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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Terminal boredom: free things to do in airports

I don’t mind wandering airports – empty or busy, I find them a fabulous use of time. I love the exotic layers you’ll find in the big, Middle Eastern hubs, as yogawear-clad Australian girls sit alongside men in Oman’s national dress of gleaming white dishdasha, or hikers unlace their heavy boots beside the perfectly manicured Parisian couple. I like finding the local cuisine – often a tricky quest amongst the increasingly globalised food courts found in most airports – and the essential souvenir.

However, if shopping for sherry vinegar from southern Spain or 80% chocolate from Ecuador is too boring for you, I offer you my contribution to the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age’s Savvy Traveller section, which lists some of the coolest free things to do in airports around the world.

Top of my list is Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport (AMS), which has a longstanding collaboration with the country’s most important art gallery, the Rijksmuseum – long before art in airports became A Thing.

Too tame? Dress up in hanbok in Seoul, pat a Giant Flemish bunny in San Fran, chase butterflies in Singapore or cruise an archeological museum in Athens.

To read my story in the Traveller section, click here

https://www.traveller.com.au/long-delay-or-layover-find-free-things-to-do-at-the-airport-h26j08


State of the nation: Jimmy Rees’s Australia

What saved you during Australia’s lockdowns? Was it cake? Boxes of wine or chocolates? Netflix, or perhaps it was Jimmy Rees.

The Melbourne-based comedian found himself unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic, and in his own words, just started mucking around with videos that he posted on social media – see media www.jimmyrees.com.au And he went viral.

In parodying states and territories’ stances on such issues as border closures, mask-wearing and the convoluted rules around daily exercise and social interaction (“yes, you can book a restaurant for 20 people. No, you can’t have 20 people over to your home for a dinner party”) he revealed much about Australia and Australians.

I’m a fan – I’ve been a fan since I watched him as a children’s TV presenter (yes, I may have potty-trained my daughter while watching him play Jimmy Giggle to a stuffed owl). So I leapt at the opportunity to interview him for this travel feature in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers’ Traveller section, where we asked him to cast his laser eye over the states and territories.

You can click here to read this cover story, where I play straight woman to Jimmy’s wild  wanderings, as he covers bogans, wild animals, closed rooftop bars and the Flannelette Curtain (it’s in Tassie, if you’re interested…)

Ah, the Gold Coast. The weather, the beaches, the cruisy lifestyle. Everyone’s got a sports car, and there’s lots of bling. It’s flashy and it’s full of cashed-up bogans. (Actually, I don’t think you really need to say there are bogans in Queensland. It’s like a silent “k”). But Queenslanders are like, ‘yeah, we know, and it’s fine. But we have the best weather, so where would you rather be?’ Well, perhaps not Brisbane. You fly into it and then realise it really doesn’t have a beach and you ask yourself ‘Why did I come to Brisbane? I should have just gone to the Goldie or the Sunshine Coast to be with all of the cashed-up bogans’.

Enjoy our wander through the Lucky Country!


ABC Radio interview: luxury train travel in Central Asia

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan: how romantic are the names of these Central Asian countries? Travelling in them has been a long-held dream of mine.

I travelled along the legendary Silk Road by luxury train, visiting these three, historic countries- exploring their history, their food and their glorious architecture. I don’t use the ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ phrase lightly, but Golden Eagle Luxury Trains certainly steps up to the description. Take a look at their fabulous instagram account at www.instagram.com/goldeneagleluxurytrains/ or visit their website, goldeneagleluxurytrains.com

Click here to listen to my interview with Philip Clark on ABC Radio’s Nightlife program.

 

20 June 2022


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.

 


Lies, spies and disguise: visiting Albania’s museums of secret surveillance

If you ever wanted to indulge your conspiracy theories, Albania is a great place to do it.

The mountainous little country looks out to the heel of Italy’s boot, and for the last century, has played out as a field for war, foreign occupation and annexation, and the enactment of fantasies of next-level paranoid dictators.

Its capital, Tirana, is a mishmash of architecture ranging from Bronze-age fortress to Ottoman-era mosques and Soviet Brutalist monuments. But the contemporary symbol of Albanian architecture is no skyscraper or soaring minaret: it’s its bunkers.

My story about Albania’s Communist-era bunkers and the grisly House of Leaves, a museum of secret surveillance, shows a dark side to this beautiful Balkan country.

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

If you’re keen to read more about travelling in the Balkans, take a look at my earlier story about travelling in the lands of honey and blood.


Podcast: travelling in the Middle East

Recently, I went to Saudi Arabia for a holiday. Is that a weird thing to say?

Travelling in the Middle East is a guaranteed dinner party starter: travellers either love it or swear they’ll never set foot in any of its countries – from Egypt to the United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia to Qatar.

I love the architecture, the languages, the desert landscapes and the blue waters that fringe the Arabian peninsula. I guess that’s why I keep returning.

I chatted to host Ben Groundwater, with Lisa Pagotto, founder of the awesomely adventurous travel company Crooked Compass on the Flights of Fancy podcast to tease out travel in this most misunderstood of regions.

Click here to listen to the full podcast. Go on, you know you want to!

 


Australian expats: celebrity stylist in Midtown Manhattan

After nearly two full years, I’m so pleased to let you know that my Expat column is back! Published each week at Traveller, I hunt down Australian expats living around the globe, and ask

Lazarus Douvos

Australian expat Lazarus Douvos lives in Midtown Manhattan, NYC, USA

them to share a little of their lives with our readers.

This week, we’re in Midtown Manhattan, where Melbourne hair stylist to the stars Lazarus Douvos shares a little about his daily life – where he takes his almond-milk cappuccinos, his favourite bookshop, a hidden bar and where he goes to meditate, on the banks of the East River.

“Life was picture perfect in Melbourne: I had the boyfriend, the dog, the country house. But I had the immediate feeling that I belonged here,” he says of his arrival in NYC, almost 13 years ago. A former stylist for the late Joan Rivers and Gucci, Lazarus’s latest perfumed hair care range is The Love Note collection (see lazarusdouvos.com, agencedeparfum.com.au).

Click here to read the interview, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age‘s Traveller section.

If you’d like to suggest someone for the column, there are a few rules: they have to be Australian, and have lived in their adopted hometown for at least two years – because six months in Bali does not an expat make. Drop me a line in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!


On high on the new Ain Dubai: the world’s largest ferris wheel

Hello blog! It’s been a quiet few months as I hit the road for two months in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Dubai. My first story in this fresh new year has an appropriate high note – it’s my review of Ain Dubai (in English, Dubai Eye), the world’s largest observation wheel.

Ain Dubai’s opening coincides with the world fair, Expo 2020, which is currently running in Dubai, until March 2022. Remember that when Paris hosted the world fair, Exposition Universelle, in 1889, it built the Eiffel Tower as the main attraction. And it worked.

Back in Australia, there’s welcome news that the Sunday Traveller section in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers has returned after nearly two years’ snoozing, just as Australia welcomes the news that our international borders will finally be thrown open to tourists.

While we Australians were allowed to leave in November (necessitating a rush for the border – I can confirm that the few flights available were absolutely mobbed by those of us desperate to reconnect with our families, who we’d been separated from for at least two years), now, anyone vaccinated can enter the country.

Click here to read my story, which runs on the Traveller website and appeared in print in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) newspapers.

PHOTO CAPTION: Ain Dubai is the world’s largest observation wheel. Credit: Belinda Jackson


Give the gift of travel this Christmas

Why not give the gift of travel this Christmas, and help Australia’s travel industry recover?

As you’d know, our industry has had an absolute kicking in the past 20 months. Unlike footballers or construction workers, there have been no exemptions, no lifelines and few promises of a bright future.

For this weekend’s cover story for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) newspapers, I rounded up a list of present ideas, from budget to bonanza for the risk-takers or trail-breakers, urban adventurers or country amblers in your life.

Christmas gift ideas include a high tea in Sydney’s lovely Fullerton Hotel, a walk along the new Grampians Peaks Trail in western Victoria and my dream gift, a stay at Tasmania’s Pumphouse Point hotel.

I also picked out some great pressies to snap up while you’re on the road, including cheese from Yarra Valley Dairy, just outside Melbourne, and some essentials for the glove box, including the fantastic first aid kits from the Australian, family-run company Survival First Aid kits.

The great thing is that as many experiences can be bought as gift cards or vouchers, to be used in the coming years, there’s no shipping, and last-minute shoppers won’t miss out! You’re welcome 🙂

Click here to read the full story.


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.


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