Asia, Countries, Europe

In Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace

The Son and Heir was more used to me ordering a coffee and a biscuit, but when in Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace.

Well they say that in life you should try everything (and that would include the shisha pipe) once.

By hookah, by crook


Smokin’: The hookah

You probably need to be from Turkey, the Middle East or North Africa, to pull off the kasbah chic look.

And so that when I joined the shisha gang next in Istanbul and Jordan I declined the pipe of peace.

My cuppa tea

A beautiful day: Bodrum

Instead I just sipped my mint tea and watched the regulars play chess.

In Bodrum. I dare say there were more than a few Bobby Fischers, but on our first days in the marketplace it was backgammon.

They played a different, more fast-paced game than the one me and my Mum would play back in the stuffy Glasgow suburbs.

It wouldn’t have gone down well to chain smoke in front of my Dear Old Mum, exhort Allah or slam my counters down.

Chairman of the board

Counter attack: Backgammon

The cry of Ally filled the air too in Bodrum when I would try to bring the Son and Heir back into line.

And would discover a market trader swirling the six-year-old in the air exclaiming Ally!

They would look out for the boy every day with the Arabic name every day when we would walk through the market.

We had made instant friends.

And we would enjoy a family holiday we still look back on with joy 20 years later.

A slice of Turkey

It’s all about the… tea

I would fall in love with Turkey, its Turkish barbers, mud baths and Turkish dancers.

Which is why my heart breaks to see the wildfires around Bodrum.

And holidaymakers evacuating for rescue boats.

The Turks have suffered particularly badly through the pandemic.

So the wildfires must feel like the last straw.

Flying Turkey

Flying high: Turkish Airlines, Istanbul

Inevitably, and not without some evidence, the climate change zealots are taking excessive joy out of the situation.

I, of course, do not have the answer. But I would say that we cannot glibly just say make it more difficult to fly.

As exploring foreign countries, meeting the locals and making their friendship is the best way of breaking down barriers.

Because when they do get back on their feet, remember in Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Sport

Open again for golf

A lot has happened in the last two years since I sat drenched on the banks of the Royal Portrush greens but now we’re Open again for golf,

It is doubtful whether the demure folk of Royal St George’s in Sandwuch, Kent on the English south coast will holler their man home.

The way the Northern Irish did County Offaly’s Shane Lowry on that deluge of a day in County Antrim.

Champion Golfer

Open for glory in Belfast

Shane has been a unique Champion Golfer of the Year in that his reign has spanned two years.

After last year’s tournament was cancelled because of Covid.

A bit like your Travel Editor of the Year who was honoured by Irish Travel as their Travel Editor of the Year in 2019 before the world shut down.

And is yet to truly open again.

Ben Sayers outside my house in North Berwick

Golfers have, of course, been waiting excitedly to get their clubs packed again for foreign trips.

Shane knows he has little to worry from this direction as I usually stick to the driving range.

But here’s a mixed bag of my golfing misadventures abroad. Fore!

Quatre en France

Captain’s choice?

The Old Course, Cannes, France: And continental Europe’s oldest course is where to play with Cannes’ Fast Set.

You’ll even have la joie of traversing a small stream between holes on a boat.

But be sure to remember the international language of golf when slicing your shot.

As I was reminded by the match behind to shout Fore. Needless to say it wasn’t Bryson DeChambeau!

My Ryder

Are you watching Pádraig Harrington?

Quinta do Lago, Portugal: Word had obviously reached Paul McGinley and his Golf Academy in the Algarve.

That I was open for golf again.

My driving was better than my riding with me going off road on our cycle and almost ending up with the spoonbill birds.

Another round in Vegas

Hotshot: In Vegas

Topgolf, Las Vegas: And in Vegas the pitchers are the jugs of booze.

They come to your golf range table with chicken wings and dips. And it helps with your golf driving.

As I also found on a Liverpool course as a guest of Irish Ferries and Jameson Whiskey where a drinks trolley would come round every few holes.

What a Player

My pal Gary Player

Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, Wirral: The north-west of England rivals Scotland as Golfland and where I wrote a golf column.

And where I got the tip that a Japanese TV station were filming a round with Gary Player and would I like to join them.

While I channeled my inner Gary at the Press round before an Open and putted back off the clubhouse wall as Gary did in ‘74.

Turk that

Swing time in the TA lounge

Turkish Airlines Lounge, Istanbul Airport: And the dream of golf nuts who will find every opportunity to play…

An airport lounge driving range on the way back from Istanbul.

Just go easy on the cornucopia of food and drink at the TA lounge or you’ll follow through.

And fill up with Turkish treats

So we’re Open for golf again and there’s an Open invitation to you all to come and see us in North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland.

Although my cousin Greg is still avoiding me after he stood too close to me on the tee box at North Berwick Golf Club

When we were kids and I clunked him on the head. Fore!

 

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, America, Asia, Countries, Culture

Happy World Kindness Day

And on this, World Kindness Day, a shout-out here to those who have shown me random acts of kindness on my travels… and sometimes me them.

And firstly a recommendation… if you ever leave your mobile phone back in your Mississippi hotel on my American Trilogy in the Deep South.

You only realise it when you’re 50 miles along the highway then here’s your go-to guy.

Hit the road Zach

Zach is back

Zach arranged to get a courier to bring it from Jackson to Cleveland and the Two Mississippi Museums.

The next year Zach sought me out at the American Travel Fair, IPW, in Denver when I left my mobile phone down as I went for a coffee and he tut-tutted. Legend!

Zuhair, a hero

Ramadan the Man….Zuhair

And a shout-out here to all who observe Ramadan which puts a Christian’s Lenten fast into sharp focus.

Zuhair, our G Adventures host on our trip to Jordan, was the ever-welcoming face for his country.

Despite not being able to let a drop of water or morsel to his lips despite the travel and 30+ temperatures and desert until early evening.

When even Petra camels could.

Rachel, a ray of sunshine

Sometimes when you travel the world for a living you forget how lucky you are.

And that’s when you need a star like Rachel to pick you up.

Often it’s wine and a prehistoric South African valley which will remind you that whatever’s happening at home can wait.

And which is why I’m delighted for her (and me in the future) that South Africa is opening up again for international travellers with a negative test.

Your honour, Onur

I’m going where Onur goes… in Istanbul

And I’ve reserved this place for my favourite Turk, Turkish Airlines’ Onur, and very nearly favourite person in our industry.

Which is why he, like me, is also a past recipient of Irish Travel Media’s Pleasure To Work With Award.

Now if there was an award too for Most Accidental Tourist I’d win that too… every year.

I’ve enjoyed Onur’s company on the little island of Kuramathi, too small even for me to get lost.

Though Istanbul is and when I did get waylaid somewhere around the Blue Mosque who cane to collect me?

And I’ll carry your cross

And Finisterre after the Camino

And sometimes I’ll be your hero on your travels.

Just as I was when I carried a tearful American’s backpack on her final steps of a stretch of the Camino with CaminoWays.

Only for her to have to remind me to give it back.

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.

Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Europe, Flying

Holiday Snaps – Atoll order, your own private island

If you have to be stuck in lockdown it might seem like Atoll order, but I would recommend an island in the Maldives. Just saying.

And one, Kandolhu http://www.kandolhu.com, that is 200sqm is just the ticket and even better now that all its five bars will be reopening… Atoll tale – the Maldives, http://www.kuramathi.ie and http://www.turkishairlines.ie http://www.turkishairlines.com.

But in the words of the inestimable Chris Tarrant, I don’t want to give you that (well, I do but…) I want to give you this.

Joali, 45 minutes by seaplane from Male, which is welcoming back guests from August 1.

There’s everything you would expect in terms of luxury with your own swimming pool, yoga and wellness treatment, private dining options and the chance to go out to your own desert island!

But get this, you and your friends can buy out the island’s own 73 villas and residences and facilities.

Exclusive use buyout will start from $90,000 per night through to September 30 and $185,000 per night between October 1 and 30 November.

For guests 12 and above an all-inclusive full-board meal plan (including alcohol for adults) will cost an additional $450per night per guest. Visit http://www.inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk.

And whaddya mean you haven’t got that kind of moolah? You’ve been locked down for the last four months!

Insert smiley Ryanair emoji here

You know that we’re getting back to normal when Ryanair http://www.ryanair.com are getting funky with their slogans and emojis again and they’ve only taken to dressing oranges with sunglasses.

To flag up many of my favourites, among them Barcelona https://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/, http://www.royalcaribbean.co.uk and Messi around on the water and Smooth sailing around the Western Med from €24.99, Dubrovnik with Croatia Tours https://visitdubrovnik.hr, http://www.Croatia.ie and On the road to Dubrovnik from €24.99.

And my honeymoon island of Malta http://www.visitmalta.com and Malta pleaser also from €24.99.

Where myself and the world’s luckiest woman still have a complimentary bottle of champagne which we never finished 25 years ago still waiting for us.

Wearing my Sandals on my sleeve

A basket of devourables

Caribbeanophile that I am, I’ve been cheering on the Windies in their Test series with England (don’t tell the Scary One).

The Windies are of course promoting Sandals http://www.sandals.co.uk on the sleeves of their shirts and it is timely as their resorts are open for business with some great offers.

Jamaica has been the prize which has been slipping through my grasp these past couple of years through me being in another part of the world at the time when it was offered, or even worse WORKING!

The famous five with Laura and Hayley centre

But I will keep next January free (promise!) for your seven-night stay at the Sandals Ochi Beach, seven nights from £2,129pp including flights.

You can upgrade too to butler elite room for only €156 which tickled the fancy of my colleagues when I stayed there Let’s rumba in Barbados and http://www.visitbarbados.org who I’ll call Laura and Hayley so as NOT to protect their privacy!

And, of course, I’ve been promising you more Jocktails with a Caribbean twist. They’re coming. Don’t you know how difficult it is to get Falernum in Scotland.

Crazy cruisey government advice

And sporting my medallion on my lapel

So, who thinks it’s a good idea to give the green light to pack out pubs and beaches but thinks it unsafe to let cruise companies and grown-ups distance themselves on cruise ships?

Herself was only a little princess when she passed through the Panama Canal with her parents on her trip home on a working ship from Australia as a child.

Panama dancing

Princess Cruises had been traversing the canal for some half a dozen years by then and have continued to do so (lockdown excepted) and aim to do so again.

All of which will be sweet music to the Indomitable Mrs M who wants an upgrade from that working ship!

Fort Lauderdale R&R

For 2021-22 voyages wil range from 10-15 days visiting 17 destinations in eight countries.

Venice Beach is mine

On the 10-day option you’ll have the choice of leaving either from Fort Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale and Miami – a tale of two sittings or Los Angeles My Weekend With Marilyn or San Francisco with stop-offs in, among others, Mexico, South and Central America.

Visit http://www.pirncess.com. I might even let Herself off from winding back the levers on those locks!

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