extra oomph when China Southern Airlines starts flying to the Big Apple via
Guangzhou, in southern China, from August 6. The service will run four times a
week on new generation Boeing B777-300ER aircraft to JFK airport, featuring cutting-edge
touchscreens in the pointy end and a new Premium Economy class with a 38-inch seat
pitch, up from the 32-inch pitch on standard economy seats. Use any layover
time to explore old Canton/new Guangzhou with its new
free 72-hour transit visas. China Southern now has two US hubs, New York and
LA, and codeshares with Delta from LA to eight cities including Atlanta, Boston,
Fort Lauderdale and Honolulu. The airline says the US is ‘earmarked for
expansion’. Stay tuned. 1300 889 628, csair.com.au.
If you’ve ever used ‘too bulky’ as a
reason not to pack runners, your lame excuse is no longer valid with
the discovery of Skechers GOwalk 2 travel shoes. A pair of average woman’s size
7 weighs just 226 grams and the mesh upper lets them squish down to fit even in
your carry-on, with no need for socks, so there’s more packing space for
shopping finds. Flexible and lightweight, the slip-ons are suitable for walking
the town and ideal for foxing airport x-ray scanners and shimmying down the
aisle on long-haul flights. Available in women’s, children’s and the men’s
GOwalk 2 – Maine. $99.95. 1800 655 154, skechers.com.au.
SITES: Road warriors
World Heritage Sites buffs should have
Peru in their sights as it now has 12 sites on its books, following the
addition of the Incan Great Trail to Machu Picchu. The UNESCO-listed Qhapaq Ñan (literally, ‘beautiful road’)
was the Incan empire’s super-highway, running 30,000km along the spine of the
Andes. Archeologists have also recently uncovered another ancient road leading
to Machu Picchu, opening up new views (think: new camera angles!) of the
citadel, which was built around 1450 but remained hidden until its rediscovery
by a US historian in 1911. Other sites in Peru’s top 12 include the sacred city
of Caral-Supe and the Chavín Archaeological Site. peru.travel.
KIDS: Marking time
the kids to draw on the walls at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, on
St Kilda Rd. In the dynamic Pastello – Draw Act playroom, kids can strap on helmets or shoes loaded with crayons and
run at the (paper-covered) walls to leave their anarchic
mark. There are also gigantic crayon pendulums and
a long drawing table with ‘cutlery crayons’ for small-scale masterpieces. The focus is on the movement and the act of drawing, not the
outcome, say Pastello’s creators, Italian design duo Erika Zorzi and
Matteo Sangalli. The interactive play space is also a
good time-out space for tattered tots. Open daily, 10am-5pm, until August 31. Free.
Put your city on a plate with the new Tapastry concept by feted chef and Pullman culinary ambassador Justin North. The sharing plates, devised by
North and the five-star hotels’ executive chefs, showcase
regional ingredients: we’re
talking Hawkesbury calamari, slow-cooked pork belly from the Northern Rivers or
single-origin chocolate by Zokoko, in the Blue Mountains. If you’re not leaving town, taste Tapastry at the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour or
Sydney Olympic Park, or go further afield at the Pullman Palm Cove Sea Temple
Resort in Palm Cove or Sails in the Desert, in Ayres Rock. The Tapastry concept is being rolled out
throughout the group’s 12 Australian five-star properties. 1300 656 565, pullmanhotels.com.
You’re always running late, and your friends
know it. Skip the tedious ‘I’m on the train’ mobile call and give them get a
glimpse of your ETA with glimpse.com. The travel tracker pops your headshot up
on a dynamic, real-time map that you can share with nominated friends from
email, text, Facebook or Twitter. The info is available only for a designated
amount of time, up to four hours maximum, for added security. Best of all, the
app is free, with no accounts, passwords or logins, and you don’t even need to
have it installed to receive a glimpse. Available
for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry users and now updated for Windows Phone 8.
FAMILY TRAVEL: Fiji for Teens
Kids too big for kids’ club? Let your teens explore Fiji
with the locals at the eco-friendly, five-star Jean-Michel Cousteau
Resort, recently voted best overseas family resort by Luxury Travel
magazine. The resort is up in the country’s wild northern island, Vanua
Levu, which teens can explore with a “buddy” from the activities
staff. Make a billi billi (bamboo raft) and head off swimming, hike
through the rainforest, go river tubing or snorkelling and finish off
with a beach bonfire. Free for teen guests 13 years and up. Stays cost
from $372 a person, twin share on a six-night stay from October 6 until
March 31 (excluding Christmas). 1300 306 171, fijiresort.com.
You may have noticed there are no deals on my website lately – I’m now writing the travel news for the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section each week. To keep an eye on great deals, visit smh.com.au/travel
One of the city’s boutique hotels is staking its claim as one of Australia’s greenest hotels, writes Belinda Jackson.
When I slip into the conversation that I’m staying in
Melbourne’s only carbon-neutral hotel, everybody is clueless. Yet it’s
in the centre of the city and has been there for a decade, making Alto
on Bourke the original sleeper hit.
As Australia’s first carbon-neutral hotel, its fans include
some of the greenest people on the planet – Bob Brown and David Suzuki –
and being Sunday night, it’s almost full.
But don’t expect ostentation. The reception at the 50-room
hotel is tiny, though the front-desk staff helpful, and we check in
without fuss to our two-bedroom apartment, which includes a kitchen with
dishwasher and a full set of crockery and glassware.
The main bedroom looks down Bourke Street, though the second
bedroom has only a skylight. The hotel’s linens were all recently redone
– my room’s cushions and bed runners are in a smart green Marimekko
Originally the Victorian Railways Union building, built in
1917, with a set of offices added much later on, the result is some
quirkily shaped rooms, yet with a six-star energy rating.
Eco-warriors hunting for “greenwash”, or deceptive PR spin of
their environmental claims, would have to hunt hard – the cleaning gear
and toiletries (from fixed dispensers) is all earth-friendly, the
lighting and heating switch on and off via the room’s key and Alto is
the first in Melbourne to offer Foxtel’s full 88 channels via its new
low-power LED televisions.
The hotel runs on 100 per cent renewable energy; its carbon
footprint is half the average hotel room, and the rest is offset. Like
any business that wants to manage its bottom-line profitability, some
decisions are no-brainers.
Harvesting all its own rainwater and using gas and
electricity-saving mechanisms saves the hotel about $20,000 a year, says
the hotel’s unassuming general manager, Gary Stickland, who is surely
the font of all eco-tourism knowledge.
At breakfast, honey is from the hives on the hotel’s
rooftops, the coffee is organic and fair trade, and the eggs benedict is
very, very good. The beverages list is also green, with a healthy
showing of Victorian craft beers, including the super-local Hawthorn
Pilsner and Abbotsford Mountain Goat beer.
Wi-Fi is free, and there is free fair-trade coffee all day in
the cafe and library, which has a book-share program, with a healthy
showing of German and Spanish titles, as well as a kids’ section. I grab
something to read and end up with the latest GQ and Treadlie, an
oh-so-cute Melbourne magazine “for people of bikerly persuasions”.
Bowls of green apples sit in the foyer for guests to grab for
a snack on their way out, and there’s a little relaxation room with two
massage chairs that seals you off from the clang and chatter of the
city. If you turn up in an electric or hybrid car, they’ll give you free
parking and recharging, and the staff get in on the enviro-action, too –
their latest project is helping recycle cigarette butts into fertiliser
and plastic street furniture with Brisbane eco-start-up TerraCycle.
Some of the green technology is cutting-edge, such as the
aircon’s movement sensors that switch off if there’s nobody in the room.
There are slow-flow showers and taps, energy-efficient globes, plus the
simplest things – the refuse bin in the room has a recycling section.
“The hardest part is usually changing people’s behaviours, but that’s
already been done,” says Stickland. “We all recycle at home, why not in
With its location down the Spencer Street end of town, two minutes
from Southern Cross Station and the airport bus, and walking distance to
Etihad Stadium, it’s a wise choice for AFL fans and those chasing the
big music gigs.
Alto on Bourke is a hotel first, an environmentally friendly
hotel second. “If you’re not a good hotel first up, the environmental
factor is redundant,” says Stickland.
The writer stayed as a guest of Alto on Bourke.
WHERE Alto on Bourke, 636 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 1800 135 123.
HOW MUCH From $166 for a studio room, midweek.
TOP MARKS The hotel donates its old blankets to the Salvation Army’s
winter appeal, and free Wi-Fi and all-day tea and espresso coffee are
available in the hotel’s cafe.
BLACK MARK The coffee machine was cleaned straight after breakfast
finished at 10am, just when lazy, late diners were hoping for a second
MORE INFORMATION altohotel.com.au.
|The Mr Darcy of macarons: black sesame
and blackberry fill. Photo: Belinda Jackson.
|Sweetness & light. Photo: Belinda Jackson.|
Other tips included shooting food portrait, not landscape, and to make a mess with food photography – it’s more real (but I wonder if that means you’re allowed to stick your fingers in the icing).
|Flying to Fiji’s Mamanucas with the kids.|
worth $950, at the absolute beachfront apartments at Seahaven Noosa until July
31. The 4.5-star property includes four heated pools, spa, gym and bbq. From $2375,
seven nights. (07) 5447 3422, seahavennoosa.com.au.
and Moscow on the nine-day Tsar Route tour and save $225. Includes transport,
accommodation in first-class hotels, breakfast and sightseeing. Available August-September 2014. Costs $1891 a person,
twin share. 1300 668 844, eetbtravel.com.
|The glamour of the Russian empire|
break on Phillip Island and get $200 of extras including dinner, wine and a
three-parks pass that includes the Penguin Parade when you stay two nights in a
studio spa room at the Ramada Resort Phillip Island. Costs $484, two nights,
until August 31. (03) 5952 8000, ramadaphillipisland.com.au.
|The new Karma Reef hotel on Gili Meno, Lombok|
of Lombok, two hours by boat from Bali. The new boutique resort Karma Reef’s low-season
special runs from October 1, 2014 – March 31, 2015 (excludes Christmas).
Normally $315 a night, from $170 B&B for two. +62 370 642 340,
spring by reconnecting with nature at the eco-accredited Paperbark Camp near
Jervis Bay, and save up to $440 throughout September and midweek
(Sunday-Thursday) in October. From $500, two nights, with gourmet breakfast,
bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddling. 1300 668 167, paperbarkcamp.com.au.
Nabataen civilisation of Petra on an 11-night tour through this beautiful
desert country. Book by September 30 and receive all entrance fees to sites
free. Departs March 30, 2015. From $4989 a person, twin share. (07) 3372
family fly-in, fly-out package to Fiji’s Castaway Island in the Mamanucas. The
five-night offer includes helicopter and sea plane transfers for two adults and
two kids from Nadi airport to the island. There’s also plenty of water action,
with snorkelling, a dolphin safari, sunset cruise and a ride on a banana boat
included. From $5470 for a family of four, available until March 31, 2015. +679 666 1233, castawayfiji.com
most poignant battlefields during the centenary years of WWI. The 12-day tour travels from London to Amsterdam
via France and Belgium to the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, the
battlefields of the Somme and Ypres’ Menin Gate. Highlights include the new
First World War Galleries in the Imperial War Museum in London, and lighter
moments are found in a wine tasting in Reims and dinner in a local’s home in
Amsterdam. From $3775 a person, twin share. 1300
663 043, trafalgar.com.
Break your long-haul flight with a visit to Hong Kong
Disneyland, coffee in Singapore’s Kampong Glam, a Chinese shopover or a
spot of Arabian dune bashing. Transit stopovers don’t have to follow the
old sluice-and-snooze formula.
The new stopover cities of Guanghzhou and Dubai are going
gung-ho with relaxed transit visas and budget hotel offers, while the
old hands of Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong are offering easy transit
visas and tours to show off their towns. Expect cheap hotels and hop-on,
hop-off buses in Singapore, free rail cards and kick-boxing shows in
Bangkok, or Emirates’ and Qantas’ Dubai hotel packages. Most offers are
limited to travellers flying on the country’s national airline. BJ
Yes, it’s cold, yes, it’s pricey, but the Norwegian capital
is a sleeper hit for its food, architecture and design. Fly in with
thrifty Norwegian Air, ogle starchitect Renzo Piano’s new Astrup
Fearnley Museum of Modern Art or squeal with your hands over your ears
alongside Edvard Munch’s The Scream.
If Michelin-starred Maaemo is out of your league, try organic
Kolonihagen Grunerlokka for new Nordic tapas: think mini elkburgers and
dainty seafood, or go budget on gritty Storgata, aka Kebab Street.
Hipsters bunker down at The Thief Hotel, then go old-school to sip
coffee and shop Nordic design at Fuglen.
Grab a window seat in the Grand Hotel’s cafe to channel Ibsen
and world peace (the Nobel Peace Prize laureate snoozes here each
year). visitoslo.com. BJ
THE CANTON ROUTE
Guangzhou, in southern China, is the heartland of the Canton
Route, a wallet-friendly rival to the traditional Kangaroo Route from
Sydney to London via Hong Kong or Singapore. China Southern Airlines
also now flies Guangzhou to Moscow, Frankfurt and New York (from August
Aussies are already snapping up free 72-hour transit visas to
scoff Cantonese nosh and explore the surrounding Guangdong Province. BJ
CHEAP MICHELIN EATS
Even Michelin-star-restaurant hunters can’t resist a deal,
and we love the rise of little cheapies creating expert food on a
The cheapest is said to be Hong Kong’s celebrated Tim Ho Wan,
hot property for its pork buns (three for under $3), otherwise, check
out the one-star Arbutus, the bellwether of London’s so-called recession
restaurants, with the plat de jour and wine for 10 quid, or New York’s
first gastropub, The Spotted Pig, a one-star constant since it opened a
The Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand listing spots restaurants
that are dishing up non-starred all-stars serving two courses and wine
for less than $40, fertile hunting ground for eaters with dieting
We all want to be in Venice, specifically at the Belmond, yes we do. Purse strings a little tight? Then lovely Launceston will do, for some winter warmth. Take the kids to Japan, take them to the Queensland islands in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.
Get cosy this winter in the heartland of the cold season,
Tasmania. Originally a corn mill dating back to the 1840s, the recently
refurbished Launceston hotel is offering a hot price to counteract the
cold nights, until August 31. From $99 a night. (03) 6335 6600, leisureinnpennyroyal.com.au.
|The Peninsula Paris, now open.|
Go Japanese in Victoria or channel Peninsula style in Paris: the world is your oyster, so add garnish and drink it up in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.
Save on an airfare to a Japanese spa and instead stay at
Shizuka Ryokan in Hepburn Springs, 75 minutes from Melbourne: expect
green tea, tatami and spa cuisine. Book and pay in full by July 31 and
get $50 credit. From $179 a room a night, three-night stay. See shizuka.com.au.
|Photo: Belinda Jackson|
of the Maldives is Dhivehi. It draws on Arabic, Urdu and Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese. The alphabet, when printed on official signs, looks as though
someone’s been too lazy to finish writing their Arabic script, and not
imaginative enough to make it decorative. To the untrained eye, it could even
resemble a series of punctuation marks.
25-letter alphabet! We’re trying to jump from the luxury resort of
Cocoa Island by COMO, famed for its diving, to its new sister property, Maalifushi by COMO, further
south and an up-and-coming star in the surf arena. If we had a sea plane, we
could skip between the two in a matter of hours.
Instead, we take Cocoa’s boat
40 minutes up to the capital Male’s airport, where we will take a commercial
flight south to Thimarafushi, and then another boat to Maalifushi. Lost yet?
small, at just 4sqm, and so densely populated, with around 200,000 people – about half the nation’s population – that the airport is on the next island,
and linked by a taxi rank of public dhonis (local boats), who charge 15 rufiyya, or US$1, to
cross the water.)
|Photo: Belinda Jackson|
engulfed the runway. “It’s a very, very low atoll,” a local tells me. “Very
good for surfing, very bad for flying.”
must be very, very low indeed. The highest point in the Maldives, incidentally,
is a towering 2.4m. The lowest official point is 1.5m. I’m tipping that point
is somewhere near Thimarafushi airport.
we’re going to Kadhdhoo Kaadedhdhoo airport. Or so we think. Then we learn
we’re actually going to Kadhdhoo Kooddoo airport.