America, Countries, Sustainable Tourism

150 years of Yellowstone

Some take it for granted but as we mark 150 years of Yellowstone it is worth reprising the words of a Ranger who was asked what he would do if he had just one day in the US National Park.

‘Cry’ was his rather laconic but revealing message.

‘Twas Ulysses S. Grant, hero of the North, who opened Yellowstone National Park, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, on March 1, 1872.

Although we prefer to mention the work our very own Scottish explorer John Muir did there and elsewhere in the States which earned him the mantle ‘Father of the National Parks.’

But it is important to acknowledge that the Native Americans (Red Indians in 19th Century parlance) had been there for 11,000 years.

Thanks a million

Is that a bear coming? Yellowstone

No wonder our Ranger of course would weep if he was only offered one day in Yellowstone.

Because there are 2 million acres of the park.

And while we’ve all heard of Old Faithful, you’ll also want to take in Lower Falls and Yellowstone Lake.

One million of us visit Yellowstone every year (in a Covid-free year) and with that amount of space you’ll never feel congested.

And here are some useful tips for our visit.

Yellowstone tips

The Big Country: The Great American West

The entrance fee for each of Wyoming’s national parks (Yellowstone and Grand Teton) is $35 per vehicle to visit for one to seven days. Entrance fees for other National Park Service sites, such as Devils Tower National Monument, vary.

Reservations are required to camp anywhere within Grand Teton National Park and open six months prior to the date you wish to camp. Book early to reserve a spot.

Reservations are required within certain campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park. Plan ahead and reserve campsites early.

Backcountry permits are required to backpack within national park boundaries.

Pets are only allowed where vehicles are allowed in national parks and must be kept on a 6-foot leash. Pets are prohibited on trails, pathways, and swimming in any park waters.

The wildlife is wild. Do not approach, chase or feed animals, and stay in your vehicle if you’re stuck in a wildlife jam.

Grizzly bears reside in both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Stay safe by carrying bear spray, being alert, making noise and traveling in groups of three or more.

Masks are required on all federal lands when social distancing isn’t possible.

How to get there

Sweep of nature: In Wyoming

There are smaller airports around Yellowstone but we’d advise the old Road Trip around the Great American West.

And we’d suggest the eight-hour 532-mile drive from our favourite Denver in Colorado.

Bandanaman and the Bandanettes In Denver

In an RV mind, and not the rodeo which we’ll tell you more about soon.

And a shout-out too for bespoke Travel providers G Adventures who are offering eight days Jackson to Yellowstone National Park from £2399. Valid on Jun 19 2022

So get your 150 Years of Yellowstone up and running. You’ll cry with joy.

 

 

 

Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Ho Ho Holyland

Bah Humbug to all those who whinge about Christmas decorations being out… in Israel it’s Ho Ho Holyland already.

Now, we won’t get too hung up on the wherefores.

Just to say that Jerusalem Santa Issa Anis Kassissieh, the official Ambassador of the Holy Land Santa, has been filming in Israel’s Golan Heights.

And, of course, with Israel being a little warmer than Lapland JS has parked the sleigh for a kayak.

Jolly Golan Christmas

Sticking his oar in: Santy

Santa’s journey began at sunrise, on a kayak on the River Jordan, a waterway I know well from my G Adventures trip.

Adaptable JS carries his Christmas tree and presents.

And he then strolls through the citrus and almond orchards typical of the Golan landscapes.

Sporty Santy

Froome, Froome: Getting on his bike with Chris Froome

Sporty Santy then gets on his bike to cycle with British four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome.

And his fellow team members of the Israel Start-up Nation professional cycling team who are currently touring Israel.

Santa’s little helpers: Israel style

JS ended the day at the Kursi National Park, site of the Miracle of the Swine.

And there as the sun set overlooking the Sea of Galilee, he spread love, peace and joy to the children of the Golan Heights.

JS will be back too later in the year when for those who don’t know The Promised Land will be unaware there will be snow on the ground.

Israel deal

Santa Pause: Where to go next

El Al, as we all know, has its route now out of Dublin, with a sample four-day return trip In January from €625.

And out of the UK from London from £287.

So, it’s Ho Ho Holyland and Go, Go, Holyland.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe

Thrillsrael

There’s little record what they did for kicks in the Old Testament but it’s always been right there for them in Thrillsrael.

Our time-out from travelling because of the pandemic has only increased our appetite for foreign shores.

And allowed us to expand our horizons or dip our toe in a different part of the sea.

Best foot forward: In outdoor activities

And so while most of us in Western Europe know the Med from its northern shores there is a beautiful south too.

With Israel leading the way in vaccinations and being at the head of the queue in opening up our attentions switched there.

And the news keeps getting better with Israel announcing today that from Monday it will be accepting individually vaccinated visitors.

Shalom Sharon

The Southern Med: From Israel

Sharon Bershadsky, Director of the UK & Ireland Tourist Office said “I’m very excited to be able to share the news.

‘the Ministry of Tourism along with our colleagues in the industry have been working tirelessly over this difficult period and we are thrilled to be able to welcome visitors back to Israel”.

Now Israel is obviously about the Holy Sights and there will be plenty of us giving thanks for emerging safely from this crisis.

But we’re due some rewards too.

And it’s worth remembering that for all its antiquities Israel is a relatively young country at a sprightly 73 years old.

And an outdoorsy people with plenty of opportunities to indulge in general sportiness.

Float On

Dead handsome: Jerry and Jimmy

The Dead Sea: Now they’ve kicked us off with the floatathon which is the Red Sea.

Which we enjoyed from the other side in Jordan with G Adventures when we got all muddied up.

And a shout-out here to St Lucia’s finest, Jerry, the Big Rapper who said he was plenty black enough.

Madder for Masada

If the rocks could talk: Massada

Masada: And yes, we promised you Biblical history and Masada is, of course, where 960 Sicari rebels committed mass suicide.

All rather than surrender, in the First Jewish-Roman War.

Abseil away

Give me enough rope: Abseiling

Rappelling in the Nachal Tamarim Canyon: And full disclosure here I had to check that abseiling and rappelling were the same.

Which they are.

Now having wimped out in the Rockies in Colorado I couldn’t back out of this canyon.

You’ll encounter amazing scenery and panoramic views of the Dead Sea and the Moav and Adom mountains.

Zig zag through waterfalls and trek past fig trees for a day’s hike with a difference.

For a new twist try the night hike, which is particularly atmospheric with a full-moon!

Mammy Dolphin

Smile: You’re on camera

Dolphin Reef: When it comes to swimming with dolphins you’re probably thinking more SeaWorld in Orlando but did you know you can find the finned ones swimming away in the Red Sea.

I didn’t get far enough down in my snorkel in the Red Sea (my guide told me my moustache got in the way) to see them.

But you can. Get down to Eilat and get up close and personal with these remarkable creatures.

Up, up and away

Watch out for the hang gliders: When you’re ballooning

Ballooning in Israel: Now just like the kiddies’ balloon that gets let loose… hot air ballooning has always floated out of reach.

In England, in Orlando, in South Africa.

Of course all of the above look beautiful from the air. And it is worth reflecting that our forebears weren’t able to see their world from the skies (unless they were birds). 

If you like exploring places you haven’t been before, try 500 metres up in the air! See Israel from a whole new vantage point from 500m up in the air.

With breath-taking views of the country’s rolling green hills and valleys, famous historical sights and the hustle and bustle of the cities.

For a truly unforgettable ride, book a sunrise tour to see the stunning landscape coated in the morning sun’s pink and orange hues.

Whichever activity you choose make sure it’s in the Promised Land.

And particularly now with the new more tourist-friendly regulations. Enjoy your Thrillsrael.

 

Africa, America, Asia, Canada, Countries, Europe, South America, UK

World Rivers Day and the flow of life

We can’t survive without it so it’s only right today to celebrate World Rivers Day and the flow of life.

With the publication of B-WELL CBD’s most loved European rivers on Instagram, we’re stretching it out to include the world too.

Of course you can’t ignore European waterways so I’ll dip my toe in them as well.

Top ten Euro rivers

On the Elbe, Dresden

The oils and cosmetic products company has tracked our habits and unsurprisingly namechecked this top ten.

1 Thames, 2 Danube, 3 Elbe, 4 Seine, 5 Ural, 6 Douro, 7 Loire, 8 Rhine, 9 Vistula, 10 Tiber.

Wading through it I’ll definitely sing the praises of London’s Old Father Thames, its towers, bridges and the country towns it dissects.

The Danube has remained just along the river if you will when I’ve visited Central Europe.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see the Elbe more popular than the Seine.

And I would recommend taking a river cruise in Dresden to see the fine riverbank houses and enjoy a fireworks display.

Wine and Rhine

Disney it look magical: The Disney castle in Neuschwanstein

I daresay if a dacha along the Ural is good enough for Russian communists and oil billionaires I should pay it a visit.

And I’ll confess I know more about the Tagus from Praia do Ribatejo in Portugal Centro than the Douro in Portugal and Spain.

The flow of the Loire is only bettered by the running wine from its vineyards.

But I confess a soft spot for the Rhine and its fairytale castles, especially The Wonderful World of Disney‘s opening title. Neuschwanstein. 

The Vistula in Poland is still a pleasure to enjoy as is Polska unless being hosted by the Embassy in Dublin counts which it does!

While just squeezing into the top ten (and I feel like DJ Alan Freeman here pop pickers) is a river I feel is a friend, the Tiber.

When in Rome

The holy of holies. At the end of the Francigena in Rome

Just walk the Via Francigena into Rome and your final long stretch to St Peter’s Square will be along the Tevere.

While staying in the bohemian Trastevere you’ll soon get to know the river well by taking wrong directions.

And the bridges of Rome stand comparison with anywhere in the world.

Particularly the Ponte Sant’Angelo, its statues on the railings and its centre point, the magnificent Castel Sant’Angelo,

A notable exception on the list was the Vltava through Prague with its magnificent Charles Bridge.

The World

Tis Grand: With Tara and Tryphavana at the Grand Canyon

Now I know I promised you the world.

So let me show you the river of rebirth, the Jordan between the country and Israel.

Where pilgrims go to be baptised where the Israelis claim John baptised Jesus.

It’s a different type of water activity along the Colorado river.

Take the bird’s eye view from a helicopter through the Grand Canyon.

Or do like the Americans and use it as your playground.

Water is our most precious commodity and America’s West survives and thrives because of one of my Modern Wonders of the World, the Hoover Dam.

Although, incredulously it has not been recognised as such on the official list.

Quality of Mersey

The boat comes in: The Mersey

So I’ll throw in another couple of favourite rivers which speak for themselves.

The Mississippi, with its Dolly Parton bridge in Memphis (think about it) and the Hudson and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

Of course the Amazon, the Nile, the Congo, the Ganges, the Yellow, the Makong and many others deserve our attention.

And so I’ll be patient in getting back out abroad.

And I will continue to enjoy the rivers and bridges where I am.

I spent the last week walking by and sailing on the Ferry Across the Mersey.

So a thought… where would we be without our waterways.

Let’s hear it for World Rivers Day and the flow of life.

 

 

 

 

Africa, Countries, Culture

Our return to Africa and the Middle East

They’re the cradles of civilisations our modern metropolises still aspire to… and we’re planning our return to Africa and the Middle East.

The grand old cities of Jerusalem and Petra.

Spanning across the ages, one a living museum, the other a Modern Wonder of the World, they have rightly been honoured.

Ten out of ten

Camel ye: To Petra

In Travel + Leisure’s 10 Best Cities in Africa and the Middle East.

Jerusalem I have seen longingly, like Moses, from atop Mount Nebo on my G Adventures odyssey.

Petra, I have stood up close to, by a camel, whose ancestor would have carried a Nabataean in days of yore.

With divining rods for water to trade for the jewels of the desert… the Nalbataean that is.

At the other end of the spectrum, Tel Aviv shows Israel’s modern face.

Now being of the male variety, and so a listaholic, most rolls of honour fall into my remit.

Heroes in Capes

I’d have to see more of Cape Town than just the airport as I did on the way to the Eastern Cape

And would have had Covid not popped its head up as we were puttImg the final touches  to our trip to Napoleon’s island, St Helena.

The old perennials naturally pop up on the list.

Marrakech, the Pink City, was my first port of entry into Africa. 

And, of course, you can’t hold a whole continent against one country for an experience.

Of getting mugged in the souks and food poisoning in the Sahara.

So that the best experience of Morocco was in the airport back in Fez.

Although the good readers of Travel +
Leisure also have a penchant for the Moroccan port of Essaouira.

I’ll take your word for it.

Gulf in class

Where as a memento I brought back a camel scene handbag for my Dear Old Mum which she flashed around her Bridge club.

The Gulf has also been on the radar with visits from Dubair and Muscat delegations during my time in Dublin.

And after they got in touch and we explored opportunities in Abu Dhabi

Of course, it is pure indulgence to sit around and grade a continent and a region’s cities.

But it does serve another, healthy purpose… to travel in our imagination.

To share experiences and knowledge and plan our return to Africa and the Middle East.

Now which are your favourite cities?

 

Countries

Miss Universe Israel treat

Long before I discovered women I discovered countries through sport and beauty contests, so an invitation to Miss Universe Israel treat.

And like, say the Olympics, you could put a face on the countries which you’d never heard of before.

And a beautiful one at that.

Golden vision: Eliat

I don’t know why but Miss Guam has left a lasting impression to this day.

Of course the choice of The Land of Milk and Honey for the 70th iteration of the pageant is a marriage made in heaven.

Israel’s own beauty is beyond question.

Yacht to be here

The Red Sea is where Israelis and Middle Easties, and discerning international travellers, go to party.

And I dipped my toe in the water there, on the Jordan side with G Adventures.

Eliat will bounce with even more beautiful women in November and December.

Eliat nightlife

When stunning women from more than 100 countries will pose before the Red Sea beauty spots.

The Promised Land, as I’ve flagged up from the start, has led the way in vaccination and reopening.

And Miss Universe promises to be the focal point of three weeks of partying across November and December.

Now as a teaser here are some professional model shots we prepared earlier.

Making a splash in the Red Sea
Smouldering
And I’m driving this show

And the stunning panorama of Eliat and the Red Sea.

Now as well as contestants from around 100 countries we’re also promised more than a hundred American celebs and world renowned judges.

And you can get out in the desert too

Now over to the Israel Minister for Tourism for the type of shalom only the Israelis can offer.

Yoel Razvozov said: ‘Israel is a beautiful land of creativity and innovation and we have successfully faced the COVID-19 crisis head on.

‘Therefore, we are among the first countries to host an international event – the unifying Miss Universe.

Practise your wave

‘What a great opportunity. An event celebrating women’s empowerment, optimism, tolerance and desire for excellence, that crosses every geographical and national border.

‘I fully hope that in December we will be celebrating not only the new Miss Universe here in Israel, but most importantly, the end of the world pandemic.’

Miss Universe Israel treat. And, of course, I await the call for Mr Universe soon too.

Pictures by Boaz Samorai, Rony Balahsa and Bandaman.

Countries, Culture, Europe

European Thermal Cafe

That’s me saved from any gardening after pulling my back… so I’ll just lie back in the bath instead and drink in a European Thermal Cafe.

Today’s Thermal Cafe Zoom invitation was the chance to reengage with the Rediscover Europe’s Thermal Towns campaign.

Thermal resorts have, of course, been with us as long as we’ve had thermals… and I’m not talking vests and long-johns here.

Pawmper time

And everyone from royalty to the Great Unwashed have taken the waters around Europe to heal their bones.

Becherovka coffee

More the latter category than the formal although I have cleaned up my act for my forays into Central Europe.

The conversation soon got round, as all good cafe meet-ups do, to coffee.

And our hosts regaled us with recollections of Becherovka coffee in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.

Take the waters in the Czech Spa Triangle

All of which I’ve grown to love except that I haven’t put the Becherovka in with the coffee with cream on top. Yet!

They all usually go into my belly separately.

I’ve unfinished business with the Czech Republic and a return to Hoptown Zatec is on the cards for their Hop Festival.

The route to wellness

Our friends at the European Route of Historic Thermal Towns, Simone and Catherine, appraised us of how European spa towns are reopening again.

A meeowssage

And Southern Europe has 80% bounce back bookings.

There are challenges in Germany though with 16 states with 16 different sets of regulations.

While in France we were informed that they’re allowing only 20 at a time into their thermal baths.

Gee, get G7 leaders moving

The European Route of Historic Thermal Towns lobbies the powers that be hard.

And it was Cultural Route of the Council of Europe certified in 2010.

So seeing that we’re all so well connected then we’ve naturally got onto Boris, Biden, Macron and Angela et al ahead of G7 in Cornwall.

Becherovka time

Where we just know that they’ll be sharing a thermal spa.

We all arranged to meet again for another Thermal cafe later in the summer.

The Dead Sea, Jordan

When hopefully these Dead Sea bath salts from my G Adventures trip to Jordan will have worked their charms.

And we can meet outside for the next European Thermal Cafe, and I’ll promise to keep my top on.

MEET YOU IN THE SPA

 

 

Caribbean, Countries

Saint Vincent and Grenadines appeal

The Caribbean has given me so much since I first started visiting which is why I am now keen to give something back, at this their time of need, through the Saint Vincent and Grenadines appeal.

Each of the Caribbean islands is unique but they are all bound by the shared experiences of slavery, poverty and Nature’s wrath.

One love

I have witnessed how they have rallied to each others’ causes when hurricanes have hit, and now that the La Soufriere volcano has taken out its anger on the islands.

La Soufriere

Glen Beache, CEO of The Saint Vincent and Grenadines Tourism Authority, reported that the scientists predict the crisis could last for another few months.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the one entity, which is not uncommon in the Caribbean.

Twin islands

It is the best way to go for island collectors – Antigua and Barbuda, with Antigua, home of the great Sir Viv Richards carrying more swagger than its calmer twin island

We caught up too with St Kitts and Nevis where they make a virtue of the two-mile stretch of water that separates the islands.

See you on the other side

Their annual swim between the islands was alas cancelled last month but all the more time then to practise for next year.

Goat and the GOAT

I’ve already savoured the pleasures of Trinidad & Tobago when this GOAT went local and went kidding about.

Island sharing

While these twin islands are a Caribbean island thing so too is island sharing.

Hailing from a divided United Kingdom and having spent 13 years in an Ireland of two parts I have always been obsessed with a split island.

Hispaniola olé

The island of Hispaniola houses Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and as they say in the Caribbean, there’s no division, just one love.

And so the Dom Rep was the first to answer Haiti’s call after the earthquake of 2010.

Living with Nature

Of course our Caribbean friends have all learned to live with Nature.

And in St Lucia their volcano is the centrepiece of the island and a wonder to admire as well as respect.

Careful there

Which is why you as a visitor too will be able to drive through.

Henna do?

And take of the soil of the land, the mudbaths and wash it off in the waterfalls

And if you’ve got the stomach for it here’s a muddy mess from across the world in The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time

With my pal from that unforgettable G Adventures trip St Lucian Jerry ‘The Big Rapper’.

Thanks to all who organised the Caribbean Virtual Meet the Media event and of course every island is a friend and we’ll be sure to cover you all.

MEET YOU IN THE CARIBBEAN

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Easter in Israel

Easter in Jerusalem would normally be a throng of pilgrims.

But it has been reassuring, if a little surreal, to see masked worshippers following the Path of the Cross.

But it does give us a sense, both metaphorical, and real, of revival, of resurrection.

Israel, and Britain for that matter, have been the great success stories of the vaccine roll-out.

The Promised Land has vaccinated half of their population

While 1 in 12 Britons have had both jabs, although there  are more than six times as many of us.

Common cause

But let’s celebrate both our countries and talk up the preliminary discussions of the UK-Israel route opening up from August.

Yes, May 17, has been mooted for a Travel review but late summer remains more realistic.

A British Government source was quoted in the Sunday Times.

They said: ‘There will be a system of travel corridors to green-list countries with good vaccination rates. Israel, here we come!’

So where are we with our Israeli friends who we touched base with at the digital World Travel Market at the end of last year.

Well, several airlines have added limited routes and slowly increased flights in June and July.

Easy does it

That would then be in line with an August return for Britons so keep an eye on all our old favourites.

EasyJet offers two nights room only at the American Colony Jerusalem on July 2.

Leaving from Luton (hint to our Government to get a move on) £396pp, which means £792 for two.

While Virgin Holidays has tempted us of a Scottish persuasion, and now living up here in Braveheartland.

With seven nights at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem from £3381pp (well, you deserve it) for October 26.

Kayak is many a traveller’s second point of contact (after jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com obviously). And what about the Queen of Sheba for my Queen of Sheba?

The Dead Sea

Three nights and flight at the Hilton Eilat Queen of Sheba Hotel three nights and flight for £1,079

And, of course, our friends at G Adventures who have been trying to get me out to Israel these past few years (you have, you have, you have).

G whizz

They have 15 days from £999 Jordan and Israel Adventure from £1954, valid on December 10 (plenty of time to be super-vaccinated). And this was £2299!

Mt Nebo, Jordan

Now teasingly, as you’ll all know by now, I’ve been taken right to within 50 metres of Israel from the Jordan side at the site of John’s baptism of Jesus.

And so I’ve seen the Promised Land… only the Israeli soldiers on the banks were looking suspiciously at us from the other side.

I’ll just have to leave it to our holiday providers to look after us as always.

MEET YOU BY THE WAILING WALL

 

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe

Spring forward, fall back – time zones around the world

I always keep my watch set at the time of the last country I’ve been to so today that’ll be the Czech Republic.

The idea is to keep something of that destination and wanderlust with me though it can cause problems in the morning.

Beer O’Clock in Zatec

My strange habit all chimes with the Czechs, of course, with their love of an astronomical clock.

Prague‘s biggest attraction, in the Old Town Square obvs but also the clock in Hoptown, Zatec, and its homage to beer.

Scot late the Great

You’re late… but that’s OK in Edinburgh

Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh: And, of course, today I’ve been all over the place, and logging on for work that was a full month ago.

Now the fastidious and ever-so-decent people of Edinburgh look after people like me.

By setting their clock three minutes fast to allow people rushing for their train at nearby Waverley Station enough time.

Set in the New Town, staring across Princes Street Gardens and up to Edinburgh Castle it also allows you more time to take it all in.

Philly’s hour of need

Billydelphia

Philadelphia City Hall, Philadelphia: And it will come as little surprise to you that I turned up for my Zoom meeting from Washington DC five hours early.

I make only a few apologies for resharing Philadelphia’s Curse of Billy Penn because clocks and times give me that opportunity today.

The 21-year curse on Philly‘s sports teams arose because of the construction of One Liberty Hall.

It exceeded the height of Billy’s statue atop City Hall… a real no, no.

It was all resolved when a statuette was affixed to the final beam topping off the Comcast Cener, now the city’s tallest building.

And the Phillies took baseball’s World Series

Tenerife timing

Give me a bell: Tenerife

Iglesia de la Concepcion, San Cristobal de La Laguna: You’ll be breathless after saying all this.

And breathless from the steps, particularly if you’ve been hiking through rain forests and hills on your CanariaWays trip.

But the views are spectacular. Just don’t ring it too early. Too late.

Ancient times

Time goes slowly: Im Petra

Petra, Jordan: And it may look like a temple to you and me but it’s actually a Treasury.

The same thing to the Nabateans.

It’s also though a timepiece with coded messages.

You won’t need Indiana Jones to decode them though.

Zuhair, G Adventures, expert man on the ground will give you the full lowdown… and Jordan Jimmy will do the rest.

Ben O’Clock

The Elizabeth Tower, Westminster, London: And, of course the tower with the most famous clockface in the world.

Only everyone thinks it’s called Big Ben.

But that is the name of the largest of its five bells.

So who was Ben? Well, either ‘Big’ Ben Hall, the first Commissioner of Works or the boxer Benjamin Caunt.

Ring-a-ding ding!