Cape Town the best beach spot in Africa

Clifton Beaches, Cape Town,

Now here’s an interesting snippet: apparently the best beach town in Africa is Cape Town. 

Thrashing last year’s winner, Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh, Cape Town also trumped Bazaruto in Mozambique, Diani Beach in Kenya and  Tanzania’s Zanzibar Island at the 2012 World Travel Awards. 

South Africa also won best airline (SAA), top villa (Ellerman House & Villa), best train (The Blue Train) and best safari lodge (the unrivaled Shamwari Game Reserve, which is where Brad Pitt soothed his heart, post-Jen, and Nicholas Cage proposed to his waitress).

Feral at Dreamworld, flora in Canberra: travel deals 23 September 2012

Go feral at Dreamworld, or floral in Canberra or find out if it really is all happening at the zoo, in San Diego. 

Can’t decide between drinking beer or hunting for Tasmanian tigers? Do both when you stay the Cradle Mountain Chateau, at the northern side of the dramatic national park that includes Tassie’s best-loved mountain and serene Lake St Claire. The 60-room hotel includes a Wilderness Gallery featuring photography of the region’s dramatic scenery and night tours of the local animals. Save 55 per cent on stays until December 20. Costs from $65 per person, twin share. 1800 420 555.
Floriade celebrates 25 years in 2012. 
Canberra bursts into colour with Floriade, its annual
flower extravaganza, until September 23. Now in its 25th year, highlights of
the festival include The Best Exotic Marigold Tea House, with Indian teas and
music in a wildly exotic setting, and Floriade NightFest, comedy, music and
light displays from 6.30pm nightly,
Murrays’ bus service has a web special providing daily return services  between Sydney and Canberra until October 14.
Normally $83 return, costs $59 return.
Knock two of Victoria’s most beautiful walks off your bucket list with a two-up walking deal with Park Trek. Spend four days walking the coastal Great Ocean Walk (November 3-6) then head inland and upwards, for another four days in the Grampians (November 8-11). You’ll carry just a small, light daypack, and the price includes all accommodation, meals and expert guides. Book two tours, save $110. Costs $2190 a person. (03) 9877 9540,

Bustin’ some moves at Dreamworld
The price of unlimited happiness is $59.99. That’s the
cost of a kids’ ticket that gives unlimited visits to Dreamworld and WhiteWater
World from now until June 30, 2013. New this summer is Kung Fu Panda Land and
new rides in Wiggles World, and there are balloon twisters, roving beatboxers,
magicians, and, from September 22 to October 7, evicted Big Brother Housemates
(pssst, you can watch BB being filmed live at Dreamworld Studios for $15).
One-day tickets normally cost $69.99 kids/$109.99 adults, but the Unlimited
World Passes also include a free SkyPoint Observation Deck annual pass, worth
$29, that shoots you to the top of Q1 tower, at Surfers Paradise. Costs $59.99
for kids, $109.99 for adults. (07) 5588 1111,
Birdsville, the Alice, Kakadu, Uluru: the Outback is calling, and what better way to see it than by private aircraft? This 12-day journey covers 10,000 kilometres, visiting the iconic towns of the outback, including Katherine, Broome and Longreach. Includes all meals, accommodation and guides. Harvey World Travel clients also get one night’s pre-tour accommodation at the Sheraton on the Park, Sydney, and airport transfers. Book by October 31, and save $1000 on travel between March-August 2013. Costs from $13,495 a person, 132 757,

There’s no tv, no phones and a no-talking ‘quiet room’.
Scared yet? Spring-clean your body and mind at Solar Springs Retreat, in
Bundanoon, on the Southern Highlands, which has 20 per cent off its
all-inclusive packages during spring. The new three-night midweek ‘Seriously
Spring Time’ deal includes accommodation, all meals and three spa treatments –
a facial, foot therapy and body buff. Also included are guided bushwalks, yoga
and meditation and health and fitness talks. Valid until November 30, costs
from $820 a person, twin share, or $1540 a couple for three nights. (02) 4883
the road and a GPS are your friends, discover Europe by hire car. Sydney’s globalCARS is offering free pick-up
and drop-off, valued up to $640 in Rome and Madrid, at 33 locations across
Europe and the UK during 2013. Includes unlimited kilometres, insurance with no
excess and 24-hour assistance. Book and pay by October 31. Costs from $27 a day
for six-month leases, $42 a day for 26-day leases. Contact
travel agents, 1300 789 992,
San Diego, USA
It’s all happening at the zoo, specifically San Diego
zoo, which is celebrating the birth a baby boy panda. Stay four nights at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel, pay for three,
and also get a one-day pass to the zoo, which is just 10 minutes from the
hotel. Book by 3pm March 29 2013, travel until March 31, 2013. Costs from $379
a person, twin share.  1300 130 485,
Cancel all ideas of Abu Dhabi as solely a desert
wilderness. Check into the waterfront Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by
Anantara, stay five nights and pay four on stays now to October 31, 2013. Otherwise,
book 45 days in advance and pay by December 31, and save 15 per cent off your
room rate. Costs from $84 a person, twin share, in a deluxe room with balcony,
including breakfast.  1300 665 673,
Getting off the beaten track in Europe is possible, with
a nine-day tour of Portugal, visiting castles, cathedrals and Roman temples
including the evocative Belem Tower, in Lisbon. Balancing the history are
visits to its beaches and famous vineyards of the Douro Valley. Save 10 per
cent when you book and pay by December 27, for travel March 30 – October 12. Includes
luxury coach transport, accommodation, meals and airport transfers. Costs from
$1665 a person, twin share. 1300 237 886,
All island resorts are not made equal, as the Gili
Lankanfushi (formerly Soneva Gili) amply demonstrates, to wit its 45 rustic
chic overwater villas, the overwater bar and Mr Friday, who can do everything
from pack your bag to look after the kids. Stay seven nights on the private
island, get three nights free on stays till December 19, when booked by
December 12. Virtuoso guests will also get a room upgrade, 30-minute spa
treatment for two and a private sunset sail. Costs from $4330 a room, seven
nights. (02) 9957 4511,

Exploring Patagonia, Chile
The only way to explore Chilean Patagonia is by
horseback. You’ll need to know the difference between nose and tail for these
five-day expeditions, which explore the wilds of the end of the earth on a
series of day rides past glaciers and mountains of unimaginable beauty, with
your gaucho bro. Each night, you’ll 
return to the sublime Hotel Salto Chico, in Torres del Paine National
Park, with its spectacular mountain views and an outdoor hot spa that will surely
become your second-best friend (after your horse) at the end of a day in the
saddle. The tours depart once a month from October, cost from $2780 a person,
twin share, includes all meals, drinks, airport transfers and equipment. +56
2395 2800,
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

Groovy is the new gold: vintage Ballarat a-go-go!

Nostalgic ... makeover maven Miss Lulu.
Nostalgic … makeover maven Miss Lulu. Photo: Belinda Jackson

Forget the pioneering days of the rush – instead dig the nostalgia of Ballarat’s new vintage scene, writes Belinda Jackson.
“It all started with my glasses. I always wanted cat’s-eye glasses,” says Miss Lulu. Perched on a high bar stool, her redskin margarita is as pink as her hair, which is teased into sky-high 1940s curls. Was I the only person in Ballarat who didn’t know they’re called victory rolls?
This is the swimsuit for the curvalicious. 
“Vintage just suits Ballarat,” says the self-styled 1940s pin-curl pin-up, whose glittering bolero jacket, black bustier, deep cleavage and wide skirts have the whole restaurant entranced.
Eclectic Tastes cafe, Ballarat.

Eclectic Tastes cafe, Ballarat. Photo: Belinda Jackson
Ballarat’s always had a nostalgic scent about it – the re-created gold rush town of Sovereign Hill is on the city’s outskirts and the main drag, Sturt Street, is lined with monuments to past glories, from the Boer War to Burke and Wills’s inland excursion. There’s a bandstand dedicated to Queen Alexandra (King Edward VII’s missus), squat Queen Victoria overlooks the rotundas, turrets and cenotaphs, and the old Southern Cross flag of the Eureka Stockade hangs in the beautiful art gallery. The top hotel is Craig’s Royal and the theatre is Her Majesty’s, one of the best preserved in the country.
Antiques, Goods & Chattels, Ballarat.
Antiques, Goods & Chattels, Ballarat. Photo: Belinda Jackson

But Victoria’s third-largest city has a new groove, with a rush of fresh blood bringing a 1940s-’70s vintage scene to town, spearheaded by the likes of Miss Lulu who, in three hours, will transform you from trakky-dakked slob to pert and perky ’50s pin-up girl or goth rockabilly – or perhaps your heart’s more psychobilly? With your newly set big hair, red lips and a wiggle in your walk, it’s time to hit the streets to dress the part.
First stop is a burgeoning vintage enclave on Main Road, headed by That Little Vintage Shop, a cornucopia of fox furs, fabulously wide-brimmed hats, ’60s knits and evening coats harking back to days when it took time to get dressed.
Owner Jennifer Bottomley studied fashion in ’60s London and has been running the shop for 17 years. “Y’all right there, love?” she calls out to a customer, her northern English accent weaving through the piles of clothes. Her collection dates from the 1920s, but the ’80s is quite ’20s, she says as she runs a hand over a $1000 Canadian raccoon fur, designed for pleasurable stroking.
Across the road, cute little ’50s-style cafe Cake Bakeshop sells old-fashioned paper straws, invitations and party favours for baby showers and kitchen teas while churning out the cupcakes, coffee and macarons in old-school lolly flavours.
Nearby, Antiques, Goods & Chattels suggests serious fustiness, but it’s awash with ’60s kitchenalia and garagenalia, and a carousel horse greets me on entrance. I snap up a fabulous old wooden painter’s stepladder, still authentically spattered with paint, perfect for slinging some woven Arabian saddlebags over (or for changing light bulbs).
Swimwear by My Sister Pat.

Swimwear by My Sister Pat. Photo: Simon Schluter
It’s on the next block down on Main Road that this vintage scene starts to become serious.
My Sister Pat designs and manufactures beautiful ’50s-inspired swimsuits – more like playsuits – with classic halter and tie necks and boylegs that bestow instant booty. I clamber out of my jeans and into a super-cute little blue-and-white polka dot number and, va va voom, I’m transformed into instant ’50s pool kitten. A very slim woman is in the next cubicle; you know, the type who rocks a bikini. Is it mean to note that in the same style swimsuit, she just looks … well, left wanting, to be perfectly frank? This is the ultimate swimsuit for the curvalicious.
Sifting through the racks beside me is Debbie, a rock’n’roll aficionado who’s into the Ballarat Rockers, a social rock’n’roll dance club that meets on Friday nights. She’s shopping for the perfect outfit for an American rock’n’roll holiday through Memphis, New Orleans and, of course, Las Vegas. “Usually, I make my own,” she says, “so I don’t look like everyone else.”
In an age of mass production, My Sister Pat guarantees that no more than six swimsuits are cut from the same cloth. “Except for the red-and-white polka-dot swimsuit, because everyone wants to be Marilyn,” says owner Rosemary Gilbert-Waller. “Except me. I want to be Grace Kelly,” she states, flicking the record player as Connie Francis has a little meltdown and starts to jump.
Connie, Grace, Patsy Cline, Audrey Hepburn … “It’s an era of beauty, and it hasn’t been lost,” Gilbert-Waller says of her label, which is now stocked internationally, from Cannes to Canada. What started off as a vintage shopping trip in Ballarat is fast turning into an education on being womanly and the art of feminine elegance.
“I like going to places where I fit the decor,” says the epitome of girlish glamour, Miss Lulu. The newly refurbished Mallow Bar and the cosy Babushka Bar both get the thumbs up for their retro looks, as does high tea on Sunday afternoons at Craig’s Royal Hotel, with its ’50s chairs and lounges and swish velvet curtains. Eclectic Tastes cafe has a whiff of nanna chic about it, with its knitted tea cosies and teasets, which get the edge thanks to a backdrop of red walls, Mao-pop paraphernalia and raunchy Indian film posters.
The Oceanic Lounge in Portico Wine Bar, on Ballarat’s main drag, Sturt Street, is a local favourite as it’s a regular venue for the nine-piece Ballarat Ska Orchestra. Yes, Ballarat has its own ska orchestra, belting out its signature ’60s Caribbean beats, and it also has its own roller-derby league, where six teams of rockabilly chicks hit the rinks. Expect ’70s boardshorts, kneepads and a smattering of tatts.
Vintage chicks say the new Front Bar is your best option for a drink and a little shakin’ to some ’60s soul sounds without the uni or clubbing crowds. Alternatively, if you were at a loose end on a Wednesday night, you could go go-go dancing. “I just thought, Ballarat needs this!” says Miss Daisy Amazing, a dancer who teaches an enthusiastic crowd the moves of the ’60s. And for $12, you, too, can strut out like a retro Miami groover.
To live the vintage dream completely, you’d be shopping at De’s Recycled Fashions for ’60s nylon dresses – think royal blue with gold paisley – or for vintage crockery and what some say is the town’s best coffee at Vegas and Rose, stockist for runaway sensations Trunk & Orderly’s handmade weekender and school cases.
And for seriously cool vintage fabrics, haberdashery and the cutest kids’ craft gear, The Crafty Squirrel is a must-visit. If you thought crafty equals fusty, the notion is dispelled by designer and uber-craftster Morgan Wills’s perky rockabilly ‘do, married with an apple-green cardie and a floral apron that on me would scream “frump!” but on her is just damned cool. Every Friday, she dons a vintage apron and pops a photo up on her Facebook page to a bevy of waiting fans.
“I love all that cutesy Japanese and Korean aesthetic, and French vintage,” she says, but it’s the Australian kitsch that is totally adorable; souvenir tea towels renewed and reborn into cushions that fly off the shelves. The non-sellers appear to be all from Canberra – no comment. Wills steers us down to the edgy Red Brick Gallery, where a nearby power pole, wrapped in crocheted rugs, leads the conversation naturally into “yarn bombing”, or “knit tagging” if you prefer the English term.
“Ballarat’s always been known for its antique shops,” says long-time antiques dealer Sherryn Bailey of Antiques, Goods & Chattels, “but many owners are now passing away.” In their wake comes the new guard, a wave of crafty artists and tricky-minded business girls. Sure, Ballarat still has Sovereign Hill and its gold rush attractions, but there’s life in the old town yet. It’s just life from a different era.
The writer was a guest of Ballarat Regional Tourism.

Five other things to do in Ballarat

1 Hire a bike and cruise the lovely Ballarat Botanical Gardens and Buninyong Botanic Gardens, established in the 1860s. Welcome Nugget Bike Hire, 0423 268 618,
2 Well up with pride in front of the original Eureka flag at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Australia’s oldest regional art gallery.
3 Buy up at the farmers’ markets: Ballarat Fresh Produce Market (first Saturday of the month); Ballarat Lakeside Farmers Market (second and last Saturday); Buninyong Farmers Market (third Saturday).
4 Uncover a hotbed of talent by designers and emerging artists at the quarterly Design Exchange market — October 7, December 16, Mining Exchange, 8 Lydiard Street North,
Walk the monuments of Sturt Street: two kilometres of central gardens with bandstands, statues and fountains.

Trip notes

Getting there: Ballarat is a 75-minute drive from Melbourne. Rental cars can be hired at Tullamarine, or V/Line ( Fast trains operate from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Ballarat.
Staying there:  Martin Place sleeps nine at a pinch in two queen bedrooms and bunks in the kids’ room, which is fantastically kitted out with toys and books, and is also pet-friendly. From $215/night midweek, 12 Martin Street, 0429 439 448,
Shopping there:
De’s Recycled Fashions, 202 South Street, (03) 5332 8300.
Miss Lulu’s PinCurl Pin-Ups, 0433 207 814.
My Sister Pat, 74A Main Road,
Red Brick Gallery and Emporium, 218A Skipton Street, 0402 416 097,
That Little Vintage Shop, 13 Main Road, 0425 731 639.
The Crafty Squirrel, cnr Errard and Urquhart streets, (03) 5331 4548,
Vegas and Rose, 96 Humffray Street North, (03) 5332 4287,

Eating there:
Craig’s Royal Hotel, 10 Lydiard Street South, (03) 5331 1377,
Cake Bakeshop, 30 Main Road, (03) 5333 3384,
Eclectic Tastes, 2 Burbank Street, (03) 5339 9252.

Living in the vintage scene:
Babushka Bar, 59 Humffray Street North.
The Mallow Hotel, 18-20 Skipton Street.
The Front Bar, cnr Mair and Peel streets.
Miss Daisy Amazing’s Go-Go Dancing, 14 Camp Street, 0448 314 445.
Ballarat Roller Derby
Ballarat Ska

More information: Ballarat Regional Tourism, (03) 5320 5758,

Read more:

Flowery prose on capturing flora

‘Telopa speciosissima’, Miss Maund & Benjamin Maund
(1837-42) Engraving on paper, hand coloured. 
This beautiful image is the hero picture for the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s upcoming exhibition, Capturing Flora, which opens this Tuesday. Ballarat is in the midst of a spring fling, with its botanic gardens about to bloom, spring racing at the start gates and a flurry of farmers markets and design exchanges. 
Details: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 – Sunday, December 02, 2012, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Timken Foundation Community Gallery, Mars Gallery, Ian Potter Foundation Gallery, Victor Gordon King Gallery

Admission: $12, Concession $8, Child and Gallery Member Free

Judi’s India, wild things and skydiving: travel deals 16 September 2012

Judi Dench does India

Channel Judi Dench in India, throw yourself out of a plane in Torquay or take the kids to where the wild things are.


Sydney’s biggest hotel, the Four Points by Sheraton
Sydney, is celebrating a $20 million refurbishment with its new rooms
introductory package. The 682-room behemoth on Sussex St overlooks Darling
Harbour, so make sure your rooms have a water view for Friday night fireworks
followed by dinner down on the Cockle Bay strip. Save $365 a night, costs from
$235 a night on stays in its new premium rooms until December 27.Includes
accommodation for two, as well as free wi-fi and breakfast for two, worth $80.
(02) 9290 4000,
Being the start of the Bay of Fires lodge walk and the Cradle Mountain huts walk are two reasons to visit Quamby Estate. Two more great reasons may be the ten sweetly restored guest rooms of the historic 1830s Launceston hotel, and the 50 per cent discount tag. And when you learn it’s the sister property to Sir Richard Branson’s Makepeace Island, in Queensland, you know you won’t be slumming it. Expect immaculate golf links, top Tassie produce on the table and world-class local wines in the glass. Normally from $190 for a standard room, costs from $95 a room until September 30. (03) 6392 2135,

Kids go wild and free on Kangaroo Island, South Aus
Children go wild and free on Kangaroo Island during the
school holidays and October long weekend. Up to three kids between 3-14 years
travel free on the SeaLink ferry, saving up to $144 when travelling with two
paying adults and a vehicle, and the adults get a discount voucher booklet
thrown in, with savings at cellar doors, restaurants and attractions on the
island. Travel until December 14. Costs from $96 an adult return and $184 for a
car return. 131 301,
Save $1200 per couple when you book four nights at the
Kimberley’s newest resort, the Berkeley River Lodge. The only way there is by
float plane from Kununurra, and its eco-villas, fishing tours and river
cruises, included in the price, are worth the trip. For travel now until March
31 (the lodge closes for wet season October 16 –January 31, 2013). Costs $5976
a couple or $4488 for solo travellers (saving $1100) for four nights. 1300 851 800,
Skydiving above Torquay ,Victoria.
Get a birds-eye view of Victoria’s magnificent coastline – if your eyes are open – when you leap out of a perfectly good plane at 3050 meters, and save up to $225. Book an ‘Escape to the Skye’ package which includes a night in a studio room at the Peppers The Sands Resort and one or two tandem skydives, and get breakfast, a free upgrade to a view room, a bottle of wine and chocolates, noon checkout and free car parking. Available from Wednesdays to Mondays, until November 30. Costs from $550 a couple, one person jumping or $899 a couple, for two people jumping. (03) 5264 3333,

Hot chocolate, hot cheese: two good reasons to love Switzerland.
Explore both on its two-for-one deal on its four-day Swiss Pass, for unlimited
rail, bus and boat travel through the mountains in all their autumn glory. Book
until November 27 for travel between September 1 and November 30. Costs from $246
for two people for four days. From travel agents or
Feeding time at Wellington Zoo
Wellington is wooing junior jetsetters with a splash of kids’ activities during September and October. Become a world explorer at Wellington Zoo, while Zealandia takes kids through a wildlife sanctuary after dark. They can explore the planets at Carter Observatory, or go crazy at Capital E National Theatre for Children. Accommodation deals include one night at the Amora Hotel Wellington for two adults and two children, with breakfast, and a family pass to Wellington Zoo, from $199, until January 20, 2013. +64 4 473 3900,

An hour’s flight from Kuala Lumpur, looking over the
South China Sea, the newly scrubbed-up Club Med Cherating Beach offers jungle
walks and rock climbing for adults and kids. The resort now includes a new
adults-only Zen Space and a baby welcome for littlies up to 23 months. Book
until November 18, travel November 1 – April 30 2013. Adults save $345, kids
save $137. Costs from $915 for adults, $372 for children (4-11 years), twin
share, for five nights. 1800 258 263,
You can spot a toucan on this nine-day journey through Guatemala,
Mexico and Belize. There are macaws to be glimpsed, old Spanish towns and Mayan
ruins to explore and lolling in the waters of the Caribbean is compulsory.
Departs Antigua, Guatemala, on October 29, book by October 24 and save25 per
cent. Costs $1365 a person. 1300 018 871,
Walk the plains of the Kalahari Desert and cruise the
Linyanti waterways in this 11-day safari, staying in tented camps and lodges.
Book now for travel between November 10 – March 20 (excluding December
20-January 10, 2113) and save $3048 a person. 
Kids 6-14 years also get half-price accommodation in a family room.
Costs from $8994 a person, includes international flights ex-Sydney, full
board, all transport, night game drives and most drinks. 1300 363 302,
Doing India a la ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’
Do a Judi Dench and check into the ‘Best Exotic Marigold
Hotel’, which is actually a former rural palace an hour from the Rajasthani
city of Udaipur.  The hotel, which is now
an equestrian hotel, is not quite as dilapidated as in the movie of the same
name, assures TravelManagers, which is leading a 12-day private journey through
the movie’s colourful film locations. Must-see destinations are ticked off – e
Taj Mahal, Delhi’s Udaipur’s Red Fort and Udaipur’s picturesque lake, starting in Delhi before moving
to Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar and Udaipur. See elephants wandering the roadsides,
run a sea of vivid orange marigolds through your fingers at a flower market and
take a horse safari in rural Rajasthan. Costs from $2020 a person, twin share
(four-star) and $2127, twin share (five star), excluding international
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

London canteens and Indian tea houses

Today, I’m relying on photos to tell the story, rather than words. These are two beautiful spaces that crossed my desk this week:

Pop Up Canteen is, as the cafe branding suggests, in London, a feature of design junction, the London design festival now in its second year, from 19-23 September 2012. Here’s what they say about the space: 
“Pop Up Canteen, a special
collaboration between the Canteen group
of restaurants, Transport for London
(TfL), with furniture supplied by Modus
and lighting from Very Good &
. Canteen, which has a number of permanent sites across London, draws
heavily on TfL’s utilitarian chic for its interiors, which is what made this
collaboration such a perfect fit. The canteen will be designjunction’s largest
eatery on the top floor and the space will be art directed by Michael Sodeau.” 
And my second-favourite image this week is the Best Exotic Marigold Tea House, at Floriade, Canberra’s own celebration of Spring, running 15-23 September 2012. 
“Floriade visitors can enjoy a selection of exotic Indian teas and treats whilst being swept off their feet by the beautiful Indian inspired surrounds,” promises the press release. 

Five-star kids: Cinderella and sugar overload at the Langham

Proving that it’s never too early or late to start Disnifying your life, my diary now includes a date for the Langham hotel’s Cinderella Children’s Tiffin. It is the ultimate date for Melbourne’s five-star kids.

The menu includes Tiara cookies, Kiss the Frog in Jelly, Love Heart cupcakes and, of course, there’ll be Fairy Bread. Groan-ups may gravitate toward the scones, jam and cream. Oh yeah!

The tiffin will be featured at the hotel during the upcoming school holidays. I’m expecting plenty of pink frocks and fairy wings. I don’t believe I’ll be disappointed…

Shake it, spa it, catwalk it: Travel deals 9 September 2012

Four-Diamond Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa 
Nostalgic surfer chic meets Miami swim catwalk on the Gold Coast and learn to shake what your mama gave you at the home of samba, salsa and tango. 

Quest’s five new studio apartment properties in
inner-urban Sydney and Melbourne include a kitchenette, workspace and free
wi-fi. They’re kicking off with deals such as $175 a night, down from $300, at
Quest Studios East Melbourne, close to the shopping strip of Bridge Road and
Melbourne’s top sports arenas. Includes breakfast for two at a local café. Stay
until October 30, quote ‘SHSO’ when booking. (03)
9413 0000,
Save 40 per cent when you book a night at Launceston’s
Country Club Tasmania, on the edge of the state’s second city. A night in a 4.5-star
deluxe room for two includes a bottle of Tasmanian wine, 18 holes of golf and a
30-minute massage as well as breakfast in the Links restaurant. Go horse
riding, take a wine tour or fish for trout in its private lake. Costs $299 a
night, until September 30.  1800 635 344, 
QT Gold Coast
Get the party started on the Gold Coast with a two-night
stay in the slinky QT Gold Coast, self-described as ‘nostalgic surfer chic
meets Miami swim catwalk’. That’ll help you choose your wardrobe. On top of a
saving of $384, you’ll get breakfast, an exploratory dinner for two in its hugely
popular signature restaurant, Bazaar and $50 spa credit or a party starter at
the happening Stingray Lounge. Costs from $450 a room for two nights until
November 30.  (07) 5584 1200,
Seashells Resort Mandurah
Mandurah is only an hour south of Fremantle, which is
gearing up for the return of the replica Dutch ship Duyfken, the first European
ship to reach Australia in 1606, on Sunday 23 September. Stay three, pay for
two nights in a one-bedroom apartment at the 4.5-star Seashells Resort Mandurah
until November 30. Costs from $210 a person, three nights, twin share.  132 757,
Watch the sun rise on Uluru, discover galleries of
Aboriginal rock art and visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Book 12 months
advance for your journey into the red centre, saving up to $450 a couple on a
six-day Red Centre Discovery. Included is a dinner and a discovery tour of the
Earth Sanctuary World National Centre, airport transfers and guiding. Deal
valid on departures until December 28, 2013. Earlybird special costs from $1689 a person, twin
share. 1300 228 546,
Spring has sprung so put a wiggle in your walk with a
visit to the town of love and light, Byron Bay. Normally $780 room only, the
sleek Byron at Byron resort’s spring package gets you 10 per cent off in the
spa, restaurant and bar, as well as free yoga, wifi, daily breakfast buffet and
bike hire to cruise the rainforest trails down to the beach. Valid for stays
until December 10. Costs $794 for two nights in a standard suite. 1300 554 362,
Île Saint-Louis, Paris
You may still be shopping for the wardrobe to suit your
Parisian jaunt, but your apartment will certainly come up to scratch. Set on
the Île Saint-Louis, an island in the middle of the Seine, the B&B is on
the third floor of a traditional Haussmann building, and despite its antique
interiors, its owners welcome kids. There are two rooms, great for families or
two couples. Save from E44 a night on stays between November 1 and March 30.
Costs from E175 a night.
Hit the sands of Waikiki beach and stay eight nights at the Four-Diamond Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa, with breakfast, flights and airport transfers. Kids under 17 stay free, under-12s get free lunch and dinner with a paying adult. Bonuses include a tour of Pearl Harbour and Honolulu city and one entertainment show or catamaran dinner cruise. Costs from $1990 a person, twin share, eight nights and return airfares with Hawaiian Airlines. 1300 00 42 92,

Semara Resort & Spa
Hot to shop and the island’s best dining strip, Seminyak
is the fast-beating heart of Bali. The Semara Resort & Spa’s Winter Escape
deal saves $438 on stays until September 30. Book a two-night stay in a
superior poolside room, get daily buffet breakfast,  dinner for two at Finns Beach Club, two hours
for two in the spa, wifi, yoga  and
meditation classes and airport transfers. Costs from $484 for two people, two
nights. +62 (361) 847 6661,
Koto Kinabalu, Malaysia
Get a double dose of the tropics and a free Darwin stopover
on your way to Malaysia’s Kota Kinabalu. Price includes return flights to KK via
Darwin with Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia, two nights at Darwin’s
Travel Lodge Mirambeena Resort and four nights at Novotel Kota Kinabalu.
They’ll throw in a free tour of Litchfield National Park, worth $149, full
breakfast daily and one free nightBook by end September, travel November 1 –
December 7. Costs from $1459 a person (land and air). 1300 747 400,
Blend African wildlife with the craziness of Cairo and
Jordan’s deserts over 26 days from Cape Town to Cairo. Book before December 31
and your friend flies free (paying only taxes of $795), saving up to $2040 per
couple. Departs August – October 2013 and includes all flights within Africa,
two charter flights in Kenya, 4WD game viewing and accommodation in private
game lodges and luxury camps. Costs from $18,995 a person, twin share. 1300 229
Learn to shake what your mama gave you, and where better
than the home of samba, salsa and tango, South America? This 14-day dance-themed tour starts in
Santiago, Chile, where you’ll tackle the cueca and rumba, lubricated with wineries
visits, before hitting Buenos Aires’ La Boca district for up-close-and-personal
tango workshops. There’s samba and salsa classes in Rio de Janeiro as well as
visits to Copacabana Beach and Corcovado Mountain, to stand at the feet of
Christ the Redeemer, and the tour includes a trip to the Argentinean and
Brazilian sides of the magnificent Iguassu Falls. Departs March 3, 2013. Costs
from $3995 a person, twin share and includes some meals and all South American
flights. 1300 558 987,
Source: Belinda Jackson Sun Herald

War on paper: North Vietnam’s artistic legacy

Independence Day posters on Hanoi’s streets.

A new art tour in
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) traces the work of combat artists in Vietnam’s modern

[This is a transcript of a World Report for RTE Ireland, broadcast 2 September 2012. To listen, click here:]

familiar with the pictures taken by foreign news photographers stationed in the
south of Vietnam during the Vietnam War, most famously the iconic ‘Napalm Girl’
photo of a nine-year old child, her clothes burnt from her body, as she flees
her bombed village.
But at the same time, the Communist north of
Vietnam was cut off from most of the world, its supplies coming from Russia and
China, and such luxuries as cameras and film were hard
to come by. Instead, artists sketched the days of Vietnam’s involvement in two
Indochina wars, from 1954 to 1975. They depicted frontline
combat and developed information posters that became Vietnam’s propaganda posters,
in a Soviet style that is still used today.
The second of September is not only Vietnam’s National Independence
Day, it is also the 43rd anniversary of the death of Communist leader and Vietnam’s first
president, Ho Chi Minh, in 1969, so the country is spattered
with its flag – a yellow star on a red background – and banners and posters
celebrate both events.
Sophie Hughes explains a propaganda poster, Saigon
Art guide Sophie Hughes takes me through
Saigon’s galleries, explaining the posters’ history, and their ancestry, and
Vietnam’s transition from colonialism to independence.
The simplistically styled posters began as an information campaign from
communist North Vietnam’s battalion of artists, to inform a largely uneducated
population about the perils of Vietnam’s enemy.
They documented the girl soldiers of the so-called
‘Long-Haired Army’, the fall of
Saigon in 1973, and the harsh life on the jungle tracks of the Ho Chi
Minh trail that traversed the country, from north to south.
As we walk past the
charcoal sketches and watercolours that document two Indochina wars, Sophie
recounts how artists resorted to making paint from gun oil and crushed stone,
used berries and leaves to create their colours, and how the metal flare cases
from the US Army became impromptu carriers for their artwork, much of which was
hidden in friends’ coffins for the journey back from the front lines to the
cities, where it was copied and distributed among a suffering population.
As the wars
dragged on, sketches of the front lines morphed into propaganda, and it’s not
subtle: in one poster, bloodied bombs fall onto a sleeping baby with the question,
“Is this Nixon’s target?”
Much is aimed at raising national pride with such slogans as “What the
ancestors started, the children will continue.”
In the propaganda
poster shops on Saigon’s streets, you can pick up an historic print from as
little as 6 American dollars.
A Saigon resident leans on a 2012 Independence
Day poster while he texts.
There are plenty
of posters of the South American guerilla leader, Che Guevara, and a whole wall
devoted to Uncle Ho, as Ho Chi Minh is lovingly, and respectfully called. In
every school in the country, there is a portrait of Ho, and every morning the
schoolchildren pay their respects.  And
on Independence Day, when the country’s Uncle is revered even more than in
daily life, it’s clear a picture can speak a thousand words.
For World Report,
this is Belinda Jackson in Saigon.

Sophie’s Art Tour, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: costs from 950,000VND/A$43 a person (four or more people), includes  air conditioned transport, entrance fees and refreshments. All tours are given by art guide Sophie Hughes in English,

Getting there: Vietnam Airlines flies daily from Melbourne and Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), costs from $1180 return,

Staying there: The five-star Caravelle is the grande dame of Saigon’s hotel scene, and will be relaunching a new look over the coming year. Costs from VND660,000++/A$299 deluxe room/night (84-8) 3823 4999 Newest kid on the blog, the four-star Novotel Saigon Centre, has an opening
deal which includes free wi-fi and 10 per cent off spa treatments until October
30. Costs from USD$100++ superior room/ night. +84 (0)8 3822 4866,

Photos: Belle Jackson

Strange and wild ghouls and snow: travel deals 2 Sept

Morning at Machu
Picchu, Peru (Intrepid Travel)

It’s all strange, wild and ghoulish in Tassie and Dracula’s Romania, and the locals say it’s puking in Victoria’s Falls Creek (translation: it’s snowing heavily, so get on down!)
Mantra on Frome, in the centre of Adelaide, is throwing
open the doors on its new balconies, with a weekend package that includes
dinner for two and a bottle of wine at Mantra Hindmarsh Square’s Sq
restaurant  as well as late check-out,
saving $197. Costs from $219 a night for stays on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
nights until December 2. 131 517,
Melt the ice in your bones with a quickie getaway to Palm
Cove, a hop-skip north of Cairns. Stay four nights at the Reef House, a
colonial-style beach house, pay for only three. You’ll also get 20 per cent off
hotel meals, free wifi, breakfast, and a sunset Brigadier’s Punch in its Brigadiers
Lounge as well as free DVDs. Mention this page and get $25 credit in the
hotel’s spa. Stay until October 1. Costs from $129.50 a person per night, twin
share.  (07) 4080 2600,
Hit the big smoke with a budget stay in town and catch
one of the many festivals keeping the city alive including Crave food festival
throughout October. Stay three nights at the 3.5-star Travelodge Hotel, near
the Thai strip on Wentworth Ave, close to Hyde Park and Oxford St, and save 20
percent when booked by October 7.  Costs
from $95 a night, minimum three-night stay. 1800 846 835,
Eerie Port Arthur, Tasmania
It’s a strange and wild corner of the world, down there
in Tassie, and the Theatre of the World, a collaboration between the Tasmanian
Museum and Art Gallery’s Pacific bark cloths and Museum of Old And New Art’s
(MONA) treasures should have you panting to head south. A four-night Art &
Place package includes accommodation at the Mercure Hobart, priority access to
MONA Theatre of the World tickets, 30 per cent off its catalogue (normally
$80), Mona Roma fast ferry tickets, a bottle of Moorilla Muse chardonnay and a
Tasmanian Attraction ticket. Save $793, costs $662 a couple. (03) 6277 9900,
The snow has been falling thick and fast in the ski-in,
ski-out Falls Creek resort. Catch the last few weeks until the season ends and
save up to 50 per cent on peak season rates. Stay five nights at Trackers
Mountain Lodge White Space for $1130 an adult including bed, breakfast,
dinners, ski lift pass, ski lessons and snow equipment hire. Kids up to 14
years cost $720 and also get free Kids Club from 6-9pm. Also includes afternoon
tea, Winter Christmas on Wednesday nights (with turkey, eggnog and all the
trimmings) on stays September 7-30.  1800
453 525,
Shoot the breeze in Broome, with sunsets over Cable Beach
and the Indian Ocean at your doorstep. Stay seven nights in a Shinju studio the
Pinctada Cable Beach resort and get airport transfers, welcome drink, daily
buffet breakfast, a five-course spice trail dinner and a one-hour couples’
treatment at the resort spa. Save up to $525 on stays before September 30.
Costs $2086 a room for seven nights. (08) 9193 8340,  
Novotel Saigon Centre
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is a city of extremes,
with a wild street food scene and ultra-glam sky-high bars. The 4-star Novotel
Saigon Centre is the newest digs in town, with a gorgeous open-air pool and
breakfast buffet worth the trip alone. Snap up an opening deal which includes
free wi-fi and 10 per cent off spa treatments until October 30. Costs from
USD$100++ for a superior room a night. +84 (0)8 3822 4866,
Pop in on the neighbours and see what’s going down in
Auckland. Stay three nights, pay for two at the five-star Langham Hotel
Auckland in a Classic room. The hotel is a short amble from the waterfront and
the main shopping areas. Includes buffet breakfast each day as well as a free
tour of Auckland’s city sights and wineries as well as airport transfers.  Book by January 17, 2013, travel until
September 30 and December 14 – January 20, 2013. Costs from $489 a person for
three nights, twin share.  1300 130 485,

Brasov, Romania
Explore an untouched corner of Europe on a Taste of
Transylvania’s six-day private tour. Sleep with Dracula in medieval Sighisoara,
lunch with local farmers, visit the castles of Bran and Peles, explore the
gothic charms of Sibiu and Brasov and lunch at Romania’s two top wineries. In crazy
Bucharest, your address is the historic Athenee Palace Hilton. Book by
September 30 to save $150. Costs $2032 a person. 1300 668 844, 
Home of Machu Picchu and
Paddington Bear, Peru gets all the South American gems: tracts of Amazon
jungle, ancient civilisations and roasted guinea pig. There’s pisco sours to be
drunk, sand dunes to be climbed and the tour includes a homestay with a local
family on Lake Titicaca. Sign up for Intrepid Travel’s 21-day Peru Encompassed
journey, departing Lima October 18, and save $952. Costs $2828 a person, 1300 018 871,
If the blue waters of Capri are beckoning, answer the
call on an 11-day Bellissimo tour that starts in Rome then works its way down
to Pompeii and the divine coastline of Capri and Naples before delving into the
mysteries of Assisi, Venice, Florence and Siena. Includes first-class hotels,
dining in a Tuscan olive grove and a farewell dinner to say ‘ciao’ in Rome.
Book the September 24 tour to save $485 a person. Costs $3050 a person.
Chelsea Flower Show
Next year, the Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its 100-year
anniversary. Australian-owned Botanica World Discoveries takes you to the show,
with five and 10 day tours of London’s premier floral display. “While the site
at the Ranleigh Hospital gardens is compact, the displays are just
sensational,” says Botanica founder Judy Vanrenen, who has been taking
Australians to Chelsea since 2005. “It’s a full-on floral experience.” The
five-day tour starts in London on May 20 and includes tours of London’s private
gardens, as well as four nights’ accommodation in the four-star Crowne Plaza
London, St James. The 10-day tour includes entrance to eight other beautiful
gardens in southern England and Wales. Costs from $2,655 a person, twin share (5
days) and $5795 a person, twin share (10 days) 1300 305 202
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald