Grown up Gap Year

A new sustainable Bedarra Island

Posted on Jun 17, 2013 | Comments Off on A new sustainable Bedarra Island

BED - Point Villa Deck 2

Bedarra Island Resort is renowned for its natural beauty, luxury and exclusivity. When it reopens on the 1st July, 2013 it arguably becomes Australia’s most sustainable island resort.

Since the island was devastated by Cyclone Yasi in February 2011, the Charlton Family acquired the resort and have undertaken extensive renovations to the property, including replacing the island’s services and utilities. Director, Sam Charlton said “Our first initiative was to conduct a sustainability analysis to assess the population density the island could support, particularly in relation to waste, water and energy requirements”. He added “the outcome of this analysis led us to reopen just seven villas (as opposed to the original 16 villas), convert the resort to solar power and close for three months during the wet season”.

Situated on the Great Barrier Reef, just ten kilometres from the coastal township of Mission Beach, nestled amongst the tropical ‘Family Group of Islands’, Bedarra is unquestionably worth protecting.

Traditional operations at the resort were heavily reliant upon diesel and with changes implemented so far, diesel consumption has been reduced by 95%. “The hum and smell of a diesel generator just seemed so inconsistent with the natural beauty of the island” added Charlton “it was an easy choice to upgrade to solar.”

So how was this change to a sustainable future achieved?
• The old generators (3x185KVA) were replaced with an off grid solar system incorporating a 30KW solar panel array, 1-2 days battery energy storage and a small backup 44Kva generator.
• Complete refit of electrical appliances at the resort reducing peak and base electrical loads by 80%.
• Water is now sourced from Bedarra’s granite filtered natural spring and fresh rain water, rather than a diesel powered desalination plant which has now been decommissioned.
• Architectural changes to villas to encourage cross flow ventilation including replacing fixed windows with louvres and the installation of under floor ventilation to capture cooling sea breezes.
• Installation of award winning Haiku fans offering a low energy and high efficiency mechanical ventilation alternative to air conditioning.
• A new twin system bio-cycle wastewater treatment plant has been installed, with sub-terranean reticulation of advanced secondary grade treated effluent, protecting the fringing coral reef from nutrient and phosphate runoff.
• Installing low energy pool pumps combined with ionic pool chlorinators, reducing chemical consumption associated with the pools by 85%.
• Composting of all organic waste for use on the island’s vegetable garden.
• Replacement of water reticulation infrastructure to eliminate water loss.
• Choosing suppliers who minimize their packaging and maximize their use of recyclable materials.

The reduction in population will make guests feel like they have the island to themselves, further enhancing the feeling of privacy, exclusivity and seclusion Bedarra is renowned for.

The Bedarra experience is now more relaxed, more personalized, offers more privacy and is truly the epitome of barefoot luxury. It’s about a beautiful location to relax and enjoy the tranquility, with the added advantage of having a much reduced impact on the natural local environment.

“Reducing our consumption of diesel and simplifying our operation and services has enabled us to offer guests considerably more competitive tariffs than in the past. It also makes the option of hiring the resort exclusively with a small group of friends or family a viable alternative for a holiday you will remember forever” said Charlton.

Bedarra reopens on 1st July, 2013. Room rates are for 1 or 2 guests starting at $990 per villa and are inclusive of all meals, selected alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and activities. Additional charges apply for reef/fishing charters, diving, scenic helicopter flights and our cellar master list of alcoholic beverages.

bedarra bay

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Road Trip: the Alaska Highway

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on Road Trip: the Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway sign

The Alaska Highway across Canada’s British Columbia and Yukon is stunning, but even more memorable than the road trip itself are the people Anne Kostalas meets along the way

Alaska HighwayView larger picture

The Alaska Highway is 1,500 miles of open road through north-west Canada. Click the magnifying glass icon to see a bigger version. Photograph: Anne Kostalas

There is something about a highway through the wilderness that attracts eccentrics. The 1,500-mile Alaska Highway, which crosses British Columbia and the Yukon for most of its route, has its fair share. Even the construction of the road, which turned 70 last year, was anything but normal.

US soldiers were ordered to build the road – described as one of the greatest engineering feats in history – through unmapped territory. They endured extreme cold, mud and mosquito-infested forests. The highway, which joined the contiguous US with Alaska, was a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It enabled the Americans to transport planes to Russia to fight the Germans, via a chain of airfields and remote airports. Remarkably, it was built in just eight months, carved through rock and forest from Dawson Creek in BC to Delta Junction in Alaska, providing a wartime morale boost for the US.

Canada mapThe characters who live along the route are every bit as fascinating as the story of its construction. Marl Brown, the 80-year-old curator of theFort Nelson Heritage Museum in northern BC, sports a long white beard because, he says, he hates shaving. The former mechanic’s collection of vintage cars was the inspiration for the museum. His favourite is the 104-year-old McLaughlin Buick with its “mother-in-law seat” that can tip the rear passenger out the back.

At Double G Services near Muncho Lake, three hours west, truckers share road tales of bobcats, lynx and grizzlies. There are shelves of fresh bread and an Alaska licence plate with a picture of Sarah Palin, which reads: “Where the air is cold and the governor is hot!” They agree both caribou and tourists are stupid, and discuss the merits of a moose bumper.

More than 300,000 people drive the Alaska Highway every year between May and September and, as the last US frontier, it is on the to-do list of many Americans. There are bears, wild sheep, bison and moose to photograph, against a backdrop of increasingly spectacular mountains as you travel north and west.

At Liard Hot Springs RV Park on the eastern edge of BC, we had soaked in the waters with full-time RVers – people who have sold their homes in retirement and are on the move constantly.

“You have to really get on well with your partner to do this,” warns one.

Alaska Highway Sign, Dawson Creek. Photograph: Patrick Bennett/CorbisMany have their dogs along for the ride – yorkshire terriers and pomeranians are being exercised all along the highway.

A woman named Button (her mother loved the actor Red Buttons) oversees the Signpost Forest Visitor Centre at Watson Lake, over the border in the Yukon. In 1942, a lonely GI working on the highway started the tradition of leaving a sign pointing the way home. More than 70,000 signs have since been left here by travellers on the road.

Every road trip needs good snacks. Look out for cinnamon buns atTetsa River RV Park , west of Fort Nelson, and the Canadian favourite “butter tarts” at the Yukon’s Rancheria Lodge. The lodge has a long history of sheltering travellers from storms. It hosted 100 unexpected guests last year when the road was washed away in a flash flood. Stories from the 1940s tell of strangers having to sleep two to a bed.

Marl Brown at the Fort Nelson Heritage MuseumMarl Brown, curator at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum Photograph: Anne KostalasThere is a quirkiness to road-stops here. At the Toad River Lodge in northern BC, you can eat a toad burger (which comes with a hot dog, too) under a ceiling covered in baseball caps, or drink a coffee while a stuffed wolverine watches over you at the Yukon Motel on Teslin Lake.

We spot a moose at Sikanni River RV Campground. Campsite owner Jackie says it is called Dandelion, and appears every summer. Soldiers from black regiments built a bridge in record time here, an achievement credited with helping end segregation in the US army.

John Rusyniak, who runs the Wilderness Lodge in Tok, Alaska, got a taste for the north when he rode his motorbike up the highway in the 1970s and moved there. Many have similar stories.

There is plenty to do along the way – fishing in holes, panning for gold at the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse, daring to walk the Pouce Coupe trestle bridge, the Alaska Highway House museum in Dawson Creek and the sausage rolls at Johnson’s Crossing Bakery – but it is the memory of people of the Alaska Highway that will stay with me.

 

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Polar Legend Roald Amundsen’s home Uranienborg – hard-to-find treasure

Posted on May 17, 2013 | Comments Off on Polar Legend Roald Amundsen’s home Uranienborg – hard-to-find treasure

Amundsen's homeIt may have been difficult for Roald Amundsen to reach the South Pole but, unless you have planned your expedition well, it’s virtually impossible to find his home on a fiord south of Oslo. That’s rather strange because Uranienborg, Amundsen’s home from 1908 to 1928 is a national museum – and has been since 1935. But you won’t hear of it unless you ask. And note the directions well.

For the growing band of polar enthusiasts, Uranienborg is a place of pilgrimage. Most of us know that Roald Amundsen was the Norwegian explorer who beat Robert Falcon Scott to be first to the South Pole. But few are aware that he was the first to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage and probably the first to see the North Pole (from an airship – they didn’t land). He also sailed through the Northeast Passage along the top of Siberia. As the places he explored become more accessible, his feats seem even more extraordinary. Most were planned at Uranienborg.

Heading due south from Oslo, you will be following the eastern shore of Bunnefjord through a ribbon of suburbs and towns. At Kolbotn you veer towards the village of Svartskog and from there wind down the hill to the water’s edge, the end of the road, small statue and a nondescript gateway. A path leads to a house overlooking the fiord with a smaller residence alongside it. The small house is the home of the curator who waits for the visitors who rarely arrive. You are less than 20 km from Oslo but here by the water, the city seems very far away.

Despite several romances, Amundsen never married and his home reveals that he lived his life for his travels. The glass panels in the back door are covered by photographic plates of ships, Inuit people and snowy scenes that look as if they were taken within the past week. His very Spartan bedroom features reinforced ship’s portholes rather than windows, and maps abound. One of the most distinctive images of Amundsen is of him in a relaxed pose and wearing his bowler hat. The hat is still on top of his wardrobe.

Amundsen's home

The house is a museum with some restrictions on where visitors can and can’t go. So it’s impossible to pat the stuffed Adelie penguin in his office. But stored under the stairs as if it were put there when he returned, awaiting the next adventure is the sledge (explorers didn’t pull mere sleds) that he took to the South Pole. I asked – and was allowed to touch it. In terms of significance it’s rather like touching the lunar module that took Neil Armstrong to the moon.

On June 16 1928, Amundsen went looking for the missing Italian polar explorer Umberto Nobile. His aircraft took off from Tromso and he was never seen again. Amundsen and Nobile had flown the dirigible Norge over the North Pole in 1926 and later squabbled over who was responsible for the success of the expedition. Nevertheless, Amundsen helped search and it cost him his life. Nobile was subsequently found and rescued. Uranienborg was Amundsen’s departure point and the curator pointed out that the soap by the bath was the same cake that Amundsen had used to wash himself before he left to undertake the fatal flight. This was history coming to life. But it was hard to reconcile the overly cute gnomes motif in the bathroom with the man who used to sleep outside to toughen himself up for the poles.

Amundsen's home

Amundsen’s office was the planning centre for some of the world’s most remarkable explorations. It was at this desk that he wrote “The South Pole”, his account of the southern journey. Over the next 16 years, the large map of Antarctica above his office table must have given him great satisfaction.

The best analysis of Amundsen the explorer – and the most comprehensive demolition of RF Scott – is contained in Roland Huntford’s “The Last Place on Earth”. Amundsen is revealed to be a meticulous planner and well deserving of the high esteem he has been afforded. However, in many ways he wasn’t likeable. In the spare bedroom, the clothes and homework of the two young Inuit girls he adopted are still on display. He introduced them to western civilisation, educated them and then bundled them back to their village.

Down by the fiord gate the statue of Amundsen is striding out with a pole in his hand and a dog by his side. It’s a fitting image of a man who used his fitness and determination to open up several of the last undiscovered places on earth. Those who admire Amundsen will probably seek out Uranienborg and will be rewarded by the chance to view the house and its contents without any crowds. But the lack of promotion of the open house of a great explorer is just part of a long pattern of neglect. Somehow, Scott the heroic failure remains much better known than Roald Amundsen, the heroic success.

By David McGonigal

TRIP NOTES

SAS flies to Oslo as part of the Star Alliance network.

Read: “My Life as an Explorer” by Roald Amundsen

Uranienborg

Address: Roald Amundsensvei  192

NO-1420 Svartskog

Email: post@follomuseum.no

Telephone: +47 64 93 99 90

Web: www.follomuseum.com

Open: daily except Mondays from 11 to 4.

Amundsen's study

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Elephant-man John Roberts: Anantara’s new Worldwide Conservation Director

Posted on May 14, 2013 | Comments Off on Elephant-man John Roberts: Anantara’s new Worldwide Conservation Director

John Roberts Anantara's Conservation Director

John Roberts has been Director of Elephants at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort since 2003. He heard of the new elephant camp being set up at a luxury resort in Thailand’s lush jungle and was drawn to Anantara’s ambition of creating unforgettable adventures for guests, as well as becoming a role model for elephant welfare and helping all of Thailand’s elephants.

Set up in 2003 as a traditional mahout village, Anantara Golden Triangle’s Elephant Camp works alongside Anantara’s Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) to perform street rescues, provide ongoing employment and a comfortable lifestyle for each elephant and its entire mahout family, as well as to participate in bigger picture projects.  Fully self sufficient, the Camp now supports more than 25 elephants and 60 people.  All elephants receive the utmost care, while the mahout and his family receive food, housing, medical insurance, schooling for their children, and 100% of the profits from a traditional silk weaving business.

It’s a remarkable experience that has been well embraced by visitors from around the world. John Roberts has been rewarded by being appointed Worldwide Conservation Director for all Anantara properties worldwide that will now benefit from John’s conservation knowledge, experience and passion. Roberts’ skills in minimising environmental damage will play a role in developing new Anantara properties. He will also draw on his impressive knowledge of scientific conservation trends and technologies to recommend best sustainable practices and assist with Green Globe certification.

The goal is that John Roberts will continue to work closely with scientists and universities, both foreign and Thai, and will ensure that conservation initiatives produce viable scientific data.   These insider relationships will enable him to identify and develop projects which Anantara properties can become involved with, and where appropriate be incorporated into unique guest activities.

 

Background: Combining his academic background in science and engineering with his interest in the natural world, Roberts spent many years travelling the globe in search of conservation volunteer roles.  From fighting fires and making trails in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the desert of West Texas, his knowledge of fires was put to good use in the remote parks of Northern Australia.  At Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Chitwan National Park, Nepal he helped with the International Trust for Nature Conservation’s tiger research and other projects.

As Anantara’s conservation guru he will propose and oversee resort projects of a philanthropic and eco-friendly nature. For instance, Roberts will help Anantara hideaways around the world implement the brand’s “365 Days of Good Deeds” initiative.

“Since 2001, Anantara has been committed to creating luxury travel experiences that emphasise the greater good of all, with properties across Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, the Maldives and Middle East immersing themselves in initiatives that give back to our precious planet and help people in need,” Mr. Roberts explains.  Throughout 2013 at least one good deed will take place every day.  Whether it’s rescuing street elephants in Thailand, promoting marine turtle protection in Phuket, enhancing coral rejuvenation in the Maldives or supporting local farmers in Indonesia, Anantara is dedicated to mindful preservation in each of its exotic locations around the world.   Moreover the “365 Days of Good Deeds” programme invites guests to combine their five star escape with Anantara’s sustainable endeavours, ultimately making the Anantara Experience even more rewarding.”

For more information on Anantara’s 365 Days of Good Deeds please visit http://www.anantara.com/365-days-of-good-deeds

THE END

Elephant dismount

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Smoke on the Water: Europa 2 World’s Best Cruise Ship?

Posted on May 11, 2013 | Comments Off on Smoke on the Water: Europa 2 World’s Best Cruise Ship?

B_EUROPA2_von_oben_03_6b3b9876bd

What’s the most highly rated cruise ship in the world? If you may start thinking of the ships of cruise lines like Crystal, Silversea or SeaDream you’d be wrong. The “bible” of cruise ratings is Douglas Ward’s Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships and the 2013 edition has, like so many in the past, rated Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa as the pinnacle of cruising perfection.

U_EUROPA2_Atrium_02_b66cde7aab

However, there’s a new kid on the block. This week the German cruise line launched the 516-passenger Europa 2 this week and it’s undertaking shakedown voyages around Europe right now. Space and lightness and close connection to the sea are some of the initial reactions to the ship. It’s largely all inclusive and it’s certainly not cheap and has the greatest ratio of space per passenger of any cruise ship in the world. It has also moved to a more casual atmosphere: “21 knots without a tie” is the clever marketing phrase being used.

E_EUROPA2_Veranda_Suite_02_a03175f5fe H_EUROPA2_Spa_Suite_02_909fef683f

Chances are that Europa will have to give way to Europa 2 when the 2014 Berlitz cruising guide is released in November. For those who can afford it some consideration may be given to the fact that it is a German-language vessel that’s aiming for up to 20 per cent English-language passengers. And, in a typically continental manner smoking is allowed more generally than Australians may be used to. As the cruise line clearly points out: “All the restaurants with the exception of the portside of the terrace of our Yacht Club Restaurant are non-smoking restaurants. The theatre, the Belvedere and the Atrium are also non-smoking areas. In the Jazz Club and in the Sansibar there are smoking and non-smoking sections. Cigars, cigarillos and pipes can only be smoked in the Gentlemen’s Room and in the outside area on the starboard side of the Sansibar. All outside decks with the exception of the Magrodome area are smoking zones. Please use the ashtrays provided. In the interest of all passengers we would ask you not to smoke in the suites. Smoking is allowed on the veranda. Here, too, we kindly ask you to use the ashtrays provided.”

 M_EUROPA2_Restaurant_Serenissima_02_a2c4622bb0

For more information visit www.hl-cruises.com/ships/ms-europa-2/

 

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Narwhal tusk – the tooth is out!

Posted on May 10, 2013 | Comments Off on Narwhal tusk – the tooth is out!

For travellers to the Arctic there’s normally quite a specific wish list. Polar bears – yes; walrus – yes, puffins – maybe. But the most elusive creature in the Arctic is also the most exotic: often referred to as “the unicorn of the sea” the Narwhal, with its beautiful single long spiral tusk is a wonder of nature. But the question is always asked “what is the tusk for?” Until now the answer has been “well, maybe it’s for mating display, and we’ve seen them use it to break through thin ice . . .” The fact that the tusk is a tooth that grows through the upper lip makes the Narwhal even more mysterious.

This has been published by the Harvard University Gazette – it suggests that the Narwhal’s tusk is a unique sensitive, seeking device. Its apparent role is truly amazing.

http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2005/12.15/01-narwhal.html

narwhal
The now-better-understood narwhal, or ‘unicorn whale.’ (Photo by Glenn Williams)

 

Marine biology mystery solved

Function of ‘unicorn’ whale’s 8-foot tooth discovered by Harvard School of Dental Medicine researcher

 

By Leah Gourley 
HMS Communications

Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) researcher Martin Nweeia has just answered a marine science question that had eluded the scientific community for hundreds of years: why does the narwhal, or “unicorn,” whale have an 8-foot-long tooth emerging from its head, and what is its function? Nweeia, a clinical instructor in restorative dentistry and biomaterials sciences at HSDM, will be presenting his conclusions at the 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in San Diego.

 

The narwhal has a tooth, or tusk, that emerges from the left side of the upper jaw and is an evolutionary mystery that defies many of the known principles of mammalian teeth. The tooth’s unique spiral, the degree of its asymmetry to the left side, and its odd distribution among most males and some females are all unique expressions of teeth in mammals. The narwhal is usually 13 to 15 feet in length and weighs between 2,200 and 3,500 pounds. Its natural habitat is the Atlantic portion of the Arctic Ocean, concentrating in the Canadian High Arctic: Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, and northern Hudson Bay. It is also found in fewer numbers in the Greenland Sea, extending to Svalbard to Severnaya Zemlya off the coast of Russia.

Canadian Arctic scene
One of Martin Nweeia’s campsites shows the dramatic landscape of the Canadian High Arctic, one of the homes of the narwhal. (Photo by Joseph Meehan)

Nweeia has discovered that the narwhal’s tooth has hydrodynamic sensor capabilities. Ten million tiny nerve connections tunnel their way from the central nerve of the narwhal tusk to its outer surface. Though seemingly rigid and hard, the tusk is like a membrane with an extremely sensitive surface, capable of detecting changes in water temperature, pressure, and particle gradients. Because these whales can detect particle gradients in water, they are capable of discerning the salinity of the water, which could help them survive in their Arctic ice environment. It also allows the whales to detect water particles characteristic of the fish that constitute their diet. There is no comparison in nature in tooth form, expression, and functional adaptation.

“Why would a tusk break the rules of normal development by expressing millions of sensory pathways that connect its nervous system to the frigid arctic environment?” asks Nweeia. “Such a finding is startling and indeed surprised all of us who discovered it.” Nweeia collaborated on this project with Frederick Eichmiller, director of the Paffenbarger Research Center at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and James Mead, curator of Marine Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution.

Nweeia studied the whales during four trips to the Canadian High Arctic. In the past, many theories have been presented to explain the tooth’s purpose and function, none of which have been accepted as definitive. One of the most common is that the tooth is used to display aggression between males, who joust with each other for social hierarchy. Another is that the tooth is a secondary sexual characteristic, like a peacock’s feathers or a lion’s mane.

Nweeia’s findings point to a new direction of scientific investigation. Fewer than 250 papers have been published about the narwhal, and many offer conflicting results. Because of its Arctic habitat and protected status in Canada, the whale is difficult to study. Nweeia has brought together leaders from the fields of marine mammal science, dental medicine, engineering, mathematics, evolutionary biology, anatomy, and histology.

Martin Nweeia proudly displays the flag of the Explorers Club, which has, since its inception in 1904, served as a unifying force for explorers and scientists worldwide. (Photo by Joseph Meehan)

The sensory connections discovered by Nweeia and his colleagues also are capable of tactile ability. Narwhals are known for their “tusking” behavior, when males rub tusks. Because of the tactile sensory ability of the tusk surface, the whales are likely experiencing a unique sensation.

Results from the team’s research already have practical applications; studies about the physical makeup of the tusk, which is both strong and flexible, provide insight into ways of improving restorative dental materials. (An 8-foot-long tooth can yield one foot in any direction without breaking). Nweeia also leads the Narwhal Tooth Expeditions and Research Investigation, founded in 2000, which combines scientific experts with Inuit elders, who have collected notes for hundreds of years, to discover the purpose and function of the narwhal tusk.

“Now that we know the sensory capabilities of the tusk, we can design new experiments to describe some of the unique and unexplained behaviors of this elusive and extraordinary whale,” said Nweeia.

So now we have it – the secret behind the Narwhal tusk.

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Venice: Kayaking Italy’s Fantasyland

Posted on May 9, 2013 | Comments Off on Venice: Kayaking Italy’s Fantasyland

Gondolier Venice sm DSC1829

The myriad church spires of Venice pierce the golden sunset as we paddle our kayaks towards the Grand Canal. We pause several times as vaporetto ferries roar past leaving us bobbing in their wakes. Over the next 45 minutes we paddle through the tiny canals that crisscross the city then emerge with a sense of triumph into Venice’s main watery thoroughfare within sight of the Rialto, the arch of shops that span the Grand Canal. From this perspective it’s easy to understand that this city is built on wooden piles driven into 117 islands linked by 150 canals and 400 bridges.

We reach this point with a sense of trepidation because Venice is a busy place. Walking the shop-filled laneways often feels like being in an endless line for concert tickets as there’s little room to pass – and the queue heading in the opposite direction is just as tightly packed. On the water it’s altogether more hectic: imagine an aquatic version of Rome in rush hour but filled with just about anything that floats. Along the Grand Canal you’ll see them all: garbage boats, ambulance boats, funeral boats, little boys in tiny punts and playboys in gleaming speedboats all interspersed by black, high-prowed gondolas. Everything, from vegetables to computers to tourists, is delivered by boat.

However, that’s the daytime scene. As darkness descends, Venice settles down for the night. Many visitors leave, locals head home or out for dinner, deliveries stop, and even the gondoliers hang up their red scarves and boaters for the night. It’s another side of Venice’s aura of unreality, a make believe watery world of buildings covered in mosaics, church belltowers leaning at impossible angles, red and white candy-striped mooring poles, marble palaces and charming piazzas.

At night, as the lights come on and the bars come to life, laughter spills out of formal restaurants and informal pizzarias. Venice is truly La Serenissima, “the most serene”. On the water, myriad lights burst into shards with each paddle stroke. Even as we paddle under the Rialto, following our guide Rene Seindal like ducklings, we have the Grand Canal almost to ourselves. We push on to St Marks Square and our most surreal moment: paddling kayaks under the renowned Bridge of Sighs. This is the most photographed place in over-photographed Venice and, even at this late hour, several tourists take our photos.

Kayaks and Goretex may suggest we are in Venice on an adventure budget but that’s very wide of the mark. In fact, our kayaking is an option offered by our hotel – the Cipriani, Venice’s most renowned accommodation. The Cipriani was founded in 1956 by Guiseppe Cipriani, the owner of the equally-famous Harry’s Bar and it has been the accommodation of choice for royalty and the rich and famous ever since. Over the most lavish breakfast spread I’ve ever seen I learn that carpaccio, that dish of thin raw meat and Dijon mustard, was a Harry’s Bar creation. At dinner I fall in love with the risotto of the Cipriani’s executive chef, Renato Piccolotto, that’s so good he’s been flown to the Academy Awards in the USA to cook it.

The Cipriani is a grand hotel with a sense of fun. It’s on Giudecca Island with perfect views across the lagoon to the Dogès Palace and St Marks. The room furnishings are elegant, and service and facilities are absolutely five star – from the huge pool to the sleek James Bond-style motor yacht. The gardens were once utilised by Casanova for his assignations. But your strongest recollection of the Cipriani is likely to be doorman-to-the -stars Roberto Senigaglia who knows everyone and can arrange anything while making every guest feel very special.

Getting down and dirty in a kayak may not suit every pampered Cipriani guest but it provides an unforgettable experience for those who do. Another unique view of Venice is provided by the hotel’s Venice as a Movie Dream tour that takes you to scenes familiar from the many films made here – from Death in Venice and The Talented Mr Ripley to The Italian Job and The Tourist. Led by a charismatic historian you end the tour with a great understanding of Venice’s overall cultural importance to the world.

Back in our kayaks, after leaving St Marks behind, we thread our way down narrow canals that provide a very intimate insight into everyday life in Venice. At times it’s so quiet that the splash of our paddle strokes seems intrusive. It feels so right to steer my own watercraft through Venice that I halt in silence to hold the moment in my memory forever.

TRAVEL FACTS

Getting there

Qatar Airways offers direct flights into Venice from Melbourne and Perth via Doha. www.qatarairways.com/au

Stay

Hotel Cipriani. www.hotelcipriani.comKayaking under Venice's Rialto P1050960

Activities

More information about kayaking and the movie tour are on the Cipriani’s website. See also www.venicekayak.com

 

 

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Yosemite National Park- Put it on your Bucket List

Posted on Mar 17, 2013 | Comments Off on Yosemite National Park- Put it on your Bucket List

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park has been high on my bucket list, since first seeing the haunting black and white photography series by Ansel Adams taken in 1958.

Yosemite is a jewel of the United States National Parks in the central eastern portion of California. The park covers an area of 761,268 acres (3,080.74 km2)and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain.  Over 3.7 million people visit the park each year, most spend their time in the seven square miles (18 km2) of Yosemite Valley.  Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, Giant Sequoia groves, and biological diversity.  Park tourism Site

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Great Drives – US Route 66

Posted on Mar 16, 2013 | Comments Off on Great Drives – US Route 66

US Route 66

Great Drives – US Route 66 is one of the worlds great touring highways, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was a one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System. Established on November 11, 1926—with road signs erected the following year.  The highway, has become one of the most famous roads in America, It runs from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles (3,940 km)  It is recognised in popular culture by both a hit song and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s.

US Route 66 has many quirky roadside attractions and iconic symbols of a gone-bye American era of automotive travel.  A lot of the towns have gone into decay as they were bypassed by more modern interstate freeways, but the romance lives on. Route66 trip site

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