The sky’s the limit in Sydney: travel news

NEWS

The
sky’s the limit
Forget
jostling for camera space out a bus window, Australia’s first glass-roof
coaches are now on the road with AAT Kings
launching two new buses. The glass-roofed coaches give a panoramic view of Sydney and the Blue Mountains. The coachline’s
Sydney Day Tours
route also crosses the Sydney Harbour Bridge. AAT Kings has also recently linked up with some of Australia’s most
iconic experiences, from a train journey on the Indian Pacific to a six-day
walk through Tasmania’s Bay of Fires through Great Walks of Australia, as part
of its new Australia brochure. The half-day Bondi Beach & Sydney Sights
tour costs from $59 adults, $30 children. Phone 1300 228 546,
see aatkings.com.

AIRLINE
Take a spa on board
Australia’s spa
culture gets a sky-high promotions boost when Qantas packs ASPAR spa products
in its new Kate Spade and Jack Spade inflight amenity kits. The new kits are
available initially for business-class passengers on A380 services between
Australia, London, Dubai, LA and Dallas, and include an ultra-hydrating face moisturiser and vanilla & orange lip moisturiser to help counteract skin
dehydration while airborne. If you’re not in the air, you can find Aurora Spas
in the Gold Coast’s Palazzo Versace and The Prince hotel in Melbourne and, since
June this year, also in the First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne. ASPAR
products are paraben and SLS free, and are not tested on animals. See aurorasparetreat.com.au and qantas.com.au.

GEAR
In bed with the
artist
Take Australian artist John Olsen to bed (metaphorically, of course) with these new
pyjamas from his namesake art hotel, The Olsen, in Melbourne’s South Yarra. The
limited-edition, 100 percent cotton pyjamas by Australian designers Masini & Chern are emblazoned
with Olsen’s ‘Jumping Frog’ motif, and are the heroes of a new range of
lifestyle goods by the Art Series hotel group.

Each of the six art hotels will
have its signature products, which you can snap up during your stay, or, on its
new online shop, Artefact, which launches later this month. One thing’s for
sure: there’ll be no blushing if you get caught in a hotel corridor in this
sleepwear. Cost $190 for the set or $80 for the shorts. See artserieshotels.com.au.

KIDS

Building a perfect cruise
Lego just got a whole lot more mobile with new playrooms on
all 12 ships in the MSC Cruises fleet. In a bid to woo cruising families, the
new Lego rooms, aimed at kids up to 12 years, come on board this month. The MSC
Orchestra will be the first of the fleet to arrive in Australia from Dubai on
her maiden voyage on February 21. The Renaissance ships have separate four
separate kids’ clubs, from the Baby class for under-threes up to the Teens, from
15 to 17 years. The Lego upgrades are part of a E200m renovation program across
the entire fleet. Phone 1300 028502, see msccruises.com.au.

GEAR

Modern retro

If you can’t bring yourself to lug around a chunky DSLR,
but are frustrated by the limits of most compact cameras, Fujifilm’s new X100T aims
to bridge the gap. Don’t be fooled by its retro styling, the 16MP camera has a
fixed 35mm-equivalent, f/2 lens that can snap a 3×2-meter jpeg for those
billboard statements and the world’s first electronic rangefinder. It also
shoots RAW files, has a stealth-mode silent shutter, lets you change the
aperture by a third (rather than a full stop), focuses manually or with
high-speed auto-focus and has a large, 3-inch monitor for easy viewing. It can
produce full HD video, has wi-fi and, in an of-the-moment quirk, can apply
filters to achieve that 70s look, for those who think they were born too late. Available
in black or silver and weighing 440g, the X100T is available this month, costs RRP
$1749. See fujifilm.com.au.

FOOD

Worldly food wisdom
Maeve O’Mara shares the wisdom of the world’s kitchens in
her fourth cookbook in the SBS TV Food Safari series, Complete Food Safari:
delicious adventures through 44 cuisines. The book will teach you the tricks of
the perfect Kabuli pulao from Afghanistan to Danish gravat lax or crowd-pleasing
salt and pepper squid, as China sees it.

Each country has an explanation of its
food culture, a fascinating array of home cooks and a breakout of essential
flavours, from humble Clive of India curry powder (thank you, Broome), to
Brazil’s malagueta chillies and Syria’s seven-spice mix, baharat, used in over
400 recipes. Costs $59.95, out now. See hardiegrant.com.au.

Poh spice, hidden Indonesia and hotfooting it: travel news

The phinisi Alila Purnama explores hidden Indonesia.

CRUISE
Remote islands of Indonesia

Explore the rarely visited waters of West Papua on a truly luxurious sailing trip aboard the Alila Purnama. The five-star, two-masted Indonesian ship, or phinisi, sleeps just 10 guests and is owned by the Indonesian luxury hotel group Alila. The journey begins another world away, in teeming, buzzy Jakarta, before sailing through the remote Raja Ampat (Four Kings) archipelago, around 1500 islands in the Halmahera Sea. Discover golden beaches, lush jungles, expansive coral gardens and sea  life, framed by wild, beautiful scenery rarely seen by even the most intrepid adventurers. The seven-day journey departs once a month until March 2015 and costs from $14,600 a cabin (sleeps two). See alilapurnama.com.

Poh spice

AIRLINE
Poh spices it up
Taste Malaysia from the hands of one of Australia’s best-loved cooking sensations, Poh Ling Yeow, now the newest ambassador for Malaysian Airlines. The accomplished, Malaysian-born TV cook, author and artist will present her Nyonya chicken curry to economy and business class passengers on any of the 81 flights departing Australia and New Zealand to Kuala Lumpur each week. The dish features on the airline’s menus for three months from December 1. “Nyonya Chicken is such a definitive Malaysian dish and definite crowd pleaser,” says Poh, of the airline’s new signature dish. See malaysianairlines.com.

GEAR
Get off on the right foot
You know the old conundrum: pack bulky/daggy runners or find yourself jogging in unsupported ballet flats? Travel stylishly, yet still be ready to leap into a fun run at a moment’s notice with the ELLiE shoe, a hybrid fashion sneaker that is good for your sole and keeps you light on your toes all day long. Designed by Brisbane-based podiatrist Caroline McCulloch, the lace-up ELLiE has a leather upper and lower, a rubber sole, thermoplastic heel and multi-fit inserts that customise your shoe to your foot. Available in sand and black, it’s designed for the traveller who spends one day traipsing cobblestones streets and the next pacing a walkingtrail . Costs $199.95. See frankie4.com.au.

FOOD
From the kitchens in the heart of Italy

She’s not a chef, she’s not a trained cook, Silvia Collaca says she’s just Italian. But the very modest
Colloca is backed by a family of food lovers to produce her second cookbook, ‘Made in Italy’, which is released on November 11. Drawing from her homeland in Marche, Abruzzo and Molise, she shares
her family’s traditional recipes such as homemade spaghetti with stuffed mussels from Abruzzo,
while Marche yields a simple lemon-and-ricotta ring cake, ideal for dunking. Colloca is no stranger to
the spotlight: she is a trained opera singer and actress, is married to actor Richard Roxburgh and her
first television series, ‘Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca’, airs on SBS ONE on November 27. The
recipes and musings are rounded out with photography of beautiful scenery and equally beautiful
food by Carla Coulson and Chris Chen. Cost $49.99. See penguingroup.com.au.

KIDS
Bear north for a koala cluster

Hello Koalas sculpture trail, North Macquarie

Explore Port Macquarie and the surrounding hinterland with a koala as your guide – well, actually 50 koalas. The new Hello Koalas sculpture trail comprises 50 hand-painted, meter-high fibreglass koalas dotted around the region, and celebrates Port’s status as the koala capital of Australia. Visit the world’s only koala hospital, signposted by a sculpture painted by singer John Williamson and drop in on a few real, live koalas at Billabong Zoo, marked by a koala painted by artist “Shiner” Bruce Whitaker. Plans are afoot for a three-meter high Big Koala to add to Australia’s love of all things supersized, from prawns to pineapples. The trail runs until December 2015. To download a touring map, see hellokoalas.com.

TECH
It’s a wrap

Take control of your tangled jungle of cables and whip them into knot-free submission with the outrageously efficient cord wrap from Los Angeles designers This is Ground. This simple leather pouch will untangle your life as well as your headphone and usb cables, with a side pocket for stashing slimline adaptors or ear buds. Available in navy, black, tan and coral, the Ground Cordito cord wrap costs $59.95. See rushfaster.com.au.

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

Travel news: Takeoff November 9

FOOD
A moveable feast
Plan a DIY food tour around Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula on its new hop-on, hop-off sightseeing
bus, which launched yesterday. There are 18 stops on the two-hour circular route, which wends its way from Sorrento, famous for its vanilla slice, to Portsea for a pint in the Portsea pub’s scenic beer garden and down to Point Nepean National Park, where former PM Harold Holt disappeared. There are cellar doors and hot springs on the route and plenty of suggested walks to compensate for the abundant
crop of too-cute village cafes. The open-top double-decker bus runs 365
days a year, from 8am to 6pm. A 24-hour ticket costs $35/$20,
adults/children, or $60/$35 for a three-day pass. See
peninsulaexplorer.com.

GEAR
The suede persuader

You’re the girl-about-town who needs to keep her hands free for hailing taxis, making canny shopping buys and shaking on a deal with the locals. But you’re just not into backpacks. The roomy Ellie Satchel stashes all your kit into a stylish swag with plenty of internal pockets, and its detachable cross-body strap sets you free. Available in six coloured suedes including black, a blue peacoat and coffee bean (pictured), for a quintessentially Australian look. Available in Ugg Australia stores, including the new Sydney Arcade location. Costs $219.95. See uggaustralia.com.

WEBSITE
Rate and review
Know your tour before you pack your bags and head into the great unknown with the new website from travel giant Trafalgar. The tour company, which has over 230 journeys on its books, now includes feedback from past guests, who have reviewed and rated their experiences on the independent feedback behemoth feefo.com. One to watch is the reception of its new boutique
Hidden Journeys, which aim to show the secret side of some of our best-loved destinations, including Hong Kong and France, as well as Turkey’s Turquoise Coast and the little-explored Newfoundland coastline in Canada. See trafalgar.com.

NEWS
Brazilian beauty
Now that football fever has calmed down, and before the hype of the 2016 Olympics, it’s time to slip under the sheets with the Brazilian beauties Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Lovely Luxe guides promise to show you the real deal with the two new city guides. Expect Rio’s beautiful boutiques, secret shopping finds and back-door walking tours. Sao Paulo needs a little work to discover its beauty, they’ll admit: let the guides walk you through great street art and smoking hot chefs’ tables. The compact guides will cosy up easily in your back pocket. Cost $12.99 each. See luxecityguides.com.

AIRLINE
Kids get wings

The newest frequent flyer club on the market is aimed squarely at kids. Tigerair’s new Junior Captain’s Flyer Club rewards kids on the move with a club badge when they fly five times with the budget airline. Kids can get a crew member or captain on duty to sign their log book, which is included in the new Toby Activity Case, stuffed with maps, games, trivia cards, pencils. The case costs $15 for sale onboard, and another $4 will score a kids’ snack-pack from its summer inflight menu, which has vegan, gluten-free and end-of-day options (read: wine and cheese). Tigerair flies between 12 Australian cities and into south-east Asia via Perth. See tigerair.com.

KIDS 
DIY space exploration
Aspiring astronauts, your how-to handbook has arrived. The newest round of kids’ titles from Lonely Planet includes ‘How to be a Space Explorer,’ which will help your eight-year-old negotiate the freezing temperatures of deep space and navigate black holes. It’ll also help parents who are hazy on such concepts as gravity, light years and rocket-ship propulsion. Other new titles include three activities and sticker books aimed at kids three and above, ‘Adventures in Busy Places’ (think Dubai shopping malls), ‘Adventures in Cold Places’ (Sweden and Peru) and ‘Adventures in Wild Places’ (Kruger National Park). ‘How to be a Space Explorer’ costs $24.99 with an eBook also available on iBooks and Amazon. ‘The Adventures In…’ books cost $12.99 each. lonelyplanetkids.com.

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

Cruising Norway and sustainable Melbourne: ASTW 2014 awards for excellence

I’m super-chuffed to announce that I’ve won two awards at the Australian Society of Travel Writers’ 2014 awards, which were presented at the annual conference, this year in Fiji.

The awards were for best responsible tourism story, sponsored byTreadRight Foundation, under The Travel Corporation. This story, published in Honda magazine, is about travelling with a light eco-footprint in my hometown, Melbourne.

And the best cruise story, sponsored by TravMedia. This piece, published in the Sun-Herald newspaper, was about the journey of the Hurtigruten, down the Norwegian coastline. I reckon I deserved the award purely for hauling a 2 1/2  year old through Norway in mid-winter!

A massive thanks to the sponsors and the judges! I will post up the stories tomorrow.

Thanks also for all your messages of support and congratulations: it was my first ASTW AGM, and a great success all round.

Here’s a list of all the winners of each 2014 Journalism Awards for Excellence:

  • Travel Writer of the Year Award, sponsored by Tourism Fiji:

Ben Groundwater for Night Visions After Dark, The type of town that makes travelling great and Gone Native, no Bula

  • PR Communicator or Communications Team of the Year Award, sponsored by TravMedia:

Kim McKay, Klick Communications

Cameron Cope for Fist and Magic – Senegal Wrestlers

Cameron Cope for Myths and mountains

Kerry van der Jagt for Saltwater Dreaming

Daniel Scott for Bar/fly Wimbeldon Common

Robert McFarland for Working on the chain gang

Roderick Eime for Spirit of Africa

  •  Best Responsible Tourism Story Award, sponsored by The Travel Corporation’s TreadRight Foundation:

Belinda Jackson for Sustainable Melbourne

  • Outstanding Tourism Organisation or Travel Product Award, sponsored by PPR:

World Expeditions for the Larapinta Trail

Christine Retschlag for Rough road from prison gate to plate

  • Best Cruise Travel Story, with a prize provided by TravMedia:

Belinda Jackson for Search for the glow

Louise Southerden for Wildly indulgent

  • Best use of Digital – Writer, with a prize provided by Wotif:

Christina Pfeiffer for TRAVELTHERENEXT

  • Best Travel Book, with a prize provided by TravMedia:

Danielle Lancaster for 4WD Treks Close to Brisbane

Tiana Templeman for Racing road trains in a campervan

  • Best PR Campaign Award, with a prize provided by Sidekicker:

PPR for South African Tourism Australia