Huge revamp of transport in Sydney

Trains have started testing on Australia’s biggest public transport project – a massive modernisation and improvement of Sydney’s metro system.

New-generation trains – based on the international metropolis system used in 25 cities, including  Barcelona, Amsterdam and Singapore – are set to revolutionise Sydney travel from 2019.

They are being tested on the new SydneyMetro North-west rail system, which includes eight  new railway stations and 4,000 commuter car parking spaces in the city’s growing north-western area.

The new rail link, includes elevated  stations;  Australia’s biggest railway tunnels and the ‘Skytrain’ (pictured) between Bella Vista and Rouse Hill.

Skytrain

Skytrain takes Sydney Metro Northwest above ground for four kilometres

The skytrain is at a height of between 10 metres and 13 metres above ground level and is supported with 130 concrete piers, spaced approximately 39 metres apart.

The two new railway stations on the skytrain, Kellyville and Rouse Hill, are elevated and the platforms are above ground.

A landmark 270-metre long cable-stayed railway bridge over Windsor Road at Rouse Hill also forms part of the skytrain. This is similar in design to Sydney’s Anzac Bridge.

Timetable-free

When it opens, the new system promises a train every four minutes in peak hours and will be ‘timetable-free’: users will just turn up and catch a train.

A second stage of the project will include a revamped rail system through Central Sydney and on to the city’s south-west.

Accessibility

Sydney’s new-generation metro trains will make customer journeys easy – with an emphasis on accessibility for people of all ages.

Features include level access with platforms to multi-purpose areas for prams, luggage and bicycles and real time travel information.

Drivers not forgotten

Sydney’s transport facelift is not restricted to the new rail systems.

At the same time, a new tunnel system known as NorthConnex is changing the face of road travel  by sweeping traffic through a nine-kilometre tunnel in Sydney’s north – linking the existing M1 and M2 motorways.

Central Sydney is also getting a 12-kilometre light rail system, with 19 new Stops through the city.

This system, for which testing is also underway will complement the current Inner-West Light  Rail, which already carries 9.7 million people a year.

 

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Scoot prepares for growth boom

Our favourite airline, Scoot, is gearing-up for double-digit growth over the next three years.

And, in preparation, the Singapore Airlines offshoot is set to move into Terminal 1 at Singapore’s Changi Airport to provide an improved check-in and boarding process.

Changi has been working to expand T 1’s passenger handling  capacility as part of wider improvements at the airport.

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Scoot says the terminal upgrades will be able to handle Scoot’s  projected growth while improving check-in facilities in a more spacious terminal.

The upgrades include expanded baggage facilities and are expected to be completed in 2019.

A new “meeters and greeters” hall has been in use since April 2018 and the Changi T 1 departure hall now has a zone where passengers can check in and drop off their bags at self-service machines.

Scoot chief executive, Lee Lik Hsin, said the move to T1 would help the airline continue serving its growing customer base, and meet their needs for a fast and fuss-free pre-flight experience,’’

“We are working hard to achieve a seamless transition for our customers, employees and service partners, and we look forward to welcoming everyone to our new home in T1 next year.”

China Airlines Flyaway PhotosJessica Oliver
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Changi Airport said it periodically reviewed the allocation of airlines across all terminals to provide sufficient capacity for future traffic growth.

Scoot has carried 60  million guests and operates a fleet of 18 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 27 Airbus A320 aircraft.

The airline’s network now covers 66 destinations in 18 countries and territories.  

Scoot has two Boeing 787s and 38 Airbus A320neo aircraft on order.

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Visit the land above the clouds

If you’re looking for an extraordinary experience on a trip to Europe, make your way to the shores of the pristine Wolfgangsee lake, in the Austrian Alps.

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Overshadowing the picture-postcard alpine town of Sant Wolfgang am Wolfgangsee is Schafberg Mountain, a towering peak in the Salzkammergut Range.

Schafberg Mountain is rather special because, since 1893, it has been the site of one of the steepest steam-powered cog-railways anywhere in Europe.

Schafbergbahn railway carries visitors to the summit of the mountain 1,783 metres above the surrounding countryside. 

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This is truly one of the world’s great travel experiences: memories of which will live with you forever.

The railway winds out of the quaint village; passes through the treeline; disappears into the clouds; and emerges in the snow zone.  

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Once at the summit, it feels like you are on the top of the world.

Visitors are greeted by incomparable 360 degree views across the majesty of the Alps and their many glacial lakes. 

If you want to soak up more of the views and watch the sun set between rugged mountain peaks, the summit boasts a hotel called Schafbergspitze – commonly known as the ‘hotel in the clouds’ – which has operated through the summer months since 1862.

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Here you can sip wine and watch one of nature’s most stunning shows – the sun setting through the alpine mountain peaks.

Rays of golden light bounce from one snow-capped Alp to another, glinting off the lakes far below and highlighting the birds gliding well down the slopes.

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Hotel  Schafbergspitz boasts a a bar perched high on an adjoining mountaintop and, at the very peak of the area, a wooden cross stands as a reminder of the dangers of venturing too close to the edge.

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Schafberg Mountain with its steam train and hotel is located at Wolfgangsee lake in the Austrian Alps. It is about an hour’s drive from the city of Salzberg.

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There is also ample accommodation in Sant Wolfgang am Wolfgangsee or you can do as we did: stay in another of the small nearby villages, to truly experience Austrian alpine culture and communities.

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Regardless of how you do it, the Schafberg Mountain is an experience of a lifetime that you will never forget or regret.

Schafberg Mountain

Western Australian Vines Resort spa is acclaimed

A leading resort in Western Australia has won international acclaim for the quality of its spa treatment.

Novotel Vines Resort, in the Swan Valley, was among the winners at the 2018 World Luxury Spa and Restaurant Awards, held in Northern Ireland.

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Keishi Spa at the Vines Resort was named the global winner in the prestigious categories of best luxury boutique spa and the best luxury golf resort spa.

It was also recognised as the Best Luxury Beauty Spa in Australia and Oceania.

The awards celebrate exceptional service  in the luxury wellness and fine dining industries.

World Luxury Spa and Restaurant Awards are considered the pinnacle of accomplishment and are a benchmark for luxury hotels and spas across the globe.

This year, more than 140 countries competed in 100 categories, with entrants ranging from safari lodges to health retreats.

At Keishi Spa, guests are treated with luxury Babor Skin Care and Aromatherapy Associates in a secluded sanctuary at the Vines Resort, which is about 35 minutes from the Western Australian capital of Perth

The spa, which is popular with resort guests, features a couple massage room, dual Vichy showers and a hairdresser.

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The spa is situated in a secluded sanctuary under towering trees, between the resort’s golf grfeens and swimming pool.

Spa owner and manager, Everlyn Zaccagnini, said it was particularly pleasing to take out the global awards in sections where Keishi Spa had won its continental honours last year.

This, she said, was “a huge elevation in status and reason for us to be immensely proud.

“It is testament to the hard work of all our staff and we are honoured to win such accolades.”

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Six favourite destinations

People often ask about our favourite travel destinations.

And although such things are extremely subjective, we don’t hesitate to nominate our six favourite destinations. Here’s a summary:

  1.   Italy

From the glorious lakes of Lombardy; to the north-eastern romance of Venice; the splendour of Tuscany and Florence; the majesty of Rome; the excitement of Naples; and the beauty of the Amalfi, Capri and the Italian riveriera, we simply cannot go past Italy. For us, it’s a no-brainer.

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And our favourite of this wonderland: the largely unspoilt Lattari Mountain villages of Tramonti.

See our report on one particular village

2.      Austrian and Bavarian Alps

For sheer scenic beauty, these areas cannot be beaten. The memories will never leave you.

Again, our favourite location: Schafberg mountain, in the Austrian state of Salzburg.

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Situated within the Salzkammergut Mountains of the Northern Limestone Alps, the Schafberg rises above pristine and magnificent Wolfgangsee Lake.

3.      United Kingdom

Our love of cultural experiences in small village communities, makes the UK a special destination for us. 

We’ve spend time at the villages of Denham, in the county of Buckinghamshire; at Ayot St Lawrence in Hertfordshire; at Kings Cliffe in Northhamptonshire; and at Painswick in Gloucestershire.

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As well as these village experiences, we are particularly fond of the Gower area of southern Wales; Dorset and the city of Bath in Somerset.

And, of course, London never leaves your soul.

See why we keep returning to the Capital of capitals.

4.      Catalonia

Sit in a tavern or coffee shop in a mountain village and watch the Mediterranean shimmer on some of the world’s finest beaches.

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Body clocks are wound a little slower in this lovely part of Spain, where culture, food and wine are the foundations of a wonderful lifestyle.

See our report of a village stay in Catalonia.

5.      Greece

Wander across the hillsides of Crete; watch the famous sunsets at Santorini; stand beneath the Acropolis; or explore ancient Delphi at Mount Parnassus – and you will never be the same again.

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And, did we mention the food?

6.      Slovenia

This tiny Central European country has a lot going for it: from the medieval charm of Ljubljana, to the Adriatic coast at Piran and stunning Lake Bled – surely one of the most beautiful places on earth.

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You must see Mt Parnassus: a true wonder of the world

Mount Parnassus, a limestone spur in central Greece, north of the Gulf of Corinth, is one of the world’s most significant sites – and a ‘must-see’ for travellers interested in culture and history.

Towering above the ancient sanctuary of Delphi, the mountain plays a big role in Greek mythology.

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In addition to being sacred to the god Apollo, who often visited the nearby Oracle at Delphi, the mountain was thought to be the residence of the Muses and, as a result, the home of poetry and song. 

Even the name Parnassus, effectively means the mountain of the house of the God.

Over the centuries, Mount Parnassus has influenced many poets, writers and singers. For this reason, the name of the mountain (Mont Parnasse) was given to a quarter of Paris, France on the left bank of the Seine, where artists and poets used to gather and recite their poems in public.

Ruins of the ancient city of Delphi, which are visited by huge numbers of people each year, nestle into the south-western slope of the mountain – overlooking the coastal plain. 

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The phenomenal influence of this area in the ancient world – the Greeks called Delphi the centre of the world – resulted in its classification as a World Heritage Site.

Although Delphi is mostly known as the home of the Oracle, the city itself had much to offer. 

Every four years, the Pythian Games were held there and the ancient city also had an amphitheater, gymnasium, and other sanctuaries dedicated to gods and goddesses such as Artemis, Dionysus, and Poseidon.

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Mount Parnassus and Delphi are a comfortable day trip from Athens.

We travelled to the Greek capital courtesy of Scoot, which flies modern Boeing Dreamliners to and from Asia and Australia.

Greece travel

Interesting tool for finding well-priced flights

We’ve been hearing a lot about the AirWander website for finding well-priced international airfares.

This site is for travellers who want to include stopovers in international flights.

Stopovers tend to be particularly attractive to people who are not necessarily on a tight schedule.

The principle is simple: you take a round-trip itinerary and split it into multiple bookings with multiple tickets.

And then you add a stopover, which is a break of more than 24 hours between your origin and your destination.

This allows you to visit two or more locations on your journey at a cost that can be similar to the original point-to-point round-trip.

We’ve heard of travellers adding a stopover and saving money, although Australia’s isolation makes us sceptical.

Type a proposed destination into AirWander and it offers possible stopover locations and fares. Then fiddle with cities and dates in a bid to get the lowest fare.

When doing your sums, costs such as accommodation at the stopover site obviously need to be taken into account.

AirWander then refers you to third-party booking websites, in the same way as sites like Skyscanner and Momondo.

And, of course, there is always some connection risks – such as flight delays and missing luggage – with buying separate tickets from separate airlines.

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