Travel: the year that was 2019

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Writing or typing 2019 has been a trial for me. Those numbers didn’t sit right, they jar and are unbalanced. And every time I wrote it I questioned myself . . .was it 2019? or 2018? And as 2020 has arrived, I’m getting excited about writing those lovely 2020’s for an entire year.

But before leaving 2019 behind, despite the numericals, it was a damn fine year for travel and experiences. And there were a few super highlights.

I began 2019 slowly and stayed at a northern beaches house that I make a pilgrimage to every year. A few days with old friends to laze about, go to the beach and yak about old times, good times and what’s in store for the future.

Throughout the year my partner and I left Sydney for further pastures, some close to the city some a bit further. First encounter was in a sleepy holiday place called Ettalong. Drive to Palm Beach on the farther reaches of the northen beaches then a quick ferry ride. We went to the famous Cinema Paradiso two nights running for movies and choctops.

Mid March I was Morocco bound. Two spectacular, colourful weeks there were thrilling. Every day was another day to fall in love with this amazing country. (Stories available https://travelgaltravels.com/2019/06/18/the-ultimate-town-of-colour)

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I would recommend this country and would stress to do it with a small group company. Highlights: everything.

The end of April and I was in India for a trade show in Delhi. Always fun to be back in crazy India. And while there I developed a stingy, hurting, feverish bout of shingles. In 47deg. heat and having to wear clothes that touched the skin was torture. Aftet he trae show I went with a few people to Jaipur and on to Dera Amer: Acquiring 180-acres of largely neglected scrubland in 1981, the Singh family made a commitment to returning this stretch of land to its state of untouched natural beauty. The concept behind Dera Amer was never about profits, and despite being approached by several developers to turn the plot into something more lucrative, the Singh family remained resolute in the protection and preservation of the local environment. Over 30-years later, Dera Amer is something of a sanctuary for animals: both domestic and wild, and the perfect spot for visitors who wish to escape the city.

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After India which included several palace dinners and tiger sightings in the wild I recouped my health and equilibrium.

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The end of May hurried itself up to me and I was in a plane to Hawaii with a to day stop over on Maui, then on to the USA mainland flying into Long Beach with Hawaiian Airlines.

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2J9A3067 Rae Huo photo 6/18. Female guest and Male flight attendant, Keawe

I was here for a monster travel trade show (6000 delegates) called IPW (International Pow Wow). Four days of full on talkfest, business, parties and grand gestures followed. Our party (the entire 6000 peeps) had Disneyland to ourselves and we were some of the first visitors to the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I almost missed it, thinking nah, just another ride. Ohhh, it was/is fantastic. Such splendid detail and every space (no pun intended) is covered in realistic Star Wars paraphenalia and the space ship is real – I know, because I piloted it.

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After IPW I met up with a road warrior friend and we hot-footed it to Palm Springs. I wasn’t sure what was in the offing but I found lots of stories along the way and the charm of the desert towns and parks. (I will post a story on the experience soon.) It was fiercely hot so outside the air-con in the car we slipped into cool coffee shops and restaurants. There are beautiful mid-century homes and public building there plus a retro vibe in the restuarants still standing since the Rat Pack days.

 

In between my overseas trips, going into the diary are notes that are scribbles: “Dumplings with Merryl”; “movie and lamb with Dot”; ‘astw trivia night”; “magazine gone into liquidation – bugger”; “to Orange and Nashdale Wines for glamping”; “record Crime Story”; ” dawn balloon ride for friends”; “send invoices”; “Belize, yes or no”.

We went west for my partner to research wall art in country towns for a story in the Financial Review’s Weekend Magazine. Drought, drought and drought.

Then a gig came up for New Caledonia. I said yes to the job but had a ho hum attitude towards the destination – only because 20 years before there was nothing in Noumea that was memorable for me.

But “quelle surprise”. I had a wonderful time, Noumea was fab and felt young and invigorated. The beaches are sublime and the food has moved on from too much butter and bloody vol- au-vents (this was heavily on the menu years ago). But as New Caledonia is only three hours flight from Sydney – France is in the Pacific. Mad if you don’t go!

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After two days in tropical north Queensland’s city of Cairns I visited Fitzroy Island just 40 minutes off the mainland where there’s a family friendly resort and a turtle rehabilitation centre . . . a fine endeavour indeed.

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In between the trips there was work: writing, writing, writing; sub editing, content creating, procrastination, lots of visits to the pool to avoid work; meeting friends for loving catchups and being grateful for this life.

Happy new year to friends, comrades, relatives, aquaintances and peers. May our collective year bring good health, good work, good times and good choices.

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In the pink in Long Beach, California where I caught up with my old mate Ronnie Woods.

 

 

 

 

Postcards from the Seaside

Postcards from the Seaside

Remembering a Christmas in England, and when on Boxing Day some friends went for a swim, in fact a very quick dip. Not me.

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I know my beaches. I grew up in Sydney and had the advantage of swimming at the great urban beaches in this part of Australia’s east coast. Golden sand, the smell of coconut oil and hot chips, squealing children and days so long that they went on forever.

And as I grew older and began to travel I became a bit of a beach snob. New Zealand Bay of Islands got the big tick; Fijian Islands got a tick; northern Bali with the black sand and tepid surf, no: Greece’s pebbly shores no but the water yes; the warm China Sea off the coast on Saba, Malaysia, no. And swimming in the Red Sea was fun but it sure wasn’t Bondi!

P1000641Checking out the surf.

When I lived in England in the 80s some friends and I (two Kiwis) took a trip from London to Brighton in January. Sweet Geezus…

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Bali cooking class

Bali cooking class

Many Aussies flock to Bali for their summer holidays. So, if you need a distraction from total relaxation . . .try a  little education, in the culinary mode. Read on.

I hadn’t planned to do anything strenuous on a holiday in Bali last year – just sleep, eat, swim. But life often has other plans. We had been in Ubud for a couple of days, happened upon a royal cremation that saw a few thousand people converge on the cultural and spiritual town of Ubud, about an hour’s drive from the capital Denpasar. Well, that was a colourful and jolly affair.

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The following day we did some slow sightseeing outside of town and then took a walk down a back road in Ubud. About to turn back because of the fierce heat and I spied the sign ‘Goya’ at the entrance of somewhere that looked rather fancy. Then a chap asked us if we’d like to take a look at the resort. Sure.

We walked through a spacious foyer breezeway and then stepped down and followed a path lined with tall bamboo crowding to create dappled shade.

Out of the shade and in front of us was an infinity pool (they are de rigueur in Bali), and to the left a canopy covered a lovely outdoor restaurant. Now, how does this happen? We talked to the staff for a few minutes and next thing, we had signed up for a cooking class to be held the following day.

I had partaken in a few cooking classes in the past, they were hands on but not comprehensive – maybe some chopping, plating up or dipping rice paper sheets into hot water. This was the real deal. Our chef was with us every step of the way. We were introduced to the variety of spices, and how to prepare the ingredients. We cut, diced, shaved and mortar and pestle wrestled a sambal into submission.

Despite the heat we toiled towards a fine lunch. The sambal spice was included in the Chicken Lawar, Pepes Ikan (barramundi) steamed inside banana leaf). Dessert was Sumping nangka (jack fruit).

Once we finished cooking the meal we were walked to a little cabana, were we given our certificates for being the best cooks ever to attend a cooking class here!

We ate really good food in Bali over an eight-day period BUT this was the best meal of all. True.

Included in the price of $AU45, is the class for a couple of hours, a reserved table to eat lunch and a video and pictures taken and emailed to us (these are the pics and the video) and for an extra $5 you can stay and swim in the infinity pool afterwards.

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For details: Goya, Bali cooking class  www.goyaboutiqueresort.com email: goya@goyaboutiqueresort.com

Writer Bev Malzard paid for this class herself and recommends the experience as fun and filling! Just a tip, wear makeup or tidy up for the video – she didn’t but thinks it could have been a winner as a Masterchef audition!

Hawaii: On time for a good time

Hawaii: On time for a good time

Celebrating punctuality, birthdays and the joy of a good scone.

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Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaiʻi’s hometown carrier for more than 90 years, remained the nation’s most punctual carrier in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, marking the 16th straight year its guests have enjoyed the best on-time performance in the U.S. industry.

Hawaiian’s flights averaged an 87.7 percent on-time rate in 2019, exceeding the U.S. industry average by 6.1 percentage points.

“Our more than 7,400 employees know how important it is for our guests to be on time, whether they are starting a family vacation in Hawaiʻi, or traveling between our islands for business or to visit their ʻohana, and I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishment,” said Peter Ingram, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines. “We recently observed our 90th anniversary and this ‘Sweet 16’ is definitely another achievement worth celebrating.”

Recently I had the good fortune to be on the island of Oahu, yes, I departed Sydney on time and arrived in Honolulu on time too. I was staying on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii for a little holiday and lo and behold there was a celebration happening at the same time. From previous posts you may remember that I have history with the airline and had written some flight reviews for Hawaiian Airlines after flying from Sydney to Los Angeles and this year from Sydney to Long Beach. https://travelgaltravels.com/2019/08/13/hawaiian-airlines-review

Hawaiian Airlines was celebrating a mighty 90-year anniverary of being in service. There were many events and I was invited along to watch burly staff members pull a plane . . .and after a ten second consideration decided that I would honour the event and the airline with my own special way of celebrating. But the details before my own shindig.

Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram (centre) celebrates the win with the HA Wide Body team (2)

Aloha! It was 90-years to the day since two Sikorsky S-38 amphibian aircraft took off from Honolulu’s John Rodgers Airport, introducing the islands to commercial aviation, Hawaiian Airlines held festivities in the air and on the ground on 11 November 2019 (HST) to thank customers and the local community for their support through its evolution from pioneer inter-island carrier to global airline.

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By the end of the day in Honolulu, the Hawaiian Airlines ohana (family) had even more reason to celebrate after its “OGG HCS Team Wide Body” took out the Grand Prize of the Great Hawaiian Plane Pull competition, outshining 67 other teams from across the Hawaiian community and corporate world. (OGG is the airport code for Kahului Airport on Maui.) Participants in the Great Hawaiian Plane Pull competition raised $33,000 for Hawaiian’s longtime environmental nonprofit partner, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

AND  . . .

while these happy and worthy events were happening, we were seated on the verandah of the Moana Surfrider Hotel overlooking a sparkling Pacific Ocean and readying ourselves for the legendary high tea. YES, this is how I roll when an event is a monumental milestone. I raise my porcelin cup of tea and salute Hawaiian Airlines.

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I quickly forgot the reason I was there and began the sweet shenanigans! There are many nice touches to the ‘tea’ and first off we were handed a bamboo fluted fan to keep our cool composure. A glass of sparkling wine followed and the food delivery began. As you can see by the menu, there was an exellent variety to choose from – we chose every morsel.

I had a moment of almost discontent when I saw the scones had blueberries in them and lemon curd had replaced the traditional jam to have with cream. Although going against tradition, I forgave Hawaii and took both scones for the team. Delicious and lemon curd? Who knew?

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There is a kind of hush as guests come towards the end of the high tea. Crumbs are scattered on white linen tablecloths and the teired cake stand, stands alone, empty and now neglected. The elegant Chinese tea in the pot has been emptied and quiet murmurs of verbal smiles echo along the verandah.

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Mission accomplished. And a very happy birthday to Hawaiian Airlines and many more to come!

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You’re welcome.

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How to sip and glamp

How to sip and glamp

 

In the gentle grip of the grape. 

When you are ready and able to take a road trip out of Sydney, head towards Orange in the central west of NSW.

Rustic but refined, this experience sets you in the middle of classic Australian terrain – generous glamping and a spectacular cellar door next door. Everybody needs good neighbours.

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 Was I having sheep dreams? I wake to the sounds of a variety of bird song, some chirpy, some a little glum, some positively raucous. Then the bleat of sheep. But I was in the middle of a vineyard. I stepped outside and on a narrow path through one of the vineyard rows I spied a line of sheep, cream coloured except for one black sheep being led by a haughty alpaca. In front on the lawn was a duck and two rabbits. To my right I turned to see the soft glaze of an early morning mist still settled on the land looking all the while like a scene from a Hans Heysen painting. Where was I again?

I’m standing on the deck of a splendid ‘glamping cabin’, one of two sitting on the edge of 17 hectares, 900 metres above sea level in the Nashdale Lane Vineyard, just outside the western NSW city of Orange.

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To the left I see the rather cool building that is a repurposed 60-year-old apple packing shed, now a rather fine cellar door with large windows drawing in the view of the surrounding rolling land, neighbouring vineyard, a few wandering cattle and the view to Mount Canobolas.

I give a silent nod of thanks and respect to the the mountain – it’s because of this extinct volcano that the rich, fertile land gives guts and glory to the wine grown here.

Take a sip

Nick and Tanya (Ryan-Segger) Segger (below) took on this property in 2000 and have turned it into a productive, all Australian owned winery. Wine and cellar door is the core business of this property with small groups turning up for serious tastings and considered purchasing.

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Wine tastings of the full range of wines include:

Whites –  “the social” blanc (Pinot Gris, Riesling & Arneis blend), Pinot Gris, Riesling, Fumé Blanc (lightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc), Chardonnay.

Reds – “the social” rosé, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Shiraz.

The labels are creatively designed, with a delicate graphic edge. The necks of the bottles have coloured stripes that indicate the type of wine the bottle is housing.

After a relaxed and comprehensive wine tasting in the afternoon we at Nashdale Lane Wines we head to our accommodation for the night. The glamping cabins are large and impressive (there are two only, which adds to the exclusivity of the destination).

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Now, I’m not a camper but I am a glamper. This accommodation suits the terrain and has a rustic, familiar and distinctive Aussie short break attitude. And it promises a carbon-neutral footprint with the almost au natural experience of camping – with benefits!

Glamping here does not compromise on comfort and style. (Nashdale Lane Glamping Cabins are designed for couples only and children are not allowed.)

We step up on the outdoor deck (barbecue sitting patiently and ready for action) and unzip the front door. The floor is hardwood throughout and the entire construction is to a high standard of state-of-the-art fabric.

There’s a well-designed little kitchen with everything you need to whip up a gourmet meal. Coffee, tea, salt and pepper, muesli and local olive oil are at the ready.

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There’s a large couch, an eclectic selection of books and magazines, a four-poster bed with high thread cotton sheets and a romantic muslin net folded around the beams. I particularly loved the bathroom, smelling all woody and Scandinavian. The fab shower (which is hot and powerful) is in an open rectangular curve of corrugated iron. There’s a basin and toilet and a couple of windows to roll up for extra light.

But on this chilly night the star of the show is a wood fire (totally safe) and with the wood cut and supplied it promoted a roaring blaze, a heady scent of wood and mighty warmth.

And for a short couple of days we immersed ourselves in ‘disconnection’. Relaxation, frequent naps, pristine mountain air and the fully Monty of a glorious night sky thick with stars.

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The zipper on the cabin door was a little stiff as we tried to leave – was it the universe trying to tell us to stay longer?

(And back to the sheep and alpaca on the early morning walk: they are called the ‘lawn mowing team’, lent to the Eggers by a generous neighbour to keep the grass down in a gentle way.)

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The Cellar Door is open 7 days a week. Sunday to Friday – midday to 4pm.Visit:

Saturday – 11am to 5pm. Enhanced food & wine tasting available. 

Tastings are $10 per person redeemable on purchase.

To ensure delivering a great wine tasting experience, groups of six or more are encouraged to book ahead.

Visit https://nashdalelane.com

Nashdale Lane Wines are located just under 10 minutes outside of Orange, NSW. We can be found by searching us up on Google & Apple Maps or by entering our address 125 Nashdale Lane, Nashdale, NSW.

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Five local highlights

Five minutes from Nashdale Lane Vineyard to Orange and you are in the heart of excellent food, so try myriad gold standard restaurants and cafes – there are more  than you can poke a fork at.

  1. Mr Lim – we had the drunken duck and dumplings. The standout dish of the trip was sweet and sour pork – divine. $$$
  2. Lolli Redini – slow cooked wagyu beef, barramundi and a splendid souffle at this classic Italian restaurant. $$$$
  3. Visit the Orange Visitors Centre – lots of great info from really lovely, informed staff. And there are regular exhibitions on too.
  4. Drive to the top of Mount Canobolas for brilliant views of the city and surrounds.
  5. On the drive back to Sydney and a few minutes out of Orange, visit 2 Fat Ladies café and lolly shop. Freshly baked fluffy scones (so good) and a good cuppa are on offer for a superb morning tea. $$

 

 

 

Postcards from the Seaside

Postcards from the Seaside

I know my beaches. I grew up in Sydney and had the advantage of swimming at the great urban beaches in this part of Australia’s east coast. Golden sand, the smell of coconut oil and hot chips, squealing children and days so long that they went on forever.

And as I grew older and began to travel I became a bit of a beach snob. New Zealand Bay of Islands got the big tick; Fijian Islands got a tick; northern Bali with the black sand and tepid surf, no: Greece’s pebbly shores no but the water yes; the warm China Sea off the coast on Saba, Malaysia, no. And swimming in the Red Sea was fun but it sure wasn’t Bondi!

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Checking out the surf.

When I lived in England in the 80s some friends and I (two Kiwis) took a trip from London to Brighton in January. Sweet Geezus it was cold. The ice-chill breeze slowly making its way off the water would freeze eyeballs and I couldn’t believe my half-frozen eyes at what was happening on the pebble-strewn beach. With the tide out there was an enormous stretch of beach and all along it, what looked like people were sitting in deck chairs, rugged up against the wind, enjoying the fresh air and the diluted sunshine – it almost appeared as a work of cruel sculpture art – but no, they were real – the great English Stoics at play.

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The long, long, long Victorian pier.

From then on I gained an appreciation for the beaches along the coast of England, wild waves coming in from The Atlantic, pounding water from the North Sea, gentle warm (not really) currents on the Cornwell coast and the lovely sweeping beaches of North East England. Each have their own charm and although I couldn’t cope with a swim, they are a delight to walk along and even paddle (briefly).

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Saltburn-by-the-Sea in County Durham, North Yorkshire seen on a sunny day is a delight and edges towards being star of an old Ealing comedy movie.

 

The retro chic of Saltburn is enticing. The long, long Victorian pier juts into the sea and it’s here you’ll see many a surfer (wearing wetsuits) out on OK-size waves.

There’s a water-powered ‘cliff lift’, a peculiar funicular (above) that runs modestly between the upper and lower parts of town. Along the promenade of the beach there’s an ice-cream shop and sweet little ‘beach huts’ where the owners spend time out of the wind among their jauntily decorated tiny house.

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So if you get the urge to explore more than the cities and green fields of England and have a desire to be beside the seaside, check out the east coast of England – you won’t be disappointed.

Author Bev Malzard did not have one swim here.

More info: http://www.visitbritain.com

Copyright: All rights reserved.

Art Deco capital of New Zealand (and possibly the planet)

Art Deco capital of New Zealand (and possibly the planet)

Not often you get to thank a natural disaster and community tragedy for a splendid architectural creation. In February 1931 a bastard of an earthquake rocked Napier, a town on Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the north island of New Zealand. The ‘quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale and rocked the Hawke’s Bay area for more than three long minutes. There were 260 lives lost and the vast majority of Napier’s town centre structures were destroyed, either by the earthquake of the following fires.

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It wasn’t long after the earthquake that the Kiwis rallied and do what they do best – got on with it! Rebuilding began and much of it was completed in two years. Architects were on the spectrum of quirky and ambitious and the new buildings reflected the architectural styles of the times – stripped classical, Spanish Mission and Art Deco.

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Local architect Louis Hay, an admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, had his moment to shine! Maori motifs emerged to give the city an identifiable New Zealand character – just check out the ASB bank on the corner of Hastings and Emerson Streets that features Maori koru and zigzags.

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I recently visited Napier for the first time and driving into the city centre on a bright sunny day I was thrilled to be immersed in this stylish time capsule. And driving further afield around Hawke’s Bay (just out-of-town to find the cultish ice cream parlour Rush Munro’s, which has been here since 1926. And yes, I had a double scoop for research purposes, hokey pokey and vanilla, and yes, it was divine), you drive along a tree-lined boulevard waterfront. Marine Parade is where you drive slowly and capture the extent of the bay.

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Napier’s city centre displays a seamless line of 1930s architecture is quite extraordinary. Enjoy the streetscape via a self-guided walk – ask for a map at the information centre or at the Art Deco Trust. Guided walks around the city are also available every day rain or shine (except Christmas Day!).

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Every February, Napier celebrates its heritage with the Art Deco weekend – a stylish celebration of all things 1930’s, including vintage cars, fashion and music. So get your flapper on, tilt your boater at a rackish angle and do the Charleston, drink pink cocktails and throw caution to the wind.

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Napier’s other special attractions include the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and the many vineyards that make good use of the region’s alluvial soils. Pinot Gris and Syrah are the region’s signature drops. On Saturday mornings, the Napier farmers’ market is a chance to shop for artisan foods and fresh produce.

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Writer, Bev Malzard ate ice cream, had dinner at the Thirsty Whale Restaurant and Bar and stayed just outside of town at the Albatross Motel, Westshore Napier. She will learn to dance and hold a long cigarette holder before her next visit.

Visit: http://www.artdeconapier.com ; http://www.napiernz.com and get your art deco vibe happening n 2018!

 

How to Luxury Cruise

Cruising in luxury is attainable. But be warned, once experienced . . . you can never go back .

DSC03176To experience a small ship, elegant surroundings, gourmet bespoke restaurants, places to visit that only small ships can snuggle into and . . . to have a butler on hand is something to save and strive for.

OK, this takes money but so do other cruises that aren’t so exclusive . . . so pick your luxury cruise and work towards it. This will be an incredible experience, and quite likely ruin you for any mega ship trips.

Silversea Cruises was, and is my company of choice for the ultimate ‘spoil yourself rotten’ experience. Our ship from the fleet is Silver Muse.

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Sliversea Cruises has itineraries that will take you to ply the waters of many countries and continents across the world.

My cruise was from Singapore to Bali. We overnighted at the elegant Shangri-La in Singapore and took off the next morning for a luxurious, soft cruisy adventure.

We were welcomed onboard warmly by white-gloved staff and promptly escorted to our suite. A large suite opened up with fresh flowers on the table, a bottle of bubbly on ice, a large balcony and two tricky TV’s that were really mirrors that were also TV’s. (I suddenly became technically challenged re the mirrored tv – one in front of the bed and one in the ‘living’ room.) Our butler smoothly fixed it all – with no judgement.

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Around the world and around the clock, every suite comes with a dedicated butler to pamper you with personalised attention and take care of every detail of the voyage

As the ship departed Singapore my sense of well-being was at an all-time high and my sense of adventure on alert!

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We explored the ship to scope out where all the restaurants were located and planned to try all of them before the cruise ended. The main restaurant, The Restaurant is where our first meal was tasted and we ate outside with new friends. From that night on whether at breakfast, lunch or dinner – the staff remembered how I like my coffee and which brand of tea I preferred. From the first meal, gastronomic excellence was on the menu – and we tried and tested every meal – and could not find fault. As if.

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Exploring

After a gentle sleep out first day was at sea. A day to be pampered at the Zagara Spa – nothing like a good massage to get the endorphins into shape.

We checked out the boutique, small with selective items, the theatre, the intimate nooks to read and relax and enjoyed lunch on the pool deck – a casual plate of curry with a cold beer set the tone for the afternoon.

Jakarta hadn’t made my ‘must visit’ travel list so the excursion on the second day was a dive into the sprawling, traffic-crazed place that was a frenetic introduction to a city swelling with 18 million inhabitants.

The city displays the richness of the new buildings, malls, business centres and fancy hotels alongside rows of shanty homes and evidence of entrenched poverty.

No apologies for anything in Jakarta and best way to enjoy is to take in the museums, central Jakarta’s towering National Monument or somewhere more my speed, Jalan Surabaya’s gaggle of shops and kiosks where there is eclectic items for sale. Retro rules here and you can pick up old Elvis records, vintage handbags or curious art pieces.

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My favourite stop in Jakarta was in the Old Town, where all of life is seen in Fatahilla Square. This is where the famous Wayang Museum (founded in 1975) houses exquisite puppets from all regions of Indonesia and neighbouring countries. The museum is built on a site that dates back to 1640.

But we almost missed the highlight of the square, Café Batavia. We had been looking for love in all the wrong places! This divine café hails from the 1830s and oozes character. Colonial style furniture in dark wood and tall slatted windows, Dutch-era food blended with the spices of Indonesia, invite you in. We missed what was coming in the evening though – live music on stage every night.

Out of the steamy heat of the spice islands and onboard the Silver Muse for the promise of a grand evening ahead in the prettiest restaurant on the ship – Indochine – for an elegant array of tastings from the Asian region reflected in the name.

Next day after breakfast in bed (ooooh the luxury of this), thank you our fave butler. And today was freewheeling on an island by ourselves. A quick tender trip to Karimunjawa, a tropical hideaway where the Silver Muse staff had set up food and drinks while us spoilt passengers swam and lazed about. A grand day indeed.

After such a big day out – it was pizzas on deck and a movie afterwards.

And the exploration continues. Next day we berth in the intriguing port of Semarang, with its network of narrow canals. The city is a mix of various times in history Chinese, Dutch, Javanese influences are seen in temples, mosques and lattice-fronted cottages. Then a drive to the mother load – Borobudur – one of the most photographed Buddhist shrines on the world.

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A UNESCO World Heritage site, this massive complex is the ultimate guide to enlightenment. Surrounded by lush scenic forests and trimmed gardens the mountainous structure sprawls and invites the hardy to climb, and climb and climb. I didn’t quite reach Nirvana (it was too hot) but got a few spiritual stamps for my effort.

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It was built around 780-850AD and wasn’t exposed to western eyes until 1814 when Thomas Stamford Raffles stumbled up it (he really got around didn’t he?).

After our architectural, spiritual and physical exertions we were lead to a covered annex, where lunch was and were entertained by a local traditional dance troupe.

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Another long day and time to try the Atlantide restaurant which is so popular that we had to book the day before.

What a gloriously luxurious cruise this has been. And not a stuffy note on any given day.

And towards the end of the journey we counted our ship experiences against the excursions – it was a tie! Well, maybe except for the trivia afternoons – it got pretty damn competitive, but fun.

Sad to leave the stunning Silver Muse to re-join the real life but as we left we gave a list of our favourite places to our butler and his mate our room attendant who were going to have a couple of days off in Sydney soon. Sharing the love. It’s all relative isn’t it.

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