America, Countries, Culture

California, the Golden Globes State

My preening, diffident waiter at Vanderpump’s will be ignoring another customer because they aren’t Golden Globes royalty.

But such is reality in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Hollywood

Home of the worst waiters in the world where your order will be late and wrong if it comes at all.

Unless you’re Lady Gaga, a regular at Vanderpump’s who is known to fall out of the eaterie, which I must confess I’m not.

Hello, sailor: La Peer Hotel, West Hollywood

Lisa’s food though is worth waiting for and obviously she was in the night we visited.

When we were staying as guests of Attraction Tickets and my favourite boutique hotel chain Kimpton’s.


And their West Hollywood base, La Peer Hotel

And you’ll be able to roll up at the bar and then into the pool which I might just have tried out.

Celebrity spotting is an everyday pastime in SoCal, Southern California.

And I was fortunate enough to see and meet a host of them at the American Travel Fair which was being hosted by Anaheim

Natasha Bedingfield, Jason Derulo, the Beach Boys, Snoop Dogg…

The biggest stars for me though in La La Land are the living legends, those who will never die.

Such as Marilyn Monroe who still parades the Walk of Fame near her star and hand prints…

Lying with Marilyn

I spent a weekend with Marilyn: in Venice Beach and at her last resting place in LA where a very unwelcome neighbour moved in.

And the Walt Disney family… http://www.disneyland.disney.go.comMickey, the Donald, Goofy et al.

Mickey and The Donald

All of whom will throw their giant furry hands and paws open for you when you visit the Happiest Place on Earth

Pleased to see you

Lurking though when we arrived though were some inhospitable Storm Troopers…

It was all part of the schtick with the showcasing of the new Star Wars world at Disney…

As well done as it was though I still come to Disney for a cuddle.

But maybe Princess Leia was hiding?

My Star Wars pals at Disney

Aer Lingus flies direct to LAX with pre-clearance from Dublin and Shannon.

The national airline carrier has a deal on for travel as part of a return trip between April 1 until June 15 from €249.61.

Book by January 21.


Adventure, Countries, Culture

This Sporting Weekend – Touchdown Vegas

Celtic relocate to Dublin, Liverpool to London… what madness?

But not in the Oo Es of Eh where sports franchises up and move across the continent at the drop of a helmet.

The Brooklyn Dodgers’ flit from New York and to LA in the Fifties will always remain the most controversial.

But who can blame them? Not me when I visited. and

But sports teams have been relocating since as far back as 1902 when the Milwaukee Brewers moved to St Louis.

To become the St Lous Browns.

While American Sports’ most famous team, the New York Yankees, started life as the Baltimore Orioles, the original iteration in 1903.

High-rollers have been coming and going out of Washington DC much like politicians.

Before the Nationals took on Montreal Expos’ place in 2005… and went on last year to win the World Series.


Although the fans didn’t feel in the mood to hail the chief Donald Trump, preferring to give him a slow handclap.

The Redskins aren’t figuring at the business end of the NFL season with the play-off games coming up.

Of course Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will win the whole thing again this year.

But next year?

There is much excitement about Vegas getting football for next season.

Because they hit the ground, or ice, running.

The puck stops here

When the Las Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup final in their inaugural season.


Only to lose to the Washington Capitals.

And because you know that when I travel I go to where the locals play and pray then I’ve treated you to a few pics of me…

At Anaheim Angels’ ground where they like to get their Mickey out.Visit

With Elvis in Vegas,

Some thoroughbreds at Denver Broncos’s ground… and


Hitting it out of the park at the Washington Nationals’ stadium.

Icing with Wild Wing at the Anaheim Ducks’ Honda Arena,


And getting ready to dunk it with the Memphis Grizzlies…, and





The faces of 2019 – Adventure

I’d like to say it’s been a walk in the park, and it was, but it’s also been a walk up mountains and through rain forests.

And desperate dashes through airports to catch (and miss) airplanes!

But someone’s been smiling on me.Because I didn’t miss one trip and got to race with goats in Tobago, ‘Bandanaman’, whom I got to christen.

He’s a winner too.

And some even giddier goats: take a bow ‘Auntie’ Ali, ‘Uncle’ Kenneth, Marsha, Phil, ‘Porridge‘, Ean and Ian and ‘Santa’ Brendan.

And here’s our moment of glory.., Ready, steady, goat… in Tobago and

It’s been all go and the shoe leather has taken a beating.

In Europe’s most popular national park Teide in Tenerife.

And the hills up to Afur in the midday beating sun which our guide Maria took in her stride.

And even had some ooomph left at the end to give us a pilates demonstration at the top of the mountain.

With in Tenerife…

And through the Alps from Ehrwald in Austria http://www.tyrol.tlinto Germany with mountain man Reini… where naturally I had a run-in… Water rip-off – a German pit stop

But, of course, I’ll be back in Bavaria

It is a region I have loved since first going to the Oktoberfest 34 years ago.

The coming of the Lord

And where the Messiah himself graces them with his presence next year…  Oberammergau and

And I’d recommend you go on your trekking holiday with

We were, of course, always back in time for the entertainment.

It’s now or never

The lederhosen-clad Septuagenarian singer Christened Ehrwald Presley.

On account of his oompah, waltzing and keyboard renditions of The King.

Not all walks worked out alas and I missed out on the trek up the Hollywood Hills.

Because of a 24-hour sickness bug.

But I made up for it in style all across LA, West Hollywood and Anaheim,

As part of the American Travel Fair and My weekend with Marilyn and Stair Wars

Just gone swimmingly

With all that walking I definitely earned myself my dips.

Not a natural swimmer I was glad of the chance to cut corners and the Dead Sea and the Nylon Pool gave me that.

Where I laid back, read a book and dreamt of Jordan

And stood in the sand back in the crystal waters of the Caribbean deep in the sea in Tobago It’s Robinson Crusoe’s very own Tobago limin’ with other revellers.

I’ve tried to conquer some water sports demons.

And went searching for submarines and tanks in the depths of the Dead Sea… Petra and the sands of time

And found out why snorkelling isn’t me… my moustache blocks the airways!

Which is why I dispensed with the snorkel and just used the goggles to see me some rainbow fish in Tobago.

Everybody’s gone surfing

It wasn’t all just corner-cutting. I did learn to paddle board on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas off Barcelona…. and Surfing the seas in Barcelona


While our Sligo pro surfer Gearoid taught me how to stay up on the surf in RC’s simulator FlowRider.

Well for three seconds at least.

Fun, fun, fun

I’d been practising with the Beach Boys you see in Surf City, Huntingdon Beach.

Enjoy your adventures in 2020. And…



My Sporting Weekend – racism and bigotry

World Cup winner Paul Pogba’s personal gesture against racism in wearing a black and white wristband commends him.

Which is something you don’t often hear many people say about Manchester United’s mercurial Frenchman…

The wearing of rubber bands denoting charitable or political campaigns seemed to kick in in the Noughties.

And I’m a fan although it’s more to do with destinations I’ve visited.

Band of gold

To remind me on a wet and dank day in Ireland of sunnier climes.

So I have California and and hand.

Denver and and

And Portugal and

While there’s Dresden and as well.

My link with the Maldives and and was broken.

When the band snapped over the Christmas season.

Although my memories never will.

Glasgow belongs to who?

Symbols have always been at the very heart of sport:

The colours and designs of strips or uniforms, club badges or crests and buttons.

Although sometimes they can land you in trouble.

And the players in the Celtic and Rangers Catholic and Protestant divide know it.

Whether they grew up in the West of Scotland or bought into it.

Mo Johnston controversially crossed the divide and himself (well at least when he was at Celtic, the Catholic gesture particularly provocative to Rangers fans).

While Paul Gascoigne gullibly responded to the egging-on from Rangers fans by mocking a flute player.

Another incendiary action in Glasgow’s religious tribalism, conjuring up the Protestant King William of Orange’s victory over the Catholic King James II.

That flute is OK

Sometimes even the football forces its way into the argument.

The debate du jour in English football is whether players and teams should walk off if they are racially abused from the crowd.

I never had to encounter being either physically or verbally abused over the colour of my skin.

But I was spat at on a bus by religious bigots in Glasgow as a child because of the colour of my uniform.

Which is why I was so drawn to Rosa Parks’ sit-down protest on the bus in the Deep South.

And was so humbled by the sacrifices made by black (and white) Civil Rights protesters.

On my trip through Memphis, Tennessee and www.deep-south-tourism-com Mississippi. And

Not our problem

No such discussion is had regarding religious bigotry in Glasgow despite they’re being on average one murder surrounding the Old Firm game every time the two meet.

Which they do tomorrow.

Worthy words will be expressed in Glasgow, my home city and

And when (and it’s almost always when, not if) it kicks off there will be no end of head-shaking.

It’s only a kids’ game

But no talk of partial ground closures, playing behind closed doors, walk-offs, fines or points deductions.

It’s not for nothing Celtic and Rangers are called The Old Firm. The religious divide fuels their economy.

So the answer is in Glasgow vernacular: Nae Chance.


Trawling the graveyards of history

I’m dying to share this… how one woman is remembered in the Caribbean.

From the inscription which marks the span of her life.

From sunrise to sunset…

You have to think that Emily was a ray of sunshine herself.

Well, she was from Tobago, an island where rain is known as liquid sunshine…

Insert your own caption here

And I left with a mountain of memories… It’s Robinson Crusoe’s very own Tobago and I should cocoa – Christmas in Tobago.

I was thinking about death today (no, not a heavy Saturday night) but a regular occurrence.

After visiting the ancient burial ground of Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, near my home here in Ireland.


It’s a mystery: In Tobago

I may well have inherited my fascination for graveyards from my Dear Old Dad who I’ll meet there one day.

The Tobagonians have a unique way of seeing life… and death.

As evidenced by this riddle on what has become the most famous grave on the island.

Riddle me this: In Tobago

So that you don’t have to strain your eyes too much the gist of the inscription on the 1783 grave in Plymouth reads in part:

‘She was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it except by her kind indulgences to him.’

Riddles in Tobago

Now we were asked by our hosts the same question they pose to every visitor: ‘What the heck does it mean?’

My answer, the obvious one, is it’s a woman, whoever knows what goes on in their minds.

Marilyn and me: LA

I keep my eyes open for graves and final resting places wherever I go.

Just this year I discovered that Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place is off a busy street in LA… and

Where she is forced to spend eternity with her old nemesis Hugh Hefner which I tell you all about on this blog… My weekend with Marilyn


You can’t pick your neighbours

Of course, graveyards have strong personal connections to those who are related to, or are friends of the deceased.

World War I battlefields

Such as when I was the first of my family to kneel at the graveyard of my Great Uncle Willie who fell in Ieper, or Ypres.

While on that tour of the World War I battlefields In Flanders fields with and and I visited the Canadian and German memorials.

The Canadian memorial with its Caribou statue has a special resonance for my family as Grandpa George fought for the Canadian Army.

And met Granny Mary, a nurse, when he returned to Scotland.

A South African tale

War and graveyards tend to go hand in hand.

And in a visit to the Eastern Cape in South Africa at the start of the year What’s new pussycat? I braved the cold and the damp…

And the big game to visit the graveyard of an Afrikaans resistance fighter from the Boer War…

Of course hanging around graveyards at this time of year you’re liable do get some spooky vibes.

And the lines between this life and the next can become blurred.

Make of me and my colleagues from that trip to South Africa what you will…


Holidos and Don’ts – the aisle seat

You know that annoying dude who won’t shut up on your long-haul flight or falls asleep and their head flops near to your shoulder.

No, it’s not me, and by the way I’ve noticed you’ve been getting a wee bit bold.

Well, the answer is an aisle seat.

I won’t go into the tale of the Californian woman sat in the middle seat next to me from Dublin to LA.

So, you miss the view!

And who discovered while we were still on the runway that I too was a writer.

She hadn’t worked out though that it might not be a great idea to eat the eggs in the concourse.

And I’ll get onto that in another Holidos and Don’ts and why you’re better off with AerClub

But ten minutes into the nine-hour flight.

And while I was just getting into Laurel And Hardy on the infotainment than she was only passing me her bag of sick.

My pal Paula on way back from Orlando

Now I’m not saying that that wouldn’t have happened if I’d been in an aisle seat.

Although she would have turned to the middle-seat passenger.

My usual seat please

But I would have been able to alert the steward earlier.

Fair play to the Aer Lingus crew though who granted my request to get moved to another seat.

And who looked after the poor woman royally and provided a wheelchair for her when we got to LAX Airport.

In a galaxy far, far away

The kicker was, I suppose, that I got food poisoning too in LA.

The old aisle seat will also allow you first access to the steward when they are serving up the food.

You won’t have your neighbour stretching over you, and you might be asleep.

Ditto when you, or they, want to get to the toilet.

Back to that California trip and I had a whole day wiped out, and the chance to go to Warner Bros Studios Hollywood and sit in Sheldon’s seat.

Though thankfully they recreated the Big Bang Theory lounge set on the plaza in Anaheim at the American Travel Fair

For more California adventures visit and here are my adventures in the Golden State… and


My Sporting Weekend – US YouTube boxing

You Tube used to be a schoolboy insult that often preceded an invitation to fisticuffs.

And a ‘square go’ down by Blythswood Street in Glasgow.

Now it’s the domain for everything.

Including an invitation to, yes, fisticuffs with YouTube stars Logan Paul and KSI fighting on paid television in Los Angeles tonight.

Of course, it has been derided by purists of the Sweet Science.

Who conveniently forget that the Greatest, Muhammad Ali was involved in a wrestling bout with Antonio Inoki.

In what has been seen as a precursor to Mixed Martial Arts. It finished a draw… surprise, surprise!

Oh, what a circus!

The fight will be a cruiserweight contest.

Which will take place over six rounds Downtown in the Los Angeles Staples Centre.

Downtown LA has been regenerated over recent years.

And it is well worth a visit not least because it is the home of the LA Lakers.

And a chance to people watch. As is West Hollywood and Hollywood of course as I did earlier this year…

When I dug up a legend and her final resting place…

And had myself some sporting and Disney fan in Anaheim…

The puck stops here: With Wild Wing in Anaheim

While Las Vegas is seen as the boxing and MMA capital of the world.

And if The Noble Art is your thing hit the Strip for a big fight…

Also visit

Las Vegans are sports mad and their nascent Golden Knights are on the up.

They only got to the Stanley Cup ice hockey final last year.

I’m in the money: In Vegas

But I digress which is easy to do.

Because when you’re in California you think about maybe stretching it a bit and also taking in Vegas, and vice-versa.

Deal me in

Of course with American Holidays you can.

I caught up with my American Holidays pals this week, a little later than I’d intended.

But that was because I was off praying in Medjugorje with Marian Pilgrimages…

Golden gate. Photo by Tae Fuller on

When AH were throwing a cocktails party and watching Thelma and Louise in Dublin.

Back to that Vegas and California break though.

American Holidays have San Fransisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

It includes return flights from Dublin to San Fransisco to Los Angeles to Las Vegas and return.

And three nights San Fran (Hotel Carlton or similar), three nights LA (Quality Inn Walk of Fame Hollywood or similar), four nights Las Vegas (Excalibur Hotel or similar).

From €1699pps/£1576. Travel May.

Everyone has their own Scary One. Photo by Gratisography on

I’ll return to my favourite foreign country, and American Holidays soon.

And just for you I’ll keep my eyes on the American sport, better still from the bleachers or a ringside seat.



Snoop Dogg and me acting the goat in California

I don’t think Snoop Dogg was talking to me but the ladies were.

Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr, as his Mammy christened him, was entertaining us in the way only he could.

Standing on the pristine Huntington Beach in Southern California playing us a set of his tunes and standard party hits.

While smoking a funny cigarette.

Snoop was always going to be an ambitious choice for a corporate event, the American Travel Fair, but the Big Fella is a likeable rogue and delivered.

And nobody baulked when Mr and Mrs America, the Mayor and his wife, and their two perfectly presented kids walked on stage.

To greet the Long Beach native through a plume of smoke.

California is the hippy state where anything goes and where an old man can get a high five for purpling up his beard.

Of course it doesn’t get much better than Natasha Bedingfield picking you out in the crowd the next day in Anaheim.

But she deserves her own slot so I’ll reshare that story with you another time.

Huntington Beach, Anaheim, West Hollywood, Hollywood et al is SoCal, Southern California which we all know about and keep coming back to…

SloCal is the area between Los Angeles and San Fransisco and prides itself on being even more laid-back.

So that’s almost horizontal then.

And all right by me and Snoop.

Now I’ve been flagging up the fun that’s been had in the surfing war between Surf City USA Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz. and

Huntington won in the courts but whisper that around Santa Cruz, and its delegates when they make their annual pilgrimage to Ireland.

Although I must say that Huntington did tempt me with their hospitality when I visited and their surfing dogs competition every autumn.

Everybody’s gone surfin’

But I learn now that Huntington is not the only beach for surfing animals in California.

They like to act the goat in Pismo Beach.

Acting the goat

Dana McGregor has built up quite a following on the back of goatie Pismo and his two pals who he has taught to surf and

He offers surfboard lessons, stand-up paddle board lessons and SUP/Surf camps on Pismo Beach.

You want to see a Dancing Dad dance the waves again…

On board Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Oasis of the Seas’ FlowRider simulator in Barcelona

Thought you might.

For more information on SloCal, keep posted here and also visit

And remember Aer Lingus flies direct to LAX from Dublin.

LA is from €204 each way as part of a return trip. Book by September 23. And you’ll get pre-clearance.


Give us this Day – LA’s gospel choirs

My family teased me when I was young as I stood by the side of the choir trying to be one of them.

The choir that is.

I lack nothing in enthusiasm but everything in vocal range. The same today, on both counts.

My love of choirs has only grown the older I’ve got.

That would be a cool name for a city, Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

And my desire to see an African-American gospel choir.

My buddie Eddie recalls when he was the only white guy at a service in San Francisco.

Missed Mass again!

So I was really excited when I saw a Southern Gospel Choir on the itinerary for my MLK 50 trip two years ago.

The Promised Land The story of the Blues The King of Kings

The perfect ending to my odyssey through Tennessee and Mississippi?

Marking the Civil Rights movement and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Alas, only the British and European members of the party got to see it .

As we discovered that our flights to Ireland were at the same time.

Let’s give praise to the Lord

All the harder to take as the night before we had been treated to a rendition of Christmas songs by one of our charming Mississippian hosts.

Good things though sometimes do come to those who wait.

And I was served up more than brunch on the first day of the American Travel Fair (IPW) in Anaheim in June.

Seeing it was a Sunday and I had skipped Mass I couldn’t help thinking that the group were checking up on me.

But then I thought of a get-out clause my Dear Old Mum had told me about when I was a kid.

If you’re on holiday and you can’t go then Our Lord would understand.

Did I really try that hard to check out the Mass times?

Of course that set me up with some absolution for all the messin’ I did over the next few days.

With a bunch of animated characters… and the likes of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Peanuts.

The City of Angels

Which, of course, I would then have to confess at church.

And I was surprised to find that in LA there are some gorgeous Old Style praying houses.

Which I shouldn’t have… it’s original name is the longer El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles del Rio Porcuincula.

Or Town of Our Lady the queen of Angels of the River Porcuincula.

Or LA to you and me. and and and

Read my reviews and


All the world’s my stage

I’d envisioned myself in the romantic lead role for my acting debut.

Not as Plooky (that’s Scottish for spotty) Jack in The Northern College’s production of The Slab Boys in Aberdeen in 1984.

I was hardly likely to catch the eye of the ladies there!

Unimaginably my performance didn’t reach the ears of Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg.

And my career path took another direction.

But between jobs as I am, and out in Hollywood earlier this summer, I couldn’t help thinking they’d missed a chance.

Which is my roundabout way of saying I’m available to understudy for the Wexford cast of the Glencairn Cycle who are heading to San Fransisco next month.

Ship ahoy: Pic by PJ Browne

For the Eugene O’Neill Festival.

The Irish production will be showcased to American audiences aboard the Balclutha berthed at Fisherman’s Wharf on September 1.

And so it will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that Eugene O’Neill is of Irish stock.

Eugene’s dad James was a wee boy when he emigrated from New Ross, Co. Wexford in 1851.

Hence Wexford celebrating the playwright who won an Oscar for Long Days Journey Into Night.

Which, of course, tells the story of the O’Neill Family and their passage to America and their attempts at assimilation. 

Wexford has its own festival, its second, in New Ross from October 8-13.

Learning the ropes: Shipmates

And you can catch O’Neill’s magnus opus.

And twice daily the Glencairn Cycle of Plays aboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship berthed at New Ross Quayside.

Which are set aboard the fictional ship the ‘SS Glencairn’ with the plays titled Bound East for Cardiff, The Long Voyage Home and In the Zone.

Just the ticket

Tickets to the festival weekend at St. Michael’s Theatre in New Ross are available at €100. Tickets for individual events are available from €15.

For further details see and

And if you want more insights into my old stomping ground of Aberdeen

And more on Hollywood where they have the worst waiters in the world… because they all want to be actors.

They are only interested in you if you’re Steven Spielberg.