Deals, Ireland

Craic Friday

And my friends in Visit Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland can have this one… Craic Friday. For the usual consultancy fee, of course.

As promised more Black Friday offers (and like all the best Fridays they stretch into the weekend).

It’s always nice to share your favourite hotels with your friends.

Dublin’s delights

in with the fixtures: At the InterCon

And I’m glad to have passed on the charms of my favourite Dublin hotel, the iconic InterContinental in Ballsbridge, with my old pal and multi-award winning Travel writer Yvonne Gordon.

Yvonne has been editing an international guide book and dropped in on Nicky and his staff at the D4 institution, just next to my old stomping ground.

You’ll save 25% off their best flexible rate and enjoy:

A spacious deluxe guest room or a choice of luxurious suites with many with balconies.

And a special recommendation here from my own mermaid who rave about their 14m heated indoor pool and relaxation area.

And their 10% off ESPA products.

There’s limited time to book through Friday, December 3.

And the offers are for stays between Monday, November 29 this year and September 4 next year. And book three days before arrival.

Lusty helpings

Lusty Beggers… can be choosers

And you’ll have lusty helpings all right with the famous hospitality in Northern Ireland.

The deliciously named Lusty Beg Island Resort in Fermanagh is giving you 40% off a B&B courtyard stay for two for £105 per night.

Or book two nights B&B courtyard for two for £265 and receive. £70 voucher to use during your stay.

The offer is open from January 1 to March 31 and is open through tomorrow.

Donegal Mammy

Search and replace: That couple could be you

And, yes, no dip into Ireland can be complete without a namecheck for its northernmost county… my Donegal Mammy would never forgive me.

The scenic Harvey’s Point, set in the idyllic surroundings of Lough Eske and with the Bluestack Mountains as a backdrop, is just where you want to be at this time of year.

Or any time, to be fair.

Now if you book your gift voucher online before midnight on Monday you will get a 10% discount.

That’s towards the stay offers or can be used to enjoy an Afternoon Tea or a meal in the Lakeside Restaurant or Harvey’s Bar and Terrace.

So, even though it’s Saturday, I make no apologies for giving you Craic Friday.

That’s  Irish logic for you.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Ireland

An American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin

It probably wasn’t like this for the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1421… but I’ll more than take An American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, masks, double dose certificates at the Radisson Blu Royal.

And certainly not what the Pilgrims laid before the natives…

Dried meat and fish, grains and flour, dried foot, cheese and hard biscuits.

Chow on chowder

Catch of the day: chowder

Thankfully culinary fashions have changed and we dined on New England chowder, mini burgers and wings.

All the time listening to the band belting out American standards.

And taking a tour of America, around the stands, from New England, Washington DC, Georgia and Florida.

Right across the Mid-West (Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah).

And over to my old friends in California.

Flying time

Fly the flag: Aer Lingus

And you’ve got it… Aer Lingus and British Airways were there (are there) to take us back.

Now that the borders are open again.

Now like a kid in a candy shop the difficult thing is what to choose first.

Our American Travel Fair resumes in Florida in May.

Orlando, woah, woah, woah

Minnie brwak: Minnie and me

So all roads lead there… to Orlando.

Now if the Pilgrims thought that New England was a good enough starting point to explore the New World who am I to disagree.

The eastern seaboard collection of states and commonwealths I know well from a summer in Boston after university and day trips to New Hampshire.

Connect with Connecticut

Making his Mark: Mark Twain

But I’m grateful here to Sue from Connecticut for clueing me in on her state.

You might be familiar with Mark Twain name-checking it in his time-travelling tome A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur.

And you’ll find everything you want to know about the Great American and his great creations Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in his museum here.

And also take in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house and get a glimpse of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

She’d be known today as HBS but back in the day to Abraham Lincoln she was ‘the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.’

It’s a rich old history and one I can’t wait to add to in 2022.

But for now it’s enough to acknowledge my dear old friends and embrace (with an elbow nudge) my new ones.

With an American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin.

 

Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Ho Ho Holyland

Bah Humbug to all those who whinge about Christmas decorations being out… in Israel it’s Ho Ho Holyland already.

Now, we won’t get too hung up on the wherefores.

Just to say that Jerusalem Santa Issa Anis Kassissieh, the official Ambassador of the Holy Land Santa, has been filming in Israel’s Golan Heights.

And, of course, with Israel being a little warmer than Lapland JS has parked the sleigh for a kayak.

Jolly Golan Christmas

Sticking his oar in: Santy

Santa’s journey began at sunrise, on a kayak on the River Jordan, a waterway I know well from my G Adventures trip.

Adaptable JS carries his Christmas tree and presents.

And he then strolls through the citrus and almond orchards typical of the Golan landscapes.

Sporty Santy

Froome, Froome: Getting on his bike with Chris Froome

Sporty Santy then gets on his bike to cycle with British four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome.

And his fellow team members of the Israel Start-up Nation professional cycling team who are currently touring Israel.

Santa’s little helpers: Israel style

JS ended the day at the Kursi National Park, site of the Miracle of the Swine.

And there as the sun set overlooking the Sea of Galilee, he spread love, peace and joy to the children of the Golan Heights.

JS will be back too later in the year when for those who don’t know The Promised Land will be unaware there will be snow on the ground.

Israel deal

Santa Pause: Where to go next

El Al, as we all know, has its route now out of Dublin, with a sample four-day return trip In January from €625.

And out of the UK from London from £287.

So, it’s Ho Ho Holyland and Go, Go, Holyland.

Asia, Australasia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Mothers-in-Law Day

It’s a problem worthy of United Nations arbitration so it probably shouldn’t be surprising that we honour both today with their own day, the United Nations Day and Mothers-in-Law Day.

With those esteemed institutions being deemed worthy of their own official day.

Now I wouldn’t for one minute begrudge Angela her day off today as she IS heading into Halloween, obviously her busiest time of the year.

In truth, I’ve always tried to keep a couple of steps ahead of Mother-in-Law, or Sir as she insists I call her.

The outlaw Angie

Mother and daughter: Angela and My Scary One, Sarah

And so we’d find ourselves living away from Chez Angela.

So she has needed to be a visitor to our billets on our adventures around these islands.

In Aberdeen, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Co. Wicklow in Ireland.

Greening it up: In Ireland

And that has allowed us the opportunity to show off the charms of some of our favourite places on these islands.

An inveterate traveller herself, she decamped to Australia with the family in her 20s.

And embarked on a round-the-world boat trip back to England.

Taking in New Zealand, Tahiti and the Panama Canal… and a lot of Pacific and Atlantic Ocean and all its choppiness.

Globetrotting Ma-in-Law

A horse a horse: My queendom for a horse

But she has also benefited from old Casey Jones (that’s the Father-in-Law).

And his love of train travel to span France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and much else of Western Europe.

One unexplored world and one I know she has long hoped to visit is the New World, the USA.

And it is my hope that we can get her out there to New York with her daughter, my very own Scary One.

And I know that she has got her own broom!

Have a Great Day Angela on this United Nations Day and Mothers-in-Law Day.

 

Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Andorra Papers where health is wealth

Never mind the Pandora Papers let’s look at the Andorra Papers where health is wealth.

It’s timely to focus on the Pyrenees country and not just because England’s footballers are heading there on Saturday.

No, Andorra la Vella is in our thoughts because it has been voted Europe’s capital of health.

So what qualifies you to top such a list?

The Health List

Breathe it in: AndorrA

Well, the number of gyms, healthy restaurants, water quality, air pollutions and total hours of sunlight per year.

Puma has compiled a table of 52 of the European capitals.

And in in the interests of fairness we’re told the number of healthy eateries have been scaled appropriately by population.

All to give a fair result.

So without further do a trawl through our healthy (and unhealthy) cities.

And a deeper dive into Andorra.

Small is best

All white: On the slopes

It’s the 11th smallest country in the world by population (77.006) and 16th in span (181sq miles).

But it has 10 million visitors a year mainly for its skiing,

With its capital 1,023m above sea level.

And as we all know that is as healthy an activity as you’ll find, as long as you stay on your feet.

It’s also a tax haven which our Pandora ‘pals’ clearly know,

All of which contributed to having the world’s highest life expectancy of 81 in 2013 according to the Global Burden of Disease Study.

And so you want to see where your city sits in the table.

London’s trailing

Tower of Strength: But low down in the list

If you’re from one of the three ‘other’British capitals you have bragging rights on London.

The Big Smoke is back in 43rd (ouch!)

Edinburgh in Scotland is 11th, Belfast in Northern Ireland is 16th and Cardiff in Wales 27th.

With my old stomping ground of Dublin in Ireland squeezed in 25th.

Take a bow if you’re Lisbon, Bern, Tallinn or Reykjavic.

While Monaco, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Luxembourg and Nicosia make up the top ten.

And finally

Sporty: Satajevo

I’ve no skin in the game for Nur-Sultan (that’s Kazakhstan), Baku (Azerbaijan) or Moscow, though no list will put me off going there.

But they are down in the bottom five, along with Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina (couldn’t have been when I visited).

While I’m keeping it from my pal, Turkish Airlines’ finest Onur and my barber Mohamed but Ankara in Turkey is last.

So when you’re watching the England game just think Andorra Papers where health is wealth.

 

Africa, Countries, Ireland, UK

A Kenyan tribal elder as a souvenir

Most of us make do with a fridge magnet but Siobhan Byrne Learat brought back a Kenyan tribal elder as a souvenir.

Now Ireland is a much different (and better) place than in 2007 when Kasao Learat first came to Ireland.

It was around the time I embarked on my own 13-year residency in Ireland.

Unforgettable: Elephants in Namibia

And I am reminded of a sign in a DART (or train) station which read..

‘The big problem with this country is too many pasty-faced people.’

A shared experience 

Our of Africa: With Kasao, and Meseret from Ethiopian Airlines

I was one of those pasty-faced people in the assembled group when I first met Siobhan and Kasao in Dublin.

And, of course, he stood out in his tribal garb.

But also for his warmth, wisdom and fun, although Siobhan will be happy to know I wasn’t checking out his bum!

You couldn’t help inspecting Kim Kardashian’s, the influencer boasting the most famous derrière in the world, either.

Back in the day when Kim and Kanye West were rumoured to be honeymooning in Ireland we searched for leads.

When we should have known that when it comes to high-end hospitality Siobhan and Kasao’s Adams & Butler are the go-to people.

Kim’s story

News hounds that we are, we did track down Kim and Kanye to £18,000 a night Ballyfin, Co. Westmeath.

Where my intrepid friend Emma Byrne happened to be staying with her then boyfriend Dan.

And had to wipe her eyes when Kim squeezed that rear into her chair next to her at breakfast.

People come in every shape, size and colour and you never know who you’ll discover (or bump into) and where.

Only that it will be a helluva ride.

I was offered an eye up to the keyhole of the window of the world Siobhan is offering… in Namibia.

But because of my own inadequacies with modern technology I missed out on Adams & Butler’s webinar on the South-West African country.

Welcome to Namibia

Mrs Fix-It: Siobhan

Mrs Fix-It to the rescue with this vid.

Now it would take all the time in the world, which we don’t have, to run through all the options Adams & Butler offers.

But both in the UK & Ireland and around the world you’ll get the best in experiential travel and interaction with the locals.

And a Kenyan tribal elder as a souvenir!

 

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Sport

Prost to Johnnie Fox and Tirol

It’s apt that the launch of Ireland’s Austrian ski return should be held in Ireland’s highest pub… Prost to Johnnie Fox and Tirol.

Johnnie Fox is one vulpine who only enhances the countryside of the Dublin Mountains.

To call it a pub is to underplay it.. it is a recreation of a bygone Ireland.

Irish family: With English and American

Of snugs as cottage front rooms with dressers, pans, open peat fires, and the ilk.

And enough Irish sayings, wit and wisdom and whimsey to impress your diaspora pals.

As well as Irish dancing, hooleys and the best fish and Guinness.

Old Ireland

See I said Old: With Old Irishwomen

It’s still my favourite Pint of Plain and Chowder anywhere on the island.

You’ll see then why Johnny Fox’s is a magnet to Hibernophiles and returnees.

And as such it was always a pit stop on a tour of Dublin and Wicklow when friends and family came a-passing.

With venues difficult to organise in these Covid days Johnnie Fox’s courtyard and surrounds are ideal.

And so the Great and Good of Irish Travel will assemble next Friday at the fully heated area of the Haggart Outdoor Area.

Slope off to Ski Club

High life: With the Scary One in Soll

There is another very good reason why Johnny Fox’s has been chosen.

The Ski Club of Ireland is housed nearby.

Skiing’s popularity among the Irish is often underestimated, particularly by those who can’t see beyond a hurling stick.

And still talk about Garrison Games.

But I would like to think I championed skiing in my time in Ireland.

And also realised that I was best leaving the writing in the hands of multi award-winning writers Catherine (Murphski) Murphy and Isabel Conway.

Memories of Soll

Have skis will travel: In Austria

I would, of course, go off-piste myself, or when I accidentally skied off course.

Like I did in Soll with the always supportive Topflight.

All the Austrian ski crew will be there…

The vintage VIPs

Tale of the slopes: And the Alps

We can look forward to hooking up with…

Yvonne Rosenstatter of Salzburgerland State Tourist Board, Elena Protopopow, of Tirol Tourist Board, Wilma Himmelfreundpointner, of St. Anton am Alberg Tourist Board)

Together with Ski Instructors from Flachau and Obertauern and the Ski Club of Ireland Team

And the most important person of all, Dagmar McGuinness, of Advantage Austria who are bringing in the Austrian wines.

The Ski Club of Ireland is pushing on to promote this winter for the big bounce back.

It is holding an Alpine Fest on Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25.

I may have to save that pleasure.

Sites for sore eyes

And once you get the knack: Fun on the slopes

In the meantime here’s a brief introduction to my friends..

Salzburgerland – https://www.salzburgerland.com/en/, Obertauern – https://www.obertauern.com/en/, St. Anton – https://www.stantonamarlberg.com/en/

Flachau – https://www.flachau.com/, Tirol – https://www.tyrol.com/, Great Outdoors – https://greatoutdoors.ie/

Ski Club of Ireland – https://skiclub.ie, DLR Tourism – https://www.dlrtourism.ie/, MountainPeople.ie – https://www.mountainpeople.ie/

And Topflight.ie – https://www.topflight.ie/

And finally a big Prost to Johnnie Fox and Tirol.

 

Countries, Deals, Ireland, UK

Fifty years of Belfast’s Europa Hotel

Once the world’s most bombed hotel, after being targeted 33 times, it’s metamorphosed in the Fifty years of Belfast’s Europa Hotel.

Part of the fixtures and fittings of the daycent old town they call Belfast.

It has been a favoured hangout for journos all that time.

Back in the day the Irish Times Belfast office relocated there (to work!) after their offices were gutted following a car bomb.

While there have been a pantheon of celebrated journalists who have frequented the Europa.

And those who reported on The Troubles are Trevor McDonald, Kate Adie and John Sergeant.

And yours truly and a group of journos from south of the Border.

Your only man

The Penthouse Poppets: Belfast’s bunny girls

We got bombed too (drinks!).

And don’t get all PC on me as our Nordie pals are all about the gallows humour.

The night was a Van Morrison cabaret dinner and the drink was flowing. 

While there was also the obligatory stumble across to Belfast institution the Crown for a nightcap or two.

In this instant orange stout, and I kid you not.

The Europa has been owned by the inimitable Hastings family for the past 30 years..

And as you would expect they’re laying out the red carpet for the big 50th anniversary celebrations. 

Hastings the last word

Former US President, Bill Clinton with concierge Martin Mulholland.

They have invested over £40m in renovations and have added 88 new luxurious bedrooms to the existing 184.

A new renovation programme is currently underway.

It will see the 90 front-facing superior bedrooms, 85 classic bedrooms and six suites redesigned and upgraded.

Of course, there will always be some rooms which are kept for Presidents (and Travel Editors of the Year).

Clinton fits the bill

Survivor: The Europa Hotel

And as well as yours truly, Bill Clinton has been a visitor, in 1995.

He booked 110 rooms for his entourage. He returned to stay in 1998.

The Europa story was told in a book published ten years ago called In The Headlines because it always was. 

Julie noted

The bould boys: At the Europa

And CEO Julie Hastings proudly recalled: ‘My father had the courage and optimism to buy it when nobody else wanted to.

‘He invested heavily at the time despite the bombings that followed over the next three years.

‘It was his confidence and that of many others that led to Belfast, and Northern Ireland, to begin its journey, to become the well-loved tourist destination that it is today.’

The Europa has launched a Golden Moments package from £115 per room which includes a plush stay, full Irish, signature cocktail in the Piano Lounge, signature truffles and exclusive golden Hastings duck.

And for those of you who haven’t stayed in a Hastings hotel, and if not why not, then you’ll know that rubber ducks are their signature.

Eider expect Julie will have one lined up with a typically punny name to join the likes of her others in the past such as Rory Quackilroy.  

Countries, Ireland

The Bill Murray Irish pitch

What he’ll make of the electric fences enclosing the greens in Portnoo/Narin… it’s the Bill Murray Irish pitch.

Bill, a big golf fan with the classic film Caddyshack in his back catalogue, has been promoting Ireland with a tour of the country.

And wasn’t my old pal Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland with the Great Man just in his element on the links?

Donegal driving

A threeball: With Teasy and Jim

Bill will be playing a host of top courses around the country including my family’s old stomping ground Portnoo/Narin in Co. Donegal.

Nearby Cruit Island, and Portsalon and the new St Patrick’s Links course at Rosapenna just up the coast.

Wicklow wedges

Green, green Wicklow: Druid’s Glen

Druids Glen in my old bailiwick of Co. Wicklow is where matters of state are discussed along with the craic.

And where then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen discussed bailing out the banks with financier, and Greystones’ own Seán Fitzpatrick.

A different turf in Kildare

Home of the turf: Carton House

Neighbouring Kildare may be better known as a county of horse-racing.

But it also boasts some famous golf clubs,.

And who can forget Darren Clarke skulling his Guinness in front of the Europe fans at the K Club after spanking the Yanks.

Bill is opting Mark O’Meara’s Carton House.

West is best

Galway to go: Galway Bay Golf Resort

Galway and The West is Awake, as the traditional song goes, and Co Mayo, another former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny’s back yard.

And that’s where you’ll find Carne Golf Links.

Enniscrone is the jewel of Co. Sligo, so celebrated by Celtic mystic poet WB Yeats.

Our childhood holidays with my Dublin cousins involved more swimming and fo-karting in the West.

But it has some of the finest courses too with Galway Bay Golf Resort and Connemara a magnet for links lovers.

Southern comfort

Steeped in history: Ballybunion here since 1893

While no tour of Ireland would be complete without a trip south to Kerry where Ballybunion is waiting.

And a tip for Bill when he hits Portnoo/Narin just mention Teasy and Jim at the bar and they’ll look after you.

Follow the Bill Murray Irish pitch and his The Links Life series with Tourism Ireland and Failte Ireland on YouTube.

 

Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe, Ireland

Cassidy’s Sundance Kids

My Dear Old Mum would visit the same Travel Agent every year to book our family holiday and I’m sure it’s the same for Cassidy’s Sundance Kids.

Cassidy, as all in Ireland know, is the country’s biggest independent Travel Agent.

And it has made generations of holidaymakers dreams come true.

Which is why families continue to go back to them again and again to book their holidays.

Now there have been many heroes over this Covid year and a half and our health workers, teachers…

And heck, all of us should take a bow.

But I’d like to give a shout-out to our Travel Providers who have often worked without pay and in their own time.

And all to make sure customers get away or are refunded or have their holidays rescheduled.

Now there are those who say that getting away is not a matter of life and death.

But if self-isolation (and the Son and Heir is facing that just now) has taught us anything it is that humans do not belong caged up.

And so we are delighted to report that Cassidy Travel’s doors are open and filling our inboxes with their offers.

And so without further ado…

On trend

Last year’s blond: ‘The Donald’ in New York

Here’s where they want to take us and I’m indebted to the awesome Aileen who has taken over babysitting us Travel professionals.

Here are the trends (as the kids say):

The late Autumn deals, New York and Las Vegas shopping breaks, Christmas markets, Lapland, Christmas and New Year Sun.

Take a breath…

New Year and January Ski, Cruising, Florida 2022 and Villa Holidays.

And, yes please to them all.

But we’ll pare some of them down to these Three Cheers.

Ola Barcelona

To the Lord: At Gaudi’s centrepiece La Sagrada

We all know Barcelona in the summer where it’s hot, hot, hot.

And I’m sure I’m still the subject of the proud, brusque Catalan waitress who I managed to draw a smile from when I asked for a hot chocolate on the hottest day of the hottest heatwave.

Thankfully we got to take to the water for a cruise stop.

flights and 3 nights accommodation at the 3*Hotel Leo for the incredible price of €149pp (based on two people sharing)!

Flight departs Dublin 13th and returning 16th October 2021.

Call Cassidy Travel on 01 8901000 or book in one of their 10 stores across Dublin.

You’re a Celebrity too

On Celebrity Cruises’ Edge

And Celebrity Edge is the ultimate in cruising with its floating tender… and yes, love me tender.

Cassidy will get you on board for a scoot around Italy and Greece aboard next summer 2022.

Get on this deal for seven nights in an interior cabin including full board.

Plus Always Included Promotion Classic Drinks package, internet package and tips for only €1929pp.

Setting sail from Rome and visiting Naples and the stunning Greek islands of Santorini, Rhodes & Mykonos,

And phinally Phuket

Phuket, we’ll finish with a land, Thailand, and resort, Phuket, where I sent many a young adventurer and page designer and scuba diver Podge in my time as a commissioning editor.

Cassidy has 50% savings included for a ten-night stay in the 4* Old Phuket Karon Beach Resort from only €998pp for next May.

Stay in a Deluxe Sino Wing room, beautiful period accommodation influenced by Sino-Portuguese architecture.

And enjoy the magnificent pool, mountain views and beach side bars.

Prices are based on two sharing and include flights, taxes, private transfers and hotel accommodation.

Book by September 30 to avail of this amazing deal!

And aren’t these all good reasons to pitch Cassidy’s Sundance Kids.