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… 



Ferry trip to northern Tasmania: The spirit of Tasmania

The Nut at Stanley, Tasmania
little french bulldog rolls its great eyes, a young german shepherd starts to
howl, the ship shakes free of its moorings, and we’re off.  If you thought
you had to get to the Mediterranean to go sailing, you’ve forgotten about our
own modest sea crossing, from Melbourne to Tasmania. 
Sure, you
can fly to Tassie – it’s just two hours from Sydney and but an hour from
Melbourne to Launceston. But the luxury of time and the convenience of driving
your own car obviously appeals to many, for tonight’s sailing on the Spirit of
Tasmania is a busy one. There holidaymakers with their fur families (hence all
the hounds in the hold), caravanners with kids’ car seats and those who, like
us, have a few empty eskies  waiting to be filled with Tassie’s spectacular
We set
sail on the Spirit just in time for dinner, and already the message is clear:
you’ll never starve on this island. The ship’s yet to clear Melbourne’s Port
Phillip Bay and already our dining table in the ship’s Leatherwood restaurant
is laden with smoked quail, brandied chicken pate, ocean trout all from the
island state – and that’s just entrees. The exploration of Tasmania’s 60-plus
vineyards also starts here, with a handy list of cellar doors and wines
including Ghost Rock’s hard-to-get, sparkling wine, the Catherine, and a cheery
MacForbes Riesling, both from northern Tasmania. 
Our gang
of three shares a four-berth cabin: it’s compact and comfortable with two sets
of bunk beds, and the ship rocks gently across the Bass Strait to arrive in
Devonport just on sunrise. The information booth hands out leaflets on the best
breakfast cafes open at this ungodly hour, and the recommendation is for
Anvers’ Chocolate Factory, in nearby LaTrobe (anvers-chocolate.com.au).
The plan
is to drive from east to west along the north coast in just a few days, seeking
out its hamlets and beauty spots, avoiding the (relatively) big smoke of
Launceston, the Bass Strait keeping us company all the way. 
I have
already drawn up a shopping list for our three-day getaway, and it’s
embarrassingly food-oriented: raspberry jam from Christmas Hills in Elizabeth
Town (raspberryfarmcafe.com),
Hellyers’ single malt whiskey in Burnie (hellyersroaddistillery.com.au),
Tasmanian wagyu pies in Devonport (wagyupiecompany.com). There are scallop pies to
be devoured, wine and cider to be drunk, berry ice-cream to be licked. Lucky
I’m also sailing home: the airlines surely would charge me excess baggage on
the return journey.
A word on
driving in Tassie:  a hundred kilometres will not take an hour: there be
many corners, there be wild animals on the road, there be the cutest little
beach just right for paddling, a pick-your-own berry farm or a glorious vista
begging to jump onto your Instagram feed. 
Scallops at Lost Farm

On the
drive east of Devonport, our journey comes to a screeching halt at a crossroad
on the B82, amid  a cluster of Australia’s top sparkling producers,
including Jansz and Piper’s Brook, and we celebrate our find with a glass of

along, at Bridport, the diversion is a sweet little local bakery followed by a
walk through the rolling sand dunes that stretch out in front of our room for
the night at Barnbougle Dunes, whose  golf course, The Dunes, is rated
11th in the world. We snicker at road signs warning of kangaroos and golfers, and
play “what’s that funny name”  when passing Squeaking Point and
The Dazzler Range.
west of Devonport, the diversions are many and fabulous, such as the hamlet of
Turners Beach, notable for its kid-friendly beach and the welcoming La Mar
cafe, which packs together a dinner for our night’s stay in the self-catering
The Winged House. 
on, at Penguin, we stop to admire a giant (concrete) penguin, penguins painted
on shop walls and the town’s rubbish bins garnished with penguin sculptures.
The actual penguins are absent, although a smiling woman at Cocoon, one of
Penguin’s brace of remarkable homewares shops, tells me she spent the morning
watching a baby whale frolic in the warm coastal waters with its mum. It’s
lunchtime so the  order is for a couple of scallop pies from the town’s
bakery and, like every other time I’ve eaten them, I’m surprised all over again
that the fat scallops are baked in a curry sauce so thick it’s almost rigid.
Not Thai or Indian or some exotic curry, but more like a super-yellow,
English-love-it Keen’s-curry-powder curry, and I just can’t help but feel a
little sad.
La Mar cafe at Turners Beach
With a
population of 20,000, it feels like we’ve hit the big smoke at Burnie, which
has more than its fair share of great finds, including the best little drive-in
boozer in the north, with rare and wonderful ciders galore, set beside the
recently renovated Ikon Hotel, with great family-sized apartments. But if you
had to make but one stop along this coast road, make it Burnie’s Maker’s
The town
is packed with art deco architecture thanks to a cash injection via the
Australian Pulp and Paper Mill in 1938, yet the Makers’ Workshop is a
super-modern construct of glass and steel, built in 2009 on the waterfront. At
any time, up to five “makers” will be creating anything from
jewellery to baskets, paintings to glassware and I strike up a conversation
with a peg dolly maker and a felt maker. 
The glass-fronted cafe lets you watch
the working waterfront from a cosy perch. The tourist information centre is
comprehensive and its gift shop, selling Tasmania’s artisan wares, really is
worth saving your pennies for. While the paper mill has since closed, they’re
still making paper here – but this time, it’s from wombat poo or apple pulp and
visitors can turn their hand to making it on the frequent paper-making tours.
But  it’s not all scones and cappuccinos. There’s also a monstrous, yellow
Elphinstone underground loader in the foyer, a reminder that Burnie is also the
home to a Caterpillar factory and the former mechanic and the state’s richest
man, Dean Elphinstone. 
The Winged House, Table Cape

Cape is best known for its tulip farm, but it’s out of season, and no vivid
strips of flowers to be seen. From our architecturally intriguing  home
for the night, The Winged House, the coastline disappears into the mists, first
mapped by Matthew Flinders with his surgeon friend, George Bass, in 1798. To
the west is The Nut at Stanley and further on, Robbins Island and Cape Grim,
said to have the world’s most pure air. It’s a delight to learn that the IGA
supermarket at nearby Wynyard  does what a franchise is supposed to do,
and stocks local scallops, whole Tassie salmon fillets and the famed beef from
Cape Grim.

 invigorating here on this headland, with the Roaring Forties living up to
its name. So after photographing the coastline from the island’s last working
lighthouse, we push on to Boat Harbour, which a Tassie friend tips as a
must-visit. She’s not wrong. The tiny harbour has a sunny cafe-cum-surf
life-saving club, set on a sandy beach that curves sweetly into the headland,
every one of the village’s beach shacks has commanding water views. It’s the
same story at nearby Sisters Beach, where sea-changers and retirees are
providing brisk business for the local tradies and real estate agents. 
its location on the north-west edge of Tasmania, little Stanley is terribly
chic. Sure you can hike or catch the chairlift to the top of The Nut, a rough
volcanic bluff  but it also sports a genuinely boutique hotel, @ VDL
Stanley,  upmarket fish-and-chipperies, more fabulous homewares shops and
cafes with a dash of city slickery. 
Next time,
I’m going to juggle my days better to hit the Sunday markets at Penguin and
pretty Ulverstone, I’m going back to funny little Tomahawk to pitch my tent
once again, and I’m going to finally hike in the Tarkine wilderness.
On the
way home, a vivid super-moon lights the ship’s decks and I score an upgrade to
a vast deluxe cabin with a double bed, right at the very front of the ship.
Instead of portholes, there are panoramic windows, just the spot to sit and
write that list for the return journey. 
See discovertasmania.com.au.
Spirit of Tasmania sails from Melbourne into Devonport. Children travel free
between March 6 and September 13, book by February 28. Costs from $96 adults in
an ocean recliner, or from $258 for two adults and two children in a four-berth
cabin, one-way. See spiritoftasmania.com.au. Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com),
Jetstar (jetstar.com)
and Qantas (qantas.com.au)
fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Launceston. Rex Airlines flies Melbourne to
Burnie (rex.com.au
Dunes in Bridport costs from $190 a night. Phone (03) 6356 0094, see barnbougledunes.com.au.
The Winged House at Table Cape costs from $360 a night,  Table Cape. See thewingedhouse.com.au.
Ikon Hotel, Burnie  costs from $170 a night. Phone (03) 6432 4566, see ikonhotel.com.au.
your own foodie drive across northern Tasmania, see cradletocoasttastingtrail.com.au
or  the food review app, see tasmanianfoodguide.com.au.
Workshop, Burnie, makersworkshop.com.au is a must-see. 
Hobart to
St Helens.
some of the island’s  best national parks, including Bay of Fires and
Maria Island. Distance: 295km.
Hobart to
Port Arthur via Richmond. Discover our picturesque, yet brutal colonial
history. Distance: 205km.

Devonport to Cradle Mountain. Balance farmgate snacking and shopping with
world-class hiking. Distance: 226km.
to Cockle Creek. Camp at Cockle Creek and take a short walk to South East Cape,
the most southerly point on the island. Distance: 148km.
to Strahan. Drive through Australia’s largest rainforest, the Tarkine
wilderness, via Waratah to the remote west coast. Distance: 180km.

writer was a guest of the Spirit of Tasmania, Barnbougle Dunes and the Winged
This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald’s Traveller section.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Christmas bell from Kashmir, India

This year, for the first time in many years, I’m really home for Christmas, so I unpacked all the decorations, many of which have been sitting in dusty boxes for years.

I’m not one of those people who lights up the front lawn with a carbon-blowing amount of electric Santas. And I’m terrible at sending out cards (sorry!) But my Christmas cache yielded a surprising amount of trinkets collected during my travels.

Pictured is the tiny little bell I bought in Indian Kashmir (not exactly a stronghold of Christianity, though there is a persistent rumour Jesus Christ is buried here). In a beautiful land often torn apart by war, locals do what they can to earn a living. One small firm makes these delicate decorations from paper mache, before painting and varnishing them and selling them to we few tourists.

There is also the set of happy little matryoshka dolls from the markets Andriyivskiy Uzviz in Kyiv, Ukraine (known as babushka dolls in neighbouring Russia), their sweet little faces peering out between the baubles. Heavens knows how I managed to fit them in my backpack, amongst the tent, camp cooking gear, filthy hiking socks and two changes of clothes. 

Matryoshka doll from Kyiv, Ukraine

There’s an elaborate glass Santa on a sleigh from the German Christmas markets, and a kind donation from my brother Rorie of glittering trinkets from Vienna’s many famed winter markets. Away from the Tyrolean mountain sausages and tourist kitsch in Rathausplatz, his top finds are stained-glass decorations from the Karlsplatz market. 

And finally, my most recent acquisition is a beautiful silver deer, which I bought from a seasonal waterfront shop in Bergen, Norway, where they really get into the Christmas spirit.

Wherever you find yourselves for the festive season – at home for an Aussie Christmas, on a Thai beach eating prawns or mainlining glühwein to ward off the cold in the wintery northern hemisphere – I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and 2015 brings your hearts’ desires,

Belle Jackson

What to buy travellers for Christmas

5. Penguins in knitwear: could anything be cuter?
These little 23cm
penguins have been hand-knitted
by volunteers across the world from
excess jumpers
donated to help clean penguins up following oil spills.

Proceeds go to the Phillip Island Nature Parks
Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre, in Victoria.
$24.95 each, penguins.org.au

Nomads may not have any halls to deck, but don’t leave your
travelling kin out in the cold this Christmas. Gift vouchers may get a
frosty reception, and sables slipped under the tree are impossible to
pack. But on-the-go power banks for smartphones are a plum prize, as is
the classic gap-year present, the Swiss Army knife – with a seasonal

Give a gift that will remind wild rovers of home, or something to
lug it all in, who after all, doesn’t love a great bag? Whether your
intention is to tame wanderlust or gear up for an adventure, there are
gifts for glampers and trampers, lounge lizards and wildlife warriors,
for bachelors and babes. These cracking gift ideas are sure to have the
traveller in your life jingling on their way.  

1. Slice
your stollen or carve up the Kris Kringle with the new,
oh-so-Christmassy, Swiss Classic Army Knife, the “Lollipop”. At 58mm,
it’ll fit on a keyring and includes a screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick
and blade. $35.95, victorinox.ch.

Wear your world with an Atlas pages infinity necklace by
Melbourne-based artist Catrine Berlatier. The necklace is made from used
pages of old atlases, intricately woven and folded into beautiful
forms. The jewellery ranges from 63cm to 149cm. From $365, egetal.com.au.

3. The vivid illustrations of the animal kingdom among the ruins of Angkor Wat is the setting for The Last King of Angkor Wat, the new children’s book by Graeme Base, the author of Anamalia, which has sold more than three million copies since its publication in 1986. $26.99, penguin.com.au

8. Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the coolest in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle range weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au
8. Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the
coolest in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle
range weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and
waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au  

Nothing says Sydney more definitively than our own Harbour Bridge, aka
The Coathanger. So give the quintessential Sydney gift with this
Coathanger coathanger. $4.95 each, bitsofaustralia.com.au.

Penguins in knitwear – could anything be cuter? These little 23cm
penguins have been hand-knitted by volunteers across the world from
excess jumpers donated to help clean penguins up following oil spills.
Proceeds go to the Phillip Island Nature Parks Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre, in Victoria. $24.95 each, penguins.org.au

13. Trust Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel publisher's range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway water bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use. Available in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95, travelgoods.com.
13. Trust Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel
publisher’s range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway
water bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use.
Available in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95,

6. Keep light-fingered cyber thieves at bay with this new card
holder: the low-tech look hides a shield that blocks transmission of
data from your credit and identity cards. Comes in classic cowhide with a
money clip, featuring a blue or red strip. $39.95, zoomlite.com.au.

As the tagline says, the only bug you’ll worry about is the travel bug
when this mosquito repellent band is near. Worn on your wrist or even
hung from a bag, the Para’kito is a refillable band with a pellet of
blend of essential oils that is effective for 15 days, safe even for
babies and mums-to-be. $24.95 (includes two pellets), au.parakito.com.

Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the coolest
in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle range
weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and
waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au

Magellan eXplorist GPS.
Magellan eXplorist GPS. 

9. Bundle your skincare essentials into one neat bag with the
Jojoba Company Travel Essentials Pack. Includes a 15ml jojoba oil and
20mls each of cleanser and creams for day, night and hands. You won’t be
packing any artificial perfumes, parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate or
mineral oils, or anything tested on animals. $24.95, thejojobacompany.com.au.

Urbane urbanites know Melbourne brand Crumpler means innovative kit:
the Vis-a-Vis cabin bag, now in look-at-me green, has a sturdy,
lightweight shell that zips up and is reinforced by wraparound fabric
handles, for the quick grab. It includes a built-in TSA lock and a
clothes compression system that keeps your gear where you packed it.
55cm cabin bag, $445, crumpler.com.

Never again get caught in an airport with a flat phone and the wrong
power adaptor. The Eves Power Bank charges smartphones and tablets
quickly and without mains power. Available in lime green or pearl white
and weighing 80g, it even works on products not emblazoned with an
apple. $54.95, navycrockett.com.au.

14. Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by brother-sister team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear. The Serengeti Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15 range, is available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au.
14. Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by
brother-sister team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear.
The Serengeti Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15
range, is available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au. 

12. Celebrate the season with your little dears, wrapped in a
Cuddledeer toddler towel. Made by British brand Cuddledry, they are a
pesticide-free, cotton-bamboo blend, which means they’re extremely
absorbent and quick drying.  Super festive, their decorations include a
spotty back, antlers and a red nose. $89.95, thestorknest.com.au.

13. Trust
Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel publisher’s
range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway water
bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use. Available
in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95, travelgoods.com.

Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by brother-sister
team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear. The Serengeti
Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15 range, is
available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au.

17. Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small start-up Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon, decorated with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the developing world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes hidden pockets for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at the back. $89.95, rushfaster.com.au.
17. Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small
start-up Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon,
decorated with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the
developing world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes
hidden pockets for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at
the back. $89.95, rushfaster.com.au. 

15. Channel your inner Hansel & Gretel and leave “digital
breadcrumbs” when you’re in the woods, with the hand-held Magellan
eXplorist 610 walking GPS. It includes a camera, compass, topographical
maps with features such as campgrounds, and lets you record your journey
en route, so you can always find your way home, even without a GPS
signal. $479, magellangps.com.au.

If you can’t get to New Caledonia, or have fond memories of a visit,
keep the love going with these bathers by Australian designers We Are
Handsome, who were inspired by the island nation’s blue lagoons and
tropical greenery.  One-piece, $225, string bikini, $165, wearehandsome.com.

Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small start-up
Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon, decorated
with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the developing
world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes hidden pockets
for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at the back. $89.95,

23. It's time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally Phillips' Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the Montenegro print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way stretch silk, the travelling girl's best friend. Don't pack the iron. Also available in black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.
23. It’s time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally
Phillips’ Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the
Montenegro print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way
stretch silk, the travelling girl’s best friend. Don’t pack the iron.
Also available in black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.  

18. Team your resort wear with these Devonshire sunglasses
from British designer Paul Smith. Fresh from his new Resort 2015
lookbook, there’s a vintage take on the frames, which come in five
colourways including the Stripe + Brown, also available as an optical
frame. $300, 1800 034 217.

19. When work catches you
without a desk, the Logitech Keys-to-Go portable keyboard packs light,
at just 180g, and will wear coffee or sunscreen with ease. Compatible
with all iPads and iPhones, tuck it into your pocket and go. Available
in black, red and bright teal, it measures 242mm x137mm x 6mm. $79.95, Logitech.com.

Waterbabies, alert! LifeProof nuud cases turn iPhones and Samsung
Galaxy handsets into an underwater video camera, without bulky housing,
letting you use the touch screen as usual. Bonus points for being shock,
snow and dirt-proof to US military standards. iPhone 6 and 6+ nuud
cases coming soon. From $79.95, lifeproof.com.

25. If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.
25. If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey
Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works
with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even
head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it
from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the
wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.  

21. Celebrating Christmas far from home? Bring the scent of
the season with you with this new, limited-edition Christmas candle by
Palm Beach Collection. Infused with citrus peel and cedar, the soy-based
wax candle will transport you back to the homeland in a flicker,
offering 80 hours free from homesickness. $41.95, palmbeachcollection.com.au.

Sneak away with this sweet overnighter from Mrs Darcy. With a cotton
outer and gold zip, it’s 57cm long and the shoulder strap lets you
travel with gay abandon. Love the print? Team with matching robe and
slippers. Indigo blues overnight bag, $109.95, adaanddarcy.com.au.

23. It’s
time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally Phillips’
Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the Montenegro
print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way stretch silk, the
travelling girl’s best friend. Don’t pack the iron. Also available in
black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.

Panamas are on a roll.
Panamas are on a roll. 

24. Nothing says “holiday” better than a jaunty Panama hat,
and this rollable version, made from the hat’s traditional fibre,
Ecuadorean Toquilla leaves, bounces back into shape no matter how many
old-school guidebooks have been placed on top of it. Available in M, L
and XL, $129, betterbrands.com.au.

If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey
Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works
with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even
head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it
from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the
wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.

Shanghai swing: Art Deco fashion

Look what popped into my inbox recently: these Art Deco men’s slippers are pure Shanghai 1930s, with their geometric zing. 
They’re the latest from Shanghai shoemaker Suzhou Cobblers,which specialises in hand-sewn slippers. Made from silk with a leather sole, they’re a great souvenir from a great city.
I popped in a hundred years ago (ok, maybe it hasn’t been quite that long since I was in Shanghai) but put them on your list if you happen to be in town. They’re open every day from 10am – 6.30pm, just off the Bund.
You’ll also find them across the river in Pudong, in Beijing, Hangzhou and – ever so slightly further afield – in Munich.
17 Fuzhou Rd, Shanghai, suzhou-cobblers.com

Takeoff travel news: August 31

Greater Goode
The movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people in the Australian Constitution has just been boosted into the
skies as Qantas adopts the RECOGNISE logo on its new QantasLink Dash 8 Q400 aircraft.
Qantas Ambassador and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes says he is thrilled by
the new livery and urges Australians to sign up to the movement at
recognise.org.au. “It’s  so  important 
that  every  one 
of  us  plays 
our  part  in 
campaigning  for  this 
referendum  and  securing 
a resounding YES vote,” he says. Qantas is adding a RECOGNISE
logo to all its 31 Q400 aircraft flying within Australia and to PNG.
Global Glamazons
Buy the world on a ‘glamcation,’ a luxe jaunt for ladies
who shop. The girls-only trips are tailored for women over 30 and include
preening beauty sessions, insider info on the best fashion boutiques and
red-carpet entrances into A-list events fashion and sporting events, from the
races in Hong Kong to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and Broadway shows. The
tours are also timed to hit the sales, including New York’s Black Friday sales and private shopping events at Hong
Kong’s Lane Crawford
Led by self-confessed bagaholic, perfume tragic and organisational queen
Justine Weller, the very first glamcation, Tropics Shopaholics Honolulu, gets
underway in September 7-15, $4299, followed by Fully Loaded Hong Kong (October
5-12, $3995) and Glam Apple New York (November 22-30, $4499). Excludes
airfares. Phone 0414 753 767, see glamaramagetaways.com.


Apple of your eye
Plan a three-day active family getaway in Tassie in two
of the island’s iconic destinations, Cradle Mountain and Freycinet Peninsula.
Tasmanian Expeditions’ two new family trips are run in the school holidays, both
departing from Launceston. The Freycinet adventure includes three days’ easy
coastal walking around the officially beautiful Wineglass Bay, whereas the more
challenging Cradle Mountain journey sees you touch highs and lows, up to the
mountain’s summit and underground in Mole Creek Karst National Park. Accommodation
is in multi-share cabins, with savings for bigger families and includes
professional walking guides, park permits, packed lunches and hot dinners for
hungry hikers. Costs $1095 for adults, $895 for kids under 16. Phone 1300 666 856,
see tasmanianexpeditions.com.au.
Carry on
Oh, the places you’ll go, with these travel accessories
from Kikki-k. Its new ‘Adventure Awaits’ range includes leather passport
holders, cosmetics bags and onboard bags that manage cables,
paperwork and tablets, all neatly packed away. Printed with the cheeky line,
‘I’m ok, carry on’ the sturdy clear plastic ziplock bags – ideal for carry-on
liquids – might even get a smile out of the Customs crew. The pink and navy
range has just hit the shelves. Canvas luggage tag, $12.95. Canvas onboard bag,
$34.95. Plastic pouches (2 pack), $9.95. Call (03) 9645 6346, see kikki-k.com.
Destination known
Squint no more for directions, Navman’s newest GPS is
easy on the eye, with a seven-inch screen and free lifetime map updates. The new
EZY GPS is Bluetooth handsfree, lists blackspots and landmarks including service stations and has logbook capabilities, helpful for tax
calculations. It also lets you search by keyword, rather than requiring an
exact address and is pre-loaded with Australian and New Zealand maps. European
maps can be bought outright or rented for 30 days from $25. The EZY270LMT GPS
costs $279. Phone 1300 628 626, see navman.com.au.
Indian giver
Follow celebrated chef Christine Manfield through central
and west India for a cultural and epicurian feast: admire Rajisthan’s Kumbhalgarh
fort and the ruined city of Mandu in Madhya
, eat street food in Ahmedabad or taste a menu specially designed by
Christine and and the chefs of Mumbai’s top restaurants. The 15-day luxury journey
includes leopard spotting in Jawai and shopping textiles made by women
in charitable trusts. Manfield has had a love affair with India for more than 20 years and this is her eighth tour of India with Epicurious Travel. There are 10 places on
the tour, which runs February 2-17, 2015. Costs US$15,980 ($17,200) a person.  Phone (03) 9486 5409, see epicurioustravel.com.au.
Blobbing in Fiji
Blobbing out just got a whole lot more active with the
arrival of the Water Blob, a new rocket-shaped 
floater on Fiji’s Sigatoka River. Slip on a life jacket and blast into
the river, bouncing off the giant Blob. It’s the brainchild of Australian Jay
Whyte, owner of the Sigatoka River jet boat and village safari, who says the
Blob is a way to fly and play in the Fijian way. A three-hour Blob session
costs F$59 a person (over 10 years). See waterblobfiji.com.

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

Sheraton Kuta Bali review: Calm amid the chaos

Child’s play: the hotel’s infinity pool at sunset.

Kuta is known for its traffic, its touts and its tattoos, but
as Belinda Jackson finds, there are pockets where families can chill

Arrayed in white linen, the Italian hotel manager glides
between tables, chatting while the DJ eases us into the evening with a
loungy beat.

A photographer snaps the poolside model, garnished in jewels
and tiny bikini, and staff watch on as small children splash in the
toddlers’ pool, which is awash with a coloured light display.

We’re in Kuta. Yes, Kuta. The much-maligned Balinese home of tie-dye
T-shirts, cornrow braids and misspelt tattoos. But stay with me. The
Sheraton Kuta Bali is a little haven amid the insane traffic and moped
touts, right across the road from the iconic Kuta Beach.

Nanny and charge during Sunday brunch. Photo: Belinda Jackson

The open-air foyer is capped by a massive faux grass-weave
roof and looks over the ocean. Each of the 203 rooms, suites and the
penthouse has a balcony, with 64 rooms interconnecting and kitted out
for travelling families.

Now two years old, the hotel is still in a state of evolution
that defies its location, from the handpainted plates of its Bene
rooftop Italian trattoria to the low-key Sunday sunset pool parties and
newest addition, the kids’ club.

I’m a novice at this kids’ club thing. In the past, I’ve used nannies
with Small Girl, timing it with her naps to slip out for a few hours of
grown-up time. There have been good times, there have been tears.

“We decided to open a kids’ club because we were hit with a
massive number of families last holidays,” says the hotel’s general
manager and father-of-three, Dario Orsini. “Parents are travelling with
kids much earlier than they used to. And we just didn’t expect people
would bring their kids to Kuta.”

The sparkling new Play@Sheraton Kids Club opens with a pretty
dance by a local Balinese ballet class, and we admire the unblemished
sand pit, slides and the paddling pool outside. Inside, the little
dancing girls all leap onto the computers to play a pink, fluffy game,
the boys tear up to the mezzanine level to bond with the PlayStation 3.
My child, through some genetic programming glitch, merely stands in
front of a three-storey doll’s house, gasping in shock and awe.

In a clever piece of marketing, the kids’ club is free to
hotel guests but also to anyone spending more than $35 in the hotel’s
Shine spa. See what they did there?

Indonesian desserts. Photo: Belinda Jackson

With my new freedom, I take the hotel’s advice and, an hour
later, erupt from the hotel’s spa with all nails newly painted an
extremely perky orange called “A Roll in the Hague” . It is a test
drive, it is a revelation.

General manager Dario’s three beautiful children have been
instrumental in the hotel’s many kid-friendly initiatives, including the
kids’ buffet. One section of the restaurant is set with low children’s
tables, unbreakable crockery, plastic cups and pint-sized cutlery beside
the kids’ buffet, where they can pick up their own breakfast cereal,
noodles, a pastry or the cutest little ducklings made from balls of
mashed potato.

I do mention to the (possibly childless) food and beverage
manager that a little fruit or some cheese could be squeezed between the
chocolate donuts, but Small Child seems perfectly happy with the
selection. In keeping with the local expat tradition for elaborate
Sunday lunches, the main restaurant, Feast, runs a Market Brunch.

What I love best is not the free-pour drinks package
(although that’s pretty good) nor the fact that a nanny whisks your kids
away to the kids’ area to make bracelets and drawings so you can eat,
unencumbered (also exceptionally good). No, I love the strong Indonesian
bias on the buffet.

Yes, you can have your sushi, your curry, your fruit platters
and your dim sum. But there’s also a flame grill on the terrace,
overlooking busy Jalan Pantai Kuta to the beach, where your hand-picked
monster prawn or local whole fish is grilled before your hungry eyes.

At another little trolley, an aged woman makes rujak, the
classic Indonesian salad of papaya, cucumber and sweet potato, tossed in
a salty-sweet, chili palm sugar dressing, and the bebek rica-rica, a
fiery duck curry, is the best I’ve tasted.

The dessert display groans with sweetly coloured ice-creams
and petite fours, sharing the limelight with cantik manis (literally,
“beautiful dessert”), a pink banana and tapioca slice arranged beside
green dadar gulung rolls and klepon, little balls filled with liquid
palm sugar that has my Indonesian colleague reminiscing of her

The next day, I want to experiment to see if that
happy-kids-club thing wasn’t a fluke. Small Child runs toward said club.
Looking good.

I run toward spa. Even better. The masseuse slaving over my
densely knotted shoulders nods knowingly when I mention my young
daughter (“Ah, picking her up all the time,” she diagnoses
sympathetically as she drives a thumb beneath my shoulder blade, making
it stick up like a chicken’s wing. It feels surprisingly good.)

It’s also at this hands-free time that I discover another
hotel secret: walk out the front entrance and you literally walk into
Zara, in the Beachwalk shopping mall, which shares the same block of
real estate. Zara and Top Shop not your thing? OK, head for Armani, the
surfware shops, slick cafes.

If you’re in the market for exceptional local fashion, make a
beeline for Satu, which showcases Bali’s best labels including Natasha
Gan’s floaty dresses, chic, monochromatic pants suits from Uluwatu Lace
and bags by Jakata-based Soe.Hoe.

I also pop in to the beautiful Museum Kain, Bali’s first
cloth (“kain”) museum, well curated with excellent interactive displays
on the history of Indonesian fabric design.

It’s our last day, and Small Girl has spent every waking
minute either talking about or dancing around the kids’ club. I have to
pry her out to check out.

At the reception, the three-year-old drops to the floor and
turns on a spectacular tantrum. People turn to stare, disapprovingly as
her howls echo throughout vast lobby.

“Noooo! I want to go to kids’ club! I don’t want to go home!”

Dario, the general manager, passes us with a small smile: he knows I’ll be back.

The writer was a guest of Sheraton Kuta Bali.


GETTING THERE Fly direct to Bali from Australia with Garuda Indonesia, Virgin Australia or Jetstar. See garuda-indonesia.com; virginaustralia.com; jetstar.com

STAYING THERE The Play@Sheraton family package includes breakfast, kids’
club, a play pack, kid’s manicure, free-flow bottle for juice or milk
and all kids’ meals from $215 a room, a night (two-night minimum) for
two adults and two kids under 12. Sunday’s Market Brunch costs from $25
for adults, $12.50 for children, and is open to non-guests. A Shine Spa
signature massage costs from $37 for an hour. Sheraton Bali Kuta, phone 1800 073 535; see sheratonbalikuta.com


This story by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Travel deals: rock the lobster

Mandarin Oriental Taipei, Taiwan.

Soak up the seafood and sunshine in Perth, shop Seminyak or sip South Australia… there’s not much more alliteration left, so I’ll stop right here to leave you to read this week’s domestic and international travel deals. 

(Sorry, forgot to mention the fabulously chic baby-will-travel bag in this week’s kids’ feature – and not a tacky cartoon character in sight!)

Blow the budget on rock lobster and WA wines when you stay
two nights at Perth’s 3.5-star Alderney on Hay executive apartments. The
“two-bedroom breakfast special” includes a breakfast hamper and DVD
hire in a two-bed apartment until June 28. From $370, two nights. See lastminute.com.au/deals.

Snap up great local fashions and hit the restaurants in
happening Seminyak with a stay-five, pay-four offer at the one, two or
three-bed villas of Villa Kubu, available until August 31. From $320 a
night. See villakubu.com.

Shop for the cellar on a half-price day trip to the Barossa
Valley, then enjoy a room upgrade and late check-out when you stay two
nights at Adelaide’s refurbished Mantra Hindmarsh Square. Book by July
31, travel by October 31, quote “Mantra Winter Special”. From $149 a
night. Phone (08) 8412 3333, see mantra.com.au.

The Fairmont San Francisco, USA.

Stay four nights, pay for three at The Fairmont San Francisco
and use your savings to snap up American labels on stays until
September 4. You’ll also get $108 hotel credit, breakfast, early
check-in, late check-out and a room upgrade. From $622 a night. See virtuoso.com.au.

Set in the spectacular shopping hub of South Yarra, the new
Oaks Pinnacle’s opening “Winter Warmers” offer, with midday checkout,
costs from $139 for a one-bedroom apartment (normally $260 a night).
Minimum two-night stay until September 30. Phone 1300 660 223, see oakshotelsresorts.com.

Shop Taipei for rare teas and hand-thrown ceramics during
your stay at the new Mandarin Oriental, Taipei. Its opening package,
“Stay for More” offers three nights for the price of two until September
7. From $677 for three nights. Phone 1800 123 693, see mandarinoriental.com.

Yuraygir National Park, NSW, Australia


on the soul
The beauty of isolated Yuraygir National Park, on
the Coffs coastline, is on display on a new coastal walk that links the
north-coast towns of Iluka and Coffs Harbour via paperbark swamps, clear
lagoons and wide stretches of beach. The walk, for up to 15 guests, includes
canoeing at Wooli, local oyster tasting and a walk around Muttonbird Island.
The six-day trip departs May 25, 2015. Costs $2195 a person. (03) 9530
8800, auswalk.com.au.


stylishly doesn’t have to go (completely) out the window when you’re towing
babies along. The Budu Baby Bag packs a nappy bag into a chic leather hold-all,
hiding an insulated bottle holder, wipe-down change mat, key or nappy clip and
pram strap. There are zipped compartments for your passport and ebook. Later it
becomes a stylish woman-about-town bag. Designed and owned in Australia, $349.
See budu.com.au.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.  

Vintiquing in Melbourne: best vintage & antique shopping

CoteProvence, 433 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

It may be a 24-hour flight away but Melburnian Belinda Jackson says her home town holds rich rewards for antiques and design lovers holidaying in Australia.

‘Which do you like better, Melbourne or Sydney?’ It’s a question we Melburnians can’t help asking international visitors. Maybe we have second-child syndrome: founded in 1835, Melbourne is nearly 50 years younger than its glossy sibling. but despite Sydney’s glittering harbour and its first-city status, we also know that we have a great deal to rival what it offers. Who needs the harbour when you can walk the pier at St Kilda? Melbourne’s design scene is more exciting and, of
course, the coffee’s better down south. You’ve come a long way – but Australia’s
second-largest city definitely is worth the journey. 


Melbourne is one of the world’s great Art Deco cities,
thanks to a building boom leading up to its centenary in 1934. Many
architecture aficionados rate the Manchester Unity Building their favourite, but
guide and deco expert Robin Grow loves the Century Building
for what he describes as its ‘sleek, unadorned and uncompromising
verticality’(cnr Swanston St & Little Collins St). Join Robin on his Melbourne Art Deco tour, for $49, which takes place every
second Sunday of the month, meltours.com.au/architecture.htm


Undoubtedly one of the city’s most exciting streets for design is Gertrude Street in Fitzroy. It’s only a couple of
blocks long, but packed with great cafes, restaurants and some of
the city’s best vintage shops (see below). Fitzroy’s sister hotspots
include its neighbour, Colllingwood, refined Prahran and the
street-art-spattered lanes and alleyways of the central business district. Forget taking a taxi, make
like a local and zip between these areas on the trams.
A word of advice for the serious hunter: the high-end antique
stores cluster around Armadale’s High Street. Here you will find the Armadale Antique Centre (1147 High St, armadaleantiquecentre.com.au),
the Francophiles at Capocchi (941/951 High St, capocchi.com.au),
the fresh and fun Fenton & Fenton (471
High St, fentonandfenton.com.au) and the master of quirkiness, Graham Geddes Antiques (877 High St, grahamgeddesantiques.com).

Kazari + Ziguzagu,
450 Malvern Rd, Prahran


See what Melbourne’s artist community has to offer at the Rose Street Art & Design market (rosestmarket.com.au) which takes place efvery Saturday and Sunday, or look for vintage reads in the weekly book market
at Federation Square, the city’s love-it-or-hate-it modern architecture statement
(fedsquare.com). You won’t find anything
shiny and new or mass-produced at Camberwell’s enormous Sunday market, but lots of lovely pre-owned and
handcrafted goods (Sundays, 7am-12.30pm). The 135-year-old Queen Victoria Market is an institution selling produce through
the week, before acquiring a gifty edge on weekends (qvm.com.au). Lunch on hot pide (Turkish pizza) from the
delicatessen hall or squeeze in with the hipsters for a caffeine hit at tiny Market
Lane Cafe (109-111 Therry
St, marketlane.com.au).



Design Dispensary, 92 Gertrude St, Fitzroy

It’s said that if three Melburnians are standing
together, an espresso machine will soon turn up. This town has a serious speciality
coffee culture: aficionados hang in hip Proud
ordering cold drip, pourover, syphon and chemex coffees. The ricotta
hotcakes are astonishing and yes, you can get a latte. (172 Oxford St,
Collingwood, proudmarycoffee.com.au) For some New
York love, everyone’s talking about Bowery
to Williamsburg’s
pecan pie (16 Oliver Lane, City) while old
school vibes still resonate at oh-so Italian Pellegrini’s
Espresso Bar
, said to be the first place to pour an espresso in this town and
still rocking its original working-class diner theme (66 Bourke Street, City.


An hour and a half south of the city, you’ll discover our
beloved beach getaway, the Mornington Peninsula. This is the ideal place to enjoy fish and chips
and a paddle at Safety Beach or indulge yourself with a long lunch at Merrick’s General Store (3460
Frankston-Flinders Rd, Merricks, mgwinestore.com.au) or indeed at one of Red Hill’s
many wineries. In Dromana, don’t miss Felix
which appropriately sums itself up as ‘unique, boutique, antique’ (167 Point Nepean Rd,
Dromana, felix.net.au) while Big Chair stocks Australian-made, upcycled
furniture and also pocketable gifts (119 Ocean Beach Rd, Sorrento, and 118 Main
St, Mornington, bigchair.com.au) andhe little town of Tyabb is an antiques and
vintage hub. Check out The Vintage Shed
(thevintageshed.com.au) and the vast Tyabb
Packing House
at 14 Mornington-Tyabb Road (tyabbpackinghouseantiques.com.au) before heading back to the city.


WHERE TO STAY Artist and architect Maggie Fooke has created an
artistic haven at Brooklyn Arts Hotel (48-50 George St, Fitzroy, brooklynartshotel.com.au) which is just off Gertrude Street.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK Enjoy old-world glamour at The Everleigh bar (150-156 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, theeverleigh.com) Euro-cuisine at Moon Under Water
restaurant (211 Gertrude St, Builders’ Arms Hotel, buildersarmshotel.com.au) or modern Australian gastronomy at Saint Crispin’s
(300 Smith St, saintcrispin.com.au).

To find out which are Melbourne’s top eight vintage & antique shops, click here.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was first published in British magazine Homes & Antiques

20 reasons to visit Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo classic: The historic Galle Face Hotel.
Colombo classic: The historic Galle Face Hotel. Photo: Getty Images

Brave the streets of Pettah to pick up everything from
fabrics and fruit to watches and wedding invitations. “It’s utter
chaos,” the locals cheerfully admit. “You can get a suit made in two
hours, though it may last only three.” The streets are crammed with
saris, electronics and ayurvedic medicines, while the fruit and
vegetable market heaves with sacks of outrageously fierce-looking

 It’s easy to forget Colombo is a seaside city when you’re
stuck in a 1pm traffic snarl on the Galle Road. The best way to
reconnect with the Indian Ocean is by making like a local and
promenading on the Galle Face Green. Sundays are a big day for local
families, kite flyers and food trucks serving deep-fried snacks.

Singapore’s famed chilli crabs actually come from Sri Lanka,
so go back to the heart of it all at Ministry of Crab, one of
Australian-Sri Lankan chef Peter Kuruvita’s top picks on the Colombo
dining scene. It may be the priciest place in town, but chef Dharshan
Munidasa’s cooking is worth it (ministryofcrab.com). Crab gets the Tamil
treatment on Sundays in a Jaffna-style crab curry at Yarl (56 Vaverset
Place, Wellawate, Colombo 6) or little sister Yarl Eat House (Cnr Galle
and Station roads, Wellawatte).

Until recently, the Old Dutch Hospital was a crumbling ruin.
Dating from 1677, it’s the oldest building in town and now its long, low
courtyards are Colombo’s new heart. It’s a one-stop shop for clothes
and gifts, spa treatments, chic dining, serious tea drinking at Heladiv
Tea Club or more relaxed pizza and steins of beer at Colombo Fort Cafe.
Come nightfall, it’s a buzzy hotbed of locals and tourists.

Odel is Colombo’s fashion house of choice (5, Alexandra Pl,
Col 7) and KT Brown its designer, with ethnically inspired designs (7
Coniston Place, Col 7, ktbrownstudio.com).
For leaner budgets, Cotton Collection (143 Dharmapala Mw, Col 7) has
fab finds and nearby Kelly Felder (117 Dharmapala Mw) employs only local
designers with new stock every Tuesday. For cool beachwear, check out
the super-colourful Arugam Bay label, in Odel, Barefoot and their
showroom (32 Ward Place, Col 6), which is also home to contemporary
Buddhi Batiks. Grab a tuk-tuk and skip between ’em.

It’s a cafe, an art gallery, a performance space and shop.
Established 40 years ago by Sri Lankan artist, entrepreneur and
philanthropist Barbara Sansoni, its signature style is hand-woven,
hand-dyed yarns made into brightly coloured children’s toys,
free-flowing clothing and fabrics manufactured ethically by women across
the country. Also one of the best places for books on Sri Lanka (704
Galle Road, Colombo 3 and Old Dutch Hospital, barefootceylon.com).

It’s a small country and Sri Lanka has embraced the small,
boutique hotel concept. Lovers of classic interiors head to style guru
Shanth Fernando’s 10-room Tintagel (tintagelcolombo.com) while Casa Colombo is a playful (some would say over-the-top) 12-suite remake of a 200-year-old mansion (casacolombo.com). Park Street Hotel mixes minimalism and antiques (asialeisure.lk) while Lake Lodge’s 13 rooms overlook South Beira Lake (taruhotels.com). Newcomer Colombo Courtyard doesn’t have the design pedigree but it’s small and centrally located (colombocourtyard.com). Because of a government tariff, Colombo hotels aren’t cheap. They also book up quickly, so get in early.

The subcontinent’s traditional ayurvedic medicine morphs into
a sublime spa experience at the Siddhalepa Ayurveda Spa (33 Wijerama
Ma, Col 7, siddhalepa.com) or Spa Ceylon, with its scents of white tuberose, red sandalwood and jasmine (Dutch Hospital, Park Street Mews, spaceylon.com).
A warning: be prepared for days of oily hair or plenty of hair washing
if you’re signing in for Shirodhara, where warm oil is continually
dripped onto your third eye (forehead).

Support local artists with a visit to Colombo’s kala pola
(art market) on Sunday mornings, where affordable artwork is hung around
Viharamahadevi Park (Col 7). If you miss the market, Saskia Fernando
Gallery exhibits Sri Lanka’s top artists (61 Dharmapala Ma, Col 7) or
cool down at artist Harry Pieris’ serene Cinnamon Gardens mansion, the
Sapumal Foundation (34/2 Barnes Place, Col 7). Barefoot and Paradise
Road Gallery and Cafe (2 Alfred House Road, Col 11) show and sell the
country’s greats.

Sri Lanka is most famous for its blue sapphires, as worn by
the British royals. Slip in to premier gem dealer Colombo Jewellery
Stores for a quick education and check out the well-priced men’s watches
while you’re there (1 Alfred House Gardens, Col 3, also Old Dutch
Hospital, Galle Face Hotel, cjs.lk). Ridhi is a good stop for affordable silver jewellery (74 Lauries Road, Col 4, ridhi.lk).

The verandah of the Galle Face Hotel, looking over the Indian
Ocean, is the place to be seen for a sunset cocktail or dinner
aperitif. The grand dame has been swizzling sticks since 1864. Budget
alternatives include the sleepy rooftop bar of the Colombo City Hotel
beside the Dutch Hospital, or join the locals on Galle Face Green with a
bottle of pop.

Go to a cricket match. “There’s no sledging here, it’s just a
big party,” swear the locals. Catch the internationals at the R.
Premadasa Stadium. For more slap of leather on willow, pop in for lunch
and current matches or old classics on the many big screens at the
Aussie-owned Cricket Club Cafe, (34 Queens Road, Col 3, thecricketclubcafeceylon.com).

Taste some of the world’s finest teas at Mlesna Tea Centre
(89 Galle Road, Col 3) or the Australian favourite, Dilmah Tea Shop (5
Alexandra Pl, Col 7). If you can endure the seriously lacklustre service
in the government-owned Sri Lanka Tea Shop, you’ll find a broad range
of teas, from working-class brews to elaborately packaged gifts.

Colombo local Mark Forbes takes you by the hand through the
Portuguese, Dutch and British architecture and influences on Colombo.
Pause for a cuppa, butter cake and harbour views at the Grand Oriental
Hotel, which dates from 1837, before continuing on through the Pettah
markets and into the ramshackle 180-year-old mansion that is the Dutch
Period Museum (colombocitywalks.com).

Colombo’s short eats are a vast collection of pastries with
such fillings as curried chicken, seeni sambol (caramelised onion) and
fabulous fish rolls. Kollupitiya, in Colombo 3, is fertile hunting
ground for short eats cafes: try Perera & Sons’ modern, super-clean
branches (2 Dharmapala Mw), stalwart The Fab (474 Galle Road), Cafe on
the 5th (108 5th Lane) or Sponge, which many rate the top short eatery
in town (347 Galle Road). Hit local fave Green Cabin for hoppers, thin
pancakes made with coconut milk, designed to scoop up curry sauces (453
Galle Road). Don’t expect gushing service.

Resist globalisation and discover unique, locally produced
artisan products: find textural elephant dung paper, ceramics at the
government-owned handicrafts shops Laksala (60 Fort St, Col 1) and
Barefoot’s signature bright woven linens. Sri Lanka’s premier homewares
store, Paradise Road, prints the curvaceous Sinhalese alphabet and
elephant motifs on to household linens in a palette of black and French
beige (213 Dharmapala Mw, Col 7). Find affordable gifts at Casa Serena
(122 Havelock Rd, Col 5) or try Lakpahana (14, Phillip Gunawardena Mw,
(Reid Ave, Col 7), Suriya (39 Layards Rd, Col 5).

Shop for fair-trade toys, ethically produced food and craft
at the kid-friendly Good Market, every Thursday from noon-8pm (Water’s
Edge Park, Battaramulla, thegoodmarket.lk). The Warehouse Project gives
good reason to eat more cake: profits from its Wonderbar soul food and
Cakes for a Cause projects help run community programs for the local
Maradana population. Email for a tour of the watta (shanty community).
See warehouseproject.lk.

Pick a religion, you’ll find an elaborate place of worship in
Colombo: the Buddhist Gangaramaya temple on Beira Lake was designed in
part by the influential architect Geoffrey Bawa. Wolvendaal Church is
the country’s oldest Protestant church, from 1749, while the red and
white striped Jami-Ul-Alfar is open for visitors except during prayer
times. For a hit of intricacy, visit a Hindu kovil: the old and new
Kathiresan Kovils in Pettah were built to appease the war gods. The
Catholic St Lucia’s Cathedral is modelled on St Peter’s Basilica in the
Vatican and the Sambodhi Chaitiya is a shining white dagoba (stupa)
raised so seafarers could see it offshore.

Fort is the heart of Colombo, named for the 17th-century,
Dutch-built ramparts pulled down by the Brits in 1879. Its modern face
is the glitzy World Trade Centre (where you can get a decent coffee) and
the revitalised Old Dutch Hospital. Its British Raj face is undoubtedly
the gothic pink-and-white Cargills Building on York Street, the Old
Parliament building (1930), the old GPO (1891) and the Lighthouse Clock
Tower, built two years before London’s Big Ben, in 1857, now towered
over by skyscrapers.

Dive into the Indian Ocean at Mount Lavinia, half an hour
north of central Colombo. The waters are far cleaner than off the Galle
Face Green and the beach is lined with seafood restaurants. For a taste
of luxury, check into the five-star British colonial Mount Lavinia Hotel
for colonial-style High Tea overlooking the ocean, from 3.30pm daily (mountlaviniahotel.com).

By Belinda Jackson, published in the Sun-Herald newspaper.

It’s just the two of us: mother-daughter travels

There’s a world of ideas for a mother and daughter getaway with it all, writes Belinda Jackson. 

spa, eat, see and do – for mums and daughters, a trip together is a
unique way to celebrate and refresh your relationship without the
demands of kids, work and partners. Mums with teenage girls, snatch that
special time before they disappear into the world alone: perhaps this
is the chance to test the waters before gap years and the prospect of
solo travel raise their heads. After all, who could ask for a better
teacher of essential life skills?

in Italy, what would Audrey Hepburn do?” She’d probably drive to
beautiful little Siena (mental note: pack Pucci scarf and big
sunglasses), climb the top of the Mangia tower before shopping for
handmade Tuscan boots, then refreshing herself with lunch at a trattoria
and a little gelato.

Andrea Powis channels the ultimate diva on a 10-night tour through
Tuscany and down to Rome on a tour made for sisters or mums and
daughters. “It’s effervescent, elegant and timeless,” she says.

are home-cooked dinners at family vineyards and lunches in Renaissance
palaces with Florentine princesses, nights spent in country villas,
palazzos and monasteries, and two days on red Vespas, stopping for
morning cappuccinos in walled towns, with light shopping workouts in
between (non-Vespa divas are chauffeured). The tour ends in Rome, with a
tour of Villa Borghese and a promenade (and possibly more shopping)
along Via Condotti. The 10-night tour departs Florence on June 7, 2014.

Costs from $6699 a person, twin share. Phone 0408 721 569. See travellingdivas.com.au.

Revel in the flash and dash of fashionable Tokyo then soak up the tranquillity of a Shinto shrine in the Japanese countryside.

stays at traditional ryokans and imperial palaces and Buddhist temples
on the list, there is time for peace and reflection on this journey.
But, hey, there’s also fabulous shopping at oh-so beautiful department
stores and Tokyo’s hip strips.

This is a privately guided journey,
making it perfect for mums and daughters to reconnect: in spring for
cherry blossoms, summer with its gentle warmth or among the spectacular
autumn colours.

Departing from Tokyo daily, the nine-night tour includes
a first class on a bullet train from Hakone to Kyoto, a tea ceremony in
a private home, Michelin-starred restaurants and local izakayas and the
chance to emulate some of Japan’s best-dressed women in a kimono and

Costs from $11,185 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 851 800, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

Shopping is bonding, says Karen Parker O’Brien, who leads private shopping tours of New York City.
a mother-and-daughter day out, you’re bonding as best friends who care
about what the other thinks,” says the former fashion buyer, who will
take you into private showrooms and studios.
Her top shop is the homewares “museum” ABC Carpet & Home, on Broadway. “It’s a magical store.”
champagne and gourmet snacking, expect retail highs in designers’ NYC
showrooms, expect up to 80 per cent off in the wholesale haunts. A
private four-hour VIP walking tour costs from US$400 for four people,
limo tours from US$500. See karen@styleroom.com, styleroom.com.

is proof that daily life can and should be lived exuberantly, says art
historian, chef and guide Marieke Brugman. Celebrated culinary guide
Marieke’s nine-day tour through northern Spain starts in soulful
Barcelona before venturing north to Bilbao, Navarra and La Rioja.

mediaeval fishing harbours that spawned navigators and fashion
designers. Dine at a coveted chef’s table in the three-Michelin-star
Arzak, rated eighth in the world by San Pellegrino.
pintxos, sleep in mansions and learn kitchen secrets from northern
Spain’s masters. Marieke may even lead you into the whiskey bars of San
Sebastian or into tavernas run by elegant septuagenarian ladies.

especially of a more mature age, are not invisible in Spain,” says
Marieke. “To the contrary, they’re celebrated.” Departs September 26,
2014. Costs $10,000, phone 0419 580 381, see mariekesartofliving.com.

Crown Metropol’s sky-high pool, Melbourne.

better way to repay your mum for the sleepless nights, the endless
dishes and a lifetime of caring than to check her in for two days of
water therapy … we’re talking rituals using Aveda products,
stress-busting massages, a soothing facial and exclusive spa access at
Melbourne’s sky-high Crown Metropol. Level 27 is home to Crown’s lush
Isika spa, expansive views of Melbourne’s skyline as well as that
amazing pool, the one where Offspring’s lovely Patrick farewelled
television’s most glamorous mum-to-be, Nina.

The revive package
also includes one night’s accommodation in an Isika spa suite, breakfast
at the sky-high private guest lounge, 28, lunch and dinner at Mr Hive
and stress-free valet parking.
For total relaxation, book midweek
to avoid the weekend hustle. Costs from $880 a person or $1485 for two,
twin share. Phone 1800 056 662, see isikaspa.com.au.


the Hunter Valley is an easy getaway, with healthy cuisine, meditation,
morning tai chi and motivational speakers. Save 15 per cent on a
two-night weekend stay until December 20. From $940 a person, two
nights. 1800 212 011, goldendoor.com.au.

in dinner and a show, with Agatha Christie’s A Murder Announced, with
an overnight stay in Mantra 2 Bond Street, Sydney, from $500 a night
(until October 27) or in Melbourne, staying at Mantra on the Park, from
$472 (from October 30 to December 4). 1300 987 604, mantra.com.au.

the soul with a gentle bushwalk in the Southern Highlands and a stay at
the no-gadget Solar Springs Health Retreat, from $255 a person, twin
share. (02) 4883 6027, solarsprings.com.au.

Written by Belinda Jackson, published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

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