Adventure, America, Countries, UK

John Muir, the wild Scots-American

And in a celebration of John Muir, the wild Scots-American, a quote from his dad, Daniel.

Bairns, you needna learn your lessons the nicht, for we’re gan to America the morn

Scots explorer and conservationist John Muir’s faither Daniel Muir

My own uncles had a similar spontaneous tale to tell just like John Muir, the wild Scots-American.

They had taken shelter in the opening of the American Embassy from the pouring Glasgow rain.

And they then decided to seek their fortunes anew in the States.

The Muir story

The Muir statue in Dubar: And Murty

Millions have followed a similar path.

With those from my own homesteads, Scotland and Ireland, up there proportionately with any of them.

John Muir’s story has crept up on me where, of course, it ought to have been front and centre of my Scots education.

And now I’m living in the East Lothian of his informative years, his presence is more visible.

And a playground: For my Luminous Laurie

But it is true that the Great Conservationist is more celebrated in his adopted America where he and his family went to live when he was 11.

Than in his own homeland of Scotland although he would visit here in later life.

And he would write lovingly, and often, about how Dunbar, 30 miles east of Edinburgh, had shaped his life.

Where it all began

The Muir house: And the two flags fly proudly

You can learn all about John Muir at his birthplace in the main street of the once fishing and farming town where the population would be split between Shories and Streeties.

Dunbar has reinvented itself around Muir with a statue in the high street of the Great Man exploring nature.

And a country park and adventure playground on the way out of town.

It is as Muir, the great protector of Yosemite National Park  in California would have wanted it.

Again, rather than waffle here, pick out the John Muir birthplace museum in Dunbar, or better still visit it, to learn more about this remarkable man.

The Scot and America

Epic: Muir’s 1,000 miles

This month, but for the vagaries of our airlines, I would be making my annual pilgrimage to the States for their Travel Fair , this year In Las Vegas.

It was while at a previous Travel Fair in Washington DC that I spoke to a delegate from America’s National Parks 

Her eyes lit up when she heard my Scottish accent and the first words that she spoke were ‘John Muir’.

She would go on to tell me about a celebrated Ranger who had been interviewed on American television.

Taking on the world: John Muir

When asked if someone were to put to him that he only had one day to visit Yosemite what would he do, he shot back: ‘Cry’.

I told the very same story to the guide at John Muir’s Birthplace and it was about the only thing that Elaine didn’t know about the Dunbar man.

I left with my Muir passport, determined to walk the 134 mile John Muir Trail from Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland to his birthplace Dunbar.

And have my book stamped along the way.

Walk this way

Going for a walk in Tenerife

Sure, I’ve done it all before.. the Camino, the Via Francigena, the Canaries.

Still, even if I do it, it will be as nothing compared to Muir’s 1,000 mile jaunt from Indiana to Florida, his much-celebrated 1,000 mile walk to the Gulf.

 

His five days trekking in America’s Great Outdoors with President Theodore Roosevelt, he of the Teddy Bear.

Or the circumnavigation of the Earth which you can track on the globe at his old birthplace.

That’s John Muir, the wild Scots-American.    

America, Countries, Culture, Music

Way to go Joe America reopening

Just the news we’ve been waiting for… Way to go Joe America reopening.

We never doubted it for a minute, the new American President ain’t no Sleepy Joe.

President Biden gives us encouraging news this mid-July of throwing the gates open.

Striped for action: Joe Biden

Guten tag Angela

Joe has been talking it through with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.

And encouragingly he said that he would say more ‘within the next seven days’.

Biden is shaping up as the US President the world wants to do business with and building an administration of all talents.

Pool of all talents

With the Rat Pack in Vegas

The best in British and Irish Travel are building up to to pool their talents too for IPW, the American Travel Fair.

Vegas is a magnet for talent and dreamers with an act.

And it is the ideal destination for the filming of America’s Got Talent at the Luxor Hotel on November 4.

Simon Cowell and his pals are doing rehearsals there with the wannabes just now.

And in typical Vegas style there are back stories which will bring a tear to a glass eye.

Hoop dreams

Matt’s the way: Matt Mauser

Such as 51-year-old Matt Mauser who has gone viral after his heartrending rendition of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds.

Father-of-three Matt’s wife Christina taught school basketball which brought them into the sphere of superstar Kobe Bryant.

The legend: Kobe

Alas, the dream turned into a nightmare when Christina died in the same helicopter crash that killed Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six others.

Matt gives the performance of his life in front of the judges and will have the public right behind him when AGT screens.

Surf dude

Dogg gone it: Snoop in Huntington

The Huntington Beach native also has that wholesome athletic SoCal look which is so endearing.

And we expect that it won’t just be this AGT season that his name and billboard will be up in lights in Vegas.

That’s a rap

Life’s a Huntington Beach

He’s already every bit as big a hit back home in Surf City USA as the likes of this rapper who just happened to put on a show for us two years back.

We’ll be planning to check out what else is happening in Vegas when we visit in September and reporting back on some of it

Because thanks to Mr President whatever happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas.

I’m betting on Vegas

Way to go Joe America reopening.

And a shout-out here too to the holiday providers who have been patiently and conscientiously keeping our dreams alive.

All the time waiting for the green light.

Our American dream

The Whip Its in Harrah’s, Vegas

We don’t know yet if Angela and the EU are ahead of the UK but if they are then check out American Holidays and Tour America.

And we’ll bring you all the offers from wherever you are when we can say with certainty again Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture

Caymankind Paradise Capers

It’s a First World problem at the American Travel Fair, IPW and you get invited to the Cayman Islands and you get thinking Caymankind Paradise Capers.

Only you’re double booked.

But thankfully Young Travel Writer of the Year Melanie May was free to fill in.

And it’s a question I have often been asked is my process in running a team of writers to travel the world.

I would often be accused of favouritism to which I would gladly plead guilty.

It’s just that I would always reward ability and attitude.

Come what May

Beach life

I could always tell what kind of job somebody would do by their response to assignments.

If they referred to the commission as a junket they immediately put me offside.

I would always seek out and receive feedback from the holiday providers on how they conducted themselves.

Respect and gratitude should be a given but tales are legend in Travel of writers who go all along for the journey.

And try to ditch the party or refuse to take part in the activities.

Headline act

Best bar none: Cayman

Melanie has always been a dream, going that extra mile on a brief.

I could always tell too how good a piece was if I could nail a headline within a few paragraphs.

And so with the Cayman Islands I quickly fell upon Paradise Capers.

A positive spin on something we all associate the Caymans with… a tax haven.

The Caymans clearly preserve their status as a seductive destination because of their good management and planning.

Which is why I’m not surprised but obviously delighted that the Caymans have now set out a five-point plan for full reopening in 2022.

Yes Minister

Minister’s call: Kenneth Bryan

Minister for Tourism and Transport, Hon. Kenneth Bryan fills us in.

“My colleagues and I in government have worked tirelessly to develop this phased approach in preparation for the opening of our borders to international travellers.

“And we are pleased to announce the wait for paradise is almost over!

“Our guests will appreciate the impactful developments and enhancements we’ve made to the destination – surely proving that Cayman is worth the wait.”

And obvs there are palm trees

West Indians are famous for their welcome and accessibility the world over.

Which is why Government ministers are expected to be at hand for their people.

And so can be expected to be at the cricket in Barbados (in shorts and polo shirt though maybe don’t do that, Boris).

Or finish off their rum punch on the Anguilla beach to make your Zoom meeting.

And so the Cayman Minister for Tourism is making himself available to us travel professionals to speak individually with him.

Access all areas

And turtles

I’ll share with you, as always happens in the Caribbean, the chat, our chat.

But just to put out some further good news,

Quarantine requirements will be removed for all securely verified, fully vaccinated travellers on October 14.

Which is phase four, and the real game changer for us.

Of course you can only truly get a proper flavour of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

And there are four direct flights from Heathrow to Grand Cayman this autumn/winter.

Caymankind

And there are regular flights

So what does Caymankind offer?

There’s the Seven Mile Beach (self-explanatory really), the iconic Stingray City Sand Bar, the Cayman Caves.

And what I know my own green-fingered goddess will appreciate, stunning orchid gardens.’

I’m a great believer in never allowing an opportunity to pass you by.

And that means going back to ask again.

Which I’ll certainly do when I speak to the Cayman Minister for Tourism about Caymankind Paradise Capers.

 

Countries, Flying, UK

Holidos and Don’ts A United approach

I defer on travel (and life) to my hero Billy Connolly which is why I think he would subscribe to my Holidos and Don’ts A United approach.

The Big Yin avows that anyone who shows any inclination in being a politician should immediately be banned from office.

Our immediate Travel future lies in the vice-like hands of two such people.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

And neither are going down a bundle with our Travel providers.

The experts

Joanne Dooey, President of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association.

And Jo White, who runs the UK and Irish Media Press Office for the Irish Travel Fair, IPW.

Over to the experts then on where we lie.

The old Shapps club

Jo Dooey takes aim at Shapps and the Scottish Government in equal measure.

She says: ‘It would be churlish not to say that any moves towards the reopening of travel regulations are welcome.

“However, Scottish travel agents and travellers still need to know that Scotland will swiftly follow suit.

‘We continue to raise the question of travel certification and how Scotland will deliver a scheme to allow the public to provide proof of vaccination status in order to fly to other countries.

“Currently English travellers can use the NHS app to prove their certification status.

“And this integrates with the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) which gives digital proof of a traveller’s vaccination, testing and recovered from COVID-19 status.

‘The Scottish Government needs, as a matter of urgency, to tell us what stage, if any, the development of a Scottish app is at.

“Currently, Scots who wish to travel, have to apply for a paper certificate.

“And we need to be operating at the same level as the other countries which have developed and are already using this technology.

One price for one…

‘While Scotlnd faces more expensive testing that in other UK nations, we persist in lobbying for the cost of testing to be at least equitable across the UK.

‘However, we look at it, 2021 has followed 2020 as a second catastrophic year for our industry.

“And the news last week that TUI has withdrawn from its Scottish base [a favourite tour provider],

“And also is cancelling a raft of holidays to some of the most popular holiday destinations up to 31 July only supports this view.

‘Travel agents have been forced to remain open for 16 months now to help their clients rebook – sometimes for the sixth or seventh time – yet are still receiving no income.

‘There is little, if any, customer confidence in travel at the moment.

“And the whole sector needs the Scottish Government to get behind a restart to international travel and boost the Scottish economy.

‘If the Prime Minister’s strategy is, from 19 July, to remove legal curbs on people’s behaviour.

“And to end restrictions and allowing people to make their own decisions, then surely people should be allowed to travel internationally with more choice.

“We remain in consultation with the Scottish Government to outline the way forward for Scottish travel.

“And the role testing and vaccination certification will play in this.”

Meanwhile in America

The 47th President of America: In Washington DC

And for those of us for whom our annual conference with our American Travel partners is key.

To driving business this is also a major concern.

As is the slow progress of opening up the US borders which is key to our travel providers.

And those for whom America is their favoured destination.

While talk that they are being selective too about those who have had the AstraZeneca jab.

And with continued confusion about quarantine.

Well, over to you Joe Biden. No hidin’… 

Prove us all wrong and Billy Connolly who might say, they’re all a load of old jobbies…

What I WILL say is.. follow my Holidos and Don’ts A United approach.

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Food & Wine

Tabasco Irish Louisiana and the source of the sauce

When you drink your next Bloody Mary you might just drift off to Avery Island and think of Tabasco, Irish Louisiana and the source of the sauce.

Every year I seek out Charlie Whinham of the Louisiana Office of Tourism.

Among the hundreds of exhibitors at IPW, the American Travel Fair to talk hot sauce.

And a certain Donegal entrepreneur, and as you know by now Donegal entreneurship is in my blood.

Saucy Edmund

Tabasco is the brainchild of Edmund McIlhenny.

Himself a descendant of the north-westernmost county in Ireland whose family then made good in Maryland.

It was commonplace for the names of the Irish diaspora to America to be altered.

Because the book keepers would not understand the thick brogue or decipher the signature.

The same was said to apply to the Irish streaming over to Britain.

Which is why it is possible that the Murtys started off life as Murtaghs.

What’s in a name?

I prefer though to think that we are descended from the ancient High King of Ireland Muircherach Mac Lochlainn.

Either way the Irish grew a reputation for being hot-headed.

And Edmund McIlhenney’s original Tabasco was guaranteed to make your head overheat.

Edmund had decamped to New Orleans around 1840.

And in true resolute Irish style he made a fortune as a banker.

He lost it in the Civil War, and went off to reinvent himself in a whole different field… as a gardener and inventor of a hot pepper sauce.

The bould Edmund had his in-laws to thank for both putting him and his family up in their plantation in Avery Island after the Civil War.

The man himself: Edmund McIlhenny

And giving him a garden to tend.

We’ll pass over the story that has it that Edmund was given the Mexican tabasco peppers and tabasco recipe by plantation owner Maunsel White.  

And move to the 1870s when Edmund obtained a patent.

And started to trade the sauce around the US, before his sons expanded the business worldwide.

It’s more Guinness, Smithwick’s Ale and whiskey down at my Dear Old Mum’s old family bar, now the Ramblers in Brockagh, Co. Donegal.

And back to Tabasco Louisiana

But I dare say that if they do get some exotic out of the county type like said Mum asking for a Bloody Mary then they may have a bottle of the oul’ McIlhenny’s out back.

Lotta bottle: It’s Tabasco time

Because Donegal never forgets its sons. 

So let’s hear it for Tabasco, Irish Louisiana and the source of the sauce.

We’ve done Mississippi but not to its terminus in New Orleans. 

So off to the Big Easy for us in the future.

And we’ll make that two hour 45 minutes drive to Avery Island to take the Tabasco tour and finish it all off with the best Bloody Mary in the world.