Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A room with a view, Amalfi Coast

A collective 'sigh' just swept over the Holidays for Couples headquarters, thanks to these photos of Le Sirenuse Hotel in Positano, on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Perched high above the coastline of one of the most splendid locations in the world for romance and luxury, Le Sirenuse has a rich history that spans over 50 years under the loving patronage of the Marchese Sersale family. This 18th-century palazzo located half way up the near-vertical village has a truly intoxicating setting. Wake to a spectacular view down to the sea and over the rooftops of pastel buildings and church domes. Spend the daytime hours cruising up and down the coast to Capri aboard the family's vintage Riva speedboat. Dine on Neapolitan delights under the stars at the hotel's restaurant La Sponda, and sip on bubbly by candle light at the champagne and oyster bar.
It's an expensive indulgence to stay at Le Sirenuse, so it's a given that you must be willing and able to dish out the cost of a deluxe room with a view. But just imagine it. The stuff of romantic holiday dreams! 

Garagistes, Hobart

Tempting as it may be to slot Garagistes in to the category of 'wine bar', it's so much more than that. Because the food matters just as much as what you drink here. This fantastic setting in Hobart is where to come for a daily menu of dishes using seasonally grown and foraged local ingredients, all designed to complement the extensive international list of natural wines on offer. Drop in for a glass and a tasters selection of snacks, or settle in for a long and languid evening where the food is served in a communal dining atmosphere, and washed down in the company of contemporary gourmands. 

Garagistes are very much hands on when it comes to their produce, with their very own vegetable garden and a team that do a lot of the baking, smoking, curing and pickling of their delicacies in house. The dishes here are designed to be shared. And when Sunday rolls around, it's all about feasting, with a relaxed four course set menu of individual dishes (reservations essential). Garagistes would be the ideal stop on a day spent enjoying the delights of Hobart, a city known for its culinary prowess and superb restaurant gems. And with that wine list, you may want to settle in together and take your time.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Zetter Townhouse, London

Just across the historic cobbles of St John Square and a mere 21 steps from its sister Zetter Hotel is a traditional 13 bedroom Georgian Townhouse hotel that has us feeling a flush of eccentricity. The Zetter Townhouse is a curious mix of suites, a cocktail lounge and a table tennis games room (of course!), all in an atmosphere that is typical London style savvy - a perfect mix of old and new, parlour mixed with vintage kitsch. Sash windows, drapes, heavy timbers and four poster beds give the distinct air of a place that has been born of yesteryear, but it has been brought right into the noughties with hi tech facilities (think Ipod docks, flat screens and sound systems in the rooms).  Located in one of London's most fashionable neighbourhoods, Clerkenwell, The Zetter Townhouse has the ideal position of being on the edge of the city (the West End is a 10 minute taxi ride) and yet it's right in the middle of a buzzing, lively area that is home to some of the city's best restaurants and bars, and a vibrant cultural scene. It certainly offers a unique way to stay and play when in London. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

W is for WOW!

W Hotels are known for their uber-chic and contemporary design, and when you add that style to a tropical island in Puerto Rico, you've got a sultry and sublime combo!
W Vieques is the second fully fledged 'retreat' (rather than a 'hotel') in the world to be opened under the W name. The retreat has been washed in bright rainbow colours and textured woods to set the scene for totally sophisticated indulgence. The design calibre is high on this one - Italian designer extraordinaire Patricia Urquiola is the creator behind these magnificent interiors. Just check out that styling - every inch of every room and space is pure perfection! Rustic and elegant all at once. Puerto Rico just went up a notch on the 'to do' list ...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wanderlust in Singapore

Now here's a boutique hotel that gives a whole new view to modern design. Like an urban art gallery with some beds thrown in for good effect, the Wanderlust Hotel in Singapore is redefining what hotel interiors could be about. Designed for the contemporary traveller - and certainly not for the feint hearted - Wanderlust is a part of the Design Hotels chain and therefore brings some serious design cred to a city that is known for its cutting edge trends. 

Located at 2 Dickson Road in the heart of Little India, Wanderlust is eccentric, neon styled, with each room a totally unique personality. It's a part fantasy, part  playhouse, and not to be taken too seriously. This is a place that begs you to have fun with your stay, and to take that attitude out on to the streets to explore what Singapore has to offer. 
It's also got a popular French restaurant, Cocotte, and some great outdoor spaces to mingle in.

So out in the left field, and we love it!

Yogic Dreaming

Yoga has been a cornerstone of my life for the past five years and, frankly, without my regular practice, I'm a little bit lost in the world. So when I was shown a copy of Great Yoga Retreats, published by the good folk at Taschen (my favourite series of specialty tomes!), I couldn't help but start planning my next yoga escape. 

Great Yoga Retreats travels across the globe - from India and Bhutan to Tuscany and Mexico, and all the hidden gems found in between - to show us some of the most amazing specialty resorts, retreats and holidays that cater to the modern yogi. These are places where you can totally immerse yourself in your preferred practice, meditate on beauty, quiet, peace, and completely escape the world for a little slice of tranquillity. Albeit in a little bit of luxury! 

Speaking from personal experience, I've done a lot of yoga retreats in my time. Some have been in five star locales where you are, quite literally, pampered from crown to toe (even whilst balancing on them!). Others have been more simple affairs in rustic huts and on a shala built in to the jungle. All of them have been equally special,  and given me equal soul nourishment in their own unique ways. 

But the collection of yoga retreats in this book are nothing short of stunning. I'm already imagining the bliss of doing Sun Salutations in such exotic surroundings. It may not make the yoga any easier. But if you're blessed enough to experience a stay in one of these places, it sure could give one the space to breathe deeper in to it!

You can find this and other Taschen books in most good bookstores and specialty retailers, or purchase them online from the Taschen website which has the full catalogue of titles. 

Here comes the snow!

OK. So it's getting really cold, really quickly. And that means the Victorian and New South Wales snow season is coming on just as fast. If you're counting down the days to hit the slopes, and trying to plan your next trip to a winter playground, you may just like to check out the new Snow Australia website. It's been launched to bring the whole of Australia’s snow industry and its nine best ski resorts into the one website this ski season to help you decide which snow experience and which resort is right for your needs. 

And it's the first time skiers and snowboarders who will find this an invaluable tool for planning. Expect to find five Snow Australia ‘expert guides’ to help you navigate your way around renting equipment, learning to ski or snowboard, accommodation options and the best après entertainment on offer at Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass, Selwyn Snowfields, Falls Creek, Mount Hotham, Mount Buller, Mount Baw Baw and Lake Mountain. It's also got some great package deals on offer, so you can book your snow holiday online, wherever you choose to ski, snowboard or play. You'll leave with a head full of knowledge thanks to instructional videos for first timers, feature articles on all things snow, resort information, web cameras and snow reports.
Strap yourselves in. It's going to be a freezing winter, and a wild ride! 

A Season of Sailing in Queensland

The colder winter months need not shy us from the crystal waters of Queensland - this is the season when spectacular racing regattas begin along the coastline and it's kicking off in the blue waters of Mooloolaba Bay with the newest event, Sail Mooloolaba on from June 4th - 12th, coinciding with the 15th Musto Etchells Australasian Winter Championship from June 9th - 12th. 

If you're keen to get there for it, there's also some great ways to involve yourself in the spirit of sailing:

* Learn to sail with Sunshine Sailing Australia, with international ocean racer John Bankart at the helm. He offers a range of courses for novices through to experienced sailors keen to improve their skills. Based at Mooloolaba Wharf, you can choose from sailing lessons for the kids through to easy sailing skippered yacht charters.  

* The Mooloolaba Yacht Club welcomes visitors joining the club members for an afternoon of sailing around the Mooloolaba Bay. Fun sails are held every Wednesday and Sunday. Meet on canal side of The Wharf Tavern at The Mooloolaba Wharf Complex, at midday and 11am respectively. 

* Get out on the water with Liquid Getaway’s range of boat tours including scenic rides, surfing, snorkeling safaris and whale watching tours. Based at Mooloolaba Wharf, Liquid Getaway’s custom designed 12 seat boat provides a thrilling way to get close to marine life, including a pod of resident dolphins, turtles, rays and other wildlife during the ride.

Now in its second year, the Season of Sailing aims to attract visitors to sailing events being held from now until September along the Queensland coastline.
The Season of Sailing website offers a whole range of getaways where you can enjoy being part of these famous events including the world famous Hamilton Island Race Week. 

(Images courtesy Queensland Holidays apart from top right Etchells Australasian Winter Championships photo, courtesy of  Kylie Wilson.)

T'was a picnic to remember, my love ...

So you want to make your lover swoon with romance? Indulge in the simple pleasure of a gourmet picnic, courtesy of The Sydney Picnic Company. Postcard-perfect day out in the Sydney region, goes a little something like this: You dust off the picnic rug, pack up the car and whisk your partner away to a secret location of your choosing. Settle in to your favourite spot, pop the champagne bottle, and  open your pre-packed basket to reveal the most delightfully arranged, thoughtfully presented assortment of gourmet indulgences, sealed with a personalised touch of vintage-inspired, handmade details. The result is a partner who is pure putty for you. Who could resist, really? It's romantic, simple. 
The Sydney Picnic Co. was created by two English food lovers, Natalie and Si Thomas, who - captivated by the beauty of Sydney's outdoor way of life - came up with the brilliant idea of combining their passion for styling and cooking to create these whimsical picnic hampers directly from their own kitchen in Wollahra.  They source all their produce from the very best Sydney providores, mostly organic, and all their packaging is made from environmentally sound products and hand prepared, so each and every picnic not only looks and tastes amazing, it leaves a light footprint.  Sydneysiders can take heart knowing they can call on Natalie and Si to create their ideal picnic on a whim, and if you're from out of town and looking to make a memorable experience in Sydney with someone special, they also offer ideas for great locations in some of the most enchanting spots the city has to offer. 
Put it on your romance list! 

Mash it up at Potato Head, Bali

When we were told by a globetrotting friend that Potato Head was "the new 'new'", we simply had to check it out all for ourselves. And it really is seriously cool!

Born in to the Jakarta bar scene and created by Indonesian international art collectors Ronald Akili and Jason Gunawan with a view to revolutionising the south east Asian bar/restaurant/bistro concept, Potato Head is totally different to anything the city, with its thriving nightlife, has ever had on offer. It became synonymous with style, with a design that is based on a vintage industrial setting and divided in to three sections; ground, mezzanine and outdoor area. A bespoke cocktail bar at its epicentre, helmed by a team of professional mixologists, and the Potato Head phenonamon took flight - the cocktail list is totally customised for cool.

And the concept has taken a shining to neighbouring Bali, with the recent opening of the Potato Head Beach Club quickly cementing itself as THE hottest new place to be seen! Taking up pride of place smack bang on the beach at one of Bali's most prestigious addresses, at Jalan Petitenget in Seminyak, the Potato Head Beach Club is part art gallery, part lounge bar, part beach club complete with infinity pool and resident DJs. The new venture carries on the good name of its Jakarta sister, with a cocktail list that serves as a defining point for any and all who attend. And in a location that takes modern exotic to a whole new level of amazing, Potato Head is stylishly evocative, and just made for simmering away the day and melting in to memorable nights. Cocktail in hand, of course!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Luxury Eco camping at Jervis Bay

It was a much loved trip to Africa that saw Irena and Jeremy Hutchings build their own safari-esque dream, The Paperbark Camp at Woollamia, Jervis Bay on the New South Wales' south coast, in the late 1980s. Track forward to today and the site has developed into an eco haven for those who like a little dose of rustic in their holidays. Far more than a mere camping tent, visitors to Paperbark Camp will sleep in one of 12 luxury 'safari tents', set on raised timber platforms within the stunning paperbark forest, in the unspoilt natural beauty of Jervis Bay. 

Your hut has all the amenities that make it more comfort than camping. There's no public toilet or shower blocks here, but rather guests each have their own private bathroom. And you won't need to pack your sleeping bag when you have a full timber bed, complete with linen. The cabins are simple but stylishly done, with small decks to relax on, and polished timber floorboards throughout. There's also four Deluxe Safari Tents, which have the bonus of a clawfoot, cast iron bath.

You're in a designated National Marine Park here, so an eco adventure is assured. The camp offers plenty of packages for day trips that connect you to the surrounding environment, and when you're done exploring you can come back to rest and relax in to the comfort of your cabin or enjoy a meal at the onsite Gunyah restaurant, perched high in the forest in the bush canopy.

Sounds pretty special. And it sure beats pitching tent! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Rock Bar takes it to a whole new level in Bali

If you're looking for a place to have a drink with one of the most breathtaking views in Bali, head to the clifftop Ayana Resort & Spa above Jimbaran Bay and take a seat at the Rock Bar. Perched high above the waters of Kisik Beach, the Rock Bar is one of the coolest places to come to for live music - just check out the natural backdrop of 360 degree ocean and wilderness views! It's sheer glamour, in a way that Bali does so well. I can easily imagine spending the afternoon hours here enjoying some nibbles and cocktails as the sun sets over the horizon. Bathe me in magenta colours and hand me a mojito - this could easily become a daily holiday habit! Little wonder it's becoming an iconic venue with those 'in the know'.


If you have a passion for cooking or just a keen interest in learning more about it all in a beautiful wild environment, then you may just like to check out Foragers in the beautiful Southern Forests region near Pemberton, Western Australia. 
Run by Sophie and Chris Zalokar - she is a qualified chef who has worked with Australian food icon Maggie Beer; he is a builder and artisanal craftsman - this is a place where wilderness and food combine in a passionate and unique setting. Guests can come and stay in one of the seven farm-based, private cabins and a cosy farmhouse, with sweeping views over farmland and forest, while partaking in a unique culinary travel experience at the Forager's Field Kitchen, with a variety of dinners and cooking classes held here throughout the year.

Dining is nothing short of an indulgent feast, and changes according to the seasons. Much like a private dining room with long tables rather than a traditional a-la-carte style restaurant, places are pre booked for a fixed price set menu meal that will often be themed and feature local seasonal produce. There are demonstration-style workshop days in the kitchen, as well as weekend hands-on workshops where local produce takes centre stage, while the more intrepid types can set out in to the surrounding bush to source ingredients on the Foraging the Southern Forests experience. 
Nourishing country food served up in a contemporary and hospitable setting, with the delights of the Margaret River a mere day trip away ... sounds like a good way to enjoy some of life's most simple pleasures!

VIVID lights up Sydney

Sydney comes alive in spectacular fashion during the annual Vivid festival, and it's about to start! From May 27th until June 13th the heart of Sydney is - more so than usual - a hub for all things creative in the Asia Pacific region. The festival is on a scale that defies the imagination, and it literally lights up the whole place with an energy that is unparalleled and unpredictable. Wander the streets, and you never know what delights you might come across.  

Local and international acts come out to play as the sun goes down, with a daily line up of incredible events taking place at some of the city's greatest landmarks. There's light sculptures and displays, including the spectacular Lighting the Sails at the Sydney Opera House, and flames leap high in to the night sky at the incredible 'FireDance' performance at Campbells Cove (think 40 jets of flame higher than a three-story house!). Industry heads and creative identities converge to meet and discuss innovative ideas at forward thinking, future forums. There's also a free art installation in the Western Foyers at the Opera House by film maker Tom Kuntz, and a pop-up bar called The Sony Lounge where anyone who's anyone will be in residence to watch Dj sets and bask in the honeyed light of being and feeling really rather cool. Because that's exactly where it's at.

And the line up of live music acts at Vivid Live is nothing short of heart racing! 2manydjs, Architecture in Helsinki, Cut Copy, Bag Raiders, it goes on and on. Bat for Lashes, in her Australian live debut, will be doing an intimate concert at the Opera House - sigh! - making my heart swoon ... 

You can see the full list of happenings and events at the Vivid website. If you're in Sydney, lucky you - you won't be able to miss it. If you're not, may we suggest you book that plane ticket. If ever there is a time to be in town, it's when it's VIVID! 

Oo La La - Le Royal Monceau Hotel, Paris

There is no city on Earth that quiet compares to Paris for style. And on a recent trip there I came across a hotel that takes it to the next level. Talk about Parisienne chic, and then look to Le Royal Monceau Hotel. Lust inducing interiors and a design by France's darling designer du jour, Philippe Starck, have brought this storied hotel from a historical past in to a super contemporary present day.
Just five minutes walk from Arc De Triomphe and Champs-Elysees, Le Royal Monceau Hotel is certainly one of the most prestigious addresses (fittingly so for a Raffles hotel), providing exemplary service and hospitality to the rich and the famous (film directors, actors, models and fashionistas have well and truly 'discovered' this place!).
A grand entrance - complete with six doormen - leads one in to a sophisticated enclave, where the interiors are over the top luxe and the people are just as beautiful. The hotel has a heavy influence of art everywhere you look, and is complete with its own art gallery which attracts exhibitions by some of the world's greatest modern artists. It even has its own dedicated blog Artforbreakfast.
The rooms are outrageously fabulous, and the cost matches their high style - from 800 Euro a night, you can live the life of luxury, and you'll be doing so like a rockstar. I hear that each room has its own guitar, and there's even a portable recording studio available to guests. I couldn't afford the hefty price tag of staying the night here but, as a firm believer in dreaming large, it's been added to the upper end of my luxe-travel wishlist. And there's nothing wrong with aiming big now, is there? Le Royal Monceau Hotel is just too tres chic!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Camilla Franks creates her first ever travel bag inspired by Singapore

Australian fashion favourite Camilla Franks has created her first ever travel bag, inspired by her self-confessed “home away from home”, Singapore. And in typical Camilla fashion, it is a decadent riot of colour and print (the striking print combination pays homage to the fusion of cultures in Singapore, including Arab, Chinese, Indian and Malaysian heritage), and nothing short of fabulous!

Complete with leather trimmings, a detachable silk scarf and shoulder strap and a removable envelope pouch for valuables, the ‘Singapore Weekender Bag’ was created with one thing in mind - shopping! 

It's the ultimate travel companion to take with you to this city that is famous for extraordinary shopping oportunities. The limited-edition ‘Singapore Weekender Bag’ will be sold in Camilla stores as of now, RRP $550.

And with the Great Singapore Sale on until July 24th this year – a must-do event on any die-hard shopper’s calendar, with prices slashed by up to 70% across all the nation’s premium shopping precincts -  you can take some tips from the designer herself on how to get your fix. 

“I have been to Singapore countless times and I love that the city is always evolving into an even more dynamic and exciting destination.  It has so much to offer with its eclectic mix of cultures, vibrant nightlife, mouth-watering cuisine, unexpected gems hidden down the backstreets and not forgetting ... the shopping scene is to die for!” says Camilla.

Camilla's insider tips for shopping in Singapore:

Comfort is key: Singapore is a city built for shopping, and during the Great Singapore Sale, you’ll be doing a lot of it! All the shopping precincts are a short distance from each other and the malls go for miles, so ditch the heels, throw on a kaftan, hit the streets and score yourselves some amazing bargains!

Get off the beaten track: The Great Singapore Sale is not just restricted to the premium brands and shopping malls that Singapore is renowned for, but the sales extend to all my favourite shopping hotspots off the beaten track. Head to Haji Lane in the Arab Quarter for beautiful fabrics and cute knick knacks, or Chinatown for its chic small boutiques.

 Leave room in that bag: Whenever I come to Singapore I always leave ample room in my bag for all the purchases I enviably pick up! Whether it’s fashion, beauty products, jewellery or presents for your other half – you can find it here. 

Stay at least 96 hours: I believe all travellers heading over for the sale should spend at least 96 hours here in Singapore –  you can’t just stopover. It’s on our doorstep, and there is so much on offer. Singapore’s premium shopping scene rivals the best in the world, the food is delicious and so diverse, there is culture and history at every turn and there are new attractions and nightspots popping up every couple  of months!

To further explore Camilla’s Singapore and for more information about the ‘Singapore Weekender Bag’ and the Great Singapore Sale, head to yoursingapore.com/au, where a video of Singapore shopping tips and hidden secrets can be found.