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Thursday 30 June 2022

A perfect day trip destination for wine and food lovers


Visiting Toronto? How about a day trip to delightful Prince Edward County, home to some of Canada's best wineries and fresh country produce on the shores on Lake Ontario.

We enjoyed lunch at the lovely waterfront Drake Devonshire Hotel, overlooking the water and marked by some stylish service.

The Drake is a 13-room boutique hotel with a restaurant, bar and event spaces.

The menu features local foodstuffs and wines - the Closson Chase KJ Watson 2021 rosé was an excellent lunchtime choice.

The Drake Burger with local bacon. special dressing, aged cheddar, crispy red onion, iceberg and pickles served with fries was a winning choice, while the more health-minded members of our group opted for a salmon bowl with Blue Circle salmon, miso, sake and mirin marinade, black rice, quinoa, kale, broccoli, seaweed, togarashi, kimchi, poached egg, carrot and coconut dressing.

The vibe here is both refined and chilled. 

Prince Edward County is centred on the picturesque small towns of Picton, Bloomfield and Wellington and is surrounded by farms with distinctive barns. 

Star wineries in the region known to locals as "The County" include Closson Chase, Huff Estates, Casa-Dea and Norman Hardie Wines, where we popped in for a very professional al fresco tasting of their wines from PEC and the Niagara Escarpment.

A popular holiday destination with locals - and home to many festivals-  the area is awash with wineries, distilleries, and cider producers. It is two hours from Toronto and four hours from Montreal. 

Why the AirBNB party is over - permanently

No parties at Airbnb properties. Full stop.

The vacation rental giant this week confirmed a ban on parties is now a permanent rule across its entire global network.

Airbnb started cracking down on unruly party houses and gatherings three years ago after a series of well-publicised incidents

Those incidents included a party shooting which left five people dead.

“The temporary ban has proved effective, and today we are officially codifying the ban as our policy,” Airbnb said in a blog post.

Although the policy is official permanent, completely imposing a halt to parties has proved difficult.

Airbnb said guests who try to organise house parties could face sanctions from account suspension to full removal.

In 2021, over 6,600 guests were suspended from Airbnb for violating the ban.

Resort links with the most environmentally friendly boat in the world

A focus on the environment has prompted an eco-friendly resort to link with the world's first vessel powered solely by renewables using solar, wind and hydrogen energy.

The Maldives resort LUX South Ari Atoll is known for a passion for sustainable travel and development.

It is the main partner of the the Blue Odyssey sailing project MS Porrima - the world's first vessel powered solely on renewables.

Sailing under the Swiss flag, Porrima has just set sail from Dubai to the Maldives as part of its circumnavigation of the globe and will end its ambassadorship voyage at the opening of Osaka World Expo in 2025.

The 36-meter-long vessel has 515 sqm of solar panels on board, capable of propelling the boat.

Its excess energy also converts seawater to hydrogen. 

Within the Blue Odyssey project, Porrima has already crossed every major ocean twice, with the main purpose of inspiring entrepreneurs and companies to take on planet-friendly initiatives and the best of technology to create an impact.

On the second week of July, LUX South Ari Atoll will host the boat and its crew on the island of Dhidhoofinolhu.

The resort says its objective is to help the Maldives become one of the pioneers of the hydrogen economy.

“We are delighted to be the key partner of Porrima's Blue Voyage, where this partnership reinforces our group's strategic focus on sustainable development and sharing pioneering breakthrough concepts of zero-emissions facilities that operate within natural boundaries," resort general manager Patrice Aira said.

"In addition to utilising solar energy at our resort, the support of this project is our way of caring for the ocean and the planet, especially in the Maldives where we are located.”

The boat creators are bullish.

“This is a revolution; this is a milestone for the world,” says Professor Gunter Pauli, founder of The Blue Economy and owner of Porrima.

“We want to share how Porrima generates more than enough power and uses this surplus energy to clean the ocean from nanoplastic. We want to set new global standards rather than building museum pieces.”

Wednesday 29 June 2022

New luxury hotel development for Byron Bay

Byron Bay is to be home to a new luxury hotel complex and leisure development.

Sydney-based development company Podia has unveiled its plans for The Barbotine in Byron Bay, a new hotel-apartment complex to be designed by Richards & Spence, Architecture & Design reported.

The development will see dining, retail and wellness outlets situated on the ground floor, with residential suites located above across three low-rise levels.

A landscaped central courtyard will be a focal point.

There will be 41 one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom hotel apartments.

“The Barbotine is a new concept catering for guests who want the intimacy and home away from home feel of an Airbnb, but with the service of a boutique luxury hotel; and for investors who want the returns of an incredible holiday property but without the hassle of upkeep and security,” says Podia director Michael Grassi.

“The Barbotine intentionally redefines the hotel experience and curates an unforgettable destination in Byron Bay that can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Director Jeremy Holmes says the company will look to create an unmatched guest experience (but don’t they all?).

“This is apartment living delivered through the lens of a hotelier,” he said. “Not only will guests enjoy the kind of luxury personalisation you’d expect of a hotel, but owners visiting for the weekend benefit from a concierge they can instruct from afar to have a surfboard tucked away in their room ready for their arrival.”

A communal rooftop will be a key feature with a central swimming pool set amid landscaped surrounds.

Developers Podia hope the development will reach completion in late 2023.

For more information see

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Massive expansion for Vietnam airline

Budget airline Vietjet Air has unveiled a new range of routes to and from the Vietnamese resort city of Da Nang.

Vietjet announced this week that it will start flying to Singapore, India and South Korea next month, Travel Mole reported.

It is launching services to Busan, South Korea, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Bangalore in India, as well as to Singapore.

The routes will operate between four to seven flights a week.

India was one of Vietnam’s fastest-growing markets before Covid-19 - as is the case in neighbouring Thailand.

Da Nang welcomed 3.5 million foreign visitors in 2019.

Voyager Estate signs up Shand

After a widespread search, Margaret River winery Voyager Estate is has announced the appointment of Tim Shand as its new chief winemaker.

The successor to Steve James, Shand will lead both the winemaking and viticulture teams.

Originally from Perth, Shand starter his career in the Clare Valley, followed by international stints in iconic winemaking regions Chianti, Bordeaux, Oregon, and Burgundy, including at Château Margaux and Domaine Dujac in France, before returning home to take up residence in 2011 at Giant Steps in the Yarra Valley, under head winemaker Steve Flamsteed.

Since 2014 he has headed up the team at Punt Road in the Yarra Valley.

“The name Voyager Estate evokes a deep and enthusiastic response in wine lovers everywhere,” Shand says. “They have a proven history of growing outstanding wines in a world class region.

“From afar I have admired Voyager's visionary approach to genuine sustainability in viticulture and winemaking, as well as their enviable location.”

Voyager Estate owner Alexandra Burt says: “We have deliberately taken our time to find the right person to lead Voyager Estate’s winemaking and viticulture into the next era.

“Of the many standout qualities that Tim brings with him, perhaps the most significant are his depth of thought and curiosity - about all things - along with his generosity and humility.

“He also brings a very considered ambition for the wines and those who know him well know that he is always looking far over the horizon when setting a vision.

“Tim has risen to the top of a remarkable field of candidates and adding him to our already accomplished team is beyond exciting.”

Shand formally commences on August 1.

Monday 27 June 2022

South Africa throws open its doors

South Africa is the latest travel destination to throw caution to the wind and scrap remaining Covid-19 entry rules.

There is no longer a requirement to show proof of vaccination or present a negative Covid-19 test result on arrival.

Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the scrapping of requirements will give the South African tourism industry a much-needed boost.

Mandatory masks in indoor public spaces and the cap on gatherings have been dropped.

Indoor venues can also now operate at full capacity, Travel Mole reports.

Sunday 26 June 2022

East of England: A region that is one of Britain’s best-kept secrets

There are several parts of Britain to which visitors flock. London, the Lake District, Stratford on Avon and Cornwall among them.

The region of East Anglia flies under the radar despite being home to many attractions and within a couple of hours from the capital.

Visit East of England has launched a new section on its website to better promote this part of the country.

The region less well-known in international markets but is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. 

Visit East of England has a mission to raise awareness and to showcase how best to explore the region on a year-round basis.

“This is a very important part of our development as we look to much better engagement with travel and tour operators both in the UK and overseas,” said VEE executive director Pete Waters.

“We have an ambition to be a much more top-of-mind destination, and this is our next step to helping achieve that.”

Within the region, Norfolk is part of The EXPERIENCE project, led by Norfolk County Council. One of its aims is to harness the experiential tourism trend to extend the season and to grow sustainable and low-impact tourism activities.

Iconic locations include Sandringham, the Norfolk Broads, Norwich, Newmarket, and Cambridge, as well as seaside resorts like Southwold, Great Yarmouth and Cromer.

“The wealth and diversity of unique, sustainable experiences on offer in the East of England are the envy of many other regions of the UK,” says Rob Leigh, head of communications at the Broads Authority.

“Visitors can sample the culture and history of bustling cities and market towns and within a few minutes be immersed in spectacular landscapes with nature in abundance. The Broads National Park is home to over a quarter of the UK's rarest wildlife and one of the most important freshwater wetlands in Europe offering travellers unrivalled opportunities to create lasting memories.

“We have created a range of inspirational itineraries to give you an insight into the variety of the product on offer. Taking in the Broads National Park; expansive coastline and open sandy beaches; beautiful landscapes; a world-famous university city; two architecturally stunning cathedrals; a Royal County, medieval heritage; Tudor and Georgian buildings throughout the towns and villages; waterways and wildlife; excellent locally produced food seafood; the home of horse racing; and all easily accessible by road, train and from the seaports, airports, and London.”

Dining in style in Prosecco country

So farewell for now to the lovely Colnegiano Valdobbiadane Prosecco DOCD wine region.

Regular readers will discover several gems over the next few weeks but as well as its sparkling wines, the Veneto region is known for stellar food.

Our group has eaten terrifically well at several different venues, which will be featured later on, but here just a few pictures of some of this week's star dishes.


# The writer was a guest of

Saturday 25 June 2022

Meet Italy’s own Little Venice

Treviso is often known as “Little Venice” for its many canals. 

The lovely Italian city is just 30 minutes away from the real Venice - and a whole lot less frenetic. 

One of the key centres of the Prosecco region, Treviso is a city comfortable in its skin - chilled and clearly affluent. 

For those not familiar with the name, Treviso is known for Prosecco and is Italy’s radicchio capital. It is also the city where tiramisu was invented. 

The city is home to the headquarters of clothing retailer Benetton, Sisley, Stefanel, Geox, Diadora and Lotto Sport, as well as appliance maker De’Longhi , and bicycle maker Pinarello.

I have one night in the Palazzina300 - a delightful B&B overlooking the Piazza dei Signori. 

A few images (above) to whet your appetite. 

And here’s the B&B room - delightfully quiet and well equipped. 

Mixed news for flyers from Qantas

Qantas has good news for international flyers and bad news for domestic travellers. 

Post-Covid, the Australian national airline is resuming flights to Johannesburg and Jakarta from Perth, but is cutting back on some domestic routes as it struggles to cope with demand. 

"After a faster-than-expected Covid-19 recovery for the travel industry, we have had to adapt to meet increasing demand and rapidly changing circumstances," Qantas said in a statement. 

"We sincerely thank you for your patience and understanding while we work through what has been a challenging restart for our industry globally."

Qantas says it has deployed extra staff to assist at check-in and manage queues, and made operational changes to improve on time performance. 

All much needed as Qantas has not been delivering over recent months. 

"In the current environment, we know it will take some time for our operations to normalise, but we're working every day to ensure we deliver the level of service you have come to expect from Qantas." the airline said.

The had news is that "the Qantas Group is adjusting its domestic capacity levels to assist with the recovery of sustained high fuel prices". 

That means fewer flights on some routes due to rising fuel costs. 

"Capacity is being reduced from high frequency routes, so the impact to customers is expected to be minimal," Qantas says. 

The good news: Qantas will significantly boost its international network from Perth with flights to Johannesburg and Jakarta set to take off later this year. 

The routes are the latest of eight new international services the national carrier has announced since Australia's international borders re-opened in November 2021.

Qantas will operate the only direct service from Perth to South Africa - taking over from struggling South African Airways - operating three return flights per week on its Airbus A330 aircraft starting from November 1. 

Qantas flights will reconnect Perth with Jakarta for the first time since borders closed in March 2020, beginning with three flights per week on its Boeing 737 aircraft from November 30. 

Spicers Tower Lodge: The Hunter Valley says hello to an old friend

The Hunter Valley will welcome back an old friend when Tower Lodge in Pokolbin re-opens as Spicers Tower Lodge from July 1.

After a $6 million renovation, the new-look lodge is ready to open up to visitors again.

Tower Estate was first launched in 1999 by Australian wine legend Len Evans AO OBE and some business partners.

The exclusive retreat is built in a modern Spanish mission style and will now be home to Sebastian - a Basque-style restaurant.

David Assef, Spicers Retreats managing director, says: “We are honoured to be the new custodians of this iconic property. Tower Lodge has a wonderfully earthy and natural design, it’s in harmony with the changing seasons around it, as the vines bud, flower and eventually drop their leaves for a winter display.”

Spicers Tower Lodge will be the third Spicers Retreat in the Pokolbin area, joining Spicers Vineyards Estate and Spicers Guesthouse.

The 14 rooms at Spicers Tower Lodge all feature a large bedroom, lounge, dressing room and new bathtubs, while some have a private courtyard, open fireplace, or outdoor hot tub, from which to view the vineyards.

Sebastian Restaurant is inspired by San Sebastian in Spain, famous for its many pintxos bars and starred restaurants.

Sebastian offers a five-course set menu, which will change daily on a four-day cycle, with a different premium meat presented three ways as the main course each night.

The winter ‘game and forest’ menu features trout, squab, roe deer and wild boar - certainly something different for the Hunter but likely to be polarising.

The Hunter region’s 200-year wine heritage is on full display at Tower Lodge, supported by iconic Spanish varietals, including albariño, tempranillo, Grenache and gently sparkling Txakoli with notes of apple and citrus, which dances on your palette as Sebastian’s flavours of Basque country fill your senses.

You will find Spicers Tower Lodge on the corner of Broke and Halls Roads; a two-hour drive from Sydney or one hour from Newcastle. Sydney Airport is 190km away, Newcastle Airport is 80km. Transfers are available upon request.

New Adelaide Hills cellar doors unveiled

Visitors to the Adelaide Hills have two new cellar doors to visit as of June.

At Wotton Family Wines, the Wottons have grown top quality cherries and wine grapes for 25 years and have just opened their Wotton Family Wines cellar door.

It is described as "an intimate modern space" (above) and offers wine tastings of four wines with local cheeses. It is open 11am-5pm Friday to Monday at 141 Greenhill Road, Uraidla.

The Wotton family has worked in the region for 150 years and in In 1994 the first wine grapes were planted.

The established wines of Casa Freschi, meanwhile, have until now only been available in restaurants or independent stores.

Their new cellar door is on a former apple orchard, surrounded by 100-year-old chestnut and walnut trees and housed in a vineyard shed converted using recycled materials.

Casa Freschi is a small, artisan, wine producer using organic principles and minimal intervention.

The cellar door is located in the Casa Freschi Altezza vineyard at 159 Ridge Rd Ashton.

It is one of the closest vineyards to Adelaide being only 15km from the CBD.

A range of current and museum wines, dating back to the inaugural Casa Freschi vintage in 1999 will be available to taste and purchase from 11am-5pm Friday to Sunday.

Friday 24 June 2022

Queensland mulls a tax on visitors

Queensland. Beautiful one day. Dumb the next.

The Australian state is considering whether to impose new taxes on tourists.

The Queensland Tourism Industry Reference Panel has proposed introducing visitor taxes for local attractions within the state.

“The idea of a visitor levy is not new. It has been modelled, canvassed and debated for the best part of a decade,” the panel’s report noted.

“While we appreciate that views are polarised as to whether it is an appropriate way to raise funding, everyone we spoke with saw a greater need than ever for increased funding.”

Money raised by the proposed new tax would be pumped back into the sector to maintain state-operated tourist attractions and national parks, as well as for marketing.

“We don’t just want to build back to where we were, we want to see the industry grow,” Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe said.

“We have very different destinations that have very different needs.”

A statewide levy ‘would not work’ the panel said, and it instead suggests local authorities should be able to set a visitor tax.

“Any mechanism needs to be flexible - able to be varied at the local council/destination level to suit local circumstances.”

Kevin Byrne of the Cairns Tourism Industry Association said: "I think an accommodation levy, a visitor levy of 5-8% in the first couple of years, would be appropriate.” 

Well Kevin, let me tell you that will the cost of living rising across Australia, there are lots of tourists who will opt for destinations where they are not being price gouged.

Why Oman Air will soon be on the radar of frequent flyers

Most frequent flyers know about Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways - three Middle Eastern Airlines with global reputations. 

Now Oman Air is to become the newest member of the Oneworld alliance, with Oneworld announcing that the airline has been elected as a new member at its Annual General Meeting this week. 

The process  is expected to be completed by 2024.

This means Qantas frequent flyers will have the chance to sample the offerings of the Muscat-based carrier  - who I will test drive next month. 

The announcement was made at IATA's Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit (WATS) in Doha. 

Oman Air CEO Eng Abdulaziz Al Raisi said: “Oman Air's admittance into Oneworld represents a defining moment in our journey to provide passengers with greater travel options through our developing partnerships and alliances. 

"We're delighted to be joining the world's foremost airline alliance at a time when demand for travel is on the rise. We look forward to welcoming Oneworld members onboard Oman Air to experience the height of Omani hospitality and all that the Sultanate of Oman has to offer in terms of history, culture and natural beauty.”

When Oman Air becomes a full oneworld member, Qantas Frequent Flyer members will be able to earn and redeem points, earn status credits and receive reciprocal status benefits with Oman Air. 

Oman Air operates to destinations in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe using a fleet of Boeing 787s, Airbus A330s and Boeing 737s. 

Other recent additions to the Oneworld alliance include Royal Air Maric and Alaska Airlines. 

The subtle art of matching a five-course meal with Prosecco DOCG wines

Pairing a five-course meal with just sparkling wines is a serious challenge. 

It is a challenge that the outstanding Prosecco DOCG producer La Tordera not only accepted, but  triumphed over with some stellar 2021 releases.

La Tordera, hosting a group of Australian media and industry folk, combined with the Casa Caldart Restaurant to put together a stunning set of wine and food combinations. 

And to top things off we were joined by family patriarch Pietro di Vettoretti for the end of our meal with the fourth-generation family winemakers, who adopt an organic and sustainable approach. 

So we enjoyed creamed cod in crunchy black cannoli on escarele cream with capers and raisins paired with Otreval Valdobbiadene DOCG Rive de Guia Extra Brut. 

Then came tuna carpaccio with mango, dehydrated strawberries, wasabi mayonnaise and pumpkin seed crackers with Serrai Valdobbiadene DOCG Extra Dry (so not dry at all). 

The star of the show: risotto with Valdobbiadene DOCG and lime-scented prawn tartare with Brunei Valdobbiadene DOCG Brut. 

Next up, a stunning swordfish tataki in a sesame crust with courgette flowers stuffed with orange-scented ricotta paired with Tittoni Valdobbiadene DOCG Rive di Vidor Dry. 

Finally, almond shortcrust  pastry cake with apricots alongside the benchmark Superiore de Cartizze Valdobbiadene Dry. 

See for more details on the wines.  

And finish with one of these: 

      Sorry that's all folks. I need a good lie down. 

Thursday 23 June 2022

New life for an old Melbourne watering hole

One of Melbourne’s most famous watering holes is getting a new name and a new look.

Brick Lane Brewing has acquired the lease for the old Mercat Cross Hotel in the Queen Victoria Market precinct, redeveloping the old pub into an immersive beer experience, including a restaurant, bar and educational space.

The space is expected to be completely open in March 2023, with some pop-up activity over the next few months. 

Brick Lane founder and CEO Paul Bowker says: “The redevelopment of the iconic Mercat Cross Hotel site is one of the most important steps in the renewal of the Market Precinct and it’s an incredible honour that Queen Victoria Market has entrusted us with bringing this to life.

“We’re thrilled to be investing in our ongoing relationship with Queen Victoria Market.

“Since inception, Brick Lane has had community and inclusivity at its core and there is no better example of the market which has focussed on bringing Melburnians together for over 140 years. We are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive space for all Melburnians, visitors, and the market community.

"This will be the flagship venue for Brick Lane and firmly cement our roots in the hustle and bustle of the Melbourne laneways and community which was the inspiration for the brewery since day one.”

The venue will include a ground-floor bar featuring a range of diverse beer styles, an upstairs restaurant driven by local market produce with an emphasis on sustainability, casual terrace dining, and function areas with live music areas on the upper level.

The food menu will highlight seasonal Victorian produce, while the drinks list will feature Victorian wine and spirit producers as well as Brick Lane’s portfolio of beers including their Sidewinder No Alcohol and Sunsetter Ginger Beer ranges.

“The site provides a unique opportunity to truly showcase to Melbourne and the world the special role that beer can play in creating community and bringing people together,” says Bowker.

"We see this as a real opportunity to bring the brewery and beer more broadly to life by creating an engaging and educational hospitality experience, where everyone is welcome. The opportunity to do this in the market precinct where our first kegs were poured four years ago, makes it even more special.”