America, Countries, Music

RESPECT Aretha and me

RESPECT Aretha and me. And to mark the imminent release of the biopic of Aretha Franklin, a walk in her footsteps.

The Queen of Soul was born into music.

The daughter of a Memphis Baptist Minister, he was ‘the man with the million dollar voice’, CL Franklin.

Mum Barbara being a singer and pianist then there was only one thing Aretha was going to do with her life.

Musical legacy

Early days: Aretha

We, of course, associate Aretha most with Detroit, where the Frankins decamped to when she was two, via Buffalo, NY.

The route north was a well-trodden one for a more prosperous life. 

Either to the Eastern Seaboard or the Northern Cities of Detroit and Chicago.

All of which created musical magic with Motown and Chicago Blues.

But, of course, that sound was formed in the black churches of the Deep South.

And taking a tangent here to recommend The   Black Church: This is our story, this is our song.

Which is on the excellent PBS, the American Public Broadcasting Service.

Winner, winner, US diner

I’m looking at you: Aretha

Aretha, of course, was an actress as well as a singer.

And she gave an unforgettable cameo performance in the Blues Brothers.

As she gave a ball-breaking ultimatum to her husband and fellow cafe owner…

Trying to keep him from the clutches of Jake and Elwood getting the band back together… Think.

Aretha, of course, has transcended the cities where she put down her music.

And you’ll find her sung out across the land, across the world.

It’s the instinctive go-to singer in an American diner.

And ny jukebox pick

Off for a jig: Aretha

In my case DC when a regular, down on his luck, gave me his life story.

RESPECT Aretha and me. And Jennifer Hudson who is a stick-on guarantee in the part.

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Music

30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes

We are on UN’s red code to Save the World and 30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes since I first heard Julian Lennon’s song,  Rainy Days and Songdays now hails those singers who’ve been addressing the crisis for years.

When will there be?

Sweet music: Isley Brothers

Harvest for the World (Isley Brothers): Gather every man, gather every woman, Celebrate your life, give thanks for your children, gather everyone, gather altogether, overlookin’ none, hopin’ life gets better for the world.

The sonorous tones of Cincinnati, Ohio’s finest, carry on them a wonderfully stripped-back message we can all take on board.

My own focus on Cincinnati has been honed since sending one of my writers there back in the day.

I’d plan out the travel pieces they came back with early in the week for the weekend publication and was relaxing in the Dylan Hotel, Amsterdam (as you do) having mapped out the early draft.

When said writer texted me in a panic saying I’d misspelt Cincinnati and that this was jeopardising his contacts with them.

Despite it, of course, being an early draft and me being back in the office two days later. Hey ho, between us we gave the Cincinnatians what they wanted a justifiable celebration of their city.

Don’t it always seem to go?

Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell): And the Canadian chanteuse always caught the zeitgeist with her uniquely on-point lyrics.

‘They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum and charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em’ refers to the Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu.

Encroaching tourism is as big, if not bigger, threat than when Joni and the other hippies were trailing a blaze. Go and see it before they ruin it.  

Welling in my eye

Saltwater (Julian Lennon): It’s 30 years since John’s boy released this song, a classic in its own right.

And when I hear about the hole in the sky saltwater wells in my eyes.

And alas it’s getting bigger Julian. 

The right Cash

Don’t Go Near The Water (Johnny Cash): The King of Country was a lifelong advocate for ecology and the American landscape. 

And you can learn more about his passion for Nature at his museum in Nashville.

Johnny. of course, was a man of the land, Arkansas in his case, and he would turn in his grave…

Bob’s the job

The Sun Is Shining (Bob Marley): Marley, of course, loved the land so much he tried to smoke it all.

But joking aside his Rasta songs were inspired by a union with Nature.

Chicago‘s The Rock and Roll Playhouse knew it and held an Earth Day celebration concert featuring tunes by the great master of reggae two years ago.

To the rescue… here I am.

If only… because 30 years of saltwater welling in my eyes something has to be done.

 

 

Africa, America, Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Route 66 in an electric car

It’s the world’s favourite road trip… but get your kicks on Route 66 in an electric car.

In the style of this site, of course, I’m working backwards!

I’ve forgotten something

At the end of Route 66, Santa Monica Pier, Southern California, on a scorching summer day.

Or a motorbike

Rev up: For Route 66

Your motorbike, the cooler choice, will have to pull up before the pedestrianised pier, and landmark.

We were first introduced to Route 66 from the classic song where we were encouraged to get our kicks.

As an introduction we are told it’s 2000 miles from Chicago to LA.

Smalltown America

There are bridges too

And in time-honoured American songs fashion a list of smalltown US follows and states.

We get Saint Looey, Joplin Missouri, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff Arizona, Winona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino…

You get the picture.

And yes, I still have to get those stickers for my luggage.

Although I have a clunking keyring to fool people into thinking I‘ve done the hipsters’ highway.

Why am I flagging up Route 66 today? Well, why not?

But it also tops a survey commissioned by Continental Tyres for the new Extreme-E.

The Great Road Trips

Drive your ass off: On Route 66

Route 66 holds off Pacific Coast Highway and the Great Ocean Road in Australia for the top spot.

Wild Atlantic Way

While a cursory glance of the top ten also highlights Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and South Africa’s Garden Way.

Now like all of those with adventure in out blood I have relished getting out on the road though perhaps not the iconic ones.

Snow in Mississippi

Rocket man: In Mississippi

And so I drove/was driven through the flatlands of the Blues Trail in Mississippi on my Deep South odyssey.

Where I fell asleep through the repetition and woke up with the fields covered white.

And, no, I wasn’t dreaming. Mississippians call cotton Snow.

Driven around the bend

Magical mystery tour: In Baviaanskloof

Or our own circuitous route around Monaghan’s townlands trying to find the Patrick Kavanagh Centre.

And being driven aimlessly around a South African park in the Eastern Cape late at night.

And that’s why the Lord gave zebras white stripes

Continental Tyres runs down the top 10 UK road trips and Scotland takes the plaudits with its North Coast 500.

While it’s good to see the Coastal Circuit in Northern Ireland getting a namecheck too.

The vital spark

Now electric cars are to be commended but I’m not sure how popular they would be with the Route 66 set.

I mean how many charging points would you need over that 2,000 mile expanse.

Never mind keeping up the cool quotient.

But the highway’s going nowhere and you’ll get longer to enjoy it.

So Get your kicks on Route 66 in an electric car.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

It’s a crime… police dramas around the world

Excitement is building to fever pitch ahead of the resumption of police drama Line of Duty on March 21 which allows us to explore police dramas around the world.

Hastings’ landscape

Europa living In Belfast

Belfast: I can’t find evidence but it must be true that Superintendent Ted Hastings is named after Belfast’s faves Hastings Hotels.

The seahorse on the wall of the Great Central Hotel is your compass wherever you go in the Northern Irish capital.

That is if you can drag yourself out of the Observatory bar atop the hotel where you get the best views.

And where James Nesbitt opens his Bloodlands detective drama.

Adrian Dunbar on the Graham Norton Show watches Vicky McLure at his Line of Duty mural

Hastings, aka Adrian Dunbar in Line of Duty has been immortalised.

As are all they take to their heart and allow to film in their city.

By having their image set as a mural… and be sure to take a black taxi tour around Belfast.

Check in at the Europa Hotel, part of the story, and get ready for a potted history of The Troubles.

Mob rules

Vegas baby

Once upon a crime in America: And everywhere there is an American dream there is a big job to realise that dream.

You can see how Las Vegas was built by Bugsy Siege.

And The Mob in Chicago in the Mob Museum and channel your inner Al Capone.

Call him Fonz

Tom Hardy as Capone in the Netflix dramas

Fonz Capone is synonymous of course with Chicago.

Where he was invited from New York by Johnny Torrio, and ended up running the city.

The invitations have piled up over the years for me to visit Chicago but the big job has eluded me thus far.

Last year was to be me marking the centenary of the Volstead Act which beckoned in Prohibition.

And I was all set to join one of the retro tours

My cocktail will be all the sweeter when I do get there…

I’ll just have to watch at the speakeasy doors for the cops.’

Florida where he ditched the Al

Miami vices and Capone

We never did find out why Mae Capone insisted to the police watching the house: ‘We don’r call him that [Al] here.’

Here is Palm Beach, near Miami, where the syphilitic Capone spent his last days under house arrest deep in the doo-doo (literally).

You can see it all in graphic detail on Netflix’s Capone, starring Tom Hardy.

Italy, the Old Country

The Old Country, Sicily

Of course Fonz (or Al) and la famiglia are really all just displaced Sicilians.

Visitors to Sicily will always head for Mt Etna until it gets too hot to handle.

But for those who stay awhile and see Taormina then a Godfather tour is highly recommended.

This one I’ve stumbled across includes a Fiat 500 {Cinquecento)and me and the Cinquecento have history.

When I stalled in the car park in the French Riviera and the good monsieur took over.

I’m not sure whether Capone would be so understanding.

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A year on – Ireland and Scotland and further afield

That was the year that was – it’s 12 months now since I left my beloved Ireland for my first love Scotland.

I had though little intention of spending all my time in Scotia.

And instead had a long list of destinations to fill out the year.

So to mark the anniversary I’ll share the year that never was.

Off to a flier in Czech Hoptown

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery, Prague, in the Czech Republic

The Chinese lady with the mask on in the airport in Prague Airport seemed a curio at the time, a reminder of the latest virus that only affects Asia.

A few weeks later the fun and intimacy of the Czech Republic  were but a warm embrace I clung onto as I entered lockdown in Scotland for the first time.

As I came out of isolation I engaged with my Czech friends again over the new-fangled Zoom app we were all compelled to use and toasted each other in time-honoured fashion Na Zdravie.

I was heartened to see them lay out a table for a feast along the Charles Bridge in the early summer and wished that I was back there again in Prague or in the Czech Republic’s Hoptown, Zatec.

I know this though that the Czechs will get through this because they have the best beer in the world, Pilsener Urquell.

Trump steals my Keys

Limin’ at a Key Lime shop in the Keys

Suitcase packed, bandana on, I was all set for my fly-drive around the Florida Keys when Donald Trump (remember him) closed the country to visitors while encouraging Americans to gather… at his rallies.

And so Hemingway’s six-toed cats, key line pie, Florida sunsets and easy living will just have to wait.

Of course the beauty of it is that Papa’s pussies won’t have had any idea that anything was even different about the past year.

Exile me in St Helena

Napoleon was here

And another on the back-burner is Napoleon’s island. No, not his birthplace, Corsica, or the one the British sent him to initially, Elba, but the one where he ended his days, St Helena.

St Helena, 1200 mile west of southwestern Africa is one of the most remote inhabitable islands in the world and is an ecological dream.

All of which makes you think that exile was a pretty good option back in the day. And if I end up needing to self-isolate anywhere then I’ll be back in touch.

Vegas or bust

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

Now I’ve always felt bad about leaving Cami from Utah at the bar at Harrah’s Las Vegas a few years ago and knowing she goes down there every weekend knew that she’d be there when I revisited in June.

The American Travel Fair was scheduled for Neon City and I was all booked and ready, my chips at the ready to make my million.

But alas I had to leave Cami waiting again and to get my fix of Vegas I had to make do with watching the world’s greatest band The Killers perform from the ceiling of Caesars Palace on YouTube.

The fair, IPW is slated for the Fall, and I’ll be expecting an Access All Areas ticket, Brandon.

And maybe even reprising my Mr Brightside from the Rising Star Karaoke Bar, CityWalk at Universal Orlando a few years ago.

The Norman request

Perfect for a selfie?

I would have put my Monet on getting to Normandy

for the Monet festival back in late summer.

And even get a painting lesson in his back garden.

But as the UK travel corridor policy became as chaotic as the Spinal Tap boys trying to get to their gigs, again I found myself blocked.

Now what is the French word for cup-de-sac?

Bergamo go, go, go

Bergamo fountains

And just as the year was petering out and I was resigning myself to my best chance of a trip down to North Berwick beach, Mamma Mia but one came off.

And in spectacular style.

The journalist in me had me tracking the evolution of Bergamo through the pandemic, it being the gateway to the virus in Europe.

And just in time I got over to Northern Italy to talk to the Bergamaschi and ask how they had got through it all and their advice on how we should all progress now.

There was specialist Lombardy food and wine, culture, history Donizetti music and art aplenty.

But the most beautiful picture was that of the emboldened Bergamaschi in the backdrop of their historic city, both in Citta Alta and Citta Bassa, the High and the Low City.

Now there are worse places to have spent this last year, with the view of the Firth of Forth from my window, Bass Rock bookending the beach and Edinburgh just along the road.

I’ve chosen to live by the sea all my adult life. It’s a primal thing knowing that exciting lands lie beyond.

I know that we’ll visit them again soon, and hopefully I can fill in the blanks above and add San Francisco, Chicago, New England and a host of other trips I had planned last year, and many to come.

All for your enjoyment.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

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. www.twitter.com

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. www.pinterest.com

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. www.imdb.com

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. www.pinterest.com

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!

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Chicago

Come on, oh Baby don’t you wanna go. Come on, oh Baby don’t you wanna go, Back to that same old place, Sweet Home Chicago – The Blues Brothers

It was Frank Sinatra’s kinda town and one I’m going to have to wait for the pleasure of seeing people who, smile at you. It’s Chicago.

Which has inspired a whole host of artists to wax lyrical about its charms.

Jim Croce sang about bad, bad Leroy Brown, the baddest man in the whole damn town (no, me neither and I think Frank’s version is the best).

You better think: Aretha Franklin. www.imdb.com

Me (and Barack Obama) love Sweet Home Chicago from The Blues Brothers which was released 40 years ago this year.

Blues bus

I’d first been inducted into the Blues Brothers Brotherhood.

On my storied booze, Blues bus to the Oktoberfest in Munich back in the day.

The closest I’ll get to Chicago which was on the schedule is the Chicago Blues Brothers tour around the UK.

But it has had to reschedule its dates.

Let me see you shake your tail feather: The boys and Ray Charles

Once we get out to Chicago we can get around the old landmarks (Preach the Lord!) with the official Chicago site.

Bring it home James

Now some of them, alas, have been razed, perhaps the damage done by that infamous car chase.

But the Triple Rock church where James Brown asked Jake and Elwood ‘Do you see the light?’ Is there.

Or at least the exterior which is the Pilgrim Baptist on 9114 S. Burley Avenue although it’s been rebuilt since a fire.

The interior is Hollywood.

That bridge where the boys drive the Nazis into the water?

Well, that’s Jackson Park in the Chicago Park District.

On the right track: Chicago’s L rail network

The finale? The Richard J. Daley Plaza and City Hall.

Who is that clerk?

Where Steven Spielberg plays a cameo appearance as a clerk cashing the cheque for the orphanage.

Of course, as belting as the city is, it is of course the Blues which is at the heart of the movie.

With its stellar cast including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles among others.

The Godfather of Soul

So check out the Blues when you get out there.

Hey Buddy!

And Buddy Guy‘s is as good a place to start.

And until you do, run the movie again, get out the soundtrack, and dress for the occasion…

That’s pin-sharp black suits, fedora hats and shades.

You know you still have them in your wardrobe from fancy-dress parties.

And if you love, love, love the Blues then join me as I visit the Birthplace of the Blues.

America, Culture, Deals, Ireland

Chicago-go-go-go

Gameshow legend Jim Bowen would famously draw back the curtain and tell contestants… ‘let’s look at what you could have won.’

It’s how I feel about Chicago.

Two years ago I was invited to the Windy City but had to respectfully turn it down…

Because my Dear Old Mum decided to turn 90 then!

A dose of the Blues

Chicago chic

The pictures of one colleague up on the stage singing the Blues, the group drinking Chicago craft beer and pizza and watching baseball at Wrigley Field didn’t help.

So what do you do when Plan A is taken off the table.

Move onto Plan B.

Which was to go this year, particularly as it’s the 100th anniversary of the Volstead Act, the start of Prohibition.

Until COVID-19 intervened.

Back with a bang

That’s St Patrick’s Day for you

So, onto Plan C and thanks to our friends American Holidays I can see a door squeezing open again.

AH, who think of everything know too that having missed our St Patrick’s Day celebrations, may want an even bigger hooley next year.

And there are few better places than Chicago where they literally turn the river green.

It’s all part of a pitch by AH to remind us that America WILL reopen and when it does he will be first in the queue.

Celebrate St Patrick’s Day with the family in Chicago with American Holidays from €659pp.

Visit www.choosechicago.com.

California calling

Santa Monica Boulevard

Of course it doesn’t help when you get constant reminders of Chicago wherever you go.

Such as last year in Santa Monica https://www.santamonica.com/visit-santa-monica/ when I visited the landmark signpost marking the end of Route 66.

All great https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/19/my-weekend-with-marilyn-2/amp/ but of course Route 66 starts off from Chicago so I’m still waiting to get my kicks there.

I got plenty though in Santa Monica and Venice Beach https://www.visitveniceca.com.

The West Coast

And the Golden Gate obviously

And I’m getting the small fiddle out here… I was set too for San Francisco www.sftravel.com and www.visitcalifornia.com this month.

You may too have been looking forward to seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, explore Fisherman’s Wharf or ride the cable car up the hilly city.

Where’s Frasier?

Space age… in Seattle

I’ve been bingeing on Seattle’s favourite son Frasier in lockdown. Heck, I do even in normal times.

And Seattle will be on your American Holidays bespoke trip.

Again, one that got away here, the inaugural Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com mission to Seattle www.visitseattle.org.

Which I was invited on only for me to be in the air going to Denver at the time www.denver.org and Go West and The New Frontiersmen.

Seattle is unfinished business, particularly getting up that Space Needle which I see on the skyline at the start of every show.

The west coast adventure next Spring is from €1699pp.

And back in Boston

pexels-photo

Where we first met the great psychiatrist.

And where I spent a much-storied summer working in Faneuil Hall.

While me flatmate Neily sold Cheers merchandise from a cart on the Common.

I worked 30 days flat without taking a break as others went on day breaks to Cape Cod, another destination that got away.

Boston http://www.boston.gov/visiting-boston has been dangled tantalisingly in front of my years this year too.

With a walk along Fenway Park’s Green Wall, a highlight of the itinerary which had been planned for me.

But I will be back and when I do I’ll be full of beans.

Boston and Cape Cod with American Holidays from €1450pp. See http://www.americanholidays.com