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… 



Open-air drama in Melbourne’s skies

ONE of my pet hates is staying in hotel rooms where you can’t open the windows. I understand, in extreme circumstances, that annoying hotel guests might muck up the aircon, say, in a Dubai summer or a Helsinki winter. But in balmy Australia?

Ok, so ‘balmy’ might be pushing it in autumnal Melbourne at the mo, but it was deliciously sunny the days I visited the Langham Hotel, on Southbank. To read more about the hotel and its new terrace rooms, click here.

Kyneton: Cool Piper calls the tune

Prunella’s florist on Kyneton’s Piper St.

Cafes and galleries open at a rate of knots, yet there’s still a tractor shop in Kyneton’s hip main drag. How groovy can one town get? 

IT’S a windy, rainy night, yet one street in this wee country town is buzzing with a crowd sipping sparkling wine and snacking while making dinner plans. Obviously country Victoria has changed since I last stuck my foot past Melbourne’s city limits sign.

To read more, click here

Liquid diet only at Ponyfish Island

Ponyfish Island – this pic should help you find it!

In my continued (and futile) quest to stay with the pack on new Melbourne café openings, I finally got to Ponyfish Island.

The signs were good: a sunny day, the Yarra River flowing brownly past, my café companion, GG, found the place under his own steam. This is no mean feat. Try describing where Ponyfish Island is: it’s on a pylon supporting one of the footbridges that runs across the river between Flinders St Station and Southbank.

Yeah, easy.

Anyway, Ponyfish Island has actually been around for a while, but despite its amazing location in the middle of the river, it just hadn’t taken off. New owners and a liquor licence have fixed all that, and last Thursday afternoon, the place was heaving. Literally heaving, with good music and happy punters enjoying an after-work jam jar of wine (tres egalitarian, what, serving wine in a jam jar).

We’d planned to hit the island for lunch, so popped in on Friday, scoring a table by the water at 12.30pm. We ordered: GG had the gnocchi and I went simplistic with a toasted sandwich with spinach, cheese and tomato. We had plenty to talk about but when a youth wandered past with gnocchi and sandwich, we hailed him over.

No, this can’t be your order. You haven’t been waiting long enough, he told us.

Fifteen minutes for a toastie isn’t long enough? I asked.

Not in this place, he said with a little laugh, oblivious to the two journalists committing his nonchalance to memory for future blogging.

It turned out it was our order. Reader, before we ate, we played ‘spot the spinach’ (I won, espying two tiny, wilted leaves tucked in one corner of the no-name white bread offering) and GG’s gnocchi was cold.

The day was sunny, the conversation good, the food queue was long; we gave up and ate.

It may have been a fool’s errand but we also ordered coffee. I placed the order at the counter and then asked, will it be long, as we’ve got to get back to work. The barista heard us and grinned. I’m all over it, he told me. Nevertheless, ignore all the other orders and make ours first, I suggested blithely.

Two seconds later, he appeared with my flat white and GG’s double piccolo, both beautifully executed in delicious Niccolo coffee.

The moral of the story: put nothing solid, I repeat, nothing solid, in your mouth on Ponyfish Island, and treat it like the beautifully ambient bar that it is.

Open 8am till 1am.

Greetings from the world’s second-most livable city

We Melburnians were disgruntled on Facebook this morning: 11 degrees and raining…in February, our summer. If we’d read the newspapers before the weather report, we should have been happier, as Melbourne has been voted the second most livable city in the world, after the perpetual chart-topper, Canada’s Vancouver which, incidentally, was today experiencing temperatures of just one degrees, and rain .

I like Vancouver: the food is amazing, the scenery beautiful, snowfields and ocean close by. But if I had to choose between the two, I’d still choose Melbourne. It’s those extra 10 degrees. In Vancouver, joggers wear full bodysuits and having been there in December, I can tell you that Melbourne does not have snow drifts like Vancouver has snow drifts.

In the comments following this story in the Sydney Morning Herald, I note that no Sydneysider was begrudging Melbourne its position – Sydney was down in 7th place, just above two more Australian cities, lonely Perth and suburban Adelaide, in tied eighth place. That makes four of the top 10 cities as Aussie hotspots. In fact, most Sydneysiders were laughing at the idea that Sydney’s such a great place to live, quoting bad health and transport systems and outrageous costs of living: true, true and true. Those blissful beaches give a lot back to the city.

It could be worse, Sydneysiders. You could be living in one of the bottom 10: say Harare, Dhaka or perhaps  Port Moresby. Poor Tehran, there it is as the eighth-worst city in the world, when it actually has good food, shopping and marvellous scenery nearby.

If you’re interested in the full story of the world’s most livable cities, click here to read the Sydney Morning Herald’s take on it all.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s top and bottom 10 cities of the world:
1. Vancouver, Canada
2. Melbourne, Australia
3. Vienna, Austria
4. Toronto, Canada
5. Calgary, Canada
6. Helsinki, Finland
7. Sydney, Australia
8. (equal) Perth, Australia
8. (equal) Adelaide, Australia
10. Auckland, New Zealand
The bottom 10 cities were:
1. Harare, Zimbabwe (worst)
2. Dhaka , Bangladesh
3. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
4. Lagos, Nigeria
5. Algiers , Algeria
6. Karachi, Pakistan
7. Douala, Cameroon
8. Tehran, Iran
9. Dakar, Senegal
10. Colombo, Sri Lanka

Tagging, bombing, paste-ups, can control… street art in Melbourne

Pic credit: Metro Gallery

If you thought that all that graffiti along the train lines was just kids wasting time, being destructive, you are just soooooo last century. This is art, baby, art.

Well, that’s the point of view if you’re a street artist/graffiti artist/urban artist – whatever you want to call yourself.

“Those kids tagging (leaving their signatures along the train lines) are creating their identity, and they’re learning such skills as can control,” one street artist told me recently. So tagging’s the street artist’s equivalent of the schoolkid’s ‘Goz woz ‘ere’ engraving on trees and desks, I guess.

Excitingly, Melbourne is currently hosting the only Australian exhibition of US street art poster girl Swoon (yes, they all have nicknames, as the same guy told me, who wants to sign themselves ‘John’? Mind you, with a real name of Caledonia Dance Curry, she’s got plenty to work with here.)

Swoon has been doing paste-ups in the US for the past decade – that’s where she’ll draw or block print something on paper and stick it up on a public wall, as opposed to getting out there with the aerosol cans. Her work is lyrical, feminine and very beautiful. In the gallery setting, it was sprinkled with gold and layered with stencils and paper collages. Much of the work was already sold before the exhibition opened, with the gallery’s minions hopefully wielding red spot stickers. And to prove there’s money in art, the most expensive piece (at the time unsold) was priced at $25,500.

She turned up in jeans, sneakers and a white painted singlet with a bumbag (yes, really), while Jeff Kennett, who I accidentally banged into, looked positively unhip in his suit with a floral-clad wife in tow.
Get in quick, the exhibition runs till just 3 March at Metro Gallery, 1214 High St, Armadale.

And if you’d like to see more Melbourne street art, click here for a pix from a walking tour I did recently through the CBD’s laneways.  

Hot pants, chilled bourbon and an absence of ladyboys

Worth the drama of getting here…
Bizarre sights on my recent Melbourne to Noosa (Qld) flight: 
The couple opposite who have brought stubbie coolers on board with them to keep cold the Jim Beam & Coke they’ve ordered from the hostesses. Obviously seasoned Queenslanders. 
The non-Japanese girl in denim hotpants, white knee-high socks and thongs. An over-enthusiastic exchange student?
And why the rush to the loo the moment the seat-belt sign is off? The flight was delayed 45 minutes – surely you’d address this while cooped up in the aircon-dripping extension at Melbourne Airport?
If only Jetstar took a leaf out of the instruction manual of a new Thai airline, which has hired six transsexuals as flight attendants in “’what they felt is an effort to promote an equal opportunity agenda for what they consider the ‘third sex’”, reports eTN travel news.

Fashion not the passion at the Aus Open

Gilles Simon’s flapping lime-green shorts.

January has to be the best month to visit Melbourne. Quite often, the sun is shining, birds are singing. There’s cricket at the MCG, photography exhibitions along the river’s edge, and, more importantly, The Tennis is on.

The Australian Open is the kick-off for a year of international tennis, and the streets are full of fans in various stages of sunburn, clad in sports paraphernalia and body paint, especially if you spot a herd of Croat guys, shirts off and bodies covered in elaborate red, white and blue heraldic flags.

The fashion is on the field, as well. Long black socks, pulled up to the knees (in 40-degree heat), are a definite statement at this year’s tennis, the Williams sisters’ outfits always are under heavy scrutiny, and it was a bit of a shock when French player Gilles Simon strutted his seemingly fragile little legs, clad in apple-green floppy shorts and shoes whose reflectors glittered and flashed as he dashed across the court, losing by the slimmest margin to Roger Federer the other night.

  Riveting sports TV: Czech republic’s Barbora Zahlavova
Strycova has a drink…

The fashion doesn’t always inspire passion: my heart went out to the ballkids (who fetch towels and balls for the gods of world tennis). WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CLOTHES? The poor kids. They run, jump, slide and watch attentively, and their reward? To be clad in the nastiest bile yellow, teamed with shorts in a soft 80s grey, which does nothing for anybody. Add to this the bright blue centre court and the TV lighting, which turns white skin tones to a muted canary yellow, and it’s a visual dog’s bowl out there.

Bright ballboys.

Thank god the tennis was so good (though seeing the perpetually sullen Australian child-woman Jelena Dokic defeated once again by a unseeded, thigh-strapped and strapping Czech, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, made no-one happy).

In the subsequent men’s singles match, the crowd called out between points: ‘Allez Simon!’ or ‘G’arn Fedo!’ (Federer has a loyal Australian following), as the crowd munched on $6 bags of Maltesers to keep its strength up during the five hours of tennis.

The ever-dapper Federer changed his shirt twice during the five sets of tennis, whipping it off quickly and discreetly. The ever-watching cameras and crowd were always ready, wolf-whistles ringing out across the stadium whenever they spotted a glimpse of flesh. Well, it’s not every day you get to whistle a man who has earned $61 million in tennis alone (not counting, of course, his lucrative advertising gains). 

The recipe for world peace? Choux pastry and mangoes

“Hip Brisbane?” said a friend who’d grown up in Brissy in the 60s. “Visit first, then try to convince me.”

If she’d spend just a couple of hours with me this morning, she may have started to relent. The hotel, Spicer’s Balfour, is a nine-room Queenslander (painted weatherboard with wide verandas, a rooftop bar and open-air reception) in New Farm with views across to the Story Bridge and into the back yards of the neighbours, which I love. To paraphrase George Negus, I’m a suburban perv.

Yesterday, I ate lunch at a nearby cafe, the Little Larder, then found I’d left my wallet behind. “No worries,” said the sparky girl serving me. “Just pop in tomorrow!” So I did, and at 8am, the cafe, on a relatively quiet street, was full with a happy buzz of Wednesday morning breakfasters. Who breakfasts out on a Wednesday morning? Brisbanites, it would appear.

And then I swung past Chouquette, which has been turning out the butteriest, Frenchest pastries since before it opened at 6.30 this morning. The smell, people, is a scent to inspire you to write poetry, solve cryptics and create world peace.

Just $1.50 bought me a little bag of chouquettes, sweet little balls of cream puff, rolled in pearl sugar, for a crunch in the mouth. My snack bag of dried fruits has been slung into the dark recesses of my suitcase. Again, this cafe had a scattering of regular patrons sipping milky coffee and buying fresh olive batons – so lucky to have such a gem in their neighbourhood.

The mood in these little streets is relaxed, the scent is of gardenias, jasmine and freshly baked bread, the spring temps are perfect. If ‘hip’ meant feeling angst, wearing black and not eating fresh mango for breakfast, then give hip the heave. I’ll take New Farm (not New York).

The great outdoors

An escarpment in the Kimberley.
Photo: Belle Jackson

Is it, like, circuitous meeja navel-gazing when media commentators start blogging on other media, only for other bloggers then to blog them? Praps, but if you’re not in the loop re: all things glossy magazinesque, we’re talking about the fact the buffest little gardener, our own Jamie Durie, has finally launched his own magazine.

Yes, the man muscle who made the Chippendales (not to be confused with the Chipmunks) a household name, who is Friend of Oprah and Australia’s authority on paving and water-free gardens, now comes to you via The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie, the magazine, which hit newsstands last week.

Publish Post

Ok, so I’m going to ‘fess up to having a vested interest, having written for the which is why I’m going to post you a review of the mag that appeared on the funkiest little blog around, Girl with a Satchel. The only bit you need to know is the super-slim reference to Kimberley escarpment photographs (Here’s one). Thank you, GWAS 🙂

A country drive: Kyneton exposed

It’s a town where the espresso consumption equates the population of 4300 people: surely 4300 espressos, macciatos, afogatos, cappucinos and lattes were dished up this weekend in Australia’s most happing country town, Kyneton.

How groovy can one town be? The answer is: impossibly so. Cafes and galleries open at a rate of knots, yet there’s still a tractor shop in the middle of the hip Piper Street strip. Gothic florists, truffle degustation dinners, lazy Sunday organic breakfast scenes and hideaway of celebrated chefs, designers, musicians and writers…amazing stuff.

There are two sides to the town: the High Street, where the burger shop is doing one with the lot and a can of coke for $8, Videoworld (for your viewing pleasure) and Best & Less is hidden out the back. At first sight, it appears there are more vets than doctors, but there’s a hospital there too.

The other side is chic Pipers St, home of all those pumping cafes, pinot dinners and food from the Middle East, continental Europe, India and beyond. I would like to have shown you a photo, but it was bucketing down rain all weekend.

Every town has its own dark secret, and residents were more than happy to pull up a chair at a wooden table, put the tea pot down … and spill. The broken hearts, street rivalry, the spooky-sounding Exclusive Brethren who appear to own the furniture shops stuffed with blue micro-fibre sofas and whose website spends much energy defending bad TV coverage.

Food, fury and fiefdoms…love it…

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