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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Travelling in Oman: chat with 2GB Sydney radio

I’m recently back from travelling in Oman, the quietest little country in the Middle East. So quiet, you may never have thought of it, or thought to visit.

You’re missing out.

Today, I chatted with radio 2GB Sydney host Michael McLaren about Oman. About walking through the narrow streets of a mudbrick town, where you’ll pass men in the classic Omani dishdasha, a long, white robe topped with a kumar, an embroidered cap worn nowhere else but Oman. It is unmistakably different. It is unmistakably Omani.

Travelling in Oman is easy, safe and the people are welcoming – and this is the most fragrant country, the land of frankincense, myrrh, of cardamon-scented coffee and pure rosewater, which I watched distilled in the hill towns of Al Jabal Al Akhdar.

To listen to my chat with Michael McLaren, click here.

Otherwise, you can tune into my podcast, The World Awaits, where I caught up with co-host Kirstie Bedford on my return, to talk about travelling from Muscat to Nizwa to the mountains and the fjords of the Musandam peninsula as well as the deserts – the lovely, lonely, great sand deserts of Arabia.

2GB interview https://omny.fm/shows/2gb-afternoons/travel-oman

The World Awaits podcast https://open.spotify.com/episode/4yGJB2Gu4axrPJJhWgDlhw


Hotels reborn: 10 historic buildings that are now luxury hotels

Where are you sleeping tonight? In a prison cell? A castle? A monastery. A jam factory? I’m talking about rooms inside buildings that have been reborn as hotels – buildings that may otherwise have fallen into irretrievable disrepair, or worse.

Traveller cover photo Pentridge Prison

Traveller cover photo The Interlude @ Pentridge Prison

This weekend, my cover story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers is about hotels whose buildings have served a previous life – I rounded up 10 across Australia and abroad, with an extra serve of five Australasian hotels on the side. I looked at hotels as far apart as London, Peru and Turkey, which have been train stations, palaces, even a state Department of Education. Some, like the Las Casas de la Juderia, in Seville and London’s St Pancras Renaissance, were from recent travels. Some, like The Interlude here in Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison complex, are only just about to open. All are close to my heart.

Sometimes, it’s the location or the beauty of a building that lures developers to imbue it with renewed life. Other times, it’s the building’s backstory that a visionary can weave into its incarnation, to be reborn with new purpose.

“Heritage is the art of saving what is useful and beautiful, but also updating it for modern use,” says Terry Fripp, of Kerry Hill Architects, whose projects include Perth’s much-lauded COMO The Treasury, formerly Western Australia’s historic State Buildings.

It’s the ultimate act of recycling: reusing existing resources while also giving back, in the form of hotel restaurants, bars, spas and event spaces that are, for the most part, accessible by the public.

Click here to read my story on the 10 great hotels reborn, with another serve of five Australasian hotels on the side.

or see https://www.theage.com.au/traveller/inspiration/10-historic-buildings-reborn-as-stunning-luxury-hotels-20230512-p5d7vp.html


Six of the best historic hotels in Egypt

Fancy splashing out on a luxury hotel for your Egyptian holiday? I’ve been to a few in my time, and let me say that this fabulous country is interwoven with blockbuster stories, best tapped into with a stay in one of its great historic hotels.

Who’s your historical hero? Ramses II? Agatha Christie? Alexander the Great or maybe Winston Churchill?

I’ve rounded up six of the best historic hotels in Egypt, from up in the north in Alexandria to the deep south, in the heart of Nubia, in Aswan. I’ve headed out into the Sahara to the impossibly exotic oasis town of Siwa, where a mudbrick marvel awaits, and onto the shores of the Nile in Luxor with these six stays.

Click here to read the story, which I wrote for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

https://www.theage.com.au/traveller/inspiration/six-of-the-best-historic-hotels-in-egypt-20230424-p5d2uw.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?


Women in Saudi Arabia

Until late 2019, I could not visit Saudi Arabia as a solo, female traveller. Only business visa holders and religious pilgrims could visit Saudi Arabia, and even then, as a woman, I would have needed to be accompanied by a male guardian. Living in Egypt in the late noughties, my father had passed away, I was unmarried and neither of my brothers wanted to visit Saudi Arabia. It remained one of a few countries I had not visited in the Middle East, yet with an all-pervasive influence in the region’s economy, politics and societal expectations, there was a Saudi-sized gap in my understanding of the region.

Then, just before COVID closed the world down, Saudi Arabia threw out its own rule book, and brought in e-visas for independent travellers, issued online and almost on the spot.

I am so proud of this story, published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) newspapers, about my adventures in the Saudi city of Jeddah and the AlUla oasis, up toward the Jordanian border. To read more about travelling as a woman, and meeting the women of Saudi Arabia, click on the link below.

https://www.traveller.com.au/visiting-saudia-arabia-as-a-woman-i-went-to-the-notoriously-sexist-country-as-a-solo-female-tourist-h24v9q

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 


Walk into Jordan’s colourful, poetic heart on the Jordan Trail

With its Crusader castles and Roman ruins, the Dead Sea and the rose-colored jewel of Petra, the Jordan Trail leads walkers into its poetic, colorful heart.

Long-distance walking holidays are a worldwide phenomenon, not just in the US with its vast trails, or the routes that criss-cross the United Kingdom, or here in Australia, which has seen a boom in waymarked trails. In the peaceable Middle Eastern country of Jordan, the 400 mile Jordan Trail winds through wadis (valleys) and ridges and into Jordanian life, visiting 75 towns and villages along the way, from Umm Qais in the north to the Red Sea town of Aqaba in the south.

Travelers have always found refuge and wellness here – be they spice traders on the ancient trade route, pilgrims journeying south to Mecca, Roman lovers of luxury or today’s hikers on the Jordan Trail.

Click here to read my latest story and to soak your imagination in the fabulous photography in the current edition of Arrived magazine.


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.


Take a break: short escapes in Victoria, Australia

Take two days on the Mornington Peninsula or the Yarra Valley, or three days in the Grampians? What’s your choice for your short escape this autumn?

In the Grampians, three hours north-west of Melbourne, you should hit the track on the new Grampians Peak Trail (visitgrampians.com.au), which cuts north-south through Gariwerd-Grampians National Park. You don’t have to walk the full 160kms – that’d take 13 days, but bite off a day walk or a short, scenic walks to local beauty points. For the quickest panorama hit that’s accessible by car, watch the sun rise at Boroka Lookout.

Otherwise, cruise the wineries and beaches of the Mornington Peninsula, or head an hour north of Melbourne to the green, green hills of the Yarra Valley.

Click here to read my suggestions in the cover story in the weekend Traveller section, which runs in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia.

 


Click & connect: on creativity in the COVID era

Recently, I teamed back up with photographer Jude van Daalen to talk about creativity in the  COVID era, our collaborative project, ‘Together Apart: Life in Lockdown’ with Hobsons Bay City Council.

Click here to listen to our podcast!

Home Delivery is a new online program that delivers a hit of creative content every Thursday lunchtime. It features live chats with artists, live musical performances, podcasts, or professional development workshop, hosted by MC Matto Lucas.

We talked about how our creative practices have changed – for Jude, it was moving from the environment of a photographic studio to shooting from a safe social distance, swapping colour photography for black and white, and snatching the shot as it happens, instead of a controlled, styled shoot.

For me – well, the last time I worked in an office was a brief stint in the cradle of the Murdoch empire, in the Adelaide Advertiser, back in the mists of time. So, working from home hasn’t been an enormous leap for me. What has changed is the content. In the 12 months before COVID locked us all down, I had taken a private train through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, I spent Christmas in a log cabin in remote, central Finland and New Year in icy Stockholm, had been puma spotting on horseback through snowy Patagonia and eaten all the potatoes in Peru, before undertaking an epic, multi-stop flight from Lima to Cairo, via Ecuador and Madrid.

So, when lockdown hit, my job became pretty irrelevant, pretty fast. I still write the occasional travel story based on the journeys I can squeeze in between lockdowns, but with Melbourne recently taking the gong as the world’s longest locked-down city, those trips are becoming but beautiful memories.

Instead, we’ve created a book, billboards and several art exhibitions based on our book, Together Apart: Life in Lockdown based on Melburnians’ lives in lockdown. (yep, it was supposed to be a snapshot of a brief moment in time…)

Click here to watch the podcast, as Jude and I talk about retaining that creative energy while in lockdown.


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?


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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