Why Hawai’i is the new black


Desperately seeking a holiday dream

MeI love to travel and although I don’t usually go five-star, I enjoy it when I can. I love the adventure of the journey as much as the destination, and appreciate the great outdoors, arts, culture and a three foot margarita by a sparkling pool in equal measures. Impress me!

YouYou’re a glitzy, hot, palm-tree lined beach paradise, with malls filled with designer jewellers, and towering apartments and hotels as far as the eye can see. Your locals are friendly and chilled, and the fashion, food and mood swings from sheer class to dag-a-rama with a puff of the Pacific breeze. You’re a pearl earring one minute, and a shark tooth necklace the next.

Let’s hook up soon!

Waikiki from Diamond head Summit

Waikiki from Diamond head Summit

Expecting your dream to be the Gold Coast? Imagine your surprise when your plane touches down on Oahu. Strolling along the arrival gate, you hear the first strains of a gentle guitar floating on the breeze, accompanied by a barely discernible waft of Ilima flower. You’re greeted by a trio of young men in colourful shirts singing traditional island tunes, and instead of a stern looks and tough questions, customs give you a Lei and a smile.

So why is Hawaii ‘hot’ all of a sudden? The truth is, it’s always been the fun, laid back, and culturally interesting destination that travellers are discovering today, the difference is that visitors are now island-hopping in greater numbers, not content to just shop, laze by the pool or wander along Waikiki beach, which although enjoyable, houses a strip of brands and franchises offered by dozens of destinations across Australia, Asia and the Pacific. Meanwhile, the collective islands of Hawaii offer a diverse range of activities and landscapes, and are easily accessible via the local airline.

The Duke, Waikiki, Oahu

The Duke, Waikiki, Oahu

Here’s a quick run-down of the main sights and things to do on the four most visited islands.

Oahu

The first port of call for most visitors, and also the most populous island, boasting busy Honolulu and nearby Waikiki Beach. Highlights include the steep steps leading up the Diamond Head summit trail, Pearl Harbour Memorial, the fabulous beaches of the North Shore, or if you’d prefer to tread the same sand as Elvis and hand-feed tropical fish while strumming a ukulele, head to Hanuama Bay. If you need more than resorts, pools and beaches, there are solutions at both ends of the spectrum; shopping malls and outlet centres at one end, and hikes to waterfalls, tropical forests and the Dole Pineapple Plantation at the other. You’ll never picture pineapples hanging from a tree again.

Snack time at Haleiwa Bowls, North Shore, Oahu

Snack time at Haleiwa Bowls, North Shore, Oahu

Maui

Famous for its surf, Maui is perhaps the next best known island. Don’t think it’s all about thongs and straw hats though, this small island is both exclusive and expensive. In the words of George Clooney in the movie The Descendants; “In Hawaii, some of the most powerful people look like bums and stuntmen”, and this island personifies that vibe. If you can drag yourself away from the pool or beach, the dormant volcano of Haleakala is popular at sunrise, you can fossick around the historic town of Lahaina, or take in the ‘Road to Hana’ – one of the most scenic drives in the world. Iao Needle – a lush green shard-like mountain on the island’s west – is also picturesque and popular.

Akaka Falls, The Big Island

Akaka Falls, The Big Island

Kaua’i

“The Garden Island” is exactly that, a place rich in flora, canyons and valleys. Hike the spectacular Nā Pali Coast trail, peek over the edge of the majestic Waimea Canyon, or if you’re game, take one of the cliff trails to the crashing water and cool swimming holes of Waipoo Falls. If you’re feeling less adventurous, visit a coffee plantation, wander the beach at Hanalei Bay, or drink and mingle with the friendly locals at the famous Tahiti Nui bar. Kaua’i is the tropical island dreams are made of – and films! Yes, this is the location of Jurassic Park, and with that in mind as you drive one of the coastal routes alongside jutting hills, you might half expect to see a flock of pterodactyls overhead at any moment.

View from the Na Pali coast trail, Kaua'i

View from the Na Pali coast trail, Kaua’i

The Big Island (Hawai’i)

A wonderfully diverse island where the terrain ranges from surprisingly semi-arid desert in the south, to the lush tropics in the north – with plenty of plains of ‘frozen’ lava rock flowing in between! Throw in the twin peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa at over 13,000 feet each, and you have yet another island paradise with plenty to see and do. The Big Island, as it’s known, is just that, and although it might still look like a speck on the map, its area is greater than Oahu, Kaua’i, Maui and all the other islands combined. This presents the visitor with a challenge that is best met by… hiring a Jeep! Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is a rare opportunity to see a live volcano. You may not see flowing lava, but it’s still a moving experience as you take in the scene of sulphur dioxide gas rising above the crater, knowing that such an immense amount of power and energy is so close. The east coast of the island boasts some of the archipelago’s best beaches, and the north boasts the beautiful Kohalo and Hamakua coast drives – be sure to take the dip down to Laupahoehoe Point if you’re able.

Sunset over Hapuna Beach, The Big Island

Sunset over Hapuna Beach, The Big Island

The verdict… is it love at first sight?

So the news is, there’s more to Hawai’i than Waikiki, and with the help of cheaper airfares, Australians are intrigued and now exploring. The old travel advice of “pack… then take half as much luggage and twice as much money” holds true here as much as anywhere in the world – the US dollar is pretty much one-for-one on price-tag, and even value on most purchases, but the lower exchange rate hits home on the big ticket items – hotels with an ocean view, car hire, and restaurants, so take this into account.

Go, enjoy, and Mahalo for reading.

A hawaiian monk seal rests on Poipu beach, Kaua'i

A hawaiian monk seal rests on Poipu beach, Kaua’i

Who moved my adventure – has the internet ruined travel?

Like many Australians, my twenties were a time when I undertook a tour of duty as an overseas traveller, diligently exploring ‘the world and elsewhere’.

In an age before ‘glamping’ and ‘flash-packing’, this was a common rite of passage – thousands of us travelled either solo or in hastily assembled teams, descending en mass on the museums, cathedrals, and pubs of the ‘old’ world. Whether the time was spent kicking the dust along a gringo trail, or singing along to TV theme-songs with a bus load of hung-over antipodeans, we returned with a sense of fulfilment, satisfied in our new found wisdom and worldliness. I didn’t always know where I was going, what it would be like or what I would do when I got there, but I looked forward to unlocking the mystery, step by step, mile by mile, and meeting the challenges presented by less-than-honourable taxi drivers, cockroach infested bathrooms and dodgy curries head on.

Country Château or Parisian room with a view?

Country Château, or…

... or Parisian "room with a view"?

… a Parisian “room with a view”?

Recently, with these fond memories and my swiftly advancing years foremost in my mind, I was lucky enough to be able to return for another dose.

In preparation for this freshly named ‘mature aged gap year’, I pondered a common discussion point among frequent travellers: which is more fun, the planning or the doing? I find enjoyment in both, but in this age of the internet, between Airbnb, Tripadvisor and Google Streets, the element of surprise, the ‘go with flow’ spontaneous moments, and yes, the complete screw ups that we endured at the time but look back on with such fondness, are gone. There is now no need to fly with a tardy airline, eat at restaurants that rate poorly, or stay at a hotel with bedbugs. Every apartment, cafe and museum has been scrutinised, reviewed and rated to within 5 points of Pi, removing the element of doubt and anything potentially distasteful in the unknown.

Does the apartment have lightning fast Wi-Fi? How’s the hotel breakfast? Is that café the one with the Australian barista? No need to wonder, just read the reviews.

If, after all my online research I’m still not sure if the place is in a dodgy part of town, opposite a bus depot, or undergoing construction, I can just check Google streets. Hell, I can even wander the block and pick the café with the best ambience from 10,000 miles away!

So, once you’ve studied and absorbed all the available information, you could be forgiven for feeling a tad let down, perhaps even that you’ve already been there, or at least experienced 50% of the journey. So why still go?

We go because, no matter how many reviews we read, images we look at, or virtual strolls we take, nothing compares to stepping out of a taxi, or hauling our bags up the final flight of stairs from the underground rail, the sensation of sun, smog and rain stinging our face, and finally breathing in the smell of adventure, once again.

In the shadow of the Alps


Rhône-Alpes is a region
 not only overlooked by the French Alps, it’s also often overlooked by tourists and travellers.

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I have a reoccurring dream. No, I’m not naked at work, falling, being chased by wild dogs, or shooting ridiculously slow bullets. (Actually that last one I seem to have often, but that’s beside the point.)

In this dream I’m wandering through a medieval village, it’s crumbling walls surrounded by fields of scarlet poppies. A river runs through its centre and old men sit in silence, hand rolled fags hanging from the corner of their mouths, eyes squinting from the smoke, their fishing lines dangling in hope. There’s a market on and the church bells chime, hastening the step of the locals seeking the freshest bread, cheese and berries. Suddenly a glamorous southern belle starts talking to me in rapid French, and her dog lunges at me and licks me in the face. Amid the slobbering I realise I’m at home and it’s actually my labrador trying to rouse me because she wants a walk, and I snap out of my fantasy, but that’s OK, I’ll return again soon enough.

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There’s just something about central and southern France, and for those prepared to look beyond the allure of Bourgogne, the Loire Valley or Dordogne regions, Rhône-Alpes serves up everything you would expect, and all that you could wish for.

And so here we are again.

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We base ourselves in the southern most department of Drôme, near the town of Dieulefit, about half way between Lyon and Marseilles. This part of Rhône-Alpes is quite rural, yet close enough to the charm of Saint-Rémy and Aix-en-Provence, and the glitz of the Cote D’Azur so as to not feel isolated. The towns are small, the mountains close and cathedrals plentiful. There are more castles and châteaux per square kilometre than just about anywhere on earth, each providing a close view of the next, and a distant view of more beyond.

After a hair-raising trip along a one way hilly rural road that I, to this day, blame on our baffled GPS, we find our accommodation in Truinas – a stone farmhouse now converted into three cottages draped in roses and vines, overlooked by a stunning springwater pool. Meals and drinks on the deck watching both sunrise and sunset over Le Drome valley won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

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The roads and rivers continually wind, not satisfied with the tedium of straight lines, and our days are spent exploring, absorbing history, meeting and becoming acquainted with locals and travellers alike. The pursuit of produce is perpetual, and our evenings pass as such times with great friends and good wine should – filled with music, conversation and laughter.

Between expeditions to Nyons, Valreas and Salle-sous-Bois, we explore hilltop castles, forests of green and sample local specialities. The area is littered with comparatively affordable farmhouses and cottages in various states of need, and our eyes scour the windows of every real estate agent, while our minds needlessly whir with the logistics of currency conversion, plastering and plumbing.

Our host Jane’s knowledge of the region is superb and we cant seem to put a foot wrong following her wonderful scribblings, left in a variety of locations, like clues in some sort of gastronomic treasure hunt.

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Our visit culminates in an unforgettable afternoon at a recommended restaurant (by both our host and the Michelin guide) in Vesc – Chez mon Jules – which serves up Rhône-Alpes on a plate: quirky, fresh, classy and decadent.

Run by a delightful couple who chose this rustic lifestyle over their previous Parisian existence, Chez mon Jules is exactly what we’re looking for to round off our week. Jules sources the best produce from local growers and works his magic in the small kitchen, whilst Alexandra serves and makes conversation (and jewellery!).

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Lunch resembles a small specials list, with a mere two choices per dish. We start with a devine cold zucchini soup with a creamy foam (my first time!), and baguettes as fresh and light as the mountain air. Superb slow roasted pork belly on mash with seasonal vegetables follows, accompanied by some well chosen local wine. Chocolate soufflé with a dark ale rounds the meal off perfectly, yet we linger on the deck for hours, absorbing our surrounds, each of us procrastinating our inevitable departure.

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Soon enough it’s time for an afternoon coffee and apertif, Alexandra spins her favourite Amy Winehouse record, and we are once again seduced by the coziness of this establishment and our hosts undeniable charm.

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Finally we return to base, there’s neither time nor room for another meal, so we satisfy ourselves with a final glass of wine on the balcony while the sun sets in slow motion on the mountain scene before us.

On our final morning Jane’s farewell resembles her greeting – like we’re old friends – and we reluctantly leave to meet our next adventure.

Ate: Chez Mon Jules, Vesc. Details and bookings >>
Stayed
: Salivet & La Sousto, Truinas, Drôme (Rhône Valley – Alps, France) Book >>

East London: Regent’s Canal

 

Many of London’s millions of annual visitors are returnees who can’t resist this great human magnet. For an original experience to compliment the usual stops at Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Madam Tussauds, the seven kilometre eastern section of Regent’s Canal is a chance to view London with a fresh set of eyes.

Built in the early 1800s to link the northern waterways of London with the river Thames, vessels traversed London’s intricate system of canals carrying supplies such as timber, stone and coal for much of the next 150 years. By the 1960s however, increases in rail and road transport saw the canal’s importance as a carrier of freight evaporate. Neglected and ignored by all but the most rusted-on locals, the canals have been reinvigorated over recent years, attracting new residents, businesses and tourists, each looking to tap into the buzz of a growing hub of activity.

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Unlike the more fashionable western part of the canal running through Kings Cross, Camden, and Regent’s Park, the appeal of the eastern passage lies not in the gleaming new apartment and office blocks that shadow it, but in the authenticity of its street art, grungy cafés and scores of colourful houseboats. Where pollution, rubbish and weeds once ruled, this part of the canal has become an important everyday space for exercise, relaxation, self-expression and commuting.

Today there are three ways to experience Regent’s Canal; on foot, by bike, in a water craft – or by a combination of the three. If you’re staying in central London, bikes can be hired at many locations across the city. If you don’t fancy the hair-raising ride through inner-London to reach the canal, multiple buses will take you to Angel Islington, close to several docking stations for the convenient hire and return of your bike.

The return trip is easily achieved in a day, and whether your vice is coffee, cake, shopping or beer, the canal’s activities cater to all.

FOOD

There are many cafés along and near the canal’s banks; some serve coffee, tea and cake only, while others boast a full kitchen run by industry notables. Respected food writer Lori DeMori is the co-author of several Italian cookbooks, and opened Towpath (36 De Beauvoir Crescent, N15, near Whitmore Rd. bridge) four years ago to capture some of the commuter traffic. The café has since become a destination in itself. “We lived opposite and saw the number of people starting to use the canal” she said. “We thought, hey there’s an empty space there right on the water that we could convert.” Although seasonal (DeMori splits winter between Asia and Italy) fans now flock daily for the reliable coffee, decedent cheese toasties and evening activities, including spit-roasts, hearty rustic quiches, and pasta specials; often accompanied by musicians and mulled wine.

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With a reputation as one of the leaders of the East End food movement, the exterior of Bistrotheque (23-27 Wadeson St, E2) could pass for a rubber factory or shoe warehouse, but concealed within is a culinary treasure from top to bottom. Downstairs is the moody private bar where they will host your function and happily serve you fabulously expensive cocktails or the best in craft beer. Upstairs you’ll find an appealing, open white space, interesting menu choices, and quality service with that touch of playfulness that only the best restaurants seem to pull-off. Enjoy brunch/lunch or dinner while a hung-over pianist shakes out the cobwebs with some slow Henry Mancini show tunes, before snapping to attention and belting out Amy Winehouses’ Rehab with a sudden burst of energy. The braised pork cheeks and duck fat chips will be remembered long after you’ve summoned the will to work them off.

There are many pubs along the route, but like elsewhere in the Empire, the number of places you can still order a good old toad-in-the-hole or smoked haddock is diminishing rapidly. The secret to British pub food lies in the history and atmosphere of the establishment itself – when else would visitors attempt to eat anything as disgusting sounding as black pudding, tripe or kidney pie if not without a pint of ale in an English pub?

‘Gastro pub’ The Narrowboat (119 St Peters Street, N1) has an extensive British inspired menu and serves brunch from 11am, then lunch and dinner daily. Sunday lunch is popular and booking is advisable. Plenty of worthy cask ales (unfiltered and unpasteurised) are available to try while looking out over the canal’s activities below.

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The Rosemary Branch (Rosemary Gardens, Southgate Rd, N1) is a great stop for a Czech beer, simple meal or if you’re passing by late afternoon or evening, an upstairs show in the theatre. The live music and off-beat productions are as popular with locals as the famous Sunday roasts. During Saturday’s Broadway Market, The Dove (24-28 Broadway Market, E8) is teeming with life but it’s still worth a stop for a Belgian ale or hearty stew. On a cold day you’ll find lots of little spaces to relax inside, even better if you can get a table outside in the sun from which to observe the passing human traffic. The Palm Tree (127 Grove Rd, E3) is conveniently situated on the banks of the canal at Mile End. Enjoy a game of darts and one of the regularly rotated ‘guest’ beers.

TOURS

A lazy afternoon houseboat cruise is an outstanding way to breathe in the ambience of the canal and its surroundings. Duck your head as you pass under low bridges, and avoid seduction by the boat’s cry of freedom. Many a casual daytrip has ended in an exchange of ownership papers. Royden Mayfield, an ‘Aussie-Kiwi’ on an extended visit to the UK to be close to family was one such case. “My wife and I hired a houseboat for a month, just to see what it was like” he recalled. “One day the thing wouldn’t start, and a helpful local boat owner came to the rescue. We admired his custom built craft, and by day’s end, we’d bought it!”

If that sounds like too great a commitment for you, the London Canal Museum (12-13 New Wharf Road, N1 www.canalmuseum.org.uk) operate short trips, while the Bow Boat Company (Bow Lock, Gillender St, E3 www.bowboatcompany.com) offers half day, full day or custom tours.

For a unique perspective, London Kayak Tours (www.londonkayaktours.co.uk) will team you up with a British Canoe Union instructor, and guide you through the canal’s maze with a paddle, and a glass of bubbles.

If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on land, London Walks (www.walks.com) offer ‘Islington to Mile End’ walking tours with a knowledgeable local who will highlight points of interest, such as the locks and moorings, and give insight into the waterway’s history.

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SUGGESTED ROUTE

From City road, Duncan Terrace Gardens is a logical starting point. Head eastward along the northern shore of the canal, noting the combination of towering council flats, warehouses and high-rise residences. Waterfowl of various size and colour will follow, and converge if you display any sign of offering a nibble.

This stretch of the canal features plenty of street art, and although his ongoing feud with the followers of the graffiti artist known as ‘King Robbo’ usually results in his pieces being swiftly defaced, Banksy’s art has been known to grace the canal’s walls and undersides of bridges.

Although easy to miss, within a minute or two you will come across The Pumphouse Café, tucked neatly in the cavernous old lock station building opposite City Rd Basin, serving a range of hot beverages and treats.

Check out the art in the Proud Archivist (2-10 Hertford Road, N1), a bright space just off the Kingsland Rd specialising in brunch, dinner, coffee and cocktails. Recent exhibitions included the fabulous Gathering Storm – The Album Art of Storm Thorgerson, featuring artwork that ensured the familiar cover images of Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Peter Gabriel and Led Zeppelin LPs have been laser etched into our consciousness.

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Foodie heaven Broadway Market is on every Saturday from 9am until 5pm – although some cafes open earlier – and there are usually several coffee stands, as well as multiple options for bread, pastries and cheese. For those who fancy something more substantial, choose from a plate of spicy dahl, German sausage with sauerkraut, or piping hot roast hog roll.

Work off morning tea or lunch with a lap or two of the scenic Victoria Park, or if you’re still in need of sustenance, enjoy an organic juice, hot tea, or veggie fry up on sourdough from the Pavilion Café while you feed the ducks.

Whether its summer or winter, at this point in your journey you’re bound to be thirsty. If you somehow managed to resist the charm of The Crown (223 Grove Road, E3) as you passed, nip into The Palm Tree for a British bitter and classic London pub experience.

Continue along the path as it meanders south towards the Thames, discovering the Ecology Park in Mile End Park, followed by the Terraced Garden and fountain of nearby Millennium Park.

By now you’re either spent of energy or full of beer, so it’s time to return along the path, or jump on either the tube at Mile End, or one of many buses that will take you to central London along Mile End Road. If you have a London bike to return, there are two docking stations within a hundred metres.

GETTING THERE

Regent’s Canal east can be accessed from Angel Islington, – a short trip from central London via the Tube, buses 73 and 30 from Marble Arch, 38 from Piccadilly or 341 from the Strand.

STAYING THERE

The Hilton Islington is within close walking distance of Regent’s Canal. Rooms start at $250 a night. www.hilton.com

BIKE HIRE

There are hundreds of hire and deposit stations across inner London. You will need a credit or debit card to receive a bicycle release code. Up to four bikes can be hired at once. Access is £2 per hire, and trips under 30 minutes are free. A three hour hire will cost £15, and six hours will set you back £35.  See www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling for more information.

The ultimate sports safari: USA


Is it possible to round the bases of the ‘big four’ professional US sports without moving to the states and applying for a ‘Green card’? US sports authority Derek Green leads us on a three week tour de force of bats, balls, pucks and hoops.

Just like us Aussies, Americans take their sports seriously, so seriously in fact, that they have been known to award the title ‘World Champions’ to their winners, along with a silver trophy the size of a small car. How they must chuckle at the sight of the Ashes.

Although difficult, this challenge is technically possible – the regular season schedules don’t quite cross over – but like a solar eclipse, there is a brief moment where all four will slide into alignment. The ideal time to attempt this trip is from mid-October to early November. The north-east coast has the highest density of sports teams, and as New York City provides the easiest access to the region, it is a logical landing point and base. The weather is turning for the worse – snow is not unheard at this time – but with Thanksgiving imminent and Christmas looming, the short days and crisp nights are accompanied by an air of festivity. For the sports nut prepared to buy into the concept of an ultimate US sports odyssey, let’s break down the options.

WEEK ONE

Baseball

The first stop is also the trickiest box to tick. The Major League Baseball (MBL) regular season finishes at the end of September, and with the ‘post season’ well under way by the time our itinerary starts around the second weekend of October, success is somewhat reliant on the teams involved in the playoffs and their location. A popular team or one off the beaten track can spell doom. Tickets to the World Series are tough to obtain, so visitors should aim for one of the two league championship series held prior. With a minimum two home and two away games per team (dead rubbers are not played), it is rare that one of the four participating championship teams is not within easy reach of New York, and tickets, though expensive, are obtainable through means both fair and foul.

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Whereas you could be excused for dozing off in the bleachers after a couple of Budweiser’s on a warm July afternoon, when the play-offs start, the casual air and Wonder Years feel of ‘America’s Game’ are blowtorched in a high stakes battle of network ratings, eight-figure player contracts and endorsements, stadium deals and intercity bragging rights. Higher television ratings dictate that post season games are almost exclusively held at night, but the smell of cool grass, popcorn, beer, and hot dogs mix with the evening autumn air to create an intoxicating brew.

Introduce yourself to your neighbours; Americans love to explain the game, its rules, the role it plays in their life and the virtues of their team. Before you know it you’ll be sharing a beer and a sack of nuts, expertly tossed across 30 rows by a skilled vendor, and yelling “charge” in time with the arena organ.

GAME SUGGESTION: Given the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have participated in eight of the last ten National League championship series, the chances are good that you won’t have to venture far.

EXPERT TIP: Although more expensive, try for a lower-level seat in the region of first base. Much of the action takes place in this part of the field, and the fans are usually friendly and knowledgeable season-ticket holders.

 WEEK TWO

American Football

“Cricket is a gentleman’s game played by gentlemen, rugby is a gentleman’s game played by beasts, and American Football is a beast’s game played by beasts.”

Although this quip appears in various guises and its source is unknown, it has been attributed to everyone from Winston Churchill to Oscar Wilde. Coupled with an apparent lack of rules, this sentiment is evident to the novice viewer, even more so when watching some of the great rivalries of the sport. Few games are contested with the bitterness of the closely matched, (both geographically and on the field) traditionally working-class, ‘meat and potato’ towns of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore. In these divisional clashes, boos and bottles will swiftly rain on an unsportsmanlike visiting outfit, or during a poor home team performance.

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Unlike the other three of the ‘big four’ professional sports, football is not an everyday event, with the NFL scheduling regular season fixtures on Thursday, Sunday and Monday of each week. By mid-October, all teams are six weeks into their 16 game seasons, and the race for divisional titles and play-off seeds starts to take shape. With so few games played – each city’s team will host a mere eight games a year – each becomes an event in itself. Even if you can’t stand the sport, the pre-game festivities, stadium rock tunes and general mayhem throughout make for a memorable day.

GAME SUGGESTION: There are five teams within a two or three hour train or bus journey of the Big Apple. For a near guaranteed home team win with plenty of atmosphere and a leafy, scenic round trip, take the option of the New England Patriots at home in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Otherwise New York’s two teams, the Jets and Giants, will host matches that are equally entertaining for those who attend, as it is for those who opt to read the savaging handed out by the fickle local media.

EXPERT TIP: The best views are to be had from mid-field or the ‘end zone’. Arrive early and mingle with locals in the car park, trying to make friends with some of the many ‘tail-gaters’ before the game. An Australian accent is a great conversation starter, and before long you’ll be eating hot corn cobs and Buffalo wings in-between ‘going deep’ for a ‘Hail Mary’ in a parking lot scratch match.

WEEK THREE

Basketball

Madison Square Gardens (MSG). Three words are all you need to tell you where you should be when the New York Knicks campaign starts in this hallowed edifice. Giant banners of the team’s current stars greet you in the foyer, and the smell of nacho cheese and grilled sausage hangs in the air like a mid-town fog. Tickets at MSG are expensive, and the upper level fans are boisterous, bordering on boorish, which is surprising given that this is possibly the least physical of the pro sports. The excitement factor is high early in the season, making for a true adventure as you delve into the psyche of hard core Manhattan sports fans.

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GAME SUGGESTION: With the recent relocation of the New Jersey Nets to nearby Brooklyn, the Knicks are no longer the only New York team. This rivalry can only get hotter.

EXPERT TIP: If you can get your hands on a pair of binoculars, apart from a better perspective of the game, you’ll have the chance to spy some of the celebrities who have the cash to splash on courtside ‘Celebrity Row’ seats, including regulars Spike Lee, Ben Stiller, Woody Allen, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock.

Hockey

Speaking of hard core, this week also marks the start of hockey season. There are three teams in the New York area; the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils, with games played at Madison Square Gardens, in Brooklyn, Queens, and over in Newark, New Jersey. As you might expect, the crowd can be rowdy, and will hurl abuse at players, referees and opposition fans with little provocation – it’s hard not to get caught up in the emotion as spot fires break out on and off the field. The game moves quickly, and only the trained eye finds it easy to follow, particularly from the upper deck. Try to focus on the puck as it shoots across the ice, ignoring the players, unless they are involved in one of the inevitable (and occasionally brutal) scuffles the game is famous for.

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GAME SUGGESTION: Once again, MSG is a great venue to watch this sport, and the three New York area teams play each other often, each leaving nothing out on the ice. Likewise games featuring teams visiting from Philadelphia, Boston or Pittsburgh pack enough heat to melt the ice. If you decide to travel further afield, the animosity between fierce foes Boston and Montreal or Detroit and Chicago rarely remains subdued.

EXPERT TIP: Early November in New York is already quite chilly, but with all that ice, you will need additional layers to keep yourself snug.

TRIP NOTES

SPORT EVENT TICKETS

There are three ways to obtain tickets for a sports event; direct from the team or venue, from a ticket re-seller website, or if you’re desperate (although not recommended), from a scalper outside the stadium before the game. StubHub, SeatGeek and TicketExchange all sell returned or unwanted game tickets online which are then either posted to you or can be printed if you have access to a printer.

STAYING THERE

While Brooklyn offers cheaper accommodation options, nothing beats waking up each morning to the bustle of Manhattan. The Windsor Hotel, Pod 51 and Chelsea Lodge consistently rate well in the $200-300 per night price range.

GETTING AROUND

Train is an affordable, convenient way to branch out into Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, and Boston – all within three hours – but beyond that, a hire car is advisable. Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise all have offices in Manhattan. The subway is cheap and easy for journeys across the city and its boroughs, and yellow cabs are still a thrill for short trips.

SPORTS GEAR

To get hooked up with the latest apparel, try the official NBA (590 Fifth Ave) or NHL (1185 Avenue of the Americas) stores. For NFL or MBL merchandise, Modell’s or Sports Authority are found in multiple locations and carry most teams and sports.