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 out of town: Discover a Mornington Peninsula drive

Polperro Winery, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia
Photo: Belinda Jackson

It’s an hour from Melbourne, and when you’re among the leafy vines of one if its fine wineries, with an overflowing picnic basket, the Mornington Peninsula is a whole different state of mind.

I had my first holiday here on the peninsula (aged 5 months), and still return to Safety Beach for my weekend getaway.

So it was an easy task to share my suggestions of great shopping strips, natural hot springs, and how to find that winery with picnic basket.

Click here to read my recommendations on where to shop, eat, stay and play on the Mornington Peninsula for Mercedes Benz owners. 


Tonga: pitch perfect

Tongan Beach Resort  PHOTO: Belle Jackson

“We Tongans party today, and there’s nothing on the table tomorrow,” a
Tongan woman tells me as we queue at Tongatapu’s airport. It’s 2am, I
haven’t even set foot in the country and already I’ve been warned that
Tongans are hardened socialites.

Looking around, I realise it’s true. You’re nobody if you’re not
kissing a staff member. Customs officers, passport controllers, baggage
handlers – they’re all wrapped in warm, loving embraces from the
passengers from our plane, all serenade by a tuneful, live ukulele band.
I guess there’s a reason why Captain Cook called them the Friendly
Islands.

My recent story in Air Niugini’s inflight magazine, Paradise,
finds the song of Tonga, from ukulele bands at the airport to the
ancient, deep and almost mournful whalesong that reverberates through
the water and into my bones.

It’s not a country high on the tourism radar, and I can’t work out
why. Surely the great Aussie tropical getaway is the new one-two – first
stop Fiji, second stop Tonga (the whale-loving archipelago of Vava’u is
now connected by direct flights to the Fijian capital, Nadi).


Tonga: pitch perfect

Tonga Belinda Jackson.JPG

Tongan Beach Resort  PHOTO:Belle Jackson

“We Tongans party today, and there’s nothing on the table tomorrow,” a Tongan woman tells me as we queue at Tongatapu’s airport. It’s 2am, I haven’t even set foot in the country and already I’ve been warned that Tongans are hardened socialites.

Looking around, I realise it’s true. You’re nobody if you’re not kissing a staff member. Customs officers, passport controllers, baggage handlers – they’re all wrapped in warm, loving embraces from the passengers from our plane, all serenade by a tuneful, live ukulele band. I guess there’s a reason why Captain Cook called them the Friendly Islands.

My recent story in Air Niugini’s inflight magazine, Paradise, finds the song of Tonga, from ukulele bands at the airport to the ancient, deep and almost mournful whalesong that reverberates through the water and into my bones.

It’s not a country high on the tourism radar, and I can’t work out why. Surely the great Aussie tropical getaway is the new one-two – first stop Fiji, second stop Tonga (the whale-loving archipelago of Vava’u is now connected by direct flights to the Fijian capital, Nadi).

 

 


Hotel review: Hilton Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

It’s peak season up in Darwin, as southerners rush north to escape winter (and hey, I’m not blaming anybody here). The Hilton is the city’s only official five-star hotel, and the pool is one fine reason to check in.

The 236-room hotel has held this city-centre position for years: old Darwin hands will remember the Hilton Darwin as a Crowne Plaza. The hotel is just behind the mall, and should you feel the need to swim with crocs, the croc hotpot of Crocosaurus Cove is just a few steps away.

Click here to take a look at the review I wrote for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age.HiltonDarwin


Where to eat in Washington DC

Chef Eric

Erik Bruner-Yang, Washington DC

A couple of months ago, I met Washington chef-entrepreneur Erik Bruner-Yang at the glamorous Waldorf Astoria Shanghai, China, where he was part of a competition to create new iconic dishes for the hotel chain, which lays rightful claim to the Waldorf salad (amongst many others).

When he wasn’t cooking or overseeing dumpling creations by ham-fisted journalists, he was powering through the city streets,  discovering the food scene. We had a chat about where to eat in his hometown, and the influences of his own Taiwanese-Belgian background upon his food.

He tipped Filipino cuisine as the next big thing in the USA, recommends his favourite traditional Japanese restaurant and also shares a hot tip on the best customised pizza in Washington DC – it’s a pretty eclectic food safari.

You can read his hot tips in this short piece for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/ The Age newspapers.


Egyptian style makes a comeback in ‘balady chic’ movement

lanternsLast year, I was building a kitchen in my apartment in Cairo. I knew the tiles I wanted – classic arabesque style. You know, I wanted something out of an Andalusian palace or a Turkish mosque in my kitchen, please. I showed a photo to the tile salesman, who smarmily told me that they don’t have those tiles in Egypt.

“You don’t have those tiles? They’re along the walls of the ahwa (traditional café) downstairs!” I fumed.

The roll of his eyes said what his mouth wasn’t saying: “So old-fashioned, crazy foreigner.”

Happily, I found the traditional tiles, now made by a savvy Spanish company (and paid a bomb for them). Since then, I’ve spotted these (new) tiles everywhere, as part of a resurgence in what’s been dubbed ‘balady chic’. The word balady translates as ‘my country’ or ‘local’. So balady chic celebrates traditional Egyptian design, and it’s coming from the cool kids of Cairo.

This trip, I found an awesome tray featuring a reworking of the Hamza, or hand of Fatima, a powerful symbol that wards off evil, from local manufacturer Joud (it’s website is joudness.com – but Egyptians pronounce the ‘j’ as a ‘g’ – cute). I also raided the fabulously haphazard, historical market Khan al-Khalili yet again for yet more beautiful metal light shades (nagafa), belted into elaborate forms in the noisy, dark metal workshops spotted throughout Islamic Cairo. And they’re not a new story, but the handmade soaps (think: milk & honey, and olive oil – how much more Arabian can you get?) and organic cotton towels from Nefertari found their way into my bag for Christmas presents (see nefertaribodycare.com).

Easy on the eye, and better in the stomach, the hottest place in the upmarket, Nile-side part of Maadi is Baladina, for classic Egyptian food such as fatta and shawarma, beautifully done and served, rather ironically, by slim-hipped waiters in gellibayas and little white cotton caps. In fact, there are a few cool, new Egyptian food chains in town: try the ‘healthy’ koshary, made with green wheat and brown rice, at Zooba, Cairo Kitchen published its fantastic cookbook last year and I love El Dokan’s balady décor.

So great to see Egyptians taking pride in their own design history. Long may it last (before it gets copied by knock-off foreign companies).


Where to eat in Shanghai: Chef Jan Van Dyk

Recently, I was in Shanghai for a three-day eat fest. While there, I caught up with chef Jan Van Dyk of the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund. The South African born chef calls Australia’s Sunshine Coast home, so we swapped favourite cafes… and settled on a shared fave, Hand of Fatima at the upmarket little cluster of shops at Peregian Beach.

Anyway, Jan was participating in the Waldorf Astoria’s annual hunt for new iconic dishes – this is the hotel group that gave us the Waldorf Salad, Red Velvet cakes and Eggs Benedict.

We caught up over Shanghai suckling pig and ziao long bao (Shanghai dumplings) to talk about best eats in that happening town.

Click here to read the full story, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and traveller.com.au


Places to eat in Vienna, Austria: Six of the best

kipferl

Start the day like a local with an eye-pokingly strong coffee black coffee and a kipferl, forefather of the croissant. Photo: Belinda Jackson

From sausage stand to schnitzel, I give you are six eats you can’t miss in Vienna (even if you are a Michelin-star obsessive).

Road-tested one and all, they range from family heurigers (typical Austrian restaurants) to century-old sandwich bars and the classic Viennese cafes that the city is renowned for.

There’s also the new guard reworking old favourites (think minimalist vienna schnitzel) and Vienna’s first sausage stand. Because you can’t go to Austria and not eat sausage.

 

To see the complete list, read the story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald.  

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