Explore Brisbane’s South Bank – Australia’s ‘New World City’.

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As a seasoned Sydneysider I have always thought of Brisbane as a sleepy over-sized country town, but since the devastating floods of 2010, Queensland’s ‘New World City’ has undergone a dramatic face-lift, and its trendy South Bank has now become one of Australia’s top tourist hot-spots. So on your next trip to Queensland take some time to explore Brisbane’s South Bank – Australia’s ‘New World City’.

All Aboard the Airtrain!

Upon arriving at Brisbane Airport, I was advised that the best way to travel into South Bank was via the Airtrain – a speedy and sophisticated mode of transport that glides along effortlessly and smoothly – as its name suggests. This sleek and science-fiction style of train is the most efficient form of transport from the airport to Brisbane City, and the Gold Coast. The ticket options range from the Gocard or a Terminal Transfer, which is $32.00 for an Adult return or for those who wish to plan ahead – $27.20 – if you pay seven days in advance. So with my luggage in tow and my return ticket safely ensconced in my purse, I headed off towards my choice of accommodation – the Rydges South Bank.

Accommodation.

There is a wide range of accommodation located in South Bank that caters for all tastes and budgets like the Banana Benders Backpackers (aptly named for Queensland as the Banana state), to modestly priced apartments. My choice was the 4½ star hotel Rydges South Bank due to its close proximity to the Brisbane Convention Centre (as I was attending a graduation ceremony). Rydges South Bank (currently undergoing renovations until 18 February, 2016) is a sophisticated and elegant hotel, which is located right in the heart of South Bank and is a short walk to South Brisbane Train Station, the Queensland Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art, Botanical Gardens, and restaurant central – Grey Street.

The Deluxe River View room did not disappoint as the room was bright, airy and immaculate, and the queen size bed was a delight to sleep on (which is a must for any traveler). I had a first class view of The Story Bridge, and at night it was all aglow with rainbow lights that cast magical reflections on the Brisbane River.

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The hotel’s concierge was happy to help with any information regarding travel bookings or tourist attractions such as: Bribie Island or North Stradbroke Island.

The Brisbane Explorer Bus

Brisbane offers its visitors many different ways to tour the city. But the most noticeable mode of tourist transport is the ‘hop on hop off’ bright red double-decker Brisbane Explorer Bus – the Official Sightseeing Tour of Brisbane. As well as stopping at 15 different locations around Brisbane City and South Bank, the Explorer Bus is a great way for international travelers to learn about and discover Brisbane as it provides a detailed commentary in English and eight different languages.  If you prefer to go it alone then my tip for exploring South Bank is to find your most comfortable pair of walking shoes and start pounding the pavement.

Art and Culture

South Bank is a bustling hive of activity for all things relating to Art and Culture. You can choose to be enthralled by the latest theatrical extravaganza at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), view ancient antiquities such as the Medieval Power: Symbols & Splendour exhibition at the Queensland Museum, or visit art exhibits at The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery.

Bikes and Kayaks for Hire.

As well as strolling along the Riverwalk concourse, eco-friendly tourists can discover the beautiful Botanical Gardens and the tranquil Rainforest Walk. Or why not cruise the waterways via the popular Citycat or River Tours. If the kids are getting bored, there are bikes and kayaks for hire, and the water-play park, Aquativity.

Attractions and Activities

Whether you are a nature-lover or an adrenalin junkie, South Bank has got you covered. If it is adventure you crave, try abseiling down the 200 million year old cliffs at Kangaroo Point, or for the not so brave, you can choose to stay on solid ground and watch those above who dare to defy gravity. The Story Bridge Climb will get your adrenalin pumping and you be rewarded with million dollar views of Brisbane City and its majestic waterways.

Eating out.

A walk through South Bank’s cosmopolitan Grey Street and its many riverside cafes will satisfy the fussiest food critic. There are a plethora of bars, cafes and restaurants on offer and the choices span the globe like Asian Fusion, Greek, Modern Australian, Russian and Creole inspired ‘Soul Food’. My choice for the night was Ahmet’s Turkish restaurant, which offers an authentic Turkish experience, complete with mouth watering cuisine like Falafel balls, spicy meat platters, traditional music, and tables decorated with bright and colourful tablecloths that looked like exotic Turkish carpets. I felt like I had been magically transported into the heart of the bustling city of Istanbul.

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Mount Coot-tha Lookout and The Wheel of Brisbane.

For those who want to take it easy and views the sights of the city from a safe vantage point, Mount Coot-tha Lookout offers breathtaking views of Brisbane City and beyond to Moreton Bay. The Wheel of Brisbane is a 60 metre high Ferris wheel that could rival The London Eye and provides a bird’s eye view of the city, and at night it is lit up like a magic fairy wheel.

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South Bank markets.

The Collective Markets offers a range of arts, crafts, hand-made jewellery, pottery and designer clothing from local artisans. The markets are open until 9 pm on Saturdays and Sundays until 4 pm and they are a great place to find a unique gift or a memento of your visit to South Bank.

After a long but satisfying day of exploring South Bank, you can quench your thirst at the multitude of bars and pubs such as the South Bank Beer Garden which is located in the Parklands and has views of Streets Beach – a man-made swimming beach. Sit back and relax with a Manhattan at The French Martini or enjoy a glass of Shiraz while listening to the smooth sounds of New Orleans style jazz at the Bourbon Street Bar.

As Brisbane’s top cultural destination, South Bank has certainly won a top spot on my tourist travel bucket list and I guarantee that you will be come a fan too.

 

Discover the hidden secrets of London

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London is a vibrant and multicultural metropolis with bustling streets that offer a plethora of gastronomical delights, trendy wine bars, cosy English pubs, art galleries, magical theatres, and iconic department stores. For those history buffs, there is the stately Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, museums that showcase ancient treasures, and the Gothic Westminster Abbey. But London offers its travellers many unexpected hidden secrets and surprises as well.

Jack the Ripper Tour.

For those who dare to venture into the darker side of London, you can join a ghostly Jack the Ripper exploration tour. Feel the chill when you hear the blood-curdling story of the infamous Jack who stalked his hapless victims through the seedy streets of Whitechapel.

The Great Sherlock Holmes Museum and The Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour.

For those literary lovers of detective fiction, you can ascend the stairs to London’s most famous address, 221b Baker Street, the consulting rooms of the brilliant and eccentric detective, Sherlock Holmes. Inside these hallowed rooms, Holmes and his ever faithful sidekick, Dr Watson, solved the most macabre and mysterious of crimes. There is also a Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour (In The Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes) where Sherlock enthusiasts can explore the real locations which are featured in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary tales. There are many other themed walks available that provide for a fascinating exploration tour of the hidden treasures of the city, day or night.

The National Trust at Flatford, Essex – Explore the country that inspired the painter, John Constable.

One day I was visiting London’s National Gallery and found one of my favourite paintings by the English Romantic painter, John Constable, The Haywain. Underneath the painting was a collection of brochures inviting Constable art lovers to explore the beautiful North Essex countryside that inspired the legendary painter.

After catching the train to Manningtree, I spent a delightful hour rambling through woodlands, secluded forest walks, and cow studded fields before arriving at Flatford Mill. The cafe on the banks of the River Stour offers a delicious Devonshire Tea and a chance to relax.

But the highlight of my walk was the idyllic English landscape and being able to discover the iconic landmarks that are featured in Constable’s paintings such as: Willy Lott’s House.

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For more information about London see Visit Britain.

Top Places to Visit in Sydney

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As a resident Sydneysider who has visited many other iconic cities, I know how overwhelming it can be arriving in an unknown city for the first time. Although are many great travel sites out there that provide detailed information for tourists, I wanted to provide a more personalised guide to my own city – Sydney, Australia. So read on and discover some of the top places to visit in Sydney

Sydney has been called home by the indigenous Aboriginal people, early British convicts and settlers. This harbourside city has been voted as one the World’s Best Cities to Live In, and as a city that has come of age it should be a destination of choice on a tourist‘s bucket list.

It is one of the world’s best cities for many reasons; its harbour looks great day or night, it offers a tourist so many things to do and see, and of course, like many of Australia’s other cities, Sydney reflects the famous Aussie spirit of friendliness.

Sydney is home to many well-known landmarks and tourist hot-spots. Iconic images such as the Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and of course, the legendary Bondi Beach, will quickly come to mind. But besides these world famous urban structures and beach-side gems, here are some Top Tourist Tips for some hidden treasures and places and activities that are well worth discovering.

Activities

Barangaroo

Historic Barangaroo has been a site of spiritual and cultural significance for the Aboriginal people long before colonisation. It has also recently undergone an extreme face-lift as part of Sydney’s largest urban renewal projects and it is now proudly titled, Sydney’s new Harbour foreshore playground. It is located on the western harbour foreshore and is easily accessible from Circular Quay, Wynyard Station and Darling Harbour. Although its development continues to evolve with more additions planned for 2016 up until 2023, Barangaroo offers its visitors a wealth of cafes, bars, restaurants, parks and cultural experiences.

You can picnic in the Barangaroo Reserve, a six-hectare headland that features a spectacular sandstone foreshore, and is home to 75,000 native shrubs and trees. You can walk or cycle or join a guided tour and learn about the history of Barangaroo and its rich indigenous heritage. Barangaroo also hosts a wide range of art and cultural events such as The Ephemeral City.

Dee Why Beach.

Although most tourist have Bondi Beach on their list when visiting Sydney, I recommend some of the other beaches that are located on the North Shore. My personal favourite is Dee Why Beach.  It has a family friend beach for swimming, and a rock pool.  Enjoy the magnificent views of the ocean from The Bicentennial Coastal Walkway, a cliff walk that takes you past Long Reef golf links and down to North Curl Curl Beach.  You can choose to chill out and sample some of Dee Why’s finest dining at the many beach front cafes and restaurants like Stella Blu.

The Royal Botanical Gardens.

The Royal Botanical Gardens is an idyllic horticultural centrepiece located in the heart of Sydney. One step inside the gates and you can escape from the hustle and bustle of the crowds and stroll down winding paths that are lined with colourful native flowers and trees. You can breath in the fresh scented air and visit one of the many gardens on display like the HSBC Oriental Garden, and the Palace Rose Garden or enjoy a picnic under the shade of the Coolabah tree. Maybe you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a laughing Kookaburra or a Crimson Rosella or see a Flying-Fox. But beware of the bold Australian White Ibis – they are guilty of stealing a snack or two.

Sydney Tall Ships.

A great way of experiencing the beautiful Sydney harbour is on-board a Sydney Harbour Tall Ship. As you travel out into the harbour on a vessel that is part of Australia’s maritime history, and with the wind in your hair and the sails above you billowing in the breeze, you can enjoy a range of dining or entertainment options.

You can choose a Champagne Brunch Cruise or a Wine and Canapes Dinner Cruise. If you are feeling adventurous why not join the Convicts, Castles and Champagne Tour or experience a live show, the wildly entertaining, Attack of the Pirates.

Sydney Harbour Jet-boat

If you see yourself as a thrill-seeker why not try the Sydney Harbour Jet-boat. Take a ride on the wild side with Thunder Jet’s Twist Ride or the Extreme Adrenaline Ride. You can also take home a video of your ride to prove to your friends and family that you are truly an adrenaline junkie.

The Harbour Bridge Climb

The Sydney Harbour Bridge (affectionately known as the ‘coat-hanger’) is a magnificent and enduring icon of Australia. It has even featured in Hollywood movies such as Independence Day. Although many travellers are happy to sit back and admire its grand steel arch and study concrete and granite pylons from a safe viewing distance on the Circular Quay foreshore, why not take part in the Harbour Bridge Climb.  As you begin your climb you will not only appreciate the sacrifice of those who gave their lives while building this mighty structure, you will be rewarded with the spectacular panoramic views at the top.

Bars and Restaurants

If you are looking for a great night out in Sydney, then look no further than Ivy’s entertainment quarter on George Street, which is the number one place for first class dining, entertainment, and retail options. You can sample an Aussie beer at The Royal George, enjoy a cocktail while sitting at the marble bar at the sophisticated Establishment, or experience Ivy’s unique night-club, Pacha, that combines burlesque, dance and features circus performers.

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‘The Establishment’

 

The Opera Bar

The Opera Bar is situated at Circular Quay, near the Opera House steps. As well as being located in the middle of the cultural heart of Sydney, The Opera Bar provides uninterrupted views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is spectacular day or night.

Gowings Bar & Grill

Gowings Bar & Grill came as quite a surprise to me as I had no idea it existing until a few months ago. I discovered this little wine and dining gem after a recommendation from a friend. It is located inside the historic Gowings and State Theatre building on Market Street.

Stylish, Spacious and Sophisticated, the Gowings Bar & Grill offers comfy couches to relax and an extensive wine list and mouth-watering cuisine. Gowings Bar & Grill is a mix of European Brasserie style and contemporary design and offers breakfast, lunch (closed for lunch on Sundays) and dinner, and the bar is open until 12 am. As well as the Bar & Grill, there is also a boutique hotel (QT Sydney Hotel) located inside the same building, with 200 guest suites.

 

Stay tuned for more Tourist Travel Tips for the great city of Sydney.

Happy travelling!

A guide for newbie plane travellers.

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When it comes to airplane travel – the well-worn phrase “the journey is more important than the destination” can depend on one all important factor – are you a savvy traveller? You don’t have to be an experienced frequent flyer to be travel-savvy, but you can certainly travel better when you are a well-informed traveller.

I am not a seasoned traveller, but I would like to stay that I am now a savvy traveller when it comes to airplane travel as I have clocked up quite a few air miles during my life-time. Although I am still not 100% convinced that I am a fan of this mode of travel, I believe that if you are prepared with some essential tourist travel tips you will travel more comfortably. So before I begin this guide for newbie plane travellers, let me digress.

The first time I dreamed of being on a plane was when I was a child. As I stood in my backyard and gazed up at the sleek white underbellies of the many planes that flew thousands of miles above our house, I wondered what it would be like to travel on one of those amazing flying machines. My nana lived near the airport and from her balcony I used to watch the airplanes coming into land at Mascot airport. At night they looked like tiny fairy lights twinkling away in the night sky.

The next time I was at the airport I was saying goodbye to my dad who was going back to visit his homeland, England. With my face pressed up against the glass in the terminal lounge, I watched one of the 747’s take off and it looked impressive as it raced down the runway and gracefully rose from the confines of the earth into the endless abandonment of the sky. As I got older I continued to dream and save so that I would, one day, be escaping to far-flung romantic destinations and exploring iconic cities that I had only read about in a book or seen on the television.

But one of my earliest experiences of the airport that impressed upon me were the masses of people rushing to and fro with luggage piled high on trolleys or dragging their baggage behind them. I wondered why so many of them looked so cranky because in my mind I saw them as the lucky ones who were able to fly away from grim reality and escape to exciting and exotic destinations.

I would ask my friends who were experienced travellers about these weary-looking passengers and the responses quite often were “It’s because some of them are about to miss their flights, or they have been stuck on a plane for over 20 hours and that’s a long time to be sitting in one place.” At the time I did not give these responses much thought, but now that I have had the opportunity to be one of those cranky worn-out plane commuters, I sympathise wholeheartedly.

An introduction to the ‘joys’ of plane travel.

My first plane flight was terrifying. I was on a short domestic flight from Sydney to Coolangatta, which is located on the Gold Coast. My travel buddy, a more experienced traveller, failed to tell me about the dreaded word that haunts all frequent flyers- turbulence! Honestly, I thought I was going to die. The plane was going up and down and I am sure side-to-side. Of course now I know that the pilot was dropping the plane a thousand feet or so to escape the bad weather. I had never been scared of death before but that was because I had never been faced with it. At least that was what I believed at the time.

I looked over at my friend who sitting next to me as cool as a cucumber and she glanced back at me with an amused expression, patted my arm and said “Don’t worry it’s only turbulence, it will all be over soon.” In disbelief I stared at her and thought “Great thanks for telling me – now!” Secretly I wanted her to be as panic stricken like I was. And what’s worse, as we finally came into land, this terrible searing pain began to run from my ears into my neck. My ears were blocked, but I could certainly hear my heart hammering away. My friend was still calm as ever and infuriatingly insensitive to my suffering – miserable comforter that she was – “Just blow through your nose and your ears will unblock” – was her cool response. Yeah right! It took me an hour after the flight to unblock them.

Since that day I have flown several times, and if there has ever been any turbulence, I had become as nonchalant as my travel buddy had been.  I have had a few scary moments since then, but all of my journeys had only been short domestic flights. I had not attempted the flight to end all flights – the international or transatlantic flight.

Sydney to London is 21+ hours, with a short stop over in Singapore (these days it is via Dubai). I now fully understand all those grumpy irritable “get out of my way I want to kill someone first and then have a shower second” travellers I saw in the airport all those years ago.

Aviation is completely unnatural. The birds have got it right. Unfortunately we will never be able to take to flight like our feathered friends. Airplane travel can be enjoyable if you have the privilege of flying Business or First Class, but being stuck for hours squashed between other cranky travellers and having to sit in a cramped seat can feel like a nightmare. All Economy travellers look forward to getting up and stretching their legs which never seems to stretch anything. One month later and I still had knots in places I never knew existed.

If you are new to plane travel do not despair or panic, just remember these Top Ten Tourist Travel Tips and you will be a savvy traveller and hopefully a more comfortable one.

 

Pre-flight tips

1. Research your chosen airline and your country of destination.

A savvy traveller knows what to expect from plane travel. Of course, this does not include unforeseen circumstances. If you research the effects of plane travel and the details of the airline that you will be travelling with your mind will be put at ease. Also researching your destination has a two-fold purpose: you will be familiar with the country’s culture, weather, transport options, and it also helps you to be prepared when you finally leave the airport.

When I travel I always research the details of my chosen airline such as their seat options, food and entertainment as these things can change depending on the airline. Before I left Australia to fly to England I researched the best option for traveling from London to Yorkshire. The answer was: National Express Coaches. And if you book online you might be able to snag a cheap fare.

There are also some good travel sites on the Internet that will help you become a well-informed traveller. https://smartraveller.gov.au.

2. Ask a travel agent.

If you are still a little old fashioned and you do not like the idea of booking through a website, a reputable travel agent can not only can secure you a good deal, they can provide additional information about travel as well. They have the travel experience and they have heard many tales from other travellers, so it is well worth asking them for advice.

In-flight tips.

3. Avoid Alcohol if you can. Drink plenty of water.

Being a captive passenger for an exceedingly long time makes a plane traveller look forward to the food, which is pretty good these days. Then there is the alcohol, which we are told by the experts to avoid and drink water instead. Alcohol may distance you from the reality of being stuck in a hollow noisy metal tube but it can be very dehydrating. On a long flight I still like to have a drink or two but I alternate my alcohol with glasses of water as it helps with the dehydration that can result from the air conditioning.

4. Dream of your destination.

Whether it is a business trip, a holiday or flying home to see the relatives, think or dream about what you will be doing once you leave the plane. One thing I got right as a complete novice to the rules of flying is that when things get hairy in the air my thoughts turned to my future destination, my holiday, which I have been dreaming about for months.

When it comes to flying – the destination is more important than the journey. Flying is just a means to an end.

Of course, plane travel has its perks – your own personal entertainment system.  And if you are unable to pay for the luxurious Business Class or First Class, you now have the Economy Plus option that offers slightly wider seating and more leg room.

5. Take the aisle seat.

Not everyone will agree with me, but if you are terrified of heights do not sit in the window seat, you will be tempted to look out the window. If you have ever seen the original Twilight Zone movie, you will never look out a window again. So try to get an aisle seat. You may have to be mindful of the drink trolley as it sails merrily by at some ridiculous hour, but at least you can get up and stretch your legs without having to clamber over your fellow passengers in the adjoining seats.

6. Be Entertained.

Keep yourself entertained. Watch the movie, listen to music, read a book, play a game. If you have a smartphone or iPad, you can switch them to Flight mode, when you are advised to do so, and live -stream the music from the in-flight music channel. Many airlines offer fantastic on-board entertainment options. Also consider this – you are paying for it as part of your flight so why not use it. Entertainment will distract you from your fears. Simple, but effective.

7. Travel medicine.

Travel sickness can have you stuck in the toilet at the airport, which can cause you to possibly miss your flight, but if you buy some travel medicine – you can be spared this embarrassment. Ginger is also good for an upset stomach. If you forget to buy medicine before hand, you should be able to purchase some at the airport.

8. Take earplugs and eye-drops.

Earplugs can help with the in-flight noise: crying babies or overly chatty fellow travellers.

Eye-drops are a good way of coping with dry or irritated eyes during your flight. I developed an allergy on my way back from London and I was almost blind for most of the flight. Fortunately a friendly fellow traveller helped me locate my luggage once we had reached Sydney. But some eye-drops would have come in handy.

9. Buy a travel eye mask.

A travel eye mask can help to block out any light. Even when the lights are dimmed on the plane, there will still be reading lights that could cause you grief and make you loose sleep.

10. Take a travel pillow.

An airline will usually provide you with a pillow, but bring your own in case you want to have a short kip in the airport lounge. But remember to keep your eye on the time. Time flies in the airport, which causes many travellers to miss their flights. You will know who these travellers are, they are the people who are running like crazy through the terminal.

 

This is my personal favourite travel tip: Buy some lollies. They can help when your ears begin to block as the plane starts its descent.

 

Finally, remember the travel mantra: When it comes to flying, it is not the journey that matters but the destination.

Happy travelling!

 

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