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. 

 

 

 

Countries

The mystique of Mustique

And as with everything in life I defer to The Scary One who actually met Mustique’s most famous resident, who in turn deferred to her.

History hasn’t been kind to Princess Margaret but she will be remembered for loving a party in the Caribbean.

As do I, so I at least I will be kind to her.

Margaret’s love affair with Mustique actually began when her and her husband Tony were given land on the island as a wedding present.

Royal party

Helena Bonham-Carter as Princess Margaret in The Crown. www.radiotimes.co.uk

When exactly her other love affairs on the island began…

Well, you’ll just have to watch the Crown on Netflix to fond out.

Much of the glamour of royalty back in the day derived from their remoteness and the seclusion of the places they visited.

So we have a lot to thank those such as Virgin Atlantic.

Because they’ve made it possible for us commoners to now visit royal getaways such as Mustique.

Virgin have just announced a twice-weekly service from June to St Vincent, the gateway to the Grenadines, and your Mustique dream.

And for those of you whose imaginations were working overboard when you saw Margaret living it up in Mustique then read on.

Our friends at The Villa Collection have done all the homework for us.

Opricot jam

Party time

Opricot: And just where you’d expect to find Princess Margaret and her set.

This four-bedroom villa in the Endeavour Hills with ocean views, and near The Tennis Club, the Cotton House and beach, has the option of a fifth bedroom.

The big selling point is the private swimming pool and large bar area.

And what’s more it’s fully staffed with housekeeper, chef, gardener and butler.

You’ll have to empty your piggy bank. It’s from £1505 per night, but you can share the costs.

The awe of Aurora

Dip your toe in

Aurora: Contemporary and colonial with views of both the Caribbean and Atlantic this can be rented as a three-bedroom villa.

Or along with Jasmine Cottage. So that’ll house five and will set you back £2,005 per night.

We were drawn in by the central courtyard, rock plunge pool and al fresco dining in the gazebo.

After all it’s all about the outdoor living in the Caribbean.

And you don’t have to lift a finger because it’s fully staffed.

Balinese luxury

Lie back and think of Mustique

Blackstone: A five-bedroom villa set on a ridge overlooking Britannia Bay and the Caribbean this is what you’ll get for your £2,173 per night…

We like the idea of the media and games room.

And the pebble-tiled pool which wraps around large, natural black stone, giving the property its name.

Elsewhere in the Caribbean

Nylon Pool, Tobago

You can also reach Mustique via Barbados or St Lucia with services via SVG Air.

Princess Margaret loved her Mustique but first fell in love with the Caribbean on honeymoon.

Where she opined that a raised sandbank in the sea off Tobago was the clear colour of tights.

The lyrical Tobagonians hence called it Nylon Pool.

And you too can stand in the sea in the middle of the Caribbean and drink cocktails, a la Margaret.

MEET YOU IN MUSTIQUE

Caribbean, Countries, Culture

Rainy Days and Songdays – Jamaica sings Burns

Robert Burns’s greatest creations Tam O’ Shanter and Soutar Johnny sit with their tankards in the Burns Monument Gardens.

Alongside them is a carved tabletop map of the world with mini-Burns statues depicting where the poet is celebrated.

On this his birthday it is worth considering that Burns is lauded by as vastly opposing cultures as America and in Russia.

Because he was an everyman, ‘a man’s a man for a’ that’ and all that.

Ode to the Caribbean

But also in the old countries of Empire.

My guys and Burns’ guys in Alloway

Burns, proud Scot though he was, had set his sights on the Caribbean.

And he had agreed to a position as a bookkeeper in Port Antonio in Jamaica.

You see Burns’s wild lifestyle was beginning to catch up with him.

A new start

A hard drinker, he was facing penury while he was impregnating women all over Scotland.

Robert Burns

Although there was one, Highland Mary, whom he wished to take to the Indies.

O sweet grows the lime and the orange, and the apple on the pine, but a’ the charms o’ the Indies, Can never equal thine – Will ye go to the Indies, my Mary

Only for his poetry to take off at home which made him change his mind.

And continue juggling his women.

All of which took its toll, of course, and he died, still beset by money worries, at just 36.

My bonnie lassie

Now if only there had been a digital work abroad scheme for Burns like we have today in the Caribbean.

Scots have left their mark all across the West Indies.

Scots in the Indies

The region of Scotland in Barbados being testament.

Glasgow Bar with owner Karl in Tobago

While any excuse to namecheck Glasgow Bar in Tobago.

Now for the day that’s in it, and your regular feature, Rainy Days and Songdays here’s a site with Burns in Jamaican patwa.

And check out this collaboration between Scots producer Kieran C Murray and Jamaican singer Brinathe 2015 Jamaica Sings Robert Burns.

Oh ye Jamaicans by name, lend an ear, lend an ear!

SLAINTÉ

America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

Murty Gras in Orlando

I’ve a Gra for Mardi Gras… ask your Irish friends. Or a Murty Gras if you like.

Forget the soggy pancakes, you guys in the Americas and the Caribbean have got it right with your dancin’, drinkin’ and dinin’.

But if you can’t get to see how they do Mardi Gras around the world just now then why not let our Travel friends bring the world to you?

Murty Gras In Orlando

And who better at it than Universal Orlando?

Universal is serving up a real treat with its International Flavors of Carnaval from February 6 to March 28.

Eat around the world

When it will showcase dishes from New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, Brazil, Spain and er Germany (who knew?)

Glasgow Bar with owner Karl in Tobago

Of course carnivals have long been choreographed to the minutest detail so you’ll not even notice social distancing.

There will be floats throughout the park and a Big Easy Bash.

Jambalaya mia my-oh

And from personal experience it is the done thing to start at breakfast time with Jambalaya, a Sazerac and a jazz brass band.

You want a taster of some of the other culinary delights.

Moe’s and Jimbo’s

  • Cajun cuisine from New Orleans, such as a Crawfish Boil, Jambalaya, Beignets and other Big Easy delights.
  • Classic Carnaval dishes from the islands, such as Pernil & Mofongo from Puerto Rico, a vegan Pholourie from Trinidad & Tobago and Jerk Chicken from the Bahamas.
  • Pork Schnitzel Sliders and Bavarian Pretzels from Germany, iconic Paella Mixta and Leche Frita from Spain and Belgium Liege Waffles from Belgium.
  • Other flavours from Brazil (Moqueca de Camarao), Canada (Beef Short Rib Poutine), Colombia (Carnitas Arepas), Cuba (Cuban Sandwiches), Italy (Caneloni), France Poached Pear Creme Brulee Crepe) and more.
Can you give me some Spanish pulpo please?

There will also be themed menus on CityWalk and at the Universal Orlando Resort Hotels while there are rides aplenty.

And isn’t it just what you need? A bit of escapism, either Harry Potter’s Wizarding World or The Simpsons’ Springfield.

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Deals

Caribbean cruising

You’ll get to see the Sandy Lane brigade if you sail by the secluded complex, lying on their loungers and ne’er getting out to see Barbados.

Barbados is rightly renowned around the world for these pink beaches but it also boasts a wonderful capital.

Howzat: At the Kensington Oval Barbados Bridgetown

The British settled around a primitive bridge in the Careenage region which would be how the town that later grew up came to be called Bridgetown.

The Fun Five: My Barbados party

Today’s Bridgetown where Royal Caribbean will be home porting for winter 2021/22 is a hive of activity, culture and colour.

Harbouring dreams

The harbour is adorned with Bajan clothes shops and bar/restaurants while out on the water stand catamaran party boats.

Taste of Barbados: Mount Gay

Ready to take you out on the water for a Soca sing-a-long and dip in the sea with the turtles and schools of multi-coloured fish.

While if you want to dive for other treasures then try the glass-bottomed boats on a trip out to see shipwrecks.

Hamper time: In Barbados

Talking of wrecks you will be after overindulging at Mas and no that’s not a typo, it’s what Bajans call a party.

While limin’ is their pre-drinking which starts when you get up, with the best spots advertised on the news reels in the bus station.

Soca star: Lewis Hamilton at Crop Over in Bridgetown

Cave Shepherd department store in Broad Street is a Bridgetown institution where you might even get a Kiss from Rihanna.

Carry on cruising

So I’ve gone a bit off message here aa I’m looking to promote RC’s home porting here but I’m just giving you a glimpse of Bridgetown life.

Cocktail o’clock in Barbados

Which you won’t get from inside your ivory tower at Sandy Lane.

And guess what, it only gets better with RC also announcing a home porting for Scarborough in Tobago.

The Tobagonians will be only too glad to see you as I witnessed when a couple weighed up at The Blue Crab

Soul food

When we were being hosted by Auntie All and Uncle Kenneth who treated us like family and threw their doors open to them too… on their day off.

RC are also home porting in Tobago’s big brother island Trinidad in Port of Spain and Kingstown, St Vincent.

Deal me in

RC are flagging up a special seven-nighter Southern Caribbean Explorer from Barbados from €394pp for December 5, and other offers.

Nylon Pool in Tobago

And this takes in seven (count them) islands.

And they are also offering up to €150 off your Stateroom.

MEET YOU ON THE SEAS

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – Soak Mi Down at Christmas

Which for us in the frozen north means mulled wine, sherry (or stronger) but which in the Caribbean is something far stronger..

Nadia Batson is a Tobagonian exponent of Parang Soca, a saucy version of the So Calypso music of the Southern islands.

And Nadia’s party song was the soundtrack too to our trip to Tobago this time last year.

Nadia… a lot of woman

So much so that we got a CD burned for our hostess with the mostest, Sarah…

SLM, when she’s not running her successful yoga business loves to parang at Tobago Sunday Service.

With my Tobagonian pals and the peerless Sarah

Every year the islands (that’s Tobago and its bigger twin island Trinidad) there are new Christmas albums.

Which is more than we get with the old standards trotted out in our Christmas charts.

And so this year as well as reprising pictures of me with a Tobagonian Santa I will steer you in the direction of DJ Floops’ 2020 Parang mix.

If you’ve never heard parang before then you’re in for a treat.

Christmas in Tobago

And you’ll detect a Latin beat which is not surprising when you consider Trinidad is only 11km from Venezuala.

From where the famed Spanish Ladies hail. But they’re another story and not one for Christmas time.

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – Ho-ho-Ne-Yo

Excuse me. And I might drink a little more than I should tonight…. Cause we might not get tomorrow – Give Me Everything ~ Pitbull ft Ne-Yo

He didn’t give me everything although I guess a beardie middle-aged Scot wasn’t who he had in mind, but Ne-Yo did give me his sweat towel.

When the hip-hop star performed for the delegates at the American Travel Fair (IPW) in Washington DC.

No swear: Ne-Yo

And I jumped out of the mosh pit (actually by the stage and round dinner tabes) to grab the towel he threw out.

It now has pride of place on my bookshelf in my office.

Dancing with Ne-Yo

I brushed shoulders again with Shaffer Chimere Smith (for it is he) again in the Recording Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland.

When a virtual Ne-Yo ran me through an interactive dance lesson.

The Museum is a must-do on tour trail when you can also get a lesson from John Lee Hooker and a chance to record your own cover of Boom Boom.

Grammy, we love you: In Mississippi

And have it transferred to your phone… and watch out X Factor I’m coming for the Christmas No. 1.

Christmas in the Windies

Ne-Yo’s latest offering is as a featured star with DING DONG (no me neither) on the Shaggy track Holiday in Jamaica.

Shaggy dips his toe in the Caribbean to explore how they celebrate Christmas.

And in the absence of chimneys Santa has been known to throw the pressies down from the mango trees!

Shagalicious: In Jamaica. www.clashmusic.com

It’s off Jamaican Shaggy’s Christmas in the Islands album, a 16-track collection with new tracks, something there’s just too little of at Christmas.

Including Catch Myself Some Rays, although there is a reggae version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas..

Which brings me back to Mississippi snd a gospel singer’s rendition in Jackson three years ago this week.

Christmas in Mississippi

And aren’t we all intertwined just like Christmas ribbon anyway?

Soca stars

Now if you like Shaggy’s reggae Christmas then you’ll adore the irreverent Parang Soca stars sound of Tobago

where I was this time last year.

Now back to the beach… a sodden North Berwick in grey oul’ Scotland!

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

WTM Holiday Snaps and a beautiful wrap Donald

And the last word is from Donald, a bit of a scoop from your favourite Travel blog.

While the rest of the world has been trying to talk to the Big Mouth we got him… well, we are old pals.

And Donald has a message for the world: ‘I love you all and I want you all to come and see me again soon in America.’

The Happiest Place on Earth is now also the Safest on Earth with reservations, social distancing, alternate rollercoast carts and new hospitality measures.

While Mickey, Minnie, Donald and the Gang aren’t about to let the virus turn their smile into a smell.

And are dancing, waving and welcoming us all in their own inimitable way.

Watch this space for new Disney features coming along soon.

While Visit Orlando also flagged up what’s happening up at Universal Orlando and particularly their Jurassic World feature.

All of which, and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens I’ll give you a taster of what’s in store… in my rollercoaster whizz around Florida.

Golden vision: Florida Kets

I had all planned to take a whizz around the Florida Keys before the other Donald closed America off in March but hope to put that right when I get the chance.

And it’s those areas with natural distancing like the Keys and island nations (and yes a lesson here to the UK and Ireland too) who have an advantage.

Sail away in Croatia

Water wonderland

And when you’ve got 1200 islands then there’s ‘one for everyone in the audience.’

As they like to say in the world’s longest-running TV chat show, Ireland’s The Late Late Show, or whatever the Croatian equivalent is.

But here is a country which, as a Balkans state, dealt better than the rest of Europe with the virus.

And which is perfectly placed to host the tourist’s new requirements during and post-Covid.

One area is in small boat holidays and yachting around the islands, another adventure in the Great Outdoors.

Kayak attack: In Croatia

My go-to people in Ireland for Croatia are Croatia Tours, and I went on pilgrimage with them to neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina where I started out on the road to Dubrovnik.

They have a seven-days Rivers by the Sea package, making the most of where the area where the Krka River enters the Adriatic, on June 26 £1255pp.

Where you’ll get to sea kayak, cycle, canoe, rock climb, hike and raft.

The Tuscan Islands

And Firenze too

We’ll also be spreading our wings more next year even when we do visit our favourite cities.

And that’ll help hotspots like Firenze breathe as we explore greater Tuscany, its adventure trails, cycling opportunities and thermal waters.

And its seven islands, chief among them Elba, the first island of exile for Napoleon, and Montecristo, it of Alexandre Dumas’ Count.

Able was I ere I saw Elba.

As every schoolchild, well, at least those of  certain age and lexical bent, will tell you.

And Tuscany was, and is, ere able to thrive in ‘il novo normal’.

And, of course, the Caribbean

Daddy’s Little Girl, as all our little girls do these days, is wont to show me amusing things she finds on the internetty thing.

And one we both find funny is a Jamaican tour guide who extols the benefits of inhaling the island’s plants.

I grab every chance to hook up with my Caribbean friends, Barbados, Tobago, Anguilla (heck, all of them) albeit these days over Zoom, if only to hope that I can draw some sun out from the screen.

And as usual their warmth came flowing us out as they reminded us that in their island their neighbourliness has helped them through this crisis and referred in passing to London where ‘people don’t know their neighbours but had been getting to know each other this year.’

Los Filipinos

For those of us too who in the second half of the century of years some of us are blessed to live, our cultural touchpoint for the Phillipines is the Thrilla in Manila, the nation’s capital which hosted Ali-Frazier III.

And of course the Philippines are knockout and our old friends at G Adventures are all over it.

Manila is on the island of Luzon, one of 7,641 in the archipelago.

And you’ll not be surprised to learn then that out of 7,641 islands that it should have boasted the world’s most beautiful island, courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler in 2016.

The exotically-named Atty. Maria Anthonette C.Velasco-Allones, the Tourism Promotions Board’s COO has an equally lyrical way about her.

As she described her islands and what they have to offer.

‘When the dark night is over and the sun rises, wake up in the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Flying, Food & Wine, UK

Nailed it in the Caribbean

For all those poor souls going into lockdown in England today I too nailed it and spent yesterday getting my nails done.

Ot more accurately got my nails off.

After tripping when I was pressing down on the shopping trolley and then have it collapse on me.

Solo activity: Cocktails in Barbados

As is the way of such accidents (and there have been many) I was reminded constantly through the day of my plight.

Nail-biter

Not just by the tingling and throbbing in the tips of my middle and ring finger but also by how often fingers and fingernails come up in conversation.

From the This Morning presenter showing off her nails to Democrats and Republicans biting their nails about the Presidential race.

With my friend Cheryl from Barbados

To the Great British Bake Off making finger doughnuts to Family Fortunes and picking noses.

But sometimes it’s better not to fight it and rather just accept that long nails are best on women.

Crystal clear

Such as the legendary Crystal from Barbados.

Who I got to pose up with her fancy talons which she’d got done for Crop Over on my first visit to Barbados.

I’ve been back as you know and also partied with them in Dublin and now on Zoom meetings.

Alas, I couldn’t join them when they invited out a party of Friends of Barbados. I was out in Bergamo at the time.

Happy though to report that my friends at British Airways have joined Virgin Atlantic in flying out to Barbados.

And when you do you you can be sure you won’t lose out any on your experience because of Covid.

Anguillan bubble

We’re out of carnival season so maybe it’s time to stay on site anyway… at Club Barbados they’ve got the three Rs you’ll need for a fantastic holiday.

Social distancing all right

Rum, relaxation and Ruby the cookery teacher.

While I honed up on those skills in Tobago with ‘Uncle’ Kenneth.

On Anguilla, where they’ve not had a Covid case for months, they even got to hold their carnival this year back in August.

And the Anguillans have a Covid bubble thing going where you can do all the things you would do anyway…boat trips, snorkelling, golf.

And, of course rum on the beach. Irie!

America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Holly Dolly Christmas

So how many days out can you release a Christmas album? 84 if you dress up like a Christmas Tree like Dolly Parton.

Dolly has been trailing her Christmas album which she released at the start of the month.

While her god-daughter Miley Cyrus who herself has a new album to promote at the moment followed her onto the Graham Norton Show in the UK.

I know all about Christmas in Dolly’s neck of the woods, Tennessee.

Of course the best place for all things Dolly is Dollywood.

I visited there, Tennessee, though Dollywood itself is a pleasure I’ve yet to savour, and Mississippi.

And my party was treated to a Christmas song recital in an antebellum houses in the Deep South.

There’s some of the old standards on the Dolly album like Holly Jolly Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

But there are more Dolly originals.

There are others who are getting their Christmas requests in early…

 

It’s usually all about the bass with Meghan but but this proud daughter of my beloved Massachusetts is all about the gifts in October,

She has a new album A Very Trainor Christmas.

The Dolly that we know and love has always been adorably irreverent.

Although not as saucy as Tobagonian Soca Parang music.

We’ll bring you more about the culture and traditions of Parang as Christmas comes closer.

But for now I’ll leave you with something that will definitely lift your spirits, a hot new 2020 Soca Parang Mix.