Countries, Culture, Europe

Flying turtles to the Canaries

And let’s not be shellfish here that someone else is getting abroad, that Aer Lingus is flying turtles to the Canaries.

No lateral flow tests, no 72-hour PCR test, no passenger locator forms…

Well, this turtle is Canarian.

Julius Caesar (stay with me here) has been kicking his stubby feet in Co. Down, Northern Ireland, for the best part of a year and a half.

The loggerhead sea turtle washed ashore in 2019.

Hail Caesar

Crate expectations: JC gets the deluxe treatment

Julius Caesar, thus named by the Donegal family who found him because of his fighting spirit, has been recuperating in Down.

At the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry where they have put the poor fella back together again.

JC was just three months old when he was swept along the current (and who hasn’t been there).

And he was carried along the Gulf Stream to Co. Donegal.

Donegal diver

Just the ticket: And it’s Turtle luxury on Aer Lingus

The poor wee thing was underweight, just under a few hundred grammes, and suffering from hypothermia.

So it was just as well that it was Donegal where he was found.

Because Ireland’s most northern county boasts the warmest people in the world.

OK I’m biased as my Dear Old Mum and her people are daughter and sons of the sod.

The Ulster folk are famous for their hospitality as anyone who has enjoyed their ‘wee’ Ulster Fry will testify.

Turtle’s Ulster Fry

Turtle loving care: And the crew is besotted

So it’s no surprise Donegal’s fellow Ulsterians filled JC up.

Those pounds piled up on a diet of fish mixture, squid and gel.

Just a thought here but I might just have been a turtle in a previous life.

As I’ve got on famously with them in Barbados and in the Maldives.

Well, after 20 months being pampered in Ireland the day finally came today for JC to head home to the Canaries.

And when you travel from Ireland you need to promote the national airline carrier.

And of course Aer Lingus was only too happy to fly JC on the EI 782 to veterinarian Pascual Calabuig at the Tarifa Wildlife Recovery Centre on Gran Canaria.

Turtle on board

It’ll take longer: The swim back to the Canaries

JC’s minder Portia Simpson is going along for the company.

Our turtle, now weighing 25kg, is protected in a specially designed waterproof crate.

I can only say the best things about Aer Lingus’s flight experience… and the same can be said for turtles.

JC is not the first turtle that Aer Lingus has repatriated.

Another rogue loggerhead turtle, Leona, was found in Co. Clare in 2013 and transported to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria by Aer Lingus in December 2014.

This is your pilot speaking

Next time I’m flying: And i’ll choose Aer Lingus

Pilot Captain Peter Lumsden introduced the VIP to the passengers.

‘It is our pleasure to welcome aboard a very special passenger today and to ensure the safe transportation of JC the Turtle to Gran Canaria.

‘Keeping the turtle’s temperature above 19 degrees is critical to his wellbeing and he requires regular monitoring and shell lubrication so placing him in the aircraft hold was not an option.

‘Like all of us on the flight today, I’m sure he is looking forward to the warmer climate upon landing.’

Turtle minder

And so say all of me. The Canaries are a pleasure any time of the year, but especially in the late summer after a year in cold storage.

So the next time Portia needs a hand, then I’d be happy to fly turtles to the Canaries.

 

 

 

 

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, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Lighthouses – the ideal getaway

Lighthouses have always been a rich mine for storytellers.

I remember being captivated by the poem Flannan Isle by WW Gibson.

About three lighthouse keepers in the Outer Hebrides who disappeared without trace.

It was probably because I had to learn it by rote.

Rather than put me off though it merely infused my enthusiasm to stay in a lighthouse one day.

That day has still to come. But to get you in the mood you can always visit Hook Lighthouse in Co. Wexford.

Hook. the world’s oldest operational lighthouse, at 800 years, is taking part in the National Culture Night Celebrations on Friday.

Beacon: Hook, the world’s oldest intact operational lghthouse

There will be free 45-minute guided tours of the medieval tower, all 115 steps, at 5.30, 6pm, 6.30 and 7pm.

Complete with historical characters.

Each of the free places must be booked in advance on www.hookheritage.ie.

And one I prepared earlier

My first morning in the Eastern Cape in South Africa was a surprise, spent doing a tour of the Port Elizabeth lighthouse where I scaled the winding steps.

And built up a thirst… they had laid out a lovely picnic and wine on the ground floor.

For a Cape Recife, Lighthouse and Grysbok Nature Reserve 4 x 4 Tour then it’s http://www.alantours.co.za. And for another tour of the Eastern Cape, read my thoughts https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/home/whats-new-pussycat/.

And one for the Donald and the Angela

Now unless you’d been stranded out on a lighthouse then you’d have known that the G7 met in Biarritz last weekend.

Which means the Donald, the Angela, the Boris and the Emmanuel.

They would, of course, have stopped to look out at the frame-setting lighthouse.

And I don’t know for sure that they didn’t visit.

The lighthouse which was built in 1834 has 248 steps.

And it is worth it when you get to the top as it provides spectacular views of Biarritz and the Basque hinterland.

You want more spectacular impressions on the French Basque Country… you’ll want to read my review of Lourdes and the Pyrenees https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/the-lourdes-prayer-pyrenees/

And visit the site

And one with spider history

Rathlin in Northern Ireland

I think my kids would be resilient enough for the lighthouse life.

They passed the first test when they bounced back quickly from a choppy passage across to Rathlin Island from the North coast of Antrim.

Did we tell them to lay off the fizzy drinks and the chocolate yes.

Did they listen. They’re kids, so of course not.

But by the time we got on the island and picked up our bicycles they were back on track.

You’ve got to keep it tidy. Picture Bernie Brown/Tourism Ireland

We cycled up to the West Light http://www.visitorthernireland.com which shines 23 nautical miles out to sea from a quirky upside down lighthouse built into the cliff face.

And the spider bit. Well, Robert the Bruce is said to have taken inspiration from a spider weaving a web in a cave nearby.

Whether he said ‘if at first you don’t succeed then try, try, try again’ is questionable but it is writ into Scottish legend.

What is a matter of history though is that he pushed the English out of Scotland and reasserted Scottish independence.

Uncategorized

Holiday Snaps

I love an oul’ festival…. they’re almost always not what you expect, and even better too.

Take for example the Festival of the Trays which too me conjures up an image of people banging beer trays over their heads.

It used to be popular in the Seventies and was featured in one of Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life shows I’m sure. I have vague recollections of doing the same one Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve to those not of the Scottish persuasion).

This Festival of the Trays in Portugal though is far more serene. In commemoration of Queen Saint Isabel and the Holy Spirit, this is all about hundreds of young girls carrying trays of gifts on their heads.

The trays are blessed, there are street decorations and quilts in the windows. Flowers are thrown over the procession too, naturally!

The Procession of the Tabuleiros, heralded by pipers and fireworks is led by the Banner of the Holy Ghost and the three Crowns of the Emperors and Kings.

Bringing up the rear are cartloads of bread, meat and wine, pulled by the symbolic sacrificial oxen with golden horns and sashes. Visit www,tabuleiros.org and http://www.visitportugal.com. The festival starts today and goes on until July 8.

And for two very different sides to Portugal, Secret Portugal and Portugal read my reviews https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/secret-portugal/(opens in a new tab) and https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2019/06/12/sportugal/(opens in a new tab)

Aer Lingus, Ryanair and TAP Portugal all fly to Portugal, http://www.aerlingus.com, http://www.ryanair,com, http://www.flytap,com.

Climb every mountain

Ah! But if Maria and the Von Trapps had climbed every mountain as The Sound of Music told us they did they would have ended up in Hitler’s back yard.

Sorry, I just tell it like it is and so do the Salzburgers who burst our bubble on a tour of the city…. they do take you to some great Sound of Music sites and it is seriously good fun.

Me telling it like it is, it’s important to flag up what a great summer destination Austria is and what great deals there are out there.

TUI has last-minute deals for July 3, seven nights B&B staying at the *3 Hotel Obermair, Mayrhofen, from €449pps or seven nights half-board at the *3 Pension Hannes, Neiderau from €469pps. Visit http://www.tuiholidays.ie or call 1850 45 35 45.

An offer you can’t refuse

I went into the doctor and told him that I felt like a small Mediterranean island. He told me to stop being Sicily.

Like many who have visited Malta I spent way too short a time in Sicily on a day’s catamaran cruise. Of course, I will be back and when I do I will take it all in, The Godfather history, the beautiful coastline and vibrant villages.

You can get great value with a late deal to Sicily with Sunway. Seven nights for €499 on July 6. Visit http://www.sunway,ie,

The best China

You’re my rock: Tang and Zhang

Zhuhe, Tang Yixin and Zhang Ruoyun. Which, of course, is congratulations, but you knew that anyway.

And maybe that they are a Chinese celebrity couple who chose Adare Manor to marry.

Tang and Zhang are TV drama stars back home and have 33 million followers on Weibo, the social media platform in China. Now Bandanamann followers with a wee nudge we might make a dent in that!

Tang and Zhang’s combined showbiz name would be Tang, meaning she’s in charge which is a bit like most marriages really!

Tourism Ireland helped the happy couple with trips to Dunluce Castle and the Dark hedges. Visit http://www.tourismireland.com. http://www.adaremanor.com. http://www.visitnorthernireland.com.

The English Beach

Not what you expected: La Gomera

If that conjures up images of a packed Blackpool or Brighton or Magaluf then we wouldn’t blame you.

But this is The English Beach in Great King Valley in La Gomera.

La Go-where? Yes, this is the Canaries and it’s the more unspoiled, smallest and less visited of the seven islands which makes it all the more appealing.

Thing is though that they’re peeling off too. Billed as hippy and alternative there’s a clue there. Thing is though that the first post on Trip Advisor said that it’s half and half.

I can only imagine that it was a Swinging Sixties crowd of English that gave it its name.

I leave the choice to you but check out La Gomera anyway. Fly to Tenerife and then get a crossing is the best way to get there.

But if you do decide to go au natural, for goodness sake don’t leave your clothes on the beach. Visit http://www.lagomera.travel/en.

Let’s duck out of here

You’re quackers: With The Donald

Yes, I know any excuse. I’ll tell you what every time The Other Donald tweets something daft or puts us on the brink of war…. and I’m not forgiving him this week after his antics caused the rearrangement of my trip to Iran… then Ill put up a photo of The Real Donald.

And anyway American Sky has a great saving of up to €530 per family on a seven-night stay at the *4 The Grove Resort Hotel & Spa in Orlando, valid for travel before February 11 2021. This holiday now costs from €649.

This is a new resort, just a few minutes drive from Walt Disney World Resort and it includes a kids Surfer Water Park.

There are four on-site restaurants.

Based on two adults and two children sharing and return flights from Dublin with transfers and accommodation on a self-catering basis.

Visit http://www.americansky.ie or call (01) 664 9900.

Killer tunes

Drum roll: Ronnie Vannucci Jnr

For Reasons Unknown Ronnie Vannucci Jnr tried to bat off the well-wisher who approached him at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood, Co. Down, and said that he was a delegate at a science convention.

But we were onto him or at least The Son and Heir and The Scary One were… and she let him know that I was their biggest fan.

I know I’ve drip-fed you this story but it’s just that the world’s greatest rock band who were playing up North are headlining Glastonbury tonight.

I’ve got it taped of course while I’m away in Barcelona but I expect they’ll be Wonderful Wonderful.

I’m not surprised that The Killers were staying at the Culloden. It’s only had a £750,000 refurbishment. Visit http://www.hastingshotels.com.

Two for you

… A double helping of Bandanaman today. Lourdes and the Pyrenees in The Herald and Star Wars Millennium Falcon: Smugglers’ Run at Disneyland Anaheim in the Irish Daily Mail.

I’ll reprise them here when I return.