tiles patterns culture Sintra Portugal
Exploring Sintra: Europe’s most ‘delightful’ town
With its exuberant palaces and colourful castles giving it World Heritage status, Sintra is a gem of a Portuguese town that you really shouldn’t miss, writes Phil Hawkes.
LOiseau Blanc Paris restaurant
Nine secrets to a romantic Parisian getaway
Even the most resilient of marriages needs some rekindling... Ask almost any wife – well, Quentin Long’s on this occasion – and the best place to rekindle is unquestionably Paris. Here Quentin shares his romance rekindling secrets after a recent City of Light sojourn - sans kids. Let’s be honest, being married with young children is an exquisite form of hampster-wheel drudgery.   A Sydney-sized mortgage leads to two stressful jobs that don’t necessarily fit between nine and five.   Meanwhile, the kids need to be nurtured; healthy meals three times a day, dropped off to training, picked up from school, and when the weekend arrives, with an endless string of birthday parties and sporting commitments, the priority is quality family-time not ‘just the two of us’ time.   After a recent trip to the City of Light with just my wife, here are my 9 secrets to rekindling romance in Paris. 1. Find a granny You need someone who is going to allay any anxiety you could possibly have about the kids while you’re away, so a trusted granny (or equivalent) is a must.   For the best outcome for both granny and the kids, get her to move in while the kids are at school.   This gives granny a break during the day and normalises the situation for the kids. 2. Break the budget up front Find the best, most exquisite hotel you can afford and book it for as long as you can possibly afford.   I chose the Peninsula Paris. An enormous room with a bath bigger than many plunge pools was just what the situation required.   A long post-long-haul soak and several post-meal soaks are just what the love doctor ordered for serious rejuvenation of body and soul-mate.   The elegant lobby, cosy Le Bar Kleber and sensational breakfast at the Le Lobby restaurant (the house brioche with raspberries is a food experience for life) melts away any drudgery and the fantasy of reclaiming your life takes over.   The rooftop bar has the most incredible view of the Eiffel Tower and a sunset champagne is a mood-setter like no other.   Stroll the 20 metres from the bar to L’Oiseau Blanc for a meal with the best view in the Paris.   MORE: Where else to stay in Paris 3. It’s not about seeing anything in particular Focus on enjoying the luxury of just being able to walk along a street without worrying which one of your children is most likely to jump out in front of which car.   Revel in the simple pleasure of walking without having a child hanging off your leg asking to buy a new toy.   There is no birthday party to get to, meeting to prep for, report to read or email to send.   Paris is a great walking city to roam around so just walk free from all these constraints. 4. Pick an area Don’t fool yourself - you will not possibly see all of Paris.   Merely focus on one area every two days and enjoy the pleasure of getting to know the ‘hood - or arrondissement, to be truly accurate.   The Marais is perhaps the perfect rekindling area of Paris. Its narrow medieval alleyways are filled with shops and bistros. [caption id="attachment_24943" align="alignnone" width="1000"] The Marais quarter, great for aimless strolling and open on Sundays, unlike much of Paris.[/caption] Even better, when the rest of Paris closes down on Sundays (yes, it really does), the Marais, thanks to its Jewish heritage and being closed on Fridays, is open.   Make a point of taking in the great Place des Vosges for an afternoon resting on the grass watching Parisians go by.   MORE: The best of the arrondissements 5. Make a Seine A sunset by or on the Seine soothes the most exhausted of souls.   An hour marvelling at magnificent Haussmann architecture, with its grand proportions and flamboyant finishes, is an antidote to the most exhausted and weary of bodies. [caption id="attachment_24944" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Paris's river Seine "soothes the most exhausted of souls".[/caption] 6. Find the smaller galleries The major intuitions; Louvre, Musee D’Orsay and Pompidou are worthy showstoppers but it is the smaller institutions that suit a rekindling effort as they are less frenetic and overwhelming.   There are so many to choose but the Picasso Museum is the perfect fit for the occasion. A two-hour experience of the collection is intellectually interesting but not overwhelming.   Make a point of booking online and don’t turn up at opening time, when it’s most crowded. Early afternoon is best. 7. Forget the Eiffel Tower I know, I know, I know it is a wonderful monument with so much emotion attached to it for many romance seeking people, but it is so clichéd that it is not worth the time and effort.   Just spying the Tower on your strolls around the city is enough to conjure the romance.   You will find more togetherness moments in the gardens, bistros or shops of Paris than climbing to the top with thousands of others. 8. Get the lingua franca going No, not just because it is fun to try to speak French with the French.   And not just because the French are so much more affable when a few bumbled French phrases are attempted.   But because it is the language of love and is fun as a couple to laugh at your awful French while secretly enjoying its sexiness. 9. KISS - Keep it simple and sophisticated To truly rekindle you need to find yourselves and each other you need to totally avoid anything that resembles home life.   Just take the time out to spoil yourself on things that you haven’t done for years, such as days with no plans; sophisticated eating and a cheeky wine or two at lunch; shopping for the sheer enjoyment of it all.   If you can do that together, you are on the track to remembering all the great things about “us”. MORE: Everything else you wanted to see and do in Paris
A spectacular view from reception from Alila Uluwatu.
Alila resorts: Balinese luxury at its best
A trio of Balinese properties, each of which encapsulate the concept of luxury at its best. First impressions of Alila Manggis [caption id="attachment_24186" align="alignnone" width="668"] A typically warm Balinese welcome.[/caption] The hotel car carrying us to Alila Manggis sits in bumper to bumper traffic, nudging ahead slowly as the rain pelts down outside the windows.   The driver apologises for the inconvenience in that typical Balinese way of wanting everything to be just right, but we are cool and dry and not in a hurry to get anywhere in particular.   The time affords me the chance to take in the frenzy of activity that characterises the streetscape in Bali, with what seems like hundreds of whining scooters dodging in and out of the trucks and cars. Through the windows, a muffled cacophony of horns beep incessantly, the symphony of the developing world.   All this noise and colour and activity is as foreign to me as if I was looking on the surface of Mars after spending the last few days cosseted away in the five-star surrounds of Alila’s new Seminyak property, where the air is scented with the sweet perfume of frangipani and sea salt and your every whim is catered to with a broad Balinese smile.   But I love the contrast of it all; seeing the real Bali and some of its staggering 4.2 million inhabitants is as much a privilege as staying in the lovely properties I have come here to visit, making me appreciate the experiences I am being given access to all the more because they do not exist in a bubble.   Once we eventually clear the gridlock and pick up speed, I see another side of the island again: architecturally underwhelming concrete buildings and advertising billboards give way to low rise wooden houses and intermittent swathes of green.   Stopping at traffic lights I look out at tiny roadside stores, with chickens scratching in the dirt under large woven rattan cloches out the front and clusters of men reclining and smoking on raised wooden platforms, taking respite from the dense tropical heat (the rain has finally stopped and the re-emerging sun is converting the moisture on the ground into the kind of humidity you can almost touch). Manggis Our final destination is Manggis, a quiet spot on the east coast of the island far removed from the traffic we have just broken free of and the bar scene of Kuta that so many people imagine when they think of the island.   As we pass through a village, past a Hindu temple (upwards of 80 per cent of the population are Hindu) with worshippers coming and going, the lilting sound of gamelan music can be heard. Alila Manggis Resort [caption id="attachment_24181" align="alignnone" width="668"] The airy architecture of Alila Manggis, with touches of Balinese tradition.[/caption] Climbing up a hill, the driver suddenly stops realising he has driven past the entrance to Alila Manggis, shrouded as it is in lush vegetation. With a streamlined design by Kerry Hill Architects, Manggis is made up of a cluster of buildings overlooking a wide lawn and the ocean beyond. The reception [caption id="attachment_24183" align="alignnone" width="667"] Lush gardens surround Alila Manggis, designed by Kerry Hill Architects.[/caption] Walking into the open-sided reception area, we are greeted with cool drinks. The quiet of the surroundings is almost intoxicating, punctuated only by the gurgle of water from a nearby fountain and birdsong. The facilities [caption id="attachment_24184" align="alignnone" width="668"] Tropical splendour at the pool at Alila Manggis.[/caption] Water plays a large part in the layout of the resort. The restaurant pavilion, again open on all sides, is surrounded by water and greenery, and when we are shown to our room we descend stairs and tiptoe across stepping stones set in a shallow pool. Through the luxe minimal interior of our room, the resort’s wide pool can be seen, surrounded by palms trees and a lush lawn. The atmosphere [caption id="attachment_24182" align="alignnone" width="1500"] The beachfront at Alila Manggis on the less frenetic east coast of the island.[/caption] As the sun sets, the resort is lit by candles that throw a warm haze over the creamy walls and soften the sharp architectural lines. A duo of smiling musicians sit behind a large bamboo instrument tapping out a mesmerising tune that can be heard as we eat dinner from the traditional menu served here. Nearby attractions The next day we are wrapped in traditional sarong before taking the 10-minute trip to the walled traditional village of Tenganan, where the Bali Aga, the indigenous population of the island, still adhere to centuries-old traditions (although now they do it under the watchful gaze of tourists who flock here); a strict code still isolates the village and marriage outside of its confines is frowned upon. [caption id="attachment_24185" align="alignnone" width="668"] The menu here is largely comprised of healthy Indonesian dishes.[/caption] Alila Seminyak [caption id="attachment_24191" align="alignnone" width="1500"] The lofty reception area at Alila Seminyak, with its high ceilings and ample use of local natural materials.[/caption] Manggis affords a tantalising glimpse into the compelling traditions of Bali and its people, and is the perfect contrast having spent our first few days holed up in Alila’s newest property on the island: Alila Seminyak. A haven of chic, the Seminyak property is bigger than Manggis but no less welcoming and accommodating. [caption id="attachment_24188" align="alignnone" width="668"] A quiet corner of Alila Seminyak.[/caption] The decor Executed in tactile natural materials, with whitewashed walls throughout and a lovely flow of buildings punctuated with deep blue pools (there are three in total), the resort seems completely natural within its surroundings in spite of its relative newness (the still growing gardens are the only hint). The service also belies its age: the gracious staff and faultless execution of their assigned tasks is of a standard that usually comes from many years of fine-tuning. [caption id="attachment_24189" align="alignnone" width="668"] A path leads from the infinity pool to a wide beach at Alila Seminyak.[/caption] Nearby attractions [caption id="attachment_24198" align="alignnone" width="668"] Seminyak is a hub of restaurants and cafes.[/caption] Seminyak has become something of a hotspot in the last few years as ex-pat Australians set up shop, creating boutiques and restaurants and bars that cater perfectly to the travellers who flock here. Alila allows you to dip into the buzz of the surrounding area if you want to – a shopping trip into town in the back of a vintage yellow VW combi van is irresistible – but you don’t feel like you are missing out on anything if you don’t. [caption id="attachment_24197" align="alignnone" width="668"] The intriguing interior of The Junction Restaurant, Seminyak.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_24200" align="alignnone" width="668"] Great coffee at Drifter’s, which doubles as a surf shop and cafe in Seminyak.[/caption] The food [caption id="attachment_24190" align="alignnone" width="668"] The extensive menu at Alila Seminyak is fresh and flavoursome, suchas this chicken larb.[/caption] The restaurant in the resort is brilliant, a sprawling inside–outside space with deep banquets and an open kitchen through which you can see an army of kitchen staff whipping up dishes such as a complexly flavoured red rice nasi goreng and a fresh, tangy larb salad, both of which I became addicted to (the ice teas on the menu are almost too good too); breads and pastries and desserts are made in an impeccable glassed-in pastry kitchen. The custom of providing a little tray table on which to place your bag and phone when you sit down is totally endearing and becomes my new benchmark of luxury. [caption id="attachment_24187" align="alignnone" width="668"] The Hindu temple at the heart of Alila Seminyak; the resort was built around the temple, which is venerated by the local community.[/caption] While the design and attitude throughout Alila Seminyak is chic and modern (there are no gamelan here), there is still a place for the traditional; the resort was built around a tiny 35-year-old Hindu temple that is now positioned between the restaurant and Beach Bar, and where locals still come to make offerings in the early morning cool. Alila Villas Uluwatu [caption id="attachment_24193" align="alignnone" width="668"] The breathtaking pool area atop the cliff at Alila Uluwatu.[/caption] While Manggis allows for immersion in the culture of the island, and Seminyak ticks the box for those wanting a best of both worlds escape, the third Alila property I visit is geared towards total seclusion: Alila Villas Uluwatu is perched at the top of sheer limestone cliff, looking out to the endless horizon beyond. The atmosphere [caption id="attachment_24196" align="alignnone" width="668"] Alila Uluwatu’s Balinese restaurant with a stunning wall sculpture of reclaimed wood[/caption] Here the sea breeze is allowed to permeate every corner of the open buildings that make up the resort’s hub, where the serene lobby, the restaurants, the infinity pool and the much Instagrammed Sunset Cabana are spread out wide among gardens and still ponds. The villas [caption id="attachment_24195" align="alignnone" width="668"] Alila resort’s serene white interiors.[/caption] The villas are a riot of clean lines and luxe touches: open-air showers, huge day beds overlooking your own private plunge pools and cabana, and a bathroom stocked with signature his and hers Alila products.   There is nowhere to go from here, no villages to visit or shopping to do, but Uluwatu is not the sort of place you leave readily. Rather it is real edge-of-the-Earth total immersion stuff, another variation on the concept of escape that Alila seems to do so well.   As we head back into the frenzy of the streets, we are given one last look into the dichotomy of Bali, where noise and tradition and solitude meld in perfect balance. Details How to get there Jetstar flies to Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, more popularly known as Denpasar Airport, daily from most Australian capital cities.   Prices start from $159 one way. While you’re there… SHOPPING Mister Zimi is filled with island-perfect pieces in strong patterns and colours.   Bali Boat Shed’s hyper-coloured exterior is almost as compelling as the easy breezy his and hers pieces within.   By The Sea’s cute shops house endless-summer pieces with a preppy vibe.   EATING Inside its arresting exterior, The Junction serves funky and fresh during the day and fine dining at night.   BEING SEEN Potato Head Beach Club has restaurants, bars and infinity pool. The exterior is worth seeing alone.   Char Char Bar & Grill’s tiered seating is the ultimate place to perch.     Words by Leigh-Ann Pow,  photography by Annette O’brien
Alan Pye Cottage at Huka Lodge, New Zealand.
Huka Lodge: A Royal Retreat
Taking up a position in a setting of unprecedented beauty on the Waikato River, Huka Lodge has a sense of luxury so refined that it makes royals feel at home. By Lara Picone.
Bareboating in Croatia, ranked #76 in our countdown of '100 Ultimate Travel Experiences of a Lifetime'.
The best places to have buddy, honey and babymoons
Mum, Dad and the kids! We uncover the new travel trends in honeymooning. The Buddymoon One of the biggest travel trends right now is the Buddymoon.   An increasingly popular alternative to a traditional honeymoon, buddymoons, as the name implies, involves taking a bunch of friends with you on holidays after the wedding and enjoying the time en masse. Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux headed to Tahiti after their surprise wedding last year taking a clique of close friends including Courteney Cox and Jason Bateman with them to soak up the sun and fun of the idyllic Pacific islands.   Buddymoons are often the result of weddings held in exotic locales overseas; with friends and family travelling long distances to celebrate the wedding it then makes sense for everyone to stick around and enjoy the setting together. Buddymoon destinations: Europe is a popular choice, especially France and Italy. Hire a large Tuscan villa with a pool and lots of countryside to explore to keep everybody busy; in France, the south, with its rolling fields of sunflowers, picture-postcard villages and proximity to the azure Mediterranean waters can’t be beaten. Hire a villa in Bali compete with pools and staff for the ultimate drop-and-flop buddymoon. Check in to a private island like Fiji’s Dolphin Island for complete seclusion with your nearest and dearest. Its private bures mean everyone can get away when they want to. The Honeymoon Of course, the traditional honeymoon is still a time-honoured tradition for many, but with most couples these days living together before tying the knot, honeymoons are now as much about an escape from the everyday as an opportunity to cosset yourself away and get to know each other as man and wife.   For this reason many newlyweds are looking for a combination of relaxation and recreation.   Hawai‘i is an ideal choice, with beaches and activities in equal measure, while somewhere like Thailand offers the mix of a beach getaway (try Point Yamu by COMO for an un-Phuket Phuket escape) and city break.   Trips like this allow couples to create instant shared experiences and set an itinerary that keeps both happy. The Babymoon The chance to escape for a last getaway as a couple before the joys of parenthood and decades of ‘family holidays’, the babymoon doesn’t seem to be diminishing.   Island escapes are a popular option here, allowing the mummy-to-be lots of opportunity to relax and unwind.   You want to pick somewhere with a good track record for cleanliness – ending up with a bug when pregnant is not fun no matter how many palm trees you can see from your sick bed – and ease of travel (no political unrest, recent coups or lack of consular representation, just in case).   Short-haul breaks are the ideal option here: a luxury lodge in New Zealand, a five-star resort in Fiji or Tahiti or perhaps something closer to home like the Whitsundays: qualia or Hayman Island are both great choices.
Fiji streams and waterfalls.
Is Fiji the greatest crowd-pleaser destination?
At the heart of the South Pacific and surrounded by turquoise waters, Fiji’s 333 islands are some of the most romantic places on Earth.