Barry Hackett is a familiar face in the Armidale Mall, having owned the Sandwich Shop for 6 years. He recently went on an overseas trip and drops us a line to share the highs and lows of his adventure.
Tell us about your family …
Denise and I were married in 1974 and have three sons (Gareth, Rhys and Liam). Rhys and his partner, Melissa, live and work locally, and Liam lives and works on the Gold Coast. Sadly, Gareth died in a car crash in 1999, aged 19.
You’ve just returned from a fabulous trip overseas. Share the highlights with us …
On a trip such as the one we’ve just returned from, there are so many great memories that it’s difficult to nominate highlights. There were some places that exceeded expectations, and others that you just knew were going to be magic.
Poland and China were countries that delivered a huge WOW factor. Everyone knows of Warsaw and Krakow in Poland, but Torun and Wrocklow were very special. The Czech Republic and Slovenia are also very special. The scenery is spectacular, and the medieval cities are a dream to explore. Regensburg in Germany, Cesky Krumlov in The Czech Republic, Siena in Italy and Verdun in France are all cities worth going out of your way to visit and of course, Italy is the world’s largest walk in art gallery.
The battlefields of Belgium and Northern France hold a special place in the hearts of Aussies – a must see.
London, Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore and Rome all have many sights to keep you busy for several days.
In Asia, China is a must see destination, and the islands of Lombok and Gili Trawangan are pretty much off the tourist radar as far as Australians are concerned. The scuba diving on Gili was some of the best I have ever done.
I would say that climbing the Great Wall at Juyongguan was something I will always be proud of. It was a solid 2½ hour climb, but the sense of accomplishment when we reached the top was fantastic.
As for food highlights, the regional dishes of Italy are unsurpassed, the plats du jour in France are never less than sensational, and the food in China is superb. Like Italy and France, Chinese food varies from region to region, and it is all delicious.
It is interesting to see the difference between food in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong (Cantonese cooking), and Singapore is one of the world’s great food destinations – especially for Nyonya food and Straits Chinese dishes. The chilli crab is a signature Singapore dish and is to die for.
Did you encounter any difficulties on your trip?
Everything with the trip was great; nothing terrible happened to us at all. The only downer was when we were told our storage facility had been broken into (we were in Italy at the time) and some things had been stolen or broken. However, after a few phone calls, we knew that all our important stuff was intact, and we breathed easier.
The look on Denise’s face when she realised the cable car ride she had just bought tickets for in Slovenia didn’t ‘just go to the first pylon’, but all the way to the top of the mountain (1,500 metres).
When we reached the top, we had to cross a platform to the station. Unfortunately, you could see the full 1,500 metre vertical drop through the grating in the platform. We both have a fear of heights, so it was a case of close your eyes and sprint across.
Having got off, I then had to work out how much beer to drink to calm me enough to recross the platform and still be sober enough to drive when we got back to the bottom. Again, it was close your eyes and go. It was a good thing the views were spectacular, so we could ignore the great hole in the ground below us.
Do you travel often?
Not as often as I’d like. We try to get away each year around February – and normally head to Thailand. I find Phuket a great holiday destination, as you can do as little or as much as you want. The beaches are fantastic, the diving is superb, the food is delicious and the vibe is laid back and comfortable.
We have also been to Vanuatu and Rarotonga in the past, which we found relaxing, but a bit quiet.
Siem Reap in Cambodia is a fascinating place to visit. The temples at Angkor are challenging, but extremely rewarding. We spent four years working and travelling overseas when we were first married, so travel is pretty much in our blood.
Who looked after your business while you were away?
I licensed the shop out to Deb Randell (who works with me) for the four months we were gone, so it was effectively her business. She did a great job – and everyone is full of praise for the way she operated.
She and Alicia (her offsider) looked at the shop with fresh eyes and instituted a few changes that have enhanced the business beautifully. I can’t thank her enough for the job she did.
Where do you source your produce for the shop?
I try to use local suppliers as much as possible. Some products have to be purchased at supermarkets, but items such as meat, chicken breasts, bread, milk, juice etc. are all sourced from local suppliers. Quality is important, and I find the local suppliers always supply top quality product. This ensures our customers always receive the freshest and best quality food.
What’s next on the agenda for you … where are you off to next?
We are planning a trip to Ruapehu in New Zealand for a week’s skiing in August. I have a brother who lives quite near, so we can catch up and ‘get on the piste’! Neither Denise nor I have ever tried skiing before, so ask me if there were any funny times after that one!
We would like to do another major trip in the future, maybe to the States and on to Europe to catch some places we missed this time around. We will just have to see what happens, I guess.