Stephanie Abrams' Travel Blog
Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams Blog – Nationally Synidcated Radio Show Host
Nobel Peace Prize Awardee John Hume Remembered by Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams
August 4th, 2020

Travel Expert  Stephanie Abrams with John Hume at US Marine Memorial at Beech Hill Country House in Derry, Northern Ireland, UK

Every person on the island that is Ireland knows the name  John Hume.  Only a select circle of Irish people living in the US,  students of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, some who run in political circles and follow Northern Ireland history and events and those who follow the names of those awarded Nobel Prizes would respond to his name. And those who respond to the name John Hume respond with respect, admiration, adulation, praise and immense thanks for his role in bringing resolution to The Troubles in Northern Ireland. John was a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 1970 and was the leader of the party from 1979 until 2001.  Such a pity that, when the world needs him most, John had no say in being called to leave us yesterday. He was 83.  His productive years left us all too soon.

I was introduced to John in 2007 by Patsy O’Kane who, until a year and a half ago, owned Beech Hill Country House in Derry, Northern Ireland. John lived nearby and was a friend of Patsy’s who often stopped by her hotel to relax in their homey lounge, have a bite or dine in their wonderful dining room. The first time I met John Hume, we gathered at 5pm in the lounge at Beech Hill Country House to chat over a drink together to get to know one another a bit before recording an interview with him for my nationally syndicated radio shows. We chatted, recorded the first of  what would become three interviews over the next year, and, when that first interview was completed, we continued to talk and talk and talk.

Beech Hill Country House, Derry, Northern Ireland

Before we knew it, our planned one-hour interlude had stretched to 8pm. I asked John if he’d like to join us for dinner in the dining room and I was delighted when he said he would but, first, he was going to drive home, leave his car at his house and take a taxi back to the hotel so that he would be able to have a wine with dinner and not be concerned about drinking and driving himself home and, with that, John excused himself while indicating he’d be back within 20 minutes. And, as in all things related to john Hume, he was a man of his word.  When John returned to the hotel, we picked up our discussion about the history of Ireland, the history of the partition of Ireland into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, barely 100 years ago.

Helen Quigley, Mayor of Derry, Northern Ireland with Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams joins with Stephanie & John Hume at Beech Hill in ‘07

Were it not for the arrival of guests to join the “party,” I never would have looked at my watch but Helen Quigley, then Mayor of Derry, arrived on the  scene to join us having heard that John, my husband, Mark, and I were deep in conversation at Beech Hill. One thing you can count on on the island of Ireland is that updates about what’s going on hither-and-yon travel faster than shooting stars! It was 10:30 pm when Mayor Quigley, adorned by her mayoral chains of office, since she had come directly from an official gathering, arrived. The whole event took on every aspect of what the Irish call “good craic!” (Definition: great fun, good humor, intense conversation, tasty bites and good drink rolled up into a very memorable time with people you’ll always  want to remember).

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams awaiting  arrival of John Hume in the lounge of Beech Hill  Country House, Derry, Northern Ireland

There was so much historic content mixed with profundity and humor as only the Irish can blend it. We said good night at 12:30am, seven and a half hours later than when first we met that evening, more from fatigue setting in than from a sense of nothing more to talk about. We had, in fact, only scratched the surface of subject that needed more discussion, hence the next two meetings over time. It would be impossible to meet John Hume and not be aware you were in the presence of greatness. The world needed John Hume in the 1960’s, ’70’s, ’80’s and ’90’s. Regrettably, the world needs him, his thinking, his statesmanship, his willingness to step up and fight for human rights, justice, fairness and peace even more today. Remembering John Hume’s character, achievements, values and mission in life coupled with his generosity in giving his portion of the Nobel Prize monetary award which was shared with co-awardee, David Trimble, earned for John’s role in the peace talks that led up to the Good Friday Agreement, is key to keeping the spirit of his life of service alive, well, aspired to and replicated. What the world needs now are more statesmen dedicated to service and fewer politicians looking for what’s in it for themselves.

John Hume left us yesterday. May his spirit stand as a bright beacon for  others to follow in his path.

SKALleague from India, Skalintlgoain Shekhar Divadkar, Shares Healthful Benefits of Bay Leaves with Travel Expert & Boston SKALleague Stephanie Abrams & Facebook Friends
July 28th, 2020

“Sous-Chef Steph,” Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with Head Chef  Extraordinaire Daniel Willimont at Farnham Estate, Co. Cavan, Ireland

I have a new facebook friend who just came on board today from Asia.  Skalintlgoain Shekhar Divadkar is a member of SKAL in India, as I am a member of SKAL in Boston. I accepted his friend status when I saw that he is a SKALleague and noticed, as well, that one of his facebook friends in Andrew Wood from Bangkok, Thailand whom I interviewed many, many times.  So I clicked over to Andrew Wood’s facebook page and, in scrolling down, I came across this fascinating, and hopefully true, list of the properties and value of including bay leaves in one’s diet. Ironically, on March 16th, 4 months ago, the date we rented Corner Cottage in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland and moved in, we made a stop at the ASDA store in Larne on our way to the house. I bought, in addition to a variety of pantry and household goods, two plants having been inspired by all of the extraordinary chefs I’ve done cooking demos with in the last year from Ireland to Curacao to have fresh herbs available.
So I bought a basil plant and a parsley plant. . . would that I could have also bought a Bay leaf plant! In any event, I’m trusting that Andrew Wood is not providing voodoo magic info and I’m actually going to try the chicken experiment to see if the use of Bay Leaves makes fat disappear!. . .along with all of the other antioxidant and other values Bay Leaves apparently bring to the table.  Bay Leaves are said to provide. And I’ve capitalized Bay and Leaves as a salute to this vegetation since, if this is the real deal, it deserves elevation to a level worthy of capitalizing its name.
Head Chef Chamilla Mananwatta, Mulranny Park Hotel, Co. Mayo, Ireland cooking with “Sous-Chef Steph,” Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams

Here is the list of virtues being touted as benefits associated with using Bay Leaves in your cooking from Andrew Wood’s presentation at his facebook page. (One brief note: Andrew starts his memo with a note about how many ‘women’ use Bay Leaves in their cooking and don’t really know why there is value in that. Does that mean that all the men who use it in their cooking have this information? Or perhaps the intention was to indicate that’s it’s the women who are in the  kitchens doing the cooking. Oddly, almost all of the chefs I have cooked with, except for Sara huges at Howth Castle Cookery School and Rachel Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School have been men! Ah, how sexism creeps into our simplest thoughts and best intentions!

“Sous-Chef Steph” Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams (right) with Master Chef Instructor in Teaching Kitchen of Howth Castle Cookery School

Many ladies add bay leaves to their foods, especially in the cooking of red meat and poultry. Many don’t know why bay leaves are added to food.
When asked why, many said, “to flavour the food”. But if you boil the bay leaves in a glass of water and taste it, it will have no flavour. So why do you put bay leaves in the meat or other food?
The addition of bay leaves to meat converts triglycerides to mono unsaturated fats and, for experimentation and confirmation:
>Cut a chicken into two halves, cook each half in a separate pan and place in one a bay leaf, and cook the other without a bay leaf. Observe the amount of fat in both pans after cooking!
If you have bay leaves, there is no need for a pharmacy, as recent scientific studies have shown that bay leaves have many benefits:
They help to get rid of many serious health problems and illnesses.
The benefits of bay leaf:
They -
▪Treat digestive disorders and help eliminate -
Hot bay tea regulates bowel movements -
•lowers blood sugar
•is an antioxidant,
▪by eating them, or by drinking bay tea for a month, the body is able to produce insulin
▪eliminates bad cholesterol and relieves the body of triglycerides.
▪useful in treating colds, flu and severe coughs, as it is a rich source of vitamin “C”. ▪you can boil the leaves and inhale steam to get rid of phlegm and reduce the severity of coughs.
▪protects the heart from seizures and strokes, as they contain cardiovascular protective compounds.
▪rich in acids such as caffeic acid, quercetin, eigonol and bartolinide, substances that prevent the formation of cancer cells in the body.
▪eliminates insomnia and anxiety. If taken before bed, helps you relax and sleep peacefully.
▪drinking a cup of boiled bay leaves twice a day breaks down kidney stones and cures infections.
■Don’t just read and leave in your in box. Forward, for others’ benefit! (

Update: Air Travel from USA to Ireland, Bahamas, Canada, Curacao & Elsewhere
July 26th, 2020

Let’s start by saying that your best bet for plans this summer is to plan to visit places in the US taking care to choose places that you have checked on regarding their protocol for cleaning and disinfecting so that you are have some level of confidence that you will be in an environment that is as close  to  sterile as possible.  This may be the year to buy a camper so, once disinfected, you and your family are the only ones permitted inside. Also consider buying or chartering a boat or small yacht  if a big one is not  in your  budget where you can drive to the  place where  it is docked. Make sure the boat has been properly disinfected and head for the sea and marinas where  you are properly spaced away from the next boat and where you can get delivery of food and other  products in a safe fashion. But there’s more:

I was just listening to an interview broadcasting live on WBRK 97.1FM which is based in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They, like many of our radio station affiliates, broadcast shows on a one-week delay. So I’m currently listening to the Travelers411 show that debuted last weekend. The interview that was broadcasting when I tuned in was with Norman McBride, General Manager of the Hastings Ballygally Castle Hotel in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. To the  right, in the photo, below, you see the historic wall of the fortress that was Ballygally Castle and the historic part of the  hotel’s facilities which were built in 1625. Look to the right and you’ll  see a stop sign  and a short wall beyond which is the Irish Sea that, in this photo, blends into the horizon and sky.  On the left of the almost-400-year-old wall, you’ll see me ’social distancing’ to the extreme with  Norman McBride on the right. The combination of having produced this interview a couple of months ago combined with the one week delay in broadcasting this show and interview have created a couple of items that I need to update:

1. Aer Lingus is the ONLY airline flying to Ireland from the US and they are only flying routes between JFK, Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD), and Boston’s Logan Airport (BOS). They are not flying between Ireland and all of the US airports they normally fly to.

2. While there are very cheap fares to Ireland, arriving passengers from the US, if you are allowed to fly and if you are allowed to pass Customs and Immigration in Ireland, are expected to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Since most  Americans going to Ireland are planning to stay somewhere between 6 nights and 13 nights, that would mean that you would arrive in Ireland, go to your lodging site, check in and not leave your accommodations for your entire stay. Logically, that would rule out a trip to Ireland for you until circumstances change. Circumstances won’t change until Covid-19 is under control in the US.

3. At the moment, a US Passport is just about worthless. Not many destinations are interested in welcoming us given the raging growth of Covid-19 in the US. And who could blame them? The Bahamas, which relies on massive numbers of US  visitors for their economic prosperity since so much of their  economy  is based on tourism, have now joined places like Curacao and the European Union and Canada in making it clear that the illness rate of Covid-19 infestation in the US makes US visitors undesirable. That doesn’t mean they are anti-American. That means they are trying to protect their own citizens, residents and healthy visitors from engaging in close proximity to those who are coming from destinations taht are out of control and could well overturn their success rates where they have massively diminished the number of new cases and the number of daily deaths in their regions of the world. It is absurd to try to link anti-American sentiments or political retribution to these decisions as all of the destinations that are limiting or eliminating arrivals from the  US  into their countries are places that rely on American tourism and business travelers, especially in the spring, summer, and fall  months, to make their profits and beef-up their economy. With one out of every nine people in the world employed in the travel/tourism/hospitality industry, the last thing any of these regions want is to lose the revenue that Americans  pump into  their destinations every year and none is so foolhardy as to want to cut their  own economic throats as some form of political statement. The inference is not subtle. the message is not nebulous. When Covid-19 is under control in the US, Americans will be more than welcome everywhere in the world that they want to go except for the few rare places on the planet designated by US  law as off limits except under specific regulation such as North Korea and Cuba.

So while there are cheap  fares to Ireland at the moment, be sure to check to see if you’re going to be allowed entry into Ireland if youo want to go there  now and note that  going NOW means staying in your hotel room for 14 days from the  date you arrive. That may mean that, regardless of the great airfares this summer, this  is not the time to got to Ireland or anywhere else in Europe.

. . .And I am, 5 times the recommended distancing from Norman McBride at Ballygally Castle Hotel  just down the road from Corner Cottage where you might meet these friendly neighbors as you drive about who are out for a stroll parading their sleek bodies now that they have been shorn. (Shorn, by the way, is the past tense of ’shear’ which some word processing programs don’t recognize as a word!). This ewe and her lambs love to pose for photos! And they are so photogenic! You don’t have to go to a petting  zoo to get up close and personal with the local four-footed neighbors.

This interview which aired originally on July 18th, as well as many others done in Ireland and Northern Ireland, were done while we were in seclusion at Corner Cottage using the dining room as the control room and the kitchen as the broadcast studio!  Listening to the interview with Norman McBride today, I can hear why our radio affiliates and production crews were so pleased with the quality of the audio produced and broadcast. You’d never know we weren’t broadcasting from Studio 35, our broadcast studio at Hotel on North in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Check out the attention to social distancing! Taking no chances here  as we are outside and we are at least 15 feet or the equivalent of 4.5 meters apart.

St. Augustine-Ponte Vedre’s Tourism Promotion is Shameful & Irresponsible States Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams
July 24th, 2020

It is both shameful and irresponsible that the marketing folks for St. Augustine/Ponte Vedre, Florida, and whomever else had to give their approval in the administration of tourism there, that the above image was used this week to promote travel to the region. Firstly, with Covid-19 cases soaring in Florida AND the potential of any visitor  to carry this gruesome disease back to their friends, family, neighbors, colleagues and total strangers, in other parts of the country, especially areas like New England where Covid-19 is, at the moment, on the run, it is outrageous  to use a photo where social distancing does not exist! There’s a test used by educators called TAT, Thematic Apperception Test, in which teachers and school psychologists show a photo to a child and ask three questions:

1. What is going on in this photo?

2. What happened just before this photo was taken?

3. What’s going to happen next?

If I were shown this photos as part of a TAT experience, I would answer as follows:

1. Three tables of people who were socially-distancing from one another at proper distances each had one drink too many, put their good sense aside during this Covid-19 pandemic and decided, using  their alcohol-impaired judgment to all sit at the table with the the grey-haired guy to continue drinking and talking with one another  without  shouting from table to table.

2. The grey haired guy was sitting at a table alone.  The seated woman and the man in the orange shirt are a couple and were at another table and  the  standing couple were at a third table. They had each had 2 or more drinks and were enjoying the salty breeze and sunshine at this Florida destination.

3. They are all going to talk and laugh and splatter one another  with spittle and when they get home they are going  to experience shortness of breath, heavy  coughing, chest pains and difficulty breathing, and may  have loss of smell and taste and realize they now are sick from Covid-19 which they can trace back to this cozy gathering in St. Augustine-Ponte Vedre on Florida’s Historic  Coast.

Good Grief! Killing travelers will not benefit the travel industry! And  this style of marketing in today’s environment is scandalous. Look ashamed. . . and stop it!

“Murder in Cork” Episode of “Murder She Wrote” was Shot in Connemara at Delphi Lodge & Not in Cork at All States Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams, Marooned in Ireland since February 2020!
July 19th, 2020