Category Archives: Travel

Debris

On the way home this evening from work on the M1, I noticed something on the road very very briefly three or four cars in front of me.

While I slowed down to try and avoid whatever it was on the road it didn’t help because the car in front of me hit the motorway debris and it kicked up.

Next thing I know I have a 50cm x 100cm piece of cardboard stuck to the drivers side of my windscreen nearly completely blocking my vision.

Fortunately I was able to reach the edge of it from inside the car and pull it to the side so i could pull over with hitting anything else.

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Sydney

Sydney Opera House, viewed from The Rocks
I was in Sydney between 21-23 April, where I attended my first ‘marketing’ conference since moving from the Mantra Group IT Department at the beginning of 2009. The conference in question is called Search Marketing Expo or SMX for short and is held in numerous locations around the world, where the top minds in their respective fields are invited to present on their chosen specialty.

I packed my bag the night before and was up at sparrow fart on Wednesday morning. On my way down to Coolangatta Airport, I made a detour into Southport to pick up Stephen. The drive to the airport was hassle free, however I couldn’t believe how many cars were in the long term parking – it was all but overflowing with cars parked up on the edges of grass. The flight down to Sydney was delayed for some reason but it was good to hear regular updates over the speaker of the progress of the delay. Stephen has recently returned from a few weeks in Japan and has been regaling everyone of his fantastic time over there. A few things that have come to light in his travels, which have subsequently become crystal clear to me – we do a spectacularly poor job of catering for non-English language people.

After arriving in Sydney, we took a cab to Sydney city. Being used to Brisbane and Gold Coast airports being quite a distance away from the central business district, I was expecting a lengthy drive and a cab fare to match but was really surprised by the close proximity of the airport to the city. Stephen & I spent what time was available on Wednesday inspecting a couple of the Mantra Group hotels. It’s always nice to be able to walk around a hotel, find out what it is near from the point of view of a guest – it highlights a lot of things that you don’t get a sense of until you’ve actually been there. From an employee or company stand point, it was also great to see how well we’re doing with consistency of presentation and services at the hotels – yet another thing that is hard to judge until you’ve been there in person.

Stephen & I stayed at one of our Sydney hotels, Mantra on Kent which is located on Kent Street and is only a block away from Darling Harbour. Not because we’d organised it, however we ended up in 1 Bedroom Deluxe apartments on the 27th floor. There was plenty of room, the bed was comfortable, had a flat screen TV, a great bathroom with good views over the Sydney city. We enjoyed a full buffet breakfast each morning as well, which was really delicious.

Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from The RocksAfter inspecting a couple hotels, we walked down George Street towards Circular Quay and The Rocks. Of course, having not been to Sydney before – I had no idea where I was going and was relying and Stephen and the magic that is Google Maps on an iPhone. As we approached Circular Quay, we came across a large grassed area with a heap of people just relaxing, chatting and eating their lunch. I wasn’t expecting it at but was great to see people taking advantage of such a great space. A few moments later and suddenly I could see the tips of the Sydney Opera House. I think every Australian has seen the Sydney Opera House countless times on TV but seeing it in person, even at a distance was remarkable. Another five minutes of walking and we were down at The Rocks and the Sydney Harbour Bridge was our back drop. While I’d always known that the Sydney Harbour Bridge was big, seeing it on TV or engulfed in fireworks really doesn’t give you any appreciation for just how large and visually spectacular it is – it really is impressive.

I managed to sample a couple different foods and restaurants while in Sydney, all in the city centre. The first was a Mexican take away restaurant named Guzman Y Gomez and it was possibly the single tastiest take away food I’ve ever eaten – I really wish we had one on the Gold Coast. For dinner, Kingsleys Australian Steakhouse was on the agenda as Stephen had eaten there before. When I read the menu, I actually joked with Stephen whether or not it was pretty much going to be a great piece of meat and potato and he confirmed my suspicions – that was fine by me! The second evening, we were taken out to a restaurant sitting behind a nightclub, though I can’t remember the name. The food was great and for dessert I had my first chocolate fondant – that was something I could eat regularly! We were our really late that night, not that we realised at the time – I don’t think we really finished eating until around 11PM and didn’t make it to bed until circa 2AM.

The Sydney CBD is a really nice area, lots of great looking buildings – plenty of older classically styled, mixed with new modern design. Probably the most surprising thing for me was, the apparent lack of people within Sydney city. For some reason, I had it in my mind that the city centre was going to be absolutely abuzz with activity – however it wasn’t any busier than Brisbane – in fact I think it was probably less busy. On our way back to the airport, we left early to make sure we could find taxi rank and actually make it to the airport on time. That turned out the be the best decision we’d made, as it turned out there was traffic pandimonium on the Friday evening leading into a long weekend. The taxi driver we had was great, an absolute ninja behind the wheel and was tearing through the traffic and he highlighted numerous times that he is intimately aware of the spacial requirements for that car to fit between other objects – wow.

Overall, I’m really impressed with what I saw of Sydney. While horribly brief from a sight seeing standpoint, its certainly somewhere I want to visit again with Claire & Hugo at a less frantic pace so we can get out of the city centre and really take in the beauty that is Sydney.

Danger, No Break Lights

Earlier in the year I came very close to having an accident when the car in front of me had his break lights reversed. This meant that breaking turned off his tail lights – thus making red lights meaning go, no lights meaning stop. This afternoon on the way home, in a very very similar stretch of road I nearly came unstuck as the minivan in front of me had no break lights whatsoever.

I was heading west on Smith Street, approaching the intersection and traffic lights of Kumbari Avenue and was increasing speed heading down the hill. The lights had been green for a little while so the dozen or so cars in front of me were all accelerating, due to the decline, green light pressure and the faster speed zone on the other side of the lights. With less than 50 metres before we cleared the intersection, the car in front of me decided to break suddenly as soon as the light went amber – when the car to his left and four more went through on the orange.

Had at least one of the minivan’s break lights been working, I would have slowed down with plenty of time to spare. However, it took another fraction of a second before I closed enough distance to realise he was breaking and aggressively.

Fortunately, I allow a little more breaking distance when driving my Ford Telstar; which has a striking similarity to a small tank and even smaller breaks!

Kingscliff Short Break

Hugo Lattimore splashing his feet in the water at Kingscliff beachClaire, Hugo and I recently had a weekend escape to Kingscliff on the Tweed Coast in Northern New South Wales. It takes between 30 and 40 minutes to get to Salt Village from the Gold Coast. Claire and I had been to Salt Village outside Kingscliff previously, however it’d been quite some time ago. We figured we could find our way there by nose, which mostly worked but we weren’t sure which road to take out of Kingscliff to get back to Salt Village.

We were booked into stay at Mantra on Salt Beach, one of three accommodation options available at Salt Village – the other two being Peppers Salt Resort & Spa and Peppers Bale Salt. When we arrived at the reception, we were also greeted by a friendly porter. I don’t recall a porter when we stayed at Peppers Salt Resort & Spa last time, however it was great to have one available at Mantra on Salt Beach on this stay. The best thing was he took care of the luggage, which meant it was no hassle for Claire & Hugo. The other benefit I liked was he was able to direct me where to park in the secure underground car park to be close to the lifts that were servicing the section of Mantra on Salt Beach we’d be staying in – nothing worst than going up a lift into the wrong section of a building.

Hugo Lattimore crawling toward the surf at Kingscliff beachThe room we had booked was a two bedroom ocean view apartment and we’d requested a portable cot for Hugo to sleep in as well. I was happy to find out when we arrived that the cot was already set up and it even came with a complete set of toiletries and linen – not bad for a little fella! It was setup in the master bedroom but Claire and I thought we’d move it into the second room. That proved a little harder than first thought as it didn’t fit through the doorways easily and I couldn’t manage to unpack it. A call to the reception and another staff member came up, unpacked, moved and set it up again in the other room in about 2 minutes flat – very efficient!

Hugo had his first real encounter with the beach, which was fantastic to watch unfold. Claire took Hugo down to the water to let the small waves roll over his legs and feet, which he took delight in – kicking and stamping in the water. It would have been great if the beach water wasn’t quite so cool, I think he would have really enjoyed the waves. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do in all the sand, so we put him down onto the firm sand to start with – which went without a hiccup and proceeded to move him into the soft, loose sand. He was fascinated by it, waving his hands furiously over the sand, hitting and knocking it everywhere and had an all round great time. After he had finished playing with the sand, he realised there was a big blue thing in front of him and took off towards it!

Hugo Lattimore enjoying playing in the soft sand at Kingscliff beachWhen Claire and I stayed at Peppers Salt Resort & Spa last time, we ventured into Kingscliff to have a mooch around and were happy to discover some great cafes and shops. The cafe we remembered had changed hands in that time, I tried a barramundi burger but I now realise that the error of my ways and will remember not to betray the beef gods next time. One shop we were excited to see was still operating was Boardwalk Books, a small book shop with good mix of mainstream reading and a fabulous range of eclectic books that you don’t see in other book shops. We couldn’t help ourselves and picked up a children’s book named Everybody Poos and a book by Ben Mezrich named Bringing Down The House – the true story behind the recent “21” movie featuring Kevin Spacey.

You can’t help but fall in love with Kingscliff, its small, quaint and is absolute beachside living. I think the Kingscliff Beach & Lawn Bowls Club must have the single greatest location of any bowls club in Australia – their backyard is the pristine Kingscliff beach. I imagine Kingscliff now is what the Gold Coast must have felt like back when it was still a tiny town growing up. Salt Village is also a really relaxing place to be, with the majority of the shops you’ll need to simply remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to unwind.

I don’t know when we’ll be back to Kingscliff & Salt Village again next but I’m quite sure I’m going to enjoy it.

Gold Coast Beach Weddings Are Spectacular

Phil & Fiona Paraskevas Gold Coast beach wedding on the 29th May 2009Last Friday Claire, Hugo & I attended our first beach wedding. Not having attended a beach wedding before, we were quite excited to see how it all turned out and it didn’t disappoint. After experiencing a Gold Coast beach wedding, I’m quite sure that Gold Coast beaches would rival any in the world for a spectactular venue with kilometers of golden sand and clear water.

We arrived at Currumbin Beach at about 10:00AM, found a park and walked briskly down to where the wedding venue was – as it took a little longer to get there than expected compounded by a wrong turn! I haven’t taken the pram onto loose sand before but with hard tyres it didn’t fair all that well so I parked the pram at the top of the beach. The entrance to the beach itself was down a relatively steep section of sand to get to the flatter section where the wedding ceremony as going to be held. While walking down it, I was actually thinking to myself that I hope noone slipped in the sand – good fortune prevailed and there were no accidents.

Gold Coast beach wedding view from Coolangatta on the 29th May 2009A couple things that were fantastic about the beach wedding, was that it had a magnificent outlook over the beautiful beaches on the Gold Coast and it was very intimate with about 20 guests. I always associated weddings with men in black suits dressed up to the nines and the women in beautiful gowns. It came as a small but funny surprise when the groom arrived in a slightly casual suit, with classy looking black thongs in place of black leather dress shoes! Likewise, instead of the bride wearing a flowing gown that would have dragged over the sand, it was ankle length and wore fancy sandles in leiu of high heels.

Ceremonies at weddings tend to vary wildly, some are short and to the point while others are long winded and drawn out. This particular beach wedding was the former, taking about 15 minutes from start to finish. It was incredible to have the ocean literally 20 meters away from where everyone was standing, with the waves crashing in the background. The only downside, if you can call it that, was that there was just enough noise from the ocean that it made it difficult to hear the celebrant in a few points but it didn’t last long.

I now know what the fuss is about regarding beach weddings, they aren’t for everyone but if they are – they are spectacular.