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.

 

Adventure, America, Countries, UK

John Muir, the wild Scots-American

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

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

Scots explorer and conservationist John Muir’s faither Daniel Muir

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

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

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

The Muir story

The Muir statue in Dubar: And Murty

Millions have followed a similar path.

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

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

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

And a playground: For my Luminous Laurie

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

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

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

Where it all began

The Muir house: And the two flags fly proudly

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

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

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

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

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

The Scot and America

Epic: Muir’s 1,000 miles

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

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

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

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

Taking on the world: John Muir

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

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

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

And have my book stamped along the way.

Walk this way

Going for a walk in Tenerife

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

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

 

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

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

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

America, Countries, Deals

Hail Caesars Palace

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

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

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

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

Fab, fab, fab

Yes, it’s Fabulous: Las Vegas

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

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

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

Hail Caesar

Iconic: The Caesars’ statues

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

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

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

Deals, deals, deals

Miss America meets Mr Scotland in Vegas

Caesars is offering 25% off rooms.

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

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

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

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

What happens in Vegas: With Cami

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

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

And more than just a room for the night

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

 

 

 

 

America, Asia, Countries, Europe

Olympics Flag Day

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

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

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

Olympics Flag Day

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

And then you saw somebody there with the same drapery.

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

See the Leichtenstein flag

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

Only to see Games veterans Haiti flying theirs.

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

And Haiti has had a redraw

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

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

Made in Japan

Nice one sun

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

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

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

Chinese stars

Keep the red flag flying here

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

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

Betsy’s bunting

And how it was

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

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

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

UK OK?

Look who’s dropped in: Boris Johnson

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

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

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

Until they came up with the drape we all know.

Uber alles

Go for it Gretschen

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

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

Happy to share

Pole position: Scotland or Tenerife

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

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

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

That would be a twist on Olympics Flag Day.

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