Monthly Archives: January 2016

Bella Burano

Visitors to Venice need to know the tourist trap – its cheaper to stay on Mestre on the mainland, but that is NOT where Venice is.  Venezia of the black gondolas and Grand Canal and back canals, of St Mark’s and the Bridge of Sighs is an island and it is best experienced on the island itself, even if it means a two night rather than three night stay.

One of the joys of staying on the island itself is the ease of getting to the outer islands that make up this island state.  Murano is famous for its glass and rightly so.  But my island tip is Burano.  A little further out in the lagoon and serviced by regular vaporettos or by water taxis, Burano is home to lace-making and the bright colours Italians love so much.

Burano street  web

Nearly car less, Burano is almost frozen in time.  People live their lives as they have done for hundreds of years.  Kids play in the streets and churchyards; people sit in the late afternoon outside their houses catching the afternoon breezes from the lagoon and talking.

It is a photographer’s delight – every angle reveals new colours and shapes to capture the imagination and capture in camera.

The lace work is hand made and exquisite in its detail and quality.  You can chat to the ladies as they tat in the workshops and stores.  And it is entirely possible a piece will end up coming home with you.

 

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Dubrovnik Dreaming

 

If walled cities are one of the things you look for in a visit to a different place, Dubrovnik will fulfill all your expectations and then some.

I have visited Dubrovnik in 1990 before and in 2012 after the war that re-organised the former Yugoslavia into now six separate countries.  There are marks on the walls where the damage that was done can be seen, but other than that you could be forgiven for thinking it has always looked as it does.

Dubrovnik sunset  web

Dubrovnik overlooks the clear clean if somewhat chilly Adriatic Sea, and delights at every turn.  The climb to the wall walk is worth the effort for the spectacular views over the city centre with its laneways and wide main street, its terracotta roofs and busy shops.  The view across to the water is even better. It is one of a few walled cities where you can in fact wall the entirety of the wall all the way around without having to go down.

Dubrovnik and harbour from wall web

In summer Dubrovnik hosts a music festival that takes place largely outdoors in the squares.  Singers, folk dancers, entire orchestras play for locals and tourists alike and often shows are free.  The fountain at the southern entrance is a popular meeting place and vendors will offer their wares as well.

Rich in history, relaxed and welcoming Dubrovnik is a jewel set in azure blue.

 

 

Vancouver is an island too!

Quick quiz – what airport runway is sometimes closed for whales?

Vancouver Island’s Victoria seaplane runway!

A 20 minute flight from Vancouver, Victoria on Vancouver Island is famous for the Butchart Gardens, and for good reason.  A reclaimed and repurposed quarry, the gardens attract millions of visitors every year.  The array of flowers is vast, the blooms huge and the colours are amazing.

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But there is more to this island than just the gardens.  The Fairmont Empress Hotel is a landmark on the harbour and well worth a look.  Gracious and ivy covered, it harks back to an earlier era.  The stained glass dome in the ballroom is both beautiful and has a surprising quality.  Don’t be surprised if you can overhear the conversation of the other tables.  The dome picks up the sound and reflects around the dome to other tables!  It can be quite distracting and a real talking point.

There are some good local markets and the city centre is quite walkable.  Many visitors enjoy the horse drawn carriage as a way of seeing the city which continues the theme of old world ambience.  At night the lights of Parliament House are a feature.

The fact that Vancouver Island is but one of many islands, many of which are home to people who work in Vancouver, means that ferries and seaplanes are widely used forms of transport.  Seaplanes take off from the harbour and the whales have right of way.

The seaplane from Victoria to Whistler is the most spectacular flight I have ever taken.  But that’s another blog.

 

Darwin’s Treasure House

Few islands capture the imagination quite so much as the chain of volcanic islands in the midst of the Pacific Ocean a thousand miles from the coast of Ecuador.

The Galapagos Islands are unique.  In the proper sense of the word.  One of a kind.  Unlike anything else.

Remote, virtually untouched and pristine, life on the Galapagos Islands is all about getting up close and personal with nature at her most resilient and various.

It is worth the time and money to see this truly spectacular chain of islands and experience walking among seabirds that are totally unafraid of humans.  You can literally be a metre from a chick and the mother bird will not be fazed.  The animals have right of way, and sealions will use any convenient step landing or even the back of the boat you are cruising on as a good place for a night’s sleep.

Blue footed booby mother and chick

A cruise will include several islands and your guide will help you discover as Charles Darwin did, that finches adapt to become entirely different from each other depending on the island they are endemic to.  It is the place that crystallised Darwin’s theory of evolution that changed the world in Origin of Species.

Stark, sharp, rough black volcanic basalt is home to bright red baby crabs that grow to black adults, but advertise their danger as young crabs to all who would eat them.  Blue footed boobies will not glance at a red footed booby, because it is the feet that turn them on!  Seabirds dive in phalanxes of precision for fish that do not stand a chance.

Sealion and booby Galapagos Islands

And to ensure that this place remains extraordinary for all time – on the Equator, the islands are home to the Galapagos !

 

Lord Who? Lord Howe!

 

Some of the most interesting discoveries we make are those in our own backyard.  In this case on Australian soil, even if that soil is over the ocean.

Australia has many island territories.  Lord Howe Island is actually part of New South Wales.  It is a two hour flight from Sydney and the Royal Australian Airforce uses the runway as a practice landing strip from time to time.

Less well known that Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island is beautiful, peaceful and has a multitude of nature based activities that offer the visitor many experiences you will not get anywhere else.

The town tour finishes at the recycling depot and gives you a great insight into how they manage the rubbish issues faced on a very small island.

On Lord Howe Island there are walks all over the island, from very easy local wanders to see the birds in the local area, to meanders to and along the coastal beaches.  For the more serious walker you can spend the day walking along well made tracks to little coves and up to Kim’s lookout and over Malabar back to the township.  Make sure you take a rainjacket if you are there in autumn winter or spring as the weather systems can move very quickly.

If you are hardcore about your walks, there is a climb to the highest point of the island  Mt Gower, at 875 metres it is an eight hour return hike involving ropes at some points.  I have seen a Japanese girl who was in training run from the other end of the island to the beginning point for the Mt Gower hike, complete the hike and run home!

And Lord Howe Island is the only place where you can hand feed the fish in the shallows – pelagic fish – wild sea fish who come in and take bread from your hands.

Relaxed and friendly, there are no cars permitted except those on the island.  Walk, hike, ride a bike and get in touch with the natural world. It will remain with you.

 

My Island Home

Australia is both continent and island.  Sometimes we forget about the islands that are ours and are not far off shore as possible places to visit.

No visa or passport required; not far to travel, they use the same currency and speak the same language.  All great reasons to visit.

Everyone knows Tasmania is both state and island, and it is one of my favourite places.  Temperate climate, world heritage wilderness, colonial history and architecture, unique marsupials, great cold climate wine and fabulous seafood – what’s not to like?

I have visited Tasmania with family on a self drive holiday a couple of times,  on a camping/ cabin trip and took my niece to spend five nights in Hobart and the Freycinet Peninsula.  I have cruised from Melbourne to Hobart aboard the Diamond Princess and had the privilege of a famil to Tasmania.  Every time I discover something new.

Some memorable moments – seeing platypus in the wild at Something Wild park – splashing and playing in the river – incredible.

– Climbing to see Wineglass Bay from the peak and then walking the long way back to see the Hazards from the beach – and musing that their were probably Tasmanian devils with our names on their list because the path was not well signposted.  Thank goodness for friendly wallabies that told us we were close to the car park.

– Climbing Bishop and Clark peak on Maria Island for spectacular views over the east coast;

Maria-Island-Walk-Square  2  web friendly

– exploring the ruins at Port Arthur and seeing the convict carved headstones on the island where they buried their dead  and seeing tea coloured water on the Gordon River and huon pine trees still slowly growing.

I could go on and on.  I won’t.  Plan to see Tasmania.  It will not disappoint you.

Amazing Oman

Planet Earth has the constant ability to amaze and surprise us.  The more we see of it, the more it offers.  Every year a list is compiled of the hottest places to see.  Every year seasoned travellers are seeking places they have not seen before that offer new insights and experiences of culture, natural environments and food,amongst others.

One of the delights of being a Personal Travel Manager is learning about new places.  Oman was a revelation.

Who knew Oman had rainforest, or nesting places for sea turtles?

With the help of Oman Tourism and Sun Island tours who will be providing the ground arrangements for us, people who join this tailormade tour will  see Oman in all its variety.

Muscat

In 13 days we will cover the country from north to south, and visit places of history and culture, of rugged beauty and fertile valleys rich with produce.  We spend a night in a desert camp and experience nesting sea turtles on the beach.  In the south we visit the rainforest, spot the trees frankincense is made from, and see the resting place of Job the prophet from the Old Testament.

From the northern capital of Musandam, Khasab, to the southern-most region of Salalah, the variety and richness of the experiences on offer will enrich and delight you.

And in a world grown increasingly tense, Oman is safe, friendly and hospitable.  It is also very accessible from Australia flying with Emirates or Qatar Airlines.