Countries, Culture, Europe

Crocus gold… Valentine’s in Amsterdam and Ireland

When it’s Spring again we’ll sing again ‘Crocuses from Co. Waterford’.

Yes, I would and, when I can afford it, do cover my flower beds with tulips from Amsterdam.

And one we enjoyed on our visit to Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Dylan promise: At the Dylan in Amsterdam

Where we also took home ice cream tulips (think raspberry ripple colours) from the Amsterdam Museum

And got a Spring out of them before we handed over the keys of chez notre maison in Ireland.

To someone we can only hope appreciates the opportunities as we did.

My wee flower in Amsterdam

The history of the crocus is also captivating.

We can date the crocus back to the Egyptians, Greeks and Menoans.

With a few pounds of corn served as a loan of gold and jewels.

The best place to see crocuses in Ireland is the Mount Congreve Gardens in Co. Waterford.

Purple reigns… in Co. Waterford

The gardens will open early this year on Valentine’s Day, February 14.

To showcase more than 20,000 crocuses in flower at the beautiful gardens located just ten minutes from Waterford City.

Which is a two-hour drive south of Dublin.

Which we all know is served regularly by our friends at Aer Lingus and Ryanair

For more on what the gardens have to offer throughout the year visit

The crocus story doesn’t finish there.

The Crocus Project from Ireland

The Crocus Project was launched in Ireland in 2005 by the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland.

Intended for pupils aged 11 and over it provides schools with yellow crocus bulbs.

To plant in memory of the one million and a half Jewish children.

And thousands of other children who died in the Holocaust.

The yellow flowers recall the yellow Star of David all Jews were forced to wear under Nazi rule.

Which Anne Frank had up on her wall of the attic house she, her family and friends hid away in from the Nazis during the War.

A giant: Anne Frank in Amsterdam.

On this the 75th anniversary year of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, where Anne and her sister Margot died, and Auschwitz were liberated, pay tribute…

By either visiting those sites or the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam…

And also make use of the wonderful city pass

While all major airlines fly to Amsterdam I like to promote national airline carriers and recommend KLM

Me, I’m off to buy crocuses and tulips for someone who deserves them… and also The Scary One.

And I’ll get back to you on Friday, Valentine’s Day, with more blooming marvellous places to visit for gardens and flowers.

Food, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – Ginuary

Veganuary, ve-gone.

You’ve already got your day, November 2, and I flagged it up back then…But as I watched a vegan on the TV rally other ice cubes (there’s a cracking meme which explains that definition) it got me thinking.

About how you go about claiming a month with a clever pun… well, there doesn’t appear to be any regulation!

About how you go about claiming a month with a clever pun… well, there doesn’t appear to be any regulation

They do champion it as an antidote to Dry January though which is all right by me.I’ve learned to like, not love, gin as I’ve aged

Probably because, like Heinz, there are 57 varieties.

My new pal Kirsten from my Tobago trip

I sampled half a dozen on a weekend break in Monaghan… Monaghan’s country roads

In the hands of a ‘ginoisseur’… nobody’s taking that one off me!

The Scary One also learned to appreciate G&Ts.

Mine-sweeping the sample board of drinks set up for me!

I also learned about the gin-making talents of the good folk of Fermanagh in the North of Ireland.

When they took the short jaunt down here to Dublin…

Here in Ireland it crosses social barriers but in England it’s a yuppie drink and a favourite of the plummy set.

But it actually has more humble origins.

You can learn more in the National Genever Museum in Schiedam, ten minutes from Rotterdam…

The Museum boasts exhibitions, obvs.

But where it really gets good is when you get to the distillery Old Schiedam.

Which is distilled in 100% malt wine as it was 300 years ago.


With my old drinking buddy Muriel

Before you follow one of the gin and genever tours through the city centre with a visit to one of the producers.

Should you be there in June for the National Gin and Jenever Festival you’ll get to enjoy…

Tastings, workshops, tours and music too.


A mocktail for Mrs M, honestly

The Scary One will be there, feigning lack of interest.

All major airlines fly to the Netherlands.

But the Dutch national airline carrier KLM always looks after me.

When I visit.

It won’t go down well in Rotterdam but the last time was Amsterdam… Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

But before that was Rotterdam when I treated the-then Miss F on our first foreign holiday.

To watch the Netherlands v Greece football match.


Now she needed a gin or two after that!

For more information on the Netherlands, visit

And for Amsterdam it’s and Rotterdam



Flyday Friday – Berlin

Christmas 1989 was a special festive season as Berliners celebrated the Fall of the Wall.

And relatives, east and west got together at last to celebrate something the rest of us take for granted.

Turkey and all the trimmings and to pull a cracker.

Of course Germany is the home of the Christmas Market and many of our Festive traditions come from Germany.

Such as Christmas Trees which we have Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert to thank for.

All across Germany there will be Christmas markets which put our own to shame.

Which is why many of us go out there to drink their hot wine, eat their apple strudel and munch on their Christmas sweet treats and cakes.

Aer Lingus, of course, is making life easier for us with special offers.

As part of their Christmas Markets promotion.

They are offering up to 30% off their wide range of cities.

Including the German capital from €45.99. Also see

Travel October 22-December 18. Book by October 14.

And if you’re as big a fan of Germany as I am then check out my thoughts on these cities (€35.99) Hamburgers and ships… and Dresden’s renaissance (fly to Berlin with BA) and arrange transport from there.

And some recent thoughts on Munich which is €39.99… Hungry and Thursday: The Munich Beerfest.

Played in Japan

Photo by Satoshi Hirayama on

The Rugby World Cup that is… at least when they’ve not angered the Gods and they send typhoons.

All of which is bad news for Scotland who are set to be kicked out of the tournament because their group decider against Japan is set to be cancelled because of the weather.

And that means the match is deemed a 0-0 draw and they will go out with Ireland and the hosts progressing.

My not so bonnie wee Scotland could have done with such an eventuality in Russia in the football.

But back to Japan. I can’t for the life of me see why they held the tourney there in Typhoon season.

It is though a country and culture well worth visiting.

And KLM are the carrier to take you. Try next month or December at €601 return And here are some other things made in Japan

Must fly… but there will be another air deal taking off soon.



Das boot…

Or how the Germans saved the world.

Now that’s grabbed your attention let me toast adidas for selling 1 million shoes made out of ocean plastic last year.

And, no, it doesn’t mean you’ll slip in the penalty box more often and win more penalties.

Do you want to know about Bavarian cobbler Adolf Dassler? Thought you might.

Adi, as he wisely abbreviated his name to, invented the boot and became something of a hero to the nascent post-war West Germany in the process.

Most importantly to the West German team who stunned the Ferenc Puskas-inspired Hungary team to win the World Cup in 1954, he also invented the screw-in stud which allowed them the better of the conditions.

As a further footnote to history that final which the Germans call the Miracle of Berne was played in the Wankdorf Stadium, Berne.

Someone must have pointed it out to the Swiss who renamed the ground when they demolished and rebuilt it in 1991, calling it the Stade de Suisse, Wankdorf. That should do it, then!

So you want to go to Herzogenaurach to visit the adidas museum?

Reflections on history: adidas. Photo by Paul Voie

Herzogenaurach which is 23km from Nuremberg and 187km from Munich dates back to the 13th century, has a castle, and a Medieval-themed festival Mittelalterspectaculum.

Numerous airlines fly to Nuremberg. I found KLM, a personal favourite which gives you the chance to stop off at one of the world’ great airports Schiphol with a round trip from £156 (€130).

Visit and