Book, stay, enjoy. That's

Tuesday 31 January 2023

Anantara extends its footprint to the French Riviera

The Thai-based Anantara hotel group has increased its international footprint with the opening of its first property in France.

Ananatara, founded in 2001, now has over 40 properties globally and has just unveiled the Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel in a rejuvenated 19th-century building on Nice's rather glamorous boardwalk.

The opening marks the return of one of the most storied hotels on Côte d’Azur - the property was previously known as The Plaza, a Boscolo First Class Hotel, and also the continuation of Anantara’s European expansion.

The heritage property overlooking the Promenade des Anglais has undergone a two-year renovation.

It overlooks the Albert 1er gardens and the Promenade des Anglais - the most famous stretch of seafront in the south of France.

It reopens with 151 rooms including 38 suites, many with sea view terraces and balconies.

The 175-year-old building also houses a new Anantara Spa, six meeting rooms and a ballroom, as well as a rooftop restaurant and bar with a 360-degree panoramic views of the Baie des Anges and Old Nice.

SEEN by Olivier is the hotel’s signature restaurant to be operated by Portuguese celebrity chef Olivier da Costa.

Rates at Anantara Plaza Nice Hotel start from €350.00 for a Deluxe City View room including breakfast for two people. For more information visit

Images: Daniela Cesari

The perfect place to chill out for a day or two in Tasmania

It is hard to imagine a more idyllic location for a country retreat than that enjoyed by Laid Back Manor in southern Tasmania.

Surrounded by forests and bordered by a rivulet occupied by platypuses, this couples cabin is located in the Pelverata Valley, which is so off the beaten track that many Tasmanians would struggle to place it on a map.

We are just 30 minutes from Hobart but in a world of tranquillity on one of the island state's roads less travelled.

Laid Back Manor can be found between the hamlets of Pelverata and Kaoota (neither of which has so much as a village store) on the border of the Huon Valley and Kingborough.

The sounds here are those of wild birds, the sights of wild country - and a range of local wildlife, including possums, pademelons and spotted quolls.

Laid Back Manor was created by a couple of born and bred Tasmanians - hands-on duo Kylie Quilliam and Adam Marthick - and is much more than just a place to chill out for a night or two.

As well as being close enough to Hobart to be a base for exploring the capital of the Apple Isle, the property is also home to an 18-hole pitch-and-putt course, a weddings and venues site and, soon, a massage and yoga centre.

Within a short drive you can find wineries, cider producers, art trails and spectacular waterfalls, along with roadside honesty stalls selling local produce.

The pleasures here are simple ones; a luxurious bed (one of the most comfortable I have tried) dominates a well-equipped cabin with excellent kitchen facilities and a well-thought-out bathroom with excellent shower.

There are enough kitchen gadgets to keep the fussiest cook happy; from nutribullets to a convection microwave.

Inclusions feature wifi with unlimited data (although it was a little temperamental when I stayed), that glorious bed, electric blankets, hot water bottle, reverse-cycle air-conditioning and an outdoor swinging couch with cushions, heated blanket and overhead heating - perfect for summer slumbers, or night-time wildlife spotting.

The kitchenette has a hot plate, that convection microwave oven, air fryer, toaster and kettle, as well as an espresso machine and coffee pod machine.

Chopping boards, all cutlery and crockery, glasses and pots and pans are provided, along with umbrellas for rainy days and other necessities of life like cooking oil, salt and pepper, tea bags, sugar sachets and an emergency jar of chocolates.

There is even a golf buggy that the less mobile can use to explore the golf course and creek bank.  

Walkers will find plenty of rugged native bushland through which to trek, while bird watchers have a wide range of species to spot.

There is firepit right on your doorstep should you fancy dining al fresco, and while there is no TV or sound system, the changing light reflecting on the trees at night proves mesmerising. Bring a book. 

The pitch-and-putt course is essentially a very small golf course with no fairways, so every shot is either a pitch, chip or putt.

You can play an 18-hole circuit over 10 small, but challenging, greens. Each hole is a par three, varying in distance from 29 to 86 meters and it takes around 45 minutes to complete a round.

Kellaway’s Creek passes through the course and is in play on multiple holes. Adam has plans to hold monthly competitions here.

Adjoining the golf course (clubs and balls are provided, along with scorecards) there is a sculpture garden with some of the artworks lit up at night - and there is also an in-ground trampoline for more active visitors, as well as a pet duck that is happy to be hand fed.

I particularly enjoyed sitting on the banks of the creek, trying to spot trout (success!) and the platypus (failure).

The events area can cater for groups of up to 30 guests with a moveable marquee available on-site.

Retreats and workshops, team building exercises and acoustic music performances can all but catered for.

A superb spot to chill out for a day or two and the owners are on hand if you need them, but you can also opt for complete privacy should that be your preference.

For details and bookings see    

# The writer was a guest of Laid Back Manor.




A juicy choice of vineyard accommodation in Orange

Several years ago my wife and I enjoyed a fun stay at Mayfield vineyard in Orange. The cottages were delightfully located around a lake - and the vibe was super chilled.

This week came the news that after a change of ownership and 12 months of refurbishment Mayfield has once again opened its historic homestead and cottages for accommodation and wedding functions.

The historic Mayfield Homestead was purchased during the pandemic by the Eastham family, who have spent 12 months readying the property for visitors.

It is being billed as the perfect base from which to explore the many food and wine attractions of Orange and the rest of Central Western New South Wales.

In addition to the homestead, there are four cottages that offer a variety of accommodation options nestled within the vineyard and sprawling arboretum (that means a lot of trees).

The European history of Mayfield dates to 1815 when explorer William Charles Wentworth was granted Mayfield as acknowledgment of his earlier crossing of the Blue Mountains. In 1840, the property was transferred to local grazier, businessman and politician Thomas Icely.

Mayfield continued to prosper, passing through a number of families including William ‘Parson’ Tom after he discovered Australia’s first commercial gold strike in nearby Ophir in 1851.

The property now accommodates guests in a range of lovely buildings, including the main historic homestead and the oldest cottage, The Settlers Cottage, which was erected in 1886.

During the 1900s the property was owned and run by the famous Scottish biscuit makers, the Crawfords.

At their peak, they were the largest privately-owned biscuit manufacturer in Britain. The family ran sheep and set about creating a village atmosphere, building The School House (now the Mayfield Wines cellar door) to educate the workers’ children.

The Mayfield Homestead was inspired by famed Australian artist, author and architect Hardy Wilson, with construction beginning in 1906 and completed in 1910. He is recognised as one of the most outstanding architects of the 20th century and the Homestead is now listed by the National Trust.

This piece of Australian rural history boosts five (or up to seven) bedrooms, four bathrooms, formal dining room, three living areas, country kitchen and large outdoor dining areas.

The cellar door is just a stroll away, and the grounds, with vineyards, lakes and gardens are on your doorstep.

When James S.R. Crawford died, his widow Margaret remained at Mayfield. Margaret spent 65 years there and her everlasting gift to Mayfield was the arboretum with over 50 species of trees, many over 100 years old.

“We are particularly proud to be able to offer this luxury property to guests to enjoy,” says owner John Eastham.

“Mayfield is located in the midst of Orange’s idyllic cool-climate vineyards and allows us to offer a range of accommodation including The School House, The Rose Cottage, The Overseers Cottage, The Settlers Cottage, and The Garden Flat.”

Guests are able to book all the cottages for group functions and weddings in the gardens.

Further information can be found here:

Images: Kyle Ingram

Monday 30 January 2023

An American idiot outdoes other American idiots

An American tourist has been fined €500 for driving over the centuries-old Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence.

The bridge is an iconic attraction that crosses the Arno River in the ancient city.

A 34-year-old Californian drove over the pedestrian bridge in a Fiat Panda rental car.

He claimed - with American ingenuity - that he was looking for a parking spot and didn’t notice he was on the bridge.

His fine included a penalty for driving without an international driver’s licence, Travel Mole reported.

The man was not named in a statement issued by the City of Florence press office.

The Ponte Vecchio is enclosed, lined with shops and normally full of pedestrians. On this occasion no one was hurt.

Image: Emanuele Semplici,   

Piccadilly Valley Trail unveiled with a special offer for wine lovers

Paul Henschke of
Greenhill Wines
Correspondent Roderick Eime discovers a great deal for wine lovers on the  Piccadilly Trail. #piccadillytrail

Five of the Piccadilly Valley's best-known wineries have formed a mini marketing co-operative to raise awareness of this delicate sub-region within the greater Adelaide Hills wine region.

The Piccadilly Valley in the Adelaide Hills specialises in the production of cool climate wines, particularly pinot noir and chardonnay, with an added focus on premium sparkling wine production. 

With the highest altitudes in the Adelaide Hills, the fruit ripens in some of the coolest growing conditions in the country and with rainfall a whopping 1200mm a year there is little need to irrigate. 

Download the
flyer (PDF)
So whether it’s the lifted perfumes and elegant structure of the pinot noir, or the texture and length of fine chardonnay, Piccadilly Valley’s bona-fide cool-climate imprint is a feature of the wines grown and made here.

If you visit these five wineries and purchase a bottle from each, you can collect two superb Riedel Pinot glasses (RRP $80) to enjoy your wine. Download the flyer

These are the premium wineries involved: Ashton Hills VineyardCRFT WinesGreenhill WinesTapanappa Wines • Lofty Valley Vineyard

Surcharges and service charges a blight on the restaurant experience

There is a new threat to the customer enjoyment of a café or restaurant experience: the insidious creep of "surcharges" and "service charges".

Because hospitality workers are guaranteed a decent wage under Australian workplace laws, tipping has always been considered voluntary. I generally tip between 12-15% for good service, usually making sure the money goes straight into the hand of the person who has looked after us.

Most Australians are also used to the idea of paying a surcharge on a Sunday, or a public holiday, when businesses have to pay their staff an additional penalty rate. Or even for group bookings, who can be difficult and are notoriously poor tippers.

But how about a compulsory extra charge just because it is Monday? Or Wednesday.

A recent arrival on the Brisbane dining scene, Komeyui - an offshoot of a Melbourne business - caused a lot of debate on Facebook this week with its compulsory 5% "service" charge on midweek days.

The business does not make it clear whether or not the charge goes to staff, but if customers are paying a "service" charge then they can hardly be expected to also tip. And 5% is less than a lot of diners would leave voluntarily.

At the bottom of the menu is note saying: "Service charge of 5% on weekdays and Saturdays, 10% on Sundays and 15% on public holidays applies."

The owner of a successful local café says the surcharges like this - and for a glass of tap water - are a bad look. 

"People who are dining out hate to be confronted with extra charges," she says. "If the menu says $33, then that is what people expect to pay. Adding a surcharge likes this makes it look like a business has simply got its sums wrong when doing its pricing.

"It makes a lot more sense to build costs into your prices across the board and charge what people expect they are going to pay."

Others disagree. I spoke out strongly against added charges - I also hate being charged extra for a slice of bread and butter - and was told: "Your extreme position here is out of step and unhelpful to the industry."

Well, so be it. 

It is called the "hospitality" industry, not the "screw another 5% out of the unsuspecting" industry.

Another hospitality industry figure posted: "Product and service cost what they cost, but isn't that what ‘the price’ is. An additional service charge on special days you can understand, but if it’s just adding 5% everyday then shouldn’t that be the price?"

And the owner of a well-known wine bar contributed: "I don't think tipping has become a part of our culture yet. We expect employers to pay the right amount and build it into the price of their product/service."

Added charges also cause angst. Is this additional charge calculated before, or after, GST. And before, or after, any credit card surcharge. Another creeping issue.

One insider put it best, I think: "Does it go to the staff, who presumably get paid award wages, or is it a bit of icing on the cake for the business?"

A good question - and one that any business imposing such a charge should make very clear. 

Sunday 29 January 2023

Passengers stranded as British airline closes up with zero notice

British-based regional airline Flybe has gone out of business less than a year after it was relaunched.

The airline said it had cancelled all flights and "ceased trading".

There was no notice given to 2,500 customers who had been scheduled to take flighs on Saturday and around 75,000 passengers with bookings are potentially impacted, Travel Mole reported.

A company statement said most of the airlines 321 staff had been made redundant and it was reported that the airline is not helping customers to organise alternative flights.

The Civil Aviation Authority in the UK said other carriers would provide discounted "rescue fares" to flyers left stranded by the closure.

These include Ryanair, British Airways, easyJet and rail operators.

Ryanair was quick to jump in and extended an invitation to laid-off workers to apply for jobs.

The airline traces its history back to Jersey European Airways, which was set up in 1979 following the merger of Intra Airways and Jersey Air Services. The business was renamed British European in 2000 and Flybe in 2002.

Flybe first collapsed in 2020 at the start of the Covid pandemic but was acquired by an affiliate of US hedge fund Cyrus Capital.

The Birmingham-based airline sold tickets on 22 routes to 16 destinations including in France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Some sex advice with your holiday research

Travellers looking at booking a trip to Lord Howe Island got a surprise earlier this week when a tourism website was hacked and items linking to dating apps and porn sites were uploaded.

The naughty hackers flooded the website with x-rated links, ads and articles.

Anal sex is not the image the tranquil island off the coast of Port Macquarie in Australia's New South Wales state normally tries to promote.

The hackers also posted adverts for "get rich quick" schemes, somehow breaching the website's security. There was also advice on "How to date an older woman".  

The hack gained widespread international coverage - which was probably not a bad thing.

The Travel Mole website - which has global reach - reported that site administrators regained control and deleted the fruity content.

Mortified Lord Howe Island Tourism officials reported that their investigation showed only 11 visitors saw the hacker's work before the website was cleaned up.  

Should you wish to know more about lovely Lord Howe Island, here is a link:, and here is another one:

Saturday 28 January 2023

Water and wine a winning combo for Six Senses

Leading wellness travel operator Six Senses has announced it is to make its debut in California's wine and weed capital: the Napa Valley.

Six Senses is to transform the Aetna Springs resort facility in Napa County, home of some of the most sought-after cabernets in the world.

The mineral springs resort was founded in the late 1800s but has fallen into disrepair.

It had thrived until the 1970s as a natural spa destination, with Aetna Mineral Water also sold.

“Six Senses Napa Valley will marry the region’s beauty with the unique natural resources of the original Aetna Springs,” said Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs in a press release.

“Working with Weller Development Partners, Pegasus Capital Advisors, and committed sustainability partners, we have the right energy in place to revitalize this precious jewel in the Napa crown as a destination to rewild our guests back to a connection with nature, each other, and ultimately themselves.”

I'm not sure what rewild means, but I'm sure you get the message.

The revamped resort is a two-hour drive from San Francisco and Six Senses says existing structures will be sensitively preserved, and the landscape regenerated.

There will be a choice of 95 rooms and suites, including 10 tent-style structures. There will also be 16 residences, which will be serviced by Six Senses and, alongside all the resort amenities, enjoy access to a dedicated lounge.

Programs will include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, visiting practitioners, and various treatments and therapies.

The historic mineral springs will be revived with indoor and outdoor thermal experiences and bathing.

So like Evian, but surrounded by vines.

There will be four food and beverage outlets and Well will entice guests to an informal al fresco space to celebrate the history of Aetna Springs with mineral water bottling and distilling. To dilute all that water will be the region's best wines, including Napa’s famed cabernets.

Six Senses operates 20 hotels and resorts in 17 countries and has signed a further 34 properties into its development pipeline.

Australia's most expensive spritz is one of 15 on a new drinks list

Meet Australia's most expensive spritz - it will set you back $299 for a glass of Italian-accented refreshment.

Mantra South Bank general manager Adrian Lampe says the range of 15 spritzes is one of the highlights at hotel's new Ovello Bar & Kitchen eatery, which opens in early February.

The menu includes Italian favourites including fresh calamari fritti, gooey burrata, spaghetti vongole and stone-baked pizza made with a 37-year-old mother dough - all of which can be paired with spritzes.

“Ovello's signature spritz list includes a lychee spritz made with pink gin, sparkling rosé, lychee fruit and topped with edible pink glitter and flowers,” Lampe said.

“Or there's the Dolce Vita spritz with Sexy Cat marshmallow liqueur, sparkling moscato and vanilla, topped with fairy floss, mini marshmallows, and edible glitter.”

Single spritzes are $16 a glass or $50 by the carafe but the headline grabber is $299 The Duchess.

“For the true spritz connoisseurs, this very special drink is made with rose liqueur, Dom Pérignon Champagne and topped with authentic locally made Turkish Delight glazed in a gold lustre and served in a special glass for guests to take home,” Lampe said.

To be honest, it sounds absurd and waste of good Champagne, but to each their own.

The opening of the restaurant on February 9 coincides with Brisbane's recent economic revival.

With tourism bouncing back in Brisbane and a newfound energy amongst locals, we were eager to find a way to play a part in South Bank, and this was our answer,” Lampe said.

“It's bright, bubbly, and unbridled in fun. Plus we know Brisbane locals love Italian food, so it was an easy decision to bring our take on an Italian summer to our little pocket of Brisbane.”

The venue boasts a bar, two dining rooms, and al fresco seating.

Ovello is also hosting a special Valentine's Day event with a one-night only San Valentino menu for $75 per head, with an additional special spritz menu at $50 per pair to complete the evening.


Friday 27 January 2023

Tickets on sale for flights with Australia's newest airline

Tickets are on sale from today for flights on Australia's newest low-cost airline: Bonza.

Flights from Bonza's Sunshine Coast base to several destinations are available immediately as Bonza starts to challenge Jetstar and other low-cost rivals.

Sunshine Coast to Whitsunday Coast flights will begin on Tuesday, January 31.

Routes from Bonza’s second base at Melbourne Airport are expected to go on sale in a matter of weeks.

“It’s important that Aussie travellers know we’re on sale, not having a sale," says Carly Povey, Chief Commercial Officer at Bonza.

"We’re committed to low cost fares which will, in turn, stimulate new markets for Australia’s domestic tourism industry.

"We’re confident whenever customers choose to travel, all our fares and not just our starting fares will represent great value.”

Bonza’s initial route map includes 27 routes to 17 destinations and 93% of Bonza routes are not currently served by any scheduled airline.

The only place to book direct is on the FlyBonza app.

“We’re delighted to be delivering on our commitment to make air travel more accessible," says Povey. "We promised choice and better connectivity to the regions for less and we’ve been beyond delighted with the support for our mission.

“Today we start making travel a possibility for the many, not the few. Forget connecting flights or your bum going numb in the car, Bonza is here to take Aussies from A to B without the C (cost and complexity)”.

Destinations served to and from the Sunshine Coast include Albury, Avalon, Cairns, Coffs Harbour, Mackay, Mildura, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Rockhampton, Townsville and Whitsunday Coast with some fare as low as $49.

Other routes include Cairns-Rockhampton, Cairns-Mackay, Newcastle-Whitsunday Coast and Rockhampton-Townsville.

Are you ready to enjoy your wine from a bagnum?

Looking for a wine to take to the beach, or on a picnic?

Bottles are heavy, casks can be unwieldy. So how about a bagnum? 

Wines from Wolf Blass and Squealing Pig - both part of the Treasury Wine Estates stable - are now available in 1.5-litre carry bags, which have been dubbed bagnums as they contain the same amount of wine as two bottles.

The bagnums are lightweight and easy to carry and designed for summer entertaining. The blurb says they "offer convenience that doesn’t compromise on the quality".

You can also easily take home whatever wine is left over and pop it back into the fridge  

The Squealing Pig wines are a sauvignon blanc and a pinot gris.

Wolf Blass, meanwhile, has produced three varietals in a 1.5-litre format, including Wolf Blass Chardonnay, Wolf Blass Shiraz Cabernet and Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wines are described as "soft and approachable". I'll report back after I have tried them.

The bagnums are billed as having seven times lower carbon emissions than a traditional 750ml glass bottle and it is easier throw one into the esky than two glass bottles.

“The Squealing Pig style has always been to produce approachable, flavour-packed, fun wines," says Kaushik Lal, Squealing Pig’s senior brand manager.

"The expansion into Bagnums felt like a natural extension for this already playful and irreverent brand."

Shehan Ananthakumar, Wolf Blass’ senior brand manager, said: "“When it came to an iconic brand like Wolf Blass, it gave us the perfect platform to play in this category as its reputation for quality, character and exceptional winemaking can be extended into a valued product that will be enjoyed by all and for all occasions.”

Bagnums are available exclusively to Dan Murphy’s and BWS stores and are priced beteeen $28-$32. 

UPDATE: I have sampled the full range and there are two standouts. The sauvignon blanc is impressively bright and varietal - a terrific summer wine. The Wolf Blass cabernet sauvignon is of excellent quality and maintained its appeal a week after being opened. 

New look for a quintessentially Melbourne space

Adina Apartment Hotel Melbourne on Flinders has a quintessentially Melbourne vibe as a converted warehouse in an iconic laneway.

The Adina Melbourne on Flinders - and its six adjoining warehouse-style apartments on Malthouse Lane - have been given a fresh look for the new year.

Central to the design changes is the transformation of the two- and three-bedroom penthouses and suites and the warehouse-style accommodation.

“This hotel is perfect for big families or friends travelling together,” says Group Chief Operating Officer Chris Sedgwick. “It’s actually the perfect way to activate some of the huge balconies with terrific views over the city or botanical gardens.”

The design of the apartments is inspired by Malthouse Lane’s industrial era history. Think black metal fittings, aged-brass finishes and charcoal tones.

The property is close to Federation Square at the top end of Flinders Lane with a busy restaurant and bar scene. It's one I've added to my "to do" list. 

Sedgwick says the Flinders Street facelift is part a rolling refurbishment program to reinvigorate first generation hotels that will see Sydney’s Adina Darling Harbour and Adina Town Hall re-worked, along with Adina Adelaide Treasury.

For more information visit

Thursday 26 January 2023

Brexit issues causing empty seats on Eurostar trains

Brexit, the gift that keeps on destroying, has severely impacted Eurostar trains travelling between the UK and France.

Post-Brexit border procedures mean more time is needed so that UK passengers' passports can be checked and stamped.

Eurostar chief executive Gwendoline Cazenave said post-Brexit border checks and current levels of border staff had seen 30% less travellers being accommodated.

She said new border formalities had caused "bottlenecks" in stations.

Eurostar is currently operating just 14 services per day between London and Paris, compared with 18 in 2019.

About 350 out of 900 seats are being left unsold on the first services between London, Paris and Brussels despite “huge demand”, British media reported.

Cazenave told local media that the company might not restore some services it suspended last year due to the ongoing problems.

"The thing is now we are not able to run the same transport offer as what we had before in 2019, because of bottlenecks in stations," she said.

"We have a main issue in Eurostar terminals because of the new boarding conditions between the UK and EU, because of the impact of Covid, because of [not enough] staff in the stations."

Cazenave added that Eurostar was working with both French and UK authorities to find a solutions - including utilising more border staff.

Eurostar last year stopped its direct service from London to Disneyland Paris and also ended stops at Ebbsfleet or Ashford International stations.

UK passengers travelling to the EU need their passport stamped when they cross the border, which has caused many delays.

An Entry/Exit System, or EES, will replace the checks, but the technology has been delayed several times and is now due to be implemented at the end of 2023.

Eurostar is currently offering only 70% of available seats on some services, leaving mny empty to avoid further delays.

Grey Goose gets just a little fruity

Flavour-infused spirits are all the rage this summer with French premium vodka distiller Grey Goose upping its offering with the release of Grey Goose Essences.

This new range is made with "all-natural ingredients" and is available in three flavours: strawberry and lemongrass, watermelon and basil and white peach and rosemary.

All are designed for enjoying in cocktails, or as the key ingredient in a spritz.

Grey Goose Essences is one of the first super-premium flavoured spirits to launch in the Australian market.

"The recent introduction of Essences is an exciting chapter for Grey Goose, with this latest innovation giving our consumers more choice when it comes to their summer serves,” said Sander Janmaat, marketing manager for Grey Goose at Bacardi-Martini Australia.

"Lower in calories than your standard vodka and gluten-free, Grey Goose Essences is easily mixed with your favourite premium tonic or soda water, for the ultimate effervescent beverage this summer.

"From picnics and backyard barbecues to rooftop drinks, while basking in the sun or cooling in the shade, summer is the best time for a spritz."

The Essences range also has a lower than standard ABV of 30%.

Grey Goose is distilled in France using only two base ingredients: single-origin Picardy winter wheat and natural spring water.

The Essences range containszero added sugar and is gluten free. It is available at available at BWS stores, Dan Murphy’s and other major retailers nationwide at RRP of $73.99.

For more info see 

Wednesday 25 January 2023

For one day of the year, a little corner of Gippsland turns Italian

Been meaning to get to Gippsland?

The Italian Festa at Mirboo North on February 12 might be the perfect opportunity.

The event runs from 10am to 4pm and is a free, family-friendly celebration of the Italian heritage of the region, featuring Italian food, produce, drinks and entertainment.

It is now 56 years since a group of Italian immigrants in Mirboo North commissioned a statue of St Paul, the patron saint of their hometown of Solarino in Sicily, and had it shipped to Australia.

The statue’s arrival was celebrated with the first St Paul’s Festival in 1966.

More than 50 years later the Mirboo North Italian Festa has grown to become one of the most popular events on the Gippsland gourmet calendar, drawing thousands of people to the tiny hilltop village for the day's festivities.

The Festa highlights authentic Italian food stalls, outdoor bars, a huge market area, music, singing, dancing, comedy, cooking demonstrations, grape stomping, cars, motorbikes and competitions. And there is also free entertainment for the kids.

The highlight of the 2023 Italian Festa will be the return of previous crowd favourites - flag throwers and musicians from Faenza in Italy.

Dishes on offer will include traditional arancini, handmade gnocchi, arrosticini meat skewers, pizza, calamari, spicy barbecued salsicce and pasta with a range of sauces.

For dolce, guests can indulge in gelati, zeppole, tiramisu, biscotti and cannoli.

Italian beers, wines and Aperol Spritzes will be on offer

For more information: Mirboo North Italian Festa:, Mirboo North:, Gippsland:

Images: Grace Adamo, Lauren Murphy

Australian opportunity for Chinese winemaker

Ballandean Estate, one of the longest-established wineries in Queensland's Granite Belt, has appointed a new Chinese-born winemaker.

The family-owned winery this week unveiled 32-year-old Boxi Zhen to succeed Dylan Rhymer, who departed late last year after 22 year in the role.

Zhen has previous experience at both Bird in Hand in the Adelaide Hills and at Chateau Nine Peaks in Qingdao.

Fourth-generation vigneron Leeanne Puglisi-Gangemi said: “Boxi’s experience is a perfect alignment with our unique terroir and cool climate. He will continue our delivery of delectable, varietal, regional wines of character - and inject some fresh ideas.

“As a flying winemaker, Boxi has followed vintages around the world, from the Napa Valley to China, South Australia and now the Granite Belt.

“We hope that his minimal intervention approach and fresh perspective will underpin the Granite Belt as a region that continues to build on its momentum for new, exciting wines that suit our ever-changing climate.”

Zhen moved to Adelaide from China at the age of 24 to complete his Master of Viticulture & Oenology degree at the University of Adelaide. He also has a degree in Food Science,

“What attracted me to the Granite Belt was the chance to work with the incredible fruit produced here," he said.

"The high altitude and cool climate deliver intense flavours and such high acid, thanks to the slow ripening seasons and chilly nights.

“I want to bring out the best expression of the fruit and terroir, with minimal intervention and a mix of modern and traditional winemaking techniques."

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Fun and games and a G+T or two anyone?

How about combining some summer fresh air in the Sydney Botanic Gardens with a refreshing drink or two?

Botanic House in the Botanic Gardens is currently hosting a pop up bar 'Gin in the Garden' in collaboration with Tanqueray.

The pop up includes an outside bar, which is stocked with board games for enjoying on the lawn, Tanqueray pre-mixed bottles and cocktails, as well as a food and beverage menu.

The pop up is running Thursday- unday from 2pm to 7pm and will continue until Sunday, March 5.

Sounds well worth a look for Sydneysiders.

Images: Juan Gordillo

Qantas scrambles to defend its reputation

Qantas has always been an airline whose name is synonymous with safety and good service.

That image has taken a hit this month with six unrelated issues involving its aircraft (five of which involved flights turned back) that generated a whole lot of unwanted media attention and public criticism.

The publicity could have been a whole lot worse were it not for Qantas's cosy relationship with the Australian media - and its status as a big paying advertiser.

After a long feature article on Qantas' woes on major financial news website, the airline is scrambling to defend its reputation.

And, to be fair, all of the flights that were turned back landed safely. And all the issues were unrelated.

Australia’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, said in a statement it was “confident Qantas is operating safely and has confidence in its safety management systems.”

“Australia has one of the safest aviation industries in the world and travellers should have confidence when they fly,” CASA said.

Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David said there are no issues at the airline.

“Our pilots are trained always to err on the side of caution,” he said. “I’d be more worried about the airlines that don’t turn back than the airlines that do in those situations.

"When we look at our overall fleet health condition, we are very, very, very satisfied our fleet are in good, healthy condition.”

That said, chief executive Alan Joyce - who previously oversaw repeated episodes of cancelled flights and lost luggage - must be hoping that there are no more issues.

Monday 23 January 2023

Britain planning to make life more difficult for overseas visitors


It never ceases to amaze how so many countries spend millions of dollars on enticing visitors to their shores - and then come up with ideas to make life more difficult for their guests.

Thailand recently unveiled plans to charge visitors a "welcome" fee on arrival, and now Britain is planning a new Permission to Travel scheme, which will requiring any visitors to seek advance authorisation before entering the country. 

And they will be expected to pay for privilege of filling out a form online. 

Travel Daily reports that the proposals include a new UK Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system, scheduled to roll out later this year, with all travellers required to hold digital approval to travel to the UK. 

The UK Government - and to be honest it would be hard to find a bigger collection of nitwits anywhere on the planet - says the move is in line with the approach taken by other countries including the USA (ESTA), Canada (ETA), Australia (eTA) and New Zealand (NZeTA). 

Apparently, "customers" - not visitors or guests - applying for a UK ETA will provide their biographic, biometric and contact details, and answer a short set of suitability questions. 

The majority of visitors will be expected to receive their authority within a short time of submitting their application. 

If things go well - and how often is that the case in the UK? - the online form should take under 15 minutes to complete, and most customers will receive their ETA within 48-72 hours of submitting their application. Emergencies? Not catered for, apparently.  

The UK Government said: “This will increase our knowledge about who’s seeking to come to the UK and prevent the arrival of those who present a threat.”

It won't, of course, anyone presenting a serious threat would be smart enough to find a way to enter the UK without crossing a border. 

Britain is surrounded by water and sea arrivals in small ports are ludicrously easy. 

“Instead of turning people away at our border or detaining them at a cost to the taxpayer, this approach will allow us to stop people travelling to the UK in the first place,” a briefing paper said. 

Sorry while we snigger. 

The cost of a UK ETA has not yet been revealed, but it has been stated that applicants will need an email address and a credit or debit card to apply. Tough luck if you don't have one. 

Classic wine marks an important Cullen milestone

There is pressure on a winemaking team every time they craft an icon wine. 

For Vanya Cullen and her team in Margaret River there was even more pressure than usual when they put together the 2021 Cullen Diana Madeline, a Margaret River flagship.

The 2021 Diana Madeline, named in honour of the co-founder of Cullen and Vanya's mum, will be released on February 11 - which would have been the 100th birthday of Diana Madeline.

The new release is, fortunately for all concerned, a wine worthy of the occasion; complex but cohesive.    

The vintage report is certainly positive: "The low yields ensured that the crop was harvested at optimal condition and ripeness". 

There were, however, issues with birds - there were several unwanted rain events during the growing season. 

"In spite of these adverse conditions we finished harvest in good time in Wilyabrup and are very happy with the wines." 

As always, the 2021 Diana Madeline was picked according to the biodynamic calendar. It is a blend of  91% caberner sauvignon, 4% merlot, 4% cabernet franc and 2% malbec that was matured for 15 months in 50% new French oak. 

It is an assertive wine with dark plum and blackcurrant fruit notes to the fore, but is pleasingly restrained in the Bordeaux tradition at just 13.5% alcohol. I gave it an outstanding 97/100. 

You'll probably pay around $160 per bottle at retails outlets, which is more than fair for a wine this distinguished and beautifully integrated.


Enjoy Tasmanian seafood with a view at Sealife

Bring a big appetite with you if you plan to eat at Sealife at Bicheno on Tasmania's East Coast.

With spectacular views overlooking the ocean and a menu that focuses on Tasmanian seafood like oysters, scallops and fresh fish, it is dangerously easy to over-order.

Be warned: the portions at this eatery are genereous. Very generous.

If you order scallops rockefeller (served on the shell with herb and garlic butter and bacon) you get around 16 small, juicy and tasty scallops. Enjoy these with some garlic bread and you have a veritable feast.

Or other starter was fish croquettes, four large croquettes smothered with a blue cheese sauce and served with a fresh salad. Very tasty.

The wine list includes local producers like Milton, Freycinet Vineyard and Spring Vale, along with Tasmanian boutique stars Haddow & Dineen and Glaetzer Dixon, and a smattering of mainland options.

Fish of the day was blue-eyed trevalla, which we tried two different ways: battered with chips and salad with cherry tomatoes (three large fillets); and steamed with ginger, so, Asian greens, spring onions and chilli, along with some wild rice.

Both offered a serious challenge - and as we succeeded, that ruled out the possibility of sampling the pecan pie my wife had her eyes on.

With two glasses of wine each, we managed to come in under $200 for two - on a weekend in a popular seaside resort. That's decent value given the portion sizes.

The menu changes with the seasons with carnivore, vegan and vegetarian options available.

The service is country comfortable - totally appropriate - and the restaurant is owned and operated by a husband and wife team.

Overlooking Waubs Bay, Sealife was first established in 1978 as an aquarium for local fish species such as crayfish, octopus, sharks and seahorses.

For more info see

Sunday 22 January 2023

Family pays tribute to a century of Margaret River toil

The Credaro family, synonymous with both farming and wine in the Margaret River Region in Western Australia is celebrating 100 years in the region. 

 Over the past century, the Credaro Estate, just like the family, has grown, yet the business remains family run, making it the oldest family-run winery in Western Australia’s south west.

The family story began in 1921 when Cesare Credaro migrated from Sondrio, Lombardy, in Italy’s north, following his brother Olympio to Fremantle in search of a better life after World War I.

The following year, the brothers found themselves in the south west region with an opportunity to purchase 146 acres of land in the Carbunup sub-region, midway between Yallingup and Busselton.

The Western Australian Government sold the land to the brothers for £250 pounds on the condition that they continued to cut wood for railway sleepers and clear the land for farming.

Robert Credaro, Cesare’s grandson, still has the broad axe his grandfather used.

“They had saw pits where they’d roll a big log over and they’d be one guy above and one below ground in the pit sawing by hand, which would have been hard work,” said father-of-five Robert.

Cesare sourced vine cuttings from some Italian neighbours, the Meleri family in Yallingup, and planted his first fragola vines in 1922.

Cesare helped the Meleris tend their own existing five acres of fragola while he waited for his own to fruit, from which he made table wine for family, friends and the community.

“Back then, fragola was known as ‘Red Dynamite’ and it was enjoyed by family and friends as well as sold and consumed at the Carbunup hall, which was the community’s social hub at the time,” Robert said.

Cuttings from that first Credaro vineyard live on with fragola one of the winery’s cornerstone varietals.

Alongside cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay that have traditionally thrived in the region, the five Credaro vineyards - with a total of 110 hectares under vine - produce pinot gris, merlot, sangiovese, semillon, sauvignon blanc, cabernet franc, shiraz, malbec, petit verdot and fragola.

“It’s humbling to look back to where it all started and hear the stories of all the hard work and sacrifices my great grandfather, grandfather and father have made to give their family a better life.” said Matt Credaro.

“To honour that, we’ve grafted Italian varietals montepulciano, nebbiolo and barbera for a future Credaro Heritage Range.

“Not only are we really excited to celebrate one hundred years in the region, we’re looking forward to the future and the next hundred years.”

The Credaros have a diverse agricultural history in the Margaret River Region. They have raised livestock including sheep and cattle, and nurtured a range of fresh produce, from the potatoes Cesare traded a century ago to avocados and pomegranates.

The first commercial crop of vines was planted in 1988, and in 2003, the Credaros built a winery and soon after established their own namesake label.

To celebrate their centenary in the Margaret River Region, Credaro Wines will host a series of events over the next 12 months, including a family day at their Caves Road cellar door in April.

For more information visit

How would you like to buy an entire village in Tasmania?

How would you like to own an entire township in rural Tasmania?

The Tarraleah estate includes a lodge that has been used for luxury accommodation, a pub, cafe, cottages, accommodation blocks and more.

The estate sits on 147 hectares with six titles, town water supply, dam, electricity, sewerage, telecommunications infrastructure and road networks - but it is 40 minutes from the nearest supermarket, which might scare off some potential purchasers.

The estate lake is brimming with stocked brown trout should you fancy fly fishing, kayaking, or other water sports.

There are also 71 potential home sites close to the lake.

The established buildings onsite include:

• The award-winning Lodge at Tarraleah: featuring luxury accommodation with nine suites, dining room, library, bar, and wood fireplace dating back to the 1930s. 

• The Edge Restaurant and Function Centre: a two-storey award-winning designed building for 100 guests overlooking the Nive River Valley and featuring a whisky and wine cellar.

• The Gate House: previously operated as a sauna, spa, massage rooms and gymnasium.

• The Blue House: a new five-bedroom home.

• The Great Hall: function centre for 150 guests with three en-suite accomodation rooms, an apartment and squash court.

• The Church and Conference Centre for functions.

• The Scholars House: a school conversion into 11 studio accommodation rooms with communal lounge and kitchen.

• The Highlander Restaurant and Atrium, a pub complete with beer garden, wood fires, with and large commercial kitchen.

• Teez Café, with internal seating and external patio seating for 50.

• A reception building with retail shop and art gallery, with offices and commercial laundry facilities.

• Office with staff accommodation with seven bedrooms and communal lounge.

• A community of 18 renovated cottages each with their own garden.

• Two lakeside villas and four Highlander cabins adjacent to the lake.

• The Highland Caravan Park with 32 powered sites, amenities block and two studio rooms.

• The Pavilion, a converted self-contained one bedroom apartment.

The property is adjacent to the nine-hole Tarraleah Golf Course.

It all sounds idyllic, but remember the closest supermarket is 40 minutes away from this former Hydro settlement, so you'll need to make sure you didn't forget anything when you go shopping.

The Tasmanian capital of Hobart is around a two-hour drive away.  

The price is expected to be over $12 million, should you be tempted.

Saturday 21 January 2023

Australian hotels join new Accor collection

The new Sydney boutique hotel The Morris, featured here a few weeks ago, is one of 12 small properties around the world initially selected for a new collection of hotels noteworthy for their charm and character.

The Handwritten Collection will be a small portfolio of "bespoke hotels that offer an intimate and stylish hospitality experience".

Handwritten Collection properties opening over the next several months include Hotel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental in Shanghai, China (top); Le Saint Gervais Hotel & Spa  in Saint Gervais, France; (below); Wonil Hotel Perth in Perth; Hotel Morris in Sydney and Le Splendid Hotel Lac d'Annecy, 

Additional properties will open throughout the remainder of the year and beyond, including Hotel Les Capitouls Toulouse Centre, France; Oru Hub Hotel in Tallinn, Estonia; Square Lodge Hotel La Roche sur Yon in La Roche-sur-Yon, France; Sunrise Premium Resort in Hoi An, Vietnam and Paris Montmartre Sacré Coeur in Paris.

Properties will also be unveiled in Bucharest, Romania and Madrid, Spain.

The Handwritten Collection portfolio is expected to reach more than 250 hotels by 2030.

"Handwritten Collection enriches Accor’s offering in the ‘collection brands’ segment with a curated selection of hotels that exhibit charming and one-of-a-kind concepts," said Alex Schellenberger, Chief Marketing Officer, Premium, Midscale, Economy Brands, Accor (Whew! Quite a title, Alex).

"Our aim, beyond delivering a truly authentic guest experience, is to support the growing number of independent and boutique hotel owners looking to boost their global profile, connect with more audiences and grow their revenue without losing their identity..

“The hotels we will feature in Handwritten Collection are those sought out by travellers who appreciate heart-warming travel experiences and a twist on traditional hospitality, as well as by hoteliers who cherish the unique personality of their properties while desiring the benefits that come with a leading global partner.”

Handwritten Collection will bring together hotels with individual personalities, intimately reflecting the character and warmth of their operators, the Accor blub says.

“The manner in which each host interacts with their guests is thoughtfully considered and brings to life their own personal passions,” said Caroline Bénard, Global SVP Economy & Midscale Brands, Accor.

Las Vegas hotel to attract different style of high roller

Las Vegas is set to welcome its first cannabis-friendly hotel.

The former Artisan Hotel Boutique is undergoing a revamp and will soon be reborn as the "cannabis inclusive" Lexi Hotel.

Alex Rizk, CEO of Elevation Hotels and Resorts, says the new look will pay tribute to the hotel's history, while appealing to a new crowd.

He says the 64-room hotel will be open to both cannabis enjoyers and those who don't partake in a spliff or two, with a combination of cannabis-inclusive and cannabis-free areas throughout the property.

"One of our goals is to destigmatize the use of cannabis in the proper areas," said Rizk. "So, we are following and will follow the local laws, even though some of our hotels will have more flexibility depending on where they are."

Rizk says the Lexi will feature a pot lounge at some point, subject to statutory approval.

In addition to a potential lounge, the newly branded resort will also feature an exclusive members-only lounge, achapel and an events centre. There will also be a café, a Cajun-inspired steakhouse and live music.

Located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, The Lexi will have all new guest rooms, and host pool parties over spring and summer.

"The Lexi allows the Elevations Hotels and Resorts brand to truly showcase our commitment to creating a new type of hotel concept that is defined not only by our acceptance and normalization of cannabis in the hospitality space, but also by our dedication to reclaim storied properties and transform them for the modern-day travellers," says Rizk.

For more details see

Friday 20 January 2023

Qantas deal makes travel to India easier

Qantas has announced more codeshare options across India as part of an expansion of its partnership with low-cost carrier IndiGo.

Qantas launched the first phase of its codeshare agreement with IndiGo in August last year, offering connections from Qantas flights in Bengaluru and Delhi onto IndiGo services to other major Indian cities, including Mumbai and Chennai, as well as smaller destinations such as Pune and Goa.

Under the second phase of the agreement, Qantas customers can now travel to an additional eight cities, bringing the total number of Indian destinations available for connection from Delhi and Bengaluru to 21.

Qantas customers will also have more choice across IndiGo’s domestic network with more than 250 new flights available for booking.

Qantas Frequent Flyers can earn and redeem points on connecting IndiGo flights (with a QF code) and IndiGo recognises Qantas Frequent Flyer benefits for tiered members (Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum One) including priority check-in and priority baggage.

“Qantas’ new routes to India have proven to be incredibly popular with our customers," said Qantas Chief Customer Officer, Markus Svensson

“Our codeshare partnership with IndiGo has improved the way our customers travel between Australia and India, and the additional destinations give travellers even more options."

The codeshare destinations are Guwahati, Indore, Chandigarh, Mangalore, Jaipur, Nagpur, Thiruvananthapuram and Visakhapatnam.

Qantas operates four return flights from Melbourne to Delhi per week and four return flights from Sydney to Bengaluru per week.

IndiGo is reportedly among the fastest growing low-cost carriers in the world with 275+ aircraft connecting 73 domestic destinations and 24 international destinations.


New moscato pushes wine boundaries

I think it would be fair to say that I am not the target market for the latest Australian wine industry wheeze.

Two of Australia’s leading gourmet brands have teamed up to create a limited-edition moscato flavour that has just been released.

Inspired by a Gelato Messina classic, the Brown Brothers Moscato Strawberries & Cream is obviously aimed at a young, sweet-toothed demographic.

It is being billed as "a flavour-filled dream from two strong, family-owned brands that share a love for innovation, taste, and adventure".

The new wine has been infused with natural ingredients to create a strawberry and cream taste profile, that is supposed to be enjoyed well chilled.

It is available at Brown Brothers' Milawa cellar door, online at, or at Coles Liquorland, First Choice, Vintage Cellars and select independent retailers.

The RRP is $16.50 and the wine comes in at just 8% alcohol. It is made for drinking now.

And no, I have not yet tried it. Nor am I keen to do so. 

# For younger readers, a wheeze is a clever or amusing scheme, idea, or trick

Canadians warned to cut down on alcohol consumption

Canadians have been given a stark health warning and told to limit themselves to a maximum of two alcoholic drinks a week. 

Not two alcoholic drinks per hour. Two per week. 

New national guidelines released this week also say that “any amount of alcohol is not good for your health”.

The report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) was issued after two years of research, a review of nearly 6,000 studies and a survey of around 1,000 members of the public.

Funded in part by Health Canada, it says drinking alcohol, including wine, represents an increased risk in negative outcomes, including various cancers.

Canada defines a ‘standard’ drink as a bottle of beer, glass of wine, a single shot of spirits or a bottle of cider.

In 2011, a report named Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines recommended a maximum of 10 drinks a week for women and 15 drinks for men. 

So either alcohol has become more dangerous, or the experts have become smarter, or perhaps more cautious. 

Dr Erin Hobin, a member of the panel of experts responsible for putting together the guidance document, said:  “The main message from this new guidance is that any amount of alcohol is not good for your health.

"And if you drink, less is better.”

The Canadian drinks industry went into positive spin mode. 

"We're encouraging people to track the number of standard drinks that they're consuming and to make informed decisions about alcohol and their health," said Rob Taylor, a spokesman for Wine Growers Canada, which was not involved in the survey.

CJ Helie, president of Beer Canada, said to CTV News that the industry was voluntarily advising people to moderate their drinking, rendering health warning labels unnecessary.

“A number of Canadian brewers, including a number of our members, have voluntary health warning labels or pictographs on packaging dealing with warnings against drinking while pregnant and driving while intoxicated,” he said.

Image: Marie Dashkova,

Thursday 19 January 2023

Smoking ceremony launches 2023 Hunter Valley wine vintage

Vintage 2023 is up and running in the Hunter Valley wine region and over a hundred local winemakers, grape growers and tourism industry representatives gathered on Thursday morning to take part in the Hunter Valley's inaugural Vintage Smoking Ceremony.

The ceremony was conducted by Uncle Warren, an elder of the Wonnarua people.

The event was held at the Audrey Wilkinson cellar door in Pokolbin, with guests given the opportunity to connect with each other and with the land, at an important time for the local wine industry.

This ancient method of cleansing bad energy, both physically and spiritually, uses smouldering native plants, such as eucalyptus or emu bush, to produce a smoke with antimicrobial effects that are passed on to the vines and soil.

"This ceremony will help local wine producers and growers to connect with the land by having mother nature and the spirits of Baiame and Kawal on their side to provide protection to the vineyards and their roots over this vintage," said Uncle Warren.

"This protection will help provide the right amount of rain, the right amount of sun and everything from Mother Nature to provide a successful harvest of the vines upon this land."

Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association president Stuart Hordern of Brokenwood Wines opened the ceremony and said: "This has been a challenging growing season for all and we are grateful to Uncle Warren for his time and positive energy ahead of our 23 Vintage.

"We understand this is the first time any wine region has undertaken a smoking ceremony ahead of a vintage and it is fitting that it should be in the birthplace of the Australian wine industry.

"The wines we make in the Hunter Valley are internationally renowned for having a unique regional character about them and acknowledging the country and its indigenous connection to it is a uniquely Australian extension to the concept of terroir."

Some Hunter producers have already commenced harvesting given the drier weather the region has benefitted from recently, and the majority of white grapes will start to be harvested in the next couple of weeks.

The Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association said it "looks forward to this becoming an ongoing tradition within the industry".