Africa, Countries, Sustainable Tourism

Ellen and Rwanda

What do you get the woman who has everything… yes, that’s my Scary One, but I’m talking here about Ellen and Rwanda.

With Herself about to celebrate a landmark I’ve been racking my brain about what to get her.

Fine dining: Bisate

Not that I can stretch to Portia De Rossi’s largesse.

In establishing The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda for her wife.

Ellen’s pad

Birthday surprise: Portia and Ellen

And as I’m wanting to celebrate my own birthday a few days later than The Scary One, I’m not suggesting She is turning 60.

The Ellen Campus is going from strength to strength and is the focus of our growing interest in Eco and Nature tourism.

Now the best recommendation for where to stay surely comes from the Hollywood golden couple.

Lodge with us

Peak time: Bisate Lodge

And that would be Bisate Lodge.

Now I do like a hotel with an oul volcano view.

And I experienced just that in Mount in Tenerife in my walk through the ages.

And, of course Tenerife is more Western African landscape than Iberian Peninsula.

So when you’re in Rwanda, do like the locals, of which Ellen and Portia are now among the number.

And base yourself around the volcanoes.

Craters and lazy craters

Good hair day: The gorillas

Bisate Lodge is 5 star (obvs) and you will look out over the extinct (aaaw!) Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes.

This is where Fossey ran her research station Karisoke, dedicated to saving mountain goats from extinction.

Hike through the rainforest, up to nearly 3,000 metres, to visit Karisoke’s haunting ruins and Fossey’s grave, next to her beloved gorilla, Digit.

And my Scary One doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll rest for eternity with this hairy Scots gorilla!

On a roll: The big fella

Rwandan gorillas, now numbering more than 1000 throughout the Virunga massif, await you.

Bisate Lodge for March-May is $1750pps.

Who to fly with

The pioneer: Dian Fossey

And I will, of course, always flag up my friend Meseret and Ethiopian Airways as the guys to fly with.

And when you so get out to see Ellen and Rwanda be sure to tell them this Scottish gorilla says hi.


Africa, Countries, Culture, Food & Wine

Ethiopian Enkutatash an d another year younger

Doesn’t it roll around quickly? Ah yes, Ethiopian Enkutatash and another year younger.

I’m fortunate to have the woman I title Ethiopia’s First Lady, Meseret Tekalign Bekele, Ethiopian Airlines‘ Sales and Service Manager (Middle East And Asia) around to remind me.

Out of Africa: Meseret and a well-dressed Bandanaman doppelganger

I broke bread, ate authentic Ethiopian food (with my hands) and drank wine with the elegant Meseret on more than one occasion in Dublin when she served there.

Enkutatash is, of course, the best New Year of them all.

Because it’s on the Gregorian Calendar you end up gaining back seven years.

Farewell 2013

Safety first: For Ethiopians

Ethiopians will be glad to see the back of their 2013.

And the hostilities that have gripped the country, and the pandemic which grips us all.

And they truly deserve the respite that Enkutatash gives them.

The festivities mark the end of the three-month rainy season.

And on the eve of the celebrations each household lights wooden torches in groups called ‘chibo’ to signify the coming of the new season of sunshine.

And so say all of us.

A land steeped in history

Let’s dance: How the locals do it

Ethiopia is a country steeped in history.

Wth our touchpoints for our Western Civilisation, Lucy, the first woman, the Queen of Sheba, Emperor Haile Selassie and Olympic great Haile Gebrselassie.

While for this aspiring Eighties schoolboy long-distance athlete Miruts Yifter, or Yifter the Shifter, was an idol.

Enkutatash celebrations usually begin with church activities.

One more cup of coffee

Get your hands in: And scoop up a feast of food

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is an integral part of the celebration.

And the ritual of coffee serving and drinking can last for hours.

It is a social occasion which if you’re lucky enough to be invited to is a great honour.

And one which I’ve savoured.. and the coffee is well worth the wait.

There is a lesson here that we all need to slow down and allow things to take their sweet, natural time.

Which is why I’m waiting for when I can reconnect with my Ethiopian friends.

And finally visit the East African country and cradle of civilisation.

Melkam Adisi.


Africa, Countries, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Flyday Freeday Friday – Ethiopian have you covered

Yes, you’ve read that right, our friends at Ethiopian Airlines are giving it away…

EA have launched their Sheba Comfort Insurance policy which covers customers for medical costs if you contract Covid-19 overseas.

EA have been busy, busy, busy… they’ve refurbished their passenger terminal at Bole Airport in Addis Ababa.

A clean bill of health: Ethiopian Airlines

And they remind us that they work with their Star Alliance partners via Frankfurt, Stockholm or Istanbul.

I wonder if I can get off in Crossroads City and rejoin them later.

Aer we go for 2021

You’ll keep going back: The Rovers Return, Manchester

And Ireland’s national airline, Aer Lingus, carrier are spoiling us again… with flights from only €25.99.

Which is Birmingham where you’ll need to take in Cadbury World in Bourneville and Manchester whose jewel is their Coronation Street tour.

Dublin-London is €29.99 and a few euro more from Knock in the West at €32.99.

Beefy: In London with a local

You want to get to the continent? I thought you would, and you’ve got the same taste as me, then I give you…

Living like locals in Saint-Pauli

Hamburg and Amsterdam from the Irish capital for €35.99. From Cork Clog City is just four euro more.

And Ireland’s national airline carrier will, of course look after you if circumstances change.


Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Pilgrimage, UK

Happy Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah, Happy Jewish New Year, and because we want to see off this bloody year, and pray to Yahweh for a better new year, here is when and where all our cultures see out the old and bring in the new.

Hello, Chinas


The Chinese New Year: And sitting down for our annual Chinese New Year celebration with Wendy Wu Tours in Dublin in January at Chai Yo we gave sympathy and Chinese tea (and every food known to man that you can eat with chopsticks) for the plight of the poor people of Wuhan.

Little did we know, of course, that we would be suffering too within weeks. The Year of the Rat should have been a warning.

And what are you all having?

Next year when it will be celebrated in February will be the Year of the Ox and he is much more our reliable carrier of all our human burdens.

And rest assured I’ll be back in Chai Yo next year with Wendy’s friends, the Two Johns, before hopefully we follow The Son and Heir out to Wuhan’s neighbour Chongqing.

Iran the bells

Smiles from Iran.

Nowruz (Iranian New Year): And there is a diary date in my calendar which I can’t bring myself to delete – my trip to Iran which was deferred after the Americans fell out with them again and then this virus came along.

I do hope that when I do get out there it’s in a March when they celebrate Springtime when it coincides with the Northward Equinox.

They trumpet in the day, colour eggs and eat a hearty soup, Ash-e-Reshteh noodle soup.

Sri Lanka is my cup of tea

Sri Lankan New Year: And here we have two Sri Lankan cultures celebrating a date, April 14.

Aluth Avuradda, the Sinhalese New Year, marks the end of the harvest and is one of only two occasions when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

You’ll be eating small oil cakes called kavum and plantain dishes.

The Tamils of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka celebrate with new clothes, music, sweets and rice colour kolams (street art).

The Tamil Diaspora too celebrate April 4… so Malaysia, yes, and The Maldives too where one pasty-faced Scotsman once became an honorary member of the staff’s football and cricket teams. Yes, Mr Jim is coming back to Kuramathi.

While if you’re Irish (lucky you) you’ll know about the greatest Sri Lankan-Irishwoman, my old friend Tess De Kretser and her Olcote in Ceylon resort.

Ethiopia will take years off you

Enkutatash, Ethiopia: And this has become a fixture on my calendar in Dublin over recent years thanks to my friends at Ethiopian Airlines.

It, of course, takes years off you, not just the meaty food which you scoop up with your bread, and wine and Ethiopian coffee.

But also because it’s on the Julian Calendar which means that this will take seven years off you.

Scotland, the home of Hogmanay

Scottish Hogmanay: And in the words of the greatest dustman in television soap opera Norman ‘Curly’ Watts who decided the Scots owned New Year.

Well, they do own Hogmanay. And why Hogmanay which is what we call New Year’s Eve.

An early reference to the term is from The Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence as deriving from the Greek word agia mine or ‘holy month’.

More like a hooley though as many libations are taken to keep out the cold.

Which is probably where the tradition of bringing coal, shortbread and whisky with your when you go first-footing, being the first person to cross someone’s threshold (first-footing).




Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, UK

The Sapeurs – the colours of Africa

We all remember them Made of More from the Guinness advert… the stylish Sapeurs of the poorest country on Earth, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And La Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (Sapeurs) or the Society of Elegant Men of the Congo got another outing.

Now I used to have a pair of yellow trousers

On the excellent BBC show Africa with Ade Adepitan.

In the most recent episode, Ade meets the men who put much needed extra colour into their lives.

And those around them with their peacock clothes and dancing.

Have kilt, will travel

I was particularly taken, naturally, by the dude who dressed up in a kilt, Prince Charlie jacket and Tam O Shanter.

Dressed to thrill

Looking something like Usain Bolt when he wowed the Glasgow crowd with his lap of honour at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

The colours of Glasgow: The Jamaicans in 2014

The Sapeur explains that he got his look from Prince Charles, and I’d pay to see Charles sashay like this bloke… or maybe not.

With Adams & Butler’s Kasao Learat and Ethiopian Airlines’ Meseret Tekalign Bekele

Needless to say I want to get out there to meet this Kinshasa chameleon.

Ethiopian Airlines flying high

I’ll have to put it on the long gyrating finger for just now but I have hope.

My cup of coffee

My friends at Ethiopian Airlines with whom I have enjoyed an Enkutatash (New Year) or two in Dublin fly London to Kinshasa from £609 return.

While Adams & Butler, with whom I have also broken bread, offer high-end travel all over Africa.

Bandana Africa

The Sapeurs say that it is not about the suit but the man in the suit.

So when I get out to Kinshasa I will have my kiltie with me with my own personal stamp… my bandanas.

I’m not skirting around the issue

And, because it is never the done thing to wear the same thing twice, my Maldives sarong too.

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

Hungry and Thursday – Liverpool scouse

And if you’ve felt too silly to ask what it is, the food that gives its name to Liverpudlians as in Liverpool scouse, this week’s Hungry and Thursday is all about Liverpool scouse and stews around the world.

Scousers have been getting their voices heard (and what’s new there?) these past few weeks, culminating in their fireworks party as they lifted the Premier League title at Anfield yesterday.

But seeing this is a food and drink post, and I already give you a sporting post, My Sporting Weekend every weekend, I’ll stick to scouse.

In a Stew

Which will stick to you teeth or in them. Because it’s really just stew with extras.

Ally in red, naturally

I first had myself a plate of scouse in Albert Dock, Liverpool, as I waited for my interview at the Liverpool Daily Post back in the 1990s.

I had pulled a sickie to attend and was to go on and stare inside the studio where the British morning magazine programme This Morning was televised, only for the camera to turn on me.

Just the job

Which is when I got a shiver down my back as I thought of my boss’s wife watching from up in Aberdeen and reporting to Jim that I was really down on Merseyside when I should have been at my desk.

Still, I got the job so it wouldn’t have mattered.


Back to the scouse and the word derives from ‘lobscouse’ which was a Scandinavian and Northern German stew brought to Liverpool by sailors.

The Liverpudlians, of course, reciprocated and sent exports of their own to these parts… The Beatles. And you can hear all about that in the city they made their home, Hamburg.

Hamburgers… and stew

On Stefanie Hempell’s Beatles tour (and you won’t get better).

While scouse isn’t the only comfort food that the Hamburgers have exported with great success. See Hamburgers and ships.

A Star in Hamburg

So what’s in Scouse?

Scouse consists of mutton, lamb (often neck), or beef with vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots, and onions. Serve with pickled beetroot or pickled red cabbage and bread.

Ethiopia and the world

While I leave my Liverpool-born son to make his way back from the festivities to Scotland, or indeed the phone call to bail him out of jail, I’ll take you on a gristlestop tour around the world of stew.

With the queen of Ethiopia, Meseret

Meat of Africa

Ethiopian chicken stew: And I’ll miss those Ethiopian  New Years in Dublin which I shared with my friends Carole, Lorcan, Tony and my Queen of Ethiopia Meseret.

Because Enkutatash runs to the old calendar which means that you actually lose time. I, of course, lose all sense of time when the wine starts flowing which I only do to soak up the Ethiopian stew which you eat with your hands soaking it up with bread.

And you can get a fancy dish too

Balkan bellies

Bosanski Ionac, Bosnia & Herzegovina: And they love their homely food in the Balkans and it unites the different cultures and traditions.

Whether you’re with the ultra-Catholic Croatians of Medjugorje of Marian Pilgrimages  or in Muslim Sarajevo in the Bey Mosque district What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know?.

Let’s waffle on about Belgian stew

Belgian bulge

Carbonnade, Flanders, Belgium: And the brave soldiers who went to the Front in the First World War would take their pleasures where they could.

So that meant wine, women and song… or in Ieper, dark beer (there’s lots of it in this dish), women (they’re the same the world over) and drinking shanties. All right up a Tommy’s street and the best people to go with are GTI Travel and Visit Flanders.

Catch of the day: Fish stew

Portuguese please

Caldeireada, Portugal: And if you’ll eat anything as long as it swims in the sea then Portugal and Quinta do Lago SPORTUGAL and Portugal Centro  is the place for you.

Load your plate up with shellfish and don’t be liberal with the squids and octopus.

You’ll need a rich base of onions, white wine, olive oil, and tomatoes, and season with a variety of fresh herbs and spices such as saffron and nutmeg.

They’ll be the dumplings then

Cesky goulash: Not to be mistaken for Hungarian goulash. All right, it is quite similar. Mop it up with the obligatory Czech dumplings and sauerkraut.

And, of course, Pilsener Urquell.

They had a big post-lockdown feast on the Charles Bridge in Bohemian Prague recently and I[m hoping there were leftovers!

And with apologies to Irish stew and other meaty greats from around the world.

Heck for fear of being force-fed vegetarian I’ll return to this subject.







America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Flying, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

In defence of… air travel

If you’re reading, Greta Thunberg and the Flygstam (or flying shame) brigade…

I can’t tell you how many air miles I racked up last year.

I was away more than a dozen times with everywhere from Tobago and Ready, steady GOAT… racing in Tobago

Through the Oo Es of Eh and and living the California life My Weekend With Marilyn and Stair Wars.

Down to South Africa What’s new pussycat? and up to Jordan The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

I only mention them over the other equally fabulous and welcoming destinations who hosted me because they were at the extremities of my Travel footprint.

Do I feel guilty, or should you? Well, yes. How could we not the way Greta goes on?

Of course there’s a multitude of evidence out there on the world wide web to back up Greta.

And like everything on the net you can find anything to support your view.

But I wax taken by the research done by on the subject.

And their contention that air travel was better for the environment than car travel.

They estimate that the world’s drivers go through 1 billion gallons of fuel a day against 750 million gallons for air passengers.

Of course the fact that one form of transport is less harmful than another is not a strong enough argument.

Against that I would propose the positive effects of air travel… in expanding our minds, our frontiers and our appreciation of other peoples.

While fielding the accusations of the Flygskam brigade that the world is only in lockdown because of selfish air travellers who carried it across the globe…

In big monstrous metal birds.

Just imagine though a world in which our possibilities were restricted by a lack of air travel, or if you will, the past.

A world where we only learned about other peoples through the books and information we are given.

Now I’m not suggesting Boris Johnson or Donald Trump are feeding such a narrative but here is a cautionary tale of what could happen when we close ourselves off from others…

Legend has it that the people of Hartlepool in the north-east of England hanged a monkey who they mistook for a French spy during the Napoleonic Wars.

I have always believed that we are at our best as humans when we are being progressive rather than regressive.

While obviously being respectful of the world around us and those with whom we share it.

And being aware of our limitations with many a salutary tale out there from time immemorial of when to pull back.

Such as the tale of Icarus who flew too close to the sun only for the wax on his wings to melt.

This, and many more moral fables of how we should live with the natural environment around us, are all around you in Greece.., and My Greek odyssey.

But like Odysseus I have gone off on a tangent.

I will deal with the other forms of transport in the next parts of my ‘In Defence of’ series which will include cars,.

And no car hater me… how could I be? I should by rights be driving through the Florida Keys right now.

But to leave you on an up… the South Africans have discovered a balancing solution to carbon emissions under their feet.,, This plant can save the world.

And our shared history has shown too that our medicinal cures too can be found in the natural world.

So here’s to when we can all travel again.

And a shoutout to all our friends in the aviation industry who are our dreamcatchers… #DontPanicPostpone.#loveairtravel.


Happy Newer Year – from Ethiopia

Happy Enkutatash. You’ll notice here that I look a year or two younger.

That’s Enkutatash for you, the Ethiopian New Year, when the years just roll off you.

In fact seven of them.

The thing is that the Ethiopians are on a different calendar from the rest of us.

These are popular all over the world

Theirs is fixed to the Julian Calendar from the Roman Emperor Augustus in 25 BC with a start date of 29 August J.C.

Which I guess must be September 12 in our money.

And this establishes the New Year on this day.

It is also associated with the return of the Queen of Sheba (I’ve one of them at home)  to Ethiopia.

Following her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem in 980BC.

The coffee ceremony

It is also a permanent fixture on our calendar in Dublin.

When Ethiopian Airlines, Meseret Tekalign, the Country Manager for Ethiopian Ireland and our friends from the Airlines invite us to share in their New Year feast.

So if you like your injera (flat bread) and wat (stew) which we do in Ireland and Britain. And wine (guilty again) then this is the New Year for you. 

And you’ll also get to watch their traditional coffee-making ritual. Beats my spoonful of instant, hands down.

We’re hungry

Every New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as us Scottishy type people like to call it, is a time of reflection.

And Ethiopian rightly reflected on this year’s plane tragedy while emphasising their commitment to passenger safety.

Smiles better: Our Meseret

It is also a time for Enkutatash resolutions I’m imagining, and I’m resolving to get out to this intriguing and glorious ancient country.

Where they have nine UNESCO World Heritage sites.

I love Lucy

And a certain little lady, Lucy, the first human, thus called because the excavators were singing Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds at the time.

Like your Beatles? Here’s a treat

Like your Africa? Then here’s another

And, of course, because Lucy is on the Coptic calendar she’s probably only about 40… and looking just as good too!


Flyday Friday – time travels

You’d be mistaken for thinking that I’m always an accidental tourist. I do like to plan ahead particularly when it comes to our great annual festivals…. Christmas, New Year, Enkutatash.

My first Christmas and New Year invites came in this week. More about Christmas another time apart of course from using it as an excuse to reprise this picture…

But straight to Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year which I will be celebrating with my friends from Ethiopian Airlines in Dublin on September 12 as I have been doing these last two years.

And don’t you think I get younger (and better looking) each year?

Smiler: Meseret Tekalign, Country Manager at Ethiopian Airlines Ireland

That’s because the Ethiopians use an ancient Christian calendar and it is seven years behind our standard Gregorian calendar that we use in the West. So on September 12 it is the first day of 2012.

We reckoned you might want to be there in Addis on the day so we found you a return flight to Addis Abbaba on September 11 and returning on September 18 from £1692 (€1900). Visit

Drop in on Boris

Taxi for May: Photo by Bruce Mars on

If you were looking at happenings in London on television through the gaps in your fingers then you wouldn’t be alone.

Truth is though that I wanted to be there… and not just to tell that eejit who was playing the glockenspiel through all the interviews where to stick his, er, stick.

Of course, we take London for granted because it is our back yard but we shouldn’t. It is one of the world’s great cities if not THE great city.

And it is so easy and cheap to get there. Ryanair flies one-way to London Southend for €12.99 one way among other cut-price flights across the continent. Visit

And talking about Boris, did I ever tell you of how I spent the night listening to him playing jazz in London’s West End… or the nearest thing to him? Visit in a new tab)

It all points to Gatwick

Photo by Chris Schippers on

If you’re a bit of an oul luvvies like me, are a big Carnival fan, or you’ve something in mind yourself then you’ll want to know that Aer Lingus has a great London offer just waiting for you to avail of.

Collect Double Avios points along the way on your flight to Gatwick for flights booked and flown between July 25 and August 31. Visit

Happy 80th Shannon

And so say all of us

And doesn’t Shannon look good on it.

Eighty years ago this month a Belgian tri-liner Sabena Daviola Marchetti S-73 landed on the old Rineanna airfield before its passengers were flown off via Foynes on a flying boat, while 500 excited locals watched the plane fly back to Belgium.

Shannnon goes from strength to strength and is a major economic driver while also carrying us to where we want to go and bringing friends, family and visitors here.