Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying

Rainy Days and Songdays – Dancing Ian in Istanbul

A boat, a boogie, the Bosphorus and Bloomfield all came together a year ago.

I was reminded of that outing on the Bosphorus with Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com, www.visitistanbul.com and a group of Irish Travel’s finest.

Our host ramped up ABBA on the sound system and the strains of Dancing Queen carried all the way from Europe to Asia.

It makes you wonder how often Dancing Queen gets played around the world in the way a Beatles song is (every 30 seconds).

But I’d say it’s a lot… and even more in Eurovision Weekend https://eurovision.tv.

The Biz

All of which brings me to my good friends at Travel Biz www.travelbiz.ie.

The Biz kicked it all off with a Zoom Trade danceathon on Friday.

Before they handed it all over to Graham Norton.

And, of course, Graham did his usual sterling job as the BBC presenter with the link to the Netherlands https://www.holland.com/global/tourism.htm www.iamsterdam.com.

It’s a country I love Pictures of Amsterdam and where the Contest would have been held.

The only thing missing on a digital night of celebration of all things Eurovision was the scoring.

And to cap it all off Bjorn shared the love in a live link.

If only he had seen Ian Bloomfield of Irish Travel Trade News www.ittn.ie strut his stuff!

And, of course, your favourite Bandanaman doing his Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy (A Man After Mudnight).

Abba Days are here again

And for the ultimate Abba experience see https://abbasite.com and https://abbathemuseum.com/en/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-Nrf1vi66QIV24BQBh1-XAfIEAAYASAAEgJEBfD_BwE. With Scandinavian Airlines https://www.flysas.com/en/.

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

Golf’s back.. of course

Staring out on the historic North Berwick links golf course on Scotland’s Golf Coast I’ve been asking myself: why no golf?

When it’s the politicians I should be asking.

All that course to play

The rest of the world seems to recognise the obvious that’s staring us in the face… it’s one pastime where social distancing comes with the territory.

Encore Le Golf

Which is why France, which has been flagged (sorry) up as having particularly draconic lockdown laws, is reopening its courses from May 11.

And Ireland on a limited basis from May 18.

Par-tugal

Portugal, a particular favourite with British and Irish golfers, is even further ahead with Monday slated as the day they tee up again.

While in the USA a poll of golf courses showed 60% already open.

As a sample, how about our friends in sports-mad Philadelphia https://www.visitphilly.com and Philadelphia Freedom?

The golfing world

So it comes as little surprise thar they have been straining at the leash to get back out on the course.

New Zealand and Dubai are further ahead of the curve than the Home of Golf and are also open.

Landmarks: Golf heritage in North Berwick

So why is Scotland which gave the world the sport behind everyone else when it comes to a resumption of the Royal & Ancient game?

Because there are straightforward conditions that can, and are being applied abroad, which can be put in place which will make it possible to get back out there.

The rules

*Confine play to private members

*No competitions

*No raking of bunkers

*No flagpoles.

While, of course, golfers already have putting gloves which they can use to take the ball out of the hole.

Of course my own golfing efforts abroad have been scratchy (no, not the handicap) to say the least.

My golf record

I set a course record high on the Old Course in Mandelieu, Cannes https://www.1golf.eu/en/club/old-course-cannes-mandelieu/ and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/us.france.fr/en/news/article/about-atout-france-0/amp

And had my good pal and proper golfer Jacinta running back to bunkers to collect wedges I’d left behind.

In Las Vegas at the https://topgolf.com/us/las-vegas/ www.lvcva.com and Strip… the light fantastic I shot the neon lights out.

I discovered that I was better at the pitcher of beer than the pitcher of golf balls.

Par excellence

But maybe by the time I’d got to Portugal and the Paul McGinley Golf Academy in Quinta do Lago https://www.quintadolago.com/en/golf/academy/all the practice had started to pay off.

Turkey shoot: At Istanbul Airport

I’d made sure I’d stopped off at Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com Business Lounge to play their driving range.

Now with a golf course on my doorstep I’ll be able to get out to the Old Course.

The Old Courses

Either the original across the Firth of Forth in St Andrews https://www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk/old-course-hotel.

Or the oldest one on continental Europe in the French Riviera.

MEET YOU ON THE COURSE

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine

Hungry and Thursday – the kebab

It’s been an oasis in a desert of closed stores – the kebab shop here in North Berwick, south of Edinburgh.

Where a haggis supper (that’s battered haggis and chips) is even better than your most succulent T-bone steak.

Heck, it always has been.

And also a doner, or shish kebab, or pakora.

A stick-on

Tastes of our adolescence which have stayed with us into adulthood.

And not just if you live in Turkey or the Middle East, but very much a staple growing up in Scotland.

How Bazar!

And in the Bazar restaurant https://www.hotelbazar.nl/en/restaurant-bazar-amsterdam/ in the Middle Eastern De Pijp district of Amsterdam.

Which is a converted mosque and harvests the spices and flavours of North Africa and Asia.

Which are showcased out on the Albert Cuyp Markt on Albert Cuypstrasse in Oud-Zuid (Old South).

De Bazar in De Pijp in Amsterdam

They had come to Amsterdam (https://www.iamsterdam.com/en and Pictures of Amsterdam) to work in the Heineken factory.

A taste of Jordan

Where you can take in the whole Heineken Experience https://www.heineken.com/gb/agegateway?returnurl=%2fheineken-experience.

Our server Rasha was fresh into the great old Dutch city from Jordan.

And regaled us with stories of her homeland.

Which I was lucky enough to visit with G Adventures https://www.gadventures.co.uk and http://www.visitjordan.com.

Portable cooking in the desert

And eat in the Wadi Rum desert… The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

It was, of course, the Turks who introduced the kebab to this gastronomically-challenged Glaswegian.

Which introduced me to Turks. And I’m very glad it did.

Family holidays

I introduced myself to Turkey on a family holiday to Bodrum https://www.bodrum.org where they took to us immediately.

And particularly the Son and Heir who they swirled around at the market on account of his near-Muslim name Ally.

He knows my order

I returned a couple of years ago, to Istanbul https://visit.istanbul.

As a guest of Turkish Airlines https://www.turkishairlines.com to their headquarters.

And to see the new $12bn Istanbul Airport, the biggest in the world.

And eat their speciality kofte meatballs, and kebabs, at the Istanbul institution, the Sultanahmet Koftecisi http://www.sultanahmetkoftesi.com.

I’d even fly myself

The Turks https://www.goturkeytourism.com and their kebabs have been part of British culture from my childhood and before.

They have helped to feed me since I were a boy, and not just after a slew of beer on a Friday and Saturday night.

Thank you Turkish Airlines

And they are here for us again in our time of troubles.

With Turkish Airlines at the heart of the mercy mission to cargo PPE to the UK.

They deserve our gratitude and acknowledgment.

And on this their National Sovereignty and Children’s Day an apology for the insults thrown at them during the Brexit referendum.

Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Rainy days and songdays

Music places us in a time, in a place, with friends…. and nobody knows that better than musicians which is why I give you Michael Rafferty.

Of Northern Irish powerhouses The Minnows and his covers band The Handsome Princes.

All while he is one half of a top duo, PR stalwarts Duffy Rafferty, with fellow Travel expert Lawrence Rafferty.

Stena style

They boast StenaLine www.stenaline.co.uk as one of their clients and they have literally continued to negotiate the stormy waters.

Still sailing

Continuing to sail from Ireland to Scotland and even delivering The Son and Heir, who had become an adopted Belfast Boy Belfast Chilled, back to us in Edinburgh.

Back to the story and Michael is putting a smile on all our faces with his daily songs and transporting us to dreamlands… and is also taking requests.

Homeward bound

Homeward bound: On Stena on the way back from Northern Ireland to Scotland

And you can check out The Minnows on their Facebook page… https://m.facebook.com/theminnows/.

A Rising Star

As for me and my singing prowess I was done up like a kipper at the karaoke concert hall in Rising Star in CityWalk Universal Orlando https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/

When my hosts Fiona and Natalie put me up to sing Lady Marmalade, although I did not learn my lesson and reprised it with Mr Brightside.

No, I haven’t a Scooby either: At Universal Studios Hollywood

No, I don’t have a Scooby either. At Universal Studios Hollywood

You can read all about my Orlando adventures in Aaawlando… Orlando, the rollercoaster capital, Why I love The Donald,

And more Universal in Hollywood Studios https://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/web/en/us/ and My Weekend With Marilyn.

But back to video of Bandanaman singing.

Now where better than the Bosphorus on our visit to Istanbul https://visit.istanbul with Turkish Airlines https://www.turkishairlines.com.

And Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

And showcasing my pal Ian Bloomfield of Irish Travel Trade News… www.ittn.ie

Move aside Bjorn and Benny, we’re taking your places opposite the girls. Bagsy me Agnetha.

And I’ll bring you more songs that transport me back to fave destinations in the coming days.

Tell me too your songs from your holidays.

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Golf and social distancing

Because I’d often be deep in rough when my playing partner was down the fairway – yes, golf is the best sport for social distancing.

And also because nothing makes you want to keep your distance more than having to listen to your boss on the course talk about his share options or his new car.

Ir’s not that I dislike golf, or professional or amateur golfers. In fact I used to cover golf.

And was happy to revisit the Open when it returned to Northern Ireland www.discovernorthernireland.com last summer for the first time in neatly 60 years.

And even joined the legendary Gary Player around Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, as he played a round of golf for Japanese television.

North Berwick

It’s just social golfers that I try to avoid like the, er COVID-19.

Not the social golfers like my Dear Old Mum and Dad, you understand, who used to play on my Dad’s half-day.

The Golf Coast

Not that my Dad seemed to enjoy it all that much… he’d mutter away to himself and shake his head all round.

Here in North Berwick on Scotland’s Golf Coast https://scotlandsgolfcoast.com and www.visitscotland.com. you can play on 21 of 30 coasts.

Another home of golf

There was little that my Dear Old Mum and Dad liked better than playing golf in my Mum’s homestead of Co. Donegal www.visitdonegal.com and www.tourism.com.

While my old stomping ground of Co. Wicklow www.visitwicklow.com is more than a match.

If you like your golf then join me as I swung my way through…

The Old Course in Mandelieu-La Napoule in the French Riviera www.france.fr and The Boat D’Azur.

And at the Paul McGinley Golf Academy in Quinta do Lago www.quintadolago.com and www.visitportugal.com.

Just off the Strip in Las Vegas www.lvcva.com and Strip… the light fantastic.

And in the Turkish Airlines Business Lounge of Istanbul Airport www.turkishairlines.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

MEET YOU ON THE COURSE… AT A SAFE DISTANCE

#DontCancekPostpone.

Asia, Countries, Deals, Europe

Holidos and don’ts – keep it clean in Istanbul

No, I’m not talking about schoolboy humour, though I don’t blame you for assuming, but rather keeping it clean and germ-free on holiday.

And, of course, I must start with the Coronavirus.

Word reaches me from my friends at Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com about the measures they take to disinfect your plane.

And let’s face it airplanes ate a magnet for germs.

Let it slide: At Turkish Airlines HQ

Well Turkish have sent us a video of their health guys in protective white suits spraying throughout the plane.

I’ve also seen first-hand from my visit to Turkish Airlines headquarters in Istanbul how far they go to protect our health and safety.

On my trip to the city Wham bam, thank you Hamam where their safety precautions are space age.

This is your captain speaking

There are pools with water the same temperature as the sea to replicate emergency conditions.

And slides, though these days you and me can’t whizz down them…

They’re right to worry that I’d get my stiletto heel stuck.

While, of course, in the event of the call going out for an emergency pilot I have had training on the simulator.

Turkish also put the fun into function with their multi-award winning Business Lounge at the swanky new Istanbul Airport.

Where you can eat and drink your heart out.

My cars faster than yours

And play golf, drive model cars, watch a movie or have a snooze…

A few more words on the Turks… they are one of the cleanest people I have ever met.

It’s their religion and culture and it is also true throughout the Middle East The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

And that’s probably why they make such good barbers – the good chat is free. Turkish barbers – and berbers

Now more information on the Coronavirus… I’m reliably informed that it doesn’t like the heat.

Turkey shoot at the TA Business Lounge

So guess where I want to go… well, you have to keep safe!

Our friends at TUI www.tuiholidays.ie have the very thing…

Dublin to Turkey: Seven nights, staying at the 4* Club Candan, Marnaris on a self-catering basis (family 2+1) from €1439.

And family 2+2 from €2019. Both for August 16.

Africa, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Turkish barbers – and berbers

You’ll be seeing a little less of me from now on… my luscious beardie has been shorn, by order of the management.

And all credit to Gokhan, my new Turkish barber in my new home in North Berwick, near Edinburgh, for giving me a face finesse.

Gokhan, it transpires, hails from Bodrum, my first introduction to Turkey, on a family holiday. 17 years ago. And i fell in love with the country.

Turkish pal: Me and Onur

It was there that I had my first Turkish wet shave… back when I didn’t allow hairs to sprout from my cheeks.

And that and a million other things has made me a Turkophile.

Especially the generosity of my pal Onur from Turkish Airlines www.turkishairlines.com who calls me Jim Jim.

And shows off his home country to me… Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

A hamam will do nicely too

I never forgot how good my first Turkish shave felt in Bodrum and sought out a Turkish barber again when I visited Morocco 17 years ago.

Only to run into a charlatan – I suppose the clue was in the title ‘false guide’.

He took me around the alleyways before introducing me to his pal, Morocco’s Sweeney Todd.

And then when I challenged the cost of the haircut ahead of the cutting they tried to pin me to the chair.

Keep an eye out: In Marrakech

Loosening myself from my predicament I zig-zagged around the Mall to give my false guide the slip.

Only to see him waiting for me outside, shouting ‘thief’ at me… ‘you, pay me, I am your guide.’

I put on a sprint and ran through the Marrakech downpour into the arms of a Berber snake charmer who was anything but chatmimg.

Me-Me and Dee-Dee in Batbados

But more of that and other Moroccan mishaps another time…

just let me flag up here another cool people other than the Turks to get your hairs cut… the West Indians.

Or beardie pimped up.., Let’s rumba in Barbados.

Desmond’s, the old Channel Four Eighties sitcom set in a London West Indians’ barbers.

Dab it on: Irie, it’s Tobago

And so in Tobago On your marks, get set, GOAT in Tobago and www.visittobagogov.tt in December I had my last haircut before Gokhan.

Only he was out of red and black colouring dye for my beardie.

The search goes on although the Tobagonians do have a cool plant where you can colour your whiskers yourself…

This lovely bronze orange.

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 https://nmaahc.si.edu/splashify-splash and the National Museum of the American Indian https://americanindian.si.edu.

Arlington https://www.arlington.ie, the Kennedy graves, Robert E. Lee’s house, Frederick Douglas’s house. Oh, and the Capitol https://www.visitthecapitol.gov and the White House https://www.whitehouse.gov too.

Visit https://washington.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx66X0f2v5wIVh7HtCh1YpQ9FEAAYASAAEgL9uvD_BwE.

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 http://www.cappucciniviaveneto.it and https://www.rome.info 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 www.athensattica.com/things-to-see/ 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 (https://www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr.

Visit https://www.turkishairlines.com/en-int/index.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu9Tm8aSw5wIVhbTtCh3HQwB5EAAYAiAAEgIwDPD_BwE and https://visit.istanbul 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 www.maltaireland.com and Malta easer.

And tomorrow, five more from Northern Europe.