The Elphie, Germany’s answer to the Opera House

It’s been dubbed the project of the decade and also the new Sydney Opera House. Finally, the Elbphilharmonie, in Hamburg, Germany, has opened to the public, six years late and 10 times the original budget – but who’s counting?

Hamburg’s new concert hall (it’s been nicknamed the Elphie – if that makes it easier to remember) has got it all: public plazas, rooftop views and even a Westin hotel tucked in there, which seems to have been lost in all the astonishment about its cutting-edge architecture.

To read more about this latest opening, click here for my piece in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers’ Traveller sections.

Behold Germany’s answer to the Sydney Opera House

It’s
been dubbed the project of the decade and also the new Sydney Opera
House. Finally, the Elbphilharmonie​, in Hamburg, Germany, has opened to
the public, six years late and 10 times the original budget – but who’s
counting?

Hamburg’s new concert hall (it’s been nicknamed the Elphie – if that makes it easier to remember) has got it all: public
plazas, rooftop views and even a Westin hotel tucked in there, which
seems to have been lost in all the astonishment about its cutting-edge
architecture.


To read more about Hamburg’s applaud-winning concert hall, click here for my piece in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers’ Traveller sections.

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.

The 16 must-see new architecture projects for 2016

An artist’s impression of WTC transportation hub, US

In what’s becoming an annual story for the Sydney Morning Herald, here’s my round-up of next year’s great architectural openings. Thanks, as ever, to Sydney architect and founder of Sydney Architecture Walks, Eoghan Lewis. 

Who doesn’t love an architectural icon? While rising prices and
global uncertainty have slowed many building projects around the world –
the ambitious Grand Egyptian Museum is once again on ice – eyes are
open for key cultural offerings in Hamburg, New York and London.

Sure,
the skyscraper industry isn’t going out of business any time soon –
just take a look at the new Trump Towers going up in Vancouver, while
skinny is inny as New York discusses the rash of slim skyscrapers
overshadowing Central Park and the first super-tall skyscraper has been
approved for Warsaw. However, take your head out of the clouds to see
what’s trending in the world of architecture.

“Analogue seems to
be coming back … less slick, less same-same,” says Sydney architect and
architecture walking guide Eoghan Lewis. “Authenticity is trending, and
there is a new focus on refinement and simplicity.” (see www.sydneyarchitecture.org)

Click here to see what we’ve named the top 16 architectural openings in 2016. 

(This feature by Belinda Jackson was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newpapers.) 

Build the perfect family holiday: choose from these 6 LEGOLANDs (or do them all!)

If you’ve got kids, chances are you’ve also got
crates of Denmark’s most famous export, LEGO. In a classic case of
‘build it and they will come,’ this modest toy has built an empire. And
its theme parks are about to rake over the world. 

Empire building

LEGO is older than nearly all of its fans: the plastic brick was
invented in Billund, Denmark, in 1958. Fast-forward 56 years and there
are six LEGOLAND destinations across the globe: the Danish original, two
in the US, one in the quintessentially English town of Windsor,
Germany’s LEGOLAND Deutschland and the newest (and closest to Australia)
in Johor, Malaysia. The theme parks are designed for kids 2 to 12
years, and all have Duplo Gardens, with bigger bricks for smaller kids.

Try the original

Go back to where it all began. The first LEGOLAND opened in 1968,
just beside the first Lego factory. “My oldest boy wanted to go to
Lego’s heartland,” says Jacqui Davidson, who has taken her three active
boys, aged 12, nine and six, to the original LEGOLAND in Denmark, and
visited Malaysia’s LEGOLAND three times. “LEGO is more educational than
other theme parks,” she says. “The kids do building workshops, have
competitions and even robotics courses. It’s inspiring, and it’s not
just a boy thing.”

Eat, breathe and sleep LEGO

If too much LEGO is never enough, check the family into the LEGO
Hotel attached to your LEGOLAND destination of choice. The rooms have
either a pirate, kingdom or adventure theme.  “I would definitely
recommend LEGOLAND Billund Hotel,” says Jacqui. “There’s LEGO kitsch,
LEGO soap, LEGO shampoo, LEGO pillows, and the excellent, very
child-oriented buffet in the bistro.” The four-star Hotel LEGOLAND also
specialises in corporate teambuilding using LEGO (and let’s face it, if
you can’t team-build here, then where can you?!)

Water play

In Malaysia, Jacqui’s boys give the new Star Wars section a big
thumbs-up, while the grown-ups love Miniland (which reproduces Asia’s
top landmarks, such as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and the golden temples of
Burma, in Lego). “Be prepared with water and umbrellas for shade,” she
adds. The best thing is its waterpark, she says. “If you’re in Malaysia
for more than 24 hours, you’ll need a swim.” With balmy temps also the
norm in California and Florida, both of the US theme parks conveniently
have fabulously fun waterparks.

Enter the dragon

In comparison, Bernie Jackson took his three kids, aged 10, eight and
four, to visit LEGOLAND Deutschland over two rainy days, which kept the
crowds at bay. “The kids loved it. The park was manageable enough for
the older kids to explore by themselves, and there was plenty to keep
the four-year-old in awe. The biggest hit was Captain Nick’s Splash
Battle, and while our youngest was a late-adopter on the Dragon Coaster,
he rode it until the park closed.”

What’s next?

2014 saw the launch of the Lego Movie, featuring the voices of
Hollywood greats including Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson, about an evil
tyrant’s plan to glue the LEGO universe together. There are also
another three LEGOLANDs in development, across Dubai, Japan and South
Korea.

But wait… There’s more!

Not even the 2015 Super Bowl could escape the Lego treatment. Enter the Brick Bowl
– the brainchild of British animation house A+C Studios. The
three-minute clip is a journey through nine of this year’s Super Bowl
ads edited together to make a story – and it took them an incredible 36
hours to create. Watch the video now and be amazed. Because everything is awesome.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published on Art of Money blog by GE Money.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Christmas bell from Kashmir, India

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

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

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

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

Matryoshka doll from Kyiv, Ukraine

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

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

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

Belle Jackson

Shanghai swing: Art Deco fashion

Look what popped into my inbox recently: these Art Deco men’s slippers are pure Shanghai 1930s, with their geometric zing. 
They’re the latest from Shanghai shoemaker Suzhou Cobblers,which specialises in hand-sewn slippers. Made from silk with a leather sole, they’re a great souvenir from a great city.
I popped in a hundred years ago (ok, maybe it hasn’t been quite that long since I was in Shanghai) but put them on your list if you happen to be in town. They’re open every day from 10am – 6.30pm, just off the Bund.
You’ll also find them across the river in Pudong, in Beijing, Hangzhou and – ever so slightly further afield – in Munich.
17 Fuzhou Rd, Shanghai, suzhou-cobblers.com

Get going: Singapore on the cards

Sentosa Singapore resort.

GO NOW
SINGAPORE
Sink into the five-star Sentosa Singapore Resort and save 18
per cent, with Wi-Fi and breakfast included. Book and stay by May 31,
and you can layby your holiday for a $5 deposit. From $1174 a room, four
nights. 1800 359 769, lowcostholidays.com.au.

VICTORIA
Stay in Kyneton – some say Victoria’s hippest country town –
and get two nights for the price of one, and a bottle of wine. The new
Piper and Powlett B&B can be rented as a one, two or three-bedroom
house. From $460, one bedroom, two nights midweek, until April 28. 0409 157 857, piperandpowlett.com.au.

GO SOON
GERMANY
Book your German Rail Pass by April 30 and save 20 per cent.
Choose German Rail Pass that gives you five or 10 days’ travel within
one month throughout the country. Available in first and second classes
for travel until May 31. From $253 a person, five-day pass, second
class. raileurope.com.au.

NSW
Hit the road to discover regional NSW in a Maui motorhome and
save up to 25 per cent on pick-ups or drop-offs in Sydney. The Beach
motorhome (sleeps four) costs from $146 a day, minimum five days. Book
by June 26 for travel May 1-June 30. 1300 363 800, maui.com.au.

GO LATER
USA

Lounging, lizard style: Lizard Island, Queensland.

Cosy up for four nights in midtown Manhattan in the newly
renovated Affinia 50 hotel, or any of the five Affinia hotels in NYC and
Washington, DC, and you can save 20 per cent off the best available
rate. Book by April 30 for stays until August 31; quote AUST14. 1800 174 962, affinia.com.

QUEENSLAND
See how the other half lives on luxurious Lizard Island and
stay five nights, pay four. Includes flights to the island from Cairns
and all meals and drinks. Book by June 15 for stays April 29-August 31.
From $3139 a person, twin share. 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au.

TRAVEL WRITEAWAY
PEN PAL
Go old-school with this cute travel journal, which encourages
kids to write about their travel adventures, be it a weekend at the
beach or a round-the-world adventure. The hardcover journal prompts them
to record what they ate, animals they saw, cool landmarks and there are
stickers aplenty, to create a fantastic memento to look back over when
they’ve traded sandcastles and hopscotch for Santorini and bar hopping.
kikki.K Explore Travel Journal, $19.95.
See kikki-k.com, phone (03) 9645 6346.

Belinda Jackson‘s Get Going column is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.