America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe

Party in 2023

Thank you 2022, old friends and new so now let’s party in 2023.

As is tradition at this time of year it’s fun to look back on what we all did over the past 365 days.

Of course even the most travelled of us will spend most of our time at home.

And we’re blessed to live by the sea near one of the great cities, Edinburgh, which is why we have been fortunate to receive visitors from around the world.

Swish Swiss

Put them on a podium: With Fran and Myriam

Auld Reekie’s winds and bends have long captivated the most imaginative which is why it’s oft-used for film locations.

And that’s part of the fun of it all as even those who thought they knew Edinburgh’s streets found themself taking detours around building works.

Before alighting on the charming Ondine on George IV Bridge, in between St Giles’ Cathedral and the Camera Obscura.

Royal watchers, of course, would become acquainted with the historic Royal Mile and St Giles Cathedral.

With Queen Elizabeth taking up residence there in September (but more of that later).

Brigitte too far: With the inestimable Brigitte

We were around this locale earlier in the year to meet our amis from Switzerland.

To recall scary Swiss hoteliers, taking the highest train journey in Europe, the Jungfrau, up the Eiger.

And yodelling in the valleys with Brigitte, a supersonic septuagenarian.

And hearing about what Switzerland has in store for us for the coming year.

Which, of course, Switzerland’s most famous and knowledgeable man (my new amie Myriam I discovered is its most clued-up woman) Roger Federer will be happy to share with you.

We rounded off the afternoon warming ourselves with Scottish drink in the institution that is the Greyfriars Bobby pub which like Bobby we always come back to.

As we will Switzerland, and had, earlier in the year when we tarried as long as we could in Zurich airport and the Montreaux Jazz Cafe Geneva which does exactly what it says on the tin.

Ski and easy in Val D’Isere

Way to go Jo: In Val D’Isere

There was dancing in ski boots on the slopes of Val D’Isere too as skiing got back on the slopes after Covid.

It’s safe to say that I’m more comfortable at the apres than the ski as I raved at La Folie Douce.

And fell on the magic carpet up to the slopes.

With the help of my new amis I managed to stay upright on the mountains.

Although flat on my back in the ice pool.

Back in Barbados

Ri Ri and me me: At Rihanna’ childhood house

Now I think we’d all agree that five years is too long to stay away from the ultimate party island.

But I’m glad to say that they allowed me back, Crop Over high jinks aside, and this time they even put on a Scottish party for me.

The Barbados Celtic Festival is a celebration of all things Celtic but with a heavily tartan tinge.

All of which means dancing Gay Gordons, Eightsome Reels and Dashing White Sergeants on the baking-hot Boardwalk.

A big difference from cold church halls in the Heelans of Scotland.

Whisky was taken with well-versed Bajan pals and rum, of course.

We reversed that later in the summer with my buddy Shane, Barbados’s man on the ground in Scotland, and new travel trade pals here.

Wending our way down an Edinburgh canal on a rum-tasting tour before well-deserved nightcaps in the city’s Princes Street.

My cup of tea

Of course, it wasn’t all boozy days and nights (OK, it was) but there was more civilised libations taken… tea, and lots of it.

On my long-anticipated return to Boston, scene of my summer of love after university in 1987.

The one missing experience from those months in Beantown was the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum because it wasn’t there then.

But it was now and beckoning me on from my Envoy Hotel window.

As was a return to my old haunt, the Irish Black Rose pub and Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.

And a trek on the tracks to other wonders of New England in arty Providence in Rhode Island and kooky Connecticut with its academia and culinary pizza and hamburger heritage.

More America

Don’t forget the Motor City: Detroit

I wasn’t finished with the Oo Es of Eh, and it hadn’t had it with me either, and while we weren’t dancing in the streets of Detroit we were singing its praises.

Albeit in Glasgow with old friends from the Motor City and the Great Lake State.

Detroit has long been the one that got away when I commissioned a colleague to enjoy its charms only for her to return with nary a tale.

Either of Stevie Wonder‘s sweetie machine and the dimes laid out for him to eat his favourite peanut candy.

Or the historical wonder of Ford’s museum and the JFK cavalcade from his assassination in Dallas, Texas.

The Lone Star State will hopefully be the next destination in 2023 when I hope to reconnect with the American travel fair, IPW. And also Michigan.

I might even get time to see Favourite Cousin in Washington DC in 2023.

And while I’m rhymin’ a happy new year to you all and let’s party in 2023.







A No1 Finnday Funday

And for the fourth year running it’s the happiest place in the world, it’s a No1 Finnday Funday.

So what do we put Finland’s joy down to… all those icy dips and saunas?

Well, yes, according to the Finns themselves who credit their love of nature.

He’s started so he’ll Finnish

Roll in it: Finland

Heli Jimenez, of Business Finland, explained: ‘We appreciate the small things in our daily lives.

‘Such as sitting quietly on a bench and staring at the empty lake after a relaxing sauna session or taking a morning dip in the sea before starting the working day.’

If you now live in the frozen north of Britain, or Scotland as it’s sometimes called, then it’s a victory for chilly places.

Cry freedom

Happiest place on earth: Paula in Orlando

The UN World Happiness Report looks at perceived freedom, honesty, welfare, good health and generosity.

And a trust in their leaders which has been reciprocated over Covid with that ‘helping to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic.’

Now we’re all of us ambassadors for our countries when we live abroad.

And among my most treasured possessions is the Pleasure To Work With Award that hangs proudly on my wall.

From the Travel trade from my 13 years in Ireland.

And indulge me here but I’d lavish my own praises on unofficial Finnish ambassador to Scotland, and part-time Disney character Paula Murray here.

Among the friends from around the world who I got to meet through Ireland were those who also scored highly for happiness.

Happy talking

Walking on air in Copenhagen

Ireland themselves obvs and it will come as no surprise to our Paddy Party People that they come four places higher than the UK.

The Nordic and Scandi countries and be sure to know the diff.

Denmark, Sweden and Norway are in both alongside Finland, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

The Danes and the Icelanders occupy second and third spots and Sweden and Norway seventh and eighth.

And what they lack in low drink prices which sees cruisers stay dry on on-shore excursions, they make up for in spirit.

And a smile on their faces

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Making up the rest of the top ten are the swish Swiss (4th) and the liberal Dutch (5th),

Tiny Luxembourg (6th) you can get around in a day while Israel (9th) isn’t called the Land of Milk and Honey for nothing.

While the New Zealanders (10th) will be doing the Haka in celebration at being two places above Australia.

It is though refreshing, much like the Nordic air, to see that it’s still a No1 Funday Finnday

America, Countries, Europe, Skiing, Sport

A broom to sweep the Alpine bar

You trudge the peaks to the top of Europe only to be handed a broom to sweep the Alpine bar.

This broom though is a curling accessory, you have a stone in hand and a circle on the ice rink to target.

It’s not what you’d expect when you are escorted through the curtain of the Ice Bar.

At the top of the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland.

But you’ve got a Swiss dram (yes, really) at the bar.

To warm and energise you for your initiation in the ancient Scottish game.

Ice bowls

Sweep crack away: The Curling

Aye, ice bowls, as it is sometimes dismissively referred, was invented (as everything is) in Scotland.

When an ice skating religious minister glided across Duddingston Loch…

Well, that can’t be proved definitively.

Scottish style: The Skating Minister

But do check out the Henry Raeburn painting at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

Curling has us in our grip every four years when Scots Olympians take over Britain and our curlers swap their Saltires for Union Jacks.

Alas, just like golf which we also gave to the world, the world learned to do it better.

As evidenced in Beijing just now.

A Scottish gift to America

Stone me: And a bullseye

And we’ve struggled recently to replicate the success of Golden Girl Rhona Martin from the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Unsurprisingly as the Scottish footprint is all over the States the Americans are among the world’s leading curling nations.

And news comes to us from winter sports centre Lake Tahoe of how much more they put into the game and all winter sports.

With 17 of the US team calling the base in the Nevada/California border calling Lake Tahoe its home.

Learn to curl

Dark Destroyer: Curltime Jimmy in Switzerland

Helpfully the good folk of Lake Tahoe are offering help to curl and saying you’ll be able to show off on the next Zoom meet.

The rest (to get out there) you’ll have to ask your friendly neighbouring travel agents about.

Drams are made of this: Whisky in the Alps

Now, if you’re lucky enough to live in Scotland then you will be able to take your first baby steps in winter sports.

I’ve done it myself and yes with my old friends in Ireland Topflight for Schools, it has led me to the Winter Olympics.

Bavarian Games

Get your skis on: Channeling the 1936 Games

Albeit Hitler’s 1936 Games at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria.

Where pictures of the winners adorn the walls of the showpiece restaurant in the town.

A page in history: German Olympic winner

And the centrepiece is the ski jump.

Maybe better sticking on firm ground (or ice).

Hand me a broom to sweep the Alpine bar.



Asia, Countries, Europe, Skiing

The Swissglais verb to ski is Verbier

OK I’ve made that up that the Swissglais verb to ski is Verbier but it is only to give the resort the prominence it deserves.

Verbier is celebrating and not just because at last we’re getting a ski season (my delayed start on the run will start in March, Dieu s’il vous plait).

The Swiss village in the Valais Canton,  the gateway to the 4 Vallées region, has been named World’s Best Ski Resort 2021 at the World Ski Awards.

It was a double celebration for the village with W Verbier collecting World’s Best Ski Hotel.

Chalet, allez, allez, allez

Chalet Zermatt Peak, sitting in the shadow of the Matterhorn, claimed World’s Best Ski Chalet.

Whilst Austria’s exquisite Aurelio Lech won World’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel.

Now proper skiers (moi? aspiring) will tell you rightly about the world beyond Switzerland and the Alps

And that is recognised in the awards.

With the latest arrival on Japan’s luxury ski hospitality scene, The Vale Rusutsu, taking World’s Best New Ski Hotel.

Dubai high

Ski Dubai, served by our old friends Attraction Tickets, boasts an impressive array of snow-based activities.

And that’s why it picked up World’s Best Indoor Ski Resort.

Meanwhile the understated opulence of Chalet Face à Face in Val d’Isère, was acknowledged.

With the newcomer accolade for World’s Best New Ski Chalet.

Murphski and I

Now if only I had a chalet trip to Val D’Isere set up for March.

And better still I only have an old friend and champion skier there with me.

The multi award-winning Catherine ‘Murphski’ Murphy on the party to pick me up when I’m down.

And I mean that quite literally.


Bravo to all the winners and as they say in these quarters, a word from the sponsors.

Sion Rapson, Managing Director, World Ski Awards, said: ‘Our winners represent the very best of the global ski tourism sector and my congratulations to each of them.

‘The 9th annual World Ski Awards programme received a record number of votes from ski consumers across the world.

‘This shows that the appetite for ski tourism has never been stronger and bodes well as the global recovery gathers momentum.’

If I’d been there, of course, I’d have fed Sion the line The Swissglais verb to ski is Verbier.


Countries, Europe, Skiing

Italian winter ski insurance

Bonnets off to miei amici and a Holidos and don’ts shout-out to Italian winter ski insurance… and a pioneering first.

Because gli italiani have become the first to insist on Italian winter ski insurance to stay on the slopes.

Which they are backing up by setting a £100-£150 fine for failure to have the right insurance.

And the withdrawal of your ski pass.

A word on Aussie rules

For vax sake Novak: Just get the jab

No, not quite Aussie rules and while I want to know what Novak Djokovic has to hide, am I alone in thinking PM Scott Morrison is grandstanding?

Insurance, and more importantly full targeted insurance, should be a no-brainer, for your ski holiday.

And the Ski Club of Great Britain lead the way on this too.

Swiss Florence Nightingale

Get black, back, do it again: With the Scary One in Switzerland

Insurance, of course, has always been an extra which some weigh up when working out their holiday budget.

But a salutary tale here of an old friend from Ireland, Ed, who broke his leg on the slopes in Switzerland.

He was though looked after royally by his Swiss hosts.

And as is his way (and mine too tbh) he dined out on his cast for months after his return.

Have skis, will travel: On the slopes

Now we can’t promise you the Swiss Florence Nightingale here, Sara, who looked after him in skiing Nirvana Switzerland.

I am glad to hear though that Sara, who is fronting up the Swiss mission in Japan now, is welcoming the first snows of the year there.

And particularly as she has written warmly and poignantly about her own past challenges with severe Covid.

A bientot France

Couple of swells: Rosie, my France host, and Pippa

As my own ski trip to France has now been put off until March while notre amis catch up with travel changes elsewhere a silver lining.

There’s more time to get into practise on the dry slopes here.

And should you be planning a trip to Italy, or indeed anywhere, to put some money aside as a failsafe for your Italian winter ski insurance.

And should you do so, I’d expect you’re checking out our go-to providers Topflight.