I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Buffets, I’ve had a few…

Small fry: mashed duck potatoes at the Sheraton Bali Kuta

Buffets, I’ve had a few…

I know I shouldn’t start a blog post on a negative note, but… a pet hate of mine is people who will never try eating something new.

Especially when they’re on the road. Truly, I have morphed into my mum when I hear myself saying, “But how do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never tasted it.”

Why, just today I found a list of what was sprawled across my breakfast table one bright, Balinese morning, in my recent past: admittedly I was sharing the table with a three-year-old (hence the donut, the Babybel cheese and the Vegemite).

Here’s a list of the table’s contents – it’s breakfast, remember:

Kankung (water spinach) with slices of roast duck and mushroom

I photographed it, but it may come as a surprise to learn
that I didn’t eat it. Strawberry cheesecake for breakfast? Really.

Vegemite and toast
A quail’s egg, boiled
One Babybel cheese
Pink yoghurt
Mango yoghurt
Eggs Benedict
A fruit plate
Cocoa Pops
A glass of tamarillo juice
A pot of Earl Grey tea
Churros (heavily sugared)
A flat white coffee
A chocolate donut.

What’s not to love? The hotel buffet: it’s a beautiful, dangerous beast. Where’s your favourite?


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

Havana, Cuba, one of the New7Wonders Cities

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

NEWS: Seven new wonders

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

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

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

KIDS: How to make lunchtimes cooler

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

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

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

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

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

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


LODGES: Luxury with a green edge

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

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

Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia

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

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


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.

Destination Christmas: Takeoff travel news

CHRISTMAS:Best-dressed
windows

See how the world does Christmas through the best
decorated windows throughout the festive season. Travel booker Cheapflights has
listed the 11 most beautiful windows around the world, including Myer in
Melbourne, which attracts more than 1.2 million noses pressed to the glass to
see this year’s 3D ‘Santa Clause and the Three Bears’ theme.

In London,
Selfridges goes back to the storytelling classics such as Pinocchio while the
2014 theme at New York icon Macy’s, which has been decorating its windows since
the 1870s, is ‘Santa’s Journey to the Stars’. Others on the best-dressed list
include topsy-turvy Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Smith & Caughey’s
pirate display  in Auckland. See cheapflights.com.au.

APP
Thinker’s pub crawl
Discover Sydney’s best waterfront pubs courtesy on a new
app written by intrepid tippler Rob Dunlop. “It’s a thinking man’s pub crawl by
ferry,” says Rob, who has personally tested all the watering holes. Thirst For
Sydney has five one-day itineraries that start and end at Circular Quay,
exploring the eastern waterfront, west of the bridge to Balmain and along the
North Shore. And it will also make you new friends, with a connect function
that lets you announce to other users that you’re in town and friendly, with a
private messaging system. There are 13 great drinking spots in the five
itineraries, and also a snapshot of the locale, including demographics and real
estate info (who doesn’t love to talk house prices?) Sydney is the bellwether
city, with more locations in the pipeline. Currently available for iOS only,
free. See thirstforsydney.com.

FOOD
World diner
Eat the world at the best hotel restaurants on the planet
– that’s the boast of the new, free iPad app Great Global Chefs. The trusty
stomachs of luxe hotel booker group Mr &Mrs Smith have dined in 950 hotels
throughout the world in search of the top 20 tables in their collection.
They’ve even coaxed recipes from the kitchens, and profiled the stars behind
the hotplates. While heavily weighted toward the Euro diner, Australia is amply
represented by David Thompson of Nahm, in Bangkok’s Metropolitan by Como hotel,
and Alla Wolf-Tasker from Lake House, in Daylesford, Victoria, amongst others. See
greatglobalchefs.com/app.

KIDS

Sight for sore eyes
There’s money to be made in sunglasses design, so get
your kids in early with this children’s My Design sunglasses kit. The kit
contains a pair of Wayfarer sunnies in either black or white and removable
decal sticker sheets for kids to decorate their frames to their heart’s
content. The white pack comes with leopard spots and hearts, the black features
pirates and space symbols. Unlike toy plastic glasses, the eyewear actually
shields children’s eyes from harmful UV rays, and are compliant with Australian
standards. The Frankie Ray My
Design Sunglass Kit is best for kids
aged 3 to 12 years.  Costs $39.95. See babyography.net.au.

GEAR
Get pumped for camping
Make summer camping a breeze, literally, with Black Wolf’s
new blow-up family tent. The tent is inflated in seconds with a high-speed air
pump, with air poles replacing tangled (or forgotten) tent poles. The new Turbo
Air Plus sleeps eight, with a main room and separate bedroom to the rear and
weighs 21kg. The tent will be on the market mid-January, but can be pre-ordered
now through Black Wolf stockists. Costs $1199. See blackwolf.com.au.   

AIRLINE

Hop up to Honolulu
Named one of the top destinations for 2015, it’s just
become easier to reach Hawaii, with Jetstar’s new direct flights between
Honolulu and Brisbane starting tomorrow. Fares start from $479 one-way, without
checked-in luggage. The service will operate three times a week in peak season,
dropping down to two off-peak. The airline will fly an Airbus A330 featuring
both business and economy class. From December 20, Qantas also adds an additional
service from Sydney to Honolulu, to four times a week, rising to five flights
weekly in school holidays and other peak periods. The airline has also upgraded
its aircraft to A330s on all flights, with return fares from $1256. Last week, Hawaiian
Airlines introduced its new A330s on its Brisbane-Honolulu route, upgrading to
A330s, which include an ‘Extra Comfort’ class between business and economy. The
service runs four times weekly, with a 64kg baggage allowance. Flight time is
approximately nine to 10 hours, the direct flights contributing to steep
increase of Australian visitors in the past four years. See gohawaii.com/au, qantas.com, jetstar.com
and hawaiianairlines.com.au.
Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

What to buy travellers for Christmas

5. Penguins in knitwear: could anything be cuter?
These little 23cm
penguins have been hand-knitted
by volunteers across the world from
excess jumpers
donated to help clean penguins up following oil spills.

Proceeds go to the Phillip Island Nature Parks
Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre, in Victoria.
$24.95 each, penguins.org.au

Nomads may not have any halls to deck, but don’t leave your
travelling kin out in the cold this Christmas. Gift vouchers may get a
frosty reception, and sables slipped under the tree are impossible to
pack. But on-the-go power banks for smartphones are a plum prize, as is
the classic gap-year present, the Swiss Army knife – with a seasonal
twist.

Give a gift that will remind wild rovers of home, or something to
lug it all in, who after all, doesn’t love a great bag? Whether your
intention is to tame wanderlust or gear up for an adventure, there are
gifts for glampers and trampers, lounge lizards and wildlife warriors,
for bachelors and babes. These cracking gift ideas are sure to have the
traveller in your life jingling on their way.  

1. Slice
your stollen or carve up the Kris Kringle with the new,
oh-so-Christmassy, Swiss Classic Army Knife, the “Lollipop”. At 58mm,
it’ll fit on a keyring and includes a screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick
and blade. $35.95, victorinox.ch.

2.
Wear your world with an Atlas pages infinity necklace by
Melbourne-based artist Catrine Berlatier. The necklace is made from used
pages of old atlases, intricately woven and folded into beautiful
forms. The jewellery ranges from 63cm to 149cm. From $365, egetal.com.au.

3. The vivid illustrations of the animal kingdom among the ruins of Angkor Wat is the setting for The Last King of Angkor Wat, the new children’s book by Graeme Base, the author of Anamalia, which has sold more than three million copies since its publication in 1986. $26.99, penguin.com.au

8. Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the coolest in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle range weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au
8. Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the
coolest in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle
range weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and
waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au  

4.
Nothing says Sydney more definitively than our own Harbour Bridge, aka
The Coathanger. So give the quintessential Sydney gift with this
Coathanger coathanger. $4.95 each, bitsofaustralia.com.au.

5.
Penguins in knitwear – could anything be cuter? These little 23cm
penguins have been hand-knitted by volunteers across the world from
excess jumpers donated to help clean penguins up following oil spills.
Proceeds go to the Phillip Island Nature Parks Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre, in Victoria. $24.95 each, penguins.org.au

13. Trust Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel publisher's range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway water bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use. Available in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95, travelgoods.com.
13. Trust Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel
publisher’s range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway
water bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use.
Available in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95,
travelgoods.com.  

6. Keep light-fingered cyber thieves at bay with this new card
holder: the low-tech look hides a shield that blocks transmission of
data from your credit and identity cards. Comes in classic cowhide with a
money clip, featuring a blue or red strip. $39.95, zoomlite.com.au.

7.
As the tagline says, the only bug you’ll worry about is the travel bug
when this mosquito repellent band is near. Worn on your wrist or even
hung from a bag, the Para’kito is a refillable band with a pellet of
blend of essential oils that is effective for 15 days, safe even for
babies and mums-to-be. $24.95 (includes two pellets), au.parakito.com.

8.
Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the coolest
in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle range
weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and
waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au

Magellan eXplorist GPS.
Magellan eXplorist GPS. 

9. Bundle your skincare essentials into one neat bag with the
Jojoba Company Travel Essentials Pack. Includes a 15ml jojoba oil and
20mls each of cleanser and creams for day, night and hands. You won’t be
packing any artificial perfumes, parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate or
mineral oils, or anything tested on animals. $24.95, thejojobacompany.com.au.

10.
Urbane urbanites know Melbourne brand Crumpler means innovative kit:
the Vis-a-Vis cabin bag, now in look-at-me green, has a sturdy,
lightweight shell that zips up and is reinforced by wraparound fabric
handles, for the quick grab. It includes a built-in TSA lock and a
clothes compression system that keeps your gear where you packed it.
55cm cabin bag, $445, crumpler.com.

11.
Never again get caught in an airport with a flat phone and the wrong
power adaptor. The Eves Power Bank charges smartphones and tablets
quickly and without mains power. Available in lime green or pearl white
and weighing 80g, it even works on products not emblazoned with an
apple. $54.95, navycrockett.com.au.

14. Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by brother-sister team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear. The Serengeti Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15 range, is available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au.
14. Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by
brother-sister team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear.
The Serengeti Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15
range, is available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au. 

12. Celebrate the season with your little dears, wrapped in a
Cuddledeer toddler towel. Made by British brand Cuddledry, they are a
pesticide-free, cotton-bamboo blend, which means they’re extremely
absorbent and quick drying.  Super festive, their decorations include a
spotty back, antlers and a red nose. $89.95, thestorknest.com.au.

13. Trust
Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel publisher’s
range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway water
bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use. Available
in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95, travelgoods.com.

14.
Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by brother-sister
team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear. The Serengeti
Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15 range, is
available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au.

17. Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small start-up Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon, decorated with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the developing world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes hidden pockets for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at the back. $89.95, rushfaster.com.au.
17. Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small
start-up Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon,
decorated with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the
developing world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes
hidden pockets for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at
the back. $89.95, rushfaster.com.au. 

15. Channel your inner Hansel & Gretel and leave “digital
breadcrumbs” when you’re in the woods, with the hand-held Magellan
eXplorist 610 walking GPS. It includes a camera, compass, topographical
maps with features such as campgrounds, and lets you record your journey
en route, so you can always find your way home, even without a GPS
signal. $479, magellangps.com.au.

16.
If you can’t get to New Caledonia, or have fond memories of a visit,
keep the love going with these bathers by Australian designers We Are
Handsome, who were inspired by the island nation’s blue lagoons and
tropical greenery.  One-piece, $225, string bikini, $165, wearehandsome.com.

17.
Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small start-up
Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon, decorated
with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the developing
world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes hidden pockets
for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at the back. $89.95,
rushfaster.com.au.

23. It's time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally Phillips' Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the Montenegro print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way stretch silk, the travelling girl's best friend. Don't pack the iron. Also available in black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.
23. It’s time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally
Phillips’ Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the
Montenegro print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way
stretch silk, the travelling girl’s best friend. Don’t pack the iron.
Also available in black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.  

18. Team your resort wear with these Devonshire sunglasses
from British designer Paul Smith. Fresh from his new Resort 2015
lookbook, there’s a vintage take on the frames, which come in five
colourways including the Stripe + Brown, also available as an optical
frame. $300, 1800 034 217.

19. When work catches you
without a desk, the Logitech Keys-to-Go portable keyboard packs light,
at just 180g, and will wear coffee or sunscreen with ease. Compatible
with all iPads and iPhones, tuck it into your pocket and go. Available
in black, red and bright teal, it measures 242mm x137mm x 6mm. $79.95, Logitech.com.

20.
Waterbabies, alert! LifeProof nuud cases turn iPhones and Samsung
Galaxy handsets into an underwater video camera, without bulky housing,
letting you use the touch screen as usual. Bonus points for being shock,
snow and dirt-proof to US military standards. iPhone 6 and 6+ nuud
cases coming soon. From $79.95, lifeproof.com.

25. If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.
25. If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey
Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works
with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even
head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it
from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the
wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.  

21. Celebrating Christmas far from home? Bring the scent of
the season with you with this new, limited-edition Christmas candle by
Palm Beach Collection. Infused with citrus peel and cedar, the soy-based
wax candle will transport you back to the homeland in a flicker,
offering 80 hours free from homesickness. $41.95, palmbeachcollection.com.au.

22.
Sneak away with this sweet overnighter from Mrs Darcy. With a cotton
outer and gold zip, it’s 57cm long and the shoulder strap lets you
travel with gay abandon. Love the print? Team with matching robe and
slippers. Indigo blues overnight bag, $109.95, adaanddarcy.com.au.

23. It’s
time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally Phillips’
Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the Montenegro
print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way stretch silk, the
travelling girl’s best friend. Don’t pack the iron. Also available in
black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.

Panamas are on a roll.
Panamas are on a roll. 

24. Nothing says “holiday” better than a jaunty Panama hat,
and this rollable version, made from the hat’s traditional fibre,
Ecuadorean Toquilla leaves, bounces back into shape no matter how many
old-school guidebooks have been placed on top of it. Available in M, L
and XL, $129, betterbrands.com.au.

25.
If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey
Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works
with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even
head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it
from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the
wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.


Holiday at home in Sydney: travel news

HOTEL
Holiday at home
Staycations – holidays in your home town – are the thing to do right now. Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks is rolling out its new
premium hotel rooms and club lounge following an $8 million makeover. The
largest of the 90 Horizon Club rooms and suites is the two-bedroom,
242-square-meter royal suite, which includes butler and grand piano, from $4895
a night. Those staying in the Horizon rooms should make tracks to the Horizon Club Lounge,
opening December 8. The four-storey atrium looks out to our best-loved icons; the
harbour, the Bridge and the Opera House. Horizon club rooms start from $400 a night, which includes private
check-in, breakfast, afternoon tea, canapés and cocktails. If you’re not
checking in, head up to the Blu Bar on level 36 for the best water views in town.
Se shangri-la.com.
TECH
Get-around sound
Pack the party in your pocket with the MiniJamBox from US
wearable technology company Jawbone. Using Bluetooth, pair the petite speaker and
speakerphone with any phone, laptop iPod or tablet in a 10-meter radius,
without cumbersome cables. 
No Bluetooth? Hook up with a simple headphone jack.
A full charge takes 2.5 hours, but then gives you up to 10 hours’ sound, be it
your favourite playlist, movies or phone calls. Weighing in at a lightweight 255g
and 25x15cm, the MiniJamBox travels lightly and comes in nine colours, with
five different designs pressed into the aluminum shell and is compatible with both
Android and iOS platforms. The Mini Jambox costs $179.95. See jawbone.com.
GEAR
Well knotted in
Istanbul style
Canny travellers know that scarves are the easiest way to
transform your travel wardrobe from drab to fab, and the new scarf from the St
Regis hotel group is fabulous, indeed. Designed by Michelle Obama’s go-to
man, the Taiwanese-Canadian designer Jason Wu, this limited edition collection
is inspired by Istanbul, now the hottest city on the planet. The 100 per
cent silk scarf comes in three colourways, blue, beige and Wu’s signature grey.
The scarf has been released just ahead of the opening of the new St Regis
Istanbul in February 2015, an 118-room hotel is set in Nişantaşi, with views
over the Bosphorus. The Grand Tourista Scarf costs US$195. See stregis.com/boutique
or jasonwustudio.com.
The Royal Opera House at night ©Stephen McLaren
COMPETITION
Live London large
Do London in style with afternoon tea at Lord’s Cricket
Ground with butler Carson from Downton Abbey (but you can call him Jim
Carter), a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House with ballerina Darcey
Bussell, a wander through the Science Museum with Professor
Stephen Hawking or Michelin-starred meal by chef Jason Atherton at happening
Pollen Street Social. London is searching the world for a Guest of Honour to
share these experiences with celebrity guides. Hurry, you’ve
got until December 9 to enter the search for London’s Official Guest of Honour.
See visitlondon.com/guest.
CRUISE
Easy festive time
If this
Christmas is already a write-off, start planning a serene escape for 2015 with
a Christmas river cruise through Europe’s most festive towns. APT’s new
brochure offers winter sailings in Canada and Europe, including a 10-day Christmas Time Cruise
from Prague to Budapest. The itinerary includes the world’s
largest Christmas market in Nuremberg, the Old Kornmarkt Christmas market in
medieval Regensburg and Vienna, which is not shy of a bauble or two. There are
five departures in November, when the Christmas markets are already up and
running, and eight in December. Book cruises departing December 17 or December
21 if planning to spend Christmas Day on the ship. The fleet will include the
new AmaSonata, launched this year, and its sister ship the AmaPrima, launched
in 2013. The 10-day cruise costs from $4545 a person, twin share, includes two
nights in Prague and eight days on board. 
Call 1300
196 420, see aptouring.com.au.  

 

KIDS
Little Luggage
Your
kids will be the smartest travellers in the land with these hard-shell
luggage sets. The lightweight wheeled suitcase has elastic straps inside
to hold gear and a zip pouch for games and books and measures 41cm x
29cm. The hard-shell backpack has adjustable straps and a divider, and
stacks onto the suitcase to be wheeled together. And if your travelling
tot tires, the suitcase handle extends to adult height – lucky you!
Designed in Australia, there are 12 themes including the dinosaur and
newest release, the ballerina. The two-piece set costs $129.95. Call
1300 746 722, see bobbleart.com.au

 

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

The sky’s the limit in Sydney: travel news

NEWS

The
sky’s the limit
Forget
jostling for camera space out a bus window, Australia’s first glass-roof
coaches are now on the road with AAT Kings
launching two new buses. The glass-roofed coaches give a panoramic view of Sydney and the Blue Mountains. The coachline’s
Sydney Day Tours
route also crosses the Sydney Harbour Bridge. AAT Kings has also recently linked up with some of Australia’s most
iconic experiences, from a train journey on the Indian Pacific to a six-day
walk through Tasmania’s Bay of Fires through Great Walks of Australia, as part
of its new Australia brochure. The half-day Bondi Beach & Sydney Sights
tour costs from $59 adults, $30 children. Phone 1300 228 546,
see aatkings.com.

AIRLINE
Take a spa on board
Australia’s spa
culture gets a sky-high promotions boost when Qantas packs ASPAR spa products
in its new Kate Spade and Jack Spade inflight amenity kits. The new kits are
available initially for business-class passengers on A380 services between
Australia, London, Dubai, LA and Dallas, and include an ultra-hydrating face moisturiser and vanilla & orange lip moisturiser to help counteract skin
dehydration while airborne. If you’re not in the air, you can find Aurora Spas
in the Gold Coast’s Palazzo Versace and The Prince hotel in Melbourne and, since
June this year, also in the First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne. ASPAR
products are paraben and SLS free, and are not tested on animals. See aurorasparetreat.com.au and qantas.com.au.

GEAR
In bed with the
artist
Take Australian artist John Olsen to bed (metaphorically, of course) with these new
pyjamas from his namesake art hotel, The Olsen, in Melbourne’s South Yarra. The
limited-edition, 100 percent cotton pyjamas by Australian designers Masini & Chern are emblazoned
with Olsen’s ‘Jumping Frog’ motif, and are the heroes of a new range of
lifestyle goods by the Art Series hotel group.

Each of the six art hotels will
have its signature products, which you can snap up during your stay, or, on its
new online shop, Artefact, which launches later this month. One thing’s for
sure: there’ll be no blushing if you get caught in a hotel corridor in this
sleepwear. Cost $190 for the set or $80 for the shorts. See artserieshotels.com.au.

KIDS

Building a perfect cruise
Lego just got a whole lot more mobile with new playrooms on
all 12 ships in the MSC Cruises fleet. In a bid to woo cruising families, the
new Lego rooms, aimed at kids up to 12 years, come on board this month. The MSC
Orchestra will be the first of the fleet to arrive in Australia from Dubai on
her maiden voyage on February 21. The Renaissance ships have separate four
separate kids’ clubs, from the Baby class for under-threes up to the Teens, from
15 to 17 years. The Lego upgrades are part of a E200m renovation program across
the entire fleet. Phone 1300 028502, see msccruises.com.au.

GEAR

Modern retro

If you can’t bring yourself to lug around a chunky DSLR,
but are frustrated by the limits of most compact cameras, Fujifilm’s new X100T aims
to bridge the gap. Don’t be fooled by its retro styling, the 16MP camera has a
fixed 35mm-equivalent, f/2 lens that can snap a 3×2-meter jpeg for those
billboard statements and the world’s first electronic rangefinder. It also
shoots RAW files, has a stealth-mode silent shutter, lets you change the
aperture by a third (rather than a full stop), focuses manually or with
high-speed auto-focus and has a large, 3-inch monitor for easy viewing. It can
produce full HD video, has wi-fi and, in an of-the-moment quirk, can apply
filters to achieve that 70s look, for those who think they were born too late. Available
in black or silver and weighing 440g, the X100T is available this month, costs RRP
$1749. See fujifilm.com.au.

FOOD

Worldly food wisdom
Maeve O’Mara shares the wisdom of the world’s kitchens in
her fourth cookbook in the SBS TV Food Safari series, Complete Food Safari:
delicious adventures through 44 cuisines. The book will teach you the tricks of
the perfect Kabuli pulao from Afghanistan to Danish gravat lax or crowd-pleasing
salt and pepper squid, as China sees it.

Each country has an explanation of its
food culture, a fascinating array of home cooks and a breakout of essential
flavours, from humble Clive of India curry powder (thank you, Broome), to
Brazil’s malagueta chillies and Syria’s seven-spice mix, baharat, used in over
400 recipes. Costs $59.95, out now. See hardiegrant.com.au.


Poh spice, hidden Indonesia and hotfooting it: travel news

The phinisi Alila Purnama explores hidden Indonesia.

CRUISE
Remote islands of Indonesia

Explore the rarely visited waters of West Papua on a truly luxurious sailing trip aboard the Alila Purnama. The five-star, two-masted Indonesian ship, or phinisi, sleeps just 10 guests and is owned by the Indonesian luxury hotel group Alila. The journey begins another world away, in teeming, buzzy Jakarta, before sailing through the remote Raja Ampat (Four Kings) archipelago, around 1500 islands in the Halmahera Sea. Discover golden beaches, lush jungles, expansive coral gardens and sea  life, framed by wild, beautiful scenery rarely seen by even the most intrepid adventurers. The seven-day journey departs once a month until March 2015 and costs from $14,600 a cabin (sleeps two). See alilapurnama.com.

Poh spice

AIRLINE
Poh spices it up
Taste Malaysia from the hands of one of Australia’s best-loved cooking sensations, Poh Ling Yeow, now the newest ambassador for Malaysian Airlines. The accomplished, Malaysian-born TV cook, author and artist will present her Nyonya chicken curry to economy and business class passengers on any of the 81 flights departing Australia and New Zealand to Kuala Lumpur each week. The dish features on the airline’s menus for three months from December 1. “Nyonya Chicken is such a definitive Malaysian dish and definite crowd pleaser,” says Poh, of the airline’s new signature dish. See malaysianairlines.com.

GEAR
Get off on the right foot
You know the old conundrum: pack bulky/daggy runners or find yourself jogging in unsupported ballet flats? Travel stylishly, yet still be ready to leap into a fun run at a moment’s notice with the ELLiE shoe, a hybrid fashion sneaker that is good for your sole and keeps you light on your toes all day long. Designed by Brisbane-based podiatrist Caroline McCulloch, the lace-up ELLiE has a leather upper and lower, a rubber sole, thermoplastic heel and multi-fit inserts that customise your shoe to your foot. Available in sand and black, it’s designed for the traveller who spends one day traipsing cobblestones streets and the next pacing a walkingtrail . Costs $199.95. See frankie4.com.au.

FOOD
From the kitchens in the heart of Italy

She’s not a chef, she’s not a trained cook, Silvia Collaca says she’s just Italian. But the very modest
Colloca is backed by a family of food lovers to produce her second cookbook, ‘Made in Italy’, which is released on November 11. Drawing from her homeland in Marche, Abruzzo and Molise, she shares
her family’s traditional recipes such as homemade spaghetti with stuffed mussels from Abruzzo,
while Marche yields a simple lemon-and-ricotta ring cake, ideal for dunking. Colloca is no stranger to
the spotlight: she is a trained opera singer and actress, is married to actor Richard Roxburgh and her
first television series, ‘Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca’, airs on SBS ONE on November 27. The
recipes and musings are rounded out with photography of beautiful scenery and equally beautiful
food by Carla Coulson and Chris Chen. Cost $49.99. See penguingroup.com.au.

KIDS
Bear north for a koala cluster

Hello Koalas sculpture trail, North Macquarie

Explore Port Macquarie and the surrounding hinterland with a koala as your guide – well, actually 50 koalas. The new Hello Koalas sculpture trail comprises 50 hand-painted, meter-high fibreglass koalas dotted around the region, and celebrates Port’s status as the koala capital of Australia. Visit the world’s only koala hospital, signposted by a sculpture painted by singer John Williamson and drop in on a few real, live koalas at Billabong Zoo, marked by a koala painted by artist “Shiner” Bruce Whitaker. Plans are afoot for a three-meter high Big Koala to add to Australia’s love of all things supersized, from prawns to pineapples. The trail runs until December 2015. To download a touring map, see hellokoalas.com.

TECH
It’s a wrap

Take control of your tangled jungle of cables and whip them into knot-free submission with the outrageously efficient cord wrap from Los Angeles designers This is Ground. This simple leather pouch will untangle your life as well as your headphone and usb cables, with a side pocket for stashing slimline adaptors or ear buds. Available in navy, black, tan and coral, the Ground Cordito cord wrap costs $59.95. See rushfaster.com.au.

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


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.

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