Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Happier New Year

As the Scary One never tires of reminding me I went away a dozen times last year which I, of course, didn’t have the courage to correct her on…

It was nearer 14! 2020 though was a quieter affair for some reason.

Voyage of the Jim Treadee

That said, it’s always about the quality, not the quantity. Hell, who am I kidding? It’s always about the quality and the quantity!

I made some new friends and hooked up with some old ones…

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

And that’s before I made the biggest journey and commitment of them all by returning (for good, I’ve been told!) to my homeland, Scotland.

I make sure that I contact all those dream-makers at the end of every year who have hosted me over the course of the previous 12 months.

Fur Elise: My Travel partner Elise

And this year has been no exception.

And this year I add those who have tried to get me away but something has got in the way.

While my heart, and any help I can ever give, I give to those for whom 2020 saw them lose their jobs or business.

Bohemia. Beer and Beethoven

Na Zdravi: In Prague

This time I was let off the leash in one of my favourite cities and given a monastic brewery to sup in and a Hoptown.

But heck, my pal Katarína knows how I roll.

And she’d arranged a walk through Bohemian Switzerland which is the Czech Republic which is Narnia.

In the frame: In Zatec

Confused? Well this is the centre of Europe, battleground and playground for the continent’s great powers.

And where the Great and Good came to compose and repose.

Czech mate: Well, she is Slovakian but Katarina is my Czech Tourism pal

We stayed in the Beethoven Spa, where Beethoven himself had a room, and where they have his hearing horns and his death mask.

There was a nuclear bunker, an opera and much else.

This one is Fur Elise (no really, that is her name), my travel partner… I do hope you got to Russia.

Stastnejsi novy rok.

Bergamo Stay Strong

Bergamo life: Una ciocolatta di calda dens in Bergamo

And because I’m a journalist, and a contrarian, I rush for trouble where others run away from it.

So that when images of Bergamo in lockdown, here in Western Europe, shot onto our screens I vowed I would get out there.

Which I did in the Autumn when I saw a city, and its citizens, blending in with the changing of the seasons and nature’s ways.

Bergamo stay steong

Nature had not been kind to the Berganaschi with the Northern European city Covid’s European epicentre in March.

But here they were back out in the piazzas, looking beautiful and cool, even behind their masks.

Fun of the Funiculare

Well they all speak with their hands anyway (parlano con le mani).

And they have much to tell us about their city.

About their favourite sons Papa Giovanni XXIII who gave his name to the hospital we were all transported to in March.

And composer Gaetano Donizetti who is ubiquitous in the city which throws an annual operatic festival to him.

A poplar choice

As ubiquitous as Italian hero and freedom fighter Guiseppe Garibaldi who on his Expedition of the 1,000, his march on Rome, drew heavily from Bergamo.

Which has given the city the moniker, La Citta dei Mille (the city of the thousand). My kinda people.

 Anno nuovo piu felice.

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Music, Pilgrimage

Rainy Days and Songdays – Happy Hanukah

And I’ll light a candle in unison for a Happy Hanukah though, in truth, The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl have the place looking like a Meatloaf video already.

Hanukah’s status has grown in modern times.

Mainly in North America as part of a better recognition of other cultures and religious observances in December.

So it’s commonplace now, and rightly so, to wish your Jewish friends Happy Hanukah.

Which, in fact, Matisyahu does more tunefully than I ever could, even if I were swollen with sweetened Israeli wine.

Matisyahu’s song touches all the right points, to be fair, King David, Maccabee, Mount Zion, and, of course, candles.

Matisyahu means ‘gift of God’ .

He has, as you might expect from one who terms himself thus, a confidence about himself.

Gift from God

Matthew Miller is actually a Pennsylvanian who is a foremost proponent of Jewish rock, Jewish hip hop and fusion reggae.

We all have our images of Judaism.

And, in truth other than my own home address the place names in The Promised Land’ from the Bible were the most familiar of my childhood.

Anne Frank Statue, Amsterdam

The Jewish story I learned in my early years has infused a lifelong interest in the Chosen People.

Alas that has mostly meant visiting Holocaust markers, Dachau concentration camp on a booze bus trip to Oktoberfest in Munich.

Charles Bridge in Prague

And the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

In every city around the world, as much as the Irish or the Scots, or more, there has been a Jewish diaspora.

Venice ghetto

I found it in the first ghetto in Venice and again in the Jewish quarter in Prague.

But it is to modern-day Israel that I am drawn most.

And saw up close and personally at the Site of St John’s Baptism of Jesus in Jordan on my G Adventures trip the other side.

When Russian Orthodox pilgrims doused themselves in the River Jordan from the Israeli side just 50n from us in Jordan.

I’ll make it over one day, and hopefully soon, but in the meantime give Happy Hanukah an oul’ lesson.

It’ll make a change from Marish Carey and The Pogues.

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Lennon’s revolution… 80 years a working class hero

Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

We could pick any number to define our times as we mark John Lennon’s 8Oth birthday this week. Suffice to say his was a life lived.., and how.

We’ll never know for sure how he would have spent the last 40 years since his murder outside the Dakota Building in NY.

Blue for you. www.johnlennon.com

But it would be safe to assume he would have been at the forefront of all the great struggles of our day.

The Fall of the Wall, Apartheid, Black Lives Matter, Freedom from Covid.

Lennon bestrode his world, leaving his imprint, and still does.

And as his adopted New York celebrated his legacy by turning the Empire State Building blue, here are four Lennon cities.

Liverpool Lou Lennon

Liverpool 4

Oh Liverpool Lou, lovely Liverpool Lou, why don’t you behave like other girls do?

And we have Yoko Ono to thank for knowing this, that John would sing this song, his Mum’s fave, around the house.

John’s statue stands alongside his pals on the Liverpool waterfront near the Beatles Story museum.

Lennon is everywhere in his home city and the under-threat Cavern Club is a good first stop while let someone else do the work for you on their Magical Mystery tour.

Growing up in Hamburg

I didn’t grow up in Liverpool, I grew up in Hamburg.

Not that John was dissing his home city, it was just that he was giving an honest reply to a reporter.

Lennon and the boys (five of them then, with Stuart Sutcliffe on board and with Pete Best instead of Ringo Starr) lived in Hamburg between 1960-62.

And Stefanie Hempel’s Beatles Tour Das Original will take you all over their favourite haunts.

John was his favourite and she had his poster above her bed.

She will take you to the St Pauli door where he posed for a shot later used for the Rock ‘n’ Roll covers album and much, much more.

John’s New York

If I’d lived in Roman times, I’d have lived in Rome. Where else? Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself

While we all know that John died in NY let’s dwell on his life in the Big Apple.

John loved its vibe, its people, its energy and put it down in song on New York City off the album Some Time in New York City.

Dakota Building and the Strawberry Fields memorial where the music never stops are obviously on the itinerary.

For the rest, check out this video.

The Lennon wall in Prague

The Lennon Wall, Prague

What to make of it when you’re told that the Lennon Wall in Prague now has ‘Fuck Trump’ messages on it?

It put off my Czech guide who remembers the wall well from the days when it was an organic centrepoint of protest against the Communist.

‘Appen though John would approve.

And let’s not let Amsterdam and Montreal lie

Of course, this is where John and Yoko had their Bed-ins for Peace.

At the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal.

And I hope that John would approve as I find myself compiling my thoughts here bolt upright in my bed.

While waiting to get back out there travelling again.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Roll Over Beethoven

And because this week I’ll be hooking up with my German pals for a virtual celebration of Beethoven, this being the 250th anniversary of his birth, I give you the classics.

Ear, ear Beethoven

This one’s for Elise

Beethoven, Teplice, Czech Republic: And you’d expect to see Ludwig in this wellness town back in the 18th Century.

Because Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Vienna and Prague were musical centres where Germans flocked to.

I paid my tribute to The Great Man this year at the Beethoven Spa Hotel in Teplice where he stayed, and his room is still there for him.

And he got treatment for his ears, tried out some funky horns and left his death mask.

We also tried out the titular cafe, and the hot chocolate and chocolate cake for research purposes. An empty piano awaited the maestro.

If Beethoven had written a Fur Katarina I’d point you to that in celebration of our host and my pal, but we have the equally enchanting Elise, so here’s Fur Elise.

Rock me Amadeus

Eine Kleine Sadie Music

Mozart, Salzburg, Austria: And, yes, the Austrian singer Falco toasted Mozart with this hit.

A Wiener, he was what Mozart wanted to be, though almost certainly not in musical terms, but certainly in his origins.

Wolfgang was no fan of his home place, Salzburg, which he thought had a small-town attitude.

High standards. We loved it on out ski trip to Soll (it is a Sound if Music Mecca too).

Although the museums are too spread out, you do get right under Wolfie’s skin ;and hair). Here’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, pretty much the only German I know.

Vivaldi’s Veneto

The Dragon, Constsnce and Bandanaman in Venice

Vivaldi, Padova/Veneto: And for many, particularly the Eighties generation, punk violinist Nigel Kennedy, and his rendition of Four Seasons, was it for classical music.

I don’t know if Kieran ‘The Dragon’ who was in our party in Padova was an aficionado but he took casual chic to a new level.

I take some responsibility as I’d wheeled him and fellow Venice newbie Constance out to Lagoon City.

We were back late but had each taken a change of clothes while Dragon was still in his boardies.

While the orchestra were kitted out and the waiters and waitresses too in the sumptuous Padova Botanical Gardens.

Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt of L’Autunno from Il Quattro Stagione.

Boheme Rhapsody

Raising the roof: Prague

Puccini, Prague: And long before rockers namechecked cities, the Classical composers were doing it.

Whisper it, the opera is set in Paris, the Bohemian bit is the fun label attached to what are modern-day Czechs.

And so, for me, the ideal place to watch Giacomo Puccini’s Classic is the State Opera in Prague.

Everybody loves to party in Prague, monks in the Strahov Monastery Brewery and priests swigging Champagne during the intermission at the State Opera.

Handel with care

No cats or mice allowed

Handel Dublin: And George Handel chose Dublin, the second city of the Empire, because he felt the London audiences had started to take him for granted.

No shrinking violet George, there was a statue to him erected in Dublin while he was still alive.

The premiere was packed and ladies were asked not to wear hooped dresses so as to allow more in.

That show was performed at the Musick Hall in Fishamble Street. Now you’ll want to go to Christchurch Cathedral for your opera fix.

But not the place for a cat or a mouse whose mummified remains are on display in the cathedral’s crypt…. they’d got stuck in the organ.

It’s immortalised in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

Anyhoos Christ Church Cathedral puts on recitals and thanks to my friends at Travel Department we channeled old Handel one balmy evening.

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Student Bangers

Would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our stereos? – Braveheart

As students continue to be consigned to house arrest, they’ll only get through this with the staples of Uni, drugs and rock’n’roll.

No sex please, we’re British!

And so in a nod to our future parliamentarians, pioneers and care providers.

Here are some old bangers which got me through my young days.

And the places it took me too.

Tennessee waltz

With WC Handy in Memphis, Tennessee on my Deep South journey

On highway number 19 the people keep the city clean – Tina Turner, Nutbush City Limits

Nutbush City Limits and Tennessee (Ike and Tina Turner): And Nutbush was one to get everyone on their feet in the students’ union (alas no longer there).

I little thought then that I’d be bombing along highway number 19 on my Deep South American Odyssey 30 odd years later… The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

Mine’s a 99

Ninety nine dreams I have had, In every one a red balloon, it’s all over and I’m standing pretty, In this dust that was a city – Nena, 99 Ref Balloons

99 Red Balloons and Germany (Nena): You couldn’t qualify as a student when I were a lad if you didn’t march for the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Nuclear Disarmament or to Free Nelson Mandela.

And this anti-Communism clarion call by this German ball of energy played endlessly out of the window of the girls in the next flat.

The wall came down five tears ago and while I have still to make my mark on today’s wall, I have since visited behind the old Curtain.

Ich bin ein Dresdener

To see the revival of Dresden, the Venice of the Elbe, and learn about the Prague Spring and a nuclear bunker.

Mandela days

With my friend Siseko in Port Elizabeth

Are you so blind that you cannot see? Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea? Free Nelson Mandela, I’m begging you, Free Nelson Mandela – The Specials

Nelson Mandela and South Africa: And, no, Free Nelson Mandela wouldn’t be one for the dance floor although maybe we pogoed to it.

It really came into its own on protest marches, demonstrations and the Free Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley.

Where me and my old pal from Cardiff student days clung onto our old undergrad days for just one more summer.

And while I never got to meet The Great Man I did get out to his home province of the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

And stood in his Voting Line.

So, for every student in the land, turn your boom boxes up loud and channel your Labi Siffre

Your light will shine so brightly it will blind them.

Tell me what your University bangers and we’ll share

Countries, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, UK

Hop springs eternal in the Czech Republic

They know all about masks in Prague with every Communist schoolchild back in the day put through a daily drill of fixing on a gas one.

And woe betide anyone who didn’t do it quickly enough.

Today’s masks in these COVID days are cloth and less restrictive.

And the revellers at the long table on the King Charles Bridge at its grand reopening in July are lowering them onto their chins.

I know the management

To help them gulp down their Urquell Pilsner beer.

No country on Earth, not even Scotland, drinks as much proportionately as the Czech Republic (official).

And they even bathe in the stuff… close by in the Original Beer Spa.

Beer is everywhere in Czechland.

Monky business

Ya dumpling

Plain-clothes monks produce it and clink glasses on a night out up the hill in Prague’s Castle area.

The superannuated refresh with Pilsner after taking the waters and the treatments in the spa town of Teplice.

And the burghers of Hoptown, Zatec, notch up how many they’ve drunk on their beer mats.

In the Hope Museum next to the Beer Astronomical Clock which is better than the more visited one in Prague.

Here a skeletal figure next to the dials, and Satan himself, mock the teetotal.

They hold a Hop Festival too here in Zatec, eery year where among the competitions is a biggest belly contest.

I’m here to work on mine.

Just as soon as I get out this nuclear bunker.

Have I got nukes for you?

That’s all outside, we’re safe

Radoslav had warned us to stick together as we made our way through the myriad dark, dark passageways five stories down in the bowels of Parukarka Hill in Prague.

Where the only company is mannequins in protective suits and gas masks and the ghosts of Communist past.

Here is where 5,000 Czechs would have come to see out the end of days.

Let’s hope that they had plenty supply of Urquell then to wash down all that tinned meat.

The Czechs would, I believe, have prevailed. They are a durable lot, toughened by a lifetime of being fought over by the ‘Great Powers.’

But they’ve always had a Pilsner to pull them through.

I’m only here for the beer

Something I cobbled together

Beer is at the heart of the Czech story, believed to be the oldest in the world, dating back to 993BC at Brevnov Monastery.

For 250 years in fact only monks were allowed to brew beer.

Which you can only imagine they gave up reluctantly.

They certainly haven’t lost the habit judging by the fun they’re having.

At the Strahov Monastery Brewery close to my opening night billet.

You’d be hard pushed though to recognise them as monks as there is barely a tonsure between them.

In the corner, two British girls on a hen night ply a local with shots and for advice on which bar to go to next and there is no shortage of options.

I am happy where I am though, with my waiter guiding me through the beer menu.

As I sup down my beer onion soup and beer goulash with dumplings.

Mild, followed by dark and finished with IPA, is the answer. But I’m not finished there as I’m given a tour of the brewery with samples at every stop.

Thankfully, it’s all downhill home to the Golden Key Hotel were I will sleep in a triple bed under a wooden ceiling with a sauna in the morning.

And wash it all down…

Roll over Beethoven

My hosts probably feel that they can’t trust me in Prague’s Beer Spa and that I’d drink all the suds.

So they take me next instead to the spa town of Lazne Teplice which is the last word in massage, saunas, bathing pools and medical practices.

But don’t just take my word for it.

Well do, but the luminaries of yore came here to take the waters.

Among them Beethoven who also sought a cure for his failing hearing…

And this is where he stayed

And you can see the horns displayed in the glass cabinets in the Hotel Beethoven corridor.

While you can also ask to be taken to the room where he stayed, although we didn’t get in.

He may very well still be in there and just not have heard the knocking.

Beethoven, the 200th anniversary of who’s birth it is this year, was clearly well looked after in Teplice.

Masked man… old Ludwig

And he would certainly have feasted on the town’s speciality chocolate cake in the titular cafe.

All of which I’ve been told I must work off next, as the Czechs themselves do, in Bohemian Switzerland.

Cerny statues

So, that’s where baby’s gone

No, I’ve not taken a wrong turning although I’ve not been myself since that first night in Prague.

Bohemian Switzerland is the park named for the two Swiss climbers who came here in the 19th century and were reminded of their own homeland.

It truly is an enchanted land and got the official stamp of approval.

Bohemian Switzerland… in Czechland

When the makers of The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe used an arch in the park and set Aslan there.

The Czech Republic is full of surprises and I spend my last night back in Prague which too has many still to reveal.

Two iron figures outside the Franz Kafka Museum, whose waists revolve and who shoot out water onto a map of the Czech Republic.

Hangin’ about: A Cerny statue

It is the work of experimental sculptor of David Cerrny and it is believed to represent what the European Union has don to their land.

The Czechs are wonderfully irreverent to their leaders.

Walk around Prague and you’ll see Cerny’s mark everywhere.

Babies in the tower

A man holding an umbrella hanging from a building a Communist Brabant car on leg and Babies Climbing a TV Tower.

You can get up close and personal to the babies in the tower cafe.

But be careful looking out the window because these weans have no nappies on.

Cerny’s statues blend seamlessly with the Medieval ions, King Charles IV, the nation’s patriarch chief among them.

St John and St Jimmy

Tourists though are urged toward the statue of St John of Nepomuk, who fell out with King Wenceslas, and, no, not the Good One.

This Wencesclas ordered Archbishop John to be thrown off the bridge when he refused to divulge Weneslas’s wife’s confession.

It’s good luck to touch his statue and make a wish and that wish will be lifted up to the heavens.

Me? I think St John of Nepomuk might just have drunk too many Urquells and fallen off the bridge that way.

Where to stay

Ooh missus! Teplice Spa

Hotel Golden Key: The Castle area of Prague from €70. Reception will help you out with maps and directions for the sprawling and tiring Castle area Also that yourself to a spa and the relaxation room. See Asten Hotels.

Stay in Teplice Spa: Beethoven hotel: Price per person per night in off peak season is €87 – including room, treatment. daily entrance to Thermalium pool and enjoy the water features, sprays, cold baths and spas. Lots of Beethoven features dotted around the walls and you can even see the room where he stayed. And full board.

Enjoy your trip

Trip to Bohemian Switzerland and see the arch from the film of CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. – €120.

Where to eat

Strahov Monastery Brewery in the Prague Castle area. When in Prague do like the Czechs and eat goulash with dumplings, of course. Go for a starter too – onion soup  with an infusion of beer. Heck. go the full three course and dig into the apple strudel.

Flights

With Ryanair – to Prague if purchased way in advance from €40-€120.

Important websites

Spa Teplice, Zatec brewery, Bohemian Switzerland, Hotel Golden Key in Prague, Mlynec restaurant  Ginger & Fred  State Opera

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

Rainy Days and Songdays – Hit The Road Jack

Woah woman don’t you treat me so mean, you’re the meanest old woman that I’ve ever seen – Ray Charles (Hit the Road Jack)

I guess it’s karma. I’m sitting in the front room going through the names on the itinerary for our Czech trip and my eye falls on the name of Agnetha.

Which, of course, I have to mention to the Scary One, not once, but twice.

‘I know what you’re trying to do,’ The Boss shoots back without even raising her head from her book.

Grandmamma mia!

I meet Agnetha on our first day at The Castle in Prague and she’s not Ms Faltskog, of Abba fame.

Drinks all round: In the Spa Triangle

But a grey-haired bespectacled lady of advanced years.

Of course, that only told half the story.

Agnetha is as sparky and engaging company as anybody I’ve met on my travels.

As Katarína, our host, found out when Agnetha raised the thorny subject of the Swedes’ war with the Bohemians back in the day.

Swede dreams

That passion wasn’t reserved for the great subjects of the day though, and the 17th century, of which I imagine she was acquainted.

On the Charles Bridge

And she pulled me up onto the dance floor on our last evening when Ray Charles, another peer too I guess, and Hit the Road Jack came on.

When the jazz band were in full swing in Frantiskove Lazny in ths Spa Triangle.

The Czechs have a real affinity with Jazz.

Swan lake? No, the River Vltaca

And you’ll see Jazz saxophonists doing their thang at any time of the day on Charles Bridge… a real pleasure.

Like all Travel acquaintances myself and Agnetha exchanged our details at the end of the trip.

And with her living in Sweden and me in Ireland at the time that ought to have been it.

At the John Lennon Wall in Prague

Only Agnetha was the first person I bumped into on my first day at my first IPW. the American Travel Fair, in Washington DC.

And then the following year in Denver and then last year in Anaheim.

We meet again

I was, of course, looking forward to seeing her this year in Las Vegas, only that has been put off until next year.

When hopefully Agnetha will save the last dance for me.

Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe

The name’s Beyond, James Beyond

Bond is back.. or at least we got a trailer yesterday of Bond when he does return.

For many of us Fiftysomethings our first introduction to the world’s most exotic destinations was through James Bond.

So here is a pick from some of my fave Bond films, some of which I’ve dropped in on, skiing and waterskiing, of course.

I’m all in

We’ve been expecting you, James

Casino Royale, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic: You might not expect it in the heart of Europe but the Czech town of Karlovy Vary is a movie hub.

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has been running since 1946 and it was to here, the Grand Pupp, that Daniel Craig came to play the tables.

The festival is slated to return from November 18-21 and I expect they’ll keep my seat for me, you know the one I share with Richard Gere.

No bull in Istanbul

Istanbul, From Russia With Love: And Aussie model George Lazenby’s sole excursion as 007 took him to Istanbul.

Bond is in Istanbul to pick up potential defector Romanova.

And he obviously performs his derring-do through the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia and on the Bosphorus.

Double O Venice

Roger Moore, Moonraker, Venice: And, yes, Bond was in Venice for Casino Royale and From Russia With Love but also the lunar escapade, Moonraker.

Roger arrived by gondola, obvs, and patronised some pretty decent billets. Me, I prefer a vaporetto.

But however you get here, and I went AWOL here with two newbies from a party in nearby Padova, get here how you can.

Jamaica? No, she came of her own accord

Sean Connery, Live and Let Die, Jamaica: And the Caribbean is a fave of James (no fool him or us).

Jamaica was one of the settings for the first Bond film, Dr No, but it was really in Live And Let Die where it became a main character.

Never mind that it’s Rasta rather than Voodoo in Jamaica (you’d be looking at Haiti for that) the Caribbean character is a great fit.

The Man With The Golden Pun

Roger Moore, The Man With The Golden Gun, Hong Kong: That’ll be me then the Pun bit, while Bond nemesis Scaramanger, wonderfully cast for Christopher Lee, is The Man With The Golden Gun.

Channel your inner Bond at the Peninsula Hotels’ Grand Dame.

Bond girl Andrea Anders arrived here in one if those iconic green Rolls-Royces, and it has one of the largest collections of Rollers.

From HK$4580/£455 per room per night.

So which is your fave Bond location? Tell me and we’ll share.

MEET YOU ON LOCATION

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Music, UK

Cuba – Viva La Evolucion

Were the Vandals and the Pariahs really as bad as we’ve turned them into?

The Vandals, who hailed from the Danube area of Central Europe have been blackened by history.

But were these well-dressed military men really any more destructive than the others who invaded Classic Rome?

Outcasts or misunderstood?

While the Pariahs used to beat the drum from which they got their name and had magical powers before things turned.

All of which ramblings brings me onto how modern outcast states can be pilloried by being tagged a pariah state.

Mind you, while a country can be rubbished with this mantle there can also be retribution.

In the pink: Cuba

And in these crazy days the British Government has given the thumbs-up to Cuba in its latest national profiling exercise.

Otherwise known as the exempt list.

And so more of my favourites, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Jamaica are outah here and Cuba are in.

Music everywhere

Now like us all I have my preconceptions of Cuba, their Fifties classic cars, rumba, cigars and Castro.

And my friends have been urged by all I know who tell me I must continue my Caribbean education there.

Unmistakably Havana

And with my projected next destinations, the Czech Republic and Switzerland (doncha just know it?) now made pariah states by the UK it’s time for a rethink.

I’m reminded too that I have got close to Havana in that I visited San Cristobal de La Laguna in Tenerife on which Havana was based.

And check out these guys for best deals… https://www.audleytravel.com/cuba?

So Cuba, I’m swaying my hips here… quiero bailar la salsa.

Now are you listening out there?

Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe

Lay your hands on me… the best massages

I’m looking forward to having a beautiful young woman lay her hands all over me… and maybe later I’ll have a massage

Some people need a humour transplant.

Back in the day when I edited Ireland’s then award-winning Travel section I had some massage fun in a Barbados article.

Only by the time it got to the inhouse clickbait site it was edited out.

As it didn’t sit well with The Third Wave of Feminism overseers.

Who missed the point totally as Barbados is gloriously irreverent and saucy.

And which is why this Scot just clicked with the Bajans.

And I will have to work off this belly

Now you’re nice and relaxed

I’m floating on air as I write this post after being a guinea pig for my daughter as she keeps her skills up.

And I’m thinking of my five fave places where I’ve just laid back and thought of..

Acting all goofy in Orlando

Animated in Orlando

Orlando: Travel trips often throw the most unlikely people together but I found that I had a lot in common with Finnish Paula.

Not least when our hotel in Orlando mistook Mrs Murray for my wife (lucky her).

And to this day, and today is that day I greet her as Missus.

A massage is just the thing after cricking your neck and being twisted this way and that on a Disney World rollercoaster.

And this drink Becherovka is a healing potion

The Czech Republic: And it’ll come as little surprise that in this land of spas and wellness that you’ll get a great massage.

Especially in the Spa Triangle.

Watch though whose dressing gown you pick or you’ll have a small Japanese woman shrieking at you.

And a swim will relax the muscles

The Maldives: Because you’ll be stressed out on this island Kuramathi with no traffic bar the golf buggy buses.

Bur it’s hot, hot, hot. And so is the weather outside.

A floating massage parlour

The Western Med: It’s often been said that I need my head looked at.

And who better than a cruise and what better than an Indian head massage?

And for a minute I thought I was going to end up with a revolving head like Clunk from Stop the Pigeon.

Sweat off the rum and food

Barbados: I’m guided as always by my friends and Travel professionals Michael and Niamh and Bronagh.

Who helped to prompt this tour around massage destinations.

By flagging up the Irish-owned Sandy Lane on the island’s Platinum Coast.

But equally you can travel with Tropical Sky pop next door to Club Barbados for your massage.

Without having to sell off a vital organ to pay for it.

MEET YOU IN THE PARLOUR