Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Student Bangers

Would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our stereos? – Braveheart

As students continue to be consigned to house arrest, they’ll only get through this with the staples of Uni, drugs and rock’n’roll.

No sex please, we’re British!

And so in a nod to our future parliamentarians, pioneers and care providers.

Here are some old bangers which got me through my young days.

And the places it took me too.

Tennessee waltz

With WC Handy in Memphis, Tennessee on my Deep South journey

On highway number 19 the people keep the city clean – Tina Turner, Nutbush City Limits

Nutbush City Limits and Tennessee (Ike and Tina Turner): And Nutbush was one to get everyone on their feet in the students’ union (alas no longer there).

I little thought then that I’d be bombing along highway number 19 on my Deep South American Odyssey 30 odd years later… The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

Mine’s a 99

Ninety nine dreams I have had, In every one a red balloon, it’s all over and I’m standing pretty, In this dust that was a city – Nena, 99 Ref Balloons

99 Red Balloons and Germany (Nena): You couldn’t qualify as a student when I were a lad if you didn’t march for the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Nuclear Disarmament or to Free Nelson Mandela.

And this anti-Communism clarion call by this German ball of energy played endlessly out of the window of the girls in the next flat.

The wall came down five tears ago and while I have still to make my mark on today’s wall, I have since visited behind the old Curtain.

Ich bin ein Dresdener

To see the revival of Dresden, the Venice of the Elbe, and learn about the Prague Spring and a nuclear bunker.

Mandela days

With my friend Siseko in Port Elizabeth

Are you so blind that you cannot see? Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea? Free Nelson Mandela, I’m begging you, Free Nelson Mandela – The Specials

Nelson Mandela and South Africa: And, no, Free Nelson Mandela wouldn’t be one for the dance floor although maybe we pogoed to it.

It really came into its own on protest marches, demonstrations and the Free Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley.

Where me and my old pal from Cardiff student days clung onto our old undergrad days for just one more summer.

And while I never got to meet The Great Man I did get out to his home province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

And stood in his Voting Line.

So, for every student in the land, turn your boom boxes up loud and channel your Labi Siffre

Your light will shine so brightly it will blind them.

Tell me what your University bangers and we’ll share

Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

Fit like? An Aberdeen Saga

Who said university is one big holiday and students never leave their rooms… or was that just my old Aberdeen Uni pal Jim?

All joking aside my heart goes out to our students who continue to be scapegoated through this COVID-19 crisis.

Fact is that people, senior people, go to University halls on holiday in the summers and get attended to by students.

Granite City of Aberdeen

And we serve them, clean their rooms, entertain them and make up packed lunches for their tours around Aberdeenshire.

There will always be a special place with me for Saga for employing me then in the Aberdeen halls of residence.

And they didn’t forget me either, sending me their literature when I turned 50.

We’ve all been reacquainting ourselves with our own cities and countryside again during this lockdown.

Aberdeen, the Granite City, in the north-east of Scotland is one of the hidden jewels of the UK.

Saga offers Aberdeenshire, the Cairngorms and Balmoral (the Queen’s summer gaffe.

Charms of Cornwall

Which you’ll recognise from Mrs Brown) two passengers, five nights from £519pp.

You might be happy to know that guests have been upgraded from students’ rooms which was their billet back when I worked for Saga.

Lakeland: The Lake District in England

You’ll be staying at the 4* Macdonald Norwood Hall Hotel and among your excursions will be:

A half day around Balmoral Castle, a full day in Cairngorms National Park and a half-day Dunnottar Castle and Stonehaven.

You’ll need a Jersey

Check out Saga for terms and conditions.

Look out too at their Scottish Highlands Escape from £669pp.

While across the border there’s Charms of the Cornwall Coast from £469pp, Jersey Island Escape from £599pp and Little Boats of the Lake Districts from £610pp.

Adventure, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

The travel pack… we (you, me and the turtles) came from the sea

If I could talk to the animals, learn all their languages, maybe take an animal degree, I’d study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle, Alligator, guinea pig and flea – Bobby Davro

And this is one I’ve been thinking on, and I’m possibly spurred on my old pal, Ireland’s Travel Writer of the Year Isabel Conway of Travel Times.

She is walking in Kinsale, Co. Cork for endangered animals. Although while she’s doing something I’m more Mr Do Little than Dr Doolittle.

So to launch this series (and I’ll try and stick to this one this time) I’m starting at the beginning…

Where we came from, the sea, and celebrate all things who live there, big and small, colourful and grey, beautiful and those who only a mother could love. First off turtles…

Turtley Japanese

It’s easier when they come to the surface

Yakushima, Japan: Now my first issue in getting to know our old friends from the sea is that I’m not a great swimmer, and an even rubbisher snorkeller.

And more of that later but here’s how you can see a sea turtle without even getting your feet wet.

The rainforest island of Yakushima, off Kyushu‘s southern coast, is home to the largest spawning grounds for loggerhead turtles in the North Pacific.

Between May and August, more than 500 turtles take over the shores of Inakahama Beach and lay their eggs.

And here’s where it becomes a spectator sport.

Because later in the summer we get to see the newly-hatched infants scramble their way to the ocean.

Turtley Bajan

And we’re limin’ in Barbados

As magical as that sounds you really want to try and dip your toe in the ocean.

And strap on that big rubbery snorkel and mask to the face… and believe me if I can do it you can too.

The first encounter I had with turtles in their natural habitat should have been on my first trip to Barbados.

Only I’d overdone it on the rum, both that early morning at Foreday Morning.

That’s the booze, mud, paint and Soca festival for the locals.

And then on the boat which took us out to meet our heroes in a half-shell.

And so while I did see schools of beautiful fish I never did get to meet Mr Turtle.

Fast forward a year though and I was back and determined to catch me me turtle.

As fate would have it I didn’t just get to shake snorkel and shell with one turtle but two.

I was staying at Club Barbados couples hotel, alas alone…

I had invited the Scary One, perhaps not very clearly.

And maybe when one of her beloved gardening or interior decorating shows was on and she had distractedly said no.

Before coming back at me a few days before I travelled to ask me why she couldn’t come.

Anyhoos I went out solo and found that I was the only single in the hotel… and the ocean.

Like the Scottish buses you wait all day for one, and two come along the same time, Mr and Mrs Turtle.

And because this is a family blog I’m not going to tell you what they were up to.

Turtley Floridian

Paradise Coast

And you’d better bring your fins with you when you go to SeaWorld in Tampa Bay in Florida.

That is where I met me sea turtles that were recuperating (and few better places) before being returned to the sea.

Where they’ll swim for years in a loop from the Atlantic Ocean to North Africa.

Before using magnetic fields to find their way back to within 40 to 50 miles of the beaches where they had been hatched.

And to think that I can’t even get to the end of my road.

Without having to either ask someone for directions or call for a search party.

Hatch of the day

Now again because it’s all about us the turtles have been known to make their way to the nest beaches of Marco Island and Naples.

And those who make it their life’s mission to know and protect our turtle friends say.

That the Paradise Coast at the southernmost tip of Florida is where to go for your turtles.

Turtley Maldives

And here in Kuramathi and its wee sister island the 1.2km Kandolhu you get so close to the turtles they become your friends.

Which obviously means giving them names.

Selma was the superstar in Kuramathi in the Maldives when I visited, well the half-shell superstar.

Her keeper Vanessa, a German from the Black Forest, well away from any sea, is the human superstar as she runs the Island Eco Centre.

If you can snap a new turtle with your Go-Pro camera.

It is left out in your room for you on Kandolhu then you too can adopt a turtle.

Now since us humans are all making such a mess of it since we wriggled out of the seas and evolved.

Into the flawed form we now occupy, wouldn’t it be better if we slithered back into the seas.

Only, the turtles probably prefer us to keep our distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Deals, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Staycations and Dubcations

So one of you loyal Bandininis and Bandanettes has asked where the term Staycation originated?

And the answer is Stacey Shun!

The more prosaic explanation is that it belongs to the Canadian comedian Brent Butt from the TV show Corner Gas in the episode Mail Fraud from 2005.

And a view of the gardens

I guess he’s the Butt of all jokes!

Of course the times we’re in has thrown up a whole plethora of new terms.

I’m hungry

To which our friends at our fave Dublin hotel, the InterContinental Dublin, have added Dubcation.

The InterCon, as anyone in Dublin’s rugby heartland knows, is the old Four Seasons.

And that it is Ireland’s greatest international that never was Ross O’Carroll-Kelly.

I’m looking forward to, as I always do at this time of the year, to the new Ross book with COVID at the heart of it, and Staycationing and Dubcations.

Bed down

Try out their new Lobby Lounge among all the other old faves including ESPA pampering, and watch out for my interview with ESPA founder soon.

Their Luxury Dining Escape Package is available from €145pps per night, including bed, breakfast, dinner, complimentary car parking and access to the Wellness Area.

Sing Montego Bay

I think I remember but it’s twice as good, Like how cool his rum is from his silver tray, I cool to be thirsty in Montego Bay – Bobby Bloom

It‘s the first thing you’ll be offered, even before water… a rum punch, and usually. a steel pan band.

Jamaica has long been on the radar. I recall being asked in Barbados what my favourite Caribbean island was.

The answer had, of course, to be Barbados, but there was an onus on me to collect islands with which to compare. Which led me to Tobago.

Irie. So this brings me to my old faves Sandals and their new Montego Bay On Sale package.

Seven nights at the Sandals Ochi Beach from €1445pps. Travel dates: June 1-July 31.

You’ll stay in a Riviera Bamboo Grove Premium with Virgin Atlantic flights thrown in.

And a big welcome here to to the new Barbados Minister for Tourism Lisa Cummins… you know where I am, Minister!

Virtual odysseys

And with our leaders around the Western World keeping us under house arrest, for fear that we might catch foreignavirus, we’re all going on a Virtual Odyssey.

It does allow more of the world into our homes though while we wait to get back out there.

Japan, where it will be next year with the Olympics in Tokyo, have a Matsuri Presents weekend live streaming on website and social media channels.

A Virtual AsianCation of you will.

You’ll get to see martial arts, kamishibai theatre performances and food demos.

The programme will run from 10am-8pm on Saturday, September 26 and 9pm-8pm, Sunday, September 27.

I’ll get my kimono out or borrow one from my old friends Stewart and Hisayo.

I’m sure they’ll have one in the wardrobe from their Scots-Japanese wedding on the island of Islay.

When we broke the sake box and wished them Koun o.

And now I have the bit between the teeth and I know you like a series why don’t I kick off a series Virtual Odyssey.

MEET YOU ON THE VIRTUAL ODYSSEY

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – Bahamian rhapsody and a tale of two Serenas

And it remained tantalisingly close but not out of reach… the Bahamas.

From my $1bn Royal Caribbean wonder ship Celebrity Edge.

We’d got off their revolutionary tender which moved up and down the side of the ship to take on the theme of the floor it attached to… the Eden lounge, the bar etc.

That’ll be Nassau then

And when we all got on the smaller boat for a spin out on the sea we saw the Bahamas in the distance which is where you’d be going on your shore excursion.

Now the Bahamas had come on to my radar years before of course when I dallied with a home-made career in Cocktail making and the Bahamas Breeze.

A tale of two Serenas

You don’t need me to tell you you’ll want dark rum, banana liqueur, apricot liqueur, coconut rum, grenadine syrup, honey, lemon juice and orange juice, pineapple juice and ice cubes.

And there are some tips on measures, although if you’re on a Royal Caribbean ship there’s no scrimping.

Bahamian queen: Serena Williams, left
The other Serena Willams

While back in the office in Dublin I felt that somebody was calling me to get me out to the Bahamas, although not any somebody you might expect.

Serena Williams called me one day to ask when I would be publishing an article I had sent a writer on.

And, yes, as her email makes capital out of it… No, not that one. She is, of course, a Bahamian smasher.

Love me tender

All this Bahamian fun is because my old friends at MSC have been in touch to tell us of their plans for 2021 which include

Their Escape to the Tropics offer where you’ll spend three nights in Miami .

Feast of Exen

And then four nights on board MSC Armonia en route to Nassau and the exclusive private island Ocean Cay MSC Mraine Reserve.

Prices for this cruise on May 3 start from €401pp for a four-night sailing based on two sharing a cabin, price includes a premium drinks package and service charge (gratuities).

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Chicago

Come on, oh Baby don’t you wanna go. Come on, oh Baby don’t you wanna go, Back to that same old place, Sweet Home Chicago – The Blues Brothers

It was Frank Sinatra’s kinda town and one I’m going to have to wait for the pleasure of seeing people who, smile at you. It’s Chicago.

Which has inspired a whole host of artists to wax lyrical about its charms.

Jim Croce sang about bad, bad Leroy Brown, the baddest man in the whole damn town (no, me neither and I think Frank’s version is the best).

You better think: Aretha Franklin. www.imdb.com

Me (and Barack Obama) love Sweet Home Chicago from The Blues Brothers which was released 40 years ago this year.

Blues bus

I’d first been inducted into the Blues Brothers Brotherhood.

On my storied booze, Blues bus to the Oktoberfest in Munich back in the day.

The closest I’ll get to Chicago which was on the schedule is the Chicago Blues Brothers tour around the UK.

But it has had to reschedule its dates.

Let me see you shake your tail feather: The boys and Ray Charles

Once we get out to Chicago we can get around the old landmarks (Preach the Lord!) with the official Chicago site.

Bring it home James

Now some of them, alas, have been razed, perhaps the damage done by that infamous car chase.

But the Triple Rock church where James Brown asked Jake and Elwood ‘Do you see the light?’ Is there.

Or at least the exterior which is the Pilgrim Baptist on 9114 S. Burley Avenue although it’s been rebuilt since a fire.

The interior is Hollywood.

That bridge where the boys drive the Nazis into the water?

Well, that’s Jackson Park in the Chicago Park District.

On the right track: Chicago’s L rail network

The finale? The Richard J. Daley Plaza and City Hall.

Who is that clerk?

Where Steven Spielberg plays a cameo appearance as a clerk cashing the cheque for the orphanage.

Of course, as belting as the city is, it is of course the Blues which is at the heart of the movie.

With its stellar cast including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles among others.

The Godfather of Soul

So check out the Blues when you get out there.

Hey Buddy!

And Buddy Guy‘s is as good a place to start.

And until you do, run the movie again, get out the soundtrack, and dress for the occasion…

That’s pin-sharp black suits, fedora hats and shades.

You know you still have them in your wardrobe from fancy-dress parties.

And if you love, love, love the Blues then join me as I visit the Birthplace of the Blues.

Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

Happy Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah, Happy Jewish New Year, and because we want to see off this bloody year, and pray to Yahweh for a better new year, here is when and where all our cultures see out the old and bring in the new.

Hello, Chinas

Pandamonium

The Chinese New Year: And sitting down for our annual Chinese New Year celebration with Wendy Wu Tours in Dublin in January at Chai Yo we gave sympathy and Chinese tea (and every food known to man that you can eat with chopsticks) for the plight of the poor people of Wuhan.

Little did we know, of course, that we would be suffering too within weeks. The Year of the Rat should have been a warning.

And what are you all having?

Next year when it will be celebrated in February will be the Year of the Ox and he is much more our reliable carrier of all our human burdens.

And rest assured I’ll be back in Chai Yo next year with Wendy’s friends, the Two Johns, before hopefully we follow The Son and Heir out to Wuhan’s neighbour Chongqing.

Iran the bells

Smiles from Iran. http://www.itto.org

Nowruz (Iranian New Year): And there is a diary date in my calendar which I can’t bring myself to delete – my trip to Iran which was deferred after the Americans fell out with them again and then this virus came along.

I do hope that when I do get out there it’s in a March when they celebrate Springtime when it coincides with the Northward Equinox.

They trumpet in the day, colour eggs and eat a hearty soup, Ash-e-Reshteh noodle soup.

Sri Lanka is my cup of tea

Sri Lankan New Year: And here we have two Sri Lankan cultures celebrating a date, April 14.

Aluth Avuradda, the Sinhalese New Year, marks the end of the harvest and is one of only two occasions when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

You’ll be eating small oil cakes called kavum and plantain dishes.

The Tamils of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka celebrate with new clothes, music, sweets and rice colour kolams (street art).

The Tamil Diaspora too celebrate April 4… so Malaysia, yes, and The Maldives too where one pasty-faced Scotsman once became an honorary member of the staff’s football and cricket teams. Yes, Mr Jim is coming back to Kuramathi.

While if you’re Irish (lucky you) you’ll know about the greatest Sri Lankan-Irishwoman, my old friend Tess De Kretser and her Olcote in Ceylon resort.

Ethiopia will take years off you

Enkutatash, Ethiopia: And this has become a fixture on my calendar in Dublin over recent years thanks to my friends at Ethiopian Airlines.

It, of course, takes years off you, not just the meaty food which you scoop up with your bread, and wine and Ethiopian coffee.

But also because it’s on the Julian Calendar which means that this will take seven years off you.

Scotland, the home of Hogmanay

Scottish Hogmanay: And in the words of the greatest dustman in television soap opera Norman ‘Curly’ Watts who decided the Scots owned New Year.

Well, they do own Hogmanay. And why Hogmanay which is what we call New Year’s Eve.

An early reference to the term is from The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence as deriving from the Greek word agia mine or ‘holy month’.

More like a hooley though as many libations are taken to keep out the cold.

Which is probably where the tradition of bringing coal, shortbread and whisky with your when you go first-footing, being the first person to cross someone’s threshold (first-footing).

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO WHOEVER YOU ARE AND WHEREVER YOU ARE

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – my sporting New York

And as the best golfers in the world hack their way around Winged Foot on the outskirts of New York I’ll drive you around one of the world’s great sports cities with my sporting New York.

Anyone for Tennis

Flushing Meadows, Queens: And we’ve just put down our rackets at the Billie Jean King Center

Home to American tennis’s biggest tournament since 1978 it became a big deal to the residents of Queens obvs and especially my NY rellies.

To whom it gave casual work when they would dream of booming down winning serves.

 

The US Open is a treat awaiting me when I next pitch up there. And it’s hot dogs rather than strawberry and cream.

The Garden

The Mecca for boxing before Vegas and in many traditionalists’ eyes still the place to trade punches.

But I’ve not come here, to Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, for a fight, but a dance.

It’s a Halloween and we’re staying in SoHo and I’ve brought my nine-year-old daughterie here for an ice-skate. Like a real New Yorker.

And like a real New Yorker you’ll be wanting to follow the Rangers in the Garden.

It means something else in New York than in Glasgow, and it’s ice hockey so that’s OK.

Knickerbockers… how sweet!

You’ll know them as the Knicks, New York’s basketball team but the original name was the Knickerbockers.

Knickerbockers are what Americans call plus-fours.

Father Knickerbocker was the symbol of New York, channeling the Dutch influence because they too wore their trousers to just below the knee.

Now all you need is one of those vests (hell, the Americans call them waistcoats) but you know what I mean. And a big foam finger.

Yes, they too play at the Garden.

And Brooklyn has a team too

Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn: Brooklyn is a proud borough (aren’t they all?) which we probably know best for its bridge and the now defunct and romantic baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

But here they have a basketball team too. And the name that jumps out from their roster here is All-Star Kevin Durant.

So that leaves the Yankees and the Mets

New York Yankees, The Bronx, and the New York Mets, Queens: And what they all dream of in New York is a subway series which is a derby to you and me.

Although obviously it turns into a nightmare if you end up on the losing side. My old New York brother and sister friends Tom and Kate informed me that if we were to remain friends then I’d have to pull for the Mets.

I even have the baseball bat and ball here with me on my desk to remind me.

While Kate has few illusions about her beloved Mets who lost the World Subway Series of 2000 to the ‘Damned’ Yankees. ‘They always break your heart, those Mets,’ she sighed.

Their football

Even before we got into the Kevin James sitcom, the King of Queens, I was already being pulled this way by my Uncle Eddie on my first trip to New York, after school.

Uncle Eddie, a proud son of Donegal, now living in Long Island supported the neighbouring Queens teams and particularly the New York Jets.

Whisper it but they’re no longer a Queens team, playing their games in New Jersey. As do their great rivals, the New York Giants. Yes, the same stadium, and that’s another subject we’ll get into sometime.

Then there’s ours

And the New Yorkers look to have embraced our football having flirted with it back in the day with Pele, Beckenbauer and the New York Cosmos.

New York City only has the one team their fans will be quick to tell you, in much the same way that their sister franchise Manchester City supporters will inform you that is the case in Manchester, with United playing in Salford.

New York Red Bulls, the older club, play their games in New Jersey.

This tie-up is as close to a grudge soccer match as you’ll get in the US.

You want more New York… then check out this Old New York piece of old.

MEET YOU AT THE GAME

Adventure, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

The real Queen of Barbados

There can only ever be one queen in Barbados so I’m not surprised Elizabeth is getting the push for… my queens.

Dee-Dee The First

‘Don’t come too close you’ll smudge my make-up’, Dee-Dee, the Purple Queen of the Foreday Morning, drolled.

To be fair I had purple paint and mud in my beardie and hair. And enough rum to sink a Johhny Depp ship.

Walk this way, Geraldine

And just like a royal corgi I and my new Virginian friend Patsy would get walked every day from Club Barbados around the Platinum Coast.

By Geraldine who would give us her generational view of her island, political correctness and its colonial past.

But also loved her Soca and burned me a Crop Over CD which when I play it here always brings me back to Bim’s West Coast..

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby

In the British vernacular a Ruby is a curry… in my Barbados my Ruby is my cooking instructor.

Ruby at Club Barbados taught me how to make Bajan Cou Cou…

And already a bit Cou Cou, myself, from my morning rum punches she had to pull me into line.

The Saintly Donna

Jimmy, Jevan and Donna

Donna would always bring a friend with her because she needed to be mob-handed for Jevan at Foreday Morning.

And this year they had me to contend with too!

Donna drove us home at about 4am, hosed the paint and mud off us and gave het a Bajan cooked breakfast.

Donna is an angel… and is now looking down on her great love Jevan. Her spirit lives on.

Ri-Ri rah-rah

Where’s that hand?

I spent two trips to Barbados in search of Barbados’s other superstar Rihanna.

I checked out Oiston’s market (that was always too touristy), Bridgetown, the Platinum Coast and the Grand Kadooment, the climax to Crop Over.

But I finally did get my Kiss from Rihanna.

Bajan women rule

Mia my-oh: Mia Mottley

And Mia Mottley rules supreme as Jevan predicted she would when he took me to her rally… and yes, there was rum and soca, my kind of political party.

The head honcho of the Barbados Tourist Board is the redoubtable Cheryl ‘Mrs’ Carter who kept an eagle’s eye on me when I went off piste. Legend!

In the frame: With Cheryl

And Crystal who wouldn’t let the lurgie slow her up, stop her dressing up, getting her nails done (and the Bajans do that in style).

And showed me how to do up a bandana… now look at me.

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Weird Vending Machines

To think they used to only save you from starting a family.

Which is why today Hungry and Thursday turns its attentions to those magic boxes, vending machines.

And a big thanks to my Japanophile friends who have set me off on this latest ramble.

Where’s the larvae?

Something with a sting in it

Canned bees and wasp larvae, Japan: To sip down the coke.

Bees and wasps larvae are harvested from their nests.

And they are cooked in sugar and soy sauce to make the delicacy of Hachinoko… and yes, it’s crumbly.

Stock up on it in Inokashira Park, Tokyo and nibble away on your Three Star Road route.

Start out in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and trace an arcing line through the mountains to Ishikawa Prefecture.

The best bar none

Anyone want a bar?

Gold, Abu Dhabi: As you never know when you’ll put your hand in your pocket and realise that you’re down to your last bar!

The five-star Emirates Palace Hotel installed the first bullion ATM in its lobby.

Bubbles

Champagne, Selfridge’s, London: If you’re having to slum it without your comp champagne which is changed daily with the laundry at Sandals in Barbados.

And you’re in the vicinity of Selfridge’s in London then you won’t be able to get through the day without your bottle of bubbly.

Hair today

It’s all her own

Hair extension, Philadelphia: OK, so it might be too late for me but there was a time when I tried a pony tail.

Although it met with a putdown from my old late pal Gadge who maintained that ponytails should only ever be on ponies.

These tails belong in Phabulous Philadelphia, Freedom City, so that’s all right by me.

The cat’s whiskers

Form an orderly queue

Stray cat and dog feeder, Istanbul: I can’t say I saw these when I visited the Bosphorus.

In fact the kitties are well looked after judging by how they’re pampered in the Grand Bazaar.

But if you do want to spoil the cats and dogs of Istanbul.

Then slot in a plastic bottle into the machine and then pop out come the goodies before poop…