Travel’s fun and makes you feel good but, writes Travel Editor Susie Boswell, it can also offer other satisfactions.
Travel broadens the mind, they say, and no more so than when we take a trip away to enjoy new sights and a new environment … coupled with the new horizons that come with learning fresh skills.Recently I enjoyed visiting one of the most beautiful parts of Australia Tasmania – for its scenic delights, while pairing the break with some lessons. “Back to school” for me in this instance was a week-long residential at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) in Hobart’s Sandy Bay district, paired with some wonderful forays into the beautiful natural Tassie countryside.
“Willkommen,” my genial teacher, Dr Billy Badger, greeted me as I entered the lecture room to join a dozen or so new classmates. We’d all come along – a motley group of two youngsters not doing so well in their secondary school language studies, a dedicated young teacher’s college graduate, a couple of active seniors, a Goth, a guy planning a trip to Munich, two total beginners, me and several assorted others – to brush up our German language skills at the Goethe Institut’s annual residential school. Dr Badger’s friendly eagerness to help us learn, and to enjoy the process along the way, was to prove beyond any I’ve ever encountered in a lecture room setting. We learned lots, but we had enormous fun as well. The main UTAS campus is set high up on 100ha, much of it in natural bushland with Hobart’s imposing Mount Wellington as a backdrop and overlooking the Derwent River, quite close (five minutes by taxi) to the city centre. We were billeted in self-contained apartments with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, sharing a fully-equipped kitchen, common room and balconies with superb views at night down to the Wrest Point Casino and by day up into the wooded foothills. Our meals were provided in the campus restaurant but we also enjoyed nights out, self-catering if we wanted, and heaps of excursions – walking, hiking, nature-spotting, and so on.
For me, Tasmania ranks right up at the top of Australia’s best scenic destinations, matched only by Broome, Darwin and the Great Barrier Reef. I enjoyed romping about on a range of water-based tours, along the close-lying waterways (where our guide pointed out Princess Mary Donaldson’s old school on the banks of the Derwent), on a state-of-the-art naval-style vessel down to the edge of the Southern Ocean, close-up whale-spotting and mingling with seal colonies. In keeping with the nautical theme I’d set myself I spent quite some time enjoying the many quality seafood eateries, both casual and formal, between Constitution Dock and Salamanca Square (Tassal my favourite!) and, when I’d said ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to my German school, I even checked in to the five-star (but laid-back) Henry Jones Art Hotel – the 200-year-old sandstone heritage hotel right on the Hobart waterfront. Tassie’s such a wonderfully simple place to get around: easy to drive around, quick-to-reach attractions, few queues, uncrowded fishing spots, it was easy for me to catch up with friends who live in the island State.
Of course, there are summer schools all around the nation, and other language institutions such as Italy’s Dante Alighieri Society and the Alliance Francaise, both of whom I’ve spent some happy times with. Not to mention, of course, wonderful language schools beckoning from overseas: if you want to travel to the renowned language school for foreigners in Perugia in Italy, for example, or attend a live-in ‘ecole’ in France you’ll also enjoy the cooking schools inevitably held in conjunction with them as well as the wonderful attractions of those nations in your extra-curricular time.
Closer to home, though, and for far less freight, or for those with less free time, there are all sorts of schools – for art, cuisine (Sydney Seafood School runs terrific classes if you’re visiting the capital), sailing, music and more. Not too far from home, for example, is Maison de St Claire [inset pic], located in 12 acres of subtropical rainforest with spectacular valley views in Upper Crystal Creek, near Murwillumbah. Not only will you enjoy French language lessons from an expert, croissants and a baguette for ‘petit dejeuner’, cooking classes and French music and dancing, you’re certain to enjoy a wonderfully relaxing break. Sure, it’s fine to indulge in nothing more physically or mentally energetic than lazing about on a sunlounge.
But it also can be immensely satisfying to broaden the mind, as well as the behind.
Susie Boswell was a guest of Tourism Tasmania.
Photos: Tourism Tasmania – John de la Roche and Maison de St Claire.