America, Asia, Countries, Europe

Submariners and life under the sea

You been keeping Vigil these nights and got to thinking about abut submariners and life under the sea.

Well thankfully we don’t have to plunge the depths to get a sense of what submariners had to go through.

I’m sure there’s one sitting down in the port near you…. or somewhere in your country.

New York Up Periscope

Depth charge

I stumbled upon mine in New York as a ticket in my CityPass book.

And I spent a couple of hours out of the Manhattan heatwave at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

Walking through the cramped USS Growler with others.

And ducking your head through the doorways gives you a sense of the challenges these subterraneans faced.

Without of course seeing the sky for weeks on end and worrying that you could get blown up at any minute.

Of course Manhattan has the advantage of being an island surrounded by water.

Jordan jumps

Get back in: The Red Sea

But you can find submarine anywhere even landlocked countries as long as they’ve got a stretch of water.

And so in Jordan on my G Adventures trip they have the Dead and the Red Sea.

Now I’m no scientist but would the sub not float to the salty surface… this sub(editor) certainly did.

But the Jordanians did drop a submarine in the Red Sea to encourage marine life (and snorkelers) to swim through.

Now, while we’ve all been hibernating they’ve been up periscoping in places we wouldn’t expect.

Swiss subs

Swiss dip: On Lake Lucerne

Such as Switzerland, bang in the middle of Europe.

So let our Swiss friends take it away just like they took me away with Swiss Air.

‘Dive into the mystical darkness deep below the surface and glide weightlessly through adventure-filled underwater worlds..

‘Visitors can explore old wrecks in Lake Lucerne on an unforgettable dive.

‘Go to depths of up to 120 metres in Switzerland’s only passenger submarine.

The P-63

Tourist ahoy: In Lake Lucerne

The P-63 submarine is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and safety systems.

‘And it offers passenger trips for one to three people.’


Adventure, Culture, Europe

Frankenstein Day and a Swiss Miss

For the day that’s in it I’m scaring up a tale to do justice to Frankenstein Day and a Swiss Miss.

Or maybe not a Swiss Miss, more a very English lady.

Grand Swiss Miss: The ageless Brigitte

But one who made her mark on popular culture when penning Frankenstein in Geneva, Switzerland in 1816.

Mary emerged from her writer husband Percy Bysshe’s shadow.

With one of the greatest gothic horror histories of all.

Rainy day in Geneva

Will this rain never stop?

And all to fill a rainy day in the Swiss city.

When the television was obviously on the blink and they wrote ghostie stories.

It’s lost to the mists of time what Perce and Lord Byron, who were also there, wrote but Mary created a monster of a book and franchise.

The stunning backdrop of Geneva and indeed Switzerland is ideal to get the imagination going.

Chill: You can make your own Monster out of Lego

And it inspired Byron when he was exiled from polite society because he was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’.

This being a family site we won’t go into why, only to say you can take sibling affection too far.

Laud Byron

Dr Frankenstein: Gene Wilder’s masterly portrayal

I followed old Byron out to Interlaken.

And the Eiger and dined where the great poet stayed.

Being a man of letters, I too came back inspired by the scenery, the mountains and the Swhiskey.

Heidi hi

Holy Cow: It’s beautiful

Another actual Swiss Miss, Heidi, ran around the mountains with goatherd Peter in the iconic Swiss book of them all.

And maybe it’s all that fresh air but you’ll find too that whatever their age the Swiss Misses can glide over those mountains at valley.

As I found when superannuated superhero Brigitte left me for dust on our hike through the Alps.

And all the time yodelling as she went.

So so for the day that’s in it, and all days, here’s to Frankenstein Day and a Swiss Miss.


Adventure, Countries, Europe

Heidi hi from Switzerland

Heidi hi Switzerland.. and admit it, who here didn’t first learn about the Alps through litle orphan girll Heidi?

Whisper it though, author Johanna Spyri’s fresh-faced Angel of the Alps is 140 years old this year.

But like all heroes and heroines from literature they get to keep their youth for ever.

Holy Cow: No bull… I’m in Switzerland

Heidi’s enduring appeal, and that of her grandfather and goatherd Peter has, of course, been passed down the generations.

Heidi has been translated into more than 50 languages and several movies had been produced.

You’re probably most familiar with the BBC version with Emma Blake in 1974, which is where I first stumbled across her.

A childhood secret

At one with nature: Now where’s that goat?

I daren’t have told my big brothers or my schoolpals then.

But I was enchanted by little Heidi’s life and her idyllic country.

And I remain just as enamoured by Switzerland to this day.

Of course all those sweeping Alpine valleys just makes you want to breathe in the healthy mountain air.


Our Heidi rambling through the meadows

And that’s why it just makes sense that Switzerland should be one of the first places we should be allowed back to visit.

Our friends in Tobleroneland have, of course, made a virtue of their most famous daughter.

And they have given us a tour of her Eastern Switzerland homeland especially designed for fans of Heidi.

So, without further ado… hooray, hooray, it’s a Heidi holiday, such a world of fun for everyone, it’s a Heidi holiday.

A Heidi holiday

Peter’s pet

The Alp (yes, that is the singular) above Maienfeld is where young Heidi felt truly alive in what is today known as the Heidiland holiday region.

And the hamlet of Maienfeld is where the golden-haired lass lived and where you can visit the ‘Original Heidi House’ – a home with furnishings as they were in Heidi’s time.

Then if you want to delve deeper into the author’s life, there’s also the ‘Johanna Spyri Museum Heididorf’ in Hirzel.

And a gift shop full of Heidi souvenirs.

And Switzerland’s smallest post office with its special Heididorf postmark.

Heidi fans also come from around the world to explore the different Heidi trails and paths.

Now we bring you timely news from Heidiland that some restaurants in the area reopened terraces this week.

Only an hour by train from Zurich you’ll soon be able to turn the clock back 140 years to a time when we could all just roam around the valleys for our fun.

Swiss Air, naturally, is the national airline and one of the best, and most efficient (naturally) airline I’ve flown with. And needless to say the food is as healthy as an Alpine meadow.



America, Countries, Europe, Flying, Food, Ireland, UK

Flyday Friday – Trains and automobiles

With British Transport Secretary Matt Hancock sanctioning against closing airports for 48 hours due to coronavirus my attention turns to trains and automobiles.

It’s not that I’m joining the clamour away from airports… until they build a tunnel between Britain and Ireland and the US that is.

But there’s no harm in mixing your transport.

And search out the Middle Eastern fare

Eurostar has announced the launch of its new Eurostar service from London St Pancras to Amsterdam Centraal from April 30.

It will cut the journey time down by an hour to four hours and nine minutes.

We flew to Amsterdam Pictures of Amsterdam with KLM

But here’s what we missed in what was otherwise a packed and enjoyable programme with our IAmsterdam card…

Dylan promise

Complimentary bikes: With the Dylan. Zoom by the canals of Amsterdam, shouting ‘bike’ at the tourists.

Bloemenmarkt: The world’s only floating flower market. Something for the wife!

In the picture: With Rembrandt

Foodhallen: From tempuras to tacos to hotdogs with truffle mayonnaise, try from one of 21 stalls. And check out the Middle Eastern food.

Cheese tasting: At Henri Willig’s store, near the hotel. Well, you are in Amsterdam.

Visit and

Swiss sustainability

Holy cow

SWISS are doing their bit too with attractive prices for bikes and sports equipment on board.

Swiss fly from London Heathrow, London City, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh (seasonal during summer), Dublin and Cork.

And if you want to know what happens when a middle-aged Scot races down an Alpine road on a kiddie’s scooter… Swhisskey on the rocks. Also visit www.myswitzerlandcom.

Designs for Iceland

Wrap up well

I’ve got designs on a stopover in Iceland en route to North America in May.

But if you can’t wait until then, DesignMarch is on from March 25-29.

The festival, one of six big festivals in Reykjavik this year,

Whether it is fashion design, graphics or architecture, Iceland’s capital lives and breathes design.

And Icelandair want to do the work for you and advise you put in a ‘Build your own Iceland package’ in the booking engine.

They also have a five-day suggested itinerary with their online offer at €269 round-trip from Dublin.

Visit and



Hungry and Thursday – Whisky and the water of long life

The oldest person in the UK died this year at the grand age of 112.

And one only hopes that St Peter had a tumbler of whisky waiting for her when she arrived at the Pearly Gates.

Grace Jones attributed her longevity to uisce baitha, ‘the water of life’.

She took a Famous Grouse Scotch whisky every day with the blessings of her doctor.

She began the habit when she was 50 (why so late?).

All of which gives me ammunition if the Scary One pulls me up over my nightly dram.

Now I often get asked if it’s Scotch or Irish for me.

To which the diplomatic (and truthful) answer is: Both!

I’m reminded of a wedding guest I met at a friend’s nuptials.

We got talking about where we’d been on holiday and shared our experiences of Islay.

An island off Scotland which you can view from the North of Ireland.

And crucially has eight distilleries which for a population of 3,228 means one for every 430 people.

I asked the wedding guest if she had visited any of them on her travels and felt a little silly when she informed me that she was a whisky taster.

Hiding my jealousy, I asked if she chose specific whiskies depending upon her mood and the weather.

And she regaled me with a story of her visiting a rough and ready bar in Edinburgh’s port town of Leith.

Which she dropped in on on a cold and wet winter night.

The portly Fiftysomething barman asked her what she wanted to drink.

Jocks on the rocks: Tom Sweeney and me

And when she said ‘whisky’ he suggested ‘is that not a bit strong, dearie?’

To which my new friend rasped back by giving him tasting notes on all the bottles of whisky on the top shelf. Back of the net!

While you’re in Edinburgh best check out The Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile

The world’s whiskies

Now I try the whiskies of the world wherever I find them and have become particularly partial to bourbon and rye from visiting Washington http://Easy DC and my cousin’s husband (he hails from Kentucky).

While here in Ireland there’s whiskey under your nose with and of course Scotland http://www.visitscotland.comwhere it was invented

And in my popular drinks column which will return… it takes research!

Of course there have been strange places where I’ve discovered whisky and none stranger than at the top of the Swiss Alps….

And visit to learn more about this and that cool (well, it would be) ice bar.



Moanday Morning… trains

Does your train service drive you as crazy as mine?

The Dublin Area Rapid Transport is one of the biggest misnomers out there.

The trains are cramped and uncomfortable… and whoever thought of buying rolling stock from a country in Japan where the people are so much smaller.

There are no toilets on board nor on most of the stations despite the fact that you could find yourself on a journey from Greystones to Malahide of an hour and a half.

And Yes, I understand that maintenance needs to be done as it was at the weekend at Pearse Station but I see little forward notice of work that is being done unless you go on the site.

And so Bandanaman is left having to share a taxi home from Dublin to Greystones after my day at The Open and with a driver who had to be told the way.

And every time I am left disappointed with my DART I think of how much better the Swiss do it.

I mean if the DART struggles to get trains on time through the Greystones-Bray tunnel then how would it deal with going up the Alps on the highest railway journey in Europe.

Find out how I did it in Switzerland… in a new tab)