Tag Archives: hotels

Singapore, more than a stopover

According to the statistics, most travellers jet into Singapore, stay two days and then jet out again. It’s easy to understand why nobody would want to pass this lovely island by. It’s also easy to understand how, given its size, anyone might imagine that they could whiz through everything it has to offer in a couple of days. However, there’s so much to Singapore, that to really see it, feel it, breathe it, taste it and drink it all in takes time and a leisurely pace. This is a place that merits much more than a lightning tour and a quick look on a two day stopover.

 

The Fullerton Hotel and some modern giants
The Fullerton Hotel and some modern giants

To begin with, if you’re lucky enough to be staying in one of Singapore’s sumptuous multi-starred hotels you’ll need to set aside a sizeable chunk of time to fully enjoy its countless luxuries. There are constellations of these stately pleasure domes all over town, from the dress-circle down on the waterfront, the river and the quays to the gallery up on Tanglin Road. They range from massive, compact modern plinths, like the Pan Pacific on Marina Bay, through grand, rambling colonial mansions, like Raffles, near the old city centre to the traditional Singapore shophouse/concrete, steel and glass tower blend of the Intercontinental overlooking the colourful Bugis Street Bazaar.

Offering multiple, international, Michelin star-studded restaurants, heavenly spas, serious but sans-smell-of-sweat gyms, palm-fringed pools, state of the art technology, exquisite fusion décor where gorgeously ornate east meets elegantly understated west, beds like fat fluffy cloud banks, cool, rarified air, exclusive in-house shopping (Raffles) or skywalks (Pan Pacific) or foyers (Intercontinental) linking to fabulous malls and last but not least service which thoughtfully anticipates and graciously panders to every possible whim, they could keep any hedonist content and confined for weeks.

Enjoy, but beware, don’t let your hotel swallow your whole holiday, there’s so much more outside.

 

Lost in Translation

It was late one evening, in a certain starless Paris hotel. Danny, aged 11, was studying the nightlife below the window, Kat, 15, was confiding in her diary and I was wrestling with 8 year-old Babe’s wet, tangled hair.

The Eiffel Tower from Trocadero
The Eiffel Tower from Trocadero

Suddenly there was a shout from the corridor “Feu! Sortez ! Gardez le sang froid!

“Fire! Go out! Keep the blood cold!” Someone translated helpfully through our keyhole.

“What blood?” asked the baffled kids.

“Later! Quick! Out!” I snapped as a siren began to scream.

Muffled foreign music, snatches of unfamiliar language and occasional wafts of exotic cuisine had so far been the only sign of our fellow guests. But here they were now, surging down the corridor like a tsunami. They closed around the kids and swept them away.

“Gardez le sang froid” I called as I shouldered my way downstream after them.

At the stairwell the crowd slowed, stopped, then swirled impatiently on the spot. A crutch appeared above the sea of heads.

“Prenez l’ascenseur. Take the lift” shouted someone.

“No!” I bellowed ”Dangéreux!”

But my voice was drowned out by the howls of protest that accompanied the crutch towards the lift. There was a clang and a whirr. The crutch vanished and the howls grew distant. People poured down the stairs. I hurried along in their wake.

With a groan like a dying beast, the lift ground to a halt. Now it hung frozen between floors. Within, a stranded soul in striped PJs slumped dejectedly on his crutches.

“Gardez le sang froid” I whispered as his eyes met mine in hopeless silence.

Below, two camps had formed. Outside, on the boulevard, Kat, Danny and the men stood at attention, their arms raised in salute at some presence off stage. The ladies and kids had lined up around the lobby. There, half-hidden under a burkha, her head turbaned in a souvenir tea towel from Antibes, was Babe.

Given that a fireball could roll down the stairs at any time and that someone was trapped in its path, the mood was convivial. People were passing round biscuits and dates. (I couldn’t help but marvel at the sort of sang froid that could consider refreshments at such a time!) But refreshments were soon eclipsed by a burst of applause from the boulevard.

“Napoleon!” yelled a youngster as a figure in a brass-studded tunic and helmet strode into view.

“Attention les pompiers! Attention the firemen”, he commanded.

Twenty pompiers filed by, dragging a fat hose. Up the stairs they marched. The hose snaked along behind. There was a hopeful cry from the elevator but the pompiers were impervious. Onward and upward they pounded. Doors slammed overhead. Suddenly the hose stopped. Time stood still. There was a long silence. Finally, heavy footsteps crossed the ceiling and clumped down the stairs. The pompiers re-appeared. They were a different detachment now. In ragged twos and threes, with their helmets under their arms, they straggled past.

“Alarm False” Napoleon grunted in passing

Out on the boulevard, the pompiers had stopped. Danny was trying on a helmet and Kat was giggling coquettishly.   I dashed to the rescue.

“Gardez le sang froid” called an impertinent pompier as I siezed the kids and marched them away.

Back in the lobby, the hose lay abandoned. The ladies, the refreshments and the Antibes tea towel were gone. Babe stood forlornly by the stairs, her hair had dried into dreadlocks.

There was a whirr and a whoop from on high and the lift sank slowly into sight. The door clanged open and out shot the prisoner. With two swift strokes of his crutches he swung through the doors and disappeared into the darkness.

“What was all that about the blood?” asked Babe as we headed upstairs.

“Gardez le sang froid, says keep the blood cold. It really means don’t panic” I explained at last “The blood gets lost in translation”

 

Play, stay, eat, drink or simply be in Wellington’s Oriental Bay

Because it’s sheltered, blessed with a beautiful beach, drop-dead gorgeous water views, countless things to do, not to mention fabulous places to stay, eat or simply be, Oriental Bay is one of the city’s great escapes.

Oriental Bay Beach
Oriental Bay Beach

First on the list of Oriental Bay’s attractions is, of course the beach. In summer, Wellingtonians are there in their thousands – swimming, sunbathing, lounging on the pontoon, or diving off it, belting balls over a net or at a wicket, strolling, running or cycling along the promenade and playing in the park. In any other season including winter they’re there too, doing the same things (except perhaps sunbathing) just in smaller numbers.

When the swimmers are not at Oriental Bay beach, you’ll find them powering up and down the lanes at the Fryberg Pool or pounding along the treadmills in its gym.

Just along from the Fryberg Pool, Oriental Bay’s  historic Port Nicholson Yacht Club, Wellington’s oldest, founded in 1902, brings salts old and young, out when the winds are fair. For those not lucky enough to get aboard, those little white sails out on the blue or those boats bobbing at their moorings in the Clyde Quay Marina is a fine sight. For aspiring yachtsmen, Port Nicolson Yacht Club also offers sailing lessons.

Of course, the seaside means ice-cream and down in Oriental Bay, you’re spoilt for choice. The world renowned Movenpick is here, along with taste of Italy at Gelissimo Gelateria. Kafee Eis, whose very name sounds deliciously cold, is famous not only for its gourmet gelati but also for its boutique coffee. At Beach Babylon, you’ll find the divine local Kapiti ice-cream which, if you’ve jetted in on Air NZ, you may have already met. Then, for a taste of old times, try the local dairy.

For dining, lunching or coffee, Oriental Bay has a wealth of restaurants and cafes. Just stroll along Oriental Parade and take your pick. Sea views are pretty much a given. However if you want to be right on the water and also steep yourself Oriental history, there are two great possibilities. Tied up, more or less alongside the Fryberg pool, is the old harbour tugboat Tapuhi II which is now dressed up and fitted out as the Tugboat on the Bay restaurant. While the menu offers a great range and the food is excellent, it’s ambience and the experience that are memorable here.  Housed in the old Band Rotunda and surrounded by the sea on three sides is the Bluewater Bar and Grill. The views here are amazing and at a window table on a cold, blustery winter’s night, you feel as if you’re at sea, (yet safe and warm behind the band rotunda’s solid concrete walls) Again, the experience does eclipse the cuisine somewhat. However, the fish was melt-in-the-mouth fresh and the salad bar offered a wide and colourful variety.

While there are several accommodation options in Oriental Bay, nothing compares, in my opinion to the unique boutique Ohtel. Tiny, arty and totally different, it occupies one of those iconic wooden Wellington villas that spill down the hills here.  The front bedrooms have views to die for with two man balconies overhanging Oriental Parade. The decor is pure kiwiana. The throws and bedcovers are in the traditional colours of Maori Art, red, black and white on grey army blankets. A feature photo on the wall shows waist-down shot of a piupiu (flax skirt) a pair of fabulous legs and an equally fabulous pair of red high heels. The ground floor lobby has a cosy fire, armchairs that invite you to curl up, a pile of magazines and window onto the parade and the sea.

Just to be in Oriental Bay, rain, wind or shine, is great for the soul. Sit on a bench or lean on the sea wall. Enjoy!

Oriental Bay is just short stroll from the city. It’s also en route from the airport!