Category Attractions

The Australian Open Tennis: The Laid-back and Fun Grand Slam

Fans of The Australian Open MFP

The Australian Open, in Melbourne, sizzles in January…literally and metaphorically.  It is often called the People’s Open because the grounds passes are affordable, its outer courts have a fun family atmosphere and loads of people from the Northern Hemisphere come Down Under to escape the northern winter and bask in the sunshine.

To get you in the swing of things, here is the lowdown on the sort of atmosphere you are likely to experience.

Many fans dress up to support their favorite players.  There’ll be lots of people draped in the Australian flag with large Mexican-style Australian flag or yellow and green hats. Canadians might have their red maple leaf flag painted across their faces. The Dutch dress in bright orange.  There is no limit to the creativity. Fans of rising Thai tennis star Luksika Kumkhum wear home-made We Love Luksika.  A couple of French fans wear Napoleon hats.

facepainting-72* Crowd Pleasers: There are often group organizers at popular matches that start crowd wave...

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Japan’s Hidden Secret: Tourist free Kanazawa or “Little Kyoto”

Kanazawa mfp

Japan’s Hidden Secret: Kanazawa

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The Japanese describe Kanazawa, located by the Sea of Japan in Western Honshu, as “little Kyoto” because it offers an artisanal tradition akin to Kyoto’s as well as beautifully preserved traditional neighborhoods. Put more accurately, while Kyoto is the much older Japanese Imperial capital, Kanazawa is the best-preserved Edo (or Shogun-era) city in the country. As an added bonus, it is a City of Crafts and Folk Art and forms part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. It offers many of Kyoto’s charms without its tourist hordes.  In short, it is a gem that has largely been under the radar for most Western tourists.

The Maedas ruled the remote Kaga region (of which Kanazawa is the center) during the Shogun era, when power emanated from the Edo Castle (today’s Tokyo). Rather than challenge the Shogunate in war, the Maedas poured their efforts into cultural pursuits and channeled their vast wealth from local gold mines into arts and crafts, many of which are still nationally renowned. The name “Kanazawa” means “marsh of gold” and the castle town was famous early on for Kaga gold-leaf, inlaid work and calligraphy. Indeed, the gold leaf that covers Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion was produced in Kanazawa.

Being the richest domain outside the Shogunate, Kanazawa’s population swelled with samurai retainers, artisans, merchants and, of course, geisha courtesans. Since the town was located along a remote sheltered coast across the mountains from Tokyo, it was protected from being ravaged both in the feudal wars as well as during World War II, where it was spared from US bombing. As a result its samurai and geisha districts are remarkably intact.

Here is the lowdown on its six...

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The World’s Best Rock Art at Max Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris

Mount Borradaile guards remarkable indigenous rock art

Mount Borradaile is a sacred site in Australia’s Aboriginal Arnhemland overlooking a tropical Garden of Eden

East of Kakadu National Park across the crocodile-infested East Alligator River my family and I go deep into Aboriginal Arnhem Land in search of some of the world’s best rock art plus a tropical Garden of Eden teeming with birds, fish and exotic reptiles. We are visiting Max Davidson’s Arnhemland Safaris at Mount Borradaile, a comfortable collection of tree-shaded cabins encircling an airy dining room with deck and swimming pool.  It is the only tourist operation in Australia located on a sacred Aboriginal site.

Mount...

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Five of the Best Day Trips to the Great Barrier Reef

GBR MPFThe Great Barrier Reef is the most magical marine environment on the planet. The world’s largest living structure, it is made up of more than 400 different kinds of hard and soft corals and is home to 1500 species of brilliantly colored tropical fish not to mention whales, dolphins and turtles. No wonder then that thousands of people travel across the globe to explore its watery paradise. That’s why there are so many reef trips on offer which, paradoxically, makes it no picnic to plan a day trip, given the baffling range of boats and adventures.

Here is an insider’s guide to what five different reef adventures from Cairns and Port Douglas are really like so you can make informed decisions about which trips are best for you based on your interests, age and skill levels.

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The Nine Best Aboriginal Experiences in Australia

Learning to spear fish at Kooljaman at Cape Leveque

Indigenous tourism is flourishing all over Australia as visitors and locals alike are keen to learn more about the ancient wisdom and cultural traditions of the world’s oldest living culture.  Here is a sampling of intriguing offerings that range from short bush tucker walks, didgeridoo lessons and guided rock-art tours to multi-day cultural immersions.  For more information, check out Aboriginal Tourism Australia.

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How to best enjoy New Orleans music scene

The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Orchestra has spectacular costumes.

Chanting in a deep rhythmic voice, an African-American Indian chief (yes, I said that right), who is adorned headdress-to-toe in powder-pink feathers, beads and sequins, leaps onto the Louis-Louis stage by the wide lazy Mississippi River. An eight-piece band with horns, saxophone, drums, guitars, fiddle, cello and tambourine echoes his primal call.

The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Band has me and the rest of the 800-strong audience in thrall, its culture as mysterious as it is hypnotic.

New Orleans French Quarter Festival

Not far away, the Pinettes, the world’s only all-female brass band, is jamming with “Rock the Boat, Don’t Tip the Boat Over”, while on another stage deep in the bowels of the French Quarter, everyone is swinging to the toe-tapping Cajun fiddle tunes of Amanda Shaw and Rockin Doopsie Jr.

A New Orleans virgin, I am here for the four-day, ten-stage French Quarter Festival, the largest free music festival in the South of the United States...

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How to Weekend in the Hamptons: where to stay and what to do

A classic cedar shingled beach house in the Hamptons on Long Island

A classic cedar shingled beach house in the Hamptons

If you don’t have your mansion, summer share house or cottage, it can be difficult to access the Hamptons for just a weekend. Luckily there a few new artful country inns and boutique hotels so now we can all escape New York and enjoy a Hamptons weekend getaway. Here is the rundown on where to stay and what to do.

I checked out a couple recently with my oldest daughter, grown up and living in New York, to see if the weekend boutique hotel experience is all its cracked up to be. They may be a bit pricey but it’s nothing compared to summer house rentals.

Prices in the Hamptons can really take your breath away….Beyonce paid US$400,000 to rent a 14-bedroom mansion for one month; if you were so inclined, you could have bought the same five hectare estate with pool, tennis court, bowling alley, theater and eight-car garage for US$43.5 million. Yet, in spite of its excesses, much of The Hamptons’ appeal is priceless.

Vistas of translucent light over dune grasses to the sea attracted artists more than a century ago to this 50-kilometer stretch dotted with a handful of villages on the eastern end of Long Island. New York Society followed, building grand cedar-shingled mansions on the potato fields and riding horse buggies down its rose-rimmed country lanes to the beach.

In additio...

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What to Do in Cebu in the Philippines

Cebu has warm water and great underwater life to explore on day trips such as to Nalasuan Island

Cebu is oldest city in the Philippines and now a thriving port and manufacturing center. Cebu is the country’s epicenter of Christianity and a gateway to more than 160 white-sand-rimmed islands and islets. For visitors, it offers a heady mix of Spanish-inspired culture, fabulous food, and interesting design stores as well as access to terrific snorkeling and diving.

Here are 12 must-do adventures in this friendly Queen City of the South.

  1. Eat suckling pig. Anthony Bourdain followed his taste buds to Cebu and pronounced that they make the best lechon (Spanish for “suckling pig”) in the world on his television show No Reservations. His lechon consultant was Cebu native Joel Abueca Binamica, a retired banker who writes the Market Manila blog. After the broadcast, people begged Binamica to sell his lechon commercially and now he has five bright red and white Zubuchon restaurants...
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What to do with Kids in Vienna: cakes, carriages, choirs, castles

The Prater is one of the world's oldest amusement parks

There is so much to do with kids in Vienna in both summer and winter that you’ll have your clan clamoring to move to this pretty baroque capital of Austria with its elaborate cafes serving gorgeous cakes and pastries, its horse drawn carriages, exquisite palaces to explore and of course the famous Vienna Boys Choir. And teenage girls could get in a tizz about getting all dressed up and going to one Vienna’s winter balls.

Is it when my youngest daughter Julia conducts the philharmonic orchestra or perhaps when my teenage tom boy Claire waltzes in the arms of a handsome young man?  Or then again, is it the look of sheer astonishment in the eyes of the oldest Alice as she gazes at a ferris wheel made completely of sugar? Whatever tips the scale, I fall in love with Vienna as the perfect place to visit with kids AND teenagers, as I found out a few years ago.

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How to Have a Great Time at the Henley Royal Regatta

 The Henley Royal Regatta

The five-day Henley Royal Regatta is the most famous rowing regatta in the world. But this being England, it is not just a sporting event but also a highlight of the English summer social season alongside Ascot and Wimbledon, which together form a sort of trifecta of Olympic-quality pomp and circumstance. But of all these events, the Henley Royal Regatta is the easiest to participate in all the fun. Get dressed up and have a picnic by the river while you watch some of the best rowers in the world whoosh past.

A visitor from another planet dropping in on the Edwardian town of Henley-on-Thames in early July, could be forgiven for thinking that they had overshot prim and proper Britain and landed instead in the home of its flamboyant alter ego, the straw-boater, candy-striped-jacket wearing, fascinator-bedecked, Pimms drinking set who have elevated riverside picnicking to pure art.

“The very essence of the English is found each year at Henley with the soft breeze, youthful fitness and elegance of the boats cutting through the Thames.  I loved it. The trick is to appreciate that spectators are dressed to the nines for it is pure fun to stand in the sun in boaters and blazers with Pimms in hand,” says visiting Australian barrister James Bell.

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