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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Rail review: Travelling by train on the London-Paris Eurostar, Business Premier class

Eurostar train from London to Paris.

THE ROUTE London Pancras International – Paris Gare du Nord
Departs 10.26 Arrives 13.50
Coach 16, Seat 65, Train no 9018

BOARDING Eurostar advises arriving an hour before departure, and ticket gates close 15 minutes before departure. I pass through the ticket check, with security and a helpful UK passport check, and then a French passport check, with much complaining from the Brits around me. I can attest that the French check is completely humourless – my old joke that if you look like your passport photo, then you need a holiday – drops flat. I get naught but a Gallic shrug (and probably earned it, too).

Once inside, my Premier Business ticket affords entry to the lounge beneath the arches, where coffee, croissants and a little breakfast buffet of fruit and muffins is on offer. Newspapers are everywhere, it really feels like old-school train travel here in the vaults of the Victorian Gothic St Pancras railway station, which was built in 1868.

The maelstrom begins when boarding commences, as lines – regardless of your class – snake around the arches and up the stairs to the platform. Entire families, including generations of women, are dressed as Minnie Mouse. Of course! This is the fast track to Disneyland Paris , and we’re travelling right at the beginning of the Easter holidays. The group aims to transport 30 million passengers a year by 2030 – it feels like they’re all here today.

THE SEAT & LUGGAGE LIMITS Coach 16 is at the very top of the train, and I’m seated in a single, forward-facing seat. I spy a USB and electricity outlet, and the tray pulls down to reveal a little mirror to check my blood-red lipstick (on trend in this Paris-bound train). The clientele is brandishing a lot of Gucci, there’s Diptyque soap in the bathrooms, and a magazine rack.

Smugly, I have carry-on luggage only, but should I wish, I could carry three pieces of luggage up to 85cm long, and a piece of hand luggage – there’s no weight limit; if you can carry it, you can bring it. In the Standard and Standard Premier classes, that’s two pieces of luggage and a hand bag. Unlike airlines, there are no limits on liquids, if you didn’t want to visit the bar coaches 8 & 9 on the train, you can actually BYO beer or a bottle of wine to drink on the journey – though there’s no need in the generous, free-pouring Business Premier class.

FOOD & DRINKS On taking my seat, the bilingual staff offer a little bag of cranberry and nut mix, an antibacterial towel and a QR code for the lunch menu by. At 10.35am, the bar is open, would I like a glass of champagne? No skimping here on sparkling wine, I’m offered a glass of Piper-Heidsieck and water in a Eurostar-branded glass.

By 10.50, good, savoury smells are wafting through the carriage, and my tray table is loaded with glassware and silverware, a salad of such grilled root vegetables as celeriac, a crusty roll, and a pat of butter from The Estate Dairy in Somerset. Desert, a layered caramel slice, is also on the first tray. This could easily comprise the entire meal, but Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc, best known for his Oxfordshire landmark, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, isn’t finished with me yet.

When it arrives, piping hot and fragrant, the mains is a generous slab of buttery fish served with cauliflower in a rich, quintessentially French sauce. No more champagne, we drink rosé with our fish. I am served a 187ml bottle of 2021 Tourelle de Tholomies syrah rosé from Pays D’Oc and a bottle of spring water from Harrogate, “the original British spa town”, which has been bottling water since 1571.

If I was travelling in economy, I could grab a breakfast croissant with coffee and a juice for UK6/E7.70, or a lunch offer of a soft drink, a bag of crisps and a baguette for UK8/E10.20.

THE JOURNEY Advertisements flash on the communal screen overhead, while hyper-green English fields flash past the windows, but otherwise, the focus is mercifully on letting guests travel in peace. Most people are plugged into their own devices, reading newspapers or the magazines on offer, or simply watching the scenery, which disappears for about 25 minutes while we’re in the 50.45 km Chunnel, the sea tunnel that delves beneath the English Channel. I’m on dessert when we emerge to kilometers of razor wire, the train flashing past stations too fast to read their signs – the overhead screen tells me we are travelling at 214km/hr, “en tranquillité” and the train reaches top speeds of 300km/hr.

SUSTAINABILITY It’s no surprise trains’ carbon emissions are significantly lower that of airplanes – Eurostar states that its trains emit more than 90% less CO2 than flights. It calculates its CO2 output at 10g per passenger per kilometer, and is working to cut its carbon footprint by a further 25% by 2020. Independent calculations state my journey emitted 2.4kg of CO2, compared with 66kg if I’d flown.

BOOKING My ticket was booked before I left Australia with Rail Europe. Later, if you use the Eurostar app, you can use mobile tickets to pass through the ticket gates, get travel updates and discounts to top attractions in the city of your destination.

AND ANOTHER THING If you had time, you could get your photo taken (for free!) at Harry Potter’s Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station, which is joined to St Pancras. Otherwise, take a wander around to discover St Pancras’ surprising history in the many plaques and statues dotted around the station – well worth it. And if you wanted to stay close by the night before, you could splurge on Marriott’s gorgeous St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, which was actually part of the historic railway station. If it’s out of your price range, you can still drop in for coffee, a drink or a fabulous afternoon tea, and take a sneak peak at its stairwell, which featured in the Harry Potter films.

TO BOOK Fares cost from A$97.30, to book, visit Rail Europe
https://www.raileurope.com/en/trains/eurostar m

Disclaimer: I travelled from London to Paris as a guest of Rail Europe.


The World Awaits podcast goes to Spain and Nauru

It’s been a big couple of weeks in GlobalSalsa World – Turkiye, Australia’s Northern Territory and I’ve also also refreshed my podcast, with a fresh new name and a little nipping and tucking at the format. It’s now The World Awaits podcast, and you can listen to the latest edition here .

This week, fellow travel writer Kirstie Bedford and I take you to Spain and Nauru – at opposite ends of the tourism spectrum. I interviewed one of Australia’s best known travel writers, Ben Groundwater, who is a Spain aficionado and total foodie. Ben invited me on his Flights of Fancy podcast, with Nine Media, a few times – sadly now defunct (but still live if you’d like to take a listen), so I asked him to return the favour.

After embedding himself in San Sebastian in the Basque country, for a year, Ben is a great one to chat about how overlooked Spain is outside the major hotspots such as Barcelona. You know I”m a lover of this country as well, especially after my train adventure in Andalucia last year, which started in (very touristy) Seville, but pushed on through to Jerez, Cadiz and then I ended up in Spain’s most beautiful pueblo blanco, Vejer de la Frontera. If the chat makes you hungry, you can join Ben on one of his foodie tours to San Sebastian with World Expeditions, next year.

You’ll also hear from Lisa Pagotto, founder of Crooked Compass tours. Lisa goes seriously off track in her travels – she’s talking to Kirstie about travelling in the beautiful island of Nauru, best known for its role as the host site of Australia’s detention centre for refugees (please don’t go there, a particularly ugly part of Australia’s foreign policies). I travelled with Crooked Compass on a week-long hike in Palestine a few years ago. How’s that for off-beat travel?

Anyway, tune in, I hope you enjoy the show, and let us know what you think, or where you’d like us to go next on the podcast.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas!

You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever else you get good ear candy.


Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Türkiye

This week, I’ve been in Cappadocia, Türkiye, possibly the world’s best location for hot-air ballooning. Yeah, you’ve seen the brochures, you’ve been bombarded by the instagram shots of women in ballgowns in balloons.

I couldn’t resist: I threw my hat in the ring, and went up on high, too.

My revelation, while coasting through the quiet skies the other morning is – it’s famous for a reason. Because hot air ballooning over Cappadocia’s extraordinary landscape is, truly the most glorious experience.

The central Anatolian landscape is like nowhere else on earth: primordial shards of weathered rock jut from the earth; yes, it’s all very phallic, if you wish to go that route; but that doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

Over a couple of days, with my guide Ece from Intrepid Travel, I crawled through ancient cave systems, craned my neck to see beautifully rich paintings of Christ the Pantocrator in early Christian churches, heard stories of the Hittites, the Persians, the Romans, Seljuq Turks… who all lived, died, conquered or were conquered at some stage here in Cappadocia’s long history.

It was part of Intrepid Travel’s women’s expedition, which visits Istanbul, the Aegean coastline, Konya and Cappadocia, stay tuned for further posts about this super fun adventure.

For more photos from my Turkiye trip, take a squiz at my instagram page at https://www.instagram.com/global_salsa/

The 12-day guided tour costs from $4,025. See https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/turkey/turkey-womens-expedition-145256


There are 248 phones stolen in London every day: mine was one of them

This week, I published a story in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age about my phone being stolen in London. We’ve all had stuff stolen – what made it pertinent was the release of recent figures that show just how many phones are stolen in London every day.

Take a guess? 248 phones. A day. Just in central London.

The story was the top read in the Sydney and Melbourne digital versions, and some readers were lovely and shared their own theft and scammer stories, others, not so. I’ve also had a share of emails telling me “pro trvlrs don’t lose phones” and “experienced travelers have been taking those sorts of precautions for years.” But my point is (apart from picking out your terrible spelling) – these sorts of things happen even to pro/experienced travellers.

If you’ve never, ever lost a single thing while on the road, if you’ve never ever been scammed, if you’ve never inadvertently found yourself in a scary situation, I applaud you. You are truly genius. Or you’ve had someone behind you picking up and collecting you as you rotate the world in your golden bubble.

But if, like the rest of us, you’ve had your wallet nicked, your taxi fare tripled, you’ve been lured into a dodgy shop or found yourself in a very unsavoury environment where you’ve feared for your safety, then know that I’m there with you.

And you know what? We’re not all pro travellers. We’re not all experienced. Somewhere today, some kid is starting out on his first big roadtrip with mates. An older couple is on their first international flight. A woman is taking her first ever solo adventure. A family is testing the waters as the first time travelling with little ones.

I haven’t read the comments – I don’t have an impenetrable hide – but this ain’t my first rodeo. I knew the scam, I knew it was happening. And let me tell you, it happens to the best of us.

If you fancy reading, here’s the story.

Thanks for listening, friends.

https://www.theage.com.au/traveller/reviews-and-advice/my-phone-was-stolen-while-visiting-london-here-s-how-i-coped-20230501-p5d4kj.html


A traveller’s guide for new architecture openings in 2023

What does architecture need to get onto your travel wishlist? To be a record-breaker? To be cleverly reused and recycled? To be innovative and sustainable?

All these conversations are happening in Copenhagen this year, as the 2023 World Capital of Architecture. The triennial event includes Open House opening buildings normally closed to the public, a run through the city with architects from around the world, and a world congress on the UN Sustainable Futures theme, “Leave No One Behind”.

If you’re staying at home, the newly opened Sydney Modern by Japanese firm SANAA is ripe for exploration, while in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2022 architecture commission, Temple of Boom – a re-imagining of the Parthenon by Melbourne practice NWMN, is open until October. See copenhagenincommon.kk.dk, artgallerynsw.gov.au, ngv.vic.gov.au

Recently, I rounded up eight great new architectural openings for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers. It’s a mix of architectural stand-outs coming up in 2023, from super-tall skyscrapers to re-imagined historic sites and quiet, thoughtful conversation starters.

It’s always a tricky one to write – skyscrapers can be delayed (Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur is a year or two behind schedule), museums unopened (we’ve been promised the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo for about eight years now). But 2023 is the year. It’s all opening in a flush of post-COVID exuberance.

Click here to read my story, and let me know what you’re looking at in 2023?


The dish we missed: chefs name their most delicious travel memories

After two years of lockdown here in Australia, where we couldn’t leave our country, what’s the dish you missed the most? I chatted to 10 of Sydney and Melbourne’s top chefs about those delicious travel memories they hold dear, and where they’re heading when they’re back on a plane this year.

I reckon I’m booking a ticket to Spain to take Brigitte Hafner’s recommendation for slow-cooked lamb in Rioja. Or maybe I need to go back to Turkey for Iskander kebab, which Paul Farag reminded me of. Or snapper cerviche on a beach in Lima, Peru.

If you’re not heading overseas, chefs including Shannon Martinez, Christine Manfield and Scott Pickett also shared some favourite dishes closer to home, within Australia, from dumplings at Supernormal in Melbourne to arkhe in Adelaide, for the Parfait Tartlet a la Burnt Ends.

Click here to read the story, published in the Traveller section of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.

 


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

 

 

 


Global Salsa

Well, you’ve scrolled this far. What do you think? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.

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