America, Countries

Aermerican Black Friday dream

Now we all know that it was an Irishman who discovered America which explains the love affair with the States and why there’s an annual invasion to live out the Aermerican Black Friday dream.

What, you thought that America wasn’t on our radar until Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.

Well, St Brendan the Navigator might have something to say about that.

The Irish saint having crossed the big ocean around 800 AD.

Negotiating as he went sea monsters, volcanoes, icebergs, and other adventures.

All of which is chronicled in a ninth-century tome, Navigatio.

Saints above

Aerial shot of paradise 50+ Mpix

Irish saints these days go transatlantic in style… on the side of Aer Lingus planes.

Every plane is splashed with holy water and given a saint’s name.

And which other airline can claim that.

All of which perigrinations the likes of which St Brendan could associate with brings us to our Aermerican Black Friday dream.

The price is right

Bustin his moves in Boston: This year

The offers the national airline carrier are tempting us with for our trips to the States.

Customers can bag €100 off return economy class flights to North America or €200 off return business class travel.

Book before midnight on Tuesday, 29 November, for travel between 1 January – 28 March 2023.

In Donald’s home: In Orlando

And remember there are 15 direct routes from Ireland to choose from.

Including Boston, New York, Newark, Chicago, Orlando, Miami, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Hartford, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Toronto.

And would you believe there are three/four I haven’t even been to yet?

And Europe too

A million years ago: In Munich

For those who prefer to travel a little closer to home, Aer Lingus is also offering up to 25% off return flights to many popular European destinations.

Sun-seekers can lap up Lanzarote, Fuerteventura or Malaga, while ski enthusiasts can take to slopes from Lyon, Verona, Geneva, and Munich.

Fare savings are valid for travel between 1st December 2022 – 28th March 2023.



America, Countries

Boston Tepee Party

If you’re going to throw the King’s best tea into the harbour you’d better disguise yourself which is why this act of sabotage was more like a Boston Tepee Party.

The patriots who hurled the crates of best leaf into the New England bay were we know now patriots.

But to the 55-strong British Crown crew on the three boats they looked like Indians.

The parties who file through the Boston Tea Party Museum would, of course, be strange to an 18th-century Bostonian.

But such is the attention to detail of the museum that our guides look, and sound, as if they’ve walked off the pages of history.

Oyez, oyez

We assemble, or are called oh-ye, oh-ye style, to a gathering in the Meeting House to discuss the tea tax imposed on Bostonians.

Historians, of which I am one, will recognise the speaker at the lectern as Samuel Adams.

While anybody who has spent any time in Boston will recognise him from his statue in the old town outside Faneuil Hall.

In the tap room and in his beer which you’ll see in our supermarkets now.

Say it again, Sam

Sink or swim: A conspirator

King George III would turn in his grave as he wanted to haul Sam’s treasonous hide over to England for his part in the destruction too.

He was after me too as it transpires… me a Scot Son of Liberty, James Swan, An insider in the tea industry.

Or at least it says so on the card, Mrs Storey, the feisty wife of a well-known physician, informs me.

She talks us through how we should respond to Sam’s oratory.

The usual cheering, stamping of feet and booing and hissing.

But also putting our thumbs to our noses and waving the other fingers at the object of our displeasure.

Fieing and blinding

While shouting Fie (pronounced fee).

All quite sedate and a much tamer f-word you might think but this could get you killed in 1774.

Liquored up though on rum punch shared in bowls down at the Green Dragon Tavern, near Quincy Market, the patriots are fired up.

Which might come as a surprise to a modern-day audience but Caribbean rum was popular then.

And the Crown had preceded the hated tea tax with a molasses tax, molasses being the sugar cane extract used for our fave drink.

The Boston Tea Party will give you a fuller, interactive and family-friendly reenactment of the Boston Tea Party.

All aboard

On the right side: With the rebels

You’ll board a boat, the Eleanor, and even get the chance to throw a crate over, though obviously it’s on a rope so won’t pollute the harbour.

While they also put on an entertaining film on Boston’s part in the Revolution.

And Adams and George III duke it out.

As they burst out of their framed pictures through that tech wizardry beloved of Harry Potter.

You’ll also get the chance to finish things off by sampling all five of the East Indian teas which were thrown into the harbour.

All without milk or sugar of course and all pretty insipid it must be said.

And which was another good reason to throw it into the water.

I’ll have a Sam

Taste of Boston: The five teas

Better head off to Samuel Adams’ Tap Room (he was a brewer).

Or of you have the good fortune to be staying at the Envoy Hotel just five minutes across the bridge.

As the last stop on your mini-New England tour sponsored by Aer Lingus and Amtrak.

You can retreat to your room and drink a can or two of his diverse range of craft beers.

Huzzah, as they say in these parts, at least in recreated 1774 Boston. For the Boston Tepee Party.


Countries, Food & Wine, Ireland

The perfect Guinness

The perfect Guinness before you leave the country.

Everyone knows you can’t come to Ireland without sampling the Black Stuff.

And now Dublin Airport is setting it up so that any visitor who might have forgotten (difficult) can imbibe in Terminal 1.

Airport drinking

Craic on: Dublin Airport

DA will make you feel as if you’re in the next best thing to the St James’s Gate brewery.

They have created a snug that offers visuals of the views they would experience if they were in The Liberties (Guinness’s neighbourhood).

Of course Guinness has a range of drink and foods to enjoy too but it’s the ‘plain’, the stout which you’ll go for, so Sláinte.

Now the old saying goes that the best Guinnesses are in Ireland although they cloud it (never done in a Guinness) in mystery.

Drinking rituals

Here’s Johnny: With Rain in Johnny Fox’s, Co. Dublin

Now I love drinking rituals as much as the next guy.

And I have learned to fix my eyes on the person I’m drinking with when I say Prost in a German bierhouse.

And not question the size of the frothy head on my Urquell Pilsner in the Czech Republic.

Now you don’t have to go to Dublin to learn how to pour the perfect pint although it helps if your cousins run the Liffeyside institution the Workshop.

The global drink

Mac and Black: With former Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

Just walk into any Irish bar around the world, and there are thousands from atop mountains to astride glaciers.

Whether Sean from Athenry will let you tamper with his taps though is a different matter.

One hostelry though where they’ll be glad to help, and in fact insist on it, is at Rí Rá Las Vegas inside The Shoppes at Mandalay Bay.

Glass Vegas

You could be in Ireland: Vegas

There they’ll give you the only ‘official’ Perfect Pint Experience class outside of Dublin.

Now I don’t want to give it away but there are six steps.

Follow them and you’ll not only get the perfect pint to swallow but also a photo, the glass and discount on the merch.

You can also dine in a pretty realistic recreation of an Irish snug… Vegas style.

Whether you’re fortunate to be in Ireland, passing through or want to escape for a while in an Irish bar somewhere in the world.

Nothing will taste as Irish as the Perfect Guinness.

America, Countries

Tracks on Route 66

OK it’s a forced rhyme but here goes, get your Tracks on Route 66.

With our old pals Travel Department who are offering this kickstastic journey on America’s most famous highway.

Rev it up: On Route 66

Now we can give you the prosaic history and description of US Highway 66 and its 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica.

Chuck it our way

Duck Walk: To Route 66

But that’s not the romantic king of the road spirit which would have engaged Jack Kerouac or Chuck Berry to sing its praises.

It’ll take you anything between two weeks and a month to traverse between Illinois and SoCal, Southern California.

But just a couple of minutes on Chuck’s odyssey.

Great eight states

Gateway: St Louis

Now you go through Saint Looey/Joplin, Missouri/And Oklahoma City is mighty pretty/You see Amarillo, Gallup, New Mexico, Flagstaff, Arizona/Don’t forget Winona, Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino…

Won’t you get hip to this timely tip/When you make that california trip/Get your kicks on Route Sixty-six.

Of course some of us even cheat by getting the de rigeuer photo at the end of the route on Santa Monica pier.

TD’s the day

Tis Grand: With Tara and Tryphavana on the Grand Canyon

TD’s trip, a 15-night adventure is from €3,799pp inc. flights, transfers, B&B stays and guide. Dep. September 4.

Oh, did we mention that you’ll get to walk the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Now you’ll make your own Route 66 story but for everyone else’s visit the Route 66 Museum & Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma.

TD also flags up a walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln on a guided tour to his home in Illinois.

And a trek high above the Sandia Mountains on a breathtaking ride on one of the world’s longest aerial tramways.

Back to the future

See you on the other side: United Airlines

Now I’ve been to the end I’m backtracking.

And I wish I could in time too to September 2018 when I should have been with my pal Martina and my go-to flyers United Airlines.

Only a selfish oul’ woman banjaxed my plans by going and turning 90.

And yes, that wee Irishwoman, my Mum, who had already enjoyed the charms of the Windy City.

And much more on her Tracks on Route 66.


America, Countries

Forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday

If someone has pinned you down to tell you that this is the unhappiest day of the year, tell them Forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday with these great escapes.

They, of course, will be full of woe and be all too quick to tell you.

About how today has the worst of the weather, the longest of nights and how you’ll be skint after Christmas.

Thank the heavens then for my friend Rachel.

For she brings sunshine into my life with a steady stream of far-off exotic destinations some of which I’ve still to tick.

Dip your toe in

Poolside party: In West Hollywood

The London West Hollywood, California, USA: Now I made a splash in West Hollywood when I would jump from breakfast to the lobby swimming pool.

But today’s offering is a different inn, The London West Hollywood which houses a gorgeous rooftop pool and cabanas.

Just imagine swimming towards panoramic views of LA and Beverly Hills.

Your garden oasis sweeps from downtown LA all the way to the Getty Centre and beyond.

Blue skies

Go Broncos: Sporty Denver

Denver, Colorado, USA: Now closer to the skies was I 1600 metres up in the sky in the Mile High City.

And the sun too with 300 days of the big yellow ball every year.

The RiNo neighbourhood is the hip area, while it’s a great sporty city too.

The home of the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rockies and Colorado Avalanche.

The air being thin up there in Denver the locals will tell you it takes half as much time to get twice as drunk.

All of which appeals to the thrifty, but partying Scot in me.

Lakes and rivers

The Romans were here: Heviz Spa

Lake Balaton, Héviz Spa, Hungary: The gift of Travel is in the people we meet, more magical than any sunset.

It is beholden on us too to all be ambassadors for our individual countries.

And that is why I’ll always believes Hungarians must be as charming as my Topflight for Schools pal Edina.

I dare say this Magical Magyar would be better at talking you through the inner sea, Lake Balaton.

It is home to picturesque landscapes surrounded by ancient fortresses, underwater cave galleries, vineyards and historic towns.

But don’t just take our word for that (well, actually do) but visitors have been relaxing here since the Ancient Romans.

Héviz Spa is a hotspot in Europe for relaxation and mineral treatments.

Shimmering seas

Tomori Beach, Kyushu, Japan: Now we’re probably more used to images of its bustling cities and cherry blossom parks.

But it’s the sunny seaside which we’ll focus on here and in the island of Amami, ‘the Blue Angel.’

Tomori Beach in Kyushu is considered the best on the island and just ten minutes from the airport.

And it is also a haven for snorkellers.

Blue murals and sculptures

Sacramento, California: Now for those who think California is only about the Big Two, Los Angeles and San Francisco had to sit up and take notice.

When Greta Gerwig wrote a ‘love letter’ to her native Sacramento, the multi award-winning Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan.

Fans of the rites of passage movie will instantly recognise the American Market & Deli in the hip Midtown neighbourhood.

And its exterior mural depicting a Lady Bird-appropriate peacock with a large fan of feathers.

Store co-owner Gurpreet Singh makes a cameo appearance selling Lady Bird cigarettes, a lottery ticket and a Playgirl magazine.

Having just turned 18, she is buying every previously forbidden item now legally available to her.

I can identify with that and I know you fun Bandanini and Bandanettes do too.

And that is why today you’ll forget Black Monday it’s Craic Monday.






America, Canada, Countries, Europe, South America, UK

Benefits in going Cold Turkey

It’s a country I love and where I should be this month, and it might surprise you, but there are benefits in going Cold Turkey.

Turkey is for ever set at a crossroads, of continents and civilisations and change.

And diverse colours, hues of peoples and views.

And that changing perspective is as true of Nature and the seasons as it is of the peoples of this multi-faceted country.

As holidaymakers we’re more used to seeing Turkey when it’s roasting.

But it’s resplendent too when it puts on the winter whites.

Cappadocia caps it

Balloons for all seasons: In Cappodocia

Don’t just take my word for it though (well do) but Cappadocia glistens more than anywhere in the world according to our Instagrammers.

Wellness experts at Area 52 have looked at locations across the world and analysed Instagram hashtag data to see which are the most relaxing winter destinations to de-stress this year.

And Balloonists’ Nirvana Cappadocia tops the list with 

I’ve something of a history with balloons having missed out on the pleasure in locations as wide as the South of England, South Africa and Florida.

All of which makes me think that the best is just waiting for me when I get back on board with my favourite Turkish Airlines carrier.

And join the 257,000 Insta clickers who have got there first.

Lapping it up

Northern Lights too: Lapland

And yes you would expect Santa’s home in Lapland to be a favourite for winter worshippers.

And, particularly children which is why I put an old colleague and her nipper first… and incurred the wrath of Daddy’s Little Girl.

Lapland has been the focus of 222,000 Insta followers. 

Give a little Whistler

Whistler while you ski: Canada

With our attentions switching back to the full return of skiing my own revival on the slopes is on course.

Back in the day when I first took up pen my old boss used to snap up the Whistler trips.

And joined the thousands who broke off to snap the Canadian vista on Insta, 45,700 in all.

NY in winter

Icescraper: New York

Now when you’ve seen The Big Apple in the sweltering summer you’ll be glad to chill out in the winter.

This year I’ll leave it to my Irish-American relatives to enjoy their Thanksgiving Day (bucket list) but I’ll be doing the next big thing.

And break bread with my Irish family and friends at Visit USA in Dublin. 

Insta Kings

Now because we just know that you all love a list, here’s a rundown of the other favourite Insta winter destinations.

On the King Charles Bridge in Prague


Instagram Hashtag

Cappadocia, Turkey


Lapland, Finland


Missoula, Montana


Whistler, Canada


Prague, Czech Republic


Dolomites, Italy


Bled, Slovenia


Lofoten, Norway


Tromso, Norway


South Coast, Iceland


New York, USA


Mt.Cayambe, Ecuador


Lapland, Sweden


Highlands, Scotland


Yosemite, California


Rila, Bulgaria


Swiss Alps, Switzerland


Lake Baikal, Siberia



America, Countries, Deals

Boston T

Anybody who has spent any time in Boston will know that the locals get round by T… Boston T.

No, not an abbreviation for the drink for which it is most associated but rather the Tram, or trolly.

Which in my time working in Beantown in the Eighties I found started overland in my neighbourhood in Tremont Street before duckign down into the Subway.

And I got the whole authentic experience returning at night of seeing the long-tailed residents of the reclaimed harbour run around the tracks.

A real Bostonian experience for this traveller.

America is built on its rail networks which criss-crossed the coasts and coast to coast and which I dare say my Irish navvy antecedents helped build.

And while there is something romantic about a Greyhound or a Peter Pan coach, the same can be said for the train.

And particularly when our friends at Travel Department are at the controls.

The Rail East

East Coast USA by Rail incl. Boston, New York, Philadelphia & Washington DC: This 10-night holiday allows you plenty of time to enjoy each city with guided tours and free time to explore at your leisure.

You’ll begin your journey in Boston, and visit America’s oldest & most prestigious university on an excursion to Harvard.

For those who suffer under the misconception that America lacks history then visit Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall.

And immerse yourself in Boston Tea Party history down by the Bay.

Lady Liberty and Laddie Liberty: NY

Your next stop is the Big Apple where the locals know if you’re a tourist because we’re the ones who look up.

And you’ll find too that New Yorkers while tarred with always having an angle (true) are a friendly bunch.

Ring the bell: Philly

And one in fact came back through the turnstiles in the subway to help mia famiglia with our map and directions.

Next, history enthusiasts will be in their element as you take a tour of Philadelphia’s key highlights like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.

And the news from the Capitol: In Washington

The final stop on this whirlwind tour is the capital and jewel, Washington DC.

Where, of course, I’ve got a hotline to the White House and have already had the red carpet laid out for me.

Deal us in

Priced from €3199 pp and Including flights, transfers, that ten-night accommodation on a B&B basis and expert guides.

Departures on 20th May and 4th November 2022.

For more information



America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, UK

Craig Sera Sera

Craig Sera Sera, that’s a wrap from the 12th Bond.. and he’ll sure miss those exotic missions.

So which countries has 007 visited most, other than England where he works?

Well of the 50 he’s been to, Italia would seem to have been his favourite with the spy having touched down in Il Bel Paese eight times. 

Pasta Master

Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

Rome, Venice and Como have inevitably been stick-on locations for any filmmaker and international man of mystery.

And this time it’s the European City of Culture for 2019, Matera, which is getting its place in the sun this time. 

With its houses. built into caves, cobbled streets and high arches a dramatic backdrop for the opening scenes.

And Felice Giorni for Matera with the town’s mayor, Raffaello De Ruggieri, predicting its association with Bond will be worth $20 million to the local economy.

In truth this is probably the highpoint of the movie, and all before the credits and Billie Eilish’s disappointing dirge of a soundtrack.

As Daddy’s Little Girl rightly pointed out the best bits were the locales. 

Live and Let Spy

Love a duck: At Epcot Centre, Florida

With Britain and America enjoying that much feted special relationship it is unsurprising that The Oo Es of Eh is his next favourite stop-off.

And we particularly enjoy his forays into Florida and its keys… whose pleasures I had to put off on the outbreak of Covid but where I intend to fulfil just as soon as.

Ski another day

Like an Alpine skier: In the Austrian Tyrol

Next up might be less predictable, Austria, but then we have to remember its stunning snowscapes and Bond’s love of winter sports which of course we share.

Although we have never seen him on the slopes of Soll while we have enjoyed skiing alongside some dapper fancied-dressed folks.

And we look forward to seeing a penguin-suited Bond on the piste some time soon.

For Bond anoraks it’s an easy question but which is the only country in a film title?

The spy who came in from the Red

Dance away: Russia

Yes, the old Soviet Union, or Russia as we knew it in shorthand.

And as well as the titular film From Russia With Love, Bond turns up in Fabergeland another three times.

Turkish crossroads

Hamam bam: Istanbul

It has been the crossroads for espionage since first the first looked out over each other at either side of the Bosphorus.

And, of course, Istanbul, has been an ideal backdrop for Bond’s adventures… and yours, and mine with three films taking in Turkey’s biggest city.

Three’s a charm

Limber up: The next Bond?

And among those countries where Bond has a trio of visits is Hong Kong, Spain, the Bahamas, Scotland, his homeland and Jamaica where Ian Fleming penned the books.

And the West Indies’ biggest island is where we first fell in love with Bond on the Laughing Waters beach in Ocho Rios.

Or Sean Connery to be more precise, even if you were a red-blooded bloke, you actually wanted to be him.

Wear a swimsuit: Craig as Bond

And be with Ursula Andress.

There was much fuss too about Daniel Craig with his take on coming out of the water, ripped and in a pair of budgie smugglers.

Only thing is a budgie has more charisma.

Craig Sera Sera… whatever will be, will be.




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.


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.