Africa, Countries

Holiday Pics on World Photography Day

I’ve an advantage over everybody else… I’ve an award-winning snapper to showcase her holiday pics on World Photography Day.

And that makes it all a treat for y’all when we get the piccies out when we get home.

So without further adieu here’s a taster of what fills our albums at home.

And we’ll even throw in a photography vacation offer to tease you.

Portugal’s a picture

Our boat comes in: In Aveiro

And you can keep your Algarve amateur poolside and beach lounger snaps this is one from Aveiro.

A stunning fishing town in Portugal Centro it is known as the Portuguese Venice.

It’s Portugal’s big secret but heck now it’s out thanks to an award-winning writer, and a snapper.

Hamburger and shots

Flying the flag: Hamburg

And we did both in the Reeperbahn and further afield and photographic shots and shoots.

We’ll leave our bed pics to your imagination, though actually we have shared those Hamburg city beach bar snaps.

My Fjord Lady

Norway, yes way: Up the fjords

And my Little Mermaid followed us from Kiel in Germany through Copenhagen and up the Norwegian fjords.

And captured it all from aboard her MSC cruise ship and on our land excursions.

Amsterdam dame

What a picture: Amsterdam

And in the City of Tulips, my photographic pal was the prettiest flower.

And when I was motioning towards their famously tall, narrow bars she was capturing the delightful Amsterdam architecture. 

No pic like Rome

Bridge of highs: Rome

And with all roads famously leading to Rome it took me some time, until I was 40, to visit La Citta Eterna

Sadie the Snapper had been here before and was excited to show me the sites, among them the Trevi Fountain.

The superstition is right and I’ve been back and we will be too.

Snap up Morocco

Sahara bumpity: Two Tuareg nomads in the Sahara

While any and all travellers can always do with Travel Department to hold our hands.

TD Active Holidays offers a guided holiday with an array of photographic opportunities.

From the impressive mosques and markets of Marrakech.

To the busy fishing port of Essaouira and the rocky, barren Agafay Desert.

Where you’ll learn to develop your documentary, street and landscape photography skills.

On this holiday, you’ll not only get to experience Moroccan culture through a camera’s lens.

But also through traditional Moroccan food and live music.

As well as an exhilarating camel ride across the dunes… I hope you get my old friend Larsson to hump you along.

You’ll be accompanied on your journey with an additional tutor from the Dublin Photography School.

They’ll provide tutorials, demonstrations and tips to your small group.

So that you get the most out of the images you capture.

This trip departs on 13th October from €1,099pp.

Including return flights, transfers, four nights’ half-board in a three-star hotel, plus expert guide.

And when you get back your friends will be begging you to share 


ABC… of stag and hen parties in Europe

As the song goes it’s as simple as ABC… of stag and hen parties in Europe (OK, a bit of poetic licence here, but you try doing this every day!)

The rather clumsy lead-in just gives us an excuse to highlight the charms of our continent’s cities and its appeal to stags and hens.

Now you’ll have your own pick of the pubs but the A-1 for us before we tied the knot was our old stomping ground at the time, Aberdeen, in the north-east of Scotland.

Where the jokers, mostly those who have never been to the Granite or Silver City by the North Sea, will tar the locals with a parsimony that is misplaced.

But for those who have lived there (eight years for me) it is welcoming and best of all the pubs are hubs of good craic.

Too much so on the night in question when I was persuaded by my usher into drinking too much which forced me to retreat from my own do when we got to the Chinese restaurant.

Thankfully we had decided in advance not to have the stag the night before and I’d recovered by the following week.

This could be Amsterdam or Rotterdam

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Our survey suppliers today Bonusetu (no, us neither) have inexplicably bypassed Aberdeen on their ABC… of stag and hen parties in Europe.

But they do give us some of our favourite cities, starting off with one of the masters, Amsterdam.

And it would be a mistake for revellers to descend on the Red Light district… far better to seek out the cosy, narrow, canalside bars.

The Dutch capital takes top spot for restaurants featured in the Michelin Guide per capita with 70 restaurants making for more than six per 100k population. 

Ranking fifth in casinos per capita, sixth for number of five star hotels, and fourth for five star nightlife locations, the Dutch capital has it all.

Now we all have our ideas of romantic getaways and I won brownie points for taking Mrs M to the Dylan where George and Amal go when in Amsterdam.

But just as good I find is taking your loved one down to Rotterdam to see the Dutch Oranje play Greece I find too.

The upside of Continental Europe for your stag or hen is that it’s proper beer and the Belgians make theirs a matter of national honour as we found out in Ieper and Bruges.

Antwerp or Bucharest

Bucks on tour: Bucharest

But the same goes too for Bonusetu’s pick Antwerp where old friends from Dublin (and more of the Fair City later) await.

They tell us that it contains the second most Michelin Guide restaurants per capita at just over five per 100k, whilst ranking 12th relatively for five starred nightlife locations.

Now, full reveal here, and we’d have imagined that the B Bonusetu would have in mind might have been Barcelona or Berlin or Budapest.

But our guides have pointed us in the direction of Bucharest.

The Romanian capital has a huge amount of top class nightlife with more than 50 bars, clubs and comedy clubs rated over five stars on TripAdvisor.

And it has by far the most casinos with 160 which equates to nearly 9 per 100k residents.

Now you bet that we say where Bonusetu are going with this and what they want us to do when we’re abroad, but we’ll go with it.

Fairytale cities

Walking on air in Copenhagen

Heading north Bonusetu clearly know what they think is wonderful about Copenhagen.

The Danish capital sports just over 1.5 casinos per 100k residents, and more than four Michelin restaurants per 100k.

And it has almost 40 five star rated nightlife locations… but the abiding beauty is, of course, the Little Mermaid.

Prague has a fairytale aspect too and its mix of quirky David Cerny Piss Sculpture and historic erections (steady).

But most importantly it claims to have the most beer drinkers per capita in the world.

Bonsusetu helpfully tells us the Czechia capital has the most five star rated nightlife locations per capita of all cities in Europe with 162 across the city.

And that equates to more than 12 per 100k of the population.

Prague also sports the second highest number of casinos with 56 they inevitably tell us.

Eternal cities

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Rome needs little build-up and drinking Chianti with a pezzo on the Spanish Steps or Cakestand is to be recommended (guilty).

And our guides tell us of their 124 five-star rated nightlife locations across the city.

As the city with the most top notch hotels per capita in Europe with almost two for every 100k of its population, it’s a sure spot for a fantastic stag/hen do.

As is Lisbon, the jewel of Portugal. Sporting the third most five star hotels per capita at just over one and a half, it maintains a good rank for nightlife.

And we’d of course recommend the Vinho Verde and the sardines whichever fado bar you go into… and a Port to finish.

For those in these island where I live, of course, your question is bound to be which of Britain or Ireland comes out on top in the Bonusetu survey?

London or Dublin

The Travel pack in Dublin

And this time, it’s Laaandon, although we do know that’s because of the Irish influence.

London’s 163 five star hotels puts it second in the per capita rankings with this making for 1.75 per 100k people.

It also features the third highest number of casinos with 53, and an abundance of Michelin Guide restaurants put it at ninth in this category with 0.57 per 100k population.

The Bachelor Boy himself, my own Son and Heir, would only partake in someone else’s stag.

Our own old playground of Dublin has long been on the map for stag and hen revellers, particularly around Temple Bar.

The Fair City ranks third in terms of casinos per capita of these European cities with almost two for every 100k residents, and again in the top ten for five star hotels per capita.

So there you are the ABC… of stag and hen parties in Europe.

You bet!




Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

A popular meme for a vegan’s favourite meal shows a tray of ice but that’s a cheap shot and I’m toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

The Vegan and Tonic is the creation of Fentimans… well, the Indian tonic anyway.

Tonic for the troops: Fentimans

Whether this was the oul Greek Pythagoras’s tipple of choice when he was working out his theorem this shows Veganism isn’t a modern fad.

Ancients’ way of life

Laying out your stall: Kythera

The ancient world is a good place to start.

It’s accepted that they would eat fish, eggs from quails and hens, and cheese but they hoovered up veg too.

Legumes, olives, figs arugula (no, me neither), asparagus, cabbage, carrots and cucumbers.

So it isn’t a big jump to think that Pythagoras who philosophised and expounded about human rights as well as hypotenuses was a vegan.

After all his followers weren’t allowed to wear wool either.

So long before Briton Donald Watson is said to have coined the word in 1944 the ancients were going vegan.

All around the world 

Veggies rule: Turkish Airlines Business Lounge, Istanbul Airport

The Indian Subcontinent has historically been the bedrock of vegetarianism.

With the likes of philosophers Parshavnatha and Mahavira preaching what we would consider to be the vegan life.

We know, of course, too that what the Greeks started the Romans took on and ran with.

And so for every Pythagoras and Plutarch there was an Ovid and Pliny the Younger.

All of which permeates the Med, Aegean, Middle Eastern (note the Arab poet al Ma’ari poet), North African and Subcontinent diets to this day.

Brand new

Veggie heaven: Jordan

Fentimans is the go-to provider and guide for eating, drinking and clothing yourself in Veganism.

And as we all know when you’re drinking you always get the nibbles.

And so you’ll want to try these snacks:

Co-op Bacon Rashers.
McCoy’s Ultimate Sizzling BBQ ChickenUltimate Chargrilled Steak and Peri Peri McCoy’s.
Walkers Prawn Cocktail.
Smokey Bacon Hula Hoops.

Student life

Dig in: Pot noodles

While for students everywhere…

Bombay Bad Boy

Brazilian BBQ Steak 

Chinese Chow Mein 

Piri Piri Chicken 
Beef and Tomato
BBQ Pulled Pork
Jerk Chicken
Sticky Rib
Sweet & Sour
Asian Street Style Japanese Miso Noodle Soup

Wear it well

Packet in: Crispaholic
And, yes, I promised you vegan fashion…
Well, what about the Dr Martens vegan collection they launched in 2011.
Now, I’m not one myself but I know more and more and it’s you I’m thinking of toasting Veganuary with a Vegan and Tonic.

Matthew’s Canaries

Canaries life: With Matthew in Tenerife
And while we’re here let’s give a shout-out here to my old mucker and vegan evangelist Matthew Hirtes from my Tenerife trip.
And Canaries-based Matthew has forgotten more about vegan life in those islands than we’ll ever know.
Thankfully he and the Dreams Abroad team where I was Editor continue to show us a world where veganism has an exalted place.


America, Countries, Europe, Flying

Why airports are museums

For some they are stressful thoroughfares but for the rest they are objets d’artes and why airports are museums.

If you are a seasoned traveller then it is inevitable that you will have spent hours on end in airports.

Go Broncos

Blue Mustang:  I want to jump on

Denver: Now if you have found yourself with eight hours before your next flight from Denver you might wonder what you’ll do.

Where’s a mini-golf course when you need one?

Well, yours is at the south end of Jeppesen Terminal in the pre-security area.

That Denver International Airport should have a mini-golf course should come as little surprise.

Psychedelic: Blue Bear in Denver

To those of us greeted by a giant blue Bronco installation, entering the airport.

The hip and humorous hombres from Denver have a thing for big blue animals as we know from our own perigrinations in Mile High City.

When in Rome

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Rome: It would have been the preserve of the Gods, of Mercury, to fly in Ancient Rome.

And so in today’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport they celebrate their seafaring past.

And so when I last visited the Eternal City they had an exhibition to Ostia.

Of course it wouldn’t be Rome if they weren’t honouring their most famous citizens with sculptures scattered through the airport.

And an array of mosaics including part of a mythological depiction of signs of the Zodiac and the four time zones, or the four seasons. 

Epic Athens

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Athens: Now what the fast food chain was in the days of Socrates and Plato is anybody’s guess but I’m thinking Figs on the Run.

Civilisations meet near the Burger King on the upper level of the main departures hall (before security).

And there you’ll see 172 authentic artefacts dating from the Neolithic and Early Hellenic eras to the post-Byzantine period.

I will be back to check them out only I’d messed up my connections through Munich and had a date with Athene on a hill. But that’s another story.

Amsterdam in miniature

Holland Boulevard, Schiphol

Amsterdam: The Netherlands have long been a crossroads from these islands, Britain and Ireland, where I live.

And, while of course, we should always take time out to see its largest city, the gem that is Amsterdam, there are times when Schiphol Airport will be a layover.

Now I’m a long-term advocate for art galleries, and believe that there is never a wasted minute, hour or afternoon spent in one.

Drink up: Amsterdam Airport

And so if you have time on your hands, and even if you don’t, then you should check out the Rijksmuseum.

Which became the first art museum in the world to open a branch at an airport in 2002.

And where travellers can visit the museum free of charge, 24 hours a day.  

Qatar welcomes the world

Animal magic: The oryxes in Doha

Qatar: Now Qatar will be welcoming peoples from around the globe at the end of this year when they host the World Cup.

So we’ll all see the herd of metal oryxes, a nice treat in arrivals.

Have a lie down: And there are more funky sculptures

As well as the jumbo yellow Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer after departures, security and passport control at the South Node.

Or the wooden toy Small Lie  which looms 32 feet over passers-by in the North Node.

And the larger-than-life sculptural Playground.

All of which we’ll appreciate all the more as we get back out flying again.

That’s why airports are museums.