Revisiting

 



David Whitley looks at the cities that improve on a second visit – and the smaller places where going back can be a mistake

When I first went to Melbourne, I was 22 years old. I quite liked the place, but – as with many travellers – I didn’t really click with it. I’d just come off the back of four riotous months in Sydney, and it didn’t seem to have the same appeal. Everything seemed too spread about, there was a different vibe and it just wasn’t as much fun. Coming back as a 30 year old, the city I remembered seemed to have changed. The centre seemed a lot more vibrant, everything felt a bit more ‘me’ and I liked the place a lot more than I originally did.

Something similar happened with Prague. I’ve been three times over the years, and the first visit is little more than an alcoholic blur. Second time round, my vague memories from the first trip were sullied – it seemed to be an utter tourist trap from top to bottom. I went back this year though, and saw different sides to it – underground cave bars with a degree of sophistication, beautiful buildings on every corner and public art trails that could be followed with a bit of research beforehand. Great cities change. It’s part of what makes them great cities – the ability to adapt and morph into something different as the years pass. But people change too. The 22-year-old me and the 30-year-old me may have a lot of similarities, but the differences are significant too.

And it’s for these reasons that places are often worth revisiting. If you didn’t take to them the first time, there’s a high chance that the pair of you met at the wrong time. Go back, see the changes, tackle the things you wouldn’t have been interested in when you’re younger and the city can appear very different. The reverse, of course, can be true as well. There are numerous places that I regarded as magical when I first visited but had lost a bit of the lustre when I went back. These places, bizarrely, tend to be the smaller ones where time tends to stay still somewhat. Instead of change and new perspectives, you end up with a jaded perspective on somewhere that, at best, has just become a little bit more popular. Think of all the bores who will tell you that everywhere they’ve been to in South East Asia was much better when they went 20 years ago – it’s much the same thing.

Sometimes the treasured small finds are best left in the memory while the bigger disappointments are worth reassessment with an older mind and outlook. The trick is to remember that, even when places stay largely the same, people most definitely don’t.
 

 

Do you have any cities you liked a lot more second time around? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

 

Guide to driving in Australia

 

 

David Whitley looks at the differences between life on the road in Oz and the UK.

Turning an Australian holiday into an epic road trip, whether by campervan or car, makes a great deal of sense. There are plenty of logical routes that combine several mindblowing natural wonders, but don’t expect driving in Oz to be like a mundane dash up the M1. Here are a few things to expect.

Long, straight roads: The concept of distance in Australia is very different to what it is in the UK. Drives are measured in hours rather than kilometres, and most Aussies would consider a four hour drive to be water off a duck’s back rather than a massive expedition that needs careful preparation.

Most of these drives are along roads that are long, straight and often incredibly boring. They don’t require the constant alertness of a busy motorway, but be prepared to fight off the fatigue with rest stops and loud music.

Darkness dilemmas: Many of these long roads don’t have street lighting. But it’s not the lack of light that’s the issue at night – it’s what might leap out into the road. Kangaroos have absolutely terrible road sense, and are particularly active at dawn and dusk – so you need to keep a very careful eye out when driving in country areas for what might be about to emerge from the side of the road.

 

 

Petrol: Petrol in Australia is generally about two-thirds of the price you will pay in the UK, but the variation in price from place to place is significant. As a rule of thumb, the further you are away from a big city, the more expensive it’ll be. So fill up when near a relative big smoke rather than paying an absolute fortune at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere.

How fast? The speed limit, generally, is 110km/h. But in the Northern Territory, there are some exceptions to this, where you’re allowed to burn it at 130km/h at some stretches of four lane highway.

Passing the big boys: The teensy problem, however, can be that once you’re in the outback, there aren’t all that many stretches of four lane highway. And this can make passing the humungous road trains (basically, two or three lorries tied together) and every-present dawdling caravans very tricky to pass. You have to bide your time until you can be certain nothing’s coming the other way, then absolutely floor it, to get past.

Hit the dirt: Not all of Australia’s roads are paved, and the question of whether to tackle the ones that are not depends on whether you’ve got a 4WD vehicle and what weather conditions have been like recently. Some dirt tracks are just about manageable with a conventional vehicle if there hasn’t been much rain. Others can be a real struggle in a high spec 4WD in good conditions, and utterly impassable in bad. Always ask at visitor information centres/ roadhouses/ hotels near the start of the road what conditions are like – and make sure you’re suitably kitted up with radios, emergency supplies and the works for the most notorious long distance outback tracks.