Asia, Countries, Europe

Flip-floppin’ Georgia statues and others

And I’m prompted my old friend, Gaelic Scotland’s answer to Simon Reeve, Anna Kennedy, to probe flip-floppin’ Georgia statues.

I admit I didn’t know about The Sea Slippers in Batumi or any of the other funky statues in the Asian country.

It’s not something George Zurabashvili or I got around to.

When he invited me over to his gaffe, the Georgian Embassy in Dublin.

We were too busy talking about Georgian wine, the oldest in the world, and rugby.

And if I could get an Irish delegation out to the country.

Platforms for success

Her arm must be getting sore: The Statue of Liberty

But statues while usually not a sole reason for visiting a destination are often one of the must-do excusions…

The Statue of Liberty in New York, Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Anne Frank in Amsterdam, Nelson’s Column in London, Jim Larkin in Dublin,. or the best of all, Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh.

That Georgia has such a funky statue shouldn’t come as too much surprise.

As countries which were long suppressed by Soviet Union have had an explosion of architectural expression since the break-up of the USSR.

Czech out Czerny

Map it out: The Peeing Pragueites

Now I love an Astronomical Clock as much as the next person who takes the most common selfie in Prague.

Although confession time here I do prefer the Beer Astronomical Clock in Zatec.

But if statues give you a historical shorthand for a city then Prague shows its many wonderful, modern, Communist and post-Communist faces.

Whether it’s peeing statues outside the Franz Kafka Museum (he would have approved), hanging umbrella men or the crawling babies up the Zivkov TV tower.

Or Czech patriarch King Charles IV or King Wenceslas.

Though truth be known, it’s hard to top climbing babies and peeing Pragueites.

Slovaks too

Cumil ye faithful: Man at Work in Bratislava

And in a nod too to my pal Katarina who flies the flag for the Czechs but who was born under the banner of neighbours of Slovakia

Cumil, the tin-helmeted bronze sculpture, who emerges from a mancover. 

A road sign warns you as reckless drivers have chopped his head off before!

Bosnian Bruce

G’Day Bruce: In Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Now our Balkan friends have some unusual icons.

Remembering that British slapstick comedian Norman Wisdom is a national hero.

In Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina when you get out of Medjugorje where there’s something about Mary, it’s Bruce Lee.

Bruce became a national hero through the black market for video cassettes. 

A kick in the ribs for Marshall Tito there.

Alexander’s Great Mate

Something fishy: In Skopje, North Macedonia

Alexander, of course, is a great icon the world over.

But his status is so high in south-east Europe that the Greeks tried to stop North Macedonia getting into the UN because they erected a statue to him in Skopje.

Well, we’ll leave the squabbling to these neighbours and instead celebrate Grozdanka Kanikova’s erection (stop it!).

It is in fact a Fish which seems to have three legs and appropriately stands outside the Olympic Swimming Pool.

Earth-shattering Budapest

Did the Earth move for you? Man Emerging From The Earth, Budapest

And sometimes I (and others) wish the ground would just swallow me up.

In a twist on that the Hungarians give us a giant man emerging from the earth as part of an arts festival.

And so put your preconceptions behind about the old East.

And reflect instead on the statues around us in the UK.

Better flip-floppin’ Georgia statues and others than some old relics of Empire.

 

 

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‘.

Africa, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe

World Book Day – a leaf through the world

Happy World Book Day… I’ve been turning over a new leaf by re-reading some old favourites from around the world.

Some will be yours, others I’d recommend as they namecheck places you’ll want to visit, and the people too.

Czech’s in post for this classic

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis: Or you can have The Trial.

OK, I’ve not read either, but I have checked out Kafkaesque Prague, his home city.

And he’ll be glad to know that the Czechs still retain his take on the world around him and its leaders…

Bureaucracies overpowering people often in a surreal, nightmarish way.

Anne’sterdam

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl: It’s chilling to listen to the audio of Anne‘s words in the diary she wrote in her family’s hideout in Amsterdam.

And I make no apologies in saying that I choked up.

When I heard that the vibrant young girl destined for Auschwitz had wanted to become a journalist.

Anne, of course, made a lasting impression, and has gone on to inspire generations of chlldren and adults alike.

Eastern Eden

Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Olive Schreiner’s The Story of An African Farm: Olive may not be on every, or any, schoolchildren’s radar in the Northern Hemisphere.

And athough its style is of its time, the 19th century, this chronicle of South African life in the Eastern Cape, is required reading.

A feminist and ahead of her time Olive railed against the prejudices around her .

And she also moved in some pretty famous circles. Required reading.

Crusoe in Tobago

Give ‘em rope: With Levi and Bandanaman the goat in Tobago

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Tobago: And if you’re lucky enough you can even reprise the actions of some of your favourite literary characters.

Like in Tobago where Robinson Crusoe swept ashore and took years to get off.

For all his protestations I think he probably enjoyed it. And we know that he made some friends of the local goats.

The Odyssey

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Homer’s Odyssey: And this one I did read, or at least study, and then parts of it.

As a Classics scholar (or messer) at school.

I had my own odyssey trying to make my way through Munich Airport and on way to Greece and over to its islands.

There’s nothing like walking in the footsteps of your legend’s… so there’s an invitation to you.

And it’s been flagged up that I’ve been down this road before with this book collection. See if my choices have changed and tell me your faves. 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Every story tells a picture – from Caravaggio to Van Gogh

Surrounded by our four walls in lockdown one of the few ways to transport ourselves to exotic shores is through our pictures.

It is after all  what our Vincent did when he struggled for his sanity.

Van Gogh had developed a taste for all things Polynesian from housemate Paul Gaugin.

Van Gogh also had his demons to exorcise too, particularly when incarcerated.

And he would explore such existential themes in his art as the Reaper himself.

Manic twirls: Van Gogh

Now I’m not saying that I obsess on the same even during lockdown.

But a print of his Wheatfield with a Reaper hangs proudly in our guest room, hopefully not spooking out our visitors (when they come).

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

But reminding us of the captivating Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on our tour of Amsterdam.

All of which meanderings has prompted me to share some of the finer art I’ve enjoyed on my travels.

Beheading for Malta

Lose your head: Caravaggio in Valletta. www.caravaggio.org

Beheading of St John the Baptist, Caravaggio, Valletta: There’s always something a bit unhinged about artists.

And the meeting of brushmeister and subject comes together in this classic painting, described as ‘the painting of the 17th century.’

Caravaggio was on the run and took refuge with the Knights of Malta in Malta.

But he fell out with them, was imprisoned and then escaped from their dungeons.

A theory floated in 2010 has it that Michelangelo Merisi, for it is he, was killed by poisonous paints.

Caravaggio’s Malta

And suspicious has since fallen on the Knights.

Caravaggio’s masterpiece hangs in St John’s Co-Cathedral and shows real insight into the shady side of life.

Valletta with its stunning harbour is a real jewel.

And and you can picture the intrigue and the underworld of Medieval Mediterranean life.

When we’re all able to get out again then Malta should be on your radar.

Monster Munch in Bergen

Keeping warm: A troll in Bergen.

The Rasmus Meyer Collection, Bergen: And you’ll gasp at what those naughty trolls are doing in the drawings in this gallery.

Up a fjord in mystic, fabled Norway you’ll find this artistic curio.

It wouldn’t be a Norwegian gallery without a host of Edvard Munches and Bergen doesn’t disappoint.

And the story notes give you a real insight into the travails of the Great Man.

Dark Secrets: Munch in Bergen

Bergen is also the place for the travels of JS Dahl whose paintings first popularised cruising in the fjords

The Real Dahl: In Bergen

A must visit on your MSC Cruises stop-off while, of course, you simply have to pull a Munch Scream pose.

Paint the ceiling in Padua

Giotto down your ideas: In Padua

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua: And it’s doubtful you would have a fresco ceiling of the Sistine Chapel without a Scrovegni Chapel.

Well, you probably would, but it might have been the Medieval version of Dulux!

Giotto was something of an inspiration for Michelangelo and you can see his halo work here.

And yes we know the finesse of Firenze, the merits of Milan, the riches of Rome and my own recent favourite, beautiful Bergamo.

But Padua, often in the shadow of Venice, should be praised to the heavens which in fairness to Giotto he does.

Masters and Mississippi

The settlers: The Mississippi Art Museum

Museum of Mississippi Art, Jackson, Mississippi: Yes, when we think art and America we immediately focus on MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York Art, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

The First Nation: In the Mississippi Art Museum

But in truth America is a sweep of wonderful art, so take it in wherever you find it.

Which in Jackson, Mississippi is the Museum of Mississippi Art where you’ll see early Frontier art and much more.

Dirty old Lane

Art for arts sake: The Francis Bacon Studio

Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin: And it’s the Francis Bacon studio you want to see here.

Bacon bequeathed his studio to his home city on the understanding that it would be recreated in every detail.

All of which means it is messier than any student bedsit…

To think I was probably sitting on a goldmine back in Aberdeen in the Eighties.

 

 

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, Pilgrimage

Rainy Days and Songdays – Happy Hanukah

And I’ll light a candle in unison for a Happy Hanukah though, in truth, The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl have the place looking like a Meatloaf video already.

Hanukah’s status has grown in modern times.

Mainly in North America as part of a better recognition of other cultures and religious observances in December.

So it’s commonplace now, and rightly so, to wish your Jewish friends Happy Hanukah.

Which, in fact, Matisyahu does more tunefully than I ever could, even if I were swollen with sweetened Israeli wine.

Matisyahu’s song touches all the right points, to be fair, King David, Maccabee, Mount Zion, and, of course, candles.

Matisyahu means ‘gift of God’ .

He has, as you might expect from one who terms himself thus, a confidence about himself.

Gift from God

Matthew Miller is actually a Pennsylvanian who is a foremost proponent of Jewish rock, Jewish hip hop and fusion reggae.

We all have our images of Judaism.

And, in truth other than my own home address the place names in The Promised Land’ from the Bible were the most familiar of my childhood.

Anne Frank Statue, Amsterdam

The Jewish story I learned in my early years has infused a lifelong interest in the Chosen People.

Alas that has mostly meant visiting Holocaust markers, Dachau concentration camp on a booze bus trip to Oktoberfest in Munich.

Charles Bridge in Prague

And the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

In every city around the world, as much as the Irish or the Scots, or more, there has been a Jewish diaspora.

Venice ghetto

I found it in the first ghetto in Venice and again in the Jewish quarter in Prague.

But it is to modern-day Israel that I am drawn most.

And saw up close and personally at the Site of St John’s Baptism of Jesus in Jordan on my G Adventures trip the other side.

When Russian Orthodox pilgrims doused themselves in the River Jordan from the Israeli side just 50n from us in Jordan.

I’ll make it over one day, and hopefully soon, but in the meantime give Happy Hanukah an oul’ lesson.

It’ll make a change from Marish Carey and The Pogues.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Go! Monopoly around the world

We may never know why Vincent Van Gogh lost his ear, though here is a fine crime fiction on the subject, but who is to say it wasn’t after a row about Monopoly?

Our pals at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam are the latest to join the Monopoly club.

With the release of their own Vincent board game for Christmas.

Becoming one of hundreds of Monopolys around the world.

With at the latest count, the game being licensed in 103 countries and printed in more than 37 languages.

The Van Gogh version substitutes the Great Man’s art for the traditional streets.

Just painting

While among the pieces naturally is a paint tube though perhaps tastefully no ear.

Monopoly for most of us is as much part of Christmas as Santa, who often brought it fir our stockings, and Christmas turkey.

But it was also brought out when friends came over, or relatives, from home or abroad.

And this was when it got really exciting to see the names of their streets and public transport.

O’Monopoly

So when my Irish relatives got their Dublin board out it had such names as O’Connell Street, Shrewsbury Street in Ballsbridge where I got to stay, and the Busaras on it.

It was very much a point of honour that your country had its own Monopoly.

It was a sign that you were not under the English yolk.

Although when you did get down to London when you were older you didn’t feel such a tourist as you ambled along the Strand, Pall Mall and Fleet Street.

Big Appley

Most spectacular of all was the New York edition where you could say you owned Broadway.

All us poor Scots had to dream of was buying Mayfair, Park Lane or Old Kent Road.

Until the manufacturers stumbled on the rather obvious idea of giving us all what we wanted.

McNopoly

And so we got Edinburgh, and the Royal Mile, Princes Street, the two football stadiums, Easter Road and Tynecastle Park and the rugby ground, Murrayfield.

Now, of course there are now football clubs, film and TV franchises Monopoly merchandise.

D’Ohpoly

In fact you name it and Monopoly have probably adapted it to your needs.

And so I have in my attic a Royal Caribbean cruise game as well as a Simpsons game.

From my travels in Europe and in Orlando.

Of course Monopoly, while having a deeply suspicious Property speculation message in its origins back in 1935, has really become a vehicle for imagination.

And discovering about foreign destinations…

By plane, ship, car… or my personal favourite, a wee Scottie dog.

America, Canada, Countries, Europe

Happy Brownie Day from Amsterdam

And why not treat yourself to a space brownie today, Brownie Day…? you deserve it after the year we’ve had.

The Brown Cafe is something of a rite of passage for youngsters visiting Amsterdam.

And your favourite Travel blogger took one for the team on my first trip to the Dutch city…. all for research purposes you understand.

Brownies and whities

Dam right: With The Scary One in Amsterdam

More of a whitie than a brownie to be honest in my case.

And the Amsterdam cafe I visited didn’t help the non-user by operating a toilet system.

Because surely I’m not the only customer who turns a whiter shade of pale and then has to take the shame.

Of asking the owner to press the little white button under the counter.

So to mark Brownie Day I’m flagging up a the Brown cafe where you can get more than just a sugar rush… just don’t overdo it.

And maybe also other other places on my visits where a friend with weed is a friend indeed.

High old times

Get down, give me a Brown

Paradox: The district of Jordaan is a Boho favourite of tourists to Amsterdam.

With its narrow bars, boats and cycle routes.

And while you’re in the neighbourhood to visit the Anne Frank House and others of the marvellous museums in Amsterdam.

Such as the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and the Amsterdam Cheese Museum

Then try out canalside cafe Paradox where they tempt you in with board games and rich coffee…

And remember the Dutch brought the stuff here through the Dutch East Indies Company.

Paradox’s excellent website has a section for Social Paradox with a picture of the ubiquitous Amsterdam bicycle.

While they also tum you through everything you need to know including how to roll a joint – and edibles.

Bake your own

Now even in those other liberal hotspots we’ve all come to know around the world, you won’t get this eating experience.

I’m thinking Denver, California, Canada, Hamburg.

You’ll have to take your weed home and bake your own.

Now this has never made the technical challenge on Great British Bake Off…

Noel and Matt are already giddy enough although I’d pay money to see Prue and Paul off their faces.

So let me give you you the Bandanaman Brownie Friend With Weed recipe.

The recipe

The ingredients: An eighth of an ounce of cannabis. Or three tablespoons.

Three-quarter of a cup of butter.

Four ounces of unsweetened chocolate.

One and three quarters coconut sugar.

Half a teaspoon of salt.

Two teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Three large eggs.

One and three-quarters cups of all-purpose flour.

Two-thirds cup chopped walnuts.

Ready, steady, bake

1. Preheat oven to 240°F (115°C). Spread cannabis evenly on a baking sheet. Bake 50 minutes (if using less cannabis, check oven after 35 to 40 minutes). Remove from oven and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add decarboxylated (oven-baked) cannabis and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, then remove from heat.

3. Strain cannabutter through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a small glass measuring cup or bowl. Discard strained cannabis solids or save for cannabis tea.

Out of my tree?

4. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease a 9-by-13 inch glass baking pan with cooking spray.

5. Place chocolate in a large glass mixing bowl and melt in the microwave or over a saucepan of boiling water.

6. Add cannabutter to melted chocolate and mix until combined, then mix in coconut sugar, salt, and vanilla.

7. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.

8. Mix in flour, and walnut and/or mint, if using.

9. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut into 16 pieces. Store leftovers — clearly marked if there are others using your kitchen — in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for several months.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Kitmastime

And for many a parent the go-to Christmas present for kids (and maybe vice-versa) was a football top.

My most memorable was, and this is pertinent in a week when we lost Diego Maradona, La Albiceleste.

Or the sky blue and white stripes.

Truth was that my attempts at long hair never came close to the chic cool of the hero of that year’s World Cup, Mario Kempes.

And physical evidence still exists in a picture album of a rather angst-ridden teen standing by the tree.

In truth I hadn’t asked for Argentina and would have preferred the Dutch shirt.

And I did rue the day I left the World Cup winners’ top behind in a changing room.

So in recognition of Diego and also to flag up a very good cause comedian Mark Watson’s Kitmas appeal for donations of old football tops here are my five faves.

Which will, of course, draw you to these countries.

Dutch of class

Argentina and the Netherlands in the World Cup final in 1978.

The Netherlands: And it was probably just as well that my parents didn’t give me the Dutch top in the Glasgow of the Seventies.

Because an orange top is identified in Scotland with King William of Orange and the Protestant team Rangers.

And that wouldn’t have gone down well in my Catholic school.

Thing was though that as an eight-year-old and uncluttered by such nonsense I was dazzled by that colour.

And the Netherlands of Cruyff and Krol.

And I did manage to blend in with the Oranje Army when I treated the-then Miss F to a night out.

Amsterdam to Rotterdam where the Dutch beat the Greeks 1-0.

Portuguese man of awe

Team of all talents: Portugal in 1986

Portugal: And while it’s mostly always the top you get sometimes you need the whole shirt and shorts ensemble.

So that Portugal‘s red top with the addition of green shorts becomes the Portugal flag.

Our guide Jose Madomis told us from the off that Portugal in the days of the dictator Salazar was run on Football, Fado and Fatima.

So much so that among all the stands of Our Lady merch in Fatima you’ll find the Portuguese shirt and Cristiano Ronaldo towel!

Moroccan roll

Green is the colour: Morocco

Morocco: And not just because they were Scotland’s last opponents in the finals of a major competition, a 3-0 defeat in 1998.

But because of the lengths I went to to get myself a Morocco top

On my travels in Marrakech. I picked the green one rather than the red.

Where I got roped in by a trader after some pointless bartering.

To buy his threadbare top off his stall for more than its worth.

Which set in motion a tragical mystery tour from Jemaa el-Fna around the souks.

And that was just the start of my rocky Moroccan roll.

Roman holiday

Hotti Totti: Roma legend Francesco Totti

Roma: And we’re still waiting to get to see the Gods of calcio after Dad here promised the Son and Heir a match only to forget his passport.

But we did get a Giallorossi (red, more of a maroon, and yellow piping) top snd pencil case.

Calcio too is a religion in Rome

And as you come out of the Vatican you’ll find the shops on one side of the street bedecked in yellow and white, the other in Roma red.

Dynamic Zagreb

Blue for you: Dynamo Zagreb

Medjugorje: And, no, you didn’t read that wrongly…. the Balkans Wars just across the Croatian border in Bosnia & Herzegovina is solidly Croat.

Particularly in the Irish Centre, the focal point for your Marian tour.

Where your barman cranks up the volume when his faves Dynamo Zagreb play.

And with my Croatia friends on World Cup final day in 2018

And will accompany it with a tape of his best supporters’ songs.

Outside on the stands and in the shops and the only thing competing for space with Our Lady is…

Yes, you guessed it Croatia’s distinctive red and white checked tops.

And one just for me

Put your shirt on me

Quinta do Murto; And a postscript here… before I was invited out to Quinta do Lago to visit the hi-tec Campus.

I was asked my shirt size.

And when I was taken into the changing rooms where English Premier League sides set up camp there on the peg was…

My own black top with white sleeves with my name on the back.

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, UK

Holiday Snaps – Amsterdam attics and grand hotels

I really should try harder, or even try at all, to get back to church.

That would mean me filling out a form on the net which is as nothing compared with the Mass Rocks of Ireland, the nooks of England and the attic of a canal town house in Amsterdam.

Our forebears whether they were Catholic, Protestant. Muslim or Jew, or any other belief would go to greater lengths than we do now to practise their faith.

Fit for my queen

We all know about how Anne Frank  and her family and friends lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.

And it is truly humbling to hear the words from her diary spoken as you walk through the confines of their attic retreat.

That truly does put our own lockdowns into perspective.

As does the Ons’ Lieve Here op Solder.

The Ons’ Lieve Where?

That’s the Lord of the Attic Museum the ‘Our Dear Lord in the Attic’ built in 1663 when Catholics lost their right to worship in their own way.

Genke will show you around the Dylan

You’ll have a lot more room, and comfort. in George and Amal’s favourite Dutch billet, The Dylan Amsterdam.the Keizersgracht, one of the city’s most famous canals in the stylish Nine Streets shopping district.

Where, of course, their peerless personal service, will ensure you know everywhere to go in Amsterdam, from brown cafe to Sunday chapel.

Doubles start from €223 per night including breakfast.

Fit for yer man, the President

A sign of the times that the most bombed hotel in the world was now hosting the most important couple in the world of the times, the Clintons.

The Europa Hotel also entertained another stellar group, the Republic of Ireland’s finest journalists, to see a Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco jazz cabaret.

The Europa.

The Europa is undergoing an extensive refurb of its bedrooms to be completed by March.

Of course, the staff can’t be improved on, and they’re always there to clean up after you… when you leave your room like a bomb-site, as I do.

All llamas great and small

If like me you’ve been enchanted by the new version of All Creatures Great and Small on the telly you’ll be warning to seek out the Yorkshire Dales in England.

For those who don’t know the story it’s the real life tale of how a Scots vet won over the suspicious people of ‘God’s Own County’.

Let me remind you of a particularly humorous incident sees James Herriott lose his watch up a cow’s bum.

But they’re certainly there now. The Nidderdale Llamas  experience offers treks through the farm in the company of llamas and alpacas.

The best stay is at the nearby Grantley Hall.

You’ll never want to get up

Where you can get pampered at the Three Graces Spa and get restorative treatments from Ila and Natura Bisse.

Dip in their 18-metre indoor swimming pool, indoor to outdoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and snow room (me, neither).

You’ll also have six drinking and dining outlets.

Rates start from £385 per room per night, including breakfast.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Lennon’s revolution… 80 years a working class hero

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

We could pick any number to define our times as we mark John Lennon’s 8Oth birthday this week. Suffice to say his was a life lived.., and how.

We’ll never know for sure how he would have spent the last 40 years since his murder outside the Dakota Building in NY.

Blue for you. www.johnlennon.com

But it would be safe to assume he would have been at the forefront of all the great struggles of our day.

The Fall of the Wall, Apartheid, Black Lives Matter, Freedom from Covid.

Lennon bestrode his world, leaving his imprint, and still does.

And as his adopted New York celebrated his legacy by turning the Empire State Building blue, here are four Lennon cities.

Liverpool Lou Lennon

Liverpool 4

Oh Liverpool Lou, lovely Liverpool Lou, why don’t you behave like other girls do?

And we have Yoko Ono to thank for knowing this, that John would sing this song, his Mum’s fave, around the house.

John’s statue stands alongside his pals on the Liverpool waterfront near the Beatles Story museum.

Lennon is everywhere in his home city and the under-threat Cavern Club is a good first stop while let someone else do the work for you on their Magical Mystery tour.

Growing up in Hamburg

I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.

Not that John was dissing his home city, it was just that he was giving an honest reply to a reporter.

Lennon and the boys (five of them then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on board and with Pete Best instead of Ringo Starr) lived in Hamburg between 1960-62.

And Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour Das Original will take you all over their favourite haunts.

John was his favourite and she had his poster above her bed.

She will take you to the St Pauli door where he posed for a shot later used for the Rock ‘n’ Roll covers album and much, much more.

John’s New York

If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself

While we all know that John died in NY let’s dwell on his life in the Big Apple.

John loved its vibe, its people, its energy and put it down in song on New York City off the album Some Time in New York City.

Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial where the music never stops are obviously on the itinerary.

For the rest, check out this video.

The Lennon wall in Prague

The Lennon Wall, Prague

What to make of it when you’re told that the Lennon Wall in Prague now has ‘Fuck Trump’ messages on it?

It put off my Czech guide who remembers the wall well from the days when it was an organic centrepoint of protest against the Communist.

‘Appen though John would approve.

And let’s not let Amsterdam and Montreal lie

Of course, this is where John and Yoko had their Bed-ins for Peace.

At the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

And I hope that John would approve as I find myself compiling my thoughts here bolt upright in my bed.

While waiting to get back out there travelling again.