America, Countries, Europe, Ireland

It’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts

A redeye and no Aircoach… fear not it’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts.

Your globetrotting Bandanaman is hotfooting it over to his spiritual homeland of Ireland tomorrow morning.

But such are the vagaries of North Berwick, 15 miles east of Edinburgh, that there is no aircoach from outside my door.

As there was 24-7 in Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Hubba bubba: Dublin Airport

And so I have the options of a £75 taxi from Castle Murty, asking The Scary One to give me an early morning lift.

Or grabbing the last train (hopefully it’s on as the slightest puddle causes cancellations).

And bunking for the night at the airport… I’ve ruled out the £100 hotel rates.

So the Holidos and Donts.

A site for sore eyes

It helps if you’re in any of the airports flagged up by the excellent Sleeping in Airports site.

And you’ll notice that most of their followers’ recommendations are in stopover airports in Asia.

But there are some old faves too in Europe and America.

Best for a layover

On the right track: Turkish Airlines Business Class

In Istanbul’s award-winning Turkish Airlines Business Class lounge sure but also in their rest rooms with privacy walls while they also have shower rooms.

But also in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam where they have designated rest zones and plenty of amenities including a casino, fitness facilities, a library and a museum.

Denver too gets a shout-out probably because I spent longer there than anywhere… eight hours after being dropped off after my Wild West odyssey in Colorado.

And you’ll become an expert in putting with their 18-hole green on the balcony… and an arts aficionado with their excellent gallery.

Check it out: Munich check-in at Oktoberfest

Oh, and as for the rest the massages come highly recommended.

Munich Airport falls into the same category, and what it lacks for in ease for getting from one gate to the next when you misread your ticket it makes up for with helpful staff.

Arriving there just before the Oktoberfest you’ll find the staff dressed in Bavarian lederhosens.

And if you’re lucky then you’ll get the same Bertha who changed my ticket for a later one when I’d missed my original forwarding flight to Athens.

Dublin’s lair city

Dressed to thrill: At Dublin Airport

Now that I’ve had my accommodation taken care of by my friends in Ireland who are running the international travel network I won’t have to worry about kipping in Dublin Airport.

But there’s a sleeping pod with my name on it which I’ve bagsied in the past and no doubt will again.

And just to make sure your layover goes well a few tips.

*Lock your bags when you’re asleep and keep them wrapped around your shoulders.

*Put the alarm clock on your mobile to make sure you don’t miss the flight.

*And make sure you’re next to a plug socket just in case your mobile which has your boarding pass and Covid details and locator form on it is charged up.

See it’s EaZzzzzy with Holidos and Don’ts.

 

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

 

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.