America, Countries, Culture, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Ale to the Chief – American Beer Day

And a confession here. I didn’t take to American beer when I first visited the country back when I was 17.

Probably because I was below the legal drinking age, although it helps when your Auntie runs a bar, and a Queens institution at that.

And your cousin is a wild one.

But it’s just that Bud Lite or Miller Lite didn’t do it for me, too Lite, really.

I don’t have time to get my hair cut

But when I returned a few years later, for a summer working in Boston after university I discovered Sam Adams and that was it.

Now since I’ve become a regular visitor, and observer of America and all things American in recent years, I’ve made it a personal mission to sample more beer.

So here are my United Tastes of America.

Virginia blonde

This year’s blonde: in Virginia

Virginia: Now I love a beautiful blonde as much as the next man, I married one after all who is gooder than any.

So who was I to turn down a tour which incorporated two of my favourite things, Beer and Battlefields?

Happen the Union and the Confederate soldiers partook of some corn beer themselves before or after they took to the Manassas battlefield.

They deserved it.

And here am I at an old schoolhouse in Ben Lomond doing a tasting. Every day is a schoolday!

Mississippi sippy

And something worth singing about: Mississippi

Deep South; I swear I enjoyed an Ole Miss but maybe that’s just the beer talking.

Although there was a Sinister Minister (insert gag here).

This being the Deep South you want a good ole ranch-type bar where you can grab something (everything) deep fried with grits.

And whether it was just our party (or a thing) but cash in your vouchers for your beers… surely the answer in our Covid times.

Anyhoos in Memphis, Tennessee, Cleveland and Jackson, Mississippi I partook…. and I still think I’ve got a couple vouchers left in a drawer.

Beers to make you goofy

And drink it on the Big Bang set

Anaheim, California: And there’s always one… and usually two, three, four or five who take up the invitation to ask a question.

I mean do you really want to know about the mashing process when you could be drinking the best pale ale?

If you’re from the Orange County you’ve probably just be coming off the Socially Distanced Anaheim Oktoberfest.

But you will be interested in Anaheim Brewery‘s Beer to Go offers, Tuesdays through to Sundays.

In bottles (by the six-pack or case) with Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Red, Anaheim Hefeweizen, Coast to Coast IPA and Oktoberfest IPA.

Or in growlers which are demi-packs – 150th Anniversary Ale, Fruity Wheat Anaheim 1888, Anaheim Gold, Anaheim Red, Anaheim Hefeweizen, Oktoberfest Lager and Coast to Coast IPA.

Colorado, the Golden Nirvana

And the Rockies water is the secret

Colorado: You’ve got to be able to back it up if you claim to be the beer capital of the States, but Denver can.

While Colorado boasts more than 425 breweries and counting.

The Denver Milk Market is a misnomer… it’s in the old milk district.

While all beer lovers will feel the pull of Golden, in the apron of the Rockies.

It is, of course, the home of Coors, but so much more,

As Travis Rupp, Classics professor at the University of Colorado and beer archaeologist at Avery Brewery will tell you.

Now which to pick from? Well because I love a blonde! A Belgian Blue Moon.

And if you love a beer then here’s how some of my favourite fellow boozists do it.,. in Belgium and the Czech Republic.

So where’s your favourite drinking spot in America and what beer should I drink.

Let me know and we’ll share.

MEET YOU IN THE BAR

America, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Le Tour de Friends

You’d think you’d get splendid isolation at the top of the most cycled climb, Le Col du Tourmalet, but you don’t. It’s the Tour de Friends!

I have a chequered history of cycling which shouldn’t qualify me to join my fellow Scot Robert Millar in that chequered shirt as King of the Mountains.

Hiring bikes with the-then Miss F in Cabanas in the Algarve I was eating dust yards into our ride.

There’s always another mountain

While I also took a turn too sharply in the Ria Formosa in Quinta Do Lago and almost ended up in the lake.

But that didn’t put me off when I started working nights and opted to cycle in and, out of Edinburgh, through Holyrood Park to the office.

And I’ve got the lead

Never mind the Tour de France, the Tour d’Edinburgh is the real endurance test!

I’ve had lads party spray paint me when I was on my bike, been waterbombed and been knocked off my bike.

And I even had time to drop off for a bier

But I got there in the end… ‘on top of the world, Ma.’

With a little help from my friends.

I’ll let you into a secret here. I only borrowed a real rider’s bike at the top of the Pyrenees… don’t tell.

Mind you this is the Tour where the rules are there to be bent.

Whaddya mean? This is refuelling

The Tour started this weekend and I’m thinking they’ll have a devil of a time stopping the public come out to cheer.

Vive Le Tour!

And newsflash here from A Queer in Provence who has sent me his vlog on Le Grand Depart from Nice…. https://youtu.be/XQ2Udd7rcLg

Paralympic heroes

Prize guy: Ireland’s Paralympic hero Mark Rohan

As a young lad running around the UK’s boggy fields and dirty streets I always envisaged that I would get my hands on Olympic gold.

The Olympics’ loss was Newspapers’ gain.

But destiny was calling when I met Irish Paralympian hero Brian Rohan at The Campus in Quinta do Lago.

I’d thought of running off with his medal but he’d have hunted me down in that dream machine.

The Paralympics were due to have started this weekend… but it will be back in Japan next year. Don’t miss it!

Chuck me a hot dog

Fan-tastic… the Angels in Anaheim

With two thousand fans being allowed in at Brighton’s ground for their friendly with Chelsea.

And Scottish rugby bringing back a sprinkling of supporters into Murrayfield for the Glasgow v Edinburgh match.

It beggars the question… how do we get fed?

Well, here’s something we could take from American sport… the chucked hot dog.

Where’s the mustard?

As I lapped up (including the mustard) at the California Angels game in Anaheim.

Maybe pass the Bovril along the line though.

MEET YOU AT THE BALL GAME

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Life’s a drag… queen

There’s no photographic evidence that it ever happened and I don’t know what it says about the ‘nurse’ who agreed to date the drag queen me.

Nursie clearly had second thoughts the following day and didn’t turn up at the bar.

Although my much-storied Australian flatmates had great fun in telling me every five minutes that I’d missed her.

All of which diva prancing around (the occasion was a student ‘Tarts and Tramps’ party.

Oh Nicki, you’re so fine: Ms Minaj

Where the guys dressed as women and the women as hobos) brings me to RuPaul’s new season of Drag Race which also showcases Nicki Minaj and Michelle Visage.

Which is, thanks to Daddy’s Little Girl, a big fave in our house.

I particularly love RuPaul and the beautifully pink Trini, that’s Trinidadian and Tobagonian to you and me Nicki Minaj.

And as you know I love a bit of colour and make-up and slapped it on in Tobago in December.

While Nicki also likes to tear it up at Tobago carnival… www.tobago.gov.tt and Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago. And https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=lt9dXQ-YmZ8.

All of which stuff and nonsense allows me to talk about the divine divas I’ve sashayed with on my travels.

Sugsr bum-bum: The Drag Race girls

Vegas baby

Cami, Las Vegas: What happens in Harrah’s in Vegas stays in Harrah’s in Vegas.

Dance the night away

And when that mad. glad joint off the Strip kicks into life again then myself, my travel companions and Cami who comes down from Utah will be there.

Now who wants a shot… and a drink too?

Visit www.lvcva.com and Strip… the light fantastic

Pride of Barcelona

Pride, Barcelona: Barca. the football team may be the pride of the Catalonians.

And Lionel Messi… but how about Lionel Missy?

I’ve been watching too much Drag Race… my favourite is Heidi N Closet from Missouri.

While my Drag Name is Shirley Brassy.

But sun on your back, on the streets of Barcelona with a Sangria Familia is where to spend Pride.

And it’s the perfect place to kick off your cruise when we get back on the water.

Visit https://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/, and www.msc.com.

Dee-Dee and Me-Me

Purple reigns in Barbados

Dee-Dee, Barbados: Don’t smudge my make-up, mon.’

But the husky-voiced Dee-Dee broke out a smile that was as warm as the Barbados night on Crop Over at Barbados Carnival.

I was in for a dime in for a Bajan dollar with my purple painted beard.

Visit https://www.visitbarbados.org and My kiss with Rihanna.

LA is my laddie

LA -La

LA ladies, Anaheim: ‘At last my man has come along’… she could have been singing to me at Platinum Triangle in Anaheim on Pride night.

We stole a moment later and a pic for my scrapbook.

But what kind of gentleman am I… I forgot her name and didn’t call.

Visit https://visitanaheim.org www.visitcalifornia.com and My Weekend With Marilyn.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

My Sporting Weekend – Virtual Van Dijk

It’s a reality check… and the big sports shutdown means that, without Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool to watch, we’ll have to go to sports games for our fix.

Now video games have come a long way since we were using solid bars to knock square balls over solid line nets… we called it tennis.

And it was a Christmas present I’d pestered my parents for for weeks only to lose interest in it before the new year.

So where does this bring us as far as our travels… well, it’s to flag up games which we can play online.

And practise our chess skills, card-playing and scrabble craft for when we can get back on the road playing away.

Chess: And it’s those stone tables we see in parks.

And when we went to New York on a family holiday on the Halloween before Barack Obama’s election…

We ended up playing chess in McArthur Park with a dude who claimed to have been Bobby Fisher’s regular opponent back in the day.

When you’re in New York’s parks do me a favour and look for Alexander Hamilton… see www.nycvb.com.

Now keeping to the subject matter of games you can play by yourself (now keep it clean).

Play your cards right

Cards: After all, the plan is to get out to Las Vegas again this year for the American Travel fair.

And meet up again with the guys and gals on The Strip Strip… the light fantastic and www.lvcva.com.

And some real sports

Now there are any number of real sports you can play.

And as it goes I’m far better on screen than in real life. So here goes…

Swinging time

Golf: I’ve tried my hand at the Old Course in Cannes when I was chastised for not shouting ‘quatre’…. The Boat D’Azur and www.france.fr.

And also shot the neon lights out on a driving range in Vegas.

While I’d perfected my swing by the time I’d got to Paul McGinley’s Golf Academy in Quinta do Lago… Secret Portugal and www.visitportugal.com.

While on the court

Tennis: And it was on that trip to the state-of-the-art complex The Campus that I was put through my paces by Judy Murray.

Yes, tennis, but obviously dancing too. See www.quintadolago.com.

It was obviously the command of the angles I’d learned at that old video game.

Home run

Baseball: The 40-minute daily DART train journey from Greystones, Co. Wicklow to Dublin would drag.

And even allowing for the beautiful seaside vistas I would find myself perfecting my home runs.

So that the guys at the Washington Nationals didn’t have to tell me how to grip it and rip it when I got in the batting cage… www:washington.org. And Easy DC.

Our countries have become more assimilated culturally.

But back in the early Eighties I was baffled by the hand-held computer game my New York cousin Eddie was playing.

Touchdown

American Football: Where they only kick the ball to start and restart and to convert.

And where success is measured in territory gained, like warfare, which their players are togged up for.

My old friends at Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com have been sponsoring a biannual American College Football game at the Aviva Stadium.

Which we (me, the Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl) attended although I’m not sure it held the wife’s attention as deep into the third quarter she asked..,

‘Are you allowed to throw the ball forward?’

Me? The best bit about American Football is the cheerleaders, and I have my own Bandanettes. See Go West and www.denver.org.

Slam dunk

Basketball: Breaking into the sports desk in my first job in Reading in the south of England I covered what were seen as minority sports.

I didn’t get myself to an NBA game on my travels to the US but picked up the talk from the TV on early-morning chat shows and pub talk.

In Memhis who boast the Grizzlies, on my American Trilogy… https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The Promised Land, The Story of the Blues and https://www.deep-south-usa.com.

The puck stops here

Ice Hockey: Early in my sports-writing career I would draw my inspiration from the great writers (and them me).

The doyen of American Sports AJ Liebling opined: ‘I went to a fight and an ice hockey game broke out.’

And so, yes, I flicked the puck on the floor (it was out if season so not iced up) at the Anaheim Ducks https://visitanaheim.org and www.visitcalifornia.com.

But I also charged into a wall, although I didn’t take anyone with me.

MEET YOU ONLINE

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe

Thirteen years an Irishman – My Sporting Weekend Five

There’s a symmetry to my long farewell arriving at the Aviva today and Ireland v Scotland in the Six Nations Rugby Championship.

And here’s me full-throated and fully tanked getting into the spirit of it… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7LM0FaU5rDw&feature=youtu.be

Scotland and Ireland are, of course, the two countries that are in my blood.

I’ve developed it as a mantra on my travels to go where the locals play and pray.

I’ll do the praying bit tomorrow… well it is Sunday, but today it’s five of the best of Bandanaman at play.

Judy’s a smasher

Murray and Murty in Portugal

Quinto da Lago, Portugal: Tennis (and dancing) lessons with Judy Murray, and padel, the squash-tennis hybrid beloved of John Terry and Max Evans.

Paul McGinley’s Golf Academy where I knocked it into the next country.

And getting my name emblazoned on my back at The Campus, the hi-tech training camp used by Premier League and international teams.

And visit https://www.quintadolagocc.com/en/special-offer-winter?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgOuMk7-t5wIVx7HtCh1z6wW-EAAYAiAAEgLkYPD_BwE.

Get your skis on

Franz Klammer, eat your heart out

Austria: Trudging down the black run in Soll after getting off the gondola.

And hammer and nail games in the Whisky Muhle bar https://www.wilderkaiser.info/en/soell/info/whiskey-muehle.html. Soll Mates.

And tearing the arse out of my trousers sledding In Ehrwald with Topflight https://topflightforschools.ie.

Racing with goats

Tobago: As you do… it’s their Cheltenham, and my goat is Bandanaman, obviously.

And racing (well, crawling) with crabs, the animal that is, not the ailment.

And swimming under the waterfalls. https://www.visittobago.gov.tt/go-experience

Meet you at the ball park

America: In the batting pen at the Washington Nationals https://washington.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvqm8-cet5wIVmKztCh36xg_8EAAYASAAEgLLX_D_BwE, Easy DC,

Inside the Colorado Rockies stadium in Denver https://washington.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvqm8-cet5wIVmKztCh36xg_8EAAYASAAEgLLX_D_BwE and at the game at the Los Angeles Angels https://visitanaheim.org.

With my cheerleaders at the Denver Broncos Go West and with Wildwing (don’t ever call him Donald) at the Anaheim Ducks.

Get on your bike (or car)

Bring on the Tour

Cycling up the most used route on the Tour de France!!

On my trip to Lourdes (I’ll get onto the praying tomorrow) and the Pyrenees https://visitpyrenees.com.au and The Lourdes prayer.

MEET YOU AT THE GAME

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Flying

13 years an Irishman

Some people just get more handsome with age…

The last piece of the jigsaw: With Laurie at the start

Purple reigns

Barbados: Foreday Morning at the Crop Over carnival and rum.

Meeting the legendary Brian Lara and asking if he liked cricket, rum.

Winning a limbo competition. Soca music. And rum. Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna. Visit www.visitbarbados.org.

Our war heroes

My Great Uncle’s grave in Flanders

Flanders and the Somme: Presenting the wreath at the Last Post at Menin Gate.

Finding my Great-Uncle’s grave in Ieper and his brother’s name on the Thiepval arch.

Drinking one of Tom’s 100-plus beers in Tom’s Bierhaus out of a horn in a wooden clasped implement. In Flanders fields.

And https://gtitravel.ie and https://www.visitflanders.com/en/?country=en_GB and https://www.visit-somme.com/great-war.

Natasha, LA and I

Los Angeles and Southern California: These words are her own… Natasha Bedingfield.

Marilyn, Donald Duck, The Beach Boys, Jason Derulo.

And Star Wars’ Galaxy Edge. California, the Golden Globes State. Visit https://visitanaheim.org, https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/?CMP=OKC-dlr_themeparks_gmap_38.

Better Dead than Red

Mud, glorious mud

Jordan: Floating in the Dead Sea, obviously. Snorkelling in the Red Sea.

Site of John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus Jordan/Israel and Moses looking out onto The Promised Land in Mt Nebo.

Petra, Indiana Jones et al and Wadi Rum and Lawrence of Arabia. See G Adventures www.gadventures.com and www.visitjordan.com. The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

American Trilogy

With Fannie Lou Hamer in Misssissippi

Memphis and Mississippi: Martin Luther King, Myrlie Evers, The Underground Railroad.

BB King, Beale Street, Stax Records.

Elvis, Graceland, Sun Studio.

Visit https://visitmississippi.org and https://www.memphistravel.com. And my American Trilogy… The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

Under African skies

Sisseko, me and Nelson

South Africa: Tigers, Springboks, rhinos with their horns sawn off.

Bottlenose blue dolphins, spekboom, the magic plant which is countering climate change.

Nelson Mandela, xhosa, that clicking language which our guide Sisseko and Madeba speak and the Voting Line sculpture in Port Elizabeth.

And I’ve only scratched the surface… What’s new pussycat? And www.southafrica.net.

Tomorrow: My Sporting Five