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Showing posts from March, 2019

Calls for boycott of Brunei-owned hotels

What a crazy world it is when Hollywood actors and musicians act as the public conscience and politicians remain silent in the face of outrage.

George Clooney is calling for a boycott of nine luxury hotels with links to Brunei after the country warned that it was to make gay sex and adultery punishable by death.

Clooney, who is married to human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin, said anyone opposing the measures, due to come into force next month, should boycott nine hotels in the Dorchester Group which are owned by the Brunei Investment Agency.

His call has been backed by singer Elton John, comedian Ellen DeGeneres and tennis legend Billie-Jean King among others. 

The hotels are The Dorchester (above) and 45 Park Lane in London, Coworth Park in Ascot, The Beverly Hills Hotel in Hollywood, the Hotel Bel-Air in LA, Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris, the Hotel Eden in Rome and the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan.

He did not mention Royal Brunei Airlines - but it would not be hard for …

Alors! French told to drink less wine

When I lived in France, my GP (once the mistress of President Mitterand, so the gossip went) encouraged my consumption of red wine, assuring me it was good for my health. 

Times change, however, and this week health officials in France have told the nation that it should be drinking no more than two glasses of wine a day, and not everyday, to reduce the risk of alcohol-related diseases.

Santé Publique France said almost a quarter of French adults are regularly drinking too much alcohol, and this level of drinking is killing 41,000 people a year, making it the second-biggest cause of avoidable deaths in the country after smoking, Drinks Business reported.

“It’s about 10.5 million adults who drink too much," said Viet Nguyen-Thanh, head of Santé Publique France. "They drink in proportions that increase the risks to their health, including cancers, high blood pressure, cerebral hemorrhage and cardiovascular diseases.”
In its official guidance, Santé Publique France is advising peop…

Go glamping surrounded by wildlife

If you really, really want to get away from its all then New South Wales bush retreat Turon Gates is an excellent choice. 

Turon Gates has just added six new riverside, self-catering glamping tents on its 6000-acre property at Capertee on the outer edge of the Blue Mountains. 

The new 50sqm tents feature teak and canvas interiors and combine a rustic charm with functionality. 
Furnishings include a sumptuous four-poster bed plus daybed and lounge area, contemporary bathroom (with bath for two), kitchenette with Nespresso coffee machine and a Danish wood burner stove for winter nights.
Expect a welcome gift of local wine and honey, complimentary toiletries, and an in-tent selection of magazines, books and board games. 

All Turon's tents overlook the clear trout stream running through the property, which is dotted with cabins and alive with native wildlife. 
After a three-hour drive from Sydney you will be surrounded by kangaroos, wombats, the odd platypus and echidnas.
Katoomba, Mudgee, B…

Imagine a big night out with no adverse effects

Wouldn’t it be great if a night of drinking didn’t pose a risk to our health and we could wake up the next morning feeling fresh and ready to go?
A new synthetic alcohol that produces all the good effects of booze without out any of the harmful ones may be available within five years.

A company called Alcarelle, founded by British professor David Nutt (above), believes the product will transform the drinks industry.

“Our goal is to develop an alcohol-free adult beverage which imitates the aspects of alcohol that we all want – sociability, relaxation, fun - but without those horrible harmful effects that cause so much damage to our health,” the Alcarelle website says.

Nutt has spent years studying the way alcohol stimulates different receptors in the brain and has discovered that some receptors bind with alcohol to provide the positive effects we enjoy, such as feeling relaxed and sociable; while others combine to bring about negative effects such as headaches, liver damage and hangovers.

Behind the scenes in some of Europe's most intriguing destinations

Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova are three of the least frequented and least well-known countries in Europe.

These three beautiful nations are now opening up to mass tourism and MIR Corporation is offering a taster trip featuring highlights of all three.

Guests will visit an artist in Kiev, share a meal with a family in Chisinau, and take a day trip to the Transdniester region, a narrow strip of Moldovan land where separatists have declared a disputed independence.

Other highlights include visiting the Gallery of Russian and Modern Belarussian Art, touring the Caves Monastery and the Chernobyl Museum, exploring Odessa on the Black Sea Coast, experiencing a private demonstration of egg painting, and sampling Moldova's deep red wines.
Cities in the line-up include Minsk, Brest, Lviv, Kiev, Odessa and Chisinau.

The two-week trip is scheduled for May 19-June 1, 2019, and starts at $7,395 for land content only. For more information, visit

Sorry about the weather; here's a free cruise on us

There really isn't much cruise ships, or airlines for that matter, can do about the weather.

All those of us who saw the horrific TV footage of the Viking Sky in trouble recently - and watched as passengers were rescued by helicopter after the ship's engines failed, must have felt sympathy for those on board.

Now Torstein Hagen, the chairman of Viking Ocean Cruises, has invited passengers involved in the Viking Sky incident, to try another of the company's cruises.

Some 479 of the 915 passengers, many of whom were elderly, were rescued from the ship by helicopter after a wave smashed through the windows of the ship, knocking them off their feet and leaving them soaked and freezing.

The others were still on the Viking Sky (above) when she limped into Molde in Norway, from where the majority have been flown home.

Around 20 passengers were treated in hospital for injuries after the two-week voyage from Tilbury in Essex.
Rather than making excuses, Viking Cruises is going on a …

Another budget airline goes out of business


Another European budget airline has gone out of business, underlining just how important it is that flyers make sure they have proper travel insurance.

Cash-strapped Wow Air earlier this week cancelled flights amid fears for the future of the carrier after a potential rescue deal with rival Icelandair collapsed.

On Thursday came an official announcement: Wow Air has ceased operation. All Wow Air flights have been cancelled. Passengers midway through their trips were told they will need to find alternative ways home.

Wow Air was an Icelandic low-cost carrier operating services between Iceland, Europe and North America. The airline was headquartered in Reykjavík.

Icelandair had reopened talks with Wow after the low-cost carrier lost the support of a potential US financial backer last week, but discussions subsequently stopped.

Wow Air had been given until March 29 to present a rescue plan to its lenders. It had hoped US private equity fund Indigo Partners would stump up $75 million in…

New riverside walkway planned for Tasmania's south

The beautiful Huon River in the deep south of Tasmania is much under-utilised for leisure. 

There are jet boat tours from Huonville, a rowing course at Franklin and the 17-metre wooden ketch Yukon makes occasional tourist sailings from Franklin. 

Now a shared pathway from Huonville to Franklin along the Huon River Foreshore is a priority project for the local Huon Valley Council and could become a tourism drawcard for the Huon Valley.

"The walking, cycling and kayaking trail would make our beautiful river more accessible and could attract a large number of visitors to the area," says Mayor Bec Enders. 

Enders said Council had appointed environment engineering consultancy Pitt and Sherry to carry out a feasibility study into the project. 

“There is a boat on the river surveying the foreshore already trying to work out the best path for the pathway to take,” Enders said. “This could be an exciting development and we are looking forward to seeing what the consultants have to say whe…

Stage a monthly whisky tasting in your own home

Spirits drinkers are more discerning and adventurous than ever before. 

Entrepreneur Joel Hauer is gambling that Australian whisky drinkers are willing to splash out $59 a month to sample three different whiskies delivered to their door free of shipping costs. 

While Australians are drinking less there is a very obvious trend towards quality. 

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports an increase in premium spirit consumption  particularly in relation to whisky, vodka and gin. 

Enter Whisky Loot, aimed at meeting the needs of Australian spirit lovers and their increasingly refined approach. 

Whisky drinkers subscribe for a monthly fee and are provided with an opportunity to taste three different whiskies from premium award-winning distilleries from around the world. 

The concept aims to equip consumers with more knowledge by acting as a alternative method of alcohol discovery. 

Members also have the option to buy full bottles at discounted rates. 

"Whisky distilleries are where the cra…

New hotel for Melbourne's northern suburbs

Mantra Epping, a new-build $80 million hotel development in Melbourne’s booming northern suburbs, is on track to open in May.

Designed by leading architects Peddle Thorp and Bruce Henderson Interiors, the two-wing 214-room hotel will feature a selection of rooms, one-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom interconnecting apartments.

All hotel rooms and one-bedroom apartments feature modern décor, air-conditioning, tea and coffee making facilities, in-room wifi and Foxtel, including iQ Chromecast for a personalised entertainment experience.

The one-bedroom apartments feature kitchen facilities, laundry and private balconies. 
On-site amenities and services include the Trader Café, Restaurant and Bar, Beer Republic brewhouse, state-of-the-art conference and meeting facilities, fully-equipped gymnasium, 24-hour reception and open-air secure car parking.

Mantra Epping general manager Mike Blank said the site has been a hive of activity over the past few months. 
“Once open, Mantra Epping will addre…

Off-season river cruises offer major savings

I love travelling in south-east Asia in what used to be called "wet season' and is now known as "green season". 
There are fewer tourists, prices are lower and the afternoon storms can be wonderfully refreshing.
Now boutique luxury cruise line Aqua Expeditions has announced an off-season offer aboard award-winning Aqua Mekong expedition river cruises on the Mekong in 2019 and 2020, taking travellers on a grand journey of Cambodia and Vietnam on one of the world’s legendary waterways. 
The offer features a 30% discount on regular rates for chosen departures from May 3 to August 13, 2019, and May 1 to August 6, 2020. 
Prices start from $US2,268 for a three-night Discovery Cruise, $US3,024 for a four-night Explorer Cruise and $US5,292 for a seven-night Expedition Cruise. All rates are per person twin-share and all-inclusive.
During the "green season", Cambodia’s and Vietnam’s abundant rice fields turn a rich green colour. 
This occurs when sunshine and blue skies a…

A very chic new place to stay in Tasmania

One of Launceston’s culinary landmarks, the 1830s flour mill that has housed award-winning eatery Stillwater for almost two decades, is now also a mini luxury hotel. 

Farewell to Stillwater's providore and art gallery and hello to Stillwater Seven, which is billed as "a uniquely indulgent accommodation experience". 

The seven striking rooms all have waterfront views and their own style. 
Each room features locally designed and produced furniture, a luxury Tasmanian pantry and even locally sourced toiletries, as well as access to the private guest bar. 
Early in the morning guests are welcome to wander down into the restaurant to chat with the chef and see what is coming out of the oven. 
Stillwater developer and mill owner Rod Ascui said: “This exciting project, two years in the planning and building, has allowed the Mill to become whole again rather than three disparate businesses. 
"It was crying out for this integration and now as a boutique style inn all about the Tas…

Whatever you do, please don't catch our train

Eurostar has advised passengers not to travel from London to Paris unless absolutely necessary, for the rest of the month of March.

The rail company issued a statement saying: "Due to industrial action by French customs, we are experiencing lengthy queues at Paris Gare du Nord station and expect this to continue until the end of March.

"We strongly recommend that you do not travel during this period unless necessary.

"Please, also note that we are unable to offer our priority check-in service."

Passengers have reported queues of up to six hours over recent days and several services a day between Paris and London have been cancelled, the Travel Mole news service reports.

A work-to-rule protest began on March 4 and was originally scheduled to finish on March 20. It has now been extended.

Up to three services a day continue to be cancelled for next week.

Eurostar reminded passengers: "Please be aware that availability is currently limited so your first choice of train …

Lounge access for those on the cheapest of economy fares

Travelling on a cheap economy ticket but left with several hours to kill at Sydney or Melbourne international airports?

International luxury airport lounge brand No.1 Lounges has announced that travellers from Sydney and Melbourne airports without frequent flyer status or lounge access will be able to book access to its flagship brand The House.

A one-off payment, with no membership rules, will ensure lounge access regardless of the airline they are travelling with or class of ticket held.

Starting from $80 person (which is a fair whack, it must be said), the new concept will allow travellers to relax in first-class comfort for up to three hours prior to departure, with the option to buy additional hours online in-advance or during their visit.

The lounges offer a choice of seating areas, airport views, showers, and unlimited wifi, as well as television, newspapers, glossy magazines and charging points as standard.

Guests will enjoy white-linen a la carte dining, a fully tended bar (off…

What the Tasmanian tourism industry doesn't tell you

Tasmania is a hugely popular tourism destination for both domestic and international visitors. 

It has beautiful scenery, a thriving wine and food culture and amazing wilderness experiences.  

But if you want to explore any more of Tasmania than downtown Hobart and Launceston then you'll either need to bring your own vehicle over on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, or rent a car on arrival. 

The bad news is that car rentals can be expensive in Tasmania, as it petrol, and that cars can be in short supply in peak periods. 

But you are quite happy to use public transport, you say. That would be fine, except Tasmania has hardly any public transport infrastructure. 

Trains? No commercial services at all. None. Nada. 

Trams: Not a sausage. Zero. 

Light rail: There have been years of debate about whether to build light rail between the Hobart waterfront and North Hobart. So far, nothing has happened. 

Buses: A few in the two major cities and surrounds, but very few to regional areas or between citi…

Now add tea to Tasmania's list of gourmet beverages

Tasmania is known for its fine cool-climate wines, ciders and artisan spirits.

The Apple Isle is also well known for its apples, berries and cheeses, as well as more recent gourmet additions including avocado, wasabi and saffron.

Tasmania’s innovative producers are finding great success with unexpected crops, now including tea.

In the hills south of Hobart at Allens Rivulet, there’s a sight you would expect to see in Sri Lanka, or Darjeeling – a tea plantation, Brand Tasmania reports.

Not only is it the only tea plantation in Tasmania, but it’s also the most southerly one in the world.

What’s more, Tasmania’s pioneering tea farmers, scientists Jane and Dr Gordon Brown, are convinced there is great potential for tea to join the list of our valuable crops.

“Tasmania is an ideal place to grow tea,” Gordon says. “Currently there is a world shortage of tea and huge demand for the product. So yes, tea could become one of our important crops.”

After water, tea is the most widely consumed drink in…

Marketing goes mad. Meet the Game of Thrones whisky collection

Game of Thrones is an immensely popular fantasy television series. It is not something I have ever watched, or have any interest in watching, but its audience reach obviously makes it a hot branding property. 
Hence, to celebrate the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones, spirits house Diageo and HBO have combined to release the limited-edition Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection in Australia.
The Collection features seven Scotch whiskies paired with six of the iconic Houses of Westeros, as well as the Night’s Watch, giving fans an authentic taste of the Seven Kingdoms.
I have absolutely no idea what that means, but some of you might.
The Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection is joined by the return of White Walker by Johnnie Walker, another limited-edition whisky in celebration of series, inspired by "the most enigmatic and feared characters" onGame of Thrones; the White Walkers.
Diageo says its unparalleled and diverse range of distilleries …

Sorry. Your flight is delayed; the pilot is pie-eyed

Passengers on a recent Air Japan flight were delayed after the pilot failed a pre-flight breathalyser test.

The co-pilot, in his 40s, admitted he had consumed more than 10 cans of beer, two glasses of white wine and a bottle of red wine, although the drinking had ceased before the prescribed 12 hours before a flight under the rules of parent company ANA.

He was due to fly from Tokyo's Haneda airport to Hong Kong but was replaced. His punishment was not revealed.

After a spate of recent incidents of failed breath tests, Japan's ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism had warned airlines to tighten up rules and administer more stringent alcohol tests to pilots, the Travel Mole news website reported.
Several over-the-limit pilots have caused flight delays and damaged Japan's aviation image that included one pilot being jailed in the UK for being nine times over the alcohol limit.

That pilot, Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, 42, failed a breathalyser 50 minutes before he wa…

Imagine flying from Sydney to London for the weekend

Flying from Sydney to London in four hours may sound the stuff of science fiction, but one British tech company believes it may soon be a reality.

The makers of a new hypersonic rocket engine say it could whisk flights from London to Sydney in just a fifth of the time it takes now; travelling at five times the speed of sound.

Such a flight would revolutionise global travel.

The BBC quotes Reaction Engines as saying it is gearing up to test the futuristic craft in Colorado.

The company, which has backing from the Rolls-Royce and Boeing, calls the new rocket engine the Sabre. It inhales air at lower altitudes but works more like a rocket when it gets higher up.

There are several press releases about the project - and dozens of news stories that are far too complex for my little brain to understand. Go to to learn more about the Sabre.

Has Australia fallen out of love with Champagne?

Is Australia's decade-long love affair with Champagne cooling off? 
After volume growth of 134% over the past decade, Australian sales of Champagne fell last year by 1.8% to 8.4 million bottles, according to figures revealed at the annual press conference of the Comité Champagne, which took place at ProWein in Düsseldorf, Germany.

But much of the reduction can be put down, in part, to a less favourable exchange rate. 
Globally, Champagne volumes were also down last year (-1.8% to 301.9 million bottles), with France and the UK, which account for 60% of total sales, responsible for most of the decline. 
Overall exports are on an upward trajectory (+0.6% in volume and +1.8% in revenue) and despite total volume falling, last year’s total turnover for Champagne set a new record of close to €4.9 billion (+0.3% compared with 2017).

Demand is most dynamic beyond the European Union, particularly in markets further afield such as the USA, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 
The Comité, the trade…

Kyoto calls to sports fans

Late least year I had the good fortune to spend some time in Kyoto, the ancient capital and cultural heart of Japan. 

My time in the City of Shrines was fleeting, but I was hugely impressed with the vibrancy of the city and way both new and old had combined. 

The Rugby World Cup 2019 will be held in Japan for the first time and while no matches are planned in Kyoto, the city is still a must-visit, luring travellers with a deep-rooted history and connection with rugby.

Several World Cup games will be played in Kobe City, just a short train ride away.  First introduced by an English educator, Edward Bramwell Clarke, who taught the game to students of Keio University in Tokyo in 1899, rugby quickly gained popularity and, in 1969, the commemorative stone monument, Dai-isshuu-no-chi(“The location of the First Kick”) was donated to Kyoto's Shimogamo-jinja Shrine near the Tadasu-no-mori Forest, where the Kyoto rugby team used to practice. 

Since then, the shrine has become a place of worshi…

Solo seniors get an adventurous travel opportunity

Over 50s are being invited to travel and meet some new friends.

Individual Traveller has announced an exclusive Sri Lanka Solo Tour for men and women 55+ inviting participants to ‘"travel where you’ve never been with friends you’ve never met!".

The fully-escorted 12-night/13-day tour for 50s and over will showcase Sri Lanka and visit Colombo, Sigiriya, Kandy and Galle from September 9-21.

As with all Individual Traveller-operated itineraries, the Sri Lankan tour will focus on providing solo travellers with the opportunity to share their holiday experience with like-minded people in a safe and welcoming environment.

Individual Traveller was created for people who travel on their own for whatever reason.

This particular tour costs $9799 per person including 12 nights in a double room for single use in 4-star quality hotels, breakfast daily, three dinners, English-speaking guides throughout, transfers, all entrance fees, an open hotel bar each night from 5.30-6.30pm each evening …

Brown Brothers releases latest tribute to family matriarch

The flagship Patricia range from Brown Brothers pays tribute to the late family matriarch who died in 2004 - and the 16th release hit the market on Sunday, March 17.

There are four new wines in the release, the Patricia Pinot Noir Chardonnay Brut ($48), the Patricia 2017 Chardonnay ($45), the Patricia 2015 Shiraz ($62) and Patricia 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon ($62). 

The Patricia 2014 Noble Riesling ($37) was released last year and completes the quintet. 

The chardonnay reflects the family-owned company's gradual migration from its Victorian roots to cooler Tasmania, with a blend of fruit from the Tamar Valley and East Coast of the Apple Isle alongside Yarra Valley fruit. 

I though the chardonnay had lovely balance and the length to cellar well in the mid-term, while the cabernet sauvignon is already accessible and has impressive depth. 

"Patricia's commitment to her family and the business was nothing but inspirational and the Patricia range is an expression of our commitment to …

Down-to-earth permaculture dinner at Oakridge

Time is tight for anyone wanting to attend a special permaculture dinner at Oakridge in the Yarra Valley on Saturday, March 30. 
Oakridge Restaurant and Winery in the Yarra Valley will host permaculture experts Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar of Milkwood for a special one-off dinner. 
Oakridge’s co-executive chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone (below) will join the Milkwood team for an event celebrating a joint passion for wild foods, fermentation and farming.
Guests will enjoy a one-off menu crafted from ingredients foraged and sourced locally and grown on the Oakridge estate.

Selected Oakridge wine vintages will be featured, reinforcing the connection of local flavour and the taste of the Yarra Valley. 
During dinner, the Milkwood duo will lead a lively discussion of the evolution of wild foods in Australia, sustainable farming and how we can all find a little piece of wilderness wherever we are.

As self-proclaimed ‘avant gardeners’, Oakridge’s chefs and winemakers have a deep respect for the …

A year of milestones for Leeuwin Estate

This is a year of milestones for the Horgan family, who have built Leeuwin Estate into one of Australia's premium family-owned wine brands. 
It is 50 years since the Horgans acquired the land that is now Leeuwin Estate and it is also the 35th consecutive year that the family has staged the Leeuwin Concert Series in Margaret River.
A lot has happened since the late 1960s, when Denis Horgan, then a Perth-based chartered accountant specialising in mergers and acquisitions, purchased a plumbing business which also held farmland in Margaret River, close to his favourite surf beach. 
He sold the plumbing division but retained the farm, with the property becoming used for family trips south. 
In 1972, Napa Valley legend Robert Mondavi was searching for the next great new world site to produce premium wines. 
Identifying the land that is now the Leeuwin vineyard, he provided early mentorship to Denis and Tricia as they transformed their cattle farm into the fifth founding winery of the now fam…

Would you risk flying on a Boeing 737 Max 8 right now?

UPDATE:Boeing grounds its Max aircraft worldwide

It's midnight in Manhattan, this is no time to get cute - Bruce Springsteen

Two fatal crashes in quick succession but the Boeing aircraft company cannot resist the opportunity to get cute in its press releases.

In October 2018, a Lion Air Boeing Max 7 plane crashed in the Java Sea off Indonesia, killing 189 people.

This week, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Max 7 crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board. 

And today it was revealed that pilots on two US flights previously reported that an automated system seemed to cause their Boeing 737 Max planes to tilt down suddenly.

The pilots said that soon after engaging the autopilot on Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, the nose tilted down sharply. In both cases, they recovered quickly after disconnecting the autopilot. Aircraft manufacturers Boeing, who made a $10.6 billion profit last financial year, and the civil aviation authorities in the US and Canada, have failed…