Countries, Europe, UK

Travel pursuits – UK and Scottish roadmap

How nearer are we to getting back on the road following the pronouncements from the British and Scottish governments.?

The answer is no nearer.

Let’s take what Airlines UK are saying.

They are calculating that with no significant 2021 summer Travel there will be a £55.7bn loss in trade and £3bn in tourism GDP.

While no link to the US until September will leave the UK £23m short a day.

All of which will put 574,000 jobs at risk.

The Alpha to Omega of Travel

So our message to the politicians is stop dithering, get the finger out, and put the technology in place to help us to travel.

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

Because we’re big on Covid passports here.

We will, of course, continue to flag up what other countries are doing… Greece and their policies and the pacesetters Israel.

We’ll continue to take soundings from our friends at the Scottish Passenger Agents Association and are happy to take up their cause.

Photo by Haley Black on Pexels.com

So it’s over to Joanne Dooey, SPAA President.

She said: ‘The concept of vaccine certificates as proof that you are protected against specific diseases is by no means new.

‘Some wishing to travel to a host of countries including parts of Africa and Central and South America and the Far East already have to do that.

‘And produce an International Certificate of Vaccination to gain entry.

‘As travel agents we’ve never experienced this system being described as divisive, authoritarian or a human rights issue.’

Test, test, test

And yes, like Joanne, we are all about the testing and I was happy to do just that to report on Bergamo last Autumn.

‘Testing will have a role to play in the restart of international travel for at least a 24-month period.

‘The current cost of PCR tests is too high to be affordable for the average family.

‘There is a need for quick, reliable and affordable testing at airports.

‘And we would welcome further research into the different forms of testing than PCR including antigen tests and lateral flow tests.”

Hear, hear.

The oldest and the best

And we here at jimmurty@traveltraveltravel.com will ALWAYS support our dream-makers, our Travel providers.

Wise words: Joanne Dooey

And a shout-out to the SPAA which was founded in 1921 is celebrating its centenary as the world’s oldest organisation representing travel agents.

It currently has 120 member companies.

All their associated agencies across Scotland including many home workers, and 92 associate members across the travel and transport industry.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

Go on, go on, go on to Istanbul

You’d expect Father Ted’s housekeeper, Mrs Doyle, to either snub the Turkish tea.

Or lay into it on Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul.

Mrs Doyle, aka Pauline McLynn, is yet to reveal her true self on the BBC2 show, next on on Friday, March 26 and available on Catch Up.

She, in fact, comes across as a bit ditzy and not at all religious.

Here come the girls: Edwina Currie, Fatima Whitbread and Pauline McLynn

I can vouch for that.

With Pauline effing and blinding like a true modern-day daughter of Ireland when I met her.

She was the speaker at an Australian Irish Chamber of Commerce lunch in Dublin.

My cup of tea

I was as a guest of the-then newly opened Flight Centre store in Dawson Street.

Pauline is joined on the Sultans Trail by six other celebrities, only four others who I recognise.

That’ll be javelin queen Fatima Whitbread, sports presenter Adrian Chiles, ex-politician Edwina Currie and comedian (and I use that term loosely) Dom Joly.

Here come the boys: Dom Joly, Mim Shaikh, Amar Latif and Adrian Chiles

The Sultans Trail is new to me.

But not the pilgrims who have been walking sections of the 2,200km stretch from Vienna to Istanbul.

Our super seven set out from Belgrade, and I am surprised that they didn’t check out its hidden palace.

What’s in a name?

And they make their way through Serbia and a little bit of Greece.

On their 1,000km two-week trip to the great city on the Bosphorus.

Our Lady in Medjugorje

In the first episode we see them walk through forests, pick lemons, climb castles (and one pilgrim, Amar Latif is blind).

And partake in a Serbian celebration to Our Lady. She’s big in the Balkans.

Before in a few episodes’ time we reach Istanbul and the Suleymaniye Mosque.

Cruise the Bosphorus

Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world.

And it has at various times been known also as Byzantium and Constantinople.

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It’s still the centre of the Greek Orthodox Church and is still known as Constantinople across the border in Hellas.

A bit like Derry and Londonderry… know your audience.

I’d recommend that when our pilgrims do get to Istanbul they have a blow-out then on a boat trip on the Bosphorus.

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Now you all know I love a good oul’ pilgrimage and unbeknownst to me there have been two previous series.

Where’s my invite?

Eight celebs have already been out to Santiago de Compostella and Rome following, I guess, in my footsteps.

With Onur in Istanbul

I was, of course, with my friends at CaminoWays and FrancigenaWays.

And I know the question you’re asking… why wasn’t I one of the celebs chosen to go to Istanbul to complete the set?

Yes, you’d be right… the BBC Director General has already had his knuckles rapped for that oversight.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Deals, Ireland, Sport, UK

Holidos and Don’ts – the alpha and the omega

So, the alpha and the omega of Holidos and Don’ts as there’s so much disinformation out there.

Greece lightening

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

No, you didn’t misread that…

I’m here to lighten the load for our Greek friends who have been painted as super spreaders.

We’ve got Public Health England to blame for the hue and cry.

They reported that the largest number of infections between June and September came from returning holidaymakers from Hellas.

They made up 21% of new cases, compared with 16% from Croatia and 14% from Spain.

The report which still needs to be peer reviewed, of course, doesn’t factor in that that was a pre-vaccine world so let’s not panic.

And book our Greek holidays with confidence.

Our old friends at Travel Department are offering a range of Greek breaks with Athens & The Island Short Break immediately catching the eye.

Amble along the Neighbourhood of Gods in the Plaka district and head up to the Acropolis.

Tip here: take an impossibility cheap taxi with your driver (who will look like Adonis) suggesting you pay what you like.

Travel Department will throw in a full-day cruise of the Saronic Gulf: Hydra, Poros and Aegina.

So that’s four days B&B from €749pp with departures in June and October.

And for a teaser on all things Greek… here’s my odyssey.

Digital Green Passports

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

And it makes sense that the Irish Travel Agents Association should welcome the European Commission’s proposal for a Digital Green Passport.

The idea is that it will be proof that you’ve been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid.

Of course there’s no pain, no gain.

And I’d take the Scary One drilling that stick up my nose and down my throat.

Like I did to travel to Bergamo…

And thoughts to the Bergamaschi and all our Italian amichi as they tackle lockdown again… Molamia.

Olé for Spain

Hugs for Spain and Catalonia. https://www.google.com/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/24/messi-around-on-the-water/amp/

And Olé for Spanish Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto who is championing our return to Espana.

She told the TV station, Antenna 3: ‘We could be in a position to start implementing the digital passport when FITUR (Spain’s Travel Fair) in Madrid starts on May 19.’

The government over here in the UK has held out May 17 as the date when travel can resume from England.

Although that relies on the findings of the Global Travel Task Force report on April 12.

The Spanish jewel of the Med, The Balearic Islands have already stepped up.

And they have said they will be happy to trial it.

And as a signpost that the British are coming with Jet2 informing the Majorca press to expect a ‘massive’ arrival in June.

Watch this space for updates on Travel returning and…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Countries, Culture, Europe

Greek vaccine passports

The lyrically named Haris Theoharis brings good news to us lockdown travellers… the carrot of summer holidays to Greece.

The Greek Tourism minister spoke to our public rather than at them like our politicians do when he spoke on British radio this week.

And Haris echoed what I’ve been saying for weeks…

“We don’t want to limit travel to those who have been vaccinated of course, but since we are mandating that before travelling someone has to have a negative test result, this is a waste of resources if people are vaccinated, to be tested every time they travel, the need for this testing could be limited by the vaccination certificate,” he said.

All of which makes perfect sense.

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

All arrivals into Greece have to present a negative Covid test taken within a 72-hour window, while arrivals from the UK have to undergo a rapid test on arrival as well.

Having bought and then undergone a home test before travelling to the European Covid gateway of Bergamo in the Autumn I can verify that this is best practice.

And guess what, I wore my masks, cleaned my hands, kept my social distance just like all the other Bergamaschi and returned with barely a germ.

Greek leaders

Of course, I’m not holding my breath that we will be allowed what is our right, not a privilege, to be able to travel.

The cats don’t know about Covid

But when we do, and if initially it is only Greece, then I’m mighty glad it is as I could travel this ancient country all my days. Just like Odysseus.

The year 2021 is a very special one too for the Greeks as it is the bicentennial of the 1821 Revolution which saw them extricate themselves from the Ottoman Empire.

Out of their tree but I love them

It is just the Greeks’ bad luck, and they have had plenty of that in recent years, that the bicentennial should fall during a pandemic.

But these stoical (it is a Greek root and concept) people of ancient stock have been ploughing on regardless and will mark March 25 with pride and as much ceremony as they can.

Pick your venue

When we do get up and travelling again you’ll find me somewhere on Greece.

Be it Athens, one of its islands, Kythera, the second city Thessaloniki, or any of the other islands (Corfu was our honeymoon island).

I’ll keep the Greek flag flyng high

And when I do, of course, I will be contacting one my go-to providers, my old faithfuls TUI who are promoting holidays there from £188pp.

You  know the story by now of me starting off my scribblinh career with the old Thomson Regional Newspapers which was an arm of their travel business.

No training or skill goes to waste. But I still have to master my Zorba dancing and I know where to go to to practise.

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

Kos I love you

With apologies to Seventies Glam Rock gods Slade but I’ve pinched one of your biggest hits to promote the Greek island of Kos. Why? Kos I love you!

OKU by you!

And us, because OKU Hotels have put their own individual footprint on Kos which soft-launched last year.

While it is, of course the sister of OKU Ibiza, opening on April 30 and which we have featured before on this site.

So let’s give some philia for our Greek friends.

And I ‘m being careful here to make sure I get the right expression as the Greeks have a range of words for love.

All Greek to me

I’d er, love, to say that I remember them all from my school Classical Greek but, in truth, I only recall the word eros… funny that.

Pictures of Kos

I guess I’ll always be that sniggering schoolboy.

But I’ll always love Greece and this life is an odyssey for me after all. To get around as many Greek islands as I can.

Kythera you weren’t the last.

The other Greek words for love are ‘philia’ meaning friendship and which Aristotle popularised, and the Americans were big into, particularly those in Philadelphia (brotherly love).

Before they started falling out.

What’s in a word?

‘Agape’ is more a word denoting charity and God’s love for us and ours for him, while ‘storge’ is the love of parents for their children.

‘Philautia’ (behave!) is self-love while ‘xenia’ is hospitality though unfortunately it has been attached to an opposite Greek word ‘phobia’ or fear to denote a fear of foreigners.

And that has no place on this site, or among Bandininis and Bandanettes.

You’ll have a smashing time in Kos

It’s the meetings with other peoples and learning about their cultures which we’re all missing so much just now.

So let’s hear if for the Japanese who are bringing their own Zen to us in Europe (and Buddha knows we need just now) with their OKU hotels.

The OKU Kos opens on April 5 with 100 spacious rooms including suites with private and semi-private pools and a handful of private two-bedroom villas.

Greek island: Kythera

There’s a spa, hammer, sauna and fitness studio with daily complimentary yoga classes at the beach pavilion or yoga terrace.

Adults only

An adult-only resort with a main pool and direct access to a private beach I’d say this is ‘storge’ because the kids will love having their parents away.

With the faint hope of ‘eros’ for the adults.

And having honeymooned in another Greek island, Corfu, then I can vouch for these Greek islands. Happy times before the ‘paidia’ or children came along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Sing for the Canaries

And at last they listened. To me, my English Canarian pal Mathew Hirtes and to the Tinerfinos and their cousins across the islands.

The Canaries are back on the UK exempt list, and I’m breaking out the Malmsey, the Canarian wine, much beloved by Shakespeare.

Part of the scenery: Jimmy, the Tinerfino

The Canaries, as I reported this week, have been returning rates of Covid infections way down on the UK.

And as Mathew has been telling us for months we’re safer over there than we would be here.

It’s also worth restating here how liberating this is for the Holiday Trinity that always infuses our sector… the holiday providers, the hosts and the holidaymaker.

And so without further ado…

Deal me in

My walking party

Jet2.com and Jet2Holidays, the UK’s largest operator to the Canaries, are recommencing flights.

To Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, from Friday from Glasgow and Edinburgh, Belfast and six other UK airports.

TUI holidaymakers haven’t seen the Canaries for 89 days but are already carrying their clients to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

There must be a plane waiting for me. And happen that my Tinerfino walking guide Eva is waiting for me to take me to Afur.

With Canaria Ways, of course.

A quick walk around the Maldives

And again…. sarong, but oh, so right

It’s more ambling than walking on Kuramathi.

The holiday notes advise you wear flip-flops and you can walk around the Maldives island in just half an hour.

While if you run out of puff in the all-year round 30C heat you can pull up a lounger or have a dip in your own villa infinity pool.

All with a regulatory Strawberry Daiquiri, of course.

And again I know a man who is in Kuramathi right now… and another man in Ireland from Turkish Airlines who will get you there and look after your every need.

While in the UK you want Kuoni.

A trip around the Greek islands

My waterfall: Kythera

And it’s a bit like the hokey-hokey with Greece.

Mykonos is in, but Crete, Lesbos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos is now out.

Which means you don’t have to self-isolate on your return from my own two faves, Corfu and Attica island Kythera.

And with Greece obviously, you never know where your odyssey will take you…

Wonderful Copenhagen

Bet you didn’t expect that: Copenhagen

And finally Denmark, the Little Mermaid et all.

I took my own Little Mermaid there on my cruise around the Norwegian fjords with MSC Cruises, and check out how their recovery is going.

As well as seeing the Little Mermaid, you need to get your photie taken with Hans Christian Andersen.

Not many people there: Leichtenstein

But sorry Leichtensteiners

No, me neither. I don’t know why tiny Leichtenstein has been removed from the exempt list.

Or if indeed it’s right to use the plural.

Well, this is what Leichtenstein has to offer. I’ll just have to get out there to find out for myself… when I’m allowed.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, UK

Flyday Friday: Tobago no-go and what a Swiss swizz!

Any Port in a storm… and the UK’s newscasters are all aflutter now Portugal has earned a place on the exempt list.

Although my old pals in Tobago are now off limits as are the Croatians (flagged here) while the Greeks thankfully have had a stay of execution.

Quite what the Swiss have done to annoy the Scots who have unilaterally shut the country down is anybody’s guess…

As welcome as getting Portugal back (and not a moment too soon) it begs the question why not the others too?

Testing times

The answer is here

And this is where airport testing would open up our borders again.

Our Travel Agents association here in Scotland, the SPAA (Scottish Passenger Agents Association) which is the oldest in the world, are pushing for its introduction.

But they, and airports, seem to be pushing against a closed door

Our airlines thankfully are continuing to keep routes open and are leaving the decision up to us adults.

Not so splendid isolation

And you’ll have a whole coastline to yourself

Whether we want to self-isolate when we get back.

Although for many who can’t remote work then that will mean a loss of earnings.

Spare a thought too for holidaymakers stuck out in one of the newly banned countries.

Who are having to pay inflated air prices to get home in time before the quarantine kicks in.

One traveller told of his experience in trying to get back to the UK from Croatia.

They won’t be stopped

Ryanair cut to the chase

Which would have involved him making his way across to Italy first and shelling out £450.

In the middle of all this madness Ryanair are still offering cut-price single deals.

Including Pula in Croatia and at a bunch of destinations across Spain from €9.99.

Aer Lingus go green (naturally)

And my friends, the Aer Lingus crew

Ireland’s national airline Aer Lingus carrier knows what sacrifices the public are making.

Which is why they’re making green list countries Greece and Italy even more attractive… if that’s possible.

And so they offer Athens, Rome, Venice and a host of other Italian delights and Greek gifts from €39.99 from Dublin.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

The trials of Odysseus and today’s Greece

These Greeks are a resilient bunch, they can pull themselves away from the Sirens, overcome the Cyclops and live with modern-day economic collapse.

And run faster, fight stronger and jump higher.

And they can see off COVID-19. With a little help from the Gods on Mount Olympus.

Because they’re getting precious little help from their own politicians – or ours.

A prayer for Greece

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Greece’s COVID-19 levels were low (and still are with 147 new cases and two new deaths).

And yet the UK Government are threatening them with being thrown off the exempt list.

Now every death is a loss but I’ll say this in the hope, and expectation, that it won’t happen to me.

I don’t want people to stop living if I’m either of those casualties.

Because our politicians are blinding us with statistics by frightening us with daily rises and not putting them in context.

The Alpha and the Omega

People come first

In all they have had 7,222 cases, with 3,804 recoveries (a stat which our politicians never tell us) with 230 deaths.

The UK, by comparison have had three deaths overnight and Scotland none for 30 days.

I never went for stats and graphs at school and the only tables I looked at were football league tables.

But politicians love a stat because stats don’t talk back the way people do.

The Greeks will though and I admit that I’d love to see more British people vent their fury and argue the consensus.

A myth that’s a hit

Raising the bar on Greece

Like Mykanos bar owner Stavros Grimplas who gave out about the lightning lockdown of bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants.

‘We told them to come to Greece and Greece has shut down,’ Stavros argued.

These lightning lockdowns also risk congestion at airports and ports.

And where you get congestion you get a strain on social distancing which is our safeguard from the virus.

I accept that I have a hippos, or horse, in this race being a Hellenophile (Greek fan).

And having spent many of my happiest times abroad in Greece,

Island delights: Kythera

My Greek adventures

In Corfu where we honeymooned and Athens and its Attica island Kythera.

It is time for the people to remember that our politicians are merely the guardians of our house.

And we should be vigilant when New Zealand, the poster people of COVID, hunt at delaying their election by a month.

And Donald Trump stands accused of trying to manipulate the US election rules.

From a distance: As Athene would have seen it

An old relic and the Parthenon

It’s not just Belarus and Eastern Europe where elections are flawed.

It is time for us to take the power back.

I an reminded of a detour on the way to the Parthenon.

And my taxi driver telling me it was because the Athenians were protesting… ‘it’s what we do’.

In the cradle of democracy they will!