Egyptian style makes a comeback in ‘balady chic’ movement

lanternsLast year, I was building a kitchen in my apartment in Cairo. I knew the tiles I wanted – classic arabesque style. You know, I wanted something out of an Andalusian palace or a Turkish mosque in my kitchen, please. I showed a photo to the tile salesman, who smarmily told me that they don’t have those tiles in Egypt.

“You don’t have those tiles? They’re along the walls of the ahwa (traditional café) downstairs!” I fumed.

The roll of his eyes said what his mouth wasn’t saying: “So old-fashioned, crazy foreigner.”

Happily, I found the traditional tiles, now made by a savvy Spanish company (and paid a bomb for them). Since then, I’ve spotted these (new) tiles everywhere, as part of a resurgence in what’s been dubbed ‘balady chic’. The word balady translates as ‘my country’ or ‘local’. So balady chic celebrates traditional Egyptian design, and it’s coming from the cool kids of Cairo.

This trip, I found an awesome tray featuring a reworking of the Hamza, or hand of Fatima, a powerful symbol that wards off evil, from local manufacturer Joud (it’s website is joudness.com – but Egyptians pronounce the ‘j’ as a ‘g’ – cute). I also raided the fabulously haphazard, historical market Khan al-Khalili yet again for yet more beautiful metal light shades (nagafa), belted into elaborate forms in the noisy, dark metal workshops spotted throughout Islamic Cairo. And they’re not a new story, but the handmade soaps (think: milk & honey, and olive oil – how much more Arabian can you get?) and organic cotton towels from Nefertari found their way into my bag for Christmas presents (see nefertaribodycare.com).

Easy on the eye, and better in the stomach, the hottest place in the upmarket, Nile-side part of Maadi is Baladina, for classic Egyptian food such as fatta and shawarma, beautifully done and served, rather ironically, by slim-hipped waiters in gellibayas and little white cotton caps. In fact, there are a few cool, new Egyptian food chains in town: try the ‘healthy’ koshary, made with green wheat and brown rice, at Zooba, Cairo Kitchen published its fantastic cookbook last year and I love El Dokan’s balady décor.

So great to see Egyptians taking pride in their own design history. Long may it last (before it gets copied by knock-off foreign companies).

Beautiful game, beautiful life: Camp Nou, Barcelona

Big thanks to the man about the house for dragging me to Camp Nou, headquarters of Barcelona Football Club, to see his club in action. My story on the passion and the fashion of the beautiful game was published in the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend. (For the record, I did get him to visit Sagrada Familia.)

campnou
Action at Barcelona’s Camp Nou. Photo: Belinda Jackson

Forget Michelin stars, and Gaudi who? There’s only one reason to visit Barcelona.

The message is clear. “I only want to go to Barcelona to see Barcelona Football Club play,” says the husband, shelving any ideals of visiting Sagrada Familia or eating at world-famous restaurants.

We’re staying at one of the best addresses in town – the new suites in the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona – and the entrance is a dramatic catwalk up from street level. The lobby is sleek and hushed, the staff as polished as only five-star staff can be. Yet in Barcelona, football transcends gender and poshness.

In Barcelona, football certainly appeals to shoppers: the city’s new-town grids and old-city lanes conspire to walk me into one of dozens of official FC Barcelona boutiques selling balls and caps, water bottles and pencil cases. A genuine FC Barcelona shirt will set you back €80 ($124), even though it’s a sweaty 100 per cent nylon and manufactured in Vietnam or Bangladesh.

 

To read more about kicking off in Barcelona, click here.

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

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Beautiful game, beautiful life: Camp Nou, Barcelona

Action at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.
Photo: Belinda Jackson

Big thanks to the man about the house for dragging me to Camp Nou, headquarters of Barcelona Football Club, to see his club in action. My story on the passion and the fashion of the beautiful game was published in the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend. (For the record, I did get him to visit Sagrada Familia.)

Forget Michelin stars, and Gaudi who? There’s only one reason to visit Barcelona.

The message is clear. “I only want to go to Barcelona to see
Barcelona Football Club play,” says the husband, shelving any ideals of
visiting Sagrada Familia or eating at world-famous restaurants.

We’re
staying at one of the best addresses in town – the new suites in the
Mandarin Oriental Barcelona – and the entrance is a dramatic catwalk up
from street level. The lobby is sleek and hushed, the staff as polished
as only five-star staff can be. Yet in Barcelona, football transcends
gender and poshness.

In Barcelona, football certainly appeals to shoppers: the city’s
new-town grids and old-city lanes conspire to walk me into one of dozens
of official FC Barcelona boutiques selling balls and caps, water
bottles and pencil cases. A genuine FC Barcelona shirt will set you back
€80 ($124), even though it’s a sweaty 100 per cent nylon and
manufactured in Vietnam or Bangladesh. 

Freedom of expression! Catelan activists at Camp Nou.
Photo: Belinda Jackson

To read more about kicking off in Barcelona, click here.

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

Art in Melbourne: Big guns and local heroes

David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album cover (1973)PICTURE: BRIAN DUFFY
© DUFFY ARCHIVE & THE DAVID BOWIE


Think big. Really big. Big as
Beijing, Bowie or the Great War. Yes, that big. And they’re all coming
to Melbourne for a calendar packed with blockbuster storylines,
intriguing characters and high drama galore.

  
 

The National Gallery of Victoria 
loves to steal the limelight, and
the line-up over the next six months gives it ample reason to preen a
little. Priceless Ming and Qing dynasty treasures from Beijing’s Palace
Museum, in the Forbidden City, are on display in A Golden Age of China:
Qianlong Emperor,

1736–1795 (until June 21) . 

Hot on
its heels, the riches of Russia’s Hermitage Museum are this year’s
Melbourne Winter Masterpieces coup. Fresh from St Petersburg,
Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherin the Great is a rich, lush
extravaganza of 400 works from the personal collection of the
long-ruling queen. Expect works from Rembrandt, Velasquez, Rubens and
Titian. Both are Australian exclusives and the frst time these
exhibitions have left their respective homes.

  
 

Balance all this international
action with a dose of Australiana. Tap into your inner petrolhead to
ogle the world’s fastest car back in 1971, the Chrysler Valiant Charger
E49, or enjoy a fashback to your time in a Holden Monaro or Torana.
Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and the Australian Car is a
celebration of our classic car designs, with 

23 iconic, rare and prototype
vehicles on show (until July 12) . 

It’s not all looking backward,
either. Transmission: Legacies of the Television Age explores how TV has
infuenced art and contemporary culture, and looks forward to new
technologies. It also includes a major new acquisition by Ryan Trecartin
& Lizzie Fitch (May 15 – Sept 13) . Smaller fry are also catered
for with a hyper-interactive kids’ show, Tromarama (May 23 – Oct 18, see

nvg.vic.gov.au)  . 

Like most of the world, Melbourne
remembers the 100th anniversary of the Great War but has a world-frst
exhibition of more than 350 artefacts drawn from the vast collections of
London’s Imperial War Museums. The WW1 Centenary Exhibition is now
showing at the Melbourne Museum (until October 4, see museumvictoria.com.au) . 

Melbourne’s Shrine of remembrancePICTURE: CRAIG RIDLEY

Tie it in with a visit to
the Shrine of Remembrance, which has undergone a timely $45million
renovation and now has several permanent and temporary exhibitions
focusing on Australians in war and peacekeeping roles.

  
 

If you prefer to fick your hips
during art exhibitions, catch the only Australasian showing of David
Bowie Is
. Hailing from London’s Albert & Victoria Museum, this
exhibition allows visitors to watch rare film, peruse album artwork and
admire the wildly fabulous costumes worn by Bowie as he morphs from
Brixton teen to supersonic

superstar. Showing at ACMI in Federation Square (July 16 – Nov 1, see
acmi.net.au/bowie) .

  
 

But Melbourne’s art scene is not all
of-the-scale blockbusters. Shh. Focus. And there, in the small spaces,
in the hidden doorways and the unassuming rooms, Melburnians are quietly
creating beautiful objects and thought-provoking conceptions. Find a
detailed map of the city and navigate your way into independent
galleries and artist-run initiatives across the city.

  
 

With its curved, pink wall tiles and
ornate signposting to long-dead public telephone rooms, the Degraves
Street subway
(also known as Campbell Arcade) was built to help workers
coming from Flinders Street Station skip the crowds during the 1956
Olympics. Keep an eye on the walls for the Platform Artists Group’s
regular exhibitions and performance art. Ten nip into nearby
fortyfivedownstairs for performance art and two permanent galleries (45
Flinders La, Melbourne, see fortyfivedownstairs.com)

Make time to spot the Next
Big Thing, see the latest sculpture or taste new media at Flinders Lane
Gallery
(137 Flinders La, see
flg.com.au) . Set amid some of the city’s hidden street art, the Dark Horse
Experiment artist studios are an unruly delight (110 Franklin St,
Melbourne, see darkhorseexperiment.com), while Twenty by Thirty
Gallery
is Melbourne’s smallest artist-run gallery. You’ve got to be on
your toes to spot it. Located outside Melbourne’s smallest bar, Bar
Americano, its exhibitions change on the first day of the month (20
Presgrave Place, Melbourne, of

  
Little Collins St) . 

And step out of
the city grid to anarchic Collingwood’s The Compound Interest for a
creative commune of publishers and print, fashion and lighting designers
(15-25 Keele St,
thecompoundinterest.com)

   

Blow away the Big City smoke with a
drive into the country. Turn the wheel and aim for the Mornington
Peninsula, just an hour from Melbourne’s GPO, for a seaside escapade.
For a small town, Mornington sure steals a lot of air in the art world. 

McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery

Keep your eyes peeled on the drive for three gargantuan sculptures along
the Peninsula Link freeway, commissioned by the McClelland Sculpture
Park+Gallery
, in Langwarrin.

Set on a 16-hectare block of
bushland, the gallery ofers Australia’s richest sculpture prize. Te 2015
Montalto Sculpture Prize, worth $100,000, was won by Melbourne-based
artist Matthew Harding. His award-winning sculpture, Void, is on display
with 32 other works in an outdoor exhibition (until July 19, see
mcclellandgallery.com).

   

It doesn’t stop there. Put the
unassuming Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery , just 20 minutes away,
on your must-stop list. Its modest frontage belies thoughtful curation,
with esoteric art and ethereal seascapes on show in the upcoming
exhibitions, Windows to the Sacred and Jo Scicluna’s Where We Begin (May
15 – July 12, 350 Dunns Rd, Mornington).

   
  
And what is art without wine? Taste
your way through some of the oldest vineyards in the region at the new
Crittenden Estate Wine Centre, then fnd a little villa to call you own –
at least for the night – on Crittenden’s serene grounds (25 Harrisons
Rd, Dromana, see
crittendenwines.com.au) . 

Or pull up a pew in the bistro
of a chic Red Hill jewel, Polperro Wines , with its new cellar door and
villas, complete with open fres and vineyard views (150 Red Hill Rd,
Red Hill, see
polperrowines.com.au) . Perfect for a blend of good dining and great contemplation.

  
 

Brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. 

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section. 

Guide to a three-day trip to Melbourne

Caffe e Torta.
Caffe e Torta, 314 Little Collins St, Melbourne.
Photo: Belinda Jackson

Want to drink coffee, sip martinis, frequent the best
eateries and shop like a true local? Melburnian Belinda Jackson shows
you how to pack it all into a three-day extravaganza.

 Sure, Melbourne’s got Vespas parked outside sidewalk cafes and your
tailored winter coat will always get a workout here, but this town is no
poor man’s Europe. The star of the south is home to the world’s best
baristas, quality late-night dining and truly great shoe shopping,
without wowsery curfews, iced pavements or a $1000 airfare. This season,
expect great coups in the art exhibition world, affordable eats from
the brightest chefs and gorgeous indie fashion.

DAY ONE

Good morning, Melbourne! Swan down the Paris end of town where
Euro-fash Doc Martin’s fires up the espresso machine at 7.30am (86
Collins St, see collinsquarter.com)
so you’re ready for Melbourne’s power block of shopping, from Bourke
Street Mall to Lonsdale St. Sparkly new Emporium leads into the
made-over Strand Melbourne Arcade and onto Melbourne’s GPO, home of
Australia’s first H&M. The antidote for all this gorgeousness is the
Grand Trailer Park Taverna. Pull up a caravan and order the Chunk
Double-Double with a boozy milkshake (87 Bourke St, see grandtrailerpark.com.au)
then say hi to Casey Jenkins (she of Vagina Knitting), waiting in the
Dark Horse Experiment artist studios to do whatever you want. The rules:
she doesn’t leave the gallery “and you have to leave her body the way
you found it” (110 Franklin St, see darkhorseexperiment.com)
Need a drink? Wander down Melbourne’s Chinatown, push open a
nondescript door and tell the guys in Union Electric Bar you’d like a
West Winds gin and fresh apple juice, please (13 Heffernan La). Now snag
an upstairs booth in new Magic Mountain Saloon, of Cookie pedigree.
Oooh, that Thai is spicy. Pair with a Tom Thumb mocktail or espresso
martini with cold-pour coffee (62 Lt Collins St, see magicmountainsaloon.com.au).

DAY TWO

Possibly Australia’s first cereal restaurant, Cereal Anytime pops up
in Richmond’s Swan Street Chamber of Commerce alongside the fine teas of
Storm in a Teacup (214 Swan St, Richmond) but if it’s cookin’ you’re
lookin’ for, mosey down to social enterprise Feast of Merit for
shakshuka and a warm glow (117 Swan St, Richmond, see feastofmerit.com).
Follow with a lazy 2.25km parklands stroll to the treasures of the
Forbidden City’s Palace Museum in The Golden Age of China Qianlong
Emperor, 1736–1795 (180 St Kilda Road, see ngv.vic.gov.au)
then explore St Kilda’s most happening pocket, 56-72 Acland St: eke out
a rum-and-tapas lunch in The Nelson, real Peruvian in Buena Vista
Peruvian Kitchen, inhale manchego and leek croquetas at Lona Pintxos Bar
or call for shisha and Middle Eastern mezze in 40 Thieves & Co.
Crush the calories on a City Sights Kayak guided tour down the Yarra,
good with kids from eight years ($78pp, see urbanadventures.com) Now you can indulge at the effortlessly French L’Hotel Gitan. Do oysters and champagne, do the Cape Grim porterhouse (see lhotelgitan.com.au).
Wind down with Australia’s best cocktails at oddball Bar Exuberante.
Expect typos on the menu, expect a knock-back if its 14 seats are
already occupied (438 Church Street, Richmond, see facebook.com/BarExuberante).

DAY THREE

Savour the flavour of a bagel that’s taken a New Jersey local two days to create at 5 and Dime Bagels (16 Katherine Pl, City, 5dimebagel.com.au)
or experience true coffee geekery at First Pour cafe, home to
Victoria’s 2015 barista champ, Craig Simon (26 Bond St, Abbotsford).
Blow the city for a breath of country air at Heide Museum of Modern Art.
Explore the contemporary collections and sculpture gardens with a Cafe
Vue lunch box by super-chef Shannon Bennett (7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen, heide.com.au).
On the way back into town, take a quick prance into Lupa to flick the
racks for local indie fashion designers (77 Smith St, Fitzroy, lupa.com.au) Nicely timed, you’ll make happy hour and a gin high tea at new G&Tea (100 Kerr St, Fitzroy, gandtea.com.au)
Don’t go overboard: you’ve got dinner booked in at Fatto Cantina,
beloved for its late-night Sicilian dining and city views from the
terrace. Finish with a stroll across the river on the love-locked Yarra
footbridge and back into the city’s heart.

Emporium Shopping Centre.
Emporium Shopping Centre.

FIVE MORE MELBOURNE MUST-DOs

1. Taste authentic Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Greek cuisines on a Footscray food tour with expert Alan Campion, $110, see melbournefoodtours.com.
2. Stretch with the locals at hip hop yoga in South Yarra (yoga213.com.au). If you don’t dig downward dog to Snoop Dogg, slap on the bling and shimmy round The Tan, 3.8km around the Botanic Gardens.

3. Go anti-establishment in Northcote at
the new Estelle Bistro. Chef Scott Pickett tips the Cantabrian anchovies
with romesco, with a Clarence House pinot blanc (243 High Street,
Northcote, estellebistro.com)
4. The Monash Gallery of Art was designed by starchitect Harry Seidler and shows 2000 works of Australian photography, see mga.org.au.
5. Do the Signature Kitya Karnu scrub, massage, cleanse and river stone ritual in the Aurora Spa (The Prince hotel, St Kilda, see aurorasparetreat.com.au)

Degraves Lane.
Degraves Lane. 

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

visitmelbourne.com/

GETTING THERE

Virgin Australia, Qantas, Tigerair and Jetstar have many flights between the two capitals. Compare fares with skyscanner.com.

STAYING THERE

New city digs include Coppersmith (South Melbourne, see coppersmithhotel.com.au), Doubletree Hilton (city, see melbourne.doubletree.com), Larwill Studio (Parkville, see artserieshotels.com.au), Mantra City Central (city, see mantra.com.au) and Jasper Hotel (city, see jasperhotel.com.au)

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

In the raw in Phuket, Tiger trims down, checking out the Flying Doctors: Takeoff travel news

FOOD
In the raw on Phuket
The luxury Sri Panwa hotel on Phuket’s southern coastline
has opened its newest dining option, an authentic Japanese restaurant called Baba
IKI. Order from the sake cocktail list and get up close and personal at the
sushi bar with head Chef Haru, who trained under Iron Chef Boontum Pakpo. Top
picks include the toro sashimi (premium tuna belly) and sake
sashimi (Norwegian salmon). Seating 60 people, Baba IKI has expansive views
over the Andaman Sea. This is the fourth restaurant at the hotel on Cape Panwa including
Baba Soul Food, which serves traditional southern Thai cuisine such as as Hell
Chicken and crab and coconut curry.  The
hotel has been named Thailand’s best resort and its Baba Nest rooftop bar one
of the world’s best beach bars. A night in the pool suite ocean view costs from $800. See sripanwa.com.

AIRLINE
Tiger trims
carry-on kilos
Low-cost airline TigerAir is dropping its free carry-on luggage
limits to 7kg a person on flights booked from March 17 for travel from April
17. Currently, passengers are allowed to bring two pieces of cabin luggage
weighing up to 10kg in total. The airline said the move will help prevent
over-filled overhead lockers and save time both on the plane and at check-in.
Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Rex Airlines have 7kg carry-on limits on their economy
domestic routes, while Qantas allows two bags of 7kg, totalling 14kg. TigerAir
passengers can buy an additional 5kg of carry-on luggage, bringing the total to
12kg, with its new Cabin+ product, which costs from $18 in advance or from $36
at check-in. See tigerair.com.

KIDS
Backyard explorers
Teach the kids a love of the great outdoors, stylishly, with
a night under canvas in the new Joey tent. Created by outdoor goods
manufacturer Homecamp, the sturdy Joey is made
from canvas, has a waterproof floor and is fire and mould resistant. Pitching
at just under a meter high and 1.4m wide, it fits in the backyard or pitch it beside
the family tent for a kids-only zone on holidays. The Joey weighs 8kg and will
sleep three little ones. So all you have to worry about now is dead torch
batteries and marshmallow overdoses. Costs $325. See homecamp.com.au. 
BOOK
Gallipoli No. 1 destination

Travellers wanting to visit the battle sites of
Gallipoli, Turkey, are being advised to avoid not only ANZAC Day, on April 25,
but also weekends until mid-June. Lonely Planet named the Gallipoli Peninsula
the world’s number one travel destination for 2015, and its new Turkey guide
advises that massive crowds are expected to visit the Gallipoli Peninsula
Historical National Park this year, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the
Gallipoli landing. Author James Bainbridge adds that weekends in September are
another peak time, when vacationing Turks visit the region. Lonely Planet
Turkey (14th Edition), $39.99.See lonelyplanet.com.


NEWS
Check-up at the Flying Doctor
The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Broken Hill has opened
a new GP clinic beside its visitor centre, where travellers heading into
central Australia can seek medical advice and ensure they’re in fine form for
the road. The RFDS has visitor centres at Broken Hill, Longreach, Alice
Springs, Kalgoorlie and Dubbo, as well as Charleville, which also as a GP
clinic. Last year, its 63 aircraft flew more than 26 million kilometres caring
for 282,000 people, and says about a quarter of its emergency medical evacuations
are road warriors driving in the outback. Broken Hill is 935km from Sydney and
725km from Melbourne, and the last medical service until Alice Springs, so plug
the new Clive Bishop Medical Centre into your GPS: it’s at the RFDS Base on
Airport Rd, next to Broken Hill Airport, open 9am to 5pm, Monday-Friday. The
Bruce Langford Visitor Centre lets you go behind the scenes and into the RFDS
airport hangar, open seven days. For medical appointments, call (08) 8080 3780.
To donate to the not-for-profit service, see flyingdoctor.org.au.
GEAR
Indigenous inspiration
Wear your country with pride with this fashion range
designed by indigenous artists. The Community Unity lifestyle bag is painted by
artist Robert Levi and measures 45×36.5cm. It’s made from polyester drill by indigenous
clothing brand Bundarra which designs, cuts and sews all its garments
here in Australia. Levi, who is from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, says
the bag’s design shows hope for indigenous unification. It’s one of several designs across Bundarra’s range, which includes fashion leggings and its new
singlets. Bags cost $39.95. See bundarra.org.



This weekly column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newpaper’s Traveller section.

Farewell, toxic world: Takeoff travel news

SPA
Farewell, toxic
world
Learn to achieve true wellness in a world where we are
exposed daily to toxins, in a once-off retreat at the luxurious Gwinganna
Lifestyle Retreat. The two-night retreat on the Gold Coast hinterland is led by
Professor Marc Cohen, head of Wellness Discipline in the School of Health
Sciences at RMIT University. With simple solutions to reduce your exposure and
increase your wellbeing, ‘Wellness in a Toxic World’ runs May 22-24. The
weekend includes two nights’ eco-accommodation, all organic food and drinks, transfers
from Gold Coast airport and a 50-minute massage in the indoor/outdoor Spa Sanctuary.
Costs from $1175 a person, twin share. Phone 1800 219 272, see
gwinganna.com.  

FOOD
Master host
Eat like a local, with a local, on a new food tour by
Masterchef winner and proud Tasmanian Ben Milbourne. Like armies, adventurers
travel on their stomachs and we have an appetite for Tassie’s burgeoning food
tourism scene, unsurprising given that the isle produces not only apples, but
also truffles, wasabi, rare-breed meats, single malt whiskey and chocolate. And
that’s aside from the staples of salmon and wine. On the One Degree Experience
tour, Ben wines and dines up to eight guests at his residence,
Fairholme, a 1920s farmhouse in Spreyton, 10 minutes from Devonport. You’ll hit
the big guns, such as Hellyer’s
Road Distillery and Anvers House of Chocolate, but also go off-piste in
north-west Tasmania to dig out boutique beer, ginseng and dairy from the hands
of the producers themselves. The tailor-made tours include lunch, a take-home
hamper, cooking demo and five-course degustation dinner. From $550 a
person.  Phone 0428 266 545, see benmilbourne.com.au.
GEAR
Light and bright
The old design maxim, “Say it in French,
it always sounds better,” also rings true for visual appeal – the Lipault Paris
luggage range is sure to brighten the world’s baggage carousels with its two
new spring-inspired colours, duck blue and orange. Taking cues from Parisian
catwalks, designer François Lipovetsky has ultra-lightweight luggage cred,
having created baggage for Air France.
The Original Plume is a soft-sided wheeled trolley that comes in three sizes,
55cm (2.8kg), 65cm (3.4kg) and 92cm (3.8kg), from $229. Best of all, it’s
foldable, so your storage cupboards aren’t full of bulky suitcases between
jaunts. Match it up with the Lady Plume carry-all, $99. First launched in 2005
and recently purchased by Samsonite, the Lipault Paris range has been available
in Australia only since November. Snap up in all the best places; Selfridges in
London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris or Myer in Australia, or phone 1800 331 690.
STAYCATION
Bird’s eye view
Think staycation, think walking past your office
on a weekend? Sail to a secluded island with world-class views, but still use
your metro card to get there when you stay on Cockatoo Island. The Sydney
Harbour Federation Trust has added a new two-bedroom apartment to the
accommodation on the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is on the Balmain ferry
route. The new self-contained apartment has a balcony facing the
harbour, an enclosed garden and sleeps up to four. Formerly a police station,
learn about the Federation-era building on an audio tour of Cockatoo Island’s
history or call for cocktails beneath striped umbrellas and watch the sun set
at the Island Bar. The Cockatoo Island Garden Apartment has a full
kitchen, laundry and all linen. Costs from $370 a night, midweek, or $280 as a
one-bedroom stay. See cockatooisland.gov.au.
CRUISE
That’s the Spirit
A new restaurant, more bars, two new cinemas and new
recliners are on the cards when the hardworking Tasmanian ferries, the Spirit of Tasmania I and II, undergo
major makeovers over the coming months. It’s the first time in 13 years the
ships will have had a major refit since they started working the Melbourne-Devonport
route in 2002. All decks will have changes, including refurbishment of the
deluxe cabins and a refresh in all other classes, a new kids’ zone and teen
area, and new lounge areas to showcase Tasmanian wines, ciders and beers. Some
things don’t change. “We’re still going to have the same ocean views, relaxing
atmosphere and sensational Tasmanian cuisine,” says Spirit of Tasmania CEO
Bernard Dwyer. The refurbishment will be complete by September. The Spirit of Tasmania ships are also increasing
day sailings this year, and offering half-price travel from May 16 to September
17 when you book by April 4. Day sailings cost from $43 one-way, night sailings
from $48 one-way in an ocean recliner. Phone 1800 634 906, see spiritoftasmania.com.au.
TECH
A novel idea
What’s the quintessential read of New York, Vietnam or
even Brisbane? Find a book that captures the soul of your destination with
tripfiction.com, which links up books and the regions in which they’re set. The
British website was born in 2012 with just 1000 books, and now has five times that
amount, covering fiction and non-fiction including memoirs, across 1100
locations. It’s free to register, which will allow you to create your own
must-read list. You can also add your own books and reviews, which are moderated
by the site’s founders, Tina Hartas and Tony Geary. The discussion board turns
up some interesting topics, from ‘best Scandiavian noir’ to ‘new Yemeni
thriller’, and is sure to guarantee itchy feet. For those who travel by
airplane or armchair. See tripfiction.com.
The Takeoff travel news, by Belinda Jackson, is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.  

Luxe lodges, tennis scores and the magnificent Magna Carta: Takeoff travel news

Havana, Cuba, one of the New7Wonders Cities

A special congratulations to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who made it through to the Australian Open quarter finals last night! Read more about what he’s up to, below.

NEWS: Seven new wonders

Vigan, Doha, Havana: how many of the New7Wonders Cities
have you visited – or could hit on the world map? The New7Wonders project let
people vote on modern day wonders, from cities to natural features, to
determine our modern-day Pyramids.

The final list of top seven cities is Beirut
(Lebanon), Doha (Qatar), Durban (South Africa), Havana (Cuba), Kuala Lumpur
(Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia) and Vigan (Philippines).

“La Paz in Bolivia is the
highest capital city in the world (and) the city’s buildings cling to the sides
of the canyon and spill spectacularly downwards while Durban, South Africa’s
third largest city, has really come alive since its World Cup makeover in
2010,” says says Fiona Hunt, managing director of Adventure World. “Cuba, stuck
in a colourful, colonial time-wrap, is a truly fascinating and incomparable
city,” she adds. “The list demonstrates how people are seeking out unique,
off-the-beaten track and largely untapped destinations.” See new7wonders.com, adventureworld.com.au.

KIDS: How to make lunchtimes cooler

Whether your kids are braving the frigid temps of the Antarctic
or the sultry climes of an African safari, these cute meal and lunch sets are
great comfort for those who like to travel with familiar friends. Armed with
your polar bear, team the melamine table setting (cup, bowl, plate and cutlery)
with the Lunchie, an insulated bag that keeps food just right – warm or cold –
with a water bottle on the side.

Made by New York based Skip Hop for kids on
the move, there are a range of animals from bugs to zebras, some with matching
backpacks.The Skip Hop Lunchie costs from $24.95, and Mealtime gift set costs from
$39.95, from David Jones. See davidjones.com.au.

TECH: Mapping the Magna Carta
This year is the 800th anniversary of King
John’s sealing of the Magna Carta, a peace treaty, statement of liberties and
the creation of the rule of law. Follow the story across England, from Salisbury
Cathedral to London’s British Library, Runnymede in Surrey and Lincoln Castle,
William the Conquerer’s stronghold where the Great Charter was signed.

Six new
self-guided trails create two- and three-day itineraries through English towns
and cities, tracing the document’s history and visiting the four original Magna
Cartas. See magnacartatrails.com,
visitengland.com.

FOOD: Italy for the Epicurious
There is more to Italian cooking than just lasagne
(although that’s an extremely good start). Let your guide show you on this
15-day tour of Italy, from Rome to Venice, with Tuscany, Modena and Assisi also
on the itinerary. The Country Roads & Vineyards of Italy tour
includes tasting Brunello di Montalcino with its makers, watching
Parmigiano-Reggiano being produced and finding yourself in vinyeards of Soave,
as well as Insight’s Signature Dining experiences. Feed your cultural soul with
a private tour of the Vatican, a gondola ride in Venice and a stay in the
Tuscan Villa San Paolo in San Gimignano. Costs from $5389
a person, twin share and departs September 2, 2015. Phone 1300 301 672, see insightvacations.com.
AIRLINE: Kyrgios in full flight
Canberra teenager Nick Kyrgios is best known as the tennis
player who thumped world number one Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year. The
19-year-old, who has a Greek father and Malaysian mother, is now the newest
ambassador for Malaysia Airlines. “While I was born and brought up in
Australia, I’m really proud of my family culture and very close to my Malaysian
family,” he says, adding he has flown with the airline since he was a boy.

The
airline has 81 direct flights to Malaysia from Australia and New Zealand, and
onward to 60 destinations including London and Paris via its A380. Kyrgios is
currently ranked 50th in the world and kicks off his first full year of tennis
at the opening of the Australian Open, in Melbourne, tomorrow. The Nick Kyrgios Summer Spectacular
airline deals will start on January 21. See
ausopen.com, malaysiaairlines.com.


LODGES: Luxury with a green edge

Get ready for a dose of lodge
lust: the National Geographic Society has created a global collection of 24 boutique
hotels that are dedicated to sustainability and luxury, and includes three of Australia’s
most unique properties.

The lodges range from Bhutan to British Columbia, and
include Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef and two resorts owned by
Baillie Lodges, Southern
Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island and the tented camp Longitude 131°, which faces
Uluru. 

Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia

The properties were rigorously vetted for their
sustainable tourism practices prior to inclusion. “These lodges demonstrate
that sustainability and a world-class guest experience can go hand-in-hand,” says
Lynn Cutter of National Geographic. Guests booking a stay at either Baillie
property through National
Geographic Unique Lodges of the World will have
exclusive experiences including private dinners and cooking classes using
indigenous ingredients. See nationalgeographiclodges.com.

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

The 50 best travel finds of 2014 from around the globe

Miss Moneypenny’s, Noosa

Yeah, I know it’s already 8 January, but I’m still looking back… maybe it’s because Australia really hasn’t kicked back properly into work yet. Consensus is that next Monday is the day we all turn our brains on once again. I had many great discoveries last year, including the new COMO hotel in the Maldives, Maalifushi, a villa in Lombok and the newly scrubbed Tahrir square in Cairo, but  also a few fun finds locally, in Australia. Here’s my contribution to a recent round-up by the Sun-Herald‘s brace of writers on our best travel finds in 2014.

Miss Moneypenny, Noosa, Queensland

People
watching is a delight in Noosa, when the buff and the beautiful hit the
sidewalks. Take a ringside seat at Miss Moneypenny, one of the newest additions
to Hastings Street, and order up on the seafood share boards and an 80s cruise
ship drink, their signature pina coladas – we’re in the tropics, people! The
open-air bar-cafe-restaurant spills into the street, ideal for seafood Sundays
or Saturday’s late-night supper club.missmoneypennys.com

Jean-Paul Gaultier Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria 

Playful, cheeky, self-deprecating: not the words usually associated with
fashion. Jean Paul Gaultier delights in smashing the mould; remember the
conical bra he strapped onto Madonna in 1990? Haute couture comes alive with
moving catwalks and interactive mannequins, the exhibition has already
travelled from San Fran to Stockholm. But in Melbourne, the only showing in the
Asia Pacific, Gaultier assures us, it’s almost perfect. Make a night of it with
the NGV’s fantastic Friday Nights program, with DJs and talks, includes
admission to the exhibition. Costs $22 adults/$10 children 5-15 years
(exhibition only), $28/$10 Friday Nights at Jean Paul Gaultier. Until February
8, 2015. ngv.vic.gov.au

Seahaven Resort, Noosa

A stalwart in Hastings St, Seahaven has enjoyed a $16 million refurbishment
and is unrecognisable from its former self. The resort eclipses the big names
for blockbuster location, bang on Noosa’s Main Beach. Accommodation ranges from
studio boltholes to two-storey penthouses, with fully kitted kitchens, rain
showers and laundries. Plan drinks on your balcony, overlooking the sea.
Seahaven’s three swimming pools and its beachfront barbecue.  It’s a
two-minute trot along the beach boardwalk for morning coffee or for dinner at
Noosa’s sensational restaurants. Sunrise yoga on the beach is de rigueur. seahavennoosa.com.au

This feature was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

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.