TREKS AND THE KITTY

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

IT is true that Depar­tureLounge does not have a pet, but it has not al­ways been so. Lounge has owned a range of char­ac­ter cats in her time, in­clud­ing the es­timable Basil Brush, a ginger tom with a tail as fine as the television-star fox af­ter which he was named. Basil liked to travel by car, mostly on his mistress’s lap, wedged un­der the steer­ing wheel. Any sud­den move­ment of said wheel that con­spired to up­set his per­sonal com­fort and he would sink his claws into Lounge ’ s thighs and growl like a tiger cub.

Basil en­joyed sev­eral clan­des­tine mo­tel stays in his time, smug­gled inside and popped un­der the bed­clothes, which was al­ways his pre­ferred sleep­ing venue. It was very naughty of Lounge to dis­obey mo­tel health reg­u­la­tions, but in her mind Basil was cleaner than most hu­mans of her ac­quain­tance. He spent an in­or­di­nate amount of bed­time, usu­ally be­tween 3am and 6am, metic­u­lously groom­ing his fluffy coat with his raspy lit­tle tongue. The daily rou­tine over, he’d start on Lounge ’ s toes un­der the bed­clothes; it was like hav­ing one’s skin lightly sand­pa­pered in readi­ness for fur­ther beau­ti­fi­ca­tion.

In to­day’s spa terms, it would be re­ferred to as exfoliation and I would be charged $90 an hour for such ser­vices.

Basil died in the 1980s and de­spite a suc­ces­sion of lovely ginger re­place­ments, none has quite matched his style, fas­ci­na­tion with groom­ing and love of mo­tor­ing.

HAD he sur­vived, Basil would have been the per­fect an­i­mal to rent out as a ho­tel com­pan­ion. I am­re­minded of his many fine traits when read­ing about a new tem­po­rarypet ini­tia­tive from Canada’s Fair­mont Ho­tels. If you are ‘‘ pin­ing for your pooch’’, Fair­mont Ho­tels has in­tro­duced a ‘‘ fleet of dog­gies that you can book on­line and take for walks if you are a ho­tel guest’’.

Be­tween walks, the pooches sit in ken­nels in front of the ho­tels, ‘‘ keep the door­men com­pany and wel­come guests with wag­ging tails’’. Each of the group’s prop­er­ties has its res­i­dent dog: in Que­bec City, San­tol is avail­able at the Fair­mont Chateau Fron­tenac; at the Fair­mont Ho­tel Van­cou­ver, it’s golden re­triever Mavis and yel­low labrador Beau, while at the Fair­mont Wa­ter­front Van­cou­ver, Holly, a golden labre­triever cross, is on duty.

The four are in­volved in char­ity fundrais­ing and re­spon­si­ble dog own­er­ship pro­grams. Each has its own email ad­dress and, pre­sum­ably, is pro­fi­cient with key­board and mouse. Basil would turn in his mistress’s bed. www.fair­mont.com.

AU­THOR and his­to­rian Jan Mor­ris once con­tended that ho­tels should pro­vide reg­u­lar puss-lov­ing guests with a cat of choice. Lounge can imag­ine the sce­nario at the front desk: ‘‘ I would like a dou­ble room, with a view of the cathe­dral, and a small abyssinian, please.’’

I doubt that in­de­pen­dent-minded fe­lines would be as obe­di­ent as ho­tel dogs. As the old say­ing goes, ‘‘ Dogs have own­ers; cats have staff.’’ But more and more prop­er­ties have cot­toned on to the pet idea, even if some have gone for the vir­tual approach. Many Ja­panese ho­tels of­fer television screen­savers show­ing fish-filled aquar­i­ums; per­haps more au­then­tic is the Ho­tel Monaco in Salt Lake City, Utah, which sim­ply pro­vides a gold­fish and bowl to guests who are miss­ing their wet pets. Of course, the pro­gram is called Guppy Love.

CHECK­ING her emails on board a cruise ship re­cently, Lounge was amazed at the num­ber of peo­ple log­ging on to pup­py­cam to check their pets.

One wo­man flew into a to­tal panic by Lounge ’ s side, sob­bing that her dog must be dead. ‘‘ She hasn’t moved in her bed for 40 min­utes . . . it’s not nat­u­ral.’’ Luck­ily her hus­band ar­rived and ex­plained to her the in­fi­nite mys­ter­ies of time zones. In Den­ver, Colorado, it was 2am, well past any sel­f­re­spect­ing puppy’s bed­time.

THE ninth edi­tion of Hol­i­day­ing­with Dogs (Life Be in It, $24.95) is now out and what a handy digest it is, cov­er­ing all states and con­tain­ing scores of list­ings.

There’s also a cat ver­sion ($17.50), which is smaller and has had but two edi­tions, which rather proves that pam­pered pusses are not that keen on car­a­van parks and camp­sites. www.hol­i­day­ing­with­dogs.com.au.

THERE’S been some­thing of a tourism boom on Nor­folk Is­land, with a 22 per cent rise in vis­i­tors dur­ing the past fi­nan­cial year. More than 34,300 trav­ellers flew in, a rise at­trib­uted to the launch of more flights by Qan­tas code-share part­ner and is­landrun air­line, Nor­folk Air. About 75 per cent of those vis­i­tors in 2006-07 were from Aus­tralia and 24 per cent from New Zealand. Nor­folk Is­land Tourism’s gen­eral man­ager, Steve McInnes, says a fac­tor in the suc­cess is the de­but of soft ad­ven­ture tour­ing such as kayak­ing and moun­tain bik­ing. www.nor­folk­island.nf.

TRAVEL sur­veys seem to be as com­mon as flies at a bar­bie, but here’s one with a slant. Ac­cord­ing to To­tal­Travel.com: ‘‘ Aussie work­ers would aban­don their long week­ends in favour of more an­nual hol­i­day leave.’’ Dur­ing a four-week pe­riod the com­pany con­ducted an on­line sur­vey that asked: ‘‘ Would you give up your pub­lic hol­i­days to re­ceive an ex­tra two weeks of an­nual hol­i­day leave?’’ Forty three per cent of re­spon­dents came back with a re­sound­ing yes. To­tal­Travel.com global mar­ket­ing man­ager Paul Fisher com­ments, ‘‘ With peo­ple lead­ing such busy, pres­sured lives, it’s no won­der that peo­ple want some ex­tra time off to re­lax and re­cu­per­ate.’’

Lounge thinks this is bad news for the Aus­tralian short-break in­dus­try; the long week­end and quick-get­away mar­ket is one of the fastest grow­ing in the coun­try. Just look at the num­ber of ho­tel and re­sort pack­ages avail­able to lure trav­ellers for a few days of stay-and-play.

FIND of the week: Life Re­sorts is about to open Villa Hue, Viet­nam’s first tourist­train­ing ho­tel. Gen­eral di­rec­tor Chris Duffy says: ‘‘ We aim to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the de­vel­op­ment of man­agers and ho­tel staff in Viet­nam who’ll be equipped to ser­vice the bur­geon­ing in­ter­na­tional mar­ket.’’ Good news that the ho­tel’s gen­eral man­ager is an Aus­tralian; Jane Fore­man, for­merly of the Hy­att Re­gency Coolum on the Queens­land Sun­shine Coast, is in charge of the 12-room, four-star train­ing ho­tel, which will wel­come guests from Tues­day. www.life-re­sorts.com.

LOUNGE loves: The idea of Translu­cent World, an ex­hi­bi­tion of pre­cious Chi­nese jade from a col­lec­tion held by Bei­jing’s Palace Mu­seum. At the Art Gallery of NSW in Syd­ney’s Do­main from Au­gust 30 to Novem­ber 11. www.art­gallery.nsw.gov.au.

Jo Malone green tea and honey eye cream: a fab boost for de­hy­drated trav­eller’s skin and sore eyes. $69 for 15ml at www.fra­grance­sand­cos­met­ics.com.au.

LOUNGE loathes: The silly prom­ises creep­ing into spa menus. Lounge does not want to be taken on a drift­ing jour­ney of med­i­ta­tion, reawak­en­ing and self-re­newal; she wants a mas­sage.

DEALS OF THE WEEK

AN Egyp­tian hol­i­day with a free tour — and busi­ness-class flights — thrown in; sav­ings ap­ply to visit In­dia’s Ra­jasthan in style; free ac­com­mo­da­tion be­fore you walk the Abel Tas­man on New Zealand’s South Is­land; two free nights in Samoa; cheap rail travel for un­der-35s. Th­ese and other moneysav­ing of­fers are fea­tured in Travel& In­dul­gence ’ s hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily at www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel.

Il­lus­tra­tion: John Tiede­mann

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