Glasgow, Scotland: an expat’s life

Sydney music administrator Mikaela Atkins-Blake moved to Scotland…and fell in love with a piper. A cliche, she freely admits, but she now calls Glasgow home. This week, she is the Expert Expat in my weekly column in the Traveller section in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers.

Click here for Mikaela’s tips on where to eat and what to do in her adopted hometown.

 

Behold Germany’s answer to the Sydney Opera House

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

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


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

Gone drovin’ and hanging loose: Takeoff travel news

ADVENTURE

Gone
drovin’

Turn your horse’s head to the west on a new droving experience in the
Riverina. There are just 20 places available on the new Long Paddock Cattle
Drive, which sees you droving a mob of cattle along one of Australia’s iconic
stock routes that’s still in use today. There’ll be plenty of big hats, billy
tea and bulldust, but there’s also a ready-made camp to return to each night
(with stretcher beds!) at Wanganella Creek Camp. Here, local Riverina produce is showcased at
each meal, hot showers and horse wranglers on hand to help each rider, from
beginners to seasoned hackers. The first two rides will take place from May 1-3
and May 8-10. Riders need to be 18 years and over, costs $2500 a person. See thelongpaddock.com.au/cattle-drive.


TECH
Taking care of
YourSelfie

Unfortunately for the anti-selfie-stick brigade, modern travel
is inextricably linked to technology, with split-second social media replacing
more genteel, though less timely postcards. Learn how to digitally unwind with
tech mistress Randi Zuckerberg and Celebrity Cruises. Zuckerberg is
editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, sister to Facebook inventor Mark, and the
social medium’s former  director of
market development and spokesperson. The year-long “Take Care of
YourSelfie” campaign helps travellers navigate the delicate tech-travel
balance, surely aided by cruise ships’ traditionally steep internet charges and
limited access. But stop envisaging a bunch of rabid geeks on bandwidth withdrawal:
unplug with spa and health treatments onboard Celebrity’s 11 ships at the
Canyon Ranch SpaClub, including the InstaGlow detox ritual, fACEial Time
facial, seaweed peat wrAPP and the Texitcure manicure. Phone 1800 754 500, see celebritycruises.com.au.

GEAR
Wear your Aussie
heart on your sleeve
Take a little piece of home on your travels abroad with
this chunky eco bracelet made from Tasmanian timbers such as huon pine, myrtle
and sassafras. The timber offcuts have been polished into beads and are offset
with Tagua seeds from South American rainforests, which are collected by women
in impoverished rural communities. The jewellery is available several
colourways, and each unique piece is made by Tamika Bannister of Spotted Quoll
studio in Launceston, Tasmania. Melbourne online retailer BitsOfAustralia ships
free within Australia for purchases over $30, and $15 internationally. Spotted
Quoll eco bracelets cost $45, eco necklaces also available, $55. See bitsofaustralia.com.au.

KIDS
Hang loose in
Sydney
The school holidays are over, but Taronga Zoo makes it
easy to escape into the wilderness with its new Wild Ropes adventure. The
treetop rope course crosses suspension bridges, zip lines and rope climbs.
Happily, the ropes don’t hang over lions’ dens: you’ll be dangling over
herbivores, either Australian native animals including kangaroos and koalas or
its wetlands aviary, during the 90-minute experience, with views to our own Sydney
Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Open seven days a week, Wild Ropes costs
$35/adults, $30 children 10-17 years (minimum 1.4m tall) or $69/$45 with
Taronga Zoo entry. See taronga.org.au/wildropes.
AIRLINE
Aussies step aboard
for Hong Kong
Two Australian natural skincare brands get a sky-high
promotion when they are included in Cathay Pacific and Dragonair’s new first
and business class amenity kits. Lucky first-class passengers can now slather
on Aesop hand cream and lip balm, presented in stackable cases also by Aesop,
while business class flyers will receive a perennial Asian favourite, South
Australia’s Jurlique, whose hand, lip and day care creams are packed in a case
by hip Hong Kong bag manufacturer Seventy Eight Percent. In May, the airline
will also reopen its premium airline lounge, The Pier in Hong Kong airport,
following a redesign by British design icon Ilse Crawford’s Studioilse. Word is
that instead of an open space, it will feel more like ‘a luxurious apartment’. Cathay
Pacific launches its Hong Kong-Zurich route on March 29 and Hong Kong-Boston on
May 2, and this month adds additional seats on its Sydney-Hong Kong route when
it deploys its larger Boeing 777-300ERs on the daily service. See
cathaypacific.com.
MUSIC
I’m with the band
The Australian Chamber Choir is hitting the road on its
fifth European tour, and this time, it’s asking its friends along. Yeah, you’re
with the band. Departing on June 25, you’ll enjoy the sights of Berlin,
Copenhagen, Hamburg and Sweden’s Ystad, as well as discovering the sights and sounds
of Europe’s medieval villages. There are
choir performances in 15th-century churches, Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial
Church and at Denmark’s Sorø International Music Festival, as well as traditional
sightseeing highlights such as a visit to Beethoven’s birthplace, in Bonn. The 15-day
tour stays in four-star hotels including a converted monastery in Bavaria, and
includes coach transport, guides, admission to all the concerts and a
(non-compulsory) ‘Friends Choir’, for those who want to sing along. The Friends
Tour of Europe 2015 costs $6950 a person, twin share, excluding flights. See
auschoir.org.

 

Takeoff travel news is edited by Belinda Jackson and published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper each week. 

Getting snappy in the Arctic, trans-Australian training: Takeoff travel news

It’s been extremely quiet on the blog front, so excuse me while I drag the last couple of Takeoff columns up online. In particular, this photography competition, which will win you a $10,000 polar adventure, closes soon. So make it snappy!

Cold snaps

If ice is the spice of your life, enter Aurora
Expeditions’ new Facebook photography competition as the adventure company hunts
for its next Official Arctic Photographer. Open to all comers, from phone
snappers to professional photographers, the winner will sail from Scotland to
Spitsbergen spotting great whales and polar bears, massive icebergs and wild
landforms on a 14-day adventure. The prize includes airfares, an expedition
cruise and all expenses paid, worth $10,000. To enter, ‘like’ Aurora
Expeditions’ Facebook page, add your best travel photo and write 50 words  on why you should become the official Arctic
photographer. Entries close March 3. See facebook.com/auroraex.

GEAR 
Pack for
adventure

Sometimes, hard-shell suitcases just won’t cut it when
you’re strapped for space: such as when you’re boating or taking a light plane. Hit
the road with Australian company Paklite, whose new Escape rolling duffle bags
are practical and sturdy, ideal for the traveller who likes to pack in plenty
of adventure. The bags come in three sizes for overnighters (1.9kg, 32l),
weekends away (2.4kg, 50l) and longer getaways (2.kg, 72l) in Spring Green,
Rust and black. Each has a lockable trolley handle and wheels, and the smaller
bags can slot over the handle of the larger case, to keep one hand free. Cost
from $159-$199. See paklite.com.au.

TRAINS

Cross country
Central Australia is on show with a new advertising
campaign for the cross-continent trains The Ghan, the Indian Pacific and The
Overland, which links Adelaide and Melbourne. The campaign, ‘Journey Beyond,’
took a year to create and urges travellers to explore some of Australia’s most
evocative and remote landscapes, such as Coober Pedy in South Australia and the
Northern Territory’s Katherine Gorge. “We welcome you to step off the train in the middle of
nowhere to witness an Outback sunrise,” says Steve Kernaghan of Great Southern
Rail. “You can dig for opals, take a river cruise, linger over a long lunch,
board a scenic flight to Uluru.” Current specials include saving up to $992 on
an eight-day Wildman Kakadu Adventure package or a Perth and Margaret River
package on its all-inclusive Gold Service. Book by February 28 for travel from
May 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016. To watch the new TV advertisment, see http://youtu.be/57ZjnxL5eUI, greatsouthernrail.com.au.

WILDLIFE

Songs of the ocean
If you’ve swum with sharks, tuna or seals, it’s time to
play with the big boys, whales, on the first sing-and-swim tour in Tonga. This
tour is the first of its kind to combine swimming with humpback whales and
Tonga’s singing culture. Led by Sydney choir director Stuart Davis, who has
conducted singing tours to Cuba, Morocco and Spain, the 12-day adventure
includes a traditional Tongan song workshop, beach feast, listening and joining
village church choirs as well as five days in the water with the singing
whales. “Their song is ancient and resounds through all your senses,” says
Stuart. “If you are above them, you can experience the sound vibrating through
your body – it’s truly unforgettable. And even the male humpbacks sing.” The tour departs September 9-22 and costs
$3108, twin share, which includes 12 nights’ accommodation. Budget around $1000
for airfares: Virgin Airlines flies direct from Sydney to the Tongan capital,
Nuku’alofa. Contact Stuart Davis on 0403 869 405, singup@optusnet.com.au.
AIRLINE
Kits that means
business
Qantas has brought Australian luxury leathergoods
designer Oroton on board with a collaboration on its new business class
inflight amenity kit. Available only on Qantas flights to Asia, the pro-Australian kits are packed with Aurora Spa ASPAR
toiletries and Qantas pyjamas by Peter Morrissey,
emblazoned with the airline’s logo. Oroton, which has been creating
envy-inducing handbags since 1938, designed the limited edition Business Sleep
Collection kit to help celebrate Qantas’ new A330 business suites. 
These were designed by another key Australian designer, Marc Newson. If your budget hasn’t
stretched up a class, economy passengers travelling on the
refurbished A330s also get broader seats with
power, 11-inch screens and, as across the rest of its aircraft, larger
meals with more dining choices. The A330 aircraft refits are being undertaken
by more than 200 staff in Qantas’ Brisbane hangar and are expected to be
complete by end 2016. Qantas also recently announced it will conduct one-off
flights from Sydney to Istanbul via Perth for the ANZAC centenary
commemorations at Gallipoli. Flights depart April 21, returning April 28. See qantas.com.au.  

TECH
Austria
shells out
If Vienna isn’t within your reach right now, cheat and
see the best of the city here in Sydney, or online. On February 4, the Sydney
Opera House will host a classic Viennese tradition,  a free public concert. Conducted by Ola Rudner
and featuring soprano  Elisabeth Flechl,
the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will play the Greatest Hits from Vienna, with
works by  Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven and
Schubert. During the second half of the concert, our opera house’s sails will
be transformed by scenes of Vienna and artworks such as Gustav Klimt’s The Tree of Life. Watch the concert with
ticketed seats inside, enjoy the the free concert from a public viewing area at
Campbells Cove, near Circular Quay station, or watch it live online from 8.30-10.15pm,
at visions.vienna.info. Upload and tag your photos with #VisionsOfVienna to
enter a competition to win a week in Vienna, with flights by Emirates Airline.

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

Travel deals: the Playford Adelaide

The Playford Adelaide.

It’s all sweet, chic and boutique this week, with Adelaide’s boutique hotel The Playford on show, Melbourne’s Art Series hotels on offer and a ‘raid the minibar’ deal while in New York. 

Otherwise, strap on your fringed white playsuits and head to the Deep South to celebrate the birthday of the coolest octogenarian Elvis Presley (if he’s still with us), in this week’s Sun-Herald travel deals.

GO NOW
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
The Playford Adelaide is now in the boutique MGallery
Collection and is celebrating with a City Getaway package. Get a free
upgrade to a superior deluxe guestroom and $50 hotel credit for food and
drinks. From $175 a night, (08) 8213 8888, theplayford.com.au.

CANADA
Book a Rocky Mountaineer holiday of six nights or more and
get a free hotel night in Vancouver or Seattle until July 31. The
eight-day Journey Through the Clouds Discovery Drive, with car rental
and two days in SilverLeaf class, costs from $3671 a person. rockymountaineer.com.

GO SOONER

QUEENSLAND
Save 30 per cent on four-night stays at Piermonde Apartments’
two-bed apartments, by Cairns harbour. The deal includes use of a
rooftop sundeck and barbecue area. From $201 a night until June 30. (07)
4042 6500, piermondeapartments.com.au.
USA

It is an open invitation to go crazy on the mini-bar at the newly
renovated Loews Regency Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Pay an extra $30 and
“milk the mini-bar”, from champagne to gummy bears, on two-night stays
until August 31. From $499 a night, loewshotels.com.

The Cullen, one of the Art Series hotels, Melbourne.

GO LATER
VICTORIA
Don’t pay for hours you don’t use. Melbourne’s Art Series
hotels let you check in between 2pm and 6pm, and check out 24 hours
later. Until December 31, Saturday nights only. From $179. 1800 278 468,
artserieshotels.com.au.
JAPAN
It is half-price and seven minutes from the mountaintop at
the five-star Hilton Niseko Village. Stay for seven nights and get
airport transfers and a five-day multi-resort lift pass. Book by June
30, travel January 20-February 22. From $1550 a person, twin share.
Phone 1300 457 843, see ski-resorts-japan.com.

Tour watch:
Rock & soul

If you don’t believe he’s dead, then Elvis should be in the
building for the celebration of his 80th birthday on January 8, 2015.
The Elvis Birthday tour travels from LA down to Studio B in Nashville,
where the King recorded many hits (and you can also hit the mic), and
on to Memphis and his birthplace in a wooden shed in Tupelo,
Mississippi. Take a candlelit vigil at Graceland and visit Sun Studios,
where he was discovered in 1954. Departs January 2, 2015. From $6990 a
person. 1300 884 891, eliteset.com.au.

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

Do Peru with divas or Prague on a pittance: Travel deals & kids on the road, August 11 2013

African drumming for families at the Darebin
Music Feast, Sept 18-29, musicfeast.com.au

Forget play doh, get the kids to shake it with an African drumming session this school holidays. Otherwise, hit Perth with a budget, Peru with a bunch of divas or find a bargain in Prague’s historic old town in this week’s domestic and international travel deals.

GO NOW: WESTERN
AUSTRALIA, PERTH
Save on stays in a four-star self-contained
studio apartment at All Suites Perth, with midday
checkout and free wifi included on two-night stays Friday to Sunday until early
December. Normally $300, costs $256, two nights, quote “Studio Stay 2
Save 20%”. 1300 88 7979, wotif.com/hotelW4628.
GO SOONER: PERU
& ARGENTINA
Get a five-star stay and half-day city tour of Lima when
you book a 14-night tour of Peru & Argentina by August 30. The group will cover Macchu Pichu, fabulous Buenos Aires and Mendoza.
Departs 10 November, quote ‘SHPERU’, $7699, travellingdivas.com.au.
Staré Město: Prague’s evocative old town.

GO LATER: CZECH
REPUBLIC

Stay four nights, pay for three in a range of Prague
hotels from November 1 until December 28  including the four-star Hotel Leonardo, from $50 a night with breakfast. 1300 363
554, beyondtravel.com.au.
KIDS
Let your little musos get their groove on at the Darebin
Music Feast, in Melbourne’s inner-north in the upcoming school holidays,
18-29 September. Expect pop-up performances spaces, CD launches and shows by
young artists including Miss Eileen and Yorque, African drumming workshops and
family go-go dance classes. Free (some require bookings), musicfeast.com.au

Shop LA, shake what your mama gave you in Cuba, luxe up on Orpheus: travel deals April 28, 2013

Orpheus Island,Queensland

Shop it up in LA, hit Splendour in the Grass, shake what your mama gave you in Cuba… or just lie down, in style, on Queensland’s luxe Orpheus Island. 

VICTORIA
It’s baby love all round at the Halls Gap Zoo, with the
arrival of Samari the giraffe. Get in on the ogling action, staying three
nights in a two-bedroom cottage at the BIG4 Grampians Parkgate resort and
they’ll include a family pass to the zoo. Resort facilities include playgrounds
with jumping pillows for the kids, tennis courts, beach volleyball and a heated
outdoor pool. Stay midweek and they’ll slice $175 off the normal price. Costs
from $400, three nights. 1800 810 781, parkgateresort.com.au.  
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Immerse yourself in bubbles in Perth: soak in them, and
drink them with the ‘Double Bubble’ package at Somerset St Georges Terrace
Perth, in the centre of the city. Stay one night in a premier spa studio
residence and they’ll include a spa pack, bottle of sparkling, breakfast and
1pm check-out, worth around $200. Available until December 31. Costs from $305
a couple. 1800 766 377, www.somerset.com.au.
NSW
If festival camping makes your skin crawl, book a
campervan for this year’s Splendour in the Grass (July 26-28,
splendourinthegrass.com) Save up to $180 as Britz is waiving its one-way fees
when you pick up your van at Ballina or Brisbane then drop off at any other
Australian location. The deal also includes a Britz bonus pack with insurance
and outdoor furniture for picnics on the road trip home. Valid for travel
between July 24-29, book by July 24 and quote ‘splendrinc’. Costs from $764,
four-days in a HiTop, sleeps 3. 1800 331 454, britz.com.au
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Tanonga Luxury eco lodge, South Australia
Oyster
aficionados know and love the Eyre Peninsula, with its Coffin Bay oysters,
pristine waters and miles of untouched nature. Keep it all beautiful by staying
at the chic, self-contained Tanonga Luxury eco lodges, 20 minutes from Port
Lincoln, which sleep four and include a Japanese-style bath, entertainment
system and log fires. The kitchen is stocked with breakfast essentials and
local olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and meals can be delivered to your door
by a local chef. Save 20 percent on stays
until October 10, minimum two-night stay. Costs from $500, two nights.
travel.com.au.
QUEENSLAND
Cast
yourself away to the beautiful solitude of Orpheus Island, off the coast of
Townsville. There’s no privation on this tiny island: the rate includes all
gourmet meals by talented chef Arie Prabowo, regional wines and beers,
snorkeling, fishing and cruises and one signature Dining with the Tides experience.
Stay four nights, pay for just three, saving up to $2800 when staying in a
beachfront villa until July 31, and quote ‘paystay’. The island can now be
reached by helicopter from Cairns as well as Townsville (additional charge). Costs
from $4200, four nights in a beachfront room. (07)
4777 7377, orpheus.com.au.
THAILAND
There’s a lot of luxe on Koh Samui, and hovering at the
top is Baan Ling Noi villa, on the millionaire’s row at Bophut Hills, 15
minutes from the island’s airport. The villa sleeps eight in four double
bedrooms, and includes an infinity pool, tropical landscaping, rainforest
showers and life-in staff. Normally $385 a night, enjoy a low-season rate until
June 30 that works out about $33 a night, a person. Costs from $327 a night. baan-ling-noi.com.
The fabulousness of Monaco
MONACO
Yachts, casinos, high flying and fabulous architecture:
join the international jet set of the French Riviera, but without the big bucks
required. The ‘Passport to Monte-Carlo’ gets you three nights at the three-star
Columbus Monte-Carlo, a city tour, tickets to Monaco’s major museums and
attractions and a free helicopter transfer between Monaco and Nice (subject to
dates). Costs from $549 a person, three nights, twin share. French Travel
Connection 1300 858 304, frenchtravel.com.au.
CUBA
Shake what your mama gave you on a new eight-day tour through Cuba. Eat in Cuba’s
top restaurant and on a farmer’s plantation, boat through mangroves to visit a
stilted Taino Indian village and learn to drink rum and sugar cane juice
cocktails in UNESCO-listed Trinidad. Normally $2200, save $285 on the new Pearl
of the Caribbean tour, which departures every Thursday from May to October.
Book 30 days in advance until September 30. Costs from $1915 a person, twin
share. 1300 763 338, bfirsttravel.com.

Hyatt Regency Maui, Hawai’i
USA
Get exploring on the Hawaiian Islands. Hit the designer
boutiques and beach restaurants of Waikiki while staying three nights at the
Hyatt Regency Waikiki and then flip onto oasis time on the golf course and
underwater during your five-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Includes
$1500 of bonuses with inter-island and international fights, daily buffet
breakfast, children under 18 staying free and free meals for under-12s. Book by
May 15 for selected dates until December 12. Costs from $2290 a person, twin
share, eight nights. 1300 004 292, myholidaycentre.com.au/hawaii.
NEW ZEALAND
Discover the highlights of the North and South islands on
the new 18-day Essence of New Zealand coach tour, which travels from Christchurch
to Auckland. All the beauties are on the list: Milford Sound, Franz Josef
Glacia, Te Papa Museum and a Maori Hangi dinner in between.  Save up to $440 on bookings by May 24. Departs
October 17, 2013 -25 December, 2014. Costs from $3950 a person, twin share. 1300
228 546, aatkings.com.au.
The Montage, Beverly Hills.
TOURWATCH
Blinded by the fabulous shopping of
LA? Get a pro to hold your hand and steer you through the glamour of Rodeo
Drive, with the ministrations of personal stylists from Stylehaus, Macy’s and BCBG
Max Azria, and go underground to eke out the best bargains in hush-hush outlet
stores. Australian Karine Bulger is your 24/7 personal concierge and escort who
has lived and worked in LA for years, and is leading four LA Experience tours
in 2013 timed to co-incide with LA’s sales seasons. Luxury continues with five
nights at the five-star The Montage hotel in Beverly Hills, with a deserved
lunch at The Ivy. There are pre-tour consultations to tailor your trip, and
your inbox will love the ongoing discounts on your favourite products. Costs
from $3370 a person. laexperience.com.

Groovy is the new gold: vintage Ballarat a-go-go!

Nostalgic ... makeover maven Miss Lulu.
Nostalgic … makeover maven Miss Lulu. Photo: Belinda Jackson

Forget the pioneering days of the rush – instead dig the nostalgia of Ballarat’s new vintage scene, writes Belinda Jackson.
“It all started with my glasses. I always wanted cat’s-eye glasses,” says Miss Lulu. Perched on a high bar stool, her redskin margarita is as pink as her hair, which is teased into sky-high 1940s curls. Was I the only person in Ballarat who didn’t know they’re called victory rolls?
This is the swimsuit for the curvalicious. 
“Vintage just suits Ballarat,” says the self-styled 1940s pin-curl pin-up, whose glittering bolero jacket, black bustier, deep cleavage and wide skirts have the whole restaurant entranced.
Eclectic Tastes cafe, Ballarat.

Eclectic Tastes cafe, Ballarat. Photo: Belinda Jackson
Ballarat’s always had a nostalgic scent about it – the re-created gold rush town of Sovereign Hill is on the city’s outskirts and the main drag, Sturt Street, is lined with monuments to past glories, from the Boer War to Burke and Wills’s inland excursion. There’s a bandstand dedicated to Queen Alexandra (King Edward VII’s missus), squat Queen Victoria overlooks the rotundas, turrets and cenotaphs, and the old Southern Cross flag of the Eureka Stockade hangs in the beautiful art gallery. The top hotel is Craig’s Royal and the theatre is Her Majesty’s, one of the best preserved in the country.
Antiques, Goods & Chattels, Ballarat.
Antiques, Goods & Chattels, Ballarat. Photo: Belinda Jackson

But Victoria’s third-largest city has a new groove, with a rush of fresh blood bringing a 1940s-’70s vintage scene to town, spearheaded by the likes of Miss Lulu who, in three hours, will transform you from trakky-dakked slob to pert and perky ’50s pin-up girl or goth rockabilly – or perhaps your heart’s more psychobilly? With your newly set big hair, red lips and a wiggle in your walk, it’s time to hit the streets to dress the part.
First stop is a burgeoning vintage enclave on Main Road, headed by That Little Vintage Shop, a cornucopia of fox furs, fabulously wide-brimmed hats, ’60s knits and evening coats harking back to days when it took time to get dressed.
Owner Jennifer Bottomley studied fashion in ’60s London and has been running the shop for 17 years. “Y’all right there, love?” she calls out to a customer, her northern English accent weaving through the piles of clothes. Her collection dates from the 1920s, but the ’80s is quite ’20s, she says as she runs a hand over a $1000 Canadian raccoon fur, designed for pleasurable stroking.
Across the road, cute little ’50s-style cafe Cake Bakeshop sells old-fashioned paper straws, invitations and party favours for baby showers and kitchen teas while churning out the cupcakes, coffee and macarons in old-school lolly flavours.
Nearby, Antiques, Goods & Chattels suggests serious fustiness, but it’s awash with ’60s kitchenalia and garagenalia, and a carousel horse greets me on entrance. I snap up a fabulous old wooden painter’s stepladder, still authentically spattered with paint, perfect for slinging some woven Arabian saddlebags over (or for changing light bulbs).
Swimwear by My Sister Pat.

Swimwear by My Sister Pat. Photo: Simon Schluter
It’s on the next block down on Main Road that this vintage scene starts to become serious.
My Sister Pat designs and manufactures beautiful ’50s-inspired swimsuits – more like playsuits – with classic halter and tie necks and boylegs that bestow instant booty. I clamber out of my jeans and into a super-cute little blue-and-white polka dot number and, va va voom, I’m transformed into instant ’50s pool kitten. A very slim woman is in the next cubicle; you know, the type who rocks a bikini. Is it mean to note that in the same style swimsuit, she just looks … well, left wanting, to be perfectly frank? This is the ultimate swimsuit for the curvalicious.
Sifting through the racks beside me is Debbie, a rock’n’roll aficionado who’s into the Ballarat Rockers, a social rock’n’roll dance club that meets on Friday nights. She’s shopping for the perfect outfit for an American rock’n’roll holiday through Memphis, New Orleans and, of course, Las Vegas. “Usually, I make my own,” she says, “so I don’t look like everyone else.”
In an age of mass production, My Sister Pat guarantees that no more than six swimsuits are cut from the same cloth. “Except for the red-and-white polka-dot swimsuit, because everyone wants to be Marilyn,” says owner Rosemary Gilbert-Waller. “Except me. I want to be Grace Kelly,” she states, flicking the record player as Connie Francis has a little meltdown and starts to jump.
Connie, Grace, Patsy Cline, Audrey Hepburn … “It’s an era of beauty, and it hasn’t been lost,” Gilbert-Waller says of her label, which is now stocked internationally, from Cannes to Canada. What started off as a vintage shopping trip in Ballarat is fast turning into an education on being womanly and the art of feminine elegance.
“I like going to places where I fit the decor,” says the epitome of girlish glamour, Miss Lulu. The newly refurbished Mallow Bar and the cosy Babushka Bar both get the thumbs up for their retro looks, as does high tea on Sunday afternoons at Craig’s Royal Hotel, with its ’50s chairs and lounges and swish velvet curtains. Eclectic Tastes cafe has a whiff of nanna chic about it, with its knitted tea cosies and teasets, which get the edge thanks to a backdrop of red walls, Mao-pop paraphernalia and raunchy Indian film posters.
The Oceanic Lounge in Portico Wine Bar, on Ballarat’s main drag, Sturt Street, is a local favourite as it’s a regular venue for the nine-piece Ballarat Ska Orchestra. Yes, Ballarat has its own ska orchestra, belting out its signature ’60s Caribbean beats, and it also has its own roller-derby league, where six teams of rockabilly chicks hit the rinks. Expect ’70s boardshorts, kneepads and a smattering of tatts.
Vintage chicks say the new Front Bar is your best option for a drink and a little shakin’ to some ’60s soul sounds without the uni or clubbing crowds. Alternatively, if you were at a loose end on a Wednesday night, you could go go-go dancing. “I just thought, Ballarat needs this!” says Miss Daisy Amazing, a dancer who teaches an enthusiastic crowd the moves of the ’60s. And for $12, you, too, can strut out like a retro Miami groover.
To live the vintage dream completely, you’d be shopping at De’s Recycled Fashions for ’60s nylon dresses – think royal blue with gold paisley – or for vintage crockery and what some say is the town’s best coffee at Vegas and Rose, stockist for runaway sensations Trunk & Orderly’s handmade weekender and school cases.
And for seriously cool vintage fabrics, haberdashery and the cutest kids’ craft gear, The Crafty Squirrel is a must-visit. If you thought crafty equals fusty, the notion is dispelled by designer and uber-craftster Morgan Wills’s perky rockabilly ‘do, married with an apple-green cardie and a floral apron that on me would scream “frump!” but on her is just damned cool. Every Friday, she dons a vintage apron and pops a photo up on her Facebook page to a bevy of waiting fans.
“I love all that cutesy Japanese and Korean aesthetic, and French vintage,” she says, but it’s the Australian kitsch that is totally adorable; souvenir tea towels renewed and reborn into cushions that fly off the shelves. The non-sellers appear to be all from Canberra – no comment. Wills steers us down to the edgy Red Brick Gallery, where a nearby power pole, wrapped in crocheted rugs, leads the conversation naturally into “yarn bombing”, or “knit tagging” if you prefer the English term.
“Ballarat’s always been known for its antique shops,” says long-time antiques dealer Sherryn Bailey of Antiques, Goods & Chattels, “but many owners are now passing away.” In their wake comes the new guard, a wave of crafty artists and tricky-minded business girls. Sure, Ballarat still has Sovereign Hill and its gold rush attractions, but there’s life in the old town yet. It’s just life from a different era.
The writer was a guest of Ballarat Regional Tourism.

Five other things to do in Ballarat

1 Hire a bike and cruise the lovely Ballarat Botanical Gardens and Buninyong Botanic Gardens, established in the 1860s. Welcome Nugget Bike Hire, 0423 268 618, ballarat.com/ballaratonabike.
2 Well up with pride in front of the original Eureka flag at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Australia’s oldest regional art gallery. artgalleryofballarat.com.au.
3 Buy up at the farmers’ markets: Ballarat Fresh Produce Market (first Saturday of the month); Ballarat Lakeside Farmers Market (second and last Saturday); Buninyong Farmers Market (third Saturday).
4 Uncover a hotbed of talent by designers and emerging artists at the quarterly Design Exchange market — October 7, December 16, Mining Exchange, 8 Lydiard Street North, thedesignexchange.com.au.
Walk the monuments of Sturt Street: two kilometres of central gardens with bandstands, statues and fountains.

Trip notes

Getting there: Ballarat is a 75-minute drive from Melbourne. Rental cars can be hired at Tullamarine, or V/Line (vline.com.au). Fast trains operate from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Ballarat.
Staying there:  Martin Place sleeps nine at a pinch in two queen bedrooms and bunks in the kids’ room, which is fantastically kitted out with toys and books, and is also pet-friendly. From $215/night midweek, 12 Martin Street, 0429 439 448, www.montroseofballarat.com.au.
Shopping there:
De’s Recycled Fashions, 202 South Street, (03) 5332 8300.
Miss Lulu’s PinCurl Pin-Ups, 0433 207 814.
My Sister Pat, 74A Main Road, mysisterpat.com.au.
Red Brick Gallery and Emporium, 218A Skipton Street, 0402 416 097, redbrickgallery.com.au.
That Little Vintage Shop, 13 Main Road, 0425 731 639.
The Crafty Squirrel, cnr Errard and Urquhart streets, (03) 5331 4548, thecraftysquirrel.com.au.
Vegas and Rose, 96 Humffray Street North, (03) 5332 4287, vegasandrose.com.au.

Eating there:
Craig’s Royal Hotel, 10 Lydiard Street South, (03) 5331 1377, craigsroyal.com.au.
Cake Bakeshop, 30 Main Road, (03) 5333 3384, cakebakeshop.com.au.
Eclectic Tastes, 2 Burbank Street, (03) 5339 9252.

Living in the vintage scene:
Babushka Bar, 59 Humffray Street North.
The Mallow Hotel, 18-20 Skipton Street.
The Front Bar, cnr Mair and Peel streets.
Miss Daisy Amazing’s Go-Go Dancing, 14 Camp Street, 0448 314 445.
Ballarat Roller Derby Leagueballaratrollerderby.com.au.
Ballarat Ska Orchestrafacebook.com/ballaratskaorchestra.
Ballarat Rockersballaratrockers.com.

More information: Ballarat Regional Tourism, (03) 5320 5758, visitballarat.com.au.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/activity/shopping/groovy-is-the-new-gold-20120921-26aej.html#ixzz27MSQiAa0

Well I’ll be burgered. Shopping Australia Day


It’s that time again when we celebrate sunburn, sand in your swimmers and all things beetroot.

Yes I know most of you are still reeling from Christmas and New Year’s, and the first hot cross buns have already appeared in the supermarkets in preparation for Easter, which doesn’t appear till 8 April.

But in between, we still have Australia Day, on 26 January. I remember an Irish colleague marvelling at his first Australia Day barbie in rainy, wintery Dublin. “We had beetroot burgers!” he reported back to the rest of the Dublin newsroom, eyes wide with astonishment. Oh, the culinary heights. Australian theme bars the world over (most notably London’s notorious Walkabout pubs) break out the Men at Work and Ganggagang records and the cricket and tennis are on.

This year, the Aussie Day theme seems to have gone into overdrive in the homeland. Building on the 2011 Christmas must-have decoration, reindeer antlers for your car, you can now replace them with car-safe Aussie flags. Forget that American ‘respect for the flag’ thing, our flag also appears on paper plates and serviettes, swimmers and dresses, tins of beetroot, inflatable thongs, singlets, and of course, eskies and beer coolers.

Hot, or what?

You can buy raw burgers moulded in the shape of Australia (yes, Tassie is attached), or savoury biscuits in Aussie bbq meat lovers flavour. Lamingtons, those all-Australian cakes, are on special, as are ANZAC biscuits and flag-emblazoned Nutri-Grain (IronMan food).

I nearly gave the award of most useless Australia Day object to the disposable nappies emblazoned with our Union Jack and stars, but the winner is… an Australian Flag car mirror sock, free when you buy slabs of beer from a leading supermarket. Yes, car mirror socks – you know, a sock for your car’s side mirror. Total must-have.

Have a Happy Australia Day, wherever you are.

Season to stay or stray

Where do foodies, culture mavens and adventurers go to embrace or escape the cold? To read the full story, click here

Embrace:  Make like a Melburnian and don your big coat – black, naturally – for a cultural winter and no, the AFL doesn’t count. The State of Design Festival from July 20-31includes Melbourne Open House, which gives you a licence to perve at 75 of the city’s most beautiful and environmentally sustainable designs – free. The city’s best tagging, bombing, paste-ups and stencilling are seen on street art walking tours ($69 a person, melbournestreettours.com).

Otherwise, download free DIY tours of hot and hidden street art (thatsmelbourne.com.au.) or a guide to the city’s design hot spots (audiodesignmuseum.com).

The National Gallery of Victoria’s new shopfront window allows passersby to watch ‘zine artists do their thing from July 11-August 8, while the Gertrude Street Projection Festival transforms Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street into an open-air gallery with light projections cast across the streetscape (July 22-31, thegertrudeassociation.com).

Federation Square’s Atrium showcases more than 100 Victorian wines, with winemakers on hand and live jazz on Wednesdays and Thursdays from July 6-August 4 ($25, fedsquare.com/wine). For more jazz, grab a table beneath the heaters on Hardware Lane for cool tunes (Mon-Sat, from 7pm). Chill on Ice Lounge serves drinks among 30 tonnes of icy walls in its Russell Street digs until July 16, then reopens at Southbank in August with bigger ice decor.

Do your best Torvill and Dean impersonations on the ice outside at the Melbourne Museum, then work on your apres ski skills at the Winter Festival, from August 18 to September 4. Highlights include free ice skating shows, too. (winterfestival.com.au, visitvictoria.com.)

Escape
Bare all in New York’s great parks for a season of festivals, concerts and hot summer nights outdoors until September. Opera buffs flock to the Metropolitan Opera’s summer recital series, held from July 11-28 across the Five Boroughs – free (metopera.org/parks). Indie groovers make for the Village Voice’s July 16 Four Knots Festival, headlined this year by the Black Angels (free, villagevoice.com), while jazzsters take in the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival on August 27-28, also free. It’s part of the city’s massive Summerstage arts festival (summerstage.org).

Shakespeare in the Park presents Measure for Measure and All’s Well that Ends Well in Central Park (free, until July 30, shakespearein thepark.org) and Lower Manhattan’s River to River Festival celebrates public art and music along the river’s edge (free, until July 16, riverto rivernyc.com). Meantime, the Latino Cultural Festival in Queens’s Flushing Meadows is the place to go for pulsing dance, theatre and music from July 25 to August 7 (queenstheatre.org, nycgo.com).