Friday 28 October 2011

Quarterly Review: October 2011

Oopsie.  I didn’t mean for a week to pass without blogging, but HTLT has been busy, moving into her new house (houselet)!

When I started Hints to Lady Travellers, I planned to do a Quarterly Review, looking back at where I’d been and forward to where I was going.  Since the last one was in November 2009, this is a bit overdue.

So, let’s see.  Since leaving my job (+friends +flat +stuff) in London in the summer of 2009, I have been feeling my way towards a new lifestyle.  This is one where I can take on interesting museum projects (a bonus if they’re in interesting places) and still have time and energy for other projects like this here blog.  I want to have a base – a place to unpack my stuff! – where I can recharge and, knowing that I have a base, have the freedom to go off on lots of adventures.  Somewhat to my own surprise, what started off as a dream is becoming a reality.  I have just moved into a little home in my home town (Dublin) and some interesting projects further afield to remind me that there’s life and adventure beyond this island.

Where does Hints to Lady Travellers fit in with this new lifestyle?  I’m glad you asked.

Faithful followers of HTLT will have noticed that the frequency of blogging has swung from the very dedicated (2009/10) to the very intermittent (end of 2010, first eight months of 2011), in direct correlation to how busy other projects have kept me.  There have been several occasions when I was ready to shut down HTLT but never could quite bring myself to do it. 

Two years in (yes, HTLT passed the two year mark a few weeks ago) and I feel like I may be getting the balance right.  I can’t promise a post every single day, but I can promise to post several times a week.  Going back to my roots, there will be more hints (+ tips + reviews +general travel advice), as well as my continuing observations on being a Lady Traveller, at home and abroad.

HONEST, truly,

Your faithful correspondent,


Friday 21 October 2011

Kookaburra II

I've written about the kookaburra before, and how, when you hear a kookaburra laughing, you know the weather is going to change.

But while I'd heard the kookaburra several times, I'd never seen one ... until the trip Georgie and I took to Montsalvat (more on that and lots more on where I've been and what I'm up to now NEXT WEEK).

Wednesday 19 October 2011

West With the Night

Hello possums.  Since I last checked in I left Australia and flew home to Ireland.  I wrote this post on Sunday night, somewhere in the air between Australia and Singapore ... maybe that accounts for its spaciness?  Also, flying makes me philosophical.

Reader, there are few things as odd, as disorientating, as flying from one end of the world to another, all in one go.

To stopover or not to stopover?  Having considered carefully, and done it both ways, my advice is: always on the way out, not so imperative on the way home.  At least you'll be home at the end of the journey, rather than having to find your way in a new place.

I'm writing this after staring for a while at the flight tracker on the screen in front of me.  The dark band that shows where in the world is night, and where day, is moving with the plane.  So we are, literally, travelling west with the night.  It's going to be a long night at that: since sunset (somewhere over Western Australia) I'll have to wait about 22 hours to see the sun again.

After that, I stopped writing and took photos out the window.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Desert Island Discs

(Image via

The four people who regularly read this blog probably don't need this advice, but Hints to Lady Travellers has found GREAT consolation while be-colded in listening to Desert Island Discs podcasts from BBC Radio 4 online (thanks to my Little Sister who brought their availability to my attention).

I have often said that the British Institution I love most is BBC Radio 4 and it remains my belief that they have the best talkie radio in the world.  (Talkie radio is the phrase my tired brain came up with just now, I think I probably mean 'spoken word content').

Who, I wonder, came up with the idea for DID in the first place?

I know!  Let's have a show where participants tell us their life story via eight significant songs and then imagine they're marooned on a desert island from which there is NO ESCAPE but they can have the Bible, the complete works of Shakespeare, another book of their choice and any luxury up to and including a solar powered shower.

It's so beautifully British in being slightly bonkers and yet adhering to very precise rules.

The online archive is pretty extensive and provides much entertainment.  In the past week I've listened to George Clooney, Martin Sheen, David Tennant (v. charming), Cath Kidston (surprisingly moving), Sandie Shaw and Andrew Davies.

Monday 10 October 2011

"Because it is there."

Hints to Lady Travellers has a cold and so her travels over the past few days have mostly been of the armchair variety.  On Sunday I watched the 1953 documentary “The Conquest of Everest” which is pretty spectacular, all things considered.  It tells the story of the 1953 expedition which resulted in Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay being – well, if not the first to reach the top of Everest, certainly the first to reach the top and live to tell the story.

The photography was done by members of the expedition, directed by George Lowe, a climber and teacher from New Zealand.  The footage is extraordinary, the colours intense and the script is poetic – not surprising given that it was written by a poet: Louis MacNeice.

The story starts and ends with the words George Mallory (who may or may not have reached the summit in 1924 before dying on the mountain) is supposed to have said when asked, ‘Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?’  ‘Because it is there,’ he replied.

‘Because it is there,’ strikes me as an odd sentiment, but perhaps it’s just because I’m of a generation that flinches a bit from the Imperial (and sexist) language of conquest and colonisation.  This movie, let me prepare you now, is full of such choice phrases as: ‘the goddess, mother of the world – as the Tibetans call her – can only be conquered by men.’

I assume what Mallory was getting at was the idea that when reaching somewhere first (or conquering, if that’s your thing) the where (Everest, the Moon, the South Pole) doesn’t matter so much as the challenge – the who and the how and the when.  (This is echoed in Hillary’s comment to Lowe on returning from the summit: ‘Well George, we knocked the bastard off.’  Sadly, this was not caught on film.)

The men filmed on the 1953 expedition visibly suffer, physically and emotionally.  There is talk of desolation, of the place having ‘the smell of death’ – and given the footage shown, it doesn’t strike the viewer as poetic licence.  Then, at the end, when Hillary and Norgay make it down to camp, their teammates bound to greet them, hug them (hugging!  1950s British men hugging!), slap their backs, pump their hands.   Though the overarching narrative – and the motivation sustaining the climbers - may have been about conquest, about being first and thereby proving Britain’s might, the underlying message seems to be about establishing a relationship (if you can call it that) with a particular place – not so much conquest as wary truce. 

But then, ‘The Wary Truce of Everest’ as a title doesn’t have quite the same dramatic potential, does it?  And let’s not forget (and the film doesn’t let us) that the ascent of Everest took place on the eve of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation – with many headlines tying the crowning and the conquering together. 

Whatever your own opinions on the significance of climbing Everest, or on ‘because it is there’ as a reason to go anywhere – there is no doubt that “The Conquest of Everest’ is an amazing record of a particular event and the time in which it took place.

Friday 7 October 2011

Travel Aids: The Kindle

It has occurred to me over the past few weeks that Hints to Lady Travellers really ought to include more, you know, hints to lady travellers.  (Or any travellers.)  So I'm taking Official Hints Day out of mothballs and today I want to talk about the single best travel aid to enter my life: the Kindle.

(Image via

It's not as though Amazon needs my endorsement.  As you may be aware, the Kindle is Amazon's best-selling product - and has also been the subject of many the-book-as-we-know-it-is-dead laments.  I'll admit, too, that a few years ago I couldn't imagine ever wanting to part with paper books in favour of a machine.  After all, you can't read a Kindle in the bath.

But, but, but - this was before I packed all of my books into boxes and stored them away.  Before I started travelling around the world and learning exactly what I could and couldn't fit within a 20kg weight limit.  Before I realised that packing enough books to see me through a Europe to Australia flight (including stopovers) would mean that I couldn't actually lift my hand luggage unaided.  Before I got to Australia and discovered the average price of a paperback is $25 (around €20 or £15) due to weird parallel import laws that I don't quite understand.

Enter the Kindle.  It is light and portable.  If you get the version with 3G you can use it almost anywhere in the world - great if you're travelling to non-English speaking countries and need something to read.   It is also (thanks to the 3G and Whispernet function) genius for unexpected delays because you can buy books from the Amazon store and have them delivered instantly to your Kindle.  If I have a gripe it's that the books available for Kindle are heavily skewed towards the bestseller list and royalty-free classics.  But in a way that suits my purposes since I use it mostly to buy/read books that I don't necessarily want to hang on to, but that are good to read on the go.

I can't imagine not having a place in my life for real, paper books - but I think the books that I'll keep and buy will be special books, books that I want to read again, books that have particular meaning for me.  Plus - owning all the real, paper books in the land won't do me any good if they're in one continent and I'm in another.

What it comes down to is that I'm someone who gets very nervous and stressed at the prospect of being on a place (or train, or bus) with nothing to read.  With the Kindle, I can finally take enough with me to survive even the longest journey.

One final hint - I would recommend getting a cover for your Kindle.  I've been putting this off (haven't found one I really liked) and in consequence my Kindle is a wee bit scratched.  However, more and more designers are getting in on the action so there are lots of options.  I like this one.

Hints to Lady Travellers is definitely not being sponsored for this post - but lives in hope that one day someone will recognise her worthiness and give her a lifetime's supply of free books.

Thursday 6 October 2011

The Quintessential Melbourne Photo?

Market Lane Coffee's new branch at Queen Victoria Market.  Two of my favourite Melbourne food destinations now in the same neighbourhood!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Breakfast Crumble

Dessert for breakfast.  Good thing?  Bad thing?  You decide. 

On Saturday morning I went for breakfast at Mitte.  I like to think of Mitte as a German-Australian café – though I’m basing this only on the name being the German word for middle and it’s entirely likely that Mitte is someone’s nickname and I’ve overinterpreted again like when I thought Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time was about the cycle of abuse.

Questionable Germanness aside, Mitte does very good coffee, good omelettes, excellent spicy meatballs.  It is also somewhat famous for its breakfast crumble (for example).  Obviously I needed to put it to the test. 

The concept of breakfast crumble appeals to me.  I envisage a slightly tart compote (maybe a little honey to sweeten) with a crumble topping that is more granola-like and less sugary than usual. 
What I actually got was a regular dessert-style fruit crumble.  With cream on the side.  It was sweet to the point of toothache and while I choked most of it down (let’s be serious now, I wasn’t going to send it back) I was a wee bit disappointed.

Still, I think that the concept has much to recommend it and I’m going to do some experimenting of my own.  I’ll keep you posted… and crumble disappointment aside, Mitte is well worth a visit.

Mitte, 76 Michael St, North Fitzroy, Melbourne

Monday 3 October 2011

Aussie Rules - The Musical Comedy

I was in a select minority on Saturday as I elected to go for a walk instead of watching the Australian Football League Grand Final between the Collingwood Magpies and the Geelong Cats.

However, I did stick around long enough to watch my favourite part of any AFL match: the singing of the official team songs.

These songs blend lyrics from innocent Days of Yore with grandiose tunes to comic effect.  I hope you'll enjoy the following selection.

PS The Cats won - but I think I prefer the Pies' song.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Australian Notes

It has been a busy, busy week.  Here is a random selection of things that have been happening over the past 48 hours.

* Yesterday, someone was spelling something out to me on the phone.  "'A' as in alpha.  'M' as in mother.  'U' as in ute."

* My taxi driver last night (who drove as if it were his first time behind a wheel) crashed into another car.  The driver of the other car - dressed in shorts and t-shirt in spite of the torrential rain - got out and started banging on the taxi angrily.  And through all shouting, the two drivers kept calling each other 'mate.'  Passive-aggression on a whole new level.

* The city is very quiet today because it is GRAND FINAL DAY.  Everyone is either at the Aussie rules final, watching the final at the pub or out of town trying to avoid wall-to-wall footy coverage.

* It is still raining (has been since Wednesday).  Australia likes to present itself to the rest of the world as hot and sunny but I am here to tell you that if you visit anywhere in New South Wales, Victoria or Tasmania between June and October, bring an umbrella and waterproof shoes.

xxx HTLT