Botswana Butchery Queenstown
A foodie’s guide to Queenstown
There’s more to New Zealand’s adventure capital than just adrenaline. Surrounded by striking mountains on one side and a serene deep, blue lake on the other, Queenstown has got to be one of New Zealand’s most beautiful cities. And while most tourists visit to raise their heart rate on the slopes, with around 150 bars and cafes in the Queenstown region, there’s a pretty impressive foodie scene to be explored as well. Breakfast Bites The Bathhouse What better way to start the day than with a hot, locally brewed coffee at The Bathhouse (38 Marine Parade). This cute wooden building overlooks the beach with spectacular views of the lake and lots of deck chairs outside, and it serves up a mean breakfast as well. The Bathouse Special Breakfast is recommended. If you like it, come back at lunch and try its famous seafood chowder with a local beer. Ivy & Lola’s Kitchen and Bar [caption id="attachment_46277" align="alignnone" width="600"] For breakfast or lunch with a view, you can't go past Ivy & Lola Kitchen and Bar.[/caption] Ivy & Lola’s Kitchen and Bar (88 Beach Street) on the Queenstown Pier is a little more formal, but still offers uninterrupted views of the lake. Although the menu does change, and is a little eclectic, dishes like the Southern fried chicken 'n' waffles with jalapeño chutney, bacon and maple syrup keeps regulars coming back for more. VuDu Cafe & Larder [caption id="attachment_46282" align="alignnone" width="600"] Stop for a coffee and a sweet treat at VuDu Cafe & Larder.[/caption] If you’re about to hop on a ferry or head up to the snow, the busy VuDu Cafe & Larder (16 Rees Street) in the centre of town serves up great coffee and pastries. It also does a fantastic eggs benedict and if you want to break the breakfast rules, the carrot cake is ridiculously tasty. Lunch munches Fergburger You may have heard of the famous Fergburger (42 Shotover Street) – make sure you try its namesake burger – but did you know the team behind it also offers golden baked pies and crispy pastries at Fergbaker and the delicious gelato at Mrs Ferg as well? You’ll find both of them next door to Fergburger, just follow the smells (and the lines). Winnie’s Pizza For a quick bite between bungee jumps, Winnie’s Pizza (7–9 The Mall) is right in the centre of town. Choose a table outside so you can people watch and make sure you order the cheesy garlic bread to start. It’s addictive. The thin and crispy wood-fired pizzas that are served up here come dripping with toppings and they make for a filling lunch. Not a pizza person? Try their ribs or spaghetti bolognaise. Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan [caption id="attachment_46275" align="alignnone" width="600"] Have a relaxing cellar door lunch at Akarua Wines and Kitchen by Artisan just outside of Queenstown.[/caption] If you’re looking for a more rustic lunch with views, Akarua Wines & Kitchen by Artisan (265 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road) is a relaxing cellar door just outside of Queenstown. Featuring its Central Otago wines and local produce, the cafe is set in a garden courtyard sheltered from the summer sun. It’s a short drive away from the busy Queenstown streets and can offer a little relief from the crowds. Dinner Dates The Lodge Bar [caption id="attachment_46281" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Lodge is the place to go for seafood, cocktails and beer.[/caption] Start the evening with a cocktail or crisp beer at The Lodge Bar (2 Rees Street). A good choice is the Sage Advice cocktails – sage-infused tequila, blackberry purée and lime juice – drunk at the bar, on a booth or near the big, inviting double windows. If you get peckish, order the oysters, clams or prawns and enjoy fresh seafood over looking the lake. Rātā [caption id="attachment_46278" align="alignnone" width="600"] You can't leave Queenstown before you enjoy a meal at Rātā.[/caption] One of Queenstown’s most impressive restaurants is the elegant Rātā (43 Ballarat Street), opened by Michelin-starred chef Josh Emett and local restaurateur Fleur Caulton. With rich slow-cooked dishes, such as beef rib with parmesan gnocchi and buttered leek, to suit Queenstown’s cooler climate, there’s a reason this intimate venue is so popular. Enjoy your meal at the bar, in the formal restaurant or outside in the sunny courtyard. [caption id="attachment_46279" align="alignnone" width="600"] Warm up with any of hearty, slow-cooked meals on the menu at Rātā.[/caption] Botswana Butchery [caption id="attachment_46276" align="alignnone" width="600"] Enjoy an exquisite meal beside a roaring log fire at Botswana Butchery.[/caption] To celebrate a special night, book a table at the Botswana Butchery (17 Marine Parade), in the pretty little historic Archer’s Cottage. Despite the name, under Hong Kong-born head chef Vicky Wong you’ll find dishes such as Singapore soft shell crab and Botswana Peking Duck. It’s not cheap but the quality of the food is worth the coin. The Bunker [caption id="attachment_46280" align="alignnone" width="600"] A night in at The Bunker is well worth the effort it takes to find it.[/caption] For a post-dinner nightcap, head to the hard-to-find speakeasy, The Bunker (14 Cow Lane). Although it also serves dinner with paired wines in its restaurant, this hidden bar is the place to be for a late-night pinot noir or single malt. Don’t be fooled by the uneventful laneway you’ll find it in, this little Queenstown gem is atmospheric, welcoming and cosy on cool, New Zealand nights.   Planning a trip to Queenstown? Read our New Zealand guide to find out everything the country has to offer before you go.
The best and brightest hotel openings around the world
The latest and greatest hotels, resorts and unique stays to check into and check out right now. Tengile River Lodge, South Africa Luxury safari and experiential travel company andBeyond has recently opened the brand new Tengile River Lodge, a luxurious lodge in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve, and boy is it magical. The nine-suite lodge offers a high level of exclusivity and sense of tranquillity with a contemporary bush design. Each of the suites features a private deck with a swimming pool, an outdoor lounge and a master bedroom that opens out onto a luxurious bathroom with an outdoor shower and views over the river. Built with an extremely light footprint, using sustainable construction materials and an environmentally friendly design, the lodge has also been cleverly positioned on a bend of the Sand River, so that each suite is nestled in the tree line along the riverfront and boasts a magnificent view out over the Sand River, an area inhabited by a world-renowned diversity of wildlife. The elegant design concept is based around blending luxury with the natural landscape and bringing the outdoors inside, drawing inspiration from the textures of the surrounding bush. Pullman Luang Prabang, Laos This new five-star resort is located 10 minutes away by car from Luang Prabang’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town. [caption id="attachment_44535" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Located in Luang Prabang, it is within 2.9 miles of Night Market and 3 miles of Mount Phousy[/caption]   Its 16 hectares encompass 123 modern guest rooms with large terraces, a two-bedroom villa and a healthy scattering of infinity pools and streams. The Pullman Luang Prabang is now the largest hotel in town, but its low-rise architecture – which draws on traditional Laotian influences – sees it blend in well with the surrounding natural landscape.   Guests can dine on international cuisine at L’Atelier and sink a cocktail overlooking paddy fields at the Junction. One&Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda   Promising a real once-in-a-lifetime experience, One&Only Nyungwe House sits within the dense Green Expanse of a tea plantation, next to Ancient Montane rainforest.   Wild experiences such as chimpanzee Trekking or walking among majestic mahogany trees allow guests to max out the incredible setting.   The 23 rooms and suites combine local African craftsmanship with a contemporary look and feel, Plus there’s a Spa that uses natural products from luxury brand Africology. FREIgeist Göttingen, Germany   Located in the historic university town of Göttingen, in Germany’s Lower Saxony, Hotel Freigeist is a relentlessly modern new build (and a member of Design Hotels) featuring 118 rooms.   The décor continues the theme, with wood and copper fittings throughout contrasted against a palette of grey bricks, neutrals and shots of blue, and Basquiat-inspired artwork.   The whole thing has a Nordic vibe (enhanced by the on-site sauna), but in Intuu, its signature restaurant, it’s Japanese/South AmericaN Fusion all the way. Omaanda, Namibia   Omaanda is nestled in the Namibian savannah in the heart of the Zannier private animal reserve. Its 9000-hectare footprint, which offers lashings of peace and quiet and natural beauty, houses 10 luxury huts inspired by traditional Owambo architecture.   Ambo Delights restaurant offers cuisine inspired by the best local produce, while the bar at the edge of the heated swimming pool has views over the savannah. The Shangai Edition    A perfect blend of old and new Shanghai, the 145-room Shanghai EDITION sees Nanjing Road’s 1929 Art Deco Shanghai Power Company building fused with a new-build skyscraper.   Its various food and drink options include star chef Jason Atherton’s HIYA (translated to ‘clouds in the sky’), a Japanese izakaya-inspired eatery on the 27th floor. Six Senses Maxwell, Singapore   The Six Senses group has had a busy year, having already opened properties in Singapore and Fiji; now comes Six Senses Maxwell.   A sister property to Six Senses Duxton, the wellness brand’s first city hotel, the 120-room property is also retrofitted into a historic Singapore colonial-style building and features Euro-chic interiors courtesy of French architect and designer Jacques Garcia. The Apurva Kempinski, Bali   The first Kempinski hotel to open in Bali is a suitably grand reflection of Balinese architecture and craftsmanship.   Situated in the Nusa Dua area of the island, the hotel boasts 475 rooms, suites and villas and all the requisite inclusions expected from the luxury brand, from five dining options to a 60-metre swimming pool to an ocean-facing spa and a cigar and shisha lounge.   It even has its own beachfront wedding chapels.  
Airbnb’s top 10 most popular stays have been revealed
Itching to discover where the most diehard wanderlusters among us are wish-listing? We’ve got the lowdown on the 10 stays around the world that have caught the attention of the people – and for good reason. Amalfi Coast villas, Joshua Tree cabins, Marrakech riads and even a secluded Aussie property, these Airbnb gems clocked up the most likes on the site’s Instagram page in 2018. And when you see the images, it’ll be crystal clear why each of these incredible places deserves a spot in the top 10.   So, the only thing left to ponder is… will you bag yourself a stay before everyone else does? Fingers and toes crossed for you. 10. The Triangle Siargao – General Luna, Siargao Island, Philippines Got a grown-up fascination with teepees? Well this life-sized A-framed cabin in the Philippines is sure to tickle your fancy – it sure did for the 45,000-odd people who liked it on Instagram. Thanks for the pic, @thetriangle.siargao! [caption id="attachment_46224" align="alignleft" width="600"] The magnificent Triangle Siargao[/caption] Tucked away in the jungle, this property may look a little secluded, but you’ll have more than enough to live with, two friendly dogs as your welcome party and an indoor swing to pass the time. Pretty cool, eh? 9. Exclusive Villa with Private Dock and Swimming Pool – Piano di Sorrento, Italy Well, this is living, isn’t it? A cliff-side Amalfi Coast property that’d make anyone want to pack their bags and head for Italy. It’s not hard to believe this blue-soaked shot by @lizbedor received over 49,000 Instagram likes. [caption id="attachment_46223" align="alignleft" width="600"] A private oasis in Italy, anyone?[/caption] The property has its own private dock: the ideal starting point for a daily of sailing or the setting for a simple stroll after your private pool swim – whatever you prefer really. 8. Incredible Apartment & Views! Pool! – Perledo, Lake Como, Italy Was there ever any doubt that a Lake Como property would feature in this list? Not in our book; it’s one of the most magical places on Earth – and this photo captured by @sssoph90, which garnered almost 50,000 likes shows you why.   Situated high above the village of Varenna, you can see why visitors are itching to stay here, and we haven’t even mentioned the property’s three balconies, which happen to be just perfect for stargazing. 7. Vintage Design and Contemporary Art at Casalibera – Trastevere, Italy This could be the only balcony in the world where you don’t mind staring into the neighbour’s – and vice versa.   Set in Rome’s trendy Trastevere neighbourhood, this stylish apartment is the perfect place to sit with a good book and a glass of wine and watch the world go by. It’s no coincidence that the photo, taken by @jonisan, amassed more than 50,000 likes.   The apartment feels serene but is also within walking distance to all things Roma, which means – you guessed it – incredible pizza is never too far away. 6. The Boat House – New South Wales, Australia Hooray, Australia made the cut! Yep, a blissful little oasis on the NSW Hawkesbury River that can only be accessed by boat. Imagine laying out on the sun-kissed deck all day long, winding down the clock with a glass of wine.   It’s no wonder this pic, taken by @sarahlianhan, racked up over 55,000 likes. [caption id="attachment_46222" align="alignleft" width="600"] Some pretty nice Australian real estate[/caption] All we want to do is lay out on the property’s private pier and swim to the secret beaches scattered around the home. 5. BEAUTIFUL RIAD – Marrakech, Morocco Well this is not your average poolside by any stretch of the imagination. This stunning Moroccan homestead is your own private piece of heaven during your stay, ideal to curl up with a good book in, and waste the day in utter bliss. [caption id="attachment_46221" align="alignleft" width="600"] Moroccan paradise[/caption] The photo taken by @theresatorp was liked on Instagram just under 60,000 times and we can see why, we feel positively peaceful just looking at it. 4. Joshua Tree Campover Cabin – Joshua Tree, USA Tell us, where on Earth can you stay at a place with a lookout reminiscent of a setting of an old Western movie? Looking at this photo, you almost expect Clint Eastwood to ride by on horseback, tilt his hat in your direction and say, ‘nice digs’. [caption id="attachment_46220" align="alignleft" width="600"] Joshua Tree perfection[/caption] It’s no surprise this image taken by @alalam100 received over 65,000 likes on Instagram.   The Joshua Tree cabin is the perfect spot to appreciate the calm of the Mojave Desert and provides pretty much undisturbed daily sunrises and sunsets. Bliss. 3. Willow Treehouse – secluded, unique, and romantic – Willow, NY, USA A modern version of Robin Hood-style dwellings, this treehouse gives guests that ‘you’re on your own’ feeling in a somehow soothing way. During your stay, the swimming pond nearby will be your best friend, before you ascend up to your bedroom loft and take in the stars.   The treehouse is located near Woodstock in New York state and this image alone shows you why visitors are drawn to this woodland escape.   2. Lazzarella Room in Old Mill – Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy Like something out of a romantic movie, this Ravello property perched above the Amalfi Coast screams ‘Italy’ in every stereotypical sense – and we couldn’t be more pleased about that.   The vine-strung window looks out to the quaint town and hillside, and immediately gives you both the feeling of peace and the thirst to get out and explore.   The image is taken from the dining room of an old mill that has been turned into a homestead, just a stone’s throw from the beautiful Amalfi Coast.   1. LUC 22 Boutique Alpine Retreat – Queenstown, New Zealand Imagine staring out a window from the comfort of your bath tub and seeing this. By ‘this’ I mean a stunning vista of horizon-stroking mountains, a smooth pool of bright blue water and a crisp, cloud-covered sky. That’s what you’ll get when you choose to take your baths at this Queenstown alpine retreat, which overlooks the stunning panorama of Lake Wakatipu. [caption id="attachment_46218" align="alignleft" width="600"] The most impressive AirBnB view of all[/caption] It’s not hard to determine why this place scored the number one spot with almost 110,000 likes. Can we stay?! Image taken by @chachi86.
India
The ultimate first-timers guide to India
If ever there were a destination that was larger than life, and more vibrant than the postcards can even do it justice, it would be India.   Millennia of tribal history, no less than 22 languages and countless cultures combine to make it a fabulously complex (perhaps rather trippy) place to get your head around – which, of course, is why we love it so Once you’ve enveloped yourself in this ever-moving nation of 1.2 billion people and its inextricable melange of cultures, you’ll never quite be the same again. So where to start this life-changing trip of yours? [caption id="attachment_46128" align="alignnone" width="600"] Sunsets over temples[/caption] How to get there Air India flies direct from Australian capitals, with many international carriers flying between the two countries via an Asian stopover.   Indian airports are fantastic in themselves, with Delhi claiming the spot as the sixth busiest airport in the world, while Mumbai manages a record of 969 take-offs and landings in a single day.   Meanwhile, Cochin airport is the first in the world to run entirely on solar energy – reason enough to hop down to the beautiful coconut palm-filled state of Kerala. [caption id="attachment_46129" align="alignnone" width="600"] India's magnificent views[/caption] How to get around With no less than 26 airlines servicing domestic routes within India, it’s very easy to whiz directly to where you need to go just about anywhere on the massive subcontinent.   If you stick to the air, though, you’ll miss out on some glorious other ways to travel. The Indian railway system is nothing short of incredible, its 12,000 trains carrying 23 million passengers every day through an ornate spider’s web of tracks across the country.   Eight classes of travel mean you can find exactly the experience you’ve dreamed of, from the four-bunk sociability of second-class air-conditioned overnights through to the most rarefied of luxury onboard such treasures as the Palace on Wheels or the Golden Chariot.   If you long for a chariot on only two wheels, touring India atop an iconic Royal Enfield motorbike is the quintessential way to see, feel and love this country. If you prefer four wheels, touring with a private car complete with your own driver/guide can be less expensive than you think here. Where to stay Heritage digs: It doesn’t get much more delicious than staying a while in a haveli mansion, a medieval fort or even a real palace, replete with bejewelled walls and soaring dining rooms, and India offers this kind of experience everywhere. In Rajasthan, the colourful and popular desert state, there seems to be almost a palace in every town; the family-run Deogarh and super-luxe Samode are both worth every penny when you stop for a night (or three), while the Jagat Niwas Palace gazes directly over Udaipur’s famous lake (and Lake Palace). Cosmopolitan chic: Modern architecture in India’s capitals is even more awe inspiring when you get to stay within it. Every perfect curve and pillar is yours to enjoy at the thoroughly beautiful Roseate in Delhi, or get spoiled in the classically plush Leela Palace hotels, spanning from Chennai to Bengaluru, Udaipur and of course, Delhi. Eco luxe: Stay in a luxury tree house on a tiger reserve at Lemon Tree Wildlife Resort Bandhavgarh or in a beachside eco-village of bungalows at The Dune in Puducherry; out in the Andaman Islands, quench your thirst on fresh rain- and springwater in an elegant thatch tent amidst the rainforest at Barefoot at Havelock Resort.   Some must-sees The Taj Mahal is beyond a must-see – it’s a part of India’s very soul. Getting out of bed before sunrise will all be worth it if you witness this shining marble edifice at its best, at dawn.   The holy city of Varanasi has sat augustly upon the river Ganges for over 5000 years, and the sacred waterway continues to be the centre of life here. From births to deaths, blessings to prayers, the ghats are alive with humanity and their rites 24 hours a day, and must be seen to be believed.   Sikkim is far beyond the beaten path, high in the Himalayas and barely attached to the rest of the country, but its unique culture and breathtaking vistas put it high on any list. Take a yak safari, go paragliding through the world’s most famed mountain range, or just meditate in a breezy, open-air monastery.   Amer Fort exemplifies the vast Rajasthani forts that have marked the desert through this state’s millennia of royal history. Once you have marvelled at its length and breadth, some of the region’s best dining can be had in the rooftop restaurant, and the son et lumiere evening performance is the perfect finish. Some must-dos The Pushkar camel fair brings countless tribespeople, herdsmen and pilgrims to do business, dance, sing, compete, pray, socialise and trade their 30,000-odd camels. Watch circus performers, sit and sip chai with other visitors and attempt to chat amongst the dozens of languages and dialects filling the air, and bargain in the crowded markets.   Travelling by boat – especially houseboat – through the silent canals and waterways of tropical Kerala is an essential experience for anyone needing a deep breath, and especially a deep dive into the everyday life of the people here. You’ll witness the flow of village life from a unique angle as you drift by.   An epic journey by rail is an unforgettable experience. The longest train journey in India, the Vivek Express, covers an incredible 4,273 kilometres; if you’re not quite up for that 85-hour epic, the Grand Truck Express covers more than 2,000 kilometres cross-country, from New Delhi to Chennai
Goa, India
The essential guide to Goa: the fascinating seaside state of India
Where the Indian subcontinent meets the warm Arabian Sea, nestled subtly between the relative behemoth states of Maharashtra to the north and Karnataka to the south and east, you’ll find India’s gorgeously laid-back, sometimes a little cheeky, and utterly fascinating smallest state: Goa.   It is a meeting place in so many more ways than mere geography. It is where the western ways and architecture of the Portuguese and British have fused with everyday Indian life; where history and ancient culture is melded with modern traditions such as meeting for sundowners on the sand; where generations-old recipes are transformed into on-trend eats and world-famous dishes; and where its famed coastline of beach upon beach forms a golden thread, tying it all together. [caption id="attachment_46121" align="alignnone" width="600"] How many perfect sunsets can you get?[/caption] History The irresistible scent of spices (and subsequent riches) lured the Portuguese across the seas around 1500AD, leading to an astonishing 450-odd years of colonisation under Portuguese rule, interrupted only by brief British occupation from 1799 to 1813, and only finally ended in 1961. During the height of Portuguese influence, Goa would have more closely resembled Lisbon, or perhaps Brazil or Macau, than it would its Indian sisters Mumbai or Delhi.   [caption id="attachment_46122" align="alignnone" width="600"] Oozing with history[/caption]   Now that Goa is safe back in the arms of Mother India, its European personality has blended quite uniquely with the countless other influences that have been thrown into this fabulous cultural crossroads. In any day, you might tour the 15th-century Basilica of Bom Jesus (housing the remains of St Francis Xavier, no less), munch on the local bhali-pau (bread roll and curry), shop a hippie market in Anjuna and then dance the night away in what is rated the sixth-best nightlife capital of the world. Don’t miss a heritage walk of the charming Latin Quarter of Fontainhas, and a visit to the state’s oldest fort at remarkable Reis Magos. Beach Every kilometre of Goan coastline meets the sea in spectacular fashion, with almost entirely uninterrupted beach in many sections. This article may tell you about Goa three ways, but the truth is, Goa interprets beach life about a thousand ways: whether you’re looking for a weathered hammock under a palm tree or perfectly swept sands fronting five stars of resort luxury, you’ll find it in (beach) spades. Spiritual seekers come for the sunrise yoga and meditation retreats; Insta-influencers adore the perfection of the beachside bungalows of Turtle Hill, or Brangelina’s favourite flop at Elsewhere in Mandrem; history buffs fall in love with the wonderfully preserved treasures of Ponda and Old Goa, the inspiring temples and mosques such as Mangeshi Temple and 450-year-old Shri Mangesh, Bollywood-famous Chapora Fort and the must-see Fort Aguada, and stay in the opulently converted fort at Fort Tiracol. But then everyone seems to end up, sooner or later, on the beaches themselves. The ‘queen of beaches’, Calangute Beach, is an endless parade of watersports, shopping, eateries, and unbeatable people-watching. Baga Beach is similarly non-stop, while Anjuna Beach adds a hippie vibe and some particularly sensational market shopping. For the perfect quiet, tucked-away oasis of your dreams, try Ashwem or Arossim beaches – the latter has a couple of beach shacks with cold beer, great seafood and killer views as you watch the sun sink into the waves. [caption id="attachment_46123" align="alignnone" width="600"] Go on, dip your toes in![/caption] Food Forget everything you think you know about Indian food and fall in love all over again with the gastronomic marvels of Goa. It was spices that made Goa the mixing pot it is today, and it’s spices that manage to bring together Indian ingredients with Portuguese traditions, Catholic cuisines with Hindi necessities, and make it all sing.   Fish and seafood are everywhere, befitting this coastal location and also pleasing both Hindi and Catholic sensibilities. However, the Portuguese wine that has flavoured their own cuisine for centuries has morphed into more sensible options here in India, with fermented coconut toddy (vinegar), Portuguese acrid lime, peppercorns and the southern Indian staple, tamarind, all adding a very particular tartness and depth of flavour in its place. You’ll also find a range of local sausage specialties, and a delicious obsession with cashews and cashew paste flavouring local dishes from corner holes-in-the-wall through to five-star kitchens.   [caption id="attachment_46124" align="alignnone" width="600"] Never have a bad meal again[/caption]   For top-shelf, occasion dining, the global-but-exotic menu at Go With the Flow in Baga is always a solid recommend, or pour on the Portuguese charm at The Verandah, Alfama or Nostalgia. On the other hand, put at least a mealtime or more aside to experience the famous Goan fish thali served at most beach shacks up and down the coastline. Follow the crowds to the best ones – they always know.  
Azamara Pursuit Cruise Ship
7 reasons to take a trip aboard the Azamara Pursuit
Not your average mode of transportation between Ol’ Blighty and marvellous France, but as I learnt, climbing aboard the Azamara Pursuit is absolutely the best way to do it, and there are a few reasons why… It should be made clear before you read another word, that I, Olivia Mackinnon love cruising.   It’s in my DNA, you see. My parents actually met while working on board what they called, ‘The Love Boat’, but I suspect it was just a regular boat, with no links to TV cruising royalty whatsoever.   So for as long as I can remember, I have been wooed by the incredible grandness of cruise ships, and up until recently, I’d never been lucky enough to board one in the Azamara fleet.   The brand new Azamara Pursuit was setting off for her maiden voyage, and I had been invited on the two-night journey to experience all she had to offer… Grand is an understatement [caption id="attachment_46070" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Azamara Pursuit is grand in scale[/caption] Landing in London and then travelling to Southampton, UK, I was instantly desperate to climb aboard Azamara’s newest ship, Pursuit as soon as I clapped eyes on her. One of my favourite things to do aboard a ship is familiarise myself with the facilities: ‘Where is the restaurant, how far is my cabin from the pool, where is the spa?!’ I’m simply not satisfied until these questions are answered. However, aboard Pursuit I was enamoured with the luxury feel of the ship. The detail in every hand rail and piece of art. As a small-time cruiser, I simply didn’t feel worthy.   The common areas were furnished with incredible plush chairs, decorated with velvet trimmings and chic finishes, while the restaurant took the whole ‘white tablecloth’ dining experience to a new level with a sense of European style I haven’t ever seen on board a ship before. [caption id="attachment_46073" align="alignnone" width="600"] Spending time in the common areas was a joy thanks to this stunning and comfortable arrangement[/caption] The cabin The feeling of luxury was extended down the hall of the starboard side – as I’m sure it was on port side – and all the way inside my cabin. The bathrooms had more sink space than I was accustomed to. There was an established seating area, a roomy balcony and a beyond-comfortable bed. In fact, with the deluxe sheets combined with the gentle sway of Southampton’s River Itchen, I don’t know if I’ve ever slept so soundly.   I was particularly fond of the colour palette used in the cabins, a mix of moody greys, deep woods and a touch of blush. The marble finishes added a chic cherry to an already delectable cake.   Also, the shower pressure was near-normal – maybe even on par with what you’d get at home. Anyone who has ever cruised before will understand what a big deal that is. A Titanic experience, minus the tragedy What excited me about this trip was that I was going to get the chance to arrive in an entirely different country by the time I woke up in the morning. Yep, we were en route to Cherbourg, a port city in France where you could delight in both French naval history and quality croissants for the day. I also learned that this was the place the Titanic made its final stop on its fateful journey to America – but I tried not to focus on that as I disembarked. [caption id="attachment_46074" align="alignnone" width="600"] The furnishings were elegant, comfortable and luxurious[/caption] If that sounds appealing to you, visitors to Cherbourg are encouraged to visit Cité de la Mer, one of the port’s main tourist attractions, where you can find out more about the infamous ship’s final visit. The on (and off) board delicacies The Pursuit frequents many European ports during its varied itineraries, which means the food always complements your destinations. During my day in Cherbourg I was treated to fresh crepes, soft cheese, macarons and sparkling wine. I pretty much had to roll back to the ship. [caption id="attachment_46071" align="alignnone" width="600"] There are many sights to take in and they aren't all experienced from the ship's deck[/caption] Back on board, passengers celebrated the ship’s maiden voyage with a decadent oyster and Champagne buffet dinner. Chefs were ready and waiting at a personalised pasta station, ready to combine fettuccine with pesto, or spaghetti with carbonara sauce if your heart so desired. It’s differences like these that showcase the level of care – and luxury – you can expect to experience on board an Azamara ship – and from what I hear, the Pursuit’s elegance is certainly no exception to its sister ships: Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey. The pool Despite being August, the weather was a little cooler during our short cruise, and I’m almost certain that I was the only guest to brave the ship’s water amenities. I swam not only in the pool’s accompanying spa on the main deck, but also in the larger spa provided to guests before their scheduled treatment, as an indulgent precursor to what is already guaranteed to be a ‘cloud nine’ level of pampering.   Due to the lack of company in the spas, I felt there was more than ample room – my only gripe would be that they could be made a little warmer – however on a standard August day in Europe I imagine the cooler temperature would ordinarily be ideal. Destination Immersion experiences [caption id="attachment_46072" align="alignnone" width="600"] Just because you're on a cruise ship doesn't mean you don't get to experience the culture of the ports you travel to and from[/caption] The thing that makes the Azamara fleet different to regular luxury cruises is its desire to get passengers off the ship at port and truly immerse them in the activities and culture of that destination. This is what they call their ‘Destination Immersion’ programming.   For example, during my time in Cherbourg on the Pursuit’s maiden voyage, in addition to being treated to iconic French delicacies, we were also wowed by a side-splitting performance by a French dance ensemble. The short itinerary meant that while a full-day of exploration wasn’t an option, Azamara brought a taste of Cherbourg’s culture to us at port – and we loved every second of it.   Sailings with longer itineraries can expect even more incredible immersive experiences. From a three-day/two-night stargazing experience in Chile’s Atacama Desert, to exploring the inside of a volcano in Iceland, they somehow manage to make it about guaranteeing you have as great of a time off the ship as you will on board. They get around, a lot As of 2019, Azamara’s very first Melbourne departure will take place – and the list of destinations worked into their itineraries is longer than ever. This year, the ships will visit a record 250 ports across 69 countries with 94 overnight stays and 145 late-night stays – meaning you get the most out of the places you want to visit. Plus, this year marks the first visit to Alaska – yippee!
Milan Piazza Duomo
How to live la dolce vita in Milan
Discover the unforgettable treasures and simple pleasures of Italy’s cultural capital. While Rome is the historical heart of Italy and Florence is home to its artistic soul, Milan is the cultural capital where all the good things meet; fashion, food and the arts. Its treasures aren’t as obvious as those of other Italian cities, you have to dig a little deeper to discover them – but that makes them all the more satisfying. Shop like you mean it [caption id="attachment_46052" align="alignnone" width="600"] For the best of Milan's high street shopping you'll want to head to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II[/caption] If you fancy a designer bag or three, Via Montenapoleone is where it’s at. This narrow street houses all the luxury brands in one handy location. Visit for the window shopping and people watching alone.   Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is also a designer haven and the main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II is where to find all the high street brands. [caption id="attachment_46051" align="alignnone" width="600"] Inside the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II[/caption] La Rinascente is a luxe department store stretching over 10 floors while 10 Corso Como offers a tightly edited mix of designer fashion and art. Think Milan’s version of Paris’ famed, now closed, Colette boutique.   For a designer bargain, the top of Via Manzoni towards Archi di Porta Nuova is where you’ll find designer outlet stores such as DMag. Wander the Navigli [caption id="attachment_46050" align="alignnone" width="600"] Explore the canals of Naviglio Grande.[/caption] Venice isn’t the only Italian city with canals. A 10-minute metro ride from the centre of Milan to Porta Genova will take you to the Navigli, a set of intersecting canals which were once the city’s main trading routes with Europe.   These canals were fed by two different lakes, Maggiore and Como, so the water levels weren't even. Enter Leonardo da Vinci who designed chiusuras, or dams, so the boats could travel along them.   You can take boat rides along the canals or simply spend the day strolling beside them and soak up the charm of the area’s boutiques and bars. At night, it’s a buzzing hub of people taking aperitivo by the water. Discover Brera The boho artists that called Brera home have made their stamp on this little corner of the city and it’s still an art hub. As well as cool independent galleries you’ll find the impressive Brera Art Gallery or the Pinacoteca di Brera, which displays one of the most comprehensive collections of Italian art.   There are also chic boutiques, upscale restaurants and picture-perfect cobblestone pedestrian streets such as via Fiori Chiari. Peruse the work of Leonardo da Vinci [caption id="attachment_46049" align="alignnone" width="600"] Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper is on display within the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie[/caption] His most famous artwork, The Last Supper, is a mural in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Seeing it in a book doesn’t do it justice. Stand up close and let the details slowly reveal themselves to you; the folds in the tablecloth, the veins on the hands of the apostles, the use of light to tell the story of good and evil.   Book ahead. Numbers are limited to protect the priceless piece and if you turn up on the day, you might miss out.   The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana also pays homage to Da Vinci. It’s the caretaker of the Atlantic Codex, over 1000 pages of his notes and sketches. The display, which changes every three months, showcases about 10 pages at a time and can cover anything from his theories on soundwaves and music to the optic nerve and how sight works.   His notes are hard to decipher, until you learn that he was a lefty who wrote from right to left in mirror script. It’s an intimate insight into the great man’s mind. Visit La Scala The sumptuous red velvet and gilded gold interiors of this iconic opera house are enough to make you swoon, even if you’re not a fan of the theatre. But if you are, it’s worth splurging for a ticket to the opera or ballet. Then there’s the more-affordable behind-the-scenes tours. [caption id="attachment_46048" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience one of the opera at Milan's iconic La Scala.[/caption] Composer Giuseppe Verdi’s operas Otello and Falstaff premiered here and the stage has hosted performances by the greatest opera singers such as Maria Callas and ballet stars including Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn. Fondazione Prada Miuccia Prada is considered the most intellectual woman in fashion and this sprawling contemporary art museum may be a bigger legacy than decades of shaping how we dress. Housed in a former gin distillery, the privately-funded collection is open to the public and is more a cultural compound than regular museum.   In addition to the 13,000 square metres of exhibition space, there are cinemas, bars and a new restaurant Torre, which opened in 2018 and has sweeping views over Milan. Indulge in aperitivo The Italian tradition of pre-dinner drinks and snacks originated in Milan thanks to the popularity of the bitter liqueur Campari, which was distilled nearby. The idea being that it whets the tastebuds and gets the digestive juices flowing.   From about 5pm till 8pm you’ll see people sitting outside enjoying a spritz or negroni with a few nibbles before they head off to dinner.   Order a negroni at Officina 12, a hip gin bar in Navigli, head to the top floor of the Rinascente department store and enjoy an aperitivo while overlooking the spires of the Duomo or hang with the locals at Morgan’s, a dive bar in the historic centre just off Via Lanzone. Eat up [caption id="attachment_46047" align="alignnone" width="600"] Rovello 18 serves up their own inspired version of risotto Milanese al salto.[/caption] The city’s most famous dish is the saffron-hued risotto Milanese, served on its own as a primo or with ossobuco as a secondo. For something a little different, try risotto Milanese al salto, where the risotto is cooked then fried so the outer edges of the rice cake crisp up. At Rovello 18, it’s served in little patties while Antica Trattoria della Pesa does a giant disk as big as the plate.   You’ll find fabulous seafood at El Brellin and Langosteria if budget permits, or the more accessible Langosteria Café.   For a taste of luxury, Italian celebrity chef Carlo Cracco opened Ristorante Cracco inside the historic Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II earlier this year.   For something truly dolce, the original Marchesi Pasticceria has been satisfying sweet tooths since 1824. Sleep with the stars Fancy staying in the same room as composer Giuseppe Verdi, singer Maria Callas or author Ernest Hemingway? They were all famous guests at the five-star Grand Hotel et de Milan and the suites they called home all have a personal touch: from the desk Verdi wrote at to a copy of Hemingway’s visa framed on the wall. [caption id="attachment_46046" align="alignnone" width="600"] Follow in the footsteps of some of history's biggest names and spend a night at the Grand Hotel et de Milan[/caption] This family-owned property is part of the Leading Hotels of the World Group and has an unbeatable location just a block from La Scala and a stone’s throw from the start of the shopping mecca, Via Montenapoleone. More information Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Piazza del Duomo, 20123 Milano   La Rinascente, Piazza del Duomo, 20121 Milano Phone: +39 02 88521 La Rinascente   10 Corso Como, Corso Como 10, 20124 Milano www.10corsocomo.com   DMag Outlet, Via Alessandro Manzoni, 44, 20121 Milano Phone: +39 02 3651 4365   Pinacoteca di Brera, Via Brera, 28, 20121 Milano Pinacoteca di Brera   Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, 20123 Milano www.legraziemilano.it   Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Piazza Pio XI, 2, 20123 Milano Phone: +39 02 806921 www.ambrosiana.it/en/   Teatro alla Scala, Via Filodrammatici, 2, 20121 Milano www.teatroallascala.org/en/   Fondazione Prada, Largo Isarco, 2, 20139 Milano Phone: +39 02 5666 2611 www.fondazioneprada.org   Officina 12, Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 12, 20144 Milano Phone: +39 02 8942 2261 www.officina12.it   Morgan's Milano, Via Novati 02, 20123 Milano Phone: +39 02 867694 www.facebook.com/Morgans-Milano   Rovello 18, Via Tivoli, 2, 20121 Milano Phone: +39 02 7209 3709 www.rovello18.it/en/home-en/   Antica Trattoria della Pesa, Viale Pasubio, 10, 20154 Milano Phone: +39 02 655 5741 www.anticatrattoriadellapesa.com   El Brellin, Vicolo dei Lavandai, Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 14, 20144 Milano Phone: +39 02 5810 1351 www.brellin.com   Langosteria, Via Savona, 10, 20144 Milano Phone: +39 02 5811 1649 www.langosteria.com   Cracco, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 20121 Milano MI Phone: +39 02 876774 www.ristorantecracco.it/en/   Marchesi Pasticceri, Via Santa Maria alla Porta, 11/a, 20123 Milano www.pasticceriamarchesi.com/en/   Grand Hotel et de Milan, Via Alessandro Manzoni, 29, 20121 Milano Phone: +39 02 723141 www.grandhoteletdemilan.it/en/
Raw Egg on Rice with Natto
7+ unusual foods you should try in Japan
A brief guide to all of the weird and wonderful dishes you can try during a visit to Japan. Japan is undoubtedly a country that has a plethora of delicious foods to suit any taste.   Each prefecture boasts its own variety of rich local ramen and curry. Nationally, yakitori bars waft heady cedar-filled smoke down laneways and you can find the freshest sushi and sashimi everywhere, even on top of a mountain.   Japan is also infamous for its unusual food options. Foods that make a lot of westerners cringe or downright feel ill at the thought of.   Since variety is the spice of life, here are some of the ‘weirder’ foods you can tickle your taste buds with while travelling Japan.   Disclaimer: To reduce food-related health risks we recommend seeking out trusted restaurants and establishments that are serviced by qualified professionals. Avoid eating street food that has been sitting unattended or from a vendor with little trade. Ordering raw meat from restaurants that do not specialise in the cuisine is not recommended.   Torisashi (chicken sashimi) [caption id="attachment_45986" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Have you been served raw chicken in Japan? That would be Torisashi (chicken sashimi).[/caption] A dish that is guaranteed to evoke shock and horror from friends and family at home is chicken sashimi. With cries of “what about salmonella?” ringing in your ears, it can be a confronting first bite. Fresh chicken sashimi shouldn’t have an odour or strong taste about it at all.   Where and when can I get it? A traditional dish of the Kagoshima prefecture, torisashi can be found in almost any izakaya in the region. However, it is gaining popularity in cities such as Osaka and Tokyo and can also be easily found in the Kyushu and Okayama regions. No matter where you get it due to the preparation required in serving non-fish sashimi (i.e. getting it fresh), it’s worthwhile to track down a restaurant that specialises in it rather than leaving it to chance.   Pro tip: It’s not just chicken breast that is available to eat raw. A restaurant with a chicken sashimi menu will also likely serve the organs as such. If you’re game. Natto The easiest to find, and possibly the most divisive ‘unusual food’. Natto is a stringy, sticky and slimy fermented soybean dish that is most commonly eaten for breakfast. The odour is pungent (think stinky socks) and the flavour lands somewhere between off cottage cheese and salty rotten beans.   Where and when can I get it? Natto can be found year-round in most convenience stores (often in a hand roll or tub), in buffet breakfasts and many cafes all over Japan.   Pro tip: Natto on rice for breakfast, with a dash of soy, mustard and pickles, is a popular way to eat it. Yakitori entrails [caption id="attachment_45989" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Swap your standard chicken breast skewer for a Yakitori intestine or liver.[/caption] The Japanese rarely waste any part of the animal and readily consume flavourful cuts of offal over the fillets that western cultures prefer. Yakitori liver, tongue, hearts, knee joints and intestine are offered alongside belly and breast and are grilled to perfection.   Where and when can I get it? Yakitori bars are popular nationwide. It’s worthwhile trying them everywhere as variety and cuts differ from location and season.   Pro tip: Horumon (horumonyaki) made exclusively from beef or pork offal is available in dedicated restaurants and is considered good for stamina and energy in the bedroom. Wink wink. Fugu (pufferfish) Fugu is a delicacy, and only available during the winter months. It is eaten for its delightfully unusual taste, high level of collagen and is considered great for anti-ageing. So long as the poisonous parts (mainly organs) aren’t consumed as they contain the deadly toxin ‘tetrodotoxin’, to which there is no known antidote.   Since 1958 chefs have been required to undergo a rigorous apprenticeship to obtain a license to prepare and sell fugu to the public. These days, cases of Fugu poisoning are rare (but not unheard of) with most occurring through amateur preparation.   Where and when can I get it? Winter (end of December to March). Fugu is widely available however there are many restaurants in Kyoto that specialise in the dish.   Pro tip: There are many strange fishes available only in the winter months in Japan. Try to track down ‘Anko’ also known as Anglerfish in Tokyo and the seaside prefectures, it’s the deep sea fish with the light on its head to attract prey. Batta or inago (grasshopper) The fact that grasshoppers symbolise good luck doesn’t stop them being fried and eaten. Considered pests that eat rice crops, they are a popular cooked in soy and eaten as an afternoon snack, where the crunchy texture pairs beautifully with an iced tea or beer.   Where and when can I get it? The Nagano prefecture is considered mecca for finding edible insects however, rice grasshoppers are available widely at bars and restaurants.   Pro tip: Other popular insects to try are zazamushi (stonefly larvae), hachinoko (bee larvae) and inago no tsukudani (boiled locusts), mainly in Nagano. Basashi (raw horse meat) High in vitamins and low in fat content, raw horse meat is usually served cold along with soy sauce, garlic, and wasabi or nigiri sushi style. It is considered a health food and has been eaten for more than 400 years.   Where and when can I get it? Horsemeat is available both raw and cooked in barbecue, wagyu and sushi restaurants across the country – I stumbled across horse meat nigiri in a Tokyo sushi train. However, the regions of Nagano, Oita and Kumamoto are famed for their ‘basashi’ (raw sushi style); Kumamoto boasting a ‘cherry blossom’ basashi, named for its intense red colouring and flavour.   Pro tip: Such lean meat requires fine preparation so as not to become tough or chewy. Paper thin slices of sashimi delicately fall apart on the tongue and are the recommended dish to order. Mystery Snacks [caption id="attachment_46010" align="alignnone" width="600"] Pick up a hot soup or coffee in the many vending machines around Japan.[/caption] With a store on almost every corner, it’s worth exploring the aisles or perusing vending machines for snacks to test your bravery. Along with chips, ice-creams and soft drinks you can find dried crabs, wasabi cheese and a lucky dip of mystery meats.   It’s hard to walk past the array of hot soups and energy coffees in vending machines without getting curious as to the (often surprising) taste.   Where and when can I get it? Vending machines and convenience stores are everywhere. Even on the ski fields. You’re never far from a snack adventure.   Pro tip: Don’t try to translate what’s on the packet. It’s far more fun to sip it and see if you can work out what you’re eating by taste!   It would be an extremely long list indeed to include all of the weird and wonderful foods available across Japan. These are a great starting point for extending your bravery and palate into the unusual.   If you're planning a trip to Japan make sure you check out our Japan travel guide, so you can read up on the very best the country has to offer!
11 Europe travel hacks that will save you BIG money
Travelling is an expensive hobby, especially when travelling tourist hotspots in Europe. But there is hope!   Whether you’re headed on a romantic trip to Paris, a meander along the canals of Amsterdam or on a discovery of the castles and estates of Britain’s countryside, this is a must-read guide on how to save – BIG time. Make a list Here we start a list with making a list, in true traveller fashion.   The first list you should make is of the places you want to visit, this allows correct planning of your holiday to optimise travel from east, to west and north to south. This also allows you to research which method of travel will be most effective: train (and if so can you buy a five- or 10-trip train pass?), coach or plane?   The second list should consist of all the things you want to do in each place. In Paris, you may want to see the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, take a bike tour and go out for a French degustation. Planning your to-do list means that you are less likely to get stuck in the trap of filling your holiday with touristy (and expensive) activities. This doesn’t mean you can’t live in the moment while overseas, but gives you the option to stay traveller savvy. Free museum admission Do your research on entry to Europe’s most famous museums, as most offer free or reduced entry on specific days.   The Louvre offers free entry to the museum on the first Saturday of every month from 6pm to 9.45pm, and free admission to under 26s on Friday evenings from 6pm until close. At €17 euros a ticket, this is a saving close to $30 per person. The Prado Museum in Madrid also offers free entry to its collections from 6pm to 8pm Monday to Saturday and on Sundays from 5pm to 7pm. [caption id="attachment_7660" align="alignleft" width="1000"] The Pyramide at Musée du Louvre.[/caption] Other museums including the Berlin Wall Memorial and the National Gallery in London always have free entry and are well worth your time. Skip the hotel Hotels, although delightfully convenient and reminiscent of luxury holidays, can cost you the earth in a main city in Europe. Other alternatives, such as Airbnb, youth hostels and campervans can save you a motza, and can even offer a more authentic European experience.   Airbnbs to look out for are the ones with rave reviews, close to the main amenities. Try and stick to places that have a ‘superhost’ status; this means that the host is not only experienced in the game, but they also have been really well rated by their previous guests. If you pick a humble, but well-kept place, you are bound to save $$$.   Hostels, with both shared and private rooms, can cost just a fraction of the price of a good hotel. Try Hostel One Camden in London, The Yellow Hostel in Rome and Coco Mama in Amsterdam.   Campervans, although not ideal when city hopping, are the best way to visit the countryside, especially in places like the United Kingdom, France and Switzerland. Spaceships’ compact and easy-to-drive campervans are an ideal place to start, with a bed, fridge and cooking gear all in the back. Only setting you back around $100 a day, these are the best combination of bedroom and transport. Pack a picnic. Every. Damn. Day. Eating, perhaps the best part of any European holiday, is very expensive.   Most meals out cost an excess of $30 per person at a restaurant, and when you think about the fact that eating is necessary more than once in a day, the money mounts quickly.   The best practice to exercise is packing a picnic lunch, with a collection of items purchased at the local grocery store.   In France, pack some fromage and jambon to put on a baguette, in Spain pack some chorizo and cheese or in Malta just grab a few 60c pastizzi, and sit yourself in a glorious park.   This not only saves money, but allows you to soak in the ambience of your locale. Join the National Trust Picnics are best had in the gardens of historic estates, whilst you admire outdoor fountains in the foreground of period homes.   These estates can be found all over Europe, particularly in England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy and the Netherlands. To enter these estates costs between $20 and $40 per entry, and can add up to be an expensive experience.   Joining the National Trust in Australia, however, means that you can pay a one off fee (of $110 for adults, and $90 for concession) for a yearly membership. With reciprocal visiting arrangements with heritage organisations in other countries, membership allows access to 800 heritage sites outside of Australia.   An added bonus is that these estates are also a great place for learning about the history and culture of the country, as well as an excellent photo op. Free activities Every single city or town in Europe has a range of things to do that are absolutely FREE. [caption id="attachment_19367" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Promenade des anglais in Nice[/caption] These are often activities in the natural environment: go for a hike in the Black Forest in south-west Germany, float down the fast flowing, turquoise waters of the river Aare in Bern or go for a swim on the pebbled beach of Nice. Hire a bike Not only reserved for the streets of Amsterdam, bike riding is a great way to both see a city and get around it.   Hiring a bike, at around $20 a day, is a great way to avoid paying for buses, cabs, trains or trams. [caption id="attachment_28164" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Use a bike to travel around cobblestoned town squares[/caption] Also, let’s cut to the chase: while travelling in Europe the exercise certainly wouldn’t go astray.   You can usually hire bikes from local bike shops, or from mobile, dockless bike hiring platforms such as Santander bicycles in London. Check out Airbnb Experiences   Not always the cheapest (although sometimes they are!) Airbnb Experiences offer authentic, locally run and reasonably priced experiences. Ranging from equestrian tours through Tuscany to cooking classes in a home kitchen in Paris, there is something for everyone on this app.   These experiences are usually far superior to the heavily tourist centred activities found in main cities, and for the same price often offer a lot more. Research passes in each city Passes, be it for a collection of museums or for travel around a city, can be a great way to save money.   Some notable passes are: the I Amsterdam card, which you can buy in iterations of 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120 hours from between $95 to $180, offers free access to 60 museums including the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, a free canal cruise and free public transport; the Eurail pass (for international travel between European countries via train); and the London Pass, which allows access to 80 famous attractions across the city with iterations ranging from one day for $123 to 10 days with travel included for $429.   Make sure that you are only purchasing passes to places you actually want to visit (remember your list!). These passes are not ideal if you were only looking at visiting the Rijks museum on your trip, but got roped into all the other because it seemed like good value. Don’t frequently withdraw money abroad Avoid costly ATM withdrawal fees on your travel money card by nabbing your cash while still in Aus.   Carrying wads of notes abroad can be daunting, so if you do have to withdraw cash, make sure you do a week’s worth at a time. Or alternatively, try to shop and eat at places that deal only in Eftpos transactions.   Also investigate cards that offer money back on ATM fees, even overseas. ING offers money back on ATM fees globally, if you meet the minimum requirements of the card ($1000 deposited and five transactions made each month). Make sure you claim your GST refund! If you’re an avid shopper, make sure you keep all your receipts – you can claim the tax back at the airport on your way home!   Make sure you have your forms and receipts stamped by each country’s officials before departing, and when heading home ensure that all mentioned products are accessible in case the officials need to see them.  
6 picturesque places to go on a long weekend near London
London is a great jumping off point for exploring the United Kingdom, and is certainly where most travellers begin (often without heading out of the city at all). This is a list of the best towns, counties and villages to get you out of the city for a long weekend, and explore the history of England along the way. Oxford Oxford, dubbed ‘the city of dreaming spires’, has been home to the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde and Emily Davison, all who attended the world famous Oxford University.   If you visit however, you’ll be quick to learn it’s much more than a university town.   The city boasts incredible architecture, history and food, with a trip promising romance, relaxation and a little bit of learning in the middle. Getting there from London: Oxford lies approximately 90 kilometres north-east of London. The journey will take approximately one hour, by both train and car. Best things to do during your stay: EAT Gail’s Bakery Jericho on Little Clarendon Street offers the best in baked goods. Stop in for a croissant/cinnamon bun hybrid, a serve of thick cut sourdough toast with home-made jam and clotted cream or a ham and gruyere cheese croissant. The eat-in dining experience offers quality service, or alternatively, grab it take-away and seat yourself in one of the many university gardens. [caption id="attachment_45908" align="alignleft" width="600"] Gail’s Bakery Jericho on Little Clarendon Street offers the best in baked goods[/caption] For dinner, hit up the best restaurant in Oxford, the Oxford Kitchen, where you can enjoy rabbit croquette for starters, confit pork belly for main and finish it all off with a nectarine parfait. With exposed brick interiors, industrial meets chic in this acclaimed venue. [caption id="attachment_45909" align="alignleft" width="600"] Inside the Oxford Kitchen[/caption] Café Rouge is another great spot, particularly for a nice lunch in the courtyard on a sunny day. Grab a croque monsieur and a coffee, to hit the spot.   DO Punting, usually whilst sipping on a glass of Pimms, is one of the most iconic Oxfordian activities.   Punting is the English version of riding in a gondola, with the punter at the back of the seven-metre boat, rowing with a long pole that reaches the bottom of the river bed.   The best punting can be found at Cherwell Boathouse, where hiring a punt for up to six people on a weekend will cost $34 per hour or $170 for a full day, and slightly less on weekdays. [caption id="attachment_45907" align="alignleft" width="600"] Expect understated but upscale European dining on the river at Cherwell Boathouse[/caption] If you paddle far enough along the river you can stop at a riverside pub for a beverage, or to say hello to the cows grabbing a drink from the river bank.   SEE There are plenty of things to see in Oxford: just walking the street for one, or exploring the libraries and university buildings or shopping.   The University of Oxford Botanic Gardens and Arboretum are a must-see when on a visit to Oxfordshire, and the perfect spot for a picnic lunch or to sit and read a book (how appropriate!). [caption id="attachment_45910" align="alignleft" width="600"] The University of Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in Great Britain and one of the oldest scientific gardens in the world[/caption] If you are looking for something spectacular to see, and happy to drive 30 minutes out of the town, Waddesdon Manor, built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the late 19th century, is a sight for sore eyes.   Set on over 2000 hectares of mostly manicured gardens and forest, the residence boasts a French renaissance style and is home to the Rothschild Collections of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts. You can come and see how the other half lived as the manor house is now managed by the Rothschild Foundation on behalf of the National Trust and open to visitors. Poundon A country hamlet in Buckinghamshire, less than half an hour’s drive from Oxford, Poundon is the ultimate town for a romantic weekend away.   Surrounded by flowing fields of farmland, old local pubs and humble English cottages, Poundon (and a number of surrounding hamlet towns) is an amazing escape from busy London town, offering the authentic country experience you’re looking for.   Getting there from London: An hour and a half by car, Poundon offers a unique country experience not too far from the city. EAT For a fully immersive experience in an English country town, an old local pub can’t be beaten. With plenty in this area the choice is difficult. Perhaps you could be tempted by a roast at the Red Lion, a tiny pub just out of Poundon with a thatched roof and ceilings so traditionally low that you can scarcely stand up.   With its white facade in the centre of Poundon, the Sow and Pigs dates back to the 1800s. Describing its own menu as ‘swine dining’, this pub will not disappoint. Try the chef’s crackling with apple sauce and the baked camembert with garlic and thyme for starters and the slow-cooked beef brisket for main. You also have the choice to create your own burger for £11.50 and an array of daily desserts to finish it all off. DO Book yourself into a bed and breakfast for a cosy and romantic stay. The charming and peaceful Manor Farm Bed and Breakfast – right in the centre of Poundon and with gorgeous countryside views – has three en suite guest rooms, a communal kitchen and elegant lounge room that invites playing board games and reading books (with many of each supplied). Breakfast is made fresh daily and consists of homemade bread and condiments, or yoghurt, fruit and local honey. [caption id="attachment_45915" align="alignleft" width="600"] Book yourself into Manor Farm bed and breakfast for a cosy and romantic stay[/caption] Another great thing to do when in Poundon is to venture out to Bicester Village: a collection of factory outlets for upper-end brands. Here you’ll find Montblanc, Timberland, Cath Kidston and Gucci at a fraction of the retail price. [caption id="attachment_45914" align="alignleft" width="600"] Bicester Village is home to more than 160 boutiques of leading brands, each offering savings of up to 60%[/caption] SEE: The best thing to soak up in Poundon is the countryside. Take a walk around the narrow country lanes to relax, and even take a stroll past Poundon House, an Edwardian estate nothing short of breathtaking. [caption id="attachment_45916" align="alignleft" width="600"] Take a stroll through Poundon House[/caption] Bath Formerly the home of Jane Austen (and now home to the Jane Austen Centre), Bath is a cultural hub filled with history and atmosphere. [caption id="attachment_45920" align="alignleft" width="600"] Evening view of Royal Crescent, a heritage street in Bath[/caption] With much to do and see in this gorgeous West Country city, any visitor to London must venture out and explore it, at least once. Getting there from London: A two-hour drive or one and a half hours by train will get you from London’s city centre to Bath. EAT If you enjoy a bit of spontaneity, and very fine cuisine, Menu Gordon Jones is the best place in Bath. The concept, created by the up and coming chef Gordon Jones, is that every meal is a surprise. At £50 for a five-course meal, you sit and wait patiently for whatever the chef decides to serve you. This is not only fine dining, but an experience that can only be had in Bath.   Although this isn’t Cornwall, stop into the Cornish Bakery when in Bath for a pasty, scone and an excellent coffee.   For a brilliant breakfast, stop in at Bill’s for a stack of buttermilk pancakes (and nab yourself a side of bacon too!). Bill’s, with a gorgeous deep green frontage, reminiscent of an English pub, is hard to miss – so don’t. DO Bath’s compact city centre can be easily enjoyed by foot, but for a sweeping overview of its majestic architecture and attractions – from the Royal Crescent to the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey – hop on an open-top city sightseeing bus. [caption id="attachment_45922" align="alignleft" width="600"] Visit Thermae Bath Spa: where you can bathe in naturally warm, mineral-rich water[/caption] And for a little R&R after all that sightseeing, visit Thermae Bath Spa, where you can bathe in naturally warm, mineral-rich water, just as the Romans used to do. This spa retreat in the middle of the city is inspired by (you guessed it!) the Roman Baths. SEE The Roman Baths, ancient religious spas situated right in the centre of the city, are a must see-in Bath (considering the city’s named after them). The baths, built in opulence, were public bathing houses that were filled using aqueducts and ancient heating systems, showcasing the sophistication of the Roman Empire. To make the most of your visit, book the ‘above and below’ tours, to see the site below and above ground. [caption id="attachment_45921" align="alignleft" width="600"] Enjoy Bath's rich history, brought to life at the Roman Baths[/caption] Cornwall A county to the south-west of London, Cornwall is made up of many picturesque towns and villages, and is best explored with a car. Getting there from London:  From London, to the most westerly part of Cornwall (and indeed, England), Land’s End is a five-hour drive and almost seven hours by train. EAT Wherever you are in Cornwall, make sure you’re eating clotted cream: on toast, on scones and even as ice-cream.   Another delicacy is the Cornish pasty – a hand-held meat and vegetable pie originally developed as a lunch for Cornish tin miners in the 17th and 18th centuries. If you’re looking for something more than cream and pastry, the 13th-century Turks Head pub in Penzance, complete with underground smugglers’ tunnel, is fabulous for enjoying local beer and seafood. DO Head to the Eden Project, home to the largest indoor rainforest in the world. With a giant flying fox across the tops of the forest, this is not only an educational experience but also an exhilarating one. [caption id="attachment_45924" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Eden Project: the largest indoor rainforest in the world[/caption] SEE Visit Polperro, an ancient fishing village in Cornwall. With narrow winding streets, this small, unspoilt town feels like something out of a fairy tale. There is also a resident stray dog, who hangs with the fisherman who still shuck their oysters on the shore. [caption id="attachment_45926" align="alignleft" width="600"] The harbour of the fishing village Polperro[/caption] Another noteworthy town in this gorgeous county, mostly unknown by tourists, is Charlestown. [caption id="attachment_45927" align="alignleft" width="600"] The Phoenix sets sail from Charlestown[/caption] An untouched 18th century port town that used to be bustling with trade. The port, still completely intact, was used as a set for the first season of Poldark. It’s perfect for photographs, antique shopping and a bite to eat; try scones and English breakfast tea in the Pier House, an inn with accommodation that overlooks the town’s Georgian harbour.   Penzance is another beautiful Cornish town. It boasts great shopping and friendly locals and amazing architecture that sparkles on a sunny day. Not far from the centre of the city is Saint Michael’s Mount, which can be ventured to via boat when the sea is not too choppy, or by foot when the tide is low. This mount, a small island just off the coast, is a civil parish and a Cornish Icon.   A 20-minute drive from Penzance is Cornwall’s furthermost point and one of England’s most famous landmarks, Land’s End. Steeped in history and ancient legend, this clifftop destination affords views out of the Atlantic Ocean and more opportunities to indulge in some of the things that Cornwall does best – from pasties to clotted cream ice-cream. [caption id="attachment_45925" align="alignleft" width="600"] Land's End is one of Britain's most magnificent (and visited) landmarks[/caption] Devon Another county south-west of London, Devon is home to exquisite country, coastal and riverside towns.   With so much to do in Devon, a car is the best way to make sure you can get a taste of everything it has to offer. Getting there from London: Approximately three hours by train, and a 3.5-hour drive from London to the centre of Devon. EAT Whilst in Devon, and England for that matter, it would be a sin not to sit down to a Devonshire tea. With English breakfast tea and scones, act like an authentic Devonian. [caption id="attachment_45929" align="alignleft" width="600"] A Devonshire tea is unmistakably a truly British custom known worldwide[/caption] While Devonshire teas can be found at all good cafes and restaurants in Devon. I suggest heading to Exeter for the Hidden Treasure Tea Rooms cream tea. Additionally, The Strand tea rooms, in Plymouth, does the perfect cream tea situated in an old cobbled street location. Finally, the Cream Tea Café in Barnstaple is devoted to Devonshire cream tea and is a must-stop in when visiting this county. DO Why not visit Agatha Christie’s private holiday home, ‘Greenway’ in Brixham, and wander through the rooms where she wrote many of her books? Whether you’re a Christie fan or not, this experience is imperative on a trip through Devon. [caption id="attachment_45930" align="alignleft" width="600"] Wander through Agatha Christie’s private holiday home, ‘Greenway’ in Brixham[/caption] Another must-do in Devon is to hike through the Valley of the Rocks, spotting ancient rock formations, herds of goats and picturesque views of the ocean. SEE Travel through Dartmoor via Dartmoor way, which follows a scenic route through the most beautiful villages and homesteads in the area.    
5 reasons to add Ludlow to your UK itinerary
Every second couple featured on UK show Escape to the Country wants to move to this idyllic market town (or so it seems), and we can see why... Something happens to you as you walk the picturesque streets of Ludlow, known off-record as one of England’s prettiest towns.   One minute, you’re an urbanite trying desperately to find a flat white that doesn’t convince your soul to just keel over and die, and the next, you’ve soaked in enough of the South Shropshire countryside to find yourself wandering around in a middle-aged, pearl-and-twin-set haze saying things like, “It has real chocolate-box charm, doesn’t it?” and “Ooh, look at those lovely exposed beams!”; it all feels like a still from Escape to the Country (you know you know it). This is the power of Ludlow.   For the uninitiated, the medieval town is located bang on top of a cliff overlooking the River Teme and surrounded by the Welsh Marches, as well as that aforementioned gorgeous green countryside. It’s famous for its food and wine, including the annual Ludlow Spring Festival that promises revellers over 200 varieties of real ales plus cider, perry (similar to pear cider) and wine, more than 60 local food producers, live music and hopefully, a decent flat white or two.   And here are five more reasons to stick Ludlow on your itinerary… The Ludlow Food Festival We could talk about the lengths members of Ludlow and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce went to in order to boost the image of Ludlow and surrounding areas or how the popular festival, established in 1995, helps promote the area’s terrific artisan food and wine producers against the backdrop of the town’s historic castle, but instead we’ll just say: sausage trail, cake competition, ale trail, pork pie competition. [caption id="attachment_45559" align="alignleft" width="600"] The festival features a huge range of top quality food and drink producers[/caption] There’s a reason the town’s population doubles from its usual 10,000 at this time of year – why not make it 20,001? Ludlow Castle  In England, it’s hard to visit a simple corner store without tripping over a castle, but gosh this one is pretty. [caption id="attachment_45557" align="alignleft" width="600"] The construction of the Ludlow Castle started around 1085[/caption] Construction on this privately owned castle began in the late 11th century and over the centuries it hosted everyone from Prince Arthur, brother of Henry VIII, who honeymooned here before his untimely death, to Henry’s daughter Mary Tudor, who spent three icily cold winters here. Although it fell into decay, many of its buildings still stand and historians note that it’s a castle where its history is very much reflected in its varied architecture (everything from medieval to Tudor). Top tip? Rug up because it is seriously cold at the top (also a good rule of thumb for life, kids) and warm up afterwards by sipping a hot tea at the Castle Tea Room beneath. Ludlow Food Centre It’s difficult to put this delicately, so here goes: come all the way to Ludlow so you can experience the world’s greatest truck stop.   It’s not just any kind of truck stop, of course, but a gourmet wonderland located on the Earl of Plymouth’s 3000-hectare Oakly Park Estate just off the main road on the outskirts of town, which features a play and picnic area, the Clive Arms restaurant and boutique hotel (highly recommended), and on-site cafe Ludlow Kitchen (also highly recommended). [caption id="attachment_45561" align="alignleft" width="600"] Ludlow is famous for its selection of fresh produce[/caption] There are countless reasons to stop by the food centre, but the number one reason is surely Ludlow Pantry, a delicatessen that will leave you gasping at the wonders of culinary life. Just think of a smart food hall filled with the smell of freshly baked Cornish pasties, serving up hundreds of varieties of cheese, meats, baked goods, fresh produce and conserves.   More than 30 per cent of the food sold here is handmade on site, with a further 30 per cent sourced from Shropshire and its surrounding counties. Load up your suitcase; it’s worth making an appearance on Border Security for. The locals I’ll admit it, I’m a big fan of the English.   Not only is my husband originally from England, so are many of my exes and some of my best mates. But I have to say the locals are some of the best people I’ve ever encountered. To illustrate the point, here’s a short tale: I fell in love with what could be the world’s craziest hat at Ludlow’s open-air market, yet walked away without buying it. [caption id="attachment_45556" align="alignleft" width="600"] Famous architecture[/caption] When I went the following day to purchase said hat just before I was due to leave town, the vendor was not there. The story could have ended there, but it didn’t. [caption id="attachment_45555" align="alignleft" width="600"] Ludlow, in South Shropshire, is one of the most attractive towns in England[/caption] Another vendor who heard my woolly plight alerted Tony, the market manager who then called vendor after vendor at home until he found the maker, Heather, who then drove 40 minutes from her home to meet me with a bagful of hats slung over her shoulder. She then drove 40 minutes home, happy that I’d reconciled with the World’s Craziest Hat. That’s Ludlow. Ludlow Walking Tours On paper, Dorothy Nicolle is a qualified Blue Badge guide for the Heart of England region, and a local author, but to me, she’ll forever be known as a national treasure, ready to put herself on the line when it comes to promoting the exquisite towns of Shropshire. [caption id="attachment_45553" align="alignleft" width="600"] Ludlow was famously described by John Betjeman as “the loveliest town in England“[/caption] Rather than wandering aimlessly around town, engage the services of Dorothy and she can run you through one of her extensive, and incredibly thorough tours that include everything from ‘Shropshire’s oddities’ (of which, she informs me, there are many), to ‘People immortalised on pub signs’. [caption id="attachment_45560" align="alignleft" width="600"] Explore the picturesque city on foot[/caption] I went on the standard Ludlow tour that takes in the streets lined with quaint boutiques, cheesemongers and traditional pubs, and the scenic countryside around nearby town Ironbridge. Contact Dorothy at nicolle.me.uk
Wadi Rum desert, Jordan UNESCO
The 5 most epic UNESCO World Heritage sites
UNESCO's World Heritage list is a beacon for curious travellers and a boon for the site itself. These 5 stand tallest in both splendour & cultural oomph . 1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania (natural site, 1981) Comprising of 1.5 million hectares of seemingly endless savannah, Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania is home to two million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebras, who make their annual migration to Kenya’s Maasai Mara every year – one of the world’s most incredible natural phenomena. [caption id="attachment_29219" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Room to graze: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, covers 1.5 million hectares.[/caption] The UNESCO recognised park is also home to at least four globally threatened and endangered species: the black rhinoceros, elephant, wild dog and cheetah. 2. Old Town of Lijiang, China (cultural site, 1997) The Old Town of Lijiang was an important trading centre in the 12th century as it is where the Silk Road joined with the ancient Tea Horse Road.   At an elevation of 2400 metres in southwest Yunnan province, the historic townscape’s meandering maze of narrow laneways and timber houses with slanted tiled roofs, has unique and well-preserved architecture from the Ming and Qing dynasties.   The surrounding mountains, rivers and trees are also well-preserved with an ancient ingenious water-supply system still in function today. 3. Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland (natural site, 2004) On the west coast of Greenland, 250 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, the Ilulissat Icefjord is around the same size of 66,000 football fields.   This massive collection of icebergs sits at the point where the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, the fastest moving in the world, calves into the sea. [caption id="attachment_29222" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Stranded icebergs in the fog at the mouth of the Icefjord near Ilulissat, Greenland.[/caption] This awe-inspiring phenomenon has been studied for more than 250 years to help develop an understanding of climate change. 4. Wadi Rum Protected Area, Jordan – (cultural and natural site, 2011) Located near the border of Saudi Arabia, this 74,000-hectare site represents millions of years of desert landscape evolution. [caption id="attachment_13309" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Wadi Rum in Jordan, ranked #62 in our countdown of '100 Ultimate Travel Experiences of a Lifetime'.[/caption] Along with its spectacular natural attractions – narrow gorges, natural arches, soaring cliffs – Wadi Rum possesses archaeological remains, some 25,000 rock carvings and 20,000 inscriptions to indicate 12,000 years of human occupation and the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban activity. 5. Auschwitz Birkenau, Poland (cultural site, inscribed 1979) Located an hour west of Krakow, the two concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau were the biggest and most notorious established by Nazi Germany.   Around 1.5 million people were premeditatedly starved, tortured and murdered here between 1942 and 1944, and as such the site is a symbol and evidence of the inhumane cruelty towards fellow human beings.   The site retains a high level of authenticity in its fortified walls, barracks, gas chambers and crematoria, and possesses many personal items of the victims.

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