Canada, Countries, Deals

Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns

I was there at the birth and the wobbles of the last year so I share the Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns.

The announcement of Ireland’s national airline new Transatlantic route would always be a matter of fevered excitement among the Travel circle.

And Toronto came very much from out of left field when it was revealed in 2018.

Toronto, oh brother!

Spell it out: Toronto

It shouldn’t have. Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and closest to America, both geographically and culturally.

And it has done much to disprove the putdown of raconteur Peter Ustinov who described it as ‘New York run by the Swiss’.

True it is cleaner than NY and my brother who lived there for eight years explained it to me.

It was because of the first generation immigrants who took such pride in their city.

There was also the occasion when I heard the subway train coming and I made to rush for it.

Only for my brother to tell me that there would always be another along in a couple of minutes.

Another good reason for leaving the homeland.

Eh Lingus

All White on the night: Aer Lingus

And another is the renewed Aer Lingus fight, back on the tarmac from the end of last week.

With fares from €149 each way.

So what’ll you do when you’re out in Tronno (as the locals call it).

Eh? As the Canadians will always say at the end of everything

Well, there’s the CN Tower, once the world’s tallest building.

And the Niagara Falls just down the road.

As well as the natural playground which is Lake Ontario.

But it’s also a food hub with Chinatown, Koreatown, Greektown, Little Italy and Little Portugal marking it out as very mych the match of New York.

City of sports

Enraptured: Toronto Raptors

On another (and some say best) grade it, it is a great sports city.

The Toronto Raptors were on the drawing board when I checked in on my brother.

Despite being out of the NBA loop, Toronto was there at the start of the hoop dream.

And in fact played the first game against the New Yoek Knickerbockers (Knicks) 50 years before.

Like all dinosaurs the Raptors took some time to get going.

But 24 years after Toronto’s renewal as a basketball team they were ready to stand tallest again.

As they swept all before them, winning the 2019 NBA Championship.

Wrapped it all up

Blue is the colour: The Blue Jays

The Raptors though have a ling way to go to match the winningest (as they like yo say in North American circles) team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team have won 13 Stanley Cups, the last in 1967.

While the Toronto Blue Jays, a nascent franchise when I visited, have won two World Series, back to back in 1992 and 1993.

Ice one: Toronto Maple Leafs

And so you see Toronto knocks it out of the park.

And so does Aer Lingus… a winning team.

Which is why I’m in Toronto Rapture as Aer Lingus returns.

Countries, Culture, Europe

Flying turtles to the Canaries

And let’s not be shellfish here that someone else is getting abroad, that Aer Lingus is flying turtles to the Canaries.

No lateral flow tests, no 72-hour PCR test, no passenger locator forms…

Well, this turtle is Canarian.

Julius Caesar (stay with me here) has been kicking his stubby feet in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, for the best part of a year and a half.

The loggerhead sea turtle washed ashore in 2019.

Hail Caesar

Crate expectations: JC gets the deluxe treatment

Julius Caesar, thus named by the Donegal family who found him because of his fighting spirit, has been recuperating in Down.

At the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry where they have put the poor fella back together again.

JC was just three months old when he was swept along the current (and who hasn’t been there).

And he was carried along the Gulf Stream to Co. Donegal.

Donegal diver

Just the ticket: And it’s Turtle luxury on Aer Lingus

The poor wee thing was underweight, just under a few hundred grammes, and suffering from hypothermia.

So it was just as well that it was Donegal where he was found.

Because Ireland’s most northern county boasts the warmest people in the world.

OK I’m biased as my Dear Old Mum and her people are daughter and sons of the sod.

The Ulster folk are famous for their hospitality as anyone who has enjoyed their ‘wee’ Ulster Fry will testify.

Turtle’s Ulster Fry

Turtle loving care: And the crew is besotted

So it’s no surprise Donegal’s fellow Ulsterians filled JC up.

Those pounds piled up on a diet of fish mixture, squid and gel.

Just a thought here but I might just have been a turtle in a previous life.

As I’ve got on famously with them in Barbados and in the Maldives.

Well, after 20 months being pampered in Ireland the day finally came today for JC to head home to the Canaries.

And when you travel from Ireland you need to promote the national airline carrier.

And of course Aer Lingus was only too happy to fly JC on the EI 782 to veterinarian Pascual Calabuig at the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre on Gran Canaria.

Turtle on board

It’ll take longer: The swim back to the Canaries

JC’s minder Portia Simpson is going along for the company.

Our turtle, now weighing 25kg, is protected in a specially designed waterproof crate.

I can only say the best things about Aer Lingus’s flight experience… and the same can be said for turtles.

JC is not the first turtle that Aer Lingus has repatriated.

Another rogue loggerhead turtle, Leona, was found in Co. Clare in 2013 and transported to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria by Aer Lingus in December 2014.

This is your pilot speaking

Next time I’m flying: And i’ll choose Aer Lingus

Pilot Captain Peter Lumsden introduced the VIP to the passengers.

‘It is our pleasure to welcome aboard a very special passenger today and to ensure the safe transportation of JC the Turtle to Gran Canaria.

‘Keeping the turtle’s temperature above 19 degrees is critical to his wellbeing and he requires regular monitoring and shell lubrication so placing him in the aircraft hold was not an option.

‘Like all of us on the flight today, I’m sure he is looking forward to the warmer climate upon landing.’

Turtle minder

And so say all of me. The Canaries are a pleasure any time of the year, but especially in the late summer after a year in cold storage.

So the next time Portia needs a hand, then I’d be happy to fly turtles to the Canaries.

 

 

 

 

Countries, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

A favourite airline now gone, Stobart Air

Sorry to be such an old misery guts on your rest day but every day will now be a rest day for Stobart a favourite airline now gone.

Stobart Air has been the wings beneath my winding my way from Ireland back to Scotland.

On more occasions than I care to remember.

Liquidation looms

But alas the 50-year-old carrier has been forced into liquidation now.

By Covid and Irish Government inaction.

Up in the air: For passengers now

For every Irish adult Stobart Air will always be Aer Arann.

Aer Arann got off the ground in 1970 to serve Inishmore in the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

And Galway and the West, where I would spend my childhood summer holidays, is best.

Fly the flag: My friends at Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus, the national airline carrier, saw the possibilities and soon got on board, contracting Aer Arran to operate their short-haul commuter links.

Stobart story

Stobart Group jumped in during the choppy mid Twenty-Teens and rebranded as Stobart Air.

Which is when I started to lean on them as my taxi service back and forth to Scotland while living and working in Ireland.

That’ll be Edinburgh Airport obvs

And revisiting my old haunts such as my young party days in Aberdeen, my adopted home Edinburgh and my home city Glasgow.

There are other airlines and they will fill the gap left by Stobart Air mist critically now where flights have been lost.

But the collapse of any airline is to the detriment of passengers.

A sad day

The wider the range of airlines the greater choice on offer and the better value.

Purple reigned: FlyBe

This is all on the back of the collapse of FlyBe.

And they were a favourite too with their flights to cruise town Southampton, Stobart Air’s decline is a sad day for us all.

We’ll be told that it is Covid collateral damage but try telling that to those who have lost their jobs.

And passengers who have been left out of pocket.

And until governments change their attitude to Travel as vital and not trivial…

Then it might be Stobart a favourite airline now gone today but there will be countless others tomorrow.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Music

Sing for Minnesota and Prince and Dylan

I’d heralded in the last year with a party like it’s Two-Zero-One-Nine and a celebration of the Purple One’s state. 2021 will catch up so let’s sing for Minnesota and Prince and Dylan.

2019 was special not least because I clocked up more air miles than an astronaut.

Minne marvel: Minneapolis. http://www.visitusa.org.uk

But also because Aer Lingus launched its inaugural flight from Dublin to Minneapolis. Unhelpfully, though, that was when I was already on my travels so I’ve still got to check in.

This year will be even better in Prince’s backyard as Paisley Park reopens after Covid and the Mid-West state also celebrates folk poet Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday in his home town of Duluth.

The legends

The King and I: In Vegas

It always comes as a source of inspiration to me that our musical legends don’t generally hail from the glittering cities of the world but rather Mississippi/Memphis (Elvis), Liverpool/Hamburg (The Beatles), Gary, Indiana (Jacko) Barbados (Rihanna) and Minneapolis (Prince) and Duluth (Dylan).

For Prince fans, and the rest of us, the reopening of the sex thimble’s iconic recording studio and home at Paisley Park will have us letting out high-pitched screams.

So what can we expect? A lot of purple (obvs), his wardrobe and yes only a Rock God can pull some of those outfits off while it also helps to have a hairy chest.

The Ultimate

Chest a minute: Prince. http://www.prince.com

You can wonder at his eclectic elecrtric guitars and pianos… and, er, his ping-pong table and pick up a paddle and play. The table tennis that is.

Three packages are advertised on their site: The Ultimate Experience ($160), The VIP Experience ($85) and The Paisley Experience ($45). And for the $160 I’d want to get behind a Little Red Corvette. Only saying!

Now while Prince was the idol of the Eighties, alongwith Michael Jackson (and let’s face it for all time) the Poet Laureate of the Sixties was another Minnesotan Bob Dylan.

Mr Zimmerman

The answer my friend: Bob Dylan. http://www.bobdylan.com

Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth which is 154 miles north of Minneapolis on Lake Superior. 

Again an unlikely port of call for a Rock God.

The young Robert spent the first six years of his life in the port by the Greatest Lake of them all before his family relocated to Hibbing 75 miles north-west. 

So each have a claim to the Great Man. 

Man of Minnesota

Moothie man: Dylan

And how do they solve such things in Minnesota?

Well Minnesotans and sharing and caring and are celebrating their favourite son together.

Duluth Dylan Fest , the Hibbing Dylan Project, Visit Duluth, the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce, Iron Range Tourism and the Minnesota Discovery Center have all formed a band (Dylan reference there) under the title Year of Dylan.

The year will run between Dylan’s 80th and 81st birthdays which will be celebrated both in Duluth and Hibbing. 

It will all get under way at the Dylan Monument at Hibbing High School on May 22, as well as music at Dylan’s boyhood home in Hibbing. 

Who’s your favourite?

I’ll keep you updated as we go along but let’s just celebrate this Mid-West state and sing for Minnesota and Prince and Dylan.

 

 

 

 

Deals, Flying, Ireland, UK

Heaven for Devon

It is a right royal bunfight between two English counties which the Queen has now ruled on. So sorry Cornwall, it’s heaven for DevonONE decrees it’s jam on cream.

It’s actually timely that the Queen’s pastry chefs have revealed that Her Maj is Devonian in her scone tastes.

All of which is bad news for neighbouring West Country county Cornwall where it’s cream on jam.

Knowing look: Mary Berry’s giving nothing away

And why is this centuries-old row brewing again? Well, because supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is in the eye of the storm for putting out an advert where a Cornwall scone has  the cream on first.

Creme de la creme

What we do know from living down near those parts is that Devon is the cream (we actually like Cornwall too  but for the purposes of this article…)

And Ireland’s national airline carrier knows it too, or is coming around to it now.

Aer Lingus has announced that it is launching a direct flight to historic Exeter from August 30.

With my old friends Aer Lingus

And helpfully flags up for those who don’t know the county the city’s Gothic cathedral and its quayside as well as its national parks Exmoor and Dartmoor.

And for paleontologists its Jurassic Coast in East Devon, with its 185 million years of history.

Beer on us

Devonians recommend Stuart Line Cruises to get around on your fossil hunt.

I’m here for Beer

While we were taken too among the attractions by Beer. And there’s little surprise there.

Mind you, Beer is better known for its chalk cliffs and quarry caves.

I dare say there are lovely craft beers down here but real Cornwallians and Devonians drink cider.

East Devon and the Jurassic Coast

Now don’t get us started on which is the better. Although we do know a wee old woman in Buckingham Palace who swears by one of them!

With Aer Lingus fares starting at from just €36.99 and four weekly flights on offer you’d have to be a dinosaur not to explore this magical corner of England.

 

 

 

Countries

Holiday Snaps – RihAnnarndale and other matches made in heaven

Our new television guilty pleasure comes to us from the ubiquitous man mountain Richard Osman, a parlour games show called House of Games.

In which he gets celebrities to change individual letters to form words (so for me it would be House of James) and smash names of images together to come up with a lame pun in Answer Smash.

I’ll give you an example… if you want to promote the new Ireland to Barbados route through Manchester you might want to go with RihAnnarndale Centre. Gerrit?

Yes, our friends at Aer Lingus are only making it even easier to get to gthe Land of Rum with a new route via Manchester.

Fares will start from €249 from Dublin or Cork.

And in keeping with the House of Games Answer Smash game and knowing that Robyn Rihanna Fenty is of Irish stock… I give you Irieland!

Let it rip

Slip slidin’ away

And memories of the dude who had a tattoo on his front saying ‘I am only afraid of God’ but got all edgy when we approached the plunge water slide at Aquatica.

Of course that feeling of fear always comes just before the adrenaline thrill.

Aquatica Orlando is introducing its All-New Riptide Race, the world’s tallest duelling racer on April 3.

You’ll start atop a 68-foot slide with low walls so you can keep an eye on your opponents. And race side by side on your raft run through high-speed tunnels, twists and turns.

Hip Hipperary

Dec’s demesne. http://www.pilgrimpath.ie

And, of course, in the land of Saints and Scholars there’s always a halo-clad holyman or woman just around the corner.

But this one, and his pilgrim’s path, is one that got by me.

But it stopped me in my tracks when I attended the Tipperary Transforming Webinar this week.

Dec was a pal of Paddy and walked from Cashel in Co. Tipp to Ardmore in Co. Waterford.

Pilgrims have been visiting Dec’s monastery, holy well and grave for thousands of years and you can too.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – baseball in England

And judging by what a mess England are making of their cricket Test series in India, maybe they’ll go back to baseball.

There are few things more American than baseball.

And that obviously means that it came from somewhere else.

And this somewhere else is England where it had been a folk game.

Lord’s, the home of cricket, gave itself over to baseball for the first time when it hosted the Boston Red Stockings and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1874.

And Slugger Jimmy in the USA

So for all the big Wembley and Tottenham Stadium American Football matches it’s not a new phenomenon.

To bring American sporting franchises over to the Old Country.

We do, of course, have splendid memories of Aer Lingus‘s biennial American Colllege matches at the Aviva. Happy days!

For the record Boston beat Phladelphia 24-7.

In truth Beantown and Philly are winners when it comes to sport and you can’t visit without being touched by their love of their athletes.

Paris, non

Bravo: On World Cup final day

And the hairy-arsed Scots who make a biennial pilgrimage to Paris to converge around the Arc de Triomphe.

And watch their Bravehearts lose to Les Bleus were unable to do so this year.

So too did the Scotland rugby team whose match against Les Bleus of France was called off when the home outfit was hit by Covid.

Paris hasn’t always been kind to this hairy-arsed Scot either.

I had my butt kicked when I kipped down for the night in Paris Saint-Lazare railway station in my summer holiday down on the French Riviera after schoool.

The butt-kickers en force were the Gendarme…

And it wouldn’t be my first brush with the French law who took offence to me stopping the traffic in Saint-Raphael.

Let’s be Frank about Bruno

This year? When I’ll be back in Vegas

For those of us whose golden years (so far) were the Eighties Frank Bruno was ubiquitious, know what ah mean, Harry.

And his story was inexorably tied up with that of Mike Tyson’s though he was merely a punchbag for the Baddest Man on the Planet.

Sky Documentaries’ excellent Bruno v Tyson chronicles Frank’s story.

From inauspicious beginnings in South London through to him becoming the Gentle Giant of the Nation.

Las Vegas looms large as the two fights were held there…

The first Bruno v Tyson clash was set to be held in London before Iron Mike pranged his car.

The Las Vegas Hilton was the venue for the first fight and the MGM for the second.

With Vegas our venue for the American Travel fair this year we’re all hoping there will be boxing on then.

And with a seniors circuit now kicking in in which Iron Mike figures.

Let’s get this Bruno v Tyson III on in Vegas in the Fall.

MEET YOU AT A VIRTUAL SPORTS EVENT

 

 

 

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

New Year’s Holiday Snaps – Happy New Aer

And because America is at a turning point don’t we all want to get on board.

Especially when on board is with our friends at Aer Lingus who early last year had me all booked up for the Florida Keys when…!

Ireland’s national airline carrier has a January €148 sale for this summer to North America which is Toronto.

Waving the flag for DC and Aer Lingus

While my old favourites Boston, New York and Washington is pitched at €164.

And you know the deal it’s each way as part of a return trip.

Cruise into ’21

Yea, they’ve got forks too!

Or a Happy Blue Year, the kind of blue you only find on the sea

Or the blue of Greece. So let’s put them together.

Royal Caribbean have on the Eastern Mediterranean sailings we’ve zeroed in on in 2021.

Oh, how I would have loved to have spent the last year on a wee Greek island.

My pals at Royal Caribbean only have a range of Eastern Med packages as we plan to cruise again in 2021.

An old relic and the Acropolis

A six-night Greece and Croatia cruise, leaving from Venice (Ravenna) on Rhapsody of the Seas from €569pp taking in Split, Olympia and Athens.

And you know what I always say… there’s no party like a Royal party.

United in tribute to The Doc

Me and ‘Baby Doc’ Peter

And it might be apt that former Scotland manager Tommy Docherty, an old friend of the Murtys, should die on Hogmanay.

The Doc’s son Peter was one of my earliest pals in Glasgow before his Dad took the family off to Manchester.

Of course being a football man and someone who joked that he’d had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus there’s no single destination to point you too.

But perhaps Manchester United is the club he’s most associated with.

So let’s point you in the direction of a football match day package.

If you’re an Irish United fan, and there are many, you’ll no doubt know about Celtic Horizons and Abbey Travel.

And the important thing is that we will all be together again soon in a football ground.

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

Holiday Snaps – Repose en paix Pierre Cardin

French Riviera: The invitation to Pierre Cardin’s Bubble house must have got lost in the post.

Seeing it from the outside would have to suffice.

But seeing it from a speed boat on the French Riviera is a pretty good vantage point.

The Palais Bullas,, or Bubbles Palace, was put back on the market a few years ago – well, fashion god Pierre was well into his 90s by then.

For £300m the specs for the 12,000sqm complex, the haunt of many a celeb, included.

Ten space-aged rooms, three swimming pools, a 500-seater amphitheatre and lush gardens.

Chic: On the French Riviera

Now Cannes is not cheap but Mimoza’s in neighbouring Mandelieiu-La-Napouke is within your budget.

And it has A golf course nearby, Continental Europe’s first, The Old Course, which Pierre’s gaffe doesn’t.

Still, repose en paix, Pierre.

Our thoughts with Croatia

Check out Croatia

Croatia: And our prayers go out to our friends in Zagreb and Croatia where they are recovering from the effects of a second earthquake in two days.

I am always drawn to a city which boasts a daily ritual…

View of Washington from Arlington

I’m thinking a Changing of the Guard, in Arlington the Beefeaters in London or the One O’Clock Gun in Edinburgh.

And Zagreb has a cannon which fires out paper.

My old friends Croatia Tours are the people to go with from Ireland.

From the UK…? I’m open to offers.

And a Happy New Air

Ryanair, flyin’ air

Flying: And we will be which is what Ireland’s national airline carrier Aer Lingus and Ryanair

Low-fare Ryanair are offering sizzling summer deals from €19.99.

And they’ve dropped their flight change fees for all new bookings made for travel before January 31.

And I’m noticing my faves Amsterdam, Hamburg and Lourdes in among the €19.99 tranche.

Lady Liberty is calling

Just because the shops are closed won’t stop us checking out the January Sales… and Aer Lingus.

They’ve got 30% off flights and checked bags to Europe, and Barcelona catches the eye.

While they’re all over North America with €149 sale deals which means I can swop Zoom for my cousins’ front rooms in New York and Washington DC

Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Mac Black Friday – your Scots pal’s round-up

And the first Black Friday had nothing to do with shopping and everything to do with sheeping.

The Scottish Highlanders were only 128 miles from London on Friday, December 6, 1745, when they decided to turn their army around and head back to their sheep.

It was an ill-fated retreat and their English pursuers caught up with them at Culloden, near Inverness, on April 16, and smote them, a thing they did then and very sore.

These days the only injuries you’ll pick up are sore shins in the shopping rush, although this year it’ll be ‘digital finger’.

Your favourite Travel blogger is always happy to take one for the team so here’s my round-up.

Flyday Friday

And it’s not just off-the-rail fashion or white goods that are Black Friday regulars… we all love our airline giveaways too.

Ireland’s national airline Aer Lingus carrier have a headline offer of €100 off for a family of four bringing two checked bags to Gran Canaria in May.

While also flagging up plenty of other sun spots from which to choose.

Ryanair pride themselves on giving more away more often and are championing ‘Every Friday is Black Friday.’

Friday cruiseday

And our floating hotel firms are all about the sails.

Princess Cruises are offering deals with peak season sailings from €769pp through November 30.

They have 14 UK-based voyages from seven to 14 nights, departing between May and October.

Eleven of those voyages will travel round-trip from Southampton to destinations across northern Europe (maybe taking in here), the Med (and this) and the Canary Islands (us too).

The 3,560 guest Regal Princess will be based in the UK from April to October 30.

Fares start at €769pp for a seven-night cruise during peak season and €1209pp for a 14-night cruise.

And I’ll drink to that. On board Royal

Royal Caribbean is combining Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

And they are recommending booking a cruise this weekend and get up to $400 onboard credit and save up to $150 instantly.

And why wait? Because this is what you get and here too.

Friday skiday

Slope off to the mountains, where there’s plenty of social distancing, with Crystal Ski and get €150 off any booking up to April 2022.

All 2020/2021 holidays come with Covid Cover and free amends up to 28 days before departure.

And because Andorra is a favourite of Irish skiers. Depart January 10, stay self-catering in 3* Sant Roma Apartments, Arinsal from €292pps (four people sharing).

While Italy is mine. And why not spend yours in Sainte D’ouix, at the 3* Hotel Martin, half-board, from €544pps.

Offer runs through to Monday. Includes flights from Dublin.

And I’m not stopping there… more Black Friday deals coming up.

WATCH THIS SPACE