A century ago (give or take, I'm part Irish, given to exaggeration and romanticism) my paternal grandfather left Ireland. I'm heading to the land of my Brady forefathers - and Synge, O'Casey, green hills and fine whiskey - for the first time, on a holiday that combines Dublin and an 8-day hiking tour of Galway, Connemara and the Aran Islands. You should come with me.

There are places you dream about, either because the setting creeps into your mind as a part of a fantasy while dreaming or because they actually exist but you never think you'll set foot there. That's what Monument Valley was like for us. We had a long day of driving behind us and were planning to overnight at Mexican Hat - named for the rock formation outside town and do Monument Valley the next day. But suddenly there it was, rising up in the distance, the setting of so many movies from John Ford westerns to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was nearing sunset when we drove by and we pulled over to just stare at the sight. We booked a tour with a local Navajo outfitters and it was a smart move because we got ... read more
John Ford Point
Leaving Monumnt

North America » United States » Arizona » Sedona July 23rd 2011

Sedona doesn't creep up on you. You're diving along the highway and wham! - the red rocks start to appear. Massive, otherworldly, they look like gigantic sculpture. No wonder locals have given them nicknames (pet rocks, perhaps?) based on what they look like: coffee pot, Snoopy, shipwreck. We spent the first half-day here exploring the small town, which is quaint in spots - I loved the movie museum with photos of all the films shot here in the 1930s-1970s. But it's also very touristy - lots of t-shirt shops and gee gaws and plenty of business related to the spiritual nature of the place. There is geographical proof that vortexes occur here, the swirling "energy" coming from electro-magnetic fields deep in the earth. Science fact, but it's also been embraced by the new agers with a ... read more
Cathedral Rock
Sedona sunset

North America » United States » Arizona » Sedona July 21st 2011

Hans and I are escaping Toronto's record-breaking heatwave for - where else? The desert! But it's a dry heat. Our plans are to spend two nights in Sedona getting our vortexes in proper alignment and then off to Utah to see Monument Valley, Arches National Park, Grand Staircase, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, a place called Mexican Hat and a night at the Bob-Bon Inn and Motel in Kanab UT ( home to Utah's "Little Hollywood" where dozens of movies and TV series were shot in the 1950s and 1960s. Remember F Troop? You should come. We leave for Phoenix at 8:30 Friday morning.... read more
The Bob-Bon Motel
F Troop

Oceans and Seas November 4th 2010

Ahoy mayteys! I can post photos at last thanks to the webhead that runs the Connectxions lounge (great place, lots of computers, dismal name). He loaned me a card reader. Today's highlight was passing by the kennels on the 11th level this morning on my walk and just happening to be there for the official portraits of the 8 dogs travelling on the ship, all decked out in Queen Mary blankets for their pictures. The 2 cats were not invited to the party. There's an old photo on board of an eccentric walking his pet raccoon in the 1930s. Newfoundland is 400 miles to the southwest and England waits 1,200 miles ahead. So I am literally in the middle of nowhere. I have seen more rainbows (six) than passing ships (1). The ship is rolling in ... read more
Bob the dog
The Gentlemen Hosts
Leaving NYC

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic November 3rd 2010

I'm sorry for the lack of photos with the blog but I haven't been able to figure out how to post them from my iPad, affectionately known as "Padme." Speaking of which, how's this for posh - the upper ultra-end suites come with their own iPads for use on board, updated daily by your butler with the latest news websites. For the rest of us, we can read "daily papers" each morning after 9:30. That was a headscratcher for me at first - but then it was obvious - they download and print off copies and put them in the library. The library is just about my favourite place on the ship - cozy and serene with long, low wooden bookcases softly illuminated from inside and classic library reading lamps. And the chairs! No insomniac could ... read more

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » North Atlantic October 31st 2010

There was a time when the North Atlantic was busy with great ocean liners steaming back and forth, the only way to get from here to there and back again. Then we started taking planes, which was fine when Max Ward was serving meals on fine china but that slid off the side as soon as Air Canada started charging for in-flight cocktails and then meals, headsets, blankets, movies. And there's no peanuts or legroom. Stop the madness! As The Man in Seat 61 says on his excellent travel website ( "I have come to realize that staggering round a transatlantic liner in a dinner jacket with a martini is the normal, rational, reasonable way to cross the Atlantic. Heading for an airport and strapping yourself to a flimsy aluminum tube is an unfortunate and eccentric ... read more
Bon Voyage

Europe » Iceland » Southwest » Reykjavík July 1st 2010

While all of you were lighting fireworks and writing your name with sparklers and eating barbecued hot dogs and cursing black flies, I was celebrating Canada Day my own way, by crashing a cocktail party at City Hall and rubbing elbows with Canadian Ambassador Alan Bones. He's quite a swell guy, by the way, a very friendly person who kindly invited me to swing past the Canadian Embassy tomorrow morning for coffee. It was pure buzzard luck that I stumbled on the party. I just happened to be at City Hall - more on that later, and saw people setting up little Canadian flags in a reception area. The building is quite impressive, very modern and fronts onto a large pond. So I had a couple of glasses of wine and some delicious gravlox topped with ... read more
The Canada Day party in Rekjavik
Ambassador Alan Bones
This way to the poo

Europe » Iceland » South » Vík June 30th 2010

Despite a far-too-late night and a vat of wine (thanks for driving me home, Inge) at Inge and Osk's house, I managed to haul myself out of bed for a bus tour of the south shore of Iceland. I was a bit leery of a 10-hour bus tour - especially this little bus which seemed to be riding on its axle, having left whatever springs it once had far behind. But a coffee stop revived me and we were off. As we headed closer to the area where Eyjafallajokull (prounounced "Ella" and henceforth to be referred to as "the volcano here) erupted in March, the landscape started to change. The dramatic green-covered lava fields gave way to flat, black expanses and stopped up rivers that had washed the road out, creating huge ruts and bumps. And ... read more
The glacier
Ice, Ice baby

Europe » Iceland » Southwest » Reykjavík June 30th 2010

I had a sort of surf and turf day yesterday - starting with a puffin-watching tour to an island just outside the harbour and an afternoon trail ride on the sweet and sturdy little Icelandic horses. They have five gears - the tolt is a kind of fast walk- think those bum swinging race walkers and the ride is very smooth. But my horse was missing that gear and delighting in a brisk trot, which made me glad I was wearing a sports bra, if you know what I mean. In between, my Icelandic pal Osk (who is becoming a good friend the more time we spend together) and I ate a bowl of delicious lobster soup at a quirky seafood shack down by the harbour. It's called the Sea Baron and the soup is a ... read more
rough landing
lobster soup at the Sea Baron
My non-tolting horse

Europe » Iceland » Southwest » Reykjavík June 29th 2010

First off, you should know Icelanders are cool. Not as in lacking warmth, but in the groovy sense of being laid back and hilarious at the same time. They're the kind of people you want to hang out with, work beside, get stuck in an elevator with. They know they live in a gorgeous country and they're anxious to share it with you, but despite being tourist friendly, the place is remarkably light on touristy stuff. The tour I did yesterday of the most popular tourist route, the Golden Circle, is typical of this attitude. My Icelandic pal Osk came with me and for her it was a chance to chill for day and leave hubby to deal with the kids. Smart gal. About an hour's drive from Reykjavik through lunar-landscape-like lava fields ringed by dramatic ... read more
At the falls
Photo 4

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