Sydney.

James Manning, Time Out’s International Editor congratulated Dennistoun on its response to the pandemic.

Murtytown, Glasgow

‘With independents pipping up and artists brightening the winding streets.’

But Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Riders, Chief Sitting Bull among them, knew that already, choosing Dennistoun as his sole Scottish venue on his first Euro tour.

Buffalo Bill’s Grave, Colorado

There’s a statue to Buffalo Bill on Whitehill Street and Dennistoun is written large in the scrolls of the Buffalo Bill Museum in Golden, Colorado, where he is laud to rest.

The mighty Aphrodite and Cyprus

And because I like to see a job through, I want to get to the beginning and end of the Aphrodite story.

Having checked in on Kythera where Aphrodite was born out of the swell of the waves I obviously have to see whete she passed onto the Great Beyond in Cyprus.

With Travel Department who are offering seven nights from €1039pp, including flights, transfers 4* half-board hotel

Plus excursions and tour guide. Depart April, September, October and November.

Not past her shell-life: Aphrodite and Cyprus

You’ll whizz around the Medieval town on a half-day tour, the capital city Nicosia.

And one I’ve been building up for years, one of the great joys of Travel, crossing the border of an island, into Northern Cyprus.

Of course back in the days of Aphrodite it wasn’t an issue.

Paphos is mighty for Aphrodite… and Omodos for the wine.

Party like a German

Good to see my old German friends from the German Travel Mart and hear that the Beethoven 250th celebrations are still on course.

With December seeing two major musical events from his birthtown Bonn.

Beethoven 2020 will now be Beethoven 2021 too.. a bit like an extra symphony.

So let us entertain you with this sample of how broad Beethoven can be.

While you’ll want to watch out for Robbie Williams’ take on Beethoven next year.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

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

Harry, Meghan, Sideways and Santa Barbara

When Harry and Meghan had to find a bolthole out of Britain then Santa Barbara hoved into view.

And if you’ve been hanging on the Sussexes’ every word these past months then it no doubt piqued your curiosity for the American Riviera.

Preachy flavourings: Meghan www.meghansmirror.com

Pique no more.

We all know Meghan likes her vino and this is no doubt another reason why she has chosen Santa Barbara, Sideways country.

A Sideways glance

The smell of success: Miles and Jack. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Sideways: The greatest film about grapes ever – the towering Sideways.

Santa Barbara is the backdrop for Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) Bachelor’s Party road trip.

Our friends in Santa Barbara have helpfully put together an itinerary which follows in the footsteps of the odd couple.

You’ll start your day with breakfast at Solvang Restaurant.

Picnic time for the fab four

Where Sideways nuts will tell you that it was here that Jack insisted Miles’ ‘gloominess not thwart his attempts to get lucky before the wedding.’

Try the Aebleskiver, a waffle-like breakfast ball filled with apple slices.

Wine O’clock rolls around soon on a Sideways tour.

See if you get the same tasting notes as Miles from the Vin Gris at the Sanford Winery

‘Citrus, strawberry, the faintest soupcon of asparagus and just a flutter of edam cheese.’

Our kind of road trip: Miles and Jack on the road. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Next up Kalyra Winery is where we first meet vivacious Aussie wine pourer Stephanie whom Jack falls for.

Now I’ll need to dig out the film again to see Ostrich Land which you’ll also visit.

While our two heroes lunched at Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant with Stephanie and Maya. You too can choose from the Sideways menu.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is where a pent-up Miles guzzles from the slop bucket after the pourer refuses to give him a full glass..m

We’d opt for a glass of Pinot Noir.

Your table, sir?

Firestone Winery offers tours and a guide, and it is from here that our fab four sneak out of a lecture tour for a romantic walk through the Barrel Room.

The Hitching Post II is, of course, where Maya waits tables and their Santa Maria Style barbecue is to be recommended.

The definitive wine road trip tour… And, of course it’s your call on the Merlot!

Two Glasses In

Wine-tasting for our times

Vino California: And a toast to the Golden State.

Two Glasses In is a nine-episode podcast and video series that celebrates SB’s grapes over two glasses.

We prefer two bottles! And from Roberson’s too.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Roll Over Beethoven

And because this week I’ll be hooking up with my German pals for a virtual celebration of Beethoven, this being the 250th anniversary of his birth, I give you the classics.

Ear, ear Beethoven

This one’s for Elise

Beethoven, Teplice, Czech Republic: And you’d expect to see Ludwig in this wellness town back in the 18th Century.

Because Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Vienna and Prague were musical centres where Germans flocked to.

I paid my tribute to The Great Man this year at the Beethoven Spa Hotel in Teplice where he stayed, and his room is still there for him.

And he got treatment for his ears, tried out some funky horns and left his death mask.

We also tried out the titular cafe, and the hot chocolate and chocolate cake for research purposes. An empty piano awaited the maestro.

If Beethoven had written a Fur Katarina I’d point you to that in celebration of our host and my pal, but we have the equally enchanting Elise, so here’s Fur Elise.

Rock me Amadeus

Eine Kleine Sadie Music

Mozart, Salzburg, Austria: And, yes, the Austrian singer Falco toasted Mozart with this hit.

A Wiener, he was what Mozart wanted to be, though almost certainly not in musical terms, but certainly in his origins.

Wolfgang was no fan of his home place, Salzburg, which he thought had a small-town attitude.

High standards. We loved it on out ski trip to Soll (it is a Sound if Music Mecca too).

Although the museums are too spread out, you do get right under Wolfie’s skin ;and hair). Here’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, pretty much the only German I know.

Vivaldi’s Veneto

The Dragon, Constsnce and Bandanaman in Venice

Vivaldi, Padova/Veneto: And for many, particularly the Eighties generation, punk violinist Nigel Kennedy, and his rendition of Four Seasons, was it for classical music.

I don’t know if Kieran ‘The Dragon’ who was in our party in Padova was an aficionado but he took casual chic to a new level.

I take some responsibility as I’d wheeled him and fellow Venice newbie Constance out to Lagoon City.

We were back late but had each taken a change of clothes while Dragon was still in his boardies.

While the orchestra were kitted out and the waiters and waitresses too in the sumptuous Padova Botanical Gardens.

Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt of L’Autunno from Il Quattro Stagione.

Boheme Rhapsody

Raising the roof: Prague

Puccini, Prague: And long before rockers namechecked cities, the Classical composers were doing it.

Whisper it, the opera is set in Paris, the Bohemian bit is the fun label attached to what are modern-day Czechs.

And so, for me, the ideal place to watch Giacomo Puccini’s Classic is the State Opera in Prague.

Everybody loves to party in Prague, monks in the Strahov Monastery Brewery and priests swigging Champagne during the intermission at the State Opera.

Handel with care

No cats or mice allowed

Handel Dublin: And George Handel chose Dublin, the second city of the Empire, because he felt the London audiences had started to take him for granted.

No shrinking violet George, there was a statue to him erected in Dublin while he was still alive.

The premiere was packed and ladies were asked not to wear hooped dresses so as to allow more in.

That show was performed at the Musick Hall in Fishamble Street. Now you’ll want to go to Christchurch Cathedral for your opera fix.

But not the place for a cat or a mouse whose mummified remains are on display in the cathedral’s crypt…. they’d got stuck in the organ.

It’s immortalised in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

Anyhoos Christ Church Cathedral puts on recitals and thanks to my friends at Travel Department we channeled old Handel one balmy evening.

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

The travel pack – the birds of the world

Does anyone else here feel like Burt Lancaster in the Birdman of Alcatraz? Oh, to be that little birdie with his freedom.

So let’s take wing and celebrate our feathered friends around the world.

The Spoonbill

Scoop of the day. www.algarve-birdwatching.com

Rio Formosa, Quinta do Lago, Algarve: And anyone who didn’t think that God has a sense of humour hasn’t paid attention to how he made us all.

For every pink flamingo there’s a Spoonbill.

I found these fancy snouted fellas in the Via Formosa in Quinta do Lago in the Algarve…

Their bills, of course, are purpose-built to scoop up all that pond life to give them fuel for the skies.

Yes, Pink Flamingoes

In the pink: In Busch Gardens

Pink Flamingoes, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Florida: And for those Fiftysomethings among us the opening shots for the Florida soap Flamingo Road made us fall in love with these birds

Yes, and Morgan Fairchild, to be fair.

I got up close with a flamingo out in SeaWorld and again he is a reminder of God’s Grandeur.

Heron good things about you

You’ll have a long wingspan then

Herons, Kuramathi, The Maldives: And you know when a bird has her eye on you.

She even came into the pool with me every morning.

Kuramathi is a bird-watcher’s dream, big, small, skinny, plump, and every colour.

And as bird-watching is a stationary pastime isn’t it a relief that you don’t have to freeze your whatsits off either?

Caribbean wood doves and mockingbirds

The West Indies: Rihanna, my wood dove used to join me in my hot tub in Barbados of a morning… and leave a mess in the bedroom.

I would forgive Rihanna anything though.

The West Indians take their nature very seriously, just as seriously as their rum and their music.

And Ean The Birdman of Tobago will show you around his Adventure Eco Villas where the birdies will twirl and tweet around your head.

You can stay too and awake to birdsong.

And not forgetting the Duck

Ducks everywhere: Whether they’re the rubber ones in your bath at Hastings Hotels in Northern Ireland (or in mine).

Or with The Donald in Epcot in Florida or in Anaheim.

Following the Duckmaster and the quackers down to the fountain in the hotel lobby in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

MEET YOU WITH YOUR BINOS