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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AIRPORT LOUNGE REVIEW: Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi, UAE

THE LOCATION This Etihad business class lounge is located near gate 35 in Abu Dhabi international airport.

A haven for long layovers, it’s obvious this lounge is winding down ahead of the new airport terminal opening in November.

Arabic cookies

Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi, UAE

THE VIBE Very, very low key, with light muzak in the background, but this is forgiven as we arrived in the lounge at an unholy 5am, on a stopover from Melbourne to Cairo. In keeping with the low-key mood, this is a no-notification zone, so it’s up to you to keep an eye out for your flight’s boarding time from the many boards around the lounge, spooling in English and Arabic. The décor is in muted chocolate, cream and aqua.

THE FACILITIES If you’re not a long-haul traveller (and let’s face it, almost every Australian who’s left the country qualifies for this title), you don’t understand the beauty of a mid-journey shower after 13 hours in a pressurised tin can, before you board for the next leg of your adventure. There are six showers in the lounge, with a dedicated concierge who creates the wait list and gives you a buzzer to notify you when it’s your turn. Towels and toiletries are supplied, and the wait at 7am is just 10 minutes. The downside – that buzzer is SUPER loud and cannot be switched off, expect baleful glares from your (once-were) snoozing neighbours if you don’t nip to the showers quick smart.

THE FOOD At 5am, the food is limited to a small buffet of cold cuts, cheese, juices and – for a nice local touch – cardamom-spiced Arabic coffee, dates and traditional pistachio cookies and baklava. However, over the next hour, the full buffet cranks up, with loads of regional foods including masala-spiced eggs, ful (fava beans – the Arabian take on baked beans), a super delicious lamb and potato keema and plenty of mezze and paratha on the side. It’s finished off with the fruit station, and self-serve fridges with soft drinks and the local Al Ain water. I do spot a Western businessman searching in vain for bacon and eggs; happy to report it’s far more exciting than that tired fare. Walk past the self-serve coffee machine and ask the bar staff to crank their gleaming white La Marzocco machine up for a creamy brew. At this hour, there’s only one intrepid traveller sitting at the bar stools, nursing a glass of champagne.

THE SERVICES There is a bag concierge at the entrance where you can drop your gear, and beside it, a dedicated children’s room with toys and nest seats that little ones can curl up in. In better times, Etihad’s famed nannies ran this room, which meant you could drop your children and run off to the shower/buffet/bar . It was an amazing service that gave me sanity on long-haul travel with a toddler, let’s hope that better times see the London-trained nannies return.

Airport lounge

Etihad business class lounge, Abu Dhabi airport, UAE

The business hub has a line of computers with charging stations, and The Den has a series of single alcoves with a comfy leather armchair facing a tv, for those who need a news update or somewhere quiet to take a call. Regional magazines and The National newspaper are on offer at the entrance.

THE DOWNSIDE I’m going to preface this part by saying that the brand new, $3bn Midfield terminal opens in the next couple of months, with Etihad Airways, amongst others, moving to the new terminal the minute it opens. So it’s painfully obvious they’ve let this lounge run down – this is Etihad’s home ground, and this should be its flagship lounge. But the decor is tired and it misses the gloss and glamour of its regional rivals.
The biggest bugbear is the inability to charge your devices. You’ve got to search to find a chair close to a powerpoint, and the first couple I try simply don’t work, or the usb slots are actually broken. The wireless printer in the business hub isn’t working, though the staff smoothly proffer the front desk email, and have my docs printed in no time.

THE VERDICT For a five-hour layover, having a lounge to hide away in is bliss. If you’re not eligible to enter the Etihad lounge, Terminal 1 has a pay-as-you-go Priority Pass lounge. Every staff member I speak to is charming and helpful (although occasionally clueless, like the waiter who doesn’t know the correct name of the Arabian cookies – they’re ghraybeh), and everyone is dying to move to the new terminal. Me included.

See Etihad.com

Disclaimer: I paid for my own flight, but was hosted by Etihad to visit the lounge. This review aims to give fair and balanced coverage of the facilities.

September 2023


Free things to do in airports: ABC Radio interview

Waiting in airports is one of the downsides of travel. But is it? I reckon airports are magical places, and there are so many free things to do in airports.

This week, I chatted with ABC Radio Melbourne’s Sunday program about the best things to do in airports over the world – and many of them free or just the price of a cup of coffee.

Sure, you can scroll on your phone or put on your headphones and tune into a movie. Or… you could wander through a museum dedicated to Hellenic history (Athens), admire the great Dutch Masters (Amsterdam), have a cup of tea at Harrods (Doha) or dress up in traditional Korean hanbok and try a few handicrafts (Seoul). What could a be better way to spend your time?

Even our Australian airports are worth discovery – I love that in Melbourne, you can drink coffee from some of our most famous cafes – I’m thinking of St Ali here, and snack on food by our top chefs, such as Movida and Cafe Vue by Shannon Bennett.

Click here to listen to my interview with Lisa Leong on ABC Melbourne.


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


Notes from a zombie zone: Turkmenistan’s Ashgabat airport

To get through the departure gates at Ashgabat airport, in the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan, I had to have my passport scanned.

And my fingerprints.

And my thumbprints.

And my retinas.

They’re taking no chances in this airport. Not that there would be many me look-alikes here. There just aren’t that many people, full stop. And most of the women are swanning about with impossibly high headdresses and long, vivid gowns that sweep the already immaculate white marble floors.

Should you find yourself in Ashgabat any time soon, click here to read my review in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.


What to expect when visiting Cairo Airport’s Terminal 2

Over the past decade, I’ve watched Cairo Airport change and grow – definitely for the better – from the raucous taxi chorus and decaying bathrooms of the old Terminal 1 to the snappy design of its newest expansion, Terminal 3.

If you’re coming through the Egyptian capital any time soon, here’s my take on Terminal 2, which sees the major Middle Eastern carriers, Etihad and Emirates, passing on through.

What to remember: security is paramount, and there are plenty of screening points. What to forget: Facebook, as wifi is but a beautiful dream.

Far better to grab a seat and watch the parade of fashions, from central African men in patterned jellibiyas (traditional robes) and matching kufis (caps) to women from the Gulf states in well-cut abayas and heels. You can identify the rare Antipodean by their khaki zip-off pants. If you want to hang with the locals, they’re in the smoking rooms.

Click here to read my full review, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section.


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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