Asia, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – Israel by sea

They got there how they could… by Cyprus and overland across the desert, but how about cruising imo Israel?

You can with our old friends at Royal Caribbean on Odyssey of the Seas with a 12-night with Holy Land With Overnight in Athens.

Master of all he surveys: In Athens

From £1176, leaving Rome. Depart September 7, 2021. And with Athens thrown in too. Efcharisto.

Ship ahoy: There’s a cruise ship off here

Imagine digging into your milk and honey at breakfast as you cruise into The Land of Milk and Honey.

No, who am I kidding? It’s all about refuelling on the meats of the world at the buffet on Oasis of the Seas.


Don’t worry, you can work it all off on the FlowRider surf simulator through the day.

The closest I’ve got thus far is across the narrowest stretch of the River Jordan.

Channeling my inner Moses at Mt Nebo

At the purported Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

And at Mt Nebo where Moses looked out onto a Promised Land he would never be allowed to enter because he’d had a tiff with God.

Lord, I am heartily sorry… and a favour about that Royal Caribbean cruise to Israel.

An Italian teaser

Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

And another oasis… a glimpse of the city on the lagoon, Venice, from down water on the River Brenta.

When I visited neighbouring Padova which has its charms too with one of the oldest universities in the world and Giotto’s fresco which inspired a certain Michelangelo.

Our own Le Boat

Venice and its environs have been refreshed by the lockdown and have never been more beautiful.

And of course the best way to see this region is on the water. Try Le Boat, your private craft which sleeps four to ten and where you get your own sundeck.

Venice is a given, but why not head to Trieste too where you will see what seduced James Joyce of all people.

A tavola pronto: Dinner on the water in Italy

While go the other way to the south and enjoy the nature of the Po Delta and the colourful villages.

A seven-night self-catered cruise, started and finished at Le Boat’s base at Casale, on board the Caprice, sleeping up to six, arriving September 19.

Priced from £1429 per boat/£238pp. Transport to and from the base is not included. Le Boat (023 9280 9124).




America, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – the end of buffets?

Buffets are like marmite (and you can get that too) so the prospect of no buffets is just another thing to pile on our COVID tray.

First off, a history question? Who introduced the buffet?

Padova in north-west Italy actually.

I discovered this on a trip to the Veneto region…

Boney’s Italian adventure

Napoleon, it transpires, was responsible for the introduction of the buffet when he held parties for his pals in the Italian grand casas.

Well you don’t think he got that girth from croissants do you? Visit

Here’s where I’ve stood in line for my food asking for more. And there’s always more!

Carry on Cruising

Cruising: And one of the draws of a cruise for many is their food.

And you can eat around the world on a cruise, and go back and do it all over again!

Get there early for breakfast, lunch and dinners on MSC Cruises and The call of the fjords

Particularly when the food-mad Italians are around!!!

Of course where you go on your cruise can inform your choice of foods.

And on the Celebrity Cruise Edge maiden voyage I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here from Florida to the Bahamas they like to spice it up.

And that’s my five a day

If you want though a taste of home then Royal Caribbean are the cruise for you.

When you can visit an authentic British Fish and Chip Shop.

Authentic that is for being on the top deck with a cocktail in hand and A Royal Party and

Caribbean cruising

Barbados: And seeing we’re talking about the Caribbean (and aren’t we always?) then a Caribbean buffet always has something special?

Yes, rum!

Because bread, cakes, pancakes, bacon, you name it they have it, and it will be on the hot plate in Barbados and Let’s rumba in Barbados and My kiss with Rihanna.

Der buffet

Dresden: And for Germans, eccentrics that they are, that means doing things differently.

And the Saxons in Dresden Dresden’s renaissance at the German Travel Mart put out all their meats at one side of the room and the veg at the other.

Guess which one I went for!

America’s a rollercoaster

Orlando: You’ll pay for it if you were overdoing the Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s

Because in American hotels bigger is better.

And there will always be a chef waiting with a frying pan offering an anything you want omelette.

As well as the plethora of sweet treats.

But remember you have theme parks of loop the loops awaiting you.

And believe me you don’t want to make the Hulk angry. You won’t like him when he’s angry.

See, And Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital and See off Voldemort, then for a beer at Moe’s.



Give us this day -Padova

As calling cards go it does the job – simple, functional and just what is needed if your stock painting will be halos.

With a swish and a brush of red paint Giotto di Bondone had announced himself to the Papal envoy with his freehand circle.

And within a few years he would announce himself to the world with his magnum opus.

His fresco in 1305 in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padova would in turn inspire Michelangelo when he came to adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

For all of us who have attempted a still life and ended up with an egg in a basket of fruit instead of an orange you will know how difficult it is to draw the perfect circle.

But only perfect circles would do as Giotto’s patron Enrico Scrovegni had let his halo slip and needed a grand gesture.

To gain absolution and enter through the gates of heaven.

Enrico’s crime was usury – charging excessive interest on loans.

A crime so serious that it resulted in the banker being damned the fires of Hell.

Worth a shot in Ireland.

Rather than appealing straight to Our Lord, though, Scrovegni had the bright idea of asking Jesus’s mother to intercede on his behalf.

Mary cradles Christ

And then dedicated the chapel and the frescoes to her life with a celebration of her role in human salvation.

And just to leave nobody in any doubt of his devotion he had Giotto paint him into the main scene.

Presenting a model of the chapel to her in the fresco The Last Judgment.

The Scrovegni Chapel is Padova’s calling card but it is only a hint of a more expansive canvas.

I am in Padova (Padua), 38km west of Venice in the Veneto region and 209kms from Milan.

St Anthony’s Basilica

As well as looking upwards – Padova is the City of Frescoes – it looks outwards.

It has been home to the Venetians, French and Austro-Hungarians over the last millennium and embraced all their influences.

Today it is looking westwards which is where we Irish probably come in.

But more immediately to Milan’s Expo 2015, a showcase for feeding the planet and energy for life.

Padova has a rich history of doing both.

The Brenta River which leads right down to the Grand Canal teems with life.

While the Venetian Plain attracted the mariners of that great city to avail of its rich agriculture.

And build grand villas and palaces to entertain dignitaries.

It is also home to the oldest botanical gardens in the world.

On this trip, we will get to witness all of this.

But today it’s Sunday so Church and a visit to the Basilica of St Anthony of Padova.

The Piazza dei Signori

Yes, that St Anthony, the one who helps you – for some coins in his charity box – to find your keys,

St Anthony we are told has a wider reach than just those objects that fall out of your rucksacks and handbags.

He is also the patron saint of people who have lost their way in life or lost or fear losing something or someone close to them.

St Anthony’s bones are kept in an altar tomb in the basilica and people pass it in veneration, touching the side.

Which is adorned with photos of their loved ones.

A little bit more of St Anthony

The image of a young man, his head bowed and his hand placed on the side in silent invocation was truly moving.

I have to confess that this simple devotion touched me more than the veneration to St Anthony’s tongue and the bottom of his teeth in elaborate gold reliquaries further up the church.

The story goes that when St Anthony’s body was exhumed his tongue was still moist in recognition of his great preaching prowess.

So the Padovans decided to place it on show for veneration.

St Anthony hailed from Lisbon, but had he been Italian then you’d have to think his hands would have been on display.

Water, water everywhere

They are a famously expressive people, the Italians.

And while in the big cities there is less of a willingness to indulge those who wish to try out their Italian.

I found the Padovans and, in particular, our guide Mariaclaudia charmingly engaging.

Perhaps it is because this is a university city but not just any old university city, among the top ten oldest in the world.

And where Galileo taught.

Naturally the statue to him which is among 78 in the Isola Memmia in the Prato della Valle portrays him with his hands outstretched.

It is also where the first woman anywhere in the world graduated.

Piazza special

An inclusive place then and one where you can, if you don’t have two left feet like your writer, get up to dance the tango.

With dozens of other Padovans in the piazza at night.

The Villa Pisani

Perhaps with another glass of Venetian Spritz – the local speciality of Aperol (think Campari), Prosecco and mineral water.

Well, next time.

My own personal foodie

A word on the food and drink.

I had the good fortune to have accomplished Travel writer, food expert and bon viveur Peter on our trip.

I’m insisting that he come on all my future expeditions with me.

To describe in erudite fashion how good the likes of regional favourite Risi e bisi is.

A merely English translation as rice and peas clearly doesn’t do it justice.

So it’s best left in Italian.

A work of art on a plate

I’m sure other restaurants do Risi e bisi just as well as Taverna degli Artisti but my dish came at the end of an enchanting visit to Cittadella.

It is a 13th Century walled city which stands 14-16ft high and 4,793ft around.

Taverna degli Artisti stands opposite the quaint old we entered behind a market stall.

And through what looked like a lock-up door.

A treasure more memorable because it feels hidden away.

A touch of colour

There is nothing shy and retiring though about the baroque Villa Pisani in Stra on the banks of the Brenta.

Built by Alvise Pisani, the 114th Doge, or leader, of Venice in 1735, there would be 114 rooms.

Villa thriller

With frescoes of gods and men and women living and loving lustily.

With vino flowing as copiously as the water on the nearby Brenta.

And without the dams that that river employs to hold it back.

In the pink

Pride of place in the villa is Napoleon Bonaparte’s bedroom – the little general bought it in 1806.

Bony’s bed

Bony’s bedroom is surrounded by empirical emblems and deliberately is the first the sun hits in the morning.

Not to be outdone, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler met here in Villa Pisani for the first time.

One imagines there must have been a fight to get Bony’s bed.

The Villa Pisani comes with its very own maze, the Labyrinth of Love.

Where we are told a young cloaked woman would stand in the centre at the top of a spiral staircase.

Amazing maze

She was, of course, the prize for the man who managed to wend his way through the maze.

There is no historical record that Bony, Benito or Adolf burrowed their way manically through the maze.

But you would imagine that like us, they did.

We can only assume too that the young woman was on a day off when we visited!

But anyway it was time to get back on our burchiello – or boat.

As we skirted along the river at a gentle pace, gurgling wine and scoffing hors d’oeuvres we feel like those nobles of old.

Energy of the water

We are informed that many of the villas along the banks are also richly blessed but lie empty, still needing to be renovated.

It is a theme that keeps recurring: that the Italians, having finished what they had set out to build during the Renaissance packed up early.

And laid back and enjoyed the fruits of their labour.

So with dragonflies gently skimming along the water by our side I contemplate how the energy of life sometimes has to come in great rushes.

But it is often best captured in quiet moments and in water colours.

A gondola by the banks suggests Venice is drawing nearer but that is for another time.

Merchant of Menace

And besides the Brenta boat voyage runs both ways and it was inland to Padova and its environs that the Venetians, after all, came for their pleasure and sustenance.

So, who am I to argue?

Travel facts

How to get there: Aer Lingus flies to Venice on Fridays, returning Sundays.

From €657.80 Or depart for Treviso, depart and return Thursdays. From €297.80.

Package: The Only Weekend Padova option offers a double room in the central Hotel Europa which offers a comfy night’s stay, a balcony and breakfast. For two nights at €155.

And some extras

Extras: Padova Terme Euganee Convention & Visitors Bureau offers the PadovaCard for free

The Padova Card is valid 48 hours (€16) or 72 hours (€21) and valid for one adult and child under 14

Besides free admission the Padova Card also provides discounts on attractions and allows visitors to use urban transit buses for free.

This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail.

And why not check out some other Italian adventures And

And I’m flagging up and their Italy sale in