America, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Holly Dolly Christmas

So how many days out can you release a Christmas album? 84 if you dress up like a Christmas Tree like Dolly Parton.

Dolly has been trailing her Christmas album which she released at the start of the month.

While her god-daughter Miley Cyrus who herself has a new album to promote at the moment followed her onto the Graham Norton Show in the UK.

I know all about Christmas in Dolly’s neck of the woods, Tennessee.

Of course the best place for all things Dolly is Dollywood.

I visited there, Tennessee, though Dollywood itself is a pleasure I’ve yet to savour, and Mississippi.

And my party was treated to a Christmas song recital in an antebellum houses in the Deep South.

There’s some of the old standards on the Dolly album like Holly Jolly Christmas, All I Want For Christmas Is You and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

But there are more Dolly originals.

There are others who are getting their Christmas requests in early…

 

It’s usually all about the bass with Meghan but but this proud daughter of my beloved Massachusetts is all about the gifts in October,

She has a new album A Very Trainor Christmas.

The Dolly that we know and love has always been adorably irreverent.

Although not as saucy as Tobagonian Soca Parang music.

We’ll bring you more about the culture and traditions of Parang as Christmas comes closer.

But for now I’ll leave you with something that will definitely lift your spirits, a hot new 2020 Soca Parang Mix.

America, Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Harry, Meghan, Sideways and Santa Barbara

When Harry and Meghan had to find a bolthole out of Britain then Santa Barbara hoved into view.

And if you’ve been hanging on the Sussexes’ every word these past months then it no doubt piqued your curiosity for the American Riviera.

Preachy flavourings: Meghan www.meghansmirror.com

Pique no more.

We all know Meghan likes her vino and this is no doubt another reason why she has chosen Santa Barbara, Sideways country.

A Sideways glance

The smell of success: Miles and Jack. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Sideways: The greatest film about grapes ever – the towering Sideways.

Santa Barbara is the backdrop for Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) Bachelor’s Party road trip.

Our friends in Santa Barbara have helpfully put together an itinerary which follows in the footsteps of the odd couple.

You’ll start your day with breakfast at Solvang Restaurant.

Picnic time for the fab four

Where Sideways nuts will tell you that it was here that Jack insisted Miles’ ‘gloominess not thwart his attempts to get lucky before the wedding.’

Try the Aebleskiver, a waffle-like breakfast ball filled with apple slices.

Wine O’clock rolls around soon on a Sideways tour.

See if you get the same tasting notes as Miles from the Vin Gris at the Sanford Winery

‘Citrus, strawberry, the faintest soupcon of asparagus and just a flutter of edam cheese.’

Our kind of road trip: Miles and Jack on the road. https://www.20thcenturystudios.com/

Next up Kalyra Winery is where we first meet vivacious Aussie wine pourer Stephanie whom Jack falls for.

Now I’ll need to dig out the film again to see Ostrich Land which you’ll also visit.

While our two heroes lunched at Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant with Stephanie and Maya. You too can choose from the Sideways menu.

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard is where a pent-up Miles guzzles from the slop bucket after the pourer refuses to give him a full glass..m

We’d opt for a glass of Pinot Noir.

Your table, sir?

Firestone Winery offers tours and a guide, and it is from here that our fab four sneak out of a lecture tour for a romantic walk through the Barrel Room.

The Hitching Post II is, of course, where Maya waits tables and their Santa Maria Style barbecue is to be recommended.

The definitive wine road trip tour… And, of course it’s your call on the Merlot!

Two Glasses In

Wine-tasting for our times

Vino California: And a toast to the Golden State.

Two Glasses In is a nine-episode podcast and video series that celebrates SB’s grapes over two glasses.

We prefer two bottles! And from Roberson’s too.

America, Countries, Culture

All the Presidents then

And as The Donald and The Joe go head to head in the first Presidential debate of this race… a look at how America remembers its Presidents.

Yes, with huge monuments as in the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

While for the best of them (at least when it was carved) they get their faces on the side of Mount Rushmore.

A word of two then on these and other Presidential landmarks.

George’s obelisk

Aspiring to greater things

Washington Monument: By George, they don’t make Presidents like him any more.

George refused to take the title of King.

And he also turned down an ostentatious statue in Washington of him astride a horse as suggested by his old pal Lafayette.

The Washington Monument, the world’s tallest obelisk at 554ft is almost due east of the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

Abe, a man for all the ages

Seat of power

The Lincoln Memorial: And here’s a nod to the Ages with the building in the form of a Doric temple.

It has also become the focal point for the Civil Rights Movement.

The March to Washington ended here.

And it’s where Martin Luther King delivered his I Have A Dream speech.

Channel your inner Abe and make a seat in front of him.

And look out onto the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument.

Kennedy, the center

The Kennedy Center and the Eternal Flame: And among all the legacies JFK left high among them was his love of the arts.

The Kennedy Center is next door to Watergate, where his nemesis Richard Nixon was undone and is truly an inspiring building.

But while the Kennedy Center is notable for its scale.

It is the intimacy of his last resting place in Arlington Cemetery which really touches the soul.

Nixon’s library

Richard Nixon Library, California: And contrary to popular belief the Nixons and the Kennedys got on real well.

And Pat Nixon even invited Jacqui and the kids back over to their old home, the White House after John F Kennedy was killed.

The Nixons still keep in touch with all their friends.

Which is probably why your favourite Travelman got a call last year.

As the Nixon Library invited me over to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing under Richard’s watch.

I couldn’t go and sent Buzz Aldrin in my stead.

Good Ol’ Ronnie

Ronald Reagan Library, California: And every library should have a bar, don’t you think?

Well Ronnie’s does… and it’s a recreation of the one he was taken to in his ancestors’ homestead in Tipperary.

Now every American President since Kennedy returned ‘home’ will take a sip of Guinness when they visit Ireland.

The Donald’s drink of choice is, of course, a Diet Coke,

Is he the real thing or will America go for Joe.

Tune in and find out.

America, Countries, Culture, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – Chicago

Come on, oh Baby don’t you wanna go. Come on, oh Baby don’t you wanna go, Back to that same old place, Sweet Home Chicago – The Blues Brothers

It was Frank Sinatra’s kinda town and one I’m going to have to wait for the pleasure of seeing people who, smile at you. It’s Chicago.

Which has inspired a whole host of artists to wax lyrical about its charms.

Jim Croce sang about bad, bad Leroy Brown, the baddest man in the whole damn town (no, me neither and I think Frank’s version is the best).

You better think: Aretha Franklin. www.imdb.com

Me (and Barack Obama) love Sweet Home Chicago from The Blues Brothers which was released 40 years ago this year.

Blues bus

I’d first been inducted into the Blues Brothers Brotherhood.

On my storied booze, Blues bus to the Oktoberfest in Munich back in the day.

The closest I’ll get to Chicago which was on the schedule is the Chicago Blues Brothers tour around the UK.

But it has had to reschedule its dates.

Let me see you shake your tail feather: The boys and Ray Charles

Once we get out to Chicago we can get around the old landmarks (Preach the Lord!) with the official Chicago site.

Bring it home James

Now some of them, alas, have been razed, perhaps the damage done by that infamous car chase.

But the Triple Rock church where James Brown asked Jake and Elwood ‘Do you see the light?’ Is there.

Or at least the exterior which is the Pilgrim Baptist on 9114 S. Burley Avenue although it’s been rebuilt since a fire.

The interior is Hollywood.

That bridge where the boys drive the Nazis into the water?

Well, that’s Jackson Park in the Chicago Park District.

On the right track: Chicago’s L rail network

The finale? The Richard J. Daley Plaza and City Hall.

Who is that clerk?

Where Steven Spielberg plays a cameo appearance as a clerk cashing the cheque for the orphanage.

Of course, as belting as the city is, it is of course the Blues which is at the heart of the movie.

With its stellar cast including James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles among others.

The Godfather of Soul

So check out the Blues when you get out there.

Hey Buddy!

And Buddy Guy‘s is as good a place to start.

And until you do, run the movie again, get out the soundtrack, and dress for the occasion…

That’s pin-sharp black suits, fedora hats and shades.

You know you still have them in your wardrobe from fancy-dress parties.

And if you love, love, love the Blues then join me as I visit the Birthplace of the Blues.

Adventure, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Let the train take the strain

As we’ve been planning a wee train trip when we can again, and I don’t mean North Berwick to Edinburgh, I’ve been checking out my friends’ recommendations.

And I’m indebted here to my old friend Aileen, who is more Roaring Twenties than Boring Twenties, for her shout in Paris.

With Aileen flagging up Le Train Bleu Restaurant (formerly the Buffet de la Gare de Lyon) located in the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris.

Better than a burger joint then?

So I’ll pull up to the bumper, baby, and give you my fave trainy-related places I’ve been.

And all those Eastern European and Central Asian palaces will just have to wait.

The only way is up

An Alpine hand

The Jungfraujoch, Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland: They had me sold when they said my ears would pop.

The journey from Kleine Scheidegg up to the Jungfraujoch is Adolf Guyer-Zeller’s major feat of engineering.

That’s 9km up to the top of Europe between the Bernese Highlands and the Valais.

And you’ll get an ice bar with Swiss whiskey, a Tiso watch shop, and a Bollywood restaurant to accommodate those sari-clad ladies on the peaks.

Next stop, the Gold Rush

Golden touch

Golden, Colorado: And the Wild West was built on the railway.

The Colorado Railroad Museum gives you an insight into what life was like for those pioneers puffing through the plains.

With a guided tour. The only thing that’s missing is Butch and Sundance standing down on the banks.

Also check out the Art Deco frontage railway station in Mile High City, Denver where dreams of the Gold Rush were hatched.

What’s in a name?

A Wales of a time

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Anglesey, Wales: And far from being a party pooper here but this long Welsh name is a Victorian Age contrivance.

It used to stop before the ‘wyng’ bit but a tailor from the village added the rest to form the word.

Which means: ‘St Mary’s church in the hollow of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysillo near the red cave.’

Alas, the bigger they are the harder they fall.

And the jobsworths have closed the station because the platform is too small because of social distancing.

And ten minutes later you’ll be on the water

Water way to travel

Padova to Venice, Italy: Now I grant you there are more romantic ways to first see the Grand Canal.

By water, of course.

But for most of us we’ll first approach the city on the lagoon by train and through that bottleneck at the station.

But the thrill when you enter Venice is worth it.

Just bear in mind the erratic Italian trains, and forget what Mussolini said.

And leave yourself enough time if you have a cocktail reception to get back to in Padova’s Botanic Gardens.

Particularly if you’re in your boardies, Dragon, and haven’t brought a change of clothes.

Keep your eyes on the view

A familiar trip

Dublin to Greystones, Co.WicklowA: And as much as I gave out about the DART through Bray Head on my daily journeys to work…

No matter how I felt about going into work. this is a stunning stretch past Dublin Harbour.

It is not for nothing that it is compared with the Bay of Naples and used as a film substitute. And that Bono bought the view.

And, of course, it has the ultimate seal of approval in that Isambard Kingdim Brunel built the tumnel.

America, Countries, Culture

Black Washington

I prayed for 20 years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs – Frederick Douglass

Its most famous residence is the White House but the mansion of a black slave stands above it and the Capitol in Washington.

And the last occupant of Cedar Hill stands way above the current tenant in Pennsylvania Avenue.

The house on the hill

Today President Donald Trump is throwing a non-masked ball for his people complete with fireworks above the Washington Monument spelling out Trump 2020.

While on the National Mall a Second March on Washington has gathered 57 years after the first.

The scene is replete with history and symbolism.

Douglass come back to life

And above it all Frederick Douglass’s house stands as a reminder and a historical touchpoint for Black Washington.

Douglass, born a slave in Maryland in 1818 taught himself while in captivity before escaping his Master.

And then going onto champion the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad.

In the frame: Frederick Douglass

And also becoming an international spokesman for black people, women’s voting rights.

And among other international causes celebres Irish freedom.

Did I also mention that he was the first black person to run for one of the two great offices of the land?

As the running mate of Victoria Woodhull on the Equal Rights Party ticket.

All of which history is around you as you walk solemnly.

Unfinished business: At the infinity statue of Martin Luther King in Washington DC

Through his house which we are told would cost the equivalent of millions of dollars today.

It is 125 years since Douglass took his dying breath there but its status, and his, continue to grow.

Douglass’s success in Washington, the US capital, serves as an example to others of what can be achieved in the face of repression.

Just as Black Broadway (U Street) does and just as those channeling Dr Martin Luther King are doing.

Including his grand-daughter, Yolanda Renee Kong who spoke so passionately to the crowds yesterday.

This is who we need in the White House

The parties will go on down in that White House and presidents come and go.

But up there in the hills of Annacostia you can’t help thinking.

That the spirit of old Frederick is looking down on them, watching, waiting and dying to say something.

Adventure, America, Countries, Culture, Deals, Flying, Ireland

Crazy Horses

You know you’re in the Wild West when you see wild horses thundering across the Grand Canyon.

And look out from The Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum at Lookout Mountain at the Great Plains where he once roamed.

The wide open spaces, the freedom, the clean air, the sanctity of nature, the conservation of the animals on whom their very survival depended.

Bandanaman and Issy in Clark, Colorado

It’s how people lived for centuries in these lands before we found ‘a better way’.

I have my Native American headdress on (though not literally though I did have one as a kid), having signed up for the virtual conference from New Mexico next month.

Buffalo Bill’s grave

It’s just that this COVID business has reminded us all to reconnect with the earth.

All of which you’ll find on an Escorted Tour with your American Holidays

Take their Canyon and American Lands Adventure for 2021.

TV broncos star: In Broncos’ Stadium, Denver

Kick it off in Vegas before departing for Zion National Park and hike Angels Landing.

Next up is Bryce Canyon National Park, renowned for its crimson-coloured sandstones, the hoodoos.

On my way to my next million in Vegas

You’ll recognise Monument Valley from all the old movies and here you’ll learn all about its place in Navajo legend.

Travel through the Navajo Reservation to the Cameron Trading Post to pick up jewellery and your dreamcatcher.

Of course you won’t have to wait long for your dreams to come true as you’ll cap off this unforgettable tour in the Grand Canyon.

The First Americans

Watch it from the rim or hike down it… however you take it in you’ll only sample a fraction.

And if that’s not enough Americana for you then you’ll travel back to Vegas along Route 66.

All this for two from €2099. Price includes return flights Dublin-Vegas. Seven nights’ hotel accommodation and tour guides.

America, Caribbean, Countries, Cruising, Culture, Deals, Ireland

Holiday Snaps… why we don’t want 24/7 sunshine

Yes, you read that right, as 24/7 sunshine like we had been getting in the UK means the world is dying that little bit quicker.

While strewth, at the other end of the world, our Australian cousins have been shivering.

And that includes their kangaroos… and snowllabies.

Kangaroos in Australia www.bbc.co.uk

No, best keep the hot places where they’ve always been and the cold ones too.

Imagine Barbados, Tobago and the Caribbean and its people without their sunny disposition.

Thankfully we don’t have to…

Woooah, we’re going to Barbados

With Sandals offering seven nights from £2375pp with travel dates May 1-June 30 at the Sandals Royal Barbados.

You’ll be staying in a south sea crystal lagoon club level Barbados suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub. With flights from Virgin Atlantic,

And I know a thing or two about Tranquillity Soaking Tubs.

A welcome from the Nations

And I’m channeling the good guys

We’re on the eve of the 400th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving Dinner in Plymouth, New England next year.

When the Pilgrims and the Natives shared harvest.

And that alas, if it happened like that at all, is when the sharing stopped and the newcomers took their land and sent them packing.

The pipes of peace

Which is probably where the Choctaw Indians and the Irish were sent to Hell or Connaught by the same British forged their links.

The Choctaw sent money to the starving Irish during the Famine and the Irish reciprocated during these COVID times.

And that’s the subject that remains hanging in the air from the last AIATA webinar.

I’ll return to it and my Native American friends whom I first met in Washington DC and then again in Denver and LA

Wigwam Jim

When I’ll get me the American Travel fair that COVID robbed me of in Vegas.

AIANTA’s will come from Albuquerque next month and will reach us all virtually with the organisers waiving the registration fees.

I’ll be there to bring you all the news.

And it’s gentle cruising

Aran Islands

The sea oh the sea is the gradh geal mo croide. Long may it stay between England and me. It’s a sure guarantee that some day we’ll be free. Oh thank God we’re surrounded by nothing. – The Dubliners

And for the uninitiated those strange Irish words mean ‘sweet love of my heart’.

The song is a celebration of Irish waters.

Including my favourite Meeting of the Waters in my erstwhile County Wicklow home which was immortalised by poet Thomas Moore.

My old friends at Travel Department are used to taking us to exotic places near and far.

Connemara’s old sod

And now in Ireland too.

Galway, Connemara and the Aran Islands is from €599pp for three nights including 3* B&B hotel, transfers, excursions and local guide.

Depart October. Ring (00353) 1 637 1600.

MEET YOU ON THE WATER (AND LAND)

 

America, Countries, Ireland, Music, UK

Rainy days and Songdays – Aloe Washington

And if you share with me your dollar I will share my story with you – Aloe Blacc

Cheap at the price too.

Aloe Black has been omnipresent across my American Travel fares.

The cool dude in the pork pie hat was there to greet us on the National Mall in Washington DC on our evening and sing us his standard I Need A Dollar.

We’re down there somewhere… on the National Mall

Only the best for us as they closed it off for the IPW international delegation to parteeee.

And how we did inside the Smithsonian National Space and Air Museum.

So much so, and I blame my old friend Michael from Irish Travel Trade Network for leading me astray, that we all but missed the act.

I’m flyin’ high: The National Space and Air Museum

Thankfully Aloe was back to wow us with another set at one of the lunches between our hall meetings with the states.

And busy boy that he is he had also managed to compose a video and the power of music.

Which he had put together on a whistlestop tour of the US and which the IPW fare in Washington showed us on the big screen.

Aloe there

Great idea and great memories and they all came flooding back as I listened to BBC Radio 2 last week.

Who were featuring him as their artist of the week.

An uplifting message in these times and as Aloe would say and indeed sang to us in Washington… Wake Me Up When It’s All Over.

Countries, Culture, Food, Food & Wine, Ireland, Music, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Elvis food

The King was taken from us 43 years ago this week so were he alive today he would have been 85. So what would he have looked like?

I prefer to imagine him hair dyed, squeezed into a jumpsuit and taking himself off.

As in his send-up version of Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Because for everything that’s been said about Elvis it is always worth remembering that he was a born entertainer.

And so had an enormous appetite for fun, life. Yes, and food.

See, it’s got fruit

It’s early in the morning and I’ve had something of the meat sweats on me.

From the good ol’ Southern food on Beale Street in Memphis the night before.

When my Southern host tempts me with a favourite from the menu at Elvis’s top diner, The Arcade.

When he was young

It is the legendary peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.

I could bluff it here and say I had it but the grits had left me with a heavy tummy.

Instead I sat at his favourite table and imagined instead.

After all I’d channeled my inner Elvis already at Sun Studio where I stood at the very spot where he had sung That’s All Right Mamma.

Where The King sat… and Elvis!!!

And roared like a lion in the Jungle Room in Graceland.

Graceland is smaller than you imagine, probably because you expect everything to be larger than life in Elvisland.

Certainly the hangars that contain his motorbikes and cars and another with all his jumpsuits point to that.

Full of grace: Graceland

As does the aircraft outside dedicated to his daughter Lisa Marie, one of a few he owned.

But in truth Elvis’s world was small, his father Vernon, mother Gladys, wife Priscilla, Lisa Marie and family and friends he grew up with.

Elvis and his peers would divebomb the swimming pool, play racquetball (he had a game the day he died) and whizz downtown in their golf buggies.

Hear me roar

And the locals who had known him since he was a kid would just say: ‘Aw, Elvis how are you.’

While the folks at The Arcade would chat to him like they would any patron, easy-going Southern hospitality.., ‘how’s your family.’

Only Elvis was different… after all, nobody else had as sweet a tooth or ordered a peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.

Ah, yes, the Jungle Room

How to make it:

Spread the peanut butter on one side of one slice of bread.

Top with slices of fried banana and slices of cooked banana.

Cover with the other slice of bread.

Spread butter on the outside of the sandwich.