Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Europe

My Sporting Weekend – Records

Talk Sport Radio has been a Godsend these past few months.

And my ears pricked up that little bit more with the latest cricket Test match.

Between England and South Africa coming from my old stomping ground of Port Elizabeth.

And they love their rugby in SA too

Now I’m not putting myself on the same level as Shoaib Akhtar or Brett Lee.

The pace aces bowled over 100mph there in the World Cup.

It’s just that the less-vaunted PE in South Africa is a city I fell in love with last year…

It got me thinking too about other destinations that have become tied in with world records.

You want a 401… call on Murty

Brian Lara, 400 not out, St John’s, Caribbean, 2004:

Any excuse to showcase the Caribbean I hear you say but there is a tale here about Lara and me.

My old university pal Jevan had taken me to Foreday Morning on my first visit to Barbados.

And introduced me to his old Trinidadian pal Brian.

I’m a Bajan: I don’t give a damn

He told me he was over for the cricket and I naively asked if he played.

I didn’t expect the greatest modern-day batsman would ever wear anything other than cricket whites or one-day burgundy!

Olympic champions

Stefan Kraft, Vikerssundbakken, Norway:

Now there are some sports we all do and those that are just death wishes.

Where’s the peloton?

Me, the Tour de France, 2019: Yes, here I am atop the 6,939ft Col du Tourmalet, the Tour de France’s most used climb.

And I’m not even out of breath. No wonder I needed some magic muscle-soothing water.

Climbing mountains is in the genes for Scots… I give you King of the Mountains Robert Millar.

Where’s the next record?

Me, white water rafting, Colorado:

The record for staying in the water tub long enough on the Poudre River…

Of course British Columbian Hazel Amos puts me to shame as the oldest rafter in the world at 96.

And yes, it’s another from the Wild West, but hey, I was born to be a cowboy.

Waltzing to the next title

Samuel Groth, world’s fastest serve, Busan Open, 163.7mph:

No, nor me, but this is it…

Of course my on serve after being coached by Judy Murray at The Campus, Quinto da Lago wasn’t chronicled.

That’ll be then.

Michael Austin, world’s longest drive: At 515 yards that’s some power.

Mike gripped it and ripped it at the Winterwood Golf Course in Las Vegas in 1974.

Blasting it 65 yards past the flag on the par-four 5th hole.

Vegas, baby: And Murty hits it into the next state

Me, I drunk it and sunk it… that’s my pitcher of beer at Topgolf in Las Vegas

On my Vegas trip a couple of years ago… Strip… the light fantastic.

While I also showed them how to do it in Quinto…

And hopefully I’ll be back to break my own record at the American Travel Fair



V for Vegan

No cheap digs here about Vegans… just me flagging up World Vegan Day next month.

Vegans get a bad name when it should be the very opposite.

And like all things which we don’t know we tend to sneer.

Elaine ‘Black Magic’ as I nicknamed her (I gave everyone on our walking trip a mantle as is my way) has her own look.

She wears black, likes piercings and is a vegan.

But she doesn’t shove it down your throat.

In fact the exact opposite. To quote the quietly-spoken and truly warm Black Magic: ‘I’m entering your world.’

Which is why she never kicked up once on our Topflight trip to Ehrwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen about the food.

And, to be fair, mine host Daniella, did cater admirably for her at the Hotel Sonneburg

Which brings us back to World Vegan Day… which incidentally is on November 1.

With much else on lifestyle California leads the way.

West Hollywood is on point in so many ways so it comes as little surprise that it’s right up there for vegans.

Fine dining

Gracias Madre on Melrose Avenue http://Gracias Madre is the place to go.

It offers 100% organic plant-based Mexican cuisine.

And it’s chic too with hand-woven chairs, wrought-iron fixtures, embroidered fabrics and hanging fabrics.

I found WH one of the most embracing and chilled places I’ve been too.

I promised myself I’d return with our host Kate and my pals Jon, Helen and Heather.

To recreate the Beatles Abbey Road pic… on their rainbow zebra crossing.

Here’s what I thought of WH…

If California is all about fitness and health then here’s another state which I’d pitch as even more Outdoorsy… Colorado.

Where man-banned, tattoo-sleeved men called Brad or Dexter make vegan food at their eateries in the morning, climb a mountain free-style in the afternoon and then white-water raft before it gets dark.

Casual dining

Santana’s Vegan Grill http://Santana’s Vegan Grill is proof that these aren’t people from another planet where things are logical and they have pointy ears.

So we’re looking at the only vegan drive-thru in Colorado Springs.

Which serves up plant-based alternatives for bacon cheeseburgers, hot dogs and buffalo chicken strips. Visit

And here’s how I got on with the hipsters in Colorado… and

Sweet stuff

You want some sweet treats. Well Portland, Oregon where some of us Murty’s live is the place to go.

Doe Donuts Doe Donuts is the city’s first dedicated vegan donut (they spell it without the ‘gh’) shop.

Look out for the house-made strawberry soy milk and a signature chocolate raised doughnut topped with gold pearls, chocolate shavings and ganache.

Portland is also home to the world’s first vegan mini-mall where visitors can enjoy dining, shopping and even vegan tattoos.


The New Pioneers: The Wild West

Roy Rogers had his Trigger, The Lone Ranger his Silver and Issy has… me. Hi ho! But no away.

Issy is pulling to the right while my posse heads left. Great cowboy me.

The outlaw will be safely out of Dodge before I even get a trot on.

My home, home for today is on The Home Ranch, above Steamboat Springs in Colorado where Cowboy Mike is trying to teach me how to ride.

Our New Pioneers: In Boulder

The problem he tells me is that I’m pulling back instead of releasing the reins and I’m confusing poor Issy.

She should be in charge.

And isn’t that always so?

And then, all at once, gently, graciously, Issy decides she is ready, and steers me across HER ranch.

Hello cowboys: Andy and I

In the foothills of the majestic snow-capped Rocky Mountains.

The sun is beating down on the Western plains and I have no place to get to and I’m gettin’ there slow.

If this is what they call the pioneering spirit, then saddle ’er up and call me Jimmy.

Another Jimmy, Civil War veteran Colonel James Harvey Crawford was brimming o’er with pio- neering spirit too back in the day in Missouri.

Safer on this

After reading in his local newspaper of a hermit with a story, 

Joseph Westcott, who lived among the Ute Nation in the North-west Coloradan valleys below the Rockies.

Way out West

And waxed lyrical to the reporter who came upon him in his travels about his idyllic surroundings.

Reading of the reporter’s adventures that day, James Harvey Crawford decided to uproot his family and go in search of the fabled hermit.

Yep, the Rockies at the back

You can learn more at the Tread of the Pioneers Museum about James and wife Maggie, who discovered the hot springs.

It is quite a story of how they built the community of Steamboat Springs where we’re staying.

And you’ll also learn about Edward Curtis who came to curate the life of the Ute Nation in the early 20th Century.

Beer archaeologist? I want your job

And whose photographs and narrative were lost to us for decades, until they were unearthed in a Boston bookstore cellar in the Seventies.

All downhill…

Then there’s agent Nathan Meeker whose zealotry almost destroyed the Ute way of life. Thankfully, he failed, and the Ute now thrive in Southern Colorado.

But what of the New Pioneers, Carl Howesen, the Flying Norseman, Barnum & Bailey’s Ski Sailor who brought ski jumping to Steamboat?

And of the Olympic ski champions, among their number Billy Kidd (no, seriously).

Alas, we do not get to stay Home, home on The Home Ranch.

Flippin’ eck!

Where the deer (we spy one crouching by a tree on our horse trek, she didn’t bat an eye lid) and my horse Issy and her friends roam.

At $8,000 a week for a couple with every frontiersman’s activity included, you’d better hope you win the lottery.

But we did get to view the Western-themed cabin rooms with their ‘take-home with you’ views of the Rockies.

If they had ever thought of placing TVs in the rooms they just as quickly dismissed the idea.

Jump in: The springs

And just as well too, although if your kids want to stay connected to the unreal world (families of four can stay for $15,000) then there is wi-fi!

We hardly slummed it though, staying in the comfortable Holiday Inn in Steamboat.

Spring into action

The power showers are reviving, although I would recommend bathing outdoors.

In the Colonel’s hot-water natural springs under the starry Colorado skies.

It is the perfect way for a cowboy to ease his saddle sores after a day riding the plains.

The Ranch: Fine living’ y’all

I only hope though that Issy is enjoying a good relaxing wade in the cool Rocky Mountain waters.

We also get to enjoy the Embassy Suites in Boulder and the Elizabeth Hotel in Fort Collins where you’ll even get a record player in your bedroom.

So, what of hipster university town and home of Mork & Mindy, Boulder?

I’ve got this covered

It is a gentle coach ride from Springboat, a pleasant ride through gorgeous country.

Even better on board Issy. Maybe next time!

We were more than happy though with our driver Michael who was calm and charm personified.

Off for a paddle: Before the rafting

As he drove us along this enchanting route and stretched his time schedule to breaking point to let us to take shot after shot of the Rockies.

Being greeted as Sir may seem old-fashioned in our overfamiliar age.

Here for the beer

But mannerliness is just the Colorado way.

We found it in Avery where brewery beer archaeologist Travis (I want his life) and Park Rangers Josh, Wade and Dakota entertained, exercised and fed us in Eldorado Park.

And in the sumptuously bearded Mike (it’s a mountain name) and David.

Flag days: Colorado flag in the middle

They welcomed us to Chautauqua Park and the Flatirons, the five rock features that were thus named by the pioneering women who settled here.

Coloradans, I figure, must have been first in line when God was giving out the gifts.

Handsome, charming, sporty (old or young, they can rock-climb free-hand, buck broncos, ride horses, ski, of course, kayak and raft, and more of that later).

And cook. Man, can they cook.

In fact, every second adventurer seems to run a restaurant when they’re not out conquering the Great Outdoors.

Teas please

Back Indoors and Laid-back Lenny has brought us chi latte, in his Tajikistan Dushanbe Teahouse.

The Teahouse is a cultural curio, a gift from Boulder’s twin city in the former USSR (who knew?).

If only

In the interests of of internationalism, I am working on getting him to put Lyons and Barry’s on the menu too.

Lenny and his fellow Coloradans truly are culinary pioneers.

Grub crawl

Clark, of bespoke dining experience, Local Table Tours shows us more on his grub crawl along Pearl Street.

Fennel salad in one, shrimp in another, all washed down with the best Colorado wine and their famous IPA craft beers.

Each pit stop throughout Colorado has a dish you’d want to take home with you.

Salt & Lime in Steamboat restored my faith in Mexican food after a student summer selling tacos in Boston.

Museum piece: A pioneer

While Dakota’s rhubarb cookies were another highlight and one I vow to make (or get the Indomitable Mrs M to make).

I take a turn, as unlikely as that is, at baking in Fort Collins, in Ginger & Baker.

Bake me a cake

Under the watchful eye of Deb who takes guests for a class and then serves you up your own creation after your meal.

A real slice of American pie.

While these new pioneers of cooking and baking continue to make waves in their crafts, it was time for us to make ours.

On the very French Powder river where trappers transported hides and furs on flimsy wooden rafts in days of old.

Bake off look out: Deb and a Star Baker

Thankfully, we have modern rubber rafts and we have safety in numbers…

Seven of us clinging to the side of our tub rowing like Furies, as the river rocks us.

Thirsty work.

We finish our day as all cowboys do, drinking beer, eating beans, singing and dancing by a camp fire.

Or in the absence of that, on the coach to the airport where the Chinese members of our party lead us in bus karaoke.


Taylor sings Fly Me To The Moon, ably accompanied by Sarah and Coloradan Jennifer, our new family for these three days.

Before Chinese Judy channels her inner Coloradan with a rousing John Denver which I try to sing along to but find myself choking up.

And one I made earlier

Frantically looking for the words to Home on the Range over intermittent wi-fi I pass my go.

We are a party of Chinese, Jordanians, Australians, Germans, French, Danish, Canadians, Americans, of course, Irish and one Irish-Scot.

Heading out West on our wagon, singing songs and filled with dreams. We are the New Frontiersmen.

Put the record on: In your room

Travel facts

HOW TO GET THERE: Jim flew Aer Lingus Dublin-London return and British Airways London-Denver return. Try €1,461.72 as a paired economy ticket for sample dates of July 12-19 (subject to fluctuation). Irish airports allow you pre-clearance from customs before you land. (

WHERE TO STAY: The Embassy Suites, Boulder (www.embassysuites3.hilton. com), king bed non-suite room. From $249 a night (€210); Holiday Inn, Steamboat Springs (www.ihg. com) from $204.25 (€172.737), king bed, Elizabeth Hotel, Fort Collins ( From $177 (€149) for king room.

Food for thought

EAT/DRINK: The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. (, Avery Brewing Company (, Local Table Tours (, Salt & Lime, Steamboat Springs (www., Ginger & Baker (

ACTIVITIES: Horse-riding at The Home Ranch ,a luxury guest ranch affiliated with Relais & Chateaux (; white water rafting and a range of adventures (www.coloradowildernessridesandguides. com).


Now learn more about another great horseman Buffalo Bill and the get-rich Mile High city of Denver. http://Go West.



Glass half full: Simon and I in Ieper

Sante… say it before you take the glass to your lips and afterwards and raise a fat wallet to the host who has bought you the drinks. It’s Beer Day today.

What do you mean that’s just another name for Saturday?

Now that’s the way the Flemish toast. And in Ieper they go to Tom’s Bierhaus. Simon here has been there before and I dare say has drunk every one of Tom’s 120 or so beers at least once.

While you and I might have our own glass behind the bar, Simon, who is a guide with GTI The Group Travel Specialists whom I visited the World War I battlefields in Flanders and The Somme with a couple of years ago, has this wonderfully shaped drinking vessel. Visit

And if you want to know more about how the soldiers relaxed away from the front, check out my review in a new tab)

Other great beerologists I know… the dude in Boulder, Colorado, who persuaded the University to employ him to go to the Middle East, Italy and Greece to research booze and the different recipes from the ancient tomes and then recreate them. Visit

Dragon’s Den, anybody? I’m in.

He’ll definitely be at the Great American Beer Festival, the largest in the USA, in Denver from October 4-6.

You can sample over 4,000 different beers.

Don’t tell Flemish Tom, or maybe do!

Find the lady

Galway always at the races

When my Dear Old Mum and Dad got to me, their youngest, they decided that the best way to ensure that they had holidays to themselves was to pack me over to my cousins in Dublin.

From where we would then head off to a mobile home in Salthill for our holidays.

Among the treats in store were a trip to Knock, swimming in Spiddal, and one of my faves, a trip to the Galway Races where I would watch in awe and lose a punt or two on the card hucksters who would lure you in with their Find the Lady scam.

If Galway Races are one of your must-do events of the summer then you’ll want a tip as to where to stay.

The plush Hotel Meyrick is in an ideal location on Eyre Square ad has fantastic packages during the week of July 29 to the last day of the races on Saturday, August 3.

For the full schedule of events, live music, dining options, information on this year’s Most Stylish Ladies Day event and the travel packages available at the hotel, visit or call (01) 91564041.

I should be so lucky

As a bonzer Sheila, Kylie Minogue loves her sport so it should come as little surprise that she will be headlining the entertainment at the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens in December.

For AED400 (€96) for Friday or AED500 (€120) for the entire weekend fans at the 50th anniversary of the Dubai Sevens can enjoy a feast of music and sport.

Emirates Holidays is offering return flights from Dublin with Emirates, three nights at the four-star Zabeel House Al See with breakfast and entry tickets to the Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens for Friday and Saturday which includes that unmissable Kylie concert.

The Sevens will take place from December 5-7 and the Irish team will be expected to be among the favourites.

For flights to Dubai direct from Dublin visit, for Emirates Holidays bookings including event tickets visit or call the Emirates Holidays call centre on (01) 800 800 740. Tickets for the events and more information, visit

Shout of Africa

A lioness… you’re a cool cat too, Michelle

Congratulations to my friend, oft-time contributor to my Irish Daily Mail section when I was there and general Jacko of all trades, Michelle Jackson, on being shortlisted for the blogger’s award at the coming Experience Africa convention in London.

Jacko Kerouac, another name I have bequeathed her, is a great lover of South Africa, and I fell head over heels for the country too on my recent visit to the Eastern Cape.

I’d been told about the great rate of exchange and fantastic cost of living before I went and can now vouch too that the landscapes, history, culture and food and drink are only matched by the wonderful, open and smiling people. and Air France are offering a seven-night city break from €1,189pp staying at the 5* Taj Cape Town with luxurious spa and top-class dining. Depart September, prices from €1189pp.

Or spend ten nights combining Cape Town with a safari.

The Aquila Private Game Reserve offers a range of game drives, giving you the chance to spot lions, elephants, leopards and much more. Depart between September 2019 and April 2020, excluding December, price from €2059pp.

Visit or call (01) 435 0096. And visit

Spanish stroll

Sara, Jaime and the Son and Heir

Ola Sara, mia amiga!

You’ll be glad to know that I’m off to Spain at the end of the month. Sara, the media darling of the Spanish Tourism Office in Dublin has long been chiding me that I am wont to send writers rather than go myself to Espana.

Mea culpa!

But I do love Spain, it’s just that when I do go there there’s a danger that I won’t come back.

All of which makes this Sunway offer all the more alluring as you do the major mainland attractions in just eight days.

Take in Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Granada and Valencia

Departure dates – June 29, August 10, 24, September 7, 14 and 21, October 12. Prices from €939pp, single supplement €375pp. Book (01) 231 1800 or check

Say a little prayer

Water of life: To send me on my way

I need a miracle(s). And the best place for that is Lourdes.

I’m also reliably informed that there are a bevvy (if that’s the right collective noun) of Irish bars there… a lot of thirsty pilgrims I guess. All of which chimes in nicely with Beer Day.

So I’m going to fill myself with wholly spirit. See you next week. I’ll leave you in the capable hands of the Scary One.