.

July 30, 2018

Whistler's dizzying Cloudraker Skybridge for 'thrill seekers or the insane'


BRIDGE IS SOMETHING TO WHISTLE ABOUT

David Ellis

IF you're not quite into heights, we'd suggest you give a big miss to a new suspension bridge that's just opened at Whistler in Canada's British Columbia.

Because while it makes for nice viewing of the alpine snow below your feet when you're at the top of its mountain, the actual valley floor and a lake within it that you'll find yourself also looking down on, are in fact over two-thousand metres – that's  some two-kilometres-plus – down at the bottom of your mountain.

That's a lot of vertical metres, and a long way to tumble should you somehow fall off your suspension bridge

Wrapped up somewhat colourfully by one Canadian tour company as "an attraction for thrill seekers or the insane," and officially named the Cloudraker Skybridge, this amazing 130-metre long structure is the latest in things to do at Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in the world.

And it will also link Whistler's Peak with its West Ridge, where a new viewing platform will soon overlook the vast and spectacular Whistler Bowl all that way down.

Just give this bridge a wide berth if you are a bit wary of heights… although if you are still kind of interested, while still a little nervy too, hop onto www.whistlerblackcomb.com to have a look at just what you could be missing.


[] IF you don't like heights, this may not be quite your idea of a day's family outing. Because that lake and the little township next to it in this picture, are two vertical kilometres down from this new 130m suspension bridge from which this pic was taken in the mountains at Whistler, in Canada's British Columbia.

July 29, 2018

Laid back Luxembourg


by John Newton

Charming and romantic, you'll find it hard to come across a more laid back capital city with the same name as the country.

While it doesn't have the same wealth of attractions like its giant neighbours – France and Germany – Luxembourg, where French is the dominant language, has a rich cultural heritage and is pulling out all the stops to lure long-haul travellers, such as visitors from Asia, Australia and the United States, to the only Grand Duchy in the world.

First-time visitors head straight for the Grand Duke's official residence – the grand-ducal palace – to see the changing of the guards, which happens every two hours in fine weather and every 40 minutes to one hour in snow or wintry weather. A late 16th century Spanish Renaissance-style building, the grand-ducal palace - with its conical shaped turrets that look like witches hats - served as a concert hall and tavern under the Nazi occupation of Luxembourg. It was not until 14 April 1945 that the people of Luxembourg could once again cheer Grand Duchess Charlotte on the palace balcony. The Grand Duke's city residence is open to the public during the summer only, with guided tours from mid-July to September, except on Wednesdays.

A few hundred metres away in the heart of the city is Luxembourg's 'Golden Lady'. Called the Gelle Fra monument, it commemorates the thousands of Luxembourgers that volunteered for service in the armed forces during World War 11. Gelle Fra is the nickname given to the Monument of Remembrance, which is situated in Constitution Square – in the Ville Haute quarter of Luxembourg City. The centrepiece of the monument is a 21-metre tall granite obelisk on top of which stands a gilded bronze statue of a lady – representing Nike, goddess of victory or 'Queen of Freedom' holding out a laurel wreath as if placing it upon the head of the nation.

When Luxembourg was occupied by the Nazi forces in World War 11, the Germans dismantled the memorial in 1940. Several parts of the monument were rescued and, after the war, the monument was partially restored. However, the bronze statue (she's painted in gold) of Gelle Fra herself was missing until 1980 when she was found hidden beneath the main stand of the national football stadium.

The monument was not fully reconstructed to its original design until 1984. Today, it symbolises freedom and resistance for the people of Luxembourg.

Another fascinating Old Town drawcard are the famous Bock Casemates - one of the most envied fortresses in Europe. Carved from the city's rocks, the first casemates, or underground tunnels, were built in 1644, in the era of Spanish domination, with the enlargement of the 23-klometre long network of underground galleries taking place 40 years later under the direction of the military engineer and fortifications builder, Vauban, and later, in the 18 century by the Austrians.  The fortress ramparts and the historically impressive Old Town were registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994.

From the Bock Promontory, there are panoramic views of the pretty riverside town of Grund, where you can visit the ancient Abbaye de Neumunster – transformed into a current cultural centre – or explore the cobblestone streets and take a walking break at Scott's Pub bar.

For an insight into the changing day-to-day life of Luxembourg's population – it currently stands around 590,000 – the city's History Museum is home to a comprehensive permanent exhibition illustrates the country's history that spans over a thousand years. The museum occupies four patrician houses, which were built from the 17th to the 19th century and still reveal some medieval structures. In just a few minutes, visitors are introduced to 1000 years of history as they pass the various layers of the city's history – from the naked rock foundations on the lower levels to the panoramic views of the Grund and the Rham plateau on the upper levels.

The National Museum of History and Art, which showcases one of the most beautiful Roman mosaics north of the Alps, together with the city's telecommunications museum, which has a remarkable collection of stamps, and the tram and bus museum are also worth a look.

With its close French connection, Luxembourg City is a gourmet's delight, but you'll have to be quick to beat the locals to the best tables which are taken most nights. While the prices will leave a hole in your wallet, you'll find the food – and the wine selection - at fine dining restaurants, like the award-winning La Brassiere Guillaume overlooking the tree-lined main square, is as good as it gets anywhere in Europe, including Paris.

It seems a perfect fit for this splendid stress-free city with more than a touch of pomp and circumstance.

For further details on Luxembourg City, go to www.lcto.lu

Melbourne-based Rail Plus provided first-class rail travel in Europe, with the writer travelling to Luxembourg City from Vienna via Frankfurt and Koblenz. For first and second-class prices, plus expert staff advice on European rail travel, go to www.railplus.com.au

Words and images: John Newton

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

1.         Market flowers galore
2.         Grand Ducal Palace
3.         'Golden Lady' statue
4.         Cathedral splendour
5           Picturesque streets
6          Casemates cannons
7.         Riverside Grund

July 22, 2018

Ireland: it's just like in the movies



Peter Chapman drives the Emerald Isle

IT MIGHT seem a little strange, but my decision to do a self-drive tour of Ireland was inspired from watching movies centred on the shamrock isle.

They always revealed beautiful scenery, picturesque boutique hotels and friendly Irish pubs.

As I watched I envisaged myself joining in on a song or two while downing a pint of Guinness at McMurphy's corner pub.

Adding to my views of Ireland was the fact that I have always enjoyed the company of the Irish easily warming to their humour and yarns.

So the decision was made that we'd spend a week touring Ireland and we'd hire a small car for the trek.

Now if you know nothing about Ireland, and to tell the absolute truth I didn't, it's best not to just look at a map and say to yourself it doesn't look that far from town to town.

After arriving at Dublin Airport we picked up our hire car and headed towards our accommodation in the city.

Mistake one was that we didn't choose a car with a GPS instead deciding to wait a few days and get a SIM for the phone to use as our guidance system.

That decision cost us a frustrating three hours as we circled Dublin's maze of one-way streets searching for our hotel.

I don't like admitting it, but it was my decision not to go with the car GPS a fact I was reminded off more than a few times.

We stayed at the Dawson Hotel and Spa in Dawson Street which we found a convenient location from which to walk around the city.

A Trip Advisor tip to take the free walking tour in Dublin proved a winner the next day.

A young university student with a wonderful knowledge of the city was our guide and for almost four hours he told us some fascinating stories about the history of the city.

To go on the tour all you need to do is to turn up at Dublin Town Square before 12 noon and join a group. The guides make their money from tips and there were plenty who reached into their pockets at the end of the walk.

My mother taught me the famous Irish song "In Dublin's Fair City" when I was just five year's old and I have been bringing it out as part of my entertainment repertoire ever since. Mind you it's a very small and limited repertoire.

So I was delighted to see our final stop on the walking tour was in front of the Molly Malone statue.

Of course as any Aussie knows you never let a chance go by, so I launched into the song and to my pleasant surprise had the entire street singing along with me.

I loved it and even the wife joined in for the chorus.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants in Dublin ranging from Michelin Star credentialed to the cheap bistros at the many local pubs.

We found Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse and Grill just down the road from our hotel and enjoyed a special night out.

Unfortunately the budget didn't allow us to return, but if you spoil yourself every night it doesn't seem so special when you do.

Day one on the road took us across Ireland to the seaport of Doolin.

We booked in at a recently built B&B, Egan's Wild Atlantic View.

The host, who happened to be the Ireland Fly Fishing Champion, was great; the room was first class and the breakfast made to perfection. It's a big recommendation from us.

We chose Doolin because from there it's a short drive to one of Ireland's premier tourist spots, the Cliffs of Moher.

It was a windy day on the cliffs, but worth the climb for a spectacular view.

From Doolin we wound our way through to Killarney were again we picked our accommodation well with a stay at Muckross Park Hotel.

It sits opposite the national park and in the morning we grabbed a free bike from the hotel and went for a pleasant slow two hour cycle.

As a keen punter I found a steeple chase meeting at Wexford to call in before we said goodbye to Ireland. Fortunately the luck of the Irish prevailed and a 10/1 winner helped pay for all our petrol and a few pints of Guinness.

To sum it up the few disappointments we had on our whistle stop self-drive tour were overshadowed by many highlights and if we had our time over again we'd do the same, except this time we'd find a real castle to stay in, ghosts and all.

Words and images: Peter Chapman

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

Images:

1.      Castle
2.      Cliffs of Moher
3.      Dawson Hotel
4.      Peter and Molly Malone
5.      Muckross House
6.      Dublin Walking Tour

July 17, 2018

Barcaldine's Blue Collar Heroes


Dallas Sherringham discovers that when travelling through central Queensland, make sure you leave a day or two spare to learn the unique story of Barcaldine.

You see, this unpretentious town of 1000 residents, full of lovely old pubs and Queensland bush houses is a place where nation changing history was made.

Barcaldine played a significant role in the Australian labour movement and the birth of the Australian Labor Party.

It all happened in 1891 when it was one of the focal points of the Australian shearers' strike, with the Eureka Flag flying over the strike camp.

The landmark Tree of Knowledge, under which the strikers met, took pride of place outside the railway station. In 1892 the reading of the Labour Party manifesto under its shady branches led to the formation of the ALP.

Sadly, in an act that defies logic, in 2006 unknown vandals poisoned the beautiful old tree with the herbicide Roundup, which led to its sad death.

The tree was a 200-y-o ghost gum when it died. It was always a feature of the town since the very early days of settlement.

Barcaldine was a natural focus for the development of unionism in the Australian bush. As the railhead, the town drew many seasonal and casual workers.

 Besides shearers and hands there were navvies who had worked on the construction of the railway.

The coming of the railway had destroyed the income of many carriers who had found their work reduced by it.

Difficulties in finding work and financial hardship helped to build a sense of mateship and mutual support amongst sections of them. In 1887 the Central Queensland Carriers Union was formed, and discussions leading up to this were held under the gum tree which provided shade where carriers waited at the front of the railway station.

 At the same time, the Queensland Shearers' Union was formed at Blackall. Within a year it had 1300 members, indicating a need for collective bargaining to obtain fair pay and working conditions. In 1888 the Central Queensland Labourers' Union was formed at Barcaldine. These three unions were the driving force behind the strike of 1891.

Tensions simmered and threatened to turn into a major conflict between police and striking workers.

One of the first May Day marches in the world took place during the strike on May 1 1891 in Oak St, Barcaldine. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that of the 1340 men who took part, 618 were mounted on horses.

 Banners carried included those of the Australian Labor Federation, the Shearers' and Carriers' Unions, and one inscribed 'Young Australia'. The leaders wore blue sashes and the Eureka Flag was carried. The Labor Bulletin reported that cheers were given for "the Union", "the Eight-hour day", "the Strike Committee" and "the boys in jail".

Ultimately the strike petered out and the workers went back to work. However the seeds of a great labour movement had been sown.

Today the whole event is commemorated in a major display surrounding the restored remains of the dead tree. A giant wooden structure covers the tree and looks ungainly when you first sight it.

However inside, standing next to the tree remains, you look at a "cathedral type" structure which shuts out the everyday world.

Nearby the words of the working class hero Henry Lawson steal the show. It shows his original hand writing capturing the immortal words of the poem "Freedom on the Wallaby". Lawson wrote the poem on hearing of the strike and it was published soon after. The "rebel flag" was the Eureka flag first flown at the Eureka stockade.

The last stanza reads:

O we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We'll make the tyrants feel the sting
O' those that they would throttle;
They needn't say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!


Nearby is the Australian Workers Heritage Centre which is being developed to celebrate the role of ordinary working class people in our society.

The centre tells that working-class Australians fought the wars, built the nation, became great leaders and Prime Ministers and dominated the sporting fields.

Surrounding a bore fed Billabong; it is set in 14 buildings on a former state school site.

Barcaldine also has a number of heritage-listed sites, including: Barcaldine Shire Hall and Barcaldine War Memorial clock in Ash Street, the Lagoon Creek Shearers Strike Camp Site, Barcaldine Masonic Temple in Beech Street and St Peter's Anglican Church and Hall in Elm Street.

Words and Images by Dallas Sherringham

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

1.      Henry Lawson's immortal poem is featured
2.      One of the local pubs where workers enjoyed a beer
3.      The restored remains of the Tree of Knowledge
4.      The railway station was the centre of the strike
5.      Part of the impressive working class celebrations

July 07, 2018

Broken Hill and its silver lining



Dallas Sherringham explores the far West of NSW

As a young student of Australian history many years ago, one of my favourite books was "The Silver City" by Ion Idriess which told the story of Broken Hill.

I made a couple of flying visits to the city in subsequent years, but it was only recently that I was able to enjoy an extended stay and do some exploring.

First up, a little bit of history. Charles Sturt noted the "broken hill" when he passed through in 1844 but it wasn't until 1883 that boundary rider Charles Rasp found silver ore at the spot. He thought it was tin, but it turned out to be the world's largest silver deposit.

Mining began in earnest with thousands of people pouring in. Unlike many mining towns, substantial houses and public buildings were erected along with parks and gardens and properly surveyed, wide streets.

Today, the city is a living history lesson and was giving a national heritage listing in 2015.

Now, visiting such an historic city meant looking for traditional style accommodation and I chose The Lodge Outback Motel which is within walking distance of the CBD.

The Lodge Outback Motel is in part located in an impressive historic building that has significant heritage value to Broken Hill with its architecture and social history. The main building was one of the first to be built of stone and tin roof for the mining capital's resident GP, Doctor William MacGillivray, his family and staff.

It was built in 1904 in the style of 'South Australian Cottage' in an L-shape with verandahs on two sides and enclosed turret. The architectural style is characterised by its corrugated roofing, double-hung sash windows, stone sills and thick masonry walls to retain the heat in the winter. Inside, each room have individual designed tin-pressed ceiling, crafted by Ernest Wunderlich.

I stayed in a period decorated heritage room and the friendly staff helped me plan an itinerary for exploring the city.

First up was a trip to the top of the famed "Hill" which is topped by mining tailings and affords a wonderful view of the city. Then it was on to the main drag, Argent Street, which has markers featuring historic pictures of what the area was like 100 years ago.

Taking pride of place is the 1889 Palace Hotel which gained fame through Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Broken Hill had a city tramway in its halcyon days, powered by uniquely designed Sydney steam trams which towed dummy passenger cars behind them. Each day they conveyed thousands of miners to work and home again, bouncing along at an impressive rate with white steam and black smoke belching from them.

Broken Hill also had its own railway which linked the city with the South Australian system. Called the Silverton Tramway, it had massive locomotives capable of moving big loads of ore.

Sulphide Street Railway Museum is the original tramway station and features a display of locomotives and rolling stock from the golden, or should I say, silver age.

Then it was off to Pro Hart's gallery in Wyman Street, a "must see" for visitor to the Hill for many years. The most famous of Broken Hill's prolific artists, the gallery features many of his famous works, a theatrette featuring his life story and his original studio. Upstairs is a display of the many forms of art he mastered.

No visit to Broken Hill would be complete without a drive out to Silverton, 20 minutes west. It is known worldwide as the setting for more than 200 feature films including Mad Max. The Silverton Hotel is the heart of the town and I enjoyed afternoon tea by the fire before taking a look at the extensive collection of photos depicting the movie crews and stars.

Finishing off my visit to the Hill was a tour of The Living Desert Sculpture Park 9km north of the city which featured impressive sandstone sculptures.

Broken Hill is cheap to visit, easy to get around and is unique. Every Australian should see The Silver City at least once in their lifetime.

Words and Images by Dallas Sherringham

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

Images:

1 Argent Street features many impressive heritage buildings
2 Historic mining complex on "the Hill"
3 The Lodge is the former home of the city's first doctor
4 Pro Hart's unique Rolls Royce on display at his gallery
5 Silverton Hotel, home base for 200 plus movies