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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.