Monday, 18 April 2011

Mary Poppins - Mediterranean - South America - Houdini - Orion Sabah


. Bowral event "will be big enough to be seen from space…"

HEAD to Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands on Saturday May 7th and you could find yourself part of history: an attempt will be made that afternoon to create a new world record for the most number of people gathering with opened umbrellas to form a gigantic mosaic of the world's most famous nanny, Mary Poppins.

It was in Bowral in the early 1900s that teenager Helen Lyndon Goff made up bedtime stories to tell to her younger sisters after the premature death of their father, amongst her tales being the adventures of a no-nonsense nanny.

And today it's another local teenager, Melissa McShane who's sparked community interest in a Mary Poppins statue in Bowral; the "Welcome Home Mary Poppins" record attempt is part of promotion and fund-raising for that statue, and will be witnessed by representatives of The Guinness Book of Records.

The mosaic will be formed on Bowral's famous Bradman Oval.

Organisers, the Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council, hope to smash the current Mary Poppins mosaic record set by 1,026 people in Serbia in 2009, and are inviting all Mary Poppins fans to join them – pointing out that their human mosaic will be big enough to be seen from space.

Their planned bronze Mary Poppins statue will be sited in Bowral's Glebe Park, that is just a block away from where Helen Lyndon Goff lived, and is adjacent to Bowral Oval.

You can register to take part in the mosaic on, phone (02) 4801 0622 – or just turn up on May 7th with your most colourful umbrella.

And after the mosaic everyone's invited to an open-air screening of the Disney 1964 Mary Poppins musical, and a fireworks show.


A growing number of Australian cruise fans are opting to cruise the Mediterranean in winter, cashing in on savings offered on flights and cruises during the traditional off-peak season.

Family-owned Italian-based MSC Cruises says it's seen a surge in interest for its cruises in January, February and March, supporting the company's move to keep three of its 11 luxury ships – Splendida, Fantasia and Magnifica – in the region year-round.

"Cruising in the Mediterranean is hot with Australians, even in winter," said Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises (Australia and New Zealand).

"The demand for these cruises is riding on the crest of a wave. Price, style of ship and the interesting ports have all played a role."

Drawing on Australian interest is a 22-night Mediterranean Discovery Cruise which pools, back-to-back, two 11-night cruises aboard the luxurious Splendida.

Price for the cruise begins at $2048pp twin share (January 15, 2011) with return air fare options available, flying Emirates to Milan, from $2056pp. Two other itineraries are scheduled for February 6 (from $2158pp twin share) and March 19, 2011 (from $2268pp, twin share).

During the traditional cruising months, MSC Cruises has noticed an upsurge of bookings for MSC Musica's Italy, Greek Islands and Croatia seven-night cruises, priced from $1099pp, twin share.

They begin in Venice and call on Italy's Bari, Greece's Katakolon (Olympia), Santorini, Mykonos, Piraeus (Athens), Corfu and Dubrovnik in Croatia, before returning to Venice.

Details: MSC Cruises, phone 1300 028502, or


APT has launched its new South America 2012 brochure with a Companion Fly Free deal for every itinerary, representing savings of up to $3735 per couple if bookings are made before June 30 2011.

A 21-day The Very Best of South America escorted tour is the backbone of APT's new South America small group journeys (maximum 24 passengers). Travellers can add Chilean fjiord cruises, Patagonia Lakes, Galapagos Island cruises, Amazon Lodge, Patagonia fjiords, Rio Carnival or Buenos Aires/Rio de Janeiro city stays to create a itineraries between 24 to 31 days.

The Very Best of South America is priced from $11,995 per person twin share. There are nine departures between April and November for this luxury escorted coach tour which explores the cities and ancient sights of Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Chile.

The price includes touring, accommodation, 39 meals, flights within South America, local arrival and departure transfers, port charges and all tipping, Freedom of Choice Touring and Dining, APT Tour Director and local guides.

Among the highlights are exploring Buenos Aires, full-day excursion to Uruguay's oldest town, Iguassu Falls including jet boat ride,  discovering Rio de Janeiro including Corcovado, Sugarloaf mountain at sunset, Copacabana beach, and the amazing local culture and dining, two days exploring Santiago and its neighbouring wine regions, Cusco high in the Andes, a local hand weaving demonstration, riding PeruRail's Vistadome train to the lost Inca City of Machu Picchu, onboard the Orient Express' Hiram Bingham train for a luxurious rail journey and sumptuous four course dinner and riding the Orient Express Andean Explorer in first class to Lake Titicaca.

Contact: call 1300 229 804, visit or see a travel agent


MORE than 80 years after his death, Harry Houdini and his feats of escape still fascinate even the most casual fans of magic and mystery.

And if you are visiting Los Angeles between now and September 4, the Los Angeles' Skirball Cultural Center at 2701 N. Sepulveda Boulevard is paying homage to the man with an exhibit titled "Houdini: Art and Magic."

This examines the life of the man born Ehrich Weisz in Hungary in 1876 and who thrilled millions until his death in 1926. There are more than 150 objects, including original props – such as the straitjacket and trunk from which he regularly escaped – as well as posters and film clips.

There are also testimonies to Houdini's greatness from contemporary magicans and escape artists including Matthew Barney, Jane Hammond, Vik Muniz, Deborah Oropallo and Raymond Pettibon.


THE memorial to Borneo's infamous 1945 Sandakan Death March, and by contrast the little island on which the first of the TV reality Survivor shows was filmed in 2001, are amongst the diverse highlights of a 10-night cruise available through Cruiseco aboard the boutique Orion II in Malaysia's Sabah in August.

Others include two rehabilitation centres that care for orphaned and injured wildlife including orangutans and sun bears, a visit to one of Borneo's most traditional longhouses, the memorial Peace Park where Japanese forces surrendered in 1945, a swim amid coral with myriad sea-life from black-tipped sharks and rays to tiny seahorses, and a splash in reputedly medicinally-valuable volcanic mud.

And for the inquisitive, a visit to the intriguing 33-metre high Labuan Chimney that was built in the mid-1800s with 23,000 red bricks imported from England; to this day no one knows if it was to be part of a British-style luxury mansion, a ventilation shaft for Labuan's one-time coal mines, a bell tower – or the start of a lighthouse for ships passing along the coast.

Cruiseco's 11-night package includes return airfares and taxes from Australia to Kota Kinabalu via Singapore, a night pre-cruise at the Fairmont Hotel in Singapore including breakfast, 10-nights aboard Orion II return from Kota Kinabalu with daily excursions, transfers in Singapore and Kota Kinabalu and port charges and government fees.

Prices start from $7988pp twin-share from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane (deduct $227pp for Perth)

For full details and the names of Cruiseco's 200-plus cruise-specialist travel agencies visit

FURTHER ITINERARY DETAILS: ORION II will sail from Kota Kinabalu on August 11 this year for Mantanani and Lankayan Islands, Sandakan for three days to explore the Kinabatanga River, historic WWII sites and the Sepilok Wildlife Sanctuary, Kudat to visit the Rungus Longhouse, Labuan Island, the Klias Wetlands and Tiga Island.

The 5-star Orion II carries just 100 guests served by 65 crew and has an indoor restaurant and on-deck café, health spa, gymnasium, hair and beauty salon, Jacuzzi, lounge, library and lecture hall in which talks are given by the ship's Expedition Team and Guest Speakers.