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Give us this Day – poppy collections

They collect for everything at my church in Co. Wicklow but not poppies.

Which is all part of the antipathy in some quarters in Ireland towards Remembrance Sunday.

Because while it was born out of the trenches and is predominantly associated with the First World War.

My Great-Uncle Willie

It also covers the of British and Commonwealth conflicts, and there it jars with Irish nationalist history.

Only the Irish, including my two Fallen Donegal Great-Uncles, died in their tens of thousands in the Great War, both Catholic and Protestant, North and South.

So no poppy collection then, but two, count them, offertory collections at Mass.

Which brings me to how they do offertories over there.

It was on my trip to Ieper on my World War I Battlefields with G Adventures www.gadventures.com.

To Flanders www.visitflanders.com and the Somme https://www.visit-somme.com/great-war that I saw how they did it.

And my Great-Uncle Willie

The Flems in Ieper, for example, send their wee old stooped women in to collect your money, in their white robes.

Where they carry small pots with felt at the bottom.

Why felt? Well, I’m thinking that it’s along the lines of the Rev. Ian Paisley’s Silent Collection.

Where coins would make a sound.

There’s another aspect to offertory plates (they’re reed baskets at our church) that bothers me.

The public shame, the sniffs and withering eyes when you make your contribution.

Prayer time: In Istanbul

And a word to the wise here, don’t sit by the aisle where you will be first to put in your donations.

Then there’s the question about what you should give.

Here I’m going to pass the buck, and that’s probably not even enough, and say that Islam does it better.

By requiring that you donate 2.5% of your income (Zakat) to alms-giving.

Which way’s Mecca? In Amann, Jordan

Which is probably what they’re saying here in their Call to Prayer which you get constant reminders of when you travel.

In Istanbul Wham bam, thank you Hamam with http://www.turkishairlines https://visit.istanbul.

And Jordan Petra and the sands of time and http://www.visitjordan.com.

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Flyday Friday – days at the airport

We’ve become so blasé about airports that it’s hard to imagine that back in the day folk would actually go there for a day out.

We did, when the Son and Heir was a toddler.

These days he has women, beer and football for fun.

Now, I’ve spent more time than the next man or woman at airports.

Probably because of the odd missed connection.

Or missing bags or waiting for connections, or rebooking tickets, or waiting for connections.

If you get stuck in an airport these are the ones you want to be stranded in:

GRANTLY ADAMS, BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS

Carnival time: With Dee-Dee at Crop Over

It’s baking hot, early evening in Barbados, and I’m in a snaking queue which isn’t snaking… https://www.gaia.bb

But we’re under an open canopy.

In the line are a motley assembly of all shapes, sizes and colours:

Returning Bajans, second generation Caribbean-English, white holidaymakers and Oompah-Loompahs.

One young woman stands out, a voluptuous mixed-race high-haired blonde-headed figure just in front.

Of course, me being me, unlike Laura, I didn’t see the board our host was holding up and so was last man left at the airport.

Early Angie, Laura Disorder, Hayley the Soca blogger, Ab Fab and Big Jim

Panic set in, as it often does, but through a combination of the friendly staff and my hosts I was soon in a car.

Hair-raising

Being driven to Turtle Beach By Elegant Hotels https://eleganthotels.com/turtle-beach?utm_source=local&utm_campaign=gmb&utm_medium=organic on Barbados’s south coast. Happy Days!

Where Laura (or Laura Disorder as I came to call her) was holding court.

Yorkshire’s finest, Laura, the CEO of House of Coco https://houseofcoco.net high-end lifestyle magazine, has just got engaged at the top of the Empire State Building, New York.

Irie, or well done Chuck!

And here’s that unforgettable Barbados adventure Let’s rumba in Barbados.

DENVER INTERNATIONAL

Rocky Mountain High

I didn’t think I’d be back spending so much time with Eats No Meat and Freckled Face when I climbed off my flight from Dublin.

But then I did have eight hours to kill at Denver International https://www.flydenver.com before my return flight to Dublin.

Miles better

Which gave me plenty of time to reacquaint myself with the Native Americans in the photographic exhibition.

Now if you’re going to be stuck in an airport anywhere this is one of the more scenic ones anywhere.

Where else can you play crazy golf on the roof in the apron of the Rocky Mountains?

Until it starts raining of course.

The only downside is the price of drinks at the bar but hey, ho, that’s airports everywhere.

Here’s more on that adventure in the Mile High City Go West and Colorado… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/08/29/the-new-pioneers/.

ISTANBUL AIRPORT

Drive-in: Istanbul Airport Turkish Airlines business lounge

Of course eight hours is no way enough time to enjoy Istanbul Airport’s Turkish Airlines’ Business Lounge… www.turkishairlines.com.

Because you have to eat and drink, have a massage, eat and drink, have a go on the golf driving range, eat and drink, go to the cinema, eat and drink.

And have a kip.

Although be careful not to miss your connection.

On second thoughts don’t rush! https://www.istairport.com. And here’s Istanbul for you… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/wham-bam-thank-you-hamam/.

AMSTERDAM SCHIPHOL

Toast to Schiphol

It’s been my good fortune to have a connection through Amsterdam,

It’s been my even better fortune to get to stay in the Netherlands’ biggest city.

The first thing that strikes you about Schiphol is the shops, restaurants and bars.

A masterpiece

In many airports they are branded, serve insipid takeaway quality food and sell stuffed toys and trinkets.

In Schiphol you can get authentic Dutch and international food, real Dutch keepsakes.

While being Dutch they value their beer… the Cafe Rembrandt, or ‘Schiphol’s living room’ is designed to look like a canalside cafe.

This being Amsterdam it is infused with East Indian influences, so try the chicken satay.

The Heineken Bar is every rugby fan’s dream while there is, of course, an Irish bar, Murphy’s.

Amsterdam is one of Europe’s, nay the world’s great cities… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/pictures-of-amsterdam/

And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/george-and-amal-hotel/.

And this is one of the world’s great airports… https://www.schiphol.nl/en/

Slainté!

TARBES-LOURDES-PYRENEES AIRPORT

Oi, that’s my garden

There are some airports that have special considerations because of their very special destination.

Lourdes is one and the Tarbes-Lourdess-Pyrenees falls into that category.

Lourdes is second to none in caring for those who come here for Marian intervention and carry particular ailments and disabilities.

There are care rooms, specific medical facilities and bedrooms to cater for their every need.

This being France, of course, there is a proper restaurant with the best gastronomy. https://www.tlp.aeroport.fr/en.

And here’s my tribute to Lourdes and the Pyrenees… http://The Lourdes Prayer

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Toast Turkey

Cumhuriyet Bayrami.

Or Happy Turkish National Day.

OK, I’m a day late with Turkey turning 95 yesterday but what’s a day between friends?

I’m sure they’ll forgive me for my belated birthday wishes.

With my pal Onur from Turkish Airlines

I first fell in love with Turkey 16 years ago when our air hostess on our flight out to Bodrum mistook me for a Turk.

They took the Son and Heir for one of their own too on account of him being called Ally.

Istanbul in my heart

And every time we passed by the market the traders would call out his name with one even swinging him around.

I finally fulfilled a Travel dream this year when I got to Istanbul 26 years after I was supposed to.

Hamam slam

So a day’s late birthday wish is but a passing moment.

The big romantic gesture of a romantic proposal was meant to take place on the Bosphorus.

But we ended up in Malta instead… I told you I was hopeless with directions.

I guess the then Miss F must have been expecting something because when I bent down to tie my shoelace…

She screamed ‘Yes’.

My Bosphorus

Malta has remained in my affections ever since, as has Miss F.

And I had the good fortune to get back out there a few years ago Malta easer where I learned ‘our’ restaurant is still there http://www.visitmalta.com.

And enough time has probably passed that I can pull that trick again to get a free bottle of Champagne.

My next attempt at getting to Istanbul was in 1997 when we visited Bulgaria.

My TA Business Lounge

But the distance (there was an option) and the small matter of the Son and Heir who was in his Terrible Twos put the kibosh on that.

Now that I’ve finally got a taste for Istanbul Wham bam, thank you Hamam, one of the world’s great cities http://www.howtoistanbul.com I’ll not leave it so long in future.

And when I do go I’ll travel with Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com.

And I’ll dally in their award-winning Business Lounge and maybe pay a visit to their headquarters.

To catch up with old friends, play on the flight simulator, and this time ask if I can slide down the aeroplane chute.

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Holidos and don’ts – my airport manifesto

I’m back in Munich Airport on Sunday… I feel I never left.

My luggage didn’t.

Well, maybe not didn’t, but certainly a good day after I got back to Ireland.

Hey ho, that I can handle, there were after all seven of us in the same boat if I can mix my metaphors.

I feel my misadventures in Munich Airport have prepared me for whatever pitfalls may yet befall me on Sunday.

Boy in the bubble: At Dublin Airport

But there will always be some I’ll repeat or have yet to encounter.

And so I have prepared a manifesto for airports and airlines everywhere.

But remember we can be proud of our big four on this island of Ireland www.dublinairport.com, www.shannonairport.ie, www.corkairport.com and www.belfastairport.com.

While Donegal Airport http://www.donegalairport.ie was voted the most scenic airport in the world for the second year running by PrivateFly, a private jet booking service…

See www.privatefly.com.

But here’s where we can get better,

Subsidiaries of airlines

Check, check and check again. Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

1: Don’t be shy. Shout your name on the booking and not just on the small print.

It will save confusion when you ask at the airport and you get directed to the headline airline.

And you find that the two airlines go to the same destination 15 minutes apart.

And the only way to make your destination is if you are Usain Bolt and the train connection to the other gate is on time.

Because I can’t always depend on Dani being on the customers service desk to get me on the next flight www.lufthansa.com. www.aegeanair.com.

Open up more check-in desks

That’s right… every desk filled. Photo by Jopwell on Pexels.com

2: Why is there always one unmanned (or unwomanned)?

And one clueless, selfish bloke is shoring up one of the two desks when you’ve only got 15 minutes.

To find your gate, in a foreign airport, with primarily Greek lettering signage.

Airport taxis

Phew, made it. Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

3. Make sure your taxi doesn’t turn up late.

To your hotel when you’ve only got 45 minutes to get to the airport.

OK, that’s not the airport’s fault.

Provide segways

Good for an airport: In Malta

4. Or at least fast and slow walking lanes.

I swear the walkway when you land in Dublin to customs gets longer every time I come through.

See Nos 1 and 3.

Provide some phone points

I’ve found one: An airport plug-in.

5. So that when it all goes Pete Tong you can charge your phone to get on the app…

To rearrange your flight, or, yes it’s old-fashioned but… phone your wife for a confidence booster.

In fact this is Nos 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

12: Leave a book of Greek poetry

It’s all Greek to me

For those of us who took Ancient Greek at school!

Like they did at Kythera airport in the Attica region from where we visited Aphrodite’s birthplace www.kythera.gr/en.

Turk that

13: Turkish Airlines Business Lounge

On the right track: Istanbul Airport

You can improve on perfection.

Turkish Airlines’ http://www.turkishairlnes.com business lounge in the new Istanbul airport, an ideal hub, though I’d say you’d be tempted to stay in Turkey’s biggest city.

That is if you ever leave the airport with its golf simulator, grand prix games track, banquets of food and drink and cinema.

And much, much more.

I also had the privilege of being shown around TA’s headquarters.

And shown all that goes on behind the scenes… Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

And remember every Friday is Flyday Friday… avert a Greek tragedy.

The best of course: Turkish Airlines Business :Lounge in Istanbul

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

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Atoll tale – the Maldives

It’s a good drying day on Kuramathi but then every day is… the temperature rarely dips below 28 degrees at any time of the year.

And so I’ve got the spare togs and towel hung up on the clothesline by the outdoor shower.

Wet after my early morning swim in my infinity pool which overhangs the Indian Ocean.

Something’s fishy: Drying day

But how to dry out myself after a Champagne and cocktail-fuelled karaoke and beach party the previous night?

A leisurely one kilometre walk around  Kuramathi is guaranteed to sweat off the booze.

And we’ll meet some interesting characters along the way.

Won’t you join me?

My new best friend

Gordon, my house gecko is the first to greet me, dancing around my feet as I leave my room before scuttling off through the reeds.

Somewhere above him in the palm trees a Xxx warbles a morning song and memories of me murdering The Eagles, Elvis and Neil Diamond the previous evening come flooding back.

It’s 8am on Kuramathi which would be rush hour back home.

But here only the occasional electrical buggy bus or old-fashioned staff bicycle passes by on the sandy path while the only jaywalkers you’ll encounter are cooing couples.

Some gentlemen even hold parasols for their sweethearts to shield them from the sun. 

My pal Gordon

My own sweetheart is probably wrestling with a brolly back home in blustery, rainy Ireland… the thought quickly passes.

Ne’er a flutter of wind comes off the Indian Ocean.

Bus stop: On Kuramathi

Just as well really as this is a conservative island and it wouldn’t do to have a gust lift up my sarong as I amble along the coast.

Not that you’re likely to see another soul but still.

There’s every chance though that you’ll spot turtles and black finned sharks in the clear blue sea. 

Teardrops on the ocean: The Atoll

If you do see a turtle it’ll likely be Selma, who is something of a celebrity on Kuramathi as is her minder, Vanessa.

A German eco warrior and curator at the Island Eco Centre she claimed Selma as her own turtle and named her.

Turtle power

If you can snap a new turtle with your Go-Pro camera you too can get to adopt a turtle.   

On a 1.2km island resort repeat with hoilidaymakers, staff, restaurants and bars and all the necessary infrastructure to make an island bobbing along on the ocean to work only the best husbandry will do.

Some waffle about food

Luckily Mother Nature lends a helping hand.

I check out Kuramathi’s living, breathing pharmacy of plants on my Botany walk.

They cater for every ailment and condition known to man and are used in the medications.

They also infuse the dishes you will taste at the half a dozen high-end restaurants around the island. 

Chicken lickin’: And I’ve got started on that lager

This being Asia you will get your share of Eastern delicacies at the bars and restaurants you pass.

Tuck in

I have my hosts Farooz and Fern and a host of hospitable and knowledgeable waiters to thank for walking me through their dishes.

My favourite the Malaysian chicken curry, while obviously Kuramathi is a fish-lovers’ dream with the red snapper and scallops also worth a special mention.

I can always do home games in the Maldives

And being Asia you can even order Chinese at breakfast… well, it works for 1 billion Chinese after all.

The European palate is also catered for with a particularly good Italian specialising in risotto on the island.

And you never have to put your hand in your pocket (just as well if you’re wearing a sarong) as you settle your bill at the end of your holiday. 

I’m taking a breather at the back

There are three options, B&B, half-board and all-inclusive.

It probably depends on your appetite and your liver, but if you come all this way and can afford to push the boat out I’d say save yourself the stress and go all in.

Howzat!

Back to my morning constitutional and with the breakfast of champions already in me I’m off to take part in the big game.

Buggy driver Renga helpfully gives me a lift to the palm tree-lined pitch and introduces me to Hassan and the rest of the cricketers.

It’s 38 years since I picked up a bat in anger.

My dear Old Dad had high hopes for me and in my maiden school innings I went in to open only to be bounced first ball before surrendering my wicket the next.

To infinity and beyond

I learn my lesson here watching these big hitters and go in at the fall of the first wicket .

I manage to amass a mighty two before being run out picking up a bruise or two diving for the crease.

And footie

Football the next day will be more successful with me setting up the winner.

And by the end of the week my party are telling me that their buggy drivers have been asking if they are here with Jims (sic) who is ‘a very good player.’ 

‘I’m asked if I would like to come back.

Magical Botanical

‘Does Roy Keane like a crunching tackle?’

Bruised though I am, I have discovered over the years that I am still considerably safer on dry land than in the water.

The ocean is better suited for the turtles and sharks.

Who I fear will only lick their lips at the sight of my blood the next day as I snorkel off the island of Kandolhu.

Too many bubbles

It is one of the five islands on this, the Rasdhoo Atoll.

But the sharks are actually quite tame.

And they are clearly so busy laughing at my flapping anyway to be bothered about nibbling my nobbly knee.

I’m consoled too that I’ll get a warm down later (yes warm down in this weather!) in Kuramathi’s spa.

A wee, wee island

When I say Kandolhu is an island, it really is just a bit of sandbank and floating coral.

Beautiful coral, but floating coral all the same.

And there is just 200mx120m of it. 

So it would take Usain Bolt 19.90secs to run the whole island.

Sea plane sailing: With Turkish Airlines’ Onur and my host Brian

Not that that curtails them, there are 30 high-end villas and four restaurants on Kandolhu.

So how did we, and the Maldives, get here?

Well, Kandolhu and Kuramathi are just two of 1,190 coral islands situated in 26 atolls or clutches across 90,000sqkms of water south of Sri Lanka.

Sea planes

I had started counting them as I was flown into the main and only truly populous island Male (133,000).

And gazed down in wonder at these teardrops on the ocean. 

Even better our barefoot pilot took us up really close to the islands by then flying down on them on his sea plane.

I need a break: It’s thirsty work

The atolls I am told take up just 10% of the sea mass that surround them, I make a start on drinking the other 90% while snorkelling.

But I did manage to spot me a turtle who, Go-Pro or no Go-Pro, I name Vanessa… or Mother Turtle, my own name for her.

A day and a night

I clearly have a taste for this island life though perhaps not the water activities.

But I will go on to make my own splash on the island and the islanders in the time I’m here.

As a guest of Kuramathi Island resort and Turkish Airlines.

I have flown us here via Istanbul.

It is a 24-hour joyride with all the trappings of business class, and a stop-off in the world’s best business class lounge in Istanbul.

Mother Turtle: With Vanessa

On our last night on the island we take a sunset cruise out onto the ocean before settling in for the night at the Sand Bar.

I fall into the beanbag on the beach where I almost fell asleep the first night.

And order my Kuramathi cocktail and another and another and listen to house band Limestone.

I had heard them on the way back from the football that afternoon where they gave us a sneak rehearsal of the closing number of their set, Hotel California.

Natty: Music on the Maldives

I lie back and look up at the stars while letting the sound of the waves lapping up against the sand wash over me.

The only breaker is Limestone’s natty singer making a better stab at The Eagles than I had done at the Karaoke Bar:

‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’

All right by me!

Travel facts

Resort info, see www.kuramathi.ie and www.kandolhu.com. Bookings: www.GoHop.ie/(01) 2412389 or www.TravelMood.ie Tel. (01) 4331000. Kuramathi Island Resort: Beach Villas from €2,155 pp; Over Water Villas from €2,895 pp for seven nights.

Including flight, taxis, transfers, full board. Optional basic all-inclusive package. €59 per day. Dine around select package. €99 per day.

Kandolhu Island: From €3995pp. Jacuzzi Beach Villa.

Ultimate Inclusions basis. for seven nights, prices correct at time of print.

Based on travel in May/June 2018 inc. flights with Turkish Airlines.

Round trip economy class starting price Dublin- Maldives from €748.59; return business class starting price for same route, €2,166.59.

See www.turkishairlines. com, or call: (01) 525-1849. Baggage allowance: Economy class, 30kg + 8kg hand luggage; Business class 40kg +16 kg for hand luggage in total.

*This article was first published in the Irish Daily Mail in early 2018.

And if you like a sunshine island… counting Britain and Ireland out obvs… then try the Caribbean https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/04/22/rumba-in-barbados/. And https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/my-kiss-with-rihanna/

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Cool for cats – International Cat Day

Oh fur he’s a jolly good fellow… it’s International Cat Day.

I think you can always judge a person and a society on how they treat their animals.

I was taken on my recent travels in Istanbul by just what a high podium Istanbullers put their cats on.

The Grand Bazaar is an explosion of sights, sounds and colours.

But while I felt prepared for the Turkish dress-up shop, the Turkish delight shops and the rugs and jewellery vendors the book shops were just a little different.

I mean cats really do have the run of these stalls.

But the real Top Cat in Istanbul is Gli who lords it in the Aya Sofya museum.

Yes, Gli has his own official page on the museum’s website which is as it should be as he’s been living there for most of his 14 years.

And it is said that Barack Obama was taken by the majestic moggie when he visited.

Umut Bahceci who runs his Instagram account is the expert on all things Gli whose name means ‘Union of Love.’

Umut told Lonely Planet www.lonelyplanet.com.com that Gli will stand under the Muezzins’ lodge if he wants to be petted .

But if he wants to veg out he goes to the omphalos marble section of the floor.

Gli also likes to chase the light…

In the winter she will stand in front of the projector light that illuminates the nish, the altar, and the minbar, the pulpit because that’s where they warmth is.

In the summer he tends to sit near the windows.

Get out to Istanbul

The Aya Sofya costs just €4 or 30TL to visit and, it is well worth seeing. www.ayasofyamuzesii.com.tr

Turkish Airlines flies 14 times a week from Dublin. to the fabulous new Istanbul Airport and TA’s business lounge is a regular award-winner.

Duration 3 hours 50 minutes. See www.turkishairlines.com or call (01) 5251849.

Return economy class from Dublin to Istanbul costs from €325 (including taxes). Return business class (from €1,035 including taxes).

Happy Cat Day… and here’s our old pal Celtic… let’s hope there’s a spool of wool you can play with up there in cattie heaven.

And here’s my Istanbul review https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/wham-bam-thank-you-hamam/

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Holidos and don’ts – packing tips

She’s the Wonder Woman who sews me up and sends me on my way… and very occasionally I come back with everything I left with.

And I’m getting better.

I’m also prompted by RTE reruns of the sumptuous Silk Road by the even silkier Joanna Lumley who agrees about the importance of multi-compartment purses and wallets.

They come in all shapes, sizes and styles (wives and wallets) and all make your life easier.

So what to remember

Your passport obviously. Now you may want to keep it in your inside jacket pocket or perhaps skin tight in your front trouser pocket.

And you will need to take it in and out at the airport but when you don’t need it, it’s best to put it away in the zipper compartment of your folder. If you’re travelling with your partner and your kids maybe put them all in together.

When you get to your hotel room put your valuables in the safe and only take it out if you need it for ID for bars, nightclubs or to get into some sports events.

Your tickets. Keep in another sleeve or compartment. It will be easier to differentiate. Some people (usually younger) are comfortable with having their tickets on their phones but what happens if you run out of battery (Ally?). Be safe do both.

Currency. Save yourself fiddling around in your wallet/purse between euro and a foreign currency and maybe even a third (sterling) if you’re passing through London. Use a third compartment for foreign dosh.

Now you’re on the plane

If you’re on a long-haul flight then you’ll want to keep your vanity case with you… save yourself from having to tap the person sleeping next to you so you can get up to the overhead cabin.

And if you’ve had the good fortune to go Business Class then remember the little overnight bags they give you the next time you travel.

And the earplugs will block out the noise of the snorer next to you.

Overnight bags tend to be the same but different and it’s always nice to find a little new treat.

A little bottle of Eau de Cologne was a particular treat in the Etihad bag I got this week even though I’m the last person who needs it.

Thank you http://www.etihad.com. And you too http://www.aerlingus.com, http://www.turkishairlines.com, http://www.virginatlantic.com, http://www.britishairways.com and everyone else who keeps us all refreshed in the air.

Luggage

Unless you’re just doing an overnighter you’ll probably be taking hand luggage and putting a suitcase in the hold.

Don’t do as I do, but as I say.

Avoid black or blue suitcases, they all look the same on the carousel. Put stickers on it to identify it as uniquely yours, maybe places you’ve been to cheer you up.

Padlock your case up and choose a lock number that’s not 1234 or your birthday or one you might forget.

And always fill out your luggage tag with your address for obvious reasons.

Don’t forget to remember

Make a list. Check it twice and give yourself enough time.

Better if you pack to go home the night before but if you are making the most if your last night on holiday then set your alarm early or get a room call.

Otherwise…

Next week: How I didn’t take any of this advice and some of the scrapes I got into (and out of) mostly because of the saints and saintesses who helped me out.