Monday, February 17, 2014

Get Up & Go: Barking up the wrong tree

Get Up & Go: Barking up the wrong tree

Barking up the wrong tree


We welcome Get Up & Go's guest blogger Fiona Harper 
Like any self-respecting holiday romance, mutual attraction was instantaneous. Impulsive. Indulgent. But ultimately and regrettably, inappropriate. Fore-warned of his far-reaching reputation for being a lady’s man, I was smitten the moment I spotted him across the hotel lobby.
Swishing through the gilded revolving doors of Quebec City’s famously elegant Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac hotel, his presence dominated as he stood regal, discretely monitoring the domain he ruled with charm and grace. Swooning like a teenager on a first date, he had me with his nonchalant good looks. Lustrous black locks succumbed to soft ash at the ears, dark eyebrows floating above a chiselled nose. Padding forward to greet elegantly attired guests emerging from limousines, as liveried bellhops discretely whisked away luggage, his chocolate doe eyes crinkled with warmth.Asking around, I discovered Santol was highly respected working with the disabled before a career change instigated his arrival at Le Chateau. Not only was he drop dead gorgeous, his soul was pure, his heart was kind. Posing for a photograph with my girlfriend, her arm casually draped across his broad shoulders, he appeared charmed by our Aussie accents.

Rock stars, rascals and royalty grace the lobby of Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac but curious travellers are also welcome.

Eyes only for each other . .  .
Initial conversations were flawed and fleeting, snatched between his work commitments, frustrated by foreign tongues, sign language the only communication that made any sense. Worlds apart yet with eyes only for each other our bond blossomed.
It was never going to work. He lived in French speaking Quebec, I lived in Australia. He was accustomed to snow-caked frigid winters. I was a girl from the tropics. A bone of contention, he was married to his job. His guests would always come first, the ladies in particular competing for his attention. Just as I had. Our love was destined to be thwarted. Yet the attraction was undeniable.

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac dominates the historic walled city of Quebec.

Inevitably my return to Australia was imminent. Departing the historic castle fit for a princess, whose carpets had softened the footfalls of royalty, rascals and rock stars, my feet trod heavily. Stepping over the shattered shards of my broken heart, I wore melancholy like a cloak draped across snow-chilled shoulders.
At his station by the concierge desk I paused, my fingers lightly brushing the hair from his eyes. Fighting back tears I wrapped my arms around him, savouring his just-bathed citrus smell. Our noses brushed, his tongue extended, slathering my cheek with a parting kiss. His tail thumping the carpet, he extended his forepaw into my hand, formalising our final separation.
I’m not ashamed to admit I later stalked Santol on Facebook. He’s yet to accept my friend request.

Sculpture outside L’Hotel Montreal promises LOVE.

Santol was trained as a guide dog by the Mira Foundation before a career change took him to Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac to become Canada’s first canine employee.

More information
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
Mira Foundation
Fiona Harper is a freelance travel writer. Follow her blog at

Sunday, February 9, 2014

SIX ways to rediscover Hong Kong

Old town, new times
What do you want from Hong Kong? Adventure, luxury, authenticity, culture, tradition, ancient or modern history, food, fashion, fads? Whatever it is you are searching for in this amazing place, you’ll find it – and more.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s great destinations, it’s paid its dues over the decades of tourism activity and continues to come up with the goods when it has to show its hand. It accepts change effortlessly, evolves and is a world leader in presenting exciting activities and attractions for the new visitor and the repeat traveller.
Whether you hold out for some of the old places or hanker for what’s new on the block, your days will be filled with rich and colourful experiences. There are many little experiences to be had in Hong Kong that don’t come with a fanfare – discover for yourself.

1. Start your day off with: One of the Cultural Kaleidoscope Programs; Mr William Ng and Ms Pandora Wu are two Tai Chi masters and are your teachers for an early morning practice in the Sculpture Court, in front of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
You never know who will turn up to join you in keeping mind, body and soul fit. Boats cruise by in the harbour, joggers whizz past and early morning walkers stop to watch.
(From 8am - 9am, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.)


2. Head out for a spot of shopping: After Tai Chi, catch the double-decker red bus to Stanley Markets. Enjoy a fast ride around the winding roads, then – go shopping. There is an array of remarkably good quality products here and I defy you to come away with a beautiful (and inexpensive) cashmere wrap or sweater; a handbag; shoes; traditional linen, jewellery or silk jacket.
Time to view Murray House at Stanley overlooking the sea. This establishment is pretty interesting as it is a 160-year-old restored three-storey colonial building that was dismantled in the early 1980s from its original site in Central and transported and put together again here in Stanley.
GOD (Goods Of Distinction shop - fab stuff at Stanley, much of  the product made from recycled materials.

3. Hungry for lunch: The Boathouse is a pretty cute place for lunch – on three levels with a nautical theme, the unpretentious restaurant overlooks the sea at Stanley. It serves European food (only so so - not as brilliant as local food), and is OK for a change of culinary pace and the location is fab.

4. Walk off lunch: Downtown to Wan chai, a refurbished area, one of my favourites in Hong Kong. Wan chai was a quiet sandy bay 150 years ago on the northern shoreline of Hong Kong. It was a fishing village with the local temple, Hung Sing Temple – now surrounded and almost swallowed up by residential buildings. Over the years Wan Chai grew to become a prosperous transportation hub.
Almost 160,000 folk live here today and up to 600,000 flock daily to the district to work and shop.
It’s a wonderful place to walk around – many of the old buildings are here, nudged on either side by a shiny new construction. Walk through Star Street or the hip and happening shops and cafes.
 Search for the Hung Sing temple and the famous Blue House, almost derelict but there’s a breath of life still hanging on. The Blue House was built in the 1920s and is Lingnan-style (with Chinese and Western architectural features). The distinctive blue colour has no deliberate aesthetic quality – the decorators at the time only had blue paint, so the blue house it became. There are still a few residents in the building, they are pretty hardy as there is a distinct lack of modern amenities – such as flush toilets.


5. And for a happy hour drink: The Pawn is a three storey building that was a pawn shop in colonial times. The atmosphere here now is clubby, with bars and restaurant to while away the evening. In a semi historic setting, The Pawn is owned by The Press Club Room company. This modern offering in an old building is fun and the building is one of the few token old building left standing in this neighbourhood.
6. Dinner at last: Have a stunning Cantonese meal with a selection of classics at Chungs Cuisine. The restaurant is set in a modern skyscraper (Number 10/F Times Square, Causeway Bay).

Just another day in Kong Kong and home to The Hong Kong Peninsula – what could be more perfect?
Visit the Hong Kong Island Visitor Centre, the Peak Piazza (between The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria), 9am-9pm daily. Kowloon Visitor Centre, Star Ferry Concourse, Tsim Sha Tsui, 8am-8pm daily.
Also check out the App Store for ‘Heritage Walks Hong Kong

Travel tip: Buy a Museum Pass. Hong Kong has many museums; history, heritage, art, and political figures. For just $HK30 it allows you unlimited admission for one week to seven museums.






The Blue House is