Cruise Antarctica, shed light on the Philippines or find feathered friends: Takeoff travel news

CRUISE: Ship in Antarctica




Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten has turned its eyes from its Arctic homeland to Antarctica, doubling
its capacity to become the largest provider of explorer travel in the
deep south. Currently, its small expedition ship MS Fram sails from
Ushuaia, Argentina, but in 2016/17 it will be joined by sister ship MS
Midnatsol. Carrying 500 passengers, the larger Midnatsol will start and
end its journeys in Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia, and will include
an interactive science lab and tailored children’s programs. Next
season, MS Fram will carry just 200 guests, seeking new locations and
extreme nature experiences such as camping among penguins and kayaking
in seal and whale habitats. More than 36,000 people visited Antarctica
in 2014-2015, the British base at Port Lockroy (and its famous post
office) receiving more than 10,000 visitors. Australians make up the
second-largest nationality of visitors to Antarctica after US citizens.
Journeys on the MS Midnatsol are 18 days. See
hurtigruten.com. 


GEAR: Shine a light on poverty

Help light the lives of those living
on less than a dollar a day when you buy a new Mandarin 2 solar light.
Australian manufacturer Illumination will donate one solar light to a
family

in poverty for every light sold. The
social enterprise company says a billion people don’t have access to
electricity, instead using kerosene lamps to work and study by.

“Buying fuel for a kerosene lamp can
take a third of their income, the kerosene fumes are toxic and
polluting, and the lanterns often start fires,” says inventor and
economist Shane Thatcher, whose BOGO (buy one, give one) offer gives
safe, clean, free light to Filipino families, in conjunction with
Kadasig Aid and Development (kadasigaid.com.au 
). 

Ideal for travellers going off the
beaten track, the pocket-sized Mandarin 2 weighs 160g, lasts up to 16
hours on a single charge and can be hung or stands as a table lamp.
Costs $25. 
See illumination.solar.
 


TECH: Daydreaming? Do it!

Sleep hanging from a tree in a
suspended tent, snooze in a Swedish silver mine or doss in a pop-up
hotel in a former prison. The new

Crooked Compass travel app lists
more than 1000 unusual experiences across 134 countries, with maps,
booking info and your own bucket-list creator. Developed by avid
Australian traveller Lisa Pagotto, it also hooks up to Facebook and
Twitter for instabrag capabilities and its ‘‘Experience of the Day’’ is a
wild card that may set you on the path to underwater photography
classes in Guam or horse-riding in Mongolia. The Crooked Compass app is
available for iPhone and Android platforms, free. See
crooked-compass.com.
 


FOOD: Cocktails at the ready

London is enjoying a torrid affair
with prebottled cocktails, in the swankiest possible way. For those of
us on the paying side of the bar, that means less construction noise
from blenders, a consistent drink and shorter waits. Leading the pre-mix
cocktail charge is London light Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, whose
third bar, Dandelyan, is in the Tom Dixon-designed Mondrian London (morganshotelgroup.com). In a stroke of genius, his little gems also appear in the hotel
rooms’ minibars – did someone say, ‘‘Martinis in bed’’? Other
bottled-cocktail bars to try while you’re in town include Grown-Ups,
which pairs World of Zing’s bottled cocktails and gelato in Greenwich (black-vanilla.com), and The London Cocktail Club in Shaftesbury Ave
(londoncocktailclub.co.uk). Otherwise, check yourself in to Artesian at
The Langham, three times named Drinks International’s world’s best bar.
Artesian launches its new cocktail list on July 2. The theme?
Surrealism. See artesian-bar.co.uk. 


KIDS: Bunker down with feathered friends

Warning: cute alert. Get down at eye
level with Phillip Island’s most famous residents, its Little Penguins,
in a new underground bunker that opens in mid-November. The tiny penguins stand about 30cm fully grown, and you’ll be able to eyeball them

one-way glass – as they come ashore at sunset after a hard day’s fishing. There’s also new above-ground
seating for 400 people being built into the dunes as part of a
five-year, $1 million investment by RACV into the not-for-profit Phillip
Island Nature

Parks. More than 600,000 people
visited the eco-tourism venture last year, with profits invested back
into conservation, research and education. The close-up Penguin Plus area won’t
be available during the construction period, so with fewer seats
available, visitors should pre-purchase tickets,

especially during school holidays.
The Penguin Parade is 90 minutes from Melbourne. General tickets cost
from $25.40 adults, $12.25 children 4-12 years, and $61.25 families. See

penguins.org.au.
 

AIRLINES: Leave your heart in San Francisco

Skip Los Angeles and head directly
for the Golden Gate city as Qantas brings back direct flights between
Sydney and San Francisco from December 20. The airline cut the route in May
2011, opting instead to fly to its hub at Dallas, Texas. Qantas says the
direct flights will be welcomed by Silicon Valley’s corporate
customers, but San Fran is also beloved by Australian holidaymakers.
Around 20 per cent of the 1.2 million Australians to visit the US pop in
to San Francisco, which

is our fifth most popular city after Honolulu, New York, LA and Vegas. Qantas will fly Boeing 747s to San
Fran six times a week, with lie-flat beds in business and a premium
economy section. The flight is estimated at around 14 hours, and goes
head-to-head with United Airlines’ daily flight. Meanwhile, Qantas’
partner and oneworld friend American Airlines will pick up an LASydney
route from December 17. See
qantas.com,
aa.com,
visitcalifornia.com.

 

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.  

Exploring Bray: England’s most famous home county

Oakley Court hotel Bray Berkshire. Photo: Alamy

The river boat hums down the Thames. Lush green gardens and gabled
houses line the riverbanks as we pootle down towards one of Britain’s
most desirable villages: Bray, in Royal County of Berkshire. 

Tudor mansions and neo-Gothic piles; if the digs aren’t fabulous,
their present and former owners make up for it, from Sir Michael
Parkinson to Elton John’s mum. There are embassies of Far Eastern
kingdoms and off-duty houses for foreign royalty (the queen, of course,
lives in nearby Windsor) and you may spot residents from neighbouring
villages, including Terry Wogan, Natalia Imbruglia or Michael Palin.

Steve
Harris, our captain and owner of the 34-foot  Dutch motor
yacht Fringilla, delights in blowing our mind with deliciously colourful
real estate gossip: “There is no public money in Bray” and “Yes, £8
million for that one” as we cruise the ancient waterway.

Our river
journey starts at the ingloriously named Maidenhead Railway Bridge,
designed by the gloriously named railway engineer Isambard Kingdom
Brunel. Also known as the Sounding Arch, which sounds much better, the
brick bridge was created by Brunel with what was, in 1838, the world’s
widest arches. Its two broad spans inspired Turner to paint it in 1844
and London-bound trains still thunder over the bridge today.

The
natural end to the two-hour cruise down this little elbow of the Thames
is one of Bray’s three-Michelin-starred restaurants, of which there are
only four in Britain. There are two in the village of 5000: Michel
Roux’s Waterside Inn, which has a handy wharf out front, and Heston
Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.

Bray is determinedly a village. Not a
town, not a civic centre but a bona fide parish, with hamlets and
greens, as mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. There are crests
galore atop the pubs, on private houses, through the picturesque
graveyard of St Michael’s Church, which looks like it’s auditioning for Midsomer Murders.

There’s
the sprawling red-brick Jesus Hospital, sporting a plaque that
describes how the almshouse was founded in 1627 by a loaded London
fishmonger who left it in trust to his guild, the Worshipful Company of
Fishmongers. Bray was also home to Hammer Films, and its neighbour, a
gargoyle-riddled Gothic folly, became Frank-N-Furter’s mansion and
hosted several zombie films. It’s now the very nice Oakley Court Hotel,
its car park exit sign reads a perky “Toodle pip!” We’re in Wind in the Willows territory here.

Then there’s the Heston factor.

Look,
I know you can buy his ham pies and puddings in Coles now, but that
doesn’t detract from going back to the master’s back yard. Heston owns
three eateries in the village: The Crown – think pub grub of fine fish
and designer salty chips; The Hinds Head – another 15th-century pub but
more refined, dishing up hashes of snails; and the
three-Michelin-star The Fat Duck. The world-acclaimed restaurant has
just finished its successful sabbatical in Melbourne’s Crown Towers
hotel, though it won’t reopen from its refit and antipodean sojourn
until later this year.

This wintry November eve we’re checking
into Lavender Cottage, the newest property by Malaysian group YTL
Hotels.Its Malaysian properties, Pangkor Laut and Tanjong Jara Resort,
do a mean line in super-luxury, so look past the doilies-and-fust
misnomer because this little three-bedroom cottage sleeps six in
top-of-the-line style.

Listing its features reads like an interior
design magazine: sounds by Bang & Olufsen, Peter Reed Egyptian
cotton bed linen, Turkish carpets and a Gaggenau wine fridge. The
massive food fridge is stocked with organic goods – cheeses, antipasto
and wine – despite Bray’s embarrassment of restaurant riches being a
three-minute walk away. The cottage even offers to send a chef in to
whip up brekkie. The bartender in the Hinds Head, across the road, sends
a couple of cocktails, which are the perfect end to our arrival
canapes of delicate smoked salmon and sandwiches, petit fours, perfect
strawberries and pots of afternoon tea.

Heston’s own Early Grey
gin is in the cupboard (and, I discover later, in the posh Waitrose
supermarkets) and I have a passionate affair with butter churned with
Anglesey sea salt from the Prince of Wales’ own organic label, Duchy
Foods.

Lavender Cottage is painted a dove grey, with exposed red
brick walls and a glass conservatory built onto the original 1600s
building. A fire crackles in the fireplace, lighting great beams
revealed and renewed after an ignominious 1980s renovation, slate floors
are warmed underfoot, the bedrooms glow with ivory silks, and there is
nothing wanting in the kitchen. In the garden, there’s even a little
greenhouse for spa treatments. If, for some bizarre reason, you find
yourself in England in November, there is no finer cottage to call
home.

Its sister properties are flamboyant party house Bray
House, the former stables of Manor House of Bray, built in the
1780s; and the tiny, beautiful, couples-only Dormer Cottage. Each is 
worth a night’s stay purely to see the envy on day trippers’ faces. We
waltz in for lunch at one pub, have dinner at another, walk through tiny
Tudor gatehouse, the 15th-century Lych Gate, to the mossy village
graveyard and take a day trip to Windsor, to check out the locals.
Later, I discover the M4 motorway roars just minutes away from Bray but
the village pays no heed: it just continues with its mission to achieve
professional cuteness.

After two days of bucolic luxury, it takes
but an hour to be jettisoned back into fever-pitch London. Sure,
there’s a king’s ransom of beauty in the capital but it’s tempered by
rashes of high-street betting shops, dilapidated curry houses and grim
public housing. If the capital has taken its toll on me, Bray is the
ultimate antidote.

Belinda Jackson was a guest of YTL Hotels. 

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION visitbritain.com

GETTING THERE Bray is 10 minutes from Maidenhead, three stops from Ealing Broadway,
on the London Tube’s Central and District lines. Alternatively, hire a
car from Heathrow airport for the 27-kilometre journey to Bray. 

SEE + DO Take a two-hour cruise downriver on the Fringilla, a renovated 34-foot Dutch motor yacht. See boathiremaidenhead.co.uk.  
STAYING THERE Lavender Cottage costs £1000 a night; see muse-hotels.com/braycottages/en/lavender-house.php 

FIVE MORE DAY TRIPS AROUND BRAY
1 EXPLORE WINDSOR Wander around Windsor for the cutest old-world cafes and a classic British High Street.
2 SAFE BET Have a flutter on the horses at either Windsor or Ascot racecourses.
3  ROYAL TOUR Go
all-out royalist with a visit to the 900-year-old Windsor Castle’s
State Apartments and the tomb of Henry VIII and see the Changing of the
Guard.
4  PLAYTIME Legoland Windsor is aimed at kids 2-12 years: its Driving School is the most popular attraction.
5  CLASS ACT Even
princes have to go to school: take a tour of historic Eton College,
which taught  princes William and Harry their three Rs, and was the
backdrop for the WWI epic Chariots of Fire.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published on the Fairfax Traveller website.

Continuing the hunt for Australia’s ultimate hipster: Ned Kelly

Armed and alert: Ned Kelly keeps a watch over you
in The Cullen Art Series hotel, Melbourne.
Photo: Belle Jackson
Fancy eyeballing a death mask watching a courtroom drama of the Kelly saga or viewing other Kellyana (yes, there is such a word) tied in with the Ned Kelly legend?

Following on from my Ned Kelly proposition as Australia’s proto-hipster, (click here to read it) if you want to continue chasing the tale of the legend, here are five other places in Victoria to view Kelly memorabilia.

State Library of
Victoria
displays portions of the Jerilderie Letter, family photographs and
also Ned Kelly’s armour (currently on loan). Free tours every Wednesday 1pm,
328 Swanston St, Melbourne, slv.vic.gov.au.
Melbourne Gaol,
where Kelly was hanged in 1880 has a death mask. Catch the ‘Such is Life’
performance, Saturdays, or re-enact the courtroom drama daily, $25 adults,
$13.50 children (5-15 yrs), 377 Russell St, Melbourne, oldmelbournegaol.com.au.
Benalla Costume
and Kelly Museum
holds pistols, a portable cell that held Ned and the
bloodied, green silk cummerbund 11-year-old Ned was given for rescuing a
drowning child, which he wore at the Siege of Glenrowan, $5 adults. Open daily,
14 Mair Street, Benalla. 
home.vicnet.net.au/~benmus.
Victoria Police
Museum
gives the police’ side of events. It holds the armour of Dan Kelly
and Steve Hart, police telegrams detailing the murders of police by the Kelly
Gang, Ned’s cartridge bag, Constable Makintires sketches policemuseum.vic.gov.au. 
The Burke Museum
in the gold-rush town of Beechworth, 285km north of Melbourne, has a new Ned
Kelly Vault, originally a gold vault. The Kellyana includes Kelly Gang guns, another
of Ned’s death masks and his favourite rifle, Betty.  It also has the armour Mick Jagger wore in the
film. The town’s court house is where Ned’s committal hearing was held in
August 1880 and the town commemorates the hearing at Ned Kelly Weekend every
August, burkemuseum.com.au.

World’s top 10 airlines announced


Who doesn’t love a good Top 10 list? Here’s one of my favourites: the top 10 airlines in the world, according to the Skytrax World Airline Awards.

Given I’m jumping on a Qatar flight from one end of the world to the other with then in a few weeks, I’m pretty happy to see Qatar top of the list – it’s hard to miss that all three major Middle Eastern airlines made the Top 10. And I did well with Australian pride to see Qantas just managed to make the list, and Turkish Airlines deserves a gong just for its food alone. Perhaps it was the Hello Kitty planes that put Taiwan’s Eva Air up there (with Hello Kitty painted on the outside, the inside, on the cushions, embossed on the loo paper).

1   Qatar Airways

2   Singapore Airlines

3   Cathay Pacific Airways

4   Turkish Airlines

5   Emirates

6   Etihad Airways

7   ANA All Nippon Airways

8   Garuda Indonesia

9   EVA Air

10 Qantas Airways 

If budget is your bag, then AirAsia was again voted the world’s best low-cost airline (and I’ve had genuinely cheap and fantastic flights with them), and Garuda Indonesia had the best cabin staff (hmm, this one is hit and miss, but this is not the first time Garuda has taken this award).

The outlaw in the frame: Ned Kelly tourist attractions, Victoria, Australia’s ultimate hipster

Hero or villain, Ned Kelly was Australia’s original hipster, writes Belinda Jackson.

 

I’m lying in bed and a masked man
hovers nearby, clad in armour, brandishing a sawnoff rifle. And then it
comes to me: Ned Kelly was the ultimate hipster. 

Unforgiven by Adam Cullen (Ned Kelly and Constable Fitzpatrick),
2011

He had the beard. He
had the country hideaway. He definitely had the anti-establishment
attitude, and he was into designing his own clothes, which are still
distinctly his own, even 135 years later.

  
 

It’s only fitting, then, that Ned is
celebrated in Melbourne’s hipster digs, The Cullen hotel, in edgy,
inner-city Prahran. 

He’s in the lifts, he’s in the corridors, he’s on my
bedroom wall, watching over my bed, a metal can on his head, Winchester
repeater aimed high behind me.

  
 

The Cullen celebrates the work of
Archibald prize winner Adam Cullen, who died in 2014, aged 46. ‘‘Cullen
was … interested in representing other bad boys, criminals and
bushrangers,’’ says Tansy Curtin, senior curator at the Bendigo Art
Gallery.

  
 

The Cullen Stormie Suite

 
Staying on the hipster theme, I
ponder: what would Ned drink? Probably home-made rum, so the guy was
obviously a locavore, eating and drinking from within 100 kilometres of
his home.

  
 

This guy was into fashion, sporting handcrafted clothing.

  
 
Following suit, I raid the
offlicence just behind the hotel for a pinot grigio from the King
Valley, prime Kelly country, and score handmade pizza from the famed
ovens of Ladro, nearby.

  
And this guy was into fashion,
sporting hand-crafted clothing. 

‘‘Ned was a dandy,’’ says art curator
Andrew Gaynor, who leads me through the wealth of Kellyinspired art at
The Cullen.

  
 

‘‘Beneath his armour at the Siege of
Glenrowan, he wore a silk waistcoat, pin-striped trousers and a green,
silk cummerbund. The gang cut a really good figure, and Ned had plenty
of sympathisers to his cause for a new, free state.’’

  
 

Hero or cop killer? Choose your fairytale, which is now overlaid with decades of research, turning up crooked judges, botched

investigations and plenty of gloves-off England versus Ireland racism.

    

‘‘There’s so much we didn’t know until recently,’’ says Kellyphile and guide Airi Repetti, at the State Library of Victoria.

   

The stately building is home to Kelly’s original set of armour, forged from a set of ploughshares.

   However, if you went looking for the
44-kilogram suit of armour, you’d find a polite note telling you to go
to Bendigo, where it’s the hero artefact in a new exhibition that
celebrates the Kelly legend, Imagining Ned.

  
 

The exhibition brings together some
of the most memorable images of the man, from the Kelly series by Sidney
Nolan and his contemporary, Albert Tucker, to one entire room dedicated
to

Cullen’s huge, rich works of the players in the Kelly saga.

  
 

Edward’s Bag of Fruit by Adam
Cullen

There are photos of the bushranger’s
commanding, handsome face in a portrait he had taken just days before
he was hanged, sporting a full bushranger’s beard and an oiled quiff.

  
And beside it, created just days later, the impossibly sad death mask of Kelly, clean-shaven and vulnerable for eternity.

  
 

His head was cut from his body to
create several moulds and, a week after his execution, the general
public could ogle the death mask in the Bourke Street waxworks museum
owned by the maskmaker, Maximillian Kreitmayer, who used it to link
criminality and lowered brows in

the crack science of phrenology.
While his bones were interred in a country town’s cemetery in 2013,
Ned’s skull is missing still, which only adds to the legend.

   

There’s a bound manuscript of Peter
Carey’s novel, The Secret History of the Kelly Gang; a reward poster
offering the fortune of £8000 for the four men at a time when a
labourer’s annual wage tipped £50; pictures of the siege printed on
chocolate boxes; and Ned’s Snider-Enfield 0.577 calibre long rifle.

   

It’s only 135 years, or four
generations back, that Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne Gaol. As I’m
driving back to Melbourne from Bendigo, an angry talkback caller is
blasting the radio, comparing executed drug

smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to Ned Kelly.

  
 

‘‘It’s just this stupid Australian habit of turning criminals into heroes!’’ she fumes.

  
 

The Schaller Studio lobby, Bendigo

A week later, my child’s ballet
teacher mentions that her elderly mother knew the Kelly family. ‘‘It
seems no one wanted to know them, in the past,’’ I say. ‘‘Yes, but we
all know what the police did – the rapes, the harassment,’’ she says,
matter-of-factly.

  
 

Brought up by Irish Catholic nuns,
my sympathies can only go the way of the Kelly gang, with its backstory
of police harassment, the assault of his sister and the sentence of
three years’ hard labour for his mother, while carrying a newborn babe.

  
 

On the other side of the fence, he’s
a pathological liar, layabout criminal and unremorseful murderer,
preferring armed robbery to honest farm labour.

  
 

Criminal, anti-hero, cult leader or
Australia’s answer to Robin Hood? Despite the new exhibition and the
museums, the jury is still out.

    

Such is life. 

TRIP NOTES
STAYING THERE Images
of Ned Kelly feature throughout The Cullen hotel. Costs from $209 a night for a
studio suite, 164 Commercial Road, Prahran, thecullen.com.au. In Bendigo, its sister art hotel, The
Schaller Studio, costs from $115 a night for a Workspace Queen, cnr Lucan &
Bayne Sts, Bendigo. Phone 1800 278 468.
artserieshotels.com.au/schaller.
THINGS TO SEE AND
DO

Imagining Ned shows until June 28. Bendigo
Art Gallery (closed Mondays) has free tours at noon Wednesdays and Saturdays, $10
adults. Phone (03) 5434 6088, see bendigoartgallery.com.au.

PHOTOS: (Clockwise from main) Estate of Adam Cullen and Michael Reid Art Gallery
 

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers.  

KNOW IT ALL: Sweden. Five essential things to consider before you go…

Five essential things to consider before you go to…
Sweden
1. Most people speak English, but Swedish greetings are
simple for even the most linguistically challenged: say hello, hej hej
(literally, hey hey!), and goodbye hej do! Easy.
2. Swedes do lunch. Even fancy restaurants
offer a dagens rätt, an affordable, set-price daily special featuring such
Swedish classics as salmon with dill potatoes and cream sauce. Lunch starts
from 11am – leave it till 1.00pm and you’ll go hungry (see punctuality, below).
3. Welcome to the land of hardcore punctuality.
A minute past the allotted meeting time and you’re late. Anticipate
disapproval.
4. Fika is a coffee break and an
institution: it’s a chat, but always with a sandwich or pastry (such as the
omnipresent kanelbullar, or cinnamon bun).
5. Pack nice socks; Swedes always leave
their shoes at the door in their homes.
Partygoers note: payday across the
nation is the 25th of the month, which means it’s party time! The weekend
before, expect tumbleweeds blowin’ through the bars.
This article by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section.

Ski Victoria, prison sleeps and luxe trains in Ireland: Takeoff travel news

SNOW: Winter is coming

Victoria’s ski season opened on the
Queen’s Birthday long weekend (June 6), with more bang for its buck. The
state’s most popular resort, Mount Buller, begins with fireworks and
new snowmakers pumping out up to 30 per cent more snow (mtbuller.com.au) while nearby Mount Stirling’s renovated Nordic Centre ramps up its cross-country gear offerings (mtstirling.com.au). Mount Hotham has new two-hour ski and snowboard masterclasses and is
now linked with nearby Dinner Plain by the 12-kilometre Brabralung
Indigenous Interpretation Trail, a crosscountry ski trail that follows
an ancient route of the ‘‘first peoples’’ of the Alps (mthotham.com.au). Dinner Plain also has a new tubing Snow Park with night tubing,
while family-friendly Lake Mountain has expanded its Snowman’s Village,
with a fourth toboggan slope and new snowshoeing trails. Finally,
Victoria’s largest ski resort, Falls Creek, hosts the 25th year of the
annual Kangaroo Hoppet cross-country event on August 22 (fallscreek.com.au).
 


HOSTEL: Sleep tight in Freo’s lock-up

Spend the night behind bars and pay
for the privilege. However, you won’t have to rob a bank to sleep at the
new Fremantle Prison YHA, which costs from just $28 a night in a 10-bed
dorm (and half-price throughout May – that’s $14). 

The 19th-century jail first opened in 1855 and is World Heritage-listed, with the last prisoners checking out in 1991. 

You can sleep in a cell, still with
locks, spyholes, original walls and floors, in an eight-bed guard’s
cottage or in the (more spacious) new extension. Rooms range from
private twin and family rooms with en suites to dorms, with a
selfcatering

kitchen, Wi-Fi, laundry and games
rooms for all. There are also plans afoot for outdoor movie nights, a
volleyball court and giant chess. Twin-bed cells cost from $68, $120 for
a double with en suite, or $140 for family rooms. Phone (08) 9433 4305, see
yha.com.au.
 


TRAIN: The green miles

Are trains the new cruise ships?
Glide through the greenery of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern
Ireland on the Belmond Grand Hibernian, the country’s first luxury
train, which is now taking bookings for its inaugural season, in 2016.
Aboard, there are just 40 guests in 20 en suite cabins, with restaurant
and observation bar cars, kitted up for two-, four- or six-night
itineraries.

  
The train visits the island’s beautiful cities, pausing for such quintessential experiences as

kissing the Blarney Stone, catching
traditional Irish music and visiting renowned castle gardens. Like a
cruise itinerary, you can also add

extensions to the journey, such as a day on the green for a round of golf or a tour of cultural Dublin. The two-night Realm of Giants tour,
from Dublin to Belfast and Portrush, costs from $4470 a person,
including all meals, drinks and excursions including the

Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Experience. Phone 1800 000 395, see
belmond.com/grandhibernian.
 

GEAR: Keep cool with military precision

You don’t muck around getting food
from the supermarket, do you? You’re more a hunt-and-gather type,
snagging barra, snaring crabs or chasing calamari. This new bin from the hard guys of gear, Pelican Products, is a prince among wheeled portable coolers. The new elite cooler can roll over the toughest terrain with its two large wheels and sturdy pull-along handle. It has a 75.7-litre capacity with a
built-in bottle opener and a fish measure that is moulded into the lid,
so you can ensure your catch is legal. Want more tough talk? 

Its military-grade insulation is
guaranteed to keep drinks at polar temps, it’s also certified grizzly
bear resistant (though we don’t know how it would stack up against our
koalas) and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Ideal for the boat, the

beach or heading into the outback. The Pelican ProGear™ Elite 80QT Cooler costs $649.95. See
PelicanProGear.com.au.
 


TECH: Fickle pick-and-mix travellers can triple dip

Brand loyalty is so last century:
today’s travellers shop for the best prices and experiences across
brands and across the world. However, the pick-and-mix approach makes it
tough to rack up points on loyalty cards. Travel company Expedia has
launched its own loyalty program, Expedia+, which lets you collect
points on bookings made through its website. It also means you can still
claim points with your frequent flyer programs and also your credit
cards – effectively a points triple dip. Expedia+ members can get
benefits such as bar or spa discounts at hotels, and it promises to
price match lower quotes on flights, car hire, hotels, cruises and
packages. Book through its mobile app and snap up the launch promotion
of triple points. See
expedia.com.au.

KIDS: Littlest lifesavers

Teach your kids essential skills
with a First Aid for Kids class that could save your life. The one-hour
classes are hands-on to hold short attention spans, and are tailored for
kids as young as kinder age up to 13 years. Run by First Aid instructors (many of

whom are also parents), kids learn about dialing 000, managing asthma, what to do for bites or stings, CPR and blood loss. Trainers are based in all capital
cities and come to your location to teach groups (minimum 10 children).
There’s also a superhero certificate and stickers at the end of the
course. “Our age-specific kids’ courses give them self-confidence and
teach important development skills,” says director Mary Dawes. Ideal
preparation for the big round-Australia trip or backyard escapades. Costs $12 a child. Phone 1300 853 050, see
firstaidforyou.com.au. 

Great trails, pub grub and shooting on safari : Takeoff travel news

Port Campbell National Park. Photo: Mark Watson

TECH: Talk the walk


Hit the road on foot or by bike
throughout Victoria with a new website that shows 15 great walking,
cycling and mountain-bike routes, ranging from the iconic (Great Ocean
Road or Wilson’s Promontory) to the obscure (Gippsland Plains Rail Trail
or the Goldfields Track). The new website provides GPS data,
interactive mapping, beauty spots, trail descriptions and degrees of
difficulty. You can also click for accommodation, gear hire and, of
course, great restaurants, because trail mix doesn’t always cut it. See greattrailsvictoria.com.au.
 


FOOD: Best grub for pub lovers

Fight back against the demise of the
great English public house by settling in for lunch at Britain’s oldest
pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, in the Hertfordshire city of St Albans.
The pub’s kitchen is now headed up by chef Ian Baulsh, a St Albans local
recently returned from two years in Australia working with Melbourne
celeb chef Ian Curley.
Founded in the eighth century, the
pub’s signature dishes are freerange, house-made pork sausages and beef
burgers sourced by a master butcher, and a British cheeseboard, all
using local produce. Baulsh has added a summery touch,

with chicken liver pate, pan-roasted
monkfish and chargrilled tuna nicoise. St Alban was Britain’s first
Christian martyr, Oliver Cromwell sank pints in the pub, and it’s been
called home by Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Hawking.
The city is 25 minutes by train from London’s St Pancras station on the Thameslink line. See
visitbritain.org.


AIRLINE: Planes, gains and automobiles

Passengers flying Qantas can now
earn as well as redeem points on car hire with Budget and Avis in
Australia and New Zealand. And in a move that will have points
collectors smiling, travellers also will earn frequent flyer points even
when they are paying with points. ‘‘Members will still continue to earn
points for that booking at the same rate as they would if they were
paying with cash,’’ says the airline. Its rival, Virgin Australia, lets
you earn points with Hertz, Europcar and Thrifty car rentals through its
Velocity Frequent Flyer program, but allows you to use points to book a
car only with Europcar; see
virginaustralia.com.au 
. In other news, Qantas is ramping up flights to Hamilton Island,
including a new, twice-weekly Melbourne-Hamilton Island service from
June 27. See
qantas.com.au

SAFARI: Ready, set, shoot

Photographers of all abilities will
know the frustration of snapping a safari through sticky windows or
around a badly placed safety pole.
The new safari jeep at South
Africa’s Sabi Sabi private reserve has been customised for photography
tours, with tiered seating and swivel chairs, fixed camera mounts for
additional stability and cut-out side panels. The tours are guided by professional photographers and include tuition on shutter speeds and action shots, held over sundowners

back at the lodge. Would-be lion
paparazzi can also hire additional equipment including the big guns –
such as a 200-400-millimetre lens – to pap the Big Five as they roam the
fence-free range on the edge of the Kruger National Park.
Photography safaris at Sabi Sabi run on

demand, all year round and cost from
$1800, two days, includes photographer and vehicle for up to four
people. Stays at Sabi Sabi’s Bush lodge cost from $1030 a person,
sharing. See sabisabi.com.
 

AIRPORTS: Flying, beautifully

Life spent in airports is quite
possibly life wasted. Instead, use that time when your flight’s delayed
to become beautiful (within reason) at AMUSE Beauty Studio, which has
opened recently at Sydney Airport. The new store stocks some of the most
desirable names in the industry, including Tom Ford, Jo Malone and
Amouage. It also offers

free beauty quickies for brows and nails, and an express make-up service for that emergency smoky eye.
As well, it’s home to Australia’s first Hermes concept shop-within-a-store, stocking its homewares range, which has

never been available outside its
branded stores. The beauty store, run by the parents of the Newslink
chain, is now open in Sydney Airport’s domestic terminals, T2 and T3,
and comes to Melbourne in August.
See
amusebeauty.com.au.
 


BOOK: Propaganda paradise

So North Korea’s on your bucket
list? Get a taste for its altered reality with Anna Broinowski’s witty
book, The Director is the Commander. The filmmaker wanted to make a
movie that would stop the creation of a coalseam gas mine near her home,
in Sydney Park, so she

turned to the master of propaganda,
Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea and author of the
manifesto The Cinema and Directing. 

The only Western filmmaker in the
world to gain total access to North Korea’s film industry, Broinowski
worked with local directors, actors and crews to create Aim High in
Creation! The Director is the Commander, $32.99,
penguin.com.au. NSW-based Guidepost Tours books
tours of North Korea with British-based Koryo Tours. A five-day tour
(including visa processing) costs from $2000 a person, departing from
Beijing.
See guideposttours.com.au.
 

KNOW IT ALL: Alexandria, Egypt. Five essential things to consider before you go…

On the Corniche, at Alexandria, Egypt

KNOW IT ALL: Five essential things to consider before you go… 
 

  
 
1 You will get lost the minute you
turn inland from the Corniche, which runs along the waterfront. Just
accept it. 

2 Egyptians call it Iskandariyah, but most people understand
Alex. 

3 Steer clear of the city in July and August.

Cairo’s playground goes crazy in
summer: expect traffic jams and you won’t see the sand for beach
umbrellas. 

4 Avoid Alex’s grubby, public beaches and go private. Montaza
and El Maamoura are clean and funky, with paid admission. San Stefano
beach, opposite the Four Seasons hotel, also has a happening beach club
scene. 

5 Historically inhabited by Greeks, and by the sea: eat fish! The
best include Hosny in Montazah Beach and the Greek Club, near Qaitbay
Fort, which has spectacular views.

   

This article by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section.