New groove in ancient Athens

A magnet around which the city revolves, this is the view of the Acropolis from the top floor of my hotel, New Hotel in Athens.

It’s ironic that the more I travel, the less I post on my poor blog. I’m just back from nearly two months in the Middle East, working from my base in Cairo.

Cairo’s my second home: I’ve lived here, and return most years to watch it race toward change – some good, some absolutely dire. This year, I also took a walking tour through Palestine’s West Bank and a brief island hop in Athens and the beautiful island of Hydra, about 90 minutes by ferry from the main port of Piraeus.

I got a lot of love from the @Traveller instagram account, and just spotted this clip in the weekend papers of my shot of the Acropolis, which I took from the top floor of New Hotel, Athens, a chi-chi little design hotel.

Sure, you can book the penthouse to soak it up, but the breakfast room is also currently on the top level, so we can all enjoy one of the world’s great landmarks.

Athens_clip.JPG

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.) 

Alice eats England, camping kids, and learning to love London: Takeoff travel news

KIDS: Colourful cubby
Let your kids take their imagination on holiday beneath
this colorful range of teepees. Available in eight designs including Cowboys,
Montana and the multi-stripe, they are made from durable cotton canvas with a
window and tie-down door. The teepees are 155cm high and come with five metal
poles that are easy to assemble, even for the DIY-shy. Cost $99.95. See mocka.com.au.

FOOD: Alice eats England

There’s something deliciously simplistic about this new food
tour with Masterchef 2012 contestant Alice Zaslavsky: eat Stilton in Stilton,
Bakewell tarts in Bakewell, eels in Ely. The tour goes back to the heart of
rural Britain’s great food traditions, and includes lunch in The Orchard
Restaurant at HRH Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate. Even London yields,
offering British produce at Borough Markets and a Bengali dinner in Brick Lane.
There’s also cider in Somerset, pie and mash in Walthamstow and Melton Mowbray’s
famed pork pies, in between visits to Stonehenge, 16th-century
coaching inns and a light shop at Fortnum & Mason department store. The
tour runs on September 4-11, 2015 and costs $3999 a person, twin share, including
seven nights in four-star hotels. Excludes flights. Phone 1300 836 764, see mastercheftravel.com.
SAILING: Island
hopping made easy
Greek island hopping just got a whole lot simpler with
the introduction of the new Attica Pass from Eurail. The pass allows two
international ferry trips between Greece and Italy and four sailings within
Greece – including Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos – on the Superafast, Blue Star
and Anek lines. All travel must be started within six months of its purchase
date, and be completed within one month. The new pass will be available through
Melbourne-based International Rail from January 1, 2015 and must be bought in
Australia beforehand. The Attica Pass costs from $195. Phone 1300 387 245, see internationalrail.com.au.

BOOK: Hidden London

Discover hidden London, from tiny cafes to unique boutiques
with London local Saskia Graville. Graville, who writes for Traveller, pounded the pavements to bring us the London Style Guide. Forget the city’s
big guns, she’ll send to you to the upcoming contemporary art scene in the East
End’s Bethnal Green, the foodie haunts of Bermondsey  and tiny antique dealers cum tea gardens in the
A-listers’ Primrose Hill. The hand-picked list is complemented with the
favourite finds of a list of London lights, including interior designers, chefs,
boutique hotel owners and even tattoo artists – albeit, those who have
collaborated with Damien Hirst. Available from January 1, 2015. RRP $39.99
(hardback), see murdochbooks.com.au.
GEAR: Smart
It’s
time to face the fact that your
luggage may actually be smarter than you. The Bluesmart carry-on suitcase is
Bluetooth enabled, allowing you to track its progress via an iOs or Android
app. If you and your beloved bag are separated, it will lock automatically and
send you updates of its location. It also contains a battery charger
that will charge your smartphone up to six times, has built-in scales in the handle to prevent costly
surprises on check-in as well as waterproof zippers, four wheels and a padded
laptop compartment at the front of the suitcase for the quick security grab. If it sounds too good to be true, the suitcase, which is
being developed via crowdsourced funding, can be pre-ordered now, with expected
delivery of August 2015. Available in Graphite Black only. Expect to pay around
$300. See bluesmart.com/indiegogo.

TOUR: Tigers and other treasures

Travellers looking ahead of the pack should have
Bangladesh in their sights, says Peregrine Adventures, which is taking tours to
the country for the first time in 2015. 
“Bangladesh is about to be discovered,”
states Peregrine’s Ryan Turner. Highlights include spotting Bengal tigers Sundarbans National Park, negotiating the
18 million-strong population of Dhaka and exploring the recently discovered
mosques in the archeological site of Bara Bazar. 

The 12-day tour will
have four departures in 2015 and costs from $3090 a person.  See peregrineadventures.com/india.

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

The ever-growing travel list: lodges to love in Peru, Tanzania, and Brando in French Polynesia

I’ve confessed already to being a list tragic, and now I have yet another new travel list, thanks to National Geographic
Their new Unique Lodges of
the World collection has 24 good reasons to get out of town and head for the wilderness. 
I stayed in Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro, at the foot of the Tiger’s Nest  monastery in Bhutan, and it’s absolutely charming, with the most spectacular views from its windows, as you can see. Minimalists would have a hard time in this hotel, which is decorated in wildly colourful Bhutanese motifs, and built in amongst the rooms is a temple made from 450-year-old timbers from the Gangtey Monastery, and its resident monk. It’s also the country’s sole 100 percent locally owned five-star hotel.  
It’s also pleasing to note that Australia is punching well above its weight, with three beautiful properties on board. 

The full list of lodges is:
 

·      
Fogo Island Inn, Canada
·      
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
·      
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru
·      
Kapari Natural Resort, Greece
·      
Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
·      
Lapa Rios Eco Lodge, Costa Rica
·      
Lizard Island, Australia
·      
Longitude 131°, Australia
·      
Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
·      
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, Canada
·      
Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
·      
Rosalie Bay Resort, Dominica
·      
Rubondo Island Camp, Tanzania
·      
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa
·      
Sayari Camp, Tanzania
·      
Southern Ocean Lodge, Australia
·      
Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Malaysian Borneo
·      
The Brando, French Polynesia
·      
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, United
States
·      
Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia
·      
Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile
·      
Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Chile
·      
Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
·      
Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Bhutan

For more
information about National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, visit www.nationalgeographiclodges.com.  

The real trip advisors reveal their tips for travel in 2015

Mesmerising Myanmar: Ancient temples and an increasingly
modern infrastructure are the drawcards. Photo: Getty Images.

So – what’s the next big thing? Travel experts
reveal their tips for the coming year.
With an
eye on the hip pocket, we’re looking at hometown holidays in 2015, say travel
industry’s chiefs. And while Asia is back on top as our favourite playground,
Myanmar continues its stellar orbit as the region’s shining star.
Gary Bartelings, Captain’s Choice
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Gallipoli for the centenary, on unusual train journeys, South America,
Antarctica and our new Australian tours by private plane.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Iran and Myanmar. For safe and trusted, a British
Isles cruise or a train journey through Switzerland.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
 An unsettled world and the weakening
Australian dollar.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Chichen Itza in Mexico, Rio, Easter Island, Tahiti, Angkor  Wat,
the Taj Mahal and the Serenas, well as the UK and Europe.
Fearless
prediction?
Keep
travelling, so people across cultures, religions and countries can connect
peacefully. See captainschoice.com.au.
Simon Westcott, Luxe City Guides 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Myanmar: infrastructure is improving and there’s a sense it’ll all
change fast.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Bhutan: because it’s not going to change fast. A
purer and more controlled experience awaits.  
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Travel safety: the perceived threat of increased
terrorism and infectious diseases.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
London, Florence, Marrakech, Taipei, Tokyo and the USA.
Fearless
prediction?

 Wifi flights will become the norm. See luxecityguides.com.
Alan Alcock, Wendy Wu Tours
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Japan, now great value for money, and India.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Sri Lanka, which is rapidly healing after its
terrible civil war, the idyllic Maldives, and Myanmar for quaint, rustic
antiquity.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
The potential spread of terrorism to our region, health
issues such as Ebola and the value of the Australian dollar. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
 Vietnam, Japan and Mongolia.
Fearless
prediction?

Self-drive three-wheeled tuk-tuk tours in India! See wendywutours.com.au.
Tom Walley, Flight Centre Australia
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Philippines: budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air has just kicked off a
service departing Sydney four times weekly.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
London, for the Rugby World Cup! 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Airfares have never been more affordable and
unless the US dollar drops significantly, the only issue is choosing where to
go. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Whistler: snowboarding is my passion. We will thaw out on Hamilton
Island. Fearless prediction? Aussies are in a golden era of travel with more
accessible prices, services and routes. See flightcentre.com.au.
Sue Badyari, World Expeditions
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Hiking and biking Cambodia, trekking the Patagonia Ice Cap, Arctic
cruising to see the Northern Lights, Nepal’s Manaslu Circuit, walking Spain’s
Camino. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Trekking the Altai mountains in Mongolia, hiking
and biking in China, cycling Puglia, Italy. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Flight availability in peak seasons, more freak
storms and volatility in weather patterns due to global warming.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Italy’s Gran Paradiso Trek plus a self-guided cycling holiday from
Slovenia to Croatia!
Fearless
prediction for 2015?
The Great
Himalayan Trail – a five-month trek traversing Nepal’s high passes. See worldexpeditions.com.
Ann Sherry, Carnival Australia 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Cruising Europe, Alaska, and the Baltics. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Asia, cruising from Japan and Singapore, visiting
Vietnam and Cambodia, and even Indonesia’s Komodo Island. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
The falling dollar, sharpening travellers’ focus
on value.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Stradbroke Island, maybe an African safari and a PNG and Solomon
Islands cruise to test new destinations.
Fearless
prediction?
Weekends
at sea with Australia’s best food and wine. See carnival.com.au.
Caroline Kennedy, Cox & Kings Australia
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Italy and Greece for the food, wine, history and sites and Norway for
the Northern Lights.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
ANZAC centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, with
or without ballot tickets.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Global safety issues and natural disasters.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
I would like to do The Ultimate Travelling Camp in India.
Fearless
prediction?

Experiencing destinations in 3D, such as enjoying the view from your
(prospective) hotel’s balcony. See coxandkings.com.au.
Anton Stanish, Stayz Holiday Accommodation
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
The Gold Coast, Darwin and fringe CBD; homeowners are realising the
viability of short-term rentals while travellers can immerse themselves in the
local neighbourhood.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Dunsborough, Western Australia. Definitely a new
hot spot.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
A holiday rental in Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, near golf courses,
vineyards and beaches. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Low-cost air carriers continuing to open up new
markets, particularly in Asia.
Fearless
prediction?
Holiday
rentals becoming bookable online, like hotels. See stayz.com.au.
Karin Sheppard, InterContinental Hotels Group 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
South-east Asia and the Asia Pacific, for snorkelling safaris, stunning
beaches.   
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
On ‘staycation,’ exploring your own city. Sydney’s
Double Bay has new eateries, bars, shops and the new InterContinental Sydney
Double Bay. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Truly personalised and local experiences. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, a diving holiday to Fiji and skiing in
Queenstown. 
Fearless
prediction?
More
marketing aimed at locals through social media, and brands rewarding guests for
publicising their trips via social media. See ihg.com.
Dave Boyte, Skyscanner
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Safe, affordable Nicaragua, Central America and Mykonos, Greece. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Colombo, Sri Lanka is reinventing itself as a cool
foodie paradise. Flight searches to Bhutan are also on the rise.  
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Online travel companies becoming mobile savvy, as
travellers use mobile phones to research, plan and book holidays.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
The coolest little capital, Wellington, and Tasmania.  
Fearless
prediction?

Meta-search websites – websites that aggregate information from all over the
web into one site – being an essential planning tool. See skyscanner.com.au.
This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller.

Deals: relaxation on a Malaysian vacation

Giraffe Manor, Kenya

Breakfast with well-mannered giraffes in Kenya, motor across the USA, sleep like a king in Malaysia… what’s your mood this week? 

On the home front, it’s freshwater lakes on Fraser Island, going remote up at the Kimberley’s Faraway Bay or exploring Kakadu in all its green glory.

GO NOW
MALAYSIA
Modelled on a 17th-century Malay palace, the recently
refreshed Tanjon Jara Resort is on Malaysia’s east coast. Normally from
$350 a night, costs from $276 including all meals until March 31,
minimum two nights. tanjongjararesort.com.
QUEENSLAND
Take a dip in pristine freshwater lakes or swim in the Coral
Sea on Fraser Island. Save $126 on a two-night stay at Eurong Beach
Resort, with vehicle barge transfers included (normally $106), until
April 17. From $310 for two nights, quote “summer days”. 1800 111 808, eurong.com.

GO SOON

Motor across the USA with Apollo motorhomes.

US
Motor in the US for up to 18 days for the cost of fuel only
in an Apollo Motorhome from March 31-April 5, May 6-9 and June 2-6. Pick
up from Forest City, Iowa, and relocate to four cities, including Las
Vegas and San Francisco. April travellers also get $US500 ($570) towards
fuel. 1800 777 779, apollorv.com.
SINGAPORE
Book two nights in a club room in the new Rendezvous Hotel
Singapore by March 16 and save 30 per cent. Included is the mini bar,
internet, airport lounge access, airport transfers and a city tour. From
$185 a night. stayfareast.com/launch30.

GO LATER
KENYA
Go on safari for five nights at Sala’s Camp, Sasaab or Solio
Lodge and get one night free at the Giraffe Manor, outside Nairobi. Book
by February 28, stay until December 15 (excluding June 1-October 31).
From $503 a person a night, +254 (020) 502 0888, thesafaricollection.com.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Stay at the Kimberley’s Faraway Bay and save 20 per cent with
a free night in Kununurra or Darwin until April 30. Book by February
28, from $3464 a person three nights, includes meals, tours and flights
ex-Kununurra. 0419 918 953, farawaybay.com.au.

Ancient Athens

Explore the archaeology and culture of Athens, from the
crowd-pleasing Acropolis and the Agorato to Marathon, the shrines of
mysterious cults and the isle of Aigina in the Saronic Gulf.
Promenade Plaka, the city’s Old Town. The walking tour, led
by two archaeologists, also explores the city’s best museums and its
top tables, and your five-star accommodation looks out to the Acropolis.
The tour runs June 1-8, 2014. Costs $4210 a person, twin share. See petersommer.com.

KIDS

Explore art caves, spot wildlife and
watch the sun set with the kids over a remarkable, remote slice of Australia. Kakadu
is glowing green right now, and kids under 12 stay and eat free at the Gagudju
Crocodile Hotel. Stay three, pay for just two nights and get half-price Yellow
Water cruises and other tour discounts until February 28. The hotel is 3.5
hours’ drive from Darwin on sealed roads and up to two kids can share their
parents’ room. Costs $300 a room, three nights, 1800 500 401, gagudju-dreaming.com.

 

This column by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.