Saturday, June 30, 2007

Contiki takes advantage of facebook

I've still got my nose in facebook, which is proving to be way too addictive. Interestingly, I found Contiki in a related group (though listed as sponsored) on the Explore the World group.

Does advertising belong in social networking applications? I reckon yes, if it's relevant. Contiki as a tour company is clearly offering tours that are of relevance to this particular group. so it makes perfect sense for them to be there. From a marketing perspective, they also using the site to create conversations amongst their potential and existing customers, in the very place where those users are spending a lot of time.

There's also a group for Kumuka travellers, called Kumuka Overland, although this doesn't appear to have been set up by the company - it doesn't confirm this one way or the other. Great for Kumuka if their customers are starting such groups.

The rules of marketing are definititely changing. I reckon travel companies like Contiki, Kumuka and Explore are doing a good job of using new forms of media to get to their customers. Will be interesting to see how things evolve in this space.

Life goes on in London, bombs and all

It's always weird after major security threats, like yesterday's foiled car bomb plot in central London. I'm watching the news, and they're discussing how "normal life" seems to have resumed right in the very streets where one of the loaded cars was found. Yet there appears to be some question that it has.

Of course life must go on as usual - it's the only thing we can do!

I found it particularly amusing that two of the three quotes in this Guardian piece about how bomb alerts and travel chaos failed to deter West End revellers last night, quoted Australians. Ah, she'll be right mate.

I've discovered facebook - the travel addiction continues

As if I needed another distraction...but anyway. Everyone's been talking about the social networking site, facebook.

I decided to take a peak and it's thrown me into very, VERY large networks of travellers and people with similar interests.

I'm finding it a useful place to store travel pics, cos it let's me arrange them easily in directories, that I can also let non-facebook friends and family see. I've been uploading pics by country - so far there are directories for Australia, Croatia, Slovenia and Iceland. I'll slowly build out the others - I wonder if I can create a directory for every letter of the alphabet...although not sure if there is a country starting with the letter X?

facebook also lets you join groups, and there are seemingly bwzillions about travel. I've joined the Explore the World and Addicted to Travelling groups (am loving the Explore the World logo over to the left).

In these groups, people share stuff like where they've been and where they want to go, and others use it as test-ground for travel related applications they've built, such as mapping features. There's lots of travel pics and recommendations, and a bunch of friendly people.

If you're addicted to travel, this is yet one more way to feed your addiction while you're not out there doing it!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Car bomb found in central London

Nearly two years after the 7/7 bombings, London is waking up to the news that a fairly large bomb was found in a suspect car this morning, around the Piccadilly/Haymarket area of central London.

The whole area is cordonned off, and by the looks of it, will be all day.

I'm very happy to be working from home today, as I do on Fridays. It's times like this that I truly value working for an organisation like Dow Jones, that has a work-from-home program.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A smattering of travel blogs

Time to do a quick scan of some of the funky travel blogs to see who's talking about what?

The Sydney Morning Herald's globe-trotting backpacker Ben Groundwater is discussing the backpacker's guide to being ripped off. His experiences remind me of having baby (dolls) chucked at me in Spain, as gypsies attempted to grab my bag, and a sneaky old english photographer in London who "volunteered" to take make photo outside Big Ben.

Mark Hayes over at the TimesOnline travel blog is discussing The Top 5 Cornish Pastries. Despite having spent last Christmas in Cornwall, and indeed, at the Lizard, where Mark is writing from, I am still yet to try an authentic Cornish pastry. It's on my to-do list!

The Guardian Unlimited's Katie Marsh is discussing her hilarious experience of Finland's Wife-Carrying World Championships. I also enjoyed Giulio Sica's post about Marrakech overtaking New York in Time Out's best selling city guide. I'm planning to be in Morocco this Christmas, so I might check it out.

And there's, which, with 371 updated blogs, 99 new bloggers, 3668 new photos and 38 forum posts in the past 24 hours....there's no shortage of new things to read.

Sydney Opera House makes World Heritage List

I was really pleased to read this morning, that Sydney's Opera House has been declared a World Heritage site. This is not the best picture of the Opera House, but I took it one morning a few years ago when I was walking to work.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lonely Planet launches new city guide series

Lonely Planet recently launched a new range of city guides, called the Encounter Series.

The pocket-sized versions of their country guide counterparts aim to give an overview of 8 cities - Barcelona , Hong Kong , Istanbul , Las Vegas , London , New York , Paris and San Francisco.

They have organised the guides by neighbourhood, helping visitors to get to the "heart of the city".

Yahoo Travel is running a promotion where first prize is two Eurostar tickets from London to Paris, Lille or Brussels, and 10 runners up receive sets of the new Encounter Series.

I'm planning to visit Turkey next year, so I shall check out the Encounter Guide to Istanbul.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

WIWT: Myrdalsjokull Glacier, Iceland

I took these pics at the Myrdalsjokull Glacier in Iceland's Thorsmork valley. It was one of the most stunning natural sights I've ever seen.

Pondering the point of travel

I came across a couple of quotes about travelling that reminded me why I love it so much:

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." - Saint Augustine

"We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey."- John Hope Franklin

"I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment." - Hilaire Belloc

Let the gormandising begin!

This weekend saw the 4th annual Taste of London food and drink festival in Regent's Park. Even though it was scheduled to rain, thousands of people turned out for the 12-4pm time slot, on what ended up being a fantastic sunny day.

At the gates we were given a convenient menu, which listed each of the 40 restaurant's three dishes on offer. Oh god...the drooling started about then, and didn't really stop all afternoon.

Cold, fizzy whisky-based drinks were thrust into our hands as we walked past the first tent, and we stumbled into the Alessi Cookery School. A cooking lesson was starting, and we managed to get a couple of spaces.

Minutes later, a loud, bossy but very charming Italian chef was booming at us to switch on the stoves, and said that we'd be cooking a simple creamy pasta in the new Alessi Pasta Pot.

We prepped some peas, garlic, pancetta and threw it all into the pot to cook for a couple of minutes. We were then instructed to throw in the dry pasta and enough water to cover it...all in the same pot. This seemed counter-intuitive, but we were assured the pasta would cook properly.

Sure enough, the water eventually disappeared and we tipped in some cream, salt and pepper. Due to ridiculous health and safety regulations, we weren't allowed to actually eat what we'd made, but it looked pretty impressive for novices!

Having been whiffing pasta for 20 minutes, we were starving and set off in search of Asian-influenced Cocoon, who had Wagyu beef on Hot Rocks on offer. Stupidly, I didn't take a photo of the dish - or any of them for that matter. I was so engrossed in the taste that the idea of taking photos seemed a million miles away. The good people at Cocoon have included their recipe for Wagyu beef though. My obsession with the delicious marbled fatty Australian meat continues.

People mosied round, stuffing their faces with goumet delights and whatever free booze was on offer. Music floated through the air, and it was all very civilised. A foodie's paradise!

Next on my radar was the stall for Knightsbridge-based Brazilian restaurant, Mocoto. Their Moqueca - monkfish and shellfish coconut stew and rice, had caught my eye. It too was fabulous - a creamy, spicy seafood curry, that definitely tasted different from my usual preferred Thai curries. I definitely need to investigate South American cuisine, and have no good reason why I have not done so before. Shame on me.

A coupla dishes down, and we were thirsty. Threshers were sponsoring the Wine Experience, so lurched in to grab two seats, just in time for the Roses from Around the World session. We sampled wines from Germany, Argentina, Chile, Spain and California, with the Chilean Vina Carmen rose my pick of the bunch. At just under £6 a bottle from Waitrose, it was a great full-bodied rose.

At this stage, we may have been slightly tipsy, with a couple of the whisky-based fizzy drinks mixing with the roses and various gourmet meals. Surprisingly no one seemed massively pizzed, although the potential was certainly there.

Being an avid oyster fan, the oyster dish at One o One really took my fancy. Oh, I wish I'd taken a photo of the Cancale Tsarkaya oyster with Ozen quail egg, apple salsa and wasabi flying-fish caviar. It was a little piece of edible artwork. The chef suggested I down the quail egg first, and follow it with the oyster. The flavours were truly amazing...the melt-in-mouth quail egg, with the tang of apple, the creamy oyster, the ping of the flying fish caviar and the firey whiff of the wasabi. Oh my was quite possibly the best oyster I've ever had. And I've had a few in my time.

I just love dishes where the flavours and textures have been skillful combined.

By chance, we stumbled past yet another wine tasting class at the Sud de France Wine Theatre. Perhaps it was because I'd already consumed a bit, but none of the wines that I sampled in that session did it for me. Oh well...each to their own. Some people were raving about the wine.

With a few Crowns (the currency of the festival) left, we decided to try a pudding. Kensington Places' Lime and Basil pannacotta was delicious. I've had a few pannacotta's recently, and I really like it as a dessert. I'm not particularly into cakes and big gooey puddings, but pannacotta seems like a nice way to finish a meal.

Our four hour gorge-fest seemed to fly by and soon we were being ushered out, as a dude from a stall that sold sea-salt scrubs from the Dead Sea snagged us and flogged us a tub of salt that made our hands feel really smooth. How this related to the food festival was beyond both Ant and I, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Taste of London was a fantastic day out, and was a great way to experience some of London's top restaurants. All the stalls at which I didn't get to try something, will go onto my Wish List of Restaurants, as will all of those that did!

We finished the day with a tasty meal in China Town before heading home - stuffed but happy.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Off to the Concert for Diana - whoohooo!

So excited!! A very generous friend, who scored tickets to the Concert for Diana, offered me one. So we're trouping off to the new Wembley Stadium next Sunday afternoon for what I know will be a truly unforgetable experience.

I remember hearing about the famous Wembley Stadium as a kid in Oz - how artists would say they had played to a packed-out Wembley. It seemed larger than life, an iconic part of England.

And I remember Diana, a real life princess, the People's Princess - as a kid viewing her life from the other side of the world.

I remember watching her wedding, and her baptism into a globally public life. I saw the images of her marriage disintegrating as she raised her two sons...and I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the day I heard the shocking news of her death.

It seems significant that her sons chose Wembley as the place to host a concert that marks the 10th anniversary of her death - and a celebration of her life.

And I feel extremely privileged to be going - thanks K :-). Stay tuned for pics and an update next week!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Explore's travel blog

Ok, so I'm a bit slow on the update, but I'm liking Explore's blog. They seem to be in touch with their customers - highlighting their blogs, and participating in all conversations travel.

The folks there seem to like raising funds for charity, with the blog highlighting some of their employees most recent endeavours.

And I like that they've introduced podcasts. I think it's such a brilliant idea to be able to download travel podcasts and listen to them as you're wandering through the place being discussed.

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the 2008/2009 Explore brochure so I can ponder the next big adventure....South America!

And the winner is...?

I was really interested to read this survey in the Times Online about the world's most expensive (and cheapest) cities.

It's primarily based on the cost of a luxury unfurnished two-bedroom apartment in the city. I'd certainly agree on London being high up the list - was curious to see Singapore beating Sydney though. I guess it's a matter of supply and demand, and there simply not being the space in Singapore as there is in Australia.

Much to catch up on this blog! Stay tuned.