Countries, Culture, Europe, Ireland, Sport, UK

A Wales of a good time

It was more lock-in than lockdown in my year in Wales with many a night spent back drinking after last orders in Kildare’s.

Yes, Kildare’s in Cardiff city centre, with its Brain’s bitter and dance floor with a darts board on the wall is where I’d be spending their two-week ‘fire break’.

Cardiff has changed considerably since I learned how to report proper back in the late 80s.

Cardiff Bay

But to me it will always be 1987 and 1988.

When on the first night there a local in the pub next to my college enquired of my origins. As we stood peeing in the loo.

‘English bastard are you?’ asked Taff.

‘Scots bastard actually,’ said I as I hoped a bit of Celtic brotherhood would get me out of a tight scrape.

‘Just as flipping bad. You cheated us out of two World Cups, you bastard,’ he shot back without taking a breath.

At which point I turned to meet his eye, shook myself and left.

Oh, I’ll have them all then

The loos were safer but more used when Brains allowed us an hour free bar at the end of our tour… I think we broke the record.

I’d probably not be sitting here jotting this out if I hadn’t got out of my tent in my pal’s back garden in time for my final exams.

There were other highlights too. Such as scoring the last-minute equaliser in the semi-finals of the University of Wales Interdepartmental Cup semi-final.

And getting my first Press pass, into Cardiff Arms Park… Wales robbed Scotland with a kick from inside their own half.

Kings and Queens of the Castle

All these and more.

You’ll make your own memories when their politicians allow us all back in.

Like Cardiff Castle, with its Banqueting Hall, the picturesque chapel and clock tower.

The arcades, my pick is St David’s with its statue of its most favourite sportsman, Gareth Edwards, among a range of spectacular art throughout the city.

And you know how much I love my statues, and my cultural icons.

The perfect pass: Gareth Edwards

Cardiff Harbour is the focal point for the city’s regeneration while you’ll want to learn more about Tiger Bay, home to the city’s favourite daughter, Shirley Bassey.

Yes, Cardiff’s changed and Wales play their internationals at the futuristic Millennium Stadium now.

Where Scotland still lose… and don’t even get close.

Now there’s a Cardiffian bar fly who is searching for a new victim in the Woodville Bar.

Meet you on the road…

CWRDD A CHI AR Y FFORD

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.

Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

Five British beaches

I’ve always lived on the edge, so following on from my five best world beaches here are my five top British beaches.

The A+ of beaches

Breathe it in

Aberdeen beach, Scotland: No, this is not the Caribbean, but I have swum here, in the frozen north-east of Scotland.

Miles and miles of sand stretching from the Brig o’ Balgownie to Footdee (Fittie) and its quaint fisherman’s cottages.

Aberdeen’s beachside and Queen’s Links have grown since I lived and worked here.

There’s now a cinema complex, but old fave Codona’s Amusement Park is still there. See www.visitabdn.com and Aberdeen – a light in the north.

Lush

Gang of four: Gavin and Stacey and Nessa and Smithy

Barry Island, Wales: And long before these guys washed up on our television screens I was down on Barry Island.

A favourite day out from Cardiff the beach is more compact than you might imagine but that gives it its intimacy.

Jackpot: Oh, try it out

Memories of a day out of my own after my old friend Whitey took me there when I’d failed an exam, and eating ice creams on the beach, come flooding back.

You can, of course, do a Gavin and Stacey tour www.visitwales.com.

Beach babes

Just standing around: Blundellsands

Blundellsands beach, Liverpool; Parents everywhere will appreciate a good long stretch of sand to take their toddlers.

They’ve put up these statues from Antony Gormley called ‘Another Place’ since we were building sandcastles with the Son and Heir.

And that just enhances the view. Like the statues I was looking over to Ireland, hoping that one day I would live there. Visit https://www.visitliverpool.com/things-to-do/another-place-by-antony-gormley-p160981.

Porty spice

Just what Porty types want

Portobello Beach, Edinburgh, Scotland: ‘Wall, huh! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Let’s say it again.’

With apologies to funkster Edwin Starr, this piece of graffiti embodies what Porty, where I spent ten years, is all about.

A city beach which also draws folks from across the Forth in Fife, and west from Glasgow, it boasts traditional swimming baths.

And Sean Connery was a lifeguard in the outdoor baths where the five-a-side pitches are now. Visit https://porty.org.uk/visit/ and https://edinburgh.org.

Brighton rocks

Train rides: On Brighton beach

Brighton, England: A pebble beach but you’ll get over that quickly because of the buzz around the place.

Although I have been worried about the throngs there at the moment.

A traditional day out for Londoners, you’ll recognise it from the Mods film Quadrophenia.

But for me it’s a day down there when I was living in Reading and hooked up with friends, and some Spanish exchange students, which live long in the memory.

See www.visitbrighton.com.

And Bitchin’ Beaches… five around the world.

MEET YOU ON THE BEACH

Adventure, Culture, Deals, Ireland, UK

Covid-day Snaps – Good news from Ireland

And as no new deaths are reported overnight in Ireland further good news with our Travel industry starting up again.

It will come as little surprise to Hibernophiles (people who love Ireland) that Connacht is to the fore.

Well, as the old traditional song goes The West’s Awake!

Let there be fire

The West has a special place in my affections as it was here that I spent my first holidays cut from my Mum’s apron strings.

As I holidayed with my Dublin cousins in Salthill, Co. Galway.

I don’t think it was entirely altruistic as my parents did get a chance to globetrot.

Still as an early teenager I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

The Wild Atlantic

Picture postcard

I dipped my toe in Spidal (quite literally) with my Uncle and cousins avid swimmers.

And I did the same on the dating scene where again I was left hopelessly out of my depth.

We went over the county border too to Co. Mayo and the Marian site of Knock which surely left a mark.

As I have ticked off Lourdes The Lourdes prayer, Fatima Secret Portugaland Medjugorje What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know since.

All of which meanderings brings me back to Hotel Westport’s plans for the revived summer season.

Estate of the nation

Fill up my bowl

Westport Estate stretches to 400 acres – plenty of room for social distancing there. And it is also at the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way https://www.wildatlanticway.com/home.

And it is overlooked by St Patrick’s mountain Croagh Patrick.Which that very same Mum never tired of telling us she walked up barefooted and without a good breakfast when she was pregnant.

I let her off because it was my brother she had on board.

Westport is an ideal set-up to showcase what I believe will be a new direction in how we take our holidays… slow travel.

Carry on camping

Round the campfire

Take their Family Bush Camp which will give families the chance to reconnect with nature through bush crafting and survival activities.

Packages start at €79 pps for Bed & Breakfast  and bookings can be secured at www.hotelwestport.ie.

The upside of our clamour for more space in our post-lockdown holiday is that we will reacquaint ourselves with all those great country houses.

Where families can run around the corridors to their hearts’ content.

Westport House is an 18th-century manor house also on Westport Estate and just a stone’s throw away from the hotel.

Visitors can stroll through the grounds and enjoy the gardens and take in the 3.5k looped Lakeland and woodland walk.

House about that?

Caravan of love

The house itself is open to day-visitors and they will be able to immerse themselves in 300 years of Irish heritage.

Camping and caravan breaks will be in vogue when we all get out on the road again. And you can take advantage too in the onsite 3* park on the Westport House Estate? Visit www.westporthouse.ie.

For those for whom gastronomy is central to their holiday experience. And the Irish food experience is rightly celebrated around the world then here’s some more good news.

The owner and head chef of Cian’s on Bridge Street, Cian Hayes, will be opening a pop-up restaurant experience in Hotel Westport this summer.

If you have been keen to stretch your legs, and you will be fitter than you think with all those laps around your neighbourhood.Then you will be eager to get out on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Ride on!

Can I cycle for ever?

And for cyclists then Clew Bay Bike Hire have a fleet of two-wheelers with your name on them.

Guests at Hotel Westport can truly experience the wild Atlantic west by hiring bikes on site.And then cycling an exclusive and accessible 10km loop through the estate, the harbour, and the town.

And if you’re feeling ambitious, why not take on the breathtaking Great Western Greenway?

And meanwhile in the Disunited Kingdom

I’ll let the pictures from Bank Holiday Weekend in the United Kingdom.Where England has different rules to lockdown than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland speak for themselves.

Southend, England
Wales
Aberdeen, Scotland
Portrush, Northern Ireland

And I love all parts of this Disunited Kingdom so when the time is right, and be patient.

See www.visitengland.com, www.visitscotland.com, www.visitwales.com, www.discovernorthernireland.com and http://www.visitbritain.com.

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

Hungry and Thursday – home distilling

Stocks are running low what with The Son and Heir and Daddy’s Little Girl being home… the solution, brew your own.

I took a shot at this in my Twenties when I bought a homebrew pack and drunk it with Andy, my Best Man.

Beer country: Colorado www.denver.org

Probably before it was ready.

Beer professor

Would that I had known Travis then. He’s only a beer archaeologist in Avery, Colorado… The New Frontiersmen and www.colorado.com.

All of which brings me onto breweries, and more specifically brewery trips.

Watch out for the monks: Strahov in Prague

Czech this out

The Strahov Monastery Brewery, Prague https://www.klasterni-pivovar.cz: And memories of sitting in a bar (remember them) in the Prague area, The Castle, with a trio of different Czech beers on the menu.

Before being given a guided tour of the on-site brewery and finishing off the night drinking Czech liqueur with plain-clothes monks.

See https://www.czechtourism.com/home, Hope springs eternal.

Bottle it: BrewDog

Brew for you

BrewDog, Aberdeenshire, Scotland: https://www.brewdog.com/bars/uk/dogtap-ellon?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=gmb-dogtapellon: And they had me at pets who the hipster employees are allowed to take to work.

The dinky craft beers from the outpost of Aberdeenshire Aberdeen – a light in the north and www.visitscotland.com.

Happy hour: Brains in Cardiff

Booze Brain

Brains, Cardiff, Wales https://www.sabrain.com: And our lecturers at my journalism college in Cardiff knew that to be a top reporter we needed to hone our drinking.

So they gave us a Brains brewery tour and an hour free drinking in the bar… which meant half a dozen beers. See https://www.visitcardiff.com and https://www.visitwales.com.

A beer for rascals

Colorado cheer

Avery Brewing Company, Colorado, USA: https://www.averybrewing.com: Where the man with the coolest job in the world (after me) beer archaeologist Travis works.

Travis persuaded the brewery in Avery in America’s craft brewing heart, Colorado, to employ him to curate beers from the ancient Middle East, and further afield.

Last orders: In Monaghan

One for the road

Brehon Brewhouse, Co. Monaghan, Ireland http://www.brehonbrewhouse.ie: The best beers are often the ones at the end of a long and winding road.

And having gone round and round in circles in the backwaters of Co. Monaghan https://monaghantourism.com and Monaghan’s country roads we finally found our bar in the friendliest micro-brewery in the area. Nectar!

MEET YOU IN THE BREWERY

Countries, Ireland, UK

My Sporting Weekend – Rugby’s VAR and away days

The rugby Test match has come a long way since my days in the Schoolboys Enclosure at Murrayfield.

When programmes were 20p… they’re now about €15 although I’m grateful to the Irish Travel Agents Association for paying for me.

Both that and the ticket for the Ireland v Scotland match at the Aviva and the lunch before.

Remember to ground the ball

And the earpiece that hooks up to the referee and the action on the pitch.

As football tears itself apart over video assistant referees it seems that rugby has had the answer all along.

This magic earpiece, which you can buy at the ground, lets you into the decision-making on the pitch.

Both the referee and the captains’ response.

That the players eff and blind a bit so be it… we’re all grown-ups.

And I’ve got the kiltie on: With my Travel pal Michelle Jackson

That the crowd can hear the decision quickly and with clarity keeps us all informed.

And surely that is all we ask for.

Of course it can’t stop Scottish captains dropping the ball on the try line.

So here is my answer… let the spectator talk to the players on the pitch via a mouthpiece.

So where are we on a Travel blog with this? Edinburgh that is… where I now live again.

It’s the great thing about life and Travel…

Football can learn a lesson

Last week here I was at the Aviva this week I’m watching the Scotland v England game in Edinburgh.

Now I know the Scary One will get me back for that!

A girls’ weekend away

It struck me though, and my brother reminded me of it, that my adult life has spanned Britain and Ireland.

Get on your bike… for Rome

If only I’d progressed from being captain of the C team at school.

London goes round and round

See https://www.visitlondon.com/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4JqL2cHA5wIVF-DtCh1BsQ7HEAAYASAAEgLTtvD_BwE And read The London life and Carole King… you’re Beautiful.

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This Sporting Weekend – Darts

Imaugural World Darts champion Leighton Rees’s fleshy jowls broke into the widest smile.

And no wonder, the Wales team he was captaining had just seen off Scotland in the Home Internationals at Cardiff.

A rookie reporter, I was thrilled to have grabbed the big man for a quick word.

Of course I didn’t understand a word of what he said.

But worryingly neither did he… he was speaking Welsh and when I asked him what he had said he just shrugged those big shoulders.

The World Championships have come a long way since Leighton’s 1978 triumph.

And just this week Fallon Sherrock became the first woman to win a World Championship match to a thunderous reception from the London crowd…

Welsh wizards

My meeting with larger-than-life Leighton Rees was just one highlight from a year in the Welsh capital.

Like the best of friends we often take them for granted and Ireland’s nearest neighbour, Wales, www.visitwales.com falls into that category.

But the ferry journey across to Holyhead is legendary and, of course, has been immortalised in song.

As would happen both combine with the launch of Stena’s www.stenaline.com new ferry from Dublin mid-January, Estrid.

Because my old pal, none other than PR Michael Rafferty of the Handsome Princes, promotes Stena.

Now that’s worth singing about.

Of course the smart money is on Dutchman Michael Van Gerwen to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy.

Dutch masters

Now the Netherlands has some great pubs and they are big Anglophiles so I suppose it makes sense that they love their darts.

Raymond Van Barnevelt retired after being knocked out of the World Championships but having secured his place in the game’s pantheon.

The thing is though that those narrow Dutch bars don’t leave much room for anything else than an oche.

Here’s more shenanigans on Amsterdam… Two lips from AmsterdamPictures of AmsterdamGeorge Clooney and Amal’s Amsterdam hotel

And www.iamsterdam.com.

Now, I could go on and on about my darts brushes.

Bristow and I

Like the time I played the late, great Eric ‘The Crafty Cockney’ Bristow.

And he beat me, kneeling down and with his back away from the board.

But I won’t.

And will only leave you with my memory of an even earlier sports interview with the heroic Sid Waddell when I was in Aberdeen… www.visitscotland.com

Who repeated his praise of Bristow: ‘When Alexander of Macedonia was 33 he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer… Bristow’s only 27.’

MEET YOU ON THE OCHE

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Sporting Weekend – Rugby in the Welsh Valleys

They’ll be singing in the Valleys… and in the Scottish Highlands and the pubs of Ireland, for Wales today to beat South Africa in the second semi-final of the Rugby World Cup.

It’s a Celtic brotherhood thing.

Although even brothers can fall out.

On my first weekend in my new home in Cardiff where I had gone to learn this scribbling Journalism thing I went to the local boozer and had cause to use the rest rooms.

Where a local turned to me at the urinal and asked if I was an English bastard, to which I replied ‘no, a Scottish bastard actually.’

Welsh history. Photo by Krisztina Papp on Pexels.com

Without breaking a stride, he shot back: ‘Just as f******* bad, you cheated us out of two World Cup, you bastard.’

Which had some truth in it but I thought it best to leave it… I was a little exposed.

I had a great year though among the Welsh, although they did go onto win a Triple Crown when I was there and I watched at the Old Arms Park as Paul Thorburn kicked us to death.

Now, the Welsh aren’t the most magnanimous people in victory (I guess none of us are) and I took pelters.

The big cats: In South Africa

Nor are the South Africans usually when it comes to rugby.

Their passage to this stage will come as something of a surprise to Iain, Camdeboo Game Reserve’s owner in the Eastern Cape, who told us that the Boys had no chance in the World Cup.

https://jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/home/whats-new-pussycat/

My enemy’s enemy

Whoever wins though you can be sure that my own native Scottish type people will be supporting the team that plays England.

It’s something that baffles my English wife (no, I don’t have wives from other countries too) and her family and our friends.

But it is a sporting thing with smaller nations which is shared by Canadians (USA), New Zealand (Australia) and Wales and Ireland (England).

All of which brings me onto Wales which is our nearest neighbour here in Ireland, we know so well but don’t talk about enough.

The Welsh have their own whiskey, but is it better? Photo by Terricks Noah on Pexels.com

So, what is it about The Welsh Valleys that has them all singing?

Well there’s Caerphilly Castle, Llancaiach Fawr Manor and Lido Ponty, the National Lido of Wales, Really!

The site Visit Wales http://www.visitwales.com is a great starting point and my eyes fell as they often do on the whiskey.

In Wales?

Reach for the skies. Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius on Pexels.com

Well, they’re pushing Penderyn Whiskey which they say draws 43,000 visitors a year. I do hope that they don’t make you listen to the whiskey-making process though.

And take you straight to the whiskey drinking.

The ghosties. Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

Which reminds me of a day we were given while at College in Cardiff at the Brain’s distillery where we were given an hour’s free drinking.

Which equalled about six pints then!

Scaring up a ghosty castle

And seeing that Halloween is hoving into view like a big Scary Thing then how about the most haunted house in the Principality?

Llancaiach Fawr Manor is the place to go where they promise you the rustle of petticoats, your hand being held or even the occasional smell of violets or roast beef!

And maybe even the spectre of rugby players past!

Flybe http://www.flybe.com has Dublin to Cardiff this month through Skyscanner http://www.skyscanner.ie from €95 and from €72 next month and through to March.

And with rooms from €63 a night hotel stays on the Skyscanner website.