New York

Oct 29, 2010

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Larissa Nicholson writes: When you’ve lived in the same city for most of your life, the seemingly innocuous locations that you pass everyday can take on double or even triple meanings. I kissed the first boy I ever really liked outside 7/11 on Brunswick St, and cried on the steps of the GPO when he broke my heart. Back when we were teenagers my friends and I once got kicked out of a Lonsdale St kebab house starting a sugar fight (my maturity levels have improved at least slightly since hitting my twenties,) and I last saw one of my best friends standing outside the State Library, nearly two years ago.

When you’re happy and life is good, these kinds of memories are nostalgic in the best kind of way, they are everyday reminders that life is short but often joyous, and they make you feel like you belong. But approaching Melbourne’s winter this year, battling family illness, a deeply unsatisfying job and the everyday human mishaps and tragedies that can wear us out, I felt like I was tripping over ghosts every corner I turned.

New York Photo 2

I had long dreamed of moving in New York City, and now the city was calling me like it had so many others. There had never been a better time to check out my future home. I booked a flight to JFK. Continue reading “An empire state of mind”

United Kingdom

Oct 27, 2010

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Nicola Heath writes: As a child I was inculcated in the belief that English beaches were crap. Sunless, sandless, full of pebbles, and surf as flat as a tack. Australian beaches were always superior.

Driving along the headland above Saunton Sands in North Devon, I can see I’ve been misled.

holidays

We pull over to admire the view and from our vantage point, and an expanse of sand, slick from the ebbing tide and reflecting the skyscape, stretches away to the rivermouth. It’s a Sunday and the water is peppered with surfers competing for the small waves. The surf has fallen away since yesterday but neat little swell lines still sweep into shore. Apparently it’s a great spot for beginners.

Continue reading “Everybody go surfing, surfing… Cornwall way?”

Bruce Poon Tip star_rs“Australia has such an amazing indigenous history, most countries would be jealous to have what you have and they do nothing with it,” declares founder and CEO of Gap Adventures Bruce Poon Tip. “They” being Tourism Australia, an organisation Poon Tip is scathing of, particularly in its lack of promoting and supporting indigenous tourism in this country.

It might be worth Tourism Australia’s time to listen to him. This is a man who recently had a private dinner with the vice-president of Columbia, because Columbia wants to tap into his vast knowledge of tourism and how to best develop their assets. He’s given three TED talks on sustainability and travel. When on a quiet family holiday in France, he ended up being recognised and gave a talk with the local minister of tourism for the Loire Valley. He worked with the UN in Arizona talking tourism with the Navajo communities. His business — which organises group tours all over the world — is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has more than 800 employees, offices in 20 cities and takes 100,000 travellers a year on tours. Continue reading “Where the bloody hell is the campaign for indigenous tourism? An interview with Bruce Poon Tip”

restrictedRichard Norman writes: I’m in Kiev, chilling out and reading Lonely Planets’ Azerbaijan forums before heading out to the airport, for what promises to be a delightful 2:45am flight to Baku. I see a new post mentioning rumors that Azerbaijan is about to stop issuing visas at the border like they’ve done for the last decade. If this is true, then my travel plans for the next few weeks are quite exploded.

It’s seven at night and, not being fluent in Ukrainian, Russian or Azeri there are no obvious places to call to find out what’s going on so I head to the airport and speak to the airline’s information staff. I tell them that I don’t have a visa for Azerbaijan and if I can’t get one at the border I don’t want to get on the flight (they’re obliged not to board passengers who won’t clear the border anyway). They make a few calls to their people in Baku and assure me that I’ll be able to get a visa and enter Azerbaijan so I check in and then wait, watching Ukrainians wrapping their luggage with stickytape for reasons unknown.

After a three hour flight and a bizarre 4:00am meal of pancakes stuffed with mashed potatoes I walk into the arrivals hall at Heydar Aliev airport and see that the visa counter is open and active. Following the signs, I go to passport control who put an entry stamp in my passport and direct me to the counter to fill in the relevant forms and pay for my visa.

The staff at the desk watch me fill in the visa application form- and attach two passport photos to it- and I present the documents and the necessary cash.

“I am sorry, no visas”. Fark. Continue reading “That’s some catch, that catch 22 (or, how not to get into Azerbaijan)”

Europe

Oct 18, 2010

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If you’re anything like me (and may God forgive you if you are), you’ll spend at least part of your holiday reading current affairs magazines. Not so much from a need to keep up to date with the goings on of the world, as a certain amount of nosiness that demands you get up in everyone else’s business. And also to keep an eye out for potential ‘death spots’ you might unwittingly stroll into. Like Christchurch apparently.

The most recent issue of Foreign Policy was largely concerned with the rise of the ‘the city’, suggesting in places that new supercities would overtake countries as the world’s economic and political powers. As a lover of cities I welcomed this news with open arms. The countryside? Nice to look at, even to spend a day in. But what are you supposed to do after that? Rear sheep? It lacks the constant stimulation big cities provide. And don’t even get me started on coastal towns. The beach is not a substitute for culture people! It’s just a geographical feature. Read a fucking book.

seoulSeoul, image from Flickr

Having said that, I live in Brisbane, and as Barry Humphries once said “Australia is the Brisbane of the world”. As with most of Barry’s barbs this is undeniably hilarious, somewhat truthful, and to all Australians, pretty bloody stinging. For those of us who live in Brisbane, doubly so. But it is still a city, and I cling to that.

All this got me thinking about the cities we’ve travelled to that I have loved. Continue reading “Cities I loved (and one I hated)”

Slide Night

Oct 13, 2010

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Welcome back to Slide Night, where we look at our favourite travel snaps and the adventures behind them.

click to enlarge.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, click to enlarge.

The Wild West of Colorado wasn’t exactly what I expected. Sure, there were tons of crappy souvenir shops selling cowboy boot keyrings and massive belt buckles but it was mostly the tourists donning these crappy momentos, while the locals were a mix of hipsters, hippies and no-hopes. Continue reading “Slide night: Train whistle blowin’”

Africa

Oct 11, 2010

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Rebecca Arnold writes: Being herded onto a bus with 40 other tourists and being driven from sight to sight, stopping only to let people off to take a few snaps before re-boarding the bus, is not my idea of a good time.

But some things you just gotta do.

And Robben Island, a short ferry ride from Cape Town is one of those things. Famous for being the “home” of an imprisoned Nelson Mandela for 18 years, there is, unfortunately, only one way to do it: the dreaded group tour.

Mandela's cell, photo from Flickr
Mandela's cell, photo from Flickr

I read the warnings. Lonely Planet told me what it would be like once I got off the ferry. But I still chose to go. And don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did. It’s just that why did they have to make what should be an amazing historical site so shite?

In my travels, I’ve come to understand that tours are a necessary evil. There are some places that are impossible to get to without handing over cash and surrendering yourself to the unknown in return for convenience. But why are some tours so terrible? Continue reading “On disliking must-see tourist sights”

Australia

Oct 6, 2010

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Crikey intern Jane Vashti Ryan writes: I like to pop out for a quiet beer every now and then. Sometimes I head down to my local in the Dandenong Ranges (quietly nestled over Melbourne). Other times, I like to head further afield.

Some would call this a really-long-popping-out-for-a-beer trip. I call it a day trip, or: My Favourite Kind of Trip. No packing and no planning required. All you need for an excellent day trip is a spare eight hours. A dog and a long, dusty road also tend to add to the overall effect.

On Sunday, I took a day trip to Sorrento. Sorrento, for those of you unlucky enough not to already know, is a peachy little town, hanging just off the bum of the Mornington Peninsula.

Think sandstone, sunshine, seaside and (to ruin a perfectly good alliteration) bloody sensational fish and chips.

photo from Flickr
photo from Flickr

Directions: If you’re in Melbourne, you head out of town in a south-easterly direction, and just keep driving until your car starts to get wet.

Sunday (for those of you who support Collingwood, and didn’t get to see it) was the first real spring day of 2010. Think the smell of grass clippings, the sound of contented urban wildlife (no, not the neighbour’s kids) and bacon and eggs on the barbie.

I hopped up and knew at once that this was the perfect day for a really-long-popping-out-for-a-beer trip. Continue reading “A really-long-popping-out-for-a-beer trip”

Africa

Oct 5, 2010

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Dave Keetch writes: I’ve previously harped on about the rewarding nature of flexible travel and I’m going to do it again. There is certainly something nice about being able to change your plans and stay in a place longer than intended because it’s too beautiful or too interesting to leave after only being there for one or two nights. The opportunity to savour a gem location isn’t simply good for breaking up a long journey, but it allows you to discover everything a place has to offer and, if you’re fortunate enough, to learn a little about what it’s like to live there.

Senegal was exceeding my expectations. I had even warmed to a dizzying Dakar, despite preferring to be away from big cities, and it hadn’t felt nearly as formidable as conventional opinion had suggested. It was getting close to Christmas though and we were looking for somewhere to kick back for a few days. The Casamance region in southern Senegal seemed as good a place as any to search for an idyllic break (idyllic if you ignore any rebel activity) and we were soon aboard the ferry to Ziguinchor and waving goodbye to Dakar.

Happily following the nose of locals and other tourists meant we didn’t waste much time in deciding where we would bunker down for the festive season. Coming with high recommendation was the coastal village of Cap Skiring, its reputation and promise of stretching beaches beckoned us. I was taking a risk arriving without reservations, but I wasn’t about to start breaking my habit of being disorganised. I needn’t have worried, there was accommodation to suit any budget and I managed to find ourselves a self-contained studio at a bargain price. I had been hankering to cook my own food and was going to let myself loose in the kitchen, a mouth-watering prospect given the array of seafood available at my fingertips.

Cap Skiring is a relatively popular destination so if you’re after complete beachside seclusion head elsewhere. We got lucky though, the Club Med (Club ‘Merde’ as it is disaffectionately known by the locals) was closed for repairs thanks to a recent kitchen fire and as a result the beaches were largely empty. The water is warm and a short stroll away from the main strip of sand will find you on your lonesome. Cap Skiring is not hassle-free either, but the same could be said for most of Senegal. You will inevitably be asked to buy a wood-carving, rent a bike, or eat at a restaurant, but the sales pitch isn’t persistent and a polite decline and cheery smile gives way to a conversation of a non-business nature.

The surf was great, the food was good and the reggae parties were a hit, but it really was the conversation that I appreciated most. The Gambian influence is strong in Cap Skiring so English is spoken by many and I took the opportunity to have chat with anyone who could listen. Mostly I heard the tale of a young local man marrying an older French woman who was now back living in France, but my favourite and most forthright stories came from the hard-working Mustapha.

Mustapha was the sole owner and operator of the Happiness Juice Bar which sat in the sand of Cap Skiring’s main beach strip. It wasn’t much to look at, but the make-shift timber stand and his umbrellas and chairs were his sense of achievement.

keetch4

Continue reading “Mustapha and the Happiness Juice Bar”