Victoria’s food treasures: Close to home, far from tradition

Fine fare at Shannon Bennett’s Vue De
Monde

Having a quintessentially Victorian
food experience means eating locally, eating ethically, eating mighty
well, discovers Belinda Jackson. 

 

Melbourne loves a good spread with a
great back story, from the farmers who created your feast to the
heart-warming social-enterprise stories served on the side. And you can
easily call yourself a locavore, eating within 150 kilometres of where
you stand, no beard or triangle tattoo required. In fact, it’s a
cakewalk – at times, literally.

   

Let’s start at the epicentre of the
city, downtown Melbourne, with our signature brew, cofee. Prop up the
bar with a heart-starter at much-lauded local roasters who comb the
globe to make friends with farmers, espouse ethical production and
support sustainable harvesting of the glory bean. Tis mission will see you sipping on
siphon, cogitating with cold drip or elucidating with espresso at Dukes
Cofee Roasters (247 Flinders La, dukescoffee.com.au), the iconic St
Ali ( 12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne,
stali.com.au), Padre Cofee ( South Melbourne and Queen Victoria markets,
padrecoffee.com.au), or the spanking-new Sir Charles (121 Johnston St, Fitzroy), to name but a few.

  
 

Coffee at Dukes in Flinders Lane

We’re not all coffee tragics. Tea is,
of course, the new coffee, so get the pinky in the air like you don’t
care and sip Storm in a Teacup ’s beautiful fnds from across the globe,
supporting what they call artisan farmers (48A Smith St, Collingwood, storminateacup.com.au).

Otherwise, pop in to the doily-free zone of the Travelling Samovar Tea House (12 Rathdowne St, Carlton North,
travellingsamovar.com.au).

  
 

For a taste of social goodness, pull
up a pew and go crazy with Myrtleford cultured butter and Melbourne
rooftop honey on toast for breakfast, free-range chicken from Milawa for
lunch or call in for a local Dal Zotto prosecco from the King Valley at
social enterprise restaurant and slow-food champions Feast of Merit (117 Swan St, Richmond, feastofmerit.com). 

Or get of the streets and into the clouds at chef Shannon Bennett’s
Vue De Monde to revel in its lauded eco-design and organic produce (Level 55, 525 Collins St, vuedemonde.com.au ). Bennett’s Burnham Bakery
and Piggery Café are the frst phase of his culinary village Burnham
Beeches, in the Dandenongs (1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke,
burnhambakery.com.au & piggerycafe.com.au). 
 

Lovers of a cleansing ale, discover
the world of micro-breweries with the craft beer afcionados at Slow Beer
(468 Bridge Rd, Richmond,
slowbeer.com.au) or for drink for world peace at Shebeen, which sends all its profts back to the developing world (36 Manchester La,
shebeen.com.au). 

 

So you thought it was all Victorian airs and graces south of the border? It’s time to reveal the special thing we’ve

got going on with our cows and
goats. 

Pasta and petanque at Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm

If you’re time-poor or hyperventilate at the city limits, you’re
spoilt for choice of cheese in Melbourne. Go crazy on croque monsieur at
Fitzroy’s Shifty Chèvre , which opened just before Christmas (375
Brunswick St, Fitzroy, shiftychevre. com), order a late-night fight of
cheese with wine at Milk the Cow , in St Kilda and now Carlton (milkthecow.com.au) or wrap a slab-to-go of Melbourne cheese – that’s coffee-seasoned
pressato – at Il Fornaio (2C Acland St, St Kilda ilfornaio. com.au).
The Spring Street Grocer boasts Australia’s first underground cheese
cellar ( 157 Spring St, Melbourne, springstreetgrocer.com.au), while all the cheeses in La Latteria are made using Victorian cow’s milk (104 Elgin Street, Carlton, lalatteria.com.au). And what’s not to love about the city’s go-to cheese room, the
evergreen Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder ( 48-50 Bridge Rd, Richmond, rhcl.com.au)?

  
 

If you’re playing away from the big
city, plug Apostle Whey Cheese into your GPS while cruising the Great
Ocean Road (Cooriemungle, apostlewheycheese.com.au) and the
lactose-intolerant don’t have to look away: Main Ridge Dairy and Red
Hill Cheese, on the Mornington Peninsula, both produce handcrafted
goat’s cheeses (mainridgedairy.com.au, redhillcheese.com.au).

  
 

Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel

Now pack your picnic basket and head
for the hills. Autumn and winter showcase the beauty of the Macedon
Ranges, just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Yes, it’ll be cold: you can do
it. Think chunky knits, hot spiced drinking chocolate and rich, autumnal
colours.

  
 

Go exploring on a country drive
through Daylesford and its villages: soak up a robust ragu over pasta
and play pétanque at the Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm ( Hepburn Springs,
lavandula.com.au), track down secret cideries and Victoria’s beery
beauties at Woodend Wine Store (woodendwinestore.com.au) or pack a hamper full of central Victorian charcuterie delights at too-cute Kyneton’s Piper Street Food Company ( Kyneton,
piperstfoodco.com). Thus sated, steam yourself in the region’s rich mineral waters and
splash out on an exquisite facial at the serene Hepburn Bathhouse &
Spa (hepburnbathhouse.com).

  
 

It’s not just about corporeal
pleasures: enter the wildly wonderful world of renowned artists and
eclectic collectors David and Yuge Bromley (Daylesford,
bromleyandco.com) then wind down in the irreverent penthouse of Daylesford Convent (conventgallery.com.au) or Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel. 

Expect high tea and rare-breed
meats from the hotel’s own farm in the one-hatted The Argus Dining Room (
Hepburn Springs,
mineralspringshotel.com.au).

 If you can, time your visit for the
Daylesford Macedon Produce Harvest Festival, from April 24 – May 3. Now
in its seventh year, it promises to get your hands dirty messing with
local producers, chefs and vignerons, making goat’s cheese, learning the
basics of butchery, baking sourdough or taking a martini masterclass (dmproduce.com). 

 

Organic, biodynamic, fantastic – welcome to the good life.

   

Brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. 

This feature was published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper’s Traveller section. 

Melbourne’s best street art in your home


Melbourne’s very proud of its street art, and one of our most recognised artists, Adnate, is releasing a limited edition of hand-finished giclee prints inspired by the remote indigenous community of Nitjpurru, in central Australia. 

I’ll hand over to the guys from Juddy Roller street art consultants and curators, who will let you know how to get hold of a print.
All profits from the sale of the prints will go back to the community. The print will be available exclusively online via Juddy Roller. Check out the
video below, prints go on sale this Friday at 1pm!

Adnate releases his first hand finished print.
All profits will be donated to the people of Nitjpurru.

 Watch
the video here – 
https://vimeo.com/134061365
In September
2013, Adnate was personally invited to visit a community located in an isolated
area of the central desert in the Northern Territory of Australia. Led by
Indigenous Hip Hop Projects and Katherine West Health Board, it was an
incredible experience to join them on their journey. Adnate spent five nights with
the local indigenous community, Pigeon Hole, also known as Nitjpurru. It was
here that Adnate had one of his most important and integral connections with
the indigenous peoples of Australia. He experienced first-hand their ancient
culture, the immense beauty of their land and the people of Nitjpurru.
During his
visit, Adnate was granted permission from the local Elders to photograph the
members of this ancient community. After taking over 1,000 photos Adnate
selected the most powerful images and painted two murals on buildings within the
community. These photos have become the inspiration to some of the most important
work of his career to date. They have been featured in massive murals in
countries all over the world. Adnate hopes that this series is able to raise
awareness of the Indigenous Australians and their struggle to survive in the
modern world.
Adnate has
yet been able to give back directly to the community of Nitjpurru and in the
indigenous cultural spirit of sharing wealth within their communities, all
proceeds from the sale of this highly collectable print will be going directly
to the local school of Pigeon Hole. This will directly contribute towards the education
and wellbeing of the inspirational children of Nitjpurru.
This is
Adnate’s first, hand finished Giclée print. The print has been produced using high quality archival Giclée inks by the renowned Dangerfork printing company. All
prints have been hand finished with a traditional dressing applied to each
print individually by the artist.
–   $250 inc GST, Includes postage and packaging (Australia only)
–    Prints will be released online at 1pm Friday July
24 (GMT + 10)
–   Giclée print on 310gsm HahneVideo muhle archival
paper,

hand-finished with Montana
Acrylic Ink, Edition of 200. Signed, numbered and uniquely hand-finished by the
artist
–   Size 600mm x4250mm
–   All Profits going to the Nitjpurru, ‘Pigeon Hole’
Community in the desert of central Northern Territory, Australia
Available exclusively online at
Many thanks to the guys at Round 3 Creative for the amazing video clip!

Myanmar, floating whiskey bars and Australia’s cutest animal, officially: Takeoff travel news

TRENDS: Discover secrets of Myanmar

Myanmar has set our travel radars
afire since Lonely Planet named it in its top 10 must-visit destinations
back in 2012, when Australia lifted its sanctions against the country.
Now, Trafalgar becomes the first of the larger group tour companies
offering coach tours to enter the market in 2016. Its new 11-day Secrets of Myanmar tour traverses the well regarded sights of Yangon,

Inle Lake and Bagan and goes off
track to include a cooking class and local markets, visiting some of
Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, the Pa-O, Danu and Intha people. Before Trafalgar’s entry, the tourism market

had been dominated by smaller group
operators including Peregrine, which has been running tours since 2002,
World Expeditions and budget-minded Intrepid Travel. Travel pundits say
Myanmar’s infrastructure is still weak, with poor roads, a lack of ATMs
and poor communications (ie shaky Wi-Fi), though the big hotel groups
are moving in. 

Accor plans to open four new hotels in a country regarded as one of south-east Asia’s most mysterious and most beautiful.
Trafalgar’s 11-day Secrets of
Myanmar guided holiday costs from $4875, excluding airfares, with
departures between January 27 and December 7, 2016. Phone 1300 797 010,
see trafalgar.com.  
 

EXPLORE: Go with the flow

Fossick for gold, unearth a thunder
egg from an ancient lava flow or spot the rare Gouldian finch on a new
self-drive route in Far North Queensland. The new Lava Tubes, Gems and
Gorges Trail is an offshoot of the Savannah Way, which links Cairns and
Broome in an epic 3700-kilometre drive across three states and five
World Heritage sites. The new trail is a 300-kilometre circuit from
Minnamoolka to Conjuboy, inland from Queensland’s Mission Beach. En
route, take a river cruise down Cobbold Gorge, hunt for topaz at
O’Briens Creek and walk down the world’s longest lava tubes – caves
created by lava flows – at Undara Volcanic National Park. Thirsty work?
Pull in to Australia’s smallest bar at Lynd Junction to recoup. Also
check out the nearby Kirrama Range Road, which was mapped late last
year. Find the trails at visitor information centres or see
drivenorthqueensland.com.au.
 

DRINKS: Dram roll

 If you thought whisky and cruising
were uneasy bedfellows, think again as you order up at Magnums, the
first whisky bar on the Princess Cruises line. Staff at the new bar, on
board the locally based Dawn Princess, will lead you through 63 fine
whiskies, from Tasmania to Japan to the US and Scotland. You’ll find
single malts from New Zealand, American bourbons and even a Melbourne
offering. Try a nip or order the flight of the day, featuring three
different whiskies. The cruise line says the spirit is hot, and
recommends a dram after dinner or on a laidback sea day. Cruises on the
Dawn Princess include the 13-night round trip from Sydney

to New Caledonia and Vanuatu from $1399 a person, twin share, departing January 16, 2015. Phone 132 488, see princess.com

Silver fox Roy Billing.

TOUR: NZ fox trot for boomers

On your marks boomers. Your
adventure trip to New Zealand awaits. The new Silver Foxes and Foxettes
tour is aimed at baby boomers who want to live for the moment and
#saysorrylater. Check out the social media campaign, which encourages
you to SKI (Spend the Kids’ Inheritance). The ringleader of the new AAT Kings tour is actor Roy Billing (pictured), a proud Kiwi, Underbelly

and Jack Irish star and 2015
recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia. Billing helps mix New
Zealand’s heady beauty and fine tables with a dash of jet boating or
heli-wine tasting. The 10-day tours start in Billing’s hometown,
Auckland, then on to Rotorua for a hangi feast before

heading to the South Island’s
Christchurch, Franz Josef Glacier and Queenstown. Tours depart from
September 13, 2015 to May 22, 2016 and cost from $3795 a person, twin
share. Phone 131 415, see
helloworld.com.au/instore/silverfox.
 

GEAR: Stop the noise

So your carry-on bag already bulges
with laptop, camera, work gear or perhaps the accoutrements required by a
junior traveller by your side. Who has room for big headphones?
Fortunately, sound masters Bose have the answer, with their QC20 in-ear
headphones. Fully charged, these little babies offer 16 hours of noise
cancellation, and act as regular earphones even when uncharged.
The incredibly effective “noise
cancelling” mode will block out even your neighbour’s droning, while
“aware” lets you pick up traffic noise (handy when you’re on the move)
without having to corkscrew them tightly into your ears. They also
feature an inline mike and volume control. First released in 2013, the
new models come in black or white, tailored for iPhones/iPads/iPods,
Samsung Galaxy or Android devices. Includes a tidy zipup bag and earbuds in three sizes. Quiet Comfort 20 acoustic noise-cancelling headphones cost $399. See
bose.com.au.  
 

KIDS: Wild life

Australia’s cutest animal, Archer the koala.

July birthday kids will gain free
entry to Featherdale Wildlife Park, in western Sydney, which also
celebrates its birthday this month. The park is home to Archer the
Koala, officially the cutest animal in Australia, thanks to a recent
poll. Archer, who was hand-raised by

Featherdale staff, beat competition
from around Australia including gang-gang cockatoos and quokkas, and
details his life on his Facebook page @ArcherTheKoala. Featherdale includes a petting zoo
with baby lambs, goats and pigs, as well as Australia’s own baby
bilbies, wallabies, dingoes and wombats, while the fearless can sidle up
to snakes or tangle with a Tassie devil.

  
Open 9am to 5pm daily, 217 Kildare
Road, Doonside. Adults $29.50, children (3-15 years) $16, families from
$56 (1 adult, 2 kids). Phone (02) 9622 1644, see featherdale.com.au/birthday

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

Cruise with Margaret Atwood, train bar in Melbourne, discover Aboriginal Sydney: Takeoff travel news

CRUISE: The Arctic explorer’s tale

Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The
Robber Bride and a dozen other novels, as well as short fiction, poetry
and children’s books, can sail through the Northwest Passage with the
celebrated Canadian author Margaret Atwood.
The cruise departs Kugluktuk, in
Nunavut, Canada, following explorers’ footsteps to one the northernmost
towns in the world, Qaannaq, Greenland. 

Other (non-human) guests include
polar bears and possibly the “unicorn of the sea”, the narwhal, a
tusked whale that lives in the Arctic waters. Highlights including
visiting Inuit communities, iceberg spotting and crossing the Arctic
Circle. “And it’s always a delight to see
the more foolhardy among us take a plunge into subzero Arctic waters,”
says Atwood, a dedicated conservationist and twitcher. This is her ninth
journey with Adventure Canada. The 17-day cruise departs September 5 and costs from $US8995 ($11,650) a person.
See
adventurecanada.com.
 



FOOD: Top spot for trainspotters

Love trains? Love Melbourne? Then
you’ll adore one of the city’s newest bars, in a Hitachi train carriage
perched atop a city block in the innercity suburb of Collingwood.
Easey’s dishes up burgers and coffee on the ground floor, but climb up
to the fifth floor into the train carriage and it’s bottoms up with
skyline views. The new burger bar is one of the few to have Melbourne
Bitter on tap, fresh from its neighbour, Carlton United Brewery. It also
serves local craft brews including

Holgate, from Woodend, and Mountain
Goat, brewed in nearby Richmond, as well as Victorian spirits such as
Melbourne Gin Company. The carriage ran on the Pakenham-Dandenong line
from 1972 until its retirement in 2012. The bar’s owner and art curator
Jeremy Gaschk says graffiti artists loved these silver Hitachi train
carriages, so it’s only fitting the train’s resting point is in the
midst of Melbourne’s street art heartland, 48 Easey St, Collingwood. See
easeys.com.au
 

TECH: Airport face-off

TripAdvisor contributors will have a
new target in their sights as the rate-and-review site launches its
airport pages this month. 
First off the ranks is Singapore’s
Changi airport, often ranked the world’s best for its shopping
galleries, efficiency and cleanliness. 

It will be followed by New York’s
John F. Kennedy and London Heathrow airports, to launch this Tuesday,
along with 10 Australian airports including regionals

Townsville, Launceston and Cairns.
In total, TripAdvisor aims to
include 200 major airports across the world on its website and app. The
company says more than 3 billion people use airports each year, with an
average time spent in them of 150 minutes. The site aims to help travellers
occupy that time with its “Near Me Now” feature, which uses the
phone’s GPS to hook you up with the airports’ facilities. See tripadvisor.com

GEAR: Real-time life in the frame

The next generation of compact
cameras makes it easy to dazzle your Instagram followers. With built-in
Wi-Fi, the new 16MP Canon PowerShot lets you snap, share to your phone
and upload instantly. It’s 50x optical zoom gets you up close and
personal, and even stretches out to 100x digital zoom, its ‘‘lock’’
function helping minimise camera shake (though a baby tripod never goes
astray). On the cute gimmick side, flip over to fish-eye mode, go
totally automatic, or take full control in the manual setting, and it’s a
one-button operation to start shooting 1080p Full HD video.

  
Hook your camera into your phone,

computer, printer or even your TV
via Wi-Fi or near field communication technology (NFC). Although it
weighs 128g, it’s 12x8cm, so it’s not a pocket camera, but will tuck
into a small handbag, and Canon also gives you 10GB in its new image
storage cloud,
irista.com 
. The PowerShot SX530 HS costs around $426.99. See canon.com.
 


TOUR: Secret treasures of our backyard

Did you know that Ku-ring-gai Chase
National Park has the world’s most concentrated collection of Indigenous
artefacts? Discover its secrets with local Aboriginal guides on a new
tour by Sydney OutBack, including the most famous, The Emu in the Sky.
The sophisticated level of Aboriginal

astronomy sees an emu carved in
sandstone match a constellation in the sky every autumn, when it’s time
to gather emu eggs. “The Guringai people were wiped out by a smallpox
epidemic in just 10 years,” Sydney OutBack’s Paul Pickering says, “but
they’ve left us a legacy to tell their story.” The full-day “Wilderness &
Aboriginal” explorer tour cruises on a private 15-metre motor cruiser
through the setting of The Secret River, the Kate Grenville novel and
recent ABC drama (film buffs note: it was filmed mostly in East
Gippsland’s untouched Lake Tyers). Cost $199 adults/ $149 concession
including Sydney CBD transfers and a bush tucker-inspired lunch. Phone (02) 9099 4249. See
sydneyoutback.com.au.
 


KIDS: Big fish meet small fry

A week into school holidays and out
of ideas? New zookeeper workshops let kids feed crocodiles and pat
pythons at the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby, on the Central
Coast, (see
reptilepark.com.au) while in the Hunter Valley, kids as young as six weeks have tickled
three-metre tawny nurse sharks at Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters,
all served up with a strong conservation message (from
$29.50/$19.50/$95, see
sharkencounters.com.au). If you’re on the Gold Coast, Whales in Paradise runs three trips a
day to witness the annual migration of 20,000 whales (from $99/$69/$267
family,
whalesinparadise.com.au), and humpbacks, minke and southern right whales are now holidaying
along the South Coast. Jervis Bay Wild runs two whale-watching tours
each day, seven days a week, departing from Huskisson, 2.5 hours from
Sydney ($65/$28/$165,
jervisbaywild.com.au).
 

 

Elan Soho Suites review, Darwin, Northern Territory: Weekend Away

REVIEW The Getaway

Belinda Jackson checks out Darwin’s newest hotel and its ‘‘help yourself’’ attitude.

  
 

THE  PLACE 

Elan Soho Suites, Darwin.

  
 

THE LOCATION 
Darwin’s central business district, five minutes from Smith Street Mall and a 10-minute walk to the waterfront. 

THE SPACE The 4 1/2-star hotel, which opened
in December 2014, has 301 rooms. Planned as an apartment block, it
morphed into a hotel part-way through construction. Like the forest of
small high-rises around it, don’t expect any architectural masterpieces,
or even a lavish lobby, which indicates its original intention: it’s
purely business here. Choose from a hotel room or oneor two-bedroom
apartments with kitchens, laundries and balconies.

  
 

THE ROOM The two-bed apartments have two bathrooms, a good option for groups. The king bed in my hotel

room is comfortable, with great
pillows and a choice of either aircon or an overhead fan. It’s all very
pared back, in a neutral palette of grey, white and beige. The
minimalist design attitude continues into the bathroom, where only the
basics (soap and shampoo) are supplied. Anything else is on demand, to
lower costs.

   

THE KIT With a combination of sweltering
temps and croc-infested beaches, thank goodness there’s a pool. It’s
open-air and unheated, no bother for this deep southerner. Happily, as
most Territorians won’t dip a toe in until it’s above 30 degrees, you
should have the 17-metre pool to yourself for a morning dip. It’s right
beside the gym, on level six.

  
 

COMFORT Tapping in to Darwin’s very young
population, with an average age of about 30, the hotel is tech-savvy.
Manager Steve Frichot says Elan

aims to reduce clutter for a
streamlined room. I think it’s lacking by not having a clock anywhere,
but you can use the room’s phone to self-program a wake-up call. It will
shortly become just one of a handful of Australian hotels that lets you
check in and even unlock your room with your phone, and you will be
able to order room service from Seoul Food, downstairs, through the TV,
which is conveniently kitted out with a media hub with international
power points (look, Mum, no chargers!). Wi-Fi is free for the first 20
minutes but then ups to $15 a day: not a rarity in Darwin.

   

FOOD 

The 24-hour room service is supplied
by Seoul Food restaurant and cafe, right beside the streetlevel
reception. It’s a sunny breakfast spot, serving an excellent eggs
hollandaise with good coffee to go. Seoul Food touts itself as Darwin’s
first Korean

restaurant, kicked off by Choong Jae
Lee, now a Northern Territory culinary ambassador. He tips the
bibimbap, coffee-braised beef cheeks and crispy-skinned local
barramundi. Sadly, I have a prior dinner engagement, but the restaurant
is licensed: they had me at ‘‘Bombay or Hendricks?’’

  

STEPPING OUT It seems all of Darwin is at the
Mindil Beach Sunset Market, which runs every Thursday from 5pm to 10pm
and Sundays from 4pm to 9pm, until the last Thursday in October. Arrive
with an empty stomach and shop the food vans for dinner: choose from a
Sri Lankan curry or Greek souvlaki, a plate of oysters or paella, then
head down to the sand to eat while watching the sun set. See
mindil.com.au.

   

THE VERDICT
This hotel will appeal to
self caterers, small family groups and those who just want a fuss-free
room. For the best water views, go for a high corner room in the
27-floor hotel. Manager Steve Frichot tips room 2504. A warning:
Darwin’s hotels have been shamelessly pumped up by fly-in, fly-out gas
workers, with seemingly bottomless pockets to pay for accommodation; so
dry (high) season prices are double the out-of-season tariffs. The trick
is to travel in the shoulder months.

   
ESSENTIALS 

Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia
fly direct from Sydney and Melbourne. Rooms start from $299 during the
dry season, until October 31. The Dry Season package costs $339 a night
with breakfast, two drink vouchers and a late check-out. Elan Soho
Suites is at 31 Woods Street, Darwin, phone (08) 8981 0888. See
elansohosuites.com.

 

This review by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age

Wildlife in the Top End, new hotels for Adelaide, chop-chop, shop-shop: Takeoff travel news


NEWS: Spike in tours to Top End

Go deep into the tropical Top End to
explore the wildlife of Kakadu and the Mary River on safari with
Australia’s most decorated ecotour operator, Echidna Walkabout Nature
Tours. ‘‘This is where nature is still in charge,’’ says director and
guide Janine Duffy, who lists bustards, wallaroos and short-haired
wallabies as her favourite finds, as well as crocs, wild pigs and rare
birdlife. ‘‘It’s slow travel; you need to spend the time to discover the Top End,’’ she says.

Echidna Walkabout Tours won gold in
London last year at the World Responsible Travel Awards, named Best for
Wildlife Conservation, and recently became just one of three responsible
tourism operators in the world to be awarded the highest rating in the
Ethical Travel Guide by Tourism Concern, a charity that campaigns for
ethical and fair-trade tourism (tourismconcern.org.uk). The Wild Top End tour runs from
August 3 to August 9, 2015, and again in August 2016. The maximum group
size for the six day tour is 16 people. Costs $3300 a person. Phone (03) 9646 8249, see echidnawalkabout.com.au.  

 


FOOD: The world at your table

It’s a dreary night, so why not walk
the streets of the world with this new cookbook exploring the world’s
great street foods. Spend the night dining on Santorini’s tomato
fritters, barbecue pulled pork sandwiches from South Carolina, Iran’s
moreish jujeh kebab (saffron chicken) or kara’age chicken from the
izakayas of Tokyo. More than 150 easy recipes are drawn
from the four corners of the globe, most for four to six people,
because it’s all about sharing. Don’t miss the handy little Tricks of
the Trade section, which gives simple, straightforward advice about not
overfilling woks, roasting stock bones before you boil them and how

refrigerating dough makes your pizza crusts bubbly and chewy. This is author Jennifer Joyce’s 10th
book and she is also a food stylist for London mags, so expect beauty
on every page. My Street Food Kitchen is out on July 1 and costs $39.99.
See
murdochbooks.com.
 


KIDS: Rock on, baby

For the tiniest babes on the go, the
new Sleeper portable bassinet from Dutch-born Puckababy is a snug,
secure portable bassinet suitable for newborns and babies up to four
months, or 6.5kg and 64cm long. The soft bassinet is lightweight and
swaddles the baby with a neat crossover fold that is also a handle for
easy carrying and gentle rocking. Made from 100 per cent cotton, the
fabric is fully washable and carries a 1.0 tog rating. Ideal for planes,
trains and keeping baby safe and sound at home. Costs $179.95. See
puckababy.com.au.


GEAR: Chop, chop! Shop, shop!

Navigate China without currency woes
with a new prepaid travel card from Australia Post and Chinese firm
UnionPay, which is underwritten by the Bank of China. Charge the
Load&Go China card up with

Australian dollars and lock in a
fixed exchange rate into Chinese yuan, then it’s time to go shopping.
You can use the card at ATMs and point-of-sale terminals, paying in the
local currency. The reloadable card goes where foreign credit cards
aren’t accepted and as it’s prepaid, your bank accounts are safe and
unlinked. The card can be registered and locked with a PIN, and any
unused yuan can be converted back to Australian dollars when you come
home, without commission fees. Purchase in Australia Post offices or see

auspost.com.au/loadandgochina
 


HOTELS: Sage advice for stayers

Adelaide is the site of a new hotel
brand, with the old Grand Chifley Hotel recently rebranded as
Australia’s first Sage Hotel. The four-star hotel targets business
travellers with an eye on the balance sheet: rates include free Wi-Fi,
and laundry and minibar prices it says are comparable to convenience
stores. The property is in the prime location of South Terrace,
overlooking the city parklands, and is close to Adelaide’s free tram.
The Chifley Wollongong will rebrand to Sage in August and a new build in
Perth opens in March 2016. Sage’s parent group, the Singapore-based
SilverNeedle Hospitality, has 55 properties in the Asia-Pacific region
including the Country Comfort brand and Next Hotels, which debuted
recently in Brisbane. The Sage Hotel Adelaide has an opening special of
$99 a night, deluxe queen room only, until July 31. See
silverneedlehotels.com

TECH: Van of your dreams

So you’re listening to the call of the open road, but don’t have the vintage Airstream caravan to tow along for the ride? 

Log on to the new website for
MyCaravan.com, which hooks up would-be caravanners with the wheeled home of their

dreams, including motorhomes and
camper trailers. Owners can rent out their vans when they’re not in use,
and renters can save themselves the headache of van storage,
maintenance and registration, while paying up to half the price quoted
by commercial rental companies. The new website rates and reviews
vans as well as owners and renters, and also has a no-tow, no-woe section
for on-site vans, saving tow-bar-less renters any hauling hassles. Some owners will also relocate their vans for you, for a fuss-free, affordable holiday. See
mycaravan.com.au
 

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