Countries

Here comes Frankie, Siena and the Italian cavalry

Ciao tutti… and they’re off.

We bring you good news from Italia courtesy of Frankie Dettori, Italy’s brand ambassador for their new promotional campaign.

Race time in Siena

Frankie is Italy’s most famous horseman since well, ever.

Only the most devoted racing fans, or Italians, though would be able to name you another Italian jockey.

Medieval jewel: Siena

But, in truth, Italy has a rich tradition with the cavalli.

It goes back to the days of the Romans and the superstar chariot drivers.

Champion jockey Frankie is a proud Sardinian and waxes lyrical about his island, particularly the beaches.

While he also extols the virtues of Rome all of which I share.

Rock god

Being the rock god that he is, of course, Frankie namechecks other iconic Italian cities, fashionable Milan, Venice and cultural Florence 

Horsing around in the Circo Maximo in Rome with my Laurie

While he also bigs up the Amalfi Coast and Capri, and for the winter Cervinia 

If it’s horses you want then the Palio di Siena on July 2 andd August 16 is a horse of another colour.

The Palio like all traditions in Italy has its origins in religion with the first running of the bareback race in the mid-1600s in honour of the apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Oh, Frankie: Frankie Dettori

The jockeys are kitted out in the colours of their districts, the Contradas of Siena as they race around the square.

Our friend Frankie has his English subtitled in the promotional video which is something Scots and Irish have become used to over the years so our sympathy.

Wait for it

For the women (and the men) it’s not what Frankie says but how he says it anyway, and how he looks and the background of Italia.

But wait for it, Frankie’s pay off is Italia Wait For It. And we will.

And when we get back it’ll be with our old favourites Topflight, the Italian specialists.

Now all I need are some suitable colours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Every story tells a picture – from Caravaggio to Van Gogh

Surrounded by our four walls in lockdown one of the few ways to transport ourselves to exotic shores is through our pictures.

It is after all  what our Vincent did when he struggled for his sanity.

Van Gogh had developed a taste for all things Polynesian from housemate Paul Gaugin.

Van Gogh also had his demons to exorcise too, particularly when incarcerated.

And he would explore such existential themes in his art as the Reaper himself.

Manic twirls: Van Gogh

Now I’m not saying that I obsess on the same even during lockdown.

But a print of his Wheatfield with a Reaper hangs proudly in our guest room, hopefully not spooking out our visitors (when they come).

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

But reminding us of the captivating Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on our tour of Amsterdam.

All of which meanderings has prompted me to share some of the finer art I’ve enjoyed on my travels.

Beheading for Malta

Lose your head: Caravaggio in Valletta. www.caravaggio.org

Beheading of St John the Baptist, Caravaggio, Valletta: There’s always something a bit unhinged about artists.

And the meeting of brushmeister and subject comes together in this classic painting, described as ‘the painting of the 17th century.’

Caravaggio was on the run and took refuge with the Knights of Malta in Malta.

But he fell out with them, was imprisoned and then escaped from their dungeons.

A theory floated in 2010 has it that Michelangelo Merisi, for it is he, was killed by poisonous paints.

Caravaggio’s Malta

And suspicious has since fallen on the Knights.

Caravaggio’s masterpiece hangs in St John’s Co-Cathedral and shows real insight into the shady side of life.

Valletta with its stunning harbour is a real jewel.

And and you can picture the intrigue and the underworld of Medieval Mediterranean life.

When we’re all able to get out again then Malta should be on your radar.

Monster Munch in Bergen

Keeping warm: A troll in Bergen.

The Rasmus Meyer Collection, Bergen: And you’ll gasp at what those naughty trolls are doing in the drawings in this gallery.

Up a fjord in mystic, fabled Norway you’ll find this artistic curio.

It wouldn’t be a Norwegian gallery without a host of Edvard Munches and Bergen doesn’t disappoint.

And the story notes give you a real insight into the travails of the Great Man.

Dark Secrets: Munch in Bergen

Bergen is also the place for the travels of JS Dahl whose paintings first popularised cruising in the fjords

The Real Dahl: In Bergen

A must visit on your MSC Cruises stop-off while, of course, you simply have to pull a Munch Scream pose.

Paint the ceiling in Padua

Giotto down your ideas: In Padua

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua: And it’s doubtful you would have a fresco ceiling of the Sistine Chapel without a Scrovegni Chapel.

Well, you probably would, but it might have been the Medieval version of Dulux!

Giotto was something of an inspiration for Michelangelo and you can see his halo work here.

And yes we know the finesse of Firenze, the merits of Milan, the riches of Rome and my own recent favourite, beautiful Bergamo.

But Padua, often in the shadow of Venice, should be praised to the heavens which in fairness to Giotto he does.

Masters and Mississippi

The settlers: The Mississippi Art Museum

Museum of Mississippi Art, Jackson, Mississippi: Yes, when we think art and America we immediately focus on MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York Art, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

The First Nation: In the Mississippi Art Museum

But in truth America is a sweep of wonderful art, so take it in wherever you find it.

Which in Jackson, Mississippi is the Museum of Mississippi Art where you’ll see early Frontier art and much more.

Dirty old Lane

Art for arts sake: The Francis Bacon Studio

Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin: And it’s the Francis Bacon studio you want to see here.

Bacon bequeathed his studio to his home city on the understanding that it would be recreated in every detail.

All of which means it is messier than any student bedsit…

To think I was probably sitting on a goldmine back in Aberdeen in the Eighties.

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Holiday Snaps – Hungarian heights

I christened her Funky Gold Edina which she happily went along with despite it probably going over her Hungarian head.

Edina was the ever-smiling Top Flight for Schools host on our walking trip up the Tyrolean Alps in Austria.

Which is no mean thing when everything over your head gives you vertigo.

It’s the people you meet from foreign countries when you’re abroad who inspire you to visit their homelands.

Hungary for cultureEdina’s beloved Hungary is also on Travel Department‘s radar.

Phew Danube

You’ll go right round the bend but you’ll love it on your Danube Bend Walking Holiday.

Spend five nights in the Medieval castle town of Visegard in Northern Hungary.

Enjoy five days of walking with packed lunches with moderate (7-11kms) and challenging (12-20kms) levels.

With Edina and Caroline in the Austrian Tyrol

Among the highlights are Nagymaros, Zebegeny, the Pilis Mountains and a half/day tour of Budapest.

From €1,199pp for seven nights including flights, transfers and 4* hotel accommodation, departing June and September.

Sit down next to me Rosa

Rosa and Thistle in Memphis

There is something iconic about the American bus.

Where else can you see a man in a gabardine suit who looks like a spy when you’ve gone to look for America (ask your folks)?

But not all buses are Greyhound or Peter Pan buses… in the Deep South they were awful segregated affairs.

Until a wee seamstress cast a huge Civil Rights legacy 65 years ago today by refusing to give up her seat.

Her arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, sparked the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Heroine: Rosa Parks

I had the honour of sitting beside Rosa (well kinda) in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

The real bus is in the Henry Ford Museum in the Detroit area near where she moved, like so many African-Americans.

But the real story begins in Montgomery, Alabama.

Malta crosses

Art of Valletta: Caravaggio

Should you see a Catholic priest walking down the middle of a street in Malta or Gozo then you should veer into a ditch to miss him.

It used to be the case too in Ireland though these changed days they’d probably be stepping on the peddle.

The links to the two countries have always been strong and they’ve just been renewed.

Since the end of last month you can get back to Malta from Ireland with a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival.

And when you’re there you can enjoy, the sun, sea and swally, of course, but why not the saints too?

And as I often say the best way to check out a new place is to go where they play and pray.

Grand Gozo

The archipelago boasts more than 360 churches and chapels and having visited St John’s Co-Cathedral for the Caravaggio which means only another 359!

St Augustine Church and St Paul’s Shipwreck Church are on the Malta Pilgrimage Trail and the old convert must think I’lm stalking him.

In Malta yes, but also Rome while I’ve also been on the trail of St John too, on the island of Kythera in the Athens/Attica region of Greece.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Kitmastime

And for many a parent the go-to Christmas present for kids (and maybe vice-versa) was a football top.

My most memorable was, and this is pertinent in a week when we lost Diego Maradona, La Albiceleste.

Or the sky blue and white stripes.

Truth was that my attempts at long hair never came close to the chic cool of the hero of that year’s World Cup, Mario Kempes.

And physical evidence still exists in a picture album of a rather angst-ridden teen standing by the tree.

In truth I hadn’t asked for Argentina and would have preferred the Dutch shirt.

And I did rue the day I left the World Cup winners’ top behind in a changing room.

So in recognition of Diego and also to flag up a very good cause comedian Mark Watson’s Kitmas appeal for donations of old football tops here are my five faves.

Which will, of course, draw you to these countries.

Dutch of class

Argentina and the Netherlands in the World Cup final in 1978.

The Netherlands: And it was probably just as well that my parents didn’t give me the Dutch top in the Glasgow of the Seventies.

Because an orange top is identified in Scotland with King William of Orange and the Protestant team Rangers.

And that wouldn’t have gone down well in my Catholic school.

Thing was though that as an eight-year-old and uncluttered by such nonsense I was dazzled by that colour.

And the Netherlands of Cruyff and Krol.

And I did manage to blend in with the Oranje Army when I treated the-then Miss F to a night out.

Amsterdam to Rotterdam where the Dutch beat the Greeks 1-0.

Portuguese man of awe

Team of all talents: Portugal in 1986

Portugal: And while it’s mostly always the top you get sometimes you need the whole shirt and shorts ensemble.

So that Portugal‘s red top with the addition of green shorts becomes the Portugal flag.

Our guide Jose Madomis told us from the off that Portugal in the days of the dictator Salazar was run on Football, Fado and Fatima.

So much so that among all the stands of Our Lady merch in Fatima you’ll find the Portuguese shirt and Cristiano Ronaldo towel!

Moroccan roll

Green is the colour: Morocco

Morocco: And not just because they were Scotland’s last opponents in the finals of a major competition, a 3-0 defeat in 1998.

But because of the lengths I went to to get myself a Morocco top

On my travels in Marrakech. I picked the green one rather than the red.

Where I got roped in by a trader after some pointless bartering.

To buy his threadbare top off his stall for more than its worth.

Which set in motion a tragical mystery tour from Jemaa el-Fna around the souks.

And that was just the start of my rocky Moroccan roll.

Roman holiday

Hotti Totti: Roma legend Francesco Totti

Roma: And we’re still waiting to get to see the Gods of calcio after Dad here promised the Son and Heir a match only to forget his passport.

But we did get a Giallorossi (red, more of a maroon, and yellow piping) top snd pencil case.

Calcio too is a religion in Rome

And as you come out of the Vatican you’ll find the shops on one side of the street bedecked in yellow and white, the other in Roma red.

Dynamic Zagreb

Blue for you: Dynamo Zagreb

Medjugorje: And, no, you didn’t read that wrongly…. the Balkans Wars just across the Croatian border in Bosnia & Herzegovina is solidly Croat.

Particularly in the Irish Centre, the focal point for your Marian tour.

Where your barman cranks up the volume when his faves Dynamo Zagreb play.

And with my Croatia friends on World Cup final day in 2018

And will accompany it with a tape of his best supporters’ songs.

Outside on the stands and in the shops and the only thing competing for space with Our Lady is…

Yes, you guessed it Croatia’s distinctive red and white checked tops.

And one just for me

Put your shirt on me

Quinta do Murto; And a postscript here… before I was invited out to Quinta do Lago to visit the hi-tec Campus.

I was asked my shirt size.

And when I was taken into the changing rooms where English Premier League sides set up camp there on the peg was…

My own black top with white sleeves with my name on the back.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Driving entertainment in lockdown

It’s all come a long way since the days when a drive-thru was getting out of the car and picking up the family’s takeaway.

Now because of COVID we can stay in our hermetically-sealed cocoon and enjoy all manner of thrills.

Park by the Pole

Steamy windows

Lucky Devil Lounge, Portland, Oregon: And here’s where you can get extra with your bun… two buns actually!

Customers who order food can pay $30 per car and driver (plus $10 for any passengers in the car) to use the drive-thru and watch a show.

In normal years I find myself in the US around Gay Pride.

And my friends at the American Travel Fair, IPW, put on a fabulous Gay Pride night… Washington, Denver, Los Angeles/Anaheim.

Bless me, Father

Two Our Fathers and Three Hail Marys

Limoges, France: Maybe you’ve not been out enough over these lockdowns to have compiled enough sins but come on, all that food and drink.

And Sainte Jeanne d’Arc in Limoges will hear your darkest secrets from your car.

When all this is over, of course many of us will be going all Medieval and giving thanks to the Great Redeemer.

In France, that’s Lourdes, in Portugal it’s Fatima, Italy is Rome, Spain the Camino and Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Probably the best gig

Mads for it

Denmark: And Mads Langer doesn’t let a small thing like lockdown make him down his mic.

Mads sold 500 tickets for a concert at Tangkrogen outside Aarhus, Denmark’s second city after Copenhagen.

The cars were rockin’ and rollin’!

Airport movies

Bringing some colour into our lives

Edinburgh AirportAnd all of this drive-thrumania has been triggered by the news that my local airport Edinburgh is putting on a Halloween offering.

Drive-ins were always the stuff of James Dean movies (the first drive-in cinema was actually New Jersey, not LA).

You never forget your first time though and that for me was Toronto and a Bond movie, The Living Daylights. And while our first albums are usually embarrassing I’m happy with that choice.

Anyhoos back to Edinburgh. You’ll get Ghostbusters, Hocus Pocus, Coco, The Lost Boys, Jaws (not nearly as terrifying at Universal Studios Hollywood) and Halloween.

November brings us Back to the Future, Rocketman, Mamma Mia and more.

There’s entertainment galore, food and drink from local producers Cold Town Beer and Alandas plus DJ Captain Calverto will entertain you before each film with car discos. singalongs and quiz fun.

They’ve offered me (and I guess you too) the chance to win tickets.

And you might even see a plane flying overhead… and hopefully I’ll be on it.

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Forza Italia

Back in the day in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, the poets and dreamers all took the Grand Tour… yes, all odes led to Rome.

Being a rhymer myself (Forth Stanza, Edinburgh Fringe/2002) it sure as heck is tempting to follow them to Italy just now.

Which it’s worth repeating we can do with Italy, the first visited by the virus in Europe, open again for business.

Rome, it has msn a lovely dome

With the world shrinking because of COVID Grazie Dio per Italia.

And so say our holiday providers, our dream-makers.

I can’t say if Byron, Keats and Shelley relaxed by the banks of Lake Garda but if they didn’t they ought to have.

A boat, a lake… ah, Italy

Our friends at Travel Department are offering a seven-night guided tour with extras under the label of Incredible India.

Explore the lago by water on a private boat trip and visit the region’s picturesque towns.

Before heading up into the Dolomite Mountains.

Churches and the rest: Padova

And special treat, you’ll be taken to the ild university town of Padua.

And see St Anthony’s tongue, Giotto’s fresco and a main piazza of imposing statues… well, it is Italy.

Then up to Bolzano, the Gateway of the Dolomites.

TD are offering flexible low deposits from €100pp on all new bookings until September 30.

And there’s them thar mountains too

And check out too their helpful cancellation policy.

Prices from €939pp for seven nights including 4* hotel accommodation with return flights, transfers, excursions and local guides. Depart September 22.

MEET YOI IN THE TRATTORIA

Adventure, America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

On the Road again

Seeing we’re back on the road. and spurred by the excellent PBS series ’10 that changed America’ https://www.pbs.org/show/10-changed-america/which also includes monuments and bridges among others…

I give you my favourite streets I know from around the world…

The Beale Deal

That’s Handy…. Memphis

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee: And naturally I channeled my best Marc Cohen, took a selfie next to WC Handy, partied the night away at BB King’s Jazz club and scoured Elvis’s tailors Lansky Brothers.

Visit https://www.deep-south-usa.com/ and The Promised Land.

The road BC

man sitting beside building
And a desert runs through it. Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

King’s Highway, Jordan: And the ancient traders of the Middle East, Asia and Asia Minor have been here before.

Carrying silk and gold, frankincense and myrrh and exchanging it for water in Petra. And you can still follow that route today. See www.visitjordan.com, http://www.gadventures.co.uk and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Royal march

red telephone booth
History under your feet. Photo by Anna Urlapova on Pexels.com

And a walk I would regularly and will yet do again. At the top of Edinburgh’s High Street is the Castle, in the middle St Giles kirk where Jenny Geddes threw a chair at the preacher.

Then there’s the spot where Deacon Brodie, the inspiration for Jekyll & Hyde was hanged on the gibbet he invented where locals spit on the ground in disdain. Before you get to the foot and see the new Scottish Parliament and the Queen’s residence, the historic Holyrood Palace.

And there’s also a Medieval street underneath the Royal Mile which was closed odd during the Black Death https://www.realmarykingsclose.com. See http://www.edinburgh.org, Edinburgh – an old friend and http://www.visitscotland.com.

Appian I know it, clap your hands

When in Rome. The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl on the Appian Way

Appian Way. Rome: What did the Romans do for us? Well, they built roads to last.

We didn’t get to the Appian Way and the Catacombs when Mrs M treated me to a 40th Birthday treat but it was all the better for taking the kids half a dozen years later.

See https://www.rome.net/, Small roads lead to Rome.

She’ll crucify me if I go without her

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem: And the one I have still to visit when I will walk in the footsteps of Our Lord. The winding route from the former Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is about 600m.

And particularly as I put work first and turned down and joint Jerusalem and Jordan trip because I didn’t want to leave my employer in the lurch for a fortnight. See https://www.itraveljerusalem.com.

So I’ve missed out your favourite. Let me know and we’ll share. And I won’t tease you. I’ve got another five More on the Road coming hot on the heels.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD