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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
heart on your sleeve
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.
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.
for Hong Kong
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
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
Takeoff travel news is edited by Belinda Jackson and published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper each week.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
|African drumming for families at the Darebin
Music Feast, Sept 18-29, musicfeast.com.au
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.
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
hotels from November 1 until December 28 including the four-star Hotel Leonardo, from $50 a night with breakfast. 1300 363
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
|Tanonga Luxury eco lodge, South Australia|
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.|
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.
Five other things to do in Ballarat
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.