America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

I’m listening – Seattle and other sitcom worlds

Frasier’s returning which means more Seattle.

And New York‘s finest, Friends while Will & Grace are with us already.

All of which means we get to peer into their sitcom worlds.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I chose Boston as my destination for my post-university summer because of Cheers.

Here’s to Cheers

Cheers, Boston: As is the way of such things there was a little less Boston than I’d have hoped for.

The exterior and the stairs are what you see on the show.

And there was an actual pub in Beacon Hill, near Boston Common, which was serving Beantown beerflies since 1969.

When the telly people turned it into the phenomenon it now is after launching it onto our screens in 1982.

What Cheers did was use Boston as the conversation to draw me and my pals out with one even working on a merch cart.

Mork calling Boulder

Rev it up for Boulder

Boulder, Colorado: And it would be as easy to pick out Mork’s planet Ork back in the day than it would have been Boulder.

The Coloradan town though is a must-visit for Mork & Mindy fans.

Boulder is everything you would imagine an artsy, outdoorsy Colorado town to be.

And check out the bluegrass music and the food tours.

Golden Girls’ Miami

Mexing it up in Miami

Golden Girls, Miami: Florida is, of course, the state where America’s golden oldies go to live out their retirement.

In a case of life imitating art the girls‘ Miami house was put up for sale for $3m at the turn of the Millennium.

I might have missed the boat then but as we approach our retirement years Miami is on our list…

I suppose I better share with my Golden Girl!

The Liver Birds

The Liver Boys: With my Al

The Liver Birds, Liverpool: The opening credits when you see Beryl and Sandra skipping with the Royal Liver Building as the backdrop sets the scene.

And without a doubt Liverpool, Liverpudlians and their humour mark this show as the pioneer of a new genre…. the Scousecom.

We’ve had Bread, Watching, Boys from the Blackstuff and Jim Royle. A lorra, lorra laughs!

Derry life

Writing on the wall: In Derry

Derry Girls, Derry, Northern Ireland: And like The Liver Birds, Derry is very much a key cast member.

Set in Derry around The Troubles in the Eighties, this coming of age sitcom has been embraced beyond the city.

And isn’t it great to see Old Derry’s Walls boasting a mural of schoolgirls and not political symbols for a change.

America, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

New Year’s Holiday Snaps – Happy New Aer

And because America is at a turning point don’t we all want to get on board.

Especially when on board is with our friends at Aer Lingus who early last year had me all booked up for the Florida Keys when…!

Ireland’s national airline carrier has a January €148 sale for this summer to North America which is Toronto.

Waving the flag for DC and Aer Lingus

While my old favourites Boston, New York and Washington is pitched at €164.

And you know the deal it’s each way as part of a return trip.

Cruise into ’21

Yea, they’ve got forks too!

Or a Happy Blue Year, the kind of blue you only find on the sea

Or the blue of Greece. So let’s put them together.

Royal Caribbean have on the Eastern Mediterranean sailings we’ve zeroed in on in 2021.

Oh, how I would have loved to have spent the last year on a wee Greek island.

My pals at Royal Caribbean only have a range of Eastern Med packages as we plan to cruise again in 2021.

An old relic and the Acropolis

A six-night Greece and Croatia cruise, leaving from Venice (Ravenna) on Rhapsody of the Seas from €569pp taking in Split, Olympia and Athens.

And you know what I always say… there’s no party like a Royal party.

United in tribute to The Doc

Me and ‘Baby Doc’ Peter

And it might be apt that former Scotland manager Tommy Docherty, an old friend of the Murtys, should die on Hogmanay.

The Doc’s son Peter was one of my earliest pals in Glasgow before his Dad took the family off to Manchester.

Of course being a football man and someone who joked that he’d had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus there’s no single destination to point you too.

But perhaps Manchester United is the club he’s most associated with.

So let’s point you in the direction of a football match day package.

If you’re an Irish United fan, and there are many, you’ll no doubt know about Celtic Horizons and Abbey Travel.

And the important thing is that we will all be together again soon in a football ground.

America, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland

Empire Skate of Mind

I got a pocketful of dreams, and memories, an Empire Skate of Mind ,… with Daddy’s Little Girl.

I wonder if Jay-Z and Alicia Keys could do anything with it.

The Rockefeller is an institution in the city that never sleeps with many a movie set here.

Me and Daddy’s Little Girl are in there somewhere

And I do think Tom and Meg, who had their lovey/-dovey scene here, should reprise Sleepless in Seattle with Sleepless in the Big Apple.

For all the movie gen you need get on the full tour.

The Rockefeller is where New York is at its most festive with the best fir in the city, and the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is where you’ll want to look for your present.

The tree dates back to 1931 when all the workers pooled their money to buy a 20fr tree while their families garlanded it.

And yes you would think someone as rich as Rockefeller would have put one up out of his own pocket!

The old tree in the Thirties

The joys of a Christmas New York City will be confined to all you New Yorkers this year.

In previous years it has been something of a tradition to go Christmas shopping in Manhattan… from Ireland.

And with optimism over the roll-out of a vaccine.

And our hard-working dream-makers (our travel companies) putting trips together for 2021, it’s time to plan.

The United Skates

American Holidays have a four-night trip to NY in November from €799pp.

Staying in the Doubletree Metropolitan by Hilton, based on two sharing.

Shop til you drop

And with return flights from Dublin to New York.

When all those mad shoppers will be back from Ireland and the island next to it.

And yes The Scary One has forewarned me!

GET YOUR SKATES ON

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Go! Monopoly around the world

We may never know why Vincent Van Gogh lost his ear, though here is a fine crime fiction on the subject, but who is to say it wasn’t after a row about Monopoly?

Our pals at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam are the latest to join the Monopoly club.

With the release of their own Vincent board game for Christmas.

Becoming one of hundreds of Monopolys around the world.

With at the latest count, the game being licensed in 103 countries and printed in more than 37 languages.

The Van Gogh version substitutes the Great Man’s art for the traditional streets.

Just painting

While among the pieces naturally is a paint tube though perhaps tastefully no ear.

Monopoly for most of us is as much part of Christmas as Santa, who often brought it fir our stockings, and Christmas turkey.

But it was also brought out when friends came over, or relatives, from home or abroad.

And this was when it got really exciting to see the names of their streets and public transport.

O’Monopoly

So when my Irish relatives got their Dublin board out it had such names as O’Connell Street, Shrewsbury Street in Ballsbridge where I got to stay, and the Busaras on it.

It was very much a point of honour that your country had its own Monopoly.

It was a sign that you were not under the English yolk.

Although when you did get down to London when you were older you didn’t feel such a tourist as you ambled along the Strand, Pall Mall and Fleet Street.

Big Appley

Most spectacular of all was the New York edition where you could say you owned Broadway.

All us poor Scots had to dream of was buying Mayfair, Park Lane or Old Kent Road.

Until the manufacturers stumbled on the rather obvious idea of giving us all what we wanted.

McNopoly

And so we got Edinburgh, and the Royal Mile, Princes Street, the two football stadiums, Easter Road and Tynecastle Park and the rugby ground, Murrayfield.

Now, of course there are now football clubs, film and TV franchises Monopoly merchandise.

D’Ohpoly

In fact you name it and Monopoly have probably adapted it to your needs.

And so I have in my attic a Royal Caribbean cruise game as well as a Simpsons game.

From my travels in Europe and in Orlando.

Of course Monopoly, while having a deeply suspicious Property speculation message in its origins back in 1935, has really become a vehicle for imagination.

And discovering about foreign destinations…

By plane, ship, car… or my personal favourite, a wee Scottie dog.

America, Countries, Culture

A clear result in Florida – Hail to the Chief

It was the night of the Three Presidents.

When I left Ireland it was Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton his projected successor, only to learn on my arrival in Florida that Donald Trump would be the next President.

Washington DC may be where Americans inaugurate their Presidents but it is Florida where they get over the line.

Yes, he does love Mexicans… in Epcot Centre

And who can forget the shenanigans around the Florida vote in George W Bush’s Millennium election victory over Al Gore?

And they’re off and running

The Happiest Place on Earth was struggling to put on their famous smiles when they collected our party four years ago.

But just like tonight when we observe America’s decision on who to put in the White House I had prepared for both eventualities.

…. And in Florida

And I had decided that seeing that my hosts for the week were Disney World I’d frame my story on The Donald.

He’s got a big mouth, is a bit quackers, and all that.

It’s all showbiz

America’s President is an all-encompassing figure from the very moment you arrive in the States.

Leader of the country, king (or queen), Commander In Chief and showbiz icon.

Which is why we’ve had an actor, Ronald Reagan, lothario, Bill Clinton, and salesman and dealmaker Donald Trump.

I saw too the reverence in which they’re held first hand when I saw the outpouring of grief for George Herbert Walker Bush when I visited Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Kennedy’s Washington

I saw it again in Arlington Cemetery where there is a constant stream of mourners at the Kennedys’ grave.

While George Washington himself has his Memorial and Abraham Lincoln his big chair in the country’s capital.

Down the road in Philadelphia they still hold it dear that they were the burgeoning country’s early capital, and will always be the City of Brotherly Love.

Way to go Joe

And of course Pennsylvania is the hime state of Joe Biden.

New York defined Donald Trump growing up and building his name and reputation in his ow image.

And you’ll see his gleaming hotels all over America, with the memory of looking down onto his palace in Vegas on my way to the Grand Canyon seared in my mind.

The greatest prize though is Washington though and who gets the keys we may have to wait around to find out.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Rainy Songdays – Young Man, er, the US President!

Young man, there’s no need to feel down, I said young man pick yourself off the ground, I said young man ’cause you’re in a new town, There’s no need to be unhappy – Y.M.C.A. , The Village People

It’s more Dancing Grandad than Dancing Dad – the US President Donald Trump jigging to Y.M.C.A. at his rallies.

The irony isn’t lost on any of us though with the 74-year-old Donald Trump vying with the 77-year-old Joe Biden for the White House.

So what of Y.M.C.A.? And Greenwich Village in New York from where the band hailed.

I was slightly disappointed that I wasn’t greeted by a policeman, an Apache Indian or even a Construction worker when I checked in to my YMCA.

But it was just the ticket for getting over the jet lag and the hangover from the Comedy Club the night before.

Village life

And the Village with its bohemian, artsy and gay history, live entertainment and culinary treats is a great place to kickstart your NY journey.

Back to our story though and they did roll out the broad sweep of American life at my next Y.M.C.A.

In Boston, in the shape of black, white and Chinese firemen.

Although no flash dancing here, they had arrived to attend to the fire alarm I had set off.

As I stood in the line to check back in for another night in the Bean Town hostel.

Hostel hostilities

And it was the last straw for the patient Y.M.C.A. staff.

As good as the words in the song ‘started me back on my way.’

By suggesting that I find a new billet after I had caused two nights of carnage.

A Colombian boarder had only complained to them that I had taken his bunk the previous two nights.

After I had arrived back drunk.

And a member of staff was called on to avert a major international incident.

After Escobar’ had raised the hue and cry over ‘zis crazy Scotsman.’

The Combat Zone

But it was all the making of this Young Man.

As myself and my pal Neily followed up on the advert on the noticeboard for an unfurnished apartment in Boston.

They had neglected to say that it was in an all-black area known as ‘The Combat Zone’

Where my first sleep was interrupted by the blare of rap warnings from the ghetto-blasters outside.

Isaac and the Brothers

In the morning as we made our way into work we passed by Isaac who was holding sentry at the bottom of the steps.

Punching fists with the brothers and passing them tin-foil pouches.

Isaac became a friend and we signed off our post-university stay with a night’s drinking in Alfie’s shebeen.

All in the company of welcoming locals.

Where the only other white man was the Double Bass in the Jazz band!

America, Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Ale to the Chief – American Beer Day

And a confession here. I didn’t take to American beer when I first visited the country back when I was 17.

Probably because I was below the legal drinking age, although it helps when your Auntie runs a bar, and a Queens institution at that.

And your cousin is a wild one.

But it’s just that Bud Lite or Miller Lite didn’t do it for me, too Lite, really.

I don’t have time to get my hair cut

But when I returned a few years later, for a summer working in Boston after university I discovered Sam Adams and that was it.

Now since I’ve become a regular visitor, and observer of America and all things American in recent years, I’ve made it a personal mission to sample more beer.

So here are my United Tastes of America.

Virginia blonde

This year’s blonde: in Virginia

Virginia: Now I love a beautiful blonde as much as the next man, I married one after all who is gooder than any.

So who was I to turn down a tour which incorporated two of my favourite things, Beer and Battlefields?

Happen the Union and the Confederate soldiers partook of some corn beer themselves before or after they took to the Manassas battlefield.

They deserved it.

And here am I at an old schoolhouse in Ben Lomond doing a tasting. Every day is a schoolday!

Mississippi sippy

And something worth singing about: Mississippi

Deep South; I swear I enjoyed an Ole Miss but maybe that’s just the beer talking.

Although there was a Sinister Minister (insert gag here).

This being the Deep South you want a good ole ranch-type bar where you can grab something (everything) deep fried with grits.

And whether it was just our party (or a thing) but cash in your vouchers for your beers… surely the answer in our Covid times.

Anyhoos in Memphis, Tennessee, Cleveland and Jackson, Mississippi I partook…. and I still think I’ve got a couple vouchers left in a drawer.

Beers to make you goofy

And drink it on the Big Bang set

Anaheim, California: And there’s always one… and usually two, three, four or five who take up the invitation to ask a question.

I mean do you really want to know about the mashing process when you could be drinking the best pale ale?

If you’re from the Orange County you’ve probably just be coming off the Socially Distanced Anaheim Oktoberfest.

But you will be interested in Anaheim Brewery‘s Beer to Go offers, Tuesdays through to Sundays.

In bottles (by the six-pack or case) with Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Red, Anaheim Hefeweizen, Coast to Coast IPA and Oktoberfest IPA.

Or in growlers which are demi-packs – 150th Anniversary Ale, Fruity Wheat Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Red, Anaheim Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest Lager and Coast to Coast IPA.

Colorado, the Golden Nirvana

And the Rockies water is the secret

Colorado: You’ve got to be able to back it up if you claim to be the beer capital of the States, but Denver can.

While Colorado boasts more than 425 breweries and counting.

The Denver Milk Market is a misnomer… it’s in the old milk district.

While all beer lovers will feel the pull of Golden, in the apron of the Rockies.

It is, of course, the home of Coors, but so much more,

As Travis Rupp, Classics professor at the University of Colorado and beer archaeologist at Avery Brewery will tell you.

Now which to pick from? Well because I love a blonde! A Belgian Blue Moon.

And if you love a beer then here’s how some of my favourite fellow boozists do it.,. in Belgium and the Czech Republic.

So where’s your favourite drinking spot in America and what beer should I drink.

Let me know and we’ll share.

MEET YOU IN THE BAR

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Lennon’s revolution… 80 years a working class hero

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

We could pick any number to define our times as we mark John Lennon’s 8Oth birthday this week. Suffice to say his was a life lived.., and how.

We’ll never know for sure how he would have spent the last 40 years since his murder outside the Dakota Building in NY.

Blue for you. www.johnlennon.com

But it would be safe to assume he would have been at the forefront of all the great struggles of our day.

The Fall of the Wall, Apartheid, Black Lives Matter, Freedom from Covid.

Lennon bestrode his world, leaving his imprint, and still does.

And as his adopted New York celebrated his legacy by turning the Empire State Building blue, here are four Lennon cities.

Liverpool Lou Lennon

Liverpool 4

Oh Liverpool Lou, lovely Liverpool Lou, why don’t you behave like other girls do?

And we have Yoko Ono to thank for knowing this, that John would sing this song, his Mum’s fave, around the house.

John’s statue stands alongside his pals on the Liverpool waterfront near the Beatles Story museum.

Lennon is everywhere in his home city and the under-threat Cavern Club is a good first stop while let someone else do the work for you on their Magical Mystery tour.

Growing up in Hamburg

I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.

Not that John was dissing his home city, it was just that he was giving an honest reply to a reporter.

Lennon and the boys (five of them then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on board and with Pete Best instead of Ringo Starr) lived in Hamburg between 1960-62.

And Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour Das Original will take you all over their favourite haunts.

John was his favourite and she had his poster above her bed.

She will take you to the St Pauli door where he posed for a shot later used for the Rock ‘n’ Roll covers album and much, much more.

John’s New York

If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself

While we all know that John died in NY let’s dwell on his life in the Big Apple.

John loved its vibe, its people, its energy and put it down in song on New York City off the album Some Time in New York City.

Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial where the music never stops are obviously on the itinerary.

For the rest, check out this video.

The Lennon wall in Prague

The Lennon Wall, Prague

What to make of it when you’re told that the Lennon Wall in Prague now has ‘Fuck Trump’ messages on it?

It put off my Czech guide who remembers the wall well from the days when it was an organic centrepoint of protest against the Communist.

‘Appen though John would approve.

And let’s not let Amsterdam and Montreal lie

Of course, this is where John and Yoko had their Bed-ins for Peace.

At the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

And I hope that John would approve as I find myself compiling my thoughts here bolt upright in my bed.

While waiting to get back out there travelling again.

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Smashing Trumpkins

No, I didn’t invent them, Smashing Trumpkins, although I wish I had.

I don’t know either which President was first honoured by having his face carved into a pumpkin.

But I do know the first tome I saw one… the Obama pumpkin.

Yes we pecan! www.twitter.com

When I took my family over to New York for the first time.

Every four years, of course, Halloween shares its season with politics, and the Race for the White House.

And carving the candidates into the face of a pumpkin has become a bit of a tradition.

We saw our Obama pumpkins on the doorsteps in Staten Island, the forgotten borough of old New York.

The Free Ferry. www.siferry.com

Staten Island is best known, of course, for its free ferry which carries 25 million passengers a year.

On the 5.2 mile 25-minute run between the St George Terminal and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.

I wouldn’t for a minute put you off the wonderful boat trips around the Statue of Liberty. And in particular The Beast speedboat.

It’s just that you can see Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Heights and Lower Manhattan.

The historic borough of Staten Island

Staten Island has a museum, a zoo and Historic Richmond Town.

Of course, The Greatest Living New Yorker, Donald Trump, knows the Ferry from seeing it from his chopper.

I diverse from pumpkins and the recipe here for a Trumpkin pie I gleaned from the net.

But let me leave you here with a thought, The orange-faced pumpkin is made for the 45th President of the USA.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Sweet Caroline, so good!

Hands, touching hands/Reaching out, touching me, touching you – Sweet Caroline/Neil Diamond

And this’ll have you bopping on land or sea… Sweet Caroline, oh, oh, oh, good times never felt so good (so good, so good, so good).

Reaching out: Neil Diamond

You always know you’re onto a rousing stadium song and party favourite when the crowd know their cues.

And so randomly here are some of the places where those good times with Neil Diamond have never felt so good.

The duel in the crown

I don’t know what you’re having

Pat O’Brien’s duelling pianos, Universal Orlando: And you’ll need to bring a fistful of dollars with you (no, not the film though I dare say they’d play that soundtrack too).

Somebody will almost certainly ask for Sweet Caroline, and Piano Man, so that leaves the field open for your other faves.

Randomly I asked for (and got) Barry Manilow’s Mandy… ‘And I came and I gave without taking, and you sent me away, I’m Murty.’

Summer in New York

Holding hands… well, almost

The Beast, The Hudson River, New York: And on the hottest day of the summer with no space on the sidewalk (remember that) then the best place to go is the Hudson.

You’ll want to take the 70ft powerboat The Beast building up to 45mph around the Statue of Liberty.

And as you pass by New Jersey on the other side there’s a nod to that state’s favourite sons Bon Jovi and Livin’ On A Prayer.

Check it out as part of your New York CityPASS.

A gran old time in Austria

And that’s Ehrwald Presley there on the keyboards

Ehrwald, Austria: And what do you give a group of Irish senior walkers for musical entertainment?

The octogenarian oompah-oompah man laid on by Top Flight for Schools had tried some Austrian music and some Elvis.

But one of our group pointed out that we were an Irish group and ran off a list of Irish Wedding Songs… and obviously Sweet Caroline.

Booze cruise

And wait till the party gets started

Royal Caribbean, the English Channel: And we’re in the main shopping and entertainment area, of the Independence of the Seas rockin’ on our final night.

We’ve had the DJ belt out Hi Ho Silver Lining, 500 Miles, Delilah and It’s Not Unusual.

But the one that really rocks the boat is… you guessed it Sweet Caroline. So good, so good, so good.