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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Free things to do in airports: ABC Radio interview

Waiting in airports is one of the downsides of travel. But is it? I reckon airports are magical places, and there are so many free things to do in airports.

This week, I chatted with ABC Radio Melbourne’s Sunday program about the best things to do in airports over the world – and many of them free or just the price of a cup of coffee.

Sure, you can scroll on your phone or put on your headphones and tune into a movie. Or… you could wander through a museum dedicated to Hellenic history (Athens), admire the great Dutch Masters (Amsterdam), have a cup of tea at Harrods (Doha) or dress up in traditional Korean hanbok and try a few handicrafts (Seoul). What could a be better way to spend your time?

Even our Australian airports are worth discovery – I love that in Melbourne, you can drink coffee from some of our most famous cafes – I’m thinking of St Ali here, and snack on food by our top chefs, such as Movida and Cafe Vue by Shannon Bennett.

Click here to listen to my interview with Lisa Leong on ABC Melbourne.


Hotels reborn: 10 historic buildings that are now luxury hotels

Where are you sleeping tonight? In a prison cell? A castle? A monastery. A jam factory? I’m talking about rooms inside buildings that have been reborn as hotels – buildings that may otherwise have fallen into irretrievable disrepair, or worse.

Traveller cover photo Pentridge Prison

Traveller cover photo The Interlude @ Pentridge Prison

This weekend, my cover story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers is about hotels whose buildings have served a previous life – I rounded up 10 across Australia and abroad, with an extra serve of five Australasian hotels on the side. I looked at hotels as far apart as London, Peru and Turkey, which have been train stations, palaces, even a state Department of Education. Some, like the Las Casas de la Juderia, in Seville and London’s St Pancras Renaissance, were from recent travels. Some, like The Interlude here in Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison complex, are only just about to open. All are close to my heart.

Sometimes, it’s the location or the beauty of a building that lures developers to imbue it with renewed life. Other times, it’s the building’s backstory that a visionary can weave into its incarnation, to be reborn with new purpose.

“Heritage is the art of saving what is useful and beautiful, but also updating it for modern use,” says Terry Fripp, of Kerry Hill Architects, whose projects include Perth’s much-lauded COMO The Treasury, formerly Western Australia’s historic State Buildings.

It’s the ultimate act of recycling: reusing existing resources while also giving back, in the form of hotel restaurants, bars, spas and event spaces that are, for the most part, accessible by the public.

Click here to read my story on the 10 great hotels reborn, with another serve of five Australasian hotels on the side.

or see https://www.theage.com.au/traveller/inspiration/10-historic-buildings-reborn-as-stunning-luxury-hotels-20230512-p5d7vp.html


Hotel review: cycling holidays at Bright Velo, Bright, Victoria Australia

Those who love cycling holidays in Australia will know that Victoria’s High Country is peak cycle territory. We’re talking lycra on the main streets, ebikes galore, kids’ tagalongs … it’s not just the pelotons who dominate the roads.

One of the main reasons this area – three hours’ drive from Melbourne, just before you hit the border with New South Wales – is such a cyclist’s paradise is that it caters for all comers, and its development of rail trails – the old train tracks that have been converted into scenic cycling roots that keep riders off the main highways.

So it makes sense that the newest hotel in the region is a cycling themed hotel. Originally built as the Empire Hotel during Bright’s crazy gold-rush days, Bright Velo is a smart renovation of this lovely building on Bright’s main street. It’s not going to bomb you out with cheezy bike paraphernalia everywhere – it’s a little more subtle than that. Stylish vintage cycling posters dotted here and there, the public bathrooms painted in the colours of the winning jerseys of the three great European tours.

There are three levels of accom – the five unique Heritage rooms, a three-bedroom apartment and the dorm accom which caters for groups. There’s also excellent eating, a whiskey bar and the amaretto sours should have cult status in this town.

Click here to read my review of the hotel for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section.

See https://www.traveller.com.au/bright-velo-the-victorian-alps-welcomes-cosy-new-cycling-themed-lodge-h29qzl


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.


Global Salsa

Well, you’ve scrolled this far. What do you think? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.

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