If you intend to take a journey on the TranzAlpine train in New Zealand, don't count on taking those spectacular photos from the Outdoor Viewing Carriage. We travelled from Arthur's Pass to Christchurch on March 9 only to be greeted by an update from the train operator left on the tables and seat pockets, coupled with an onboard announcement, advising that "Following an increased number of potential safety incidents, we've had to temporarily close our outdoor viewing carriages until a safety solution is found". The notification said that in recent months, "we've seen more passengers placing themselves in danger by leaning out of the viewing carriage to take photographs". Despite this restriction the trip was worth every dollar spent. The ride was smooth, onboard commentary (via headphones) informative and timed precisely, complementing the magnificent scenery.
UNDER THE RADAR I
Reading Stephen Doyle's "Not the usual suspects" (Traveller March 10) made me think of a Swedish expression, "smultronstallen". It means, places where the wild strawberries grow, or places you would only show very special people.
Two smaller Italian cities I would, a bit reluctantly, like to share with the readers are Bergamo and Meran. Bergamo, close to Milan, is easily reached by budget airlines. You hardly hear a language other than Italian spoken, but the main attraction is, of course, the Citta Alta. This medieval gem is easily reached by funicular. If possible, try to spend the night up on the hill, maybe within the actual city walls. Another northern Italian smaller city well worth visiting is Meran, or Merano in Italian. This elegant city is situated on the banks of the river Etsch/Adige in the province of South Tirol. It was part of Austria until World War I and German is still widely spoken. On the northern outskirts you can find Schloss Tirol, which has given its name to the province. North of the castle there is a cable car that takes you to great walks, excellent views and good food and beer, and if you are lucky you will be able to admire the hang gliders taking off next to your restaurant table.
MACGREGOR ACT 2615
UNDER THE RADAR II
Two of our most amazing Italian holidays have been visiting areas not generally on the "tourist radar". We based ourselves in Perugia, which was a very central spot to travel by car to visit Assisi, Spello, Spolento, Gubbio, Orvieto and the most spectacular Civita di Bagnoregio. On another trip we explored Puglia by basing ourselves in Monopoli and visiting Matera, Alberobello, Vale de Istria, Polignano a Mare, Ostuni, Otranto and the spectacular Salento coast, including the awe-inspiring Poet's Cave. Both trips were in May and June with no hordes of tourists to contend with ... even in Assisi.
CARE TO SHARE
When sharing a room rather than paying a hefty single supplement on Australian-based tours, you have to be very patient, flexible and tolerant of your travelling companion's needs and habits (good or bad) if you want to remain on speaking terms after your holiday together ends. Snoring, health issues and TV and radio preferences all come into play. Work out a plan ahead of time as to who has first shower (whether morning or night), lights-out time, fresh air or air conditioner, curtains open or closed. Be flexible. Don't be critical of what goes on their plate at meal times. Remember, you are on holiday, diets go "out the window" and you're travelling together to share good times and experiences. I just had two weeks sharing with a former work colleague. It was the first time for me and, yes, we are still friends and talking.