Africa, America, Asia, Canada, Countries, Europe, Flying, UK

The Lego has landed in Scotland

Travel’s resumption is all about building blocks so we’ll reboot at the Museum of Flight with the toy Wonders of the World… the Lego has landed.

The Scottish attraction in East Fortune is 17 miles south of Edinburgh as the crow flies…

Or the click of your fingers if you’re on Concorde, the Museum of Flight’s most famous exhibit.

Flying high

This flight tonight: Concorde

We’ll give The Big Bird its own slot in a coming post as it should be but for today we’ll flag up Brick Wonders of the World.

The Lego masterpieces are the creation of Edinburgh-based artist Warren Elsmore.

The Wonders break down into Ancient, Modern, Historic and Natural.

The Wonders I’ve seen

Shape of things to come: The Pyramids

The Green-Fingered One is doing her best to recreate The Hanging Gardens of Babylon in our demesne in nearby North Berwick.

While she didn’t even entertain an invitation to Sharm-el-sheikh in Egypt. She wants pyramids.

The journey around the perimeter of the hangar is one through time and is a reminder of what we haven’t seen.

The Great Wall of China, the Easter Island excavation as much as those we have enjoyed… Old London Bridge and Petra.

Sweep of history

Tis Grand: The Grand Canyon

Few would disagree that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s natural wonders and it is my favourite of the exhibits.

The Grand Canyon, of course, is tough to capture in Lego but they do a great job with glistening blues and whites for the Niagara Falls and recreate the scope of an African savanna.

While the Modern sweeps up Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal, a number of technological, aeronautical and social advances.

Of course the signature piece among the exhibits is Concorde which sits in front of its big brother.

Deal me in

Everything in the Hanging Garden is rosy

Your Brick Wonders display is free with .

Half a million Lego pieces have been fitted together for the display and you really should get down to the National Museum of Flight.

The exhibition which runs until June 27 is free with entry to the museum which you can pre-book for £12.50 (top price).

Now I need to get back and keep an eye on The Green-Fingered One’s Hanging Garden while I try to dig out those ‘talls’ building blocks the Son and Heir loved so much.

The Lego has landed!

 

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

May the 4th be with you

And, no, I still haven’t watched the Wars of Star yet, but I believe that what they say today in Jediland is May the 4th Be With You?

Space sounds like the safer place to be just now.

But while we all wait word from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic we’ll have to find our Space here on Earth.

Luke, it’s Tunisia

What is this place Tunisia of which you talk? http://www.uniqhotels.com

Tunisia: If you want to replicate Space, or at least the Space of George Lucas’s imagination, then Tunisia is a good place to start.

Because it’s here he chose for Luke Skywalker’s house, now a hotel, Hotel Sidi Dris.

In the Berber town of Matmata, where you can stay for $12 per night.

You can also see the pod-racing arena and the houses of Mos Espa, Anakin Skywalker’s home town.

Skellig Wars

A crag far, far away. http://www.skelligmichael.com

Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry, Ireland: And there was great excitement around the southern coast when Mark Hammill and his pals came a-visiting.

And I’m reliably informed that the crag features in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

Of course the native leprechauns would not look out of place alongside any of Lucas’s inventions.

Far, far Norway

Space sure is cold. http://www.starwars.com

Finse, Norway: We don’t see space being the cold of Norway but Lucas chose the fjords for his battle setting for the Battle of Hoth.

And where Luke met the Force spectre of Obi Wan Kenobi in the Empire Strikes Back.

The Finse 1222 Hotel is where you want to stay where there is a guestbook and a picture gallery and also a prop of a rebel Trooper in the lobby.

We didn’t make it as far north as Finse but reckon the trolls we met in the fjords came from far, far, away.

Ewoks and EJocks

You stormer: Storm Troopers in Endor. http://www.starwars.com

Glenmore Forest, Endor: And me neither even though I hail from the land of Jocks.

This, of course, doubles as the lush home of the Ewoks and is the gravesite of Darth Vader and the Empire itself.

If you’re looking on a map, it’s in the north of Scotland, south of Inverness.

And those hairy-arsed Highlanders make Chewbacca look like a baldie.

Falcon in California

Jimmy in Star Wars theme park

Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, California: In a previous life I was bestowed on me one of the many nicknames I’ve picked up on my travels, Falcon.

It was my capacity to handle the drop ride of Falcon’s Fury in Busch Gardens in Tampa in Florida which earned me the moniker.

Forward fast to today and there’s a new Falcon on the scene, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Anaheim.

All of which I handled with ease… and without even a light sabre to defend myself. May the 4th be with you.

MEET YOU IN A GALAXY FAR FAR AWAY

 

 

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe

Spring forward, fall back – time zones around the world

I always keep my watch set at the time of the last country I’ve been to so today that’ll be the Czech Republic.

The idea is to keep something of that destination and wanderlust with me though it can cause problems in the morning.

Beer O’Clock in Zatec

My strange habit all chimes with the Czechs, of course, with their love of an astronomical clock.

Prague‘s biggest attraction, in the Old Town Square obvs but also the clock in Hoptown, Zatec, and its homage to beer.

Scot late the Great

You’re late… but that’s OK in Edinburgh

Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh: And, of course, today I’ve been all over the place, and logging on for work that was a full month ago.

Now the fastidious and ever-so-decent people of Edinburgh look after people like me.

By setting their clock three minutes fast to allow people rushing for their train at nearby Waverley Station enough time.

Set in the New Town, staring across Princes Street Gardens and up to Edinburgh Castle it also allows you more time to take it all in.

Philly’s hour of need

Billydelphia

Philadelphia City Hall, Philadelphia: And it will come as little surprise to you that I turned up for my Zoom meeting from Washington DC five hours early.

I make only a few apologies for resharing Philadelphia’s Curse of Billy Penn because clocks and times give me that opportunity today.

The 21-year curse on Philly‘s sports teams arose because of the construction of One Liberty Hall.

It exceeded the height of Billy’s statue atop City Hall… a real no, no.

It was all resolved when a statuette was affixed to the final beam topping off the Comcast Cener, now the city’s tallest building.

And the Phillies took baseball’s World Series

Tenerife timing

Give me a bell: Tenerife

Iglesia de la Concepcion, San Cristobal de La Laguna: You’ll be breathless after saying all this.

And breathless from the steps, particularly if you’ve been hiking through rain forests and hills on your CanariaWays trip.

But the views are spectacular. Just don’t ring it too early. Too late.

Ancient times

Time goes slowly: Im Petra

Petra, Jordan: And it may look like a temple to you and me but it’s actually a Treasury.

The same thing to the Nabateans.

It’s also though a timepiece with coded messages.

You won’t need Indiana Jones to decode them though.

Zuhair, G Adventures, expert man on the ground will give you the full lowdown… and Jordan Jimmy will do the rest.

Ben O’Clock

The Elizabeth Tower, Westminster, London: And, of course the tower with the most famous clockface in the world.

Only everyone thinks it’s called Big Ben.

But that is the name of the largest of its five bells.

So who was Ben? Well, either ‘Big’ Ben Hall, the first Commissioner of Works or the boxer Benjamin Caunt.

Ring-a-ding ding!

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

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A year on – Ireland and Scotland and further afield

That was the year that was – it’s 12 months now since I left my beloved Ireland for my first love Scotland.

I had though little intention of spending all my time in Scotia.

And instead had a long list of destinations to fill out the year.

So to mark the anniversary I’ll share the year that never was.

Off to a flier in Czech Hoptown

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery, Prague, in the Czech Republic

The Chinese lady with the mask on in the airport in Prague Airport seemed a curio at the time, a reminder of the latest virus that only affects Asia.

A few weeks later the fun and intimacy of the Czech Republic  were but a warm embrace I clung onto as I entered lockdown in Scotland for the first time.

As I came out of isolation I engaged with my Czech friends again over the new-fangled Zoom app we were all compelled to use and toasted each other in time-honoured fashion Na Zdravie.

I was heartened to see them lay out a table for a feast along the Charles Bridge in the early summer and wished that I was back there again in Prague or in the Czech Republic’s Hoptown, Zatec.

I know this though that the Czechs will get through this because they have the best beer in the world, Pilsener Urquell.

Trump steals my Keys

Limin’ at a Key Lime shop in the Keys

Suitcase packed, bandana on, I was all set for my fly-drive around the Florida Keys when Donald Trump (remember him) closed the country to visitors while encouraging Americans to gather… at his rallies.

And so Hemingway’s six-toed cats, key line pie, Florida sunsets and easy living will just have to wait.

Of course the beauty of it is that Papa’s pussies won’t have had any idea that anything was even different about the past year.

Exile me in St Helena

Napoleon was here

And another on the back-burner is Napoleon’s island. No, not his birthplace, Corsica, or the one the British sent him to initially, Elba, but the one where he ended his days, St Helena.

St Helena, 1200 mile west of southwestern Africa is one of the most remote inhabitable islands in the world and is an ecological dream.

All of which makes you think that exile was a pretty good option back in the day. And if I end up needing to self-isolate anywhere then I’ll be back in touch.

Vegas or bust

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

Now I’ve always felt bad about leaving Cami from Utah at the bar at Harrah’s Las Vegas a few years ago and knowing she goes down there every weekend knew that she’d be there when I revisited in June.

The American Travel Fair was scheduled for Neon City and I was all booked and ready, my chips at the ready to make my million.

But alas I had to leave Cami waiting again and to get my fix of Vegas I had to make do with watching the world’s greatest band The Killers perform from the ceiling of Caesars Palace on YouTube.

The fair, IPW is slated for the Fall, and I’ll be expecting an Access All Areas ticket, Brandon.

And maybe even reprising my Mr Brightside from the Rising Star Karaoke Bar, CityWalk at Universal Orlando a few years ago.

The Norman request

Perfect for a selfie?

I would have put my Monet on getting to Normandy

for the Monet festival back in late summer.

And even get a painting lesson in his back garden.

But as the UK travel corridor policy became as chaotic as the Spinal Tap boys trying to get to their gigs, again I found myself blocked.

Now what is the French word for cup-de-sac?

Bergamo go, go, go

Bergamo fountains

And just as the year was petering out and I was resigning myself to my best chance of a trip down to North Berwick beach, Mamma Mia but one came off.

And in spectacular style.

The journalist in me had me tracking the evolution of Bergamo through the pandemic, it being the gateway to the virus in Europe.

And just in time I got over to Northern Italy to talk to the Bergamaschi and ask how they had got through it all and their advice on how we should all progress now.

There was specialist Lombardy food and wine, culture, history Donizetti music and art aplenty.

But the most beautiful picture was that of the emboldened Bergamaschi in the backdrop of their historic city, both in Citta Alta and Citta Bassa, the High and the Low City.

Now there are worse places to have spent this last year, with the view of the Firth of Forth from my window, Bass Rock bookending the beach and Edinburgh just along the road.

I’ve chosen to live by the sea all my adult life. It’s a primal thing knowing that exciting lands lie beyond.

I know that we’ll visit them again soon, and hopefully I can fill in the blanks above and add San Francisco, Chicago, New England and a host of other trips I had planned last year, and many to come.

All for your enjoyment.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

Asia, Australasia, Countries, Deals, Europe

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Day oi oi oi

G’day my Antipodean friends and good to see you’re able to celebrate it publicly.

Which no doubt Smutley, Brownie, PC, Roscoe, Brad et al will mean getting shitfaced.

I never got to Australia but Australia got to me in the Eighties when I did back-to-back Oktoberfests in Munich.

I had booked me a seat and a bed (which were pretty much the same thing) on a ten-day Topdeck bus trip to Bavaria.

But innocent abroad that I was I neither knew that Earl’s Court in London was an Aussie enclave nor that Top Deck was an Aussie firm.

Aussies in Aberdeen

Forward fast three months and the Hilton district of Aberdeen was also an Aussie enclave.

When Smutley and Brownie turned up and asked to stay for the weekend…. and stayed for a year.

And they brought their pals too much to the pleasure of the female student population of Scotland’s Granite City.

Aussies abroad

Now Aussies show us the way when it comes to travelling and Topdeck know what’s most important to them.

That it’s cheap and cheerful, and my two Oktoberfest trips at just £84 were the best value holidays I have ever purchased.

Now knowing that you’ll want to get back out on the road when all this virus eases up Topdeck have you covered.

Europen odyssey

Of course we can’t jump in a Topdeck machine to go back and get 1985 prices but they are offering 25% off.

Spirit of Europe is an 11-country, 24-day odyssey starting and ending in London coming in from £2,193 down from £2,924.

You’ll see England, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands.

Japanese promise

All roads lead to Japan this year with the Olympics, or at least this one road we hope.

Japan Highlights is a 12-day tour leaving and returning to Tokyo, down from £3,278 to £2,485.50.

Indian treasures

While if India is more your thang… Namaste India is a ten-day trip, starting and finishing in New Delhi, down from £1,429 to £1,071.75.

And if you should ask the whereabouts of the person you first meet on the bus and he says he’s from Perth…

Then it’s Perth, WA, not Perth, Scotland… ‘and we’re all from Australia or New Zealand, mate.’

Happy Australia Day, mates.

And while we’re here a rousing call to arms from the original Aussie singing superstars The Seekers and I Am Australian.

And tell me too your fave Aussie bands and singers.

Caribbean, Countries, Culture

Rainy Days and Songdays – Jamaica sings Burns

Robert Burns’s greatest creations Tam O’ Shanter and Soutar Johnny sit with their tankards in the Burns Monument Gardens.

Alongside them is a carved tabletop map of the world with mini-Burns statues depicting where the poet is celebrated.

On this his birthday it is worth considering that Burns is lauded by as vastly opposing cultures as America and in Russia.

Because he was an everyman, ‘a man’s a man for a’ that’ and all that.

Ode to the Caribbean

But also in the old countries of Empire.

My guys and Burns’ guys in Alloway

Burns, proud Scot though he was, had set his sights on the Caribbean.

And he had agreed to a position as a bookkeeper in Port Antonio in Jamaica.

You see Burns’s wild lifestyle was beginning to catch up with him.

A new start

A hard drinker, he was facing penury while he was impregnating women all over Scotland.

Robert Burns

Although there was one, Highland Mary, whom he wished to take to the Indies.

O sweet grows the lime and the orange, and the apple on the pine, but a’ the charms o’ the Indies, Can never equal thine – Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary

Only for his poetry to take off at home which made him change his mind.

And continue juggling his women.

All of which took its toll, of course, and he died, still beset by money worries, at just 36.

My bonnie lassie

Now if only there had been a digital work abroad scheme for Burns like we have today in the Caribbean.

Scots have left their mark all across the West Indies.

Scots in the Indies

The region of Scotland in Barbados being testament.

Glasgow Bar with owner Karl in Tobago

While any excuse to namecheck Glasgow Bar in Tobago.

Now for the day that’s in it, and your regular feature, Rainy Days and Songdays here’s a site with Burns in Jamaican patwa.

And check out this collaboration between Scots producer Kieran C Murray and Jamaican singer Brinathe 2015 Jamaica Sings Robert Burns.

Oh ye Jamaicans by name, lend an ear, lend an ear!

SLAINTÉ

Asia, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Jimuary, Ginuary, Veganuary, Japanuary

And whatever you’re having yourself… January is after all what we make it.

Jimuary in Scotland

Jim O’ Shanter

And for me and all of us of a Scottish disposition then January is Robert Burns’ Month.

Burns is Scotland’s National Poet and January 25 is his birthday… he would be 252 this year.

Wherever they are in the world Scots put on kilts and start eulogising little mice and the like… ‘wee sleekit timrous beastie, oh what a panic’s in thy breastie.’

It’s all the whisky we drink you see!

Alloway Bridge

Burns’ Village is a magical place with Burns’ Cottage, Alloway Kirk and Brig o’ Doon.

Where you can let your imagination run wild.

Three Scots mice

January is also the month when Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday is commemorated.. he was born on January 15 but Martin Luther King Day is actually January 18..

I was fortunate enough to attend the 50th commemoration of his assassination and followed the MLK Trail from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi.

Ginuary in Ireland

G&T O’Clock

And you could do worse than Co. Monaghan, the border county where a ginoisseur will guide you through each gin and tonic.

The Scary One turned her nose up at the juniper when presented with a tray of samples only to then dig in and minesweep them all.

Veganuary

And if it’s good enough for Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Barry White (and he had a healthy appetite, and for food).

Veganuary has really taken off in recent years and I’ve visited the oul’ plant-based food before on this site.

But seeing that the calendar has come around again and that you’ll be performing a public service by not visiting the shops.

Here’s to all those things in your flower beds which also includes the majestic tulip.

And Japanuary

Thanks here to our friends in The Land of the Rising Sun for always keeping it fun and funky.

So Japanuary?

Well, we’re all being encouraged to get on our bikes and in Japan you can do worse than following the Tanesashi Coastline and bike hire is just £10 per day.

They advise stopping off at fish restaurants and temples while ensuring that through the cycling your body remains a temple.

If that’s too sedentary for you then why not canyon through the Sarugajo Gorge.

Talking of temples you shouldn’t go to Japan and not visit a Zen Buddhist temple.

Oh, and in the year when the Olympics are coming to Tokyo then they’re challenging us all to get our adrenaline vibe on.

And ski a volcanic crater in Niseko.

Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, UK

Brew’s up – the perfect Covid beer cure

The Blood Service give you a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive but maybe they’ll now follow Brewdog’s lead of giving beer after a Covid vaccine shot.

The Aberdeenshire beer chain have come up with an inventive and public-spirited way of getting us all to get our shots.

I’ll take all four

They plan to throw open their closed bars as vaccination centres.

And they have asked the public for help in naming the new vaccine-themed beer.

Only here for the beer

As a steer they have mocked up a Vaccine Canteen, Little Prick, Community Immunity and Jab Lab.

All good, but why in the 13 years I was away from Scotland did we start saying jab instead of jag?

Breweries are a staple on tour itineraries and it is always welcome to sample a region’s or a brand’s beer.

I’ve sent many a Wish You Were Beer message from my travels around the world.

Interior decorations

And listened through the spiel from the Master Brewer about the mashing process and the like.

And prayed silently that nobody would ask a question which would require an answer that would eat into the drinking time.

The same goes for any vaccinations.

I mean, do you really want to be left waiting for your complimentary beer because somebody is firing off questions.

That would be a little prick.

Serve it uo

BrewDog Dog Tap in Ellon, near Aberdeenis one if your more accessible brewery tours.

And you get an insight into what must be one of the better places to work.

You can bring your per to work… and, oh, all that beer!

Africa, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Subbuteo, yabbuteo!

It seems the more technological we get the more we hanker after more simple pleasures which is why the sporting toy hit this Christmas is Subbuteo.

Table football where you flick a football piece on a semi-circle stand at a mini-ball to a fellow player, on up the green felt pitch and into the goal is back.

It’s not as real as the latest FIFA iteration but that’s much of the charm.

Teams of all talents

I first learned about other countries through sporting competitions and replicated that through Subbuteo.

Why we had the Uruguay team I still don’t know other than the Brazil team was probably sold out.

Your traditional Subbuteo box came with Scotland and England teams and here’s where this gets current.

And Scotland’s greatest ever goal

John Motson, the doyen of English TV commentators is plugging Subbuteo and he is the ideal man for the job.

Because he, and his sheepskin coat, are instantly recognisable and made the perfect accessory for your kit.

You could also get grandstands, fans (remember them), floodlights, the World Cup, and probably a wee VAR room now too.

And England’s glossy kit

The beauty of Subbuteo is that you could get it in other sports too.

And I would often play out the-then Five Nations Rugby Championships.

Anyone for rugby

And the iconic touring New Zealand All Blacks, Australian Wallabies, South African Springboks and Argentine Pumas.

The passing behind made it a little pedestrian but the rugby kicker and scrum machine more than made up for it.

Subbuteo offered cricket too which obviously had its challenges for bowlers but they uses a chute?

While they even did hockey and, get this, soeedway.

And there were some sports which obviously beat the imagineers such as swimming and horse racing!

Watch the lampshades… it’s cricket

There is a Subbuteo World Cup which was lined up for Rome this year but will now take place next year when Spain will defend their title.

And maybe I’ll combine it with a trip to the Olympic Stadium to see Roma after arriving with the Son and Heir there a few years ago without my passport.

We did get to play giant fusbol outside the stadium… but that’s a whole different game.

MEET YOU ON THE FELT