Asia, Australasia, Countries, Deals, Europe

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Day oi oi oi

G’day my Antipodean friends and good to see you’re able to celebrate it publicly.

Which no doubt Smutley, Brownie, PC, Roscoe, Brad et al will mean getting shitfaced.

I never got to Australia but Australia got to me in the Eighties when I did back-to-back Oktoberfests in Munich.

I had booked me a seat and a bed (which were pretty much the same thing) on a ten-day Topdeck bus trip to Bavaria.

But innocent abroad that I was I neither knew that Earl’s Court in London was an Aussie enclave nor that Top Deck was an Aussie firm.

Aussies in Aberdeen

Forward fast three months and the Hilton district of Aberdeen was also an Aussie enclave.

When Smutley and Brownie turned up and asked to stay for the weekend…. and stayed for a year.

And they brought their pals too much to the pleasure of the female student population of Scotland’s Granite City.

Aussies abroad

Now Aussies show us the way when it comes to travelling and Topdeck know what’s most important to them.

That it’s cheap and cheerful, and my two Oktoberfest trips at just £84 were the best value holidays I have ever purchased.

Now knowing that you’ll want to get back out on the road when all this virus eases up Topdeck have you covered.

Europen odyssey

Of course we can’t jump in a Topdeck machine to go back and get 1985 prices but they are offering 25% off.

Spirit of Europe is an 11-country, 24-day odyssey starting and ending in London coming in from £2,193 down from £2,924.

You’ll see England, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands.

Japanese promise

All roads lead to Japan this year with the Olympics, or at least this one road we hope.

Japan Highlights is a 12-day tour leaving and returning to Tokyo, down from £3,278 to £2,485.50.

Indian treasures

While if India is more your thang… Namaste India is a ten-day trip, starting and finishing in New Delhi, down from £1,429 to £1,071.75.

And if you should ask the whereabouts of the person you first meet on the bus and he says he’s from Perth…

Then it’s Perth, WA, not Perth, Scotland… ‘and we’re all from Australia or New Zealand, mate.’

Happy Australia Day, mates.

And while we’re here a rousing call to arms from the original Aussie singing superstars The Seekers and I Am Australian.

And tell me too your fave Aussie bands and singers.

Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, UK

Brew’s up – the perfect Covid beer cure

The Blood Service give you a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive but maybe they’ll now follow Brewdog’s lead of giving beer after a Covid vaccine shot.

The Aberdeenshire beer chain have come up with an inventive and public-spirited way of getting us all to get our shots.

I’ll take all four

They plan to throw open their closed bars as vaccination centres.

And they have asked the public for help in naming the new vaccine-themed beer.

Only here for the beer

As a steer they have mocked up a Vaccine Canteen, Little Prick, Community Immunity and Jab Lab.

All good, but why in the 13 years I was away from Scotland did we start saying jab instead of jag?

Breweries are a staple on tour itineraries and it is always welcome to sample a region’s or a brand’s beer.

I’ve sent many a Wish You Were Beer message from my travels around the world.

Interior decorations

And listened through the spiel from the Master Brewer about the mashing process and the like.

And prayed silently that nobody would ask a question which would require an answer that would eat into the drinking time.

The same goes for any vaccinations.

I mean, do you really want to be left waiting for your complimentary beer because somebody is firing off questions.

That would be a little prick.

Serve it uo

BrewDog Dog Tap in Ellon, near Aberdeenis one if your more accessible brewery tours.

And you get an insight into what must be one of the better places to work.

You can bring your per to work… and, oh, all that beer!

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Haunted houses – Dracula and Scotland

I can’t recall what brought my short-lived Cubs career to an end nor much about what we did in the Scout Hut, but I do remember the Haunted House next door.

In these less innocent and imaginative days haunted houses seem to have gone out of fashion.

But the ghosts and ghoulies haven’t gone away, and with all of us consigned to our houses these days you’d better not have been ignoring them.

Scotland’s Scary One

Bram Stoker was certainly alive to their presence and spirited up the Dead when he was inspired to write Dracula on a visit to north-east Scotland.

And placed the nocturnal room in Slains Castle in Cruden Bay as the dwelling of one Count Dracula.

As spooky houses go it is certainly more frightening than the lot in a Dublin shopping centre where you’ll find Bram Stoker’s Castle Dracula Experience.

Although much like his crypt if you delve inside you’ll find there’s lots to sink your teeth into.

Dublin’s Bram Stoker Festival is always finding new ways of reinventing themselves and they’re billing this year’s digital offering as a Grave New World.

Slains Castle

Which is what we’ll all be doing too, turning our homes into Haunted Houses… and The Scary One and her Mini-Me have been dressing up for the part.

Now I don’t know where the Scout Hut is in my new hometown of North. Berwick but my mother-in-law never sees a guising.

Pumpkin time

And here’s an Irish Halloween blessing to keep away the gremlins…

At all Hallow’s Tide, may God keep you safe,

From goblin and pooka and black-hearted stranger

From harm of the water and hurt of the fire

From thorns of the bramble, from all other danger,

From Will O’ The Wisp haunting the mine,

From stumbles and tumbles and tricksters to vex you,

May God in His Mercy, this week protect you.

Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

Fit like? An Aberdeen Saga

Who said university is one big holiday and students never leave their rooms… or was that just my old Aberdeen Uni pal Jim?

All joking aside my heart goes out to our students who continue to be scapegoated through this COVID-19 crisis.

Fact is that people, senior people, go to University halls on holiday in the summers and get attended to by students.

Granite City of Aberdeen

And we serve them, clean their rooms, entertain them and make up packed lunches for their tours around Aberdeenshire.

There will always be a special place with me for Saga for employing me then in the Aberdeen halls of residence.

And they didn’t forget me either, sending me their literature when I turned 50.

We’ve all been reacquainting ourselves with our own cities and countryside again during this lockdown.

Aberdeen, the Granite City, in the north-east of Scotland is one of the hidden jewels of the UK.

Saga offers Aberdeenshire, the Cairngorms and Balmoral (the Queen’s summer gaffe.

Charms of Cornwall

Which you’ll recognise from Mrs Brown) two passengers, five nights from £519pp.

You might be happy to know that guests have been upgraded from students’ rooms which was their billet back when I worked for Saga.

Lakeland: The Lake District in England

You’ll be staying at the 4* Macdonald Norwood Hall Hotel and among your excursions will be:

A half day around Balmoral Castle, a full day in Cairngorms National Park and a half-day Dunnottar Castle and Stonehaven.

You’ll need a Jersey

Check out Saga for terms and conditions.

Look out too at their Scottish Highlands Escape from £669pp.

While across the border there’s Charms of the Cornwall Coast from £469pp, Jersey Island Escape from £599pp and Little Boats of the Lake Districts from £610pp.

Countries, Europe

Holiday Snaps – Virgin insurance

It figures that a Virgin would need the best insurance.

So it makes sense that Virgin Atlantic are insuring that we are covered with the best possible fallback if things go wrong when we’re away.

A subject that is very close to my heart as I consider whether to travel to countries which aren’t on the UK exempt list.

Virgin is offering an extension to your own travel insurance meaning that they’ll take care of the health and quarantine costs that could acre if you or one of your travelling companions fall ill during Coronavirus.

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And I’m turning left

My fellow beardie is offering:

*Up to £500,000 necessary and emergency expenses incurred due to Coronavirus affecting your travel should you or your travelling companions be denied boarding or individually requested to quarantine in your destination. Then this free policy will cover many necessary additional costs.

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They’ve got your covered

*Repatriation, should it be medically necessary due to Coronavirus.

*Cover for your whole trip, with no upper limit on the length of your time away.

*Cover for all passengers with no restrictions on age, travel class or length of journey.

*No excess payable (unlike many traditional travel insurance policies).

Polish hero of Ireland’s Famine

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There’s a game which the travellusty like to play which is more countries than your age… 20+ by 20, 30+ by 30 etc. And while I may look it, I’m not getting any younger and so I cheat.

Although it’s not quite cheating because I play the embassy game where if you set foot in an embassy you’re officially in that country.

So as an example in the last couple of years I’ve been to Georgia and Poland in the same day and spent the rest of the evening in Dublin.

Which isn’t the same as visiting these marvellous countries of course, but that treat awaits me.

For now, it’s the Son and Heir who visited Krakow in Poland for World Youth Day and paid homage to the Holocaust victims at Auschwitz, who has the knowledge in our family.

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Cobble me a trip to Poland

All of which ramblings brings me to a shout-out for , a forgotten hero of the Great Irish Famine.

The National Museum of Ireland – Country Life at Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo will host an exhibition about the humanitarian who helped more than 200,000 children during the Famine.

It was created by Nikola Sekowska-Moroney at the Polish Embassy. Go see it… and the good news is that it is going on tour around the country.

My Native American name

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My Native American friends

Now I’ve regaled you with my dealings with Native Americans – and promise you I will do so again, and again, and again.

I met Freckled Face and Eats No Meat in Denver and it got me thinking what my name might be, the first thing coming to mind Farts Like Thunder.

Names are important, what we call each other and it would be wrong to assume in these woke days that we are all oversensitive.

But if we just listen to each other we will get it right.

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Olympian high

Which is what the Washington Redskins did and which Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has done too by just talking to the Washoe Tribe, announcing that after the 2021 skiing season it will b known as something else.

What’s just as important here is and I have my good friend Catherine ‘Skis Like The Wind’ Murphy, the eminent award-winning ski writer’s recommendation here, the skiing is brilliant.

For anybody who saw me in Soll may I suggest my new Native American name ‘Bambi on the Piste’.

Taste of Aberdeen

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Don’t shoot me but if it hadn’t been for The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl cooking my meals here in North Berwick, south of Edinburgh, I wouldn’t have eaten… or survived on just peanuts!

So I’m happy to blow the mothballs off my wallet so that they can avail of the 50% off deal for meals at the beginning of the week that is operating in the UK but runs out on Monday.

Had I not taken a certain fork in the road we could all be living in Aberdeen and I feel that life is driving me ever northwards to the Granite City.

So I’ve felt for them during their localised lockdowns and that they haven’t been able to avail of these deals.

The Chester Hotel though knows its patrons and are offering diners 50% off all food in their alfresco Gallery Experience on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from September 1-16.

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

St James on Bray Head in Ireland

If you see Her throwing me over Bray Head don’t call the Gardaí… she has my permission.

No, I’m not getting maudlin during lockdown, it’s just that that’s where I want my ashes scattered.

There on my favourite walk between my old home in Greystones, Co. Wicklow and also by Bishop Elphinstone’s grave in King’s College, Aberdeen.

My beloved Greystones and my beloved

I wish I could be with you (alive you understand) tomorrow as you take your first steps on your Camino.

I took mine too on one of Camino Ways’ training walks on St James’s Day in Ireland’s Garden County.

Where I met founder and ‘force of nature’ Roland Monsegu who I would share many a glass of wine with over future years.

Got there

Including at one of my billets on the French Way to Santiago de Compostella where he was doing a recce.

Today is both St James’s birthday and the national day of Galicia where his bones lie in Santiago.

The first of their training Sunday walks will begin at the seafront in Bray at 9.30am and last a leisurely two to two-and-a-half hours.

It is a 7km healthy cliffside walk skirting the sea.

Working my ass off

While you can look down on the train to Greystones making its way to the tunnel built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Before emerging through the other side in Greystones.

You’ll see it yourself halfway around the bend, its newly-refurbished harbour dotted with yachts.

And its blue and yellow cottages standing out in the distance as it did in times of old so the fishermen could recognise their homes in the dark.

On the road

Which is the same in Galicia where the name of the province is a giveaway… they’re Gaels really.

If you’re in Ireland then you’re already blessed and it’s likely you’ll need to be to walk the Bray Head.

And to be part of the fun here’s where to get tickets.

You’re James too

And if you feel like going that extra mile then why not veer off from the group and go up to the top of the Head and the Southern Cross.

Where there is (yes, you guessed it) a Christian cross.

Adventure, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – cow fighting breaks out

Lockdown has stopped us humans competing against each other but animals continue to do it, well, naturally.

I got to hear of the strange sport of Combat de Reines In Switzerland where cows fight each other www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks.

And I intend to make it my mission to seek out this ultimate moortial (sorry) arts duel on my travels as well as these other animal v animal contests.

Kicking seven cow bells out of each other

A bit of stewarding doesn’t go amiss

Combat de Reines, Switzerland: These contests date back to the 1920s when the skiers were on a break in the summer.

And they attract as many as 50,000 spectators across the season.

Although I’m assuming the cows are happy to fight behind closed doors (or in the open field) without us there.

The mootivation (ouch) for the cows is herd dominance although some need jivvying up and prefer to munch the grass.

Camel ye, come all ye

And in the red corner. https://wrestlingtv.in/have-you-heard-of-camel-wrestling-check-how-popular-it-is-in-turkey/

Camel wrestling, Turkey, Middle East, Asia: And your otherwise loping humpy desert dweller will bear his teeth…

If you try to jostle him along. Or put a female camel on heat between two males.

So not that different from humans then really.

The season is November to March so there’s still hope.

And here’s some Turkish delights and Jordanian japes to tantalise you… https://www.goturkeytourism.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam. And www.gadventures.com, www.visitjordan.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Herd up your haggises

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Haggis hurling, Scotland: OK, this isn’t actually a sport but try telling that to the young Irish group I was with a couple of years ago.

Dry-witted Aberdonian Stevie informed our party that because we were running late he’d have to take the haggis farm off the agenda.

Distracted by another question Stevie might not have returned to the subject.

Had I not reminded him and warned him that this might yet appear in their articles as fact.

Invented in 1977 by a Robin Dunseath in 1977 it is still going strong. And check out www.visitabdn.com and Aberdeen – a light in the north and wwwvisitscotland.com.

One for the puperazzi

Catch that wave

Dog surfing, Huntington Beach, California: And to think I might never have learned about this sport of canines had I not pried.

The good folk of HB had invited me out for breakfast in Dublin to tell me about their new hotels and I probed them for info about their beaches.

I discovered that they have a popular annual dog surfing competition and that Garrett McNamara and his Brazilian labrador Bono lead the way.

And no, I never did hear if this Bono wore shades too all the time. Maybe the next time I get out to HB I’ll check it out.

Visit https://www.surfcityusa.com, www.visitcalifornia.com and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/19/my-weekend-with-marilyn-2/amp/.

I haven’t heard if September’s big surf is going ahead but the Pacific is a big ocean.

Acting the goat

Goat racing, Tobago: And a skill I got me, Marsha.

Marsha had gone through our coach asking us what we were good at, with housebuilder Antony scoring highest and me lowest.

But I showed her! Me and my goat Bandanaman only beat Antony and his kid in the goat race.

The big event is held in Buccoo at Easter and if there’s any justice myself and Bandanaman will be at the starter’s gate.

Although I might pass on the crab race.

Visit https://www.visittobago.gov.tt and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/amp/.

Countries, Deals, Europe, Flying, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – booze brothers

The news that they will pour away 70m pints of spoiled beer down the drain would merely have been an invitation to The Sesh.

Our drinking fraternity at Aberdeen University have scattered to the four corners of the world – funny when many couldn’t be raised from their scratchers.

My Best Man Andy is in Singapore https://www.visitsingapore.com/en/, Jevan is back home in the West Indies https://www.visittrinidad.co.tt, https://www.visittobago.gov.tt. My kiss with Rihanna, Let’s rumba in Barbados and Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago/.

While some of my English pals, Wee Jon and Micky, and Gaelic emigrees Alan and Anna went to the bright lights of London https://www.visitlondon.com and The London life.

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And those flatmates that were foisted on us such as Grumpy Vangelis (no, seriously) My Greek odyssey and the cheery Ibohal Singh (song) https://www.incredibleindia.org/content/incredible-india-v2/en.html are doubtless back where they belong.

It’ll be 40 years in a couple of years since we first bowled up in Aberdeen so I feel a reunion in the making.

And we’ll need more than 70m beers for that… https://www.visitabdn.com and Aberdeen – a light in the north.

Sláinte

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Aberdeen University’s other great gift to the world, after me, is of course Blair Bowman.

Blair Whoman? Yes, Blair Bowman, who only gave us World Whisky Day.

Surprisingly this celebration of uisce beatha has only been running since 2012.

The organisers say that 250,000 people participated in registered events in 2014.

I don’t know the figures for the last few years – I guess they’d overdone the golden liquid!

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To the pantheon of greats who graduated from Aberdeen Uni, Alex Kapranos, Alistair Darling and Nicky Campbell add Jevan Jutagir.

A proud half-Scots, half-West Indian who is one-third of the Barbados Whisky Mafia.

And who if you’ve got an in will crack out the good stuff before Foreday Morning at Crop Over in Barbados https://www.visitbarbados.org, My kiss with Rihanna and Turtle recall.

Free Ireland

Kudos to Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar whose example some across on this side of the Irish Sea would do well to emulate.

You don’t have to be a doctor like Leo to have known that testing and tracing is key but it doesn’t do any harm.

Leo has been outlining how the nation will come out of lockdown.

Which means that the Office of Public Works has opened up certain outdoor sites within social distancing rules.

And that oft-forgotten section of our society, the Cocooners, are being prioritised;

10am to 1pm

Emo Court, Co. Laois

Grounds

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10am to 1pm

Fota Arboretum, Co. Cork

Pleasure Garden & Walled Garden

10am to 1pm

Irish National War Memorial Gardens, Islandbridge, Dublin

Rose Garden.

10am to 1pm

Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

Full Garden

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10am to 1pm

Kilkenny Castle, Co. Kilkenny

Rose Garden

10am to 1pm

Nenagh Castle, Co. Tipperary

Grounds

10am to 1pm

Portumna Castle, Co. Galway

Walled Garden.

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10am to 1pm

Phoenix Park, Dublin

Visitor Centre Walled Garden

10am to 1pm

Roscrea Heritage, Co. Tipperary

Grounds & Walled garden

And Ryanair are flying high

Few things say summer quite like a fleet of blue and yellow Ryanair planes taking to the skies.

Which is why the news coming out from Michael O’Leary Towers that July 1 is the start-up date for us to get flying again.

With 1,000 flights across Europe from €23.99. And new health measures.

Faro, the gateway to the Algarve comes in at that starting price… https://www.visitalgarve.pt/en/Default.aspx and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/secret-portugal-classy-centro/.

London https://www.visitlondon.com The London life and Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam comes in at the same price.

For the full range visit www.ryanair.com.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD