Akila from The Road Forks has asked me to contribute my three best kept travel secrets, a request started by Katie of Tripbase which has spread around the travel website scene faster than you can say cooee.
With globalisation, mass media in all its forms and more people spreading their wings than ever before, I don’t believe that secret travel places exist. Therefore my list includes personal travel ‘secrets’ which have given me many joys during my sojourns abroad.
1. Leave the Guide Book Behind
Do your research, plan your trip well but leave your travel books behind. Every time I see a traveller visit a landmark or a museum, open guide book in hand, I cringe at the thought of what they are missing.
On a recent visit to the Musée de Cluny in Paris, where medieval tapestries are beautifully displayed in a dimmed gallery, and a stunning display of ancient stained glass windows fills a darkened room, a tourist walked around carrying a guide book, reading every passage aloud to her friend. When I visit a site, I want to be immersed in the experience. I like to go with the flow of emotions that are stirred within me when I see something new or re-visit a place I’ve enjoyed in the past. I like to observe, touch (where possible) and feel. I don’t need to be lead on situ by published text. By leaving the guide book behind, I can make it a truly unique and personal experience.
Musée de Cluny, Paris
2. Eavesdrop on the Next Table
As a travel foodie who engages in research for interesting places to eat, I often keep my ears pinned to conversations in restaurants and cafés. Many a time I have listened to waiters describing a dish or recommending a regional speciality to local diners which resulted in new discoveries.
Recently, when dining at the famed Le Jules Verne at the top of the Eiffel Tower, the couple sitting at the next table asked the sommelier for recommendations on where to eat in Rome. Being a native of the city, he was more than willing to impart with the information. Unfortunately he spoke too softly for me to understand him or I would have shared this little secret here.
Le Grand Café des Capucines, Paris
3. There’s More to Sydney than the Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach
Let’s face it, to the world, Sydney is a remote place to visit. It can take up to 24 hours to reach it from certain destinations which makes it a low priority city on travel itineraries. Many tourists visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and may even catch a bus out to Bondi Beach. Venturing a little out of the touristy sights can reap rewards while offering a different point of view.
Take a ferry out to Watson’s Bay for another view of the harbour where you can enjoy a drink or eat fish and chips by the water as you watch ferries glide. If you’re a foodie or if you enjoy fresh seafood, visit the Sydney Fish Markets and have a takeaway lunch. Try alternatives to the iconic Bondi Beach which has become overly touristic that you can’t spot the locals at times. On the Eastern side, there’s Bronte Beach spilling with cafés, Tamarama Beach for stunning views of the fickle surf or Coogee Beach with its serene promenade at sunset. On the Northern side, catch an express bus all the way to Palm Beach and marvel at the many northern beaches as the bus meanders past many stretches of sand such as Curl Curl Beach and Bungan Beach.
Coogee Beach, Sydney, Australia
This ‘secret’ need not just apply to Sydney. On my last trip to Paris, I visited the Institut du Monde Arabe and took the lift to the top floor for view over Paris I had not seen before. Whatever the destination, taking an alternative road at times has given me a more personalised and richer perspective on the travel experience.
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Update January 2013 – Gourmantic & Best Kept Travel Secrets Campaign Bring Fresh Water to Ethiopian Village
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