Another year, another list of things I loved (and hated) about travelling in the past 12 months. Overall, 2019 has been a vintage year. It started with Iceland and ended in New Zealand, with detours to south India, Raja Ampat, the Mergui Archipelago, Spain, Italy, France, and Austria, Venice for the first time, and a sunny, carefree week in London.
On the home-front, I returned to one of my top spots on the continent – the Eyre Peninsula, specifically, Gawler Ranges National Park. The drought has taken its toll there as elsewhere but it’s still one of Australia’s special places, and wildly underappreciated.
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Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) of a year travelling:
BEST BAGGAGE HANDLING: BNE
Brisbane airport. What a dream. I arrived there in August from Cairns on flight VA786 and my bag was already whirling around the carousel by the time I reached the arrivals hall. Hallelujah. 12 out of 10 for effort.
WORST BAGGAGE HANDLING: ROMA TERMINI
It’s such a great idea having a left-luggage office at Rome’s central railway station so travellers can ditch their bags and dive straight into the Eternal City. But at peak times you’ll have to wait ages and retrieving them is pure chaos. Allow at least half an hour in case, as happened to me, they find everyone else’s bags but forget about yours.
BEST AIRLINE MEAL: THAI AIRWAYS
The Samrab set menu served in Thai’s business class cabin is a quintessential Thai feast. The beautifully presented dishes are prepared to complement each other – perhaps a tamarind Thai beef salad then a chicken bamboo broth, prawn chu chee, pork red curry and eggplant stir-fry with chilli and basil. Easily the tastiest meal I had at 30,000ft this year. And hands down the best cup of tea in the air.
BEST IN-FLIGHT DUTY FREE: SAS
It’s hardly surprising SAS, the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, would have the coolest duty-free offerings. The in-flight catalogue is a glossy compendium of Scandinavian design from Georg Jensen heart pendants to votive candle holders from Orrefors. The first time ever I’ve been tempted to buy duty free in the air.
MOST IMPRESSIVE AIRPORT: OSLO
On a layover, there’s nothing more calming and oxygenating than sitting in a cafe beside a breathing wall of greenery. Even in the dead of winter and the sun’s refusing to rise, Oslo’s terminal is lush and revivifying. Plus the shopping’s great and, food-wise, everything from organic plant-based meals to a speciality fish restaurant by Copenhagen’s Fiskebaren.
BEST AIRPORT TAXI SET-UP: SUVARNABHUMI INTERNATIONAL
Passengers arrive at Bangkok’s airport to find a refreshingly orderly taxi rank fitted with touch screens. Take a number, find your cab, and you’re on your way. Seamless.
MOST DECADENT AMENITIES KIT: VENICE-SIMPLON-ORIENT-EXPRESS
Airlines and hotels might be phasing out gift amenities but such old-school glamour still matters big-time aboard the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express. The legendary train’s “travel collection” is an OTT toiletries kit of British Temple Spa lotions that includes a Skin Truffle cream infused with gold, diamonds and, as the name suggests, truffles. It’s such an irresistible haul I immediately apply a 20-minute Trufflesque ultra-hydrating radiance masque with “unbelievable skin transforming results”. Afterwards I apply eye gel, skin balm, toning mist, hand cream, foot cream and lip balm, then slip into a dinner suit and head out for a night on the rails.
Read more of Kendall Hill’s adventures in his weekly column or follow him on Instagram @misterkendallhill