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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Ten great car-free towns: from Hoi An to Hydra

Is there nothing better than a car-free town? I’m thinking those little hilltop towns dotted through Italy, the ancient marketplaces of the Middle East, the pedestrian zones of the otherwise honking, fume-laden roads of South America’s great cities.

My top 10 list includes such greats as Jerusalem’s Old City, the Princes Islands off Istanbul and beautiful Hydra, one of the Saronic islands in the Greek archipelago, which holds a special place in my heart for its donkeys and vast, opportunistic orange cat population. There’s also lovely Hoi An, Vietnam’s town of tailors and, of course, the most famous of them all, La Serenissima, aka Venice.

You can click here to read my list, published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section.

Just after it ran, I received an email from a reader telling me that Medina Malta should have made the top 10. Overlooking the fact he had an iconic Maltese surname, he’s definitely got a point – the so-called Silent City, which has been inhabited since 8th-century BC, was another beautiful film location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and a worthy contender.  Do you have any suggestions?


Winter in the deep north: Oulanka National Park, Finland

“What’s your favourite place in the world?” is a question often asked of travel writers. For a decade or so, the former USSR country Georgia was top of the list for its beautiful mountains, fabulous food and warm welcome, along with perennial favourite Morocco, and I wouldn’t have lived in Egypt and returned each year if I didn’t love it.

However, a latecomer is Finland. I’ve long been curious about the country, and finally, after many visits to neighbouring Sweden (and, to be honest, hearing all their mean-girl jokes about Helsinki), I took the plunge and visited, mid-winter. This time, I had my then eight-year-old in tow and through UK travel company Exodus Travels, experienced a Finnish Christmas way off the grid in Oulanka National Park, about 800km north of the capital, on the Finnish-Russian border.

‘Remote’ is one way to put it. Beautiful, serene, fairy-like and perfect are some other words easily applied to our week spent in log cabins in the national park, where we cross-country skied, sledged, snowshoed and, crazily, someone threw a pair of reins in my hand and sent me off into the snowy wilderness with brace of huskies.

I wrote the story up for Holidays with Kids, just before this whole pandemic became a thing, and I’m so proud to share it with you.

Click here to take a look at the full story and the current edition of Holidays with Kids.

Winter in the deep north, Holiday with Kids.


Secret seven: best places to see the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights)

Life lessons I have learned: a pitching boat in the Norwegian Sea is not the only place to see an aurora, and definitely not the best place to photograph one, as adroitly illustrated by my dodgy pic of the Northern Lights, taken from the top deck of a Hurtigruten ship off the Norwegian coast.

Far closer (and much warmer) for those of us in the antipodes, our own Aurora Australis is gearing up for a solar maximus in the coming years.

“We’re just coming out of solar minimum, building up to a solar maximus, so we can expect to see increasing solar activity to peak in the next three or four years,” forecasts Tasmanian aurora watcher Margaret Sonnemann, who I’ve interviewed several times, and is an aurora expert. Stemming from her appreciation of the southern skies, she began what’s now Australia’s biggest online Aurora Australis information group (see facebook.com/groups/auroraaustralis). 

I’ve rounded up seven best places to see the Southern Lights, from Tassie to Victoria and – travel bubbles willing – New Zealand. Find recommendations in designated dark sky sanctuaries, from a plane in the air or even in car parks. Click here to read my story for the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers’ online travel section, Traveller.

 


How to sauna like a Finn

Over Christmas and New Year, I spent my days leaping in and out of saunas like a lemon into a G&T in Scandinavia. My first dip was in the Allas Sea Pools on Helsinki’s waterfront.

Dashing from the sauna to the outdoor pools is an exercise in fortitude when there’s a stiff wind coming in off the Baltic Sea, and you’re clad in nothing but wet swimmers. I then worked up to dashing out of the sauna and rolling in the snow, further north in Oulanka National Park. And finally, in Stockholm, cooled off by leaping into a lake at Hellesgarten, on the Stockholm archipelago.

Never have I been so clean. I also learned a few tricks and faux pas – for a start, you can ditch the swimmers inside the sauna, though most people slip on swimmers to go into the pools or snow.

I took the chance to chat with Maia Söderlund, of Allas Sea Pool, for the fine print on sauna etiquette.

Click here to read my The Knowledge column on how to sauna like a Finn, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, and online at Traveller.com

 

 

 


Best hotel breakfast buffet 2019: Helsinki, Finland

Breakfast buffets, I’ve had a few in this job. But this morning’s buffet at the Lapland Hotels Bulevardi, in Helsinki, was one of the best.

I’m currently in the Finnish capital, about to head even further north to Kuusamo, on the border of Russia and Lapland, which is why I chose to stay in this new hotel in Helsinki – to warm up to the Lappish way of life.

It was a mix of the stylish, handmade ceramics by Anu Pentik, the moody setting with its reindeer pelts and the exciting food – much of it drawn from Lapland, where the group is dominant – that makes it an absolute standout.

Top of the list was the most humble dish, an exceptional organic oatmeal porridge, slow cooked in the oven for three hours: I’m not usually a salty porridge girl, but with cherry jam and a swish of Lappish honey, it sung to me.

I couldn’t eat it all, I had to leave space for the spruce sprout smoothie and the sea buckthorn smoothie, the warm smoked salmon and the ice-cellar pickled salmon. Then the smoked reindeer and oyster mushroom omelette, a little of the reindeer blood sausage with lingonberry jam, cloudberries, blackberries, blueberries from Muonio, lingonberry pie and smoked cheeses from Kuusamo (where we head tomorrow). It took a while.

Small Girl tested the mini cinnamon rolls (korvapuusti) and hot chocolate, and declared them perfect.

The chef on the breakfast shift admitted that Lappish cuisine is protein-heavy. “Hearty,” was his diplomatic word for the array of meats, fish, cheeses and cakes that lined the buffet.

The devastating news is that because we are leaving so early tomorrow, we will miss breakfast, which rolls in until 1pm on Sundays.

No wonder Finns are so happy.


Walking the Camino: a guide to finding your feet (and heart, and solutions to life’s problems)

Author John Brierley spends every spring and autumn following in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims making their way to the medieval cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in far western Spain. He has been walking the Camino de Santiago for 25 years.

When he is not walking, he is at home, writing and playing with his grandchildren. John has written dozens of guides for pilgrims from all walks of life, who plan to walk some of the than 80,000 kilometres of authenticated and waymarked routes that lead to , on which every nation on Earth has set foot.

But it’s not about counting your steps, monitoring your heart beat, he says.

“To experience the Camino directly, you have to listen to your heart,” says John. “Listen well; it might only come as a whisper. But beware! If you have truly heard the call, you have become infected by a disease which will become fatal to your limited ego identity.”

I interviewed John for my The Knowledge column in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning and The Age newspapers, and his passion is infectious. I do believe that was his aim: to get me on the route.

“Our troubled world is crying out for solutions to the war and injustices that are raging everywhere we look,” he told me in our interview while he was in Australia recently. “But we have been looking for answers in the wrong direction. We have been looking out, not in.”

“The Camino asks us to step out of our comfort zone and to take some risks.The solutions we seek can only be found in the stillness of our own hearts and minds. ”

“That is the incredible gift of the Camino – it provides time in the silence of nature to empty out our outworn belief systems and allows time new insights to arise in the spaciousness of higher Mind.”

See caminoguides.com

To read the column in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, click here.


How to get along with Parisians: a cheat sheet

Swapping Australia’s Bellarine Peninsula for Paris for a decade or so, writer and actor Jayne Tuttle knows all the tricks about getting along with Parisians.

Speak French first, kiss left to right and back again, don’t go off piste with restaurant menus and forget the flanny (that’s flannelette, or lumberjack shirt, if you’re playing along out of Australia).

“Stand your ground when queuing,” she advises. “Somewhere along the line, ‘Ooh, I didn’t see you!’ became a fun game for Parisians and they play it especially with tourists, cutting in at any chance they get. Earn their respect by being aware.”

Jayne has just published her new book, Paris or Die: A Memoir (Hardie Grant Travel, $32.99) and has moved back to Australia. Because good things come in threes, she is also the new co-owner of The Bookshop at Queenscliff, west of Melbourne.

Click here to read my interview with Jayne for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers.

And to read more about Jayne, go to jaynetuttle.com


What to do in Prizren, Kosovo

It’s the prettiest town in Kosovo, and the centre of Prizren is its Shatërvan square. Its cobbled streets are lined with cafes, snow-tipped mountains send snowmelt rushing down the river through the town’s centre, a Byzantine-era fortress keeps a watchful eye over all: what’s not to love?

If you’re venturing into the Balkans, my advice is to skip staying in little Kosovo’s rather drab, earnest capital, Pristina, and instead make Prizren your base from which to do day trips – to the vineyards, to the mountains, to the capital city.

For more tips and advice, click here to check out my story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers

DISCLAIMER: I travelled as a guest of Intrepid Travel.


Glasgow, Scotland: an expat’s life

Sydney music administrator Mikaela Atkins-Blake moved to Scotland…and fell in love with a piper. A cliche, she freely admits, but she now calls Glasgow home. This week, she is the Expert Expat in my weekly column in the Traveller section in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers.

Click here for Mikaela’s tips on where to eat and what to do in her adopted hometown.

 


How to pack – a guide

I love a good ‘how to pack’ story, I really do. I love those one-pagers in glossy magazines that have a shirt, hat, watch, book and other pieces of travel euphemia scattered about the page, organised into geographic locations:

waterproof pants and binoculars for Antarctica.
Foldable sun hat and cats-eye sunglasses for southern Italy.
Cigarette pants, black loafers and reusable coffee cup for Melbourne.

They may be cliched, but for me, they encapsulate a destination.

I chatted to uber-packer Cathy Perry, who tells me you really can pack for two weeks with just hand luggage (ok, maybe not for Antarctica). She talks up the trans-seasonal trench coat, the joy of pairing fashion runners with dresses and the rules on getting organised.

Check out my interview with Cathy, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Sunday Age’s Traveller section.


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