Countries, Ireland

Higgins atop the world in Wicklow

They say the best things come in small packages and piccolo President Michael D Higgins is atop the world in Wicklow.

President Higgins may be only 5ft 4ins but he is astride his country in a way other major heads of state can only dream.

And he stood on the mountaintop today, or as close as you get to a mountain, in my own stomping ground of Co. Wicklow.

Beyond the Trees

A round of applause: For Michael D Higgins

He was there to open ‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’, combining a 2,300ft Treetop Walk with a 12 storey-high Viewing Tower.

Michael D is hugely popular in Ireland and is already into his second term of elected office which will take him to 2025.

The octogenarian academic and patron of the arts and Irish culture would have been in his element in Avondale, home of the King of Ireland.

And you thought Ireland fully broke ties with the monarchy back in 1948 by pulling out of the Commonwealth.

While they had in reality left Britain 100 years ago this December when they became a republic.

The King of Ireland

The King and I:  Parnell back in day

Well, Avondale and Wicklow’s finest, the 19th-century titan, Charles Stewart Parnell, will forever be the King of Ireland.

I’ll be heading ‘home’ for a whistle-stop tour of Dublin and Wicklow next week and hopefully return to Rathdrum and Avondale.

As well as being the birthplace of Parnell, a word too on Samuel Hayes who inherited the estate in 1770 and how he saved Ireland’s forests.

And a historic footnote here that they were once destroyed to build ships for Nelson’s war with Napoleon.

Treeman Hayes

Garden of Ireland: Avondale

Back to Hayes and he is the author of Ireland’s first book about trees.

And he set about creating a forest park at Avondale, which is often thought of as the birthplace of Irish forestry.

Coming full circle, following his death, Avondale was inherited by Parnell’s cousin, Sir John, great grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell.

At Beyond the Trees you will enter through the new Seed Café into the Walled Garden.

It also houses a Coillte Pavilion, an immersive exhibition.

Walk this way

Architectural delight: The tower

At the end of the Walled Garden, visitors enter the Treetop Walk.

And they’ll begin the journey on the elevated boardwalk, which is up to 75ft above the forest floor at its highest point.

Some numbers too on Avondale’s Forest Arboretum, it features 300-year-old trees planted by Hayes.

The Treetop Walk culminates in the journey to the top of the Viewing Tower, reaching 124ft into the sky.

Slide rule

Child’s play: Watch your step

Did we say too that there was a slide down?

And you can whoosh your way quickly back down via a 295ft slide, providing an exhilarating end to your experience.

Beyond the Trees Avondale is a Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland production.

And Wicklow, the Garden of Ireland, is a divine production.

So I’d urge you to join President Michael D Higgins atop the world in Avondale, Wicklow, only an hour 20 minutes south.

And the experience will be further enhanced in the Autumn with restoration work and the reopening of Avondale House



America, Countries, Ireland

Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York

It was inevitable. Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York and The Happy Wanderer knew just how to play me.

The bould Teasy had taken me as her Plus One to my cousin Eddie’s wedding in the Big Apple.

Where she would preen her feathers and not just those on her hat.

The Irish Diaspora, of which I am of the Scottish variety, know well the awe in which the American wave is held.

And growing up in the Grey Glasgow of the Seventies New York City and my relatives were always held up as the idyll.

Alongside, of course, my Mum’s homeland of Ireland.

Broadway Mammy

This year’s blond: With ‘The Donald’ in New York

I’m in a New York State of Mind today after my old friends from Click&Go flagged up their NY offer to give your Mum for Mother’s Day.

To stay for three nights £619pp in the 4* Row NYC Hotel in the heart of Broadway in May with return flights Dublin to NY.

Give my regards to Row NYC: Broadway

My wee Mammy will be right at home too as she is the biggest diva of them all.

The rule of Mum

Double trouble: And two of my Irish Mammy

But some ground rules this time…

As a seasoned travel professional I know my way around an airport (OK, she doesn’t know the truth so indulge me).

And when your relatives offer to put you up don’t think for them or look a gift horse in the mouth.

It’s an Irish thing! As is demanding to pay the dinner bill.

And I’m reminded of the Irish advert where two oul’ ones batter the hell out of each other for the right to pay.

Shop till you drop

Shopped out: And the only time she’s quiet

Shopping too with any woman is a Herculean ordeal.

And in NY where that means Macy’s then my modus operandi is get in, get out.

Particularly as you can get lost in there.

And there’s no use denying that you had any part in choosing The Scary One’s souvenir.

BTW she still uses the candy pink Guess handbag.

While there’s no talking to a woman who insists on wearing her stilettos on the hop-on, hop-off Manhattan bus.

An Irish homecoming

Donegal calling: At Ballybofey’s Jackson’s Hotel

And as I alluded to The Diva is even more empowered in her homestead of Ireland and her village of Brockagh, Co. Donegal.

Where she was wont to stride down the road with her sisters in her fur coat back on their return to the Bogs of Donegal back in the day.

And all of us, the next generation, revert to (or are reverted to) childhood when our parents have been around. 

A Ballyhoo

Green, green, grass of Ireland: And two peas in a pod

Such as in our old stomping ground of Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey.

When in the hotel where here, not Shannon, was where Irish Coffee originated she shared this gem with my Dublin cousin Monica…

‘I’ve four brothers, a husband and three sons and James (my Sunday name) is the most selfish man of them all.’

And this after I’d taken time off and driven her all the way up from Greystones in Co. Wicklow!

Silly old woman had forgotten.

That with her hearing aid in she was speaking louder and I could hear her.

Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday, ye mad thing. 

And for context think Catherine Tate’s alter ego Nan from Nan The Movie.

Meanwhile I’ll daydream about Mother’s Day Mother’s Way and New York.

And much, much more.




America, Countries, Europe, Ireland

It’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts

A redeye and no Aircoach… fear not it’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts.

Your globetrotting Bandanaman is hotfooting it over to his spiritual homeland of Ireland tomorrow morning.

But such are the vagaries of North Berwick, 15 miles east of Edinburgh, that there is no aircoach from outside my door.

As there was 24-7 in Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Hubba bubba: Dublin Airport

And so I have the options of a £75 taxi from Castle Murty, asking The Scary One to give me an early morning lift.

Or grabbing the last train (hopefully it’s on as the slightest puddle causes cancellations).

And bunking for the night at the airport… I’ve ruled out the £100 hotel rates.

So the Holidos and Donts.

A site for sore eyes

It helps if you’re in any of the airports flagged up by the excellent Sleeping in Airports site.

And you’ll notice that most of their followers’ recommendations are in stopover airports in Asia.

But there are some old faves too in Europe and America.

Best for a layover

On the right track: Turkish Airlines Business Class

In Istanbul’s award-winning Turkish Airlines Business Class lounge sure but also in their rest rooms with privacy walls while they also have shower rooms.

But also in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam where they have designated rest zones and plenty of amenities including a casino, fitness facilities, a library and a museum.

Denver too gets a shout-out probably because I spent longer there than anywhere… eight hours after being dropped off after my Wild West odyssey in Colorado.

And you’ll become an expert in putting with their 18-hole green on the balcony… and an arts aficionado with their excellent gallery.

Check it out: Munich check-in at Oktoberfest

Oh, and as for the rest the massages come highly recommended.

Munich Airport falls into the same category, and what it lacks for in ease for getting from one gate to the next when you misread your ticket it makes up for with helpful staff.

Arriving there just before the Oktoberfest you’ll find the staff dressed in Bavarian lederhosens.

And if you’re lucky then you’ll get the same Bertha who changed my ticket for a later one when I’d missed my original forwarding flight to Athens.

Dublin’s lair city

Dressed to thrill: At Dublin Airport

Now that I’ve had my accommodation taken care of by my friends in Ireland who are running the international travel network I won’t have to worry about kipping in Dublin Airport.

But there’s a sleeping pod with my name on it which I’ve bagsied in the past and no doubt will again.

And just to make sure your layover goes well a few tips.

*Lock your bags when you’re asleep and keep them wrapped around your shoulders.

*Put the alarm clock on your mobile to make sure you don’t miss the flight.

*And make sure you’re next to a plug socket just in case your mobile which has your boarding pass and Covid details and locator form on it is charged up.

See it’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts.