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… 



Feral at Dreamworld, flora in Canberra: travel deals 23 September 2012

Go feral at Dreamworld, or floral in Canberra or find out if it really is all happening at the zoo, in San Diego. 

Can’t decide between drinking beer or hunting for Tasmanian tigers? Do both when you stay the Cradle Mountain Chateau, at the northern side of the dramatic national park that includes Tassie’s best-loved mountain and serene Lake St Claire. The 60-room hotel includes a Wilderness Gallery featuring photography of the region’s dramatic scenery and night tours of the local animals. Save 55 per cent on stays until December 20. Costs from $65 per person, twin share. 1800 420 555. cradlemountainchateau.com.au.
Floriade celebrates 25 years in 2012. 
Canberra bursts into colour with Floriade, its annual
flower extravaganza, until September 23. Now in its 25th year, highlights of
the festival include The Best Exotic Marigold Tea House, with Indian teas and
music in a wildly exotic setting, and Floriade NightFest, comedy, music and
light displays from 6.30pm nightly, floriadeaustralia.com.
Murrays’ bus service has a web special providing daily return services  between Sydney and Canberra until October 14.
Normally $83 return, costs $59 return. murrays.com.au.
Knock two of Victoria’s most beautiful walks off your bucket list with a two-up walking deal with Park Trek. Spend four days walking the coastal Great Ocean Walk (November 3-6) then head inland and upwards, for another four days in the Grampians (November 8-11). You’ll carry just a small, light daypack, and the price includes all accommodation, meals and expert guides. Book two tours, save $110. Costs $2190 a person. (03) 9877 9540, www.parktrek.com.

Bustin’ some moves at Dreamworld
The price of unlimited happiness is $59.99. That’s the
cost of a kids’ ticket that gives unlimited visits to Dreamworld and WhiteWater
World from now until June 30, 2013. New this summer is Kung Fu Panda Land and
new rides in Wiggles World, and there are balloon twisters, roving beatboxers,
magicians, and, from September 22 to October 7, evicted Big Brother Housemates
(pssst, you can watch BB being filmed live at Dreamworld Studios for $15).
One-day tickets normally cost $69.99 kids/$109.99 adults, but the Unlimited
World Passes also include a free SkyPoint Observation Deck annual pass, worth
$29, that shoots you to the top of Q1 tower, at Surfers Paradise. Costs $59.99
for kids, $109.99 for adults. (07) 5588 1111, dreamworld.com.au.
Birdsville, the Alice, Kakadu, Uluru: the Outback is calling, and what better way to see it than by private aircraft? This 12-day journey covers 10,000 kilometres, visiting the iconic towns of the outback, including Katherine, Broome and Longreach. Includes all meals, accommodation and guides. Harvey World Travel clients also get one night’s pre-tour accommodation at the Sheraton on the Park, Sydney, and airport transfers. Book by October 31, and save $1000 on travel between March-August 2013. Costs from $13,495 a person, 132 757, harveyworld.com.au.

There’s no tv, no phones and a no-talking ‘quiet room’.
Scared yet? Spring-clean your body and mind at Solar Springs Retreat, in
Bundanoon, on the Southern Highlands, which has 20 per cent off its
all-inclusive packages during spring. The new three-night midweek ‘Seriously
Spring Time’ deal includes accommodation, all meals and three spa treatments –
a facial, foot therapy and body buff. Also included are guided bushwalks, yoga
and meditation and health and fitness talks. Valid until November 30, costs
from $820 a person, twin share, or $1540 a couple for three nights. (02) 4883
6027, solarsprings.com.au.
the road and a GPS are your friends, discover Europe by hire car. Sydney’s globalCARS is offering free pick-up
and drop-off, valued up to $640 in Rome and Madrid, at 33 locations across
Europe and the UK during 2013. Includes unlimited kilometres, insurance with no
excess and 24-hour assistance. Book and pay by October 31. Costs from $27 a day
for six-month leases, $42 a day for 26-day leases. Contact
travel agents, 1300 789 992, globalCARS.com.au.
San Diego, USA
It’s all happening at the zoo, specifically San Diego
zoo, which is celebrating the birth a baby boy panda. Stay four nights at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel, pay for three,
and also get a one-day pass to the zoo, which is just 10 minutes from the
hotel. Book by 3pm March 29 2013, travel until March 31, 2013. Costs from $379
a person, twin share.  1300 130 485, travel.com.au.
Cancel all ideas of Abu Dhabi as solely a desert
wilderness. Check into the waterfront Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by
Anantara, stay five nights and pay four on stays now to October 31, 2013. Otherwise,
book 45 days in advance and pay by December 31, and save 15 per cent off your
room rate. Costs from $84 a person, twin share, in a deluxe room with balcony,
including breakfast.  1300 665 673,
Getting off the beaten track in Europe is possible, with
a nine-day tour of Portugal, visiting castles, cathedrals and Roman temples
including the evocative Belem Tower, in Lisbon. Balancing the history are
visits to its beaches and famous vineyards of the Douro Valley. Save 10 per
cent when you book and pay by December 27, for travel March 30 – October 12. Includes
luxury coach transport, accommodation, meals and airport transfers. Costs from
$1665 a person, twin share. 1300 237 886, insightvacations.com.
All island resorts are not made equal, as the Gili
Lankanfushi (formerly Soneva Gili) amply demonstrates, to wit its 45 rustic
chic overwater villas, the overwater bar and Mr Friday, who can do everything
from pack your bag to look after the kids. Stay seven nights on the private
island, get three nights free on stays till December 19, when booked by
December 12. Virtuoso guests will also get a room upgrade, 30-minute spa
treatment for two and a private sunset sail. Costs from $4330 a room, seven
nights. (02) 9957 4511, maryrossitravel.com.

Exploring Patagonia, Chile
The only way to explore Chilean Patagonia is by
horseback. You’ll need to know the difference between nose and tail for these
five-day expeditions, which explore the wilds of the end of the earth on a
series of day rides past glaciers and mountains of unimaginable beauty, with
your gaucho bro. Each night, you’ll 
return to the sublime Hotel Salto Chico, in Torres del Paine National
Park, with its spectacular mountain views and an outdoor hot spa that will surely
become your second-best friend (after your horse) at the end of a day in the
saddle. The tours depart once a month from October, cost from $2780 a person,
twin share, includes all meals, drinks, airport transfers and equipment. +56
2395 2800, explora.com
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

Groovy is the new gold: vintage Ballarat a-go-go!

Nostalgic ... makeover maven Miss Lulu.
Nostalgic … makeover maven Miss Lulu. Photo: Belinda Jackson

Forget the pioneering days of the rush – instead dig the nostalgia of Ballarat’s new vintage scene, writes Belinda Jackson.
“It all started with my glasses. I always wanted cat’s-eye glasses,” says Miss Lulu. Perched on a high bar stool, her redskin margarita is as pink as her hair, which is teased into sky-high 1940s curls. Was I the only person in Ballarat who didn’t know they’re called victory rolls?
This is the swimsuit for the curvalicious. 
“Vintage just suits Ballarat,” says the self-styled 1940s pin-curl pin-up, whose glittering bolero jacket, black bustier, deep cleavage and wide skirts have the whole restaurant entranced.
Eclectic Tastes cafe, Ballarat.

Eclectic Tastes cafe, Ballarat. Photo: Belinda Jackson
Ballarat’s always had a nostalgic scent about it – the re-created gold rush town of Sovereign Hill is on the city’s outskirts and the main drag, Sturt Street, is lined with monuments to past glories, from the Boer War to Burke and Wills’s inland excursion. There’s a bandstand dedicated to Queen Alexandra (King Edward VII’s missus), squat Queen Victoria overlooks the rotundas, turrets and cenotaphs, and the old Southern Cross flag of the Eureka Stockade hangs in the beautiful art gallery. The top hotel is Craig’s Royal and the theatre is Her Majesty’s, one of the best preserved in the country.
Antiques, Goods & Chattels, Ballarat.
Antiques, Goods & Chattels, Ballarat. Photo: Belinda Jackson

But Victoria’s third-largest city has a new groove, with a rush of fresh blood bringing a 1940s-’70s vintage scene to town, spearheaded by the likes of Miss Lulu who, in three hours, will transform you from trakky-dakked slob to pert and perky ’50s pin-up girl or goth rockabilly – or perhaps your heart’s more psychobilly? With your newly set big hair, red lips and a wiggle in your walk, it’s time to hit the streets to dress the part.
First stop is a burgeoning vintage enclave on Main Road, headed by That Little Vintage Shop, a cornucopia of fox furs, fabulously wide-brimmed hats, ’60s knits and evening coats harking back to days when it took time to get dressed.
Owner Jennifer Bottomley studied fashion in ’60s London and has been running the shop for 17 years. “Y’all right there, love?” she calls out to a customer, her northern English accent weaving through the piles of clothes. Her collection dates from the 1920s, but the ’80s is quite ’20s, she says as she runs a hand over a $1000 Canadian raccoon fur, designed for pleasurable stroking.
Across the road, cute little ’50s-style cafe Cake Bakeshop sells old-fashioned paper straws, invitations and party favours for baby showers and kitchen teas while churning out the cupcakes, coffee and macarons in old-school lolly flavours.
Nearby, Antiques, Goods & Chattels suggests serious fustiness, but it’s awash with ’60s kitchenalia and garagenalia, and a carousel horse greets me on entrance. I snap up a fabulous old wooden painter’s stepladder, still authentically spattered with paint, perfect for slinging some woven Arabian saddlebags over (or for changing light bulbs).
Swimwear by My Sister Pat.

Swimwear by My Sister Pat. Photo: Simon Schluter
It’s on the next block down on Main Road that this vintage scene starts to become serious.
My Sister Pat designs and manufactures beautiful ’50s-inspired swimsuits – more like playsuits – with classic halter and tie necks and boylegs that bestow instant booty. I clamber out of my jeans and into a super-cute little blue-and-white polka dot number and, va va voom, I’m transformed into instant ’50s pool kitten. A very slim woman is in the next cubicle; you know, the type who rocks a bikini. Is it mean to note that in the same style swimsuit, she just looks … well, left wanting, to be perfectly frank? This is the ultimate swimsuit for the curvalicious.
Sifting through the racks beside me is Debbie, a rock’n’roll aficionado who’s into the Ballarat Rockers, a social rock’n’roll dance club that meets on Friday nights. She’s shopping for the perfect outfit for an American rock’n’roll holiday through Memphis, New Orleans and, of course, Las Vegas. “Usually, I make my own,” she says, “so I don’t look like everyone else.”
In an age of mass production, My Sister Pat guarantees that no more than six swimsuits are cut from the same cloth. “Except for the red-and-white polka-dot swimsuit, because everyone wants to be Marilyn,” says owner Rosemary Gilbert-Waller. “Except me. I want to be Grace Kelly,” she states, flicking the record player as Connie Francis has a little meltdown and starts to jump.
Connie, Grace, Patsy Cline, Audrey Hepburn … “It’s an era of beauty, and it hasn’t been lost,” Gilbert-Waller says of her label, which is now stocked internationally, from Cannes to Canada. What started off as a vintage shopping trip in Ballarat is fast turning into an education on being womanly and the art of feminine elegance.
“I like going to places where I fit the decor,” says the epitome of girlish glamour, Miss Lulu. The newly refurbished Mallow Bar and the cosy Babushka Bar both get the thumbs up for their retro looks, as does high tea on Sunday afternoons at Craig’s Royal Hotel, with its ’50s chairs and lounges and swish velvet curtains. Eclectic Tastes cafe has a whiff of nanna chic about it, with its knitted tea cosies and teasets, which get the edge thanks to a backdrop of red walls, Mao-pop paraphernalia and raunchy Indian film posters.
The Oceanic Lounge in Portico Wine Bar, on Ballarat’s main drag, Sturt Street, is a local favourite as it’s a regular venue for the nine-piece Ballarat Ska Orchestra. Yes, Ballarat has its own ska orchestra, belting out its signature ’60s Caribbean beats, and it also has its own roller-derby league, where six teams of rockabilly chicks hit the rinks. Expect ’70s boardshorts, kneepads and a smattering of tatts.
Vintage chicks say the new Front Bar is your best option for a drink and a little shakin’ to some ’60s soul sounds without the uni or clubbing crowds. Alternatively, if you were at a loose end on a Wednesday night, you could go go-go dancing. “I just thought, Ballarat needs this!” says Miss Daisy Amazing, a dancer who teaches an enthusiastic crowd the moves of the ’60s. And for $12, you, too, can strut out like a retro Miami groover.
To live the vintage dream completely, you’d be shopping at De’s Recycled Fashions for ’60s nylon dresses – think royal blue with gold paisley – or for vintage crockery and what some say is the town’s best coffee at Vegas and Rose, stockist for runaway sensations Trunk & Orderly’s handmade weekender and school cases.
And for seriously cool vintage fabrics, haberdashery and the cutest kids’ craft gear, The Crafty Squirrel is a must-visit. If you thought crafty equals fusty, the notion is dispelled by designer and uber-craftster Morgan Wills’s perky rockabilly ‘do, married with an apple-green cardie and a floral apron that on me would scream “frump!” but on her is just damned cool. Every Friday, she dons a vintage apron and pops a photo up on her Facebook page to a bevy of waiting fans.
“I love all that cutesy Japanese and Korean aesthetic, and French vintage,” she says, but it’s the Australian kitsch that is totally adorable; souvenir tea towels renewed and reborn into cushions that fly off the shelves. The non-sellers appear to be all from Canberra – no comment. Wills steers us down to the edgy Red Brick Gallery, where a nearby power pole, wrapped in crocheted rugs, leads the conversation naturally into “yarn bombing”, or “knit tagging” if you prefer the English term.
“Ballarat’s always been known for its antique shops,” says long-time antiques dealer Sherryn Bailey of Antiques, Goods & Chattels, “but many owners are now passing away.” In their wake comes the new guard, a wave of crafty artists and tricky-minded business girls. Sure, Ballarat still has Sovereign Hill and its gold rush attractions, but there’s life in the old town yet. It’s just life from a different era.
The writer was a guest of Ballarat Regional Tourism.

Five other things to do in Ballarat

1 Hire a bike and cruise the lovely Ballarat Botanical Gardens and Buninyong Botanic Gardens, established in the 1860s. Welcome Nugget Bike Hire, 0423 268 618, ballarat.com/ballaratonabike.
2 Well up with pride in front of the original Eureka flag at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, Australia’s oldest regional art gallery. artgalleryofballarat.com.au.
3 Buy up at the farmers’ markets: Ballarat Fresh Produce Market (first Saturday of the month); Ballarat Lakeside Farmers Market (second and last Saturday); Buninyong Farmers Market (third Saturday).
4 Uncover a hotbed of talent by designers and emerging artists at the quarterly Design Exchange market — October 7, December 16, Mining Exchange, 8 Lydiard Street North, thedesignexchange.com.au.
Walk the monuments of Sturt Street: two kilometres of central gardens with bandstands, statues and fountains.

Trip notes

Getting there: Ballarat is a 75-minute drive from Melbourne. Rental cars can be hired at Tullamarine, or V/Line (vline.com.au). Fast trains operate from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Ballarat.
Staying there:  Martin Place sleeps nine at a pinch in two queen bedrooms and bunks in the kids’ room, which is fantastically kitted out with toys and books, and is also pet-friendly. From $215/night midweek, 12 Martin Street, 0429 439 448, www.montroseofballarat.com.au.
Shopping there:
De’s Recycled Fashions, 202 South Street, (03) 5332 8300.
Miss Lulu’s PinCurl Pin-Ups, 0433 207 814.
My Sister Pat, 74A Main Road, mysisterpat.com.au.
Red Brick Gallery and Emporium, 218A Skipton Street, 0402 416 097, redbrickgallery.com.au.
That Little Vintage Shop, 13 Main Road, 0425 731 639.
The Crafty Squirrel, cnr Errard and Urquhart streets, (03) 5331 4548, thecraftysquirrel.com.au.
Vegas and Rose, 96 Humffray Street North, (03) 5332 4287, vegasandrose.com.au.

Eating there:
Craig’s Royal Hotel, 10 Lydiard Street South, (03) 5331 1377, craigsroyal.com.au.
Cake Bakeshop, 30 Main Road, (03) 5333 3384, cakebakeshop.com.au.
Eclectic Tastes, 2 Burbank Street, (03) 5339 9252.

Living in the vintage scene:
Babushka Bar, 59 Humffray Street North.
The Mallow Hotel, 18-20 Skipton Street.
The Front Bar, cnr Mair and Peel streets.
Miss Daisy Amazing’s Go-Go Dancing, 14 Camp Street, 0448 314 445.
Ballarat Roller Derby Leagueballaratrollerderby.com.au.
Ballarat Ska Orchestrafacebook.com/ballaratskaorchestra.
Ballarat Rockersballaratrockers.com.

More information: Ballarat Regional Tourism, (03) 5320 5758, visitballarat.com.au.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/activity/shopping/groovy-is-the-new-gold-20120921-26aej.html#ixzz27MSQiAa0

War on paper: North Vietnam’s artistic legacy

Independence Day posters on Hanoi’s streets.

A new art tour in
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) traces the work of combat artists in Vietnam’s modern

[This is a transcript of a World Report for RTE Ireland, broadcast 2 September 2012. To listen, click here: http://www.rte.ie/news/player.html?worldreport#programme=World%20Report]

familiar with the pictures taken by foreign news photographers stationed in the
south of Vietnam during the Vietnam War, most famously the iconic ‘Napalm Girl’
photo of a nine-year old child, her clothes burnt from her body, as she flees
her bombed village.
But at the same time, the Communist north of
Vietnam was cut off from most of the world, its supplies coming from Russia and
China, and such luxuries as cameras and film were hard
to come by. Instead, artists sketched the days of Vietnam’s involvement in two
Indochina wars, from 1954 to 1975. They depicted frontline
combat and developed information posters that became Vietnam’s propaganda posters,
in a Soviet style that is still used today.
The second of September is not only Vietnam’s National Independence
Day, it is also the 43rd anniversary of the death of Communist leader and Vietnam’s first
president, Ho Chi Minh, in 1969, so the country is spattered
with its flag – a yellow star on a red background – and banners and posters
celebrate both events.
Sophie Hughes explains a propaganda poster, Saigon
Art guide Sophie Hughes takes me through
Saigon’s galleries, explaining the posters’ history, and their ancestry, and
Vietnam’s transition from colonialism to independence.
The simplistically styled posters began as an information campaign from
communist North Vietnam’s battalion of artists, to inform a largely uneducated
population about the perils of Vietnam’s enemy.
They documented the girl soldiers of the so-called
‘Long-Haired Army’, the fall of
Saigon in 1973, and the harsh life on the jungle tracks of the Ho Chi
Minh trail that traversed the country, from north to south.
As we walk past the
charcoal sketches and watercolours that document two Indochina wars, Sophie
recounts how artists resorted to making paint from gun oil and crushed stone,
used berries and leaves to create their colours, and how the metal flare cases
from the US Army became impromptu carriers for their artwork, much of which was
hidden in friends’ coffins for the journey back from the front lines to the
cities, where it was copied and distributed among a suffering population.
As the wars
dragged on, sketches of the front lines morphed into propaganda, and it’s not
subtle: in one poster, bloodied bombs fall onto a sleeping baby with the question,
“Is this Nixon’s target?”
Much is aimed at raising national pride with such slogans as “What the
ancestors started, the children will continue.”
In the propaganda
poster shops on Saigon’s streets, you can pick up an historic print from as
little as 6 American dollars.
A Saigon resident leans on a 2012 Independence
Day poster while he texts.
There are plenty
of posters of the South American guerilla leader, Che Guevara, and a whole wall
devoted to Uncle Ho, as Ho Chi Minh is lovingly, and respectfully called. In
every school in the country, there is a portrait of Ho, and every morning the
schoolchildren pay their respects.  And
on Independence Day, when the country’s Uncle is revered even more than in
daily life, it’s clear a picture can speak a thousand words.
For World Report,
this is Belinda Jackson in Saigon.

Sophie’s Art Tour, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: costs from 950,000VND/A$43 a person (four or more people), includes  air conditioned transport, entrance fees and refreshments. All tours are given by art guide Sophie Hughes in English, sophiesarttour.com

Getting there: Vietnam Airlines flies daily from Melbourne and Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), costs from $1180 return, vietnamairlines.com

Staying there: The five-star Caravelle is the grande dame of Saigon’s hotel scene, and will be relaunching a new look over the coming year. Costs from VND660,000++/A$299 deluxe room/night (84-8) 3823 4999 caravellehotel.com Newest kid on the blog, the four-star Novotel Saigon Centre, has an opening
deal which includes free wi-fi and 10 per cent off spa treatments until October
30. Costs from USD$100++ superior room/ night. +84 (0)8 3822 4866,

Photos: Belle Jackson

Strange and wild ghouls and snow: travel deals 2 Sept

Morning at Machu
Picchu, Peru (Intrepid Travel)

It’s all strange, wild and ghoulish in Tassie and Dracula’s Romania, and the locals say it’s puking in Victoria’s Falls Creek (translation: it’s snowing heavily, so get on down!)
Mantra on Frome, in the centre of Adelaide, is throwing
open the doors on its new balconies, with a weekend package that includes
dinner for two and a bottle of wine at Mantra Hindmarsh Square’s Sq
restaurant  as well as late check-out,
saving $197. Costs from $219 a night for stays on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
nights until December 2. 131 517, mantra.com.au.
Melt the ice in your bones with a quickie getaway to Palm
Cove, a hop-skip north of Cairns. Stay four nights at the Reef House, a
colonial-style beach house, pay for only three. You’ll also get 20 per cent off
hotel meals, free wifi, breakfast, and a sunset Brigadier’s Punch in its Brigadiers
Lounge as well as free DVDs. Mention this page and get $25 credit in the
hotel’s spa. Stay until October 1. Costs from $129.50 a person per night, twin
share.  (07) 4080 2600, www.reefhouse.com.au
Hit the big smoke with a budget stay in town and catch
one of the many festivals keeping the city alive including Crave food festival
throughout October. Stay three nights at the 3.5-star Travelodge Hotel, near
the Thai strip on Wentworth Ave, close to Hyde Park and Oxford St, and save 20
percent when booked by October 7.  Costs
from $95 a night, minimum three-night stay. 1800 846 835, hotels.com
Eerie Port Arthur, Tasmania
It’s a strange and wild corner of the world, down there
in Tassie, and the Theatre of the World, a collaboration between the Tasmanian
Museum and Art Gallery’s Pacific bark cloths and Museum of Old And New Art’s
(MONA) treasures should have you panting to head south. A four-night Art &
Place package includes accommodation at the Mercure Hobart, priority access to
MONA Theatre of the World tickets, 30 per cent off its catalogue (normally
$80), Mona Roma fast ferry tickets, a bottle of Moorilla Muse chardonnay and a
Tasmanian Attraction ticket. Save $793, costs $662 a couple. (03) 6277 9900,
The snow has been falling thick and fast in the ski-in,
ski-out Falls Creek resort. Catch the last few weeks until the season ends and
save up to 50 per cent on peak season rates. Stay five nights at Trackers
Mountain Lodge White Space for $1130 an adult including bed, breakfast,
dinners, ski lift pass, ski lessons and snow equipment hire. Kids up to 14
years cost $720 and also get free Kids Club from 6-9pm. Also includes afternoon
tea, Winter Christmas on Wednesday nights (with turkey, eggnog and all the
trimmings) on stays September 7-30.  1800
453 525, skifalls.com.au.
Shoot the breeze in Broome, with sunsets over Cable Beach
and the Indian Ocean at your doorstep. Stay seven nights in a Shinju studio the
Pinctada Cable Beach resort and get airport transfers, welcome drink, daily
buffet breakfast, a five-course spice trail dinner and a one-hour couples’
treatment at the resort spa. Save up to $525 on stays before September 30.
Costs $2086 a room for seven nights. (08) 9193 8340, pinctadacablebeach.com.au.  
Novotel Saigon Centre
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is a city of extremes,
with a wild street food scene and ultra-glam sky-high bars. The 4-star Novotel
Saigon Centre is the newest digs in town, with a gorgeous open-air pool and
breakfast buffet worth the trip alone. Snap up an opening deal which includes
free wi-fi and 10 per cent off spa treatments until October 30. Costs from
USD$100++ for a superior room a night. +84 (0)8 3822 4866, novotel.com.
Pop in on the neighbours and see what’s going down in
Auckland. Stay three nights, pay for two at the five-star Langham Hotel
Auckland in a Classic room. The hotel is a short amble from the waterfront and
the main shopping areas. Includes buffet breakfast each day as well as a free
tour of Auckland’s city sights and wineries as well as airport transfers.  Book by January 17, 2013, travel until
September 30 and December 14 – January 20, 2013. Costs from $489 a person for
three nights, twin share.  1300 130 485, travel.com.au.

Brasov, Romania
Explore an untouched corner of Europe on a Taste of
Transylvania’s six-day private tour. Sleep with Dracula in medieval Sighisoara,
lunch with local farmers, visit the castles of Bran and Peles, explore the
gothic charms of Sibiu and Brasov and lunch at Romania’s two top wineries. In crazy
Bucharest, your address is the historic Athenee Palace Hilton. Book by
September 30 to save $150. Costs $2032 a person. 1300 668 844, eetbtravel.com 
Home of Machu Picchu and
Paddington Bear, Peru gets all the South American gems: tracts of Amazon
jungle, ancient civilisations and roasted guinea pig. There’s pisco sours to be
drunk, sand dunes to be climbed and the tour includes a homestay with a local
family on Lake Titicaca. Sign up for Intrepid Travel’s 21-day Peru Encompassed
journey, departing Lima October 18, and save $952. Costs $2828 a person, 1300 018 871, intrepidtravel.com.
If the blue waters of Capri are beckoning, answer the
call on an 11-day Bellissimo tour that starts in Rome then works its way down
to Pompeii and the divine coastline of Capri and Naples before delving into the
mysteries of Assisi, Venice, Florence and Siena. Includes first-class hotels,
dining in a Tuscan olive grove and a farewell dinner to say ‘ciao’ in Rome.
Book the September 24 tour to save $485 a person. Costs $3050 a person. trafalgar.com
Chelsea Flower Show
Next year, the Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its 100-year
anniversary. Australian-owned Botanica World Discoveries takes you to the show,
with five and 10 day tours of London’s premier floral display. “While the site
at the Ranleigh Hospital gardens is compact, the displays are just
sensational,” says Botanica founder Judy Vanrenen, who has been taking
Australians to Chelsea since 2005. “It’s a full-on floral experience.” The
five-day tour starts in London on May 20 and includes tours of London’s private
gardens, as well as four nights’ accommodation in the four-star Crowne Plaza
London, St James. The 10-day tour includes entrance to eight other beautiful
gardens in southern England and Wales. Costs from $2,655 a person, twin share (5
days) and $5795 a person, twin share (10 days) 1300 305 202 botanica.travel.
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

Twenty reasons to visit Fiji

From white-water rafting to spa treatments, these are the top 20 reasons to visit Fiji.

Castaway Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands.
Castaway Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands.

From white-water rafting to spa treatments, these are the top 20 reasons to visit Fiji.

1 Diving

The Great Astrolabe Reef is the world’s fourth-largest
barrier reef and curls around the sparsely populated southern island of
Kadavu. Snorkellers can cruise the reef’s coral gardens and divers can
swim with eagle and manta rays, turtles and wrasse and ogle the reef’s
drop-offs. Stay at the simple thatch bures of Matava dive resort (matava.com).
Astrolabe’s rival for the title of best diving, the Great Sea Reef, is
known locally as Cakaulevu. Off the northern island of Vanua Levu, the
reef was little explored before 2004 and is home to green turtles and
spinner dolphins. The closest resort is Nukubati. nukubati.com.

2 Sigatoka river and cave safaris

It’s a jet-boat safari, yet it’s also a great cultural
adventure. Take a 15-kilometre journey up the rich, green Sigatoka
Valley to visit one of 15 Fijian villages to learn of local customs and
legends on the Sigatoka River safari. There’s a kava ceremony at the
village chief’s bure, followed by lunch and traditional singing and
dancing. Costs from $140.80 adults, $69 children. The newest tour from
the same gang is the Off-Road Cave safari, which visits Fiji’s largest
cave system, Naihehe Cave, once the home of a cannibal tribe. Costs from
$131 for adults, $60 for children. Both tours depart from Sigatoka, 70
kilometres south of Nadi on the Coral Coast, and pick up from Nadi or
Coral Coast resorts, twice daily, Monday to Saturday. sigatokariver.com.

3 Mei-meis (Fijian nannies)

Cultural show ... Fijian fire-walking.
Cultural show … Fijian fire-walking.
Photo: Alamy

Fijians are renowned for their love of kids and every
hotel caters for them (save a handful of exclusive, adults-only
retreats) without busting your budget. Top kid-friendly hotels include
Outrigger on the Lagoon, which has 30 mei-meis (nannies), great for
families with babies, while Holidays with Kids magazine’s latest survey
found the top three family-friendly resorts are Shangri-La’s Fijian
Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island, the Naviti Resort, Coral Coast and
Plantation Island. shangri-la.com; warwicknaviti.com; plantationisland.com.

4 Fire-walking

Who knew that there are two types of fire-walking in
Fiji, not the commonly known one? There’s the indigenous Fijian
tradition of walking over hot stones and the Hindu purification ritual
of walking on ashes and charcoal. Fijian fire-walking can be seen during
cultural shows at many resorts across the country or at the Arts
Village in Suva, and Suva’s Mariamma Temple holds a South Indian ritual,
Trenial, featuring fire-walking, in July or August each year.

5 South sea pearls

At the top of your Fiji souvenir list should be South Sea
pearls, which come in a rainbow of colours from soft creams to
pearlescent greys. You’ll find earrings and necklaces at the big
souvenir shops such as Tappoo (tappoo.com.fj) or Jacks (jacksfiji.com)
but also from the lady sellers at most resorts. There’s also a daily
craft market in the centre of Nadi and Suva’s craft market runs every
day except Sundays. If you’re in Savusavu, be sure to visit the black
pearl farm J. Hunter Pearls for farm tours and shopping. pearlsfiji.com.

6 Tribal belonging

Maybe you never felt you belonged: maybe you belong in a
Fijian tribe in a cross-cultural social experiment. Spend a week or more
on Vorovoro island with the people of this remote community, helping
with sustainable community tourism projects that aim to bring positive
change. tribewanted.com.

7 Tropical spas

The award-winning Bebe Spa Sanctuary at the Outrigger on
the Lagoon is built high on a hilltop and looks over the main island’s
Coral Coast. The spa treatments use Pevonia and Pure Fiji spa products
and Bebe’s warm seashell massage is worth the journey south ($126/hour).
The founder of Pure Fiji, Daniel Anania, lists among his favourite spas
Spa Denarau at Denarau Marina, Harmony Spa at the Radisson Blu Hotel
and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa as well as Bebe Spa. bebespafiji.com; radissonblu.com/resort-fiji; intercontinental.com.

8 Pure Fiji

Fiji’s own spa brand, Pure Fiji, puts into a jar all the
reasons we love to visit Fiji – papaya, coconut milk, pineapple and
kaffir lime – the scents of a tropical paradise. Bestsellers are the
coconut hydrating lotion and coconut sugar rub: the orange
blossom-scented rub is a winner. Find the products at the Pure Fiji spa
in Suva or at the airport on the way home. If you happen to be in Suva
on a Saturday, you can buy the products discounted at their factory
outlet. purefiji.com.

9 Rugby

Rugby is Fiji’s third religion and the locals are
obsessed. Almost every village has a team. Teams from the outer islands
compete in the Island Zone Championship in Suva every August, while the
beloved Farebrother-Sullivan challenge pits provincial teams against
each other from September 1 to October 13. Fijians go crazy supporting
their own province.

10 Blue lagoon

Children of the ’80s, remember when Brooke Shields rose
out of the crystalline waters in the 1980 shipwreck movie Blue Lagoon?
It was filmed on Turtle Island, in the Yasawas, a string of islands
north of the Mamanucas in western Fiji. Widely regarded as having the
best beaches in Fiji, they’re connected by inter-island flights, fast
catamaran and multi-day, languid Blue Lagoon cruises. Yasawa and Turtle
islands are home to two of Fiji’s top resorts, with a high
beach-per-guest ratio. bluelagooncruises.com; yasawa.com; turtlefiji.com.

11 Tropical golf courses

There’s nothing more delightful than dropping a
hole-in-one on a beautifully landscaped, tropical green. Fiji offers a
few green gems, including the home of the Fiji Open, the Natadola golf
course, designed by famed Fijian golfer Vijay Singh, Denarau Golf and
Racquet Club, and Pacific Harbour’s tough Pearl Champion course,
designed by Robert Trent Jones jnr, which has held eighth ranking
worldwide in the past. natadolabay.com; denaraugolf.fiji-golf.net; thepearlsouthpacific.com.

12 Kokoda

Fiji has two main cuisines – indigenous Fijian and Fijian
Indian. Fijian Indian is heavy on the rice, spice and chilli, and
indigenous Fijian features plenty of seafood and is easy on the spice.
Kokoda is the Fijian take on cerviche, a divine dish of local fish
marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk. Time your visit to include
lovo night in the hotels, where food is cooked in an underground oven.
Otherwise, try Indigo, at Port Denarau, which serves Indian fusion as
well as indigenous Fijian, or Sky Top, on the rooftop of Ohana
restaurant (Queens Rd, Martintar). If you’re self-catering, get down to
the morning produce markets, held in all the main towns, including Nadi,
Suvasuva and Suva, or just stop along the roadside to buy freshly
caught prawns, mud crabs or fish. Also, pineapple, papaya and mangoes
are plentiful when in season.

13 The Mamanucas

Castaway, Treasure, Beachcomber and Bounty islands: the
Mamanuca Islands are total showponies (literally: the Tom Hanks movie
Cast Away was filmed on Modriki). This handful of islands is beloved of
day trippers with good reason: the diving, snorkelling and surfing are
world class and busy Beachcomber has the reputation of Fiji’s top party
island. Lying west of Nadi, the islands are easily reached by boat from
Denarau Marina; South Sea Cruises does most of the day trips. ssc.com.fj.

14 Kula Eco Park

Get up close and personal with Fiji’s rare and endangered
animals in this environmental haven near Sigatoka, on the Coral Coast.
It’s a great stop for kids, with fruit bats, iguanas, an array of
rainbow-coloured parrots including the flashy Kadavu red-breasted musk
parrot, and the fluffy orange dove. It’s
also a pram-friendly set-up. fijiwild.com.

15 Glamour digs

Make no mistake: while Fiji loves its reputation as a
family getaway, its 333 islands hide deeply glamorous resorts sought out
by the international jet set. Mel Gibson owns an island in the Lau
group, and TV bachelorettes hang out at Anthony Robbins’s luxury Namale
Island. Dolphin Island was the private island of the owner of New
Zealand’s top lodge, Huka Lodge, but has been opened to guests – it can
be home to just four couples or one lucky family – and the new,
adults-only Tadrai Island Resort, which is just a chopper ride from Nadi
in the Mamanucas, has just five villas with their own plunge pools and
butler service. namaleresort.com; dolphinislandfiji.com; tadrai.com.

16 Sigatoka Dunes

When the sun is shining, why stay inside? The prehistoric
sites excavated at Sigatoka Sand Dunes give a glimpse into Fijian
history without having to trek through a museum, and you get to stretch
your legs, too. Archaeological digs are still turning up stone tools and
the area is one of the largest burial sites in the Pacific. You may
even catch sight of Fiji’s national rugby team, which trains down here.

17 Real ecotourism

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, on the northern island of
Vanua Levu, is home to Johnny Singh, Fiji’s first marine biologist.
Cousteau, an explorer and oceanographer, set his small resort away from
the bustle of the main island and it has won several awards for its
ecotourism projects. The family-friendly five-star resort has set the
benchmark for other Fijian resorts to follow, featuring organic gardens,
rainwater harvesting and edible landscaping without compromising on
comfort. fijiresort.com.

18 Island-hopping

In Fiji, “day tripping” doesn’t mean hours in a car, it
means lying on the deck of a yacht, smelling the sea breeze, seafood
banquets and snorkelling stops. Charter a private yacht and choose your
course or join a cruise to, say, Tivua Island on the tall ship Ra Marama
and spend the day snorkelling, glass-bottom boating, kayaking or
chilling on the beach in Fiji style. fijisafari.com; captaincook.com.fj.

19 World-class surfing

Most surfers head for the Mamanuca islands to hit the
waves – the permanent six-metre wave Cloudbreak, off the coast of
Tavarua, is a Fijian legend, and reigning world champion Kelly Slater
describes nearby Restaurants as “one of the most perfect waves that I
have ever surfed”. Taravua will host the Volcom Fiji Pro, featuring the
top pro surfers, from June 3 to 15. Off the south coast of the main
island, you’ll find little Beqa Island is home to the challenging
left-handed reef break Frigates, and Sigatoka Beach’s Sand Dunes stand
out on the Coral Coast.

20 White-water rafting

Fiji’s lagoons are brilliant for sea kayaking and the
waterways through its mangroves let you explore these mysterious
ecosystems. The local guides of Rivers Fiji take groups river-rafting
through the forests and past highland villages on the main island and
sea kayaking out to Benq Island, renowned for its fire-walkers and
surfing. riversfiji.com.

Source: Sun Herald newspaper

DON’T MISS: Brisbane May-Sept 2012

Absolutely top of your don’t-miss list this year is
Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado
, showing at the Qld Art
Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Spanning four centuries, the big names
include El Greco, Velázquez and Rubens. “Spain was the global power at the
time,” says the
International Art curator, David
Burnett. “This exhibition is a huge historical read: it’s a lens through which
we can look at the rest of Europe and the world at that time.” His favourites
in the exhibition include a series of etchings by Goya. A coup for Qld, this is
the first time works from the Museo Nacional del Prado have visited Australia
(QAGOMA, qagoma.qld.gov.au, July 21 – Nov 4).
 Next door, at the
newly revamped Qld Museum, the sure-fire blockbuster Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb brings treasures from the British
Museum’s Egyptian collection to Brisbane. Nesperennub was a temple priest and
his 3000-year-old mummified body is on display. The exhibition includes a
fantastic 3D film of his preservation, including the x-ray and CT scans that
helped create a haunting model of his face. The oldest objects date back to
2500BC, and highlights include a beautiful model of a funerary boat, with its
rich colouring still intact (Qld Museum, southbank.qm.qld.gov.au, April 19 -Aug 19)
A footy club’s locker room is the setting of The Truth About Kookaburras, a gritty
murder mystery that opens with 13 naked men on stage. The language is, well,
what you’d expect when a bunch of blokes are talking about last night’s boozy
buck’s night, complete with strippers and, ultimately, a dead man, but it’s the
poignant exploration of men’s changing role in society that will keep you
talking (La Boite Theatre Company, laboite.com.au, June 6-23) 
Opera Australia’s 2012
brings Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream  to Brisbane (May 26 – Jun 8). With lush
costumers and scenery, The Magic Flute is a family-friendly, English-language
version that will have kids entranced by the colour and wild puppetry, while Dream is Baz Luhrmann and designer
Catherine Martin’s celebrated interpretation of the Shakespeare classic is set
in colonial India. 
September is festival madness as the Brisbane Festival takes over the city. Highlights include pianist
extraordinaire, Evgeny Kissin, celebrated Belgian dance company les ballets C
de la B and the debut of Symphonia
(Symphony of the Floods)
by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin, commissioned by the Festival. The
annual event ends with a bang and a fireworks extravaganza, Sunsuper Riverfire.
Hit South Bank early for a good possie (Sept 8-29, brisbanefestival.com.au)

Source: Sun Herald newspaper

BRISBANE: We’re going north on an urban safari

floods nor cyclones can dent the relentless reinvention of Brisbane, with celeb
chefs and real espresso all over town.
In a city where, traditionally, the word
‘hip’ is automatically aligned with ‘replacement’, it’s been a tough slog to
otherwise convince to southerners and the hordes who’ve fled the northern
capital every decade that Brisbane now is truly a cool city.
“Hip Brisbane?” said a friend
who’d grown up in Brissy in the 60s, fled and never gone back. “Visit
first, then try to convince me.”
And with its reputation and streets taking
a battering in the recent floods, Brisbane has used it as an excuse to give the
city a good scrubbing to emerge gleaming in the late-summer sunshine.

If my Brisbane escapee friend had spent just a couple of hours with me one
sunny morning, she may have started to relent. My hotel, the newly opened Spicer’s Balfour, is a renovated Queenslander in inner-city New Farm, with
just nine guest rooms, wide verandas for breakfasting, a rooftop bar and
open-air reception with views across to the Story Bridge and into the neighbours’
capacious back yards.
As a schoolgirl in rural Queensland, my memories of
Brissy are of brawling with the siblings while dad drove in endless circles
around the city streets, cursing the Big Smoke and inevitably ending up out the
front of the XXXX brewery. Now, locals cruise the city on bikes, ferries, along
riverside promenades: Brisbanites
are no slouches – you’ll find them running marathons before breakfast, pounding
through the city’s lush parklands, riding the riverside trails or sauntering
the city streets. No wonder they’re mainlining big
breakfasts at eight: they’ve been up before dawn, catching the sunshine.
Remember the old Flo Bjelke-Petersen joke? No daylight saving, thank you. It
fades the curtains.
it’s not just me who’s rethinking Brisbane: Matt Moran opened his Brisbane Aria last year, Spaniard Pablo
Tordesillas moved up north by way of Woolloomooloo’s Otto to open Ortiga,
named the country’s top restaurant in 2010 and the town’s still talking about
its coup in scoring fashion designer Akira
Igosawa’s latest boutique and Hermes’ arrival in December. 
is not a one-way street of pale southerners heading north to woo the
white-pants brigade. November saw gong-winning Brisbane bar Byblos open in Melbourne, Nat-Sui shoes beloved by well-hoofed
celebs from Tara Moss to The Veronicas is coming to Woolloomooloo and Newtown’s
Campos Coffee opened a Brisbane outpost
long before coming to Melbourne late last year. 
In fact, the Brisbane café was recently named Australia’s best by Lifestyle Channel viewers, and the waiters
are as effortlessly condescending as any Sydney NIDA graduate-cum-barista.
Bringing coffee to the south? It just smacks of selling ice to eskimos.
It’s long been held you can’t get a decent espresso in Brissy, so I do a
double-take in front of the drive-through café by Brissy-bunch-made-good, Merlo, which churns out its daily-roasted
private blend to loyal locals who zip past, arms stretched out from their shiny
black BMWs and Audis to receive a hit.
Brisbane’s coffee aficionados tell me the new barista at French café Cirque is totally amaaaaaaaazing, but,
this still being Queensland, I miss lunch twice in a row because the kitchen
closes up, quick-smart, at 2.30pm. Not so much the Land of the Long Lunch, but
the Land of the Early Lunch. But I guess if you’ve been up since the crack of
dawn, you’re not going to wait till 3pm to eat.
I only just scrape in for a late lunch (after some begging) at the Gun Shop Café, Delicious magazine’s
café of the year 2010 and named in Gourmet Traveller’s top 20 brekkys. The
little 65-seat café, which endured a sluicing during the floods, churns out up
to 350 breakfasts each Sunday morning from 7am till 12.30pm (there’s that early
closing bell again). 
“It doesn’t matter if you’re Premier Anna Bligh or a homeless bloke
who’s scrounged enough for a coffee, everyone still has to queue,” says chef-owner
Jason Coolen, who is easing into dinners, starting with Friday and
Saturday nights and has just finished extending out the back, to the delight of
the mid-morning pram brigade. “I’ve got kids, (mate) Matt Moran’s got kids. Why
do we want to knock that market back?”
The service I get on the Brisbane food scene is, with the exception of
Campos, endearingly informal, with all the enthusiasm of a young Labrador who
just wants to be your friend and tell you their favourite dish on the menu,
with a large chunk of life story thrown in for good measure. They’re not
flirting, but it’s kinda cute, to wit the bouncy boy bringing out platters of
local snapper, Kimberley barramundi and Hervey Bay scallops at South Bank Surf Club, the new
restaurant by TV chef Ben O’Donoghue
of Surfing the Menu fame. Ben himself
delivers a starter rack of oysters to us three gleeful girls, who throw a
bottle of South Australian riesling into the mix and perch out on the veranda.
While we hoe in, the Brissy girls recall how they used to leap into
the nearby man-made South Bank beach
for a quick sobering-up swim, jeans and all after a night on the town. The
beach is currently closed while an army of trucks repair the flood damage, but
when it’s in the swing, sunny Sunday afternoons see this restaurant, which aims
to become carbon-neutral, pumps with hungry and thirsty swimmers. 
If we weren’t eating at Ben’s new joint, we could have popped into Sardine Tin for late-night tapas (yes,
Brisbane, like Sydney and Melbourne is certainly not immune to the charms of
Spanish food served in minutiae) or any
of the tiny bars along South Brisbane’s casual strip, where well-behaved
drinkers lounge on tables along the pavements in the warm evening air. 
It’s certainly more
lively than Brisbane’s Queen St Mall, which moves from Vuitton to Supré in just
two short blocks. Never have I seen so many bra straps and Brissy’s perpetual
fascination with mini-dresses means it’s well in style at the moment. It’s hard
to find the local gems unless you are tipped off. Totally this-minute menswear
is found in Dirtbox, relocated
beside its newly reopened sister shop Bessie
in the otherwise drab Broadway Mall, and little ‘Tokyo-centric’ Apartment, stocking Comme Des Garcons
and US coolster brand Carhartt, is hidden in a basement on neighbouring
Elizabeth St. Brisbane’s own Easton
lives in Fortitude Valley’s slick main drag, James St, near
fashion incubator The Tribune and local upcoming label Subfusco
In fact,
the Valley is back on the hot list, thanks largely to the The
complex, home to
the second hotel I road-test here.  The suburb
is giving its spicy rep as a hotbed of dirty drinking dens the heave-ho, thanks
to such establishments as Emporium, which took out Gourmet Traveller’s best
small luxury hotel in 2009 and again in 2010, but one local still slips up: “Why,
it’s just a vomit’s spit from the nightclub scene,” they say guilelessly. I spy
a few clubs with that boarded-up look all nightclubs have in daylight, but the
queen on the scene is luxe, opulent Cloudland,
with its crazily lush organic theme complete with waterfalls, garden walls and
a retractable roof.
The Emporium hotel hits a few sour notes, with windows I can’t seem to
open, additional charge for wi-fi and a chilly lap pool, but the rooms are
well-designed and spacious, and it sits beside the current hottest meal ticket
in town, Tartufo.
This Wednesday night, Tartufo
is turning back those without bookings, which we sail smugly past. Chef Tony Percuoco’s kitchen must run itself, as he’s out on
the floor between courses, laughing and chatting, a more carefree chef I’ve
never seen.  Formerly of the Gold Coast’s
Ristorante Fellini and an
apprentice at Bennelong way back in the 70s, he’s always loved Brisbane. “It
just reminded me of Sydney when we arrived, back in 1972,” he says without a whiff
of condensation.
The catchphrase in Brisbane at the moment is ‘urban villages’, and Woolloongabba
is the hottest of the lot for antique and vintage shops as
well as some truly stellar eating houses, just down the road from that iconic
stadium, the Gabba. 
A word about the
Wollongabba strip: it’s small. It’s really small. It’s, like, a block long. Yet
you could quite comfortably spend a day there, starting with coffee at Pearl, then a poke amongst the antique
centre and emporium for vintage Chanel and retro homewares, dinner at Bistrot Bistro or 1889
(home of 2010’s best wine list in all Oz) and a cheeky little
post-dinner rendezvous at Crosstown Eating House’s new bar, or in sparkling
new Canvas, with tapas by Matt Moran (yeah, he’s loving Brisbane) and
rum-tastic cocktails. A hot tip: Tuesdays is tapas and tequila night, where $30
will get you two beautifully crafted marguerites and three tapas. 
Canvas is typical of
the new edginess in Brissy – its walls are handpainted by local street artists
Jimmy Bligs and Teibo, and the street grunge theme continues at Edwina Corlette’s edgy gallery, a
pleasant find as I’m tottering around New Farm in an attempt to negate the
calorie binge by way of window shopping. That’s her window, splashed in vivid
red, yellow and black painted roadsigns by Aboriginal-Chinese artist Jason
If you thought you
could see everything in Brisbane at home in Sydney, praps think again. We all
know Gallery of Modern Art’s (aka GOMA) coup with its recent Valentino Retrospective exhibition,
which saw more than 8000 visitors on one of the final Sundays, and the
afternoon I visit is packed with what appears to be the AGM of the Country
Women’s Association, dissecting sleeves insets and sable-trim armholes.
The riverside GOMA says
it was lucky to sustain only minimal damage, but the whole precinct, including
the Qld Art Gallery is currently closed, but expected to be open before the end
of the month. When it does open its doors, GOMA’s current exhibition, they
promise, will blow you away. The Tracey Moffatt photos and Minnie Pwerles are stacked
away and the whole space given over to 21st Century: Art in the First Decade. Opened 18 December until 25
April, it features 180 artworks by 110 artists from 40 countries, some on loan
from the world’s most prestigious galleries, others new acquisitions. We’re
talking balloons, swimming pools, live zebra finches, wormholes that snake
through the building…it’s even got its own blog, www.21cblog.com.
While I’ve spent most of my time in the
Valley, New Farm, West End and Woolloongabba, there are yet more booming areas to check out: Paddington
for its vintage strip, the post-flood scrubbed Eagle Street Pier for eating, the waterfront down at newly chi-chi
Teneriffe, the old jail that’s now The Barracks’ food and shopping haunt and
the café scene at Milton.
Does that mean a return visit? “Don’t
donate to flood appeals, come up and spend your money enjoying the Brisbane
sunshine!” the locals tell me. Dammit, it’d be un-Austrayian not to. So if
‘hip’ meant feeling angst, wearing black and not eating fresh mango for
breakfast, then give hip the heave. I’ll take New Farm, not New York.
, 10-12 Logan Rd,
Ÿ  Bistrot
14 Logan Rd, Wolloongabba
, No. 1 Eagle St,
Eagle St Pier, CBD
Portside Wharf 39 Hercules Street, Hamilton
, 11 Wandoo
St, Fortitude Valley
Canvas, 16b Logan Rd,
Corlette Gallery,
2/555 Brunswick St, New Farm
Café, 53
Mollison St, West End
drive-through café, 104 McLachlan St, Fortitude Valley
Ortiga, 446 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley
, 28 Logan Rd,
South Bank Surf Club, 30aa
Stanley Plaza Parklands, South Brisbane
Tartufo, Emporium
Brisbane, 1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley
STAYING THERE Best of the boutiques: Spicer’s Balfours (37 Balfour St, New
Farm, 07 3358 8888, www.spicersgroup.com.au)
Chester’s (closed in February for
renovation, 26 Chester St, Fortitude Valley,07 3852 2218, www.chestershotel.com) Limes (142 Constance St, Fortitude
Valley, 07 3852 9000, www.limeshotel.com.au)
and Emporium (1000 Ann St, Fortitude
Valley, 07 3253 6918,www.emporiumhotel.com.au
FOR MORE INFORMATION Get your hands on the excellent (yet
free!) Good Guide, a new series of
fantastic little guides on four Brisbane pockets. Find in the smaller hotels,
real estate agents or online with interactive maps, www.goodguide.net.au Check Travel Queensland for packages www.queenslandholidays.com and
download Brisbane Marketing’s new
online guide, www.visitbrisbane.com.au/Travel/VisitorGuide/

Season to stay or stray

Where do foodies, culture mavens and adventurers go to embrace or escape the cold? To read the full story, click here

Embrace:  Make like a Melburnian and don your big coat – black, naturally – for a cultural winter and no, the AFL doesn’t count. The State of Design Festival from July 20-31includes Melbourne Open House, which gives you a licence to perve at 75 of the city’s most beautiful and environmentally sustainable designs – free. The city’s best tagging, bombing, paste-ups and stencilling are seen on street art walking tours ($69 a person, melbournestreettours.com).

Otherwise, download free DIY tours of hot and hidden street art (thatsmelbourne.com.au.) or a guide to the city’s design hot spots (audiodesignmuseum.com).

The National Gallery of Victoria’s new shopfront window allows passersby to watch ‘zine artists do their thing from July 11-August 8, while the Gertrude Street Projection Festival transforms Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street into an open-air gallery with light projections cast across the streetscape (July 22-31, thegertrudeassociation.com).

Federation Square’s Atrium showcases more than 100 Victorian wines, with winemakers on hand and live jazz on Wednesdays and Thursdays from July 6-August 4 ($25, fedsquare.com/wine). For more jazz, grab a table beneath the heaters on Hardware Lane for cool tunes (Mon-Sat, from 7pm). Chill on Ice Lounge serves drinks among 30 tonnes of icy walls in its Russell Street digs until July 16, then reopens at Southbank in August with bigger ice decor.

Do your best Torvill and Dean impersonations on the ice outside at the Melbourne Museum, then work on your apres ski skills at the Winter Festival, from August 18 to September 4. Highlights include free ice skating shows, too. (winterfestival.com.au, visitvictoria.com.)

Bare all in New York’s great parks for a season of festivals, concerts and hot summer nights outdoors until September. Opera buffs flock to the Metropolitan Opera’s summer recital series, held from July 11-28 across the Five Boroughs – free (metopera.org/parks). Indie groovers make for the Village Voice’s July 16 Four Knots Festival, headlined this year by the Black Angels (free, villagevoice.com), while jazzsters take in the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival on August 27-28, also free. It’s part of the city’s massive Summerstage arts festival (summerstage.org).

Shakespeare in the Park presents Measure for Measure and All’s Well that Ends Well in Central Park (free, until July 30, shakespearein thepark.org) and Lower Manhattan’s River to River Festival celebrates public art and music along the river’s edge (free, until July 16, riverto rivernyc.com). Meantime, the Latino Cultural Festival in Queens’s Flushing Meadows is the place to go for pulsing dance, theatre and music from July 25 to August 7 (queenstheatre.org, nycgo.com).

Hot to shop: Adelaide

Adelaide Arcade pic credit: Sun Herald

For vintage fashion, antiques and contemporary design, this city is streets ahead. We’re talking Adelaide. Yes, Adelaide. Canny eastern states bargain hunters are well aware of the great deals to be had in the city of churches, sex shops and hydroponic gardeners (and we’re not talking tomatoes here).

And with the addition of some cool new markets and ramped-up fashion, the city could possibly be getting rid of its love-hate relationship with Sydney & Melbourne (love to run away there, hate it when others run away there…)

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