You can do as little or as much as you want – all the resorts have boat trips, fishing, water sports, fabulous day spas, gyms, yoga and wellness studios, bars, restaurants etc. but staying in your overwater or beachside villa can be equally as appealing. The only decisions you needed to make there were should I swim in the main pool, my pool on the back deck or walk down the steps of my overwater bungalow into the blue/green ocean below….and of course, when is my next cocktail!
It took me 40 years to get there after doing a project in Primary School, but I finally had the opportunity to visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Machu Picchu. It was definitely worth the wait and it will be a lot less time before I get back there again. The lead up to getting to the sacred site can take one of many paths but for each one, you start in the Inca capital of Cuzco. You should spend 1-2 days here just to get acclimatised. It’s a fabulous city steeped in history and colour and it has a great vibe, so spending the time there is great. From Cuzco, you can do one of the following treks – The Inca Trail, The Salkantay Trek, The Lares Trek, the Quarry Trek, Adventure Trek or take a combination of trains and buses. They all start from a different spot and are different durations.
Due to a major time restriction, I did the latter and caught a bus to Pisac and visited the ruins and markets before weaving our way to Urabamba and on to the town of Ollantaytambo. More ruins to climb and already a sense of what was to come. From there it was on the train to Agues Calientes, a tiny town at the foot of Machu Picchu. At this point, the only way up to Machu Picchu is by bus and as the bus winds around endless hairpin turns, the anticipation builds. When you walk in the gates and along a path of about 100 metres, you turn the corner and there it is – bigger, better and more amazing than you could imagine. As we stood there in awe, we heard the screams of the people who had just reached the Sun Gate and finished the 4day/3night Inca Trail. Weary and wet, they were as happy to be there as we were but we just got there a different way.
No matter the season, Canada offers the ultimate holiday experience for everyone – there are so many reasons which contribute to it being voted the no. 1 destination for 2017….and with Air Canada’s daily service from Brisbane, there’s every reason to visit.
In summer, the snow-capped mountains line the landscape allowing visitors and locals to get out and explore. British Colombia and Alberta are the favourite provinces on the West Coast with the scenic towns of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper together with Vancouver and Victoria offering numerous activities and adventures. The spectacular Rocky Mountaineer train journeys operate between April and October – this is the ultimate journey through one of the most picturesque areas in the world, the Canadian Rockies. On the East Coast, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec have the vibrant towns of Toronto (with easy access to Niagara Falls) and Montreal.
In winter, the landscape changes dramatically and Canada becomes a winter wonderland. The lakes freeze over, ski resorts open and a new group of tourists come to visit.
In northern Canada, the relatively unknown territory of the Yukon has become a platform for Northern Lights viewing between October and April, which is a great alternative to Northern Europe and combines well with other activities in Canada.
Photo credit: Canada Keep Exploring, Destination British Colombia, Travel Alberta
Hanoi and Saigon are such busy Asian cities, but the remainder of the country is an amazing myriad of cultural and historical experiences. I was surprised at every corner - the beautiful city of Sapa to the north overlooking the terraced rice fields; the towering limestone islands and emerald waters of Halong Bay; the central coast of Hoi An and Hue which are a cultural delight and the Mekong Delta to the south which is a vast maze of rivers, swamps and islands. It was foodie heaven with cooking schools and tasting plates everywhere, a shopper's paradise in Hoi An with anything available to be made, magnificent beach resorts and a fabulous cultural experience for the Historian.
What starts with a somewhat terrifying 2-day crossing of the Drake passage from the Southern tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula, turns into the most awe- inspiring journey that one could possibly imagine.
Nothing quite prepares you for the jaw-dropping scenery and the beautiful wildlife - what you see and experience down there simply takes your breath away. It is a combination of imposing icebergs scattered aimlessly throughout the water having broken away from the winter ice shelf; the sheer purity of the glaciers still fresh from the long cold winter; the whales and seals in their natural habitat equally at home with the ships that pass by and the thousands and thousands of penguins who waddle about their business without a sideways glance to human invasion.
The silence and calmness of this beautiful continent leaves you with a sense of peace and tranquillity and the most incredible memories and anyone who has been will say the same – it’s so pristine, so other-worldly, so remote and just so beautiful.
With itineraries to suit all budgets and tastes – it is the best time to take advantage of the amazing early bird specials and charters. My trip was aptly named ‘Pinktarctica’ as all proceeds went to the McGrath Foundation – a wonderful cause which benefited greatly from a very enthusiastic group of passengers.
Some things you need to consider as to what sort of cruise you are looking for –
Heading to Europe this summer? Why not visit one of these irresistible out of the way beaches…
A European summer vacation is not complete without a visit to a beach or two, but fighting for a square metre of sand, a sun lounge or an umbrella can make the day unpleasant. It’s time to explore further afield, get away from the usual tourist haunts and mix it with the locals at these magnificent European beach locations.
When I visit New York, I steer well clear of Madison and Fifth Avenues for shopping. With designer stores as far as the eye can see; heading downtown to Soho, the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village has a lot more to offer the everyday shopper…..and then of course there are the regular designer sample sales that are always worth checking out http://www.nycinsiderguide.com/nyc-sample-sale#.WRw7i2iGOHk .
Some other favourite shopping haunts of mine from around the world include –
Very few people get to tick the Galapagos Islands off their bucket list but I can say that I am one of the lucky ones. Lying 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador sits an archipelago of 19 volcanic islands inhabited by 25,000 people and a vast number of extraordinary creatures, mostly endemic to the Islands. Marine Iguanas; Galapagos Tortoises; Blue, Red and Nascar Boobies, Frigatebirds, Sally Lightfoot crabs amongst others roam the countryside without fear of visitors as we meander through their homeland. It's a naturalist's wonderland, a photographer's delight and an explorer's nirvana.
What female could visit New York without visiting a rooftop bar? For this New York lover, each time I visit the Big Apple, I seek out another fabulous bar or two to add to my list. There’s something to say about having a beautiful cocktail out in the open, up high above Manhattan amongst the glamour set. I think we can all thank Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda for that!!
Have you ever been to Eataly NYC…the vibrant Italian marketplace that features an array of cafes, counters, restaurants and a cooking school? It’s situated in the Flatiron District and it’s a great place to eat, shop, and learn. But the hidden secret is the fabulous rooftop bar, La Birreria where Aperol Spritzers on a Saturday afternoon are the norm. For the art lovers, the Metropolitan Museum of Art situated on Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side, houses an amazing rooftop bar overlooking Central Park. Art and cocktails seem to mix quite well and what a setting!
A classy establishment is the Salon de Ning at the Peninsular Hotel, on the corner of Fifth and 55th. Sweeping views up and down Fifth Avenue highlight this very lovely outdoor bar – it has a very cool and sophisticated vibe. Another one to fit in this category is the cocktail bar at the Mandarin Oriental, situated at Columbus Circle with phenomenal views.
For me, I prefer the more casual yet upbeat vibe of the aptly named “Roof” at the Viceroy Hotel or the PHD bar at the Dream Midtown. They are both quite small but have a similar feel and are both located just south of Central Park.
Travelling further downtown… the Dream Downtown, 230 Fifth, The Standard Highline and the Refinery Hotel all have amazing rooftop bars; with the highlight being the glass igloos/bubbles on the roof of 230 Fifth over the winter months.
For the youngsters, head down to the trendy neighbourhood of the Lower East Side where the Indigo Hotel has the hip “Mr Purple” rooftop bar with a pool and amazing views of the Empire State Building.