|Temptation personified. Photo: Belinda Jackson|
On a break from Cairo, here’s a little number from beautiful East Gippsland. If you’re in that neck of the woods (think Lakes Entrance way), make a beeline for this little beauty.
BAG END AT RIVENDELL
926 Stephenson Road, Tambo Upper, Vic
Phone: (03) 5156 4317 or 0419 302 074
Tambo Upper is an East
Gippsland hamlet located amid rolling farmland off the highway between
Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance. Rivendell is a 44-hectare property built
on the hilltops; you can look out to the spectacular Gippsland Lakes, a
favourite spot for boaties, fishermen and birdwatchers.
Rivendell is a working Angus beef farm with two self-contained cottages that have also been named after things or places in The Lord of the Rings
– Arkenstone, a wheelchair-friendly, three-bedroom cottage, and the
one-bedroom Bag End, which we stayed in. In an earlier incarnation, Bag
End’s bedroom was a concrete water tank; it’s still circular, but now
it’s filled by a comfy bed and lined with racks of wine, available for
purchase. Both cottages have well-equipped kitchens and there’s a spa
tub in the garden. The farm is home to peacocks and guinea fowl, sheep,
hens and horses.
Start the day with
owner-chef Josh Thomas’s excellent breakfast and end it with a
three-course dinner. In between, there’s always lunch: the nearby
Nicholson River Winery serves platters that complement its renowned
Gippsland pinot noirs. Rivendell hires canoes and mountain bikes to
enable visitors to explore the picturesque Tambo River and the East
Gippsland Rail Trail.
East Gippsland’s vibrant
villages. Bruthen is at the start of the Great Alpine Road and here you
can sink a local brew at the Bullant Brewery before popping into the new
Bruthen Bazaar. Metung, on the water’s edge, has a thriving cafe scene
and breakfast at The Metung Galley is highly recommended. There’s also a
farmer’s market on the second Saturday of each month.
Need to know
Cost: From $240 a night.
Distance: 3.5 hours’ drive (310km) east of Melbourne.
This story, written by Belinda Jackson, is part of 52 Weekends Away, published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
|Photo: Belinda Jackson|
a pyramid by the fingertips.
handful of guards nearly fell over to see someone, and the touts couldn’t believe their luck at not one, but two carloads of visitors, even if they were all Egyptian (including one suspiciously blonde one in the middle).
to know not even the locals can resist the Giza Pyramid mafia.
|A camel driver. Photo: Belinda Jackson|
the obligatory Arafat scarf, there was a Euro-couple celebrating the
end of a Cape Town to Cairo adventure, and a small tour group of Russians
snavelling basement-bargain travel. That’s all.
overworked and underfed horses were fleet of foot and ready to run. My little
grey mare, Sousou, is surely the fastest pony in Giza.
ride on a full moon, flat out down the plateau at full gallop, breathing in the
cool desert night air. In broad daylight, it’s a whole different ballgame. You
see the stones the size of basketballs that your horse is dodging. You see the
concrete wall that the horses aim for at full tilt, before swerving left to
pass through the exit gate. You see the snarling curs that lick around the
ponies’ hooves, snapping at ankles as you pass.
wrenches itself into a new form. But the lesson from Afghanistan and China is
that you can never take even heroic art and architecture for granted.
|At the feet of the gods, Abu Simbel, Egypt. Photo: Belinda Jackson.|
Horakhty and Ptah and also to Ramses, who rather fancied himself as a deity.
the silence, I’ve been offline up on Egypt’s north coast, where I had no
internet, curfews (thank you, revolution) and not even a chemist for lousy cold tablets.
sometimes strange to think that Egypt is a Mediterranean country (did you know there are 21?), but it’s home to some of the most budget-friendly Med resorts. The flashiest of
them all is Porto Marina, 280km from Cairo, where ministers and other high government officials
have their summer getaways, in the form of luxe tower apartments and chic chalets.
|Porto Marina and a foolhardy bungee jumper.|
touch of Australia’s Gold Coast to it all, with a huge restaurant strip on a marina full
of white boats, a crane hauling quaking bungee jumpers up into the sky. But it’s
still Egypt: while we were having lunch there today, a man walked by, carrying
a five-month-old lion cub. The photographer by his side made sure nobody got to
take a snap without producing the gold.
cub is from a local circus, and they assured me she wasn’t drugged, as she
curled up against the man like a kitten. We patted her paws, stroked her back and
admired her beautiful eyes without complaint.
want your daughter to sit on the lion for a photo?” asked the tout. Listen
mate, I’ve already horrified enough animal lovers with posts of Eid’s sacrifices, I
told him. Let’s not push it…
|Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring
Build it and they will come. Or will they? Belinda Jackson rounds up the best newcomers on the architecture scene.
Could you visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower? Or
miss the Blue Mosque when in Istanbul? The Tower Bridge is a London
essential and Cairo’s pyramids are possibly the oldest tourist site on
But tell friends you’re going to Oslo to see the new design
by Renzo Piano and chances are you’ll be tarred with a try-hard hipster
tag. “Architecture is the great public art,” says Eoghan Lewis,
architect and founder of Sydney Architecture Walk, in defence of
While not buying into the tallest-fattest-most-brightly-coloured
debate (“Do people really travel to see the new tall?”), he readily
admits to admiring Burj Khalifa, but describes Sydney’s Opera House as
“the most important 20th-century architectural moment”, matched only by
Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia basilica, in Barcelona.
|The Cardboard Cathedral, New Zealand.|
However, if you were so inclined, the battle for the tallest,
longest and shiniest building has just two serious contestants: the UAE
and China, with Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, at 829 metres, currently the
tallest building in the world. Pitch that beside Australia’s loftiest
offering, the Gold Coast’s Q1, and we come out looking positively puny
at just 322 metres high.
Architecture aficionados have their 2013-14 diaries full,
with a smorgasbord of beautiful little offerings from Britain and plenty
of Zaha Hadid curves in Asia.
Off the list is the tediously square new George W. Bush presidential
centre. And while we’d love to jet to Lima for sheer wackiness, its
cliff-hanging hotel is, unsurprisingly, still at the planning permission
stage, while Shanghai’s Songjiang Hotel, where two floors are
underwater, won’t open till 2015.
subtle achievers. Read on for a baker’s dozen of great new
architectural statements going up around the world.
|A young camel for sale in the souk in Nasr City.|
streets are always crowded, always colourful, but moreso this week, in the
lead-up to Eid al-Adha, the great feast.
Impromptu butchers shops have cropped
up on major intersections, the fumes from a hundred thousand minibuses curing
the slabs of beef, lamb and goats’ meat that hang in the open air.
butchers, shepherds in dirty gellibayas care for the next batch of carcasses – fat-tailed
sheep, blank-eyed goats and unperturbed cattle huddle together, tethered by the roadsides in
readiness to be sacrificed for tomorrow’s feast. The meat will be distributed evenly
between the family, the poor and the freezer.
|Sheep on a Cairo roadside, awaiting a buyer.|
morning, I popped down to the local souq, here in central Cairo, where makeshift stables house a
hundred head of animals, alongside the usual market offerings of ducks, fish,
pigeons and rabbits. Standing separate from the melee, a young camel stands awaiting a buyer.
before, observant Muslims fast in preparation, parents buy their children party
hats and new clothes, and tomorrow?
the streets will run with blood,” is the ghoulish refrain in the lead-up to the
|Sunset over the Nile tonight, Cairo. Photo: Belle Jackson|
like the khamaseen has come early to Cairo this year. The fifty days of dust
storms that scour North Africa usually cover the city’s windows and put the grit in your teeth each
February and March, but a strange cloud hangs over the city and it’s still just
from the balcony, airplanes slip quietly through the early morning mist. Their
passing doesn’t seem to happen that often: Cairo’s international airport was pretty
low-key when we came through three days ago, with Singapore Airlines the only
international I spotted: the rest were Egyptair planes, codesharing where the
other big names don’t want to go.
free shop was bereft of customers, I saw a boarded-up Thomas Cook counter and
the tourism touts could barely raise an eyebrow when I walked past: they know
that most passengers are locals returning for Eid al-Adha, the great feast,
this week. Any tourists are well and truly on organised packages and I didn’t
spot a single backpack.
flights from Melbourne to Cairo (via Singapore and Dubai) were shared with a
woman in her late 50s or early 60s. We were both worried by the brief, 55-minute
transit time in Singapore, as our incoming flight was late.
matter,” I said. “There are worse places to have a forced stopover than
wouldn’t like to be doing it on my own!” said the intrepid lady, with some
concern. Woman, I thought to myself, you’re going to Cairo…
There’s a world of ideas for a mother and daughter getaway with it all, writes Belinda Jackson.
spa, eat, see and do – for mums and daughters, a trip together is a
unique way to celebrate and refresh your relationship without the
demands of kids, work and partners. Mums with teenage girls, snatch that
special time before they disappear into the world alone: perhaps this
is the chance to test the waters before gap years and the prospect of
solo travel raise their heads. After all, who could ask for a better
teacher of essential life skills?
PRINCESS DIARIES: ITALY
in Italy, what would Audrey Hepburn do?” She’d probably drive to
beautiful little Siena (mental note: pack Pucci scarf and big
sunglasses), climb the top of the Mangia tower before shopping for
handmade Tuscan boots, then refreshing herself with lunch at a trattoria
and a little gelato.
Andrea Powis channels the ultimate diva on a 10-night tour through
Tuscany and down to Rome on a tour made for sisters or mums and
daughters. “It’s effervescent, elegant and timeless,” she says.
are home-cooked dinners at family vineyards and lunches in Renaissance
palaces with Florentine princesses, nights spent in country villas,
palazzos and monasteries, and two days on red Vespas, stopping for
morning cappuccinos in walled towns, with light shopping workouts in
between (non-Vespa divas are chauffeured). The tour ends in Rome, with a
tour of Villa Borghese and a promenade (and possibly more shopping)
along Via Condotti. The 10-night tour departs Florence on June 7, 2014.
Costs from $6699 a person, twin share. Phone 0408 721 569. See travellingdivas.com.au.
FROM NEON TO BLOSSOMS: JAPAN
Revel in the flash and dash of fashionable Tokyo then soak up the tranquillity of a Shinto shrine in the Japanese countryside.
stays at traditional ryokans and imperial palaces and Buddhist temples
on the list, there is time for peace and reflection on this journey.
But, hey, there’s also fabulous shopping at oh-so beautiful department
stores and Tokyo’s hip strips.
This is a privately guided journey,
making it perfect for mums and daughters to reconnect: in spring for
cherry blossoms, summer with its gentle warmth or among the spectacular
Departing from Tokyo daily, the nine-night tour includes
a first class on a bullet train from Hakone to Kyoto, a tea ceremony in
a private home, Michelin-starred restaurants and local izakayas and the
chance to emulate some of Japan’s best-dressed women in a kimono and
Costs from $11,185 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 851 800, see abercrombiekent.com.au.
SHOP THE CITY: NEW YORK
Shopping is bonding, says Karen Parker O’Brien, who leads private shopping tours of New York City.
a mother-and-daughter day out, you’re bonding as best friends who care
about what the other thinks,” says the former fashion buyer, who will
take you into private showrooms and studios.
Her top shop is the homewares “museum” ABC Carpet & Home, on Broadway. “It’s a magical store.”
champagne and gourmet snacking, expect retail highs in designers’ NYC
showrooms, expect up to 80 per cent off in the wholesale haunts. A
private four-hour VIP walking tour costs from US$400 for four people,
limo tours from US$500. See email@example.com, styleroom.com.
A CREATIVE REVOLUTION: SPAIN
is proof that daily life can and should be lived exuberantly, says art
historian, chef and guide Marieke Brugman. Celebrated culinary guide
Marieke’s nine-day tour through northern Spain starts in soulful
Barcelona before venturing north to Bilbao, Navarra and La Rioja.
mediaeval fishing harbours that spawned navigators and fashion
designers. Dine at a coveted chef’s table in the three-Michelin-star
Arzak, rated eighth in the world by San Pellegrino.
pintxos, sleep in mansions and learn kitchen secrets from northern
Spain’s masters. Marieke may even lead you into the whiskey bars of San
Sebastian or into tavernas run by elegant septuagenarian ladies.
especially of a more mature age, are not invisible in Spain,” says
Marieke. “To the contrary, they’re celebrated.” Departs September 26,
2014. Costs $10,000, phone 0419 580 381, see mariekesartofliving.com.
|Crown Metropol’s sky-high pool, Melbourne.|
PUT THE “AH” INTO SPA: AUSTRALIA
better way to repay your mum for the sleepless nights, the endless
dishes and a lifetime of caring than to check her in for two days of
water therapy … we’re talking rituals using Aveda products,
stress-busting massages, a soothing facial and exclusive spa access at
Melbourne’s sky-high Crown Metropol. Level 27 is home to Crown’s lush
Isika spa, expansive views of Melbourne’s skyline as well as that
amazing pool, the one where Offspring’s lovely Patrick farewelled
television’s most glamorous mum-to-be, Nina.
The revive package
also includes one night’s accommodation in an Isika spa suite, breakfast
at the sky-high private guest lounge, 28, lunch and dinner at Mr Hive
and stress-free valet parking.
For total relaxation, book midweek
to avoid the weekend hustle. Costs from $880 a person or $1485 for two,
twin share. Phone 1800 056 662, see isikaspa.com.au.
THREE MORE TRIPS CLOSE TO HOME
GOLDEN DOOR ELYSIA
the Hunter Valley is an easy getaway, with healthy cuisine, meditation,
morning tai chi and motivational speakers. Save 15 per cent on a
two-night weekend stay until December 20. From $940 a person, two
nights. 1800 212 011, goldendoor.com.au.
in dinner and a show, with Agatha Christie’s A Murder Announced, with
an overnight stay in Mantra 2 Bond Street, Sydney, from $500 a night
(until October 27) or in Melbourne, staying at Mantra on the Park, from
$472 (from October 30 to December 4). 1300 987 604, mantra.com.au.
the soul with a gentle bushwalk in the Southern Highlands and a stay at
the no-gadget Solar Springs Health Retreat, from $255 a person, twin
share. (02) 4883 6027, solarsprings.com.au.
The young female leopard was standing on the side of the dirt track we were cruising in our 4WD. Noel Rodrigo, internationally hailed as Sri Lanka’s leopard whisperer, saw her and pulled up sharp. She wandered across the track in front of us, then padded along the dirt road before turning back into the scrub. Within seconds, she had disappeared from view once again, a ghost in the jungle.
Noel’s camp is located around the back entrance to the park: up to 400 trucks pour through the main gate every morning, cowboys roaring through the park, two-way radios blaring, each promising a glimpse of these elusive cats. We crept in the back gate early and slowly to find our girl. And now I’ve found her again.
|The Sheraton Mirage Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Qld.|
Grab an off-peak bargain on Britain’s trains or in Bali’s villas, be one of the first to see the revamped Sheraton Mirage on the Gold Coast, or splash out with the kids in Malaysia, a truly family-friendly country. Go on, you’re worth it.
Coast’s $26 million renovation. Stay three, pay for two nights, from $580 or
stay four and pay three nights, from $870, until December 22, (07) 5577 0000, sheratonmiragegoldcoast.com.au.
England Pass between November 1 and February 28, 2014 when you book by February
12, 2014. From $185 an adult for a three-day pass, raileurope.com.au.
|The main bedroom, Villa Asanda, Bali.|
percent on rates at the fully staffed villas on stays until December 20. Villas
range from three to six bedrooms, from $420 a night, three-bed villa, marketingvillas.com.
part of a Malaysian getaway with Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur. The
seven-night, two-town package includes domestic flights, two free nights, bonus
upgrades, tours and kids under 12 stay and eat free in Penang. Book by November
30, from $1790 a person, 1300 696 252, myholidaycentre.com.au/Malaysia.