Google Home Hub.
Merge with the machine: great reasons NOT to try a ‘digital detox’
Technology is assisting us when we travel in new and subtle ways – it’s time to celebrate its place in our lives and shun the digital detox, says Dan Down. Turn off your noise-cancelling headphones, forget about an episode of something on Netflix, sit back in your economy class seat and appreciate the shrill screams of an irate baby.   Don’t take a photo of a brilliant outback sunset; give your non-existent photographic memory a dust off and try and relive it later, describing it to your friends at the pub. They’ll really appreciate it.   Savour your orange juice without checking the morning papers on your tablet, you have no reason to stay informed with what’s going on in the world after all. Ignorance is bliss.   I could go on, but you see where I’m going; if you’re serious about one of these digital-detox breaks – the leave-your-phone-at-the-door-before-having-your-internal-energy-restored-by-a-didgeridoo-blasting-in-your-eardrum kind of thing – then there shouldn’t be any fence-sitting; you should put your money where your mouth is and be thrust into the unforgiving wilderness damn near naked. I bet you’ll soon be hankering after a screen to tap with a sweaty, shaking finger.   Technology is a wonderful thing, smartphones are to us what fire was to Neanderthals, and they didn’t need to take time off from their fires to go cold and hungry did they? And you know what – I enjoy skimming through the headlines before I go to sleep; I simply turn on my phone’s blue-light filter to make reading comfortable and I then ruminate about the stories I’ve scanned as I drift off. The world is, after all, the most interesting book you can read, the internet constantly updating the narrative with unpredictable twists and turns that encompass the entire breadth of human experience. It’s no wonder we’re hooked; it’s bloody brilliant!   There’s no doubt that all of this can get a little much – just look at everyone glued to their phones on your morning commute on the train – but the big tech firms have addressed this with ‘digital wellbeing’ options built into a phone’s settings, which can limit your data use and make you aware of the fact you’ve spent just 10 per cent of your day in the ‘real’ world. Guilty.   But when we’re on the road travelling, the more technology you can get your hands on the better. Forget about obtrusive selfie sticks, mobile technology has moved from being a barrier between us and the real world, one that you literally keep at arm’s length, to becoming a useful link with our surrounding environment when we’re on the road. [caption id="attachment_45530" align="alignnone" width="600"] The Google Pixel 3, the tool designed to pull you out of a travel jam - among other things.[/caption] Going beyond the likes of Apple’s and Google’s respective Maps apps (how could you even think of setting foot outside your door without access to them), take the latest hardware offerings from Google as an example. The search giant’s new Pixel 3 smartphone is infused with AI trickery to bring out the most from your experiences. Point its camera at, say, a table and chairs that you covet at a designer hotel and the phone’s powerful AI (cloud-based) brain can identify the exact product, which you can then order online to have delivered to your home, instating the hotel’s aesthetic when you return from your travels. The camera can do this with anything, so if you happen to bump into Alexa Chung you can scan her clothes (probably ask permission) and just as easily order them online.   And it’s not just furniture and clothes that Google thinks you’re interested in, the camera will also read album cover sleeve art so you can order music, and translate anything from street signs and menus to lend a hand when you’re perusing the bewildering choice of places to dine down some Tokyo side street. If you’re on safari it will identify animals and even plant species quicker than your ranger can thumb through the index of a field guide.   And the phone slots seamlessly into the wider Google Home network, with your travel photography uploaded automatically to Google’s Photos app (with which you have unlimited storage) to then appear on the Home Hub smart speaker. This doubles as a digital photo frame: images will be displayed on the Home Hub’s ambient-light adjusted (read unobtrusive), gorgeous little photo screen for when you get home. [caption id="attachment_45529" align="alignnone" width="600"] Part of the Google Home Hub in action.[/caption] So instead of a technology-free wellness retreat – why not stay in a hi-tech boutique hotel for weekend city break – try Canberra’s Little National or QT Sydney - and embrace what’s under the hood of your phone to enhance your trip in new and subtle ways.   But of course, you don’t want all of this marvelous technological wizardry, why would you? Go and sit under a tree, close your eyes, still your mind, and become one with the planet. But I hate to remind you that there’s an app for that too. What do you think? Is it time to get rid of the digital-detox now that phones keep your eyes happy with less blue light and even restrict access to data towards bed time? Please let me know in the comments below if you agree or disagree.
Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Restaurant, Queenstown, New Zealand.
These are the world’s 10 most-booked food experiences
If you’re looking to get your gourmand on, it’s well worth checking out this list, because we know what the most-book food experiences of 2018 were… in the entire world. If you’re a food enthusiast and a wine fan, no doubt you make a decent amount of your travel decisions with food and wine in mind, then there’s a whopping great chance you’ll be interested to know which food experiences were the most-booked around the globe through TripAdvisor Experiences in 2018.   Am I right?   From Portugese lunches on a river cruise, to robot cabaret shows in Tokyo, it seems travellers are as equally after the delicious as they are the dazzling. The great news is, no matter where your travels take you, you’re probably not too far away from one of these experiences – the advice would just be to book in sooner rather than later – or it seems like you could just miss out.   Here they are… 10. Savannah Culinary and Cultural Walking Tour, Savannah, USA [caption id="attachment_45102" align="alignnone" width="600"] Experience Southern delights with a Savannah Culinary and Cultural Walking Tour, Savannah, USA.[/caption]   Join a group of 13 fellow travellers as you eat your way through Savannah on a tour that’s equal part history and culinary. Okay, slightly more food-focused. You’ll visit several restaurants and food stores specialising in authentic Southern classics and sampling them as you go. After the tour, the map of your food route will allow you to go back and re-visit the spots you found the most delicious.   Find more info and book here. 9. Queenstown Skyline Gondola and Restaurant, Queenstown, New Zealand Hop aboard the Queenstown gondola and head straight for the skyline restaurant where you’ll enjoy either a lunch of evening meal, while taking in the views of Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables range. Settle in to Bob’s Peakat Skyline for four amazing courses made up of local specialities.   Find more info and book here. 8. Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour, Madrid, Spain Ola! This tour will take you on a journey through Madrid’s culture with delicious tapas and wine. Our personal favourite way to tour. Limited to an intimate group of 12, you’ll explore Spanish specialties like chickpea stew, salted cod and other obscure local ingredients. The best bit? Unlike other tapas tours, the food and wine are included!   Find more info and book here. 7. Sydney Tower Restaurant Buffet, Sydney, Australia Woo hoo! One of our own made the list – how fabulous! Well how could it not? With 360-degree views of the city, Sydney Tower’s revolving restaurant’s delicious buffet lunch and dinner is a bucket list experience. We personally love how the view outside your window has changed by the time you get to dessert.   Find more info and book here. 6. Rome Food Tour by Sunset around Prati District, Rome, Italy [caption id="attachment_45101" align="alignnone" width="600"] Take part in a Rome Food Tour by Sunset around Prati District, Rome, Italy.[/caption] This tour will take you off the main streets and guide you to the eateries favoured by Roman locals. The food-and-walking tour will take you through the Prati neighbourhood, where you’ll sample up to 20 local delicacies at sunset. A group of just 13 people calls for a supremely intimate experience.   Find more info and book here. 5. New Orleans Food Walking Tour of the French Quarter, New Orleans, USA Taste and sip your way through the Big Easy on a food tour of ‘New Awlin’s’ French Quarter. During the tour you’ll stop in to sample some of the city’s most distinctive foods and explore with a local guide, who’ll gift you with a behind-the-scenes look into local kitchens. You’ll also get tips on where to eat, drink and sightsee – just make sure you bring an appetite for everything from beignets to mouth-watering brisket.   Find more info and book here. 4. Tokyo Robot Evening Cabaret Show, Tokyo, Japan [caption id="attachment_45103" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Enjoy an evening with a dazzling difference at Tokyo Robot Evening Cabaret Show, Tokyo, Japan.[/caption] Wacky is an understatement. If you like your dinner with a difference, then a cabaret show at Robot Restaurant will certainly do it for you. The restaurant is one of Tokyo’s most popular performance venues, often selling out weeks in advance. It features real robots, kaleidoscopic costumes and high-octane dancing. Hold on to your hat for this one.   Find more info and book here. 3. Pizza and Gelato Cooking Class in a Tuscan Farmhouse from Florence, Florence, Italy [caption id="attachment_45100" align="alignnone" width="550"] Enjoy a culinary cooking class in a Tuscan Farmhouse from Florence, Florence, Italy[/caption] If it’s as much about how to make the food as it is about eating it, then this is the foodie experience for you. During, you’ll delve deep into Florence’s culinary scene with a remote Tuscan Farmhouse as your setting. You’ll master the basics of Italian pizza and gelato, but the highlight without a doubt is eating the fruit of your labours – quite literally – if you’re talking about the gelato.   Find more info and book here. 2. Montserrat Tour from Barcelona, including lunch and wine tasting in Oller des Mas, Barcelona, Spain Take a day trip from Barcelona to experience a Catalan lunch and wine and cheese tasting session at Oller del Mas; a 10th-century castle set in a 1,000-acre estate. Enjoy a combination of tours and free time at the monastery and basilica of Montserrat before taking to the vineyard’s cellars for a tipple or two.   Find more info and book here. 1. Douro Valley Small-Group Tour with Wine Tasting, Portugese Lunch and Optional River Cruise, Porto, Portugal The UNESCO-listed Douro Valley is famous for its port wine, but due to the sheer number of wineries in the region, exploring without a guide well versed in vino can be more than a little overwhelming. This tour ensures you’ll experience the very best the Douro Valley has to offer, dining on local cuisine at a celebrated villa and tasting award-winning wine at two estates. To see it all from the water, there’s the option to upgrade to a cruise by traditional Rabelo boat.   Find more info and book here.
United Airlines Business Class.
Review: United Airlines Business Class
Quentin Long test drives business class on United Airlines’ Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – the world’s newest aircraft with claims to be the most comfortable for fliers – to see if the promises are actually kept.
James Thompson Food Feels
The best non-travel Instagram accounts to inspire you to see the world
There are about 872 billion travel accounts on Instagram, give or take. But there are other ways to see the world through Instagram’s lens. Here, six accounts that will take you on a visual world tour of a different kind.   How do you while away the hours on Instagram? For me, it’s a haphazardly curated feed of beautiful destinations, coveted fashion, mouth-watering food and Betoota Advocate LOLs. I want to go there, wear this, eat that. Sure, I’m envious, but I try to keep the green-eyed monster at bay by striking a content balance. Exotic locations, oui. Nothing but exotic locations, non. To that end, here are six accounts that will nourish your wanderlust while injecting some less traditional imagery into your feed. Best for people-watching in New York City: @humansofny   View this post on Instagram   “I wasn’t planning on dressing up as a clown. I’d been drinking all night in Poughkeepsie and I somehow ended up at the train station, so I decided to take the 4 AM train into the city. I had $200 in my pocket from some gutter cleaning work. I immediately spent the first $60 on brunch and Bloody Marys. Then I walked by Party City and I had the idea to get a clown wig. But then I noticed the suspenders, and the top, and the bow tie, and some balloons. I bought a red nose too but I’m not sure what happened to it. I left the store with about $100, which was enough to get some shoes and a half pint of Seagram’s. I ended the day with $10 but that got lost when I passed out in Times Square. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get home. I need to stop drinking.” A post shared by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on Aug 9, 2018 at 10:52am PDT Humans of New York has over eight million followers. I mean, you’re probably one of them. This is a hugely popular account. @humansofny started life as Brandon Stanton’s photography project in 2010 and, although it has evolved since, it remains true to its original mission: to provide a glimpse into the lives of everyday New Yorkers.   While the account still predominantly features locals – it would be weird otherwise, right? – it now goes on tour, too, giving followers an insight into lives around the globe.  Best for global floor appreciation: @ihavethisthingforfloors   View this post on Instagram   #ihavethisthingforfloors #ihavethisthingwithfloors #fromwhereistand #tiles #floors #floored #ceramics #shoes #beauty #bnw #love #awesome #tassles #canvas #slippers #hawanas #blue #love #feet #feetmefloor #stencil #painted#paint #art #fortheloveof #paints @cimkedi #pattern #like4like #follow A post shared by I have this thing for floors. (@ihavethisthingforfloors) on Aug 8, 2017 at 4:55am PDT More than four million Instagram posts have been tagged #lookup, a nod to the notion that we should pull our eyes away from our phone and enjoy what’s around us. (Hashtag irony.) But, as this account proves, we should be doing more looking down as well. @ihavethisthingwithfloors is the result of three friends realising they all, err, had this thing with floors.   They curate the account from Amsterdam, but share ‘selfeets’ (selfie meets feet, geddit?) from all over the world. Each features an Instagram-worthy floor – think beautifully patterned tiles, confetti covered dance floors, colourful carpets – underneath a pair of feet. Bonus points for cute shoes. Best for perving on the world's best caffeine containers: @coffeecupsoftheworld   View this post on Instagram   Magnolia coffee house, Prairie Grove, Arkansas. @magnoliacoffeehouse Submission @deidremays #coffeecupsoftheworld A post shared by Coffee Cups of the World (@coffeecupsoftheworld) on May 21, 2018 at 5:05am PDT If you’ve never posted a photo of your cool takeaway coffee cup, are you even on Instagram? Kiwi photographer Henry Hargreaves has taken the trend a step further, curating an account dedicated to, as the handle would suggest, @coffeecupsoftheworld.   The account started with Hargreaves’ personal assortment of cups collected during his travels, but has since added submissions into the mix. The result is a striking visual ode to cafes that have turned a ubiquitous item into a work of art. Best 'non-street-style' street style account: @aks   View this post on Instagram   10 PHOTOS shot during @parisfashionweek SS19 in Paris, France 🇫🇷 for @wmag + @lofficielparis • SEE MORE on AdamKatzSinding.com • #PFW #SS19 #Paris #AKS #AdamKatzSinding #NoFreePhotos A post shared by Adam Katz Sinding (@aks) on Oct 5, 2018 at 10:59am PDT The first thing you should probably know is @AKS “is not a f**king street style blog.” Adam Katz Sinding is a fashion week documentarian. The American born, Copenhagen-based photojournalist travels 300-plus days of the year, capturing the world’s biggest fashion events from both backstage and the street.   The disclaimer is his. He says street style is a lie he wants no part of. In contrast, Katz Sinding’s images are an honest snapshot of style in some of the world’s most fashionable cities, and a touristy #ASKforeheadselfie series for good measure. Best coverage of doorways around the world: @thedoorproject   View this post on Instagram   Barcelona, Spain A post shared by Doors Worldwide (@thedoorproject) on Jun 2, 2015 at 9:56am PDT “Behind every door is a story,” says Caryn Cullinan, the woman behind The Door Project. That might be true, but @thedoorproject is more about the door itself with colourful, ornate and quirky examples from around the world captured via the Instagram account. The project has its roots in a 2015 Kickstarter campaign, which aimed to raise enough money for Cullinan to publish a book. She did that, but hasn’t stopped the door hunt, which she documents on Instagram.   While her captions include little more than each door’s location, the absence of the aforementioned ‘story’ does allow you to imagine your own. Best account to simultaneously make you drool and want to book flights to wherever that pizza is: @food_feels   View this post on Instagram   I’ll have all of the above ✔️ No trip to Macao is complete without a stop to Lord Stow - I had so many recommendations to try their famous egg tarts - similar to Pastel de natas but instead using English custard. I’d recommend visiting their original store in in Coloane where they’ve been baking these since 1989.. @macaouk - #Macao #Ad A post shared by Food Feels (@food_feels) on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:53am PDT Ahh, there’s a small pizza, I mean, problem. Sorry. I have been scrolling through James Thompson’s @food_feels account to get some pizza, I mean, inspiration (sorry!) for this pizza, oh God, I mean, piece. And now, as you might have guessed, I am a little pizza. ARGH! I’m distracted. I am a little DIS.TRAC.TED.   Thompson, an Aussie based in London, is (at time of writing) in Italy. Prior to Italy, he was in France. Before France, he was in Denmark. Previous to Denmark, he was in Portugal. Thompson’s accompanying #foodie photos are delicious. Let him whisk you away on a culinary adventure.
Designer Philippe Starck is getting into the boutique-budget market with the Mama Shelter hotel in Paris.
Chic boutique hotels on a budget
Like airlines, low-cost hotels are changing the way we travel. Here's how to stretch your travel dollar without killing the buzz of a hip stay. When rifling through accommodation options in big cities, choosing budget hotels can be a miserable exercise in bullet-dodging. Tune Hotels It’s a netherworld of threadbare towels, mould-dashed showers in the hallway, sweaty box rooms more suited to prison-based fever dreams, and mattresses with the weight-bearing capabilities of a soggy cardboard box left outside in a thunderstorm. It doesn’t take many visits to the curiously interchangeable budget hotels in London’s King’s Cross area, for example, to make the Tune Hotels concept sound relatively attractive.   In short, base rates are low, while you pay for any add-ons – be it air-con, wi-fi, in-room safes, a TV or towels and toiletries. That’s not quite as annoying as it may sound. With rooms in London starting at $60, I don’t mind paying an extra $5 a day for 24-hour web access and $2.50 for towels and toiletries. (I’d not use the safe or TV anyway.) The rooms are undeniably small, but crucially, they’re furnished to a high standard with comfortable beds, power showers and an overall sense of clean, smart slickness.   CEO, Mark Lankester, reckons that low-cost airlines have conditioned travellers to recognise that spending less doesn’t have to equate to poor quality. And paying extra for some amenities is a matter of choice.   But he also points out a new breed of traveller – known in marketing speak as the ‘Millennial’. “They’re voracious travellers and world citizens,” says Lankester. “For them, the size of the room is less important as long as it’s affordably priced, comfortable and – importantly – has great internet connectivity.”   Over the last decade, a handful of other design-focused budget chains have cropped up – all pushing a variation on the quality, cool and affordable shtick. Motel One Motel One – all egg chairs, trendy lamps, iPads and rates from $73 a night – is expanding out from its German base and now has five UK properties, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Newcastle. Citizen M and Chic&Basic The artier, minimalist Chic&Basic has invaded Amsterdam from its Spanish hub, while Citizen M has expanded into New York, Boston and Seattle after tagging in Glasgow, Paris, London and Copenhagen to its Dutch properties. The latter has buzzy common areas and canteen-style self-service restaurants to complement pod-style rooms where all electronics – mood lighting, electronic blinds, the works – are controlled from a bedside screen.   Each brand has its quirks, but in common is the assumption that guests will trade space and supposedly outdated services for affordability, connectivity and centrality.   Natasha McLaughlin, Land Product Manager for STA Travel, says these hotels aren’t just appealing to budget travellers – guests are being pinched from mid-range chains. “The likes of Novotel and Holiday Inn have their appeal as they are internationally consistent. However, everyone wants something boutique, stylish, and something a bit special, so I can understand why these hotel styles are trending.” Moxy The big boys are now getting in on the act – Marriott has joined forces with IKEA for the Moxy chain, which first opened its doors in Milan in 2014, and has since expanded across 14 European countries, the UK, Japan, Indonesia and across the USA. Mama Shelter Even legendary luxury designer Philippe Starck is dipping his toes in, collaborating on Mama Shelter, which kicked off in Paris in 2008. The brand has since expanded to other French cities,  Belgrade, Prague, and Los Angeles. GM and co-owner, Jeremie Trigano, uses terms such as “urban kibbutz” and “sensual refuge” to describe the hotels. All come with free movies, an overload of in-room technology and high-end bedding. But rates start at $73.   With all of these up-and-coming chains, however, suitability depends on mentality. For wallet-conscious solo travellers and those who use hotels as a necessary base for exploring the city, they’re ideal. For couples, the rooms can be a squash if spending more time in them beyond sleeping and getting changed. Full-on city break or non-expense account business overnighter? Yes. Romantic weekend? No.   But getting a cheap big city room no longer needs to be a grim game of Russian roulette.