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Who is St. Mungo?

Ever heard of St. Mungo?

Harry Potter fans might recognize the name as the fictional patron saint of St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

In the real world, he’s everywhere — at least in Glasgow, Scotland. That’s because he’s the founder and patron saint of that city and was its first bishop.

Glasgow Coat of Arms (WikiMedia Commons)
Glasgow’s Coat of Arms features images, such as the three salmon, associated with St. Mungo. (WikiMedia Commons)

St. Mungo has even made the leap to pop culture. A giant mural painted last year by Glasgow graffiti artist Sam Bates (aka Smug ) on a gable row depicts a modern-day St. Mungo in realist form. (See featured image at top, photographed by me.)

The legend of St. Mungo says he was the illegitimate son of a princess. When her father found out, he threw her over a hill, but she floated down a river to land in Culross in Fife. Around 518, she gave birth to a son named Kentigern, who was raised by St. Serf.

St. Serf called the boy Mungo, meaning “my friend” or “dear one.” St. Mungo did missionary work and brought Christianity to the area in the sixth century before dying in the early seventh century.

The City of Glasgow’s coat of arms, according to TheGlasgowStory, bears symbols connected to St. Mungo:

  • The three salmon with rings in their mouth refers to a tale involving the sixth century Queen and King of Strathclyde (a Scottish kingdom). The queen had an affair with a young soldier, giving him a ring that the king had given to her. When the king found out, he threw the ring in the river, and then demanded that she produce the ring. She confessed to Bishop Mungo, who pledged his help. He sent someone to catch fish from the river. Mungo found the ring inside the salmon, giving it to the queen.
  • The oak tree with a bell hanging from it symbolizes a fire St. Mungo set using one of its branches.
  • The robin on top of the tree signifies a favorite of St. Serf’s that young St. Mungo revived after it was killed.
  • A phrase used by St. Mungo in a sermon was shortened to “Let Glasgow Flourish” to become the city’s official motto.

Some of the same symbols are incorporated into the University of Glasgow’s crest.

Visitors to Glasgow also will find a statue of him at the north entrance to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. His name graces the free St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life & Art housed in a 1989 building next to Glasgow Cathedral, where St. Mungo is buried.

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What do millennials want when they travel? Authenticity

Millennials have put off expenses like getting married and buying a home or car, but that will change as they enter their prime spending years (25-45), according to a report by Goldman Sachs.

Travel, however, is one thing millennials already spend money — and plan to spend more money and time on, according to Goldman Sachs and other reports.

Millennials were born 1982-2004, making 13 to 35 this year. The range of dates varies depending on the source: Goldman Sachs, for instance, defined millennials as being born between 1980-2000 in its recent report.

Why is so much attention paid to millennials? They’re today’s largest living generation at more than 75 million members. Their numbers are expected to peak at 81.1 million by 2036.

When it comes to travel, millennials want authentic, unique, adventurous and immersive experiences, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). They want to be active and to live like a local, which influences everything from where they stay overnight to what they eat.

Millennials also are the largest and most technologically and social media engaged group of consumers. In fact, Airbnb says some 60 percent of its bookers are millennials.

Here’s what Airbnb’s “Rise of Millennial Travel” report found out about the travel habits and preferences of U.S. millennials:

  • More than 70 percent say “travel is an important part of who I am as a person.”
  • At least three quarters prefer to create their own itinerary rather than take a tour.
  • Nearly 60 percent don’t mind traveling solo.
  • More than half say they spend more on travel than they did a year ago.
  • Nearly 60 percent seek more of an adventure when they travel vs. decompressing.
  • More than half say meeting people when traveling is more important than bringing back souvenirs.
  • Three quarters prefer to try food at local restaurants, rather than familiar chains.
  • Most say discovering hidden local places is more important than visiting major tourist attractions, and they prefer accommodations in cool, local neighborhoods than close to tourist attractions.

The Airbnb report is based on the company’s booking data and a fall 2016 online survey of about 1,000 millennials in the Unites States, the United Kingdom and China.

The L.L. Bean boots that made Maine famous are tearing up holiday sales

You can’t miss the 16-foot tall boot in the center of Freeport, Maine.

It’s why many people visit the town, which is home to L.L. Bean, the long-time retailer of all types of outdoor products.

The giant “duck boot” stands in front of the company’s flagship store.  is amazingly similar to the real deal. Confession: I owned a pair of duck boots as a teenager.

The story goes that Leon Leonwood Bean created the Maine hunting boot with a rubber bottom and leather upper in 1911. They were perfect for traipsing through the state’s boggy land to hunt and fish.

L.L. Bean 1940s duck boots
L.L. Bean displays some of its early products, such as these 1940s duck boots, throughout its flagship store in Freeport, Maine. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

The following year, Bean sold the boots by mail order, with scant success at first. Ninety of the first 100 pairs were flawed. But by the 1920s, he was still selling the boots plus other outdoor products.

The duck boot has gone through popularity ups and downs through the years, but it’s been trendy for the last few years. In fact, L.L. Bean expects record holiday sales this year, according to a recent Associated Press story.

L.L. Bean aquarium
The giant aquarium at L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, Maine, is a big hit with kids. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

The duck boot and the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport have become part of retail tourism lore. I’d been to Maine before, but not to the L.L. Bean store, so I had to go on my recent trip to the state.

Years before the on-demand culture, Bean opened the Freeport store — and kept it open 24 hours a day. That was 1951. His idea was to cater to visiting sportsmen who would drive through the night to get an early morning start.

L.L. Bean diorama with moose
This is one of the several dioramas at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Inside the store, one of the first products you’ll see is the duck boot — in many models today. Shopping becomes a bit surreal as you stroll by a trout pond, a large aquarium and dioramas of moose, musk ox, mountain lion and other animal taxidermy.

Diorama with bear
This diorama is the hunting section of L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, Maine. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

In addition to the boot in front of the Freeport site, the Bootmobile (a large upper part of a duck boot built on top of a pickup truck) was there the day I visited.

L.L. Bean bootmobile
(Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Holiday travel: 5 tips to packing light to avoid paying to check baggage

It’s getting tougher to avoid checking a bag on an airline — and possibly paying more to do so — for flights within the United States.

United Airline’s new “Basic Economy” fare doesn’t allow a full-size carry-on bag. The carry-on size limit is 9 x 10 x 17 inches (about the size of a gym bag), and it must fit under the seat in front of you.

United passengers who bring a full-size carry-on bag to the airport gate must check it there, paying a checked bag fee (typically $25 for the first bag or $35 for a second bag) plus a $25 gate-handling charge. There are exceptions to the rule, including if you’re a MileagePlus Premier member or a Star Alliance Gold member.

Only Southwest Airlines lets you fly with two checked bags for free. If you’re not flying on Southwest for the holidays, pack light.

Last year, I wrote a blog post on how to pack smarter. Those tips still stand, but I’m downsizing them to five for a shorter holiday trip:

    • Take one carry-on bag. Carry-on size limits differ by carrier, so check first.
    • Take one pair of versatile shoes, such as boots.
    • Wear your heaviest, bulkiest items, such as boots and a sweater, on the plane. Consider wearing extra layers, which will free up room in your luggage and keep you warm on chilly airplanes.
    • Don’t pack soap, shampoo or other items that a hotel or your hosts will have.
    • Think European: Wear the same clothes more than once. Borrow clothes from family or friends if you’re the same size or when size doesn’t matter (scarf).

From haka to hāngi: Check out these 5 traditional Māori cultural experiences in New Zealand

The haka — an ancient Māori war dance performed by the country’s All Blacks rugby team before matches — put New Zealand’s native people on the global map.

But there’s so much more to the culture of the Māori, who traveled by canoe from eastern Polynesia to New Zealand before 1300. They developed their own tribal society, language, mythology, arts and crafts before the first Europeans arrived more than 300 years later. 

Now, Māori make up 15 percent of New Zealand’s population, with most living on the North Island. Their history and culture is part of the nation’s identity.

Here are five traditional Māori cultural experience not to miss:

Marae

One of the best places to experience Māori culture is at a marae, or tribal meeting grounds, which are the center of Māori communities. You’ll see them throughout New Zealand, but especially on the North Island.

Koriniti marae
Three meeting houses (wharenui) at the marae in Koriniti, New Zealand. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)
The complex of buildings and land belongs to a certain tribe (iwi), clan (hapū) or family (whānau) who only visit and stay there during important times, such has tribal meetings, celebrations, funerals and educational workshops. You can stop and look from the outside, usually behind a fence, but you cannot walk on to marae grounds without a formal invitation. You can visit a marae with a tour group in Rotorua on the North Island.

I visited a marae in Koriniti, a settlement near Whanganui on the west side of the North Island. (See photo above.) The marae was peaceful but vacant. I viewed the three meeting houses (wharenui), complete with carved figures on the roof and walls, from afar.

To see the inside of a wharenui, I headed to the Te Papa Tongarewa museum in Wellington. It’s home to Te Hau ki Turanga, New Zealand’s oldest meeting house with beautiful and intricately carved panels.

Hāngi

A visit to a marae may include a traditional hāngi involved wrapping food, such as fish, chicken and root vegetables, in leaves and cooking it in pit ovens in the ground. Today, hāngi also may include pork, lamb, potato, pumpkin and cabbage.

waka taua carving at Te Papa Tongarewa
Carving on a large waka taua, model war canoe, at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)
You can arrange to attend a hāngi feast with traditional singing and dancing. Rotorua is best known for its Māori marae hāngi and performance. The South Island’s only Māori village experience — Ko Tane — can be found at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch.

Art

Māori are known for their wood and stone carvings and weaving skills typically using flax (harakeke). Styles vary from tribe to tribe, but many patterns are inspired by nature, including fern fronds (kore).

Watch students at Te Puia weaving and carving schools in Rotorua on the North Island. Carve your own greenstone at Bonz n’ Stonz Carving Studio & Gallery in Hokitika on the South Island.

The Auckland Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa are treasure troves of traditional Māori art and culture. For a more modern art, kayak or take a boat tour to see Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell’s 33-foot carving of an ancient Māori navigator on a cliff face at Lake Taupō.

Historical site

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds is one of New Zealand’s most historically significant places. It’s where New Zealand’s founding document between the Māori and the Europeans was signed in 1840.  The grounds, which overlook the stunning Bay of Islands, include the Treaty House, the carved Meeting House and the world’s largest ceremonial war canoe. You also can attend a hāngi or paddle a Māori canoe.

Haka

Haka traditionally was used on the battlefield, but it also was performed at peaceful gatherings. The dance is a display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. Loud chanting (describing ancestors and events in the tribe’s history) is accompanied by facial expressions like tongue protrusions, foot stomping and rhythmic body slapping. Today, haka is still used during Māori ceremonies and celebrations.

In addition to Rotorua, Waitangi and Christchurch, you can see haka performed at the top of the gondola in Queenstown.

All Black's haka
New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team perform the haka, a traditional Māori war dance, before matches. (Creative Commons)

Southwest Airlines livens flights with live music

Southwest Airlines is taking in-flight entertainment to new heights.

A deal with Warner Music Nashville will let the airline continue to offer mile-high music  featuring artists from Warner Music Nashville, according to Billboard magazine.

Who doesn’t appreciate a little fun to break up the strain and dullness of air travel or meeting a rising country star like Devin Dawson? And studies show that listening to music helps reduce stress and anxiety, such as fear of flying.

Dawson recently performed, including songs from his Dark Horse album due out on Jan. 19, onboard a Southwest flight from Nashville to Philadelphia. The video below was featured in a tweet from Dawson’s Twitter account.

Dallas-based Southwest is a big supporter of music. It has been hosting pop-up Live at 35 concerts where artists perform on a flight at 35,000 feet since 2011. It also hosts the Opry at the Southwest Porch at Bryant Park summer concert series.

In addition to Dawson, other onboard performers have included the Barenaked Ladies band, Drake White, Gavin DeGraw and King & Country.

“Music provides our employees an avenue to drive an emotional, human connection with our customers, straight from the heart,” Southwest spokeswoman Linda Rutherford said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Southwest launched its Destination: Red Rocks music series with a contest between six bands to see who would open for The Fray band at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. The Atlanta-based band Pony League won. At the same time, the airline also started the Southwest.fm website to showcase its music events.

Southwest supports artists in other ways, too. It lets passengers carry smaller musical instruments on board if they fit in an overhead bin or under a seat. It also lets musical instruments count as one of a passenger’s two free checked bags.

Below is a YouTube video from Southwest of the Barenaked Ladies before, during and after their in-flight performance in 2015.

 

What is a bothy?

bothy (pronounced both-ee) — A small hut or cottage in the wilderness that’s usually unlocked and open for anyone to use for free.

You might have wondered what that is after recent news headlines featured a family rescued by the “Hogwarts Express” steam train of Harry Potter movies after they were stranded at a remote bothy in the Scottish Highlands.

The Scottish Bothy Bible book

Jon and Helen Cluett and their four children were staying at the Essan bothy on Loch (Lake) Eilt, about 130 miles northwest of Glasgow. After their canoe was swept away by a swollen river, the Cluetts called the police, which arranged for the train to pick them up, according to a BBC news report.

A bothy — also called a byre, or cowshed — is a rustic place to rest tired feet or sleep, sheltered from the wind and rain that pummels much of Scotland. The Mountain Bothies Association maintains about 100 of these basic shelters in remote areas across Great Britain.

For Americans, bothies are similar to the Appalachian Mountain Club huts available for rests or overnight lodging along part of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail.

Similarly in Scotland, it’s popular to sleep or rest at bothies along multi-day walks and hikes. Each bothy differs slightly, but they usually do not have water or a toilet. Most bothies have a fireplace or stove, but no fuel; some have a sleeping platform or a table.

Doune bothy, Scotland, GoogleMaps
The location of Doune bothy, or byre, where I rested tired feet. (GoogleMaps)

A new book, The Scottish Bothy Bible, reveals the location of 80 bothies across the country’s boggy, forested and mountainous terrain.

On a recent trip to Scotland, Doune bothy on the northeast shore of Loch Lomond in the Central Highlands (see photo at top) was a welcome respite after a tough stretch of a 17-mile hike on a rainy day. My traveling companion and I shared the one-room stone cottage with a fireplace, table and sleeping platform with three men from Germany.  Four other people stopped by as we were leaving.

The Bothy Code simply requests that users respect the shelter, other visitors, the surroundings, agreements with private estates and restrictions on numbers.

Edinburgh is rich in literary lore

A city that names a soccer team after a novel (The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott) must be steeped in literary legends, right?

Right — at least for Edinburgh, Scotland.

Scott Monument in Edinburgh
The monument to author Sir Walter Scott. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Edinburgh has been known as a “City of Letters” since the early 18th century. Quotes by famous Scottish writers are scattered across the city, including on the wall of the Scottish Parliament building. A 200-foot monument to Scott — the world’s largest to a writer — looms over Princes Street across from Jenners department store. A marble statue of Scott (1771-1832) sits at the base and there are 64 other statues of characters from Scott’s historical novels.

It seems impossible that the narrow spires of the 1840s Victorian Gothic Scott Monument contain 287 steps to the top. I climbed up in a narrow, spiral stone stairway made me a bit dizzy. I was rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of Edinburgh (see photo at top) from the tippity top. If you can’t make it all the way to the top, three platforms along the way also offer incredible vistas.

“I am sorry to report the Scott Monument a failure,” author Charles Dickens said in 1858, according to an information board inside the monument. “It is like the spire of a Gothic church taken off and stuck in the ground.”

The Writers’ Museum on Lady Stair’s Close celebrates Edinburgh’s three best known writers: Scott (Ivanhoe and Rob Roy), Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). It’s free.

Stairwell  of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh
Slit windows let light inside a stairwell to the top of the Scott Monument. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

The museum displays their portraits, rare books, letters and other personal items. You’ll see Scott’s pipe and chess set. There’s also Burns’ writing desk and, on the ghoulish side, a plaster cast of his skull. Born of a humble farming family, Burns (1759-96) was called the ‘Heaven-taught ploughman.”

Visitors also will see Stevenson’s snuff boxes, fishing rod, riding boots and the ring given to him by a Samoan chief, engraved with “Tusitala,” or “teller of tales.” Stevenson (1850-94) reportedly was wearing that ring when he died.

Visitors can eat or stay at Stevenson’s former home at 17A Heriot Row. It’s now called Stevenson House. (Note: I did not stay there).

For a more modern literary turn, The Writers’ Museum is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin’s character, Detective Inspector John Rebus. The Rebus30 exhibition, which runs through Jan. 21, 2018, displays some of Rankin’s personal items, such as manuscripts, and explores the relationship between him and Rebus, and both men’s connections with Edinburgh.

“I don’t think the Rebus novels could be set anywhere else – they really are about Edinburgh,” Ian Rankin writes in the exhibition. “I still haven’t got to the bottom of what makes Edinburgh tick or what makes it a unique setting. It just seems to be a place that has influenced writers, and continues to nurture writers.”

The Writers' Museum sign in Edinburgh
Entrance to The Writers’ Museum (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

You can take a Rebus Tours walking tour with readings from Rankin’s books and real Edinburgh locations. Grab a pint at Rebus’s local pub, the Oxford Bar or Milne’s Bar, where a group of poets including Norman MacCaig, Sorley MacLean and George Mackay Brown, used to meet. The Literary Pub Tour is another option.

As you leave town, you might pass through the central train station, which is named for another Scott novel (Waverly).

Glengoyne: When in Scotland, tasting single malt whisky is a must 

I once tried to be a scotch drinker, but it didn’t work out. 

Still, on a recent trip to Scotland, I thought I should try some of the country’s single malt scotch whisky to see what all the fuss is about. When in Rome . . .

Scotland is synonymous with single malt, where the drink dates to at least 1494. Today, it has some 90 malt whisky distilleries.

Visitors get to see the distillery process up close. (Phot by Sheryl Jean)

For scotch newbies like me, single malt is made with malted barley at a single distillery and aged for at least three years. Blended scotch, on the other hand, combines several types of whiskies (barley, wheat or corn) and typically is not aged.

Glengoyne Distillery in Dumgoyne (about 15 miles north of Glasgow) has been making whisky since at least 1833. Today, it produces 1 million liters of whisky a year that’s aged at least 10 years. As soon as I walked on to the property, I smelled the sharp, sweet scent of the grain used to make the whisky.

My recent 45-minute tour of the distillery started with a we Dram of 12-year single malt. Glengoyne offers seven tours — from my basic tour for just over $12 to a $193, five-hour Masterclass.

Tour guide Helena De Raemedenaeker tells a group of visitors about how whisky is aged. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

While I and about 35 other visitors sipped our scotch, tour guide Helena De Raemedenaeker told us about the history of Glengoyne, scotch processing and how to drink scotch. She showed us how and where the barley is malted; took us through the mash house; and gave us a peak at some of Glengoyne’s oldest casks.

Glengoyne uses only three ingredients: malted barley, yeast and water. Although all single malt makers use the same ingredients, each distillery’s product has a distinctive character, such as smokiness, a hint of vanilla or a whiff of peat, due to variations in the process and equipment.

Glengoyne’s oldest whiskies are kept under lock and key. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

De Raemedenaeker noted that Glengoyne uses the same techniques as years ago for a smooth flavor. It uses warm air, not peat, to heat its barley. Distillation occurs in copper kettles in small batches. 

By Scottish law, scotch must be matured in oak casks, which can contribute to the flavor of the product. Glengoyne uses barrels made from American and European oak. Some casks were previously used for sherry, giving the scotch a darker color.

Scotland has five major single malt production regions: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside.

(Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Glengoyne’s 

Gengoyne’s Teapot Dram is matured in six sherry casks for 59.6% alcohol. That particular scotch is sold only at the distillery and is listed in the book 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die. According to De Raemedenaeker, the name harkens back to a time when workers received three drams of whisky a day. Instead of drinking it, some younger workers pooled theirs in a teapot, where it aged into a fiery spirit

Most Glengoyne whiskies, however, have between 40% and 43% alcohol content.

Single malt has seen a dramatic increase in interest since the 1980s. While I was there, Glengoyne was selling its last bottle of 35-year whisky for about $3,800.

Alas, Im still not a scotch drinker, but I tried.

Note: Whisky is the way Scots spell it.

Two U.S. travel startups win contest

Paperless tickets for tourist attractions? Hotel bookings based on price reductions?

That’s the technology behind two travel startups attracting attention.

Redeam, the business behind the paperless ticket idea, and Waylo, the hotel price prediction and tracking app, won Phocuswright’s Battleground: The Americas on Sept. 12 in Sunnyvale, Calif.

I previewed the Battleground contest in a blog post last month. Overall, 16 startups each had six minutes to show their innovations to judges and a live audience. Here’s a bit more about the two winners:

Redeam: It enables businesses to accept paper vouchers and mobile tickets from any reseller using a tablet-based validation platform. The company is based in Boulder, Colo.

Waylo: This app tracks hotels you’re interested in booking by using proprietary technology to predict lower rates and sending you alerts. The company is based in Berkeley, Calif.

Next, Redeam, Waylo and startups from other Battlegrounds worldwide will compete Nov. 7-9 at the Phocuswright Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for a $100,000 investment from venture capital firm General Catalyst.

Funding for ideas that make travel easier, faster, cheaper and better has increased. Travel startups raised $29 billion from 2016 through June 30, nearly double the total amount raised in the previous decade, according to travel and tourism research firm Phocuswright.