CREAMCRACKERS

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Susan Kuro­sawa

THERE are those who may scoff at the very idea of a sun-soaked English Riviera, but this is in­deed the tag for a stretch of south­west coast­line fo­cused on Torquay, birth­place of Agatha Christie and renowned lo­ca­tion of television’s Fawl­tyTow­ers.

Its tourist board has just sent De­par­ture Lounge de­tails of the in­au­gu­ral Cream Tea Fes­ti­val from April 18 to 23. Dubbed a ‘‘ cel­e­bra­tion of all things quintessen­tially English and de­li­ciously tasty’’ there will be scones, of course, and fish and chips (with lash­ings of malt vine­gar and pick­led onions on the side, in proper Brit sea­side style, hopes Lounge ). There will be mor­ris danc­ing, too (‘‘never let your son grow up to be a mor­ris dancer’’, my mother once opined, apropos men pranc­ing dain­tily with lace han­kies), dur­ing six days of ‘‘ tra­di­tional mer­ri­ment’’.

Fri­day, April 18 is of­fi­cial Fish and Chips Day, which makes a nice tie-in with 2008’s in­ter­na­tional year of the potato. Then on Satur­day, it’s Mor­ris Day on Torquay’s Paign­ton Green (head there with bells on, sug­gests Lounge ), which will in­clude a cel­e­bra­tion of all things Mor­ris, from cars to those with the fam­ily name of Mor­ris. Sun­day is Cream Tea Day, which means clot­ted cream and straw­berry jam by the gal­lon and a cook-off for the world’s big­gest scone; the main tea-themed events will be at Cock­ing­ton (of­ten voted the pret­ti­est vil­lage in Bri­tain). And on Mon­day (April 21), which is the Queen’s Birth­day, a con­cert at the Riviera In­ter­na­tional Cen­tre will fea­ture, among other acts, the Wurzels from Som­er­set. If you are headed for the Old Dart, it all sounds like great (artery-clot­ting) fun. www.en­glishriv­iera.co.uk.

CREAM teas orig­i­nated in Devon ex­actly 1000 years ago (that’s if the English Riviera Tourist Board has its facts right); cer­tainly this par­tak­ing of an af­ter­noon re­fresh­ment has spawned an in­dus­try far be­yond the borders of Devon. (The Old Swan Ho­tel in Har­ro­gate, York­shire, is a splen­did place for a cream tea; it was here that Agatha Christie stayed when she went ‘‘ miss­ing’’ in 1925.) And all this em­pha­sis on cup­pas and moun­tains of cream has got Lounge think­ing about the best af­ter­noon teas she has en­joyed. Most re­cently, it was a Nat­u­rally Penin­sula spread at the Bangkok Penin­sula ho­tel. Ex­ec­u­tive chef Philip Sedg­wick told Lounge that the Nat­u­rally Penin­sula tea has been de­vised by Gabrielle Tuscher, the ho­tel group’s nu­tri­tion ad­viser, and fea­tures healthy in­gre­di­ents such as wholegrain flour, sug­ar­free jams and light cream. It wasn’t un­til af­ter scoff­ing the lot Lounge re­alised it wasn’t the full cream deal: do try it, and feel a tiny bit vir­tu­ous into the bar­gain. Daily from 2pm to 6pm at var­i­ous venues in the ho­tel, in­clud­ing a new af­ter­noon cruise op­tion on the Chao Praya River. www.penin­sula.com. ■ LOUNGE is a Lud­dite of the high­est (or should that be low­est) or­der so an email this week from our Switched-On­Tourist colum­nist David Car­roll with the header of Moon Buggy Rentals has been enough to cause flushes of alarm and con­fu­sion.

It seems that on­line travel com­pany Oo­dles.com has un­veiled plans to be­come ‘‘ the world’s first moon buggy rental provider’’. Sub-or­bital space tourism is fore­cast to boom fol­low­ing the launch of Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic in 2009 so the Oo­dles mob has spot­ted an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop a fleet of all-ter­rain Lu­nar Rov­ing Ve­hi­cles, oth­er­wise known as Per­sonal Or­bit­ing Ob­ser­va­tion Deck & Lux­ury En­hanced Space­craft (POO­DLES), us­ing car­bon com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als de­signed to op­er­ate in a low-grav­ity en­vi­ron­ment. It’s enough to send off Lounge for a lit­tle lie-down on her al­ti­tude-de­fy­ing four-poster bed. ■ FIND of the week: If need­ing a quick overnight (or a day room be­tween flights) near Auck­land’s 24-hour air­port, the Jet Park Ho­tel is a great find. While most air­port ho­tels are lit­tle more than nec­es­sary evils, this fiercely clean es­tab­lish­ment, about 10 min­utes from the in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic ter­mi­nals, has room ser­vice, plain but com­fort­able rooms and ter­rif­i­cally help­ful staff. Last week­end, Lounge was able to wheel her bags in and out of the room via trol­ley and the wake-up call was on the dot. The ho­tel pro­vides a com­pli­men­tary shut­tle around the clock. Deals at wo­tif.com from about $NZ120 ($104) a dou­ble. www.jet­park.co.nz. ■ LOUNGE loves: Also in Auck­land, the Villa Maria Es­tate win­ery is just min­utes from the air­port. If time per­mits be­tween flights, take a taxi (about $NZ10) and have a glass of wine and a plat­ter lunch (cheese, olives, ar­ti­choke hearts, mar­i­nated pep­pers, salad leaves, salami, pro­sciutto and de­li­cious brown bread) in the glass-walled cel­lar door din­ing and tast­ing room over­look­ing the vines. www.vil­la­maria.co.nz.

Closer to home, Lounge’s favourite Chi­nese restau­rant in Syd­ney, Blue Eye Dragon in Pyr­mont (which is Tai­wanese, in fact, as chatty owner Muriel Chen heartily re­minds din­ers), has some fab­u­lous new dishes on its menu, in­clud­ing a cold en­tree of drunken chicken with Chi­nese wolf­ber­ries and a main of eye fil­let in black pep­per sauce (made to the se­cret recipe of Taipei­born chef Jade, Muriel’s mum). Blue Eye Dragon also has take-home packs of frozen dumplings (from $25 for a pack of 30; pork, prawn or a mix of the two). The dumplings are a breeze to cook and have saved a jet­lagged Lounge from ex­pi­ra­tion in the wee hours in re­cent weeks. www.blueeye­dragon.com.au. ■ LOUNGE loathes: The news that Hawaii’s Aloha Air­lines has shut down its in­ter-is­land and US west coast pas­sen­ger flights af­ter 61 years of op­er­a­tion. Lounge did a lot of fly­ing around the so-called ‘‘ neigh­bour isles’’ of Hawaii in the 1970s and fly­ing Aloha, even on such short hops, was al­ways a treat: the guava juice handed out with sun­shine smiles from the flight at­ten­dants in their bright shirts and the air­line’s fun hol­i­day at­ti­tude. I am sure all Aloha’s reg­u­lar pas­sen­gers will be very sad to hear the news. Good­bye and ma­holo . DEALS OF THE WEEK En­joy a bonus night on Queens­land’s Hamil­ton Is­land; cut-price Day­dream; Thai­land get­away with a free room for the chil­dren; sail time in Tonga. Th­ese and other money-sav­ing of­fers are fea­tured in Travel&In­dul­gence’s hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily.

www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel/dd

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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