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Portuguese portcullises – Castelo de Almourol

Medieval castles are all wrapped up in our imagination with damsels in distress.

And ever the knight in shining armour I am always there to protect my lady’s honour.

We’re in Castelo de Almourol in the middle of the River Tagus in Portugal.

It is our wedding anniversary week.

And this is without doubt the most stunning setting for a castle that I have witnessed first hand. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/secret-portugal/.

And again, I have set eyes on and enjoyed the charms of Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, Germany.

But Mrs M was but a dream then, clicking away at her camera.

While I was drinking away her taxes on a Munich Beerfest trip.

Oblivious that her knight would come along one day in the guise of a bandana-wearing, hairy-arsed Scotsman.

And now for the history… not ours. You know too much already!

But this gorgeous castle.

When the Christians rolled up here in 1129, the castle existed as Almorolan.

You’ll see the mark of the Knights Templar all around this castle.

And the Knights I know well from visiting Malta. Here’s a wee reminder https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/malta-easer/

I’m the benchmark

Together with the castles of Tomar, Zêzere and Cardiga, it formed part of a defensive line of fortifications along the River Tagus.

And good defences they are too, Portugal’s border with Spain is the longest continuous line in Europe.

After the Knights Templar were disbanded and the need to defend the territory had passed, the castle lay abandoned.

And forgotten until the 19th century when restoration began, the evidence of which we see today

And if you want to know more about this jewel of Portugal then visit http://www.centerofportugal.com and avail of http://www.aerlingus.com and http://www.ryanair.com and http://www.flytap.com.

Next week: Another castle.

MEET YOU ON THE RAMPARTS

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This Sporting Weekend… Andy Murray

It’s not surprising that Andy Murray has had to have his body reconstructed from spare parts.

Because it’s not easy carrying the sporting hopes of an entire nation, Scotland, on your back.

And yes, we know he’s also British.

But, of course us Scots love to joke that the English media call him British when he’s winning.

But Scottish when he loses.

Or golf

To us Scots though he’s always a winner, and we will miss him not playing at the US Open in Flushing Meadow which starts this weekend.

He won the title here, the first of his three grand slams, in 2012.

I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with Andy’s mum, Judy, the world-renowned tennis coach.

And Strictly Come Dancing sensation.

Judy was giving a group of British and Irish journalists a coaching class at The Campus sports complex in Quinto da Lago in Portugal.

Or cycling

Of course it was a great privilege although there is always a class joker who has to be brought to heel.

Coaching schools are increasingly popular holiday packages for the whole family.

And as well as Judy’s classes, The Campus offers the best in golf technique and expertise at the Paul McGinley Academy.

And beautiful courses.

If it’s cycling you like then this part of the Algarve is unspoiled, quiet.

Or yoga

And for this cyclist whose bike is in the shed because it’s so hilly around Co. Wicklow in Ireland, Quinto most importantly is flat.

Portugal has become a great favourite for sports fans with golf holidays long established.

But if your game is of the crazy variety then you might prefer a kick about instead.

Even if you’re not Premier League standard, and top English teams go to The Campus on training camps, then there are plenty of other football courts around.

A daily five-a-side game was something I got up looking forward to in Cabanas.

Or football

With Duffers, Ray and the local Portuguese kids.

The banter was great between Manchester United fan and Paul Scholes lookalike Terry and Leeds United fan Ray.

Terry still had the skills that saw him have trials at Chelsea although age had caught up with him.

While your diarist got to sport his green and white hooped Sporting Lisbon top although no Cristiano Ronaldo me.

All major airlines fly to Portugal. www.aerlingus.com www.ryanair.com www.flytap.com.

And visit www.quintadolago.cm. And www.visitportugal.com.

Here’s my Quinta piece where Judy Murray set me up… http://SPORTUGAL.

Extra time

A toast to the cricket: In Barbados

Just a little extra for the weekend that’s in it.

Because sport has a way of grabbing our attention and diverting us from whatever it is we were doing.

And also as a rejoinder to the naysayers who scoff at Test cricket for the length of the match and that five days of play can end in a draw.

So Ben Stokes and England take a bow for their victory over Australia and the most thrilling sport of the weekend.

Which keeps the Ashes alive.

Howzat!

And here are a couple of islands where they love their cricket…. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/my-kiss-with-rihanna/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/12/atoll-tale-the-maldives/

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Flyday Friday – Ryanair

‘If only I’d known being nice would be good for business I’d have done it earlier.’

Michael O’Leary’s much-vaunted volte-face (remember the picture with the golden labrador) was either just for our benefit…

Or it failed.

Stormy times: For Ryanair

Ryanair has come last of 100 brands for customer service in a Which? survey.

Now it is unapologetically no-frills, and why should it be?

So is the onus back on us to get it right, read the small (and even larger) print before you book.

And you may have to swallow it if you get hit by a surcharge at the airport.

Yes, that’s easy to say if you’re not the one with squealing kids.

But to bring a little light relief to proceedings…

A story.

Lining up in Barcelona Airport, a little girl asked their mother if they were priority…

And if not why were they standing in that queue.

Out of the mouths of babes.

This survey, of course, comes at a rotten time for Ryanair, what with the pilots’ 48-hour strike.

Check www.ryanair.com for the latest developments and latest low-frills and low-price deals.

When September comes

Glamorous: Gran Canaria

Sorry for dropping in a random Green Day song… it’s just they’re The Scary One’s favourite band.

And I’ll tell you what else she likes… getting away.

So I’ve been a bit sheepish as I’m scuttling around the house, and she knows I’m off to the Canaries next month.

You can too courtesy of Aer Lingus www.aerlingus.com.

It’s offering 20% off a 5* Gran Canaria getaway, staying at the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Morgan, as part of their September sale.

The cost of the holiday is €654pp and that includes return fares from Dublin.

Use the promo code SUNHOLIDAY.

Homage to Christ

Rio by the sea-o: Christ the Redeemer in Rio

Some things confuse me (heck, most things do). I mean the New World is supposed to be new and the Old World old.

But this threw me. In Lisbon there stands a statue of Christ with his arms outstretched, just like in Rio.

The Rio statue, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, all 98ft of it on a 26ft pedestal with 28ft outstretched arms was put up in 1931.

The Lisbon story

Lisbon followed suit in 1959 in gratitude for being spared the worst effects of the Second World War.

They were neutral.

The Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, we are told, had been so moved by his visit to Rio as to suggest a statue in Lisbon.

The Portuguese one is a lot more pedestal in truth, 269ft, with Christ 92ft.

All stuff of which brings me to TAP Air Portugal’s new connection from Dublin to Rio, via Lisbon from €767.

With the option of a five-day stop-off in Lisbon at no extra cost. ww.flytap.com.

And here’s a taster of Portugal Secret Portugal.

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES

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Flyday Friday – Madeira

The mother-in-law has been asking where to holiday. I thought a single fare but I’m not that brave. And then changed my advice to Madeira.

The Bamba (the kids couldn’t say Grandma) has something of the green fingers about her.

So she’d love lush Madeira.

Madeira’s flora and fauna benefit from the volcanic ash on the island.

And the capital Funchal’s Botanic Gardens are renowned.

Its cake – no, it’s not the Madeira sponge cake as we know it.

It was given that name after Madeira wine which 18th Century British and Irish middle classes would drink with their cake.

Lush: Madeira. Photo by Valdemaras D. on Pexels.com

Their cake is called bolo de mel and is dark, spicy, honey cake.

Madeira’s favourite son would eat himself and his fellow islanders have honoured him with his own statue, the world’s worst.

You’ll arrive into Madeira International Airport Cristiano Ronaldo with TAP Air Portugal via Lisbon.

From €220 return via Lisbon. They offer a five-night optional stopover in Lisbon with no extra charge. Visit www.flytap.com.

Something for the weekend

What a picture: Lanzarote. Photo by Emils Plinte on Pexels.com

The weekends are when we usually book flights… now that’s not scientific. Just a hunch.

So use this weekend wisely and check out Aer Lingus’s 20% off flights to Europe. The offer ends at midnight on Monday. Visit www.ryanair.com.

Car for hire

Keys please: Rental cars

I don’t do much for myself and let the coach driver take me where I want. Far better though if you take it in your own hands.

Hire a car and you can make your own time and have freedom to see the place you want, at the time you want. And not have to bother about itineraries.

Ryanair is offering up to 50% off car hire for the autumn. Visit www.ryanair.com.

Not all car journeys though end well. Look at what happened to me when I got behind the wheel of a classic Fiat 500 in Cannes. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-boat-dazur/

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Holiday Snaps

I love an oul’ festival…. they’re almost always not what you expect, and even better too.

Take for example the Festival of the Trays which too me conjures up an image of people banging beer trays over their heads.

It used to be popular in the Seventies and was featured in one of Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life shows I’m sure. I have vague recollections of doing the same one Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve to those not of the Scottish persuasion).

This Festival of the Trays in Portugal though is far more serene. In commemoration of Queen Saint Isabel and the Holy Spirit, this is all about hundreds of young girls carrying trays of gifts on their heads.

The trays are blessed, there are street decorations and quilts in the windows. Flowers are thrown over the procession too, naturally!

The Procession of the Tabuleiros, heralded by pipers and fireworks is led by the Banner of the Holy Ghost and the three Crowns of the Emperors and Kings.

Bringing up the rear are cartloads of bread, meat and wine, pulled by the symbolic sacrificial oxen with golden horns and sashes. Visit www,tabuleiros.org and http://www.visitportugal.com. The festival starts today and goes on until July 8.

And for two very different sides to Portugal, Secret Portugal and Portugal read my reviews https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/secret-portugal/(opens in a new tab) and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/06/12/sportugal/(opens in a new tab)

Aer Lingus, Ryanair and TAP Portugal all fly to Portugal, http://www.aerlingus.com, http://www.ryanair,com, http://www.flytap,com.

Climb every mountain

Ah! But if Maria and the Von Trapps had climbed every mountain as The Sound of Music told us they did they would have ended up in Hitler’s back yard.

Sorry, I just tell it like it is and so do the Salzburgers who burst our bubble on a tour of the city…. they do take you to some great Sound of Music sites and it is seriously good fun.

Me telling it like it is, it’s important to flag up what a great summer destination Austria is and what great deals there are out there.

TUI has last-minute deals for July 3, seven nights B&B staying at the *3 Hotel Obermair, Mayrhofen, from €449pps or seven nights half-board at the *3 Pension Hannes, Neiderau from €469pps. Visit http://www.tuiholidays.ie or call 1850 45 35 45.

An offer you can’t refuse

I went into the doctor and told him that I felt like a small Mediterranean island. He told me to stop being Sicily.

Like many who have visited Malta I spent way too short a time in Sicily on a day’s catamaran cruise. Of course, I will be back and when I do I will take it all in, The Godfather history, the beautiful coastline and vibrant villages.

You can get great value with a late deal to Sicily with Sunway. Seven nights for €499 on July 6. Visit http://www.sunway,ie,

The best China

You’re my rock: Tang and Zhang

Zhuhe, Tang Yixin and Zhang Ruoyun. Which, of course, is congratulations, but you knew that anyway.

And maybe that they are a Chinese celebrity couple who chose Adare Manor to marry.

Tang and Zhang are TV drama stars back home and have 33 million followers on Weibo, the social media platform in China. Now Bandanamann followers with a wee nudge we might make a dent in that!

Tang and Zhang’s combined showbiz name would be Tang, meaning she’s in charge which is a bit like most marriages really!

Tourism Ireland helped the happy couple with trips to Dunluce Castle and the Dark hedges. Visit http://www.tourismireland.com. http://www.adaremanor.com. http://www.visitnorthernireland.com.

The English Beach

Not what you expected: La Gomera

If that conjures up images of a packed Blackpool or Brighton or Magaluf then we wouldn’t blame you.

But this is The English Beach in Great King Valley in La Gomera.

La Go-where? Yes, this is the Canaries and it’s the more unspoiled, smallest and less visited of the seven islands which makes it all the more appealing.

Thing is though that they’re peeling off too. Billed as hippy and alternative there’s a clue there. Thing is though that the first post on Trip Advisor said that it’s half and half.

I can only imagine that it was a Swinging Sixties crowd of English that gave it its name.

I leave the choice to you but check out La Gomera anyway. Fly to Tenerife and then get a crossing is the best way to get there.

But if you do decide to go au natural, for goodness sake don’t leave your clothes on the beach. Visit http://www.lagomera.travel/en.

Let’s duck out of here

You’re quackers: With The Donald

Yes, I know any excuse. I’ll tell you what every time The Other Donald tweets something daft or puts us on the brink of war…. and I’m not forgiving him this week after his antics caused the rearrangement of my trip to Iran… then Ill put up a photo of The Real Donald.

And anyway American Sky has a great saving of up to €530 per family on a seven-night stay at the *4 The Grove Resort Hotel & Spa in Orlando, valid for travel before February 11 2021. This holiday now costs from €649.

This is a new resort, just a few minutes drive from Walt Disney World Resort and it includes a kids Surfer Water Park.

There are four on-site restaurants.

Based on two adults and two children sharing and return flights from Dublin with transfers and accommodation on a self-catering basis.

Visit http://www.americansky.ie or call (01) 664 9900.

Killer tunes

Drum roll: Ronnie Vannucci Jnr

For Reasons Unknown Ronnie Vannucci Jnr tried to bat off the well-wisher who approached him at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, Co. Down, and said that he was a delegate at a science convention.

But we were onto him or at least The Son and Heir and The Scary One were… and she let him know that I was their biggest fan.

I know I’ve drip-fed you this story but it’s just that the world’s greatest rock band who were playing up North are headlining Glastonbury tonight.

I’ve got it taped of course while I’m away in Barcelona but I expect they’ll be Wonderful Wonderful.

I’m not surprised that The Killers were staying at the Culloden. It’s only had a £750,000 refurbishment. Visit http://www.hastingshotels.com.

Two for you

… A double helping of Bandanaman today. Lourdes and the Pyrenees in The Herald and Star Wars Millennium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run at Disneyland Anaheim in the Irish Daily Mail.

I’ll reprise them here when I return.