America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Every story tells a picture – from Caravaggio to Van Gogh

Surrounded by our four walls in lockdown one of the few ways to transport ourselves to exotic shores is through our pictures.

It is after all  what our Vincent did when he struggled for his sanity.

Van Gogh had developed a taste for all things Polynesian from housemate Paul Gaugin.

Van Gogh also had his demons to exorcise too, particularly when incarcerated.

And he would explore such existential themes in his art as the Reaper himself.

Manic twirls: Van Gogh

Now I’m not saying that I obsess on the same even during lockdown.

But a print of his Wheatfield with a Reaper hangs proudly in our guest room, hopefully not spooking out our visitors (when they come).

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

But reminding us of the captivating Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on our tour of Amsterdam.

All of which meanderings has prompted me to share some of the finer art I’ve enjoyed on my travels.

Beheading for Malta

Lose your head: Caravaggio in Valletta. www.caravaggio.org

Beheading of St John the Baptist, Caravaggio, Valletta: There’s always something a bit unhinged about artists.

And the meeting of brushmeister and subject comes together in this classic painting, described as ‘the painting of the 17th century.’

Caravaggio was on the run and took refuge with the Knights of Malta in Malta.

But he fell out with them, was imprisoned and then escaped from their dungeons.

A theory floated in 2010 has it that Michelangelo Merisi, for it is he, was killed by poisonous paints.

Caravaggio’s Malta

And suspicious has since fallen on the Knights.

Caravaggio’s masterpiece hangs in St John’s Co-Cathedral and shows real insight into the shady side of life.

Valletta with its stunning harbour is a real jewel.

And and you can picture the intrigue and the underworld of Medieval Mediterranean life.

When we’re all able to get out again then Malta should be on your radar.

Monster Munch in Bergen

Keeping warm: A troll in Bergen.

The Rasmus Meyer Collection, Bergen: And you’ll gasp at what those naughty trolls are doing in the drawings in this gallery.

Up a fjord in mystic, fabled Norway you’ll find this artistic curio.

It wouldn’t be a Norwegian gallery without a host of Edvard Munches and Bergen doesn’t disappoint.

And the story notes give you a real insight into the travails of the Great Man.

Dark Secrets: Munch in Bergen

Bergen is also the place for the travels of JS Dahl whose paintings first popularised cruising in the fjords

The Real Dahl: In Bergen

A must visit on your MSC Cruises stop-off while, of course, you simply have to pull a Munch Scream pose.

Paint the ceiling in Padua

Giotto down your ideas: In Padua

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua: And it’s doubtful you would have a fresco ceiling of the Sistine Chapel without a Scrovegni Chapel.

Well, you probably would, but it might have been the Medieval version of Dulux!

Giotto was something of an inspiration for Michelangelo and you can see his halo work here.

And yes we know the finesse of Firenze, the merits of Milan, the riches of Rome and my own recent favourite, beautiful Bergamo.

But Padua, often in the shadow of Venice, should be praised to the heavens which in fairness to Giotto he does.

Masters and Mississippi

The settlers: The Mississippi Art Museum

Museum of Mississippi Art, Jackson, Mississippi: Yes, when we think art and America we immediately focus on MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York Art, the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

The First Nation: In the Mississippi Art Museum

But in truth America is a sweep of wonderful art, so take it in wherever you find it.

Which in Jackson, Mississippi is the Museum of Mississippi Art where you’ll see early Frontier art and much more.

Dirty old Lane

Art for arts sake: The Francis Bacon Studio

Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin: And it’s the Francis Bacon studio you want to see here.

Bacon bequeathed his studio to his home city on the understanding that it would be recreated in every detail.

All of which means it is messier than any student bedsit…

To think I was probably sitting on a goldmine back in Aberdeen in the Eighties.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

America, Canada, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Ireland, the friendliest place in Europe

Forget about that ridiculous ubiquitous Ed Sheeran,, Country star Steve Earle’s Galway Girl is the definitive tribute.

Some of my earliest longings and fumblings were for Galway girls, on holiday to a Salthill mobile home park.

Of course, in the late 70s and early 80s, the tradition for awkward, gawky Glaswegians was to sit in the corner and well, just gawk at the girls.

The Salthill Strand

Galway, this year’s European Capital of Culture, tops a Conde Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards list of favourite cities.

And they’ll just love beating Dublin into second place.

The two Irish cities push the jewel of the Med, Valletta, into third.

The Maltese city boasts, for me, the most gorgeous harbour in the world.

And memories… I bent down there to tie my shoelaces 26 years ago, Miss F shouted Yes and one year later became the Indomitable Mrs M.

While my readopted city of Edinburgh also makes it onto the list at No.7 and the epic Athens at No.9.

Green Mickey

Ears to you, Mickey

Maybe y’all missed No Coal Burning Mickey, the eco-friendly alternative to Steamboat Willie, but Da Mouse is right on point with cleaning up the planet.

Mickey has come out on top of an Uswitch eco-friendly poll of the leading tourist spots around the world.

Who knew? Well, you do now.

Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney in Florida boasts a 270-acre 50+megawatt solar facility which operates enough sun to operate two Disney parks.

The solar facility has the power to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 52,000 metric tons.

Which is equivalent to removing 9,300 cars from the road each year.

Of course the warmest thing you can get at Magic Kingdom is a Mickey hug. And here’s to when we can all repeat this.

And, of course, his is a hug that wraps around the world, from Florida to California, to Paris, to Hong Kong.

All our old faves are on the poll, Niagara Falls, our pals at Universal, Universal Studios Orlando, Universal Studios Hollywood and SeaWorld Orlando.

And the others we’ll get round to when we…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Europe

Look before you Leap – where to propose

I had been planning it for a year since Miss F’s best pal had got married – and it ended up being Malta.

I had a vision that it would have been Istanbul on the Bosphorus but that wasn’t to be but there’s water around Malta. Right?

Only as we traipsed around Bugibba I couldn’t find the restaurant with a piano on the front which I’d been looking for.

Miss F being fair was getting tetchy in the beating sun and the atmos wasn’t conducive for a proposal.

But I went ahead anyway (I still maintain I was only down on one knee to tie my shoelace) and she yelled yes.

The sands of time

I’ve been back (without her, but I hasten to say not with someone else) Malta easer.

If I was to do it all over again, and in this a Leap Year here’s where I’d hope she’d ask the question.

Turkish delight (obviously!)

Istanbul: I fulfilled a lifetime‘s ambition last year by visiting the majestic Turkish city which straddles Europe and Asia… Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

And it surpassed even my wildest expectations.

Yes, Herself knows I like the flesh of an animal and Sultanahmet Koftecisi http://www.sultanahmetkoftesi.com does the best kofti meatballs in the city.

But if she really wants to romance me she’ll take me on the Bosphorus with TTG Travel (Turkish Travel Group) www.turkeytravelgroup.com.

And we’ll have a boogie…

For more on Istanbul visit https://visit.istanbul and, of course, when I head east it’s always my pals at Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com.

The heart of America

He’s lent me his desk

Washington DC: My favourite US city although I’m open to have my mind changed.

Seeing that DC’s most famous resident is half-Scottish I’d say he’d lend us a room.

But where I’d really like to have my romantic moment is at Robert E Lee’s house in Arlington.

Where the National Guard never miss a Passing of the Guard.

And where John F Kennedy told an aide, in perhaps a prescient moment, that when he died he would want to be buried looking down on DC.

Visit www.washington.org.

I love you too Tobago

Wetting my whistle

Tobago: With apologies to Barbados but Id be worried the Scary One would run into Dee-Dee.

I can’t think of many more romantic places to get a proposal than Nylon Beach where Princess Margaret said the sea was as clear as her stockings.

And where you can stand in a sand bank in the middle of the Caribbean with a glass of bubbly or Carib lager in your hand.

Dee-Dee and Me-Me

Still, maybe best that the 5ft 5ins Mrs M doesn’t get down on one knee there.

Visit www.tobagogov.tt and read On your marks, get set, GOAT in Tobago.

All ring roads lead to Rome

I’ll be back for change later

Rome: Because it’s here where She took me for my 40th as a surprise and we returned as a family.

And I, eventually, found the Eternal City, at the end of my Via Francigena pilgrimage www.viafrancigena.ie.

If only there was some roads that lead to Rome!

On my perfect day we’d take in an AS Roma match at the Olympic Stadium, visit the Pantheon where it would rain and she would pop the question.

Visit www.rome.net, http://www.italia.it/en/home.html and read my misadventures Small roads lead to Rome.

Malta and the altar

Valletta, you betcha

Malta: Of course nothing beat that moment we got engaged… she told me to say that.

And our place is still there. Malta remains one of the gems right under our nose.

English-speaking. English-friendly (and Scottish, Irish, et al) you can also day-trip to Sicily.

And beautiful Gozo and Comino. Visit www.visitmalta.com.

Just a few romantic spots I’m proposingtell me yours.

MEET YOU ON ONE KNEE

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland

Thirteen years an Irishman – My capital cities (and Istanbul)

I belong to Glasgow,

Dear Old Glasgow toon,

But there’s nothing the matter with Glasgow

Because It’s going round and round.

I’m only a common-or-garden chap,

As anyone here can see.

But when I have a couple of drinks on a Saturday,

Glasgow belongs to me

I’m a city boy, always have been, always will be, and am going back to one of my favourites.

Edinburgh, or Embra as we say in Scotland.

But what of the others, I’ve been keeping you going with my top cities so here we go again:

Capitol idea

Washington DC: Four score and seven years ago (well, three years in my case) I fulfilled a lifelong ambition by visiting the US capital.

It’s still to be beaten for me as an American city.

The Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Washington Monument.

All the Smithsonians, and particularly the National Museum of African American History and Culture https://nmaahc.si.edu/splashify-splash and the National Museum of the American Indian https://americanindian.si.edu.

Arlington https://www.arlington.ie, the Kennedy graves, Robert E. Lee’s house, Frederick Douglas’s house. Oh, and the Capitol https://www.visitthecapitol.gov and the White House https://www.whitehouse.gov too.

Visit https://washington.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx66X0f2v5wIVh7HtCh1YpQ9FEAAYASAAEgL9uvD_BwE.

Roman holidays

I’ll be back… and I was

My former colleague and still my pal, the office PA, Rebecca, is in Rome and asked me for some pointers.

Well, she’ll know the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Spanish Steps.

St Paul’s Basilica, the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel.

But she should try out the Capuchin Crypt where the bones and skulls of dead monks were used to build the three altars. Now that’s eternal.

Visit http://www.cappucciniviaveneto.it and https://www.rome.info and Small roads lead to Rome.

And before Rome there was Athens

An old relic… and the Acropolis

Socrates was here and so was I and two very helpful taxi drivers who got me here after I was late the first time… a case of Acropolis Later.

Athens is beautifully chaotic which is why I feel I belong there, there where you can get stuck in a restaurant lift for half an hour.

And walk in on an elderly couple post-coitus because the rooms were mixed up and the manager sends you up a couple of bottles of wine as an apology.

Visit Athens www.athensattica.com/things-to-see/ and My Greek odyssey.

And the crossroads – Istanbul

With my good pal Onur from Turkish Airlines

The crossroads of Europe and Asia and where I’d planned to get engaged 25 years previously.

On the Bosphorus where I made up for last year.

On a boat cruise with me singing along to Abba’s Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy (A man after midnight) and my pal did his Dancing Ian.

And, of course, the Hagi Sofya, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, whirling dervishes and the hamam where Florence Nightingale and Kate Moss went (https://www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr.

Visit https://www.turkishairlines.com/en-int/index.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu9Tm8aSw5wIVhbTtCh3HQwB5EAAYAiAAEgIwDPD_BwE and https://visit.istanbul and of course Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Harbour of my dreams

Valletta, a safe betta

I’m going to have to put this in as it was Malta where I actually did get engaged. I’d bent down to tie my laces and she yelled ‘Yes’.

The harbour is the most beautiful in the world… my survey and you should sail between the islands.

And Valletta’s Fortifications and the Caravaggio in the St John Co-Cathedral.

Visit www.maltaireland.com and Malta easer.

And tomorrow, five more from Northern Europe.

Uncategorized

Holiday Snaps – Malta pleaser!

It’s one of the highlights of the year, the Irish Travel Trade Awards… and not just because I get my kiltie out!

I don’t know if there was a drawing of lots when I first arrived as to who would end up with me at their table.

But it was my pleasure to spend the evening again this year with my Maltese pals.

With Malta chief Tolene van der Merwe

There’s a synergy about Malta for me, it being where I bent down to tie my shoelace only to then discover I’d got engaged.

And also it being my first Press trip after a 12-year hiatus when I swore off them when I got…

Mugged in Marrakech and food poisoning in the Sahara Desert.

Malta crossroads

Malta restored my faith in Press trips five years ago and the rest is history.

As I’ve very nearly been.

On almost every one of them.

Save for the unstinting and patient help of any number of hosts.

Now there are many similarities between our wee islands and we’re both steeped in Catholic tradition.

Get on your segway in Gozo

They have a cracking Christmas Village from December 1 and a 35ft Christmas Tree by the Valletta waterside.

And an Eco Christmas Market on December 21 and 22 at Magazzino Hall, Valletta Waterfront.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a dip in the sea.

But while we freeze our whatsits off at the Forty Foot they have…

The Thomas Smith Christmas Charity Swim off the pier by Independence Gardens, Sliema.

Swim time. Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

You’ll be wanting somewhere to stay?

Why not try the 5* Phoenicia Malta, just outside the City Gate of Valletta. From €116 per room per night.

Or the 5* Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay for €125 per night in a deluxe sea view room including breakfast.

Visit www.maltaireland.com. And here’s one I prepared earlier… Malta easer.

Of course back to the awards at the Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road, Dublin.

Beautiful People. Photo. By Bruce Mars on Pexels.com

And for all the legendary ladies of Ireland’s Travel Trade on show, I still had the best legs.

Keep posted and I’ll be namechecking the Travel Trade partners from the night. Also visit https://www.ittn.ie.

History. Photo by Artur Roman on Pexels.com

For whom this is a well deserved chance to have a night off and a rare drinkie.