Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The 'Surrealism Mini Break' from GoMA and Hilton Brisbane

‘Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams’ is a landmark major exhibition from the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, now showing exclusively at GoMA at Brisbane until 2 October 2011. The exhibition explores the historical overview of Surrealism, charting its evolution from Dada experiments in painting, photography and film, featuring works from Salvador Dali (pictured), Pablo Picasso, Giorgio De Chirico and Max Ernst; to the readymade objects of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray’s photographs. 

'Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams' is an opportunity to see important art works that rarely leave Paris, in an exhibition that will provide a fascinating and comprehensive overview of this important artistic movement. And what better way to heighten the overall experience then staying on overnight in Brisbane and enjoying everything this beautiful city has to offer? 

Hilton Brisbane has partnered with the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art to give you the opportunity to see ‘Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams’ whilst enjoying the comforts the hotel has to offer. The ‘Surrealism Minibreak’ - includes deluxe accommodation for two – featuring a sparkling new bathroom, breakfast the following morning and two tickets to the exhibition, all this from $299 per room per night, twin share*

To make your reservation phone 1300 445 866 and quote PR44SM or visit their website here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Babylonstoren, Cape Winelands

Lying quietly in the Drakenstein Valley between Franschhoek and Paarl in the heart of the Cape Winelands of South Africa is Babylonstoren, one of the oldest and best preserved Cape Dutch werfs (farm yards), now been converted in to luxury digs by former Elle Decoration editor Karen Roos. And she's done a truly amazing job of it too!  It's an enchanting place where the chickens and ducks roam free, the garden is overgrown with lush fruits and vegetables and herbs, and the kitchen and restaurant is the hub of a gastronomic experience in fine dining. A stay at Babylonstoren is a little time trip to another era, with a manor house from 1777 and pioneer structures dating all the way back to the founding of the farm in 1690, an ornate fowl house, pigeon loft, leaning bell tower, historic gates and traditional courtyard, all whitewashed in stark contrast to the rugged countryside surrounding the farm. But inside the guest suites, that's where the modern day magic has been brought to life. The level of taste is impeccable - simple, contemporary comfort. 
Depending on the season, you can fill your days at Babylonstoren with swims in the farm dam, a picnic under the trees, lazy strolls around the farm of 200 hectares, watch as the gardeners pick the produce fresh from the vines (you may even like to help pick your own salad). Swing in a hammock in summer, or curl up the fire in winter. And there is always the spa to indulge in. Sounds like a little slice of heaven to us! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Escape to Bordeaux with One World Retreats

Holidays for Couples featured One World Retreats in our April 2010 issue, after this writer experienced their incredible 'Escape the World' retreat in Ubud, Bali. Now hosts Iyan Yaspriyana and Claude Chouinard are taking their unique luxury yoga and lifestyle concept to France, with the first 'Escape to Bordeaux' retreat scheduled to be held in a charming ‘Château’ in the countryside of Bordeaux near the famous St-Emilion village, September 17th - 24th of this year. 

While the program is an opportunity to relax and get in touch with the deeper self, it is also an occasion to discover the beautiful region of Gironde and its vineyards at a time when grapes are being harvested. The retreat is also an opportunity to experience the culinary art of the French and of course Bordeaux’s famous wines.

The all inclusive retreat offers you seven nights accommodation at the Château, transportation to and from Bordeaux, healthy and (we can attest!) delicious meals, a massage, daily morning and evening yoga and meditation sessions, a series of 'Follow your Dreams' sessions, local tours of the village of Créon and the castle's own forest, wine tastings, cooking class, bicycle tour through the city of Bordeaux, and much more.

You can find out prices and more information at their website. And read more about One World Retreats in our story on the 'Escape the World' retreat in Bali, right here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The ultimate New Zealand golf package

Avid golfers know that the it is all the better when played on a green that is set in a spectacular location. Two of the world’s top-ranked golf courses - Kauri Cliffs and Cape Kidnappers - have announced their ULTIMATE NEW ZEALAND GOLF PACKAGE, incorporating the best of New Zealand’s North and South Islands in one all-inclusive offer.

The package includes nine nights across three of New Zealand’s most acclaimed luxury lodges – Kauri Cliffs, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, & Matakauri Lodge, and golf at four of the country’s top courses - Kauri Cliffs, Cape Kidnappers, The Hills Golf Club and Jack’s Point. Also included are premium golf club rental equipment, electric cart and ground transfers to the golf courses in Queenstown.

Three nights accommodation each at The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, and Matakauri Lodge also includes daily pre-dinner drinks and hors d’ oeuvres, gourmet dinner, full breakfast, complimentary mini-bar (excluding liquor and wines), WiFi, and use of lodge facilities. The package also includes a complimentary lunch for each night’s stay, which can be taken as three courses in the lodge dining rooms or packed as a picnic (on course or off).

Per-person pricing ranges from $8,197 NZD in the low season (May through August) to $12,742 NZD in the high season, which runs November through March. Contact any one of the three properties to co-ordinate your stay on The Ultimate New Zealand Golf Package.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Escape to The Lair, Tasmania

Architectural and design lovers would find The Lair in Tasmania to be truly contemporary retreat. Nature lovers would delight in it's stunning location on 40 unspoilt acres of forest overlooking the Great Oyster Bay. We just find it to be a shining example of private, self contained luxury! Can you imagine waking up to that view each morning? Each and every room at the Lair is totally immersed natural light with a panoramic view spread out before you, forest stretching to ocean and beyond creating an awe inspiring vista. 
Retreat to one of a pair of identical suites at either end of The Lair, open up all the doors and let this all be yours to dream into the romance of this breathtaking location. You'll find the mini bar stocked with fresh local produce and some of Tasmania's finest wines. There's even a complimentary dry pantry that is full to the brim with everything you need to create your own gourmet feast. Or you can let the staff at The Lair take care of that for you, preparing a menu of seasonal produce, with a wine list of international, national and regional wines. 

Life at The Lair sounds like it's very much about indulgence and total relaxation, in the finest style. Just the way we like it! Not a bad way to while away a few days during a stay in beautiful Tasmania now, is it?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Boutique style at The Siam, Bangkok

Bangkok does contemporary chic so well. So we were quite excited to see inside The Siam boutique hotel, not only for it's awesome location right on the banks of the mighty Chao Praya, but for the beautiful styling of the 39 rooms of this privately owned, luxury retreat. The Siam combines the best of urban luxury with the finest of modern exotic style, in that unique way that so many of the small luxury hotels of Thailand have mastered. 

Super-sized king beds and plush furnishings, oriental artwork and antiques, and lofty ceilings make every suite a stylish personal space - not to mention your own personal butler on call to make your stay as carefree and relaxing as possible. There are also intimately private pool villas with open-air roof terraces and, for the ultimate in memorable experiences, the Siamese charm of Connie's Cottage. The traditional teak wood house was brought by boat downriver to Bangkok from the ancient capital of Ayutthaya by socialite and curio collector, Connie Mangskau, and her dear friend the silk merchant, Jim Thompson. Connie hosted an array of cosmopolitan characters within its walls, like Jacqueline Kennedy, Henry Ford, John Rockefeller and Roger Moore. 

The Siam has it's own private pier with a Thai barge and luxury speedboat ready to whisk you off to your chosen city destination. And the best way to end a day of sightseeing, shopping and cultural delights? Pull up a comfy chair at The Siam's own riverside bar, and order a cocktail as the sun sets over the majestic 'River of Kings'. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Romantic proposals, tailor made by Anantara Resort & Spas

If you're thinking of proposing to your partner, but finding yourself overwhelmed with nerves or stumped for unique ideas, you may just like this post! 

Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas have come up with a range of unexpected proposal scenarios that are luxuriously surprising, cleverly clandestine and truly one of a kind ... and set in some of the most romantic locations on earth, in typical Anantara style. 

Our two top picks for ultra romantic, surprise proposals are both based in Thailand (not least because it's one of our favourite destinations!). Jump overboard and swim through the spectacular Emerald Cave to a hidden tropical beach enclosed by vertical cliff face in the Andaman Sea - like a scene from the movie 'The Beach' - with your guide from Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa in southern Thailand (this writer has done the cave swim herself and can attest to it being a truly amazing experience!). Over a champagne picnic you can reveal the engagement ring that has been concealed in any number of hiding places of your choice. 

Or, if the jungle seems more to your liking, the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa has it all planned out, with a trip along the Mekong River on a longtail boat taking you to meet your elephant led passage through the jungle and countryside along the Thai, Myanmar and Laos border regions. A romantic sunset Dine by Design lets you choose your perfect setting, from a secluded terrace to a moonlit hilltop or picturesque rice paddy with baby elephant companions. One of those babies is called Phil, and he is going to be your ring bearer ... or least, he will do his best to offer up an elegant bouquet of flowers in his trunk or a bow-tied gift box around his neck, engagement ring hidden inside. Too cute! What an unforgettable way to pop the question. How could anyone say no to that?!

You could sweat it out trying to come up with the perfect scene for the perfect proposal. Or you could let Anantara do it all for you. And at the end of the day, you will have your luxury room, suite or villa to return to ... and it's all a part of the memories you will both cherish forever. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ksar Char- Bagh, Morocco

I'm having fantasies of standing on that balcony at sunset, in the style of that iconic photograph by Patrick Lichfield of bohemian wild-child Talitha Getty on a roof-top in Marrakesh in 1969. All draped in embellished robes, her husband Paul with his hooded kaftan. So, that's where these images of the beautiful Ksar Char- Bagh palace hotel in Marrakesh take my wandering mind. Check in to your Harim suite, with private garden or terrace - some of them with their own pool - and melt in to languid days in one of the most exotic places on earth. In pure palatial luxury, of course. Exotic, enchanting, mystical Morocco. 

Experience the divine at Uma Paro - Bhutan

Bhutan has been on our bucket list for many years. Yet when I say that to friends, many reply with 'where?'! The tiny Kingdom of Bhutan lies landlocked between the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by India, separated from Nepal by the even smaller Indian state of Sikkim. If you've not heard too much of it before, that's because it has until only recently been relatively sheltered from modern day tourism. Travel here was known to be arduous - though with flights now arriving regularly from Kathmandu in nearby Nepal, it's getting easier. Things are changing in Bhutan, and now it's not just the trekkers and adventurists making it in to this little piece of Shangri-la.

Luxury travel has arrived with places like the splendid Uma Paro, a luxury boutique spa hotel in Paro by COMO Hotels and Resorts, ushering in a whole new world of comfort for intrepid travelers who make the journey to Bhutan.  Keeping a great respect for the country's rich Buddhist traditions, and taking inspiration from the breathtaking scenery that surrounds this little enclave, Uma Paro is a transcendental hotel experience. 'Quiet comfort in a unique, culture-rich location' is what it promises. More interesting for us is the inland treks, comprehensive tours and excursions led by Uma guides, allowing guests to really immerse themselves in the dramatic landscape and walk the pine-clad valleys, surrounded by those majestic snow capped peaks of the Himalayas. 

The last time I came close to crossing the border in to Bhutan was over ten years ago. I had a backpack on and was making my way overland from India to Nepal. The next time I make this my reality, it will be in style. Bhutan, here we come!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's 'Sea to Plate' at Lord Howe Island's first food & wine week

Travel two hours off the coast from Sydney and you arrive at a little hidden gem,  the World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island. There's no mobile phone coverage and limited cars on the island but, rather, life here is at a much slower pace and priorities shift to nature. Bush walking, golf, swimming, fishing and bird watching take up the days here. And this July sees the first of many tailored events at the island's popular Pinetrees Lodge, with the Food & Wine Week welcoming food and wine lovers from Monday 25th - Friday 29th July. 
Executive Chef Warren Farrugia and his chefs will host a 2 hour cooking workshop and demonstration. Warren’s knowledge of European and Asian cuisine is exceptional, and his blending of flavours and textures creates dishes that are relaxed, clean and fresh. Supporting the 'Sea to Plate' focus are the local fishermen who supply Pinetrees Lodge every day with top quality kingfish from what is the world’s most southern coral reef ecosystem.  
And guests will be able to indulge in a selection of wine tastings every evening by the open fire, based on a range of James Halliday's favourite wines and exploring variations in style and character from different Australian wine regions. 
Pinetrees Food & Week will culminate in a ‘secret box’ of ingredients and 30 minute challenge for guests to test their cooking skills and take home the coveted ‘Island MasterChef’ title.
A five night package for Food and Wine Week starts at $1065 per person, excluding flights.  To book, you can call Pinetrees Travel on (02) 9262 6585.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Got a stopover in Bangkok? Now you're sorted!

Got a few days to kill with a stop-over in Bangkok? Even when en-route to other countries, other adventures, you really should make the time to get out of the airport and in to this bustling metropolis where culture and modern chaos collide in such spectacular fashion! And, thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Mastercard, all the planning has now been done for you. Together they have launched the fantastic 'Stopover Bangkok Project' in an effort to encourage the huge number of transit passengers passing through the busy international terminals to enjoy a stopover break for a night or two in Bangkok. 
Not that we have ever needed any prompting to kick on a few days - incredible shopping, world class dining, stunning temples, luxury designer hotels and some of the classiest bars and nightlife makes this city one of the best stays in all of South East Asia.
The TAT has received support from 122 renowned Bangkok-based service providers in providing amazing stopover offers in 11 thematic tour categories: adventure and excursion, art and culture, beauty and spa, ethics and local tours, fine dining, golf day and night, health and medical, shopping, shows and entertainment, Thai cooking class and transportation.
There are also seven suggested tour-routes such as: Amazing Bangkok, Art and Senses Route, Bangkok Nightcrawlers, Floating and Exotic Markets, Gourmet Route, Shop Drop and Spa, and Shopping Route.
The Stopover Bangkok Project runs from now until 31 October 2011. It is being supported by airlines which fly to Bangkok as well as overseas travel agents. Mastercard holders will enjoy special top-up privileges and discounts starting from 5% up to 20%.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jura Lodge, Scotland

Diurach - it's the Gaelic word for the people of Jura, Scotland. They are the proud caretakers of their land and their whisky, and they're also happy to take care of you if you want to stay at their lodge and become an honorary local for a short stay. In  this community of less than 200, there will always be a place reserved for kindred spirits at the local pub. With a dram of their beloved malt in hand, you'll toast to good health (and to the bonus of being entitled to a free dram of the good stuff every month for life after your stay should you make the pilgrimage back again). 
The Jura distillery is over 200 years old, and it's found on an island that is only 7 miles wide and 30 miles long, with but one road, and one hotel. Mind you, that hotel is not too shabby! 
Jura Lodge is eccentric and stylish and has all the comforts of a loving home. The lodge is available for private rental at certain times of the year, and yes it's expensive (2,500 pound per night for a minimum three night stay). But this is a unique place, and a stay here is worth every penny for the unique memories. Fishing, fell walking, lobster eating, sailing and whisky drinking are the order of the day here. And the landscape of Jura is nothing short of breathtaking - the epitome of Scottish splendour. And suitable awkward to reach ... the journey from London alone involves two flights and a boat trip. And as the Diurachs say, a great deal of patience! 

Magic and music in a Welsh castle

You are cordially invited to attend a series of magical, enchanting events of the musical variety, held throughout the European summer months until November 2011, in the open-air Keep of historic Ruthin Castle, Wales.  Sounds like a fairytale doesn't it? 
This medieval castle has been linked to the legends of King Arthur, and there is now a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in the full regalia of it's rich history, with musical concerts and themed Medieval banquets featuring merriment and culture-filled performances by fully costumed Ladies of the Court, Court Steward and Jester transporting guests back to another world and time. 
Kicking off the season in July is the Anvil Productions’ Art Deco style enactment of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, where guests are invited to while away a Sunday afternoon of culture in the castle grounds. Visitors can also enjoy a pre-show lunch, picnic hampers and light refreshments throughout the performance.
Ruthin Castle located in North Wales, near Chester, UK is a historic Royal Welsh fortress now operating as a charming hotel. The castle grounds boast a fascinating legacy dating back prior to 1277 and the legend of King Arthur; notable owners include King Edward I, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
And what better opportunity then to stay at the castle, to truly make the most of your time in these enchanting, historic surrounds. Perfect stop on a driving holiday through Wales, we think? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Gold Mountain, Melbourne

Blink as you walk on by and you may just miss the entrance to New Gold Mountain.  So may we recommend you keep those eyes wide open when on Liverpool Street, because this is one of the coolest places to retreat to for drinks and intimate socialising. It's got a great rep with locals who come here to enjoy the gorgeous interior, well stocked bar and superb cocktails on the first levels, while heading upstairs there is a whole different ambience going on. We've heard people associate it with that dark, secretive vibe of an opium dens of old Shanghai - you know, the dark moody tones, beaded curtains and wooden screens, red, red, red everywhere - and that's really what it feels like.  Book a table, and cocoon yourselves away in to one of the secluded alcoves where you can relax to the sounds of jazz and chill out tunes, and enjoy the many delights this unique space offers. 

Contemporary cool at QT Gold Coast

The Gold Coast gets a stylish new venue to eat, drink and play at QT Gold Coast, set in glitzy Surfers Paradise.  Designed to be a playground for those who love food, wine, fashion and art, QT Gold Coast is both a deluxe hideaway and an atmospheric meeting spot for hipsters and shakers. The first in a nationwide series of designer hotel experiences, QT is evolving into something quite unique for the glamorous Gold Coast set. It already has the super stylish lobby, a range of dining experiences including an interactive marketplace kitchen called Bazaar and the award winning japanese Yamagen Restaurant, and a funky Baja-style bar called the Stingray Lounge. And in July this year it begins a huge transformation of its existing 296 guest rooms into something synonymous with GC style - 'surfer chic combined with Miami catwalk cool'. We sure know where we will be meeting for drinks the next time a short break on the Gold Coast rolls around!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Romance and adventure on the Caribbean sea

Having been personally blessed to have traveled aboard a Star Clippers cruise along the Italian coastline a few years back, this writer can attest to just how amazing the experience can be. Sailing the high seas aboard one of these majestic ships is truly stunning, watching those sails hoist up each day, sipping champagne on deck as the sun sets, the ocean stretching out before you ... it's exquisite with grandeur, luxury and elegance.

So take that picture and put yourself in it ... in the southern Caribbean! Star Clippers is running an incredible 14-night sailing cruise aboard the luxury clipper Star Flyer along the northern coast of South America, calling at a string of exotic islands and ports along the way. Scheduled to depart from Bridgetown, Barbados on November 6th this year after a 29-night respositioning cruise from Cannes, the Caribbean itinerary will take in the islands of Margarita, with their stunning white sand beaches, and Blanquilla, home of the renowned "Venezuelan Wall", a 300 metre drop-off of coral and sea life. You'll pass through the scuba diving meccas of the Lesser Antilles - Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba, call at the tropical city of Cartegena in Columbia, and culminate the journey with a crossing of the Panama Canal. 

The 14-night cruise costs from $6210 including all meals and entertainment on board, port charges and gratitudes. For reservations contact your travel agent or Star Clippers on 1300 362 599. 

Holidays for Couples and Virgin Australia warm things up for you

What would you rather be doing this winter? Wrapping yourself up at home by the heater, or packing your swimmers and heading somewhere tropical and warm? If you are looking for a great holiday deal to escape the winter freeze, we've got you covered right here online at Holidays for Couples. Virgin Australia (Blue Holidays) is running a range of tempting special package deals for all inclusive holidays to Bali, Fiji and Phuket, including flights and fantastic accommodation, and it's all available through Holidays for Couples until June 20th, 2011. 
So don't delay - head to our homepage and click on the Destination Spotlight, or use the direct links below to see what's on offer and book your next holiday. You'll be saving dollars, and warming up in exotic style in no time. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An insider's guide to Sydney

The next time you need ideas of what to do while in Sydney, or you're hunting for some really great deals to make your weekend or short break stay the very best it can be, get yourself over to Lime&Tonic. It's run by Sydney locals who love where they live, and love what they do - Mansour, Ilona, Paul and Michael (that's them pictured) are dedicated to hunting down the best bars, restaurants, cafes and things to do whilst visiting Sydney and negotiate the best price on behalf of its members and their hot tip suggestions. There are special deals highlighted weekly, and you'll also find a wealth of unique ideas in their Top 50 guide. 

Whether you’re a local that wants to discover a new hip and trendy spot for a fraction of the price, or a tourist that wants to experience Sydney at its finest, Lime&Tonic will have a deal to suit every social appetite. Romance, adventure, indulgence, whatever mood you're after ... we're loving how it's all there in the one website. Check it out!