Archive for October, 2009

Sydney, Australia

sydneyThe holiday shopping season will soon be upon us. No sooner than the pumpkins are off the shelves than department stores will be whipping moveable elves, fake snow and candles onto them. If you are less than excited or even stressed at the prospect of holiday shopping, eggnog and fruitcake again this year perhaps you should consider taking a holiday instead. If the idea of a trip abroad still doesn’t have you smiling maybe you need a more drastic change. Maybe you need to go somewhere far away. Somewhere where the season has a whole different feel, somewhere on the other side of the world. Sydney, Australia may be the perfect destination for you. December is the start of summer in Australia and no city does summer better than Sydney. With its gorgeous beaches, surfing, hiking, nightlife, and great cultural institutions there is no place better for those northern latitude-stuck indoors-under-a-blanket blues.

If you’ve seen any images of Sydney they’ve got to be of the world famous Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. To work gently into your vacation take a tour of the Opera House and watch an evening show.

To get back into the habit of moving around in the sunshine take a leisurely walk along the Manly Scenic Walkway. The walkway is a series of connecting walks and you can chose to take a short walk or a more ambitious one. Routes wind through old and new parts of the city with gorgeous views of the harbour. One of the more famous walks is the 10km route from Manly to Spit Bridge.

Now that you’re in the groove you’ll have to make the most high-pressure decision of the trip… which beach. There are dozens of beaches around the harbour and over 20 beaches along the oceanfront. But don’t worry you can’t choose wrong. Bondi Beach is the most famous in Australia and is a great place for beginning surfers. There are several surf schools most of which offer private or group lessons and will cater even to absolute beginners. The group lessons are a great way to meet new people.

For more great views and a lot of history too, take a tour of the Sydney Harbour islands all of which have interesting historical significance. Some islands showcase Aboriginal history and on others you can see old convict-built forts. Cockatoo Island has a campsite in case you want to spend the night under the Australian stars.

Since you surely want to spend as much time as possible outdoors before your banishment back to the frigid north, next on your itinerary consider passing an afternoon at one of the many horseback-riding centers. Horseback riding is a relaxing and pleasurable way to see otherwise hidden places of the countryside. It makes for excellent vacation video too.

Whatever you choose to do your week on the other side of the world is sure to leave rejuvenated and tan and ready to face the rest of the remaining winter months. When you go, try to use HotelsCombined.com for your booking. I usually use Expedia but my friend recommended them while I was there and I ended up saving myself 100 dollars over expedia. They have really good deals, though I have no idea how any of those hotel sites work!

Milan

milanI am the last person you would expect to be a lover of Milan. I am not a great shopper, am not particularly fashion conscious, have a fairly minimal understanding of Italian art and to top it off my spoken Italian is fairly atrocious. So, in superficial ways at least, Milan and I are not a match made in heaven. But due entirely to some unexpected and incredible circumstances I suspect that I will continue to make pilgrimages there for the rest of my life.

It all began one excellent October night during my year abroad in Spain. I was studying at a local café while waiting for a friend. To be honest, the studying was a mere pretense– I was really just moping. I had been in the country since August but I had no real friends and was battling miserably to communicate in Spanish. Back in Iowa I had had big dreams of a wild year full of parties but instead I was just heart achingly homesick. That’s when into the life of this study abroad Cinderella barged Arabella, Gina, Marcella and Aloysius, four vacationing students. Aloysius – tall, handsome and regretfully gay – set events in motion when, in a spontaneous vacation-high induced gesture of gallantry; he bought me a shot of espresso and invited me to an empty chair at their table. I accepted. Several hours, several clubs and several gallons of sangria later, me, a pokey American Midwesterner, had been officially adopted into a group of glamorous Europeans- from the capital of glamour, Milan. It didn’t take much for them to convince me to transfer to the University of Milan to share an apartment with Arabella and Gina. And thus began my love affair with the most sensational of all cities.

Arabella, a fashion student, took me window-shopping along Via Montenapoleone and Quadrilatero d’Oro. Under her tutelage I learned to appreciate Cavalli, Max Mara, and Dolce and Gabbana. She even brought me to one of the prestigious Milan Fashion Weeks. I once got up the courage to ask her how she got her clothes to fit so well and was shocked to learn that most Milanese get their clothes tailored!

Don’t think that my time in Milan turned me into a fashionista; even Milan and Arabella can’t work miracles like that. Instead I found parts of Milan where I felt at home- the markets. For second-hand but still-trendy clothes there is the market in the Ticinese/Navigli district and the Viale Fauché; for food there is the Viale Papiniano and for antiques the Via Fiori Chiari market in the Brera district. But my absolute favorite is the Fiera di Sinigaglia, the flea market, held every Sunday morning. It has books, furniture, records and many other mysterious and fascinating objects. I befriended one of the booksellers who would save any English language books that came his way for me.

While I am still not up to Milanese fashion standards, my friends don’t mind, and let me tell you to my own amazement I am now the best-dressed person around.

Guest Written by my friend Mary. She is going to make a blog and just wanted to see the reaction here. I’m too busy to write as you can tell by the lack of updates!


Are you interested in Milan? I went there too but unlike Mary, I wasn’t a student. Milan can be an expensive city (all that high fashion and all). When I went, I found the hotels to be a bit pricey. I’m a budget traveler and normally stay in hostels. However, it took me awhile but I eventually found a good deal on a Milan Hotel from Hotelscombined. I hadn’t heard of them before so I recommend them!

© 2010 Pat Travels the World
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