America, Countries, Ireland, UK

High, fly, this American sky

And with apologies to Don McLean (and Tyson Fury) but my head is in the clouds… and high, fly, this American sky.

Because I’m trying to get all my (Donald) ducks in a row and get over to the States tomorrow.

And what was once a breeze through the gate 40 years ago the first time I visited is now akin to a military operation.

Of course there is always the danger of jinxing any forthcoming trip but I think I’ve most of my prep done.

Start up the band: Visit USA in Dublin

In truth it all started last November with a Thanksgiving get-together with Visit USA in Dublin.

When I reacquainted myself with my friends from Boston,

Rhode Island and New England and made new ones in Connecticut.

Now if you’re thinking of travelling Stateside then the rules may seem quackers but here goes.

Esta visa

A lot to do: But finish it and you’ll be purring

Yes, it’s an ESTA visa which is an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation.

It will last for two years, take 72 hours for you to get back.

And it will be the best $14, or equivalent, you’ll spend.

Double vaccinate

 

And you’ll be doubly protected with a double vaccination and a booster.

So get your health board to send you documented evidence.

You can scan too through an app, although if this trips you up and your daughterie isn’t around then a print will be your fallback.

Pass the supervised test

Concentrate: And get twirling

And while we wait for Joe to lift this requirement we’ll all need to take a supervised antigen test.

Now you need to take this no longer than 24 hours from your flight time.

And you’ll need to book a Zoom test to go through the nose swab test.

Before you then photograph it and go through the step by step digital endorsements.

And wait up to three hours for hopefully the confirmation of your negative result.

And I’d recommend Prenetics who walked me through it all.

While the Scary One held my hand, the one that wasn’t squeezing my swab into the tube.

And they had my results back in half the three-hour timespan they promised.

Almost ready to go

Call the pilot: Airline staff

And if you’re flying Aer Lingus, and why wouldn’t you, you’ll want to check out their Verifly app.

They will give you a four-point checklist.

With an attestation check, a vaccination review which you can tender manually or digitally.

Then there’s the Covid-19 Test review, or Proof of Recovery.

Both of which they’ll contact you with the results of within a couple of hours.

Now for a tea party

Or something stronger: Like a Sam Adams

There’s no guarantee, of course, that that’s the last of it.

We’ve twice missed our flight before to Dublin, our through passage to an America with pre-clearance.

Now not pointing the finger particularly after she helped me today.

Hop on board: My old friends Aer Lingus

But she was involved in both… going back to check the heating was off, and banjaxing the car en route to the airport.

So, it’s a good night’s sleep, set two alarms.

And see you on the other side in Beantown (God, Jehovah, Allah and Buddha be praised).

 

America, Countries

Civil War home to roost

As the fighting started in Manassas, Virginia, farmer Wilmer McLean was in the wrong place with the Civil War home to roost.

Fortunately for Wilmer he was too old at 47 to sign up for the Confederate Army.

Go Mac: Wlmer McLean

But the war came to him with his house in Virginia used as Brigadier General PGT Beauregard’s headquarters.

And a cannonball dropping into Wilmer’s kitchen fireplace.

The beginning and end

The house that Mac built: Wilmer’s house

With all that death and destruction on his land he can be forgiven for moving on after battle.

And heading 120 miles to the hamlet of Appomattox Court House.

Yes, that Appomattox Court House where 157 years ago today General Robert E Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S Grant.

And you can visit the museum there today and learn more about a war that changed America and the world.

And perhaps Wilmer McLean (Scottish surely).

Wilmer’s stuff and Custer

Dress-ups: In Virginia

If you’re looking for Wilmer’s original furniture I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

As the Army of the Potomac made off with them as souvenirs giving Wilmer a paltry financial recompense.

The table on which Lee signed the surrender documents came into General Custer’s possession.

And you can see it now in the American History Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

With an authentic recreation of McLean’s second home is now part of the Appommattox Court House National Historic Park.

Civil War sites

Let battle begin: Manassas

Now where Wilmer led I have still to follow.

Visiting, yes, Manassas, but still to make Appomattox.

Which I will, and as much of the pristine American Civil War sites that I studied way back in my University days.

And remember that all major airlines fly into Dulles Airport, the feeder airport for Washington DC.

Which Virginians never tire of reminding you is in their Commmwealth.

And not state as former governor, and Bill Clinton’s best buddy, Terry McAuliffe was at pains to tell us all.

Over a pint of stout in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

But that’s another story.

And today is about marking the date with the Civil War home to roost for Wilmer McLean.

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, Deals, Flying

Happy Quacksgiving Day

And the most famous Donald on Earth is certainly celebrating today because duck isn’t on the menu.. Happy Quacksgiving Day everyone.

We all know about the Other Donald, the one with the tuft and the big mouth who doesn’t make any sense.

I’m more interested in My Donald though – Donald Duck – and of course we go way back to when we had a quacking time out in Disney World in Orlando.

Me and my Duck: With Donald

And if my luck holds out then I’ll be dancing with the duck next year at the American Travel Fair, IPW, next year.

But many of us can’t wait until then and have been working with Visit USA to get out there before then.

So, it’s just as well then that our old friends, Ireland’s national airline carrier are there to help us.

Aer we go to Orlando

Fly the Flag: Aer Lingus to the States

From this Saturday customers will be able to travel directly to Florida, following the lifting of travel restrictions to the US earlier this month.

From this weekend, Dublin to Orlando will operate three flights per week to connect families, friends, and business in the run up to the holiday period.

This weekly schedule of direct flights to Orlando will fly on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday with fares starting from €169 each way, including taxes and charges.

Those looking to visit the Sunshine State can avail of the great Black Flyday offers on flights to the US with Aer Lingus.

Flyday Friday

I’m in charge: Your next President

You’ll get €100 off return fares to North America and €200 Business Class fares to the US (travel 1st January to 31st May 2022). Book by November 30.

With 13 direct routes between North America and Ireland, including New York, Chicago, Boston, LosAngeles, San Francisco, Orlando, Washington, Seattle, and Philadelphia, offers, which run until November 30.

That includes €100 off return flights to North America and €200 off return business class tickets.

They’ll be valid for travel from 1st January to 31st May 2022. And remember there’s pre-clearance.

Very VerifLY

Fly with me: And Aer Lingus

Now if you want the best advice on how Aer Lingus flies then it helps to have access to the people who fly us.

And fortunately I am and they gave us the rundown on how they, and us, travel these days.

And their super-duper VeriFLY travel pass app.

Most importantly… Aer Lingus customers cannot check-in online ahead of flights to/from the USA unless they use VeriFLY.

The app allows users to upload and ensure that their travel documentation is checked and approved before travelling to the airport.

This will allow customers to get their online boarding pass and go straight to bag drop/boarding gate, and avoid queuing at check-in.

 

 

Asia, Countries, Food & Wine

Cocktail Millionaire Hour

We’d been seduced by a rooftop viewing over Cannes but I baulked at a $16.50 Aperol Spritz… before I learned this week about Cocktail Millionaire Hour.

They must have heard about me at Pay Day Loans because why else send me news of a $22,600 cocktail, Diamonds Are Forever?

And so if you’ve got that down the back of a sofa then get yourself over to Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo.

What a sparkler

Glitzy: The Ritz-Carlton

We’re told the DAR in the skyscraper hotel is a Grey Goose vodka and a twist of lime…

And a $16,000 diamond on the side of the glass, and helpfully they advise not to swallow the diamond.

Not wanting to stymie any future chances of a stay at the Ritz-Carlton but that’s one expensive voddie and lime at $6,600.

Vegas mixers

Oh yes: The Ono

Now you pay for the celeb watching in Vegas too.

Although thankfully I had the good services of my hosts the Las Vegas Convention Board to thank for introducing me.

The Ghostbar in the Palms Casino is where you’d find everyone from Matt Damon to Paris Hilton.

But you always had to take your passport to The Ghostbar, Palms Casino to get in… they’d want verification that it’s really you.

Or you can check in at the XS Nightclub, Encore for a $10,000 Ono.

Which is a Charles Heidsieck Champagne Charlie 1981 and Louis XIII de Remy Martin Black Pearl cognac.

Plus the drink comes with a pair of men’s silver cufflinks and a woman’s 18k white-gold chain.

Playboy of the Cocktail World

Let’s shake on it: The Playboy

Now us playboys need a drink that best reflects our lifestyles.

And the $9,000 Salvatore’s Legacy at the Playboy Club in Mayfair, London, does just that.

It is made from a 1778 Clos de Griffier Vieux Cognac, 1770 Kummel Liqueur, Dubb Orange Curacao circa 1860 and two dashes of Angostura Bitters circa 1900s.

We don’t know what the tip is here but at 10% that’s $700 so be prepared when you hit the Big Smoke.

And the others

What every woman wants: The fast set

We’ve just extended our knowledge of Connecticut following our trip to Dublin for the VisitUSA Thanksgiving get-together.

And they were keen to flag up their rich casino tradition.

Usually if you’re gambling you’ll be offered a comp drink, but not alas a Sapphire Martini at the Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Now Hemingway sure loved his cocktails and the Bar Hemingway in Paris channels the Great Man.

Through its $1,670 Sidecars.

And one we made earlier: With my Cocktail Girl

When I go high set in Belfast I head for the Grand Central Hotel and the highest bar in Ireland, the Observatory.

Alternatively the Merchant Hotel will keep you in maraschino cherries.

They do an Original Mai Thai at $1,270.

While as coral and atoll islands have been in the news with COP26 et al we’ll finish off in the Maldives.

It’s a favourite place and I’m glad to see some Irish friends who had yet to have sampled its charms are over there now.

At $312 for a Hennessy Cognac it’s to be sipped and swirled around the mouth.

Yes, you’ll feel like a high-roller In Cocktail Millionaire Hour.

 

 

 

America, Countries, Ireland

An American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin

It probably wasn’t like this for the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1421… but I’ll more than take An American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, masks, double dose certificates at the Radisson Blu Royal.

And certainly not what the Pilgrims laid before the natives…

Dried meat and fish, grains and flour, dried foot, cheese and hard biscuits.

Chow on chowder

Catch of the day: chowder

Thankfully culinary fashions have changed and we dined on New England chowder, mini burgers and wings.

All the time listening to the band belting out American standards.

And taking a tour of America, around the stands, from New England, Washington DC, Georgia and Florida.

Right across the Mid-West (Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah).

And over to my old friends in California.

Flying time

Fly the flag: Aer Lingus

And you’ve got it… Aer Lingus and British Airways were there (are there) to take us back.

Now that the borders are open again.

Now like a kid in a candy shop the difficult thing is what to choose first.

Our American Travel Fair resumes in Florida in May.

Orlando, woah, woah, woah

Minnie brwak: Minnie and me

So all roads lead there… to Orlando.

Now if the Pilgrims thought that New England was a good enough starting point to explore the New World who am I to disagree.

The eastern seaboard collection of states and commonwealths I know well from a summer in Boston after university and day trips to New Hampshire.

Connect with Connecticut

Making his Mark: Mark Twain

But I’m grateful here to Sue from Connecticut for clueing me in on her state.

You might be familiar with Mark Twain name-checking it in his time-travelling tome A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of King Arthur.

And you’ll find everything you want to know about the Great American and his great creations Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in his museum here.

And also take in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house and get a glimpse of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

She’d be known today as HBS but back in the day to Abraham Lincoln she was ‘the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.’

It’s a rich old history and one I can’t wait to add to in 2022.

But for now it’s enough to acknowledge my dear old friends and embrace (with an elbow nudge) my new ones.

With an American-Irish Thanksgiving in Dublin.

 

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

Location

Instagram Hashtag

Cappadocia, Turkey

257,000

Lapland, Finland

222,000

Missoula, Montana

124,000

Whistler, Canada

45,700

Prague, Czech Republic

27,200

Dolomites, Italy

27,200

Bled, Slovenia

26,500

Lofoten, Norway

10,500

Tromso, Norway

10,400

South Coast, Iceland

8,800

New York, USA

6,700

Mt.Cayambe, Ecuador

5,200

Lapland, Sweden

4,200

Highlands, Scotland

3,600

Yosemite, California

2,700

Rila, Bulgaria

862

Swiss Alps, Switzerland

845

Lake Baikal, Siberia

169

 

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 https://www.traveldepartment.com/holiday/east-coast-usa-by-rail-incl-boston-new-york-philadelphia-washington-dc

 

 

Adventure, 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.