When you visit Paris there are so many wonders to enjoy and so many sights to inspire that side trips out of the city are not usually on the agenda.
But if you have been to Paris before or if you have an extended amount of time and a race meeting is scheduled, a day at the races in Chantilly is an absolute must-add to that agenda.
We lucked out with a double; one of the two most prestigious race meets on the France Galop calendar, the Prix de Diane Longines, and a perfect blue sky, summer day.
Arriving at the race course, one of the oldest in France, the view was to die for. It looked like a fairytale carnival.
If our daughter wasn’t living in Liverpool on a six-month working holiday the city wouldn’t have been a must-stop-spot on our English itinerary.
But as it’s still the home of Beatlemania I defy anyone not to enjoy a trip down memory lane, which is in fact not called Penny, rather Mathew St.
That’s where you’ll find Lennon’s Bar, Sgt. Pepper’s bistro and a host of other establishments tourist trading off the famous fab four.
There is however a closer to authentic hot spot for Beatles lovers and you really are transported back to Yesterday.
I know three months! THREE MONTHS!
It sounds like a dream holiday.
And it is.
A bucket list travel experience that has been 10 years in the planning.
Actually, I didn’t really start planning until two years ago, but I thought of it 10 years ago.
So now after eight years of thinking and two years of booking, saving, paying off and actual real-time planning it’s almost departure time.
So the big dilemma.
What to pack?
Looking forward to a ski holiday is almost as good as enjoying a ski holiday so the best time to plan and book is just as the snow season you intend to visit comes to an end.
So if you are considering a Japanese ski trip that time is now.
2017 was a dumper of a year in the land of the rising sun and for the second year in a row we took a short ski break to what is arguably the best of the bunch- Nozawa Onsen.
And here’s why.
It’s the middle of summer in Italy.
Portofino (not to be confused with Positano) is a small, yet super popular Riviera town in the north of the country, overlooking the Mediterranean.
The little harbour is lined with pastel painted buildings, fishing boats and expensive villas.
Walking along the waterfront, every eatery was crammed with wine-sipping tourists, the stores were chock-full of white linen, souvenirs and shoppers, while just offshore sleek, beautiful luxury cruisers and yachts were anchored.
Unable to get a table in the tourist drop zone and asking for a recommendation from a white linen shop saleswoman we, (six friends from Brisbane) wandered towards the end of the dock where local fishermen moor their boats and among the ropes and seagulls found the best restaurant and ate the most memorable meal of our travelling lives.
It was right on the water and we were the only ones there!
When it comes to a ski holiday, you can go anytime of the year and anywhere around the world….So NOW is always the right time to start planning.
We chose somewhere we had never heard of- Nozawa Onsen.
Tomorrow we leave for the desert- The Simpson Desert.
The desert in the middle of Australia (sometimes described as the middle of nowhere).
The one where we will have no showers, no toilets, no televisions, no mobile reception, no fresh food, no bed, no maintained roads and no chilled sauvignon blanc for eight days.
It is only Australia’s fourth largest desert, so clearly not that big even though it has an area of 176,500 km2, but it does have the world’s largest sand dune. Luckily for the 13 trekkers, three trek leaders, and me as part of a three-person production crew, we only have to walk 250km of it and hopefully not up the Everest of dunes.
We are doing it for Youngcare; the remarkable charity preventing or exiting young people with high care needs from having to live in aged care.
Well the 13 trekkers and their leaders are doing it for Youngcare, raising an enormous amount of money for the charity.
My crew and I are doing it for Channel 9, but there’s no question everyone who is heading to the desert has become invested in Youngcare’s mission and we will all be experiencing and sharing the same delights of the desert.
The desert where we will have no showers, no toilets, no televisions, no mobile reception, no fresh food, no bed, no maintained roads and no chilled beer for eight days.
What the Simpson Desert does boast though, is an oversupply of wildlife.
There are apparently 200 bird species- okay that’s fine.
34 native animals- kangaroos, bilbys and camels-okay we can handle that, bilbys are cute and as far as I know don’t attack hikers.
But this is the animal stat I am not so keen on.
125 reptile species- REPTILES PEOPLE!
I know I am not the only trekker going that hates snakes, but seriously they don’t rate in the top seven animals of the Australian desert.
In preparedness I have done some research, which now makes the idea of no showers, no toilets, no televisions, no mobile reception, no fresh food, no bed, no maintained roads and no chilled sauvignon blanc or beer seem welcoming.
There’s not just snakes, and we have been warned about scorpions, flies and rats.
But who the hell has heard of Perentie?
Or a thorny devil?
Or a bearded dragon?
Well a parentie is a two meter monitor lizard, that looks prehistoric and is described as amongst the top predators in the desert.
The thorny devil looks like a scorpion on legs and steroids.
According to the Outback Australia travel guide, “despite its dangerous appearance it is one of the least aggressive reptiles,” which naturally appeases me little.
And the bearded dragon is apparently a popular pet lizard, which looks like the frilled kind (which frightens me every time I go for a run around Southbank), but without the frill.
And that’s just 3 of the 125 species!!
Enough to scare the shit out of you.
Maybe that’s where no showers becomes more problematic than no chilled wine or a lack of bedding?
Good luck to all the trekkers and us- the Channel 9 crew-walking every step with you.
The documentary “8 days in the Desert” will be aired on Channel 9 on May 28, 2016.
This is not a story about swingers!
It is however about choosing your partners very carefully.
Travel partners that is.
Especially if you decide to share, not just time, but a small sailing boat.
Chanel No 5 in the bathroom, Sherry in a crystal decanter, bedside for a nightcap and a three course, silver service breakfast.
These are just a few of the decadent touches that embellished an indulgent two day, relaxed yet bustling stay in the upmarket American summer playground, The Hamptons.
What is inspiring to know is that we (my lifelong friend Nicole and I), weren’t booked into a five star, extravagantly expensive hotel, rather an extraordinarily impressive value for money Bed and Breakfast inn called A Butler’s Manor.
As a teenager of the 80’s, with all the films about all the fun American kids of the same age were having, the defining, most memorable for me and many of my friends, was “Spring Break“. Despite the basic, yet ridiculous and totally unimaginative plot of two sets of university guys heading to Fort Lauderdale for fun in the sun, and everything that inevitably went wrong, it was a movie that marked a carefree time in our lives and a trip that my friend and I vowed to take and never took.