ryanair-aircraft-(2)Ryanair, Europe’s No.1 airline, today (27 Apr) further expanded its Belfast winter 2016 schedule with 3 new routes to Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw, in addition to the 7 new routes announced earlier to Alicante, Berlin, Krakow, Lanzarote, Malaga, Milan and Tenerife, as well as extra daily flights (5) to London Gatwick, which will deliver over 1m customers p.a. and support 750* jobs at Belfast International Airport.


Ryanair’s Belfast W 2016 schedule will deliver:

3 based aircraft

10 new routes to: Alicante (2 wkly), Berlin (3 wkly), Gdansk (2 wkly), Krakow (3 wkly), Lanzarote (2 wkly),

Malaga (3 wkly), Milan (2 wkly), Tenerife (2 wkly), Warsaw (2 wkly) & Wroclaw (2 wkly)

More flights to: London Gatwick (5 daily)

11 routes in total

60 weekly flights

Over 1m customers p.a.

750* “on-site” jobs p.a.


These new Belfast routes make Ryanair the perfect choice for NI business and leisure customers, who can now choose from 11 Belfast routes in winter 2016 at the lowest fares and look forward to further improvements, under Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” programme, which includes more new routes, new digital features, new cabin interiors and even more low fares.


Ryanair’s Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs said:


“We are pleased to launch 3 new routes from our Belfast base to Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw, as part of our winter 2016 schedule, in addition to the 7 new routes announced earlier to Alicante, Berlin, Krakow, Lanzarote, Malaga, Milan and Tenerife, and the extra flights to London Gatwick (5 x daily), which will deliver over 1 million customers p.a. and support 750 jobs at Belfast International Airport. Our new Polish routes will be ideal for both business and leisure customers and we look forward to growing routes, traffic and jobs in Belfast in the coming months and years.


To celebrate, we are releasing seats for sale from just £19.99 our new Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw routes, which are available for booking until Wednesday (4 May) for travel in November and December. Since these amazing low prices will be snapped up quickly, customers should log onto www.ryanair.com and avoid missing out.”


Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, said: 


“This is more fantastic news from Ryanair. It means that this winter should be one of our busiest ever. Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw follow Krakow and deliver a very comprehensive network to a new and important Polish market.

We currently stand as the eleventh largest airport in the UK, but I expect that with continuing airline expansion and growth in passenger numbers, we will break into the ‘Top Ten’ before too long. The airport is delivering real economic benefit for Northern Ireland and that means new employment and business opportunities.

These new Polish routes are delivered without any government support and show only a fraction of what could be achieved if APD were removed. Despite this ‘headwind’, we’re making great progress and have reason to believe we can maintain the momentum.”

First Quarter Results – Aferry.co.uk sees increased sales

colours for guidelinesThe online retailer Aferry.co.uk, the world’s leading ferry website, has seen a very encouraging growth of +16% in the first quarter of 2016.  This comes on the back of excellent sales in 2015 and the signs are good for the rest of the year, ex – UK and across Aferry’s global markets.

In the UK, bumper growth is particularly noticeable on the Western Sea routes which are selling very well, as are North Sea crossings, particularly Harwich to the Hook of Holland..  The Irish Sea is stable with a similar picture to this time last year, as is the short route to Calais. 

The increase in sales is being attributed of the various technological developments that have been taking place on the Aferry co.uk site as well as stronger distribution and partnerships.  Particularly useful for the consumer is the new flexi-fare option available on the site and the multi-route extension which allows customers to travel outbound on one route with one carrier and then return with another carrier on a different route.  These facilities are new for 2016.

Kirsty Laifa, UK Head of Sales commented, ‘We are very happy with this excellent start to 2016 and all signs for the rest of the year are good.  Crossings with DFDS and Brittany Ferries are doing particularly well on the Western Channel, which is no surprise – this is like starting holiday with a cruise!’

Aferry.co.uk is available in 28 languages, and takes more than a million individual bookings each year. More and more bookings are being made via mobile platforms and the app has more than 500,000 downloads – a figure that is also increasing. Aferry has the widest choice of destinations, works with over 140 operators and there are 1,800 routes to choose from, with new routes being added all the time. As well as routes in Europe and North Africa, ferry tickets for Australia, New Zealand, Asia and established routes in USA and Canada can also be purchased.

Aferry also caters for the travel trade with an increase in agents using their long established www.aferryagent.com system allowing immediate access to all routes from one easy to use engine.

Competition – anyone downloading the AFerry app before 30th June 2016 will be automatically entered into the prize draw to win an iPad Pro

McCombs Coaches Grubcrawl



I’m a great supporter of this small part of the world; Northern Ireland has produced so many great things and people and continuing on this theme I was delighted and honoured to be invited on the inaugural Official McCombs Coaches Grubcrawl. As one might imagine, this is a different take on a very popular theme.

Devised by two of Northern Irelands finest coach tour operators, Caroline and Ronnie McComb from Co Antrim, they have put together a tour of some of the best food producers and restaurants our country has to offer. My Grubcrawl commenced in Glengall Street in Belfa

I boarded my coach and straight away I realised I was in good company. A pristine Mercedes coach with Wi-Fi, full leather seats, TV and a fridge. Clearly this was a cut above the rest!

DSC_0044_3We left Belfast and headed in to the beautiful hills of Co Down where country butter is handmade is made for some of the most prestigious shops and restaurants in the UK. The only interest of Abernathy’s is to create an unforgettable taste and flavour as far removed from mass-produced butter as night is from day. No Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda of even Waitrose, these artisan makers have taken the bold step of staying authentic, special and they refuse to go mass market. Available from small local farm shops to Fortnum & Masons.




ABERNETHY BUTTER is appreciated by the best Michelin starred restaurants from Heston Blumenthal’s, The Fat Duck to Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley in Knightsbridge. And yes it’s all done in Dromara in Co Down. 271_Butter-1000x540-978x528

Watching Alison and Will present their craft to the people on my tour, was truly inspiring. Their passion, commitment and pride in their product shone through. They are dedicated crafts people who are committed to a perfect product. Abernethy Butter is made by hand using traditional methods. The cream is bought from a local farmer, who lets his cows graze on the green fields in the Lagan valley and pasturises his own milk.

IMG_3659The cream is churned until it separates into butter and buttermilk. Then the butter is put into a large bowl and washed by hand until the water runs clear. This is to remove all the buttermilk, (which would sour the butter if left in) The only thing they add to the butter is a pinch or two of salt. The butter is then patted by hand out into rolls ready for wrapping.



271_Butter-1000x540-978x528The secret to their success is nothing. Because they add nothing to their product, no rubbish, no additives, nothing other than pure goodness, love and respect to a tradition that has gone on for hundreds of years and a small pinch of salt.

Will and Alison are ambassadors for this part of the world, better than any trade mission or politician up in the big house, these are ordinary decent people who have and continue to promote Ulster in the best possible way.

Make sure you visit their wonderful workshop. See http://abernethybuttercompany.com


kilmegan cider-logo

ElderflowerCiderThe second stop on my Grubcrawl was the amazing Kilmegan cider based in Dundrum, Co Down. Under a wall of brambles, some twenty feet high, in 1967 Maurice Boyd discovered an old orchard that had been planted some seventy years previously beside the old farmhouse he had purchased.

With the back drop of the majestic Mourne Mountains near the village of Dundrum. In 2009 Andrew and Karen decided to try and make a batch of cider.


Using a strong bucket and a 4” wooden fence post, they laboured for hours to mash up enough apples to put into his fathers old wine press and they produced a gallon or two of juice. They carefully placed the juice into a demijohn, adCfhNI0RWQAEY3MWd some champagne yeast, stuck on an airlock and let nature take its course.

A few months later the juice had cleared, fermentation had stopped and hey presto the first batch of Kilmegan cider was made.

Tasting fresh and crisp and as natural a product as you could wish for and using no added acids, sugar, water or concentrates this was REAL CIDER.

You might see a theme here, and as with Abernathy’s butter, less is definitely more. Although Kilmegan is now using a proper apple mill and rack and cloth press their principles have not changed.

As Andrew said “Get the proper blend of apples, extract the juice, ferment and leave to mature for six to eight months and there you have it, pure real cider made with 100% fresh pressed juice, you will taste the difference.” So if you are after the taste of real cider check out kilmegancider.com.



Sitting on the Killinchy Road just outside Comber is a superb little restaurant called The Poachers Pocket. This is one of three gastro pubs that Danny Millar is in charge of. A chef with impeccable lineage he has brought, his winning ways to Lisbane, just outside Comber.


My beautiful starter, whitebait, breads, pate and chutney

A superb pub which retains it authentic pub craic front of house, and behind the frosted glass is a world of superb food. Its not hard to understand why McCombs Grubcrawl included this fine eatery on their new Grubcrawl. The food service and surroundings are superb. Ill be back again and again.

So good is this place I will let some of their accolades speak for themselves.


Just some of the their accolades





If you want to see some amazing places in Northern Ireland, sample some of the finest products this wonderful country has to offer and eat in some of its best eateries, then you need to take a McCombs Grubcrawl. I know I will definitely be back on a tour before to long. Visit http://www.mccombscoaches.com/

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Jet2.com and Jet2holidays

Fancy a break?Jet2+plane4offer the BIGGEST CHOICE of international destinations direct from Belfast International which now gives Northern Ireland holidaymakers no fewer than 17 holiday hotspots to choose from and Jet2 have selected some great late deals for you to choose from.

Majorca, Palma Nova, 3 star TRH Torrenova Hotel, 7 nights Self Catering departing from Belfast on 21st April 2016.
Price: £229 per person based on 3 sharing, including 22kg baggage allowance and return transfers.

Costa Blanca, Benidorm, 3 star plus Aparthotel Terralta, 7 nights Self Catering departing from Belfast on 18th April 2016.
Price: £269 per person based on 4 sharing, including 22kg baggage allowance and return transfers.

Alicante City, 3 star Best Western Hotel Albahia, 3 nights Room Only departing from Belfast on 22nd April 2016.
Price: £219 per person based on 2 sharing, including 10kg carry-on bag, excluding transfers.

For more information or to book, visit your local travel agent or click on www.jet2.com or www.jet2holidays.com.

New Causeway Lounge for Belfast International Airport

Airport Managing Director Graham Keddie welcomes US Consul General Dan Lawton to the new Causeway Lounge accompanied by Airport Commercial services Manager Deirdre Graffin.

Airport Managing Director Graham Keddie welcomes US Consul General Dan Lawton to the new Causeway Lounge accompanied by Airport Commercial services Manager Deirdre Graffin.

New Causeway Lounge boost for passengers at Belfast International Airport

£250,000 investment in passenger facility.

The newly refurbished Causeway Lounge at Belfast International Airport has today been officially opened by US Consul General Daniel Lawton.

With an investment of over £250,000 business and leisure passengers can now enjoy a host of amenities to make sure that every journey can get off to a perfect start.

Located just off the main departures concourse the Causeway Lounge occupies an enviable location above the main viewing gallery affording unrivalled views of the main runways. The room has continuous panoramic full height glazing and the new layout makes the most of the fabulous views.

Speaking at today’s launch, U.S. Consul General Daniel Lawton said, “I am delighted to be here to officially open the Causeway Lounge.  Belfast International Airport is a critical gateway for direct access to the United States from Northern Ireland, as well as Great Britain and Europe.  Transatlantic trade, tourism, and investment is vital to the prosperity of this region.   I commend the Airport for making this significant investment in passenger facilities.”

Greeted by a dedicated welcome team, guests can take a seat and spend their pre-boarding time in a way that suits them best. Whether it is to send that final email before take-off, or to relax and enjoy the view.  With high speed wi-fi, computer stations and ample power points, business travellers can rest assured that they will remain fully connected at all times. Families are also welcome in the lounge with a dedicated children’s area to keep the little ones entertained before take-off.

Belfast International Airport Managing Director Graham Keddie commented, “The Causeway Lounge is part of a continuous investment programme in the airport which will add considerably to airside passenger facilities.

We are passionate about promoting Northern Ireland and continue to do so by enhancing the complimentary food menu. A gourmet buffet counter boasts a wide range of treats and bites for guests to enjoy. Featuring food from a range of local artisan food producers, including Fivemiletown Cheese, Dittys Oat Cakes and Punjana tea, you can enjoy a final taste of home before jetting off. 

The lounge provides the perfect platform for our incredible food producers to showcase their products to both a domestic and international audience. This support is hugely important in order to continue growing Northern Ireland’s food offering – particularly during NI’s 2016 Year of Food.’

The Causeway Lounge is open to all passengers travelling from Belfast International Airport.  Access to the lounge is part of the benefits of Belfast International Airport’s corporate card scheme, Executive Direct. Passengers can also pre-book online at www.belfastairport.com or pay at the door. Members of alternative lounge access schemes such as Priority Pass can also use this membership to gain access.

Stena signs contract for four new RoPax ferries – the most fuel efficient ferries in the world


Drawing of one of the new Stena Line RoPax vessels.

Drawing of one of the new Stena Line RoPax vessels.

Stena has signed a contract, subject to Board approval by the end of April, for an order of four new RoPax ferries with planned delivery during 2019 and 2020, with an option for another four vessels. The vessels will be optimized for efficiency and flexibility and will be built by AVIC Shipyard in China.  The intention is that the four initial vessels will be used within Stena Lines route network in Northern Europe.


“We are very pleased that Stena have signed a contract for four vessels with an option for another four. During the course of the past 24 months our engineering staff has managed to develop a design that is not only 50% larger than today’s standard RoPax vessels, but more importantly, incorporates the emission reduction and efficiency initiatives that have been developed throughout the Stena Group during the past years. These ships will be the most fuel efficient ferries in the world and will set a new industry standard when it comes to operational performance, emissions and cost competitiveness, positioning Stena Line to support its customers in the next decades”, says Carl-Johan Hagman, Managing Director of Stena Line.


The vessels will have a capacity of more than 3 000 lane meters in a drive-through configuration and will accommodate about 1 000 passengers and offer a full range of passenger services.  The main engines will be “gas ready”, prepared to be fueled by either methanol or LNG.


“With this investment we are building on our successful RoPax concept mixing freight and passengers. Through standardization we secure a reliable operation and through flexibility we can provide an even better support to our customers and help them to grow”, says Carl-Johan Hagman.


“We foresee a continued demand growth for short sea services in Northern Europe and in many other parts of the world.  Ferry transportation will play an essential part in shaping tomorrow’s logistics infrastructure if we are to have sustainable societies.  Not only is transportation on sea the most environmentally efficient way of moving goods, it is also infrastructure that provides reliable and speedy logistics with very limited public cost. Through this investment we prepare Stena Line for further growth”, says Dan Sten Olsson, Chairman in Stena Line.

Following the Painters Impressionist Tour



Honfleur Harbour

Continuing on my recent French tourist trail, I headed north up to Normandy. I was in search of one the most famous French painters, amazing locations, but I had a few towns to visit on the way. HonfleurMy first stop was Honfleur, how can I describe it? Take beautiful Dutch merchants’ houses that are found on the canal side in Amsterdam, add in the beautiful costal situation of Northern France, add loads of colour and wonderful French food and hey presto, you have Honfleur.

Hiding around the coast from Le Harve, this beautiful medieval town is simply charming. The town is spectacular to walk around during the day and in the evening the brightly lit restaurants offer the ‘catch of the day’ to the many tourists who have been luck enough to have found this idyllic little gem.

Formerly a shipbuilding centre with a very strong nautical theme, this is one town many painters seek out  to capture on their canvasses. Not to be missed sites are the seventeenth-century church of Santa Caterina, and the 17th century Basin surrounded by elegant sailing craft.


After a wonderful days walking I was ready for a quiet lie down and a glass of wine. My accommodation was a delightful little hotel in Honfleur called the Hotel Monet (www.hotel-monet-honfleur.com)  If you want a beautifully quaint and extremely reasonably priced hotel, then this is the one for you. With prices from as little as €40 pps you can bag yourself a wonderful little hotel in this beautiful part of France.
I had a superb nights sleep and rose early in the morning as I had more travels in mind and much more of Normandy to visit.




Le Harve Town Hall

Next morning I was off again and heading for Le Harve. Most people head there to leave France to go back to the UK or Ireland, but I was traveling  there as a tourist. My aim for visiting Le Harve was actually to discover its beauty.

This city was heavily bombed at the end of the Second World War and the city centre was practically re-built during the 1950’s under the direction of architect Auguste Perret.  In 2005, Perret’s modernist city centre was the first post-Second World War city in Europe to be awarded Unesco World Heritage status.

It’s clear that’s Perret’s interest was in concrete, Its clear to all that he really liked this medium.  Some of his masterpieces included St Joseph’s Church and the MuMa Art Gallery with its Impressionist collections.

This beautiful art gallery was renamed the Musée Malraux in 1999. It then changed names again in 2011, its 50th anniversary to become the Musée d’art moderne André Malraux—or MuMa for short. A very contemporary space, it is a pleasure to walk round and admire the beautiful paintings stored within. (www.muma-lehavre.fr)


IMG_3172Boudin (Monet’s mentor) was born in Honfleur, however he began painting and developed his talent in Le Havre. A few years later, Monet started the founding movement of Modern Art with his painting “Impression Sunrise”. This painting is kept in the Marmottan Museum in Paris, and as because of this it is often forgotten that it was painted in Le Havre.

Le Havre, its port, its beach and its regattas have inspired all the major painters of this movement (Pissarro, Sisley, Boudin, Monet, Jongkind, etc.). Monet and the impressionist painters have given art a new lease of life by challenging centuries of codified academic painting. Though impressionist painters kept a strong link with the real world’s painting, they managed to free themselves completely from the fetters of the past by picking the themes of their paintings in every day life.

St Josephs Church in Le Harve is quite simply astounding, built to act as a memorial to the five thousand civilians who died in the conflict. The church was designed by the chief architect for the reconstruction of Le Havre, Auguste Perret, teacher and mentor to the Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The sombre interior is in the Neo-Gothic style. The tower is 107 metres tall and acts as a beacon visible from out at sea, especially at night when illuminated. This is a must see building.

As I was on an impressionism tour of Normandy it would be unfair to miss out on a short trip up to Etretat, 28 km from Le Harve. The spectacular coastline and chalk needle at Etretat were immortalised by Monet and the resort beach attracted artists including Eugène Boudin, Gustave Courbet and of course Claude Monet. Two of the three famous arches are seen from the town, the Porte d’Aval, and the Porte d’Amont.


The spectacular coastline and chlk needle at Etreta

During the 1930’s, in the era of the train, a line was built from Paris out to the coast for the great and the good to enjoy the fresh sea air and to view the white cliffs of Dover. The train line went through Rouen the town which was to be next on my impressionist tour.

Rouen and the Seine Valley have attracted and continue to attract many artists with their colours, culture, lights and way of life. It has attracted all the masters. Turner, Monet, Gauguin, Pissarro, Sisley and for some of them to the point of obsession. Today, the Museum of Fine Arts and its Depeaux gallery still hold the second largest Impressionist collection in France for the pleasure of tourists and the pride of the people of Rouen.

Several works by Claude Monet, numerous creations from the École de Rouen and the Normandy Impressionist Festival marvellously illustrate the reciprocal love between the capital of Normandy and Impressionism. This city really has it all. Wonderful paintings and a connection to the historic lady herself, Joan of Arc.

I was fortunate enough to join a walking tour of Rouen with a true expert, Catherine Brandon-Delattre.  Catherine expertly gauged the level of interest and the speed at which the visitors wanted to walk. This is a knack that not many guides have, but mine did. Catherine was superb, I remember sitting for coffee outside the High Court in Rouen as Catherine told us the history of the splendid building, whilst lady barristers crossed the forecourt with their “bundles”.

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La Couronne

After a splendid walking tour, which covered everything beautiful Rouen had to offer, I had made my way to dinner at the oldest restaurant in France. La Couronne (www.lacouronne.com.fr) loved by the great and the good. Darwin Cauvin the Maitre D, directs La Couronne as a theater, every day, every night, La Couronne is a feast. Grace Kelly herself, called the place magic. Little has changed in the restaurant since 1345. Outside La Couronne was the spot where Joan of Arc was burned in 1341.

So as you can imagine it’s a pretty special restaurant and tables are hard to get. Thankfully my connections in Normandy tourism had secured me a table from where I was able to watch the ceremony of the Le canard à la presse, it’s a dish I had never seen prepared before. Let’s just say it’s roast duck and look up the rest on YouTube, its interesting.

So after dinner as I walked back towards my hotel, I came across a crowd of people staring at a church, quite a number of churches and impressive buildings in France put on spectacular light shows at nightfall which are projected onto the facades. They are truly spectacular. It is quite difficult to describe just how amazing the shows are but Google the one in Rouen and you will see what I mean. Captivating and spectacular are two words that describe the amazing view. It’s something you must see as describing it is near impossible.


New Glasgow Restaurant Festival will serve up a taste of the city (25th March – 24th April)

Glasgow Restaurant Festival Pic l to r Derek Marshall of Gamba, Tony Singh of Tasty and John Quigley of Red Onion Photograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 www.martinshields.com © Martin Shields FEE PAYABLE FOR REPRO USE NB -This image is not to be distributed without the prior consent of the copyright holder. in using this image you agree to abide by terms and conditions as stated in this caption. All monies payable to Martin Shields (PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE THIS CAPTION) This image is intended for Editorial use (e.g. news). Any commercial or promotional use requires additional clearance. Copyright 2015 All rights protected. first use only.

Derek Marshall of Gamba, Tony Singh of Tasty and John Quigley of Red Onion Photograph by Martin Shields Tel 07572 457000 © Martin Shields

Foodie fans can look forward to a dining experience with a difference this spring following the launch of the first city-wide Glasgow Restaurant Festival.

The Glasgow Restaurant Festival will be made up of three distinct strands, bringing together the city’s best chefs and most popular restaurants:

Secret Dining (25th March – 31st March):

The Glasgow Restaurant Festival kicks off with a unique secret dining experience from Glasgow’s favourite guerrilla chefs in a beautiful vintage Spiegeltent on Candleriggs Square in the Merchant City. Seating up to 200 people, the Spiegeltent will also offer a side of entertainment, with live music, DJs and other performances planned. A nine-hole crazy golf course will also be located on Candleriggs Square, alongside a converted horse-box wine bar.

Pop-Up Dining (1st April – 17th April):

From the 1st April to the 17th April, the Spiegeltent will become the city’s ultimate pop-up dining venue, taking diners on a culinary adventure with a different pop-up restaurant every day. Foodie lovers will be able to sample delights from popular Glasgow restaurants including Porter and Rye, TASTY by Tony Singh, Red Onion and 111 by Nico.

Dining In The City (18th April – 24th April):

To conclude the Glasgow Restaurant Festival, Dining In The City will run between the 18th and 24th April, allowing diners the opportunity to sample specially-priced menus at over 60 of the city’s best restaurants. The Glasgow Restaurant Festival will also see the city’s restaurants play host to a range of special foodie events. Full details of participating restaurants will be revealed shortly.

Tickets for the Spiegeltent have officially gone on sale today (Wednesday, March 9th) with the help of Tony Singh from TASTY by Tony Singh at Alea Casino, Derek Marshall from Gamba and John Quigley from Red Onion.

Priced £5 per person, a ticket secures entry to the Spiegeltent, a welcome drink and live entertainment. Diners will then enjoy dishes priced between £6 and £9 during the Secret Dining experience or a special set menu priced at £15 or £25 during the Pop-Up Dining period.

The inaugural Glasgow Restaurant Festival is the result of a collaboration between Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB), Scottish Enterprise and the Glasgow Restaurant Association (GRA).

Commenting on the launch, Ryan James, chair of the Glasgow Restaurant Association, said: “Glasgow has one of the most vibrant dining scenes in the country and we’re very lucky to host so many great chefs and restaurants in the one city.

“There’s a real passion for food and culinary experiences and we’re fortunate to have so many innovative chefs and cooks bringing this to life through street food and pop-up events. We wanted to celebrate Glasgow’s culinary diversity and invite some of the city’s best loved chefs to get involved in a slightly different style of cooking, and what better way to do this than to have them all cooking up a storm from a vintage Spiegeltent.”

Renowned restaurateur Tony Singh, who recently opened TASTY by Tony Singh at the city’s Alea Casino, added: “Scotland is blessed with the best larder in the world. There is so much inspiration all around us. What better way to celebrate our culinary heritage than with a dedicated food festival. Just like at my new restaurant TASTY at Alea Glasgow, this festival will showcase the very best of Glasgow – great hospitality, fantastic food and culture and lots of fun.”

Councillor Frank McAveety, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, said: “The launch of the first city-wide Glasgow Restaurant Festival really shines the spotlight on the vibrancy and diversity of our incredible dining scene. We have new eateries opening every week adding to an impressive portfolio of dining options in the city; ranging from traditional Scottish cuisine to Bib Gourmand.

“We were recently named by travel industry bible National Geographic Traveler as one of the world’s must visit destinations for 2016 and our outstanding restaurants play a pivotal role in that; creating enjoyable experiences for the millions of leisure and business visitors travelling to the city every year.

“The Glasgow Restaurant Festival is the perfect opportunity for the city’s foodie fans and those travelling from afar to sample a wide range of delicacies from our talented local chefs.”

Glasgow’s growing reputation as a food and drink destination was evident in last year’s announcement by the inaugural Market Growth Monitor from AlixPartners and CGA Peach, which stated that Glasgow was the fastest-growing city in the UK for new bar and restaurant openings outside of London, with 25 new openings in the first six months of 2015.

For more information on the Glasgow Restaurant Festival and to book tickets for the Spiegeltent pop up restaurant, visit www.glasgowrestaurantfestival.co.uk

What a splendid area of France

France will always be my favourite European country. It is blessed with many beautiful areas and recently on a short trip I decided to go off the normal routes and explore an area near to Le Mans, yes of motor racing fame. Many tourists visiting France fly down the down the Auto routes missing some amazing scenery and wonderful villages and towns. I took some time out a couple of months ago to discover what this amazing area had to offer.

I flew with EasyJet from Belfast and after an hour and thirty minutes I was in Charles De Gaulle Airport and heading for the TGV. Unlike here the rail infrastructure here, the TGV railway runs right under the airport, which is such a super way to get around France.

An hour later, I was pulling into Le Man station to collect my hire car.

As it was evening, restaurantI headed straight to Les Tables de la Fontaine to enjoy some amazing cuisine from their head chef Patrice Héran. The restaurant was located in the ground floor of an amazing castle where you are welcomed with a huge fireplace, just perfect for a September evening.
Chef Patrice’s menu takes you through a journey of seasonal products prepared and served in a delightful way, with spectacular results. As you can see the cuisine is delightfully presented. Photo
The Hotel boasts 22 bedrooms, 12 in the castle and 5 outbuilding, add to that a heated indoor pool, a sauna and an outdoor Jacuzzi (heated May to September) you are guaranteed exquisite relaxation. So for a night of luxury in Grande surrounding visit: http://www.domainedebelair.com/

A firm favourite, Le Vert Galant

As I was travelling on a more limited budget I decided to return to a charming hotel, which is a firm favourite of mine. I visited a few years ago and its located right in the centre of small but perfectly form town called La Fleche. The Hotel is located just around the corner from the main shopping area. Close enough to be a short walk away but far enough not to hear the hustle and bustle. As we are in the Petit Loir, nothing gets too busy here, so you can have time to relax.
Le Vert Galant, a former eighteenth century coaching inn, was completely renovated in 2005 and comes with 25 beds, including rooms to suit 2,3,4 or 5 persons.
All rooms are equipped with a private bathroom, a flat screen TV, free high speed Internet access in the room and WIFI throughout the hotel so the Kids will be happy communicating with their friends at home and mum can keep up with her Yoga class emails.
There is free secure private parking which is located at the rear of the hotel.  Mr room was delightful, beautifully furnished and ehotel_Le_Vert_Galant_in_La_Flechexceptionally clean.
After a wonderful nights sleep I visited the conservatory breakfast room where I was treated to a beautiful breakfast.

The Hotel does not provide an evening meal but no need to fret? Your’e in France and there is always a plethora of places to visit. Rooms start at €65 See: http://www.vghotel.com/en/ and enjoy their excellent website. Whilst the hotel is classified with three stars, it’s French, so the quality is much higher.

barFor dinner I found the inexpensive La Bisquine at 11 Rue Henri, just two minutes walk from the hotel.www.restaurant-labisquine72.com/. Good local fare, at affordable prices.
This chic little eatery is well located and provides delicious food in a nautical themed restaurant. The overriding feeling you get when you enter is one of clean boutique chic. The food does not disappoint and it’s a great little find.

You can’t shut the curtains here!

arcticWhen in the area, you cannot and I mean cannot miss this opportunity. Just outside the town of La Fleche is the Zoo, but this is no ordinary Zoo. It boasts 1,200 animals: giraffes, hippos, lions, elephants, white tigers, koalas, and grizzly bears to name but a few. Now that is not that unusual for a Zoo but imagine the film, night at the museum add in a little Disney magic dust and a Zoo meet and greet experience all rolled into one.
Quite a few museums do sleepovers so it’s not that extraordinary, but sleeping with the exhibits in a Zoo?  That is amazing!  And that is what you can do in La Fleche!
Located inside the Zoo are a number of perfectly reconstructed private hunting lodges, where the detail is exceptional and traditional carpentry practices have been used to recreate the lodges, as you would expect to find them

artic-lodge5slide21Just imagine taking your children to the Zoo and spending a wonderful day looking at the animals and then telling your children that you’re going to leave via a special exit. Typing a special four digit code into a secret keypad and an amazing experience unfolds as the Jurassic Park type doors slide back to reveal a secret garden in the middle of the Zoo. The hidden area contains four private hunting lodges that no one else has access to.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

After a wonderful night’s sleep in La Fleche I was up early as I had a rendezvous with a light aircraft.
A short drive from my hotel I visited the AeroClub de la Flèche, to experience the beautiful views of Le Loir from the air.
This private aero club is allowed to provide short 15 minute flights to the public. And it provides a simply breath taking view of Le Loir. It also gives the pilots the opportunity to keep their flying hours up as well.
Flights can be arranged for a very small fee, we are talking 15 to 40 Euro which covers the fuel. So for a real treat that’s right up there literally then check it out, it is well worth a visit. http://www.aeroclublafleche.fr/

le moulin page4Le Moulin Page “It’s beyond amazing”

In France traditional B&B’s are on a far grander scale that you might expect to get in the UK. One such place was Le Moulin Page (www.lemoulinpage.com).
Have you ever arrived at an airport and checked in for your flight to find the check in staff say, “I’m sorry the cabin is full, I shall have to upgrade you to first class” Well that’s what it is like staying at this fantastic family home.

Le Moulin Page Mill is the last mill on the le moulin page2 le moulin page1Dinan, a small river that flows a few hundred meters into the Loir. This former flourmill located partly in the municipality of Flée and Vouvray-sur-Loir, ceased operations in 1948.

Despite a number of renovations it has maintained its original character. The mill now offers intimate and comfortable accommodation for relaxation, fun and daydreaming. The standard of the accommodation is outstanding.

There are only two rooms in this beautiful home and the bedrooms are spaces where modernity and comfort co-exist with the charm of the Mill Page.
The romantic charm of falling asleep lulled by the lapping of the river, waking up with the birds singing and being intoxicated by the greenery, is truly a thing to behold. And it that were not enough then you could try your own Spa facility to boot.

The spacious wellness area with a Jacuzzi (heated to 37 ° C), sauna, steam room and heated outdoor pool (31 ° C, high season) brings a new standard to a B&B.

le moulin page5This place is Ideal for a romantic getaway. I stayed here for a night in late September 2015, the room rates were exceptional and I mean exceptional 80 euros for the room and breakfast. What you get is nothing short of 5 or 6 Star. Beautiful Room robes, slippers and spotless housekeeping. The welcome from the owners is exceptional.. then after all that you go down for breakfast, all I can say is, “this place is beyond wonderful”

If you are in France please please visit you will not be disappointed.


World-acclaimed accordionist Sharon Shannon who will be making her first appearance live at Lanyon Hall in Cookstown on Saturday March 5.

World-acclaimed accordionist Sharon Shannon who will be making her first appearance live at Lanyon Hall in Cookstown on Saturday March 5.

World-acclaimed accordionist Sharon Shannon to perform live at Lanyon Hall

SHARON Shannon has music at her fingertips (literally!) and next month the world-acclaimed accordionist from Ireland will make her first Northern Ireland appearance of 2016 at Lanyon Hall in Cookstown.

Sharon has achieved legendary status throughout the world and will make a welcome return to the Mid Ulster area for the first time in almost 15 years when she performs live at Northern Ireland’s newest live venue Lanyon Hall on Saturday March 5.

Shannon has made the accordion ‘cool’ in her home country, having recorded and toured with a ‘who’s who’ of the Irish and Global Music Industry, including Bono, Adam Clayton, Sinead O’Connor, Willie Nelson, The Waterboys, Shane MacGowan, Jackson Browne, John Prine, Steve Earle, Alison Krauss, The Chieftains, Nigel Kennedy, Alison Krauss, reggae legend Dawn Penn, Lee Thompson from Madness and The RTE Concert Orchestra.

She has also played for two US Presidents – Clinton at the White House and Obama in Dublin – as well as Irish Presidents Robinson and MacAleese on presidential visits to Poland and Australia respectively. More recently she played for The Sultan of Brunei, at the Basement in Sydney.

Now Sharon has her sights set on returning to Northern Ireland and is looking forward to revisiting Cookstown.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve played in Cookstown but I’m really looking forward to my first appearance at Lanyon Hall, which I’ve been told is a beautiful live venue,” she said. “I have a strong connection with Cookstown through bass player extraordinaire Trevor Hutchinson, a native of the town who played alongside me in The Waterboys and then for many years as part of my own band, during which time we recorded many albums together.

“He remains a very good friend and, coincidentally, Trevor’s band Lunasa and my own band are both playing at the Kimo Theatre in Albuquerque, New Mexico, within a week of each other in March also.

“It’s hard to beat Northern Ireland audiences though,” she added. “They certainly know how to enjoy themselves so I’m sure we’ll all have a great night at Lanyon Hall in March.”

The genre-defying star has had multi-platinum album sales and several number one albums, singles and DVDs in her home country. Her album Galway Girl went four-times platinum in Ireland with the title track winning her the Meteor award two years running for most downloaded song. Sharon also celebrates being the youngest ever recipient of the Meteor Lifetime Achievement Award.

Venue owner Patrick Scullion is happy to welcome the world-famous star to Lanyon Hall.

“When we opened Lanyon Hall, our aim was to bring top quality live performers to the Mid Ulster region, and they don’t come much better than Sharon Shannon,” said Mr Scullion.

“Sharon truly is a global star, not just in the area of Irish traditional music, but through all musical genres from Hip-Hop and Cajun to Country, Classical and even Rap! Her music has also been featured in several Hollywood movies, TV series and the award-winning Bulmers TV commercial campaign.

“So we’re thrilled to be opening our doors with one of the biggest traditional music stars in the world and we’re sure that she’ll receive a fantastic Cookstown reception at Lanyon Hall,” added Patrick.

Tickets cost £15 and are available to purchase at the door or in advance from Ticketmaster, TOP 40 in Magherafelt, Stewart’s Music Shop in Dungannon, and The Black Horse bar in Cookstown. VIP tickets for the concert are already sold out.

Lanyon Hall in Molesworth Street, Cookstown, is a state-of-the-art multi-purpose live arena, inspired by venues in New York and Nashville.

Named after renowned architect Charles Lanyon who designed prominent buildings on Molesworth Street in the 19th century, the venue started out as a live music establishment in the 1970s before becoming one of the province’s best-loved nightclubs Clubland which closed its doors last year.

With capacity ranging from 400 to 1400 guests depending on the nature of the event, the design of Lanyon Hall also lends itself to a range of other live events with plans to bring some of the top comedians to venue, as well as indoor sports such as boxing and darts.

Lanyon Hall is the latest venture from fast-growing leisure group 1 Oak Leisure Ireland Ltd which has made a huge impact on the Northern Ireland social scene since it opened its first nightclub in 2012.