TREA­SURE THE TRACKS OF TIME

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - HOW I TRAVEL - CE­LESTE MITCHELL

Last year, I boarded a train in Porto’s São Bento sta­tion and took a trip back in time. It didn’t look like the time­trav­el­ling DeLorean from Back to the Fu­ture. In fact, it gleamed with all the pol­ish and nos­tal­gia of the by­gone era from which it was pulled. Just a few weeks ear­lier, the train had been sit­ting in its per­ma­nent home in Por­tu­gal’s Na­tional Rail Mu­seum. En­tre­pre­neur Gonçalo Cas­tel-Branco is the rea­son The Pres­i­den­tial now rides the rails once again, just as it did when it car­ried roy­als and Por­tuguese dig­ni­taries across the coun­try.

He in­vested €1 mil­lion in a two-year restora­tion to re­turn it to its former glory, gained per­mis­sion for it to fol­low the Douro rail line, and con­vinced Miche­lin-starred chefs to serve up a rolling feast with free-flow­ing port – the jour­ney cul­mi­nat­ing in an ex­clu­sive soiree at the Quinta do Ve­su­vio es­tate for cock­tails and ci­gars. But the big­gest draw­card of all is its fleet­ing na­ture. The one-day gas­tro­nomic jour­ney into the Douro Val­ley only runs for a few week­ends in spring and again in au­tumn.

Tammy Mar­shall, founder of The B Hive – a busi­ness trans­for­ma­tion con­sul­tancy – was work­ing for Car­ni­val Aus­tralia when she no­ticed travel mov­ing to­wards this ex­clu­sive, ex­pe­ri­en­tial space. Cruise ships were start­ing to ex­per­i­ment with 1940s nights where guests would break out their post-war fin­ery and party like it was 1945. It was a huge success.

“Ephemeral is one of the big trends now; cre­at­ing these events and these ex­pe­ri­ences,” Tammy says. “Peo­ple value it be­cause it’s not there all the time, it’s not al­ways ac­ces­si­ble.

“Cre­at­ing an event al­lows you to im­merse, get dressed up, play a part … and have that spe­cial sense of place.”

One of my most mem­o­rable Lon­don travel ex­pe­ri­ences was at­tend­ing a Se­cret Cinema show. Clutch­ing our tick­ets, Mum and I fol­lowed the trail of hula-hoop-tot­ing girls wear­ing bobby socks along the same mys­tery route. Our des­ti­na­tion was a large field – a “se­cret world” where Dirty Danc­ing was brought to life through a cast of ac­tors, dancers and stage sets be­fore a live-ac­tion screen­ing of the cult film. It was like liv­ing inside Keller­man’s and help­ing Baby carry a wa­ter­melon. (The best part? No smart phones or cam­eras al­lowed.)

The events are finely ex­e­cuted ex­trav­a­gan­zas and only run for a hand­ful of dates. I’ll never be able to re­peat the ex­pe­ri­ence, and that’s the sheer joy of it.

When we travel, we don’t just want to do a tour or go to a reg­u­lar event, we want the ex­pe­ri­ence money never used to be able to buy.

Even within a cir­cle of jet­set­ting travel jour­nal­ists, fly­ing first class is a hal­lowed ex­pe­ri­ence. While jum­bos criss­cross the sky ev­ery day, even in the hy­per-ex­clu­sive realm of first class, there are only so many bot­tles of the 1963 sin­gle vin­tage tawny they serve, af­ter all.

The ap­peal of travel is the fleet­ing mo­ments. It’s why re­turn­ing to that edgy city you fell in love with five years later, and find­ing a Star­bucks on ev­ery cor­ner, hits you harder than you ex­pect. When I was in­vited to the open­ing of Bruce Munro’s Field of Light at Voy­ages Ay­ers Rock Re­sort, the buzz sur­round­ing the one-year-only event was pal­pa­ble. Has some of the majesty been lost now that it’s been ex­tended to five? No.

Even if these ephemeral ex­pe­ri­ences are around long enough to lull you into a false sense of se­cu­rity, if you re­ally want to do it, think about the con­se­quences to­mor­row and just book it. You never know how long they’ll be avail­able. Un­less, of course, it’s John Farn­ham’s last tour.

PIC­TURE: THE PRES­I­DEN­TIAL

A one-day gas­tro­nomic jour­ney on The Pres­i­den­tial only runs for a few week­ends in spring and au­tumn.

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