America, Countries, Food

Jimbalaya in New Orleans

Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the Bayou as we go Platinum Jimbalaya in New Orleans.

Or if you’re being particular Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and a fillet gumbo but I took to Cajun cuisine the first time I sampled it.

On the forecourt of the American Travel Fair in Washington DC where the New Orleans delegation held their liquid breakfast.

Food for thought

Jambalaya today: Get stuck in

That liquid being the famous local delicacy Sazerac.

And the jambalaya being a spicy rice pot of chicken andouille sausage, shrimps and veg.

Crawfish pie, well being crawfish which tastes a bit like lobster under a crust.

While gumbo is the Louisiana state dish, a soup of meat or shellfish, or maybe both.

With the Creole Holy Trinity of celery, bell peppers and onions.

New Orleans Saints

Easy as: Crawfish pie

All of which was consumed with relish and all before 10am.

Before the Saints came marching in and led us into the conference room.

Those Saints being the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Well we’re being seduced again by the tastes and sounds of New Orleans.

As the Big Easy delegation are the first out of the traps with details of their American Travel Fair party.

Which this May is being held in San Antonio in Texas.

And where helpfully their gig will be at the Westin Riverwalk where we’ll be staying…

Well, we are always where the party is at.

Rhythm in the heart

Souper: Gumbo

Of course New Orleans is just eight hours by road across the Deep South and served by road, rail, bus and air.

Or you could go Platinum with a 14-night fly-drive Southern Rhythms trip from €1519pp.

And what’s best is that this offer takes in and ticks off five states, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

But let’s get the Irish Travel providers and American experts to give us the highlights…

Their pitch is that we will get to tap your feet to the beat in Nashville, Memphis, Lafayette and New Orleans, the region that gave rise to every form of contemporary American music.

And visit Natchez, perhaps the best preserved antebellum town in the South.

As well as historic buildings in Atlanta, where the spirit of Scarlett O’Hara is still in the air.

Although for all her fineries we’d be more Downstairs and all that jazz.

And Jimbalaya in New Orleans.



America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Kiss a Ginger Day

I was crimson-faced the day I mentioned to my auburn-haired cousin  that I didn’t care who my kids wed as long as it’s not a carrothead… so I’ll redress that because take it as red it’s Kiss a Ginger Day,

Yes, it’s a thing, and while the rest of the world has its tanned and toned carnivals in the sun, us Celts (Scottish, Irish, Welsh) and Northern Europeans have our fiery festivals.

Red raver: Irish legend Maureen O’Hara

Because with the most gingers anywhere in the world, and Scots are out front, then gingers like nothing better than getting together to celebrate all things red.

With us Celts and Northern Europeans having gone out and multiplied around the world you can even team it with a holiday.

So there’s where they shout… come on you Reds.

A reddy night in Georgia

Chat-up lines: Do you fall for them?

Ginger Pride Parade, Rome, Georgia, USA: And when a ginger in Rome, Georgia, in March then it’s all about the Annual Ginger Pride Parade.

The free parade kicks off in the morning from Broad Street in Downtown Rome.

The spectacle which has been running since 2011 is described as a lighthearted approach to anti-bullying.

A dab of rouge

Let’s hope he’s not playing: Ed Sheeran

Festival des Ch’tis rouge, Arras, France: In France’s northern city of Arras, redheads galore gather for two days.

They have a fashion show, a ‘redheads got talent’ show,stall and more.

And in 2019 Miss France the raven-haired Maeva Coucke flicked her mane in Arras to show that red est magnifique.

An Italian red

Da Vinci code: Leo was a redhead

RossItalia, Milan/Redhead: Sicily And, yes, of course we love a full-bodied Italian red.

RossItalia has been running since 2012 in the fashion capital of Italy, the perfect backdrop for redheads to gather, mingle and celebrate their ginger hair come May time.

In Sicily, in Favignana to be precise it’s all about la famiglia.

And the ginger family lets their red locks down in July/August with a party filled with music, stalls, games, photography, a parade.

And even a ‘Miss and Mister Red Head Sicily’ contest!

The future is oranje

Come ear red: Vincent Van Gogh

The Redhead Days, Tilburg, Netherlands, August: And in the land where they celebrate the Oranje Army, who follow their national soccer team, then it’s not surprising that your colouring is popular.

Redhead Days, or ‘Roodharingendag’ is known as the world’s largest ginger weekender.

And it holds the world record for the largest number of natural redheads in one place.

Red for Hamburg

Look who I met on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg

Redhead Days Germany/Das Rothaarigentreffen Deutschland, Hamburg, Germany, September: And yes, we all know about the Reeperbahn, the Red Light District in Hamburg.

So, I guess too we shouldn’t be surprised that redheads are looked after too.

With hundreds of redheads and their friends attending previous events, Redhead Days Germany is expected to once again bring you group photo opportunities, a pub crawl, exhibitions, talks and plenty more!

But, of course, you don’t have to wait for any of these events because we’ve got today.

So get out there because take it as red it’s Kiss a Ginger Day.



America, Countries

Bye-Bye B-52s hello Idaho

And in the way that only music bands can do it’s bye-bye B-52s hello Idaho.

The New Wave pioneers are calling time on 46 years of their out there arty pop this year with a tour of the States.

All of which will go down especially well in trippy California and their homestead of Georgia although they won’t be playing Idaho.

They have once before near state capital Boisey.

Love getaway

We can get together: The B-52s

But no sleight intended, the great outdoorsy state (pop 1.5m) is the getaway state of their song and their imagination.

The B-52s are, of course, known for their escapism, their other biggest hit the impossibility catchy Love Shack.

The love getaway down the Atlanta Highway.

And I can vouch that even in their 70s now Fred, Kate and the gang can still get you up bopping.

I’ve got my jukebox money

Hurry up: I’ve got my jukebox money

As I, and others, can testify to when they brought the house down at one of our American Travel Fair lunches, in Denver.

Of course, it felt particularly apt, here in Colorado, in the shadow of the Rockies which it shares with private Idaho.

Idaho is, in truth, as dramatic and remote as in the B-52s’ imagination.

Footsteps of Lewis and Clark

Rocky mountain high: Idaho

And Lewis and Clark, of expeditionary fame.

Both of whom found it is as variable as anywhere on the great American landmass.

And take in Twin Falls where you’ll witness Shoshone Falls, dubbed as the ‘Niagara of the West’ whose waterfalls stands 45 feet taller than the eastern wonder.

Niagara of the West: Shoeshone Falls

Channel your inner trekker on the Northwest Scenic Byway to Coeur d’Alene.

Where sun and moon risings are recommended experiences on your itinerary.

The lunar thing is not by accident…

Out of this world

Over the moon: The Craters experience, Idaho

For an otherworldly experience visit Craters of the Moon National Monument.

As you drive up, you will be greeted by an ocean of lava flows – it feels like walking on the moon!

You won’t be walking of course across the Great American West… you’ll have yourself a car as big as a whale.

Something to think on when we say bye-bye B-52s, hello Idaho.



America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries

And mine’s started ‘Woke up this morning’ (the Bluesman in me), not nearly as observant as Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries.

Eighty years have passed since Otto Frank gave Anne a diary for her 13th birthday in Amsterdam… and the rest is history.

And for the rest of history we have to rely on diarists, and today’s chroniclers, your humble bloggers.

We have, all my favourite Bandanini and Bandanettes, shared in wonderful odysseys, and with Bandanaman at the tiller, that’s obviously meant detours.

A Homer run

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

Homer’s Iliad: And isn’t the journey home always better when you’re diverted to exotic destinations?

We think Odysseus though was just using my excuse for His Scary One that it was a working assignment.

To linger longer in the islands of Attica Region such as Kythera…. or Corfu where we honeymooned and Odysseus dallianced.

Byron Alpshausen

Mad, bad, adventurous to know: Byron Country, Switzerland

Lord Byron’s Alpine Journal: And when Byron was exiled from England for getting ‘too close to his family’ where did he go?

To heaven’s ceiling in Interlaken, Switzerland, of course.

And where you can dine at the very hotel, the Hotel Interlaken, the Bad Boy of the Romantics quaffed wine. And this Swiss swisher too.

Where Twain shall meet

Yale, Connecticut

Mark Twain, a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court: And as prolific a traveller as Connecticut’s Samuel Clemens was this was his most epic journey.

Across 14 centuries and an ocean.

Twain is for many the Father of Modern Travel Writing.

And his home was tantalisingly up the road on my latest trip to New England.

What the Dickens?

Way to go, Joe: With hotel boss Joe at the Hotel Envoy, Boston

Charles Dickens’ American Notes, Pictures from Italy: The Great Victorian Age author of course stripped bare the England of his days.

But his curiosity and enthusiasm to explore the foibles of human nature stretched way beyond that… to America and Italy.

Which just so happen to be two of my favourite countries anywhere in the world.

Dickens was particularly impressed with Boston (good judge) of which he said: ‘Boston is what I would like the whole of the United States to be.’

But he seemed to have a conflicted view of Rome, observing on first viewing that it reminded him of London (no harm there).

But then being captivated by the Colosseum and just as quickly let down by the smallness of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. What the Dickens!

Fits the Bill

Peachy: Georgia

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: And, of course, we could pick from any of his vast collection of travel diaries/books.

But we’ll plump for his trek along the Appalachian Trail, probably because we’re jealous.

I know I could persuade the Boss to allow me the five and a half months to walk the 2,100 miles from Maine down to Georgia.

And that’s 14 states, and five states I’ve still to tick off.

Counties to Synge about

My Life’s Traveller: Sadie in Greystones, Co. Wicklow

JM Synge, Travels in Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara: And full disclosure here, mine have been more in Wicklow.

Although I was captivated by Kerry and Connemara will always be the land of my childhood holidays.

Described as capturing ‘the embers of a dying culture’ and accompanied with drawings by Jack B. Yeats it’s a reminder…

That you can always come home to Ireland.

For today though we share Anne Frank’s birthday gift and other diaries and ask whose are your favourite diaries?





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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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, Ireland

An American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin

It probably wasn’t like this for the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1421… but I’ll more than take An American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, masks, double dose certificates at the Radisson Blu Royal.

And certainly not what the Pilgrims laid before the natives…

Dried meat and fish, grains and flour, dried foot, cheese and hard biscuits.

Chow on chowder

Catch of the day: chowder

Thankfully culinary fashions have changed and we dined on New England chowder, mini burgers and wings.

All the time listening to the band belting out American standards.

And taking a tour of America, around the stands, from New England, Washington DC, Georgia and Florida.

Right across the Mid-West (Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah).

And over to my old friends in California.

Flying time

Fly the flag: Aer Lingus

And you’ve got it… Aer Lingus and British Airways were there (are there) to take us back.

Now that the borders are open again.

Now like a kid in a candy shop the difficult thing is what to choose first.

Our American Travel Fair resumes in Florida in May.

Orlando, woah, woah, woah

Minnie brwak: Minnie and me

So all roads lead there… to Orlando.

Now if the Pilgrims thought that New England was a good enough starting point to explore the New World who am I to disagree.

The eastern seaboard collection of states and commonwealths I know well from a summer in Boston after university and day trips to New Hampshire.

Connect with Connecticut

Making his Mark: Mark Twain

But I’m grateful here to Sue from Connecticut for clueing me in on her state.

You might be familiar with Mark Twain name-checking it in his time-travelling tome A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur.

And you’ll find everything you want to know about the Great American and his great creations Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in his museum here.

And also take in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house and get a glimpse of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

She’d be known today as HBS but back in the day to Abraham Lincoln she was ‘the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.’

It’s a rich old history and one I can’t wait to add to in 2022.

But for now it’s enough to acknowledge my dear old friends and embrace (with an elbow nudge) my new ones.

With an American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin.