Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, UK, Uncategorized

Hungry and Thursday – pre-drinks and limin’

A teleprinter runs above your head in the Bridgetown, Barbados bus station carrying the news of the day.

We read that there has been a violent crime in the capital…

Hundreds of thousands are expected at the Grand Kadooment closing ceremony for the Crop Over carnival…

And the best places for limin’ are…

This is pre-drinking Caribbean style.

Way of life

Pre-drinking is one of the great modern inventions.

We know all about that from excitable teenagers and Twentysomethings around the house.

But while pre-drinking is something for the weekend for the young of Ireland and Britain limin’ is a way of life for everyone in the West Indies.

All of which brings us to British and Irish visitors being welcomed back now with famously open Bajan arms through Grantley Adams this month.

With flights from Gatwick on board Virgin Atlantic https://www.virginatlantic.com (July 18).

And Heathrow with British Airways https://www.britishairways.com and Jet Blue https://www.jetblue.com (July 25).

Crop Over next year

Crop Over https://barbados.org/cropover.htm#.Xv2Vp-R4WEc which runs from June through the first week of August is off this year but will return in ’21.

But no Crop Over 2020 won’t stop our Bajan pals from doing what they do… limin’ and dancing which is really just our craic.

It’s just that they’ve got the sun and the Soca.

And a welcome drink of rum punch on your arrival at Turtle Beach, Sandals or Club Barbados…

While Tropical Sky are your go-to holiday providers https://www.eleganthotels.com/turtle-beach?utm_source=local&utm_campaign=gmb&utm_medium=organic, https://www.sandals.co.uk/sandals-barbados/, https://www.theclubbarbados.com

And also check out Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna.

Of course hospitality is in the Caribbean gene and you’ll find just as big a welcome on Tobago.

Acting the goat

And I can’t say I’ve seen anything in the guidelines about social distancing with goats…

And I trust my kidder Bandanaman won’t have been putting his hooves up in lockdown.

See https://www.visittobago.gov.tt and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/amp/.

Africa, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Uncategorized

Ethiopia’s first lady

No, not Lucy, the earliest female for which we have bones, or the Queen of Sheba, or Sahle-Work Zewde, the President of Ethiopia.

Although all are celebrated examples of female power and contribution not just to Africa but the wider world.

No, my first lady of Ethiopia is the first Ethiopian lady I met… the graceful Meseret Tekalign.

Happy New Year

A smile that lights up a room

It was, of course Ethiopian New Year, Enkutatash… Happy Newer Year – from Ethiopia

And had we known each other before we would obviously have exchanged compliments… that we were looking years younger.

Seven years, of course, as our calendar is on a different time scale to the Ethiopians.

It was always a high point of the year to spend Ethiopian New Year with Meseret, Ethiopian Airlines’ Country Manager Ireland, and the Ethiopian community.

Hands up for Ethiopia

A bright future

And eat with our hands, a type of pitta bread to scoop up the meats, rices and vegetables, all washed down with Ethiopian wine.

Before we watched the traditional coffee-making ceremony and sampled the coffee which I now only take out on special occasions.

I was entranced by Meseret as soon as I met her.

And she by me, obviously, and she even invited me to send a writer to Ethiopia to celebrate International Women’s Day.

I’m a woman!

IMG_4893
Tuck in: And there’s seconds

When Ethiopian Airlines https://www.ethiopianairlines.com/aa put an entire female crew on from Addis Ababa to Washington Dulles via Dublin.

Always putting others first I asked if I could blag it, wear a dress and pass myself off as a woman.

After all being of the Scottish variety I’m no stranger to wearing a skirt.

I was, of course, happy to support such a wonderful idea.

A long history

IMG_4894
One more cup of coffee for the road

And to promote this land of mystery and awe, a country that has no fewer than nine UNESCO heritage sites.

Meseret is heading back to Addis with the good wishes of all who she took to her heart over the past few years.

We’re glad she enjoyed the craic as she revealed:

‘Taking up my first post in Europe was something I relished and will always look back on it fondly.

‘I feel lucky it was Ireland where the people lived up to the hype of being the friendliest in Europe even in business.’ 

And, of course, she and us feel years younger for the experience.

Pride of lions

And, of course, if all this talk of Africa has tempted you then remember that Ethiopian command’s the lion’s share of the Pan-African market.

And talking of lions and Africa, the two go hand in paw.

At a safe and respectful distance as I discovered when I visited the Eastern Cape of South Africa…http://www.southafrica.net What’s new pussycat?

I’m working my way up the continent. We’ll meet again, Meseret.

Adventure, Asia, Countries, Culture, Uncategorized

G – I miss my Jordan pals

Zuhair Zuriqat is quite a mouthful of a name for a Western audience.

But our Jordanian G Adventures http://www.gadventures.co.uk guide made it light-hearted for us.

By telling us we’d remember it by thinking of an animal sanctuary and what’s on the top of our head.

Sophie’s choice companion

It’s been a year this week since I first met and last hugged Zuhair.

And Jerry and Hannah, Beatrice and Banni, Sophie, Rick and Harry.

The memories are never far away The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

But they were heightened yesterday when founder Bruce Poon Tip caught up with us by video call.

And told us why we’ll all be reunited soon.

It’s all about the group

Hannah Mirabilis: With Hannah in Wadi Rum

Because it is in our human make-up to come up with the technological solutions.

And adapt to our changing circumstances.

And because the desire is there to connect again with each other and the destination.

Most importantly though it’s the communities we form and meet when we travel.

Beatrice, a boatie and a beardie

G Adventures puts the group dynamic at the heart of much of what it does (although they now have an independent traveller arm too).

And I was encouraged to share a room like the others when I travelled to Amman last year.

I got into the bedroom early in the morning and was met with a bare bum hanging out of a duvet, the bum belonging to Aussie Harry.

And the camels are the friendliest locals of all

We came face to face a couple of hours later when the phone went and I handed it to him… it was a wrong number.

High jinks

It set the tone for the trip from the Dead through to the Red Sea with stop-offs in Petra and Wadi Rum.

West Indian Jerry joked that there was no point in him blacking up with the mud in the Dead Sea as he browned me up.

Jim and Jerry

Wadi Rum in the desert was where one of our number who will remain nameless emerged from our canvas-thin tents.

To complain about the snoring the night before.

Zuhair the hero

What’s your headwear of choice?

One I will own up to was my flirtation with snorkelling.

When the group could barely hide their anticipation about swimming through the coral to see a sunken tank and aeroplane.

I was in and out quicker than you could say Zuhair Zuriquat… my bushy top lip was stopping the air from getting to my nostrils.

G – I wish I could be back there in Jordan www.visitjordan.com.

Bruce almighty

And for the best take on how Travel will move forward…

Read Bruce’s e-book Unlearn: The Year the Workd Stood Still www.unlearn.com on Apple Books or Kobo in Canada.

Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Uncategorized

Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago

You would easily miss the ‘No squatting’ sign on Englishman’s Bay in the Caribbean island of Tobago.

The fictional seafarer Robinson Crusoe did, before going on to spend 28 years doing just that, as a castaway here.

Daniel Defoe’s literary hero has been a source of enduring fascination for the past 300 years.

Defoe, who drew on many shipwreck stories of the time – tells us that Crusoe’s vessel sank within sight of ‘the great island of Trinidad’.

Logic dictates that can only have been its sister island Tobago.

The same logic means you can discount the rival claim from the island formerly known as Mas a Tierra, off the coast of Chile.

Which the Chilean government opportunistically renamed Isla Robinson Crusoe in 1966.

Beach life

It’s hard to know if Crusoe would recognise Tobago today.

His first challenge, of course, after making shore back in 1719 would have been to find food.

And through fortune, or good judgment, he managed to avoid the yellow berries on the beach – the ones my host warns me to stay away from.

Instead, Crusoe would have shaken the trees for coconuts and bananas.

Fruits of land and sea

And picked from mango groves, gladly living off the fruits of the land and the sea.

I’m a guest of the Tobago Tourism Agency and enjoy similar spoils at a range of restaurants.

The sort where the fish are close enough to jump out of the sea and onto your plate.

And where the owners are friendly enough for you to call them Auntie Alison or Uncle Kenneth.

The island of Tobago has been ‘settled’ 32 times including, randomly, by Latvians.

In an island just 12kms wide you’re never too far from the sea, or a breathtaking view of it.

In search of locals, whose ancestors were here long before Crusoe, we head for the rainforest, and its bird and animal sanctuaries.

Where hummingbirds, mockingbirds, back hawks and woodpeckers are in good voice.

Attenborough‘s pal

And where Crusoe would have learnt, as I do, of the natural healing power of plants.

My guides include rainforest expert William Slim, who counts David Attenborough as an admirer; bird expert.

Ean Mackay www.adventure-ecovillas.com and animal conservationists Ian Wright and Roy Collins.

I am particularly taken by the magical properties of the cocoa plant.

And by another called ‘roucou’ or achiote (Bixa orellana) which contains a dye which will turn your beard ginger (I bet Crusoe did the same).

Plus a plant that cures the flu.

In February, Tobagonians come out for carnival, the Caribbean’s oldest of its type, dating back to the slave trade era.

During which they go limin’ (pre-drinking), and chippin’ (a rhythmic sliding strut performed by revellers as they follow a band).

They practise for it all year round.

Every visitor to Tobago should make time to stop at Sunday School in Bucoo on the south of the island.

Not a true Sunday school, but a vibrant street party featuring steelpan and soca (soul of calypso) music.

For which the whole of the island comes out to dance and drink rum punch into the wee small hours.

Soca star

Soca, the soundtrack to Tobago, comes in many guises – from old-school kaiso (west African-influenced)…

To power Soca (fast-paced) and the Christmas favourite Parang, heavily influenced by nearby Venezuela.

Waterholics, a local water activities company, brings tourists by boat to Princess Margaret’s honeymoon spot, Nylon Pool.

Which she once declared were as clear as her nylon stockings (€109pp ilovetobagott.com)

Nylon Pool has the added advantage of being a raised sandbank amid deeper water, so you can have a bit of fun.

Standing around in the sea fir afternoon drinks, and I guess this is exactly what the party-loving royal did.

Christmas party

Amid Tobago’s 30C temperatures don’t be surprised to find a Santa in a festive T-shirt on the beach, and a No Man’s Land…

A small, sandy island which my boat party drops anchor on for our own bespoke Christmas party.

I suspend disbelief and indulge in rum punch instead of a sherry and mahi-mahi (like swordfish) instead of turkey.

Perhaps Tobago’s biggest distraction comes in the form of racing goats, who during my visit are in training for the Buccoo Goat Race Festival that takes place each Easter.

The ways of a nanny or billy goat were well known to Crusoe, of course, whose efforts in raising the big kids were chronicled in his adventures.

In Crusoe’s absence, though, we are fortunate to have jockey Levi, who shows me the ropes, and how to handle my giddy goat Bandanaman.

Which has a loose-fitting cord around its neck.

The starter shouts: ‘Ready, Steady. Goat’, or at least I do, and we’re pff.

I’m a natural, letting Bandanaman lead me 100 metres up the grass track near the football pitch.

Which just happens to be the hallowed ground upon which former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke first paraded his skills.

Today, though, it is Yorke’s former mentor Terry Williams holding the fort, flying kites with his young son Elijah.

Lie down and think of Tobago

It looks hard work in this heat, but after my exertions with the goats, I welcome the prospect of a cool down.

On an island where all beaches are public, you are spoilt for choice – from Lover’s Bay and Pirate’s Bay, to Crown Point’s Store Bay Beach.

Where the Trinis (Trinidadians) will pop over on a 20-minute flight, just for the afternoon.

It is on Pirate’s Bay beach that I meet a German party, who emerge, almost Crusoelike from the thickets, having walked the width of the island.

From Scarborough, its largest town.

A kindlier man might have given up their hammock but I have difficulty in getting out of mine.

My last day I spend as Crusoe might have done, in reverence to the Divine Creator – partaking of a full-throated spiritual singalong at the Bread of Life Ministries.

Which is a Pentecostal church near my hotel in Crown Point.

But while Crusoe’s most solemn wish would have been to be rescued, mine is that no big bird ever arrives to fly me off my fantasy island.

The brief

Getting there:

Fly from Dublin to London Gatwick and onwards to Tobago with British Airways (from €560 return www.ba.com) or Virgin Atlantic (from €586 return) www.virginatlantic.com.

Getting around:

Drivers and guides can easily be arranged at hotels to get you around Tobago. Car rental starts at about €50 per day.

Where to eat:

Mount Irvine Bay Resort has its own seaside golf course while for those whose favourite hole is the 19th, the resort serves the best rum punches on the island (doubles from €84 www.mtirvine.com.

Castara Retreats is a hidden gem with its hammocks on the balcony, buzzing village feel and bonfire parties on the beach (doubles from €777) www.castararetreats.com.

Kariwak Holistic Haven is near the airport, the bars, restaurants and casino of the ‘strip’ (doubles from €263. www.kariwak.com.

Where to dine:

The Blue Crab is Robinson, Scarborough, once featured on television chef Ainslie Harriott’s show, Caribbean Kitchen. Try the chicken curry www.tobagobluecrab.com.

Jemma’s Tree House on Fourmi Road, Hermitage, where you’ll share your table space with hummingbirds but that’s what comes when you dine in a treehouse.

Order the swordfish – so good they named it twice.

For more information on Tobago see www.visittobago.gov.tt.

Cruising, Culture, Deals, Europe, Uncategorized

Cruiseday Tuesday – a port in Porto

There are some destinations whose names tingle in your mouth every time you say them… Porto, Bordeaux, Pilsen, Buckfast.

Well, maybe not the last one but you can give the monks a pass on that one… it can be a solitary existence.

Broken only, I guess, if the bar/restaurant is pretty much on the premises as is the case with the Strahov Monastery Brewery in Prague http://www.klasterni-pivovar.cz.

Uniworld is offering an eight-day Douro River Valley trip on July 19, Porto-Porto on board the new SS Sao Gabriel in a. Open Stateroom.

You’ll enjoy six days of excursions and a private tour and port tasting at the prestigious port wine estate Quinta do Seixo.

And I’ve saved the best for last… Uniworld has granted a final extension of jts 100th anniversary celebration offer.

So you’ll save 30% on select 2020 luxury river cruises now until March 30.

Sail on Tenerife

As I’ve flagged up on this site already, Tenerife https://www.visitingtenerife.com has led the way in jumping on top of its Coronavirus challenge.

And it’s definitely open for business.

Why not do like Nelson and sail into Tenerife… and you’ll have a better result A walk through the ages… Tenerife?

TUI www.tuiholidays.ie is offering an additional €300 per booking with code May300.

So try: Dublin to Tenerife. Canarian Flavours on the Marella Explorer. All-inclusive, seven nights inside cabin From €779pps.

Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK, Uncategorized

My Sporting Weekend – More Muirfield please

Now I’m not just saying this because I want regular Open golf from Muirfield which is near my new home in North Berwick. OK, I am.

But I’m only a week back here and already I’ve discovered that there is a real threat to Muirfield’s regular slot on the Open rota.

My old mucker, golf scribe extraordinaire Martin Dempster, of The Scotsman https://www.scotsman.com, tells us…

That Muirfield and Carnoustie have fallen behind others in popularity with the R&A https://www.randa.org.

North Berwick, and Scotland’s Golf Course

To the likes of Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland where last year’s Open was held and I was the guest of the Northern Ireland Tourism board… www.visitnorthernireland.com

Portrush… and dreams do come true

200,000 is now the figure given as the target which courses must now which apparently stands against the two Scottish courses.

And it is Marin’s contention, and his instincts are usually bang on, that Muirfield and Carnoustie will be in a 15 to 20 year loop with Royal Lyrham & St Anne’s.

Now just on Muirfield, near Edinburgh on Scotland’s Golf Coast, didn’t do itself any favours with its policy on women’s members.

But that has changed now and other esteemed golf courses have had questionable policies too: – the WASPish Augusta anyone?

Now judging courses on their winners how about this list of winners, all of them in my lifetime: Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo (twice), Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson.

While before that there was Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, the latter who I followed around Hoylake.

Not a duffer among them.

Now you’re wanting to know how my game shapes up… well, here’s how The Boat D’Azur, Strip… the light fantastic.

And because I’ll always support Scotland www.visitscotland.com.

So here’s my pitch… protect Edinburgh’s Open, Muirfield Edinburgh – an old friend and Aberdeen’s Open, Carnoustie Aberdeen – a light in the north.

Where one of the greatest pieces of theatre played itself out… when Jean de Velde thrashed around in the burn.

And Aberdonian Paul Lawrie came from eight behind to lift the Claret Jug.

MEET YOU ON THE COURSE

America, Countries, Deals, Europe, UK, Uncategorized

Flyday Friday – Iceland rocks

The Daughters of Reykjavík will be waiting for you off your Icelandair flight.

And Andy Svarthol. And your Dry Cleaning.

If that sounds quite a party it’s because it is… these are just some of the bands who will be playing.

At the 22nd edition of Iceland Airwaves from November 4-7.

Turn the lights on: Iceland

Travel packages are available for 2020 and include festival pass. round-trip flights and hotel accommodation.

Packages with departures beginning November 2 are available, starting at €325pp for airfare from Dublin with festival pass.

Hotel inclusive packages are also available.

Icelandair www.icelandair.com also flies from Dublin via Iceland to 18 gateways in North America.

Including Anchorage, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Edmonton. Minneapolis. Montreal, New York (JFK & Newark), Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa. Toronto, Vancouver and Washington DC.

And here’s a reminder of a couple of them… Go West. Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and Easy DC.

Hamburgers and Londoners

Tuck in

Not that Londoners are any bigger fans of hamburgers than anywhere else… more that they are both great port cities.

And that our friends at Aer Lingus have up to 25% off deals.

So that’s Hamburg at €34.99 one-way from Dublin.

And London from Dublin at €25.99 one-way, from Cork at €34.99, Shannon €39.99 and Knock €25.99.

Book by March 2 and travel before April 20.

And here’s why I love these port cities so much… The London life and Hamburgers and ships.

America, Countries, Food & Wine, Uncategorized

Flipping marvellous – best pancake places

There is no evidence that Jesus ate a round of pancakes before going on to fast for 40 days… but there’s no evidence that he didn’t.

Today we’ll all tuck into our pancakes with the Son and Heir the flipper in our family.

God being good I’ll be on my way to Prague today.

Where I’m sure that being Central Europe there will be a big plate of pancakes a-waiting.

On-flight, British Airways: I’ve never lost the wonder of eating on an airplane since first peeling back the tinfoil as a kid.

In the years since I’ve found that it’s usually beef or salmon, with a vegetarian option.

While now that I’ve enjoyed business class on occasions on long-hauls there are breakfasts too… which obvs means pancakes.

Mine’s were on my flight to Jordan www.visitjordan.com with www.gadventures.com. Read on The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Pile ‘em high

Everything is bigger in America

The big breakfast, America: It’s funny how certain foods and drinks taste better in the countries of their origin.

Guinness in Ireland, risotto in Italy and pancakes in the Oo Es of Eh.

Yes, I know that pancakes are from France because, of course, they invented food.

It’s just that Americans do it bigger and better... pile ’em high at breakfast and make sure you take in a diner.

And sweeter in Barbados

Watch out for predators

Life sweet in Barbados: The first thing you need to know about Barbados is that this is the home of rum.

So that when you come down for your breakfast at Turtle Beach https://www.eleganthotels.com/turtle-beach and Sandals https://www.sandals.co.uk/sandals-barbados/ in St Laurence Gap you’ll get rum pancakes.

Irie as they say in Bim which is why I went back a second time… Let’s rumba in Barbados and A kiss from Rihanna.

Uncategorized

Shop till you drop around the world

Now I’m very much straight (no man would have me!) and a Scottish-type of bloke so obviously I need help with clothes-shopping.

Heck, let’s be honest, I give it a wide berth. But seeing we’re in Fashion Season, post-New York, London this week and Paris and Milan to come…

My Travel professional friend Rachel brings us:

You never have to rush for the bus

What’s in a name?

Hit the shops

Vintage District – Kyushu, Japan: Now the schoolboy in me sniggers whenever I see the town Fukuoka mentioned. And even better pronounced.

But I’d never be so impolite, I’d always so please after namechecking the Japanese city.

Rachel tells us that the Dalmyo District has a wide variety of styles with outlets including Pearl and Nobu, featuring unique 19th century couture.

You simply must visit Kimagureya and YT, dahlings.

With retro looks right through from the Swinging Sixties to the Grunge Nineties.

And all for under a tenner! Visit www.welcomekyushu.com.

Sarong remains the same

Sarong but so right

Tahiti fashion week, the islands of Tahiti: My Maldives sarong is looking all lonesome in the drawer as we unpack.

Do you think I’d get away with suggesting to the Scary One that I go out and get another one? She won’t wear one though.

Rachel tells us that the Papa’ete Market is the place to go for your pareo where you can be one of half a million visitors…

And if it’s good enough for David Beckham!

Visit www.tahititourisme.uk/en.gb.

Surfers’ chic

Pink rock

Pacific City – Huntington Beach, California: Now I have to confess here that I only saw Huntington Beach by night… watching Snoop Dogg at the American Travel Fair.

And that voice in the background, no, not Snoop but my pal Bladhana from www.americanholidays.ie who know everything there is to know.

While the picture at the top is Visit USA’s and United Airlines’ www.united.com Aoife (sans bandana).

Onto other matters and here’s what Surf City USA has to offer… and, yes, there are boardies!

You’ll notice first off the quirky stores housed in modern craftsmsn beach bungalows.

And an artisan market inspired by California cuisine with patio dining, outdoor movie nights and plenty of places to hang out.

Now Rachel flags up Urban Outfitters, who dress the Son and Heir, but you’ll forgive me but Free People, Brandy Melville and Vissia.

Visit www.surfcityusa.com.

Now where are your fave shoppers destinations? Let me know…

MEET YOU IN THE STORE

Uncategorized

Auschwitz lest we forget… I think we have

Prisoners would rush to get the top bunk bed in Auschwitz.

Like overexcited schoolchildren at a summer holiday camp?

No, but because a malnourished human being will quickly lose control of their bowel movements.

And you wouldn’t want to be under that.

Behind these gates

The Son and Heir conveyed that story to me after visiting the Polish concentration camp as part of World Youth Day in Krakow.

Life in camp

And it is these graphic illustrations of what life was like in the concentration camp which are being increasingly retold this week, this day.

Eerie

On the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

The challenging question for those of us whose mission is to see the world is whether Auschwitz is mawkish.

And, yes, it can be, if you disrespect the memory of those who were brutalised there by taking cheap selfies.

The Son and Heir

But I’m heartened at the same time by the ever-increasing interest in history by thus generation.

And the reverence shown by, among them, the Son and Heir at Auschwitz.

A personal war memory

And those young schoolboys who joined me in presenting the wreath at The Last Post at the Menin Gate in Ieper.

On my World War I Battlefields tour of Flanders and the Somme with GTI The Group Travel Specialists https://gtitravel.ie and In Flanders Fields.

Where I found the grave of my Great Uncle.

The politicians’ game

War history and war tourism is as old as time…

War tourism

For example the great Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott was not alone among well-known people to scour the Waterloo battlefield.

And my American colleague in Ieper took home fragments of exploded shells from Ieper.

Concentration camps today

I am always prepared to go the extra mile to seek out a battlefield, a graveyard or a genocide.

From visiting my first concentration camp in Dachau, and it was the first in Germany, on my Oktoberfest trip to Munich…

Every one a person

To discovering the inhumane lengths man will still go to settle grievances at the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity in Sarajevo.

Visit visitsarajevo.ba and www.bhtourism.ba.

Lest we forget?

I fear we have.