Friday 8 December 2017

One Trip, Multiple Stories: A Travel Writer's Rail Journey in West Coast USA

For the journey detailed below, I paid for my airfares and received on-the-ground assistance from local tourism authorities and hotels. Full disclosures are included with each linked article and blog post.

This is, remarkably, my 500th post at Aerohaveno. I started the blog way back in 2008, during the golden age of blogs, when social media outlets such as Facebook were new and yet to be adopted by the masses.

In that era, a blog was the prime means for an individual to put their views online, whether on a topic of expertise or simply as personal reflection.

Now we have the noise and colour of social media, and perhaps wonder if things are better.

In any case, for post number 500 I'd like to repeat what I did for post 400 - draw back the curtain on how travel writing works, at least for a freelancer like me.

In post 400 I looked at a trip I undertook around the world. This time I'll focus on the west coast of the USA.

In October 2015 I flew into Los Angeles, then caught Amtrak trains up the west coast with visits to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle along the way.

I've chosen this 2015 trip because the period elapsed since then has been long enough for almost everything I wrote about it to be published.

Below I'll outline how each activity led to a specific piece of writing - with a link to the published article or blog post.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

Monday 12 October 2015

Activity: Fly Qantas from Melbourne to Los Angeles.
  1. Resulting story: A review of Qantas' Premium Economy class for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.
  2. Blog Post: Catching public transport from LAX to Downtown LA.
Activity: Check out the renovated and reopened Clifton's Cafeteria in LA's Downtown.
  1. Resulting story: A short item about Clifton's in a round-up of 2015 travel finds for Fairfax Media's Traveller website and print section in Australia. 
  2. Second resulting story: An article about Downtown LA highlights for [story not currently online].
Tuesday 13 October to Wednesday 14 October 2015

Activity: Take the guided studio tours at Warner Brothers, Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures.
Resulting story: An article about LA movie studio tours for Lonely Planet's website.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Activity: Visit new Australian-owned café, Paramount Coffee Project.
Resulting story: An article about Aussie-owned food and coffee outlets in LA, for Fairfax Media's Good Food website in Australia.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Activity: Explore new contemporary art gallery, The Broad, in LA's Bunker Hill.
  1. Resulting story: A short item about The Broad in a round-up of 2015 travel finds for Fairfax Media's Traveller website and print section in Australia.
  2. Blog Post: My visit to The Broad.
Activity: Visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City.
  1. Resulting story: An article listing six quirky attractions of LA, including the Museum of Jurassic Technology, for Lonely Planet's website.
  2. Second resulting story: Commissioned for an Australian media outlet, but yet to be published.
Friday 16 October 2015

Activity: Catch the Coast Starlight sleeper train north from LA to Oakland (for San Francisco); then later onward to Portland and Seattle.
  1. Resulting story: An article about the entire rail trip for the magazine Get Up & Go in Australia.
  2. Second resulting story: An article about the sleeper train experience for Fairfax Media's Traveller website and print section in Australia.
Saturday 17 October 2015

Activity: Join the eccentric Emperor Norton's Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine tour.
Resulting story: An article about the tour's highlights for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Blog Post: Review of the long-running musical revue Beach Blanket Babylon.

Monday 19 October 2015

Activity: Attend the North Beach Underground tour of San Francisco, focusing on the Beat Generation.
  1. Resulting story: A 'Postcard from San Francisco' article for the Spectrum (culture) section of The Age newspaper in Melbourne.
  2. Blog Post: Profile of six memorable tours of San Francisco.
Blog Post: San Francisco's retro public transport.

Thursday 22 October to Sunday 25 October 2015

Activity: Visit Voodoo Doughnuts, Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Museum, Powell's City of Books and other offbeat attractions in Portland, Oregon.
Resulting story: A list of 'Ten attractions keeping Portland weird' for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.

Blog Post: Memorable street art of Portland.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Activity: Join a food walking tour of North Mississippi Avenue, Portland.
Resulting story: An article about highlights of the tour, for Fairfax Media's Good Food website in Australia.

Blog Post: A visit to Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Museum, Portland.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Blog Post: A tour of Portland's coffee culture.

Monday 26 October 2015

Activity: Take a coffee walking tour of Seattle, Washington.
Resulting story: An article about the city's coffee highlights for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Blog Post: Visiting Seattle's Living Computer Museum.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Activity: Travel to Snoqualmie and North Bend, to visit locations from the TV series Twin Peaks.
  1. Resulting story: A 'Postcard from Twin Peaks' article for the Spectrum (culture) section of The Age newspaper in Melbourne.
  2. Second resulting story: An article about Twin Peaks locations for Lonely Planet's website.
  3. Blog Post: My visit to Twin Peaks locations.
Sunday 1 November 2015

Blog Post: Taking a tour of Underground Seattle.

Monday 2 November 2015

Activity: Fly from Seattle to Los Angeles via Alaska Airlines.
Resulting story: A review of Alaska Airlines' domestic Economy class for Fairfax Media's Traveller website in Australia.

Activity: Fly Qantas from Los Angeles to Melbourne.
  1. Resulting story: A review of facilities at LAX for [story not currently online]. 
  2. Blog Post: Review of the new Qantas International Business Lounge.
And that's that! I arrived back home on Wednesday 4 November, courtesy of the International Dateline.

Writing output, financial income

By my count, the trip produced a total of 18 paid articles for outside publications (with a 19th yet to be published and paid for), and 12 posts on this blog.

I calculate the paid articles earned a total of $8850.72 (all figures here are in Australian dollars) for both words and photos, before adding any applicable sales tax.

About another $500 should come in from the final article. And there was additional research undertaken on the trip which I may yet write about, as well as revisiting its attractions in new ways.

The blog posts don't earn any direct income, but drive traffic to Aerohaveno and thus contribute to the occasional small payments I receive from the Google Ads running on my blog.


I had significant expenses on this journey, especially since I was paying my own airfares on this occasion.

Including airfares, I estimate my total expenses on this trip at $3028.26, which leaves a profit of $5822.46 (plus $500 from the unpublished article, and possible income from future stories derived from the same research material).

Some trips have a greater return on outlay, others less so. Quite aside from the profit, however, this west coast USA trek turned out to be one of my favourite journeys ever, and I was very glad I'd taken it.

It's not easy to make a living from travel writing; but if you can derive a published story per day from a particular trip, you're off to a decent start.

After this epic post, it's time for a break! Aerohaveno will be taking a break over the holiday season, and will be back with you in early January. Have a great New Year!

Friday 1 December 2017

2017: My Year in Travel

I was hosted on the trips mentioned below by the relevant local tourism authorities.

Everyone else in the media publishes 'year in review' round-ups at this time of the year, so I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Here are personal highlights from my travels over the past twelve months...

1. Admiring the Asian-European 'fusion architecture' of Macau.

I didn't know much about this former Portuguese territory before visiting it in February, but I quickly learned its European connection had lasted much longer than that of Hong Kong. The Portuguese were in Macau for over four centuries, from 1557 to 1999; by comparison, Hong Kong was under British rule for just over 150 years.

As a result, there's quite a mix of Asian and European influences in Macau's architecture, with striking contrasts. The best example I saw was a former covered marketplace in Taipa Village (pictured above), which has Greek pillars and a Chinese roof.

For more, read my blog post about about my favourite place in Macau.

2. Riding the narrow trams of Hong Kong.

I enjoyed lots about Hong Kong on my first visit there - the food, its cultural attractions, the busy urban streets. One thing that stood out was the city's tram system, which runs along the north side of Hong Kong Island.

I love trams, and these ones are particularly atmospheric. In addition to being double-decker, they're rather narrow, lending them a charmingly improbable fairytale look. It can be hard to get a seat on them sometimes, but they're hands-down more fun than catching the MTR underground railway.

3. Visiting Ballarat on a White Night.

Having missed Melbourne's annual White Night arts event while I was in Hong Kong, I took the chance to attend the first regional staging of it in Ballarat. It was loads of fun, being out until 4am on busy streets full of happy locals ogling illuminations which drew on the city's rich gold rush and Aboriginal history.

I wrote about the experience here.

4. Discovering First Nations culture in Vancouver.

I was impressed by Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology when I visited the Canadian city in July. It houses a wonderful collection of Indigenous art from the past two centuries, with an impressive new gallery in which modern-day First Nations artists comment on the cultural underpinnings of the art of their forebears.

Read my post about the museum here.

5. Cruising the Alaska Marine Highway.

Not all Alaskan cruises are on huge luxury cruise ships. Embarking at Prince Rupert, Canada, I took the MV Matanuska to the Alaskan state capital Juneau, then on to former gold rush town Skagway.

These car ferries (with cabins) are used by locals as much as visitors, providing a great way to see the beautiful scenery on the Inside Passage while not being tied to a cruise itinerary.

I wrote about cruising the Alaska Marine Highway in this article for Lonely Planet.

6. Taking the train to Yukon.

There had to be a train in this list, right? You know how much I like rail travel. And a ride along the White Pass & Yukon Route railway is spectacular, with the narrow-gauge train chugging up from the Alaskan coast at Skagway through the mountains across the Canadian border to Carcross, Yukon. It's a brilliant journey, with magnificent scenery.

7. Meeting a crocodile on the Sunshine Coast.

While attending the annual Australian Society of Travel Writers conference in Queensland in August, I was able to explore the late Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo.

It's a lovely place to visit, with plenty of interesting animals, but the highlight for me was the arena show in which a couple of staff members (and a foolhardy white bird) hung around very close to a big saltwater crocodile - see my video clip above.

You can read more about my Australia Zoo visit here.

8. Walking Hadrian's Wall in the UK.

I like a bit of walking, but I'm not one for multi-day treks. So when I learned about the hop-on, hop-off bus which serves key points along what was once the Roman Empire's border wall, I realised it'd be possible to do a shorter hike between bus stops.

So Narrelle and I spend over two hours strolling west of the former Roman fort at Housesteads - then transferred to the bus and headed off for lunch.

Walking the undulating trail next to Hadrian's Wall was harder than I'd expected, but I'm glad we did it. Not only was it good to get out of my urban comfort zone, I felt I'd become closer to the inhabitants of the Roman era, otherwise so distant in time.

I wrote about our Hadrian's Wall visit for the Globe & Mail newspaper in Canada; read it here.

So... how was your year in travel?

Friday 24 November 2017

Vancouver Eating

On this trip I was hosted by Destination Canada (, Destination British Columbia ( and Tourism Vancouver (

On my recent visit to Vancouver, Canada, I had the opportunity to eat at some great restaurants. Here are three I liked - add them to the list for your next Van visit:

1. The Acorn. On my first day in Vancouver, I joined a mural tour in the Mount Pleasant district, then walked along Main Street to this excellent vegetarian restaurant (recommended by Vancouverite colleague Nikki Bayley).

It's a great place, with a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and an informal decor - on the hot sunny evening I visited, the windows were open to catch the breeze, so there was a sense of being connected with the street life outside.

Of the dishes, I particularly enjoyed the beer battered halloumi with zucchini and potato pancake, smashed peas, mint yogurt, and lemon balm. It looked - as intended - like a clever vego tribute to fish and chips:

Find it at: 3995 Main St, Vancouver.

2. Harvest Community Foods. Two nights later I was ready to leave on The Canadian sleeper train to Jasper, part of a long rail and ferry journey up to Alaska and Yukon. It made sense to eat near Pacific Union Station, so this simple eatery on the edge of Chinatown was ideal.

Harvest focuses on healthy, sustainable produce, just what I needed. When travelling, it's easy to make poor food choices, but everything here looked great...

... so I went for a tofu dish, with a nut-based side salad, and a glass of home-made grape and green tea kombucha:

Find it at: 243 Union St, Vancouver.

3. Maenam. When I returned from Yukon to Vancouver a few weeks later, I had dinner at this impressive Thai restaurant in Kitsilano. Dish after dish came out, as I shared a vegetarian version of the "chef's menu" selection.

Sadly I was too overwhelmed by the excellent food to make detailed notes, so I'm merely going to share some photos with you. Trust me - it was all delicious.

Find it at: 1938 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver.

Have fun eating your own path through Vancouver's great dining scene. Bon appetit!

Friday 17 November 2017

Vanished Melbourne (Part 2)

In my Melbourne Historical app (sadly no more), I had a category called "Vanished". This listed several memorable Melbourne buildings which tragically had been demolished. Last post I shared three of them with you; here are three more...

St Patrick's Hall at right. Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

4. St Patrick's Hall

Lost birthplace of the Victorian Parliament

Opened in 1849, St Patrick's Hall served a number of handy purposes in its early years: as a meeting place for the Irish society which had built it, as a school, and as the venue for an exhibition of industry and agriculture long before the Royal Exhibition Building was built.

In 1851, however, it took on a much more prestigious role as the first home of the Victorian Parliament. Or more precisely, the home of the Legislative Council, the partly-elected chamber which later became the upper house of a more democratic legislature.

After hosting a grand ball to mark the formal separation of Victoria from the territory of New South Wales, the building was extensively renovated for its new purpose. In November 1851, the politicians moved in.

They wouldn't be there for long. In 1856 a new Parliament House was built on Spring Street to serve the two houses which had just been returned at Victoria's first fully democratic election. The Legislative Council moved out to join the new Legislative Assembly in its new home.

With a handy sum of rent money jingling in their pockets, the St Patrick's Society modernised the hall by adding a new three-storey facade which brought it up to the line of the street.

Over the next century the hall slowly fell into disuse, as other venues arose to serve the citizens' needs. St Patrick's Hall was demolished in 1957.

There are two reminders of the hall still present today. One is St Patrick's Alley off Little Bourke Street, which ran alongside the building. The other is the former Speaker's Chair, which now stands within Queen's Hall in Parliament House.

Nowadays the site of St Patrick's Hall is occupied by the offices of the Law Institute of Victoria, a fitting tribute to the vanished building which once held Victoria's first lawmakers.

Visit the site: 470 Bourke St, Melbourne.

Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

5. Stewart Dawson's Corner

Once a popular meeting place, now forgotten

From the late 19th century to 1928, the northwest corner of the intersection of Collins and Swanston Streets was known as Stewart Dawson's Corner.

Dawson was a successful British jeweller and watchmaker who emigrated to Australia in 1886. He soon built up successful branches of his business in Australia and New Zealand, with Stewart Dawson's Building housing his Melbourne emporium.

The footpath in front of the building became a prime place for people to meet (perhaps because of the proximity of the Melbourne Town Hall clock across the street), second only to "under the clocks" at Flinders Street Station. As many young men loitered here, this spot was also teasingly known as Puppy Dog Corner.

For decades, everyone in Melbourne knew where Stewart Dawson's corner was. Then in 1932 Stewart Dawson's Building was demolished to make way for the impressive Depression-busting Manchester Unity Building.

Stewart Dawson's Corner is long forgotten in Melbourne. However, if you'd like to stand on a live and kicking Stewart Dawson's Corner, you can do so at the intersection of Lambton Quay and Willis Street in Wellington, New Zealand. Sadly, the 116-year-old branch of Stewart Dawson's at that location moved out of its long-term home in late 2016.

Visit the site: Corner of Collins & Swanston Sts, Melbourne.

Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.
6. Theatre Royal

A demolished theatre, once a byword for scandal

Melbourne's Theatre Royal opened in 1855 with Richard Sheridan's comic play The School for Scandal.

This may have been an omen - before long the theatre gained an unsavoury reputation for vice, especially prostitution, and respectable folk avoided it like the plague.

The most famous act to appear here in its early years was Lola Montez, the infamous courtesan who'd once been the mistress of the King of Bavaria.

Lola arrived in Melbourne in 1855 to find the city still humming from the discovery of gold a few years before.

Taking to the Theatre Royal stage, she performed her notorious 'Spider Dance'. This faux Spanish folk dance involved her energetically searching her skirts for an invisible spider, then stamping it to death.

The response of local newspaper critics ranged from hostile to lukewarm. The Argus described it as “utterly subversive of all ideas of public morality”; while The Age was initially impressed, until a second reviewer decided the dance was “simply ridiculous”.

After the theatre burned down in 1872, it was swiftly rebuilt. Leaving its dubious reputation behind, the Theatre Royal became a popular venue for plays and musicals over the next 60 years.

The Theatre Royal was demolished in 1933, to be replaced by a department store. Its address is now the site of the Target Centre shopping arcade.

Although Melbourne's Theatre Royal is no more, you can still visit a 19th century Theatre Royal in Hobart, and another in Castlemaine in country Victoria.

Visit the site: 232 Bourke St, Melbourne.

Friday 10 November 2017

Vanished Melbourne (Part 1)

In my Melbourne Historical app (now sadly no more), I had a category called "Vanished". This listed several memorable Melbourne buildings which had tragically been demolished. I'd like to share them with you; here are the first three...

Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

1. Cole's Book Arcade

A famous book emporium whose story is now concluded

One of Melbourne's best-remembered vanished buildings, Cole's Book Arcade was a prominent part of the city's life from 1883 to 1929.

Strong-willed proprietor Edward Cole, a firm believer in the educational and transformative powers of books, built a vast book emporium which eventually stretched between Bourke and Collins Streets. As part of this expansion, Cole paved and roofed Howey Place, a previously dingy alley off Little Collins Street.

Cole's sprawling shop beneath its skylit glass roof sold more than books, trading in confectionery and a vast array of household ornaments. It also contained diversions such as stuffed animals, funny mirrors and a changing parade of exhibitions.

Sadly, this unique emporium closed in 1929, and the building was demolished soon after.

Nowadays the Bourke Street Mall site is the home to upmarket department store David Jones, while Howey Place is lined by fashion boutiques. However, you can still see EW Cole's ornamental roof over Howey Place today.

Visit the site: 299 Bourke St, Melbourne.

Photo courtesy of the
State Library of Victoria.
2. Federal Coffee Palace

A teetotal hotel which eventually turned to drink

Like the extant Hotel Windsor in its early years, the Federal Coffee Palace was an alcohol-free hotel whose owners believed in the temperance cause.

It opened in 1888, neatly timed for the influx of visitors attending the great Centennial Exhibition of that year at the Royal Exhibition Building.

Unfortunately, its owners' high-minded ideals were unable to compete with the proximity of various pubs, and in 1897 the hotel gained a liquor licence and became the Federal Palace Hotel, then later the Federal Hotel.

The Federal Coffee Palace was decorated in a flamboyant jumble of styles which outdid even the usual Victorian-era excesses. An arcaded foyer with a glass roof soared four storeys in height, and the grand staircase was decorated in red and white marble. Outside, its lofty domed tower was a prominent landmark in those low-rise days.

Unfortunately, the Federal didn't survive the advent of sophisticated modern hotels serving the jetsetters of the post-World War II era. It was demolished in 1973.

The beautiful hotel was succeeded by a bland concrete office tower, which is now giving way to a new 47-storey apartment building.

If you want to drink an espresso in memory of the grand edifice of temperance which once stood here, head a few blocks east to the cafe beneath the Elizabeth Street colonnade of the GPO Building. Its name? Federal Coffee Palace.

Visit the site: 555 Collins St, Melbourne.

Photo courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.

3. Fish Market

A monumental market that met its maker

Whenever Melburnians bemoan the destruction of the city's grand buildings of the past, an example that always gets a mention is the Fish Market. This 200 metre long building stretched along Flinders Street, its rear curving along the railway viaduct behind the site.

Opened in 1892 upon the closure of the previous fish market next to Flinders Street Station, the market stored and sold fish, poultry, rabbits and other game. Despite this mundane function, it was an elaborate expression of civic pride, with a central clock tower, an impressive arched entry, and conical towers dotted along its length.

In the late 1950s, the market's functions were relocated to a large new site on Footscray Road, West Melbourne. The Fish Market building was demolished in 1959.

Nowadays the site is occupied by the Northbank Place commercial and residential development, completed in 2009. There's something piscine in its curving walls and steel ribs, a tribute perhaps to its memorable predecessor.

Visit the site: 545 Flinders St, Melbourne.

Next post: three more demolished Melbourne gems, including a scandalous theatre and the Victorian Parliament's forgotten first home...

Friday 3 November 2017

Łódź, Poland: From Industrial Revolution to Movies

I visited Poland courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.

Last year I revisited one of Poland's most overlooked cities, Łódź (pronounced 'woodge').

In the centre of the country, Poland's third-largest city was the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution in what was then a province of the Russian Empire. As a result, it has a lot of interesting industrial architecture, from repurposed factory complexes to tycoons' luxurious former homes.

It's more noted nowadays as the hub of the Polish film industry. Because Warsaw was in ruins at the end of the Second World War, movie-makers regrouped here after the conflict.

Cinematic highlights for visitors include the Cinematography Museum housed within a former mansion; the National Film School where Roman Polański once studied; and the animation museum of Se-ma-for Studios.

Here's a quick tour...

1. Start your visit with the Cinematography Museum. There are two attractions here: the extensive collection of movie memorabilia, from early stereoscopic film viewers to sets and props from recent productions; and the beautiful mansion it's housed in, once the home of a Łódź textile king.

2. From the museum it's a short walk to the National Film School, spread across a number of buildings. It doesn't hold regular tours, but it's possible to pre-book one in English. This is the place where greats such as Polański, Kieślowski and Wajda got their start, and there are plaques to these ex-students on a set of stairs where they sat between classes.

3. Next stop is Se-ma-for Studios, one of Poland's top animation creators. Its Animation Museum has a great range of puppets which have been used over the decades in Polish animated movies, including recent international co-productions. It's fun to look through the changing designs, even if you're not familiar with the productions.

4. A great place to end is Lodz's main street, ul Piotrowska. Here in the footpath is the Walk of Fame, embedded Hollywood-style stars with the names of famous Polish film-makers in them. Because Piotrowska is full of good restaurants and bars, it's a good spot to finish your visit over an excellent Polish beer.

It's worth staying over, but it's also possible to visit Łódź as a day trip by train from Warsaw (though it'd be a long and busy day). You can find out more about the city and its attractions at the official Łódź tourism website.

Friday 27 October 2017

Help! Beatles Tour of Hamburg (With Ukulele)

On this trip I was hosted by the German National Tourist Office.

"There's nowhere in the world they played more than Hamburg," says Stefanie Hempel as we stand in the German city's Beatles-Platz. "Here the foundation stone was laid for their career."

She's right. Hamburg was where the Beatles got their start, playing a huge number of gigs - Hempel estimates it as 300 concerts over two years.

Her tribute to their German residency is a specialist tour of the St Pauli neighbourhood around the Reeperbahn, the spine of Hamburg's famous red-light and entertainment district.

She punctuates stops at the sites of Beatles venues past and present, by playing Beatles songs - on her ukulele.

It may be a far cry from the Beatles' guitars or even George Harrison's sitar, but it seems to work. The compact instrument allows Hempel to belt out a tune, vocals included, with little preparation. Then we're off along St Pauli's dingy daytime streets to the next stop.

At Beatles-Platz itself, she sings In My Life. Then at the former Top Ten Club (see photo top right), she rocks a version of sea shanty My Bonnie, which the early Beatles performed with Tony Sheridan.

In a back street courtyard, we locate the doorway which John Lennon leaned against for the cover of his 1975 Rock 'n' Roll album...

... then we pause by the site of the former Bambi Kino, a cinema where the Beatles were boarded within a shabby storeroom between gigs:

One of the nearby places they performed at was the Indra, where they first used the Beatles name and initially acted as the backing band for a stripper (Hempel performs the Chuck Berry number Rock and Roll Music here):

Next is the Kaiserkeller, perhaps the Hamburg venue most linked with The Beatles in popular memory. It's still rocking:

And finally, we stand behind the site of the long-vanished Star Club, to admire this plaque listing the impressive array of talented artists who took the stage during its short life:

This is where Stefanie goes out with a bang, belting out I Saw Her Standing There. I join in the "Ooooh" bit in the chorus, of course. All you need is love, right?

Find out more and make bookings at Hempel's Beatles Tour website.