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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Wildlife in the Top End, new hotels for Adelaide, chop-chop, shop-shop: Takeoff travel news


NEWS: Spike in tours to Top End

Go deep into the tropical Top End to
explore the wildlife of Kakadu and the Mary River on safari with
Australia’s most decorated ecotour operator, Echidna Walkabout Nature
Tours. ‘‘This is where nature is still in charge,’’ says director and
guide Janine Duffy, who lists bustards, wallaroos and short-haired
wallabies as her favourite finds, as well as crocs, wild pigs and rare
birdlife. ‘‘It’s slow travel; you need to spend the time to discover the Top End,’’ she says.

Echidna Walkabout Tours won gold in
London last year at the World Responsible Travel Awards, named Best for
Wildlife Conservation, and recently became just one of three responsible
tourism operators in the world to be awarded the highest rating in the
Ethical Travel Guide by Tourism Concern, a charity that campaigns for
ethical and fair-trade tourism (tourismconcern.org.uk). The Wild Top End tour runs from
August 3 to August 9, 2015, and again in August 2016. The maximum group
size for the six day tour is 16 people. Costs $3300 a person. Phone (03) 9646 8249, see echidnawalkabout.com.au.  

 


FOOD: The world at your table

It’s a dreary night, so why not walk
the streets of the world with this new cookbook exploring the world’s
great street foods. Spend the night dining on Santorini’s tomato
fritters, barbecue pulled pork sandwiches from South Carolina, Iran’s
moreish jujeh kebab (saffron chicken) or kara’age chicken from the
izakayas of Tokyo. More than 150 easy recipes are drawn
from the four corners of the globe, most for four to six people,
because it’s all about sharing. Don’t miss the handy little Tricks of
the Trade section, which gives simple, straightforward advice about not
overfilling woks, roasting stock bones before you boil them and how

refrigerating dough makes your pizza crusts bubbly and chewy. This is author Jennifer Joyce’s 10th
book and she is also a food stylist for London mags, so expect beauty
on every page. My Street Food Kitchen is out on July 1 and costs $39.99.
See
murdochbooks.com.
 


KIDS: Rock on, baby

For the tiniest babes on the go, the
new Sleeper portable bassinet from Dutch-born Puckababy is a snug,
secure portable bassinet suitable for newborns and babies up to four
months, or 6.5kg and 64cm long. The soft bassinet is lightweight and
swaddles the baby with a neat crossover fold that is also a handle for
easy carrying and gentle rocking. Made from 100 per cent cotton, the
fabric is fully washable and carries a 1.0 tog rating. Ideal for planes,
trains and keeping baby safe and sound at home. Costs $179.95. See
puckababy.com.au.


GEAR: Chop, chop! Shop, shop!

Navigate China without currency woes
with a new prepaid travel card from Australia Post and Chinese firm
UnionPay, which is underwritten by the Bank of China. Charge the
Load&Go China card up with

Australian dollars and lock in a
fixed exchange rate into Chinese yuan, then it’s time to go shopping.
You can use the card at ATMs and point-of-sale terminals, paying in the
local currency. The reloadable card goes where foreign credit cards
aren’t accepted and as it’s prepaid, your bank accounts are safe and
unlinked. The card can be registered and locked with a PIN, and any
unused yuan can be converted back to Australian dollars when you come
home, without commission fees. Purchase in Australia Post offices or see

auspost.com.au/loadandgochina
 


HOTELS: Sage advice for stayers

Adelaide is the site of a new hotel
brand, with the old Grand Chifley Hotel recently rebranded as
Australia’s first Sage Hotel. The four-star hotel targets business
travellers with an eye on the balance sheet: rates include free Wi-Fi,
and laundry and minibar prices it says are comparable to convenience
stores. The property is in the prime location of South Terrace,
overlooking the city parklands, and is close to Adelaide’s free tram.
The Chifley Wollongong will rebrand to Sage in August and a new build in
Perth opens in March 2016. Sage’s parent group, the Singapore-based
SilverNeedle Hospitality, has 55 properties in the Asia-Pacific region
including the Country Comfort brand and Next Hotels, which debuted
recently in Brisbane. The Sage Hotel Adelaide has an opening special of
$99 a night, deluxe queen room only, until July 31. See
silverneedlehotels.com

TECH: Van of your dreams

So you’re listening to the call of the open road, but don’t have the vintage Airstream caravan to tow along for the ride? 

Log on to the new website for
MyCaravan.com, which hooks up would-be caravanners with the wheeled home of their

dreams, including motorhomes and
camper trailers. Owners can rent out their vans when they’re not in use,
and renters can save themselves the headache of van storage,
maintenance and registration, while paying up to half the price quoted
by commercial rental companies. The new website rates and reviews
vans as well as owners and renters, and also has a no-tow, no-woe section
for on-site vans, saving tow-bar-less renters any hauling hassles. Some owners will also relocate their vans for you, for a fuss-free, affordable holiday. See
mycaravan.com.au
 

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.   


Brick? Brack! It’s all Irish to me: recipe for Irish Bambrick

I was about to post this recipe, then I thought, that’s not very travel-oriented. But wait! It’s a recipe for Irish Bambrick!

So it’s time to break out the Bewley’s tea (Van Morrison’s fave), whack on the Claddagh CD (or Cranberries, Corrs, Boyzone – oh, Rohan – whatever takes your fancy) and carve up a slice of this solid, wholesome tea-time treat.


Irish Bambrick
1½ cups cold black tea
¼ cups sultanas
1 cup currants
¾ cup mixed peel, finely chopped (I think mixed peel is sooo ’50s, I used apricots)
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups self-raising flour (I used 1 cup wholemeal – I AM my mother!)
½ cup walnuts (almonds or brazil nuts)

The recipe doesn’t call for it, but I added a little nutmeg and some cinnamon. In hindsight, I’d drop the cinnamon.

Combine tea, sultanas, currants, mixed peel (apricots) and sugar in a bowl. Cover. Stand the mixture overnight. Stir in egg. Mix in flour and nuts. Spoon into a greased and lined 13x21cm loaf pan. Bake at 160 degrees for 1 – 1 1/4 hours or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand for 5 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool. This cake can be frozen for up to three months (though why you wouldn’t want to eat it hot from the oven is beyond me).

A note of warning: the uncooked mixture is seriously sticky. I added an extra splash of tea and it didn’t hurt. And it really needs the full hour or more in the oven, otherwise you’ll end up with a sticky heart.

PS: This recipe was clipped from an Australian nursing newsletter. The spelling of bambrick is weird: I have found reference to ‘barmbrack’, but just I’d call this a brack – take it from one who has consumed many bracks in her time living in Dublin.


The best little baby muffins

What’s cooking in the kitchen tonight: banana, sultana and coconut muffins. Best ever, thanks Bern!
From “How it all vegan
anything-goes, fruit-filled muffins

2 cups flour (I split wholemeal and plain for extra grunt)
½ tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
½ cup sweetener (honey, syrup, apple juice concentrate, rice malt, date
syrup…)
2 eggs
¼ cup oil
¾ up milk – add 1 tsp vinegar to milk or use buttermilk
1½ cups fruit fresh or frozen (a great way to use up aging bananas)

Oven 180 degrees. Large bowl, stir flour, salt baking
powder. Add sweetener, eggs, oil, milk and fruit. Stir together till just
mixed. Scoop into oiled muffin tins and bake 35-40mins. Makes 6 big muffins or gazillions (ok, 20) little tiny baby muffins, baked for around only 15 minutes.
Because of the fruit, these muffins don’t keep that well. They can also be used
as a vehicle for adding healthy oil to a diet.


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