Countries, Culture, Europe

Flying turtles to the Canaries

And let’s not be shellfish here that someone else is getting abroad, that Aer Lingus is flying turtles to the Canaries.

No lateral flow tests, no 72-hour PCR test, no passenger locator forms…

Well, this turtle is Canarian.

Julius Caesar (stay with me here) has been kicking his stubby feet in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, for the best part of a year and a half.

The loggerhead sea turtle washed ashore in 2019.

Hail Caesar

Crate expectations: JC gets the deluxe treatment

Julius Caesar, thus named by the Donegal family who found him because of his fighting spirit, has been recuperating in Down.

At the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry where they have put the poor fella back together again.

JC was just three months old when he was swept along the current (and who hasn’t been there).

And he was carried along the Gulf Stream to Co. Donegal.

Donegal diver

Just the ticket: And it’s Turtle luxury on Aer Lingus

The poor wee thing was underweight, just under a few hundred grammes, and suffering from hypothermia.

So it was just as well that it was Donegal where he was found.

Because Ireland’s most northern county boasts the warmest people in the world.

OK I’m biased as my Dear Old Mum and her people are daughter and sons of the sod.

The Ulster folk are famous for their hospitality as anyone who has enjoyed their ‘wee’ Ulster Fry will testify.

Turtle’s Ulster Fry

Turtle loving care: And the crew is besotted

So it’s no surprise Donegal’s fellow Ulsterians filled JC up.

Those pounds piled up on a diet of fish mixture, squid and gel.

Just a thought here but I might just have been a turtle in a previous life.

As I’ve got on famously with them in Barbados and in the Maldives.

Well, after 20 months being pampered in Ireland the day finally came today for JC to head home to the Canaries.

And when you travel from Ireland you need to promote the national airline carrier.

And of course Aer Lingus was only too happy to fly JC on the EI 782 to veterinarian Pascual Calabuig at the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre on Gran Canaria.

Turtle on board

It’ll take longer: The swim back to the Canaries

JC’s minder Portia Simpson is going along for the company.

Our turtle, now weighing 25kg, is protected in a specially designed waterproof crate.

I can only say the best things about Aer Lingus’s flight experience… and the same can be said for turtles.

JC is not the first turtle that Aer Lingus has repatriated.

Another rogue loggerhead turtle, Leona, was found in Co. Clare in 2013 and transported to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria by Aer Lingus in December 2014.

This is your pilot speaking

Next time I’m flying: And i’ll choose Aer Lingus

Pilot Captain Peter Lumsden introduced the VIP to the passengers.

‘It is our pleasure to welcome aboard a very special passenger today and to ensure the safe transportation of JC the Turtle to Gran Canaria.

‘Keeping the turtle’s temperature above 19 degrees is critical to his wellbeing and he requires regular monitoring and shell lubrication so placing him in the aircraft hold was not an option.

‘Like all of us on the flight today, I’m sure he is looking forward to the warmer climate upon landing.’

Turtle minder

And so say all of me. The Canaries are a pleasure any time of the year, but especially in the late summer after a year in cold storage.

So the next time Portia needs a hand, then I’d be happy to fly turtles to the Canaries.

 

 

 

 

Countries, Deals, Ireland, UK

Fifty years of Belfast’s Europa Hotel

Once the world’s most bombed hotel, after being targeted 33 times, it’s metamorphosed in the Fifty years of Belfast’s Europa Hotel.

Part of the fixtures and fittings of the daycent old town they call Belfast.

It has been a favoured hangout for journos all that time.

Back in the day the Irish Times Belfast office relocated there (to work!) after their offices were gutted following a car bomb.

While there have been a pantheon of celebrated journalists who have frequented the Europa.

And those who reported on The Troubles are Trevor McDonald, Kate Adie and John Sergeant.

And yours truly and a group of journos from south of the Border.

Your only man

The Penthouse Poppets: Belfast’s bunny girls

We got bombed too (drinks!).

And don’t get all PC on me as our Nordie pals are all about the gallows humour.

The night was a Van Morrison cabaret dinner and the drink was flowing. 

While there was also the obligatory stumble across to Belfast institution the Crown for a nightcap or two.

In this instant orange stout, and I kid you not.

The Europa has been owned by the inimitable Hastings family for the past 30 years..

And as you would expect they’re laying out the red carpet for the big 50th anniversary celebrations. 

Hastings the last word

Former US President, Bill Clinton with concierge Martin Mulholland.

They have invested over £40m in renovations and have added 88 new luxurious bedrooms to the existing 184.

A new renovation programme is currently underway.

It will see the 90 front-facing superior bedrooms, 85 classic bedrooms and six suites redesigned and upgraded.

Of course, there will always be some rooms which are kept for Presidents (and Travel Editors of the Year).

Clinton fits the bill

Survivor: The Europa Hotel

And as well as yours truly, Bill Clinton has been a visitor, in 1995.

He booked 110 rooms for his entourage. He returned to stay in 1998.

The Europa story was told in a book published ten years ago called In The Headlines because it always was. 

Julie noted

The bould boys: At the Europa

And CEO Julie Hastings proudly recalled: ‘My father had the courage and optimism to buy it when nobody else wanted to.

‘He invested heavily at the time despite the bombings that followed over the next three years.

‘It was his confidence and that of many others that led to Belfast, and Northern Ireland, to begin its journey, to become the well-loved tourist destination that it is today.’

The Europa has launched a Golden Moments package from £115 per room which includes a plush stay, full Irish, signature cocktail in the Piano Lounge, signature truffles and exclusive golden Hastings duck.

And for those of you who haven’t stayed in a Hastings hotel, and if not why not, then you’ll know that rubber ducks are their signature.

Eider expect Julie will have one lined up with a typically punny name to join the likes of her others in the past such as Rory Quackilroy.  

America, Countries, Europe, Sport

Open again for golf

A lot has happened in the last two years since I sat drenched on the banks of the Royal Portrush greens but now we’re Open again for golf,

It is doubtful whether the demure folk of Royal St George’s in Sandwuch, Kent on the English south coast will holler their man home.

The way the Northern Irish did County Offaly’s Shane Lowry on that deluge of a day in County Antrim.

Champion Golfer

Open for glory in Belfast

Shane has been a unique Champion Golfer of the Year in that his reign has spanned two years.

After last year’s tournament was cancelled because of Covid.

A bit like your Travel Editor of the Year who was honoured by Irish Travel as their Travel Editor of the Year in 2019 before the world shut down.

And is yet to truly open again.

Ben Sayers outside my house in North Berwick

Golfers have, of course, been waiting excitedly to get their clubs packed again for foreign trips.

Shane knows he has little to worry from this direction as I usually stick to the driving range.

But here’s a mixed bag of my golfing misadventures abroad. Fore!

Quatre en France

Captain’s choice?

The Old Course, Cannes, France: And continental Europe’s oldest course is where to play with Cannes’ Fast Set.

You’ll even have la joie of traversing a small stream between holes on a boat.

But be sure to remember the international language of golf when slicing your shot.

As I was reminded by the match behind to shout Fore. Needless to say it wasn’t Bryson DeChambeau!

My Ryder

Are you watching Pádraig Harrington?

Quinta do Lago, Portugal: Word had obviously reached Paul McGinley and his Golf Academy in the Algarve.

That I was open for golf again.

My driving was better than my riding with me going off road on our cycle and almost ending up with the spoonbill birds.

Another round in Vegas

Hotshot: In Vegas

Topgolf, Las Vegas: And in Vegas the pitchers are the jugs of booze.

They come to your golf range table with chicken wings and dips. And it helps with your golf driving.

As I also found on a Liverpool course as a guest of Irish Ferries and Jameson Whiskey where a drinks trolley would come round every few holes.

What a Player

My pal Gary Player

Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, Wirral: The north-west of England rivals Scotland as Golfland and where I wrote a golf column.

And where I got the tip that a Japanese TV station were filming a round with Gary Player and would I like to join them.

While I channeled my inner Gary at the Press round before an Open and putted back off the clubhouse wall as Gary did in ‘74.

Turk that

Swing time in the TA lounge

Turkish Airlines Lounge, Istanbul Airport: And the dream of golf nuts who will find every opportunity to play…

An airport lounge driving range on the way back from Istanbul.

Just go easy on the cornucopia of food and drink at the TA lounge or you’ll follow through.

And fill up with Turkish treats

So we’re Open for golf again and there’s an Open invitation to you all to come and see us in North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland.

Although my cousin Greg is still avoiding me after he stood too close to me on the tee box at North Berwick Golf Club

When we were kids and I clunked him on the head. Fore!

 

Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Song for Ulster

The 12th of July means something in Northern Ireland and its hinterland so today it’s Rainy Days and Songdays Song for Ulster.

No, not the songs you would hear on the marches and matches but the best of Ulster from the charts.

Alternative

SLF: Belfast bravado. http://www.imdb.com

Stiff Little Fingers (Alternative Ulster): And first up is the pride of Ulster punk.

Belfast boys SLF used the backdrop of The Troubles for material and recorded the first single Suspect Device disguised as a suspect bomb.

The producer thought it was real and contacted the band for a real one. Instead we give you the brilliant Alternative Ulster.

Get your kicks

Call them up on the telephone: The Undertones

The Undertones (Teenage Kicks): It is the stuff of punk legend that SLF and Derry’s finest The Undertones did not get on.

The Undertones accused SLF of sensationalising The Troubles and the violence.

Teenage Kicks famously initially had the line: ‘I wanna hold it, hold it tight’.

An Ode to Derry

Star composer: Phil Coulter

Phil Coulter (The Town I Loved So Well): When a composer speaks with honesty and experience about his world (Derry)then the results are memorable.

Phil, of course, had musical pedigree before this, his signature song, having written Eurovision classics Congratulations and Puppet On A String.

Comedy classic

Harmon harmonies: Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy (National Express): And you’ve got to love a band with a lyric: ‘And it’s hard to get by/when your arse is the size of a small country.

Derry’s Neil Harmon also penned an album The Duckworth Lewis Method. Geinius.

Van the Belfast Man

Hat’s the boy: Van the Man

Van Morrison (Madame George): The poet laureate of Belfast, Van may be a grumpy old sod but he’s never forgotten his roots.

You can still see him at one of his legendary cabarets at the Europa Hotel although, alas, characters like Madame George are long gone,

And a special mention too to the three Ulster counties in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic Counties

Name of the game: Clannad

Donegal and Clannad and Harry’s Game over Daniel O’Donnell.

Hipsters Cavan and The Strypes and Blue Collar Jane.

And Monaghan with their history of Country music and ‘Big Tom’ McBride and his Gentle Mother. And my Country Roads.

Raff, you handsome prince

Can I be in your band: Michael and Travel set

But the last word goes to the North’s finest… my pal Michael Rafferty who has been playing covers of our favourites every night through lockdown.

And Michael is locking it down, deservedly at 500.

Check out his Handsome Princes and Michael tells me he’s the handsomest of them all.

It’s my Rainy Days and Songdays Song for Ulster.

Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

H is for Hastings Hotels in Belfast

Say Hastings in Belfast and, sucking with diesel, you’ll be steered towards its hotels. Yes, H is for Hastings Hotels in Belfast.

For those who have been living under a rock (Ted) Hastings is also the Head Honcho of TV’s Line of Duty.

And we all know that suspicion fell on Adrian Dunbar’s character.

Dynamic: Belfast

Thar he could be the ringleader of a cop corruption circle.

Tour de Force

All of which you can see on the walls and in the language of the locals

And this is where our friends at Hastings Hotels ramp it up.

No hurry to leave: The Observatory

Hastings and McCombs Coaches have launched the first Line of Duty Experience around the Northern Irish capital.

You’ll kick off your tour with brekkie (make it a Full Irish) in the iconic Grand Central Hotel’s Grand Cafe.

Location, location, location

Before you’re taken around locations you’ll recognise from the show.

And finish it all off in the highest cocktail bar in Ireland, the Observatory.

With an AC12 cocktail or Wee Donkey mocktail.

Our favourites: Line of Duty trailer

The GCH  is the place to stay in Belfast and I always take my friends.

To which they’ve naturally added this year The Line of Duty Duck.

Caroline McComb from McComb’s Coach Travel and Cáelán McVeigh from Grnnd Central

That’s my duckies from around the world among them the famously themed Hastings quackers.

Diesel Duck

Yer man, yer duck

Or to put my take on it ‘Diesel’ Duck.

And Duckie will also boast some of Northern Ireland’s best-known sayings.

Go on yersel’ Julie Hastings, Marketing Director of Hastings Hotels.

She said: ‘This is a unique tour which takes in some of the most exciting filming locations across Belfast City Centre.

‘And while you may not float up the Lagan in a bubble, you will certainly enjoy the best views of Belfast and beyond.’

Mate? Steve

The tour starts at Grand Central Hotel in Bedford Street, next to the Invest NI building, AC-12’s HQ.

The Line of Duty Experience packs in a lot for your £49pp.

If we say you’ll channel the scenes where Kate Fleming shot Ryan Pilkington, Kate (again) shot Dot Cotton’s car killing him you’ll get the idea.

The Line of Duty Experience takes place on July 3, 17 and 31, August 14 and 28 and September 11 and 25.

Sign me up for H is for Hastings Hotels in Belfast.

 

 

 

 

Countries, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

A wee Irish breakfast?

It’s the question every Irish guest house landlady or hotel waitress will ask you… a wee Irish breakfast?

Of course no Full Irish breakfast is ever anything like wee.

So to celebrate the reopening of Irish guest houses and breakfasts this week on top of hotels last week a celebration of The Wee Irish.

And a Sunday confession from where they do it best… Northern Ireland.

Tis Grand

The Grand Central menu

The Grand Central Hotel Belfast puts on one of the best breakfasts you’ll find anywhere on the island. Or anywhere anywhere.

Alas the Observatory Bar with the best views of Belfast does the best cocktails too.

The wine flows like water at the Europa Hotel.

Where if you’re lucky you can take in a cabaret dinner watching Van Morrison and his jazz pal Joey DeFrancesco at the Europa Hotel.

While the combination of two Scotsmen abroad finishing off with an orange stout nightcap in the iconic Crown Bar…

Full Irish

Soda bread: With Irish fairy dust

And so when the Full Irish arrived the next morning my eyes quickly sent a message to my belly.

And I could touch neither pork sausages, crispy bacon, scrambled or poached sausages or black pudding and mushrooms.

All of which nearly saved me for my reunion with The Son and Heir at his digs and a walk around town and through the Botanical Gardens.

Now while the Grand Central offers up an Irish Breakfast for inclusivity, a couple of words more here on The Ulster Fry.

The Ulster Fry

One night in Belfast: With Tom

The Hairy Bikers point us in the right direction.

And for those who want to know how an Ulster Fry might deviate from a Full English, well…

Potato farls anyone? Well they’re a delicious potato and flour flat fried savoury cake.

Soda bread? And there was always this slice of Ireland on our breakfast table in our Scots-Irish house growing up.

It’s pretty much as it says on the packet, if the packet is in the shape of a wee Ulster mammy, of which my Dear Wee Mum is one.

The Nine Counties

Belfast boys: With the Son and Heir in Belfast

The secret ingredient is, of course, magic Ulster fairy dust.

More too here on Ulster and I’m not being political here but the province is bigger than the country Northern Ireland.

So that’s the six counties of the North, Armagh, Antrim, Down, Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone.

And the three from the South, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal, with my Mum’s county Donegal in the South but further North.

Irish logic

Well, that’s Irish logic for you.

Only to mention this because I did manage to get my Ulster Fries of my Donegal youth.

And when on best behaviour with the Scary One elsewhere in the Northern Irish capital, and in Monaghan.

So a wee Irish breakfast anyone?

Well, yes, but watch out for the wee night out the night before and the invitation for a wee drink?

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music

14 years of Good Girl Gone Bad Rihanna

She’s been enchanting us with her velvety voice and voluptuous moves for more than a decade… here’s to the best of our Good Girl Gone Bad Rihanna.

So, on the anniversary of the release of her breakout album Rainy Days and Songdays, your weekly Music and Travel series celebrates Ri-Ri.

With our five fave songs from our Bajan Beauty.

We know your name

Bim Queen and Bim Jim

What’s My Name? feat. Drake (2010): And it was the fact that X Factor used to be able to get superstars like Ri-Ri on which made us watch it.

Ri-Ri rocks this all on her own which is, of course, hip-swivelling easy for our heroine.

It is, we know, a collaboration with her long-term on-off squeeze Torontonian Drake whom we hate for obvious reasons!

Our only girl

In Vogue: Our Rihanna

The Only Girl In The World (2010): And a very Good Morning America too when Ri-Ri wakes you up (and I know from Barbados).

Ri-Ri lives in Beverly Hills now with homes too in Sandy Lane back on her home island Bim and in London but we always wake up with her.

Under my sunbrella

The face of Barbados

Umbrella (2007): My new Bajan friends asked me for a slogan for Barbados on my first visit there.

Jay-Z and his friends had originally written the standard for Britney Spears but Brit’s loss is our gain.

What you wearing Rihanna?

The Rihanna fanas.

We Found Love feat Calvin Harris (2010): I imagine the Northern Irish farmer found love in the church hall because he certainly disapproved of our sex bomb.

When she started taking off her top in his grain field.

The disenchanted alderman revealed that he hadn’t come across the superstar until he saw her from his tractor.

Did he not know she is Robyn Fenty of the Cork Fentys?

Diamond pleaser

Smiles better: Ri-Ri at her Fenty Beauty Lunch in New York Ciity

Diamonds (2012): Ri-Ri reverted to more usual locations for the video of Diamonds.

Now everyone will have their own alarm clock song call and mine is Diamonds.

Golden Rihanna

For when I have a flight to catch. See I told you Rihanna gets me up in the morning.

Fourteen years of the best of our Good Girl Gone Bad… here’s to the next 14 years.

 

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – The Royal Canal and other Irish landmarks

Now the screw was peeping, as the lag lay sleeping. Dreaming about his girl Sal. And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle. All along the banks of the Royal Canal The Auld Triangle, The Dubliners

Luke Kelly drolled that ‘in the female prison there are 75 women and among them I wish I did dwell, and that auld triangle could go jingle-jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal.’

And if you know this song, penned by Brendan Behan (and if you don’t then you’ve been missing out) you’ll walk along the Royal Canal in the north of Dublin singing it aloud.

Or if you’re cycling too as I have done, all the time hoping that the broken bottles wouldn’t puncture my tyres.

The Beardie Boys: The Dubliners

That was then, and this is now, and the announcement of the €12m scenic 130km Royal Canal Greenway is to be welcomed.

If you do the lot you’ll have chalked off 90 bridges, 30 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts.

And take in Co. Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford.

So as a preamble let’s get on with our Rainy Days and Songdays six of the best songs with Irish landmarks.

What a Corker!

Jim and Alan at the Phil Lynott statue in Dublin

As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains, I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’. I first produced my pistol, and then produced my rapier. I said ‘stand and deliver, or the devil he may take ye Whiskey in the Jar, Thin Lizzy 

Musha rain, dum a doo, dum a da.

The Cork and Kerry Mountains have always held a special affection for me as the first travel assignment when a cub reporter in Reading.

Going over said mountains in our Citroen cars was not helped by a bout of seasickness going over on the Swansea-Cork ferry.

But nothing that the local tipple, Murphy’s Stout and the craic didn’t put right.

Low lie those fields

Those low-lying fields: Athenry

Low lie the Fields of Athenry, where once we watched the small birds fly. Our love was on the wing. We had dreams and songs to sing. It’s so lonely round the Fields of Athenry  – Fields of Athenry, The High Kings

Lowing, or maybe braying, around those Fields of Athenry were our four donkeys which came with the rented cottage.

I can’t remember what la famiglia called the three others but mine was Oaty as in Donkey Oaty!

I was maybe just tilting at windmills.

And as for stealing Trevelyan’s corn… we just bought some from the Centra for the donkeys.

The Band is back together

Neat little town they call Belfast

 In a neat little town they call Belfast, apprentice to tradeI was bound…, a sad misfortune came over me which caused me to stray from the land, far away from my friends and relations, betrayed by the Black Velvet Band Black Velvet Band, Peaky Blinders

It was more good fortune that came over me… to take me away from my friends and relations to the States after university.

And work, no not on the Black Velvet Band’s pitch, Broadway, but Boston where I inevitably served tables at an Irish pub.

Where every night among the most requested songs was Black Velvet Band.

And yes, of course, like our gullible hero of the song ‘many an hour’s sweet happiness I spent I spent in this neat little town Belfast.

As for a black velvet band, or any colour for that matter, try as I may I never persuaded one… i wonder if she’ll be there when I return.

Where the Dark Mourne sweeps…

London’s got nothing on this

Oh Mary this London’s a wonderful sight with people here working by day and by night, they don’t sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat. But there’s gangs of them dogging for gold in the street. At least when I asked them that’s what I was told so I just took a hand at this diggin’ for gold. But for all that I found there I might as well be in the place where the Dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea Mountains o’ Mourne, Don McLean

Mourne Mountains, Co. Down: It’s always a thrill to see the Mountains of Mourne, my Dear Old Mum’s home province, when driving either north or south.

Mountains of Mourne this sweeping range, has a special place in our hearts as the lullaby I would sing to Daddy’s Little Girl.

It was round by Brockagh’s corner

Harkin’s Bar, Donegal

 It was down by Brockagh Corner one morning I did stray, I met a fellow rebel and this to me did say, he had orders from our captain to assemble at Dunbar. But how were we to get there without a car The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Beockagh, Co. Donegal: And still on lullabies this gentle little ditty about the Irish War of Independence is an alternative to nursery rhymes.

If your mother is from Nationalistic north-west Donegal that is.

Well it got me through childhood… give three cheers to the Teasy and Johnson’s Motor Car.

Meeting of minds in Wicklow

Moore Wicklow please

Sweet vale of Avoca! How calm could I rest. In thy bosom of shade with the friends I love best. Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease. And thy hearts, like thy waters, be mingled on peace. The Meetings of the Waters, John McCormack

And my beloved old homestead of Co. Wicklow and its poet laureate, Thomas Moore.

The Meetings is a family favourite, going back to the days when my Donegal Granny and Grandpa honeymooned here.

We would often return there in our Thirteen Years in Ireland on family day trips.

And skim stones which can be more of a danger sport than you might imagine.

Particularly if you’re that young boy on the other side of the bank who ducks just as a stone is jumping up out of the water.

Still, I did get a 12!

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

It’s a crime… police dramas around the world

Excitement is building to fever pitch ahead of the resumption of police drama Line of Duty on March 21 which allows us to explore police dramas around the world.

Hastings’ landscape

Europa living In Belfast

Belfast: I can’t find evidence but it must be true that Superintendent Ted Hastings is named after Belfast’s faves Hastings Hotels.

The seahorse on the wall of the Great Central Hotel is your compass wherever you go in the Northern Irish capital.

That is if you can drag yourself out of the Observatory bar atop the hotel where you get the best views.

And where James Nesbitt opens his Bloodlands detective drama.

Adrian Dunbar on the Graham Norton Show watches Vicky McLure at his Line of Duty mural

Hastings, aka Adrian Dunbar in Line of Duty has been immortalised.

As are all they take to their heart and allow to film in their city.

By having their image set as a mural… and be sure to take a black taxi tour around Belfast.

Check in at the Europa Hotel, part of the story, and get ready for a potted history of The Troubles.

Mob rules

Vegas baby

Once upon a crime in America: And everywhere there is an American dream there is a big job to realise that dream.

You can see how Las Vegas was built by Bugsy Siege.

And The Mob in Chicago in the Mob Museum and channel your inner Al Capone.

Call him Fonz

Tom Hardy as Capone in the Netflix dramas

Fonz Capone is synonymous of course with Chicago.

Where he was invited from New York by Johnny Torrio, and ended up running the city.

The invitations have piled up over the years for me to visit Chicago but the big job has eluded me thus far.

Last year was to be me marking the centenary of the Volstead Act which beckoned in Prohibition.

And I was all set to join one of the retro tours

My cocktail will be all the sweeter when I do get there…

I’ll just have to watch at the speakeasy doors for the cops.’

Florida where he ditched the Al

Miami vices and Capone

We never did find out why Mae Capone insisted to the police watching the house: ‘We don’r call him that [Al] here.’

Here is Palm Beach, near Miami, where the syphilitic Capone spent his last days under house arrest deep in the doo-doo (literally).

You can see it all in graphic detail on Netflix’s Capone, starring Tom Hardy.

Italy, the Old Country

The Old Country, Sicily

Of course Fonz (or Al) and la famiglia are really all just displaced Sicilians.

Visitors to Sicily will always head for Mt Etna until it gets too hot to handle.

But for those who stay awhile and see Taormina then a Godfather tour is highly recommended.

This one I’ve stumbled across includes a Fiat 500 {Cinquecento)and me and the Cinquecento have history.

When I stalled in the car park in the French Riviera and the good monsieur took over.

I’m not sure whether Capone would be so understanding.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

How Carson said NO… to Northern Ireland

He is the Father of Northern Ireland.

But whisper it in Ulster, Sir Edward Carson never wanted the mantle, nor even the country.

A hundred years ago Carson turned down the invitation to become Northern Ireland’s first Prime Minister.

Not that his fellow unionists held it against him.

Instead they erected a statue to him in front of their imposing seat of Government, Stormont in Belfast.

Like much else in Northern Ireland everything and everybody isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

And it  makes them all the more interesting for it.

Carson the Dub

Just like King William of Orange, who isn’t the figure you see on flags and murals on a white charger….

The giveaway is that as a monarch he would have been far back from the River Boyne and would have worn a garter.

And you don’t need to do much digging to see that Carson never wanted the creation of Northern Ireland and supported a united Ireland.

Toby Carson, a teacher in the south of England, recalled that his great-grandfather had just sired a son a year before to his young wife.

And he wanted to devote his attentions to them while also holding out for a major legal position.

Carson was a leading legal light of his day.

That’s Wilde

And he even cross-examined his fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde in the case which led to the poet being sent to Reading Gaol.

The Great Carson was no Ulsterman it must be said.

A Dubliner, who spoke Irish and played Gaelic Sports as a child he lived in the south of England.

But he always remained in high demand in the new partitioned country he neither lived in nor wanted to lead.

So that when the Northerners asked him to grace Stormont with his presence when they put up the famous clenched fist statue he obliged.

On a podium

A man after my own heart… and I have just the spot atop Bray Head in Co. Wicklow instead of that cross.

Belfast, the city which eulogises Carson, is well worth a reccie around, either on an educational black taxi tour, the Museum of Orange Heritage and Stormont itself.

While if you’re of the Republican persuasion then check out the Irish Republican History Museum, though Carson would spin in his grave.