Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Central America, Countries, South America, Sustainable Tourism

Where to drink the water

And all the focus on COP26 just along the road in Glasgow has got us all thinking about water, the source of life… and prompting us to bring you Holidos and don’ts where to drink the water.

And particularly when we think back on how we were always warned against drinking the water when we were abroad (mostly in those days, Spain).

Sup up: And something to clench your thirst

The fact though is that Spain is safe to drink from the tap and so there is no need to buy plastic bottled water from the supermercato.

Even better, of course, is to find yourself a stream in the country, and better still if you can stumble upon a Camino along the way and follow it through the Santiago.

Water of Rome

Flask resort: Flasks are always better

The same applies incidentally in Italy where you’ll find crystal clear streams on your Via Francigena into Rome.

La Citta Eterna, of course, prides itself on its water.

The fountains which are around every corner and in every piazza.

But also the beautifully adorned taps with carvings of Romulus and Remus and their wolf mother which proliferate around the city.

Wolf down the water: With La Famiglia underneath the wolf and Romulus and Remus

In the cloying humidity of a Rome heatwave you’ll be glad of a tap to fill up your flask.

And didn’t Silvio Berlusconi just know it when our guide told us that he wanted to start charging the locals for the water… something not even Benito Mussolini dared try.

Back to our friends at Globehunters and they reflect that the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, the US and Japan have the best water.

All of which means that you need to take more care in south-eastern Europe, much of Asia, Africa, Central America and South America and it pains me to say the Caribbean (although ‘rum is mi only medicine’ there).

Holy water

Water of life: In the Pyrenees

There are, of course, parts of the world, those where Our Lady has visited, where the water is straight from Heaven.

And yes, I know, that all water comes from the heavens, although a politician in Ireland when I was living there didn’t.

When he railed against the idea of water charges by saying just that ‘that it was’t as if water fell from the heavens’.

The Maryest of Marian sites is, of course, Lourdes, where the Pyrenees water in Cauterets is among the purest and spirited of anywhere.

So be sure to sup from the streams and the waterfalls.

Your own water

Wait for it: Guinness and its magic Irish water

It was always a matter of great pride that your own country had the best water.

And this has always been credited as the magic ingredient of Ireland’s famous Guinness stout.

And Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y.

So now we’re all back out on the road then look out for the taps in towns, and the streams and waterfalls in the country.

And fill up your flasks.

Ditch the plastic

Heat map: Of where is best to drink your water

It also tastes better when it’s not out of a plastic bottle.

And the fishies in the seas, my old pal Mother Turtle Vanessa in the Maldives, and our future generations will thank you.

Be warned too that now we’re all travelling again I’m hardly going to stop here with Holidos and don’ts where to drink the water.

And I’ll back with more Holidos and don’ts… in the blog that’s not all blah, blah, blah.

Well, at least, not the type of blah that will destroy our beautiful blue planet.

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

World Poetry Day and foreign fields

There was an award-winning editor Murty (and try to keep it clean) and while you’re at it I’ll give you some thoughts on World Poetry Day and corners of some foreign fields.

My own holiest of holies is Alloway in Scotland where our national bard Robert Burns, who inspired everyone from William Wordsworth to Bob Dylan, grew up.

For the world, there is to misquote Rupert Brooke a corner of some foreign field which is forever poetry.

War poetry

War memories: The Somme

I wish the sea were not so wide

that parts me from my love,

I wish the things men do below

were known to God above.

I wish that I were back again

in the Glens of Donegal;

they’ll call me coward if I return,

but a hero if I fall.’

PATRICK MACGILL – LONDON IRISH REGIMENT
(INSCRIPTION ON MEMORIAL STONE AT ISLAND OF IRELAND PEACE PARK, MESSINES)

And no Patrick MacGill hasn’t gone down in history and exam questions like Wilfred Owen for his thoughts on World War I.

But in their darkest hour soldiers have penned some of the most stirring words which will bring a lump to the throat of anyone who sees where they fell which of course you can see on a World War Battlefields Tour.

The Road to Rome

Soothe your feet: On the road to Rome

When silence falls, things start talking,
stones, animals, plants become brothers and sisters.
And they tell us what we cannot see.’

ERNST JUNGER, SIGN IN ETRUSCAN TOWER IN FORMELLO ON THE VIA FRANCIGENA

Not sure how it sounds in his native German or if it’s even poetry.

I’m a traditionalist who likes my poems to rhyme as those who will have seen me at the Edinburgh Fringe can testify.

But it struck the right note on the Via Francigena, on the 100km walk into Rome.

Byron’s Swiss lair

Byron’ back yard

 

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
A society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

LORD BYRON, CHILDE HAROLD

And it was to Interlaken and the Eiger in Switzerland where Lord Byron, who was up to his neck in society gossip over his private life, took exile.

Byron was considered ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ and was a real rock’n’roller of his time.

But his poetry was amongst the most beautiful of all time which is probably why he was such a hit with the ladies.

This passage though shows that Byron was a man ahead of his time with this love song to nature and appeal to protect our environment.

All of which I’ll reflect on as I read some of the best poetry around (mine) and think of World Poetry Day and corners of some foreign fields.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

Go on, go on, go on to Istanbul

You’d expect Father Ted’s housekeeper, Mrs Doyle, to either snub the Turkish tea.

Or lay into it on Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul.

Mrs Doyle, aka Pauline McLynn, is yet to reveal her true self on the BBC2 show, next on on Friday, March 26 and available on Catch Up.

She, in fact, comes across as a bit ditzy and not at all religious.

Here come the girls: Edwina Currie, Fatima Whitbread and Pauline McLynn

I can vouch for that.

With Pauline effing and blinding like a true modern-day daughter of Ireland when I met her.

She was the speaker at an Australian Irish Chamber of Commerce lunch in Dublin.

My cup of tea

I was as a guest of the-then newly opened Flight Centre store in Dawson Street.

Pauline is joined on the Sultans Trail by six other celebrities, only four others who I recognise.

That’ll be javelin queen Fatima Whitbread, sports presenter Adrian Chiles, ex-politician Edwina Currie and comedian (and I use that term loosely) Dom Joly.

Here come the boys: Dom Joly, Mim Shaikh, Amar Latif and Adrian Chiles

The Sultans Trail is new to me.

But not the pilgrims who have been walking sections of the 2,200km stretch from Vienna to Istanbul.

Our super seven set out from Belgrade, and I am surprised that they didn’t check out its hidden palace.

What’s in a name?

And they make their way through Serbia and a little bit of Greece.

On their 1,000km two-week trip to the great city on the Bosphorus.

Our Lady in Medjugorje

In the first episode we see them walk through forests, pick lemons, climb castles (and one pilgrim, Amar Latif is blind).

And partake in a Serbian celebration to Our Lady. She’s big in the Balkans.

Before in a few episodes’ time we reach Istanbul and the Suleymaniye Mosque.

Cruise the Bosphorus

Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world.

And it has at various times been known also as Byzantium and Constantinople.

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It’s still the centre of the Greek Orthodox Church and is still known as Constantinople across the border in Hellas.

A bit like Derry and Londonderry… know your audience.

I’d recommend that when our pilgrims do get to Istanbul they have a blow-out then on a boat trip on the Bosphorus.

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Now you all know I love a good oul’ pilgrimage and unbeknownst to me there have been two previous series.

Where’s my invite?

Eight celebs have already been out to Santiago de Compostella and Rome following, I guess, in my footsteps.

With Onur in Istanbul

I was, of course, with my friends at CaminoWays and FrancigenaWays.

And I know the question you’re asking… why wasn’t I one of the celebs chosen to go to Istanbul to complete the set?

Yes, you’d be right… the BBC Director General has already had his knuckles rapped for that oversight.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying

Rainy Days and Songdays – Travel toons

Our planes may be grounded, our ships docked, out trains in their stations but we’ve still got a song in our hearts.

And we’re keeping ourselves going with a playlist of Travel Songs.

Here are ten until we can travel again.

Life’s a Beach

Sloop John B, Beach Boys, California

Only I didn’t, and don’t, wanna go home.

There are few songs, or singers more synonymous with their home than the Beach Boys.

You get it about California when you see the Boys in Anaheim, as you do, and Mike Love touches your hand.

The Beach Boys Get Around all right by boat, plane, car or surf board. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Hail Mary

Proud Mary, Tina Turner, Mississippi

Home of the Delta Blues: The Mississippi

 

Watching those river boats, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ down the river to Mississippi made me Mr Happy.

And reminded me of Proud Mary… and Proud Beverley.

Pumping her arms and rolling her body on stage at Rising Star Karaoke club on CiyWalk at Universal Orlando… 

Proud Beverley that is, a proud Scot who was supposed to be the warm-up act for my Lady Marmalade but who absolutely slayed it on our Orlando recce.

The Mississippi is, of course, America’s South to North artery and a playground or play waterway if you like.

And it’s how you really want to do The Deep South although that’s to take nothing away from our unforgettable road trip through Tennessee and Mississippi.

Hit the Road Jock

Jack, Ray Charles, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

With my Jazz partner and global travel pal Agnetha in Prague

You might not immediately associate Ray Charles and Jazz with the Czech Republic.

But then you can’t have been or you would have seen the saxophonists on Charles Bridge in Prague.

It was probably Hit the Road Jock when I dance with Swedish Agnetha in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic’s Spa Triangle back when.

Jazz has truly travelled the world and is in itself a music of travel with many a song of a vagrant worker eking out a living on the road.

Sounds all too familiar.

On the sunny Caribbean Sea

Dance away: Wukkin’ up in Barbados

Woah, I’m going to Barbados, Typically Tropical, Barbados

Now I’ve never been on Coconut Airways and I wasn’t off to see ma girlfriend Mary Jane…  at least that’s what I told the Scary One and I’m sticking to that story.

No, it was Virgin Airways, and I was the guest of Visit Barbados and then the second time with Tropical Sky.

Woah, I’m going to Barbados may not be the pure Soca they so love in Barbados and me too but they will sing along too.

As the house singer at Club Barbados who had a bow tie and dress shirt designed on to his T-shirt delivered without any degree of corniness.

I can’t wait to be…

On the Road Again, Willie Nelson, Pilgrimages in Spain and Italy

The Sun shines on the righteous on the Camino

And my go-to song when I’m out on the road is Willie Nelson’s standard… it’s my mission statement when I hit a pilgrimage, and my friend Aileeen Eglington’s Destination Anywhere radio show on Dublin South FM.

You’ll get plenty of time on your own when you’re on your Camino on your way to Santiago  or your Via Francigena into Rome.

And yes, of course, I can’t wait to be…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

Adventure, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Out of my tree

And watching the Scary One plant her pear trees in the drizzle for National Tree Week has sparked memories of where I’ve been out of my tree around the world.

Let’s hear it for the beardies… on Barbados

Beardy trees

Caribbean: The trees certainly caught the Portuguese mariners” eye when they landed in Barbados..

Not the golden beaches, interestingly (well they have their own) but their bearded Ficus citrifolia.

While we all visit the West Indies for its beaches we miss a lot if we ignore its heartland so you should go safari.

Where Dwayne will tear up the woodland in his Jeep and the bowed bearded trees will flick your face.

Eat one of those famous Tobagonian meals of fish which has just jumped out of the sea and macaroni in Jemma’s Treehouse.

And sleep it off in your own treehouse in Castara Retreats in a hammock naturally.

Tree si

Bergamo is a poplar destination

Italy: And my favourite is this much-loved straight up and down tree… it’s very poplar.

My good friend and an Irish Travel Writer of the Year into the bargain, Muriel Bolger, wrote beautifully for me on their appeal, on a trip I sent her on to Northern Italy.

Which I checked out for myself in Bergamo this past Autumn.

I had, of course, familiarised myself with them when I went off-road on my Via Francigena pilgrimage.

Me and the chasing dogs.

Espana fir favor

Does this house look big on me?

Spain: And while the summer is when we all descend on Spain’s beaches here’s my ode to Autumn in Espana.

When nature is in a state of undress, and when she is at her most becoming.

The best way to discover a region is by foot and on my Camino in Galicia I trudged the same tracks the Medieval Peregrinos did.

I dare say that the tree growing out of this house was there then too.

The explorer to Tenerife, rather than the sun seeker, will head north, rather than south.

And the rainforest in the Northern Anaga Mountains. All of which you cam enjoy on your CanariaWays.com trip.

The Power of trees

Crane your neck: The Douglas Fir at Powerscourt

Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow, Ireland: And when you live in the Garden County of Wicklow then trees are all around you.

The tallest one in Ireland is on the magnificent Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, near Bray, some 60m plus which is it the seventh highest in Europe.

And when you stay in the sumptuous hotel you get a view, and a review, like no other.

And shiver me timbers

Who put that there? On Edge

Celebrity Edge: And trees are the last thing you’d expect on a cruise ship.

But this is just one of the things which separates the $1bn Celebrity Cruises Edge from the other ships on the seas..

Edge which I boarded two years ago for its inaugural trip from Fort Lauderdale to tbe Bahamas boasts Eden, a forested wonder et land of plants.

But then every on Edge transports you to a different world.

MEET YOU UP A TREE

Adventure, America, Countries, Deals, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

Take A Hike Day

And no we’re not talking to you Donald… this is a real thing which like most speciality days of the year hails from America.

But we’ll get on it anyway because it’s the one thing we can all do.

Whether you’re locked down and have to channel your own Captain Tom Moore and do laps or the garden or you can get on an open track.

Whether you’ve been walking this year or not, make today your day to go for a hike.

And lucky you if you live near any of these walks.

Galician Wasp Whisperer

The gang of four… me next to the Wasp Whisperer

The Camino: And your go-to hike from (well, anywhere, but in my case 100km out) Sarria to Santiago de Compostella.

You can organise your own independent travel and stay in albergue, or hostels, or have your bags taken from hotel to hotel at Camino Ways.

I’ve retrodden this path with you with many an anecdote and it’s good to know that these stories have legs.

As Wendy the Whatsapp group I’ve joined up with after four years is still referred to as the Wasp Whisperer.

A walk in the Pyrenees

Jim and games: With my old mate Jim Gallagher

Hautes-Pyrenees: And sometimes, more than others, you’ve got to be on your toes.

Because the ground can shift from around you as when an avalanche happened in the Pyrenees around me.

I knew those holy trinkets I’d picked up at Lourdes would come in handy.

Feel the earth move in Austria

Ehrwald, Austria: Then there’ are the times when you bring the mountain down of your own accord.

Like in Austria where the foothills in the Tyrolean Alps consist of slippy limestone.

Which invariably will mean that when your experienced Topflight for schools walking group is confidently marching on

A walk through Tenerife

And my legs will be bowed too at the end of this

Tenerife: And sometimes we lose one or two along the way on the climb up to Afur in the burning sun.

We’ll call them Jim and Margaret because that’s their names.

And credit to those on our CanariaWays party who went down to pick them up.

While others cradled their Estrella and conceded through gritted teeth that it was OK to miss the wine tasting.

What the Romans did for us

Somewhere to bathe my feet

Via Francigena, Rome: And when you spot snow on the peaks on your 100kms trek from Viterbo into the Eternal City you’ll know you’ve made a wrong turning!

Which is easy to do when the signpost stickers are peeling off the trees and you have no sense of direction anyway.

I cani (the dogs) will soon tell you to get back on track.

And another writer’s trail

Appalachian Trail: Inspired by the Daddy of all of us Travel writers Bill Bryson who wrote A Walk in the Woods which was turned into a major film.

Discover North America put on a nine-day trip from my old American learning ground Boston up to Maine and back.

And you can bet if there’s a bear I’ll find it, even if it means going off-piste into another state.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

St James on Bray Head in Ireland

If you see Her throwing me over Bray Head don’t call the Gardaí… she has my permission.

No, I’m not getting maudlin during lockdown, it’s just that that’s where I want my ashes scattered.

There on my favourite walk between my old home in Greystones, Co. Wicklow and also by Bishop Elphinstone’s grave in King’s College, Aberdeen.

My beloved Greystones and my beloved

I wish I could be with you (alive you understand) tomorrow as you take your first steps on your Camino.

I took mine too on one of Camino Ways’ training walks on St James’s Day in Ireland’s Garden County.

Where I met founder and ‘force of nature’ Roland Monsegu who I would share many a glass of wine with over future years.

Got there

Including at one of my billets on the French Way to Santiago de Compostella where he was doing a recce.

Today is both St James’s birthday and the national day of Galicia where his bones lie in Santiago.

The first of their training Sunday walks will begin at the seafront in Bray at 9.30am and last a leisurely two to two-and-a-half hours.

It is a 7km healthy cliffside walk skirting the sea.

Working my ass off

While you can look down on the train to Greystones making its way to the tunnel built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Before emerging through the other side in Greystones.

You’ll see it yourself halfway around the bend, its newly-refurbished harbour dotted with yachts.

And its blue and yellow cottages standing out in the distance as it did in times of old so the fishermen could recognise their homes in the dark.

On the road

Which is the same in Galicia where the name of the province is a giveaway… they’re Gaels really.

If you’re in Ireland then you’re already blessed and it’s likely you’ll need to be to walk the Bray Head.

And to be part of the fun here’s where to get tickets.

You’re James too

And if you feel like going that extra mile then why not veer off from the group and go up to the top of the Head and the Southern Cross.

Where there is (yes, you guessed it) a Christian cross.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – Sing a song of prayer to the Lord

I’m sitting out my Sunday service today but I will sing a song of prayer to the Lord.

The advice on attending your place of worship has swung back and forth like yon botafumeiro incense holder that almost took me out in Santiago.

With the Diocese of Rome, whose boss, the Pope the ma. I defer to, ordering the closing of churches and then their reopening.

While mosques, synagogues and temples are also reacting coronavirus by closing their doors to protect their flock.

Best consult your place of worship for latest advice.

Of course there has always been an exemption from Sunday worship in my church for those who are old or infirm, if you’re sick, or at risk.

While there is no compulsion on Protestants to attend church with the emphasis very much on an individual’s personal relationship with God.

Through the Good Book and prayer.

And much like Methodists, Baptists and Gospel choirs the best way to pray is to sing.

And to Our Lady

So here are a few songs from my travels to get you going:

Ave Maria (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XpYGgtrMTYs): Well they are Marian sites…

Lourdes https://www.lourdes-infotourisme.com and The Lourdes prayer, Fatima in Portugal Centro www.visitportugal.com.

And Secret Portugal Medjugorje What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know. And Marian Pilgrimages www.marian.ie.

Spiritual

Which is where the greats from Motown from Aretha to Whitney started out and how cruise ships https://www.celebritycruises.co.uk put on entertainment.

I’d missed the old gospel choir in Memphis after I had to get the early-morning connection back to Europe.

But we were greeted to Christmas songs in an antebellum house turned B&B (and Deep South B&Bs are actually country houses). Visit https://www.deep-south-usa.com.

I did manage to get my fix though in Anaheim. See https://visitanaheim.org and www.visitcalifornia.com

And breaking news…

Word reaches us from Siena, Italy, where the locals have been singing to each other for moral support.

Down an empty street https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hDu_kLJ-5Mk.

The song: E mentre Siena Dorme, or While Siena Sleeps.

Italians have never been silenced and never will… http://www.italia.it/en/home.html and Small roads lead to Rome.

And remember everybody has a place in God’s choir.