Countries

Here comes Frankie, Siena and the Italian cavalry

Ciao tutti… and they’re off.

We bring you good news from Italia courtesy of Frankie Dettori, Italy’s brand ambassador for their new promotional campaign.

Race time in Siena

Frankie is Italy’s most famous horseman since well, ever.

Only the most devoted racing fans, or Italians, though would be able to name you another Italian jockey.

Medieval jewel: Siena

But, in truth, Italy has a rich tradition with the cavalli.

It goes back to the days of the Romans and the superstar chariot drivers.

Champion jockey Frankie is a proud Sardinian and waxes lyrical about his island, particularly the beaches.

While he also extols the virtues of Rome all of which I share.

Rock god

Being the rock god that he is, of course, Frankie namechecks other iconic Italian cities, fashionable Milan, Venice and cultural Florence 

Horsing around in the Circo Maximo in Rome with my Laurie

While he also bigs up the Amalfi Coast and Capri, and for the winter Cervinia 

If it’s horses you want then the Palio di Siena on July 2 andd August 16 is a horse of another colour.

The Palio like all traditions in Italy has its origins in religion with the first running of the bareback race in the mid-1600s in honour of the apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Oh, Frankie: Frankie Dettori

The jockeys are kitted out in the colours of their districts, the Contradas of Siena as they race around the square.

Our friend Frankie has his English subtitled in the promotional video which is something Scots and Irish have become used to over the years so our sympathy.

Wait for it

For the women (and the men) it’s not what Frankie says but how he says it anyway, and how he looks and the background of Italia.

But wait for it, Frankie’s pay off is Italia Wait For It. And we will.

And when we get back it’ll be with our old favourites Topflight, the Italian specialists.

Now all I need are some suitable colours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – United’s States

No, you didn’t read that wrongly. Our friends at United Airlines might just get us back on transatlantic planes out to Bidenland as we’re now calling it.

United have launched the world’s first free transatlantic Covid-testing pilot programme.

For customers travelling from November 16 through December 11 from Newark to London Heathrow free of charge.

Mississippi… do you remember me?

I touched down in the land of the Delta Blues with United a couple of years ago.

When I flew into Memphis from Newark for an MLK50 (Martin Luther King) road trip.

And sat beside a Memphian coming home who pointed out the Mississippi below.

As we drank craft beers and discussed the future travel for America.

And on the tee…

Mountain a challenge at Slieve Donard

I thought it was just an hour the clocks went back… you know the old saying Fall back Spring forward.

But then I find that one of those Spring rites of passage, the Masters golf tournament will be held this year from this Thursday, in Augusta, Georgia.

Glittering prize

Of course there will be more than a few references to azaleas, or the lack of them, this week.

We’ll miss the galleries though and the hollers of ‘You’re the Msn.’

And this year’s Champion Golfer is…

I was one at Royal Portrush at last year’s Open Golf Championship when we were 20 deep shouting on Ireland’s Shane Lowry to victory.

All of which deviation off the tee brings me to Hastings Hotels and Slieve Donard‘s richly-deserved recognition as Northern Ireland’s Best Golf Hotel at the World Golf Awards.

Once I get these fingers repaired I’ll be bringing the game I’ve developed.

From watching from out of my window onto North Berwick on Scotland’s Golf Coast.

And on the toboggan run…

Now I don’t need an Austrian toboggan run to shred my body.

A shopping trolley and a supermarket car park will do just as well to break my fingertips and tear off my nails.

Of course the prospect of a toboggan run as a detour during my famed booze bus trip to the Oktoberfest had me salivating.

I didn’t trouble the Winter Olympics talent scouts at Kirchberg and Kitzbuhel.

Though with rider and toboggan going separate ways seconds after launch.

I reprised the high jinks on my Topflight for Schools trip to Ehrwald in the Austrian Tirol last year.

Who needs a toboggan or sled anyway? I’m the human sled!

Awesome Austria

Enough already… let’s get back on piste and Kitzbuhel is reopening to recreational skiers from November 30 with Covid restrictions.

Return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck with EasyJet are from €62pp and from Dublin to Munich are from €80pp.

And anything can happen in Munich… or is that just me?

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Roll Over Beethoven

And because this week I’ll be hooking up with my German pals for a virtual celebration of Beethoven, this being the 250th anniversary of his birth, I give you the classics.

Ear, ear Beethoven

This one’s for Elise

Beethoven, Teplice, Czech Republic: And you’d expect to see Ludwig in this wellness town back in the 18th Century.

Because Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Vienna and Prague were musical centres where Germans flocked to.

I paid my tribute to The Great Man this year at the Beethoven Spa Hotel in Teplice where he stayed, and his room is still there for him.

And he got treatment for his ears, tried out some funky horns and left his death mask.

We also tried out the titular cafe, and the hot chocolate and chocolate cake for research purposes. An empty piano awaited the maestro.

If Beethoven had written a Fur Katarina I’d point you to that in celebration of our host and my pal, but we have the equally enchanting Elise, so here’s Fur Elise.

Rock me Amadeus

Eine Kleine Sadie Music

Mozart, Salzburg, Austria: And, yes, the Austrian singer Falco toasted Mozart with this hit.

A Wiener, he was what Mozart wanted to be, though almost certainly not in musical terms, but certainly in his origins.

Wolfgang was no fan of his home place, Salzburg, which he thought had a small-town attitude.

High standards. We loved it on out ski trip to Soll (it is a Sound if Music Mecca too).

Although the museums are too spread out, you do get right under Wolfie’s skin ;and hair). Here’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, pretty much the only German I know.

Vivaldi’s Veneto

The Dragon, Constsnce and Bandanaman in Venice

Vivaldi, Padova/Veneto: And for many, particularly the Eighties generation, punk violinist Nigel Kennedy, and his rendition of Four Seasons, was it for classical music.

I don’t know if Kieran ‘The Dragon’ who was in our party in Padova was an aficionado but he took casual chic to a new level.

I take some responsibility as I’d wheeled him and fellow Venice newbie Constance out to Lagoon City.

We were back late but had each taken a change of clothes while Dragon was still in his boardies.

While the orchestra were kitted out and the waiters and waitresses too in the sumptuous Padova Botanical Gardens.

Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt of L’Autunno from Il Quattro Stagione.

Boheme Rhapsody

Raising the roof: Prague

Puccini, Prague: And long before rockers namechecked cities, the Classical composers were doing it.

Whisper it, the opera is set in Paris, the Bohemian bit is the fun label attached to what are modern-day Czechs.

And so, for me, the ideal place to watch Giacomo Puccini’s Classic is the State Opera in Prague.

Everybody loves to party in Prague, monks in the Strahov Monastery Brewery and priests swigging Champagne during the intermission at the State Opera.

Handel with care

No cats or mice allowed

Handel Dublin: And George Handel chose Dublin, the second city of the Empire, because he felt the London audiences had started to take him for granted.

No shrinking violet George, there was a statue to him erected in Dublin while he was still alive.

The premiere was packed and ladies were asked not to wear hooped dresses so as to allow more in.

That show was performed at the Musick Hall in Fishamble Street. Now you’ll want to go to Christchurch Cathedral for your opera fix.

But not the place for a cat or a mouse whose mummified remains are on display in the cathedral’s crypt…. they’d got stuck in the organ.

It’s immortalised in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

Anyhoos Christ Church Cathedral puts on recitals and thanks to my friends at Travel Department we channeled old Handel one balmy evening.

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, Sport, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Austria you to me are everything

I could move a mountain when my hand is in your hand – The Real Thing

Whether The Real Thing had the Alps in mind I don’t know but they know the band all right in Soll… and Austria you to me are everything.

Songs often jump up and hook us randomly in the places we hear them the most.

And You To Me Are Everything rocked out every night at the Whisky Muhle.

I skied some of those mountains… yeah, right!

Where Alex Johnson, the singer, belts out rock classics, while the locals pour Jagermeisters down his gullet.

And he announces every night that You To Me Are Everything is the best song of all time.

And Alex does the ‘best song of all time’ justice, and a bunch of others with his ‘Candy’ well worth a mention.

I even forgave him saying that Paolo Nutini had ripped it off REM.

I’ll be in one of those huts

All this, and did I say that they have a game where you hammer a nail into a block of plywood with the acute end?

Which funnily enough you won’t see in the pubs of Glasgow, Liverpool or Dublin.

We travelled to Soll with ski specialists Top Flight and I have hiked up the hills with them too since.

And that’ll be the beer then

Top Flight, who also with good reason call themselves the Italy specialists, are suffering like so many in Travel.

And they had to make the heartbreaking decision to let some staff go last week.

Which I know from dealing with them would have been the last thing they would have wanted.

It may seem like all uphill right now while downhill doesn’t seem too appealing either.

And the locals are real friendly

But skiing proves that we can ride the bumps and come out still standing at the end of it all.

And there’s a Jagermaester at the end of it all at the end of it all and a rocking music set. It’s apres-ski and it’s everything.

*Everything – The Real Life Story which chronicles the career of the first all-black British band to reach No.1 in the UK charts screens on BBC Four on Friday at 9pm.

Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Europe, UK

Fiveday Friday – take those drinks outside

Just on a whim, and because this is how we’ll be drinking in the future, here is a new feature Fiveday Friday.

Five of the best travel experiences from around my world of travels (and some of them won’t involve drink).

I’m spurred here by a radio shout-out for the sprawling 500-year-old The Lindsey Rose.

The Rose lies near Ipswich, Suffolk in England’s East Anglia http://www.thelindseyrose.co.uk and https://www.visiteastofengland.com.

Southwold in Suffolk, which is about 118 miles east and a two-and-a-half hour drive from London, was recommended to me by my old boss.

And with its dainty beach huts and English Country Garden pubs it was very much like ‘somewhere different but the same’ for this Scottish family within your own country.

Which is what we’ll all be reengaging ourselves with more and more now.

That’s not to say we won’t be reflecting on those awesome outdoor drinks dats we’ve enjoyed around the world.

Beer o’clock in South Africa

The Brewery and Two Goats Deli, Nieu-Bethesda, South Africa: And this beer garden deep in the heart of Afrikans country even has a wooden hammock.

Where you can sleep off your wooden smorgasbord sample of beers and stouts.

There’s nothing wooden though about this little haven in Nieu-Bethesda. Visit https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ and What’s new pussycat?.

On the Bosphorus

TTG Travel/Turkey Travel Group: And if the back garden can be a stretch of water which splits two continents….

Pleasure cruises are perfect for small groups and you can work off that Turkish spread with a boogie on board.

While looking out on two continents on the Bosphorus.

See https://www.turkeytravelgroup.com, https://visit.istanbul, www.turkishIrlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Swiss for Prosecco

Interlacken, Switzerland: Well, you do build up a thirst whizzing through a wood and the main road on your tutti bike.

It’s an electric scooter hybrid, you understand.

And you’ll find a bar in the valley where your Prosecco Spritzer has never tasted so good.

See www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks.

Der Plague and Der Great Outdoors

Oberammergau, Germany: And not a bad place to drop in on as the good burghers of this Bavarian town know all about pandemics.

They made a pact with God back in the Middle Ages where they would put on a Passion Play if He rid them of the plague.

And you’ll want to sit outside anyway to take in the murals that tell the story of Oberammergau.

See https://www.passionsspiele-oberammergau.de/en/home and https://www.topflight.ie and www.topflightforschools.ie.

Jocky Mountain High

Salt & Lime, Steamboat Springs, Colorado: Now Coloradans are ideally placed for this COVID crisis because they’re outdoors people.

They freestyle up the Rockies, white water raft on the French Powder River and then sit down in the open air on their ranches.

And rooftop restaurants such as this one, Salt & Lime Morning www.suckandlime.com in Steamboat Springs www.colorado.com.

Africa, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

The Sunday Sermon – Covid covert love

Thou shalt not covert thy neighbour’s ass – The Ten Commandments

Aussie Di was on the next bus, Contiki https://www.contiki.com/six-two/bus-tour-seating-strategy/, and as everybody in coachworld knows Topdeck https://www.topdeck.travel and Contiki should never mix.

Only Di had golden shoulder-length hair and a smile as bright as the sun.

And I was the envy of all the bronzed Aussie dudes at the party because for the first time in my life I got the girl.

Longing for the Alps

All of which longings across a coachpark in Austria in the Eighties came flooding back to me.

As I digested the Covid times survey which said that four out of five of us are keeping our lovin’ to our own households just now.

I have oft times returned to those two carefree summer trips to the Oktoberfest and Austria.

And particularly when I have passed through Munich https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/01/hungry-and-thursday-the-munich-beerfest.

Sound of Music sites in Salzburg with my blonde for life, Sarah the Scary One

The magic bus

And in Austria with www.topflight.ie, Soll Mates and all across the Alps https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/04/27/rainy-days-and-songdays-yodeleeeee/amp/

Coach rides are still the best, and most economical, way for 18-35 year-olds to see the world.

I’d look back at other Topdeck routes between drinks on the coach which was reconditioned to include a kitchen, with the top deck bunks.

Got there: Port Elizabeth, South Africa

South African dreams

And I vowed that one day I would get down to South Africa, an ambition I realised last year when I visited Nelson Mandela’s state, the Eastern Cape https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ and What’s new pussycat? and Day in the life of a township.

I’d go again in a heartbeat.

And, in truth, it’s that sweaty mass of humanity (rather than the sweaty mass of the Son and Heir’s dirty washing) I miss most in this lockdown.

For the record I tried to revive my holiday romance with Di when I returned home.

Who’s for a beer? Topdeck

Difficult though it was with me in Aberdeen in Scotland and Di 400 miles south in London.

The prospect of the Topdeck reunion on the horizon kept me going though through all those cold Scottish nights.

Plenty more fish

When the time came I made our appointment in Trafalgar Square near the South African Embassy where a protest was taking place to free Nelson Mandela.

But Di was nowhere to be seen.

She was though at the reunion later in Earl’s Court (where else?).

With her Scottish boyfriend!

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – Schnapps

When it came to breakfast on our Oktoberfest booze bus in Munich https://www.muenchen.de/int/en/tourism.html it had to be schnapps.

We all had to take turns at cooking.

But Rambo, a New Zealander with a party trick of putting his false tooth in his beer when he went to the loo, was having none of it.

Put your hat on it

And he led a revolt of fellow heavy bevvy merchants… with this the result.

Slovenian life

All of which nostalgic meanderings are because of a Zoom meeting with Slovenia https://www.slovenia.info/en.

We were tempted by some culinary guides and one speaker who was extolling the virtues of all things pumpkin seed oil.

While one Slovenian with an unpronounceable name showed us hay lofts we could book.

A taste of Slovenia

But, of course, it was the booze experts who drew me in, the Pale Ales and sparkling wines.

And especially the man with the pear schnapps.

We’ll leave Slovenia there and thank them for making nary a mention of the most famous Slovenian of all, Melania Trump.

Schnapps ja

And return to Germany where the schnapps is drunk like water.

As chasers with beer.

An Austrian yodeller

And coming in all fruits and with whole apples and pears in bottles soaking up the alcohol what’s not to love.

Central Europe is home to the best schnapps so a shout-out to Switzerland and hiking in the hills www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks.

Apres-ski

Or apres-ski in the Whiskey Mühle in Söll in Kaiser Welder https://www.wilderkaiser.info/en/soell/info/whiskey-muehle.html in Austria with www.topflight.ie Soll Mates.

A handle on schnapps

Schnapps bottles too are works of art.

And you can marvel at the designs in the Ehrwald in the Tyrol www.tyrol.com with Top Flight for Schools www.topflightforschools.ie.

Peachy: A fruity little number

Of course Austria specialises in eccentricities https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/01/austrian-toilet-humour/amp/ and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/03/__trashed/amp/.

But it all starts with the food and drink and with water so damned expensive I’d always recommend the sausages, beer… and schnapps.

MEET YOU AT THE BAR

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe

The end of different loo signs?

Life after COVID-19 and the queues for the unisex toilets are snaking down the corridor.

And those men’s and women’s toilet signs will get eased out to be replaced with such as this…

Social distancing?

Although I’ve never seen a desperate woman hold herself like this.

So with the British Toilet Association saying rest rooms will soon become rush rooms…

Here’s a nostalgic look back at funky loo signs around the world.

It’s all Greek to me

Athens, Greece: And you can see that these signs are modelled on Socrates and Mrs Socrates although they both need a good feed.

Visit https://athensattica.com and My Greek odyssey.

Two loos from Amsterdam

Amsterdam, the Netherlands: And in the converted mosque restaurant that is Bazar https://www.hotelbazar.nl/en/restaurant-bazar-amsterdam/ in the great Dutch city the theme is Arabic.

See www.iamsterdam.com and Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Washed out in Austria

Ehrwald, Tyrol: And the backdrop naturally is the snow.

They love a loo in Austria so much so that a new revolving loo is an occasion… and I’m not making this up.

See www.topflight.ie, www.topflightforschools.ie, https://www.tyrol.com/places/a-ehrwald.

Split toilets

Croatia: And forget the manspreading, they womanspread in Split (well, that figures).

They’d be a bit more demure in holy Medjugorje.

Visit Croatia Tours http://www.croatia.ie, Marian Pilgrimages www.marian.ie and http://www.medjugorje.org.uk.

Too much to drink?

Prague: And a shining example of Prague design which is eclectic between Baroque to grim Communist to modernist David Cerny.

Visit www.czechtourism.com and Hope springs eternal and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/02/21/bye-bye-baby-cernys-prague/amp/.

T&T pee and pee

And you’re asking your Tobagonian lady to stand still.

This woman on the sign is either coming from Sunday School (that’s a dance).

See https://www.visittobago.gov.tt and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/amp/.

Auf Wiedersehen pet!

Munich: And then there’s the one-legged woman. You must be really desperate.

Visit https://www.munich.travel/en?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIssyFkd3Y6QIVxbHtCh1qJAgJEAAYASAAEgKdfvD_BwE.

What’s your favourite loo sign from around the world? Tell me and I’ll share.

And one to ponder on in the queue, a sign on a wall in a bar in the IFC, Ireland’s Financial Centre…

‘Men left, women always right.’

MEET YOU IN THE QUEUE

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Europe

Rainy Days and Songdays – yodeleeeee!

I’ve been known to sing songs aloud going down a crowded street and can do a whole concert these days.

Try it… you’ll feel liberated and you can belt out a lot of frustration.

Why do you think our friends in the Alps are so chilled?

One word: Yodelling.

Brigitte, our forever young walking guide from our Interlaken and Jungfraujoch perambulations https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/ and Swhisskey on the rocks could warble with the best.

Ehrwald Presley

And by the best I mean Arthur our legendary warbler from the Hotel Sonneburg https://www.sonnenburg.at/en/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1-D8v52I6QIVNoBQBh3LXweXEAAYASAAEgKjkPD_BwE in Ehrwald in the Tyrol.

Hot the floor: At the Sonneburg in Ehrwald, Austria

Octogenarian Arthur stepped in when their house singer had to pull out because of a fracture.

Being an Irish walking group we ratcheted it up by getting him to do Neil Diamond and Elvis Preskey.

The other Elvis

And Arthur became forever immortalised as Ehrwald Presley.

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Back to yodelling and it would seem that it can carry a danger when you ‘climb every mountain’.

Which I did when stumbling upon a black run on our ski through the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser… Soll Mates.

And had to walk down, skis in hand.

Tired, I fell asleep that night through the football on the telly in the Whiskey Muhle.

But awoke to hear Alex Johnson’s turn at the mic.

When he would bang out classic after classic while apres ski fans would pour shots into his mouth.

The Real Thing

My favourite of his set was Paolo Nutini’s Candy while he swore by The Real Thing’s You To Me Are Everything.

And so in tribute to Alex, who incidentally was back on the slopes the next day skiing away despite drinking the bar the night before.

Here it is… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yT1iDKkZNYU.

Topflight www.topflight.ie and Topflightforschools https://topflightforschools.ie are all over Austria.

Which songs are your souvenirs from your holidays. Share them here and we’ll have a good sing-song.

MEET YOU ON THE STAGE

Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Italy – Il Bel Paese, the beautiful country

They’ve thrived and survived the Caesars, volcanic eruptions, the Vandals and the Goths, Napoleon, the Nazis and Mussolini… and Italy WILL survive Coronavirus.

The Italians have been at the Travel Fair, IMM2020, in London, this week.

Out doing what they do best… putting on their best front to the world.

It isn’t time now to deliver blame for Italy being in lockdown.

Rather it is best to dig out our holiday snaps, put on those old Dean Martin records and maybe a Fellini film.

Maybe go to our favourite Italian restaurant where your restaurateur is your best friend and you get the best pasta and risotto al funghi and Chianti.

And guess who knows how to make pasta from scratch now… thanks to my pal Catherine Fulvio at her Balkynocken Coikery School https://ballyknocken.ie

With Topflight, the Italian specialists www.topflight.ie. Also visit http://www.italia.it/en/home.html

Because if Italy can’t bring us out to them at the moment let’s bring Italy out to us.

The Roman Empire

Of course what the Romans did for us was only to give us all in the Western World the building blocks of civilisation.

I saw much of that on my walk along the Via Francigena, the last 100kms from Viterbo in Lazio into Rome Small roads lead to Rome and www.FrancigenaWays.com.

Where every small town boasted an antiquity, a fresco.

It wasn’t built in a day and Italy and Italians won’t be destroyed in a day either.

FORZA ITALIA