How not to look like a tourist

You are a tourist but you need not be so obvious – try the ‘blend in’ tactic.

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It’s funny that we recognise other tourists when we are travelling, there’s a certain gauche appearance to some, a gawky look to others, a ‘look at me’ image and a ‘I don’t care what the culture is, I’m wearing this’ attitude, and we see someone who had no idea what the weather was going to be like and is inappropriately dressed for the current climate. And then we pass a window and see our reflection . . .eek! Let’s address the dress code.

I can always pick the older Aussie male traveller (and the older Americans too). The big white sneakers and socks pulled half-way up the calf and the men are wearing shorts.

Now, shorts are fine in the tropics, beach resorts or cruise days. But. You are a standout tourist in sophisticated cities.

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For ease and comfort while being a tourist, try to blend in.

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Wear it well!

Nothing shouts ‘tourist’ more than bulky sneakers, a backpack with a logo, and sometimes a bad hat – think foldable, terry towelling or canvas. And garments sold as ‘vacation wear’ marketed to travellers are dead giveaways. Locals do not wear zip-off pants in khaki or colours as muddy as that.

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If you’re travelling for a couple of weeks, invest in a good Panama hat (the authentic Panama’s roll up nicely and you can wear them for years) or wear or a subtle baseball cap. OR just buy a cheap hat in Asia and ditch it before you depart the country.

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And don’t wear loud T-shirts or sweat shirts announcing that you’re an Aussie. No political messages or what you deem amusing either. For men and women, plain T-shirts and cotton classic shirts.

If in a cold country, don’t look as if you’ve never known cold before. A good parka and a classy scarf and warm hat helps you blend in. You don’t need to be in a Michelin Man puffer jacket, unless you’re in Siberia in the winter!

And never wear a bumbag (or as the Americans call them ‘fanny packs’), they not only spell tourist, they spell ‘person with terrible taste’, they are a crime against fashion . . . and humanity.

Conclusion: avoid bright colours and logos, electronic gear in plain sight and glittery jewellery.

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Sometimes we can be rather overdressed.

Pack a couple of smart outfits to wear if you are to attend a concert or splurge on a fancy restaurant. You’d be surprised at how many travellers turn up to the opera in Vienna or at the theatre in London wearing what looks like yesterday’s borrowed bushwalking gear!

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Now, this is a good look.

Where you go

The art of blending in is best achieved by quietly fitting in without anyone noticing. Begin without walking around with a giant map in your hands. Use a map on your phone and don’t stop in the middle of the street, road, a crowd to consult your phone map. Find a quiet spot to find your bearings.

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Slow coach

Embrace the art of ‘slow travel’. Don’t rush everywhere to see everything. Enjoy long, slow breakfasts in local cafes or leisurely picnics in parks. And on the perimeter of tourist sites you’ll be less of a target for pickpockets.

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Sometimes it’s hard to blend in.

Treat yourself

In Paris? London? New York? Book a haircut at a fancy hairdressing salon. You’ll look and feel a million bucks.

Need a new coat? Hit the sales in Los Angeles or Las Vegas at the amazing Outlet stores or sale time in Milan. Yet again, you’ll look as cool as a local and you’ll bring a beautiful garment home with you.

And chaps – ditch the baggy-bum Dad jeans – buy yourself some new jeans (preferably dark blue or black) and some fashionable chinos.

IMG_0085And if you have to wait for a bus in a foreign land, just dress to impress.

Kenya: first time traveller

Kenya: first time traveller

I was enjoying a story by the fabulous writer, Christine Retschlag, on her experience in Kenya for https://www.dumbofeather.com/articles/out-of-africa/

While I was reading it I was remembering back over 22 years ago when I first visited Kenya and indeed the African continent. It was early days for international travel writing for me and this trip showed me how curious and weird some trips can get. In fact, it was good travel training ground for me.

When we arrived in Nairobi we waited for more than an hour to retrieve our luggage. Nah. It hadn’t made it from the plane in Jo’burg to our Nairobi destination. This was before social media, mobile phone, the internet to assist,so panic set in and many phone calls were made. Nah. Not happening.

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Photo by Tucker Good on Unsplash

We were to go to Amboseli the following morning with or without luggage.

There was only one other female travel writer on this trip so we headed into town to shop for basics. We figured we could get away with two pair of panties, one pair of Khaki knee-length shorts, two big khaki t-shirts worn several fetching ways. We purchased shorts and t-shirts but we found cheap sneakers and panties at a hardware shop. Delicate little pink and blue knickers were folded alongside various types of hammers and pliers. Ok, that was a first.

The following morning we were driving out of town and I thought we should try the airport one more time. Hail, hail Olympic Airlines – it had transfered our luggage and it was in a holding cage waiting for us.

On we drove through towns that consisted of four or five buildings, little shop fronts and they were all either barbers or butcher shops. At one stop I looked across the road at an expanse of vacant land and two giraffes were taking the morning air. Odd.

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Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

You can see Mt Kilimanjaro on a clear day from Serena Amboseli.

We arrived at the Amboseli safari/resort/hotel place and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me as fine shadows were zipping across the painted and polished  concrete floor of the foyer. As I walked the path to my habitat I say little fluffy bottoms poking out of holes in the stone walls. Then I saw the creature above my door – and immediately became a fan of the quirky hyraxes.

The hyrax, a small furry mammal is also called a rock rabbit or dassie. It looks like a robust, oversized guinea pig, or a rabbit with rounded ears and no tail and it mostly has a grumpy little face. Hyraxes have stumpy toes with hoof-like nails; and four toes on each front foot and three on each back foot. And they are distantly related to the elephant – true – do your research.

They are endearing. The following morning I looked out my window to the pool below and could see a great mound of (maybe 20) hyrax piled tenuously on a sunbed taking some early morning rays.

That night around a campfire we drank and smoked (those were the days) and eventually toddled off to our rooms. On the way I slipped on the polished concrete and the ankle twist was so fierce that I went into shock, I couldn’t speak, threw up and almost passed out. One of my travelling companions lazily propped me up against a wall and said to one of the concerned staff “my wife is drunk, watch her while I go to the toilet”. The staff member helped me hobble to my room. I was mortified and speechless and planned my revenge.

The following day we were to meet the people of the Maasai tribe close by.  The welcome dance was energetic, much leaping into the air. With my buggered ankle this was not possible for me to join the airlifts. But the young tribal leader – Bruce – yes, that was his name, took me into his house for a visit. The tiny hut house, closed up on a hot day with the animals in the pen inside and the aroma of sour milk did me in and I almost passed out on Bruce’s bed. As he guided me out of the door I was swooning with nausea and threw up at his doorstep. I still feel shame.

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Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

There were many little adventures on that particular journey and lessons learned:

  • Always get out of bed before dawn to go animal spotting. I was tired, in pain and grumpy and every night promised myself that I would sleep in. Bugger the dawn patrol. Every morning I did get up and had some wondrous sightings of animals including lions and cheetahs.
  • Always have items of clothing that you are willing to part with. We were in the backblocks of nowhere and we stopped for a rest from the bouncing, jiggling, pounding driving experience of speeding along roads that were really just a series of deep potholes joined together with spit and a prayer. I waved to a man plowing the ground with a farm implement that was ancient and strapped around his neck. He wandered over for a chat and a smoke (smoking was so social back in the day) and noticed he was wearing a pair of black pants with braces and an old dinner jacket. I thought he would look much more fetching if he had a white shirt to complete his ensemble. I whipped off my shirt (singlet underneath) and gave it to him. He was thrilled and dressed himself and went back to work. There was a scrub farmer looking damn dapper in a Carla Zampatti shirt – couple of seasons old but hey!
  • Take jelly snakes with you. This is how international relations with kids is forged. And with adults too.

Towards the end of the trip we took the ‘Lunatic LIne’ (the Nairobi to Mombasa train route). It was an hilarious journey with large bowls of soup being sloshed around the dining car, warnings to keep our windows shut from the top bunk in case of ‘nibbling animals’. But the best part of the train trip was my opportunity for revenge on my fellow traveller. I had waited for eight days.

He was languishing in his cabin with a terrible gasto/vomiting affliction, we visited him regularly with commiserations and acts of kindness. I opened the door and asked how he was and he just moaned, I then asked him if he “would like a fish milkshake with a hair in it”, which sent him into a violent paroxysm – as they say in Kenya – “Shame”.

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The writer’s photos of that trip have been lost in time but not memory.

In 1996 at the Australian Society of Travel Writers annual awards night I was named Travel Writer of the Year. Then there were only two writing categories – consumer and trade. Consumer stories had to include three published features. Mine were Nashville; Egypt and the trip called Postcards from Kenya. 

I was the second female to take the prize – the first being Susan Kurosawa. 

Top featured image: Photo by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash

Vienna – let’s waltz!

Vienna – let’s waltz!

A museum of the waltz king

Johann Strauss-Denkmal, Stadtpark

Only Vienna could do a museum like this justice. The Johann Strauss Dynasty Museum in the ninth district is the first museum in the world to focus on the history and artistic output of the entire Strauss clan: from Johann Strauss the Elder and the waltz king Johann Strauss the Younger to his two brothers Josef and Eduard. Visitors can also look forward to an impressive range of pictures and documents that bring Biedermeier-era Vienna to life. Audio stations dotted throughout the museum give fans a chance to listen to popular and less well known pieces from the family canon as often as they like, without interruption.

Tanzszene in Dommayers Casino

Johann Strauss (1825-1899), known to family and friends as Schani, his father Johann and his brothers Josef and Eduard took the world by storm with their music. With 1,500 works between them, from Die Fledermaus and The Radetzky March to the Blue Danube Waltz,  they embody Viennese music like no others. Their waltz and operetta melodies can be heard in the capital’s concert halls throughout the year as well as at the traditional New Year’s Concert which is broadcast all over the world from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein.

Strauss, Karikatur Josef und seine Brüder

It goes without saying that there is a Johann Strauss monument in Vienna. This golden statue of the waltz king playing his violin can be found in the Stadtpark, a short distance from the Kursalon. The Vienna Philharmonic played at its unveiling in 1921 and today it is one of the most photographed sights in the city. Johann Strauss II composed Vienna’s unofficial anthem The Blue Danube in an apartment at Praterstrasse 54 in the second district in 1867 where he lived with his first wife Jetty from 1863-1870. In addition to original furnishings and period instruments, exhibits include everyday objects from the great musician’s estate as well as portraits, photos, and documents on his life and work. The waltz king was laid to rest at Vienna’s legendary Central Cemetery, near the graves of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Johann Strauss the Elder.

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Visit: www.austria.info

 

First steps

The waltz began as a dance of rebellion, embraced by teens and sneered at by conservative parents. When the dance first whirled through the ballrooms of Vienna, it caused an outrage and marked a decisive shift in European social customs.

The dance’s origins are probably humble. Its name comes from walzen— “to turn” in German—and may have developed out of the folk music of Austria’s western Tyrol region (although some authors associate its choreography with the volta, a 16th-century couples dance). Whatever its exact origin, by the late 1700s the waltz spread throughout Europe. The dance craze was particularly popular among young people from the wealthy middle classes, the perfect expression of a new, confident bourgeoisie, who were discarding the aristocratic customs of their elders.

A scene from 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, by J. W. von Goethe, describes a ball that begins with stuffy minuets until a new tune is struck: “When the waltz commenced, and the dancers whirled around each other in the giddy maze . . . Never did I dance more lightly. I felt myself more than mortal, holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying, with her as rapidly as the wind, till I lost sight of every other object.”

In 1833 a British manual of good manners recommended only married women should dance it, as it was too immoral for the unwed.

USA – Red Rocks and a Mile High City

USA – Red Rocks and a Mile High City

Denver has been the subject of many songs by famous artists especially native son the late John Denver, but my fave is by Jimmy Buffet:

I’m about a mile high in Denver
Where the rock meets timberline 
I’ve walked this ground from town to town 
Just to finally call it mine

Dating back to the Old West era, Denver is definitely oh, so 21st century.

Denver, the capital of Colorado, features landmark 19th-century buildings, museums that include the Denver Art Museum, an ultramodern complex known for its collection of indigenous works, and the mansion of famed Titanic survivor Molly Brown.

At the end of the 16th Street Mall, cross the road to visit the Union Station, a splendid example of 19th century architecture. Once a bustling transit institution, but as roads and flight took goods across the state lines, the station’s use declined. But it’s now back in business as a bus and rail terminal and a lovely hotel is inside the original building as the Crawford Hotel.

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The main hall is now a café, bar, lounge area full of gentle buzzing conversation and good vibes. Everyone welcome as long as you ‘be nice’. Union Station is located in LoDo (Lower Downtown), Denver’s vibrant oldest neighbourhood – check out the city’s best known restaurants, galleries, shops, and boutiques.

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The revitalised Union Station is part of the refurb of the LoDo area of Denver.

Denver is also a jumping-off point for ski resorts in the nearby Rocky Mountains. It’s a university town and there’s a lot of sporty stuff going on here. And in Denver you will find the highest concentration of recreational marijuana stores in Colorado, with a large number of select stores selling recreational and medical marijuana. Marijuana stores in Denver are required to close by 10pm. See https://www.coloradopotguide.com/where-to-buy-marijuana/colorado/denver/ just sayin’ (it is legal).

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It’s called the Mile High City because it is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (1.6km).

I believe that as the cowboys galloped into town all those years ago and helped grow this city, it was today’s hipsters who moseyed into town in their electric cars, wearing man buns and sporting old school beards that have put the edge on Denver.

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It’s always been known as a friendly, easygoing place but the hospitality bar has been raised up and up.

The local Beer Trail boasts an extraordinary craft beer culture – home to Colorado’s oldest and largest beer pubs, and if the beery brew isn’t to your taste there’s a slew of cafes serving coffee that even Aussie coffee snobs approve of.

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If you are a Super Bowl fan this is the home of the Denver Broncos and their home is the Mile High Stadium which is open for a walking tour through the hallowed halls.

The main drag is the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian and transit mall is 1.25 miles long, runs along 16th Street in downtown Denver. Stroll it and shop, stop and eat or drink or catch the free tram from one end to the other.

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Just outside of town is the amazing natural amphitheatre Red Rocks where everyone from Bruce Springsteen to U2 have performed. To see a concert here is an out of body experience. The sun goes down, the rocks surrounding you are in sharp contrast to the blackening sky, the lights go up and the music begins!

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Culture rules in Denver from high to low – rock to symphony, traditional art to an outdoor gallery of topical wall art, fast food to high table cuisine.

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Writer, Bev Malzard squealed when she found out she was going to a concert at Red Rocks to see local boys made good – One Republic (Shooting Stars) . . . oh what a night.  And would recommend anyone who enjoys music of any sort to do some research before you travel anywhere and book seats for a concert so you can immerse yourself totally in the music, the scene and with the locals.

AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME LAX-DEN 2hrs 20 mins

BEST TIME TO VISIT April through May and September through October. The city’s shoulder seasons are characterized by comfortable temperatures,

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Plenty of street art around town, this bold pour of milk splash is coming from the Dairy Market building.

https://www.denver.org/

 

How to see York – in 48 hours

How to see York – in 48 hours

I love cities that have many layers of history, where the stones speak of grim deeds, majestic events, innovative creations and the odd ghost. If your itinerary allows – spend some time in the atmospheric and elegant city of York, in Yorkshire, the UK’s second mediaeval city. Eat, drink, sleep and play – all budgets catered to.

 Vikings, Romans and chocolate have all left a lasting impression on the historic city of York. Encircled by impressive ancient walls (the City Walls form a walkway on both sides of the River Ouse), it has a long and varied history. York has been named the most haunted city in Europe – a fact enhanced by the city’s many ancient and shadowy snickelways (a local term for narrow lanes, passageways and alleys).

York also boasts the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, as well as the largest railway museum in the world, plus it has a comprehensive calendar of events and festivals, including the February Jorvik Viking Festival, March’s York Literature Festival, and September’s York Food & Drink Festival.

Not to forget the world-class horseracing meetings held from May to October each year at York Races – a favourite among racegoers since it was founded in 1731.

The York Minster is a magnificent building inside and outside. Construction in timber began in 627 and stands today as testament to overcoming invasion, war, vandalism, religious persecution and every damn thing humans could throw at it.

 

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Modern day saints

My favourite little statues (above) can be found up above at the back of nave, above the entrance to York Minster. They are actually Semaphore Saints, each of them represents a letter. The twelve headless saints holding haloes are signalling in semaphore. Semaphore is a way of sending a message without a mobile phone! Using two flags, or in this case haloes, each letter of the alphabet has its own signal. Artists Terry Hammill carved these stautues for an exhibition in 2004.

During the sixteenth century Protestant reformers accused Catholics of praying to statues. In a bid to stop this they attacked statues, either getting rid of them completely or making them unrecognisable by removing the heads and haloes and the objects that identified them. There are many instances of this kind of damage in the Minster. The Semaphore Saints pay tribute to all thse that have lost their heads.

The Grand Hotel & Spa.

DAY ONE

Check in:

Set in a charming Victorian rectory, the Parisi is a small, friendly and affordable hotel. Or, with 101 rooms, casual restaurant, and a sumptuous colour palate inspired by York’s chocolate heritage, there’s the InterContinental Hotel Group’s boutique Hotel Indigo York.

And housed in the iconic former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company, The Grand Hotel & Spa is the city’s only five-star hotel, providing fabulous first-class service and facilities.

10:00 Step up to York’s highest point

The largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster took 250 years to build, from 1220 till its consecration in 1472. This hallowed landmark impresses with dazzling stained glass, historic artefacts and awe-inspiring architecture. It’s open for sightseeing every day, as well as for regular services, concerts and events (including the famous York Mystery Plays). For magnificent views, climb 275 winding steps, passing medieval pinnacles and gargoyles, to the top of the Minster’s central tower – the highest point in all of York.

11:30 Circumnavigate the city walls

Familiarise yourself with York by taking a walk around the City Walls. At 3.4km long, they are the longest and best-preserved medieval city walls in England. Taking approximately two hours to complete the entire circuit, you may prefer to focus on just a few sections – in which case, the Friends of York Walls website suggests various routes and trails.

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The centre of York is surrounded by walls whose foundations date back to medieval times. There is a wall walk around the city. ‘VistBritain/Andrew Pickett’

13:30 Take away a ‘Shambles’ lunch

While exploring the Shambles, York’s oldest street, grab lunch from Shambles Kitchen. Famous for its pulled pork sandwich, other healthy options include street food boxes, soups and smoothies.

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The Shambles is an old street in York, England, with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth century. This image must be reproduced with the credit ‘VistBritain/Andrew Pickett’

14:30 See the return of a steam-era superstar

The Flying Scotsman (a locomotive flagship for modernity in 1924) in York’s National Railway Museum had a complex and lengthy £4.2million overhaul three years ago. This is the largest railway museum in the world, other attractions include the mighty Mallard, which has held the world speed record for steam locomotives since 1938, the massive Chinese Engine, presented to the museum by the Chinese Government, and the only Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train) outside of Japan.

16:00 Go back in time for afternoon tea on a train

Travel back in time to an era of luxury railway dining aboard the Countess of York, a beautifully restored rail carriage stationed in the South Gardens of the National Railway Museum. Its Afternoon Tea is a civilised treat with a Yorkshire twist: sandwiches and savouries include Yorkshire blue cheese and red onion marmalade tart, scones are baked to a traditional Yorkshire recipe, and homemade fancies include Parkin crème brulee. Choose a fine leaf tea by Taylor’s of Harrogate.

17:00 Spot the little devil of Stonegate

Lined with shops, Stonegate is one of York’s most fascinating and photogenic streets. Craftsmen including goldsmiths and stained-glass makers had premises here in the Middle Ages, many leaving their mark on the historic buildings. The little red devil outside No. 33 was a traditional symbol of a printer – a printer’s apprentice being known as a “printer’s devil”.

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18:30 Start dinner with proper Yorkshire puddings

The cousin of Michelin-starred country eatery The Star Inn, stylish The Star Inn The City specialises in authentic and delicious Yorkshire cooking. Yorkshire Puddings were traditionally served before, not with, a main meal – just as they are here. Other local flavours include Whitby crab, confit of east Yorkshire duck leg and plenty of Yorkshire beef. Served until 19.00, their two-course Market Menu is ideal for lunch or pre-theatre.

19:30 Open the curtains on a new production

A leading British theatre, York Theatre Royal has produced great drama for more than 250 years. Reopening in spring 2016 after a major £4.1million redevelopment project, productions include Shakespeare, opera, ballet and plays by famous UK and international playwrights.

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DAY TWO

10:00 Invade William the Conqueror’s ruined castle

William the Conqueror built York Castle in 1068 shortly after the Norman Conquest, to cement his status over this former Viking city. The castle endured a tumultuous early history and its keep, known as Clifford’s Tower, is almost all that remains. Standing high on its mound, this medieval ruin has served as a prison and a royal mint in its time. Once a lookout point for castle guards, the open-air wall walk at the top provides wonderful far-reaching views.

11:00 Experience prison life, the First World War & the Swinging Sixties

An increased demand for prison capacity in York in the 18th century required the construction of two new prison buildings below Clifford’s Tower: The Female Prison and Debtors’ Prison. These now form the York Castle Museum, with exhibitions illustrating York’s social and military history. Popular attractions for all the family include a recreated Victorian cobbled street with authentic shops, schoolroom, police cell and Hansom cab. Other galleries give a sense of prison life, portray the horror of the First World War, and recreate the spirit of the 1960s.

13:30 Confront a Fat Rascal at Bettys

The founder of Bettys Café Tea Rooms travelled on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary in 1936, and was so enthralled that he commissioned the same designers and craftsmen to create this elegant café – and it soon became a local landmark. Although there are plenty of tempting treats, Bettys is renowned for the Fat Rascal: an oval teacake with currants and candied peel, it goes well with a cup of Yorkshire tea.

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Fat rascals.

14:30 See a sweet side to the city

While neighbouring towns made their wealth from wool, cotton and steel, York made its profits from chocolate. Some of the world’s best-known names in chocolate were concocted in York. Joseph Rowntree created bestselling brands including Kit Kat, Smarties and Aero, while Joseph Terry gave us the Chocolate Orange and All Gold collection – inextricably linked with York’s social and industrial past, these sweet empires are now part of Nestlé and Mondelēz International respectively. You’ll find evidence of this chocolate heritage throughout York. Goddard’s, the Terry family’s beautiful Arts and Crafts style home, is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public. A major visitor attraction, York’s Chocolate Story, tells the rich tale of chocolate and confectionery in the city. There are also chocolate-themed walking trails, chocolate-making workshops, even an annual chocolate festival.

16:30 Get a chocolate retail fix

Chocolate connoisseurs should head to Monk Bar Chocolatiers, York’s longest established artisan chocolatiers.

19:00 Dine in a former brothel

Enjoy casual yet decadent dining at The Blue Bicycle, a former 19th-century brothel overlooking the River Foss. Couples may share a romantic meal in one of the original private vaulted booths, while old photographs of exotic girls are reminders of the building’s historic improprieties.

20:00 Unearth York’s spookiest secrets

York has a spooky past. Infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was executed here in 1739, and local folklore is full of similar tales of tragedy and death. Experience the shadowy side of York on one of numerous nightly ghost walks. These include the Original Ghost Walk of York. The eerie apparitions you’ll hear about include the Grey Lady, the Headless Earl, and the Legendary Legionnaires. Rather not walk? Try the Ghost Bus Tour, a professional comedy theatre company who present a mix of thrills, chills and chuckles on board a former funeral bus.

21:30 Whisky, gin…or a ghostly spirit

Afterwards, steady your nerve with a stiff drink at The Golden Fleece hotel, York’s most haunted pub. Said to have five resident spirits, there have been numerous reports of ghostly apparitions and moving furniture. Or sample a vast range of local and international craft ales at The House of the Trembling Madness, an atmospheric ale shop and inn that also serves pub food, snacks and shareable platters.

Writer’s tip: York is in the county of Yorkshire in the north of England, two hours north of London by train. The nearest international airports are Leeds-Bradford and Manchester Airport. Best to fly into Manchester and catch the train to York– quick as a wink!

http://www.visitbritain.com

 

 

The ultimate town of colour

The ultimate town of colour

I was so excited to finally visit the Blue Pearl – Chefchaouen in Morocco. Seeing images of the pretty town for years made me wary that I might be disappointed. No. This small city does not disappoint.

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How many words for blue? How many shades of blue are there? Baby blue, azure, cobalt, pale blue, indigo, sky blue, navy blue, teal, sapphire, cornflour, periwinkle, Marjorelle blue, powder blue, electric blue . . . this could go on for many more words. And many of these shades are seen on the walls of the building of Chefchaouen and indeed dotted throughout streets in other Moroccan cities.

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A bustling town high in the Rif Valley of northern Morocco, Chefchaouen sets itself apart from the dusty landscape in a palette of powder blue. The history of the settlement dates back to 1471, when it was a small fortress established by Moorish exiles leaving Spain to fight the Portuguese invaders.

As the Spanish reconquered Moorish lands in the late 15th century, Chefchaouen grew and prospered with the arrival of Muslims and Jews fleeing persecution.

The refugees whitewashed their houses, balconies and tiled roofs, and added citrus trees to the centre of their patios, creating a Spanish style and ambience.

But it was the Jewish immigrants who popularised the pale-blue wash, considered a holy colour in Judaism, that is now the town’s trademark.

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The city’s signature colour is a variety of calming shades of blue that lower your blood pressure in seconds. Known as Morocco’s “blue pearl” or “blue city”, the buildings in Chefchaouen are painted using a talc or chalk-based paint that looks so beguiling. I saw a woman with a fat brush attached to a long handle painting a wall and later found out that only the women paint the walls – no men do this work. I couldn’t get to the bottom of this particular feminised ritual – so if anyone knows why, please comment and tell me.

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The streets of the town aren’t wide, they’re not full of shops, the crowds aren’t thick and there’s less mania to the atmosphere than other touristy Moroccan towns.

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In the charming town, it’s easy to spend a day wandering and trying to find new angles of blue. Up and down stairs, along the main arteries, through the small winding passageways and the doors . . . oh, so splendid.

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The main square has open air cafes and restaurants where there’s no rush to move on. A slow lunch, a leisurely coffee, an hour or two sitting on a cushioned lounge and you’ll be happy, calm and certainly won’t get the blues – or maybe you will.

Writer Bev Malzard travelled with http://www.bypriorarrangement.com and wandered up and down and in and around and absorbed the glorious blues of all shades. She ate lunch at Cafe Clock Chefchaouen and despite the variety of cuisines on offer: Arabic, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, vegan friendly, she refused the camel burger and settled for a good old Yankee burger with meat and chips.

She travelled with : www.bypriorarrangement.com

 

Visit: https://www.cafeclock.com/our-food

How to be bold in Boulder

How to be bold in Boulder

I had five hours to spend in Boulder, a city in the grand state of Colorado in the USA. What to do? I couldn’t give you a full-on review of a city I had not explored, nor had been there before. What I did know: it’s a city of just 103,000 residents (almost a third of whom are students at the University of Colorado at Boulder), it has a reputation for packing  punch.

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At 5,430 feet (1657 metres) and generally sunny, it’s a spectacularly beautiful destination that’s been smart (and pioneering) about growth and preserving open space, so it’s a magnet for athletes, bohemians, hipsters, scientists and outdoor enthusiasts of every ilk.

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With a progressive dining and brewing scene, it’s a breeze to eat healthily and drink locally. Even outdoor music is better in the Front Range: you won’t regret splurging for a concert ticket at Red Rocks, just to the south.

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I won’t go into the hiking, biking, climbing and all outdoorsy activities that are everyday jaunts for the Boulderites (Bouldonians?) as I don’t do outdoors very well. (See link at end of story for more local info.) As I was coming into town I had a total moment of excitement and knew what this Boulder post was to be about – TEA.

My preferred tea late at night cosied up in my bed in Sydney is a brew called Sleepytime Tea by Celestial Seasonings (this is not a sponsored post). We drove past a sign saying Celestial Seasoning – yippee.

Oh joy, the building/factory was open for tours – yes! And it was free. This is the home of my tea!

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Celestial Seasonings is in the northeast of Boulder and looks like any other productive, immaculately clean factory – BUT – it smells so good. Just like a freshly opened box of Sleepytime Tea.

Our devoted tour group donned fetching blue hairnets and began the walk. We watched our fave teas being mixed, packed and boxed. (Apparently, and I concur, it takes three seconds for a machine to wrap a box and 10 minutes to get it off.) And when we walked into the Peppermint room, our eyes began to sting and our lungs began to sing with the sharp, pungent aroma of the precious peppermint oils exuding from the herbs. This room is mostly locked down as the oil could permeate the flavours of the other herbal and fruit teas produced here.

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The company tries to be as sustainable as it can be and the tea bags no longer have strings and the actual bags that contain the tea are biodegradable and one of our guides said she packs her used bags around her garden plants to hold water and dissolve ethically.

A few tasting sips and a major purchase of boxes and away we went most happily. On the driveway out of the complex I saw my first Groundhogs . . . too cute.

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There was a foodies market on in town so we meandered among the food and produce stalls. And in keeping with the tea theme we visited two tea shops (what is it Boulder, craft beer in competition with the humble cuppa?).

We saw the large tea/cafe emporium, Boulder Dushanbe Tea house that is most exotic but packed to the teapot brim on market day.

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So into the main mall here for an elegant tea experience at Ku Cha House of Tea. We settled on an ethereal white tea that was delicate and totally tea-zen.

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So, this busy bee little city with its outdoorsy attitude and athletic ambience can turn on the tea charm, and sit quietly and contemplate the Colorado big sky and the art of sipping a cheery brew.

Writer Bev Malzard has just finished her tea that she purchased in June. Damn! Best head back to Boulder, sooner than later.

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Visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/lifestyle/vacation-ideas/things-to-do-in-boulder/

Visit: www.celestialseasonings.com/visit-us/

Visit: www.boulderteahouse.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to rock and rail like a movie star

How to rock and rail like a movie star
Three Ways to Rock and Rail 

There are a few things that you must do/see/experience in Australia to get the rythmn of the place – and one of them is taking a train trip across the vast areas of this amazing continent. 

It’s the 90th anniversary of the Ghan this year and there are some special trips ready to be snapped up and booked. Have you done the glorious Aussie train trip? Read on:

Take a cue from Hollywood movie star Margot Robbie and pair your ‘Rock’ with your ‘Rail’ for the ultimate Australian adventure. Margot enjoyed the best of two Outback realities this month, choosing a 24-hour luxury journey aboard The Ghan before heading to Uluru for a spectacular Red Centre experience.

1. The Ghan

Here’s how to do your own Rock & Rail:

1. Follow in Margot’s footsteps and board The Ghan in Adelaide, leaving the train in Alice Springs to explore the spectacular Red Centre at leisure.

  • The Ghan departs Adelaide on Sundays year-round, with an additional Wednesday departure between June and August.
  • The Ghan (Adelaide to Alice Springs) starts from $1319pp for all-inclusive Gold Service travel.

2. Kick off your adventure at Uluru, then board The Ghan in Alice Springs to make your way up to the Top End in unparalleled style.

  • The Ghan departs Alice Springs on Mondays year-round with an additional Thursday departure between June and August.
  • The Ghan (Alice Springs to Darwin) starts from $1319pp for all-inclusive Gold Service travel.

3. Book The Ghan Expedition – the quintessential way to explore Australia from top to bottom. An optional upgrade includes a flight to Uluru and a full day’s tour, getting you back in time to the train to continue your amazing transcontinental journey across four magical days.

22. Platinum Service Cabin Day

  • The Ghan Expedition (Darwin to Adelaide) departs every Wednesday between April and October, with an additional Saturday departure between June and August.
  • The Ghan Expedition starts from $3489pp for all-inclusive Gold Service travel. The optional Uluru flight and day trip is $1249pp.

To book your own Rock & Rail adventure, visit https://journeybeyondrail.com.au/packages/journey/the-ghan/

 

This is not a sponsored post. It’s just that this blogger loves the Outback and wants everyone to have this wonderful experience. Is she a control freak? Maybe. Choof choof!

20. Views from The Ghan

Vietnam & Singapore take the cake

Vietnam & Singapore take the cake

It’s time to talk about cake again. Classic high tea doesn’t have to be taken in an English country garden. These two teas enjoyed in Asia take the cake!

When I’m travelling I always plan an afternoon tea experience into the itinerary mix. I think it is the most civilised and friendly ritual anyone could indulge themselves it.

My two standouts for last year (2018) are both set in Asia. The first was in Hanoi, Vietnam (yes, there’s so much more than pho) and the second was in Singapore (hold the chilli and pass the cakes!).

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To stay in the Sofitel Legend Hanoi Metropole Hotel is to be treated like royalty and to be immersed in Hanoi’s long and complex history. The French carved out a colony in Vietnam from 1887 until its defeat in the First Indochina War in 1954 when independence was claimed for the country.

After that Vietnam couldn’t catch a break and until the mid 70s war between North and South with many other nations putting their oar in, raged until peace at last.

The French left many beautiful buildings especially in the north – Hanoi has the lion’s share of splendid, restored colonial villas and public buildings. The Queen is the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, gleaming white, brass polished as a shining ritual and all things here, tres bon. The staff still greet each guest throughout the hotel with a warm “bonjour”.

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The hotel includes 364 rooms and the historic Metropole wing has 106 guestrooms and three Legendary Suites. The suites are named after famous residents and visitors to the hotel (Graham Greene, Charlie Chaplin, Somerset Maugham).

Afternoon tea here is best entered into with a stout heart and a competitive spirit.

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Every day, between three and 5.30pm, an irresistible chocolate library opens in the Club Bar. Praline, ganache, éclairs, mille-feuille pastries, chocolate fountain, a selection of every imaginable kind of French pâtisseries and delectable chocolate in all shapes and form appears and appeals seductively to the afternoon tea fanatic.…its reputation has spread well beyond the borders of Vietnam.

Made from the finest Vietnamese grown cocoa, the Metropole Ganaches are carefully prepared to make the finest grade couverture chocolate. The chef here was dipping tiny matcha nougat squares in chocolate while we watched. There were two of us and we decided to share the love. One of us would take the High Tea and the other would take up the Chocolate Library challenge. This is a buffet extraordinaire – try one of everything – chocolate truffle, mousse and ice cream, macarons, a chocolate fountain and a hot chocolate for good measure.

The High Tea comes on a layered stand – where to start? From the bottom with savoury snacks including baby quiche Lorraine’s and tiny sandwiches. Up a level and the scones call to you. Jam and cream of course and decorated fruit tarts – on top now – a display of wee cakes to slip delicately into one’s mouth.

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There are other wonderful restaurants here – but don’t book on the same day as you have the High Tea.

From the Paris-inspired cafe La Terrasse, to the popular poolside Bamboo Bar or Vietnamese restaurant Spices Garden, the multi-award French restaurant Le Beaulieu or the stylish Italian-influenced restaurant and new lounge Angelina – the hotel promises a gastronomic journey.

And did I mention cakes?

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SINGAPORE

I once read a food travelogue that described Singapore as the ‘world’s best restaurant’. Every Asian cuisine melds with all world food here and whether you eat at markets, food courts, hole-in-the-wall treasures or five-star gourmet extravaganzas – there is not a dish that you could miss out on here.

I’m a sucker for simple old-school chicken and rice and anything that is presented from Little India and have always been on the hunt for the perfect afternoon tea.

On my most recent visit I finally got to enjoy afternoon High tea at the famous Fullerton Hotel.

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The magnificent Fullerton Building is a grand neoclassical landmark built in 1928. Gazetted in December 2015 as a National Monument, it was once home to Singapore’s General Post Office, the Exchange Room and Exchange Reference Library, and the prestigious Singapore Club. Today, The Fullerton Hotel is a stunning 400-room heritage hotel in Singapore.

Located in the Fullerton Hotel Singapore’s vast sunlit atrium lobby, The Courtyard (North and South sections) is the lively restaurant setting for all-day dining, whether for a light meal, a signature Japanese or Indian curry buffet, leisurely afternoon tea with unlimited replenishment of your tiered contents and free-flowing coffee and tea; or an elegant cocktail.

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We stuck with the afternoon tea and despite the generous offer to replenish . . .we only ordered extra scones, they were that good!

Tastefully furnished with plush sofas and a friendly ambience – the tea event was being enjoyed my many other High Tea aficionados.

Our tea arrived as the lovely silver art deco three-tiered stand arrived laden with all that is good under heaven. The scones are a little exclusive and like to be served away from the rest of the sweet treats – they arrive on their own plate, jam and cream to the side.

Small sandwiches, finger style were filled with egg, smoked salmon and smoked duck. Brie cheese with plum jelly on a hazelnut cracker was devoured without a second thought. Little samosas, miniature pies covered the savoury offerings and the various layers of all types of cakes and patisserie beckoned. Chocolate éclair, lemon tart and English fruit cake were savoured slowly.

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A special, traditional Singapore cake is the Kueh Lapis. The cake has, it is reported, to have its origins in the Nonya cuisine or the Indonesia cook book, who knows? The delicate cake is a layered cake, sometimes called the thousand-layer cake – or ladder cake. No matter where it comes from, it was delicious, light and geometrically perfectly layered.

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Writer, Bev Malzard continues her arduous quest in search of the perfect afternoon tea or slice of cake. She’s probably found it/them but is usually in a sugar coma and doesn’t know cake from a meat pie. 

                                           Doing my best to be ladylike.

This article was originally published in http://www.mydiscoveries.com.au

 

 

 

Morocco gets on my goat!

Morocco gets on my goat!

This is not fake news or fake photos. There we were, driving along a flat, dry part of the western Moroccan landscape dotted with small farm houses and solitary argan trees (agania spinosa), endemic to Morocco.

I squinted at the tree in the distance, with its limbs spread out in the sun and great clumps of wooly white stuff mid branches.

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As we drew closer I doubled up with laughter – goats up a tree. I had never seen such a thing.

On top of a tree! Here, in the south-west of Morocco, in North Africa where the plants and trees are far apart and fewer, goats use their climbing skills to find their food. Here the animals have climbed up an argan tree to get to the fresh fruit at the top. They can climb an impressive 8-10 metres to do this.

The good oil

Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) that is endemic to Morocco. In Morocco, argan oil is used to dip bread in at breakfast or to drizzle on couscous or pasta.

Argan oil is rich in essential fatty acids, and has moisturising, anti-aging and antioxidant properties. … in short, it promises results as a powerful anti-wrinkle cream. (I hope this works!)

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Moroccan argan oil is made from the seed of the Argan tree), a native to the Souss-Massa-Drâa region of Morocco and Algeria. While the traditional method allows the goats to process the nuts first, as this softens the husk, some Berber women will hand-pick and open the nut to get at the seed.

The trees often grow to up to 8 metres and the goats have no qualms about moving along the thorny branches in search of the tree’s bitter fruit.

The argan fruit resembles a shriveled golden apple. The fruit is firm, has a thick peel and contains the fleshy pulp around an almond-shaped nut that looks like a dried olive.

The crazy tree goats love the pulp. They eat the whole fruit despite the fact that their bodies can’t digest the nut. Greedy goats!

The argan nuts pass through the digestive system of the goats and once they are excreted, people gather them from the droppings and crack them open to expose the seeds inside.

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The production and marketing of argan oil is a valuable resource for Morocco – economically and for education. Stats (compiled by the University of California) of enrolment data from 1981-2010 concluded that the rise in production of argan oil is directly linked to an increase in Moroccan girls being able to attend secondary school.

And back to goats in trees  . . . even after feeding their faces, the goats hang around on the branches of the trees just looking out at the horizon . . . excellent for photography and tourism.

Writer, Bev Malzard was smitten by the goats-in-trees phenomenon and grabbed a baby goat to cuddle while standing under the tree. She took the goat to Marrakech, bought it dinner, a new cardigan and a phone card. But nothing persuaded the animal to get on a plane to travel to Australia. Goat’s loss! Malzard is currently under arrest for trying to smuggle a baby donkey into Oz, will she never learn?

Travel to Morocco with http://www.bypriorarrangement.com

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