America, Countries, Food & Wine

California Drying

The perception of the image -conscious Golden State is that if you take two glasses of wine you’re an alcoholic which is why we’re focusing today on California Drying.

And, yes it is me speaking here, extolling the virtues of non-alcoholic wine.

And all for Dry January California.

Lorra LA bottle

All routes lead to LA: Venice Beach

Or Less Angeles if you will with several non-alcoholic bottle shops opening recently.

With a selection of non-alcoholic spirits, aperitifs, mixers and more.

Soft Spirits opened in Silver Lake in October 2021 and Venice’s The New Bar opened in July.

San Fransisc-low

Jump on board: San Fran

And yes, you lose none of the fun from not imbibing.

With non-alcoholic craft mocktails and booze-free craft beer all flowing at the Ocean Beach Cafe in Outer Richmond.

We have Joshua James to thank for building a San Fran community art cafe to house the largest non-alcoholic beverage selection in the country.

And to conduct regular beach clean-ups.

And just because it’s boozeless doesn’t mean you can’t have a speakeasy.

The Temperance Bar, which is open by reservation can be found by visiting Ocean Beach Cafe.

Faux show

Jimmy’s California: An odyssey

And it’s not just us saying it…

When the Faux Real Bottle Shop opened in Los Gatos The City of Los Gatos in Santa Clara County Faux Real Bottle Shop in February 2022…

They reminded customers that “zero-proof doesn’t mean zero fun.”

The bottle shop carries dozens of zero-proof spirits like gin, tequila and rum, non-alcoholic wine and beer, aperitifs and more.

Faux Real hosts a “sober hour” from 1 to 3 p.m. every Saturday to encourage sober socialising.

Sacre blowout

Feast of colours: The Teetotalist

Now this may very well be your cup of teetotal…

Sacramento is expected to welcome a zero-proof bar concept called The Teetotalist in 2023, where people can gather, socialise and enjoy a night out.

In a setting that feels like a bar, but with an alternate beverage menu.

And who knows after California Drying you may decide like Joshua to give it a year and see how it goes.

Me, I did two days after a 24-hour bug from a fellow passenger.

Before entering the good fight in LA…

And I more than made up for it then.


America, Countries, UK

To-all-o-me from Railtown Yosemite

I see the train a comin’, a comin’ down the track.. no, not Johnny Cash but an invitation to-all-o-me from Railtown Yosemite.

Trains, of course, have always been much more than fuel-powered metal tubes transporting us from A to B.

Your carriage awaits: The old locos

And in the UK, they’re not even that, but more of that later.

United Tracks of America

Sit back and see America: In Colorado

In America trains grew the country and the navvies who hammered the tracks into the ground put those sounds to song.

The Railroad and its place in popular culture are celebrated in Railtown, Yosemite.

That’s in Tuolumne County (and that’s pronounced to-all-o-me).

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in California takes you back (as its title suggests) in time.

And for those of us who are good with dates you’ll have noticed that makes this year its 125th anniversary.

Back to the future

Off track: Arnie

That Railtown 1897 is still running its steam and diesel-trains, its roundhouse, machine shop and movie paraphernalia is down to the volunteers.

When the Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger threatened to close it to save a few dimes.

And this the home of High Noon, The Virginian, Back to the Future II and Little House on the Prairie among others.

Now the accounting skills in la famille Murty went elsewhere but it strikes me that the $5 and $3 for kids admission fee probably doesn’t cover the costs.

And that Railroad 1897’s steam funnels are being fuelled through financial donations.

Fiver fever

Money for old duck: On Britain’s trains

$5 you say… well here in Britain we could take a leaf out of Railroad 1897’s book.

And yes clearly those prices are not realistic for a national transport hub.

But why does it cost from £187.70 for a return this weekend?

And particularly when Scotrail pitches it at from £40!


Full steam ahead: The only way to go

And you’ll get an air return for £136.96 with EasyJet, considerably quicker and more comfortable.

And don’t get me started on on-peak and off-peak which we swallowed whole when they were introduced as Savers by Thatcher in the Eighties.

No, no, no…

But if you want to absorb yourself in the spirit of the Real Railroad yes there are volunteers and Steam Train lines across the UK.

Which is a great place to start.

The Big Country

Sign of the times: If you’re back in the 19th century

But if you want to get out to the Big Country, the Oo Es of Eh then follow my path.

I’ve alighted in Golden, Colorado (only ever used by Casey Jones and crew) at the Colorado Railroad Museum.

And I’m asking the peak-capped uniformed guard the way to-all-o-me from Railtown Yosemite.




America, Countries, Culture

The letters S and D for San Diego

Today’s show is brought to you by the letters S and D for San Diego. 

In Europe that’s Amsterdam with its cats, cheese, tulips, smoking pipes and spectacles museums.

And I dare say a few others, with a notable mention to Zagreb in Croatia.

It’s there where a separated couple set up the Museum of Broken Relationships.

And so in the spirit of catharsis they kicked it off with their own artefacts, asked others to donate, and it took off.

It even popped up in Hollywood for a time although research shows it is in abeyance while looking for new premises.

It’s all Geek to me

Penny drops: Big Bang Theory

Now relationship tipping points are endless and I’m sure I’m crossing off plenty.

I’d say though that an obsession with comic characters must be right up there.

Not that that’s one of them for us but I take my cue from the super geeks of The Big Bang Theory which is set in SD.

Although if you’re in LA, and you can’t get down to San Diego on this trip, you can check out the Big Bang flat set in Warner Bros studios.

Or sit in Sheldon’s place in our recreated living room, put up for us for the American Travel in Anaheim.

Child’s play in San Diego

Twirl power: Big Bird

San Diego really will bring out the big kid in you.

And we have even more to look forward to this year.

With the opening of the Sesame Place, a theme and water park in March.

There will be seven Sesame Street-themed rides, an interactive musical play area.

And 11 water attractions including one of the largest wave pools in southern California.

It’s a fantasy

Wally’s allowed: In San Diego

Then there’s the Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park in July.

Museumgoers can expect rotating exhibits, an education centre, a 4K video theatre.

And a gift shop filled with comics, graphic novels, branded souvenirs and more. All from $14.

It’s not for nothing that it’s nicknamed America’s Finest City…

So let’s spell it out in true Sesame Street style. The letters S and D for San Diego.

How to get there

For us here in Edinburgh in Scotland we’re told Aer Lingus, Finnair and numerous operators fly to San Diego with stops and under 20 hours.


America, Countries, Ireland, Music, UK

Donald Duck Day is a quacker

Eider expect your party is in full swing already because… Donald Duck Day is a quacker.

Our beloved Donald first waddled onto our screens on this day back in The Wise Little Hen.

And oh boy, oh boy, oh boy… we’ve been loving his company ever since.

The Four Cabbaleros

I first met The Original Donald when another was trying to steal his shade back in November 2018.

He Disney half look good

Donald was wintering where we all want to make for, Florida.

While, of course, Donald has homes all over the world.

I am not worthy

And I followed him from Orlando to Anaheim.

And danced away with the Three Caballeros.

Of course while today is about the Donald I’ve taken my duck fun wherever I find it.

The Duckmaster

So when the Duckmeister invited us to the Duck Parade in Memphis, well I was there in double quack time.

Rib a dub duck

I’ve been hooting my quacker today, lining up my Northern Ireland Hastings ducks in a row and getting ready for my party.

So don that duck suit, waddle around the house and watch your Donald Duck films.

Me? Being of the Scottish variety be celebrating with my people, the McDuck clan.

The McDucks are, of course, from a rich lineage going back to the ancestral home of Dismal Downs.

Near the village of MacDuich somewhere in Rannoch Moor.

The McDucks

With the main duck on The Walk of Fame

We owe it all to the union of Hortense McDuck and Quackmore Duck and gave us the genius creation of Scrooge McDuck.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I’ll get a smile out of old Scrooge.

On this day because Donald Duck Day is a quacker.


America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays – Holyday favourites

And because of the holyday season we’re in this week’s Rainy days and Songdays today celebrates Holyday favourites.

Happy clappy California


Oh Happy Day (Oakland/San Francisco)

Oh happy day, oh happy day, when Jesus washed, oh when He washed, When Jesus washed, He washed my sins away – The Edwin Hawkins Singers/Sister Act

They don’t need much invitation to unleash a Gospel Choir on you in California.

And Hallelujah there was one waiting for us on the first day in Anaheim for our American Travel Fair, IPW.

Elvis sings Gospel

Full of Graceland

How Great Thou Art (Memphis)

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation. And take me home what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow in humble adoration. And then proclaim, my God how great thou art – Elvis Presley

And it is worth remembering that Elvis first learned to sing in church.

And during his residencies in Las Vegas he would invite his friends up to his room for impromptu Gospel singalongs

It’s better to imagine Elvis’s heart being joyful at the moment God came to take him home that day in Graceland.

All God’s Children

Whenever God Shines His Light (Belfast)

Whenever God shines his light on me. Opens up my eyes so I can see. When I look up in the darkest night. And I know that everything is going to be all right – Van Morrison/Cliff Richard

And aren’t we all God’s children anyway even Van the Man, the grumpiest man in rock?

Religion is all around you in Belfast where Van is known to put on occasional jazz cabaret shows at the Europa Hotel.

It’s always best though with a Celtic soul twist.

Welsh worship

Bread of Heaven (Cardiff)

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but thou art mighty. Hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven. Feed me till I want no more. – Bryn Terfel, Cardiff

And Cwm Rhondda (The Rhondda) is the unofficial anthem of Wales.

And is a favourite of Welsh rugby fans.

It scores too as it celebrates God rather than the popular policy of God celebrating said country.

Mississippi music

Grammy loves you

This Little Light of Mine (Mississippi)

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, all the time, let it shine – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

And you’ll find a lot more about Sister Rosetta and all the wonderful Gospel and early Rock singers at the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland.

And the significance of This Little Light in a room of reflection on your Civil Rights visit to the Two Museums in Jackson.

America, Countries, Culture

It’s another American conspiracy

We’re hard-wired to try to explain what we can’t accept by shouting CONSPIRACY!

And that is why Covid had to have been engineered by a Chinese lab.

And why the US Election was stolen by underground alien child snatchers.

They and the rest of the SH1T we’re seeing now will draw the Conspiracy Tourist for years to come.

Of course our curiosity for conspiracies is constantly fed by books and movies, the most recent of which is a new one on me…

Grab a Booth

Public enemy No.1

John Wilkes Booth, Washington and Virginia: And it is timely to talk of Booth.

And we all saw the Confederate flag-wielding protestor breaking into the US Capitol Rotunda last week.

Channel surfing, I fell upon a PBS programme.

Somebody was positing whether it was indeed Booth who was shot dead in his hideout in Virginia.

It was though the actor who assassinated Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC

Let your imagination run wild aa you walk through history itself.

The classy knoll

The Book Depository in Dallas where you found more than books

The Dallas Book Depository: And the segue here is the highest pub in Ireland, Johnnie Fox’s in the Dublin Mountains.

Where amongst all the Irish memorabilia there is a poster comparing the circumstances of Lincoln’s death and Son of Ireland John F Kennedy.

Both 43, both succeeded by a Johnson, Booth killing Lincoln in a theater, Oswald arrested in a cinema.

If it was in fact Oswald… all of which you can learn and more at the Sixth Floor Museum at the Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

The Lorraine Motel

King and Memphis: And the most recognisable bedroom balcony in history which with its bedroom is now the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Where you can witness where Dr Martin Luther King was shot down.

And you’ll learn, as I did the strange circumstances behind ‘assassin’ James Earl Ray’s flight.

And also how fingers are pointed at the FBI and the Mafia.

Ray was arrested weeks later in Heathrow Airport in London after suspicions were aroused because he was in possession of two passports.

All of which makes me edgy every time I visit the Deep South

And go through customs as I carry around my old passport with my ten-year American visa.

Goodbye Norma Jean

Lying with Marilyn

Marilyn and LA: And Marilyn Monroe fans will all pay a pilgrimage to her last resting place.

The Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary is a retreat of solace in La La Land.

Where Marilyn rests in peace for eternity.

Apart that is from the unwanted attention of her nemesis Hugh Heffner who bought his drawer next to her.

In life Marilyn too was hounded to her death. By suicide if you believe the official line.

Better celebrate her life instead around LA and in Hollywood and Venice Beach… forever the California Girl.

A concrete story

What’s behind the door? The Mob Museum in Las Vegas

The Mob in Vegas: And Las Vegas is built on conspiracy with every gambler who has ever lost his shirt able to blame the house.

Of course Las Vegas was built on Mob money and on top of crooks who have crossed then.

You can learn all about all the shady goings-on at the Mob Museum

It’s an offer you can’t refuse.

America, Countries, Europe

New Year fireworks… let’s have fun in ‘21.

Baby you’re a firework. Come on let your colours burst – Katy Perry

And boy did those colours burst, signalling that the world wants to have fun in ’21.

The Middle East led the way with the celebrations with some real actual human beings gathering… at social distance.

And rock gods Kiss even performing in Dubai.

Now New Year’s Eve is always going to be a challenge in crowd containment and resources.

But it is a depressing admission that we in the West can’t trust ourselves, and others, to social distance, or meet in pods.

Now, I love an oul’ firework any time of the year, so as Katy says ‘you just gotta ignite the light and let it shine. Just own the night.’

Dresden takes back the sky

Drum roll… in Dresden

Dresden: And Dresdeners have more reason than most to be wary of their sky lit up above them.

The older generation still talk about the red sky, the Allied bombers’ firestorm which razed their beautiful city to the ground at the end of the Second World War.

The resilient Saxons went on to rebuild their city, the Florence of the Elbe, brick by brick to the grandeur it is today.

The light show on the Elbe was the backdrop for the closing night of the German Travel Mart.

And a magical reminder of how light kills darkness.

Take me to the DC ball park

Me, George and my Travel pal Issy

Washington: They love a firework in DC… and that’s just a Donald Trump barbecue.

They put on firework displays for all their VIPs which meant the delegates at the American Travel fair, IPW.

At the Washington Nationals’ ball park.

Home run!

Disney get any better than this

Acting all Goofy

Orlando: And whatever you’re doing around 9pm of a night in Orlando then stop it and look up at the skies.

For that’s when the lights go on above The Magic Kingdom.

All of which you can see from your Four Seasons balcony. Magical!

Or Mickey in Da House

Anaheim: And in Disneyland too in California where Mickey, Donald and the gang like nothing better than a light show.

Mickey runs his own show which is in effect one of just a number of extravaganzas around the resort.

With Star Wars and Harry Potter getting in on the act.

America, Countries, Culture, Deals

Mucky Mouse jokes and a Disney New Year

And what’s the difference between Walt Disney and Bing Crosby?

Bing Sings but Walt Disney.

My Dancing Dad jokes didn’t land with my party, probably my Scottish accent, nor my cruder set of Disney gags.

Minnie and Me

But then I did make Mickey, Donald and the gang smile on that Visit Orlando trip to Disney World and also out in Disneyland in Anaheim in California.

I know what you’ll say, it’s painted on, but Mickey and his pals have been working hard throughout Covid to ensure Disney remains The Happiest Place on Earth.

I’ll tell you what else will make you smile. This Walt Disney World deal.

Gooding about

Four nights free and 14 for seven tickets for Spring and Summer.

Stay at Disney’s Coronado’s Springs on selected dates for four nights free worth £872 on your two-week holiday.

Then there’s the 14-day Ticket for the price of a seven-day for most arrival dates in 2021 including Memory Maker worth $199.

And you can also boost your budget with a free Disney Gift Card per booking, loaded with $200 spending money.

The Don and Me

And here’s the indicative price offer…

That’s £974pp, and savings (£872) for a two-week stay arriving between July 14 and September 12.

That’s for two adults and two children (aged 3-9) sharing a Standard View Room at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

And Disney’s 14-Day Ultimate Ticket for the price of a seven-day ticket.

Now something else to make you smile… the roll-out of the vaccine.


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.