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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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.


Ten great car-free towns: from Hoi An to Hydra

Is there nothing better than a car-free town? I’m thinking those little hilltop towns dotted through Italy, the ancient marketplaces of the Middle East, the pedestrian zones of the otherwise honking, fume-laden roads of South America’s great cities.

My top 10 list includes such greats as Jerusalem’s Old City, the Princes Islands off Istanbul and beautiful Hydra, one of the Saronic islands in the Greek archipelago, which holds a special place in my heart for its donkeys and vast, opportunistic orange cat population. There’s also lovely Hoi An, Vietnam’s town of tailors and, of course, the most famous of them all, La Serenissima, aka Venice.

You can click here to read my list, published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section.

Just after it ran, I received an email from a reader telling me that Medina Malta should have made the top 10. Overlooking the fact he had an iconic Maltese surname, he’s definitely got a point – the so-called Silent City, which has been inhabited since 8th-century BC, was another beautiful film location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and a worthy contender.  Do you have any suggestions?


Winter in the deep north: Oulanka National Park, Finland

“What’s your favourite place in the world?” is a question often asked of travel writers. For a decade or so, the former USSR country Georgia was top of the list for its beautiful mountains, fabulous food and warm welcome, along with perennial favourite Morocco, and I wouldn’t have lived in Egypt and returned each year if I didn’t love it.

However, a latecomer is Finland. I’ve long been curious about the country, and finally, after many visits to neighbouring Sweden (and, to be honest, hearing all their mean-girl jokes about Helsinki), I took the plunge and visited, mid-winter. This time, I had my then eight-year-old in tow and through UK travel company Exodus Travels, experienced a Finnish Christmas way off the grid in Oulanka National Park, about 800km north of the capital, on the Finnish-Russian border.

‘Remote’ is one way to put it. Beautiful, serene, fairy-like and perfect are some other words easily applied to our week spent in log cabins in the national park, where we cross-country skied, sledged, snowshoed and, crazily, someone threw a pair of reins in my hand and sent me off into the snowy wilderness with brace of huskies.

I wrote the story up for Holidays with Kids, just before this whole pandemic became a thing, and I’m so proud to share it with you.

Click here to take a look at the full story and the current edition of Holidays with Kids.

Winter in the deep north, Holiday with Kids.


Egypt; The four unmissable sites of Cairo

With pyramids and gold pharaohs, towering temples and cursed tombs, it’s no wonder Egypt’s been on the tourist trail for the last 4500 years.

One of the stories in the inaugural issue of  Arrived, a new quarterly magazine by the family-owned The Travel Corporation, is about the upcoming, loooong-awaited opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). To complement it, I’ve listed a few more unmissable sights in Egypt including Coptic Cairo, with sites dating from the birth of Christ.

Built over Roman ruins, the Hanging Church (pictured above) is one of the earliest of Cairo’s churches, and definitely its most visited. But don’t bypass the nearby cave where the Holy Family sheltered from the wrath of Herod, which to my mind is far more atmospheric, hidden as it is beneath the Church of St Sergius and Bacchus. Last time I was there, there was talk that the cave was closed to visitors, but we mingled in with a government group to once again breathe the damp, sacred air in this subterranean cave. Walking through the chaotic laneways of Coptic Cairo really is the most extraordinary experience, don’t miss it.


Driving the Snowy Valleys Way, Australia

Stop the clock, skip the highways and take the slow road through forested vales, rolling farmlands and vibrant villages. It’s time to linger longer.

I’m pleased to show you the new website for the Snowy Valleys Way, a driving route through the foothills of the Australian Alps, from Gundagai in NSW heading south through the western foothills of the Snowy Mountains to Beechworth in Victoria’s High Country.

Writing this website was a way to escape the confines of Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown, where I could travel to wild swimming holes and historic streets, stay in a stone farm cottage or a stylish highway inn. In my mind, I revisited farmgates and markets, walked apple orchards and visited century-old museums.

Hopefully, the website inspires you to visit these gentle landscapes, on the NSW-Victorian border, not just in your mind, but in your car, on foot, by bicycle or perhaps on horseback.

Click here to visit the new Snowy Valleys Way website.


Luxury lounging on the mighty Murray River, South Australia

‘Silver linings’ is a phrase that’s getting a good airing during this pandemic, and the silver lining for the travel industry is our eagerness to explore our own country. Take, for instance, the multitude of villages and historic towns that line our beautiful Murray River. Renmark is a case in point, with its history of paddleboats and fortified wines (surely a match made in heaven?)

Just outside Renmark, in the village of Paringa, The Frames is a luxury property comprising three completely private suites that all look out onto the slow-moving Murray. Watch the waterway from the spa, on the balcony or, one of the suites, even from bed.

I absolutely recommend a visit to the 23rd Street Distillery for a little libation, and a cruise through the backwaters of the Murray River to spy wallabies and emus, kingfishers and goannas going about life in the riverlands.

To read my review in the Good Weekend magazine, click here.

The Frames

7 Panorama Court, Paringa; (08) 8595 7217; theframesluxuryaccommodation.com.au


The hidden isles: Six of Australia’s lesser-known island adventures

The island theme continues here at GlobalSalsa – which makes sense for us Melburnians, who have just come out of 181 days (give or take) lockdown. Some of us are leaping around on the city beaches, happy to be rubbing oiled shoulders with our neighbours. Others of us are looking for anywhere but here, preferably without the threat of a pandemic. Enter the island holiday.

My latest story for Traveller suggests some lesser-known islands around Australia for holidays. So I pushed the boat out, and went to the Cocos Keeling Islands. Closer to Indonesia than Australia, the Cocos are four-hour flight west of Perth, a few wee scraps of land in the Indian Ocean. Continue left and you’ll eventually hit Mauritius (you’d hit the Maldives if you veered north)

Also in the round-up is a lighthouse stay off the NSW south coast, a tiny triangle of land off Tasmania’s Freycinet coast and the Northern Territory’s contribution, and island in the Windex-blue Arafura Sea.

If you fancy a little escapism, click here to read my low-key island stays.


Budget isles: cheap stays on Australia’s islands

This was going to be my year of the islands. My list included a food festival on Tasmania’s Flinders Island, a visit to another Bass Strait island, King Island, where my grandparents farmed the land after WWII, and  Queensland’s sparkly jewels were also on the list.

My latest story, published this week in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, is in response to a recent story that Australia’s millenials don’t enjoy travelling around their own country because it’s expensive and boring (if you want to delve more deeply into it, have a look here).

Yeah, we’re never going to be another Bali, because we have minimum wages, we try to discourage exploitation of animals etc etc. But you can still camp on Whitehaven Beach, internationally lauded as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches (that’s a debate for another time), for under $40 a night.

From Kangaroo Island in South Australia to Magnetic Island off Townsville on the Queensland coast, here are a few suggestions to get you going. One thing to remember: islands are islands and therefore take a bit more work to get to. But while you’re kayaking through turquoise waters, or flying over a pod of dolphins to get to said island, isn’t the journey as important as the destination?

 

 

 


Virtual wine travels to Orange

Everyone’s suffering through COVID-19, but spare a thought for us travel writers: while we’re not in the league of healthcare heroes or supermarket shelf stackers, clipped wings definitely hurt.

Easing the pain, Destination NSW has been running a fabulously successful quarantini hour, whisking us around the wine regions of New South Wales. It’s been a great way to reconnect with old friends – from Clonakilla in cold-climate Canberra, to the lush wealth of the Hunter Valley, just north of Sydney.

Most recently, I returned – virtually – to Orange in the state’s west, for a refresher on this high-altitude (for Australia, anyway) wine region, and got a masterclass on chardonnay, thanks to winemaker Tom Ward from Swinging Bridge. His 2017 Hill Park Chardonnay was the focus of this quarantini session, alongside the Swift Cuvee NV #7 from Printhie Wines.

If you’re heading that way, take a look at sommelier Louella Matthews’ recommendations for best coffee and croissants, shopping tips and late-night cocktail haunts in Orange. She also shares a few food-pairing suggestions for these two stand-out wines.

To read the full article on Essentials Magazine’s website, click here


State of escape: busting out for the goodness of Gippsland, Australia

Victoria, can you feel the chains falling from your shoulders? We are free! Well, we are almost free.

As of Monday June 1, we can now do sleepovers, which means it’s time to hit the road again and start exploring! I’ve got plans to poke around central Victoria and returning to my old hunting ground in Gippsland – the vast region that covers most of the east of the state.

I and am a huge fan of its pocket-sized villages and their little secrets: gin distillers in century-old buildings, little cafes selling locally made cheeses and smallgoods, a green field garnished with a few luxuriously fitted Bell tents, overlooking the wild seas that separate mainland Australia from Tasmania.

Have I sold you yet?

Hot off the presses, Eat. Drink Gippsland sees food writer Richard Cornish share all his detailed knowledge of the foodie spots in the region (pack an esky in the car boot), you can grab a copy while pootling around, or download it here.

Check out whale trails, truffle hunts, empty beaches and the best views of rolling green hills on Visit Gippsland’s website. It also has some great driving itineraries, for the forward planners out there. we

 

www.lochbrewery.com.au

theinverlochglampingco.com.au

www.moosatmeeniyan.com.au


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