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Croatia: A fascinating country

Croatia is a country with a deep and turbulent history. We have walked in the paths of the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Corintians and Venetians.  We met a guide whose parents, wife, and children were all born in the same village as himself, but each was born under a different ruling authority, and so each was officially born in a different country….AustroHungarian Empire, Italy, Serbia, Yugoslavia and Croatia. 

The scenery is spectacular, especially the coastal villages on little islands that we'd never heard of until we booked the holiday. 

Croatian coastline Traveling by small boat is ideal because you can moor in the centre of the town, disembark and you are immediately able to start your exploration. 

And the swimming! Forgive me if I do a little rave here but the water is just wonderful, cool but not too cold, salty and buoyant, calm and very lovely for just moving around in the water.  I didn't try swimming because it was so delightful just paddling around, floating and watching the passing parade of Europeans on holidays. 

As time is limited to write this blog post I'll finish here, because in a few minutes I'm heading off with others to explore a pretty little village on the island of Brac. 

Thelma e Luisa Ladies Only Tour Of Italy

I'm always delighted to hear of Baby Boomers who are creating the life they want through a clever business idea or by offering a great solution that enables others to create the life experiences they desire. The guest author of this blog post Marguerite McMahon has done just that, using her years of travel experience to provide a great tour of Italy for ladies who don't want to travel on their own.

Would you like to be part of the Thelma e Luisa Tour of Italy? 

tuscany-red-hillsWhy is this tour called the Thelma e Luisa Ladies Only Tour of Italy? Yes it is a pun on the title of the old Brad Pitt movie, but don’t worry…..we will not be driving off a cliff! 

I am organising a small group departure for ladies who would like a holiday in Italy. There are many ladies…single for one reason or another, or with a partner who doesn’t want to travel…who do not want to travel in a large group, don’t want to have to pay single supplement, or perhaps would prefer the security and fun of being part of a friendly group when travelling.

The idea of this tour developed when joking with a couple of dear friends about how much fun it would be to do a "girls only" road trip touring Italy. Initially we were not seriously planning a holiday….but then the idea grew and grew.   

So I am delighted to invite you to join our THELMA e LUISA LADIES ONLY TOUR of ITALY.  The numbers who can come on this exciting tour are very limited and only three places are still available. If the idea of holidaying in Italy with a small group of like-minded ladies appeals to you, don’t delay. Give me a call – 0408 765954 – or email me today to find out all about our tour.

About Marguerite McMahon
I love to travel, and I love to share the joys of travel with other people. Some people are content to just stay around home. That life does not seem to keep me exhilarated. I’ve lived and worked in England, I have been a volunteer in Israel, have worked in NZ, worked in Vienna and another place close to my heart, bella Roma. They say if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain you will return. Each time I go to Rome I always throw a coin in the Trevi….and so I keep going back!

I have been working within the Travel Industry for the past 30 years. My business name is Marguerite McMahon Travel Services. I only work by appointments and if local, would go visit you at your favourite coffee shop. Otherwise I am still able to offer my personal service and attention via phone.

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www.travelwithmarguerite.com.au   [email protected]

Images from previous tours organised by Marguerite McMahon Travel Services

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6 Tips For Traveling In Budapest

Budapest is a beautiful city, well worth a visit.  We were there during the Szygert imageMusic Festival so the city was teeming with the youth of the world, all intent on having a great time. That brought a lovely youthful vibe to the city and attractions, where I expected the baby boomer generation to dominate, due to the large number of people who take the river boat cruises from Budapest to Amstedam or the reverse journey. 

In mid August it was very hot and dry, and the sky seems to permanently have the haze that adds charm to photos, but is probably dust and pollution. 

I put together these five tips for some friends who are visiting Budapest soon. I hope they contribute to your pleasure whilst in Budapest. 

image1. Bring a swimming cap or at least a shower cap to Gellert Spa or you can't go in the cold pool. My law-abiding husband broke two rules at once and was severely reprimanded by an officious man with a loud whistle, expressive hand gestures and no sense of humour!  In his delight to find a cold pool he did a big jump in the deep end……

No jumping allowed!

Caps must be worn at all times!

No sir, we didn't read the signs! 

At the other big mineral spa, Szechenyi Baths, the rule was similar but only enforced there if you are doing laps. They have a fun outside pool with a great massaging waterfall. They also have many hot pools but the day I was there they were all overrun with Szegert Music Festival participants. 

2. The Hop on hop off bus is excellent but keep an eye on last bus time…It's a looonnnggwalk home if you miss it because you were too long at the mineral baths! We used Red/Yellow line (giraffe bus I think they are called) and that included boat rides and night buses & boats if you were still capable of doing something at night. (We weren't!)

3. The Castle coffee shop overlooking the city has stunning views, brilliant imageambience and the iced coffee was the best ever (or maybe I was in desperately need of liquid, caffeine and sugar by then). We were serenaded by a violinist and enjoyed the music provided by him, a cellist and keyboard player.  

image4. The Opera House looks amazing but we didn't do a tour. Similarly the Parliament House.

5. We stayed at Palazzo Vichy Hotel and loved it. The only negative was the distance to the nearest hop on hop off bus stops as our feet got tired. The restaurant in the little square opposite the hotel, and it being in a local resident/ university area added to the charm. 

6. Final, but most important, tip: Start walking training now in the shoes you will be wearing!

Baby Boomer Travelers

For the next five weeks Boomers Next Step blog posts will be focussed on Travel and all the wonderful lifestyle, cultural and historical issues that arise when you are travelling in fascinating parts of the world. 

Gallert Baths BudapestWe have been briefly in Budapest and are now in Zagreb about to enjoy 3 weeks exploring Croatia. Paris then England will follow. 

Somewhere in the skies, in the middle of a long and uncomfortable night, I commented that the effort of getting ready to travel, and then getting to your destination, was just not worth it! I admit I was sleep-deprived and feeling a little tired and crotchety at the time. Yes, it is an effort, but it is so so worth it! 

As I looked around at the people boarding our flight, and again at the tourists we saw in Budapest, many of whom were about to join the Danube cruises, it reinforced to me how much travel is ingrained in the baby boomer generation as the "reward" we aspire to when many of the other responsibilities of life have lessened.  

For those of us fortunate enough to be able to travel there are often two times in your life that you can freely do so….before your career gets underway and when you are either finished or nearly finished your traditional career path. Budapest, and flights into Budapest, were filled with both groups!  

The Szigert Music Festival was on and around 40000 young people from around the world were there to enjoy it.  I wish I could share with you a photo I took at the Szechenyi Baths two days ago, but it's on my camera and not yet downloaded.  I think the 40000 music festival participants were all at the Mineral spa at the same time as me. But they were so full of the joy of living that I didn't mind the ridiculously crowded pools, instead enjoying their vibrancy and excitement. 

But where were the baby boomer travellers?  Not at the baths, that's for sure, but undoubtedly enjoying some of the many delights of Budapest.  I just hope they didn't avoid the glorious Szechenyi Baths because the youth of the world had taken it over for a few days. 

What did I gain from my sardine-like experience with the young and beautiful at the Szechenyi Baths? I was remindered to enjoy every moment of this travel experience, do everything we can, don't let age stop me from trying new things, and basically live life to the full. 

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Top Holiday Destinations for 2015

The Guardian newspaper in England has just released their list of the best holiday destinations for 2015 and I'm delighted to see that Brisbane is on the list

Once an overgrown country town, the Queensland capital has changed beyond recognition in recent years: Lonely Planet named it Australia’s hippest city last year. Alongside hotel and bar openings and the rise of riverside restaurants such as Pony Dining (which, in an act of gastronomic symbolism, replaced a McDonald’s at Eagle Street pier) and Stokehouse Q at Southbank, Brisvegas has a series of happening villages. Prime among them is Fortitude Valley, where the world’s first Tryp Hotel opened recently, as did Kwan Bros, a superb Japanese-fusion restaurant. Also on the north bank of the Brisbane river, once-seedy Caxton Street, near Paddington, is a new social hub, now home to the flamboyant Gambaro hotel and to Lefty’s Oldtime Music Hall, which has live bands, 100 rye whiskies, and was named Gourmet Traveller’s “best Australian bar 2014”. (Quoted directly from The Guardian's article.)

I don't know Brisbane as a tourist destination, but as a place to live I have found Brisbane wonderful.  Small enough to make getting around easy, but large enough to have everything we want in a city.  Certainly I still miss aspects of Sydney, and still get excited when I revisit that city and catch up with old friends there, but as a city to live in and a city in which to raise a family, Brisbane is a winner. 

Komiza CroatiaCroatia is also mentioned and we are booked to spend time travelling around Croatia later this year.  I hadn't realised that Game of Thrones features Dubrovnik, but really every image you ever see of Croatia is quite beautiful.  I'm looking forward to spending time there.

As for all the other places on that list….my travel bucket list is getting longer all the time!  

The Pleasures Of Travel – Eating Local Foods

Thai floating market vendorI confess that meandering slowly through local markets, eating traditional street food, and eating where the locals eat is one of my greatest joys when I am travelling.  I'm an adventurous eater and enjoy sampling the food that is loved by the people of an area I am visiting.  I learnt on my first adventuous trip out of Australia that I had a cast iron stomach, so purchasing from street vendors holds no fear for me.  

The food and travel website Thrillist has released its guide to The World’s 18 Best Food cities. Their top cities were chosed according to a trend of improvement and innovation, as well as the diversity and uniqueness of traditional styles and the quality of the venues. 

Coming in at number 17 was Melbourne Australia. I love their comparative description of Sydney vs Melbourne. I've never really understood why people are so passionate about Melbourne, but I obviously haven't eaten at the right places. 

If Sydney is the New York City of Australia, Melbourne is basically a less hilly San Francisco: smaller, a little more Victorian in its stylings, with an impressive food scene to match. Though famous chefs from all over the world have opened outposts in Sydney (see: David Chang), Melbourne’s scene happened more organically with chefs that came up there, as evidenced by now-ultra-famous toques like Frank Camorra of the MoVida empire, and Andrew McConnell of Cumulus, who turned laneway (like alleys, but much cooler sounding) dining into something more hep, less sketchy.

Bordeaux and Bologna are rated as first and second in the world, with London listed in fourth place for the big name restaurants in that city. But I was delighted to see the street food in quite a few cities was mentioned as being an important part of the culinary experience of cities such as Mumbai, Marakesh and even New York.

Thai seafood curryI have special memories of meals in interesting places around the world, perhaps the most amusing being beside the sea in Da Nang, Vietnam, where we ordered two spring rolls and ended up with two serves of 20!  More recently we stayed at a hotel in Bangkok, booked online for no reason other than it was the right price in the area we wanted to be in, where the chef had been part of the royal family's staff and cooked many of the traditional Thai food.  With no idea of the reputation of chef or restaurant we ate at the hotel just because we were too tired to go anywhere else, and had the most superb Thai meal.  Such are the things that make a holiday very special. 

What is your most precious memory of a foodie experience during your travels? 

Travel in New Zealand: Rotorua

On our recent holiday in New Zealand we had the wonderful experience of visiting Rotorua and the surrounding areas.

I remember Rotorua clearly from my first visit to New Zealand as a young University student. It smelt bad. It was an old and daggy looking town. There was steam coming out of drainpipes. I didn't like it then.

Scenes from Rotorua NZ - museum, tree and Maori dancerI knew I should revisit Rotorua but I didn't expect to experience it so differently. Rotorua is now a very successful tourism town. Accommodation is busy, even midweek and out of the main tourist season. It is unique because of the thermal activity that is an ever present aspect of this town, and of course this is why people flock to the town to visit.

The town itself was interesting, with my favourite building being a beautiful old museum that used to be the thermal baths. A visit to this museum was delightful and very informative. We also visited a Maori village and saw food being cooked the traditional way, steamed in the thermal waters. We enjoyed a couple of quirky features of the town – A Superloo (not sure why it was so Super…Maybe I should have visited it to find out) and a tree covered in colourful crochet.

People had told us to visit the local park in the centre of town, and there, just metres from play equipment and European Rotorua thermal areasstyled park gardens were areas of steaming mud and steam gushing out of rocks and ponds. Very strange! I'm sure the OHS people wouldn't allow it in Australia. It would be surrounded by high fences and barriers. Not so in Rotorua….If anyone wanted to they just had to duck under a normal park fence to be in the danger zones.

Stranger still, but mesmerisingly beautiful, was Orakei Korako, about an hour out of Rotorua. You park near a lake, with steam rising from the water in a few areas close to the shore. One of these areas had a family of ducks all happily swimming around in the warm water. I half expected to find "Steamed Duck" on the lunch menu at the cafe.

Orakei Korako thermal regionWe both had minor mobility issues that week. David had sprained his ankle a week before the holiday and I have an irritable knee. When we asked about purchasing tickets we were told there were 700 steps at Orakei Korako, so we nearly decided not to go. I'm so glad we changed our mind.

A short boat ride across the lake you disembark to view a luna landscape, and then follow paths through an area of amazing thermal activity. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time, fascinating and constantly changing as you walked around the designated paths. As we began our return to the boat we were delighted by the lovely rainforest area we walked through, complete with the New Zealand emblem of the silver fern growing beside the path. A description of the area doesn't do it justice. All I can say is…see it for yourself.

We got a great deal on flights through the booking site that is available through World Ventures Travel Club. Our flights were nearly half the cost of what was quoted on the online site we would normally have used for my travel arrangements, and just over $300 less than through the other site I've often used to book air fares…..for exactly the same flights, same day, same time! I was absolutely delighted and determined to make the most of opportunities for cheap travel available through this travel club.

Travel to Croatia

Komiza Croatia

We have just booked an amazing holiday for August next year.  We are going to Croatia and will be cruising and touring there for 3 weeks. 

We tend to be independent travellers, finding our own deals, deciding on the itinerary and then getting a bit off the beaten track where possible.  However this particular trip comes highly recommended to us and it’s appeal was very clear when we read about it, so we decided to give it a go.

Bol Centre CroatiaA travel agent in Perth takes a small group of people to Croatia, his country of origin, each year to share the highlights of the country with them.  Over a few years the trip has been refined, the cruise ship has been changed and the itinerary has been altered a little, but the spirit of the trip remains the same….A small group (34 people) having fun together and seeing the best that Croatia has to offer. 

Moli LosinjWhile we will be based on the cruise boat for much of the trip, we will meet in Zagreb and travel by road to Rijeka.  Once we embark on the boat we won’t be confined to the coastal cities as a coach will be waiting for us in some places to take us to see special places inland then back to the boat.  For the last 6 days of the trip we will leave our boat behind, staying in Dubrovnik then travelling by coach to explore some inland areas, including the Plitvice Lakes and National Park. 

When I was a young backpacker Croatia, which was then part of Yugoslavia, was almost a “no-go” zone.  Fellow travellers spoke of how beautiful it was and how cheap to travel but it was considered dangerous, especially for female backpackers. The only one of my friends who visited there was raped and she discovered, too late, that this was not uncommon.  Politically so much has happened in the country since then, but the physical beauty and much of the history of the region remains intact.  We will be visiting ancient Roman ruins, walled cities, beautiful islands and a coastline that is stunning in photographs.  It sounds amazing to me!

Sibenik CroatiaSo as the excitement mounts it’s time to start reading about Croatia, it’s history and geography, and choose a couple of good Croatian-related novels to read while relaxing on the cruise.   Any suggestions? 

The World Doesn’t End With The Blue Sky

By Daniel Noll By Esupat, a Maasai woman in northern Tanzania. “ You can call me Airport ,” Esupat said, laughing. She sat atop a Maasai hut with her legs crossed, straddling a half-built chimney. Small piles of bricks surrounded her; wet cement fell…

 

Read More…

Travel in New Zealand – Coromandel Peninsula

About 2 hours drive from Auckland New Zealand is the Coromandel Peninsula, an area of extremely beautiful scenery.   Blue seas, glorious bays, many islands dotted in bays and thriving small towns made this a highlight of our visit to New Zealand's North Island. 

The official New Zealand tourism website describes the area glowingly.  

Three scenes from Coromandel Peninsula"The Coromandel, with its pristine beaches, native forests and laid-back vibe, is one of New Zealand’s most popular and best-loved holiday destinations…..the home of many artists and craftspeople……home of many events and concerts that draw locals and visitors alike to this remarkable place…..accommodation providers have found themselves spectacular locations ….with an amazing view."

Whitianga was our favourite town on the peninsula. It was from there that we visited Mercury Bay, including Cathedral Cove (see my earlier article – Travel In New Zealand: Coromandel Peninsula Cruise), enjoyed great meals and based ourselves to visit the rest of the peninsula.  But my favourite moment was when we woke on our last morning, to a most unusual view over the bay.  The water was obviously warmer than the outside temperature and as the run came up steam lifted from the bay and hung there, suspended over the water.  It was truly beautiful. 

Coromandel Peninsula NZI'm always amused by the Facebook and Instagram photos of people's meals, but for once I wish I had photographed some of the food that we ate.  At Salt in Whitianga, a well-known restaurant attached to a hotel and situated next to the marina, we had a superb three course meal.  Certainly it wasn't inexpensive but the quality of the seafood and beef was superb, and the presentation and flavours made it worth the money.  

Coromandel NZWhilst the east coast of the peninsula is well developed and quite sophisticated in many ways, the western side of the peninsula is a different story.  It's as if the last 50 years have not occured around the township of Coromandel. It reminded me of the New Zealand I visited when I was a University student, and that was many years ago!  It is a quirky area and we were most amused by the rooftop icon on the local laundromat.  

If you are planning to travel in New Zealand, try to include a few days to visit the Coromandel Peninsula. 

 

 

Travel in New Zealand: Coromandel Peninsula Cruise

We recently enjoyed a brief road trip around the central part of the North Island of New Zealand. The scenery was spectacular, the food was world class and it was a wonderful way to relax and re-energise. The Coromandel Peninsula is an area of New Zealand we had never visited before.

I puzzled about why, when I was a 19 year old backpacker travelling New Zealand with my friend Suellen, we didn't go to this area. I soon realised that we'd probably been advised not to go there because we were hitch-hiking (oh yes, those were the days of being 10 feet tall and bullet proof!). It is an area where any lift would have to take you to the next 'big' town because there was nothing in between.

Fast forward to now and we relished being in such lush countryside driving through predominantly dairy and fruit farms, observing the bee hives carefully tended on most produce farms, the pigs, ostriches and alpacas. In other parts of the peninsula we drove through lush rain forest and beside stunning coastal scenery, more beautiful than anything I've seen anywhere.

Entering a sea caveThe highlight was taking a cruise at Whitianga. Ken from Cathedral Cove Scenic Tours was the perfect host, knowledgeable, fun and aware of each of his clients,  making sure we got the photos we wanted, were warm enough etc…… All the little things that make for an enjoyable tourist experience.

With my professional interest in career change and my personal interest in people's stories I couldn't help but ask him how he came to be doing this work.  With delight he told me that he and his wife had always planned to move to this area but a redundancy hastened the process.  Rather than moving five years later, as planned, they made the move to the Coromandel Peninsula and bought the tourist boat business.  He looked at me and said, almost in a boyish way, "This is my work.  This is what I do every day.  How lucky am I!"  

He had no idea that my professional life is spent helping people make major career changes, nor did he know what joy those words would give me.  If only everyone could feel that way about their work!

Undeniably, where he works is spectacular.  Enjoy these photos taken on the cruise, which includes Cathedral Cove and other scenery which was featured in movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Cathedral Cove Coromandel Peninsula NZ  Mercury Bay Coromandel Peninsula NZ 

Give Me Brisbane Any Day

It is wonderful to travel the world, and to dream of the places you could visit, but at the same time it is so easy to overlook the treasures that are close to home.

Brisbane River from Hamilton Brisbane is a city like that.  It doesn’t have the visual magnificence of Sydney, screaming “Look at me!” whenever you go anywhere near the harbour or the beaches.  It doesn’t have the legendary shopping experiences of Melbourne, or its ingrained quirkiness (although I suggest that aspect is changing rapidly). But Brisbane has limitless things to do and see, easily accessible and often less expensive than the bigger east coast cities.

The Powerhouse theatre is a great example of this.  Converted into an eclectic space of theatres, open space, bar and restaurant, and located on the river, it is a delight to visit.  Just last week I saw Melanie Safka perform there.  We sat outside in comfort (although it is winter in Brisbane) to sip a glass of wine and enjoy a gourmet pizza, watching the City Cat pass by on the river.  After that delightful interlude we went inside to enjoy a great concert, with an audience of predominantly baby boomers, although there was a good smattering of younger fans.  In the main area all ages and stages of life were represented.  An interesting musical performance was taking place in an elevated open area, while others were taking photos of themselves and their companions using the props that were displayed to promote the Queensland Cabaret Festival.  After the show, unlike so many other cities, we walked a short distance outside to our car and were on our way home in minutes.  The Powerhouse is a world class venue, but just one of so many examples of great entertainment and interesting places to visit in Brisbane.

Another favourite place of mine is Moreton Bay where we spend a lot of time, sailing on the Bay, walking beside it and just looking at it.  It’s Brisbane’s best kept secret, but I’d rather it not share to much information about it because I love that isn’t too busy even during the weekend.

Enough of my favourites! What is your favourite place in Brisbane?

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