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Travel highlights of 2013.

There wasn’t a lot of travel for me in 2013 (there was a good excuse, though – see below), but I still managed a couple of overseas trips and a few jaunts in and around Australia. So, without further ado here are my Top Ten Travel Highlights of 2013:

Luca, Melbourne, Australia
On February 18th 2013 I began a great adventure. My wife gave me a little boy. Yes, I know it’s not really a travel highlight, but it is one the of the most exciting journeys you can possibly take. And he is a little traveller already. Luca is not even one yet and he has been on 12 planes – and I’m very happy to say that he is not one of those screamers!

Brian Thacker 2013 Travel Highlights
Luca on his first flight – Melbourne to Sydney en-route to meet his grandparents in Minneapolis.

Wine Crawl, Sonoma, California, USA
After seeing the film ‘Sideways’ I’ve always wanted to visit the Wine Country in Northern California. So, I was rather excited when my wife and I were invited to a wedding (my wife was the bridesmaid) in a vineyard near Sonoma. The wedding was beautiful, but my favourite part was the next day where the wedding party went on a winery tour – with most of them in a ridiculously long stretch Hummer no less. We drank lots of wonderful wine sitting under trees in gorgeous little boutique wineries, ate lots of cheese, played Bocce, drank some more wine and felt just like I was in the movie Sideways (except I’m not a bitter frustrated writer – just a frustrated one).

Brian Thacker 2014 Travel Highlights
Roll out the barrel, roll out the barrel of fun!

Brian Thacker 2013 Travel Highlights
A hot, and somewhat tipsy, game of bocce between wines.

The Drive In, Taylor Falls, Minnesota,USA
The Drive In Restaurant opened right around the time when Ritchie Cunningham was hanging out with the Fonz. And not much has changed since 1956 – except a 25 cent hamburger is now $4.79 and a 20 cent root beer is now $1.99. But there were carhops (girls in 50s skirts coming to your car to take your order), 50’s music, root beer in frosted mugs, and good old-fashioned, and delicious, hamburgers. I had a ‘basket’ that included a hamburger and fries – and I managed to spill sauce all over the inside of our hire car.
Brian Thacker 2013 Travel Highlights
‘Specials’ include a ‘Pizza Burger’, ‘Bison Burger’ and the enticing ‘Chuckwagon’.

Brian Thacker 2013 Travel Highlights
A VERY cute carhop – AKA my Wife.

Sky Bar, Jakarta, Indonesia
This wasn’t quite an authentic Indonesian experience when we dropped in for dessert at the the 56th floor Sky bar and Restaurant in Jakarta, but I loved it. I loved the view, I loved the impeccable service, I loved one of the best chocolate fondants I have ever devoured and I loved the sheer decadence of ordering a bottle of dessert wine that was the equivalent in price to 30 Bintang beers down on the streets below.

Brian Thacker 2013 Travel Highlights
The view – before the decadence began.

Sculptures by the Sea, Sydney, Australia
I’ve always wanted to see Sculptures by the Sea, which began in 1997, and I finally got the chance in 2013. And it was well worth the wait. The sculptures are set amongst, in and on the top of the stunning coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama. There were too many great sculptures to show and talk about, but here are a couple of my favourites…
Brian Thacker 2013 Travel Highlights
This sculpture probably has some deeply significant meaning, but I just like the skeleton on a bike on a pole!

Brian Thacker 2103 Travel Highlights
The whole world gets turned upside down. No matter where you stood you got a moving, and quite moving, upside down view of Sydney.

Mt Buller, Victoria, Australia
What a perfect day and way to spend my birthday. Our dad/daughter trip began the day before with a bit of extreme tobogganing followed by a huge Austrian dinner in front of an open fire. We woke up on my birthday morning to an overnight dump of snow and clear blue skies. My 11 year old daughter even sang happy birthday to me on the chairlift.

Brian Thacker
The birthday boy (Photo by Jasmine Thacker)

San Francisco, California, USA
I’ve been to San Francisco before, but I only have fuzzy memories of it. And that’s not because I was getting high in Haight-Ashbury – it was 24 years ago. So, it was lovely to return with my wife and bubba and do all the tourist stuff again. We did the cable car, drove over that bridge, clam chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf, gorged at Ghirardelli chocolate shop, ate great Mexican and then got stoned out of our heads in Haight-Ashbury.

Brian Thacker 2103 Travel Highlights
That bridge and that fog.

Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia
This was my fourth trip to Fraser island, but this time was extra special for two reasons. It was my wife’s first trip to Queensland and it was Luca’s first ever swim. My wife told me that she was disappointed she didn’t see any dingoes on the beach and I said was it was probably for the better because we wouldn’t her screaming ‘The dingo’s got my baby!’

Brian Thacker 2013 Travel Highlights
Luca’s first swim – with the daughter and the wife.

Chilean cooking class, Melbourne, Australia
You don’t have to leave home to travel to another country. I was invited along to a Chilean cooking class by Chilean Tourism and the moment I walked in I was transported to a bar in Santiago – albeit one with a whole bunch of kitchen benches and stove tops in the middle of the room. While we stood around the pots and pans a two-piece band played Latino Smooth and we downed pisco sours and ate empanadas. By the time the cooking class started we were quite jovial. After our brief ‘class’ we were sent off in small groups to our kitchen benches to try to replicate the rather complicated dishes. I was rather impressed that my ‘Magallanic walnut crusted lamb cutlets’ turned out so well – I downed three glasses of Chilean red while I was doing the prep work.

Brian Thacker
The Chilean Cook and his musical accompaniment.

Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, USA
It’s handy having a relative (my wife’s uncle) who lives in a big flash house right on the banks of the Mississippi River. My fun-packed family day at Uncle Bob’s included high-speed motor boating, a gentle kayak up the Mississippi, jamming on Bob’s guitar collection and, in between all this, sitting on the back porch gorging on pulled-pork rolls, brats from the grill and local brewed beers. Bob said come and stay anytime you like. I’m moving in next month.

Brian Thacker 2103 Travel Highlights
Not a bad view.

I’m not sure what my travel plans are for this year. Possibly trips to Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, New Zealand and who knows where else – that’s what I love about travel!

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