Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Oceania, UK

Mothers-in-Law Day

It’s a problem worthy of United Nations arbitration so it probably shouldn’t be surprising that we honour both today with their own day, the United Nations Day and Mothers-in-Law Day.

With those esteemed institutions being deemed worthy of their own official day.

Now I wouldn’t for one minute begrudge Angela her day off today as she IS heading into Halloween, obviously her busiest time of the year.

In truth, I’ve always tried to keep a couple of steps ahead of Mother-in-Law, or Sir as she insists I call her.

The outlaw Angie

Mother and daughter: Angela and My Scary One, Sarah

And so we’d find ourselves living away from Chez Angela.

So she has needed to be a visitor to our billets on our adventures around these islands.

In Aberdeen, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Co. Wicklow in Ireland.

Greening it up: In Ireland

And that has allowed us the opportunity to show off the charms of some of our favourite places on these islands.

An inveterate traveller herself, she decamped to Australia with the family in her 20s.

And embarked on a round-the-world boat trip back to England.

Taking in New Zealand, Tahiti and the Panama Canal… and a lot of Pacific and Atlantic Ocean and all its choppiness.

Globetrotting Ma-in-Law

A horse a horse: My queendom for a horse

But she has also benefited from old Casey Jones (that’s the Father-in-Law).

And his love of train travel to span France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and much else of Western Europe.

One unexplored world and one I know she has long hoped to visit is the New World, the USA.

And it is my hope that we can get her out there to New York with her daughter, my very own Scary One.

And I know that she has got her own broom!

Have a Great Day Angela on this United Nations Day and Mothers-in-Law Day.


Countries, Culture, Europe

Italy giving quarantine the boot

Pop the Prosecco, Italy is giving quarantine the boot for UK visitors from tomorrow.

All of which means we can make good on our a dopo and a piu tardi vow the last time we met in Bergamo.

That translates to ‘see you later’, which actually means more like ‘see you soon’.

The Orio al Serio Airport was the last I saw of Il Bel Paese nearly a year ago. You may know it as Milan Bergamo.

Of course, Bergamo is a joy to behold and a story to be told in itself.

And it would be my recommendation to stay and take in the charms of the Citta Alta and Citta Bassa, the high and low cities that make up this captivating citta.

Milan and a passion for fashion

Shop till you drop: In Milan

Do, of course, feel free to check out its big sister Milano particularly as we are heading into L’Autunno, Autumn and the famous Milan Fashion Week.

All the beautiful people will be stepping out on the runway at Milan Spring/Summer 2022 fashion week from September 21-27.

And I hear that bandanas are in this year).

We hear 42 out of 61 brands will be hosting live physical shows.

From Italian luxury brands including: Fendi, Prada, Armani, Moncler, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dolce & Gabbana.

FOMO and Lake Como

A nose for style: George Clooney

The Rich Set go for their R&R to Lake Como but it’s by no means beyond your reach.

And besides who says we can’t follow George and Amal around Europe’s hotspots… I have!

Their Italian back yard has its own swanky design with a new and immersive format in the historic centre of Como with the Lake Como Design Festival.

It will present The Originals, a selection of the best international design galleries of the 20th century, invited to reflect on the theme of icons and their interpretations. 

This year, exhibitions will take place inside the Palazzo Mantero.

The historic headquarters of Mantero, the biggest silk producer on Lake Como.

It will also be the first time the Palazzo has been open to the general public. 

And where to stay?

Grand living

Tis Grand: Tremezzo

The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is showcasing Giacomo al Lago.

It is Lake Como’s first lakeside fish restaurant, and new mindful wellness rituals at the Grand Hotel and Villa Sola Cabiati.

As well as Sense of Lake, the Grand Hotel’s all-Italian digital boutique.

It offers a bespoke collection that allows you to indulge in Lake Como living at home.

Visitors to the online boutique can expect a feast of fashion.

There’s locally crafted Como silk scarves, luxurious swimwear, beautiful kaftans, Murano-style glassware, Aqua Como candles, personalised luggage and much more.

So with Italy giving quarantine the boot then the fashionable North is worth checking out and spoiling yourself with a visit.

And who knows, you might very well see George and Amal at the big events or even strolling around the Lake.



Countries, Culture, Europe

Follow George and Amal to Lake Como

O Brother, where art thou? I just missed you in Amsterdam and Venice so I’ll just have to follow George and Amal to Lake Como.

George and Amal have integrated into Italian life so much that the Hollywood A-lister has taken to flogging their coffee!

And they have drawn us to the Italian playground for the well-heeled in the north of Italy.

Which is something that our friends at Travel Department have been doing for years.


Gorgeous George: George Clooney

TD has welcomed its first customers back to Italy with its Lake Como, Milan ad St Moritz tour including the Bernina Express recently.

And it is hoped it will be a springboard for the bounceback.

They should know too with 25 years’ experience bringing holidaymakers to Il Bel Paese.

Cara Sara

Como FOMO: The beautiful Lake Como

My old (but not old) friend Sara Zimmerman, CEO of Travel Department said: “We were delighted to welcome our first customers back to Lake Como.

“It’s clear that many of those joining our tour, whether first timers or returning customers, really welcomed the reassurance of travelling with a trusted tour operator with best in class safety standards.

“Our customers know that they can rely on us to check all the finer details in advance of travel.

“And to provide guidance on any additional paperwork, so all they have to do is relax and enjoy their well-deserved holiday.

“Our Lake Como, Milan and St Moritz tour includes all the same highlights as before.

“But on top of that, our customers are benefitting from the services of an experienced local guide, ready and waiting to share their insight.

“Not only on the local sights and culture, but also on local Covid-19 safety protocols.

“We are also operating smaller group sizes to allow for social distancing and more personalised attention”.

Deal me in

Water playground: Lake Como

To celebrate being back in Italy Travel Department has launched its Italy Offer which gives €50pp* off any 7 night or more 2022 holiday to Italy.

By using the code: VP-ITALY50 when booked before 30th of September 2021.

Everything is included in your Travel Department Holiday price from flights, accommodation, transfers, and excursions to an expert local guide.

So we’d advise all lovers of Il Bel Paese to follow George and Amal to Lake Como.

Now have you any biscotti with the coffee, George?


Countries, Europe, South America, UK

It’s Coming Home Messi’s Homecoming

Felicitación Leo, or Felicitats in his adopted Catalan, It’s Coming Home Messi’s Homecoming.

It has been largely ignored in the UK but there has been another football match taking place this weekend.

And the clash of Argentina and Brazil in the Copa America was also watched by hundreds of millions.

King of South America


Argentina, Argentina: Leo with Emi Martinez

Messi has been scratching an itch for some time now.

That his great rival Portugal hero Cristiano Ronaldo has won his continent’s competition, and he hasn’t.

Scratch no more Leo, the Copa is yours. after Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Brazil in the early hours of this morning.

I have, of course, had the pleasure of meeting both Ronnie and Leo… in Portugal and Catalonia.

The One Ronnie

Model footballer: Cristiano

Alas, not in person, but in the ubiquitous paraphernalia in those countries (and I freely give Catalonia that status).

You may usually come for the sun in Portugal but you will soon realise the importance of football.

In the land of Fado and Fatima, Coimbra and Fatima.

Hotti Totti

Roman God: Francesco Totti

Where in amongst the tables of Our Lady statuettes and trinkets sat a beach towel of that other hallowed figure, Cristiano Ronaldo.

What is it about religious pilgrimages that the religion of football sits alongside it so easily?

Italians worship both Gods equally and the shops outside the Vatican are a wash of colour.

Make a wish

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Yellow and white Holy See and yellow and reds AS Roma.

And where Francesco Totti noddy dolls are all the rage although Ciro Immobile figures will no doubt be sharing the tables now.

Immobile’s team Lazio are named after the province in which Rome sits and both clubs share the Olympic Stadium.

Although you’ll see more light blue flags and scarves the more you get out into the country.

Balkans boy

Go Croatia: With my Balkan pals in Ireland

You’ll see the power and pull of football in Medjugorje too where Croatia captain Luka Modric is idolised.

Now, granted I have taken a circuitous route here.

Before eventually reaching the Great Man.

So back to Messi’s Homecoming…

Leo’s a big teddy bear

Our goal celebration in Barcelona

Now Argentina is a pleasure I’ve yet to enjoy, and will, but Messi’s home now is Barcelona.

Where if you can’t get up close and personal with Leo you can cuddle a Messi bear.

On a Royal Caribbean ship in Barcelona harbour, a hub for cruise ships.

Now noddy statuettes of the England players will already be in production.

And don’t be surprised to see them sharing tables, shelves and shops with the Queen soon.

But until it happens today belongs to the Little Maestro.

It’s Coming Home Messi’s Homecoming.


Countries, Culture, Music

Forza Italia

Forza Italia. And in celebration of Italy’s Eurovision success, here’s Rainy Days and Songdays’ five Italian stompers.

Reach for the skies

Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu, Domenico Mondugno: And it must have been a helluva year at Eurovision in 1958 for this one not to have won.

Modugno’s song went onto win two Grammies but on this occasion had to play second (in fact third) fiddle to Andre Claveau’s Dors, mon amour for France.

Apparently it was penned while composer Franco Migliacci who was inspired by Marc Chagalli’s art. O

For us it’s always the sound of St Mark’s Square in Venice… oh, oh, oh, oh.

No one sleeps

Give it il welly: Luciano

Nessun Dorma Luciano Pavarotti: And this became the anthem for football’s World Cup, Italia 90.

All of which gives us the chance to give a shout-out to his home town Modena in Emilia-Romagna where he was born, lived and died.

And composer Giacomo Puccini and his town Lucca in Tuscany.

Mio, duo, Luciano, Bryano

Mia donna: Elvis and Priscilla

O Sole Mio, Luciano Pavarotti and Bryan Adams: And that man again, this time not mio but duo with the Groover from Vancouver himself, Bryan Adams.

And as we all know is the backdrop for Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding and It’s Now Or Never.

O Sole Mio is a Neapolitan staple written by Alfredo Mazzucchi in the late 19th century..

When, when, when

When in Rome

Quando Quando Quando, Tony Renis: And again another which didn’t win its competition, fourth in the Sanremo Festival

Elio Cesari, for that is he is Milanese is the original but when, when, when The Bublé and Nelly Furtado get hold of it it sounds like this.

Without a woman

Sprinkle a little Zucchero

Senza Una Donna, Zucchero & Paul Young: And this means ‘without a woman’ which heartthrob Paul never was.

And dare I say the more grizzly Zucchero, at least in Italy where Adelmo, or Sugar (Zucchero) is a bit of a sweetheart too.

Time to say goodbye

Blowing his own trumpet

Con Te Partiro Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman: And with everything Italiano it’s all about the crescendo, the climax.

And for Pisan Andrea it’s about his home town as it is Luccan composer Giacomo Puccini



Countries, Culture, Europe, Music

Song for Europe

Eurovision, the World Cup and the Olympics were the gateway to the world for all us Fiftysomethings.

So tonight’s renewed Eurovision Song Contest from Rotterdam is fertile ground for travel writers.

Where we can reference every country on the continent… and even further afield now to Israel and Australia.

Malta teaser

Making headway on my Segway in Gozo, Malta’s wee sister

Colours to the mast here… The Scary One and I (or me, I never know which is right) are right behind Malta.

It’s always been our island – we got engaged there.

It’s an island infused by the many peoples who have passed through… of course the wise ones stayed.

And their entry this year, Destiny’s Je ma casse is a funky upbeat dance tune with a statement of female empowerment.

The liberating sentiment in Je ma casse ‘I’m Outta Here’ should be popular with the judges.

Destiny is calling

Destiny child: Malta’s entry

Destiny’s ditty, both in terms of its lyrics and sound, feels like a nod to Aussie house duo Madison Avenue and their hit Don’t Call Me Baby.

For Destiny’s ‘So if I show some skin Doesn’t mean I’m giving in, Not your baby (je me casse) take Madison Avenue’s original…

‘You know I don’t belong to you, it’s time you knew I’m not your baby. I belong to me so don’t call me baby.’

Anyhoos, it’s not the only thing about Destiny that feels familiar.

For real Euroheads you might know her as a former Junior Eurovision winner while fans of Britain’s Got Talent may recognise her as a beaten semi-finalist.

While Ibiza is lauded as the party island of the Med and is certainly bopping Malta has my vote.

And that of all the ravers who go there annually for its sets and festivals.

Roman rock gods

I’ll be back: The Trevi Fountain in Rome

Its big neighbour to the north and which you can enjoy a day trip to, Italy, is joint-favourite to be the Song for Europe this year.

Rock and pyrotechnics… don’t worry this isn’t pastiche Lordi but flash Maneskin (no, us either).

If it’s goth rock energy you’re after this Roman four-piece and their anthem Zitti E Buono (Shut Up and Behave) should get your vote.

Voila, c’est La France

Bravo: On World Cup final day at the French Embassy in Dublin

The third co-favourites, France are of course European heavyweights. Voila!

No, that’s the name of Parisienne Barbara Pravi’s offering.

Naturellement as a chanteuse Barbara channels her inner Edith Piaf and .

And while it’s perfectly charming La Belle Babs lacks that va va voom we’re looking for as our Song for Europe.

As for the Oo K? Well, James Newman from Settle in Yorkshire, a village we know well and a county too with Casey Jones, the father-in-law, emanating from thar.

A poppy sound Embers with a strong hook, we’re not pinning our money on it though.

Have a good Eurovision…Je ma casse, I’m outta here!

Countries, Culture, Europe, Music

The Sounds of the Dolomites in Trentino

Why put up a stage in a conference centre for a gig in Nature’s amphitheatre…. I give you the Sounds of the Dolomites in Trentino.

Italy has long embraced its vistas to stage dramas, music and massacres from the days of Julius Caesar and before.

And it is a tradition that has been revived and thrived over the last 25 years with the Sounds of the Dolomites in Trentino.

Peak performance

The Sounds of the Dolomites is a celebration of classical and jazz music which has become a fixture in the calendar.

This year Maria Brunello, artistic director of the festival, put on a live performance for us from Trentino.

While we had to make do with the confines of our offices, albeit with souvenirs of past travels all around us.

Opera is a pleasure we all should enjoy when we visit Italy and is definitely the preserve there of the well-to-do.

Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

Your toe-tapping Travel Editor of the Year enjoyed the dulcet sounds of an orchestra as we ate al fresco at a black tie event in Padova.

I just about cobbled together an outfit from my rucksack that fitted the bill after spending the afternoon AWOL in Venice

My old friend Dragon who was with our party wasn’t so forward-thinking and turned up in a pair of boardies.

Mamma Mia!



Here comes Frankie, Siena and the Italian cavalry

Ciao tutti… and they’re off.

We bring you good news from Italia courtesy of Frankie Dettori, Italy’s brand ambassador for their new promotional campaign.

Race time in Siena

Frankie is Italy’s most famous horseman since well, ever.

Only the most devoted racing fans, or Italians, though would be able to name you another Italian jockey.

Medieval jewel: Siena

But, in truth, Italy has a rich tradition with the cavalli.

It goes back to the days of the Romans and the superstar chariot drivers.

Champion jockey Frankie is a proud Sardinian and waxes lyrical about his island, particularly the beaches.

While he also extols the virtues of Rome all of which I share.

Rock god

Being the rock god that he is, of course, Frankie namechecks other iconic Italian cities, fashionable Milan, Venice and cultural Florence 

Horsing around in the Circo Maximo in Rome with my Laurie

While he also bigs up the Amalfi Coast and Capri, and for the winter Cervinia 

If it’s horses you want then the Palio di Siena on July 2 andd August 16 is a horse of another colour.

The Palio like all traditions in Italy has its origins in religion with the first running of the bareback race in the mid-1600s in honour of the apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Oh, Frankie: Frankie Dettori

The jockeys are kitted out in the colours of their districts, the Contradas of Siena as they race around the square.

Our friend Frankie has his English subtitled in the promotional video which is something Scots and Irish have become used to over the years so our sympathy.

Wait for it

For the women (and the men) it’s not what Frankie says but how he says it anyway, and how he looks and the background of Italia.

But wait for it, Frankie’s pay off is Italia Wait For It. And we will.

And when we get back it’ll be with our old favourites Topflight, the Italian specialists.

Now all I need are some suitable colours.









America, Countries, Food, Food & Wine

Murty Gras in Orlando

I’ve a Gra for Mardi Gras… ask your Irish friends. Or a Murty Gras if you like.

Forget the soggy pancakes, you guys in the Americas and the Caribbean have got it right with your dancin’, drinkin’ and dinin’.

But if you can’t get to see how they do Mardi Gras around the world just now then why not let our Travel friends bring the world to you?

Murty Gras In Orlando

And who better at it than Universal Orlando?

Universal is serving up a real treat with its International Flavors of Carnaval from February 6 to March 28.

Eat around the world

When it will showcase dishes from New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago, Brazil, Spain and er Germany (who knew?)

Glasgow Bar with owner Karl in Tobago

Of course carnivals have long been choreographed to the minutest detail so you’ll not even notice social distancing.

There will be floats throughout the park and a Big Easy Bash.

Jambalaya mia my-oh

And from personal experience it is the done thing to start at breakfast time with Jambalaya, a Sazerac and a jazz brass band.

You want a taster of some of the other culinary delights.

Moe’s and Jimbo’s

  • Cajun cuisine from New Orleans, such as a Crawfish Boil, Jambalaya, Beignets and other Big Easy delights.
  • Classic Carnaval dishes from the islands, such as Pernil & Mofongo from Puerto Rico, a vegan Pholourie from Trinidad & Tobago and Jerk Chicken from the Bahamas.
  • Pork Schnitzel Sliders and Bavarian Pretzels from Germany, iconic Paella Mixta and Leche Frita from Spain and Belgium Liege Waffles from Belgium.
  • Other flavours from Brazil (Moqueca de Camarao), Canada (Beef Short Rib Poutine), Colombia (Carnitas Arepas), Cuba (Cuban Sandwiches), Italy (Caneloni), France Poached Pear Creme Brulee Crepe) and more.

Can you give me some Spanish pulpo please?

There will also be themed menus on CityWalk and at the Universal Orlando Resort Hotels while there are rides aplenty.

And isn’t it just what you need? A bit of escapism, either Harry Potter’s Wizarding World or The Simpsons’ Springfield.



America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – super soup

My Dear Old Dad would never tire of telling us that he studied Higher Spanish.

So when the gazpacho was served up in the hotel in Ibiza on our family holiday he insisted he knew that it would be cold.

A meat and two veg man, my Mum was up all night with him, cradling him as the gazpacho came back up.

Anyhoos, here are five soups around the world…

Vietnamese please

Vietnamese Beef Noodle soup: In Belfast

Vietnamese Pho: No, that particular pleasure awaits me but who knows as we plan to visit the Far East next year?

So, Son and Heir get yourself out to teach English there so we can come visit.

Ally introduced us to a Vietnamese speciality Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup in, of all places, Belfast at Madame Pho’s.

And when we do get out there we will, of course, go to our friends Wendy Wu first.

Bustin’ Boston

Catch of the day

Boston chowder: American diners give a special flavour to food.

And while San Francisco has its harbour and Florida its Keys, you never forget where you had your first chowder.

And for me that was in Boston where I spent a summer after university and would set myself up for night work.

With Boston chowder and a sealed packet of crackers.

Johnnie Fox‘s. the highest pub in Ireland, up in the Dublin hills, runs it a close second. With a pint of Guinness, of course.

Life is a minestrone

Yes to the second bowl

Minestrone: As Manchester 70s band 10CC said…

And that staple of your Mum’s cupboard is unrecognisable from the real thing.

Try any trattoria you like but mine’s is in Padova, upstreaam of Venice.

Onion bag

Ooh la la

French Onion soup: Talking of your Mum, or maybe it was just mine but French Onion soup was always her go-to for dinner parties.

Not too heavy to fill you up before your main meal.

And if you want to get really fancy then top it off with bread and gruyere cheese.

It should be gooey. Like it is in Biarritz.

Cock a leggie

And you want a third bowl

Cock-a-leekie: Now anything that conceals the taste of leeks which seem like just a green receptacle for water.

This is eaten at traditional dinners like Burns Suppers and I’d recommend the Sheep’s Heid in Duddingston, Edinburgh.

And the Yacht Club in Bray, Co. Wicklow particularly when Yours Truly is giving his Toast to the Lassies.

Out of India… and England

Creme de la creme

Mulligatawny: Now that surprised you, yes!

But as Indian curry is the English national dish then this isn’t such a big leap.

Its got carrots, potatoes, celery and much else as well but most important is the curry powder and that it’s creamy.