Asia, Countries, Europe

Flip-floppin’ Georgia statues and others

And I’m prompted my old friend, Gaelic Scotland’s answer to Simon Reeve, Anna Kennedy, to probe flip-floppin’ Georgia statues.

I admit I didn’t know about The Sea Slippers in Batumi or any of the other funky statues in the Asian country.

It’s not something George Zurabashvili or I got around to.

When he invited me over to his gaffe, the Georgian Embassy in Dublin.

We were too busy talking about Georgian wine, the oldest in the world, and rugby.

And if I could get an Irish delegation out to the country.

Platforms for success

Her arm must be getting sore: The Statue of Liberty

But statues while usually not a sole reason for visiting a destination are often one of the must-do excusions…

The Statue of Liberty in New York, Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, Anne Frank in Amsterdam, Nelson’s Column in London, Jim Larkin in Dublin,. or the best of all, Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh.

That Georgia has such a funky statue shouldn’t come as too much surprise.

As countries which were long suppressed by Soviet Union have had an explosion of architectural expression since the break-up of the USSR.

Czech out Czerny

Map it out: The Peeing Pragueites

Now I love an Astronomical Clock as much as the next person who takes the most common selfie in Prague.

Although confession time here I do prefer the Beer Astronomical Clock in Zatec.

But if statues give you a historical shorthand for a city then Prague shows its many wonderful, modern, Communist and post-Communist faces.

Whether it’s peeing statues outside the Franz Kafka Museum (he would have approved), hanging umbrella men or the crawling babies up the Zivkov TV tower.

Or Czech patriarch King Charles IV or King Wenceslas.

Though truth be known, it’s hard to top climbing babies and peeing Pragueites.

Slovaks too

Cumil ye faithful: Man at Work in Bratislava

And in a nod too to my pal Katarina who flies the flag for the Czechs but who was born under the banner of neighbours of Slovakia

Cumil, the tin-helmeted bronze sculpture, who emerges from a mancover. 

A road sign warns you as reckless drivers have chopped his head off before!

Bosnian Bruce

G’Day Bruce: In Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Now our Balkan friends have some unusual icons.

Remembering that British slapstick comedian Norman Wisdom is a national hero.

In Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina when you get out of Medjugorje where there’s something about Mary, it’s Bruce Lee.

Bruce became a national hero through the black market for video cassettes. 

A kick in the ribs for Marshall Tito there.

Alexander’s Great Mate

Something fishy: In Skopje, North Macedonia

Alexander, of course, is a great icon the world over.

But his status is so high in south-east Europe that the Greeks tried to stop North Macedonia getting into the UN because they erected a statue to him in Skopje.

Well, we’ll leave the squabbling to these neighbours and instead celebrate Grozdanka Kanikova’s erection (stop it!).

It is in fact a Fish which seems to have three legs and appropriately stands outside the Olympic Swimming Pool.

Earth-shattering Budapest

Did the Earth move for you? Man Emerging From The Earth, Budapest

And sometimes I (and others) wish the ground would just swallow me up.

In a twist on that the Hungarians give us a giant man emerging from the earth as part of an arts festival.

And so put your preconceptions behind about the old East.

And reflect instead on the statues around us in the UK.

Better flip-floppin’ Georgia statues and others than some old relics of Empire.

 

 

Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe, Ireland

Cassidy’s Sundance Kids

My Dear Old Mum would visit the same Travel Agent every year to book our family holiday and I’m sure it’s the same for Cassidy’s Sundance Kids.

Cassidy, as all in Ireland know, is the country’s biggest independent Travel Agent.

And it has made generations of holidaymakers dreams come true.

Which is why families continue to go back to them again and again to book their holidays.

Now there have been many heroes over this Covid year and a half and our health workers, teachers…

And heck, all of us should take a bow.

But I’d like to give a shout-out to our Travel Providers who have often worked without pay and in their own time.

And all to make sure customers get away or are refunded or have their holidays rescheduled.

Now there are those who say that getting away is not a matter of life and death.

But if self-isolation (and the Son and Heir is facing that just now) has taught us anything it is that humans do not belong caged up.

And so we are delighted to report that Cassidy Travel’s doors are open and filling our inboxes with their offers.

And so without further ado…

On trend

Last year’s blond: ‘The Donald’ in New York

Here’s where they want to take us and I’m indebted to the awesome Aileen who has taken over babysitting us Travel professionals.

Here are the trends (as the kids say):

The late Autumn deals, New York and Las Vegas shopping breaks, Christmas markets, Lapland, Christmas and New Year Sun.

Take a breath…

New Year and January Ski, Cruising, Florida 2022 and Villa Holidays.

And, yes please to them all.

But we’ll pare some of them down to these Three Cheers.

Ola Barcelona

To the Lord: At Gaudi’s centrepiece La Sagrada

We all know Barcelona in the summer where it’s hot, hot, hot.

And I’m sure I’m still the subject of the proud, brusque Catalan waitress who I managed to draw a smile from when I asked for a hot chocolate on the hottest day of the hottest heatwave.

Thankfully we got to take to the water for a cruise stop.

flights and 3 nights accommodation at the 3*Hotel Leo for the incredible price of €149pp (based on two people sharing)!

Flight departs Dublin 13th and returning 16th October 2021.

Call Cassidy Travel on 01 8901000 or book in one of their 10 stores across Dublin.

You’re a Celebrity too

On Celebrity Cruises’ Edge

And Celebrity Edge is the ultimate in cruising with its floating tender… and yes, love me tender.

Cassidy will get you on board for a scoot around Italy and Greece aboard next summer 2022.

Get on this deal for seven nights in an interior cabin including full board.

Plus Always Included Promotion Classic Drinks package, internet package and tips for only €1929pp.

Setting sail from Rome and visiting Naples and the stunning Greek islands of Santorini, Rhodes & Mykonos,

And phinally Phuket

Phuket, we’ll finish with a land, Thailand, and resort, Phuket, where I sent many a young adventurer and page designer and scuba diver Podge in my time as a commissioning editor.

Cassidy has 50% savings included for a ten-night stay in the 4* Old Phuket Karon Beach Resort from only €998pp for next May.

Stay in a Deluxe Sino Wing room, beautiful period accommodation influenced by Sino-Portuguese architecture.

And enjoy the magnificent pool, mountain views and beach side bars.

Prices are based on two sharing and include flights, taxes, private transfers and hotel accommodation.

Book by September 30 to avail of this amazing deal!

And aren’t these all good reasons to pitch Cassidy’s Sundance Kids.

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, South America, UK

Olympic anthems

It’s not always the official song, so as we all zone in on Tokyo, here’s Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems.

You go, Subo

In the pink: SuBo

Wings to Fly (Tokyo): Were you surprised too to see Scottish nightingale Susan Boyle trilling out Wings to Fly to accompany the release of those doves in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo?

Not bad for a wee lass from Bathgate, Scotland, where the birds disturb the peace by dropping their stuff on you.

Houston, we have an anthem

Smile and style: Whitney

One Moment in Time (Atlanta): Now there was no female singer in the world in the 1990s than Whitney Houston.

And the warbler was the obvious choice for the signature tune for the 1996 Olympics in Georgia. Alas, this had all the saccharine of the city’s most famous soft drink.

What Katy Did Next

And she’ll be in Vegas soon

Rise (Rio)Katy Perry too was stellar, and still is, at the last Olympics in 2016 but she didn’t rise to the occasion with this overproduced piece of schtick.

Too earnest, we’d have far preferred Fireworks. And there are plenty of them in Rio by the sea-o.

Dream Small

Small wonder: Heather

Proud (London): Big hair, big smile voice, Heather Small was Big in the late 80s with dance band M People.

And big again when Heather re-released her solo song Proud as the anthem of the London Olympics in 2012.

We see Heather more now on reality TV, Strictly, the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage but would rather hear That voice.

Barcelonaaaaaaa

Catalan cantatas

Barcelona, Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé: And one we definitely see, overblown opera with Fandango Freddie and Spanish Soprano Montserrat.

All against the backdrop of brilliant Barcelona.

Your Olympic anthems

But what would be Freddie’s discipline? A lover of ballet, we’re thinking rhythmic gymnastics.

But what are your Rainy Days and Songdays Olympic anthems?

 

Countries, Europe, South America, UK

It’s Coming Home Messi’s Homecoming

Felicitación Leo, or Felicitats in his adopted Catalan, It’s Coming Home Messi’s Homecoming.

It has been largely ignored in the UK but there has been another football match taking place this weekend.

And the clash of Argentina and Brazil in the Copa America was also watched by hundreds of millions.

King of South America

 

Argentina, Argentina: Leo with Emi Martinez

Messi has been scratching an itch for some time now.

That his great rival Portugal hero Cristiano Ronaldo has won his continent’s competition, and he hasn’t.

Scratch no more Leo, the Copa is yours. after Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Brazil in the early hours of this morning.

I have, of course, had the pleasure of meeting both Ronnie and Leo… in Portugal and Catalonia.

The One Ronnie

Model footballer: Cristiano

Alas, not in person, but in the ubiquitous paraphernalia in those countries (and I freely give Catalonia that status).

You may usually come for the sun in Portugal but you will soon realise the importance of football.

In the land of Fado and Fatima, Coimbra and Fatima.

Hotti Totti

Roman God: Francesco Totti

Where in amongst the tables of Our Lady statuettes and trinkets sat a beach towel of that other hallowed figure, Cristiano Ronaldo.

What is it about religious pilgrimages that the religion of football sits alongside it so easily?

Italians worship both Gods equally and the shops outside the Vatican are a wash of colour.

Make a wish

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Yellow and white Holy See and yellow and reds AS Roma.

And where Francesco Totti noddy dolls are all the rage although Ciro Immobile figures will no doubt be sharing the tables now.

Immobile’s team Lazio are named after the province in which Rome sits and both clubs share the Olympic Stadium.

Although you’ll see more light blue flags and scarves the more you get out into the country.

Balkans boy

Go Croatia: With my Balkan pals in Ireland

You’ll see the power and pull of football in Medjugorje too where Croatia captain Luka Modric is idolised.

Now, granted I have taken a circuitous route here.

Before eventually reaching the Great Man.

So back to Messi’s Homecoming…

Leo’s a big teddy bear

Our goal celebration in Barcelona

Now Argentina is a pleasure I’ve yet to enjoy, and will, but Messi’s home now is Barcelona.

Where if you can’t get up close and personal with Leo you can cuddle a Messi bear.

On a Royal Caribbean ship in Barcelona harbour, a hub for cruise ships.

Now noddy statuettes of the England players will already be in production.

And don’t be surprised to see them sharing tables, shelves and shops with the Queen soon.

But until it happens today belongs to the Little Maestro.

It’s Coming Home Messi’s Homecoming.

 

Countries, Europe

The beers are on Munich

Conversations naturally turn to steins in Munich and at the home of their faves Bayern Munchen who are the talk of football this week.

Because of their stop the traffic 8-2 trouncing of the lauded Barcelona in the Champions League.

The Stein I had in mind back in the day in the mid-Eighties as we watched Bayen beat Nuremberg 1-0 was Jock Stein.

The storied Top Deck beer bus

And a rather circuitous conversation played itself out as I tried to educate Hans about the Scotland manager Jock Stein.

Drink up!

I squeezed a couple of litre steins, one a big glass one, another a decorative one, into my backpack which have pride of place in my cabinet.

Who had died of a heart attack in a Cardiff dugout just weeks before.

Stocking up at the airport

Football and drink haven’t always been good bedfellows but Bayern embrace Munich’s beer and Oktoberfest links.

And you can see evidence in Munich Airport where branded steins and beer packs are on sale in their shops.

Frau did she do that?

And where check-out staff don lederhosens.

Although not the ticket office where Stern Frau is the order of the day although I shouldn’t complain.

As she did organise a new ticket for me after I had gone to the wrong gate and missed my flight to Athens.

Fur he’s a jolly good fellow

In Barcelona, of course, they say it is mes que un club, more than a club.

And Leonardo Messi has as much prominence, if not more, than Christopher Columbus who dominates the entrance to La Ramblas.

Mr Stein

What happens next for the Argentine magician… and dare we think the unthinkable that next season he’ll be in a different shirt.

Mr Stein

A final word now on the football… the mini-World Cup format of the COVID-19 Champions League is proving a roaring success.

In fact the best European Cup since Celtic became the first British team to lift the trophy in 1967 with a team drawn all from the West of Scotland.

When Jock Stein was their manager.

It is a spiritual experience for Celtic supporters and they often double it up with a trip to see Our Lady in Fatima to give thanks.

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying

Holiday Snaps – Atoll order, your own private island

If you have to be stuck in lockdown it might seem like Atoll order, but I would recommend an island in the Maldives. Just saying.

And one, Kandolhu http://www.kandolhu.com, that is 200sqm is just the ticket and even better now that all its five bars will be reopening… Atoll tale – the Maldives, http://www.kuramathi.ie and http://www.turkishairlines.ie http://www.turkishairlines.com.

But in the words of the inestimable Chris Tarrant, I don’t want to give you that (well, I do but…) I want to give you this.

Joali, 45 minutes by seaplane from Male, which is welcoming back guests from August 1.

There’s everything you would expect in terms of luxury with your own swimming pool, yoga and wellness treatment, private dining options and the chance to go out to your own desert island!

But get this, you and your friends can buy out the island’s own 73 villas and residences and facilities.

Exclusive use buyout will start from $90,000 per night through to September 30 and $185,000 per night between October 1 and 30 November.

For guests 12 and above an all-inclusive full-board meal plan (including alcohol for adults) will cost an additional $450per night per guest. Visit http://www.inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk.

And whaddya mean you haven’t got that kind of moolah? You’ve been locked down for the last four months!

Insert smiley Ryanair emoji here

You know that we’re getting back to normal when Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com are getting funky with their slogans and emojis again and they’ve only taken to dressing oranges with sunglasses.

To flag up many of my favourites, among them Barcelona https://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/, http://www.royalcaribbean.co.uk and Messi around on the water and Smooth sailing around the Western Med from €24.99, Dubrovnik with Croatia Tours https://visitdubrovnik.hr, http://www.Croatia.ie and On the road to Dubrovnik from €24.99.

And my honeymoon island of Malta http://www.visitmalta.com and Malta pleaser also from €24.99.

Where myself and the world’s luckiest woman still have a complimentary bottle of champagne which we never finished 25 years ago still waiting for us.

Wearing my Sandals on my sleeve

A basket of devourables

Caribbeanophile that I am, I’ve been cheering on the Windies in their Test series with England (don’t tell the Scary One).

The Windies are of course promoting Sandals http://www.sandals.co.uk on the sleeves of their shirts and it is timely as their resorts are open for business with some great offers.

Jamaica has been the prize which has been slipping through my grasp these past couple of years through me being in another part of the world at the time when it was offered, or even worse WORKING!

The famous five with Laura and Hayley centre

But I will keep next January free (promise!) for your seven-night stay at the Sandals Ochi Beach, seven nights from £2,129pp including flights.

You can upgrade too to butler elite room for only €156 which tickled the fancy of my colleagues when I stayed there Let’s rumba in Barbados and http://www.visitbarbados.org who I’ll call Laura and Hayley so as NOT to protect their privacy!

And, of course, I’ve been promising you more Jocktails with a Caribbean twist. They’re coming. Don’t you know how difficult it is to get Falernum in Scotland.

Crazy cruisey government advice

And sporting my medallion on my lapel

So, who thinks it’s a good idea to give the green light to pack out pubs and beaches but thinks it unsafe to let cruise companies and grown-ups distance themselves on cruise ships?

Herself was only a little princess when she passed through the Panama Canal with her parents on her trip home on a working ship from Australia as a child.

Panama dancing

Princess Cruises had been traversing the canal for some half a dozen years by then and have continued to do so (lockdown excepted) and aim to do so again.

All of which will be sweet music to the Indomitable Mrs M who wants an upgrade from that working ship!

Fort Lauderdale R&R

For 2021-22 voyages wil range from 10-15 days visiting 17 destinations in eight countries.

Venice Beach is mine

On the 10-day option you’ll have the choice of leaving either from Fort Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale and Miami – a tale of two sittings or Los Angeles My Weekend With Marilyn or San Francisco with stop-offs in, among others, Mexico, South and Central America.

Visit http://www.pirncess.com. I might even let Herself off from winding back the levers on those locks!