Countries, Deals, Europe, UK

Farewell Prince Philip, Corfu’s most famous son

He was Corfu’s most famous son but how will the Ionian island remember Prince Philip?

Hail Hellas

Well, probably not at all as ‘Phil the Greek’ as he was rather impertinently referred to by cheeky commoners lived all of 18 months in the island off Albania.

The Turks saw to that sentencing his Dad Andrew to death before he escaped with his son in an orange box.

Anyone for a Greek dance?

The Prince of Greece, unsurprisingly, had no longing to return particularly after finding a warmer welcome with the Windsors, of Windsor.

Wares of Greeks

And he was to say when asked: ‘I certainly never felt nostalgic about Greece. A grandfather assassinated and a father condemned to death does not endear me to the perpetrators.’

That was then and this is now and we’re all jolly good friends, ourselves and the Greeks.

Fly me. Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

Right down to the fact that they have a cricket pitch, the very essence of English culture, in the centre of Corfu Town.

And we’re busy courting the Hellenes, and they us, particularly as a possible green light country under the outline of the Global Travel Task Force.

Global Task Force

On which topic how do we feel about said Global Task Force.

And again I find myself in tune with my friends at the Scottish Passenger Agents Association who are lobbying our politicians north of the border here to get on board.

Jump in. Photo by Tania Nov on Pexels.com

Joanne Dooey, President of the SPAA, speaks for all of us, travel professionals and travel providers alike when she says: ‘Currently, the advice being given today is for travellers to and from England, and in our meetings next week with the Scottish Aviation Working Group we will be urging that Scotland follows suit.’

While she also raises an issue we have long flagged up.

She said: ‘We have some initial reservations on cost and availability of testing, the traffic light system and how vaccination passes will work operationally.

‘Our chief concern is the requirement for a PCR test and the costs associated with this. PCR testing is currently an expensive option which will place financial strain on families who travel together.

‘We would like to see the cost of this driven down or alternative forms of acceptable testing such as antigen and lateral flow.

Your boat will come in

‘The traffic light system has to have clarity and we all need to know the data which will place each country in green, amber or red and importantly what will trigger the move from one category to another.

‘This should be an internationally agreed system as currently this is only one side of the equation and travellers also need to know all the regulations for entry to their destination country.

‘And we’re very keen to hear how the digital vaccination pass will work in practice.’

It’s a deal

All of which brings us back to what we should be looking out for if we do we want to get out to Corfu.

And blue and white naturally

It is an island we know well from spending our first married days there with highlights including a dab at water skiing (or drinking), doughnuts and a flirtation (on his part) with the hotel keyboardist.

Corfu is surprisingly green and has its quirks such as that cricket pitch and the ubiquitous scary-looking Greek monks, though with the types of beards I’ve been trying to grow for 30 years.

The Scary One is never far away though clicking her scissors just in case.

She’d not be out of place in Ancient Greece.

So mid-September is our anniversary month and Barrhead Travel has seven days B&B at the Morfeas Hotel, from £320pp, departing on September 15.

MEET YOU IN THE TAVERNA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa, America, Canada, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Ireland

Water waterfalls

Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to – TLC

Only I do go chasing waterfallsor rather they go chasing me.

And probably you too… after all they are a staple of your holiday day tours.

Angel’s from heaven: In Venezuela

But like rivers and lakes usually once you’ve seen one then you’ve seen them all.

Chasing rainbows: Niagara Falls

The must-sees are obviously Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls and Angel Falls.

The Big Three

The first of them I have ticked off in Canada on a trip to see family in Toronto.

The second on the list is with my friends from Ethiopian Airlines en route to Namibia.

Victoria tall. www.victoriafallstourism.com

While the third in Venezuela I’m inching closer to having acquainted myself with the Venezuelan Spanish ladies of Tobago.

Not all waterfalls have to have come down from the highest heavens.

Caribbean scream

Nor do they have to be at a neck-craning height to be blessed by the gods.

Water world

As I discovered in Kythera in Greek Attica.

Keeping dry in Kythera

Whether you’re gazing on nature’s wonders among the world’s great mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees

Rockie waterfall high

In the valley of the Rockies. cruising through the fjords.

Or with the sun on your back in the Caribbean waterfalls are one of the Gods’ gifts.

There are trolls up there in the fjords

Unless, of course, it’s Powerscourt’s waterfalls in my old back yard of Co. Wicklow in Ireland which you have to pay for.

Power of Powerscourt

Powerscourt, its gardens and splendid hotel and grounds and best-value restaurant is one of the country’s jewels.

Spray that again

All of which waterfall waffling brings me to the subject in hand, an invitation from one of the best Travel providers in the business.

Monty zoomer: Montmorency

American Holidays are flagging up their Canadian market and as well as Niagara Falls, the less well-known Montmorency Waterfalls.

The Montmorency Falls in Quebec are actually 30m higher than its much-vaunted Ontario neighbour.

You can decide for yourself which you prefer on your nine-day tour of Canada’s great Eastern Cities.

Toronto A

Where you’ll spend three nights each in Toronto, Montréal and Quebec.

You’ll fly from Dublin to Toronto and return from Montréal from €1539pp.

MEET YOU BY THE WATERFALLS

Countries, Culture, Europe

Greek vaccine passports

The lyrically named Haris Theoharis brings good news to us lockdown travellers… the carrot of summer holidays to Greece.

The Greek Tourism minister spoke to our public rather than at them like our politicians do when he spoke on British radio this week.

And Haris echoed what I’ve been saying for weeks…

“We don’t want to limit travel to those who have been vaccinated of course, but since we are mandating that before travelling someone has to have a negative test result, this is a waste of resources if people are vaccinated, to be tested every time they travel, the need for this testing could be limited by the vaccination certificate,” he said.

All of which makes perfect sense.

Dip your toe into Kythera in Greece

All arrivals into Greece have to present a negative Covid test taken within a 72-hour window, while arrivals from the UK have to undergo a rapid test on arrival as well.

Having bought and then undergone a home test before travelling to the European Covid gateway of Bergamo in the Autumn I can verify that this is best practice.

And guess what, I wore my masks, cleaned my hands, kept my social distance just like all the other Bergamaschi and returned with barely a germ.

Greek leaders

Of course, I’m not holding my breath that we will be allowed what is our right, not a privilege, to be able to travel.

The cats don’t know about Covid

But when we do, and if initially it is only Greece, then I’m mighty glad it is as I could travel this ancient country all my days. Just like Odysseus.

The year 2021 is a very special one too for the Greeks as it is the bicentennial of the 1821 Revolution which saw them extricate themselves from the Ottoman Empire.

Out of their tree but I love them

It is just the Greeks’ bad luck, and they have had plenty of that in recent years, that the bicentennial should fall during a pandemic.

But these stoical (it is a Greek root and concept) people of ancient stock have been ploughing on regardless and will mark March 25 with pride and as much ceremony as they can.

Pick your venue

When we do get up and travelling again you’ll find me somewhere on Greece.

Be it Athens, one of its islands, Kythera, the second city Thessaloniki, or any of the other islands (Corfu was our honeymoon island).

I’ll keep the Greek flag flyng high

And when I do, of course, I will be contacting one my go-to providers, my old faithfuls TUI who are promoting holidays there from £188pp.

You  know the story by now of me starting off my scribblinh career with the old Thomson Regional Newspapers which was an arm of their travel business.

No training or skill goes to waste. But I still have to master my Zorba dancing and I know where to go to to practise.

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe

Kos I love you

With apologies to Seventies Glam Rock gods Slade but I’ve pinched one of your biggest hits to promote the Greek island of Kos. Why? Kos I love you!

OKU by you!

And us, because OKU Hotels have put their own individual footprint on Kos which soft-launched last year.

While it is, of course the sister of OKU Ibiza, opening on April 30 and which we have featured before on this site.

So let’s give some philia for our Greek friends.

And I ‘m being careful here to make sure I get the right expression as the Greeks have a range of words for love.

All Greek to me

I’d er, love, to say that I remember them all from my school Classical Greek but, in truth, I only recall the word eros… funny that.

Pictures of Kos

I guess I’ll always be that sniggering schoolboy.

But I’ll always love Greece and this life is an odyssey for me after all. To get around as many Greek islands as I can.

Kythera you weren’t the last.

The other Greek words for love are ‘philia’ meaning friendship and which Aristotle popularised, and the Americans were big into, particularly those in Philadelphia (brotherly love).

Before they started falling out.

What’s in a word?

‘Agape’ is more a word denoting charity and God’s love for us and ours for him, while ‘storge’ is the love of parents for their children.

‘Philautia’ (behave!) is self-love while ‘xenia’ is hospitality though unfortunately it has been attached to an opposite Greek word ‘phobia’ or fear to denote a fear of foreigners.

And that has no place on this site, or among Bandininis and Bandanettes.

You’ll have a smashing time in Kos

It’s the meetings with other peoples and learning about their cultures which we’re all missing so much just now.

So let’s hear if for the Japanese who are bringing their own Zen to us in Europe (and Buddha knows we need just now) with their OKU hotels.

The OKU Kos opens on April 5 with 100 spacious rooms including suites with private and semi-private pools and a handful of private two-bedroom villas.

Greek island: Kythera

There’s a spa, hammer, sauna and fitness studio with daily complimentary yoga classes at the beach pavilion or yoga terrace.

Adults only

An adult-only resort with a main pool and direct access to a private beach I’d say this is ‘storge’ because the kids will love having their parents away.

With the faint hope of ‘eros’ for the adults.

And having honeymooned in another Greek island, Corfu, then I can vouch for these Greek islands. Happy times before the ‘paidia’ or children came along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Holiday Snaps – Hungarian heights

I christened her Funky Gold Edina which she happily went along with despite it probably going over her Hungarian head.

Edina was the ever-smiling Top Flight for Schools host on our walking trip up the Tyrolean Alps in Austria.

Which is no mean thing when everything over your head gives you vertigo.

It’s the people you meet from foreign countries when you’re abroad who inspire you to visit their homelands.

Hungary for cultureEdina’s beloved Hungary is also on Travel Department‘s radar.

Phew Danube

You’ll go right round the bend but you’ll love it on your Danube Bend Walking Holiday.

Spend five nights in the Medieval castle town of Visegard in Northern Hungary.

Enjoy five days of walking with packed lunches with moderate (7-11kms) and challenging (12-20kms) levels.

With Edina and Caroline in the Austrian Tyrol

Among the highlights are Nagymaros, Zebegeny, the Pilis Mountains and a half/day tour of Budapest.

From €1,199pp for seven nights including flights, transfers and 4* hotel accommodation, departing June and September.

Sit down next to me Rosa

Rosa and Thistle in Memphis

There is something iconic about the American bus.

Where else can you see a man in a gabardine suit who looks like a spy when you’ve gone to look for America (ask your folks)?

But not all buses are Greyhound or Peter Pan buses… in the Deep South they were awful segregated affairs.

Until a wee seamstress cast a huge Civil Rights legacy 65 years ago today by refusing to give up her seat.

Her arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, sparked the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Heroine: Rosa Parks

I had the honour of sitting beside Rosa (well kinda) in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

The real bus is in the Henry Ford Museum in the Detroit area near where she moved, like so many African-Americans.

But the real story begins in Montgomery, Alabama.

Malta crosses

Art of Valletta: Caravaggio

Should you see a Catholic priest walking down the middle of a street in Malta or Gozo then you should veer into a ditch to miss him.

It used to be the case too in Ireland though these changed days they’d probably be stepping on the peddle.

The links to the two countries have always been strong and they’ve just been renewed.

Since the end of last month you can get back to Malta from Ireland with a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival.

And when you’re there you can enjoy, the sun, sea and swally, of course, but why not the saints too?

And as I often say the best way to check out a new place is to go where they play and pray.

Grand Gozo

The archipelago boasts more than 360 churches and chapels and having visited St John’s Co-Cathedral for the Caravaggio which means only another 359!

St Augustine Church and St Paul’s Shipwreck Church are on the Malta Pilgrimage Trail and the old convert must think I’lm stalking him.

In Malta yes, but also Rome while I’ve also been on the trail of St John too, on the island of Kythera in the Athens/Attica region of Greece.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine

WTM Holiday Snaps – An ancient Greek modern tale

We’re going to have fun in 2021, and high up on the list is Greece’s bicentenary..

And a good day to talk about it though, in truth, every day is a good one to wax lyrical about Hellas.

As the Greeks today set up their committee for the year which marks 200 years since the end of the Greek War of Independence which saw the rebirth of the nation.

It turns out that I’m a Philhellene, which is a lover of Greece.

Which all of us know from our schooldays comes from the Greek word philos meaning love.

Corfu corker

I love Corfu obviously as the island where I honeymooned and made Herself the Happiest Woman Alive.

A Greek God: On Kythera

While I caught up with friends from the Attica region where this old relic had an odyssey of my own before eventually getting to the Parthenon.

Kythera idyll

And bagging an Attica island of my own in Kythera.

The good news is that there are plenty to go around, 6,000 (count them!)

Greece has been held up this year as an example to the rest of us about how to deal with Covid and hence were kept off the UK exempt list.

While other countries fell like dominoes.

Thessaloniki in the distance

And so many tourists discovered the joys of Greece for the first time after switching holidays at the last minute.

Thessaloniki OK

And to the mainland as well as the islands with Greece’s Second City, Thessaloniki, served by Ryanair, EasyJet and Jet2.

As a son of a second city myself, Glasgow, I know why citizens of Second Cities work harder and live harder.

And Thessaloniki is known for its friendliness, music festival scene and as the culinary capital of Greece.

Parthenon for the course

Greek cities and prefectures all will celebrate the Bicentenary next year though some like Thessaloniki arrived late to the party.

In their case 1912 as the Ottomans held onto them longer and that’s a recommendation in itself.

Greek uplift

And the world will be there to celebrate with them.

Though maybe at a more social distance than when an international group of us got stuck in an Athens restaurant lift for half an hour.

The philos was all around us.

Asia, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Sing for the Canaries

And at last they listened. To me, my English Canarian pal Mathew Hirtes and to the Tinerfinos and their cousins across the islands.

The Canaries are back on the UK exempt list, and I’m breaking out the Malmsey, the Canarian wine, much beloved by Shakespeare.

Part of the scenery: Jimmy, the Tinerfino

The Canaries, as I reported this week, have been returning rates of Covid infections way down on the UK.

And as Mathew has been telling us for months we’re safer over there than we would be here.

It’s also worth restating here how liberating this is for the Holiday Trinity that always infuses our sector… the holiday providers, the hosts and the holidaymaker.

And so without further ado…

Deal me in

My walking party

Jet2.com and Jet2Holidays, the UK’s largest operator to the Canaries, are recommencing flights.

To Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, from Friday from Glasgow and Edinburgh, Belfast and six other UK airports.

TUI holidaymakers haven’t seen the Canaries for 89 days but are already carrying their clients to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

There must be a plane waiting for me. And happen that my Tinerfino walking guide Eva is waiting for me to take me to Afur.

With Canaria Ways, of course.

A quick walk around the Maldives

And again…. sarong, but oh, so right

It’s more ambling than walking on Kuramathi.

The holiday notes advise you wear flip-flops and you can walk around the Maldives island in just half an hour.

While if you run out of puff in the all-year round 30C heat you can pull up a lounger or have a dip in your own villa infinity pool.

All with a regulatory Strawberry Daiquiri, of course.

And again I know a man who is in Kuramathi right now… and another man in Ireland from Turkish Airlines who will get you there and look after your every need.

While in the UK you want Kuoni.

A trip around the Greek islands

My waterfall: Kythera

And it’s a bit like the hokey-hokey with Greece.

Mykonos is in, but Crete, Lesbos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos and Zakynthos is now out.

Which means you don’t have to self-isolate on your return from my own two faves, Corfu and Attica island Kythera.

And with Greece obviously, you never know where your odyssey will take you…

Wonderful Copenhagen

Bet you didn’t expect that: Copenhagen

And finally Denmark, the Little Mermaid et all.

I took my own Little Mermaid there on my cruise around the Norwegian fjords with MSC Cruises, and check out how their recovery is going.

As well as seeing the Little Mermaid, you need to get your photie taken with Hans Christian Andersen.

Not many people there: Leichtenstein

But sorry Leichtensteiners

No, me neither. I don’t know why tiny Leichtenstein has been removed from the exempt list.

Or if indeed it’s right to use the plural.

Well, this is what Leichtenstein has to offer. I’ll just have to get out there to find out for myself… when I’m allowed.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Greek plate-smashing

Never mind the dishes, I’m smashing the whole cabinet after Scotland jumped the gun and took Greece off the exempt list.

Plate-smashing dates back to classical times when it was seen as a display of ostentatious wealth.

Quite why modern-day dictator Georgios Papadopoulos banned it from 1967-1974 you’ll have to get there and ask yourself.

But alas, those of us of a Scottish variety, or who live in Scotland, will have to wait.

In this disunited kingdom of ours we all do things differently and we are now waiting to see which way the English go.

And while we expect they will bring the hammer down on the Greeks.

Kythera’s charms

There is a glimmer of hope in the west where the ancient Britons went.

Yes, Wales, where their assembly is employing a selective approach.

With two COVID tests for those returning from Zante, one in 48 hours and another in eight days.

Bending over backwards for Greece

And this breakthrough in common sense is something to sing about.

Which is, of course, why it will be ignored by everyone else.

With TUI putting Zante on hold, if only there were any other Greek islands to visit.

As we contemplate going through England and Wales.

Funky Portugal Centro

Oh, and in this game of hokey-cokey, as my friends in the Scottish Passenger Agents Association coin it, Portugal is set to follow tomorrow.

I’m intrigued to see that the lowest rates are in the less-visited but captivating Portugal Centro.

Where my old friend, Jose ‘The Special One’ Madomis, will tell you that everything good which ever happened in Portugal started in his home town, Coimbra.

Adventure, Asia, Countries, Europe

You make your bed… now lie in it

There’s someone sleeping in my bed… yes, a dozen pillows.

So as I sit precariously on the edge of the bed in my new chilly billet waiting to get in… here are my fave places I’ve laid down my head.

Never getting up again

I’ll be here for some time

Castara Retreats, Tobago https://castararetreats.com And a hammock on your balcony.

Remember to light your anti-mosquito candle.

Alternatively just sleep out in the open as Robinson Crusoe on the beaches… you won’t go cold.

Visit www.visittobagogov.tt and here’s some mud adventures… On your marks, get set, GOAT in Tobago.

City beach

Sleeping the beer off

Hamburg, Germany: This was made for me.

No long walks home or trying to hail a taxi in the cold.

Just sleep off your hamburger and beer in The Strand Pauli Beach Bar https://www.strandpauli.de.

And relive it in Hamburgers and ships.

Uncle Jim’s Cabin

With a seaview, obvs

MSC Preziosa, the Norwegian fjords: And as you can see I’ve got the pillows off... out of picture, on The Scary One’s side.

Get yourself an infinity cabin for extra space where the balcony door disappears into the sides to give you more room.

So you can smell and see the sea. Visit www.msccruises.ie/www.msccruises.co.uk.

Lie back and think of Jordan

In from the desert

Aqaba: Yes, you’ll go flat on your back on the Dead Sea.

And flat on your tummy, snorkelling in the Red Sea.

So after your Shisha pipe snd Turkish tea, and maybe a game of chess or backgammon with a local, it’s time for…

A triple rollover on this comfy bed in Aqaba. Visit www.visitjordan.com and www.gadventures.com.

No drama on Kythera

I’ll make the bed later

El Sol Hotel, Kythera, Greece: Now you’ll not need many covers on your bed in your island of Kythera bedroom in sunny Greece.

The family-run El Sol hotel is a million miles away from the big multinational hotels.

And it has breathtaking views and a swimming pool you can almost into from your room.

Visit http://elsolhotel.gr/en/, https://athensattica.com and https://visitkythera.com. And read on… My Greek odyssey.

MEET YOU ON… WELL, ON SECOND THOUGHTS