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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Rail review: Travelling by train on the London-Paris Eurostar, Business Premier class

Eurostar train from London to Paris.

THE ROUTE London Pancras International – Paris Gare du Nord
Departs 10.26 Arrives 13.50
Coach 16, Seat 65, Train no 9018

BOARDING Eurostar advises arriving an hour before departure, and ticket gates close 15 minutes before departure. I pass through the ticket check, with security and a helpful UK passport check, and then a French passport check, with much complaining from the Brits around me. I can attest that the French check is completely humourless – my old joke that if you look like your passport photo, then you need a holiday – drops flat. I get naught but a Gallic shrug (and probably earned it, too).

Once inside, my Premier Business ticket affords entry to the lounge beneath the arches, where coffee, croissants and a little breakfast buffet of fruit and muffins is on offer. Newspapers are everywhere, it really feels like old-school train travel here in the vaults of the Victorian Gothic St Pancras railway station, which was built in 1868.

The maelstrom begins when boarding commences, as lines – regardless of your class – snake around the arches and up the stairs to the platform. Entire families, including generations of women, are dressed as Minnie Mouse. Of course! This is the fast track to Disneyland Paris , and we’re travelling right at the beginning of the Easter holidays. The group aims to transport 30 million passengers a year by 2030 – it feels like they’re all here today.

THE SEAT & LUGGAGE LIMITS Coach 16 is at the very top of the train, and I’m seated in a single, forward-facing seat. I spy a USB and electricity outlet, and the tray pulls down to reveal a little mirror to check my blood-red lipstick (on trend in this Paris-bound train). The clientele is brandishing a lot of Gucci, there’s Diptyque soap in the bathrooms, and a magazine rack.

Smugly, I have carry-on luggage only, but should I wish, I could carry three pieces of luggage up to 85cm long, and a piece of hand luggage – there’s no weight limit; if you can carry it, you can bring it. In the Standard and Standard Premier classes, that’s two pieces of luggage and a hand bag. Unlike airlines, there are no limits on liquids, if you didn’t want to visit the bar coaches 8 & 9 on the train, you can actually BYO beer or a bottle of wine to drink on the journey – though there’s no need in the generous, free-pouring Business Premier class.

FOOD & DRINKS On taking my seat, the bilingual staff offer a little bag of cranberry and nut mix, an antibacterial towel and a QR code for the lunch menu by. At 10.35am, the bar is open, would I like a glass of champagne? No skimping here on sparkling wine, I’m offered a glass of Piper-Heidsieck and water in a Eurostar-branded glass.

By 10.50, good, savoury smells are wafting through the carriage, and my tray table is loaded with glassware and silverware, a salad of such grilled root vegetables as celeriac, a crusty roll, and a pat of butter from The Estate Dairy in Somerset. Desert, a layered caramel slice, is also on the first tray. This could easily comprise the entire meal, but Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc, best known for his Oxfordshire landmark, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, isn’t finished with me yet.

When it arrives, piping hot and fragrant, the mains is a generous slab of buttery fish served with cauliflower in a rich, quintessentially French sauce. No more champagne, we drink rosé with our fish. I am served a 187ml bottle of 2021 Tourelle de Tholomies syrah rosé from Pays D’Oc and a bottle of spring water from Harrogate, “the original British spa town”, which has been bottling water since 1571.

If I was travelling in economy, I could grab a breakfast croissant with coffee and a juice for UK6/E7.70, or a lunch offer of a soft drink, a bag of crisps and a baguette for UK8/E10.20.

THE JOURNEY Advertisements flash on the communal screen overhead, while hyper-green English fields flash past the windows, but otherwise, the focus is mercifully on letting guests travel in peace. Most people are plugged into their own devices, reading newspapers or the magazines on offer, or simply watching the scenery, which disappears for about 25 minutes while we’re in the 50.45 km Chunnel, the sea tunnel that delves beneath the English Channel. I’m on dessert when we emerge to kilometers of razor wire, the train flashing past stations too fast to read their signs – the overhead screen tells me we are travelling at 214km/hr, “en tranquillité” and the train reaches top speeds of 300km/hr.

SUSTAINABILITY It’s no surprise trains’ carbon emissions are significantly lower that of airplanes – Eurostar states that its trains emit more than 90% less CO2 than flights. It calculates its CO2 output at 10g per passenger per kilometer, and is working to cut its carbon footprint by a further 25% by 2020. Independent calculations state my journey emitted 2.4kg of CO2, compared with 66kg if I’d flown.

BOOKING My ticket was booked before I left Australia with Rail Europe. Later, if you use the Eurostar app, you can use mobile tickets to pass through the ticket gates, get travel updates and discounts to top attractions in the city of your destination.

AND ANOTHER THING If you had time, you could get your photo taken (for free!) at Harry Potter’s Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station, which is joined to St Pancras. Otherwise, take a wander around to discover St Pancras’ surprising history in the many plaques and statues dotted around the station – well worth it. And if you wanted to stay close by the night before, you could splurge on Marriott’s gorgeous St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, which was actually part of the historic railway station. If it’s out of your price range, you can still drop in for coffee, a drink or a fabulous afternoon tea, and take a sneak peak at its stairwell, which featured in the Harry Potter films.

TO BOOK Fares cost from A$97.30, to book, visit Rail Europe
https://www.raileurope.com/en/trains/eurostar m

Disclaimer: I travelled from London to Paris as a guest of Rail Europe.


There are 248 phones stolen in London every day: mine was one of them

This week, I published a story in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age about my phone being stolen in London. We’ve all had stuff stolen – what made it pertinent was the release of recent figures that show just how many phones are stolen in London every day.

Take a guess? 248 phones. A day. Just in central London.

The story was the top read in the Sydney and Melbourne digital versions, and some readers were lovely and shared their own theft and scammer stories, others, not so. I’ve also had a share of emails telling me “pro trvlrs don’t lose phones” and “experienced travelers have been taking those sorts of precautions for years.” But my point is (apart from picking out your terrible spelling) – these sorts of things happen even to pro/experienced travellers.

If you’ve never, ever lost a single thing while on the road, if you’ve never ever been scammed, if you’ve never inadvertently found yourself in a scary situation, I applaud you. You are truly genius. Or you’ve had someone behind you picking up and collecting you as you rotate the world in your golden bubble.

But if, like the rest of us, you’ve had your wallet nicked, your taxi fare tripled, you’ve been lured into a dodgy shop or found yourself in a very unsavoury environment where you’ve feared for your safety, then know that I’m there with you.

And you know what? We’re not all pro travellers. We’re not all experienced. Somewhere today, some kid is starting out on his first big roadtrip with mates. An older couple is on their first international flight. A woman is taking her first ever solo adventure. A family is testing the waters as the first time travelling with little ones.

I haven’t read the comments – I don’t have an impenetrable hide – but this ain’t my first rodeo. I knew the scam, I knew it was happening. And let me tell you, it happens to the best of us.

If you fancy reading, here’s the story.

Thanks for listening, friends.

https://www.theage.com.au/traveller/reviews-and-advice/my-phone-was-stolen-while-visiting-london-here-s-how-i-coped-20230501-p5d4kj.html


Art in Melbourne: Big guns and local heroes

David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album cover (1973)PICTURE: BRIAN DUFFY
© DUFFY ARCHIVE & THE DAVID BOWIE


Think big. Really big. Big as
Beijing, Bowie or the Great War. Yes, that big. And they’re all coming
to Melbourne for a calendar packed with blockbuster storylines,
intriguing characters and high drama galore.

  
 

The National Gallery of Victoria 
loves to steal the limelight, and
the line-up over the next six months gives it ample reason to preen a
little. Priceless Ming and Qing dynasty treasures from Beijing’s Palace
Museum, in the Forbidden City, are on display in A Golden Age of China:
Qianlong Emperor,

1736–1795 (until June 21) . 

Hot on
its heels, the riches of Russia’s Hermitage Museum are this year’s
Melbourne Winter Masterpieces coup. Fresh from St Petersburg,
Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherin the Great is a rich, lush
extravaganza of 400 works from the personal collection of the
long-ruling queen. Expect works from Rembrandt, Velasquez, Rubens and
Titian. Both are Australian exclusives and the frst time these
exhibitions have left their respective homes.

  
 

Balance all this international
action with a dose of Australiana. Tap into your inner petrolhead to
ogle the world’s fastest car back in 1971, the Chrysler Valiant Charger
E49, or enjoy a fashback to your time in a Holden Monaro or Torana.
Shifting Gear: Design, Innovation and the Australian Car is a
celebration of our classic car designs, with 

23 iconic, rare and prototype
vehicles on show (until July 12) . 

It’s not all looking backward,
either. Transmission: Legacies of the Television Age explores how TV has
infuenced art and contemporary culture, and looks forward to new
technologies. It also includes a major new acquisition by Ryan Trecartin
& Lizzie Fitch (May 15 – Sept 13) . Smaller fry are also catered
for with a hyper-interactive kids’ show, Tromarama (May 23 – Oct 18, see

nvg.vic.gov.au)  . 

Like most of the world, Melbourne
remembers the 100th anniversary of the Great War but has a world-frst
exhibition of more than 350 artefacts drawn from the vast collections of
London’s Imperial War Museums. The WW1 Centenary Exhibition is now
showing at the Melbourne Museum (until October 4, see museumvictoria.com.au) . 

Melbourne’s Shrine of remembrancePICTURE: CRAIG RIDLEY

Tie it in with a visit to
the Shrine of Remembrance, which has undergone a timely $45million
renovation and now has several permanent and temporary exhibitions
focusing on Australians in war and peacekeeping roles.

  
 

If you prefer to fick your hips
during art exhibitions, catch the only Australasian showing of David
Bowie Is
. Hailing from London’s Albert & Victoria Museum, this
exhibition allows visitors to watch rare film, peruse album artwork and
admire the wildly fabulous costumes worn by Bowie as he morphs from
Brixton teen to supersonic

superstar. Showing at ACMI in Federation Square (July 16 – Nov 1, see
acmi.net.au/bowie) .

  
 

But Melbourne’s art scene is not all
of-the-scale blockbusters. Shh. Focus. And there, in the small spaces,
in the hidden doorways and the unassuming rooms, Melburnians are quietly
creating beautiful objects and thought-provoking conceptions. Find a
detailed map of the city and navigate your way into independent
galleries and artist-run initiatives across the city.

  
 

With its curved, pink wall tiles and
ornate signposting to long-dead public telephone rooms, the Degraves
Street subway
(also known as Campbell Arcade) was built to help workers
coming from Flinders Street Station skip the crowds during the 1956
Olympics. Keep an eye on the walls for the Platform Artists Group’s
regular exhibitions and performance art. Ten nip into nearby
fortyfivedownstairs for performance art and two permanent galleries (45
Flinders La, Melbourne, see fortyfivedownstairs.com)

Make time to spot the Next
Big Thing, see the latest sculpture or taste new media at Flinders Lane
Gallery
(137 Flinders La, see
flg.com.au) . Set amid some of the city’s hidden street art, the Dark Horse
Experiment artist studios are an unruly delight (110 Franklin St,
Melbourne, see darkhorseexperiment.com), while Twenty by Thirty
Gallery
is Melbourne’s smallest artist-run gallery. You’ve got to be on
your toes to spot it. Located outside Melbourne’s smallest bar, Bar
Americano, its exhibitions change on the first day of the month (20
Presgrave Place, Melbourne, of

  
Little Collins St) . 

And step out of
the city grid to anarchic Collingwood’s The Compound Interest for a
creative commune of publishers and print, fashion and lighting designers
(15-25 Keele St,
thecompoundinterest.com)

   

Blow away the Big City smoke with a
drive into the country. Turn the wheel and aim for the Mornington
Peninsula, just an hour from Melbourne’s GPO, for a seaside escapade.
For a small town, Mornington sure steals a lot of air in the art world. 

McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery

Keep your eyes peeled on the drive for three gargantuan sculptures along
the Peninsula Link freeway, commissioned by the McClelland Sculpture
Park+Gallery
, in Langwarrin.

Set on a 16-hectare block of
bushland, the gallery ofers Australia’s richest sculpture prize. Te 2015
Montalto Sculpture Prize, worth $100,000, was won by Melbourne-based
artist Matthew Harding. His award-winning sculpture, Void, is on display
with 32 other works in an outdoor exhibition (until July 19, see
mcclellandgallery.com).

   

It doesn’t stop there. Put the
unassuming Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery , just 20 minutes away,
on your must-stop list. Its modest frontage belies thoughtful curation,
with esoteric art and ethereal seascapes on show in the upcoming
exhibitions, Windows to the Sacred and Jo Scicluna’s Where We Begin (May
15 – July 12, 350 Dunns Rd, Mornington).

   
  
And what is art without wine? Taste
your way through some of the oldest vineyards in the region at the new
Crittenden Estate Wine Centre, then fnd a little villa to call you own –
at least for the night – on Crittenden’s serene grounds (25 Harrisons
Rd, Dromana, see
crittendenwines.com.au) . 

Or pull up a pew in the bistro
of a chic Red Hill jewel, Polperro Wines , with its new cellar door and
villas, complete with open fres and vineyard views (150 Red Hill Rd,
Red Hill, see
polperrowines.com.au) . Perfect for a blend of good dining and great contemplation.

  
 

Brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. 

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section. 


Tate Britain art gallery: Art reincarnated

The spiral staircase inside the main foyer of the
Tate Britain art gallery in London. Photo: Alamy

London’s Tate Britain shines from its $86
million facelift, right down to the cafe’s teaspoons and fridge magnets,
discovers Belinda Jackson.

Once a stultifying swamp, then a prison for Australians’
ancestors, Millbank, on London’s Thames River, is home to London’s
latest glorious art reincarnation, the Tate Britain art gallery.

The
home of the Turner Prize, which turns 21 this year, the Tate Britain
opened in 1897 as the National Gallery of British Art. The Tate Modern
broke away from its fusty parent in 2000 to become the world’s most
popular museum, leaving the Tate Britain to languish, unloved, in its
ultra-cool cousin’s shadow. Now, a $86 million renovation has the
gallery sparkling.

Instead of slinking round the side entrance like it’s your
dirty secret, the main Thames-facing entrance is once again open, so I
strut boldly up the stairs and into the most beautiful atrium, crowned
by a dramatic glass dome that has been hidden from view since the 1920s.
The dome allows sunlight to pour into the elegant foyer and down a new
spiral staircase. Visitors simply stop and stare at the architectural
beauty, camera phones working hard.

The staircase leads to new
galleries below, including two set aside for special exhibits. While
entry into the regular collection is free, these two are not.

The
new BP Walk through British Art steers you past 500 paintings, from
severe portraits of the Tudor nobility of the early 1500s around to a
modern installation of ethnographic totems. I’m reminded of the
Aboriginal Memorial in the National Gallery of Australia, but peering
into the gloom, I spot the head of Ronald McDonald … and is that a
crucified Big Mac? It’s The Chapman Family Collection, by artists Jake
and Dinos Chapman.

We break for lunch, but because we’re toting a
toddler, the swish Whistler Restaurant with its restored 1927 Rex
Whistler mural gets a miss. Instead, we bags a sofa amid  Doric columns
in the new Djanogly Cafe. Our open sandwiches of British salmon and
blood-red rare roast beef are followed by coffee served with “Manners”
double-ended teaspoons designed by artist Nicole Wermers. Word is
they’ve quickly become a must-have souvenir for many light-fingered
patrons.

Cool Britannia abounds: visitors snap favourite artworks
on mobile phones, cruise the gallery with a mobile phone app, and a
temporary gallery is stormed briefly by a gang of young schoolchildren
wielding “More Art for Kids” placards.

If I had a gripe, it’s
because my favourite painting – and I’m an unashamed pre-Raphalite
romantic  –  is lost in the busy 1840s room. Waterhouse’s The Lady of Shalott
is still pale and deathly beautiful, but what’s she doing, alone and
palely loitering high up in the gods? I almost miss her.

But even if I
did bypass her in the gallery, she’s waiting for me at the gift shop –
of course, one exits through the gift shop – she’s zapped conveniently
on to a fridge magnet. It just proves that while the renewed Tate
Britain is tour-de-force of art curatorship, her feet are still on solid
British soil.

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


Famous Flyer: Deborah Hutton

Hutton rates driving through Provence as her best holiday experience.

An African safari and the Maldives are on Deborah Hutton’s wish list.

WHICH WAS YOUR BEST HOLIDAY?
Renting
a car in Paris and driving to St Tropez over four days. I stayed at
little inns and ate at great restaurants through Provence, really
getting a feel for the country. It ended with the madness of St Tropez,
which is FUN in capital letters.

AND THE BEST HOTEL YOU’VE STAYED IN?
The
Soho in London – I love the position and it has the most divine suites –
and the tiny, tiny Eichardt’s Private Hotel in Queenstown. The
interiors are by Virginia Fisher, who does all the Huka Retreats. It’s
right in the centre of Queenstown with a great little bar downstairs.
You go in for five minutes and the next day, they’re like, “Hello
Deborah, that was a pinot, wasn’t it?’ They really get you.

WHAT DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE WITH YOU?
The
same as everyone else – my iPad, my earplugs, and eye mask. I do have a
little baby travel pillow I always squeeze into an air suction bag, so I
have the consistency of a good pillow.

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A PERFECT HOLIDAY?
There
has to be a great golf course – that’s generally what I look for first.
It’s also got to be warm, with a beach (though I can do pool), with
good friends and good restaurants.

WHAT’S YOUR BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE?
I
always photocopy my passport and credit cards, and I always split my
credit cards up, leaving one in the hotel safe and one in my wallet.
It’s gotten me out of trouble before, when I had my bag stolen in Ibiza
(surprise, surprise!).

AND YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE ON HOLIDAY?
My
pals booked a “divine design hotel” in Koh Samui. The pool’s filtration
system was broken, and it was green. And there was no restaurant, you
ate in bures on the beach. And then the weather turned. No pool, rain
and sitting cross-legged on the beach, eating bad Thai? I booked a
flight back to Bangkok and checked into The Peninsula hotel.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?
Leaving
it too late to pack, because I then pack too much. You just hate
yourself on long-haul trips every time you have to repack.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TO NEXT?
At
the top of my list is an African safari and the Maldives. I would stay
at one of the Evason resorts in the Maldives. They’re just heaven on a
stick. I see photos of the beautiful water and think, “That’s just me”.
And I want a cocktail and I want one with an umbrella. To me, that
screams “holiday!”

Deborah Hutton is an ambassador for NRMA’s Living Well Navigator, livingwellnavigator.com.au.

Interview by Belinda Jackson

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section


Luxe lodges, tennis scores and the magnificent Magna Carta: Takeoff travel news

Havana, Cuba, one of the New7Wonders Cities

A special congratulations to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who made it through to the Australian Open quarter finals last night! Read more about what he’s up to, below.

NEWS: Seven new wonders

Vigan, Doha, Havana: how many of the New7Wonders Cities
have you visited – or could hit on the world map? The New7Wonders project let
people vote on modern day wonders, from cities to natural features, to
determine our modern-day Pyramids.

The final list of top seven cities is Beirut
(Lebanon), Doha (Qatar), Durban (South Africa), Havana (Cuba), Kuala Lumpur
(Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia) and Vigan (Philippines).

“La Paz in Bolivia is the
highest capital city in the world (and) the city’s buildings cling to the sides
of the canyon and spill spectacularly downwards while Durban, South Africa’s
third largest city, has really come alive since its World Cup makeover in
2010,” says says Fiona Hunt, managing director of Adventure World. “Cuba, stuck
in a colourful, colonial time-wrap, is a truly fascinating and incomparable
city,” she adds. “The list demonstrates how people are seeking out unique,
off-the-beaten track and largely untapped destinations.” See new7wonders.com, adventureworld.com.au.

KIDS: How to make lunchtimes cooler

Whether your kids are braving the frigid temps of the Antarctic
or the sultry climes of an African safari, these cute meal and lunch sets are
great comfort for those who like to travel with familiar friends. Armed with
your polar bear, team the melamine table setting (cup, bowl, plate and cutlery)
with the Lunchie, an insulated bag that keeps food just right – warm or cold –
with a water bottle on the side.

Made by New York based Skip Hop for kids on
the move, there are a range of animals from bugs to zebras, some with matching
backpacks.The Skip Hop Lunchie costs from $24.95, and Mealtime gift set costs from
$39.95, from David Jones. See davidjones.com.au.

TECH: Mapping the Magna Carta
This year is the 800th anniversary of King
John’s sealing of the Magna Carta, a peace treaty, statement of liberties and
the creation of the rule of law. Follow the story across England, from Salisbury
Cathedral to London’s British Library, Runnymede in Surrey and Lincoln Castle,
William the Conquerer’s stronghold where the Great Charter was signed.

Six new
self-guided trails create two- and three-day itineraries through English towns
and cities, tracing the document’s history and visiting the four original Magna
Cartas. See magnacartatrails.com,
visitengland.com.

FOOD: Italy for the Epicurious
There is more to Italian cooking than just lasagne
(although that’s an extremely good start). Let your guide show you on this
15-day tour of Italy, from Rome to Venice, with Tuscany, Modena and Assisi also
on the itinerary. The Country Roads & Vineyards of Italy tour
includes tasting Brunello di Montalcino with its makers, watching
Parmigiano-Reggiano being produced and finding yourself in vinyeards of Soave,
as well as Insight’s Signature Dining experiences. Feed your cultural soul with
a private tour of the Vatican, a gondola ride in Venice and a stay in the
Tuscan Villa San Paolo in San Gimignano. Costs from $5389
a person, twin share and departs September 2, 2015. Phone 1300 301 672, see insightvacations.com.
AIRLINE: Kyrgios in full flight
Canberra teenager Nick Kyrgios is best known as the tennis
player who thumped world number one Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year. The
19-year-old, who has a Greek father and Malaysian mother, is now the newest
ambassador for Malaysia Airlines. “While I was born and brought up in
Australia, I’m really proud of my family culture and very close to my Malaysian
family,” he says, adding he has flown with the airline since he was a boy.

The
airline has 81 direct flights to Malaysia from Australia and New Zealand, and
onward to 60 destinations including London and Paris via its A380. Kyrgios is
currently ranked 50th in the world and kicks off his first full year of tennis
at the opening of the Australian Open, in Melbourne, tomorrow. The Nick Kyrgios Summer Spectacular
airline deals will start on January 21. See
ausopen.com, malaysiaairlines.com.


LODGES: Luxury with a green edge

Get ready for a dose of lodge
lust: the National Geographic Society has created a global collection of 24 boutique
hotels that are dedicated to sustainability and luxury, and includes three of Australia’s
most unique properties.

The lodges range from Bhutan to British Columbia, and
include Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef and two resorts owned by
Baillie Lodges, Southern
Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island and the tented camp Longitude 131°, which faces
Uluru. 

Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia

The properties were rigorously vetted for their
sustainable tourism practices prior to inclusion. “These lodges demonstrate
that sustainability and a world-class guest experience can go hand-in-hand,” says
Lynn Cutter of National Geographic. Guests booking a stay at either Baillie
property through National
Geographic Unique Lodges of the World will have
exclusive experiences including private dinners and cooking classes using
indigenous ingredients. See nationalgeographiclodges.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday. 


Alice eats England, camping kids, and learning to love London: Takeoff travel news

KIDS: Colourful cubby
Let your kids take their imagination on holiday beneath
this colorful range of teepees. Available in eight designs including Cowboys,
Montana and the multi-stripe, they are made from durable cotton canvas with a
window and tie-down door. The teepees are 155cm high and come with five metal
poles that are easy to assemble, even for the DIY-shy. Cost $99.95. See mocka.com.au.

FOOD: Alice eats England

There’s something deliciously simplistic about this new food
tour with Masterchef 2012 contestant Alice Zaslavsky: eat Stilton in Stilton,
Bakewell tarts in Bakewell, eels in Ely. The tour goes back to the heart of
rural Britain’s great food traditions, and includes lunch in The Orchard
Restaurant at HRH Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate. Even London yields,
offering British produce at Borough Markets and a Bengali dinner in Brick Lane.
There’s also cider in Somerset, pie and mash in Walthamstow and Melton Mowbray’s
famed pork pies, in between visits to Stonehenge, 16th-century
coaching inns and a light shop at Fortnum & Mason department store. The
tour runs on September 4-11, 2015 and costs $3999 a person, twin share, including
seven nights in four-star hotels. Excludes flights. Phone 1300 836 764, see mastercheftravel.com.
SAILING: Island
hopping made easy
Greek island hopping just got a whole lot simpler with
the introduction of the new Attica Pass from Eurail. The pass allows two
international ferry trips between Greece and Italy and four sailings within
Greece – including Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos – on the Superafast, Blue Star
and Anek lines. All travel must be started within six months of its purchase
date, and be completed within one month. The new pass will be available through
Melbourne-based International Rail from January 1, 2015 and must be bought in
Australia beforehand. The Attica Pass costs from $195. Phone 1300 387 245, see internationalrail.com.au.

BOOK: Hidden London

Discover hidden London, from tiny cafes to unique boutiques
with London local Saskia Graville. Graville, who writes for Traveller, pounded the pavements to bring us the London Style Guide. Forget the city’s
big guns, she’ll send to you to the upcoming contemporary art scene in the East
End’s Bethnal Green, the foodie haunts of Bermondsey  and tiny antique dealers cum tea gardens in the
A-listers’ Primrose Hill. The hand-picked list is complemented with the
favourite finds of a list of London lights, including interior designers, chefs,
boutique hotel owners and even tattoo artists – albeit, those who have
collaborated with Damien Hirst. Available from January 1, 2015. RRP $39.99
(hardback), see murdochbooks.com.au.
GEAR: Smart
It’s
time to face the fact that your
luggage may actually be smarter than you. The Bluesmart carry-on suitcase is
Bluetooth enabled, allowing you to track its progress via an iOs or Android
app. If you and your beloved bag are separated, it will lock automatically and
send you updates of its location. It also contains a battery charger
that will charge your smartphone up to six times, has built-in scales in the handle to prevent costly
surprises on check-in as well as waterproof zippers, four wheels and a padded
laptop compartment at the front of the suitcase for the quick security grab. If it sounds too good to be true, the suitcase, which is
being developed via crowdsourced funding, can be pre-ordered now, with expected
delivery of August 2015. Available in Graphite Black only. Expect to pay around
$300. See bluesmart.com/indiegogo.

TOUR: Tigers and other treasures

Travellers looking ahead of the pack should have
Bangladesh in their sights, says Peregrine Adventures, which is taking tours to
the country for the first time in 2015. 
“Bangladesh is about to be discovered,”
states Peregrine’s Ryan Turner. Highlights include spotting Bengal tigers Sundarbans National Park, negotiating the
18 million-strong population of Dhaka and exploring the recently discovered
mosques in the archeological site of Bara Bazar. 

The 12-day tour will
have four departures in 2015 and costs from $3090 a person.  See peregrineadventures.com/india.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Summer reading: a not-very-definitive list

My first (and last) English Christmas was a shock to many senses: there was snow (albeit very light, very dirty), there were Brussels sprouts (surely only the English consider them a celebratory food) and there was television.

As our Australian marketing machines constantly tell us, our Christmases are all about the beach, cricket and low-level sunburn. So to be huddled in front of the telly watching soap omnibuses seemed a curious way to spend the festive season.

It’s not quite television, and the weather here in Melbourne has been exemplary this year: not too hot, not too cold, but I’ve come over all Northern hemisphere and am catching up on a small mountain of unread fiction, with a travel bent, of course.

Here’s a little list of recent releases from Australian authors that have made a welcome appearance on the bedside table.

The most recent of the list is by prolific South Australian author Fiona McIntosh, who I have long admired for her adult fantasy series (think Lord of the Rings fantasy, not the other type, smutsters). She has turned out a fast-paced romance set in WWI Cairo, Gallipoli and post-war London. Nightingale ticks all the boxes, with handsome men, golden women and love found and lost in traumatic times. Does the girl get her man? It’s over to you… (Penguin Books, $29.99)

Action seekers know Matthew Reilly is the man to turn to when you want to be left breathless from reading (to give you a suggestion of his pace, the Sydney writer drives DeLorean DMC-12 – the car from Back to the Future). His latest book, The Great Zoo of China is, as the title indicates, set in China and has an absolute cracker of a premise, which I just can’t tell you about. His heroine, CJ Cameron, is a tad too tough, tenacious and intelligent for wimpy me to relate to, but I could not put this book down. That was a week of lost sleep (Pan Macmillan, $39.99)

And finally (not in the picture, as it’s already been nabbed by my mum), Stateless is the second in the Heritage trilogy about the evolution of the State of Israel. Written by Alan Gold and Mike Jones, it caused a ruckus in our house with the highly controversial throw-away line that the Egyptian army is known to be cowardly. Eeep! Otherwise, Stateless races along with plenty of secret plots and dastardly tyrants from Roman-occupied Jerusalem to post-WWII Russia. The first in the trilogy is called Bloodline, I’ll be seeking it out. (Simon & Schuster Australia, $29.99)

The next on the list is Tony Park‘s The Hunter (‘A missing woman, a serial killer at large… man is the most dangerous predator of all’). I’m not that into murder as entertainment, but this book moves from South Africa to Zimbabwe and the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, which I love. And in the appendices, Park also shares travel tips from his extensive experience of travelling in Africa (Pan Macmillan, $29.99)

I hope you’re all enjoying a great summer read, or if you’re further north and not nose-in-book, the plotlines in the soaps have improved.

See you all in 2015!

Belle


Destination Christmas: Takeoff travel news

CHRISTMAS:Best-dressed
windows

See how the world does Christmas through the best
decorated windows throughout the festive season. Travel booker Cheapflights has
listed the 11 most beautiful windows around the world, including Myer in
Melbourne, which attracts more than 1.2 million noses pressed to the glass to
see this year’s 3D ‘Santa Clause and the Three Bears’ theme.

In London,
Selfridges goes back to the storytelling classics such as Pinocchio while the
2014 theme at New York icon Macy’s, which has been decorating its windows since
the 1870s, is ‘Santa’s Journey to the Stars’. Others on the best-dressed list
include topsy-turvy Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Smith & Caughey’s
pirate display  in Auckland. See cheapflights.com.au.

APP
Thinker’s pub crawl
Discover Sydney’s best waterfront pubs courtesy on a new
app written by intrepid tippler Rob Dunlop. “It’s a thinking man’s pub crawl by
ferry,” says Rob, who has personally tested all the watering holes. Thirst For
Sydney has five one-day itineraries that start and end at Circular Quay,
exploring the eastern waterfront, west of the bridge to Balmain and along the
North Shore. And it will also make you new friends, with a connect function
that lets you announce to other users that you’re in town and friendly, with a
private messaging system. There are 13 great drinking spots in the five
itineraries, and also a snapshot of the locale, including demographics and real
estate info (who doesn’t love to talk house prices?) Sydney is the bellwether
city, with more locations in the pipeline. Currently available for iOS only,
free. See thirstforsydney.com.

FOOD
World diner
Eat the world at the best hotel restaurants on the planet
– that’s the boast of the new, free iPad app Great Global Chefs. The trusty
stomachs of luxe hotel booker group Mr &Mrs Smith have dined in 950 hotels
throughout the world in search of the top 20 tables in their collection.
They’ve even coaxed recipes from the kitchens, and profiled the stars behind
the hotplates. While heavily weighted toward the Euro diner, Australia is amply
represented by David Thompson of Nahm, in Bangkok’s Metropolitan by Como hotel,
and Alla Wolf-Tasker from Lake House, in Daylesford, Victoria, amongst others. See
greatglobalchefs.com/app.

KIDS

Sight for sore eyes
There’s money to be made in sunglasses design, so get
your kids in early with this children’s My Design sunglasses kit. The kit
contains a pair of Wayfarer sunnies in either black or white and removable
decal sticker sheets for kids to decorate their frames to their heart’s
content. The white pack comes with leopard spots and hearts, the black features
pirates and space symbols. Unlike toy plastic glasses, the eyewear actually
shields children’s eyes from harmful UV rays, and are compliant with Australian
standards. The Frankie Ray My
Design Sunglass Kit is best for kids
aged 3 to 12 years.  Costs $39.95. See babyography.net.au.

GEAR
Get pumped for camping
Make summer camping a breeze, literally, with Black Wolf’s
new blow-up family tent. The tent is inflated in seconds with a high-speed air
pump, with air poles replacing tangled (or forgotten) tent poles. The new Turbo
Air Plus sleeps eight, with a main room and separate bedroom to the rear and
weighs 21kg. The tent will be on the market mid-January, but can be pre-ordered
now through Black Wolf stockists. Costs $1199. See blackwolf.com.au.   

AIRLINE

Hop up to Honolulu
Named one of the top destinations for 2015, it’s just
become easier to reach Hawaii, with Jetstar’s new direct flights between
Honolulu and Brisbane starting tomorrow. Fares start from $479 one-way, without
checked-in luggage. The service will operate three times a week in peak season,
dropping down to two off-peak. The airline will fly an Airbus A330 featuring
both business and economy class. From December 20, Qantas also adds an additional
service from Sydney to Honolulu, to four times a week, rising to five flights
weekly in school holidays and other peak periods. The airline has also upgraded
its aircraft to A330s on all flights, with return fares from $1256. Last week, Hawaiian
Airlines introduced its new A330s on its Brisbane-Honolulu route, upgrading to
A330s, which include an ‘Extra Comfort’ class between business and economy. The
service runs four times weekly, with a 64kg baggage allowance. Flight time is
approximately nine to 10 hours, the direct flights contributing to steep
increase of Australian visitors in the past four years. See gohawaii.com/au, qantas.com, jetstar.com
and hawaiianairlines.com.au.
Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Holiday at home in Sydney: travel news

HOTEL
Holiday at home
Staycations – holidays in your home town – are the thing to do right now. Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks is rolling out its new
premium hotel rooms and club lounge following an $8 million makeover. The
largest of the 90 Horizon Club rooms and suites is the two-bedroom,
242-square-meter royal suite, which includes butler and grand piano, from $4895
a night. Those staying in the Horizon rooms should make tracks to the Horizon Club Lounge,
opening December 8. The four-storey atrium looks out to our best-loved icons; the
harbour, the Bridge and the Opera House. Horizon club rooms start from $400 a night, which includes private
check-in, breakfast, afternoon tea, canapés and cocktails. If you’re not
checking in, head up to the Blu Bar on level 36 for the best water views in town.
Se shangri-la.com.
TECH
Get-around sound
Pack the party in your pocket with the MiniJamBox from US
wearable technology company Jawbone. Using Bluetooth, pair the petite speaker and
speakerphone with any phone, laptop iPod or tablet in a 10-meter radius,
without cumbersome cables. 
No Bluetooth? Hook up with a simple headphone jack.
A full charge takes 2.5 hours, but then gives you up to 10 hours’ sound, be it
your favourite playlist, movies or phone calls. Weighing in at a lightweight 255g
and 25x15cm, the MiniJamBox travels lightly and comes in nine colours, with
five different designs pressed into the aluminum shell and is compatible with both
Android and iOS platforms. The Mini Jambox costs $179.95. See jawbone.com.
GEAR
Well knotted in
Istanbul style
Canny travellers know that scarves are the easiest way to
transform your travel wardrobe from drab to fab, and the new scarf from the St
Regis hotel group is fabulous, indeed. Designed by Michelle Obama’s go-to
man, the Taiwanese-Canadian designer Jason Wu, this limited edition collection
is inspired by Istanbul, now the hottest city on the planet. The 100 per
cent silk scarf comes in three colourways, blue, beige and Wu’s signature grey.
The scarf has been released just ahead of the opening of the new St Regis
Istanbul in February 2015, an 118-room hotel is set in Nişantaşi, with views
over the Bosphorus. The Grand Tourista Scarf costs US$195. See stregis.com/boutique
or jasonwustudio.com.
The Royal Opera House at night ©Stephen McLaren
COMPETITION
Live London large
Do London in style with afternoon tea at Lord’s Cricket
Ground with butler Carson from Downton Abbey (but you can call him Jim
Carter), a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House with ballerina Darcey
Bussell, a wander through the Science Museum with Professor
Stephen Hawking or Michelin-starred meal by chef Jason Atherton at happening
Pollen Street Social. London is searching the world for a Guest of Honour to
share these experiences with celebrity guides. Hurry, you’ve
got until December 9 to enter the search for London’s Official Guest of Honour.
See visitlondon.com/guest.
CRUISE
Easy festive time
If this
Christmas is already a write-off, start planning a serene escape for 2015 with
a Christmas river cruise through Europe’s most festive towns. APT’s new
brochure offers winter sailings in Canada and Europe, including a 10-day Christmas Time Cruise
from Prague to Budapest. The itinerary includes the world’s
largest Christmas market in Nuremberg, the Old Kornmarkt Christmas market in
medieval Regensburg and Vienna, which is not shy of a bauble or two. There are
five departures in November, when the Christmas markets are already up and
running, and eight in December. Book cruises departing December 17 or December
21 if planning to spend Christmas Day on the ship. The fleet will include the
new AmaSonata, launched this year, and its sister ship the AmaPrima, launched
in 2013. The 10-day cruise costs from $4545 a person, twin share, includes two
nights in Prague and eight days on board. 
Call 1300
196 420, see aptouring.com.au.  

 

KIDS
Little Luggage
Your
kids will be the smartest travellers in the land with these hard-shell
luggage sets. The lightweight wheeled suitcase has elastic straps inside
to hold gear and a zip pouch for games and books and measures 41cm x
29cm. The hard-shell backpack has adjustable straps and a divider, and
stacks onto the suitcase to be wheeled together. And if your travelling
tot tires, the suitcase handle extends to adult height – lucky you!
Designed in Australia, there are 12 themes including the dinosaur and
newest release, the ballerina. The two-piece set costs $129.95. Call
1300 746 722, see bobbleart.com.au

 

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Global Salsa

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