Hotel review: Swissotel Resort Phuket, Thailand

Poolside at the Swissotel Resort Phuket, Thailand. photo: supplied.

With Muay Thai in the gym, a broad sweep of beautiful white-sand
beach, poolside kid manicures and Phuket’s cha long liquor at the
poolside bar, what’s not to love about this family-friendly hotel?

Set on the broad sweep of Kamala Bay, on Phuket’s west coast,
Swissotel Resort Phuket is two minutes’ walk to the beach, within
driving distance of most of the island’s attractions, but away from the
sin bins of Patong. Ideal for families, it’s the great beach holiday,
Thai style.

You can read more about my review of this Phuket family hotel here on the Traveller website. The feature appeared in Sydney’s Sun-Herald and Melbourne’s Sunday Age newspapers.

Lloyd’s Inn review, Singapore

Photo by Lloyd’s Inn, Singapore

It’s woefully easy to drop a bomb on your hotel room in Singapore:
Lloyd’s provides a more budget-friendly alternative that meets the
approval of design-hungry Singaporeans.

If you’re on the lookout for a hotel room in Singapore that doesn’t bust the budget, check out Lloyd’s Inn.

Old hands will know it for a shabby backpackers, but design-hungry Singaporeans know it’s been revamped by so-hot-right-now design studio FARM.

The hard-core white minimalist inn is close to Orchard Road, and breakfast is at the nearby kaya toast institution, Killiney Kopitiam cafe.   

To find out more, check out my review in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald.

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.

Peppers Docklands review: Melbourne’s newest five-star hotel

A couple of weeks ago, I popped in to the newest five-star hotel in
Melbourne, Peppers Docklands. It’s right beside Etihad Stadium, at the
bottom of La Trobe St.

Loved the Melbourne tram printed
on the wall above the bed, the pool with a view and the crayfish
omelette. And if you find pancakes on the new menu, you can thank us for
the junior reviewer’s determined efforts 🙂

To read my review, published on Fairfax Media’s Traveller website, click here.  

Mussels and brisket: eating Melbourne this week

It’s been a good week for eating in Melbourne, and I checked out the new Marion wine bar, by chef-restaurateur Andrew McConnell in happening Gertrude St, Fitzroy. How’s that for a minimalist menu? My pick is the mussels, who are enjoying a renaissance in the food world, and nduja, a spicy Italian sausage that’s crumbled onto the dish.

On the opposite side of the city (and the other side of life), it was all about smoke-pit masters at the new San Antone Texan BBQ restaurant in Crown Melbourne. Vegetarians, please look away, the beef brisket wins the day.

This week’s Takeoff column in Sydney’s Sun-Herald also heads offshore to Singapore to check out the new Hotel Vagabond, by designer Jacques Garcia, who won my heart for his spectacular, three-year renovation of Marrakech’s grand dame, La Mamounia.

The Takeoff news column is published every Sunday in the Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.

Australia’s best resorts and hotels: The 10 best resorts and hotels in Australia

Australia’s best resorts and hotels? That’s a big call – take a look at this piece in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald for the top places to lay your head in Australia.

The writers named luxe safari lodges, industrialia in the Tasmanian wilderness, island stays and beach eco-resorts.

On an urban note, I tipped the seven Art Series Hotels in Victoria and South Australia, because the art is sublime, they’re so much fun, and who doesn’t like to wake up with Ned Kelly pointing a gun at your head?

You can read the story in full here, in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section.

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

REVIEW The Getaway

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

  
 

THE  PLACE 

Elan Soho Suites, Darwin.

  
 

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

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

  
 

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

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

   

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

  
 

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

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

   

FOOD 

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

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

  

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

   

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

   
ESSENTIALS 

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

 

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

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


NEWS: Spike in tours to Top End

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

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

 


FOOD: The world at your table

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

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


KIDS: Rock on, baby

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


GEAR: Chop, chop! Shop, shop!

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

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

auspost.com.au/loadandgochina
 


HOTELS: Sage advice for stayers

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

TECH: Van of your dreams

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

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

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

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

Exploring Bray: England’s most famous home county

Oakley Court hotel Bray Berkshire. Photo: Alamy

The river boat hums down the Thames. Lush green gardens and gabled
houses line the riverbanks as we pootle down towards one of Britain’s
most desirable villages: Bray, in Royal County of Berkshire. 

Tudor mansions and neo-Gothic piles; if the digs aren’t fabulous,
their present and former owners make up for it, from Sir Michael
Parkinson to Elton John’s mum. There are embassies of Far Eastern
kingdoms and off-duty houses for foreign royalty (the queen, of course,
lives in nearby Windsor) and you may spot residents from neighbouring
villages, including Terry Wogan, Natalia Imbruglia or Michael Palin.

Steve
Harris, our captain and owner of the 34-foot  Dutch motor
yacht Fringilla, delights in blowing our mind with deliciously colourful
real estate gossip: “There is no public money in Bray” and “Yes, £8
million for that one” as we cruise the ancient waterway.

Our river
journey starts at the ingloriously named Maidenhead Railway Bridge,
designed by the gloriously named railway engineer Isambard Kingdom
Brunel. Also known as the Sounding Arch, which sounds much better, the
brick bridge was created by Brunel with what was, in 1838, the world’s
widest arches. Its two broad spans inspired Turner to paint it in 1844
and London-bound trains still thunder over the bridge today.

The
natural end to the two-hour cruise down this little elbow of the Thames
is one of Bray’s three-Michelin-starred restaurants, of which there are
only four in Britain. There are two in the village of 5000: Michel
Roux’s Waterside Inn, which has a handy wharf out front, and Heston
Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.

Bray is determinedly a village. Not a
town, not a civic centre but a bona fide parish, with hamlets and
greens, as mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. There are crests
galore atop the pubs, on private houses, through the picturesque
graveyard of St Michael’s Church, which looks like it’s auditioning for Midsomer Murders.

There’s
the sprawling red-brick Jesus Hospital, sporting a plaque that
describes how the almshouse was founded in 1627 by a loaded London
fishmonger who left it in trust to his guild, the Worshipful Company of
Fishmongers. Bray was also home to Hammer Films, and its neighbour, a
gargoyle-riddled Gothic folly, became Frank-N-Furter’s mansion and
hosted several zombie films. It’s now the very nice Oakley Court Hotel,
its car park exit sign reads a perky “Toodle pip!” We’re in Wind in the Willows territory here.

Then there’s the Heston factor.

Look,
I know you can buy his ham pies and puddings in Coles now, but that
doesn’t detract from going back to the master’s back yard. Heston owns
three eateries in the village: The Crown – think pub grub of fine fish
and designer salty chips; The Hinds Head – another 15th-century pub but
more refined, dishing up hashes of snails; and the
three-Michelin-star The Fat Duck. The world-acclaimed restaurant has
just finished its successful sabbatical in Melbourne’s Crown Towers
hotel, though it won’t reopen from its refit and antipodean sojourn
until later this year.

This wintry November eve we’re checking
into Lavender Cottage, the newest property by Malaysian group YTL
Hotels.Its Malaysian properties, Pangkor Laut and Tanjong Jara Resort,
do a mean line in super-luxury, so look past the doilies-and-fust
misnomer because this little three-bedroom cottage sleeps six in
top-of-the-line style.

Listing its features reads like an interior
design magazine: sounds by Bang & Olufsen, Peter Reed Egyptian
cotton bed linen, Turkish carpets and a Gaggenau wine fridge. The
massive food fridge is stocked with organic goods – cheeses, antipasto
and wine – despite Bray’s embarrassment of restaurant riches being a
three-minute walk away. The cottage even offers to send a chef in to
whip up brekkie. The bartender in the Hinds Head, across the road, sends
a couple of cocktails, which are the perfect end to our arrival
canapes of delicate smoked salmon and sandwiches, petit fours, perfect
strawberries and pots of afternoon tea.

Heston’s own Early Grey
gin is in the cupboard (and, I discover later, in the posh Waitrose
supermarkets) and I have a passionate affair with butter churned with
Anglesey sea salt from the Prince of Wales’ own organic label, Duchy
Foods.

Lavender Cottage is painted a dove grey, with exposed red
brick walls and a glass conservatory built onto the original 1600s
building. A fire crackles in the fireplace, lighting great beams
revealed and renewed after an ignominious 1980s renovation, slate floors
are warmed underfoot, the bedrooms glow with ivory silks, and there is
nothing wanting in the kitchen. In the garden, there’s even a little
greenhouse for spa treatments. If, for some bizarre reason, you find
yourself in England in November, there is no finer cottage to call
home.

Its sister properties are flamboyant party house Bray
House, the former stables of Manor House of Bray, built in the
1780s; and the tiny, beautiful, couples-only Dormer Cottage. Each is 
worth a night’s stay purely to see the envy on day trippers’ faces. We
waltz in for lunch at one pub, have dinner at another, walk through tiny
Tudor gatehouse, the 15th-century Lych Gate, to the mossy village
graveyard and take a day trip to Windsor, to check out the locals.
Later, I discover the M4 motorway roars just minutes away from Bray but
the village pays no heed: it just continues with its mission to achieve
professional cuteness.

After two days of bucolic luxury, it takes
but an hour to be jettisoned back into fever-pitch London. Sure,
there’s a king’s ransom of beauty in the capital but it’s tempered by
rashes of high-street betting shops, dilapidated curry houses and grim
public housing. If the capital has taken its toll on me, Bray is the
ultimate antidote.

Belinda Jackson was a guest of YTL Hotels. 

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION visitbritain.com

GETTING THERE Bray is 10 minutes from Maidenhead, three stops from Ealing Broadway,
on the London Tube’s Central and District lines. Alternatively, hire a
car from Heathrow airport for the 27-kilometre journey to Bray. 

SEE + DO Take a two-hour cruise downriver on the Fringilla, a renovated 34-foot Dutch motor yacht. See boathiremaidenhead.co.uk.  
STAYING THERE Lavender Cottage costs £1000 a night; see muse-hotels.com/braycottages/en/lavender-house.php 

FIVE MORE DAY TRIPS AROUND BRAY
1 EXPLORE WINDSOR Wander around Windsor for the cutest old-world cafes and a classic British High Street.
2 SAFE BET Have a flutter on the horses at either Windsor or Ascot racecourses.
3  ROYAL TOUR Go
all-out royalist with a visit to the 900-year-old Windsor Castle’s
State Apartments and the tomb of Henry VIII and see the Changing of the
Guard.
4  PLAYTIME Legoland Windsor is aimed at kids 2-12 years: its Driving School is the most popular attraction.
5  CLASS ACT Even
princes have to go to school: take a tour of historic Eton College,
which taught  princes William and Harry their three Rs, and was the
backdrop for the WWI epic Chariots of Fire.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published on the Fairfax Traveller website.

The outlaw in the frame: Ned Kelly tourist attractions, Victoria, Australia’s ultimate hipster

Hero or villain, Ned Kelly was Australia’s original hipster, writes Belinda Jackson.

 

I’m lying in bed and a masked man
hovers nearby, clad in armour, brandishing a sawnoff rifle. And then it
comes to me: Ned Kelly was the ultimate hipster. 

Unforgiven by Adam Cullen (Ned Kelly and Constable Fitzpatrick),
2011

He had the beard. He
had the country hideaway. He definitely had the anti-establishment
attitude, and he was into designing his own clothes, which are still
distinctly his own, even 135 years later.

  
 

It’s only fitting, then, that Ned is
celebrated in Melbourne’s hipster digs, The Cullen hotel, in edgy,
inner-city Prahran. 

He’s in the lifts, he’s in the corridors, he’s on my
bedroom wall, watching over my bed, a metal can on his head, Winchester
repeater aimed high behind me.

  
 

The Cullen celebrates the work of
Archibald prize winner Adam Cullen, who died in 2014, aged 46. ‘‘Cullen
was … interested in representing other bad boys, criminals and
bushrangers,’’ says Tansy Curtin, senior curator at the Bendigo Art
Gallery.

  
 

The Cullen Stormie Suite

 
Staying on the hipster theme, I
ponder: what would Ned drink? Probably home-made rum, so the guy was
obviously a locavore, eating and drinking from within 100 kilometres of
his home.

  
 

This guy was into fashion, sporting handcrafted clothing.

  
 
Following suit, I raid the
offlicence just behind the hotel for a pinot grigio from the King
Valley, prime Kelly country, and score handmade pizza from the famed
ovens of Ladro, nearby.

  
And this guy was into fashion,
sporting hand-crafted clothing. 

‘‘Ned was a dandy,’’ says art curator
Andrew Gaynor, who leads me through the wealth of Kellyinspired art at
The Cullen.

  
 

‘‘Beneath his armour at the Siege of
Glenrowan, he wore a silk waistcoat, pin-striped trousers and a green,
silk cummerbund. The gang cut a really good figure, and Ned had plenty
of sympathisers to his cause for a new, free state.’’

  
 

Hero or cop killer? Choose your fairytale, which is now overlaid with decades of research, turning up crooked judges, botched

investigations and plenty of gloves-off England versus Ireland racism.

    

‘‘There’s so much we didn’t know until recently,’’ says Kellyphile and guide Airi Repetti, at the State Library of Victoria.

   

The stately building is home to Kelly’s original set of armour, forged from a set of ploughshares.

   However, if you went looking for the
44-kilogram suit of armour, you’d find a polite note telling you to go
to Bendigo, where it’s the hero artefact in a new exhibition that
celebrates the Kelly legend, Imagining Ned.

  
 

The exhibition brings together some
of the most memorable images of the man, from the Kelly series by Sidney
Nolan and his contemporary, Albert Tucker, to one entire room dedicated
to

Cullen’s huge, rich works of the players in the Kelly saga.

  
 

Edward’s Bag of Fruit by Adam
Cullen

There are photos of the bushranger’s
commanding, handsome face in a portrait he had taken just days before
he was hanged, sporting a full bushranger’s beard and an oiled quiff.

  
And beside it, created just days later, the impossibly sad death mask of Kelly, clean-shaven and vulnerable for eternity.

  
 

His head was cut from his body to
create several moulds and, a week after his execution, the general
public could ogle the death mask in the Bourke Street waxworks museum
owned by the maskmaker, Maximillian Kreitmayer, who used it to link
criminality and lowered brows in

the crack science of phrenology.
While his bones were interred in a country town’s cemetery in 2013,
Ned’s skull is missing still, which only adds to the legend.

   

There’s a bound manuscript of Peter
Carey’s novel, The Secret History of the Kelly Gang; a reward poster
offering the fortune of £8000 for the four men at a time when a
labourer’s annual wage tipped £50; pictures of the siege printed on
chocolate boxes; and Ned’s Snider-Enfield 0.577 calibre long rifle.

   

It’s only 135 years, or four
generations back, that Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne Gaol. As I’m
driving back to Melbourne from Bendigo, an angry talkback caller is
blasting the radio, comparing executed drug

smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to Ned Kelly.

  
 

‘‘It’s just this stupid Australian habit of turning criminals into heroes!’’ she fumes.

  
 

The Schaller Studio lobby, Bendigo

A week later, my child’s ballet
teacher mentions that her elderly mother knew the Kelly family. ‘‘It
seems no one wanted to know them, in the past,’’ I say. ‘‘Yes, but we
all know what the police did – the rapes, the harassment,’’ she says,
matter-of-factly.

  
 

Brought up by Irish Catholic nuns,
my sympathies can only go the way of the Kelly gang, with its backstory
of police harassment, the assault of his sister and the sentence of
three years’ hard labour for his mother, while carrying a newborn babe.

  
 

On the other side of the fence, he’s
a pathological liar, layabout criminal and unremorseful murderer,
preferring armed robbery to honest farm labour.

  
 

Criminal, anti-hero, cult leader or
Australia’s answer to Robin Hood? Despite the new exhibition and the
museums, the jury is still out.

    

Such is life. 

TRIP NOTES
STAYING THERE Images
of Ned Kelly feature throughout The Cullen hotel. Costs from $209 a night for a
studio suite, 164 Commercial Road, Prahran, thecullen.com.au. In Bendigo, its sister art hotel, The
Schaller Studio, costs from $115 a night for a Workspace Queen, cnr Lucan &
Bayne Sts, Bendigo. Phone 1800 278 468.
artserieshotels.com.au/schaller.
THINGS TO SEE AND
DO

Imagining Ned shows until June 28. Bendigo
Art Gallery (closed Mondays) has free tours at noon Wednesdays and Saturdays, $10
adults. Phone (03) 5434 6088, see bendigoartgallery.com.au.

PHOTOS: (Clockwise from main) Estate of Adam Cullen and Michael Reid Art Gallery
 

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers.