Travelling is one of my favourite things to do. I'm at my happiest when I'm on some mode of transport going to some destination, whether that be on a boat in Port Phillip Bay fishing for snapper or on some grand journey across Europe.
Here is my list.
A: Age you made your first international trip
My first international trip was when I was seventeen. My family went to New Zealand for a holiday – my grandmother left us some money when she died, so we took a coach tour around both islands in the summer before I started university. I’m not sure if that is an international trip, as New Zealand and Australia are very similar.
B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where
I’m very partial to Bintang. Being reticent to drink the water in Bali, a lot of Bintang got imbibed when I was on holiday in Bali. Bogan, yes, but it’s not bad beer. Rather partial to Leffe as well, last imbibed at a pub in Covent Garden. Three pints and I had to be poured into a cab home.
C: Cuisine (Favourite)
I could say far too many to mention, but I’m very, very fold of Spanish food. Love tapas. Love cured meats. Bliss is patatas bravas, Jambon Serrano and these lovely cheeses. Joy.
Malaysian food comes a close second. Satays and Beef Rendang make life worth living.
D: Destinations. Favourite. Least Favourite. Why?
Favourite destination to date has to be Spain. I love travelling, but Spain blew me away when I visited two years ago.
The place I’ve dislike the most since travelling would have to be the city of Naples. Stepped off the train and felt I was on the set of some gangster movie. I don’t scare easily, but there was an air in Naples that made me want to get on the first train out of there. I lasted a day – and went to Capri which was much more civilised.
E: Event you experienced that made you say, ‘Wow'
Many years ago, just as I was about to leave London, I made my way to Westminster Abbey for a final look around. It’s a special place for me on a personal level. I met somebody very special there for the first time being one of those memories that I treasure.
Anyway, back in the day, you could get up to the Tomb of Edward the Confessor – one of the most sacred sites in Britain, but in recent times, they had closed it off as all of the foot traffic was damaging he monument. I was a little disappointed, at this and started talking to one of the vergers.
After a few minutes he told me to come with him.
He granted me access to the tomb, the Stone of Scone and the Coronation Chair, all by myself, for as long as I wanted to stay.
That was one of my ‘WOW’ moments.
F: Favourite mode of transportation
I love being on boats. Whether it be on a ferry in Sydney Harbour or a ferry around the Greek Island or on a punt on the River Cam in Cambridge, I love being on water and in boats, big or small. I find them very relaxing – and to date I’ve not got sea sick.
G: Greatest feeling while travelling
The freedom of being somewhere different. And not knowing where you are. It’s all one big adventure.
H: Hottest place I’ve travelled to
I live in Australia – the South Australian outback is up there. Rome and Athens in August were pretty unbearable too – the former made worse as I had a raging case of Bronchitis.
Bali gets a nod for the raging humidity. Yuk. Give me a Bintang, NOW!
I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where
Nothing beats good American service, though I did have to take issue with the Holiday Inn in Downtown New York.
I arrived after 24 hour flight on which I was recovering from food poisoning.
All I wanted to do was shower and sleep.
I got to my room, there was a knock at the door.
Did I need anything?
No. Thank you.
Ten minutes later, I was sitting on the loo.
Another knock at the door.
I didn’t answer and somebody tried to come in – I yelled at them to get the hell out.
Delivering a blanket.
Thank you, but I would be fine.
I was about to step into the shower when another knock on the door came.
They were politely told to go the hell away and I called down to reception to have a do not disturb for at least ten hours placed on my room.
I’m not the nicest person with jetlag and receding food poisoning.
Great service, but overkill.
J: Journey that took you the longest
That 24 hours from Singapore to New York via Europe felt like it went on forever. I’ve done a couple of 30 hour stints from Europe to Australia and back, but that one was not nice at all.
K: Keepsake from your travels
I have got quite a few over the years. A green resin Buddha from Thailand and an iron Sarasvati from Bali sit on my bookshelf – but I have a large panda bear that I found when I was on holiday in York that is wearing a scarf that somebody gave me when I was living in Mykonos. There are all sorts of small treasures I’ve got about the place.
L: Let down sight. Why and where?
Singapore. It’s not so much a sight as a place. It’s too clean, too orderly – the leaves wouldn’t fall from the trees unless there was a government degree. Sterile and lacking soul – let me go across the bridge to Jahor Bahru, Malaysia any day.
M: Moment where you fell in love with travel
Sitting in a wet market in Malacca, Malaysia with my university friend, Pauline, eating chilli infused noodles among the skinny cats and the strange smells. It was the first time I equated travel with life.
N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in
This is a toss up between the Shangri-La and the Westin in Sydney. Both are five-star hotels. The Shangri-La gets points for upgrading me to a harbour view room. The Westin wins hands down for the bathroom and the bath, which is absolutely magnificent.
O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while travelling?
I’m a keen but not that accomplished photographer – but I love taking photo of what is in doorways and under arches. I make a point of it. Buildings and scenery come a close second.
P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?
My passport expired in January so I need a new one, but this last one has stamps from the following countries (not so much visa as I’ve never had to apply for one)
The United States
Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.
My aunt and uncle took me to Intercourse and Blue Balls, Pennsylvania – both Amish towns. I was tittering about that for a week.
Quirkiest attraction – I can name a few. The Southend-on-Sea foreshore playing mini-golf, The Big Koala, Dadswell Bridge, The Grampians, Victoria, Salem, Massachusetts is a very, very strange place.
Oh, now I remember. The Mutter Museum, Philadelphia. A must go if your favourite programme on television is “Embarrasing Bodies” – like me.
R: Recommended sight, event, or experience
Here are a few that have left me speechless in a good way.
Toledo Cathedral, Toledo, Spain
The Alhambra, Grenada, Spain – one of the most beautiful places in the world
The Alcazar, Seville, Spain
Riding elephants in Thailand, Lampang Elephant sanctuary (even better as I did this on Christmas Day)
The woods just outside of Boston in Autumn. Stunning.
Westminster Abbey, London – just to see who is buried there
Elia Beach, Mykonos – for the joy of seeing naked men frolic like lambs
The Pantheon, Rome – actually, anywhere in Rome – Rome is great.
Utrecht, The Netherlands – great place, a smaller, friendlier, gorgeous city that I loved more than Amsterdam
Puffing Billy, the Dandenongs, Melbourne
Port Arthur, Tasmania
S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while travelling.
In no order:
Information books on great buildings - more often than not, cathedrals
Tea towels for mum
A decent hotel for the first night I’m in a new city on my own
T: Touristy thing you’ve done
Salem, Massachusetts – the witchy thing was most uncomfortable for me
Taken a ride on Popeye on the Torrens ‘River’ in Adelaide
Eaten a cheese steak on the prodding of my 13-year-old cousin in Philadelphia
Universal Studios, Los Angeles
Had a Turkish bath in a Hamman in Granada
Puffing Billy in the Dandenongs is the best
The Guinness and Jamesons’ factories in Ireland
Kissed the Blarney Stone just outside of Cork
Been for an elephant ride in Thailand
And of course – I’ve been to Bali.
U: Unforgettable travel memory
I have so many of them. I’m lucky and most of them revolve around dinner and a bottle of wine with friends.
If I was to give you one memory, one of my absolute favourites was travelling to the Gold Coast with my friends Alice and Dougal to see the Pixies play at the V-Festival. That was special.
V: Visas. How many of them and for where.
I’ve got most of mine when I rocked up at the airport. I have a nice printed one in my old passport from Indonesia – that is the most official one I have in there.
W: Wine, best glass while travelling and where.
Ah, this was an Australian bottle, a Nicholson River Chardonnay, imbibed with friends in a 400-year-old cottage, on the banks of the River Wye, in front of the open just outside of Woking, Surrey.
X: eXcellent view and from where
As much as I don’t really like the place, the view of the caldera in Santorini is magnificent.
Y: Years spent travelling
Well, I’m 44 now so that makes it - argh! 25 years! And here’s to at least 25 more.
Z: Zealous sports fans and where
Sitting with my Aunt in Philadelphia watching her watch baseball is a pretty cool thing. I have no idea what she was talking about. I was only allowed to talk in the advertisements. It’s a nonsensical game, but my aunt, a mild-mannered, devoutly Christian, salt of the earth type of woman turns into a bit of a banshee when the Phillies play.
At least I think it was the Phillies… and I think we were watching baseball…
And finally …
Travelling may be the reason I don't have a house with a small mortgage, but I would not exchange my memories or experiences for anything. Travel is one of the most enriching, powerful and life-affirming things you can do for yourself. It's an education and an experience all rolled into one. Long may I be able to continue to go to new and unfamiliar places.