Archives for March 2007


Amateur Traveler Podcast

I am a fan of the Amateur Traveler Podcast and this week Chris Christensen spoke with Scott and Sheryl who quit their Silicon Valley jobs to travel through Europe for a year. Documenting their journey in their own podcast, A Year in Europe, Scott and Sheryl share their experiences and show you just how easy it is to travel.


Five things to see and do in Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane is the best city in Australia, the natural gateway to Australia’s Gold Coast resorts and the Great Barrier Reef but it gets no respect. Often dismissed by our southern cousins as a big country town, Brisbane tries harder to win you over and it is blossoming into a great place to visit. What are my five favs?

1. South Bank. Site of the 1988 World Expo, South Bank was redeveloped into a recreation and cultural centre for the city and hosts a wide variety of events each year.

City Beach #31

2. Breakfast Creek Hotel. The Brekky Creek is a local institution, immortalised by the band Midnight Oil, and one of the few places to get a beer ‘off the wood‘ in Australia. Teamed with one of their world famous steaks you will find simple dining nirvana.

3. Lang Park (Suncorp Stadium). Corporate naming rights changed the name but to generations of Queenslanders it will always be Lang Park. Some Australia’s most intense Rugby League, and more recently Rugby, games have been played at Lang Park. To hear it reverberate with chants of ‘Queenslander’ is an experience for any sports lover.

4. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, less famous today than Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, but still the best place to get up close to Australian wildlife in Brisbane. Take a boat cruise there and cuddle a koala.

5. Brisbane Nightlife. Brisbane’s vibrant nightlife has something for everyone, and you will find great local talent at affordable prices.


Travel Tech – Zoom Lens Choice

To travel light every item in your luggage must have multiple uses and for the dedicated DSLR camera users amongst us that means you need a good zoom lens. My Canon 20D arrived with the standard 18-50mm zoom lens, functional for general duty but requires the photographer to get close to the subject.

A popular choice for a longer focal length zoom is 70-210mm or 300mm, a great choice for amateur sports photographers or other activities where you cannot get close to your subject. In combination with the 18-55mm zoom lens, a photographer has most of the focal range required any situation.

The first time I travelled with this combination I became frustrated with a continual need to swap lenses as I moved from close up subjects to distant subjects. I also started to compromise my shots to avoid a lens change and lost opportunities to capture better memories. I resolved to find the perfect travel zoom lens.

Consider the following points before choosing your lens:

Focal Length. On a typical trip you will photograph buildings or scenic vistas, the people around you and subjects separated from you by a barrier. To capture a picture of Mt Rainer or St Peters you’ll need a short focal length of no more than 28mm. To bring the action a little closer you need at least 100mm.

Weight. Remember you’re travelling light but a quality lens is usual worth toting an extra few ounces and I would trade focal length for quality at the same weight.

f-stop (speed). A fast lens gives you more opportunities to capture that shot despite the failing light or stop the MotoGP action at Assen this summer.

Price. We all have a budget but money spent here could be the difference between fuzzy memories or the brilliant poster print of the Cinque Terre on your wall.

I finally settled on a Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, and over 80 percent of my travel photos are now taken with this lens. Cost prevented me buying a faster L Series lens but it stills has image stabilisation rarely lets me down when I can pry it off my daughter’s Canon Digital Rebel.

See the results for yourself here.


Bouchon at The Venetian – Las Vegas Dining without the Buffet

Las Vegas is a paradox, a popular United States vacation spot that expends extraordinary effort to be anything but America on the surface. Within the Vegas paradox, cheap buffets and overpriced food court food has replaced the finer living that helped make Vegas the playground for starlets and wealthy socialites. The culinary void in your last Vegas experience is being obliterated by the Illuminati of chefs and their efforts deserve recognition.

Bouchon, Thomas Keller‘s homage to the French bistro, spread from its Napa Valley roots to Las Vegas in 2004 to bring depth to the shallow veneer of eating pleasure. Bouchon nestled deep inside The Venetian hotel welcomes you the minute you cross the threshold into its embrace. We felt at home, joking with the staff while they helped us navigate the menu to find the right combination for our palates.

Soupe du Jour, today a roasted tomato soup with a delicate mix of herbs to enhance the natural sweetness of the fruit, a light and perfect start for evening. For my Plats Principuax I chose the Boudin Noir (Blood Sausage) surprising my partner as I avoid the nasty bits at all costs and my adventure brought forth a reward. The rich flavour, an almost cajun spice mix and the wonderful texture of this sausage combined for nirvana in simplicity and balanced to perfection by the sauteed apples and potato puree.

My partner tempted her arteries with Pate de Campagne and Escargot, entrees so rich in fatty goodness she described them as delicious heart attacks.

A French finish of Creme Brulee, an espresso infused Pot de Creme and my traditional port completed a dining experience I’ll never forget.

Las Vegas is emerging from its mid-life crisis brasher but sophisticated and more delicious, taste the difference.


Northwest Railroad Museum

Mary Jo at The Seattle Traveler is highlighting the Northwest Railroad Museum in Snoqualmie, Washington in her latest post. We rode the train several years ago when the kids loved Thomas the Tank Engine more than reality TV (an oxymoron in any culture). The sights and sounds of a working locomotive enthralled them as we travelled the short track. Take time to explore the eclectic Snoqualmie stores and have an ice cream soda to complete a great day out.

Northwest Railroad Museum

Photo courtesy of Greg Dunham