Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Thirteen years an Irishman – My capital cities (and Istanbul)

I belong to Glasgow,

Dear Old Glasgow toon,

But there’s nothing the matter with Glasgow

Because It’s going round and round.

I’m only a common-or-garden chap,

As anyone here can see.

But when I have a couple of drinks on a Saturday,

Glasgow belongs to me

I’m a city boy, always have been, always will be, and am going back to one of my favourites.

Edinburgh, or Embra as we say in Scotland.

But what of the others, I’ve been keeping you going with my top cities so here we go again:

Capitol idea

Washington DC: Four score and seven years ago (well, three years in my case) I fulfilled a lifelong ambition by visiting the US capital.

It’s still to be beaten for me as an American city.

The Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Washington Monument.

All the Smithsonians, and particularly the National Museum of African American History and Culture https://nmaahc.si.edu/splashify-splash and the National Museum of the American Indian https://americanindian.si.edu.

Arlington https://www.arlington.ie, the Kennedy graves, Robert E. Lee’s house, Frederick Douglas’s house. Oh, and the Capitol https://www.visitthecapitol.gov and the White House https://www.whitehouse.gov too.

Visit https://washington.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx66X0f2v5wIVh7HtCh1YpQ9FEAAYASAAEgL9uvD_BwE.

Roman holidays

I’ll be back… and I was

My former colleague and still my pal, the office PA, Rebecca, is in Rome and asked me for some pointers.

Well, she’ll know the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps.

St Paul’s Basilica, the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel.

But she should try out the Capuchin Crypt where the bones and skulls of dead monks were used to build the three altars. Now that’s eternal.

Visit http://www.cappucciniviaveneto.it and https://www.rome.info and Small roads lead to Rome.

And before Rome there was Athens

An old relic… and the Acropolis

Socrates was here and so was I and two very helpful taxi drivers who got me here after I was late the first time… a case of Acropolis Later.

Athens is beautifully chaotic which is why I feel I belong there, there where you can get stuck in a restaurant lift for half an hour.

And walk in on an elderly couple post-coitus because the rooms were mixed up and the manager sends you up a couple of bottles of wine as an apology.

Visit Athens www.athensattica.com/things-to-see/ and My Greek odyssey.

And the crossroads – Istanbul

With my good pal Onur from Turkish Airlines

The crossroads of Europe and Asia and where I’d planned to get engaged 25 years previously.

On the Bosphorus where I made up for last year.

On a boat cruise with me singing along to Abba’s Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy (A man after midnight) and my pal did his Dancing Ian.

And, of course, the Hagi Sofya, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, whirling dervishes and the hamam where Florence Nightingale and Kate Moss went (https://www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr.

Visit https://www.turkishairlines.com/en-int/index.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu9Tm8aSw5wIVhbTtCh3HQwB5EAAYAiAAEgIwDPD_BwE and https://visit.istanbul and of course Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Harbour of my dreams

Valletta, a safe betta

I’m going to have to put this in as it was Malta where I actually did get engaged. I’d bent down to tie my laces and she yelled ‘Yes’.

The harbour is the most beautiful in the world… my survey and you should sail between the islands.

And Valletta’s Fortifications and the Caravaggio in the St John Co-Cathedral.

Visit www.maltaireland.com and Malta easer.

And tomorrow, five more from Northern Europe.

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In 2020 bring the world to you in Vegas

The Bells, the Bells! And that’s just the Bell’s whisky!

In the words of the world’s most famous binman, that great sage Coronation Street’s Norman ‘Curly’ Watts:

‘Who told the Scots that they owned New Year?’

Being of the Scots variety myself I’d just taken it for granted that it was ours.

So like the rest of us Caledonians I partied over the TWO (count them) public holidays.

But what of the other places around the world where they hold New Year’s parties too.

All Greek to me

Athens: They’ve been waving their togas around and clinking vessels of wine while we were still scratching ourselves and drawing on walls.

And they still are up at the Acropolis (although I can’t swear to the togas bit).

But there are few better backdrops for a New Year’s fireworks party than Athens’ most iconic landmark… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrlU10r2zOA 

I know all about the Acropolis having endured a modern-day Odyssey to get there in the autumn of last year (still sounds funny to write that).

Read all about it as you plan your travel itinerary for this year… Acropolis later and http://www.athensattica.com.

I can’t recommend Lufthansa http://www.lufthansa.com and Aegean Airlines http://www.aegeanair.com highly enough after they got me out of a jam. Which is why it was an odyssey.

Never sleeps

New York: The Big Apple is a film set at any time of the year and we all know the tradition of the ball drop in Times Square (and I thought that was all behind me as a teenager).

But regardless of what you might be told it’s not just us tourists who pack out the square on the last day of the old year… my  own NY rellies do too.

Of course the neon lights, billboards and skyscrapers are worth seeing any time of the year.

And if you do then check out my pal Tom’s Beacon Hotel, the jewel of the Upper West Side. He loves all visitors but especially the Irish…. https://www.beaconhotel.com 

While check out the New York websites and avail of the City Pass too for the best way around the great city… http://www.nycvb.com and http://www.citypass.com

The great thing about Ireland and the States is just that… but also the pre-clearance.

A dam good party

Amsterdam: The Son and Heir’s pal Amsterdam Andy, although he hails from Bray he’s been given the moniker (by me) on account of working there now.

I’m well jel.

The Rembrandtplein is one of the best squares in a city where there is no shortage of them.

Mainly on account of the sculpture recreation of the Nighwatch https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/pictures-of-amsterdam/which you can place yourself in for a photo… of course we did.

If you’re feeling flush then fork out for the Dylan Hotel which is where George and Amal stay…. you deserve it https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/george-and-amal-hotel/

Visit http://www.iamsterdam.com.

There’s another Scotland

Glasgow: I know all about Edinburgh having lived ten years there and Daddy’s Little Girl being born there.

And I also enjoyed more than my fair share of Hogmanays (don’t ask me why) at Merkat Cross in my student days before the whole action was moved up to the Castle and Princes Street.

But while Edinburgh prides itself on its New Year celebrations, its great rival Glasgow has a party every weekend.

The George Square party in 1990 was legendary as it heralded in the Dear Green Place’s year as European City of Culture.

When two likely lads stood in Princes Street in Edinburgh with a signpost saying ‘you are only 55 miles away from the European City of Culture.’

Stay at the http://www.carlton.nl/en/hotel-george-glasgow. In typical first-footing welcoming style they will leave you a bar at the top of the hotel in your private lounge too!

And visit http://www.peoplemakeglasgow.com, the website which does what it says on the tin.

Vegas, baby

And only because my year is revolving around my IPW American Travel Fair trip http://www.ipw.com to host city Las Vegas http://www.lvcvb.com.

It’s the ultimate party city at the ultimate party time of the year.

A travel colleague was in touch as soon as the bells had rung to talk about what we were going to do.

I don’t know but I’ll be on the lookout for Cami, a Utah transvestite who I might just have proposed to.

But what stays in… well, you know the rest.

Stay at the Palazzo at The Venetian http://www.venetian.com. And read all about my adventures in https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/vegas-strip-the-light-fantastic/

Because if you can’t get around the whole world at New Year or any time of the year (and I am trying my best) come to Vegas.

Where the world is on your doorstep… Paris up the road, Venice here and even ancient Egypt too.

I love it… fly out with British Airways, I did http://www.ba.com.

And I’ll be giving it plenty in 2020.

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Spend a penny, drachma, dinar

There is a sign in an Irish bar to help the clientele find their way to the toilet… ‘men, left; women always right.’

And isn’t it just the case that whoever we are and wherever we are in the world that we all love toilet humour?

So then in the interests of research I have been gathering men’s and women’s toilet signs from around the world.

I’ll be scoring them… out of five.

I’ll show them this evidence too when I’m taken down to the police station and asked to explain my actions.

It’s all Greek to me

It’s a nod to the Ancient Greeks and might even be taken from doodles from early Homer.

You want to concentrate on these signs though with the ladies’ hair not coming all the way around the chin.

And here are some more thoughts on Greece http://www.athensattica.com/things-to-see/sightseeing/acropolishttps://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/21/holiday-snaps-postcard-from-kethyra-%f0%9f%87%ac%f0%9f%87%b7/

Or https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/21/sporting-weekend-fun-olympic-games/

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German sense of humour

The Germans are unfairly stereotyped for not having a sense of humour. Scheisse!

But in a region, Bavaria https://www.germany.travel/en/travel-information/federal-states/federal-state-bavaria.html which boasts a Wanktunnel I’d say they can do better…

And some thoughts on Bavaria… Germany leaves me gratified.

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Toilets from Amsterdam

When it’s Spring again, I’ll sing again Toilets from Amsterdam https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/see-and-do.

Hat’s how they do it in this Middle Eastern restaurant from a converted mosque in De Pijp… Pictures of Amsterdam.

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Traditional Tirol

We’re jumping from foot to foot which means that we really want to go.

And that’s how the Austrians, and particularly the Tirolians https://www.tyrol.com, dress up their herrs and fraus.

For this and much more toilet humour try https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/01/austrian-toilet-humour/. And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/03/__trashed/

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Let’s Split

Sometimes it just needs to be what it says on the tin.

And here in the airport in Split, Croatia http://www.croatia.ie, in the Balkans, the crossroads where South-East Europe meets the Old Ottoman Empire it’s best to have androgynous signs. This ticks the boxes.

And here are some Balkan memories from Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/18/medgugorje-whats-your-story/.

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Mr and Miss Sarajevo

Or for political correctness you can always hedge your bets with a couple of symbols and the local language.

These guys and gals have smiles on their faces. I guess it translates to Thanks Armitage Shanks.

The historic capital of Bosnia & Herzegovina http://visit-bosniaherzegovina.com is fascinating and fabulous.

Go visit.., https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/21/sarajevo-the-scot-that-was-heard-around-the-world/. And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/24/sarajevo-revisited/

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Give us this Day – We are what we wear

It’s their stage when holy men get a chance to dress up and play the diva.

Still there’s probably some religious significance there too.

And fancy dress is clearly one of the upsides of the role.

It also includes a job for life and care right up to the end.

And you’ll get straight entry into heaven, and life everlasting.

These were many of the reasons why I flirted with becoming a Catholic priest when I was a boy.

OK, I didn’t make it to the seminary probably because I wanted to make it with girls.

That’s something which you can do if you want to go on to become a vicar or minister, rabbi or imman.

With Catholic priests, of course, you get to wear the dress too.

I was sorely tempted too to buy the vestments I saw for sale in the window of a shop in Medjugorje.

Where I’d gone on a Marian Pilgrimages http://www.marianpilgrimages.ie tour just last month…. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/18/medgugorje-whats-your-story/

Clothes maketh the man, some might say, and I have been drawn to all kinds of cultures because of theirs.

Jesus in a skirt, yes. In a church in Tenerife https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/tenerife-walk/ with http://www.CanariaWays.com.

While I also witnessed a promised Land of Hasidic Jews (if that’s the collective noun) passing through the world’s biggest through hub for Jews and the world’s best airport, Istanbul. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/wham-bam-thank-you-hamam/

With Turkish Airlines’ business lounge being the jewel in the crown… http://www.turkishairlines.com.

Crossroads of history

Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities for any number of reasons but definitely because it is a crossroads city where cultures and religions meet.

Like the beautiful Sarajevo https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/21/sarajevo-the-scot-that-was-heard-around-the-world/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/24/sarajevo-revisited/

Which the Bosnian city has had its Catholic and Orthodox visitors where you’ll see both religious and secular dress.

Jordan is another crossroads where you only have to stand by the river with Muslims on the side of Jordan country https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/.

While also seeing white robed Russian Orthodox Christians douse themselves in the river in deference to Jesus who they believe was baptised at that spot.

Which I witnessed on my G Adventures trip to the Middle East… http://www.gadventures.com.

Talking of Orthodox Christians then you an always turn up in Greece, while waiting for a lift.

In an InterContinental Hotel in Athens http://www.intercontinental.com on an Attica Region trip and http://www.athensattica.com and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/22/give-us-this-day-greek-orthodox/.

He was beautifully adorned in his black vestments and donned a beautifully coiffured white beard.

Now there’s a look I can definitely pull off.

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My Sporting Weekend – Marathons

What can you get done in under two hours? I’m struggling to even clean the house never mind run a marathon.

Eliud Kipchogi is top of the world today after becoming the first man to run the marathon in under two hours.

I do hope that the Kenyan has a big plate of apple strudel in front of him and a creamy hot chocolate… he deserves it.

It is clearly a victory for Eliud and his compatriots but it is also a victory for athletics after the Project Oregon and Alberto Salazar scandal.

That’s all music to my ears as athletics was my sport of choice and endeavour as a kid.

Great days with Ovett and Coe’s rivalry and when I Scottish Schools cross-country champion and Scottish Road Relay gold medalist.

The Scottish rebel Ovett.

The home of Marathon

I never got up to Marathon level… I’m sure Eliud is quaking in his trainers.

But I have visited the home of the Marathon,.

Or at least the finish point of those first Modern Olympics in 1896 when I visited Athens.

I thought about taking a detour from my organised trip to follow any of the signposts to the ancient town.

Not that the Greek soldier Pheidippides had any such help.

But he did know the terrain when he ran the 26 miles 385 yards to Athens to report the victory of the Battle of Marathon.

It took him about three hours we are told although he may have stopped for a kebab.

Marathon city breaks are increasingly popular with social runners.

Combining their 26 miles and 385kms around the world’s great cities with a couple of days to enjoy their success.

Athens, of course, is the jewel.

Yes, we hear of the London, New York and Chicago Marathons.

But the Athens Classic Marathon https://www.athensauthenticmarathon.gr/site/index.php/en/ is closest to the original.

It will be held on November 10.

So check out direct routes with major airline carriers.

Rather than the circuitous one I took last month through Munich.

But hey, ho, it gave me a story… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/24/holidos-and-donts-my-airport-manifesto/

And Athens gave me many more… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/21/sporting-weekend-fun-olympic-games/.

A little local knowledge

And when you’re there you might think about staying at the central InterContinental Athenaeum Athens, Syngrou Avenue.

I found rates of €123.84 for a superior room for the night for early November. http://www.intercontiental.com

Now these are the websites to follow… http://www.aia.gr, http://www.athensattica.com/things-to-see/museum/acropolis-museum,

And http://www.athensattica.com/things-to-see/sightseeing/acropolis, http://www.athensattica.com/things-to-see/sightseeing/lycabettus.

For some Athens Riviera action and you will want to wine and dine after the Marathon… http://www.discovergreece.com/en/mainland/attica/athens/athens-riviera.

There’s also a bit of a Greek tale around that stay in the InterContinental which all worked out well in the end and showed me how hospitable Greek people are.

But that can wait, I’m off to train for a marathon.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD