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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Get going: Adelaide festivals

GO NOW
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
It’s festival season in Adelaide, with WOMADelaide and the
Adelaide Festival top of the list. Save $20 on a stay in BreakFree
Directors Studios, from $99 a night, or a studio at BreakFree Adelaide
from $268 for two nights, saving 15 per cent, until April 30. 1300 987 602, breakfree.com.au.

JAPAN
Save 10 per cent on World Expeditions’ Japanese adventures,
such as the five-day Kii Hanto Pilgrim Hike along mountain trails to
ancient Buddhist and Shinto shrines. Book by March 31 for travel July
1-December 31. Costs $1791 a person. 1800 567 2216, worldexpeditions.com.

Breakfree Adelaide.

GO SOON

UNITED STATES
Bright lights, big cities – save 25 per cent on US and Canada
journeys departing by June 30, such as the 23-day Best of America trip,
from New York to Nashville and New Mexico, finishing in freewheeling
San Francisco. Book by March 31. From $2471 a person, save $824. 1300 797 010, intrepidtravel.com.

NSW
Pet-friendly Mavis’s Kitchen is 10 kilometres from Murwillumbah on
the NSW north coast. Save $94 and get breakfast for two, a bottle of
organic bubbles and Devonshire tea. Sundays to Thursdays until April 28.
Costs $199 a night, two people. (02) 6679 5664, legendarytweedvalley.com.au.

GO LATER

HONG KONG
Do the city in style with a B&B package at the luxury
Hyatt Regency Hong Kong in Tsim Sha Tsui. Book on the Kowloon hotel’s
website by April 30 and get breakfast for two, free internet access and
2pm checkout. From $365 a night. See hongkong.tsimshatsui.hyatt.com.

VICTORIA
Check into the Vibe Hotel Melbourne, on Little Collins
Street, and get perky. Choose two perks, including 24-hour Wi-Fi, valet
parking, in-room movies or $25 credit at the hotel bar. Valid from April
1 to June 30. From $220 a night. (03) 9622 8888, vibehotels.com.au.

TOUR WATCH
ROAM FREE
This small-group Tauck Roman Holiday raises you up above the
crowds, with an after-hours private tour of the Vatican museums and
Sistine Chapel, a reception in Rome’s Cinecitta film studios and five
nights at The Westin Excelsior. Departs October 18, from $5982 a person.
1300 950 622, traveltheworld.com.au.

KIDS DEALS
CRUISE WITH ATTITUDE
Girls on the move come with a dash of attitude and this
season’s travel luggage from surf label Rip Curl has it in spades.

Forget boring black, the new Heartland range, in stores this month,
comprises 80-litre ($249.99) and 40-litre ($199.99) four-wheel
hard-shell upright cases with a slot for the laptop and an internal
cosmetics case.

Lock in the teen-queen look with a matching beauty case
($49.99). (03) 5261 0022, ripcurl.com.au.

Belinda Jackson‘s Get Going column is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper. 


Get going: party on the Pacific Jewel

Explore Antarctica with Abercrombie & Kent

Hit the high seas or relaxing rivers with this week’s international and travel deals, featuring cruises from Broome to Botswana. 


GO NOW
BOTSWANA & NAMIBIA
Cruise the Chobe River on the African Queen and save $420 a
couple on a three-night adventure, until June 30. See water-loving
elephants and hippos and take a game drive. From $1865 a person, twin
share, $2295 singles, phone (02) 9290 2877, see benchinternational.com.au.

SYDNEY SEA BREAK
Time poor? Escape for a three-night sea break on the Pacific
Jewel. The ship features seven restaurants, nine bars and clubs, spa,
zip-liner and big screens galore. Depart May 30, save $150. From $339 a
person, quad share. Phone 132 494, see pocruises.com.au.

P&O’s Pacific Jewel.

GO SOON
EUROPE
Save 30 per cent on selected seven-night cruises on the
88-guest River Cloud II between April and August. Cruise the Rhine, from
Basel to Amsterdam, with all meals and a bottle of champagne to say
hello. Book by March 31. From $2195 a person, twin share. 1300 583 572, seacloud.com.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Cruise the Murray River in winter (June to August) and save
up to 25 per cent on three, four or seven-night cruises. Includes meals,
shore excursions and coach transfers from Adelaide to Mannum. From $674
a person, three nights. Phone (02) 9206 1111, see captaincook.com.au.

GO LATER
ANTARCTICA
Save up to $3350 a person on three 2014-15 specialist
Antarctic journeys, covering climate change, photography or family
Christmas cruising. The 12-day Classic Antarctica journey costs from
$12,850 a person, twin share. Book by March 31. Phone 1300 590 317, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Follow the historical Kunmunya Wilderness Walk, a shore tour
on three Kimberley cruises from Broome to Darwin on June 2, 13 and 23.
Book by March 31 and get a free stay and camel ride in Broome, worth
$500. From $7390 a person, 11 days. Phone 1800 637 688, see auroraexpeditions.com.au.

MV River Orchid on the Mekong River.

Mekong meander

Spend 15 days exploring Vietnam and Cambodia by land, air
and water including seven nights aboard the River Orchid on the Mekong
River. From Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, you’ll sail the delta of
southern Vietnam then head into Phnom Penh and the Tonle Sap river.
Includes flights from Siem Reap to Hanoi. Book by November 30 for
travel until December 23. From $5814 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 939 414, see flightcentre.com.au.

 

Alaskan adventures

Multi-generational travel – a fancy name for holidays with
the grandchildren and grandparents – is so hot right now. “Take the
grandkids to Alaska” is the call for families of four to join the
Disney Wonder in Vancouver and cruise up to Ketchikan, Alaska.

The nine-night tour includes two nights in Vancouver, all
meals, kids, teen and adult clubs, first-run movies and Broadway-style
Disney musicals. From $1899 adults, $1299 kids two-11 years, quad
share. Phone 1300 886 940, see worldwidecruisecentres.com.au.

Belinda Jackson‘s Get Going column is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.


Tiaras and Tulle: Barbie does Melbourne

Barbie is 55 and let me tell you, she’s lookin’ good.

The real, live Barbie (looking 25 and very, very tall) popped in to Melbourne for a touch of high tea this afternoon and to promote her new movie, The Pearl Princess. The Langham, Melbourne, turned it on with a High Tea in Alto, the 28th floor of the Southbank hotel, with fabulous views across the city.

While the rest of the city is learning barista tricks, brewing their own cider or perfecting a sea urchin foam, a la the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, we were served up the Princess Menu, featuring pearl cupcakes, fairy bread, sparkling pearl pink lemonade, and popcorn cups.

Hand on my heart, I’m not a pink person. My attempts to program my Small Girl into thinking that orange is the coolest (cue to bedsheets so orange they could turn you Buddhist) have failed. The little girls soaked up the pinkness as though they were born to it.

The Langham Melbourne’s GM, Ben Sington, popped in for a photo with Barbie (I note he waited till it all started to wind down) and commented that everyone seemed very well behaved. 

True, there were no tears and no screaming, but give a bunch of little girls a long table full of pink cakes, a movie, face painting and bunch of cooing (and quite possibly champagne-infused) mamas, and who’s going to complain?

There’ll be six Barbie Pearl Princess High Teas on March 29 and 30.


Adventure beckons: Metung, East Gippsland

Metung jetty at sunset. Pic: Belinda Jackson

Coastal chic meets village vibes on a svelte strip of land that dips into the Gippsland Lakes. 

Everything
happens around Metung’s Village Green: from kids on swings to cafe
culture to hopeful fishermen looking for a bite from a bream. The
village is surrounded on three sides by lakes, and the air here is
filled with the chimes made by the riggings on yachts.

Explore
Metung’s lakes King and Victoria on a traditional timber boat (no
licence necessary) and take a picnic to a deserted sand island where you
may spot wild goats, inquisitive seals and the occasional dolphin.

The
lakes’ waters are calm and clear, excellent for lazy-day swims, and are
well guarded from the crashing surf of Bass Strait by a long spit of
low-lying dunes: cross them and you’re on the wild, rugged Ninety Mile
Beach.

For panoramic views, boat to Barrier Landing, moor and
follow the path across the dunes to one of Australia’s great coastal
wildernesses. For an epicurean excursion, the hills above Metung include
the Nicholson River Winery, Tambo Estate and Lightfoot & Sons.

With the kids
Under fives
* Back Beach on Lake King is the place for the buckets-and-spades brigade.
* Press the big green button at the Rain Drop Water Play Area in Metung village’s Patterson Park.

Older children
* Try the new mountain-bike track at Nowa Nowa, a 40-minute drive from Metung.
* The best surfing conditions can be found at high tide at Red Bluff,
between Lakes Entrance and Lake Tyers Beach, a 30-minute drive from
Metung.

Teenagers
* Learn to water ski, wake board or tube ride at nearby Paynesville; aquamania.com.au.

While there Locals head to Bancroft Bites on Metung Road or The Metung Galley, just opposite, for a caffeine fix. Cruisers and day boats are available for hire at Metung Marina; rivieranautic.com.au, bullscruisers.com.au.

Getting there Metung is 3 1/2 hours’ drive east of Melbourne on the Monash Freeway.

Staying there Jetty
Road Retreat cabins at nearby Nungurner sleep four; jettyroadretreat.com.au. For holiday homes, apartments and B&Bs, see
stayz.com.au. Waterfront apartments overlooking Bancroft Bay include The Moorings at Metung; themoorings.com.au.

More information Visit discovereastgippsland.com.au and destinationgippsland.com.au

The writer was a guest of Gippsland Tourism. 

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Traveller section.


Get going: the cycle of your life

Cycling in Mallacoota, Victoria.

GO NOW

FRANCE
Families get free ski passes this Easter, saving up to $440 a
person, when staying in fully catered chalets in Verbier, Courchevel,
Meribel, Val d’lsere and St Anton. Meribel’s Chalet Christiane sleeps
six, from $1280 an adult, seven nights from April 5. See powderwhite.com.

VICTORIA
Explore Victoria’s Wilderness Coast on a four-day cycling
tour from Mallacoota to Cape Conran, with walks and a half-day kayak
trip, all meals and support vehicle. Save 20 per cent on the March 16
departure. From $1836, twin share. Phone 0428 556 088, see snowyrivercycling.com.au.

 Rumba Beach Resort, Caloundra, Queensland

GO SOON
UAE
Soak up two nights in luxe Shangri-La Dubai then take the
limo to its sister hotel in Abu Dhabi, with tickets to the top of Burj
Khalifa and Ferrari World. Save 20 per cent until September 1, quote
“DXB-AUH Arabian Stopover Experience”. From $1560, three nights. See shangri-la.com.

QUEENSLAND

Take a short Sunshine Coast break at the luxe Rumba Beach
Resort in Caloundra. Stay three nights and get $50 restaurant credit, a
morning boat cruise, bicycle hire and free in-house movie. Available
until April 17, from $597 a couple, three nights. Phone (07) 5492 0555, see rumbaresort.com.au.

Casa Angelina on the Amalfi coast, Italy. Photo: SUPPLIED

GO LATER
ITALY
Do the Amalfi Coast in five-star style at the cliff-top Casa
Angelina, 10 minutes’ drive from Positano. Book a four-night stay by
March 31 and get champagne, late check-out and 10 per cent off
accommodation and dinner, May 16-October 27. From $416 a night. Phone 02 9211 6590, see casangelina.com.

TASMANIA
Hike Australia’s most iconic walking trail, the Overland
Track, and save $200 when booked by March 31. Tasmanian Expeditions runs
weekly departures until May 18 with guides, meals and gear included.
Costs $1795 a person, quote “OV0214”. Phone 1300 666 856, see tasmanianexpeditions.com.au.

 Tamil Nadu. Photo: SUPPLIED

TOUR WATCH: SOUTHERN INDIA
Tamil Nadu is India’s deep, secret south. Banyan Tours
offers tours of temples, dance academies and mansions as you discover
the region’s past. Tours include boutique hotels, a driver, guide, car
and domestic flights, from October 2014 to March 2015. From $2436 a
person, nine nights. See banyantours.com.

KIDS’ QUESTS

Your kids are just out of kindy, but they already know a
gaucho is an Argentinian cowboy, Bollywood is in India and a Moroccan
market is called a souk, thanks to Lonely Planet’s new World Search
series.

Aimed at five-year-olds and up, the three cartoon board
books, Busy Places, Amazing Jobs and Incredible Animals, have flaps to
lift, stickers to stick, treasures to find and a world to explore.
$19.99 each, lonelyplanet.com.

This column by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald newspaper.


Travel deals: Free Fiji

GO NOW

FIJI

Stay eight nights at the five-star Outrigger on the Lagoon
with return airfares, $600 resort credit, butler service, spa treatment
and kids stay and eat free, saving $2000. Book by February 28; travel
until March 31. Worth $2790, from $1990 a person. Phone 1300 003 454, see myfiji.com.au.
QUEENSLAND

Be one of the first to stay in the newly refurbished
apartments and suites of Seahaven Noosa, set between Hastings Street and
the beachfront. Save $25 a night, with 2pm checkout, on stays until
March 30. From $175 a night, studio. Phone (07) 5447 3422, see www.seahavennoosa.com.au.

GO SOON

FRANCE

Book a historic mansion in Marais, five minutes’ walk from
the Musee Picasso, and save $70 a night. The large guest suite of
Apartment 268 includes a private terrace and breakfast served by your
Parisian host. Costs from $272 a night, double, until March 30. See petiteparis.com.au.

ACT

Cosy up in a country cottage in Hall and pay half price until
July 31. Book two nights at the 4.5-star Gooromon Park Cottages and get
champagne and chocolates, breakfast and Wi-Fi. From $380, two nights,
quote “Elegance” or “Silhouette”. Phone 1300 88 7979, see wotif.com/hotelW212536.

GO LATER

CAMBODIA

Just 15 minutes from Angkor Wat’s temples, the new 30-room
Angkor Heritage Boutique hotel’s opening special cuts 35 per cent off
room rates until September 30. From $86 a night, includes breakfast,
Wi-Fi and airport transfers. Phone 855 63 966 660, see angkorheritagehotel.com.

WA/NT

Book a 19-day West Coast Discovery Tour from Darwin to Perth
by March 31 to get discounts and your friend flies free. Discover
Litchfield, Kakadu and Monkey Mia. Departs July 9, August 6 and 27. From
$7395 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 383 747, see evergreentours.com.

TOURWATCH: Top End angling
Snap up a fishy tale in the Top End as luxury lodge Bamurru
Plains transforms into a fishing lodge until April 28, with metre-long
barramundi up for grabs. Three hours from Darwin on the NT’s Mary River floodplains,
cast a line from Bamurru’s airboats with fishing guides. The
all-inclusive eco-camp has nine safari suites, operates on a
catch-and-release ethos and includes all meals, drinks and fishing
tours. From $2350 a person, twin share, three nights. Phone 1300 790 561. See wildbushfishing.com.

KIDS’ DEALS: In the zone

KERRY HOTELS/SHANGRI-LA, SHANGHAI, BEIJING

Kids run the show at the new Cool Zones and Adventure Zones
in 11 Asia-Pacific Shangri-La properties including Kerry Hotel, Beijing,
which has just completed a $6.5 million renovation. Its Adventure Zone
has three slides including the Demon Drop, net towers, ball pits, a
wading pool and village complete with dress-ups for toddlers, free for
kids four to 12 years. (Psst, parents! The hotel’s new wine bar opens
June 2014.) Deluxe rooms cost from $274 plus taxes; see shangri-la.com.

This column by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald newspaper. 


Bunker down in top Tassie style, eat Paris or cycle New Zealand: travel deals January 26, 2014

Oh we love any excuse to look at a photo of Paris, even this improbably perfect one of the Eiffel Tower. Snap up a little city stay in the City of Light, cycle New Zealand or see how we Aussies do serious luxury. For something a little more laid back, it’s sun loungers in Caloundra, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Go now: New
Zealand
Cycle the world and save 10 percent on 21 journeys including
the Queenstown Otago Rail Trail, stretching 150km from Queenstown to
Christchurch or Dunedin. Book by March 15 for travel until December 31. From $1197
a person, twin share. 1300 720 000, worldcyclejourneys.com.
Go sooner:
Tasmania
Voted Australia’s top luxury lodge, stay four nights and
pay for three at the lush Saffire Freycinet, from March 1 until November 30. Free
activities include fishing, mountain biking, cocktail mixing or the gentle art
of hammocking. From $5400 for four nights. (03) 6256 7888,
saffire-freycinet.com.au.
Go later: France
Book a five-day Taste of Paris by March 16 and save 20
percent. The tours, which run from July 27 to August 30, include four nights in
a Left Bank hotel, sightseeing and transport passes and airport transfers. From
$533 a person, twin share. 1300 558 987,
tempoholidays.com.
KIDS
Go now: Queensland
Want water slides without the mania and price tag of a
theme park?  Check in to the Oaks Oasis
on the Sunshine Coast  and check out its
new water play park, with slides, fountains and a giant tipping bucket. For
those inclined to recline, there are also sunloungers aplenty. The newly
refurbished accommodation  ranges
from  hotel rooms to apartments and villas,
and is walking distance to the beach, 
close by Australia Zoo and one hour’s drive from Brisbane. From $40 a
person in a family room (sleeps four) until March 31. 1300 031 963,
oakshotelsresorts.com/oaks-oasis.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Adventure beckons: Aireys Inlet, Victoria

Rock-pool-hopping at Eagles Nest, Aireys Inlet, Victoria.
Photographer, Mark Chew.

We love a craggy, snap-tastic coastline, horse rides on the
beach, gourmet food and bush settings, which is why Aireys Inlet,
sitting pretty between the big guns of Anglesea and Lorne, is so
attractive.

Aireys is where the
artisan shop Lulu and Mr Q sells hand-made ice-cream, where the
shoreline has epic rock-pool-hopping potential to spot crabs and sea
urchins at low tide, where kids can snorkel in Mermaid Pool and where
crumbling cliffs above the sand burn a vivid ochre in the afternoon sun.

The
essential items for a summer holiday based at Aireys Inlet are a
well-stocked picnic basket and blanket: set up on the benches by the
barbecues at Moggs Creek or in a bushland setting at Sheoak Falls in the
Great Otway National Park.

If the kids whine, “But what else
are we going to do?” there’s an arsenal of off-sand activities at your
fingertips, from mountain biking around Distillery Creek to canoeing
down river where Painkalac Creek meets the ocean. See Great Ocean Road Adventure Tours; gorats.com.au.

Or
you can stretch your legs along the Surf Coast Walk from Aireys towards
Torquay, taking in sheltered nooks and windswept scenery alike. Then
there’s the White Queen – the Split Point Lighthouse – now open for
guided tours. See splitpointlighthouse.com.au.

With the kids
Under fives
* There’s sheltered swimming at Sunnymead and at Sandy Gully beaches.
* The reef at nearby Step Beach forms a swimming hole at low tide, while Aireys Inlet Beach suits experienced body surfers.
* It’s Victoria: sometimes it rains. Aireys Inlet’s Great Escape Books
hosts kids’ readings at 11am on Wednesdays in the summer school
holidays. Otherwise, order a hot chocolate and snuggle in for a read or
ransack the store’s toy box; greatescapebooks.wordpress.com.

Older children
* Explore Fairhaven Beach on horseback; blazingsaddlestrailrides.com.

Teenagers
* Take a photography walk along the coastline with a guide-teacher; surfcoastwalks.com.au.

Dining there
Pull
up a seat with water views at Aireys Inlet Foodstore & Cafe and
order home-made baked beans with Otway pork or free-range eggs. Then
stock the larder with local produce from its foodstore; aifsc.com.au.
It’s the perfect marriage: a parma and locally made beer at Aireys
Pub, which earns its stripes as a great all-rounder, with a sandpit in
the beer garden and live music every Saturday; aireyspub.com.au.
Add
a touch of the Mediterranean to your getaway with lunch at A la
Grecque. Order the seafood, order the wine – it’s your holiday;
alagrecque.com.au.

Getting there
Aireys Inlet is about a 90-minute drive west of Melbourne at the start of the Great Ocean Road.

Staying there
The
Aireys Inlet Getaway Resort has one-, two- and three-bedroom villas
with a pool, picnic spots and koalas and birds on the guest list; aireysinletgetaway.com.au.The Glen Farm Cottages are
self-contained, mud-brick stays on Old Coach Road, a few kilometres
inland from the beach; aireys.com.au.Private holiday homes are plentiful and listed on stayz.com.au. B&Bs are dotted throughout the region. Aireys
Inlet Holiday Park has cabin accommodation ranging from three-bedroom,
two-bathroom executive cabins to smaller cabins, aicp.com.au.

Camping there
Also at Aireys Inlet Holiday Park are ensuite sites with power and private bathroom, powered sites and grassed tent sites.

More information
See visitgreatoceanroad.org.au.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney Morning Herald Traveller.


Go underground, go outback, go AWOL: travel deals 19 January 2014

Hanging around at Kamalaya,
Koh Samui, Thailand

Take a Thai spa, check into a cave hotel, rail across Australia or get the kids’ skates on with new Skoot luggage.

Go now: Turkey
Explore Istanbul’s palaces, the limestone terraces of
Pamukkale and sleep in a Cappadocian cave hotel on a 10-day Turkish Delights
tour. Book by February 28 for travel until March and save $100. From $970 a
person, twin share. 131 398, travelscene.net.au.
Go sooner:
Thailand
Get a post-Christmas detox and save 20 percent at
Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa, on Koh Samui. Stay five nights,
pay for four, with free yoga, tai chi, qi gong, pilates and a body analysis
included, from March 1-April 30. From $955 a person, five nights.  +66 77 429 800, kamalaya.com.
Go later:
Trans-Australia
Save 20 percent on 10 holiday packages on The Ghan train
journey from Adelaide to Darwin, including the Rock & Rail tour, which adds
in two nights and tours in Alice Springs. Book by February 28, travel May 1-October
31. From $1741 a person, twin share. 1800 725 993, greatsouthernrail.com.au.
KIDS
Scoot cute
Cute kids’ luggage abounds, but is it useful? The Skoot
is a 13-litre suitcase, a boredom buster and a mode of transport in busy
airports. 
The shoulder strap allows parents to sling the scooter over their
shoulder and it doubles as a pull cord to rein in recalitrant cruisers. The
ride-on hard case also fits most cabin luggage requirements. Suitable for kids
from 3-6 years. $79.95, (03) 9824 6770,  littlegulliver.com.au.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald newspaper.


It’s just the two of us: mother-daughter travels

There’s a world of ideas for a mother and daughter getaway with it all, writes Belinda Jackson. 

Shop,
spa, eat, see and do – for mums and daughters, a trip together is a
unique way to celebrate and refresh your relationship without the
demands of kids, work and partners. Mums with teenage girls, snatch that
special time before they disappear into the world alone: perhaps this
is the chance to test the waters before gap years and the prospect of
solo travel raise their heads. After all, who could ask for a better
teacher of essential life skills?

PRINCESS DIARIES: ITALY
“When
in Italy, what would Audrey Hepburn do?” She’d probably drive to
beautiful little Siena (mental note: pack Pucci scarf and big
sunglasses), climb the top of the Mangia tower before shopping for
handmade Tuscan boots, then refreshing herself with lunch at a trattoria
and a little gelato.

Guide
Andrea Powis channels the ultimate diva on a 10-night tour through
Tuscany and down to Rome on a tour made for sisters or mums and
daughters. “It’s effervescent, elegant and timeless,” she says.

There
are home-cooked dinners at family vineyards and lunches in Renaissance
palaces with Florentine princesses, nights spent in country villas,
palazzos and monasteries, and two days on red Vespas, stopping for
morning cappuccinos in walled towns, with light shopping workouts in
between (non-Vespa divas are chauffeured). The tour ends in Rome, with a
tour of Villa Borghese and a promenade (and possibly more shopping)
along Via Condotti. The 10-night tour departs Florence on June 7, 2014.

Costs from $6699 a person, twin share. Phone 0408 721 569. See travellingdivas.com.au.

FROM NEON TO BLOSSOMS: JAPAN
Revel in the flash and dash of fashionable Tokyo then soak up the tranquillity of a Shinto shrine in the Japanese countryside.

With
stays at traditional ryokans and imperial palaces and Buddhist temples
on the list, there is time for peace and reflection on this journey.
But, hey, there’s also fabulous shopping at oh-so beautiful department
stores and Tokyo’s hip strips.

This is a privately guided journey,
making it perfect for mums and daughters to reconnect: in spring for
cherry blossoms, summer with its gentle warmth or among the spectacular
autumn colours.

Departing from Tokyo daily, the nine-night tour includes
a first class on a bullet train from Hakone to Kyoto, a tea ceremony in
a private home, Michelin-starred restaurants and local izakayas and the
chance to emulate some of Japan’s best-dressed women in a kimono and
obi.

Costs from $11,185 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 851 800, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

SHOP THE CITY: NEW YORK
Shopping is bonding, says Karen Parker O’Brien, who leads private shopping tours of New York City.
“On
a mother-and-daughter day out, you’re bonding as best friends who care
about what the other thinks,” says the former fashion buyer, who will
take you into private showrooms and studios.
Her top shop is the homewares “museum” ABC Carpet & Home, on Broadway. “It’s a magical store.”
Expect
champagne and gourmet snacking, expect retail highs in designers’ NYC
showrooms, expect up to 80 per cent off in the wholesale haunts. A
private four-hour VIP walking tour costs from US$400 for four people,
limo tours from US$500. See karen@styleroom.com, styleroom.com.

A CREATIVE REVOLUTION: SPAIN
Spain
is proof that daily life can and should be lived exuberantly, says art
historian, chef and guide Marieke Brugman. Celebrated culinary guide
Marieke’s nine-day tour through northern Spain starts in soulful
Barcelona before venturing north to Bilbao, Navarra and La Rioja.

Visit
mediaeval fishing harbours that spawned navigators and fashion
designers. Dine at a coveted chef’s table in the three-Michelin-star
Arzak, rated eighth in the world by San Pellegrino.
Devour
pintxos, sleep in mansions and learn kitchen secrets from northern
Spain’s masters. Marieke may even lead you into the whiskey bars of San
Sebastian or into tavernas run by elegant septuagenarian ladies.

“Women,
especially of a more mature age, are not invisible in Spain,” says
Marieke. “To the contrary, they’re celebrated.” Departs September 26,
2014. Costs $10,000, phone 0419 580 381, see mariekesartofliving.com.

Crown Metropol’s sky-high pool, Melbourne.

PUT THE “AH” INTO SPA: AUSTRALIA
What
better way to repay your mum for the sleepless nights, the endless
dishes and a lifetime of caring than to check her in for two days of
water therapy … we’re talking rituals using Aveda products,
stress-busting massages, a soothing facial and exclusive spa access at
Melbourne’s sky-high Crown Metropol. Level 27 is home to Crown’s lush
Isika spa, expansive views of Melbourne’s skyline as well as that
amazing pool, the one where Offspring’s lovely Patrick farewelled
television’s most glamorous mum-to-be, Nina.

The revive package
also includes one night’s accommodation in an Isika spa suite, breakfast
at the sky-high private guest lounge, 28, lunch and dinner at Mr Hive
and stress-free valet parking.
For total relaxation, book midweek
to avoid the weekend hustle. Costs from $880 a person or $1485 for two,
twin share. Phone 1800 056 662, see isikaspa.com.au.

THREE MORE TRIPS CLOSE TO HOME

GOLDEN DOOR ELYSIA
in
the Hunter Valley is an easy getaway, with healthy cuisine, meditation,
morning tai chi and motivational speakers. Save 15 per cent on a
two-night weekend stay until December 20. From $940 a person, two
nights. 1800 212 011, goldendoor.com.au.

THEATRE TRIP
Take
in dinner and a show, with Agatha Christie’s A Murder Announced, with
an overnight stay in Mantra 2 Bond Street, Sydney, from $500 a night
(until October 27) or in Melbourne, staying at Mantra on the Park, from
$472 (from October 30 to December 4). 1300 987 604, mantra.com.au.

HIGHLANDS RETREAT
Revive
the soul with a gentle bushwalk in the Southern Highlands and a stay at
the no-gadget Solar Springs Health Retreat, from $255 a person, twin
share. (02) 4883 6027, solarsprings.com.au.

Written by Belinda Jackson, published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

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