Countries, Deals, Europe

Athens an epic city break

Any city where the cabbie asks you how much you want to pay has a jump start on others… yes, it’s Athens an epic city break.

But don’t just take my word for it (well do) but the Post Office’s annual City Costs Barometer makes Athens your alpha city.

The beta, gamma, delta and epsilon (I knew Greek would serve me well one day) are outliers Lisbon, Krakow, Riga and Budapest.

The Post Office took a dozen common holiday purchases.

From a travel card and entrance to a museum to a cup of coffee and two nights in a three-star hotel.

And Athens came out on top at £207.18.

Metaxi

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Now famously the Greeks bankrupt themselves partly because they supposedly saw underground fares as optional.

I don’t know about the veracity of that having enjoyed the services of my old Athenian pal George’s driving.

And Athens’ peculiar taxi service.

Where they’ll quote a fare of €15 or €10 or whatever you’ve got to get up from your downtown hotel to the Acropolis.

And then if you get the right return driver it could be €10 to get back to your hotel.

Or as my own chilled cabbie put it pay if you can.

Dublin’s fare city

The Travel pack in Dublin

T’wouldn’t catch on in Dublin though where the latest incomers bag a licence.

And then take you halfway around the city just to ramp up the fare.

That and the think of a number drink fares around Temple Bar put Dublin down at 17 on the list at £436.12.

Just behind Pricey Paris at £423.42.

And only ahead of Copenhagen (£455.75), Venice (£456.92) and Amsterdam (£592.79).

Some local knowledge is, of course, helpful which is what you get over 13 years living and working in the Irish capital.

Some personal favourites

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

We’re pleased to see, of course, that some personal favourites make the top ten.

With Prague at £248.50 which leaves plenty in your pocket for Pilsner.

And Rome at £347.17, although we can show you some short cuts around La Citta Eterna.

The top 20

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome
  1. Athens – £207.18
  2. Lisbon – £218.03
  3. Krakow – £218.55
  4. Riga – £220.32
  5. Budapest – £220.95
  6. Prague – £248.50
  7. Madrid – £298.81
  8. Berlin – £316.97
  9. Dubrovnik – £318.30
  10. Rome – £347.17
  11. Barcelona – £384.80
  12. Bruges – £389.05
  13. Florence – £397.87
  14. Vienna – £401.64
  15. Stockholm – £421.16
  16. Paris – £423.42
  17. Dublin – £436.12
  18. Copenhagen – £455.75
  19. Venice – £456.92
  20. Amsterdam – £592.79

So that’s the alpha to the omega from your local post office.

And if you didn’t know it before then here’s confirmation what we already know about Athens an epic city break.

 

America, Countries, Europe, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays Carols

Woah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, in excelsis deo (wherever that is), it’s Rainy Days and Songdays Carols.

And particularly with the choir of carol singers from the high street in our town now having dissipated.

Sing-a-long: And we love a carol

But church services go on unabated and the original spirit of Christmas sometimes sneaks past Mariah Carey and Michael Buble.

And so a celebration of carols, their origins and the destinations with which they’re associated.

Stille Nacht

The Other Salzburg: With the Scary One

Or Silent Night which originates in Oberndorf bei Salzburg.

No, not that Salzburg of Mozart and The Sound of Music in Austria but the small city north of Salzburg.

It does though have it’s own blessed place in music as the birthplace of one of our favourite carols.

Mohr and Grober may not be as recognisable as Gilbert & Sullivan, Rodgers & Hammerstein, King & Goffin, Lennon & McCartney or John and Taupin.

But the assistant priest, and the schoolmaster and organist certainly hit on one with this classic on the Christmas Eve of 1818.

It travelled around the world and got the ultimate seal of approval when Bing Crosby sold 10 million copies in 1935.

Feliz Natal

In her working clothes: With the Scary One again

Feliz Natal as they say in Portugal.

Or O Come all ye Faithful (except they say it in Portuguese) and not this southern US draw… though Carrie on Ms Underwood.

We have King John IV to thank for it becoming Anglicised (the Portuguese are England’s most enduring ally).

The clue to King Johin IV’s musicality is in the moniker he was given King John The Musician.

His works (he is also said to have written a setting for a Good Friday standard Crux Fidelis) alas were destroyed in the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755.

Of course Portugal is full of secrets just waiting to be discovered.

Crowning Bethlehem

Philly Christmas: They love a carol

Talking of secrets, I’ve just been watching the original Jesus.

Well the blockbuster televisual one, anyway, Robert Powell retracing Our Lord’s steps on the Smithsonian channel

And spoiler here.. he may not have been born there but rather his childhood home Nazareth.

The song would be very different, or would it be? Nazareth scans too.

The carol we so love, is actually an American construct.

With it written by Phillips Brook, an Episcopalian minister, then a rector in Philadelphia, and later of Boston, in the 19th century.

And sung beautifully here by The King himself.

Ding Dong Merrily On High

Roger Bravo: Roger Whittaker

Sounds very English village hall, but mais non, Ding Dong Merrily On High is a French Joyeux Noel, ditty.

The tune was originally recorded in the 16th century by Dijon‘s finest Jehan Tabourot in his study of French Renaissance social dance called Orchésographie.

Ca va, English composer and campanologist George Ratcliffe Woodward updated it with the old ding dong that we all enjoy.  

Now randomly we can’t think of anyone better to sing or rather trill it than Roger ‘The Whistler’ Whittaker.

Deep pan crisp and even

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

OK, we’ll get the old Christmas Cracker joker out first.

What pizza does Good King Wenceslas like?

Deep pan crisp and even.

Whether the Good King first looked out on the Feast of Stephen and the snow laid round about deep and crisp and even we don’t know.

But Wenceslas Square in Prague is usually packed at this time of year, and on most days.

It might be different this year with Covid which is all the more reason to toast our Czech friends with an Urquell. Na Zdravi.

Take it away Bing… 

Merry Christmas and sing along to yourself with your Rainy Days and Songdays Carols.

 

 

 

America, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Gay you love me – five top gay wedding destinations

It may only have been for show at the Graceland Chapel, Las Vegas https://www.gracelandchapel.comwww.lvcva.com but Peter and Martin would have made a lovely couple.

IMG_4470
The King and I: In Vegas

As would Cami from Utah and myself who made sweet music on the dance floor of Harrah’s off the Strip https://www.caesars.com/harrahs-las-vegas and Strip… the light fantastic.

The Queen and I: At Harrah’s

All of which came back to me today with the fifth anniversary of Ireland becoming the first country in the world to pass a referendum to legalise gay marriage.

So to celebrate the glorious day, here are five great destinations, Ireland included, to tie the knot.

The Power of love

The Power behind the throne… my little flower

Powerscourt Estate, Avoca,Co.Wicklow, Ireland (https://powerscourt.com and https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dubak-powerscourt-hotel-autograph-collection/?scid=bb1a189a-fec3-4d19-a255-54ba596febe2): And my old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow, Ireland’s Garden County.

A plush ballroom where celebs including Chris De Burgh’s daughter, the former Miss World Rosanna Davison, got married to slot machine heir Wesley Quirke.

The gardens and estate are a favourite location for movie producers but the biggest star of all is Powerscourt’s redoubtable matriarch Sarah Slazenger.

See Flowerscourt and www.visitwicklow.ie.

Say it with flowers in Amsterdam

IMG_1007

Dam romantic:Amsterdam

They’re everyone’s favourite celebrity couple so seeing that Celeb-catching belongs to the Gays.

Then where better to stay for your honeymoon than George and Amal’s Amsterdam hideaway.

The Dylan Amsterdam looks out over the Keizersgracht canal https://www.dylanamsterdam.com and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

They’ll put flowers in your bedroom, tulips of course and more on this king of flower in Pictures of Amsterdam.

And you’ll have a concierge to look after your every need and plan itineraries for you while there is also the invaluable city card http://www.iamsterdam.com.

As well, as of course, caviar in the Vinkeles restaurant. Well, it is your honeymoon.

Greek gods

And the bride wore white: In Kythera

Where all the men look like Zeus and I could easily have been turned. 

If you want the Athens experience then you’ll want to take in the Athens Riviera  http://www.athensattica.com where all the Beautiful People hang out.

While the Greek islands have always drawn us there.

With some even forgetting to go back like Dutch walking tour leader Frank and his partner who have settled down in Kythera.

And who can blame them? See http://www.visitkythera.com,  https://www.pyrgoshouse.com/attraction/walk-with-frank/ and My Greek odyssey.

Let’s go cruising

Norwegian would: With the Scary One on the fjords

Well, we had to didn’t we? Now cruises come in all shapes and sizes so there will be one to suit every one of you… 101 in our case.

And here’s one that comes highly recommended by Herself and Myself where we spent an anniversary http://www.msccruises.co.uk The call of the fjords.

Of course they can marry you on these cruises too which I found out on my first cruise Smooth sailing around the Western Med… no, not me.

If you want to go more upmarket still the gamechanger Celebrity Edge https://www.celebritycruises.com/gb/cruise-ships/celebrity-edge I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here will sail you around the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

With the best entertainment, a floating tender and Eden!

Brag about Prague

We’re only here for the beer: At the Strahov Monastic Brewery

Yes, you can walk by the Seine or go down the Grand Canal in Venice.

But maybe you’re more party people and want to kick back.

Then there are few better places than Prague… https://www.prague.eu/en.

There is a real frisson about the Czech capital and you can’t help but feel infused by it.

As I was when I passed by a Stag party wearing T-shirts emblazoned with ‘I turned Philip Schofield’.

Have your nuptials in the Castle area and stay at the Golden Key Hotel https://goldenkey.astenhotels.com/en.

Where you’ll be enchanted by the wooden ceilings and dainty downstairs sauna.

And imbibe the best beer in the world at the Strahov Monastic Brewery https://www.klasterni-pivovar.cz.