Birthplace of the Olympics

Even a non-sporty person such as myself couldn’t resist the idea of squaring off at the starting line where the ancient — and therefore the modern — Olympic Games began.

Olympia, on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, is where it all began. And it’s where the Olympics torch relay always begins every four years.

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Probably the best brewery …

I was going to include these pictures in an upcoming gallery of Copenhagen, but I thought they deserved special attention. They were taken at the Carlsberg brewery, where the famous Elephant Gate ushers visitors into the fascinations of a beer-making process that has changed little over more than 150 years.

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Magical, mysterious Macau

Macau has become a magnet for mainland Chinese and other gamblers in recent years, but to think of it as the Las Vegas of South East Asia would be doing it a great disservice.

Sao Paulo cathedral ruins

The former Portuguese colony about an hour by boat from Hong Kong has its own unique cultural flavour — a potent blend of East and West that can be alluring even for those who are not interested in playing the tables or the machines. Continue reading Magical, mysterious Macau

Petra: the jewel of Jordan

The ancient “rose city” of Petra, in Jordan, is on many a bucket list, and for good reason.

The remnants of a 2,300-year-old civilisation include the ornate Treasury (Al Khazneh), which is carved into solid sandstone. Take a moment, or more, to contemplate the artistry and sheer effort involved in achieving that without the machinery or technology we have today.

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Meanwhile, near the Acropolis

Almost everybody knows about the Parthenon, the Temple of  Venus Nike and the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens.

“Socrates’ Prison”

But a walk around the area where the tourist buses park reveals some other architectural and natural delights, including a church and the (probably bogus) prison of Socrates.

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Kusadasi in pictures

Kusadasi is a city on the western Aegean coast of Turkey, perhaps best known to tourists as the gateway to the remarkable Roman ruins at Ephesus.

Sadly, a lot of cruise ships have stopped calling at Turkish ports following political unrest in that country. Hopefully the delights of the city, with its winding passages and interesting shops will be available to travellers again soon.

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Northwest Passage ho!

Would you pay a premium price for a luxury cruise through a stretch of water that was once regarded impassable and treacherous?

Crystal Serenity (

It seems enough people are to justify a second sailing by Crystal Cruises through the Northwest Passage that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Arctic Ocean.

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Better than the real thing?

In the Mall of the Emirates in the desert city of Dubai, there’s a snow ski slope. On Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ships, there are “FlowRider” wave machines that simulate surfing in the ocean.

Surfing on a ship. (

There are ice rinks all over the place, in towns and cities where the temperature never drops below freezing point, and there are water parks in places that rarely experience rainfall. China is building a theme park devoted, in part, to the English writer Shakespeare and the Spanish novelist Cervantes.

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The Greatest Show is over

The Greatest Show on Earth will soon be no more. The Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which has been touring the United States for more than 100 years, will soon fold up its big top for the last time.


Many will feel a tinge of nostalgia at this news; others will say it’s about time.

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Be alert, not alarmed

“Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt: The countries Australians travel to despite warnings.” So says the headline of a recent story on the popular website

And it’s true, of Australians and other travellers, that we sometimes go to places despite warnings from ogovernments, travel agents or other expert advisers.

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Only for Americans

I’m an Australian who lives in the Middle East. During a travel stopover in Bangkok, I received a social-media message from a Filipino friend wishing me a happy Thanksgiving.

22aaf552-2df2-4310-8c8c-388ac34cc6b3-14903-00000a37f76df74d_tmpNow, I’m a great one for celebrations, and I like to see other people happy. Be it Eid, Christmas or Diwali, or any other religious festival, or a national day, I’m happy to acknowledge the occasion with those who hold it dear. But Thanksgiving is a tricky one.

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Brisbane’s cultural corner

Update: The closure of GoMA, as addressed in this blog post, was the topic of a spot on radio station 612 ABC Brisbane. Hear Brett Debritz talk to Spencer Howson here.

When I was a child growing up in Brisbane, the Brisbane River was the big divide. If you were born on the north side, as I was, you rarely travelled south of the river. If you born on the south, you never went north.


The emergence of the Cultural Precinct in South Brisbane changed all that. By building a new theatre complex (the Queensland Performing Arts Centre) and relocating the State Library, Art Gallery and Museum to the southside — along with setting World Expo 88 in the grounds that are now known as Southbank Parklands, the state government created a reason for northerners to venture south and southsiders to feel a little smug.

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Home away from home

You may have heard about The Man Who Lived at the Ritz. It was a novel, then a TV movie, about a man who spent several years at the famous Ritz Hotel in Paris during the Nazi occupation.


In real life, Coco Chanel did live at the Ritz (although, apparently, not in the actual suite that now bears her name).

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Boeing, Boeing, gone

The classic Little Golden Book Gordon’s Jet Flight, by Naomi Glasson and Mel Crawford, was first published in 1961. I read it when I was old enough to read Little Golden Books.


In my memory, it was about a little boy’s first flight on a Boeing 747 Jumbo, but as the cover shows, it was about the B707, which was still a mighty plane in its day.

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