I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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A city sleeps: Melbourne moves into Lockdown #6

Last night, I walked through the heart of Melbourne as we went into our sixth lockdown.

The city’s laneways rang with the sound of shutters going down as the city locked itself up.

It was a pretty crazy time to be editing a guidebook for the city. But there I found myself, sitting in little Shandong Mama Mini, eating its fabulous mackerel dumplings with manager Gin, taking notes and talking optimistically about when New Yorkers are going to roam freely through our little laneways once again…maybe next June.

Walking the darkening streets, I saw a woman at the gates of Gucci, pleading, pleading to make a last purchase before lockdown – only to be turned away by staff. The cash registers are closed, she was told, night is falling and lockdown looms.

The doorman at Society, the hottest new restaurant in town, told me all the late bookings had been shunted into earlier time slots, with diners ushered back onto the streets before the stroke of 8pm.

A cheery Big Issue seller chatted about his business model falling apart: with few office workers and less city dwellers, his magazines remain unsold. But he was fully vaccinated, he told me. Was I?

“These lockdowns are killing us,” said the waiter in Pellegrini where, for the first time in living memory, I could get a seat at the bar and a chat with the black apron clad waiters. Snapping a photo of the luscious cakes of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the glittering Block Arcade – normally a false hope due to the hordes of drooling instagrammers – was but a cinch, and the Royal Arcade remains empty of its traditional shoppers, down on a day trip from the country.

Street cafes were being packed up, outdoor furniture stacked away, kitchen staff clearing the benches, glass of wine in hand. Music played in empty hotel lobbies, with no-one to listen to it.

The streets emptied so completely they could double as a setting for an apocalyptic zombie movie.

Food delivery drivers tore down empty footpaths on their scooters with impunity.

Traffic lights clicked uselessly as an ambulance careened unimpeded through a red light – lights flashing but the sirens silent in the darkening night.


Men getting married: best buck’s parties in the Yarra Ranges

You’d think it was a divergence from travel writing – writing about ideas for buck’s parties – but this fun little story let me take a cruise through the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges.

I found a rum distillery in Belgrave (killik.com.au), discovered a 120-meter flying fox nearby in the Tall Trees Adventures (treesadventure.com.au) and the thing I’m going to do the minute Melbourne is out of Lockdown #5, the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail, an easy mountain-bike trail through redwood forests in the Yarra Ranges National Park.

My story on eight great ideas for buck’s parties is in the current edition of Off-Peak Wedding Magazine, produced by Yarra Ranges Tourism – click here to download the free mag.


Postcards from the edge: life in Melbourne’s Lockdown #4

It’s cold and rainy in Melbourne today, perfect weather for ducks and lockdown.

We’re in what is shaping up as the last two days of a 14-day lockdown across Victoria – nearly two weeks ago, we were plunged back into Stage 4 restrictions, which means no travelling more than 5km from your home, only two hours a day outside for your exercise, essential shops and worksites operating only (which, bizarrely, included dog groomers – hello?)

A hush descended across the city, and every day felt like a Sunday afternoon in 1980s rural Queensland. As comedian Danny Katz wrote in the Good Weekend last weekend, the only sound across the city was the sound of a million markers scratching out events from our wall calendars.

Unfortunately, one of those events was the Willy Lit Festival, a literary festival held in the neighbouring suburb of Williamstown. Along with my co-author, photographer Jude van Daalen, we had been invited to exhibit the photos and stories of our book Together Apart at the festival. So, with its cancellation, everything is off the cards, but we’re hoping to find a new home for the exhibition.

In the meantime, we still have a few copies of our book, Together Apart: Life in Lockdown, which you can order online at www.lockdownstories.com.au

Fingers crossed we’re in the last days of Lockdown #4, stay safe and toasty.


Camp Island the Great Barrier Reef’s newest private island escape, Queensland Australia

On a quiet Sunday afternoon in locked-down Melbourne,  my beautiful daydream is of Camp Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.

The little island is at the top of the Whitsunday Islands group, and when you take it, you take the whole island. To get there, I had to dodge two cyclones, a COVID outbreak and several COVID scares, but it was worth it. While the island is located in the curve of Abbot Bay, in between Airlie Beach and Townsville, there was almost no sight of another human.

To discover more about Camp Island, click here to read my story in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age‘s Traveller section.


Reports from locked-down Melbourne

Melbourne is back in lockdown – it’s our fourth lockdown since the beginning of the global pandemic.

On 1 one of our new regime, I had a chat with ABC News Radio in a short segment ambitiously titled, “How to survive a lockdown.”

I might have snorted a little when asked whether photographer Jude van Daalen and I were going to produce a sequel to our book, Together Apart. If it means locking down for another six months, um, no thanks!

Currently, the whole of Victoria is on Stage 4 restrictions, which means working from home, all non-essential shops closed, the ability to travel no further than 5km from your front door and schools closed.

Tune in if you want a little reminder of what’s going on down here in the snap-frozen south – so far, the one-week circuit breaker has been extended for another week, let’s hope it doesn’t continue past that date.

 

The feature photograph on this post is by photographer Jude van Daalen/The Melbourne Portrait Studio, and features in Together Apart: Life in Lockdown. Click here to order your copy.


First look: new Next Hotel Melbourne

Next Hotel Melbourne. I love hotels. I love the time warp that hotels lead us into: suddenly, there’s a different view from the window, my toiletries all smell more exotic, I have far better bed linen.

It’s bizarre to think that, in the midst of a global pandemic, hotels would still be opening. But life still goes on, and here in Australia, we’re luckier than most.

Recently, I embraced the call to arms to #letsMelbourneAgain, and took a staycation in my own city, Melbourne.

The sparkling, new Next Hotel Melbourne is located in the hottest piece of real estate in town, 80 Collins Street, “up the Paris end of Collins St,” as we say. Not just because that’s where all the boutiques are (Dior, Chanel, Vuitton etc), but also because that’s where you’ll find a lot of the glamorous, turn-of-the-century architecture built with the flush of gold-rush money. In between the ornate street lights and those funny old-fashioned bathrooms that were built beneath the pavements, rise the glossiest skyscrapers – all cunning angles and unexpected entrances.

Compressed tomato

Compressed tomato in white soy stuffed with stracciatella with basil. Photo supplied.

The entrance to Next is next-level discreet. Entered from Little Collins Street, you’ll first see Ingresso, a little coffee and Campari bar, with little fixed stools inside and out, for a touch of laneway chic. (Ingresso means ‘entrance’ – see what they did there?)

The Clef d’Or concierge at the door is a hint of things to come – the hotel is embedded in the DNA of the CBD (if you fancy a few acronyms), with a restaurant and cocktail bar worthy of a visit in their own right, not just as accoutrements to your guest room.  Sicily meets Hong Kong as chefs Daniel Natoli and Adrian Li rule La Madonna, which set the pace with a fabulous compressed tomato with white soy, stracciatella and basil entree, and ended admirably with a cannoli spiked with Fernet-Branca bitters and pistachio.

Follow me to the bedroom: firstly, there are 255 of them, each looking out to a cityscape, be it a cafe-filled laneway you never knew existed, or bigger views across the tops of skyscrapers. From my eyrie, I spy champagne bars, Mexican restaurants, jewellers and designer sneaker shops all tucked into the angled architecture of the 80 Collins St precinct.

Back in the room, toiletries are supplied by Melbourne brand Hunter – the body wash blends grapefruit, tangerine peel and rum, for a spicy scent, and the hairdryers are top-of-the-line Dyson which cost more than a room night, for top marks in the bathroom. There’s also a Bose sound system, if you’re going to order a cocktail made with the hotel’s own barrel-aged spirits. Otherwise, pull a stool up at the bar for a romp through Negroni nirvana, and listen to Phil, the Master of Spirits, wax lyrical about the spirit world.

Next Hotel Melbourne guestroom. Photo supplied.

The next morning, I did pop into the gym for a little stretch, but really, the whole point is to hit the city streets again. So an early jog down quiet Little Collins is an easy heartstarter, and will make you feel better about ordering the black pudding for breakfast (chef Adrian’s special recommendation).

What it is not: it’s not splashy. You won’t find here is a signature rooftop pool or a pair of neon angel wings in which to photograph yourself in front of.

What it is: tricky to find, with a dark and moody palette and serious food and drink credentials – Next fits this city like a glove.

From $289 a night. 103 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, nexthotelmelbourne.com


In the pink: nine of Australia’s best pink lakes

What’s hot right now? Pink gin. Pink salt. Pink hair. Pink lakes. Yep, pink lakes, of which Australia has plenty.

From champagne to candy, with rose and bubblegum in between, is it any wonder we love them? The natural phenomenon occurs only with the right balance of salt, sun and some hardworking micro-organisms.

In this piece, I rounded up nine lovely pink lakes around Australia with the hottest hues, for your pink perusal. Some, like the pink lake that occasionally lives beneath Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge, are easy to find. Others, such as Western Australia’s Lake Hillier, are our most iconic, but also the hardest to reach.

Click here to read my story in Traveller about nine of Australia’s best pink lakes.


Driving the Snowy Valleys Way, Australia

Stop the clock, skip the highways and take the slow road through forested vales, rolling farmlands and vibrant villages. It’s time to linger longer.

I’m pleased to show you the new website for the Snowy Valleys Way, a driving route through the foothills of the Australian Alps, from Gundagai in NSW heading south through the western foothills of the Snowy Mountains to Beechworth in Victoria’s High Country.

Writing this website was a way to escape the confines of Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown, where I could travel to wild swimming holes and historic streets, stay in a stone farm cottage or a stylish highway inn. In my mind, I revisited farmgates and markets, walked apple orchards and visited century-old museums.

Hopefully, the website inspires you to visit these gentle landscapes, on the NSW-Victorian border, not just in your mind, but in your car, on foot, by bicycle or perhaps on horseback.

Click here to visit the new Snowy Valleys Way website.


Luxury lounging on the mighty Murray River, South Australia

‘Silver linings’ is a phrase that’s getting a good airing during this pandemic, and the silver lining for the travel industry is our eagerness to explore our own country. Take, for instance, the multitude of villages and historic towns that line our beautiful Murray River. Renmark is a case in point, with its history of paddleboats and fortified wines (surely a match made in heaven?)

Just outside Renmark, in the village of Paringa, The Frames is a luxury property comprising three completely private suites that all look out onto the slow-moving Murray. Watch the waterway from the spa, on the balcony or, one of the suites, even from bed.

I absolutely recommend a visit to the 23rd Street Distillery for a little libation, and a cruise through the backwaters of the Murray River to spy wallabies and emus, kingfishers and goannas going about life in the riverlands.

To read my review in the Good Weekend magazine, click here.

The Frames

7 Panorama Court, Paringa; (08) 8595 7217; theframesluxuryaccommodation.com.au


Roadtripping on the Anti-Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

Do you remember what the Great Ocean Road was, pre-COVID? Bumper-to-bumper cars ogling the 12 (or so) Apostles, the crashing surf and the koalas.

You can rail against the international travel ban (and god knows, we’ve all suffered as a result of it), or you can look for the rainbows: no more foreign tourists bogging up the scenic spots, we’ve got it all for ourselves.

Alternatively, you could try what I’ve dubbed the Anti-Great-Ocean-Road, the Hamilton Highway, which runs from Melbourne to the pearl of the Road, Port Fairy. Green fields, stone walls, historic pubs and a great dollop of indigenous and Irish history.

I wrote a piece for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, take a look here for some Victorian travel love.

 


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