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

Win win on Ginoisseur Day

Now, just to prove there’s no such thing as a new idea I can’t claim to have coined this… but it’s still win, win on Ginoisseur Day.

I came to gin late in life, piqued by the mid-2020s craze for the juniper.

And the row of gins and their fancy tonics laid out in front of me at Teach Aindi in Monaghan in the Irish Midlands.

They have 101 although time constraints limited us to six.

Not the Grapey One’s drink of choice you understand, though for research purposes, she mineswept the bar.

Unbeknownst to me, but logical as we invented everything else, it was a Scot behind the G&T.

Gee, G&T

Shake it up: Gin cocktails

Gin & Tonic: Doctor George Cleghorn explored in the 19th century if quinine could cure malaria.

The quinine was drunk in tonic water but proved too bitter and so army officers added water, sugar, lime and gin.

Now as my own paper the Daily Record is my go-to for reference I checked out what they recommended.

Although they could have asked me to roadtest them!

But the top three are Arbikie Nadar Gin in Arbroath, Tayside, the Isle of Harris and Kintyre Gin.

Dry and high

Czech me out: At the Bond hotel

Dry Martini: And James Bond’s classic drink of choice before Daniel Craig rebranded him.

We first meet Bond at Casino Royale, or more accurately at the Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czechia.

Of course the Dry Martini is gin, vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist… and shaken not stirred.

The Tom Tom Club

Supersize it: Tom Collins

Tom Collins: And an example of transatlantic co-operation between the UK and USA.

With Jerry Thomas, ‘the father of American mixology’, chronicled the gin, lime juice, sugar and carbonated water drink.

Of course with every British convention that crosses the Atlantic it has lost something in location and John became Jim became Tom.

The Italian Twist

Mine’s a gin: In Bergamo

 

Negroni: And few things disappoint when given the Italian twist.

And grazie to our amici for their one part gin, one part vermouth rosso and one part Campari, garnished with orange peel.

Now it’s been a year and a half since I was last in il bel paese and every drink tastes of a memory.

And mine is Bergamo Citta Alta, the high town in the Lombard city.

Taking the Rickey

The 47th President of America: In Washington DC

Gin Rickey: And being Washington DC this is obviously a capitol drink.

But did you know that it originated in Shoomaker’s Bar in the 1880s by bartender George A. Williamson?

Purportedly in collaboration with Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey.

The bartender is said to have added a lime to the Civil War veteran’s ‘mornin’s morning.’

It is a daily dose of Bourbon with lump ice and Apollinaris sparkling mineral water.

The gin twist? Well, that came from the popularity of the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

And in particular the Japanese rickshaw… and then the gin rickey with gin growing in popularity.

And that means it’s a win win on Ginoisseur Day.

 

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland

Five republics to escape the Platinum Jubilee

And continuin our series, and because we’re not all pliant subjects, here are five republics to escape the Platinum Jubilee.

There are 159 republic in the world and only 43 sovereignty ikstates with monarchies. Go figure.

Vive La Republique

The new Emperor: Emmanuel Macron

 

France: Mais oui, there were republics before the French, only they shout Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité a little louder.

So much so that the French are onto their fifth since We the First in 1792, followed we should remember by Emperor Napoleon.

And there is more than a touch of the regal about the French President’s official residence, the Élysée Palace in Paree.

The Battle Hymn

Mr President: Issy Conway, George Washington and the Pres’s right-hand man

America: And some 16 years before the then-royalist French helped the colonies form mthe Republic.

George Washington and his Vice-President John Adams had discussed how the new Pres should be addressed.

Adams had leant towards His Excellence but Washington insisted on just Mr President.

And he rejected his pal jGeneral Lafayette’s idea to erect an ornate monument in DC to him complete with horses.

Instead he had an obelisk, the Washington Monument installed instead. Pure class.

Italy’s republics

The holy of holies. At the end of the Francigena in Rome

Rome: Now La Citta Eterna is credited as the cradle of Republics although Athens might have something to say about that.

We all associate Classical Rome, of course, with the Caesars, but the Republic ran Rome’s affairs from 509BC to 27BC.

While the lyCaesars looked down from their plinths from 46BC-476AD.

YNow I was more a Latin student than a maths expert but that seems roughly the same and the Republic won out in the end.

The Irish Republic

On a pedestal: With Charles Stewart Parnell in Co. Wicklow

Ireland: And because the Free State didn’t scream self-determination (OK, it was a bit more complicated) they became a republic in 1949.

They had formed an ya constitution in 1937 with an elected non-executive president before breaking with the crown in 1949.

After a fractured relationship in the 60-odd years after the Irish brought back the Queen… but only for a visit in 2011.

Barbados, the new Republic

Barbados: And on November 30, 2021, Barbados took the momentous decision to replace the uQueen with a Bajan, President Sandra Mason.

Y the After 396 years, although Barbados had taken the first step with independence in 1966… and I even saw the seal in the Archive Offices.

The date, November 30, was arbitrary but in my wee country it is our national day, named for St Andrew, our patron saint.

Just returned from a third visit to Barbados I reacquainted myself with our joint heritage which includes a region of the island called Scotland. I

We sang Scots and Soca songs, ceilidhed and jumped and toasted the Barbados republic with rum and whisky.

My reason for going, well I didn’t need one, but it was to celebrate the renewal of the Barbados Celtic Festival.

And thought dreamily of a Scotland having their day one day.

U

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Five films to escape the Platinum Jubilee

And because we’re not all pliant subjects here are five films to escape the Platinum Jubilee.

And other ideas will follow through the week.

Historical

Life is a Cabaret: Berlin

Cabaret: And because it’s only the best film ever made.

Daddy’s Little Girl was my proxy in Berlin this past week where she partied at the KitKat Club, named for the Cabaret burlesque club.

From the opening credits of the MC and Sally Bowles singing Wilkommen you will be drawn into 1930s Nazi Berlin.

It is musical, historical, tragic and comic. In a word it is Magic.

Comical

The talk: Jim and his Dad in the Great Lakes

American Pie: And this is like having to choose your favourite child (btw, it’s the one who buys you the biggest gift).

Who can pass Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Some Like It Hot, Gregory’s Girl, Monty Python and The In Betweeners?

But on the grounds that there are three of these.

Then the classic coming of age trilogy on the Great Lakes will keep you occupied, smiling and gorging in American Pie. Whisper it but Los Angeles doubles for East Great Falls.

Mysterious

Kathy’s no clown: Fried Green Tomatoes in Georgia

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe: And the title lives up to its billing in this Deep South Classic from Juliette, Georgia.

Juliette, 56 miles from Atlanta, is where the action takes place and you can still visit The Whistle Stop Cafe.

And no, they don’t put on a barbecue.

Feelgood

Feline better: A Street Cat Named Bob

A Street Cat Named Bob: Now we’ve all binged on movies on transatlantic flights… and often fallen asleep during some.

And a tip here… if you’ve worked out that you can fit in three movies, always pick the one you least want to watch as the last in case you do nod off.

I’m glad to say that I picked A Street Cat Named Bob as my first movie on the way over to LA… and cried.

It is set around Covent Garden in London and deals with a drug addict homeless man who is saved by a stray cat. And it proves that cats really are better than humans.

Scary

It’ll make you cross: The Exorcist in DC

The Exorcist: And scarier still than the cutesie little girl who turns evil, spins her head and chucks priests down stairs with the power of her mind, is that its true.

The author William Peter Blatty agreed with the family to change the child’s sex from male to female to defend their anonymity.

There are tales too that the actress Linda Blair was psychologically damaged by playing the part.

You can visit the area where it was shot in Washington DC. Head for Georgetown.

So that’s five films to escape the Platinum Jubilee, and we’ll come up with another listicle to plan your altenative Platinum Jubilee weekend.

 

 

America, Countries

For Dog, For Country and For Yale

Yale’s Handsome Dan XIX is the best date I’d been on for years which is why I say For Dog, For Country and For Yale.

In fact I didn’t even know I was on one.

Handsome Dan has been the prestigious Connecticut university‘s sports mascot since at least 1890.

And before you start doing the math, Dan is, yes, the 19th Old English Bulldog mascot at the Ivy League University.

And he is the nephew of Dan XIIX who has decamped to New York.

Puppy love

Dan fan: Handsome Dan

HD XIX is still at the puppy stage, born a year last month, during Covid.

And he is making up for lost time by licking everyone he meets.

Either around the campus in New Haven or on the seat where we find him on the green.

A seat of learning if you will.

Animal magic

Hero: Yale alumni and Revolutionary martyr Nathan Hale

Yale, which dates back to 1701, boasts the oldest live collegiate mascot in the world.

Fair play though to fellow Ivy Leaguers Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, from where I’ve come.

They would have a job bringing a live bear to their events.

Ivy League

Oarsome: Ivy League sport

A word now on Ivy League universities…

There are eight across the north-west universities.

And the ivy comes from ivy-planting class days at Harvard in the 1800s.

While the Ivy League dates back to 1935 when it was picked up by a sports writer to explain the inter-universities rivalries.

Bulldog Day

Welcome: Yale

Handsome Dan may not be the only Bulldog when we visit, it is Bulldog Day, but he is the most important.

If you’re imagining a dog show of jowly-hounds in the hallowed halls of Yale then it’s a nice thought.

But it is the raft of lucky students who have been accepted as the next intake of students.

And who bunk down with current students while they give the university which was founded in 1701 a recce.

We’ll return to Yale when they realise that I would be enhance the pantheon which has included the Bushes and Clintons.

And thanks to our guide, senior Aidan from Arizona, who is off to Washington, for suggesting it!

Cost it up

Pool your talents: Yale

I’m sure Yale could waive the $79,370 costs of attending a university which opens doors to the best positions in life.

Although with aid it’s estimated at $17,549.

And for that you get to… well it would take longer than we have here but check out their prospectus.

I guarantee you’ll be taken by a church building where it’s all educational symbolism and secular stained-glass windows.

And a cathedral to the body, yes a many/floored gymnasium.

Not that we’d want Yale’s Handsome Dan XIX go on the treadmill.

We love him the way he is, cuddly and waddling around campus.

And so, I say again and with apologies for playing with your motto…

For Dog, For Country and For Yale

Alas, though, I have to give Dan a big slobbery kiss goodbye.

I’m back on the Amtrak to Boston. Huzzah!

America, Countries

Civil War home to roost

As the fighting started in Manassas, Virginia, farmer Wilmer McLean was in the wrong place with the Civil War home to roost.

Fortunately for Wilmer he was too old at 47 to sign up for the Confederate Army.

Go Mac: Wlmer McLean

But the war came to him with his house in Virginia used as Brigadier General PGT Beauregard’s headquarters.

And a cannonball dropping into Wilmer’s kitchen fireplace.

The beginning and end

The house that Mac built: Wilmer’s house

With all that death and destruction on his land he can be forgiven for moving on after battle.

And heading 120 miles to the hamlet of Appomattox Court House.

Yes, that Appomattox Court House where 157 years ago today General Robert E Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S Grant.

And you can visit the museum there today and learn more about a war that changed America and the world.

And perhaps Wilmer McLean (Scottish surely).

Wilmer’s stuff and Custer

Dress-ups: In Virginia

If you’re looking for Wilmer’s original furniture I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

As the Army of the Potomac made off with them as souvenirs giving Wilmer a paltry financial recompense.

The table on which Lee signed the surrender documents came into General Custer’s possession.

And you can see it now in the American History Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

With an authentic recreation of McLean’s second home is now part of the Appommattox Court House National Historic Park.

Civil War sites

Let battle begin: Manassas

Now where Wilmer led I have still to follow.

Visiting, yes, Manassas, but still to make Appomattox.

Which I will, and as much of the pristine American Civil War sites that I studied way back in my University days.

And remember that all major airlines fly into Dulles Airport, the feeder airport for Washington DC.

Which Virginians never tire of reminding you is in their Commmwealth.

And not state as former governor, and Bill Clinton’s best buddy, Terry McAuliffe was at pains to tell us all.

Over a pint of stout in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

But that’s another story.

And today is about marking the date with the Civil War home to roost for Wilmer McLean.

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Happy Euro Year

It was the perfect start to 2002, we were being given money… so where are we now as we mark Happy Euro Year 20 years on?

And what has it meant for those of us whose every instinct is to travel?

The truth is that for millions of millennials in Europe they won’t have travelled with anything else.

While for everyone who travels under a British passport we’ve always been told to look at it as board game money.

I say that, though ex-pats, of which I was one for 13 years living abroad have had to adjust quickly.

It usually starts when you’re buying booze in the supermarket.

And it’s only when you stop baulking and having to make mental adjustments at the price of a bottle of wine.

It’s more than a tenner… that you’ve truly assimilated.

Europhile, Eurosceptic

I’m in the money: Euro millions

 

So as this day is designated Happy Euro Day, was the Euro a good idea and is it right that Britain stayed with the pound?

Like everything there is the economical argument and then the emotional one.

And whenever that arises the emotional always prevails.

In countries too that have come over to the Euro there is still a sentimental attachment to the old currency.

Now if you’re a Fortysomething, Fiftysomething or later then you’ll probably remember well the frank, Deutschmark, peseta, escudo, lira or drachma.

And if you’re like my Dear Old Dad then you’ve probably got a box somewhere with all that old coinage.

A careful man, I imagine that he thought he might have use for them again if the Euro experiment failed.

Dinar time

Anyone want an old note: Foreign currency

So what do we miss about our old foreign money?

Well, it was the only time in our lives that we could really feel like a millionaire…

When we got our hands on lira.

The trouble was working out that it cost thousands to buy groceries.

And if you did try the lingo a queue would quickly form as you’re asking the teller how much you’d get for your few pounds.

Of course more of the world is outside of the Eurozone than in it.

Now I’m not about to go all numismatic on you but I do have a Jordanian dinar stuck on the side of my bookcase. And old Turkey notes too.

A souvenir of my Istanbul adventures with Turkish Airways, and with G Adventures trip to the Middle East.

But in truth just some money of such little value that I couldn’t get rid of it.

Any old money

Saddam it: What are you doing here?

Airports do take your old money in those glass boxes in the terminal.

And the descendants of the Nabataeans too in Petra where a trader tried to flog us notes from Iran with Saddam Hussein’s face on them.

Now doubtless there would have been many who would exchange dinar for Hussein.

But they had more than the look of a Monopoly note with Saddam’s face drawn on.

Working for the Yankee dollar

By George: Issy, Jimmy and the First Prez

There are some notes which are gladly accepted wherever you go and they’ll grab your hand off in the Caribbean for the Yankee dollar.

And there are 39 currencies around the world pegged to the dollar.

As a guide your yellow reggae bus in Barbados cost half of the Bajan dollar, $1, when I rocked it there a few years ago.

In the States itself you can buy Confederacy money at fairs in the Deep South on your road trip.

But the real money is in the Union dollar.

Money to burn: And the US here I come

And the more Benjamins (Franklin), or $100s, you have in your pocket the luckier you are.

Conversely, the $1 note is named for the Greatest American of them all, George Washington.

So be careful when you’re tipping.

Me? I always make sure I keep a fistful of dollars with me!

Happy Euro Day everyone or whatever currency you deal in… just, maybe avoid Saddam notes though.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Deals

Boston T

Anybody who has spent any time in Boston will know that the locals get round by T… Boston T.

No, not an abbreviation for the drink for which it is most associated but rather the Tram, or trolly.

Which in my time working in Beantown in the Eighties I found started overland in my neighbourhood in Tremont Street before duckign down into the Subway.

And I got the whole authentic experience returning at night of seeing the long-tailed residents of the reclaimed harbour run around the tracks.

A real Bostonian experience for this traveller.

America is built on its rail networks which criss-crossed the coasts and coast to coast and which I dare say my Irish navvy antecedents helped build.

And while there is something romantic about a Greyhound or a Peter Pan coach, the same can be said for the train.

And particularly when our friends at Travel Department are at the controls.

The Rail East

East Coast USA by Rail incl. Boston, New York, Philadelphia & Washington DC: This 10-night holiday allows you plenty of time to enjoy each city with guided tours and free time to explore at your leisure.

You’ll begin your journey in Boston, and visit America’s oldest & most prestigious university on an excursion to Harvard.

For those who suffer under the misconception that America lacks history then visit Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall.

And immerse yourself in Boston Tea Party history down by the Bay.

Lady Liberty and Laddie Liberty: NY

Your next stop is the Big Apple where the locals know if you’re a tourist because we’re the ones who look up.

And you’ll find too that New Yorkers while tarred with always having an angle (true) are a friendly bunch.

Ring the bell: Philly

And one in fact came back through the turnstiles in the subway to help mia famiglia with our map and directions.

Next, history enthusiasts will be in their element as you take a tour of Philadelphia’s key highlights like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

And the news from the Capitol: In Washington

The final stop on this whirlwind tour is the capital and jewel, Washington DC.

Where, of course, I’ve got a hotline to the White House and have already had the red carpet laid out for me.

Deal us in

Priced from €3199 pp and Including flights, transfers, that ten-night accommodation on a B&B basis and expert guides.

Departures on 20th May and 4th November 2022.

For more information https://www.traveldepartment.com/holiday/east-coast-usa-by-rail-incl-boston-new-york-philadelphia-washington-dc

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Music

Way to go Joe America reopening

Just the news we’ve been waiting for… Way to go Joe America reopening.

We never doubted it for a minute, the new American President ain’t no Sleepy Joe.

President Biden gives us encouraging news this mid-July of throwing the gates open.

Striped for action: Joe Biden

Guten tag Angela

Joe has been talking it through with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House.

And encouragingly he said that he would say more ‘within the next seven days’.

Biden is shaping up as the US President the world wants to do business with and building an administration of all talents.

Pool of all talents

With the Rat Pack in Vegas

The best in British and Irish Travel are building up to to pool their talents too for IPW, the American Travel Fair.

Vegas is a magnet for talent and dreamers with an act.

And it is the ideal destination for the filming of America’s Got Talent at the Luxor Hotel on November 4.

Simon Cowell and his pals are doing rehearsals there with the wannabes just now.

And in typical Vegas style there are back stories which will bring a tear to a glass eye.

Hoop dreams

Matt’s the way: Matt Mauser

Such as 51-year-old Matt Mauser who has gone viral after his heartrending rendition of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds.

Father-of-three Matt’s wife Christina taught school basketball which brought them into the sphere of superstar Kobe Bryant.

The legend: Kobe

Alas, the dream turned into a nightmare when Christina died in the same helicopter crash that killed Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six others.

Matt gives the performance of his life in front of the judges and will have the public right behind him when AGT screens.

Surf dude

Dogg gone it: Snoop in Huntington

The Huntington Beach native also has that wholesome athletic SoCal look which is so endearing.

And we expect that it won’t just be this AGT season that his name and billboard will be up in lights in Vegas.

That’s a rap

Life’s a Huntington Beach

He’s already every bit as big a hit back home in Surf City USA as the likes of this rapper who just happened to put on a show for us two years back.

We’ll be planning to check out what else is happening in Vegas when we visit in September and reporting back on some of it

Because thanks to Mr President whatever happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas.

I’m betting on Vegas

Way to go Joe America reopening.

And a shout-out here too to the holiday providers who have been patiently and conscientiously keeping our dreams alive.

All the time waiting for the green light.

Our American dream

The Whip Its in Harrah’s, Vegas

We don’t know yet if Angela and the EU are ahead of the UK but if they are then check out American Holidays and Tour America.

And we’ll bring you all the offers from wherever you are when we can say with certainty again Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Signdays

You might not expect to be moved at a Cliff Richard concert unless Old Maura lifts your wife’s hand in Dublin so she can sway too.

Thank you to all my friends: Cliff Richard

But the sight of a section of deaf fans signing at one of Cliff’s Christian concerts at Wembley had me transfixed.

You’ve got to own it: Eminem

As an Eminem signer goes viral for her animated renditions at his concerts a celebration and selection of other captivating signing songs.

Toast of the Grammies

Hello Halo: Beyoncé

Beyonce: Of course her position as Queen Bey is unchallenged.

Although I do think that OneRepublic’s Halo which they thrilled us with in Red Rocks tops her (I know treason).

And here’s someone who also tried to steal some limelight from Grammys multi-award winner Beyoncé at one of her gigs.

And I know how hard it is to get into Grammy folklore.

Take a bow the signer at Atlanta Pride who rocked it.

Where is the Love?

There is the love: The Peaa

Black Eyed Peas: And we have a visual signpost straight off with the question mark cards we all remember.

But this from the LA formed Black Eyed Peas classic, the best-selling single in the UK in 2003, is filled with imagery.

Now full disclosure here.

I have no sign language here other than knowing flapping your arm against your side means Scottish, as in bagpipes.

And just randomly recalling the lyrics I imagine that KKK is either a very rude sign or pulling a hood over your head.

Thrashing around

Rock gods: Slayer

Slayer: We probably know more sign language than we think.

And we are certainly all capable of describing a musical instrument.

For many a spotty teenage boy, and greasy-haired men too, being able to play the air guitar is vital at a heavy metal concert.

And this signer certainly knows her Slayer although I’d like to see her slide along the floor too.

Marlee’s movements

Deaf and loud: Sean Forbes www.deafandloud.com

Marlee Matlin is probably the best-known deaf performer in the world, recognised for her craft.

She famously won an Oscar for Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God in 1986.

But Sean has not come across my radar. He is for all you who don’t know which is probably very few a Detroit hip-hop artist.

And this is the magic that happens when Sean and Marlee get together.

Sean Forbes Ft Marlee Matlin

Katy’s Fireworks

Perry good: Katy Perry

Her detractors will say that Katy Perry is on point but then why is that a bad thing.

The green-eyed monster of jealousy is of course rearing its ugly head here while our heroine is rearing her gorgeous head.

No less a figure than Joe Biden had her perform at his inauguration party.

And she brought the house down with her rendition of Fireworks in Washington DC.

All of which was signed and which cut the night air.

 

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!