In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Go your own way in Oz
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a spectacular sight. The dry landscape of central Australia, sometimes called the Red Centre for the colour of its soil, has turned lush and green — thanks to record rainfall in 2010 that ended a long drought.
Another good reason to visit now is the weather. It’s the dry season in the Northern Territory — home to such natural attractions as Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), Kings Canyon and Kakadu National Park. In May and June, temperatures are not yet scorching and humidity is lower.
Here are four possibilities, for exploring, each with their own vantage point:
Perhaps no other natural landmark defines Australia like Uluru, the 348-metre-high monolithic rock in the country’s remote Red Centre.
Climbing the rock is physically demanding and potentially dangerous (at least 35 people have died attempting to reach the top). There is no official ban against climbing but it is strongly discouraged by the Anangu Aborigines who consider it a sacred site.
A good alternative is to walk around the base on a 12-km trail. Seit Outback Australia has a six-hour guided Uluru Trek that leaves in the early morning before it’s hot and in time to watch the rock change colour as the sun rises. Trekkers visit waterholes, rock art sites, and learn aboriginal creation stories.
Having once travelled around Australia for a year by road, I felt I knew the country well. That is until a recent Quantas flight from Queensland to the Northern Territory, where I saw the interior for the first time from the air. Looking down on the vast, flat, arid landscape was a revelation.
Hooked on seeing the “Lucky Country” from the air, I signed up for another, slightly different experience — this time a hot air balloon ride from Alice Springs.
Outback Ballooning picks you up before dawn, and drives you to the launch site where the balloon is inflated. Minutes later you’re airborne, just in time to see the sun rise and illuminate the desert below and MacDonnell Ranges in the distance. We saw Red Kangaroos (a common sight), and hundreds of parakeets. Thirty minutes later our basket landed bump free.
After a light breakfast, you’re deposited back at your hotel by 9 a.m. with a full day still ahead for sightseeing.
Outback Ballooning also operates in Uluru and Flinders Ranges in South Australia. See outbackballooning.com.au.
Beach hut property near Bournemouth sells for £170,000
Possibly the most expensive beach hut ever sold in the UK sports a fitted kitchen and solar panels, but doesn’t have a loo.
A 5.6 by 3.2 metre timber cabin on the south coast of England may have become the UK’s most expensive beach hut after fetching £170,000 after just two days on the market.
The hut on the Mudeford Sand Spit near Bournemouth was rebuilt 10 years ago and boasts a fully fitted kitchen and sleeping accommodation, which the new owners can use for overnight stays at any time between March and October. There is running water and there are solar panels for lighting, however, there is no toilet – anyone caught short will have to make their way to a residents’ block nearby.
The price, which is nearly £10,000 more than the average house priceacross the UK, according to the latest Halifax index, and comes with a £2,500 a year ground rent, has been driven up by the fetching decor and facilities, but its position on the picturesque sandspit is the key factor.
Andy Denison, of Denisons estate agents who sold the hut, said: “The location is what got the interest. This one offers views of the harbour from one side and there are views of the sea.”
The new owners can enjoy those sights, and views over the sandy beach, while full insulation and double-glazing ensure they are fully protected from the elements.
Although the hut, which has been sold by a family whose children have grown up, did not quite fetch its asking price of £175,000, Denison said he thought it may be the most expensive ever sold in the UK. Although he acknowledged that it may have fetched more had the weather been better in recent weeks, he said beach huts were perennially popular.
“I’ve got a list of people who want to buy these huts, I’ve got people who are disappointed that they missed out on this one,” he said. “There are people who wait years for the one they want to come up for sale.”
Airbus unveils wider seats for overweight travellers
Airbus is considering the installation of extra-wide seats to accommodate overweight travellers – but only at the expense of slimmer fliers.
It has proposed adding an extra two inches to the width of the aisle seats on its A320 aircraft, providing more breathing room for portly passengers. The extra space would be created by reducing the width of other seats by one inch.
Seats on the A320 are currently 18 inches wide – the changes would see aisle seats increase to 20 inches, but others reduced to 17. Airbus said this matches the average seat width on board rival manufacturer Boeing.
It said the move was in response to complaints from airlines, who claim that travellers’ expanding waistlines are causing problems.
It added that carriers had reported a growing number of complaints from travellers who had been forced to sit next to an obese flier, and had their space encroached upon.
A number of surveys have suggested that Britons would be in favour of a “fat tax”, which would require overweight travellers to fork out more for their ticket.
Airlines would almost certainly use the seating configuration to boost profits.
Passengers would probably be asked to pay extra for the wider seats, which would help offset the extra fuel required to carry larger passengers.
New York hotel gives the summer popsicle a boozy twist
It’s summer, so what’s better than a popsicle?
“And if you’re a grown up who really wants to have fun, what’s better than a boozy popsicle?,” says Ellen Van Slyke, who runs food and beverage for Hilton Worldwide’s Americas region.
This summer, the new luxury Conrad hotel in Lower Manhattan is serving popsicles filled with fresh summer fruit and herbs and top-shelf booze – in a glass of Prosecco poured from a tap.
You’ll find the adult treats on the menu at the Conrad’s 16th floor bar – Loopy Doopy – which has stunning views of the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty and Battery Park City.
(No, the hotel’s rooftop bar isn’t named after how you’ll feel after eating too many boozy popsicles. It’s named after the gigantic Sol LeWitt wall art that hangs over the hotel’s atrium.)
So, back to those popsicles, which are made in-house, by the way… Loopy Doopy’s selling them with a glass of Prosecco for $14 each. Here are the flavors:
- Watermelon 10 Cane Rum Mojito
- White Peach Hudson Baby Bourbon
- Strawberry & Grey Goose Citron
- Blood Orange & Lychee Brooklyn Gin
- Mango & Guava Malibu Coconut