LIFE OF THE PARTY
My sisters and I are exploring meeting for our mother’s 80th birthday in April 2019. There will be 14 of us ranging in age from 14 to 80, and we will be travelling from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. We love the idea of having a big house somewhere on the beach.
You could look at hiring a private villa for your stay, perhaps in Thailand. You can choose from seafront or seaview in either Phuket or Koh Samui and have private facilities including your own pool, lounge, dining, outdoor entertaining and kitchen.
Villa accommodation is stunning and modern and is usually within walking distance of beaches, shops and dining. The facilities provided with each villa traditionally surpass anything you would find in a hotel room and you will also have your own large fridge plus cooking facilities. The kids will love buying some fresh fruit to keep on hand. Some offer daily service and chefs. Thai Villa Escapes have an array on offer (thaivillaescapes.com.au).
TIME TO TANGO
My husband and I are in Buenos Aires for three nights before an Antarctic expedition and then a couple of nights after. Do you have any suggestions of activities or tours to do? We are in our 60s and reasonably fit and active. We would like to have a tango lesson.
Try to get a tango lesson on the first day or so and you’ll have more time to practise and perfect your moves. Buenos Aires is full of dance studios (milongas), but La Catedral is one you could try for your first encounter with this passionate dance. This easy-tomiss dance hall at Sarmiento 4006, in the Palermo district, is perfect for beginners. It’s casual, bohemian and there’s no dress code. Others ideal for beginners are Tango Cool, La Viruta and La Marshall.
To see a performance by experts in the field and get a true feel for the artistic nature of these moves, try the Esquina Carlos Gardel (esquinacarlosgardel.com.ar).
The Palermo area is unofficially made of mini neighbourhoods all with their own nickname, like Palermo Hollywood, Palermo Soho and Plaza Italia. The areas are easily strolled and full of lively cafes, art, gardens and cats. There are loads of interesting things to see as you also wander around the central part of the city, like the Centro Cultural Kirchner, a former post office covering an entire city block. Over its eight storeys you will find many art galleries, auditoriums and the huge concert hall seating more than 1800.
Also around the Plaza de Mayo in the centre, you will see the pink coloured Casa Rosada, the office of the President. Each weekend, there are free, one-hour, guided tours of the building (note: you will need ID).
The Cementerio de la Recoleta in the Barrio Norte is definitely worth a visit. The statues and marble mausoleums in this cemetery are remarkable. Free tours in Spanish are offered Tuesday to Friday at 11am.
If you’re there on a Sunday, head to San Telmo to the street market. The streets are blocked to traffic and you’ll find plenty of crafts to buy, delicious foods to sample and lively music. Or take bus 55 from Palermo to the neighbourhood of Mataderos to take in a traditional-style folk market with folk singers, horseback entertainers and traditional foods. Also, don’t be afraid to have an afternoon nap then head out again after sundown when the city really comes alive.
If you’d like to join a tour, Chimu Adventures (chimuadventures.com) have a wide selection, including twoand three-night explorations. Contours (contourstravel.com.au) can help you tailor-make an itinerary according to your particular interests, as can the people at the South America Travel Centre (southamericatravelcentre.com.au).
My wife and I will travel to Italy and Sicily soon on QATAR airlines. We are travelling economy class and have transits both ways in Doha of several hours. Is it possible to buy access to a business lounge to allow showering, change of clothes and a bit of quiet time?
Hamad International Airport at Doha does provide access to lounges for economy-class passengers. You have the choice of the Oryx Lounge, the Al Maha or the Airport Hotel.
The Oryx Lounge offers a quiet zone, bathrooms, internet and food and beverage services for about $A70 a person. The Airport Hotel inside the airport has day rooms available for a minimum of five hours. If you’re heading to the hotel, don’t pass through immigration and the hotel will provide a rate on application.
Hamad Airport also supplies a meet and greet service by Al Maha Services (al-mahaservices.com).
You can opt to be met as you land and assisted with any formalities before heading to one of their lounges or make your own way there. You may like to pre-buy a lounge pass to guarantee you a spot 24 hours in advance for about $100 for three hours, or pay at the door if there’s space available.
As a tip, carry your required toiletries and medicines in your hand luggage as you won’t be able to access your suitcase while in transit.
TO LOCK OR NOT TO LOCK
I have made several trips to the US, each time my suitcase has been unlocked and checked. A note is always left.
The last time my lock was broken and taped to a note inside my case, politely telling me not to lock as the US Security has trustworthy staff. My bags go through two Australian airports before the US. My question is to lock or not to lock?
I must admit, I like to lock and I now use a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) approved lock.
At least then if my bag is flagged for inspection, the officers will have the right tools to open it without damage to my bag or the lock.
There are many available in Australia and they are usually identified by a small red diamond motif on them.
The TSA is not liable for any damage that is caused to locked bags that must be opened for security purposes.
Hit Thailand for a family gathering and, in Buenos Aires, visit the President’s office (below).