America, Countries, UK

Potter gold for 25 years

Happy 25th anniversary JK Rowling, Harry and all your friends (and enemies). It truly has been a Potter gold for 25 years.

It seem incomprehensible now to think of a world where Harry Potter didn’t exist.

But prior to 1997 it had only inhabited JK Rowling’s imagination.

I’m off: Harry

Now, of course, we have the books, the films, the merchandise, and a recreation of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Resort Orlando, Florida.

Which gives us two unforgettable experiences Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

Step on it Hagrid

Fellow beardie: Harry Potter

And now since the last time I visited they also have Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

Now those who were lucky enough to have been in at the start in 2010 would have had the joy, pleasure and fantasy of seeing some real Potter royalty.

Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and Filius Flitwick (Warwick Davis) ambling along through the recently-constructed world.

Potterheads will rightly point out at this juncture that Warwick also played…

Michael D Higgins’ day off

The magic bus: Well fare’s fare

A Gringott’s Bank teller (it must have been Ireland President Michael D Higgins’ day off) and also played Griphook.

Nobody knows more about Potterworld than its creator, JK Rowling.

And she is rightly very very protective of her baby.

The story is told that she rubberstamped every last nut and bolt that went into the building of this magical world.

And that the designer at Orlando Airport was requested to explain to Customs…

Why he was carrying a particular brick and said sheepishly that it was to recreate Harry Potter’s world.

Potter in his homeland

Off his trolley: On the Warner tour

Of course we’re all not lucky enough to escape into Potterworld (I returned on a Visit Orlando invitation which took in Disney World and a return to Universal).

But there are a number of greet deals on the market.

And if you’re a British muggle.

And you can’t get out there (certainly not until next month when the Americans reopen the borders).

Then I’d recommend the Warner Bros. Studios Tour London in Watford.

Where you can learn some cutting room secrets of how it was all put together.

Always in Prophet

Just the job: The Daily Prophet

Yes, it’s been a Potter gold for 25 years.

But just a reminder here, JK, I’m still waiting for my reply to my application to be editor of the Daily Prophet!

 

America, Countries

American winners

And we’re all American winners with the US borders reopening in November for UK and EU visitors.

But indulge me a minute to give a shout-out to my old pal Fionn Davenport, Editor in Chief of the Ireland’s Travel Trade Network.

Scroll of honour: Fionn Davenport

Prize guy

Fionn has only gone and won the major international Travel award at IPW, the American Travel Fair.

The only downside is that I wasn’t there in Las Vegas to see him receive it and share the celebrations.

With the British and Irish contingent who did make it out to the US on the International Exemption Order.

An exemption I was granted but which non-Travel writers or special sectors aren’t given.

Go Joe

Honest Joe: Joe Biden

Only from November there will be no need after Joe Biden at last gave us all the news we’ve been waiting so long to hear.

The word on the street is that we could all be over there by Thanksgiving (November 25) which is around the time of someone’s birthday (hint)!.

Irelando: With Fionn Davenport (middle)

While we, the travellers, are licking our lips my thoughts never veer far from our dream-makers, our Travel providers.

So imagine the excitement at Universal (Orlando and Hollywood), Disney (World and Anaheim), American Holidays, Tour America, Attraction Tickets, TUI, Hays.

And here in Scotland Barrhead Travel.

Digging out my new ESTA I already have my five-year visa, but belts and braces, I’m imagining those pancakes at a US diner.

Next stop Orlando

The 2022 renewal of the American Travel Fair is slated for Orlando in May.

But I’m free between now and then (hint!)

A postscript here and a return to Fionn’s award, for his article on California from the Travel Fair in Anaheim which I also attended.

Fionn is a popular name in Ireland but unheard of on the other side of the Irish Sea.

Pronounced Fee-on, it means ‘fair-haired’.

None of which, of course, the editor who drew the pages for an article from Fionn.

And he immediately assumed that it was a mistake and changed his byline to Fiona.

Now we all make mistakes and I’ve made most of them and being that soldier myself I felt for the editor.

Only one Fionn Davenport

Duck Tales: Next year in Orlando

They must have trawled back through the article to see if ladyfying Fionn might have inadvertently changed his orientations.

Thankfully though nothing to alarm the lovely Laura here.

And Lauren too

Prize gal: Lauren Jarvis

And in further breaking news, big hurrah to too another fave of our Travel Pack, international woman of mystery, Lauren Jarvis.

All of which brings me back to American winners, Fionn Davenport, Lauren Jarvis, us Travel writers and editors and our Travel providers.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

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