America, Countries, Culture

I’m a Kissimmeeass

What breeds do you get when you cross a Kissimmee Zebra and Horse? A Kissimmee Zorse? A Zebra and Donkey? Me, I’m a Kissimmeeass!

Now if you want high-brow culture then you’ll sometimes get it on this site…

But if you want infantile hybrid humour then that’s guaranteed.

Zorses and Zonkeys were the talk of the day when our friends from Kissimmee in mid-Florida came a-calling again this week…. they’re old friends.

Is it a Zorse, is it a Zonkey?

As were sloths and alligators and any manner of creatures that laze in trees, slide through water and walk on two logs supping on Safari Slushys and Florida Freezes.

That’s us humaneee types of creatures.

And the Safari Slushy is a pineapple, mango, passion fruit, cream of coconut slushy and the Florida Freeze a shake which boasts layers of ice cream with safari slush. Yummmmmee!

Vacation capital of the world

Images of Orlando

Kissimmee, which is only 23 miles from Orlando is the type of place which just sounds fun.

It is known as the Vacation Capital of the World with 50,000 rentals.

And each one is tailored to your needs…

For me (the big kid in me) that’s Character Breakfasts with all our favourite cartoon friends, and great pirate theme bedrooms.

Light up, light up

And why are they great? Because they aaaaarr!

I really should be working there but failing that I’ll take the family (God knows we deserve a break).

Get us back out there

Action stations

The Kissimmee folk tell us too that while the local market has picked up in good style.

As Covid restrictions are eased they are all desperate to have us British and Irish back.

And not least because we are so houseproud of their properties.

Now Kissimmee naturally has a tie-up with Disney so you’ll get a chance to enjoy two Magical Places when you visit.

And maybe see a Kissimmeeass or two.

 

America, Asia, Countries, Culture

Holidos and don’ts – suitcases

And I am indebted to my friend and Travel mover and shaker, French-based Irishman, Michael Collins for sparking me to revisit an old series, Holidos and don’ts.

Michael flagged up that at his local supermarché the aisles selling suitcases and headrests are interdit, or blocked.

Mad hatters: And when I used to take a full suitcase to America

Which beggars the question: how essential are suitcases?

And who doesn’t have one anyway?

Nothing to see here

As all Travel professionals do I like to take advice from seasoned pros, like doyen and Americanophile JP Thomson, erstwhile of the Sunday World.

JP always packs a half-full suitcase to leave space for what you take home.

Half full

Irish Travel professionals, nay all Irish people, love few things better than hitting the shops after they get off the plane.

Possibly the afternoon after they hit the bars.

Anyone got scissors?

And so when our Irelando party hit Aaawlando, and they set aside a couple of hours at a shopping mall, it was like the Olympics 100m final.

Needless to say they all returned with half the mall in their bags, while I bought a tee-shirt.

New suitcase

The fact is though that shopping in America is great value.

Irish and Scots on tour in Orlando

So why not take the opportunity to update your wardrobe and send the outdated clothes you’re standing up in to the charity shop.

The same applies, of course, if you go on a sun holiday.

Pack light

So that the members of my party who took full suitcases to the Maldives found they only needed their swimwear and summer clothes.

Who needs a suitcase? The Maldives

Some of us, of course, found that all you need on dry land is a sarong and flip-flops.

While we’ll not talk about those women who took heels.

And make it snazzy

And in the last instance why not just go out with hand luggage, or better still a rucksack that doubles as a wheelie?

Here’s to hitting the airport again

And buy a suitcase when you’re out in a country where, Zut Alors!, they don’t stop you buying suitcases from their supermarchés.

And for more Holidos and don’ts advice here’s a reminder of how we roll from where we last rocked up… Bergamo.

America, Countries

Snowbirds down to Florida

If little birds fly south for winter then why, oh, why can’t I…

With apologies to Judy Garland who I’m sure joined the snowbirds down to Florida.

In any normal year getting away from the dark and the cold of a Northern European winter to Florida is a no-brainer.

Which is why our Floridian friends would always make a point of getting me and my Travel professional friends out there then.

HINT, HINT, HINT?

American Holidays know me only too well… and you too.

And they are luring us (it doesn’t take much) back out to the Sunshine State with this goodie to sample.

Now President Biden is making positive noises.

He is vowing to have all American adults vaccinated in the next few months.

And vaccine passports on the way, with me with my ten-year American visa in place, then I’m all good to go.

Awelando

Love a duck: At Epcot Centre, Florida

And both these offers have Orlando at their heart.

They have a ten-night getaway to Orlando and Daytona Beach.

We know about magical Orlando but what about Daytona...? Well, for starters, it has 23 miles of sandy coastline.

And that means watersports… so a deep breath, hold your nose and jump in.

There’s paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking and parasailing.

With the last of those the only one I’ve not failed at, and only because I’ve not tried it.

Florida winter sun

I’m safer on a watching brief, checking out the dolphins and manatee on a tour.

They also recommend renting a bike (no guarantee of me not messing that up) and experiencing the thrills of the Boardwalk & Pier.

And tour Daytona International Speedway… and remember this is a state that loves its thrills.

While if you just want to take it all in from up above then climb to new heights at Ponce Inlet Lighthouse.

Tuck in: Biscayne in Miami

Check out the package Orlando & Daytona Beach,which comes in at, from €999pp

Areeba to Mexico

And don’t shoot me but I’ll be hoping to spend this December in Florida like I have before… and looking out over to the Gulf of Mexico.

Miami is always a must-see and you can spend three nights in the Art Deco city while also taking in South Beach, one of America’s best loved beaches!

Colourful Miami

Spend time exploring the sultry neighbourhood of Little Havana, home to a large Cuban community, and it’s not the one I thought it was, Biscayne.

If you’re not partied out (and even if you are) then take in seen nights all-inclusive in Mexico.

So you’ll be back in the water for those wet sports.

But if you prefer a shot of culture (and Tequila) then explore the Mayan archaeological sites, including the ruins at Tulum.

Then there’s tbe pyramids at Uxmal and the temple of Chichen Itza, one fo the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The package comes in at €12399pp.

 

America, Countries, Culture, UK

Happy Deliverance Day when it comes

Happy June 21 when it comes – but what about us Travel people?

June 21 is the glorious date when out Covid restrictions will be lifted and we can all go back to the way we were.

So if it is to be a Deliverance Day we all celebrate in the future then a bit more about its significance already.

Harry’s Day

Harry Potter: No not that merry merry band of brothers that fought with King Harry on St Crispin’s Day nor the pussy-whipped current Prince Harry.

No this Harry is the magical boy wizard Harry Potter whose book the Order of the Phoenix was released today in 2009 and became the fastest selling in history.

And so the legend which is celebrated from Watford through Edinburgh to Orlando grew.

Make way for the Molly Maguires

The Molly Maguires

Molly Maguires: Anyone who has enjoyed an Irish trad band in an Irish bar will have ‘made way for the Molly Maguires’.

Probably without knowing who they were.

Irish coal-mining activists in Pennsylvania, ten of whom were hanged this day in 1877….

‘They’ve drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men, you’ll never see the likes of them again.’

Reagan shot

The 47th President of America: In Washington DC

Ronald Reagan shot: In a country where everything is marked with a plaque it is noteworthy that the spot where John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan is not.

I looked for it but didn’t find it when I stayed at the Washington Hilton

I did find Ford’s Theater where John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and a swathe of American history in DC.

A new King Billy

Just William

Prince William born: The one who will be king and probably why he’s sticking around.

That and the fact that his wife isn’t homesick for Hollywood.

Prince William was born this day in 1982. Who knows when he will sit on the throne but London and all its royal schmaltz will reopen. Hurrah!

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.

MEET YOU ON THE ROLLERCOASTER

America, Countries, Culture

A clear result in Florida – Hail to the Chief

It was the night of the Three Presidents.

When I left Ireland it was Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton his projected successor, only to learn on my arrival in Florida that Donald Trump would be the next President.

Washington DC may be where Americans inaugurate their Presidents but it is Florida where they get over the line.

Yes, he does love Mexicans… in Epcot Centre

And who can forget the shenanigans around the Florida vote in George W Bush’s Millennium election victory over Al Gore?

And they’re off and running

The Happiest Place on Earth was struggling to put on their famous smiles when they collected our party four years ago.

But just like tonight when we observe America’s decision on who to put in the White House I had prepared for both eventualities.

…. And in Florida

And I had decided that seeing that my hosts for the week were Disney World I’d frame my story on The Donald.

He’s got a big mouth, is a bit quackers, and all that.

It’s all showbiz

America’s President is an all-encompassing figure from the very moment you arrive in the States.

Leader of the country, king (or queen), Commander In Chief and showbiz icon.

Which is why we’ve had an actor, Ronald Reagan, lothario, Bill Clinton, and salesman and dealmaker Donald Trump.

I saw too the reverence in which they’re held first hand when I saw the outpouring of grief for George Herbert Walker Bush when I visited Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Kennedy’s Washington

I saw it again in Arlington Cemetery where there is a constant stream of mourners at the Kennedys’ grave.

While George Washington himself has his Memorial and Abraham Lincoln his big chair in the country’s capital.

Down the road in Philadelphia they still hold it dear that they were the burgeoning country’s early capital, and will always be the City of Brotherly Love.

Way to go Joe

And of course Pennsylvania is the hime state of Joe Biden.

New York defined Donald Trump growing up and building his name and reputation in his ow image.

And you’ll see his gleaming hotels all over America, with the memory of looking down onto his palace in Vegas on my way to the Grand Canyon seared in my mind.

The greatest prize though is Washington though and who gets the keys we may have to wait around to find out.

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe, Flying, Ireland

Zoom… everyone’s gone to the moon

Streets full of people, all alone, roads full of houses, never home, church full of singing, out of tune, everyone’s gone to the moon – Jonathan King

The news that we’ve spotted water on the moon has opened up opportunities for astronauts to go to live on the moon.

The idea would be that NASA could set up a colony on the Earth’s satellite.

Both for further lunar exploration but also as a refuelling spot for the ultimate goal, a mission to Mars.

All of which sounds appealing as Earth looks a pretty poor bet just now, what with Covid and climate change.

So how are our out-of-this-world tour providers doing with getting us all out there?

Well, they’re not our usual favourite Travel agents, rather billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos instead.

With NASA givven the go-ahead to, along with aerospace veteran Dynerics, to develop the technology to get us there.

Elon targeted next year for putting tourists on the moon while NASA believes the next decade is more likely.

Launchpad

It’s hardly one of your bucket deals, more like $70m for a three-day trip to the Moon.

Which hasn’t put Japanese moneybags Yusaku Maezawa who has booked his place.

For the rest of us that’s all a moonshot as one Space Cadet politician is fond of saying.

A trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida is more achievable.

And Cape Kennedy is open with airplane flights to Orlando with Covid regulations including face masks.

And there are other legends in headgear just down the road too at Disney World and Universal Orlando.

Back to Cape Kennedy here and I’m thinking space helmets would be even better than face masks.

And they’re offering launch viewings too!

Everything is sunny

Cape Kennedy has been on my bucket list for years and I can’t even blame Covid for not getting out there last year for the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing.

Or take up an invitation to mark it in the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in California.

Nixon having taken the call from Neil Armstrong from the Moon in 1969.

I’ve enjoyed the company of the Cape Kennedy crew, astronaut Jon McBride included, on missions they’ve undertaken to Ireland over the years.

While Alabama too played a huge role in the whole Apollo expedition.

Give it a hurl: Chris Hadfield with Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons and future Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. http://www.leovaradkar.ie

Ireland, of course, is a treat on the ground, but from Space too.

Jon was glad to be back in the land of his fathers.

While Chris Hadfield tweeted pictures of green, green Ireland from space, along with Gaelic messages.

And then hooked up with Tourism Ireland for a series of films to promote Donegal, Titanic Belfast and the Guinness Storehouse and Gaelic Sports.

MEET YOU IN SPACE

America, Countries, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – slam dunk, the NBA

I was immediately marked out as a spectator and not a player.

When my cousin Maura threw me into a game of pick-up basketball with her boyfriend John in Queens, New York.

Basketball had always been a novelty game for milk bottle white Scotsmen whose only connection with the game was The Harlem Globetrotters.

A free throw anyone?

Until I got to America.

And saw the importance of the game on that visit to see my cousins in New York and then four years later in Boston.

Where I would pass by the statue of Boston Celtics’ legendary coach Red Auerbach.

Outside Quincy Market at Faneul Hall where I was a bus boy at GuadalaHarry’s and ice cream salesman at a parlour.

Anyhoos I had myself my basketball team.

And despite warming to all the teams in North American cities I’ve passed through in the years since.

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, LA Lakers and Clippers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.

nba-orlando-magic-mickey-mouse-basketball.jpg

I was a Celtics fan. Which wasn’t a huge jump from my young days following a football team, Celtic in Glasgow.

This was my year for my long-awaited return to Boston 33 years but COVID has stalled that on the plate.

When I would also fulfil an ambition I didn’t even know I had.

The home of baseball: Fenway Park

To walk the Fenway Park Green Monster perimeter where I’d seen the Red Sox hit their home runs that 1987 season.

The NBA play-offs are playing out in a DisneyWorld bubble in Orlando.

And you should catch it on whichever channels you pick up.

MEET YOU ON THE COURT

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

Rainy Days and Songdays – Ten Direction

Can it really be ten years since five fresh-faced kids bounced onto the scene as One Direction?

And five years since five refreshed-face veterans croaked out One Direction to the crowds in Orlando.

And then there were four

At Pat O’Brien’s duellimg piano bar in Universal Resort’s CityWalk.

Where we spluttered out ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.’

I wanna sing a Classic

Lubricated, of course by Pat’s own signature giant Hurricane cocktail glass.

There were other classics we took on too: Sweet Caroline, oh, oh, oh… and, yes, we were so good, so good, so good.

What are you having? With Bev and Eoghan

And sing us a song, you’re the piano man… He needed no invitation, nor us.

And, of course, in Pat’s, on CityWalk, in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, across Universal’s attractions you forget about life for a while.

Open for business

Universal, and Orlando’s theme parks have been challenged by COVID, and they have had to be slow in resuming the total experience we all enjoy.

Well, that’s my five a day

So spraying out classics as two pianists who would grace American X Factor duel on their pianos is out for now.

But the parks are open.

Your own park

And CityWalk is partially open. So if you are in that part of the world then get down to CityWalk and the rides.

Even better in Orlando, if you can get them to close off the park through the early hours.

Eat my shorts, and drink a few too

As they did for my friend and Disney host Cory at DisneyWorld.

For the rest of us we can return to the rides and our favourite Disney characters on a reservation basis.

And they bring their own water

Where we can look forward to reduced queues.

The main attraction

And there will be fewer people there to see you squeal like a baby on the likes of the thrilling SheiKra at Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay.

For more squealing we sang on through the night at Rising Star Karaoke Bar which I have the pleasure to bring you here on Rainy Days and Songdays.

And when you do get back out there from the UK and Ireland then Attraction Tickets are the guys to go with.