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.