Friday, September 23, 2011

NAKED LUXURY IN BYRON BAY


 I defy anyone to not be blown away by the view of Byron Bay framed as it is by the Lighthouse atop the Cape headland, and the dramatic peak of Mount Warning far away to the North.

Even more so when you're drinking it in from the balcony of Byron's Beach Suites, a glass of bubbly in hand (drinking that in, too), watching whales frolic close to shore. Excuse me while I pinch myself.

The Beach Suites offers one of Byron's most inconspicuously luxe holiday experiences, effortlessly oozing style (Noguchi tables, anyone?), space and privacy a stone's throw from the sands of Byron's Main Beach.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

NO DEAL IN MELBOURNE

I must be Australia's least successful game show contestant. Four shows and nothing to show for it.

It's hurting my fingers to type this but, as a Sydneysider and someone who has travelled a lot, it pains me to confess that I harbour a secret love for Melbourne - one of the most happening cities in the world.

Melbourne gets better every time I visit. Formerly derelict city laneways are revived; another huge, sparkling sporting venue opens; new bars and major public artworks pop up in the most unlikely places; and some wunderkind chef has (again) reinvented Australian cuisine.

I don't pretend it's perfect. I'm sure it has a heap of issues. It's just that, as a visitor, it seems so...self-assured. You can tell the locals are quietly proud of their city. They all seem to be out exploring it in detail, enjoying it almost as tourists do.

I never need much of an excuse to visit Melbourne. So when a mate called up and said, "Buddy, I need you to pop down and go on Deal or No Deal with me", I was there in a flash, equally excited about revisiting the southern city, and the prospect of winning oodles of cash on a game show that rates through the roof.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

HONG KONG - TREASURE ISLAND

This is my latest guest-post on the Flight Centre (Australia) Blog.

So many things come together on this dramatic, rocky outcrop in the South China Sea, where a totally 21st-century city erupts from every bit of available space.

There’s a hand-hauled cart loaded impossibly high with goods going to market for every millionaire’s Ferrari. And there’s a knock-off Burberry bag for every real one under lights in the gleaming retail beacons that draw many visitors to this place.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Hong Kong more times than I can count on my fingers and toes. It’s a place that gets under your skin. It’s equal parts pulsating megalopolis and peaceful sanctuary. It’s go-go-go. Neon lit. Noisy. And always completely now.

Hong Kong is the kind of place that almost every visitor experiences differently. So, rather than get too prescriptive about what I think you should see and do, here are a couple of general tips to help you connect with this place, and make your visit to Asia’s Big Apple pretty special....Read More.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A TASTE OF NEW ORLEANS JAZZ FEST 2011

An unorthodox look at the 2011 New Orleans Jazz Fest.

My best mate, Scotty, lives in New York.

I've known him since we were kids, we were flatmates for a while, and we took the best part of a round-the-world trip together way back when. He is many things. Clever, amusing, successful MBA grad, senior executive, husband, dad and all-round positive spirit.

And when it comes to food, he has an adventurous streak.

I've seen him select some dreadful things from perfectly good menus all over the world. A bowl of raw, unfamiliar shellfish over grilled salmon in Southern Chile. A selection of offal over a mixed grill of the finest cuts in Argentina. Oyster patties in New Orleans (keep reading). Even The Spotted Pig's Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese, over, well, just about everything else on the menu there.

Monday, May 16, 2011

THINKING ABOUT ABBOTTABAD

Like most people, I watched the story of the final moments of Osama bin Laden unfold with total fascination. For days, I couldn’t take my eyes and ears from the information, descriptions and conspiracy theories streaming endlessly from mainstream and new media. It was, and will be for some time yet, a big story.

Even before the dust had settled, all I could think about was getting myself to Abbottabad. I justified this travel urge to myself by praising the city’s quirky British heritage, fine, temperate climate and stunning views from the surrounding Sarban Hills. But the reality is, I’d just love to take a look around the bin Laden digs and smell this dramatic, violent moment in history.

And if reports are correct, it appears that local hoteliers have every expectation that the end of bin Laden will be the start of something big for Abbottabad.

All of this has got me wondering…

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"MILLENNIUM FALCON" IS NOT THE ANSWER IN ABU DHABI

Dr Muller looked at me with a puzzled expression. I could tell she understood the words. Perhaps she’d just never heard them put together like that.

No, Millennium Falcon is not zee answer.

But a visit to Dr Muller’s Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is such an other-worldly experience, the Star Wars reference isn’t too far from the truth. Besides, it was all I could think of when our group was asked if we could name a type of falcon.

Cue awkward silence.

Without missing a beat, Dr Muller was off again with her heavily accented spiel about the intriguing Emirati tradition of falconry.

Friday, April 8, 2011

TODD SAMPSON CLIMBS LIKE HILLARY. THINKS LIKE EINSTEIN.

Image borrowed from businesschic.com.au.
Where they got it from I really don't know.
I love conferences. Especially good ones like Schmart Marketing in Sydney last week.

Great talent. Fab venue. And excellent canap├ęs.

The highpoint for mine was Todd Sampson’s presentation which, even though it was titled Combining creativity, idea generation, leadership, culture change, Earth Hour, problem solving, innovation, climbing to the summit of Mount Everest, bravery and adventure, was really about fear.  

The central theme being that fear of the unknown, of failure, and of looking bad have led to plummeting creative IQs in business. Successful businesses and leaders, however, almost by definition, know how to manage creativity and these institutionalised fears.

As Todd puts it, he’s successful not because he’s braver than anyone else (he has climbed Everest, mind you), but simply because he stays brave a little bit longer than those around him.

Monday, March 28, 2011

GETTING SOME SCHMARTS

I like conferences.

They’re good for the brain.

But it's easy to become unstuck once the business of conferencing is done.

You know what I’m talking about. Networking session, semillon in one hand. Piping-hot samosa in the other. Then the surprise approach from a fellow delegate, hand out-stretched.

Your options here are few.

You can do the awkward I’ve got my hands full charade and maybe initiate a pinky shake. (Way to make a first impression, Mr. Professional). Or, you could pop the whole samosa in your mouth, and speak like Mr Bean.

Friday, March 18, 2011

ITALY SUPERSIZED MY SON

A couple of years back, I travelled to Italy with my wife and our kids.

It sounds fancy but it was right in the middle of the GFC and airlines were literally giving longhaul seats away from Australia. So, when a Kids Fly Free offer hit the market, we grabbed it with both hands.

Travelling with kids can be tricky. We're lucky that ours are good flyers, and they're reasonably well-behaved (although occasionally capable of great hideousness) in public. When it comes to food, we have a picky one, and an adventurous one who'll more or less try anything. Regardless, at every meal in a foreign place, like most parents, we tread the I'm not eating that tightrope.

Not so in Italy. The food's superb and familiar, and the people tend to be louder than our kids can ever be. So, we more or less breezed through this fabulous country wallowing in the dolce vita.

At the end of our not-quite-three-weeks Italian immersion, there were signs that our three year old son, Spencer, had, well, sampled heartily from the trough of Italian deliciousness.

Monday, March 7, 2011

10 LIFE LESSONS FROM AN UNEXPECTED TRAVELLING COMPANION


This is not meant to be a back in my day post.

But when I had my year off in 1997 and travelled around the world, regular stops at English Bookshops were an essential part of the journey. 

With no iPhones/Pods/Pads/Readers (I had to post the film from my camera home to my parents for processing, and started the trip without so much as an email address, for goodness sake. I know!), we relied on the humble book to escape the tedium of long layovers, broken-down bus delays, or those annoying morning hours before the hostel doors open.

Almost every traveller we met carried a dog-eared copy of On The Road, 100 Years of Solitude, In Patagonia, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or bits and pieces by Tolkein, Steinbeck or Hemingway. And once you’d worked your way through those, there wasn’t much else available through the exchange networks of hostel common rooms and noticeboards. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

10 MOST MEMORABLE TRAVEL EXPERIENCES

So here goes, my list of top travel experiences as they bubbled to the surface today.

Hard to narrow it down, really. And I bet I wake up in the middle of the night with half-a-dozen happenings worth adding to the list.

But for now, let's start with Tintin and see where we end up.

Happy travels.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo & HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

  1. Reading Tintin books as a child changed everything. The youthful sleuth’s adventures opened my mind to a world beyond the edges of Australia
  2. The scent of aircraft fuel still sets off a mental slideshow of journeys including the first time I breathed it in before a trip to Fiji in 1980
  3. The odd contrast of condors & tiny hummingbirds in the warming morning air on the rim of the Colca Canyon, Peru.
  4. Feeling the potential power of a tame falcon at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital – Easily the most intriguing, medical facility anywhere. A glimpse into a fascinating Emirati tradition.
  5. Watching the speedometer of Shanghai’s MAGLEV train pass 4oo km/h (250 mph). Look, no wheels!
  6. Feeling the earth rumble walking up the ash  flanks of  restless Yasur volcano, Vanuatu - one of the world’s most accessible
  7. Scratching my name in fresh concrete outside the MGM Grand Hotel in Vegas the night before it opened. I’d love to know if it’s still there.
  8. The realisation of how far from home (Sydney) I was, on the corrugated tin roof of the Cloud Train as it rolled past Andean peaks and salt lakes in the north of Argentina.
  9. Watching novice monks file through the streets of Luang Prabang collecting alms by the Mekong River in Laos.
  10. Having my 7 year old say, after a day on Lake Como, “I think today was the best day of my life”. Travel - she gets it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

BROOKE SHIELDS MADE ME DO IT


Years ago I heard of the unusual case of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park receiving daily packages containing sorry rocks – small stones posted back with an apology.

Many visitors to Uluru pocket small, loose rocks and take them home. Some, after a run of bad luck, become convinced theirs are cursed and believe that returning them will undo a cosmic injustice. For others like me, it’s just the right thing to do.

It's a lovely idea but sadly this practice is not unique to Uluru. I've never been to Australia's Red Centre but I, too, carry sorry rock guilt.

My sorry tale goes like this...

It began on school holidays in Fiji in 1985, idly thumbing through a resort guest book. It was a tome filled with the hyphenated names of well-heeled folk from all over the world. A bit of a yawn, really, until I spotted it. Right there, firmly pressed into a dog-eared page was an entry from Brooke Shields.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BANGALOW IS GOOD FOR YOU - Post #1

In classic tree-change fashion, my family recently moved from Sydney to Bangalow in country northern NSW. Our kids attend the local primary school, and having been here for a few months now, we are no longer (complete) strangers to the local community, nor it to us.

The gourmands out there may well know of Bangalow because of the brand of pork that graces the menus of fine-diners up and down the east coast of Oz, and is freely available (well, not entirely free) at our local butcher. 

But this town is much more than a one-trick piggy. Blessed with a productive northern rivers climate, Bangalow is surrounded by growers of all kinds of goodness.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

2011 THE YEAR OF THE FAKATION

She's faking it. Burj Khalifa, Dubai.
So I stumbled on a release recently from TripAdvisor listing its 2011 travel trends forecast.

Lots of interesting stuff in there (Americans, for example, top the lists for both most annoying and friendliest travellers) but it was the reference to Fakations (fake-ations...geddit?) that caught my eye.

It seems the humble vacation has, in recent times, reared some bastard children. First came the idea of the Staycation which the Brits unfortunately sometimes call a stoliday. (For goodness sake, they invent the language and come up with swill like that).

But 2011 is set to be the year of the fakation.

Monday, January 17, 2011

THE OLFACTORY TRAVELLER - Following Your Nose

Spice Souk, Deira - Dubai
The sun's out again, at last. For weeks, months maybe, it feels like we've been sheltering from the rain, rarely going out and getting amongst it.

But the sun has brought us out again. And after letting our lawns "go" a bit, the hills around Bangalow are abuzz with the hum of lawnmowers, and the beaches of Byron are heaving with holiday-makers making the most of it.

Rejoining the outdoors has been a pleasant assault on the senses. We're wading through colour and light again. And the air is awash, depending where you are, with the smell of fresh-cut grass and a cocktail of sunscreen lotions, both of which, this week, took me away to places and times long past.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

BIG CITY YEARNING POST #1 (And a new inflight catering concept)

I've been out of the big smoke for a while now and have settled nicely into a slightly less hectic environment for life. It's been long enough for a few of our city-friends to visit and take the odd walk in our gumboots. (Goodness knows we need them at the moment. Never seen so much rain.)

I've been asked a couple of times recently about what I miss most about big-city life. As you might expect, we miss our friends, family and familiar things most. But when asked, "Right, but besides that?", I was surprised when I piped up with, "Chinatown and Yum Cha".

The Chinese influence on Australia is wonderfully evident in our big cities and, let's face it, just about every country town has a Chinese restaurant (serving Chinese and Australian meals) or two.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

THE HIGH DENSITY HOTEL ROOM OF THE FUTURE?

As anyone who has visited will know, Hong Kong is a city that rarely rests. It's never idle. Full throttle 24-7. Nothing much seems to get in its way.

Mountain in the way? Tunnel through it.

The harbour impedes business and traffic? Tunnel under it. Again. And again.

Need more land? Make some.

Narrow, hillside block? No worries. Up we go...