Adventure, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Sport, UK

Irish Parclife – Center Parcs reopens

There are green shoots of recovery for the Irish Travel market with Center Parcs in Longford set to reopen from Thursday, July 13.

Home Park holidays have a long tradition in the UK with Center Parcs http://www.centerparcs.ie a fixture on the domestic scene.

And there was great fanfare when they dipped their toe into one of those fancy forest pools they have last August.

By opening a showpiece, or Centerpiece if you will, Parc in the Irish midlands.

Of course Center Parks have been robbed of four months of our custom by COVID-19.

But they haven’t been idle (as if) and are itching to reopen on July 13.

There will be:

  • Reduced numbers of guests on each break.
  • Changes to some activities to maintain social distancing.
  • An enhanced cleaning regime.
  • Changeds to arrival and departure times.
  • Cashless payment.
  • Online-only bookings and payment.
  • New take-away service offering contactless delivery to lodges.

We’ll have to wait for the Subtropical Swimming Paradise or Aqua San Spa until Monday, July 27.

Center Parcs has also introduced a ‘book with confidence’ guarantee which allows guests to cancel their break up to six days prior to arrival and still receive a full refund.

And as well as the Irish knowing that they’re lucky of course that they’re Irish here is another reason.

Center Parcs’ five UK villages remain closed in line with the UK Government’s timeline for easing lockdown.

You may have to wait in the queue for your karaoke shout-out. The Son and Heir did a mean Shakira in England’s Lake District http://www.haven.comWhile his Dad rocks Patti LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade from his visit to Orlando http://www.attractiontickets.com Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and See off Voldemort, then for a beer at Moe’s.

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

Disney opens its shop doors again

What do everyone’s favourite mouse and duck do during the COVID-19 crisis?

Well if you’ve missed Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Goofy and all their friends then here’s some good news.

The gang are back with the reopening of subcontracted shops at Disney Springs http://www.disneysprings.com in Orlando tomorrow.

And the World of Disney Store and Disney eating places from next Wednesday.

Mouse in a mask

With The Three Caballeros In Anaheim

We might have to wait to wrap ourselves in the arms of our favourite characters at first but a wave goes a long way.

And our pals also know how to keep us all cheerful with their dances and japes.

And while we’ll all (employees and guests) be required to wear masks and have our temperatures taken.

There’s nothing that says we can’t smile from behind our masks or laugh.

A Minnie-hug: In Orlando

Of course what we all want to know is when the theme parks will reopen and there’s further good news on that front too.

Universal Orlando reopened its CityWalk shopping and dining areas last week with strict new measures in place https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/terms-of-service/operations-update.

No more big queues

Homer run: With Homer and Bart at Universal

And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gave Disney https://www.disneyworld.co.uk and Universal Orlando https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/theme-parks/citywalk the OK to submit their reopening plans… watch this space.

Our experience will be different and mine’s in the past with http://www.atrractiontickets.com and http://www.visitorlando.com has been well, for want of a better word, magical.

See Why I love The Donald and Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and See off Voldemort, then for a beer at Moe’s.

But you can be sure that the great minds behind our animation favourites will be ahead of the curve.

And besides they already have some things already in place that can be applied to the ‘new normal.’

Such as the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue that will tell a guest when to return and join the physical line as guests with higher ‘boarding groups’ are processed.

In a theme park far, far away

And this will eliminate the need for long queues and who needs them? Certainly not me… http://Stair Wars

Our holiday providers are all facing a challenging time just now.

But remember they want nothing better than get us out to these, and again there’s no better word for it, magical places.

Magic Vacations, an Irish travel agent which is an official Disney partner, have come up with the bright idea of combining the magic of Ireland and that of Disney.

This deal is magic

To give clients who book a Magic Vacations holiday for 2021 to Disneyland Paris a one-night stay including breakfast in an equivalent 3 or 4-star hotel in Kinsale this Autumn.

So you’ll travel March 1-4 from Dublin/February 28-March 3 from Cork with flights from your nearest airport. (€55 supplement from Cork).

You’ll play €699pps with all meals included and flights, transfers, accommodation, €100 gift card, four days unlimited entry to Disneyland and a Meet & Greet.

With that night’s accommodation in Kinsale in November with full Irish breakfast for two guests included.

Contact (01) 40004433/(021) 4700568. See http://www.magicvacations.ie.

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

My Weekend With Marilyn

Goodbye Norma Jean!

So, this is where Marilyn finally found her rest from the lascivious attentions of the manipulative men who hounded her to her death.

Unsignposted and in an unassuming square at the back of a Los Angeles office block lies the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

But who’s this lying next to her?

Norma Jean

Only Playboy owner Hugh Hefner who bought the drawer next door for $75,000… he was surely the last man she would have wanted to spend eternity with.

Marilyn and Hefner had history.

It was Hefner who bought the nude pictures that she had posed for in her sallow youth before she became famous for just $500 and put them on his first cover of Playboy.

She never got a dime.

Stars align

Marilyn doesn’t deserve this company.

She should be shining brightest in a galaxy of stars.

And on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, she is.

The actress is one of 2,600 famous characters, human, animal, animated, immortalised on a mile and a half of sidewalk along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street.

Her hands and feet are outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre with the imprints of a century of Hollywood celebrities. 

Hers are worn out from the millions who have wanted to touch a bit of her.

If you feel her presence on the stairs of the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held then her spirit is playing tricks on you as her only appearance was at the nearby Pantages Theatre.

Still we all pose for a diva’s shot in homage to her anyway.

Marilyn seems to be everywhere I turn. I see her looking down, smiling from out of a window on Venice Beach.

And I’m wearing Bandanas by Murty

Brightly dressed and warm as the sun. We lift our heads from our catch of the day in Larry’s diner off the boardwalk, in my case the lightest calamari, and smile back.

Jim Morrison is all swagger on the other wall. 

Today’s Venice Beach though has its own characters, a rasta artist on rollerblades playing guitar, an old man who wheels his grand piano up the strand to tinkle the ivories.

And a random Latino Conor McGregor who is punching and kicking the hell out of a punchbag in the square.

In Southern California, or SoCal, it is all about the image, the Body Beautiful.

My kicks on Route 66: The end in Venice Beach

And this is where Californian body builders come to work out, at the outdoors Muscle Beach Gym, once the home of Arnold Schwarzenegger and ‘The Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno.

There’s always a show on, even if it is only the tourists posing by a muscleman mannequin on the boardwalk. Guilty!

Up the road in Santa Monica the busy pier gives little clue that this is the beach used for Baywatch.

All these nuggets and more are at the fingertips of our driver Chris from Starline Tours provided by our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct.

Muscle man

He tells us of a loose association with David Hasselhoff and a girl who was the Hoff’s Proms date.

I would be more impressed if Chris had dated Sandy… well, we do pass Rydell High.

And he shows us too the site of the party hotel, the Garden of Allah where Joni Mitchell hung out, and ‘they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.’

You’ll find today’s Hollywood celebrities hanging out in West Hollywood, so where better to bunk down?

Aye, aye Cap’n

The La Peer Hotel, just a couple of blocks down from Beverly Hills, its cop shop and Rodeo Drive, is a Kimpton.

It is a boutique hotel which is much more than that as befits West Hollywood, with its heated outdoors swimming pool as an extension of the bar.

The hotel’s restaurant Viale dei Romani serves up the best Italian food if you want to stay inhouse.

And I’d also recommend the Wood Grilled Octopus and its garden of warm potato salad, oil cured olives, preserved lemon and saffron aioli.

Hollywood party

But there are no shortage of great restaurants too to sample in West Hollywood where best of all you can also indulge in the favourite pastime of celeb-spotting.

And so we also visited Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump’s eponymous lounge and restaurant PUMP.

Where Lady Gaga made the news a few years back after falling outside on the sidewalk.

Lisa is there the night we dine on truffle mushroom chicken (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)

Now where’s that cop? Beverly Hills

Though no sign of Gaga. Perhaps the gay icon will be back the following week for Pride.

West Hollywood is already putting out the bunting for Pride when up to 200,000 will take to the streets.

Although, in truth, it is always in a state of readiness with its rainbow zebra crossings.

I’d recommend a night in one of the many friendly gay clubs, I even managed to walk, rather than fall out of.

Old LA

Although a bulky cop, or I think he was, reminded me that I couldn’t drink on the sidewalk.

If you want to get closer to the stars, get onto the right tours and get on the sets of the TV shows and movies we watch.

Our hosts Attraction Tickets Direct will help with pre-booking which will save precious time and money.

They will take you to Warner Studios where you can sit in the very same couch used in Central Perk in Friends or visit the Ellen set.

A day in Universal Studios Hollywood will immerse you in movie history and the future now.

We take a coach tour through the sets of Pyscho, Jaws, a Mexican town and through a tunnel where a scene from Fast and Furious is simulated all around us. Great fun.

Psycho anyone?

Great fun too the Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest cinema show with vibrating seats and water mist effects,.

While fans of rollercoaster rides will love The Simpsons and Harry Potter rollercoasters.

I prefer to sit back and watch others take the heat although I didn’t expect to see a stuntswomam set on fire in the Special Effects show.

All your favourite animated and sci-fi characters are here and all in great form, all happy to pose up.

No, he hasn’t a Scooby either

Shrek, Scooby-Doo, the Transformers, a dinosaur, no, not me, but a ‘real’ T-Rex which is trailing Jurassic World – The Ride.

We all have our favourites but it is the Boy Wizard who will always cast a spell on me.

Muggles, myself included, are besides themselves at the prospect of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure storycoaster in the sister resort in Orlando.

Universal Hollywood’s Potter experience feels smaller than its Orlando world but it is still intimate and enchanting.

And its Dark Arts light show is a thundering good jape with a cascade of creepy crawlies climbing up to attack a crumbling Hogwarts Castle in the dead of night.

Magical: The Potter show

Only for the forces of good to prevail, all against a heart-pounding musical score and moral message.

And that it seems is Hollywood and the LA story in a nutshell, an aspirational, illusory dream sequence.

Where you can stand in the Hollywood Hills, and you can hike up to the Griffith Observatory and view the iconic letters.

Or take a waitering job and hope to serve a Steven Spielberg.

Or get your star on the Walk of Fame.

A couple of proper Charlies

It’s a rollercoaster journey all right and you can’t pick who you’re next too but I did spot four stars unfilled…

And I reckon I’d be a more than deserving candidate for one of them.

I’ve been an angel

HOW TO GET THERE

Jim flew with Aer Lingus from Dublin Airport with pre-clearance to LAX.

WHERE TO STAY

La Peer Hotel is quintessentially West Hollywood with bright, funky finishings, spacious and comfortable bedrooms and fine and filling food. As well as a heated swimming pool and fitness centre. Doubles from approximately €315 per night. Visit www.lapeerhotel.com.

She vants to be alone

ACTIVITIES

Deluxe Grand City Tour with Starline from €73pp.

Hollywood Hills guided hike – departing from the Greek Theatre. It’s a 2.5 hour gentle hike, offering mountain and city views and photo opportunities of the Hollywood sign. The tour ends at the Griffith Park Observatory (admission included). From €46pp.

Starlight Dinner Cruise from Marina Del Rey’s. From €107pp (not including drinks).

Universal Studios Hollywood – one-day admission ticket from €96pp/Express Pass from €167pp/VIP Experience from €305pp.

Visit www.attractionticketsdirect.ie or call free on (01) 6498558.

Adventure, America, Countries, Deals

Holidos and don’ts – Rollercoasters

Every holiday has its ups and downs and rollercoaster holidays have more than most.

Of course you’re probably a big fan of the corkscrews otherwise you wouldn’t have booked this type of holiday.

Well, maybe, but then it could be a family holiday and Himself or Junior are the rollercoaster junkies.

Me, I’m a nervous rollercoaster but I will put myself forward.

Well, someone has to make a dent in it

But as tempting as it is may be you ought to miss out on the bacons, sausages, eggs, omelettes, pancakes and muffins.

Particularly if you’ve been down at the Irish duelling piano bar Pat O’Brien’s in Orlando https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/things-to-do/dining/pat-o-briens.

And CityWalk’s Rising Star karaoke club. https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/things-to-do/entertainment/rising-star-karaoke Doing giant Hurricane cocktails and shots.

Been there, done that

In my unforgettable trips Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and Why I love The Donald with https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us and https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/en_GB/.

Don’t overdo the Duff at Moe’s

Motion sickness tablets: Right you get to the rollercoasters and your tummy starts doing somersaults.

You want to go on but you worry that you’ll bring up your breakfast over that cute excited little girl in front of you.

And that’s where motion sickness tablets come in handy.

Choose your rollercoaster: Don’t be a hero.

My old pal Colin is as tough a bloke as you’ll meet and will run through brick walls on a football field.

But he doesn’t like big dippers. That’s fine, there are plenty of attractions, funky characters and food… on the ground!

While some of us love a corkscrew or a loop the loop while others (me) like a vertical drop.

Harry’s game

And then there are those 4D carts like you get in Harry Potter which tilt and play with your senses.

To give the illusion that you are riding on your broomstick around Hogwarts Castle.

And playing quidditch with Ron Weasley.

The feeling of disorientation will pass, the memories never will.

 

All that was left were the glasses

For many of us (me) we feel safer if we have water to cushion the fall.

And so for me it was Wet ‘n Wild Orlando which alas closed in 2016.

Dropping down through a trap door down the chute and round some loops

Before thundering into the final splash was one of the most exhilarating rides of my life.

So, Wet ‘n Wild has gone, you’ve still got Aquatica.

And in California

Disneyland Park, Anaheim https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/?CMP=OKC-dlr_themeparks_gmap_38 has it all.

And now something else again which for you Star Wars fans is something else again… Stair Wars

The way to do any of these theme parks, of course, is priority booking.

And the people to do it with are Attraction Tickets www.attractiontickets.com.

MEET YOU ON THE BIG DIPPER

America, Countries, Culture

California, the Golden Globes State

My preening, diffident waiter at Vanderpump’s will be ignoring another customer because they aren’t Golden Globes royalty.

But such is reality in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Hollywood www.visitcalifornia.com.

Home of the worst waiters in the world where your order will be late and wrong if it comes at all.

Unless you’re Lady Gaga, a regular at Vanderpump’s who is known to fall out of the eaterie, which I must confess I’m not.

Hello, sailor: La Peer Hotel, West Hollywood

Lisa’s food though is worth waiting for and obviously she was in the night we visited.

When we were staying as guests of Attraction Tickets www.attractiontickets.com and my favourite boutique hotel chain Kimpton’s.

Peerless

And their West Hollywood base, La Peer Hotel https://www.lapeerhotel.com/?utm_source=Google%20My%20Business&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=GMB&utm_term=lapeer.

And you’ll be able to roll up at the bar and then into the pool which I might just have tried out.

Celebrity spotting is an everyday pastime in SoCal, Southern California.

And I was fortunate enough to see and meet a host of them at the American Travel Fair www.ipw.com which was being hosted by Anaheim www.visitanaheim.org.

Natasha Bedingfield, Jason Derulo, the Beach Boys, Snoop Dogg…

The biggest stars for me though in La La Land are the living legends, those who will never die.

Such as Marilyn Monroe who still parades the Walk of Fame near her star and hand prints…

Lying with Marilyn

I spent a weekend with Marilyn: in Venice Beach and at her last resting place in LA where a very unwelcome neighbour moved in.

And the Walt Disney family… http://www.disneyland.disney.go.comMickey, the Donald, Goofy et al.

Mickey and The Donald

All of whom will throw their giant furry hands and paws open for you when you visit the Happiest Place on Earth https://disneyland.disney.go.com/?CMP=OKC-dlr_lodging_gmap_25.

Pleased to see you

Lurking though when we arrived though were some inhospitable Storm Troopers…

It was all part of the schtick with the showcasing of the new Star Wars world at Disney…

As well done as it was though I still come to Disney for a cuddle.

But maybe Princess Leia was hiding?

My Star Wars pals at Disney

Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com flies direct to LAX with pre-clearance from Dublin and Shannon.

The national airline carrier has a deal on for travel as part of a return trip between April 1 until June 15 from €249.61.

Book by January 21.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD