June 20, 2016

Come along for a free-wheelin' bike tour of New Orleans

New Orleans is a city perfectly suited to bicycle touring. It's flat with quiet street route options and affords the visitor an intimate and comfortable experience.

Of course, you can hire your own and do your own thing, but we tagged along for one of the guided tours from The American Bicycle Rental Company centrally located at 325 Burgundy Street.

Our guide, Jonathan, took us on a relaxed cycle through the back streets and neighbourhoods, pointing out significant buildings and sites along the way with fun, informed commentary. The bikes are classic cruiser cycles, comfortable and easy to ride for the three hours we were in the saddle, covering about 15kms.

We toured on a Sunday, so traffic was quiet and we enjoyed waving to families relaxing in their yards and would recommend this to anyone contemplating the same. The popular advice is not Fridays as the roads are busy.

We stop often for interpretive stories at significant sites
The heritage-listed Dufour-Baldwin House is just
one of many superb historic houses along the route.
The spooky Catholic cemetery, where the deceased cannot be buried below ground
Centuries-old oak trees in city park.
Jonathan leads the group through scenic back streets like this one.

Book a bike tour now
325 Burgundy Street
New Orleans, LA 70112
Phone: 504-324-8257

Queensland's Gold Coast - a special place in the hearts of Australian travellers.


Words and photos by Dallas Sherringham / www.wtfmedia.com.au

Australia's Gold Coast holds a special place in the hearts of Australian travellers.

For many families it was their first experience of an exotic destination and two weeks in a "flat" at Kirra, Coolangatta or Broadbeach was like travelling to the moon.

As a young boy living in outback NSW, I ticked off the months until they turned to weeks and then days until the big day finally arrived. We were off to Queensland on a two day journey in the two tone 1958 Holden.

To give you an idea how primitive it was, we took our Pye TV with us because you had to hire one on the coast - they weren't provided. As a wide eyed youngster in 1963, the Gold Coast was as close to America as I was ever likely to get. There were streets named First Avenue and there high rise apartments with names like Shangrila and Waikiki;  beaches had exotic names like Miami and Surfers Paradise.

Every major beach at a live show beside the surf club each morning with hundreds of visitors taking part. The Currumbin Bird Sanctuary was THE main attraction followed by Gilltrap's Auto Museum. The Water Ski Gardens on the Nerang River would eventually morph into Sea World.

To get to Surfers Paradise, you drove out across the flat from Burleigh Heads on a skinny road through the sand. From the back seat I gazed in amazement at the wonders unfolding before me.

Surfers had a few high rises and the famous hotel beside Cavill Avenue was right at the centre of the action even in those days. However the glitzy Chevron across the street was the Mecca of the well healed traveller.

Beautiful bikini clad girls in gold wandered the streets putting sparkling silver five penny coins in the parking metres. An amazing side trip was a  drive around the Isle of Capri and Chevron Island, two man-made wonders where you could actually buy a home overlooking a canal.

I recently made another trip to the Gold Coast. I have been their many times as a father with five kids and later as a mature traveller. Through the years I noticed my Gold Coast quickly turned into a major city with four world class theme parks, fine dining opportunities, sophisticated night life and even a casino with a monorail.

Now the Gold Coast is set to gain a new boost of world-wide acclaim thanks to the Commonwealth Games being held there in 2018. The city is currently gearing up for the biggest influx of visitors ever.

I found that the coast still has the simpler lifestyle of my boyhood available if you go looking for it.

You can still sit on the rocks at Burleigh and watch the surfers swoosh and fly on white foamy monsters. The power and majesty of the warm blue ocean is still the major attraction on the coast.

You can still feed the birds at Currumbin and watch the water skiers at Sea World and the island real estate developments now stretch on forever. You can still buy a feed on king prawns and enjoy them on the sand overlooking South Stradbroke Island.

Meter Maids still save the tardy visitor with deposits of gold. People are friendlier on the Gold Coast than they are in the Big Smoke down south. I was taken aback by a coffee shop staff that made me feel like a long lost friend. The theme continued at Nobby's Surf Club with it superb views and a fine restaurant serving barramundi and wedges.

And you can still sit on the balcony of your high rise apartment and watch the tapestry of life unfold before you.

However the Pacific Fair shopping centre, once famous for being an "outdoor" shopping centre is now a huge mall with stunning architecture. It is a "must see" on any coast visit.

The easiest way to get there is to "ride the G". For the uninitiated, the G is the new light rail system that links all the major points between Pacific Fair and Southport. It costs $10 for a day pass and you can easily ride from, downtown Surfers to Pacific Fair.

I think it will be amazing when it links all the way to the Gold Coast Airport and downtown Coolangatta. Traffic has become a major problem on the coast, but the G promises to ease the congestion in its ultimate format.

I enjoyed my short stay on the coast. I know some Australians have abandoned it for cheaper holidays in Asia, but the Gold Coast can still be a relaxing holiday if you want it to be. There are still nostalgic treasures to be found amongst the modern facade of a world class city.

You see, the forever sea still draws thousands from around the world to enjoy its pleasures and the sun still smiles down every day. And so may it ever be.

Feature supplied by WTF Media: www.wtfmedia.com.au/


Surfers Meter Maids always the centre of attention

Cavill Avenue is still at the heart of the Gold Coast

Counting down the days to the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Watching the waves at Burleigh Heads

The new 'G' light rail leaves Pacific Fair

Surfers Paradise introduced canal living into Australia

Struth! bizarre tests for China's glass deck bridge

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that in one of the more bizarre acts of confidence, builders of a bridge in China that has a glass decking so users will have the feeling of walking in space, are going to have volunteers try their hardest to actually shatter that bridge's see-through decking before it officially opens in July.

On the 25th of this month, with scores of TV crews and newspaper journalist watching-on, the volunteers will be given hammers to try to break panels of the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, and when that hopefully fails, twenty of them will jump up and down on the hammered glass panels – and finally a car laden with passengers will be driven onto it.

The bridge designer, Israeli architect Haim Dotan say that all this will prove just how strong is the glass on the 430m (1,400ft) long bridge, and while an upper layer may possibly crack, the layers below will not (because if they do, those undertaking the tests know they will have a horrible 300m fall to the river below.)

The Zhangjiajie bridge will be the longest and highest glass-deck bridge in China when it opens next month 60km south-west of Zhangji in Hunan Provence, and according to Mr Dotan will be strong enough to carry 800 users at a time.

Those who suffer acrophobia (fear of heights,) are advised to give it a wide berth.

[] CHINA'S longest and highest glass deck bridge during its early construction phase; bizarre tests on June 25 will prove just how strong the glass floor panels really are.   (Haim Dotan Architects.)

June 13, 2016

Struth! World's Longest Bridge with world's fastest trains

China Says Now This Is A Bridge

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that when it comes to bridges, China's got the rest of the planet beaten by a country mile for having the longest one in the world.

Because it's Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge between the cities of those two names, stretches an incredible 164km, or 102 miles, and took 10,000 workers four years to build using some 450,000 tonnes of steel and 1,800,000 cubic metres of concrete.

On average 31m (100 feet) over lowland farms and rice paddies, canals, rivers and lakes, and winding its way around cities and towns along the way, the bridge was built as part of the 1,300km (811 miles) Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway.

And while it was completed in 2010, a whole year was taken testing it with train after train running its whole length over and again to ensure its stability, and with the first official passengers going aboard on June 11 2011.

The Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge cost the equivalent of AU$11.5b to build, with a mix of thirty-three high-speed and express trains now using it at any one time daily, and offering Second Class, more spacious First Class and luxury Business Class options.

And the fastest trains have only one stop along the 164km journey, helping trains on the Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway do that 1,300km trip in just 4-hours-48-minutes at speeds of up to 300km an hour.



[] A BRIDGE too far – just a tiny part of China's 164km long Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, the longest in the world. (Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway)

June 06, 2016

Queensland: Bewitching Mt Tamborine

 by Helen Flanagan

World-heritage rainforests, glow worm caves and soft adventure plus cool mountain-top villages with galleries, wineries, cheesemakers and snug cottages are dotted around Mt Tamborine.

Heart-pumping theme parks, high-rise, glitz and no glamour are considered by many to be the quintessence of the Gold Coast.  Maybe true near the Glitter Strip but 30 minutes away, west of the steel and glass towers there's a quiet, more refined aspect.

Head to the hinterland hills where the ancient volcanic ridges, national park wilderness, world heritage rainforests, and the mountain-top villages of Mt Tamborine are a breath of fresh air - literally.

The main street is jam-packed with galleries, art and craft shops, cafes, a brewery, wine centre and temptations such as fudge and hand-crafted cheese. Get a bird's eye view of the lush rainforest on the Tamborine Rainforest Walk, which soars 30 metres above the valley, has spectacular views and the gradual descent gives way to rock pools and waterfalls.

Try chocolate liqueur, Moulin Roos absinthe and lemon myrtle leaf vodka at the internationally-awarded Tamborine Mountain Distillery, one of only a handful of privately-owned distilleries in Australia. Michael and Alla Ward use a traditional pot-still and local fruit to produce a range of liqueurs, schnapps and spirits in hand-painted bottles.

Stop for a coffee at the Mount Tamborine Coffee Plantation and Gallery Café run by Kees and Maria van Rijssen who recognise the value of the super-rich soil, as does Meredith Morris, owner of Witches Chase Cheese Company, who sources all her milk from a herd of local jersey cows. A must-stop is Witches Falls Winery cellar door where winemaker Abbey Nicholas could tempt you with a tipple of pinot noir.

Nearby in North Tamborine, abutting Queensland's oldest national park, nestled among scented secluded gardens, towering rose gums and bird-watcher's paradise is Witches Falls Cottages. Meeting convivial hosts Daniela and David and deciding on breakfast and dinner options, before opening the door of your home-away-from-home, a stone-gabled cottage with a bull-nose verandah, you quickly realise this getaway will be everything you've dreamed about and more.

Charming throughout, there are timber floors on split levels, a private courtyard garden with barbeque, a fireplace for chilly winters, aircon for summer and the romantic double spa bath is surrounded by full glass walls and roof. Sipping bubbly and star gazing is recommended!

Accoutrements such as chocolates and liqueur are a fitting finale to the delectable dinner prepared at your leisure from the supplied basket of first quality produce. Ditto the oven-fresh home-made bread delivered to your door the next morning.

Celebrating? Why not take it up a notch with a Ripple massage for two. A professional massage therapist arrives at your door, ready to turn the living room into a relaxing spa then promptly send you on a heavenly pampering path.  Options include Russian deep tissue to unlock knots; rich Honey to nourish; and a decadent Wicked Chocolate for chocoholics who don't want the kilojoules.

Experience the magic of Mt Tamborine. There's a bewitching ripple effect all year-round.

If you go:

Witches Falls Cottages:   www.witchesfallscottages.com.au        

Ripple Massage: www.witchesfallscottages.com.au

A professional massage therapist arrives at your door, ready to turn the living room into a relaxing spa then promptly sends you on a heavenly pampering path.

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