Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Flying

13 years an Irishman

Some people just get more handsome with age…

The last piece of the jigsaw: With Laurie at the start

Purple reigns

Barbados: Foreday Morning at the Crop Over carnival and rum.

Meeting the legendary Brian Lara and asking if he liked cricket, rum.

Winning a limbo competition. Soca music. And rum. Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna. Visit www.visitbarbados.org.

Our war heroes

My Great Uncle’s grave in Flanders

Flanders and the Somme: Presenting the wreath at the Last Post at Menin Gate.

Finding my Great-Uncle’s grave in Ieper and his brother’s name on the Thiepval arch.

Drinking one of Tom’s 100-plus beers in Tom’s Bierhaus out of a horn in a wooden clasped implement. In Flanders fields.

And https://gtitravel.ie and https://www.visitflanders.com/en/?country=en_GB and https://www.visit-somme.com/great-war.

Natasha, LA and I

Los Angeles and Southern California: These words are her own… Natasha Bedingfield.

Marilyn, Donald Duck, The Beach Boys, Jason Derulo.

And Star Wars’ Galaxy Edge. California, the Golden Globes State. Visit https://visitanaheim.org, https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/?CMP=OKC-dlr_themeparks_gmap_38.

Better Dead than Red

Mud, glorious mud

Jordan: Floating in the Dead Sea, obviously. Snorkelling in the Red Sea.

Site of John the Baptist’s baptism of Jesus Jordan/Israel and Moses looking out onto The Promised Land in Mt Nebo.

Petra, Indiana Jones et al and Wadi Rum and Lawrence of Arabia. See G Adventures www.gadventures.com and www.visitjordan.com. The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

American Trilogy

With Fannie Lou Hamer in Misssissippi

Memphis and Mississippi: Martin Luther King, Myrlie Evers, The Underground Railroad.

BB King, Beale Street, Stax Records.

Elvis, Graceland, Sun Studio.

Visit https://visitmississippi.org and https://www.memphistravel.com. And my American Trilogy… The Promised Land, The story of the Blues and The King of Kings.

Under African skies

Sisseko, me and Nelson

South Africa: Tigers, Springboks, rhinos with their horns sawn off.

Bottlenose blue dolphins, spekboom, the magic plant which is countering climate change.

Nelson Mandela, xhosa, that clicking language which our guide Sisseko and Madeba speak and the Voting Line sculpture in Port Elizabeth.

And I’ve only scratched the surface… What’s new pussycat? And www.southafrica.net.

Tomorrow: My Sporting Five

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Auschwitz lest we forget… I think we have

Prisoners would rush to get the top bunk bed in Auschwitz.

Like overexcited schoolchildren at a summer holiday camp?

No, but because a malnourished human being will quickly lose control of their bowel movements.

And you wouldn’t want to be under that.

Behind these gates

The Son and Heir conveyed that story to me after visiting the Polish concentration camp as part of World Youth Day in Krakow.

Life in camp

And it is these graphic illustrations of what life was like in the concentration camp which are being increasingly retold this week, this day.

Eerie

On the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

The challenging question for those of us whose mission is to see the world is whether Auschwitz is mawkish.

And, yes, it can be, if you disrespect the memory of those who were brutalised there by taking cheap selfies.

The Son and Heir

But I’m heartened at the same time by the ever-increasing interest in history by thus generation.

And the reverence shown by, among them, the Son and Heir at Auschwitz.

A personal war memory

And those young schoolboys who joined me in presenting the wreath at The Last Post at the Menin Gate in Ieper.

On my World War I Battlefields tour of Flanders and the Somme with GTI The Group Travel Specialists https://gtitravel.ie and In Flanders Fields.

Where I found the grave of my Great Uncle.

The politicians’ game

War history and war tourism is as old as time…

War tourism

For example the great Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott was not alone among well-known people to scour the Waterloo battlefield.

And my American colleague in Ieper took home fragments of exploded shells from Ieper.

Concentration camps today

I am always prepared to go the extra mile to seek out a battlefield, a graveyard or a genocide.

From visiting my first concentration camp in Dachau, and it was the first in Germany, on my Oktoberfest trip to Munich…

Every one a person

To discovering the inhumane lengths man will still go to settle grievances at the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity in Sarajevo.

Visit visitsarajevo.ba and www.bhtourism.ba.

Lest we forget?

I fear we have.

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Trawling the graveyards of history

I’m dying to share this… how one woman is remembered in the Caribbean.

From the inscription which marks the span of her life.

From sunrise to sunset…

You have to think that Emily was a ray of sunshine herself.

Well, she was from Tobago, an island where rain is known as liquid sunshine… www.visittobago.gov.tt.

Insert your own caption here

And I left with a mountain of memories… It’s Robinson Crusoe’s very own Tobago and I should cocoa – Christmas in Tobago.

I was thinking about death today (no, not a heavy Saturday night) but a regular occurrence.

After visiting the ancient burial ground of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, near my home here in Ireland.

 

It’s a mystery: In Tobago

I may well have inherited my fascination for graveyards from my Dear Old Dad who I’ll meet there one day.

The Tobagonians have a unique way of seeing life… and death.

As evidenced by this riddle on what has become the most famous grave on the island.

Riddle me this: In Tobago

So that you don’t have to strain your eyes too much the gist of the inscription on the 1783 grave in Plymouth reads in part:

‘She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgences to him.’

Riddles in Tobago

Now we were asked by our hosts the same question they pose to every visitor: ‘What the heck does it mean?’

My answer, the obvious one, is it’s a woman, whoever knows what goes on in their minds.

Marilyn and me: LA

I keep my eyes open for graves and final resting places wherever I go.

Just this year I discovered that Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place is off a busy street in LA… www.visitcalifornia.com and www.discoverlosangeles.com.

Where she is forced to spend eternity with her old nemesis Hugh Hefner which I tell you all about on this blog… My weekend with Marilyn

 

You can’t pick your neighbours

Of course, graveyards have strong personal connections to those who are related to, or are friends of the deceased.

World War I battlefields

Such as when I was the first of my family to kneel at the graveyard of my Great Uncle Willie who fell in Ieper, or Ypres.

While on that tour of the World War I battlefields In Flanders fields with www.gtitravel.ie and www.visitflanders.com and http://www.visit-somme.com I visited the Canadian and German memorials.

The Canadian memorial with its Caribou statue has a special resonance for my family as Grandpa George fought for the Canadian Army.

And met Granny Mary, a nurse, when he returned to Scotland.

A South African tale

War and graveyards tend to go hand in hand.

And in a visit to the Eastern Cape in South Africa at the start of the year What’s new pussycat? I braved the cold and the damp…

And the big game to visit the graveyard of an Afrikaans resistance fighter from the Boer War…

Of course hanging around graveyards at this time of year you’re liable do get some spooky vibes.

And the lines between this life and the next can become blurred.

Make of me and my colleagues from that trip to South Africa what you will… www.southafrica.net.

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Hungry and Thursday – the worst bar none

Chocolate is better than men because… we’ve all seen those posters and mugs.

But sometimes it goes wrong.

Such as with the branding you sometimes get with sweets and chocolate.

My trip to Bosnia & Herzegovina with Marian Pilgrimages http://www.marian.ie gave so much, an audience with Our Lady in Medjugorje, a history lesson in Sarajevo.

And an insight into the peoples of this region, the crossroads of East and West in the Balkans.

In Medge they are Croatians with the only thing vying for space with Our Lady in the shops Croatian flags and football tops. Medjugorje, what’s your story?

My old mucker from university, Davor, a Croatian-Scot was my first introduction to them.

But I have come to know them better through Croatia Tours http://www.croatia.ie on the River Liffey in Dublin…

And joining them before the World Cup final against France for wine and lunch (it was never a penalty!)

Thankfully there was none of the chocolate I found in a petrol station on the way to the airport in Split.

Name blame: Sweets in the Balkans

There’s just no amount of thumbs-up with Victorian dandy that makes this right.

I’m guessing they’re lozenges but I put them back on the shelf.

I can’t imagine for a minute that they meant any harm but…

Then there are those brand gaffes where there’s just been no quality control.

Not what you expect: ISIS chocolate

Such as this chocolate bar http://www.isischocolates.be in Brussels Airport on my way back from my tour of the World War I Battlefields… In Flanders fields.

With GTI The Group Travel Specialists www.gtitravel.ie.

Now the sentiment is right and before you think it’s cashing in on the War just remember that chocolate would have been a treat for the Tommies.

No, it’s just the acronym for the people who make it… ISIS!

It’s always an awkward one here, the quality control at TravelTravelTravel.

What to put in and what to leave out.

I think I’m on safe ground here though with this one which is a particular delicacy for Salzburgers.

And it was something that the indomitable Mrs M was particularly taken with…

Mozart’s Balls, or Mozartkugel http://www.mozartkugel.at on a Top Flight http://www.topflight.ie skiing trip to Austria… Soll Mates.

Send me the branding that goes wrong..

And in the Travel blog that brings you the best in toilet humour more to add to the annals of… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/01/austrian-toilet-humour/

And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/03/__trashed/. Look out for the name of the Bavarian tunnel I never saw coming… coming soon along the tracks.

It would make Our Lady blush!

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Every day’s a poppy day

Take up your quarrel with the foe.

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with those who die.

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae, Canadian Expeditionary Force

Shadows of history

This week I will wear my red poppy cufflinks with pride, pride that my paternal grandfather fought and was gassed out of the front.

And returned to Scotland to marry an Irish nurse.

If he hadn’t my father wouldn’t have come along and wouldn’t have met his own Irish nurse.

Who herself hailed from a proud Irish Nationalist family who gave two sons, my Great-Uncles, to the cause.

My story will be a familiar one, a heroic one, of extraordinary, ordinary people, Irish, Scottish, English, Canadian, American, German… from all around the world.

In the trenches

I stood by my Great-Uncle Willie’s gravestone in Ypres, the first of my family to pray by his cross since he fell.

I found Great Uncle Patrick’s name too among those of the missing on the Thiepval arch.

And I also visited Canadian and German cemeteries, a lake made out of the crater from the bombs, and a trench.

All on my GTI The Group Travel Specialists https://gtitravel.ie trip to Flanders https:www.visitflanders.com/en/?country=en_GB and the Somme https://www.visit-somme.com/great-war.

GTI offers a four days WW1 Flanders & The Somme, price from €697pps. Dates available 07 Apr 2020 – 10 Apr 202024 May 2020 – 27 May 202025 Jul 2020 – 28 Jul 202010 Sep 2020 – 13 Sep 2020

Mu Great-Uncle Patrick

I have had to defend my wearing of the red poppy while living these past 13 years in Ireland, which I’m happy to do, for my Grandpa and my Great-Uncles.

A symbol of peace

The objection is that the red poppy is worn for the fallen of all British soldiers across all conflicts.

Which includes the Troubles and also raises the thorny subject of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

I understand the difficulties for some over that, my Grandfather having lived a large part of his life there.

Many of my aunts, and an uncle, having been born there, and Grandpa having run pubs there over a period which also covered The Troubles.

The Canadian cemetery

I have also fielded criticisms from friends (they’re still friends) who say the red poppy has been appropriated by big commerce and narrow nationalism.

I can only say that I have had similar journeys of conscience regarding the red poppy.

But my visit to Flanders and the Somme have focused me on the universality of the human sacrifice there.

How all the crosses regardless of social status are the same size and pristine white.

I was touched by the respect shown by the youths of so many nations there.

Man-made crater

And was honoured to be picked with my good friend Dominic Burke, MD of Travel Centres, to present the wreath at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ieper.

I will light my candle on Sunday and watch it flicker, blow it out and then reflect on the fragility of life and the permanence of death.

And the greatest sacrifice any human can make, to give up their life for their friends.

Here is my tribute… In Flanders fields.