Good Weekend’s 52 weekends away

On the trail: Spring Spur Stay, Tawonga, Vic.

Sometimes in this job, you just get lucky. And getting to stay at Spring Spur was lucky indeed. I didn’t realise, but I’d ridden here, up in the Victorian Alps, years ago. The hard-working Baird family have since built new accommodation with their own bare hands.

This is my inclusion in the Good Weekend’s annual 52 Weekends Away:

COUNTRY
Tree-change chill-out, gourmet getaway or back-to-nature adventure: take
your pick – the air’s fresher, the tempo gentler. Book in, breathe out and feel
the serenity.


SPRING SPUR STAY

52 Fredas Lane, Tawonga, Vic
PHONE: (03) 5754 4849
WEB: springspurstay.com.au

The location  In the rich Kiewa Valley, Spring Spur Stay is also
the home for Bogong Horseback Adventures. This is Victoria’s dramatic high
country, with the ski resorts of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek nearby.
The place  Kath and Steve Baird have run Spring Spur Stables for
23 years and their sons, Lin and Clay, are third-generation packhorse
professionals as well as being dab hands in the kitchen. The new accommodation
wing has six double bedrooms, all with private ensuite bathrooms and
full-length windows that look up to the (sometimes snowy) peaks. The décor is a
blend of Steve’s art and rustic high country curios, and the ethos is a blend
of eco-energy meets espresso machine.
The experience  Live out your mountain fantasies on a half-day
ride up into the Alpine National Park, a tranquil journey through the bush. The
family has bred and trained most of its horses using “natural
horsemanship” principles and, like good dance partners, the Bairds’
super-responsive Australian stock horses will make you appear a far better
rider than you actually are. After a morning in the saddle, pull up a pew
(literally) at the handmade table in the cavernous new Riders Lounge and tuck
into a home-cooked Sunday lunch.
Don’t miss  On the drive up from Melbourne, jump off the Hume
Highway and onto the Snow Road (C522) for a pit-stop in cafe-tastic little
Oxley. No time for cellar doors? Clever Milawa Hotel, a little further along,
stocks a great range of local wines.
BELINDA JACKSON

Need to know
Cost: From $485 for a two-night weekend getaway.
Distance: 4.5 hours’ drive (360km) north-east of Melbourne.
Children: Yes.

This story was part of Good Weekend magazine’s annual 52 Weekends Away. To read about more great weekend escapes, click here

Travel news: Freewheeling across the world

Cycling in the German Alps. Photo: Bruce Robertson
Freewheeling
Have bicycle, will travel. But if you’re not sure where
to ride, click on to this serious collection of bike tours from around the
world. At last count, the website listed 7000 tours in 123 countries for all
levels of fitness, for road bikes, mountain bikes and even electronic bikes. Website
founder and keen cyclist Bruce Robertson is currently infatuated with Korea,
where he’s going with friends for a 350km ride from Seoul to Andong. “Korea’s
cycle paths and infrastructure are incredible,” he says. “The paths follow the
rivers, not the roads.” The site also loves a best-of list, including the best
off-road tours and city tours, packing tips and a guide to choosing the best bicycle
tour. To lycra or not to lycra? That’s your call. See cycletoursglobal.com.

APARTMENTS
Sleep easy with
the locals
Dublin city, the heart of Istanbul and the jewel of the
Greek islands, Santorini, are the latest destinations in Tempo Holidays’ 2015 Apartments
& Catering Worldwide brochure. Stay in an Italian condo on Lake Como, a maison
in the Cote des Maures in France or
a villa on the Portuguese Algarve. All properties are researched by Tempo
Holidays, which is owned by the world’s longest established
travel company, Cox & Kings. Many apartments and villas include
hotel facilities such as daily or weekly servicing, but with the freedom of
your own space and 24-hour help. Great for larger families or groups, they are
priced per night, but with discounts for extended stays. Phone 1300 558 987, see tempoholidays.com.
FOOD
Of souks and spices in Morocco
Discover the soul of Morocco on a 10-day gastronomic tour
of the country with TV chef and self-described ‘gastronaut’ Geoff Jansz. The
journey starts in gritty Casablanca and travels through the ancient, regal
cities of Fes, Meknes and Rabat, finishing up in Marrakesh. You’ll taste and
learn about Morocco’s culinary traditions with local experts, shop for spices
in magnificent souks (markets), drink Berber tea in the Atlas Mountains and eat
in restaurants selected by Jansz. There’s also a visit to Roman ruins of
Volubilis, Andalusian gardens and the craziness of Marrakesh’s central square,
Djamma el Fna. The tour will accommodate 24 guests, from November 1-10, 2015.
Costs $6895 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 590 317, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

AIRLINES
Best Fiji cuisine
Taste Fiji before you even get hit the happy isles with Fiji
Airways’ new signature dish for business-class passengers. The airline offers a
charred beef fillet with masala chai tea rub, herb buttered prawns and Fijian
organic vegetables, or seared wild fish with coriander and pineapple rice pilaf
and
red papaya curry sauce. The dishes are designed by Fiji Airways’
Culinary Ambassador chef Lance Seeto, who says the menu is influenced not just
the native iTaukei cuisine but Indian, Chinese and colonial British as well.
Seeto, who is based on Fiji’s Castaway Island resort, says it’s part of a
culinary renaissance taking place across the country. Other business-class menu
additions include a Fijian rum cocktail and mocktail, and the Yadra Vinaka
(good morning) sleeper service. Phone 1800 230
150, see fijiairways.com.

KIDS
Come to mamma
Whoever thought having kids meant giving up seriously
good food and wine? The new La Dolce Vita Wine & Food Festival welcomes
kids with all of its Italian heart. Held at eight wineries in Victoria’s King
Valley, there will be jumping castles and giant sandpits, playgrounds and
circus training, and every winery will offer a kids’ menu. Meanwhile, parents
(and non-parents) can test-drive Prosecco cocktails, turn their hand at gnocchi
making, cruise the market stalls or join a Long Lunch. The festival takes place
on November 15-16. Phone 1800 801 065, see
winesofthekingvalley.com.au
 
GEAR
Clean hands, clear
conscience
If the phrase ‘life-changing hand sanitiser’ sounds a
little far-fetched, log the tracking number on the back of this antibacterial
hand sanitiser and you may find you’ve just helped provide clean water for a
village in Myanmar. These body care products are from Thankyou, a social enterprise
that channels its profits directly into health and hygiene training in
developing nations. The hand sanitiser is a trusty travel companion that comes
in a tasty grapefruit or eucalyptus mint fragrance, and at 50ml, it’s well
under the airlines’ carry-on liquids limit. Other products include hand cream
and soap, all Australian made, all without harsh chemicals and all are
ethically sourced. Available at major supermarkets. See thankyou.co.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Dressed to thrill: Gaultier fashion exhibition opens in Melbourne

Gaultier with Australian supermodel Alexandra Agostin.

“It’s not often an art opening turns into a discussion on trans-gender issues,” an art curator said, gleefully, to me today.

We were gossiping at the preview of the fabulous retrospective by fashion dynamo Jean Paul Gaultier.

Surrounded by conical bras (you remember Madonna in THAT bra in her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990?) and wildly elaborate, intricate, completely over-the-top fashion, what surprised me most was the man himself.

Flanked by two Australian muses, Alexandra Agostin and transgender supermodel Andreja Pejic (in her first appearance as a woman), Gaultier laughed, smiled, joked and charmed the (couture) pants off the 500+ audience who came to see him launch the exhibition, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From Sidewalk to Catwalk. 

The exhibition has already travelled across the globe, bringing more than 140 creations to the people, from San Fran to Stockholm, but this time, Gaultier assures us, it’s almost perfect.

Alexandra Agostin and Andreja Pejic in the audience
at the exhibition’s launch in Melbourne today.

As was pointed out in the press conference, it is generally very difficult for the non-fashion world (ie. the rest of us) to view couture: sure you can look at a magazine, but where’s the movement, the life?

Melbourne, you’re a lucky woman: this is the only showing of the exhibition in the Asia Pacific. Opens tomorrow at the National Gallery of Victoria until February 8, 2015.

Adult $22
*Concession $18
Child (5-15 years) $10
Family (2 adults + 3 children) $60
NGV Member Adult $17
NGV Member Family (2 adults + 3 children) $48
Additional Family Child $5

If you’re in the hood, check out the NGV’s fantastic Friday night with John Paul Gaultier program.

Shanghai swing: Art Deco fashion

Look what popped into my inbox recently: these Art Deco men’s slippers are pure Shanghai 1930s, with their geometric zing. 
They’re the latest from Shanghai shoemaker Suzhou Cobblers,which specialises in hand-sewn slippers. Made from silk with a leather sole, they’re a great souvenir from a great city.
I popped in a hundred years ago (ok, maybe it hasn’t been quite that long since I was in Shanghai) but put them on your list if you happen to be in town. They’re open every day from 10am – 6.30pm, just off the Bund.
You’ll also find them across the river in Pudong, in Beijing, Hangzhou and – ever so slightly further afield – in Munich.
17 Fuzhou Rd, Shanghai, suzhou-cobblers.com

And the popular pick is? Poland. Takeoff: Travel news

Warsaw’s Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town market square)

And the popular pick is? Poland.

Europe’s latest hot spot offers a stunning mix of history, architecture and natural attractions. Warsaw is emerging as a rising star on 2015 and 2016 travel
itineraries as Poland records a record high in tourist numbers. Key
sights in the former Eastern Bloc capital include the Old Town’s  market
square, Rynek Starego Miasta, rebuilt to its medieval design after its
destruction in World War II. The country is also famous for its
pilgrimage icon the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Krakow’s historic town
square and Wawel Castle and birdwatching in its vast central marshes.
Eastern European specialist Beyond Travel has released its largest ever
selection of tours to Poland, including a new Polish Capitals tour from
Krakow to Warsaw. A four-night tour including accommodation, guides and
transport starts from $630 a person (excluding flights). Phone 1300 363 554, see  beyondtravel.com.au

GEAR: The good oilcloth

Your destination may not be exotic but your luggage certainly can be,
with this cheery Emerald Palms overnight bag. Made from oilcloth with a
white shoulder strap and handles, it measures 60 centimetres long by 28
centimetres high –  just big enough for a sneaky overnight escape from
the daily grind. The range also includes oilcloth bath bags, a lavender
eye pillow and Serengeti-inspired vanilla and peach soap, to complete
the picture. The MOZI overnight bag costs $79.95, phone (03) 9885 9789, see mozi.com.au.

WEBSITE: Give back

It’s said that when you travel, you should take nothing but
photographs and leave nothing but footprints. However, travelgiver.com
lets you also leave a donation to a non-government, community project in
one of 50 countries across the world. Log on to the website and choose
from more than 300 projects, ranging from schooling for Liberian refugee
children to hygiene lessons in Rwanda or spina bifida support in
Melbourne, then proceed with the booking through the travel provider.
Participants include Intrepid Travel, Etihad, Expedia, Lonely Planet and
Accor, who will automatically donate up to eight per cent of the
booking to your nominated community project. Travelgiver.com gives a
comprehensive outline of each project, as well as visiting details if
you’re travelling in that region. See TravelGiver.com.

BOOKS: Fowl play

The startling Mr Chicken visits his favourite city, London, in the
new book by author and illustrator Leigh Hobbs, also the creator of
Horrible Harriet. A regular visitor to London, the gigantic, yellow bird
always stays at the Savoy Hotel and rings the Queen before popping over
for morning tea (so she has time to do some extra baking). The inside
covers include a hand-drawn map of Mr Chicken’s route through London and
his checklist of things to see and do, which includes a full English
breakfast, a walk over Tower Bridge and a ride on a red double-decker
bus. A great planner for kids who are travelling to London, have been or
just want tea with the Queen. Mr Chicken Lands in London, hardcover, $24.99. Visit allenandunwin.com.

GOLF:Tee tour

Tee off on Hawaii’s top six golf courses on a new nine-day golfing
tour of Hawaii, curated by dedicated golf tour company Teed Up. You’ll
play the Royal Hawaiian, Ted Robinson’s Ko Olina and also Kapalua
Plantation course, consistently named Hawaii’s best course with ocean
views at each hole. The tour includes four games of golf on Maui, two on
Oahu, shared motorised carts and inter-island flights as well as eight
nights’ accommodation and competition prizes at the end of the tour. Led
by PGA professional Michael Mosher, the 2015 Hawaii Golf tour departs
August 25, 2015 and costs US$5848 a person, twin share. Call (02) 8458 9000, visit teedupgolftours.com.

KIDS: Hold the crackling

Want to hear four incredibly effective words? “Peppa Pig wears
sunscreen.” The ubiquitous pig could sell ice to eskimos, and now Peppa
has collaborated with the Cancer Council to encourage pre-school and
primary school-aged kids to slap on sunscreen specifically for sensitive
skin. Yes, it’s coercion, but it’s a whole lot nicer than telling your
sunscreen-hating toddler they’ll have to cut off bits of their nose when
they hit 40. The range, which has no fragrance and no colour, includes
Kids SPF 50+ 50ml ezi clip, $9.95, Kids SPF 50+ 75ml roll on, $10.95 and
Kids SPF 50+ 200ml finger spray, $14.95 from Coles supermarkets. Visit
skinhealth.com.au.

AIRLINE: Points to share

Singapore Air and Virgin Australia have linked their frequent flyer
programs, in a first for airline loyalty programs. From November,
KrisFlyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer members can convert their miles
and points between either airline to book flights, upgrade seats and buy
non-flight merchandise. The arrangement also allows Velocity members to
book on Singapore Air’s regional carrier, Silkair, visit
singaporeair.com and virginaustralia.com. Singapore Air will also begin
codesharing with Air New Zealand from January 6, 2015, with new direct
flights between Singapore and New Zealand to create a 30 percent
increase in traffic between the two countries. Codeshare flights are now
open for bookings, visit airnewzealand.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Eid Mubarak (and no gory photos, this year)

Kakh al-Eid. Photo: Belle Jackson

Eid Mubarak (Happy Feast), every one.

This may be my first posting during the annual celebration of Eid al-Adha that doesn’t feature a photograph of a bloody carcass. Instead, I offer you a far more genteel photo of Kahk alEid, a sweet shortbread that’s traditionally eaten during the Small Feast, Eid al-Fitr, which follows the fasting month of Ramadan.

Eid al-Adha is the Great Feast, which celebrates the occasion when God asked the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham agreed, but at the last minute, God replaced his son with a sacrificial lamb. So today, if you can afford it, you sacrifice a four-legged animal and offer a third of the meat to the poor (of which there are many in the Middle East at the moment, it’s sad to note).

Back home, here in Australia, the Lebanese bakery where I bought these kahk al-Eid told me they call the tasty pastry ma3moul. Either way, its crumbly sweetness is perfect with a glass of dust tea (no sugar). This shortbread pastry is filled with walnuts and scented with orange blossom water and dusted with icing sugar. There’s also a pistachio and rosewater version which sounds great but leaves wanting, and yet a third with dates, which is sprinkled with sesame seeds.

And instead of watching butchers across Egypt sacrifice animals, and seeing the blood-red handprints
that people use as a talisman against the evil eye, we carved an enormous leg of Australian lamb (a really, REALLY big lamb), ate salads scented with cinnamon and cumin, and the homesick amongst the Egyptian diaspora in my house talked of home, and how it has changed couple of years.

The traditional greeting during the feast is ‘Eid Mubarak,’ where ‘mubarak’ means ‘happy’ – not to be confused with the deposed military dictator Hosni Mubarak. Now, as you well know, there’s a new military dictator, Fattah al-Sisi. The question on the streets in Cairo is: should we now be saying Eid Sisi?

(Oh you’re a bloodthirsty lot, aren’t you? Yes, those links will take you to postings from previous years. Please don’t click there if you’re a squeamish type. And if you do click there, and then get upset, don’t go complaining to me. I told you so.)

Travel news: Glam with the Fam

It’s tough being gorgeous
when you’re trucking nappies and toys, but help is at hand with the
fairy godmother of fabulousness, LUXE Guides.

The new pocket-friendly
second edition of its Little LUXE Bali tours the island with
ankle-biters in tow, and is summed up in its tagline, “How to go glam
with the fam”.

Little LUXE has also got junior Singapore and Hong Kong
covered. Costs $US10 each. See luxecityguides.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Travel news: Takeoff September 28, 2014

The High Roller observation wheel, Las Vegas, USA

KIDS

What happens in
Vegas…
Can’t hold off till the kids hit 21 to visit Vegas? The
new Children’s Discovery Museum (US$12, discoverykidslv.org)
proves the desert casino town isn’t just an adult playground. The museum has a
desert-themed toddler zone, an eco city, art play and detective mysteries to
solve for primary school kids. Vegas does have non-gaming, non-smoking hotels
such as Vdara (vdara.com) and most have buffets and pools aplenty. Many hotels
also let kids under 12 stay free in their parents’ room. If your hotel is a
roller-coaster free zone, head to Caesar’s 167-meter High Roller observation wheel, which
opened in March. Family packs for Saturday
morning cost $56 (two adults, three children, caesars.com). For more
ideas, from feeding twin white tiger cubs at the Mirage to feeding sharks in Mandalay
Bay, see lasvegas.com.
HOTEL
Dial-a-room
Unlock your stay in Brisbane with your mobile phone at
the NEXT hotel, which opened this week on the Queen Street Mall. Using the
hotels’ NEXT App, you can check in, unlock your room, control air-conditioning, lights
and TV, even from outside. If that’s too prosaic, use it to call for cocktails.
Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel and the app is available for iPhones and
Androids. Don’t have a smartphone? Each of the 304 rooms has a Samsung Galaxy S4
phone for use during your stay. Also, the free club lounge is open to guests
who arrive earlier than the 3pm check-in and includes an outdoor pool, 24-hour
gym, showers and sleep pods. Catch NEXT’s opening special, from $179 a room
(weekends) until January 21. Book direct and get a $25 food and beverage
voucher. Phone 1300 272 132, see nexthotels.com/brisbane.
The Charisma by Victorinox.

GEAR

Luggage to Love
Finally, ’s
a luggage designer realises women need to stash a lipgloss amongst
the laptops, smartphones and power pens. In stores this month, the new Victoria
Collection comes from Swiss luggage specialist Victorinox, better known as the
inventor of the ultimate travel tool, the Swiss Army knife. With names such as Aspire, Divine and Sage,
the 10 styles include tote bags, crossbody day bags, four-wheel laptop cases, a
sleek backpack and the Charisma, a carryall that whips you from work to
weekend. It packs a 15.6-inch laptop and a tablet and its micro-suede zip-up
pockets are equally ideal for sheltering sunglasses as a clutch of USB sticks
and cables. The Charisma costs $309, in orchid (pictured), sand and black. See victorinox.ch.

TECH
Cruise control
Find the boat of your dreams (or the boat of your budget)
on the GetMyBoat app, which links would-be sailors with private boat owners and
boat rental companies. The free app lists more than 17,000 boats in 90
countries, including Australia, with a heavy emphasis on the US. It enables
direct messaging between renters and owners to book a boat for an hour, a day,
a week or whatever’s your whimsy, from $20 to eye-blistering sums. All boats are
vetted for safety standards before they’re listed on the site and insurance is
available. Available for iPhones and Androids. See getmyboat.com.
Floriade, Canberra.

NEWS

Floriade frolic
Kids, pets and manicured flowerbeds are an unlikely grouping, but Canberra’s celebration of spring, Floriade, bravely mixes
dogs, wildlife and cubby houses with a million blooms. The third week of the
month-long festival welcomes wildlife warrior Bindi Irwin on October 4 and 5;
lets you take your hounds in on October 7; and unleashes the professionals –
your kids – on six architecturally designed cubby houses on October 12. The
cubbies will then be auctioned to raise funds for The Centenary Hospital for
Women and Children and the National Children’s Playground Project.
The final week of the extravaganza has an Outdoors and Adventure
theme, with sustainability workshops and DIY demos from The Living Room’s
handyman hero Barry Du Bois, on October 11 and 12. And former former Raiders captain Alan Tongue will run a Big Boot Camp, also on October 11. Visit
Floriade, in Commonwealth
Park, until October 12. Entry is free. Phone 1300 852 780, see floriadeaustralia.com.
Good Food month.

FOOD

A state of good
taste
Get out of town for good food during October in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food
Month
 and The CanberraTimes Good Food Month, presented by Citi. While Sydney will be
awash with night noodle markets and celeb chefs including our own David
Thompson of Bangkok’s celebrated Nahm restaurant, key gigs in the Blue
Mountains include the 80km-radius dinner highlighting local producers, at the
Fairmont Resort in Leura and a cider sampler lunch at Megalong’s new Cider
Barn. There are farmers’ markets by the seaside in Kiama, a long lunch down
Bowral’s Bong Bong Street and the foodie gems of Wollongong on show at TAFE
Illawarra. In Canberra,  you can bar-hop
around Braddon on gin cocktails, go country at the regional table of Le Tres
Bon Restaurant in Bungendore or step even further afield to experience Taste
Riverina, from Wagga to Griffith. See
goodfoodmonth.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.