Friday 19 July 2013

A plus and two minuses

It's been quite a week for connections, most of them, alas, negative. For a start there was, sadly, nice young Cory Monteith dying at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, which has had its frontage splashed nightly across TV screens around the world. They've just this week opened their new Italian-themed cafe and wine bar, which is what I'm sure they would much rather be getting publicity for right now. It's been rated Vancouver's #1 hotel, and of the three Fairmonts we stayed at there, it was certainly the most impressive. And technological: the iPad in the room greets you and controls everything from the lighting and curtains to contacting the concierge. The bellhop wanted to show us how to "operate the room" but we didn't have time (travel writer's curse) so when it came to bedtime after a multi-course degustation dinner there at Oru with lots of Okanagan Valley wine including, bliss, my first ice wine, shutting everything down was almost a challenge too far. Most spectacular was the bathroom, all glass on the corner overlooking the harbour, cruise ships and the Convention Centre's 6-acre grassy roof. On the 12th floor, who cares that the glass is regular two-way?
Then there was the horrifying report of a teenage girl being bitten in half by a shark on Reunion Island, accompanied by a map because who would know where that is, unless you've been there? She was swimming in a known dangerous part of the beach at St Paul, which is where I went to a market beside the black sand beach with its cannon pointing out to sea. It was a colourful market - of course, aren't they all? - notable for its cute mini-pineapples, baskets of cheap vanilla pods and nutmegs, brown-skinned rag dolls, perfume still and dodos. Which were a bit of a cheat, since they were endemic on Mauritius, not Reunion.
And finally, and more cheerfully, the Minister of Conservation has turned down the proposal for a the Milford-Dart Tunnel, which would have dumped half a million tonnes of spoil in the beautiful Hollyford Valley, increased exponentially the traffic through contentedly sleepy Glenorchy and put lots of concrete and tarmac at the start of the Routeburn Track. All so impatient tourists can get to Milford Sound more quickly without having to "waste" a day on the return journey along fabulous Lake Wakatipu, through rolling farming country, along moody Lake Te Anau to the township and beyond along one of the best drives in the country. Pft. Milford is magnificent and a must-see, but having to earn it by travelling there along three sides of a square makes it that much more special. Like walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu instead of taking the bus up from Aguas Calientes. Quick and easy isn't always better.

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