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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Pyramid selling: Cairo returns to the sun

This year is a bumper year for Egypt and for travel in Cairo – it’s the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb by Egyptology Howard Carter. It’s also the 200th year of the cracking of the code on the Rosetta Stone, which led us to understand Ancient Egypt’s hieroglyphics. It’s the year that Cairo’s Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) was supposed to have opened – though there is a hint that it will open partially this year, just because 2022 is such a big news year, and because we’ve all been waiting for this museum for more than eight years.

The last surprising “Wonder of the AncienPyramid Selling: travel in Cairot World”. The liveliest of lively street cultures. Fabulous and affordable historic, luxury hotels. A familiar golden backstory prominent in school curriculums around the globe. Cairo, Egypt’s chaotic but captivating capital, is the megalopolis that seems to have it all.

This city, like a colossal bowerbird, has spent millennia sequestering new treasures left in the wake of a parade of invaders from Persia to Macedonia, Assyria to Rome, more recently France and Britain, the last colonial power, to be dispatched in 1956.

Yet for reasons I can never understand, Cairo is given short shrift on travellers’ itineraries, with just a day often allocated on either side of a Nile cruise, or worse, a half day on the way to the airport. The markets! The food! The architecture! The crazy, rushing, structured chaos in which this city survives and thrives. It is one of the world’s biggest cities, it’s inexplicable in its workings, yet it continues to work – in a fashion – to be simultaneously a major Middle Eastern hub and one of the most important cities in Africa.

Summing up more than a decade of ramblings around Cairo, and looking ahead to what’s new in the city, I wrote this story for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller section, titled Pyramid Selling. Click here to read my story.

I hope you enjoy, and let me know what you love – or don’t enjoy – about Cairo.

 


The dish we missed: chefs name their most delicious travel memories

After two years of lockdown here in Australia, where we couldn’t leave our country, what’s the dish you missed the most? I chatted to 10 of Sydney and Melbourne’s top chefs about those delicious travel memories they hold dear, and where they’re heading when they’re back on a plane this year.

I reckon I’m booking a ticket to Spain to take Brigitte Hafner’s recommendation for slow-cooked lamb in Rioja. Or maybe I need to go back to Turkey for Iskander kebab, which Paul Farag reminded me of. Or snapper cerviche on a beach in Lima, Peru.

If you’re not heading overseas, chefs including Shannon Martinez, Christine Manfield and Scott Pickett also shared some favourite dishes closer to home, within Australia, from dumplings at Supernormal in Melbourne to arkhe in Adelaide, for the Parfait Tartlet a la Burnt Ends.

Click here to read the story, published in the Traveller section of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.

 


Podcast: travelling in the Middle East

Recently, I went to Saudi Arabia for a holiday. Is that a weird thing to say?

Travelling in the Middle East is a guaranteed dinner party starter: travellers either love it or swear they’ll never set foot in any of its countries – from Egypt to the United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia to Qatar.

I love the architecture, the languages, the desert landscapes and the blue waters that fringe the Arabian peninsula. I guess that’s why I keep returning.

I chatted to host Ben Groundwater, with Lisa Pagotto, founder of the awesomely adventurous travel company Crooked Compass on the Flights of Fancy podcast to tease out travel in this most misunderstood of regions.

Click here to listen to the full podcast. Go on, you know you want to!

 


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!


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


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