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

The travel pack – the birds of the world

Does anyone else here feel like Burt Lancaster in the Birdman of Alcatraz? Oh, to be that little birdie with his freedom.

So let’s take wing and celebrate our feathered friends around the world.

The Spoonbill

Scoop of the day. www.algarve-birdwatching.com

Rio Formosa, Quinta do Lago, Algarve: And anyone who didn’t think that God has a sense of humour hasn’t paid attention to how he made us all.

For every pink flamingo there’s a Spoonbill.

I found these fancy snouted fellas in the Via Formosa in Quinta do Lago in the Algarve…

Their bills, of course, are purpose-built to scoop up all that pond life to give them fuel for the skies.

Yes, Pink Flamingoes

In the pink: In Busch Gardens

Pink Flamingoes, Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Florida: And for those Fiftysomethings among us the opening shots for the Florida soap Flamingo Road made us fall in love with these birds

Yes, and Morgan Fairchild, to be fair.

I got up close with a flamingo out in SeaWorld and again he is a reminder of God’s Grandeur.

Heron good things about you

You’ll have a long wingspan then

Herons, Kuramathi, The Maldives: And you know when a bird has her eye on you.

She even came into the pool with me every morning.

Kuramathi is a bird-watcher’s dream, big, small, skinny, plump, and every colour.

And as bird-watching is a stationary pastime isn’t it a relief that you don’t have to freeze your whatsits off either?

Caribbean wood doves and mockingbirds

The West Indies: Rihanna, my wood dove used to join me in my hot tub in Barbados of a morning… and leave a mess in the bedroom.

I would forgive Rihanna anything though.

The West Indians take their nature very seriously, just as seriously as their rum and their music.

And Ean The Birdman of Tobago will show you around his Adventure Eco Villas where the birdies will twirl and tweet around your head.

You can stay too and awake to birdsong.

And not forgetting the Duck

Ducks everywhere: Whether they’re the rubber ones in your bath at Hastings Hotels in Northern Ireland (or in mine).

Or with The Donald in Epcot in Florida or in Anaheim.

Following the Duckmaster and the quackers down to the fountain in the hotel lobby in the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.

MEET YOU WITH YOUR BINOS

America, Countries, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – slam dunk, the NBA

I was immediately marked out as a spectator and not a player.

When my cousin Maura threw me into a game of pick-up basketball with her boyfriend John in Queens, New York.

Basketball had always been a novelty game for milk bottle white Scotsmen whose only connection with the game was The Harlem Globetrotters.

A free throw anyone?

Until I got to America.

And saw the importance of the game on that visit to see my cousins in New York and then four years later in Boston.

Where I would pass by the statue of Boston Celtics’ legendary coach Red Auerbach.

Outside Quincy Market at Faneul Hall where I was a bus boy at GuadalaHarry’s and ice cream salesman at a parlour.

Anyhoos I had myself my basketball team.

And despite warming to all the teams in North American cities I’ve passed through in the years since.

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, LA Lakers and Clippers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.

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I was a Celtics fan. Which wasn’t a huge jump from my young days following a football team, Celtic in Glasgow.

This was my year for my long-awaited return to Boston 33 years but COVID has stalled that on the plate.

When I would also fulfil an ambition I didn’t even know I had.

The home of baseball: Fenway Park

To walk the Fenway Park Green Monster perimeter where I’d seen the Red Sox hit their home runs that 1987 season.

The NBA play-offs are playing out in a DisneyWorld bubble in Orlando.

And you should catch it on whichever channels you pick up.

MEET YOU ON THE COURT

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe

Happy World Friendship Day Pt 1

Happy World Friendship Day and this post is dedicated to the friends we make around the world on our travels.

And whom we’re all missing so much.

Winnie the Pooh is the patron of World Friendship Day.

And who better than the silly willy-nilly old bear all stuffed with fluff.

I’m forever indebted to Mississippian Zach who looked after me (and the rest of the group but mostly me).

On the second leg of my American Odyssey in the Deep South.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King and honouring the two other Kings, Elvis and BB King.

Hit the road Zach

If it had been left to me it would have been more Tragical than Magical Mystery Tour.

With me leaving my mobile phone back in Cleveland, 124 miles from state capital Jackson.

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Zach keeping an eye on me

Where we were assembling for the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums, the Museum of Mississippi and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

Zach only organised for a friend who he said was travelling up to the opening himself, but who may very well have been enlisted to help this dopey Scotsman, to take the mobile with him.

The story doesn’t end there though.

And when I put my phone down in the huge hall in the convention centre in Denver Zach appeared to warn me:

’We’re not getting someone to travel 100 miles if you forget your mobile phone this time!’

Geraldine, my Soca friend

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We binge-watched American sitcoms when the children were younger (whaddya mean? we still do).

And that meant following the misfortunes of old divil Arthur who had to be walked by his daughter Carrie’s friend Holly.

I’m obviously too young for any of that only I’m not.

And Geraldine walked me and my new Virginian friend Patsy when I went in search of Rihanna at Club Barbados in Barbados

As well as being a reason for getting up early Geraldine went the extra mile for me.

When I showed an interest in Soca music by singing King Bubba tunes.

And on the last day of my trip a CD of her favourite Soca music was waiting for me at reception.

Ich bin ein Dresdener

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If only I’d had Ingrid as my teacher when I was young.

Ingrid took us on a walk through Dresden and Saxon history at the German Travel Mart.

Her grandmother had talked to her about the Red Heaven firestorm that set alight their city at the end of the Second World War.

And told us of life under Communist rule. So good I went back for the same tour after my booze cruise on the River Elbe.

I wear the wrist band pass for the tour to this day.

And also others from my Travels which includes Denver, Los Angeles, the Czech Republic and Portugal.

Jose, the real Special One

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Life’s a beach

I can’t take her anywhere.

Jose Madomis  is taking us around Portugal Centro , wining and dining and us.

And explaining at any given opportunity why his home town of Coimbra is the centre of the Portuguese (and wider) world.

When El Scary One pipes up about how she doesn’t like Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho.

Suck-up that I am I mentioned how inspiring they both were and got my wine glasses filled up and beers bought for me.

What Amann, what a man, what a mighty good man

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Do I pass as Jordanian? With Zuhair

It’s Zuhair, as in zoo hair, our Jordan guide told our G Adventures party.

It’s never easy being a guide and even tougher when you can’t eat and drink while the rest of your party are stuffing their faces and lubricating.

But Zuhair cheerfully took us all around Petra, the Dead and Red Seas and the baptism sites of Jesus, Mt Nebo.

Where Moses looked out onto the Promised Land and Wadi Rum.

And waited for the end of the evening Call to Arms before putting fork to food.

We were an interntational party and it’s well seen that Jordanians are the peacebrokers in the Middle East if Zuhair is anything to go by.

Friends all and friends for life…

And now I’ve begun I’ll bring you more of the guides who have made my trips and the friends from the parties I have been on.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

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

Top of the shops – my five best around the world

My Dear Old Mum washed her hands of me… and not for the first time (or last) when we went shopping in New York.

I had bought The Scary One a pink Guess handbag in Macy’s and Mum told me in no uncertain terms Sarah wouldn’t go for it.

It’s still in her wardrobe a dozen years later which is something, seeing most things are usually chucked out after 12 months.

So with clothes shops here in the UK reopening here’s a trawl around the world of some favourite clothes shops.

It’s now or never

Dress like a King

Lansky Bros, Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee: And what else would you expect in Elvis’s home city but button-doen shirts.

Lansky does a range called ‘Clothier to the King’ and this is no idle boast.

The Lanskys did clothe the King when he was a wannabe prince off to his Prom.

Then onto the Ed Sullivan Show, on screen for Jailhouse Rock while his last suit was a Lansky too.

And visit https://www.lanskybros.com, https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The King of Kings.

All clothes lead to Rome

Shirt hot

Dan John Roma, Via del Corso, Rome: Si, Milan gets all the cred for its fashion but the Via del Corso knows its threads too.

So when in Rome, and because la donna wants new clothes and when la donna wants la donna gets, I followed suit.

And bought myself a red shirt with a white colour.

We won’t go into how some pink underwear turned that collar rosé when we got back.

Visit https://www.rome.net, http://www.italia.it/en/home.html and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/04/see-rome-on-e50/ and Small roads lead to Rome.

Sweet Barbados

If the shoe fits: Bridgetown, Barbados

Cave Shepherd, Bridgetown, Barbados: An Old Bridgetown old institution and where you want to come for some old Barbados elegance to take home.

For herself.

Cave Shepherds are spread throughout the island.

And if you’re staying on the Platinum Coast and don’t venture beyond (not guilty) you’ll find them there too.

And you’ll even get a 💋 from Rihanna My kiss with Rihanna www.visitbarbados.org.

Al-Fayed’s old pad

Putting on your best front: Harrods

Harrods London: And just like Macy’s in New York when you’re in London you have to visit Harrod’s.

The first thing that struck me about Harrods when I lived down there and visited was the memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed.

Now since Mohamed Al-Fayed sold the world’s most famous store to the Qataris it now resides in his home.

Buy the cheapest thing in the food court (not the caviar) so that you can get your Harrods bag to put your Tesco shopping in.

Visit https://www.harrods.com/en-gb, www.visitlondon.com and The London life.

How bazaar!

Blockpurrster: Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul: The original shopping malls.

And these have the authentic spices of the East, proper Turkish Delight and dress-up stores where you can make like a Sultan.

As well as the beat shopping alley. Why best? Because cats sprawl out on the tables in the Midday Sun.

See https://visit.istanbul, www.turkishairlines.com.

Where is your favourite store? Let us know and we’ll share.

MEET YOU IN THE SHOP

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

The Sunday Sermon – cultural appropriation

Here there is not a Greek and Jew, circumsised and uncircumcised. barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all – Colossians 3:11

Colossae, you ask? Well, it was a small Phygian city, near Laodicea about 100 miles from Ephesus in Asia Minor. Or today’s Turkey.

And I dare say the Colossians were being encouraged to embrace the new religious cult that was Christianity.

Just like the Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians et al did too as they spread their word around the world and sought to convert the uninitiated.

Maybe though religion isn’t your religion and you’re more into your music, whichever strand of the modern music that is which originated from Africa.

Mine’s would be the steel bands, or Soca music of Barbados www.visitbarbados.org, Let’s rumba in Barbados, My kiss with Rihanna and Tobago https://www.visittobago.gov.tt and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/amp/.

And rock’n’roll which took hold in the Deep South of the USA https://www.deep-south-usa.com, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

I prefaced all this American Trilogy odyssey by walking in the footsteps of Dr Martin Luther King The Promised Land.

And while we will forever associate Dr King with his speeches and leadership of the Civil Rights Movement he was a product of his culture.

And one of his favourite songs was Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Which the Woke Generation want English rugby to ban because they believe it is cultural appropriation.

But don’t we all take bits from each other’s culture and isn’t it how you view it?

I see it as cultural celebration, not cultural appropriation.

Holding a light up to society

There are a million examples between the cultures, colours, religions, sexes, nations.

But I will reference here the Oscar-winning movie Green Book where the protagonists went on a physical and spiritual journey together.

And we were reminded that we don’t and never should fit into boxes.

And that black people can, and do, love European classical music and that there is no cultural appropriation here.

Breaking bread together: Green Book. www.imdb.com

As the urbane and gay pianist Dr Don Shirley said to his machismo Italian-Americans driver Frank ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga in this exchange.

A cultural journey: Green Book

Tony Lip: You don’t know shit about your own people, what they eat, how they talk, how they live. You don’t even know who Little Richard is.

Dr Don Shirley: Oh, so knowing who Little Richard is makes you blacker than me?

And the life lesson and moral of the story: Dr Don and Tony Lip became lifelong friends.

As they embraced a human bond, and did not allow a cultural barrier to be put up between them.

VIVE LA DIFFERENCE

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Sport, UK

Swing low, Sweet Harriet – don’t ban rugby anthem

England rugby fans aren’t the only ones to have hijacked the anthem Swing Low Sweet Chariot, the Woke Brigade are now clamouring to have it banned.

On the erroneous reason that it is a slavery song.

Formidable woman: Harriet Tubman

Of course, it deals with slavery, anti-slavery. And here’s where kneejerk and hysterical political correctness can do such damage.

The Underground Railroad

Swing Low in fact celebrates the life of Harriet Tubman, champion of the Underground Railroad.

Harriet’s song

Whose remarkable story was celebrated in the titular film Harriet last year.

And you would know that if you had visited the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum in Memphis http://slavehavenmemphis.com.

Rallying call

The song is believed to have been a coded message, meant to sound like a gospel spiritual, but really a rallying call to slaves.

Deep South History

Swing Low, Sweet Harriet, Coming for to Carry Me Home.’

Which is what Harriet Tubman was trying to do… bring them home to freedom.

Fans’ favourites: The England rugby team

So let’s disprove the theory that it was a pro-slavery song.

Because even if it did pass through the hands of Wallace Willis, the singer credited with curating the song, he was in fact a Choctaw Freedman.

Sign of the times

While the Civil Rights Movement championed the song too.

And if you want to judge something by who its supporters here’s who banned it before.

Only Hitler’s Nazis!

An anthem for today

If anything Swing Low ought to be more relevant today than at any time since the Eighties when it was said to have been taken up to celebrate England rugby star Martin Offish.

The best guides

‘Chariots’ Offiah and all that.

But songs and symbols can deviate over the course of history, and in this case it should have come full circle and now be a song of hope.

American Trilogy

Which is why I can’t understand why the song sits uncomfortably with former England great Maggie Alphonsi.

The best way to become more informed about culture and history is through travel.

And that means visiting the Deep South https://www.deep-south-usa.com which I chronicled in my American Trilogy The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

What lies within: The real story

Sport and Deep South history aside Swing Low was the song of Aussies and Kiwis at the Oktoberfest https://www.google.ie/amp/s/www.oktoberfest.de/en/amp in Munich https://www.muenchen.de/int/en/tourism.html in the Eighties.

Complete with hand signals.

I dare say they dispersed with the song when the England rugby fans took it up as their anthem.

And now that they look like kicking it into touch there’s a great song of liberation and enlightenment to be embraced by another set of fans.

America, Countries, Culture

Rainy Days and Songdays – This little light of mine

Take my little light round the world. I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

I was all for the tearing down of the Berlin Wall (doh!) but on the whole I’d prefer to see construction before destruction.

Which may be why I instinctively balk against the current spate of tearing down statues.

The other reason is that it has the whiff of McCarthyism about it.

I think we can say, and achieve, more through the civil disobedience mantra of Gandhi and King than the Malcolm X call to arms.

So if you want to see how best to deal with racism go to the Deep South and Jackson, Mississippi where civil disobedience still means something.

At the epicentre of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum https://www.mdah.ms.gov/2MM/ is an interactive rotunda experience where This Little of Light of Mine plays out.

You’ll go though a history of oppression and resilience along the way and pass, of course, remnants of Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow.

The 20s Gospel song which was taken up by the Civil Rights Movement is played on a loop.

It is a simple, defiant stance but it sums up what has gone before it, the Freedom Rides, the Diner sit-ins, the King speeches.

The America www.visitusa.ie most of know from the movies and take back from our visits is a New York or California dream.

As much as I love both it is the Deep South where we see the heart and soul of this great nation

And where I will return and return to as I continue my journey to Dr Martin Luther King’s Promised Land… https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The Promised Land.

You won’t blow my little light out… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cKkbIZtqhyQ.

America, Caribbean, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

The Sunday Sermon –

“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (Psalm 104:33).

Psalm 104:3

But when will we be able to sing again in church?

I have long sung lustily and croakily and in the wrong place and always find that the service is less uplifting when the organist or the choir are off.

But that is what we’ll have to put up with when our churches reopen, initially for private prayer and funerals.

A hotel with its own church… on the road to Rome

The sound of a stirring choir has lifted me in cathedrals and smaller churches on all the pilgrimages I have been on… A pilgrim’s prayer, Small roads lead to Rome, The Lourdes prayer and What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know.

There is a gravitas to the singing as the botafumeiro swings from side to side in St James’s Cathedral during the Pilgrims’ Mass at the end of your Camino Ways walk http://www.caminoways.com.

But the real stirring stuff comes from the black gospel singers on the other side of the Atlantic.

And yes, I know we have them over here but they’re not in the same number.

I’d been chasing the choirs unsuccessfully on my travels and was disappointed to have to miss the Southern choir in Jackson, Mississippi https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The Promised Land because our flights back through Texas clashed with the choir.

Mas took precedent over Mass during Crop Over on Barbados http://www.visitbarbados.org. And Mas is a party.

But I did get to take in said choir in Anaheim https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/ at our street breakfast party http://www.visitcalifornia.com.

Before finally getting to a church in Tobago https://www.visittobago.gov.tt Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago.

MEET YOU IN THE PEWS

America, Countries, Culture, Food

The Sunday Sermon – Inner City America

Weeping may stay for the night But rejoicing comes in the morning – Psalm 30:5

Now we’ve been here before and will be again… racial tensions, police brutality, inner city riots and American cities in flames.

But as Dr Martin Luther King vows in his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech on the National Mall in Washington DC in 1963 the weeping will stop.

That we could do with someone of the status of Dr King now is undisputed.

But we have his words, his legacy and an example from history to guide us.

Memphis memorial

When Dr King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee https://www.deep-south-usa.com https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org and The Promised Land there was a curfew.

It was put in place for the inner cities where the worst violence broke out.

Bur not in a certain diner on U Street in Washington DC www.washington.org and Easy DC which the authorities allowed to stay open.

U Street was the Black Broadway of its day popularised by the likes of Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday and…

Ben Ali.

Super Bowl

Trinidadian Ben and his social hub, Ben’s Chili Bowl was allowed to stay open as it provided the local community with somewhere to go.

And eat.

Ben’s Chili Half-Smoke is an institution in the American capital.

And it was here where Barack Obama dropped in a week before his inauguration.

When a local Mamma asked the Security brief who the VIP was for there to be such a fuss…

He turned and pointed at her pin on her coat… ‘Him’!

A cast of heroes

Ben’s is adorned with pictures of luminaries, Bono among them obviously, with Ben.

While the outside walls are a kaleidoscope of murals of famous people among them Dr King.

Ben’s is still at the heart of the community and as you would expect it is helping out frontline workers during this crisis.

Just follow https://www.toasttab.com/bens-chili-bowl-u-st/giftcards and enter heroes@benschilibowl.com.

A fine example

Dr King may be gone but Ben’s is still going strong.

Just sit on a stool at the diner and you’ll see why it’s called Ben’s Chilled Bowl.

Also see www.visitusa.ie and www.visitusa.co.uk.

America, Countries, Culture

Father’s Day alert, y’all

It’s the one place where Daddys still hold their place at the pinnacle of the family…. Nashville.

From Dolly Parton looking up doey-eyed at her kind-faced Daddy.

To Kenny Rogers fishing and hunting and getting some home-spun philosophy from his.

With Johhny Cash, biting and spitting and brawling with his before hugging it out.

The new Nashville duo

Country Music has always been a safe, homely, old-fashioned throwback.

Where Dancing Dads go to lune-dance and wrap themselves up in fuzzy warm nostalgia.

You’ll see here that I want to get out to Nashville… and so to my hint for Father’s Day for Sunday, June 21.

I should already have been to Nashville already, last year.

But as seems to be the story of my life I was double booked.

Have boots, will travel

I was out instead in South Africa https://www.southafrica.net/uk/en/ What’s new pussycat? when I could have been visiting Keith Urban https://keithurban.net in the Home of Country https://www.visitmusiccity.com

Thankfully the folks from Nashville who took us to see Keith The Country To Country Weekend in Dublin last year haven’t forgotten us.

And they’re giving us the next big thing to being out there – vouchers for when we can get to Nashville.

Hitting all the right notes

Purchase a travel gift card for either $100, $250 or $500.

And you’ll get personalised service from a Nashville Visitor Specialist.

Travel funds can apply to lodging, attraction tickets or bundled hotel packages.

Power couple: Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman

And if you already have a trip planned, check out the Visitor Coupons & Special Offers.

Or check out the Music City Shop to gift authentic Nashville gear.

Pick out a Nashville t-shirt, koozie (stubbie-holder to you and me), hat or a Music City campfire mug.

Imagine yourself in that

Visit imogene + willie (I’m not making this up) for the perfect pair of local jeans.

While I’m reliably informed that you should check outHaymakers & Co. for the perfect button down and more.

Elvis and me: At his breakfast bar in Memphis

And what shouts Country more than a button-down shirt.

Personally I browsed Lansky Bros, the tailors to the King on Beale Street, Memphis for mine.

Don’t ask me why: Before the Keith Urban gig in Dublin

On my Tennessee and Mississippi odyssey… https://www.deep-south-usa.com and The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

Book your room in Nashville by visiting hotel websites for special deals and offers.

The Grand Ole Oprey

Such as: Dream Nashville,Noelle, Omni Nashville, Union Station,The Russell, Fairlane HotelThe Hermitage Hotel, .

Or purchase a Vacation Package through Visit Music City. Visit And see http://www.visitmusiccity.com/fathers-day-nashville 

Who needs a hat? On Issy in Colorado

And for more Cowboy action then here’s my Wild West journey  http://www.denver.org http://Go West. And http://www.colorado.com and The New Frontiersmen. And Like a Greystones cowboy… in Texas.