Summer reading: a not-very-definitive list

My first (and last) English Christmas was a shock to many senses: there was snow (albeit very light, very dirty), there were Brussels sprouts (surely only the English consider them a celebratory food) and there was television.

As our Australian marketing machines constantly tell us, our Christmases are all about the beach, cricket and low-level sunburn. So to be huddled in front of the telly watching soap omnibuses seemed a curious way to spend the festive season.

It’s not quite television, and the weather here in Melbourne has been exemplary this year: not too hot, not too cold, but I’ve come over all Northern hemisphere and am catching up on a small mountain of unread fiction, with a travel bent, of course.

Here’s a little list of recent releases from Australian authors that have made a welcome appearance on the bedside table.

The most recent of the list is by prolific South Australian author Fiona McIntosh, who I have long admired for her adult fantasy series (think Lord of the Rings fantasy, not the other type, smutsters). She has turned out a fast-paced romance set in WWI Cairo, Gallipoli and post-war London. Nightingale ticks all the boxes, with handsome men, golden women and love found and lost in traumatic times. Does the girl get her man? It’s over to you… (Penguin Books, $29.99)

Action seekers know Matthew Reilly is the man to turn to when you want to be left breathless from reading (to give you a suggestion of his pace, the Sydney writer drives DeLorean DMC-12 – the car from Back to the Future). His latest book, The Great Zoo of China is, as the title indicates, set in China and has an absolute cracker of a premise, which I just can’t tell you about. His heroine, CJ Cameron, is a tad too tough, tenacious and intelligent for wimpy me to relate to, but I could not put this book down. That was a week of lost sleep (Pan Macmillan, $39.99)

And finally (not in the picture, as it’s already been nabbed by my mum), Stateless is the second in the Heritage trilogy about the evolution of the State of Israel. Written by Alan Gold and Mike Jones, it caused a ruckus in our house with the highly controversial throw-away line that the Egyptian army is known to be cowardly. Eeep! Otherwise, Stateless races along with plenty of secret plots and dastardly tyrants from Roman-occupied Jerusalem to post-WWII Russia. The first in the trilogy is called Bloodline, I’ll be seeking it out. (Simon & Schuster Australia, $29.99)

The next on the list is Tony Park‘s The Hunter (‘A missing woman, a serial killer at large… man is the most dangerous predator of all’). I’m not that into murder as entertainment, but this book moves from South Africa to Zimbabwe and the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, which I love. And in the appendices, Park also shares travel tips from his extensive experience of travelling in Africa (Pan Macmillan, $29.99)

I hope you’re all enjoying a great summer read, or if you’re further north and not nose-in-book, the plotlines in the soaps have improved.

See you all in 2015!

Belle

Cheeky views and eco-tours: travel news from Sydney to South America


GEAR: Undercover views
New York, Paris, LA – you’ve been around, so let your knickers
do the talking with prints of these iconic cities. Cheeky Australian design
company Stonemen has teamed up with artists and photographers across the world
to splash their work across our derrieres. The digitally printed, 360-degree underwear
is seamless, which means no lines interrupting your view of LA. The fabric is 95 per cent cotton and 5 per cent elastane. Men’s boxer, brief and trunk cost $44.99 each,
women’s brief and cheeky cost $39.99 each. See stonemen.com
AIRPORT: Help for the harried
Sociable Sydney loves to make friends, right from the
moment you hit the tarmac, with Sydney Airport’s ambassador program, which has
been operating since 1999. The volunteer ambassadors now sport smart blue
uniforms inspired by our blue skies and harbour, and can check real-time flight
information and tap into language translation applications on their new iPad
minis. The ambassadors are found in T1 and T2, and can also help with departure
cards and directions to taxis and trains. The team will be bolstered by
another 50 Mandarin-speaking Red Ambassadors over the Christmas and Lunar New
Year periods to welcome an influx of Chinese tourists. Download the Sydney
Airport app for flight information and to find out about becoming an ambassador
at sydneyairport.com.au.

TOUR: A cause for paws

If tracking jaguars deep in the Costa Rican jungle sounds
like your cup of adrenaline, use your eco-passion for good and join a volunteer
project that helps protect the endangered big cats’ environment. The projects,
which run from two to 12 weeks, are based in a research station in Jalova, in
Tortuguero National Park, reached only by boat. Day-to-day activities might include
setting remote tracking cameras to collate data, monitoring jaguars’ prey and
exploring their hunting grounds – the rainforests and beaches of Central
America. Jaguar populations in the Americas have plunged from 400,000 to around
14,000 in the past 60 years, and GVI has been organising volunteer work abroad
since 1997. Jaguar conservation programs cost from $1995 a person, two weeks. Call
1300 795 013, see gviaustralia.com.au.

GEAR: Hidden lens
Discerning thieves love it when you advertise whether
you’re packing a Canon or Nikon. Instead, sling this courier-style bag across
your body and keep your preferences to yourself. The Sling III packs a compact DSLR
camera, an extra lens, phone and a padded pocket to fit a 10-inch tablet. The
pocket is suspended within the bag, providing protection for when you drop the bag
on a table or floor, while the outside pockets can fit a water bottle or energy snacks that
will keep you shooting from sunrise to sunset. Internally, the inserts can be
moved to custom-fit your camera and keep extra lenses snugly safe, an interior
mesh stops keys and pens from wandering and it comes with a removable shoulder pad.
Rip out the inserts and it’s just a damned handy bag. The LowePro Passport
Sling III costs $99.95. See lowepro.com.
FOOD: Chef leads a culinary safari
Join chef Martin Boetz, of Longrain restaurant fame, on a
culinary tour of South Africa. The German-born chef will lead a small tour of
up to 10 guests on a 15-day tour through the country. The journey starts in
Johannesburg with a stay at the boutique Ten Bompas hotel, and highlights
including the Soweto township followed by a four-day safari. Expect cooking
classes and foraging for the kitchen in a three-day stay in the wine lands of
Franschhoek, soaking up luxury accommodation and award-winning food at Le
Quartier Français hotel and the fruits of the earth with a coveted seat at Babel
Restaurant. The culinary adventure wraps up in Cape Town with shopping and, of
course, dining from the city’s best tables. Departs March 2015, prices to be
confirmed. See moroccobypriorarrangement.com.

KIDS: Floating arcade to Tassie
Test the waters as a cruising family with a mini-cruise –
no passports required – when you journey to Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania. Aside from the regular features of cinema, games arcade and Pirate Pete’s
Playroom for younger kids, summer day sailings include face painting, trivia,
discoes and Tassie wildlife stories. Kids also get a free activity pack. The day sailing season
runs from December 20 until April 13, 2015. Costs from $86 adults/$35 children
from February to April, or $41/$101 in December and January. Phone 1800 634 906,
see spiritoftasmania.com.au

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

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Christmas bell from Kashmir, India

This year, for the first time in many years, I’m really home for Christmas, so I unpacked all the decorations, many of which have been sitting in dusty boxes for years.

I’m not one of those people who lights up the front lawn with a carbon-blowing amount of electric Santas. And I’m terrible at sending out cards (sorry!) But my Christmas cache yielded a surprising amount of trinkets collected during my travels.

Pictured is the tiny little bell I bought in Indian Kashmir (not exactly a stronghold of Christianity, though there is a persistent rumour Jesus Christ is buried here). In a beautiful land often torn apart by war, locals do what they can to earn a living. One small firm makes these delicate decorations from paper mache, before painting and varnishing them and selling them to we few tourists.

There is also the set of happy little matryoshka dolls from the markets Andriyivskiy Uzviz in Kyiv, Ukraine (known as babushka dolls in neighbouring Russia), their sweet little faces peering out between the baubles. Heavens knows how I managed to fit them in my backpack, amongst the tent, camp cooking gear, filthy hiking socks and two changes of clothes. 

Matryoshka doll from Kyiv, Ukraine

There’s an elaborate glass Santa on a sleigh from the German Christmas markets, and a kind donation from my brother Rorie of glittering trinkets from Vienna’s many famed winter markets. Away from the Tyrolean mountain sausages and tourist kitsch in Rathausplatz, his top finds are stained-glass decorations from the Karlsplatz market. 

And finally, my most recent acquisition is a beautiful silver deer, which I bought from a seasonal waterfront shop in Bergen, Norway, where they really get into the Christmas spirit.

Wherever you find yourselves for the festive season – at home for an Aussie Christmas, on a Thai beach eating prawns or mainlining glühwein to ward off the cold in the wintery northern hemisphere – I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and 2015 brings your hearts’ desires,

Belle Jackson

Destination Christmas: Takeoff travel news

CHRISTMAS:Best-dressed
windows

See how the world does Christmas through the best
decorated windows throughout the festive season. Travel booker Cheapflights has
listed the 11 most beautiful windows around the world, including Myer in
Melbourne, which attracts more than 1.2 million noses pressed to the glass to
see this year’s 3D ‘Santa Clause and the Three Bears’ theme.

In London,
Selfridges goes back to the storytelling classics such as Pinocchio while the
2014 theme at New York icon Macy’s, which has been decorating its windows since
the 1870s, is ‘Santa’s Journey to the Stars’. Others on the best-dressed list
include topsy-turvy Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Smith & Caughey’s
pirate display  in Auckland. See cheapflights.com.au.

APP
Thinker’s pub crawl
Discover Sydney’s best waterfront pubs courtesy on a new
app written by intrepid tippler Rob Dunlop. “It’s a thinking man’s pub crawl by
ferry,” says Rob, who has personally tested all the watering holes. Thirst For
Sydney has five one-day itineraries that start and end at Circular Quay,
exploring the eastern waterfront, west of the bridge to Balmain and along the
North Shore. And it will also make you new friends, with a connect function
that lets you announce to other users that you’re in town and friendly, with a
private messaging system. There are 13 great drinking spots in the five
itineraries, and also a snapshot of the locale, including demographics and real
estate info (who doesn’t love to talk house prices?) Sydney is the bellwether
city, with more locations in the pipeline. Currently available for iOS only,
free. See thirstforsydney.com.

FOOD
World diner
Eat the world at the best hotel restaurants on the planet
– that’s the boast of the new, free iPad app Great Global Chefs. The trusty
stomachs of luxe hotel booker group Mr &Mrs Smith have dined in 950 hotels
throughout the world in search of the top 20 tables in their collection.
They’ve even coaxed recipes from the kitchens, and profiled the stars behind
the hotplates. While heavily weighted toward the Euro diner, Australia is amply
represented by David Thompson of Nahm, in Bangkok’s Metropolitan by Como hotel,
and Alla Wolf-Tasker from Lake House, in Daylesford, Victoria, amongst others. See
greatglobalchefs.com/app.

KIDS

Sight for sore eyes
There’s money to be made in sunglasses design, so get
your kids in early with this children’s My Design sunglasses kit. The kit
contains a pair of Wayfarer sunnies in either black or white and removable
decal sticker sheets for kids to decorate their frames to their heart’s
content. The white pack comes with leopard spots and hearts, the black features
pirates and space symbols. Unlike toy plastic glasses, the eyewear actually
shields children’s eyes from harmful UV rays, and are compliant with Australian
standards. The Frankie Ray My
Design Sunglass Kit is best for kids
aged 3 to 12 years.  Costs $39.95. See babyography.net.au.

GEAR
Get pumped for camping
Make summer camping a breeze, literally, with Black Wolf’s
new blow-up family tent. The tent is inflated in seconds with a high-speed air
pump, with air poles replacing tangled (or forgotten) tent poles. The new Turbo
Air Plus sleeps eight, with a main room and separate bedroom to the rear and
weighs 21kg. The tent will be on the market mid-January, but can be pre-ordered
now through Black Wolf stockists. Costs $1199. See blackwolf.com.au.   

AIRLINE

Hop up to Honolulu
Named one of the top destinations for 2015, it’s just
become easier to reach Hawaii, with Jetstar’s new direct flights between
Honolulu and Brisbane starting tomorrow. Fares start from $479 one-way, without
checked-in luggage. The service will operate three times a week in peak season,
dropping down to two off-peak. The airline will fly an Airbus A330 featuring
both business and economy class. From December 20, Qantas also adds an additional
service from Sydney to Honolulu, to four times a week, rising to five flights
weekly in school holidays and other peak periods. The airline has also upgraded
its aircraft to A330s on all flights, with return fares from $1256. Last week, Hawaiian
Airlines introduced its new A330s on its Brisbane-Honolulu route, upgrading to
A330s, which include an ‘Extra Comfort’ class between business and economy. The
service runs four times weekly, with a 64kg baggage allowance. Flight time is
approximately nine to 10 hours, the direct flights contributing to steep
increase of Australian visitors in the past four years. See gohawaii.com/au, qantas.com, jetstar.com
and hawaiianairlines.com.au.
Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Top 10 destinations to visit in Australia in 2015

If you can’t survive the festive season without a list to hand, here’s another one, this time for 10 planning ideas for your 2015 travels.  
 
InterContinental Hotel Double Bay, Sydney

1. Explore wild Australia in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Wildly remote and deeply mysterious, Arnhem Land is in the
far north-east of the Northern Territory, fringed by the Timor Sea and
Kakadu National Park. Tourists can now join a working cargo ship
and sail with their car on a cruise-drive journey from Darwin to
Nhulunbuy via Maningrida and Galiwinku on Elcho Island. Get off the
beaten track and into the beating heart of traditional Aboriginal
Australia with a new seven-day cultural tour
through the sparsely populated Cobourg Peninsula. Track sea turtles in
East Arnhem Land at the annual turtle camp on Maabayj (West) Island
(phone: +61 400 419 238) or shake it every August at the Garma Indigenous cultural festival.
Western Arnhem Land’s hot spot is Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), which lures
international collectors to its newly refurbished Injalak Art and Craft
Centre. Watch artists painting and weaving their beautiful artworks,
then climb Injalak Hill to discover breathtaking galleries of rock art.
The best time to travel is May to October.

2. Play picturesque golf and feast on freshness when you visit Tasmania’s King Island

Perched precariously in the wild waters of the Bass Strait, little King Island is
a reminder of the landbridge that once connected the Australian
mainland and our most southerly state, Tasmania. All eyes are on the new
Cape Wickham golf course,
opening March 1, 2015, on Tasmania’s north coast. Designed by US
architect Mike DeVries, Cape Wickham’s course hugs the coastline, with
surfers and a lighthouse overlooking play. King Island’s foodie
reputation far outweighs it size: it may be just 65km long and whipped
by the Roaring Forties trade winds, but its creamy bries, blue veins and
rich cheddars have a soft place in most Australians’ hearts. Order a
King Island hamper before you arrive, stocked with local crayfish and
the world’s most pure rainwater, King Island Cloud Juice. Explore its
walking trails and shipwreck history. Fly in from Tasmania or Melbourne.

3. Sample country kitchen delights on the Great Ocean Road hinterland in Victoria

Hungry? Go west, intrepid traveller, 135km from Melbourne to
Birregurra, population 700. It’s home to the new three-hatted restaurant
Brae, the pride of chef
and restauranteur Dan Hunter, who put another Victorian country town,
Dunkeld, on the map for his fare at the Royal Mail Hotel. Brae is a
30-acre property with olive groves and an organic kitchen garden. Diners
are served quality, sustainable food, showcasing the region’s
exceptional produce, from organic milk to hand-fed ducks, wallaby
tartare and stand-out shiitake. In 2016, Hunter plans to open just six
rooms to guests for an all-immersive stay in this secluded, rich corner
of Victoria that leads down to the Great Ocean Road. While you’re in the
hinterland, check out Timboon Provedore, Birregurra Provedore,
G.O.R.G.E. Chocolates, and Otway Estate brewery and cidery on the Otway Harvest Trail, then roll on to the Great Ocean Road’s 12 Apostles Gourmet Trail.

4. Immerse yourself in hipster cool among Adelaide’s restored laneways

Once upon a time, Adelaide City’s best wine cellar was a
lonely creature amidst the romantic architecture. Now, East End Cellars
has many new friends, with the reinvention of Vardon Ave and Ebenezer
Place as the top spot for a shot of espresso, a wine fix or whatever
fancy cocktail you plan to concoct. Cruise the leafy laneways for
locally designed, ethically sourced jewellery at Studio Eco, get your
sweatshop-free fashion at Nature’s Threads, artistic homewares from
Council of Objects or a restored fixie pushbike at Treadly. You wanna
eat? They’ll dish up chai and Afghan dumplings, Belgian mussels and
beer, tea and vegie pita, or simply hardcore coffee. That’s not to say
that East End Cellars themselves have been sitting still. Their
sophisticated Mother Vine wine bar is the newest on kid on two blocks
that wrap up the best of Adelaide’s food and wine into one tidy package (www.rundlestreet.com.au).

5. Stay in style at the national capital in Canberra

With a wave of sleek newcomers to Canberra’s hotel scene this
year, the question is not “Why should I go?” but “Where should I lay my
head while I’m there?” The city’s arts and culture precinct, NewActon,
is the home of two of the headliners: the chic Hotel Hotel, with a unique design inspired by the Aussie holiday shack, and slick QT Hotel, with sunny rooms and an antique-meets-chic barber shop for the well-groomed man. An old classic gets dressed with edgy art at Peppers Gallery Hotel and everyone’s waiting for the luxury hotel in theNational Zoo and Aquarium, where only a glass wall separates you from a snoozing white lion. Keep an eye out for five-star The Avenue Hotel in the city’s CBD and the remake of the heritage-listed Hotel Kurrajong Bartonin the Parliamentary Triangle, both slated for December. Business hotels in the pipeline include the four-star Little National in Barton and Vibe Canberra Airport, a hop-skip to the ACT’s new terminal.

6. Relax in Hayman Island’s luxurious seaside surrounds

The jewel of Australia’s east coast, the Great Barrier Reef, now has a new gem with the opening of One&Only Hayman Island
in July 2014. With an AUD$80 million price tag on the island’s
makeover, the result is the perfect blend of whales, wallabies and the
luxury of a private island resort. Expect toothpaste-bright beaches,
warm turquoise seas and swaying palm trees married with flowing white
curtains and come-hither daybeds. Make your home a beach villa, with its
absolute beachfront and private plunge pool, or check into the
two-bedroom Diane von Furstenberg penthouse and ask the butler to
arrange an Ocean Dreaming massage literally in the water. The journey is
half the adventure: to get to the resort, you’ll travel past
Queensland’s most beautiful beach, the 7km-strip of Whitehaven Beach, on
Whitsunday Island. Chopper over it, sail up to it, picnic on it: can
you imagine how many diamond rings have been offered here?

7. Go beyond the beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs

Double Bay and Bondi are the beach stars of Sydney’s iconic
east, and both have been blessed with fresh wave of new openings. All
the talk in this part of town is about the new InterContinental Hotel
in Sydney’s upmarket Double Bay. Opening November, expect super-modern
luxury, grill restaurants, rooftop pools, gin bars and even a kosher
kitchen. The hotel has inspired a wash of new restaurants around it,
including a second Sydney Sake, Fish Face by hot young chef Josh Niland and nightclub Casablanca.
It’s worth remembering rival Bondi Beach is only 10 minutes by taxi, so
pop over and be seen in The Hub on Hall Street, home to Mr Moustache, China Diner and A Tavola. Maurice Terzini, of Bondi Icebergs fame, has just set up shop in Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta and Sydney’s best breakfast has also moved to Bondi, with the opening of bills Bondi from one of Sydney’s most well-known chefs Bill Granger. Make like a local and order the ricotta hotcakes.

8. Eat your way across the world without leaving Brisbane’s markets

Brisbane lights up each weekend with the new Eat Street Markets
on Hamilton Wharf. Strewn with shipping containers, you can mix it up
with the locals and eat around the world, from Mexico to New York via
Singapore and, of course taste the best of Australia. Snack on
old-school Vietnamese dumplings at Dakbla or French crepes with Miss
Claude, or put a Brissy spin on an old classic with crumbed tiger prawns
and chips at Phunky Dory. Finish off with a cocktail or craft beer and a
light browse – churros in hand – through the shops selling quirky
clothing, candles, antiques and books. The best way to reach Hamilton
Wharf is down the Brisbane River. Take a CityCat river ferry to Brett’s
Wharf and it’s a leisurely 10-minute stroll to Hamilton Wharf. The
markets run every Friday and Saturday night from 4-10pm

9. Raise a glass to Italian cuisine in Victoria’s King Valley

Tucked away high in the foothills of the Victorian Alps is a
busy little community doing its own beautiful thing: smoking meats,
making cheeses, pressing wine. The King Valley
is a little slice of Italy in a quiet pocket of Australia. And when
living la dolce vita, the only drink to drink is the Italian take on
sparkling white wine, heavenly prosecco. How do you find this Australian
Arcadia? Why, follow the Prosecco Road, a food and wine trail that visits the valley’s best vineyards, restaurants, cafés and providores – with a spot of bocce
(Italian lawn bowls) thrown in for good measure. Stay the night in a
local B&B and prepare for a car boot that clinks all the way home,
thanks to your newly found love of precious prosecco. The King Valley is
about three hours’ drive north of Melbourne.

10. Hunt for exotic truffles in unlikely Manjimup, Western Australia

Achingly expensive, hard to attain and an acquired taste:
what’s not to love about truffles? The rich, earthy fungus has
traditionally been hunted in Europe’s ancient forests, but chefs’ eyes
are turning from the Old World to the New, looking to Western Australia,
now Australia’s largest producer of French black truffles. Unearthed in
truffle orchards of English oak and hazel trees with specially trained
dogs, you can take the hounds out for a winter morning’s truffle hunting
around Manjimup and Southern Forest Region, about 300km south of Perth.
Hungry hunters, stop for a truffle-infused lunch and be sure to pack a
shopping bag to haul home your truffle-infused treasures, from
chocolates, to oils and salts. WA’s fresh truffle season runs from June
to September, and out-of-season simulated hunts are available. Tour
operators include Go in Style Luxury Transport and The Truffle & Wine Co.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published by Tourism Australia.

What to buy travellers for Christmas

5. Penguins in knitwear: could anything be cuter?
These little 23cm
penguins have been hand-knitted
by volunteers across the world from
excess jumpers
donated to help clean penguins up following oil spills.

Proceeds go to the Phillip Island Nature Parks
Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre, in Victoria.
$24.95 each, penguins.org.au

Nomads may not have any halls to deck, but don’t leave your
travelling kin out in the cold this Christmas. Gift vouchers may get a
frosty reception, and sables slipped under the tree are impossible to
pack. But on-the-go power banks for smartphones are a plum prize, as is
the classic gap-year present, the Swiss Army knife – with a seasonal
twist.

Give a gift that will remind wild rovers of home, or something to
lug it all in, who after all, doesn’t love a great bag? Whether your
intention is to tame wanderlust or gear up for an adventure, there are
gifts for glampers and trampers, lounge lizards and wildlife warriors,
for bachelors and babes. These cracking gift ideas are sure to have the
traveller in your life jingling on their way.  

1. Slice
your stollen or carve up the Kris Kringle with the new,
oh-so-Christmassy, Swiss Classic Army Knife, the “Lollipop”. At 58mm,
it’ll fit on a keyring and includes a screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick
and blade. $35.95, victorinox.ch.

2.
Wear your world with an Atlas pages infinity necklace by
Melbourne-based artist Catrine Berlatier. The necklace is made from used
pages of old atlases, intricately woven and folded into beautiful
forms. The jewellery ranges from 63cm to 149cm. From $365, egetal.com.au.

3. The vivid illustrations of the animal kingdom among the ruins of Angkor Wat is the setting for The Last King of Angkor Wat, the new children’s book by Graeme Base, the author of Anamalia, which has sold more than three million copies since its publication in 1986. $26.99, penguin.com.au

8. Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the coolest in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle range weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au
8. Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the
coolest in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle
range weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and
waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au  

4.
Nothing says Sydney more definitively than our own Harbour Bridge, aka
The Coathanger. So give the quintessential Sydney gift with this
Coathanger coathanger. $4.95 each, bitsofaustralia.com.au.

5.
Penguins in knitwear – could anything be cuter? These little 23cm
penguins have been hand-knitted by volunteers across the world from
excess jumpers donated to help clean penguins up following oil spills.
Proceeds go to the Phillip Island Nature Parks Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre, in Victoria. $24.95 each, penguins.org.au

13. Trust Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel publisher's range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway water bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use. Available in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95, travelgoods.com.
13. Trust Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel
publisher’s range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway
water bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use.
Available in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95,
travelgoods.com.  

6. Keep light-fingered cyber thieves at bay with this new card
holder: the low-tech look hides a shield that blocks transmission of
data from your credit and identity cards. Comes in classic cowhide with a
money clip, featuring a blue or red strip. $39.95, zoomlite.com.au.

7.
As the tagline says, the only bug you’ll worry about is the travel bug
when this mosquito repellent band is near. Worn on your wrist or even
hung from a bag, the Para’kito is a refillable band with a pellet of
blend of essential oils that is effective for 15 days, safe even for
babies and mums-to-be. $24.95 (includes two pellets), au.parakito.com.

8.
Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the coolest
in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle range
weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and
waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au

Magellan eXplorist GPS.
Magellan eXplorist GPS. 

9. Bundle your skincare essentials into one neat bag with the
Jojoba Company Travel Essentials Pack. Includes a 15ml jojoba oil and
20mls each of cleanser and creams for day, night and hands. You won’t be
packing any artificial perfumes, parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate or
mineral oils, or anything tested on animals. $24.95, thejojobacompany.com.au.

10.
Urbane urbanites know Melbourne brand Crumpler means innovative kit:
the Vis-a-Vis cabin bag, now in look-at-me green, has a sturdy,
lightweight shell that zips up and is reinforced by wraparound fabric
handles, for the quick grab. It includes a built-in TSA lock and a
clothes compression system that keeps your gear where you packed it.
55cm cabin bag, $445, crumpler.com.

11.
Never again get caught in an airport with a flat phone and the wrong
power adaptor. The Eves Power Bank charges smartphones and tablets
quickly and without mains power. Available in lime green or pearl white
and weighing 80g, it even works on products not emblazoned with an
apple. $54.95, navycrockett.com.au.

14. Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by brother-sister team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear. The Serengeti Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15 range, is available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au.
14. Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by
brother-sister team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear.
The Serengeti Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15
range, is available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au. 

12. Celebrate the season with your little dears, wrapped in a
Cuddledeer toddler towel. Made by British brand Cuddledry, they are a
pesticide-free, cotton-bamboo blend, which means they’re extremely
absorbent and quick drying.  Super festive, their decorations include a
spotty back, antlers and a red nose. $89.95, thestorknest.com.au.

13. Trust
Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel publisher’s
range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway water
bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use. Available
in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95, travelgoods.com.

14.
Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by brother-sister
team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear. The Serengeti
Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15 range, is
available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au.

17. Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small start-up Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon, decorated with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the developing world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes hidden pockets for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at the back. $89.95, rushfaster.com.au.
17. Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small
start-up Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon,
decorated with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the
developing world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes
hidden pockets for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at
the back. $89.95, rushfaster.com.au. 

15. Channel your inner Hansel & Gretel and leave “digital
breadcrumbs” when you’re in the woods, with the hand-held Magellan
eXplorist 610 walking GPS. It includes a camera, compass, topographical
maps with features such as campgrounds, and lets you record your journey
en route, so you can always find your way home, even without a GPS
signal. $479, magellangps.com.au.

16.
If you can’t get to New Caledonia, or have fond memories of a visit,
keep the love going with these bathers by Australian designers We Are
Handsome, who were inspired by the island nation’s blue lagoons and
tropical greenery.  One-piece, $225, string bikini, $165, wearehandsome.com.

17.
Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small start-up
Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon, decorated
with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the developing
world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes hidden pockets
for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at the back. $89.95,
rushfaster.com.au.

23. It's time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally Phillips' Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the Montenegro print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way stretch silk, the travelling girl's best friend. Don't pack the iron. Also available in black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.
23. It’s time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally
Phillips’ Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the
Montenegro print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way
stretch silk, the travelling girl’s best friend. Don’t pack the iron.
Also available in black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.  

18. Team your resort wear with these Devonshire sunglasses
from British designer Paul Smith. Fresh from his new Resort 2015
lookbook, there’s a vintage take on the frames, which come in five
colourways including the Stripe + Brown, also available as an optical
frame. $300, 1800 034 217.

19. When work catches you
without a desk, the Logitech Keys-to-Go portable keyboard packs light,
at just 180g, and will wear coffee or sunscreen with ease. Compatible
with all iPads and iPhones, tuck it into your pocket and go. Available
in black, red and bright teal, it measures 242mm x137mm x 6mm. $79.95, Logitech.com.

20.
Waterbabies, alert! LifeProof nuud cases turn iPhones and Samsung
Galaxy handsets into an underwater video camera, without bulky housing,
letting you use the touch screen as usual. Bonus points for being shock,
snow and dirt-proof to US military standards. iPhone 6 and 6+ nuud
cases coming soon. From $79.95, lifeproof.com.

25. If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.
25. If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey
Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works
with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even
head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it
from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the
wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.  

21. Celebrating Christmas far from home? Bring the scent of
the season with you with this new, limited-edition Christmas candle by
Palm Beach Collection. Infused with citrus peel and cedar, the soy-based
wax candle will transport you back to the homeland in a flicker,
offering 80 hours free from homesickness. $41.95, palmbeachcollection.com.au.

22.
Sneak away with this sweet overnighter from Mrs Darcy. With a cotton
outer and gold zip, it’s 57cm long and the shoulder strap lets you
travel with gay abandon. Love the print? Team with matching robe and
slippers. Indigo blues overnight bag, $109.95, adaanddarcy.com.au.

23. It’s
time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally Phillips’
Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the Montenegro
print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way stretch silk, the
travelling girl’s best friend. Don’t pack the iron. Also available in
black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.

Panamas are on a roll.
Panamas are on a roll. 

24. Nothing says “holiday” better than a jaunty Panama hat,
and this rollable version, made from the hat’s traditional fibre,
Ecuadorean Toquilla leaves, bounces back into shape no matter how many
old-school guidebooks have been placed on top of it. Available in M, L
and XL, $129, betterbrands.com.au.

25.
If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey
Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works
with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even
head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it
from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the
wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.

Holiday at home in Sydney: travel news

HOTEL
Holiday at home
Staycations – holidays in your home town – are the thing to do right now. Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks is rolling out its new
premium hotel rooms and club lounge following an $8 million makeover. The
largest of the 90 Horizon Club rooms and suites is the two-bedroom,
242-square-meter royal suite, which includes butler and grand piano, from $4895
a night. Those staying in the Horizon rooms should make tracks to the Horizon Club Lounge,
opening December 8. The four-storey atrium looks out to our best-loved icons; the
harbour, the Bridge and the Opera House. Horizon club rooms start from $400 a night, which includes private
check-in, breakfast, afternoon tea, canapés and cocktails. If you’re not
checking in, head up to the Blu Bar on level 36 for the best water views in town.
Se shangri-la.com.
TECH
Get-around sound
Pack the party in your pocket with the MiniJamBox from US
wearable technology company Jawbone. Using Bluetooth, pair the petite speaker and
speakerphone with any phone, laptop iPod or tablet in a 10-meter radius,
without cumbersome cables. 
No Bluetooth? Hook up with a simple headphone jack.
A full charge takes 2.5 hours, but then gives you up to 10 hours’ sound, be it
your favourite playlist, movies or phone calls. Weighing in at a lightweight 255g
and 25x15cm, the MiniJamBox travels lightly and comes in nine colours, with
five different designs pressed into the aluminum shell and is compatible with both
Android and iOS platforms. The Mini Jambox costs $179.95. See jawbone.com.
GEAR
Well knotted in
Istanbul style
Canny travellers know that scarves are the easiest way to
transform your travel wardrobe from drab to fab, and the new scarf from the St
Regis hotel group is fabulous, indeed. Designed by Michelle Obama’s go-to
man, the Taiwanese-Canadian designer Jason Wu, this limited edition collection
is inspired by Istanbul, now the hottest city on the planet. The 100 per
cent silk scarf comes in three colourways, blue, beige and Wu’s signature grey.
The scarf has been released just ahead of the opening of the new St Regis
Istanbul in February 2015, an 118-room hotel is set in Nişantaşi, with views
over the Bosphorus. The Grand Tourista Scarf costs US$195. See stregis.com/boutique
or jasonwustudio.com.
The Royal Opera House at night ©Stephen McLaren
COMPETITION
Live London large
Do London in style with afternoon tea at Lord’s Cricket
Ground with butler Carson from Downton Abbey (but you can call him Jim
Carter), a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House with ballerina Darcey
Bussell, a wander through the Science Museum with Professor
Stephen Hawking or Michelin-starred meal by chef Jason Atherton at happening
Pollen Street Social. London is searching the world for a Guest of Honour to
share these experiences with celebrity guides. Hurry, you’ve
got until December 9 to enter the search for London’s Official Guest of Honour.
See visitlondon.com/guest.
CRUISE
Easy festive time
If this
Christmas is already a write-off, start planning a serene escape for 2015 with
a Christmas river cruise through Europe’s most festive towns. APT’s new
brochure offers winter sailings in Canada and Europe, including a 10-day Christmas Time Cruise
from Prague to Budapest. The itinerary includes the world’s
largest Christmas market in Nuremberg, the Old Kornmarkt Christmas market in
medieval Regensburg and Vienna, which is not shy of a bauble or two. There are
five departures in November, when the Christmas markets are already up and
running, and eight in December. Book cruises departing December 17 or December
21 if planning to spend Christmas Day on the ship. The fleet will include the
new AmaSonata, launched this year, and its sister ship the AmaPrima, launched
in 2013. The 10-day cruise costs from $4545 a person, twin share, includes two
nights in Prague and eight days on board. 
Call 1300
196 420, see aptouring.com.au.  

 

KIDS
Little Luggage
Your
kids will be the smartest travellers in the land with these hard-shell
luggage sets. The lightweight wheeled suitcase has elastic straps inside
to hold gear and a zip pouch for games and books and measures 41cm x
29cm. The hard-shell backpack has adjustable straps and a divider, and
stacks onto the suitcase to be wheeled together. And if your travelling
tot tires, the suitcase handle extends to adult height – lucky you!
Designed in Australia, there are 12 themes including the dinosaur and
newest release, the ballerina. The two-piece set costs $129.95. Call
1300 746 722, see bobbleart.com.au

 

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

The real trip advisors reveal their tips for travel in 2015

Mesmerising Myanmar: Ancient temples and an increasingly
modern infrastructure are the drawcards. Photo: Getty Images.

So – what’s the next big thing? Travel experts
reveal their tips for the coming year.
With an
eye on the hip pocket, we’re looking at hometown holidays in 2015, say travel
industry’s chiefs. And while Asia is back on top as our favourite playground,
Myanmar continues its stellar orbit as the region’s shining star.
Gary Bartelings, Captain’s Choice
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Gallipoli for the centenary, on unusual train journeys, South America,
Antarctica and our new Australian tours by private plane.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Iran and Myanmar. For safe and trusted, a British
Isles cruise or a train journey through Switzerland.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
 An unsettled world and the weakening
Australian dollar.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Chichen Itza in Mexico, Rio, Easter Island, Tahiti, Angkor  Wat,
the Taj Mahal and the Serenas, well as the UK and Europe.
Fearless
prediction?
Keep
travelling, so people across cultures, religions and countries can connect
peacefully. See captainschoice.com.au.
Simon Westcott, Luxe City Guides 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Myanmar: infrastructure is improving and there’s a sense it’ll all
change fast.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Bhutan: because it’s not going to change fast. A
purer and more controlled experience awaits.  
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Travel safety: the perceived threat of increased
terrorism and infectious diseases.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
London, Florence, Marrakech, Taipei, Tokyo and the USA.
Fearless
prediction?

 Wifi flights will become the norm. See luxecityguides.com.
Alan Alcock, Wendy Wu Tours
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Japan, now great value for money, and India.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Sri Lanka, which is rapidly healing after its
terrible civil war, the idyllic Maldives, and Myanmar for quaint, rustic
antiquity.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
The potential spread of terrorism to our region, health
issues such as Ebola and the value of the Australian dollar. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
 Vietnam, Japan and Mongolia.
Fearless
prediction?

Self-drive three-wheeled tuk-tuk tours in India! See wendywutours.com.au.
Tom Walley, Flight Centre Australia
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Philippines: budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air has just kicked off a
service departing Sydney four times weekly.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
London, for the Rugby World Cup! 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Airfares have never been more affordable and
unless the US dollar drops significantly, the only issue is choosing where to
go. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Whistler: snowboarding is my passion. We will thaw out on Hamilton
Island. Fearless prediction? Aussies are in a golden era of travel with more
accessible prices, services and routes. See flightcentre.com.au.
Sue Badyari, World Expeditions
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Hiking and biking Cambodia, trekking the Patagonia Ice Cap, Arctic
cruising to see the Northern Lights, Nepal’s Manaslu Circuit, walking Spain’s
Camino. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Trekking the Altai mountains in Mongolia, hiking
and biking in China, cycling Puglia, Italy. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Flight availability in peak seasons, more freak
storms and volatility in weather patterns due to global warming.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Italy’s Gran Paradiso Trek plus a self-guided cycling holiday from
Slovenia to Croatia!
Fearless
prediction for 2015?
The Great
Himalayan Trail – a five-month trek traversing Nepal’s high passes. See worldexpeditions.com.
Ann Sherry, Carnival Australia 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Cruising Europe, Alaska, and the Baltics. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Asia, cruising from Japan and Singapore, visiting
Vietnam and Cambodia, and even Indonesia’s Komodo Island. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
The falling dollar, sharpening travellers’ focus
on value.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Stradbroke Island, maybe an African safari and a PNG and Solomon
Islands cruise to test new destinations.
Fearless
prediction?
Weekends
at sea with Australia’s best food and wine. See carnival.com.au.
Caroline Kennedy, Cox & Kings Australia
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Italy and Greece for the food, wine, history and sites and Norway for
the Northern Lights.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
ANZAC centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, with
or without ballot tickets.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Global safety issues and natural disasters.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
I would like to do The Ultimate Travelling Camp in India.
Fearless
prediction?

Experiencing destinations in 3D, such as enjoying the view from your
(prospective) hotel’s balcony. See coxandkings.com.au.
Anton Stanish, Stayz Holiday Accommodation
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
The Gold Coast, Darwin and fringe CBD; homeowners are realising the
viability of short-term rentals while travellers can immerse themselves in the
local neighbourhood.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Dunsborough, Western Australia. Definitely a new
hot spot.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
A holiday rental in Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, near golf courses,
vineyards and beaches. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Low-cost air carriers continuing to open up new
markets, particularly in Asia.
Fearless
prediction?
Holiday
rentals becoming bookable online, like hotels. See stayz.com.au.
Karin Sheppard, InterContinental Hotels Group 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
South-east Asia and the Asia Pacific, for snorkelling safaris, stunning
beaches.   
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
On ‘staycation,’ exploring your own city. Sydney’s
Double Bay has new eateries, bars, shops and the new InterContinental Sydney
Double Bay. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Truly personalised and local experiences. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, a diving holiday to Fiji and skiing in
Queenstown. 
Fearless
prediction?
More
marketing aimed at locals through social media, and brands rewarding guests for
publicising their trips via social media. See ihg.com.
Dave Boyte, Skyscanner
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Safe, affordable Nicaragua, Central America and Mykonos, Greece. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Colombo, Sri Lanka is reinventing itself as a cool
foodie paradise. Flight searches to Bhutan are also on the rise.  
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Online travel companies becoming mobile savvy, as
travellers use mobile phones to research, plan and book holidays.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
The coolest little capital, Wellington, and Tasmania.  
Fearless
prediction?

Meta-search websites – websites that aggregate information from all over the
web into one site – being an essential planning tool. See skyscanner.com.au.
This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller.

Top cities for new architecture in 2015

Philharmonie de Paris

Go just about anywhere around the world and you are
sure to find great examples of modern architecture.


The new
Louvre, Frank Gehry’s first Australian building, 140 pavilions at the Milan
Expo – it’s a big year across the globe for lovers of the big build. 

MIDDLE EAST
This year,
Abu Dhabi steals Dubai’s thunder with the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi,
finally, on UAE National Day, December 2. The emirate’s new cultural quarter is
on Saadiyat Island, and eventually plans to have five winners of architecture’s
holy grail, the Pritzker Prize, in the one ‘hood. 

Designed by Jean
Nouvel, who made first his mark in Paris with the Institut du Monde Arabe,
 its neighbours will include the Norman Foster-designed Zayed National
Museum (2016), Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2017), the Performing Arts
Centre by Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando’s Maritime Museum. The Louvre is the first
of the big guns to open. Covered by an interlaced white, 180-metre dome
modelled on a traditional palm-leaf roof, Nouvel says its shifting “rain
of light” reflects the Arabic mashrabiya, or ornate window shutters used
in the Middle East. As a local aside, Nouvel’s Sydney skyscraper, One Central
Park in Chippendale, recently won the award for the  world’s best tall
building. (louvreabudhabi.ae)


Normally an
architecture fan’s go-to for wildly tall buildings, Dubai is resting on its
laurels following the opening of the world’s highest observation deck, SKY, in
Burj Khalifa in October, hovering 555 metres above ground. It’s now busy
working on a swag of new hotels including a lavish Palazzo Versace Dubai. If
that’s all too staid, check out the quirky Dubai Frame. Like it says on the
tin, it’s a picture frame, albeit 150 high and 93 metres wide, designed by
Mexican architect Fernando Donis, who beat off more than 1000 others in an
international competition. Set in Za’abeel Park, if the political argy-bargy
over its construction abates, by mid-2015, you’ll be able to take a lift to the
top to walk along a glass-floor bridge, with modern Dubai on one side, and the
older city on the other side (dubaitourism.ae)

EUROPE
The Jenga building, NYC

Speaking of
Nouvel, despite bloated budgets and blown-out timelines, the Philharmonie de
Paris, designed by the man-of-the-moment, will eventually open on January 14
with a performance by the Orchestre de Paris. You’ll have to trek out to les
banlieue (the ‘burbs) to Paris’ north-eastern edge and Parc de la Villette, to
view the metal-clad building, a deliberate ploy to spread the cultural love
right across the city. With the sound engineering by Australia’s Marshall Day
Acoustics, the main hall seats an audience of 2400 in suspended balconies
curled around the stage.(philharmoniedeparis.fr)


Architecture
fans, you have the opportunity to kill 140-odd birds with the one stone when
you visit the Milan Expo, which runs from May 1 to October 31, 2015. The theme
is “Feeding the planet, energy for life”, brought to life by a
pavilion from each participating country. More than 20 million visitors are
expected to visit:  your architect-spotting list should include Vietnam’s
pavilion by Vo Trong Nghia, Foster + Partners’ sinuous reinterpretation of its
sustainable Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and  the pulsating beehive by
Wolfgang Buttress for the UK. (expo2015.org)

If you
thought you had to travel to see great architecture …
it may come as a
surprise that modern architects are turning their eyes
towards Australia – Belinda Jackson
In Biel,
Switzerland, “emergency architect” and cardboard wizard Shigeru Ban
has created a gentle, curved, lattice tunnel from timber to create the headquarters
for the Swatch/Omega group. “Timber is the only renewable material for
construction in the world,” says Ban, “so this is also very important
for the environment of the future.” The architect, who is best known in
the southern hemisphere for his Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New
Zealand, also wove timber into the new Aspen Art Museum, Colorado. (aspenartmuseum.org

USA
Unless
you’re rubbing shoulders regularly with the ultra-rich, you won’t get to see
inside 56 Leonard, a skyscraper nicknamed “the Jenga Tower” for its
staggered, jutting layers. Comprised of 145 penthouses and glass lofts in New
York’s chi-chi TriBeCa, the prices are as stratospheric as its views – up to
$30 million for a penthouse, and its half-million dollar price tag for a parking
space makes Sydney look a bargain. The building is all but sold out – buyers
were obviously lured by the statement-making sculpture at the entrance by Anish
Kapoor as well as the kudos of living in a building designed by the Swiss
masters, Herzog & de Meuron who list the world’s most popular museum,
London’s Tate Modern, on their CVs. (56leonardtribeca.com)

Eminently
more approachable – on completion, you will be able to loll on its lawn – W57
is Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels’ first New York project. His firm, BIG, just
took out the Culture award in the 2014 World Architecture Festival for its
Danish Maritime Museum. In New York, BIG has created a 750-apartment
residential complex contained in a 142-metre pyramid that’s been squished and
torn asunder, angled to catch the light and breeze on the Hudson River
waterfront, to open this spring.

Calatrava’s World Trade Centre transportation hub, NYC

And to get
totally immersed in NYC architecture, all you’ll have to do is catch a train at
the World Trade Centre transportation hub, when it is finally completed after a
six-year delay and doubling of the budget. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, who
wears the phrase “neo-futuristic architect” with apparent ease, the
hub will connect 11 subway lines, as well as rail, ferries and underground
walkways as deep as five storeys below ground, with the WTC memorial site.
Roughly the same size as Grand Central Station, the Instagram angle will be its
white, ethereal skeleton, with 45-metre long, retractable wings that will open
on September 11 every year. “The building is built with steel, glass, and
light. The station appears transparent, and also guards you with its
wings,” says the architect, who was inspired by the gesture of child
releasing a dove into the air. (wtc.com)


While you’re
in New York, you might like to take a look at busy Renzo Piano’s new Whitney
Museum of American Art, opening in the Meatpacker District this spring. His
Greek National Opera House also opens in Athens in 2015 (whitney.org).
Otherwise, a talking point in Chicago is Beijing-based MAD Architects’
halo-topped Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which they say was inspired by Frank
Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. (lucasmuseum.org)

UNITED KINGDOM
Last year,
the London architecture scene was all about Renzo Piano’s The Shard, the
308-metre home of the Shangri-La and western Europe’s highest building. In
nearby Lambeth, London’s riverside precincts are still a-changing with the
long-awaited opening of shock artist Damien Hirst’s private gallery in Newport
Street, Lambeth. Architects Caruso St John, responsible for the elegant
renovation of the Tate Britain on the opposite side of the river, are binding a
row of neighbouring warehouses to create one long terrace to house Hirst’s vast
personal collection of works that include Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Banksy
(damienhirst.com).
Nearby, eyes are on the Tate Modern’s new extension, once again by Herzog &
de Meuron, due to open 2016. 

Always one
to watch, Living Architecture commissions architects to design houses in
Britain that are then rented out to holidaymakers with a keen appreciation for
contemporary architecture. There are two openings this year,  A House for
Essex by statement-makers FAT and Grayson Perry and Life House/ Ty Bywyd by
John Pawson.  Expect the unexpected in North Essex:  a quirky little
architectural folly covered in ceramic tiles, its gold roofs set with huge
sculptures – a chapel in the wilderness? In contrast, Life House, in central
Wales, tries to hide within the hills, one room even semi-submerged. Its three
minimalist rooms are designed exclusively for music, reading or bathing, Made from
handmade Danish bricks, its black exterior taps into this recurring
architectural trend. (living-architecture.com)

Sydney’s Goods Line

AUSTRALIA

If you
thought you had to travel to see great architecture (Roman Coliseum, Greek
Acropolis etc) it may come as a surprise that modern architects are turning
their eyes towards Australia. One of the most talked-about buildings is right
under our noses. In case you’ve been caught napping, the new UTS Dr Chau Chak
Wing Building is by international architecture heavyweight Frank Gehry, best known
for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Located on Ultimo Road, Haymarket,
this is the first Gehry building for Australia and will be the home of the UTS
Business School when it officially opens in February. The crumpled paper bag
look was achieved with 320,000 custom-designed, hand-laid bricks, bringing
artistry to the industry. (uts.edu.au)

Zooming
straight past the Gehry building, taking its cues from New York’s High Line,
the Goods Line is a shared pathway that links Railway Square to Darling
Harbour, via Ultimo, by Aspect Studios and CHROFI. The 250-metre Goods Line
North, which runs parallel to Harris Street from the Ultimo rail underbridge to
the Powerhouse Museum, also opens in February as the much-neglected south of
the city starts to feel some love. The “cultural ribbon” aims to link
up the city’s jewels, including Hyde Park Barracks, the Australian Museum and
the Art Gallery of NSW. (sydney2030.com.au)
If that
wasn’t enough, here’s a gentle reminder to keep the annual Serpentine pavilion,
in London’s Royal Park, on your list: each year, an architect who has not yet
built in the UK is invited to create a temporary pavilion. The list of previous
architects is a Who’s Who of the design world. And for those of you who don’t
mind getting your hands dirty, the IKEA museum opens on the site of its first
store, in Älmhult, Sweden (ikea.com), as does Legoland Hotel Florida. (florida.legoland.com

A final note
of warning: take this list with a grain of salt. Economies slow, building sites
flood, wars intervene and Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia still isn’t finished
(they’re tipping 2026, just a few years behind Our Bangaroo, in 2022).

FIVE GREAT ARCHITECTURAL GUIDES
SYDNEY: Take to the streets on foot or by bike with architect Eoghan Lewis, sydneyarchitecture.org.
NEW YORK: Bettina Johae leads tours Throughout New York, including Greenwich
Village and Chelsea & Meatpacking District, aplusnyc.net.
EUROPE: Guiding Architects is a loose connection of architects based
predominantly in Europe, with links to Dubai, Doha and Shanghai, guiding-architects.net
BARCELONA: Explore Gaudi and beyond with architect Miguel Angel, barcelonarchitecturewalks.com.
DUBAI: Discover skyscrapers galore, as well as the low-to-the-ground,
traditional developments of this brash town, ga-dubai.com.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald & The Age newspapers.