Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays my Oscars favourite songs

In no particular order, and for the day that’s in it, it’s Rainy Days and Songdays – my Oscars favourite songs.

It was something daring, I guess, to award a Best Original Song at the Academy Awards in 1934.

But it was probably a dancing shoe-in for Hollywood superstars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ The Continental.

Dance away

If Fred and Ginger were around today then they’d glide easily down the fabled stairs of the Dolby Theater.

But they are there out front in the Walk of Fame.

All of which we can channel, and which every waiter dreams of aspiring too, in Los Angeles and his environs.

The Continental is one of my Oscar favourite songs and set the standard for every Best Original Song to come.

And in truth for every Over the Rainbow and White Christmas there is a Chim-Chim-Cheree and an I Just Called To Say I Love You too.

Gong with a song

The standard is off the chart which is why the usual Fab Five becomes a Top Ten this week for My Oscars favourites.

10 When You Wish Upon A Star, Pinnochio (1940): 

Pure Disney, and what’s wrong with that.

But this is the craftmanship of Florentine Carlo Collodi so let’s give the Tuscans a shout-out as ‘anything your heart desires will come to you.’

Take it away Cliff Richards as Jimmy Cricket.

9 Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, Song of the South (1947): 

One of Disney’s more forgettable films and ‘containing outdated language’ though I just dwell on the Deep South music.

James Baskett’s deep anthem is about as happy a song as you’ll ever hear.

And in a cutesie overload Mr Bluebird’s on James’s shoulder too. Everything truly is satisfactual!

8 Three Coins In The Fountain (1954): 

No me neither, nor the singers Clifton Webb, Dorothy McGuire and Jean Peters who each sang the titular song.

But anyone who has ever been to the Trevi Fountain in Rome will either hear someone singing it there while throwning coins over their head into the water.

Or they will be encouraged to do so.

Singing Cowboys

7 Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969):

And if you love the Wild West  then you’ll love the scene where Paul Newman (Butch) and Katharine Ross (Etta) mess about on the bicycle in Utah.

And Burt Bacharach’s velvety lyrics and BJ Thomas’s smooth delivery set it all off.

6 The Time Of My Life, Dirty Dancing (1987): 

The beauty of a good song is trying to recreate it in your bedroom which is what hairbrushes were made for, although Patrick Swayze’s quiff just came naturally.

But if you truly want to channel your inner Johnny and Baby then you’ll want to get out to Lake Lure Inn & Spa in North Carolina.

And have Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes on the boom box.

5 The Streets of Philadelphia (1993): 

You’re probably exhausted after that (I know I am) so let’s slow it down with the Boss’s evocative and powerful Streets of Phladelphia.

Of course, the actual streets of Philadelphia aren’t as gut-wrenchingly emotional as this song and are actually fun-packed as this vid shows.

Better still if you go to Philly the City of Brotherly Love, and find out for yourself.

Drum roll please

4 Born Free (1966): 

And another to pull on your heartstring with the story of Joy and George Adamson, played by real-life couple Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers.

They released Elsa the Lioness into adulthood and released her into the wilds of Kenya.

All of which brings back warm memories of meeting our lioness out in the Eastern Cape in South Africa.

And yes, I sang Matt Monro’s classic in my head then… I didn’t want to stir my lioness.

3 White Christmas, Holiday Inn (1942):

Many of us are probably unaware of Irving Berlin’s inspiration for the best-selling song of all time (I was).

Berlin, a Jew, who didn’t celebrate Christmas had all the more reason to get maudlin on December 25.

His three-week-old son died on that day in 1928. Bing Crosby gives it a timeless uplifting feel.

2 Over The Rainbow, The Wizard of Oz (1939):

And the ultimate in what Daddy’s Little Girl so beautifully puts it, a Happy Sad Song.

And layering on the sentamentality it was the first movie my Dear Old Mum saw in her nearest big city, Derry.

She recalls the switch from black and white to colour seemed like magic to an 11-year-old country girl.

A country girl like Kansas lass Dorothy.

And the winner is…

1 Moon River, Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961): 

Tiffany’s in New York is no more magical than any other jewellery store methinks.

But perhaps that’s because I’m an alpha male bloke, while Breakfast to me is a bagel.

Put them together though and Breakfast At Tiffany’s carries you off to a wonderful escapist world.

It’s the adventurer in me andyou had me Audrey Hepburn at ‘there’s such a lot of world to see.’

So these are my Oscar favourite songs. Now what about you? 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe

Spring forward, fall back – time zones around the world

I always keep my watch set at the time of the last country I’ve been to so today that’ll be the Czech Republic.

The idea is to keep something of that destination and wanderlust with me though it can cause problems in the morning.

Beer O’Clock in Zatec

My strange habit all chimes with the Czechs, of course, with their love of an astronomical clock.

Prague‘s biggest attraction, in the Old Town Square obvs but also the clock in Hoptown, Zatec, and its homage to beer.

Scot late the Great

You’re late… but that’s OK in Edinburgh

Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh: And, of course, today I’ve been all over the place, and logging on for work that was a full month ago.

Now the fastidious and ever-so-decent people of Edinburgh look after people like me.

By setting their clock three minutes fast to allow people rushing for their train at nearby Waverley Station enough time.

Set in the New Town, staring across Princes Street Gardens and up to Edinburgh Castle it also allows you more time to take it all in.

Philly’s hour of need

Billydelphia

Philadelphia City Hall, Philadelphia: And it will come as little surprise to you that I turned up for my Zoom meeting from Washington DC five hours early.

I make only a few apologies for resharing Philadelphia’s Curse of Billy Penn because clocks and times give me that opportunity today.

The 21-year curse on Philly‘s sports teams arose because of the construction of One Liberty Hall.

It exceeded the height of Billy’s statue atop City Hall… a real no, no.

It was all resolved when a statuette was affixed to the final beam topping off the Comcast Cener, now the city’s tallest building.

And the Phillies took baseball’s World Series

Tenerife timing

Give me a bell: Tenerife

Iglesia de la Concepcion, San Cristobal de La Laguna: You’ll be breathless after saying all this.

And breathless from the steps, particularly if you’ve been hiking through rain forests and hills on your CanariaWays trip.

But the views are spectacular. Just don’t ring it too early. Too late.

Ancient times

Time goes slowly: Im Petra

Petra, Jordan: And it may look like a temple to you and me but it’s actually a Treasury.

The same thing to the Nabateans.

It’s also though a timepiece with coded messages.

You won’t need Indiana Jones to decode them though.

Zuhair, G Adventures, expert man on the ground will give you the full lowdown… and Jordan Jimmy will do the rest.

Ben O’Clock

The Elizabeth Tower, Westminster, London: And, of course the tower with the most famous clockface in the world.

Only everyone thinks it’s called Big Ben.

But that is the name of the largest of its five bells.

So who was Ben? Well, either ‘Big’ Ben Hall, the first Commissioner of Works or the boxer Benjamin Caunt.

Ring-a-ding ding!

America, Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – baseball in England

And judging by what a mess England are making of their cricket Test series in India, maybe they’ll go back to baseball.

There are few things more American than baseball.

And that obviously means that it came from somewhere else.

And this somewhere else is England where it had been a folk game.

Lord’s, the home of cricket, gave itself over to baseball for the first time when it hosted the Boston Red Stockings and the Philadelphia Athletics in 1874.

And Slugger Jimmy in the USA

So for all the big Wembley and Tottenham Stadium American Football matches it’s not a new phenomenon.

To bring American sporting franchises over to the Old Country.

We do, of course, have splendid memories of Aer Lingus‘s biennial American Colllege matches at the Aviva. Happy days!

For the record Boston beat Phladelphia 24-7.

In truth Beantown and Philly are winners when it comes to sport and you can’t visit without being touched by their love of their athletes.

Paris, non

Bravo: On World Cup final day

And the hairy-arsed Scots who make a biennial pilgrimage to Paris to converge around the Arc de Triomphe.

And watch their Bravehearts lose to Les Bleus were unable to do so this year.

So too did the Scotland rugby team whose match against Les Bleus of France was called off when the home outfit was hit by Covid.

Paris hasn’t always been kind to this hairy-arsed Scot either.

I had my butt kicked when I kipped down for the night in Paris Saint-Lazare railway station in my summer holiday down on the French Riviera after schoool.

The butt-kickers en force were the Gendarme…

And it wouldn’t be my first brush with the French law who took offence to me stopping the traffic in Saint-Raphael.

Let’s be Frank about Bruno

This year? When I’ll be back in Vegas

For those of us whose golden years (so far) were the Eighties Frank Bruno was ubiquitious, know what ah mean, Harry.

And his story was inexorably tied up with that of Mike Tyson’s though he was merely a punchbag for the Baddest Man on the Planet.

Sky Documentaries’ excellent Bruno v Tyson chronicles Frank’s story.

From inauspicious beginnings in South London through to him becoming the Gentle Giant of the Nation.

Las Vegas looms large as the two fights were held there…

The first Bruno v Tyson clash was set to be held in London before Iron Mike pranged his car.

The Las Vegas Hilton was the venue for the first fight and the MGM for the second.

With Vegas our venue for the American Travel fair this year we’re all hoping there will be boxing on then.

And with a seniors circuit now kicking in in which Iron Mike figures.

Let’s get this Bruno v Tyson III on in Vegas in the Fall.

MEET YOU AT A VIRTUAL SPORTS EVENT

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture, UK

Happy Deliverance Day when it comes

Happy June 21 when it comes – but what about us Travel people?

June 21 is the glorious date when out Covid restrictions will be lifted and we can all go back to the way we were.

So if it is to be a Deliverance Day we all celebrate in the future then a bit more about its significance already.

Harry’s Day

Harry Potter: No not that merry merry band of brothers that fought with King Harry on St Crispin’s Day nor the pussy-whipped current Prince Harry.

No this Harry is the magical boy wizard Harry Potter whose book the Order of the Phoenix was released today in 2009 and became the fastest selling in history.

And so the legend which is celebrated from Watford through Edinburgh to Orlando grew.

Make way for the Molly Maguires

The Molly Maguires

Molly Maguires: Anyone who has enjoyed an Irish trad band in an Irish bar will have ‘made way for the Molly Maguires’.

Probably without knowing who they were.

Irish coal-mining activists in Pennsylvania, ten of whom were hanged this day in 1877….

‘They’ve drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men, you’ll never see the likes of them again.’

Reagan shot

The 47th President of America: In Washington DC

Ronald Reagan shot: In a country where everything is marked with a plaque it is noteworthy that the spot where John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan is not.

I looked for it but didn’t find it when I stayed at the Washington Hilton

I did find Ford’s Theater where John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and a swathe of American history in DC.

A new King Billy

Just William

Prince William born: The one who will be king and probably why he’s sticking around.

That and the fact that his wife isn’t homesick for Hollywood.

Prince William was born this day in 1982. Who knows when he will sit on the throne but London and all its royal schmaltz will reopen. Hurrah!

America, Countries, Culture, UK

A Letter From America Revisited

I don’t know if there’s a railtrack from Miami to Canada,

But here are planes (and ships), and just like the Scots who followed a dream I’m not giving up on mine.

The Proclaimers‘ peon to the Highland crofters who were displaced from their land and rebuilt their lives in North America still chills me to the bone.

And gets me up on my feet and twirling my kiltie, like here in Vicar Street in Dublin two tears ago.

The Scots who built America

Scots played a major part In the formation of the USA.

And you don’t have to have seem Hamilton for a history lesson, although it helps.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda announces himself as Alexander Hamilton, ‘a bastard son of a whore and a Scotsman’.

Worth a monument, methinks, and you’ll find just that in Philadelphia with the Monument to Scottish Immigrants.

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia

The statue was dedicated in 2011 and sets the scene of a settled Scot welcoming his father, his wife and their children to the New World.

Scots wha’ hae in Philadelphia

They are climbing up from the docks to Front Street, to where those who know Philly Tun Tavern was located.

And where there is a plaque marking its significance.

Room at the Inn

The Tun Tavern holds a special significance for Scots-Americans.

You see this is where the St Andrew’s Society set up after the heroic failure of the 45 Rebellion back home.

While the United States Marine Corps was formed here and had its first recruitment drive too in 1775.

And I dare say a few Jocks too.

We’re reliably informed too that four of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence are standing on the bas relief of the Memorial.

And I’m no havering!

America, Countries, Culture

A clear result in Florida – Hail to the Chief

It was the night of the Three Presidents.

When I left Ireland it was Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton his projected successor, only to learn on my arrival in Florida that Donald Trump would be the next President.

Washington DC may be where Americans inaugurate their Presidents but it is Florida where they get over the line.

Yes, he does love Mexicans… in Epcot Centre

And who can forget the shenanigans around the Florida vote in George W Bush’s Millennium election victory over Al Gore?

And they’re off and running

The Happiest Place on Earth was struggling to put on their famous smiles when they collected our party four years ago.

But just like tonight when we observe America’s decision on who to put in the White House I had prepared for both eventualities.

…. And in Florida

And I had decided that seeing that my hosts for the week were Disney World I’d frame my story on The Donald.

He’s got a big mouth, is a bit quackers, and all that.

It’s all showbiz

America’s President is an all-encompassing figure from the very moment you arrive in the States.

Leader of the country, king (or queen), Commander In Chief and showbiz icon.

Which is why we’ve had an actor, Ronald Reagan, lothario, Bill Clinton, and salesman and dealmaker Donald Trump.

I saw too the reverence in which they’re held first hand when I saw the outpouring of grief for George Herbert Walker Bush when I visited Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

Kennedy’s Washington

I saw it again in Arlington Cemetery where there is a constant stream of mourners at the Kennedys’ grave.

While George Washington himself has his Memorial and Abraham Lincoln his big chair in the country’s capital.

Down the road in Philadelphia they still hold it dear that they were the burgeoning country’s early capital, and will always be the City of Brotherly Love.

Way to go Joe

And of course Pennsylvania is the hime state of Joe Biden.

New York defined Donald Trump growing up and building his name and reputation in his ow image.

And you’ll see his gleaming hotels all over America, with the memory of looking down onto his palace in Vegas on my way to the Grand Canyon seared in my mind.

The greatest prize though is Washington though and who gets the keys we may have to wait around to find out.

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Weird Vending Machines

To think they used to only save you from starting a family.

Which is why today Hungry and Thursday turns its attentions to those magic boxes, vending machines.

And a big thanks to my Japanophile friends who have set me off on this latest ramble.

Where’s the larvae?

Something with a sting in it

Canned bees and wasp larvae, Japan: To sip down the coke.

Bees and wasps larvae are harvested from their nests.

And they are cooked in sugar and soy sauce to make the delicacy of Hachinoko… and yes, it’s crumbly.

Stock up on it in Inokashira Park, Tokyo and nibble away on your Three Star Road route.

Start out in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and trace an arcing line through the mountains to Ishikawa Prefecture.

The best bar none

Anyone want a bar?

Gold, Abu Dhabi: As you never know when you’ll put your hand in your pocket and realise that you’re down to your last bar!

The five-star Emirates Palace Hotel installed the first bullion ATM in its lobby.

Bubbles

Champagne, Selfridge’s, London: If you’re having to slum it without your comp champagne which is changed daily with the laundry at Sandals in Barbados.

And you’re in the vicinity of Selfridge’s in London then you won’t be able to get through the day without your bottle of bubbly.

Hair today

It’s all her own

Hair extension, Philadelphia: OK, so it might be too late for me but there was a time when I tried a pony tail.

Although it met with a putdown from my old late pal Gadge who maintained that ponytails should only ever be on ponies.

These tails belong in Phabulous Philadelphia, Freedom City, so that’s all right by me.

The cat’s whiskers

Form an orderly queue

Stray cat and dog feeder, Istanbul: I can’t say I saw these when I visited the Bosphorus.

In fact the kitties are well looked after judging by how they’re pampered in the Grand Bazaar.

But if you do want to spoil the cats and dogs of Istanbul.

Then slot in a plastic bottle into the machine and then pop out come the goodies before poop…

America, Countries, Ireland, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – slam dunk, the NBA

I was immediately marked out as a spectator and not a player.

When my cousin Maura threw me into a game of pick-up basketball with her boyfriend John in Queens, New York.

Basketball had always been a novelty game for milk bottle white Scotsmen whose only connection with the game was The Harlem Globetrotters.

A free throw anyone?

Until I got to America.

And saw the importance of the game on that visit to see my cousins in New York and then four years later in Boston.

Where I would pass by the statue of Boston Celtics’ legendary coach Red Auerbach.

Outside Quincy Market at Faneul Hall where I was a bus boy at GuadalaHarry’s and ice cream salesman at a parlour.

Anyhoos I had myself my basketball team.

And despite warming to all the teams in North American cities I’ve passed through in the years since.

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, LA Lakers and Clippers, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic.

nba-orlando-magic-mickey-mouse-basketball.jpg

I was a Celtics fan. Which wasn’t a huge jump from my young days following a football team, Celtic in Glasgow.

This was my year for my long-awaited return to Boston 33 years but COVID has stalled that on the plate.

When I would also fulfil an ambition I didn’t even know I had.

The home of baseball: Fenway Park

To walk the Fenway Park Green Monster perimeter where I’d seen the Red Sox hit their home runs that 1987 season.

The NBA play-offs are playing out in a DisneyWorld bubble in Orlando.

And you should catch it on whichever channels you pick up.

MEET YOU ON THE COURT