LEG IT TO FIJI

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Susan Kuro­sawa

JUST back from an­nual leave in Fiji, Depar­tureLounge is walk­ing (nay, make that limp­ing) ev­i­dence that hol­i­days can be vexed af­fairs. At least the dog bite (day 10; left shin) has pro­vided a bal­ance to the bro­ken toe (day two; right foot). Dur­ing the in­ter­ven­ing eight days, Lounge was list­ing like an over­refreshed sailor, and with lit­tle as­sis­tance from cock­tails of the day.

As we shed stress on our hol­i­days, we of­ten let our guard down, too. I had silly ac­ci­dents be­cause I wasn’t pay­ing at­ten­tion to my sur­round­ings; the adrenalin and fo­cus that keep me go­ing at work had taken a vacation, too. So many trav­ellers re­port they get sick on the first few days of their hol­i­days; all those bugs we keep sup­pressed de­cide to come out to play once stress and pres­sure lev­els sub­side and our bod­ies are tricked into think­ing we are rest­ing.

That was my ex­pe­ri­ence this time, too. As our flight dis­em­barked at Nadi air­port — ukulele bands, bula wel­comes by the buck­et­load and a shower of flower neck­laces — I felt queasy and strangely tired, as if I’d flown 40 hours, not four. I slept for two days straight and, when I did emerge into bril­liant sun­shine, coughed like a seag­ull and jabbed my toe on a way­ward palm tree.

But if one is go­ing to be poorly on hol­i­days, then it may as well be in lovely Fiji. The des­ti­na­tion is boom­ing, de­spite coup fall­out and travel ad­vi­sories. There are splen­did deals at al­most all re­sorts and ho­tels. You couldn’t have fit­ted as much as a wafer-thin pres­sure ban­dage on our Air Pa­cific flights in ei­ther di­rec­tion; even Liku­liku La­goon Re­sort, the is­land prop­erty in the Ma­manuca group with Fiji’s first over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows, was re­port­ing 100 per cent oc­cu­pancy for the first time since its May open­ing.

There is lit­tle sense of any un­rest be­yond Suva and Lounge pre­dicts the lazy-days des­ti­na­tion will boom in 2008. (Tip: pack Band-Aids and sleep masks.)

THE first of the Christ­mas cat­a­logues from aid or­gan­i­sa­tions have hit Lounge ’ s desk and, while it may be scary to con­sider just how close we are to fes­tive sea­son mad­ness, it’s not too early to or­der cards and gifts.

Global jus­tice group New In­ter­na­tion­al­ist has a ter­rific cat­a­logue, in­clud­ing greet­ing cards and cal­en­dars, DVDs and CDs, and bags and back­packs made from a blend of sus­tain­able hemp and cot­ton. Thought­ful idea for stu­dents: a lam­i­nated poster of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights ($25.50). For kids from seven to 14, fun ti­tles from an en­vi­ron­men­tal li­brary ($18.90) deal­ing with top­ics such as cli­mate change and waste. www.newint.com.au.

The Ox­fam Shop has ex­panded its range to in­clude more fair-trade pro­duce from de­vel­op­ing na­tions, gor­geous rugs and cush­ion cov­ers, and hand­made jew­ellery from Peru, Thai­land and Nepal, as well as cat­a­logue stal­warts such as toys and Christ­mas cards. There’s aChrist­mas Aroundthe­World CD from the Pu­tu­mayo col­lec­tion ($33) and, sure win­ners for the lads, model cars made from re­cy­cled alu­minium ($24.95) or a jaunty Vespa scooter ($14.95). Gift vouch­ers are also avail­able on line. www.ox­famshop.org.au.

TO cel­e­brate the sec­ond an­niver­sary of Vic­to­ria’s Phillip Is­land Pen­guin Foun­da­tion, the world’s most fa­mous show-budgie, Kylie Minogue, has been named as an am­bas­sador and ‘‘ new pen­guin par­ent’’. Cut­ting through the hype, the core idea here is a great one. Adopt a lit­tle pen­guin or give a spon­sor­ship as a Christ­mas gift (12 months, $75) and con­trib­ute to re­search and preser­va­tion projects. Sim­i­lar adop­tion pro­grams op­er­ate at Aus­tralia’s main zoos; at NSW’s Taronga and West­ern Plains zoos, for ex­am­ple, spon­sor­ship starts at $85 and the state gov­ern­ment matches ev­ery $1 with $3. www.pen­guin­foun­da­tion.org.au; www.zoo.nsw.gov.au.

MELBOURNE’S Adel­phi Ho­tel has a fresh new face un­der the Gabriel Ho­tels Group ban­ner. This 14-year-old prop­erty ar­guably was Aus­tralia’s first de­signer ho­tel (ev­er­clumsy Lounge suf­fered cer­tain small in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents there in the mid-1990s, cour­tesy of sharp cof­fee-ta­ble cor­ners and mys­te­ri­ous metal ap­pendages mas­querad­ing as taps and han­dles). With 34 rooms, the Adel­phi still fits the bou­tique cat­e­gory but there has been a soft­en­ing of the hard-edged de­sign look. En­ter squishy pil­low menu, aro­mather­apy prod­ucts (in­clud­ing W. S. Bad­ger laven­der and rose­mary-scented sleep balm), 108cm flatscreen tele­vi­sions, Bose iPod speak­ers and de­li­cious in-room tea and cof­fee from lo­cal sup­pli­ers Tea Too and Quists.

Even bet­ter, a day spa has been opened and the Adel­phi’s fa­mous pool sus­pended over Flin­ders Lane has been filled with min­eral wa­ter from nat­u­ral sources at Hep­burn Springs in Vic­to­ria’s spa coun­try (no need to drink from the pool; free li­ba­tions on the deck from 5pm to 7pm on sum­mer week nights). Full marks from Lounge, too, for an or­ganic room-ser­vice menu that in­cludes only dishes that can be de­liv­ered in stay-warm con­tain­ers. No more cold club sand­wiches and de­feated chips, then. www.adel­phi.com.au.

FIND of the week: The 202-room Four Sea­sons Mumbai is tak­ing book­ings for rooms from April 2008. The cen­trally lo­cated prop­erty sounds like an ideal sanc­tu­ary in In­dia’s busiest city and guests can ex­pect views of the Ara­bian Sea and plenty of this five-star ho­tel group’s cus­tom­ary flair. Also re­cently opened is Four Sea­sons Alexan­dria in Egypt, with sis­ter ho­tels in Is­tan­bul, Florence, St Louis (Mis­souri) and Bora Bora (French Poly­ne­sia) soon to roll out the mar­ble. www.foursea­sons.com.

LOUNGEloves: Ac­cord­ing to on­line higher ed­u­ca­tion ser­vice Open Univer­si­ties, more Aus­tralians are en­rolling to learn lan­guages be­fore trav­el­ling over­seas. Units are of­fered in sub­jects such as Man­darin, Can­tonese, In­done­sian, Hindi and Ital­ian, from be­gin­ner to ad­vanced lev­els. Lounge is con­sid­er­ing Hindi im­mer­sion so she can ex­pertly re­quest anti-in­flam­ma­tory cream in Si­ga­toka or Nadi’s finest phar­ma­cies. 1300 363 652.

LOUNGEloathes: Why does Jet­star’s on­board cater­ing of­fer so many pre-mixed spir­its? Why not carry minia­tures and mix­ers in­stead of cans of rum, bour­bon and whisky, all pre-blended with nurs­erysweet cola? Vir­gin Blue is guilty of sim­i­lar cola over­load. Stiff ched­dar if your mir­ror­ball party days are long gone and you want grown-up soda or ginger ale with your al­co­hol.

As pas­sen­gers waited for their lug­gage off Air Pa­cific’s flight from Nadi on Oc­to­ber 16 at Syd­ney’s in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal, Lounge viewed sev­eral in­ci­dents of carousel rage as big, beefy blokes pushed in front of fam­i­lies wait­ing to re­trieve bags and ef­fec­tively blocked their view of the cir­cling lug­gage. Why are there no de­mar­ca­tion lines around the carousels (as there are at im­mi­gra­tion coun­ters) and rov­ing eti­quette mon­i­tors to stop this un­seemly push-and-shove? Lounge did score a par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive jab at the heels of one of th­ese ill-man­nered oafs with her bag­gage trol­ley, though.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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