August 31, 2015

Struth! Jumping to conclusions


High price for a liner's one-liner

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says a British family – three of them in their 80s – have learned that frivolous one-liners can prove costly… in their case being put off the luxury cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas, less than 24 hours after  going aboard.

Two of the octogenarians had been shouted a return-week from England to Europe by their daughter and son-in-law in celebration of their diamond wedding anniversary, with daughter, son-in-law and his 89yo mum going along as well.

But on the first night the celebrating husband and father (85) complained to the Maitre d' at dinner that he'd got paint on his trousers from work done in his cabin just before they'd gone aboard… and that the cabin's wet paint was enough to make him want to "jump ship."

The "jump ship" comment soon reached the Bridge – where duty officers read it as a possible "jump overboard" suicide threat.

So the family were deemed a "security risk," met with, and told they were to be put off next morning at the ship's first port of call, Zeebrugge in Belgium.

A security guard was also stationed outside the parents' cabin for the night with regular torchlight checks inside as well, and next morning the entire family put ashore. The shipping line subsequently refunded all five cruise fares in full, met the cost of replacing the paint-damaged trousers… and even paid all the family's travel expenses back to the UK.

An apology? Nope.

St Michaels in Maryland - home to the Cannonball House

David Ellis

IT'S over 200 years since the locals of little St Michaels in Maryland employed a wily scheme to save their town from attack by the British Navy during the relatively little-known War of 1812, and which led to St Michaels to this day being known as "the town that fooled the British."

Founded in the mid-1600s as a trading post for pioneering tobacco farmers and trappers, St Michaels later went on to become an important shipbuilding town on America's north-east coast, with a half-dozen yards of significant size by the 1800s.

And when America declared war on Great Britain in June of 1812 in its first-ever such aggression on another nation, the British saw the importance of putting a stop to the output from those St Michaels shipyards.

(The reasons for the War of 1812 were many and convoluted, to the forefront being America's anger at Britain's meddling in its fledgling international trade, the capture of American merchant ships and the impressment of their crews into Britain's Royal Navy, and Britain's support for Indian tribes opposed to white American expansionism.)

So pre-dawn on August 10th 1813 the British moved a small fleet carrying 300 red-coated marines into Chesapeake Bay on which the St Michaels shipyards were located, and in darkness sent these men ashore. Long anticipating such an attack on their yards, the residents of St Michaels got a few rounds away from some cannons they had along their harbour-front, but knowing they were greatly out-numbered, fled back into the darkness.

Delighted, British Admiral Sir George Cockburn recalled his men to their ships, declaring he'd wipe little St Michaels off the map with cannon fire from those vessels. And it would be with the assistance of the townspeople themselves – whom he noted to fellow-officers, had foolishly left so many lights on overnight in homes and shipyard buildings that they made for perfect targets.

After firing off some hundreds of cannonballs and seeing the number of those lights diminish with each salvo, Admiral Cockburn declared his job well done and sailed off into the sunrise without even bothering to check the extent of damage he'd caused.

Had he done so, he would doubtless have been mortified to find that for all his effort, he had in fact hit just one building. And that was a private house through whose roof a cannonball had crashed into the attic below, and from there bounced down the stairway to land at the feet of a very shocked Mrs William Merchant and her baby daughter who'd been awakened by the bombardment….

And the reason for so little damage to St Michaels township was simple: the canny locals had actually turned off every light in town, and the myriad "town lights" Admiral Cockburn had seen were in fact hundreds of lanterns those townspeople had lit and strung amid trees on a hillside behind their blacked-out township…

So Admiral Cockburn had simply sent his cannonballs sailing harmlessly over the darkened settlement into that forest behind St Michaels, earning it the title "the town that fooled the British…"

Two hundred and two years on, Mrs Merchant's house is still a private residence, although officially listed as the Cannonball House on America's National Register of Historic Places.

Shipbuilding in St Michaels waned in the later part of the 1800s to be replaced with oyster harvesting and crab catching, and today tourism is the major industry in this little town of a mere thousand or so leisurely living folk.

Once listed Number 8 in the Top Ten of Romantic Escapes in the USA, St Michaels has also been described as "a treasure on Maryland's Eastern Shore" with colourfully picturesque Colonial, Federal and Victorian era homes, churches and public buildings, and prides itself on its rich maritime heritage.

Visitors can also take to the local waters for daily sightseeing tours on an historic 1886 oyster dredging sailboat, the Rebecca T Ruark that's a skipjack for which St Michaels was once famed for churning out from its shipyards, or join organised day fishing trips on others.

For foodies, local restaurants put great emphasis on the local crabs and oysters still harvested and caught today, there are numerous boutiques, and for the curious a fascinating maritime museum and excellent antique shops.



[] ST Michaels today has just a handful over a thousand residents, but tourists flock
   there by their tens of thousands annually. (
[] ITS once busy shipyards long gone, St Michaels' harbour today provides a haven
   for pleasure boat owners from a wide neighbouring area. (St Michaels Marina)
[] THE historic oyster dredger Rebecca T Ruark was built at St Michaels in 1886 and
   is today a popular sightseeing vessel on the harbour. (
[] THE Cannonball House was the only building struck during the British raid on the
   night of August 10th 1813; a private home today it still attracts the curious to view
   from the outside. (Ellen Coxe Maryland Historic Trust)  
[] ADMIRAL Sir George Cockburn who led the British raid that hurled hundreds of
   cannonballs harmlessly over St Michaels into a forest of lantern-lit trees.
[] SEAFOOD restaurants lure lovers of oysters and crabs to feast on these local
   delights. (

August 28, 2015

Macau: The Stage is Set


Beyond the glittering halls of your 21st century resort, a city resplendent in history and culture awaits.

Words by Roderick Eime

Their arms flail wildly while their feet kick savagely at each other. Higher and higher they go, 20 metres, 25 metres, toward the dizzyingly high ceiling. The hero, in white of course, strikes the villain in the chest and he falls, arms and legs twirling, into the deep pool below. The 2000-strong crowd gasp, then gasp again when the hero falls too. Some stand to get a better look while others just cover their faces.

But don't worry, it's all part of the show here at City of Dreams' spectacular $250million production, The House of Dancing Water, which plays to capacity crowds five nights per week. The award-winning 85 minute show, which opened in 2010, has enthralled more than 2 million guests with its 80 performers who high dive, motorcycle jump, leap, contort and dance around, in and on top of a 17 million litre pool.

House of Dancing Water - Macau

This awe-inspiring, super hi-tech show is the glittering centrepiece of the integrated entertainment resort, City of Dreams, opened in June 2009. With some 1400 guest rooms in three sprawling luxury hotels, plus more than 20 quality food and beverage venues and 175,000 square feet of sparkling retail space, there's almost no need to leave the resort. But in a city as rich in heritage and history as Macau, you'd be missing out on a wonderful sightseeing and cultural experience if you didn't venture out.

Even though Macau is best known for its rich Portuguese heritage, the town’s maritime history dates back to the 5th century and earlier when coastal traders and fishermen used Hoi Keang, as it was then known, for resupply.

Macau’s unusual European cultural fusion has also spawned a range of colourful cultural events including arts, music and fireworks festivals, a dragon boat regatta and a marathon foot race. Golf and the legendary Guia Motor Race and Macau Grand Prix complete the international sporting calendar.

Furthermore, the United Nations, through their cultural arm of UNESCO, recognised the very special significance of the architectural heritage of Macau by listing the centre of the old city as a World Heritage site of cultural significance. The imposing centrepiece is the preserved façade of the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Built during the last decade of the 16th Century by the Jesuits, the building was destroyed by fire in 1835.

Rainy days are plenty around the middle of the year, a perfect opportunity to take in any of Macau's superb museums. For MOP$25 you can buy a museum pass for entry to the Grand Prix Museum, Wine Museum, Maritime Museum, Lin Zexu Museum, Museum of Art and Museum of Macau.

And for a grand finale, if you want to outdo the brave high divers at The House of Dancing Water, you can strap yourself in for a 233m plunge off Macau Tower in the world's highest commercial base jump. There's thrills aplenty in Macau.

Macau Government Tourist Office, phone +612 9264 1488,

August 26, 2015

Rent your own private island

Have A Private Island All to Yourself with These 13 Rentable Estates Available to Book Through TripAdvisor

With the glimmer of spring just breaking on the horizon, TripAdvisor®, the world's largest travel site* is showcasing extraordinary private islands you can book for your next trip.

From the idyllic African island of Mauritius, to the rugged backdrop of the Isle of Skye, TripAdvisor Holiday Rentals offers more than 720,000 properties worldwide, giving Aussies a reason to daydream at their desks as we wait for summer.


Located 1,931 kilometres off the coast of Africa, this luxury villa offers four bedrooms and a large terrace that boasts panoramic views of the turquoise Roches Noires lagoon. Parts of the property are open-air, allowing guests to enjoy beautiful island scenery from the comfort of the couch or a chaise lounge perched in the sand.

"What a place! Absolutely stunning and unique location," says one TripAdvisor traveller. Prices start from $623AUD per night.


Just a short trip from Isle of Skye located in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, this quaint cottage comfortably sleeps four and offers a secluded coastal escape. This luxury vacation rental was recently renovated and comes with a cosy wood burning stove, cotton linens and more.

A TripAdvisor traveller said, "The cottage was immaculate, modern and cosy. The island really is a paradise; a real get-away from everything." Prices start from $1,628AUD per night.


Located on a 150-acre island within the gates of Colleton River Plantation, this cottage is nestled among massive oak trees overlooking the water of the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge. The comfortable cottage comes with cathedral ceilings and large windows where guests will enjoy magnificent views.

A TripAdvisor traveller said, "The cottage is lovely, classy, clean and very comfortable." Prices start from $342AUD per night.


Sheltered behind the Belize Barrier Reef, this private two-acre island is available for your exclusive use. The beautiful private island offers a picture-perfect sandy beach and surrounded by some of the finest coral reef in the area. The rental includes a caretaker who will cater to your needs, including catching and cooking fresh seafood for dinner, as well as kayak and snorkelling tours.

A TripAdvisor traveller commented, "A beautiful well maintained island surrounded by reef." Prices start from $520AUD per night.


Situated on an idyllic island 4.8 kilometres from San Pedro, this property boasts nine bedrooms and overlooks the cerulean surf and white sand beaches. Guests are invited to relax in the comfort of their plunge pools, enjoy a day on the beach or take part in activities including snorkelling and scuba diving.

A recent guest remarked, "No five star resort comes close to our experience at Cayo Espanto." Prices start from $18,479AUD per night.


Located just over a kilometre off of the Atlantic shores of Marathon in the Florida Keys, this private island boasts a pristine vacation rental home that comes with more than 5,000 square-feet of living space, including a spacious veranda, boat dock, helicopter launch pad, swimming pool, and a 25-foot boat to get back and forth to the mainland.

One TripAdvisor guest stated. "Nothing else like it." Prices start from $1,369AUD per night.


Off the coast of Bar Harbor in Downeast Maine, travellers can enjoy a tranquil stay on Spectacle Island. This six-acre private oasis offers sweeping ocean views and guests are invited to use the 16-foot sailboat or kayaks to explore the New England scenery./div>

A TripAdvisor traveller said, "It's hard to describe just how perfect Spectacle Island is if you are looking for the combination of northern outdoor adventure, the sea, great food, comfort, relaxation and superb hosts." Prices start from $2,053AUD per night.


This luxurious private island offers three magnificent villas. Located in the World Heritage Marine Reserve near central Belize, this opulent property will not disappoint. Amenities include a personal chef, an outdoor bedroom, expansive windows where guests can capture the impressive views, modern décor and more.

One reviewer commented, "This is a once in a lifetime lovely, relaxing, fun and pleasant place to vacation." Prices start from $7,118AUD per night.


This multi-million dollar cottage boasts six bedrooms, six bathrooms and lavish amenities both indoors and out. Prices start from $12,451AUD per week.


About 160 kilometres southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Little Whale Cay hosts guests in three luxury villas that can accommodate up to 12 people. Seated on 93 acres, this remarkable property boasts an infinity pool with coastal views, ornate furnishings, a gym, tennis court, blossoming gardens, private white sand beaches and even its own airstrip.

Prices start from $12,661AUD per night.


Head to the middle of the South Pacific for a majestic island getaway in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Fafarua Lodge is what you'd see on a postcard: shimmering azure waters, rings of coral reef, white beaches and coconut palms. You'll enjoy an all-inclusive vacation, with full catering provided by the home's staff.

A visitor to Fararua Lodge recent commented, "Breathtaking scenery and a huge and extraordinary lagoon." Prices start from $1,458AUD per night.


"A different getaway," raves one previous guest. At first arrival in Jakarta you'll be whisked away by the host's 60-foot yacht as you head towards your secluded island escape in the Java Sea. The serenity is Isle East Indies' biggest draw, with stunning views day and night and open-air rooms throughout the multiple rental bungalows.

"Perfectly shaded by the trees; I can't think of a better place to spend a relaxed afternoon curled up with a book." Added another TripAdvisor reviewer. Prices start from $2,772AUD per night.


Situated within the beautiful Thousand Islands National Park, this private island is home to two separate rental cottages. Experience breathtaking views and an abundance of outdoor recreation like swimming, hiking, kayaking and fishing.

"Little Aubrey is by far the best cottage I have ever been to. The sceneries are amazing, there's lots to see and lots to experience" said a guest on TripAdvisor. Prices start from $409AUD per night.

To browse all TripAdvisor holiday rentals, visit

August 24, 2015

Duke Kahanamoku: The father of modern surfing launched the sport in Australia

Duke Kahanamoku Statue at Waikiki

Words: Roderick Eime

How many surfers do you know with their own statue? Anyone who has strolled, ice cream in hand, along Waikiki’s famous boulevard cannot fail to miss the famous likeness of Duke Paoa Kahinu Makoe Hulikoholoi Kahanamoku. Or, just ‘Duke’, known to all as the father of modern surfing.

Duke KahanamokuThe ancient Hawaiians were observed by a curious Capt James Cook who noted in his famous journals that the natives of the Sandwich Islands enjoyed cavorting in the surf with planks of light wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis) wood. The longer ones were called alaia and the shorter ones, olo, and it was clear that status dictated who rode the longer ones because trees of sufficient size were rare.

This frivolous, unholy pastime was frowned upon by the missionaries, who arrived at the end of the 18th century. Despite their attempts to stamp out the activity (along with other ancient customs like hula dancing) a few Hawaiians continued to surf in secret and at the time of Duke’s birth in 1890, the sport was still just an indigenous curiosity. But it wasn’t surfing that was Duke’s springboard into the international limelight. It was swimming.

Duke was born into a large family with five brothers and three sisters. Against a backdrop of political turmoil, the family moved from his birthplace, Honolulu, to the seaside village of Waikiki in 1893 where he learned to swim and surf using a traditional olo. Duke was a typical keiki (beach baby) frolicking in the sand and playing in the sea.

“My father and uncle just threw me into the water from an outrigger canoe. I had to swim or else!” said Duke in the biography, Duke: A Great Hawaiian.

“We keikis taught each other.”

His schooling was cut short by a need to earn money for the large family.

“I spent my time trying to earn money – selling newspapers, shining shoes, carrying ice and doing just about anything to bring in some pocket money,” he told Lowell Thomas on one of the famous broadcaster’s radio programs.

With plenty of time in the water fishing and freediving for shellfish, it came to pass that Duke grew into a tall (185cm) strapping lad with an impeccable aquatic pedigree that could be traced back centuries.

“You know, there are so many waves coming in all the time,
you don’t need to worry about that. Take your time, wave come.
Let the other guys go, catch another one.”
Duke Kahanamoku on life and surfing

His prowess in the water was unmistakable and in his first swim meet at the age of 21, Duke smashed the world 100 yard freestyle record by an astonishing 4.6 secs using his own special stroke, the “Hawaiian Crawl”. When the times were sent to the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), officials were in utter disbelief and refused to recognise the feat, claiming that a timing error, tides or currents must have assisted the unknown athlete in his open water sprint.

Despite this setback, there were plenty of Hawaiians who believed in this regal young gentleman and a public subscription raised enough money to send him and two others to the mainland USA National Swimming Championships in 1912. He began badly, without proper preliminary training, but quickly recovered to secure himself a place in the US Swimming Team at the Stockholm Olympic Games. Here all doubt was erased and Duke won gold in the 100m freestyle, receiving his victory wreath from King Gustaf V and the nickname "the Bronze Duke of Waikiki."

His swimming feats continued despite the cancellation of the 1916 Olympics due to WWI and at nearly 30 years of age, he won 100m gold again at Antwerp in 1920 as part of a US trifecta with another World Record time of 1:00.4

During the war, Duke was in demand as an exhibition swimmer and surfer and he made a historic visit to Australia just as our young men were heading off to Egypt in preparation for their wholesale slaughter at Gallipoli.

"Kahanamoku is a wonderfully dexterous performer on the surfboard, an instrument of pleasure that Australians have so far been unsuccessful in handling to any degree. Reports have been brought back from overseas of his acrobatic feats executed while dashing shorewards at great speeds, but one doubts the possibility of Duke, or anyone else, duplicating such feats in Australian surf. Still, if he should give one of his rare exhibitions for our edification, be sure it will create a keen desire on the part of our ambitious shooters to emulate his deeds, and it goes without saying that his movements will be watched intently. Personally, I am convinced that the natural amphibious attitude of the Australians will enable one or another to unravel the knack," wrote Australian Olympic swimmer and 1912 Olympic Silver medallist (behind Duke), Cecil Healy in anticipation. Tragically, Healy enlisted in the AIF the next year and was killed in France.

His demonstration at Sydney's Freshwater Beach was remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, it is considered the birthday of the Australian surf culture and secondly, because Duke arrived without a board.

"Having no board, he picked out some sugar pine from George Hudson's, and made one. This board - which is now in the proud possession of Claude West - was eight feet six inches long, and concave underneath. Veterans of the waves contend that Duke purposely made the surfboard concave instead of convex to give him greater stability in our rougher (as compared with Hawaiian) surf,” wrote reporter Patricia Gilmore, as part of a nostalgic retrospective in the SMH in 1948.

"Duke Kahanamoku was asked to select the beach where the exhibition would be given. He chose Freshwater (now Harbord). It was in February, 1915, that Australian board enthusiasts had their first opportunity of seeing a 'board expert' on the waves. There was a big sea running, and from 10:30 in the morning until 1 o'clock Duke never left the water. He showed the watchers all the tricks he knew, sliding right across the beach on the face of a wave. Demonstrating the ease with which he could manage with a passenger, he took Isabel Latham (still a resident at Harbord) out with him, and they would come right into the beach with incomparable grace and precision."

Duke clearly enjoyed his time Down Under and was impressed with our local surf conditions while his natural charm, glamorous appeal and gracious character obviously enthralled all of Sydney.

"I must have put on a show that more than trapped their fancy, for the crowds on shore applauded me long and loud," recalled Duke in his 1968 book, Duke Kahanamoku’s World of Surfing. "There had been no way of knowing that they would go for it in the manner in which they did. I soared and glided, drifted and sideslipped, with that blending of flying and sailing which only experienced surfers can know and fully appreciate. The Aussies became instant converts."

Duke eventually lost his world swimming crown in 1924 to handsome Johnny Weissmuller, later to become famous in films as Tarzan. Duke himself began appearing in films about this time playing, ironically, American Indians. He made 14 films in all, the last, Mr Roberts, in 1955.

In 1925, he hit the headlines again when, employed as a California lifeguard, he and two other surfers paddled out to save 12 fishermen from a boat that capsized in heavy seas near the Newport Beach harbour. The feat was hailed as “the most superhuman surfboard rescue act the world has ever seen."

Duke’s life was full of variety, glamour and, at times, plain honest hard work. Apart from lifeguard duties and occasional movie and TV work, he served as sheriff of Honolulu for almost 30 years until his retirement in 1961.

In 1968, Duke passed away from a heart attack and his burial at sea was attended by thousands of mourners while the motorcade was preceded by a 30-man police escort.

His legacy is enormous, not just in Hawaii, but around the world as the first international ambassador of surfing. So, as you gaze at the muscular bronze statue adorned with leis on the boardwalk at Waikiki, bow your head and repeat Duke’s mantra:

"Mahape a ale wala'ua,"(Don't talk, keep it in your heart)

Reading list:

Duke Kahanamoku’s World of Surfing by Duke Kahanamoku and Joseph Brennan 1968
Duke: A Great Hawaiian by Sandra K. Hall 2004
Legends of Surfing: The Greatest Surfriders from Duke Kahanamoku to Kelly Slater by Duke Boyd 2009
High Surf: The World's Most Inspiring Surfers by Tim Baker 2010

Struth! Is this the world's most photographed hotel?

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that while the world's officially most-photographed hotel was built way back in 1893, it was actually a castle built several hundred years before that  which inspired its almost fairy-tale-like appearance.

American architect Bruce Price designed the hotel, Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, for the Canadian Pacific Railway company at a time when rail travel was booming across Canada and America. But while it was like many other "chateau" style hotels he'd designed for the rail company, this one was absolutely enormous compared to the others, and having 618 rooms on a clifftop site it quickly came to dominate Quebec City's skyline – as it still does today.

Although it was built in 1893, there had been earlier castles and hotels on the site over several centuries, with the last hotel burning down in 1834.

Today with its cliff-top location and its fairy-tale appearance, Le Chateau Frontenac is listed by the Guinness Book of Records as the world's officially most-photographed hotel – with many guests saying it's a true-life castle of their dreams.

And yes, it does take its name from the real thing, Frontenac Castle in France that was built during the Renaissance.



[] WITH its cliff-top location and fairy-tale appearance, Canada's Le Chateau Frontenac is the most-photographed hotel in the world. ( Matt Long)



August 17, 2015

Struth! You won't believe what is behind these fake London facades

London's 1868 Con Job Survives Today

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that few who take a walk along Leinster Gardens in London's cosmopolitan Bayswater, realise that when they pass numbers 23 and 24 they're actually at the site of one of the city's great con jobs.

Because behind the "front doors" to these two addresses amid the street's long rows of Victorian-era terraces, nothing exists. And the nineteen windows above them are not windows at all, just paint jobs onto the 1.5m thick facade.

It all goes back to the middle of the 1800s when The Metropolitan Railway built the world's first underground rail system in London, running at one point under the Leinster Gardens terraces.

And with the steam engines of the day needing to "vent off" built up steam in the open air at set intervals after time underground, it was necessary to tear down the terraces numbers 23 and 24 on Leinster Gardens to allow them space to do this.

But it was to the absolute horror of the residents of the-then fashionable neighbourhood, who suddenly found themselves confronted with a gaping hole amidst their plush homes, and filthy steam engines noisily "venting off" in their midst.

So they forced the Railway in 1868 to build a fake façade where numbers 23 and 24 had been taken away, and to resemble as closely as possible the other fashionable terraces. That façade's still there to this day, the main giveaway being that neither numbers 23 nor 24's "doors" have handles, doorbells or letterboxes, and the nineteen "windows" above are simply dullish-grey paint-jobs.

[] THE right-hand set of the black doors on the left, and the white door behind the tree on the right, are the fake numbers 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens, Bayswater; the façade's supposed windows are the grey-ish looking paint  jobs. (

[] THIS is what's directly behind those fake facades – a rail tunnel from directly under numbers 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens with space where steam engines once "vented off." (

August 10, 2015

Slave, Frederick Douglass, Was True Hero of Mt Misery

REFLECTING a time past: Mt Misery Road that leads to circa-1804
farmhouse where 16yo Frederick Douglass outfought "slave breaker"
Edward Covey – and went on to become one of America's greatest slave-abolitionists.
(Photo: Mindie Burgoyne)
Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) was an ex-slave who
wrote three accounts of his life as a slave, runaway,
and campaigner for the abolition of slavery:
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
My Bondage and My Freedom
 (1855) and
The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881). 

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that one of the prettiest places you'll find in the USA is little St Michaels on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Yet just out of town is a house whose past is steeped in anything but beauty, and because of this both it and the road leading to it are officially named Mt Misery.

Built in 1804 and now a holiday-home of former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, the house was owned at one stage by an Edward Covey, a brutal farmer and "slave breaker" to whom others sent recalcitrant workers to bring into line.

And amongst Covey's own slaves was 16 year old Frederick Douglass whom he on one occasion whipped for fainting on the job, and another time for accidentally overturning an oxcart. But when Covey attempted to tie him up and whip him for another "misdemeanour," the teenager launched into him and a near-two hour fistfight ensued – ending only when Covey threw up his arms in defeat.

But "the slave breaker" never admitted this to others, nor ever attempted to whip or beat Frederick Douglass again… Douglass eventually escaping to go on to become one of America's greatest slave-abolitionists.

St Michaels (and Mt Misery) are must-visits in the USA, and if you'd like to get the most out of it, get onto Mindie Bourgoyne who runs the local quirky-named Travel Hag Adventures – taking Hag in its original Celtic meaning as someone who is "wise, confident and with goddess attributes."

You'll get her on and while her Eastern Shore Maryland sightseeing, ghost-hunting and historic tours (and others further afield) are pitched to women, she does include men too – provided they're accompanied by a wise, confident, and adventure-loving "travel hag"…

 More: Douglass's autobiography

August 07, 2015

P&O Cruises in the South Pacific - An 80 year tradition

Roderick Eime

Everyone knows that cruising is just about the hottest thing in travel at the moment. It seems everyone is cruising and everyone else just can’t wait to go.

Just these last couple of years, all the big cruise lines have brought bigger and fancier ships down to Australia to cash in on our enthusiasm for the shipboard vacation experience.

Celebrity Cruises have brought the superb Celebrity Solstice, while Carnival has homeported both Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend in Sydney. The respected US brand, Holland America spoiled us with both Noordam and Volendam while you’d like Royal Caribbean Cruise Line have moved a small fleet here with Legend of the Seas going to Brisbane and both beauties, Explorer of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas squeezing into a very busy Sydney.

Old favourites, the luxurious Princess Cruises, have had both Sun Princess and Dawn Princess here for some time. Then there are the many visits by ships on their round the world itineraries like Cunard and Azamara passing through.

But one cruise line stands above all others with their attachment to Australia and that is the 178-year-old Peninsular & Orient Line, known these days as just P&O.

A pioneer of steam ships back in the early 19th century and then known as The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, P&O offered ‘excursions’ to intrepid travellers aboard the mail ships as they completed their rounds to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) and the Mediterranean. The first of these cruises set sail in 1844

Here in Australia P&O pioneered cruises to the Pacific in the 1930s with the classic mail steamers SS Strathaird, Stratheden and Strathallen. Their flourishing pre-war Pacific activities included cruises to Norfolk Island, Noumea, New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the then New Hebrides (now Vanuatu).

The SS Strathaird, which sailed for P&O from 1932-61, was of similar appearance to the postwar cruise ships such as the venerable SS Himalaya, Arcadia and Chusan and was one of five ‘Strath’ class steamers that served as both jolly tourist ships and sombre troop transports as well as refugee and immigrant ships. That dark chapter spelling a pause to pleasure cruises until 1953 when routes to the South Pacific were resumed. More adventurous travellers could employ the mail routes to travel as far as India, Ceylon and all the way to England via the Suez Canal or Cape Town.

With mail contracts gradually falling more and more to the new jet aircraft, the former mail ships were again returned to pleasure cruising, the milestone being 1968 when SS Himalaya was homeported in Sydney for dedicated cruise itineraries to the Pacific.

When the much-loved former migrant ship Himalaya was retired in 1974, another milestone for the company was achieved with the acquisition of US cruise line Princess Cruises and the abolition of ‘classes’ on cruise ships, something that didn’t sit well with egalitarian Australians.

From that time on, it was onward and upward for P&O including the takeover of rival brand Sitmar, well known as operator of the ‘fun ship’, Fairstar. There were several corporate mergers and demergers, but the most significant one came in 2003 when P&O Australia became part of the massive Carnival Corporation along with ten other cruise lines. Carnival then became the largest cruise company in the world.

P&O still continued to cruise under its own brand, filling a niche in the cruise market that complemented other Carnival brands like Princess, Carnival and even Cunard. ‘Pacific’ named ships Pacific Dawn, Pacific Sky, Pacific Pearl, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Sun and Pacific Star all sailed under the popular leisure brand throughout the ‘noughties’ gaining fans and followers who have since ‘graduated’ to other brands in the massive Carnival fleet as their lives’ circumstances changed, but their love of cruising did not.

Now, as we reach 2015, the level of luxury and technical sophistication of the P&O fleet and the world’s cruise ships in general is at a dizzying height. Gourmet restaurants, spa and beauty salons, water slides, surf simulators and even ice rinks can now be found on cruise ships out of Sydney.

This year P&O will expand its current fleet of Pacific Jewel, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl by two to make five vessels in total operating from Sydney. Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden will move over from Holland America and join the other ‘Pacific fleet’. The former HAL ships, Statendam and Ryndam, each carry a modest 1260 passengers, compared to 2020 aboard the largest P&O ship currently operating out of Australia, Pacific Dawn, which entered service for P&O in 2007.

P&O Cruises Australia have come a long way from their beginnings as part of the oldest cruise line in the world. Today their five ships service a fun, young and family-friendly market on routes to the South Pacific pioneered more than 80 years ago. Australians certainly love cruising and P&O have been there all the way.

August 03, 2015

Struth! Great Wall of China stolen

Pssst – Wanna Buy a Wall?

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says authorities in Beijing have 'fessed-up – they've lost nearly a third of the Great Wall of China…

It means something like 2000km of the famous structure that was started in the 7th century BC is now unaccounted for, victim of erosion by wind and rain – or theft by humans.

And The Great Wall of China Society says it's theft that's the biggest concern, with  locals every year knocking-off hundreds of thousands of the bricks and stones that comprise the Wall and its various towers once used for observation, communication and grain storage, and using them to build farm sheds and even complete houses.

Other culprits, the Society says, run lucrative "souvenir" businesses selling the centuries' old hand-made bricks for 30 Yuan ($6.25) each to tourists, little-worried by threatened hefty fines as law enforcement is so woefully lax.

And as well as wind and rain that have played havoc with the Wall, plants and trees growing in cracks along its thousands of kilometres have caused huge sections to break off and fall away as their roots grow and expand.

Finally, the Wall Society says, with so many larger and major sections of the Great Wall of China gone, tourists are turning their attention to smaller and more fragile lengths, so endangering these less-protected remaining sections.


[] JUST part of the 2000km long Great Wall of China - that's in fact shrinking due to erosion and theft by souvenir hunters and opportunists. (Wikipedia)


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