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… 



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

SHOP BRISBANE: Indie vibe is right on trend

burgeoning fashion scene has a home in inner-city Paddington, a veritable
boutique-crawl up Given Terrace, with plenty of stand-out cafes in between for
stamina. The vibe is indie rather than lables, with an emphasis on good
cutting, great textiles and individuality. 
It all heats up one corner of Given
Terrace, where a cluster of Brisbane designers share the love: take a look at Surafina, where its design duo Laura
and Rechelle are responsible for Brissy’s smart and sexy mums in saucy
above-knee skirts and structured riding jackets. Five minutes and these two
will have your number pegged. 
Nearby, the mood in Maiocchi is too cute, but with tunnel vision, you can get
your geisha on, with her oh-so-ladylike Sino-fab prints in the sweetest dresses
and skirts. While you’re in the hood, check out happening Brissy bag label
LouenHide at Olive Home.
along, Given becomes LaTrobe Terrace where you’ll find stalwart fashion veteran
Chercher La Femme with its delicate
silk and linens in whites, neutrals and naturals, where classic tailoring and
functionality are key. Take a sticky down the back of the shop for the sweetest
babywear in town. Straight across the road, the renovated Queenslander that is
home to La La La Trobe buzzes to a
younger beat, evoking saucy boudoir with its two own funky labels, She’s Gone La La and La La Luxe. The look is a little boho
rock star, a little naughty girlishness, courtesy of a blend of ethnic knits,
leopard pant and a splash of gypsy whimsy. 
The other
major haunt for local label lovers is Fortitude Valley, where the big, brash
fashion names bunker down with up-and-coming boltholes of gorgeousness. 
a certain sleek glossiness to the James St precinct, amply demonstrated by Nat-Sui,
whose vertiginous, handmade heels have been seen
garnishing the legs of such celebs as Delta Goodrem and Deborah Hutton, while
the scent is supplied by Libertine Parfumerie. This Parisian-style
little boutique stocks rare fragrances, many custom designed for royalty and
screen stars. Current best-sellers include Grace Kelly’s ‘Gin Fizz’, first
designed in 1955. 
of handmade beauty will resonate with Incub8r, where crafty
artists showcase one-off pieces, from handbags to picture frames, jewellery to
clothing. Speaking of clothing, while you’re on a roll in the area, check out Drobe’s
racks range from the intense to the minimal, featuring local designer Kate
Anderson and Jessica T for accessories and bags. Brisbane milliner Felicity Boevink’s vintage-inspired creations can be found in the Brisbane multi-brand staple, Jean Brown, in the Emporium precinct.   
hunters will find their soul’s delight in the vintage treasure troves of
Woolloongabba’s Logan Rd strip and the old Queenslander houses that line
Paddington’s main drag, Latrobe Terrace. 
Start with French-farmhouse
inspiration at Blake & Taylor, whose weatherboard Queenslander is
filled to the eyeballs with toile prints, cute signs, cunning coat hooks and
overstuffed chairs before continuing up the hill to the far more severely
edited AP Design House, which brings single, beautiful items from the
world into one warm space. Find beautifully blended gold micron jewellery by
one-to-watch Brisbane label Angle Diamond Dot mixed with Belgian linen duvets
and rugs from Sardinia. 
Put a few hours aside to wander the antique and vintage
shops along the strip until you hit Paddington Antique Centre at the top
of the terrace, with 45 antique dealers trading in anything from life-sized
models of cows to green glasswear, vintage jewellery and taxidermy in one
hyper-ventilatingly crazy mish-mash. Minimalists need not bother entering. 
newest, coolest little shopping strip in town is Winn Lane, a tiny nook off Ann
St in Fortitude Valley. Barely six months old, it supplies rich pickings in the
form of Brisbane fashion luminaries Easton Pearson’s younger EP label, Sunday
for rare and vintage threads, cute local accessories by Ruby
& Prankster
, spanking new Atavist Books for secondhand treasures and Flamingo Café, which creates the
coffee that keeps it all ticking along nicely (winnlane.com)
Address book
Chercher La Femme, 2 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, chercherlafemme.com
La La La Trobe, 21 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington,
Surafina, 204-208 Given Tce, Paddington surafina.com
Maiocchi, 216
Given Tce, Paddington maiocchi.com.au
Olive Home,
218 Given Tce, Paddington
Nat-Sui, 19 James St,
Fortitude Valley, nat-sui.com.au
Easton Pearson, 60
James St, Fortitude Valley, eastonpearson.com
Incub8, 368
Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, incube8r.com.au
Drobe, 669 Ann
St, Fortitude
Jean Brown,
1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley, jeanbrown.com.au
Libertine Parfumerie, 181 Robertson St, Fortitude Valley, libertineparfumerie.com.au
Subfusco, 61
Gray Rd, West End, subfusco.com
Tanya Mrnjaus, idcouture.com
Blake & Taylor, 11 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, blakeandtaylor.com.au
AP Design House, 15
LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, apdesignhouse.com.au
Paddington Antique Centre, 167 Latrobe Tce, Paddington,
Hamptons Home Living, 180 Latrobe Tce, Paddington,
Source: Sun Herald 

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…)

To read more, click here

Kyneton: Cool Piper calls the tune

Prunella’s florist on Kyneton’s Piper St.

Cafes and galleries open at a rate of knots, yet there’s still a tractor shop in Kyneton’s hip main drag. How groovy can one town get? 

IT’S a windy, rainy night, yet one street in this wee country town is buzzing with a crowd sipping sparkling wine and snacking while making dinner plans. Obviously country Victoria has changed since I last stuck my foot past Melbourne’s city limits sign.

To read more, click here

Sultans of Bling

Most people visit Cairo for the Pyramids at Giza, Sakkara and Dashur. Many do it also for the medieval mosques in Islamic Cairo. But Cairo as a shopper’s paradise like Hong Kong or Bangkok? Not quite.

However, we’ve spent the past couple of days exploring the underbelly of Cairo’s gold traders, in search of a wedding ring (no, not mine!) Jewellery is dictated by fashion, make no mistake. And the fashion at the moment in Egypt is for Seriously Big Bling.

So when Fee turned up in town with her little, white hands and a taste for the understated, it became immediately obvious we were in for a rough time. We visited the gold strip in Misr el Gedida (Heliopolis) near Midan Salah El Din, and also the gold traders of Khan al-Khalili and Sharia El Muizz.

The shops ranged from luxe emporiums to tatty offices where dealers pulled trays of diamonds out of secret compartments behind their knees and talked about the colour H and vvsi grades of clarity, princess cuts and claw settings. It was a learning curve for both of us.

We weren’t the only shoppers. While a few Christmas tourists poked their noses into the shops, Egyptian buyers were busy poring over the trays of gold, lured by enormous diamonds and rich yellow, 18-carat extravaganzas. None of Australia’s pale, limp 9-carat wanna-be gold.

Interestingly, it’s the ladies who wear the most gold in these parts. The precious metal is considered to be detrimental to men’s health, so most men wear a silver wedding ring. I’m ok with that. With gold prices at an all-time high as investors seek safe investments, grooms get off pretty cheaply. Not like the brides.

Rings ranged from pretty little trinkets from young men to their intended bride to no-holds-barred golden knuckle dusters that have you dragging your hands on the ground under their weight.

The main thoroughfare of El Muizz is lined with gold and silver shops (not to mention other businesses selling lanterns, plaster busts of Nefertari, pyramid fridge magnets, inlaid chess boards, chandeliers, tatty jewellery and a never-ending stream of tassle-laden shisha pipes). All through the night the cobbled street rang with the sounds of the zaghroota, the elated wail that Arabic women do when they’re celebrating. Weddings especially.

“It can make a man’s blood rise,” an old man confided to me once.

“What’s that woman screaming for?” asked a concerned Fee. Different ears, different interpretations.

Fifteen shops and three shopping sessions later, we have found the ring (a sweeping solitaire), negotiated the price (of course, more than the original budget) and organised for the resizing. The bling, my friends, is in the bag.

PS: If you’re jewellery shopping in Cairo and want some contacts, we had success finding the ring at the dusty, seemingly empty Ahmed Hosny & Sons at 99 Sharia El Muizz and are getting work and diamond done at the lovely Gouzlan, beside Naguib Mafouz restaurant in the heart of Khan al-Khalili.

Weird spotting on Cairo streets

Weird things spotted in a neighbourhood walk today: Entire buses full of red, white and black painted men geared up for the Egypt v Algeria match tonight. Cappuccino-mint flavoured toothpaste. A large caged ape for sale on the footpath. Ah, lovely Cairo.

Crossing the lion(s)

On the way to Alexandria the other afternoon, a big billboard reared its head up on the horizon 59km till Alex. Lion Village. What to be done? We pulled over, of course.

So there they were, the show-stoppers of the African continent: the lions, the ostriches, the flamingos, a solitary baboon…the differing breeds of deer, hyenas and big-eared desert foxes. And the cocker spaniels. Can I put my hand up at this point and say this is the first time I’ve ever been to a zoo that has had cocker spaniels on display.

Then we hit the naughty Dalmatian puppies, the Newfoundland hounds clipped to look like lions and last, but not least, three beautiful little dachshunds, one of which snuck through the bars for a casual wander around the little open-air zoo.

Later, the largest of the Newfoundlands would do the same, wandering sad-eyed through the café tables hoping for scraps of cooked ostrich. No wonder the ostriches looked so disturbed, pecking viciously at the paint on their bars.

There were also some crazy little beasts labelled ‘Egyptian kangaroos’ (Who knew? Certainly the Egyptians in the party were shocked to discover them). For the record, they looked like little desert rats, all tangled together sleeping, their naked limbs like a heap of raw chicken wings dumped in a glass box.
There were turkeys and chooks, buzzards and a range of monkeys, and Egyptian nims, who looked like big tasty rodents that slept heavily on each other. They didn’t seem to be perturbed snoozing while the lions roared. There are six lions at the Lion Village, and all were out cold while we were there. In fact, we walked straight past two of them.
“Where are all the lions?” we asked after a while.
“At the entrance,” said the attendant looking at us like we were insane. We retraced our footsteps to find Ashraf and Tony (Tony? What kind of name is that for an Egyptian lion?), who was um… cleaning himself and taking great pleasure in doing so. I couldn’t take a photo. Oh. Ok, I did, but it didn’t turn out so well..

The other lions were Samshoon and his wife Nancy (asleep), and Dollar and and his missus Farah, who is actually a tiger. They weren’t on display, Dollar was yelling somewhere in the background, but a sign told us they have had babies, who are ‘ligers’, a cross between tiger and lion, the first to have been born in the Middle East.

There were also signs up about a strongman, Ahmed the Crocodile, who puts his head in lions’ mouths while wearing tight pants. In all, an excellent diversion on the road to Alex.

Lion Village, Km 59, Alex-Cairo Desert Rd., Alexandria, phone 010 4976028 – 010 573086

Kevin lost in translation?

Is anyone else getting bombarded by Turkish Airlines ads featuring Kevin Costner? It’s one of those weird ‘Lost in Translation’ famous-people-go-to-weird-places to make-a-lot-of-money scenarios, I think. Is it confined only to this part of the world?

The statement from Turkish Airlines says it all: they chosen Kev because he was a very good actor and that he was very famous and handsome. Nuff said.

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