America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – MacArthur Spark

Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don’t think that I can take it, ‘Cause it took so long to bake it. And I’ll never have that recipe again – Donna Summer

And today as we mark a historic milestone, the coming of the Messiah of Travel 55 years ago, a word on cakes, songs and one particular song, MacArthur Park.

My own party piece for a family birthday is to leave the cake outside on the patio table before cranking up the song and then bringing it inside.

But what of the location of Donna Summer’s disco masterpiece cover.

Of Richard Harris’s weak croaky version?

Well, there are many MacArthur Parks in the US, all named for the war hero General Douglas MacArthur.

But this one is in LA.

Old Los Angeles

The story goes that composer Jimmy Webb wrote it about the break-up of his relationship with Susie Horton.

That they would meet regularly for lunch in the park opposite Susie’s insurance office near Downtown LA where I’ve seen first hand its cultural snd historic growth.

And that he did see a cake left out in the rain and the old men playing checkers by the trees.

Wings over Los Angeles

It’s a thing in the States, outdoors chess and checkers.

And on a family trip to New York the Son and Heir played with a dude who claimed to have played with Bobby Fischer.

And just saying in the passing Mrs M will surely find the recipe again…

It’s written on the empty box I found in the bin!

America, Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Ale to the Chief – American Beer Day

And a confession here. I didn’t take to American beer when I first visited the country back when I was 17.

Probably because I was below the legal drinking age, although it helps when your Auntie runs a bar, and a Queens institution at that.

And your cousin is a wild one.

But it’s just that Bud Lite or Miller Lite didn’t do it for me, too Lite, really.

I don’t have time to get my hair cut

But when I returned a few years later, for a summer working in Boston after university I discovered Sam Adams and that was it.

Now since I’ve become a regular visitor, and observer of America and all things American in recent years, I’ve made it a personal mission to sample more beer.

So here are my United Tastes of America.

Virginia blonde

This year’s blonde: in Virginia

Virginia: Now I love a beautiful blonde as much as the next man, I married one after all who is gooder than any.

So who was I to turn down a tour which incorporated two of my favourite things, Beer and Battlefields?

Happen the Union and the Confederate soldiers partook of some corn beer themselves before or after they took to the Manassas battlefield.

They deserved it.

And here am I at an old schoolhouse in Ben Lomond doing a tasting. Every day is a schoolday!

Mississippi sippy

And something worth singing about: Mississippi

Deep South; I swear I enjoyed an Ole Miss but maybe that’s just the beer talking.

Although there was a Sinister Minister (insert gag here).

This being the Deep South you want a good ole ranch-type bar where you can grab something (everything) deep fried with grits.

And whether it was just our party (or a thing) but cash in your vouchers for your beers… surely the answer in our Covid times.

Anyhoos in Memphis, Tennessee, Cleveland and Jackson, Mississippi I partook…. and I still think I’ve got a couple vouchers left in a drawer.

Beers to make you goofy

And drink it on the Big Bang set

Anaheim, California: And there’s always one… and usually two, three, four or five who take up the invitation to ask a question.

I mean do you really want to know about the mashing process when you could be drinking the best pale ale?

If you’re from the Orange County you’ve probably just be coming off the Socially Distanced Anaheim Oktoberfest.

But you will be interested in Anaheim Brewery‘s Beer to Go offers, Tuesdays through to Sundays.

In bottles (by the six-pack or case) with Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Red, Anaheim Hefeweizen, Coast to Coast IPA and Oktoberfest IPA.

Or in growlers which are demi-packs – 150th Anniversary Ale, Fruity Wheat Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Red, Anaheim Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest Lager and Coast to Coast IPA.

Colorado, the Golden Nirvana

And the Rockies water is the secret

Colorado: You’ve got to be able to back it up if you claim to be the beer capital of the States, but Denver can.

While Colorado boasts more than 425 breweries and counting.

The Denver Milk Market is a misnomer… it’s in the old milk district.

While all beer lovers will feel the pull of Golden, in the apron of the Rockies.

It is, of course, the home of Coors, but so much more,

As Travis Rupp, Classics professor at the University of Colorado and beer archaeologist at Avery Brewery will tell you.

Now which to pick from? Well because I love a blonde! A Belgian Blue Moon.

And if you love a beer then here’s how some of my favourite fellow boozists do it.,. in Belgium and the Czech Republic.

So where’s your favourite drinking spot in America and what beer should I drink.

Let me know and we’ll share.

MEET YOU IN THE BAR

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – Alps, Autry and America

High on a hill was a lonely goatherd, Lae Ee Od Lay Ee Od Lay Hee Hoo – The Sound of Music

And who hasn’t yodelled when they’ve found themselves in the foothills of the Alps? I know I hodelay-hodelay-hodelayhee-have.

Although we couldn’t get superstar septuagenarian and amateur yodeller Brigitte to clear her throat when she took us walking above Interlaken in Switzerland.

Yodel eh? In Austria

We did though get awesome octogenarian Arthut, or Ehrwald Presley as I coined him, doing his verbal gymnastics last year on our Top Flight for Schools trip.

Before the night ascended into an Irish wedding-type hooley.

Now your favourite music on our travels column has been over yodelling before in this series.

But on the occasion of 60 years of the Irish Austrian Society which we’ll celebrate tonight let’s explore how yodelling was carried on the wind around the world.

Gene genie

Gene’s gaffe: The Angels at Anaheim

If you’re of a certain age, or if you’re versed in cowboy movies, you’ll know all about Gene Autry.

The Singing Cowboy, who hit the heights from the Thirties through to the Sixties.

And became such a big star that he even bought himself a baseball team in 1961, the Angels, who in their current iteration are the LA Angels.

Playing for the jersey: Gene Autry, the Angel

Gene may be 22 years gone (an angel for ever now) this month.

But not, nor will he ever be forgotten, in Anaheim

There is a shrine to him at Angels stadium which you can visit ahead of a game.

The Angels held Gene in such high regard that they added him to the roster and then retired the No.26 number.

Hodelayhee-Home Run.

Yodelling meets Blues

Jimmie, Jimmie: Jimmie Rogers. www.countrymusichalloffame.org

Yodelling may have its roots in the Alps but the Americans bluesed it up with the likes of Jimmie Rogers.

And as we all know America, and particularly the Deep South us where music went into a big melting pot.

It gave us, Jazz, Blues, Country, Elvis and Soul.

And, to think it all started with a lonely goatherd, hee-hoo.

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Harry, Meghan, Sideways and Santa Barbara

When Harry and Meghan had to find a bolthole out of Britain then Santa Barbara hoved into view.

And if you’ve been hanging on the Sussexes’ every word these past months then it no doubt piqued your curiosity for the American Riviera.

Preachy flavourings: Meghan www.meghansmirror.com

Pique no more.

We all know Meghan likes her vino and this is no doubt another reason why she has chosen Santa Barbara, Sideways country.

A Sideways glance

The smell of success: Miles and Jack. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Sideways: The greatest film about grapes ever – the towering Sideways.

Santa Barbara is the backdrop for Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) Bachelor’s Party road trip.

Our friends in Santa Barbara have helpfully put together an itinerary which follows in the footsteps of the odd couple.

You’ll start your day with breakfast at Solvang Restaurant.

Picnic time for the fab four

Where Sideways nuts will tell you that it was here that Jack insisted Miles’ ‘gloominess not thwart his attempts to get lucky before the wedding.’

Try the Aebleskiver, a waffle-like breakfast ball filled with apple slices.

Wine O’clock rolls around soon on a Sideways tour.

See if you get the same tasting notes as Miles from the Vin Gris at the Sanford Winery

‘Citrus, strawberry, the faintest soupcon of asparagus and just a flutter of edam cheese.’

Our kind of road trip: Miles and Jack on the road. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Next up Kalyra Winery is where we first meet vivacious Aussie wine pourer Stephanie whom Jack falls for.

Now I’ll need to dig out the film again to see Ostrich Land which you’ll also visit.

While our two heroes lunched at Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant with Stephanie and Maya. You too can choose from the Sideways menu.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is where a pent-up Miles guzzles from the slop bucket after the pourer refuses to give him a full glass..m

We’d opt for a glass of Pinot Noir.

Your table, sir?

Firestone Winery offers tours and a guide, and it is from here that our fab four sneak out of a lecture tour for a romantic walk through the Barrel Room.

The Hitching Post II is, of course, where Maya waits tables and their Santa Maria Style barbecue is to be recommended.

The definitive wine road trip tour… And, of course it’s your call on the Merlot!

Two Glasses In

Wine-tasting for our times

Vino California: And a toast to the Golden State.

Two Glasses In is a nine-episode podcast and video series that celebrates SB’s grapes over two glasses.

We prefer two bottles! And from Roberson’s too.

America, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Le Tour de Friends

You’d think you’d get splendid isolation at the top of the most cycled climb, Le Col du Tourmalet, but you don’t. It’s the Tour de Friends!

I have a chequered history of cycling which shouldn’t qualify me to join my fellow Scot Robert Millar in that chequered shirt as King of the Mountains.

Hiring bikes with the-then Miss F in Cabanas in the Algarve I was eating dust yards into our ride.

There’s always another mountain

While I also took a turn too sharply in the Ria Formosa in Quinta Do Lago and almost ended up in the lake.

But that didn’t put me off when I started working nights and opted to cycle in and, out of Edinburgh, through Holyrood Park to the office.

And I’ve got the lead

Never mind the Tour de France, the Tour d’Edinburgh is the real endurance test!

I’ve had lads party spray paint me when I was on my bike, been waterbombed and been knocked off my bike.

And I even had time to drop off for a bier

But I got there in the end… ‘on top of the world, Ma.’

With a little help from my friends.

I’ll let you into a secret here. I only borrowed a real rider’s bike at the top of the Pyrenees… don’t tell.

Mind you this is the Tour where the rules are there to be bent.

Whaddya mean? This is refuelling

The Tour started this weekend and I’m thinking they’ll have a devil of a time stopping the public come out to cheer.

Vive Le Tour!

And newsflash here from A Queer in Provence who has sent me his vlog on Le Grand Depart from Nice…. https://youtu.be/XQ2Udd7rcLg

Paralympic heroes

Prize guy: Ireland’s Paralympic hero Mark Rohan

As a young lad running around the UK’s boggy fields and dirty streets I always envisaged that I would get my hands on Olympic gold.

The Olympics’ loss was Newspapers’ gain.

But destiny was calling when I met Irish Paralympian hero Brian Rohan at The Campus in Quinta do Lago.

I’d thought of running off with his medal but he’d have hunted me down in that dream machine.

The Paralympics were due to have started this weekend… but it will be back in Japan next year. Don’t miss it!

Chuck me a hot dog

Fan-tastic… the Angels in Anaheim

With two thousand fans being allowed in at Brighton’s ground for their friendly with Chelsea.

And Scottish rugby bringing back a sprinkling of supporters into Murrayfield for the Glasgow v Edinburgh match.

It beggars the question… how do we get fed?

Well, here’s something we could take from American sport… the chucked hot dog.

Where’s the mustard?

As I lapped up (including the mustard) at the California Angels game in Anaheim.

Maybe pass the Bovril along the line though.

MEET YOU AT THE BALL GAME

America, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Ireland

Holiday Snaps… why we don’t want 24/7 sunshine

Yes, you read that right, as 24/7 sunshine like we had been getting in the UK means the world is dying that little bit quicker.

While strewth, at the other end of the world, our Australian cousins have been shivering.

And that includes their kangaroos… and snowllabies.

Kangaroos in Australia www.bbc.co.uk

No, best keep the hot places where they’ve always been and the cold ones too.

Imagine Barbados, Tobago and the Caribbean and its people without their sunny disposition.

Thankfully we don’t have to…

Woooah, we’re going to Barbados

With Sandals offering seven nights from £2375pp with travel dates May 1-June 30 at the Sandals Royal Barbados.

You’ll be staying in a south sea crystal lagoon club level Barbados suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub. With flights from Virgin Atlantic,

And I know a thing or two about Tranquillity Soaking Tubs.

A welcome from the Nations

And I’m channeling the good guys

We’re on the eve of the 400th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving Dinner in Plymouth, New England next year.

When the Pilgrims and the Natives shared harvest.

And that alas, if it happened like that at all, is when the sharing stopped and the newcomers took their land and sent them packing.

The pipes of peace

Which is probably where the Choctaw Indians and the Irish were sent to Hell or Connaught by the same British forged their links.

The Choctaw sent money to the starving Irish during the Famine and the Irish reciprocated during these COVID times.

And that’s the subject that remains hanging in the air from the last AIATA webinar.

I’ll return to it and my Native American friends whom I first met in Washington DC and then again in Denver and LA

Wigwam Jim

When I’ll get me the American Travel fair that COVID robbed me of in Vegas.

AIANTA’s will come from Albuquerque next month and will reach us all virtually with the organisers waiving the registration fees.

I’ll be there to bring you all the news.

And it’s gentle cruising

Aran Islands

The sea oh the sea is the gradh geal mo croide. Long may it stay between England and me. It’s a sure guarantee that some day we’ll be free. Oh thank God we’re surrounded by nothing. – The Dubliners

And for the uninitiated those strange Irish words mean ‘sweet love of my heart’.

The song is a celebration of Irish waters.

Including my favourite Meeting of the Waters in my erstwhile County Wicklow home which was immortalised by poet Thomas Moore.

My old friends at Travel Department are used to taking us to exotic places near and far.

Connemara’s old sod

And now in Ireland too.

Galway, Connemara and the Aran Islands is from €599pp for three nights including 3* B&B hotel, transfers, excursions and local guide.

Depart October. Ring (00353) 1 637 1600.

MEET YOU ON THE WATER (AND LAND)

 

America, Countries, Deals, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – the real Hotel California

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

If only! Whether it is the steel pan band at Sunday Service on Tobago or the soft rock house band on the Maldives.

It’s how we would want every holiday to end… not ending that is.

The epic Hotel California by the Eagles with its riff which was voted the greatest of all time by Guitarist magazine has spawned an industry in itself.

Around what the lyrics actually mean, where the hotel is that inspires the song, and the hotel that was used for the cover.

The band credit the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel, the hang-out for party people, as being the vibe for the song.

Celeb hangout

Visit nearby West Hollywood where the celebs go these days and you’ll be on Beverly Hills‘ doorstep.

Rainbow crossing at West Hollywood

Turn left out of your WH billet, the Kimpton La Peer Hotel, and you’ll be going in the general direction.

You’ll know you”re in Beverly Hills when you pass the arty sign.

The Beverly Hills Hotel, which predated the town’s existence, was the place to be under vice-president of Bank of America Hernando Courtright.

Galaxy of stars

And Fred Astaire, Cesar Romero, Carole Lombard, the Rat Pack, Humphrey Bogart and Marlene Dietrich were all regular visitors.

Santa Monica

Amazon Marlene even got the Polo Lounge to change its policy on women having to wear a skirt.

I picture Marlene wearing a trouser suit and dominating the room in her husky cigarette drawl.

A day in the life

I’m taken here by CNN’s description of life in the hotel…

Back in the days when celebrity was worn with the elegance and grace of diamonds and mink the Beverly Hills was where the stars played. Humphrey Bogart and the Rat Pack tippled at the bar, Katharine Hepburn did a back flip into the tennis pool in her tennis clothes and Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned in the bungalows out back – six times.

I belong here!

The biggest star of them all

And perhaps the greatest star of them all, Marilyn Monroe, left her mark, staying at the hotel during the shooting of Let’s Make Love.

Marilyn’s back yard

Her favourite bungalow being No.7.

You’ll be surprised though where and who Marilyn is spending eternity with!

Listen here to The Eagles’ definitive version of Hotel California.

And get out your guitar and practise the riff.

And live like a star

Your Ultimate Staycation Offer at the Beverly Hills Hotel will give you a Superior King Room from €575, or the Stanhope Suite from €860.

When they’re back and open.

I might have to bring my own tennis clothes though!

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Aberdeen postponed

My Sporting Weekend normally addresses what is going on… not what’s not, but this weekend I’m kicking off with Aberdeen postponed.

Now Aberdeen is a city I adore.

It’s where I grew up through four years at university while I returned in my mid-20s.

To work as a sports writer and cover the local favourites, Aberdeen FC, the Dons.

Aberdeen’s Pittodrie Stadium backs on to the Aberdeen Links golf course and seagulls clack above you when you sit in the stands.

Listen to me: And Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes is leading by example

It is the first all-seater stadium in the UK and is a fulfilling experience.

Except when the Dons lose which is a lot more regularly when I covered them.

And they were the unchallenged second best team in the land, behind Rangers.

The Granite City

So just why a number of their players were in a bar after the match and contracted COVID-19 is beyond me.

Because the legends from Alex Ferguson’s teams of the Eighties which conquered Europe would have gone home and hidden.

In a dark room if they had been beaten by Rangers.

Today’s scheduled game with St Johnstone has been postponed.

Which I hope will give the players some time to think about how they have let their club down.

Neigh Dublin Horse Show this year

Ship ahoy/ The Stena Dublin Horse Show

The summer highlight in the exclusive Dublin 4 area of the Irish capital is the Dublin Horse Show.

Out of rugby season (the only winter game in this part of town) it’s all about the Horse Show, sponsored by Stena.

Now to say that Stena put on a show for their friends is selling them short.

Because after being wined and dined and schmoozed you’ll be as floaty as their ferries.

While there’s nothing like getting up close and personal with those wonderful horses and seeing them leap over those huge fences and skyscraping wall.

This might seem like a refusal at a fence just now but surely we’ll get some movement for next year.

Snooker, a longer cue

And in a former life too I was a snooker writer.

I annually covered the Rothmans Grand Prix and the local Reading scene in the south of England.

In those days in the Eighties the snooker world was smaller, British and white Commonwealth countries.

Asia was beginning to embrace the game with James Thaiphoon Wattana the standard-bearer.

The game has exploded in the Far East since and it is surely only a matter of time until we have an Asian world champion.

Which will be a bit like the game coming home as it was India where it was born.

Golf, but no galleries

You’re the man: Vegas

The USPGA Championship is being played out in front of only the birdies at the TPC Harding Park, San Francisco.

San Fran is a city I had intended to visit for the first time this summer.

Having ticked off West Hollywood and LA last summer when I joined the galaxy of stars and Star Wars with Visit California.

And I reckon I have game too which I showed in Las Vegas.

No crowds means no crush although you only really appreciate the contours of a green when you get to the course.

But you are spared a fat polo-shirted and shorted balding guy shouting ‘You the Man’ from behind the tee.

I’ll just have to do it from the sofa instead.

 

 

 

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

Holiday Snaps – a drive-thru the UK and US

We’d seen them on the movies and heard them on Meatloaf songs but when it came to my time my first drive-in movie was with my BROTHER!

It was a James Bond movie, The Living Daylights, in a Canadian field?

But it was magical all the same.

Today is National Drive Thru Day and drive-in movies here in Scotland are selling out fast.

Lots of social distancing in California

In California naturally, they do things bigger.

And drive-thru everything from a giant sequoia in Yosemite to views of statues, bronze babies and murals in Greater Palm Springs.

Derry’s Galway Girl

The girls and one boy in the Derry mural

‘Humour’s so subjective really’… and so it would appear is location really.

With everyone’s favourite Derry Girl fessing up to not really being a Derry Girl. Really!

Nicola Coughlan, aka gullible Clare, has revealed her Galway roots for Tourism Ireland.

Tourism Ireland and the iconic Abbey Theatre in Dublin have put on a digital experience.

With 50 writers and 50 actors in a collection of ‘theatrical postcards’.

Howabiteye? Clare. Visit all Ireland but she makes a great case for Galway and Derry/Londonderry.

I’ll ask her

And as brutally as the Cruisestapo are trying to kill cruising after shaming us all for years.

As fervently we will work to get our ships back on the water.

American Holidays are looking to 2021 with their Alaska Cruises.

Now I know first hand the fun and games you can have on board.

With ziplines and surf simulators in Barcelona with Royal Caribbean

But on your Alaska cruise you’ll be wanting to get out on land and trek to a glacier and go on whale watching excursions.

A trip of a lifetime with a hot offer of from €1699pp, one night Seattle snd seven night cruise

America, Canada, Countries, Ireland, UK

Happy Fourth of July

Who’d have thought it? The Fourth of July today is as big a cause for celebration (if not more) here in the UK than it is in America.

I did, of course, tell you months ago that today would be the exact day that we would be coming out of lockdown in the UK (except for Scotland, doh!).

And not just in the last couple of weeks but as long ago as April 21 Wuhoo Wuhan.

Still, when all is said and done I would still prefer to be in the Oo Es of Eh today than anywhere else.

As big an Americanophile as I am I have never managed to time it so that I am there on the Fourth of July, nor for Thanksgiving either but I aim to put that right as soon as I can.

My Travel professional friends are projecting 2021 as the year when travel to America will have begun… and see what I’m doing there giving them the slogan…. We’ve Begun in ’21.

So have a nice day and my gift to you is these American dreams courtesy of our pals, the Travel providers:

American Holidays http://www.americanholidays.com has instilled some much needed confidence with their ‘Book with Confidence’ and ‘Travel with Confidence’ initiatives.

And they have backed that up with an expanded portfolio of itineraries to the West Coast, Deep South, Canada, Road Trips and Mexico.

Something for everyone

Now some say the West is Best http://www.visitcalifornia.com and https://disneyland.disney.go.com My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

While others that it’s the Beautiful South https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The Promised Land, The Story of the Blues and The King of Kings – Jim Murty’s TravelTravelTravel.

And you can make a great Road Trip out of either and any number of zig-zags across the continent.

Canada has been in full flow all week as they celebrated July 1 with a virtual Canada Day and Irish landmarks went red in unison. And don’t think they’ve stopped because it’s now the American national holiday.

Deal me in!

American Holidays also bring you Mexico with a bit of Miami Fort Lauderdale and Miami – a tale of two sittings and https://www.miamiandbeaches.com thrown in which is always the best way.

Here’s something to get your teeth into for ’21:

Miami and Mexico, February 2021: Spend three nights in hip Miami, taking in Little Havana, South Beach and Miami Beach before kicking back and enjoying seven nights all-inclusive in Mexico. From €1849pp.

Attraction Tickets (http://www.attractiontickets.com): These are the guys to go with for Disney, either in Anaheim or in Orlando https://www.disneyworld.co.uk and http://www.visitorlando.com. Also see Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and Why I love The Donald.

And they have a Disney and Universal Combo Ticket for £757 for adults and £727 for a child. And you’ll have a wizarding time too or you can Eat My Shorts… See off Voldemort, then for a beer at Moe’s and https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us.

For glitz-seekers America is all about New York www.nycvb.com and Las Vegas www.lvcva.com and Tour America know it. As well as all the other great offers they have they can give you.

Hit The Strip in Vegas, from Sunday, January 31-February 4 is from €435pp, based on two adults for four nights sharing one room at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino.

While they’re confident that they can get you over to New York before the year is out.

The Carvi Hotel is from €546pp, based on four adults for four nights, Tuesday, December 1-4.

See http://www.touramerica.ie and Strip… the light fantastic and Old New York: Hamilton.

Where is your favourite place in America? Let us know and we’ll share.