Walking the Camino: a guide to finding your feet (and heart, and solutions to life’s problems)

Author John Brierley spends every spring and autumn following in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims making their way to the medieval cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in far western Spain. He has been walking the Camino de Santiago for 25 years.

When he is not walking, he is at home, writing and playing with his grandchildren. John has written dozens of guides for pilgrims from all walks of life, who plan to walk some of the than 80,000 kilometres of authenticated and waymarked routes that lead to , on which every nation on Earth has set foot.

But it’s not about counting your steps, monitoring your heart beat, he says.

“To experience the Camino directly, you have to listen to your heart,” says John. “Listen well; it might only come as a whisper. But beware! If you have truly heard the call, you have become infected by a disease which will become fatal to your limited ego identity.”

I interviewed John for my The Knowledge column in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning and The Age newspapers, and his passion is infectious. I do believe that was his aim: to get me on the route.

“Our troubled world is crying out for solutions to the war and injustices that are raging everywhere we look,” he told me in our interview while he was in Australia recently. “But we have been looking for answers in the wrong direction. We have been looking out, not in.”

“The Camino asks us to step out of our comfort zone and to take some risks.The solutions we seek can only be found in the stillness of our own hearts and minds. ”

“That is the incredible gift of the Camino – it provides time in the silence of nature to empty out our outworn belief systems and allows time new insights to arise in the spaciousness of higher Mind.”

See caminoguides.com

To read the column in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, click here.

How to get along with Parisians: a cheat sheet

Swapping Australia’s Bellarine Peninsula for Paris for a decade or so, writer and actor Jayne Tuttle knows all the tricks about getting along with Parisians.

Speak French first, kiss left to right and back again, don’t go off piste with restaurant menus and forget the flanny (that’s flannelette, or lumberjack shirt, if you’re playing along out of Australia).

“Stand your ground when queuing,” she advises. “Somewhere along the line, ‘Ooh, I didn’t see you!’ became a fun game for Parisians and they play it especially with tourists, cutting in at any chance they get. Earn their respect by being aware.”

Jayne has just published her new book, Paris or Die: A Memoir (Hardie Grant Travel, $32.99) and has moved back to Australia. Because good things come in threes, she is also the new co-owner of The Bookshop at Queenscliff, west of Melbourne.

Click here to read my interview with Jayne for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers.

And to read more about Jayne, go to jaynetuttle.com

Architecture tourism: The world’s inspiring new architecture

Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Courtesy TDIC, Architect Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Castles, towers, skyscrapers: all rich pickings for the travelling
architecture lover. Why not add a hill of garbage, a modern mosque or
the site of the world’s oldest drawings to your travels in 2017?

There’s some crazy, dreamy, ambitious and unexpected architecture
projects opening next year, from Denmark to Doha. Take a look at my round-up of a handful of the best, published in the Sydney Morning Herald/ The Age newspapers.

Architecture tourism: The world’s inspiring new architecture

Castles, towers, skyscrapers: all rich pickings for the travelling architecture lover. Why not add a hill of garbage, a modern mosque or the site of the world’s oldest drawings to your travels in 2017?

There’s some crazy, dreamy, ambitious and unexpected architecture projects opening in 2017, from Denmark to Doha. Take a look at my round-up of a handful of the best, published in the Sydney Morning Herald/ The Age newspapers.

AJN_HW_Abu_Dhabi_Louvre_04.jpg
The Abu Dhabi Louvre. Photo: Ateliers Jean Nouvel


Famous Flyer: Deborah Hutton

Hutton rates driving through Provence as her best holiday experience.

An African safari and the Maldives are on Deborah Hutton’s wish list.

WHICH WAS YOUR BEST HOLIDAY?
Renting
a car in Paris and driving to St Tropez over four days. I stayed at
little inns and ate at great restaurants through Provence, really
getting a feel for the country. It ended with the madness of St Tropez,
which is FUN in capital letters.

AND THE BEST HOTEL YOU’VE STAYED IN?
The
Soho in London – I love the position and it has the most divine suites –
and the tiny, tiny Eichardt’s Private Hotel in Queenstown. The
interiors are by Virginia Fisher, who does all the Huka Retreats. It’s
right in the centre of Queenstown with a great little bar downstairs.
You go in for five minutes and the next day, they’re like, “Hello
Deborah, that was a pinot, wasn’t it?’ They really get you.

WHAT DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE WITH YOU?
The
same as everyone else – my iPad, my earplugs, and eye mask. I do have a
little baby travel pillow I always squeeze into an air suction bag, so I
have the consistency of a good pillow.

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A PERFECT HOLIDAY?
There
has to be a great golf course – that’s generally what I look for first.
It’s also got to be warm, with a beach (though I can do pool), with
good friends and good restaurants.

WHAT’S YOUR BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE?
I
always photocopy my passport and credit cards, and I always split my
credit cards up, leaving one in the hotel safe and one in my wallet.
It’s gotten me out of trouble before, when I had my bag stolen in Ibiza
(surprise, surprise!).

AND YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE ON HOLIDAY?
My
pals booked a “divine design hotel” in Koh Samui. The pool’s filtration
system was broken, and it was green. And there was no restaurant, you
ate in bures on the beach. And then the weather turned. No pool, rain
and sitting cross-legged on the beach, eating bad Thai? I booked a
flight back to Bangkok and checked into The Peninsula hotel.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?
Leaving
it too late to pack, because I then pack too much. You just hate
yourself on long-haul trips every time you have to repack.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TO NEXT?
At
the top of my list is an African safari and the Maldives. I would stay
at one of the Evason resorts in the Maldives. They’re just heaven on a
stick. I see photos of the beautiful water and think, “That’s just me”.
And I want a cocktail and I want one with an umbrella. To me, that
screams “holiday!”

Deborah Hutton is an ambassador for NRMA’s Living Well Navigator, livingwellnavigator.com.au.

Interview by Belinda Jackson

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

Top cities for new architecture in 2015

Philharmonie de Paris

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


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

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

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


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

EUROPE
The Jenga building, NYC

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


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

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

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

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

Calatrava’s World Trade Centre transportation hub, NYC

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


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

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

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

Sydney’s Goods Line

AUSTRALIA

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

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

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

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

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

Travel news: Takeoff November 9

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

GEAR
The suede persuader

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

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

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

AIRLINE
Kids get wings

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

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

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

Travel news: Freewheeling across the world

Cycling in the German Alps. Photo: Bruce Robertson
Freewheeling
Have bicycle, will travel. But if you’re not sure where
to ride, click on to this serious collection of bike tours from around the
world. At last count, the website listed 7000 tours in 123 countries for all
levels of fitness, for road bikes, mountain bikes and even electronic bikes. Website
founder and keen cyclist Bruce Robertson is currently infatuated with Korea,
where he’s going with friends for a 350km ride from Seoul to Andong. “Korea’s
cycle paths and infrastructure are incredible,” he says. “The paths follow the
rivers, not the roads.” The site also loves a best-of list, including the best
off-road tours and city tours, packing tips and a guide to choosing the best bicycle
tour. To lycra or not to lycra? That’s your call. See cycletoursglobal.com.

APARTMENTS
Sleep easy with
the locals
Dublin city, the heart of Istanbul and the jewel of the
Greek islands, Santorini, are the latest destinations in Tempo Holidays’ 2015 Apartments
& Catering Worldwide brochure. Stay in an Italian condo on Lake Como, a maison
in the Cote des Maures in France or
a villa on the Portuguese Algarve. All properties are researched by Tempo
Holidays, which is owned by the world’s longest established
travel company, Cox & Kings. Many apartments and villas include
hotel facilities such as daily or weekly servicing, but with the freedom of
your own space and 24-hour help. Great for larger families or groups, they are
priced per night, but with discounts for extended stays. Phone 1300 558 987, see tempoholidays.com.
FOOD
Of souks and spices in Morocco
Discover the soul of Morocco on a 10-day gastronomic tour
of the country with TV chef and self-described ‘gastronaut’ Geoff Jansz. The
journey starts in gritty Casablanca and travels through the ancient, regal
cities of Fes, Meknes and Rabat, finishing up in Marrakesh. You’ll taste and
learn about Morocco’s culinary traditions with local experts, shop for spices
in magnificent souks (markets), drink Berber tea in the Atlas Mountains and eat
in restaurants selected by Jansz. There’s also a visit to Roman ruins of
Volubilis, Andalusian gardens and the craziness of Marrakesh’s central square,
Djamma el Fna. The tour will accommodate 24 guests, from November 1-10, 2015.
Costs $6895 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 590 317, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

AIRLINES
Best Fiji cuisine
Taste Fiji before you even get hit the happy isles with Fiji
Airways’ new signature dish for business-class passengers. The airline offers a
charred beef fillet with masala chai tea rub, herb buttered prawns and Fijian
organic vegetables, or seared wild fish with coriander and pineapple rice pilaf
and
red papaya curry sauce. The dishes are designed by Fiji Airways’
Culinary Ambassador chef Lance Seeto, who says the menu is influenced not just
the native iTaukei cuisine but Indian, Chinese and colonial British as well.
Seeto, who is based on Fiji’s Castaway Island resort, says it’s part of a
culinary renaissance taking place across the country. Other business-class menu
additions include a Fijian rum cocktail and mocktail, and the Yadra Vinaka
(good morning) sleeper service. Phone 1800 230
150, see fijiairways.com.

KIDS
Come to mamma
Whoever thought having kids meant giving up seriously
good food and wine? The new La Dolce Vita Wine & Food Festival welcomes
kids with all of its Italian heart. Held at eight wineries in Victoria’s King
Valley, there will be jumping castles and giant sandpits, playgrounds and
circus training, and every winery will offer a kids’ menu. Meanwhile, parents
(and non-parents) can test-drive Prosecco cocktails, turn their hand at gnocchi
making, cruise the market stalls or join a Long Lunch. The festival takes place
on November 15-16. Phone 1800 801 065, see
winesofthekingvalley.com.au
 
GEAR
Clean hands, clear
conscience
If the phrase ‘life-changing hand sanitiser’ sounds a
little far-fetched, log the tracking number on the back of this antibacterial
hand sanitiser and you may find you’ve just helped provide clean water for a
village in Myanmar. These body care products are from Thankyou, a social enterprise
that channels its profits directly into health and hygiene training in
developing nations. The hand sanitiser is a trusty travel companion that comes
in a tasty grapefruit or eucalyptus mint fragrance, and at 50ml, it’s well
under the airlines’ carry-on liquids limit. Other products include hand cream
and soap, all Australian made, all without harsh chemicals and all are
ethically sourced. Available at major supermarkets. See thankyou.co.

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

Dressed to thrill: Gaultier fashion exhibition opens in Melbourne

Gaultier with Australian supermodel Alexandra Agostin.

“It’s not often an art opening turns into a discussion on trans-gender issues,” an art curator said, gleefully, to me today.

We were gossiping at the preview of the fabulous retrospective by fashion dynamo Jean Paul Gaultier.

Surrounded by conical bras (you remember Madonna in THAT bra in her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990?) and wildly elaborate, intricate, completely over-the-top fashion, what surprised me most was the man himself.

Flanked by two Australian muses, Alexandra Agostin and transgender supermodel Andreja Pejic (in her first appearance as a woman), Gaultier laughed, smiled, joked and charmed the (couture) pants off the 500+ audience who came to see him launch the exhibition, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From Sidewalk to Catwalk. 

The exhibition has already travelled across the globe, bringing more than 140 creations to the people, from San Fran to Stockholm, but this time, Gaultier assures us, it’s almost perfect.

Alexandra Agostin and Andreja Pejic in the audience
at the exhibition’s launch in Melbourne today.

As was pointed out in the press conference, it is generally very difficult for the non-fashion world (ie. the rest of us) to view couture: sure you can look at a magazine, but where’s the movement, the life?

Melbourne, you’re a lucky woman: this is the only showing of the exhibition in the Asia Pacific. Opens tomorrow at the National Gallery of Victoria until February 8, 2015.

Adult $22
*Concession $18
Child (5-15 years) $10
Family (2 adults + 3 children) $60
NGV Member Adult $17
NGV Member Family (2 adults + 3 children) $48
Additional Family Child $5

If you’re in the hood, check out the NGV’s fantastic Friday night with John Paul Gaultier program.

Travel deals: Indonesia’s Gili islands

Flying to Fiji’s Mamanucas with the kids.

Those looking beyond Bali into the rest of Indonesia’s archipelago are finding themselves in the Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok, a two-hour fast ferry from Bali. Otherwise, we love Noos-aaah or pootling around Fiji by seaplane. 

If you’d prefer to play winter princess, check out a tour from Helsinki to St Petersburg, WWI battlefields or (dare we say it) Victoria’s Philip Island? It’s all here, in this week’s best international and domestic travel deals.
GO NOW
QUEENSLAND
Get two nights free when you book a seven-night holiday,
worth $950, at the absolute beachfront apartments at Seahaven Noosa until July
31. The 4.5-star property includes four heated pools, spa, gym and bbq. From $2375,
seven nights. (07) 5447 3422, seahavennoosa.com.au.
RUSSIA
Travel by coach and rail from Helsinki to St Petersburg
and Moscow on the nine-day Tsar Route tour and save $225. Includes transport,
accommodation in first-class hotels, breakfast and sightseeing. Available  August-September 2014. Costs $1891 a person,
twin share. 1300 668 844, eetbtravel.com.
The glamour of the Russian empire
GO SOON
VICTORIA
Take a
break on Phillip Island and get $200 of extras including dinner, wine and a
three-parks pass that includes the Penguin Parade when you stay two nights in a
studio spa room at the Ramada Resort Phillip Island. Costs $484, two nights,
until August 31. (03) 5952 8000, ramadaphillipisland.com.au.
The new Karma Reef hotel on Gili Meno, Lombok
INDONESIA
Tiny Gili Meno is one of a trio of hip isles of the coast
of Lombok, two hours by boat from Bali. The new boutique resort Karma Reef’s low-season
special runs from October 1, 2014 – March 31, 2015 (excludes Christmas).
Normally $315 a night, from $170 B&B for two. +62 370 642 340,
karmaroyalgroup.com.
GO LATER
NEW SOUTH WALES
Celebrate
spring by reconnecting with nature at the eco-accredited Paperbark Camp near
Jervis Bay, and save up to $440 throughout September and midweek
(Sunday-Thursday) in October. From $500, two nights, with gourmet breakfast,
bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddling. 1300 668 167, paperbarkcamp.com.au.
JORDAN
Discover the Roman ruins, Crusader castles and ancient
Nabataen civilisation of Petra on an 11-night tour through this beautiful
desert country. Book by September 30 and receive all entrance fees to sites
free. Departs March 30, 2015. From $4989 a person, twin share. (07) 3372
4833,  gypsiantours.com.au
KIDS
FIFO TO FIJI
Petra, Jordan
Travel is half the adventure, especially when you catch a
family fly-in, fly-out package to Fiji’s Castaway Island in the Mamanucas. The
five-night offer includes helicopter and sea plane transfers for two adults and
two kids from Nadi airport to the island. There’s also plenty of water action,
with snorkelling, a dolphin safari, sunset cruise and a ride on a banana boat
included. From $5470 for a family of four, available until March 31, 2015. +679 666 1233, castawayfiji.com
TOURWATCH
BATTLEFIELD TOUR
Follow a soldier’s footsteps on a guided tour of Europe’s
most poignant battlefields during the centenary years of WWI. The 12-day tour travels from London to Amsterdam
via France and Belgium to the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, the
battlefields of the Somme and Ypres’ Menin Gate. Highlights include the new
First World War Galleries in the Imperial War Museum in London, and lighter
moments are found in a wine tasting in Reims and dinner in a local’s home in
Amsterdam. From $3775 a person, twin share. 1300
663 043, trafalgar.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.