America, Countries

Why Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids

It would be an easy mistake to make after months holed up on a ship, which is why Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids.

Twas on this day in 1493 that Chris saw the three ‘mermaids’… really manatees and described them as ‘not half as beautiful as they are painted.’

Now for those who make their care and rehabilitation their life’s work the Italian explorer was talking out of his Columbass.

Man and manatee

Team Manatee: JP and team at SeaWorld

One such is Jon (JP) Peterson who is the Dr Doolittle of SeaWorld Orlando.

Of course JP does much as our group discovered on our trip out to Orlando.

And was there ever in truth such love between a man and his manatee?

Smile: The manatee

JP talked us through his affection for the sea cows and his passion for nursing them back to health and a return to the sea.

As always it’s man and his ways which is the biggest threat to the manatee.

A little more conservation

Little Mermaids: No, not manatees

And SeaWorld can claim success in the field having rescued 35,000 animals.

While they were also preaching plastic long before many others and banned single use plastic nearly ten years ago.

Now it takes you rather less time to reach the New World these days.

And, of course, all major airlines serve Orlando.

The main attraction

Ppppick up a penguin: In SeaWorld

And our old friends Attraction Tickets, who took out any stress and found us ways to save, in SoCal (Southern California) and Orlando.

Watch Attraction Tickets’ Nikki with Mr Manatee himself here.

And check out Attraction Tickets’ latest multi-park offers in the Sunshine State.

With their 3 for 2 ticket encompassing SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens offer having another seven days’ window.

And coming in at £139 for adult and £139 for child.

Why Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids may indeed be because of tiredness, or rum.

But half an hour with JP in SeaWorld and you’ll believe manatees are the most beautiful creatures in the world.

 

 

America, Countries, UK

Potter gold for 2022

There’s a Potter gold for 2022 with a New Year’s Day reunion on TV to mark 20 years of the Boy Wizard films, and a road trip in my inbox.

And our friends at Family Money have outlined a route and what I’ll call a Muggles Budget.

And now with a flick of a Harry Potter wand I’ll now share.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the two cities that inspired JK Rowling the most are the most represented.

London and Edinburgh, of course, feature most heavily in the author’s life.

With the Scottish capital where JK has set up her demesne.

The two major capitals in the UK are also, because of their history and their architecture, among the most used sets.

The journey starts, obvs at King’s Cross Station at Platform 9 and three-quarters.

Your Potter planner

The magic train: And Harry’s off

And this is how Family Money lay out your Potter planner for you, the cost, and how much time you will need. 

 

King’s Cross Station

20 minutes to the next destination

3.6 miles to the next destination

Free

30 minutes

Leadenhall Market

10 minutes to the next destination

1.7 miles to the next destination

Free

5 minutes

Millennium Bridge

10 minutes to the next destination

1.8 miles to the next destination

Free

5 minutes

Tower Bridge

30 minutes to the next destination

2.8 miles to the next destination

Free

5 minutes

Platform for success

Party spirit: And even Voldemort gets into the festive fun

Your journey will take you more than 70 hours to enjoy if you are driving (not including sleep or food time) and could cost you up to £2714 if you are taking part in the full trip.

Explore the different bridges that were used as filming locations in The Big Smoke and enjoy walking the corridors at Gloucester Cathedral.

And relax with a drink in one of the many Harry Potter themed bars or stay in the J.K.Rowling suite for just £2370 a night!

As well as London and Edinburgh, you will also be traveling to Watford where you can look at the Great Hall and go behind the scenes of the filming.

Other essentially English sets include Oxford, Chippenham, Gloucester, Northwich, and Alnwick. 

Buckle up

Magic Murty: Showing off his wizarding skills in Watford

And to reiterate your journey (and I always need telling once, twice, thrice).

You’ll start in King’s Cross Station, venture to Leadenhall Market, Millennium Bridge, Tower Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, The Harry Potter Photo Exhibition, The Potion Room Tea at Cutter & Squidge, House of Mina Lima and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

That Warner Brother Studio Tour in Watford, north of London, is a must for families.

So next one will be Warner Brother Studio Tour before going all academic in Oxford at The Dining Hall at Oxford’s Christ Church College, Duke Humfrey’s Library at Bodleian Library, New Colleges Cloisters & Courtyard and The Divinity School at Bodleian Library.

Now I confess the next bit of geography and Potterology gets sketchy for me but you’ll know where to go.

So it’s Bodley Tower Staircase and Cloisters, Lacock Abbey, Harry Potter’s Parents’ House and Horace Slughorn’s Hideaway.

I know that Gloucester Cathedral is in the West, then there’s Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience before you hit the north and Alnwick Castle.

Welcome to Edinburgh

Gothic: Edinburgh

And seeing that I’m in the second chapter of my Scottish capital life let me take you around.

The Balmoreal Hotel  where the clock is always set three minutes late to allow rail passengers at Waverley some extra time to catch their train.

But that trip up to the Highlands can wait.

First we have to take in The Elephant House where JK wrote the early Potter.

Greyfriars Kirkyard where she took the names for characters such as McGonnigal.

The Victoria Street shops, J.K. Rowling Handprints, the Department of Magic Escape Rooms, the dramatic George Heriot School, The Dog House and The Cauldron (Harry Potter Cocktails).

Bridge of highs

And you can play quidditch too: In Orlando

Now some of these I confess have stumped me but I’m seduced by those cocktails, particularly as I wouldn’t be a fan of Butterbeer.

We’ll finish it off, of course, by driving past the bridge we all know, Glenfinnan Viaduct.

And if you have young people in the back make sure that the broadband is good and they can crank up the films on their laptops.

Of course as Harry is the gift that keeps on giving your clan will want you to take them to Universal Orlando for the full Harry Potter World experience

And Orlando is on the radar again for me too in ’22.

Trouble is you won’t want to return to Muggleworld.

So make your New Year’s Resolution to unleash the magic… and find your Potter gold for 2022.

 

America, Countries, Deals, Flying

Happy Quacksgiving Day

And the most famous Donald on Earth is certainly celebrating today because duck isn’t on the menu.. Happy Quacksgiving Day everyone.

We all know about the Other Donald, the one with the tuft and the big mouth who doesn’t make any sense.

I’m more interested in My Donald though – Donald Duck – and of course we go way back to when we had a quacking time out in Disney World in Orlando.

Me and my Duck: With Donald

And if my luck holds out then I’ll be dancing with the duck next year at the American Travel Fair, IPW, next year.

But many of us can’t wait until then and have been working with Visit USA to get out there before then.

So, it’s just as well then that our old friends, Ireland’s national airline carrier are there to help us.

Aer we go to Orlando

Fly the Flag: Aer Lingus to the States

From this Saturday customers will be able to travel directly to Florida, following the lifting of travel restrictions to the US earlier this month.

From this weekend, Dublin to Orlando will operate three flights per week to connect families, friends, and business in the run up to the holiday period.

This weekly schedule of direct flights to Orlando will fly on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday with fares starting from €169 each way, including taxes and charges.

Those looking to visit the Sunshine State can avail of the great Black Flyday offers on flights to the US with Aer Lingus.

Flyday Friday

I’m in charge: Your next President

You’ll get €100 off return fares to North America and €200 Business Class fares to the US (travel 1st January to 31st May 2022). Book by November 30.

With 13 direct routes between North America and Ireland, including New York, Chicago, Boston, LosAngeles, San Francisco, Orlando, Washington, Seattle, and Philadelphia, offers, which run until November 30.

That includes €100 off return flights to North America and €200 off return business class tickets.

They’ll be valid for travel from 1st January to 31st May 2022. And remember there’s pre-clearance.

Very VerifLY

Fly with me: And Aer Lingus

Now if you want the best advice on how Aer Lingus flies then it helps to have access to the people who fly us.

And fortunately I am and they gave us the rundown on how they, and us, travel these days.

And their super-duper VeriFLY travel pass app.

Most importantly… Aer Lingus customers cannot check-in online ahead of flights to/from the USA unless they use VeriFLY.

The app allows users to upload and ensure that their travel documentation is checked and approved before travelling to the airport.

This will allow customers to get their online boarding pass and go straight to bag drop/boarding gate, and avoid queuing at check-in.

 

 

Adventure, America, Countries

Say hi to Donald from me

Are you in America now it’s open again to UK and Irish visitors… if so, say hi to Donald from me if you’re in Orlando.

Orlando will be the first stop for visitors from these, and Irish shores, as our favourite US holiday destination.

We hooked up with our friends from Roller Coaster City.

And they took just enough time off the rides to update us on the thrilliest, spilliest place on Earth.

Stars in my eyes

Now in a Galaxy’s Edge far, far, away in Disney’s twin centre in Anaheim… well, two years ago I got a glimpse into the future in the first party to try out Star Wars world. 

And the future is here now in the present and ready for y’all to see it both in California and here in Orlando.

Of course Mickey, Donald and their pals have been celebrating since last month their 50th birthday (well, not theirs, they’re much older but Disney World’s).

On a theme

Rat-a-tat-tat: Food for thought

And the four theme parks and beyond have been in fine song.

Among the most anticipated attractions, and the ones we’ve zeroed in on are:

Disney Enchantment, a new all-new nighttime extravaganza at Magic Kingdom Park, featuring captivating Disney music, enhanced lighting, stunning fireworks and immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.

And we’ve danced along to Mickey’s In Da House party on that very street and can advise that you lose all inhibitions (or was that just me, Mickey and Donald?)

Then there’s Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot, where guests shrink to the size of Chef Remy and race through Gusteau’s restaurant on a wild adventure.

You like your French gastronomeee, oui? 

Then La Crêperie de Paris is a new restaurant located in the France pavilion at Epcot which offers both table and quick-service options and features a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse.

The Showbiz Lion and I

Scots wahey: With Bev in Orlando

Now as a veteran of the Orlando theme parks I know how nothing sits still (well, it wouldn’t with you twirled this way and that).

Personally, I prefer a wet one, as my old sparring partner, Lady Lyons, Bev, of Showbiz Lion fame, would say.

And so we both loved Aquatica Orlando. AO can now boast Florida’s first-ever duelling waterslide, Riptide Race, which opened in the spring.

You’ll start atop a 68-foot tower and race side-by-side at top speeds, navigating tight loops and accelerations through indoor and outdoor sections.

While Florida also loves its natural as well as animated animals. And it has those in abundance, particularly flamingos.

In the Pink

Pickin’ ma pocket: Flamingo time

The Flamingo Mingle at Discovery Cove is a new, exclusive animal experience where guests can feed and learn about our pink friends in an outdoor setting. 

Another old pal I met back then in Anaheim is The Jurassic Park VelociCoaster which opened in June at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

The ride sends you catapulting up to 70mph and over 150ft in the air with the swiftest of prehistoric predators.

If you like your fun irreverent and green and ogre-like then you’ll love Shrek (guilty).

And his DreamWorks friends. So you’ll be excited about DreamWorks Destination, an all-new, interactive character experience, opened in the KidZone area of Universal Studios Florida.

Guests can interact, dance and be photographed with multiple beloved characters from DreamWorks Animation’s hit film franchises, including Trolls, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda – all in one location.

And seeing it’s all about you in ’22 then here’s what’s still to come. 

Wet, wet, wet

Twirl power: SeaWorld Orlando

Ice Breaker, SeaWorld Orlando’s first launch coaster, will open in February and riders will shiver through family-friendly adventures featuring four launches, both backwards and forwards.

It all culminates in a reverse launch with a 93ft tall spike with 100-degree angle, the steepest vertical drop in Florida.

Aquatica Orlando’s newest water slide, Reef Plunge, will launch in spring with guests sliding through translucent cutouts and rings.

You’ll get to twist and turn though 330ft of fiberglass; and zoom past a vibrant array of marine life.

Commerson’s dolphins, leopard sharks, sardines, and a variety of other cold-water fish will be part of the new dynamic habitat.   

Peppa party

Hamming it up: Peppa and pals

Again, they like it pink in Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida Resort will open the world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park  on February 24.

The standalone theme park will feature multiple rides, interactive attractions, fun live shows, themed playscapes and water play areas.

Phew, and you’ll be looking for somewhere to stay, but not just somewhere but the best Star Warsy place of them all.

Starry hotel

In control: Star Wars time in Anaheim

Walt Disney World has unveiled plans for its immersive Star Wars-themed hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, opening March 1.

Guests will “board” the starship Halcyon for an all-inclusive experience that puts them into the immersive world of Star Wars.

The hotel will debut as part of the new Disney 360 vacation concept that gives each guest a storyline upon arrival. 

So, plenty of stories of your own to tell, like mines the week I met His Royal Quackness.

So, say hi to Donald from me if you’re in Orlando.

And remember all our favourite airlines, Virgin, British Airways and TUI . And, of course. Ireland’s national airline carrier, Aer Lingus.

And Attraction Tickets who will look after your every care when you book with them. 

 

 

America, Culture, Music

Aisle be in Vegas again

By rights I should be in Neon City just now but wedding anniversaries and reminders of past indiscretions means I’ve been confined to barracks… never mind Aisle be in Vegas again.

Yesterday was the 27th anniversary of me making Herself the happiest woman alive meant a sacrifice (another!).

And so a fancy meal here in North Berwick, east of Edinburgh.

And a lunchtime sandwich, if truth be told, but a la carte, if you don’t mind.

Fly the flag

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

And so to today when a rump of our Travel core set course for the American Travel Fair, IPW.

And they go with my best wishes.

I am still in contact and will bring you all the news of the US bounce back ahead of my own return.

Oh, that indiscretion… well, my dalliance with Cami from Utah at Harrah’s on the Strip.

Whip up a storm

Cashing in: They know me at the tables

Where the Whip-Its (the clue is in the name) had been setting the scene with their cabaret act of Seventies and Eighties hits.

You see anything goes in Vegas.

And anyone can get married in the Fun Capital.

And so two of our party did just that at the Graceland Wedding Chapel.

They were in good company as Jon Bon Jovi and Billy Ray Cyrus both tied the knot here… though not to each other!

Love me tender, Minister

The King and I: In Vegas

Irish-American Brendan Paul does the marrying in full Elvis gear, pelvic thrusts and Presley puns.

Such as ‘It’s now or never’ and ‘I promise to be your Hunk of Burning Love’.

All of which the delegates were reminded of and advised to discover more at the Las Vegas Pavillion.

Life is a rollercoaster

Minnie and me: In Orlando

Intriguing… and more ammunition for the Scary One for me not getting over to Vegas.

But hey ho, Aisle be in Vegas again.

And I’ll be sure to be in Orlando for the fair next year.

And what could possibly go wrong in Rollercoaster World?

Where Mickey, Donald and Harry are kings.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – International Women

Women I will try to express my inner feelings and thankfulness for showing me the meaning of success. Woman, John Lennon

And on this International Women’s Day a celebration of international women in the places they celebrated.

La Vie en Paris

La Vie en Rose: Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf, Paris: A solemn fan stands in contemplation at the grave of La Chanteuse in Pere Lachaise.

And gives out to the family trying to negotiate their way through the myriad streets of the huge graveyard in Paris.

Before Le Custode rang the bell on us, in our ears.

Moi? Je ne regrette rien.

La Vie en L’Ecosse

Take it as red: Eddi Reader

Eddi Reader, Scotland: My own wee country has produced many memorable Scottish singers and singers of Scottish songs.

But I’m picking out Eddi Reader, once of Fairground Attraction, for making Robert Burns and Old Scotland hip again.

With songs such as Jamie Come Try Me and Comin’ Through The Rye.

Scottish Warriors

Eddi learned her craft in Paris where she channeled her own Edith and then brought that vibe over to old Scots.

Old Scots translates too to our brethren and sistren in Ireland.

Where she owned the audience in my adopted town in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and Dublin.

La Vie en New Jersey

Movie star: Debbie Harry in Union City www.imdb.con

Debbie Harry, New Jersey: Was there anyone racier for an adolescent schoolboy in the late 70s than Debbie Harry?

And when she sings in French on Sunday Girl… incrèdible!

On the New Jersey side

Debbie made even the starkest landscape sing and who can forget the video of her flirting with the camera in the Union City. boatyard?

La Vie en New Orleans et Orlando

Pretty Patti: Patti LaBelle

Voulez-vous coucher avec mou c’est soir?

Not an invitation, though it was to the thousand or so in Orlando’s Rising Star Karaoke Club in CityWalk, Universal Orlando.

En route to CityWalk: Universal Orlando

I channeled my own Lady Marmalade there and while you’d be forgiven for knowing it wasn’t French New Orleans.

The compere was gracious enough to tell the audience that that was the way to deliver a girls’ song.

ICI, AUX FEMMES

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying

Rainy Days and Songdays – Travel toons

Our planes may be grounded, our ships docked, out trains in their stations but we’ve still got a song in our hearts.

And we’re keeping ourselves going with a playlist of Travel Songs.

Here are ten until we can travel again.

Life’s a Beach

Sloop John B, Beach Boys, California

Only I didn’t, and don’t, wanna go home.

There are few songs, or singers more synonymous with their home than the Beach Boys.

You get it about California when you see the Boys in Anaheim, as you do, and Mike Love touches your hand.

The Beach Boys Get Around all right by boat, plane, car or surf board. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Hail Mary

Proud Mary, Tina Turner, Mississippi

Home of the Delta Blues: The Mississippi

 

Watching those river boats, rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ down the river to Mississippi made me Mr Happy.

And reminded me of Proud Mary… and Proud Beverley.

Pumping her arms and rolling her body on stage at Rising Star Karaoke club on CiyWalk at Universal Orlando… 

Proud Beverley that is, a proud Scot who was supposed to be the warm-up act for my Lady Marmalade but who absolutely slayed it on our Orlando recce.

The Mississippi is, of course, America’s South to North artery and a playground or play waterway if you like.

And it’s how you really want to do The Deep South although that’s to take nothing away from our unforgettable road trip through Tennessee and Mississippi.

Hit the Road Jock

Jack, Ray Charles, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

With my Jazz partner and global travel pal Agnetha in Prague

You might not immediately associate Ray Charles and Jazz with the Czech Republic.

But then you can’t have been or you would have seen the saxophonists on Charles Bridge in Prague.

It was probably Hit the Road Jock when I dance with Swedish Agnetha in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic’s Spa Triangle back when.

Jazz has truly travelled the world and is in itself a music of travel with many a song of a vagrant worker eking out a living on the road.

Sounds all too familiar.

On the sunny Caribbean Sea

Dance away: Wukkin’ up in Barbados

Woah, I’m going to Barbados, Typically Tropical, Barbados

Now I’ve never been on Coconut Airways and I wasn’t off to see ma girlfriend Mary Jane…  at least that’s what I told the Scary One and I’m sticking to that story.

No, it was Virgin Airways, and I was the guest of Visit Barbados and then the second time with Tropical Sky.

Woah, I’m going to Barbados may not be the pure Soca they so love in Barbados and me too but they will sing along too.

As the house singer at Club Barbados who had a bow tie and dress shirt designed on to his T-shirt delivered without any degree of corniness.

I can’t wait to be…

On the Road Again, Willie Nelson, Pilgrimages in Spain and Italy

The Sun shines on the righteous on the Camino

And my go-to song when I’m out on the road is Willie Nelson’s standard… it’s my mission statement when I hit a pilgrimage, and my friend Aileeen Eglington’s Destination Anywhere radio show on Dublin South FM.

You’ll get plenty of time on your own when you’re on your Camino on your way to Santiago  or your Via Francigena into Rome.

And yes, of course, I can’t wait to be…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

The travel pack – the birds of the world

Does anyone else here feel like Burt Lancaster in the Birdman of Alcatraz? Oh, to be that little birdie with his freedom.

So let’s take wing and celebrate our feathered friends around the world.

The Spoonbill

Scoop of the day. www.algarve-birdwatching.com

Rio Formosa, Quinta do Lago, Algarve: And anyone who didn’t think that God has a sense of humour hasn’t paid attention to how he made us all.

For every pink flamingo there’s a Spoonbill.

I found these fancy snouted fellas in the Via Formosa in Quinta do Lago in the Algarve…

Their bills, of course, are purpose-built to scoop up all that pond life to give them fuel for the skies.

Yes, Pink Flamingoes

In the pink: In Busch Gardens

Pink Flamingoes, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Florida: And for those Fiftysomethings among us the opening shots for the Florida soap Flamingo Road made us fall in love with these birds

Yes, and Morgan Fairchild, to be fair.

I got up close with a flamingo out in SeaWorld and again he is a reminder of God’s Grandeur.

Heron good things about you

You’ll have a long wingspan then

Herons, Kuramathi, The Maldives: And you know when a bird has her eye on you.

She even came into the pool with me every morning.

Kuramathi is a bird-watcher’s dream, big, small, skinny, plump, and every colour.

And as bird-watching is a stationary pastime isn’t it a relief that you don’t have to freeze your whatsits off either?

Caribbean wood doves and mockingbirds

The West Indies: Rihanna, my wood dove used to join me in my hot tub in Barbados of a morning… and leave a mess in the bedroom.

I would forgive Rihanna anything though.

The West Indians take their nature very seriously, just as seriously as their rum and their music.

And Ean The Birdman of Tobago will show you around his Adventure Eco Villas where the birdies will twirl and tweet around your head.

You can stay too and awake to birdsong.

And not forgetting the Duck

Ducks everywhere: Whether they’re the rubber ones in your bath at Hastings Hotels in Northern Ireland (or in mine).

Or with The Donald in Epcot in Florida or in Anaheim.

Following the Duckmaster and the quackers down to the fountain in the hotel lobby in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

MEET YOU WITH YOUR BINOS