Art in Melbourne: Big guns and local heroes

David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album cover (1973)PICTURE: BRIAN DUFFY
© DUFFY ARCHIVE & THE DAVID BOWIE


Think big. Really big. Big as
Beijing, Bowie or the Great War. Yes, that big. And they’re all coming
to Melbourne for a calendar packed with blockbuster storylines,
intriguing characters and high drama galore.

  
 

The National Gallery of Victoria 
loves to steal the limelight, and
the line-up over the next six months gives it ample reason to preen a
little. Priceless Ming and Qing dynasty treasures from Beijing’s Palace
Museum, in the Forbidden City, are on display in A Golden Age of China:
Qianlong Emperor,

1736–1795 (until June 21) . 

Hot on
its heels, the riches of Russia’s Hermitage Museum are this year’s
Melbourne Winter Masterpieces coup. Fresh from St Petersburg,
Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherin the Great is a rich, lush
extravaganza of 400 works from the personal collection of the
long-ruling queen. Expect works from Rembrandt, Velasquez, Rubens and
Titian. Both are Australian exclusives and the frst time these
exhibitions have left their respective homes.

  
 

Balance all this international
action with a dose of Australiana. Tap into your inner petrolhead to
ogle the world’s fastest car back in 1971, the Chrysler Valiant Charger
E49, or enjoy a fashback to your time in a Holden Monaro or Torana.
Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and the Australian Car is a
celebration of our classic car designs, with 

23 iconic, rare and prototype
vehicles on show (until July 12) . 

It’s not all looking backward,
either. Transmission: Legacies of the Television Age explores how TV has
infuenced art and contemporary culture, and looks forward to new
technologies. It also includes a major new acquisition by Ryan Trecartin
& Lizzie Fitch (May 15 – Sept 13) . Smaller fry are also catered
for with a hyper-interactive kids’ show, Tromarama (May 23 – Oct 18, see

nvg.vic.gov.au)  . 

Like most of the world, Melbourne
remembers the 100th anniversary of the Great War but has a world-frst
exhibition of more than 350 artefacts drawn from the vast collections of
London’s Imperial War Museums. The WW1 Centenary Exhibition is now
showing at the Melbourne Museum (until October 4, see museumvictoria.com.au) . 

Melbourne’s Shrine of remembrancePICTURE: CRAIG RIDLEY

Tie it in with a visit to
the Shrine of Remembrance, which has undergone a timely $45million
renovation and now has several permanent and temporary exhibitions
focusing on Australians in war and peacekeeping roles.

  
 

If you prefer to fick your hips
during art exhibitions, catch the only Australasian showing of David
Bowie Is
. Hailing from London’s Albert & Victoria Museum, this
exhibition allows visitors to watch rare film, peruse album artwork and
admire the wildly fabulous costumes worn by Bowie as he morphs from
Brixton teen to supersonic

superstar. Showing at ACMI in Federation Square (July 16 – Nov 1, see
acmi.net.au/bowie) .

  
 

But Melbourne’s art scene is not all
of-the-scale blockbusters. Shh. Focus. And there, in the small spaces,
in the hidden doorways and the unassuming rooms, Melburnians are quietly
creating beautiful objects and thought-provoking conceptions. Find a
detailed map of the city and navigate your way into independent
galleries and artist-run initiatives across the city.

  
 

With its curved, pink wall tiles and
ornate signposting to long-dead public telephone rooms, the Degraves
Street subway
(also known as Campbell Arcade) was built to help workers
coming from Flinders Street Station skip the crowds during the 1956
Olympics. Keep an eye on the walls for the Platform Artists Group’s
regular exhibitions and performance art. Ten nip into nearby
fortyfivedownstairs for performance art and two permanent galleries (45
Flinders La, Melbourne, see fortyfivedownstairs.com)

Make time to spot the Next
Big Thing, see the latest sculpture or taste new media at Flinders Lane
Gallery
(137 Flinders La, see
flg.com.au) . Set amid some of the city’s hidden street art, the Dark Horse
Experiment artist studios are an unruly delight (110 Franklin St,
Melbourne, see darkhorseexperiment.com), while Twenty by Thirty
Gallery
is Melbourne’s smallest artist-run gallery. You’ve got to be on
your toes to spot it. Located outside Melbourne’s smallest bar, Bar
Americano, its exhibitions change on the first day of the month (20
Presgrave Place, Melbourne, of

  
Little Collins St) . 

And step out of
the city grid to anarchic Collingwood’s The Compound Interest for a
creative commune of publishers and print, fashion and lighting designers
(15-25 Keele St,
thecompoundinterest.com)

   

Blow away the Big City smoke with a
drive into the country. Turn the wheel and aim for the Mornington
Peninsula, just an hour from Melbourne’s GPO, for a seaside escapade.
For a small town, Mornington sure steals a lot of air in the art world. 

McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery

Keep your eyes peeled on the drive for three gargantuan sculptures along
the Peninsula Link freeway, commissioned by the McClelland Sculpture
Park+Gallery
, in Langwarrin.

Set on a 16-hectare block of
bushland, the gallery ofers Australia’s richest sculpture prize. Te 2015
Montalto Sculpture Prize, worth $100,000, was won by Melbourne-based
artist Matthew Harding. His award-winning sculpture, Void, is on display
with 32 other works in an outdoor exhibition (until July 19, see
mcclellandgallery.com).

   

It doesn’t stop there. Put the
unassuming Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery , just 20 minutes away,
on your must-stop list. Its modest frontage belies thoughtful curation,
with esoteric art and ethereal seascapes on show in the upcoming
exhibitions, Windows to the Sacred and Jo Scicluna’s Where We Begin (May
15 – July 12, 350 Dunns Rd, Mornington).

   
  
And what is art without wine? Taste
your way through some of the oldest vineyards in the region at the new
Crittenden Estate Wine Centre, then fnd a little villa to call you own –
at least for the night – on Crittenden’s serene grounds (25 Harrisons
Rd, Dromana, see
crittendenwines.com.au) . 

Or pull up a pew in the bistro
of a chic Red Hill jewel, Polperro Wines , with its new cellar door and
villas, complete with open fres and vineyard views (150 Red Hill Rd,
Red Hill, see
polperrowines.com.au) . Perfect for a blend of good dining and great contemplation.

  
 

Brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. 

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section. 

Summer reading: a not-very-definitive list

My first (and last) English Christmas was a shock to many senses: there was snow (albeit very light, very dirty), there were Brussels sprouts (surely only the English consider them a celebratory food) and there was television.

As our Australian marketing machines constantly tell us, our Christmases are all about the beach, cricket and low-level sunburn. So to be huddled in front of the telly watching soap omnibuses seemed a curious way to spend the festive season.

It’s not quite television, and the weather here in Melbourne has been exemplary this year: not too hot, not too cold, but I’ve come over all Northern hemisphere and am catching up on a small mountain of unread fiction, with a travel bent, of course.

Here’s a little list of recent releases from Australian authors that have made a welcome appearance on the bedside table.

The most recent of the list is by prolific South Australian author Fiona McIntosh, who I have long admired for her adult fantasy series (think Lord of the Rings fantasy, not the other type, smutsters). She has turned out a fast-paced romance set in WWI Cairo, Gallipoli and post-war London. Nightingale ticks all the boxes, with handsome men, golden women and love found and lost in traumatic times. Does the girl get her man? It’s over to you… (Penguin Books, $29.99)

Action seekers know Matthew Reilly is the man to turn to when you want to be left breathless from reading (to give you a suggestion of his pace, the Sydney writer drives DeLorean DMC-12 – the car from Back to the Future). His latest book, The Great Zoo of China is, as the title indicates, set in China and has an absolute cracker of a premise, which I just can’t tell you about. His heroine, CJ Cameron, is a tad too tough, tenacious and intelligent for wimpy me to relate to, but I could not put this book down. That was a week of lost sleep (Pan Macmillan, $39.99)

And finally (not in the picture, as it’s already been nabbed by my mum), Stateless is the second in the Heritage trilogy about the evolution of the State of Israel. Written by Alan Gold and Mike Jones, it caused a ruckus in our house with the highly controversial throw-away line that the Egyptian army is known to be cowardly. Eeep! Otherwise, Stateless races along with plenty of secret plots and dastardly tyrants from Roman-occupied Jerusalem to post-WWII Russia. The first in the trilogy is called Bloodline, I’ll be seeking it out. (Simon & Schuster Australia, $29.99)

The next on the list is Tony Park‘s The Hunter (‘A missing woman, a serial killer at large… man is the most dangerous predator of all’). I’m not that into murder as entertainment, but this book moves from South Africa to Zimbabwe and the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, which I love. And in the appendices, Park also shares travel tips from his extensive experience of travelling in Africa (Pan Macmillan, $29.99)

I hope you’re all enjoying a great summer read, or if you’re further north and not nose-in-book, the plotlines in the soaps have improved.

See you all in 2015!

Belle

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Christmas bell from Kashmir, India

This year, for the first time in many years, I’m really home for Christmas, so I unpacked all the decorations, many of which have been sitting in dusty boxes for years.

I’m not one of those people who lights up the front lawn with a carbon-blowing amount of electric Santas. And I’m terrible at sending out cards (sorry!) But my Christmas cache yielded a surprising amount of trinkets collected during my travels.

Pictured is the tiny little bell I bought in Indian Kashmir (not exactly a stronghold of Christianity, though there is a persistent rumour Jesus Christ is buried here). In a beautiful land often torn apart by war, locals do what they can to earn a living. One small firm makes these delicate decorations from paper mache, before painting and varnishing them and selling them to we few tourists.

There is also the set of happy little matryoshka dolls from the markets Andriyivskiy Uzviz in Kyiv, Ukraine (known as babushka dolls in neighbouring Russia), their sweet little faces peering out between the baubles. Heavens knows how I managed to fit them in my backpack, amongst the tent, camp cooking gear, filthy hiking socks and two changes of clothes. 

Matryoshka doll from Kyiv, Ukraine

There’s an elaborate glass Santa on a sleigh from the German Christmas markets, and a kind donation from my brother Rorie of glittering trinkets from Vienna’s many famed winter markets. Away from the Tyrolean mountain sausages and tourist kitsch in Rathausplatz, his top finds are stained-glass decorations from the Karlsplatz market. 

And finally, my most recent acquisition is a beautiful silver deer, which I bought from a seasonal waterfront shop in Bergen, Norway, where they really get into the Christmas spirit.

Wherever you find yourselves for the festive season – at home for an Aussie Christmas, on a Thai beach eating prawns or mainlining glühwein to ward off the cold in the wintery northern hemisphere – I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and 2015 brings your hearts’ desires,

Belle Jackson

Travel deals: Indonesia’s Gili islands

Flying to Fiji’s Mamanucas with the kids.

Those looking beyond Bali into the rest of Indonesia’s archipelago are finding themselves in the Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok, a two-hour fast ferry from Bali. Otherwise, we love Noos-aaah or pootling around Fiji by seaplane. 

If you’d prefer to play winter princess, check out a tour from Helsinki to St Petersburg, WWI battlefields or (dare we say it) Victoria’s Philip Island? It’s all here, in this week’s best international and domestic travel deals.
GO NOW
QUEENSLAND
Get two nights free when you book a seven-night holiday,
worth $950, at the absolute beachfront apartments at Seahaven Noosa until July
31. The 4.5-star property includes four heated pools, spa, gym and bbq. From $2375,
seven nights. (07) 5447 3422, seahavennoosa.com.au.
RUSSIA
Travel by coach and rail from Helsinki to St Petersburg
and Moscow on the nine-day Tsar Route tour and save $225. Includes transport,
accommodation in first-class hotels, breakfast and sightseeing. Available  August-September 2014. Costs $1891 a person,
twin share. 1300 668 844, eetbtravel.com.
The glamour of the Russian empire
GO SOON
VICTORIA
Take a
break on Phillip Island and get $200 of extras including dinner, wine and a
three-parks pass that includes the Penguin Parade when you stay two nights in a
studio spa room at the Ramada Resort Phillip Island. Costs $484, two nights,
until August 31. (03) 5952 8000, ramadaphillipisland.com.au.
The new Karma Reef hotel on Gili Meno, Lombok
INDONESIA
Tiny Gili Meno is one of a trio of hip isles of the coast
of Lombok, two hours by boat from Bali. The new boutique resort Karma Reef’s low-season
special runs from October 1, 2014 – March 31, 2015 (excludes Christmas).
Normally $315 a night, from $170 B&B for two. +62 370 642 340,
karmaroyalgroup.com.
GO LATER
NEW SOUTH WALES
Celebrate
spring by reconnecting with nature at the eco-accredited Paperbark Camp near
Jervis Bay, and save up to $440 throughout September and midweek
(Sunday-Thursday) in October. From $500, two nights, with gourmet breakfast,
bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddling. 1300 668 167, paperbarkcamp.com.au.
JORDAN
Discover the Roman ruins, Crusader castles and ancient
Nabataen civilisation of Petra on an 11-night tour through this beautiful
desert country. Book by September 30 and receive all entrance fees to sites
free. Departs March 30, 2015. From $4989 a person, twin share. (07) 3372
4833,  gypsiantours.com.au
KIDS
FIFO TO FIJI
Petra, Jordan
Travel is half the adventure, especially when you catch a
family fly-in, fly-out package to Fiji’s Castaway Island in the Mamanucas. The
five-night offer includes helicopter and sea plane transfers for two adults and
two kids from Nadi airport to the island. There’s also plenty of water action,
with snorkelling, a dolphin safari, sunset cruise and a ride on a banana boat
included. From $5470 for a family of four, available until March 31, 2015. +679 666 1233, castawayfiji.com
TOURWATCH
BATTLEFIELD TOUR
Follow a soldier’s footsteps on a guided tour of Europe’s
most poignant battlefields during the centenary years of WWI. The 12-day tour travels from London to Amsterdam
via France and Belgium to the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, the
battlefields of the Somme and Ypres’ Menin Gate. Highlights include the new
First World War Galleries in the Imperial War Museum in London, and lighter
moments are found in a wine tasting in Reims and dinner in a local’s home in
Amsterdam. From $3775 a person, twin share. 1300
663 043, trafalgar.com.

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

Boasters with the mostest: ultimate travel experiences

The world’s highest bar, Ozone, in the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

 Biggest, highest, most blindingly expensive. Belinda Jackson
rounds up the ultimate travel experiences, from super-luxe to just plain
boastful. 

LAND
Longest walking track

The Pacific Crest Trail runs 4264 kilometres from the US-Mexico
border to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Budget five
months to walk it entirely, or you can jump a pony, as the trail is also
open to equestrians. Yep, there are bears in there (pcta.org).

Longest train journey
The legendary Trans-Siberian generally wins this category,
with the 9289km journey from Moscow to Vladivostok via Lake Baikal
taking seven days. But as train guru the Man in Seat 61 points out (seat61.com),
the honour for the longest continual journey should go to the No. 53
Kharkiv (Ukraine)-Vladivostok route, about 9714km, another seven-day
epic.

The world’s highest train journey, on the Qinghai-Tibet railway

Highest train journey
More than 550km of the 1956km Qinghai-Tibet railway is laid
on permafrost. Every train has a doctor and enough oxygen for every
passenger, and the highest point is Tanggula Pass, at 5072m. It also
passes through the world’s highest and longest rail tunnels.

Highest bar

Drink in the views of Victoria Harbour at Ozone bar in the
Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Kowloon side. Set on level 118, it’s 468.8
metres above sea level (ritzcarlton.com).

Biggest building
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828
metres, with 124 levels. It also has the world’s fastest elevators and
highest restaurant (At.mosphere on level 122, 442m) (burjkhalifa.ae).

It holds the crown until 2018, when the 1000-metre Kingdom Tower in
Jeddah, in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, is complete. Another design by
Burj architect Adrian Smith, expect fewer nightclubs (kingdomtowerskyscraper.com).

Noma restaurant, Copenhagen

Best restaurant
Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant (noma.dk)
is back on top, bumping Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca off the perch as
the 2014 winner of the authoritative San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants (theworlds50best.com). Judges name the winter potato cooked in fermented barley as chef-owner Rene Redzepi’s standout dish.


Best ethical travel destination
The Bahamas has been named Ethical Traveler’s greenest
destination, taking into account its environmental protection, social
welfare and human rights.
Others in the top 10 include Chile, Latvia and Mauritius (ethicaltraveler.org).


Most expensive tours
With a spare million dollars, you can spot 18 endangered
species in 12 countries, with one-tenth going toward conservation
projects (naturalworldsafaris.com). Otherwise, $1.5 million will let couples visit all 962 UNESCO
World Heritage sites. Put aside two years. Its other tours include the
10 best photo spots, for $130,000 (includes cameras), and the 10 most
luxurious suites in 21 days for $359,000 (veryfirstto.com).


AIR
Biggest airport
The busiest airport by passenger numbers is
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, US, handling 92
million travellers a year, but yet again, Dubai gets in on the act: on
completion in 2027, its $32-billion Al-Maktoum International airport
will be able to accommodate 160 million passengers a year (dwc.ae).

Best airport
Singapore’s Changi airport consistently rates one of the
world’s best, taking out first place in Skytrax 2014 World Airport
Awards, followed by Incheon (Seoul) and Munich airports.
Sydney Airport was ranked Australia’s best, at No. 21 (worldairportawards.com).

Best airline
Air New Zealand was named AirlineRatings.com’s 2014 airline
of the year, with Qantas the best economy airline, while Skytrax 2013
World Airline Awards rates Emirates as the world’s best, followed by
Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, with Qantas coming in at No. 10. (worldairlineawards.com).

Safest airline
Qantas holds the record as the world’s safest airline, with a
fatality-free record since 1951, says airlineratings.com, rivalled by
Air New Zealand, according to jacdec.de.

Most luxurious airline lounge
For those of us fortunate enough to get a look in, Lufthansa
first class lounges were named the world’s best first-class lounges
while Qatar Airways took the business class gong at Skytrax’ 2013 World
Airline Awards (worldairlineawards.com).

Longest flight
Like to watch movies? Qantas’ ultra long-haul flight from Sydney-Dallas is the longest flight by distance, at 13,804km (qantas.com.au).
Should Turkish Airlines enact its plans for an Istanbul-Sydney route,
it would take the crown for its 17-hour, 14,956km flight (turkishairlines.com).

Ultimate airline travel experience: A three-hour flight on
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will cost $260,000, taking you 100km
above the earth, travelling at three times the speed of sound. Includes three days’ space training (virgingalactic.com). For a more modest $128,300, you can fly around the world in 24 days on Four Seasons’ new Boeing 757 private jets (fourseasons.com/jet).

SEA

Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship

Biggest cruise ship
The godmother of Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship, is super-sized Shrek ogress Princess Fiona. At 362 metres long and more than 225,000 tonnes, it can take
6295 passengers. The liner has 24 elevators, the first Starbucks at sea
and Broadway hit Chicago on show.
Its position will be usurped by another RCI ship, as yet unnamed, in 2016 (royalcaribbean.com).

Largest superyacht
With two helipads and a missile defence system, you can hire
Eclipse, owned by Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman
Abramovich, for $2 million a week, excluding running costs.
At 162.5 metres, it’s the world’s second-biggest private
yacht after UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s new
180-metre yacht, Azzam, complete with armour-plated master suite.
The Azzam is not for hire.

Best beach
Brazil’s Sancho Bay on the remote island of Fernando de Noronha wins best beach, according to TripAdvisor.com.

Longest beach
Brazil wins again, with the 241km Praia do Cassino Beach. Gippsland’s Ninety-Mile Beach comes in fourth place. Whitest sand beach in the world: One for the home team,
according to the Guinness Book of Records, the whitest beach is Hyams
Beach in Jervis Bay, 2½ hours from Sydney.

Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW Australia

Best island
If money is your measure, you can rent the Caribbean’s
Calivigny Island in Grenada, for a cool $1.55 million a week. Sleeping
50 guests, it comes with a 173-metre yacht for your use (calivigny-island.com).More accessibly, the TripAdvisor community has voted Ambergris Caye, in Belize, its top island for the second year running (tripadvisor.com).

World’s highest pool
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s pool, is the world’s highest at 490 metres (ritzcarlton.com), towering over Marina Bay Sands’ dizzying infinity pool, 55 storeys, or 198 metres, above Singapore (marinabaysands.com).

World’s biggest pool
Running alongside the ocean, the lagoon pool at the San
Alfonso del Mar resort, in Valparaiso, Chile, is 1013 metres long,
earning its Guinness Book of Records entry. The 8 hectare, 250
million-litre saltwater pool is a pleasant 26 degrees and has a
100-metre waterslide (sanalfonso.cl).
Its sister lagoon, in the Egyptian resort city Sharm el-Sheikh,
reportedly covers 12 hectares and a Dubai project, under way, will cover
40 hectares.

The world’s largest pool, San Alfonsa del Mar, Chile

BEDS
Largest hotel
By room count, the three-star Izmailovo Hotel in Moscow,
Russia, with 7500 rooms, is largest. Most of the world’s mega-hotels,
with 4000-plus rooms, are in Las Vegas.

Most expensive hotel room
At $73,177 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel
President Wilson is on the banks of Lake Geneva, with views of Mont
Blanc. There are 12 rooms, 12 bathrooms, a Steinway grand piano and yes,
it’s bulletproof. More modest rooms start at $483 (hotelpresidentwilson.com).

Tallest hotel
Six of the top 10 tallest hotels are in Dubai, including the tallest, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which tops 355 metres (marriott.com). At 488 metres, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is taller but is ruled out as the building is not solely a hotel.

Smallest hotel
Central Hotel, Copenhagen, 2.4m by 3m, including a minibar and photos of Ronnie Barker (the owner’s a fan), $360 a night. (centralhotelogcafe.dk).


This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.