America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Happy Euro Year

It was the perfect start to 2002, we were being given money… so where are we now as we mark Happy Euro Year 20 years on?

And what has it meant for those of us whose every instinct is to travel?

The truth is that for millions of millennials in Europe they won’t have travelled with anything else.

While for everyone who travels under a British passport we’ve always been told to look at it as board game money.

I say that, though ex-pats, of which I was one for 13 years living abroad have had to adjust quickly.

It usually starts when you’re buying booze in the supermarket.

And it’s only when you stop baulking and having to make mental adjustments at the price of a bottle of wine.

It’s more than a tenner… that you’ve truly assimilated.

Europhile, Eurosceptic

I’m in the money: Euro millions

 

So as this day is designated Happy Euro Day, was the Euro a good idea and is it right that Britain stayed with the pound?

Like everything there is the economical argument and then the emotional one.

And whenever that arises the emotional always prevails.

In countries too that have come over to the Euro there is still a sentimental attachment to the old currency.

Now if you’re a Fortysomething, Fiftysomething or later then you’ll probably remember well the frank, Deutschmark, peseta, escudo, lira or drachma.

And if you’re like my Dear Old Dad then you’ve probably got a box somewhere with all that old coinage.

A careful man, I imagine that he thought he might have use for them again if the Euro experiment failed.

Dinar time

Anyone want an old note: Foreign currency

So what do we miss about our old foreign money?

Well, it was the only time in our lives that we could really feel like a millionaire…

When we got our hands on lira.

The trouble was working out that it cost thousands to buy groceries.

And if you did try the lingo a queue would quickly form as you’re asking the teller how much you’d get for your few pounds.

Of course more of the world is outside of the Eurozone than in it.

Now I’m not about to go all numismatic on you but I do have a Jordanian dinar stuck on the side of my bookcase. And old Turkey notes too.

A souvenir of my Istanbul adventures with Turkish Airways, and with G Adventures trip to the Middle East.

But in truth just some money of such little value that I couldn’t get rid of it.

Any old money

Saddam it: What are you doing here?

Airports do take your old money in those glass boxes in the terminal.

And the descendants of the Nabataeans too in Petra where a trader tried to flog us notes from Iran with Saddam Hussein’s face on them.

Now doubtless there would have been many who would exchange dinar for Hussein.

But they had more than the look of a Monopoly note with Saddam’s face drawn on.

Working for the Yankee dollar

By George: Issy, Jimmy and the First Prez

There are some notes which are gladly accepted wherever you go and they’ll grab your hand off in the Caribbean for the Yankee dollar.

And there are 39 currencies around the world pegged to the dollar.

As a guide your yellow reggae bus in Barbados cost half of the Bajan dollar, $1, when I rocked it there a few years ago.

In the States itself you can buy Confederacy money at fairs in the Deep South on your road trip.

But the real money is in the Union dollar.

Money to burn: And the US here I come

And the more Benjamins (Franklin), or $100s, you have in your pocket the luckier you are.

Conversely, the $1 note is named for the Greatest American of them all, George Washington.

So be careful when you’re tipping.

Me? I always make sure I keep a fistful of dollars with me!

Happy Euro Day everyone or whatever currency you deal in… just, maybe avoid Saddam notes though.

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Europe

Turkey with all the trimmings

I love my Turkey with all the trimmings and still like to get stuck in well after Christmas.

And the new year is when we’ll get back out to one of our old favourite destinations, Turkey.

Now going off on a tangent, or Turkey run, let’s revisit why the country and the fowl are interchangeable.

The story of the turkey

Where you from? Turkey, you say?

The turkey that we know, and scoff, is actually not the turkey that came to define the post-Ottoman Republican country to us.

That turkey is from Mexico which would make school geography schoolteachers and children’s heads turn.

Whereas the Turkey of our Europe and Asia- straddling country is actually the guinea fowl which was transported through eastern Africa to the OE.

And how it all got mangled into the word turkey is because of the similarities to the region Turcia.

Before he got stuffed on turkey: Jonny as Hank

It is also thought to have been passed around the courts of Europe.

With King Henry VIII said to have been the first English monarch to have eaten turkey.

Department of Turkey

Your Onur: With Onur, my pal from Turkish Airlines

That’s all something to chew on then as we digest the latest offerings from our pals at Travel Department.

Istanbul is the only place to start with Turkey.

Where obvs you’ll explore the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and go shopping for Turkish treats (and cats) in the Grand Bazaar.

I’ll always seek out war history wherever I go.

And next up is a visit to Gallipoli.

And if you were dreaming when that was taught in school then listen up to The Pogues’ And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.

I, of course, worked like a Trojan at school, at least at history and this scribbling lark.

The joy of Troy

Trojan heroes: And not too Brad

Which is why I’d just scoop up the half-day excursion to ancient Troy.

You’ll also discover Ephesus, an Ancient Greek city which housed the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Deal me in

My cup of tea: Turkey

Priced from €1299pp it includes flights, transfers, seven nights’ accommodation on a B&B basis and expert guides.

Departures from 12th March with a selection of dates up to 11th October 2022.

I’ll take that: Turkey with all the trimmings and put it in a kebab for me.

For more information https://www.traveldepartment.com/holiday/istanbul-ancient-turkey

America, Canada, Countries, Europe, South America, UK

Benefits in going Cold Turkey

It’s a country I love and where I should be this month, and it might surprise you, but there are benefits in going Cold Turkey.

Turkey is for ever set at a crossroads, of continents and civilisations and change.

And diverse colours, hues of peoples and views.

And that changing perspective is as true of Nature and the seasons as it is of the peoples of this multi-faceted country.

As holidaymakers we’re more used to seeing Turkey when it’s roasting.

But it’s resplendent too when it puts on the winter whites.

Cappadocia caps it

Balloons for all seasons: In Cappodocia

Don’t just take my word for it though (well do) but Cappadocia glistens more than anywhere in the world according to our Instagrammers.

Wellness experts at Area 52 have looked at locations across the world and analysed Instagram hashtag data to see which are the most relaxing winter destinations to de-stress this year.

And Balloonists’ Nirvana Cappadocia tops the list with 

I’ve something of a history with balloons having missed out on the pleasure in locations as wide as the South of England, South Africa and Florida.

All of which makes me think that the best is just waiting for me when I get back on board with my favourite Turkish Airlines carrier.

And join the 257,000 Insta clickers who have got there first.

Lapping it up

Northern Lights too: Lapland

And yes you would expect Santa’s home in Lapland to be a favourite for winter worshippers.

And, particularly children which is why I put an old colleague and her nipper first… and incurred the wrath of Daddy’s Little Girl.

Lapland has been the focus of 222,000 Insta followers. 

Give a little Whistler

Whistler while you ski: Canada

With our attentions switching back to the full return of skiing my own revival on the slopes is on course.

Back in the day when I first took up pen my old boss used to snap up the Whistler trips.

And joined the thousands who broke off to snap the Canadian vista on Insta, 45,700 in all.

NY in winter

Icescraper: New York

Now when you’ve seen The Big Apple in the sweltering summer you’ll be glad to chill out in the winter.

This year I’ll leave it to my Irish-American relatives to enjoy their Thanksgiving Day (bucket list) but I’ll be doing the next big thing.

And break bread with my Irish family and friends at Visit USA in Dublin. 

Insta Kings

Now because we just know that you all love a list, here’s a rundown of the other favourite Insta winter destinations.

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague

Location

Instagram Hashtag

Cappadocia, Turkey

257,000

Lapland, Finland

222,000

Missoula, Montana

124,000

Whistler, Canada

45,700

Prague, Czech Republic

27,200

Dolomites, Italy

27,200

Bled, Slovenia

26,500

Lofoten, Norway

10,500

Tromso, Norway

10,400

South Coast, Iceland

8,800

New York, USA

6,700

Mt.Cayambe, Ecuador

5,200

Lapland, Sweden

4,200

Highlands, Scotland

3,600

Yosemite, California

2,700

Rila, Bulgaria

862

Swiss Alps, Switzerland

845

Lake Baikal, Siberia

169

 

America, Asia, Countries, Culture

Holidos and don’ts – suitcases

And I am indebted to my friend and Travel mover and shaker, French-based Irishman, Michael Collins for sparking me to revisit an old series, Holidos and don’ts.

Michael flagged up that at his local supermarché the aisles selling suitcases and headrests are interdit, or blocked.

Mad hatters: And when I used to take a full suitcase to America

Which beggars the question: how essential are suitcases?

And who doesn’t have one anyway?

Nothing to see here

As all Travel professionals do I like to take advice from seasoned pros, like doyen and Americanophile JP Thomson, erstwhile of the Sunday World.

JP always packs a half-full suitcase to leave space for what you take home.

Half full

Irish Travel professionals, nay all Irish people, love few things better than hitting the shops after they get off the plane.

Possibly the afternoon after they hit the bars.

Anyone got scissors?

And so when our Irelando party hit Aaawlando, and they set aside a couple of hours at a shopping mall, it was like the Olympics 100m final.

Needless to say they all returned with half the mall in their bags, while I bought a tee-shirt.

New suitcase

The fact is though that shopping in America is great value.

Irish and Scots on tour in Orlando

So why not take the opportunity to update your wardrobe and send the outdated clothes you’re standing up in to the charity shop.

The same applies, of course, if you go on a sun holiday.

Pack light

So that the members of my party who took full suitcases to the Maldives found they only needed their swimwear and summer clothes.

Who needs a suitcase? The Maldives

Some of us, of course, found that all you need on dry land is a sarong and flip-flops.

While we’ll not talk about those women who took heels.

And make it snazzy

And in the last instance why not just go out with hand luggage, or better still a rucksack that doubles as a wheelie?

Here’s to hitting the airport again

And buy a suitcase when you’re out in a country where, Zut Alors!, they don’t stop you buying suitcases from their supermarchés.

And for more Holidos and don’ts advice here’s a reminder of how we roll from where we last rocked up… Bergamo.

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Music

Give us this Day – Happy Iranian Millennium

Aidé shomā mobarakto Iranians everywhere, and this year is a very special one with it being the dawn of a new Millennium.

The Iranian New Year, celebrated at the Spring Equinox. is the type we all like, lasting for a good fortnight.

This year is marked in the Iranian calendar as the Year 1400 which is the number of years since Mohammed.

And it is celebrated by 300 million people around the world and has been designated International Nowruz Day by the UN.

Hamam bam: Istanbul

Of course everything stops in the motherland but also in Afghanistan, Albania, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, areas of India. And Turkey.

And among the Iranian diaspora around the world.

Who knew, of course, that one of the largest populations outside Iran is in Los Angeles.

Where we all know they love a party but where this year they will be celebrating online.

No, it’s not me

Like all festivities in the Middle East the festivities revolve around the table.

You’d expect candles and wouldn’t be disappointed and you’ll also see touches that are familiar in Eastern worship such as decorated eggs.

The Haft Sin table includes seven symbolic items starting with the Farsi letter ‘S’.

Typically Persian

‘Sir’ is the Persian word for garlic and gives protection from illness and evil and ‘Serkeh’, or vinegar, represents longevity and patience.

Of course these are mere flavours for the much bigger dishes of sumptuous Middle Eastern stews,

You’ll eat fish, meats, rice, noodles and beans with a cornucopia of spices.

Hot, hot, hot

There are a choice of dinners, my favourite sounding Fesenjan, a duck, or chicken, stew in walnut and pomegranate sauce.

There are few better-read people than the Iranians and poetry books and the Quran are centrepiece.

Persian rituals

Though why there is a goldfish…. well, does it matter.

Or why they spend these days throwing wheat grass into flowing waters… something about absorbing negative energy.

So how could us non- Iranians join in?

Don’t try this at home

Well we can send children into the streets to bang their pots and jump over fires… a typical weekend in Glasgow!

Just like Western civilisation there is a gift-giving figure, Amoo Nowruz (Uncle Nowruz).

Ancient stories

So here’s some Iranian New Year party music to get into the spirit.

Of course all of this I should have seen first hand, only for my much-anticipated trip to Iran being cancelled.

I prefer to think of it as only delayed.

Aidé shomā mobarak.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Pilgrimage

Go on, go on, go on to Istanbul

You’d expect Father Ted’s housekeeper, Mrs Doyle, to either snub the Turkish tea.

Or lay into it on Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul.

Mrs Doyle, aka Pauline McLynn, is yet to reveal her true self on the BBC2 show, next on on Friday, March 26 and available on Catch Up.

She, in fact, comes across as a bit ditzy and not at all religious.

Here come the girls: Edwina Currie, Fatima Whitbread and Pauline McLynn

I can vouch for that.

With Pauline effing and blinding like a true modern-day daughter of Ireland when I met her.

She was the speaker at an Australian Irish Chamber of Commerce lunch in Dublin.

My cup of tea

I was as a guest of the-then newly opened Flight Centre store in Dawson Street.

Pauline is joined on the Sultans Trail by six other celebrities, only four others who I recognise.

That’ll be javelin queen Fatima Whitbread, sports presenter Adrian Chiles, ex-politician Edwina Currie and comedian (and I use that term loosely) Dom Joly.

Here come the boys: Dom Joly, Mim Shaikh, Amar Latif and Adrian Chiles

The Sultans Trail is new to me.

But not the pilgrims who have been walking sections of the 2,200km stretch from Vienna to Istanbul.

Our super seven set out from Belgrade, and I am surprised that they didn’t check out its hidden palace.

What’s in a name?

And they make their way through Serbia and a little bit of Greece.

On their 1,000km two-week trip to the great city on the Bosphorus.

Our Lady in Medjugorje

In the first episode we see them walk through forests, pick lemons, climb castles (and one pilgrim, Amar Latif is blind).

And partake in a Serbian celebration to Our Lady. She’s big in the Balkans.

Before in a few episodes’ time we reach Istanbul and the Suleymaniye Mosque.

Cruise the Bosphorus

Istanbul is one of the great cities of the world.

And it has at various times been known also as Byzantium and Constantinople.

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It’s still the centre of the Greek Orthodox Church and is still known as Constantinople across the border in Hellas.

A bit like Derry and Londonderry… know your audience.

I’d recommend that when our pilgrims do get to Istanbul they have a blow-out then on a boat trip on the Bosphorus.

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Now you all know I love a good oul’ pilgrimage and unbeknownst to me there have been two previous series.

Where’s my invite?

Eight celebs have already been out to Santiago de Compostella and Rome following, I guess, in my footsteps.

With Onur in Istanbul

I was, of course, with my friends at CaminoWays and FrancigenaWays.

And I know the question you’re asking… why wasn’t I one of the celebs chosen to go to Istanbul to complete the set?

Yes, you’d be right… the BBC Director General has already had his knuckles rapped for that oversight.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

Holiday Snaps – let’s Moroccanroll

And when you fall off the camel the best thing to do is get back on… only it’s a bike. But then when in Morocco…!

Morocco keeps coming up when I least expect it… and that’s just the beef tajine in the Atlas Mountains.

For many Morocco is Marrakech, the Punk City, and the Sahara Desert but there is much more.

The Moroccans are flagging up their mountain hiking, golf (and, yes, there is plenty of sand to find).

And lesser-celebrated towns Tangier (the capital), Rabat and Fez and the seaside resort of Dakhla.

Morocco is currently off the UK exempt list but when it returns (and it will) then join the half a million British visitors who go there every year.

Turkey shoot

Turk that: With Onur Gull of Turkish Airlines in Istanbul

The new strategy the UK government is applying to the exempt lust is now to ignore the stats even they apply.

Which is why Turkey is now off the list because the UK doesn’t trust the figures of infections they supply.

They are reporting 12.9 cases per 100,000, down from 14.2.

The British, of course have always been so reliable on reporting about Turkey.

The sun will rise again… in Poland

Remember the ‘Turkish threat’, the invasion of people decamping in Europe and the EU, a key plank of the Brexiteers’ campaign for the referendum!!

Poland and three Caribbean islands have also been added… Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. But Barbados is free. Irie!

While Scotland has finally followed England’s lead and put.Madeira and the Azores back in the map.

By Hook or by crook

No witches overhead yet…. Hook lighthouse, Co. Wexford in Ireland

And Halloween being around the corner our holiday providers have been busy stirring the pot to find a magic potion to save Samhain.

Which is the traditional pagan name for the All Souls Festival.

Now I’m reminded of a tale I was told in Bowmore on the Inner Hebrides island of Islay of the circular church where the ‘divil had nowhere to hide.’

Bow I don’t know the angles at the Hook Lighthouse in Co. Wexford in Ireland but why not find out for yourself?

Spooky tours of the 800-year-old Hook Lighthouse will be on offer from October 29-31 from 6-8pm every half hour.

You will be met by a goos witch on every floor (and some surprises).

While there’s pumpkin painting (€7pp) and slate painting (€5pp) from 12pm-4pm in Saturday, September 31- Sunday, November.1.

Each session will be available to a maximum of six children. Book in advance (051) 397055.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

The Sunday Sermon – the Hagia Sofia

Hate has no place in the house of God – Desmond Tutu

The anti-apartheid hero and man of God was talking in metaphors, and about South Africa, but his balming words fit Hagia Sofya in Istanbul just as well.

When Turkey President Recip Erdogan championed Hagia Sofia’s return.

In prayer

From a museum to a mosque it drew 250,000 of the faithful to pray on the streets of Istanbul.

And it roused an outcry from the Christian churches, the Roman Catholic, the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox.

Which rung way beyond the ancient high walls of the iconic Istanbul building.

Orthodox

Iconic, yes, to the Orthodox churches.

For whom it is one of their holiest places and who focus on icons for their worship.

Fount of all wisdom

So the sight of drapes covering the mosaic of Our Lady was bound to have raised their ire.

Of course central to Islam is that Allah and the Prophet Mohamed, and Jesus or Our Lady, cannot be represented by images.

Crossroads

Istanbul is unique among the great cities of the world, one foot in Europe, one in Asia.

Royal splendour

Which is why the great Christiian churches of old which called Constantinople, Istanbul’s old name, home are prefixed with their country of origin.

Powerplay

There is, as there always has been in this part of the world, a powerplay going on.

And we, those of us who have been to Istanbul, and those who have yet to, must not fall for it.

Circle of trust

Because this should not, or ever be, about Islam v Christian.

And yes President Erdogan is tapping into Islamic popularism but that does not have to equate to anti-Christianity.

Icons

And we will still be able to visit it as a mosque which we will do.

Our house

Because as I discovered in Sarajevo with Marian Pilgrimages and Jordan with G Adventures and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time God is the same whichever house you’re in.

Countries, Culture, Europe

Srebrenica, lest we forget

It is just 25 years ago since Europe was plunged into a genocide we again ignored.

And just like the Holocaust of the Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals in the Forties the civilised West did not think the Balkans Muslims were worth protecting.

Camp of hell

Until too late.

I am indebted to my good friend Onur Gul, of Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com who has family links to Bosnia-Herzegovina, for flagging up today.

Poignant: Onur and his daughter

As he visited the graveyards in Srebrenica https://www.srebrenica.org.uk/.

Where the massacre of an entire town took place while we turned a blind eye.

I will be back

I had hoped to visit Srebrenica this year after missing out in the Autumn when I went to the Balkans.

With Marian Pilgrimages www.marian.ie to Medjugorje.

Arnie’s story

And discovered that it was too far from Sarajevo and I didn’t have enough time.

But while they may have been out of sight they were not out of mind.

Bey Mosque, Sarajevo

Sarajevo which was itself under siege marks its own and the greater Balkans wars.

It’s there in black and white at the Museum of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide http://visitsarajevo.ba/?lang=en.

And you will get a sense of how the horrors of the war were played out as you take in the audio, video and everyday artefacts and personal testaments.

History revisited

One of the most heartwarming of them all is Arnie’s story. Yes, that Arnie.

For more visit Bosnia-Herzegovina https://www.visit-bosnia.ba/.

And while you search for holiday providers, let me recommend Marian Pilgrimages’ sister company Croatia Tours www.croatia.ie who operate in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

And here are some recollections of my Balkans odyssey… https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/10/24/sarajevo-revisited/ and What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know

Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Sport

My Sporting Weekend – Hamilton, Monaco and Barbados

You know when you think you’ve seen someone famous, like Lewis Hamilton or me. you convince yourself it’s just someone who looks like them.

And so I had a job in persuading my fellow revellers at Grand Kadooment, the closing parade of the Barbados Carnival, that it was actually Lewis on the float.

Lewis should be there right now… he is, every year in the land of his forefathers. As should I as was before Let’s rumba in Barbados My kiss with Rihanna

But www.visitbarbados.com instead he is in Austria whizzing around the track in that country’s Grand Prix.

Alas without the cheering petrolheads who go from circuit to circuit following their favourite boy racers.

One solution would be to have a series of purely road races so we could all see.

And nobody does that quite like the most famous race of them all… Monaco.

Me? I can’t even get out of the pit lane in my Fiat 500.

Don’t worry, Lewis, I’m no threat. And besides I’d rather be driven around the Cote D.Azur in a speed boat anyway… The Boat D’Azur and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/about-france.com/mobi/index-amp.htm.

Everyone should visit Lewis’s home, Monaco (it’s one of four globally actually) if they’re in the French Riviera on holiday.

It’s only one of those great French train journeys around stunning cliffs and we took it from our camp base in St Raphael.

Full reveal here… we pulled down the shutter when the ticket conductor came around.

Not the first, or last, time we tested the officials, or gendarmes’ patience on that post-school holiday.

Visit https://www.francethisway.com/places/saint-raphael.php and https://www.visitmonaco.com/en.

And back to Lewis’s beloved Barbados. We chased him down the street… he’s used to everybody being in his slipstream.

His float though was going a little slower but as you can see from the picture he ended up giving us the bum’s rush.

So until the next time it’s back to playing with my toy racing cars.

I only wish I had a track like this one in Istanbul Airport’s Turkish Airways www.turkishairlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.