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Monday 30 September 2019

A spring fling with rosé wine in the Yarra Valley

Summer is just around the corner and to celebrate the change of seasons the Yarra Valley is celebrating the ongoing rosé revolution - the revolution hat just won't go away. 

Rosé is the perfect wine style for summer; fun, fresh and delicious, particularly in its pale, dry and juicy incarnation. 

The Yarra Valley produces some of Australia's best rosé wines and will be celebrating with  Rosé S’il Vous Plaît! from 2-6pm at the very cool Healesville Hotel on Saturday, October 19. 

The event is billed as a chance to "taste the best rosé in the Yarra Valley while chatting with the winemakers who produce it."

There will be live music, afternoon snacks and plenty of rosé to keep the party moving. 

Wineries involved include De Bortoli, Alkimi, Chandon Australia, Dominique Portet Wines, Giant Steps, Handpicked, Helen and Joey Estate, Six Acres Wines, Sutherland Estate, Tarrahill Vineyard, Thick As Thieves Wines and Thousand Candles.

The Detour Beer Co will also be on hand and snacks will include gazpacho with sesame toasted croutons and lobster, prawn and fennel rolls.

Tickets are $55 + GST and booking fee and include tastings from all participating wine labels. 

With Healesville only an hour’s drive from Melbourne, it sounds like the perfect excuse for a spring fling in the Yarra Valley. In fact, I'm wondering where my invitation is. 

Sunday 29 September 2019

So you fancy visiting Saudi Arabia? Now is your chance.

Saudi Arabia is set to welcome international tourists for the first time, opening up a new frontier for adventurous travellers.

No fewer than five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Red Sea coast and the Empty Quarter will be open to tourism with the change fuelling investment and aimed at creating a million jobs.

Details of visa availability was this weekend announced at a gala event at Ad-Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Riyadh - and Australians are among those who will be admitted.

Visitors seeking unexplored heritage sites, an authentic cultural experience and natural beauty will be able to access sites including:

# Madain Saleh (below) in Al-Ula, the largest conserved site of the civilisation of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan.

# At-Turaif District in Ad-Diriyah, the first capital of the Saudi state.

# Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Mecca, characterised by a distinctive architectural tradition.

# Rock Art in the Hail Region, showing 10,000-year old inscriptions of human and animal figures.

# Al-Ahsa Oasis, with 2.5 million date palms the largest oasis in the world.

Saudi Arabia is home to 13 regions, each with a distinctive cultural tradition, and its highlights include the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture in Dhahran, the modernist sculpture park along the Corniche in Jeddah, Nassif House in Jeddah's historical district and the The Red Sea International Film Festival launching in March 2020.

Saudi Arabia boasts a diverse range of landscapes, including the green mountains of Asir, the crystal waters of the Red Sea, the snow-covered winter plains of Tabuk and the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter.

A number of new tourist destinations are currently under construction, including the futuristic city of NEOM, the Qiddiya entertainment city near Riyadh and a range of luxury destinations by the Red Sea.

Opening Saudi to tourism is a key plank in the implementation of the Vision 2030 policy, which seeks to diversify the country's economy and reduce its dependence on oil.

By 2030, the aim is for tourism to contribute up to 10% towards the Saudi GDP, compared to just 3% today.

His Excellency Ahmad Al-Khateeb, Chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said: "Opening Saudi Arabia to international tourists is a historic moment for our country.

"Generous hospitality is at the heart of Arabian culture and we look forward to showing our guests a very warm welcome."

Applications for the visa can now be made at Saudi Embassies and Consulates across the world although citizens from 49 countries - including Australia and New Zealand - will also be able to apply for an e-Visa online or get a Visa on arrival into Saudi Arabia.

A dedicated online portal at has been launched and electronic kiosks are available at airports.

Saturday 28 September 2019

A very stylish new RTD from Tanqueray

Just in time for the warmer months comes a stylish new ready-to-drink gin cocktail from the Tanqueray team. 

Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla Gin & Soda is now available in four packs of individual-sized serves that should appeal to the negroni crowd. 

Inspired by one of Charles Tanqueray’s original recipes, the Tanqueray Gin & Soda combines the bittersweet and zesty taste of Seville oranges, orange blossom, along with other botanicals found in Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla, and a touch of soda to add lightness to the palate. 

Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla Gin & Soda does not need any additional ingredients (except, perhaps, a cube or two of ice). 

The petite glass bottle serve arrives following the successful launches of both Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla and ready-to-drink Tanqueray Gin & Tonic. 

With a recipe unchanged since its introduction in 1830, Tanqueray London Gin is the world’s most-awarded gin, the advertising blurb says. 

Available now from good bottle shops, 275ml glass bottle four-packs cost $25.99 RRP. 

How to avoid screaming kids when you fly

There are several passengers you don't want to get seated next to when you fly. 

There is the coughing, spluttering virus-spreading idiot; there fatty who spills into your space and the endlessly screaming child. 

There is not much you can do about the first two, but Japan Airlines has released a new online seat booking feature which warns passengers where young toddlers will be seated on a flight.

Although youngsters under two won't be allocated a seat, a ''child" icon will appears on the seating plan when a passenger is travelling with children aged under two years.

JAL says it "lets other passengers know a child may be sitting there," although it says it will only show up for bookings made through direct channels.

"Passengers travelling with children between eight days and two years old who select their seats on the JAL website will have a child icon displayed on their seats on the seat selection screen," says the airline's website.

But children will not show up if there is a last-minute change of aircraft type.

The news has split flyers, with a mixed response on social media. 

Friday 27 September 2019

Jetstar quits regional routes

Jetstar is planning to quit regional routes in New Zealand.

Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans told Travel Mole the airline is 'facing some headwinds,' notably high fuel costs and shrinking demand.

"We don't see the outlook changing any time soon," Evans said.

"We have given it a real go. However, despite four years of hard work our regional network continues to be loss-making."

Evans said Jetstar lost A$20 million on the five domestic NZ routes in the financial year ended June 30.

Jetstar plans to end Auckland services to Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth and Palmerston North, as well as the Wellington-Nelson route from December. That’s bad news for regional wine producers.

Jetstar says the changes won't affect international flights to and from New Zealand.

"Alternative employment options would be available for all affected Jetstar regional employees - made up chiefly of pilots and cabin crew - across Jetstar and Qantas Group businesses in New Zealand and Australia," a company statement said.

Air New Zealand will help impacted customers with discounted fares and will freeze prices on its lowest economy fares until the end of 2020.

Scammers take advantage of Thomas Cook collapse

There are plenty of scumbags out there and it didn't take them long to take advantage of the collapse of British travel agency icon Thomas Cook.

These are probably the same low-lives that convince innocent little old ladies that they have fallen in love with a handsome Nigerian muscle man.

Travel Mole reports that police are warning fraudsters have started targeting Thomas Cook customers, offering refunds to those who are silly enough to share their bank or credit card details over the phone.

Con artists claiming to be "Thomas Cook refund agents" are randomly calling people promising to refund money paid for holidays with the collapsed tour operator.

They're allegedly asking for card details, including the three-digit security code, in order to process payments.

Good luck with that.

Thomas Cook customers have been told to contact the Civil Aviation Authority to arrange a refund for package holidays, or contact their insurer if they had airline failure cover for flight-only bookings.

In a separate scam, fraudsters claiming to be from foreign hotels are also allegedly contacting Thomas Cook clients. They appear be calling from premium-rate numbers, so people are being advised not to respond to calls.

The message is: Don't be a goose.

Thursday 26 September 2019

When simple is best; an Italian lunch in Bavaria

When it comes to food and beverages simple can often be best.

Such was the case with the humble Italian trattoria that I stumbled across in Erding, Germany, at lunchtime.

How I came to be in this spa and brewing town is a story for another day but I was determined that lunch would not be at Maccas or the local Lidl supermarket (the only two immediate options).

Fortunately I stumbled up on Bistrorante Liberty, unwelcoming from the outside, in a distinctly unpromising neighbourhood.

The local Erdinger Weissbier was available (
3.90 for a half litre), a good start, and there was a daily lunch menu of a fresh salad and choice of pizza or a pasta of the day for $7.90. Seemed like a good deal.

The salad, was, as advertised, fresh and crispy, and was served with fresh bread. The penne al'arrabiata was slightly spicy and nicely al dente with fresh tomatoes and Parmesan on the side. Delicious.

I topped up my bill with an espresso and the waiter was so delighted to have an Australian in house that he insisted I tried a glass of the Sarpa di Poli grappa on the house. It was made with a marc from merlot and cabernet grapes.

I ended up with a bill of €14.20, which was more than fair. Now you know where to head if you end up in the backstreets of Erding.
Bistrorante Liberty, Max-Plank-Strasse 8, 85435, Erding. 08122 540 575.         

Wednesday 25 September 2019

The best bars in the world; what a lot of tosh

Just a few weeks after the "world's top 100 restaurants" were announced comes news of the "world's top 50 bars".

I'm calling these awards out as total tosh.

There is no way the judging can make any sense. And one man's superb G+T is another woman's weak-as-piss drink.

One judge's great cocktail might not be fruity enough for American tastes. One person's great ambiance might be far too loud for me.

Bars are a matter of personal preference.

But that won't stop the crew behind he World’s 50 Best Bars 2019 awards ceremony on October 3.

In fact, it hasn't stopped them releasing a list of numbers 51-100 in a shameless grab for pre-event publicity.

Thus we learn that the US leads the 51-100 list with nine bars featured; four in New York City, two in San Francisco and Chicago and one in Miami.

William Drew, group editor of The World’s 50 Best Bars, said: “Ahead of The World’s 50 Best Bars awards ceremony returning to London’s Roundhouse on October 3, we’re excited to be able to share the 51-100 list.

"It is a true reflection of some of the key emerging trends in the industry, as well as the extraordinary talent of the bartenders."

Apparently, the scoring is done by an "academy" - pretentiousness alert right there - of
over 520 experts worldwide.

Each voter casts seven votes, based on their best bar experiences of the previous 18 months, of which at least three must be for bars located outside the voter’s country of residence. 

Which is great news if you run a bar in New York or London, but almost certainly rules you out if your bar is in Hobart or Brakpan.

Canberra switch for family winery

Family-owned Moppity Vineyards now has three New South Wales regions under its belt with the purchase of the former Kerralee vineyard on the Barton Highway outside Murrumbateman.

Jason and Alecia Brown also own the Moppity vineyard in Hilltops, outside Young, which was purchased in 2004, and the Coppabella vineyard in Tumbarumba, which they bought in 2011.

The Browns plan to make the Canberra region their new headquarters. 

The Kerralee deal paves the way for a purpose-built winery and cellar door to create and showcase wines from all three regions; Canberra, Hilltops and Tumbarumba. 

“I see Canberra, Hilltops and Tumbarumba as the Holy Trinity; the heart and soul of Southern NSW winemaking,” Jason Brown (above) said. “We’ve long held the belief that these areas can produce some of the best and most exciting wines in Australia. And now we are pleased to announce that we have a foothold in all three.”

Plans are underway for the current Kerralee vineyard to be expanded to 7.5 hectares to include a range of new varieties. 

“If there’s one thing that’s excited me the most at Moppity, it’s the capacity to surprise people with our wines. Hilltops was underrated when we bought the (then ruined) Moppity vineyard from the hands of receivers in 2004. 

"The Coppabella vineyard was struggling financially and on the verge of being removed before we bought it in 2011. On the back of a lot of toil, sweat and tears (and a little blood), we’ve resurrected both sites and they’ve achieved well-deserved acclaim since then.

“Similarly, our new Canberra vineyard has phenomenal potential. A lot has changed in the years since we made our first wines. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve and evolve and I believe we’re at the top of our game today.”

Tuesday 24 September 2019

These are a few of my favourite things

I lived in Paris from 1996-2001 and it still retains a certain magic for me.

I can’t imagine any city that I would rather live in.

On a fleeting visit today I snapped a few of my favourite Parisian views and places. They are not the usual suspects.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Stay in Dame Edna Everage's home suburb

Moonee Ponds is an inner suburb of Melbourne, 7 km north-west from the CBD. It was the home of Dame Edna Everage and there is a street in the suburb named Everage Street in her honour.

Now Moonee Pnds will have a new claim to fame with the The Sebel Melbourne Moonee Ponds to open in the Mason Square precinct - a new major urban renewal development comprising a residential, retail and dining hub, scheduled to open November 1.

The Sebel Melbourne Moonee Ponds will add 97 serviced apartment-style rooms to Melbourne's inner suburbs.

Spanning eight floors, the property boasts 89 one-bedroom apartments, and eight two-bedroom apartments all with balconies and full kitchen facilities.

Featuring a fitness centre, meeting spaces, a New York-style restaurant known as Saros, underground parking, a ground-floor space will be home to retailers and cafes, leased to external operators.

oonee Ponds has established itself as one of Melbourne's premier racing precincts with thousands flocking to both Moonee Valley Racecourse and Flemington Racecourse, home of the Melbourne Cup.

Chief Operating Officer, Pacific for Accor, Simon McGrath: “Melbourne's inner north west is set for a resurgence with the opening of the new Mason Square precinct, a major urban renewal development project for Moonee Ponds.

“Accor strategically jumped at the opportunity to introduce the international upscale serviced apartment brand to the precinct, with owners JMS Hospitality and Management, in the burgeoning area of Moonee Ponds, already well known among the racing fraternity, and soon to become the accommodation of choice for those visiting the area.

“The Sebel Melbourne Moonee Ponds will showcase both the sophistication and independent flexibility that our guests expect from The Sebel brand."

The Sebel Melbourne Moonee Ponds joins a network of 30 internationally branded The Sebel products apartments across Australia and New Zealand. nd residences across 100 countries.

The Sebel Melbourne Moonee Ponds will be located at 41 Homer Street, Moonee Ponds, Victoria, 3039.

Friday 20 September 2019

Has the world gone completely bonkers?

I'm sitting over breakfast at the delightful Mama Shelter in London reading The Guardian.

There is the usual nonsense from Boris "The Hulk" Johnson, Donald "Pants on Fire" Trump and Scott "Liar from the Shire" Morrison. The Canadian PM can't remember how many times he's dressed up as a Golliwog. 

But today the news is even more depressing than usual.

There is a British tour company promoting cruises for "Brits only", while Indonesia is looking to wreck Bali's tourism industry.

Saga, the insurance and travel company for the over-50s, has apologised after customers were sent a brochure advertising a cruise “exclusively for Brits”

The promotion read: “Exclusively for Brits. Exclusively adults only. Exclusively for over-50s.”

Saga subsequently apologised (caught out), insisting that people of all nationalities were welcome on its tours and cruises.

“We are extremely sorry for the error in the promotional leaflet that was sent to the database of one of our cruise partners,” said a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Indonesian lawmakers are considering introducing a new rule that bans sex outside marriage - and it would apply to everyone, even drunk, bonking Australians visiting Bali.

Even if sex is consensual, people who have sex who aren't married or who are unmarried but living together could be jailed.

Article 419 says: "Couples who live together without being legally married could be sentenced to six months in prison."

They could also cop a six-month jail sentence for 'obscene acts in public', which will no doubt see thousands of people who get rip-roaring drunk every year in the beach paradise locked up.

Free chicken dinners if the Wallabies end up winners

I can see this one ending badly. 

Chargrill Charlie’s, an Australian family-run chicken business, says it is cheering on the Wallabies in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan by offering free chicken family packs every time Australia wins.

Aussie fans simply need to visit one of the 13 Chargrill Charlie’s stores in Sydney and Melbourne wearing their green and gold Wallaby jersey, cap, beanie or scarf to enjoy a whole stuffed chicken, the company's press release says.

The Wallabies family pack offer, featuring a whole stuffed chicken, large salad and large chips or wedges, will be available for 24 hours after the final whistle is blown and also includes an Aussie-themed Chargrill Charlie’s trucker cap with every pack. 

“We’re thrilled to get behind the Wallabies team as they show the world what they can do in Japan,” says Ryan Sher, a Chargrill Charlie’s director. 

“As an Australian owned and run company, we’re passionate about supporting our local communities and their sports clubs, so what better opportunity to get behind our team than at the Rugby World Cup. We’re backing Australia all the way and can’t wait to see our stores flooded with green and gold as the Wallabies charge their way to the finals!”

The Wallabies family pack will be on offer this weekend should Australia nudge out Fiji in Saturday night’s kick-off. The Wallabies then need to beat Wales on 29 September, Uruguay on 5 October and Georgia on 11 October.

I can see lines a mile long and a shortage of chickens as hungry rugby fans descend on stores looking for a free feed. 

Thursday 19 September 2019

The streets of Glasgow

Glasgow is a vibrant city reborn.

It is lively, cheeky and irreverent.

Please enjoy these random images I snapped over the past few days as I strolled the streets of Scotland’s biggest city.

New bar scores a Tasmanian triumph

A new bar in a Tasmanian five-star hotel was named Tasmanian Bar of the Year and Australian Hotel Bar of the Year in the 19th annual Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards in Sydney.

Evolve Spirits Bar was recognised despite having been open for less than 12 months. 

The national recognition follows after being named Tasmania's Best Specialty Bar at The THA and Drysdale Awards for Excellence in August. 

“Last night's awards were a great achievement for Tasmania," said bar manager Dan Gregory.

"It's usually Sydney and Melbourne who dominate – we're up against really stiff competition, and it's the first time one of the major national awards have been won by a Tasmanian bar. 

"The win is bound to motivate the team to push even harder this year to see this success become an upward trajectory for our local industry.”

Part of the MACq01 hotel building in Hobart's Hunter Street Precinct, Evolve Spirits Bar pays homage to human curiosity and discovery, with 37 impressive fossils on display including an 8ft tall Russian Cave Bear, a Saltasaurus egg, a Mammoth tusk, and a Triceratops nose horn, some dating back to over 550 million years old. 

The rare spirits on the menu, of which some are kept securely in private spirit keeps, serve up a museum-worthy spirit collection from Tasmania and around the world including one-off bottlings of Glenfiddich and Balvenie whiskies, Glen Grant single malts from 1950, pre-phylloxera cognac dating over 100 years old, and often-unattainable Tasmanian releases from Tim Duckett's Heartwood whisky and Sullivans Cove.

Known as “The Oscars of the bar industry”, The Australian Bar Awards were attended by over 650 people at Dolton House in Pyrmont. 

Other Tasmanian winners included The Glass House, which was named Tasmanian Cocktail Bar of the Year.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Sydney to get a landmark new mural

One of Australia's largest murals will soon adorn the façade of the Club Wyndham Sydney building, with a 14-storey artwork announced for the inner-city hotel, located on the corner of Goulburn and Wentworth streets.

The hotel is part of the Club Wyndham South Pacific collection, a credits-based holiday program that offers close to 60,000 members access to 51 resorts across Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Bali, Thailand, Europe, Japan and Hawaii.

"With Club Wyndham Sydney's prime corner block position in the heart of one of the world's greatest cities, at the gateway to the creative hub of Surry Hills, we saw an opportunity to do something unique during the property's upcoming renovation,” said Barry Robinson, President and Managing Director, International Operations, Wyndham Vacation Clubs.

Once complete, the mural will cover two sides and all 14 storeys of the hotel.

It will feature the faces of a man and woman from the 1940s, as a nod to the World War II news reels and movies from Hollywood that were first screened at the nearby Surry Hills Paramount Theatre before they were released into the Australian market. These films were Australia's connection to the outside world, and it was during this time that big Hollywood movie stars like Bob Hope and Charlton Heston visited the city.

Considered the birthplace of cinema in Australia, Surry Hills today remains a creative centre with the Belvoir Theatre and a concentration of film schools, production companies and art galleries in the area. In recognition of the film and arts communities of Surry Hills, the woman will be holding a vintage home movie camera. Pops of colour in the woman's nails and the man's eyes will enhance the sepia-toned retro design.

Artists from Apparition Media are expected to commence work on the mural in the coming weeks. The company of artists are skilled in a range of styles, from graffiti, to stencils, to highly detailed photorealism and are famous for creating striking murals across the country. Works are scheduled to be complete by mid-November.

“Club Wyndham celebrates living your bucket list today – the must-see destinations and the must-do experiences. Our resorts, located in iconic holiday destinations, offer quality apartment-style accommodation coupled with outstanding service. This is the ideal launch pad to experience the best of Sydney and we

Tuesday 17 September 2019

A Glasgow bonus - street art

Glasgow is a city on the move. Friendly folk with fire in their bellies.

With a buzzy vibe and hundreds of historic buildings, Scotland’s biggest city also has a surprise for visitors with a range of street art to be savoured.

Keep your eyes peeled as you stroll the city streets.

# The writer is a guest of and the Moxy Hotel, Glasgow.  

Monday 16 September 2019

Look out USA - Australia has wine to sell you

Wine Australia has launched its largest-ever promotion of Australian wine in the United States. 

The Far From Ordinary campaign is supported by the Australian Government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package. 

The $8 million campaign to start later this week is promoted as a key milestone in the fourth and final year of the $50m Package, integrating three years of targeted marketing strategy into a single campaign.

New Yorkers will be treated to three nights of Australian wine celebrations at the Union West in Chelsea this week. The invitation-only Australian Women in Wine Awards will recognise the work of women in the Australian wine community and the Far From Ordinary consumer events aim to highlight the current Australian wine scene.

Wine Australia’s first ever New to Market Showcase in New York on September 18 will connect a select group of USA importers and distributors with 18 Australian wineries looking to gain a presence in the market. 

Starting on September 19, over 100 Australian exhibitors will showcase their fine wines to the American wine trade as part of a six-city roadshow visiting New York, Chicago,  Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The roadshow will feature trade tastings, educational seminars and importer/distributor networking opportunities, and is expected to attract up to 2,500 attendees across the six cities.

The Far From Ordinary campaign will culminate with 100 American wine influencers – sommeliers, wine writers and other industry members – gathering at Lake Tahoe, California.

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark said: “The US remains the world’s largest and most attractive market.

“Its estimated retail value of US$38 billion is more than double that of second-placed China.

‘This Far From Ordinary campaign invites USA trade, media and consumers to experience a side of Australian wine that they never knew existed.”

‘While Australian wine exports to the USA grew 2 per cent to $432 million in the year ended June 2019, much work remains to increase our market share in the world’s biggest market.”