America, Asia, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday… whiskies around the world

I’m indebted to my old pal Tony Flynn for this lockdown game… use the initials of your Christian name for what you need when you’re holed up at home.

But Tony, I know you better than that… Tea, Onions, Noodles, Yogurt?

And you know me better too… and that’s why I went for Johnnie Walker, Ardbeg, Mossburn, Elements of Islay, Springbank.

You must have known I’d have used my full Christian name… more whisky, you see.

It’ll put a smile on your face

And in this regular feature, ‘Hungry and Thursday’ that’s what it’s all about, and being in lockdown my whisky is my best friend.

And while punters snap up the cheap lager from the supermarket shelves I’m happy to report that there’s still plenty of uisce beatha, or water of life, to be had.

So here’s a trawl of whiskies around the world…

Smoky Scotch

For peat’s sake

Scotland: The original and the best, Scotland is the home of whisky.

It has five clearly defined regions, of which the smoky and peaty whisky from the isle of Islay is the best. Think an ashtray of water… no, seriously, it will grow on you.

See www.visitscotland.com and https://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk.

Irish highs

We’ve been drinking here since 1608

Ireland: Yes, the Irish dispute that Scotland is the home of whisky and with some justification.

Bushmills https://bushmills.com/distillery/on the Antrim coast is the oldest licensed distillery in the world.

King James, a Scot to his boots, had granted the Ulstermen a license as early as 1608.

The Kilbeggan, from 1757, is thought to be the second oldest althougb when it comes to quantity Scotland has seven of the top eight.

With Glen Garioch near my old stomping ground of Aberdeen Aberdeen – a light in the north a particular favourite.

And Meldrum House where they keep adopted son of Aberdeen Sir Alex Ferguson’s whisky in a special locker for him…

And check out www.discovernorthernireland.com and www.tourismireland.com

The American dram

With my Portland pal Laura

USA: You might not expect to see the Oo Es of Eh third in a top ten of the oldest distilleries in the world.

But that is the claim of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, two years ahead of Scotland’s oldest, Glenturret.

I have my fave cousin Kath’s husband Mark, a native Kentuckian, to thank for introducing me to proper bourbon and rye.

And that’ll be Woodford Reserve and Bulleit Frontier Whisky.

I drank my way through the Deep South https://www.deep-south-usa.com. Sign up for the Civil War… it is Virginia

And my American Trilogy The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

While I’ve let ‘er buck with my friends in Portland which has it’s very own distillery, House Spirits, in its airport www.travelportland.com.

Swiss swhisssky

Switzerland: Who’d have thought that you could get whisky at the top of the Alps?

In the Ice Bar, at the end of your Jungfraujoch train, the highest railway journey in Europe.

In a nod to Scotland too you can also have a game of curling up there too… www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks

Czech out the whisky

Fill ‘er ip

Czech Republic: I was too busy testing the beers… for research purposes obvs.

So I didn’t even know of Czech whisky.

Hammerhead is considered the Father of Czech Whisky, the Cold War whisky.

And I got a taste of Prague’s Cold War history on my recent trip to the Czech capital, a city I love… www.czechtourism.com and Hope springs eternal.

Read more about how Vaclav Sitner fed the bourgeois tastes of wealthy Czech and Russian officials… www.scotchwhisky.com.

And back to the lockdown word game and the initials of your Christian name…

I bet you that Celtic player of yesteryear wishes it was a surnames game…

I mean your pantry would be packed if you were called Jan Venegoor of Hesselink.

Japanese (and Scottish) girl

Masataka Taketsuru, the Father of Japanese Whisky

Japan: When the Japanese put their minds to it they go all in.

Masataka Taketsuru, the third son of a sake brewer, switched to the Japanese elite fave whisky.

And even came over to Scotland to visit the distilleries, study science at Glasgow University and marry a Scot Rita.

And take his knowledge back to Japan and spawn the Japanese whisky industry. Visit https://www.japan.travel/en/

And while we’re in lockdown I’ll try to revive my Jocktails feature Jocktails – Whisky Sour particularly now the Son and Heir is home.

And he has taken over the shaker and improved on his Old Msn.

Slainté

Africa, America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Europe, Flying

In defence of Travel people

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts – Mark Twain

Cathy’s clown: DC Easy DC and www.washington.org

The next time you see a cinema usher, a football steward.

Ave Maria: www.CanariaWays.com In defence of Travel people

Or if you even run into a sports writer, then I trust you’ll pick them up on getting in for free!

Muriel, my pal: With Muriel Bolger

Only you won’t because you’ve got class.

King Louis: Friends of racing in Tobago, Louis, Nadine and Clem. www.visittobago.gov.tt Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago

And you know that they’re doing their job.

Kythera: My Greek odyssey www.athensattica.com

And that they’re good at what they do or else they wouldn’t get asked.

Herr for the beer: Hamburgers and ships and www.hamburg.com

My friends

I ran a gauntlet of abuse on my way to becoming Ireland’s Travel Editor of the Year – and from the very people I was helping, my own staff.

Aer we go: With Paula and Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com

Who would, and to be fair it wasn’t all of them, put me down when I was on my Travels (in my own time).

Oo Es of Eh: www.visitusa.ie and www.kennedyspacecenter.com

And snidely refer to my trips which always produced articles, written on time and to the brief I was given, as…

Wooah. Barbados: www.visitbarbados.org Let’s rumba in Barbados My kiss with Rihanna

Junkets, Jollies, Beanos, freebies.

Of course it didn’t apply when I sent them.

Fab Four: With Maria www.spain.info/en Eoghan www.travelextra.ie and Sharon www.ttc.com

And they would be the ones who would be late with their copy.

Petra time: With Zuhair… www.vistjordan.com and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time

Sometimes even embarrassing themselves and a host.

Your Onur: And www.turkishairlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

While their articles would often have to rewritten..

Your USA: With www.visitusa.ie

And all because it was a ‘junket’ and not given the same attention as any other article.

I would then have to apologise profusely to the providers who thankfully and very generously considered me worthy of the ultimate accolade…

Your South Africa www.southafrica.net: With Siseko in Dublin What’s new pussycat?

Their Pleasure To Work With award which was sneered at when I got back to the office.

LA story: Universal Studios’ www.universalstudioshollywood.comJon, The Scottish Sun’s Heather and Tickets Direct’s www.ticketsdirect.com Kate. And My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

Back then, and it’s only a year ago, I would call on the services of the finest freelancers who never let me down.

Star women: The Irish at IPW

On the other side

Now I’m on the other side of the fence I have been glad to say that the holiday providers I cultivated then and many writers and editors remain the best of friends.

Zach the lad: My old pal Zach from my Deep South The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings odyssey www.deep-south-usa.com,

And you always know who your friends are in your time of need.

Give it a twirl: At Pic du Midi. www.hautes-pyrenees.com and The Lourdes prayer

Don’t Cancel

So that’s why I’ll not rest in promoting our industry which, like Twain, I believe is vital to the human condition.

Live like a Royal: Messi around on the water In Barcelona www.barcelonatourisme.com withPaula and www.royalcaribbean.com.

And that’s why I’ve been sprinkling this polemic with pictures of us around the world.

Grand oul tome: With BA’s Tara and Queen of Vegas Tryphavana. And www.lvcva.com and www.ba.com. And Strip… the light fantastic and The grandest canyon.

So join me to support #DontCancelPostpone and #tourismstrong.

Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe

Read a book and see the world

We all of us heard about the world, saw the world or were told about the world before we ever saw it… and for many of us we fell in love with the world through books.

I’m not talking about the holiday page-turners where Major Jeremy or Lord Montgomery crosses the class divide to elevate Mary the chambermaid.

A novel travel experience

Rather these are the books which mark out a country as somewhere we strive to visit and then do so:

The Story of an African farm girl (South Africa): Olive Schreiner unsurprisingly wasn’t on my school syllabus growing up in Scotland in the Seventies.

South Africa was completely off my radar until my best friend Thomas was taken out there to live with his family.

Thomas was addicted to the Commando wartime comics from the DC Thomson stable which includes the Beano and the Dandy, and who I am working for now.

But I digress. Olive, as I discovered on my trip to the Karoo in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, was a feminist pioneer.

And her homeland looks as if it hasn’t changed very much since it was written in the 1880s. Visit https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ and What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know.

Deep South

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (USA): Arguably one of the most influential books in the history of the modern world

With Abraham Lincoln purportedly greeting Harriet Beacher Stowe with the salutation: ‘So this is the little woman who started this great (American Civil) war.’

Tom was based on a real-life slave, Josiah Henson who lived and worked on a plantation in Bethesda, Maryland.

Much changed and much gentrified as an exclusive suburb of Washington DC where I always receive the best of welcomes from my cousin… www.washington.org and Easy DC.

While learn more about the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman, above, in my American Trilogy trawl through the Deep South… The Promised Land, The story of the Blues, The King of Kings. And https://www.deep-south-usa.com.

Time Travel

SlaughterhouseFive (Dresden, Germany): War revisionism hadn’t reached my Glasgow school but Kurt Vonnegut seeped into my consciousness a few years later at Aberdeen University.

The cult Sixties novelist placed his time-travelling hero Billy Pilgrim in and around the Allies’ firebombing of Dresden

And it infused this student to seek out the city, the Florence of the Elbe, 30 odd years later… https://www.dresden.de/en/tourism/tourism.php and Dresden’s renaissance.

The castaway

Robinson Crusoe (Tobago): Where I clambered onto the very beach the castaway found himself on.

And raced with the goats, the descendants of the ones Crusoe had raised 300 years before.

See https://www.visittobago.gov.tt.

All Greek to me

The Odyssey (Athens); As a student of ancient Greek (private school, you see) I studied excerpts from Odysseus’s (or Ulysses) journey home from Troy.

And just to get into part I had an odyssey of my own through Munich Airport onto Athens and around the island of Kythera where he ventured.

See https://athensattica.com and https://visitkythera.com.

The Good Book

The Bible (Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Heaven and Hell): The first place names that we learn of other than our home addresses are the Holy Lands.

And where John the Baptist is reputed to have baptised Jesus at ‘Bethabara beyond Jordan’, or Bethany.

Which the Jordanians claim as Al-Maghtas.

But the Israelis say is where they are on their side, actually in the place where the River Jordan now flows.

And these Orthodox Christians repeated the ceremony.

See https://www.baptismsite.com, www.visitjordan.com and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

So which books transport you to a far-flung place? Tell me and we’ll share…

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – Sing a song of prayer to the Lord

I’m sitting out my Sunday service today but I will sing a song of prayer to the Lord.

The advice on attending your place of worship has swung back and forth like yon botafumeiro incense holder that almost took me out in Santiago.

With the Diocese of Rome, whose boss, the Pope the ma. I defer to, ordering the closing of churches and then their reopening.

While mosques, synagogues and temples are also reacting coronavirus by closing their doors to protect their flock.

Best consult your place of worship for latest advice.

Of course there has always been an exemption from Sunday worship in my church for those who are old or infirm, if you’re sick, or at risk.

While there is no compulsion on Protestants to attend church with the emphasis very much on an individual’s personal relationship with God.

Through the Good Book and prayer.

And much like Methodists, Baptists and Gospel choirs the best way to pray is to sing.

And to Our Lady

So here are a few songs from my travels to get you going:

Ave Maria (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XpYGgtrMTYs): Well they are Marian sites…

Lourdes https://www.lourdes-infotourisme.com and The Lourdes prayer, Fatima in Portugal Centro www.visitportugal.com.

And Secret Portugal Medjugorje What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know. And Marian Pilgrimages www.marian.ie.

Spiritual

Which is where the greats from Motown from Aretha to Whitney started out and how cruise ships https://www.celebritycruises.co.uk put on entertainment.

I’d missed the old gospel choir in Memphis after I had to get the early-morning connection back to Europe.

But we were greeted to Christmas songs in an antebellum house turned B&B (and Deep South B&Bs are actually country houses). Visit https://www.deep-south-usa.com.

I did manage to get my fix though in Anaheim. See https://visitanaheim.org and www.visitcalifornia.com

And breaking news…

Word reaches us from Siena, Italy, where the locals have been singing to each other for moral support.

Down an empty street https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hDu_kLJ-5Mk.

The song: E mentre Siena Dorme, or While Siena Sleeps.

Italians have never been silenced and never will… http://www.italia.it/en/home.html and Small roads lead to Rome.

And remember everybody has a place in God’s choir.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

My Sporting Weekend – Virtual Van Dijk

It’s a reality check… and the big sports shutdown means that, without Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool to watch, we’ll have to go to sports games for our fix.

Now video games have come a long way since we were using solid bars to knock square balls over solid line nets… we called it tennis.

And it was a Christmas present I’d pestered my parents for for weeks only to lose interest in it before the new year.

So where does this bring us as far as our travels… well, it’s to flag up games which we can play online.

And practise our chess skills, card-playing and scrabble craft for when we can get back on the road playing away.

Chess: And it’s those stone tables we see in parks.

And when we went to New York on a family holiday on the Halloween before Barack Obama’s election…

We ended up playing chess in McArthur Park with a dude who claimed to have been Bobby Fisher’s regular opponent back in the day.

When you’re in New York’s parks do me a favour and look for Alexander Hamilton… see www.nycvb.com.

Now keeping to the subject matter of games you can play by yourself (now keep it clean).

Play your cards right

Cards: After all, the plan is to get out to Las Vegas again this year for the American Travel fair.

And meet up again with the guys and gals on The Strip Strip… the light fantastic and www.lvcva.com.

And some real sports

Now there are any number of real sports you can play.

And as it goes I’m far better on screen than in real life. So here goes…

Swinging time

Golf: I’ve tried my hand at the Old Course in Cannes when I was chastised for not shouting ‘quatre’…. The Boat D’Azur and www.france.fr.

And also shot the neon lights out on a driving range in Vegas.

While I’d perfected my swing by the time I’d got to Paul McGinley’s Golf Academy in Quinta do Lago… Secret Portugal and www.visitportugal.com.

While on the court

Tennis: And it was on that trip to the state-of-the-art complex The Campus that I was put through my paces by Judy Murray.

Yes, tennis, but obviously dancing too. See www.quintadolago.com.

It was obviously the command of the angles I’d learned at that old video game.

Home run

Baseball: The 40-minute daily DART train journey from Greystones, Co. Wicklow to Dublin would drag.

And even allowing for the beautiful seaside vistas I would find myself perfecting my home runs.

So that the guys at the Washington Nationals didn’t have to tell me how to grip it and rip it when I got in the batting cage… www:washington.org. And Easy DC.

Our countries have become more assimilated culturally.

But back in the early Eighties I was baffled by the hand-held computer game my New York cousin Eddie was playing.

Touchdown

American Football: Where they only kick the ball to start and restart and to convert.

And where success is measured in territory gained, like warfare, which their players are togged up for.

My old friends at Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com have been sponsoring a biannual American College Football game at the Aviva Stadium.

Which we (me, the Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl) attended although I’m not sure it held the wife’s attention as deep into the third quarter she asked..,

‘Are you allowed to throw the ball forward?’

Me? The best bit about American Football is the cheerleaders, and I have my own Bandanettes. See Go West and www.denver.org.

Slam dunk

Basketball: Breaking into the sports desk in my first job in Reading in the south of England I covered what were seen as minority sports.

I didn’t get myself to an NBA game on my travels to the US but picked up the talk from the TV on early-morning chat shows and pub talk.

In Memhis who boast the Grizzlies, on my American Trilogy… https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The Promised Land, The Story of the Blues and https://www.deep-south-usa.com.

The puck stops here

Ice Hockey: Early in my sports-writing career I would draw my inspiration from the great writers (and them me).

The doyen of American Sports AJ Liebling opined: ‘I went to a fight and an ice hockey game broke out.’

And so, yes, I flicked the puck on the floor (it was out if season so not iced up) at the Anaheim Ducks https://visitanaheim.org and www.visitcalifornia.com.

But I also charged into a wall, although I didn’t take anyone with me.

MEET YOU ONLINE

America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Myrlie and Marilyn – and other world heroines

Anne Frank, Amsterdam: ‘Nothing is off limits,’ a former newspaper colleague chimed in when I tried to steer morning conference back from an insensitive area.

And a lot of journalists like to paint themselves as hard-bitten and cynical… as if detaching yourself from feeling will help you present the story!!!

The words of the young Anne from her diary of life i. Hiding in an Amsterdam attic and her idealistic dream that she might one day become a journalist choked me.

Visit https://www.annefrank.org/nl/, https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/i-am/i-amsterdam-city-card?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIusPow-eI6AIVS9HeCh2utgDfEAAYASAAEgIWY_D_BwE and here’s my thoughts on one of my favourite cities… Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Little Shepherd of Fatima

Say a prayer for me

Maria dos Anjos, Fatima, Portugal: Maria dos Anjos is the closest you can get to a Little Shepherd of Fatima.

And perhaps she’s got a secret up her sleeve.

But visiting Marian site Fatima a couple of years ago I got to say an Our Father with her… God’s a polyglot so speaks Portuguese and Scottish!

See www.visitportugal.com and Secret Portugal.

A Civil Rights soldier

On a pedestal: Myrlie Evers

Myrlie Evers, Mississippi: Myrlie Evers hunkered down with her young children in the bath of her Mississippi home.

Outside, her husband Medgar who was Mississippi’s Dr Martin Luther King, was emptying the car trunk of fliers.

When he was gunned down in his carport.

Bob Dylan immortalised Medgar in song in Only A Pawn In The Game https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F229G4Dx2yc

And he can have no richer legacy than firebrand Myrlie who I met In Mississippi and was energised by her continued passion for the struggle.

Visit https://www.deep-south-usa.com and my American trilogy The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

A mother called Judy

A jive with Judy in Portugal

Judy Murray, Quinta do Lago, Portugal: Now, I wouldn’t swap my Irish mum for anybody but if I had had a Scottish mum I’d have wanted her to be Judy Murray.

Of course that would age her and Judy, as well as being as athletic as a teenager she is also just as mischievous.

The tennis coach was quick to say that we weren’t to ask about her famous sons Andy and Judy…

So after the tennis coaching at Denis O’Brien’s The Campus https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/ we naturally spoke about Strictly.

And had a dance… Secret Portugal.

An icon called Marilyn

Lying with Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe, Los Angeles: Who wouldn’t have wanted to lie with Marilyn.., though maybe not now.

Although Hugh Hefner had no such qualms (funny that) and bought the drawer next to Marilyn Monroe in Los Angeles so he could rest with her in perpetuity.

Marilyn is all over LA https://www.discoverlosangeles.com and https://www.visitcalifornia.com/uk?&a=1&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI1ePq6oOJ6AIVENreCh2rTQGvEAAYASAAEgJKP_D_BwE on Venice Beach murals, her hands and star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and even sashaying around…

As a lookalike… and I love a good lookalike.

Adventure, America, Countries

Like a Greystones cowboy… in Texas

I’ve seen five-a-side footballers (of whom I am one again) dribbling the ball under the table in the bar afterwards… but I didn’t expect the rodeo show when it came.

But that’s what they do for fun in Cleveland, Mississippi https://www.deep-south-usa.com and where myself and my Travel colleague Issy stayed back after our party had left.

The locals were watching the rodeo on the TV and one guy was lassoing the barmaid into him.

I think her name was Daisy although that’s maybe my fevered imagination.

But that trip to mark the Martin Luther King 50 commemorations of the Great Man’s passing The Promised Land, and this diversion got me hankering to go to the rodeo.

Giddy up

And if you’re going to throw yourself into it then you’re best going big… which means Trxas.

RodeoHouston, www.rodeohouston.com, the world’s biggest rodeo, takes place from March 3-22 in Houston.

Where 70,000 will attend daily.

And you’ll get to see 17 acts, among them Willie Nelson, Gwen Stefani and Keith Urban.

The latter, who graced us in Dublin when he visited with Nashville’s Country & Western https://www.visitmusiccity.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=why_nashville&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0KjnmMnq5wIVgrHtCh0AZw74EAAYASAAEgLynvD_BwE weekend from at the RDS is particularly worth seeing.

Of course you’ll know that this former son of Greystones, Co. Wicklow is made for rodeo from his adventures in Corado… The New Frontiersmen.

Rodeo rider Jim

Now you’ve got a taste for Houston then what about the Apollo Mission Control Center, the Houston Museum District and the Holocaust Museum Houston?

Are you sitting comfortably then I’ll begin

And the best way to get around it all? Our friends at www.VisitHouston.com tell us that Houston’s Experience Marketplace is the ticket.

Because they will send you tickets via text and email for among other top things… the Houston Museum Pass, the Houston Brew Pass and the Space Center General Admission.

All major airlines fly out of the UK and Ireland to Houston.

Houston…. I have no problem!

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine

The King of Kings – Jim Murty’s TravelTravelTravel

There have been 45 presidents of the US since King George was sent packing. The US, though, has had three Kings, who have left a lasting legacy. This year is the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s assassination. We followed in his footsteps, from Memphis where he made his Mountaintop speech and was assassinated…
— Read on jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/elvispresley-the-king-of-kings/

Way down… in Memphis, celebrating Elvis, The King of Kings, on the 4th of July. From your Travel Editor of the Year.