Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Melbourne Architecture - Melbourne Central

Melbourne Central is a huge shopping centre built on top of the Melbourne Central train station. Originally designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, it was renovated in 2002 and given a complete face-lift. What remains of the original design is the office tower, the shopping podium has been completely transformed.

The design of Melbourne Central represents one of the new trends in Australian design, where the architecture takes on a whimsical and mischievous character - much like a stage set. Fantasy, humour and pop culture all play a part in the mix. The result is often eye-catching, however one can't help but wonder whether it would have lasting power. When architecture becomes fashion, it can't help but lose it's lustre in tandem with the trends.

The entance at the corner of Swanston and Latrobe Street. The design at this corner looks like a cardboard box which is being opened at the top.

Graphics plays a big part in the design.

The central atrium. An old tower on the site has been preserved as the main feature in the atrium.

Some of the shopping arcades.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Melbourne Architecture - Melbourne Museum

The Melbourne Museum is located in the Carlton Gardens, towards the north-eastern corner of the CBD. It shares the Gardens with the Royal Exhibition Building, one of the largest heritage buildings in Victoria. 

Part of the Museum Victoria which has a number of venues around the city, the Melbourne Museum is a huge complex. The entrance plaza is very dramatic. It is a huge public square, and the sloping canopies of the Museum entrance provides shade and leads visitors into the building.

Designed by renown Melbourne firm Denton Corker Marshall (DCM), the architecture is modern, dramatic and angular. Skewed angles, sharp corners and meticulous detailing are signatures of their architecture. 

The Museum houses a number of collections. The Melbourne Gallery showcases the history of the city. The Discovery Centre is a science museum. There is also a Children's Gallery for the kids, and an IMAX Theatre. The quality of the exhibitions and architecture are worldclass. 

The dramatic entrance plaza and canopies. 

Inside the Museum - skewed angles and sharpe corners abound.

Melbourne Architecture - Southern Cross Station

The Southern Cross Station is a major transport hub on Spencer Street. It was built over the old Spencer Street Station Site. Completed in 2006 - in time for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, it now serves as the regional railway station and bus terminal of Victoria.

Designed by Grimshaw Architects from UK, the building has won numerous awards. It's most distinctive feature is the undulating roof, with steel trusses which rise and fall like waves of the sea. Skylights over the trusses provide daylight into the gigantic building, making it bright and airy.

I am usually not a big fan of big transport infrastructures. I find them often cold and impersonal. Internally there's not much to look at. It is afterall a big railway station. But just to feel the drama and scale of the structure is worth the trip.

The main entrance at the corner of Spencer and Collins Street.

Views inside the station.

Tips To Get Airline Tickets & Hotel Rooms Cheaply

For many people, vacation time presents a mix of joy and pain. While everyone is willing to point out the wonderful feelings experienced when travelers go on vacation, most travelers continue to dread the price shock experienced. A select few have truly mastered the art of maximizing the enjoyment and minimizing the pain of vacation time. So, here are 4 tips for compounding the good of a vacation and suppressing the bad.

Tip 1 is Plan Your Trip Early Pretty much everything is cheaper when you buy it early. Using a popular travel site, we found that a trip from Houston to San Diego scheduled 3 days before flight time costs 560 dollars. While, the same trip purchased 6 months early would cost 369 dollars. Thats a savings of almost 200 dollars.

This leads many to ask a question. Why dont hotels and airlines just set their price and be done with it? Hotels and airlines recognize that your money can only get to them if they can lure you into making the purchase. The longer you wait to purchase from them, the more likely you are to change your mind or use their competitors. So, the lower price incentive lures you to act as soon as possible to lock you in with them. They understand that travel plans change rapidly and you are less likely to postpone a trip once you have already purchased the ticket. Though annoying, always use this to your advantage. Plan and pay for your trip as early as possible. I recommend 3-6 months ahead, if possible.

Tip 2 is Travel During Non Peak Seasons This is so simple to understand. Hotels and airlines are businesses. They would rather get a portion of the money they would like to charge for their services rather than getting no money at all. Thats why non peak season deals abound. For instance, if you dont ski, go to the areas that cater to the ski crowd during the non-ski months. Why you ask? Well, the beauty of nature is still there, the other entertainment options that ride the ski sport to the top are still there and the hotels and airlines are screaming to fill the spaces that would otherwise sit idle. You can often find rates at less than 30 cents on the dollar.

Tip 3 is Use Vacation or Travelers Account Tools For many travelers, vacations are a yearly thing. The need to travel is not a surprise when the time comes. Create an online vacation or travel account. If you like saving money, you cant afford not to. With the new tools that have come along in the last year, you dont even have to go to the bank to do so.

Use free tools like the Cheap Airline Tickets Toolbar to build your vacation budget. The Cheap Airline Tickets Toolbar at www.cheapairlineticketstoolbar.com allows users to earn money for vacation travel, hotels and entertainment by pointing out errors that they see online. The money can be applied directly to a debit card for use. Using such tools opens up a variety of travel options by allowing for more and increased quality of your vacations. At an average payout of two dollars for every valid error report, a vacation budget can quickly be built using such tools.

Tip 4 is Shop Around Everyone understands the concept of shopping around, but there are a couple of special considerations and tactics when doing it for travel purposes. In the age of the Internet, it is easy to compare pricing for flights and hotels without leaving home. Many travel websites actually search multiple airline carriers and hotels simultaneously and then list their rates and amenities side by side for comparison. Use them. They can help you save a lot of money. Also, when you travel to tourist towns, bargain for the hotel rooms cost. In tourist towns, there are usually many mom and pop type hotels that are clamoring for business. It often helps to contact several and play the bid game. Tell them you are coming to the town and need a room. Then tell them the price that their competitor has offered. You will be surprised at the number of times that the person on the phone (which is usually the manager) will lower his/her prices to get you to choose them rather than their competitors. This is highly compounded during off-peak seasons.

Cheap Travel Packages - An Inexpensive Holiday

Going on holiday is what everyone looks forward to and so many of us prefer to venture out in search of cost-effective travel. With the emergence of online booking services and great discount travel websites, booking travel has become relatively easy. You can easily find cheap travel package to exotic destinations all over the world. Today, all you need to do is log on to the Internet and perform a quick search for various travel options online.

Most of these discounted travel sites offer you all the resources you need to plan your trip. These sites also allow you to compare prices, choose your most preferred airline and get the best travel deal on holiday packages. You can also customise a cheap travel package by choosing from the various individual travel components available. These are a convenient way to make your dream holiday a reality. These travel packages may include flights, cruises, additional car hire, hotel booking, travel insurance and several other exciting travel services. Apart from the regular holiday packages, you may also come across last minute packages online. These special packages are fantastic bargains for the spontaneous traveller and perfect for weekend getaways.

Many of the online travel services specialize in offering the best airfares on the web whether traveling within Australia or to overseas destinations. Be it for a weekend gateway, business trio or a long vacation, every travel can enjoy the best updated deals and make their dream trip come true

Monday, February 16, 2009

10 best exotic places to take an extended holiday

1. Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve on the south coast of Portugal is and has been one of the top exotic extended holiday spots for many United Kingdom and European residents for years. Many Canadian tour operators offer packages. The region offers temperate and mild warm weather, large resort areas surrounded by small villages and four championship golf courses. Besides its 150 beaches, be sure to visit some of the "Pueblos Blancos" or traditional villages such as Monchique, for great views and authentic Portuguese arts and crafts.

2. Southern Spain: Costa del Sol

There's nothing like the Mediterranean beaches of the Spanish Coast to call on all sunbathers, the stylish rich and famous, and party people. In Costa del Sol, you'll find exotic beaches, golf, luxury resorts and Puerto Banus, one of TripAtlas.com's Top 10 Portside Cities of the Western Mediterranean, the most luxurious marina in the world. Honourable mention on the coast also includes Costa Blanca and Costa de Almeria.

3. Morocco

From the magical streets and markets of Marrakech to the little-known beaches of Essaouira, Morocco is no longer a haven just for indulgent artists and poets. As one of the best expressions of North Africa, there's something about Morocco that exudes an alluring and exotic culture that takes an extended holiday or long stay to really appreciate. Visit Morocco before it expands into a resort-overloaded destination.

4. Goa, India

Goa is a hot holiday spot for Indian and South Asian vacationers and is best known for its beaches, festivals and ancient temples. It was once a Portuguese colony and thus offers an eclectic mix of both east and west. Calangute and Candolim are the most popular beach towns, but Goa's capital Panaji (also Panjim) is worth a visit, as is Ponda, a sacred site of Goan temples.

5. Florida

While Florida may not be the most exotic destination on the list, Florida is home to hundreds of thousands Canadian snowbirds each year. Stay in the Florida Panhandle area, which is less crowded, or the attraction-filled Orlando. Perfect your "Captiva Crouch" on Captiva Island or your golf game at the hundreds of golf courses throughout the Sunshine State. Many condo rentals, airlines and tour operators offer great deals.

6. Canary Islands, Grand Canaria, Tenerife and Fuerteventura

Off the northwest coast of Africa between Morocco and Western Sahara, the Canary Islands are a set of volcanic islands that are the perfect hideout for Europeans and other visitors looking to stay away from snow and chilly winds. Destinations include the bigger islands of Grand Canaria and Tenerife, while Fuerteventura is known for its windsurfing and La Gomera is best for its rainforest and walking trails.

7. Bali, Indonesia

Stay for a month in Bali to get the best of enchanting Indonesian culture, cuisine, and beautiful beaches. Popular spots in Bali include Benoa Beach, Legian and Sanur Beach. This region is known for water sports enthusiasts including honeymooners, scuba divers and surfers.

8. Phuket and Pattaya, Thailand
White shores and the most stunning aqua blue waters you'll ever see, Thailand and other coast-side spots in Southeast Asia such as Penang, Malaysia, are popular holiday destinations. They bring together cultural heritage, mountain views, elephant camps, ancient temples and palaces, stunning beaches, water sports, resorts, restaurants and nightclubs -- all in one place. Popular Phuket destinations include Karon, Patong and Kata Beaches. Hotels, resorts, B&Bs, or half/full board accommodation are all available.

9. Mazatlan, Mexico

For fresh seafood and for sports fishing fans, Mazatlan offers exactly what you need for your extended holiday getaway. While it's a great resort area with warm beaches that you could laze on for weeks, Mazatlan also gives its visitors a taste of Mexico from the past as well as today. It's such a nice place, many Canadians, Americans and Europeans now move to Mazatlan to retire.

10. St. Martin, Caribbean

Among the many paradisiacal islands in the Caribbean, TripAtlas picked St. Martin because of its great mix of relaxation, culture and a refined sense of exotic French and European flavours. An extended holiday on St. Martin also allows time for you to explore the Dutch side as well, or island hop to and from other nearby islands such as Anguilla, St. Barts and Saba.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Melbourne Architecture - QV Centre

The QV Centre is a mixed-used development which was opened in 1993. A redevelopment of the Queen Victoria Hospital site, the project has 4 main components - QV 1 to QV4. Each part was designed by a different architect. There was a deliberate attempt to mix things up a bit in this project. It avoids the homogeneous look of most big commercial developments which can get stale very fast. Generally the whole place has a Uni Campus Vibe - a meeting of different minds, rather then a single totalitarian vision.

The architecture here is not "pretty" in the usual sense. But, to an architect it's like Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes design is not about creating pretty things, but about pushing boundaries, putting things together and see what you can come up with. Often the creative process is more interesting then the end product. And QV looks like a work in progress rather then a finished product, which makes it exciting as a visual experience. 

The main anchor for the project is the BHP Billiton Global Headquarters - a highrise office tower on Londsdale Street. There is a main public square in the centre, with a variety of food outlets and cafes. There are also 2 apartment buildings which provide the local population to support the retail and F&B business.

The BHP Billiton HQ on Londsdale Street. 

Entrance to QV Centre from Swanston Street.

The internal public square. There's a uni campus vibe to it.

View along Russel Street.

Shops are arranged along narrow alleyways.

The apartment buildings are also quite architecturally adventurous in design.

Melbourne Architecture - Crown Casino

The Crown Casino Complex on Southbank was open in 1997. It injected a bit of life into an otherwise sedate Melbourne, though Melbournians may beg to differ. Attracting 16 million visitors a year, it has become the most popular destination in Victoria.

Designwise the complex is quite well done. It managed to avoid the usually gaudy casino architecture as in Vegas and Macau. Overall it is modern and cosmopolitan,and the most striking part of the complex is the Crown Towers Hotel. The oval-shaped tower is very elegant, and the variation in facade treatment from the lower to the upper levels creates visual interest and sophistication.

Besides the Casino which is the main attraction for most visitors, there are many shops, entertainment outlets, restaurants and cafes. The river promenade along Southbank is one of the nicest walks in Melbourne. Sitting in a cafe overlooking the Yarra River during sunset is one of the great pleasures to be had here.

The Southbank Promenade. One of the best places to spend a lazy afternoon in Melbourne.

Food. An important ingredient in any entertainment complex. International celebrity chef Nobu has also opened a restaurant here, so has famous Aussie Chef Neil Perry with his Rockpool Bar & Grill.

Slabs of premium beef being dry-aged.

A mouth-watering pastry shop.