Archive for the ‘two hippos make an island’ Category

Adelaide, as though by choice behind Sydney’s bustle and Melbourne’s pomp, is the gem-like third city of Australia. Informal and welcoming, Adelaide is at her best in Springtime and Autumn, when ubiquitous flowers adorn the otherwise ‘regular folk’ attractiveness of this uncomplicated capital city just under two hours by plane from Sydney.

At the Naval, Military, and Air Force Club of South Australia on Angus and Hutt, a visitor almost concludes that the passing of the British Empire was a mean-spirited rumor.

One sits in a bar booth under a framed newspaper report of Lord Nelson’s death. On the stairwell, passing a framed image of WWII RAF planes on the attack, an acquaintance generously offers that they were no doubt powered by Pratt & Whitney engines. ‘Does that mean they’d be American?’, I innocently answer. ‘Of course!’, comes the reply, as though to say ‘I thought you would have picked up the compliment.’

Quiet and spacious guest rooms, a welcoming bar, and a gently distinguished dining room welcome a guest as though he were a co-conspirator in it all. And, by the end of a stay, one wonders whether, in fact, he is.

A sport-coat and tie mean ‘dressing down’ in these environs. A suit is best for the dinner hour.

But don’t let the formality of it all put you off. Conversation partners are always at hand, welcoming to conversation, and straight-forward in that way that makes Aussies the most uncomplicated population on earth for a visiting American with no axe to grind.


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Macau—one of China’s ‘special administrative zones’—can be a bit too special.

Just a ferry’s ride from Hong Kong International Airport and from Hong Kong itself, this former Portuguese colony has found its modern incarnation as a garish Las Vegas of the Orient. All that follows upon a region or a city selling itself to gaming interests is on unapologetic display under Macau’s neon glare.

By contrast, on the relatively rural island of Coloane, the good folk of the Pousada de Coloane welcome guests to a less complicated space. Overlooking the water between Macau’s sectors from its hillside perch, the Pousada offers attentive service, quiet air-conditioned rooms, and excellent food.

The staff—a mixture of Filipinos, Macanese Chinese, and mainline Chinese—are informal and ever helpful.

This is a great place for meetings or a quiet getaway. Taxi and bus service to the Strip in downtown Macau is available. But you may find you’d rather stay at the Pousada and get away from things just a bit longer. My only complaint—iffy Internet service—may be charitably viewed as aid to the isolation you’ve been craving.

The incomparable urban charms of Hong Kong are a short distance away over the water and served by frequent ferry departures.

The price is right at this rustic but not inelegant get-away.

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During a recent business trip to Sopron, Hungary, I booked flights through Budapest, supposing this to be the quickest way to the city of Sopron, way out on Hungary’s western border with Austria. I was wrong. Vienna would have been them logical choice.

No harm done. I purchased a Hungary Rail Pass through my US travel agent and had a delightful—if eventful—trip from Budapest to Sopron and by return. (more…)

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A pleasant train ride from Budapest and an even shorter trip from Vienna, across the Austrian border, the lovely city of Sopron holds its own as a genteel border city in Central Europe. When your travels take you to Sopron (or even to a two-day trip, say, during a visit to Vienna), you needn’t think twice about where to stay.

The Hotel Fagus offers ultra-modern, tasteful, and quiet lodgings with excellent food on site and the city center just a short taxi ride away.

I discovered both Sopron and the Hotel Fagus as a participant in a 200-member conference. Arrangements were managed will skill, grace, and at an agreeable price. For this reason, I can recommend the Fagus for private travel as well as for conference hosting.

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Courtesy of friendly, helpful van drivers, you can be at the AIrport Hotel Kelsterbach’s tidy, simple, economical location ten minutes from pickup outside the terminal.

This is a hotel for small- to medium-sized meetings, quick transport, and reliable but budget-priced economics.

A Greek and an Italian restaurant are a short walk way in a pleasant residential area.

It’s not easy to find affordable short-term lodging near one of Europe’s principal airports. The Airport Hotel Kelsterbach won’t disappoint.

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SJO as she is called was my home airport for many years, so this review of its single, well-hidden VIP lounge may be nudged from stark objectivity by a certain affection for the place.

In spite of the wide spectrum of airlines that now services Costa Rica’s capital city, none of the major North American airlines has a dedicated VIP lounge. You’ll need credentials with a Latin American airline, like Panama’s COPA, or a bolt-on agreement like Priority Pass, my favorite for international airport lounge access. (more…)

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Not for the faint of heart is the effort to discover a true Buenos Aires dining experience outside of that Argentine capital. The middle-aged men who wait on table there are not moonlighting on, say, their day job as a CPA. They are meseros. ‘Always been, always will be. Serving you your Argentine beef is what they do. They respect the meat, smile only as necessary, and never say, ‘Hi, my name is Trish, I’ll be taking care of you tonight.’

So it was with a little fear and trepidation that I turned a recent business trip to Seattle into an opportunity to take my Latin America-raised son (now a sophomore at Seattle Pacific University) to the Buenos Aires Grill, an establishment he’d scoped out during a city food tour with his mother. (more…)

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Rarely does an anthology of original documents of historical value mingled with insightful interpretative essays come together as a coherent work. Steven Palmer and Iván Molina, against those odds, have put the ball in the back of the net with just such a book. (more…)

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Conveniently located off the ring road that encircles San José’s urban chaos and snuggled up next to the landmark Law Faculty (Facultad de Derecho) of the University of Costa Rica, the Hotel Ave del Paraíso is a jewel that is easily overlooked.

The Adamski family has converted a sprawling old home with its attending jumble of buildings into a boutique hotel that can only be called enchanting. A superb pricing policy makes this my hotel for business and pleasure when in San José.

Each room is expansive and distinct. High ceilings, an old home’s surprises, and attention lavished upon the engaging ceramic floors make the Ave del Paraíso worthy of many repeat performances.

A passable breakfast in the Costa Rican style comes with the room. Restaurants, the large San Pedro Mall, and the University are all within walking distance. Taxis are easily available just outside the gate. The only downside I’ve experienced is that traffic noise on the circunvalación begins at the crack of dawn. Turn up the ceiling fan and you might not notice.

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Some years back, while living in Costa Rica, I found the Hotel Grano de Oro a fine place to take guests for a nice dinner. During a recent business trip, I decided to stay for a night at this constantly improving establishment, whose only deficit is its rather seedy location on the east side of the country’s capital city. I hasten to add that security around the hotel itself is top-rate and so the neighborhood should not be considered a show-stopper.

An elegant new dining room and a set of new rooms has added to the Grano de Oro’s charm since I knew it as a dinner guest. The price was right and I was upgraded to a superb, beautifully appointed deluxe room.

This hotel and the Hotel Ave del Paraíso, across town, now become my two favorites for business travel to Costa Rica’s Central Plateau, especially when the alternatives are so often the familiar chains that are the rather colorless bread and butter of business travel in less exotic places.

Staff was friendly and attentive, the restaurant and room service fare were respectable, but the charm of the property itself is the real winner here.

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