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

WTM Holiday Snaps and a beautiful wrap Donald

And the last word is from Donald, a bit of a scoop from your favourite Travel blog.

While the rest of the world has been trying to talk to the Big Mouth we got him… well, we are old pals.

And Donald has a message for the world: ‘I love you all and I want you all to come and see me again soon in America.’

The Happiest Place on Earth is now also the Safest on Earth with reservations, social distancing, alternate rollercoast carts and new hospitality measures.

While Mickey, Minnie, Donald and the Gang aren’t about to let the virus turn their smile into a smell.

And are dancing, waving and welcoming us all in their own inimitable way.

Watch this space for new Disney features coming along soon.

While Visit Orlando also flagged up what’s happening up at Universal Orlando and particularly their Jurassic World feature.

All of which, and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens I’ll give you a taster of what’s in store… in my rollercoaster whizz around Florida.

Golden vision: Florida Kets

I had all planned to take a whizz around the Florida Keys before the other Donald closed America off in March but hope to put that right when I get the chance.

And it’s those areas with natural distancing like the Keys and island nations (and yes a lesson here to the UK and Ireland too) who have an advantage.

Sail away in Croatia

Water wonderland

And when you’ve got 1200 islands then there’s ‘one for everyone in the audience.’

As they like to say in the world’s longest-running TV chat show, Ireland’s The Late Late Show, or whatever the Croatian equivalent is.

But here is a country which, as a Balkans state, dealt better than the rest of Europe with the virus.

And which is perfectly placed to host the tourist’s new requirements during and post-Covid.

One area is in small boat holidays and yachting around the islands, another adventure in the Great Outdoors.

Kayak attack: In Croatia

My go-to people in Ireland for Croatia are Croatia Tours, and I went on pilgrimage with them to neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina where I started out on the road to Dubrovnik.

They have a seven-days Rivers by the Sea package, making the most of where the area where the Krka River enters the Adriatic, on June 26 £1255pp.

Where you’ll get to sea kayak, cycle, canoe, rock climb, hike and raft.

The Tuscan Islands

And Firenze too

We’ll also be spreading our wings more next year even when we do visit our favourite cities.

And that’ll help hotspots like Firenze breathe as we explore greater Tuscany, its adventure trails, cycling opportunities and thermal waters.

And its seven islands, chief among them Elba, the first island of exile for Napoleon, and Montecristo, it of Alexandre Dumas’ Count.

Able was I ere I saw Elba.

As every schoolchild, well, at least those of  certain age and lexical bent, will tell you.

And Tuscany was, and is, ere able to thrive in ‘il novo normal’.

And, of course, the Caribbean

Daddy’s Little Girl, as all our little girls do these days, is wont to show me amusing things she finds on the internetty thing.

And one we both find funny is a Jamaican tour guide who extols the benefits of inhaling the island’s plants.

I grab every chance to hook up with my Caribbean friends, Barbados, Tobago, Anguilla (heck, all of them) albeit these days over Zoom, if only to hope that I can draw some sun out from the screen.

And as usual their warmth came flowing us out as they reminded us that in their island their neighbourliness has helped them through this crisis and referred in passing to London where ‘people don’t know their neighbours but had been getting to know each other this year.’

Los Filipinos

For those of us too who in the second half of the century of years some of us are blessed to live, our cultural touchpoint for the Phillipines is the Thrilla in Manila, the nation’s capital which hosted Ali-Frazier III.

And of course the Philippines are knockout and our old friends at G Adventures are all over it.

Manila is on the island of Luzon, one of 7,641 in the archipelago.

And you’ll not be surprised to learn then that out of 7,641 islands that it should have boasted the world’s most beautiful island, courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler in 2016.

The exotically-named Atty. Maria Anthonette C.Velasco-Allones, the Tourism Promotions Board’s COO has an equally lyrical way about her.

As she described her islands and what they have to offer.

‘When the dark night is over and the sun rises, wake up in the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Driving entertainment in lockdown

It’s all come a long way since the days when a drive-thru was getting out of the car and picking up the family’s takeaway.

Now because of COVID we can stay in our hermetically-sealed cocoon and enjoy all manner of thrills.

Park by the Pole

Steamy windows

Lucky Devil Lounge, Portland, Oregon: And here’s where you can get extra with your bun… two buns actually!

Customers who order food can pay $30 per car and driver (plus $10 for any passengers in the car) to use the drive-thru and watch a show.

In normal years I find myself in the US around Gay Pride.

And my friends at the American Travel Fair, IPW, put on a fabulous Gay Pride night… Washington, Denver, Los Angeles/Anaheim.

Bless me, Father

Two Our Fathers and Three Hail Marys

Limoges, France: Maybe you’ve not been out enough over these lockdowns to have compiled enough sins but come on, all that food and drink.

And Sainte Jeanne d’Arc in Limoges will hear your darkest secrets from your car.

When all this is over, of course many of us will be going all Medieval and giving thanks to the Great Redeemer.

In France, that’s Lourdes, in Portugal it’s Fatima, Italy is Rome, Spain the Camino and Medjugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Probably the best gig

Mads for it

Denmark: And Mads Langer doesn’t let a small thing like lockdown make him down his mic.

Mads sold 500 tickets for a concert at Tangkrogen outside Aarhus, Denmark’s second city after Copenhagen.

The cars were rockin’ and rollin’!

Airport movies

Bringing some colour into our lives

Edinburgh AirportAnd all of this drive-thrumania has been triggered by the news that my local airport Edinburgh is putting on a Halloween offering.

Drive-ins were always the stuff of James Dean movies (the first drive-in cinema was actually New Jersey, not LA).

You never forget your first time though and that for me was Toronto and a Bond movie, The Living Daylights. And while our first albums are usually embarrassing I’m happy with that choice.

Anyhoos back to Edinburgh. You’ll get Ghostbusters, Hocus Pocus, Coco, The Lost Boys, Jaws (not nearly as terrifying at Universal Studios Hollywood) and Halloween.

November brings us Back to the Future, Rocketman, Mamma Mia and more.

There’s entertainment galore, food and drink from local producers Cold Town Beer and Alandas plus DJ Captain Calverto will entertain you before each film with car discos. singalongs and quiz fun.

They’ve offered me (and I guess you too) the chance to win tickets.

And you might even see a plane flying overhead… and hopefully I’ll be on it.

 

 

 

Countries, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

And hard on Greece’s Croat-tails

Tomorrow, Thursday, is fast becoming my least favourite day of the week though to be fair it has six very close rivals.

Because Thursdays is when the UK Government tells us which new country they are banning us from visiting.

And it’ll be Greece and all its myriad regions which I’ve already gone into bat for. And Croatia.

Of course I know they actually check which country I’m going to next before they drop the bomb.

The sands of time

Croatia first came into my orbit long before I passed through on my way to Medjugorje and Bosnia-Herzegovina last year.

It was a German with whom we dined by Rialto Bridge on our 10th wedding anniversary in Venice who first flagged up Croatia.

By saying that Dubrovnik was even better than the famed Venezia.

Relaxing times

I had, of course, intended to find out for himself only for someone to get in my way… Me!

Throughout all of this our holiday providers, our dream makers, have been enduring a living nightmare.

Pilloried as fluff (it was ever thus) by pampered politicians they have seen their businesses collapse from under them.

I’ll have two of these cocktails

For want of a bailout with our leaders preferring to use their float (our taxpayers’ money, remember) for interpretative dance.

Than the multi-billion Travel industry and to allow hard-working families their God/given right… to travel.

The Adriatic

Thankfully our resilient Holiday providers are persisting with presenting deals for us.

Mostly for 2021 it must be said.

Now you might not recommend me trying something as fancy as a yacht to get to Dubrovnik seeing I failed with something as simple as a bus.

The grass is greener

But you can… Carrier suggests you hiring a private yacht to sail around the Elafti Islands, an archipelago just north-west of Dubrovnik.

Or explore Konavie Valley, the Tuscany of Croatia, although maybe it should be the other way round.

The Old Town

You’ll have your transport of choice… walking, cycling or a horseback ride.

And best of all you’ll frequent traditional konobas, or taverns, serving authentic Mediterranean fare.

Harbour of delights

The world will be your oxter (or oyster) when you visit the Medieval town of Sion by fishing boat.

Where you will get the chance to taste Fresh European Flat Oysters from their beds.

Pictures of Croatia

Your bed will be in the exclusive Hotel Excelsior which has obviously been putting their time to good use with a repaint.

There are spectacular vistas of the Medieval town and the Adriatic.

Which you will be able to enjoy in the hotel’s brand new Sensus restaurant.

While you’ll want to dip your toe too in the ‘sea pool’ and come back to luxuriate in the spa.

Bridge of highs

Carrier offers five nights from £1,050pp based on two adults sharing a Classic room including breakfast.

Return Club Europe flights from London Gatwick and private car transfers.

And if you’re Irish, then you’ll know all about Croatian Tours. I do!

Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying

Hanging on their Croattails

Are you British, Irish, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch… well, we’re hanging on their Croattails?

As we all mourn the heavy-handed shutdown of Spain and particularly its islands…

Isn’t it reassuring that Croatia is open to 30 European countries?

Sun-kissed

Maybe though not tell Boris Johnson that Forbes has flagged up Croatia (27.8 cases per 100,00) as one of the safest European destinations.

Your own Croat island

Or that Croatia has 617 islands, because he’d only pick them off as he has the Canaries and the Balearics.

I dipped my toe in Croatia although alas not its islands nor indeed Dubrovnik but that’s another story.

If you’re travelling from Ireland go with Croatia Tours through Split as I did on my way to Medjugorje with its sister firm Marian Pilgrimages

And here don’t we know that Ireland’s national airlines carrier Aer Lingus will save me from myself by flying me straight to Dubrovnik’s front door from €39.99.

What’s the Croat deal?

As luck would have it we have some Croatian deals here for you.

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British Airways has three routes to Croatia to Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik, with flights from Heathrow and Gatwick.

Ryanair has also resumed flights from London Stansted to Pula twice a week, and to Rijeka once a week.

And because we love an island… Losinj, known as a healing resort, can be reached by private plane or luxury car transfer with Losinj Hotels & Villas.

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From many European airports, with Pula, Rijeka and Zagreb the closest options.

You’ll want to check out the Boutique Hotel Alhambra, an Austro-Hungarian Art Nouveau villa built in 1912 in Art Nouveau style.

And which also boasts the world-class Alfred Keller Restaurant which specialises in seasonal and local produce.

Spend fur nights at the Boutique Hotel Alhambra and enjoy one complimentary night from €954 (£866) based on two adults sharing a Deluxe Park Side Room for B&B. Valid for stays until October 3, subject to availability,

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

Srebrenica, lest we forget

It is just 25 years ago since Europe was plunged into a genocide we again ignored.

And just like the Holocaust of the Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals in the Forties the civilised West did not think the Balkans Muslims were worth protecting.

Camp of hell

Until too late.

I am indebted to my good friend Onur Gul, of Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com who has family links to Bosnia-Herzegovina, for flagging up today.

Poignant: Onur and his daughter

As he visited the graveyards in Srebrenica https://www.srebrenica.org.uk/.

Where the massacre of an entire town took place while we turned a blind eye.

I will be back

I had hoped to visit Srebrenica this year after missing out in the Autumn when I went to the Balkans.

With Marian Pilgrimages www.marian.ie to Medjugorje.

Arnie’s story

And discovered that it was too far from Sarajevo and I didn’t have enough time.

But while they may have been out of sight they were not out of mind.

Bey Mosque, Sarajevo

Sarajevo which was itself under siege marks its own and the greater Balkans wars.

It’s there in black and white at the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide http://visitsarajevo.ba/?lang=en.

And you will get a sense of how the horrors of the war were played out as you take in the audio, video and everyday artefacts and personal testaments.

History revisited

One of the most heartwarming of them all is Arnie’s story. Yes, that Arnie.

For more visit Bosnia-Herzegovina https://www.visit-bosnia.ba/.

And while you search for holiday providers, let me recommend Marian Pilgrimages’ sister company Croatia Tours www.croatia.ie who operate in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

And here are some recollections of my Balkans odyssey… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/24/sarajevo-revisited/ and What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Holiday Snaps – Gardaland, Marrakech, Dubrovnik

For those of us who have Irish blood running through our veins Lake Gardaland sounds like a police theme park (ask an Irish relative).

Pigtales: Peppa. www.peppapig.co.uk

For everyone who books one of their Lake Garda family properties for the summer season.

Souk it up

Souk it up

They say that if you fall off a horse (or camel) you should just hop back on.

Well, maybe after 17 years it’s time for me to climb aboard again in Morocco.

My trip to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains brought a new meaning to ‘ill-fated’.

And I’ll need a stiff drink to relay it but it definitely does fall into the category of ‘accidental tourist’.

Better leave it to the professionals… www.inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk.

They are flagging up a week in the Royal Mansour Marrakech from £5995 two+two family (kids under 12).

There’s all kind of luxury: riads, hamams, fine dining.

As well as lots for the adventurous sort such as dune surfing, horse and carriage ride through the city, riding camels.

And a Bedouin tented dinner under the stars. Oh, yes, I know that one all right!!!

Dubrovnik – to do list

Balkan beauty

And I should have seen all this with my own eyes.

Only I had my old passport on me with my US visa in it rather than my new one sitting back in my Medjugorje hostel.

So I had to get off the bus before the border and head back to Medjugorje.

So I have to get back to do it, and when I do it will be with Croatia Tours https://croatia.ie/croatiaspecials.asp?emailID=5061F645-D5EC-4D7C-9F71-90EB3B944A4A through Mostar which will run in July and August on Wednesdays.

Seven nights to the lushly forested Mljet Island and Dubrovnik, staying at a 3* on June 18, with flights from Dublin from €887.

Uncategorized

Hungry and Thursday – the worst bar none

Chocolate is better than men because… we’ve all seen those posters and mugs.

But sometimes it goes wrong.

Such as with the branding you sometimes get with sweets and chocolate.

My trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina with Marian Pilgrimages http://www.marian.ie gave so much, an audience with Our Lady in Medjugorje, a history lesson in Sarajevo.

And an insight into the peoples of this region, the crossroads of East and West in the Balkans.

In Medge they are Croatians with the only thing vying for space with Our Lady in the shops Croatian flags and football tops. Medjugorje, what’s your story?

My old mucker from university, Davor, a Croatian-Scot was my first introduction to them.

But I have come to know them better through Croatia Tours http://www.croatia.ie on the River Liffey in Dublin…

And joining them before the World Cup final against France for wine and lunch (it was never a penalty!)

Thankfully there was none of the chocolate I found in a petrol station on the way to the airport in Split.

Name blame: Sweets in the Balkans

There’s just no amount of thumbs-up with Victorian dandy that makes this right.

I’m guessing they’re lozenges but I put them back on the shelf.

I can’t imagine for a minute that they meant any harm but…

Then there are those brand gaffes where there’s just been no quality control.

Not what you expect: ISIS chocolate

Such as this chocolate bar http://www.isischocolates.be in Brussels Airport on my way back from my tour of the World War I Battlefields… In Flanders fields.

With GTI The Group Travel Specialists www.gtitravel.ie.

Now the sentiment is right and before you think it’s cashing in on the War just remember that chocolate would have been a treat for the Tommies.

No, it’s just the acronym for the people who make it… ISIS!

It’s always an awkward one here, the quality control at TravelTravelTravel.

What to put in and what to leave out.

I think I’m on safe ground here though with this one which is a particular delicacy for Salzburgers.

And it was something that the indomitable Mrs M was particularly taken with…

Mozart’s Balls, or Mozartkugel http://www.mozartkugel.at on a Top Flight http://www.topflight.ie skiing trip to Austria… Soll Mates.

Send me the branding that goes wrong..

And in the Travel blog that brings you the best in toilet humour more to add to the annals of… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/01/austrian-toilet-humour/

And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/03/__trashed/. Look out for the name of the Bavarian tunnel I never saw coming… coming soon along the tracks.

It would make Our Lady blush!

Countries, Culture, Europe, Uncategorized

On the road to Dubrovnik

Shame, shame, shame… on the road to Dubrovnik

Yes, Cersei walking through the streets of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones.

But also Jimmy doing the walk of shame off the coach to Dubrovnik, the setting for King’s Landing, only ten minutes into our 5-hour journey.

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Paradise on Earth: Shaw’s Dubrovnik

In one of those document-checking moments I felt in my pocket to make sure I had my passport.

Only for the passport holder to feel lighter than it should have done because I was one passport short.

Let me explain.

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And you like a castle?

I carry two passports with me… not because I am an international spy, although I guess I wouldn’t tell you if I was.

But because I have to keep my old one which has a ten-year working visa for the US stamped in it.

Now the two passports sit opposite each other in a passport holder.

Only Ina has been holding the current unclipped passport in the hotel back in Medjugorje In Bosnia and Herzegovina.

She had given it back to me when I went to Sarajevo earlier in the week as you can’t exchange money without it.

And instead of putting it back in the holder I put it in loose with my luggage.

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And your boat will come in

So, bleary-eyed at 6am I reached for the holder which had the old passport in it.

Now, disappointed as I was to miss out on an afternoon in Dubrovnik which George Bernard Shaw called ‘paradise on Earth’ it could have been worse.

My taxi fare back to Medge was only €10 when it could have been higher if I’d been stopped at the border between B&H and Croatia.

Or worse… I could have ended up in pokey.

I also got to find out that my cab driver who liked to clear his throat has a big friend Joseph in Glasgow.

Fare play

And I don’t know what the elderly Californian couple or the New Yorker who works for Qatar Airways made of me having to leave the bus early either.

But it’ll make a good story for them and we’d got to know each other a little waiting 50 minutes at the station for the coach.

Oh, and I got €23 of my €26 fare back.

The good news is I get to go to 10am Mass at St James’s in Medge.

I think it’s Fr Leon today. I feel I know all his jokes by now.

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Harbouring delights

I’m here as a guest of Marian Pulgrimages and Aer Lingus.

And I’ve been keeping you amused/confused about Medge and Give us this day – Confessions and Medjugorje.

With a bit of Sarajevo thrown in.

I hope to get to Dubrovnik one day with my very own Queen of Dragons… which really is how it should be.

And here’s who to go with

And Croatia Tours will give you the lowdown on ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’ better than I did.

Thinking on it now as I sit in front of Ina’s steaming hot porridge maybe Our Lady saved me.

From a Border water boarding so that I could spend more time in Medge.

She and her son sure do move in mysterious ways.

Uncategorized

Holiday Snaps – Croat of arms

I’m checking out Croatia for the first time next month, a land of natural beauty, a museum of Broken Relationships, and a funky flag.

I’ll get back to the Museum of Broken Relationships in a minute, but first the drapery.

Three horizontal bands of colour, red, white and royal blue looks like the Netherlands flag.

Keepsakes: Museum

Until…

You see that distinctive red and white checked coat of arms with a crown on top in the middle.

The checks have given life to one of the most distinctive international football tops out there.

But where did it come from?

Well legend has it that it derives from a chess game between King Drzislav and the Doge of Venice for the lands that are now Croatia.

Very Chris de Burgh and Spanish Train, and the Lord and the Devil!

Bright and beautiful: Zagreb

The good news is that Drzislav won best of three.

The good people of Croatia came to see us last year, including the Deputy Prime Minister.

And they told us about the Museum of Broken Relationships and the cannon which fires paper every day.

The MoBR was the brainchild of Olinka and Drazan who came up with an ingenious solution to how to divvy up their stuff after they broke up.

Fabulous forests: Zagreb

They formed a museum www.brokenships.com which has proved so successful that the Yanks got on board opening their own in Los Angeles.

Of course, LA is a Pandora’s box of delights as I discovered earlier this year…

So have I sold Croatia to you?

Flag happy: Croatia fans

Croatia Tours has a three-night Zagreb city break, departing November 28, €499. https://croatia.ie/croatiaspecials.asp?emailID=0AA258B7-E0F9-4674-9BF7-125799552D97.

And if you can’t wait until then it is also offering seven nights B&B in Sibenik and the Dalmatian Coast, staying in the 4* Bellevue Superior City Hotel with a View Room.

From October 10-17, €950pps.

And visit http://www.croatia.ie for all the best offers.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD.