How to Buy Art on your Travels.

How many souvenir knick-knacks are gathering dust in your closet? Probably more than you want to admit, and all too chintzy to display proudly. Impulse purchases to remember the journey rarely remain on display, so consider an alternative purchase. Instead of the plastic Eiffel Tower, buy local artwork that you will be proud to show your friends and evokes the memories of your adventure.

Do your Research

There are dozens of artists churning out pictures for you in every major tourist destination but to find something unique and interesting you need to find the local art scene. For example, a young vibrant art scene is blossoming in the dreary buildings of eastern Berlin that I would never had found without some prior knowledge or contacts.

Establish a Budget

Using your accommodation money to buy a painting from an emerging artist is unlikely to lead you into a great travel experience (although it might prove profitable one day). Establish a total budget and a per object limit for multiple purchases.

You have to Love It

Visit as many galleries and artist studios as you can fit into your schedule. Note the artists and objects you like so you can research them further before you purchase.

Look for an artist that is producing consistent quality and style over time but their body of work should not look like handmade Xeroxes of the same scenes (this is what you get in the tourist traps). Avoid the cliché scenes, and look for objects that evoke a memory or emotion you associate with the destination.

Unless the art evokes a strong emotion in you, it is destined to the same fate as that plastic knick-knack.

Street Sculpture Berlin

A sculpture I found in Berlin

Reputable galleries normally provide you documentation to verify the authenticity of the object you purchased including a biography of the artist.


Depending on the size and value of the object, the best way to get it home is for the gallery to ship it for you. Some buyers worry about galleries substituting objects with lesser quality items but if you distrust a gallery I’d reconsider your purchase.


Frugal Travel – Vacationing at Home

Sometimes you just cannot afford to travel but that does not mean you have to spend your vacation on DIY projects. Travel to the place you know best (or at least think you do), your home town.

The advantages of vacationing at home:

  1. Free accommodation
  2. Minimal transportation costs
  3. Local knowledge
  4. No jetlag
  5. No language barrier

To make sure you enjoy your vacation at home, take these steps:

  1. Have your mail and papers stopped for the vacation period to reduce distractions. Limit email access and direct calls to voicemail as well.
  2. Tell friends you are going on vacation but be circumspect about your destination.
  3. Research your town by reading guide books and blogs. You will be surprised what you do not know about the place. Reject anything that you do regularly, the idea is to experience a different side of your city.
  4. Plan an itinerary of one to two sights a day, leaving time to enjoy the vistas or cafes.
  5. Avoid your favourite haunts, restaurants and cafes, we all play safe at home so stretch your boundaries.
  6. Write a journal, create a scrapbook or photo record of your vacation to share with friends.

Travel is not about the distance traversed or the number of countries you visit. It is about connecting with the place, and expanding your horizons and home is a good place to start.

Have you vacationed at home, leave a comment and tell us about the experience.


Ducati Museum and Factory Tour – My Review

Europe offers many cultural opportunities, world class art galleries, ancient buildings and historic settings but occasionally you just need the sights, sounds and smells of motor sports. I satisfied that need during our Grand European Adventure with a tour of the Ducati Factory and Museum in Bologna, Italy.

Factory Tour

Our tour started in the cafeteria where you can grab an espresso with the workers before your guide gathers you for a briefing. As you are entering a working factory, there is the necessary formality of a signing a waiver but I saw no danger unless you took a photo (more on that soon).

The groups are small at no more than ten people except Saturday when they take larger groups of up to 40 and the information provided in English. Ducati motorcycles are built on a moving assembly line with only two pair of hands responsible for each bike, and you are guided through the whole process.

Photography is strictly forbidden in the factory, a German tourist in our group got caught by our steely-eyed guide and received the most fierce tongue-lashing from her. He only managed to stay on the tour by the his fingernails, it is not worth the grief for a cheap illicit photograph.

Factory Highlights

We were lucky enough to be there the day after the Limited Edition Paul Smart 1000 motorcycles started production, and the first examples sat proudly in the shipping room.

As you exit the production floor, you are permitted to gaze through a window at a corridor filled with factory racing engines and closed door that hides the secrets of Ducati racing success. I could feel the spirit of Fabio Taglioni with me.

Ducati Museum

The factory tour is interesting but the museum is fantastic, focussed on Ducati’s racing pedigree with examples of every major Ducati race bike. Mike Hailwood’s Ilse of Mann NCR and Paul Smart’s Imola 750 classic have pride of place, probably the two most iconic motorcycles ever built. Then there are the superbikes, every World Champion is represented here; Troy Corser, Troy Bayliss, Raymond Roche and Doug Polen to name a few of the famous riders for Ducati and soon the bike of MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner will join them there.
Marco Lucchinelli Ducati 750F1

You can spend hours here, photography is permitted and the bikes are beautifully maintained. Your guide provides an introduction to the history but then you are on your own and free to wander in wonder amongst the machinery. The gift shop sells everything a Ducati aficionado needs except a motorcycle and I’m sure if you ask something could be arranged.


You must book ahead, and I recommend at least four weeks ahead of your intended visit date.

Book your tour by phone, fax or email:
Phone (from 10:00 am until 11:00 am and from 14:00 pm until 16:00 pm): +39 051 6413343
Fax: +39 051 6413113

Guided tours are offered Monday through Friday (for groups of up to 10 visitors) at the following times:

1st tour at 11:00 am
2nd tour at 4:00 pm

Saturday only (for larger groups of up to 40 people):
Continuous tours from 9:30 am until 1:00 pm

Sunday: Closed

Closed also during Easter vacations, summer break (July 29th to August 26th), October 4th, November 1st-3rd, Christmas vacations (from December 23rd to January 7th), and on all Italian public or bank holidays.

Taking photographs is allowed in the museum but not inside the factory.

Ducati Motor Holding SpA,
Via Ducati 3,
40132 Bologna, Italy

Best of all, entrance is free. How can you say no to that.


Tracks Through Australia – Maleny to Mapleton

Stopped at the roadside I can hear the low rumble growing through the hills like thunder burbling softly in the distance. As it draws nearer the rumble is transformed into a roar and the road warriors appear around the bend, knees scraping along the tarmac, heads tilted into the turn they zip past and disappear into the hills. On any fine Queensland weekend, and there a lot of them, you find motorcyclists and country craft fans hugging the road between Maleny and Mapleton above the Sunshine Coast.

Anyone who rides a motorcycle knows that the riding is best in the twisties, and the Maleny road to Mapleton links together a series of corners that I never grow tired of riding. Best if all, there are plenty shops and cafes along the way to keep your pillion happy and a great pub for lunch at Mapleton.

For a romantic weekend, book a room at one of the local inns and combine a exploration of the area with the excitement of Australia Zoo. Do it on a motorcycle and you have one of my perfect weekend getaways.

Image Flat from Kanyana Park Lookout, Queensland. 22 June 2007.

Things to Do

Hike the 1.3 kilometre Wompoo circuit through cool rainforest of Mapleton Falls National Park.

A Devonshire Tea at one of the numerous cafes along the route.

Scour the local galleries for your next art acquisition or handy piece of pottery.

Lunch at the Mapleton pub. Good hearty meals and Queensland’s best beer.

Things to See

The magnificent flora and fauna of the rainforest parks.

Fantastic panoramas over the Sunshine Coast from every vantage point.

The impromptu concourse d’elegance of motorcycles outside the Mapleton Pub. (Look but do not touch, their owners are watching from the veranda.)

Photo borrowed from Jigg’s Photostream. (CC: Some Rights Reserved)


Travel Global, Eat Local

The Environmental News Network published an interesting article on eating local produce, and eating local is just what you should be doing when you travel. My strongest memories are always associated with the food I ate or the local markets I visited. Food engages all of your senses creating strong links in your brain to retain the information and associate it with the place. Banana leaves remind me of the first Malay lunch I had in 1984; rice, mutton curry, some relish and curious fried whole fish that started my gastronomic conversion from bland to spicy.

Stretching your budget on a long trip is easier if you stick with the in season local produce; create a great picnic of local cheese, a few vegetables, meat and fresh bread. Find a picture postcard view, sit down and let the food make this a moment a memory.

Fresh bread at a Portobello Market, London

A trip to the local market is also a fantastic way to meet the locals and practice your language skills, the merchants are keen to sell you their produce while other shoppers will help you find the best stuff if you ask around. Enrich your travel experience with the local food.