Adventure, America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, UK

Craig Sera Sera

Craig Sera Sera, that’s a wrap from the 12th Bond.. and he’ll sure miss those exotic missions.

So which countries has 007 visited most, other than England where he works?

Well of the 50 he’s been to, Italia would seem to have been his favourite with the spy having touched down in Il Bel Paese eight times. 

Pasta Master

Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

Rome, Venice and Como have inevitably been stick-on locations for any filmmaker and international man of mystery.

And this time it’s the European City of Culture for 2019, Matera, which is getting its place in the sun this time. 

With its houses. built into caves, cobbled streets and high arches a dramatic backdrop for the opening scenes.

And Felice Giorni for Matera with the town’s mayor, Raffaello De Ruggieri, predicting its association with Bond will be worth $20 million to the local economy.

In truth this is probably the highpoint of the movie, and all before the credits and Billie Eilish’s disappointing dirge of a soundtrack.

As Daddy’s Little Girl rightly pointed out the best bits were the locales. 

Live and Let Spy

Love a duck: At Epcot Centre, Florida

With Britain and America enjoying that much feted special relationship it is unsurprising that The Oo Es of Eh is his next favourite stop-off.

And we particularly enjoy his forays into Florida and its keys… whose pleasures I had to put off on the outbreak of Covid but where I intend to fulfil just as soon as.

Ski another day

Like an Alpine skier: In the Austrian Tyrol

Next up might be less predictable, Austria, but then we have to remember its stunning snowscapes and Bond’s love of winter sports which of course we share.

Although we have never seen him on the slopes of Soll while we have enjoyed skiing alongside some dapper fancied-dressed folks.

And we look forward to seeing a penguin-suited Bond on the piste some time soon.

For Bond anoraks it’s an easy question but which is the only country in a film title?

The spy who came in from the Red

Dance away: Russia

Yes, the old Soviet Union, or Russia as we knew it in shorthand.

And as well as the titular film From Russia With Love, Bond turns up in Fabergeland another three times.

Turkish crossroads

Hamam bam: Istanbul

It has been the crossroads for espionage since first the first looked out over each other at either side of the Bosphorus.

And, of course, Istanbul, has been an ideal backdrop for Bond’s adventures… and yours, and mine with three films taking in Turkey’s biggest city.

Three’s a charm

Limber up: The next Bond?

And among those countries where Bond has a trio of visits is Hong Kong, Spain, the Bahamas, Scotland, his homeland and Jamaica where Ian Fleming penned the books.

And the West Indies’ biggest island is where we first fell in love with Bond on the Laughing Waters beach in Ocho Rios.

Or Sean Connery to be more precise, even if you were a red-blooded bloke, you actually wanted to be him.

Wear a swimsuit: Craig as Bond

And be with Ursula Andress.

There was much fuss too about Daniel Craig with his take on coming out of the water, ripped and in a pair of budgie smugglers.

Only thing is a budgie has more charisma.

Craig Sera Sera… whatever will be, will be.

 

 

 

Adventure, Africa, Countries, UK

Tale of elephants in Edinburgh or Africa

You probably wouldn’t expect to bump into elephants here but I aim to please so. read on for this tale of elephants in Edinburgh and Africa.

Lulla-Bye certainly wasn’t there the last time I traipsed through the Princes Street Gardens.

But the two and a half tonne sculpture is a welcome addition to the gardens.

And is a poignant tribute to a much-regretted part of Edinburgh’s story, the Mortonhall Ashes Scandal.

The ashes of hundreds of babies were buried or disposed of secretly at Mortonhall Crematorium over decades.

Despite parents being told there were no remains of their children.

Edinburgh’s elephants

Lulla-Bye: A poignant tribute

 

It would seem that Edinburgh has somewhat of a history with elephants.

And that as well as the elephant in the Zoo there used to be one who lived in the best accommodation in town, Edinburgh Castle.

Ellie (my name for her) was the mascot of the 78th Highlanders who brought her back from Sri Lanka in the 1830s.

It seems she made herself well at home drinking beer, just like the locals.

That’s nailed it

Some nails on that: Our elephant friends

Her toenails are now on display at the National War Museum on Castlehill.

Of course, elephants belong in their natural habitat and that’s Africa and Asia.

One of schoolkids’ favourite animal questions they like to stump you with is how you can tell the difference.

And the obvious answer would be that if you’re in Africa which I was (Eastern Cape) it’s an African.

And if you’re in Asia then it’s an Asian.

But, yes, Africans have much larger ears while Asians have smaller, rounder ears.

Ears looking at you: Definitely African

Of course such beautiful creatures are favourite ornaments and you can easily bump into them in your lodge in South Africa.

I’ve heard too of destinations where they roam freely through the lobby of your hotel which is as it should be…

After all, they were here first!

All of which heavy thumping around the subject brings me to an important matter in hand, their protection.

And a very important initiative being run by Holly Budge.

Holly is the founder and director of the non-profit international organisation How Many Elephants which has been heralded by none other than Sir David Attenborough.

The elephant’s friend

Taking a snooze: The gentle elephant

Holly has raised over £400,000 for environmental projects.

She truly is the elephant’s friend and it is no exaggeration to say that without hers and others’ efforts their very survival is at risk.

Ninety-six African elephants are poached every day for their ivory, and at this rate, they’ll be extinct within a decade.

Herd about their plight: Elephants on the move

Holly’s global travelling exhibition displays 35,000 elephant silhouettes to show the annual poaching rate in Africa.

She can’t do it all alone, of course and that’s where Margot Dempsey comes in.

She launched World Female Ranger Day to support female rangers on the front line of wildlife conservation.

And she speaks passionately about the subject which again you are best checking out online.

Lest we forget and famously elephants never do… they were here first.

And it warms the heart, this tale of elephants in Edinburgh or Africa.

 

America, Australasia, Countries, Europe, UK

North South Seas and Treasure Island

So what do the North Sea South Seas and Treasure Island share in common?

The author Robert Louis Stevenson who I’ve got to know these last 18 months.

Since moving to North Berwick, south of Edinburgh.

Where his grandfather, the eminent Scottish engineer of his time (also Robert) made his mark.

Robert’s piece de resistance was the Bell Rock, the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse, built on an outcrop of the Inchcape reef and accessible at low tide. 

Young Robert might have expected to follow in the family lighthouse design business.

The real Treasure Island

Treasure Island: Long John Silver

Robert Louis (originally Lewis) though did base his Treasure Island on the Fidra Island in the Firth of Forth.

Where David and Thomas Stevenson built theirs which has been automated since 1970.

And which the Scottish Seabird Centre has its cameras set on to keep an eye on its seabird population.

Travel bug

Wall art: In a North Berwick alley

It was here then that Robert got his Travel bug which would see him circumnavigate the globe.

Stevenson’s love of Travel was both lyrical and practical as he sought warmer climes more conducive to his bronchial problems.

And he would say: ‘We are all travellers in the wilderness of this world.’

That and. his marriage to American Fanny Van De Grift led to him seeking out many of the familiar, but also the wildernesses of this world.

Travel books

Samoa the merrier: A recreation of RLS’s rooms in Western Samoa

 

And so he gave us a rich legacy of Travel books as well as his bumper fiction books. 

With his entry into this world showing what a master he was with his 200km hike in south-central France, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.

A passion we both share for Southern France and hiking. And Robert was to return to France and Belgium for another venture, canoeing this time, in An Inland Voyage. 

The Amateur Emigrant, Across the Plains and the Silverado Squatters covers RLS’s American peregrinations and there is a museum there too in the Napa Valley in California

And then we get In the South Seas, a celebration of Samoa where he set down roots and lived out his days.

RLS truly loved the South Seas island of Samoa and championed their rights in the face of exploitation from the super powers in letters to The Times.

In RLS’s footsteps

From the author’s mouth

And the West Samoans loved him back erecting a museum to the man they called Tusitala ‘Tale Teller’ on the 100th anniversary of his death in 1994.

Check out their excellent site with its Following in the Footsteps of RLS.

Western Samoa is a three and a half hours flight from Auckland, New Zealand

So let’s hear if for North South Seas and Treasure Island.

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Food, UK

World Ice Cream Day

If you’re slurping an ice cream on World Ice Cream Day you’re in good company with King Tang of Shang, Marco Polo, Nero and Ronald Reagan.

With temperatures in the UK the hottest for 45 years ago ice cream vans are doing a roaring business.

China ices

And even Chinese bears love them

Our favourite cool treat dates variously back to ancient China, Greece and Rome.

But it is now a truly global obsession which should be on your to do list when on holiday.

Here’s some of the best to mark World Ice Cream Day:

Made in Japan

Little balls of fun

Mochi ice cream, Japan: And the adventurous among the Olympic athletes in Tokyo will be digging into Mochi.

As we are with Little Moons Creamy Coconut and Passionfruit & Mango mochi desserts, drawing in 45 million TikTok followers.

The Tesco mochi bites are gluten free. You wrap blue-sized balls of gelato in soft mochi dough.

Na-na-na

Let’s split: Banana splits

Banana Split, USA: One banana, two banana, three banana, four… the sundae which spawned a cult kids’ TV show and punk anthem.

We owe it all to 23-year-old Pittsburgh pharmacist David Strickler for giving us…

The Banana Split… a scoop of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate nestled between a sliced banana with cream, chopped nuts and a cherry.

And the Pittsburghers have honoured David with a statue and plaque.

Gelato spirit

Ice one

Gelato, Italy: And I know the burning question you’re asking while you burn: how is a gelato different from an ice cream?

I’m indebted here to website Healthline for filling us in… and what I took from them is that there’s more air and milk in a gelato.

Anywhere in Italy is good to eat gelato but I’m channeling my inner Nero in the Eternal City.

Yes, with a tang in it

You’ll want some ice cream for afters

Tang, China: Yes, ice cream with a tang.

Ice cream is said to date back to 200BC (Before Cornettos?) when a milk and rice mixture was frozen by packing it in snow.

Tang, who reigned from 1675-1646, had 94 ice men help to make a dish of buffalo milk, flour and camphor.

Porty time

And you can have yours on top

99, Scotland: And who would have thought our little corner of Scotland gave us the 99.

Our old homestead of Portobello, Edinburgh’s town beach, spawned the 99.

When Stefano Arcari broke a flake and inserted it into the ice cream at his shop in 99 Portobello High Street.

Next year is the centenary of his breaking of flake… just saying!

Reagan’s scoop

Sundaes are on us: Ronnie and Nancy

And as for World Ice Cream Day we have former US President Ronald Reaganj to thank.

The Gipper championed Ice Cream Day in 1984 and it just snowballed after that.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Green Lighting megamix around the world

It’s one of those annoying Government buzzwords so let’s claim it back with a Rainy Days and Songdays Green Lighting megamix around the world. Our favourite songs with ‘green’ in the title and the countries where they transport us.

Wales boyo

Green, Green Grass of Home, Tom Jones, Wales: Down the road I look and there runs Mary, hair of gold and lips like cherries.

Now I dare say most homes have green, green grass unless you live in a very hot country and the land is baked brown. But this just feels Welsh.

That is until you get to the rest of the song and realise that it’s a man on Death Row dreaming of home.

Maybe, Mary had a narrow escape after all. We, though will just imagine it as the beautiful Welsh valleys.

Green Cash

Forty Shades of Green, Johnny Cash: Arkansas and Ireland: The legend is that Johnny was inspired to write this County classic when he looked down from the plane at the patchwork fields of green of Ireland.

As a recruiting call for Ireland our pals at Tourism Ireland would have been proud as in true singer style Johnny namechecks everywhere on the Emerald Island.

Quite who the girl from Tipperary town with the lips like eiderdown is Johnny would never say, perhaps because June would have killed him.

Green Burns Country

Burns Cottage, Alloway,Scotland. https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/robert-burns-birthplace-museum

Green Grow The Rashes O, Eddi Reader: Burns and Ayrshire: The sweetest hours that e’er the old poet and ploughman prowler spent were spent among the lasses O.

The old rogue Burns was pure rock’n’roll and could pen a lyric and a tune which is probably why he is held in such high regard by the greatest singer-songwriters of the latter half of the 20th century.

With Bob Dylan, no less, crediting the Scot as his greatest inspiration.

And Henry VIII I am

Greeensleeves, King Henry VIII/Ralph Vaughan Williams, Berkshire: And another old lothario here with King Henry VIII said to have written this for Anne Boleyn.

What better tune then for an English rose to walk up the aisle to in her home county of Berkshire.

My Scary One has lost her head plenty of times since… but that’s been with me.

Vini Verde

Night at the opera: In Prague

La Boheme, Giuseppe Verdi: Prague: No, a non-green tune didn’t slip through. Giuseppe Verdi would actually be Joe Green in English.

The Milanese Verdi had the support of Gaetano Donizetti from nearby Bergamo whom he visited in Vienna which, of course, was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

And that included Bohemia, or the current-day Czech Republic where the thing to do when you’re in Prague is take in a production at the opera house.

Poppies and Green Fields

No Man’s Land

The Green Fields of France, The Fureys and Davey Arthur, The Somme: And in the mud of the Somme the soldiers’ minds would drift off to some verdant pasture and memories of precious moments with a loved one.

Every nation sacrificed its most promising generation in No Man’s Land but for those from the furthest outposts of Empire… well, it just seems to be all the more pointless to modern sensibilities.

Eric Bogle, a Scots-born Australian, explores the pyschological cost to one survivor ‘young Willie McBride’. And it was all the more poignant after I’d seen the statue of the Scots soldier in northern France.

And another one to make you cry

Memphis Blues

Green Onions, Booker T. & the MGs: Memphis: In the home of the Blues, Memphis, Booker T & the MGs came up with their signature instrumental tune.

The story goes that the Stax house band were waiting around for the Sun artist and rockabilly singer Billy Lee Riley to turn up and developed the song.

And why Green Onions? Well Booker T. Jones self-deprecatingly said it was because green onions were the nastiest thing he could think of and something you could throw away. We never would.

Ol’ Green Eyes… well, Blue, but!

Little Green Apples, Frank Sinatra: New Jersey and New York: And a lot more digestible with this old standard covered by all the crooners.

But of all the crooners, none compare with the Boy from Hoboken, New Jersey who made it there in New York, and elsewhere.

And just like Johnny Cash from another song, Frank does his best to include the whole country, in this case America.

So a shout-out to Disneyland, Doctor Seuss in Springfield Massachussetts.

And Indianapolis where it don’t rain in the summertime and Minneapolis where it doesn’t snow when the winter comes. All of which it does to

Beret good

Ballad of the Green Beret, Sgt Barry Sadler/Dolly Parton: Take your pick, the clean-shaven All-American Boy, soldier turned actyor Barry Sadler or Miss American PIe herself, Tennessee’s Dolly.

Either way it’s flag-waving, Americana. And even if you don’t know the song you’ll recognise the tune.

Particularly if you’re a fan of Celtic FC who famously play in green and white hoops and who have adapted the song and lyrics into a favourite fans’ song With a Four-leaf Clover on My Breast.

The evergreen Cliff

Green Light, Cliff Richard, India, England, Portugal and Barbados: And there are few more wholesome and clean-cut than Our Cliff.

The evergreen Cliff belts this one out from the Seventies.

The Peter Pan of Pop who was born in India, grew up in England, and has had homes in Portugal and Barbados, though he is selling up in Bim (and yes I’m interested).

When it gets the Green Light.

 

 

 

 

 

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