|Adrere Amellal ecolodge, Siwa.|
Two weeks ago, I started writing a post about the idea of visiting Egypt once again. It was time: tour prices have halved, even from the most prestigious travel companies. The Lower Nile has finally been reopened so that a visitor can sail the entire length of the Egyptian Nile, from Cairo to Abu Simbel. And the crowds that plagued the Pyramids, Luxor and all Egypt’s treasures, have stayed away in droves.
The blog was driven by a recent letter to the editor in the Sydney Morning Herald, in which the writer, recently returned from Egypt said, “I had a great and safe time. I have been there before and this time stayed mainly in Cairo, at the Sara Inn, and was saddened by the empty markets and other tourist areas. The Egyptians are, mostly, very friendly and welcoming and need the tourists to survive.”
|Bab al-Futuh, Cairo|
A few minutes later, my inbox was hit with a recent survey by the Hilton group, which found that 43% of Australians in the survey said they wanted to visit the Pyramids.
So it’s heartbreaking to see, in the space of a week or two, how the climate has changed, with the anger fuelled by the second anniversary of the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, to the riots in Suez over the death of 73 fans at a football match, which saw a judge sentence 21 people to death over their role in the catastrophe.
Fashion comes and goes: why, Syria was tipped the Lonely Planet’s hottest country just six months before it descended into its current, horrific civil war. And now Sri Lanka, still scarred with its own civil war, is 2013’s poster child for world tourism.
I know it is hard for Egyptians to live through these times: it’s hard to watch from the outside. But such a beautiful country, in such a politically strategic location with possibly the world’s greatest tourism riches, will rise again. We just have to hope, for the people’s sake, that it’s soon.
Do glamour, Gregory Peck and gelato in Italy, swim with dolphins in Western Australia or hit the road, Jack, and swing across Texas, in this week’s round-up of domestic and international travel deals.
world’s longest resort swimming pools: coming in at 485 metres long, it’s at
the Oaks Pacific Blue Resort in Port Stephens, 160km north of Sydney. The quiet
coastal region is a magnet for fisherfolk, dolphin spotters and those who just
like rolling down sand dunes, while the resort facilities include tennis
courts, a gym and a Japanese steam room. Save up to $25 a night on when you book a
two-night stay from January 27-June 30. Costs from $258, studio room, two
nights. 1300 669 978, oakshotelsresorts.com.
Coast hotel’s SpaQ, which knocks the price of the day’s top temperature off
your midweek one-hour spa treatment. So if it’s 29 degrees, you’ll get $29 off the
cost of the treatment. Valid until February 28, Mondays-Thursdays and quote
‘I’m hot’. 07 5584 1108, qtgoldcoast.com.au/spa-q/.
|The dolphins of Monkey Mia, WA.|
gardens surrounding Melbourne on a three-night tour just in time for Mother’s
Day. Staying at the Sofitel Melbourne, the small group tour starts with high
tea at The Hotel Windsor, followed by a street art tour through the city’s
laneways, for an edgy touch. The gardens on tour include Cranbourne Botanic
Gardens’ Australian garden, Heronswood on the Mornington Peninsula and the
William Ricketts Sanctuary in the Dandenong Ranges. Book by February 28
and save $100. Includes most meals,
botanical guides and airport transfers. Costs from $1695 a person, twin share.
1300 305 202, botanica.travel.
|Hotel Aviatic, Paris|
Hotel Aviatic, on the Left Bank, close by the bars and restaurants of Saint-Germain
des Prés and Montparnasse. Save E135 ($171) on a traditional room or E165 on a
prestige room, and get breakfast, a bottle of wine and chocolates on stays
until February 28. Costs from E160 (traditional room) or E195 (prestige room).
1800 667 731, aviatic.fr.
welcoming arms, and those travelling to Rarotonga with Air New Zealand will
receive NZ$100 (A$75) to spend, for a very warm welcome, indeed. You could do an Aitutaki Lagoon tour, enjoy
an hour-long massage, get two days’ car hire or buy 20 papaya smoothies! Book
by March 4 for travel until June 3, cookislands.travel. Passengers traveling
Air New Zealand from Sydney to Rarotonga direct on Saturday nights get an
additional round of discounts on activities on the islands. Flights depart
Sydney 8.30pm Fridays, arrive Rarotonga 5.30am Saturdays. 132 476,
Hawke’s Bay, voted one of the world’s top lodges and save 15 percent off the
standard high season rate. The package includes one night in a luxury suite, a
bottle of champagne, rose petals, bath oil and candles. There’s also a
five-course dinner, breakfast, mini-bar and, importantly, late check-out.
What’s not to love? Valid February 10-17. Costs from $855 a person, twin share
(naturally). +64 6 875 1900, capekidnappers.com.
The sunny islands of Fiji are on the rebound after last
year’s Cyclone Evan, with deals to be had. Stay seven nights at the Sofitel
Fiji Resort & Spa on the five-star strip on Denarau Island, get return
airfares from Sydney, $535 in wine, dine and spa credit, a full-day island
cruise, a cultural heritage tour, airport transfers, breakfast, free kids food
and kids’ club. Costs from $1690 a person, twin share. Similar deals are
available at the Sheraton Fiji Resort and Outrigger on the Lagoon. 1300 00 34
Hepburn, swanning through Tuscany, Rome and the Amalfi coast. Diva alert: join
a handful of other fabulous travellers and cruise Italy in the ultimate girls’
getaway of shopping, spas and Vespas. Book and deposit the 14-day ‘Do it like
Audrey Hepburn’ tour by February 22 for departure on June 23, and get a free
night in a 4-star Florence hotel before or after the tour. Costs from $6959 a person, twin share, quote
‘SHDIVAS’. 0408 721
Worth, Memphis, Texarkana … if these names resonate with your soul, it’s time
to hit the American West – in a Mustang convertible, of course – for a musical
road trip across the USA, from LA to Nashville. The Swing Across Texas
self-drive tour is fully escorted and departs June 15, hitting Route 66, Vegas
and Buddy Holly’s birthplace in Lubbock County, Texas, with the Grand Canyon in
there for good measure. The clincher is there’s a live act or entertainment in
every city, every night of the 22-day tour, which is included in the price
along with car hire and insurance. Costs from $7350 a person, twin share. (07)
5577 4655, classicdrivingtours.com.
|The crowd-pleasing silvery gibbon, Indonesia.|
Track down the Asian Big 5, find Elysium in the Hunter Valley or hit Middle Earth, in this week’s domestic and international travel deals.
of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia (currently showing the Toulouse
Lautrec exhibition) all within cooee of each other, it’s easy to see why art
lovers love Canberra. Plan ahead and save when you stay at the Mercure
Canberra. Book 30 days in advance and save up to 30 per cent on your room rate.
Costs from $112 a night, room only. 136 565,
to the serenity of the Barossa Valley, an hour’s drive north of Adelaide. The Novotel Barossa Valley costs from $239 a
night; fly return with Virgin Australia to Adelaide and stay two nights until
March 31. Costs from $429 a person, twin share, ex-Sydney. 1300 130 485, travel.com.au.
& Spa and get full buffet breakfast daily and free use of watersports
equipment and open-air cinema. Two children under 14 also get to stay and eat
breakfast free for stays January 28-March 31. Costs from $598 a person, twin
share, four nights. 1800 075 040,
|Elysia, Hunter Valley NSW|
is running a ‘bring a friend for half-price’ deal over summer. Packages include
beautiful spa cuisine, snacks, an initial assessment as well as wellness
seminars, exercise equipment and classes including meditation and early morning
tai chi. Book before January 31 for stays until February 14 and save $525. Costs
from $1575, two people for two days.
1800 212 011, goldendoor.com.au/health-retreats/elysia.
plan your snow play, and happening Hotham has launched its early-bird specials.
Stay five nights in a ski-in/ski-out one-bedroom White Crystal apartment, in
the middle of the village, and save $251 when booked by January 31. Costs from
$2102 for five nights during the value
season, June 7 -27, July 22–August 1, August 26-29 September. Costs
from $2256 for five nights during peak season (June 28 – July 21 and August 2 –
25). 1800 468 426, hotham.com.au.
|Eagle Lodge, Faraway Bay|
Faraway Bay, a tiny resort amidst the wonders of pristine waterfalls, sublime
waterways and ancient Aboriginal art. Book before January 31 and save 10 per
cent off the regular rate, and they’ll also include a free night at the
Pinctada Kimberley Grande Resort, Kununurra before you fly out to the remote property.
Rates include guided activities,
unlimited boat charters to hook the big one, and all meals and most drinks. Costs
from $3330 for two nights. 0419 918 953, farawaybay.com.au.
Book a ‘Spring into Summer’ deal at the five-star Bolton Hotel and get buffet
breakfast and an antipasti tasting plate for two, as well as late check-out. Normally
from $382 a night, stay before January 27 and pay from $151 for two people.
Stay January 28-April 1, costs from $238 a night, weekends only. 1300
887 979, wotif.com/hotelW12421.
scenic routes – from Inverness to Kyle
of Lochalsh in Scotland, Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog in Wales Exeter to
Penzance, in the West Country – and buy your freedom to hop on and hop off at
will. Buy a selected BritRail pass before February 14 for travel until February
28 and save 20 per cent. Costs from $170 for a three-day, second-class
Britrail Consecutive Pass. 1300 387 245, internationalrail.com.au.
stay three nights for the price of two in the tranquil Tamarind Village, until
March 31. With just 45 rooms and suites, the hotel is decorated by the region’s
rich tribal weavings and patterns. It also offers a 10 per cent discount on
stays booked more than 30 days in advance, until October 31. Costs from $300
for three nights, includes buffet breakfast. (02) 9211 6590, tamarindvillage.com.
|Notre Dame cathedral, Paris.|
cover 15 European countries in 30 days on Topdeck’s popular Discover Europe
trip. All the icons are there: baguettes at the Eiffel Tower, wine tasting in
Bordeaux, gondolas in Venice and bicycles in Amsterdam. Save 7.5 per cent on
summer trips when booked and paid for by February 28. Costs from $5411 a
person. 1300 886 332, topdeck.travel.
where you’ll enjoy two free nights at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel when you book
a 14-day Splendours of Rajasthan journey. Highlights include the Pink City of
Jaipur, Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort and a stay in a traditional tented camp with
evening birding walks. Save up to $1045 a person and get two nights free, when
travelling until April 15. Costs from $7410 a person, twin share. 1300 851 800,
for you. Join Wildlife Asia board member Clare Campbell (pictured) travelling through
Indonesia, from Jakarta to east Borneo and Sumatra, to see and save five endangered
species. Bornean orang-utans, Sumatran rhinos, Asian elephants, Sun bears and
the crowdpleasing Silvery gibbons all are under threat from disappearing
habitats and poaching.
boats (klotoks) and trek through
rainforests, staying in jungle lodges and on boats to view the wildlife and
visit animal rescue centres and the Dayak villages of Borneo. Departs 10-18
March, 2013. Costs $3100 a person plus $1000 secured fundraising. Excludes
international airfares, 0499 773 303, wildlifeasia.org.au.
|The Shard, London.|
An astonishing line-up of new attractions awaits globetrotters in 2013, as Belinda Jackson and Julietta Jameson discover in their round-up of the best.
1. Marina Boulevard, Singapore
|Gardens on the Bay, Singapore.|
2. London, England
3. Johor Bahru, Malaysia
4. Yas Island, Abu Dhabi
|Yas Waterworld (artist’s impression)|
5. Sichuan province, China
6. Paris, France
7. Jackson, New Jersey, US
8. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
|Cardboard cathedral, NZ.|
9. Christchurch, New Zealand
10. Daqing, China
Source: Sun Herald newspaper
|On the Oodnadatta Track.|
This morning, as Sydney puffs its way through a heat wave, breakfast TV did a cross to Oodnadatta. The tiny town in northern South Australia is experiencing a run of above 45C degrees, topping out at 48C on Saturday – that’s 118.4 Fahrenheit for all you imperialists out there.
A few years ago, I travelled to Oodnadatta to do a newspaper story about the pubs along the track (which the subs creatively titled Aussie Crawl).
Our editors sent us there in January. The photographer, Randy Larcombe, and I pulled in to sleepy Marree for water and, lured by the espresso machine on the counter, a coffee.
“Where are you from?” asked the woman at the counter.
When we told her we’d just come up from Adelaide, her face turned purple. “You’re bloody Aussies! You know better than to come out here in the middle of summer!” We blamed it on our Sydney editors. She bought it. We shouldn’t have bought the coffee. It was dreadful.
PS: a big hello to the Pink Roadhouse at Oodnadatta, a welcome pit stop and burger mecca in the desert founded by Lynnie and her husband Adam Plate. We were terribly sorry to hear of Adam’s death last year. He told me how he and Lynnie, fresh from art school in Darlinghurst, were walking camels and donkeys through the desert in the 70s before stopping at Oodnadatta. They put the town and the track on the map, and on breakfast TV.