Dear G & L traveller

I'm just about to head off on Oceania's newly launched ship Marina but before I do, here's some news from all of us at G & L including Stu's golfing trip to Thailand. Also, G & L were just named in Luxury Magazine's Gold List as 4th Best Luxury Travel Agency in Australia. Well done team!
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Gold List award
 
G & L No. 4 Best Luxury Travel Agency in Australia
 
The latest Gold List from Luxury Travel Magazine has just been released and Gregor & Lewis has been listed as the fourth best Luxury Travel Agency in Australia. This is an amazing coup for such a small agency as Gregor & Lewis and we congratulate all the other agencies who were listed. This also makes G & L the top ranked travel agency in Queensland and the only agency in the top five not in Sydney.
 
   
 
Seven happy G & L cruisers
 
Souffle and lobster aboard Azamara
 
Eighteen of Gregor & Lewis' clients took advantage of the amazing cruise deal with Azamara last month. The cruise went from Hong Kong to Shanghai, via Japan, with some clients reporting it was the best cruise they had ever done. One client emailed on day two raving about the food on board, including one meal of goat's cheese souffle, grilled lobster and a Grand Marnier souffle finale with wonderful wines and great service. Make sure to keep an eye out for our special cruising deals that just can't be beaten.
 
   
 
Rhapsody and rugby
 
More World Cup Rugby cruise specials
 
There continues to be great savings on the two Rugby World Cup cruises during the quarter finals and finals onboard Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. They won't last long – only until 15 April – so contact us now for these super specials. Ex-Wallaby Richard Harry is host so there'll be plenty of bad stories, but also plenty of cheering for the front row to perform. Prices start at just $2199 per person, so jump on board now and support NZ tourism (but not the All Blacks).
 
   
 
Marina launches in style
 
Oceania launches Marina with some great savings
 
Oceania Cruises has just launched the gorgeous Marina, the grandest in the Oceania fleet and with a real focus on great food and wine. Not only are there 10 restaurants on board under the guardianship of celebrity chef Jacques Pepin, there's also an extraordinary hands-on cooking school with 24 individual benches plus a wine tasting room. Exciting itineraries will also see you stopping at great food and wine destinations such as Bordeaux and Barcelona. There's great deals at the moment on all Oceania's European itineraries for 2012 - receive 25% off launch fares, plus one night pre-cruise hotel stay on every European sailing. Melinda sails on Marina this month so read her report in the next G & L postcard.
 
   
 
Kristen sailing into Bangkok
Stateroom with welcome Champagne
Sailing out to Halong Bay
A junk on Halong Bay
 
Why size doesn't really matter
 
Consultant Kristen Cahill went sailing with Silversea and gives us the low-down on why cruising really is the new way to travel.

I was recently lucky enough to sail from Hong Kong to Bangkok on board the luxurious Silver Shadow and I now understand why people keep going back for more.

Silversea is luxury small ship cruising at its best. While other cruise lines are taking the view that bigger is better, Silversea is carving its place in the small ship market and proving that size really doesn't matter. Their six ships – Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, Silver Spirit and the expedition ship, Prince Albert II, have between just 132 and 540 guests on board.

Smaller ships mean you can dock in the heart of cities, explore secluded harbours, enjoy intimate service and get to know your fellow travellers with ease.

From the moment you set foot on a Silversea ship you are transported to another world. You are met and escorted to your suite by your personal butler where champagne and fresh fruit are awaiting you in your spacious suite (most with private teak verandah). There's plush bedding, a bar (stocked with your preferences), flat screen TV, walk in robe, and separate bath and shower. There is also plenty of room to make yourself at home, and being able to unpack and put your suitcases away really makes you feel like you are on a luxury vacation.

It is the little things that make Silversea so special – complimentary beverages are served throughout the ship, gratuities are included and the main dining room is open seating, meaning you can dine when you like and with whom you like.

Cuisine is a large part of the cruise experience and there are many options on board from fine dining to pizza and burgers by the pool. If you do find you are looking for an activity between meals, Silversea has something for everyone – arts and crafts, board games, boutique shopping, daily quizzes, destination seminars, movies, singles' events, table tennis, wine tastings and all without even leaving the ship!

After dinner is when the real entertainments starts with live music, dancing or movies under the stars just to name a few.

Silversea sails to seven continents and offers many unique and exciting itineraries. Off-shore excursions in each port also allows you the opportunity to experience the unique, fascinating, historic, cultural, or entertaining sights throughout the world.

Silversea is truly a great way to travel.
 
   
 
l'Atelier du Joel Robuchon
Glenby at Le Train Bleu
 
Eating and drinking in Paris
 
G & L friend and chef Glenby recently spent 10 days in Paris. Here's his tips for living the good life.

1. If you are staying more than seven days in Paris, book an apartment rather than a hotel. Choose your favourite arrondissement and take it from there. Not only is it cheaper it gives you the freedom to enjoy Paris as a Parisian would.
2. Take a stroll along the Rue Montorgueil (2nd), a gourmet shoppers paradise. It's full of speciality shops selling every conceivable food stuff. The cheese and seafood shops are heaven and if you've hired an apartment a veritable feast awaits.
3. Buy an assortment of macaroons from Pierre Herme at 4 Rue Cambon (1st) arguably the best in Paris and certainly the funkiest. Walk past the original Chanel shop, turn left at Rue St Honore and window shop for your life! You will pass shops by every designer known to mankind.
4. Have lunch or dinner at a classic French bistro like Brasserie Bofinger at 5 Rue de la Bastille (4th). Grab a table in the back room, sit on a banquette and look at the wisteria tree and the stained glass dome while eating excellent oysters and great bistro food.
5. A visit to the Louvre shouldn't be left out but go early. Line-up before 9am then as you enter, turn left and head straight for Napoleons apartments as there is nothing quite like being there on your own.
6. Go to the Gare de Lyon and eat at Le Train Bleu for either a baguette in the lounge bar or a full blown three-course meal in the grandiose main dining rooms. The experience is pure French dining theatre (try the steak tartar made at your table) and the mural and chandeliered rooms will leave you gobsmacked.
7. Spend a morning at Bon Marche department store on the Left Bank. The food hall is amazing. Select some charcuterie, cheese, fruit and bread grab a bottle of French wine then take a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens and have a late picnic lunch.
8. The Musee d'Orsay is the best mainstream museum in Paris full of paintings that are instantly recognisable. You will be bedazzled by the colour and magnificence of this old train station and its treasures, then head for dinner at l'Atelier by Joel Robuchon at 5-7 rue de Montalembert (7th) Sit in the dimly lit restaurant and eat the greatest mashed potatoes that will ever pass your lips.
9. Visit the Niki de St Phalle fountain next to the Pompidou Centre and revel in its kookiness, then head up to the Georges Bar and sip a glass of champagne at dusk and watch the city of lights emerge.
10. For the romantic in us all, go to the Eiffel Tower and eat at the Jules Verne restaurant. Request a table by the window and eat some very good Alain Ducasse food while sipping a white Burgundy and staring out at the wonderful city that is Paris.
 
   
 
Lian
Bergisel ski jump
Santa at the markets
Cobble stone back streets of Salzburg
 
The hills are alive - Salzburg, Innsbruck and Vienna
 
Consultant Lian Scott returned from Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck a littler happier and larger than when she left. Here's her tips.

Vienna
Most sights are within walking distance so stay in the heart of the city – it's great to discover palaces, museums, art galleries, coffee shops all on foot. The Imperial Hotel, with its beautiful classically-styled rooms, is in a great location with the Opera House just a block behind. Visit the Opera House and hopefully get to hear the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, even if it's a rehearsal. Most concerts are booked a year in advance. Another highlight of Vienna is a tour of the Imperial Palace and the Spanish Riding School. The Lipizzaner stallions dancing are definitely worth a visit. Another great hotel is the Sacher – just renovated and gorgeously opulent. This hotel has plenty of history and also known for its sacher torte. Even if you are not staying, there is a beautiful café which opens onto the street and is a great place to sit and watch the world go by with a slice of cake. There are many stylish restaurants such as Palmenhaus, set inside a greenhouse which has a butterfly house adjoining it. Go for coffee at the Mocca Lounge, a split-level coffee house with character or for dinner try the Gloriette Café overlooking the Schönbrunn Palace and gardens. This is about half an hour out of the city centre in a stunning location. This place will make you feel like royalty.

Salzburg
This city has a peaceful relaxing feel to it and from every angle it is spectacular with its baroque buildings and the river Salzach running through the middle. Music is the life blood of Salzburg – it's the home of Mozart and the Sound of Music.

The night lights bring even more atmosphere with the monastery and the modern art gallery (both worth a visit) and there's plenty to discover on foot - cute back street boutiques, bars, clubs and cafes.

Innsbruck
This city is irresistible with it snow-capped mountains and in winter there's also the smell of chestnuts roasting and Glühwein of course. Visit the Innsbruck Christmas markets - market stalls fill the streets with art and crafts such as hand-blown glass angels, stars and balls or intricate wooden carved ornaments. There's also lots to eat - nuts, cheeses, cured meats, crepes, hand-made potato chips and roasted chestnuts. As well as the markets, Innsbruck offers great shopping plus countless cafes, restaurants and specialty shops or ice-skating at the open air rink. The Bergisel Ski Jump is also worth a visit. A cable car takes you to the top of this wonderfully designed ski jump with a view of the city. Another highlight is the Swarovski crystal factory which boasts a 15-room art gallery. For the shopper there is also an unbelievable display of sculpture and jewellery with something for everyone.

I fell in love with Salzburg and Vienna but it is the snow-capped mountains of Innsbruck which took my breath away.
 
   
 
Nahm in the Metropolitan
Banyan and 38 points
Glenby with som tum at Apsorns Kitchen
Stu enjoys a beer on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree
 
Golf and eating, and a little drinking in Thailand
 
My annual golf trip with the boys this year had its 18th incarnation. This year's tour took nine of us to Thailand for three nights in Bangkok and three rounds in Hua Hin. So where to start? Golf or eating? Well, let's start in Bangkok. We stayed at the Metropolitan which we loved. It's reasonably priced, groovy enough for 40-odd-year-olds and Nahm is the best hotel restaurant in Bangkok. It's David Thompson's joint, not too expensive, some of the dishes were truly exquisite and showed why he still is the royal Thai master.

While we loved Nahm there were two meals that really stood out. Bo.lan (42 Soi Pichai Ronnarong Songkram Sukhumvit 26, Klongteoy, 0066 2 260 2961) is an absolute dead set must visit if you love Thai food. It's run by Bo and Dylan (hence the name) who both worked for Thompson at his famous Michelin-starred Nahm in London. It's bloody genius food – pure, fine, delicious and authentic.

The other place we adored was the incredibly humble Apsorns Kitchen (503-505 Sam San Road, Dusit, Bangkok, 0066 2 24 18 52 8). Get a cab to take you there or take a good map or a GPS as it's worth finding. I arrived with Glenby and before anyone else had arrived we had demolished four large Singha beers with the legendary icy glass ($3 each), som tum, a whole fried fish, the best crab dish we had ever eaten and a prawn and lotus shoot sour curry. When the rest of the boys arrived we did it all again, including the four Singhas each.

So onto golf and a little more eating in Hua Hin. Day one we played Royal Hua Hin. Don't bother. It's a nice enough track, it's the closest course to town and we loved it because it was the first ever course built in Thailand, but unless you are playing four rounds, there are simply better courses in the area. If we had time again we would have played the Jack Nicklaus course.

Day two was Banyan and for mine it was the best of the lot. This is simply a world class track, in great nick and genuinely in sympathy with the local terrain. Great course but I had 38 points so I would say that. Day three was Thailand's number one rated course, Black Mountain. It is spectacular, no question about that, and it's in great nick and is a genuine challenge, but for mine it wasn't quite up to Banyan's standard. There's a bit of the old showbiz about it – lots of man-made water hazards and fabulous designer bits. Don't get me wrong it's a bloody great course and it's hard enough for the best golfers and is terrifically beautiful but I only had 35 points, so not as good as Banyan.

Eating in Hua Hin requires research, there is rubbish aplenty but at least one jewel in the bin. We stayed at the Sofitel Centara which is the real landmark hotel in the centre of town. It's fabulous, the gardens are brilliant and the breakfasts might just be the best I've ever had. But the shower heads are crap and the beds are hard as rock. That said, we loved the joint especially the topiary gardens.

We had eaten that much chilli on arriving in Thailand that we settled for Japanese night one at Magi, operated by the Sofitel, but effectively on the main drag. It was terrific. Great sushi, gyoza and really good sake and shochu. However, the find of the Hua Hin visit was Ketsarin on the wharf. It's only a five minute walk from the Sofitel and two minutes from the Hilton but a mile away from the rubbish you get in the streets around there. Awesome fish cakes, great tom sum, super cold cheap big bottles of Chang and great tables on the pier if the weather is good.

Hua Hin is a brilliant place for a golf trip. It's about 2.5 hours drive from Bangkok and we can't recommend Hua Hin Golf Tours enough. They were perfectly excellent all the way with pick-ups, drop offs, the lot. Huan Hin is a great area of Thailand and if the hustle isn't for you then check out the rather more salubrious nearby spa places like Chiva Som.

But for a group of blokes, do what we did, just don't get had by a bad card-trick played by the dodgy Rod Stewart look-a-like in the Pink Panther Bar after nine beers while watching the World Cup cricket – a story for another time. Oh and I finished second in the golf, choked on the 53rd hole while still leader . . . damnation.
 
 
  Melbourne's Sue and Bruce Gray celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary on safari in Africa!  
   
  On the deck at the Royal Livingstone at sunset  
  1. What countries did you visit? We travelled to South Africa, Zambia and Botswana.

2. What were the highlights? There were so many! The safari camps in South Africa and Botswana were all new experiences for us. They were all so well run with great accommodation and excellent food and service. Seeing all the amazing animals up close was very special. The sheer number of animals in the Chobe National Park is quite awesome. Flying in small aircraft across the Okavango Delta gives you a wonderful appreciation of inland waterways. Cape Town is a great city, the coastal scenery of Cape Point was stunning, the Stellenbosch wine district is set in lovely countryside and of course Victoria Falls in Zambia was certainly a sight to see!

3. Favourite place you visited? The &Beyond Safari camp in Nxabega in the Okavango Delta was our favourite place on this trip. The managers and staff were excellent and so too was the standard of accommodation and food. When you think of how isolated it is, that makes it all the more amazing!

4. Most memorable moment? Was it when a bull elephant chased our vehicle early one evening or was it having drinks looking out over the Zambesi River on our 20th wedding anniversary with the 'smoke' from the Victoria Falls in the distance?

5. Did you feel safe travelling in Africa? Of course you have to be careful when travelling through Africa, but Gregor & Lewis ensured that we were very well looked after. We had no problems!

6. What was train travel like in Africa? We travelled on the Blue Train from Cape Town to Pretoria. It is a very luxurious train with excellent service, wonderful food and a very comfortable suite. It was very relaxing watching the countryside slip by whilst sipping good South African wines! What a treat!

7. Did you see the Big Five? Yes. The first safari camp we visited was Honeyguide, a private concession on the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa. On the first day there we saw four of the Big Five!

8. Anything you would change for next time? Not a thing!

9. Where to next? We're off to Europe. We are going to Prague first for a few days then we travel by train to Budapest where we start an APT cruise for 15-days down the Rhine/Danube. Apart from our short cruise down the Nile (which was amazing), this will be is our first cruising experience so we're really looking forward to that. We will also travel through parts of Europe that we haven't seen before.

10. Why travel with Gregor & Lewis ? Gregor & Lewis have planned the most amazing trips for us. They use the best travel partners to create trips which capture the best aspects of the countries we have been to. The trips happen without any 'hiccups' or hassles so we can enjoy the holiday without any worries. Gregor & Lewis's experience and attention to detail ensure that this happens every time!
 
  Gregor & Lewis | 11 Arcadia St, Noosa Heads, Queensland, 4567 Australia
T + 617 5447 4666 | E noosa@gregorlewis.com.au | W www.gregorlewis.com.au