Give activists the Van Gogh brush-off

Is nothing sacred, and shouldn’t all who want to construct rather than destruct give activists the Van Gogh brush-off?

Just how Vincent would have reacted to the two climate activists who threw a tin of soup at his oil painting Sunflowers in London is anybody’s guess.

But we suspect that the fiery redhead would have gone mental at the fundamentalists and rightly so.

Thankfully for all, the painting is protected by a shield of glass.

Cultural vandalism

The right fun with flowers: Sunflowers all around

But such is his brilliance that if you get up close and personal to his paintings you can see…

Just how thick oils were which he feverishly applied to his paintings.

My first reaction to the cultural vandalism of their attack was a Van Goghian rage at these activists’ abuse of a civilian’s right to protest.

And how their selective destruction of our art would not have been out of place in the fascist Third Reich or Mussolini’s Italy.

Not that these philistines deserve an answer but Vincent Van Gogh had a love and insight for nature that few of us can reach.

And far fewer still can express.

Some painting notes

Flower power: Vin’s all about the flowers

And here the good people of the National Gallery lend us their expertise with some artistic notes.

The sunflower is mine’, Van Gogh is once said to have declared, and it does speak to him (both metaphorically and perhaps in his delirium).

The different stages in the sunflower’s life cycle shown here, from young bud through to maturity and eventual decay, follow in the vanitas tradition of Dutch seventeenth-century flower paintings (who knew?)

And that emphasises the transient nature of human actions.

The sunflowers were perhaps also intended to be a symbol of friendship and a celebration of the beauty and vitality of nature.

And he had five of them on display across the world.

Although lucky chap that he was Paul Gauguin got to see them all after Vincent had painted them for him for his arrival in his house at Arles.

At your attendance

In the picture: And it’s Rembrandt in Amsterdam

Spare a thought and a minute here too for the staff at the National Gallery in London who care for the exhibits better than their own children.

Because these stunts push us further down the road to bulky guards at our art galleries rather than helpful attendants.

And should that come then the essence, the karma of the spaces, the floors and rooms of an art gallery will be compromised.

The best place to appreciate Van Gogh’s art is at his museum in Amsterdam.

Ear, ear: My Van Gogh gallery

And hang with the Bedroom at Arles, The Potato Eaters The Self-Portrait with Grey Fedora, Irises and Wheatfield with a reaper.

There are many great art cities but Amsterdam allows you to be part of the picture as you can see with another Dutch art great Rembrandt and his living Night Watch.

And the best way to get around is at with the IAmsterdam card… and the best place to stay the Dylan Hotel, where George and Amal go.

Play to the gallery

We didn’t see that: No, not in the picture but in one of The Scary One’s pics

A print of which has hung in our spare room across a bunch of houses we have lived in in Britain and Ireland.

Where there have been clumsy removals and teens’ house parties.

But while there have been damages and breakages we have always treated our art and our prints.

Which we all should in our own homes and in our art galleries.

While we give the activists the Van Gogh brush-off.




Culture, Europe

They’re having a laaf in the Netherlands

It’s the best theme park you didn’t know you knew about… they’re having a laaf in the Netherlands.

Efteling is the happiest place on Dutch Earth particularly this year, its 70th birthday.

How do I know? Well, my laaf pals, Robert, Lillian, Fiachra and Morne told me.

My fun four have been with us since Wicklow days.

When we took them in from their previous home in the National Garden Exhibition Centre in Kilquade.

Let’s laaf together

Laafiest place on Earth: Efteling

The laafs are the naughty kids in the garden ornaments’ class with their menacing, mirthful faces.

The other best place in the world to see them rather than our back garden is Efteling.

Dive in: To Efteling

And that’s an hour 45 minutes from amazing Amsterdam.

And just over an hour by train (they work there and are cheap) from Rotterdam or Eindhoven.

Return Eurostar tickets from London St Pancras International to Amsterdam Centraal  are for £277pp (based on departing 12-14 July).

Fairytale forest

Cinderella bella: In Efteling

At the heart of the park is the Fairytale Park inspired by Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault.

Where you’ll meet Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Pinnochio.

And for the rollercoaster junkie in you, and I have itchy feet having missed out on this year’s IPW American Travel Fair in Orlando…

There is the dive-coaster Baron 1898 which plunges 37.5m into a mineshaft.

The grass is greener

My green-fingered gal will lap up Efteling’s beautiful gardens.

Even more so as they can be seen via steam train or boat.

While there’s something special this year, Alice in Wonderland, for Daddy’s Little Girl (OK, she’s 23).

Where she will get to play an active role in the mad birthday tea party, hosted by the Mad Hatter and March Hare.

The temporary fairytale will be open until October.

Deal us in

Bloomin’ wonderful: Lilian in the garden

A two-night stay for a family of four at Efteling Village Loonsche Land in a six-person themed room priced from £788 based on arriving 12 July.

The price includes breakfast and three days of unlimited access to Efteling Park located 15 minutes away from the village.

They’re having a laaf in the Netherlands. Come and join them.

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries

And mine’s started ‘Woke up this morning’ (the Bluesman in me), not nearly as observant as Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries.

Eighty years have passed since Otto Frank gave Anne a diary for her 13th birthday in Amsterdam… and the rest is history.

And for the rest of history we have to rely on diarists, and today’s chroniclers, your humble bloggers.

We have, all my favourite Bandanini and Bandanettes, shared in wonderful odysseys, and with Bandanaman at the tiller, that’s obviously meant detours.

A Homer run

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

Homer’s Iliad: And isn’t the journey home always better when you’re diverted to exotic destinations?

We think Odysseus though was just using my excuse for His Scary One that it was a working assignment.

To linger longer in the islands of Attica Region such as Kythera…. or Corfu where we honeymooned and Odysseus dallianced.

Byron Alpshausen

Mad, bad, adventurous to know: Byron Country, Switzerland

Lord Byron’s Alpine Journal: And when Byron was exiled from England for getting ‘too close to his family’ where did he go?

To heaven’s ceiling in Interlaken, Switzerland, of course.

And where you can dine at the very hotel, the Hotel Interlaken, the Bad Boy of the Romantics quaffed wine. And this Swiss swisher too.

Where Twain shall meet

Yale, Connecticut

Mark Twain, a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: And as prolific a traveller as Connecticut’s Samuel Clemens was this was his most epic journey.

Across 14 centuries and an ocean.

Twain is for many the Father of Modern Travel Writing.

And his home was tantalisingly up the road on my latest trip to New England.

What the Dickens?

Way to go, Joe: With hotel boss Joe at the Hotel Envoy, Boston

Charles Dickens’ American Notes, Pictures from Italy: The Great Victorian Age author of course stripped bare the England of his days.

But his curiosity and enthusiasm to explore the foibles of human nature stretched way beyond that… to America and Italy.

Which just so happen to be two of my favourite countries anywhere in the world.

Dickens was particularly impressed with Boston (good judge) of which he said: ‘Boston is what I would like the whole of the United States to be.’

But he seemed to have a conflicted view of Rome, observing on first viewing that it reminded him of London (no harm there).

But then being captivated by the Colosseum and just as quickly let down by the smallness of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What the Dickens!

Fits the Bill

Peachy: Georgia

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: And, of course, we could pick from any of his vast collection of travel diaries/books.

But we’ll plump for his trek along the Appalachian Trail, probably because we’re jealous.

I know I could persuade the Boss to allow me the five and a half months to walk the 2,100 miles from Maine down to Georgia.

And that’s 14 states, and five states I’ve still to tick off.

Counties to Synge about

My Life’s Traveller: Sadie in Greystones, Co. Wicklow

JM Synge, Travels in Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara: And full disclosure here, mine have been more in Wicklow.

Although I was captivated by Kerry and Connemara will always be the land of my childhood holidays.

Described as capturing ‘the embers of a dying culture’ and accompanied with drawings by Jack B. Yeats it’s a reminder…

That you can always come home to Ireland.

For today though we share Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries and ask whose are your favourite diaries?





Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe

Turkiye yeah

And because I’ve been teased all my life about my name and because I love Turks today I’m saying Turkiye yeah.

The Turks have applied to the UN to have the name of their country accepted as Turkiye, pronounced Turkee yeah.

With Onur in Istanbul

And not Turkey as in the name of our favourite Christmas bird.

Or in its modern parlance, meaning a flop.

And I stand guilty of benefiting through riffing any number of headlines as a Travel editor.

The name change sounds reasonable.

And a regular request to the UN from countries, according to Stephane Dujarric.

What’s in a name?

Look at the head on that: Zatec, Czechia

The Czech Republic was born and Czechoslovakia laid to rest when Slovakia went their own way.

Though what happened to the O’s in the divide we never did learn.

The Czechs found too that it soon became long-winded for branding and asked the UN for the change to Czechia (hard k for ch).

And in doing so they are following the precedent of the French who use France instead of their official Samedi name ‘The French Republic’.

Dutch of class

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Now lazy titling becomes wearisome to those of us who have become victims of the bigger country syndrome.

And for those of a Scots, and Welsh, variety it is an occupational hazard to put up with being called English the further we travel.

Similarly in the Netherlands where the short hand of Holland had been used when that should only apply to the north and south of the country.

In 2020 while the rest of us were preoccupied by Covid the Dutch ditched the nickname Holland.

Whatever you call it, and since being alerted to the sensitivities while there for the first time 30 years ago, it’s still Edam good country.

North stars

Fly the flag: North Macedonia football fans

Now putting your place on the compass at the top of your name is always a good idea to differentiate yourself.

And we see it in South Sudan and also in North Macedonia, the latter to placate the Greeks where there is a region, Macedonia.

Throughout the post-imperialist world countries have reclaimed their countries and changed their names to their native tongue.

Shout of Africa

March to Freedom: Siseko and Mandela in SA

And so Swaziland became Eswatini, meaning ‘land of the Swazis’ in their language in 2018, the 50th anniversary of independence from the British throne.

Yes, blink and you can miss the changes and the Port Elizabeth I knew in South Africa’s Eastern Cape has become the Xhosa-clicking Gqeberha… as it should.

In these Celtic countries in which we live (Scotland, Wales, Ireland) there has been a move too to Gaelicise our towns and villages.

Gael force

Piping hot: Scots culture

And during Scotland’s march to freedom, the Gaelic name for Scotland, Alba has raised to prominence.

So here’s to all countries who reclaim their birthright, to Turkiye yeah… and Alba.

Or the Republic of Scotland as we’ll get back to striving for.

Just as soon as this forelock-tugging and curtsying deception, the Platinum Jubilee, is out of the way.


America, Countries, Europe, UK

Peake of our Space powers

Some good news… we’re at the Peake of our Space powers and astronaut Tim is only going to be spreading the word on a tour of Europe.

Britain’s most famous spaceman is the guest of honour at the London leg of the European Space Agency Space Station Earth show.

At the Royal Albert Hall on May 15.

Flying the flag: Sir Tim Peake

Award-winning film and composer Ilan Eshkeris (David Attenborough’s The Perfect Planet, The Young Victoria; Stardust) otherworldly music provides the backdrop.

While Sir Tim will showcase photos and films he and other astronauts took aboard the International Space Station.

The European Space Agency

Float on: Drifting in space

At each stop on the tour, a European Space Agency astronaut will hold a pre-show.

With, yes, Sir Tim up in his home capital of London.

And the thing about Space shows is they don’t scrimp on space.

So the rare footage will be projected across three massive screens with a light show to create an incredible experience.

Out of this world

Suits you: A Space Odyssey

If you haven’t heard Ilan’s music before you might be wondering about what you’ll get.

Think Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Fantasia.

And what has Tim in mind for us: ‘There aren’t many words that can truly describe the beauty of seeing Earth from space.

‘But Space Station Earth attempts to do this, using music and video, to capture the emotion of human spaceflight and exploration.’

Work together

Station to Station: International Space Station

Five partner Space Agencies helped build the International Space Station, which now involves people from more than 15 countries.

And is the world’s largest international cooperative program in science and technology.

It has been permanently occupied by people from these different countries, working together for over 20 years.

‘It is both a pinnacle of human achievement and a beacon of hope that is a testament to what we can achieve when we work together.

Space age: With NASA

‘It has been said that living on the space station you realise that if you don’t look after the vessel you are travelling in and you don’t look after your fellow travellers, you won’t survive the journey.

‘Then, when you look down upon Earth, you realise that the same is true.

‘We have to look after this planet we’re travelling on and we have to look after each other in order to survive the journey.’

Tour de force

And now for the science bit: And how do they do that?

Somebody put this man on the phone to Vladimir Putin.

And if you can’t wait until then you can catch the show on May 12 at AFAS Live, Amsterdam.

And at Palais 12, Brussels on May 13.

Ah, yes, we are at the Peake of our Space powers.




America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Touchdown LA

The eyes of the world will be on the Super Bowl tomorrow so let’s play a little game of stadium spotting… and Touchdown LA.

The magnificent SoFi Stadium is led-lighted up like a Christmas Tree so the world can see it from the air.

And while we, of course, always look out of our windows for iconic landmarks, us sporty types also target sports stadiums.

LA is my Playday

What an Angel: Jimmy in LA

Los Angeles: Now the first thing that we look out for when we fly into the City of Angels is the Hollywood sign.

Alas it is not so easily spotted up there in the hills meaning SoFi monopolises your view.

Cartoon fun: Simpsons

You can, of course, rectify that with a 8.8km walking trip up to the Griffith Observatory.

As long as you didn’t sit yourself down next to a passenger who was sick into her bag, gave it to you and passed on a 24-hour bug.

London calling

Wembley way: And Scotland are winning?

London: With 22 football grounds in the English capital you’d think you’d have a choice of viewing from the air.

You can see a good bunch of them, Wembley, the Emirates, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Stamford Bridge and the Thameside Craven Cottage.

More surprising is the ground outside of the capital in Watford.

And its red and yellow seats… very Harry Potter which is pertinent seeing you can visit Harry’s world there.

As the Hertfordshire town houses the Warner Bros. Studio London.

The other is in LA… and yes, I missed that too because of that passenger’s virus although I will be back, and obvs with Attraction Tickets Direct.

In Dublin’s air city

Green for go: At the Aviva

Dublin: And, of course, Irish sports fans will be converged in Paris today for le rugby et Les Bleus v Les Vertes.

For those of us who visit the Irish capital, or were lucky enough to live there for 13 years you’ll see their marvellous Aviva Stadium.

Which I will again tomorrow… and my heart is leaping.

The Cruyff turn Amsterdam

Bird’s eye view: How Cruyff changed football

Amsterdam: And this is really what they should call the pilot’s move as he flies into Schiphol Airport in Clog City.

The Ajax stadium is named after the Netherlands greatest-ever player after which this move was named.

The late Cruyff was iconic in his white and single red stripe Ajax top and Oranje national shirts.

And if you can board a bouncing train with the Oranje Army down to Rotterdam where Cruyff played latterly then all the better.

The Camp Flew

Bear hug: With Messi the bear

Barcelona: Cruyff is as big a hero in Barcelona as Amsterdam.

After reviving them as a player with his total football.

And as the architect of Barca’s Tiki-Taka football, taken to new heights in the Catalans Messi-inspired teams of the Noughties and Tweens.

I first saw Barcelona from the cabin of a cruise ship (as you do).

So I saw the city from the air in a helicopter.

I expressed my wonderment to the pilot about the stadium below.

Only for him to tell me that that was the Reserve Team’s ground and that the Camp Nou was coming up.

So if you’re flying into the City of Angels for the Super Bowl.

Or plan to visit in the future look out for the SoFi stadium… because it’s Touchdown LA.



America, Countries, Europe, Flying

Why airports are museums

For some they are stressful thoroughfares but for the rest they are objets d’artes and why airports are museums.

If you are a seasoned traveller then it is inevitable that you will have spent hours on end in airports.

Go Broncos

Blue Mustang:  I want to jump on

Denver: Now if you have found yourself with eight hours before your next flight from Denver you might wonder what you’ll do.

Where’s a mini-golf course when you need one?

Well, yours is at the south end of Jeppesen Terminal in the pre-security area.

That Denver International Airport should have a mini-golf course should come as little surprise.

Psychedelic: Blue Bear in Denver

To those of us greeted by a giant blue Bronco installation, entering the airport.

The hip and humorous hombres from Denver have a thing for big blue animals as we know from our own perigrinations in Mile High City.

When in Rome

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Rome: It would have been the preserve of the Gods, of Mercury, to fly in Ancient Rome.

And so in today’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport they celebrate their seafaring past.

And so when I last visited the Eternal City they had an exhibition to Ostia.

Of course it wouldn’t be Rome if they weren’t honouring their most famous citizens with sculptures scattered through the airport.

And an array of mosaics including part of a mythological depiction of signs of the Zodiac and the four time zones, or the four seasons. 

Epic Athens

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Athens: Now what the fast food chain was in the days of Socrates and Plato is anybody’s guess but I’m thinking Figs on the Run.

Civilisations meet near the Burger King on the upper level of the main departures hall (before security).

And there you’ll see 172 authentic artefacts dating from the Neolithic and Early Hellenic eras to the post-Byzantine period.

I will be back to check them out only I’d messed up my connections through Munich and had a date with Athene on a hill. But that’s another story.

Amsterdam in miniature

Holland Boulevard, Schiphol

Amsterdam: The Netherlands have long been a crossroads from these islands, Britain and Ireland, where I live.

And, while of course, we should always take time out to see its largest city, the gem that is Amsterdam, there are times when Schiphol Airport will be a layover.

Now I’m a long-term advocate for art galleries, and believe that there is never a wasted minute, hour or afternoon spent in one.

Drink up: Amsterdam Airport

And so if you have time on your hands, and even if you don’t, then you should check out the Rijksmuseum.

Which became the first art museum in the world to open a branch at an airport in 2002.

And where travellers can visit the museum free of charge, 24 hours a day.  

Qatar welcomes the world

Animal magic: The oryxes in Doha

Qatar: Now Qatar will be welcoming peoples from around the globe at the end of this year when they host the World Cup.

So we’ll all see the herd of metal oryxes, a nice treat in arrivals.

Have a lie down: And there are more funky sculptures

As well as the jumbo yellow Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer after departures, security and passport control at the South Node.

Or the wooden toy Small Lie  which looms 32 feet over passers-by in the North Node.

And the larger-than-life sculptural Playground.

All of which we’ll appreciate all the more as we get back out flying again.

That’s why airports are museums.


Countries, Culture

Vive La Republic of Barbados

I must have been one of the very few kids in Glasgow to be lullabied to sleep with old Republican songs… and because of that and my own journey I’m an avowed internationalist republican which is why today I say Vive La Republic of Barbados.

Now you’ve heard me wax lyrical already many times about the magical island of Barbados and my Kiss With Rihanna  and Rumba  there.

And Bim, as it is affectionately known (hence me being known on the island as Bim Jim) is the talk of the Scottish and British Travel scene with the Bridgetown route rolling out from Edinburgh next month.

Now to celebrate Barbados becoming the latest country to throw off the shackles of monarchy and go out on their own, here’s to all those nations who have taken their destiny in their own hands.

And decided to be governed by one of their own.

Now a true republic, just like a true democracy or a true anything these days in double speak, is a moveable object.

But you’ve got to start somewhere which is why we’re going with 160 (now Barbados have signed up).

All republics lead from Rome

And if you know you’re Classic History, and my Latin is better than my Ancient Greek then you’ll know that republic derives from the two Latin words res and publica (public thing).

So that’s one of the famous things that ‘the Romans did for us’ although, of course, if you’re British then it’s an experiment from which we’ve run far away.

Apart, of course, from a brief period from 1649-1660 when these islands of Britain and Ireland entered into a Commonwealth which was really a theocracy.

But while Westminster claims to be the mother of all parliaments (doubtful, and Europe’s oldest in Iceland might have something to say about that).

It’s Rome which is the mothership of all republics, and we have the good fortune that the Forum, the hub of Roman public life is still there.

No fools those Ancient Romans though with their togas as I found out when I almost fainted in the Eternal City heat in my modern clothes.

An Italian fixture

Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

Now where Rome led the rest of Italy followed.

And chief among them was the 1100-year Venetian Republic which still styles itself thus and is hewn into every gondola and the very bricks of the Campanile.

Florence, Siena, Amalfi, Pisa and Genoa all saw what the Doges were doing and how fetching their hats were and followed suit.

But the republicaniest of all the republics and the longest-standing is San Marino.

And so what they lack in football skills (0-10 v England) they more than make up for in their political skills.

La Republique, mais oui

Je suis L’Empereur: Napoleon

Ah, yes, the French. like so much, would have us believe that they are the shining light of Republics.

So much so that they have had five of them ever since Corsican Napoleon got le ball rolling.

Notre ami soon decided though that L’empereur sounded so much better…

And he did that with one arm behind his back (or affectedly tucked in his jacket then).

It must be a poncey royal thing because the UK’s Prince Charles who very graciously decided to attend the signing-over papers to the Bajans (and bag himself some sun at the time) does pretty much the same thing.

And on a tangent we’ll not say anything about the carbon footprint, Prince Save The World.

None of us are perfect, of course, it’s just the rest of us don’t bleat on about it and preach to the rest of us who do hop on planes.

Middle Ages and Middle Europe

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

The breeding ground for republics in the Middle Ages was what we now know as Germany.

And a quick count chronicles 62 in the northern European powerhouse.

All of which would be a good exercise and excuse to traverse modern-day Germany with a Michael Portillo type notebook.

I’d have to start in my favourite German city Hamburg first of course.

There are some who have gone the opposite way to the Bajans and jumped from republic to monarchy like the Dutch.

Others who have had a brief dalliance with republicanism, Catalonia, and still have hopes of a return to those halcyon days.

Battle hymn of the Republic

Southern men: At the statue of Stonewall Jackson at Manassas

Yes, their eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

And while the North eulogised its Republic, the South too held its close to its bosom, albeit for just five years.

That said the Confederate States of America still exist in the hearts and minds of many in the Deep South.

As I found at the Manassas memorial to Stonewall Jackson in Virginia.

And you don’t need me to tell you that that was the first battle of the US Civil War.


Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

There were, of course, a rash of republics in the post-colonial world which is where Barbados join us now.

While in Africa and Asia the cry went up for the ‘public thing’ which alas all too quickly became the ‘dictator thing.’

And because of these precedents it ratchets up our hope that the South African Rainbow Nation experiment proves successful despite its challenges.

And the USSR and its satellites

The voice of Dresden: With Ingrid in Dresden

Dogmatic ideologists, of course, think nothing of hijacking the word republic for something that looks nothing like it.

And hovering up previously self-governing nations, which is where Russia came in and formed the bloated Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic.

Unless I find me a time machine a trip back to those days will inevitably elude me, although that’s where museums and heritage come in.

And you can still immerse yourself into the spirit of those days on any trip out there.

Which is exactly what you get when you visit the old DDR.

Now we all know of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie but more of us should visit the mural to communism which stands as a reminder of Russian misrule and occupation in Dresden.

Irie, Barbados

It’s a republic, now: With Ruby in Barbados

And so good luck to the incumbent President of Barbados. Sandra Mason, incidentally also the last governor-general.

Vive La Republic of Barbados.

I’ll raise a glass of rum punch to you on the official date of handover tomorrow.

Which is a shared holiday, Barbados’s National Day, and Scotland’s too.

In Scotland, Barbados: Honest

And until my own native land becomes a republic (I’m not holding my breath) I’ll. mark yours, and America’s and France’s.

And the whole lot of you, 160 or so, who have taken the revolutionary step of deciding that you wanted to be ruled by someone of the people.



Countries, Deals, Europe, Food & Wine

Winter from Amsterdam

It’s at this time of year that I sing again Winter from Amsterdam.

Spring will come in due course and the clocks and nature will burst forward.

But as florid as the first season of the year is in the Netherlands’ biggest city why would you wish these last months of the calendar away?

November is a month special to us as it’s birthday season.

And as The Scary One plans where to take me, back at the start it was Amsterdam.

A ferry long time ago

Ferry cross the North Sea: To Amsterdam

When we took the ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland

It’s an option we are all being prompted to consider to help the environment.

And a cabin and a soppy film (Ghost, yes that long ago) made it an unforgettable date night.

We’ve been back since in the searing heat of late summer, and I’ll never complain about the sun.

But there is something special about the winter when the canals in Amsterdam freeze up.

It’s a prospect which was presented to us that last time at the Dylan Hotel when we stepped out into the balmy Dutch air on the Keizersgracht.

What a picture

Arch of triumph: The Dylan

The old photographs of Amsterdammers skating on the canals mark the city out as special and to be seen.

And special too the Dylan, home to George and Amal when they’re in the Netherlands, and Annie Lennox, and us

The Light of Amsterdam

Reflections… on Amsterdam

Amsterdam Light Festival is an annual event during the winter holidays.

Dutch and international artists transform the city every year into a light spectacle.

The Light Festival starts at the end of November and runs until mid-January.

Two beautiful ice-skating rinks are set up every Christmas season in Leidseplein and Museumplein.

The first is surrounded by Christmas market stalls, and the second is by the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk museum.


RAI Theatre in Amsterdam will host the biggest Swan Lake Ballet between December 23rd and 27th.

The innovation of this spectacle is that instead of 16 swans, the performance expands to 48 swans.

Christmas Markets

In the frame: As part of Rembrandt’s art

Amsterdam is full of Christmas Markets during this time of the year.

Markets are not only spread across the city but also in nearby places like Haarlem and Leiden.

And why not be part of Rembrandtplein, and Leidseplein?

Food for thought

Flavours of the world: And Amsterdam is all about fusion

And Amsterdam is, of course, more than just cheese, crepes and tulips (yes, they eat them too).

The holidays cannot be experienced without trying Dutch delicacies.

Dutch hapjes (snacks) ) to try would be olieballen and appelbeignets; both traditional Dutch sweets deep fried (and I am a Glaswegian)!

They are part of the Christmas menu for the local people and easily found at this time of the year.

Wine and dine

Putting her on a podium: With my Flower Girl

Top off the festive period with High Wine at The Dylan,

It features a selection of four different wines from the cellar and four amuse-style bites selected by the Executive Chef Dennis Kuipers.

And to stay at the Dylan it’s €425 a night including breakfast excluding tax.

So, it might not be Spring again but let’s sing again Winter in Amsterdam.


America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Watching the Detectives

Just like watching the detectives don’t get cute, just like watching the detectives, I get so angry when the teardrops start, But he can’t be wounded ’cause he got no heart. Elvis Costello, Watching the Detectives

And with apologies to the Poet Laureate of New Wave.

But it’s not the bespectacled one but the new run of Line of Duty, shot in Belfast, which has got me thinking.

About my favourite detectives in the cities they are associated with.

So here are seven deadly detective shows, their music and their cities.

Van’s the man

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Van der Valk, Amsterdam: So good they kept a sample of the Simon Park Orchestra’s original score ‘Eye Level’ for the reworking of the original series.

And even then purists lambasted the modern version and Marc Warren’s ‘Piet’ as opposed to Barry Foster’s.

And don’t you just love the cluttered narrow bars they all drink in.

Hutch more New York

My New York

Starsky & Hutch, New York: Starsky & Hutch was the breakthrough police show for young people more used to oldie cops.

Good, yes, like the lollipop-sucking Theo Kojak. And, yes, we loved you, baby, too!

But Starsk and Hutch and Huggy Bear brought a street vibe, slapstick and more New York life.

As did the Stiller and Wilson remake with Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear captured the excitement and warmth and music of the original.

Glasgow is No Mean City

Glasgow wit

Taggart, Glasgow: And who would have thought they could have made grey post-industrial Glasgow cool in the Eighties?

But they did and you knew you were in for something different when the credits rolled.

And Maggie Bell gave us a smoky, bluesy No Mean City, a homage to a gangster novel about Twenties Gorbals Glasgow.

London, you’re nicked

Two English and a Scotsman

The Sweeney: Regan and Carter were the Line of Duty of their day, the water-cooler show before water coolers.

Again another they made a remake of, with only Ray Winstone able to reprise John Thaw, while Plan B took on Dennis Waterman.

The Winstone opening scene had a car chase around Trafalgar Square while Thaw’s played out more on wasteland.

But London sizzled from the moment the Thames TV with its iconic St Paul’s graphic came up… and who can forget the theme tune?

Monsieur Bean?

Maigret, Paris: And it was always going to require us to make a shift to see Mr Bean as Monsieur Maigret.

Mais oui, Rowan Atkinson pulled it off, with that brooding sense of contemptuous arrogance we so love about Parisians.

And who doesn’t love an accordion?

Naturellement, you would want to show off the City of Lights if you set your show here.

Which is why it was shot in Budapest with Szentendre doubling for the Montmartre.

Across the Channel

Sunny Jersey

Bergerac, Jersey: And a little bit of sun came into our lives in the Eighties.

In the only part of the UK where they get sun… in Jersey, on the doorstep of France.

As none of us can identify a Jersey site from a Jersey cow then their first image was a map of the island.

Before we get action clips of dunes and John Nettles running after high-end crooks.

Old at the time, Johnnie then retired to Midsomer.

Deadly Caribbean

Nylon Pool, Tobago

Death in Paradise, Guadeloupe: No mon, it’s not Saint Marie, but Guadeloupe.

It lies halfway down the eastern Caribbean chain between Dominica and Antigua.

And it has some of the features you’d expect in a West Indian island, a volcano, sandy beaches obvs and a rainforest.

And you’ll get some of this and more of the other in Tobago and Barbados

All good and varied locales for misdemeanour and murder.

And all set against an uplifting score and, if you know your stuff, homages to the film The Harder They Come.

So to cheer your day up here’s some Jimmy Cliff ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want‘.