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 and the National Museum of the American Indian

Arlington, the Kennedy graves, Robert E. Lee’s house, Frederick Douglas’s house. Oh, and the Capitol and the White House too.


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 and 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 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 (

Visit and 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 and Malta easer.

And tomorrow, five more from Northern Europe.


Popes on the run… Castel Sant’Angelo

Where does a Pope go to when he is being besieged?

Thankfully, it is is not a question that we need to answer any more, and long may that continue.

And much of that is down to the Swiss Guards.

The Great Protector: Archangel Michael

Now they don’t look very scary with their yellow and blue jester plus-four outfits and their helmets with the feather plumage.

But believe me these guys are some of the most specially trained killing machines on Earth.

Yes, they’re armed with something far more powerful than a Swiss Army knife.

Because they know how to disarm you and cause you serious harm.

Say a little prayer: With the Son and Heir

And yes, they have history, and are 100% dedicated to preserve the life of their boss, Il Papa.

Let me take you back to 1527 when the troops of the Holy Roman Empire sacked Rome and Pope Clement VII had to flee for his life.

So how did he get away?

Well, the Swiss Guards bought him time and laid down their lives for him.

The Aelian Bridge: Don’t tell the Holy Roman Empire where I am

While he disappeared along the 2,600ft long corridor Passetto di Borgo which links the Vatican City to Castel Sant’Angelo.

That Clement knew how to get away was down to the fact that it was a tried and trusted escape route.

Used by his predecessor Pope Alexander VI in 1494.

The Castel Sant’Angelo is thus named because the Archangel Michael appeared atop the mausoleum.

He was sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590, you see.

The statue of the Archangel provides a beautiful backdrop for selfies.

Chariot racing: Daddy’s Little Girl and some oul’ relic

And indeed the best views of the Vatican are from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo.

Also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian it’s where the great Wallmaker and his family had their ashes kept as did future emperors.

Angels and Demons

You probably know the Passetto from Dan Brown books and Assassin’s Creed II.

Me, I know it from being my favourite vantage point in Rome.

And where I tried to escape for two minutes of peace on a family holiday and have myself an espresso.

They found me.

I guess I wouldn’t have been very good back when the Holy Roman Empire were on the prowl.

If you want to know more about Rome read my and

And here are a couple of websites to help you on your way… and

NEXT WEEK: Another castle