Countries, Ireland

Wicklow is calling us to its Wicklamino

You must be missing us… otherwise why would our old Irish county Wicklow is calling us back to its Wcklamino.

Our pals at Wicklow Tourism have launched a Wicklow Passport and Routes project.

The Wicklow passport

The Garden County of Ireland is ideal for a Camino.

It boasts the Wicklow Mountains, forest trails and cliff walks.

Garden County

There’s Celtic and Christian history in Glendalough, artefacts and standing stones around every corner.

Been there, stamped that

And to trek around Wicklow which we did in 13 years there, but didn’t get around half of it, is to walk through Irish history.

There’s opulence and this being the Garden County the best gardens at Powerscourt and the National Garden Exhibition Centre, Kilquade.

While, of course, Wicklow more than fulfils the staple of every good Camino, stop-off waterholes!

Walk with me around Wickla

Launching the programme, Fred Verdier, of Wicklow Tourism, said: ‘As tourism finally starts to open up again in Ireland, we wanted to be ready for our guests coming to explore Wicklow – The Garden of Ireland.

‘The idea of the Passport was born a couple of years ago. It gives visitors new ideas of things to do and places to see and visit.’

King of Scotland and King of Ireland in Rathdrum

The idea is to collect 15 or more stamps and become a Wicklow ambassadors and you will receive a certificate and gift from Wicklow Tourism.

The First 15

So where’s on the Wicklow Passport?

Well, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want… Rathdrum where the Spice Girls made their movie and partied.

And where you can pose next to ‘King of Ireland’ Charles Stewart Parnell.

The Greystones Bear… and a Bandanaman one to come

The Spicers aren’t the only showbiz superstars to have chosen Co. Wicklow as their home.

Not surprising that there’s a Hollywood here too then and you can even see acting royalty in Daniel Day-Lewis around his home village of Annamoe.

Nothing (well, a few things but go with me here) compares to seeing Sinead O’Connor around the seaside town of Bray.

While the nearby Kilruddery estate is where Jonny Rhys Meyers threw off his shirt and got down to it on The Tudors.

And many another period drama was shot.

The Queen of Ireland

Hollywood heartthrob Colin Farrell first came to our attention in Avoca (Ballykissangel to you and me).

Stone in love with you

My Wickla

This, and more, you’ll find around the Garden County.

Of course my finishing point will always be my beloved Greystones which is represented on the stamp by its teddy bear statue on the seafront.

The Bandanaman statue is in the planning.

Wicklow is calling us back to its Wicklamino.

 

 

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A year on – Ireland and Scotland and further afield

That was the year that was – it’s 12 months now since I left my beloved Ireland for my first love Scotland.

I had though little intention of spending all my time in Scotia.

And instead had a long list of destinations to fill out the year.

So to mark the anniversary I’ll share the year that never was.

Off to a flier in Czech Hoptown

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery, Prague, in the Czech Republic

The Chinese lady with the mask on in the airport in Prague Airport seemed a curio at the time, a reminder of the latest virus that only affects Asia.

A few weeks later the fun and intimacy of the Czech Republic  were but a warm embrace I clung onto as I entered lockdown in Scotland for the first time.

As I came out of isolation I engaged with my Czech friends again over the new-fangled Zoom app we were all compelled to use and toasted each other in time-honoured fashion Na Zdravie.

I was heartened to see them lay out a table for a feast along the Charles Bridge in the early summer and wished that I was back there again in Prague or in the Czech Republic’s Hoptown, Zatec.

I know this though that the Czechs will get through this because they have the best beer in the world, Pilsener Urquell.

Trump steals my Keys

Limin’ at a Key Lime shop in the Keys

Suitcase packed, bandana on, I was all set for my fly-drive around the Florida Keys when Donald Trump (remember him) closed the country to visitors while encouraging Americans to gather… at his rallies.

And so Hemingway’s six-toed cats, key line pie, Florida sunsets and easy living will just have to wait.

Of course the beauty of it is that Papa’s pussies won’t have had any idea that anything was even different about the past year.

Exile me in St Helena

Napoleon was here

And another on the back-burner is Napoleon’s island. No, not his birthplace, Corsica, or the one the British sent him to initially, Elba, but the one where he ended his days, St Helena.

St Helena, 1200 mile west of southwestern Africa is one of the most remote inhabitable islands in the world and is an ecological dream.

All of which makes you think that exile was a pretty good option back in the day. And if I end up needing to self-isolate anywhere then I’ll be back in touch.

Vegas or bust

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

Now I’ve always felt bad about leaving Cami from Utah at the bar at Harrah’s Las Vegas a few years ago and knowing she goes down there every weekend knew that she’d be there when I revisited in June.

The American Travel Fair was scheduled for Neon City and I was all booked and ready, my chips at the ready to make my million.

But alas I had to leave Cami waiting again and to get my fix of Vegas I had to make do with watching the world’s greatest band The Killers perform from the ceiling of Caesars Palace on YouTube.

The fair, IPW is slated for the Fall, and I’ll be expecting an Access All Areas ticket, Brandon.

And maybe even reprising my Mr Brightside from the Rising Star Karaoke Bar, CityWalk at Universal Orlando a few years ago.

The Norman request

Perfect for a selfie?

I would have put my Monet on getting to Normandy

for the Monet festival back in late summer.

And even get a painting lesson in his back garden.

But as the UK travel corridor policy became as chaotic as the Spinal Tap boys trying to get to their gigs, again I found myself blocked.

Now what is the French word for cup-de-sac?

Bergamo go, go, go

Bergamo fountains

And just as the year was petering out and I was resigning myself to my best chance of a trip down to North Berwick beach, Mamma Mia but one came off.

And in spectacular style.

The journalist in me had me tracking the evolution of Bergamo through the pandemic, it being the gateway to the virus in Europe.

And just in time I got over to Northern Italy to talk to the Bergamaschi and ask how they had got through it all and their advice on how we should all progress now.

There was specialist Lombardy food and wine, culture, history Donizetti music and art aplenty.

But the most beautiful picture was that of the emboldened Bergamaschi in the backdrop of their historic city, both in Citta Alta and Citta Bassa, the High and the Low City.

Now there are worse places to have spent this last year, with the view of the Firth of Forth from my window, Bass Rock bookending the beach and Edinburgh just along the road.

I’ve chosen to live by the sea all my adult life. It’s a primal thing knowing that exciting lands lie beyond.

I know that we’ll visit them again soon, and hopefully I can fill in the blanks above and add San Francisco, Chicago, New England and a host of other trips I had planned last year, and many to come.

All for your enjoyment.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Windrush Day – know Black, know Irish

Happy Windrush Day, the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in Britain

Theirs was a response to an advertisement calling for people from the Empire to come to the Motherland .

So that they could help rebuild a country ravaged by the Second World War.

As well as a student curious for knowledge and advancement who would arrive some time later.

That young man cane from Trinidad https://www.visittrinidad.co.tt to Aberdeen University.

Caribbean boy

Inevitably he met a local, fell in love and took her back to the Caribbean.

But his greatest legacy, however, was their son Jevan.

He followed in the footsteps of his Dad and also swept up at Aberdeen Uni… www.visitabdn.com and Aberdeen – a light in the north.

And he became pals with a Son of Ireland.

Or at least with a lot of green blood running through him… yes, your favourite blogger ME.

Let there be mud

I hooked up again with the legendary Jevan years later in his adopted Barbados www.vistbarbados.org.

He took me off-piste at Crop Over, or off pissed, on Foreday Morning.

And it’s the through-the-morning festival within a festival.

There was mud and paint hurled and rum thrown down the throat.

All against the background of Soca Music, steel bands and jumpin’ and chippin’.

It was the type of welcome we’d always been told we’d get.

And I’ve jumped at every chance to get back… Let’s rumba in Barbados, My kiss with Rihanna and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/amp/. www.visittobago.gov.tt.

It would be nice to say that the same welcome was afforded the West Indians who arrived off the Windrush and the subsequent ships.

But we all know it wasn’t.

And guest houses displayed signs saying ‘No Blacks, No Irish.’

Black and Irish

It is a link that has endured over the years.

And you’ll see a healthy Irish representation at Crop Over.

And Grand Kadooment, the procession that draws the curtain down on Crop Over.

Ireland www.tourismireland.com and www.failteireland.com has embraced multi-culturalism in recent years.

And having holidayed in Ireland as a child I was struck on arrival there as an adult for a 13-year stint https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/02/06/thirteen-years-an-irishman-my-five-irish-homes/amp/ by this poster…

‘The trouble with this country is that there aren’t enough pasty-faced white people.’

Know black, know Irish… you’ll be better for the experience.

Deals, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – Stay home

We’ve got skin in this game with Daddy’s Little Girl waiting for the OK to go back to her work at the hotel.

It doesn’t help that we pass by the very same hotel on our daily walk.

It is expected that Scottish hotels will reopen in line with national guidelines on July 15.

What a vista!

And when they do it will be time to reacquaint ourselves with our favourites and treat ourselves with some new ones.

Such as the Dunalastair Hotel in Perthshire https://www.dunalastairhotel.com, a lovely sweeping valley of a county.

Booted and suited

And one I usually passed through instead of stopping when I would drive from Aberdeen to Glasgow reporting on football matches.

Lounging around

Except for a boys’ weekend in Dunkeld, writing poetry for our Edinburgh Fringe Show. Now what rhymes with Glenturret?

New offers include Luxury for Less (from €99 per night), to the indulgent Highland Retreat (£499 for two nights). Rooms at Dunalastair Hotel Suites are from £129 per night.

Courtyard

Also see Visit Scotland www.visitscotlsnd.com.

Coming out of quackdown

We’ve been missing them so much during quackdown.

But every duckie’s favourite getaway in Europe, Hastings Hotels in Northern Ireland, have reopened their doors.

You’ll know what Hastings are all about by now Belfast Chilled and their signature look of a rubber duck in your bathroom.

They’ve had Rory Quackilroy, Duck of Thrones… you get the idea.

So they were rightly interested when this little fella came on the market.

Just a thought you could market your own new duckie, Julie…. Quacks Armstrong! See https://hotrading.shop/products/helmet-duck-bicycle-horn-light and https://www.hastingshotels.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8pP5iqeQ6gIVk4eyCh3oRAlPEAAYASAAEgIydPD_BwE.

And also see www.discovernorthernireland.com

And meanwhile in the south

Lobbying for The Conrad

All our favourite hotels in Ireland are reopening.

We have already flagged up our favourite in our old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow, Powerscourt https://powerscourt.com and Flowerscourt.

And I now want to promote the splendours of Conrad Dublin, a hotel I’ve enjoyed on a function level but yet to laid down by head there.

Apart, of course, from when my head would hit the table through too much vino.

Among the goodies on offer in what they are packaging as Dream Away are the Picnic Package, the Literary Tour and Dublin City by Horsedrawn Carriage.

And seeing you’ve been locked away at home for months then why not treat the whole family to a night in the Conrad Family Room.

The interconnecting family room is €350 for the night for two adults and two children. See www.conraddublin.com.

To the lighthouse

Ciara O’Leary is all smiles at the lighthouse

So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were struck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sky – Virginia Woolf

Lighthouses can be by contrast snug or solaces from people.

And Hook Lighthouse in Co. Wexford in the Republic of Ireland on June 29 is reopening its doors with the latter in mind.

Hook Lighthouse, the Lightkeepers Cafe and the outdoor dining option, the Seahorse, will all open seven days per week.

With last access to the grounds at 4pm and dining closes at 5pm.

Pre-book a free pass online at www.hookheritage.ie or take a guided tour by phoning (051) 397 055.

Also see www.failteireland.com and www.discovernorthernireland.com.

Africa, America, Asia, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Give us this Day – funerals

It’s not been a typical Sunday – when I got to my new church today the regular priest wasn’t there because he had died the previous week.

A monseigneur, the good man who was clearly well liked had worked until his mid-eighties.

But then again my Dear Old Dad would have done the same.

The Big Man in Donegal

Should you be passing through somewhere on your holidays, and like me you go to where people play and pray, then you might witness a funeral.

I did in Marrakech when I was trying to get out of the souk without being robbed blind, by a jewellery seller trying to thrust a mint tea into my mitts.

And so here is an unscientific funeral procession around the world:

The Marrakech Express

Souk life in Morocco

Morocco: The Muslim tradition is that the dead should be carried shrouded through the streets with their feet exposed.

Through a busy souk cheek-to-cheek with a Moroccan huckster… https://visitmarrakech.com.

The funeral pyre

Fiery funeral

India; Note to family and friends, I’m considering Antyasti…

Being burnt on a pyre by a river where Hindus like to put rice into the dead person’s mouth among other rituals.

Being of the Glaswegian variety, I’d ask for some chicken tikka masala in there too. Visit https://www.incredibleindia.org/content/incredible-india-v2/en.html.

Hang ’em high in the Far East

Hillside haven

Philippines, China, Indonesia: The superstitious people of the Far East like to get a rung up on the route to heaven.

By hanging funerals to the side of hills.

They don’t say what happens when there’s a landslide or avalanche though! Visit http://www.tourism.gov.ph, https://www.discoverchina.com/article/china-tourism,

They do them well in Ireland

Life is just a bowl of cherries, Dad

Ireland: And naturally there’s drink involved.

On the night before the funeral traditionally the body is laid out for the wake.

And that would mean in the front, or best, room where the deceased would be togged out in their best clothes.

And drinks would be had around them and stories told. Slainte. See www.tourismireland.com and https://www.failteireland.ie.

And for some country life see Monaghan’s country roads.

The Saints are coming in New Orleans

Let the music play

New Orleans: This is the way to go… with trumpet blast at a jazz funeral.

And its the way that the good people of Norleans do it.

Me, my introduction to Norleans was at the American Travel Fair, IPW, when the New Orleans convention treated us to gumbo, jambalaya and Sazeracs…. for breakfast.

My type of town… before the famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band piped us in with When The Saints Go Marching In, and we did, to the conference.

Where I think I fell asleep. But I will visit https://www.neworleans.com.

And if you like the Deep South you may want to try out my American Trilogy The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.