Countries, Europe, Sport

The Marathon Men

We’d all like to turn the clock back and pushed on and become one of The Marathon Men.

But that’s enough about my love life.

The Marathon is the closest Olympic discipline to my own athletic talents.

Having pounded the streets of the UK as a promising road runner in my youth.

Running through my head

Homer run

I could more than relate to how the commentators were calling the race.

And perhaps weigh in with my own contributions based on having covered the original Marathon course in Greece.

And my Olympic efforts.

I’ll keep how much of it to myself.

It is still though to see the signposts for Marathon in Athens.

Or a bunny run

And the stadium for the first Modern Olympics bang centre in the downtown capital.

Which brings me to a gripe about the Games becoming overmodernised.

With the imperious Eliud Kipchoge taking the finishing line on a non-descript street in Tokyo.

Instead of the traditional finish inside the stadium.

Tracking Marathon’s history

And I’m ready to make my move

 

And we can blame the English for that having ditched the 385 yards around the running track in 2012.

For London’s Pall Mall which was followed by the Sambodromo in Rio, the parade area that serves as a spectator mall for Carnival.

True, it means that the public, rather than corporate get to see the runners break the tape.

Greek god: At the Acropolis

 

Although I suspect that the bigwigs have probably nabbed that vantage point too.

But while World Marathon holder Paula Radcliffe regaled us with the importance of history to the Marathon…

Stadium is perfect stage

And where the race should finish

The entry to the stadium is one now denied us.

And today’s runners won’t get to sample the outpouring of emotion, congratulations and scattering of laurels at your feet.

Which the third leg in the winning Scottish Schools Road Relay champions of 1982 in Grangemouth Sports Stadium got to enjoy.

The Marathon Men are coming.

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe

Olympics Flag Day

It’s a vexillologist’s dream, Olympics Flag Day… and there were 206 of them at the opening ceremony.

Of course the majority of them will never be seen again on the podium.

Now flags are really just the costume a country dresses itself up in.

Olympics Flag Day

So just like women and dresses it would never do if you turned up with your best flag.

And then you saw somebody there with the same drapery.

But that is exactly what happened at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

See the Leichtenstein flag

When Leichtenstein turned up for their first Games proudly displaying their blue/red split horizontal flag.

Only to see Games veterans Haiti flying theirs.

And so they did what every lady does… accessorise by adding a crown while Haiti added their coat of arms.

And Haiti has had a redraw

Of course the Olympics are the chance for every country and its athletes to meet people they’d never encountered before.

So just a couple of words here on some flags we’ll see a lot more of in the next couple of weeks.

Made in Japan

Nice one sun

Japan: The Rising Sun flag is one of the most distinctive and easiest to draw… if you’re Giotto.

Japan is said to have been founded by the Sun goddess Amaterasu in the 7th Century BC.

And is an ancestor of first emperor Jimmu… and surely a relative.

Chinese stars

Keep the red flag flying here

China: We all associate China with the Reds but, of course, Communism only dates back 70 odd years.

Not being political here but we prefer an earlier iteration, the Yellow Dragon Flag used by the Qing Dynasty.

Betsy’s bunting

And how it was

USA: The world’s most famous seamstress, you can learn the whole story of the American flag in the City of Brotherly Love.

Of how Betsy Ross sewed the definitive Stars and Stripes in Philadelphia.

And persuaded George Washington to agree to five-pointed stars rather than six because that was easier to sew.

UK OK?

Look who’s dropped in: Boris Johnson

UK: So, you thought you know the story of the Union Jack, actually the Union Flag, the Jack is naval.

It encompasses the St George’s flag of England and its then vassal territory Wales, the Scottish St Andrew’s Cross and the St Patrick’s Saltire.

As was inevitably the way of it the English wanted to tuck the Scots flag up in the corner and the Jocks to have their ceoss dominate.

Until they came up with the drape we all know.

Uber alles

Go for it Gretschen

Germany: The German black, red and yellow horizontal bands derive from the 1848 Year of Revolutions.

And are inspired by the black uniforms with red facings and gold buttons of the Lutzow Free Corps who fought Napoleon.

Happy to share

Pole position: Scotland or Tenerife

Scotland and Tenerife: Vexillologists everywhere know that Scotland and Tenerife share the same flag.

But for those who need a reminder I unpicked the threads of it.

You’ll not see the Saltire fly at the Tokyo Games unless, of course, it’s draped around the shoulders of Jock winners.

That would be a twist on Olympics Flag Day.

But it should have been me, it should have been me.

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Sport

The Olympics Pokémon Hunting

The Olympics start today in Tokyo but what event do you wish was included… how about The Olympics Pokémon Hunting?

The playful Pocket Monsters have been with us for 26 years.

Caught in the act

Pokemon races though have not been endorsed by the International Olympic Committee… YET!

It’s a pity really

You see, the perfect venue has just opened, Pokémon Wonder in a 4,500sqm forest within Yomiuriland, a theme park outside Tokyo.

C’mon Pokémon

I reckon too that I would be a natural.

Catch me if you can

As a former Scottish national cross-country champion I have run through more than my share of forests.

And it’s got me thinking that it would have been more fun if the routes were littered with Pokémons along the way.

  • In there somewher

There are 50 species of Pokémon species including favourites such as Oddish, Diglett, and even (and I don’t know either) Rowlett.

And contestants will be given the rundown before the hunt from the research team of Professor Kureso and Pikachu.

Stop the pigeon

You looking at me?

And for those who poo-poo Pokémon as a sport I give you…

How about Horse Long Jump at the 1900 Paris Games or Town Planning at the four Games between 1928 and 1948.

Although as I sit here drowsy after another broken sleep one sport lost to the Games looks very appealing for a comeback.

Pigeon racing which flew during the 1900 Games with more than 300 birds taken out.

You not want to participate… well fly somewhere else, preferably out of my earshot.

Peekaboo Pokemon

In contrast our Pocket Minsters are actually podgy, playful little fellows who are very welcome in our world.

And they will be up until next April 3.

Now as for the row circling around Tokyo over whether it should be held at all with Covid gripping Japan.

Well, I’d always ask that everything possible be done to allow Travel and Sport, my two great loves, to continue.

Let the Games begin

Yes, we love a video game

And I believe precedent is a great example and cite the last time the world was gripped by a pandemic, the Spanish Flu in 1920.

And the Games went ahead in Antwerp, Belgium.

Never mind all those original Olympics held against the backdrop of Greek wars and interfering and vengeful Gods and Godesses.

Now maybe there are more events from the ancients which we should bring back.

I ca see you

But one step at a time… for starters let’s trial The Olympics Pokémon Hunting.

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Food, UK

World Ice Cream Day

If you’re slurping an ice cream on World Ice Cream Day you’re in good company with King Tang of Shang, Marco Polo, Nero and Ronald Reagan.

With temperatures in the UK the hottest for 45 years ago ice cream vans are doing a roaring business.

China ices

And even Chinese bears love them

Our favourite cool treat dates variously back to ancient China, Greece and Rome.

But it is now a truly global obsession which should be on your to do list when on holiday.

Here’s some of the best to mark World Ice Cream Day:

Made in Japan

Little balls of fun

Mochi ice cream, Japan: And the adventurous among the Olympic athletes in Tokyo will be digging into Mochi.

As we are with Little Moons Creamy Coconut and Passionfruit & Mango mochi desserts, drawing in 45 million TikTok followers.

The Tesco mochi bites are gluten free. You wrap blue-sized balls of gelato in soft mochi dough.

Na-na-na

Let’s split: Banana splits

Banana Split, USA: One banana, two banana, three banana, four… the sundae which spawned a cult kids’ TV show and punk anthem.

We owe it all to 23-year-old Pittsburgh pharmacist David Strickler for giving us…

The Banana Split… a scoop of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate nestled between a sliced banana with cream, chopped nuts and a cherry.

And the Pittsburghers have honoured David with a statue and plaque.

Gelato spirit

Ice one

Gelato, Italy: And I know the burning question you’re asking while you burn: how is a gelato different from an ice cream?

I’m indebted here to website Healthline for filling us in… and what I took from them is that there’s more air and milk in a gelato.

Anywhere in Italy is good to eat gelato but I’m channeling my inner Nero in the Eternal City.

Yes, with a tang in it

You’ll want some ice cream for afters

Tang, China: Yes, ice cream with a tang.

Ice cream is said to date back to 200BC (Before Cornettos?) when a milk and rice mixture was frozen by packing it in snow.

Tang, who reigned from 1675-1646, had 94 ice men help to make a dish of buffalo milk, flour and camphor.

Porty time

And you can have yours on top

99, Scotland: And who would have thought our little corner of Scotland gave us the 99.

Our old homestead of Portobello, Edinburgh’s town beach, spawned the 99.

When Stefano Arcari broke a flake and inserted it into the ice cream at his shop in 99 Portobello High Street.

Next year is the centenary of his breaking of flake… just saying!

Reagan’s scoop

Sundaes are on us: Ronnie and Nancy

And as for World Ice Cream Day we have former US President Ronald Reaganj to thank.

The Gipper championed Ice Cream Day in 1984 and it just snowballed after that.

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

Turning Gardenese

And our Japanese Garden business is going so well that we’re downsizing. Bonsai… we’re Turning Gardenese!

With my own little Charlie Dimmock venturing into the gardening business herself there is a constant flow of plants to our home.

And pots, clippings and books scattered around.

Mountain excitement: Fuji

So it’ll not surprise you to know that we’re zooming into a Japanese gardening special from our friends at Travel Department.

Frances, our flower

Horticulturist Frances McDonald, an alumni from Ireland’s National Botanic Gardens, is running us through what’s made in Japan.

Frances has been leading garden tours for 25 years home and abroad and has compiled TD’s tours for this year and next.

Big in Japan: Pagodas

We learned too to love our Japanese gardens living in Ireland’s Garden County, Co. Wicklow.

And its piece de resistance, the Japanese Gardens at Powerscourt.

Cherry Blossom

Frances, who leads many of the tours herself, is a blooming marvel with her knowledge of all things flowery.

And that obviously at this time of the year means the Sakura.

O flower: And we’re in the pink

Cherry Blossom, to you and me, which heralds the arrival of Spring.

TD offers a 12-night Gardens and Sights of Japan holiday departing in March 2022. From €512pp.

You’ll take in the ancient city of Kyoto with its memorable gardens and temples.

You’ll overnight near Mount Fiji and visit the seaside town of Kamakura to see more foliage and the Great Buddha.

Pink rain: Keep falling on my head

Tokyo may be skyscrapers to you and me but TD will guide you around its wondrous gardens.

The showcase of which is the Imperial Palace East Garden.

Flower arranging

You’ll also visit Happo-en for Ikebana (flower-arranging) and a traditional tea ceremony.

You can’t go to Tokyo, of course, without going on a shopping spree (I’d live to regret that).

Sakura serenade: Across Japan

The Asakusa Kannon Temple, one of the oldest shopping areas of Tokyo is your go-to.

So that’s our evening sorted tonight.

Or Sakura Sadie’s… I’ll catch up later after I watch 22 men run after a ball on the green, green grass of a football pitch.

While she’s Turning Gardenese.

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals

Happy ‘VJ’ Day

Happy VJ Day… that’s Vaccine for Jimmy Day.

Not to be confused with VJ Day, Victory in Japan Day.

So to mark these momentous dates I’m highlighting something Japanese again, in this year of the Olympics.

Rings of gold

In the swim: And you can train for the Olympics

When we’ll be hoping there will be many victories, and not just for us but for the hosts.

Because the Games always light up when the home country succeeds.

Plush fittings

And I’m ready, steady, go.

Vaccinated and available to travel, either to compete (long-distance running) or to report.

Cherry baby

It’s Cherry Blossom season too and my old pal Wendy Wu will be giving me a briefing this week on what she has planned.

While remember it’s Olympic year, delayed from 2020, in the Land of the Rising Sun too.

Leading Hotels

Dining style

As you all know I only stay in the leading hotels in the world.

And they obviously only deal with the leading Travel writers in the world too.

Gold medal

Views of Tokyo

So it’s no surprise to find the Okura Tokyo giving me a blind invite out to see them!

There is an Olympic link to this one too.

Yoshiro Taniguchi’s team built the original modernist Okura in 1962 ahead of the first Tokyo Olympics two years later.

Yo, yo Yoshiro

Reflected glory

It’s timely then that we are celebrating a reincarnation of the hotel for the coming Olympics.

And it still has those Taginuchi touches from Yoshiro’s son, also Yoshiro.

Favourite Lobby

Food for thought

We are, of course, passing over the ill-fated couple of years when the main building, with its beloved lobby, was pulled down.

And, as can happen, an inferior replacement was erected.

OK Okura

Japanese harmony

Not so the Okura Hotel of today which boasts two distinctly branded wings.

There’s the restrained and elegant the Okura Heritage and the Okura Prestige, a modern, urban hotel. And all for £250 per night.

A work of art

Wide open spaces

The essence of the original Okura has still been preserved.

Either relocated from the original building, replicated, or adorned through its artworks and carpeting.

Blink and you might imagine  that it was the original lobby with its hexagonal pendant lamps and hemp leaf motif screens of hinoki wood.

 

 

 

 

 

Asia, Australasia, Countries, Deals, Europe

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Day oi oi oi

G’day my Antipodean friends and good to see you’re able to celebrate it publicly. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Day oi oi oi.

Which no doubt Smutley, Brownie, PC, Roscoe, Brad et al will mean getting shitfaced.

I never got to Australia but Australia got to me in the Eighties when I did back-to-back Oktoberfests in Munich.

I had booked me a seat and a bed (which were pretty much the same thing) on a ten-day Topdeck bus trip to Bavaria.

But innocent abroad that I was I neither knew that Earl’s Court in London was an Aussie enclave nor that Top Deck was an Aussie firm.

Aussies in Aberdeen

Forward fast three months and the Hilton district of Aberdeen was also an Aussie enclave.

When Smutley and Brownie turned up and asked to stay for the weekend…. and stayed for a year.

And they brought their pals too much to the pleasure of the female student population of Scotland’s Granite City.

Aussies abroad

Now Aussies show us the way when it comes to travelling and Topdeck know what’s most important to them.

That it’s cheap and cheerful, and my two Oktoberfest trips at just £84 were the best value holidays I have ever purchased.

Now knowing that you’ll want to get back out on the road when all this virus eases up Topdeck have you covered.

European odyssey

Of course we can’t jump in a Topdeck machine to go back and get 1985 prices but they are offering 25% off.

Spirit of Europe is an 11-country, 24-day odyssey starting and ending in London coming in from £2,193 down from £2,924.

You’ll see England, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands.

Japanese promise

All roads lead to Japan this year with the Olympics, or at least this one road we hope.

Japan Highlights is a 12-day tour leaving and returning to Tokyo, down from £3,278 to £2,485.50.

Indian treasures

While if India is more your thang… Namaste India is a ten-day trip, starting and finishing in New Delhi, down from £1,429 to £1,071.75.

And if you should ask the whereabouts of the person you first meet on the bus and he says he’s from Perth…

Then it’s Perth, WA, not Perth, Scotland… ‘and we’re all from Australia or New Zealand, mate.’

Happy Australia Day, mates.

And while we’re here a rousing call to arms from the original Aussie singing superstars The Seekers and I Am Australian.

And tell me too your fave Aussie bands and singers.

So, altogether now… Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Day oi oi oi

Asia, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Jimuary, Ginuary, Veganuary, Japanuary

And whatever you’re having yourself… January is after all what we make it.

Jimuary in Scotland

Jim O’ Shanter

And for me and all of us of a Scottish disposition then January is Robert Burns’ Month.

Burns is Scotland’s National Poet and January 25 is his birthday… he would be 252 this year.

Wherever they are in the world Scots put on kilts and start eulogising little mice and the like… ‘wee sleekit timrous beastie, oh what a panic’s in thy breastie.’

It’s all the whisky we drink you see!

Alloway Bridge

Burns’ Village is a magical place with Burns’ Cottage, Alloway Kirk and Brig o’ Doon.

Where you can let your imagination run wild.

Three Scots mice

January is also the month when Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday is commemorated.. he was born on January 15 but Martin Luther King Day is actually January 18..

I was fortunate enough to attend the 50th commemoration of his assassination and followed the MLK Trail from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi.

Ginuary in Ireland

G&T O’Clock

And you could do worse than Co. Monaghan, the border county where a ginoisseur will guide you through each gin and tonic.

The Scary One turned her nose up at the juniper when presented with a tray of samples only to then dig in and minesweep them all.

Veganuary

And if it’s good enough for Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein and Barry White (and he had a healthy appetite, and for food).

Veganuary has really taken off in recent years and I’ve visited the oul’ plant-based food before on this site.

But seeing that the calendar has come around again and that you’ll be performing a public service by not visiting the shops.

Here’s to all those things in your flower beds which also includes the majestic tulip.

And Japanuary

Thanks here to our friends in The Land of the Rising Sun for always keeping it fun and funky.

So Japanuary?

Well, we’re all being encouraged to get on our bikes and in Japan you can do worse than following the Tanesashi Coastline and bike hire is just £10 per day.

They advise stopping off at fish restaurants and temples while ensuring that through the cycling your body remains a temple.

If that’s too sedentary for you then why not canyon through the Sarugajo Gorge.

Talking of temples you shouldn’t go to Japan and not visit a Zen Buddhist temple.

Oh, and in the year when the Olympics are coming to Tokyo then they’re challenging us all to get our adrenaline vibe on.

And ski a volcanic crater in Niseko.

Africa, America, Asia, Australasia, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Our New Common Market

Back in the days when Britons got on with Europeans (a lot of us still do) we called it the Common Market.

Alas, Cummings and Johnson have forced us all to pack up our stalls and leave the Common Market (or European Union)

But in a parallel universe, the one all of us Travel nuts inhabit, there is a much bigger market still, the World Travel Market.

The way it was: WTM in London

Which I’ve admired from afar for years but not been able to get to because of The Man who wouldn’t give me the time off.

This year though I’m my own Man and as for getting there all I’ve got to do is travel to the West Wing of New Murty Demesne.

This year’s Virtual World Travel Market won’t have the bright lights and entertainment of London.

And the Great Old City only grows in our affections because we can’t get there.

But I’ll thrust my London mementoes to the front of my desk, chief among them my Peter Pan piggy bank.

And only promote my international keepsakes when meeting up with the representatives from Jamaica to Japan.

Life as a Wanderer is a different normal to most at the best of times and while these are anything but we’ll make the best of it.

We’ll have the staple of travel fairs, the presentations, talks and stall visits.

And the meeting up between old friends who see each other every second week of November in London.

Now you know what they say, if we can’t get out to see the world let the world come to us.

America, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

Cocktail Hour around the world

It’s Cocktail Hour all day today (not just 6pm) because it’s World Cocktail Day, and I’ve been swallowing up the hours.

And while holidaymakers may like to mark their territory with their towel, I like to claim a coaster at the bar.

For my fave Strawberry Daiquiri cocktail.

Which I have savoured… from the Maldives to the Caribbean My kiss with Rihanna and Turtle recall and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/. And http://www.visitbarbados.org and http://www.visittobago.gov.tt

Now if we can’t get out there to our exotic locations we can at least conjure up the taste of the Tropics at home.

With these cocktails:

Something for Buffalo Bill

The Colorado Bulldog, Colorado:

Colorado-Bulldog-1

Ingredients: Vodka, coffee liqueur, cream or milk and coca-cola.

A White Russian with a fizz… and this would put even more whiskers on Tsar Alexander’s bushy beard.

How to: In a shaker mix vodka Kahlua, cream/milk. Pour into a glass with ice and add Coke.

Visit www.colorado.com and take in Beertown Denver www.denver.org and Go West and The New Frontiersmen.

Take it as red

The Redhead in Bed, 25 Degrees, Huntington Beach, California:

Cocktails and food at 25 Degrees - Huntington Beach

Ingredients: Ketel One Citroen vodka, strawberries, lemon juice, sparkling wine.

I’ve yet to have a Redhead in Bed anywhere (honestly) but if I did it would be in Huntington Beach.

How to: Mix One Citroen vodka, strawberries, lemon juice, and sparkling wine for an added kick.

For those who like to drink their dessert, 25 Degrees offers four spiked shakes, mixing vanilla ice cream and your choice of Guinness, Maker’s Mark, Kraken Black Spiced Rum, or Kahlua among other sweet milkshake additions.

Visit www.surfcityusa.com and My weekend with Marilyn and Stair Wars.

Turning Japanese

Shochu Mojito, Japanshochu-mojito_002

Ingredients: Mint, shochu, sugar, lime, fizzy water

If you had been planning to get out to Japan this year for the Olympics then you have our sympathies but here’s a multi-discipline event you can do from the safety of your own home.

This is a Japanese twist on a classic mojito which swaps the rum usually found in a Mojito with shochu, a Japanese liquor typically made from buckwheat, sweet potatoes or barley.

This is an easy cocktail to whip up once your guests arrive (two minutes prep time) and is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

How to: Add the lime, mint and sugar to a tall glass and bruise with a muddler. To this, add the shochu and fizzy water and stir. Serve over ice with mint to garnish. www.japan.travel/en/uk/

And, of course, you all know by now that all your favourite Scottish bartender needs is a cocktail brolly, a maraschino cherry and a shaker and we’re talking Jocktail Hour… Jocktails… the Strawberry DaiquiriJocktails – Whisky Sour, Hungry and Thursday – sangria and La SagradaJocktails: The Bajan Monkey, 

Jocktails – the Hurricane  Jocktails – Mimosas Jocktails – the Sazerac.

And a host of others.