Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Aug 18, 2018
“I fell in love with Dublin,” says Ketty Quigley, explaining why she relocated to Ireland from France in 2004. “And I fell in love with an Irish man,” she adds with a smile. “What I didn’t fall in love with was Irish food.”
Thankfully, much has changed during the intervening years. The recession in 2008 closed many of the city’s high-end restaurants and those that survived were forced to reinvent themselves. The result was a reinvigorated casual dining scene with a focus on local produce.
Quigley was so impressed that in 2012 she started a food blog called French Foodie in Dublin. Since then, she’s been named the SHEmazing! Food Influencer of the Year, has become a judge for the Irish Restaurant Awards and is one of Tourism Ireland’s Irish food champions. Not bad for something she started as a side project because she was bored at work.
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – June 30, 2018
The Murray, Hong Kong
A prime spot opposite Hong Kong Park in the heart of Hong Kong Island’s busy Central district.
A modernist masterpiece, The Murray building housed government offices for more than 40 years before being transformed by award-winning architects Foster + Partners into the city’s newest five-star hotel (it opened in January). They’ve kept the building’s grand arches and distinctive recessed windows, cleverly angling each room to make the most of the views over Hong Kong Park and Victoria Harbour. The design of the public spaces is minimalist with extensive use of black and white marble, but colourful artworks and elaborate flower arrangements help soften the mood. A striking rooftop glass pavilion houses the hotel’s signature restaurant, Popinjays, and there’s a spacious wraparound verandah with mesmerising views over Central and the harbour. Throw in a state-of-the-art gym, a soon-to-be opened indoor lap pool and a lavish spa with a steam room and sauna and you might never want to venture outside.
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – June 23, 2018
THE OLD MAN
In less experienced hands, The Old Man would be just another yawn-inducing addition to the long list of bars dedicated to writer Ernest Hemingway. However, the man behind this upscale establishment is Agung Prabowo, who previously managed the highly-regarded bar at the Mandarin Oriental. The menu features seven cocktails named after Hemingway books (Death in the Afternoon anyone?) plus a selection of the writer’s personal favourites, which includes the surprisingly feminine White Lady (a mixture of gin, Cointreau and lemon juice). Look for the unmarked flight of stairs leading down from Aberdeen Street in Central.
“Make some noise for the crew,” bellows an excitable guide. “No noise, no lunch!”
I’m in Cancun, Mexico’s Vegas by the sea, and have signed up for this “Paradise Island” boat tour for what I’d hoped would be a respite from the town’s all-you-can-drink happy hours and pole-dancing waitresses.
But this doesn’t bode well. An armada of minivans has delivered us to a dock north of Cancun where we’ve been divided into groups and allocated boats. I’m in the English/French group and our guide is an enthusiastic Mexican called David.
“Is anyone celebrating anything?” he cries, once we’re all aboard. “No? OK, let’s celebrate being alive!”
I let my head slump onto my life jacket. It’s going to be a long day.
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – May 12, 2018
My guide Sam has just earned himself some serious brownie points. The climb to the El Mirador lookout is a one-kilometre-long thigh-punisher – a relentless series of uneven rocky steps and steep wooden ladders that would be taxing enough on a cool day, let alone in this 33-degree heat and 90 per cent humidity. If I was him, I’d have wished me good luck at the bottom and said, ‘see you when you get down’. But he insists on accompanying me, despite having done it dozens of times before.
By the time we get to the top, I look like I’ve just been spat out of a car wash. Sam, who’s Guatemalan and used to this humidity, has a slight sheen on his forehead.
Why subject yourself to such a torturous trek? For an aerial perspective of what many claim is Guatemala’s most beautiful natural site – a 300-metre-long limestone bridge over the Cahabon River that harbours six cascading turquoise pools.
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Apr 24, 2018
On paper, a private boat transfer sounds like a delightful way to start a holiday on an exclusive island resort. And if the property was in, say, the Maldives or the Seychelles, I’m sure it would be. However, when it’s on an island surrounded by three class six rapids in the middle of Uganda’s raging White Nile, the trip takes on a rather more intrepid feel.
Adding to my concern is that the boat in question is actually a wooden canoe whose engine is a young staff member with a paddle. After carefully loading my luggage into the front, he instructs me to sit in the middle “for balance” and then launches us into the ferocious current.
It’s hard to believe New Zealand produces less than one per cent of the world’s wine. So ubiquitous is its presence on international wine lists, you’d be forgiven for assuming it was a bigger player. However, in 2014 it ranked a surprising 14th in global wine production, one behind that well-known wine powerhouse, Romania.
Of course, much of NZ’s fame comes courtesy of one region and one varietal – Marlborough sauvignon blanc – and as such it’s tempting to think of it as a one-trick vine. But the country has more than 2000 vineyards, stretching 1600 kilometres from sub-tropical Northland to frosty Central Otago, which between them produce an intriguingly diverse range of wines.
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Apr 14, 2018
Mr D holds up his hand and we all shuffle to a stop. “They’re in the next clearing,” he whispers. “Take off your rucksacks. Only cameras and phones from now on.”
A crackle of anticipation passes through the group. Heartbeats quicken; mouths go dry. “Everyone ready? Remember, if you are gentle, they will be gentle. OK, follow me.”
Two trackers with machine guns step aside and we creep in single file through the dense undergrowth. Mr D announces our impending arrival with a series of shrieks and low-pitched grunts. We enter a small clearing and there, less than four metres away, is a 150-kilogram silverback mountain gorilla.
Standing at the foot of a coastal redwood is one of life’s great humbling experiences. It’s not just that it’s the planet’s tallest living thing (the highest known specimen is seven storeys taller than the Statue of Liberty). Or that it can live for 2000 years. It’s the awe-inspiring realisation that the rust-red giant towering above you came from a seed slightly bigger than a pinhead.
Millions of years ago there were redwoods all through North America, Europe and Asia. Now, you can only find them in a narrow 720-kilometre coastal strip from central California to southern Oregon.
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Feb 24, 2018
Like most great ideas, the concept behind In Situ is so devilishly simple you wonder why someone hasn’t done it before. Invite a selection of the world’s top chefs to contribute a dish then create a restaurant to showcase them.
Headed up by three Michelin-starred chef Corey Lee, In Situ features recipes by more than 80 gastronomic greats – including Rene Redzepi, from Noma, David Chang, from Momofuku, and Peter Gilmore, from Quay.
The inspiration for the restaurant came from its setting inside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The museum presents a curated selection of the world’s finest art; In Situ does the same for food.
In a bare concrete hall, women rummage through second-hand clothing on makeshift wooden tables. “We call it caguwa wishyure, which means pick and pay,” says our guide Shema. “You can also say caguwa to a loved one. To show her she’s unique and there’s nothing else like her.”
I try to imagine how my girlfriend would react if I compared her to a piece of second-hand clothing. I suspect it would not end well.
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Feb 3, 2018
After turning off the main road, we park in a small clearing and follow a dirt track down to the river. Waiting for us in a wooden dugout canoe are two men wearing small black and white beaded skirts and bright yellow loin cloths. The younger one steps out of the boat, smiles and hands me a lifejacket.
We motor up the mud-coloured Gatun River, its banks thick with fig trees, palms and rushes. Along the way we pass a three-toed sloth hanging languidly from a branch and an inquisitive capuchin monkey who climbs down from the treetops as we approach. “We’ll keep our distance,” says Luis, my guide from Chimu Adventures. “Last year one jumped into the boat and stole a lady’s $300 Prada sunglasses.”
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Jan 6, 2018
Book a trip to Uganda and most people will assume you’re going to see the mountain gorillas. It’s one of only three places in the world where you can visit them in the wild (the others being Rwanda and the Congo). And while it’s one of the most memorable wildlife encounters you’ll ever have, Uganda has a lot more to offer nature enthusiasts. The country also has the infamous Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo), 10 species of primates and more than a thousand varieties of birds.
Of Uganda’s 10 national parks, the most visited is Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP), a 1978-square-kilometre wildlife wonderland in the west of the country. Thanks to a volcanic landscape that includes savannahs, forests and wetlands, the park is home to an astonishing array of animal and bird life. It’s also home to humans, too. It’s one of the few national parks to have communities living inside its boundaries. All of which means there’s an unusually diverse range of ways to experience it. Here are some of the best.
Traveller, Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Oct 20, 2017
“We have three options for Itanda Falls,” our guide Wilson says. “Easy, 50-50 or 100 per cent.”
The six of us confer. Choosing 100 per cent means we’ll enter Bad Place, a hole formed by an enormous standing wave, which all but guarantees we’ll flip. I make an impassioned plea for 50-50 but the consensus is clear. “Hundred per cent,” Peter from Belgium says. “After all, you only live once.” Staying alive is the overriding theme of the safety briefing that started today’s adventure.
Sydney Morning Herald & The Age, Australia – November 19, 2016
The hotel restaurant used to be something of a last resort. Often housed in a bland, unflatteringly lit space, it was a convenient option when you were too tired to go anywhere else. The menu was normally unadventurous (club sandwich anyone?), the service lacklustre and the experience functional rather than fabulous.
How times have changed. Nowadays, celebrity chefs are falling over themselves to collaborate with high-end hotels. Particularly in cities such as London and New York where real estate is at a premium and competition is cut-throat. The benefits for both parties are obvious – a well-known chef lures guests to the hotel and the restaurant gets a steady supply of customers. In short, everybody wins.
Sydney Morning Herald & The Age, Australia – November 12, 2016
Ever woken up with a craving for turkey? Me neither. But should that occur, and you happen to be in the London suburb of Shoreditch, you’re in luck. In June husband-and-wife team Amir and Limor Chen opened Strut & Cluck, a restaurant specialising in turkey. They claim it’s leaner and healthier than chicken and is packed with proteins, amino acids, zinc and magnesium. They use free-range birds sourced from farms in East Anglia and marinate the meat for 24 hours before slow cooking it in a secret family blend of herbs and spices
Sydney Morning Herald & The Age, Australia – October 22, 2016
Where do you go to learn how to make moonshine? Moonshine University, of course. Christian Avignon and Ryan Thompson had no experience distilling spirits, so they figured they’d better learn from the best before starting a distillery in the ski resort of Vail, Colorado. Clearly they were given good advice at Kentucky’s Moonshine University, because since launching in 2014, the 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Company has already moved to bigger premises and is now sold in more than 700 outlets around the state.
Sydney Morning Herald & The Age, Australia – September 10, 2016
When the architects behind the London Eye, arguably Britain’s most successful tourist development this century, unveil a new £46 million attraction, it’s kind of a big deal. Not only is the 162-metre-tall British Airways i360 the world’s tallest moving observation tower but it’s also the world’s most slender tower (a fact you may not want to be reminded of just before you go up it on a windy day).
The MV Kawau Isle looks conspicuous as she pootles into Auckland’s busy Downtown Ferry Terminal. All the other boats buzzing in and out are high-speed catamarans and ferries. We file onboard the elegant green and white wooden cruiser and she putters slowly away from the wharf into Auckland Harbour. The sleek catamarans all turn right, roaring off in a cloud of diesel fumes towards the islands of Waiheke and Rangitoto. We, on the other hand, turn left and take the river less travelled.
Sydney Morning Herald & The Age, Australia – January 9, 2016
If Hollywood ever makes a biopic about an albatross (don’t rule it out), Grandma would be the obvious choice. Most albatrosses have one mate and live for around 40 years. Grandma, however, had five husbands (three of whom she outlived and one she married twice) and gave birth to her last chick aged 62.
Grandma is something of a legend at the Royal Albatross Centre, a complex at the end of New Zealand’s Otago Peninsula that protects the world’s only mainland breeding colony of these magnificent seabirds. Royal albatrosses usually only breed on islands but for some reason a group has chosen the tip of this 20-kilometre-long finger of land near Dunedin in the South Island to return to year after year.