TIMES OF THEIR LIVES
IT’S said that two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings. So, a sense of family and belonging, and permission to break free, to travel, to find out what’s around the corner, over the hill and far away.
Before this ultimate escape can be accomplished, we need to travel with our children, to teach them about the world or, in the case of DepartureLounge ’ s two offspring, allow them to make fabulous fun of us as we become flustered by roundabouts and foreign signs or try to put on a snorkel and mask upside down. In Hawaii on one occasion, which became known as the Maui Maui Rebellion, Lounge managed to cause terminal embarrassment to her sons not just by driving on the wrong side of the road but by failing to grasp the intricacies of a manual transmission, thus causing our rental car to bound about the island like a crazed kangaroo.
Lounge has a suspicion her parents would have sent her travelling alone at the age of, say, five, if given half a chance. Little Lounge (bossy, with plaits and a pony) rarely let up about wanting to go on excursions, to have adventures of The FamousFive ilk (smugglers’ caves were mentioned), while mother and father thought weekends were about pruning roses and listening to the cricket on a transistor radio. They let Lounge take her various cats — notably, Lady Prudence, Ginger Nut and Scamp Mouseymouth— out for walks (sometimes in a doll’s pram; the snooty Lady Prudence was not averse to strolling on a red patent-leather leash, either). But it has to be considered that mother and father would have preferred to just wrap Lounge ’ s afternoon tea in a road map of Surrey and send her off indefinitely, or at least until darkness fell, which in summer in England is conveniently very late.
But in those long-gone days, parents were quite unworried about letting children disappear all day to play. Two decades later, Lounge ’ s sons found themselves on much shorter leads, invariably with their mother tugging at the end.
As they were growing up, we took holidays whenever we could, from the landmark kind (Disneyland and a South Pacific cruise) to renting beach houses or driving up to Sydney’s Blue Mountains with protesting cats in special carriers and the car boot jammed with picnic baskets.
It was important to be seeing things, to be sating our curiosity about how other people lived, what they ate and wore, how our own experiences compared. We took thousands of photos, kept journals pasted with postcards and tickets, bored relatives silly with tales of our peregrinations.
Lounge is in a particularly nostalgic mood this weekend as we have a Family Holidays edition for you, full of good information and advice on how to give children the (travel) time of their lives. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be a grand adventure. After more than 15 years of traipsing with my sons, often to exotic climes, do you know what they remember most fondly? The time we went camping in a national park near Sydney and they were allowed to cook the sausages and not take showers before bed. Or perhaps it’s not the scorched snags and hygiene dispensation they remember; more that their mother, unable to channel quite everything she’d learned in the First Dorking Girl Guides troop, erected the tent in such a carefree fashion that it collapsed in the middle of the night. Happy togetherness. LOUNGE’S elder son, Justin, was recently in Japan and met up with his old schoolfriend Ben Lee, now based in England. Ben went mad shopping for clothes and couldn’t believe Tokyo’s good value compared with London’s.
The present strength of the Australian dollar against the yen has made Japan an unlikely bargain. According to Ken Osetroff, director of toursgallery.com, which operates escorted tours to Japan, there are real bargains to be had. He says: ‘‘ A coffee will cost you $1.50, fresh-cut sandwiches cost around $4 and a very familiar dinner of meat and three veg can be as little as $12.’’
Osteroff says his company has been creating tours to Japan for 25 years. ‘‘ The legendary $100 melons and $10 coffees are simply not part of everyday life . . . we even show our tour guests where to buy antiques and collectables at bargain prices, including beautifully decorated second-hand wedding kimonos for as little as $20.’’ Toursgallery’s Kyoto Gardens and Rural Villages tour departs November 19; $5490 twin-share. 1300 307 317; www.toursgallery.com.
Also note that Travel&Indulgence will publish a 24-page tabloid report, DestinationJapan on Friday, September 21. We will be covering Hokkaido skiing, affordable accommodation and Tokyo for families among the mix.
WELL-PRICED South Africa is also proving irresistible to Australian travellers. Almost 35,000 of us travelled there in the first five months of this year, a 6.7 per cent increase over the same period in 2006. Bangu Masisi, general manager Australasia for South African Tourism, says she’s pleased with the increase and suggests the figure is on target for the country’s tourism goals this year. www.southafrica.net. ■ FIND of the week: Singapore’s new Amara Sanctuary Resort, set in 3.5ha of tropical gardens on Sentosa Island, has an opening special of $S285 ($219) a room a night (valid to the end of August). Some of the luxury accommodation is contained within converted 1930s British army quarters. www.amarasanctuary.com. ■ LOUNGE loves: KuDeTa2, the latest CD by DJ Donni 1. Right on Seminyak Beach, Ku De Ta is the hippest restaurant in Bali; the CD will be available in Australia by the end of the month. Chill out to the likes of Nina Simone or Los Hombres Calientes or, better still, head to Seminyak. www.kudeta.net.
LOUNGE loathes: That scariest line in the English (travel) language. Hire car clerk: ‘‘ We are delighted to upgrade you to a larger vehicle.’’ Just ask Lounge ’ s sons.