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Holiday Snaps

I love an oul’ festival…. they’re almost always not what you expect, and even better too.

Take for example the Festival of the Trays which too me conjures up an image of people banging beer trays over their heads.

It used to be popular in the Seventies and was featured in one of Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life shows I’m sure. I have vague recollections of doing the same one Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve to those not of the Scottish persuasion).

This Festival of the Trays in Portugal though is far more serene. In commemoration of Queen Saint Isabel and the Holy Spirit, this is all about hundreds of young girls carrying trays of gifts on their heads.

The trays are blessed, there are street decorations and quilts in the windows. Flowers are thrown over the procession too, naturally!

The Procession of the Tabuleiros, heralded by pipers and fireworks is led by the Banner of the Holy Ghost and the three Crowns of the Emperors and Kings.

Bringing up the rear are cartloads of bread, meat and wine, pulled by the symbolic sacrificial oxen with golden horns and sashes. Visit www,tabuleiros.org and http://www.visitportugal.com. The festival starts today and goes on until July 8.

And for two very different sides to Portugal, Secret Portugal and Portugal read my reviews https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/secret-portugal/(opens in a new tab) and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/06/12/sportugal/(opens in a new tab)

Aer Lingus, Ryanair and TAP Portugal all fly to Portugal, http://www.aerlingus.com, http://www.ryanair,com, http://www.flytap,com.

Climb every mountain

Ah! But if Maria and the Von Trapps had climbed every mountain as The Sound of Music told us they did they would have ended up in Hitler’s back yard.

Sorry, I just tell it like it is and so do the Salzburgers who burst our bubble on a tour of the city…. they do take you to some great Sound of Music sites and it is seriously good fun.

Me telling it like it is, it’s important to flag up what a great summer destination Austria is and what great deals there are out there.

TUI has last-minute deals for July 3, seven nights B&B staying at the *3 Hotel Obermair, Mayrhofen, from €449pps or seven nights half-board at the *3 Pension Hannes, Neiderau from €469pps. Visit http://www.tuiholidays.ie or call 1850 45 35 45.

An offer you can’t refuse

I went into the doctor and told him that I felt like a small Mediterranean island. He told me to stop being Sicily.

Like many who have visited Malta I spent way too short a time in Sicily on a day’s catamaran cruise. Of course, I will be back and when I do I will take it all in, The Godfather history, the beautiful coastline and vibrant villages.

You can get great value with a late deal to Sicily with Sunway. Seven nights for €499 on July 6. Visit http://www.sunway,ie,

The best China

You’re my rock: Tang and Zhang

Zhuhe, Tang Yixin and Zhang Ruoyun. Which, of course, is congratulations, but you knew that anyway.

And maybe that they are a Chinese celebrity couple who chose Adare Manor to marry.

Tang and Zhang are TV drama stars back home and have 33 million followers on Weibo, the social media platform in China. Now Bandanamann followers with a wee nudge we might make a dent in that!

Tang and Zhang’s combined showbiz name would be Tang, meaning she’s in charge which is a bit like most marriages really!

Tourism Ireland helped the happy couple with trips to Dunluce Castle and the Dark hedges. Visit http://www.tourismireland.com. http://www.adaremanor.com. http://www.visitnorthernireland.com.

The English Beach

Not what you expected: La Gomera

If that conjures up images of a packed Blackpool or Brighton or Magaluf then we wouldn’t blame you.

But this is The English Beach in Great King Valley in La Gomera.

La Go-where? Yes, this is the Canaries and it’s the more unspoiled, smallest and less visited of the seven islands which makes it all the more appealing.

Thing is though that they’re peeling off too. Billed as hippy and alternative there’s a clue there. Thing is though that the first post on Trip Advisor said that it’s half and half.

I can only imagine that it was a Swinging Sixties crowd of English that gave it its name.

I leave the choice to you but check out La Gomera anyway. Fly to Tenerife and then get a crossing is the best way to get there.

But if you do decide to go au natural, for goodness sake don’t leave your clothes on the beach. Visit http://www.lagomera.travel/en.

Let’s duck out of here

You’re quackers: With The Donald

Yes, I know any excuse. I’ll tell you what every time The Other Donald tweets something daft or puts us on the brink of war…. and I’m not forgiving him this week after his antics caused the rearrangement of my trip to Iran… then Ill put up a photo of The Real Donald.

And anyway American Sky has a great saving of up to €530 per family on a seven-night stay at the *4 The Grove Resort Hotel & Spa in Orlando, valid for travel before February 11 2021. This holiday now costs from €649.

This is a new resort, just a few minutes drive from Walt Disney World Resort and it includes a kids Surfer Water Park.

There are four on-site restaurants.

Based on two adults and two children sharing and return flights from Dublin with transfers and accommodation on a self-catering basis.

Visit http://www.americansky.ie or call (01) 664 9900.

Killer tunes

Drum roll: Ronnie Vannucci Jnr

For Reasons Unknown Ronnie Vannucci Jnr tried to bat off the well-wisher who approached him at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, Co. Down, and said that he was a delegate at a science convention.

But we were onto him or at least The Son and Heir and The Scary One were… and she let him know that I was their biggest fan.

I know I’ve drip-fed you this story but it’s just that the world’s greatest rock band who were playing up North are headlining Glastonbury tonight.

I’ve got it taped of course while I’m away in Barcelona but I expect they’ll be Wonderful Wonderful.

I’m not surprised that The Killers were staying at the Culloden. It’s only had a £750,000 refurbishment. Visit http://www.hastingshotels.com.

Two for you

… A double helping of Bandanaman today. Lourdes and the Pyrenees in The Herald and Star Wars Millennium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run at Disneyland Anaheim in the Irish Daily Mail.

I’ll reprise them here when I return.

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FLYDAY FRIDAY

Purple reigns, purple reigns… in Minneapolis, Barbados, LA. Everywhere.

You heard it here first… the twin cities are THE American cities to go to this year.

You can rock to Prince at his Paisley Park home just as I did with Di-Di, above, at Barbados Crop Over, visit great shopping malls, eat at top restaurants with delicious craft beer and go out into the Great Outdoors and enjoy more wonderful Park life.

I also partied with Natasha Bedingfield who gave a stirring version of Purple Rain to us in LA at the American Travel fair IPW. She picked me out in the crowd and stroked her chin in reference to my purple beard and we wound down afterwards at the after-party.

Icelandair flies to Minneapolis for €185, one-way based on a return fare and travel 26 August 2019 – 24 March 2020. And that includes a stopover in Reykjavik. Visit http://www.icelandair.com. http://www.minneapolisnorthwest.com.

Icelandair also has:

New York                €158*

Boston                      €193*

Chicago                    €198*

Seattle                      €210*

Vancouver               €210*

Book by midnight, Sunday 16th June 2019 23:59pm.

The Wonder of You…

… And you

She is my wonder of the world… and her above too. In fact The Wonder of You was our First Dance music at our wedding reception 25 years ago.

Petra, of course, is another wonder of the world, one of the Modern Wonders of the World and it is everything that they say as I found out on my recent G Adventures trip http://www.gadventures.com. And http://www.visitjordan.com.

Our friends at Ryanair have compiled a Seven Wonders of the World guide for us. I’d recommend my Jordan musings which I will compile for multiple media outlets soon and also in this blog over the coming weeks.

The other Wonders you’ll be wanting to tick off on your way… you can go by camel if you want too… are the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens, the Colosseum, Rome (tick), the Dead Sea (tick, tick), La Sagrada Familia Barcelona (tick, tick, tick), Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia (they’ve been onto me) and Lagoa do Fogo, the Azores (big fan of Portugal).

And yes, they all give me ‘strength to carry on.’

See http://www.ryanair.com for its guide, and also for other top deals.

A million love songs

Wheely great: Laura and Graham

Congratulations Laura McGrory and Graham Woods who won an upgrade to Business Class and two complimentary Aer Lingus flights from North America to a European City of their choice with Aer Lingus.

And what did they have to do? Only be the 1 millionth transatlantic guest to fly with the national airline carrier this year. The recently married couple from Dunleer in Co. Louth made the milestone trip travelling from Dublin to Seattle.

All of which begs the question. 1 millionth means one person. Ah, true love when two becomes one.

Enough song titles already?

Iamsterdam

Daddy’s Little Girl is just back from Amsterdam and absolutely loved it… it is one of my favourite short-hop city breaks too.

Sassy and classy, it has the perfect mix of high and low culture.

The food and drink are also great and I’m always won over by idiosyncratic ways of serving booze, with the Dutch custom of skimming the heads of beer with plastic knives always a winner. And mayo on chips? You should try it.

Aer Lingus likes a list too… as do I, unless of course it’s a shopping list.

Its top ten picks starts with Amsterdam, I guess it always will, and also picks out Barcelona, Birmingham, Berlin, Dusseldorf, London, Milan, Madrid, Manchester and Vienna.

See for yourself on http://www.aerlingus.com but it’s billing its autumn getaway as ‘fly from €25.99’. And here’s my recommendation https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/pictures-of-amsterdam/(opens in a new tab). https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-dylan-by-george/(opens in a new tab)

Fares are one-way including taxes and charges. Valid for travel from August 1 until September 30. Book by June 17.

Must fly, I’ve got to book.

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES

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SPORTUGAL

It’s the footwork dahling… turn your toes in.

And keep the hands open, and dahling, trust your partner.

I half expect to see Craig Revel Horwood, sitting opposite and holding up a 2.

Thankfully I’m being judged on my tennis and not my dancing by my Mixed Doubles partner Judy Murray.

Yes, that Judy Murray, tennis supercoach, mum of two Wimbledon champions, and just as importantly in our house a Strictly Come Dancing champion.

If you can’t see my ball… it’s in the hole

Judy has had half an eye on Ashley, Faye, Lauren, Stacey, Joe, Charles, et al this series, only half an eye though as her main focus is making tennis players out of the flotsam collection of wannabe racquet tyros I’m assembled here with in the new Campus development in Quinta do Lago in the Algarve.

Judy is running a series of coaching classes for young and old, good and bad, studious and messers, which, er, would be me.

In my defence her starter hooter was too inviting not to play keepie up with.

Judy, though, as well as being very good at sport, is also a very good sport.

And even allowed me to give her a waltz at the end.

Another good sport and one you won’t have heard much about is padel which is more popular in the Iberian Peninsula than tennis.

And look what other tennis star I met at the airport

Former rugby international Max Evans who with soccer great John Terry took to the game on a trip to the Algarve describes it as the child that tennis and squash would have spawned.

Played to the same scoring system as tennis, the big difference is the non-string bats, the underhand serve, the fact that you can play off the glass walls, and dare I say it that it is more fun.

Judy’s work done, she gets a deserved breather. Me, I’m off to bother some golf pros.

For four days I will have a team of experts tasked with trying to make an athlete of me, just as they can too.

The professional at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy shows off the latest golf technology, tracking machines, sensory guides et al, which can turn the most ordinary club member into a Rory or a Tiger, or on the odd shot at least. If you concentrate that is.

But there’s always one messer who gets distracted, in this case drawn to Paul McGinley’s buggy from when he captained Europe to victory at Gleneagles.

There’s a good reason why the big boys and girls get to play the South Course, one of three Championship courses here at Quinta while yours truly is kept to the driving range.

I do get to drive me a buggy, though not Paul McGinley’s golf cart which sensibly is kept where it is.

And I get to see the course, safely for me and the golfers, or at least that’s the plan until the boy racer in me kicks in and I cut up a buggy in front and almost drive into the lake that skirts one of the greens.

I dare say I would have come up with dozens of stray golf balls in my pockets.

Maybe I’ll fare better on two wheels.

Quinta do Lago means Farm by the Lake and Quinta is at great pains to keep human athletic exertions and the natural world in perfect harmony.

The Rio Formosa Reserve which runs parallel to the course is more geared to Shiny Ibises and Spoonbill birdies, and yes, get off your bikes and get your binos out and you really will see these fascinating birds scoop up their prey with spoonlike beaks.

I’d like to say I planned my disembarkation but the truth is I took one sandy corner too many and too sharply in my obsession to lead the party.

Eyebrows may be raised as my suitability to go back with the sensible ones on the roads, but hunger called.

That hunger was sated as it invariably is in these parts by the harvest of the seas.

The world literally is your piscine pleasure in these parts no fish is safe, so I felt not a pang of guilt in devouring Dory’s pals, the lobster, clams, prawns, seabass here at the island restaurant Casa do Lago, and more of that later.

There is a green in the water for diner/golfers to shoot at but it was wisely out of bounds for us on the day.

The appeal of The Campus is its infrastructure and expertise.

Why else would Premier League side Burnley, former Champions League winners Olympique Marseille and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand who runs a soccer camp come here. Or Irish Paralympian road race great Brian Rohan who runs The Bike Shed which is more, much more, than that.

Ask him politely and he might just allow you to hold one of his Olympic gold medals.

Of course, when it comes to sport we’re all of us experts and so I spend my last night at a sports bar, Dano’s, where I watch three matches simultaneously on the big screen (and who said that men could not multi-task?)

I’d like to say that all the games were thrillers but I was in my element all the same.

I was tackling, cleanly, a chicken casserole, to soak up the beer you understand while exchanging sporting trivia with my Portuguese hosts.

I was less good at the Halloween quiz but back myself against any Dancing Dad when the House band appears.

There’s always a price to pay though for revelry and that is invariably a sore head in the morning.

Yes, the art deco style Magnolia where we are staying specialises in fixing that too…

The Mag Burger, beef, bacon, cheese and lettuce burger and fries with a special peppery sauce the Chef, naturally, wasn’t sharing, and a pineapple, OJ, coconut and spinach smoothie!

I was feeling invincible and dived straight for the pool (yes, strictly against the rules).

And there by the poolside who was watching but Judy Murray.

Keeeep praaaaactising!

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail.

TRAVEL FACTS

How to get there: Ryanair (€70 return) and Aer Lingus (€78 return) fly to Faro. Visit www.ryanair.com and www.aerlingus.com.

Where to stay: Hotel Magnolia. Quinta do Lago, Portugal. Visit www.thehotelmagnoliaqdl.com. Book early to get 15% off on its Hot Summer Offer. A standard room €168 per night.

Important website: www.quintadolago.com

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FLYDAY FRIDAY

Murty, we have a problem!

This is your Captain speaking!

You may be experiencing some turbulence. And don’t worry if the Statue of Liberty looks a bit too close, I’ll endeavour to bring you all down safely.

Oops!

I am behind the wheel on my maiden flight in the Turkish Airlines simulator at their headquarters in Istanbul and it is set for New York JFK.

Thankfully the experts at TA HQ have it all covered, flight training, safety drills (chutes that they look to be having great fun sliding down and water pools).

I’m just back from Istanbul where I got the chance to see the spanking new Istanbul Airport which has the capacity for 200 million through passengers. Of course as varied as the charms are in Istanbul you don’t need to be in any rush to pass through.

Turkish Airlines Business Lounge is legendary and, of course, my golf game needed some work on it, so I gave it a swing at the simulator (not any use at that either) and had a whizz on the model toy racing cars too.

The TA Business lounge puts on the best spread I’ve seen in any airport in the world in their award-winning lounge with the best entertainment too, a cinema and numerous TV screens. And showers and beds.

Don’t fall asleep though or you’ll miss your flight back home. On second thoughts!

Economy class Dublin to Istanbul return with European Airline of the year Turkish Airlines from 325 (including taxes). Return business class from €1035 (including taxes). Business class includes the services of flying chefs, 337+ movies, 414 TV series, 756 albums and 17 games cartoon movies as well as wifi and live TV.

Visit http://www.turkishairlines.com, call (01) 525 1849, http://www.igairport.com. And look out for my coming review of Istanbul and some dodgy dancing pictures on a river cruise in the Bosphorus.

Calling all you geysers

Iceland has been at the top of many a travel list, probably since Gwyneth Paltrow endorsed it although I’d still recommend it in spite of her.

Icelandair is making it even more attractive. It has Dublin to Iceland for €78 one-way this month (based on return fare of €155), Saga Premium class €300 one-way (based on return fare of €599).

And now for the history bit…. it was an Icelander who discovered America, sorry Brendan and Chris! So, it’s good to see that it is a popular hub these days through which many of us now visit the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

So who’s the Icelander? Well, Leif Erikson, of course.

Leif established the Norse settlement of Vinland in the early 11th century, or wine land, and we like him already for that, on the northern tip of Newfoundland in modern-day Canada So that counts as North America for us, in the days before the States existed.

And Icelandair are keeping those links going with special offer prices for travel between August 26 and March 24.

Dublin to New York from €158 one way (based on a return), Toronto from €175 one way (based on a return), Boston from €193 one way (based on a return), Chicago for the same, Washington DC from €198 one way (based on a return), San Fransisco €225 one way (based on a return).

And many more, including Saga Premium class tickets to North America including a stopover for no extra wairfare. Visit http://www.icelandair.com or contact +44 (0) 20 7874 1000.

And when you’re in Iceland you can pay your own homage to Lief by popping by his homestead in Eiriksstadir farm in Haukadal in the western part of the iceland.

Flying by the seat of my pants

No excuse necessary for printing a picture of me lying back and doing nothing in the Dead Sea in Jordan.

All courtesy of British Airways who I flew business class with recently… and I’ll tell you all about it in a future review.

Suffice to say I was in a similar position in their magnificent reclining seats on-board with an in-seat massage putting me well at ease too.

Visit http://www.britishairways.com and Club World for best prices and features.

Hit the beaches

You been digging out your foreign phrasebooks, si?

Aer Lingus has up to 20% off on a number of destinations from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to sunny climes.

Starting from Split (Dublin only) from €52.99 with Palma (Dublin and Cork) at €56.99 and the gorgeous Malaga (Dublin, Cork and Shannon) from €65.99 with many, many others, it’s worth thumbing through the offers to see which one suits you.

Fares are one-way including taxes and charges. Travel between June 17 and August 31. Book by May 27. Visit http://www.aerlingus.com.

Toulouse to win

Sometimes I’m just too generous for my own good. But then some people deserve treats.

One such is the inimitable Muriel Bolger whom I sent away to Toulouse for the Irish Daily Mail to check out Concorde, the home of the iconic aeroplane and also Europe’s aviation centre, and also known for its culinary excellence.

You want to go now too. Well, Ryanair has a new flight from Toulouse to Dublin, due to launch at the end of October.

You know, you’ve got nothing to lose. Visit http://www.ryanair.com.

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES