America, Countries, Music

RESPECT Aretha and me

RESPECT Aretha and me. And to mark the imminent release of the biopic of Aretha Franklin, a walk in her footsteps.

The Queen of Soul was born into music.

The daughter of a Memphis Baptist Minister, he was ‘the man with the million dollar voice’, CL Franklin.

Mum Barbara being a singer and pianist then there was only one thing Aretha was going to do with her life.

Musical legacy

Early days: Aretha

We, of course, associate Aretha most with Detroit, where the Frankins decamped to when she was two, via Buffalo, NY.

The route north was a well-trodden one for a more prosperous life. 

Either to the Eastern Seaboard or the Northern Cities of Detroit and Chicago.

All of which created musical magic with Motown and Chicago Blues.

But, of course, that sound was formed in the black churches of the Deep South.

And taking a tangent here to recommend The   Black Church: This is our story, this is our song.

Which is on the excellent PBS, the American Public Broadcasting Service.

Winner, winner, US diner

I’m looking at you: Aretha

Aretha, of course, was an actress as well as a singer.

And she gave an unforgettable cameo performance in the Blues Brothers.

As she gave a ball-breaking ultimatum to her husband and fellow cafe owner…

Trying to keep him from the clutches of Jake and Elwood getting the band back together… Think.

Aretha, of course, has transcended the cities where she put down her music.

And you’ll find her sung out across the land, across the world.

It’s the instinctive go-to singer in an American diner.

And ny jukebox pick

Off for a jig: Aretha

In my case DC when a regular, down on his luck, gave me his life story.

RESPECT Aretha and me. And Jennifer Hudson who is a stick-on guarantee in the part.

 

Adventure, America, Countries, UK

John Muir, the wild Scots-American

And in a celebration of John Muir, the wild Scots-American, a quote from his dad, Daniel.

Bairns, you needna learn your lessons the nicht, for we’re gan to America the morn

Scots explorer and conservationist John Muir’s faither Daniel Muir

My own uncles had a similar spontaneous tale to tell just like John Muir, the wild Scots-American.

They had taken shelter in the opening of the American Embassy from the pouring Glasgow rain.

And they then decided to seek their fortunes anew in the States.

The Muir story

The Muir statue in Dubar: And Murty

Millions have followed a similar path.

With those from my own homesteads, Scotland and Ireland, up there proportionately with any of them.

John Muir’s story has crept up on me where, of course, it ought to have been front and centre of my Scots education.

And now I’m living in the East Lothian of his informative years, his presence is more visible.

And a playground: For my Luminous Laurie

But it is true that the Great Conservationist is more celebrated in his adopted America where he and his family went to live when he was 11.

Than in his own homeland of Scotland although he would visit here in later life.

And he would write lovingly, and often, about how Dunbar, 30 miles east of Edinburgh, had shaped his life.

Where it all began

The Muir house: And the two flags fly proudly

You can learn all about John Muir at his birthplace in the main street of the once fishing and farming town where the population would be split between Shories and Streeties.

Dunbar has reinvented itself around Muir with a statue in the high street of the Great Man exploring nature.

And a country park and adventure playground on the way out of town.

It is as Muir, the great protector of Yosemite National Park  in California would have wanted it.

Again, rather than waffle here, pick out the John Muir birthplace museum in Dunbar, or better still visit it, to learn more about this remarkable man.

The Scot and America

Epic: Muir’s 1,000 miles

This month, but for the vagaries of our airlines, I would be making my annual pilgrimage to the States for their Travel Fair , this year In Las Vegas.

It was while at a previous Travel Fair in Washington DC that I spoke to a delegate from America’s National Parks 

Her eyes lit up when she heard my Scottish accent and the first words that she spoke were ‘John Muir’.

She would go on to tell me about a celebrated Ranger who had been interviewed on American television.

Taking on the world: John Muir

When asked if someone were to put to him that he only had one day to visit Yosemite what would he do, he shot back: ‘Cry’.

I told the very same story to the guide at John Muir’s Birthplace and it was about the only thing that Elaine didn’t know about the Dunbar man.

I left with my Muir passport, determined to walk the 134 mile John Muir Trail from Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland to his birthplace Dunbar.

And have my book stamped along the way.

Walk this way

Going for a walk in Tenerife

Sure, I’ve done it all before.. the Camino, the Via Francigena, the Canaries.

Still, even if I do it, it will be as nothing compared to Muir’s 1,000 mile jaunt from Indiana to Florida, his much-celebrated 1,000 mile walk to the Gulf.

 

His five days trekking in America’s Great Outdoors with President Theodore Roosevelt, he of the Teddy Bear.

Or the circumnavigation of the Earth which you can track on the globe at his old birthplace.

That’s John Muir, the wild Scots-American.    

America, Countries, Deals

Hail Caesars Palace

Hail Caesars Palace and 55 years of the most famous entertainment hotel on Earth.

Caesars has no apostrophe maybe because the Ancient Romans didn’t use them, although the pitch is that it’s becasue everybody staying at the hotel is treated as a Caesar.

The pedant in me would say the apostrophe should go after the final ‘s’ then.

But leave your pedants Caesars and Vegas is all about pleasance.

Fab, fab, fab

Yes, it’s Fabulous: Las Vegas

The resort, on the west side of the Strip between Bellagio and the Mirage is truly immense with 121,181 sqft of gaming space, a 22,450ft Colosseum showbiz venue which all the greats have, and do, perform at with Celine Dion the latest.

And 3,960 rooms so there will be one free for you!

You want to know what’s on offer. Me too.

Hail Caesar

Iconic: The Caesars’ statues

Joe Biden who we have all had such high hopes for is dragging his feet on allowing us back in (or is that just me).

And he’s supposed to be making an announcement on Labor Day, Monday, September 6, which makes it tight for me attending my American Travel Fair, IPW

Fear not though whatever happens in Vegas will not stay in Vegas either way and I’ll continue to bring news of Caesars and all the resorts and fun you can have in Sin City.

Deals, deals, deals

Miss America meets Mr Scotland in Vegas

Caesars is offering 25% off rooms.

Our friends at British Airways have given us more skinny on what Caesars Palace has to offer. 

The Palace has a choice of eight pools, at the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis.

And you can even play swim-up blackjack. Or unwind in your private cabana with attentive waiters on hand.

Every woman loves a shop and you can treat yourself to luxury retail therapy and enjoy fine dining at Caesars’ exclusive shopping destination, The Forum Shops too.

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

BA is offering three nights in Vegas for less than £1,000, actually £927 which gives some extra bucks to splash on the tables.

While our old friends at Harrah’s which is linked to Caesar’s will offer you party bar fun.

And more than just a room for the night

Hail Caesars Palace. And a big thumbs-up from us.

 

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe

Olympics Flag Day

It’s a vexillologist’s dream, Olympics Flag Day… and there were 206 of them at the opening ceremony.

Of course the majority of them will never be seen again on the podium.

Now flags are really just the costume a country dresses itself up in.

Olympics Flag Day

So just like women and dresses it would never do if you turned up with your best flag.

And then you saw somebody there with the same drapery.

But that is exactly what happened at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

See the Leichtenstein flag

When Leichtenstein turned up for their first Games proudly displaying their blue/red split horizontal flag.

Only to see Games veterans Haiti flying theirs.

And so they did what every lady does… accessorise by adding a crown while Haiti added their coat of arms.

And Haiti has had a redraw

Of course the Olympics are the chance for every country and its athletes to meet people they’d never encountered before.

So just a couple of words here on some flags we’ll see a lot more of in the next couple of weeks.

Made in Japan

Nice one sun

Japan: The Rising Sun flag is one of the most distinctive and easiest to draw… if you’re Giotto.

Japan is said to have been founded by the Sun goddess Amaterasu in the 7th Century BC.

And is an ancestor of first emperor Jimmu… and surely a relative.

Chinese stars

Keep the red flag flying here

China: We all associate China with the Reds but, of course, Communism only dates back 70 odd years.

Not being political here but we prefer an earlier iteration, the Yellow Dragon Flag used by the Qing Dynasty.

Betsy’s bunting

And how it was

USA: The world’s most famous seamstress, you can learn the whole story of the American flag in the City of Brotherly Love.

Of how Betsy Ross sewed the definitive Stars and Stripes in Philadelphia.

And persuaded George Washington to agree to five-pointed stars rather than six because that was easier to sew.

UK OK?

Look who’s dropped in: Boris Johnson

UK: So, you thought you know the story of the Union Jack, actually the Union Flag, the Jack is naval.

It encompasses the St George’s flag of England and its then vassal territory Wales, the Scottish St Andrew’s Cross and the St Patrick’s Saltire.

As was inevitably the way of it the English wanted to tuck the Scots flag up in the corner and the Jocks to have their ceoss dominate.

Until they came up with the drape we all know.

Uber alles

Go for it Gretschen

Germany: The German black, red and yellow horizontal bands derive from the 1848 Year of Revolutions.

And are inspired by the black uniforms with red facings and gold buttons of the Lutzow Free Corps who fought Napoleon.

Happy to share

Pole position: Scotland or Tenerife

Scotland and Tenerife: Vexillologists everywhere know that Scotland and Tenerife share the same flag.

But for those who need a reminder I unpicked the threads of it.

You’ll not see the Saltire fly at the Tokyo Games unless, of course, it’s draped around the shoulders of Jock winners.

That would be a twist on Olympics Flag Day.

But it should have been me, it should have been me.

 

Countries, Flying, UK

Holidos and Don’ts A United approach

I defer on travel (and life) to my hero Billy Connolly which is why I think he would subscribe to my Holidos and Don’ts A United approach.

The Big Yin avows that anyone who shows any inclination in being a politician should immediately be banned from office.

Our immediate Travel future lies in the vice-like hands of two such people.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

And neither are going down a bundle with our Travel providers.

The experts

Joanne Dooey, President of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association.

And Jo White, who runs the UK and Irish Media Press Office for the Irish Travel Fair, IPW.

Over to the experts then on where we lie.

The old Shapps club

Jo Dooey takes aim at Shapps and the Scottish Government in equal measure.

She says: ‘It would be churlish not to say that any moves towards the reopening of travel regulations are welcome.

“However, Scottish travel agents and travellers still need to know that Scotland will swiftly follow suit.

‘We continue to raise the question of travel certification and how Scotland will deliver a scheme to allow the public to provide proof of vaccination status in order to fly to other countries.

“Currently English travellers can use the NHS app to prove their certification status.

“And this integrates with the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) which gives digital proof of a traveller’s vaccination, testing and recovered from COVID-19 status.

‘The Scottish Government needs, as a matter of urgency, to tell us what stage, if any, the development of a Scottish app is at.

“Currently, Scots who wish to travel, have to apply for a paper certificate.

“And we need to be operating at the same level as the other countries which have developed and are already using this technology.

One price for one…

‘While Scotlnd faces more expensive testing that in other UK nations, we persist in lobbying for the cost of testing to be at least equitable across the UK.

‘However, we look at it, 2021 has followed 2020 as a second catastrophic year for our industry.

“And the news last week that TUI has withdrawn from its Scottish base [a favourite tour provider],

“And also is cancelling a raft of holidays to some of the most popular holiday destinations up to 31 July only supports this view.

‘Travel agents have been forced to remain open for 16 months now to help their clients rebook – sometimes for the sixth or seventh time – yet are still receiving no income.

‘There is little, if any, customer confidence in travel at the moment.

“And the whole sector needs the Scottish Government to get behind a restart to international travel and boost the Scottish economy.

‘If the Prime Minister’s strategy is, from 19 July, to remove legal curbs on people’s behaviour.

“And to end restrictions and allowing people to make their own decisions, then surely people should be allowed to travel internationally with more choice.

“We remain in consultation with the Scottish Government to outline the way forward for Scottish travel.

“And the role testing and vaccination certification will play in this.”

Meanwhile in America

The 47th President of America: In Washington DC

And for those of us for whom our annual conference with our American Travel partners is key.

To driving business this is also a major concern.

As is the slow progress of opening up the US borders which is key to our travel providers.

And those for whom America is their favoured destination.

While talk that they are being selective too about those who have had the AstraZeneca jab.

And with continued confusion about quarantine.

Well, over to you Joe Biden. No hidin’… 

Prove us all wrong and Billy Connolly who might say, they’re all a load of old jobbies…

What I WILL say is.. follow my Holidos and Don’ts A United approach.

 

 

America, Countries, Culture

Happy 4th of July New America

What a difference a year makes… Happy 4th of July a new America.

A new President and new horizons.

And new (and old) visitors as the American Dream renews itself.

Party time in Vegas

Miss America meets Mr Scotland in Vegas

I think we’d all agree that after the year we’ve had we need a party.

And the partiest party place of all is Party Town, Las Vegas.

Where they’re getting set to roll out the red, white and blue carper for us.

FlyOver Vegas

Fly the West

Vegas is showcasing its new ritzy feature, The FlyOver, this Fall.

This is a multi-sensory journey through the West’s most iconic locations.

They’ll be the Las Vegas Strip, the grandest of canyons, the Grand Canyon, Zion and Arches National Parks and Lake Tahoe.

Magic Vegas

Viva Las Vegas

So how does it work? Well, all the fun happens on a moving platform with a 6 degree of motion.

And anyone who has been to Universal Orlando and ridden the Harry Potter Forbidden Journey simulator knows that these things rock.

The simulator is next to the Hard Rock Cafe on Las Vegas Boulevard and boasts…

An expansive space with two flight-ride theatres, pre-show entertainment area and, of course, a bar to settle your stomachs.

Zipline Vegas

Fly Vegas

You can see Vegas below you too on a SlotZilla zipline whizz through Downtown, Old Vegas.

Today Vegas will roll two Fourth of Julys into one.

So whether that’s a pool party, out on the Strip or at a show then Americans will be sparking in their fave fun city today.

And they’ll be lighting up the sky too with the fireworks displays they do so well.

Miley’s Vegas

Miley high

Multiple hotels will take part, including Caesars Palace, the Aria, Planet

Hollywood, Treasure Island, The Venetian, The Strat and the brand new Resorts World.

And boy will they be celebrating, as only Vegas can, with Miley Cyrus showcasing the grand opening at their AYU Dayclub.

Cammy over some time

All of which will be shown on the huge LED screen from 9pm with the fireworks going off all over town from 11pm.

Miley, of course, will guarantee that it’s going to be a Party in the USA. Or NewSA, if you like.

So Happy 4th July New America and we’ll see you all again soon.

When we see at last a new UK and a new Ireland.

My Vegas friends

And Elvis is there too

Over to our leaders then.

I have an appointment with Cammy from Utah and so many other Vegas friends this Fall.

But I need movement on removal of restrictions so we can have our independence back.

 

 

America, Countries, Culture

Pride and joy

The Tarts and Tramps was always a rite of passage for Aberdeen University Freshers students in the Eighties, and I dare say it’s their Pride and joy still.

Quite whether students get a chance to glam and glum it up in a meaningful Freshers week in September remains to be seen.

Hugs around the world

But encouragingly Pride events will be held around the world this month.

Changed from last year when we all rallied together to make the most of it all digitally.

My attention was drawn by one of Las Vegas’s finest music acts, Imagine Dragons, championing Pride.

Flagging up Pride

It just so happens that I’m at my campest in the Oo-Es-of-EH and the 

Cariqueen and it’s that love of a good pun which makes me fit right in.

By rights we who travel for a living would have been boogieing it up in Party City.

That is of course Las Vegas, where I should be now at the US Travel Fair.

My beardie matches: In California

Their Pride party is legendary as is their entertainment.

With the Beach Boys and Snoop Dogg entertaining us last time up in Anaheim.

And OneRepublic rocking Red Rocks in Denver the year before.

Red Rocks in Denver

We’ll hopefully do the American Travel Fair all over again in the Fall.

Where, yes, Pride will be behind us.

But I know someone from my last Vegas trip, Cami from Utah.

My Pride and joy, who I might just still be married to!

 

 

America, Countries

Oh Coral I am but a fool

Oh Coral I am but a fool but how can you keep your eyes on the ocean floor in goggles and a tube?

You see in life some of us are snorkellers while the rest, like me, are flappers.

If you’re a snorkeller you float like a jellyfish on the surface of the sea.

Reef top display

If you’re a flapper you thrash around like an extra in Jaws.

And in minutes your mind will be shouting for a rest which is when you commit the ultimate coral crime.

And stand (and) kill the life on the ocean floor off the Maldives.

We’ve been down this snorkHELL before through my misadventures in Barbados, Tobago and Jordan.

Turtle recall: I’ve seen you around

But I know, and respect, how important the coral is to us, and what the likes of the Florida Coral Rescue Center are doing for us and what lives under the sea.

SeaWorld and Disney Conservation are in board the initiative to save it.

While the coral is at risk from you and me it is also fighting off a deadly infection, stony-coral tissue loss disease.

And the Center has rescued coral from non-infected reef.

Now, I won’t blind you with their science, or the sex talk.

Only to say that the action group which runs out of Orlando is keeping true to the ethos of what the city was built on.

That all the living things who allow us to share this Earth with them come first.

SeaWorld Orlando and Disney are all about the thrills and spills.

But to preserve what we have then they, and we, know that animals and fishies are great in fluffy costumes.

And just as cool in their natural environs.

 

America, Countries, Culture, Music

New York rebuilding again… 20 years since 9/11

The City of Skyscrapers aims high, and 20 years since 9/11 New York is rebuilding again.

This time it’s a virus rather than a violence that has shaken America’s largest, most vibrant city.

But this week Mayor Bill de Blasio and his team launched New York‘s fightback.

There’s a $30m injection of cash into international tourism.

Now the first thing we’ll notice if we come through LaGuardia Airport is well, that it’s new, a veritable crystal palace of an airport.

A new New York

Things have changed since we were there last.

And NY now boasts a new train hall, Moynihan Train Hall, an expansion of Penn Station.

Moyni-who? They must be Irish, right?

Well, yes, it was the pet project of former NY Senator Pat Moynihan.

Two green icons

From the right side of the tracks to treading the boards.

NYC & Company treated us to a cast preview of the musical Girl from the North Country.

The musical celebrates the music of Bob Dylan and of course NY shaped America’s Poet Laureate of the Sixties.

Musical New York

Another arts giant to leave a lasting mark on Broadway and New York is Lin/Manuel Miranda.

And his much anticipated musical In The Heights will be out in July.

Breaking the glass ceiling

Miranda, of course, brought us the phenomenon that is Hamilton.

The movie version of which was released to stream on Disney+ last year.

Now I’ve been treated to Disney on Broadway in Anaheim at the last American Travel Fair in 2019.

And I can’t wait to walk down Broadway, or more likely skip after enjoying another of their musicals.

New York is rebuilding again, and is on the up and up once more.

America, Countries, Culture

Native American signs point the way

I’d advise anyone who is thinking about taking a summer out before work to spend it in ‘At or about the great hill’. Or Massachusetts to you and me!

You see, we all know more Native American language than we thought.

Always in the big tent

But imagine if somebody came to your country and changed all the names of the places which the settlers did.

AIANTA, the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, have got us on board for their initiative Mapping Indigenous Place Names.

Where is..?

Do you know the way to?

Now as the United States took shape and they formed new settlements they went for names from the Old World and then just put New in front of them.

Some though were more inventive and took Native American names.

So, let’s play a game of what does that American state mean?

Rivers run through it

All kinds of everythng with Carol Dana, language master for Penobscot Nation

Starting with A, of course, and Alaska is from the Aleut word alexsxaq, meaning ‘the object towards which the action of the sea is directed’.

K is for Kentucky, a hallowed place in American Country music, is Iroquoian for ‘at the meadow’ or ‘on the prairie’.

While Michigan who we met up again with this week at MTM21 and are close to welcoming us all back, nods to the Ottawa mishigami, ‘large water.’

Dressed to thrill

Our magical Mississippi, whose old man river just keeps rolling, is derived from the Algonquian language Ojibwe. meaning ‘big river’…

And yes, there’s a theme here.

Utah, another we caught up with at MTM21 and where we’ll visit after the American Travel Fair, IPW, means ‘high up’. Naturally!

Follow the trail

They were here first

When we all get travelling again we should definitely add Native American experiences to our lengthening list.

Helpfully AIANTA has done the heavy lifting for us and pointed these information packs our way.

That bbbbbuckin’ Bronco

Top Ten Experiences: https://www.aianta.org/ten-native-american-tourism-experiences/

Pre-Columbian Sites:  https://www.aianta.org/pre-columbian-sites-in-the-us/

Native American Tours: https://www.aianta.org/native-american-tours/.

Must fly, I’m being called back to ‘the Place Where The Scary One Breathes Fire’, sometimes called ‘Home’.