JOUR­NEYS AT RAIL’S PACE

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Susan Kuro­sawa

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:

www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel/dd

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

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