Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Ho Ho Holyland

Bah Humbug to all those who whinge about Christmas decorations being out… in Israel it’s Ho Ho Holyland already.

Now, we won’t get too hung up on the wherefores.

Just to say that Jerusalem Santa Issa Anis Kassissieh, the official Ambassador of the Holy Land Santa, has been filming in Israel’s Golan Heights.

And, of course, with Israel being a little warmer than Lapland JS has parked the sleigh for a kayak.

Jolly Golan Christmas

Sticking his oar in: Santy

Santa’s journey began at sunrise, on a kayak on the River Jordan, a waterway I know well from my G Adventures trip.

Adaptable JS carries his Christmas tree and presents.

And he then strolls through the citrus and almond orchards typical of the Golan landscapes.

Sporty Santy

Froome, Froome: Getting on his bike with Chris Froome

Sporty Santy then gets on his bike to cycle with British four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome.

And his fellow team members of the Israel Start-up Nation professional cycling team who are currently touring Israel.

Santa’s little helpers: Israel style

JS ended the day at the Kursi National Park, site of the Miracle of the Swine.

And there as the sun set overlooking the Sea of Galilee, he spread love, peace and joy to the children of the Golan Heights.

JS will be back too later in the year when for those who don’t know The Promised Land will be unaware there will be snow on the ground.

Israel deal

Santa Pause: Where to go next

El Al, as we all know, has its route now out of Dublin, with a sample four-day return trip In January from €625.

And out of the UK from London from £287.

So, it’s Ho Ho Holyland and Go, Go, Holyland.

Countries, Europe, UK

Life’s a tent pitch

We had to pack up our tents and leave town by order of the local youth gang after I had moved in on the leader’s moll. Life’s a tent pitch!

These badlands you ask? Well, Castle Douglas, near Stranraer in the south-west of Scotland.

I was 15 and it was an unpromising start to my camping days.

A year later I would be sleeping outside the tent on the French Riviera.

And under the stars because the four of us thought a two-man tent would fit us all (and our rucksacks).

There have been scrapes aplenty in the subsequent years.

Like the time when Daddy’s Little Girl slugged from my whisky hip flask in Donard, Co. Wicklow when she was 8.

She then blamed me saying I’d said it was water.

Canvassing opinion

The camping has evolved into glamping, or at least better canvassed accommodation.

In Morocco and in Jordan.

Mind you I saw precious little of my bed in the Sahara Desert after a run-in with a dodgy Atlas Mountains tagine.

My G Adventures expedition through Jordan was much more palatable although again I had a sleepless night.

With tootache… and earache as my neighbour in our party had the snores.

All of which reminiscing is prompted by news from my old friend from our unforgettable trip to Tobago, Yogi SLM.

About the camping craze taking over the UK.

Carry on camping

SLM tells me that such is the demand for camping breaks in the UK that tents are in short supply.

As well as gas barbecues, Calor gas bottles and camping tables and chairs. And electric bicycles!

Over to Matt Sims, managing director of the Motorhome Holiday Company, cites Brexit as one of the culprits.

He said: “We are observing how the new customs regulation following Brexit has affected the import of essential camping equipment.

“That mean that many large retailers are now out of stock as their bulk buying power has been impacted.

“However these goods can still be purchased by smaller independent camping equipment retailers as they are less affected.”

Deal us in

Matt has been busy doing the homework for us and estimates that more than 50% of campsites will still have availability over the summer season.

For Ceredigion and Powys in Wales, the Isle of Wight, Leyland, Lancashire and St Columb, Cornwall.

Matt is expecting a 700% rise in demand for its motorhome rentals this summer, compared to two years ago, yet is keeping prices frozen at 2019 levels.

All Wight on the night: The Isle of Wight

A three-night rental with the Motorhome Holiday Company starts from £400 and includes rental, Camping and Caravaning Club Privilege membership for the duration of the hire.

You also get fully comp insurance for the first driver, unlimited mileage, breakdown cover, complimentary essentials and telephone support.

A week in the summer holidays from £1260. Shorter breaks are also available in the summer priced from £180 per day.

Life’s a tent pitch… so get out and enjoy your summer.

 

Caribbean, Countries

Saint Vincent and Grenadines appeal

The Caribbean has given me so much since I first started visiting which is why I am now keen to give something back, at this their time of need, through the Saint Vincent and Grenadines appeal.

Each of the Caribbean islands is unique but they are all bound by the shared experiences of slavery, poverty and Nature’s wrath.

One love

I have witnessed how they have rallied to each others’ causes when hurricanes have hit, and now that the La Soufriere volcano has taken out its anger on the islands.

La Soufriere

Glen Beache, CEO of The Saint Vincent and Grenadines Tourism Authority, reported that the scientists predict the crisis could last for another few months.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is the one entity, which is not uncommon in the Caribbean.

Twin islands

It is the best way to go for island collectors – Antigua and Barbuda, with Antigua, home of the great Sir Viv Richards carrying more swagger than its calmer twin island

We caught up too with St Kitts and Nevis where they make a virtue of the two-mile stretch of water that separates the islands.

See you on the other side

Their annual swim between the islands was alas cancelled last month but all the more time then to practise for next year.

Goat and the GOAT

I’ve already savoured the pleasures of Trinidad & Tobago when this GOAT went local and went kidding about.

Island sharing

While these twin islands are a Caribbean island thing so too is island sharing.

Hailing from a divided United Kingdom and having spent 13 years in an Ireland of two parts I have always been obsessed with a split island.

Hispaniola olé

The island of Hispaniola houses Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and as they say in the Caribbean, there’s no division, just one love.

And so the Dom Rep was the first to answer Haiti’s call after the earthquake of 2010.

Living with Nature

Of course our Caribbean friends have all learned to live with Nature.

And in St Lucia their volcano is the centrepiece of the island and a wonder to admire as well as respect.

Careful there

Which is why you as a visitor too will be able to drive through.

Henna do?

And take of the soil of the land, the mudbaths and wash it off in the waterfalls

And if you’ve got the stomach for it here’s a muddy mess from across the world in The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time

With my pal from that unforgettable G Adventures trip St Lucian Jerry ‘The Big Rapper’.

Thanks to all who organised the Caribbean Virtual Meet the Media event and of course every island is a friend and we’ll be sure to cover you all.

MEET YOU IN THE CARIBBEAN

Asia, Countries, Culture, Flying, Ireland, UK

Travel to the Promised Land Israel close

And travel to the Promised Land Israel close before the end of the year.

Israel, as we all know, has been the real leading light in vaccine roll-outs.

With half its population now having had their second jags.

And boy have they been celebrating with this year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day a real cause for celebration.

It has brought people out on the streets to sing, dance and watch the fireworks display.

Dublin is El Al City

Israel, of course, was the shiny new El Al route from Dublin for 2020, only for it to be interrupted by Covid.

The good news is that Sharon Bershadsky, Director at the Israel Tourism Office in London made real connections on her visit to Dublin last year.

And she is keen to get the Irish out to Israel as soon as we can.

A land of our childhood

From May 23 vaccinated groups of international travellers will be allowed out to Israel initially in a pilot scheme and then through a phased approach.

And don’t we all want to get out there but again our political leaders continue to drag their feet.

I’ve said it before that I’ve got real close to stepping on holy land.

I have seen Israel from Mt Nebo, Moses’s last resting place, and by the Jordan where John the Baptist baptised Jesus with G Adventures.

Israel is over there: Atop Mt Nebo

And I’m determined to step across into Israel. And yes, you can do countries with G Adventures.

This ancient land of Israel, and all its previous incarnations, is the one country we all know from childhood.

Even if we have never been there, through our religious classes.

So it’s a real challenge to present it anew but one which Sharon succeeded in consumately.

Best of both worlds

No place like dome

The appeal of the Promised Land is obvious, it’s not called that for nothing.

And its historical and religious sites will always draw us there.

But Israel is a diverse country of peoples, cultures, geography… and of course culinary.

There is more than milk and honey although both are to be recommended and used in many of their best dishes.

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is a combined trip which will give the traveller the best of both worlds.

Modern hip beach Mediterannean Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where three religions meet.

Hotting up

Good to go

Jews, Muslims and Christians all come together too in Haifa on the northern coast in a model of co-existence.

Israel really is a country of contrasts with the traveller able to lie back and think of…

Well, nothing on the Dead Sea, or take a boat out on the Dead Sea and snorkel or tuck into the barbecue and Israeli wine.

In fact the water may just be a blessed relief.

From the heat of an Israeli summer with temperatures hitting the high 40s… great for me, I must admit.

Because of the year that’s in it, it may be the Autumn or Winter when we all get out there which is real good by me.

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Easter in Israel

Easter in Jerusalem would normally be a throng of pilgrims.

But it has been reassuring, if a little surreal, to see masked worshippers following the Path of the Cross.

But it does give us a sense, both metaphorical, and real, of revival, of resurrection.

Israel, and Britain for that matter, have been the great success stories of the vaccine roll-out.

The Promised Land has vaccinated half of their population

While 1 in 12 Britons have had both jabs, although there  are more than six times as many of us.

Common cause

But let’s celebrate both our countries and talk up the preliminary discussions of the UK-Israel route opening up from August.

Yes, May 17, has been mooted for a Travel review but late summer remains more realistic.

A British Government source was quoted in the Sunday Times.

They said: ‘There will be a system of travel corridors to green-list countries with good vaccination rates. Israel, here we come!’

So where are we with our Israeli friends who we touched base with at the digital World Travel Market at the end of last year.

Well, several airlines have added limited routes and slowly increased flights in June and July.

Easy does it

That would then be in line with an August return for Britons so keep an eye on all our old favourites.

EasyJet offers two nights room only at the American Colony Jerusalem on July 2.

Leaving from Luton (hint to our Government to get a move on) £396pp, which means £792 for two.

While Virgin Holidays has tempted us of a Scottish persuasion, and now living up here in Braveheartland.

With seven nights at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem from £3381pp (well, you deserve it) for October 26.

Kayak is many a traveller’s second point of contact (after jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com obviously). And what about the Queen of Sheba for my Queen of Sheba?

The Dead Sea

Three nights and flight at the Hilton Eilat Queen of Sheba Hotel three nights and flight for £1,079

And, of course, our friends at G Adventures who have been trying to get me out to Israel these past few years (you have, you have, you have).

G whizz

They have 15 days from £999 Jordan and Israel Adventure from £1954, valid on December 10 (plenty of time to be super-vaccinated). And this was £2299!

Mt Nebo, Jordan

Now teasingly, as you’ll all know by now, I’ve been taken right to within 50 metres of Israel from the Jordan side at the site of John’s baptism of Jesus.

And so I’ve seen the Promised Land… only the Israeli soldiers on the banks were looking suspiciously at us from the other side.

I’ll just have to leave it to our holiday providers to look after us as always.

MEET YOU BY THE WAILING WALL

 

 

 

 

Countries, Cruising, Flying, Food & Wine

New Year Revolutions

And as the Alt-Right tries to wage a Second American Revolution in the US a look at the revolutions we do need.

The air

United we atand

And clearly the challenge is carbon emissions where EasyJet can take a bow.

The budget airline topped a London School of Economics report in a top five which also includes Alaska Air, Qantas, my old friends at United who flew me to the Deep South and JetBlue.

The seas

Norway wood: In the Norwegian fjords

And high up for the haters in this Covid and Climate crisis are our cruise ships.

Where my old faves MSC whom I sailed with around the Norwegian fjords, Royal Caribbean who showed off their wares in the English Channel and in Barcelona.

And Celebrity Cruises who treated us all like, well Celebrities, off the coast of Florida on their $1bn state-of-the-art Edge.

A nod here to Princess Cruises who had us on board when they stopped off in Dublin on their way round Britain and Ireland.

And Paul Gauguin Cruises who drew us a picture of tantalising Tahiti who have been keeping us going through lockdown with their images and news.

The food

Food for thought: A tajine

And now more than ever we have to watch what and where we eat.

So that means avoiding markets we know little about in countries we are visiting for the first time.

So for me that was Morocco and I should have gone with the professionals.

Northern Africa and the Middle Eastern food is bright, spicy and often new for Western palates so don’t be afraid to ask.

And if you can find Zuhair, G AdventuresJordanian host extraordinaire then all the better.

All our cultures and culinary ways should be celebrated around the world and animal welfare should be central to our approach.

A joint resolution

I’ve probably already broken my own personal resolutions already so it might be presumptuous to ask my Travel pals to take on these targets.

But, in truth, we’re all in it together…

This past year’s challenges have brought opprobrium upon Travel professionals but lockdown has only reaffirmed how vital it is to us all.

So let’s build it back even better this year.

Asia, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying

Flyday Ferryday Friday

I’m channelling my inner Oleta Adams (the darling of the Gulf War soldiers) by saying I don’t care how I get there I’ll get there if I can.

And so I’m flagging up airplane, sailboat and maybe even camel too today although Oleta it’s not just an Arab man who uses the ‘ship of the desert’.

Canary Orange

The future is orange

And obviously this caught our attention. Prosaically because the latest map for the European Centre for Disease control has classified Ireland and the Canaries orange.

Which means that anyone returning from the Canaries doesn’t have to restrict their movements upon their return, having done a pre-departure test 72 hours before departure.

Unlike the canary Aer Lingus isn’t flying out there until December 27.

But from then you can be sure of availability out to Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and my old fave Tenerife.

A word on canaries and the Canaries and, no they’re not named after the birds but after the latin name for dogs because they had big mutts.

And as for orange canaries, well they’re really Red Canaries which can have an orange hue. Now you know.

French fancy

We are sailing

France, we’ve missed you. Like so much else this year I had my bag packed ready for an arts and culture trip to see you when this pesky bug got buggier.

But we and my ferry friends aren’t going to let this beat us and Irish Ferries are preparing for a better year next year.

Irish Ferries will operate daily overnight sailings from Dublin to Cherbourg with their new cruise ferry WB Yeats (or WB Yachts as I call it) throughout next summer.

I’ve met WB, the ship that is, but that was in Dublin Port… next stop Cherbourg 2021.

And it truly is a pleasure to sail around French shores

Cruise away to 2022

Enchanted Princess

And the thing about cruises is that you usually have to save up for them.

So Princess Cruises are giving us plenty of time to do just that with their 2022 brochure.

They will have five ships on the seas.

Pick of them (heck they’re all mouthwatering) is Enchanted Princess which will be sailing around Russia snd Scandinavia from Copenhagen.

While we’re intrigued about their festival packages.

So you can take the Crown Princess to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo,

And I promised you a camel

He’s got the hump

Now this is the one I rowed back on, the 15-day G Adventures Jordan and Israel Adventures trip.

Because I didn’t feel it was right to leave my work without me for that length of time!

It’ll take you from Amman whose charms and that of Jordan I did enjoy, to Jerusalem and every stop in between. From £1954 (was £2999). Valid from January 15.

And as I now know after making new Israeli friends at the World Travel Market you’re just as likely to need a camel here too.

Because the land of milk and honey is a half sand.

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES, SEA AND SAND

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

WTM Holiday Snaps and a beautiful wrap Donald

And the last word is from Donald, a bit of a scoop from your favourite Travel blog.

While the rest of the world has been trying to talk to the Big Mouth we got him… well, we are old pals.

And Donald has a message for the world: ‘I love you all and I want you all to come and see me again soon in America.’

The Happiest Place on Earth is now also the Safest on Earth with reservations, social distancing, alternate rollercoast carts and new hospitality measures.

While Mickey, Minnie, Donald and the Gang aren’t about to let the virus turn their smile into a smell.

And are dancing, waving and welcoming us all in their own inimitable way.

Watch this space for new Disney features coming along soon.

While Visit Orlando also flagged up what’s happening up at Universal Orlando and particularly their Jurassic World feature.

All of which, and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens I’ll give you a taster of what’s in store… in my rollercoaster whizz around Florida.

Golden vision: Florida Kets

I had all planned to take a whizz around the Florida Keys before the other Donald closed America off in March but hope to put that right when I get the chance.

And it’s those areas with natural distancing like the Keys and island nations (and yes a lesson here to the UK and Ireland too) who have an advantage.

Sail away in Croatia

Water wonderland

And when you’ve got 1200 islands then there’s ‘one for everyone in the audience.’

As they like to say in the world’s longest-running TV chat show, Ireland’s The Late Late Show, or whatever the Croatian equivalent is.

But here is a country which, as a Balkans state, dealt better than the rest of Europe with the virus.

And which is perfectly placed to host the tourist’s new requirements during and post-Covid.

One area is in small boat holidays and yachting around the islands, another adventure in the Great Outdoors.

Kayak attack: In Croatia

My go-to people in Ireland for Croatia are Croatia Tours, and I went on pilgrimage with them to neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina where I started out on the road to Dubrovnik.

They have a seven-days Rivers by the Sea package, making the most of where the area where the Krka River enters the Adriatic, on June 26 £1255pp.

Where you’ll get to sea kayak, cycle, canoe, rock climb, hike and raft.

The Tuscan Islands

And Firenze too

We’ll also be spreading our wings more next year even when we do visit our favourite cities.

And that’ll help hotspots like Firenze breathe as we explore greater Tuscany, its adventure trails, cycling opportunities and thermal waters.

And its seven islands, chief among them Elba, the first island of exile for Napoleon, and Montecristo, it of Alexandre Dumas’ Count.

Able was I ere I saw Elba.

As every schoolchild, well, at least those of  certain age and lexical bent, will tell you.

And Tuscany was, and is, ere able to thrive in ‘il novo normal’.

And, of course, the Caribbean

Daddy’s Little Girl, as all our little girls do these days, is wont to show me amusing things she finds on the internetty thing.

And one we both find funny is a Jamaican tour guide who extols the benefits of inhaling the island’s plants.

I grab every chance to hook up with my Caribbean friends, Barbados, Tobago, Anguilla (heck, all of them) albeit these days over Zoom, if only to hope that I can draw some sun out from the screen.

And as usual their warmth came flowing us out as they reminded us that in their island their neighbourliness has helped them through this crisis and referred in passing to London where ‘people don’t know their neighbours but had been getting to know each other this year.’

Los Filipinos

For those of us too who in the second half of the century of years some of us are blessed to live, our cultural touchpoint for the Phillipines is the Thrilla in Manila, the nation’s capital which hosted Ali-Frazier III.

And of course the Philippines are knockout and our old friends at G Adventures are all over it.

Manila is on the island of Luzon, one of 7,641 in the archipelago.

And you’ll not be surprised to learn then that out of 7,641 islands that it should have boasted the world’s most beautiful island, courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler in 2016.

The exotically-named Atty. Maria Anthonette C.Velasco-Allones, the Tourism Promotions Board’s COO has an equally lyrical way about her.

As she described her islands and what they have to offer.

‘When the dark night is over and the sun rises, wake up in the Philippines.

 

 

 

 

 

Australasia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Rugby’s back in New Zealand

It was a rite of passage at my rugby-playing school in Scotland…. going to watch the touring New Zealand All Blacks in Edinburgh.

And I was counting down from weeks out to see Graham Mourie’s all-conquering rugby team finish off their itinerary at Murrayfield.

And listening to Timmy Teague’s promises that he would go onto the pitch and do the pre-war Haka war dance with the players.

How I felt on a rugby field

I got a flashback of Timmy as I heard of the return of rugby to the Land of the Long White Cloud with the Highlanders beating the Chiefs 28-27.

Highlanders’ fling

A thrilling match with the Highlanders stealing it at the end.

And best of all it was played out in front of 20,000 rugby nuts, with no need for face masks or social distancing.

The Land of the Long White Cloud

Nirvana, and a country where we’ll all be flocking to www.newzealand.com when we get the chance.

I have a hankering to visit Mangaotaki and the other locations used by Peter Jackson for Middle-Earth in Lord of the Rings.

Where my old colleague and singing partner from Rising Star Karaoke Bar https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/things-to-do/entertainment/rising-star-karaoke and Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital Eoin played rugby.

Lord of the throw-ins?

‘Mr Brightside’ loved it and also learned the Haka… every rugby team in New Zealand practises it in training.

Stick your tongue out

Timmy could have done with some practical too… he was hopefully out of sync.

But he did do it. And the police allowed him back in to watch the second half of the game.

Hakademic really

He’d have been as well missing it. Scotland were hammered.

The All Blues: Not quite the same and Scotland take a beating in Dublin

But there’s nothing new about that.

Now you want to explore how to get out there.

Jimbo and Tommy Bowe. www.emirates.com

Well, I’d always recommend G Adventures www.gadventures.co.uk while check major airlines for flights and conditions.

MEET YOU AT THE GAME

Adventure, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – cow fighting breaks out

Lockdown has stopped us humans competing against each other but animals continue to do it, well, naturally.

I got to hear of the strange sport of Combat de Reines In Switzerland where cows fight each other www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks.

And I intend to make it my mission to seek out this ultimate moortial (sorry) arts duel on my travels as well as these other animal v animal contests.

Kicking seven cow bells out of each other

A bit of stewarding doesn’t go amiss

Combat de Reines, Switzerland: These contests date back to the 1920s when the skiers were on a break in the summer.

And they attract as many as 50,000 spectators across the season.

Although I’m assuming the cows are happy to fight behind closed doors (or in the open field) without us there.

The mootivation (ouch) for the cows is herd dominance although some need jivvying up and prefer to munch the grass.

Camel ye, come all ye

And in the red corner. https://wrestlingtv.in/have-you-heard-of-camel-wrestling-check-how-popular-it-is-in-turkey/

Camel wrestling, Turkey, Middle East, Asia: And your otherwise loping humpy desert dweller will bear his teeth…

If you try to jostle him along. Or put a female camel on heat between two males.

So not that different from humans then really.

The season is November to March so there’s still hope.

And here’s some Turkish delights and Jordanian japes to tantalise you… https://www.goturkeytourism.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam. And www.gadventures.com, www.visitjordan.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Herd up your haggises

http://www.facebook.com

Haggis hurling, Scotland: OK, this isn’t actually a sport but try telling that to the young Irish group I was with a couple of years ago.

Dry-witted Aberdonian Stevie informed our party that because we were running late he’d have to take the haggis farm off the agenda.

Distracted by another question Stevie might not have returned to the subject.

Had I not reminded him and warned him that this might yet appear in their articles as fact.

Invented in 1977 by a Robin Dunseath in 1977 it is still going strong. And check out www.visitabdn.com and Aberdeen – a light in the north and wwwvisitscotland.com.

One for the puperazzi

Catch that wave

Dog surfing, Huntington Beach, California: And to think I might never have learned about this sport of canines had I not pried.

The good folk of HB had invited me out for breakfast in Dublin to tell me about their new hotels and I probed them for info about their beaches.

I discovered that they have a popular annual dog surfing competition and that Garrett McNamara and his Brazilian labrador Bono lead the way.

And no, I never did hear if this Bono wore shades too all the time. Maybe the next time I get out to HB I’ll check it out.

Visit https://www.surfcityusa.com, www.visitcalifornia.com and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/19/my-weekend-with-marilyn-2/amp/.

I haven’t heard if September’s big surf is going ahead but the Pacific is a big ocean.

Acting the goat

Goat racing, Tobago: And a skill I got me, Marsha.

Marsha had gone through our coach asking us what we were good at, with housebuilder Antony scoring highest and me lowest.

But I showed her! Me and my goat Bandanaman only beat Antony and his kid in the goat race.

The big event is held in Buccoo at Easter and if there’s any justice myself and Bandanaman will be at the starter’s gate.

Although I might pass on the crab race.

Visit https://www.visittobago.gov.tt and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/amp/.