Countries, Deals, Ireland, UK

Fifty years of Belfast’s Europa Hotel

Once the world’s most bombed hotel, after being targeted 33 times, it’s metamorphosed in the Fifty years of Belfast’s Europa Hotel.

Part of the fixtures and fittings of the daycent old town they call Belfast.

It has been a favoured hangout for journos all that time.

Back in the day the Irish Times Belfast office relocated there (to work!) after their offices were gutted following a car bomb.

While there have been a pantheon of celebrated journalists who have frequented the Europa.

And those who reported on The Troubles are Trevor McDonald, Kate Adie and John Sergeant.

And yours truly and a group of journos from south of the Border.

Your only man

The Penthouse Poppets: Belfast’s bunny girls

We got bombed too (drinks!).

And don’t get all PC on me as our Nordie pals are all about the gallows humour.

The night was a Van Morrison cabaret dinner and the drink was flowing. 

While there was also the obligatory stumble across to Belfast institution the Crown for a nightcap or two.

In this instant orange stout, and I kid you not.

The Europa has been owned by the inimitable Hastings family for the past 30 years..

And as you would expect they’re laying out the red carpet for the big 50th anniversary celebrations. 

Hastings the last word

Former US President, Bill Clinton with concierge Martin Mulholland.

They have invested over £40m in renovations and have added 88 new luxurious bedrooms to the existing 184.

A new renovation programme is currently underway.

It will see the 90 front-facing superior bedrooms, 85 classic bedrooms and six suites redesigned and upgraded.

Of course, there will always be some rooms which are kept for Presidents (and Travel Editors of the Year).

Clinton fits the bill

Survivor: The Europa Hotel

And as well as yours truly, Bill Clinton has been a visitor, in 1995.

He booked 110 rooms for his entourage. He returned to stay in 1998.

The Europa story was told in a book published ten years ago called In The Headlines because it always was. 

Julie noted

The bould boys: At the Europa

And CEO Julie Hastings proudly recalled: ‘My father had the courage and optimism to buy it when nobody else wanted to.

‘He invested heavily at the time despite the bombings that followed over the next three years.

‘It was his confidence and that of many others that led to Belfast, and Northern Ireland, to begin its journey, to become the well-loved tourist destination that it is today.’

The Europa has launched a Golden Moments package from £115 per room which includes a plush stay, full Irish, signature cocktail in the Piano Lounge, signature truffles and exclusive golden Hastings duck.

And for those of you who haven’t stayed in a Hastings hotel, and if not why not, then you’ll know that rubber ducks are their signature.

Eider expect Julie will have one lined up with a typically punny name to join the likes of her others in the past such as Rory Quackilroy.  

Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Song for Ulster

The 12th of July means something in Northern Ireland and its hinterland so today it’s Rainy Days and Songdays Song for Ulster.

No, not the songs you would hear on the marches and matches but the best of Ulster from the charts.

Alternative

SLF: Belfast bravado. http://www.imdb.com

Stiff Little Fingers (Alternative Ulster): And first up is the pride of Ulster punk.

Belfast boys SLF used the backdrop of The Troubles for material and recorded the first single Suspect Device disguised as a suspect bomb.

The producer thought it was real and contacted the band for a real one. Instead we give you the brilliant Alternative Ulster.

Get your kicks

Call them up on the telephone: The Undertones

The Undertones (Teenage Kicks): It is the stuff of punk legend that SLF and Derry’s finest The Undertones did not get on.

The Undertones accused SLF of sensationalising The Troubles and the violence.

Teenage Kicks famously initially had the line: ‘I wanna hold it, hold it tight’.

An Ode to Derry

Star composer: Phil Coulter

Phil Coulter (The Town I Loved So Well): When a composer speaks with honesty and experience about his world (Derry)then the results are memorable.

Phil, of course, had musical pedigree before this, his signature song, having written Eurovision classics Congratulations and Puppet On A String.

Comedy classic

Harmon harmonies: Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy (National Express): And you’ve got to love a band with a lyric: ‘And it’s hard to get by/when your arse is the size of a small country.

Derry’s Neil Harmon also penned an album The Duckworth Lewis Method. Geinius.

Van the Belfast Man

Hat’s the boy: Van the Man

Van Morrison (Madame George): The poet laureate of Belfast, Van may be a grumpy old sod but he’s never forgotten his roots.

You can still see him at one of his legendary cabarets at the Europa Hotel although, alas, characters like Madame George are long gone,

And a special mention too to the three Ulster counties in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic Counties

Name of the game: Clannad

Donegal and Clannad and Harry’s Game over Daniel O’Donnell.

Hipsters Cavan and The Strypes and Blue Collar Jane.

And Monaghan with their history of Country music and ‘Big Tom’ McBride and his Gentle Mother. And my Country Roads.

Raff, you handsome prince

Can I be in your band: Michael and Travel set

But the last word goes to the North’s finest… my pal Michael Rafferty who has been playing covers of our favourites every night through lockdown.

And Michael is locking it down, deservedly at 500.

Check out his Handsome Princes and Michael tells me he’s the handsomest of them all.

It’s my Rainy Days and Songdays Song for Ulster.

Countries, Culture, Ireland, UK

H is for Hastings Hotels in Belfast

Say Hastings in Belfast and, sucking with diesel, you’ll be steered towards its hotels. Yes, H is for Hastings Hotels in Belfast.

For those who have been living under a rock (Ted) Hastings is also the Head Honcho of TV’s Line of Duty.

And we all know that suspicion fell on Adrian Dunbar’s character.

Dynamic: Belfast

Thar he could be the ringleader of a cop corruption circle.

Tour de Force

All of which you can see on the walls and in the language of the locals

And this is where our friends at Hastings Hotels ramp it up.

No hurry to leave: The Observatory

Hastings and McCombs Coaches have launched the first Line of Duty Experience around the Northern Irish capital.

You’ll kick off your tour with brekkie (make it a Full Irish) in the iconic Grand Central Hotel’s Grand Cafe.

Location, location, location

Before you’re taken around locations you’ll recognise from the show.

And finish it all off in the highest cocktail bar in Ireland, the Observatory.

With an AC12 cocktail or Wee Donkey mocktail.

Our favourites: Line of Duty trailer

The GCH  is the place to stay in Belfast and I always take my friends.

To which they’ve naturally added this year The Line of Duty Duck.

Caroline McComb from McComb’s Coach Travel and Cáelán McVeigh from Grnnd Central

That’s my duckies from around the world among them the famously themed Hastings quackers.

Diesel Duck

Yer man, yer duck

Or to put my take on it ‘Diesel’ Duck.

And Duckie will also boast some of Northern Ireland’s best-known sayings.

Go on yersel’ Julie Hastings, Marketing Director of Hastings Hotels.

She said: ‘This is a unique tour which takes in some of the most exciting filming locations across Belfast City Centre.

‘And while you may not float up the Lagan in a bubble, you will certainly enjoy the best views of Belfast and beyond.’

Mate? Steve

The tour starts at Grand Central Hotel in Bedford Street, next to the Invest NI building, AC-12’s HQ.

The Line of Duty Experience packs in a lot for your £49pp.

If we say you’ll channel the scenes where Kate Fleming shot Ryan Pilkington, Kate (again) shot Dot Cotton’s car killing him you’ll get the idea.

The Line of Duty Experience takes place on July 3, 17 and 31, August 14 and 28 and September 11 and 25.

Sign me up for H is for Hastings Hotels in Belfast.

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays – Holyday favourites

And because of the holyday season we’re in this week’s Rainy days and Songdays today celebrates Holyday favourites.

Happy clappy California

Whoopi

Oh Happy Day (Oakland/San Francisco)

Oh happy day, oh happy day, when Jesus washed, oh when He washed, When Jesus washed, He washed my sins away – The Edwin Hawkins Singers/Sister Act

They don’t need much invitation to unleash a Gospel Choir on you in California.

And Hallelujah there was one waiting for us on the first day in Anaheim for our American Travel Fair, IPW.

Elvis sings Gospel

Full of Graceland

How Great Thou Art (Memphis)

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation. And take me home what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow in humble adoration. And then proclaim, my God how great thou art – Elvis Presley

And it is worth remembering that Elvis first learned to sing in church.

And during his residencies in Las Vegas he would invite his friends up to his room for impromptu Gospel singalongs

It’s better to imagine Elvis’s heart being joyful at the moment God came to take him home that day in Graceland.

All God’s Children

Whenever God Shines His Light (Belfast)

Whenever God shines his light on me. Opens up my eyes so I can see. When I look up in the darkest night. And I know that everything is going to be all right – Van Morrison/Cliff Richard

And aren’t we all God’s children anyway even Van the Man, the grumpiest man in rock?

Religion is all around you in Belfast where Van is known to put on occasional jazz cabaret shows at the Europa Hotel.

It’s always best though with a Celtic soul twist.

Welsh worship

Bread of Heaven (Cardiff)

Guide me, O thou great Redeemer, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but thou art mighty. Hold me with thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven. Feed me till I want no more. – Bryn Terfel, Cardiff

And Cwm Rhondda (The Rhondda) is the unofficial anthem of Wales.

And is a favourite of Welsh rugby fans.

It scores too as it celebrates God rather than the popular policy of God celebrating said country.

Mississippi music

Grammy loves you

This Little Light of Mine (Mississippi)

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, all the time, let it shine – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

And you’ll find a lot more about Sister Rosetta and all the wonderful Gospel and early Rock singers at the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland.

And the significance of This Little Light in a room of reflection on your Civil Rights visit to the Two Museums in Jackson.

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – The Royal Canal and other Irish landmarks

Now the screw was peeping, as the lag lay sleeping. Dreaming about his girl Sal. And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle. All along the banks of the Royal Canal The Auld Triangle, The Dubliners

Luke Kelly drolled that ‘in the female prison there are 75 women and among them I wish I did dwell, and that auld triangle could go jingle-jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal.’

And if you know this song, penned by Brendan Behan (and if you don’t then you’ve been missing out) you’ll walk along the Royal Canal in the north of Dublin singing it aloud.

Or if you’re cycling too as I have done, all the time hoping that the broken bottles wouldn’t puncture my tyres.

The Beardie Boys: The Dubliners

That was then, and this is now, and the announcement of the €12m scenic 130km Royal Canal Greenway is to be welcomed.

If you do the lot you’ll have chalked off 90 bridges, 30 locks, 17 harbours and four aqueducts.

And take in Co. Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath and Longford.

So as a preamble let’s get on with our Rainy Days and Songdays six of the best songs with Irish landmarks.

What a Corker!

Jim and Alan at the Phil Lynott statue in Dublin

As I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains, I met with Captain Farrell and his money he was countin’. I first produced my pistol, and then produced my rapier. I said ‘stand and deliver, or the devil he may take ye Whiskey in the Jar, Thin Lizzy 

Musha rain, dum a doo, dum a da.

The Cork and Kerry Mountains have always held a special affection for me as the first travel assignment when a cub reporter in Reading.

Going over said mountains in our Citroen cars was not helped by a bout of seasickness going over on the Swansea-Cork ferry.

But nothing that the local tipple, Murphy’s Stout and the craic didn’t put right.

Low lie those fields

Those low-lying fields: Athenry

Low lie the Fields of Athenry, where once we watched the small birds fly. Our love was on the wing. We had dreams and songs to sing. It’s so lonely round the Fields of Athenry  – Fields of Athenry, The High Kings

Lowing, or maybe braying, around those Fields of Athenry were our four donkeys which came with the rented cottage.

I can’t remember what la famiglia called the three others but mine was Oaty as in Donkey Oaty!

I was maybe just tilting at windmills.

And as for stealing Trevelyan’s corn… we just bought some from the Centra for the donkeys.

The Band is back together

Neat little town they call Belfast

 In a neat little town they call Belfast, apprentice to tradeI was bound…, a sad misfortune came over me which caused me to stray from the land, far away from my friends and relations, betrayed by the Black Velvet Band Black Velvet Band, Peaky Blinders

It was more good fortune that came over me… to take me away from my friends and relations to the States after university.

And work, no not on the Black Velvet Band’s pitch, Broadway, but Boston where I inevitably served tables at an Irish pub.

Where every night among the most requested songs was Black Velvet Band.

And yes, of course, like our gullible hero of the song ‘many an hour’s sweet happiness I spent I spent in this neat little town Belfast.

As for a black velvet band, or any colour for that matter, try as I may I never persuaded one… i wonder if she’ll be there when I return.

Where the Dark Mourne sweeps…

London’s got nothing on this

Oh Mary this London’s a wonderful sight with people here working by day and by night, they don’t sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat. But there’s gangs of them dogging for gold in the street. At least when I asked them that’s what I was told so I just took a hand at this diggin’ for gold. But for all that I found there I might as well be in the place where the Dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea Mountains o’ Mourne, Don McLean

Mourne Mountains, Co. Down: It’s always a thrill to see the Mountains of Mourne, my Dear Old Mum’s home province, when driving either north or south.

Mountains of Mourne this sweeping range, has a special place in our hearts as the lullaby I would sing to Daddy’s Little Girl.

It was round by Brockagh’s corner

Harkin’s Bar, Donegal

 It was down by Brockagh Corner one morning I did stray, I met a fellow rebel and this to me did say, he had orders from our captain to assemble at Dunbar. But how were we to get there without a car The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

Beockagh, Co. Donegal: And still on lullabies this gentle little ditty about the Irish War of Independence is an alternative to nursery rhymes.

If your mother is from Nationalistic north-west Donegal that is.

Well it got me through childhood… give three cheers to the Teasy and Johnson’s Motor Car.

Meeting of minds in Wicklow

Moore Wicklow please

Sweet vale of Avoca! How calm could I rest. In thy bosom of shade with the friends I love best. Where the storms that we feel in this cold world should cease. And thy hearts, like thy waters, be mingled on peace. The Meetings of the Waters, John McCormack

And my beloved old homestead of Co. Wicklow and its poet laureate, Thomas Moore.

The Meetings is a family favourite, going back to the days when my Donegal Granny and Grandpa honeymooned here.

We would often return there in our Thirteen Years in Ireland on family day trips.

And skim stones which can be more of a danger sport than you might imagine.

Particularly if you’re that young boy on the other side of the bank who ducks just as a stone is jumping up out of the water.

Still, I did get a 12!

 

 

America, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Watching the Detectives

Just like watching the detectives don’t get cute, just like watching the detectives, I get so angry when the teardrops start, But he can’t be wounded ’cause he got no heart. Elvis Costello, Watching the Detectives

And with apologies to the Poet Laureate of New Wave.

But it’s not the bespectacled one but the new run of Line of Duty, shot in Belfast, which has got me thinking.

About my favourite detectives in the cities they are associated with.

So here are seven deadly detective shows, their music and their cities.

Van’s the man

žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

Van der Valk, Amsterdam: So good they kept a sample of the Simon Park Orchestra’s original score ‘Eye Level’ for the reworking of the original series.

And even then purists lambasted the modern version and Marc Warren’s ‘Piet’ as opposed to Barry Foster’s.

And don’t you just love the cluttered narrow bars they all drink in.

Hutch more New York

My New York

Starsky & Hutch, New York: Starsky & Hutch was the breakthrough police show for young people more used to oldie cops.

Good, yes, like the lollipop-sucking Theo Kojak. And, yes, we loved you, baby, too!

But Starsk and Hutch and Huggy Bear brought a street vibe, slapstick and more New York life.

As did the Stiller and Wilson remake with Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear captured the excitement and warmth and music of the original.

Glasgow is No Mean City

Glasgow wit

Taggart, Glasgow: And who would have thought they could have made grey post-industrial Glasgow cool in the Eighties?

But they did and you knew you were in for something different when the credits rolled.

And Maggie Bell gave us a smoky, bluesy No Mean City, a homage to a gangster novel about Twenties Gorbals Glasgow.

London, you’re nicked

Two English and a Scotsman

The Sweeney: Regan and Carter were the Line of Duty of their day, the water-cooler show before water coolers.

Again another they made a remake of, with only Ray Winstone able to reprise John Thaw, while Plan B took on Dennis Waterman.

The Winstone opening scene had a car chase around Trafalgar Square while Thaw’s played out more on wasteland.

But London sizzled from the moment the Thames TV with its iconic St Paul’s graphic came up… and who can forget the theme tune?

Monsieur Bean?

Maigret, Paris: And it was always going to require us to make a shift to see Mr Bean as Monsieur Maigret.

Mais oui, Rowan Atkinson pulled it off, with that brooding sense of contemptuous arrogance we so love about Parisians.

And who doesn’t love an accordion?

Naturellement, you would want to show off the City of Lights if you set your show here.

Which is why it was shot in Budapest with Szentendre doubling for the Montmartre.

Across the Channel

Sunny Jersey

Bergerac, Jersey: And a little bit of sun came into our lives in the Eighties.

In the only part of the UK where they get sun… in Jersey, on the doorstep of France.

As none of us can identify a Jersey site from a Jersey cow then their first image was a map of the island.

Before we get action clips of dunes and John Nettles running after high-end crooks.

Old at the time, Johnnie then retired to Midsomer.

Deadly Caribbean

Nylon Pool, Tobago

Death in Paradise, Guadeloupe: No mon, it’s not Saint Marie, but Guadeloupe.

It lies halfway down the eastern Caribbean chain between Dominica and Antigua.

And it has some of the features you’d expect in a West Indian island, a volcano, sandy beaches obvs and a rainforest.

And you’ll get some of this and more of the other in Tobago and Barbados

All good and varied locales for misdemeanour and murder.

And all set against an uplifting score and, if you know your stuff, homages to the film The Harder They Come.

So to cheer your day up here’s some Jimmy Cliff ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want‘.

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

It’s a crime… police dramas around the world

Excitement is building to fever pitch ahead of the resumption of police drama Line of Duty on March 21 which allows us to explore police dramas around the world.

Hastings’ landscape

Europa living In Belfast

Belfast: I can’t find evidence but it must be true that Superintendent Ted Hastings is named after Belfast’s faves Hastings Hotels.

The seahorse on the wall of the Great Central Hotel is your compass wherever you go in the Northern Irish capital.

That is if you can drag yourself out of the Observatory bar atop the hotel where you get the best views.

And where James Nesbitt opens his Bloodlands detective drama.

Adrian Dunbar on the Graham Norton Show watches Vicky McLure at his Line of Duty mural

Hastings, aka Adrian Dunbar in Line of Duty has been immortalised.

As are all they take to their heart and allow to film in their city.

By having their image set as a mural… and be sure to take a black taxi tour around Belfast.

Check in at the Europa Hotel, part of the story, and get ready for a potted history of The Troubles.

Mob rules

Vegas baby

Once upon a crime in America: And everywhere there is an American dream there is a big job to realise that dream.

You can see how Las Vegas was built by Bugsy Siege.

And The Mob in Chicago in the Mob Museum and channel your inner Al Capone.

Call him Fonz

Tom Hardy as Capone in the Netflix dramas

Fonz Capone is synonymous of course with Chicago.

Where he was invited from New York by Johnny Torrio, and ended up running the city.

The invitations have piled up over the years for me to visit Chicago but the big job has eluded me thus far.

Last year was to be me marking the centenary of the Volstead Act which beckoned in Prohibition.

And I was all set to join one of the retro tours

My cocktail will be all the sweeter when I do get there…

I’ll just have to watch at the speakeasy doors for the cops.’

Florida where he ditched the Al

Miami vices and Capone

We never did find out why Mae Capone insisted to the police watching the house: ‘We don’r call him that [Al] here.’

Here is Palm Beach, near Miami, where the syphilitic Capone spent his last days under house arrest deep in the doo-doo (literally).

You can see it all in graphic detail on Netflix’s Capone, starring Tom Hardy.

Italy, the Old Country

The Old Country, Sicily

Of course Fonz (or Al) and la famiglia are really all just displaced Sicilians.

Visitors to Sicily will always head for Mt Etna until it gets too hot to handle.

But for those who stay awhile and see Taormina then a Godfather tour is highly recommended.

This one I’ve stumbled across includes a Fiat 500 {Cinquecento)and me and the Cinquecento have history.

When I stalled in the car park in the French Riviera and the good monsieur took over.

I’m not sure whether Capone would be so understanding.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

How Carson said NO… to Northern Ireland

He is the Father of Northern Ireland.

But whisper it in Ulster, Sir Edward Carson never wanted the mantle, nor even the country.

A hundred years ago Carson turned down the invitation to become Northern Ireland’s first Prime Minister.

Not that his fellow unionists held it against him.

Instead they erected a statue to him in front of their imposing seat of Government, Stormont in Belfast.

Like much else in Northern Ireland everything and everybody isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

And it  makes them all the more interesting for it.

Carson the Dub

Just like King William of Orange, who isn’t the figure you see on flags and murals on a white charger….

The giveaway is that as a monarch he would have been far back from the River Boyne and would have worn a garter.

And you don’t need to do much digging to see that Carson never wanted the creation of Northern Ireland and supported a united Ireland.

Toby Carson, a teacher in the south of England, recalled that his great-grandfather had just sired a son a year before to his young wife.

And he wanted to devote his attentions to them while also holding out for a major legal position.

Carson was a leading legal light of his day.

That’s Wilde

And he even cross-examined his fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde in the case which led to the poet being sent to Reading Gaol.

The Great Carson was no Ulsterman it must be said.

A Dubliner, who spoke Irish and played Gaelic Sports as a child he lived in the south of England.

But he always remained in high demand in the new partitioned country he neither lived in nor wanted to lead.

So that when the Northerners asked him to grace Stormont with his presence when they put up the famous clenched fist statue he obliged.

On a podium

A man after my own heart… and I have just the spot atop Bray Head in Co. Wicklow instead of that cross.

Belfast, the city which eulogises Carson, is well worth a reccie around, either on an educational black taxi tour, the Museum of Orange Heritage and Stormont itself.

While if you’re of the Republican persuasion then check out the Irish Republican History Museum, though Carson would spin in his grave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Countries, Cruising, Europe, Ireland

What a picture – my award-winning photographer wife

Every picture tells a story and this is ours.

World Photograph Day yesterday saw me trawling through my Travel memories with my award-winning photographer wife.

Sarah Frost as she was when she won two UK Royal Photography Awards.

And still is under her working name, before taking on my mantle.

Now The Scary One, as I affectionately and rather fearfully refer to her, has not been able to attend all my trips around the world.

A deserved reputation

Mostly because of the stipulations but sometimes I imagine because of reputation.

But when she has she has brought a colour to the trips.

Around Ireland…

Temple Bar

In our own garden county of Co. Wicklow, in Dublin, the iconic Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel at a famous Dublin 4 institution, and a haven too in Temple Bar, and in the heart of the Midlands in the border county of Monaghan.

And up north from where us Murtys hail and London and England where the Frosts hail.

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That way, Sweden

While she also caught the fun of skiing in Austria, wining and dining in Portugal Centro, cruising in the Norwegian fjords with stop-offs in Copenhagen and then a city trip in Hamburg.

And also at George’s and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel, her photographs have always enhanced the experience.

Though there was a time on board the MSC Preziosa when it was particularly slippy because of the Norwegian rain.

Photo album

And she looked as if she might fall overboard. I very nearly caught her too!

So opening up the album here are my Frostie’s Favourites and some of her creativity has even rubbed off on me. See if you can spot which are hers and which are mine?

The fjords

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Which one’s the troll?

And She was up every morning bright and early to capture Norway’s waterfalls, inlets and try to spot trolls.

There was one still sleeping off the previous night’s wine, in our MSC Preziosa cabin room.

Bitesize Hamburg

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Walking on air in Copenhagen

And when She wasn’t putting her feet up in the beach bar in tbe Rieperbahn she was snapping life around the port.

Amsterdam by George

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žCan I be trusted on a bike? In Amsterdam

And sometimes we make a rod for our own back because after staying at the Dylan Amsterdam where George and Amal stay then everywhere else is a disappointment.

Heart and Soll

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White delight: In Soll

I fell for you Heart and Soll as Cole Porter sang. And while I was falling down the slopes She was getting the ski boots off and capturing the SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser.

The power of Powerscourt

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Towering talent… one of mine

And the two things that She loves more than anything in life and neither of them are me are in Wicklow that’s gardening and shopping.

Powerscourt has them both... and don’t my credit cards know it?

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One of Hers

 

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And one of Jose’s

And lastly here we are the picture of happiness as taken by our Portuguese guide, photography fan and pal Jose.

 

 

 

Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, UK

The 12th of July – some myths debunked

Every day is the 12th of July I was reminded every Saturday growing up in religiously divided Glasgow.

This was how fans of the city’s Protestant club Rangers mark King William’s victory over Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne.

It turns out though that they got their dates wrong and that it should be July 1 they should be marking.

On the white charger; The Orange Heritage Museum

The calendars were reset in the 18th Century and The Boyne got July 12 when that date had belonged to the Battle of Aughrim.

Beyond these castle walls

I gleaned much of the true story from Malahide Castle https://www.malahidecastleandgardens.ie/ in north Co. Dublin.

I learned that the sitting family back in 1690 settled down for lunch before heading for battle only never to return.

Charge: But is it William? www.laganhistory.com

An impressive painting hangs in the Castle dining room of the battle.

And the guide informed us that the figure on canvas that we know and love/hate could not have been King Billy.

What’s missing?

No garter you see.

Wall, what is it good for? www.extramuralactivity.com

And he was on a white horse too which would have made him easier to spot and kill.

And one of those ubiquitous Belfast black taxi tour drivers verified this very fact.

On the excellent Lucy Worsley’s BBC series British History’s Biggest Fibs https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08cgp55 verified.

Northern Exposure

The Irish Problem as it was called morphed into The Troubles in the North, or Northern Ireland as it’s officially known.

Keep the orange flag flying high

And one constant throughout has been the symbolism of King Billy whose murals and drapes proliferate throughout the province.

But in truth King Billy’s story stretches throughout the island of Ireland.

And the three countries of the island of Britain.

And his home country of Holland.

Flying Dutchman

For those keenest of Orangemen retracing King Billy’s footsteps here’s an itinerary.

Begin your journey in the Paleis Het Loo in Apeldoom north of Amsterdam https://www.paleishetloo.nl/ and Pictures of Amsterdam.

I’ve landed: William of Orange of Devon

Land in Brixham, Torbay in Devon like William did www.devonguide.com. It’s a pretty seaside town in England.

And then make your way over by ferry with Stena Line https://www.stenaline.co.uk to Ireland.

There you’ll want to visit the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre http://battleoftheboyne.ie/ in Co. Louth equidistant between Belfast and Dublin in modern Republic of Ireland.

Before heading for Belfast and the Museum of Orange Heritage https://visitbelfast.com/partners/museum-of-orange-heritage/#&gid=1&pid=5.

A dash of Orange

Just a thought if you’d never heard of King William of Orange might you inadvertently venture in thinking it was a celebration of fruit.

History all around us

And you might be surprised to hear that King William’s place in the Irish cultural landscape isn’t recognised by everyone on the island.

An old colleague I’ll call Simone because that was her name even wrote that King James won the Battle of the Boyne.

Just as well that she had a good editor to stop Irish (and British) history being rewritten for ever.

And for a glimmer of Northern Irish life see Belfast Chilled and Belfast’s rich tapestry.