Countries, UK

Keep Scotland’s green flag flying high

No, the Jocks haven’t merged with the Irish though we have before under Edward Bruce, but we do keep Scotland’s green flag flying high.

The old joke goes, and it’s interchangeable for Scotland, Ireland and Wales, that God was handing out the countries.

He showed the Scots a land rich in nature with inventive and artistic people.

To which the Scot naturally thanks the Almighty but asks why he has been so giving to them.

At which point he reminds them of who their neighbours are.

Now this might just get you through the mania of England’s Lionesses football team’s European Championships run.

Thistle do nicely

Let the Games begin: Glasgow Green

Scotland is indeed a verdant country and on seeing one riverside valley in Dalriada, St Mungo, he named it Dear Green Place, or Glasgow, in native Gaelic.

My wee country has been rewarding those communities (and my green-fingered friend among them) with cherished green flags.

And there are a few among them I’ve passed a pleasant hour or dozen.

And even worked, to the absolute amazement of our tiller and plougher, The Scary One.

The Northern Delights

Seaton nicely: Then we’ll begin

Aberdeen: Aberdeen I know, I know its soil, it’s under my nails from working its links.

And it’s from here, in Hazlehead Park, that Keep Scotland Beautiful announced 85 of our green spaces achieved the international Green Flag Award.

Now green spaces for university students meant naturally drinking on the lawns.

And while Alex Ferguson’s gloried Giants of Gothenburg went through their paces in Seaton Park under the Hillhead Halls.

We went through the tinnies… and binned them afterwards and went on to glory in the Granite City.

The Garden of Edin

From a distance: Edinburgh from Figgate

Edinburgh: It’s not always the showpiece gardens then that need honouring.

And while locals and visitors alike wonder at the Floral Clock and backdrop of the Castle from Princes Street Gardens Greater Edinburgh’s a green place too.

And when it came to naming houses for the Son and Heir’s first primary school in St David’s in beachside Portobello

They opted for the district’s parks, Figgate chief among them.

The Law’s a grass

Make my Tay: From Dundee Law

Dundee: For reasons best known to only us we call our big hills laws from our Gaelic tongue.

There’s one here in my new temporary home of North Berwick, east of Edinburgh.

But it’s the Dundee version which I’m flagging up here, and the organisers are too.

And it’s here that I would ascend daily on a busman’s holiday to the Tay city.

And stare in wonder from the Law at the architectural majesty of the Tay Bridges joining Dundee to the Kingdom of Fife.

My Dear Green Place

Let Glasgow Flourish: The Botanic Gardens

Glasgow: The West End of Glasgow has oft been known as aspirational where the city’s merchants decamped.

With its seat of learning, its university, art gallery, and grand houses the West End is in direct contrast to the impoverished East End.

Its arterial road is the boulevard, the Great Western Road, off which the Victorian Botanic Gardens is the meeting place for West Enders.

Nae taps aff here.

Yon greeny banks

Loch who’s here: A wise old owl and a birdie

Helensburgh, Loch Lomond: And It’s water, water everywhere in the famous freshwater lake.

But, of course, Loch Lomond is framed by lush lakelands.

And after a childhood of days out to the coast and Helensburgh I saw first hand the pride its citizens had in their parks.

Lying down on the job: The green-fingered one

Take a bow the gardeners of the 100-year-old urban park, Hermitage Park.

And all our gardeners and 85 honoured gardens, particularly Mrs M and hers which should be on the list.

 

Countries, Culture, UK

How many Ukrainians can Buckingham Palace take?

You do the math, but with 775 bedrooms how many Ukrainians can Buckingham Palace take?

The Queen has moved back, of course, to Windsor Castle in Royal Berkshire.

Which means it’s free.

A room for free: For Ukrainian Vlodomir

And even someone of her considerable wealth could do with the £350 per month government payment for taking in a Ukrainian family.

It would all help to pay her second-born’s settlement with Virginia Giuffre.

A day at the palace

Don’t go out on the balcony: The Royals

Of course nobody gets into Buck House for free, unless your titled or entitled.

So it’ll be £30 of your pleb money for a visit to the State Rooms or £55 when it’s Combined with a Royal Day Out.

And that’s the State Rooms, The Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews.

We’ve been down this route before flagging up the royal palaces around the UK which you can visit.

With the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the foot of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh an old favourite and former neighbour.

How to explain the British reverence, fascination and obsession for the Royal Family?

It’s a combination of tradition, pomp, ceremony and soap opera.

Tourist magnet

Snap happy: Get your pic how you can

And it is perhaps the biggest draw for tourists to the UK.

The experts, of course, are the guides who have an unrivalled knowledge of the history.

Whether they’re the Beefeaters at the Tower of London or the guides at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

And while your Beefeater is stiff and proper there’s a twinkle in the eye of your Edinburgh guide.

A bloody royal tale

Maneater: Saoirse Ronan as Mary Queen of Scots

And he will cheerfully walk you through the story of the murder of Mary Queen of Scots’ favourite David Rizzio.

You’ll be invited into the Queen’s Chamber where the Scots lairds (that’s lords) killed the Italian in front of the queen.

And wend your way down the spiral stone staircase where the guide will point out to you and the impressionable American and Asian party…

Of the blood embedded in the stones.

I swear I saw a brush protrude from his satchel.

Haggis farms

Winging it: The haggis

Us Scots are noted for our dry deadpan wit and another example springs to mind of how the guides play with their party.

When Stevie apologised to the Irish party I was with in Aberdeen.

That we were running late and would not be able to visit the haggis farm.

And I had to prompt him later to put them right in case they wrote about the haggis farm in their articles.

Armoured and dangerous: And knowing smiles

So maybe it’s best to leave that question I set at the outset to the guides who know as much about the royal residences as the queen.

How many Ukrainians can Buckingham Palace take?

 

America, Countries, Culture

Pride and joy

The Tarts and Tramps was always a rite of passage for Aberdeen University Freshers students in the Eighties, and I dare say it’s their Pride and joy still.

Quite whether students get a chance to glam and glum it up in a meaningful Freshers week in September remains to be seen.

Hugs around the world

But encouragingly Pride events will be held around the world this month.

Changed from last year when we all rallied together to make the most of it all digitally.

My attention was drawn by one of Las Vegas’s finest music acts, Imagine Dragons, championing Pride.

Flagging up Pride

It just so happens that I’m at my campest in the Oo-Es-of-EH and the 

Cariqueen and it’s that love of a good pun which makes me fit right in.

By rights we who travel for a living would have been boogieing it up in Party City.

That is of course Las Vegas, where I should be now at the US Travel Fair.

My beardie matches: In California

Their Pride party is legendary as is their entertainment.

With the Beach Boys and Snoop Dogg entertaining us last time up in Anaheim.

And OneRepublic rocking Red Rocks in Denver the year before.

Red Rocks in Denver

We’ll hopefully do the American Travel Fair all over again in the Fall.

Where, yes, Pride will be behind us.

But I know someone from my last Vegas trip, Cami from Utah.

My Pride and joy, who I might just still be married to!

 

 

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. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Day oi oi oi.

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.

European 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.

So, altogether now… Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Day oi oi oi

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

http://www.facebook.com

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/.