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.

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

The rapids adventures of an old Bandanaman

In the event of injury and you dying, and the rapids are nice and lively today. Woaaaaah! Give me a Yeaaah!

Maybe rewind to the bit about dying!

We’re driving down the highway to the Colorado White Water Rafting Center.

And tattooed, man-bunned Brad is banging the top of the roof with the palm of his hand.

Out Travel providers are turning to Adventure tourism as a plank of our comeback.

But will you need a plank yourself, or oar, to dig you out of choppy waters!

Here are five thrills and spills for the future:

Rapids eye movement

White-water rafting, Colorado: Rub-a-dub-dub, three men and three women in a tub.

And one goes overboard, the first ‘jumper‘ of the season.

Thankfully not from our raft, and a support kayaker is there to rescue her.

Your bandanaman hangs in there througb the rapids and my beer at the end of the course has never tasted so good.

Will I try it again? Well, the dudes at Yosemite Tuolomne are trying to tempt me to their Californian canyon. Yeaaah!

Zip-a-dee-doo-da!

Zip-lining, Las Vegas and Barcelona: And yes this should be flying through the air on the Cloud scraper Zip Line the highest in America.

12,000ft above the Arkansas River from one side of the Royal Gorge to another.

But it’s gentle zip lining on SlotZilla through Downtown Old Vegas, Frenont Street.

Where a member of our party got stuck halfway across the street because he was too light!

No such trouble for Bandanaman, or on Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas where thankfully the harness kept the shorts up.

A surf bet

Walking on water: Anaheim

California and Barcelona and Portugal: And I’d backed myself to surf after being put through my paces on Royal Caribbean‘s FlowRider in Barcelona.

You see international surfer and Sligo’s own Gearoid McDaid walked on water on their surf simulator and had me doing the same (ŵ

Trouble was when I got to Anaheim later in the year I double booked (not for the first time) and missed out on the surf class.

So I did the next best thing and pulled a surfing pose on Huntington Beach instead.

California is synonymous with surfing but the biggest wave pulled was in Portugal.

And you can check out the water sports at VILA VITA Parc in the Algarve from €330p per night.

While Original Travel offers four nights from £975pp based on two sharing a garden view room or £795pp based on four sharing a family suite.

Hottie for Trotti

Scoot… down the Alpine valley.

Downhill Trottibikes, Switzerland: Now you always have to be ready for the challenge when it is thrown down.

Which it was in the Grindewald area of Switzerland when a Korean took me on.

No, not the slopes, but these scooters… through the forest and onto the main road, weaving between onrushing cars.

Until I passed her and swerved into the bar for my celebratory Aperol Spritz.

OK, it’s a bit of a leap to mountain biking in Mammoth Lakes, California, but I can only work with what I’m given.

And besides I did hone my cycling skills in the Campus, Quinta do Lago, Portugal… til I took a corner too sharply and fell off!

Life is a…

The Cyclone on Coney Island

Yes, Ronan Keating, but I bet you’ve never been on The Incredible Hulk at Universal Orlando or SheiKra at Busch Gardens.

You won’t like me when I’ve got an angry stomach, and, yes, I was green around the gills by the end.

Will I be back? Well, I’ve been on rollercoasters from A-B, Aberdeen to Blackpool to C Coney Island to Ooooooohlando.

So yes, and I’ll have my motion sickness tablets with me too.

MEET YOU ON THE THRILL RIDE

Africa, Countries, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Liverpool scouse

And if you’ve felt too silly to ask what it is, the food that gives its name to Liverpudlians as in Liverpool scouse, this week’s Hungry and Thursday is all about Liverpool scouse and stews around the world.

Scousers have been getting their voices heard (and what’s new there?) these past few weeks, culminating in their fireworks party as they lifted the Premier League title at Anfield yesterday.

But seeing this is a food and drink post, and I already give you a sporting post, My Sporting Weekend every weekend, I’ll stick to scouse.

In a Stew

Which will stick to you teeth or in them. Because it’s really just stew with extras.

IMG_7869.JPG
Ally in red, naturally

I first had myself a plate of scouse in Albert Dock, Liverpool, as I waited for my interview at the Liverpool Daily Post back in the 1990s.

I had pulled a sickie to attend and was to go on and stare inside the studio where the British morning magazine programme This Morning was televised, only for the camera to turn on me.

Just the job

Which is when I got a shiver down my back as I thought of my boss’s wife watching from up in Aberdeen and reporting to Jim that I was really down on Merseyside when I should have been at my desk.

Still, I got the job so it wouldn’t have mattered.

thumb_108217_default_news_size_5.jpeg

Back to the scouse and the word derives from ‘lobscouse’ which was a Scandinavian and Northern German stew brought to Liverpool by sailors.

The Liverpudlians, of course, reciprocated and sent exports of their own to these parts… The Beatles. And you can hear all about that in the city they made their home, Hamburg.

Hamburgers… and stew

On Stefanie Hempell’s Beatles tour (and you won’t get better).

While scouse isn’t the only comfort food that the Hamburgers have exported with great success. See Hamburgers and ships.

IMG_1350
A Star in Hamburg

So what’s in Scouse?

Scouse consists of mutton, lamb (often neck), or beef with vegetables, typically potatoes, carrots, and onions. Serve with pickled beetroot or pickled red cabbage and bread.

Ethiopia and the world

While I leave my Liverpool-born son to make his way back from the festivities to Scotland, or indeed the phone call to bail him out of jail, I’ll take you on a gristlestop tour around the world of stew.

IMG_1436
With the queen of Ethiopia, Meseret

Meat of Africa

Ethiopian chicken stew: And I’ll miss those Ethiopian  New Years in Dublin which I shared with my friends Carole, Lorcan, Tony and my Queen of Ethiopia Meseret.

Because Enkutatash runs to the old calendar which means that you actually lose time. I, of course, lose all sense of time when the wine starts flowing which I only do to soak up the Ethiopian stew which you eat with your hands soaking it up with bread.

d86a3b299e394d99a5e4af9992b34a11
And you can get a fancy dish too

Balkan bellies

Bosanski Ionac, Bosnia & Herzegovina: And they love their homely food in the Balkans and it unites the different cultures and traditions.

Whether you’re with the ultra-Catholic Croatians of Medjugorje of Marian Pilgrimages  or in Muslim Sarajevo in the Bey Mosque district What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know?.

efdcd01aea154b30a8a07f7b9353e36c
Let’s waffle on about Belgian stew

Belgian bulge

Carbonnade, Flanders, Belgium: And the brave soldiers who went to the Front in the First World War would take their pleasures where they could.

So that meant wine, women and song… or in Ieper, dark beer (there’s lots of it in this dish), women (they’re the same the world over) and drinking shanties. All right up a Tommy’s street and the best people to go with are GTI Travel and Visit Flanders.

e1839cf6d8954a40b37c8ff8f50791be
Catch of the day: Fish stew

Portuguese please

Caldeireada, Portugal: And if you’ll eat anything as long as it swims in the sea then Portugal and Quinta do Lago SPORTUGAL and Portugal Centro  is the place for you.

Load your plate up with shellfish and don’t be liberal with the squids and octopus.

You’ll need a rich base of onions, white wine, olive oil, and tomatoes, and season with a variety of fresh herbs and spices such as saffron and nutmeg.

CzechGoulashSmall2-678x1024
They’ll be the dumplings then

Cesky goulash: Not to be mistaken for Hungarian goulash. All right, it is quite similar. Mop it up with the obligatory Czech dumplings and sauerkraut.

And, of course, Pilsener Urquell.

They had a big post-lockdown feast on the Charles Bridge in Bohemian Prague recently and I[m hoping there were leftovers!

And with apologies to Irish stew and other meaty greats from around the world.

Heck for fear of being force-fed vegetarian I’ll return to this subject.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Deals, Europe, UK

The Sunday Sermon – Yoga Nidra

My mouth will speak words of wisdom, the meditation of my heart will give you understanding – Psalm 49:3

And that rings true for my sensei, mindfulness mentor and fellow Tobagophile Sarah, or SLM as I call her… www.tobago.gov.tt and

Now SLM is my kind of teacher… she encourages you to put your body to sleep which is how I used to spend schooltime.

Lie back and think of Nidra

It’s called yoga nidra and it originates from India.

And there is no need to touch your toes… which I can only do when I’m sat down anyway.

It’s all about uncluttering the mind, relaxing the body in a prone position and giving yourself a break.

And talking about breaks this lockdown being my spiritual break from my Catholic chapel I reckon Jesus would approve.

Jesus loves you

I reckon he’d also endorse the Yoga Explorers retreats https://www.bookyogaretreats.com

Book Yoga Retreats lists a zen (I’m calling it the collective term for yoga) of retreats and helpfully flag up ‘Clean and Safe’ resorts.

Their other destinations will be heavenly I’m sure… it’s just helpful though to be guided by the experts.

And so without further adoooooo. Here is my pick…

Cornish classic

Three-days Escape From It All Yoga Weekend in Cornwall, England (Clean and Safe): You’ll have two yoga sessions a day, daily morning meditation and freshly prepared food with all diets provided for.

And all set in woodlands and minutes away from those cliffs and coves that we all remember from Poldark.

We’re not guaranteeing that you’ll look like Ross or Demelza at the end of it all but it can’t to any harm.

And you’ll get the three yoga styles of Restorative, Scaravelli and Nidra.

Airport transfers are available from Newquay Airport. From €443.

Thai’s the limit

Rejuvenating Detox, Yoga and Meditation Retreat, Thailand: And when you go all the way out to the Far East you’ll want to give yourself a fortnight to get the fullest of experiences.

And Wonderland Healing Center in Koh Pha Ngan, Surat Thani, will oblige. You’ll get a daily detox specialist, yoga, meditation, dance, sound healing, breath works… take breath!

Swimming pool, herbal steam sauna, herbal cleansers and nutritional supplements.

There are seven different styles of yoga and I’ll lie down and think of them all and then opt for Nidra. From €787 for 16 days/15 nights.

Spanish steps

Meditation and Yoga Therapy Way of Life, Valencia, Spain: And in this heat you’ll maybe not want to be ovestretching.

Yes, Nidra is on the menu here on the list of options.

This retreat we’re told is based on the Mindful and Heartfelt yoga practices as a way of life.

And if you like your chanting mantras Cullera Beach is the spot for you.

From €690 for seven days/six nights.

French fancy

Zen Yoga, Meditation, Deep Relaxation and Guided Walks, Vernodes, Dordogne, France: And the stress is on no stress… leaving behind the noise of the outside world.

And experience of Zen.

For me, Zen and the art of Murtycycle maintenance then.

From €402 for four days/three nights.

Portuguese man of ooooaaam

Rejuvenating Yoga Holiday, Ericeira, Portugal: And Moka Surf House are only offering a big Mongolian Yurt.

They promise chirping birds in the morning, the shadow of their ficus (no me neither but I’m willing to find out) from the afternoon sun and at sunset a terrace to relax on facing the sun.

And yes, Nidra

All a bit different from the tortures this woman put me through along the road at Quinto da Lago https://www.quintadolago.com/en/resort/.And check out the super SLM on www.slm-yoga.com.

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Sport

World Cycling Day

This year’s cyclist is next year’s angry motorist but I’m willing to let them have their day today, World Bicycle Day.

Because I used to be one, a lycrad-up pedal-pumping moraliser.

Even when I got waterbombed and party paint-sprayed while riding through Edinburgh.

You see the Mammal look is never a good image.

It doesn’t mean though that you can’t fake it.

Tour de Murty

As I did at the top of the most climbed peak in the Tour de France during my tour through the Pyrenees https://www.hautespyrenees.fr/ and The Lourdes prayer here.

By persuading a real cycling climber to lend me her bike.

I prefer the flat road these days and did get my chance to rotate the legs at the Campus in Quinta do Lago www.quintadolago.com and SPORTUGAL in Portugal.

Only to overplay it and come off at a corner in the woods…

Earlier on my adventures, in Cannes, I toyed with e-bikes http://www.mandelieu.com and The Boat D’Azur.

And I didn’t get going on this either

Only to move on and stall a Fiat 500 and not even get out of the car park!

Mind you as is the way of things and as the old saying goes:

You wait ages for an e-bike and two come along at the same time.

Enter a couple of my old favourites Italy https://www.visititaly.eu and Switzerland www.myswitzerland.com.

If there’s an area of Italy not worth exploring I haven’t found it although I am prepared to extend my travels beyond Padova – city of frescoesSmall roads lead to Rome and Rome on €50.

image001-2

A taste of Lake Como

Lake Como has entranced visitors for centuries but have you tried it by bike, or e-bike?

The Lake Como Greenways snakes above picturesque villages.

While the Chilometro Della Conoscienza (open only on Sundays) allows explorers the chance to wander through the extraordinary gardens of Villa Olmo, Villa Sucota and Villa del Grumello.

Cyclists can enjoy various climbs that traverse tunnels left by the Italian army during the First World War. 

With Alpine views stretching to Switzerland.

Let the train take the strain

We’ll get onto Switzerland in a jiffy but you’ll be wanting to know where to stay in Lake Como.

The answer, if you don’t know George and Amal, is Grand Hotel Tremezzo.

It will reopen for the season on June 26th at a third capacity (30 out of 90 rooms).

As well as its five restaurants and three swimming pools looking out over the lake and natural park.

This year, the hotel team is launching the T Beach club – comprising a sandy beach with chic sun loungers and cocktail bar framing its floating swimming pool.

Rooms available from €550/approx. £497 per night + VAT; free cancellation up to eight days prior to arrival. For further enquires and bookings, visit www.grandhoteltremezzo.com.

Scoot. Trotti scooting in the Alps. www.grindelwaldbus.ch

Switzerland, you ask? 

We’ll your favourite Travel blogger will always flag up the joys and efficiency of the Swiss train.

From where you can hop on and off to indulge your interest, be that skiing, walking, boating or cycling.

Or Trotti scooters which you can take through the woods and then onto the main road and race with Koreans.

Just don’t take the corners too quickly!

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

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.

America, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Sport

COVID-day Snaps… Florida Keys for social distancing

In a spin on an old favourite Holiday Snaps here’s Covid-day Snaps with fresh news of the Travel industry getting back on its feet…

Keys to the door

Open spaces… in the Keys

And what’s missing? Yes, your favourite Bandanaman at the front of the shot.

I was bound for the Keys the weekend Donald Trump shut the country down.

So what’s this?

The newly opened Sunshine Tiny House Village http://www.sunshinekeytinyhouse.com at 3801 Overseas Highway near Bahia Honda State Park is just 30 miles from Key West.

And it features five colourful houses at $250 (around £191) per night plus tax.

The 399-site Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina which houses two-six features a full-service marina, a recreation centre.

And a stepladder access to an open-water swimming area from a sunset pier.

For more information on the Florida Keys & West, visit  www.fla-keys.co.uk.

And when you’re in Florida why not take in the great cities of Fort Lauderdale and Miami… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/23/fort-lauderdale-and-miami-a-tale-of-two-sittings/ 

Port in a storm

IMG_1687

And it was me next

My body has never been the same since Dinah got hold of it… my Scary One would say she’s welcome to it.

Let her get hold of you too with her yoga (torture) classes on Fridays via Instagram Live from The Campus at Quinta do Lago @thecampusqdl.

Well, if it’s good enough for Rio Ferdinand and the Irish rugby team.

Dinah did stretch my soul’ limbs for those roundhouse volleys and spins when I met up with on-site tennis (and dancing) coach Judy Murray… SPORTUGAL.  Also see http://www.quintadolago.com

Cruising again

Grand-Princess

Let’s get back out there

Why should the fish and the whales have the seas all to themselves? There, I’ve said it.

If you’ve been missing the big ships on your coast (and, yes, I know we don’t all live on an island) then you’ll be glad to know that our cruise friends have been busy planning for the day they can get back out on the water.

Our friends at Princess Cruises  http://www.princess.com have embarked on a £300m product innovation and cruise ship renovation campaign which puts the guest at its heart. As ever.

They are offering us award-winning chef Curtis Stone, Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz and family fun from Discovery and Animal Planet.

Best of all they are offering reduced fares from €584pp on more than 800 voyages departing from December-May 2022 as part of the Princess Sale with seven-night sailings available from €584pp. Open for booking from May 1-June 30, 2020.

Among the sample voyages are:

*A 7-night Scandinavia cruise on Grand Princess, departing November 15, 2021. Sailing round-trip from Southampton, calling in Oslo, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Kristiansand. Prices from €749pp.

And I’ve had a zip around Norway The call of the fjords and want more of Scandinavia.

 

Wear it on my lapel: My Medallion

*A 7-night western Caribbean cruise on Caribbean Princess,, departing February 7, 2021. Sailing round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, calling at Princess Cays, Falmouth, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Prices from @584pp. And again I got a whiff with I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here and want more.

Now I’ve still got my Medallion magic key Cruiseday Tuesday… The Princess’s Medallion Man from my visit to Dublin Port, so I’m ready to go.

And with all this social distancing argument going on, maybe the sea is the way to go. I’ll try to unpick what’s going on in the air in Flyday Friday. But meanwhile…

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD… OR SEA

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe

Get on your bikes – cycling around the world

It’s obviously not how cyclists would have planned it but after years of being pilloried THEY now rule the roads.

Back when I was nearer Sir Chris Hoy’s age than Eddy Merckx’s I would cycle everywhere in Edinburgh.

And take my life in my own hands like the time I was cut up at the roundabout by an elderly driver.

I was cycling straight on while Mad Motorist was on the outside lane but decided to turn left.

Not a car to be seen in Amsterdam

Picking myself and my bike up from the ground I was met by s screaming pensioner telling me I should have signalled!!!

Or there was the time I was waterbombed by some hoodlums from a tenement flat.

Ridden off the road

While I was also sprayed in the face with party foam while cycling through Edinburgh’s New Town.

Mmmm… I’d like to see them try any of those stunts in Amsterdam.

When in Amsterdam

Where you’d probably be pushed into the canals by locals shouting CYCLISTS!

But they have a culture there, properly wide and thought-through cycle paths, and lanes separated by small walks beside dual carriageways.

Dutch driving

Which makes it a pleasure for all to enjoy the city with your IAmsterdam city pass www.iamsterdam.com Pictures of Amsterdam and George Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel.

Le Tour de Murty: The Pyrenees

France prides itself as the home of cycling where families cycle together The Boat D’Azur and https://uk.france.fr/en.

Or if they’re holding you back then you can always climb the mountain to Le Pic du Midi.

Tour de force

Where cyclists either climbing or whizzing down the mountain have right of way.

The same applies in Scandinavia and Northern Europe where the bike is often the preferred mode of transport.

The best cycling culture in the world probably: Denmark

And where my old University pal New Yorker Tom turned up for our meeting by old Hans Christian Andersen’s statue on his bike.

Wonderful Copenhagen

See https://www.visitcopenhagen.com and fit a day in on your MSC Cruises trip around the Norwegian fjords https://www.msccruises.co.uk and https://www.msccruises.ie. The call of the fjords.

Tom’s own New York may not immediately strike you as a shining example for cyclists but we’re probably thinking Manhattan here.

Staten Island Bicycling Association http://www.sibike.org

And that’s another reason to explore the five other boroughs… for example Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

American cycling dream

While when you do do Manhattan and The Bronx I’d recommend walking tours and here’s where you can get a start Old New York: Hamilton. And www.nycvb.com.

Look at the space you have to cycle

California is all about the outside life where cyclists don the latest fashions and pose on their two wheels.

On the Venice Beach www.venicebeach.com and Santa Monica https://www.santamonica.com/things-to-do/santa-monica-beach/… And My Weekend With Marilyn. And www.visitcalifornia.com.

With a Paralympic champion in Quinta do Lago

Sportugeezer

And my cycling experiences? Showing off on my Sporting break at The Campus in Quinta do Lago in Portugal.

And took a straight road too sharply.., https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/. And SPORTUGAL

Remember too in these days of social distancing if you are a driver give cyclists some space.

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.

MEET YOU ON FACETIME

Adventure, Countries, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

SPORTUGAL

It’s the footwork, dahling… turn your toes in. And keep the hands open, and dahling, trust your partner.

I half expect to see Craig Revel Horwood sitting opposite, giving out and holding up a 2.

Thankfully I’m not being judged on my dancing but my tennis by my mixed doubles partner Judy Murray.

Yes, that Judy Murray, tennis supercoach, mum-of-two Wimbledon champions, and just as importantly in our house a Strictly Come Dancing legend.

Europe’s new four ball: John and Jim

Judy has had half an eye on Ashley, Faye, Lauren, Stacey, Joe, Charles, et al this series.

A message from you, Judy

Only half an eye though as her main focus has been making tennis players out of the flotsam collection of wannabe racquet tyros I’m assembled here with.

In the new Campus sporting development in Quinta Do Lago in the Algarve.

Judy is running a series of tennis coaching lessons for young and old, good and bad, studious and messers, which, er, would be me.

That cow’s still got his name on it

In my defence her starter hooter was too inviting not to play keepie-uppie with.

Judy, though, as well as being very good at sport is a very good sport and even allowed me to waltz her around at the end.

Tennis and squash’s child

Another very good sport and one that you won’t have heard so much about is padel which is more popular in the Iberian Peninsula than tennis.

Former rugby international Max Evans who with soccer great John Terry took to the game on a trip to the Algarve, describes it as the baby that tennis and squash would beget.

And wash it down with some Portuguese vino

Played to the same scoring system as tennis, the big difference is in the non-string bats, the underhand serve, the fact that you can play off the side glass walls.

And, dare I say it, that it might just be better fun than tennis.

Judy’s work done, she gets a deserved breather. Me, I’m off to bother the gold pros.

Team of all talents

For four days I will have a team of experts tasked with trying to make an athlete of me, just as they can for you too.

With a Paralympian legend: Me and Brian Rohan

The professional at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy shows off the latest golf technology, tracking machines, sensory guides et al.

It can turn the most ordinary club member into a Rory or a Tiger, or at least on the odd shot.

If you concentrate that is.

But there’s always one messer who gets distracted.

Water trap: Have a chip with your dinner

In this case drawn to Paul McGinley’s buggy from when he captained Europe to Ryder Cup success at Gleneagles.

Ryder Cup glory

There’s a good reason why the big boys and girls in our party get to play The South Course, one of three Championship courses here at Quinta do Lago, while yours truly is kept to the driving range.

I do get to drive me a buggy, though not Paul’s Ryder Cup cart, which sensibly is kept where it is.

And I get to see the course, safely for me and the golfers, or at least that’s the plan before the boy racer in me kicks in.

My boat comes in

And I cut up the buggy in front and almost drive into the lake that skirts one of the greens.

I dare say I would have come up with my pockets bursting with stray golf balls.

Maybe I’ll fare better on two wheels.

Ride on

Quinta do Lago means Farm by the Lake and Quinta is at great pains to keep human athletic exertions and the natural world in perfect harmony.

Or a dip after your lunch

The Ria Formosa reserve which runs parallel to the course, is more geared to Shiny Ibises and Spoonbill birdies.

And yes, get off your bike, get your binos out and you really will see these fascinating birds scoop up their prey with spoonlike beaks.

I’d like to say I planned my disembarkation but the truth is I took one sandy corner too many and too sharply in my obsession to lead the party.

Hungry work

Eyebrows may have been raised as to my suitability to go back with the sensible ones on the roads, but hunger called.

The new mixed doubles

That hunger was sated as it invariably is in these parts by the harvest of the seas.

The world literally is your piscine pleasure in Portugal and no fish is safe, so I felt not a pang of guilt in devouring Dory’s pals, the lobster, prawns, clams, seabass both here at the island restaurant Casa do Lago at the Campus.

And more of that later.

For golfers, there is a green in the water for diners to shoot at but it was wisely out of bounds for us on the day. 

If the Scotland manager is watching

The appeal of The Campus is its infrastructure and expertise.

Why else would it attract Premier League side Burnley, Champions League winners Olympique Marseille and Rio Ferdinand who runs a soccer camp.

Paralympic champion

While Irish Paralympian, road race great Brian Rohan runs The Bike Shed, which is so much more than just that.

Ask him kindly and he might even let you hold one of his Olympic gold medals.

And I’ve got my goal celebration sorted

Of course when it comes to sport we’re all of us experts, and so my last night was spent at a sports bar where I watched THREE soccer games simultaneously on the big screens (and who said men couldn’t multi-task?).

I’d like to say all the games were thrillers but I was in my element all the same.

Dancing Dad

I was tackling (cleanly) a chicken casserole for two, to soak up the beer you understand, while exchanging sporting trivia with my Portuguese hosts.

I was less good at the Halloween pub quiz I have to admit but always back myself against any Dancing Dad when the house band appears. 

Get the yoga in

There’s always a price to pay of course for revelry and that is invariably a sore head the next morning.

Magnolia drive

Yes, the art deco style Magnolia where we are staying specialises in fixing that too…

The Mag burger, beef, bacon, cheese and lettuce burger and fries, with a special peppery sauce.

The secret of which the Chef, naturally wasn’t sharing, and a pineapple, OJ, coconut and SPINACH smoothie.

Are you watching Craig Revel Horwood?

I felt invincible again and was ready to show off to my new No. 1 fan with my moves, a dive into the pool (yes, strictly against the hotel  rules).

But nobody was watching apart from Judy Murray that is.

Keeeep practising!

IMPORTANT WEBSITES: The Campus, Quinta do Lago https://www.quintadolago.com/en/sports-wellness/the-campus/ with costs for the night at the Magnolia Hotel at €105, and Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com with prices from €39.99.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in January 2019.