February 29, 2012



On April 14, 2012 at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, be transported to another time as you experience the unfolding fate of the Titanic, revealed through the same wireless messages operators received in 1912.

It’s the every day details, like the bath tub in the captain’s quarters or the cook’s pot in ‘hell’s kitchen’ that bring home the scope of this 100 year-old tragedy. The museum features ‘Cable Ships: Connecting Halifax to Titanic and the World’, which recounts the personal stories of crew members from the Halifax-based cable ships involved in the recovery of bodies from the site.

Experience a life-sized diorama offering a lifeboat view of the mighty ship’s last moments and gaze upon one of the world’s only intact Titanic deck chairs, a relic from a bygone era. The museum also features a photographic exhibit, An Earnest Price: 150 Grave Stories, showcasing the grave markers of the 150 victims buried in Halifax cemeteries.

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Titanic met its fate 603 kilometres off the coast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, and the province is honouring its Titanic connections with:
  • A dramatic recreation of ship-to-shore communications between vessels over the ship’s grave site.
  • A 1912-themed meal and minute-by-minute recreation of the events at sea 100 years ago.
  • Ryan Mansion in historic St John’s captures the feeling of grandeur from the Titanic’s era, with its sweeping grand staircase built by the same craftsmen who created the staircase for the luxury liner.
  • Titanic Dinners at Ryan Mansion replicate the six-course opulence of the actual last menu served on the ship, using replicated china from the Titanic’s first-class dining saloon.

Want more? Visit:


Luxury at the Loden

The grand entryway of the Loden sets the scene for this boutique hotel’s modern design, cleverly fused with the area’s dynamic mountains and waterways. Despite the luxurious setting, the hospitality staff, with their ready smiles, gives the Loden a real home-away-from-home vibe. Want to borrow a bike to ride around Stanley Park? Done – with complimentary water thrown in to boot.

Dine here: At The Loden’s Tableau Bar Bistro, soak up a modern take on traditional French fare, prepared by Executive Chef, Marc-Andre Choquette. Epicurean city dwellers and Loden guests intermingle daily in this dynamic bar scene, serving French wine and local beers on tap – an intriguing, sophisticated meeting place. www.theloden.com

Vancouver in a nutshell:

  • Spend the afternoon in Gastown, where cobbled streets are lined with funky antique shops, boutiques and bistros. www.gastown.org
  • Dine in Yaletown for some of the city’s top cuisine
  • Sample the wares of world-class chocolatiers: Chocolate Arts on W 3rd Ave Kitsilano uses local produce like cranberries and hazelnuts to give its confections the true flavour of BC. Want more? Don’t miss Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates, a fourth generation pastry chef whose handmade creations are to die for! www.kitsilano.ca
  • Walk, run or cycle around the nine-kilometre Stanley Park Seawall, enjoying spectacular views of the city, North Shore Mountains and Lions Gate Bridge. http://seestanleypark.com/
  • Visit Granville Island: This beautiful waterfront setting is a hub of galleries, artisan shops, cafes and local clothing designers. www.granvilleisland.com
  • Experience high-end shopping at Holt Renfrew. Champagne is compulsory as you browse through Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Tiffany’s and Gucci. http://www.holtrenfrew.com/holts/en/stores/825/Vancouver/
Test yourself! Did you know…?
  • Vancouver is not the capital city of British Columbia. (Victoria, on Vancouver Island, is.)
  • Vancouver is the mildest city in Canada. Snow rarely falls on the city but it does heaps on the local mountains, where Vancouverites like it.
  • There are three well-developed ski hills, each higher than any in Australia, all within 30 minutes of downtown. Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain offer not just skiing but snowmobiling, tube parks, cross-country skiing, gondola rides, tobogganing and more. www.vcmbc.com
  • Vancouver is probably the only place in the world where it’s possible to ski, sail and play golf all on the same day.
  • Vancouver Japanese sushi chef Tojo invented the California roll, which might explain why the sushi in Vancouver is so good. Vancouver is vying to become the Greenest city in the world—not surprising considering it’s the birthplace of environmental organization Greenpeace.
  • Vancouver is amongst the largest film production centers in North America, second only to Los Angeles in TV production and third behind LA and NYC in Feature Film Production. It’s known as Hollywood North.

View a map of Vancouver HERE

February 27, 2012

Struth! Airline encourages Mile High Clubbers

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says Cincinnati (USA) charter air company, Flamingo Air is helping people trying to spark up their marriages or private lives… with a unique 1-hour in the air it calls Flight of Fancy.

The company began as a regular small-plane charter operator 21 years ago. Then one day the pilot friends who started it up, dared each other to entice a couple into a "mid-air romp that would entitle them to membership of the Mile High Club in the largest single-engine Piper aircraft in the sky."

It was an instant success, extraordinarily with 90 per cent of bookings since then being made by women. Pilot and co-founder, Dave MacDonald says he believes many of these women, as well as some men who book, "are trying to put a spark in their relationship, some even trying to save their marriage."

The Flight of Fancy costs US$425 for the hour, and that includes a bottle of Champagne, chocolates, the opportunity to fly over landmarks of romantic significance for those who make the bookings – and a very discreet pilot.

"I've had high heels in my ear, been shot in the back of the head with Champagne corks – and thank God we wear headsets," jokes Dave. "We can't hear anything anyway with those headsets, and what goes on behind the curtain is no concern of ours. It's all about professionalism."

And he says an amazing 95 per cent of customers happily tell him when they get back on the ground that they've achieved their goal.

Flights of Fancy are still only ten per cent of Flamingo Air's business, and not everyone who books has done so to join that Mile High Club. Says Dave:  "Cincinnati is a pretty conservative place, and one couple turned up with a picnic basket, saying they just wanted a quiet lunch together. When they told us they had eight kids, it made sense."


David Ellis

WE'VE a colleague who as a travel writer knows as much about driving a boat as we know about the driving force behind the mating ritual of the Tanzanian Bwango Mango Tsetse Fly.

So when he flew off to London with his lady to take a self-drive boat up the Thames, colleagues foregathered over drinks to speculate on (a) how much damage he would do to the boat, (b) how many injuries he would inflict upon himself, (c) how many injuries he would inflict upon others, and (d) in what mental state his partner would return home.

Remarkably he confounded us on all counts, but rather than us trying to tell you the story of his trip, we've asked him to tell you himself. Here's his account.

"Look," I kept telling Sandra as we rode the train from Heathrow to the village of Benson, "they wouldn't let us do it if it was that difficult for a couple of novices."

She was remarkably unconvinced, but having picked up our boat from the jetty of Le Boat in Benson, easily negotiated our first lock, and found a mooring for the night, she began to relax. Or aybe it was the couple of pints of bitter and the hearty fare at The Boathouse pub that washed away any remaining qualms.

Our boat was a Capri TS, and certainly comfortable enough. A couple of outside seats at the stern, a galley with table and benches, fridge, TV and gas stove, a smallish double-bed up front, and a bathroom that was a bit of a squeeze. But, hey, we'd chosen the smallest in the fleet and had plenty of hot water by running the engine a few hours a day.

We planned on what Le Boat calls it's "Scholars' Cruise," motoring upstream to Oxford and downstream to the rowing course at Henley. But after a couple more pints we decide to ignore the Henley bit and spend more time wending our way to and from Oxford.

Wallingford proved an excellent place to start. County realignments now place it in Oxfordshire but it was once the chief town in Berkshire, and an important part of the fortified defence line against potential Viking invasion.

It also proved a beautiful place to stroll around, to stocking-up on provisions and to sit on deck and admire the cathedral and old bridge – and chat with fellow river travellers moored nearby.

We also ventured by taxi a few kilometres to North Moreton, a time-warped English village with thatched roofs and a superb old pub called the Bear Inn. Not to mention a decaying church and an eccentric vicar almost more interested in our family history, that we'd come mildly in search of, than we were.

And we found the Thames a user-friendly place. The lock keepers patiently understood the learning curves of we first-timers, while the river's regulars, many of whom live on longboats inevitably embellished with rooftop gardens and sun lounges, were only too willing to catch a rope and help us tie-up.

And while there were plenty of mooring places with facilities, it was also just as easy to drive a few pegs into the bank alongside the river's towpath, attach some ropes and, hey presto, tied up for the night to indulge the absolute peace and calm.

Oxford proved as sublime a destination as we had anticipated, and we'd suggest tying up a few hundred metres from Folly Bridge and not far from Christ Church Cathedral and College. It was amongst the best of the city's experiences.

Then it was back down river to Benson, stopping for a night at Abingdon, where William the Conqueror once celebrated Easter, and the remains of its ancient abbey and gardens.

All in all, it was a very different and invigorating way to explore an iconic corner of England. Le Boat's charter rates start from about AU$1400 per week, plus we paid AU$160 for collision-waiver insurance, and fuel for the week's motoring was just over £30. Larger boats, taking up to 10 people, are also available.

Le Boat offers similar arrangements in England's Norfolk Broads, Scotland, Ireland and Europe. You can get details from Le Boat Australia on 1800 118 940, visit www.leboat.com.au or email sales@leboat.com.au

(John Rozentals is publisher of www.OzBabyBoomers.com.au)



[] CAPTAIN John… taking the slow lane to Oxford

[] EASY to park: just a couple of pegs, marked for joggers

[] WALLINGFORD…  a beautiful place to wander around

[] NORTH Moreton, time-warped with more than its share of thatched roofs

[] HEAD of the River Inn: right at Oxford's Folly Bridge with Christ Church Cathedral and College nearby

[] ABINGDON … William the Conqueror once celebrated Easter here.

(Photos: Sandra Burn White)


February 16, 2012


In his pacy, page-turner thriller, The Eighth Day, Alistair Smith tells of the race against time to thwart a bid by a ruthless group to grab control of China in the midst of the confusion of the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The city’s ancient Temple of Heaven is the setting for several key scenes -- in the beginning when a main character flees from the Red Guards, and during the climax as the good guys close in on the plotters. Here is the author’s real story of the Temple of Heaven ...



It is early Sunday morning in Beijing, the city that hosted the 2008 Olympic Games, and the citizens of the Chinese capital have come out to play.

But not for them the traumas of the triathlon, the dizzy heights of the pole vault, or the bulging eyes and grunting snorts of weight-lifting.

Instead, they are gathering in their thousands in the 250-hectares of shady parkland that surrounds the 16th century Temple of Heaven, greeting old friends and peeling off in groups, each to its own favourite spot.

Once there, they will spend the next few hours pursuing their favourite past-times. And what an extraordinary range of activities, some most unexpected or unusual, there are.

It’s easy to take a bus from the centre of Beijing to the Temple of Heaven, and there’s a small admission charge to enter the temple complex, which varies according to the season. It costs me the equivalent of $4, but the locals are using a much cheaper monthly pass.

On the first walkway inside the main gate, a group of people were performing what looked like the Chinese equivalent of boot-scooting, while alongside that others practiced modern ballroom dance routines.

Across the way, it was synchronised flag-waving, and elsewhere gymnastic ribbons were creating flowing rainbows of colour.

There was music: a solo player on a traditional stringed instrument, a choir or a 40-piece mouth organ band.

An area was filled with equipment painted bright purple, violet and turquoise allows the older generation to do gentle exercise to keep their joints supple, in contrast to fit young men swinging on parallel bars, or doing contortionists’ tricks with poles.

Impromptu games of badminton and other racquet games were in progress; a group of calligraphy artists were honing their skills drawing characters on paving slabs using huge brushes dipped in water.

The “Long Corridor” – five metres wide and 350 metres long -- connects various sections of the temple complex, providing shelter and shade. It is jammed with people, sitting on its balustrades or on folding stools in small alcoves, playing dozens of different card and board games, lustily slapping down the winning card, or pondering deeply over their next move.

However, the Temple of Heaven itself remains a peaceful place, despite being filled with tourists. It’s dominated by the main temple, a huge bell-shaped tower constructed on top of glistening granite terraces, sparkling bright blue in the sunlight. It stands 40-metres high and its ceiling is supported by wooden pillars without using nails or bolts.

Halls flanking the square around the temple house changing exhibitions relating to the temples and the emperors who came here to pray for good harvest.

Another drawcard for visitors is the Echo Wall, a circular structure 65metres in diameter. In theory, your whisper will reach your friend on the far side. In practice, that’s hard with several people testing the theory at one time.

But don’t be disappointed. On a Sunday morning, there’s always people-watching in the park instead.


Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/TheEighthDay/266838120046090
Website: www.alistairsmith.info
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006FS20ZE

Sydney Opera House Immortalised in LEGO Bricks

Sydney Opera House, Australia's iconic masterpiece of late modern architecture, has had its famous sculpted curves recreated in miniature form by the soon to be released LEGO® Architecture range.

Launching in March 2012 for the first time in Australia, the LEGO Architecture collection will initially offer a range of seven brick-built models, all based on famous landmarks and masterpieces of architecture from around the world, including New York's Empire State Building and Seattle's Space Needle.

Offering a perfect mini recreation of Sydney's much-loved landmark, LEGO Architecture's Sydney Opera House features the distinctive white shells, sculptured angles and even the sandstone-coloured concourse, all made using 260 LEGO bricks.

Caroline Squire, Director of Marketing, LEGO Australia comments: "The LEGO Architecture Sydney Opera House seeks to capture the essence of this grand building in a small scale. The LEGO Architecture range uses the iconic LEGO brick to interpret the designs of renowned architecture from around the world and LEGO Australia is proud that Australia's own Sydney Opera House has been chosen as one of the 2012 debut models for this exciting collection."

LEGO Architecture products come in two types: Landmark and Architect. The Landmark series features well-known buildings, while the Architect series focuses on the work of important architects. Jørn Utzon is the third architect to be involved within the range after Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Aimed at inspiring future architects, engineers and designers as well as architecture fans around the world, the range contains a booklet featuring step-by-step building instructions that is prefaced by exclusive, archival history, information and photographs of each iconic building, its design origin, its architect and its architectural features.

Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, the cultural and architectural significance of Sydney Opera House was affirmed in 2007 when UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site and "one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind."

"Sydney Opera House is thrilled to partner with one of the world's leading toy manufacturers to produce the Sydney Opera House LEGO Architecture set," says Sydney Opera House's Commercial Development Director, Andy Lown. "Sydney Opera House strives to take people on a journey from the ordinary to the extraordinary, whoever and wherever they are, and this licensed range is a great example of how we can deliver our brand to a global audience. We're delighted people from around the world can now build a LEGO brick replica of the House."

Since its opening in 1973 over 45 million people have attended more than 100,000 performances at Sydney Opera House. It's estimated that well over 100 million people have visited the site making it one of Australia's most visited tourist attractions.

The LEGO Sydney Opera House™, RRP AUD $59.99, is available to purchase from March 2012 along with the wider LEGO Architecture range in select David Jones and Myer department stores, as well as The Sydney Opera House and select gift stores around Australia. Please call the LEGO Australia Consumer Service Hotline on 1800 683 100 for stockist information. The product is designed for ages 12 and up and includes a content-rich booklet with facts and history of Sydney Opera House™.

February 13, 2012

Queen Elizabeth: To sea on an iron maiden

by Robert Upe / smh.com.au

Winning story
2011 ICCA Cruising Awards

On a world voyage, Robert Upe discovers cigar lounges and dress codes endure on the new Queen Elizabeth.

A fine salt spray whips off the back of the waves as they roll by. I can taste it on my lips. I'm leaning on the rail of a ship's balcony, high above the water, but the spray softly drifts up to me, refreshing like a spritzer.

These are waves that may never break because we are a long way from land - on my calculation at longitude 164.77E and latitude 38.82S. This places us in the middle of the Tasman Sea, otherwise referred to as the Ditch, between Australia and New Zealand in an area known for its wild seas and white-knuckle yachting

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/travel/activity/cruises/to-sea-on-an-iron-maiden-20110310-1box4.html#ixzz1mE5E6bDN

Struth! Priest rescued from 'spiritual retreat'

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says a priest's "spiritual retreat" on the now well-publicised Costa Concordia landed him not only in the ocean, but in hot water as well.

The 41-year-old priest told parishioners that he was going on the "spiritual retreat" for a couple of weeks, and had arranged for a substitute priest to cover for him while he took time out to reflect on his vows, and to meditate and pray.

He was busted on Facebook after his niece, who was with him on the ship, posted that she and all her family, "including uncle Massimo", were safe and well.

One angry parishioner told a local newspaper in the priest's town: "It's a bit difficult to understand how he was going to go on a spiritual retreat on board a cruise liner."

(Photo: Marine Conservation Institute)


David Ellis

WHEN British businessman Sir Chay Blyth decided in 1997 to organise a rowing race across the Atlantic from England to America, he thought he'd publicise it by having some of the participants row up the River Thames to St Katherine's Dock, including passing under the iconic Tower Bridge.

But he didn't quite expect the publicity his little promotion would create – particularly in splitting a security convoy that had been weeks in the planning into two parts, and subsequently leaving one of the world's most powerful men, America's President Bill Clinton on one side of the Thames, and most of his forward bodyguards and other security men on the other.

One of the rowing team's sponsors had taken some VIP clients aboard a little luxury yacht called Gladys to watch their team pass up the river. And has been tradition since the Tower Bridge was built a couple of centuries ago, when Gladys reached the bridge, and her masts were too tall to pass under, the operator raised its double-drawbridge roadway to give the yacht clear passage.

But President Clinton was returning late and behind schedule to the American Embassy from a lunch with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a restaurant on the banks of the Thames – and to the horror of his forward security detail who had already crossed the Tower Bridge and cleared traffic for the President's safe journey, the bridge suddenly opened behind them for yacht Gladys... exactly on a scheduled time previously agreed to by the Embassy.

A fuming Bill Clinton was left on one side of the Thames, and most of his security men on the other. When asked how the bridge could have been opened at such a delicate moment, even though the President was late-running, a spokesman for the bridge told London media: "We tried to contact the American Embassy, but they wouldn't answer their phone."

The Tower Bridge was the second bridge built across the Thames in the centre of London, the first being London Bridge, made famous by the nursery rhyme "London Bridge Is Falling Down."

The Tower Bridge was built in the second half of the 19th century during a boom in commercial activity in London's east, and to get around the long detour over London Bridge and a haphazard ferry services.

A competition for its design attracted 50 entrants, and after several years of argument a winner was finally named – that eventual winner, incidentally, turning out to also be one of the judges. Yes, well…

Two huge towers were built in the river itself and joined by two bascules (or draw-bridges) that could be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The towers were connected to the shore by mini-suspension bridges.

There were also two walkways between the tops of the 65m towers that are now used as a museum and a spot from which to take spectacular photos of the Thames and nearby London landmarks.

Construction began in 1886 and the bridge was opened eight years later by the Prince of Wales. It cost £1.2 million – the equivalent of $A160 million in today's currency.

Its design attracted much criticism, including such snide remarks such as "it represents the vice of tawdriness and pretentiousness" and "a more absurd structure than the Tower Bridge was never thrown across a strategic river".

There is no such disapproval today... although President Clinton's security chief would doubtless not agree.

To celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977, the bridge was re-painted from its dull brown to red, white and blue...and that's the way it's been ever since.

Some 40,000 people cross the Tower Bridge every day – local pedestrians, motorists, cyclists and, of course, the multitude of meandering tourists.

And buses, one of which, a double-decker, in 1952 was on the bridge deck when it suddenly started to rise. It's claimed one of two warning bells for traffic had not been rung, and showing true Bulldog spirit the bus driver, Albert Gunter planted his foot on the accelerator and drove across the growing already metre-wide gap – landing two metre below on the opposite bascule, which had not yet started to rise.
Next time you are visiting London make the Tower Bridge a must – and recall the Day It Stopped A President.


Photo captions:

[] LONDON'S landmark Tower Bridge: President Clinton was not amused when it opened. (Photo Magnus Manske)

[] THE passenger sailing barge Gladys still plies the River Thames today. (Photo: Ian Scott)

[] A LONDON bus similar to this one once "jumped" a growing metre-wide gap when the bridge suddenly opened, landing 2-metres below on the opposite bascule. (Photo OneGirlCreative.Com)

[] A MODERN-day cruise vessel slips through the open Tower Bridge. (Photo SeaDream Yacht Club.)

February 06, 2012


David Ellis

THERE's probably nothing too unusual about a bloke deciding that he's going to celebrate his next big milestone birthday by taking his wife on a world cruise.

After all, with the kids grown up and the nest empty, why sit around watching the grass grow?

But what is unusual is that the birthday this bloke will be celebrating as the ship he's chosen cruises towards Sydney later this month, will be his 93RD.

It's a pretty out-of-the-ordinary idea, but then Ed Halluska and his wife Helen are pretty out-of-the-ordinary people, because this won't be their first world cruise, their second, their tenth, nor even their twentieth.

This will be no less than the 24th time they've cruised around the world. And on top of this they've notched up close-on 320 other point-to-point cruises in the Mediterranean, South Pacific, Caribbean, Northern Europe, through the USA's New England, and just about everywhere else a cruise ship can go.

And in doing so, according to Ed's meticulous diaries, they've chalked up a staggering 3,916,656 kilometres during 5000-plus days at sea, after getting bitten by the cruise bug over forty years ago.

The softly-spoken Ed and Helen hail from Pennsylvania, and the only time Ed tends to raise his voice is when he talks about how they "got into cruising."

It goes back to his interest in the game of bridge. With this, and a few short cruises under their belts, Ed took the punt and decided to toss-in his engineering job and become a full time bridge instructor –  winning himself a cosy little role on a cruise ship, and being able to take Helen with him on many of his cruises.

From that first assignment in the late 1960s Ed and Helen decided that teaching bridge and cruising were to become their virtual full-time lives.

That was until one day the company solemnly announced: "Ed, we're going to have to let you go." It is then that the voice deepens in indignation. "They said I was too old. TOO OLD! What, I wanted to know, was wrong with turning 80?

"But they were adamant that 80 was too old, and so Helen and I decided, well blow them, and to just keep on cruising and to make it, and bridge, even more of our lives."

And so they have, and if you press him, between tales of their travels, he'll also talk about how he almost didn't live to make it all possible – because at one time he was a machinist and toolmaker with America's Manhattan Project, the building of the atomic bomb.

"I was sent to a top-secret plant at Los Alamos in New Mexico," he says. "I worked on the actual piston that would detonate the bomb, and even though we were working with uranium all around us our only protective clothing was ordinary overalls, rubber gloves and goggles.

"I was regularly tested for traces of uranium and just before the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the doctors told me I'd tested positive to being above the permitted safe level. When I asked what that meant, the doctors shrugged and said they really didn't have a clue, because they weren't even sure in those days what was the safe level before radiation poisoning set in."

Ultimately Ed was medically cleared of any potential harm to his health

Today Ed and Helen are heading here aboard the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth that's due in Sydney on February 28 for a two-day stay, and just a couple of days before coming in through The Heads he and Helen will celebrate his 93rd birthday on board.

And with all this Good Life, how do this remarkable couple, we ask, keep as trim as they are?  "Plenty of walking ashore," Ed says. "And 80 push-ups a day," (which isn't a bad trick at 93.)

"A lot of people think if you go on a Queen Elizabeth world cruise as a passenger and don't come off as cargo, you've not been having fun," he adds. "But while we don't miss any meals, we don't clean the plate either. And we might have soup and dessert one night and a main course the next – and fish six times a week."

Good on you Ed – and happy 93rd !




[] Ed and Helen Halluska – next to Queen Victoria in Sydney on a previous world cruise (Photo: David Ellis)

[] Queen Elizabeth in the Panama Canal: Ed's choice for his 93rd birthday and 24th world cruise with Helen. (Photo: Cunard Line)

[] LUXURY: Entry to the lavish Britannia Restaurant on Queen Elizabeth. (Photo: Cunard Line)



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