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. 

Guide to a three-day trip to Melbourne

Caffe e Torta.
Caffe e Torta, 314 Little Collins St, Melbourne.
Photo: Belinda Jackson

Want to drink coffee, sip martinis, frequent the best
eateries and shop like a true local? Melburnian Belinda Jackson shows
you how to pack it all into a three-day extravaganza.

 Sure, Melbourne’s got Vespas parked outside sidewalk cafes and your
tailored winter coat will always get a workout here, but this town is no
poor man’s Europe. The star of the south is home to the world’s best
baristas, quality late-night dining and truly great shoe shopping,
without wowsery curfews, iced pavements or a $1000 airfare. This season,
expect great coups in the art exhibition world, affordable eats from
the brightest chefs and gorgeous indie fashion.

DAY ONE

Good morning, Melbourne! Swan down the Paris end of town where
Euro-fash Doc Martin’s fires up the espresso machine at 7.30am (86
Collins St, see collinsquarter.com)
so you’re ready for Melbourne’s power block of shopping, from Bourke
Street Mall to Lonsdale St. Sparkly new Emporium leads into the
made-over Strand Melbourne Arcade and onto Melbourne’s GPO, home of
Australia’s first H&M. The antidote for all this gorgeousness is the
Grand Trailer Park Taverna. Pull up a caravan and order the Chunk
Double-Double with a boozy milkshake (87 Bourke St, see grandtrailerpark.com.au)
then say hi to Casey Jenkins (she of Vagina Knitting), waiting in the
Dark Horse Experiment artist studios to do whatever you want. The rules:
she doesn’t leave the gallery “and you have to leave her body the way
you found it” (110 Franklin St, see darkhorseexperiment.com)
Need a drink? Wander down Melbourne’s Chinatown, push open a
nondescript door and tell the guys in Union Electric Bar you’d like a
West Winds gin and fresh apple juice, please (13 Heffernan La). Now snag
an upstairs booth in new Magic Mountain Saloon, of Cookie pedigree.
Oooh, that Thai is spicy. Pair with a Tom Thumb mocktail or espresso
martini with cold-pour coffee (62 Lt Collins St, see magicmountainsaloon.com.au).

DAY TWO

Possibly Australia’s first cereal restaurant, Cereal Anytime pops up
in Richmond’s Swan Street Chamber of Commerce alongside the fine teas of
Storm in a Teacup (214 Swan St, Richmond) but if it’s cookin’ you’re
lookin’ for, mosey down to social enterprise Feast of Merit for
shakshuka and a warm glow (117 Swan St, Richmond, see feastofmerit.com).
Follow with a lazy 2.25km parklands stroll to the treasures of the
Forbidden City’s Palace Museum in The Golden Age of China Qianlong
Emperor, 1736–1795 (180 St Kilda Road, see ngv.vic.gov.au)
then explore St Kilda’s most happening pocket, 56-72 Acland St: eke out
a rum-and-tapas lunch in The Nelson, real Peruvian in Buena Vista
Peruvian Kitchen, inhale manchego and leek croquetas at Lona Pintxos Bar
or call for shisha and Middle Eastern mezze in 40 Thieves & Co.
Crush the calories on a City Sights Kayak guided tour down the Yarra,
good with kids from eight years ($78pp, see urbanadventures.com) Now you can indulge at the effortlessly French L’Hotel Gitan. Do oysters and champagne, do the Cape Grim porterhouse (see lhotelgitan.com.au).
Wind down with Australia’s best cocktails at oddball Bar Exuberante.
Expect typos on the menu, expect a knock-back if its 14 seats are
already occupied (438 Church Street, Richmond, see facebook.com/BarExuberante).

DAY THREE

Savour the flavour of a bagel that’s taken a New Jersey local two days to create at 5 and Dime Bagels (16 Katherine Pl, City, 5dimebagel.com.au)
or experience true coffee geekery at First Pour cafe, home to
Victoria’s 2015 barista champ, Craig Simon (26 Bond St, Abbotsford).
Blow the city for a breath of country air at Heide Museum of Modern Art.
Explore the contemporary collections and sculpture gardens with a Cafe
Vue lunch box by super-chef Shannon Bennett (7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen, heide.com.au).
On the way back into town, take a quick prance into Lupa to flick the
racks for local indie fashion designers (77 Smith St, Fitzroy, lupa.com.au) Nicely timed, you’ll make happy hour and a gin high tea at new G&Tea (100 Kerr St, Fitzroy, gandtea.com.au)
Don’t go overboard: you’ve got dinner booked in at Fatto Cantina,
beloved for its late-night Sicilian dining and city views from the
terrace. Finish with a stroll across the river on the love-locked Yarra
footbridge and back into the city’s heart.

Emporium Shopping Centre.
Emporium Shopping Centre.

FIVE MORE MELBOURNE MUST-DOs

1. Taste authentic Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Greek cuisines on a Footscray food tour with expert Alan Campion, $110, see melbournefoodtours.com.
2. Stretch with the locals at hip hop yoga in South Yarra (yoga213.com.au). If you don’t dig downward dog to Snoop Dogg, slap on the bling and shimmy round The Tan, 3.8km around the Botanic Gardens.

3. Go anti-establishment in Northcote at
the new Estelle Bistro. Chef Scott Pickett tips the Cantabrian anchovies
with romesco, with a Clarence House pinot blanc (243 High Street,
Northcote, estellebistro.com)
4. The Monash Gallery of Art was designed by starchitect Harry Seidler and shows 2000 works of Australian photography, see mga.org.au.
5. Do the Signature Kitya Karnu scrub, massage, cleanse and river stone ritual in the Aurora Spa (The Prince hotel, St Kilda, see aurorasparetreat.com.au)

Degraves Lane.
Degraves Lane. 

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

visitmelbourne.com/

GETTING THERE

Virgin Australia, Qantas, Tigerair and Jetstar have many flights between the two capitals. Compare fares with skyscanner.com.

STAYING THERE

New city digs include Coppersmith (South Melbourne, see coppersmithhotel.com.au), Doubletree Hilton (city, see melbourne.doubletree.com), Larwill Studio (Parkville, see artserieshotels.com.au), Mantra City Central (city, see mantra.com.au) and Jasper Hotel (city, see jasperhotel.com.au)

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

On the road: Lang Co, central Vietnam

Well, today was the day that you do all the slog for: pay-off for all the rejection emails, all the silence from editors when you really need the cash, all the crappy deadlines and the ridiculous subjects you have to write about.

Today ran pretty close to my idea of nirvana: yoga with real yogi in a sala with windows open to catch the sea breeze. Organic cooking school amidst a garden of plenty, picking fresh herbs and lettuce before grilling and chopping amidst the greenery. Lunch and then more lunch with Vietnamese coffee. Massage that unknots, unties and unravels all those kinks down the spine. Swim in villa’s plunge pool. Dinner of local seafood, and a nightcap.

There may have been a little early-morning deadline (met), there may have been too much instagramming (see global_salsa). But in all, a spectacular day. Tomorrow, it’s back to Singapore.

Thanks to Banyan Tree Hotels, here in Lang Co, central Vietnam.