Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Happy Burns Day

If your love is like a red red rose.

Or if your best laid plans gang agley, even if you don’t agley much, then it’s because of Robert Burns.

Whose national day it is today.

The Scottish poet has been an inspiration.

From everyone from the Romantic Poets through JD Salinger to Bob Dylan and beyond.

Oh, there will be pipes

Burns is celebrated around the world, in equal measure in the USA and Russia as an everyman.

And all over the globe Burns fans will don kilts and tartan dresses.

It’s all theatre

Follow the ritual and theatre of the Address to the Haggis and sit back and enjoy the Toast to the Lassies and The Immortal Memory.

Hero: Robert Burns

Before dancing the night away with a ceilidh Scottish Country set dance.

All with whisky or uisce beatha (the water of life), of course.

Alloway is where it’s at

The best place to start with Burns is naturally his home village of Alloway, a National Heritage site.

Where you can see the grave of Burns’s father. Robert is buried in Dumfries.

The famous old cottage

The iconic Burns Cottage will pitch you back in time.

While learn more about the Great Man’s life at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

On a pedestal

Of course you know I’m of the Scottish variety and love little better than bigging up old Caledonia.

And getting dressed up in ma kiltie.

As here…

So for example did you know that the one hero is commemorated in every town in Scotland is Burns?

And here’s my favourite… Aberdeen – a light in the north.

Wherever you’re toasting the bard today though you’ll want to cry ‘To the Immortal Memory.’

And slainté!

Bandanas obligatory: With my pals at Holiday World

For everything on Scotland go to

And check out Aer Lingus and Ryanair for flights to Scotland.

And Stena if you want to take the ferry.

Adventure, Africa, Asia, Australasia, Countries, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Flyday Friday – Holiday World

Must fly… I’m scooting around the 30th Holiday World.

The annual Travel Extra fair which has moved onto Dublin from Belfast and Limerick.

And I’m catching up with a fleet of Travel providers if that’s the right collective noun.

So that’s me with Colombia Charges D’Affaires Patricia Cortez Ortiz.

Colombia hat

In my Colombia hat. And you thought it was a Panama Hat.

Well Panama used to be a part of Colombia so it really should be called a Panama hat.

There are various ways to get to Colombia with a stop-off.

I’d recommend through Amsterdam with my old pals at KLM…,

And maybe stop the night… Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Free coffee: With Ethiopian’s charmingly named Free at Ethiopian Airlines’ stand

While, of course, here’s Free, my new Ethiopian pal.

Ethiopia and other destinations

And here’s some really good offers which are as good as free.

Ethiopian Airlines has a these destinations from Dublin…

Its capital Addis Ababa: From €501.

Victoria Falls: From €552.

Sao Paolo: From €804.

Kilimanjaro: From €519.

I got a headstart for this weekend of Travel networking at the Wendy Wu lunch Hungry and Thursday – Chinese Wu Year and yesterday.

Where I talked all things up in the sky and down on the ground.

All the world: Finnair & El Al, Wendy
Wu, Bandanaman. Emirates

With Wendy’s flight partners Emirates and

Emirates sale

Just a reminder that the Emirates sale ends January 26 which, through this funk of drink, I know is Sunday.

So Emirates has these round trip deals:

Bangkok from €519.

Dubai from €549.

Kuala Lumpur from €569.

Phuket from €679.

Perth from €1119.

Sydney from €1119.

The Promised Land

El Al of a country

The big news at El Al is the three non-stop flights from Dublin to Tel Aviv from May 26 from €326.

Now I’ve seen Israel from the Red Sea and the Dead Sea… and right up close with

And personal, across the River Jordan The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time where the Israelis say John the Baptist baptised Jesus.

Although the Jordanians say it was further into their country.

And yes I’ve seen it too from atop Mount Nebo where Moses saw the Promised Land.

Next stop Israel

But couldn’t get in because he’d fallen out with God.

I’m making sure I’m staying on HIS right side as a Eucharistic Minister.


So that I can fulfil a lifelong ambition to visit Israel

Maybe this year, God willing, whoever He or She may be.


Adventure, America, Canada, Countries, UK

My Sporting Weekend – go transatlantic

It wasn’t just from another country, it was from another century.

Of cloth-capped flat beer-swilling coal-miners and weavers who you couldn’t understand.

And who liked putting ferrets down each other’s trousers – Rugby League.

It was only played in the north of England and in Australia.

Tackling head on

And maybe New Zealand but only by those who weren’t good enough to be All Blacks.

But then someone had the bright idea of spreading the word to London and setting up a team there.

And then changing the season to Spring-Autumn.

In fairness they were one of the first sports to tap into regular screening of matches.

A real man’s game

And the dulcet tones of Eddie Waring waxing lyrical about ‘up and unders’ could be heard every Saturday from our living room.

So there you have it, Rugby League has always led while others followed.

From the days they broke away from rugby union and demanded players get paid to the dawn of transatlantic sport.

Ready to go to war

Now American Football has been dipping their toe in the UK for decades with the odd game held in London.

Rugby League though has dunked itself right in with the admission of super franchise Toronto Wolfpack.

I predict that this will be a hugely successful union, sorry marriage.

Sports city: Toronto

Toronto has a recent history of launching teams who have gone on to take home the silver.

Both with the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team and last year’s NBA champions the Toronto Raptors.

One of the arguments used against trans-atlantic sport is the distance.

But it’s only seven hours from England-Toronto.

Springboks everywhere

And whisper it around the north of England but their 15-a-side union cousins in Europe assimilated the South African club sides.

And London-Cape Town is 11-and-a-half hours.

No transatlantic sport is the next big thing… long-haul travel is pitched at an accessible price now for you and me.

And we’ll love checking out Canada (and New York) which is being slated to jump on the bandwagon.

A PS here and a shout-out to Irish Gaelic Games who have been crossing the pond for years.

North Americans love their sports as much as we do.

Sometimes they’re the same sports, sometimes they’re different.

I always make a point in my travels of checking out where people play and pray.

And here’s a sample of where… Easy DC, Go West,

Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Flyday Friday – It’s Baltic

Quite why people from Chilly Jockoland (or Scotland to you or me) should tease Baltics people about the cold is anyone’s guess.

But tease them we do with every cold day referred to as ‘Baltic’.

I guess we’ll just have to find out for ourselves, particularly as Air Baltic have a fantastic sale on.

St Petersburg

How about Tallinn from €59 and Riga from €69?

Those cities will be familiar to us as being part of the Baltic States.


But that also applies, of course, to Scandinavia, and Stockholm and Helsinki are also pitched at the same price.

And to St Petersburg. From €85. And Moscow which is nowhere near the sea (but we’re not going to tell) from €89.


The sale finishes at 23:59 on Thursday. For travel until December 17. Visit


Now it’s where you kick off your Baltic cruises The call of the fjords.

And from where you’ll jump off en route to Hamburg Hamburgers and ships.

Camel ye to Abu Dhabi

And they’re off

Right, I’ve done the goat racing in Tobago. Now for the camel racing.

So that means Abu Dhabi although I might leave that to the experts as you can see.

I’m a bit shoogly on Humpy here in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Etihad has Abu Dhabi as your sole destination or as a stop-off.

Anyone betting on me?

Return tickets from €947.

And if you go further afield as part of a multi-city flight deal then Etihad will put you up in an Abu Fab premium hotel for free.

Sentimental journey

Hey, Lady

Aer Lingus has been going on a sentimental journey of its own with its first new uniforms in 22 years.

So I guess that was what was behind the musical background for their January Sales deal.

It has 30% off Europe and North America from €188 as part of a return deal.

Planes or trains

I may be away for some time

I can’t, and won’t, as a Travel writer preach on flygskam ‘flying shame’.

But I will say that as a cruise fan that FlyBe has always provided an invaluable route from Ireland to Southampton.

Amid the navel-gazing over FlyBe’s problems one thought: make trains cheaper!

America, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – funny food

Food should be fun and taken out of the hands of foodies… and chefs.

I’m writing this while eating my Swedish ‘vacuum cleaners’ or dammsugare for fika. These are named after the tube-shaped vacuum cleaners of the Fifties.

I had been given them in my godispase, or goody bag.

Clean sweep

The godispase had come courtesy of the Stena Estrid, Swedish ferry cruise company‘s and maiden journey between Holyhead and Dublin.

It is, in truth, the closest I will get to a vacuum cleaner but it shows the Swedes’ sense of fun.

The Swedish dammsugare

To name this sweet after a common household gadget.

And it’s good to see that the world has been watching because it’s not for nothing that Jim Henson looked to Scandinavia for his madcap Swedish Chef.

You like your marzipan?

Music is the food of life

Now if that gives you a taste for Swedish food why not visit

The dammsugare got me thinking about other funny food you can pick up around the world.

Every city with a well-known red light district obvs like Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Where they also have Middle Eastern food skewered on an actual scimitar in Bazaar, a remodelled old mosque in fashionable De Pijp And

Get a grip

But also unexpectedly in Portugal Centro Secret Portugal and where I found a shop selling chocolate penises.

While this mug gives a new spin on your hot chocolate.

Get a handle on this

What else is out there I hear you ask.

And where are the sweetie cigarette, cigars and pipes we used to have as children?

Probably replaced with chocolate joints.

And, of course, any excuse to plug this fun for food fixture from my trip on Celebrity Edge around the Bahamas…

With I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here.

The Germans are funny… full stop. Which gives a lie to the myth that they have no sense of humour.

And there is no elegant way to eat a hamburger… ich bin ein Hamurger Hamburgers and ships and

While the Norwegians have a playful relationship with their trolls… The call of the fjords and


Fjord fiesta

With my very own Scary One… and MSC Cruises

While I love the taste of the sea too and few do it better than my own wee country Scotland and my adopted one Ireland, north and south…


Slurp it up

That’s, and

With a tasting menu of the best of Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.


With Catherine Fulvio at Ballyknocken

America and and is the country who put fun and funk into dysfunction and my safari food out with Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida brought me this nature feast below… it’s all natural.


And seeing we’re talking food then let’s finish on the country that leads the way on food… Italy.

With Italy specialists Top Flight and Catherine Fulvio at her cookery school in Ballyknocken, Co. Wicklow

And some amateur cuoco…


Pasta master

OK, OK… mes amis in France will disagree. And I don’t know what I was eating here but I was smokin’…


Send in your Fun With Food, what’s amusing to eat and where.


Safari in Florida
The big smoke: In the French Embassy in Dublin
Cruising, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – Stena Estrid, what a maiden!

This birdie shows you the way: In Dublin

I love a beautiful ass… and nobody has a more beautiful ass than Estrid!

Now at the risk of being grounded by the Scary One let me try and wriggle out of this one.

Smokin’: On board the Estrid

The maiden voyage of Stena’s spanking new ferry, Estrid, set sail yesterday from Holyhead to Dublin.

And no, I don’t have a weird fascination for a ship’s hull…

That’s where the Estrid sails to…

It’s because ‘ass’ is the Swedish for goddess and Fridr means ‘beautiful’.

Phew… I think I got away with that!

Big kid: in the playzone on the Estrid

The Estrid is special and not at all like the ferries I first started on 50 years ago from Scotland to Northern Ireland.

I see shore: Well, I am at the bar

For one you won’t have to lug a pram or stroller up the steps from the car deck which, of course, my Dear Old Mum had to do with me.

The car deck on Estrid is on the same level!

Walk right through

And where my childhood memories of the ferry were of the time hanging heavy on me…

Here on Estrid there are two movie docks.

When does the movie start?
While for stresses parents there are fancy lounges and cool bars.
And a Stena Plus exclusive lounge for just an extra £18.
The Stena Plus

That’s not to mention Swedish meatballs, well it is Stena, and a smorgasbord of tasty dishes.

See, I told you so

You feel like relaxing after all that… try the Hygge reclining area. I think it’s Swedish for craic

Or if you want to go for the full lie-down… then Estrid has 175 cabins.

Things are getting blurry

And the crew are super friendly… I got a big Jungfruresa which I think means failte or welcome.

A big welcome

And a prize for anyone (well my respect) who can identify these Irish icons in the picture.

Something for everyone

Visit And also check out the best of Ireland and Wales http://www.tourismireland.cim and

And remember for the best in what’s on water read Cruiseday Tuesday every week Cruiseday Tuesday – Cruise year resolutions on the day between Monday and Wednesday.

Adventure, Ireland, UK

Puppy New Year… Northern Ireland for your doggies

Now this is animal magic… dog-friendly destinations, with Northern Ireland leading the way.

Our friends in the North have given us a nudge about their pet-friendly hotels, bars, restaurants and walking (or should that be walkies) locations.

So here is the pick of the pooch-friendly places to go:

Lusty Beg Island Hotel, County Fermanagh: Lusty Beg boasts Northern Ireland’s fist GOLD Paw Grading from Dog Friendly NI’s PAW Grading Programme. Woof, woof!

There are two areas where owners and dogs can dine together, they offer solo traveller assistance for people visiting on their own with their pets.

What are you waiting for? At Lusty Beg Island Hotel

And there’s even a dog wash for muckie mutts. Visit

The Inn on the Coast, Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route: Between the harbour towns of Portrush and Portstewart in County Antrim.

You’ll find dedicated pet-friendly rooms on the ground floor for up to two dogs.

Back home late: At the Inn on the Coast

And your best friend is welcome at the seating area of the foyer and in the reception where you can relax and enjoy a drink or meal.

The Inn even awards a Good Behaviour Certificate and a treat for your furry friend to check out. Visit

Red carpet treatment

The Dirty Onion, Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter: Your doggie’s favourite pub in the capital. With a Doggie Dock which serves complimentary water and doggie treats.

And there is a huge beer garden to stretch the legs and a peat fire to slumber in front of… that’s for the dogs obvs. Visit


Slievenaslat Walk Trail, Castlewellan, Co. Down: Climb through the frost to the summit of Silevenaslat (272m) where you’ll have fantastic views of the Mourne Mountains. Visit

The Divis Ridge Trail: Now the Son and Heir is all over Belfast, though whisper it he’s more of a cat fan than a dog fan.

But he does like a walk and often needs walkies… even though he’s 24.

The Divis Ridge Trail is a 4.2 circular route located in the scenic Belfast Hills.

With spectacular views over the great old city and the Mourne Mountains, my own Bonnie Scotland and the Isle of Man.

Your dog will be ahead of you, of course, and get to the 478m high point first.Visit

And tell me where you’ve gone with your dog and liked.

Here are some doggie-related thoughts on the subject… and and

I must confess that the Americans strike me as the doggie-daftest people on Dog’s (sorry, God’s) Earth but you might think differently.

And, of course, you know how much I love Northern Ireland so make sure you go…,

And check out their website…