Sunday, December 27, 2015

ARRAWARRA BEACH HOUSE

We did scoff a bit when the lady next door proclaimed, “Our son has travelled all over the world, and he says there’s just about nowhere as nice as Arrawarra”, in what seemed to be an in-real-life scene from The Castle. We’d only been in Arrawarra a few hours and, whilst charmed by our gorgeous, rented beach-house, it did seem a bit of a stretch. Sure, it’s a nice spot but we’ve been to plenty of them over the years, many displayed on an enormous world map in the house's living room.

Arrawarra is a bit of a secret spot. You won’t find it on a  world map, no matter how big. From my experience, a typical conversation about the place goes something like this...

Monday, July 27, 2015

ZEN AND THE ART OF THE THEME PARK QUEUE

Universal Studios Singapore
Universal Studios Singapore.
Theme parks have changed a lot since I was a kid. Much of the change has been around technology, the Disney people doing some incredible end-to-end, near-field, auto-payment, ride-scheduling spookiness, collecting lots of juicy data along the way - a transaction that seems OK to everyone.

But the most visible change for me, is the advent of digital There is a XX minute wait for this ride signage. Having recently spent a day at the very excellent Universal Studios Singapore I can attest to their accuracy. The suggested 60-minute wait for the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure was absolutely bang-on. Even with the straight-to-the-front-of-the-line VIP ticket holders regularly slipping past us, we awaited an hour virtually to the second.

Friday, March 20, 2015

PONDERING LUGGAGE

The advent of the wheely bag totally revolutionised luggage. No more back-breaking, awkward hauling and dragging of large rectangular suitcases. Those little wheels changed everything. Telescopic handle - click, click, click - lean forward and away you go silently on those glassy-smooth airport floors. 

That big, heavy bag is no longer the ungainly beast that it once was. It's even acceptable for a fair-sized piece of carry-on to be wheel-enabled getting you right to the aircraft door leaving you only having to pick it up for the final few steps to your seat and the overhead bin.

But what about luggage that's smaller than that? Are wheels acceptable on a briefcase, for example? I've seen things that look like wallets-on-wheels being confidently escorted by men in suits apparently unaware of the shame they're bringing to their kind. Just pick the thing up, for crying out loud. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

THREE SIGNS YOU'VE BOOKED THE WRONG HOTEL

I don't know about you, but I think there are some absolute tell-tale signs that you've booked the wrong hotel. 

Travelling for business recently I encountered a number of capital-city hotels. All mid-range (no sense of entitlement here), well-located, looked good on the interwebs and, accordingly, seemed to offer incredible value. Some of the hotels delivered in spades. One or two did not, and I could tell within seconds at the check-in desk that I was about to be slapped with the disappointment stick.

One, in particular, offered a perfect storm of signs that I'd booked the wrong hotel.

1. On Arrival: The highlighting of some unnervingly strict Ts & Cs on the arrival paperwork, accompanied by the following warnings: Sir, please note that if you damage the room, or if it requires excessive cleaning you will be charged $XX. And, Sir, please note that check-out is strictly 10.00am. Your credit card will be charged $XX for every 20 minutes after 10.00.

Side note: I stayed in a hotel in Bali once that even had a charge for getting tattoo ink on the bed sheets. 

That kind of thing. Alarm bells even going in.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

FINDING TIME IN THE COOK ISLANDS



People often talk about 'island time'. Usually as a way of excusing slow service or a late departure or even the complete non-delivery of an expected holiday amenity. Typically imparted with a hearty laugh and a beaming smile, island time is either utterly charming or infuriating depending on the type of person you are. If you're a stickler for detail and precision, and expect slick, deferential interactions from robotic staff, then maybe the Pacific isn't for you.

Of course many tourism operations in the Pacific now deliver precision in spades but fortunately (for mine) island time still sets the tone and pace of life in many corners of this delicious part of the world. 



Time in the Pacific is a bit of a rubbery thing. It seems to sloooow down, and there's the international dateline to deal with (lose a day here, gain one there, arrive before you depart), it's madness. 



Kia Orana - Welcome to the Cook Islands.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TRAVEL AND THE FOMO OF FOOD

There are apps for everything, it seems, and they have revolutionised the traveller's experience of navigating new places. A hat-tip to Google Maps for basic navigation. You are here. Whilst, platforms like Foursquare have added social functionality so we can all now see where you are, what you did and what you thought of it. And with food playing such a big role now in our travel experiences, the fear of missing out (FOMO) sees us reaching for our devices, looking for the answer to just about the most important question of all: What's good to eat nearby?

Travel and food. Food and travel. pretty inseparable, aren't they? Gastro-Tourism. Paris, Florence, New York, Melbourne, The Barossa, Bangalow (indulge me) all places with supreme culinary credentials. But once you're there, how do you know what's around you, and what's worth sampling? You can follow your nose (my favourite), do it old-school with a printed guide book (with luck the highly-rated dumpling place might still be operating), put a call-out to your social networks, or make the most of your phone's geolocation by tapping into an app.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

BLIZZARD OF OZ: New York City in Winter

I was totally unprepared for New York City in winter.

The moment I stepped onto the icy-slick pavement just beyond the warm lobby of the Hotel Beacon on Broadway at 75th Street, a deep chill worked its way through the soles of my completely inappropriate shoes.

There wasn’t much I could do about it. I was wearing the warmest things in my suitcase. But the prospect of zig-zagging stroll through sparkling New York streets to Times Square was irresistible. So, dismissing the cold, I set off like the Cowardly Lion across Oz's snow-dusted poppy fields...‘Unusual weather we’re having, ain’t it?’

It was relentless, the cold. And even before I’d passed Gray’s Papaya I could feel it crawling through the neck of my meagre sweater. My chin was cramping, my socks were soon wet and my ears would have shattered had you given them a flick.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

GOING BACK

Toberua Island Resort, Fiji - 1984 & 2014
Travel memories are funny. They're a mix of so many things. Emotions. Smells. Sounds. The people you encountered and connected with. They can be rich and visceral. But also feel so totally fragile.

There are a couple of places I've visited that I feel drawn back to. They're places that were the source of treasured experiences and memories. A particular mix of people, happenings and timing. Such a random and fleeting coming together of elements that only ever existed at that moment in time. Never before and never again will things align precisely like that. And yet, like chasing a high you know you'll never find, you feel compelled to go back.

But what then of those precious, original memories? Where do they end up?

WHEN DID FLYING BECOME SO 'MEH'?

It's not like this anymore...
International flights, particularly short-haul ones, have really changed, haven't they?

Maybe I'm being sentimental but I miss the huge, four-engined, twin aisle aircraft that operated routes from Australia, the hot meals, the giant video screens and projectors, the sense of excitement. Maybe it's all tangled up in the memories of a long-ago childhood but, sitting here in a wee 737 roaring across the Pacific, it all seems so bland now.

Normal now seems to be a quick meal service. Lights out. And please don't ask for anything else.

Monday, April 28, 2014

THOUGHTS ON SAMOA

It's been a while since I've been somewhere new. For the first time, I mean. You know the feeling. Excitement swirling around some preconceptions of the place. You've flipped through the brochure, thought the stock shots looked nice, but you've been let down by them before, right?

Samoa is definitely not a let-down. But half way between New Zealand and Hawaii, it is still something of an unknown to most travellers even those with a bit of the South Pacific under their belts.

It's absolutely the quintessential South Pacific paradise, I honestly don't think I've been anywhere prettier. But, even better, it's also a place with a bunch of fascinating, historical quirks.

Pick up the Samoan phone directory and you'll see names like Schuster, Schwenker and Wendt - a legacy of colonisation by Germany in the early 20th century. If you're a literary buff you might know about Robert Louis Stevenson passing the final years of his life here. In 2009, Samoa announced that its cars would no longer drive on the right hand side of the road (another legacy of the Germans), switching instead to the left - a move that was met by protests from bus drivers furious that their doors would now open on the wrong side, a Red Cross blood donation campaign for the inevitable surge in accidents, and a three-day ban on alcohol sales, just in case.