Here is a fun and exclusive infographic on a few of the major sights to see when visiting Sydney along with some useful tips and eye-catching statistics about the sights. The infographic is courtesy of http://www.capeportfolios.com/.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Friday, April 27, 2012
guest post by Vicky Anscombe
Don’t be fooled by urbanites that write disparaging, snooty articles on Nelson’s County - if you’re looking to explore a part of the UK that’s worth its weight in gold, Norfolk’s your best bet. Tucked neatly away in the east corner of England, Norfolk is a destination that has remained unspoiled because it’s not a place you travel through - it’s a place you travel to. From sophisticated and fun-filled capital city Norwich, to the beauty of Cromer and Thetford Forest, there’s something for everyone - you just have to know where to look. The only thing you’ll need in order to get to grips with Norfolk properly is your own transport, so if you don’t own a vehicle, make sure you hire a car as Norfolk’s trains and buses aren’t known for their frequency.
If you decide to explore Norwich, don’t worry about time - it’s a small city that can easily be explored in a couple of days. Sights worth seeing include Norwich Castle, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (this is located near to the University of East Anglia) and Magdalen Street, which is packed full of chintzy cafes, charity shops and flea markets, and is a must for anyone who enjoys spending an afternoon looking for oddities and curiosities. If you’re thinking about evening entertainment, you can’t go wrong with a film in Cinema City, then a few drinks in Frank’s Bar - the staff there are incredibly kind.
If you’re after a bite whilst you’re in the city, there are plenty of cafes that will ensure you’re probably fed and watered without having to resort to a chain establishment. The Window Coffee in Wensum Street, Mustard Coffee Bar on Bridewell Alley and Olive’s (just off Elm Hill) are independent venues that’ll impress without breaking the bank. If you fancy going (and potentially staying) somewhere a bit more upmarket, Caistor Hall, which is located in the pretty nearby town of Caistor St Edmund, serves excellent food and has some wonderful rooms if you’re after a second honeymoon.
However, there’s more to Norfolk than just the bright lights of Norwich. The seaside towns dotted along the Norfolk coast range from the never-sleeping Great Yarmouth through to the picturesque towns Cromer (photo) and Holme. If you’re after somewhere with plenty of life, Sheringham is always worth a visit, as there are plenty of cafes and shops to peruse as you debate when to have your next ice cream. If you’re thinking about staying in Sheringham, try The Grove Guest house. It’s a beautifully secluded Georgian holiday home set within 3 acres of well-maintained gardens, with a heated indoor swimming pool if you’re after a place to practice your backstroke.
Finally, make sure that you don’t miss the opportunity to get some fresh air into your lungs and take advantage of all the wonderful walks that Norfolk has to offer. The Great Eastern Pingo Trail, which starts just outside of the village of Thomson, clocks in at just under 6 miles. It’s a great way to work off a roast dinner (talking of which, nearby pub The Chequers Inn sells fantastic homemade fare) and you’ll probably see plenty of wildlife. This trail is great for nature enthusiasts as there are plenty of places to sit quietly and wait to see animals make an appearance, and there are many shelters dotted around the circuit for avid birdwatchers.
Economy Car Hire is the UK's leading independent car hire broker. Their rental prices offer Full Collision Damage and Theft Protection, a FREE additional driver, and unlimited mileage.
Vicky Anscombe is a freelance writer, based in Norfolk.
Photo Credits: cathedral, forest, castle, Cromer beach huts, pingo trail
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Today is Anzac Day, the national remembrance day of Australia and New Zealand when people pay their respects and honour the bravery, courage, resilience and sacrifice of the service men and women of our country. Dawn services are conducted all throughout the country, at Anzac Cove in Turkey, throughout battefields in South East Asia and throughout Western Front villages in France and Belgium.
This wonderful and moving painting (click on it for a larger image) appears in the outstanding Australian War Memorial in Canberra. It is my favourite single piece in the entire collection.
The haunting Menin Gate at Midnight appears by itself in a darkened room with background music of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Reportedly painted in one sitting by a deeply mournful Will Longfellow, the painting captures the famed gates in Ypres, Belgium that tens of thousands of soldiers passed heading to the Western Front. Today, the walls of the gate list 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave, a small portion of the quarter of a million lives lost in this area of battle during World War One. The painting eerily and movingly portrays Longfellow's vision of thousands of spirits of the dead rising and marching towards the battlefields.
At all Anzac Day services, the Ode of Remembrance is always read.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest We Forget!
Monday, April 23, 2012
Sandwiched between the uninspiring towns of Westport and Greymouth are the extraordinary Pancake Rocks - the ocean sprays, pounds and bursts through fissures in unusually carved and layered rocks near the tiny village of Punakaiki.
Constructed of stratified limestone formed thirty millions years ago, this geological wonderland was formed on the seabed, kilometres underwater, with layer after layer of shellfish, plants and dead marine creatures mixed with mud and clay forming over time. The immense weight and water pressure gradually compressed and petrified into soft and hard layers. Earth tremors and seismic action uplifted the seabed where constant ocean surges and whipping winds carved bizarre and wonderful features and formations, while rainwater leeched into the rock eating narrow alleys.
Naturally, the softer rock has eroded much faster causing the unusual pancake stack appearance. The ocean surges in and out of pools, blowholes and caverns making deep hollow booms while seawater channels through narrow tunnels spraying into the air in a spray of rainbows and thin mist. Like limestone caves, the erosion allows imagination to witness all kind of animals and figures from the rock – a lion head staring menacingly out to sea.
A scenic half hour path meanders through native rainforest to the coast, high above the bluffs, arches and sea caves offering numerous views of Pancake Rocks. Natural staircases are carved from the historic seabed while vantage points look over surge pools and blowholes and offer panoramic vistas down the coastline.
With good planning, high tide is prime time with the extra height of the water powering sea water through tiny passageways shooting spray high into the air.
Pancake Rocks are a wonderful natural diversion driving down the New Zealand west coast offering stellar scenes of exotically shaped rock weathered and sculpted over millions of years.
Friday, April 20, 2012
The day is foul – a wind howls across the point resisted by only the hardiest of scrubby bushes and toughened grasses. Surf pounds relentlessly into the west coast’s limestone cliffs and volcanic beaches. Brooding dark seas merge into the pewter grey clouds blurring any idea of a horizon, a lonely characterless lighthouse warning all things marine to steer a careful path around this treacherous area. The original 1876 lighthouse was a fine timber building, its gleaming beacon guiding vessels for 50 years before being replaced by the current concrete automated lighthouse. Functional but rather unattractive.
In March 1770 the weather was no different for Captain Cook as Endeavour, at the mercy of the persistent gale-force winds, was blown off-course prompting him to appropriately name the point Cape Foulwind – today only a few kilometres south of the uninspiring town of Westport.
Almost indistinguishable from rocks and driftwood debris thrown by the savage waves, New Zealand Fur Seals luxuriate and relax at nearby Cape Tauranga. Sea spray showers the rocky shoreline, seals basking in the brutal weather conditions. The pockmarked coastline is only distinguishable as a faint greyish line in the murky atmosphere.
In the scrubby foreshore vegetation, western wekas fuss about their bushy hideaways. These plucky birds confidently go about their day oblivious to hiking travellers. Dealt a bad hand, birds like the kiwi and weka evolved into ground dwellers and lost the ability to fly due to the complete absence of mammals and rodents as predators when the continental split happened many millions of years ago. Sadly in the last thousand years as mammals and rodents reached the shores of New Zealand, populations of these wonderful but defenceless feathered creatures were decimated.
On a map as a thin long ribbon of red, SH6 weaves and meanders the full length of the west coast of New Zealand from Nelson in the north to Invercargill in the south. It makes for one of the world’s more inspiring drives with numerous areas of natural beauty – glaciers, fjords, cliffs, panoramic vistas, caves and weird rock formations - only occasionally interrupted by townships.
The west coast of New Zealand gets a considerable share of rough weather and rainfall, conditions which have carved and crafted the evocative coastline. Whether in glistening sunshine or foulwind, the drive down the west coast is an exhilarating natural experience encapsulated by the twin points of Cape Foulwind and Cape Tauranga.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
guest post by Lauren Williams
The art of the Great American Road Trip has been lost in translation over the years – driving from A to B used to be an affair to remember, a whimsical adventure that would see you saying farewell to your loved ones for weeks, maybe even months, on end. Now, the 21st century has seen the rise in wanting to get to any said destination right now. Why would you want to take the scenic route when motorways and high-speed interstates can whip you across the country in a matter of hours?
Better still, hopping on a flight from JFK to LAX will take less than half a day, and cost less than driving from Florida Keys to Washington DC – after all, you don’t need breakdown cover when you’re 30,000 feet above the roads.
Historic Route 66 now runs alongside Interstate 40 – the American’s preferred way to drive from east to west – but driving along the USA’s most romanticised road is an indulgence in the kitsch, the bizarre and the can’t-believe-that’s-real. You could speed along the Interstate, but you’d miss out on Gemini Giant and Road Kill Café if you did.
Before buzzing neon signs and burnt-out trucks found their homes at the side of Main Street USA, it was a corridor for travellers and trade; during the Great Depression it was the main artery of the country, with people living in the mid-west migrating to Golden California in hope of work and a golden future. After WWII, thousands more up-and-left the more industrial east to find a more prosperous west.
Though it is no longer the beating heart of mainland USA, it still has a certain hold on the imaginations of will-be travellers and explorers. The hucksterism is still the same too – giant billboards which fuelled the first fires of American wanderlust-cum-consumerism still dominate the roadside, tempting drivers and their passengers to swim next to a giant blue whale or eat where the corn dog was born.
However, Route 66 wouldn’t be Route 66 without the shameless tackiness that lines the roads – we’d even go as far to say that every business owner along the 2,000 mile stretch proudly flies the flag of cheap and shabby – and why not? Travellers travel on a budget, they scrimp and save and cut back by all means necessary, they are not going to stop at a diner to eat over a sweaty packed lunch unless it’s really worth it.
That is why we love Route 66. We love its outspoken past and its crude giant statues. We love its timelessness, its brash personality and its oddly understated presence in modern America. We advise you to take a few weeks off work, hire a convertible Cadillac and head to Chicago to start the drive of your life.
Top Route 66 oddities include:
● Cadillac Ranch. On your way to Amarillo, hold tight to your hire car before it joins this Texan Cadillac graveyard. In a field just off the road, you’ll see ten Caddis buried nose-first in a straight line. An odd sight if you’re not ready for it, however, they are meant to be vandalised so pick up a spray can and get creative!
● Gigantus Headicus. Where Route 66 and Antares Road meet, near Kingman, you could be mistaken for thinking that one of the eerie heads on Easter Island had decided it had had enough of the isolation of the South Pacific, and moved to this less than busy corner in Arizona. Stand under its nose and get a good “I drove Route 66” picture.
● Prada Marfa. Driving across the bare Texan landscape, you’ll be shocked to see a building (surrounded by nothing) resembling a Prada store. If you do decide to stop and check it out, you won’t be able to get in and purchase anything, but you will be able to lust over the real Prada handbags and one half of a pair of Prada heels.
● Oklahoma Ghost. If you find yourself driving between Weatherford and El Reno on a damp evening, be cautious of a humpbacked hitchhiker wearing a trenchcoat and a fedora. If you do pick him up, he’ll more than likely attempt to jump out of your moving vehicle, vanish from sight and appear again thumbing for a lift 10 miles up the road.
● Bottle Tree Ranch. Probably the most impressive attraction along Route 66, featuring hundreds of bottle trees tinkering in the wind. Make sure you knock on Elmer Long’s (the quirky guy behind the ranch) door for a chat and tour.
Photo Credits: sign, gas station, Mr D, cadillac ranch, prada, bottle tree
Sunday, April 15, 2012
The Rai Swingbridge crosses the deep aquamarine blue of Rai River as part of a beautiful gentle walking circuit through totara forest (one of several walks in the area). This sturdy structure has far less swing and sway than its cousin over Buller Gorge.
It is all part of Pelorus Sound Scenic Reserve, a wonderfully preserved pocket of historic forest encrusting the far sinewy reaches of Pelorus Sound. It is a perfect stopping point between Queen Charlotte Sound and Nelson to stretch the legs and enjoy the uplifting New Zealand outdoors. Fat lumbering brown trout can be spotted sluggishly swimming upstream through the crystalline waters.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
The road from Nelson to the west coast of New Zealand weaves through some spectacular mountain and gorge country. The road follows and falls with the river the scenery draped in a veil of verdant green foliage and murky mists.
At over 100 metres in length near the uninteresting town of Murchison is New Zealand’s longest swingbridge. Spanning dramatic Buller Gorge carved by energetic aquamarine green waters, the bridge sways and bounces with its human cargo. Not for sufferers of vertigo photographers nervously snap a memory from the centre of the bridge balancing their camera in one hand while clinging grimly to the cable with the other.
The area has witnessed some exciting events. A brief gold rush in the mid 1800s oversaw a speedy population increase, hopeful miners panned and dug seeking their fortunes with a lucky strike. A short damp circuit walk from the swingbridge through primeval ferns and moss-encrusted trees holds memories of the harsh conditions in which these miners laboured. Primitive labour-intensive mining equipment and deep shafts line the path while meagre shacks with little more than a large fireplace and small bed offered refuge from the regular rains and harsh winters.
The circuit passes a small cliff-face where in June, 1929 a major earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) lifted land upwards some 4.5 metres. Across the river a small waterfall cascades into the river on the fault line. In 1968 a second earthquake reminded Kiwis of the unsteady land of the area, the main road requiring reconstruction in parts.
The gorge is a major centre for water sports Kiwi-style, including white-water rafting, kayaking and jetboating. For those seeking more dry land adrenalin than the swingbridge, a zipline offers a return journey in either the seated position (flying fox style) or a flying position for those with superhero tendencies.
Buller Gorge provides a wonderful scenic stop crossing to New Zealand’s west coast with numerous opportunities for adrenalin-fuelled activities along with reminders of a harsh history of savage earthquakes and tough mining.
Monday, April 9, 2012
With ideal growing conditions for hops, the Nelson region boasts around 20 craft breweries many producing novel and unusual beers along with the more traditional brewed offerings. One highly recommended place is McCashin's Brewery in Stoke only a few kilometres from the centre of Nelson (and near the unique World of WearableArt Museum).
Working in an old cider factory, McCashin's produce beer, cider, fruit drinks and vodka (and bottled water), all based an aquifer holding 26000 year old water (hence the name 26000 Vodka). Swearing by its incredible purity the water has been cutely trademarked as palaeo water (as in palaeolithic).
The McCashin name is synonymous with Kiwi beer, the first family venture by father Terry resulting in the popular Macs beers, since bought by the brewing behemoth Lion Nathan. After serving a period out of the game as part of the contractual terms of the sale, the son Dean (with wife Emma) has taken the head role in this new venture out of the same factory.
A visit to McCashin's includes an informative tour taking people through each element of the brewing process – all based on the traditional four brewing ingredients (McCashins beers are all based on the original 16th century Bavarian beer purity rules) – water, hops, yeast and malt. The first of the two most noteworthy elements of the tour are the beer nursery where the commercial process has been miniaturised so a barrel or two of beer can be experimentally brewed and perfected tweaking the fermenting temperatures, styles and amounts of hops and malt for different beers. At times, unusual flavoured beers are produced – some for special occasions such as Christmas. The other striking element of the tour is the remarkable bottling machine where empty bottles are filled, sealed, cleaned, labelled and packaged in an eye-opening flurry of mechanical activity.
The tastings at McCashin's are generous and entertaining. In a retro-styled room that combines a cafeteria (serving coffees and snacks during the day) and a bar, a staff member patiently shares tastes of the broad selection of beers, ciders and fruit juices combining characteristics of each drop with stories. Artworks, photos and brewing paraphernalia fill the walls, while the place with its comfy couches has an infectious positive feel of relaxed enthusiasm.
While there are over a dozen beers, personal favourites include Stoke Amber (a reddish brew rich in malt flavours with a definite hint of toffee), Stoke Dark (a velvety smooth caramel-y black beer without the heaviness), Stoke IPA (a golden intensely hoppy and citrus-y beer ideal for warm weather), Stoke Smoky Ale (deep red-brown coloured beer with an unusual touch of smokiness) and Stoke Ginger (non-alcoholic balancing sweetness with the refreshing tang of ginger).
Ciders include the traditional apple though I prefer the pear cider. A real highlight is the fruit cider drinks (called Frute) with lumps of fruit in strongly flavoured offerings. The Mango Lime combines the succulent smoothness of mango with the tang of lime and apple while the visually striking Berry provides a plush sumptuous mix of raspberries, boysenberries and blackberries complemented by the tanginess of apples. Don’t be fooled however, Frute contains around the same alcohol as beer.
To help sustain my further touring in New Zealand, I popped into the small bottle store to stock up with a few favourites from the tasting and also a couple of well-priced seconds and specials.
Only a few years in existence, McCashin's captures the lively spirit of craft brewing with an excellent variety of products and a brisk information-rich tour (runs twice daily) highlighting the art of brewing beer. It makes for a wonderful afternoon diversion while visiting Nelson and is an ideal example of the Nelson region's fine tradition in craft beers.
More details are available at their website: www.mccachins.co.nz
Saturday, April 7, 2012
guest post by Francesca Edwards
As one of the most romantic cities in the world, its no wonder Venice is such a popular choice for romantic breaks and honeymoons. For those who like to know exactly what they’re in for and like to plan to the last detail, here are a few tips to make your trip to Venice as romantic as possible.
1. Gondola ride… at Sunset
This one can be slightly challenging to organise as it involves perfect timing. However, get it right and the results will be magical. Perhaps one of the romantic activities of all time, floating through the Venetian lagoon on an old-fashioned gondola, past all the charming Venetian architecture will be guaranteed to woo your partner. If you’re lucky you may even be able to convince your gondolier to sing you a nice little verse of Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma.
2. Spontaneous kiss
By this I don’t mean full on snogging in the middle of the street, ideally you want to sweep your partner off their feet in a nice romantic and civilised way. One of the best place to do this in Venice is on one of the bridges, the more tucked away, the more romantic (having other tourists taking pictures of you mid kiss or being bumped about will take the edge off it – trust me). The Tre Arche Bridge is a short walk from the heart of Venice presents a nice and private sweep your partner off their feet opportunity.
3. Re-enact the scene from Lady and the Tramp
So this can technically be done anywhere in the world (as long as you have access to some spaghetti and meatballs), however it’ll be all that more special in Italy, the land of pasta and romance. All you need to do is find a little restaurant which has spaghetti and meatballs on the menu and ask for two portions to share. Ideally you’ll pick a candlelit restaurant, await your pasta, and just as you get down to the last string of spaghetti - take one end of it each place it in your mouth and suck until you lips touch and mwah! There you have it; the perfect Lady and the Tramp kiss… awww.
4. Perfect Accommodation
Accommodation can make or break any romantic trip so when it comes to picking your love nest choose wisely. You’ll find it’s really difficult to get a secluded romantic atmosphere in hotels and hostels, simply because you’re surrounded by hundreds of other people doing the exact same thing as you – and let’s face it, there’s nothing romantic about being in crowd. This is why when my boyfriend and I decided to go on a romantic Venice break we rented a Venice holiday apartment. We certainly didn’t regret it – taking long baths together, cooking our very own dinners, filling our kitchen cabinets and fridge full of amazing Italian food from the supermarket, no having to worry about the maid disrupting you in the mornings… It was the perfect holiday accommodation for the perfect holiday.
For the perfect romantic holiday in on eof the most romantic cities in the world, a little planning can ensure that a good holiday turns into a vacation of a lifetime.
Photo Credits: night, gondola, bridge, Lady and the Tramp
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Dominoes is a game nearly everyone played as a child and seems to be a familiar game to people on every continent. A tile or bone (named from their original construction) contains two values, each from zero (blank) to six represented by a number of dots. Each set contains one of every combination of tile making a set of 28, making for a easy to carry game.
As a travel game it is ideal. Most people know how to play and it is extremely simple to teach even with limited language, though some strategy helps with winning. Dominoes appears to be most popular in Central and South America (I have played in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia) though I played it a lot in East Africa too, especially in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi (often with a set made from soapstone, some beautifully ornate). While as a child I always paraded the tiles on the table in front of me, in many games I played around the world, players cup the tiles in their hands more akin to playing cards taking sneaky glimpses at their tiles like they represent national secrets.
Games are played with great animation. Fierce concentration and studious silence is broken by the celebratory sharp crack of a tile slapped down on a table when a winning move is played. Like mancala and other games, the game is a great icebreaker when travelling and provides a great chance to meet with local populations. As a side benefit, it can teach numbers in the local language!!
While nearly everyone has seen and played dominoes, I will give a brief summary of the rules. While there are numerous variations, the basic game involves starting with a hand of seven tiles or bones (drawn from the evocatively named boneyard) and kept hidden from your opponents. Each game involves building a long line of tiles constructed by alternately playing tiles where the end value matches. That is, if the two ends of the line are a blank and a five, then you can play any tile where one of the values in your hand is a blank or a five. If you cannot match a tile, then you draw a tile from the boneyard and extend your hand. The object of the game is to lose all your tiles. If a game is blocked and no-one can play and the boneyard is empty, then the player with the least total dots left in their hand is the winner.
I overlooked a game called 42 in an American bar one night where the tiles were treated more like playing cards. Players make bids based on the value of their hands nominating trumps and playing out tricks where everyone plays a tile from their hand. Despite watching for a while I never worked out the game but it is a sign of the wide gamut of variations such a simple set of patterned tiles can bring.
Seek out chances to play games during your travels, some having deep cultural ties to the country or region.
For the duration of 2012 at the start of each month, Travel Wonders features a popular or characteristic game played during my travels. The previous two articles have looked at popular African game mancala and my own personal favourite that always travels with me, Pass the Pigs.
Photo Credits: wooden table play, black&white,
Monday, April 2, 2012
With no map, we checked at a local restaurant for directions to the Wheelhouse Inn. The owner said “Oh, that’s Ralph and Sally’s place. It’s beautiful. You’ll love it”. And he was so correct.
From when we first moored our car in the anchorage – everything at The Wheelhouse Inn has a nautical theme – the place has a wonderful relaxed feel. Opening the door of the Wheelhouse, a modern self-contained timber-panelled house, panoramic vistas immediately strike. With huge picture windows, the place overlooks Nelson’s Tasman Bay and the narrow deep channel where pilot boats skilfully steer large cargo vessels in and out of port.
Nestling into a tranquil expansive garden of native shrubs and trees, the Wheelhouse is just one of five self-contained multi-level houses and units overlooking Nelson’s Tasman Bay. The Captain’s Quarters, Crows Nest, Chart House Main Deck and Chart House Upper Deck all offer spectacular views and distinctive accommodation.
The Wheelhouse is spotlessly clean, spacious and tastefully appointed for a stay of several days including comfortable lounge area (including large TV, DVD, CD player and high-speed cable internet), outdoor gas BBQ, upstairs main bedroom and downstairs laundry (with dryer). The place is filled with absorbing nautical pictures and maritime knick-knacks including the steering wheel of a large ship that sunk many years ago.
While numerous eating options are simply a matter of strolling down the hill, the full-equipped modern kitchen offers an opportunity to eat in and watch evening envelop the Nelson waterfront. There is even a set of binoculars to watch the maritime entertainment or view the playful tuis enjoy the bloom-laden garden.
Befitting Nelson’s thriving art culture, the Wheelhouse offers handsome handmade pottery coffee cups (and plunger coffee). Ralph is a keen artist himself, his studio turning out quirky kiln-fired glazed seagulls, each with its own unique personality skilfully portrayed by subtle changes to its eyes, beak and stance, many securing a prized fish.
I cannot imagine a better start to the day than watching vibrant orange and burnished gold light the dawn sky slowly illuminating Tasman Bay, all from the comfort of bed. The Wheelhouse is a peaceful place, ideal for a special occasion or for a few days exploring Nelson and neighbouring Abel Tasman National Park.
Bookings and details about The Wheelhouse Inn can be found here.
The Wheelhouse Inn provided a complimentary overnight stay to the author. As always, the content and opinions are mine and are not influenced by the provision of discounted or free services. In this case, I highly recommend The Wheelhouse Inn. It provides highlight luxury accommodation in vibrant Nelson overlooking stunning Tasman Bay.