Get­ting down and dirty

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA DE­PAR­TURE LOUNGE

GAR­DEN­ING is the new sex, they say, or is it the new black? What­ever the phrase du jour, we do know that so-called trowel tourism is all the go and hor­ti­cul­tural tours to the world’s best-planted reaches are fab­u­lously suc­cess­ful. It’s not just the great es­tates of Europe that fea­ture on such itin­er­ar­ies. Plants­men and women are off in their sturdy droves view­ing raked-peb­ble gar­dens in Ja­pan, with their in­ef­fa­ble sym­bol­ism and not a grain out of place, and Chi­nese af­fairs that look freshly lifted from wil­low pat­tern plates but with the bonus of a full colour pal­ette and, I like to fancy, a ce­les­tial nightin­gale or three twit­ter­ing away.

There is rather a lot of gar­den con­tent in this is­sue of Travel&In­dul­gence , in fact, which surely is a good thing. We have old Syd­ney’s lost gar­dens and Bri­tain’s best botanic gar­dens and, for good mea­sure, our reg­u­lar Ac­ces­sAl­lAr­eas col­umn fea­tures a mini-in­ter­view with nurs­ery­man Wes Flem­ing, from Vic­to­ria’s ferny Dan­de­nongs, who has put Aus­tralian gar­den de­sign (and its wa­ter-wise and drought-re­sis­tant fea­tures) on the world map.

When I at­tended the 2004 Chelsea Flower Show in Lon­don (which I hope to do again next year; di­ary note: May 19-23), once I had re­cov­ered from view­ing a va­ri­ety of gi­ant parsnip from Wales called a Gla­di­a­tor, I eaves­dropped as Flem­ing, stand­ing by his sil­ver giltawarded Aus­tralian show gar­den, fielded ques­tions.

What are you us­ing as fer­tiliser?’’ chal­lenged a woman with an in­ter­rog­a­tive brolly. Bull­shit,’’ he replied, with a thump­ing great laugh.

WEalso have a lit­tle piece in this is­sue about Hamp­ton Court maze and its twists and feints, which are fur­ther de­scribed with plea­sur­able wit in Jerome K. Jerome’s bril­liant 19th-cen­tury novel Three­Men­ina Boat : It’s ab­surd to call it a maze. You keep on tak­ing the first turn­ing to the right. We’ll just walk round for 10 min­utes, and then go and get some lunch,’ said Har­ris (one of Jerome’s three men).

They met some peo­ple soon af­ter they had got in­side, who said they had been there for three-quar­ters of an hour, and had had about enough of it. Har­ris told them they could fol­low him, if they liked; he was just go­ing in, and then should turn round and come out again. They said it was very kind of him, and fell be­hind, and fol­lowed.

They picked up var­i­ous other peo­ple who wanted to get it over, as they went along, un­til they had ab­sorbed all the per­sons in the maze. Peo­ple who had given up all hopes of ever get­ting ei­ther in or out, or of ever see­ing their home and friends again, plucked up courage at the sight of Har­ris and his party, and joined the pro­ces­sion, bless­ing him. Har­ris said he should judge there must have been 20 peo­ple, fol­low­ing him, in all; and one woman with a baby, who had been there all the morn­ing, in­sisted on tak­ing his arm, for fear of los­ing him.

Har­ris kept on turn­ing to the right, but it seemed a long way, and his cousin said he sup­posed it was a very big maze. Oh, one of the largest in Europe,’ said Har­ris. Yes, it must be,’ replied the cousin, be­cause we’ve walked a good two miles al­ready.’

Har­ris be­gan to think it rather strange him­self, but he held on un­til, at last, they passed the half of a penny bun on the ground that Har­ris’s cousin swore he had no­ticed there seven min­utes ago. Har­ris said: Oh, im­pos­si­ble!’ but the woman with the baby said, Not at all,’ as she her­self had taken it from the child, and thrown it down there, just be­fore she met Har­ris. She also added that she wished she never had met Har­ris, and ex­pressed an opin­ion that he was an im­pos­tor . . .

Har­ris sug­gested that the best thing to do would be to go back to the en­trance, and be­gin again. For the beginning again part of it there was not much en­thu­si­asm; but with re­gard to the ad­vis­abil­ity of go­ing back to the en­trance there was com­plete una­nim­ity, and

ARM­CHAIR TRAV­ELLER

Fan­ta­syHomes­bytheSea : Whether the Cor­nish coast, the French Riviera or the Florida seafront, who doesn’t want wa­ter views? Money doesn’t equate with taste, how­ever, as any prop­erty pro­gram devo­tee will at­test. How To, 5.30pm, Sun­day.

TheS­to­ry­oftheWeep­ingCamel : A fam­ily of no­madic shep­herds in the Gobi Desert uses a mu­si­cal rit­ual to try to save the life of a rare white baby camel re­jected by its mother. Two han­kies (min­i­mum). World Movies, 8.30pm, Fri­day. so they turned, and trailed af­ter Har­ris again, in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. About 10 min­utes more passed, and then they found them­selves in the cen­tre.

Har­ris thought at first of pre­tend­ing that that was what he had been aim­ing at; but the crowd looked danger­ous, and he de­cided to treat it as an ac­ci­dent . . . Har­ris drew out his map again, af­ter a while, but the sight of it only in­fu­ri­ated the mob, and they told him to go and curl his hair with it.’’

Lit­tle Lounge , who grew up in Eng­land, vis­ited Hamp­ton Court maze with her fa­ther, Elwyn, many moons past and he pro­duced from the lin­ings of his news­pa­per­man’s trench­coat, suave as a ma­gi­cian, a copy of Jerome’s book and read aloud that ac­count in full. Lit­tle Lounge sat cross-legged in her jodh­purs while he boomed and did all the ac­cents and lost souls am­bled past and she paid such at­ten­tion to ev­ery word— as she al­ways did — that her head all but burst with the dizzy plea­sure of it.

Elwyn (who had to be re­strained by my mother from nam­ing me Aeronwy) died two weeks ago and the mem­o­ries of him Lounge clings to most are of the read­ing, the re­spect for words, the love of lan­guage. Huge tracts of Dy­lan Thomas’s Un­derMilkWood he could re­cite, word per­fect, rolling out those com­pound ad­jec­tives with a voice as full-throated as Richard Bur­ton’s. In a lined ex­er­cise book, un­der the bed­clothes, lit­tle Lounge wrote down the won­drous com­bi­na­tions as Elwyn read and later tip­toed to his study to look up words of the baf­fling ilk of bom­ba­sine.

‘‘ You can lose at least half those ad­jec­tives, for a start,’’ Lounge ’ s first news­pa­per ed­i­tor thun­dered at her. As you may have no­ticed, she wasn’t hav­ing a bit of it. ■ TWOyears older than Dad on his de­par­ture day, 93-year-old Nancy-Bird Wal­ton, the fear­less avi­a­trix who in­spired gen­er­a­tions of Aus­tralian women to fol­low their dreams and be­come pi­lots, was the star of the show at the un­veil­ing of Qan­tas’s first A380 mega-plane last week. The big bird was of­fi­cially named af­ter the diminu­tive avi­a­tion leg­end who flew her first plane as a 17-year-old un­der the tute­lage of Charles Kings­ford Smith and went on to be­come the first fe­male pi­lot in the coun­try to carry pas­sen­gers. Travel&In­dul­gence s deputy ed­i­tor Michelle Rowe was at the A380 launch and re­ports that Wal­ton, ac­cept­ing the ac­co­lade as the great­est hon­our I could have ever re­ceived’’, also quipped, ‘‘ Qan­tas told me at my 90th birth­day that they wanted to name this A380 af­ter me. I made it my busi­ness to stay alive ’ til now so I could come to the cer­e­mony.’’

The Nancy-Bird Wal­ton, Rowe is pleased to re­port to Lounge , took off without a hitch and did a scenic flight over Syd­ney, as Wal­ton made a guest ap­pear­ance on the flight deck.

NSW Tourism Min­is­ter Jodi McKay es­ti­mates that Qan­tas A380 ser­vices be­tween Syd­ney and Los An­ge­les, start­ing on Oc­to­ber 24, even­tu­ally will de­liver more than $1 mil­lion in di­rect tourist spending in our ho­tels and mo­tels, restau­rants, sou­venir stores and at­trac­tions’’ to the state each week. Each Qan­tas A380 car­ries up to 450 pas­sen­gers and, with the ad­di­tion of a sec­ond air­craft in Novem­ber, ser­vices will in­crease to three flights a week be­tween Syd­ney and Los An­ge­les. All good news. ■ FIND of the week: From World Ex­pe­di­tions, Free the Bears: Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia and Laos Dis­cov­ery tour (18 days; de­parts March 7) fo­cused on three sanc­tu­ar­ies where you can in­ter­act with bears re­cently re­leased from bile farms; $1000 from each book­ing goes to the Free the Bears Fund. www.world­ex­pe­di­tions.com. ■ LOUNGE loves: Dur­ing this in­ter­na­tional Pink Rib­bon Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month, the 24-storey Penin­sula Tokyo will be il­lu­mi­nated in pink and a per­cent­age of sales in its restau­rants is be­ing do­nated to lo­cal breast can­cer char­ity and re­search. In the same spirit, the Ca­ble Beach Club in Broome has turned one of its pools and front en­trance pink. www.penin­sula.com; www.ca­ble­beach­club.com. ■ LOUNGE loathes: On the Aus­tralia movie band­wagon, a rash of brochures and travel fea­tures pro­mot­ing the West Aus­tralian Kim­ber­leys. It’s the Kim­ber­ley.

DEALS OF THE WEEK

Save up to $2500 a cou­ple on river cruises in Europe and China; bid on line for a week­end away; seven nights for the price of five on Koh Sa­mui; exclusive Aus­tralian Bal­let event at Qualia on Queens­land’s Hamil­ton Is­land. 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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