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

Hungry and Thursday – Smashing Trumpkins

No, I didn’t invent them, Smashing Trumpkins, although I wish I had.

I don’t know either which President was first honoured by having his face carved into a pumpkin.

But I do know the first tome I saw one… the Obama pumpkin.

Yes we pecan! www.twitter.com

When I took my family over to New York for the first time.

Every four years, of course, Halloween shares its season with politics, and the Race for the White House.

And carving the candidates into the face of a pumpkin has become a bit of a tradition.

We saw our Obama pumpkins on the doorsteps in Staten Island, the forgotten borough of old New York.

The Free Ferry. www.siferry.com

Staten Island is best known, of course, for its free ferry which carries 25 million passengers a year.

On the 5.2 mile 25-minute run between the St George Terminal and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

I wouldn’t for a minute put you off the wonderful boat trips around the Statue of Liberty. And in particular The Beast speedboat.

It’s just that you can see Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Heights and Lower Manhattan.

The historic borough of Staten Island

Staten Island has a museum, a zoo and Historic Richmond Town.

Of course, The Greatest Living New Yorker, Donald Trump, knows the Ferry from seeing it from his chopper.

I diverse from pumpkins and the recipe here for a Trumpkin pie I gleaned from the net.

But let me leave you here with a thought, The orange-faced pumpkin is made for the 45th President of the USA.

America, Countries, Culture

All the Presidents then

And as The Donald and The Joe go head to head in the first Presidential debate of this race… a look at how America remembers its Presidents.

Yes, with huge monuments as in the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

While for the best of them (at least when it was carved) they get their faces on the side of Mount Rushmore.

A word of two then on these and other Presidential landmarks.

George’s obelisk

Aspiring to greater things

Washington Monument: By George, they don’t make Presidents like him any more.

George refused to take the title of King.

And he also turned down an ostentatious statue in Washington of him astride a horse as suggested by his old pal Lafayette.

The Washington Monument, the world’s tallest obelisk at 554ft is almost due east of the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

Abe, a man for all the ages

Seat of power

The Lincoln Memorial: And here’s a nod to the Ages with the building in the form of a Doric temple.

It has also become the focal point for the Civil Rights Movement.

The March to Washington ended here.

And it’s where Martin Luther King delivered his I Have A Dream speech.

Channel your inner Abe and make a seat in front of him.

And look out onto the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument.

Kennedy, the center

The Kennedy Center and the Eternal Flame: And among all the legacies JFK left high among them was his love of the arts.

The Kennedy Center is next door to Watergate, where his nemesis Richard Nixon was undone and is truly an inspiring building.

But while the Kennedy Center is notable for its scale.

It is the intimacy of his last resting place in Arlington Cemetery which really touches the soul.

Nixon’s library

Richard Nixon Library, California: And contrary to popular belief the Nixons and the Kennedys got on real well.

And Pat Nixon even invited Jacqui and the kids back over to their old home, the White House after John F Kennedy was killed.

The Nixons still keep in touch with all their friends.

Which is probably why your favourite Travelman got a call last year.

As the Nixon Library invited me over to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing under Richard’s watch.

I couldn’t go and sent Buzz Aldrin in my stead.

Good Ol’ Ronnie

Ronald Reagan Library, California: And every library should have a bar, don’t you think?

Well Ronnie’s does… and it’s a recreation of the one he was taken to in his ancestors’ homestead in Tipperary.

Now every American President since Kennedy returned ‘home’ will take a sip of Guinness when they visit Ireland.

The Donald’s drink of choice is, of course, a Diet Coke,

Is he the real thing or will America go for Joe.

Tune in and find out.

America, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Football’s back – take your pick

Now it all depends on whether you’re American, English, Irish or Australian who all embrace their football game.

It’s in the human DNA you see since the day Cain decided to kick Abel’s skull into a ditch.

So here are some thoughts on some of the teams I’ve adopted from my travels.

Touchdown

Off Pat

New England Patriots: I don’t know if you’re allowed it but I adopt all the American sports teams wherever I go.

It does make it easier to pick a winner if you’ve got the New York Jets (my Long Island cousins’-team), the Washington Redskins who are now looking for a new team, and the Denver Broncos.

It’s just that you go with the team where you spend the most time… and that was my summer after university in Boston.

Hoop dreams

All’s Well: Celtic v Motherwell. www.celticfc.net

And I had little choice growing up in Glasgow in the Seventies where Catholics and Protestants didn’t mix to choose Celtic.

Particularly as my Great-Uncles had built Celtic Park.

But Scots kids were allowed too to have an English team and I chose Liverpool.

Forward fast to the Nineties, had a son on Merseyside and it came full circle with The Son and Heir becoming a fully-fledged Red.

GAA-GAA

Prize guys: Donegal

In Ireland, soccer (football) was known as a Garrison game, a preserve of the occupying British Army.

And Gaelic Football, Camogie (the female version) and the stick game hurling were the Irish sports.

I could pick any of Donegal, my Dear Old Mum’s county, Dublin where I worked for 13 years or Co. Wicklow, my adopted home.

But as my Mum drummed it into us as kids that Donegal was the best place on Earth.

And that the rest of Ireland hate serial winners Dublin, it has to be Donegal.

Perth, WA

What’s up your sleeve?

My bonds with Western Australia started when my parents took me back a jersey of the West Coast Eagles. Minus the sleeves of course.

And continued when I joined a Top Deck booze bus to the Oktoberfest in Munich and discovered they were all Aussies and Kiwis.

Fast forward six months and Brownie and Smutley had arrived on my Aberdeen doorstep and went on to set up a WA colony there with their friends.

My one and only Aussie Rules football game was with an English guy at Surrey’s cricket ground, The Oval.

I remember Collingwood were one of the teams but don’t recall the other.

Collingwood are the New England Patriots, Dublin or Manchester United of their country.

Everybody else dislikes them unless you’re one of them.

MEET YOU ON THE PITCH

America, Countries, Culture

Black Washington

I prayed for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs – Frederick Douglass

Its most famous residence is the White House but the mansion of a black slave stands above it and the Capitol in Washington.

And the last occupant of Cedar Hill stands way above the current tenant in Pennsylvania Avenue.

The house on the hill

Today President Donald Trump is throwing a non-masked ball for his people complete with fireworks above the Washington Monument spelling out Trump 2020.

While on the National Mall a Second March on Washington has gathered 57 years after the first.

The scene is replete with history and symbolism.

Douglass come back to life

And above it all Frederick Douglass’s house stands as a reminder and a historical touchpoint for Black Washington.

Douglass, born a slave in Maryland in 1818 taught himself while in captivity before escaping his Master.

And then going onto champion the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad.

In the frame: Frederick Douglass

And also becoming an international spokesman for black people, women’s voting rights.

And among other international causes celebres Irish freedom.

Did I also mention that he was the first black person to run for one of the two great offices of the land?

As the running mate of Victoria Woodhull on the Equal Rights Party ticket.

All of which history is around you as you walk solemnly.

Unfinished business: At the infinity statue of Martin Luther King in Washington DC

Through his house which we are told would cost the equivalent of millions of dollars today.

It is 125 years since Douglass took his dying breath there but its status, and his, continue to grow.

Douglass’s success in Washington, the US capital, serves as an example to others of what can be achieved in the face of repression.

Just as Black Broadway (U Street) does and just as those channeling Dr Martin Luther King are doing.

Including his grand-daughter, Yolanda Renee Kong who spoke so passionately to the crowds yesterday.

This is who we need in the White House

The parties will go on down in that White House and presidents come and go.

But up there in the hills of Annacostia you can’t help thinking.

That the spirit of old Frederick is looking down on them, watching, waiting and dying to say something.

America, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Ireland

Holiday Snaps… why we don’t want 24/7 sunshine

Yes, you read that right, as 24/7 sunshine like we had been getting in the UK means the world is dying that little bit quicker.

While strewth, at the other end of the world, our Australian cousins have been shivering.

And that includes their kangaroos… and snowllabies.

Kangaroos in Australia www.bbc.co.uk

No, best keep the hot places where they’ve always been and the cold ones too.

Imagine Barbados, Tobago and the Caribbean and its people without their sunny disposition.

Thankfully we don’t have to…

Woooah, we’re going to Barbados

With Sandals offering seven nights from £2375pp with travel dates May 1-June 30 at the Sandals Royal Barbados.

You’ll be staying in a south sea crystal lagoon club level Barbados suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub. With flights from Virgin Atlantic,

And I know a thing or two about Tranquillity Soaking Tubs.

A welcome from the Nations

And I’m channeling the good guys

We’re on the eve of the 400th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving Dinner in Plymouth, New England next year.

When the Pilgrims and the Natives shared harvest.

And that alas, if it happened like that at all, is when the sharing stopped and the newcomers took their land and sent them packing.

The pipes of peace

Which is probably where the Choctaw Indians and the Irish were sent to Hell or Connaught by the same British forged their links.

The Choctaw sent money to the starving Irish during the Famine and the Irish reciprocated during these COVID times.

And that’s the subject that remains hanging in the air from the last AIATA webinar.

I’ll return to it and my Native American friends whom I first met in Washington DC and then again in Denver and LA

Wigwam Jim

When I’ll get me the American Travel fair that COVID robbed me of in Vegas.

AIANTA’s will come from Albuquerque next month and will reach us all virtually with the organisers waiving the registration fees.

I’ll be there to bring you all the news.

And it’s gentle cruising

Aran Islands

The sea oh the sea is the gradh geal mo croide. Long may it stay between England and me. It’s a sure guarantee that some day we’ll be free. Oh thank God we’re surrounded by nothing. – The Dubliners

And for the uninitiated those strange Irish words mean ‘sweet love of my heart’.

The song is a celebration of Irish waters.

Including my favourite Meeting of the Waters in my erstwhile County Wicklow home which was immortalised by poet Thomas Moore.

My old friends at Travel Department are used to taking us to exotic places near and far.

Connemara’s old sod

And now in Ireland too.

Galway, Connemara and the Aran Islands is from €599pp for three nights including 3* B&B hotel, transfers, excursions and local guide.

Depart October. Ring (00353) 1 637 1600.

MEET YOU ON THE WATER (AND LAND)

 

America, Countries, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays – Aloe Washington

And if you share with me your dollar I will share my story with you – Aloe Blacc

Cheap at the price too.

Aloe Black has been omnipresent across my American Travel fares.

The cool dude in the pork pie hat was there to greet us on the National Mall in Washington DC on our evening and sing us his standard I Need A Dollar.

We’re down there somewhere… on the National Mall

Only the best for us as they closed it off for the IPW international delegation to parteeee.

And how we did inside the Smithsonian National Space and Air Museum.

So much so, and I blame my old friend Michael from Irish Travel Trade Network for leading me astray, that we all but missed the act.

I’m flyin’ high: The National Space and Air Museum

Thankfully Aloe was back to wow us with another set at one of the lunches between our hall meetings with the states.

And busy boy that he is he had also managed to compose a video and the power of music.

Which he had put together on a whistlestop tour of the US and which the IPW fare in Washington showed us on the big screen.

Aloe there

Great idea and great memories and they all came flooding back as I listened to BBC Radio 2 last week.

Who were featuring him as their artist of the week.

An uplifting message in these times and as Aloe would say and indeed sang to us in Washington… Wake Me Up When It’s All Over.

crab on beach
Caribbean, Countries, Food & Wine

Holy Crab

Holy Crab! I’ve got crabs… come on a bit of sympathy here.

I picked them up from an eddying pool by the West Beach in North Berwick, East Lothian, south of Edinburgh.

No, I’m not making this up!

I’ve always loved seafood inheriting a passion for all things fishy I guess from my Dear Old Mum and Dad.

And I have been fortunate enough to indulge that passion through the adventures I’ve had.

Barbados natives

Bubba, Geraldine and Bandanaman

Crabs proliferate in Barbados and I found from personal experience with Tropical Sky http://www.tropicalsky.ie that they love Club Barbados http://www.theclubbarbados.com on the island’s Platinum Coast.

Where you can spend many a happy hour checking their progress… which isn’t much to be honest as they sidle sideways.

Much like I did, giddy from one too many Rum Punch, after Happy Hour. And who am I kidding? Every hour was happy hour.

It seems heartless then to say that I love them best on my plate but then if God hadn’t meant them to be eaten he would’t have made them so damn tasty.

And when I say ‘plate’ I probably mean a big pot.

Being shellfish in Boston

sunset skyline boston dusk
Boston skyline Photo by Kristin Vogt on Pexels.com

My first introduction to crabs was on the last evening of my much-storied summer in Boston https://www.bostonusa.com after university.

When I had saved up enough money to have a blowout and eat at the oldest restaurant in Beantown, the Union Oyster House http://unionoysterhouse.com on the Freedom Trail.

Mysel and my mucker Neilly proceeded to order the most expensive meal on the menu and were surprised and thrilled in equal measure when they presented us with what appeared to be two big wine buckets.

In which seemed to contain two giant scoops of Boston Harbour.

This being America where practicality is king we were each given bibs too.

Slip slidin’ away

wooden barrel and ropes
Maryland history. Photo by David Dibert on Pexels.com

We both waddled like crabs out of the Union Oyster House and back to our billets in Boston’s rough and ready Combat Zone where we were staying.

And drank the night away at their all-black shebeen Alfies’s. But that’s a different story and one I will keep for another day.

appetizer crab cuisine delicious
Full to overflowing. Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

Meanwhile I’ll tempt you with a recipe for Maryland Crab Cakes given to me by my favourite cousin which I spotted on this fridge magnet in the kitchen.

And which she gave me among a hamper of goodies when I visited when I was in Washington DC http://www.washington.org and Easy DC.

Tobago obviously

Any jobs going? With Auntie Ali and Uncle Kenneth in Tobago

While my mind wanders I’d be remiss not to give a shout-out to the wonderful Auntie Ali and Uncle Kenneth here at the Blue Crab in Tobago http://www.tobago.gov.tt and http://www.tobagobluecrab.com/#about.

And don’t you know they’ve only got Crab Chowder as a starter.

You want more Tobago then check out Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago.

I’m off to mix a Corn & Oil and a Dark & Stormy, the recipes I picked up from my old friend Marc from Barbados… http://www.visitbarbados.org. Did I tell you I’ve been? Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna.

And which I will share with you… but indulge me my sore head might make me crabby.

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Paul Simon in New York

We’ve lived so well so long But when I think of the road we’re travelling on I can’t help but wonder what’s gone wrong Paul Simon, American Tune

Rhymin’ Simon never billed himself as a protest singer but his American Tune spoke to the Nixon Years… and to today.

It is apt then that he is singing it now in his virtual set.

And chose it as the penultimate song in Dublin in his farewell tour. See him perform it here on American TV https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pHZ72yHQ0K8.

In American Tune, the New York prophet has caught the zeitgeist.

Paul Simon in his pomp. www.paulsimon.com

I unashamedly and boldly sang it on the streets of Manhattan on my last visit.

As I jostled through the throb of Times Square.

Sweltering in my cowboy hat, a rucksack on each shoulder, and dragging a suitcase behind me.

Simon & Garfunkel’s protests were never in the same vein as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

But they spoke to a Scottish adolescent in the 70s and sang of a different freedom, of travel, in a greyhound bus.

I went to look for America https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sFAoWwUwknc in the Eighties in the iconic coach from New York https://www.nycvb.com to Boston https://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston.

Where we came across our first Native Americans, a vagrant, but alas no shifty-looking spy in a gaberdine suit.

Thirty years later I was on another Greyhound on the way from Washington DC https://washington.org and Easy DC to Philadelphia https://www.visitphilly.com and Philadelphia Freedom.

And I was thankful to the driver for making up the time we had lost waiting in DC for passengers.

You see I only had an afternoon to see the cracked old bell and follow in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin and Rocky Balboa.

Before it was then off to NY https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/28/old-new-york-hamilton/amp/.

When I ‘counted the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.’

Another famous New Yorker was waiting for me in Times Square when I got there.

And he obviously had his hand out.

MEET YOU BACK IN THE USA

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – the sermon on the mountain

Watch therefore for ye know neither the.day nor the hour that the Son of Man cometh – Matthew 25

Ignoring that this is the Parable of the Ten Virgins and that it deals with how prepared or otherwise they were to serve the bridegroom.

But there is a message here about preparedness and the buzz phrase ‘stay alert’ and, scholar that he is, I’m sure Boris Johnson would know of the passage’s significance.

All of which Biblical touchpoints brings me to a mountain looking over Jericho, Jerusalem and The Promised Land… www.visitjordan.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

The Promised Land: On Mt Nebo

Which is the closest Moses got to taking his people home which was of course the central theme of the sermon on the mountain.

He died atop the mountain, punishment for an earlier row with God.

No, not that one, but a homily in the church given by the Sri Lankan pastor in Mt Nebo.

Alas, I was whisked away from hearing his pay-off as our G Adventures group www.gadventures.co.uk were bound for the desert.

As you all know by now I make a point of going where people play and pray.

And listen to the sermons.

Here’s to Moses

When your holy man (and it’s almost always a man) gets to pace the stage.

Use his hands and tease, cajole, comfort and berate us.

It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s greatest orators have been preachers… Martin Luther Dresden’s renaissance and https://www.dresden.de/en/tourism/tourism.php.

And Dr Martin Luther King Easy DC and https://washington.org,

Me and Martin: In Dresden

Though, of course we could never see Martin Luther in his pomp now but you couldn’t help but get a sense of the man in Saxony.

And there is a preacher at Luther’s church, the Frauenkirche in Dresden worthy of his famous predecessor.

As he recalled his own father taking him to the ruins of the church where only the statue of Luther still stood and vowed that one day it would be rebuilt.

His near namesake is all over Washington where his statue remains unfinished in homage to the unfinished struggle.

While in Memphis https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org his last resting place The Promised Land the Civil Rights Tourist will want to take in the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Where he gave his rousing ‘I have been to the Mountaintop sermon https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zgVrlx68v-0.

Like Moses he (and me) did not get to the Promised Land but he has seen the glory of the Lord.

And we will too when all this is over.

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Pandemics… a gruesome business

And to think that just a couple of months ago an underground abandoned street from the Black Death was open…

And drawing in ghoulish visitors in Edinburgh.

It might just give us solace though to reflect that our forebears had it worse.

A city under a city… The Real Mary King’s Close

It wasn’t just that the residents of Mary King’s Close https://www.realmarykingsclose.com were boarded up, they didn’t even have Netflix.

You can see how they lived on a trip to the Scottish capital https://edinburgh.org where the Old Town seeps horrible history.

How they lived in the Middle Ages

The Eyam Plague Village Museum https://www.eyam-museum.org.uk, in Derbyshire in the English Midlands, is another example of how Medieval people lived with The Plague.

In their case sealing their village off in a remarkable feat of self-sacrifice from their neighbours.

Our pandemic will pass, and will become a chapter in history alongside the Plague of Athens and the Plague of Justinian.

Each of which you can trace as you follow in the footsteps of the Byzantines and Ottomans… https://athensattica.com and https://visit.istanbul.

And My Greek odyssey and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

So how will we chronicle these days in which we live?

Well, we have started already, curating the artefacts, masks, robes, PPE and everyday objects that we surround ourselves with just now.

And the everyday stories that inform and entertain.

It will come as little surprise then that it is the idiosyncratic, curious and super-efficient Germans who have been to the fore here.

Oh, the Cologne

Historian Rita Wagner has been curating a time capsule of the spring of 2020 for future generations for Cologne City Museum

Germans know from their own tragic war history that it is vital not to forget.

Cologne https://www.cologne-tourism.com, a city I know from my nearby Oktoberfest adventures, stands proudly with its cathedral at its centrepoint against the ravages of adversity.

Dresden too https://www.dresden.de/en/tourism/tourism.php Dresden’s renaissance

Oh, Vienna, it means something to me

While Wien University https://www.univie.ac.at/en/ (Vienna to you and me) put out an invitation to the public.

To contribute to their collection via email and the.’Corona Memory’ tag.

Take that, bug

One of my favorite objects is a crocheted coronavirus,” says museum director Matti Bunzl.

‘It is not only cute, it shows that objects are ambassadors of their time.”

Not so sure about ‘cute’ Matti but it does help to demystify the bug. https://www.wien.info/en.

Finns can only get better

Finland is the happiest country in the world and has a healthy recognition that death is part of life and life is for living.

And they too at the National Museum of Finland https://www.kansallismuseo.fi/en/.

We all love a fairytale

And wonderful Copenhagen which I visited on my cruse around the fjords with https://www.msccruises.co.uk wew.msccruises.ie and The call of the fjords.

Where when all of this is over it will all be in the one place in Vesthimmerlands Museum https://www.visitvesthimmerland.com/vesthimmerland/planlaeg-din-tur/vesthimmerlands-museum-gdk597684

America may have lost its moral direction in leadership through this crisis but that will surely be temporary.

As its own history shows as evidence in its Smithsonian Museums.

The jewel of the Smithsonian Museums

The National Museum of African American History and Culture https://nmaahc.si.edu is the jewel in the Smithsonian crown.

And they too are curating how we are living our lives now.

Whether long red ties and take-aways of diet Coca-Cola and burgers from up Pennsylvania Avenue will make the cut…

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Visit https://washington.org and Easy DC.