Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holidos and don’ts – the exempt list

I never thought the fortunes of Brunei and Malaysia would mean so much to me.

But the half-island country and the peninsula in south-east Asia are giving hope to deflated travellers.

Because they are back on the exempt list of countries from where you don’t have to self-isolate on return to the UK.

Brilliant Brunei

Which means that those countries that have been stuck back on the exempt list, most notably Spain and Portugal have a way back.

And I am still spitting that the Covid-lite Canary Islands, 1500 miles south of Spain, are on the list.

And the same goes for Portuguese islands Madeira and the Azores

Splendid isolation in Tenerife

Both are known for their lush gardens, and the mother-in-law has long been hankering to go out to Madeira, mentioning it again only yesterday.

With the current lightning changes you can find yourself rushed away from your destination, or forced to sit it out until things change.

Madeira is a piece of cake

So when you do get out there Even Scarier One then don’t feel you need to rush back. Enjoy yourself.

Most of us wouldn’t have noticed.

But the UK Government slipped the change in Brunei and Malaysia’s status into their most recent pronouncements on the exempt list.

Which saw Belgium, Andorra and the Bahamas put back on the naughty list.

Normandy landing… get me there

Us Francophiles are now getting nervous about our plans for France.

And again our politicians are stubbornly ignoring the option of selective lockdowns.

Because Lyon, Paris and the Riviera aren’t Normandy. I said they aren’t Normandy!

Now back to those exotic destinations Brunei and Malaysia, if they want me to sample their wares they know where to find me.

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

Hungry and Thursday – Teacake gobbler or nibbler?

The Scottish teacake is a very different cousin to its English relative just as your favourite blogger is very different from my very own Little English Teacake.

The Scottish teacake is a semi-circular chocolate-covered cake with a marshmallow filling and biscuit base.

While the English equivalent is a sweet bun with dried fruit, typically served toasted and buttered.

How do you open tbis?

And us Scots celebrate our teacake as an important culinary and cultural part of our identity.

Glasgow is my cup of tea

So that when Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games, dancing teacakes jumped around the track as part of the Opening Ceremony.

But while we all agree that we love nothing better than eating a teacake with our tea we will often spend the time arguing about how to ear them.

Oh, you broke the chocolate…

So are you a gobbler or a nibbler?

Apparently according to a survey of 100 Scots conducted by onepoll for the Chester Hotel in the Granite City of Aberdeen one in four of us eat the filling first and then the biscuit base.

While the second most popular method is to strip the chocolate first.

And it seems my age group, the 35-54-year-olds, are ten times more likely to be chocolate strippers than the next generation.

Where are you from?

One in ten of us are nibblers with more women than men going that way.

And 13% of us whack it down in a oner.

NEWSLINE MEDIA LIMITED
And if you want something else too

Even within that there are regional variations with some surprising conclusions.

While Edinburgh is seen as the refined capital of Scotland its citizens like to munch big mouthfuls of their teacake while Highland and Islanders will stick the oil’ teacake in their mouths in a oner.

On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond they like to eat the biscuit base first.

Don’t eat with your mouth full

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One from each shelf?

I’m not sure how my fellow Glaswegians eat them, but outside of genteel Kelvinside I’m afraid that loquacious lot that they are they probably eat them while they’re still talking!

I know Aberdeen is in temporary lockdown but when you do get back out you should book yourself an afternoon tea at the Chester Hotel in Queen’s Road from €26.50 while a Champagne afternoon tea is also available.

Takeaway afternoon tea – provided in the Chester Hotel take-away tea caddies – are available to book online

 

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Vienna top of the pops

When will you realise Vienna waits for you? – Vienna, Billy Joel

No, I’m not plumping for the maudlin Ultravox song as I mark the survey that puts Vienna top of the pops for quality of life for newlyweds and families.

The Austrian capital which has eluded me thus far pips Orlando and Amsterdam in the top ten study by Purely Diamonds

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And there’s always a beautiful sculpture

I took Miss F to Corfu for our honeymoon where she only had eyes for me as did the hotel keyboard player!

But Vienna has always been on our radar and Austrophiles that we are, I will waltz her around the square yet… to work off their famous hot chocolate and cakes, of course.

A two-film trip… to Australia!

Many of us are put off travelling to the other end of the world by the time we have to spend in the air.

For airplane (and movie) fans like myself I love it because it means I can see all the latest releases.\

My longest continuous trip has been to Los Angeles where I reckon I got to see all the Oscar nominations for that year.

Now Virgin Galactic are raising the bar by releasing details of their most ambitious airplane ever, their supersonic route from London to Sydney… in only five hours!

The Virgin Group Space flight company announced the first stage design scope for the build of its Mach 3 plane yesterday.

And he’ll be there waiting

They’re also teasing us with less than two-hour flights to New York. So that rules out a Martin Scorsese film then!

Easy does it

How are you all down there?

The more our politicians try to stop us travelling the keener we are to do just that.

And EasyJet are saying that they will fly at 40% capacity, 10% higher than their projections because of better than expected bookings.

And with 84% of its flights full. All of which should leave a spare seat for me.

Automatic for the people

No one to disturb us

Because this is where to come for all your musical touchpoints…  though there will be no REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, here as you’ll get a great sleep in this Automatic hotel.

Just up the road from my old stomping ground of Greystones in Ireland’s Garden County of Wicklow.

Firefly Bray, which is a sister hotel of The Martello, offers the latest in self-service check-in technology with your room key downloaded directly to your phone. And there is no on-site staff.

Firefly is close to the promenade front and the dramatic Bray Head from where you can walk the cliffs to Greystones.

Rooms start from €70 per night. Tell them I sent you!

And as is the way of it you wait for one Holiday Snaps and two come along in quick succession. I’ll be back with more. 

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

American Holidays Jamaica

Ireland’s first automatic hotel

Surfing and beach holidays in Switzerland.

Emirates to Seychelles

Visit Portugal

Florida’s Paradise Coast

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, Sport, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Austria you to me are everything

I could move a mountain when my hand is in your hand – The Real Thing

Whether The Real Thing had the Alps in mind I don’t know but they know the band all right in Soll… and Austria you to me are everything.

Songs often jump up and hook us randomly in the places we hear them the most.

And You To Me Are Everything rocked out every night at the Whisky Muhle.

I skied some of those mountains… yeah, right!

Where Alex Johnson, the singer, belts out rock classics, while the locals pour Jagermeisters down his gullet.

And he announces every night that You To Me Are Everything is the best song of all time.

And Alex does the ‘best song of all time’ justice, and a bunch of others with his ‘Candy’ well worth a mention.

I even forgave him saying that Paolo Nutini had ripped it off REM.

I’ll be in one of those huts

All this, and did I say that they have a game where you hammer a nail into a block of plywood with the acute end?

Which funnily enough you won’t see in the pubs of Glasgow, Liverpool or Dublin.

We travelled to Soll with ski specialists Top Flight and I have hiked up the hills with them too since.

And that’ll be the beer then

Top Flight, who also with good reason call themselves the Italy specialists, are suffering like so many in Travel.

And they had to make the heartbreaking decision to let some staff go last week.

Which I know from dealing with them would have been the last thing they would have wanted.

It may seem like all uphill right now while downhill doesn’t seem too appealing either.

And the locals are real friendly

But skiing proves that we can ride the bumps and come out still standing at the end of it all.

And there’s a Jagermaester at the end of it all at the end of it all and a rocking music set. It’s apres-ski and it’s everything.

*Everything – The Real Life Story which chronicles the career of the first all-black British band to reach No.1 in the UK charts screens on BBC Four on Friday at 9pm.

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, UK

Give us this Day – Ramadan a ding-dong

Whatever you’re doing I hope you’re having a good Eid and a good feed Abdullah, after our Ramadan a ding-dong in the Atlas Mountains.

Because I know that Abdullah, just like all my Muslim friends, has earned it after all that fasting.

I don’t know how they do it, and I don’t know how Abdullah did it as he whizzed around the Atlas Mountains.

We still love Morocco… we think!

On not even a drop of water or a water biscuit.

Fast and furious

There was water though, and when it falls in Morocco, it does so in epic proportions.

And as quickly as Abdullah swept the rain off his minibus window than Allah chose to drop more rain on it.

What’s all the fuss?

And all this while negotiating his way around the narrowest and highest bends with cliffs eroding and crumbling on us.

Quite what he thought of us piling into a chicken tagine while he starved he was courteous enough to keep to himself.

A light show in the sky

But Abdullah would have the last laugh only he was spiritually cleansed.

I’m all right, Jock

Because your favourite Travel writer took sick in the Sahara Desert.

I did though get to ride my first camel (my second would come on my G Adventures trip to Jordan).

And see a light show in the sky, complete with shooting stars, as I spent the night on the toilet seat.

And the train moves on

Looking out above as there was no roof on the shack… and no flush either.

I’ll be coming round the mountains

And I was still paying for it the next day when my host Alice came looking for me in my tent.

It’s all well and fine the Berbers singing on

And as punishment I had to ride my camel back to the minibus and back around those winding mountain roads.

The rains had abated though… Praise be Allah!

I would, of course, now go with my friends at G Adventures, while equally Sunway in Ireland pride themselves in being all over Morocco.

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

Rainy Days and Songdays – Ten Direction

Can it really be ten years since five fresh-faced kids bounced onto the scene as One Direction?

And five years since five refreshed-face veterans croaked out One Direction to the crowds in Orlando.

And then there were four

At Pat O’Brien’s duellimg piano bar in Universal Resort’s CityWalk.

Where we spluttered out ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.’

I wanna sing a Classic

Lubricated, of course by Pat’s own signature giant Hurricane cocktail glass.

There were other classics we took on too: Sweet Caroline, oh, oh, oh… and, yes, we were so good, so good, so good.

What are you having? With Bev and Eoghan

And sing us a song, you’re the piano man… He needed no invitation, nor us.

And, of course, in Pat’s, on CityWalk, in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, across Universal’s attractions you forget about life for a while.

Open for business

Universal, and Orlando’s theme parks have been challenged by COVID, and they have had to be slow in resuming the total experience we all enjoy.

Well, that’s my five a day

So spraying out classics as two pianists who would grace American X Factor duel on their pianos is out for now.

But the parks are open.

Your own park

And CityWalk is partially open. So if you are in that part of the world then get down to CityWalk and the rides.

Even better in Orlando, if you can get them to close off the park through the early hours.

Eat my shorts, and drink a few too

As they did for my friend and Disney host Cory at DisneyWorld.

For the rest of us we can return to the rides and our favourite Disney characters on a reservation basis.

And they bring their own water

Where we can look forward to reduced queues.

The main attraction

And there will be fewer people there to see you squeal like a baby on the likes of the thrilling SheiKra at Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay.

For more squealing we sang on through the night at Rising Star Karaoke Bar which I have the pleasure to bring you here on Rainy Days and Songdays.

And when you do get back out there from the UK and Ireland then Attraction Tickets are the guys to go with.

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

St James on Bray Head in Ireland

If you see Her throwing me over Bray Head don’t call the Gardaí… she has my permission.

No, I’m not getting maudlin during lockdown, it’s just that that’s where I want my ashes scattered.

There on my favourite walk between my old home in Greystones, Co. Wicklow and also by Bishop Elphinstone’s grave in King’s College, Aberdeen.

My beloved Greystones and my beloved

I wish I could be with you (alive you understand) tomorrow as you take your first steps on your Camino.

I took mine too on one of Camino Ways’ training walks on St James’s Day in Ireland’s Garden County.

Where I met founder and ‘force of nature’ Roland Monsegu who I would share many a glass of wine with over future years.

Got there

Including at one of my billets on the French Way to Santiago de Compostella where he was doing a recce.

Today is both St James’s birthday and the national day of Galicia where his bones lie in Santiago.

The first of their training Sunday walks will begin at the seafront in Bray at 9.30am and last a leisurely two to two-and-a-half hours.

It is a 7km healthy cliffside walk skirting the sea.

Working my ass off

While you can look down on the train to Greystones making its way to the tunnel built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Before emerging through the other side in Greystones.

You’ll see it yourself halfway around the bend, its newly-refurbished harbour dotted with yachts.

And its blue and yellow cottages standing out in the distance as it did in times of old so the fishermen could recognise their homes in the dark.

On the road

Which is the same in Galicia where the name of the province is a giveaway… they’re Gaels really.

If you’re in Ireland then you’re already blessed and it’s likely you’ll need to be to walk the Bray Head.

And to be part of the fun here’s where to get tickets.

You’re James too

And if you feel like going that extra mile then why not veer off from the group and go up to the top of the Head and the Southern Cross.

Where there is (yes, you guessed it) a Christian cross.

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

Holiday Snaps – a drive-thru the UK and US

We’d seen them on the movies and heard them on Meatloaf songs but when it came to my time my first drive-in movie was with my BROTHER!

It was a James Bond movie, The Living Daylights, in a Canadian field?

But it was magical all the same.

Today is National Drive Thru Day and drive-in movies here in Scotland are selling out fast.

Lots of social distancing in California

In California naturally, they do things bigger.

And drive-thru everything from a giant sequoia in Yosemite to views of statues, bronze babies and murals in Greater Palm Springs.

Derry’s Galway Girl

The girls and one boy in the Derry mural

‘Humour’s so subjective really’… and so it would appear is location really.

With everyone’s favourite Derry Girl fessing up to not really being a Derry Girl. Really!

Nicola Coughlan, aka gullible Clare, has revealed her Galway roots for Tourism Ireland.

Tourism Ireland and the iconic Abbey Theatre in Dublin have put on a digital experience.

With 50 writers and 50 actors in a collection of ‘theatrical postcards’.

Howabiteye? Clare. Visit all Ireland but she makes a great case for Galway and Derry/Londonderry.

I’ll ask her

And as brutally as the Cruisestapo are trying to kill cruising after shaming us all for years.

As fervently we will work to get our ships back on the water.

American Holidays are looking to 2021 with their Alaska Cruises.

Now I know first hand the fun and games you can have on board.

With ziplines and surf simulators in Barcelona with Royal Caribbean

But on your Alaska cruise you’ll be wanting to get out on land and trek to a glacier and go on whale watching excursions.

A trip of a lifetime with a hot offer of from €1699pp, one night Seattle snd seven night cruise

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

Hungry and Thursday – Liverpool scouse

And if you’ve felt too silly to ask what it is, the food that gives its name to Liverpudlians as in Liverpool scouse, this week’s Hungry and Thursday is all about Liverpool scouse and stews around the world.

Scousers have been getting their voices heard (and what’s new there?) these past few weeks, culminating in their fireworks party as they lifted the Premier League title at Anfield yesterday.

But seeing this is a food and drink post, and I already give you a sporting post, My Sporting Weekend every weekend, I’ll stick to scouse.

In a Stew

Which will stick to you teeth or in them. Because it’s really just stew with extras.

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Ally in red, naturally

I first had myself a plate of scouse in Albert Dock, Liverpool, as I waited for my interview at the Liverpool Daily Post back in the 1990s.

I had pulled a sickie to attend and was to go on and stare inside the studio where the British morning magazine programme This Morning was televised, only for the camera to turn on me.

Just the job

Which is when I got a shiver down my back as I thought of my boss’s wife watching from up in Aberdeen and reporting to Jim that I was really down on Merseyside when I should have been at my desk.

Still, I got the job so it wouldn’t have mattered.

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Back to the scouse and the word derives from ‘lobscouse’ which was a Scandinavian and Northern German stew brought to Liverpool by sailors.

The Liverpudlians, of course, reciprocated and sent exports of their own to these parts… The Beatles. And you can hear all about that in the city they made their home, Hamburg.

Hamburgers… and stew

On Stefanie Hempell’s Beatles tour (and you won’t get better).

While scouse isn’t the only comfort food that the Hamburgers have exported with great success. See Hamburgers and ships.

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A Star in Hamburg

So what’s in Scouse?

Scouse consists of mutton, lamb (often neck), or beef with vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots, and onions. Serve with pickled beetroot or pickled red cabbage and bread.

Ethiopia and the world

While I leave my Liverpool-born son to make his way back from the festivities to Scotland, or indeed the phone call to bail him out of jail, I’ll take you on a gristlestop tour around the world of stew.

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With the queen of Ethiopia, Meseret

Meat of Africa

Ethiopian chicken stew: And I’ll miss those Ethiopian  New Years in Dublin which I shared with my friends Carole, Lorcan, Tony and my Queen of Ethiopia Meseret.

Because Enkutatash runs to the old calendar which means that you actually lose time. I, of course, lose all sense of time when the wine starts flowing which I only do to soak up the Ethiopian stew which you eat with your hands soaking it up with bread.

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And you can get a fancy dish too

Balkan bellies

Bosanski Ionac, Bosnia & Herzegovina: And they love their homely food in the Balkans and it unites the different cultures and traditions.

Whether you’re with the ultra-Catholic Croatians of Medjugorje of Marian Pilgrimages  or in Muslim Sarajevo in the Bey Mosque district What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know?.

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Let’s waffle on about Belgian stew

Belgian bulge

Carbonnade, Flanders, Belgium: And the brave soldiers who went to the Front in the First World War would take their pleasures where they could.

So that meant wine, women and song… or in Ieper, dark beer (there’s lots of it in this dish), women (they’re the same the world over) and drinking shanties. All right up a Tommy’s street and the best people to go with are GTI Travel and Visit Flanders.

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Catch of the day: Fish stew

Portuguese please

Caldeireada, Portugal: And if you’ll eat anything as long as it swims in the sea then Portugal and Quinta do Lago SPORTUGAL and Portugal Centro  is the place for you.

Load your plate up with shellfish and don’t be liberal with the squids and octopus.

You’ll need a rich base of onions, white wine, olive oil, and tomatoes, and season with a variety of fresh herbs and spices such as saffron and nutmeg.

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They’ll be the dumplings then

Cesky goulash: Not to be mistaken for Hungarian goulash. All right, it is quite similar. Mop it up with the obligatory Czech dumplings and sauerkraut.

And, of course, Pilsener Urquell.

They had a big post-lockdown feast on the Charles Bridge in Bohemian Prague recently and I[m hoping there were leftovers!

And with apologies to Irish stew and other meaty greats from around the world.

Heck for fear of being force-fed vegetarian I’ll return to this subject.

 

 

 

 

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holidos and don’ts – Green List and Scottish isles

And is your country on the Irish Green List https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2020/0721/1154621-coronavirus-travel/where you’re now allowed to visit?

And some more guidance too on if and how we insure ourselves amid contradictory Government advice.

I’m indebted here to my good friend Dominic Burke, of Travel Centres https://www.travelcentres.ie/.

Where are the humans: The Gibraltar Barbary Apes

And the Irish Travel Agents Association https://itaa.ie/ in Ireland for flagging up some anomalies here.

That Gibraltar is on it, but that you can’t get there unless you go through Spain which isn’t.

Monaco, go, go, go

Monaco the same with France too left on the list.

While if you want to visit the eskimos of Greenland you’ll need to go through Denmark which you guessed right is off the list.

Greenland… and white is the colour

I notice too that Belgium where I first met the similarly coiffure-bearded Dominic is off the list.

And we were invited to present the wreath at the Menin Gate in Ieper www.visitflanders.com, https://gtitravel.ie/ and In Flanders fields.

We’ll share a Trappist beer there again yet, Dominic.

Let’s all Muck in

Me old Muckers

I might not be able to get over to Ireland, well at least the southern part.

So it’s just as well that we’ve a few glittering isles of our own in Scotland.

Muck in the Inner Hebrides, or Western Isles, is reopening its self-catering accommodation, although Eigg is not.

Not every Scottish island has a funny name but I do love Ewe.

Get it… they do with it being a popular island to propose.

See www.visitscotland.com and Sunday Sermon – God’s Own Country Scotland.

A cruise to bear in Ireland

Shipping jobs

Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ descent into administration will be felt on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Whom we know through JMG Cruises http://www.jmgcruise.com

Our Irish ports will be hit hard.

Belfast was set to homeport in 2021 as was Cobh, no stranger to cruiseheads.

They have started and finished their trips in the past and were ready to do so again next year.

Visit https://www.thecruiseroomireland.ie/.

Over there, over there

It was an uplifting American war-time song… ‘and it won’t be over till it’s over, over there.’

The Americans, lest we forget, joined our two major conflicts in the last century.

And also led (and are still leading) us through the Cold War.

And yet, nobody it seems wants them.

The haters have been smirking that the Mexicans have been turning away American tourists at the border.

But it is no laughing matter, not least for a British, European.

And especially Irish market which relies so heavily on the Yankee dollar.

With Bajan Geraldine and Virginian Patay

The good news is that a vaccine looks on the way and that there are countries who want to welcome the Americans back.

We all know how much Americans love the Caribbean.

And I was embraced by the Virginia Ski Club on their annual trip to Barbados www.theclubbarbados.com with www.tropicalsky.ie and www.tropicalsky.com.

And I’m glad to say that that feeling is mutual.

With much of the Caribbean reopening to Americans, subject to requirements.

And my sailing pal Patsy

I got out to see for myself how history is still being made in Virginia https://www.virginia.org.

And Sign up for the Civil War… it is Virginia www.visitusa.ie and www.visitusa.co.uk.

And I am hankering to get back.