Adventure, Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

The Old World – a salute to Seventysomethings

I’ve always hung on the words of the old because they’ve got more, not less, life than the rest of us, and that is even more so abroad.

Where the elderly retain more respect than we give our senior citizens in the Ooo K.

And so as the UK wrestles with what to do with its Seventysomethings – and locking them away at home is being proposed…

Here are some of the older people who this energetic 54-year-old struggles to keep up with.

The Tobago touche

Auntie Ali and Uncle Kenneth: Tobagonians have more uncles and aunties than the rest of us on account that everyone who is old is… it’s a form of respect.

Auntie Ali and Uncle Kenneth run the Blue Crab in Robinson, Scarborough where Ali wiggles her bum-bum and Uncle Kenneth (and me) make the chicken curry.

For more on Tobago see and here’s my take on it Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago.

The Barbados walkers

Geraldine and Betsy; The American sitcom King of Queens has Carrie’s pal Holly walk Arthur… for us it at Club Barbados it was Angela around the Platinum Coast.

That’s me and Betsy from the Virginia Ski Club of America.

An education on Virginia and Barbados and Angela even went the extra mile when she burnt a soca CD for me. See and My kiss with Rihanna.

Swiss seniors

Brigitte the yodeller, Switzerland: It was a stroll in the park on our summer walking trip around Interlaken.

Where 72-year-young Brigitte put us through our paces, stopping only to let us skim our stones and for her to yodel (no, honestly!)

Visit and Swhisskey on the rocks.

Prague pensioners

Czech your stride, Prague: I’m just getting feeling back in my legs after My guide had walked the bones off me and my colleague Elise in Prague.

She also had a typically Americanised and underplayed way of describing those who had left a trail of destruction through her city… Stalin, for example, was a ‘bad guy’.

See And Hope springs eternal.

Over the hill in Austria

Ehrwald Presley: And they’re off… the walking groups from Ireland I trekked with in Austria, bombing ahead up the hills as I was just limbering up.

Before settling down at night for some oompah music with Austria’s answer to Elvis Presley.


Vegas neon

Liberace’s pal: Well, it wouldn’t be Vegas without the bling.

And Beverley didn’t disappoint, sporting the jewels given to her when she worked at Li’s gaffe while also telling her lots of tales of Neon City.

See and and Strip… the light fantastic.

Dresden’s fraulein

A walk through history, Dresden: Schoolchildren wanting to know about history, and Dresden, would do better to talk to Greta.

Than dig out a history book… because Ingrid and her family straddle the Nazis and the Communists.

Visit and Dresden’s renaissance.

Pioneering pensioners

Colorado: There’s a message on a blackboard at the white-water rafting centre near Boulder, Colorado which flags up a nonagenarian

Barbara was in already to go without that challenge… alas, in the churning rapids. And broke her ribs.

Visit and here’s my ride through the Wild West… The New Frontiersmen.

Even African dictators

South Africa: And in Africa too where no matter who you are you deserve respect when you are an elder statesman, or woman.

Even when that elder statesman is Robert Mugabe.

Which was our big game drive ranger in South Africa Hewurt’s reasoning for why Robert Mugabe still held power.

While it is always worth stopping people in the course of their work, to ask them about themselves.

Like the charming old hotel worker Amos in Cradock in the Eastern Cape who had fought with the resistance and Nelson Mandela.

Visit and here’s a nod to those South Africans who really do respect their elderly…. What’s new pussycat?

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

Hungry and Thursday – Irn-Bru, Coke and other national drinks

No, it’s not whisky… it’s Scotland’s other national drink, Irn-Bru. So, what’s yours? Coke?

Well, the story goes that Barr’s Irn-Bru, which was invented in the West of Scotland to keep the Irish immigrant navvies off the drink, sells more here than Coca-Cola.

And it is the only country to do so.

Slainte… Scotland’s other national drink

Irinically, the orange-coloured soft drink which advertisers will tell you is ‘made from girders’ is a favourite Scots’ hangover cure.

South Africa: Iron Brew

Surely some Scottish link here. After all when I was down in SA they sold a bar of chocolate called eet-sum-mor with a tartan wrapper.

They say this dark drink is rosy with vanilla tastes but us there enough sugar for a Scot’s pallate?

Visit and and What’s new pussycat?

USA: Coca-Cola the real thing

Every last drop

Atlanta’s finest… coke, no not the model but she may very well be Georgian.

Originally produced as a medicinal drink for the temperance movement.

Ironic then that it’s now a staple mixer for cocktails and Cuba Libres.

If you like your Deep South, you’ll love The Promised Land, The Story of the Blues and The King of Kings and

Czech Republic: Semtex

I love the Czechs’ sense of dark sense of humour.

The other Semtex, not this energy drink, is also of Czech origin.

The Czechs also love their lukewarm, salty spa spring water which will take years off you and cure your aching joints.

Visit and Hope springs eternal.

Caribbean: LLB

That’ll be Angostura Lemon Lime and Bitters.

I can swear by Angostura after Porridge and Janelle settled my rum tummy in Tobago

For more Caribbean fun… visit Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna.

Ireland: Cidona

www.dailyedge.ieNow, one of the great things about soft drinks when you’re young is pretending that you’re drinking alocohol.

The Irish get that… their legal age for drinking is 5.

Cidona is apple juice.

While Cavan Cola which stopped in the 90s is much missed particularly in the Irish Midlands Monaghan’s country roads

I had it as a kid and it even had a head on it to look like Guinness!

Adventure, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, Pilgrimage

St Paddy’s Day crawls

You’ll see them, clad in their green cassocks enjoying the craic, with St Paddy’s vital accessories, his crook or crozier staff… and a pint of Guinness.

It’s the St Paddy’s Day procession only, in fairness, there is very little proceeding… unless it’s to the next pub.

St Paddy’s staff, or crook with cross on top, is a symbol of his high status but probably not the best walking aid.

It’ll turn your beer green

I’ll get onto walks around Ireland with IrelandWays but first a walk around the houses.

My Dear Old Dad, a doctor, and perhaps a sainted figure himself by now would always advise people use walking sticks.

I must say on my first Camino A pilgrim’s prayer and I thought differently of those clicking their sticks into the holds on the Ryanair flights.

My Way… the Camino

How wrong I was.

I could have done with a stick as I stumbled along the Via Francigena Small roads lead to Rome and

On top of the world… well, Germany at least

I had one, hewn from wood, on my historic walk through Austrian and German history with Topflight for Schools…

In fact two, three, four, five… they are left around the mountain by previous walkers.

Who, like me, forgetfully leave them behind as they take photos and selfies of the breathtaking scenery.

And I could have done with one on my toughest trek yet in the height and heat of a Tenerife autumn day…

I’ve got style and stile

On a storied climb up to Afur.., A walk through the ages… Tenerife and

While walking through the Bohemian Switzerland section of the Czech Republic Hungry and Thursday – Czech please and

Czech me out in Bohemia

And on the actual Switzerland… it’s definitely worth a walk too and Swhisskey on the rocks.

So take your stick with you on your IrelandWays trek.

With particular reference to my old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow, the Garden County.

Hike the Wicklow Way

Follow peaceful paths through ancient forests and open mountain trails to Glenmalure, Ireland’s longest glacier valley… and finish in Dublin.

Duration: Up to eight nights. Price: From €900pps.

And my best walking companion

The Kerry Camino

In olden times, Dingle was one of the departure points for ports for the north-western port of A Coruna.

From here set on foot for Santiago de Compostella

Duration: Up to four nights. Price: From €410pps.

*Book before March 31 to get a 10% discount off your trip.


Countries, Europe, Flying

Holidos and Don’ts – saunas

Saunas are definitely a Holido… the best fun you can have with your clothes on, or off.

Us Brits, or Irish like to take our togs. trunks, bathers, bikinis with us to the sauna.

So here’s my sweltering saunas to relax in.


No, not that hut

Not, what you might expect but my first sauna experience, in the Scottish Highlands, left its mark on me.

And Clare, my then-girlfriend, who I ran over on the nursery slopes.

And whose thigh swelled up into a lovely rainbow colour.

I ended up spending the rest of the holiday on my own. Still the sauna was a great hiding place.


Soll, Austria

I’ll slip off to the sauna

I moved on, and thankfully had learned my lesson, when myself and my Snow Queen went to Soll on a Topflight trip a few years ago.

Sarah didn’t fancy the sauna so I went myself and decided to go au naturel with the other Austrians.

Though I kept my eyes front and centre (honest!).

The next day I was sorely tempted to say to the handsome dude at the next table at breakfast (and within earshot of Sarah): ‘I didn’t recognise you with your clothes off’

Visit and

And visit Soll Mates.

Czech Republic

Sweat off the beer

The pick of my Czech saunas has to be in Marianske Lazhny with Czech Tourism

When I took a Japanese woman’s bathrobe (and they’re small) by mistake, and she called me out.

Then there was Prague last week in my Aspen Hotel, the Golden Key… and the Hotel Beethoven, Teplice.

Where the sauna, massages and medical treatments take years off you.

Some of the ninetysomethings looked like octogenarians.

Istanbul, Turkey

My cup of tea

Well, if it’s good enough for Florence Nightingale, Rudolf Nureyev, John Travolta, Kate Moss and East 17.

The 300-year-old Cagaloglu Hamam is ornate and also offers trained assassins with karate chop hands for massage.

And then there’s the Turkish tea, or stronger. See and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.


It’s blowy outside

Kuusamo, where even Santa sheds his big red suit… don’t worry, he puts a towel over his lap.

At Kuusamo Airport, eight to ten people can sit comfortably on its U-shaped benches.

And while cooling down on the terrace, you can admire the views of the runway and the tiny Kolvanki Lake.

The basic fee is €50 (for two hours) + €10pp.. Extra hours are €15.

How to book? At . You can also call +358 (0)20 708 8810 or send an email to .

You can also check out the saunas at Helsinki and Kittila. Visit

Countries, Culture, Europe

Give us this Day – the stars of Prague

For a people who boast about their atheism they don’t half have a lot of churches, saints and synagogues.

And their St Vitus Cathedral in the Castle area of Prague does take a lot of getting around.

Thankfully I have the jaunty Jirina to fall back on.

Seat of learning: With Jirina

King Charles IV is the Father of the Czechs and Good King Wenceslaus their patron saint.

But it is St Jan of Nepomuk, or John Nepomucene as he was known in Prague, who I want to flag up here.

Just Jan then, he fell out with King Wenceslas IV.

Add ‘Vengeful’ I’d say. His missus, the queen, shared a secret with the court priest Jan.

And when he refused to share it with him, Wenceslas had him thrown in the River Vltava.

One of Jan’s confessionals

But the most popular statue to him is on the Charles Bridge.

Where there is a local ritual (yeah!).

You touch the diagram of his drowning on his statue.

And then step back a few steps towards the Old Town from the statue and you will come to a cross.


And you will come to a cross with five stars on the left parapet of the bridge.

This is where Jan was thrown into the water in 1383.

Legend has it that this is the spot where he was thrown into the water and where five stars appeared on the water.

Use your left hand to touch the stars and the cross with your left hand and make a wish.

The Castle

Now I must go and get myself ready for my date with Rihanna.

Countries, Culture, Europe

Bye, bye baby – Cerny’s Prague

No, I haven’t been on the weed in one of the many shops selling by the Castle in Prague – I really do have a baby climbing the TV Tower above my head.

I’m noticing the baby doesn’t seem to be held on too well to the surface.

Nor is he wearing a nappy – I fear an accident.

David Cerny’s ‘Climbing Babies’ have become a symbol of modern Prague.

With my new pal Elise

One of many wonderfully irreverent, but never irrelevant, symbols of how today’s Czechs cock a snook at perceived taste, and authority.

Leave baby outside

The Climbing Babies (there are 13) are thought to be inspired by ET’s desire to get home.

What a shower.

But Cerny never reveals the meaning of his sculptures so you can put your own interpretation on it.

We have a hot chocolare halfway up the 216m TV Tower in the Oblaca Bar (it means clouds).

Where we are told we can see a baby out of the window.

When we can’t I ask our ever-obliging guide Jirina if she will hang out the window for me.

Read all about it: Myself, Jirina and some light reading

Perhaps not a good idea though in a city where they have a history of throwing people out of windows…

And over the King Charles Bridge… if they don’t agree with them.

I have come across Cerny’s handiwork before.

Things are looking up: Other tall towers

On my last visit Hope springs eternal to Prague and the Czech Republic.

Sittin’ around

Which comes as little surprise.

Lie back and think of the Vatican

Countries, Culture, Europe

Thirteen years an Irishman – five top cities

For fear of causing an international diplomatic incident, here’s five more of my favourite cities.

In Northern Europe although, in truth, they stand comparison with any in the world.

So let’s get started with some of that rock’n’roll music… and…

Hamburger city

Hamburg ( The Rieperbahn obviously but also the Elbphilormonie, or Elbe… it’s not just for the stuffed shirts.

Then there’s Stefanie Hempell’s Early Beatles-Tour, her infectious smile, Der Fab Four anecdotes and songs on her ukulele…

And, of course, eating hamburgers like a local in Dulf’s Burger Hamburgers and ships.

And a model railway museum which could seriously turn me… Why German trains always run on time.

I Amsterdam

Pictures everywhere

Amsterdam: Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Breughel, the tulip museum and the story of the world’s best flower… and cheese, and a cheese not a cheesy museum.

The Ann Frank Museum and a stirring reminder of how we need to remain vigilant against racism.

Canals, narrow bars and Middle Eastern food… who even needs to visit the Red Light District.

Visit and read Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Prague springs

Give peace a chance

Prague: Lennon’s wall and the Astronomical Church, obviously, but also the Castle which is really a district.

The Charles Bridge with its sculptures and jazz musicians.

The world’s second ugliest attraction, from Communist days, and they’re very proud of it. And one of my favourite statues ‘Piss’.

Visit and And read Holiday Snaps – Prague for under €100.

Bergen’s charms

A lager is how much?

Bergen: The old wharf and traditional Norwegian buildings of Bryggen where you can always find a wooden (or real) troll.

The Floyen mountain with funicular and breathtaking views of the fjord and your ship.

And the Kode museum with its Munch and Dahl (the landscape artist whose paintings drew the first 19th century cruises) exhibitions.

Visit and The call of the fjords.

Africa, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Putting these statues on a pedestal

All joking aside about Zlatan ‘The Ego’ Ibramovich being cut down to size.

But is it right that the Sweden soccer superstar should befall the same fate as Lord Nelson here in Dublin and Saddam Hussein in Baghdad?

The fallen Zlatan.

Now I’m all for sportspeople, celebrities, actors and even, and particularly, animals to be put on a pedestal.

Because haven’t the aristocracy and the war leaders had their day in our affection and deference?

So here are is my unscientific list of my favourite statues.

And please let me know who I’ve missed out.

Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh

Bobby’s boy: Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh

Well, if Bobby’s tale was good enough for Walt Disney then it’s good enough for me.

Bobby is buried not far from here in Greyfriars Kirk next to his master John Gray on whose grave he slept every night.

And he was then awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh.

You’re advised though not to kiss his nose for luck as many started doing… it’s not lucky for Bobby as it’s wearing away.

For more on Edinburgh and Scotland visit and

And, of course, I always like to flag up ma wee hame country. And here’s a wee sample of what we eat and drink…

With and

Fannie Lou Hamer, Ruleville, Mississippi

A little big woman: Fannie Lou Hamer in Mississippi

Sometimes it’s the design that catches you and stops you in your tracks.

And so it is with this remarkable little woman,

The President of the USA, Lydon Baines, Johnson took extraordinary measures in stopping her saying her piece at the Democratic Convention by having television change its schedule.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s life was extraordinary, born into a sharecropping family and picking cotton from the age of six, she was later forced out of her home, threatened with her very life and beaten.

All because she wanted to sign on on the voting register.

She summed up her struggle in the Civil Rights Movement thus, and of course nobody could say it better: ‘I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.’


And why not read my American Trilogy…, and

Anne Frank, Amsterdam

The flower of youth: Anne Frank in Amsterdam

Us journalists like to think of ourselves as hard-bitten but I had to choke back the tears walking through the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam….

The audio narrative dwelt on a passage in her diary where she mentions that she wants to become a journalist when she’s older.

And what a journalist she would have been… ethical (yes, some of us are), prying and fearless.

Amsterdam is one of the world’s great cities and Anne one of history’s greatest figures…

And here is proof of that… and

Piss, Prague


Statues should be provocative and the Czechs have this one down to a T.

‘Piss’ is the good people of Prague’s commentary on the politicians who have urinated all over their country.

You’ll not see it here but once the water gets flowing they pee all over the map of the country.

The Czechs as well as being the world’s biggest lager drinkers, per population, with some of the world’s best beers, are wonderfully anti-establishmentarian.

Visit and here’s some other musings on the Czech Republic

Phil Lynott, Dublin

The boys are back in town: With my old pal Paul

There are statues to musical giants all over the world but while former Thin Lizzy lead singer Phil Lynott isn’t the best or most famous singer of them all, try telling that to Dubliners.

It is a tradition now for visitors to Dublin to have their photo taken outside Philo’s statue off the main Grafton Street shopping thoroughfare.

That other statue, the Tart with the Cart, Molly Malone? Well you can leave that to the uninitiated.

And seeing you’ll be in town here is where you want to stay…

And this site will point you in the direction of other goodies…

Nelson, Bridgetown, Barbados

You can stay: Nelson in Bridgetown

He’s obviously not the only Horatio or the biggest, and as I’ve alluded to already some not too far from here even blew him up.

But he was a survivor, except when he was killed obvs, and he lost an eye and an arm.

Death might even have been a better gig too as he was transported home in a vat of rum… a good way to go and one that the Bajans would have approved of.

Until, of course, his old shipmates drilled a hole in the vat and drunk the rum!

Statues are a controversial subject but my Bajan hosts were keen to tell me that Nelson was part of their story too.

And so ignore the white liberals who like to speak for black people, they’re glad to have him keeping his one eye open on what’s going on in Bim.

For more on Barbados see And and

Martin Luther, Dresden

Closer to God: Martin Luther in Dresden

Some statues can withstand anything.

Martin Luther stood as a defiant symbol of Dresdeners refusal to see their city disappear after the Allies’ firebombing at the end of the Second World War.

The Dresdeners rebuilt the obliterated Frauenkirche sixty years later, after they had got rid of the Communists.

Using as the plans photographs they had asked the public to send in from their weddings.

Dresden was known as the Florence of the Elbe and it is one of the great architectural stories of our age, or any age, to see how the Dresdeners have rebuilt their city to the same grandeur of its renaissance days.

For more information on Dresden and also take a trip through the ages with me with

Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen

With Tom and My Little Princess in Copenhagen

Yes, the Little Mermaid is more visited, but personally I prefer the top-hatted Hans in the heart of Copenhagen.

Hans was an eccentric all right and once decamped on Charles Dickens, walked around the house in the starkers, and made it difficult for Charlie to show him the door.

Very Scandinavian and it just makes me want to revisit Denmark… and digging out my Scandinavian wanderings

Nelson Mandela Voting Line, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

March to Freedom: In Port Elizabeth

Statues shouldn’t just stand there. No, really. And this is a moving symbolic Voting Line which sums up South African democracy.

This is our host Sisseko and beside him a kid as he would have been back in 1995 when South Africa had its historic vote.

It is also immersive and you don’t have to climb up a plinth to get next to it as they do in Glasgow when they put police cones on the Duke of Wellington.

It is the way I should imagine that Nelson, a native of the Eastern Cape, would have wanted it.

And for more on South Africa’s Eastern Cape visit and And this is how I tries to do it justice…

Martin Luther King, Washington DC

Unfinished business: Martin Luther King in Washington DC

We’ll never stop building statues, of course, and I expect a Bandanaman up in my name when my Travelling days are done.

This statue of Dr Martin Luther King is never meant to be finished though.

Until the Civil Rights struggle has been finally met which, of course, it never will be, alas.

But what genius and how moving. For more on my favourite capital city visit http://Easy DC and


Hungry and Thursday – Biscuits

They are one of life’s little treats – the moreish morsel that’s not just for Elevenses… the humble biscuit.

Or, maybe not so humble.

Take the Garibaldi which has a heroic place in history.

It’s no exaggeration to say that without the currant baked sandwich there would be no Modern Italian state.

The great Italian Nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi marched his revolutionaries south to Rome on the stomachs of his men.

In the Risorgimento in the 19th century.

Garibaldi’s soldiers were poor peasants and refuelled on sandwiches with currants.

The legend travelled with Garibaldi when he visited the north-east of England.

Walk this way

It’s a different package holiday, I grant you, but gorgeous landscape. And there they marketed the biscuit and it took off.

I was energised with Garibaldi biscuits on my heroic march into Rome on my Via Francigena, my 100km pilgrimage from Viterbo… Small roads lead to Rome.

Of course I didn’t know the country as well as Garibaldi.

And while I had planned to mark my entry into Rome with a paper cup of Chianti and a couple of Garibaldi buscuits atop one of the Seven Hills…

It didn’t go to plan as I hit a small wood and by the time I clambered my way out I was in the old Olympic Stadium.

But I did get to sit on the plinth of a Roman God… well, it’s the kind of company I deserve to keep.

FrancigenaWays offers six nights’ 112km self-guided trip April to October, from €570.

Biscuits are my cup of tea, or coffee, but mostly tea. Or best of all una ciocolatta di calda densa, a thick hot chocolate.

I’ve shared with you this week the tale of the Stramberk Ears from Moravia in the Czech Republic…

And how the Moravians took to baking their honey-flavoured biscuits.

After finding bagfuls of Christian ears at the bottom of invading Mongolians’ stash. Visit

And now that I’ve let the biscuit out of the tin… I’ll dig out other timeless biscuit tales, of Anzac biscuits, Scottish shortbread, jammie dodgers….

Off to do some digging. And dunking.


It’s The Czech Republic… wish you were ear

Most people bring back a mug, a bottle opener or a fridge magnet from their travels… the Mongolians, well they had a penchant for ears.

Yes, you read that right. And, no, they were not ornamental ears, if such a thing even exists, but actual ears.

And they were pretty precise about which ears too… they liked Christian ones.

Which went down like earache to the God-fearing Moravians in what is today the eastern Czech Republic.

And so, a tip to what to do when confronted with a Mongolian tourist.

Dig a pond and flood him out… well it worked for the Moravians at Kotouc Hill in 1241.

And when the waters abated the Moravians found that beside the Mongols were bags of Christian ears which they had been stashing like scalps.

To mark that victory the Moravians have been baking Stramberk honey-flavoured ears ever since.

Stramberk, or Little Bethlehem, has continued to keep God on side since with the Feast of the Ascension the highpoint of the biccy-making…

I nibbled on an ear or two when my Czech friends came a-calling to the Royal Hibernian Club on St Stephen’s Green this week…

They’re tasty… and even tastier with Czech beer, Moravian wine or Becherovka, the Czech tipple which was first dispensed by the chemist.

The Czechs have many myths, mores and customs which I discovered ahead of my trip to Prague and the Spa Triangle a couple of years back…

The Triangle consists of the wonderful, wacky and life-affirming towns of Karlovy Vary, Marianske Lazne, below, Frantiskovy Lazne and Jachymov.

Where visitors and locals fill their sippy cup beakers with lukewarm and salty spring water which i turn cures a whole range of ailments.

The story goes that King Charles IV, the then Holy Roman Emperor had a hunting accident in Karlovy Vary.

But found a spring which magically cured his wounds.

I’d have diagnosed Czech beer myself which I swear could cure anything.

I find out something new every time I catch up with my Czech pals.

And it helps me set a new challenge for the next time I visit.

Such as bathing in beer while drinking more beer through a hose.

Now how many cans will I need. I’m off to draw a bath.