Just the tonic: blending health and hedonism on the Dawn Princess

Thick and rich, the mud seems to pulsate with a life of its own, like an extra from Doctor Who. Scooping a hearty handful, it’s just begging to be slapped on your face.

Standing
in a green paddock in rural Fiji, clad only in swimmers and smothered
from ponytail to toenail in the green-grey goop that smells like cattle
dip, it’s not what I had in mind when I signed up for a seaward jaunt on
board Australia’s best-loved ship, the Dawn Princess. Don’t get me
wrong: it’s great fun, just greatly unexpected.

To read more about life on the good ship Dawn Princess, click here.

 This story was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section. 

Victoria’s food treasures: Close to home, far from tradition

Fine fare at Shannon Bennett’s Vue De
Monde

Having a quintessentially Victorian
food experience means eating locally, eating ethically, eating mighty
well, discovers Belinda Jackson. 

 

Melbourne loves a good spread with a
great back story, from the farmers who created your feast to the
heart-warming social-enterprise stories served on the side. And you can
easily call yourself a locavore, eating within 150 kilometres of where
you stand, no beard or triangle tattoo required. In fact, it’s a
cakewalk – at times, literally.

   

Let’s start at the epicentre of the
city, downtown Melbourne, with our signature brew, cofee. Prop up the
bar with a heart-starter at much-lauded local roasters who comb the
globe to make friends with farmers, espouse ethical production and
support sustainable harvesting of the glory bean. Tis mission will see you sipping on
siphon, cogitating with cold drip or elucidating with espresso at Dukes
Cofee Roasters (247 Flinders La, dukescoffee.com.au), the iconic St
Ali ( 12-18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne,
stali.com.au), Padre Cofee ( South Melbourne and Queen Victoria markets,
padrecoffee.com.au), or the spanking-new Sir Charles (121 Johnston St, Fitzroy), to name but a few.

  
 

Coffee at Dukes in Flinders Lane

We’re not all coffee tragics. Tea is,
of course, the new coffee, so get the pinky in the air like you don’t
care and sip Storm in a Teacup ’s beautiful fnds from across the globe,
supporting what they call artisan farmers (48A Smith St, Collingwood, storminateacup.com.au).

Otherwise, pop in to the doily-free zone of the Travelling Samovar Tea House (12 Rathdowne St, Carlton North,
travellingsamovar.com.au).

  
 

For a taste of social goodness, pull
up a pew and go crazy with Myrtleford cultured butter and Melbourne
rooftop honey on toast for breakfast, free-range chicken from Milawa for
lunch or call in for a local Dal Zotto prosecco from the King Valley at
social enterprise restaurant and slow-food champions Feast of Merit (117 Swan St, Richmond, feastofmerit.com). 

Or get of the streets and into the clouds at chef Shannon Bennett’s
Vue De Monde to revel in its lauded eco-design and organic produce (Level 55, 525 Collins St, vuedemonde.com.au ). Bennett’s Burnham Bakery
and Piggery Café are the frst phase of his culinary village Burnham
Beeches, in the Dandenongs (1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke,
burnhambakery.com.au & piggerycafe.com.au). 
 

Lovers of a cleansing ale, discover
the world of micro-breweries with the craft beer afcionados at Slow Beer
(468 Bridge Rd, Richmond,
slowbeer.com.au) or for drink for world peace at Shebeen, which sends all its profts back to the developing world (36 Manchester La,
shebeen.com.au). 

 

So you thought it was all Victorian airs and graces south of the border? It’s time to reveal the special thing we’ve

got going on with our cows and
goats. 

Pasta and petanque at Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm

If you’re time-poor or hyperventilate at the city limits, you’re
spoilt for choice of cheese in Melbourne. Go crazy on croque monsieur at
Fitzroy’s Shifty Chèvre , which opened just before Christmas (375
Brunswick St, Fitzroy, shiftychevre. com), order a late-night fight of
cheese with wine at Milk the Cow , in St Kilda and now Carlton (milkthecow.com.au) or wrap a slab-to-go of Melbourne cheese – that’s coffee-seasoned
pressato – at Il Fornaio (2C Acland St, St Kilda ilfornaio. com.au).
The Spring Street Grocer boasts Australia’s first underground cheese
cellar ( 157 Spring St, Melbourne, springstreetgrocer.com.au), while all the cheeses in La Latteria are made using Victorian cow’s milk (104 Elgin Street, Carlton, lalatteria.com.au). And what’s not to love about the city’s go-to cheese room, the
evergreen Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder ( 48-50 Bridge Rd, Richmond, rhcl.com.au)?

  
 

If you’re playing away from the big
city, plug Apostle Whey Cheese into your GPS while cruising the Great
Ocean Road (Cooriemungle, apostlewheycheese.com.au) and the
lactose-intolerant don’t have to look away: Main Ridge Dairy and Red
Hill Cheese, on the Mornington Peninsula, both produce handcrafted
goat’s cheeses (mainridgedairy.com.au, redhillcheese.com.au).

  
 

Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel

Now pack your picnic basket and head
for the hills. Autumn and winter showcase the beauty of the Macedon
Ranges, just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Yes, it’ll be cold: you can do
it. Think chunky knits, hot spiced drinking chocolate and rich, autumnal
colours.

  
 

Go exploring on a country drive
through Daylesford and its villages: soak up a robust ragu over pasta
and play pétanque at the Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm ( Hepburn Springs,
lavandula.com.au), track down secret cideries and Victoria’s beery
beauties at Woodend Wine Store (woodendwinestore.com.au) or pack a hamper full of central Victorian charcuterie delights at too-cute Kyneton’s Piper Street Food Company ( Kyneton,
piperstfoodco.com). Thus sated, steam yourself in the region’s rich mineral waters and
splash out on an exquisite facial at the serene Hepburn Bathhouse &
Spa (hepburnbathhouse.com).

  
 

It’s not just about corporeal
pleasures: enter the wildly wonderful world of renowned artists and
eclectic collectors David and Yuge Bromley (Daylesford,
bromleyandco.com) then wind down in the irreverent penthouse of Daylesford Convent (conventgallery.com.au) or Peppers Mineral Springs Hotel. 

Expect high tea and rare-breed
meats from the hotel’s own farm in the one-hatted The Argus Dining Room (
Hepburn Springs,
mineralspringshotel.com.au).

 If you can, time your visit for the
Daylesford Macedon Produce Harvest Festival, from April 24 – May 3. Now
in its seventh year, it promises to get your hands dirty messing with
local producers, chefs and vignerons, making goat’s cheese, learning the
basics of butchery, baking sourdough or taking a martini masterclass (dmproduce.com). 

 

Organic, biodynamic, fantastic – welcome to the good life.

   

Brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. 

This feature was published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper’s Traveller section. 

Farewell, toxic world: Takeoff travel news

SPA
Farewell, toxic
world
Learn to achieve true wellness in a world where we are
exposed daily to toxins, in a once-off retreat at the luxurious Gwinganna
Lifestyle Retreat. The two-night retreat on the Gold Coast hinterland is led by
Professor Marc Cohen, head of Wellness Discipline in the School of Health
Sciences at RMIT University. With simple solutions to reduce your exposure and
increase your wellbeing, ‘Wellness in a Toxic World’ runs May 22-24. The
weekend includes two nights’ eco-accommodation, all organic food and drinks, transfers
from Gold Coast airport and a 50-minute massage in the indoor/outdoor Spa Sanctuary.
Costs from $1175 a person, twin share. Phone 1800 219 272, see
gwinganna.com.  

FOOD
Master host
Eat like a local, with a local, on a new food tour by
Masterchef winner and proud Tasmanian Ben Milbourne. Like armies, adventurers
travel on their stomachs and we have an appetite for Tassie’s burgeoning food
tourism scene, unsurprising given that the isle produces not only apples, but
also truffles, wasabi, rare-breed meats, single malt whiskey and chocolate. And
that’s aside from the staples of salmon and wine. On the One Degree Experience
tour, Ben wines and dines up to eight guests at his residence,
Fairholme, a 1920s farmhouse in Spreyton, 10 minutes from Devonport. You’ll hit
the big guns, such as Hellyer’s
Road Distillery and Anvers House of Chocolate, but also go off-piste in
north-west Tasmania to dig out boutique beer, ginseng and dairy from the hands
of the producers themselves. The tailor-made tours include lunch, a take-home
hamper, cooking demo and five-course degustation dinner. From $550 a
person.  Phone 0428 266 545, see benmilbourne.com.au.
GEAR
Light and bright
The old design maxim, “Say it in French,
it always sounds better,” also rings true for visual appeal – the Lipault Paris
luggage range is sure to brighten the world’s baggage carousels with its two
new spring-inspired colours, duck blue and orange. Taking cues from Parisian
catwalks, designer François Lipovetsky has ultra-lightweight luggage cred,
having created baggage for Air France.
The Original Plume is a soft-sided wheeled trolley that comes in three sizes,
55cm (2.8kg), 65cm (3.4kg) and 92cm (3.8kg), from $229. Best of all, it’s
foldable, so your storage cupboards aren’t full of bulky suitcases between
jaunts. Match it up with the Lady Plume carry-all, $99. First launched in 2005
and recently purchased by Samsonite, the Lipault Paris range has been available
in Australia only since November. Snap up in all the best places; Selfridges in
London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris or Myer in Australia, or phone 1800 331 690.
STAYCATION
Bird’s eye view
Think staycation, think walking past your office
on a weekend? Sail to a secluded island with world-class views, but still use
your metro card to get there when you stay on Cockatoo Island. The Sydney
Harbour Federation Trust has added a new two-bedroom apartment to the
accommodation on the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is on the Balmain ferry
route. The new self-contained apartment has a balcony facing the
harbour, an enclosed garden and sleeps up to four. Formerly a police station,
learn about the Federation-era building on an audio tour of Cockatoo Island’s
history or call for cocktails beneath striped umbrellas and watch the sun set
at the Island Bar. The Cockatoo Island Garden Apartment has a full
kitchen, laundry and all linen. Costs from $370 a night, midweek, or $280 as a
one-bedroom stay. See cockatooisland.gov.au.
CRUISE
That’s the Spirit
A new restaurant, more bars, two new cinemas and new
recliners are on the cards when the hardworking Tasmanian ferries, the Spirit of Tasmania I and II, undergo
major makeovers over the coming months. It’s the first time in 13 years the
ships will have had a major refit since they started working the Melbourne-Devonport
route in 2002. All decks will have changes, including refurbishment of the
deluxe cabins and a refresh in all other classes, a new kids’ zone and teen
area, and new lounge areas to showcase Tasmanian wines, ciders and beers. Some
things don’t change. “We’re still going to have the same ocean views, relaxing
atmosphere and sensational Tasmanian cuisine,” says Spirit of Tasmania CEO
Bernard Dwyer. The refurbishment will be complete by September. The Spirit of Tasmania ships are also increasing
day sailings this year, and offering half-price travel from May 16 to September
17 when you book by April 4. Day sailings cost from $43 one-way, night sailings
from $48 one-way in an ocean recliner. Phone 1800 634 906, see spiritoftasmania.com.au.
TECH
A novel idea
What’s the quintessential read of New York, Vietnam or
even Brisbane? Find a book that captures the soul of your destination with
tripfiction.com, which links up books and the regions in which they’re set. The
British website was born in 2012 with just 1000 books, and now has five times that
amount, covering fiction and non-fiction including memoirs, across 1100
locations. It’s free to register, which will allow you to create your own
must-read list. You can also add your own books and reviews, which are moderated
by the site’s founders, Tina Hartas and Tony Geary. The discussion board turns
up some interesting topics, from ‘best Scandiavian noir’ to ‘new Yemeni
thriller’, and is sure to guarantee itchy feet. For those who travel by
airplane or armchair. See tripfiction.com.
The Takeoff travel news, by Belinda Jackson, is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.  

Things to do in Nadi, Fiji: One day three ways

The Sri Siva Subramaniya Hindu temple in Nadi.  Photo: Alamy

PENNY PINCH

Breakfast with the locals and grab a hot chicken curry roti from the
smiling sellers outside Nadi’s covered market ($1.25) then dive inside
for papaya, bananas and mangos and kava drinking etiquette tips from the
kava traders (free). Nadi is a Fijian-Indian town, so pop into a
hairdresser to have your brows threaded or hands henna’d ($6.30). Lunch
is at the little vegetarian restaurant in the wildly ornate Sri Siva
Subramaniya temple. Dress modestly (no bare thighs) or borrow a sarong
at the gate (entrance $3.75, lunch $3.15-6.30). Cool off with a dip at
Wailoaloa Beach then head to Ed’s Bar, in the Martintar district, for a
cold, pre-dinner Fiji Lager ($3.15, 51 Queens Road). Nearby, Tu’s Place
is a staple for traditional Fijian food. Don’t expect lavish decor, do
order the kokoda and rourou ($14, 37 Queens Road, tusplace.webs.com)
and then bunker down in Nadi Downtown Hotel, the only hotel on Main
Street. The hotel is clean, with its own restaurant and bar and is a
good source of budget travel advice ($45 a double, fijidowntownhotel.com).
TOTAL $76.60

EASY DOES IT

Kick off with quality coffee, house-made brioche and honey from the farm of Bulaccino Cafe (Queen’s Road, $5.80, bulaccino.com).
If it’s Sunday, pop in to one of the town’s many churches for the
service and some spectacular singing (free). Flower admirers and small,
jumpy children should head to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, 15
minutes from Nadi. The late Raymond Burr (aka Perry Mason) retired here
to collect orchids, there are now more than2000 varieties ($10 adults/$5
children/$25families). Afterwards, lunch and people-watch at Port
Denarau: grab a wrap and a Lulu Mix juice (beetroot, ginger and carrot,
$14.80) from Lulu’s Cafe, beside the pier, then take a spin around
Denarau on the hop-on, hop-off Bula Bus ($5 all-day, kids under 10 free,
bulabuses.com.fj).
Pick up your souvenirs on Nadi’s Main Street, check the handicraft
market and cruise Jack’s, Tappoo or Prouds for glossy coloured
freshwater pearl earrings (about $22)and a bag of Bula Coffee beans,
grown in the highlands and roasted in Sigatoka ($16.30 for 200 grams).
Kick back on an evening barbeque cruise around Nadi Bay ($82/adults,
$56/kids, captaincook.com.fj) then bed down in a beachfront spa villa at First Landing ($140 a double with breakfast, firstlandingresort.com).
TOTAL $290.90

SPLASH OUT

Book out the whole day on the 64-foot catamaran Catatac for a
schmoozy island-hop around the Mamanuca. Wet a line, catch a wave,
snorkel the reefs and find the perfect beach: lunch and
cocktail-drinking included ($2260 a couple, charterboatsfiji.com).
If you’re staying on land and taking a bed at the Fiji Beach Resort
& Spa by Hilton, take their hobie cats out for a peaceful (ie,
non-motorised) glide over the calm waters (free to hotel guests), then
frock up for the Sofitel, a favourite with visiting royalty. Its
shopping gallery includes a Pure Fiji boutique: stock up on orange
blossom coconut sugar rub. It’s organic and won’t leave you smelling
like tinned fruit salad ($25, purefiji.com), then lunch poolside on grilled reef fish at its much lauded Salt restaurant ($31.40, sofitel.com).
While away the afternoon with a four-hand ayurvedic massage in Spa
Maya, at Denarau Marina ($122). Hungry? Dinner and sunset are at Peter
Kuruvita’s Flying Fish Fiji, in the Sheraton Fiji Resort. Go the
five-course degustation ($110, peterkuruvita.com) then soak up the silence of the tropical night at the Hilton’s one-bed beachfront terraces (from $255 , fijibeachresortbyhilton.com).
TOTAL $2260 or  $543.40

The writer was a guest of Nadi Downtown hotel.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.

Como Maalifushi Maldives: Pint-sized paradise

This new, luxury resort in the Maldives delivers a world of
pleasure, writes Belinda Jackson.
It took me three days to realise I’d lost my shoes. I’d kicked
them off the day I hit the Maldives and never put them back on again until I
crash-landed into the howling winds of a Melbourne winter, tragic in glittery,
strappy sandals. I think the shoes are still on Maalifushi, a remote island
resort in the south-west of the remote island nation.
Let me share some fashion advice about packing for the
Maldives. The first point is: don’t bother bringing heels. They get stuck in
the sand, and every resort worth its sea salt has a sand floor restaurant, lobby
or walkway. The second fashion tip is: unless you’re going to sweat it out on a
treadmill, leave your runners behind, too. Preferred sports on these balmy
isles are barefoot – swimming, yoga and messing about in boats.
 The new Maalifushi by COMO is the Singaporean hotel group’s
second Maldivian resort. The first, Cocoa Island by COMO, is 40 minutes by
speedboat from Male airport, past a plethora of single-resort islands. In
comparison, Maalifushi is the only hotel in the isolated Thaa Atoll, deep in
the vast Indian Ocean.
An aerial view of the tiny resort. 
Getting to Maalifushi is half the adventure. At Male airport,
we learn that the closest airport, Thimarafushi, is closed because ocean swells
have engulfed the runway. “It’s a very, very low atoll,” a local
tells me. “Very good for surfing, very bad for flying.”
Instead, we fly to tiny Kadhdhoo airport then board a very
white, very luxurious pleasure cruiser. Flying fish skip alongside the boat,
and the water changes abruptly from deep ocean blue to pinch-me-I’m-dreaming
turquoise as, after two hours, we pull up at the island. It is a study in green
coconut palms and raked yellow sand, tiny crabs scattering at our footfalls.
Maalifushi is tiny: even by Sydney standards, 800 by 200
metres ain’t a lot of real estate. To compensate, the spa’s eight treatment
rooms, Japanese restaurant Tai and 33 suites and villas are off land and over
water, connected by timber boardwalks. Absolute beachfront is claimed by 22
suites and the two-bedroom, 296-metre-square COMO residence, at almost $7000 a
night in peak season.
My room is, quite simply, breathtaking. Forget shiny surfaces,
this is a decorating exercise in island chic. White curtains billow from the
four-poster bed, the high-pitched ceiling is thatched, the deep bath is
unpolished marble, and the timber deck leads out to a thatched bale beside my
plunge pool. There are indoor and outdoor rain showers, daybeds and sofas. In
fact, there are so many places to sit, I don’t know where to start. Ripping off
clothes and leaping into the pool seems a good start. Shy? Think twice about
skinny-dipping – the deck’s not as private as you’d first think.
Island chic decor sets the tone for a blissful break.

Banish any notion that all this gorgeousness is reserved only
for lovestruck couples. The kids’ club is a jaunty affair with swings and
climbing apparatus, and there are six very private garden suites targeted at
families who don’t want to mix young children and plunge pools. The
well-equipped dive centre has quality Japanese masks for all shapes and sizes,
and the kitchen promises to cater for all tastes and dietary persuasions.

The COMO brand is all about luxury pampering: the signature
scent is a cool blend of peppermint and eucalyptus best served on cold towels.
The spa is a palatial affair and COMO’s signature Shambala spa cuisine offers
an array of organic deliciousness featuring seed breads, healthful juices and
sublime local raw fish, which is unsurprising given the country’s national fish
is the yellowfin tuna, its national tree the coconut palm. The weekly seafood
barbecue is an extravaganza of local lobster, a carpaccio of kingfish, trout
and tuna, and sweet rock shrimp.
Unfortunately, I realise the food is actually too good, when
breakfast comprises saffron-poached pears with papaya and lime, watermelon
juice, eggwhite omelette, French toast with fresh mango and a lavish porridge
made from crushed almonds. It’s all healthy, I tell myself (OK, maybe not the
French toast).
I try burning off the excess with a healing, Shambala
signature massage and join marine biologist Francesco on a tiny speedboat to
play with happy little spinner dolphins who gambol alongside us, occasionally
thrusting into the air to spin once, twice, thrice, just for sheer joy. There’s
talk of year-round whale shark spotting.
One evening, three of us take a pre-dinner night snorkelling
safari. It’s a first for all of us, and we lower ourselves gingerly into the
dark water. Call me unAustralian, but the marine life in the Maldives makes our
reef look like a jaded nightclub at the end of the night, just a few old
groupers hanging out, trying their tired old lines. A young green turtle glides
beneath us, which I find slightly disconcerting but completely exhilarating.
Nocturnal surgeonfish are everywhere and the most beautiful purple spotted
starfish are surely the mirrorballs of the Maldivian seas.
Marine life aside, the big drawcard for Maalifushi is its surf
breaks. The luxury surf safari group TropicSurf has a shack on the island and
the staff are constantly discovering new reef breaks. Farms is the best-known,
which TropicSurf calls “the perfect right-hander” in peak season,
from April to October.
Back on my villa’s deck, I discover a set of stairs that lead
down into the island’s lagoon. Moments later, I’m swimming with some rather
nonchalant little black-and-white striped reef fish called Moorish idols.
Professor Google tells me Africa’s Moors considered them “bringers of
happiness”. The sky overhead is clear and blue, the water I’m swimming in
is clear and blue. Their mission is accomplished.
The writer travelled as a guest of COMO Hotels.
TRIP NOTES 
GETTING THERE There are no direct flights from Australia to the Maldives.
Fly via Kuala Lumpur or Singapore with Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines or
Virgin Australia. Australians are issued a free visa on their arrival in the
Maldives. See malaysiaairlines.com, singaporeair.com, virginaustralia.com.
GETTING AROUND Maalifushi is a 50-minute flight from Male Airport to
Thimarafushi, followed by a 25-minute boat ride. COMO Resorts plans to operate
a seaplane between its two resorts.
STAYING THERE Maalifushi’s “soft-opening” special allows for
low-season rates until December 26. Garden suites from $820 a night, water
suites from $1400 a night. COMO Villas are open for bookings. See website
(left).
MORE INFORMATION visitmaldives.comcomohotels.com.
This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

Go underground, go outback, go AWOL: travel deals 19 January 2014

Hanging around at Kamalaya,
Koh Samui, Thailand

Take a Thai spa, check into a cave hotel, rail across Australia or get the kids’ skates on with new Skoot luggage.

Go now: Turkey
Explore Istanbul’s palaces, the limestone terraces of
Pamukkale and sleep in a Cappadocian cave hotel on a 10-day Turkish Delights
tour. Book by February 28 for travel until March and save $100. From $970 a
person, twin share. 131 398, travelscene.net.au.
Go sooner:
Thailand
Get a post-Christmas detox and save 20 percent at
Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa, on Koh Samui. Stay five nights,
pay for four, with free yoga, tai chi, qi gong, pilates and a body analysis
included, from March 1-April 30. From $955 a person, five nights.  +66 77 429 800, kamalaya.com.
Go later:
Trans-Australia
Save 20 percent on 10 holiday packages on The Ghan train
journey from Adelaide to Darwin, including the Rock & Rail tour, which adds
in two nights and tours in Alice Springs. Book by February 28, travel May 1-October
31. From $1741 a person, twin share. 1800 725 993, greatsouthernrail.com.au.
KIDS
Scoot cute
Cute kids’ luggage abounds, but is it useful? The Skoot
is a 13-litre suitcase, a boredom buster and a mode of transport in busy
airports. 
The shoulder strap allows parents to sling the scooter over their
shoulder and it doubles as a pull cord to rein in recalitrant cruisers. The
ride-on hard case also fits most cabin luggage requirements. Suitable for kids
from 3-6 years. $79.95, (03) 9824 6770,  littlegulliver.com.au.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald newspaper.

20 reasons to visit Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo classic: The historic Galle Face Hotel.
Colombo classic: The historic Galle Face Hotel. Photo: Getty Images

1 PETTAH
Brave the streets of Pettah to pick up everything from
fabrics and fruit to watches and wedding invitations. “It’s utter
chaos,” the locals cheerfully admit. “You can get a suit made in two
hours, though it may last only three.” The streets are crammed with
saris, electronics and ayurvedic medicines, while the fruit and
vegetable market heaves with sacks of outrageously fierce-looking
chillis.

2 GALLE FACE GREEN
 It’s easy to forget Colombo is a seaside city when you’re
stuck in a 1pm traffic snarl on the Galle Road. The best way to
reconnect with the Indian Ocean is by making like a local and
promenading on the Galle Face Green. Sundays are a big day for local
families, kite flyers and food trucks serving deep-fried snacks.

3 SRI LANKAN CRAB
Singapore’s famed chilli crabs actually come from Sri Lanka,
so go back to the heart of it all at Ministry of Crab, one of
Australian-Sri Lankan chef Peter Kuruvita’s top picks on the Colombo
dining scene. It may be the priciest place in town, but chef Dharshan
Munidasa’s cooking is worth it (ministryofcrab.com). Crab gets the Tamil
treatment on Sundays in a Jaffna-style crab curry at Yarl (56 Vaverset
Place, Wellawate, Colombo 6) or little sister Yarl Eat House (Cnr Galle
and Station roads, Wellawatte).

4 OLD DUTCH HOSPITAL
Until recently, the Old Dutch Hospital was a crumbling ruin.
Dating from 1677, it’s the oldest building in town and now its long, low
courtyards are Colombo’s new heart. It’s a one-stop shop for clothes
and gifts, spa treatments, chic dining, serious tea drinking at Heladiv
Tea Club or more relaxed pizza and steins of beer at Colombo Fort Cafe.
Come nightfall, it’s a buzzy hotbed of locals and tourists.

5 CLOTHES SHOPPING
Odel is Colombo’s fashion house of choice (5, Alexandra Pl,
Col 7) and KT Brown its designer, with ethnically inspired designs (7
Coniston Place, Col 7, ktbrownstudio.com).
For leaner budgets, Cotton Collection (143 Dharmapala Mw, Col 7) has
fab finds and nearby Kelly Felder (117 Dharmapala Mw) employs only local
designers with new stock every Tuesday. For cool beachwear, check out
the super-colourful Arugam Bay label, in Odel, Barefoot and their
showroom (32 Ward Place, Col 6), which is also home to contemporary
Buddhi Batiks. Grab a tuk-tuk and skip between ’em.

6 BAREFOOT
It’s a cafe, an art gallery, a performance space and shop.
Established 40 years ago by Sri Lankan artist, entrepreneur and
philanthropist Barbara Sansoni, its signature style is hand-woven,
hand-dyed yarns made into brightly coloured children’s toys,
free-flowing clothing and fabrics manufactured ethically by women across
the country. Also one of the best places for books on Sri Lanka (704
Galle Road, Colombo 3 and Old Dutch Hospital, barefootceylon.com).

7 BOUTIQUE HOTELS
It’s a small country and Sri Lanka has embraced the small,
boutique hotel concept. Lovers of classic interiors head to style guru
Shanth Fernando’s 10-room Tintagel (tintagelcolombo.com) while Casa Colombo is a playful (some would say over-the-top) 12-suite remake of a 200-year-old mansion (casacolombo.com). Park Street Hotel mixes minimalism and antiques (asialeisure.lk) while Lake Lodge’s 13 rooms overlook South Beira Lake (taruhotels.com). Newcomer Colombo Courtyard doesn’t have the design pedigree but it’s small and centrally located (colombocourtyard.com). Because of a government tariff, Colombo hotels aren’t cheap. They also book up quickly, so get in early.

8 AYURVEDIC SPAS
The subcontinent’s traditional ayurvedic medicine morphs into
a sublime spa experience at the Siddhalepa Ayurveda Spa (33 Wijerama
Ma, Col 7, siddhalepa.com) or Spa Ceylon, with its scents of white tuberose, red sandalwood and jasmine (Dutch Hospital, Park Street Mews, spaceylon.com).
A warning: be prepared for days of oily hair or plenty of hair washing
if you’re signing in for Shirodhara, where warm oil is continually
dripped onto your third eye (forehead).

9 ART MARKET
Support local artists with a visit to Colombo’s kala pola
(art market) on Sunday mornings, where affordable artwork is hung around
Viharamahadevi Park (Col 7). If you miss the market, Saskia Fernando
Gallery exhibits Sri Lanka’s top artists (61 Dharmapala Ma, Col 7) or
cool down at artist Harry Pieris’ serene Cinnamon Gardens mansion, the
Sapumal Foundation (34/2 Barnes Place, Col 7). Barefoot and Paradise
Road Gallery and Cafe (2 Alfred House Road, Col 11) show and sell the
country’s greats.

10 GEM & JEWELLERY SHOPPING
Sri Lanka is most famous for its blue sapphires, as worn by
the British royals. Slip in to premier gem dealer Colombo Jewellery
Stores for a quick education and check out the well-priced men’s watches
while you’re there (1 Alfred House Gardens, Col 3, also Old Dutch
Hospital, Galle Face Hotel, cjs.lk). Ridhi is a good stop for affordable silver jewellery (74 Lauries Road, Col 4, ridhi.lk).

11 SUNDOWNERS
The verandah of the Galle Face Hotel, looking over the Indian
Ocean, is the place to be seen for a sunset cocktail or dinner
aperitif. The grand dame has been swizzling sticks since 1864. Budget
alternatives include the sleepy rooftop bar of the Colombo City Hotel
beside the Dutch Hospital, or join the locals on Galle Face Green with a
bottle of pop.

12 CRICKET
Go to a cricket match. “There’s no sledging here, it’s just a
big party,” swear the locals. Catch the internationals at the R.
Premadasa Stadium. For more slap of leather on willow, pop in for lunch
and current matches or old classics on the many big screens at the
Aussie-owned Cricket Club Cafe, (34 Queens Road, Col 3, thecricketclubcafeceylon.com).

13 TEA TASTING
Taste some of the world’s finest teas at Mlesna Tea Centre
(89 Galle Road, Col 3) or the Australian favourite, Dilmah Tea Shop (5
Alexandra Pl, Col 7). If you can endure the seriously lacklustre service
in the government-owned Sri Lanka Tea Shop, you’ll find a broad range
of teas, from working-class brews to elaborately packaged gifts.

14 WALKING TOUR
Colombo local Mark Forbes takes you by the hand through the
Portuguese, Dutch and British architecture and influences on Colombo.
Pause for a cuppa, butter cake and harbour views at the Grand Oriental
Hotel, which dates from 1837, before continuing on through the Pettah
markets and into the ramshackle 180-year-old mansion that is the Dutch
Period Museum (colombocitywalks.com).

15 SHORT EATS & HOPPERS
Colombo’s short eats are a vast collection of pastries with
such fillings as curried chicken, seeni sambol (caramelised onion) and
fabulous fish rolls. Kollupitiya, in Colombo 3, is fertile hunting
ground for short eats cafes: try Perera & Sons’ modern, super-clean
branches (2 Dharmapala Mw), stalwart The Fab (474 Galle Road), Cafe on
the 5th (108 5th Lane) or Sponge, which many rate the top short eatery
in town (347 Galle Road). Hit local fave Green Cabin for hoppers, thin
pancakes made with coconut milk, designed to scoop up curry sauces (453
Galle Road). Don’t expect gushing service.

16 UNIQUE SOUVENIRS
Resist globalisation and discover unique, locally produced
artisan products: find textural elephant dung paper, ceramics at the
government-owned handicrafts shops Laksala (60 Fort St, Col 1) and
Barefoot’s signature bright woven linens. Sri Lanka’s premier homewares
store, Paradise Road, prints the curvaceous Sinhalese alphabet and
elephant motifs on to household linens in a palette of black and French
beige (213 Dharmapala Mw, Col 7). Find affordable gifts at Casa Serena
(122 Havelock Rd, Col 5) or try Lakpahana (14, Phillip Gunawardena Mw,
(Reid Ave, Col 7), Suriya (39 Layards Rd, Col 5).

17 FEEL-GOOD TOURISM
Shop for fair-trade toys, ethically produced food and craft
at the kid-friendly Good Market, every Thursday from noon-8pm (Water’s
Edge Park, Battaramulla, thegoodmarket.lk). The Warehouse Project gives
good reason to eat more cake: profits from its Wonderbar soul food and
Cakes for a Cause projects help run community programs for the local
Maradana population. Email for a tour of the watta (shanty community).
See warehouseproject.lk.

18 MULTI-FAITH VOYEURISM
Pick a religion, you’ll find an elaborate place of worship in
Colombo: the Buddhist Gangaramaya temple on Beira Lake was designed in
part by the influential architect Geoffrey Bawa. Wolvendaal Church is
the country’s oldest Protestant church, from 1749, while the red and
white striped Jami-Ul-Alfar is open for visitors except during prayer
times. For a hit of intricacy, visit a Hindu kovil: the old and new
Kathiresan Kovils in Pettah were built to appease the war gods. The
Catholic St Lucia’s Cathedral is modelled on St Peter’s Basilica in the
Vatican and the Sambodhi Chaitiya is a shining white dagoba (stupa)
raised so seafarers could see it offshore.

19 THE FORT DISTRICT
Fort is the heart of Colombo, named for the 17th-century,
Dutch-built ramparts pulled down by the Brits in 1879. Its modern face
is the glitzy World Trade Centre (where you can get a decent coffee) and
the revitalised Old Dutch Hospital. Its British Raj face is undoubtedly
the gothic pink-and-white Cargills Building on York Street, the Old
Parliament building (1930), the old GPO (1891) and the Lighthouse Clock
Tower, built two years before London’s Big Ben, in 1857, now towered
over by skyscrapers.

20 MOUNT LAVINIA
Dive into the Indian Ocean at Mount Lavinia, half an hour
north of central Colombo. The waters are far cleaner than off the Galle
Face Green and the beach is lined with seafood restaurants. For a taste
of luxury, check into the five-star British colonial Mount Lavinia Hotel
for colonial-style High Tea overlooking the ocean, from 3.30pm daily (mountlaviniahotel.com).


By Belinda Jackson, published in the Sun-Herald newspaper.

It’s just the two of us: mother-daughter travels

There’s a world of ideas for a mother and daughter getaway with it all, writes Belinda Jackson. 

Shop,
spa, eat, see and do – for mums and daughters, a trip together is a
unique way to celebrate and refresh your relationship without the
demands of kids, work and partners. Mums with teenage girls, snatch that
special time before they disappear into the world alone: perhaps this
is the chance to test the waters before gap years and the prospect of
solo travel raise their heads. After all, who could ask for a better
teacher of essential life skills?

PRINCESS DIARIES: ITALY
“When
in Italy, what would Audrey Hepburn do?” She’d probably drive to
beautiful little Siena (mental note: pack Pucci scarf and big
sunglasses), climb the top of the Mangia tower before shopping for
handmade Tuscan boots, then refreshing herself with lunch at a trattoria
and a little gelato.

Guide
Andrea Powis channels the ultimate diva on a 10-night tour through
Tuscany and down to Rome on a tour made for sisters or mums and
daughters. “It’s effervescent, elegant and timeless,” she says.

There
are home-cooked dinners at family vineyards and lunches in Renaissance
palaces with Florentine princesses, nights spent in country villas,
palazzos and monasteries, and two days on red Vespas, stopping for
morning cappuccinos in walled towns, with light shopping workouts in
between (non-Vespa divas are chauffeured). The tour ends in Rome, with a
tour of Villa Borghese and a promenade (and possibly more shopping)
along Via Condotti. The 10-night tour departs Florence on June 7, 2014.

Costs from $6699 a person, twin share. Phone 0408 721 569. See travellingdivas.com.au.

FROM NEON TO BLOSSOMS: JAPAN
Revel in the flash and dash of fashionable Tokyo then soak up the tranquillity of a Shinto shrine in the Japanese countryside.

With
stays at traditional ryokans and imperial palaces and Buddhist temples
on the list, there is time for peace and reflection on this journey.
But, hey, there’s also fabulous shopping at oh-so beautiful department
stores and Tokyo’s hip strips.

This is a privately guided journey,
making it perfect for mums and daughters to reconnect: in spring for
cherry blossoms, summer with its gentle warmth or among the spectacular
autumn colours.

Departing from Tokyo daily, the nine-night tour includes
a first class on a bullet train from Hakone to Kyoto, a tea ceremony in
a private home, Michelin-starred restaurants and local izakayas and the
chance to emulate some of Japan’s best-dressed women in a kimono and
obi.

Costs from $11,185 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 851 800, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

SHOP THE CITY: NEW YORK
Shopping is bonding, says Karen Parker O’Brien, who leads private shopping tours of New York City.
“On
a mother-and-daughter day out, you’re bonding as best friends who care
about what the other thinks,” says the former fashion buyer, who will
take you into private showrooms and studios.
Her top shop is the homewares “museum” ABC Carpet & Home, on Broadway. “It’s a magical store.”
Expect
champagne and gourmet snacking, expect retail highs in designers’ NYC
showrooms, expect up to 80 per cent off in the wholesale haunts. A
private four-hour VIP walking tour costs from US$400 for four people,
limo tours from US$500. See karen@styleroom.com, styleroom.com.

A CREATIVE REVOLUTION: SPAIN
Spain
is proof that daily life can and should be lived exuberantly, says art
historian, chef and guide Marieke Brugman. Celebrated culinary guide
Marieke’s nine-day tour through northern Spain starts in soulful
Barcelona before venturing north to Bilbao, Navarra and La Rioja.

Visit
mediaeval fishing harbours that spawned navigators and fashion
designers. Dine at a coveted chef’s table in the three-Michelin-star
Arzak, rated eighth in the world by San Pellegrino.
Devour
pintxos, sleep in mansions and learn kitchen secrets from northern
Spain’s masters. Marieke may even lead you into the whiskey bars of San
Sebastian or into tavernas run by elegant septuagenarian ladies.

“Women,
especially of a more mature age, are not invisible in Spain,” says
Marieke. “To the contrary, they’re celebrated.” Departs September 26,
2014. Costs $10,000, phone 0419 580 381, see mariekesartofliving.com.

Crown Metropol’s sky-high pool, Melbourne.

PUT THE “AH” INTO SPA: AUSTRALIA
What
better way to repay your mum for the sleepless nights, the endless
dishes and a lifetime of caring than to check her in for two days of
water therapy … we’re talking rituals using Aveda products,
stress-busting massages, a soothing facial and exclusive spa access at
Melbourne’s sky-high Crown Metropol. Level 27 is home to Crown’s lush
Isika spa, expansive views of Melbourne’s skyline as well as that
amazing pool, the one where Offspring’s lovely Patrick farewelled
television’s most glamorous mum-to-be, Nina.

The revive package
also includes one night’s accommodation in an Isika spa suite, breakfast
at the sky-high private guest lounge, 28, lunch and dinner at Mr Hive
and stress-free valet parking.
For total relaxation, book midweek
to avoid the weekend hustle. Costs from $880 a person or $1485 for two,
twin share. Phone 1800 056 662, see isikaspa.com.au.

THREE MORE TRIPS CLOSE TO HOME

GOLDEN DOOR ELYSIA
in
the Hunter Valley is an easy getaway, with healthy cuisine, meditation,
morning tai chi and motivational speakers. Save 15 per cent on a
two-night weekend stay until December 20. From $940 a person, two
nights. 1800 212 011, goldendoor.com.au.

THEATRE TRIP
Take
in dinner and a show, with Agatha Christie’s A Murder Announced, with
an overnight stay in Mantra 2 Bond Street, Sydney, from $500 a night
(until October 27) or in Melbourne, staying at Mantra on the Park, from
$472 (from October 30 to December 4). 1300 987 604, mantra.com.au.

HIGHLANDS RETREAT
Revive
the soul with a gentle bushwalk in the Southern Highlands and a stay at
the no-gadget Solar Springs Health Retreat, from $255 a person, twin
share. (02) 4883 6027, solarsprings.com.au.

Written by Belinda Jackson, published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Next best things in cruising: innovations in travel design

Seabourn Sojourn’s spiral atrium.

Design is at the forefront of modern travel, with yet more innovations on the way in cruising. Here’s what’s happening on the high seas. 

Forget communal tables and allocated seating: it’s all about how you
deign to dine when you’re all at sea. Crystal Cruises is one of many
saying “no” to long buffet counters, replacing them with “food islands”
and more tables for two.

Private dining is also on the rise, with
Seabourn’s large verandahs set up to encourage private alfresco dining
while Princess Cruises’ newest ship, the Royal Princess, features a new
Chef’s Table Lumiere, sectioned off by a curtain of light around a glass
table in one of its dining rooms.

On-board spas are larger and
more glamorous, with more facilities and treatments. Expect couples
retreats, cabanas, indoor-outdoor spaces and capitalisation on those
ocean views. The Seabourn small ships’ spas top the range, coming in at
more than 1000 square metres, with thermal suites, herbal baths and walk
pools. Its four new penthouse spa suites are connected to the main spa
by a dramatic spiral staircase and come with a spa concierge, because we
all need a spa concierge.

We’ve also seen the rise of all-suite
ships, with more private verandahs – up to 95 per cent of Silversea’s
new Silver Spirit has verandahs. Adjoining staterooms and two-bedroom
penthouses are another in-demand feature, in response to the increase of
families of up to three generations taking to the seas together.

P&O’s popular Pacific Pearl and Pacific Dawn were refitted with
adjoining rooms last year: expect to see more adults-only pools, most
likely adjoining the spa, and a rise in single cabins. In fact, the
first single balcony cabins are now on the market as more solo cruisers
hit the seas, without paying a costly single supplement.

Source: Belinda Jackson

This extract was published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age. But wait, there’s more! Click here to read about innovation in trains, luggage, hotels and airlines.