JOURNEYS AT RAIL’S PACE
WHILE too late to include in our Christmas gift guide ( Travel& Indulgence, December 1-2), a book has hit Departure Lounge ’ s desk that is altogether too fabulous to ignore. First Class: Legendary Train Journeys around the World by Patrick Poivre d’Arvor (Vendome/ Thames & Hudson, $59.95) comes in a little suitcase-style box and celebrates all that’s escapist and romantic about great train journeys.
As one would expect, the fabled trains and routes are here — the Orient Express, South Africa’s Blue Train, the TransSiberian — but also covered are funny little puffers such as the toy train up to Darjeeling in India, described by Poivre d’Arvor as ‘‘ a reminder of British colonial derring-do and gentility that weaves a spectacular course through jungle and tea gardens’’. Many extracts from famous rail travellers are included (the countess of crime Agatha Christie features, as does the inimitable Isabella Bird, abroad in the Sierras).
The author’s prose tends to the overpoetic but the notion of rail travel does make certain travellers wax lyrical and dramatic. In Lounge ’ s case, it has been train journeys in India that have left lasting impressions, and not only to her digestive system. Although not as celebrated as its Darjeeling counterpart, the toy train from Kalka to Shimla in the state of Himachal Pradesh (‘‘Tailor-made to keep you jubilant’’, promises its platform advertising) creeps up at turtle’s pace via little stations with cornflower-blue trimmings and black-and-white Tudor flourishes. But if you are in a group, try to book the 1920s rail car from Kalka (seats 15; the driver sits up front as if in charge of a bus), with faded floral curtains and framed prints of English pastoral bliss. The journey on this jolly little car takes five hours up the vertiginous hills at a clip of about 35km/h. There are 103 narrow
FirstClass:LegendaryTrainJourneysaroundtheWorld tunnels and the palpable feel of having stepped into a Raj-era Paul Scott novel. Lounge suggests you pack a picnic basket (Gentleman’s Relish anchovy paste sandwiches, a vacuum flask of darjeeling tea and fruitcake, perchance).
ON this question of Christmas gifts, there is much to be said for not bothering. Lastminute.com.au has done a survey of about 1000 Australians to find the top 10 unwanted presents. The list contains predictable boo-boos such as self-help books and unwanted pets but also high in the inappropriate league are diet pills and dishwashing liquid. Oh, dear. Lounge knows what she would do with Mr Lounge if he were to commit such gaffes and it could just involve his mysterious expiration, and not on the Orient Express, either. For sensible treats (weekend escapes, spa treatments, adventure vouchers): www.lastminute.com.au.
EVEN better in the giving stakes, Sally Rodd has contacted Lounge with news of The Tithing Tree, an inspirational webbased initiative involved with about two dozen humanitarian organisations. These are not high-profile charities but small, dedicated groups such as Melbourne’s Save-a-Dog Scheme. Get the whole family involved and allocate some Christmas budget where it will really make a difference. www.thetithingtree.org.au.
WHAT are the chances of this? Apparently Tourism Malaysia’s Australian operation is in a flat spin due to a case of mistaken identity. Its general manager for Victoria and Tasmania, Peter Power, bears the same name as the newly appointed marketing manager for Tourism Thailand. Many crossed wires and rumours of job changes have ensued; given the obvious rivalry between these neighbouring tourism destinations, Lounge is intrigued by the case of the two Peter Powers (which has a Miss Marple ring to it, surely).
AUSTRALIAN company Toga Hospitality opens its chic 125-room Adina Apartment Hotel Berlin next weekend. Interiors are by Oz designer Andrew Parr of SJB Design and feature indigenous artworks sourced from the Northern Territory, including the Tiwi Islands. There are special opening rates, from ($246), for a studio, valid to February 28. Adina has also opened properties in Copenhagen and Budapest, all with the group’s signature home-awayfrom-home apartment-sized accommodation and equipped kitchens (except studio rooms). (02) 9356 5061; www.adina.eu.com.
CONGRATULATIONS to Qantas on the 60th anniversary of its Kangaroo Route between Australia and London. Thus called for its ‘‘ longest hop’’ status, the flight time in those early days was a marathon 55 hours (compared with 23 hours and one transit stop today). There were six stops (including overnights in Singapore and Cairo) along the route of the 29-passenger Lockheed Constellation (or ‘‘ Connie’’, as it was fondly known). Passengers must have been well attended: there were 11 crew members in 1947, whereas today’s 412-passenger Boeing 747-400 carries a mere 19 crew.
Among the various statistics released by the airline this week, perhaps the most riveting relates to just how elite flying must have been 60 years ago. A ticket to London in 1947 was priced at £585, which was the cost of an average Sydney house at that time. Qantas passengers can find out more in the bumper edition of the AustralianWay in-flight magazine this month. www.qantas.com.
FIND of the week: The Commonwealth Bank has easy-to-use online tools and financial travel advice for Christmas holidays. www.commbank.com.au/ personal/other/useful tools.asp.
LOUNGE loves: Live&Cookin’@Lizottes Menu1 ($24.95), the first in a series of compilation CDs to be released by Lizottes restaurant and boutique performance venue at Kincumber on the NSW central coast. It’s a 14-track disc featuring the likes of Christine Anu, Deni Hines, Richard Clapton, Jenny Morris, Daryl Braithwaite, Deborah Conway and Diesel (who just happens to be the brother of Lizottes’ owner Brian Lizotte). Included in the CD booklet are four of Lizottes’ signature recipes. From retailers and online. www.lizottes.com.au.
LOUNGE loathes: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel advisory for Indonesia remains at the second highest warning level (‘‘reconsider your need to travel’’), a rating that continues to adversely affect tourism in Bali. But meanwhile the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference, with delegates of the ilk of Prime Minister Kevin (Kyoto Kev) Rudd and about a quarter of his new cabinet, is blithely being held at Nusa Dua in the heart of Bali touristland. Bit of a them-and-us attitude here, don’t we think, fellow travellers? Deals of the week:
Puffers and magic wagons: Among the magnificent trains featured in Patrick Poivre d’Arvor’s
is the Orient Express, pictured here in Milan in 1940