Countries

Sláinte World Whisky Day

Scotland has cornered the market so much we even claim the name ‘whisky’ or ‘scotch’ but let’s share the love. Sláinte World Whisky Day everyone.

So onto a history story here.

Our preeminence in the biggest selling place in the world, America, is down to Prohibition days.

The ultimate in cool

Yes, the Far East is a much sought-after market too where this northern bit of Britain is also widely acknowledged.

But while we all know, and laud, the major whisky (or whiskey if you like) countries what of the others who love the golden nectar?

Boks on the rocks

Bain’s: The only commercial whisky distillery in Africa

South Africa: For those who know, and love, the country they might be surprised to hear that SA has a global award-winning distillery.

But then Andy Watts, the Master Distiller at Bain’s Cape Mountain whisky, knows his uisge beatha.

I’d wager that a people who put ice in their wine have their whisky on the rocks.

Belgian blend

Het Anker Brewery: They do whisky too

Belgium: Yes, you’ll not be surprised to see that the Belgians have only made their dab at whisky, Gouden Carolus, beer infused.

My old friend Tom, of the Hopperie in Ieper who proudly declared that he sold only beer, hundreds of labels, and could give you tasting notes, would not be amused.

Mind you he’d probably have a whisky-infused beer.

Probably the best

The Danish finish: Stauning

Denmark: It’s probably the best-preserved secret in the world.

We are reliably told that Stauning Whisky combines malted barley and malted rye.

And that fans of American whiskey will go for this. Probably!

Dams and drams

Dutch double: And a fancy label

Netherlands: Back to the Low Countries for this one, That Boutique-y Whisky Company Millstone.

And the Zuidam distillery produces a six-year-old single malt which if you like your dram with a cinnamon tang will be right up your street.

Dutch barmen who instinctively use their wee plastic knives to scoop off frothy heads would need retraining.

Swigging in the valleys

Boridar, is this the bar?

Wales: It’s one of life’s mysteries (or whisky’s) that Wales is the odd man out of Celtic countries with no ‘water of life’ heritage.

Their water is surely just as God-given as the Scottish and Irish wet stuff.

And having spent a year in Cardiff I can vouch that Our Lord’s tears fall more plentifully there than anywhere else on Earth.

Brecon Beacons drop, Penderyn Welsh Gold, has vanilla infusions.

Sláinte World Whisky Day

And a whisky cocktail you say…. try this whisky sour.

Africa, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe

World Book Day – a leaf through the world

Happy World Book Day… I’ve been turning over a new leaf by re-reading some old favourites from around the world.

Some will be yours, others I’d recommend as they namecheck places you’ll want to visit, and the people too.

Czech’s in post for this classic

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis: Or you can have The Trial.

OK, I’ve not read either, but I have checked out Kafkaesque Prague, his home city.

And he’ll be glad to know that the Czechs still retain his take on the world around him and its leaders…

Bureaucracies overpowering people often in a surreal, nightmarish way.

Anne’sterdam

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl: It’s chilling to listen to the audio of Anne‘s words in the diary she wrote in her family’s hideout in Amsterdam.

And I make no apologies in saying that I choked up.

When I heard that the vibrant young girl destined for Auschwitz had wanted to become a journalist.

Anne, of course, made a lasting impression, and has gone on to inspire generations of chlldren and adults alike.

Eastern Eden

Cool for cats… in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Olive Schreiner’s The Story of An African Farm: Olive may not be on every, or any, schoolchildren’s radar in the Northern Hemisphere.

And athough its style is of its time, the 19th century, this chronicle of South African life in the Eastern Cape, is required reading.

A feminist and ahead of her time Olive railed against the prejudices around her .

And she also moved in some pretty famous circles. Required reading.

Crusoe in Tobago

Give ‘em rope: With Levi and Bandanaman the goat in Tobago

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Tobago: And if you’re lucky enough you can even reprise the actions of some of your favourite literary characters.

Like in Tobago where Robinson Crusoe swept ashore and took years to get off.

For all his protestations I think he probably enjoyed it. And we know that he made some friends of the local goats.

The Odyssey

Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Homer’s Odyssey: And this one I did read, or at least study, and then parts of it.

As a Classics scholar (or messer) at school.

I had my own odyssey trying to make my way through Munich Airport and on way to Greece and over to its islands.

There’s nothing like walking in the footsteps of your legend’s… so there’s an invitation to you.

And it’s been flagged up that I’ve been down this road before with this book collection. See if my choices have changed and tell me your faves. 

 

 

 

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Food

Holiday Snaps – Capes of good hope

And, yes, you read that right. I’m talking of the Eastern and Western Capes of South Africa and the Good Hope of returning ine day.

TV chef Gregg Wallace has been conjuring up memories of the Eastern Cape foe me in his ITV travelogue series, sponsored by Saga Holidays.

Where last week he went on safari at the Amakahla Game Reserve, just north-west of Port Elizabeth, and this week goes west to Table Mountain et al.

Chin chin: Gregg Wallace in South Africa

Of course Gregg got stuck into biltong, the dried cured meat they all eat out there.

The promo video shows Gregg toasting us with a South African white you can almost taste.

But a piece of advice, Gregg, if you really want to go native then you need to put ice in the wine.

Bergamo stands alone

Bergamo Molamia: Stay strong

Mola Mia… and I’m glad to see that Ryanair is giving Bergamo back its name in its latest tranche of offers and not just aa an appendage of Milan.

They flag up the medieval jewel of Lombardy at up to €30 off which takes you to their €23.99 one-way deal for Milan Bergamo.

Bur hey, Bergamo wasn’t built in a day… and I’ll share all its history and how it has rallied from being the doorway for Covid in Europe.

Una ciocolatta di calda densa: In Bergamo

Book foe Bergamo and a raft of destinations by January 13. Travel between April 1 and October 31.

Ryanair helpfully shares where you can get a Covid test near you.

Sandals in the sand

Blessed: Saint Lucia

Or more accurately on the runway. Actually the plane on the runway but then my hour in Saint Lucia just whetted my appetite.

My Saint Lucian pal Jerry, the Big Rapper, from my G Adventures tour of Jordan had given me the skinny on his island.

And how he had plans for writing a guide book.

Look out for that when you’re out in Saint Lucia at Sandals who have a January sale on.

They have seven nights at the Sandals Regency La Toc with travel dates in September and October.

Fly with British Airways and stay in a honeymoon luxury.

Now I’ve experience of a couples hotel in Barbados and a Sandals on the south of the island too,

While, if you want to island hop, Saint Lucia is the stop-off for another prize destination Tobago.

Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Culture

Happy World Kindness Day

And on this, World Kindness Day, a shout-out here to those who have shown me random acts of kindness on my travels… and sometimes me them.

And firstly a recommendation… if you ever leave your mobile phone back in your Mississippi hotel on my American Trilogy in the Deep South.

You only realise it when you’re 50 miles along the highway then here’s your go-to guy.

Hit the road Zach

Zach is back

Zach arranged to get a courier to bring it from Jackson to Cleveland and the Two Mississippi Museums.

The next year Zach sought me out at the American Travel Fair, IPW, in Denver when I left my mobile phone down as I went for a coffee and he tut-tutted. Legend!

Zuhair, a hero

Ramadan the Man….Zuhair

And a shout-out here to all who observe Ramadan which puts a Christian’s Lenten fast into sharp focus.

Zuhair, our G Adventures host on our trip to Jordan, was the ever-welcoming face for his country.

Despite not being able to let a drop of water or morsel to his lips despite the travel and 30+ temperatures and desert until early evening.

When even Petra camels could.

Rachel, a ray of sunshine

Sometimes when you travel the world for a living you forget how lucky you are.

And that’s when you need a star like Rachel to pick you up.

Often it’s wine and a prehistoric South African valley which will remind you that whatever’s happening at home can wait.

And which is why I’m delighted for her (and me in the future) that South Africa is opening up again for international travellers with a negative test.

Your honour, Onur

I’m going where Onur goes… in Istanbul

And I’ve reserved this place for my favourite Turk, Turkish Airlines’ Onur, and very nearly favourite person in our industry.

Which is why he, like me, is also a past recipient of Irish Travel Media’s Pleasure To Work With Award.

Now if there was an award too for Most Accidental Tourist I’d win that too… every year.

I’ve enjoyed Onur’s company on the little island of Kuramathi, too small even for me to get lost.

Though Istanbul is and when I did get waylaid somewhere around the Blue Mosque who cane to collect me?

And I’ll carry your cross

And Finisterre after the Camino

And sometimes I’ll be your hero on your travels.

Just as I was when I carried a tearful American’s backpack on her final steps of a stretch of the Camino with CaminoWays.

Only for her to have to remind me to give it back.

Africa, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Afrikaans pumpkin fritters

And to think the Scary One tried to palm me off with pumpkin seeds…

When being of the Scottish variety the way to my clotted heart is something deep fried.

But surprisingly you won’t find the pumpkin fritter in Glasgow, or the Deep South of America which I swear the Scots brought there!

Fritter, but not fitter

No, the pumpkin fritter is a favourite of the South Africans. They call them pampoen koekies.

I’m directed here by www.tastyrecipes.sapeople.com where you’ll find this recipe.

Ingredients:

    Two cups cooked mashed pumpkin
    One tsp vanilla extract
    One beaten egg
    One cup of self-raising flour
    Two tsps baking powder
    A quarter tsp salt
    One tbles brown sugar
    Oil for frying

Cinnamon Sugar Coating:

  • 50g castor sugar
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon

Bucket list

How to:

  • Drain the cooked pumpkin well
  • Add the beaten egg and vanilla extract and mix
  • Add the rest and mix to a soft but firm batter
  • Place a spoonful of the mixture into the hot oil.
  • Fry on one side until golden brown and turn to cook on the other side
  • Remove on slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper
  • In small bowl combine castor sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle over hot fritters before serving

Any kids coming guising around the house though will be getting deep-fried mars bars.

This is Scotland, not South Africa!

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Student Bangers

Would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our stereos? – Braveheart

As students continue to be consigned to house arrest, they’ll only get through this with the staples of Uni, drugs and rock’n’roll.

No sex please, we’re British!

And so in a nod to our future parliamentarians, pioneers and care providers.

Here are some old bangers which got me through my young days.

And the places it took me too.

Tennessee waltz

With WC Handy in Memphis, Tennessee on my Deep South journey

On highway number 19 the people keep the city clean – Tina Turner, Nutbush City Limits

Nutbush City Limits and Tennessee (Ike and Tina Turner): And Nutbush was one to get everyone on their feet in the students’ union (alas no longer there).

I little thought then that I’d be bombing along highway number 19 on my Deep South American Odyssey 30 odd years later… The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

Mine’s a 99

Ninety nine dreams I have had, In every one a red balloon, it’s all over and I’m standing pretty, In this dust that was a city – Nena, 99 Ref Balloons

99 Red Balloons and Germany (Nena): You couldn’t qualify as a student when I were a lad if you didn’t march for the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Nuclear Disarmament or to Free Nelson Mandela.

And this anti-Communism clarion call by this German ball of energy played endlessly out of the window of the girls in the next flat.

The wall came down five tears ago and while I have still to make my mark on today’s wall, I have since visited behind the old Curtain.

Ich bin ein Dresdener

To see the revival of Dresden, the Venice of the Elbe, and learn about the Prague Spring and a nuclear bunker.

Mandela days

With my friend Siseko in Port Elizabeth

Are you so blind that you cannot see? Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea? Free Nelson Mandela, I’m begging you, Free Nelson Mandela – The Specials

Nelson Mandela and South Africa: And, no, Free Nelson Mandela wouldn’t be one for the dance floor although maybe we pogoed to it.

It really came into its own on protest marches, demonstrations and the Free Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley.

Where me and my old pal from Cardiff student days clung onto our old undergrad days for just one more summer.

And while I never got to meet The Great Man I did get out to his home province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

And stood in his Voting Line.

So, for every student in the land, turn your boom boxes up loud and channel your Labi Siffre

Your light will shine so brightly it will blind them.

Tell me what your University bangers and we’ll share

Africa, Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

The grand oldest man of South Africa

They breed them tough in South Africa where the oldest man in the world Fredie Blom died this week at the grand old age of 116.

Fredie, who hailed from the Eastern Cape, lived through the Boer War, two world wars, Apartheid, Mandela and the Rainbow Nation.

And in a blow-off to the tobaccostapo Fredie had the last word, or puff, as he smoked very much up until his last breath.

In fact very nearly his last dying wish was to have a cigarette but lockdown had made it more difficult for him to get his tobacco.

Where the township meats: The braai

Fredie’s secret of longevity seemed to be hard work. He was a farm labourer and a construction worker.

And a love of cycling and walking.

And family.

Fredie lost his own, all to the Spanish Flu of 1918, but found a reason to live again.

Meeting the locals

When he met Jeanette at a dance, married her and helped over 46 years to raise her three children with five grandchildren following.

His grandson Andre Naidoo spoke for the whole family when he said: ‘Two weeks ago our oupa (grandfather) was still chopping wood.

‘He was a strong man, full of pride.’

I’ve seen first hand in the Red Location in the New Brighton Township, Port Elizabeth how families live on top of each other.

And I don’t want to leave

In conditions resembling wastelands.

But in the township wealth is measured in love, loyalty… and a good braii (barbecue).

And I’m sure Jeanette will have been waiting for Fredie on a fluffy cloud with a packet of cigarettes.

Just watch out for the falling ash.

Africa, America, Asia, Countries, Europe, UK

Fiveday Friday – take those drinks outside

Just on a whim, and because this is how we’ll be drinking in the future, here is a new feature Fiveday Friday.

Five of the best travel experiences from around my world of travels (and some of them won’t involve drink).

I’m spurred here by a radio shout-out for the sprawling 500-year-old The Lindsey Rose.

The Rose lies near Ipswich, Suffolk in England’s East Anglia http://www.thelindseyrose.co.uk and https://www.visiteastofengland.com.

Southwold in Suffolk, which is about 118 miles east and a two-and-a-half hour drive from London, was recommended to me by my old boss.

And with its dainty beach huts and English Country Garden pubs it was very much like ‘somewhere different but the same’ for this Scottish family within your own country.

Which is what we’ll all be reengaging ourselves with more and more now.

That’s not to say we won’t be reflecting on those awesome outdoor drinks dats we’ve enjoyed around the world.

Beer o’clock in South Africa

The Brewery and Two Goats Deli, Nieu-Bethesda, South Africa: And this beer garden deep in the heart of Afrikans country even has a wooden hammock.

Where you can sleep off your wooden smorgasbord sample of beers and stouts.

There’s nothing wooden though about this little haven in Nieu-Bethesda. Visit https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ and What’s new pussycat?.

On the Bosphorus

TTG Travel/Turkey Travel Group: And if the back garden can be a stretch of water which splits two continents….

Pleasure cruises are perfect for small groups and you can work off that Turkish spread with a boogie on board.

While looking out on two continents on the Bosphorus.

See https://www.turkeytravelgroup.com, https://visit.istanbul, www.turkishIrlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Swiss for Prosecco

Interlacken, Switzerland: Well, you do build up a thirst whizzing through a wood and the main road on your tutti bike.

It’s an electric scooter hybrid, you understand.

And you’ll find a bar in the valley where your Prosecco Spritzer has never tasted so good.

See www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks.

Der Plague and Der Great Outdoors

Oberammergau, Germany: And not a bad place to drop in on as the good burghers of this Bavarian town know all about pandemics.

They made a pact with God back in the Middle Ages where they would put on a Passion Play if He rid them of the plague.

And you’ll want to sit outside anyway to take in the murals that tell the story of Oberammergau.

See https://www.passionsspiele-oberammergau.de/en/home and https://www.topflight.ie and www.topflightforschools.ie.

Jocky Mountain High

Salt & Lime, Steamboat Springs, Colorado: Now Coloradans are ideally placed for this COVID crisis because they’re outdoors people.

They freestyle up the Rockies, white water raft on the French Powder River and then sit down in the open air on their ranches.

And rooftop restaurants such as this one, Salt & Lime Morning www.suckandlime.com in Steamboat Springs www.colorado.com.

Africa, Countries, Culture, Europe

Olof Palme and a South African township

On the face of it you wouldn’t imagine that a Swedish politician would pose much threat to Apartheid South Africa.

Or that his assassination would kickstart enduring links between Sweden www.visitsweden.cim and a Port Elizabeth township.

Olaf Palme, one of the greatest leaders anywhere of his generation, is being talked of again as his killer is on the point of being identified.

Olof Palme Street back in the day in Port Elizabeth

Some 34 years after he was gunned down coming out of a Stockholm cinema after watching a film with his family.

A different time

Olof’s crime – he supported the ANC and wanted to shut down oil and arms supplies to Durban.

At a time when the West was either complicit or diffident in their dealings with South Africa Olof said, and did, the right thing.

Man of peace: Olof Palme. www.abc.au.net

And the black South Africans have never forgotten that.

In New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, the country’s oldest township they named the street on which the Red Location Museum sits Olof Palme Street.

To the Rainbow Nation

The only residents in South Africa to do so.

Olof’s legacy

Olof’s family have become firm friends and benefactors to the poor, but proud, residents of the Red Location since.

To Nelson Mandela: In PE with Siseko

Which I discovered when I visited Nelson Mandela’s home state, the Eastern Cape last year. https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ and Day in the life of a township and What’s new pussycat?

Further research (and I do go the extra mile for you) reveals that there are two dozen countries where Olof is thus honoured.

Just why Stoke-on-Trent in the English Midlands are the UK’s standard-bearers I’ll just have to get back to you on.

Africa, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

The Sunday Sermon – Covid covert love

Thou shalt not covert thy neighbour’s ass – The Ten Commandments

Aussie Di was on the next bus, Contiki https://www.contiki.com/six-two/bus-tour-seating-strategy/, and as everybody in coachworld knows Topdeck https://www.topdeck.travel and Contiki should never mix.

Only Di had golden shoulder-length hair and a smile as bright as the sun.

And I was the envy of all the bronzed Aussie dudes at the party because for the first time in my life I got the girl.

Longing for the Alps

All of which longings across a coachpark in Austria in the Eighties came flooding back to me.

As I digested the Covid times survey which said that four out of five of us are keeping our lovin’ to our own households just now.

I have oft times returned to those two carefree summer trips to the Oktoberfest and Austria.

And particularly when I have passed through Munich https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/01/hungry-and-thursday-the-munich-beerfest.

Sound of Music sites in Salzburg with my blonde for life, Sarah the Scary One

The magic bus

And in Austria with www.topflight.ie, Soll Mates and all across the Alps https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/04/27/rainy-days-and-songdays-yodeleeeee/amp/

Coach rides are still the best, and most economical, way for 18-35 year-olds to see the world.

I’d look back at other Topdeck routes between drinks on the coach which was reconditioned to include a kitchen, with the top deck bunks.

Got there: Port Elizabeth, South Africa

South African dreams

And I vowed that one day I would get down to South Africa, an ambition I realised last year when I visited Nelson Mandela’s state, the Eastern Cape https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ and What’s new pussycat? and Day in the life of a township.

I’d go again in a heartbeat.

And, in truth, it’s that sweaty mass of humanity (rather than the sweaty mass of the Son and Heir’s dirty washing) I miss most in this lockdown.

For the record I tried to revive my holiday romance with Di when I returned home.

Who’s for a beer? Topdeck

Difficult though it was with me in Aberdeen in Scotland and Di 400 miles south in London.

The prospect of the Topdeck reunion on the horizon kept me going though through all those cold Scottish nights.

Plenty more fish

When the time came I made our appointment in Trafalgar Square near the South African Embassy where a protest was taking place to free Nelson Mandela.

But Di was nowhere to be seen.

She was though at the reunion later in Earl’s Court (where else?).

With her Scottish boyfriend!