3 of the best: Inflight gear

stateofescape.JPG
State of Escape totes.

Some people fill their carry-on luggage with ginormous headphones (I’m more of an earbud person, myself). For others, it’s bags of snacks (handy if you’re doing it lean, and on a low-cost carrier). I find that between a camera, laptop and big scarf, the corners of my inflight bag are filled with face spritzers.

I mean, my spritzer obsession really has gotten out of hand.

But I do love a pick-me-up of lemongrass, especially when that person behind me whips off their hot shoes to reveal socks that can stand up by themselves, or when the fug of reheated food just won’t leave the cabin.

Here, I’ve rounded up three more inflight essentials, including the latest colourways in the top tote from State of Escape (pictured), some damned fine eye patches by US cosmeceutical company Nerium and a truly fantastic salve from those clever Kiwis, Antipodes.

Click here for my feature in the first issue of the relaunched Essentials magazine, which has just gone national, around Australia.

Mussels and brisket: eating Melbourne this week

It’s been a good week for eating in Melbourne, and I checked out the new Marion wine bar, by chef-restaurateur Andrew McConnell in happening Gertrude St, Fitzroy. How’s that for a minimalist menu? My pick is the mussels, who are enjoying a renaissance in the food world, and nduja, a spicy Italian sausage that’s crumbled onto the dish.

On the opposite side of the city (and the other side of life), it was all about smoke-pit masters at the new San Antone Texan BBQ restaurant in Crown Melbourne. Vegetarians, please look away, the beef brisket wins the day.

This week’s Takeoff column in Sydney’s Sun-Herald also heads offshore to Singapore to check out the new Hotel Vagabond, by designer Jacques Garcia, who won my heart for his spectacular, three-year renovation of Marrakech’s grand dame, La Mamounia.

The Takeoff news column is published every Sunday in the Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.

Christmas gift guide for people who love to travel

Buy a goat for Christmas…you know you want to,
worldvision.com/gifts

Thought about giving someone a goat for Christmas?  It’s time for *drum roll* the Christmas gift guide for travellers.

No matter where your stocking is hung, in a snowy pine
forest or on the walls of a beach shack, here are Christmas gift ideas that will
travel – or will inspire you travel. Here are a couple of suggestions from the story, which was published in the Traveller section of Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper. Gifts range from $10 bags up to a slick weekend in Thailand.

Feel good, make others feel good buying a World Vision gift in their
name. Shop online (no postage or wrapping required) to give a child inrural Cambodia some school pencils or hey, buy a family a llama. You
know you want to. From $5 to $197, worldvision.com.au/gifts.

Add a touch of Scandi style to your Christmas babes with this 100 per
cent organic cotton baby travel blanket. One side is a smart neutral
grey (to go with whatever you’re wearing) the other is a monochromatic,
seasonal forest print, $75, jasperandeve.com.au.

From e-book readers to luxury weekends, if you’re an
armchair traveller or enjoy road trips, click on to my story in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper for some crackers Christmas ideas for the traveller in your life.

  

Underwater clubs, living English literature, best kids’ travel destinations: Takeoff travel news

FOOD:  Up is down in the Maldives

The Maldives likes to turn
everything on its head: take, for example, Subsix, the world’s first
underwater nightclub. The club, which is 500 metres out to sea and six
metres under water, can be found at Per Aquum Niyama resort, which has
also just opened Nest treehouse restaurant. Dining pods are suspended
above ground, with wooden walkways linking the tables amid the jungle.
The restaurant serves Asian cuisines. Niyama is set on two islands in
the Dhaalu Atoll, named Play (think adventure sports and kids’ club for
12 months-12 years) and Chill (think spa). Other ‘‘altered reality’’
experiences in the Maldives include underwater restaurants (Conrad
Maldives Rangali Island, Kihavah Anantara) to overwater spas (pretty
much everywhere) and even government cabinet meetings (OK, that was a
one-off publicity stunt). See
peraquum.com 
.

 

GEAR Lather up for Sydney

 Ease homesickness for expat friends
by sending them a little piece of Sydney. These new shower gift packs
hail from our northern beaches, and comprise a body bar, a soy candle in
a tin and loofah in three of the company’s best-selling fragrances;
French vanilla, vintage

gardenia and coconut & lime.
Palm Beach products are Australian made and owned by a local family
company. Shower gift packs cost $24.95 each. See palmbeach collection.
com.au.
 

AIRLINE Fly north for winter

Southerners chasing the sun will
welcome the news that Tigerair is increasing the number of flights from
Sydney to the Whitsunday Coast Airport at Proserpine. The north
Queensland town is a key jumping-off point for travel to Airlie Beach
and the Whitsunday Islands, including popular Hamilton Island. The new
Sunday service departs Sydney at 9.10am, and returns from Whitsunday
Coast at 11.15am with

a flight time of 2 hours 35 minutes.
The service starts October 25, priced from $89 for a Light fare, which
includes 7kg carry-on luggage. The airline has also increased flights on
its Melbourne-Gold Coast route, adding new Friday and Sunday services
from

September 18, just ahead of the term
three school holidays, with tickets from $79. The additional services
come as Tigerair cancels its Melbourne-Mackay route from September 7,
due to low demand. Tickets for the new services are on sale, see tigerair.com.
 


KIDS Have kids, will travel

Sydney Harbour has been voted
Australia’s most family-friendly destination in the newest edition of
Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children book. Sydney’s ferry rides,
picnicking on Fort Denison and catching the super-cat to Manly for a
surf lesson all add up to a top-notch staycation, says Lonely Planet.
Others in its top

10 top family-friendly destinations
include the theme parks of the Gold Coast and Canberra’s Questacon and
the National Arboretum Playground (nb: they also encourage knocking out
somersaults on the immaculate grass dome of Parliament House.) Tassie’s
ghoulish ghost tours get a guernsey, as does Brissie’s Streets Beach and
the kids’ activity rooms in

the Queensland Museum &
Sciencentre, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. The new
edition helps you take the brood to more than 80 countries, from Austria
to Zanzibar, with advice and tips for fun family travel. It costs
$29.99. See the new Lonely Planet Twitter and Facebook pages and lonelyplanetkids.com.

PICTURES In the frame

Celebrate Australian and
international photography at the month-long Ballarat International Foto
Biennale, which runs from August 22 to September 20. Central Ballarat
will host exhibitions by the 21 invited artists, with another 118 events
(and rising) in the fringe festival across the city. The festival’s
founder and creative director, Jeff Moorfoot, travels the world to bring
photographers’ work to the biennale. Those on show can be established
or emerging artists – the only criterion is that their works have not
yet been shown in Australia. Seven heritage buildings in the city centre
will host the major exhibitions, so you can skip between the Ballarat
Art Gallery and Mining Exchange to smaller galleries and bars for
projection projects and workshops, which cover subjects from light
painting to visual storytelling to Photography 101, from $79 to $475.
For the full program, see
ballaratfoto.org. For more photography festivals in the Pacific Rim, see
asiapacificphotoforum.org.
 



NEWS Crowded house

Wolf Hall, Poldark… Britain is on a
roll with silver-screen adaptations of some of its best loved
literature, showcasing its cities and villages. The latest is Thomas
Hardy’s romantic tragedy Far from the Madding Crowd, now in cinemas.
Filmed around Dorset, the novel is

set in the village of Evershot,
which Hardy renamed Evershead in his novels, a four-hour train journey
from central London. Hardy was also an architect, and in 1893 he
designed the drawing-room wing of what is now the Red Carnation’s
five-star Summer Lodge Country House hotel. Stays cost from $680,
b&b, double. Otherwise, wake from slumber in a four-poster bed to a
full English breakfast at the 16th-century Acorn Inn, mentioned in
Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Costs from $565 a night, double. See
summerlodgehotel.co.uk, acorn-inn.co.uk and visitbritain.co.uk

 The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.    

Myanmar, floating whiskey bars and Australia’s cutest animal, officially: Takeoff travel news

TRENDS: Discover secrets of Myanmar

Myanmar has set our travel radars
afire since Lonely Planet named it in its top 10 must-visit destinations
back in 2012, when Australia lifted its sanctions against the country.
Now, Trafalgar becomes the first of the larger group tour companies
offering coach tours to enter the market in 2016. Its new 11-day Secrets of Myanmar tour traverses the well regarded sights of Yangon,

Inle Lake and Bagan and goes off
track to include a cooking class and local markets, visiting some of
Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, the Pa-O, Danu and Intha people. Before Trafalgar’s entry, the tourism market

had been dominated by smaller group
operators including Peregrine, which has been running tours since 2002,
World Expeditions and budget-minded Intrepid Travel. Travel pundits say
Myanmar’s infrastructure is still weak, with poor roads, a lack of ATMs
and poor communications (ie shaky Wi-Fi), though the big hotel groups
are moving in. 

Accor plans to open four new hotels in a country regarded as one of south-east Asia’s most mysterious and most beautiful.
Trafalgar’s 11-day Secrets of
Myanmar guided holiday costs from $4875, excluding airfares, with
departures between January 27 and December 7, 2016. Phone 1300 797 010,
see trafalgar.com.  
 

EXPLORE: Go with the flow

Fossick for gold, unearth a thunder
egg from an ancient lava flow or spot the rare Gouldian finch on a new
self-drive route in Far North Queensland. The new Lava Tubes, Gems and
Gorges Trail is an offshoot of the Savannah Way, which links Cairns and
Broome in an epic 3700-kilometre drive across three states and five
World Heritage sites. The new trail is a 300-kilometre circuit from
Minnamoolka to Conjuboy, inland from Queensland’s Mission Beach. En
route, take a river cruise down Cobbold Gorge, hunt for topaz at
O’Briens Creek and walk down the world’s longest lava tubes – caves
created by lava flows – at Undara Volcanic National Park. Thirsty work?
Pull in to Australia’s smallest bar at Lynd Junction to recoup. Also
check out the nearby Kirrama Range Road, which was mapped late last
year. Find the trails at visitor information centres or see
drivenorthqueensland.com.au.
 

DRINKS: Dram roll

 If you thought whisky and cruising
were uneasy bedfellows, think again as you order up at Magnums, the
first whisky bar on the Princess Cruises line. Staff at the new bar, on
board the locally based Dawn Princess, will lead you through 63 fine
whiskies, from Tasmania to Japan to the US and Scotland. You’ll find
single malts from New Zealand, American bourbons and even a Melbourne
offering. Try a nip or order the flight of the day, featuring three
different whiskies. The cruise line says the spirit is hot, and
recommends a dram after dinner or on a laidback sea day. Cruises on the
Dawn Princess include the 13-night round trip from Sydney

to New Caledonia and Vanuatu from $1399 a person, twin share, departing January 16, 2015. Phone 132 488, see princess.com

Silver fox Roy Billing.

TOUR: NZ fox trot for boomers

On your marks boomers. Your
adventure trip to New Zealand awaits. The new Silver Foxes and Foxettes
tour is aimed at baby boomers who want to live for the moment and
#saysorrylater. Check out the social media campaign, which encourages
you to SKI (Spend the Kids’ Inheritance). The ringleader of the new AAT Kings tour is actor Roy Billing (pictured), a proud Kiwi, Underbelly

and Jack Irish star and 2015
recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia. Billing helps mix New
Zealand’s heady beauty and fine tables with a dash of jet boating or
heli-wine tasting. The 10-day tours start in Billing’s hometown,
Auckland, then on to Rotorua for a hangi feast before

heading to the South Island’s
Christchurch, Franz Josef Glacier and Queenstown. Tours depart from
September 13, 2015 to May 22, 2016 and cost from $3795 a person, twin
share. Phone 131 415, see
helloworld.com.au/instore/silverfox.
 

GEAR: Stop the noise

So your carry-on bag already bulges
with laptop, camera, work gear or perhaps the accoutrements required by a
junior traveller by your side. Who has room for big headphones?
Fortunately, sound masters Bose have the answer, with their QC20 in-ear
headphones. Fully charged, these little babies offer 16 hours of noise
cancellation, and act as regular earphones even when uncharged.
The incredibly effective “noise
cancelling” mode will block out even your neighbour’s droning, while
“aware” lets you pick up traffic noise (handy when you’re on the move)
without having to corkscrew them tightly into your ears. They also
feature an inline mike and volume control. First released in 2013, the
new models come in black or white, tailored for iPhones/iPads/iPods,
Samsung Galaxy or Android devices. Includes a tidy zipup bag and earbuds in three sizes. Quiet Comfort 20 acoustic noise-cancelling headphones cost $399. See
bose.com.au.  
 

KIDS: Wild life

Australia’s cutest animal, Archer the koala.

July birthday kids will gain free
entry to Featherdale Wildlife Park, in western Sydney, which also
celebrates its birthday this month. The park is home to Archer the
Koala, officially the cutest animal in Australia, thanks to a recent
poll. Archer, who was hand-raised by

Featherdale staff, beat competition
from around Australia including gang-gang cockatoos and quokkas, and
details his life on his Facebook page @ArcherTheKoala. Featherdale includes a petting zoo
with baby lambs, goats and pigs, as well as Australia’s own baby
bilbies, wallabies, dingoes and wombats, while the fearless can sidle up
to snakes or tangle with a Tassie devil.

  
Open 9am to 5pm daily, 217 Kildare
Road, Doonside. Adults $29.50, children (3-15 years) $16, families from
$56 (1 adult, 2 kids). Phone (02) 9622 1644, see featherdale.com.au/birthday

 The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.   

Cruise with Margaret Atwood, train bar in Melbourne, discover Aboriginal Sydney: Takeoff travel news

CRUISE: The Arctic explorer’s tale

Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The
Robber Bride and a dozen other novels, as well as short fiction, poetry
and children’s books, can sail through the Northwest Passage with the
celebrated Canadian author Margaret Atwood.
The cruise departs Kugluktuk, in
Nunavut, Canada, following explorers’ footsteps to one the northernmost
towns in the world, Qaannaq, Greenland. 

Other (non-human) guests include
polar bears and possibly the “unicorn of the sea”, the narwhal, a
tusked whale that lives in the Arctic waters. Highlights including
visiting Inuit communities, iceberg spotting and crossing the Arctic
Circle. “And it’s always a delight to see
the more foolhardy among us take a plunge into subzero Arctic waters,”
says Atwood, a dedicated conservationist and twitcher. This is her ninth
journey with Adventure Canada. The 17-day cruise departs September 5 and costs from $US8995 ($11,650) a person.
See
adventurecanada.com.
 



FOOD: Top spot for trainspotters

Love trains? Love Melbourne? Then
you’ll adore one of the city’s newest bars, in a Hitachi train carriage
perched atop a city block in the innercity suburb of Collingwood.
Easey’s dishes up burgers and coffee on the ground floor, but climb up
to the fifth floor into the train carriage and it’s bottoms up with
skyline views. The new burger bar is one of the few to have Melbourne
Bitter on tap, fresh from its neighbour, Carlton United Brewery. It also
serves local craft brews including

Holgate, from Woodend, and Mountain
Goat, brewed in nearby Richmond, as well as Victorian spirits such as
Melbourne Gin Company. The carriage ran on the Pakenham-Dandenong line
from 1972 until its retirement in 2012. The bar’s owner and art curator
Jeremy Gaschk says graffiti artists loved these silver Hitachi train
carriages, so it’s only fitting the train’s resting point is in the
midst of Melbourne’s street art heartland, 48 Easey St, Collingwood. See
easeys.com.au
 

TECH: Airport face-off

TripAdvisor contributors will have a
new target in their sights as the rate-and-review site launches its
airport pages this month. 
First off the ranks is Singapore’s
Changi airport, often ranked the world’s best for its shopping
galleries, efficiency and cleanliness. 

It will be followed by New York’s
John F. Kennedy and London Heathrow airports, to launch this Tuesday,
along with 10 Australian airports including regionals

Townsville, Launceston and Cairns.
In total, TripAdvisor aims to
include 200 major airports across the world on its website and app. The
company says more than 3 billion people use airports each year, with an
average time spent in them of 150 minutes. The site aims to help travellers
occupy that time with its “Near Me Now” feature, which uses the
phone’s GPS to hook you up with the airports’ facilities. See tripadvisor.com

GEAR: Real-time life in the frame

The next generation of compact
cameras makes it easy to dazzle your Instagram followers. With built-in
Wi-Fi, the new 16MP Canon PowerShot lets you snap, share to your phone
and upload instantly. It’s 50x optical zoom gets you up close and
personal, and even stretches out to 100x digital zoom, its ‘‘lock’’
function helping minimise camera shake (though a baby tripod never goes
astray). On the cute gimmick side, flip over to fish-eye mode, go
totally automatic, or take full control in the manual setting, and it’s a
one-button operation to start shooting 1080p Full HD video.

  
Hook your camera into your phone,

computer, printer or even your TV
via Wi-Fi or near field communication technology (NFC). Although it
weighs 128g, it’s 12x8cm, so it’s not a pocket camera, but will tuck
into a small handbag, and Canon also gives you 10GB in its new image
storage cloud,
irista.com 
. The PowerShot SX530 HS costs around $426.99. See canon.com.
 


TOUR: Secret treasures of our backyard

Did you know that Ku-ring-gai Chase
National Park has the world’s most concentrated collection of Indigenous
artefacts? Discover its secrets with local Aboriginal guides on a new
tour by Sydney OutBack, including the most famous, The Emu in the Sky.
The sophisticated level of Aboriginal

astronomy sees an emu carved in
sandstone match a constellation in the sky every autumn, when it’s time
to gather emu eggs. “The Guringai people were wiped out by a smallpox
epidemic in just 10 years,” Sydney OutBack’s Paul Pickering says, “but
they’ve left us a legacy to tell their story.” The full-day “Wilderness &
Aboriginal” explorer tour cruises on a private 15-metre motor cruiser
through the setting of The Secret River, the Kate Grenville novel and
recent ABC drama (film buffs note: it was filmed mostly in East
Gippsland’s untouched Lake Tyers). Cost $199 adults/ $149 concession
including Sydney CBD transfers and a bush tucker-inspired lunch. Phone (02) 9099 4249. See
sydneyoutback.com.au.
 


KIDS: Big fish meet small fry

A week into school holidays and out
of ideas? New zookeeper workshops let kids feed crocodiles and pat
pythons at the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby, on the Central
Coast, (see
reptilepark.com.au) while in the Hunter Valley, kids as young as six weeks have tickled
three-metre tawny nurse sharks at Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters,
all served up with a strong conservation message (from
$29.50/$19.50/$95, see
sharkencounters.com.au). If you’re on the Gold Coast, Whales in Paradise runs three trips a
day to witness the annual migration of 20,000 whales (from $99/$69/$267
family,
whalesinparadise.com.au), and humpbacks, minke and southern right whales are now holidaying
along the South Coast. Jervis Bay Wild runs two whale-watching tours
each day, seven days a week, departing from Huskisson, 2.5 hours from
Sydney ($65/$28/$165,
jervisbaywild.com.au).
 

 

Wildlife in the Top End, new hotels for Adelaide, chop-chop, shop-shop: Takeoff travel news


NEWS: Spike in tours to Top End

Go deep into the tropical Top End to
explore the wildlife of Kakadu and the Mary River on safari with
Australia’s most decorated ecotour operator, Echidna Walkabout Nature
Tours. ‘‘This is where nature is still in charge,’’ says director and
guide Janine Duffy, who lists bustards, wallaroos and short-haired
wallabies as her favourite finds, as well as crocs, wild pigs and rare
birdlife. ‘‘It’s slow travel; you need to spend the time to discover the Top End,’’ she says.

Echidna Walkabout Tours won gold in
London last year at the World Responsible Travel Awards, named Best for
Wildlife Conservation, and recently became just one of three responsible
tourism operators in the world to be awarded the highest rating in the
Ethical Travel Guide by Tourism Concern, a charity that campaigns for
ethical and fair-trade tourism (tourismconcern.org.uk). The Wild Top End tour runs from
August 3 to August 9, 2015, and again in August 2016. The maximum group
size for the six day tour is 16 people. Costs $3300 a person. Phone (03) 9646 8249, see echidnawalkabout.com.au.  

 


FOOD: The world at your table

It’s a dreary night, so why not walk
the streets of the world with this new cookbook exploring the world’s
great street foods. Spend the night dining on Santorini’s tomato
fritters, barbecue pulled pork sandwiches from South Carolina, Iran’s
moreish jujeh kebab (saffron chicken) or kara’age chicken from the
izakayas of Tokyo. More than 150 easy recipes are drawn
from the four corners of the globe, most for four to six people,
because it’s all about sharing. Don’t miss the handy little Tricks of
the Trade section, which gives simple, straightforward advice about not
overfilling woks, roasting stock bones before you boil them and how

refrigerating dough makes your pizza crusts bubbly and chewy. This is author Jennifer Joyce’s 10th
book and she is also a food stylist for London mags, so expect beauty
on every page. My Street Food Kitchen is out on July 1 and costs $39.99.
See
murdochbooks.com.
 


KIDS: Rock on, baby

For the tiniest babes on the go, the
new Sleeper portable bassinet from Dutch-born Puckababy is a snug,
secure portable bassinet suitable for newborns and babies up to four
months, or 6.5kg and 64cm long. The soft bassinet is lightweight and
swaddles the baby with a neat crossover fold that is also a handle for
easy carrying and gentle rocking. Made from 100 per cent cotton, the
fabric is fully washable and carries a 1.0 tog rating. Ideal for planes,
trains and keeping baby safe and sound at home. Costs $179.95. See
puckababy.com.au.


GEAR: Chop, chop! Shop, shop!

Navigate China without currency woes
with a new prepaid travel card from Australia Post and Chinese firm
UnionPay, which is underwritten by the Bank of China. Charge the
Load&Go China card up with

Australian dollars and lock in a
fixed exchange rate into Chinese yuan, then it’s time to go shopping.
You can use the card at ATMs and point-of-sale terminals, paying in the
local currency. The reloadable card goes where foreign credit cards
aren’t accepted and as it’s prepaid, your bank accounts are safe and
unlinked. The card can be registered and locked with a PIN, and any
unused yuan can be converted back to Australian dollars when you come
home, without commission fees. Purchase in Australia Post offices or see

auspost.com.au/loadandgochina
 


HOTELS: Sage advice for stayers

Adelaide is the site of a new hotel
brand, with the old Grand Chifley Hotel recently rebranded as
Australia’s first Sage Hotel. The four-star hotel targets business
travellers with an eye on the balance sheet: rates include free Wi-Fi,
and laundry and minibar prices it says are comparable to convenience
stores. The property is in the prime location of South Terrace,
overlooking the city parklands, and is close to Adelaide’s free tram.
The Chifley Wollongong will rebrand to Sage in August and a new build in
Perth opens in March 2016. Sage’s parent group, the Singapore-based
SilverNeedle Hospitality, has 55 properties in the Asia-Pacific region
including the Country Comfort brand and Next Hotels, which debuted
recently in Brisbane. The Sage Hotel Adelaide has an opening special of
$99 a night, deluxe queen room only, until July 31. See
silverneedlehotels.com

TECH: Van of your dreams

So you’re listening to the call of the open road, but don’t have the vintage Airstream caravan to tow along for the ride? 

Log on to the new website for
MyCaravan.com, which hooks up would-be caravanners with the wheeled home of their

dreams, including motorhomes and
camper trailers. Owners can rent out their vans when they’re not in use,
and renters can save themselves the headache of van storage,
maintenance and registration, while paying up to half the price quoted
by commercial rental companies. The new website rates and reviews
vans as well as owners and renters, and also has a no-tow, no-woe section
for on-site vans, saving tow-bar-less renters any hauling hassles. Some owners will also relocate their vans for you, for a fuss-free, affordable holiday. See
mycaravan.com.au
 

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.   

Cruise Antarctica, shed light on the Philippines or find feathered friends: Takeoff travel news

CRUISE: Ship in Antarctica




Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten has turned its eyes from its Arctic homeland to Antarctica, doubling
its capacity to become the largest provider of explorer travel in the
deep south. Currently, its small expedition ship MS Fram sails from
Ushuaia, Argentina, but in 2016/17 it will be joined by sister ship MS
Midnatsol. Carrying 500 passengers, the larger Midnatsol will start and
end its journeys in Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia, and will include
an interactive science lab and tailored children’s programs. Next
season, MS Fram will carry just 200 guests, seeking new locations and
extreme nature experiences such as camping among penguins and kayaking
in seal and whale habitats. More than 36,000 people visited Antarctica
in 2014-2015, the British base at Port Lockroy (and its famous post
office) receiving more than 10,000 visitors. Australians make up the
second-largest nationality of visitors to Antarctica after US citizens.
Journeys on the MS Midnatsol are 18 days. See
hurtigruten.com. 


GEAR: Shine a light on poverty

Help light the lives of those living
on less than a dollar a day when you buy a new Mandarin 2 solar light.
Australian manufacturer Illumination will donate one solar light to a
family

in poverty for every light sold. The
social enterprise company says a billion people don’t have access to
electricity, instead using kerosene lamps to work and study by.

“Buying fuel for a kerosene lamp can
take a third of their income, the kerosene fumes are toxic and
polluting, and the lanterns often start fires,” says inventor and
economist Shane Thatcher, whose BOGO (buy one, give one) offer gives
safe, clean, free light to Filipino families, in conjunction with
Kadasig Aid and Development (kadasigaid.com.au 
). 

Ideal for travellers going off the
beaten track, the pocket-sized Mandarin 2 weighs 160g, lasts up to 16
hours on a single charge and can be hung or stands as a table lamp.
Costs $25. 
See illumination.solar.
 


TECH: Daydreaming? Do it!

Sleep hanging from a tree in a
suspended tent, snooze in a Swedish silver mine or doss in a pop-up
hotel in a former prison. The new

Crooked Compass travel app lists
more than 1000 unusual experiences across 134 countries, with maps,
booking info and your own bucket-list creator. Developed by avid
Australian traveller Lisa Pagotto, it also hooks up to Facebook and
Twitter for instabrag capabilities and its ‘‘Experience of the Day’’ is a
wild card that may set you on the path to underwater photography
classes in Guam or horse-riding in Mongolia. The Crooked Compass app is
available for iPhone and Android platforms, free. See
crooked-compass.com.
 


FOOD: Cocktails at the ready

London is enjoying a torrid affair
with prebottled cocktails, in the swankiest possible way. For those of
us on the paying side of the bar, that means less construction noise
from blenders, a consistent drink and shorter waits. Leading the pre-mix
cocktail charge is London light Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, whose
third bar, Dandelyan, is in the Tom Dixon-designed Mondrian London (morganshotelgroup.com). In a stroke of genius, his little gems also appear in the hotel
rooms’ minibars – did someone say, ‘‘Martinis in bed’’? Other
bottled-cocktail bars to try while you’re in town include Grown-Ups,
which pairs World of Zing’s bottled cocktails and gelato in Greenwich (black-vanilla.com), and The London Cocktail Club in Shaftesbury Ave
(londoncocktailclub.co.uk). Otherwise, check yourself in to Artesian at
The Langham, three times named Drinks International’s world’s best bar.
Artesian launches its new cocktail list on July 2. The theme?
Surrealism. See artesian-bar.co.uk. 


KIDS: Bunker down with feathered friends

Warning: cute alert. Get down at eye
level with Phillip Island’s most famous residents, its Little Penguins,
in a new underground bunker that opens in mid-November. The tiny penguins stand about 30cm fully grown, and you’ll be able to eyeball them

one-way glass – as they come ashore at sunset after a hard day’s fishing. There’s also new above-ground
seating for 400 people being built into the dunes as part of a
five-year, $1 million investment by RACV into the not-for-profit Phillip
Island Nature

Parks. More than 600,000 people
visited the eco-tourism venture last year, with profits invested back
into conservation, research and education. The close-up Penguin Plus area won’t
be available during the construction period, so with fewer seats
available, visitors should pre-purchase tickets,

especially during school holidays.
The Penguin Parade is 90 minutes from Melbourne. General tickets cost
from $25.40 adults, $12.25 children 4-12 years, and $61.25 families. See

penguins.org.au.
 

AIRLINES: Leave your heart in San Francisco

Skip Los Angeles and head directly
for the Golden Gate city as Qantas brings back direct flights between
Sydney and San Francisco from December 20. The airline cut the route in May
2011, opting instead to fly to its hub at Dallas, Texas. Qantas says the
direct flights will be welcomed by Silicon Valley’s corporate
customers, but San Fran is also beloved by Australian holidaymakers.
Around 20 per cent of the 1.2 million Australians to visit the US pop in
to San Francisco, which

is our fifth most popular city after Honolulu, New York, LA and Vegas. Qantas will fly Boeing 747s to San
Fran six times a week, with lie-flat beds in business and a premium
economy section. The flight is estimated at around 14 hours, and goes
head-to-head with United Airlines’ daily flight. Meanwhile, Qantas’
partner and oneworld friend American Airlines will pick up an LASydney
route from December 17. See
qantas.com,
aa.com,
visitcalifornia.com.

 

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.  

Ski Victoria, prison sleeps and luxe trains in Ireland: Takeoff travel news

SNOW: Winter is coming

Victoria’s ski season opened on the
Queen’s Birthday long weekend (June 6), with more bang for its buck. The
state’s most popular resort, Mount Buller, begins with fireworks and
new snowmakers pumping out up to 30 per cent more snow (mtbuller.com.au) while nearby Mount Stirling’s renovated Nordic Centre ramps up its cross-country gear offerings (mtstirling.com.au). Mount Hotham has new two-hour ski and snowboard masterclasses and is
now linked with nearby Dinner Plain by the 12-kilometre Brabralung
Indigenous Interpretation Trail, a crosscountry ski trail that follows
an ancient route of the ‘‘first peoples’’ of the Alps (mthotham.com.au). Dinner Plain also has a new tubing Snow Park with night tubing,
while family-friendly Lake Mountain has expanded its Snowman’s Village,
with a fourth toboggan slope and new snowshoeing trails. Finally,
Victoria’s largest ski resort, Falls Creek, hosts the 25th year of the
annual Kangaroo Hoppet cross-country event on August 22 (fallscreek.com.au).
 


HOSTEL: Sleep tight in Freo’s lock-up

Spend the night behind bars and pay
for the privilege. However, you won’t have to rob a bank to sleep at the
new Fremantle Prison YHA, which costs from just $28 a night in a 10-bed
dorm (and half-price throughout May – that’s $14). 

The 19th-century jail first opened in 1855 and is World Heritage-listed, with the last prisoners checking out in 1991. 

You can sleep in a cell, still with
locks, spyholes, original walls and floors, in an eight-bed guard’s
cottage or in the (more spacious) new extension. Rooms range from
private twin and family rooms with en suites to dorms, with a
selfcatering

kitchen, Wi-Fi, laundry and games
rooms for all. There are also plans afoot for outdoor movie nights, a
volleyball court and giant chess. Twin-bed cells cost from $68, $120 for
a double with en suite, or $140 for family rooms. Phone (08) 9433 4305, see
yha.com.au.
 


TRAIN: The green miles

Are trains the new cruise ships?
Glide through the greenery of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern
Ireland on the Belmond Grand Hibernian, the country’s first luxury
train, which is now taking bookings for its inaugural season, in 2016.
Aboard, there are just 40 guests in 20 en suite cabins, with restaurant
and observation bar cars, kitted up for two-, four- or six-night
itineraries.

  
The train visits the island’s beautiful cities, pausing for such quintessential experiences as

kissing the Blarney Stone, catching
traditional Irish music and visiting renowned castle gardens. Like a
cruise itinerary, you can also add

extensions to the journey, such as a day on the green for a round of golf or a tour of cultural Dublin. The two-night Realm of Giants tour,
from Dublin to Belfast and Portrush, costs from $4470 a person,
including all meals, drinks and excursions including the

Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Experience. Phone 1800 000 395, see
belmond.com/grandhibernian.
 

GEAR: Keep cool with military precision

You don’t muck around getting food
from the supermarket, do you? You’re more a hunt-and-gather type,
snagging barra, snaring crabs or chasing calamari. This new bin from the hard guys of gear, Pelican Products, is a prince among wheeled portable coolers. The new elite cooler can roll over the toughest terrain with its two large wheels and sturdy pull-along handle. It has a 75.7-litre capacity with a
built-in bottle opener and a fish measure that is moulded into the lid,
so you can ensure your catch is legal. Want more tough talk? 

Its military-grade insulation is
guaranteed to keep drinks at polar temps, it’s also certified grizzly
bear resistant (though we don’t know how it would stack up against our
koalas) and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Ideal for the boat, the

beach or heading into the outback. The Pelican ProGear™ Elite 80QT Cooler costs $649.95. See
PelicanProGear.com.au.
 


TECH: Fickle pick-and-mix travellers can triple dip

Brand loyalty is so last century:
today’s travellers shop for the best prices and experiences across
brands and across the world. However, the pick-and-mix approach makes it
tough to rack up points on loyalty cards. Travel company Expedia has
launched its own loyalty program, Expedia+, which lets you collect
points on bookings made through its website. It also means you can still
claim points with your frequent flyer programs and also your credit
cards – effectively a points triple dip. Expedia+ members can get
benefits such as bar or spa discounts at hotels, and it promises to
price match lower quotes on flights, car hire, hotels, cruises and
packages. Book through its mobile app and snap up the launch promotion
of triple points. See
expedia.com.au.

KIDS: Littlest lifesavers

Teach your kids essential skills
with a First Aid for Kids class that could save your life. The one-hour
classes are hands-on to hold short attention spans, and are tailored for
kids as young as kinder age up to 13 years. Run by First Aid instructors (many of

whom are also parents), kids learn about dialing 000, managing asthma, what to do for bites or stings, CPR and blood loss. Trainers are based in all capital
cities and come to your location to teach groups (minimum 10 children).
There’s also a superhero certificate and stickers at the end of the
course. “Our age-specific kids’ courses give them self-confidence and
teach important development skills,” says director Mary Dawes. Ideal
preparation for the big round-Australia trip or backyard escapades. Costs $12 a child. Phone 1300 853 050, see
firstaidforyou.com.au. 

Great trails, pub grub and shooting on safari : Takeoff travel news

Port Campbell National Park. Photo: Mark Watson

TECH: Talk the walk


Hit the road on foot or by bike
throughout Victoria with a new website that shows 15 great walking,
cycling and mountain-bike routes, ranging from the iconic (Great Ocean
Road or Wilson’s Promontory) to the obscure (Gippsland Plains Rail Trail
or the Goldfields Track). The new website provides GPS data,
interactive mapping, beauty spots, trail descriptions and degrees of
difficulty. You can also click for accommodation, gear hire and, of
course, great restaurants, because trail mix doesn’t always cut it. See greattrailsvictoria.com.au.
 


FOOD: Best grub for pub lovers

Fight back against the demise of the
great English public house by settling in for lunch at Britain’s oldest
pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, in the Hertfordshire city of St Albans.
The pub’s kitchen is now headed up by chef Ian Baulsh, a St Albans local
recently returned from two years in Australia working with Melbourne
celeb chef Ian Curley.
Founded in the eighth century, the
pub’s signature dishes are freerange, house-made pork sausages and beef
burgers sourced by a master butcher, and a British cheeseboard, all
using local produce. Baulsh has added a summery touch,

with chicken liver pate, pan-roasted
monkfish and chargrilled tuna nicoise. St Alban was Britain’s first
Christian martyr, Oliver Cromwell sank pints in the pub, and it’s been
called home by Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Hawking.
The city is 25 minutes by train from London’s St Pancras station on the Thameslink line. See
visitbritain.org.


AIRLINE: Planes, gains and automobiles

Passengers flying Qantas can now
earn as well as redeem points on car hire with Budget and Avis in
Australia and New Zealand. And in a move that will have points
collectors smiling, travellers also will earn frequent flyer points even
when they are paying with points. ‘‘Members will still continue to earn
points for that booking at the same rate as they would if they were
paying with cash,’’ says the airline. Its rival, Virgin Australia, lets
you earn points with Hertz, Europcar and Thrifty car rentals through its
Velocity Frequent Flyer program, but allows you to use points to book a
car only with Europcar; see
virginaustralia.com.au 
. In other news, Qantas is ramping up flights to Hamilton Island,
including a new, twice-weekly Melbourne-Hamilton Island service from
June 27. See
qantas.com.au

SAFARI: Ready, set, shoot

Photographers of all abilities will
know the frustration of snapping a safari through sticky windows or
around a badly placed safety pole.
The new safari jeep at South
Africa’s Sabi Sabi private reserve has been customised for photography
tours, with tiered seating and swivel chairs, fixed camera mounts for
additional stability and cut-out side panels. The tours are guided by professional photographers and include tuition on shutter speeds and action shots, held over sundowners

back at the lodge. Would-be lion
paparazzi can also hire additional equipment including the big guns –
such as a 200-400-millimetre lens – to pap the Big Five as they roam the
fence-free range on the edge of the Kruger National Park.
Photography safaris at Sabi Sabi run on

demand, all year round and cost from
$1800, two days, includes photographer and vehicle for up to four
people. Stays at Sabi Sabi’s Bush lodge cost from $1030 a person,
sharing. See sabisabi.com.
 

AIRPORTS: Flying, beautifully

Life spent in airports is quite
possibly life wasted. Instead, use that time when your flight’s delayed
to become beautiful (within reason) at AMUSE Beauty Studio, which has
opened recently at Sydney Airport. The new store stocks some of the most
desirable names in the industry, including Tom Ford, Jo Malone and
Amouage. It also offers

free beauty quickies for brows and nails, and an express make-up service for that emergency smoky eye.
As well, it’s home to Australia’s first Hermes concept shop-within-a-store, stocking its homewares range, which has

never been available outside its
branded stores. The beauty store, run by the parents of the Newslink
chain, is now open in Sydney Airport’s domestic terminals, T2 and T3,
and comes to Melbourne in August.
See
amusebeauty.com.au.
 


BOOK: Propaganda paradise

So North Korea’s on your bucket
list? Get a taste for its altered reality with Anna Broinowski’s witty
book, The Director is the Commander. The filmmaker wanted to make a
movie that would stop the creation of a coalseam gas mine near her home,
in Sydney Park, so she

turned to the master of propaganda,
Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea and author of the
manifesto The Cinema and Directing. 

The only Western filmmaker in the
world to gain total access to North Korea’s film industry, Broinowski
worked with local directors, actors and crews to create Aim High in
Creation! The Director is the Commander, $32.99,
penguin.com.au. NSW-based Guidepost Tours books
tours of North Korea with British-based Koryo Tours. A five-day tour
(including visa processing) costs from $2000 a person, departing from
Beijing.
See guideposttours.com.au.