THE LES GUIDE
Australian journalist and author, Les Thompson, provides free travel guides & journalistic reviews for selected destinations.
NEW 2017 SERIES – Favourite Places
Another favourite destination – SALZBURG, Austria:
WESTHEAD LOOKOUT – Sydney. Australia
The main attraction is a panoramic view overlooking Broken Bay, Pittwater and Sydney’s Northern Peninsula.
Sydney, being my hometown, contains several of my favourite places. However, this is the place where, over several decades, I have taken international visitors for a glimpse of the Australian bush and a spectacular view of Sydney’s northern beaches and waterways.
The lookout is located at the end of a sealed road that passes many National Park walking trails where parents take their families to be enthralled by the natural wonders of the Aussie bushland. I once did the same thing, making several visits with my young children to give them a sense of life beyond the bustling city, which, in reality, is only about an hour’s drive away!
If you’re fit enough you can even descend through the thick scrub to a scenic Pittwater beach called The Basin. It’s a fair hike, so be prepared. But above all that a leisurely drive to the lookout at the end of West Head Road will have you smiling in wonder at how lucky Sydney is to have such a magnificent viewing platform, as you gaze past the lion-shaped island crouched at the Broken Bay opening to the Pacific Ocean. It’s as if the lion is guarding the mouth of the Hawkesbury river that flows inland from its tail. Northwards is the bountiful Central Coast and more beaches such as Pearl Beach, Umina and Ettalong, alongside Brisbane Water.
After parking your vehicle thoughtfully wherever the car queue ends, it’s important to also be aware of other cars just arriving as drivers look for a spare space.
Then it’s just a short walk to the path leading to the lookout where your eyes will likely be met by all kinds of sailing craft gliding into Pittwater below. Across this broad body of water you can even pick out the dirt fire trail winding its way up towards the historic Barrenjoey lighthouse and the thin slither of shrub-covered sand dunes linking the Barrenjoey headland with the city’s most Northern beach, Palm Beach.
Be well prepared if you intend to walk the trails in the national park. No pets are allowed and there is a vehicle entry fee.
The park is closed during high fire danger periods and is open only from sunrise to sunset.
The NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service is responsible for the upkeep and management of the park. For the best times to visit, directions to West Head Road and any other advice, you will find all that you need to know on this website:
MUNICH, The Capital of Bavaria, Germany
TIP: I always stay just outside of Munich at UNTER HACHING, a pretty, green outer suburb – a short train ride south of the city. If you want to avoid the city traffic congestion and parking fees, accommodation close to the train station allows you to take a short journey to Marienplatz on the S3 link. Avoid morning & evening peaks for the most comfortable ride. Fare concessions for seniors are available.
Across Central Europe, the celebrations of ADVENT herald the arrival of CHRISTMAS. Traditionally the four Sundays mark this joyful period and in many cities and small towns the period is celebrated with colourful stalls, a Christmas Tree being lit and a special concert. This video is a snippet from the 1st Sunday of Advent concert in a small Moravian town in the Czech Republic. It includes local schoolchildren singing my favourite traditional Czech carol, Půjdem spolu do Betléma (Let’s go to Bethlehem together).
Mountain holiday location in the Czech Republic:
A pleasant PENZION getaway in Moravia’s scenic Beskydy Mountains is the SILVERADO RANCH!
This is a penzion, not a hotel, and it provides exactly what a penzion should provide……an authentic home-stay style of accommodation. Just like a family home some rooms are large, while some are small. Book what you need. Marek & Iva operate this U.S. western-themed penzion, with friendly, efficient service along with an appealing rustic atmosphere. It also prides itself as a steak-house and a pizza place.
Across the road is a hospoda (pub) if you’re seeking an alternative pivo (beer) choice.
A pleasant and adequate breakfast is included in your booking and guests with children will find a convenient playground, including swings and a trampoline, for them to enjoy.
From his business training in the U.S., Marek takes care of the business, but still takes time out to mix with the guests. Iva was born to be in hospitality! Nothing is too much trouble for her if it enhances the travel experience of her guests. She’s a travel industry gem. The location is perfect for travellers wanting to explore the scenic surrounding countryside.
There are two ways to get to this penzion by road, but due to the absence of signposts it is probably best to drive to the Horní Bečva Reservoir and turn off highway E442/35 near the southern end of the reservoir where the Hotel Duo sign is displayed and follow the Google map below across a small bridge up past turnoffs to Hotel Cherry and Hotel Duo. Continue straight ahead on the same road upwards for less than half-a-kilometre and you will find Penzion Silverado Ranch on the left-hand side.
Map data ©2015 Google
As usual, I recommend booking.com to find more information and if you wish to book on-line.
Or you can ‘phone the Silverado Penzion on +420 608 056 567 to check on availability.
AUSTRALIA: The Joy & Pain of rail travel between Australian Capital cities:
SYDNEY to BRISBANE by Rail
I love the Australian bush and my adventurous friend, Mario, had often spoken about taking a train journey, watching the country towns on the vast Australian landscape flash by as we relaxed in our seats, with a buffet car ready to serve food and refreshments as we rolled along to our destination.
We had already taken short country journeys by rail and enjoyed them. So it was time to test the benefit of the Senior concessions which allow older Australians to travel for a fraction of the cost of air travel between capital cities. We didn’t find the idea of just upgrading to First Class too daunting and thought it was probably good enough for restful napping through the night once we got closer to the Queensland border. DON’T DO IT!
Before dusk, the coastal scenery met our expectations and the dinner service was good as train staff took our orders and a short time later we collected our fresh chicken & vegetable dinners which were as good as any served on any respectable airline. But First Class proved to be not very different from Economy. The complaint is that the same noisy passengers ignoring others trying to sleep after the lights went off were to be found also in First Class and the very similar seats would make it impossible to doze off in even the quietest carriage. It’s a LONG journey….If you are determined to do it, pay the extra for a sleeper…..you’ll arrive a lot fresher.
BRISBANE’s EARLY MORNING RUSH
The overnight rail journey from Sydney to Brisbane’s Roma Street station had taken 15 hours in cramped seats, which even though they were located in First Class, had made it impossible to sleep. So knowing it would still be at least 2 hours before we could take our country link to the Hinterland, it was time to take a glimpse of Brisbane people waking up and rushing to work.
Once we had waited a few hours in Brisbane, we could take our country train to Cooroy in the Noosa Hinterland where we would ride by car to the coast…and that trip took us past the Majestic GlassHouse Mountains.
But once you get across to the beautiful Sunshine Coast…..Holiday or visiting with friends in Noosa, one of the Sunshine Coast’s best-known travel destinations provides many options for sunny activities and different styles of accommodation. I prefer quieter, affordable holidays so I booked into the Australis lakeside villas site, within walking distance of a modern marina and the historic township of Tewantin. This choice gave me the opportunity to meet the locals and saved me from jostling with the crowds in the fashionable Hastings Street in Noosa – jostling is something I can do anytime back in the streets of my hometown, Sydney. That’s not said to criticise the other tourist options of hotels, apartments and resorts that I have enjoyed on many earlier visits. It’s just nice to get out and enjoy the tranquility of several spots along the Noosa River before they disappear. To travel to Noosa Beach, it’s only a short road trip or a leisurely and entertaining ride by ferry.
SUMMER IN SOUTH BOHEMIA
For many years I have sung the praises of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic’s incredibly scenic South Bohemia (jihočeský kraj), close to the border with Austria and settled as a medieval time-warp wonder below the Šumava mountains. But away from Krumlov itself, there are many summer resorts that offer some wonderful holiday experiences. In an historic place called Zlatá Koruna there are summer attractions such as the camp (Kemp) with varying scales of family accommodation types, a wonderful summertime only restaurant high on the town’s village terrace, as well as the Cistercian Monastery dating from the 13th century, but like the monastery Church, rebuilt after two major fires. There are apartments & hotels on offer if the campsite bungalows don’t suit. Take a look on Booking.com.
MOUNTAIN JOURNEY – driving through the scenic Velke Fatra & Beskdy mountains of Central Europe.
This segment was filmed on Sony Action Cam and edited on Wondershare Filmora Video Editor.
‘Wait It Out’ – Phantom Sun
Traditional Folk Music:
‘ V Zarazicách krajní dům’ – In Extreme Zarazicách House
‘Tece Voda Tece’ – Water Flows
‘Lásko, bože lásko’ – Love, God, Love
This segment was filmed on Sony Action Cam and edited on Wondershare Filmora Video Editor.
If you are arriving by car the access is easy; but you will need to factor in a small daily parking cost.
Plus don’t think that the hotel is located at Sliac, it isn’t. It’s on the other side of the Motorway alongside the village of Sielnica.
Fortunately,the hotel now provides a map and contact page: http://www.hotelkaskady.sk/en/46-map-contact
Because I’m a firm, but independent, supporter of this hotel, I suggest that you can find out more details with other reviews at Booking.com.
Or contact the front desk at Hotel Kaskady – yes, they speak English.
All staff are friendly, but some have limited English. Included breakfast is a standard buffet breakfast. In the past few years, the selection of Breakfast items has narrowed somewhat, but it’s equal to most good hotel buffets.
There are changes to restaurant opening times in different seasons. So if you prefer à la carte, in summer you might need to dine at the Kolibah. They narrow your choices for à la carte dining by urging you to eat by 6pm on their summer grill. Don’t blame the staff…Management policy.
Also, a few years ago a weird decision was made to install a revolving front door to this hotel. Don’t try to get your luggage through it. On the right side of the revolving people trap there is a normal door and if you press the button the reception people will open it immediately.
Having said all that...the standard of all facilities and accommodation at this hotel are very high. Plus the Slovak manners of all the staff that I have encountered are exemplary.
Below is a video guide to several WINTER HIGHLIGHTS to be discovered in the colder months on the Island of Majorca:
AROUND PALMA 8.5mins:
HISTORY OF PALMA 12.5mins:
FOOD, FESTIVALS & FAITH 10.5mins
MAJORCAN HOTELS & RESTAURANTS: It’s always about what you are prepared to spend, but in places such as Majorca you need to research security issues if you are travelling to summer resorts around Magaluf. If you are going there in winter, it can be windy at times and there are only a few wintertime restaurants open, although I would certainly recommend the Florida family restaurant across the road from the Son Matias beachfront. Good food and friendly service.
Food in Palma: For affordable Spanish cuisine and wine and a great atmosphere a little removed from the tourist path, I would happily recommend Meson Don Caracol close to Plaça d’Espanya at Avenida Conde De Sallent, 6. Weekends can be very busy at this restaurant.
HOTELS: For a wonderful view of Palma’s harbour and the plethora of seacraft moored there, there are several hotel choices along Paseo Marítimo. I would have recommended Hotel Mirador but they need to change their erratic policies. Although they had advertised free Wi Fi for their guests, without notice on the 2nd day of our stay they changed their policy which meant they cut off the Wi Fi and when phoning reception, they explained that guests had to go down to reception and get a new code for a 2-hour Wi Fi period each time they needed to use it. As a result of receiving no notice of this change, an email from my relatives in Australia to inform me that my sister had died, was late in reaching me.
The AUDIO Les Guides can be downloaded on to your smart phone or computer if you are soon to travel to the destination being described and then may be used while you stroll through that city.
The Les Guide AUDIO CLIP: CLICK on left side of audio panel to start; adjust volume on the right side. DOWNLOAD guide with a right click and using the ‘SAVE” option.
PRAGUE HOTELS: It’s all about what you are prepared to spend, as the Czech Capital hotels now have prices to equal that of other major European cities.
However, for a very pleasant boutique hotel experience right on Wenceslas Square, the main tourist boulevard with direct access to the Old Market Square, you’ll find that the 4-star Hotel Adria is ideal. Competitive prices for such a central location and professional service under the direction of the Manager, Roman Talman. Phone: +420.221 081 291. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are arriving by taxi the access is easy; if by car you will need to factor in parking costs at a nearby site, as the area is restricted for entry & for parking. Check with the hotel first.
If you want to escape the busy tourist paths, there is a family-run, small 4-star boutique hotel – Hotel 16 – which has great charm & very competitive prices plus friendly, professional service under the direction of its manager, Michael +420 224 920 636 Email: email@example.com
Access to the tourist areas is easily reached by tram or by the metro. system – it’s a 10 minute walk to the Karlovo náměstí (Charles Square) metro. station and then a 2 station-train ride to the Můstek station next to Wenceslas Square.
Alternatively, I walked to Wenceslas Square from Hotel 16 within just 15 minutes.
If you are arriving by taxi the access is easy; if by car, check with the hotel regarding parking.
Who is Les Thompson?
In brief, I’m an Australian journalist, broadcaster, travel lecturer, author and travel group leader.
The full story is told in my book about broadcasting, Hello Ego!. My career in radio, television & print spanned the years between 1965 and 2000.
Ebook for USD 9.99!
HELLO EGO! by Les Thompson
All Rights Reserved
What the Sydney Morning Herald said about the first edition of this book:
More information on the 2013 UPDATED eBook edition at the special price USD9.99 is now available from AMAZON.COM
This book delves deeply into the world of broadcasting and the many egos that fuel its engine room. Les Thompson tells of his personal journey through radio and television in Australia & New Zealand with no-holds-barred impressions of the media. The author, who handled journalistic investigations and who for 5 years hosted Sydney’s highest-rating, ‘reality radio’ program called Night Watch, chronicles the societal changes that he witnessed, as well as their effects on his own family, as he carved out a successful career in broadcasting and journalism. He describes the people with whom he worked, including megastars, managers and the people behind the broadcasters. This is a roller coaster ride through a ratings-driven industry; a career that can breed personal wealth, along with grave insecurity, satisfying accomplishments, and inflated egos for performers and managers alike. This is the updated and expanded version which includes photos and fresh appraisals of his 35 years in mainstream media.
ECHOES OF 2UE NIGHTWATCH!
I hosted the 2UE ‘Nightwatch’ program for 5 years (1971-1976)—the longest period of any reporter who covered Sydney each Saturday night. My determination to add news investigations and human interest stories to the program’s mainstay of police rounds coverage paid off with record audience numbers of 255,000 for a program reaching just one market. It was the peak of the program’s ratings results.
On the NightWatch rounds 1970s.
Nightwatch Investigation into Sydney’s Illegal Casinos
Excerpt from my book, ‘Hello Ego”:
I really have Nightwatch to thank most for my journey into journalistic probes. It was as early as March 1973 that the thought came to me that someone needed to expose the blatant lies of both the Premier, Bob Askin, and the Police Commissioner, Norm Allen. Both were insisting that illegal gambling dens in Sydney did not exist.
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