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’.

America, Countries, Culture

Twenty years of Shrek

Of course Happy Ever After can yield another and another and another in the movie fairytale world, particularly when it yields as many dollars as Shrek.

Shrek exploded onto our screens 20 years ago next month and it’s fair enough to say nothing was ever the same again.

More Shrek

And although we thought the release of Shrek Forever After, also called Shrek: The Final Chapter in 2010 would tie up the franchise why give up on the gift that keeps on giving?

They’re part of the audience. https://www.attractiontickets.com/en?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu7Ol7bLz7wIVlIXVCh1NIgigEAAYASAAEgKsefD_BwE

And so we’ve had the spin-off Puss In Boots.

While Shrekkies were given a real treat when it was announced that there would be a Fifth Shrek film next year.

So where does Shrek live?

Shrek’s home

Well, when he’s not in his swamp, Universal Resort Orlando is where you’ll find him hanging out.

The dynamic duo

There are other action heroes who will leave you sickly green at Universal with their stomach-churning rides.

I’m talking you Hulk, my first corkscrew ride in Orlando with Attraction Tickets

Which makes you regret that omelette and stack of pancakes you took at breakfast.

He’ll be all right

No, Shrek 4-D is a tamer, more family fun interactive experience, but no less fun for all that.

Shrek’s ride

When we last left the layered one in Shrek Forever After he was grappling with fame in a Shrek lite theme park.

Before Rumpelstiltskin tricks him into giving it all up for just one day of his old life.

Big in Japan

Spoiler alert here.

But our favourite author extricates himself from his sticky moment and we caught up again in Universal Studios Hollywood on our superheroes’ get-together.

And both being of the Scottish variety, and both sharing some nasty habits we both got on like a swamp on fire.

Hear them roar

He’s invited me back so, of course, with a new film coming and Universal Resorts cranking up again for visitors.

With something new all the rime… I’m talking about you VelociCoaster me.

Shrek around the world

And because Shrek is beloved around the world and is big in Japan, our friends over there are enjoying him too.

Now for 2021 I’m thinking because it’s the Fifth Shrek we can have 5-D!

I’m on my way from misery to happiness ptoday, uhu-uhu-uhu-uhu!

Countries

China and the US and the future of Travel

It takes your Travel Editor of the Year to get China and the US into the same room.

That’ll. be my office then.

From where I bring you the latest news from Chinai2i Travel specialists and IPW, the American Travel Fair.

The sight of people mingling on the streets of Shanghai is uplifting and is down to the model we are struggling with in the West.

That’s the vaccine app which will give your Covid history and act as a contact tracing tool.

China though is setting the template for how we interact again and projecting next year to welcome back us Westerners.

Ying and Yangtze

Plain sailing

All of which will give the Son and Heir more time to save (no, seriously) for his teaching assignment, and us too for our trip.

As ever Wendy Wu is giving us a little local knowledge for us after we visit him in Chongxing after Shanghai.

China light

Wendy offers tailor-made tours and a little local knowledge… who knew, for example, that it was China’s ade facto capital in WWII.

The Yangtze River Cruise is how to get about and The Three Gorges its highlight.

At last Vegas

Whip it up: The Whip-Its at Harrah’s. https://www.caesars.com/harrahs-las-vegas?utm_campaign=GMB&utm_source=google&utm_medium=local&utm_term=HarrahsLasVegasHotelandCasino&utm_content=hotel

And we’re back, and I’ll be back too with IPW, America’s travel fair driving on for its resumption in the Fall.

It’ll be a return to Neon City where I partied with the party people at The Palazzo at The Venetian Resort.

Viva Las Vegas

And The Venetian (yes you’ll see gondolas and the Bridge of Sighs) is the hottest ticket in town.

Which is the Atomic Saloon Show which they describe as ‘a riotous and raunchy romp through the wild, Wild West.’

And Cami from Utah is a regular visitor

And ‘drop-dead sexy acrobats and ridiculous comedy mayhem from a cavalcade of cowboys, showgirls, nuns (come again), lawmen and layabouts.

All (well, nearly) of which I’ve indulged in in Colorado and Knotts Farm, Buena Park, California which climaxed the last IPW in Anaheim

The Murt Pack

Boozy proprietress Boozy Skunkton is your hostess with the mostest at the Grand Canal Shoppes inside the Venetian Resort.

The fun begins on May 5 at 7 and 9pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

Africa, America, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

A year on – Ireland and Scotland and further afield

That was the year that was – it’s 12 months now since I left my beloved Ireland for my first love Scotland.

I had though little intention of spending all my time in Scotia.

And instead had a long list of destinations to fill out the year.

So to mark the anniversary I’ll share the year that never was.

Off to a flier in Czech Hoptown

In the Strahov Monastery Brewery, Prague, in the Czech Republic

The Chinese lady with the mask on in the airport in Prague Airport seemed a curio at the time, a reminder of the latest virus that only affects Asia.

A few weeks later the fun and intimacy of the Czech Republic  were but a warm embrace I clung onto as I entered lockdown in Scotland for the first time.

As I came out of isolation I engaged with my Czech friends again over the new-fangled Zoom app we were all compelled to use and toasted each other in time-honoured fashion Na Zdravie.

I was heartened to see them lay out a table for a feast along the Charles Bridge in the early summer and wished that I was back there again in Prague or in the Czech Republic’s Hoptown, Zatec.

I know this though that the Czechs will get through this because they have the best beer in the world, Pilsener Urquell.

Trump steals my Keys

Limin’ at a Key Lime shop in the Keys

Suitcase packed, bandana on, I was all set for my fly-drive around the Florida Keys when Donald Trump (remember him) closed the country to visitors while encouraging Americans to gather… at his rallies.

And so Hemingway’s six-toed cats, key line pie, Florida sunsets and easy living will just have to wait.

Of course the beauty of it is that Papa’s pussies won’t have had any idea that anything was even different about the past year.

Exile me in St Helena

Napoleon was here

And another on the back-burner is Napoleon’s island. No, not his birthplace, Corsica, or the one the British sent him to initially, Elba, but the one where he ended his days, St Helena.

St Helena, 1200 mile west of southwestern Africa is one of the most remote inhabitable islands in the world and is an ecological dream.

All of which makes you think that exile was a pretty good option back in the day. And if I end up needing to self-isolate anywhere then I’ll be back in touch.

Vegas or bust

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

Now I’ve always felt bad about leaving Cami from Utah at the bar at Harrah’s Las Vegas a few years ago and knowing she goes down there every weekend knew that she’d be there when I revisited in June.

The American Travel Fair was scheduled for Neon City and I was all booked and ready, my chips at the ready to make my million.

But alas I had to leave Cami waiting again and to get my fix of Vegas I had to make do with watching the world’s greatest band The Killers perform from the ceiling of Caesars Palace on YouTube.

The fair, IPW is slated for the Fall, and I’ll be expecting an Access All Areas ticket, Brandon.

And maybe even reprising my Mr Brightside from the Rising Star Karaoke Bar, CityWalk at Universal Orlando a few years ago.

The Norman request

Perfect for a selfie?

I would have put my Monet on getting to Normandy

for the Monet festival back in late summer.

And even get a painting lesson in his back garden.

But as the UK travel corridor policy became as chaotic as the Spinal Tap boys trying to get to their gigs, again I found myself blocked.

Now what is the French word for cup-de-sac?

Bergamo go, go, go

Bergamo fountains

And just as the year was petering out and I was resigning myself to my best chance of a trip down to North Berwick beach, Mamma Mia but one came off.

And in spectacular style.

The journalist in me had me tracking the evolution of Bergamo through the pandemic, it being the gateway to the virus in Europe.

And just in time I got over to Northern Italy to talk to the Bergamaschi and ask how they had got through it all and their advice on how we should all progress now.

There was specialist Lombardy food and wine, culture, history Donizetti music and art aplenty.

But the most beautiful picture was that of the emboldened Bergamaschi in the backdrop of their historic city, both in Citta Alta and Citta Bassa, the High and the Low City.

Now there are worse places to have spent this last year, with the view of the Firth of Forth from my window, Bass Rock bookending the beach and Edinburgh just along the road.

I’ve chosen to live by the sea all my adult life. It’s a primal thing knowing that exciting lands lie beyond.

I know that we’ll visit them again soon, and hopefully I can fill in the blanks above and add San Francisco, Chicago, New England and a host of other trips I had planned last year, and many to come.

All for your enjoyment.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture

Inauguration and US Precedence

Or when they sealed off the National Mall for me.

You know you’ve arrived when they do that for you, believe me.

And that is exactly what they did when I visited DC as a guest of the American Travel Fair, IPW.

The 47th President of America: In Washington DC

The National Mall, for those of you watching the inauguration of President Joe Biden today, is the grassy stretch of land from  the Washington Monument to the domed US Capitol.

The White House is to the north.

And flanked by all of this are the magnificent Smithsonian museums.

King for a day

US Capitol and Reflecting Pool, Washington DC

Out on that balmy May evening in Washington we were given the run of the place.

And we were treated to Aloe Blacc singing for us on stage, we were given a reception in the National Air and Space Museum.

Honest Jim and Honest Abe in Washington

The Reflecting Pool which many of you will know from Forrest Gump is the artery from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial.

And, of course, it was the backdrop for Dr Martin Luther King.

I have a dream: The unfinished Martin Luther King statue in Washington DC

And the climax to the Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963 when he delivered his I Have A Dream speech.

Today Joe Biden spoke of unity from a platform in front of the heavily fortified US Capitol.

It is the very same seat of government that was besieged two weeks before.

Civil War memories

Ne-Yo in Washington

Only this year was different.

With Covid and the security threat since the Storming of the Capitol meaning it was a completely different audience.

Only dignitaries, soldiers and the symbolic flags of the 400,000 casualties of the virus in the eye line.

Much has been said about America and the times we are living through.

And President Biden is an eloquent man in his own right and has a team of speech writers to finesse his sentiments.

American hero: In Washington DC

The circumstances of this inauguration and the militarised zone have been likened to the Civil War.

And that naturally conjures up the spirit of Abraham Lincoln.

With malice toward none

View of Washington from Arlington

Lincoln has been channeled regularly by his successors who wish to establish their line to the Great Man.

Few have done him credit.

Only time will tell if President Biden will be able to fulfil the lasting mission of Lincoln.

But the challenge for him and any President is to honour the pledge given on Saturday, March 4, 1865…

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds,

 

 

 

 

 

 

America, Countries, Culture

It’s another American conspiracy

We’re hard-wired to try to explain what we can’t accept by shouting CONSPIRACY!

And that is why Covid had to have been engineered by a Chinese lab.

And why the US Election was stolen by underground alien child snatchers.

They and the rest of the SH1T we’re seeing now will draw the Conspiracy Tourist for years to come.

Of course our curiosity for conspiracies is constantly fed by books and movies, the most recent of which is a new one on me…

Grab a Booth

Public enemy No.1 http://www.fords.org

John Wilkes Booth, Washington and Virginia: And it is timely to talk of Booth.

And we all saw the Confederate flag-wielding protestor breaking into the US Capitol Rotunda last week.

Channel surfing, I fell upon a PBS programme.

Somebody was positing whether it was indeed Booth who was shot dead in his hideout in Virginia.

It was though the actor who assassinated Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC

Let your imagination run wild aa you walk through history itself.

The classy knoll

The Book Depository in Dallas where you found more than books

The Dallas Book Depository: And the segue here is the highest pub in Ireland, Johnnie Fox’s in the Dublin Mountains.

Where amongst all the Irish memorabilia there is a poster comparing the circumstances of Lincoln’s death and Son of Ireland John F Kennedy.

Both 43, both succeeded by a Johnson, Booth killing Lincoln in a theater, Oswald arrested in a cinema.

If it was in fact Oswald… all of which you can learn and more at the Sixth Floor Museum at the Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

The Lorraine Motel

King and Memphis: And the most recognisable bedroom balcony in history which with its bedroom is now the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.

Where you can witness where Dr Martin Luther King was shot down.

And you’ll learn, as I did the strange circumstances behind ‘assassin’ James Earl Ray’s flight.

And also how fingers are pointed at the FBI and the Mafia.

Ray was arrested weeks later in Heathrow Airport in London after suspicions were aroused because he was in possession of two passports.

All of which makes me edgy every time I visit the Deep South

And go through customs as I carry around my old passport with my ten-year American visa.

Goodbye Norma Jean

Lying with Marilyn

Marilyn and LA: And Marilyn Monroe fans will all pay a pilgrimage to her last resting place.

The Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary is a retreat of solace in La La Land.

Where Marilyn rests in peace for eternity.

Apart that is from the unwanted attention of her nemesis Hugh Heffner who bought his drawer next to her.

In life Marilyn too was hounded to her death. By suicide if you believe the official line.

Better celebrate her life instead around LA and in Hollywood and Venice Beach… forever the California Girl.

A concrete story

What’s behind the door? The Mob Museum in Las Vegas

The Mob in Vegas: And Las Vegas is built on conspiracy with every gambler who has ever lost his shirt able to blame the house.

Of course Las Vegas was built on Mob money and on top of crooks who have crossed then.

You can learn all about all the shady goings-on at the Mob Museum

It’s an offer you can’t refuse.

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, Ireland, UK

Rainy Days and Songdays – MacArthur Spark

Someone left the cake out in the rain, I don’t think that I can take it, ‘Cause it took so long to bake it. And I’ll never have that recipe again – Donna Summer

And today as we mark a historic milestone, the coming of the Messiah of Travel 55 years ago, a word on cakes, songs and one particular song, MacArthur Park.

My own party piece for a family birthday is to leave the cake outside on the patio table before cranking up the song and then bringing it inside.

But what of the location of Donna Summer’s disco masterpiece cover.

Of Richard Harris’s weak croaky version?

Well, there are many MacArthur Parks in the US, all named for the war hero General Douglas MacArthur.

But this one is in LA.

Old Los Angeles

The story goes that composer Jimmy Webb wrote it about the break-up of his relationship with Susie Horton.

That they would meet regularly for lunch in the park opposite Susie’s insurance office near Downtown LA where I’ve seen first hand its cultural snd historic growth.

And that he did see a cake left out in the rain and the old men playing checkers by the trees.

Wings over Los Angeles

It’s a thing in the States, outdoors chess and checkers.

And on a family trip to New York the Son and Heir played with a dude who claimed to have played with Bobby Fischer.

And just saying in the passing Mrs M will surely find the recipe again…

It’s written on the empty box I found in the bin!