Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Kitmastime

And for many a parent the go-to Christmas present for kids (and maybe vice-versa) was a football top.

My most memorable was, and this is pertinent in a week when we lost Diego Maradona, La Albiceleste.

Or the sky blue and white stripes.

Truth was that my attempts at long hair never came close to the chic cool of the hero of that year’s World Cup, Mario Kempes.

And physical evidence still exists in a picture album of a rather angst-ridden teen standing by the tree.

In truth I hadn’t asked for Argentina and would have preferred the Dutch shirt.

And I did rue the day I left the World Cup winners’ top behind in a changing room.

So in recognition of Diego and also to flag up a very good cause comedian Mark Watson’s Kitmas appeal for donations of old football tops here are my five faves.

Which will, of course, draw you to these countries.

Dutch of class

Argentina and the Netherlands in the World Cup final in 1978.

The Netherlands: And it was probably just as well that my parents didn’t give me the Dutch top in the Glasgow of the Seventies.

Because an orange top is identified in Scotland with King William of Orange and the Protestant team Rangers.

And that wouldn’t have gone down well in my Catholic school.

Thing was though that as an eight-year-old and uncluttered by such nonsense I was dazzled by that colour.

And the Netherlands of Cruyff and Krol.

And I did manage to blend in with the Oranje Army when I treated the-then Miss F to a night out.

Amsterdam to Rotterdam where the Dutch beat the Greeks 1-0.

Portuguese man of awe

Team of all talents: Portugal in 1986

Portugal: And while it’s mostly always the top you get sometimes you need the whole shirt and shorts ensemble.

So that Portugal‘s red top with the addition of green shorts becomes the Portugal flag.

Our guide Jose Madomis told us from the off that Portugal in the days of the dictator Salazar was run on Football, Fado and Fatima.

So much so that among all the stands of Our Lady merch in Fatima you’ll find the Portuguese shirt and Cristiano Ronaldo towel!

Moroccan roll

Green is the colour: Morocco

Morocco: And not just because they were Scotland’s last opponents in the finals of a major competition, a 3-0 defeat in 1998.

But because of the lengths I went to to get myself a Morocco top

On my travels in Marrakech. I picked the green one rather than the red.

Where I got roped in by a trader after some pointless bartering.

To buy his threadbare top off his stall for more than its worth.

Which set in motion a tragical mystery tour from Jemaa el-Fna around the souks.

And that was just the start of my rocky Moroccan roll.

Roman holiday

Hotti Totti: Roma legend Francesco Totti

Roma: And we’re still waiting to get to see the Gods of calcio after Dad here promised the Son and Heir a match only to forget his passport.

But we did get a Giallorossi (red, more of a maroon, and yellow piping) top snd pencil case.

Calcio too is a religion in Rome

And as you come out of the Vatican you’ll find the shops on one side of the street bedecked in yellow and white, the other in Roma red.

Dynamic Zagreb

Blue for you: Dynamo Zagreb

Medjugorje: And, no, you didn’t read that wrongly…. the Balkans Wars just across the Croatian border in Bosnia & Herzegovina is solidly Croat.

Particularly in the Irish Centre, the focal point for your Marian tour.

Where your barman cranks up the volume when his faves Dynamo Zagreb play.

And with my Croatia friends on World Cup final day in 2018

And will accompany it with a tape of his best supporters’ songs.

Outside on the stands and in the shops and the only thing competing for space with Our Lady is…

Yes, you guessed it Croatia’s distinctive red and white checked tops.

And one just for me

Put your shirt on me

Quinta do Murto; And a postscript here… before I was invited out to Quinta do Lago to visit the hi-tec Campus.

I was asked my shirt size.

And when I was taken into the changing rooms where English Premier League sides set up camp there on the peg was…

My own black top with white sleeves with my name on the back.

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.

Countries, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Portuguese men (and women) of awe

I’ll let you into a little secret… and I know all the right people! Portugal will be the country we’ll all be visiting first when we come out of lockdown.

No, it wasn’t Maria dos Anjos, the niece of the last Little Shepherd of Fatima, who told me though she probably knew this already, and that COVID-19 was coming.

I consider myself partially responsible for not sharing the impending pandemic.

No, not Maria dos Anjos

Because Maria was trying to tell me something of import back in 2018. It’s just that my Portuguese stretches to Obrigado and Obrigada.

Which, going off on a tangent, my Dear Old Dad loved to screech out long after we’d returned from the Algarve.

Susana mirabilis

We all have Susana Cardoso, the Director of Portuguese Tourism in Ireland http://www.visitportugal.com to thank for giving us a preview of what Portugal will look like in the coming months.

Venice of Portugal: Aveiro

And the good news is that we will all hopefully be able to see first hand with September slated as the month…

When Irish visitors will all be reacquainting themselves with an old and trusted friend.

Yes Portugal, and for me also the best guide a man or woman could have, and that man and woman is me and the Scary One.

Splendid self-isolation in a castle

The one and only Jose Madomis https://www.madomistours.pt, the Special One, who showed off his beloved Coimbra and Portugal Centro.

When September comes

The end of the year is a great time to go.

Autumn/Winter is still warm as I discovered on my most recent visits to Portugal Centro and The Campus https://www.thecampusqdl.com/en/about/ https://www.quintadolago.com/en/ at Quinta do Lago , Secret Portugal and SPORTUGAL.

My boat comes in… in Quinta do Lago

The Portuguese are showing the way as the gold standard on safety and accountability with their Clean and Safe stamps which almost 3000 tourism companies have signed up for.

Beach life

And for those of you who are sick and tired of being palmed off with promises that amount to very little.

Under the guise of ‘The New Normal’ or ‘O Novo Normal’ as they never say out there.

Let me now tell you that there will be sand.

All this space

Not for sunbathing yet, but then what a waste of time that is, but you will be able to book your own space on the beach and also go into the water…

And that means you mad surfers too with Portugal a Nirvana for those who walk on water.

All the old favourites

Social distancing is key to us all enjoying all the things we always love in Portugal.

Hotels, restaurants, cafes, golf, museums, castles and parks and it is a price well worth paying.

Of course, all of this is marivilohso, but are we going to be able to get out there.

Well, Susana informs us that Portugal is continually monitoring the situation with the airlines Aer Lingus, Ryanair and TAP Air Portugal…. http://www.aerlingus.com, http://www.ryanair.com and http://www.flytap.com.

Obrigada Susana

And, of course, I’ll keep you up to speed with what changes there but again September may be the month.

A new golf… in Quinta

So Obrigada Susana and Ola Portugal.

And see you later this year.

Adventure, Countries, Europe

My Football Weekend – The English (or Scottish) Game

With no football on we’ve had to delve into the past for our fix but who knew that we’d be going back 137 years?

We’ve all become experts these past few days in lockdown, on Victorian football.

Through the new TV drama ‘The English Game’ from Julian Fellowes, he of Downtown Abbey fame,

Gritty Scots: Netflix’s The English Game

Which should have ‘or Scottish’ in brackets.

Because of the efforts of Fergus Sutar, credited as the first professional, who transformed football from kick and rush to a passing game.

Suter the shooter

And championed the Northern English mill and industrial towns into bastions of football.

With Liverpool the inheritors of that legacy, as European champions.

Fatima: Say your prayers

The influence of Scots on the growth of English football cannot be understated with early Liverpool known as ‘the team of Macs’.

Pride of Lions

It is a link that has remained strong throughout the club’s history with its great teams of the Seventies and Eighties, like most in England, boasting a spine of Scots.

None though as Scottish, or local, as the storied team, the Lisbon Lions, who won the European Cup in 1967.

Not Portuguese though, you understand, but Scottish, that Celtic team all hailing from within 30 miles of Glasgow.

Lisbon, here we come

And as I binged on football from my couch I followed up The English Game with BBC’s Glasgow 1967: The Lisbon Lions.

It is, as the title might suggest, a love letter to two cities with the good people of Glasgow endearing themselves to the European Cup final hosts Lisbon,

And putting Portugal on the map as a favourite tourist destination for generations of Scots to come.

Of which I am one… and I got to don my football top too out there and even learned how to play tennis properly https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/ and https://www.thecampusqdl.com/en/.

Here’s a recap… SPORTUGAL while I delved deep into Secret Portugal on another trip to the land of Football, Fado and Fatima…

With The Special One, Jose, a huge Academica Coimbra fan. No, not that Jose, but the peerless Jose Manuel Santos https://www.madomistours.pt.

Jose also leans towards Sporting Lisbon, who live too long in the shadow of the aristocrats Benfica but produced one of the world’s greatest-ever players, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Who play in green and white hoops.

See https://www.visitlisboa.com/en and https://www.visitportugal.com/en.

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Flyday Friday – Dubai

The Son And Heir was always reaching out as a toddler, curious to see what the world felt like it.

And he loved his lego which he called ‘Talls’.

He’d love Legoland in Dubai Parks and Resorts then.

And you’d love Emirates’ deal for your family for €5,569 http://www.emiratesholidays.com with return flights.

Emirates Holidays has a five-night stay at the 5* Rixos The Palm Dubai where you’ll stay in a Premium room (half-board).

The holiday includes unlimited access to Dubai Parks.

Prices based on October 26. Family is 2+2.

Join the Aer Club

My pals at Aer Lingus have been listening and after my gentle reminder that deals be tailored for this Flyday Friday column.

And so they have their flash sale with up to 20% off marked for running out tonight at midnight.

Travel between 23 September and 24 October 2019. Book by 30 August.

I’ll be away on a trip with my old Scottish pal and award-winning writer Tom Sweeney http://www.tomsweeneytravels.blogspot.com on Sunday, among others.

On the right tracks, Lisbon. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

And he’ll be extolling the virtues of Lisbon where he was last weekend.

No doubt we will both reference the Lisbon Lions, the famed Celtic team who became the first British winners of the European Cup.

I had intended to pay my pilgrimage to the Estadio Nacional stadium where they won the cup when I visited Portugal Centro a couple of years ago.

And this is that review… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/secret-portugal/

Alas the traffic beat my pal and guide Jose Manuel Santos http://www.madomistours.pt and we (I) didn’t get to pay our homage.

I will return, particularly with Aer Lingus flights http://www.aerlingus.ie from €39.99. Obvs among a list of other great deals.

Brussels rules

The centre of Europe

Few cities have had such a bad press as Brussels – but that’s merely because of the politicians.

Belgium is one of my favourite countries and its people one of the friendliest.

Real internationalists, on account of their place at the crossroads of the continent.

And having been occupied by all the Empires, including the British who fought for their neutrality.

And took them in when they were invaded and liberated them.

Hence they’re being few countries that welcome the much-denigrated British quite like Belgium.

I’ve just dipped my toe in Brussels, staying there and visiting the Parliament and its politicians as a cub reporter.

All expense was spared and I was put up in the Red Light district.

I will be back though and will visit the Mannekin Pis and probably on the Esky.ie deal with Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com from €26 http://www.esky.ie.

Flights October 11, depart, and return October 16.

And read my poignant visit to the World War I battlefields https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/firstworldwar-in-flanders-fields/.

MEET YOU IN THE SKIES