Wednesday, April 29, 2009

National Motor Museum, Birdwood

~ The Australian National Motor Museum is located in the Adelaide hills town of Birdwood.

You don’t have to be a petrol head or car enthusiast to appreciate Australia’s biggest motoring collection of 300 vintage, veteran, post war, classic and modern cars. Oh, and let’s not forget the commercial vehicles and the 100+ motorcycles.

As you walk through the contemporary pavilions and the ever changing exhibition spaces, you encounter the stories, people and vehicles that have shaped Australia’s motoring history through the decades. From the early imports of the 1920s and ‘30s, and the rise of Australian manufacturing in the ‘40s and ‘50s, through to the sleek designs of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and finally on to the latest in modern engineering and high performance racing of today. You can even test yourself in the state-of-the-art virtual driving simulator.

Among the famous and little know vehicles in the Museum are the 1899 steam-powered Shearer, the oldest Australian built vehicle still running. You will also find the legendary Leyland Brothers Land Rover; a 1922 electric powered car designed for female drivers, and the famous Birdsville Track mail delivery truck operated by Tom Kruse, to name just a few.

A visit to the National Motor Museum will give you an appreciation of how motor vehicles opened up Australia, linking some of the most isolated communities and cities in the world. Make sure you look for the Talbot, the first car to cross the continent in 1908. What an incredible journey that must have been!

The Museum also hosts various special events, including the finish of the world-renowned Bay to Birdwood vintage car run which takes place each year in September.

With extensive grounds for picnics, free BBQs, an playground, café, souvenir shop and free activities for children, the National Motor Museum has something for everyone.

Adult $9.00; Conc $7.00; Child $4.00 (children under 5 free); Family $24.00 (2 adults, up to 6 children)
School Groups: $3.50 per student
Groups of more than 20: $7.00 per adult $6.50 concession, bookings essential

Getting There: Hills Bus Services
Affordable Coachlines of Lobethal have a bus service to Birdwood. The service is available seven days a week. Take any O'Bahn bus from Grenfell Street in the city to Modbury Interchange, Tea Tree Plaza (trip time approximately 30 mins). Then you can catch a 800 or 801 bus from Modbury to Birdwood and back again. Cost (each way): $5.50 for adults, $2.75 for concession. For more information contact Affordable Coachlines on (08) 8389 5566.

The Hills Explorer bus will take you to Birdwood for a round trip price of $40 per person. This includes pick up from an arranged place in Adelaide CBD, drop off at Birdwood, and return to Adelaide CBD. For bookings and enquiries phone 0411 725 603.

National Motor Museum
Birdwood, South Australia
Open Daily: 10am-5pm (closed Christmas Day)
Phone: (08) 8568 4000

IMAGE: Courtesy
Bay to Birdwood website…

Friday, April 24, 2009

House Swapping for Seniors

~ Here is a second article about house swapping courtesy of the Aussie House Swap website. The first entry can be found here...

When you start to examine the sorts of people who take readily to house swapping, it comes as no surprise to see seniors well represented.

Naturally, many of the advantages of house swapping for holidays apply equally to seniors as they do to couples and families with children.
Rather than repeat them here, I'll refer you to our articles discussing these in detail. (House Swaps - the practical way to holiday and House Swapping - homemade for families)

As well as most of these advantages, the special circumstances of seniors give them some extra incentives and benefits when it comes to house swaps.

For example, when seniors take a holiday, they're not only looking at the out of pocket costs — which working couples can eventually recoup from their wages, salaries and overtime — but as retirees, seniors are looking to preserve a finite and probably dwindling retirement nest egg, which they have little or no chance of replenishing to any great extent.

Thus they generally have to watch their reserves pretty carefully, when it comes to fun things like holidays. House swapping is therefore especially attractive, with its "cost-of-travel-only" advantages.

Besides, seniors are less likely to be heading for the theme parks and carnivals than are the younger generation. For them, a house in the country or a cattle station is often just as attractive as a seaside resort or a big-city property (if not more so). This means that they're often available for those swaps which are not as popular with families (whether for reasons of location or season).

I spoke to several senior couples who had exchanged houses through Aussie House Swap. Here are some of the things they pointed to as their reasons for house swapping (and some distinguishing factors, compared to the younger fry):

One couple were especially conscious of the "shrinking nest-egg syndrome," and saving money was high on their list of reasons for swapping. Exploring the country was another of their motivations, so they planned swaps that would allow them to visit preferred locations over a period of months each year.

Having decided to register with Aussie House Swap, another senior couple had a definite preference for swapping with other seniors. They were clearly more comfortable leaving their home in the care of another retired couple, than having families staying in their house.

Senior house swaps are often for longer periods than family swaps. This just makes sense, given that retirees have more available time, and can swap more easily in non-holiday periods than families, whose predominant reason for swapping is to enjoy inexpensive vacations in fun locations.

Factors like these no doubt account for the high percentage of retired people amongst our growing house-swapping base.

As well as straight swap overs covering the identical period of time, some people (especially seniors) enjoy "hosting" another couple, then later on being hosted by them in return. This simply means that the owners remain at home, and host their swap partners as guests and visitors for an agreed period. They enjoy each other's company, do some exploring and shopping together, see some of the sights, and perhaps fish or play a round of golf together.

Then at a later date, they reverse the process. The hosts become the visitors, just as the visitors become the hosts in their home and town.

Hosting is a great way to build new friendships, and increase mutual empathy and understanding between people of different backgrounds and from different parts of the country, or even overseas.

How much does it cost?
Aussie House Swap membership is only $65 per year! However, if you do not manage to house swap in your first year we will give you another 12 months membership absolutely free! This is our guarantee to you! For $65 (less than the cost of one nights motel accommodation) you can make as many house swaps as you like within your 12 months.

Article courtesy of Aussie House Swap website. Like our Partner site, Home Away, Aussie House Swap gives you the opportunity to stay in someone else’s home, while they stay in yours.

Image for illustration purposes only

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Circular Quay, Sydney

~ I was not expecting the delightful shock I got as the train from Petersham slowed into Circular Quay.
The first thing I saw was the Sydney Opera House, followed quickly by the sweep of the Harbour spread out in all its glory, and then my first view of the Harbour Bridge.

The designers of the Circular Quay station complex clearly had one eye focused on the view too, since parts of the platform were open to the elements, and afforded good lines of sight to the Bridge, Harbour and Opera House.

The pulsing thrum of a didgeridoo, accompanied by a pounding techno beat drifted up from the street below. Before I left the station, I took the obligatory photographs of the view but left the Opera House and Bridge for later, since I couldn’t quite get perfect shots of either.

Down on the street, I slowly walked around to the Opera House, pausing to watch the didgeridoo player; the human statue dressed as an Anzac digger, and other sundry buskers. At the foot of the sweeping steps leading up to the entrance of the Opera House, I stopped to admire the grand vision of Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect who designed one of Australia’s true iconic buildings.

Up close, the building isn’t as imposing as you might expect, and yet there is something unique and beautiful about the Opera House’s form and design that constantly delights the eye. Certainly, the location – on one of the most stunning natural harbours in the world – plays a big part in its ongoing appeal.

I’m sure too, its accessibility and visibility plays a huge part in that appeal. After all, both the Bridge and the Opera House are clearly visible from so much of the Harbour, that both might even be in danger of being taken for granted, despite their status as uniquely Australian icons.

Despite the grey skies and the occasional rain shower, I kept my camera close at hand as I tried to capture the Opera House and Harbour Bridge at unusual angles, or as unconventionally as I could, while a constant flow of ferries, water taxis, cruise boats, and other water craft came and went from Circular Quay.

I never thought I’d say this, but I think the area around Circular Quay is as vibrant, exciting, and involving as any similar part of New York City (where I spent two months last year).

New York of course, has many other attractions to delight and excite, but they tend to be spread right across Manhattan. Sydney on the other hand, has concentrated some of its premier attractions and views in a relatively central area, and you can easily spend a full day in and around Circular Quay and still not see all that the area has to offer.

I’m hoping for at least several ‘perfect’ days during the rest of my Sydney visit. On one of these I will venture out onto the water via the many ferries that crisscross the Harbour, and try and capture the city skyline, Harbour Bridge and Opera House from one of these off shore platforms.
Until then, I will have just have to keep dodging the rain showers, and be patient.

Image: Sydney skyline reflected in windows of the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Photographer: Jim Lesses

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top 10 Destinations for Opera Lovers: Part 2

~ Frommer's asked the editors of OPERA NEWS magazine, whose European Travel issue hits newsstands mid-April, to come up with the top 10 destinations that should be included on every opera lover's roadmap this year.

I listed the first five (in no particular order), in an earlier posting on this blog.

Here are the last five top destinations for lovers of opera.

Has any place inspired more operas than Paris, perhaps the most romantic city on earth? Paris's newest home for opera is the spacious but somewhat chilly Opéra de la Bastille, which boasts an unrestricted view of the stage from each of its 2,700 seats, but the city's most famous operatic landmark remains the opulent nineteenth-century Palais Garnier, familiar to lovers of Broadway's Phantom of the Opera. Don't miss a chance to visit Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, an Art Deco masterpiece that is one of Europe's prettiest theaters, or the devastatingly elegant Théatre du Châtelet. Also worth a trip is the Salle Favart, its frothy good looks an apt metaphor for the light-hearted attractions of its home company, the Opéra-Comique.

THE UNITED STATES: Civic Opera House, Chicago
Chicago's Civic Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in a city that prides itself on its architecture. Built in 1929, this ageless amalgam of Renaissance revival and Art Deco has superb acoustics, excellent sightlines and sumptuous public spaces, including a handsomely proportioned lobby designed by Jules Guerin. The theatre was home to several Chicago opera companies before its most distinguished tenant, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, arrived in 1954. The Lyric established the City of Big Shoulders as an international opera capital, offering the opera world's brightest stars in top-notch productions. After the Lyric season ends in late winter, Chicago's opera lovers hold on until spring, when the adventurous Chicago Opera Theatre presents its three-opera season at the slick new Harris Theatre for Music and Dance in Millennium Park.

SWEDEN: The Drottningholm Court Theatre
Built in 1766 for the Swedish queen, Lovisa Ulrika, the Drottningholm Court Theatre-located in the Royal Domain of Drottningholm, only a short bus or boat ride from the capital city of Stockhom-is a thing of exquisite artifice. The theatre was a beehive of musical and theatrical activity during the late eighteenth century, but when Lovisa Ulrika's son (and political enemy), King Gustaf III was assassinated-an event used as the basis for Verdi's opera Un Ballo in Maschera,-the theatre fell into disuse; it was a storage facility for much of the nineteenth century. Drottningholm was recalled to life in the 1920s and now presents a brief summer season each year, with the repertory usually drawn from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Spring and summer tours of the theatre and the palace grounds are relatively infrequent, in order to spare its eighteenth-century charms from the wear-and-tear of twenty-first-century life. Early booking is advisable.

In 1957, New York conductor John Crosby started an opera company in a highly unlikely locale: the breathtaking mountains of northern New Mexico. Crosby's impossible dream has endured: every July and August since then, Santa Fe Opera has presented an imaginative, exciting mix of familiar classics, rarely-performed treasures and brand-new works, their casts generally populated by the best young singers in America. Opera lovers from all over the world have been thrilled by Santa Fe's singular natural beauty, an element in the company's appeal celebrated by its dramatically proportioned adobe theatre, which has unequalled views of the high desert landscape - and the heart-stopping beauty of its sunsets. Daytime hours in Santa Fe can be spent sampling the myriad charms of the city itself and of its thriving local community of world-class artists and artisans.

ENGLAND: Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Sussex
The thoroughly English character of Glyndebourne Festival Opera reflects the personality of its eccentric founder, John Christie, who developed the ambitious scheme to offer festival-quality opera performances on his East Sussex estate beginning in 1934. Christie's original theatre was eventually replaced by a completely new facility in 1994, but the abiding presence of the Christie home and the continued involvement of Christie's descendants in festival life have allowed Glyndebourne to retain much of its original atmosphere. The operas of Mozart have been at the core of Glyndebourne's repertory for all of its existence, but more esoteric fare - including some world premieres - is also among the company specialties.

About Frommer's
The market leader in travel guides, Frommer's has a guide for every type of traveler-from the sophisticated world traveler to the first-time student traveler on a tight budget. Frommer's publishes more than 300 guides and sells 2.5 million guides annually, reaching 7 million travellers who count on Frommer's for exact prices, savvy trip-planning, sightseeing advice, dozens of detailed maps, and candid reviews of hotels and restaurants in every price range. Frommer's-the best trips start here. is a comprehensive, opinionated travel resource featuring more than 3,500 world destinations.

Image courtesy Civic Opera House, Chicago

Monday, April 20, 2009

Top 10 Destinations for Opera Lovers: Part 1

~ As spring opera season approaches, music lovers are seeking ways to experience their favourite classics on the right stage.

Whether paying homage to St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater to experience the Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini classics to taking in the mountainous landscape backdrop at the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico, audiophiles understand that the authenticity of a performance is often rooted in the theatre’s history and location.

Frommer's has asked the editors of OPERA NEWS magazine, whose European Travel issue hits newsstands mid-April, to come up with the top 10 destinations that should be included on every opera lover's roadmap this year.

Here (in no particular order), are the first five top destinations for lovers of opera. In a forthcoming post, I will list the other five destinations.

GERMANY: International Handel Festival, Göttingen
Home to the world's oldest Baroque music festival, this tiny, half-timbered university town in Lower Saxony fêtes the glories of George Friedrich Handel's artistic output for two weeks each summer. A profusion of top-notch chamber concerts, late-night recitals and oratorio performances make use of the village's fetching historical venues, while opera presentations in the 500-seat Deutsches Theater boast the kind of cosy authenticity that is the stuff of dreams for period-instrument purists.

RUSSIA: The Mariinsky Theater, St. Petersburg
Named for its royal benefactress, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Tsar Alexander II, and inaugurated in October 1860 with a performance of Mikhail Glinka's A Life for the Tsar, the Mariinsky Theater remains a crown jewel in the cultural life of St. Petersburg. The beautifully restored welcomes Mozart, Verdi and Puccini favourites as well as once-forgotten operas by Russia's own Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Rimsky-Korsakov. During the summer months, the theatre glittering White Nights Festival draws operatic and classical music royalty - along with nearly one million Russians - to St. Petersburg for the motherland's largest public event.

IRELAND: The Wexford Festival, Wexford
This south eastern Irish town's opera festival, which runs through October and November, abounds with a distinctly Gaelic allure. A sense of discovery that's just as potent as the municipality's omnipresent aroma of burning peat proves to be this festival's calling card: emerging young stars take part in little-known operas, presented with remarkable musical and dramatic merits under artistic director David Agler. Away from the festival's presentations, one can find myriad opportunities to revel in Wexford's charms, from poetry recitations in Thomas Moore Tavern to incomparable suppers at Forde's Restaurant and - should the muse strike you – the Guinness International Singing & Swinging Pub competition.

From the Metropolitan Opera, to Carnegie Hall, to a thrillingly modernized Alice Tully Hall - and let's not forget about outer-borough venues like the unique Brooklyn Academy of Music - there's a reason New York remains the cultural capital of the world. The Metropolitan Opera, now operating under the auspices of its innovative general manager Peter Gelb, has become an increasingly accessible institution. Likewise, a revitalized New York Philharmonic, led by native-son Alan Gilbert, can tackle symphonic rep ranging from Bach to Schoenberg. Splendid Manhattan-bound classical and operatic fare need not be experienced within confines of the Upper West Side, though: Le Poisson Rouge, a trendy Bleecker Street nightclub presents some of the best jazz, contemporary-classical and chamber music the city has to offer, allows its patrons to quaff hearty hefeweizens or smoky pinot noirs in an atmosphere so easygoing as to make Brahms and Ellington seem like kissing cousins.

ITALY: Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Milan's operatic history - which dates back to the seventeenth century - is no less dazzling than the world-famous fashion houses that make this city one of the modern world's top destinations for cutting-edge design. [Teatro alla Scala has been the city's operatic pride and joy since the eighteenth century: the official opening of the La Scala season is almost always on December 7, the feast day of St. Ambrose, Milan's patron.] La Scala remains hallowed ground on which divas-in-the-making must prove their mettle, and where the world first heard Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Verdi's Otello, Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, Rossini's Turco in Italia and Bellini's Norma - and scores of other classics.

About Frommer's
The market leader in travel guides, Frommer's has a guide for every type of traveler-from the sophisticated world traveler to the first-time student traveler on a tight budget. Frommer's publishes more than 300 guides and sells 2.5 million guides annually, reaching 7 million travellers who count on Frommer's for exact prices, savvy trip-planning, sightseeing advice, dozens of detailed maps, and candid reviews of hotels and restaurants in every price range. Frommer's-the best trips start here. is a comprehensive, opinionated travel resource featuring more than 3,500 world destinations.

Image courtesy Mariinsky Theater website

Sunday, April 19, 2009

National Migration Museum, Adelaide

~ The National Migration Museum, Adelaide tells a story of the state of South Australia and the people who migrated to it over many years.

It is the story of their courage and heartbreak, their struggles and successes, all brought to life through an ever changing interactive series of displays documenting the states unique cultural heritage.

By showcasing the objects that shaped the lives of the early settlers; possessions, official documents, family heirlooms, and other everyday objects, visitors get a powerful insight into the waves of immigration across the decades.

A visit to the Migration Museum lets you experience the rich blend of cultural diversity that makes up South Australia while you learn about people from different backgrounds, ages and experiences who have together shaped our identity.

Through sight and sound, the journey unfolds to reveal: early settlers in the 19th century and their impact on Aboriginal Australians; post-war migrants and the ‘ten pound Poms’; the White Australia Policy of the 20th century; and refugees, asylum seekers, and the multicultural debate of recent years.

While there, visit the Museum’s special gallery, The Forum, where community groups have an opportunity to present their own personal stories in their own way.

The Migration Museum has its own unique history, that is worth retelling.

It used to be part of Adelaide’s Destitute Asylum housing the poor and homeless from 1852 until 1918. Today, a permanent display called Behind The Wall tells this often tragic story.

Finally, a Memorial Wall acknowledges the many people who were forced to leave their homelands, and seek refuge in Australia, while a Reconciliation Plaque is dedicated to the Kaurna people (pron: Gar-na), the first inhabitants of the Adelaide plains.

Location:82 Kintore Avenue
Adelaide, South Australia,
Open Daily (except Christmas Day and Good Friday)
Monday-Friday: 10am-5pmWeekends and Public Holidays: 1pm-5pm
Entry: FREE

Current Exhibitions
Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café

4 April – 28 September 2009

Selling an American Dream: Australia's Greek Café is a photographic exhibition now on at the Migration Museum.

Every time you drink a Coke, enjoy an ice cream or sweet chocolate treat, go to the cinema, or listen to the latest popular music hit, you can thank Australia's Greek settlers.

Greek cafés in Australia were a Trojan horse for the Americanisation of this nation's eating and socio-cultural habits from the very start of the twentieth century. They initially introduced American commercial food catering ideas, technology and products and later influenced the development of cinema and popular music.

The Greek café helped transform Australian popular culture. This exhibition not only looks at how this was done, but also the personal stories of those involved.

The exhibition explores the key role that Greek Australians played during formative years of Australian culture. The curators are Macquarie University historian, Leonard Janiszewski, and documentary photographer, Effy Alexakis.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Song For The Open Road

~ Day two of my road trip to Sydney unfolded with a beautiful, cold dawn, and the sight of a lone fox loping across an open field as it presumably headed home to its lair.

Breakfast in Ouyen consisted of coffee and bacon and eggs on toast, followed by a delicious vanilla slice from the local bakery. And why not? After all, Ouyen hosts an annual Vanilla Slice Festival, that attracts bakers from far and wide competing to see who can take the prize for making the best slice! Hey, in a tight tourist market, any angle will do if it helps get the visitors in.

Apparently, the former Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett stopped in at the local bakery about ten years ago for a coffee and piece of this delightful delicacy. He was so taken with the cake, that he quickly conceived of the idea for the Vanilla Slice Festival, which now takes place every September in this small rural Victorian country town.

And yes, I can thoroughly recommend the local delight.

This is my song for the open road,
The blue sky, and the lighter load.
The heart filled with a joyful song;
The summer breeze pushing us along.
© 2009. Jim Lesses. All Rights Reserved.

Dry. Everything is so dry.

Murphy’s Swamp? Dry. It probably hasn’t been a ‘swamp’ for years.

Creeks and rivers? Dry. Who knows when they last ran with flowing water? Or for how long. All along the highway, signs just before isolated country towns tell the tale: Stage 3 water restrictions in force. Sometimes the luckier towns, those with a more regular supply of the precious liquid only face Stage 2 or even Stage 1 water restrictions. But it seems that virtually all towns face some level of water restrictions.

Meet The Press
One of my rituals whenever I take a road trip is to purchase local papers in the towns I stop in. I do this to get a snapshot of what issues and concerns are foremost in the minds of the local communities.

Many of these local papers are quite small, often no more than 8-16 pages. The North West Express, at eight pages, is no exception. It even contained an extra two page agricultural supplement, the Mallee Ag. News.

The main front page story (which spilled over to consume the whole of page two), concerned the Mallee Track Health & Community Service 2009 Debutante Ball, at which nine “beautifully dressed young ladies and their partners were presented…”

Another front page story presented a progress report on the forthcoming Wild Dog Mail Trek, which appears to be one of those events designed to test participants to the limit. This event apparently covers a distance of 68 kms, and according to the organizer, Terry Gibson “Walkers… have to be super fit (and a little mad) as there is no vehicle access to rescue them when they get out in the Wyperfeld Wilderness Zone.”

Meanwhile, the Mallee Ag. News supplement offered 'Top Tips To Be Water Savvy', which, given the parlous state of the water situation in the region – already noted above – seemed to be very timely.

Distance from Ouyen to Sydney – 1100 Kms.

Make a Note of That: The lovely new public convenience behind the old court house in the main street, also includes free showers. Just the thing for the weary (and smelly) road warrior looking to freshen up after a long day on the road.

IMAGE: Here Comes The Sun, by Jim Lesses

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On The Road Again

~ As I wrote in an earlier post, I love nothing more than to be on the open road, the highway stretching off to the far horizon, and naught to distract me but my own thoughts, songs, dreams, and fantasies.

Having now arrived in Sydney after a two and a half day drive, I am feeling somewhat tired, but relaxed and happy to be here. What follows are some of my observations from the road.

I left Adelaide at 1pm on Easter Monday. My intention was to drive to Ouyen, in Victoria, and spend the night there, probably at the local pub, or in a local motel I have stayed at before. In the end, I didn’t quite make to Ouyen. I pulled into a lay by just after dark, and decided to sleep in the back of the wagon.

I’m glad now that I did.

As night fell, the stars came out, and what an incredible sight they made.

There’s a whole galaxy out there, people!

For the first time in years, I was able to see beyond the first ‘layer’ of prominent stars to the galaxy – or galaxies – beyond.

In the city it is easy to spot the Big Dipper or the Southern Cross, but tonight the Southern Cross in particular, was much harder to spot, because it was hidden in amongst billions of other stars that make up the Milky Way. And what a light show the night sky was putting on for me. Every few minutes or so shooting stars went streaking overhead like fireworks on New Years Eve.

Again, in the city you see only the biggest, brightest shooting stars, but out in the open air, far from street lights, and house and building lights, even the smallest, briefest asteroids were made visible.

Then there is the constant ‘traffic’ passing overhead in the night sky. Planes mostly, en route for Sydney and Melbourne and beyond. But then there are the other objects crisscrossing beneath the heavens. Satellites of course, though how many of those are out there presumably only NASA knows. The space station is out there too, somewhere, and who knows what else!

The air was filled with the songs of crickets, while way off in the distance a lone dog was barking a warning – but to who or what?

Maybe it was the fox I saw at 6am the next morning, crossing a vast open field, heading home to its den following a night foraging for supper. At least, the rooster crowing in the new day, had survived another night of Mr. Fox’s midnight ramblings.

As I watched and waited for the sun to come up, I couldn’t help thinking that I would have missed all of this if I had checked into a hotel for the night.

It’s not enough to know that all of this is still out there – even if we city dwellers rarely see it. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone and experience it first hand for yourself.

Life is not a dress rehearsal for something more exciting, interesting or fulfilling, folks.

This is it. This is as good as it gets.

So get out there and make the most of it.

IMAGE: Country Morning, by Jim Lesses

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

National Railway Museum, Port Adelaide

~ The National Railway Museum provides affordable family entertainment on two sites: at Lipson Street, Port Adelaide, and on the foreshore at Semaphore.

The Museum is a self-supporting, non-profit enterprise which occasionally receives government grants for special projects. Apart from the duties of two paid staff members, all of its activities are conducted by volunteers.

The Museum is Australia's largest railway museum with over 100 exhibits representing state, Commonwealth and private railway operators on the three major rail gauges used in Australia.

At the Railway Museum you can climb into the cabs of giant steam engines, walk through elegant carriages, and enjoy a free train ride. New displays include the Man In Blue and the Adelaide Railway Station Indicator Board. There is also a new interactive interpretive tour of the famous Tea and Sugar Train (see side bar for more information). Learn about the role of women in railways; trace railway development on the interactive map, and read about the famous Overland sleeping car train that operated for many years between Adelaide and Melbourne.

The National Railway Museum provides more than exhibits. Function and reception facilities cater for corporate events and dinners seating up to 600. The Museum is also a popular location for weddings, social club events, and trade shows, where as an added bonus, guests are able to wander through the exhibits and displays. In fact, trains can even be arranged to transport groups from Adelaide right into the Museum for major functions. More intimate celebrations are catered for in the historic Ghan dining and lounge cars. Finally, children’s parties are a special treat in the Cafeteria Car. Children of course, will love the huge working model railway system at the Museum too.

Lipson Street, Port Adelaide.
Open daily: 10am to 5pm (except Christmas Day)
PH: (08) 8341 1690

Getting There:
Bus: from city routes 151 or 153 (stops Commercial Road, Port Adelaide)
Train: to Port Adelaide Station (then short walk) Semaphore/Fort Glanville Tourist Railway

The Semaphore and Fort Glanville Tourist Railway operates daily from 11am during school holidays, and every weekend and public holiday from September to May.

The mini steam train follows a two kilometre ride along the dunes from Semaphore Jetty to Point Malcolm and return.

Getting There:
From the Museum: Bus 333 from Commercial Road, Port Adelaide (stops corner Military Road/Semaphore Road).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sydney, Here I Come

~ Well, it’s one thing to sit around writing about travel, but it is another thing completely, to actually tear oneself away from the comforts of home, family and the internet – and hit the road.

So finally, six months after returning from the USA and Europe, I’m on the move again, if only for a few weeks.

I'm about to leave Adelaide for Sydney, and I can’t wait to see the highway stretching away before me. In preparation, my station wagon has been serviced and tuned; it now sports four brand new tyres, all perfectly balanced and aligned; my travel mattress is in the back; I’ve renewed my membership with the RAA, the local emergency automobile association; and my gear is safely stowed, stored and securely in place.

I’m one of those people who love to drive, and I’m also the type of person who doesn’t need lots of distractions on the journey. I don’t take any music with me. No iPod; no MP3 player; no CDs, and certainly no music cassettes (remember those). I like nothing more than to travel with my own thoughts, songs, dreams, and fantasies.

Somewhere on the seat next to me, within easy reach, will be my mini-cassette recorder – waiting for those moments when my Muse taps me on the shoulder, and brings me a new song or poem or inspirational thought. Also close by will be several pens and a notebook, for those moments when I just have to pull over and start writing those thoughts down.

I’m in no particular rush to get to Sydney. This is a good thing. It means I can take the ‘road less travelled’ and explore towns and sights along the way. It means I don’t have to push myself or the car to the limit, thereby putting both of us in danger.

To paraphrase T. S. Eliot: "It’s the journey – not the arrival – that matters.”

Not that I don’t want to be in Sydney. It is a city I have only visited on business, never for pleasure. I have never spent more than a couple of days trying to take in the sights and sounds, the smells and tastes, and the hustle and bustle of Australia’s biggest metropolis.

This time around I am travelling purely for pleasure, and I will have up to three weeks to explore Sydney, and I’m sure I will love it. I’m also sure I will come away with hours of video footage and hundreds of photographs.

However, these are just mementos. The way I look at it – it is much more important to experience a city, rather than merely try and record it. Sometimes you can spend so much time trying to capture a photograph of a beautiful sunset – that you don’t actually spend anytime simply sitting on the beach experiencing the natural beauty of that very same event.

After all, while a photograph of a glorious sunset may indeed by a beautiful thing. It can never capture the sound of the surf; the gulls wheeling and shrieking overhead; the smell of the salt on the air; the wind in your hair; or the joyous laughter of a young child building castles in the sand.

So my primary focus will be to enjoy and experience Sydney, and my secondary focus will be to film, photograph and write about it.

I’ll be back in a few days with my first report. In the meantime – whatever you are doing, have fun – I know I will be.

Friday, April 10, 2009

House Swaps: the practical way to holiday

~ Last night I was researching article ideas for this blog, when I discovered the Aussie House Swap website. When you house swap, you exchange your home, unit, holiday home or apartment with another house swapper for an agreed period of time. You could even swap something unique like a houseboat or motor-home. The Aussie House Swap website has a series of excellent articles about the benefits of house swapping, and have given me permission to reprint all of them on this blog. Here is the first one.

In some ways, this is the easiest article on this site to write. That's because there are just so many advantages to house swapping as a practical and inexpensive way to enjoy your regular holiday break — or even the vacation of a lifetime, in that exotic locale you've always wanted to visit.

What makes house swapping a very practical way to holiday for most people is the enormous saving all parties make on accommodation costs. Remember, house swapping means just what it says — two homeowners literally exchange houses for an agreed period, at no cost to either party.

For most vacations of a couple of weeks or longer, accommodation is the single most expensive item on the budget. And even if it's not number one, it'll almost certainly be number two.

Just imagine having that cost deducted from your holiday expenses!

Through a vacation house swap, you'll also enjoy the tremendous convenience of a fully equipped kitchen. You won't need to go out for meals day and night, and can eat out purely when you want to. Besides the convenience, you will of course save a great deal more money this way. In fact, you probably won't spend much more on meals than you would if you'd stayed at home!

Some further benefits that house swapping offers are more space, privacy and comfort than almost any hotel, motel or resort can give you. And with Aussie House Swap, you can check out available swaps online, well in advance of your trip. This way, you are able to look at exactly what's on offer. No more arriving at places which don't live up to their glossy brochures. (And haven't we all done that more than once!)

Your house swapping partner/s will also be able to fill you in on what's hot and what's not in their neck of the woods, with up-to-date local knowledge, and their own recommended spots to visit. Places that won't necessarily be in the tourist guides. Possibly even places of great natural beauty, or fine cuisine, that are free from hordes of tourists. Or great eateries where you need to make an advance booking to get the best tables. Remember, local knowledge and personal recommendation always beat paid ads in a tourist guide or a weekly "What's On" magazine.

Lots of people even swap cars when they exchange houses during their holidays. If your swap involves a flight, you'll save on car hire — or avoid the inconvenience of always having to rely on public transport — that comes with a traditional hotel, motel or resort vacation to a distant destination. Once more, a significant cost saving accompanies the choice to house swap.

And talking of car swaps, even if you're going to a city to which you could have driven, by flying you'll be there much more quickly. You may well have a full extra day, or even more, in which to enjoy your holiday, by not having to drive there and back. And the cost of a flight (especially one booked early at cheaper rates) will be more than affordable due to the absence of accommodation costs.

Furthermore, partly because of the big cost savings, you may find yourself considering holiday spots you wouldn't otherwise have thought of. Perhaps even out-of-the-way places, far from the normal tourist beat, with no hotels, motels or resorts within miles. For example, a pristine beach, a trout stream or an outback cattle station may grab your attention as you scan the available swaps.

And there's no need to settle for the "same old same old" every year. This year, why not cross the Tasman and visit our friendly neighbours? Then next year, check out some of the islands. Followed by a visit to the mountains the year after that. There really is no end to the wonderful opportunities and possibilities that house swapping vacations can present. You can literally make each holiday a new and exciting adventure, with the extensive and growing Aussie House Swap database to choose from.

There's also, of course, the security you gain by exchanging houses with another swapper. Instead of leaving it empty, with mail, junk mail and newspapers piling up (in between being collected by the neighbours) — a virtual invitation to vandals and thieves — your house will continue to be occupied while you're away.

Not to mention that your swapper will be able to take care of your pets, saving them the trauma of going to an unfamiliar kennel or cattery, and you the trauma of paying the bill when you get back home!

In fact, there are really only two problems with taking a house swap holiday: firstly, choosing between the many delectable alternatives which are available, and secondly, deciding what to do with all the money you'll save!

How much does it cost?
Aussie House Swap membership is only $65 per year! However, if you do not manage to house swap in your first year we will give you another 12 months membership absolutely free! This is our guarantee to you! For $65 (less than the cost of one nights motel accommodation) you can make as many house swaps as you like within your 12 months.

Article courtesy of Aussie House Swap website.
Image for illustration purposes only

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Whistling Dixie Tours: Southern Harmony

~ Now here’s a great idea – a ten day/nine night one of a kind travel experience of America’s Musical South.

In the spirit of Rock n Roll Fantasy, Whistling Dixie Tours has developed a first-class, travel like a rock star tour package across the musical South from Macon to Memphis and back. For nine nights and ten days music lovers will be immersed in the musical heritage and culture of the southern United States.

From the recording studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama to the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta, from Sun Studios to the home of Hank Williams Sr., from Beale Street to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Whistling Dixie Tours provides its travellers with intimate access to the experiences that shaped their record collection. This is an ideal way for music lovers to experience the finest and most unique accommodations and dining available as they enjoy Southern harmony and other delights.

While Whistling Dixie Tours are generally available year-round and an be customized to specific groups needs, the 10 day tour follows a specific routing from and back to Atlanta Georgia.

The route is from Atlanta to Macon, GA to Montgomery and Muscle Shoals, AL and then on to Tupelo, Greenwood, and Clarksdale, MS before heading to Memphis, Jackson and Nashville, TN. No tour of the South would be complete without a visit to the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg, TN, the final stop before returning to Atlanta and a farewell party.

A very special September tour, offered on a first come basis covers the same essential route but coincides with the grand opening of the BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola, MS where our ten Whistling Dixie Tourists will be special guests at the grand opening. The September tour kicks off with another celebration, the birthday of Macon soul legend Otis Redding at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

A special event is planned for that evening. Also that week Montgomery celebrates Hank Williams Sr. and his birthday.

Feature tours planned include joining the festivities in Clarksdale, MS for the annual Juke Joint festival, and the opening in 2009 of The Allman Brothers Museum in Macon, GA.

Priced at $6999.00 per person, all inclusive, and limited to ten persons per tour, this one of a kind experience offers personal attention, first class accommodations and star treatment throughout. Whistling Dixie Tours have selected the most appropriate accommodations and boutique hotels along the way to keep with the vibe of the tour.
Every Whistling Dixie Tourist gets the full rock star treatment. How does a rock star travel? Well, of course, in a custom tour bus with experienced band bus drivers and on-board hostess, complete with satellite TV, microwaves, flat-screen TVs, internet access, two lounges, bathroom and individual bunks with TV and radio, in case a nap is desired between cities.

There are no more than ten passengers on each tour, and that translates to attention to detail and to the catering of each tourists needs. At the time of booking, each person fills out their own personal Star Rider, outlining their personal preferences for drinks, snacks, and even musical instruments for those spontaneous jam sessions.

Whistling Dixie Tours operate on a year round basis, and trips and tours can be customized for groups of up to ten persons, and can incorporate other destinations: New Orleans, Dollywood and Branson are available options.

Full maps, more detailed information and full resources, along with booking details are all available at the Whistling Dixie Tours website.
Image courtesy Associated Press

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

New Hotel Opens Inside Monument Valley

~ On my next trip to the United States, I am heading south to see one of the greatest iconic American landscapes of all: Monument Valley.

The natural formations of Monument Valley, the ones we have seen countless westerns and TV commercials, stand so close that you feel like you can reach out and press your hand to them…the Mittens - left thumb, right thumb, and the third monolith Mitchell's Butte, rising to the right. There is an amazing panorama with colours so vivid that it looks like a Hollywood stage set. The landscape is painted with the colours that that you find in Navajo art and jewellery: a turquoise blue sky, white clouds, and a vast desert rich in reds sprinkled with green and jet black accents.

All this, and more, is said to be the view from a guestroom balcony at the newly opened VIEW Hotel in Monument Valley.This one-of-a-kind hotel is big news for tourists but even bigger news for the Navajo Nation. This is the first hotel ever built on Navajo Tribal Park land, in the very first Tribal Park ever established, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the park.

Ray Russell, Director of Navajo Parks & Recreation, says "The VIEW Hotel is a groundbreaking event for the Navajo Nation. The location was selected because it is adjacent to the Park Visitors Centre which has served tourists for over 50 years. This project is our first step to utilize the tourism resources of the Navajo Nation in a manner similar to the US Department of Interior when they have partnered with the private sector to improve and provide visitor services in National Parks. The workforce constructing the hotel is over 90% Navajo Nation members. The hotel, restaurant and store will eventually provide jobs for over 100 people.”

Jobs in the Navajo are big news. The Navajo Nation (over 27,000 square miles, the size of West Virginia) has a staggering unemployment rate of nearly 50%. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley says “Job creation on Tribal land means economic opportunity but also translates into cultural preservation. When family members can find employment close to their traditional homes they stay connected with their culture and their language. This fosters an environment where traditional ways of the Navajo people can be passed from generation to generation. The VIEW Hotel in Monument Valley will provide opportunity in a very needed region.”

The VIEW Hotel is 100% family owned and operated – Armanda Ortega of the Kiy`anníí (Towering House) Clan welcomes the opportunity to host guests from around the world in a place of beauty and spiritual importance to the Navajo people. “Our hotel is designed with respect for the sacred setting in which it is located – it has been designed to exist in harmony with this unique land. Every guestroom has a view directly facing the Mittens and the exterior of the hotel will be from a colour palate of the red earth that surrounds us.”

The hotel is an environmentally friendly design with a low contour that conforms to the mesa overlooking the valley. The VIEW goes beyond what have become standard eco-friendly building practices using low-flow water devices, extra insulation, windows with energy efficient values, and fluorescent lighting. There are operable windows in public spaces including the soaring two story lobby that allows for natural air flow for energy efficient cooling.

Every guest in the 90 room VIEW Hotel will have a private balcony that faces the famous panorama of the Mittens and the great desert expanse. You can actually see four states from The VIEW which is located adjacent to the Tribal Park Visitors Center in Arizona – the formations in Utah stand to your left, the Mittens are in Arizona directly in front of you, and the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado rise in the distance. The third floor Star View rooms combine the vista of the majestic formations with an unobstructed view of the stars above.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Turtle Island Celebrates 30th Anniversary

~ Turtle Island resort in Fiji, the location for a series of "Blue Lagoon" movies is celebrating its 30th anniversary since opening to the public (after the filming of the first film, “The Blue Lagoon” in 1979).

The resort is now offering a “Stay 7 Nights, Pay for 5” special that runs through 2009. “We understand the economy is tough and we want to see people experience all that Turtle Island has to offer, so we’re hoping to make that a little easier,” says Dennis Keenan, Marketing Director. Never before has Turtle Island been so accessible and this travel special puts it all within reach.

Turtle Island resort in Fiji is well known as a romantic, tropical beach paradise. With 500 acres of lush rainforest, 14 pristine white sand beaches surrounding turquoise clear water and with just 14 couples at any one time, the resort stands out as one of the most exclusive and intimate getaways in the world. But Turtle Island offers something else to its guests, something one won’t find in a brochure or an advertisement. Turtle Island offers guests the ability to truly connect with their surroundings, the Fijian staff, and to each other. These connections are the real memories that make a Turtle Island stay something that lives inside a couple forever, and makes them yearn to come back.

When owner Richard Evanson, bought the island in 1972, the landscape had been ravaged by wild goats and was uninhabited. He then made a commitment to restore the island to its’ original lush condition because he perceived it as the responsible thing to do. He has planted over 500,000 native trees, restored the rainforest and re-established much of the flora and wildlife and his dedication continues today. Now serving as the perfect model for “sustainable tourism”, Evanson takes pride in the stability and overall health of the island.

With many renewable and reusable practices in place, Turtle Island strives to be self sufficient which adds to the quality and authenticity of your time spent there. The four acre organic garden provides almost all of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers needed. Rainwater is recycled and used wherever possible. Evanson and his talented crew are always looking for new and better ways to keep the island as natural as possible while investing in its’ future. “It’s a great thing to plan for tomorrow”, says Evanson. “And we’re proud to do it.”

So how much does all this love and attention to detail cost?

Packages start at $2, 079 per couple per night – but before you start choking on your breakfast waffles, take a look at what is included:
  • Your own private 2-room beachfront bure (cottage) located on the shores of the famous Blue Lagoon and built in traditional Fijian style.
  • All meals including a la carte breakfast, sumptuous buffet lunches or private champagne & lobster picnics on a private beach, afternoon snacks, pre-dinner savouries and gourmet dinners.
  • All beverages including fine wines, spirits, and champagnes.
  • All activities including deep sea fishing, scuba diving, horseback riding on the beach, mountain biking, sunset cruise, sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing, and use of all sporting equipment.
  • Fully dedicated Bure Mama that solely looks after the guests staying in her bure.
  • A complementary half hour Lomi Lomi massage per guest.
  • Laundry service.

But wait – there’s more…
Honeymooners will receive complimentary seaplane transfer Nadi/Turtle Island round trip valued at US$999 round trip per couple with a 7-night stay.

Still not enough for you? Then along with the “Stay 7 Nights, Pay for 5” special mentioned in the start of this entry, there are several other excellent deals on offer. But you will have to be quick, since these will be available for a limited time only. After all, the island only caters to 14 couples at a time.

What are you waiting for? Head on over to the Turtle Island website, and check out this beautiful location, or see your travel agent for more details.

Don't forget to send me a postcard!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Bradman Collection Museum (Adelaide)

~ Sir Donald Bradman
Australia’s greatest cricketer and the world’s greatest batsman begins when Donald George Bradman is born in Cootamundra, New South Wales in 1908. It follows with him growing up in Bowral and moving to Sydney at the age of 18 where he represented his state the following year and then Australia at the age of 20.

He moved again to South Australia in 1934 to further his business and cricket opportunities and remained here until his death in 2001.

The Bradman Collection Museum follows his progress from club cricketer on to the interstate and international stage. It notes his rise to hero status in the 1930s and how that status has been maintained. It explores his major role in cricket administration and provides glimpses of the family man and all-round sportsman.

The History Of Bradman Collection
In the late 1960s Sir Donald Bradman was persuaded to place much of his personal material in the State Library of South Australia. Fifty-two scrapbooks documenting his playing career were organised by library staff over several years as photographs, menus, newspaper cuttings and telegrams were copied and mounted in chronological order. In return Sir Donald donated a significant number of personal items of memorabilia to the library including various bats, balls, trophies, clothing and other pieces which became known as the Bradman Collection.

Some were originally displayed at the Mortlock Library of South Australia from 1986 before a larger selection of pieces was moved to a permanent exhibition site in the library’s Institute Building in 1998. It was originally Sir Donald’s wish that a home for the collection might one day be found at Adelaide Oval and this took place in August, 2008 to coincide with the centenary of his birth.

The South Australian Cricket Association is now the custodian of the collection in conjunction with the Premier’s Department, State Library and the Bradman Family. The State Library retains the archival materials and management of the Bradman Collection website.

The Bradman Collection Museum
The museum, now housed at Adelaide Oval, is built around various periods of Bradman's life and career, including his career as a cricketer at Club, State and International level.

In the Theatrette visitors can watch key film footage of Bradman’s career including a lesson from the master on playing different strokes. Other artefacts include books by and about Bradman, some of the thousands of letters from fans from all over the world; an interactive display, and a reconstructed lounge room depicting how listeners in Australia would have sat around their radios listening to Bradman playing thousands of miles away in the 1930s.

The Bradman Collection Museum at Adelaide Oval…
Download a copy of the Bradman Collection Museum brochure...

Monday to Friday 9.30am–4.30pm
closed Saturday & Sunday
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