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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State of the nation: Jimmy Rees’s Australia

What saved you during Australia’s lockdowns? Was it cake? Boxes of wine or chocolates? Netflix, or perhaps it was Jimmy Rees.

The Melbourne-based comedian found himself unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic, and in his own words, just started mucking around with videos that he posted on social media – see media www.jimmyrees.com.au And he went viral.

In parodying states and territories’ stances on such issues as border closures, mask-wearing and the convoluted rules around daily exercise and social interaction (“yes, you can book a restaurant for 20 people. No, you can’t have 20 people over to your home for a dinner party”) he revealed much about Australia and Australians.

I’m a fan – I’ve been a fan since I watched him as a children’s TV presenter (yes, I may have potty-trained my daughter while watching him play Jimmy Giggle to a stuffed owl). So I leapt at the opportunity to interview him for this travel feature in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers’ Traveller section, where we asked him to cast his laser eye over the states and territories.

You can click here to read this cover story, where I play straight woman to Jimmy’s wild  wanderings, as he covers bogans, wild animals, closed rooftop bars and the Flannelette Curtain (it’s in Tassie, if you’re interested…)

Ah, the Gold Coast. The weather, the beaches, the cruisy lifestyle. Everyone’s got a sports car, and there’s lots of bling. It’s flashy and it’s full of cashed-up bogans. (Actually, I don’t think you really need to say there are bogans in Queensland. It’s like a silent “k”). But Queenslanders are like, ‘yeah, we know, and it’s fine. But we have the best weather, so where would you rather be?’ Well, perhaps not Brisbane. You fly into it and then realise it really doesn’t have a beach and you ask yourself ‘Why did I come to Brisbane? I should have just gone to the Goldie or the Sunshine Coast to be with all of the cashed-up bogans’.

Enjoy our wander through the Lucky Country!


Hiking in the Grampians National Park: Victoria, Australia

The new Grampians Peak Trail is a hiking route that spans 160 kilometers of terrain through the Gariwerd/Grampians National Park in western Victoria, Australia.

It’s an amalgamation of existing trails and 100km of new paths through the national park. Some parts can easily be walked by families with kids – I even spotted little ones in gumboots, doing a walk to a local waterfall – while other sections lend themselves to the more adventurous, with camping and hut stays on offer.

I chatted to Philip Clark of ABC Radio’s Nightlife program, about hiking through this beautiful part of Australia. You can click here to listen to the interview.

It’s also the cover story for this week’s Senior Traveller – have a look here!

And finally, a couple of links to get you planning your adventure along the Grampians Peaks Trail:

The official site for Parks Victoria, which looks after all the state’s national parks.

Grampians Peaks Walking Company supports hikers with drop-offs and pick-ups, food and water drops, maps and even gear hire.

Visit Victoria is the state’s tourism body, and has a good overview of the trail, as well.


Take a break: short escapes in Victoria, Australia

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

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

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

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

 


Australian expats: celebrity stylist in Midtown Manhattan

After nearly two full years, I’m so pleased to let you know that my Expat column is back! Published each week at Traveller, I hunt down Australian expats living around the globe, and ask

Lazarus Douvos

Australian expat Lazarus Douvos lives in Midtown Manhattan, NYC, USA

them to share a little of their lives with our readers.

This week, we’re in Midtown Manhattan, where Melbourne hair stylist to the stars Lazarus Douvos shares a little about his daily life – where he takes his almond-milk cappuccinos, his favourite bookshop, a hidden bar and where he goes to meditate, on the banks of the East River.

“Life was picture perfect in Melbourne: I had the boyfriend, the dog, the country house. But I had the immediate feeling that I belonged here,” he says of his arrival in NYC, almost 13 years ago. A former stylist for the late Joan Rivers and Gucci, Lazarus’s latest perfumed hair care range is The Love Note collection (see lazarusdouvos.com, agencedeparfum.com.au).

Click here to read the interview, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age‘s Traveller section.

If you’d like to suggest someone for the column, there are a few rules: they have to be Australian, and have lived in their adopted hometown for at least two years – because six months in Bali does not an expat make. Drop me a line in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!


Where to elope in the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the best-laid wedding plans, elopements have moved out of the realms of star-crossed lovers (think Romeo & Juliet, Angelina Jolie & Billy Bob Thornton) and into fashion.

So, you need to dodge lockdowns and border closures, and want to get hitched? Here’s where to elope in the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges.

While you might thing an elopement requires just two people and a celebrant, by law, you do actually have to have two witnesses. And the celebrants I spoke to for this story did tell me tales of weddings being interrupted by park rangers, checking to see if they had the correct paperwork to be married in the public gardens.

If you’re thinking of eloping, check out this piece I wrote for Off-Peak Weddings, which is published by Yarra Ranges Tourism.

Click here to read the full story.


A city sleeps: Melbourne moves into Lockdown #6

Last night, I walked through the heart of Melbourne as we went into our sixth lockdown.

The city’s laneways rang with the sound of shutters going down as the city locked itself up.

It was a pretty crazy time to be editing a guidebook for the city. But there I found myself, sitting in little Shandong Mama Mini, eating its fabulous mackerel dumplings with manager Gin, taking notes and talking optimistically about when New Yorkers are going to roam freely through our little laneways once again…maybe next June.

Walking the darkening streets, I saw a woman at the gates of Gucci, pleading, pleading to make a last purchase before lockdown – only to be turned away by staff. The cash registers are closed, she was told, night is falling and lockdown looms.

The doorman at Society, the hottest new restaurant in town, told me all the late bookings had been shunted into earlier time slots, with diners ushered back onto the streets before the stroke of 8pm.

A cheery Big Issue seller chatted about his business model falling apart: with few office workers and less city dwellers, his magazines remain unsold. But he was fully vaccinated, he told me. Was I?

“These lockdowns are killing us,” said the waiter in Pellegrini where, for the first time in living memory, I could get a seat at the bar and a chat with the black apron clad waiters. Snapping a photo of the luscious cakes of the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the glittering Block Arcade – normally a false hope due to the hordes of drooling instagrammers – was but a cinch, and the Royal Arcade remains empty of its traditional shoppers, down on a day trip from the country.

Street cafes were being packed up, outdoor furniture stacked away, kitchen staff clearing the benches, glass of wine in hand. Music played in empty hotel lobbies, with no-one to listen to it.

The streets emptied so completely they could double as a setting for an apocalyptic zombie movie.

Food delivery drivers tore down empty footpaths on their scooters with impunity.

Traffic lights clicked uselessly as an ambulance careened unimpeded through a red light – lights flashing but the sirens silent in the darkening night.


Men getting married: best buck’s parties in the Yarra Ranges

You’d think it was a divergence from travel writing – writing about ideas for buck’s or bachelor parties – but this fun little story let me take a cruise through the Yarra Valley & Dandenong Ranges.

I found a rum distillery in Belgrave (killik.com.au), discovered a 120-meter flying fox nearby in the Tall Trees Adventures (treesadventure.com.au) and the thing I’m going to do the minute Melbourne is out of Lockdown #5, the O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail, an easy mountain-bike trail through redwood forests in the Yarra Ranges National Park.

My story on eight great ideas for buck’s parties is in the current edition of Off-Peak Wedding Magazine, produced by Yarra Ranges Tourism – click here to download the free mag.


Reports from locked-down Melbourne

Melbourne is back in lockdown – it’s our fourth lockdown since the beginning of the global pandemic.

On 1 one of our new regime, I had a chat with ABC News Radio in a short segment ambitiously titled, “How to survive a lockdown.”

I might have snorted a little when asked whether photographer Jude van Daalen and I were going to produce a sequel to our book, Together Apart. If it means locking down for another six months, um, no thanks!

Currently, the whole of Victoria is on Stage 4 restrictions, which means working from home, all non-essential shops closed, the ability to travel no further than 5km from your front door and schools closed.

Tune in if you want a little reminder of what’s going on down here in the snap-frozen south – so far, the one-week circuit breaker has been extended for another week, let’s hope it doesn’t continue past that date.

 

The feature photograph on this post is by photographer Jude van Daalen/The Melbourne Portrait Studio, and features in Together Apart: Life in Lockdown. Click here to order your copy.


First look: new Next Hotel Melbourne

Next Hotel Melbourne. I love hotels. I love the time warp that hotels lead us into: suddenly, there’s a different view from the window, my toiletries all smell more exotic, I have far better bed linen.

It’s bizarre to think that, in the midst of a global pandemic, hotels would still be opening. But life still goes on, and here in Australia, we’re luckier than most.

Recently, I embraced the call to arms to #letsMelbourneAgain, and took a staycation in my own city, Melbourne.

The sparkling, new Next Hotel Melbourne is located in the hottest piece of real estate in town, 80 Collins Street, “up the Paris end of Collins St,” as we say. Not just because that’s where all the boutiques are (Dior, Chanel, Vuitton etc), but also because that’s where you’ll find a lot of the glamorous, turn-of-the-century architecture built with the flush of gold-rush money. In between the ornate street lights and those funny old-fashioned bathrooms that were built beneath the pavements, rise the glossiest skyscrapers – all cunning angles and unexpected entrances.

Compressed tomato

Compressed tomato in white soy stuffed with stracciatella with basil. Photo supplied.

The entrance to Next is next-level discreet. Entered from Little Collins Street, you’ll first see Ingresso, a little coffee and Campari bar, with little fixed stools inside and out, for a touch of laneway chic. (Ingresso means ‘entrance’ – see what they did there?)

The Clef d’Or concierge at the door is a hint of things to come – the hotel is embedded in the DNA of the CBD (if you fancy a few acronyms), with a restaurant and cocktail bar worthy of a visit in their own right, not just as accoutrements to your guest room.  Sicily meets Hong Kong as chefs Daniel Natoli and Adrian Li rule La Madonna, which set the pace with a fabulous compressed tomato with white soy, stracciatella and basil entree, and ended admirably with a cannoli spiked with Fernet-Branca bitters and pistachio.

Follow me to the bedroom: firstly, there are 255 of them, each looking out to a cityscape, be it a cafe-filled laneway you never knew existed, or bigger views across the tops of skyscrapers. From my eyrie, I spy champagne bars, Mexican restaurants, jewellers and designer sneaker shops all tucked into the angled architecture of the 80 Collins St precinct.

Back in the room, toiletries are supplied by Melbourne brand Hunter – the body wash blends grapefruit, tangerine peel and rum, for a spicy scent, and the hairdryers are top-of-the-line Dyson which cost more than a room night, for top marks in the bathroom. There’s also a Bose sound system, if you’re going to order a cocktail made with the hotel’s own barrel-aged spirits. Otherwise, pull a stool up at the bar for a romp through Negroni nirvana, and listen to Phil, the Master of Spirits, wax lyrical about the spirit world.

Next Hotel Melbourne guestroom. Photo supplied.

The next morning, I did pop into the gym for a little stretch, but really, the whole point is to hit the city streets again. So an early jog down quiet Little Collins is an easy heartstarter, and will make you feel better about ordering the black pudding for breakfast (chef Adrian’s special recommendation).

What it is not: it’s not splashy. You won’t find here is a signature rooftop pool or a pair of neon angel wings in which to photograph yourself in front of.

What it is: tricky to find, with a dark and moody palette and serious food and drink credentials – Next fits this city like a glove.

From $289 a night. 103 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, nexthotelmelbourne.com


In the pink: nine of Australia’s best pink lakes

What’s hot right now? Pink gin. Pink salt. Pink hair. Pink lakes. Yep, pink lakes, of which Australia has plenty.

From champagne to candy, with rose and bubblegum in between, is it any wonder we love them? The natural phenomenon occurs only with the right balance of salt, sun and some hardworking micro-organisms.

In this piece, I rounded up nine lovely pink lakes around Australia with the hottest hues, for your pink perusal. Some, like the pink lake that occasionally lives beneath Melbourne’s Westgate Bridge, are easy to find. Others, such as Western Australia’s Lake Hillier, are our most iconic, but also the hardest to reach.

Click here to read my story in Traveller about nine of Australia’s best pink lakes.


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