Countries, Deals, Europe

Athens an epic city break

Any city where the cabbie asks you how much you want to pay has a jump start on others… yes, it’s Athens an epic city break.

But don’t just take my word for it (well do) but the Post Office’s annual City Costs Barometer makes Athens your alpha city.

The beta, gamma, delta and epsilon (I knew Greek would serve me well one day) are outliers Lisbon, Krakow, Riga and Budapest.

The Post Office took a dozen common holiday purchases.

From a travel card and entrance to a museum to a cup of coffee and two nights in a three-star hotel.

And Athens came out on top at £207.18.


Spoiled and ruined at the Acropolis in Athens

Now famously the Greeks bankrupt themselves partly because they supposedly saw underground fares as optional.

I don’t know about the veracity of that having enjoyed the services of my old Athenian pal George’s driving.

And Athens’ peculiar taxi service.

Where they’ll quote a fare of €15 or €10 or whatever you’ve got to get up from your downtown hotel to the Acropolis.

And then if you get the right return driver it could be €10 to get back to your hotel.

Or as my own chilled cabbie put it pay if you can.

Dublin’s fare city

The Travel pack in Dublin

T’wouldn’t catch on in Dublin though where the latest incomers bag a licence.

And then take you halfway around the city just to ramp up the fare.

That and the think of a number drink fares around Temple Bar put Dublin down at 17 on the list at £436.12.

Just behind Pricey Paris at £423.42.

And only ahead of Copenhagen (£455.75), Venice (£456.92) and Amsterdam (£592.79).

Some local knowledge is, of course, helpful which is what you get over 13 years living and working in the Irish capital.

Some personal favourites

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

We’re pleased to see, of course, that some personal favourites make the top ten.

With Prague at £248.50 which leaves plenty in your pocket for Pilsner.

And Rome at £347.17, although we can show you some short cuts around La Citta Eterna.

The top 20

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome
  1. Athens – £207.18
  2. Lisbon – £218.03
  3. Krakow – £218.55
  4. Riga – £220.32
  5. Budapest – £220.95
  6. Prague – £248.50
  7. Madrid – £298.81
  8. Berlin – £316.97
  9. Dubrovnik – £318.30
  10. Rome – £347.17
  11. Barcelona – £384.80
  12. Bruges – £389.05
  13. Florence – £397.87
  14. Vienna – £401.64
  15. Stockholm – £421.16
  16. Paris – £423.42
  17. Dublin – £436.12
  18. Copenhagen – £455.75
  19. Venice – £456.92
  20. Amsterdam – £592.79

So that’s the alpha to the omega from your local post office.

And if you didn’t know it before then here’s confirmation what we already know about Athens an epic city break.


Countries, Deals, Europe

Venice to yourself

You jostling to get through the alleyways to the Rialto Bridge… you know you can get Venice to yourself.

Yes, by getting away from the crowds and heading for the Arsenale or the Ghetto.

While the one thing you can always depend on in Venice is water.

And the expanse of the Grand Canal and a water taxi.

Our private island

Just draw a beardie on: The ageless Jimmy

Better still get yourself your own private island… no, seriously, do.

Just a 10-minute boat ride from Piazza San Marco is the 5 * San Clemente Palace Kempinski.

The San Clemente Palace features three bars, three gourmet restaurants, a spa, pool and a terrace overlooking the lagoon.

Just what The Scary One needs then to keep her out of trouble.

Now you never need an excuse to visit the city on the lagoon.

But Venice, and especially the San Clemente, is the ideal destination for anniversaries… ours was our tenth anniversary.

And that wasn’t yesterday despite what the pictures might show.

Anniversary deal

Squid’s in: Try the Venetian black squid

The San Clemente is offering a 125th anniversary special.

And they’ll throw in

A specially crafted anniversary drink, ‘The Everlast’ served at iconic Buddha-Bar Beach Restaurant.

A complimentary sweet treat served at Acquerello Restaurant

Daily buffet breakfast at Insieme– in a private courtyard.

15% off on room bookings with flexible rates

20% off on suite bookings with flexible rate and delightfully crafted suite amenities and late check-out*

And a comp boat service from/to San Marco Square.

The deal

Beat the crowds: On a water taxi

And all you have to do is:

Guarantee for a two-night stay.

The offer is open until 30 September, and yes, I know September is our anniversary month.

Two nights in a superior room for two is €1,341.99.

And yes, you’ll feel like you have Venice to yourself.


Countries, Europe

Venice unmasked

Now we’re coming out from behind our cloths it’s poignant that the City of Masks, Venice is unmasked.

The time was when we’d only come across masks in the shops in the City on the Lagoon.

Those ornate, beaked souvenirs you bring back with you from Italy.

But since Covid broke out two years ago we’ve all taken on the appearances of theatre nurses.

Read our lips

Water, water everywhere: The grand hotel

There will, of course, be a period of adjustment as we become comfortable again showing off our pearly whites in public.

And not feel self-conscious or socially irresponsible when we forget our masks for Sunday Mass.

The test, of course, is when we’re jostled together in tight alleyways on holiday.

Now there are few places as huddled as Venice’s alleyways, unless you’ve been in a Marrakech soukh.

And it was that which spread the disease during the Black Death and saw the rise in masks.

And dandies turning adversity into masked balls.

Isles with style

Anyone for pool: So dip your toe in

You can, of course, escape the hustle and bustle by getting on a boat out to Murano and Burano.

And if you do need the sand between your toes then the Lido is also on your doorstep.

A beach bar you say, but away from the crowds… well, you’ll want to try the Buddha Beach Bar at the San Clemente Palace Kempinski.

Venice: Let;s catch a gondola back to Padova

You’ve probably stared longingly towards the isola from Rialto.

Once a place of isolation for monks and an asylum for those Venetians to hide away those they wanted to keep out of view.

Buddha Beach Bar

Love is in the air: in San Clemente

It is now a private island boasting the 5* San Clemente Palace Kempinski.

And now the gastronomic destination with three gourmet restaurants and bars, this season, the San Clemente Palace Kempinski is adding an exciting new dining concept.

San Clemente is opening a new Buddha Beach Bar, of all things.

You’ll be surrounded by palm trees (yes, really).

And the poolside Buddha Beach Bar offers an enticing blend of neo-Asian and Italian cuisine accompanied by music and cocktails.

Just a ten-minute boat ride from Piazza San Marco, San Clemente Palace Kempinski and its Buddha Beach Bar is Venice Unmasked.

And the good news is that it’s reopening this Spring.

So check out their offers.

Romantic Escape in the Special Suites of San Clemente

What about a romantic stay in suites with private transfers by water taxi from Venice Airport?

And a dinner for two at Acquerello Restaurant, inclusive of three-course menu.

And among the extras are a Kempinski Lady in Red Service and a €50 Spa treatment voucher, per room, per stay.



Countries, Europe, Sustainable Tourism

Venice’s €5 entry fee is a bridge too far

Is it just me or do you think Venice’s €5 entry fee is a bridge too far?

Because the very idea of charging to be allowed into any city feels anti-libertarian.

Yes, we all know the arguments… over-tourism, the city sinking, but is economic selectionism really the answer?

Make no mistake here, Venice truly is one of the world’s great cities.

And I was entranced from the moment I emerged from the throng off the train into its alleyways in the early Noughties.

City’s hidden delights

Fast city: Venice

Now to put this into context… I’m just a city boy, born and raised in Jordanhill (apols to Journey).

And I love the energy and life Venice brings.

Like everyone else I have taken in the must-sees St Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge and the Campanile.

And why wouldn’t you?

But I also spent our first evening exploring the Arsenale and went onto branching out from the packed centre.

While I also sailed out to the island of Murano, where glass-makers ply their trade just like their forebears did centuries ago.

Neighbouring Burano  is known for its brightly coloured fishermen houses which acted as a beacon, and its lace traders.

And I also took in the Isola di San Michele where Venezians buried their dead.

In The Ghetto

Hidden away: The Ghetto

But it is the Ghetto in Cannaregio which really captured my attention.

The Ghetto is where the city’s Jews were kept out of the city

And it was here (the foundry area) where the Doge Leonardo Loredan and the Venetian Senate sentenced the Jews to live.

They were only allowed to enter the city at certain hours.

Rules, rules, rules

Watch for the traffic: On the gondolas

Now there is no suggestion Deputy Mayor for Tourism Simone Venturini is motivated to exclude any of us for anything other than over-tourism reasons.

‘The aim is to discourage one-day tourism, hit-and-run tourism,’ he explained.

‘Arriving in one day and leaving in the same day, tiring and stressing the city, and encouraging slower tourism instead.’

And to debunk a myth there won’t be turnstiles, you’ll book ahead online.

Watch your back

Venice fans: With the gang from Padova trip

But still how will entry to the city be manned and how do they plan to control congestion at the entry point?

I’m worried here, and have been for some time, that the ’emergency’ restrictions foisted on us all over Covid will persist as we emerge out of the pandemic.

Because isn’t that just the way of our leaders. 

And as I often try to remind people wasn’t Income Tax brought in as a temporary charge to cope with the Napoleonic Wars.

Who is that masked man (and woman)? The Biennale

All of which neatly brings us around to the man who ended the restrictions for the inhabitants of the world’s first ghetto, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Now we know that the City on the Canal has its own unique challenges and that during the Black Death they pioneered masks.

You know the bespoke ones they sell throughout the city’s alleyway souvenir shops.

 But Venice’s €5 entry fee is a bridge too far.

So what do you think? Let us know and we’ll share.



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

Sir Sean’s iconic sets (or should that be shets?)

Resht in peash, Shir Sean. And I hope Shaint Peter understandsh your acshent.

Living in Portobello, Edinburgh’s beach suburb for ten years I never heard anybody spik like Sir Sean.

But maybe thatsh moviesh!

Preparing for the role: In Portobello.

First Porty of call

Portobello: And Porty is as good a place as any to talk about Sir Sean’s sets.

Because it was here in his hometown, and as a lifeguard at Porty’s outdoor swimming pool that he had his first stage.

The pool is now a five-a-side football complex, and we have both moved on.

Visitors to Edinburgh rarely go any further out of the city than Leith where the Royal Yacht Britannia is kept.

But they should. Porty is bohemian while still being grounded “, and if you can’t get to those beaches Bond did you can walk in Sean’s sandsteps here.

Bahama Mamma

Bahamas: And it’s fitting that Sir Sean saw out his days in the Bahamas.

He clearly enjoyed the island lifestyle as much as Ian Fleming who penned the spy which would propel Connery to fame just down the road in Jamaica.

We’ve all, of course, been reminiscing about who until today was the second Greatest Living Scot (it’s Billy Connolly now).

And my old pal, Rebecca Lee, who I sent out to the Bahamas reminds me of how she stayed at the hotel where he still played the tables.

And was beloved by the locals which is as it should be.

The daddy of them all: Indy’s Dad in Jordan.

Jordan and crusaders

Jordan: Sir Sean was always unmistakably Scottish… all Jocks look like movie stars after all.

And share his dry wit.

Sir Sean upstaged Harrison Ford in the Last Crusade, the climax of which is staged at The Treasury in Jordan.

Hardly surprising that proud nationalist Sir Sean should star in an Indy film!

For hire: With Kevin Costner

Untouchable in Chicago

Chicago: And the film for which he won his Oscar as Best Supporting Actor above the wooden acting of Kevin Costner.

You can truly believe Sir Sean as a gritty Chicago cop.

So we’ll pass over that he’s meant to be Irish.

Whodunit: In Orient Express.

Murder on the Orient Express

Istanbul: The Albert Finney version of course where Sir Sean plays Colonel Arbuthnot.

And Istanbul is the terminus for the Orient-Express, although we all know that Poirot and his fellow passengers were on their way back to London.

And an example of how less is more… with Sir Sean, the upstanding stiff military man rather than than the dashing, reckless Bond.

Anyone for Venice? James and Tatiana.

From Russia (really Istanbul and Venice) With Love

Istanbul and Venice: And this being released in the mid-60s and in the middle of a real Cold War the filming was done in the West.

There are some iconic scene in this my favourite Bond.

I love Commie kicker Hleb’s kickathon with Bond and who can forget Bond and Tatiana sailing under the Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

There’s definitely something about James… or should that be something about Murty!

Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

The name’s Beyond, James Beyond

Bond is back.. or at least we got a trailer yesterday of Bond when he does return.

For many of us Fiftysomethings our first introduction to the world’s most exotic destinations was through James Bond.

So here is a pick from some of my fave Bond films, some of which I’ve dropped in on, skiing and waterskiing, of course.

I’m all in

We’ve been expecting you, James

Casino Royale, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic: You might not expect it in the heart of Europe but the Czech town of Karlovy Vary is a movie hub.

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has been running since 1946 and it was to here, the Grand Pupp, that Daniel Craig came to play the tables.

The festival is slated to return from November 18-21 and I expect they’ll keep my seat for me, you know the one I share with Richard Gere.

No bull in Istanbul

Istanbul, From Russia With Love: And Aussie model George Lazenby’s sole excursion as 007 took him to Istanbul.

Bond is in Istanbul to pick up potential defector Romanova.

And he obviously performs his derring-do through the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia and on the Bosphorus.

Double O Venice

Roger Moore, Moonraker, Venice: And, yes, Bond was in Venice for Casino Royale and From Russia With Love but also the lunar escapade, Moonraker.

Roger arrived by gondola, obvs, and patronised some pretty decent billets. Me, I prefer a vaporetto.

But however you get here, and I went AWOL here with two newbies from a party in nearby Padova, get here how you can.

Jamaica? No, she came of her own accord

Sean Connery, Live and Let Die, Jamaica: And the Caribbean is a fave of James (no fool him or us).

Jamaica was one of the settings for the first Bond film, Dr No, but it was really in Live And Let Die where it became a main character.

Never mind that it’s Rasta rather than Voodoo in Jamaica (you’d be looking at Haiti for that) the Caribbean character is a great fit.

The Man With The Golden Pun

Roger Moore, The Man With The Golden Gun, Hong Kong: That’ll be me then the Pun bit, while Bond nemesis Scaramanger, wonderfully cast for Christopher Lee, is The Man With The Golden Gun.

Channel your inner Bond at the Peninsula Hotels’ Grand Dame.

Bond girl Andrea Anders arrived here in one if those iconic green Rolls-Royces, and it has one of the largest collections of Rollers.

From HK$4580/£455 per room per night.

So which is your fave Bond location? Tell me and we’ll share.