America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food

The best hot chocolates

I’d given up on finding my ciocolatta di calda densa after the owners of Campo de Fiori in the next town went home to Italy,

But Tomasso at Caffe Delle Stelle here in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, put a bit of colour into my grey winter’s day.

Chocolate is a gift from the gods so much so that the Incas believed it had magical spiritual powers.

So who am I to disagree?

And here are a few of my favourite hot chocolate dens.

The Caffe Pedrocchi, Padova https://www.caffepedrocchi.it Venice has its St Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge and its masses but there’s a quieter, hidden Veneto city.

Where Giotto’s handiwork inspired Michelangelo and you can find St Anthony’s tongue!

This grande cafe dates back a hundred years and hits the right note between posh and prego.

And for more Padova perambulating… Padova – city of frescoes.

The Old Chocolate Shop, Bruges, Belgium: I can’t recall Colin Farrell sipping hot chocolate here in the cult movie In Bruges.

But he would have been more chilled if he had.

This canal city is famous for its choccies but don’t press your noses up against the windows… come in.

The Old Chocolate Shop https://www.oldchocolatehouse.be looks straight out of a nursery rhyme… and you should deffo try the gingerbread and truffles too.

And Bruges is a great release at the end of my World War One Battlefields Tour with https://www.gadventures.com. A pilgrim’s prayer

Jacques Torres Chocolate Shop, New York: I’ve developed a mantra as I’ve evolved… only choose friends who hail from wonderful places.

And it also helps if they have fantastic jobs… as is the case with my old University pal Kate.

She is the Editor of a Food and Drinks magazine in her native New York and took La Famille Murty to…

Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Shop https://mrchocolate.com/blogs/locations/soho-hudson near Greenwich Village where we sampled the rich and silky Wicked.

That is after sampling the bacon-flavoured chocolate in their tasting kitchen. We left with a hamper. And you know what I think of New York but here’s a reminder… Old New York: Hamilton

The Cafe Savoy, Prague: Everyone raves about Vienna, and it’s not to be missed.

But cafe society permeated throughout the whole of the old Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire.

And finds itself stamped all over Prague… Hope springs eternal

The Savoy http://cafesavoy.ambi.cz/en/ is the place to go for your hot chocolate (or two hot chocolates)!

Its Savoy Hot Chocolate which uses hot milk hails from the Dominican Republic; the Savoy dessert hot chocolate is made of Valrhona chocolate and hot chocolate.

It is served with whipped milk and you can add it to the cup to melt with the chocolate.

Hot chocolate is one of life’s little gifts to yourself.

Barcelona for hot chocolate

It can be drunk in hot and cold weather despite what my waitresss Mardy Maria thought as we lunched inside from the 30C Barcelona heat… Surfing the seas in Barcelona

My Catalan isn’t that great but her hand gestures suggested f****** eeji or something like that.

Tell me where your fave hot chocolate is and I’ll share the love.

MEET YOU IN THE CAFE

Adventure, Culture, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day: the day Jesus was baptised

You’d be glad of a cool down in the 30C heat of a Jordan May. but Jesus wasn’t complaining.

Today is designated the sacred day when we commemorate The Baptism of the Lord.

It is in truth a little cooler in Jordan than when I went, at 11C but I can’t imagine the Lord was shivering.

So for the day that’s in it let’s take a deeper look into baptisms.

The first question is: where exactly was Jesus baptised.

The Jordanians claimed that he was doused further inland at Al-Maghtas.

Here in ‘Bethany beyond the Jordan’ in what is modern-day Jordan.

The Israelis for their part believe that he was baptised on their banks.

And this is where the Russian Orthodox Christians believe there are healing waters and they go full immersion.

The Jordanians claim Jesus was baptised here

All of which I learned on my G Adventures trip to Jordan last year…. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/culture/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/, http://www.visitjordan.com, http://www.gadventures.com.

While decide for yourself which you think it is…. or like me just soak it all up and maybe sneak some holy water… http://www.baptismsite.com

So for us Gentiles it’s worth reflecting that of course John, Jesus and all those who were being baptised were all Jews.

And that John though the most famous baptist would not have been the first.

Today at Mass

Ritual immersion had been part and parcel of Jewish culture, or mikvehs for some time.

Jews would ritually immerse themselves for spiritual purity before worshipping.

Washing is, of course, central to the daily and spiritual life of Muslims.

Water of Islam

As I have found out on my trips to Marrakech http://www.visitmarrakech.com and Morocco http://www.visitmorocco.com.

And more recently in Istanbul www.visitistanbul.com and Turkey www.goturkeytourism.com.

And Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina www.visitsarajevo.ba

The boys in the Blue Mosque

It is, of course, a primal act to wash as well as being hygienic.

And you can find it in Sikhism through Amrit Sanskar.

While in Hinduism they like to immerse statues of Durga and Ganesh during the final stages of the festivals Durga Puja and Ganesh Charturthi.

Water of death

And purification is as much part of death as it is a spiritual birth.

A ritual bath in pure water is performed for the dead in many religions including Judaism and Islam.

For more on this pilgrim’s progress… read https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/culture/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/ https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/pilgrimage/camino-a-pilgrims-prayer/, https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/small-roads-lead-to-rome/ https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-lourdes-prayer-pyrenees/ and Fatima in https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/secret-portugal-classy-centro/

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The faces of 2019 – Crossroads of history

What do you do when you’re at a crossroads? Look both ways.

Which is what the Croatians and Bosniaks, the Turks and the Jordanians have done throughout their history.

And they continue to do so.

It was no coincidence then that it was Sarajevo http://www.visitsarajevo.ba where the First World War broke out.

It was there that a Bosniak Muslim separatist Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Catholic Hapsburg Empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Because Sarajevo is where the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire met.

It may be 105 years ago.

But it is little changed from the August day when Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia’s carriage was halted by the bridge across the Miljacka River.

And you can see the very gun schoolboy Princip used and other historical artefacts from the day that changed the world for ever… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/21/sarajevo-the-scot-that-was-heard-around-the-world/

The Museum of Crimes against Humanity and Genocide http://yihr.hr/en/the-sarajevo-museum-of-crimes-against-humanity-and-genocide-1992-1995-learning-from-the-past-through-emotional-overwhelm-2/ provides a heart-rending and thorough examination of a difficult subject but is a must-visit in Sarajevo.

And you should look out too for how a Hollywood action man played his most important role too.

In showing his softer side to victims of the conflict.

At the heart of Sarajevo is the beautiful Bey’s Mosque.

It stands comparison with any of the great Islamic temples anywhere… https://sarajevo.travel/en/things-to-do/gazi-husrev-beys-mosque/176.

The Blue Mosque is Istanbul’s https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/wham-bam-thank-you-hamam/ and https://visit.istanbul greatest calling card.

And while it is epic I want to sing the praises like a call to prayers of the Hagia Sophia https://www.hagiasophia.com.

It is revered both by Muslims and Greek Orthodox Christians.

The latter who place it as the headquarters of their church (they still call it Constaninople).

Hakan’s tales

Better still if you have a guide like Hakan who will place you in a Medieval daytime soap opera of life in the Great City with the Great and Good.

Which is every bit as enthralling as Game of Thrones.

There’s a story too to be told in Athens around the Acropolis… and that’s just the taxi drivers Georg and Antony… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/21/acropolis-later/and https://www.hagiasophia.com

You can find the Orthodox influence, the Romans and the Nabataeans in Jordan... https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/ and http://www.visitjordan.com

What Zuhair and G Adventures http://www.gadventures.com don’t know about Petra, the Dead and Red Sea and Wabi Rum isn’t worth knowing about.

The turn of the year is a crossroads for us all but for those who live at the junctures of the world every day is a crossroads.

And the wonderful guides who share their cities and countries with us show us the way.

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Flyday Friday extra – Laid-back in Portland

When the hippies had had enough of Haight Ashbury they moved up to Portland.

Which is what the cult American TV comedy series is all about which boasts the best of the Saturday Night Live crowd.

I know it’s my kind of place from their American Travel Fair parties www.ipw.com where we whacked back whiskey and ‘let her buck.’

And my Dad’s cousins are out there too.

Portland hoved into view with the announcement that British Airways www.ba.com will fly five times a week to beautiful Oregon from London Heathrow.

With return fares from €540 in World Traveller.

Visit www.travelportland.com and www.traveloregon.com. And it’s great for cruises… www.portlandspirit.com

Al have some of that

The Israelis are more used to waiting than the rest of us… in fact it’s the story of their people.

We in Ireland have been waiting too for a direct route out to Tel Aviv.

But it is now only a few months off with non-stop flights starting from May 26… http://www.elal.com.

The closest I got to Israel was 20ft across the Jordan and in the Red Sea in Jordan… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/. With G Adventures… http://www.gadventures.com.

Now to make that long-awaited next step.

Swede Christmas

It’s the time of year when you surf the channels trying to find something that hasn’t got Christmas lights on it.

Which is how I came across an Abba programme on Sky Arts.

Of course the Abba Museum is one of the most popular sites in Stockholm.

But it’s not the Swedish capital we’re flagging up here.

But hailing from a second city myself, Glasgow https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/04/15/sportstraveltraveltravel/ it’s second city Goteborg, or Gothenburg to you and me, that I’m flagging up here.

And Ryanair’s http://www.ryanair.com early Christmas presents…€9.99. While Frankfurt is the same price.

So let’s thrown in some Scandinavian and German memories here…

With https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-call-of-the-fjords/, https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/04/29/ich-bin-ein-hamburger/. And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/dresdens-renaissance-martin-luther/

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES

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Holidos and don’ts – parking

It’s one of the prices you have to pay for marrying a Murty – there are many!

Being dragged out to look for the car which we’ve forgotten where we parked it.

Which happened to my Dear Old Dad on honeymoon in Paris.

Which is probably why he didn’t kick up too much of a fuss when I asked him to drive me around the east end of Glasgow.

Photo by David McBee on Pexels.com

Late at night to look for the car I had parked after a Celtic match.

To cut a long story short, the Scary One had to come back the next day by train from Edinburgh, to find the car which was on a wasteland.

But thankfully still in one piece. Miracle!

It wasn’t a one-off. I had a works car towed outside Dundee United’s ground, Tannadice.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

And every time at the shopping mall I would forget where I’d parked the car.

Usually when I had The Son and Heir and Daddy’s Little Girl with me.

Thank goodness then that I now take a photograph of the parking space though I often get let down because my phone runs out of charge.

One of the reasons then why I have never driven outside Britain or Ireland.

Unless, of course, you mention my attempts at driving a Fiat 500 on the French Riviera.

Stalled again!

It was the stand-out on a terrific itinerary when I stayed at Mimosas Resort http://www.mmv.fr/provence-cote-dazur on the Cote D’Azur.

Alas, the gear stick was on the dashboard and after I’d stalled it in the car park for the third time the owner of the firm decided to take the wheel.

Some small talk later and stone-skimming on the shore to get rid of my huff and I was on a boat whizzing around the Millionaires’ shore.

Someone else was driving.

Which means they have to remember where they park the car, although an extra problem is that I have to remember if I go off-piste.

Boats on the Red Sea

I did get a shot at driving the boat on the Red Sea on my G Adventures trip http://www.gadventures.com to Jordan… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/

The pilot did take the wheel back when I got too close to Israel.

It wouldn’t have done to be towed away there!

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Give us this Day – We are what we wear

It’s their stage when holy men get a chance to dress up and play the diva.

Still there’s probably some religious significance there too.

And fancy dress is clearly one of the upsides of the role.

It also includes a job for life and care right up to the end.

And you’ll get straight entry into heaven, and life everlasting.

These were many of the reasons why I flirted with becoming a Catholic priest when I was a boy.

OK, I didn’t make it to the seminary probably because I wanted to make it with girls.

That’s something which you can do if you want to go on to become a vicar or minister, rabbi or imman.

With Catholic priests, of course, you get to wear the dress too.

I was sorely tempted too to buy the vestments I saw for sale in the window of a shop in Medjugorje.

Where I’d gone on a Marian Pilgrimages http://www.marianpilgrimages.ie tour just last month…. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/18/medgugorje-whats-your-story/

Clothes maketh the man, some might say, and I have been drawn to all kinds of cultures because of theirs.

Jesus in a skirt, yes. In a church in Tenerife https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/tenerife-walk/ with http://www.CanariaWays.com.

While I also witnessed a promised Land of Hasidic Jews (if that’s the collective noun) passing through the world’s biggest through hub for Jews and the world’s best airport, Istanbul. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/wham-bam-thank-you-hamam/

With Turkish Airlines’ business lounge being the jewel in the crown… http://www.turkishairlines.com.

Crossroads of history

Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities for any number of reasons but definitely because it is a crossroads city where cultures and religions meet.

Like the beautiful Sarajevo https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/21/sarajevo-the-scot-that-was-heard-around-the-world/ and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/24/sarajevo-revisited/

Which the Bosnian city has had its Catholic and Orthodox visitors where you’ll see both religious and secular dress.

Jordan is another crossroads where you only have to stand by the river with Muslims on the side of Jordan country https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/.

While also seeing white robed Russian Orthodox Christians douse themselves in the river in deference to Jesus who they believe was baptised at that spot.

Which I witnessed on my G Adventures trip to the Middle East… http://www.gadventures.com.

Talking of Orthodox Christians then you an always turn up in Greece, while waiting for a lift.

In an InterContinental Hotel in Athens http://www.intercontinental.com on an Attica Region trip and http://www.athensattica.com and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/09/22/give-us-this-day-greek-orthodox/.

He was beautifully adorned in his black vestments and donned a beautifully coiffured white beard.

Now there’s a look I can definitely pull off.

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Give us this Day – poppy collections

They collect for everything at my church in Co. Wicklow but not poppies.

Which is all part of the antipathy in some quarters in Ireland towards Remembrance Sunday.

Because while it was born out of the trenches and is predominantly associated with the First World War.

My Great-Uncle Willie

It also covers the of British and Commonwealth conflicts, and there it jars with Irish nationalist history.

Only the Irish, including my two Fallen Donegal Great-Uncles, died in their tens of thousands in the Great War, both Catholic and Protestant, North and South.

So no poppy collection then, but two, count them, offertory collections at Mass.

Which brings me to how they do offertories over there.

It was on my trip to Ieper on my World War I Battlefields with G Adventures www.gadventures.com.

To Flanders www.visitflanders.com and the Somme https://www.visit-somme.com/great-war that I saw how they did it.

And my Great-Uncle Willie

The Flems in Ieper, for example, send their wee old stooped women in to collect your money, in their white robes.

Where they carry small pots with felt at the bottom.

Why felt? Well, I’m thinking that it’s along the lines of the Rev. Ian Paisley’s Silent Collection.

Where coins would make a sound.

There’s another aspect to offertory plates (they’re reed baskets at our church) that bothers me.

The public shame, the sniffs and withering eyes when you make your contribution.

Prayer time: In Istanbul

And a word to the wise here, don’t sit by the aisle where you will be first to put in your donations.

Then there’s the question about what you should give.

Here I’m going to pass the buck, and that’s probably not even enough, and say that Islam does it better.

By requiring that you donate 2.5% of your income (Zakat) to alms-giving.

Which way’s Mecca? In Amann, Jordan

Which is probably what they’re saying here in their Call to Prayer which you get constant reminders of when you travel.

In Istanbul Wham bam, thank you Hamam with http://www.turkishairlines https://visit.istanbul.

And Jordan Petra and the sands of time and http://www.visitjordan.com.

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Hungry and Thursday – Sri Lankan curry

No, you’re not seeing things… that really is your Travel blogger (I get everybody, anybody else to cook for me) in an apron.

This week’s hosts on the oul’ Travel circuit, G Adventures, set us all a challenge… make our own lentil curry at home.

So they sent us of with this bag of lentils and spices and a recipe….

Something’s cookie’ in the kitchen

The enjoyment of which lasts longer than a selfie stick or battery pack which will give in on you by the time you get home.

This bag of goodies and the recipe enclosed is for a Sri Lankan Dhal Curry.

Community tourism

And it’s based on a spice mix developed by Sthree Cafe, a Planaterra project located in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

This collaboration with the communities they send us on holiday too is what G Adventures is all about.

Helping to give them a foot up… and I found this when I went to Jordan with them https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/.

Does mine look like this?

Now I know a thing or two about Sri Lankans too… unfortunately I haven’t been yet but I joined the staff on the Maldives to play cricket and football.

And became a bit of a hit, even if I did run out their opener. And they politely asked my group as they served them through the day if Mr Jim would be back.

This is a brief reminder of that Maldives adventure…. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/12/atoll-tale-the-maldives/

Stir it up

Now G Adventures are flagging up 12 destinations for 2020, among them Ireland.

They are particularly taken by our Leap Year tradition of reversing the traditional engagement proposal to women asking for a hand in marriage?

And are right on board with Galway as a European Capital of Culture for 2020.

G Adventures has a new National Geographic Journeys Iconic Ireland trip for those wanting to join the craic. Priced from €2,449pp for a nine-day trip from Dublin return. 

Now I’m looking through their list and I’m noticing that there’s only two destinations I’ve been to… Ireland, obvs, and South Africa… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/home/whats-new-pussycat/

Let’s hear it for Sri Lanka

The last word though I’ll give to Sri Lanka…

Particularly after the troubles they had with terrorism and how this welcoming people have got back on their feet since.

To help support this return, the government is offering a free visa for travellers from 48 countries, including the UK and Ireland.

A 14-day Sri Lanka Encompassed trip is priced from €1,639pp travelling from Colombo to Mirissa. 

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Cruiseday Tuesday – Scotland is Arctic

It can feel positively Arctic in Scotland so it should come as little surprise that Scotland is being billed as part of an Arctic cruise… with our old friends G Adventures.

G Adventures http://www.gadventures.com will be hosting us tonight in Dublin to reveal more of their wares as part of their G Stock Live road trip.

And I will be able to speak to them about their product with more authority (no comments, please) having been their guests in Jordan earlier this year…. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/

Of course they cover the Seven Seas too and their Galapagos Islands and Cambodia packages from their current sale randomly jumped out at me.

My fjord escort: My own wee Troll

As did their 16-day Cruise the Norwegian Fjords with Scottish Highlands package for May 17.

Which is reduced from €4899 to €4164.

Starting in Tromso, the gateway to the Arctic you’ll travel as far north as Nordkopp where the Atlantic and the Arctic Seas meet before hopping your way down the fjords.

And believe me they are full of myth and majesty as we found out…. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-call-of-the-fjords/

Light up, light up. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You’ll pop in Shetland Islands, the most northerly point in the UK, whose nearest train station is Bergen in Norway, before finishing off in Edinburgh.

Heck, the Shetland Islands used to be Norwegian before being given to Scotland in a dowry in 1472.

Every day’s a school day on Cruiseday Tuesday!

Tenerife… I’ll be back

The beautiful Garachico. On Tenerife

The sharp Norwegian winter air is bracing but if you prefer a winter warmer…

Then TUI has seven nights on January 17 in an inside cabin on the Marella Explorer from €879pps.

For more on the Canarian Flavours package visit https://www.tuiholidays.ie. Call 1850 45 35 45 or visit a TUI Store / travel agent.

A toast to the Canaries

Unless you’ve been hiding under a stone you’ll know that I’ve been in Tenerife this autumn.

Where I learned a whole lot of stuff… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/tenerife-walk/

Just promise me you’ll drink some of the Shakespearean wine, the Malvasia.

And a stroll on the island

And eat some of their wrinkled potatoes with mojo mojo sauce!

Now if you like your TUI cruise, and why wouldn’t you, why not try Canaria Ways’ http://www.CanariaWays.com and read all about https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/tenerife-walk/

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Give us this day: Jesus, John & Jordan

And the lesson today in Give us this day is from John 1:28 and tells the tale of Jesus, John and the Jordan.

These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptising.

John 1:28

Not here in Israel…

Lost in time: Al-Maghtas

But here in Jordan.

Like all things in the Middle East there is a history and a land dispute.

Israel claims that John baptised Jesus in this spot, modern-day Israel, in the River Jordan.

While the Jordanians claim that it was further in, deep in their country, modern-day Jordan.

In what is, to our tongue, Bethany.

It looked like a dry ditch when I visited Al-Maghtas, ‘immersion’ in Arabic, in the baking heat of an early Jordan summer.

Could it have been like this: John’s Baptism of Jesus

But the fact is, and not meaning to sit on the fence wherever that might be, you do get a very powerful sense that Jesus of Nazareth was here.

The Pope on John, Jesus and the Jordan

Pope Francis visited the Jordanian site on the east of the river back in 2014 after he became pontiff.

While further to the west a group of Russian Orthodox Christians took a dip in the waters.

A river runs through it: The River Jordan

Which means you don’t have to imagine hordes of pilgrims being reborn again with the water of life.

You just have to open your ears and eyes to the spectacle before you from the Jordanian side.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.

Matthew 3:16-17

And sorry for mixing my evangelists which is a canonical crime on par with mixing metaphors.

Judge for yourself if I stay on the right path with my review of Jordan and we’ll visit Petra and go on a camel ride. https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/petra-jordan-jesus-and-the-sands-of-time/(opens in a new tab)