Countries, Europe

Parma is amazeballs

Napoleon was a fan, and é vero Italy is amazing, although Parma is amazeballs.

And si, we too have gone round in circles in the very same labyrinth near Padova.

And the Villa Pisani’s Labyrinth of Love by the River Brenta is where Bony and his pals, and Mussolini and Hitler too, played.

Because the prize for those who can find their way into the centre was a fair maiden.

String theory 

Which way out: The Minotaur

Labyrinths have been with us since Classical Days when Theseus saved the children of Athens from being eaten.

Armed with a ball of string and a sword given to him by the comely Princess Ariadne.

Of course if I’d been paying attention in my Greek class in school I would have known to take string with me to Boney’s maze.

Lost again: On the Via Francigena

I did though escape, to get lost another day…

And that day was along the Via Francigena from Viterbo in Lazio into Rome in an olive grove.

And peeling pilgrim stickers to guide you on your way.. like pre-Sat Nav trekkers did.

Bamboo knew?

Round and round: The Parma maze

Of course I could get lost in my own room but far more fun to get stuck in the world’s biggest labyrinth…

No, not in Hampton Court or the Palace of Versailles but in Parma at the Labirinto della Masone, the largest bamboo labyrinth in the world.

The centrepiece in the Emilia Romagna town is made with 200,000 bamboo plants between 30 cm and 15 metres in height.

And the path through it is over 3 kilometres in length.

A work of art

Tunnel me out: And now you are lost

All the brainchild of Franco Maria Ricci, an Italian art publisher and magazine editor. 

If (sorry when) you get out you’ll want to check out the connected building.

Where visitors can find an art collection, a restaurant, and two suites to spend the night.

Ricci’s personal art collection, amassed over 50 years, includes Napoleonic busts, mannerist works, paintings spanning the 17th to 19th centuries, original illustrations of Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianu and a wooden model of Milan’s Duomo.

The story goes that Ricci was inspired by a friend and contributor in his publishing house whom he hosted.

Blind faith

Inspirational: Borges

And here’s the kicker, Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges was blind!

And even he would have a better chance of finding his way than your Bandanaman.

Still Parma is amazeballs. Just remember your ball of string.

Maybe forget the sword… you’ll probably turn it on yourself out of frustration.





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, 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.




Countries, Europe

Venice unmasked

Now we’re coming out from behind our cloths it’s poignant that the City of Masks, Venice is unmasked.

The time was when we’d only come across masks in the shops in the City on the Lagoon.

Those ornate, beaked souvenirs you bring back with you from Italy.

But since Covid broke out two years ago we’ve all taken on the appearances of theatre nurses.

Read our lips

Water, water everywhere: The grand hotel

There will, of course, be a period of adjustment as we become comfortable again showing off our pearly whites in public.

And not feel self-conscious or socially irresponsible when we forget our masks for Sunday Mass.

The test, of course, is when we’re jostled together in tight alleyways on holiday.

Now there are few places as huddled as Venice’s alleyways, unless you’ve been in a Marrakech soukh.

And it was that which spread the disease during the Black Death and saw the rise in masks.

And dandies turning adversity into masked balls.

Isles with style

Anyone for pool: So dip your toe in

You can, of course, escape the hustle and bustle by getting on a boat out to Murano and Burano.

And if you do need the sand between your toes then the Lido is also on your doorstep.

A beach bar you say, but away from the crowds… well, you’ll want to try the Buddha Beach Bar at the San Clemente Palace Kempinski.

Venice: Let;s catch a gondola back to Padova

You’ve probably stared longingly towards the isola from Rialto.

Once a place of isolation for monks and an asylum for those Venetians to hide away those they wanted to keep out of view.

Buddha Beach Bar

Love is in the air: in San Clemente

It is now a private island boasting the 5* San Clemente Palace Kempinski.

And now the gastronomic destination with three gourmet restaurants and bars, this season, the San Clemente Palace Kempinski is adding an exciting new dining concept.

San Clemente is opening a new Buddha Beach Bar, of all things.

You’ll be surrounded by palm trees (yes, really).

And the poolside Buddha Beach Bar offers an enticing blend of neo-Asian and Italian cuisine accompanied by music and cocktails.

Just a ten-minute boat ride from Piazza San Marco, San Clemente Palace Kempinski and its Buddha Beach Bar is Venice Unmasked.

And the good news is that it’s reopening this Spring.

So check out their offers.

Romantic Escape in the Special Suites of San Clemente

What about a romantic stay in suites with private transfers by water taxi from Venice Airport?

And a dinner for two at Acquerello Restaurant, inclusive of three-course menu.

And among the extras are a Kempinski Lady in Red Service and a €50 Spa treatment voucher, per room, per stay.