Top Five Dubai
A short list of Dubai offerings:...continue >>
Cabbie: Where are you from?
Us: Washington, D.C. in the United States.
C: You know George Bush?
U: (polite laughter) No, we've never met him.
C: You know Osama Bin Laden?
U: (slight discomfort) No.... We've never met him either.
C: Do you want to meet him?
U: (wondering where he's going with this) Um... no. (sincerely hoping that we're not on our way to see him right now)
C: I want to meet him very much.
U: Uhhh... Really? Why?
C: So that I could turn him in to the United States and gets lots and lots of American dollars. (hysterical guffaws)
U: (relieved smiles) Oh, okay.
C: No, I couldn't do that. They would kill all my family. (another explosion of hilarity)
U: (polite but uncomfortable laughter)
Top 10 Things We Forgot to Mention About New Zealand:
Before we leave Aotearoa, there are a few things we feel we should discuss....continue >>
Three Dozen Tours To Lure Them All
Even with the elvish ears on and the bow in my hand I wasn't feeling it.
New Zealand is a beautiful country, but it isn't Middle-earth, despite the assertion of signs at Wellington airport welcoming travelers. (This fantastically ginormous one was sadly taken down before our arrival.) I was the only person on the tour that day brave -- or shameless -- enough to take the guide up on his dare to pose like Orlando Bloom had done for publicity photos. I stood obediently in front of the trees of Rivendell and took direction on how to angle myself to look most like an elf. I tried to smile cheerfully for the camera while enduring Meredith's giggling derision -- all in the name of the ultimate in nerdy souvenirs.continue >>
Napier, a city situated close to the wine-making region of Hawkes Bay on New Zealand's North Island, is well known as the "Art Deco City." Due to a devastating earthquake in 1931, a good portion of the downtown area was rebuilt in the fashion of the day, giving the city an architecturally harmonious look. Refurbished buildings, Art Deco walks and even citywide celebrations that fill the streets (and hotel rooms) with flappers and classic cars have become a hallmark. Not surprisingly, the Art Deco theme has made Napier a favorite stop for tourists, but we believe we have found a lesser-known and quirkier New Zealand city for vintage style....continue >>
Camper Van Life
Campervans appear to be the preferred method of tourist travel in New Zealand. Sometimes it seems like there are more RVs on the road than regular cars.
As a backpacker, I find them completely irresistible. The prospect of removing that heavy load from my weary shoulders and throwing all our accumulated mementos and dirty laundry in a heap at the back of a van, without the need to repack for three weeks, sounded heavenly and I was not disappointed.
In downtown Christchurch stands a striking statue of Robert Falcon Scott, the famed British explorer who died returning from the South Pole in 1912.
While the site of the towering figure seemed somewhat out of place next too the lush manicured riverbank, one trip to the town's highly recommended International Antarctic Centre explained the importance of the southernmost continent to New Zealand's history.
Welcome To New Zealand
From the time we landed in Auckland, we were told to hurry up and leave the North Island. The guy at passport control -- a proud Aucklander -- started the trend. Though he clearly loved New Zealand's most populated city and seemed to delight in the disdain that the rest of the country has for his home town. (Giggling, he shared with us some of the less flattering names created to describe Auckland residents.) Even he "reckoned" we should head straight to the South Island, which is widely considered to contain most of New Zealand's highlights, but a small fraction of its population. He asked how much research we had done on N.Z. (pronounced "en zed"). We quickly responded that we had watched the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy twice. His smiling response was, "Fair enough."...continue >>
What Would Steve Irwin Do?
In Melbourne we were told that kangaroos are the deer of Australia: drive a bit at dusk or dawn and you are bound to run into some. I mean see them, of course, but a collision is probably equally likely. There are yellow "caution kangaroo crossing" sings dotting the coastal road and still we heard countless stories of people wrecking perfectly good Holdens on the wildlife....continue >>
One day is not long enough in Fraser Island. We knew this before we departed on on our pricey "exclusive" tour with the Fraser Island Company, but it couldn't be helped. We had whiled away a good chunk of our time in the "liveable city" of Melbourne -- in fact, we agreed so much with the epithet that we moved in, spending over a week there (of our paltry three total in Australia). With a country so vast and with such daunting distances between sites, you need to prioritize quickly, especially with limited time. Our plan was to try to see some highlights of the east coast, flying into Melbourne and out of Brisbane with our thick packet of Emirates tickets that cover all our international travel for our entire three-month, four-country jaunt. Just as Kalula and 1time had done for us in South Africa, Virgin Blue helped us get around within Australia quickly and as economically as can be expected when jet fuel is involved.
As we've hopped from place to place over the past few months we've made a point to choose appropriate reading material for our surroundings. In South Africa we picked up a history of the Zulu War and a blushingly funny book on boarding school life called "Spud," which we can happily recommend. As soon as we landed Australia we picked up a few books, but I had finished two and given up on one by the time we reached Airlie Beach. We were set to depart the next morning on a three-day, two-night sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands and I supposed that something to read would be as essential as Dramamine. There are seemingly trillions of boating excursions to choose from, but we had decided on the swashbuckling romance of a Tall Ship.
She was called the Alexander Stewart (aren't boats always female regardless of their name?) and unlike her newer and flashier harbor neighbors, she didn't come equipped with high-tech sound systems, DVD players and 16-inch flat screen monitors. So we anticipated that she'd offer lots in the way of hand-hewn character and plenty of quiet time suitable for reading.continue >>