Maryborough: Queensland’s Heritage Gem

Maryborough represented a bit of change of pace for us on our tour of the east coast of Australia. This would be our longest house/pet sit in a city slightly inland, rather than the beach locations we’ve been used to. However, a bit of relaxing downtime was called for after our action-packed tour of Tasmania.

It’s a three hour drive north from Brisbane and on arriving at Maryborough on Saturday lunchtime we were immediately struck by two things: how pretty and interesting the city centre architecture of Maryborough is; and that there appeared to be no one there, with no shops open….rather like a zombie apocalypse film set, minus the zombies. We found the local tourist information centre and to our relief they explained that everything closes at lunchtime on a Saturday. As they politely guided us out of their Centre in the magnificent City Hall (they were also closing) we were directed to one of the cafes that remained open for a delicious lunch.

Maryborough’s grand City Hall

One of the many quaint things that immediately strikes you about Maryborough is its pedestrian crossing lights….

Mary Says Stop…

…that pay homage to the author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers whose home town this was…

Mary Says Go!

They are one of many delightful Poppins themed features that crop up all over the city centre, including an excellent life size statue of the legendary nanny…


Our housesit was in an absolutely gorgeous traditional Queenslander house (timber construction, raised on wooden stilts, and huge verandah) where we met Jane, whose home and cat (Leo) we would be looking after for four weeks. Jane was a lovely host who treated us to dinner on the night we arrived, and gave us loads of tips and recommendations on what to do in Maryborough and beyond. Suitably enthused, we launched ourselves into Maryborough life, going to its excellent Brolga Theatre to see two National Theatre recordings from London: Alan Bennett’s ‘Allelujah” and Shakespeare’s Richard II; an evening soiree at the art gallery; attending the local cinema club; Park Running; and regularly checking out the Thursday morning market where we discovered the sticky delights of Custard Apples – yes “apples” that taste of custard! As for Leo, having looked after several dogs, chucks and rabbits on previous sits, he was the easiest and least demanding of the lot. Spending the day doing his own thing and curling up at the end of our bed at night purring away happily. He does have a very disarming stare though…..especially when he greeted us at 5.30 am with this look!!

Look into my eyes….

Maryborough has a rich history and at one point was vying with Brisbane as the capital of Queensland. Its growth from 1847 onwards was based on its port on the Mary River (the only river in Australia that flows north into the sea), and the influx of colonial immigrants in part attracted by the gold rush taking place to the south in what became the city of Gympie, and mining to the north. Timber and sugar industry developed, however in time it became a centre of manufacturing, particularly shipbuilding and train engineering.

Mary River from Queens Park

During the high point of these labour intensive industries Maryborough thrived and the City features images of the “5 o’clock whistle” when the working day ended and the streets were engulfed by workers riding home on their bikes or to one of the many hotels for refreshment. It must have been quite a sight.

A Typical Scene From Maryborough’s CBD Streetscape: lovely building but no people

With this interesting history, the centre of Maryborough is a goldmine of fascinating architecture that sits beside thoughtful and whimsical street art and sculptures, an entertaining eccentric mural trail and other relics from the past, alongside a beautiful park and the river.

Environmental Health never really changes

The great shame of it is that there are so few people around to appreciate the city centre, and worse still, a large number of the shops are empty. Maryborough is a city centre crying out for investment and a regeneration plan that makes the most of its remarkable assets.

Maryborough’s Post Office

City centre retail revival has faced three fearsome foes, two if which are all too familiar: the inevitable growth in online shopping, and the development of out of town shopping centres. The latter is an own goal and is particularly galling as when you visit the local one a majority of the outlets would comfortable fit in the empty units in the city centre. There is another major threat painfully familiar to Queenslanders: flood. There is plenty of history to show the extraordinary flood levels the City and its centre has suffered in the near and distant past.


There are several tours of the city available delivered by incredibly knowledgable guides who clearly have a passion for Maryborough that they want to share. The guide is dressed as Mary Poppins – naturally! In addition there are self guided tours that take you to dozens of sites, and another that guides you to all of the murals.

One of Maryborough’s Wonderful Murals

It’s hard to imagine many other cities of the modest size of Maryborough taking so much trouble to celebrate and show off its past. Turn another corner and something else pops up to intrigue and delight you such as a display of retail advertising lovingly collated from Maryborough’s heyday.

Advertising of Yesteryear

Anzac Memorial.

Our stay in Maryborough coincided with Anzac Day on the 25th April. There is an excellent Anzac Memorial in the city commemorating the forces, with detailed displays on the Gallipoli and WWI campaigns.

Part of the Anzac Memorial Walk

An excellent walk with panels and commentary, is complemented with superb sculptures that make the display both informative and a moving tribute.

Anzac Memorial

It’s also the site of the cenotaph and on learning that there would be a Dawn Service we woke up early to attend the first of days three services, starting at 5.30 am. We were amazed at the turnout, with hundreds of people attending what was a moving service as the sun rose.


It’s not possible to overstate the importance of this day in the Australian psyche, especially in a city like Maryborough that is so connected to the past and the members of the community who have served the Forces, including the first man on the beach at Gallipoli, Major Duncan Campbell, immortalised by a statue at the memorial.


Fraser Island 

One of the “must-do’s” in this part of Queensland is a visit to Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island and a World Heritage site. It’s a fabulous mix of sand dunes and rain forest all of which can only be traversed by four-wheel drive. After bumping along the track from the ferry onto the island we made our way along a short stretch of sealed road until our driver gleefully announced that that was the end of the comfort and we suddenly found ourselves bouncing up and down sandy tracks, on our way to out first stop for the day: Lake McKenzie

Lake McKenzie

This must be the strangest and most beautiful lake we’ve swam in. It’s a freshwater lake that sits on a sandy bed, high up on Fraser Island. The water is pure rainwater and it’s prevented from draining away by organic matter that has created a seal. The sand is pure silica and produces astonishing colours as well as a very soft feel on the foot.

Despite the unquestionable beauty of this lake it is quite intimidating. After wading into its shallows you can see a steep shelf where the water drops away dramatically into dark depths. This creates the different stripes and shades of blue you can see in the picture above and below.

Lake McKenzie

Very sadly, just two weeks before our trip to Fraser, two Japanese students went missing at the Lake. Initially it was thought they were lost in the Bush that surrounds it. With light fading the search was resumed the following day when they were both found drowned in the Lake. Quite how this happened – especially given the apparently tranquil setting with no tide or rips to worry about – remains a mystery. It certainly makes you think twice about respecting the water regardless of how gorgeous it looks.

Fraser offers great contrasts and from the Lake, after more kangarooing along sand routes, we went along a rainforest boardwalk where we were presented with another natural risk…falling Kauri cones!

Achtung – Killer Cones!!

Here the forest felt distinctly ancient with species of palms and ferns dating back 300 million years. To add to the prehistoric atmosphere, a large monitor lizard duly scuttled into view…

Posing for the camera – a Monitor Lizard

From this vibrant and lush setting we made our way to the Fraser Island Highway….or as its otherwise known 75 Mile Beach as we careered along the sand yards from the ocean. This was wonderful and like so much of Fraser Island, a unique experience.

75 Mile Beach is official highway where the rules of the “road” apply, albeit with some flexibility to take account of the prevailing tide, and its nothing if not versatile doubling up as the runway for the local light aircraft….

Fraser Island Airport Arrivals & Departures Lounge

Remarkably the drive on the beach and the aircraft aren’t the main attraction here. Instead the impressive remains of the Maheno Shipwreck take that honour. The Maheno has a special place in Australian history having been involved in the Gallipoli campaign and subsequently used for target practice by the airforce in preparations for WWII. Given all the natural beauty of the Island its odd that this large rusting relic is such a major attraction, but in a way it’s the contrast of its decrepit state against the gorgeous sand and lapping waves that make it quite mesmerising.

Maheno Shipwreck

Having said that, when you turn away from the Maheno and look along the beach you just have to stop and stare at the jaw-dropping magnificence of this coastline. It really is quite overwhelming.

75 Mile Beach

One of the Island’s most famous and notorious inhabitants had been conspicuous by its absence during our trip – the Dingo. We’d just about given up hope of spotting one as we made our way back along the sand when one suddenly slipped into view stalking an unsuspecting sunbather.

Achtung – Dingo!

They certainly have a sense of menace about them and once the sunbather spotted it, she joined a nearby family for safety in numbers, and the dingo moved on. With no dogs on Fraser Island the local dingoes are the only pure-breed ones in Australia and they remain a source of controversy. A week after our visit a 14 month old toddler suffered a fractured skull when two dingoes grabbed and dragged him away from his family into the bush before he was saved by his father who heard his screams. On the local media there followed discussions of culls and the importance of campers staying in safe areas the dingoes can’t access. The incident was another reminder that so often in Australia you are the visitor in the territory of wild and dangerous animals.

Never turn your back on a Dingo – unless you’re Usain Bolt

After our dingo sighting, time was tight so our 4W Driver decided to take a short cut back to the ferry port. This involved going along a relatively unused route (which really is saying something by Fraser Island standards) and a journey that felt as though we travelled as far vertically as we did horizontally such was the undulating condition of the track. There was certainly no danger or dozing off and it made the crossing back to the mainland feel quite serene as we enjoyed another glorious Australian sunset.

Return from Fraser Island

Maryborough’s Museums

As you would expect from its heritage, Maryborough is blessed with a handful of excellent Museums. We especially liked the Bond Store Museum with its interactive displays, one of which was like operating the HG Wells Time Machine. Press a few buttons, push a lever and years click by in front of your eyes until it stops and a film plays to correspond to that year – so simple and so much fun.

However, our favourite museum in Maryborough is Brennan and Geraghty’s Store, a shop that is heritage listed and was saved by the National Trust. Dating back to 1870, this store looks as it did over 100 years ago, with paperwork and records found onsite that are over 140 years old.


As you step into the store it is truly like stepping back in time. Run by brothers-in law Brennan and Geraghty, it managed to hit a century of business before it closed in the early 1970’s. The store was left with old products and artefacts in situ and has been lovingly conserved by the National Trust and a great band of welcoming local volunteers who now staff it. Every item is from the actual store, and nothing has been added or removed.


It’s a bit off the beaten track in Maryborough but well worth the effort of finding and spending an hour or two marvelling at the products, fixtures and fittings. Maybe a reflection of the diet at the times but there seemed to be an extraordinary number of constipation related wares on sale!


Beach Report

An Aussie blog wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory beach report and photos. Although not directly on the coast, Maryborough is a good jumping off point for some great stretches of sand. Twenty minutes up the road is Hervey Bay with its huge sweeping beach – but it has to be said, far from the softest sand we’ve enjoyed (to be fair we are talking world class sand as the benchmark).

Torquay Beach, Hervey Bay

An hour south are the wonderfully named Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach, the latter being a top beach option.

Rainbow Beach

Our favourite was Bargara Beach near Bundaberg about an hour north. A really lovely spot with enough surf to make it fun and interesting, and a super little beach-side cafe. Bargara was meant to be a brief stop before we checked out Bundaberg. Thankfully we swopped that arrangement around as we found Bundaberg to be a bit bland.

Baragara Beach

Towards the end of our stay we ventured a couple of hours south to Noosa Heads. This is a much larger and more well-established resort. Forgetting it was Easter Monday we went there expecting it to be reasonably quiet – it wasn’t. Instead it was choked with horrendous traffic. We briefly saw a very busy beach with great surf, but it wasn’t for us. We have got spoilt by quiet deserted stretches and the likes of Noosa, Manly and Bondi are not for us – the backpackers and surfers are welcome to them. Instead we headed to another beach on the Noosa Heads peninsula and found the Aussie beach calm we so relish on Sunshine Beach.

Sunshine Beach – Storm Warning

Wildlife Sanctuary’s: Hmmm…

Sometimes a wildlife sanctuary is just that, a place of protection and recovery for animals that have been injured or mistreated in some way who can’t go back to the wild. At Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary they seemed to get the balance right in most cases, especially their roo’s and reptiles. Here it was possible to get very up close and personal with snakes…

Time to stay very still!

… and kangaroos who are being well cared for by passionate staff. There is something very magical about hand feeding kangaroos, but you do have to watch them nibbling your fingers!

How adorable – the ‘roo is cute as well.

Having said that it wasn’t always clear why so many birds were in cages, but on balance we felt this was a well run Sanctuary with its heart and head in the right place. Sadly, we couldn’t say that for the Dolphin Centre that operates from Tin Can Bay, which was a dispiriting experience. Admittedly, we may have been slightly prejudiced by one remarkably rude volunteer who helps to run this experience. Here every day between 7.00 – 8.00am you get the chance to see and feed Humpback Dolphins. Much emphasis is placed on the dolphins being wild and the Centre operating in accordance with Government regulations by not over-feeding them. However, it feels rather cheap and exploitative, and to our mind a really successful day would be none of the dolphins turning up, having caught all they need to eat in the wild. No stars and no pics for this – it’s one of the few things on our trip we regretted doing.

Park Run!

Remarkably Sam and I have managed to maintain our new running habit (thank you Chris and Julianne for inspiring us when we were in Sydney). Our extended stay in Maryborough gave us the chance to finish our Couch to 5K programme (which by the way we can’t recommend highly enough) AND complete our first ever Park Runs! Having found where the local Park Run takes place, we used this as our training circuit every other day. Up at 6am to beat the heat, it is a beautiful spot, and I always enjoy seeing a golf course when I’m running (Sam, less so).

Maryborough Golf Course

The first week we attended Park Run the organisers asked if there were any visitors and having owned up to being from the UK we got a lovely cheer, as we did the following two weeks, although as one of the locals pointed out, if we came to any more we would be considered locals as well.

No longer Park Run virgins.

The people we met at Park Run, and indeed at every event we went to in Maryborough, were incredibly friendly. Everyone seemed to know Jane, whose house and Leo we were taking care of, and were pleased we had come to visit their city as part of our travels. For us it was a delight to spend four weeks off the beaten track living like a local in a fascinating corner of Queensland where the modern history of this part of Australia is cared for and celebrated with zeal and heart-felt passion by its community. A real treasure.


The end of our Australian Travels: Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef

Mercury Rising in Stylish Adelaide

It would be fair to say that our trip to Adelaide didn’t get off to the most auspicious start. Arriving at our hotel very late after a three hour flight and “losing” two and half hours travelling east from Perth, the receptionist seemed to have trouble finding our details. I passed her my phone impatiently showing the email from Agoda confirming the booking. After glancing at it for a moment or two she passed it back to me and politely suggested I scroll down on the email. Following her instructions I read with horror the phrase “we apologise but on this occasion we cannot confirm your hotel reservation”. I immediately changed tack from affronted customer to sheepishly asking if they had any rooms available – which luckily they had, for about double what we thought we were going to pay! It took eight months for this type of cock-up to occur, so that isn’t too bad.

Despite being one of Australia’s largest cities, Adelaide seems to have a slightly tarnished reputation, being seen as slightly dowdy, old fashioned and out in the sticks…..Sadelaide?. Even locals talked it down a bit suggesting that there wasn’t really much to see or do. We have to say that this was not our experience. Adelaide is a beautiful, vibrant place with tons to see and do in and around the city.

Another Plus for Adelaide – Trams!

On arrival the Adelaide headlines were all about the weather, the temperature topping 40 degrees  on our first day, and reaching a ridiculous record breaking 47 on the second, so we ventured out with some nervousness plotting a course through the city centre from one air conditioned location to another. In doing so we marvelled at the architecture that has been protected so well in the city, from civic building to the iconic Beehive Corner that helps to create a sense of history and stylish gravitas.


The City’s bustling Central Market offered another welcome diversion from the heat, full of life, colour, smells, fruit and veg we couldn’t identify…..and people with lots of body art …Tatadelaide? (Editors Note: that’s enough Adelaide puns!) Given its world famous vineyards, it wasn’t surprising to see lots of different grapes on offer at the market.


Day two presented a real challenge for us as we had to check out of the hotel, and kill several hours before we headed off to our house sit late in the afternoon, negotiating a day that was to be the hottest we’ve ever experienced and the hottest on record for Adelaide. About 800 metres away was the City’s Library and Art Gallery – which came highly recommended to us. We set off, stepping out of the hotel into an oven (we now have a vague idea of what it feels like to be cremated), aiming for every spot of shade on offer between us and our destination. This included contorting our bodies to fit the shape of even the slimmest of shadows while waiting at traffic lights. With fellow pedestrians doing the same we must have looked like an anguished mime flash mob, manically dispersing to more shade as soon as the green man appeared. The heat was breathtaking as we slowly made our way along the street occasionally stepping into its full glare before stepping into the sanctuary that was the library. This isn’t just any old library, in keeping with Adelaide’s historical swagger it contains the Mortlock Wing, a gorgeous interior of dark wood surrounded by shelf upon shelf of books that probably haven’t been opened in decades. In the tradition of all good libraries it also had people pretending to study in it.


We cooled down and enjoyed excellent displays, including one on the history of the establishment of colonial South Australia – as a free State rather than one based on convict labour – becoming a self governing colony in 1856, and in 1895 being one of the first places in the world to grant women the vote and the right to stand for election. There are always two elephants in the room when you start to look at Australia’s colonial and constitutional history. The treatment of its indigenous Aboriginal people, and the ongoing role of the British Monarchy represented by the Governor-General. It was interesting to see the demonstrations on Australia Day which marks the anniversary of the landing of the British fleet. The demo’s have rebranded it “Invasion Day” with the slogan “Always was, always will be Aboriginal land”. We certainly noticed a lot of  recognition of Aboriginal heritage when we reached Melbourne. The sense is that the numbers challenging the current Australia Day is growing, whether it will change the date and meaning of the Day remains to be seen, but it’s a fascinating example of how history and its legacy is being reviewed and challenged here and elsewhere.

Housesitting Harley

Our second house/pet sit in Australia was in the neighbourhood of Seaton Park, west of the city centre and just a ten minute drive from the long strip of pristine beaches that border the City. We had just over a week looking after a gorgeous Australian Sheepdog called Harley and a couple of rabbits (Peter and Asta). We immediately fell in love with Harley, funny, playful, obedient and very, very intelligent, we knew our time with him was going to be a delight.

Dog Walking Paradise

We started every morning with a long walk along the beautiful beach at Grange, much quieter than its more famous and busier neighbours in Glenelg and Brighton to the south. Harley had boundless energy chasing balls that we threw for him left, right and centre – he must have walked and run 10 metres for our every one. He did have a slightly inconvenient habit of dropping his ball in the sea making us wade in to find and retrieve it before hurling along the sand again – it seemed to be his way of maintaining a balance of power with his new best friends. With a face like that it was very hard to tell him off….


The long morning walks on the sand were an idyllic way to start the day, and given the heat, the best time to get out. We miss our greyhound Ruby terribly, so having bursts of dog sitting is a great antidote, especially in such a perfect environment. As well as miles of sand, Grange Beach had a jetty that was great for sunset watching.

Under Grange Beach Jetty

…and boasted a glorious Victorian three story terrace built in 1884 and the only one of its kind on the Australian coastline.

The Marine Terraces at Grange Beach, Adelaide

Drowning not waving

When not out walking with Harley we managed to see a number of sights in and around Adelaide, with two very contrasting days looking for dolphins. On the first of these we signed up for the classic “go swimming with dolphins” offer. What could go wrong: taking a magnificent catamaran out of the harbour at Glenelg..

So far so good…..

…donning our wetsuits, masks and snorkels and heading into the St Vincent Gulf. Sadly, out at sea the water did not look like the picture above, in fact it was really quite choppy. After about 45 minutes of kangarooing about on the boat our guides spotted a school of dolphins and got us ready for our encounter.

Looking the part…..

However, this was not going to be a gentle floaty snorkel with Flipper and his mates. Instead, we were to launch ourselves into the ocean and hang onto a large rope trailing the catamaran (without a life jacket) and listen to instructions on the whereabouts of dolphins while partly submerged. As I type this I can’t believe we actually jumped into the sea. Things started badly, inadvertently hitting the rope as I jumped in I managed to rip the mask off my head….twice! Eventually we were both in the sea hanging on to the rope for dear life – our main concern at this moment was not whether we saw a dolphin, instead focussing our efforts on not drowning. Sure enough a guide saw an emergency signal from one of the “swimmers”, a life buoy was thrown out and a few seconds later I saw a bedraggled Sam slowly pass me in the water being towed back to the safety of the boat. This was health and safety of Indonesian proportions. Despite this traumatic start and partly out of a morbid curiosity to see if my life would pass in front of my eyes I jumped in for a second time and found myself hanging on to the rope a long way from the boat.

Second from the end, head down contemplating my mortality,

It was a strange mixture of exhilaration, seeing dolphins dart about below us, and abject terror being in the ocean with only the strength in my tiring arms keeping me attached to the boat. Of course seeing the dolphins was great but what I really enjoyed was hearing the strange sonic ethereal noises they make as they communicate with each other. I’m no expert on “dolphinese” but I think one of them was pointing to me and saying to his mates “I’ve got that twats’ mask”.  Here is a bit of footage from the safety of the boat….

In complete contrast we spent the next day serenely kayaking around the Port Adelaide estuary. Here you can gently paddle among eerie shipwrecks that despite their dereliction intimidate as you get close to them:

Port Adelaide Estuary Shipwreck

..and gingerly work your way into the mangroves through small openings into an overgrown maze of watery routes that quickly befuddle your sense of direction, with the only sounds being the splash of your paddle on the water and the occasional thud of your head hitting a low hanging branch.

Here the Estuary dolphins gently glided by, a welcome change to the adrenaline fuelled panic 24 hours earlier. It was another example of the astonishing range of waterways Australia offers. It’s far from being all about those perfect sun-kissed beaches and the variety makes exploring this fabulous country constantly fun and invigorating.

Estuary Dolphin

Deutscheland Uber Alles

One of the most popular day trips from Adelaide is into the rural and rustic Adelaide Hills, where the city quickly yields to bush and offers panoramic views of Adelaide and the ocean beyond from the summit of Mount Lofty

Looking Down on Adelaide

It makes for a beautiful scenic tour, every now and then hopping out at a vintage looking store to stock up on refreshments where the welcome is so warm and friendly.

A Good Old Fashioned Store

A short deviation from the Adelaide hills takes you to the slightly bizarre historical village of Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest German settlement which dates back to December 1838 when 52 of the founding families of Hahndorf arrived from Germany. Given my heritage this was a trip I was looking forward to and it wasn’t long before we got into the spirit of things, marching down the high street and behaving in a suitably Bavarian manner.

No excuse for this…but it gets worse…
……Rather pleased with my legs in this shot

Kitsch doesn’t come close to describing Hahndorf. It’s quaint and quite endearing, but surely there is a limit to how many shops can sell cuckoo clocks and frankfurters.

Much further south on the unpronounceable Fleurieu Peninsula is Victor Harbor a great little town that is connected to Granite Island by a long walkway. Here the scenery is rocky, jagged and wild – and when you look south from the island you realise there is nothing but sea between you and Antartica. We didn’t get to see any of the penguins the Island is famous for, but we did enjoy the unexpected works of art that have been installed at the top of the Island.

No…we don’t know what this is either

The views from the Island back to Victor Harbor are stunning. It’s a perfect day trip and we subsequently discovered that we were lucky to visit it when we did – a few days later the roads in and out of Victor Harbor were cut off by bush fires.

Victor Harbor Bay

Our travels around Adelaide continued to offer so much fun and diversity from watching the incredible efforts of the competitors at the Australian Open Water Swimming Championships on Brighton Beach, to snuggling under blankets in surprisingly cool temperatures at the Adelaide Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens to watch The Favourite, complemented by our daily walks with Harley – we felt very lucky to be experiencing so much in picture perfect Adelaide.



Our experience of Glenelg had been tainted by the dolphin experience, so on our last night we returned there to walk along the beach, enjoy the sea lapping over our toes and watch a beautiful sunset. No trip to Adelaide is complete without a Glenelg sunset.

Glenelg sunset …note the low budget flood defences in the foreground!

Our time in Adelaide had come to an end, and with it a very special part of our travels. Saying goodbye to Harley was terrible and we consoled ourselves with the thought of more wonderful doggies and house sits to come in our journey across Oz. As for Adelaide – don’t listen to any naysayers, this is a wonderful city that offers something for every taste and interest. We can’t wait to have an excuse to return. Our sadness in leaving was tempered by the thought of the journey ahead – the Great Ocean Road trip to Melbourne.

Top Travelling Tips

It’s been a while since our last TTT’s and will be obvious from our Adelaide and Fremantle posts.  We would recommend investigating house/pet sitting. As well as getting the opportunity to indulge a love of animals you get to stay in lovely homes free of charge – a big help when it comes to budget management – where you can self cater (you really can get very tired of hotel food) and live like a local getting off the tourist trail.